Electric Bikes

A few months ago, before the COVID-19 shutdown took hold, I ordered a couple of electric bikes on Amazon. I decided to go for 26 inch wheels on a folding frame, and a 250Watt motor with a handlebar mounted battery.

This was by no means the highest spec available, but the price was low enough that I felt it would be a good entry into the field of augmented bike.

It may have been the best purchase I’ve ever made, and I tend to buy a lot of tech.

Since the purchase I have ridden almost every day. We go for a lap of central park, or a loop of Manhattan, or a trip to one of the outer boroughs or over the GW bridge into New Jersey. These are all trips I never took on my previous standard bike. And it hasn’t hurt that the traffic volume is significantly down due to the pandemic, and the number of bike lanes seems to increase on a daily basis.

We did make a few mods to the standard bike. Comfy seats, rear bags on racks and maybe most importantly we bought Sena R1 helmets with built in intercoms, so we can chat while riding, which makes the whole thing much more social.

I also added a tow hook to the car and got an incredible bike rack, meaning we can take the bikes away for weekends easily. We spent a few weeks in Virginia and rode every day on the lovely country lanes to little towns.

Our bikes are not powerful but hills no longer exist. Cycling up an incline is as easy as being on the flat, and it is quite nice to pass a full body condom wearing pro on a racing bike, struggling, while I’m on a fat wheeled low-end mountain bike and not even taking deep breaths. The range has also been more impressive than expected, we can easily cover 30 miles without worrying about battery life. And while the bike does offer a throttle (so you can ride without pedaling), I’ve only used this to aid starting from a dead stop on hills, most of the time only using the first and second power levels, and no the highest level (three dots), so getting some workout.

I know these kinds of bikes are now harder to find with longer delivery times and slightly higher prices. But my experience has been so positive, that I have to recommend them to anyone who would like to ride and finds the idea of sweating to be a turn-off.

Here’s the stuff we bought, and love:

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Health and Care

What is the purpose of society? Quite simply it’s to provide the shared efforts of the population to facilitate increases in the length and quality of life.

Instead of every person doing all the things that life requires, we distribute the effort amongst the population, and each of us performs a set of tasks that can be consumed by all, allowing each of us to become skilled at specific roles, increasing effectiveness and efficiency, because we as humans, get better at the tasks we work at, and this allows much larger tasks to be undertaken.

If you had to hunt your own food, build your own shelter, protect your family, make your own clothes, design and build your own sanitation, life would be much shorter and harder. So over many thousands of years we have created a system whereby we can all work together for a common cause. It takes the efforts of millions of people working together to survive.

Laws, security education and infrastructure form the basis of society. We are all born, grow, live, age and die, and we expect society to help us at every stage.

Foremost in society is the ability to help people live a long and happy life. And for this we have developed an incredible science-based healthcare system. Most societies have worked out that everyone needs healthcare, and so pooling resources creates the best possible outcome for everyone.

And then we have the USA, where we seem to think that healthcare is a fantastic way to make money (it is not). Everyone is born, everyone lives, and everyone gets old and sick. Those who get old or sick are least able to care for themselves. The sensible model is to care for them in ways that everyone pays for and only those who need it at any given time consume. This is insurance, but you can’t allow insurance to be taken away because someone needs it. That defeats the objective. Who will pay for insurance if the act of consuming it, means you are barred from using it?

Every other country is working through this issue, but every single other one is moving towards a system of shared responsibility. Only the USA hasn’t worked this out yet.

Where are we today?

We don’t allow the government to negotiate medical supplies centrally, expecting everyone to pay list price.

We have incredibly high education costs for medical personnel, meaning that they must make very high salaries to pay back that unsubsidized debt.

We have very expensive health insurance, offering the lowest levels of payments, meaning that sick people end up consuming all they have earned in their lifetimes, and passing very little on to the descendants. Bankruptcy caused by medical bills is common.

We allow massive lawsuits to be undertaken against medical personnel meaning that medical providers must have very expensive legal protections, again driving up the cost of medical care.

We have a large proportion of the population unable to get regular medical attention, due to the high cost, creating lower life spans, and a lowering of the general health of the population. Where we really need workers to get regular help to stay healthy, we instead wait until people get sick and then provide the minimum services as maximum cost to triage.

We don’t offer sick leave, we generally provide very short annual vacation days and no parental leave, creating situations when sick people continue to work when they are sick, spreading disease, and lowering overall the quality of output , and parents and children are less healthy.

