Apple v Pi Or How I Slowly Got My Computing Future On

I tried to become a watch-nut once. Not a real watch-nut, mind you. Of course not. A real watch-nut spends lots of money on watches. Heck, I don’t even like money. Anywho. A watch-nut knows what a complication is. In fact, that’s the only thing that made watches interesting to me. The simpler the complications, the better the watch. That’s why for years I wore a cheap, mechanical watch that within a twenty-four hour period lost at least two minutes of time. But it was a cool watch. Every morning I had to get up and wind it. Which brings me to the worst-subject of the day. As in super expensive and it works or something quite a bit cheaper and maybe, well, it loses two minutes of time a day. You in, dear worst-reader?

As you can see in the confused pics above, I consumed Apple’s #WWDC2018 the other day. Already dislocated from expectations, I was, as usual, disappointed in the show. Long worst-writer, pseudo-technologist, story short: #Apple sucks. The only consolation, as an Apple user, is that Apple will remain the best of the worst for the foreseeable future. That said, I’m not ready to fully go elsewhere for my personal computing needs. Or maybe I am. I’m especially not ready to go iOS. That’s for sure. And that’s what I got out of this year’s WWDC. In other words, if you’re an old-school Mac user like me, it’s probably time to move on or at least get ready to move over rover. That means, iOS is definitely gonna take over fairly soon. And even though the guy with the funny hair and plastic look (pic above of the iPad) claimed that there will be no merge of iOS and MacOS, I don’t believe him. Well, I kinda believe him. I mean, look at him. Compare him to the slimy, filthy ashtray that I refuse to clean behind him. The duschbags running Apple these days are definitely earning their weight in bull$hit. And that’s coming from a guy who has nothing but Apple products in his digital life. Aghast!

In order to prepare myself for the future I’ve been experimenting with what I consider the only true innovation in personal computing hardware in the past twenty years. And when I say personal computing I mean old school stuff as in a keyboard, a monitor and where necessary a mouse. And it doesn’t stop there. I’m also old school because I believe that when I buy a computer, what I do with it after purchase is all up to me. With that in mind, the thing I hate most about iOS and the direction computers are going is the touch screen interface and the fact that that it has exponentially increased the distance between human and the computer and device. Wow. I bet that’s worth a worst-thought or three, eh? Anywho.

Now don’t get me wrong, dear worst-reader. I’m not afraid of change. It’s just that I really do hate tablets. Nomatter how bright, clear and shinny they make those screens, for me there is something awfully wrong with my finger tips hitting a piece of hardened glass in order to interact with the/my digital world. Add to that the closed eco-system these new devices have ushered in to personal computing… at the behest of greed mongering corporations…

The thing to remember to keep in mind while reading this worst-post, dear worst-reader, is that nomatter what Apple does, worst-writer ain’t going to move to tablet computing anytime soon. In fact, so far, it looks like they’re gonna have to pry my dreams of old-school personal computing way of life out of my cold, dead, nightmare hands.

And so…

IMHO the most innovative personal computing product in years is the Raspberry Pi. Since its introduction as a code learning device for young people it has become a viable and versatile computer that has no rivals other than other single board computers, although it’s not quite ready to replace desktop computers. (But it is almost there.) And get this! It costs just under less than 40,-€.  Depending upon use and purpose, total cost of this device is around 100,-€, and that includes audio-boards, power supply and micro-sd cards. Considering what I’ve paid over the years for inevitably obsolete Apple products, that’s pretty impressive. FYI, I currently have three Raspberry Pi’s in full-time use in my house. And there’s this thought: I’m using R-Pis more than any of my Apple digital devices combined, except, maybe, my MacBook. In other worst-words, I’ve replaced what could have been Apple purchases–if Apple weren’t run by duschbags!–with some serious household cost-cutting purchases.

Enough worst-writer anger, though, eh.

One Pi is a Plex media client that has replaced one of my AppleTVs. It’s only a matter of time before another Pi replaces the other AppleTV. My second Pi is an audio streaming device using Volumio and a Hifiberry audio-board. It has 1) replaced iTunes for streaming music in our living room and kitchen and 2) will prevent us from having to buy any of those stupid little speaker thingies everybody and joe is pushing onto the music listening market. Sorry. Let me just put this out there:

Apple HomePod + iTunes + Apple Music + blah blah blah = fcuk you Apple.

That’s right. Finally. I can play my FLAC formatted music collection in its purest form–and with real air-moving speakers. Amen, brother.

The third Pi is the latest device available, the 3B+, and because it has increased ethernet capacity–although still via a bottlenecking USB 2.0 bus–I’ve been testing it as a NAS (network attached storage). Other than a few twerks and quirks here and there, these Pi’s work great and are slowly but surely proving themselves as alternatives to my ageing Apple home infrastructure and, more importantly, my unwillingness to accept Apple’s monopolisation of everything.

On that note, a few words about NAS on the cheap.

