Front wheel a weapon in Tour fracas

Excitement at the tour:

Video replays show Spaniard Carlos Barredo (QuickStep) taking off his front wheel and passing his bike to a team aid. Barredo then charges three metres at the startled Portuguese rider Rui Alberto Costa (Caisse d’Epargne), wielding the wheel over his head.

Video available here. I haven’t been following the tour closely; it’s hard to do because the stages all take place at about 8 a.m. my time and that’s not a good time to sit in front of a live video stream for a few hours. It sounds like there’s a lot of excitement this year, though. Lance Armstrong is sitting at 18th 14th overall, if you care about that.

UPDATE: If you don’t understand why people get excited about cycling, watch this video of the Stage 6 finish. Amazing strength, athleticism, and teamwork put Mark Cavendish across the line first. It’s fun to watch.

“Faithful Place”: Tana French turns the detective story inside out

Laura Miller

Detective fiction’s legions of brooding sleuths have paid lip service to Nietzsche’s observation that if you look long enough into the abyss, the abyss starts looking back. In French’s novels, the person looking becomes the abyss.

I absolutely loved French’s first two novels, In the Woods and The Likeness, so I’m looking forward to her latest. In the Woods was especially good; it reminded me a lot of The Secret History, which is high praise, indeed. If you’re looking for a summer read, you won’t go wrong with either of those.

iPhones don’t like coffee with cream

contigo-mug.jpg I killed my iPhone this week. Have you heard of Contigo Autoseal Mugs? They claim to be “Impossible to spill, and 100-percent leak-proof,” and for the most part, that’s true. I’ve carried one full of coffee to work in my bag every day since I received it last Christmas. They don’t leak because you have to push a spring-loaded, recessed button in order for anything to come out. You push it when you drink and it seals back up when you’ve finished taking a sip. Works like a charm. Mine was awesome . . . until Tuesday.

Tuesday I filled my awesome mug with coffee (with cream, b/c that’s just how I roll) and packed it in my bag as usual, along with my lunch and various other items. Those items included my iPhone. I picked up the bag and was about to head out the door when I felt something wet on my foot. Looking down, I saw my bag was wet and dripping. I didn’t think this was a big deal. Obviously the items in my bag had jostled just right for something to push the button on the mug. When I opened the bag, I saw that’s exactly what had happened. And then I saw that it was a big deal: my iPhone was submerged in a pool of creamy coffee!

The iPhone does not like coffee. It especially does not like coffee with cream.

Of course I pulled it out immediately and toweled it dry. I pushed the home button. Nothing. I pushed the power button. Nothing. I held the power button down. Nothing. Dead. My iPhone, my ereader, my calendar, my address book, my game console, my weatherman, my phone, my text and email appliance, my twitter toy, my facebook facilitator, my so many, many things, was dead.

I was distraught. What would I do? Even if I had a couple hundred dollars (which I don’t) I couldn’t buy a new iPhone — they are sold out and people are waiting weeks to get one. I couldn’t go to an AT&T store to find a cheap replacement because that was the first day AT&T started selling the iPhone 4 at its stores so they were ridiculously busy — lines around the block in Chicago. And, just for good measure, it was also the same day Bloomberg reported that Verizon is getting the iPhone in January. In other words, now would be an awful time to get a new phone and re-commit to AT&T for another two years.

Taking some internet advice, I stuck my iPhone in a bowl of rice and just tried not to think about it. Two days later, on Wednesday night, I was thrilled to pull it out, push the power button, and see it come back to life asking for a charge. I charged it up and just like that it was back. Everything seemed to work just like it always had. Hooray!

So Thursday I had an iPhone again and I was happy. All was well with the world. I even got a little crazy and updated all the apps on my phone — 42 of them said they were ready for an update, so I just updated all of them. All those updates didn’t seem to change everything; the phone worked just like always, no problems. I stuck it in my pocket and went to work.

