Sep 1, 2015

Motorcycle Reviews and Me

I’ve bitched about product reviews from several industries, including motorcycles, for almost two decades. Now that 99% of magazines count on advertising revenues rather than subscriptions for their income, editors/writers are more worried about pissing off an advertiser than providing value to readers. One of the things that first attracted me to writing for MMM were the reviews I read in those late 90’s editions. Far from soft and fluffy, some of the reviewed bikes took a beating. My benchmark product magazine is and always will be the version of Dirt Bike Magazine the ultimate geezer (even when he was a kid) Rick Sieman (SuperHunky) edited. He’s still at it, a bit, with articles like “Worst Dirt Bikes of All Time” and better. For the rest of the written world, readers don’t amount to much in terms of attempts at value provided. In fact, we’re not really “readers” in modern magazine vocabulary, we’re “customers.” Just like the MSM when talking about American citizens, we’ve lost our citizenship and become “consumers.” For my money, if the printed word disappears from existence it won’t be missed if I never again find myself referred to as a consumer or customer.

15-hd-street-750-6-largeWhen I heard my friend and ex-editor Sev Pearman (oddly pseudo-named “Mark Descartes”) would be reviewing the new aimed-at-the-hipsters Harley 750 for MMM, I had moderate hopes. Sev can be both obscure and direct, depending on the subject and his mood. When he is obscure, I have no idea what he is talking about on any subject including those where I am more versed than he. This review was one of those times.

15-hd-street-750-3-largeInterestingly, Bruce Mike’s paired review of the same bike was pretty informative. The question I’d asked Sev, off-line on FB, about the odd combination of a 28” seat height, the "below your knee" peg placement, and ground clearance. The picture of Sev on the bike looked cramped. I speculated that, “There must be about 3" of ground clearance.” In fact, unloaded there is 5.7”. Couple that with the closest thing to suspension travel HD provides (“Seat Height, Laden 25.7”) and my 3” guess was pretty close. (Damn, I’m good.) Bruce described the seating position succinctly, “The ergonomics were not good. I’m a short guy and the pegs and seat made me feel like I was too tall.” And “I put close to 150 miles on this bike and with the stock seat, bars, and pegs, it was not without discomfort.” That’s about what I expected from the provided dimensions .

Here’s my real complaint about this kind of review, though. As I wrote to Sev, “Comparing the 750 to other Hardlys makes the bike look . . . better. It might have been useful (to new riders) to mention that the "more powerful" Hardly 750 makes 10hp less than, say, the V-Strom 650 and about the same torque and includes ABS for similar money.” His response was, “One cannot rail on H-D for doing the same-old same-old then curse them when they produce something (gasp) modern.” I can and will. While finally realizing that air cooling and carbs are for lawn tractors and museums is a nod toward “modern,” it’s a long, long way from 2015 technology and getting further every day.

It’s true that everyone’s cruiser offerings are pretty primitive, but review after review calls these “small” hippobikes “starter bikes.” Would you put your kid on a 60 pound, coaster brake, single-speed, 26” Schwinn cruiser as a starter bicycle?  Yeah, I know that’s what I started on and it’s a pure miracle I’m alive to talk about it. I crashed that POS bicycle into mailboxes, fire hydrants, buildings, and cars before I began to realize my father didn’t know shit about picking a bicycle for a kid. Apparently, the whole motorcycle publishing industry got it’s cue from my father: a high school business teacher who was baffled by a newspaper wrapping machine to the point that he’d hand-rubber-band 1,000 newspapers rather than try to unclog a string jam.

Aug 31, 2015

“How's That Hopey, Changey Stuff?”

Yep, I’m quoting the laziest, most corrupt, dumbest ex-politician on the planet, Sarah Palin (the “funniest Palin”). I heard a local dimbulb quote her on the radio this morning and decided I’d had enough. Most of the people whining—on either side of the political spectrum—about what President Obama has not accomplished consider handing their income tax information to a clerk working for H & R Block their most impressive achievement of the year. (The accounting for most of those people don’t require anything more complicated than the usual 1040 short form, so this “accomplishment” is a pretty sad statement of incompetence.)

I’ve managed two manufacturing companies (20 to 140 employees) and at least a half-dozen small to mid-sized departments (3 to 60 employees) from start-up privately held companies to Misfortune 500 disasters and I had big “hopey, changey” goals for everyone of those jobs. I planned on fixing everything I’d seen done poorly by my predecessors or companies I’d done business with in the past. I had BIG plans. Like President Obama, I came to a hard, rough landing within a year or so of taking those jobs. Upper management was usually what shot me down, sort of like the Congressional Teabags, the Fox News propaganda machine, and Obama’s big plans for cooperation between the three branches of our fragile and dysfunctional government. Outside of unnecessary obstacles, I often discovered industry presented a fair number of unreasoning roadblocks without the assistance of mismanagement. Underwriters Laboratory (Yes, “Underwriters’” should be possessive plural, but only the Canadian offices get that right.), for instance is a large, brain-dead bureaucracy that, like ISO9000 is best negotiated with bribes and luxury accommodations for the “inspectors,” rather than actual product safety or quality improvements and processes. Asking any of these morons “why” their sub-standards are as they are will not get you a useful answer. Again, pretty much like the Koch Congress and Extreme Court.

Then, of course, you have the people who work for you. During the extended economic downturn of the 80’s, the company whose manufacturing facility I managed had a couple of mediocre years followed by one bad one. Management decided to take a 20% salary cut (off of some very reasonable salaries) to prevent layoffs for the first year and a half. The economy didn’t get better and we were forced to cut back on manufacturing salary expenses. People were just standing around or we were building inventory we couldn’t hope to sell. We gave the assembly crew a choice: cut back to 4-days-a-week, 8-hour-a-days (and the associated 20% decrease in income) or we’d have to layoff 20% of the manufacturing crew. The crew voted to have their fellow workers (they hoped) laid off. This would be the national equivalent of conservatives voting to limit the effectiveness of the President who saved their economic asses from the full brunt of the Bush/Cheney Depression in 2010 and 2014.

As for the jackasses who whine that President Obama hasn’t been an effective “leader” because he can’t get Fox and the Koch Congress on his side, fuck you, you ignorant morons. Did Roosevelt get Hitler or Tojo on his side? While I’d stop short of calling Republicans “fascists,” they are traitors to the nation while being focused on their loyalty to the people who would love to trash the country and turn it into a dictatorship. Mostly, they’re fools who don’t realize how quickly their usefulness will expire. Some are spectacularly corrupt and amoral psychopaths. You can not lead people who refuse to be led and you can not educate people who are proud of their ignorance.