As you can see in the large pic above, I’m using a 2010 MacPro as a headless server. In fact, I’ve been using it for almost ten years. It’s where all of my household data is stored and backed-up. Of course, I know it’s time is limited, especially considering what Apple is doing with MacOS. It’s currently running El Capitan and I’m not even gonna bother with Sierra or High Sierra for it or any other OS. What I’d really like to do with it is stop wasting it as a over-energy-consumptive server and re-install Snow Leopard on it and just use it as a awesome desktop computer. Any by-the-buy, the newest MacOS just released, Mojave, won’t run on it at all. Indeed. More obsoletism. And for those interested, I don’t favour going the commercial NAS route i.e. Synology & Co. on account they are just an added complication in something that should be simple, where do I go in the future with my home digital needs they all seem like over priced and over complicated un-neccessities.

The fact that I have to even ask such a question is proof enough that there’s something seriously wrong with the world–or at least Apple’s and its, what I consider, corporate dysfunction. And perhaps this relates to my silly little watch analogy at the beginning of this post because when I heard that the latest Raspberry Pi had increased ethernet speed, albeit not quite gigabyte, I thought it finally time to take the plunge. Indeed. NAS here I cometh–even if you’re off two minutes each day!

Conclusion after about a month of Raspberry Pi NAS testing?

It works but…

Using OpenMediaVault, a 32GB micro-sd card, and a dedicated 5v-3amp micro-USB power supply, and, of course, numerous available HDDs I’ve got lying around–including really, really old USB 2.0 cases–my new cheap NAS is a go-go works great so far. Currently occupying two USB (out of 4) ports I have an old 750GB HDD in a single case that is dedicated to audio. Another dual HDD case that has hardware enabled RAID-0 case and 2x3TB drives in it, gives me a total of 6TB as an experimental backup server. I’m using testing the big drive for shares where I’ll be copying most of what’s on the MacPro to it as an alternative to the MacPro. Btw, the MacPro is a great server but it is obviously wasted in this role. Also, I’m not able to connect any of the Raspberry Pi’s to it unless via a Plex server. Something about Linux file systems and Mac files system not getting along, don’t you know. Anywho.

Hiccups so far mostly occur when I stream music and perform large data transfers. The Pi just doesn’t have enough ethernet/USB to make it all happen. For example. Copying my movie collection, which is about 1.5TB of data, from my MacPro to the big NAS share, the Pi then cannot deliver audio files at the same time. This screws up Volumio quite a bit and has required more than a few restarts and a few frustrating evenings where I was attempting to enjoy music. I’m assuming that these hiccups will decrease once I get all my music, movie and photos copied to the NAS, which is about 4TB total and will take a few days at current i/o bus speeds. And to think I’ve still got two more USB ports on the Pi for more drives… Cool.

Update two days later: All big files have been copied and I’ve had no hiccups with Volumio anymore. Über cool!

In worst-conclusion: So far I’m pleased with the time and effort required to get these Pi’s doing what I want working. And that’s the ticket, along with the price, if anyone wants to free themselves from monopolisation and corporate dysfunction galore. Of course there is a learning curve here. And even though there are forums out there and what feels like a large user base, the Raspberry Pi is not at all like any of the devices that I’m replacing. Obviously AppleTVs worked from the point-of-purchase until Apple makes them obsolete. So I’ve had to do a bit of research, reading and fiddling to get these Raspberry Pi’s to work. Then again, listening to Beethoven through real speakers in FLAC at 24bit streamed from a tiny server in my basement to a device that is hidden, tucked behind books on book shelf in my living room… Fcuk yeah! There is some wow going on in my audio listening pleasure zone, baby. And so. Good ridden monopoly Apple. Hope you choke on your duschbaggery and greed.

Rant on.

-T

PS As far as the two other pictures included in this post, you’re guess is a good as mine. The one with the runners is kinda cool and reminds somehow of Apple’s dysfunction. Yeah, that kid running along the group looks like he’s trying to keep up with his daddy or stop his daddy from running away from his mommy, which is most likely, considering #eurowasteland greed mongering, inevitable. The picture of the smoke stack is Apple, too. Yeah, it’s gotten that big and fat and in the way of seeing a horizon.

