Friday, September 30, 2005

2004 R1150r Rockster, green.

That's all I'm gonna say.

It's ma birfday...gonna parTAY...

No I'm not. I'm gonna play hooky and go riding. It's a beautiful chilly autumn day—crystalline sky, brilliant sun. When I get back, we're gonna go someplace fabulous.

Hasta la vista, baby.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Deer Hunter

Twenty-seven years ago this morning I went out and shot a six or eight point deer from 100 yards with a .22 rifle. It was a lucky shot for me, not so much for the deer, and it fell where it was standing. We ate most of the meat over the next few months and tried to do something with the hide but I don't think it worked. I still have the antlers.

That pretty much was the beginning and end of my career as a hunter. There are a lot of things wrong with this story, too many to go over in this space; I don't regret killing the deer but I've never hunted seriously since. It did clarify my thinking about killing animals for food, something that all the fishing I had done before never seemed to do—something about a large mammal with intelligent eyes, probably.

I neither condemn hunters nor praise hunting. Things eat. Things die. We all eat; we all die.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

It's enough to make a believer out of me

Florida: Red state, governed by a Bush; four hurricanes last many hurricanes so far this year?

Louisiana: Red state; Katrina; Rita on the way?

Texas: Red state, formerly governed by a Bush; Rita on the way.

California, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachussetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine: Blue states, not governed by a Bush. Zero hurricanes.

Pat Robertson once chastened Florida— "…you're right in the way of some serious hurricanes, and I don't think I'd be waving those flags in God's face if I were you, This is not a message of hate -- this is a message of redemption. But a condition like this will bring about the destruction of your nation. It'll bring about terrorist bombs; it'll bring earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor."

And here all along I just thought he was a hypocritical crackpot lunatic.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Thank you, Associated Press...

A bloated turkey buzzard, gorging itself all day on the rotting carcass of a cow near the road, was unable to get enough height crossing the road and collided with a motorcyclist Aug. 11 on Interstate 25 near Glendo in Platte County.

"As the guy came by, the turkey buzzard schmucked him in the face," Wyoming Highway Patrol Trooper Chuck Bloom told the Platte County Record-Times.

"It slobber-knocked him -- that's the only word for it." Rodney E. Mason of El Paso, Texas, was able to keep his 1994 Harley Davidson motorcycle upright for a few hundred feet as he slowed down before sliding to a stop."

The only thing that saved him from having a shattered face was that he had a full-face helmet on," Bloom said. Mason's fiancee was following on another motorcycle and was "sprayed with putrid meat from the bird" after the collision, Bloom said.

Wow. Just when you thought you had heard every conceivable take on the subject of road risks. I'm not sure what more need be said on the subject. After all, how often do you read the phrase "...sprayed with putrid meat" in the mainstream media, anyway?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

A Failure of Imagination

"When I see someone improperly dressed, wearing shorts and a T-shirt, I see it as a failure of imagination. They can't imagine what can happen. I cringe, because I can imagine what can happen to them and they seem unable to."

—Neil Peart, interviewed in the April 2005 BMW Owners News

Ted says:

“...Yet it is not consciousness that governs the world, nor even ideology, nor religious principle nor national temperament. It is custom that rules the roost."

"In Colombia it was the custom to do murder and violence. In a period of ten years some 200,000 people were said to have been killed by acts of more or less private violence. Yet I found the Colombians at least as hospitable, honourable and humane as the Argentines, whose custom is merely to cheat."

"Arabs have the custom of showing their emotions and hiding their women. Australians show their women and hide their emotions. In Sudan it is customary to be honest. In Thailand dishonesty is virtually a custom, but so is giving gifts to strangers."

"Every possible variation of nudity and prudishness is the custom somewhere as with eating habits, toilet practices, to spit or not to spit; and almost all of these customs have become entirely arbitrary and self perpetuating. Above all it is customary to suspect and despise people in the next valley, or state, or country, particularly if their colour or religion is different."

"And there are places where it is customary to be at war, like Kurdistan or Vietnam. Speaking of the more vicious customs, and of men who should have known better, St. Francis Xavier said a long time ago: `Custom is to them in the place of law, and what they see done before them every day they persuade themselves may be done without sin. For customs bad in themselves seem to these men to acquire authority and prescription from the fact that they are commonly practised.' "

"Custom is the enemy of awareness, in individuals as much as in societies. It regularizes the fears and cravings of everyday life."

