Patriot Games

 Swine  Comments Off on Patriot Games
Dec 172012

I don’t have words for the murders that took place in Connecticut this past Friday, but thinking about anything else seems impossible and inappropriate. My boys are the same age as the victims. One of them still believes in his own invincibility. The other believes anything can be figured out, provided you think about it enough. Like most parents, I’ve found it difficult not to imagine those beliefs being taken from them. If I’m not careful, I can see what small courage each boy has so far managed to find within himself being asked to face that moment, that endless quiet. I would like very much not to be able to think about that.

By Monday morning, though, we’re well on our way to “understanding” the killer, as if the likes of CNN has ever brought us a breakthrough in the origins of good and evil. The reality is that there is no collective human reaction to this, because this isn’t the business of humanity. While these tragedies necessarily bring people together, it’s only because individually there is no way to process this, no language to speak it. There’s more humanity in a book left open on the floor of a little girl’s room than in all of us left living today.

It’s natural to want to do something.

We could get rid of guns, or at least the kind clearly preferred by people interested in killing other people. That Red Dawn fantasy about having to rise up against an invasion from another country? You don’t own the country anyway, Cletus. Wealthy people do, and they only let you live here because your lives aren’t significant enough to bother them. Besides, your country was already invaded. They came through Wal-Mart, and we surrendered without a fight.

Still more effectively, as many of the best voices during this tragedy have argued, we could put more effort into diagnosing and treating the mentally ill. I would submit to you that we have, here in the 21st Century, the most powerful tool for this work already at our disposal each and every day.

I’m referring, of course, to Twitter.

We can’t predict the next tragic event, but we can do a better job of monitoring the unstable. Deadspin shows us how easy it is to gather a quick list of the emotionally unstable.

The thing about this post is that it seems like I started out serious and then made a joke. I didn’t. If we really wanted to find the mentally unstable, hashtags would help. The media seems infatuated with full-grown human monster-style “Evil,” when it seems to me evil usually begins in things like venomous self-centered, hate-filled, inarticulate spew. Where it goes from there depends on a lot of things, but it doesn’t change the fact that these people need help.

Getting Real Amish

 Swine  Comments Off on Getting Real Amish
Dec 102012

When last I checked, the Amish considered photos a bit of a problem. Photos were an manifestation of worldly vanity that went against their rigorous adherence to humility.

I’ll admit be being slightly puzzled, then, at the Discovery Channel’s new series, Amish Mafia.

Yes, “Amish Mafia.”

Based on the previews, it would appear that there’s little humility on display in the show, which I guess isn’t unexpected. Having potentially exhausted viewers with the kind of professional narcissists that crave publicity and tend to be the only real export America has left, Reality TV sort of had nowhere else to turn but those who’d normally prefer to be left alone.

And so we have another Amish reality TV show. (Yes, another.)

It sort of makes sense, though, doesn’t it? The current emphasis on “getting real” all leads to this, the 21st Century soul-cleansing that is watching people who live without electricity behaving badly on your iPad.

Every now and again, don’t you get just the slightly feeling that the single most accurate documentation for this whole century is South Park?

Personally, I’m just looking forward the more educational programming from learning channels like Discovery. Somewhere right now there’s a TV executive with an 11:00am lunch meeting to listen to a pitch for Nun Cat Fight who’s trying to figure out if he can also make the high noon meeting for Buddhist Hit Men.

Marketing Gone Wild

 Bikes, E-commerce, Swine  Comments Off on Marketing Gone Wild
Nov 292012

Looks like Project Danzig is officially in the hands of someone capable of figuring out where all the derailleurs and bottom brackets and photon torpedos are supposed to go. In the meantime, I’ve been confronted with an interesting new bike project that’d be about as different from Danzig as possible. Still kicking around directions, but I tagged in my customer service guys today to gather ideas for the ultimate utilitarian bike. In addition to taking care of customers for a bunch of web sites, they also tend to ride bikes. A lot and in ways that are both remarkably practical and wildly impractical.

In short, they’re the type of people who should be involved in designing bicycles. Some great ideas resulted, very few of them the same. Now we must battle.

While Danzig’s in the oven, I’m focused on the marketing side of my life, wherein logic and self-respect are often awkward party guests.

Consider the Miller commercial up top. Personally, I have a rule that if your marketing idea risks insulting all of humanity, you might want to at least get a second opinion. Miller clearly feels differently.

But the real pros have figured out how to insult much more than just your intelligence. It would never occur to me, for instance, to help sell cars by carefully positioning them behind my scantily clad daughter.

According to, though, a guy named Kim Ridley’s somewhat unique eBay used car marketing angle is to use photos of his daughter (and various other young girls/tattoo-practice-volunteers), each scantily clad and posed next to what appears to be the most heavily curated assortment of shitty cars for sale on the Internet.