And we think this is acceptable?

Today people are complaining that wearing a facemask is an affront to their freedom. These are people who don’t know what freedom is.

Freedom demands you stay alive as long as possible, and have the best quality of life you can get for the whole of it.

Freedom demands that grandparents can see their great grandchildren be born and grow, can attend their grandchildren’s weddings. That they never go hungry, never have to fight for their lives, get to spend every day reading, watching and learning. Have a job they love, have friends, have family, have opinions, get to travel, have a lovely home.

Freedom comes from having a stable, caring society, where everyone is able to live and love for as long as practical.

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racist and sexist by nature

We are all racists and once you accept that you can be part of the solution.

The way our brains work is to compare whatever we see, to whatever we already know. And the way we process this comparison in any situation is affected by the emotional weight of our previous experiences.

Whoever you grew up with has a great influence on how you perceive the world. Anyone who is unlike those who you grew up with are naturally going to make you feel uneasy. It’s how the brain works. Until you can know for certain that someone is not a threat, then evolution has taught us to be wary.

Not much more than a hundred years ago some people were slaves, they were not educated, could not own anything, had no money and were not afforded the protections of the rest of society. Fifty years ago, certain people were still excluded from some places by their color or race, they were still excluded from many levels of society including education and finance. Even today there are still explicit barriers placed in the path of some people based on their race, ethnicity or sex. The criminal justice code has been tuned to impact some ethnic groups more effectively than others. There are schools with no children of color, and others with no children of European descent. This hasn’t happened by luck, but by social engineering.

There are still poor neighborhoods and rich neighborhoods. Poorer neighborhoods have higher levels of broken families, higher mortality rates, lower length of life and greater levels of anti-social issues. If your grandparents didn’t go to college, there is a lower likelihood of your children going to college. It takes an act of society as a whole to accelerate the removal of such disparities.

As a white man, I get to enjoy the benefits of these disparities every day. I don’t get a second look from any law enforcement officer. Shop and service staff assume positive intent in any action I take. In effect my life is boosted by my skin color, because others are actively discriminated against for theirs, giving me an explicit and implicit advantage.

My grandparents and parents actively supported me through childhood, through school and through university. I grew up in a great neighborhood surrounded by many levels of family, friends and people who saw me as “like them”. I learnt the skills of learning and was always being trained to be a valuable member of society. No relative of mine was imprisoned, I’ve never been stopped by the police, my trips through airports are simple, I never get followed in stores, I’ve never had an issue with financial services, I’ve always been able to get medical services wherever and whenever I like, I’ve never been turned away from an interview, I’ve never been denied by a buildings coop board. I can always use a premises bathroom without question. I like policemen and women and enjoy meeting them on the street. I’ve never been followed by security or neighborhood watchmen. I have what is called white privilege. I didn’t choose it, but by my inaction I guess I support it.

And I recognize that depending on the color or your skin your experiences may be very different, and I’ve never really done anything to change that either.

I am truly amazed by the decency of the millions of people of color who have not screamed at this injustice. If I was the one being discriminated against, I’ve not sure I’d be as serene.

It really is time for this injustice to be righted, and the generation that is just now gaining the right to vote, may well be the generation that resolves to make everyone truly equal.

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Assholes on display

Assholes on display

I was out walking the dog today, when a millennial couple were walking the other way without facemasks or any interest in social distancing.

I mentioned that since they had obviously forgotten their masks they should consider moving to the other side of the sidewalk, to which this idiot decided to espouse his personal view that no one should be wearing masks, and that I should mind my own fucking business. And then without any further discussion suggested that maybe we should fist fight about it.

I thought this sounded like an excellent idea and suggested that once I had finished my call to the police that was in the process of making on my Bluetooth headset to report his antisocial behavior, I’d be happy to kick his ass.

At which point the asshole in question turned around and ran away.

Made my day just a little brighter.

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How to Protect Your Family, Friends and Colleagues from Identify Theft

A little bit of advice for the season

The techniques being used by thieves to steal from people and businesses are becoming a lot more sophisticated. It is now almost impossible to tell the difference between a legitimate communication from a company you work with and a scam.

The basics of any security process always require you to have something and you know something. The idea being that you should have in your possession some piece of information that no one else knows and you should have some item that only you possess.