Sadly, a few hours later when I pulled the iPhone from my pocket, it was a brick again. Dead dead dead. Why!? Woe is me.

It’s still a brick. I stuck it back in the bowl of rice but why? What good is it going to do? Sadness reigns…..

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

From This American Life, the story of a the Mac OS graphing calculator that shipped in 1994 and was built by software engineers after they had been fired. (Listen to Act Two, beginning at the 26:32 mark.)

This whole story appeals to our ideals of what a job can be, that if we do what we want, that if we do what we love and do it our way, that eventually we’ll be proven right and the whole company will be better for it.

One of the engineers posted his version of the story here, but the This American Life version is still totally worth listening to.

Should You Upgrade your Old iPhone or iPod Touch to iOS4?

Apparently not. Some people are having problems upgrading. To me, the bigger reason to stay with iOS 3 is the reports that iOS 4 will make an iPhone 3G even slower than it already is. And for what? Folders? No thanks. I already have digital zoom with the Camera Plus app (not to mention video). I’m sure iOS 4 is great — if you have the hardware it was designed for. I don’t and since my only real complaint about the iPhone 3G is that it’s so damned slow, the last thing I want to do is slow it down even more.

David Foster Wallace on iPhone 4’s FaceTime

From Kottke via Daring Fireball, quoting from pages 144-151 of Infinite Jest:

Good old traditional audio-only phone conversations allowed you to presume that the person on the other end was paying complete attention to you while also permitting you not to have to pay anything even close to complete attention to her. A traditional aural-only conversation […] let you enter a kind of highway-hypnotic semi-attentive fugue: while conversing, you could look around the room, doodle, fine-groom, peel tiny bits of dead skin away from your cuticles, compose phone-pad haiku, stir things on the stove; you could even carry on a whole separate additional sign-language-and-exaggerated-facial-expression type of conversation with people right there in the room with you, all while seeming to be right there attending closely to the voice on the phone. And yet — and this was the retrospectively marvelous part — even as you were dividing your attention between the phone call and all sorts of other idle little fuguelike activities, you were somehow never haunted by the suspicion that the person on the other end’s attention might be similarly divided.

[…] Video telephony rendered the fantasy insupportable. Callers now found they had to compose the same sort of earnest, slightly overintense listener’s expression they had to compose for in-person exchanges. Those caller who out of unconscious habit succumbed to fuguelike doodling or pants-crease-adjustment now came off looking extra rude, absentminded, or childishly self-absorbed. Callers who even more unconsciously blemish-scanned or nostril explored looked up to find horrified expressions on the video-faces at the other end. All of which resulted in videophonic stress.

There’s more, but you really should read the book. I’d forgotten about this, but it does ring true, doesn’t it? How many times are you really, *really* going to want a video call? For me, the answer is very, very few, and for pretty much exactly the reasons DFW outlines. The man was a genius.

Google Voice for everyone — how?

Google announced yesterday that Google Voice is open to the public. You don’t need an invitation; you just sign up and you get “one number to ring all your phones, voicemail that works like email, free calls and text messages to the U.S. and Canada, low-priced international calls and more.” That’s great. Some of these features might really be helpful to a lot of people. I’ve been trying it out for the last week or so and I like the transcripts of voicemails I get via email and text. The iPhone’s Visual Voicemail is pretty awesome — no calling a number to check your messages or having to listen to a bunch of messages to get to the one you want, etc. So if you have an iPhone, the improvements of Google Voice are diminished. If you don’t have an iPhone, you’ll probably find Google Voice’s transformation of voicemail to be a little revolutionary.

Anyway, my big question here is: How can this be free? Mike Elgan offers one answer:

I’m going to give it to you straight: I believe Google Voice is free because Google wants to track your phone calls, read your voicemails and text messages and invade your privacy to offer you up on a silver platter to advertisers.

Hmph. Maybe Google Voice isn’t so cool after all…