Monthly Archives: May 2007

May 02

Can we decide to be happy?

By kevin | Decision Making

I love articles like this one from the Wall Street Journal entitled “No Satisfaction: Why What You Have Is Never Enough”. . . [read]

We may have life and liberty. But the pursuit of happiness isn’t going so well.

As a country, we are richer than ever. Yet surveys show that Americans are no happier than they were 30 years ago. The key problem: We aren’t very good at figuring out what will make us happy.

We constantly hanker after fancier cars and fatter paychecks — and, initially, such things boost our happiness. But the glow of satisfaction quickly fades and soon we’re yearning for something else.

Similarly, we tell our friends that our kids are our greatest joy. Research, however, suggests the arrival of children lowers parents’ reported happiness, as they struggle with the daily stresses involved.

Which raises the obvious question: Why do we keep striving after these things?

If you’re not a Wall Street Journal reader, you won’t get to read the rest of the article, but the reasons fall into a couple of different categories

We’re strivers. Happiness is a very appealing notion. After all, our founding fathers were the first and only people to lay down that we have an inalienable right to at least pursue it. But it’s the pursue part that gets us every time. If you believe in evolution, then you need to remember that we’re wired to strive and to procreate, not to be happy. That’s why we don’t live in caves anymore. That’s why there are 6 billion of us.

We’re lousy forecasters. Another way of saying this is that the grass always looks greener on the other side. It may in fact be greener, but it won’t always be, and who says greener will make us happier anyway? Famous economists Daniel Kahneman and David Schkade did a study on this phenomenon. Here’s what the WSJ had to say about the results . . .

They asked university students in the Midwest and Southern California where they thought someone like themselves would be happier — and both groups picked California, in large part because of the better weather. Yet, when asked how satisfied they were with their own lives, both groups were equally happy.

“When you’re thinking about moving to California, you’re thinking about the beaches and the weather,” says Mr. Schkade, a management professor at the University of California at San Diego. “But you aren’t thinking about the fact that you’ll still be spending a lot of time in the grocery store or doing chores. People emphasize differences that are easy to observe ahead of time and forget about the similarities.”

When we predict what will make us happy, we’re also influenced by how we feel today. If we buy the weekly groceries just after we’ve had lunch, we will shop much more selectively. The downside: A few days later, we will be staring unhappily into an empty refrigerator.

Maybe most important, we fail to anticipate how quickly we will adapt to improvements in our lives. We think everything will be wonderful when we move into the bigger house. We don’t realize that, after a few months, we will take the extra space for granted.

Take none of this as an indictment of striving, dreaming, or wanting. Just be careful with the conceit that having some new thing or experience will result in some new permanent state of elevated bliss. It won’t. That’s neither good nor bad. It just is.


May 02

Drive By Review: Madco, MCL, Garmin Zumo 55, Avon Storms, Evapodana, Motoport, Lee Parks, Pin Lock

By kevin | Gear Reviews

Me on the FJR somewhere in Nevada

I just returned from a 2500 mile ride from Seattle to Death Valley and back on my FJR1300. Weather ranged from 38 to 105 F. Following is a miscellaneous gear report.

Madco. I fitted the Madco Rider at the same time I installed the ergo2. Together or separate, they make a big difference. The Madco is bone simple to install and use and a great convenience. Ditto the ergo. I would rate these at 99% for effectiveness, value, and utility. Note: Both of these mods are specific to the FJR. Madco makes gear for Harley’s and some other bikes. Ergo primarily makes throttle tubes for dirt bikes.

MCL Risers. I’m 6 2″ and been pining after risers for the last year. I finally put in a set of Motorycylce Larry risers. An inch here or there makes a big difference. I don’t think I have it exactly right yet, but felt like it was an improvement over stock. YMMV. Nicely made and straightforward to install. I would rate these at 90% +.

V-Strom Handguards. Not everyone loves the way these look, but they’re easy to install on the FJR (they won’t go on all bikes by any means, so check) and extend the temperature range of your non-winter gloves by 10 to 15 degrees easily. I would rate these at 99% for effectiveness, value, and utility.

Garmin Zumo 550. You could wear yourself out reading threads on whether this is better than the 28xx series, or drinks smoother than Bowmore 16 or whatever. Save yourself the brain cycles and buy one. I installed mine on a 5 inch Ram stalk hitched up to a motorcycle larry triple clamp mount. It puts it in front of the overly optimistic speedometer . . . a distance away I need given my near sightedness. There is a very accurate speedometer visible in a small window in the lower left hand corner which can be expanded with a touch. Great unit, great mounting system, great location for the great unit on the great mounting system. You can tell I like it. If you think GPS is for sissies, don’t buy it. I would rate it at 99% for effectiveness, value, and utility.

Avon Storms. I love the way the handle, don’t mind the slight dodginess in comparison to the Metzlers, and don’t care about the mileage. YMMV. I would rate these at 90%.

Cooling Vest. I bought an evaporative cooling vest for the trek across Death Valley. It works like you think it does . . . you soak it or pour a couple of liters of water on it, let it soak, put it on under your riding jacket, and close it up. In 100 heat it kept my trunk temperature in bounds and still had some retained moisture after 100 miles. I also used the evapodana from aerostich. Same concept but it goes around your neck. It dries up pretty quickly but does the trick. I would rate them at about 90% but I don”t know of a better solution.

Motoport. I wear the air mesh kevlar which gives you lots of options. I traveled with the outer, the gortex layer, and gerbings and had it all covered. Like the ‘stich, it’s stiff as a baptist preacher. I rate this gear at 90%+ for comfort in a wide range of temperatures.

Lee Parks Gloves. I’m a big fan of the man and the gear. I have his new turbo-expensive gloves and was happy in them from around 50 degrees to 85. Not bad for full gauntlets. I rate these gloves at 95%.

Pinlock. I came to hate this system as the miles piled up. The idea is that the pinlock insert creates a thermal barrier behind your face shield and thus minimize fogging. The company makes shields for Shoei and HJC. I can”t speak for the later, but my experience using three different pinlock inserts is that they are optically awful. Real crap. The glare in the afternoon sun in particular was frightening. I rate the inserts at 50% or less. I hate their website as well for what it’s worth. YMMV.

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