—Ted Simon, Jupiter’s Travels
My folklore teacher really disliked this quote. I wonder why?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Observation on correlation, or lack thereof

Having any form of "Honor Student" on board a vehicle does not seem to improve that vehicle's operation.

Maybe we should take a hard look at the current criteria for becoming an honor student...

Friday, September 16, 2005

Getting inked

I've finally decided how I'm going to get inked. I'm going to get two tattoos, one on each hand: Across my right knuckles will be "D-R-I-V-E" and across my left knuckles will be "P-A-S-S."

And I will shake my fists righteously in the faces of those who don't comply.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

I'm such a prick

I ran into a fellow today in the elevator who I knew by reputation, his arm recently liberated from a sling. He is slightly notorious because of a spectacular get-off he performed when squiddling down a local mountain road that is very popular with sportbikers. His basic error was not riding "his own ride" —he decided rather foolishly to follow the lead of the knucklehead in front of him and cross a double-yellow around a slow-moving truck. I'm not sure what happened after that, but I understand it wasn't pretty.

He and his mount parted company at high velocity in a shower of gravel, sparks and bits of bright plastic—so I hear. I actually wasn't part of the intimate mob of four dozen on this particular little excursion, so I'm relying on a second-hand, rear-view mirror account of the spectacle. He's a little worse for wear, gradually regaining some range of motion in the wounded member.

I guess the bike is still parked somewhere in the hinterlands, awaiting his eventual return with a pickup truck, some strapping lads and some cheap tie-downs.

But as we went our separate ways, him grinning sheepishly like one who knows he's escaped something easily, I couldn't resist firing a cheap shot at his back—

"You know what Hunter said, right?"

'If you ride fast and crash, you are a bad rider. If you go slow and crash, you are a bad rider. And if you are a bad rider, you should not ride motorcycles.'

I'm such a prick.

(Only I wasn't joking.)

Accessorizing in style

It feels really cool and appropriate to ride around with my copy of "On The Road" tucked into the armor of my jacket. I need to keep a pack of cigarettes rolled up in my shirtsleeve now.

Our long national nightmare is over

Premium is now down to the antedeluvian price of $3.01. Whew...I'm going to start filling garbage cans up with the stuff, just in case. And go buy a Hummer. (The SUV, you pervert).

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Melissa knows...

"The rider processes data from the road and its environs with a certain detachment, translating them nearly as quickly into physical responses: eat or be eaten. There is no room in the brain for idle thought (except on the highway, when idle thoughts appear and float and reconfigure in endless array), and a biker can go for miles and miles without waking up to any sudden realization, including the one that nothing at all has been thought for miles and miles. The faster you ride, the more closed the circuit becomes, deleting everything but this second and the next, which are hurriedly merging. Having no past to regret and no future to await, the rider feels free..."

"This peculiar physiological effect, common to all high-concentration pursuits, may be why one finds among motorcyclists a large number of people who always feel as if there were a fire lit under them when they are sitting still. When they're out riding, the wind disperses the flame so they don't feel the terrible heat."

—Melissa Holbrooke Pierson, The Perfect Vehicle
The Perfect Vehicle is probably one of the best books ever written about the 'why' of motorcycling. Probably because it was written by a woman.

Kinship of the Marque

One of the funny quirks of riding a BMW is encountering drivers who didn't know BMW made motorcycles—which they have been doing since 1923, long before they ever made automobiles (something about the German aircraft industry, some 'Treaty of Versailles,' yadda yadda...the BMW logo represents a spinning propeller in the blue and white of Bavaria...the opposed twin boxer engine is a direct adaptation of an aircraft engine).

This is not to suggest there is any kinship or commonality between those who ride BMWs (machines known as BEE-mers) and those who drive BMWs (machines known as BIMM-ers) except on the margins. Fact is, I feel virtually zero kinship with the bimmeristas.

I guess at one time, BMW automobiles were known as light, nimble, reasonably-powered performance vehicles for the automotive purist; elegantly engineered and precisely crafted, they allowed a driver to experience driving with intensity and spirit. But they seem to have devolved into lumpen status symbols, toys of the grasping, acquisitive class, who have neither interest in nor skill at performance driving.