Here’s a fair list of President Barak Obama’s accomplishments, borrowed from

  • Within his first week, he signed an Executive Order ordering an audit of government contracts, and combating waste and abuse.
  • Created the post of Chief Performance Officer, whose job it is to make operations more efficient to save the federal government money.
  • On his first full day, he froze White House salaries.
  • He appointed the first Federal Chief Information Officer to oversee federal IT spending.
  • He committed to phasing out unnecessary and outdated weapons systems. To that end, he also signed the Democratic-sponsored Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act, which attempted to put a stop to waste, fraud and abuse in the defense procurement and contracting system.
  • Through an executive order, he created the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.
  • Pushed through and signed the Democratic-sponsored American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as “the stimulus package.” The bill passed, even though only three Republicans voted for it. In a major departure from the previous administration, he launched, a website that allows taxpayers to track spending from the Act.
  • The Bush-led Great Recession was costing the economy nearly 800,000 jobs per month by the time President Obama took office. But by the end of his first year, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act created and sustained 2.1 million jobs and stimulated the economy by  3.5%.
  • Not only did he completed the massive TARP financial and banking rescue plan, he also leaned on the banks and others, and recovered virtually all of the bail-out money.
  • He created the Making Home Affordable home refinancing plan.
  • Oversaw the creation of more jobs in 2010 alone than Bush did in eight years.
  • Along with Democrats, and almost no Republicans, implemented an auto industry rescue plan, and saved as many as 1 million jobs. Many are of the opinion that he saved the entire auto industry, and even the economy of the entire Midwest. resulted in GM returning to its place as the top car company in the world.
  • Doubled funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which is designed to improve manufacturing efficiency.
  • Signed the Democratic-sponsored Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act giving the federal government more tools to investigate and prosecute fraud in every corner of the financial system, and create a bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to investigate the financial fraud that led to the economic meltdown.
  • Signed the Democratic-sponsored Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act, which was designed to to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive credit card practices.
  • Increased infrastructure spending after years of neglect.
  • Signed the Democratic-sponsored and passed Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, expanding on the Making Home Affordable Program to help millions of Americans avoid preventable foreclosures. The bill also provided $2.2 billion to help combat homelessness, and to stabilize the housing market.
  • Through the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009, he and Congressional Democrats provided tax credits to first-time home buyers, which helped the U.S. housing market recovery.
  • Initiated a $15 billion plan designed to encourage increased lending to small businesses.
  • Created, which allows for online collaboration between small businesses and experts re managing a business. (The program has since merged with
  • Played a lead role in getting the G-20 Summit to commit to a $1.1 trillion deal to combat the global financial crisis.
  • Took steps to improve minority access to capital.
  • Signed an Executive Order instructing federal agencies to review all federal regulations and remove any unnecessary and/or burdensome regulations from the books.
  • Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, saved at least 300,000 education jobs, such as teachers, principals, librarians, and counselors that would have otherwise been lost.
  • Dismantled the Minerals Management Service, thereby cutting ties between energy companies and the government.
  • Along with Congressional Democrats, provided funding to states and the Department of Homeland Security to save thousands of police and firefighter jobs from being cut during the recession.
  • Used recovered TARP money to fund programs at local housing finance agencies in California, Florida, Nevada, Arizona and Michigan.
  • Crafted and signed an executive order establishing the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability to assist in financial education for all Americans.
  • China’s largest manufacturer, Foxconn, is building a large plant in Pennsylvania
  • Worked with Apple Computer to get them to build more product here, and thecompany is building two large plants to manufacture products here; one in Texas and one in Arizona
  • Oversaw increase of manufacturing jobs by more than 500,000 since 2010, and created an institute to invest in more manufacturing jobs in the technology fields of the future.
  • Ordered all federal contractors to pay a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour, leading the way to a national increase.
  • Ordered the completion of the International Trade Data System, a digital trade record book, by 2016. This move will streamline and simplify the process through which small- and medium-sized businesses set up the export of US goods.
  • Created a climate in which there have been 55 consecutive months of job growth, totaling more than 10 million jobs, which is roughly 10,000,000 more jobs than Bush created in eight years. is also the longest stretch of private-sector job growth in US history.
  • Led the country to 64 consecutive months of economic expansion, eclipsing Saint Reagan’s record, by far.
  • Oversaw a reduction in the dollar amount of the federal budget deficit by two-thirds since taking office.
  • Reduced the federal budget deficit from 9.8% of GDP in Fiscal Year 2009 under Bush, to 2.9% of GDP in FY 2014.
  • Under Obama, the stock market has reached record highs, restoring most of the economic losses felt during the Bush Recession, when it reached record lows, adjusted for inflation.
  • Signed an order banning gifts from lobbyists to anyone in the Executive Branch.
  • Signed an order banning anyone from working in an agency they had lobbied in previous years, and put strict limits on lobbyists’ access to the White House.
  • Held the first-ever first online town hall from the White House, and took questions from the public.
  • Became the first to stream every White House event, live.
  • Established a central portal for Americans to find service opportunities.
  • Issued an Executive Order on Presidential Records, which restored the 30-day time frame for former presidents to review records, and eliminated the right for the vice president or family members of former presidents to do the reviews. Provides the public with greater access to historic  White House documents, and severely curtails the ability to use executive privilege to shield them.
  • Improved aspects of the Freedom of Information Act, and issued new guidelines to make FOIA more open and transparent when processing FOIA requests.
  • Proposed rules that would streamline the Department of Education’s procurement policies and make them more transparent.
  • Provided the first voluntary disclosure of the White House Visitors Log in history.
  • Signed a law to completely reform NSA Data Collection program and keep phone records in the hands of the phone company.
  • Ordered 65 executives who took bailout money to cut their own pay until they paid back all bailout money.
  • Along with Congressional Democrats, pushed through and got passed Dodd-Frank, one of the largest and most comprehensive Wall Street reforms since the Great Depression.
  • By signing Dodd-Frank legislation, created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  • Created rules that reduce the influence of speculators in the oil market.
  • Fashioned rules so that banks can no longer use YOUR money to invest in high-risk financial instruments that work against their own customers’ interests.
  • Supported the concept of allowing stockholders to vote on executive compensation.
  • Endorsed and supported the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of 2009 that would close offshore tax avoidance loopholes.
  • Negotiated a deal with Swiss banks that now permits the US government to gain access to the records of criminals and  tax evaders.
  • Signed the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act, which closed many of the loopholes that allowed companies to send jobs overseas, and avoid paying US taxes by moving money offshore.
  • Established a Consumer Protection Financial Bureau designed to protect consumers from financial sector excesses.
  • Oversaw and then signed a Democratic bill constituting the most sweeping food safety legislation since the Great Depression.
  • Through the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, extended the False Claims Act to combat fraud by companies and individuals using money from the TARP and Stimulus programs.
  • Set up rules for banks in handling legal marijuana money.
  • Signed Executive Order to add a number of further protections to consumer financial transactions, to further limit instances of identity theft.
  • Took steps to prevent pirate fishing and protect fish populations, and ordered stricter labeling requirements on labeling of seafood products in stores.
  • Along with Congressional Democrats, advocated for and signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which made it a federal crime to assault anyone based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Pushed through, signed and demanded the Pentagon enact a repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy that forced soldiers to lie in order to be eligible to fight for their country, and put our troops at risk by disqualifying many qualified soldiers from helping.
  • Extended benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.
  • Appointed more openly gay officials than anyone in history.
  • Appointed first openly transgender Cabinet Official in History.
  • Changed HUD rules to prohibit gender and sexual orientation-based discrimination in housing
  • Changed his mind and publicly expressed support for same-sex marriage.
  • Issued a Presidential Memorandum reaffirming the rights of gay couples to make medical decisions for each other.
  • Wrote and signed an Executive Order establishing a White House Council on Women and Girls to ensure that all Cabinet and Cabinet-level agencies evaluate the effect of their policies and programs on women and families.
