Adam Rice

My life and the world around me

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Last chance at Little City


Little City is a coffee shop that’s become a bit of an Austin institution over the last 17 years. They’ve lost their lease and will close May 13th. Gwen and I had a last lunch there today.

We recently rented Slacker, and the movie is slice of Austin’s past. Almost none of the locations in Slacker still exist in the same form. When I walk around town, I see what used to be superimposed on what is, like a palimpsest

Little City wasn’t in Slacker (the fact that it’s too new is a bit odd to contemplate), but in a few days it too will become a layer of palimpsest that I can’t help but see.

Me at the Thursday Nighter

Firenight at Spider House, 7 April 2011 from Adam Rice on Vimeo.

This is me spinning poi to a remix of “Everything in its right place” by Hybrid.

Kevin

We buried Kevin today.

A freight train hits you just as hard, whether you’re blindsided by it or you saw it coming from miles away. Kevin is the third old cat that Gwen and I have had to euthanize, after Oscar and Squeaker. In Kevin’s case, we had a better sense that he had little time left, but being mentally prepared doesn’t lessen the impact.

Kevin came into Gwen’s life as a young, scrawny tomcat in 1994, not long after she moved to Austin. Gwen already had Oscar and didn’t want another cat, but he kept hanging around in her garden until she took him in. After Oscar established that she was the boss, the two of them were buddies forever. Once a part of Gwen’s household, Kevin filled out to a majestic 17 lb.

Every cat has his or her own personality, and, apart from his fear of small children, Kevin’s was always unceasingly sweet and happy. He would start purring the moment anyone picked him up.

Four years ago, Kevin lost his best buddy Oscar, and it was clear that he was lonely. When we got a pair of kittens two and a half years ago, one of the two, Bubka, decided that Kevin was her new best friend, and so happily he had another excellent cuddlebuddy in his later years.

We’re not sure how old Kevin was—we estimate he lived to be 19. Old age was not easy on him. He developed an allergy that could only be treated with prednisone (though for a full year the previous vet insisted it was behavioral). He became completely deaf and his vision deteriorated. He suffered a herniated disk in his spine that left his hind legs wobbly. He was recently diagnosed with intestinal cancer. But his sweet disposition remained unchanged. It seemed that he never stopped enjoying life.

This morning he was too wobbly to even sit up, and was not purring. He was clearly having intestinal distress. His condition improved a little as the day went on, but we knew it was time. He spent the day lying on the back porch with Gwen, with friends dropping in to say goodbye.

(Gwen here.) One of Kevin’s nicknames was “Kev-Dog”—after his entirely endearing trait of simply following me around the house like a good dog so he could always be in on the action. His favorite thing was to enjoy a good book with me, stretched out on my legs on the couch. And sleeping all night as near to my head as I would allow. He was loved by many, and his sweet nature won over more than a few cat-dislikers. He had a bad spell once that involved a urinary catheter and a move from the vet to an emergency hospital—when we saw the vet after a miserable long wait, she looked at him and said “This must be Kevin,” and he started purring loudly. He was that kind of guy.

A word of grateful thanks to our excellent vets at Austin Vet Hospital (especially Dr. Besch) and their caring staff. They looked out for him in a way that I would wish for animal friend.

Kevin & Oscar

Kevin & Bubka

Twitter’s dickbar

Starting about two weeks ago, Twitter seems to have embarked on a program of doing it wrong.

  1. They have told independent developers not to bother writing primary clients for interacting with the service.
  2. They have (finally) announced that they are shutting down DabbleDB, a wonderful service that got caught up when Twitter bought out the company behind it for unrelated technology (Trendly).
  3. And of course, the dickbar.

A lot of people have written about the dickbar, a misfeature of the official Twitter iPhone app. The first version had a misbegotten interface that covered over your timeline until you played around with the phone. The second version was an improvement in UI terms, but still a misfeature in that it emphasizes information that I don’t care about (nor anyone else who has complained about it): showing global trending keywords among Twitter users.

Obviously the big reason behind the addition of this misfeature is money: it puts “promoted trends” front and center. But even apart from the monetization angle, it feels like evidence that Twitter is guiding people away from using the service the way, well, we do use it.

Twitter was conceived as a lightweight way to pass around status updates among acquaintances, and that is its greatest value to me and (I think) most people. The emphasis on trends seems to be designed to turn people into spectators rather than participants—trends answers the unasked question “what are people I don’t know talking about.” It doesn’t invite me into the conversation and it doesn’t relate to me or my circle of friends. I can see how it’s useful to, say, marketers though.