These once-proud machines have become lashed down, compromised and trussed-up by the timid, the awkward, the fearful, the insecure, the road-enraged, those with more money than they know what to do with and who are desperate for some affirmation. The first bimmer SUV, bearing soccer mom and entourage, was the nail in the coffin of the bimmer as fun. Tired, serious, humorless, dour, safe cars for people who are terrified of driving. Like Volvos, but more disappointing.

No, I don't feel any kinship of the marque with these sad lost souls. But there is a group with whom I feel a strong kinship—almost unto the kinship felt with any motorcyclist, like that felt by pioneering VW drivers in the days of old, when Beetles first crawled the earth.

Cooper Minis. Yes, Cooper is largely a BMW enterprise, despite their British heritage, what with corporate bloodlines being so convoluted and tangled these days. I think of Bimmers as estranged half-brethren to Beast, while Minis are favorite cousins.

And when I see a Mini, I think, "Wow—there goes somebody who wants to have some fun with their driving, rather than being obsessed with status and how they are perceived by their target demographic." Maybe not those exact words, but you get the idea.

Minis always make me smile when I see them, not because they are 'cute,' but because they look like so much fun. I'll wager they are fun to drive and fun to ride in. And while Bimmers conjure up images of soy-latte-sipping cellphone yakkers changing lanes without signalling, Minis make me think of doing donuts in the snow in the middle of the night in an empty parking lot.

And that, my friends, is what it is all about.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Nature, red in tooth and claw

We were clearing weeds from the garden this evening when Julia—the cat—managed to find a bunny in all the deep tangle of growth. Julia is over eight years old, weighs about six pounds dripping wet, and is frequently mistaken for a kitten because she is so tiny.

Julia possesses all the innate ferocity of a hot-dog bun. But she has enough personality and poise for an entire litter of cats, and yes, she managed to kill the bunny that was nearly her size. Once it was dead, she seemed annoyed and impatient with it for not working anymore, and I believe she was in a feline snit. It was quite an amazing, horrifying thing to see.

Anyway. Hi-five to Julia! Haven't lost your touch!

A Change of Pace

Today I really, really, needed a change of pace. The grinding tedium of work has been bearing down on me; I needed something other than stealing a few hasty moments of feigned freedom ending up with me back at my desk again.

So I headed west up the river, following the canal as I often do; but this time I sought neither speed nor distance. I rolled along gently, casually, until I found the exact spot I was looking for. I stopped, shed my gear and walked up a small hillside, through dried brown grass withering in the September heat, into a grove of locust trees.

I sat in the grass and listened. But for the sound of the occasional passing car and the wind in the trees, it was quiet. I pulled off my boots, turned off my phone and blackberry, and dropped them into a boot; I rolled my jacket into a pillow and lay down on my back in the warm mottled shade.

How I got to this point in my life without having read “On The Road,” I’ll never know—just one of those oversights in my twisted, faulty intellectual development. But I started devouring it last night, a gift, and read many more chapters on my back under the locusts until the sun, like a lock-picker, wheedled its way through the greening locust canopy and seduced me to sleep.

I slept sun-dazzled under the locusts all too briefly, before reality and responsibility asserted themselves. This sojourn took less time than my typical frantic ride to escape, yet I returned feeling less desperate, less constrained. Maybe riding isn’t the be-all and end-all—it’s just the only avenue of escape I’ve thought of. I’ve come to rely on it as a crutch; after all, there are other things in life. Like reading a good book.

Maybe tomorrow I'll leave the bike behind, just take the book and find some shade somewhere.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Why didn't I think of that?

Hey Biker Buddies! Did you know that if you let those gruesome bug carcasses on your visor dry out for just a few minutes before attempting to remove them, they'll simply brush off instead of leaving an unsightly, vision-impairing smear? Try it next time—you'll be glad you did!

Playing the Crazy Card

One of the rare perks of being a motorcyclist, at least if you're out of the closet (so to speak) is the opportunity to play the crazy card.

This only works when you're equipped with one or more of the signifiers, and the more the merrier. Helmet is the minimum requirement, but boots, leathers and nasty-looking gloves are a bonus.

Here's the basic thing to playing the crazy card: People just assume you're crazy if you ride a motorcycle, or even better, dangerous crazy. So why try to disabuse them of the notion? Why not just run with it?

The crazy card works great when you're walking down the street, minding your own business, leather jacket on and helmet in hand. You come to the crosswalk with a "walk" sign, and sixteen snarling cabdrivers with the air conditioning off are competing to run down the pair of blind nuns who are crossing the street in front of you.