When Your Tickle Goes Bling Bling And Your Ears Say Ahhh

It took me a while. And it also took one of my micro-SD cards along with various installs, network wiring configs, a new fancy case and fun, fun, pure listening/audio fun. But before any of that, first things first. I’m finally NAS ready and my R-PI with Hifiberry Amp2 is the bomb! The initial install of OpenMediaVault, which I’m using as my NAS/Share source for my audio library, didn’t actually go all that well. Continuing my tech confusion streak, I made the mistake of tossing the first OMV install on account I found it too complicated. At the least, I wasn’t ready for the OMV interface. So while I proceeded to learn from OMVs website, you know, to get a bit informed about their software and how it works, I re-flashed the SD card back to RasPlex and suddenly the card was broke. At least I think it was broke. It was a 16GB card and after re-flashing it a utility tool informed me it had only 500MB of space. I tried everything. Erase. Partition. Erase and re-format in x-Fat and then in MS-DOS (or what ever’s available via Mac Disk Utility) and nothing happened. There was always only 500MB of space on what was supposed to be a 16GB card. Whaaa? Nomatter. I don’t have time for this. Plus I spent a few hours studying-up on the OMV site and after about two weeks (of casual reading of their doc pages), I was finally ready to give it another go. But then, out of the blue, I decided to support local retailers (as opposed to ordering from you-know-who online retailer from hell!) and jumped on my bike and road off to a local electronic store to buy a new micro-SD card. And get this, dear worst-reader. Would you believe that one of Germania’s largest tech stores doesn’t even carry a micro-SD card smaller than 32GB? Are you serious, I asked one of the store clerks. He informed me that I might have a problem getting such a small card anywhere. Ok. Fine. So I broke down and paid 16,-€ for a 32GB card–4x more capacity than I need for a OMV instal. I biked home, fought with the stupid mass produced packaging to free the card, slid it in the side of my 2015 MacBook Air (i7) and flash, flash, flash. I then proceeded to install the card in the R-PI 3B board. I hooked up ethernet cable and then the 5V 3amp dedicated micro USB power cable. According to OMV one is supposed to be patient as the software goes through the initial install. The readme.txt says I should give it at least forty minutes depending on speed of SD card and internet connection. So I set a timer and went off to be productive elsewhere. After about 36 minutes exactly, I woke up my MacBook Air, searched my network for a new IP address titled “raspberrypi” and… Boom! Long story short. I then hooked up an external 700GB Samsung HDD (which has got to be ten years old; which is also housed in a Icy-Box ext powered case) that has a copy of all my audio files (FLAC and MP3). I set up the network share with Samba and then opened Volumio. Again. Boom! Volumio immediately recognised the share and began indexing my music library. Oddly, Volumio seems to perform better with my music library using a network share. Previously I had the Icy-Box USB drive connected directly to the R-PI’s USB. Although Volumio worked fine with it, there were always hick-ups and duds. My guess is that Volumio wasn’t able to index the directly connected HDD as well as it can when connected by a network share. But that’s just a guess. The thing to remember is that when you have a house full of R-Pi’s, put them to good use. Btw, I’m really digging the R-PI3B+ as my new NAS device. Will be testing it by adding another HDD soon to see how it works as a backup system. And for those interested in how the Hifiberry Amp2 sounds? I’m tickled to-death with it. Together with the R-PI3B it is a fantastic low-cost audio device that delivers incredible audio, especially on high-sounding low-cost speakers like a pair of Pioneer BS22. And btw, even though I have rough beginning with some of this tech-krapp, the end result I’m experiencing is what tech should be all about.

Rant on.

-T

Pseudo-Review: Pennies From Heaven Where Cents Make Great Audio

First. The newest Raspberry Pi was kinda hard to get till I happened across it. I’m worst-guessing this is due to limited supply, heavy demand. Some online shops were taking orders of the Pi but then not indicating delivery dates. Second. I bow humbly to #Hifiberry and their new Amp2 and the fact that I just happened to see they had new Pi’s available when I was gawking at maybe getting another of their audio boards–on account I’ve been so tickled with their DAC+ Pro board. Btw, I wasn’t interested in the RPI3B+ to even go with the new Amp2. I was ordering the Amp2 to put on my RPi3–which would give me two potential audio sources in my house. The RPi3B+ was a just because purchase. Here’s a rundown of my current Pi setup:

  • RPi2B – with Hifiberry Dac+ Pro (more on that here); currently being used as a Plex Client (RasPlex)
  • RPi3B – this one I’m now using with the Hifiberry Amp2 (more on that below)
  • RPi3B+ – just because–and to test if the newest Pi is finally a viable desktop alternative (it’s not quite there yet); also testing for NAS use (so far so good but I’m not ready to replace my old MacPro with it yet)

Now on to a pseudo-review of Hifiberry’s Amp2.

Wow! I was blown away with the first sound that came out of the Amp2. Using Volumio, I’ve been testing this little audio miracle on three different speakers (see pic above). The great news is, it doesn’t matter what speaker I was using. The Amp2 drives them all till a smile rolls off my geezer and curls back ’round into my ears. Of the three speakers I own, my favourites are the Pioneer BS-22–which I lugged across the Atlantic (on account I couldn’t buy them in Germany) in early March. And although my B&W 305s are currently being stored in my basement, I hooked them up just see if the Amp2 could power my ageing low-end towers. It powered them with gusto! Of course, the smallest speakers I own are the Audioengine P4s–which were, I thought at the time, the best deal I had ever made on speakers–but then I got the BS-22s. Nomatter. I’m a cheap-o pseudo-audiophile and I don’t mind admitting to it–especially considering the cost of some of those fancy speakers from Apple, Sonos, etc., which also limit your listening experience through stupid transcoding. So let’s move on.

My only gripe with the Amp2 right now is software, specifically Volumio. I run a Mac home network and Volumio cannot access Mac shares. Nor can it access Mac SMB shares. I’ve been reading forums, posting questions to support sites, reading more krapp, and to save my life I cannot get Volumio to access my 2010 headless MacPro which is a iTunes server, a Plex Media Server and, of course, a file server for a small household of multiple Macs and iOS devices. I’ve given up on networking with Volumio since I have a few old spinning 3.5″ HDDs lying around. So I bought a UBS external powered case and let the RPi/Amp2 access music files that way. Works great.

