Paris – Roubaix

This Sunday brings the 2013 edition of the cycling spring classic Paris – Roubaix. I can remember being drawn into the Tour De France on World of Sport in the late seventies, where it quickly became apparent that it was a technical, complex and interesting sport to understand (the sort of challenge I seemed to love as a child. I can remember trying to understand how the scoring in darts worked before I learnt subtraction at school, and spent an afternoon mystified at how they scored points, but their score went down not up!). After a year or two of getting to grips with some of the initial mysteries and wonder of Le Tour, the next thing introduced by World of Sport was Paris Roubaix.

Take the wonders of simple road racing, and then add in several lengthy sections of cobbled farm and forest tracks in rural France. All the pain and hard work of normal cycle racing meets The Hell of The North, these ancient broken paths that sought to destroy bikes and riders proceeding at any sort of pace along them. Dust clouds choking and blinding the riders in good weather, slick cobbles becoming ice-like and dangerous in bad. And then in a final ironic twist, a finish on the ultra-smooth wood panels of Roubaix’s velodrome, a return to the track roots of many of the riders, often for a mere victory lap, sometimes for a proper track race. These are the ingredients that make Paris Roubaix a true classic I think I was sold the moment one of the camera bikes crashed during the race, the biker caught out by the cobbles too.

This year’s race can be caught live on Eurosport this Sunday, but to get a real feel for it, enjoy this coverage from 1988 by CBS, a beautiful package that really sells the uniqueness of the race.

Goodbye Google Reader

So Google Reader is going. It’s a shame, I’ve had so much use out of it, but in the last couple of years I’ve almost completely stopped. I just use Twitter now. To me, part of the art of Twitter is to follow enough of the right people so that you probably won’t miss a story that would interest you. Groupthink determines if like minds will bubble the important to my attention. It does save me a lot of time reading things I don’t want to to read.

The other thing to note with Google Reader’s demise is how they are going about closing it. They have given three months notice, and they link to the tool they have had set up for ages that allows you to remove all your data cleanly, in a format that you can use elsewhere (for me mainly, the OPML file I need for all my subscriptions should I ever set up a feed reader again). I can remember other useful services closing, including Google ones in years gone by, where this data transporting was between hard and impossible. They definitely need a little commendation for doing that.

2014 post update

Digg released a nice clone of Google Reader, branded as Digg Reader. If you want to carry on as before, use that!

The mid-life crisis officially starts NOW.

So I appear to have bought a bass guitar. This is an unexpected development for the year. I wasn’t planning on it at all, although I’d started to have favourable feelings about the idea of trying to learn bass guitar a little while ago after I discovered that I preferred following basslines to lead guitar on Rock Band et al. It was a thought that clearly lingered with me.

And now I’ve gone past 40, and seen the only Olympics I’m ever likely to see in my country, I think my mid-life crisis has started and forced me to buy it. I have planned for said crisis, I’ve thought through the possible routes:

  • Affair – costly, too much organisation
  • Leather trousers – stumpy legs
  • Ponytail – not with my hair. I’m holding back the Hulk Hogan haircut for late 50s
  • Motorbike – costly, I’ll kill myself, q.v. leather trousers
  • Tattoo – this was the one I was planning on doing, I have a design in mind, have done for ages. Think I can handle the pain, all good. Just don’t seem to have got round to it yet

So my brain and my credit card skipped through the plan and went with bass guitar instead. The actual persuading factor was the release of a new game, Rocksmith. It’s the same sort of logic as Rockband, except you have to use an actual guitar or bass, and it’s designed more as guitar tutor through gaming. Exactly the sort of thing I can get behind. Although I’m going to try and do non-game learning and practice too. It arrives tomorrow, and I can’t wait to start.

Bowie on the Internet

Today Jack Schofield tweeted an old article from the Guardian in 1999, Tomorrow’s Rock ‘n’ Roll , where David Bowie talks to Emma Brockes about his recently-discovered love for the internet. It’s a fascinating document of the time for me, a few months before I started working “in the internet” (for want of a better description) and at a point where I was starting to create my own sites more, and think deeper about what could be done online. I think it’s worth looking a little closer at a few lines from the interview, as there are some interesting insights into how Bowie saw things developing at the time.

Something that is very familiar to me is that he started to learn more about the internet when he created his own site, bowieart.com . Just like the early home computer gamers like myself learnt about programming from trying or succeeding in creating our own games, and from inputting code ourselves, I and many others learnt a lot from creating our own sites. There is a bit of a disconnect now with services like Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter et al where the creation of content is almost completely separate from the code underneath it. Such a disconnect of course brings them to a much wider audience, but often at the expense of a deeper knowledge of how things work.

However when when he talks of “The communication between me and my Web audience has become more intimate than its ever been”, it really sounds a lot like the positive side of the experiences many creators have had with Twitter. Twitter isn’t the invention here, it’s simply that I think it’s made that communication even easier, and open to many more than ever.

What really caught my attention was his understanding then of how the internet could affect music. He talks of how he “would like to see record companies changing their delivery systems so that they could send MP3s (an instant free download) straight to the record stores via an ISDN cable. The stores could then burn the CD for them on site. It would reduce the packaging costs and they would make a fortune out of it”.

It’s easy to have a bit of a giggle at this, but I think he actually got it in the main. The point to him I think was that the MP3s were already approaching instant, and also that in some ways, they were valueless, 1s and 0s. As he understood it, the difficulty and the aim for the record companies instead was to find a way of making these “free” files have a value, add packaging, add value. It almost seems weird to him that they could charge for the download alone.

Where he’s absolutely spot on is the remix culture of the web. I’d never really thought of him as part of it, but his personas and reinventions clearly were remix culture, and even his music at times, which he freely admits in the article. And he just gets the issues that came with that and with the increased ability to just steal content

But on the issue of straightforward piracy, I tend to go with the flow. I am not indifferent to it, but I look on it as a lost cause. The way our society constantly breaks down parameters has led to the disintegration of intellectual property. Whether thats a good thing or a bad thing is to an extent irrelevant, without a doubt things in the future are going to be different.

He wasn’t the first person to say these things by any stretch, but it is interesting to see someone in retrospect who mainly got it, as say opposed to a Metallica, or almost every record company. All of whom had to pretty much be dragged kicking and screaming into the next century (again, as he predicts they’d have to be)