Monthly Archives: February 2008

Feb 29

If not now, when? Watch this incredibly inspiration video by Randy Pausch and then get after your dreams. Now.

By kevin | Rants and Raves

I started riding motorcycles in midlife for me. It’s something I thought a lot about and have thought about since. It’s a question I’ve asked lost of other people about as well . . . why do you ride. We all have lots of logical reasons, but down inside, we come to something like riding later in life for ourselves. We do it for me.

In the end, it’s not about the bike and it’s not about being “selfish,” whatever that is. It’s about wanting yourself, wanting to know something about yourself, wanting to do something for the parts of yourself that have been hidden away because of a sense of responsibility to something or someone else.

Does that seem selfish? Hold that thought.

If you haven’t seen this video, by all means, stop whatever it is you’re doing and watch it. It will change your life.

At Carnegie Mellon, there is an academic tradition of giving what’s called your “Last Lecture,” the lecture you’d give if you knew you were dying. Except in this case, Randy Pausch is dying. He is dying of Pancreatic Cancer. There is nothing he can do about it . . . except choose how he will live the time he has left.

The lecture is a story of hope, dreams, family, forgiveness, and above all love. He is doing what he’s doing now because with his last days, he wants to leave something behind for his young family to treasure. What a gift.

I wouldn’t care to place riding a motorcycle in the cosmic scale with blessing the world with an inspirational message other that to say this. If not now, when? If you’re not going to follow your dreams now, when will you do it? If you’re not going to do something that pleases that little kid inside you that’s been crying to get out for the last 40 years, when will you?

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Feb 29

Dr. Randy Pausch. The most amazing lecture you’ll ever see

By kevin | Decision Making

If you haven’t seen this video, by all means, stop whatever it is you’re doing and watch it. It will change your life.

Dr. Pausch is dying of Pancreatic Cancer. There is nothing he can do about it . . . except choose how he will live the time he has left. Incredibly inspirational.

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Feb 29

Americans keeping down with the Jonses: Cutting back is easier when we’re afraid than when we’re aspiring

By kevin | Decision Making

A piece in the USA Today the other day called “Consumers cut back on small pleasures” reports that more an more we’re passing up Lattes, bottled water and other small luxuries.

Such small luxuries seemed almost necessities in happier economic times. But no more for lots of folks, including those and other USA TODAY readers who described how they’ve changed their habits.

The murky financial outlook and recession fears are factors. Another driver: fear of being out of step with a cultural mind-set that increasingly says less is more. If your best friend and next-door neighbors are cutting back on little luxuries, shouldn’t you be, too?

“For years, we had the opposite. It was all about keeping up with the Joneses. Now, the Joneses are starting to cut back,” says Ellie Kay, author of 12 personal finance books.

[amtap book:isbn=0802434320]

The cold, hard numbers on the nation’s economic mood bear out that consumers don’t feel flush.

Consumer confidence plummeted in February to its lowest since February 2003, which was just before the U.S. invaded Iraq. The Conference Board’s much-watched index of consumer confidence fell to 75 from 87.3 in January, the group reports

“There’s a sense that prices are rising — and will continue to rise — but wages will not,” says Ken Goldstein, economist at The Conference Board. “This is squeezing household budgets whether they’re $200 per week or $200,000 per year. Folks are looking closely at anything they don’t have to purchase now.”

Most consumers actually feel more pain from these small cuts than from big ones. You miss your daily java jolt a lot more than, say, a new car you’d only hoped to buy sometime this year.

I can’t see how that comes as a surprise to anyone. What I do find interesting is the motivation behind it.

For years, David Bach of “Automatic Millionaire” fame has been going on about the “Latte Factor.” His notion is that if you, wait for it, cut back on lattes, bottled water, and other small luxuries and put that money to work in an index account or something like that, you’ll sock away a big pile of money a couple of decades down the track.

If I had to guess, I would say that more people are cutting back because of their concerns about the economy than were cutting back with an eye towards retiring rich. In fact, I’ll bet many of those aspirants compounded the problem by spending money on David’s books, tapes, and seminars. Think of how rich they could become if they had put that money into savings instead?