  • Signed the Democratic-sponsored Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restored basic protections against pay discrimination for women and other workers. This was after the GOP blocked the bill in 2007. Only 5 Republican Senators voted for the bill.
  • Signed two executive orders that mirror provisions of the Paycheck Fairness Act, because the GOP Congress refuses to pass it. It makes is possible for employees to talk about their salaries without retaliation, and orders salary data collection. These measures will make it harder for employers to pay women less.
  • Expanded funding for the Violence Against Women Act.
  • Under his guidance, National Labor Relations Board issued final rules that require all employers to prominently post employees’ rights where all employees or prospective employees can see it, including all websites and intranets.
  • Advocated that United Nations adopt a policy supporting gay rights worldwide.
  • Issued an order requiring hospitals to allow visitation by same-sex couples.
  • Appointed Kareem Dale as the first ever Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy.
  • Helped Democrats in Congress pass and signed the Civil Rights History Act.
  • Established the White House Council of Native American Affairs, to improve government-to-government relations with Native American nations.
  • Formed a commission to examine and make recommendations for fixing the broken voting system.
  • As soon as the Supreme Court invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act, he moved to extend federal benefits to same-sex couples.
  • At a press conference August 9, 2013, gave up a small measure of executive power, promising to create adversarial process in FISA regarding NSA surveillance.
  • Proposed new HUD rules that would enhance Fair Housing Laws, to give HUD and other enforcement agencies more teeth in enforcing them.
  • Shattered another glass ceiling by naming Janet Yellen chair of the Federal Reserve beginning Feb. 1, 2014.
  • Appointed several prominent gay athletes and others, and plans to show US government’s commitment to gay rights to anti-gay Russia.
  • Ordered a review of capital punishment policies after several botched executions.
  • Obama’s Department of Agriculture propagated new rules designed to better enforce nondiscrimination when it comes to USDA investigations. These rules also extended nondiscrimination to gender identity.
  • Obama’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission clarified and strengthened rules prohibiting discrimination against pregnant workers.
  • Banned all federal contractors from discriminating against gay workers.
  • Created a requirement in which companies who bid on federal contracts of more than $500,000 must publicly disclose all previous violations of labor law, including unpaid claims for back wages.
  • Made it illegal for federal contractors with more than $1 million in contracts  to force employees into arbitration to settle workplace discrimination accusations.
  • The Obama Department of Justice made significant reductions in drug sentencing guidelines for current prisoners, thus releasing thousands from US prisons. This is the first step in 30 years toward reducing the US prison population, which is the highest in the world.
  • Thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, inflation in the healthcare sector dropped to its lowest point in 50 years.
  • Through a Presidential Memorandum, changed the rules to concentrate immigration enforcement on those who commit crimes, and voed to stop breaking up families.
  • Through another Presidential memorandum, President Obama streamlined the visa process, to make it more responsive and humane for those who want to be here legally.
  • Took steps to tighten the reins when it comes to providing local law enforcement agencies with military-style equipment and exercising more control over the equipment they receive.
  • Oversaw the first drop in the federal prison population in 32 years.
  • Vetoed Republican bill that would have blocked new NLRB rules that were designed to speed up the time it takes workers to unionize. He also added a Memorandum of Disagreement to make his reasons for the veto clear and made a major statement in support of unions.
  • Persevered with his campaign to turn “gay marriage” into “marriage” and won in the Supreme Court.
  • Plans to broaden his use of clemency to release thousands of non-violent drug offenders from prison.
  • Created new rules to improve fair housing rules and make more affordable housing available to more people.
  • Visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any previous president during his first six months in office.
  • As he promised, he gave a speech at a major Islamic forum in Cairo early in his administration.
  • Helped to restore America’s reputation around the world as a global leader that does the “right thing” in world affairs, at least according to the rest of the world.
  • Re-established and reinforced our partnership with NATO and other allies on strategic international issues.
  • Closed a number of secret detention facilities.
  • Improved relations with Middle East countries by appointing special envoys.
  • Pushed forward the first realistic Middle East peace strategy in more than a decade, without abandoning the two-state solution.
  • Pushed for military to emphasize devlopment of foreign language skills.
  • Offered $400 million to the people living in Gaza, called on both Israel and the Palestinians to stop inciting violence.
  • Refused to give Israel the green light to attack Iran over their possible nuclear program, and thus avoid another war that Republicans wanted.
  • Ordered the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay. It was Republicans (and, unfortunately, progressive Democrats) who prevented follow through.
  • Ordered a review of our detention and interrogation policy, and prohibited the use of torture, or what Bush called “enhanced interrogation.” He ordered interrogators to limit their actions to the Army Field manual.
  • Ordered all secret detention facilities in Eastern Europe and elsewhere to be closed.
  • Released the Bush torture memos.
  • On his second day in office, he signed a detailed Executive Order that banned torture, reversed all  Bush torture policies, and put the United States in compliance with the Geneva Convention.
  • In response to the emerging “Arab Spring,” he created a Rapid Response fund, to assist emerging democracies with foreign aid, debt relief, technical assistance and investment packages in order to show that the United States stands with them.
  • Ended the F-22 program, saving $4 billion. Though the single-seat, twin-engine, fighter aircraft cost $358 million each, and the military had 187 built, the F-22 never flew a combat mission.
  • Passed the Iran Sanctions Act, to prevent war and encourage the Iranian government to give up their nuclear program.
  • Ended the Iraq War.
  • Worked to keep our withdrawal from Afghanistan on track, despite GOP opposition. that commitment in 2014.
  • Authorized and oversaw a secret mission by SEAL Team Six to rescue two hostages held by Somali pirates.
  • Through United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, helped negotiate a peaceful split of Sudan into two countries, this allowing for the creation of an independent South Sudan.
  • Worked with Democratic Congress to make donations to Haiti tax deductible in 2009.
  • Established a new U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
  • Issued Executive Order blocking interference and helping to stabilize Somalia.
  • Established new, more reasonable policies in our relations with Cuba, such as allowing Cuban-Americans to visit their families and send money to support them.
  • Negotiated the framework for an agreement with Iran that would end their nuclear weapons program.
  • Became the first US President to visit Jamaica in more than 30 years and worked to restore relations with the country, and signed a natural gas distribution agreement with the country.
  • Opened the first Embassy in Cuba in more than 55 years.
  • Negotiated a deal with Iran that will prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon anytime soon, without firing a shot or invading the country.
  • Created a comprehensive new strategy for dealing with the international nuclear threat.
  • Authorized a $1.4 billion reduction in Star Wars program in 2010.
  • Restarted nuclear nonproliferation talks and built up the nuclear inspection infrastructure/protocols to where they had been before Bush.
  • Signed and pushed through ratification a new SALT Treaty.
  • Negotiated and signed a new START Treaty that will lst until at least 2021.
  • Through the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), reversed the Bush Administration and committed to no permanent military bases in Iraq.
  • Developed first comprehensive strategy with regard to Afghanistan and Pakistan designed to facilitate the defeat of al Qaeda and the withdrawal of most troops, as well as the rebuilding of Afghanistan.
  • Returned our focus to Afghanistan, stabilized the country, and began the process of withdrawing our troops from the country.
  • Negotiated a deal with Afghan govenment, to withdraw troops and military support, while assisting in rebuilding and modernizing of the country.
  • Took steps to severely weaken al Qaeda and limited their ability to terrorize the world.
  • Negotiated and signed a nuclear nonproliferation treaty with India.
  • Took decisive action to use NATO to limit the slaughter of innocents in Libya, so that the Libyan people could topple the despotic Khadaffy government and determine their own fate.
  • Got Egyptian President/dictator Mubarak to leave the Egyptian government to the people, to determine their own fate.
  • In 2011, reoriented American focus from the Middle East to the Asian-Pacific region by simultaneouly engaging China and crafting new alliances with Asian countries uncomfortable with Chinese behavior.
  • Restored federal agencies such as FEMA to the point that they have been able to manage a huge number of natural  disasters successfully.
  • Authorized Navy SEALS to successfully secure the release of a US captain held by Somali pirates and increased patrols off the Somali coast.
  • Increased border security
  • Ordered and oversaw the Navy SEALS operation that killed Osama bin Laden.
  • Established the Homeland Security Partnership Council, which will attempt to enhance the nation’s ability to “address homeland security priorities, from responding to natural disasters to preventing terrorism, by utilizing diverse perspectives, skills, tools, and resources.”
  • Signed agreement with Afghanistan to end war, turn security over to Afghans.
  • Breaking with presidential tradition, especially recent tradition, instead of just attacking Syria in the wake of chemical weapons attacks on Syrians, Obama ordered a full report on the decision-making process, should he decide to order one.
