CES 2018: The Improbable Insights Podcast

David Bryant and Eric Klein traveled to the 2018 CES show and came back excited, disappointed, weary, and overstimulated. We discuss what they liked, the disappointments, and the cool experiences. Plus we give them a little time to rant. Check out their thoughts on what transpired at this year’s CES and what it really means.

Download MP3

Improbable Insights Podcast: New Year, New Gear

Download MP3

We’re back!

As we enter 2018, the Improbable Insights podcast gang regroup to discuss the gear and media they’ve acquired in the past several months. Given our disparate interests, we discuss a range of things from a large format Epson printer (Loyd), the GlowForge laser cutter (Eric), to Sous Vide cookers (David). Along the way, we touch on 4K HDR televisions, iPhone X, AMD’s Ryzen processors, and better ways to build custom LEGO add-ons.

But it’s not all high tech gear. We include more mundane items, like ultra-soft socks, a flexible new glue, and watchband repair tools.

As always, we also get into media we’ve been reading and watching: books, movies, TV, and games. Come along for the ride, stay for the opinions!

Moving Forward in 2018

Some people have noted a dearth of posts and podcasts recently. As we move into 2018, I have to confess that 2017 was something of a dumpster fire for me personally (even ignoring world events) given that I had two major surgeries, one in May and one at the end of October. I also lost my job due to company downsizing so have returned to freelancing, which has been surprisingly successful so far.

I had spinal surgery on October 31 to clear up a pinched nerve issue that had been causing severe pain and some numbness in my legs. The surgery appears to be successful — the pain is gone as is most of the numbness. Given the nature of the operation, though, recovery has been slow. This has put a kink in recording and publishing the podcast as well as affecting other writing.

But enough of my troubles. I’m looking forward to 2018. I hope to write more, podcast more, do some gaming, get back on the bike, and travel more, leaving 2017 in the rear-view mirror where it belongs.

One goal I have this coming year is to improve my photography. So I’m actively trying to shoot more. You can see some of the results on my Instagram feed displayed in the sidebar; here are a few examples.


Improbable Insights Podcast: The IoT Invasion

Download MP3

We’re back!

I’ve been experimenting with formats. Let me know what you think, either in the comment section of uncertainty.com or by email at improbablepodcast@gmail.com.

The IoT Invasion

It’s been a year since David, Eric, and I talked about IoT. Since then, the Internet of Things has been growing by leaps and bounds, particularly in the consumer space. As mainstream companies jump on the IoT bandwagon, we’ve seen some really cool stuff come along as well as the usual round of headaches. We talk about the teething problems as well as the promise of IoT to make our lives better.

Tools and Fun

I just wrapped up reading We Have No Idea by Jorge Cham of Ph.D. Comics and particle physicist Danial Whiteson, among other reading. The book is an excellent overview of the state of physics and cosmology for lay people. It’s funny, insightful, and makes you want to learn more.

I also recently rewatched seasons one and two of SyFy’s The Expanse on Blu-Ray. The show seems much better on the second viewing. I’m particularly impressed with the world-building that goes on in the first few episodes of the first season.

On the tools side, I recently drove 700 miles in a U-Haul truck. What kept me sane was listening to podcasts using a Bluetooth speaker. I kept the speaker and my phone powered up with a Foval 300W inverter which includes a pair of USB charging ports as well as two standard grounded plugs.

Finally, I discuss what you should the considerations for whether or not you should dive into building a high-end desktop PC. Should you adopt AMD’s Threadripper processor, with its massive thread count and horde of PCI Express lanes? Or should you go more conservative and stick with Intel’s Core-i9 or Core-i7 Skylake-E CPUs? Listen in to learn more about the issues.

Meanwhile, Eric’s acquired a Ryzen 1800X system to transition from an Intel Core i7-4770K-based PC. He also wrapped up Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch series (Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, and Ancillary Mercy). ERic gives thumbs up but found it wore on him a bit by the third book. He’s also loving the Netflix series Glow as well as Game of Thrones, season 7.

David had a blast chasing the total solar eclipse through northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming, and he has the pictures to prove it. He’s also watching the USA series Shooter as well as season 7 of Game of Thrones. 

We also talk about the games we’ve been playing and what we’re looking forward to. This fall looks like a rich compendium of games.


Summer Tech Cornucopia Podcast: Threadripper and More

Welcome to the Improbable Insights Podcast Summer Tech Cornucopia!