What do you do in a situation like this? You play the crazy card:

You walk between the cabs and the nuns. You stop dead in your tracks. You slowly turn your head and make unflinching eye contact with any one of the cab drivers. He briefly considers his options, thinks what that helmet could do to his hack. He then drops at your feet, rolls over and shows you his soft white underbelly, asserting your psychotic alpha-ness. You smile sweetly at the nuns, wish them a good day, and go on your merry way.

Note: This also works pretty well on clumps of power-suited-cellphone-obsessed-starbucks-bound-yuppie-dotcommers walking down the sidewalk. They will part like the waters of the Red Sea before Moses with just one icy flash of the crazy card.

The nice part is it never gets old. It's alway fun, never fails to work, and people know there's an unending supply of crazy in the world—so why would they doubt you?

Apocryphal tale from the Utah desert

Somebody once told me a FOAF story of two motorcyclists in the Utah desert. On a straightaway that stretched from horizon to horizon, they approached each other for what must have seemed like an eternity, faint headlight gradually strengthening through the hot, quavering desert air.

Each was doing easily twice the speed limit, for the road was open, visibility was perfect, and the desert road without end. They were probably enjoying each other's company vicariously, for rare is the motorcyclist who doesn't see kinship in that single distant headlight.

Minds tend to wander on roads like that, yet both riders were alert and focused as the approached each other, closing at 250 miles an hour, tucked behind their respective fairings to escape the ferocious windstream.

The force of the wind is a function of the cube of the velocity. At speeds over 100 miles an hour, it is not something to be trifled with. In the brief instant of their passing, one rider, safely encapsulated in his bubble of quiet air, made the casual gesture so familiar to riders—a gentle toss of the hand, a wave of acknowledgement and friendship—

Outside the bubble of still air—

Into the windstream—

—and broke his wrist.

(...At least, that's what I was told)

Shocking Report from Mechanic School

Well, what would you expect from the hedonistic cesspool that is Daytonia? Is nothing sacred?

Just barely five weeks into the school year at L'Ecole De Mechaniques du motocycle De Amerique, all semblance of decency has broken down and standards have been tossed out the window, into the pool in the courtyard.

Apparently, at lunchtime, a rogue group of students sneaks off by themselves and...plays scrabble. Scrabble, I tell you! Right in front of everyone! Obviously, if there was ever a concept of in loco parentis, it's long been cast to the wind.

Then, this twisted little cabal apparently leaves the premises, departs the verdant, green quad of the campus, and in some perverse town-gown thing, wantonly commandeers a local establishment and in broad daylight, ice-cream eating contest. Oh, the humanity.

Won't somebody please step in and take control of this bunch of hoodlums? I hear rumors that, as more and more formerly wholesome institutions are infiltrated by gangs of one ilk or another, they are plotting to form their own...Cricket club.

Right here. In AMERICA. If we don't stop them in Daytonia, pretty soon they'll be playing cricket on the Mall in Washington, D.C.!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Beast as Unicycle

Oh yeah, forgot to mention—did my first real, live wheelie today. Gosh that was fun!


I recall seeing American Airlines Flight 77 eighteen seconds before it hit the Pentagon, by my estimate. This morning, a cool, clear beautiful blue September morning like that one was, I decided to have my own remembrance my own way.

I rode to my favorite old country store on my favorite twisty back roads. I bought a big white styrofoam cup of plain coffee from the self-serve Bunn four-pot coffee machine. I got a carton of chocolate milk from the cooler and two plain Krispy Kreme doughnuts from the counter. I paid with a ten, put all the change in the jar on the counter for the Red Cross-Katrina aid fund, went and sat out on the front porch.

I tempered the coffee with the chocolate milk, ate doughnuts and sipped coffee, and watched as nothing went by on the road or the railroad tracks for a long time. Licked my fingers clean as best I could, saddled up and headed for home.

So much heat, so little light from that awful day. You just have to find the good and embrace it with all your heart.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


I don't care what smack they wanna talk about kudzu. There's absolutely nothing like that grape-popsicle smell. That makes the devouring of the south all worthwhile.


