The first thing I noticed on my last trip to California was the explosion of e-bikes. They passed me on a seafront promenade.
The number of electric bicycle sales is roughly twice the number of electric car sales, despite a price in the thousands. But for $450, you can get a conversion kit like the Clip, which will turn any old bike into an e-bike. You can even remove the “e” part of your e-bike when you enter to prevent theft.
Here’s how it works: When you engage the clip, a small roller transfers torque directly to your front tire, propelling you forward without the need for complex gears or gears. This so-called “friction drive” is not new. It has been around since the early 20th century.
The first batch of Clip is sold out, but the second can be pre-ordered from clip.bike. Ignore the message that says it will be sent in 2022. On the next page it says that it will be sent in the spring. Other bike conversion kits include the Swytch, Bafang, and Rubbee X. Treehugger.com says the Rubbee X is the easiest to install.
On an e-bike, you’ll still be working with your legs, but you’ll get a big boost from “pedal assist”. Many riders say they ride more than they have in years.
What about security? According to a study by the law firm Gallivan, there are 115 injuries per million e-bike trips. That’s more than the estimated 104 injuries per million motorcycle trips. There are also more than the 15 injuries per million normal bicycle journeys or the eight injuries per million passenger car journeys.
CURVY PRINTED HOUSE
We are all used to rectangular homes. But with 3D printed houses, the walls can have any shape you want. Goodbye right. Hello curves.
But as Buckminster Fuller’s wife discovered in her dome, hanging pictures on a curved surface is difficult. Fortunately, the 100 homes now being printed by Icon, a nearly $2 billion Texas company, only use curves in the corners. They cost around $400,000 each. I love their modern look.
I wonder if the company’s proprietary concrete mix is even like the Romans’ version. Their concrete structures have lasted over a thousand years. Modern concrete only lasts about 50. According to science.org, the Roman recipe combined volcanic ash, lime and seawater mixed with volcanic rocks. Gosh.
A reader told me he traded in his iPhone 7 for an iPhone 8 to get wireless charging. “It comes in handy when I’m driving,” he says. “Fiddling around trying to connect to the iPhone is dangerous.”
I saw an unlocked “refurbished” iPhone 8 on Amazon for as low as $143, although the reader paid $193. “Refurbished” means it is in excellent condition, fully functional and has been professionally inspected, tested and cleaned. Amazon also guarantees that the battery has more than 80% capacity, compared to a new one, and that the screen and body show no signs of cosmetic damage from a foot away.
The reader was glad he bought his refurbished iPhone “unlocked,” which meant it was easy to transfer to his current carrier, T-Mobile. But you can also unlock a locked phone. For example, if a phone is tied to AT&T, go to att.com/deviceunlock/ to unlock it. For other carriers, look up their “bring your own device” guide.
What if your dentist was a robot? OK, this is going too far. But what about a dental assistant?
There are a couple of dental offices near me that use Yomi, the world’s only FDA approved robotic dental assistant, for dental implants. The company’s website, at visitingfromspace.com, claims the robot makes smaller incisions and is less invasive, leading to faster recoveries and fewer appointments.
LEARN TO CONCENTRATE
Thanks to the Forest app, I become more productive. After I start it, it ticks off the time in a big stopwatch on my phone for 25 minutes. But unlike similar apps, it doesn’t stop me from using the phone in other ways: I’m on the honor system. I like that better. It’s terrible to be hindered when you have to multitask. But being rewarded for concentrating—even with cartoonish pine trees—is just enough to stop me from rambling. I love watching my virtual forest grow.
The Forest app comes in a free and a premium version. The Pro version costs $3.49. In addition to other functions, it plants real trees in Africa through the Trees for the Future nonprofit, which receives high marks from CharityNavigator. So far they report planting 278 million trees. Check it out at forestapp.cc.
RUNNING OUT OF POWER
What if your phone’s battery is low and there’s no portable charger or outlet available? Turn down the screen brightness in Settings, turn on battery saver mode, turn off app notifications and connect it to the laptop if necessary.
IntelligenceSquared.com has replays of debates. I listened to “Is Elon Musk Killing Twitter?” Longtime journalist Kara Swisher argues yes, but adds that Twitter is also killing Musk. Financier Anthony Scaramucci says Twitter is still important. He notes that people wrote Tesla off in 2008, but it came back. So could Twitter.
Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at [email protected]