It occurred to me that we are missing the meaning of Honda’s slogan, “The Power of Dreams”. It’s a wonderful Honda pun.
So, someone tell me exactly where you go to buy motorcycle boots around here.
It’s time for me to retire another pair of Dainese touring boots, and that means a replacement pair is required. Worn soles, leaky membranes, small perforations, etc. I’ve found several pair that I’d like to try on, but the trying on part is the sticking point. I can’t find a place that either carries them or bothers stocking them. Because, you know, women’s gear isn’t a deal here in the midwest. Or anywhere in the US, as far as I can tell. Which is pretty darn lame because like most women, I want to try things on before I buy them.
I contacted the local internet shop, Sport Bike Track Gear. Great website with a lot of gear on it, but when I asked about visiting the shop, Eric explained that they “don’t really have any women’s gear” in stock at the showroom.
Revzilla suggested that I check my item numbers using their stock checker tool, and I found out that they have exactly one of the five pair I am interested in at their Philly gear boutique. Again, women’s = no stock. This extra sucks because I’ll be in Philly this weekend and I would gladly head over to drop some cash on boots and winter gloves. Maybe even a heated vest. Which they also don’t stock in the boutique. For women. I’m sensing a trend.
What’s missing here is neither place offered to bring the boots in for me by appointment. Sad, because I need boots and whoever can get my feet into them is getting a sale.
CycleGear carries the brands I want, but not the actual boots. The problem there is that I want the high-end styles with GoreTex. Too spendy for the average CG customer, maybe? Regardless, it’s still a dead end, albeit a bit closer to home over near Cleveland.
The Iron Pony is hit or miss depending on what they have bought out lately. And in this case, totally miss. Too bad, I’d enjoy the ride down to Columbus.
The rest of the gear “shops” I’ve found are internet only. Super.
To pull off actually trying on the boots side-by-side, I figure that I will need to drop upwards of $1700 on my credit card to get them all delivered to my doorstep, and then I’ll have to deal with the hassle of shipping the unwanted ones back. Presuming at least one pair is actually wanted. And whoever I order them from will get socked with a bunch of shipping costs.
I suppose I could just price shop to the bitter end and order another pair of Dainese boots that I know will fit and that I will get three years out of. Or I could just put plastic bags in my existing boots for another few months until I can snag a trip back to Germany. Over there, I can simply go downtown to the motorbike corner and *gasp* go across the street if I want to try on more than three or four pair at a time.
American retailers need to get the point – women riders will gladly buy. But they have to stock the gear first. And “available online” is not the same as stocking in store. Sorry.
More than a few people have asked me about the scraps of text taped to my fauxtank on the BMW. They are straight outta Keith Code’s A Twist of the Wrist 1 & 2, and in both English and German. Because I learned to ride in Germany, I can get stuck in German sometimes while riding. If everything is going well, English suffices.
Code’s concept is that there are a few mistakes that people make while interacting with their environment (these apply to every form of transit that removes one’s feet from the surface), and by learning to recognize them, we can learn to avoid making them. Additionally, there are a few rules for controlling the motorcycle that can make these mistakes not only less disturbing to the motorcycle, but also less dangerous for the rider. I wish I had read his books early on in my automotive track career.
A pointed note on Rule 1, the most misunderstood sentence in all of motorcycling. “Cracked open” means exactly that. “Rolled on continuously” means exactly that. Not “whacked open” and “whacked open all the way”. The concept of Rule 1 centers on the fact that a very slight amount of throttle angle increase is required to bring the bike back up to speed in the turn and recover from the lean, setting up for launching out of the turn exit. This increase must be made in a manner that does not upset the suspension of the bike. Think of snap oversteer in your favorite rear-engined RWD car. This is an example of upset suspension leading to pain. If the throttle angle is increased in the appropriate manner, the suspension remains composed and the rear tyre remains in tractive contact with the tarmac. It is also good execution of Rule 1 that allows riders to break the rear end loose and maintain control, analogous to drifting one’s car.