  • Instead of holding hearings and trying to create a political football, quietly captured a suspect who actually committed the Benghazi terrorist attack. He is also getting a lot of useful information from the suspect.
  • Signed an executive order allowing sanctions against individuals and groups that threaten national cybersecurity.
  • Limited local police acquisitions of military-style equipment, to reduce the likelihood of overkill.
  • Signed Blue Alert Law, which provides police officers with more information when they are threatened.
  • Provided active combat troops with better body armor.
  • Created Joint Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record program for military personnel, in order improve the quality of their medical care.
  • Put an end to the Bush-era stop-loss policy that kept soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan beyond their enlistment date.
  • Along with Congressional Democrats, supported and signed Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act, which made more money available to enable better medical care for veterans.
  • Along with Congressional Democrats, ushered through largest spending increase in 30 years for Department of Veterans Affairs, with money to go to improved medical facilities, and to assist states in acquiring or constructing state nursing homes and extended care facilities.
  • Created the Green Vet Initiative, which provided special funding to the Labor Department to provide veterans with training in green jobs.
  • Initiated and signed a recruitment and employment plan to get more veterans into government jobs.
  • Oversaw a $4.6 billion expansion of the Veterans Administration budget to pay for more mental health professionals.
  • Signed the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act, which ensures that spouses of military personnel who are forced to move because their spouse is posted for military duty will be able to avoid state taxes in their temporary residence.
  • Issued an Executive Order to improve access to mental health care for veterans, military personnel and their families.
  • was able to get Syria to dismantle its chemical weapons without military firing a single shot or dropping a single bomb.
  • Along with Congressional Democrats, not only reauthorized families of fallen soldiers to be able to visit when the body arrives at Dover AFB, but also provided funding for it.  Ended the media blackout on coverage of the return of fallen soldiers.
  • Funded Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with an extra $1.4 billion to improve veterans’ services.
  • Signed into law a bill that provides support, counseling, and breastfeeding supplies to military moms who are covered under TRICARE, the health insurance provided to veterans.
  • Refocused the Federal Government on Education, Made Rational Reforms
  • Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, invested heavily in elementary, secondary and post-secondary education.
  • Created the Race to the Top program, which encouraged states to come up with effective school reforms and rewards the best of them.
  • Oversaw major expansion of broadband availability in K-12 schools nationwide.
  • Oversaw major expansion in school construction.
  • Also through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he put $5 billion into early education, including Head Start.
  • Signed the Democratic-sponsored Post-9/11 GI Bill, also known as GI Bill 2.0
  • Oversaw expansion of the Pell Grants program, to expand opportunity for low and middle income students to go to college.
  • Along with Democratic Congress, passed and signed Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which provided an extra $12.2 billion in funds.
  • Took major new steps to protect students from ineffective for-profit colleges through “gainful employment” measures, whereby schools have to demonstrate that its students actually find work to get federal aid.
  • Repeatedly increased funding for student financial aid, and at the same time cut the banks completely out of the process, thus us creating greater accountability.
  • Reformed student loan program, to make it possible for students to refinance at a lower rate.
  • Created a rating system for colleges, so that those applying for student financial aid know better what they’re paying for.
  • Created a Presidential Memorandum to restore scientific integrity in government decision-making.
  • Opened up process for fast-tracking patent approval for green energy projects.
  • Eliminated Bush-era restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, and provided increased federal support for biomedical and stem cell research.
  • Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, committed more federal funding, about $18 billion, to support non-defense science and research labs.
  • Signed Democratic-sponsored Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act, the first comprehensive attempt to improve the lives of Americans living with paralysis.
  • Expanded the Nurse-Family Partnership program, which provides home visits by trained registered nurses to low-income expectant mothers and their families, to cover more first-time mothers.
  • Obama EPA reversed research ethics standards which allowed humans to be used as “guinea pigs” in tests of the effects of chemicals, to comply with numerous codes of medical ethics.
  • Conducted a cyberspace policy review.
  • Provided financial support for private sector space programs.
  • Oversaw enhanced earth mapping, to provide valuable data for agricultural, educational, scientific, and government use.
  • Along with Democrats in Congress, ushered through and signed a bill authorizing FDA to regulate tobacco. As a result,  the FDA has Ordered Tobacco Companies to Disclose Cigarette Ingredients and banned sale of cigarettes falsely labeled as “light.”
  • Through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, provided $500 million for Health Professions Training Programs.
  • Increased funding for community-based prevention programs.
  • Oversaw a 50% decrease in cost of prescription drugs for seniors.
  • Eliminated the Bush-era practice of forbidding Medicare from negotiating with drug companies on price.
  • Two weeks after taking office, signed Democratic-sponsored Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act, which increased the number of children covered by health insurance by 4 million.
  • Urged Congress to investigate Anthem Blue Cross for raising premiums 39% without explanation. Democratic Rep. Waxman responded by launching a probe, and Anthem Blue Cross put increase on hold for two months.
  • Ushered through and signed Affordable Care Act, which expanded health insurance coverage to at least 30 million more people, ended many common insurance company practices that are often detrimental  to those with coverage.  He also established, so that taxpayers could keep up with developments.
  • Through ACA, allowed children to be covered under their parents’ policy until they turned 26.
  • Through the ACA, provided tax breaks to allow 3.5 million small business to provide health insurance to their employees, and 29 million people will receive tax breaks to help them afford health insurance.
  • Through the ACA, expanded Medicaid to those making up to 133% of the federal poverty level.
  • Through the ACA, health insurance companies now have to disclose how much of your premium actually goes to pay for patient care.
  • Provisions in the ACA have already resulted in Medicare costs actually declining slightly this fiscal year, for the first time in many years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The increase in 2011 was 4%, which is very low compared to the average 12% annual inflation rate during previous 40 years.
  • Since passage of the ACA, health care inflation is at its lowest level since 1960.
  • Created the HIV Care Continuum Initiative, to strengthen the government’s ability to respond to the continuing domestic HIV epidemic, after years of Republicans weakening the government’s ability to deal with the crisis.
  • Expanded space exploration and discovery options to include more players.
  • Through the Connect America Fund, pushed through and received FCC approval for a move of $8 billion in subsidies away from telephone landlines to assist lower-income rural families in accessing broadband.
  • In the wake of the West Fertilizer tragedy, in which an entire small town was devastated by an explosion at a fertilizer plant, in part because Republican negligence let the company do whatever it wanted, formed the Chemical Safety and Security Working Group, to work on measures to prevent another such event.
  • By 2014, the Affordable Care Act dropped the number of uninsured Americans by 22.3%, which amounts to more than 10.3 million people with insurance who didn’t have it before. Only 13.9% of Americans are uninsured, a drop from 18.9% in 2013.
  • The Affordable Care Act has increased the life expectancy of Medicare greatly.
  • Established a Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center, a recommendation made by the 9/11 Commission, to coordinate efforts to fight cyber-crime and terrorism.
  • The Obama FCC, with his leadership, adopted strong net neutrality rules, to keep the Internet open and equal for everyone.
  • Signed bill that will provide health insurance premium support to workers who lose their health insurance due to foreign competition.
  • In response to the confusion triggered by the asinine Hobby Lobby decision, which essentially declared that corporations could have “religious rights” and lord them over employees, created new rules to give all women with insurance the right to free birth control.
  • Implemented the National HIV/AIDS Strategy for 2015-2020, which is a follow-up to the first such strategy in US history, which he implemented in 2010.
  • Set up a National Strategic Computing Initiative, to “maximize benefits of high-performance computing (HPC) research, development, and deployment.”
  • Worked to provide affordable, high-quality child care to working families.
  • Cracked down on companies that were previously denying sick pay, vacation and health insurance, and Social Security and Medicare tax payments through abuse of the employee classification of independent contractor.
  • Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, cut taxes for 95% of America’s working families.
  • Tax rates for average working families are the lowest since 1950.
  • Extended and fully funded the patch for the Alternative Minimum Tax for 10 years.
  • Extended discounted health coverage under the COBRA health insurance law for the unemployed from 9 months to 15 months, and he’s also extended unemployment benefits more than a few times.
  • Provided  a $20 billion increase for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps).
  • Signed an Executive Order that established the White House Office of Urban Affairs.
