Paul Andrews

Archive for 2010|Yearly archive page

News Cycle: Digital Lockdown in the Wired Age

In News Cycle on February 18, 2010 at 1:15 am

In this wired universe we live in, we’re supposed to have ubiquitous access to comprehensive information on a real-time, as-it-happens basis. And until a light plane takes out a transmission tower, we do.

After a private plane apparently took a left instead of a right after takeoff in fog yesterday morning at two minutes to 8, things in our Palo Alto apartment went into what might be termed Digital Lockdown. It was kind of spooky, because in the past when the power went out, you still had (corded) telephone. You still had (transistor) radio. And you had news media who could draw together information quickly for an up-to-date, comprehensive report.

Now you don’t. Now you’ve got pretty much a black hole. For all the Twitter, 3G, Wi-Fi, Facebook, blogs, cell phones and other always-on communications available at our fingertips, if you were in Palo Alto yesterday you couldn’t find out a damn thing about what had happened to take the whole city’s power out.

After the incident happened, we checked El Camino Real and discovered pretty much everyone else was down, too. But nobody knew what had happened.

I’m not sure if AT&T’s network went dead during the power outage. I was still getting bars, although they were in wild roller-coaster mode — you know, 5 bars then none, then a couple, then 5, then none. Even if the network was up, getting onto it was a hopeless task.

When I went to Twitter, I got an “unable to connect” error. Same with e-mail. The iPhone was registering “3G” as active, but it was dead to me. I switched 3G off, which under normal circumstances helps. Still nothing.

We have friends with land lines, but you know what? Cordless phones go dead when there’s no power. The one friend we know with an old-fashioned corded phone never did pick up, even after we left town in search of a signal. And why would he? Who wants to hang around a place with no lights, heat or Internet? A corded copper line is useful only if other people have corded copper lines as well.

The truth is, though, hardly anyone has land lines any more. Statistical latency prevents a true assessment of just how deep the cellular-only trend runs, but anecdotally we all know how few people in metro areas use anything but a cell phone for calling.

Finally it occurred to me to go out to the car and turn on the radio. There I got a brief bulletin stating that a plane had crashed in East Palo Alto, taking out a power tower. And that was it. No details on when power might be restored, who was affected, etc. etc.

The best information strategy turned out to be walking outside and strolling around, talking to people, comparing and collating information. Gradually some details emerged — something about a Tesla CEO being killed (incorrect), and the plane taking off in fog, and Stanford University hospital being without power. By noon — fully four hours after the incident, a scratchy (obviously wireless, maybe even handheld radio) report was being made from campus by a KCBS Radio (San Francisco) correspondent, explaining the measures Stanford Hospital had taken in the wake of the outage.

Within a couple hours of the outage, we’d had it with Digital Lockdown. We took off for Santa Cruz — sunny, warm, beachy and — most of all — connected Santa Cruz.

There I found out that a few folks had been twittering about the incident, and there was a hashmark #planecrash. Too bad the people who could most use, and were most interested in, the tweets couldn’t get them in Palo Alto. Even so, #planecrash was like water-cooler info, random bits that didn’t really add up to anything meaningful.

When I worked for The Seattle Times, we had a newsroom mobilization plan built around the Worst Case Scenario, which we always depicted as a Boeing 747 crashing into the Space Needle. Essentially it called for full-onslaught reporting by all news staffers, which editors would pull together for that day’s (when we were still an afternoon newspaper) or the next morning’s paper. Or even a momentous “Special Edition.”

I haven’t seen Palo Alto newspapers yet (the accident happened at the worst possible time for an a.m. publication), but they’re so thin these days it’s hard to imagine they’ll have room for extensive reporting. I will say this: The best place for information on the accident is the “newspaper” site of paloaltoonline.com — the Palo Alto Weekly. It beats #planecrash like a carpet.

The incident underlines how much the online universe still needs a newspaper metaphor for providing news and information. With all the stuff on the Interwebs, who woulda thunk? After all, we live in a Connected World — until something really significant happens, anyway.