This is why a credit card has a series of numbers on the front or back that are not raised. If someone were to take an imprint of your card, there would still be some piece of information that only you have, and there is a secret code, pin or word that only you know.

Here’s how scammers are getting around this. They send you a new card with a label on the front that asks you to call to enable it. When you call, they ask you to provide your secret code. But here’s the trick that card they sent you wasn’t real, and the number they have asked you to call wasn’t your credit card company. That card you have in your hand is a scam, but the scammers now know your secret code and they can now use your account to make purchases. All they had to do was send you a fake card, a letter that looked like it came from your bank. They may even tell you that the new card will be activated in 24 hours, so you keep using the old card for a while, so you won’t notice that the new one doesn’t work until they have had a chance to steal from it.

This same trick works with credit card companies, tax collectors, insurance, loan offers, utility bills, gyms and any other place where you would be willing to provide personal information if you believe the person you are speaking to is real.

Here’s how you avoid being caught. Don’t believe any communication! Always assume the worst. When you receive a communication by phone, text, email or letter don’t believe it, instead find your previous card (or other previous communication) and call the number listed on that.

When you receive a call from your bank to alert you of a potentially fraudulent transaction, don’t give them any personal information. Instead dig out your credit card and call the number on the back of that and see if they really are trying to reach you.

Don’t believe any communication, unless you initiated it, and to a number or address that you already know to be valid.

This is a simple way to block a lot of the most obvious scams. It won’t stop every scammer, but it will stop a large percentage.

Tell your families, your friends and your colleagues.

Let’s make theft just that little bit harder.

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FIOTUS

Anyone who has ever watched a procedural cop show or has any dealing with the legal system knows the importance of protecting evidence from any form of corruption. If evidence is tainted by even a hint of coercion it can never be used.

This is the simple reason why investigators spend an inordinate amount of time and effort to validate a piece of evidence before they confront a suspect or a witness. In this way they can be certain that the witness or suspect’s answers to any question are not being influenced by any other elements (such as being paid for their views or pressured to give a specific answer), and they can prove it when it is presented in a legal proceeding.

If the White House had truly believed that a previous administration had used either undue influence to take a position on foreign company boards or to protect their interests in foreign companies by applying government policy in ways that rewarded members of their family then they should have asked the justice department to investigate. If course that very investigation would have quickly extended to include the business interests of the current Presidents family and their actions during this current term.

What the President could not have done, is exactly what he did do. He could not ask the leader of a county (or multiple leaders of multiple countries) which we are directly working with, to investigate the previous actions of American citizens, because there is absolutely no way that such a request could not be tainted with influence, and therefore cannot be accepted as evidence.

It was the act of what the Irish should term “a firkin idjot”

So Maybe we should rename the acronym for the leader of the free world from POTUS to FIOTUS

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Ultimate Power Corrupts

There is a presumption of corruption that pervades politics. And it’s critical for the process to work. We assume that every single politician is a lying, cheating piece of crap who will steal the country’s wealth at every opportunity. It’s a pretty valid argument and is a logical extension of the idea that power corrupts, and that ultimate power corrupts ultimately.

To handle the simple fact that every single politician should be considered corrupt, we have a checks and balance approach to government, where power is split between the executive, legislative and the judicial.

We demand that the executive and the judicial police the legislative and the executive and the legislative police the judicial and that the judicial and the legislative police the executive. It sounds dysfunctional (and it is) but it has proven itself to be the only system than curbs the human predeliction for self-serving power grabbing.

If the three parts of government fail to police each other then government fails. And the only recourse is to term limit every politician and automatically imprison every single politician at the end of their term for either the same amount of time they served in their political role or their entire life.

Government cannot function without aggressive and pervasive policing, we have no organization above the government (for example no king or queen) so we must demand that government continually look at every action of every arm with the desire to impeach any legal or ethical flaw.

If one arm of government fails to respond to any investigation, then they must automatically be disqualified from office. A government official that either fails to investigate or fails to respond to an investigation is just as guilty and must be removed from office.

The people demand nothing less.

The people don’t trust politicians, and thousands of years of human experience shows this to be reasonable response. A federal democracy with an imperfect electoral college based process, only works if we assume all politicians are going to cheat.

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What you think is irrelevant

Here’s an idea, everything you think about anyone is entirely irrelevant.

I really don’t care what someone’s reasons are to be who or how they want to be.

I don’t care if it’s genetic or choice.

I don’t care if someone wants to be he, she or zhe.