  • Included the Buffet Rule in his 2014 budget proposal, thus trying to fulfill a campaign promise, to make sure tax rates are fair between the rich and the middle class.
  • Used the fiscal cliff negotiations to extend for five additional years the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which provides tax credits to families for college-related expenses, thus saving those families up to $10,000.
  • Increased protections for those who are unemployed and are seeking a government job.
  • Updated and modernized overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
  • With First Lady Michelle Obama, passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which will improve nutrition in schools and make children healthier.
  • In his continuing effort to make college more affordable and accountable, will begin rating colleges with regard to affordability and value.
  • Initiated a reform of federal job training programs, to make them more relevant to the current economy and the job market.
  • Under Obama, the bottom 95% of taxpayers are paying lower federal income taxes than at any time in the last 50 years, including under Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43.
  • Signed a presidential memorandum authorizing six weeks paid leave for all federal employees with a new baby, and encouraged Congress to do the same for all workers.
  • 2014 marked the first time since 1984 that unemployment dropped in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Took steps to improve workplace safety by creating an Advisory Board to study workers’ exposure to toxic substances.
  • Changed overtime rules to make it far more difficult for employers to avoid paying overtime to workers.
  • Doubling federal spending on clean energy research.
  • Pushed through a tax credit to help people buy plug-in hybrid cars.
  • Created a program to develop renewable energy projects on the waters of our Outer Continental Shelf that will produce electricity from wind, wave, and ocean currents.
  • Reengaged in the climate change and greenhouse gas emissions agreements talks, and proposed one himself. He also addressed the U.N. Climate Change Conference, officially reversing the Bush era stance that climate change was a “hoax.”
  • Fully supported the initial phase of the creation of a legally-binding treaty to reduce mercury emissions worldwide.
  • Required states to provide incentives to utilities to reduce their energy consumption.
  • Under Obama, our dependence on foreign oil has dropped to its lowest rate since 1985, and continues to drop. Meanwhile, consumption is way down because of reduced driving and higher mileage standards.
  • Improved siting, review and permitting stations for power plants, in an attempt to seriously improve the nation’s electric grid.
  • Following the neglect of Bush’s eight year reign, he reengaged in a number of treaties and agreements designed to protect the Antarctic.
  • Created tax write-offs for purchases of hybrid automobiles, and later he and Democrats morphed that program into one that includes electric cars.
  • Established a quadrennial review of our energy infrastructure, to encourage a modernization of the grid, and to encourage the transition away from fossil fuel use.
  • Mandated that federal government fleet purchases be for fuel-efficient American vehicles, and encouraged that federal agencies support experimental, fuel-efficient vehicles.
  • Got BP to cough up $20 billion to establish Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, to reduce the need for taxpayer funds to be used for compensation and clean up. (Note: it took 20 years to get $1.3 billion for the Exxon Valdez spill. )
  • Oversaw and pushed through an amendment to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 authorizing advances from Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
  • Actively tried to amend the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 to eliminate the liability limits for those companies responsible for large oil spills.
  • Became the first President to simply say “Climate Change is a fact,” and set up the first federal government protocols for dealing with the impacts of climate change.
  • Initiated Criminal and Civil inquiries into the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
  • Asserted federal legal supremacy to bar Texas from authorizing new refinery permits on its own.
  • Set up new, stricter standards limiting power plant emissions.
  • Strengthened the Endangered Species Act.
  • Strengthened protection for wildlife, and expanded enforcement of laws against wildlife trafficking.
  • Obama EPA improved boiler safety standards to improve air quality, and save 6500 lives per year.
  • Through the EPA, attemped to take steps to severely limit the use of antibiotics in livestock feed, to increase their efficacy in humans.
  • Through new EPA regulations, he created a pretext for closing the dirtiest power plants in the country, by limiting emissions of mercury and other toxic gasses.
  • Increased funding for National Parks and Forests by 10%
  • Announced greatly improved commercial fuel efficiency standards.
  • Announced a huge increase in average fuel economy standards from 27.5mpg in 2010 to 35.5mpg starting in 2016 and 54.5 starting in 2025
  • Issued an Executive Order to facilitate investments in industrial energy efficiency that will help create jobs, while strengthening US manufacturing. Increased efficiency could save businesses $100 billion over the next decade.
  • Through an executive order, set up the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, which will to oversee Gulf Coast restoration efforts in the wake of the 2010 BP oil splll. The money to fund the restoration efforts comes from fines against BP.
  • Through executive actions and bypassing the ineffectual Republican Congress, announced the most comprehensive plan to combat climate change in a generation.
  • Ordered energy plants to prepare to produce at least 15% of all energy through renewable resources like wind and solar, by 2021. (Republicans are trying hard to kill it.)
  • Oversaw the creation of an initiative that converts old factories and manufacturing centers into new clean technology centers.
  • guided the country into a 418% increase in solar power capacity between 2010 and 2014.
  • Bypassed Republican opposition in Congress and ordered EPA to begin regulating and measuring carbon emissions.
  • Oversaw a tripling in the use of wind power to generate electricity. For the third year in row, the United States led the world in increased wind power capacity.
  • Ordered the federal government to incorporate climate resilience and climate science into all international development in which the United States engages.
  • Fast-tracked regulations to allow states to enact fuel efficiency standards that exceeded federal standards.
  • Fast-tracked increased fuel economy standards for vehicles beginning with the 2011 model year. It was the first time such standards had been increased in a decade.
  • Oversaw establishment of an Energy Partnership for the Americas, to create more markets for American-made biofuels and green energy technologies.
  • Obama EPA reversed a Bush-era decision to allow the largest mountaintop removal project in US history.
  • Ordered the Department of Energy to implement more aggressive efficiency standards for common household appliances.
  • Obama EPA ruled that excess CO2 is a pollutant.
  • Closed a deal with China to limit carbon emissions to perhaps slow down climate change.
  • Blocked all oil and gas drilling in Bristol Bay, Alaska, one of the most pristine environments in North America
  • Signed an Executive Order to improve environmental efforts in the Arctic region and to combat climate change by better coordinating the efforts of the 23 federal agencies operating in the area.
  • Vetoed a bill to fast track construction of the parallel Keystone XL pipeline.
  • Expanded clean water regulations to more stringently protect all of the nation’s waterways, even when states fail in their duty.
  • Signed an Executive Order committing the federal government to lead the way in building a sustainable economy. It’s his fifth doing just that.
  • Banned the use of antibiotics in food served in US Government-run cafeterias and ordered agencies to only use antibiotic-free meat.
  • Developed new rules to address climate change and to create a significant boost to clean energy.
  • Nominated Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Sotomayor is the first Hispanic Justice in the court’s history, and the women represent only the third and fourth women to serve on the court, out of a total of 112 justices.
  • Appointed the most diverse Cabinet in history, including more women than any other incoming president.
  • Eliminated federal funding for abstinence-only education, and rescinded the global gag rule.
  • Loosened the rules and allowed the 14 states that legalized medical marijuana to regulate themselves without federal interference.
  • Signed national service legislation, increasing funding for national service groups, including triple the size of the Americorps program.
  • Signed an Executive Order that will speed up deployment of a more comprehensive broadband infrastructure.
  • Signed an Executive Order creating jobs immediately by instructing them to reduce the time needed for review and permitting of infrastructure projects.
  • Signed a bill that provided $4.3 billion in additional assistance to 9/11 first responders.
  • Signed an Executive Order pledging support for efforts to end the global problem of violence against women and girls.
  • Signed the Claims Resolution Act, which provided $4.6 billion in funding for a legal settlement with black and Native American farmers who had been cheated out of government loans and natural resource royalties in the past.
  • To help those communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy, issued an executive order setting up the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, and asked Congress to approve $60 billion in supplemental assistance to aid in storm recovery.
  • Produced 23 Executive actions designed to make it easier for law enforcement to identify those who shouldn’t have guns, thus helping them enforce the law.
  • Expanded trade agreements to include stricter labor and environmental agreements such as NAFTA.
  • Oversaw funding of  the design of a new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History, which is scheduled to open on the National Mall in 2015.  He protected the funding during the recent budget negotiations.
  • Oversaw and passed increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.
  • Despite the characterizations of some, Obama’s success rate in winning congressional votes on issues was an unprecedented 96.7% for his first year in office.  Though he is often cited as superior to Obama, President Lyndon Johnson’s success rate in 1965 was only 93%.