I read something a long time ago in a monograph published by the National Bureau of Standards called “Nickel and Its Alloys” (Really. I did. I got it for free from a friend.) that I still find fascinating:

You can’t pipe hydrogen gas through pipes alloyed with a significant percentage of nickel. The crystal lattice of nickel—face-centered cubic, if I recall correctly—is so large, porous and widely-spaced that molecules of hydrogen simply pass through the metal unimpeded.

That’s exactly how traffic looks to a motorcyclist, something car drivers don’t seem to appreciate. For all intents and purposes a motorcycle, as a single-track vehicle, is geometrically (or maybe it’s topologically—math was never my strong suit) a line, two points connected. Cars, like all multi-track vehicles, represent several points and thus a plane. Motorcycles are lines swimming in a sea of planes.

I also don’t believe car drivers have any clue what it’s like to actually be able to see the things in your (traffic) environment. I suspect a lot of motorcyclists are like me, in that when they get into an automobile, they are appalled by the extent to which visibility is restricted by the very structure of the vehicle and the posture of the driver.

From the saddle of a motorcycle, you generally see over, beside, around or through the vehicles around you, and have a much richer stream of information to draw on. This grants a motorcyclist a particular time advantage, since sightlines equate to reaction time in most instances. You also have the advantage of seeing and thinking in three dimensions, since multitrack vehicles are pinned to the surface but a motorcycle has some latitude in the vertical plane.

The motorcyclist can move with grace and ease through openings the car driver can’t even detect, and this is the source of great consternation among drivers. They rage about the wanton disregard and lawlessness that riders flaunt. Yet their frames of references render understanding impossible. The worlds they operate in are completely different, and wholly incompatible—the two dimensional versus the three dimensional.

The problem comes down to this. Car drivers dislike motorcyclists because they are irritating; Motorcyclists dislike car drivers because they kill us.

Friday, September 09, 2005


Beast is back! New sneakers and all!

Grin stuck firmly to face!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Cross-cultural question on Calvinism:

In Europe, do knucklehead fans of Max Biaggi decorate their pickup trucks with stickers of 'Calvin' peeing on #46 and likewise, do knucklehead Valentino Rossi fans decorate theirs with 'Calvin' peeing on #3? Or is that just a NASCAR thing?

If Bill Watterston were dead, he'd be spinning in his grave.

Beverly Cleary knows...

"A mouse lives not by crumbs alone and so Ralph experienced still another emotion; this time food was not the cause of it. Ralph was eager, excited, curious, and impatient all at once. The emotion was so strong it made him forget his empty stomach. It was caused by those little cars, especially that motorcycle and the pb-pb-b-b-b sound the boy made."

"That sound seemed to satisfy something within Ralph, as if he had been waiting all his life to hear the mouse the sound spoke of highways and speed, of distance and danger, and whiskers blown back by the wind...Close up the motorcycle looked even better than he expected. It was new and shiny and had a good set of tires. Ralph walked all the way around it, examining the pair of chromium mufflers and the engine and the hand clutch. It even had a little license plate so it would be legal to ride it..."

"Feeling that this was an important moment in his life, he took hold of the handgrips. They felt good and solid beneath his paws. Yes, this motorcycle was a good machine all right. He could tell by the feel...Ralph was not satisfied just sitting on the motorcycle. Ralph craved action. After all, what was a motorcycle for if it wasn't action?"

"...Who needed motorcycle riding lessons? Not Ralph!"

Beverly Cleary, The Mouse and The Motorcycle
Of course, who among us who rides hasn't experienced what Ralph went through in those exhilarating moments of riding a motorcycle for the first time?
Pushing yourself along with your feet tentatively at first, then with more vigor, gaining speed, trying turns for the first time, getting distracted, forgetting to brake, driving right off the edge of the nightstand and falling, falling, falling, into the big wire mesh trash can along with the motorcycle (heh! not even your motorcycle !)
I remember it like it was yesterday.

I have GOT to get me one of those!

Man, if I had one of those, I would DEFINITELY gabble away with a smirk on my snerk!

(from Mercer Mayer's "One Monster After Another")

From Hadrian's Wall, April 2004—

"Today is Sunday; the trail parallels a beautiful two-lane road, though they are separated by hedges and are at different levels."

"Phil and I are serenaded by a steady stream of sport-bike sounds, and begin to play 'Guess the Marque' as we go."

"Ducatis are easy; Boxers are easy, though rare; everything else sounds the same in a buzzy, multicylinder, Japanese way."

Walking west from Heddon-on-the-Wall, outside Newcastle

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Well, when you put it that way...

