Category Archives: Energy

Fatuous Howler: Elon Musk Biography by Isaacson “misleading and even flat wrong”

An impressively astute book review has been published on Defector.

He welcomes the return of a space race, not between rival superpowers, but between capitalists indulging in healthy competition “like that of the railway barons a century earlier.” This is fatuous in a familiar way, but also wrong: The American railway boom was 150 years ago, and brought about not by “competition” but continental-level corruption, kickbacks, bribes, and unfettered monopoly—all of it built on the backs of ruthlessly abused workers. (The injury rate at Tesla’s Fremont, Calif. facility, per a report from 2017, was 31 percent higher than the rest of the industry.)


The biography lacks basic truth about history.

Oh, but then it gets so much worse. The book lacks basic truth about the present, thus enabling fraud.

Even the release of Elon Musk was marred by one of Isaacson’s howlers. The biography was launched with a much-trumpeted “exclusive” published by CNN, Isaacson’s old haunt. The story, based on reporting in the book, detailed how Elon Musk personally ordered the Starlink internet service used by the Ukrainian army to be switched off as they prepared for a strike on a naval base in Russian-occupied Crimea. If you turned that upside down and tickled its tummy, it would still not resemble an exclusive. The details of the story had been reported six months prior by Oliver Carroll in the Economist, and were repeated by Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker in late August along with the tidbit, missed by Isaacson, that Musk may have turned off Starlink after speaking to Vladimir Putin.

Isaacson subsequently issued a correction (on Twitter, of all places), clarifying that the Ukrainians “asked Musk to enable [Starlink] for their drone sub attack on the Russian fleet. Musk did not enable it.” Musk himself is now on to a third version of this event—it’s hard to parse, but he blames U.S. sanctions—but whatever was claimed in the biography is now, by its own author’s own admission, apparently untrue

“Fatuous Hitler’s Turd Reich” was suggested to me by a predictive algorithm, as I started to type the word “howler” for the headline of this blog post.

The computer algorithm isn’t far off the mark. Accurate prediction.

Please read the very sharp book review in Defector instead of the fascism fluff book by Isaacson.

2023 Hot eBike Bakeoff: QuietKat Lynx vs Talaria xXx

I’ve been asked more and more to review eBikes coming online, so in the interest of time here’s a quick comparison of two that caught my eye:

2023 Lynx. Source: QuietKat

QuietKat Lynx (cafe moto) — $3,999

  • Motor: 1000W 2 Speed Hub Drive (Variable Power Output)
  • Range: 63mi
  • Battery: 20Ah/48V/960Wh
  • Power: 83Nm Torque/1440 Peak
  • Max load: 300lbs
  • Top Speed: 28mph
  • Weight: 100lbs
  • Regenerative: No
2023 xXx. Source: Sur Ronster

Talaria xXx (stunt) — €2.400 ($2,500)

  • Motor: Interior Permanent Magnet (IPM)
  • Range: 60k (40mi)
  • Battery: 40Ah/60V/2400Wh
  • Power: 45Nm Torque
  • Max load: 165lbs
  • Top Speed: 46mph
  • Weight: 125lbs
  • Regenerative: Yes

There are a ton of eBike reviews floating around already. They never seem to appeal to me, so maybe that’s why I’m being asked to add mine to the growing pile. I’ve not yet seen these two compared. Here goes:

A simple bake-off had a surprising result for me because the winner turned out opposite to first impressions:

  • Weight: Lynx 100lbs
  • Speed: xXx 46mph
  • Strength: Lynx 300lbs
  • Range: Lynx 63mi
  • Cost: xXx $2500

3 for the Lynx vs 2 for the xXx, and if I properly weight (pun not intended) the categories I care most about the Lynx is much further ahead.

I mean on first glance (maybe it was price tag) I felt the pull of a stupid-fast and light xXx. It’s powerful and nimble for fun rides, perhaps too much fun. I could see myself breaking it.

Where the Lynx shines is engineering for things more relevant to my interests: practicality, offering durability and distance. It hints at something more like “slow and steady” Dakar and much, much less at kids doing “endless burnouts in high school parking lots” or… *shudder*, white technocrats cruising Palo Alto.

Notably, the xXx has reliability issues with its motor cutting out without warning. That’s ok on fun rides, maybe. NOT acceptable for basically everything else. A dead 125lb bike at intersections or on trails… nope. Riding wheelies on the xXx and… ugh, why am I even looking at a bike marketed as xXx? Go away SEO bots.

When you’re ready for real life with responsibilities, the Lynx seems to be thinking about much more rational features for respectable long hauls (not the LOOOONG 200 mile haul of the new Buell but 63mi is plenty).

One nagging detail that kept me on the fence is regeneration of energy. Given the utility of eBikes for remote mountainous terrain (somehow I always end up on) a regen all the way down sounds great. Really great. Speaking of which, allegedly one of the reasons a xXx motor quits and requires reset is trying to regen over 90% causes thermal trouble. I’ll take a working engine over any regen one that abruptly quits, natch.

Even so, lack of any regen feels like oversight from QuietKat, especially given how they reference a Colorado mountain test environment and promote mountain this and that in their specs. Getting up to high elevation campsite is no bother if you know you have the option of charging back down.