I have nothing against David Bach (duly noted). It is interesting to note, however, that fear is the story here. We are much more motivated by fear of loss than we are love of gain. By orders of magnitude it turns out. Think about that next time you’re looking at a decision.

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Feb 28

Conversation with Tyler Risk; Founder of NorthStar Moto Tours and Dangerous Curves

By kevin | Interviews

Meet Tyler Risk. She’s like an ad for “midlife” riding. She is a keen rider, a founding member of Dangerous Curves, (a woman’s riding group), and the founder and literally driving force behind wonderful little touring company for woman called NorthStar Moto Tours.

Tell me a little about yourself

By day, I’m the office manager for a small litigation consulting firm in Mtn. View, CA. and am a single mom to one amazing and fantastic 16-year old daughter, Shannon (I keep waiting for her to grow fangs and horns, but it hasn’t happened!). I also choreograph musicals part-time.

This isn’t a standard question . . . I’m an entrepreneur as well. Tell me about your business. What got you started? What do you love about it?

Well, I’ve been leading group rides for about 5 years now through a women’s riding group that I am a founding member of – Dangerous Curves. We started it because when I was looking for other women to ride with, most of the groups were too restrictive – brand based, sexuality based, no men allowed (I like riding with the boys – as long as they behave), etc. I don’t care what anyone’s background, gender, faith, skin color, sexuality, or bike style is. The joy of sharing the ride is one of the things I love the best about riding – seeing those sh*t-eating grins on people’s faces when we stop along the way is the best.

About a year ago, I was leading a tour to Tahoe and one of the gals asked why I wasn’t doing this for a business. It kind of took me aback… why not, I thought. I talked with some folks very active in the industry and asked their opinion of a women’s touring company and was greeted with extremely positive responses. So I started putting it out to the universe and things just started falling into place. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it all on my own with everything else going on in my life so I didn’t know how I would do what seemed to be a hopeless list of tasks.

Then, I met my business partner, Ben, through South Bay Riders (gotta love those internet forums!!). He was thinking about getting involved in the motorcycle industry and felt that the women’s market was an untapped and growing section. I told him my idea, he loved it, and NorthStar Moto Tours was born!

Tyler Risk on the road to Hollister

Talk a little about being a woman rider. Do you feel like you’re making a statement? How do people respond to you when they find out you ride? Do you hate questions like this?

No I don’t hate questions like this!

Making a statement? Perhaps… maybe just to do what you love no matter what others think, whether it’s riding a motorcycle or bungee jumping or basket weaving. Be strong and independent, stand up for what you believe, and live life to the fullest.

Most people are surprised at first but most of the time, the reaction is “Wow… that’s cool!” I’ve found that there isn’t such a prejudice against women in the sport. The majority of men that I ride with respect me as a rider, regardless of my gender. There are a few folks who’s first reaction is “Oh, that’s dangerous” to which I reply, life is dangerous and worth living. I’d rather go out doing something I love than dying of heart failure on my living room couch watching t.v.

When did you first ride a motorcycle?

My first motorcycle ride was when I was 22. I was dating a guy, Ken, and we decided to head out to the beach for a picnic. It was a glorious day as we headed up Bear Creek Rd. Not 5 miles into the ride, we hit some gravel in a turn, the bike low-sided, and we tumbled off. Now these were the days before helmet laws (and before I understood what ATGATT meant) so we were just wearing jeans, sweatshirts, and tennies. Given that, we were extremely lucky in the lack of injuries. I sprained my ankle and had a few scrapes. I vowed NEVER to ride another motorcycle again – those things are dangerous!!

Fast forward a few years when I was dating another gent, Al. He rode a Harley and I knew how much he loved the bike and riding (I referred to the bike as his mistress due to the amount of time and money he spent on it!!) so when he invited me to go on a ride with him, I told him my experience but that I was willing to give it another go. To his credit, that was probably one of the slowest motorcycle rides he’d every taken… but he put “his” ride aside for my sake and I was impressed by that.