This fits with another aspect of Twitter’s service that debuted a while ago, where it suggested people for you to follow—celebrities. I see that now, it suggests people who are actually friends of friends (and promoted feeds), so apparently they’ve fine-tuned that, but it’s evidence of the same shift away from participation toward spectation.

Twitter’s got a right to run their service however they see fit. And if they keep going down the path they seem to be following, I have a right to go somewhere else.

The new GOP playbook

Republicans are philosophically opposed to the idea that government can play a useful role in the lives of citizens, or as Reagan put it, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'” During his administration, George II tried to prove time and again that government cannot be helpful, by appointing Michael “heckuva job” Brown to run FEMA or by appointing Young Republicans whose prior work experience amounted to working in ice-cream trucks as administrators overseeing large parts of Iraq’s economy.

Republicans do not currently have that appointive power at the national level, but in any case, they seem to have shifted strategies. Their current approach is fiscal. First, starve the government of funds by passing tax cuts (preferably one that disproportionately benefits their wealthy patrons). Then, discover a budgetary crisis that requires “hard choices” and cuts on the kinds of programs that benefit most people. Eventually, make the government small enough “to drown in a bathtub,” as Grover Norquist puts it, or “Texas is going to shrink government until it fits into a woman’s uterus,” as State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte put it.

We’ve been seeing it in action at the national level, and at the state level, here in Texas and more prominently in Wisconsin.

At the federal level, this graphic has been making the rounds lately, showing how tax breaks for the wealthy come very close to being balanced out by proposed cuts to job training, educational programs, etc.

Texas, which was previously praised for staying solvent in the face of the Great Recession, is now facing a $27 billion shortfall. The seeds of this shortfall were planted in 2006, with a change in tax rates that was known at the time to be problematic. But, as Forrest Wilder puts it, the budget shortfall is not the cause of pain. It’s the justification.

And then there’s Wisconsin, where Scott Walker claimed that he needed both budget austerity and union-busting (and then decided he could make do with just union-busting), despite the state’s Fiscal Bureau having concluded just a month before that that the state will end the year with a balance of $121.4 million.

I’m sure some variation on this theme is happening in Michigan and elsewhere.

Thoughts on an iPhone app for bike touring

I’ve played around with a number of iPhone apps for cyclists. None of the ones I’ve looked at are really optimized for bike touring—instead, they’re mostly oriented towards fitness cycling, which has somewhat different goals.

An iPhone app for bike touring would need to overcome the problem of battery life and fulfill three main tasks. Battery life isn’t as big a problem as it is generally made out to be, but even in a best-case scenario, it would be difficult to get a solid 24 hours of use out on a single charge when using the iPhone as a bike computer for a big part of the day.

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This modern world

I had a strange experience when I went out and about visiting studios on the East Austin Studio Tour. When I looked at the map, I was gratified to see quite a few artists in my immediate neighborhood, and one studio only a block away, so I decided to make that my first stop.

As I’m slowly riding my bike down the driveway to the garage studio in back, one of the two residents says “Are you Adam Rice?”. Taken aback, I confirm that I am, and ask “…How do you know?” Despite their proximity, I’m sure I’ve never seen either of these people before, and it’s not like I’m famous.

She explains that she has seen me pop up as a “recommended friend” on Facebook because we apparently have a lot of friends in common.

Still, that doesn’t explain how she knows that Gwen has a letterpress, or that it came with our house.

Southern Tier infographic

I have prepared an infographic (PDF) to illustrate some of the information about my Southern Tier tour.

Southern Tier 2010

On Saturday, Sept 18, I’ll be heading to San Diego to begin riding the Southern Tier. I’ve set up a separate blog for the adventure—tune in there for updates.

This has been in the back of my mind for more than ten years. Now that I’m about to do it, I feel great trepidation. Nevertheless: Onward.

iPhone, Google apps for your domain, and Google “my maps”

I’m documenting this publicly just in case anyone ever runs across the same problem I’ve been having.

I occasionally plot out routes on Google Maps and save them under My Maps. Curiously, there is no convenient way to get My Maps onto my iPhone. This leads to the slightly ridiculous situation where I would need to print out maps to bring with me.

Google Earth for the iPhone purportedly will access My Maps, but I couldn’t get that to work, because I sign into Google through Google Apps for Your Domain; there’s a web-based sign-in inside Google Earth, and when I attempted to sign in through the GAfYD (launched through the Google Search app, which otherwise works great), it would throw an error.

I have discovered if I log into Google Earth through the non-GAfYD interface, using my full e-mail address and the usual password, it works.

From what I understand, there’s only a limited ability to show personal maps in in the Maps app on the iPhone, and this can only be done via some hackery. Google Earth seems like the best option for accessing personal maps.

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