You know you’ve achieved Twelve Level Ninja Marketing Mastery when you find yourself wondering if maybe that last ass-shot of your little girl with the Nissan might’ve been just a little much, but then using it anyway.

Optimal Placement and Suing Toward Viability

 Bikes, Swine  Comments Off on Optimal Placement and Suing Toward Viability
Nov 062012

Two posts today? Yep. To prove I was sufficiently exhausted when I queued up yesterday’s post late Sunday night, I ended up failing to actually post it. I believe I fell asleep on the keyboard, woke up and went to bed.

Anyway, tonight I received the optimal location of my pivots in light of clearances and structure. Or something. Basically, the pivot locations you see above would play nice with things like front derailleurs, bottom brackets and giant pivot axles.

They just wouldn’t work right from a suspension standpoint.

So the challenge now becomes how to provide as much room for derailleurs and everything as possible, while staying true to my design. The pivots really do need to be in very specific locations for this to work. There are little pockets, though, small ranges of potential locations.

That’s what I’ll be doing with my late nights for a while now. At least I know now that any problems I have with the design I can blame on the UCI.

Seriously, happy as I am to see the vultures descending on Messrs. McQuaid and Verbruggen, they are still vultures.


 E-commerce, Swine  Comments Off on Faceblock
Oct 252012

I manage some corporate Facebook pages–nothing overly elaborate–but a few places where companies can keep fans updated on events, share media with customers, and offer support and advice. Basic communication.

I’ve advertised with Facebook, too, though “sparingly” doesn’t begin to describe it. Plenty of people have told me how awesome Facebook advertising really is, and I’m sure for some businesses it makes much more sense than others, but I also think plenty of businesses mistake “Likes” for “sales.” They are, in fact, distinct. Facebook is rarely your main sales tool. It’s a means of staying in touch with your customers.

At least, until recently.

So the other day a co-worker alerted me to a little rant originated by George Takei (yes, that George Takei) about how Facebook has started changed companies to actually communicate with their fans. Basically, posts were reaching only a small percentage–about 15%–of fans, but you could pay Facebook to have them reach more.

Checked into it. Seemed true.

Then there was a post from someone purported to work at Facebook explaining that it was all a misunderstanding and that posts pretty much always reached only a small percentage of fans, and the advertising was a way to ensure you reached more.

This appeared legit, but of course didn’t square with reality. So you’re telling me a dude who signed up to pay attention to my page is ignoring my posts, but will click on an ad or something for them?

Lot of fuzzy undefined things there. In fact, Facebook definitely was trying to encourage page owners to pay to promote posts, but were they blocking fans otherwise? If so, this would have to be something they’d just started doing after Zuckerberg’s shareholders had realized they owned part of the world’s biggest free waste of time. Which meant we should have befores and afters, right? Companies that had measured their reach and watched it suddenly drop–like right before they started being asked to pay to promote their posts.

Where were those?

Apparently, they’re out there. And pissed.

Does Facebook own the rights to distribute your Facebook shit? Absolutely. Total dick move to play that card? Completely.

Interesting to see where this all goes.

Selling the Drama

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Oct 232012

At this point the seemingly endless descent of Lance Armstrong’s character has started to seem a little overwrought. Hardly two minutes consecutive go by without Undead Armstrong staggering back across the world stage, fueled by lord only knows what and strung together with money and rubber bracelets. Most people in the cycling world have long since passed the “acceptance” stage and are ready for Armstrong to just please go away.

But Lance just doesn’t roll like that.

Increasingly, what’s become apparent in all the rush to strip Armstrong of his titles and place in cycling’s history is that here we have an individual who does not go gently into that good night.

No, this is far from over, and the real speculation now isn’t whether Armstrong will disappear from the world stage, but rather how famous he’ll continue to be. Just think of the many upcoming story lines we have to look forward to.

  • Claiming to Be Broke
  • Finding Jesus
  • Reality TV

In fact, the more we see of the post-bullshit Lance Armstrong, the more we realize this is an individual who’d be willing to bring down his entire Livestrong organization, before becoming an obscure and forgotten man.

Why? Because Lance Armstrong’s kind of a psychopath, and, as a very interesting article on recently pointed out, psychopaths have a way of taking over.

You should check out the article itself, but one short interpretation suggests that, among other things, psychopaths are simply willing to say and do things that are way beyond the pale, in order to get what they want. They make dime store narcissists and megalomaniacs look downright self-deprecating. Armstrong is one of those guys.

Case in point: he could have made a hell of an effort to save Livestrong by putting as much daylight as possible between himself and the organization. But that never happened, and it never happened for one reason: because Livestrong is all about Lance Armstrong.