And I don’t care because all that matters is that that’s the way they are, either by design or choice.

At the end of the day, it’s who they/we are or who we/they want to be.

We’re all software encoded in DNA being run through meat and bone computers.

I don’t care which elements of the code came pre-installed or via a runtime upgrade, and it doesn’t matter.

I don’t care if you believe the software was written by an intelligence or as the result of random mutations combined with the elimination of the least viable by natural selection.

What we end up with is people who are what we all are, and some are fantastic, some are total assholes and most of us sit somewhere in between these two extremes.

I find the variance amazing and worthy of respect.

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The story of the evil witch and the naïve children. Europe with a Brothers Grimm Twist.

There once was an evil witch who wanted to rule the world. She knew that the people wouldn’t let her unless she was a little devious. She’d tried many different approaches, and eventually came up with a brilliant plan.

She built a house made of all the things that she know the people would want, and she offered it them for free, as long as they came and lived with her.

All the people had to do was come inside her house, and bring with them everything they owned. Then she would take all they owned in an exchange give them all they needed.

Many people moved to her house and happily gave the witch everything they owned and were given food, housing, education, healthcare, and a supply of little gold colored coins called euros which they could use to buy whatever else they needed from the witch.

The people were quite happy for a while, but over time they used up their supplies of euros and needed some more. So they asked the witch for some more. She looked at the people and frowned and said “I can’t just give you more euros, you will have to earn them. Give me something and I’ll give you more euros”. But the people had already given the witch all their gold and money, so they didn’t have any more to give. But the witch said “I’ll take your mines, your banks, your railways, your industry, your forests, and your children”. The people were shocked, but what choice did they have, they needed food, and services, so they gave more and more of their wealth to the witch, until eventually she owned absolutely everything and everyone.

There was a few groups of people who didn’t totally fall into the witches clutches. One of these groups lived on a little island just to the left of the witches house. These people really wanted all the free stuff that the witch had to offer but were worried about giving her all their money and gold, they visited the witch often (she really did have a lovely house), but decided not to take her money. Over time it became clearer what the witch was trying to do, and they had a choice – do we go for it and give her everything or run away?

They tried to run away, but the witch wasn’t going to allow that to happen. She chased them and tried every trick she could to convince them to join her.

Today they are still running, and she is still chasing. But this story is definitely getting closer to the end, at least of this chapter.

Will the people of the little island be able to stay out of the clutches of the evil witch?

If they do, will they be able to survive?

Some of the people are still wondering – Is the witch really evil?

What will the witch do, when the people living in her house, see that there are other choices?

What will happen next?

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The War On Plastic Bags Is Just Obfuscation

war on bags

There seems to be a war on plastic bags, every city around the world seems to think that charging a small fraction of a penny to every shopper will cure the world of garbage. Let’s be clear, it will not.

Plastic bags have become the target of some sort of green war, but I suggest that these bags are not the issue at all, but have become the target of people who really do not want to solve the true issue.

Everything we buy is over-packaged. Fruit and vegetables come on polystyrene (Styrofoam) trays covered in plastic wrap, with a label on the outside. ALL of this packaging ends up in the garbage.

Every packaged product comes with an inner bag, outer packaging, all wrapped in plastic and with a label on the front. All of this packaging is garbage.

What you buy at the supermarket is often over 90% packaging, which is the waste that ends up directly in the garbage.

The plastic bag you use to transport your goods from the supermarket to home, will then become the garbage bag that you use to transport the garbage to the next step on its lifecycle (the trash can). If anything, this plastic bag is actually the least of the issue. The other choice you have of course is to buy additional plastic bags to line your bins, and this is just revenue for bag manufacturers.

Here’s how we fix the issue. Charge people for every bag of garbage they ask to be taken away by the refuse collectors. It’s simple, ask the consumer to place a tag on each bag, and charge them for the tags. The more you dispose of, the more you therefore pay.

At the same time make the supermarkets take back their packaging and have them send this back to the distributors and manufacturers on the trucks that are already delivering to their shops.

Sounds like a lot of extra work doesn’t it, and guess what the shops and the manufacturers will quickly find ways to reduce their packaging to reduce their costs.

Now you have less garbage.

It’s not the plastic bags that’s the issue, it’s the process that demands you bring all this packaging into your house in the first place.

Instead of campaigning to make people use reusable bags to shop, start to campaign to have wasted packaging reduced on every product.

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