Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Monday, April 8, 2013
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Funny how things turn out the way they do.
When I started running the hills around my area it was with the expressed purpose of slowing down my cadence and increasing my strength in preparation to ride a single speed bicycle off road. And it seemed to work before life became a bit busy. It’s been some time since I have ridden my single speed. Indeed, it’s been quite some time since I pushed down on anything resembling a bicycle pedal. Yet I continue to run.
Print Unable 32. A flashing error message that mocks me. I turn the machine off then on again. The error message disappears. But only briefly. A couple of prints later and it returns. Laughing at a clumsy attempt to rectify the problem by simply wishing it away. I flick the switch a couple more times but this printer has an ability to learn. It will not allow such a simple trick to work again. This is a machine so complex that it knows itself. And it knows that I can’t possibly hope to understand its evil machinations.
Print Unable 32. I look it up on the internet. Because everything is on the internet. I go through the recommended sequence of steps and check the paper feed, and the drum unit, and the other printing whatnots. I turn the machine back on. Print Unable 32. I do the same sequence of steps another three times. I check a youtube video which shows how to block the toner sensor with a piece of tape. I open the printer but it’s a different model to that in the video. If there is such a sensor then it is hidden behind a plate clenched tight like an iron fist. I despair. Print Unable 32. The LCD display laughs at my feeble attempts to comprehend the incalculably complex.
Defeat. But it is easy to find the manufacturer’s service manual on the internet. It indicates that if cleaning the unit doesn’t work then one of three components needs replacing. To my delight, I find that I had purchased an extended warranty for the printer. I call the company the next day. They tell me to bring the printer in and they will replace it.
Not fix it. Replace it.
This isn’t some $79 plastic printer. This is a $1200 plastic “multifunction centre”. According to the manufacturer’s service manual it just needs one (or all) of three parts replaced. Maybe the parts can’t be sourced any more. But it was a current model just a couple of years ago. Maybe the cost of labour in Australia is too prohibitive. I watch Kevin McCloud’s “Grand Designs” and see, with some disappointment, that it will cost me more to renovate my little wooden house in Brisbane than what it cost to resurrect a stone castle in Yorkshire. Not an igloo in Greenland or a yurt on the Mongolian highlands but a castle in England (and under the close supervision of archeologists from English Heritage paid for by the owner). Maybe after replacing parts and servicing costs and the printer still doesn’t work. What then? Well, whatever it is, the insurers have calculated that it is cheaper to replace the item rather than getting it fixed.
Machines have reached a degree of complexity and technological evanescence that the economics of globalisation and mass-production make them (relatively) cheap to manufacture but expensive (or impractical) to maintain. Australia places a high price for labour. Manufacturing that is mobile (building renovations isn’t one of them) moves overseas or kills itself at home.
I read Heather Pringle’s article on the evolution of creativity in the Scientific American (March 2013). I learn that the oldest known stone tool was knapped by an australopithecine in Ethiopia some 2.6 million years ago. And that modern Homo sapiens emerged about 200,000 years ago. But nothing much happens for the first 100,000 years. Then archeologists find projectile weapons, insect repellent bedding, wind instruments, cave paintings, and figurative art dating between 90-60,000 years ago in Africa and 40,000 years ago in Europe (the difference presumably reflecting hominid migration). This suggests that the hand-held stone tool was, quite literally, the cutting edge of technology for at least the first 2.5 million years (assuming that archeologists took the time to dig just that bit deeper to make sure they didn’t miss anything in the African strata made by humans dating between 200,000-100,000 years ago). Any evidence of progress beyond the crude lithic reduction of rock dates from the most recent 100,000 years. Archeologist see an exponential growth of creativity. Anthropologists see an example of cultural ratcheting.
Palp this piece of lithic reduction
Over a couple of million years the hominid brain increased in size (Australopithecine had a mean capacity of 450 cubic cm; H. erectus 930 cubic cm; H. sapiens from 100,000 years ago 1,330 cubic cm) and specialisation (in areas that govern creativity where the free association of ideas then processes through analytic thought, and in areas that govern complex social behaviour such as language and empathy). The study by Dean et al outlined in the article shows that humans (with their big, specialised brain) also have a great ability to collaborate. Nursery school children, as opposed to chimpanzees and capuchin monkeys, can successfully tackle increasingly complex tasks by talking, encouraging and teaching each other.
Ms Pringle reports that the modern human with his cognitive power, social skills, and capacity to collaborate had in place the essential elements for cultural racheting. But it was demography (specifically the establishment of large, connected populations) that spurred the leap in creativity seen over the past 100,000 years. The sharing and development of ideas as people interact is taken as an essential and potent driver of progress. A process that continues to ramp during the internet epoch of a super-connected world.
My mind pictures an unstoppable logarithmic curve of progress. And a human desire to have more of everything. It leaves me wondering whether such a thing is sustainable.