It’s why some supporters are asking for their money back and calling the entire organization into question. Livestrong shouldn’t have had to repudiate Armstrong’s actions; he should have distanced himself from the organization completely the minute he became a liability.

But he didn’t. In fact, I don’t recall hearing an apology anywhere in there from Armstrong. At the very least, he owes a dozen personal ones, but all total, he owes many millions more.


 Bikes, Swine  Comments Off on Repurposing
Oct 222012

I’ve long been fascinated with the interesting world that is the fine line between fashion and bicycle manufacturing. Some pretty interesting business models exist there, including yet another shit-bike configurator I discovered yesterday. This one’s German, which means the site selling you $150 bikes for $1000 is clean and slick. You can choose your very own shit saddle and shit stem and shit bar, allowing you to create the ultimate personalized colorway on your ultimate personalized shit bike.

But I’m awarding the lifetime achievement award for turd polishing to From what I can tell, their business model should be the envy of every shop rat and struggling store owner in the world.

Check out the dumpster salvaged bike up top. Apparently, that particular bike was just sold by for about $800 U.S., approximately $683.23 more than it was worth. Based on the general condition of components in the detail photos, it’s pretty clear these bikes are being built with used parts. But I suspect SohoFixed had gone even bigger than most when it comes to rebranding shit bikes as high fashion. Free Wal-Mart quality frameset? Check. Parts from the “$10 or Less” bin at the local bike shop? Check. Bike mechanics? Not so fast, there, big spender. Something about the way the bikes are looking–and that’s cleaned up for the photo shoot, mind you–suggests might have achieved the ultimate level of shit bike rebranding. Could it be true? Could they have chosen to avoid even the expense of hiring those costly “bicycle technicians” to assemble their bikes?

We can’t be sure, but creating artisanal, one-off custom bicycles out of salvaged parts and then having them assembled by people who’ve never installed a saddle onto a seatpost before no doubt yields a more solid bottom-line for both the company and customer.

I can’t claim to understand how it’s possible for a company to pull something like this off, but more power to them. If the market in London can sustain a business that sells shit bikes at a premium, they might as well be allowed to have at it. And as long as the customer knows what he or she’s getting is willfully pays this much for a second-hand bike, it’s probably a win overall. These things would’ve just ended up in landfills. Now they’re bound for the trendy lofts of the irresponsibly wealthy, which I’m all for making the landfill of the 21st Century.

Foundations are Not People

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Oct 182012

After a bit of confusion wherein companies scrambled to do the math, trying to figure out if abandoning Lance Armstrong meant advocating cancer or something, Nike and now Trek have finally turned their back on Armstrong.

While it was certainly wise of all companies involved to verify the douchbaggery of Mr. Armstrong before taking action, there still seemed to be a delayed reaction when it came to severing ties.

If anything, it took former teammate of Armstrong, Paul Willerton, and a small group of protestors showing up at Nike’s corporate office in Beaverton, Oregon to help corporate America separate Armstrong from Livestrong. quoted Willerton as saying:

To be fair to athletics we have to look at Lance the person and the athlete and deal with that, without letting everyone say the magic word and pull that cancer cloak over it. I feel that they are mutually exclusive, that just because you support one doesn’t mean that you have to support the other. Nike could make a strong move right now by dumping Lance Armstrong, even if they still need to continue paying LAF.”

And so they did. Nearly all of the sponsors are gone.

More complicated is the relationship Armstrong has among cancer survivors around the world, for whom his status as both a hero and a source of hope is very real. The most disturbing aspect of Armstrong’s fall for grace may be the debilitating effect it has on some of his most dedicated fans–cancer survivors every bit as impressive as Armstrong, but people who found in him a sense of not just hope, but community.

As Steve Madden, former editor of Bicycling pretty eloquently explained, there was a lot of inertia to just accepting Armstrong for years, pinching our noses harder and harder the more the situation seemed to stink, because, well, there was a good cause going on.

But really it’s time to take Lance as his word. I’d always thought he seemed like an OK enough guy–um, doping and cheating and lying and apparently threatening aside–except for the false modesty. To be sure, everything Lance was always Lance, and everything Livestrong was always Lance. And he, more than anyone, took great pains to make sure it stayed that way.

But now it can’t. If there’s a moral to this story, it has little to do with doping and honesty and sports, and everything to do with the Problem of Celebrity. It’s unfortunate that we tend to need somebody like the mythical, imaginary Lance Armstrong. There seemed to be a sense of weightlessness over the past few weeks, as the Livestrong network collectively pondered an existence without Lance at the center of the universe. I was particularly disgusted by Livestrong ads running on Facebook that were very conspicuously worded to combine strong ideas of “support” and “standing up for” with relatively vague objects of that support. The obvious effect was of rallying behind Lance.