I’m not sure what changed but all of a sudden the joy of the dappled sunlight, smell of the redwoods, valley and vista views just touched my soul and my heart soared. The bug had bitten… hard. I rode pillion with him for four years before he moved back East to be closer to his family. But, I told him and myself I would NEVER ride my own bike.

What kind of bike was it?

Can’t remember really… a sport bike of some type. I was impressed that Ken checked on me first after the accident and then the bike.

What was the first bike you owned?

Before Al moved out of state, he gave me a birthday gift of an MSF course. My impetus to take it was to learn how the bike operated so I could be a better passenger. But I walked out of the course with a grin so wide I thought my face would split… never say never, I guess.

We went shopping the following weekend and I came home with Suzy – a Suzuki GZ250 (I always wished it had a cooler name like the Rebel!). It was a blast to ride and I spent 1-1/2 years on it, learning the back roads, taking multi-day trips (even all the way to Reno… it didn’t blast up the hills but it didn’t break down… the little bike that could). I often wish I still had it just to toodle around town.

How many bikes have you owned?

Suzuki GZ250
Honda Shadow 750
Triumph Trophy 1200 (current ride)
SV650 (current ride)
CRF230 (current dirt bike – my daughter has one too!)

How many bikes have you ridden?

Other than the ones I’ve owned, I’ve ridden several others on bike swap rides with friends. One that had me giggling like a school girl was a DRZ400.

What do you own now?

See above. Sometimes, when I open my garage and see four bikes, trailer, and all the gear in there, I think “Who lives here again?”

How many miles do you expect to ride this year?

Probably about 20,000.

Riding gear (street) of choice?

I have both textile and leather gear. First Gear textile pants, Kilimanjaro textile jacket, Sidi boots (have to be by far the most comfortable boots on the market). The right gear for the right ride.

It’s always a challenge however to find gear that both fits and is attractive. The market has started coming out with more feminine styles but so far baby pink and baby blue are their ideas of what women want to wear (have you seen those Icon chaps with the fringe? Oh puhleez!!). I’m hoping that the manufacturers will start to notice the rise of women riders and step up to the plate with more choices for them.

Riding gear of choice on the track?

I still have yet to do a track day but am signed up for a ladies’ track school this June. I have leather gear for that.

Riding gear of choice in the dirt?

I have a 661 armored jacket that I wear under my jersey. I look like a linebacker but it has saved me many times. Thor knee guards which have also saved my a** (or knees). Helmet, gloves, boots… the usual.

How would you describe your involvement with motorcycling now?

Nothing like I ever thought it would be!! I lead a women’s riding group, have started a women’s touring company, and am very active in the community in my area. I mentor new riders, help organize events, plan some kick a** rides, and have contacts within the industry who are very supportive of the business I’m starting.

What attracted you to motorcycling? Why do you ride?

I ride for the sights, sounds, smells (well, most of them – Central valley in the summer is really stinky!! ;), and the people. Riding down the coast with a brilliant blue sky and ocean, the sea salt spray in the air; riding up north in the wine country in the fall as the colors explode in the vineyards; the redwoods around the Santa Cruz Mountains., sunlight streaming through the trees; stopping along 96 on our Oregon trip for a dip in the river; the smiles and camaraderie that is shared with people that you would never have met if it hadn’t been for the love of two wheels.

And the autonomy of riding on my own, taking whatever road I feel like, stopping whenever I want… it is a spirit-soaring, soul-searing adventure. I’ve had moments when everything just clicks and it actually has brought me to tears of joy upon occasion (yeah, I know, I’m such a girl! Lol)

If you’re married or in a relationship, was it something you discussed? Were there issues? Were there deals made?

Not married or in a relationship. If I do meet someone, it will most likely be another rider. It’s the only way he’s gonna keep up with me!

Does that person ride with you? Or perhaps wants nothing to do with it?

My daughter, who just turned 16, has expressed an interest in riding on the street. We started dirt bike riding about three years ago as an introduction to riding on 2-wheels. She loves it and I love that we get to spend time sharing that together. I told her when she’s 18, we’ll talk about a street bike. I want her to spend some time in a cage with a bit more protection around her to learn the road and what nutters there are out on them!

