In the tech world people love to celebrate the mythos of the scrappy team, working in secret, to revolutionize some industry and buck the current way things are done. Pardon the cynicism, but I think this story has been fully co-opted by big tech to get people to work hard for free. Everybody loves a good story, but when work for a big company trying to furiously swim upstream is rarely worthwhile. Management will show you what they value through their actions. There is no need to listen to speeches about company values, just observe what is rewarded and you’ll know what is valued. If you want to revolutionize an industry, go found a startup. If you want to survive corporate america do what is valued.
A minor bout of the flu finally put an end to my daily writing streak. It’s not a big deal, as establishing a daily writing habit served its purpose, which was to break the habit of not writing at all. You can Google the “importance of showing up” and see endless articles about this phenomenon. Establishing habit and ritual is a crucial step in getting good at something. It won’t guarantee that you’ll get good at something, but not establishing the habit ensures you never will.
I’ve come to the conclusion that mountain biking is fun. It’s a radically different type of workout compared to endurance road biking. One of the aspects I really enjoy is that distance, average speed, and cadence are not stats I need to care about when riding. Each trail is a series of puzzles that need to be solved, hopefully without falling. I am completely bought in on trail riding, and don’t have any desire to hit jump lines at bike parks. I just want to be in nature, moving at about 8-10mph, and trying to navigate roots and rocks. After a few hours I’m just as wiped after doing a 40 mile road ride, and the feeling of exertion and accomplishment is the same.
I don’t have much love for Amazon, but at least they get logistics right and actually have something resembling customer service. I’m upset that Apple chose UPS for shipping. It says something about UPS in Chicago when USPS is quicker and more reliable. The Fedex trucks out of Skokie have no issue delivering packages either.
Calling UPS after abandoning their user hostile website is an exercise in futility. What can brown do for me? Literally nothing short of gross incompetence.
I apparently can’t make up my mind about the perfect size for a phone. I love the iPhone 13 mini for it’s compact size and ability to use with one hand comfortably. But I find it too small for reading, watching video, and comfortably using for long periods of time. I find myself having to frequently switch to a larger screen. So I’m giving the iPhone 15 a shot. It will be the largest phone I’ve used since the iPhone X. My hope is that it will allow me to comfortably travel with a single device and not feel like I need to take along an iPad or laptop. We shall see.
Topics I’m encountering in the news and podcasts recently suggest that the opinions around US decline are starting to come to a head. Increased support for unions, concern around income inequality, and support for two parent married households are all moving to the forefront. Maybe people are longing for the idea of simpler times? There is a lot of crisis in the news these days. The news also isn’t accidental, so I wonder what agenda is being pushed.
It’s surprising to me how much my perspective on public school has changed over the years. The first public school I attended was when I went to Purdue for college. Until my kids started going to our neighborhood school in CPS I had no direct experience with public primary education. I find myself a staunch supporter of public school these days. Our neighborhood school is an anchor point for the families in the neighborhood. It is supported by the local businesses. As US society continues to lose public 3rd spaces I’ve found that school is quickly becoming that 3rd space for me. Do my wife and I need to drop off and pick up the kids together? No, one of us could do that just fine. Is that time the needed social contact we get daily with other parents? Absolutely.
One of the lessons about life that are hard to internalize is that there are no standard winning conditions. I suspect there are winning conditions though, because otherwise we should all be nihilists. For myself, a self declared introvert and misanthrope, one of the winning conditions is prioritizing community. Being able to walk out your front door and talk to people you know is deeply important. You can’t live alone at Walden Pond forever.
As we transition into Fall here in the midwest I’m thankful for a summer that was filled with live music. Concerts were one of the things that were sorely missed during the pandemic. We certainly tried to make up for missed time with multiple trips to Ravinia. If you’ve never been to Ravinia I’d rank it up there with other notable outdoor music venues. I’ve never actually bothered to buy tickets for actual seats. Sitting on expansive lawn with thousands of other people is an experience. I’ve seen people bring out full folding tables with expansive food spreads, candles, and wine. While it’s an environment ripe for ridicule of the priviledge of the north shore, it’s a great place to enjoy an evening and listen to music.
The phrase “tools not jewels” is a useful way to view your possessions. I like to color match components on my bikes and keep the clean, but I try not to stress too much about when they pick up rock chips to the paint or scratches from being locked to a bike rack. Being able to gaze at a pretty bike doesn’t do you much good if you never ride it. (That’s no reason to buy an ugly bike though, or never wash it.)
Parenting pro tip: If you want to spend more time with your kids you need to find things you both enjoy doing. Sometimes this means you’re going to have to give a little and adopt their hobbies. I’m lucky and my kids are into video games and board games. The best part about this is you have an excuse to do things that otherwise you’d get strange looks for doing as a grown adult.
One the best things that came out of the pandemic for me was a friend group that discovered the joys of having Friday happy hour in the park. The Chicago police do not care about open containers as long as you’re not bothering anybody. Especially at this time of the year when Fall temps settle in it’s wonderful to sit outside on a blanket, drink beer, and attempt to describe to the pizza delivery guy where you are.
This week’s Freakonomics podcast on the NFLPA team report cards is a great listen. The economist from the University of Michigan they interviewed nailed it with her observations. It is fascinating that organizations with a binary measure of success in a highly data driven sport are making crazy irrational choices when it comes to investing in their employees. I think it say a lot about the current state of labor relations in the US when highly paid employees whose productivity is easy to measure, and has a strong union, aren’t the best treated employees in the country.
I’m sad to hear that On the Route is closing. It’s a great bike shop. I’ve bought bikes from there before and taken in multiple bikes for service. As someone who loves cycling, owning a bike shop sounds fun, but I suspect it’s a lot like people wanting to own a bar. It’s gotta be a tough business to make consistently profitable.