Aug 29, 2015

Piling on the Bullshit

Damn it, when I saw this title “THE PERFECT MOTORCYCLE: KNOW YOURSELF TO KNOW YOUR BIKE” on, I really hoped for something semi-intelligent.  When you flaunt around words like “perfect” the expectation is that you will actually put some effort into the discussion. Unless the discussion is being led by Kevin Cameron there isn’t much hope that my expectations will be even attempted on Cycle World. This article fell far below the already low bar set by the motorcycle rag industry.

Idiot advice like this is exactly why I wrote the “When You Need A Faster Bike” column for MMM, "Pick perfect power. From a safety standpoint, the amount of power you need depends on your riding. For my money, 800cc and up lets you beat city traffic, claim-jump any freeway lane anytime, and execute quick passes on the highway." What a load of bullshit. First, as said in their “11 Reasons Why You Don’t Want A Liter Bike” column, "Literbikes aren’t any faster than a 600." Who cares if your top speed is 200mph, if you are really trying to “execute quick passes on the highway?” A 600cc four will do 160mph and get there within a few fractions of a second as quickly as a liter bike and, most likely, exactly as quickly as a 750cc or the non-existent 800cc from Cycle World’s bullshit recommendation. Even better, 99% of American riders who are incapable of using any part of a liter bike’s throttle competently won’t end up sliding down the freeway on their ass when they wheelie-over their big bike pretending to be Rossi.

The half-assed effort put into justifying the advice, “Choose a bike whose skills match your own” was more than embarrassing. My advice for Cycle World, avoid the word “perfect” until you buy a dictionary and thesaurus. Stick with “half-assed” and “mediocre,” words you so aptly typify.

Aug 19, 2015

Standing on Two Feet on Two Wheels

All Rights Reserved © 2013 Thomas W. Day

IMG_2672 The local trials organization is the Upper Midwest Trials Association (UMTA,, where you can find the year's schedule (6 two-day events for 2013, since the first one was cancelled due to snow), see this and past years' event results, find used trials bikes, locate local dealers and parts suppliers, and join forums to talk about trials bikes and riding. There are excellent pictures of local riders and events on the UMTA site, too.

UMTA 2008 champ 023 A lot of really knowledgeable people (including our publisher, "AKA the World’s Largest Trials Rider" and the UMTA's secretary) might argue that the ultimate off-road motorcycle sport is motorcycle trials, traditionally called "observed trials." While the fine-points of trials rules are sometimes as hard to fathom as golfing rules, the basic idea is you ride over ridiculously difficult obstacles without stopping or putting your feet on the ground or the obstacles. Do either and you collect unwanted points. If you manage to avoid collecting points, you win. If that sounds easy, you should try it.

The Winterers (Jim and Ben) are one constant in Minnesota trials is that you will unavoidably run into. Jim is a consistent Senior class competitor and Ben is a regular top-3 in the Champ class. Jim was gracious enough to introduce me to several wonderful sources and and he pretty much wrote the article for me in a couple of email responses. Mark Dittman, the UMTA treasurer said, "Ages in our club range from 7 years old to 70 years old. Our club members come from all over the state of Minnesota and some from Wisconsin . . . we have 9 different classes to compete in and there is a skill level for everyone.

IMG_2700 "The biggest misconception is that everyone hops the bike around. Ninety percent of our club riders do not hop the bike around. I think people feel a little intimidated by that. There are some expert class riders in our club that do not hop, but they can turn the bike on a dime and do some incredible things on a trials bike."

IMG_2695 In the US, participation in trials peaked in the mid--to-late-1970's. At that time, there were several world-class American riders, Martin Belaiir, Marland Whaley, Lane Leavitt,  and the one-and-only American World Champion, Bernie Schreiber (1979). In recent world events, US riders consistently fill out the tail-end of every US event (the Wagner Cup) and few Americans have made the effort to compete on the world stage. Outside of the US, trials has maintained a fair presence, especially in the indoor format (X-Trials), and world events draw large crowds in several countries.

Trials is the kind of sport that attracts riders of all ages. Due to typically low speeds, extraordinarily light motorcycles, and short sections with minders, helpers, and observers who sometimes morph into catchers as do the spectators, people compete well into their 60's and 70's at a variety of competitive levels. Minnesota and Wisconsin are specially blessed with a strong, if small, group of dedicated trials competitors and if you are interested in trying this sport out, you'll find it is a great group of friendly and helpful people.

Due to the light US participation, manufacturers make a half-hearted attempt at importing bikes to the US. Currently, Sherco, Gas Gas, Beta, Ossa, and OSET (electric kids' bikes) are imported to the US. The US Montesa-Honda distributor was based in Minnetonka until Honda discontinued importing in 2005. On the upside, there are still a fair number of used 1970's to 2000's trials bikes for sale for reasonable prices. Many trials bikes are in pretty good shape even after a few decades of competition and will be more than serviceable for many years. The only motorcycle I've ever been sorry I sold was my 1986 Yamaha TY350.