I read a quote the other day from a rider, part of some illustrious group of motorcyclists who were being profiled because of their praiseworthy work raising money for some charity.

The upper-middle-aged rider said, with great emphasis and enthusiasm "Yeah man...riding motorcycles keeps you from getting old!"


Yeah, I suppose you could put it that way, and obviously, in many cases that's the undeniable truth. I think, though, what he really meant to get across was "...Riding motorcycles keeps you young."

At least I hope that's what he meant. Jeeze...

Blast from the Past

I dug Campaigner out of the barn and dusted it off this morning, just for kicks and grins—for some reason I didn’t feel like riding the Jack Russell and of course Beast is still at the spa. Campaigner hasn’t rolled since Phil left for Daytonia, and was slowly turning into just another dusty set of horizontal surfaces to pile stuff onto.

I had mostly drained the gas tank a while ago, and dumped the float bowls at the same time, figuring it wouldn’t get ridden much. Of course, that was the cheap old gas—you know, that $2.49 a gallon crap, so incredibly last June.

It took some fussing and mussing to get it to fire up, though it turned over crisply (at least initially). The plugs were kinda fouled, or dirty anyway, so I burned the crud off them with a propane torch. I dumped the float bowls again and looked for signs of water and crud in the fuel. Nada.

I added fresh fuel, and it tried again. It was cool this morning, so I thought maybe the choke was the issue. Fussed and fiddled a bit with that, and it still wouldn’t catch, and now the notoriously undersized battery was starting to flag. So I tried bumping it down the gentle hill beside the house—still no signs of life. Checked the plugs at the bottom of the hill; they were fine.

Then I thought I ought to try turning the petcock on and letting it have some fuel. Well, that made all the difference in the world: Campaigner awoke with a shake, a shudder and a roar in a fine haze of blue smoke and burning cobwebs.

Campaigner is a classic airhead—a later generation air-cooled boxer twin. Somewhat updated from its 1923 progenitors with things like a disc brake, electronic ignition and monolever suspension, and further modified by me in a host of ways, it still appears in most aspects to be a few minor tweaks from Max Fritz’s first classic designs of the 1920’s, especially with its elegant mantle of rattle-can black.

It rides like a classic airhead, too. I couldn’t believe how incredibly tiny—compact—it felt after riding, most recently, the F650gs for a week or two, and of course Beast for 18,000 miles in the last two years. Shaft jacking, torque twisting, brake diving—sometimes several at once; it’s a veritable funhouse ride on two wheels. I’d forgotten how boisterous airheads are and how sedate, how clinical oilheads are. My first impression of Beast was that it had an electric motor—okay, a really powerful electric motor—and rode, well, kind of like a sewing machine. Shaft jacking and brake dive are gone on oilheads; torque twisting is mostly cancelled out; but those are part of what made airheads unique.

Anyway. It took me a just a couple of miles to settle back into Campaigner’s groove. This is a bike I rode daily for twelve years, year round, something like 100k+ miles, but hadn’t ridden but a tiny bit since Beast came on the scene in 2003. Yet it all came back after a few awkward moments, some halting takeoffs, some prolonged stops, some bobbled lines. Beast, Campaigner and the Jack Russell could hardly be more different, aside from their common parentage and a few passing similarities. But moving from one to another is effortless.

Which brings me to the concept of “drivers.” Drivers are little bits of software that let your computer use hardware. Printers, for example, have specific drivers that translate generic commands from the computer into specific commands so the printer can render an image correctly. Installing computer hardware nowadays is mostly a case of finding the correct drivers, and everything else is handled behind the scenes.

So I know how to ride a “motorcycle” in the generic sense; I possess the generic skillset. Campaigner is a “motorcycle.” Beast is a “motorcycle.” The Jack Russell is a “motorcycle.” Each one is unique and really, really, different from the others. But once I start riding, the correct “driver” immediately loads—and suddenly I know that I have to brake more assertively here, lean less aggressively, watch that I don’t crush my thumb joint between the grips and the corners of the tank on Campaigner, cancel the turn signals this way on Beast, remember that I have or don’t have ABS, that a drum brake acts differently, and so on.

In a way, it’s like being multilingual—you know the underlying concepts are generally the same, just expressed differently. When you are fluently multilingual, you think in different languages, translate on the fly, revert to your native tongue when you’re stressed, dream in different languages, and have a foot in each world. You load those drivers, those interfaces, effortlessly and without conscious thought.

