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April 25, 2009

Bike Restoration

As a kid, I subscribed to Hot Rod magazine and dreamed of building street rods. Alas, on a teacher's salary, that ain't a gonna happen.

So I decided recently to restore bikes. It's cheaper but still satisfying as I turn wrenches and get my hands dirty. Plus, it's fun to find machines that were the cat's meow in their day, bikes that have a soul, and get 'em on the road again. There's a beauty to mechanical things like rods and bikes, something about the poetry in the way the simplest of machines--levers, wheels, and pulleys--transcends the metal and rubber and begets a '57 Chevy, or, well, an '85 Raleigh Team USA.

Before on the left, after on the right:

The top bike is a 1977 Puch Pathfinder with Suntour and Dia-Compe components. I stripped and repainted it and now use it on commute and weekend rides.

The red, white, and blue bike on the bottom is a 1985 Raleigh Team USA, a tribute to the 1984 Olympic cycling team. A brochure from back in the day features it prominently. A nice bike.

Posted by tat at 07:29 PM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2009

Alternative TV

I'm on a mission, a mission to end my support for cable or satellite TV providers. Those guys take a big chunk of money from me every month for basically 3-4 channels I watch irregularly. I'm looking for an alternative.

Enter Boxee, a free, internet-based media appliance. It's in super-geek, alpha stage right now, running on only Mac and Linux, but man, is it cool. I'm able to access, with an old 1.3 GHz PC running Ubuntu Linux and GeForce 5200 video card hooked up to my HDTV, a lot of mainstream content, like MTV, PBS, and Netflix (only with Boxee on a Mac right now, sigh), but also very interesting content from places like Make Magazine TVand Boing Boing TV using RSS feeds, all while using a remote (a Wiimote, no less!) In addition, Boxee will display pictures, play music (both online and local), and share viewing recommendations among friends. Very, very cool. I'm getting an AppleTV with some of my summer school money to get a quiet, dedicated computer to run, in addition to AppleTV content, Boxee with Netflix! TV providers, Goodbye!

For a much less geeky approach, in addition to AppleTV, you may also be interested in a little box called Roku. It'll stream Netflix and YouTube to your TV. It's cheap and tempting, but I'm gonna work with Boxee for right now. Ciao.

Posted by tat at 06:20 PM | Comments (2)

April 14, 2009

Red Light Cameras

Lufkin, where I live, installed red light cameras a year or so ago, and I have to drive through one--on a major highway no less--every day. At first, I was just personally peeved to run the risk of getting a guaranteed ticket for doing something we all do: occasionally make a bad judgment while driving. It's practically inevitable that I'll get a ticket given the number of times I'll drive through this particular light.

But something else bugs me about this new form of "law enforcement": it's a revenue stream. Some company installs and maintains the cameras for a 52% cut of the fines. Whereas before, law enforcement was a tax expenditure, it's now an income source. Before, a community would look at how to stop the law from being broken, like lengthening the caution lights, and therefore cut police expenses, but now it, along with a private business, has a vested interest in making sure traffic violations continue to be committed.

As a matter of fact, several cities have been caught shortening the length of the yellow light in order to increase revenue, including Dallas, Texas. Bastards. Risking our lives, literally, to fatten their wallets.

Same thing with private prisons. Prison guard associations and no doubt prison "companies" will oppose anything to stop the "war on drugs" since it is their bread and butter. More prisoners=mo' money, mo' money, mo' money. It's no accident our prison population is astonishingly out of proportion with the world.

Posted by tat at 06:36 PM | Comments (1)