The Amp2 is nothing short of a little miracle audio board. It’s rated at 60w of power and I can say that it easily produces sound as good as my TEAC A-H01 amp. In fact, it’s better than my TEAC in that, when used with Volumio, I no longer have to get up to change the volume. Another gripe I have with the Amp2 is that when controlling it with Rasplex or Volumio, neither has an output/driver setting specifically for it. According to the Hifiberry website, you’re supposed to choose the Hifberry DAC+ driver because “the Amp2 is basically a DAC+ with an integrated power stage.” After fiddling with the DAC+Pro (on my RPi2) for a while, I realised that the biggest issue with this type of audio device is definitely the power source. I’ve since purchased two 5v 3amp micro USB power source/cables for my other Pis. Fortunately Hifiberry sells a small power brick separately so I went ahead and bought that for this setup. So far, the brick is the best way to power the RPi and Hifiberry. In fact, considering the flimsy-ness of the micro-USB in the RPi, I’m really digging the Amp2’s way of powering things.

After a few weeks of testing, the Amp2 works so well that I’ve actually replaced my living-room Rasplex client with it. My living-room TV now only serves as a monitor for my ageing AppleTV3, which we rarely use. In fact, the only time we use our TV is as a screen/monitor for Apple Photos slideshows via the AppleTV3. We’re no longer TV gawkers so we don’t miss NOT having a TV as part of music play. And to be honest, I’m really digging controlling all our audio needs with my iPhone. Besides, when my better-half watches her German TV stuff she does on her iPad. And so… why the hell am I worst-writing about how we watch/use a TV? Nomatter. I listen to music when cooking, when worst-blogging, and especially when I’m cuddling with Beckett the killer pug on the couch. If you can get through the minor hassle of the Amp2 not having a decent case (yet) or having to fix speaker wires to it, this is one heck of a purest audio device that can be easily hid in a shrank, book shelf, or even under a couch, etc. All you need to control it is a home network, a smartphone and a bunch audio files.

Brilliant cheap audio!

Rant on.

-T

Pseudo-Review: The Film Collossal Or That Thing In My Substance Abuse That Is Serious Childhood Drama

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 10.02.58

Warning: spoiler alert! This movie is totally worst-explained.

Things I wish I could have written? Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Thornton Wilder’s The Ides of March. The movie Collossal. Etc., etc. And by-the-buy, I watched Colossal last night via some stupid streaming service and I was pleasantly surprised. On that note, streaming itself isn’t stupid but the greedy nature of how all these streaming services work is stupid. Indeed. Consume to survive: everything is stupid. But I digress.

Although Collossal has a somewhat slow and peculiar start, the first thing I said after the opening scene of a young Korean girl initialising the audience to the Collossal monster, is this: this is movie about woman scorned! Oh how wrong/right I would eventually be. Once the odd, platonic relationship of the two main characters gets going, I even briskly forgot about all my worst-predictions. In fact, this movie is as pleasantly different as The Shape of Water. And to think both these great movies are made by Spaniards. Cool.

The movie:

In short, Gloria is a young drunk down on her luck living in NYC. After her boyfriend throws her out, she decides to return to her childhood home where she immediately encounters Oscar, supposedly a childhood friend. One of the best parts of writing in this movie is how these two characters are in a relationship but that relationship has nothing to do with romance. What a relief that is, I thought to myself. A film about a man and a woman and it has nothing to do with how/if/when they get it on. Fresh worthwhile movie story telling trick, indeed.

Enter the monster(s) as a literal blast from the past starts to wake up these two from a serious drunken stupor. The whole story evolves around a flashback of what these two people were caught up in as school children. Although Gloria seems to have overcome the majority of that trauma, once she re-enters that old life as a drunk, the past appears out of thin air in the form of Collossal, a Godzilla-like monster. Why the fcuk this monster is destroying a city half a world away as these two #Americant dyfunctionals can’t get their $hit together, is the brief and tantalising mystery the story rides on. It eventually becomes obvious that the monster is some kind a manifestation of Gloria. And just when you figure that out–or are actually shown that she is the monster–it turns out Oscar has one, too. And that’s the gist of what’s really going on between these two. Oscar simply can’t stand being one-upped by Gloria.

The revealing flashback of the movie comes fairly late. Unlike a lot of flashbacks, though, this one doesn’t just reveal the twist of the movie. While walking home from elementary school Gloria and Oscar are carrying school projects. They had to build a model of a city they would like to visit in life. Gloria picked the city of Seoul, South Korea. I didn’t pick up on the city Oscar built–but it’s probably the hometown he’s still stuck in. During their walk home it’s obvious that Gloria won the contest from her class of best built model. When a storm suddenly emerges a gust of win whips Gloria’s Seoul away (pun intended). Oscar jumps a fence to fetch it for her. Thinking that she doesn’t see what’s he doing, Gloria watches Oscar destroy her prized model Seoul replication (more pun?) by stomping on it–like a monster. But then something really weird happens. This is where the twist takes another twist. They are struck by lightening in the storm. Through out the movie Gloria is constantly itching a part of the top of her head where she was struck.

Although it’s not very clear in the writing, worst-writer’s guess is the lightening strike probably ingrained this event into their psyche. Because of it, Oscar grew up hating himself (which she actually claims of him when they have a final confrontation) for the cruelty that has been part of him since that stormy day. Gloria is just a hurt child drowning her sorrows in drink. Gloria then realises to end their conflict all she has to do is continue going forward in life–like she did by leaving this small town and going to NYC. She also realises that she has to stop being a drunk–which brought her back to this mess in the first place. Oh. And to finally deal with Oscar, she also has to get rid of his monster. In order to do that, she comes-of-age, stops drinking and gets on a plane and travels to Seoul. Although Oscar has threatened her that this time she won’t leave him and his cruelty, when she does leave he continues to ravage (her) Seoul. In the actual city of Seoul, South Korea, Gloria finally confront Oscar by proving that at least she can leave that krappy town, stop drinking, move on. She one-ups Oscar one last time. End.