As a final note, linking to a trailer seems like something Talaria doesn’t even think about, yet Lynx has a beefy cargo rack already setup behind the saddle and then offers options like their “Cargo Trailer”.

100lb capacity in a sizeable trailer is more than than enough for light Nextgen Anti-Tank Weapons. Source: QuietKat

If they spell cat with a K and they call a bike the Lynx, shouldn’t this be called something more creative like the “KatBox”? I’ll be here all week.

The cargo trailer doesn’t say it works well with NLAW mounts but you get the idea. QuietKat otherwise doesn’t hide the fact that they market towards “scout ahead” and the toughest “protect and serve” riders who “mount guns, bows, and more”. Remember their “Jeep” model? Maybe they should offer a decal set for riders to show how many helicopters downed or turrets popped? On a similar note their “Game Trailer” with the picture of a deer carcass doesn’t say it can be an ambulance gurney or extract wounded… but again, you get the idea.

Old side-car thinking ruins the anti-mine singletrack sensibilities of modern eBikes

All of this brings to mind military-grade engineering, regulated (in a good way) with long-term dependability for quiet professionals. The xXx however says race-to-the-bottom throwaway nuisance toy.

Between these two eBikes I might use an xXx for a few light-duty recreational trips, as a quick replacement for gas, but the Lynx seems far more likely to be the kind of infinitely useful bike I’d want to ride and ride and ride.

Bogus Insurance Report Disables AZ Tesla

Talk about a company that hates their customers…

A database with a bad record was used by Tesla to disable a critical car feature and then deny/ignore all customer complaints.

Tesla had intentionally deactivated Erickson’s supercharger feature for safety reasons. Here’s why. When replacing Erickson’s battery, Tesla says they discovered that Carfax listed her car as having a salvaged title due to being totaled in a collision. As a result, Tesla removed the supercharger feature as a safety precaution. But Carfax’s information was wrong because an insurance company provided incorrect information. Erickson’s car was never totaled.

Tesla “discovered” is more like bad surveillance, probably by some under-paid sloppy investigation task workers setting a bad example in Chinese prisons.

On Tuesday, the Tesla boss praised Chinese factory workers for pulling extreme hours while taking a shot at American workers. […] Tesla restricted its Shanghai workers from leaving the factory…. While locked inside, the workers were reportedly made to work 12-hour shifts, six days in a row, and to sleep on factory floors. […] Labor rights and safety violations have been reported at Tesla’s Shanghai factory since it opened in 2018, with some workers making as little as $1,500 a month in what an investigation by local journalists called the “Giga-sweatshop.”

Tesla claimed to be giving high praise for its unfortunate sweatshop victims as they were squeezed before being dumped ungratefully.

Tesla Inc. is laying off workers at its Shanghai plant…

I wonder if Tesla removed the “Arbeit Macht Frei” posters before or after they decided to layoff their workers locked inside the factory.

Safety reasons?

Tesla is by definition the opposite of safety.

Apparently if anyone anywhere in the massive information supply chain poisons a single database record Tesla will blindly ingest and act on it immediately without any integrity check or verification… acting unsafely for safety reasons. Is Carfax often wrong? Does a chicken have wings? It’s a marketing site that buys reports from far too many sources with little to no integrity verification.

  • Carfax pulls information from more than 112,000 sources and that sometimes can lead to errors.
  • Auto Damage Experts Warns Against Using CARFAX for Diminished Value
  • One man said Carfax and both reported his car was damaged, costing him thousands of dollars in value.
  • Mistakes happen. A Carfax report has been likened to a credit report for vehicles. The information comes from a variety of sources.
  • “All they can tell me is that it’s not my insurance company.” It takes a lot of work to fix errors on car and credit history.
  • Carfax error leads to a diminishing estimate of a car’s value, but one owner fought back.
  • Carr went to CARFAX with his vehicle maintenance records and a letter from his insurance company. CARFAX removed the total loss report.

Tesla safety is an oxymoron, their highly unsafe data “ingestion” methods from the known untrustworthy Carfax being no exception.

Sounds like the same company that created a driverless “safety” product, one that keeps crashing into huge trees and flashingly obvious firetrucks, is bad at basic data safety. Presumably here again they operate with only selfish reasons.

“I wouldn’t characterize it as customer service,” she said. “I mean, there’s not a way to email them. There’s a way to communicate on the app but they don’t respond. I’ve looked back, I’ve sent over 30 emails, every single day I’ve been dealing with this and rarely getting a response.”

Nothing says caring about customers like treating them as poorly as their Chinese workers being locked inside a factory: totally ignoring basic needs, giving no response to dozens of complaints about obvious and easily fixed problems.

Oysters “See” Light Yet Nobody Understands How

Buried in an article about scientists studying effects of artificial light on oysters, is this pearl of wisdom:

How oysters see is a bit of a mystery. While related bivalves, such as scallops, have eye-like organs, oysters likely use patches of specialized cells on their skin to detect light, though scientists have yet to identify the cells or figure out exactly how they might work.

Seems important, yet research only started about ten years ago? Hard to believe. It brings to mind how the first robots in the 1950s used cells to detect light.