Tech cornucopias are podcasts in which we catch up on some tech news and gear of interest. These are delicious, bite-sized chunks of information, rather than the single-topic focus of most of our episodes. We talk about AMD’s Threadripper CPUs and Vega GPUs. We also cover cordless mice, Nvidia’s Volta, the end of Flash, and Apple.

Tools and Fun

I recently tripled my Internet speeds and dropped the monthly cost simply be talking to a Comcast rep on the phone. I also experimented with shooting video with the Nikon D500 and wrapped up XCOM2: The Long War 2 mod and discuss how it could have been improved.  I’ve also been playing Pyre, a weird fantasy RPG by the creators of Bastion, in which combat is handled via a basketball-like game. I also give a shoutout to a cool history podcast, TV, and books I’m reading.

David goes into what he uncovered at the Disney D23 expo, saw Atomic Blonde, and more about how he’s prepping for the upcoming total solar ecllpse. Plus more Diablo III and a bit of Mr. Robot.

Download MP3

Download MP3

Trek Domane SL6 Disc First Rides

Before I talk about my shiny new Domane SL6 Disc, I need to talk a bit about my cycling and a bit about my old bike. I love to ride, but I have a fragile back, particularly the upper back and lower neck. It’s likely due to years of distance running and crappy posture. In addition to an easily-angered upper back, my left shoulder gets sore easily due to some deterioration of the rotator cuff because of multiple separated shoulder incidents in years gone by.

Over my fifteen years or so of more-or-less steady cycling, I’ve upgraded my primary rides specifically to minimize stress on my back. I traded my aluminum-framed Giant for a carbon fiber Felt Z5, since carbon generally offers a more forgiving ride than aluminum. Then Trek delivered the original Domane, with its IsoSpeed decoupler sleeve bearing. IsoSpeed essentially isolates the seatpost from the rest of the frame, reducing the effect of road chatter. So I picked up the midrange Domane 5.2 and put a lot of miles on it over the past several years.

Trel Domane 5.2

I loved riding the 5.2, but the Domane had one small, but disconcerting flaw: the front end. Isolating the seat mast from the frame resulted in a smoother-feeling ride under your butt, but the front fork still transmitted all the road vibration. The fork rake and carbon fiber mitigated this somewhat, but the overall effect was somewhat jarring. I eventually added Bontrager Isocore carbon fiber handlebars, which helped a bit more, but only a bit.

Enter the Domane SL6 Disc

Trek announced its second generation Domane in 2016. The second iteration of the company’s endurance frame now included an IsoSpeed decoupler built into the headset, which effectively isolates the handlebars from the frame.

Photo credit: Trek Bikes

As usual, the first bikes were more high-end than I could afford. As 2016 passed into 2017, Trek released numerous models, including a model that seemed perfect: the Domane SL6 Disc. Trek built the SL6 with the same 500 series OCLV carbon fiber used in my Domane 5.2. The SL6 Disc, as the name indicates, also included Shimano’s RS685 hydraulic disc brakes with matching shifters paired to an Ultegra 11-speed mechanical drivetrain.  The disc brakes allow fatter tires to be installed; Trek ships its own Bontrager 30mm slicks with the SL6 Disc. A Vision carbon fiber wheelset rounded out the configuration.

However, the bike still cost a little beyond my budget, at $4,499.

Recently, though, Trek dropped the price to $3,499; a full grand discount put it just within reach of what I wanted to spend. Maybe they weren’t selling enough. Maybe the company just wanted to clear the old models for newer ones. I noticed, however, that the only size available was 54cm — coincidentally the size frame I ride. So I headed off to Bicycle Outfitter and plopped down a deposit.

My Domane SL6 Disc arrived on July 8th. Since this Domane version arrived with alloy handlebars, I had the shop swap in my IsoCore carbon fiber bars. I also installed 28mm Continental 4000S-II tires (which are really 31mm according to one source — they certainly look as fat as the 30mm Bontragers) and my trusted Brooks B17 titanium saddle. I’m running the tires at between 85 and 90 pounds inflation pressure, lower than the 100 pounds I’d been using with the 25mm Contis on the 5.2.

Domane SL6 Disc brake side view

Close-up of Shimano disc brake

Speedplay Frog pedals rounded out my additions.