What do you think about when you ride?

First focus is on the road and the bike and my surroundings. On really technical roads, that’s pretty much where my head is at most of the time… that and the rush of taking that hairpin at just the right angle and line. If I’m leading a group ride, I concentrate on making sure people are behind me and keeping a comfortable pace. If it’s just me, I think how lucky I am to be doing what I’m doing. J

What one piece of advice would you give to someone coming to motorcycles for the first time? I’m thinking about the “mid-life” rider now?

Make sure it’s something you really want to do and not just because it’s “cool” or your husband wants you to ride or whatever. I always recommend the MSF course as it’s not only a good way to learn the basics, but also to find out if perhaps riding is not for them. Our sport is a dangerous one and takes dedication and perseverance to be the best rider we each can be. It’s serious stuff – not just a “hobby.” Find a good mentor, read up on some of the great books available (Motorcycling Excellence, etc.), and practice, practice, practice.

[amtap book:isbn=1884313477]

What bike would you recommend (and why)?

For a beginner, I always recommend starting out on a 250 of some sort. There are some really great options for a cruiser style (Rebel, GZ250) or sport (Ninja 250). When I was looking for my 250, people would warn me that I would outgrow it fast so why not get something bigger? My reply was that I was comfortable on the 250 and could build my confidence until I was ready for a bigger bike.

The starter bikes hold their resale value extremely well and there is always a market for them – they’re light and easy to maneuver. I’ve heard of too many women being coerced into buying bikes that were too big for them and then were intimidated by the bike and didn’t get the chance to really enjoy the ride.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done on/with a motorcycle?

Experienced life to the fullest, seen some amazing places, and met some of the best people I have the honor of calling friends.

If you could pick one place you’d recommend as a riding destination / experience, what/where would that be?
One?

Only ONE?!? We live in one of the most amazing motorcycle areas in the world and you want me to pick just one?!?

The coast is always one of my favorite places to ride – I seem to have some sort of affinity to the sea, it’s majesty and power… the section of Hwy. 1 way up north that goes inland in a cacophony of twists and turns that have to be what people mean when they say riding is better than sex (although one wonders if maybe they need to re-evaluate their sex life… but I digress).

The passes in the Sierras – Tioga, Sonora, Monitor, 88 – are just spectacular; Tahoe, Russian River, and the roads up north – 36, 299, 96. And our local roads – 9, Pescadero, 84 (that one section in the upper-middle west side that has that ribbon of back and forth one after the other). Ooooo, wait… 178/Kern Canyon and 190 into Death Valley. Uh oh, I’m not doing too well on picking one place, am I?

I’ll be riding in Italy this summer with my daughter and a few friends. I’ve also wanted to ride to Canada, across the U.S., as well as in Australia and Ireland. They’re all on the ever-growing list of things I want to do in this lifetime.

If someone handed you a blank check and said “go buy a motorcycle you’d enjoy riding (not just collecting), what would you pick?

Oh so many choices!! I’d consider an FJR as a possibility, as well as a BMW – the R1200R catches my fancy for some reason but I have yet to take it for a test ride as I fear once I do, it will find its way into my garage! The Ducati Monster is one sexy beast too – I love the sound of those pipes. Wait, do I only get to pick one? LOL

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Feb 27

Conversation with Susan Carpenter; LA Times Motorcycle Writer and Rider

By kevin | Interviews

Susan Carpenter, photo by Don Kelsen / latimes

(photo by Don Kelsen / latimes)

I found out about Susan Carpenter through a friend of mine. She is one of the few people writing a column on motorcycles for a daily anywhere in the US. We caught up via email and this is what she had to say.

Tell me a little about yourself

I’m the motorcycle columnist for the Los Angeles Times, which means I ride a lot of motorcycles and I write a lot of stories about it. When I’m not being Throttle Jockey, I’m the single mother of a 5-year-old boy and I do the usual motherly things which are fun to me but probably too dull to write about here!