The bike industry is clearly having a vicious post-covid hangover right now. Most manufacturers are offering steep discounts on bikes, and there are lots of good deals to be had. Hopefully the industry comes out better for it, and they get back to offering solid bikes with reliable components.
In the meantime, support your local bike shop.
There is an intense debate going on right now about what do about the migrant crisis. In Chicago the Mayor’s office is talking about climate controlled military grade tents to get the city through the winter. I understand why people are upset (I am one of those people). Why is this suddenly a humanitarian crisis now? Why was this level of discourse and action not happening for years with Chicago’s own sizable homeless population? Where in the world is the federal government? When hurricane Katrina occurred FEMA was there setting up temporary housing. The scale of this crisis across the country is one of the things the federal government is tasked with handling, and so far there has no been show of action and competency. While political consequences are sadly too few, this feels like an issue that will have many if something is not done.
In 2023 it’s interesting to see the technologies that have taken over. Podcasts have definitely won. I’m not even sure the last time I’ve actually listened to live format radio. The wealth of high quality podcasts available is staggering. Youtube also won. Putting aside the crack cocaine that is Shorts, Youtube is an endless library of educational material. I’m not sure how people efficiently find and watch DIY instructions without it. When I’m doing plumbing or electrical in our house my phone has a few videos queued up and ready. Same with bike maintenance, I’m not sure what I did before the Park Tool channel existed. My mind would have exploded back in 2003 if you told me I would have a powerful pocket computer without always on internet and access free high quality video and audio content.
It’s fun to watch my kids get into same hobbies I had that age. It’s even better that I apparently haven’t grown up that much yet and can play with them. Collectible trading card games, video games, sports … it’s pretty great. I do miss have babies and toddlers at times, but this age is way better. I also get to appear to have superpowers when I do things like setup a home Minecraft server and can help put together competitive new decks for Pokemon cards.
There is a small satisifaction in middle age as your kids get older. You get to share the normal daily rhythms with your kids. You are no longer hostage to the nap schedule, meltdowns, and the world stopping around 6pm. You can have conversations with other parents that last more than 17 seconds before somebody needs something. You get to sit on the sidelines of a soccer field on a sunny afternoon in September and enjoy the weather. You can solicit input from your kids about what to do next, and frequently their ideas are pretty great. That’s how you end up having pizza together, drinking root beer, and giggling wildly as you watch Bluey.
In the middle of the pandemic we bought a house. We moved closer to school and stayed in the city. We really tried to talk ourselves into moving to the west burbs or the north shore, and even considered moving down to Indiana to be closer to family and have a dramatically lower cost of living. I’m glad we didn’t make that choice and stayed put, and yesterday was a perfect example of why we avoided hitting the reset button.
Between our neighborhood and school we’ve managed to form a real community. We can walk everywhere in our neighborhood. Our kids see their friends often and I’ve gotten used to just making sure I have food and snacks around the house for more than just my kids. It’s worth the higher cost of living and dealing with all the challenges that come from living in Chicago.
One of the strangest parts of getting older is seeing news articles about people dying. Not just the celebrities, but people I knew, or people that were well known in the tech industry. When I was youngers death seemed like a weird far away thing. You go to the random funeral every once in awhile, but it is too infrequent to really register. Now people a generation older than me are starting to die of normal old age causes. It certainly reinforces the idea that it’s important to live meaningful decades before you approach retirement age.
It’s a Wednesday. Restaurants are usually open on a Wednesday. Yet it took us multiple tries to find an place to get dinner tonight that was open. Most of the restaurants in our neighborhood have “Help Wanted” signs in the window, or notes about being short staffed. Maybe in this post-pandemic world people’s behaviors have dramatically shifted with respect to going out to eat. Maybe it’s inflation still being extremely high for food. Maybe the national labor shortage in the service industry is finally having real effects.
Whatever it is, I’m genuinely surprised at how my very dense urban neighborhood feels on a Wednesday when the weather is nice.
One of the rides I plan to do this fall is the Des Plain River Trail during the weekend of peak fall colors. I did a long ride last year from around Fort Sheridan up to Zion, and was rewarded with spectacular views during a sunny 70 degree day in late October. Illinois may not be known for its nature parks, but the ones we do have are wonderful.
After having sweat literally dripping from my cycling cap I am officially ready for the fall cycling season to start. I will happily take shorter days for cooler temps and fall colors. I am tired of having to decide between oppressive humidity and blazing sunshine when I go ride. Bring on October.
Today is one of the best cycling days in Chicago. Bike the Drive is amazing. Lakeshore Drive transforms from 8 lanes of loud, noisy, car traffic into 15 miles of slow rolling peace and quiet. The lack of noise is easily the biggest change. This morning will be one of the only times you can ride a decent amount of miles in the city without ever having to stop or compete with cars.
You have to experience it in person to understand how transformative it is to enjoy the best views in Chicago by bike.
Today was the first proper ride I did with a new crankset with larger rings. Who knew a slightly larger chain ring could make such a difference? I get to use more gears on my cassette, and it feels like I have more usable gears as well. Apparently gear ratios are a thing. I was not prepared for how much of a difference two more teeth would make on a chain ring.
(I’m not sure how I should account for also having a saddle that fits, perfect weather, and a new bottom bracket as well.)
Labor Day weekend in Chicago is the best. It’s the last weekend the beaches are officially open, Bike the Drive is Sunday morning, and the weather usually cooperates. I’m looking forward to three mornings in a row of long bike rides. Knowing how crowded the highways will be as people drive to Wisconsin and Michigan, it’s a strong incentive to stay put and enjoy the city.