This Sad Day in Doping: Joe Papp deserves medal, not prison

In This Day In Doping on February 17, 2010 at 10:13 pm

Reformed doper Joe Papp, familiar on this blog, Twitter and via his own writings for being one of the only pro cyclists to come clean and tell the truth about doping, has guilty to being a person he no longer is.

“Having escaped a corrupt system in which doping was a practice as accepted and normal as brushing one’s teeth, I strongly believe in clean sport and for several years have been fighting against doping both publicly and in ways that I simply can’t comment on…” Papp said.

What Joe did — both his own doping and acting as an international pimp of sorts for other pro cyclists — was wrong and should not be excused. But in the context of his extensive work to bring doping problems to light and his own campaign for cleaning up the sordid state of pro cycling, his past transgressions hold little relevance today.

We wish Joe well and hope this works out for the best — for him and for the sport. Although he faces possible prison time, it’s obvious his presence can do far more good outside of jail.

Bike Business “Recovery”?

In Bicycling on February 16, 2010 at 2:09 am

Shimano sales took a 21 percent hit in 2009, but the company continues to look on the bright side. Talking “slight” recovery, the company estimates sales will improve 8 percent the first half of 2010 over 2009’s dismal showing.

Business articles often speak of a rebound in terms of “recovery.” The word is used far too loosely. “Recovery” denotes getting back to full health, or at least where you were before. If someone breaks their arm, they’re not going to think they’re recovered till they can fully use their arm again. Being able to write their name but not, say, wave hello, is not going to be “recovery.”

So when Shimano talks about an improvement of 8 percent year-over-year, they’re a long way from anything resembling a recovery. When you drop 21 percent and gain back only 8, you’ve got a slog ahead of you. You could even gain back a full 21 percent and fall well short of a true recovery. Here’s an easy example, using nice round numbers for explication purposes:

Company X’s 2009 sales drop 21 percent from $100 million to $79 million.

In 2010, Company X’s sales increase by 8 percent. From a base of $79 million, that’s $6.3 million. Add the two figures together and you get $85.3 million.

That’s not terrible. You can write your name. But you’re a long way from giving anyone the “hi” sign.

To get back to full “recovery” — back to where you started ($100 million) — you’d need a sales spike not of 21 percent but of just under 27 percent. Nobody’s talking anywhere near those kinds of numbers for 2010. Even a cumulative 27 percent is nowhere in practical sight.

Keep those simple economics in mind the next time you read a story mentioning any bike business “recovery” — or general economic recovery, for that matter. There may be a bit of a “dead man’s bounce” effect going on in 2010. A slight rebound. An uptick.

An actual recovery, if it happens at all, is going to be a long haul.

News Cycle: Japanese folder, Springtime Olympics, E-bike sales, Lopes Sprinter & more

In Bicycle advocacy, News Cycle, Obama Bikes on February 16, 2010 at 1:31 am

Slick Japanese folder!

BikeHugger is covering the Spring Olympics by bike and may, just may, be the culprit behind balmy weather suited more to wheels than blades and boards.

E-bike sales: Growing but still tiny, tiny when compared with regular bikes, or e-bike sales in other countries: 300k expected in 2010, double 2009. But total in U.S. is just 500k.

Idaho’s mountain biking license plate moves forward.

Brian Lopes is selling his pimped out Sportsmobile for a mere $67,000…the good news being you can claim it as a second home mortgage deduction. Assuming you have another home. And it’s worth more than $67,000.

Despite all the rain, things are cookin‘ in Aptos!

SeattleLikesBikes: Issues with counting bike commuters.

Good LA Times story on bike thievery. It’s every bit as ugly as we assume.

Psst. Hey. You and I could sell our homes and buy an entire town up by Whistler in B.C. Mountain biking all summer long. Skiing all winter long. You don’t get to see another soul, but hey. You’re getting away from it all!

3-feet-please? How about FIVE. More on Iowa’s Bicycle Bill of Rights.

“Women of Dirt” Santa Cruz premiere: Hot deals!

In Mountain Biking, Videos on February 16, 2010 at 1:18 am

Could be yers, ALL yers, dude...or dudess!