Make no mistake, for all the good it did, Livestrong was also a tool in Armstrong’s campaign of deceit and self-promotion. The real question was could it exist without him.

For now looks like it can–thanks to a whole lot of amazing people who might never be celebrities, but who are ultimately far better individuals than Lance Armstrong.

Ass Covering

 E-commerce, Swine  Comments Off on Ass Covering
Oct 172012

Glenn Beck has launched a clothing company and it’s fucking awesome.

In fact, it’s more than awesome. It’s a sign–loud and clear–to all the poor, misunderstood Ayn Randians out there, that it’s go time. A movement has begun, a movement to “re-shore”–to bring manufacturing back to the U.S., and clearly the hippy bastards have gotten the jump on the true Drivers of the American Economy. Dudes with beards in places like Portland and Minnesota are welding up bicycle frames and selling them to people. People are making their own ceramic tiles, throwing their own pottery, and actually selling those wares on places like Etsy, no venture capital or family connections required.

This is not what the rebirth of American manufacturing is allowed to be.

No sir. The rebirth of American manufacturing will be led by true patriots. Men (sorry, women) who appreciate how things used to be. Before they were born. In movies.

Men like Glenn Beck are stepping up to make sure the shit that gets made in America is every bit as unnecessary and soul-less as the crap we usually buy from China. Stupid hippies. You’re not supposed to actually make shit by hand! You’re supposed to make commercials about how you make stuff by hand.

Preferably commercials as fucking weird as this one (the audio here’s been edited to poke fun at Glenn, but no shit, this is the actual commercial).

No, seriously. That’s a real commercial. You can see it with its actual sound–which is even funnier somehow–at the

I can’t really imagine a combination of images, words and music that could better convey: “We don’t understand this whole ‘make shit’ movement even a little bit, but we’re going to capitalize on it aggressively.”

But of everything that’s wrong with this company–the premise, the racially insensitive “Indian Chief” logos, the pathetic attempt to comprehend (let alone “capture”) the actual spirit of doing something with your hands, the sheer bullshit factor and conceit of it all–this is the most amazingly wrong thing:

The “Christmas Sweater.”

Take that, anyone trying to actually make something in America. Glenn Beck, arguably the greatest comedian of the 21st Century, has created a true American company–a company built on principles, true American values, and skulls wearing Santa hats.

As batshit crazy goes, that’s fucking brilliant.

Open Sores

 Bikes, Gadgets, Swine  Comments Off on Open Sores
Sep 142012

I’ll be at Interbike all next week, reducing Canootervalve to maybe the occasionally photo and half-formed musing–which I guess is pretty much what it is anyway.

But I’ll be neck-deep in bikes–literally and figuratively–so before all that starts I wanted to ponder the news today that Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, wasn’t happy with the crushing pro-Apple verdict recently delivered in a patent lawsuit between Apple and Samsung. In case you hadn’t noticed, Apple literally own the ability to hinder sales of some Samsung phones because the Google Android OS on those phones encroached on Apple intellectual property. Heavy stuff, but bullshit, as far as Wozniak seems to be concerned.

Quoth Woz:

I hate it. I don’t think the decision of California will hold. And I don’t agree with it — very small things I don’t really call that innovative. I wish everybody would just agree to exchange all the patents and everybody can build the best forms they want to use everybody’s technologies.

In light of the recent Trek versus Weagle squabble the shareware, free love that Woz seems to be advocating here might sound pretty bizarre. Would we really just reduce things to their form factor, where the company with the best-looking bike always gets the sale.

Seems bold.

Apply it to the bike world and that means anyone could design a Santa Cruz VPP system or a DW-link. The invisible hand of the market would, presumably, mop up whatever confusion this nonsense would create and build, instead, better bikes–ones with more elegant solutions to the same set of problems.

Or people would just knock shit off poorly.

While I wish I could share in Woz’s Grand Open Source vision of a world in which intellectual property doesn’t have to matter so much, the reality is that we live in a world where companies rip off squiggly look of a Pinarello just to make a buck. And it works.

No, I think there’s still some value in intellectual property, but I’ll agree with Woz that a lot of it’s completely stupid, too. I’ve seen patents get slapped on “Brand A’s” single-pivot bikes because Brand B noticed a chance to patent something as stupid as a piece of tubing connecting the pivot and the shock mount. That’s so amazingly wrong on all levels.

So I’m off to the godforsaken desert. Any questions about new products, feel free to ask. Between all the meetings I definitely won’t get to everything, but that won’t stop me from trying.

Should come home just a little closer to creating some bicycles, too.