Print Unable 32. I contemplate the convenience and ridiculousness of having such a sophisticated multifunction centre in my little home office.
I read Michael Marshall’s article in the New Scientist (No 2906, 2 March 2013). I learn that the global surface temperature has increased by 0.8˚C since the early 20th century and even if humanity stopped all emissions immediately the air temperature will still rise by another 0.3˚C. That means we are committed to at least a 1.1˚C rise. Mr Marshall reports that in 2007 the Arctic sea ice reached a new, less stable state. The question he puts forward is whether a further rise in temperature will reach other tipping points (the thawing of the Siberian permafrost is next in line) which could then lead to a cascade of global warming.
Not that simple
Variations in the Arctic sea ice, especially its recorded downward trend, is a reasonable cause of consternation. Indeed, for many it is the poster child of global warming. And global warming is not a good thing. Those that delve in the bafflingly complex study of the Earth's climate seem to agree that whilst the area (and volume) of Arctic sea ice has varied significantly over thousands of years it does appear to have become more unstable over the past few years. The study by Lenton and Levermann outlined in Mr Marshall’s article does not say that the melting of Arctic sea ice is itself a tipping point (Levermann states the situation is reversible) but proposes how this and some globally-significant tipping points (which they say aren’t reversible) can affect each other in ways not previously factored in climate models.
Proposals for nonlinear catastrophic events justifiably draws criticism from the scientific community. Complex systems have homeostatic mechanisms to isolate threats and smooth out fluctuations. But the significance of the study is not whether you necessarily believe in tipping points that can cascade into each other as discussed in a recent article in the Scientific American. It presents the reasonable possibility that such cascades may actually exist. And that matters. Climate science is not exact: any particular event can lead to change that is not entirely predictable so any irreversible event becomes highly significant. And calamity does not reside solely at the extreme end of fuzzy forecasts. As outlined in another recent piece in The Economist, when it comes to global warming two things should continue to concern humanity: the degree of uncertainty and the fact that, in practice, not much has been done to mitigate it.
Print Unable 32. I wonder about my carbon footprint. And that of my neighbours. Elsewhere a mass of humanity heaves itself up to the comfort and convenience of the carbon-intensive lifestyle we take for granted.
I go for a run and plan out what I need to do. I remember I have to sort out some stuff at my mum’s place now that she is away visiting relatives. And there’s still some tax papers to scan and some renovation plans to sign off. Then I have to go to work.
It’s going to be another busy day.
It’s going to be another busy day.
The replacement printer rumbles to life.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Jake Shimabukuro stops by Google
James Hill with ukelele, chopsticks and comb
Peter Luongo and Langley Ukelele Ensemble
Saturday, March 9, 2013
When I’m not thinking about bicycles my mind tends to wander a bit. Quite a bit actually. Like the sort of society we live in where police feel unable to admit that they shot an armed man (twice actually) who was acting erratically in a busy mall in Brisbane city. The official police statement is that he was shot with a “bean bag round”. But he had ballistic injuries consistent with bullet wounds. Not to mention a bullet embedded in his arm. If this is misinformation spread by (a) lazy or misguided journalist(s) then the police are clearly not doing anything to correct it. Unfortunately I think it is more likely to be a wanton lie.
Saturday, February 16, 2013
1986 Pino Morroni Titanium sold $8500 USD
1993 Eddy Merckx MX Leader sold $4999 USD
Saturday, February 9, 2013
Saturday, February 2, 2013
Sold GBP 770 Jan 24
Saturday, January 19, 2013
It must be a disappointment to provide a child with a university education only to see them choose the métier of a pole dancer. Not that there’s anything wrong with pole dancing. Nor should we consider an education lost just because a person chooses to practice outside it’s field (it’s a whole lot better than the idiot who completes an education and somehow manages to remain an idiot without the capacity for other endeavour). But it does seem rather a waste of resources.
Sure, I have a Schrade built by Georges Pflugi, a 3Rensho reportedly built by Masahiko Makino, and a Llewellyn that Dazza built for himself. But what I really want is this:
Like so totally.
But, if it must be a bicycle, then this:
The 1983 Colnago Master built by some faceless dude in a large factory in Italy.
Two decades flirting with the steel bicycle and I want the very bike I aspired to when I first started cycling. Two decades percolating the wisdom of the elders and I want a high-profile, standard production frame that appeals to the least discerning amongst us.
Actually, it’s not that simple (it never is).
Remember that kid who tried just a little too hard to be cool? Well, he grew up and got himself one of these.
When I first became aware of the Colnago Master it was already the start of 1990’s. Snooty club cyclists with fragile physiques and shaven legs strutted around with an air of superiority to the manifest bemusement of everyone else. Outliers in a society fixated on cricket, rugby, and displays of male bravado. But they didn’t seem to care. Being small, thin and hairless (and having recently acquired a bicycle) I felt a certain affinity with them. They were kindred spirits. Spirits who, like me, whiled away the hours riding around on a bicycle.