Aug 17, 2015

#120 That Is Not A Helmet

All Rights Reserved © 2013 Thomas W. Day

Everybody is getting on the "motorcyclists ought to be wearing helmets" bandwagon. MPR did a segment a few weeks about about the burst of motorcycle deaths in early 2013 and how few of the dead and buried were wearing "helmets." One of the local television noise generators repeated that theme and "moderated" the common sense recommendation by interviewing someone from ABATE spewing their tired "everyone just needs to look out for us" and "training is the answer" song and dance. For once,

ABATE and AAA were on the same page in that spring death-match propaganda blitz. They both quoted the same statistic that reported "wearing a helmet in a crash reduces the risk of death by 35 percent and the risk of brain injury by 67 percent." ABATE added the word "only" to each of those numbers, attempting to prove that helmets didn't really do much toward making motorcycles less suicidal. Sometimes, I'm not sure whose side those guys are on.

AAAhelmetAAA's front section AAAAdvice article ("Motorcycle Helmets Save Lives") included the picture at right. I see that as a failure to communicate. That silly looking lid is not a helmet. It barely qualifies as a hardhat. It's possible that useless baseball cap might provide some protection if a cup of crushed ice were dropped from a second story window and it landed squarely on top of the rider's head. Not likely, but possible. The chances that a pudding bowl helmet will save your life, your consciousness, or your pretty face is pretty predictable, though.

It should be pretty obvious that a beanie helmet is good for about 20% of the impact that will coming your way when you hit the asphalt. If we wanted to be overly-optimistic, we could add the 19.3% of the forehead hits to the protected area, but I do not feel that is realistic. For example, Mr. AAA Douchebag's helmet at left makes a special effort to show his shiny forehead so that his admiring fellow douchebags will know who he is. That exposed area and the edge of the helmet above it provides plenty of leverage for the sliding surface to pull the helmet up and, possibly, away from that critical and fragile area of the skull. At least Mr AAA Douchebag has a 3/4 helmet on his pointy head.

gayhelmetGay little biker beanies (Don't get your panties in a wad, girlymen. I mean "happy" or "festive.") like the thing at left are pretty much useless as protection 80% of time when a helmet hits the road. Unless you can figure out how to slide down the road on the top of your head (without grinding through the cheap plastic this sort of cheeseball helmet is made from), you might as well be wearing a bicycle helmet (another useless piece of mal-designed "protective gear"). This kind of hat is a designer statement, like high-heeled red shoes. It is not armor. Obviously, biker beanies automatically go with biker face (see douchebag at left, again) and there would be no point in spending all those hours in front of the mirror practicing your biker face if you were going to wear a real helmet and be a real motorcyclist. How would anyone know how serious you are if they can't see your scowl?

I have no idea what percentage of helmet wearers are wearing this kind of crap, but when I see the words "Harley Davidson," "motorcycle death," and "was wearing a helmet" in the same news report, I automatically assume this silly shit is what the cops included in their crash report as a "helmet." If I haven't made myself clear by now, I do not consider anything of the sort even close to a motorcycle helmet. The sound of blubbering, poorly-tuned tractor motors naturally ties to either no helmet or awful helmets and . . . death by motorcycle. On the rare occasion I see a hippobike rider wearing a real, full-face helmet, it always causes me to do a double, or triple, take. Exposing my natural prejudices to the air of honest admission, it also automatically forces me to re-evaluate all of my preconceived notions about Harley owners. "If the guy is wearing real gear, is it possible his bike is not garage candy? Probably. Can I imagine that he rides it to work and for general transportation? Probably. Damn. Now where do I pigeon-hole this dude?"

I realize that nobody dresses to impress me. I don't even try to impress me. But I suspect I'm not the only motorcyclist who has a similar check-list. Even more important, you should know that your designer hat is not a real helmet and it will more than likely be useless in a crash. You might imagine that you're not going to crash and won't need a real helmet, anyway. I suspect those dead folks the media clowns were talking about this spring didn't plan on dying, either. Plan for the worst, hope for the best.

Aug 11, 2015

What’s the Motivation?

My first and last new car was a 1973 Mazda RX3. My only new motorcycles were 1974 Yamaha MX100 (my wife’s first and only motorcycle), a 1973 125 Rickman ISDT Replica, and a 1974 Suzuki RL250. The Yamaha and the Rickman were reasonably good buys, $500 each, and the Suzuki was a total bust (I paid $1100 pre-tax and Suzuki dropped the price to $700 in early 1975 to unload their unsold inventory and abandon the trials business, which totally devalued my purchase.). So, when I read an article like Motorcyclist’s 5 STEPS TO CLOSING THE DEAL | RETAIL CONFIDENTIAL, I have to admit I don’t get why anyone would buy a new motorcycle.

The article has lots of tips intended to keep the buyer from getting screwed or screwing himself, but the real ripoff is the fact that you will lose about 20-50% of the purchase price the moment you ride off of the lot. It’s nice that the magazine is offering a few ideas to minimize the financial disaster resulting from buying a new bike and I understand why they are not advising riders to buy used (lost advertising revenue). Still, I do not understand why people spend the money they spend on new cars and motorcycles and guitars and other items that depreciate so quickly and are perfectly functional after some other sucker has taken the new price hit. I’m ready to be educated, though.

Aug 10, 2015

Hell on Earth

It is impossible to describe how miserable this "event" would be to experience.

Subjects I Avoid

All Rights Reserved © 2013 Thomas W. Day

I grew up with the advice, “Never mention politics or religion, in polite conversation.” I didn't follow that advice, but I heard it a lot. My father and I did a solidly poor job of even honoring the spirit; and our relationship pretty much proved how valid that guidance could have been. For most of my life, being who I am seems to reflexively cause that polite rule to be abused. Something about me appears to inspire the most degenerate, least informed, nosiest and noisiest, least sober, least credible evangelists into a doomed attempt to “spread the word” at the expense of my peace and quiet. (Trust me, I’ve heard the spiel—and have been hearing it since I was a child—and no matter who you are, who you represent, what god(s) you follow, what key you’re going to sing in, or what line you’re going to take, I’ve been there and heard it.)

June23086_thumb1So, today’s experience at the library was just one in a long line of related bad experiences that have made me want to move to my Montana retirement mansion (at right) and keep a loaded shotgun by the door for greeting all visitors. I do play to fire a couple of warning shots to the head to get your attention, so be ready to duck if you show up unannounced. On the way out the door and back to my bike, a guy ran me down to ask where I’d bought my official MMM jacket. You can’t get there from here, but I aimed him at Bob’s Cycle Supply for the next best thing. He argued that they didn’t carry it although I’d been there earlier in the week and they were still in stock at that time. Trying to politely escape (my first and often repeated mistake), I pulled off the jacket to show him the brand and model label and kept trying to get to the bike. I reminded him that the MMM portion of the jacket was custom and, probably, unavailable.

When I mentioned that the jacket’s denim cover is pretty worthless but that the armor in the jacket wasn’t bad, he said “Road rash is like military patches. It shows who you are and where you’ve been.”

I disagreed (compounding my above mistakes) by saying “Neither says much, since the military gives away that stuff in Cracker Jack boxes and you can buy impressive-looking patches and pins at most Army/Navy stores or pawn shops and bicycle, skateboard,  or falling-down-concrete-stairs scars look pretty much like motorcycle rash unless you’ve ground off a limb.”