I’ve put in roughly 200 miles since July 8th, in rides ranging from 15 to 24 miles. I’m still ramping up after my surgery back on May 1st, so I’m still somewhat out of shape and ramping up. I really haven’t gotten the SL6 properly fitted yet, either; I’ve got full fitting scheduled in the next week. Even so, the SL6 has proven a comfortable and competent ride. Despite the fatter tires, it seems just as nimble as the older Domane 5.2. Once I get the SL6 fitted and a few 30-plus mile rides under my belt, I’ll be able to fully assess how well it really succeeds in minimizing recovery time.

I can say, though, that the Domane SL6 Disc handles well, climbs decently, and seems to have all the makings of a very sweet ride.


How We Handle Geek Disappointment

Meaning: Disappointment

It’s happened to all of us. Something seemingly very cool gets announced. It might be a movie, a game, a new gadget, or just about anything that sets our geek and nerd mouths watering. So we preorder or crowdfund it. When the object of our heart’s desire gets released, we’re crushed with disappointment. If it’s media, it’s just not good, with shoddy writing, mediocre acting, and impenetrable directing. A game promising hours of immersion instead delivers hours of frustration. A tech gizmo ships with missing features, loads of bugs, and fails to achieve its stated goals.

How do you handle the disappointment? David Bryant and I discuss how we handle geek disappointments and how we try to prevent future soul-crushing events.

Download MP3

Tools & Fun

One of the photographic tools I’ve used for years is the Nik Filter Collection. Google bought Nik a few years back, released the entire filter collection for free, but also announced it was being deprecated. The lack of attention has finally hit home, with several filters no longer working properly with the latest Photoshop CC 2017 updates. I discuss the solution I found that works for me.

I also returned to an old keyboard, gave up on Neal Stephenson’s latest novel, and had a great time reading The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter  by Theodora Goss. And if you haven’t seen The Legend of Korrayou’re missing on one of the best anime series in years. I’ve also been playing some board games… on my iPad. I talk about several and share my experiences.

Meanwhile David helped his sister-in-law and niece build a desktop PC remotely. How well did it work out? Listen in to find out. He also saw Wonder Woman  and enjoyed it. On the gaming front, he’s nearly at the end of Ghost Recon Wildlands so of course, he picked up Sniper Elite 4 during Steam’s summer sale. And ever the Diablo fan, David bought into the Necromancer pack.

He also discusses how he’s prepping his photography gear for the big trip to catch the solar eclipse, which includes a Neewer alloy rail mount for his mirrorless Sony, plus assorted filters.

Sorry about the lateness of the podcast; I had some technical issues which have been resolved. We’ll continue with our biweekly schedule henceforth.


This Week’s Podcast: The Meaning of E3

The biggest forward facing video game show in the US has run its course. E3 happened several weeks ago, giving us a little time to reflect on the games and hardware on parade at the annual video game industry show. What does the Xbox One X announcement really reveal about Microsoft’s intent and its strategies? Now that all the hype and tears have run its course, we take a look back in a little more serious vein. Why do all AAA games show stuff blowing up? Where are all the cool indie titles? We ponder these questions on this week’s Improbabls Insights Podast, and more, including which games interest us the most and which ones left us cold.

Tools and Fun

I’ve finally discovered Legends of Korra, the animated steampunk / anime series which ran on Nickelodeon several years back. Don’t let the Nickelodeon heritage fool you, Legends of Korra is well-written with competent voice acting.

I’ve also started reading Neal Stephenson’s The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. Co-authored with Nicole Galland, it’s short by Stephenson standards at a “mere” 768 pages, and deals with the intersection of magic and science. I’ve also been playing more of the XCOM 2 Long War 2 mod, and finally have a grasp of the overall strategy. It’s a tough mod, but about as rewarding a gaming experience as I’ve seen.

Eric’s been playing Space Pirate Trainer in VR and has been enjoying it. On the tools side, he picked up the Trond Charger David recommended. And he faces a momentous decision: Mad Men or Sense8?

David found a very cool gizmo, the Four Sevens Flex Charger. This cool device looks like a USB charging cable and includes magnetic ends which attach to the poles of rechargeable batteries. Now you have no excuse to avoid rechargeable batteries. He’s also wrapped up season 1 of Into the Badlands and likes it enough that he’s now four episodes into the longer season 2. And yep, he’s still playing Ghost Recon Wildlands.

Ron has been playing a lot of indie games, with his current game of choice being the Rogue Lite Dead Cells. He’s also been playing more Stellaris in co-op mode plus Everspace. And he highly recommends the PBS YouTube series, particularly the deep space science and mythology channels.