All in all, a great film. It’s a smart film, too. What a relief a movie like this is in these days of blockbuster boredom and moronic comic book characters galore. Although at times it has some odd, indecisive scenes, especially in the beginning and while the relationships are being developed among Oscars friends in her hometown, Hathaway and her character are brilliant. There is a bit of heavy-handed misogyny in the form of serious boy on girl ass-whipping during the last fight scene between the two, but it fit their relationship and it didn’t go over-board–which I’m sure would have been the case if Harvey Weinstein had produced this film. On the other hand, I’m not sure this movie could be part of the #metoo movement. Ok. Maybe that’s not applicable at all. Nomatter. In the end this is a movie about a woman, the consequence of her actions and the sometimes brutal nature of human behaviour–especially male behaviour. The way she deals with it all sometimes took my breath away. At the least I’m not a Hathaway skeptic like I used to be. She can act her way around my screen any day–as long as she does a smart movie like this. Well done!

Rant on.

-T

Julius Caesar Killed With (Bad) Ideas Not Daggers–Just Like My Beloved #Americant

ides of march and coffee

Coincidence? I finally (it’s been on my to-do list for a while) started re-reading Thornton Wilder’s Ides of March… in March? Actually I started re-reading it the last few days of March and casually finished it at the end of April. Reason? I had put it off long enough–and it was time. For I knew, dear worst-reader, after #Trump was elected there would be new & improved worst-criticisms galore–don’t you know–relating to certain aspects of human history. And so. Toilet literature moments of worst-writer have been revealed. Which means I finally got around to finishing the book by the end of April. Indeed. The little things in life that motivate, resuscitate, intrigue are worth taking with a grain of salt-sugar as life goes flush-flush, swirling, heralding down that sewer–that sewer meant for me.

The worst-thing about the Ides of March is this: I’ve always been fascinated with Julius Caesar and I’m not sure why. Same goes for Napoleon–and the reason for that is even more confusing. Even though I’m not much of a history buff–on account of the way History has been mis-taught–a few parts of it do kinda stick out (in my worst-mind) and fascinate (me). With that in mind, I could give a hoot about Julius Caesar–the man. What does interest me, though, is to read about why so much of the limited, one sided, agenda driven history we’ve been taught, so often and so easily, comes back to haunt us toot-suite (idiom error) and it all seems to coincide easily with what’s already happened.

Here’s the short answer/reason worst-writer thinks Julius Caesar is (and should be) part of the history that is happening right now. After President Stupid was elected in my beloved (and missed) #Americant in 2016, I recall reading about a New York play production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. In that play Caesar was dressed up to look like–hair, suit, tie n’all–Donald Trump, aka President Stupid. (Interwebnet search: “julius caesar as donald trump” and look at the images.) Even though I consider President Stupid an abomination and deserving of the treatment he receives from Lefties and humans with half a brain, I immediately wondered why all the coverage from that particular NY play was only about the bloody death of #Trump looking like Julius Caesar. (Wait. Scratch that last statement. Reverse its ending). Don’t/can’t people understand that Julius Caesar by Shakespeare has a lot more to offer than just the bloody death of a lingering, sleeping, lazy, precursor to this/our world of tyranny? But I digress.

It’s been a while since I read the play. In fact, it’s now on my to-do re-read list–especially after trying to absorb The Ides of March which ultimately brings me back to Julius Caesar–the play. The only problem is, I might have to track down that guy from Bielefeld who I lent my only English copy of Julius Caesar. That’s right. He never returned it. Aghast! Nomatter. I still have a college anthology English literature book or two that is sure to have the play. So I’ll get to it soon enough. Also. It’s a big regret of mine that I’ve never actually seen the play on stage. Back in the day (when I was young) I had a list of Shakespeare plays to see (before the day comes that I turn into bitter worst-writer and stop going to the theatre). Yeah. Unfortunately I never saw Julius Caesar on stage. Oh well.

The one thing I recall about reading Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar that connects to Donald Trump being president of the land-of-free-to-be-stupid has nothing to do with his death. Shakespeare recreated the politics and human behaviour that not only gives us Julius Caesar but also taketh the man away. Put another way. The factions of politics, the believers of the Gods, the Senators, the wives, the wealthy, etc., etc., are a perfect depiction of human behaviour that still goes on today. Obviously Shakespeare–and, as I’ve recently learned now Thornton Wilder–saw all this vividly. I’m just wondering if Thornton Wilder saw it all through Shakespeare?

