What's Good?

A little rant about Citi Bike before a look at the week's food, fitness, bro-science, wellness hustle, technology news

Happy Friday! And welcome to all the new subscribers, particularly those who got here via a very kind recommendation from Austin Kleon.

One of the things that I was (arguably) best known for at Hack Education were my annual lists of the "top ed-tech trends." Published each December, I'd actually spend the entire year scrutinizing the headlines, trying to identify trends and, more importantly, the stories that pushed things to become trendy (with a keen eye to why "certain people" were interested in peddling those very narratives). So consider these Friday newsletters — a round-up of the week's food and fitness technologies stories — to be my research into what we're told we're supposed to think and do with our bodies.

My sister-in-law and I have signed up for a triathlon. It's not until next summer, so I have a year to train. But I'm already anxious. I'm not terribly worried about the run. I'm a fairly strong swimmer, and I know that, with practice, I'll be okay, particularly if I can master the flip turn. (It's a pool sprint.) But, up until last week, it'd been decades since I'd ridden a bike, and I still feel rather shaky on one.

Of course, it's quite possible that that shakiness is due to my current ride being a Citi Bike. As I noted last week, it looks as though the ridehail company Lyft, which operates the Citi Bike program, might be selling its bike and scooter rental division. In NYC, at least, it's not a bad business — ridership is up, and bikes — e-bikes and traditional pedal-powered ones — have changed how people get around the city, particularly post-pandemic.

But Lyft seems to struggle to maintain the operability of its fleet, as I discovered on Tuesday when I biked to and from the gym — or tried to, at least. The closet station to my apartment building (two blocks away) had three bikes, but none of them would unlock. The next closest station (another block, nbd) had two, and thankfully I walked there faster than the other commuters who were frantically trying to unlock a bike. When I got to the gym, the dock where I typically leave the bike (three blocks away) had no openings; I rode one block further to deposit it. But when I left the gym, I realized why that closest dock was full: none of the bikes parked there could be unlocked. So again, I had to walk (three blocks) to find a working set of wheels. Frustrating, but it could be worse, right? Indeed, I let a bus pass me by as I was walking to the next docking station as I knew that I'd still beat it through the Lincoln Tunnel traffic, as I could ride along the Hudson River path.

Over the weekend, I bought a bike helmet. Even though my rides so far have been along that bike and pedestrian path, there are a lot of e-bikes and scooters on it, going at a ridiculously fast pace. They're not supposed to be there, but considering how dangerous it is to have to share a lane with cars, I get it (particularly as many of these are delivery workers, who have it bad enough already, tyvm).

So much going on here: public/private infrastructure. App economy. Lithium batteries on nineteenth century technology...

I suppose, training for a triathlon, I'll buy my own bike eventually. So what irks me more than the shoddy Citi Bikes is this tendency to privatize transportation infrastructure and prioritize cars. Public transportation is underfunded — we know that; but public space for safe movement and physical activity is also severely neglected. When it comes to our health and wellbeing, we emphasize "individual responsibility" and fail to address the deeper, structural issues. Related, from the news this week: "The Magical Space Where Fun Is Every Child’s Birthright." "Why America stopped building public pools."

Elsewhere in sports / fitness technology news: I don't think the USWNT is long for the World Cup. Marta forever. “How ESPN Went From Disney’s Financial Engine to Its Problem.” Runner's World profiles "struggle runner" Erin Azar. “The ‘Pet Tech’ Craze: Can a $799 Treadmill Make Your Best Friend Happier and Healthier?”  The pickleball backlash is already here. “Women over 40 jump in to save double Dutch, a lost American pastime.” “Where's My Rest Badge?” asks Anne Helen Petersen.

It's hard to separate the food and fitness technology news some weeks. So here's a look at the latest the wellness industry hustle: “‘Everything you’ve been told is a lie!’ Inside the wellness-to-fascism pipeline.” “Vegan influencer Zhanna Samsonova 'dies from starvation and exhaustion' after switching to diet of tropical fruit.” Rina Raphael on “How Fake Science Sells Wellness.” “Menopause is so hot right now” — Mikki Halpin on the menopause influencer industry. “Influencers Built Up This Wellness Startup—Until They Started Getting Sick.” “This wellness startup” is Daily Harvest, FYI.

Bro Update: Zuckerberg. 4000 calories a day while training. McDonalds. blah blah blah. “‘Huberman Husbands,’ ‘Bro Diets’ and the ‘Masculine’ Branding of Fitness Culture.”

Elsewhere in "health" "care": “Henrietta Lacks’s family reaches settlement in extracted cell lawsuit.” Read everything by Casey Parks: “After Mississippi banned his hormone shots, an 8-hour journey.” Dollar General as healthcare provider.

Other things food-related: "Business Meals Are Back With a Vengeance, and Everyone Feels Awkward." The history of ice cream and WWI. A history of hummus.  A profile of Sardi’s bartender on his retirement. “Kraft Heinz defeats lawsuit over mac & cheese preparation time.” “Taco Bell sued for false advertising over skimpy fillings.” “YouTube star MrBeast sues ghost kitchen partner over ‘inedible’ food.” Still more lawsuits: “Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s War of the Rosé.”  “Cap’n Crunch Gets Important Uniform Adjustment.” “All Soda Is Lemon-Lime Soda.” “McDonald's Makes a Big Breakfast Menu Change.” “McDonald's is a tech company that just happens to make burgers, says Keith Fitz-Gerald.” Eyeroll.

A quick reminder: the Second Breakfast paywall drops after August 11. Free subscribers will continue to get this Friday email; paid subscribers also receive a recipe on Mondays and an essay/rant/review on Thursdays. Thanks for supporting my work. It feels good to be back at the keyboard.