Larry Myers

October Notes

October 31, 2023

The media is dogpiling on the news that Ford and GM are scaling back their investments in EVs. Yes, EVs are expensive, but so are most new cars. The big problem that the auto manufacturers are facing is that 0% interest rates for financing are gone. Suddenly people can no longer afford the monthly payments that come with an auto loan for a new car. This is really no different than what is going on with the housing market. Faced with spending $45,000 at 5% people are going to choose to hold on to their existing cars for a few more years, especially when their current loans are free financing deals.

October 30, 2023

With echoes of 2019, we’re looking at a snowy Halloween. I vividly remember that evening 4 years ago. It was a few inches of wet, heavy, snow. We were pushing the jogging stroller through it with one kid crashed out hard in the warm sack, and our older daughter cleaned up with candy because so few people were out treat ‘r treating.

I’m loaded up with candy and pokemon Halloween packs for tomorrow night (thanks Costco!), and I have a feeling we’re going to have a lot left over. Maybe we’ll get lucky and the storm will shift and the lake will do its voodoo magic. I’m going to be handing out candy in multiple layers and boots regardless.

October 29, 2023

While the overall economy seems to be avoiding a recession, somebody forgot to let the bike industry know. I was able to recently buy Shimano parts on sale at multiple retailers on sales, which almost never happens. QBP is shutting down All City Cycles, and Wiggle is bankrupt. Locally in Chicago a few bikes shops have closed as well. The industry is definitely getting over a post-pandemic hangover, but at the same time so many bike brands don’t have compelling offerings that differentiate themselves from market leaders. If all you’re going to do is source carbon frames from Taiwan, slap a GRX groupset on it, and call it a day, why would I choose you over more established brands? My hope is that once this downturn shakes out we’ll get a new phase of innovation in cycling that moves beyond the glut of carbon endurance/gravel bikes.

October 28, 2023

After using the ZSA Voyager for a week I’m finally having some success being comfortable and productive on the most radically different keyboard I’ve typed on. I’m thrilled the need to stretch my hands during long typing sessions is gone, and my typing speed and accuracy continue to improve. The thumb buttons and layers are a revelation, and I’ve become a much better touch typist already since I don’t have to move my hands from the home row for arrow navigation and common symbols. After years with low profile cherry mx red switches I enjoy the increased feedback from the low profile kailh choc browns, and they don’t seem to be any noisier. The few questions I’ve emailed ZSA support have been answered quickly, and the build quality on the board is excellent. Keymapping is straight forward using the provided software. While expensive, it’s worth the money to be able to avoid bad RSI injuries as I continue to code daily for a living.

October 27, 2023

I predict the next year will see tech companies hiring recklessly again. Netflix, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google all reported huge earnings increases after doing rounds of layoffs and cost cutting. They could stay the course and keep running lean and profitable, but that’s not how people in large companies work. Budgets will increase and the desire to grow empires again will take over. Middle management isn’t incentivized to run lean, they need to increase the number of people reporting to them to prove they can manage larger orgs and move up. Maybe the incentive structure at these companies have changed, but I doubt it. Change is hard, and the next big thing to chase is always around the corner.

October 26, 2023

Something I’ve never been able to figure out is why all software developers seem to love cycling, board games, and finding new ways to brew coffee. This seems to be a literal truism. What about spending too much time in front a computer getting paid to code causes us all to have the same hobbies?

If there’s a rational explanation for this I haven’t found it yet.

October 25, 2023

A coffee cup is a dangerous thing, for they always keep seeming to end up empty, with the natural consequence being to fill them again.

October 24, 2023

My Dad didn’t talk about his job much when I was growing up. He had a fairly normal career in banking. I didn’t consider my Dad’s job exciting or inspirational growing up, and now that I’m older and have kids I realize that wasn’t the point. His job allowed me to have a stable and priviledged childhood. It allowed me to go to college and graduate debt free. His career choices helped provide the model I use to provide for my own family. Everything I admire about my Dad has nothing to do with his resume, and everything about job he did as a father. This is apparently one of those things it takes decades to learn and understand.