I guess that makes me a fluent motorcyclist.


Forgot and left the blackberry charging at home...then forgot to turn my cellphone on. My bad.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Oh, crap

They made me take a Blackberry.

I'm screwed.

Okay, the Second Word for Today is...

Schadenfreude (scha·den·freu·de) from the German Schaden, damage + Freude, joy.

Taking perverse delight in the misfortunes of others.

See also SUVs; $3.59 a gallon gasoline.

Today's word...


  1. The quality of passing all moral bounds; excessive wickedness or outrageousness.
  2. A monstrous offense or evil; an outrage.
  3. The quality of being outrageous.
  4. The quality of extreme wickedness.
  5. An act of extreme wickedness.

"Enormity" is not an adjective describing size; it is a moral judgement.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Why it's called the Labor Day Weekend

14-1/4 hours Friday. 10 hours Saturday. 12 hours today. Probably 12 hours Monday.

And I'm a very small cog in the organization, surrounded by countless people who make me feel both very proud to be in their company, and like a piker when I see their unceasing drive and dedication.

At least I don't live in New Orleans.

Making it up as we go along

We set up a task force of twenty in an unused office with phones and computers, set up on molded plastic folding tables. Because we had pretty much used all the hardware we had on hand and were scraping the bottom of the barrel, the group got stuck with the last of our old mouses—dirty, worn roller-ball mouses which didn't work well on the slightly textured surface of the plastic tables.

So I had to go and hunt down my stock of mousepads that had I grabbed out of the trash several months ago, leftover promotional items from a defunct department. For some odd reason, these mousepads were hugely oversized, 13" by about 9"—a veritable football field from a mouse perspective, and certainly too large to work well in the crowded quarters of the cramped little office.

So now I had to hunt down a paper cutter (...who has a paper cutter nowadays in the era of the paperless office? We do—it's right next to the electric typewriter, the dictaphone, and the Edison Wax cylinder player...look just below the carbon paper) and cut each mousepad in half.
Problem solved; everyone could now use their mouse properly.

They don't teach you things like that in IT school; they don't teach you things like that in Manager school . You just make it up as you go along.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Getting twitchy

Beast has been at the spa for over a week now and I'm starting to get twitchy—it won't be ready for nearly another week.

Apparently a critical part does not exist anywhere in this hemisphere (that would be either the northern or western, take your pick) so a new one is currently being hammered out in a fiery forge by a team of Bavarian gnomes (maybe from the Human G-nome Project or something) deep in the heart of the Black Forest over a fire fueled with first-edition Faulkner novels, hundred-dollar bills and Cuban cigars.

As I understand it, when they're done forging they have to quench it in the blood of a virgin, and they're having some trouble with that part of the process. Long story short: It's me and the Jack Russell for another while.

I wish that just for once, the Germans wouldn't insist on over-engineering everything...

A little bit about "TAatSotM"

For those of you who don't have the ninety minutes to listen to Professor Falco's lecture on "The Art and the Science of the Motorcycle," here a neat little synopsis of one of his main points:

Motorcycle design in the twentieth century split early on into two distinct schools that paralleled the main design schools of the time: Bauhaus and Art Deco. The exemplar of Bauhaus, then and now, is of course BMW; the exemplars of Art Deco then were Harley-Davidson, Indian, and a host of others. Only H-D remains as a continuous purveyor of Art Deco design from its inception.

Bauhaus of course hews to the dictum "Form follows Function," hence the radical functionality driving German design, with each component fitting into a unified whole, polished to a fare-thee-well in relentless CAD-designed, wind-tunnel perfected iterations.

Art Deco believes that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and, essentially that if it looks good, well, then it is good. Of course, Falco says all this much more eloquently and convincingly, and in much greater detail (actually, about 87 minutes more detail...).

But this insight into schools of design has gone a long way towards helping me get a handle on what I like and dislike about different motorcycles. If you've been reading RLYMI, my bias probably shows through.

I believe motorcycling is an act, a dynamic endeavor; it is not static. It is not about looking at or being looked at—it's about being in the moment. I would suggest that a functionally designed bike contributes to that goal and a non-functionally designed bike detracts from that goal.