When did you first ride a motorcycle?

The first time I rode a motorcycle, I was on the back. My bicycle had just been stolen and I was considering buying a scooter. My boyfriend at the time suggested I buy a motorcycle instead. He started looking around for a used bike. He found one in the paper, we went to look at it together, and next thing I knew I was on the back being whisked around the hills of San Francisco. That was 1992.

What kind of bike was it?

A 1983 Suzuki GS400.

How many bikes have you owned?

About 12.

How many bikes have you ridden?

Several hundred.

What do you own now?

Nothing. Last year, I sold the last two bikes I owned – a 1999 Ducati Monster 750 and a 1969 Royal Enfield Bullet – because I never had time to ride them.

How many miles do you expect to ride this year?

15,000-20,000

Riding gear (street) of choice?

G-Line by Hein Gericke

Riding gear (track) of choice?

Spidi lizard suit

Riding gear (dirt) of choice?

I own MSR, but I’m due for a re-gearing and would like something a little more cool. Not sure what I’ll find.

How would you describe your involvement with motorcycling now?

When I started motorcycling 16 years ago, it was purely for transportation. It’s morphed through many phases since then and is now mostly about work, which is fun but also intense and high pressured. I’m a female mainstream journalist writing about a male-dominated enthusiast-driven sport, which can be challenging.

What attracted you to motorcycling? Why do you ride?

I was looking for an economical way to get around the city of San Francisco after my bike was stolen. Once I learned how to ride and started feeling more comfortable as a motorcyclist, it became more than just a mode of transportation. It became a form of empowerment and an extension of my personality.

What do you think about when you ride?

Everything – the bike, my surroundings, my life, the world.

Do you feel like you’re making a statement as a “woman rider”?

As a woman rider, I don’t really feel like I’m making a statement. I’m just doing what I want to do. But my column has taught me that a woman on a motorcycle who is also in a position of authority is perceived in multiple ways. To some people, I’m a threat. To others, I’m a joke. To others, I’m an authority. How I’m perceived, I think, depends on how a person weights the different parts of who I am. I think it all depends on what part of me a reader chooses to value: the fact that I’m a woman, the fact that I’m a long-standing motorcyclist, or the fact that I write for one of the top daily newspapers in the country. How people respond to me and what I do? That’s all over the map. Mostly, it’s positive.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone coming to motorcycles for the first time?

Take the safety class before buying a bike to see if it’s right for you.

What bike would you recommend (and why)?

There are a lot of really great bikes out there, and I’d recommend any number of them, but those recommendations are too numerous and depend on too many rider variables to list here.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done on/with a motorcycle?

In May 2007, I traveled to Northwestern China and rode 1,700 miles of the Silk Road on a Chinese dual sport. That is – by far – the coolest thing I’ve ever done on a motorcycle.

If you could pick one place you’d recommend as a riding destination / experience, what/where would that be?

I loved the Silk Road.

If someone handed you a blank check and said “go buy a motorcycle you’d enjoy riding (not just collecting), what would you pick?

The Ducati 1098 S

Susan Carpenter, photo by Don Kelsen / latimes

(photo by Don Kelsen / latimes)

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Feb 27

Inflation, Recession, and Funny Math. It’s Time to Stop Talking About the CPI

By kevin | Uncategorized

Sometimes I wonder what the “experts” see in the numbers that I don’t see. An example of this is the raft of headlines today about the Fed trying to balance the “contradictory pressures of slowing growth and inflation.” For example, here are some snips from the NYT . . .

In testimony prepared for the House Financial Services Committee, the Fed chairman acknowledged that the central bank faces increasingly contradictory pressures of slowing growth and rising consumer prices.

But his bottom line appeared to be that, at least for now, policy makers are more worried about averting or at least softening a possible recession.

And this . . .

He predicted that the housing downturn will continue to slow the economy “in the coming quarters,” noting that financial markets are still in turmoil and that it has become more difficult to obtain credit. Consumer spending has “slowed significantly,” he said, partly because of rising gasoline prices, slowing job growth and the decline in household wealth as a result of falling home prices.