That inspired a long, boring story of his career in the Air Force (my least favorite of a list of least favorite government agencies) [My father-in-law was a Korea Air Farce "warrior" and what I mostly learned from him was that if you are married to an Air Farcer you should avoid as much physical contact as possible. They get the clap more often than squirrels get nuts.] and his simultaneous experience in some sort of military biker gang. From there, he slid into a story of hitting a deer and surviving mostly unscratched. His “armor” in that incident was having spent a few moments praying over his motorcycle before leaving the bar for home. The deer hit his bike (a big Yamaha V-Star of some sort), bent some fender bits, and left some fur on a side case but he and the deer survived without serious injury. Therefore, praying worked. I should have kept moving, but I had to tell him that my more-pious-than-anyone-I-know brother had a similar dust-up with a deer and he ended up with a busted up ankle that has plagued him for the last five years (the deer didn’t survive). Knowing my brother, there was plenty of praying going on before he left my parents’ house for home and even if the praying wasn’t done over his motorcycle, it was done as well as that ritual can be performed. I remain unconvinced that the library dude added anything meaningful beyond what my parents and brother could do. The idea that his angel was more focused than my brother’s is simply ludicrous. That inspired a lecture about believing vs. something I couldn't identify, probably due to my heretical nature.

Still trying to get to my bike, strap my gear on, and escape without more comment than necessary. He made some comment about all the gear I was wearing (not that close to AGAT, but a lot closer than his street clothes). I let that one pass, but did make a less-than-respectful comment about pudding bowl helmets. Surprise! That was the only kind of helmet he owns. More conversation to ignore as I plugged my ears and pulled on my helmet. Before the ear plugs sealed up, he expressed surprise that it took me so little effort to put on the helmet.

"It's just a hat, dude."

As best I could tell, the one-sided conversation swung from ranting about helmet laws to being pissed off about the "safety Nazis," but I had the sense to ignore that bait and fired up the WR. As I struggled to back the bike out of the parking space while he attempted to strategically position himself in my way, I caught snippets of unwanted information about his engineering career, his plan to dominate the three-string guitar market (He was not a player, but had read something about cheap guitars getting trendy.), and an offer to co-write something about something. I escaped cleanly, without have exchanged names or other useful information.

marktwainwithpipe1_thumbWhen I got home and told my wife about the experience, she marveled at how hard it is for me to get away from salespeople and talkative drunks. "Must be genetic," I replied. I always had way too much trouble getting away from my family and the same sort of conversations.

"No," she said. "I think you're just dumb."

Possibly. When pressed against this kind of wall, I usually look to my hero, Mark Twain, for an explanation. The best I could find was, “I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's.” Pretty much the same thing my wife said.

Aug 3, 2015

#119 Dark Side, Bright Side

All Rights Reserved © 2013 Thomas W. Day

Some of you might know I had a heart attack right after Thanksgiving (Ironic, I know.) in 2012. You'd think there is no upside to that story, but you might be wrong. There was plenty of downside, for sure. I experienced the joy of the world's most expensive, least efficient, "health care" system and will be paying off my debt to that industry until I die. That is a definite downside. There was a brief moment in my 4 days of hospitalization where I was operated on by an incredibly efficient, upbeat and motivated surgical crew who epitomized the tiny core of the best our retroactive medical system has produced. Outside of that 20 minutes, what "cared for" me was a bureaucracy that is obsessed with drug and device sales, expense and income management, procedural and legal paranoia, and obedience to years of poor science and misinterpreted data.
So, a hip replacement (Classic "old guy" surgery.) in 2011 and a heart attack in 2012 has made for two depressing years and overwhelming evidence that I have earned the "geezer" title. No motorcycle content here, at all, I know.

As much as I realize I should be a motorcycling homer, I tend to read only two motorcycle magazines semi-cover-to-cover, MMM and Motorcycle Consumer News. Even in those favorite rags, there are things I just don't care about and can't find the motivation to read: cruiser reviews, road race bike reviews, rich guy custom bike articles, and farkle previews for those sorts of machines. I'm old, I only have so much time left and I don't waste it on crap I don't care about; that includes most of the television shows my wife watches in the morning. (I soundproofed my "man cave" attic studio to be able to avoid the slightest bit of noise from that stuff.) Two of the MCN semi-motorcycle related columns I read religiously are Mark Barnes' "Mental Motorcycling" and Dr. John Alevizos' "Medical Motorcycling." The reason for that focus is that unlike the majority of the medical practitioners, these two guys are unrelentingly scientific. Because of that, their data is credible and their opinions are unconventional.

In other words, they are never boring. Not boring is a big deal. If I could manage it, I would.
So, with that in mind, this GWAG is about something other than old guys stories or wildly unpopular political opinions. It's about a classic old American guy thing; getting fat and being pissed off about it. Post-surgery, I read everything I could find on cardiac and respiratory disease. What I learned was that if you have enough time you can find a book that will justify any damn opinion you might have about diet, exercise, drugs and surgery, and all related subjects. In otherwords, hardly anyone agrees with hardly anyone else.

Taubes why we get fat[4]In my first follow-up with my cardiologist, I got a collection of drugs added to my already mile-long collection of prescribed poisons, some 1960's dietary advice, a book recommendation (How We Get Fat by Gary Taubes), and an odd comment: "About 40 years ago, American doctors and European doctors got into a war about diet and the Americans won. And we were wrong." He added,"Everything we know about diet is in Taubes' book." I went from the cardiologist's office to the library. 

I've read How We Get Fat three times in the last two months. I'll probably read it again. I might even buy a copy, since the library seems to have a constant demand for the book. The thing that I'm having a hard time coming to grips with is the fact that physics and biology are only loosely connected. My old "calories are calories" belief in diet and weight management is pretty much the American medicine mantra, but the fact is there are "good calories" and "bad calories" and my diet has consisted of way too many "bad" calories for 65 years.

Close to the end of Taubes' relentless argument that we've been fed a steady diet of bad information, he says, "We are told to eat less fat and more carbohydrates, and rather than avoid heart disease and get thinner, as the authorities had hoped we would, we've had as much heart disease as ever, and dramatic increases in obesity and diabetes . . . A more insidious problem is that all involved--the researchers, the physicians, the public-health authorities, the health associations--commit themselves to a belief early in the evolution of the science, arguably at the stage at which they know the least about it, and then they become so invested in their belief that no amount of evidence to the contrary can convince them that they're wrong."

Even the ones who know they are wrong can't change directions. My doctor aimed me in one direction, but his clinic tried to send me in another. Unfortunately, I don't take direction well. I may not know much, but I do know old information when I hear it. My memory is still pretty good. So, I went the low carb, no sugar, no drugs, "if it's not leafy and green or protein don't eat it" route and I have lost 20 pounds since January and 34 since the previous January. More importantly, I have gone down 4" in belt size. The doc and I are still arguing about which numbers I'm supposed to care about; HDL, LDL, triglycerides, cholesterol in general, blood sugar, and a variety of things I think he should be measuring but isn't and the usual list of stuff the clinic monitors that doesn't mean crap. Lucky for me, it's my life we're gambling with and if anyone gets to decide how that die is tossed it's going to be me. If I have to start carrying a .32 in my pocket like my old cowboy hero, Karl, I will.

For now, the goal is 180 pounds by August and I'd like to be able to do at least a dozen pull-ups. I'm still working on the theory that being shot out of a cannon is better than being squeezed from a tube.