Or, to put it another way, if motorcycles were meant to be chromed, then why is the atomic weight of Chromium 51.9961, and the atomic weight of Aluminum is only 26.981538? Huh?
Don't forget, A=f/m!

And besides, if I wanted something to polish, I'd have bought an apple...

Fair-Weather Riders

Today was absolutely beautiful in greater Tyvek—sunny, clear blue skies, warm but not humid; a picture-perfect late summer, early fall day. Because of that, there were more asshole motorcyclists on the road than you could shake several sticks at.

The emphasis falls on the first part of that phrase; the percentage of motorcyclists who were assholes was significantly higher than it usually is. Nice weather does that—it brings out the riders with attitude, who own a motorcycle as some kind of rabid, inarticulate statement of incoherent rage and rebellion.

One was a sportbiker on a yamakawsuzonda 750 who split lanes between two cars who had each stopped because the vehicle in front of them was turning. Somebody honked, and the sportbiker turned around in full high dudgeon and raised a single enraged finger in defiance...of something...while riding 40 miles an traffic...facing backwards and screaming.

At a polar extreme stylistically or tribally or however you'd care to break them down, was the Chopper Dude. Man, if there is a dress code for chopper riders, this guy has it memorized. Bedpan helmet, chains, trucker wallet, leather vest, engineer boots, tats—every piece of the individualist's uniform spit-and-polished, so to speak.

The bike itself was another piece of work. Hardtail, forks extended dramatically, tiny little unicycle-style front wheel coupled with a rear tire that looked like a lawn roller, ape-hanger bars—with obligatory tassels, natch. (Come on. Some conformists put their tassels on their loafers; other on their handlebars. What's the difference?) Everything chromed to a fare-the-well. But the best part was Chopper Dude's riding 'style.'

He comes screaming (...well, blatting, technically...) into the intersection, and just before he starts to make the turn, he pulls out his...cellphone. Yes, he is talking on the phone as he enters the turn. But the bike doesn't like being neglected, so it fights back. Chopper Dude now takes the phone in his teeth while he completes the turn, then resumes his phone conversation.

All I could do was laugh. Imagine being on the other end of that conversation. Wind noise, exhaust noise, then the sound of saliva, clattering teeth. Wish I had been there. "...Can you hear me now?"

Meanwhile, because he's paying attention to everything else but his riding, he overlooks the fact that the road is suddenly narrowing from two lanes to one. Oh yeah, and there's two minivans in that one lane where he wants to be. So of course, he almost runs into the curb, grabs a big fistful of throttle—but because his ride is tuned for maximum noise, in return he get a lot of fractured air molecules but precious little accelleration.

At the last possible instant, he squeaks past the horrified drivers who have to swerve into the oncoming lane to let him pass safely on their right. He thanks them for their kindly accomodation of his folly with the same single-digit salute and attempts to speed off. But again, his bike is built for...what, show? I don't know.

The chrome-ballasted chopper was so awkward and flatulent that it couldn't get out of it's own way; I very handily caught up to him at the next light on my dainty little 650 single, obviously annoying him by my very presence on the perky yellow enduro—a bike that radiates exactly zero attitude.

When the light changed, I watched him ride away, the chopper barely negotiating a wide right-hand turn with its primitive suspension. He wobbled and bobbled and farted down the road and it looked like a whole lot of effort for not very much fun.

Both of these doofuses made me feel kind of embarassed for motorcyclists in general, though I really feel absolutely no kinship with—or responsibility for—either of them whatsoever.

I thought about how much I enjoy riding in the "offseason" for lack of a better term—nighttime, rain, winter, anything that weeds out the riffraff one way or another. (You know, there's an interesting corrolary to this weeding-out phenomenon: the vast majority of motorcycle accidents occur during clear, sunny conditions in the warmer months, not when conditions are bad. That's because those are the only conditions that the vast majority of motorcyclists ever ride under.)

In those off-season times when I ride, I instinctively like the other riders I see because I know we share a common experience. I sure wasn't sharing anything with those angry, humorless, joyless riders today. For all their attitude and belligerence, they were clearly missing the point. They seemed frightened by it all, and desperate that no one find them out.

They will join the legions of former riders who live their lives to tell that same sad, tedious story time and again to anyone who can still bear to hear them out. Spare me, please.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Raising the bar yet again...

Okay, this morning I managed to buy $10.00 worth of gas—but this time it fit into the F650's tank, which I believe is WAY smaller than Beast's. Yay me.