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Monday, April 06, 2020

Review: Remington Virtually Indestructible Grooming Kit

I shouldn't have been surprised that one of the items hard to find during the "shelter-at-home" orders turned out to be hair clippers. Amazon was all out of them, with delivery slated for the end of April. Fortunately, I found the Remington Virtually Indestructible Grooming Kit on Walmart, with a week delivery lag, and as of this writing you can still get them.

I got them and then realized that I didn't actually how to do a haircut or even mount the combs onto the clippers. I watched a youtube video, and proceeded to do my kids.
They didn't seem traumatized, and then I did myself (with Xiaoqin helping trim the parts I couldn't see, because I was too dumb to install a mirror outside). It's surprisingly easy to use, and at $25, one use would pay for itself. I might never want to pay for a haircut again!

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Review: 6 Impossible Things

I picked up Six Impossible Things from the library since I was running out of audio books. This is one of the rare physics books you can read as an audio book, since most of time there's no oway it would work: equations and Feynman diagrams just won't work in audio format.

Rather than covering all the details about Quantum mechanics, the book explores 6 different interpretations of the fundamental equations: the Cophenhagen interpretation, the pilot wave/de Broglie wave interpreattion, the Many Worlds interpretation, quantum decoherence, the transactional interpretation. He concludes that they all yield the same results, so you can just choose which one you'd like to use.

It's short, mostly enjoyable, but unfortunately all too easily to forget. Still, it covered certain interpretations I'd never heard of before! Recommended.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Review: Word on the Street

I checked out Word on the Street and the first few chapters rehashed material that were already covered in his previous books, about language change, though in greater detail, especially the part about Shakespeare's language vs modern English. It's very clear that McWhorter is passionate about that topic and it's great.

Then the second half of the book covered Black English in far greater detail than I'd seen in any of his other books. A key point that he makes is that Black English doesn't have African roots, but instead came from the language of the indentured servants and other poor white immigrants from parts of the UK: Irish, Scottish, etc. It's a very compelling argument and very well done.

At the end of the book I realized that it was written during the Ebonics debate. Apparently, during that era, McWhorter was the  only Black linguistics expert willing to come right out and say that you shouldn't teach Black English in schools. His reasoning is that in every country such as Germany, Switzerland and Finland, kids come into the schoolroom speaking a local dialect that's as far apart from say, High German, as Black English vs Standard English. The school room, however, provides the immersion and standard English or High German training that's needed to succeed in society. Therefore, anything that reduces immersion time in standard English is necessarily a loss for the kids coming into the school room. He proposes instead, that the teachers are given training in Black English so that they understand that kids in lower grades who speak Black English are not speaking in a degraded form of English, but rather in an English dialect. Again, a very strong argument.

In any case, I wish I'd had this book around to read back when the Ebonics debate was going on, but better late than never. Recommended.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Review: RockBros MTB pedals

I've been teaching my kids to mountain bike, and unfortunately that involves a lot more hiking and pushing than riding.
On any given ride with the kids, my walk to ride ratio might be as high as 3:1 (push 1st kid up, walk back, push 2nd kid up, walk back, now pick up my bike and ride). SPD shoes aren't really any good for that much walking, so I decided to switch to the Rock Bros platform pedals for riding with the kids.

With a dab of grease, the pedals went in as easily as any other pedals I've ever used, which is good --- cheap they might be but at least the threads are precision cut. The riding on them are much worse than SPD shoes with SPD pedals, but much better than running shoes on SPDs, though not by as much as I'd hoped. The pedals come with gripper screws on them to provide some grip, but in reality, for someone used to spinning, these pedals are worthless for anything other than mashing down on. And when it comes to bunny hop, I can hop even less on these than I can on SPDs, which says a lot!

They're fine for what I'm doing, but I'm afraid that anything technical and I'm going to wish I had SPDs. Grant swears up and down that they don't affect efficiency, but I beg to differ. I certainly wouldn't want these for road riding.

But they're brightly colored and very visible. Can't complain, especially for the price. If you're looking for platform pedals, get these.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Review: Yowamushi Pedal Vols 8-12

There's a saying that all bike racers take the same amount of time to tell the same story, whether their race is a 3 week stage race or a 3 minute pursuit on the track. Given that Wataru Watanabe is taking in excess of 8 volumes to tell the story of a 3 day stage race, I'd say he should have taken on a 21 day race instead, as there's an excessive amount of padding in volumes 8-12 of Yowamushi Pedal.

Some of it is the nature of anthology comic books: each week these weekly anthologies devote only a small number of pages to each story (as little as 10-15 pages). As a result, the artist spends a couple of pages providing a synopsis of the story to remind the reader who just started reading or who might have missed a couple of issues.

Even so, by the end of volume 12 we still haven't gotten to the end of the stage race. As with the previous volumes, there's very little racing strategy. The protagonists and antagonists frequently ride side by side like idiots. Sure, these are teen bicycle racers but all it takes is one smart team to take advantage by drafting another team and the game ought to be over.

The best part of these books is that every so often the author/artist would take 4 pages out to describe a mountain bike race, or the various courses in Japan that the cyclists in the comics ride up, or even the bike parks that can be found in Japan. That makes the volumes not a total waste of time but is hardly sufficient to redeem the comics in the eyes of this cycling enthusiast.

Not recommended.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Covid19 Cycling

We have a "shelter in place" order here in the Bay Area, which means that you should stay at home and only depart your home for essential trips such as groceries, medicine, with one explicit carve out for exercise, whether it's cycling, hiking, or running. (I'm sure skateboarding, rollerblading, and scootering for fun are OK as well) All gyms are closed, as well as swimming pools.