The big “Women of Dirt” California premiere is two weeks away, and Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz keeps sweetening the pot. Titus has emerged as the lead sponsor and is offering up a killer bike, the El Guapo, for raffle giveaway. Plus Black Market Bikes is offering 10 percent off in-stock items purchased from its online store. And the general raffle includes “an Intense 5.5 EVP frame donated by our good friends at Trailhead Cyclery, a Fox 36 Talas RC2 donated by Fox Racing Shox, a BlkMrkt Bike Mob frame donated by Black Market Bikes and many, many, many items,” MBOSC says. Tickets are at most area bike shops, grab ‘em before they sell out like they did in Seattle Feb. 5th!

This Day in Doping: Floyd hit with warrant

In This Day In Doping on February 15, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Our dreams for Team Rehab at the Dopers Reunion Tour de France 2010 have taken another body blow with announcement that a France-based warrant for Floyd Landis’ arrest was issued in late January. The warrant concerns hacking of an lab computer, but since the hacking related to Landis’ being stripped of his Tour de France victory for cheating, it seems likely to take Floyd out of the picture for this year’s Tour.

Looks clean...

[Update: Floyd says warrant? What warrant? One suggestion: You might want to lose the shades, my man.]

The warrant stipulates that Landis can be arrested if he touches foot in France. It might well be possible for a rider of Landis’ abilities to stay on his bike the entire time, including track stands in staging areas, but for practical purposes Floyd will have to stay out of France if he wants to avoid a court appearance.

Twisted Spoke muses over a Landis-Polanski straight-up trade, the problem (for our purposes) being that Polanski, whatever his cinematic accomplishments, can’t climb Alpe d’Huez and the kind of rehab he needs has nothing to do with doping. Still, we’re not opposed to the idea…

And it looks like Michael Rasmussen won’t be able to make the Tour either. Drat. The cheats are dropping like flies. It’s hard to know who, when you put doping in the mix, you can really count on in professional cycling these days.

Meanwhile, Italian cyclist Eddy Ratti has joined the ranks of the fallen.

This Valentine’s Day in Doping

In This Day In Doping on February 14, 2010 at 2:52 am

A Story of True Love Gone Astray: Drug cheat Riccardo Ricco has decided to separate from drug cheat Vania Rossi. And just when Hallmark came out with a Valentine’s Day card aimed right at them…

 

 

Kate Hudson can ride a bike as she well pleases…

In Bicycle advocacy, Bicycling on February 12, 2010 at 10:50 am

The girl can ride

Kate Hudson seems to be the real deal, a celeb who loves to ride a bike. Catch the name of her son: Ryder, the best cycling name in the world. But we take issue with a couple of characterizations online. We would not call her, in the words of Celebrity-Gossip.net, a Bicycle Babe. The current argot, sanctioned by Luna, is “Bike Chick.” And in any case, Kate is no spring chicken. I guess Bike Mom doesn’t carry quite the allure, though.

The other nit we would pick involves Kate riding in a dress. Now normally we find ourselves in wholehearted concurrence with our friend and colleague Yokota Fritz over at Cyclelicio.us, but in this case we must express high dudgeon. Or at least medium dudgeon. High might be a bit excessive, but hear us out.

Needs to cover up...

Also needs to cover up...

The photo shows Kate’s dress “billowing” up as she rides along on her Electra Super Deluxe street bike. The always helpful Yokota says there’s a solution to this: a garter clip which, when fastened to the hem of the skirt, keeps things from going all Marilyn Monroe.

Does not need to cover up

What are you thinking? This is Kate Hudson, not some prune-faced Republican blue nose like Michele Bachmann. We’re not talking Miss Piggy or Her Majesty the Queen. If Kate Hudson wants to ride with her dress splaying out, I say more power to her. She’s just exercising her God-given right to ride whatever way she pleases. Cocktail dresses, full-length gowns, coulottes, mini-skirts, we don’t care. We don’t even object to flip-flops and plunging necklines. Or no helmet. In the case of Kate Hudson, we will make an exception to any cycling rule we have ever advocated.

Besides, I don’t even think that Kate is, as Yokota puts it, “struggling to stay covered” as she rides. Hell no. She’s just out there hammering! And who can blame her?! When you’ve got it, in the immortal words of Max Bialystock, flaunt it, baby, flaunt it! Ride on Kate! We’d love you even if you rode a fixie!