The early 90s was also a time when Shimano and various other non-European companies (notably industrious Japanese and impertinent Americans) scythed apart the insular world of competitive road cycling. Friction shifting was on its deathbed, Synchro sucked, and index shifting with an integrated drivetrain was the only way forward. The Japanese proved dependable, inexpensive and effective. The Americans innovative and reliable with their carbon and aluminium creations. Road cycling defined itself in a world that included BMX and MTB. And in the process shook off the inertia of a parochial history.
The early 90s was a time when Italian racing iron was spoken of in solemn tones. A glorious past seeking to justify its raison d'etre in a brave new world. Seasoned cyclists spoke softly of the compliant caress of steel, of modern tubesets like Columbus Genius (1991) and Max (1987) made of Nivacrom, of the TreVolumetrica, of Campagnolo and Mavic and “retrofriction”. Of the perfectly trimmed derailleur. Of the practiced art of the over-shift.
Talk that sounded like sentimental bullshit it belonged in the preceding decade.
Tubeset designed by Gilberto Colombo.
Bottle cage by Ale.
Groupset by Campagnolo.
Nisi Laser sprint rims with Clement tubs.
Thirty years ago in Cambiago, Italy, Colnago began production of the Master frameset. The frame that would eventually replace the Supers and Mexico’s as the default option for Colnago followers with road-racing pretensions. Classic design, beautiful handling, an incomparable race profile, and Ernesto’s legendary showmanship made it an icon.
The Master is most easily recognised by its diamond-shaped, Gilco-designed tubing (made by Columbus, with Tange Ultimate Superlight from Japan making a show in 1994, after which production returned to Italy or so it seems) but it wasn’t Colnago’s first attempt at a steel frame with manipulated tubes. The Colnago Mexico (at least in its later years) sported reinforcing grooves in the top tube, downtube and chainstays. The Oval CX which Colnago introduced in 1982 had a proprietary aerodynamic tube/lugset from Columbus (similar in profile to the existing and more widely available Columbus Air but, ahem, uglier). The Master Equilateral (a close cousin of the Master) was also released in 1983. Then there was the Esamexico with externally grooved Columbus SL tubing and, of course, the Arabesque with its box-section tubes and Arabesque lugs. (And there were several variations on the theme like the Arabesque lugset could be combined with the Esamexico’s grooved tubeset in which case it was called the Regal or Regal Arabesque, or the Master’s tubeset in which case it was called the Master Arabesque).
None but the Colnago Master made it out of the eighties.
I will endure.
3TTT stem and bars.
In 1988 Colnago removed the ridiculous side-flourishes of the Arabesque lugset, stuck them on the ends of a Master tubeset, added internal routing for the rear brake cable, and (quietly) removed the lovely fluted chainstays. And so the Master Piu was born. (Again, there were several variations on the theme and, confusingly, some were labelled “Master”, others as “Master Piu”). In 1989 the straight-blade Precisa fork made its debut.
Early Masters had a lug profile similar to that of the Supers and Mexicos.
By the time the 1990’s rolled in Mr Colnago, happiest at the cutting edge of bicycle technology, had redirected his attention towards carbon (refining work started in the mid 80s) and titanium. Die-hards demanding the cutting edge in steel frame technology were compelled to scope out (other) manufacturers who could offer ovalised or oversized tubing.
And yet the Master endured. The next two decades saw the Master lugset change with plug-in dropouts out the back and a somewhat inelegant seat lug solution to facilitate plug-in seat stays. Various paint schemes and names like Master Olympic, Master Light and Master X-Light did little to mask what was essentially the same bike. Master frames with two variations of a carbon rear triangle saw production for a couple of years. And more than a few Masters were sold with the carbon (Star) fork.
Iscaselle Time saddle. Lizard skin luxury with a clock/ stopwatch embedded in the nose.
Excuse me miss. Permission do my two most favourite things: ride my bike and stare at my crotch.
Just one last look at them fluted chainstays.
When I first became aware of the Colnago Master it was already the start of 1990’s. A time when the Colnago Master fitted with a Campagnolo C Record groupset was the epitome of the Italian racing heritage. Behold and you quite literally felt the weight of history. But it was beautiful beyond reason. With a bloodline born of sweat and tears.
A legend, burnished through time, that could only lose lustre in its telling.
Bicycle appreciation goes beyond cache names like Colnago or Campagnolo. Indeed, bicycle appreciation goes way beyond frame construction and component design and into lifestyle, and racing, and touring, and making choices, and sacrifices, and the simple joy of turning a pedal and feeling with the wind in your face. But if you are looking for that sort of thing then I’m sorry but you have clearly stumbled onto the wrong blog. Such things should be left to those blessed with the casual eloquence to articulate the unquantifiable. The inept can only bludgeon with clumsy wordage.
I am rather fond of the Colnago Master.
This here is the first production model.
Thirty years ago in Cambiago, Italy, a legend was born.