October 23, 2023

I really like movies like The King that capture the brutality and messiness of medieval combat. While the political intrigue is fine in the film, the pacing and cinematography are the real standouts. The nightime shots of the trebuchets launching flaming projectiles at the castle walls is a truly spectacular sight. I wasn’t expecting this movie to be so rewatchable, yet here I am writing about it after a third viewing.

October 22, 2023

The learning curve for a colummar layout split keyboard has been comical so far. It’s like being a new typist again, which I have not been for decades. Typing mistakes abound, and make me realise where all my bad habits have beem as a touch typist. We shall see how long it takes for my typing speed to rebound and for the mistakes to go away. On the upside my posture and comfort are already much improved.

October 21, 2023

Madison Wisconsin takes cycling seriously. A metro area of 700,000 people has no business having such an extensive and wide variety of bike paths and trails. Being up here cycling during peak fall colors is pretty fantastic. It’s a welcome change from the familiar trails of Chicago. It’s a priviledge to take a 3 day weekend with your friends to do nothing but ride bikes somewhere new.

October 20, 2023

I want a universal API for all my content services that allows me to give everything a half life. All the streaming services, podcasts, news feeds … all of it. Endless feeds of content that refill daily. Any content that sits in a queue for me should get fainter by the hour, until eventually it just disappears and gets automatically marked as consumed. I suspect it would help me resolve the choice paralysis when I just want to sit down for an hour and enjoy something to watch, read, or listen to.

October 19, 2023

I’m so thankful that I was able to buy a house in 2021. While the market may have been frothy, at least there was something resembling healthy supply and demand. Listening to today’s Odd Lots episode about mortgage rates was a bit shocking. If you have to move, and it involves selling and buying a house, it sounds like you’re in a for a bad time.

It also explains why 1/3 of all home sales right now are cash purchases. While mortgage interest is tax deductible, that benefit is a lot less appealing when current mortgage rates are 2x current inflation. It’s no longer free money.

October 18, 2023

Yesterday someone died trying to walk across Lakeshore Drive about a half hour before sunrise. To those who do not frequent that area around Chicago Ave and Ohio St Beach you might think, “What in the world was somebody doing walking across the highway?”

Here’s the streetview image of that spot. You have 8 lanes of traffic that can move 60+ mph outside of rush hour, bifurcating a popular walking and biking path and a park and playground near the Northwestern hospital campus. The access to the lake is a sketchy underpass that is poorly marked in broad daylight, and likely invisible to most people at night. Until the city and state governments accept that Lakeshore Drive is horrible for everybody in its current configuration nothing will change. People will continue to be cut off from the lake, and drivers will continue treat 8 narrow lanes as an interstate highway. Everybody in both groups should be upset about it, as it serves no one well.

As I bike on the Lakefront Trail I fully expect to keep seeing crushing gridlock on Lakeshore Drive during rush hour, and horrific accidents that frequently cost lives and shutdown a major artery to move people between the north side and downtown.

October 17, 2023

Here come more rounds of layoffs at big tech companies. The latest news is 700 people gone from LinkedIn, which is giving cover to Stack Overflow and Flexport laying off more people as well. There was just so much overhiring from 2019 - 2022 at VC driven tech companies. I don’t begrudge people chasing the money, it was the right move. Get paid while the market is good. I suspect the next 5-10 years will be more of a return to form for the tech industry where the bar gets raised back up a bit more and smart techologists with good systems thinking ability are paid to solve hard problems. The AI bubble is already inflating quickly, so we’ll see if the bubble and crash cycle accelerates.