At the same time, Mr. Bernanke tried to make it clear that the Fed is watching inflation closely. He acknowledged that inflation may climb slightly more rapidly than the policy makers projected in January. Fed officials then estimated that consumer prices would climb to a range of 2.1 percent to 2.4 percent in 2008.

“Any tendency of inflation expectations to become unmoored or for the Federal Reserve’s inflation-fighting credibility to be eroded would greatly complicate the task of sustaining price stability and could reduce the flexibility of the F.O.M.C.,” Mr. Bernanke warned Wednesday, referring to the Federal Open Markets Committee, which sets interest rates.

Often when you read this sort of thing the writer will go on to draw the distinction between inflation and “core inflation” which is somehow meant to mean something.

To back up just a second, the Fed has been especially watchful of inflation for decades now. But what are we really talking about here?

Inflation is generally calculated using the Consumer Price Index or CPI. Core Inflation is usually the CPI minus the effect of energy and food. It’s also calculated using the “outlier” method which tends to get at the same thing by a different means.

So what goes in the CPI you might ask (and there are a couple of different CPIs it turns out)?

  • Food and beverage
  • Housing
  • Apparel
  • Transportation
  • Medical Care
  • Recreation
  • Education and Communication
  • Other goods

Hmmm. So when you take out food and energy, there’s not a lot left is there? Oh wait, there’s health care. Except those costs are completely unhinged from reality. They just go up and up at multiple rates of the CPI every year. In fact, they’ll consume 20% of the GDP in ten years, or so they say. So if we’re excluding outliers, why not that one?

Or how about education. Same thing. The price of a university education bears no relationship to any underlying economic dynamic other than inflation. Universities are virtually immune to the kinds of pressures companies face to manage costs, conserve, etc. So they just hike the price and everyone follows suit in a non-colluding sort of way they say.

How about housing. Well we all know what’s going on with that.

So what is this inflation thing that the Fed is so concerned about if it’s not anything that’s going up other than all the things that are going up for reasons that have nothing to do with monetary policy?

There are several points worth considering here that relate to decision-making.

The dynamic that most concerns the Fed is inflation. They respond by fooling around with monetary policy. But the one lever that has the biggest impact on the whole system is energy costs. And that’s not driven by US consumer or even industrial behavior. It’s driven by the actions of OPEC, the huge demands by China and India for energy (just to pick two), and the speculative behavior of financial actors. In other words, what drives the price of oil has nothing to do with anything that the Fed can influence.

Good statistical analysis requires that you normalize for outliers . . . forces that artificially impact the behavior of the model. But looking at the list that makes up the CPI, I would say they’re all outliers or none of them are. I don’t know about you, but I pay for food on a pretty regular basis. I pay for energy at least monthly.

Energy isn’t the only component of the calculation that is non-responsive to the actions of the Fed. It doesn’t matter what interest rates are, if you’re sick, you’re going to the doctor (assuming you have the means to pay for it). The same is arguably true for education.

So I guess that leaves “other.”

I’m sure there are “real” economists who would tell me I’m all wrong. I say bring it on. I can’t conceive of how anyone can make good “fact-based” decisions when the facts they’re using have no causal relationship with the decision they think they want to make. Or coming at this from the other direction, I can’t see how you can make a “fact-based” decision if you choose to ignore data about drivers you find inconvenient.

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Feb 27

Conversation with Thom B about why he rides: Don't miss the links to his ride reports

By kevin | Interviews


Thom responded to a thread on one of the forums I follow about why people ride. One of the emerging themes, and it is I think purely coincidental, is the entrepreneurial nature of the people I’ve been interviewing. It’s also possible that I just notice that sort of thing as I count myself in that group. Or maybe it’s just an echo of whatever primeval thing it is that causes us to saddle up and ride. Dunno.

Read to the end. I’ve included some really excellent ride reports (with pics) that Thom has filed at PNWRiders.

Tell me a little about yourself.