Coming back to what I worst-wrote at the beginning of this worst-post. I don’t believe History should be taught as a single curriculum. Instead, we should learn history as we learn other more important things. You know, we should learn things that help us think, help us teach ourselves to learn. You know, like reading, writing, science and, what the hell, studying the mechanics of politics. So. Is it possible that Thornton Wilder thought the same when he embarked on writing The Ides of March? I mean, for the life of me, why would anyone come up such a creative and entertaining take on the life of one of human history’s most notorious tyrants? But then again, if my question has even an ounce of validity… I’m more than tickled as every college sorority girl in spring time who can afford plans to win the lottery of fraternity brothers galore where tall, dark and handsome square jaw lines and eyebrows raised to prove the fear their mothers taught them have been right all along. It’s all about the end and never the means. Or. Put another way: In this day & age of #Trumpism and grabbing things by the pussy: you go girls! And so. The only thing missing from Wilder’s letter novel is a few more details on Cleopatra, the Rome visiting babe. But before I get too far off subject.

Yes. This worst-post is supposed to be about Thornton Wilder. But I’m not doing such a great job on that. Instead, I’m worst-wondering right now how much brilliance a man can possess to be able to turn out a historical novel like The Ides of March? This book will probably not leave my side for many years to come. It not only has few spelling errors but the whole idear of encasing such a historical event in letters written between those that made the event happen…? I know. I know. This is what an epistolary novel is supposed to be. But where the heck did Wilder get so much out of history to put this book together? From some history class? I think not!

Obviously it couldn’t have been Shakespeare alone that drove Wilder to write The Ides of March. Reason? Some of the letters of this novel come from pre WW2 western world politics. Specifically, some of the letters are supposed to come from Mussolini’s fascist playground of Rome, i.e. the Rome that is a bit closer to what we all know today (geographically). Oh yea, baby. At the least people should be required to read The Ides of March only to see how a brilliant mind can work shit out as though there’s no need for fake newz, faux newz or profit margins being evaluated before anything has ever even been done.

We’re living in times where millions upon millions of people who watch WWE also stand by the election of an abomination to the highest political office the world has ever mis-created. The Ides of March is welcome read to help one gather thoughts about a world of worst. Or maybe not.

I am somewhat taken aback at how good The Ides of March is, especially since I read it many years ago but seem to have misplaced what I read in the confines of my dark-mind. Why isn’t The Ides of March part of study in ALL school systems? I mean, it doesn’t matter if this is a pseudo-history or if Julius Caesar is only a caricature for what so many men have desired to become. What matters is the depiction of all that is wrong in human nature–which seems to be what this world is all about. It’s as though Thornton Wilder lays out for us effortlessly an easy-to-read soap-opera-like novel in the form of letters sent between neighbours of all sorts–like the ones next to you. And even though Wilder complicates things by interjecting and mixing up those letters, especially chronologically, it doesn’t matter. The feeling that you’re reading a story someone is able to piece together with a brilliant mind, with brilliant intent, is worth every moment. Human nature hasn’t changed one bit–according to Shakespeare and Thornton Wilder. And that’s the crux of what people misunderstand in these days of selfish, beguiled confusion about money, greed and pussy-grabbing galore.

Rant on.

-T

Pseudo-Review #5: R&M Charger GX 4000km

bike review 4000km_4
Trees falling like crazy ’round here. Storms, über-wet ground, and, perhaps, top heavy Germans.

Pseudo-Reviews begin here.

It’s been a long cold wet winter, dear worst-rider. No. Seriously. The weather has been so dismal the past few months here in the Germania tribe of #eurowasteland that I’ve barely ridden the R&M. Although I’ve been living in the old country for well over twenty-five years now, this past winter season has been extreme when it comes to all things wet and cold. That in and of itself is worth worst-writing about (or am I already doing that on this worst-blog?) Nomatter. Speaking of weather…

I was in The Homeland recently… Can you believe you can call it that now? But perhaps they shouldn’t stop there. Perhaps they should/could call it Orwell’s Homeland. But I digress.

I was in The Homeland last October for a wonderful visit. Spent some beautiful days in Baltimore. That’s right, dear worst-rider. When the police aren’t shooting people and when the automatons aren’t walking around like Zombies, and when the f’n sun shines like there’s no tomorrow, Baltimore is actually a great little city to hang around for a few days. This particular visit left me with the impression that October weather in Baltimore is the best weather in the world. Add to that the fact that once I stepped foot back in the old country, about two weeks after my Homeland visit, it started to rain and didn’t stop until yesterday. I kid you not!

I’ve experienced wet and cold weather living in this part of #eurowasteland. But in my twenty-five years I can’t remember it being this bad. I’m kinda ashamed I didn’t do more worst-riding for the past few months. But I’ve set my riding weather limits to seven degrees celsius and trees being uprooted due to flooding ground water. Yea, limits. (See pic above.)

bike review 4000km_3
Shelf space for bike stuff. I’m actually regretting have bought two knob tires (tyres); I’m probably gonna go with more street oriented tires after current set wears out.

On the other hand, I can’t help but think this break from the R&M has done me some good. It’s aloud me to readjust my e-bike senses. That is, getting back on the bike after only sporadic use during the past three or four months has allowed me to re-orient myself with it. Not only that but while it’s been in my basement turning a year old I’ve finally started fiddling with its parts. For example, for the first time I adjusted the air shocks–even though I’m not quit sure how-to do it. I also re-adjusted my thud buster seat going back to the middle rubber mount from the highest (hardest) setting. I also have a new rear tire, although that wasn’t my fiddling. And the Bosch system was updated. So let’s go there first, shall we.