October 16, 2023

I enjoy movies about the finance industry, but whenever I see a movie that centers around a hedge fund all I really want to do is stop and go watch Margin Call instead. I rewatched it last night. It is just such a perfect movie. I have such respect for films that nail the story and pacing and managed to come in well under the 2 hour mark. Watching an excellent sub 2 hour movie restores my faith in the film industry after suffering through so many superhero movies with needless 3 hour runtimes.

October 15, 2023

Setting boundaries with work has always been a challenge for me. I have friends who can disengage from work with ease. I am not one of those people. I cannot allow work email or slack on my phone. I must power down my work laptop on Friday, even if it means burning time on Monday to restore my development setup. Over longer holidays I will put my work laptop in a closet on a high shelf so I will not see it. Even then little thoughts about work creep in, taunting me to check, just once. This may be one of the things I deeply miss about my early career. Technology did not permit this behavior. Once you physically left work you were gone. There was no way to take it home. You had a desktop machine at work, no laptop, no VPN, no smartphone. I’ve been struggling to get that back for 20 years.

October 14, 2023

I like to consider myself a professional software developer. I spend a lot of time in front of a screen. Because of that I think it’s completely worthwhile to spend a fair amount of money on having a high quality ergonomic workspace. Monitors go on adjustable arms. A standing desk means the desk is always at the correct height, no matter if I’m standing or sitting. A high quality mechanical keyboard and trackpad mean minimizing the chance of RSI.

If your company pays for that equipment, great. If they don’t, buy the right equipment anyway. Spending a few thousand dollars is far cheaper than spending many thousands of dollars in medical expenses. It’s a small investment to make sure you can be a happy and healthy developer well into your career.

October 13, 2023

After using it for a few weeks I’m a fan of the iPhone 15. Not the Pro, just the regular 15. I decided while I liked my iPhone 13 mini, I was ready for a larger screen and larger text. I got it in black, because the pastel colors did nothing for me. I find it to be a seriously comfortable phone to use. The camera is wonderful, the screen is bright and crisp, and I’ve yet to end a full day with less than 25% battery life. My only complaint is that I find the screen notch more appealing than the island. The notch got out of the way and made it easier ot watch video without the distraction of a black oval on the screen.

This are all minor complaints though, and I do not regret the purchase at all. I’m optimistic this will be at minimum a 3 year phone for me.

October 12, 2023

Apparently REI is going through a round of layoffs this week. I also visited the store yesterday to pick up some water bottles, and the bike section was a bit more sad than usual. A lot of stock was missing and the layout felt empty. Hopefully it’s just because for most people we’re getting out of cycling season, but it had me a bit concerned for REI. It’s a great store that I enjoy shopping at, and I hope that it isn’t in some decline that it can’t pull out of it.

October 11, 2023

Two stories that caught my attention this week:

These two trends are related. There is still a ton of pent up demand in Chicago for market rate housing in the near north and west sides of Chicago. You only need to go on a few bike rides to see the sheer number of new residential towers going up in Fulton Market, Old Town, Printer’s Row, and River North. If tax incentives to build affordable housing aren’t working, then the Mayor’s office is going to need to try a different approach.

October 10, 2023

I want to self-host more things on my home network, but the prospect of opening up my home network to the outside world with port forwarding is a terrifying. It’s hard to know how much to trust a consumer grade router, and ensure that I’m doing a proper job of securing the linux server that sits in my office. At the end of the day deny all seems like the only safe thing to do when it comes to inbound network connections.

It certainly would be cheaper than paying for tiny VMs hosted elsewhere.

October 9, 2023

The financialization of everything is a scary prospect. We lose something important as a society when we value too highly the people that operate too far from the actual labor that creates value. Yet we all depend on it. We are forced into the market with our 401k, and further forced into the market as we strive to invest in a way that stands a chance against inflation. To have 25 years of investing wiped out by a full collapse of the modern economy is a terrifying thought, so game must be played, rather than contemplate any other mode to reach retirement.