I’m something of a jack of all trades. I’ve earned my living testing software, manufacturing, and even spent a couple years acting. Currently I build and maintain cellular and broadcast towers. I recently married, first time for both of us. No kids, just cats. Other avocations include photography, travel, climbing, and skiing.

When did you first ride a motorcycle?


My first riding experience was on the back of my uncle’s dual sport. (the shady looking fella on the right in the pic). I was nine and I harangued him, and my grandmother, for two weeks before they finally gave in and let me go. I burned my ankle on the exhaust and he left me sitting on a logging road in the middle of nowhere while he tore it up a bit in the trees. Still, it was incredible, and I became obsessed as only a nine year old can. Over-cautious parents meant no bike for me, so my desire settled into the back of my mind for the next 30 years.

What was the first bike you owned?

’05 Moto Guzzi Breva 750. I killed it twice riding the two miles home. Once in the middle of an intersection. Yikes!

How many miles do you expect to ride this year?

I’ve managed ~10k+ for each of my first two years. I hope to meet or beat that this year.

Riding gear of choice?

Just picked up a Shoei Multitec helmet, Joe Rocket Ballistic jacket most of the time, First Gear mesh jacket for the hot days, BMW City pants for dry days, Joe Rocket Ballistic over pants for the wet ones. A-Stars winter gloves, Olympia summer gloves. Joe Rocket Orbit boots.

How would you describe your involvement with motorcycling now?

If I’m not carrying a bunch of tools and it’s not dumping buckets or icy, I commute on the bike most days. It’s so much easier to navigate the urban crunch on two wheels, and my mood is much better than when I have to cage it.

There’s just no such thing as a bad day on the bike. Whenever I get a free day I’ll take a jaunt out to the islands, peninsula, or mountains. The more remote, twisty, and scenic, the better.

What attracted you to motorcycling? Why do you ride?

What’s not to love? The thrills, the “cool” factor, the independence. There’s a sense of complete engagement when I’m riding. The smell of pine trees, salt water, wood smoke, the sound of the engine on a down-shift in a tunnel, the feel of the bike pulling me out of a hairpin.

There’s a zen feeling when I focus through a turn, tip the bike in, and power out into the next bend. I also get a great sense of adventure out riding the back roads on my own. Exploring new corners, dealing with unforeseen events, the beauty of an isolated mountain road.

If you’re married or in a relationship, was it something you discussed? Were there issues? Were there deals made?

I’m married and she was all for it. She actually got on me a bit for taking too long to get my bike after passing the BRC.

Does she ride with you?

We’ve done some two up. She enjoys it, but isn’t as wound up as I am.

What do you think about when you ride?

Whatever comes to mind. If I’m riding hard, or in traffic, my focus is on the road ahead of me and the task at hand. I really enjoy the way my mind locks in on the road, the other vehicles, the bike beneath me, and forms all those elements into a sort of dance on the road.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone coming to motorcycles for the first time?

Relax and enjoy it. It’ll change your life.

What bike would you recommend (and why)?

Assuming you’re asking about a first bike, I would suggest a standard with around 600cc’s or so. They’re more comfortable than the sport bikes, can lean better than a cruiser, and can handle the occasional dirt/gravel road without a lot of drama. Once you figure out what type of riding really appeals to you, you can shop more specialized bikes.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done on/with a motorcycle?

Last year I did the Dam Tour. It’s a great excuse to ride out to random spots around the NW and do some exploring. I had some great adventures and saw some beautiful sites along the way. Here are a few threads on the rides I have done.

The road not planned for
Three pass blast plus an aside
Took a little ride today
If you aren’t falling, you aren’t learning

If you could pick one place you’d recommend as a riding destination / experience, what/where would that be?

The North Cascades Hwy. 20 from Marblemount to Winthrop. Twisties galore, good pavement, and some of the best scenery in the state. In the “I haven’t done it yet” category, SE Asia. The people, scenery, and food are great. I just wasn’t riding the first time around.

If someone handed you a blank check and said “go buy a motorcycle you’d enjoy riding (not just collecting), what would you pick?

