Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sheldon Brown, 1944-2008

THE bicycle guru Sheldon Brown died in February. He'd been diagnosed w/ MS but apparently it was a heart attack that took his life. If you've never heard of him, he was famous for his encylopedic bicycle website out of Harris Cyclery in West Newton Massachusetts. If you ever need to unstick a stuck seat post, set a proper chainline on a singlespeed, build a wheel, tighten a loose cone, put on new brakes, well you can look it up there and find it explained in clear language with good photos. He was famous in biking circles as a great great mechanic, bicycle advocate, a talented and practical man who shared everything he knew. Before I do anything major to any of my 5 bikes, I always consult his site.

Thank you Sheldon, you continue to be a great influence on all of us riders, and have helped many of us develop decent bike mechanic skills.

Wikepedia has a nice entry on Sheldon, with a good list of relevant links. Here is the gear calculator, a real masterpiece, which you'll certainly appreciate if you're at all geeky about bikes.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Quadruped robot

I think we are finally getting there with the quality of our robot technology. It's like in the 50s they write, "yes we will eventually build robots that move in a fashion eerily similar to animals..."

Boston Dynamics created the robot. But hey, don't kick it, that just seems wrong. Sure it's just a machine that can walk on ice or hustle through the forest, but would you kick your new Prius or your brand new mountain bike?

This thing can carry 340 pounds, climb a 35 degree slope, has a gasoline engine and some nice computers. More about Big Dog here.

Yes I read about it on the wonderful Boing Boing

Saturday, March 08, 2008

BushCo National Security incompetency

Philip Shenon's new book The Commission : The Uncensored History Of The 9/11 Investigation fingers Condoleeza Rice in the Bush administration's national security failure of 7 1/2 years ago. This excerpt from Shenon's book published in The Sydney Morning Herald shows the U.S. intellegence apparatus doing its best to warn the Administration about Bin Laden's crazies and just how dangerous they were. The book paints Rice as almost a highly-paid do-nothing, choosing to ignore intelligence and focus instead on promoting the administration, focus on what appears to be PR, game-playing, a big show. As the book follows the 9/11 commission one Richard Clarke emerges as a true soldier, intent on protecting the country. Clarke was at the time the National Security Council's counter-terrorism director. He'd been demoted by the time of the attacks. From the excerpt:
Other parts of the Government did respond aggressively and appropriately to the threats, including the Pentagon and the State Department. On June 21, the US Central Command, which controls American military forces in the Persian Gulf, went to "delta" alert - its highest level - for American troops in six countries in the region. The American embassy in Yemen was closed for part of the summer; other embassies in the Middle East closed for shorter periods.

But what had Rice done at the NSC? If the NSC files were complete, the commission's historian Warren Bass and the others could see, she had asked Clarke to conduct inter- agency meetings at the White House with domestic agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration and the FBI, to keep them alert to the possibility of a domestic terrorist strike.

Repeatedly in 2001, Clarke had gone to Rice and others in the White House and pressed them to move, urgently, to respond to a flood of warnings about an upcoming and catastrophic terrorist attack by Osama bin Laden. The threat, Clarke was arguing, was as dire as anything that he or the CIA had ever seen.

He pushed for an early meeting in 2001 with Bush to brief him about bin Laden's network and the "nearly existential" threat it represented to the United States. But Rice rebuffed Clarke. She allowed him to give a briefing to Bush on the issue of cyber terrorism, but not on bin Laden; she told Clarke the al-Qaeda briefing could wait until after the White House had put the finishing touches that summer on a broader campaign against bin Laden. She moved Clarke and his issues off centre stage - in part at the urging of Zelikow and the transition team.

Shenon's book seems to offer a thru-the lens glimpse into a shameful and tragic chapter of U.S. history: the bumbling incompetence of an administration created by the most hated and destructive U.S. president of all time.'s reference to Shenon's book is here.

This guy is a hell of a journalist. It should be hilarious to hear what Limbaugh and the other highly-paid fart-generators say about him.

About the author, quoting Amazon:
Philip Shenon is an investigative reporter with The New York Times, based in Washington. He was the lead reporter on the investigation of the September 11 commission and has held several of the most important assignments of the Washington Bureau, including chief Defense Department correspondent, diplomatic correspondent, Congressional correspondent and Justice Department Correspondent. He was one of two Times reporters embedded with American grounds troops during the invasion of Iraq and worked in pre-war Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iran for Times foreign staff.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Buddy Miles

Buddy Miles, Hedrix' drummer in the outrageous Band of Gypsies, died Tuesday in Austin Texas, his home. He was 60, died of heart failure. He was also a stroke survivor.

Buddy Miles was one of those singing drummers, playing well and singing well, being the heartbeat of the band and its voice simultaneously. Miles founded the Electric Flag in the 60s and in the 80s was involved in TV advertising-music, singing in the animated claymation ads in the California Raisins.

Band of Gypsies was a milestone in Hendrix' career after the Experience broke up. Three black men playing soul-influenced funk, marked by Hendrix' indelible guitar-power were a bit of a new thing in those days, and reflected the music Hendrix was working on when he died.

"machine gun" pt.1
Black and while uTube videos of the Band of Gypsies are out there, but somehow putting on the original record album, holding the album cover in your hands and looking at its vivid color photographs shows how the music really is, vivid and transfixing and timely.

"them changes" Buddy Miles