October 8, 2023

I really hope the FTC’s Click to Cancel initiative is successful. It’s frustrating how many companies make it trivially easy to sign up and accept payment, but make it nearly impossible to cancel and receive a refund with the same ease. Combined with customer support being a race to the bottom I dread having to do anything with a company that requires shipping and paper checks. There are hours of my life I want back from the past year dealing with companies that make it difficult to get any level of decent service once outside the happy path of an online cart and a credit card.

October 7, 2023

I am excited for cool weather cycling season. Biking when it’s in the 40’s and 50’s is glorious. You don’t get as sweaty, you don’t need to carry as much water, and it’s still warm enough to get away with just an extra layer. You don’t have to completely switch up your clothing selection like you do with winter cycling. Trails are less crowded, bugs die off, stopping in cafes for hot drinks and baked goods mid-ride is a treat. Love this month.

October 6, 2023

There seems to be a very rational opinion forming among people who are affected by the growing migrant crisis in this country. People want to help, and want to welcome the migrants, but not at the expense of having to pay more taxes while public services are reduced. Given the past 6 years or so in Chicago I expect this sentiment to be very strong. We’ve dealt with multiple rounds of skyrocketing property assessments, which turn into property taxes increasing by 20%-50% for a lot of people. These tax increases have not turned into better maintained streets, lead water lines are not being replaced, and our schools are still underfunded. Combine that with the very visible effect of park buildings and police stations turning into semi-permenent shelters, people are going to turn their frustration on migrants. I’m not sure how this situation resolves in a good way.

October 5, 2023

One of the issues I have with the bicycle industry is there are so many different standards … for everything. Straight and tapered head tubes. Somewhere between four and a billion different bottom bracket standards. At least four different styles of rear axle spacing that I think of. Quick release skewers and thru axles. Need to get replacement disc brake pads? Good luck.

It must be maddening to be a bike mechanic and have to deal with everything being a little bit different. Don’t even both with Cannondale. Everything they do is weird. (Though Canyon and Trek are equally as bad at times.)

At least SRAM is attempting to reduce some of the madness with their universal derailleur hanger and their DUB bottom brackets. (But yes, now there is yet one more standard.)

October 4, 2023

“What happens if we do nothing?”

This question isn’t asked enough. So often the choices presented to us all require action, and the choice to do nothing is never offered. Reminding yourself of option to do nothing is important. Doing nothing allows us to write less code, pass less laws, produce less waste, consume less, spend less, and general let the world be.

Sometimes doing nothing prevents a problem from getting worse. Doing nothing will allow more choices to become available as well. Like the option to take a nap, go play outside, or go make a snack.

Doing nothing is pretty great sometimes.

October 3, 2023

While I’m not complaining about the warm sunny weather today, it is a bit concerning to have July temps in October. October is usually the time of year in Chicago to start getting out cold weather gear for morning rides, and instead I’m still happily pedaling in summer kit. Makes me wonder if I’ll ever use my studded tires ever again at this rate.

October 2, 2023

I was really excited for Castlevania: Noctune. I fiercly loved the original 4 season series. Between that show and Arcane, Netflix established itself as the perfect home for well done animation.

Nocture was … just okay? Why did eight 30 minute episodes need to feel so rushed? Why did we need to be introduced to so many characters at once? Clearly the story was written with a second season in mind, so why not take the story at a slower pace to let the characters grow and develop? Annette and Edouard’s story was the standout of the first season, and I wish we had more time to really let their backstory breathe. Richter needed far more time to develop from a young and inexperienced hero learning to live with the Belmont name.

Hopefully the series finds its legs in season two.

October 1, 2023

The United States federal government has no plan, and that is terrifying. It is going to take many years of concerted voter action to get a legislative body in place that actually wants to govern and keep the country stable and functional. Just writing that sentence makes it seem like pure fantasy. Maybe we get lucky and reasonable moderates in congress band together to do the hard work of running the country, and tell the radical left and right to go somewhere else if all they want to do is set fires.

But until then, 13 months until the next election.

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