Taking my kids out on the triplet, I've seen a lot of people who have obviously only been cycling in the gym: they might have shiny new bikes, but they're weaving all over the road, and many have no experience in hilly terrain (which is the best riding in the Bay Area). This is the worst possible time to have a cycling crash, as the ERs are overloaded and visiting the hospital might expose you to the disease.

I can't do much about COVID19 as an individual, but since Independent Cycle Touring contains a lot of instructions for someone who has to fix their own bike and discusses how to avoid crashes, and I'm guessing no one's about to plan a tour right now anyway, I can give it away just in case it helps someone.

You can get your free copy by clicking on this link and using COVID19 as a coupon code to checkout. The code will expire April 5th.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Review: How will you measure your life?

I picked up How Will You Measure Your Life expecting the usual business school professor memoir of self-congratulation and lots of business anecdotes. I was surprised to discover that it was a parenting book! Yes, there are business anecdotes and semi-case studies, but the majority of the book is about prioritization, namely how not to neglect the long term important stuff even though it's the short term stuff that provides positive feedback and reinforcement. For instance, I've definitely got friends who fit into this description:
For those of my classmates who inadvertently invested in lives of hollow unhappiness, I can’t help but believe that their troubles stemmed from incorrectly allocating resources. To a person, they were well-intended; they wanted to provide for their families and offer their children the best possible opportunities in life. But they somehow spent their resources on paths and byways that dead-ended in places that they had not imagined. They prioritized things that gave them immediate returns—such as a promotion, a raise, or a bonus—rather than the things that require long-term work, the things that you won’t see a return on for decades, like raising good children. And when those immediate returns were delivered, they used them to finance a high-flying lifestyle for themselves and their families: better cars, better houses, and better vacations. The problem is, lifestyle demands can quickly lock in place the personal resource allocation process. “I can’t devote less time to my job because I won’t get that promotion—and I need that promotion …” (Kindle Loc 880)
 And of course, I'm always surprised by the number of people who like to outsource important parenting functions:
One of the most common versions of this mistake that high-potential young professionals make is believing that investments in life can be sequenced. The logic is, for example, “I can invest in my career during the early years when our children are small and parenting isn’t as critical. When our children are a bit older and begin to be interested in things that adults are interested in, then I can lift my foot off my career accelerator. That’s when I’ll focus on my family.” Guess what. By that time the game is already over. An investment in a child needs to have been made long before then, to provide him with the tools he needs to survive life’s challenges—even earlier than you might realize. (Kindle loc 1101)
 There's wonderful insight even into why what we do never seem to satisfy our spouses:
We project what we want and assume that it’s also what our spouse wants. Scott probably wished he had helping hands to get through his tough day at work, so that’s what he offered Barbara when he got home. It’s so easy to mean well but get it wrong. A husband may be convinced that he is the selfless one, and also convinced that his wife is being self-centered because she doesn’t even notice everything he is giving her—and vice versa. This is exactly the interaction between the customers and the marketers of so many companies, too. Yes, we can do all kinds of things for our spouse, but if we are not focused on the jobs she most needs doing, we will reap frustration and confusion in our search for happiness in that relationship. (Kindle loc 1364)
 Much of the book's notes go from child development to self-esteem development, and discusses how certain business case studies (such as Dell outsourcing production of components and eventually the whole machine to Asus until Dell could no longer compete) apply to the raising of children.
in outsourcing much of the work that formerly filled our homes, we have created a void in our children’s lives that often gets filled with activities in which we are not involved. And as a result, when our children are ready to learn, it is often people whom we do not know or respect who are going to be there...if your children gain their priorities and values from other people … whose children are they? Yes, they are still your children—but you see what I’m getting at. The risk is not that every moment spent with another adult will be indelibly transferring inferior values. Nor is this about making the argument that you need to protect your children from the “big bad world”—that you must spend every waking moment with them. You shouldn’t. Balance is important, and there are valuable lessons your children will gain from facing the challenges that life will throw at them on their own. Rather, the point is that even if you’re doing it with the best of intentions, if you find yourself heading down a path of outsourcing more and more of your role as a parent, you will lose more and more of the precious opportunities to help your kids develop their values—which may be the most important capability of all. (Kindle Loc 1646-1654)
 The book encourages you to let your children fail and suffer the consequences early, rather than setting them up to become fragile successful kids by overcompensating for them:
The braver decision for parents may be to give that child a more difficult, but also more valuable, course in life. Allow the child to see the consequences of neglecting an important assignment. Either he will have to stay up late on his own to pull it off, or he will see what happens when he fails to complete it. And yes, that child might get a bad grade. That might be even more painful for the parent to witness than the child. But that child will likely not feel good about what he allowed to happen, which is the first lesson in the course on taking responsibility for yourself...Our default instincts are so often just to support our children in a difficult moment. But if our children don’t face difficult challenges, and sometimes fail along the way, they will not build the resilience they will need throughout their lives. People who hit their first significant career roadblock after years of nonstop achievement often fall apart. (Kindle loc 1855)
There's even a great section about hiring executives, describing a common mistake among startups, which is to hire managers who've successfully run big company organizations with lots of support, rather than hiring managers who've built organizations handson from a small base, even if the resulting organization wasn't as large as the more conventional manager.

I enjoyed the book, highlighting section after section, and thinking about the strong parenting advice in this book. Recommended.