Right now it’d be the BMW F 800 GS. I really have an itch to do some dual sport riding, and this seems like the bike to do it on.

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Feb 26

Read "Seize the Journey" and get inspired about riding loooooonnnnggg

By kevin | Ride Reports

“AChick” embodies so much of what many of us aspire to (or at least me). Here’s the lead on her most excellent and extensive Alaskan ride report called Seize the Journey.

I recently calculated that in the last 12 months I have ridden over 67,000 miles on two wheels. There are expressions in the motorcycling community like “Live to Ride” and “Ride to Live”. I personally, ride (live) as if I only have so much time to live. If you’re going to be a virtual co-rider with me to Alaska (or anywhere for that matter) then it might be helpful to keep in mind that is my perspective.

This website is not about me and it is definitely not about motorcycles; very little detail about either can be found herein. That’s because it’s really about living, about the journey itself. Yes, it’s my journey but the journey could just as well be your journey, internal or external. I’m not encouraging people to ride motorcycles or travel certain roads or even travel at all… I’m encouraging them to LIVE and to realize that there really is only so much time to do so. I don’t think about dying, I think about living. My personal belief is most people don’t think or act with either in mind. Why else would people say auto-pilot statements like “where did all the time go”?

I have really only focused this past week on this AK jaunt since I have been busy riding other places. In fact, I just completed 10,000 miles this past month on the “East Coast 2007” journey on my FJR1300. For those interested, multi-day reports can be found: HERE. I left the FJR at my home in TN, flew back here to Phoenix a week ago to pick up my Suzuki V-Strom DL1000 so we could head to the Great White North. Let me say that snowbirds don’t belong in the desert’s summer heat… dang, this place is hot!!

Ok, so a little about this upcoming journey I’m undertaking. I’ll cover at least 11,000 miles, of which 90% will be done solo and on as many backroads as possible.

Her writing is descriptive and evocative. Lots of fun pictures. Lots. I don’t know how she persuades herself to stop and snap. Once I roll, I don’t want to stop until I have to pee.

“Seize the Journey” inspires me to the point that I’m going to do part of that ride later this year. I hope it will inspire you to get out and ride!

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Feb 26

Seattle School District Nursing an Old VAX: Beware the Trap of Sunk Costs

By kevin | Decision Making

The Seattle Times reports that the local school district finds itself in a bind because of old technology . . .

An aging computer — so old that the University of Washington has an early model on display as a museum piece — stands between the Seattle School Board and the changes it wants to make in how the district assigns students to schools.

The computer, called a VAX, was first sold in the late 1970s. The district still uses two VAXes of late-’80s to mid-90s vintage. They use old-fashioned disks and stand about 5 feet tall. Staff members sometimes look for used replacement parts on eBay.

To keep tweaking the VAXes, district staff warned last week, is risky and a waste of time. To replace them, however, likely comes with a cost that made School Board members cringe: a delay of about a year in putting the new assignment plan into action.

We’ve had some experience helping clients with problems exactly like these. Not the part about finding money where there doesn’t seem to be any. That’s a different kind of skill.

The issue here is making what seems like a difficult decision.

Worth noting here is the danger of a classic decision trap: sunk costs. The VAX computers are bought and paid for. So is the programming. So is the maintenance. You don’t get those dollars or hours back. So the issue here is going forward and a frame that sounds like: What is the best solution for assigning children to schools? What complicates the frame is a thicket of laws and regulations that . . .

  • Allow parents to express a school preference
  • A guarantee that the student will be able to attend school close to home
  • Class size limits

It’s not an easy puzzle to work and it’s one that’s tailor made to computing. It’s just not tailor made to a device with less computing power than an I-phone.

There are at least three alternatives here . . .

  • Keep the current system alive and kicking
  • Rip and replace
  • Outsource to someone else

It is a simple math exercise to model the problem, the solutions, and the uncertainties. The hard part isn’t even finding the money. One way or another, it will be spent. In this case, the hard part is probably the realities of budget politics where a dollar isn’t a dollar; it’s all about the pocket it comes from.

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