Friday, September 23, 2011

Pardon my language

I want to listen to music and surf the Internet on my 10-year old computer -- but I fucking CAN'T - because it's ten years old!

Oh - then, can I read my e-mail on my cell phone like all the cool kids? No, you fucking CAN'T - because your cell phone isn't a SMARTPHONE, and you can't read e-mail without a contract and a data plan.

Can I run this old software and read a file that I made 5 years ago? NO! You CAN'T! Your software is OLD and it's not compatible with the software we're making now! Upgrade.

I'd like to buy a new cell phone, can I ... NO. The new iPhone5 is coming out and soon, your iPhone 3 will be antiquated and incapable of doing anything but ... making phone calls! HA. You are a captive of your technology.

Sure -- you love your stuff. Your new laptop, your new phone, your new TV; but it's all soon to be replaced by new stuff that is incompatible with your old stuff.

I used a rotary phone for 30 years. THIRTY YEARS - and everybody I called answered the phone. Why? Because the phone was still the phone. We had a television hooked up to an antenna for 50 years. Fifty years! We got all the same TV programs that the people next door got who bought a brand new TV and antenna. How did that work? Because it was TELEVISION!

Then, we got cable. Glorious cable. It wasn't more than a year later that we had to upgrade to a new converter box - and every 6 months after that, a cable guy was knocking on the door to give us a new box. New box after new box ... until, they finally decided to do away with the boxes and antennas and make the whole thing digital. What used to cost us $10 a month (in 1981) now costs $120. Is this progress?

Along comes the Internet. Those beep-bap-beep boxes aren't good enough anymore. Now, you NEED DSL, cable Internet and satellite. What used to cost $19 now costs $45. It's the same Internet, only now the technology changes and we are expected to pay more for the same service.

I want to listen to music while I surf the Internet - but I fucking CAN'T, because my computer is 10 years old and the memory isn't large enough to support the two devices. I would use a CD player, but those were phased-out 5 years ago. If I want something that has enough power to run two things at the same time, I have to buy a NEW computer - and that will cost at least another $1,000. How long before that's obsolete?

We pay a lot of money for things that we never paid for. Television, Internet and telephones. And what are we getting from it? Technology that is obsolete 2 months after we get it home. Are we really happier now than we were before? All these things frustrate us and confound us to the point of making us cuss at them and raise our blood pressure. Would we be any less happy with reliable, free television and old phone service? Who are we talking to on our cell phones? Is it necessary?

Facebook changes their format. Netflix changes its pricing, and millions of people are suddenly up in arms over something that they didn't have or know existed 5 years ago. In the string of time, it's a grain of sand. How can we get so worked up over something that we did so well without? Are we so spoiled that we get angry over losing a cell while we're driving that we curse the cell provider? Is it worth $1,000 to buy a new computer so we can listen to music while we web surf? Do we need 800 cable channels for ten times the price of 100? Are we so wired-up that we need to read our e-mail on our $400 Smartphone? Are we doing anything that can't wait until we get home?

Apparently, the answer to all of those questions is in the money we have already spent on the technology.

I liked it better when I had record albums, rotary phones, 12 TV channels and a pen and paper. I don't know that my life is so improved now, regardless of how much I've spent on it.

I do know that Apple, Comcast, Verizon and Dell are doing very well.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

One bad Saturday

What started as an innocently planned 75-mile ride with 300 people I didn't know (and 1 that I did) turned into a big bowl of wrong shortly after the start. As anybody who does this sort of thing knows, the photos that follow represent a large amount of money in apparel and equipment, not to mention the one at the end that represents a huge amount of pain and inconvenience.

Kevin and I had decided to do a ride from Parvin State Park on Saturday morning that was sponsored by a local cycling group. I've done these sorts of rides before, and they attract all kinds of riders. From riders who want to finish in the shortest time possible to riders who barely know how to shift gears and ride for the food and SAG support.

It had been about 3 years since I had done one of these rides, and only on reflection did I recall the vast difference in rider quality and I hadn't fully developed a plan to avoid the least experienced and/or slowest of the bunch.

We started from the park, and rolled quickly but quietly down the sparsely traveled county roads. Saturday morning was cool but manageable, and I knew that it would soon be warm enough that we would feel better. After all, it was a 75 (or 100) mile ride, and you can't judge the first half hour against the rest.

As we rode along, on some of the faster and flat spots, the familiar cry of "on your left" was said about a dozen times as riders on their high-bar bikes strolled along at about the same speed as some could run. But they paid the same $20 that we did, so the courtesy of telling them we are going to pass seems the least we could do.
We had barely gotten 12 miles out when we encountered a herd of cyclists that were taking up the entire right side of the road. I was about to tell Kevin that we should buzz this group, when one of them decided that a small encumbrance in the road justified her almost stopping entirely, and without warning she slowed to a crawl, leaving me no choice but to run up on her rear wheel.

I saw our wheels cross, and had enough time to say out loud, "This isn't good," and in a flash I was sideways on the ground. I had hit with a force that I have never hit before, and immediately felt my head hit the pavement (yes, that's blood on my helmet) and my left arm impact my chest with a force that would end up dislocating my lung from its protective casing. I know I was almost to a complete stop when I hit, because there is no scraping on my clothes or arms - just impact points and big scars. One on my forearm, one on my shoulder and one on my upper thigh. I'd have been better off sliding. To give you an idea of the force, the impact not only dislocated my left lung, but it dislocated the left lens from my Oakley Flak Jacket frames - a feat that cannot be accomplished easily.

The medical term is pneumothorax. You (and I) would call it a collapsed lung. Subsequent X-Rays would say it was 40% collapsed, and I wound up being admitted to Elmer Hospital. They found no cracked or broken ribs, so they reasoned that it was the impact alone that caused the lung to collapse. That's a lot of impact, gang; especially from 4 feet off the ground.

Shortly after 6:00pm, I would be in surgery having a half-inch tube inserted into my left chest, through my rib cage and into my thorax to attempt to draw enough air out of it to allow the lung to reinflate and rejoin its rightful place near my rib cage. By Sunday afternoon, that mission had been accomplished, and late Monday afternoon I was released from the hospital with a ridiculous amount of gause and tape on my body

The lessons we learn from this experience are plentiful:
  1. Pack a "Go Bag" and leave it in your vehicle, in case you, like me, have nobody at home to retrieve your belongings and you don't prefer to spend your entire hospital stay in a gown and smelly bike shorts.
  2. Stay as far away from strange riders as possible. Not all of them (or not most of them) know the simple etiquette of yelling "slowing" or "stopping" to let riders behind them know that they are slowing or stopping. One of those two words would have gone a long way toward keeping everyone safe. I still don't know if the rider I collided with takes any responsibilty for her actions. It doesn't matter, but it would be nice to hear "I'm sorry."
  3. When you're doing these giant group rides, pick out 6 or 8 people you know and ride with them. If you don't know anyone, find a way around the rest of them and practice "on your left" and yell it at every opportunity.
  4. When you have a plan, execute it. Don't wait for something to happen. I had a bad feeling about the group in front - emphasized by a couple of riders with hydration packs on their back - and should have just crossed the yellow line and gotten them out of my way. Several times prior, we had yelled "car back" and they just stayed bunched up on the road. That's why motorists hate us and why I hate some cyclists.
There are probably a few more that will materialize as I sit for the next 6 days waiting for this to heal.