Just after returning to the old country last October–in fact, the day I arrived–I was also scheduled to bring my R&M in for a check-up and frame replacement. As pointed out in this pseudo-review, the dealer delivered my R&M with paint damage on the frame.  If I hadn’t insisted on having the damage repaired I’m sure that the dealer–and perhaps R&M???–would have gladly let the damage slide at my cost. I say that because, 1) I had to wait something like eight months for the frame and 2) after the dealer finally replaced it and I picked up the bike, they said/claimed the following:

“You know, we replaced that frame, which would normally have cost around five hundred or so in labour, for nothing.”

My response: Whaaaaaaaaa?

I don’t know about your experience with customer service, dear worst-rider, but such a comment is common-place here in #eurowasteland, especially in certain parts of Germany where people really do believe they $hit roses. But enough of my worst-writing vulgarities and limited intellect as a somewhat disappointed high-end e-bike consumer.

So. During this money grubbing check-up my frame was replaced. They also replaced both rear brake pads, which I questioned (more on that in a sec). I also had them install a new rear tire even though it could have probably gone a few hundred kilometres more–but that was my choice. I was thinking at the time that I’d kill two birds (with one stone) and  bought a second tire (see pic above where said tire is neatly folded and waiting). I’m now thinking that was an error on account I’m almost sure I want to go with more street oriented tires in the future. Maybe more on that later. They also updated my Bosch system with the new eMTB riding mode. Let me say this about eMTB:

Whoop-di-fcuking do!

In fact, I might even ask the dealer (it’ll be a new dealer by then) if I can return my Bosch system back to the old riding modes. With four modes of riding, I really don’t see the reasoning behind eMTB, which seems to only combine the top three levels of riding. In fact, the other day while going up a short but very steep hill using eMTB the motor kicked a bit too hard and caused a wheelie. To prevent a backward flip I had to jump off the pedals. Indeed. Unwanted wheelies during steep ascensions… I’m gettin’ too old for that $hit.

bike review 4000km_2
There’s an owner’s manual for a lot of Suntour forks here, just not for mine.

As far as the brake pad replacement goes, there is a problem with the rear brake calliper on my R&M. In my opinion, the frame mounts are not properly aligned for this calliper setup. The brake pad that is on the outside of the disk is always rubbing. I know this because the rear wheel never spins freely. Although there is a way to adjust the position of the calliper on the frame mounts, it can’t be moved enough to one side to prevent the rubbing on one of the pads. Once I get a new dealer, I’ll be addressing this issue. Otherwise I’ll be replacing pads mostly because of this unnecessary rubbing.

Actually I don’t have anything more to say about the tires on this bike. I love them. So I might just go one more set and then go to street tires. I don’t know. I’m confused about tires.

The front forks have no manual.

The pic above is a screenshot of the CD that was delivered with this bike that is supposed to contain an owner’s manual for my forks. The only problem is, there is no manual. The good news is that my bike was delivered with a cute little air pump specific to these forks. This is helpful because they are springless air forks. If, by accident, you let out all the air–which I did–you’ll need this pump to get going again. Either that or you’ll have to ride home with useless, impotent front forks. (Sounds worst-rider erotic, eh!) And there is one other problem. Because there is no user manual for the forks, how much pressure can I put in them? Since I fiddled around with air forks back in the day when I was a real-man motorcyclist–as opposed to a wuss on an e-bike–I figured I could fill the forks till they don’t move anymore, which I think was around 150psi. Right now I’m running something like a 100psi and they’re still a bit hard. Or is it 10psi? Who the fcuk cares. And you know what they say about hard (forks) and men in their fifties, right? Ok. Enough.

bike review 4000km_1
R&M heaven or how they look after turning a year old.

Btw, my better-half’s R&M Mixte is definitely gonna skip the eMTB Bosch update. The main reason is because the update seems to be just another gouging mechanism for dealers. You see, Bosch doesn’t charge for the update. But dealers do. Go figure. Also. The Mixte is mostly used on roads, so it really doesn’t need eMTB.

In the last few days I’ve been able to go on longer rides with my GX, even though off-road is still very very wet–in fact so wet that even my extra wide tires sink a bit much for my taste. We’re planning a new tour up on the Baltic Sea at the end of May, though. We’re looking at about ten days of riding and maybe 1500km along the German north coast not far from Poland. Looking forward to it.

Oh. As far as battery life goes… I’m gonna have to worst-write something about that (again) soon. Reason? During the first 2000km I could go 30km before the first notch on the battery gauge would disappear. Now I can barely go 15km. After questioning a dealer about this he said that as soon as it gets warmer I should have all the power back. I’m skeptical. Even though the Bosch e-bike motor is great and I trust the Germans engineered it well and Hungarians put it together well, the battery–or the batteries–is a different story. Indeed. Batteries are the weak link here. But I digress.

Good riding, baby.

Rant on.

-T

Pseudo-Review: The Shape Of Water Not Unlike My Desire Of The Her Of All Fish

shape of water

Returned from The Homeland last Monday. It was a horrible trip. It was horrible because, of the two weeks I was there, after doing some yard work for my Mom, I contracted a pretty bad skin ailment from poison ivy. In fact, as I worst-write this, two weeks after returning, I’m still itching. (But it is getting better.)