Streetfilms’ misguided video on RR tracks

In Bicycle advocacy on February 12, 2010 at 10:34 am

Streetfilms has put together a clip on how to cross railroad tracks on a bike, using Seattle’s “Missing Link” as an example. I wish I could say it does the trick, but in reality it feeds a lot of misguided mythologies about cycling. Ultimately, it says railroad tracks are something to be feared, and that somehow they’re really really hard to get across, and that the solution to any challenge involving RR tracks is to paint hugeass arrows and figurines scaring cyclists into BEING CAREFUL BECAUSE YOU’RE GOING TO CRASH! Which essentially contributes to the greater public perception that cycling is dangerous and should simply be avoided.

The teaser to the clip says crashing on RR tracks is “something I’ve seen even the most experienced cyclist do.” Really? I’ve been riding all my life and have never crashed on RR tracks. I’ve never been in a group of riders, experienced or otherwise, where a rider has crashed on RR tracks. I’ve never seen or been around a cyclist who blah blah blah. I’ve been told many times to be careful of RR tracks, and have wound up wondering why. As a kid I didn’t get the memo, and as an adult it’s never been a problem. I’m not saying crashes don’t happen, but I am saying this: In the pantheon of dangerous obstacles and momentous challenges facing a cyclist on an everyday basis in urban settings, RR tracks are way way down the list.

Now the accident data does indicate that the Missing Link tracks are problematic. And anyone, even a cyclist (we are sentient, despite the implications of condescending videos and traffic signs), can see that there’s a nasty angle to the crossing. But the solution isn’t cartoon characters on pavement and signs. The solution is to DO SOMETHING about the Missing Link. To its everlasting credit, Cascade Bicycle Club of Seattle has been pushing a fix here for years. And the city of Seattle has a project ready to go. Only litigation by selfish businesses and corporations has blocked the link from becoming “unmissing.” (None of which Streetfilms mentions.)

I don’t mean to pick on Streetfilms here. They obviously meant well. But the road to perdition is paved with good intentions — not RR tracks. If Streetfilms wanted to show a real problem area, it could do a clip on a true nightmare: Westlake Avenue, where bikes not only have to ride parallel to streetcar tracks, but where there are sections of pavement lacking even clearance for bikes from the streetcar and/or traffic. Even there, though, the issue isn’t an inherent catastrophic nature of RR tracks. It’s piss-poor planning that never even considered bikes in the transportation matrix.

Otherwise our hope is that next time Streetfilms will try to pick a subject that doesn’t make cyclists seem like brain-damaged children who have to quake in their pedals every time they see two strips of iron supported by wooden planks.

NorCal trails drying out, just not fast enough

In Mountain Bike Trail Reviews, Mountain Biking on February 10, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Clogged derailleur notwithstanding, the Firebird performed

Rains have abated at last and a touch of spring seems to be in the air, albeit on the cool side. (Allergies are acting up.)

At Arastradero, which I use as a benchmark indicator, it is still sloppy in parts. The ground is just too saturated on certain switchbacks and shaded sections. It sucks…figuratively and, in the case of a rear wheel trying to ride through, literally.

Even the fully exposed northern section of the park has “issues.”

Hello mudder, hello fodder...

I will say this: The Pivot Firebird is a mudder! I rode through some mucky sections in low gear that felt like climbing Alpe d’Huez, just churning to stay upright. But the Bird did not flinch or waver. The Nevis held their own as well — surprisingly, since they’re not known as a mud tire.

Before you flame, I was riding only open trails, and the damage was from horses, not mtbs.

Closed to all users! Except heron and coyotes

I did see a couple of huge majestic heron, quite unwary, meandering about the open fields. And a coyote sauntered past, barely giving me a glance. The sun was out, it was quiet and calm, and despite the mud it was a great riding day.

Weekend outlook is for more sun!

That said, I’m staying on pavement for another couple of days at least. Sunshine is supposed to hit full bore by weekend and we’ll give it another go then. Stay tuned!

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