I arrived Sunday late afternoon in The Homeland (can you believe there is a govt. agency called that) and drove three hours south along the Atlantic coast till I reached my widowed mother. As usual she was glad to see me. As usual I was glad to see her. But more important I was glad to provide her with a bit of companionship. My mother is not only getting old but after the death of her husband a few years back, she’s now quite the lonely soul. After an evening’s nightcap and a few shared thoughts on our lives spanning an ocean, my first night of sleep in my mother’s house was preoccupied with a damn film I had seen on LH426 to PHL only few hours earlier.

Say what you will, dear worst-reader, about movies shown on the limited space of tiny flat screens on the back of airline seats. And, like audio and music, I’ve learned to cope with all things cheap when it comes to consuming media. Put another way, I don’t mind if I’m seeing or hearing a piece of art that was meant for the big screen on a krappy little screen, including krappy audio. I’ve learned up to this point in life that in the arts, especially the art of story telling, presentation can take a back seat–if and when it must. In this case, the film “The Shape of Water” got my full attention during the flight and thereafter–even while shown on a really krappy screen. In fact, I couldn’t help but preoccupy my mind with the movie while battling the discomforts afforded us all as we travel in/with an industry run by college grad automatons who obviously can’t manage their way out of wet paper bags–which is more proof why not only the airline industry but #Americant is in a perpetual state of bankruptcy. But then again, that’s why I almost never fly US carriers. Go figure.

That’s right, dear worst-reader. The airline industry… Or better put: the human cattle transport industry hasn’t changed in the quarter century I’ve been using it to cross the Atlantic while living as a miserable expat. So when a two hour film can captivate me and take my mind away from $hitty service, $hitty seats, rattling fuselages and stinking compatriots stuck in the same coach-class hell, I’m all for it. And that’s the ticket of these friendly skies, ain’t it?

The Shape of Water is the best film I’ve seen in years. It’s also the first film I’ve seen in years that I think deserves an Oscar–which it won a few days before my trip. In fact, like so many others and just like with so many things that were once about achievement in the arts, this was the first film in a while I thought even deserved to be up for any kind of formal recognition. That’s how bad movies have become in this age of breaking billion dollar box office records with perverted sci-fi and action genre krapp galore! And if I put some effort into it, the only winner of an Oscar that comes to my worst-mind in the last twenty years is Charlize Theron for the film Monster. Now. Monster, the movie, actually sucked. But Theron’s acting was f’n brilliant.

A little side pseudo-review. Although I focused my mind mostly on having seen The Shape of Water, I did skip through Charlize Theron’s Atomic Blonde while my flight was on final approach to PHL. What a $hitty, unoriginal, boring movie. No different than James Bond, Jason Bourne, Austin Powers, etc. OYG. Hollywood can’t get it’s mojo back even when regurgitating a film albeit with a hot blonde in the fighting lead. Oh well.

Back to one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.

Considering what Hollywood has done to movies in my life time, I think that movie making needs to be (finally) turned back over to creative people again. That’s right, dear worst-reader. I am assuming that movie making once belonged to creative people. What has brought Hollywood to where it is today, I won’t attempt to worst-write about here. It’s just that, well, Guillermo del Toro has to be the most creative person in Hollywood in decades. Seriously. Did you see Pan’s Labyrinth? If not, see it now. Unless, of course, you’re anti-creativity and stuck on stupid comic book characters with capes and masks and platitudes. Anyhoo. Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is piece of work that makes the likes of Spielberg, Cameroon, and whatever blockbuster action move director you can name, look like what they are: $hit! My hat is off and I bow deeply to creativity and Guillermo del Toro for this film.

That said, spoiler alert.

  1. The Shape of Water has its problems. The fish-man, for example. I dug out an old DVD of Hellboy the other night to compare fish-men. It is uncanny how the two fish-men are the same. Did Guillermo del Toro borrow the actor, the character, the costume? If so, does that detract from Guillermo del Toro’s story? Fcuk no.
  2. I knew at the beginning of The Shape of Water and the introduction of the female lead that those marks on her neck would end up being gills. To me that was the weakest part of the film and something I wish could have been expanded on. But forgivable.
  3. The moment where the archetypal #Americant conservative patriarch who is scared of his own shadow and is given sex by his submissive wife after she pulls her tit out as an offering when the kids finally go to school doesn’t work for me. It’s not how #Americant and its transaction-wives function in their relations. Trust me. I’m #Americant. I know what I’m talking about. Instead. I would have preferred Guillermo del Toro done the scene with the wife whipping out her Saturday night special but only after dipping it in her grab-them-by-the-pu$$y first and then teasing his lips and nose with it. For whatever reason, Guillermo del Toro decided to provide a more human and feminine form of what it is that makes the transaction of marriage sacred in a/the land of free-to-be-stupid. But then again, when it comes to marriage transactions, #eurowasteland ain’t no better. But I digress.

There are so many small issues I have with this film, I’ll not worst-write them all here. Reason? No need to. The movie is just good. Real good. And that’s all that matters. Instead, I’ll go back to my expat cubby-hole and continue the expat dream of living a life like any screwed-up archetypal patriarch should live. Alone and only available to fantasise about how things could be if only a God could be found in a swamp in South America that could/should save us all from ourselves.

Rant on.

-T