Thems the rules. Berndt Spiegel says it’s ok to tape them to your bike, too.
Motorcyclists talk about finding their dream bike. What they don’t talk about is what to do once you’ve found it.
The first time this usually comes up is when someone wants to purchase their first bike. “I’ve been dreaming about a XYZ1000 for years!” People jump all over them saying no, get a little bike, a starter bike. “But then I’ll just have to get the one I want later!” new person wails.
Well, that’s kind of the point. Getting another one, I mean. I have some experience with that.
I accidentally bought my long-term bike on the first try. It’s a great bike. It was great from day one. I fell for it hard and it’s not losing any charm or fun or anything. I have a bike that I love and fits me like a glove in every way. I don’t know that there actually is a better bike for me. So what? Well, the main problem is that I’m stuck with it. That’s an overly depressing way of looking at it, but it’s accurate. And it means that I miss out on one of the most fun parts of riding – riding all of the bikes. In fact, the only times I have managed to buy other bikes are when my long-term bike was not running. And once it was, I was right back in the saddle. I can’t stay away.
When people say “don’t buy your dream bike right out of the gate,” they mean don’t limit yourself, motorcycle-wise.
It also means don’t assume that what you want before you start riding is what you are going to want after you start riding.
I had some conflicting wants – I wanted to ride a BMW, but I wanted to look at sport bikes. I love how sport bikes look and ride. Standards are fun (the old R65 I want is a standard), but I don’t desire them like I desire sport bikes. Then I started riding, and discovered dual sports. Oops. As much as I love sport bikes and my CBR250R was illegal levels of fun and MV Agusta exists, nothing says “let’s go hoon!” like a dual sport. Nothing says “any time is the right time” like a dual sport. And, of course, nothing says “comfy and loaded” like a BMW. So naturally logic won out and I went out and bought myself a BMW dual sport right out of the gate. Oops.
Now I’m stuck. I want to try all the bikes, but it’s hard to justify it when I’ve got my right bike right here at hand already. Even worse is that now my dream bike is another one just like it, except in black. That’s right – two of them. Gotta match my outfits, you know. I still think about other bikes (I do want to collect an R65 one of these days), but none of them match up to my baby GS very favorably when it gets down to spending money. It’s a downer, I tell you. I think I need to go ride and shake it off.
So if someone suggests that you hold off on your dream bike, take them seriously. Ride all of the other bikes first. Because if it really is your dream bike, you’ll never want to ride anything else, and you’ll miss out on some good motorcycling fun.
Germany has a rule-based culture, and a fair chunk of life is spent figuring out how to get around the rules while still obeying them. Spirit vs letter of the law. In the US, we prize the Spirit of the Law. In Germany, it is the Letter of the Law. Once I figured this out, my life in Germany got to be fantastically easy. Just figure out how to get around the rule while creatively applying it, and you are fine. VW’s emissions control defeat programming would put the cars in compliance with the Letter of the Law, which specifies the testing conditions, while violating the Spirit of the Law, which says “don’t pollute”.
I am totally guilty of this, and I think the statute of limitations is up by now.
My wonderful MkIII Golf GT TDI (up top there) was not really in compliance with anything. It was low. It was leaky. Very leaky. And it sort of stopped. However, it was only a few hours of work away from passing the TÜV. Just like every other modified car in Germany – I had a procedure to get my car ready.
This is what it took:
- Porous head gasket. Several cans (ok, close to a case) of engine cleaner, a lot of rags, and two toilet brushes. Over the course of several hours, I removed enough oil and coolant residue to power a small nation. I also ran the coolant mixture down to about 10% glycol. Arrive at testing station just in time so car is hot.
- Badly worn summer tyres. Swap on winter wheels with good snows. Same thing if I was running too-large wheels, but I wasn’t.
- Lame brake pads. While I was in there swapping wheels, pull off all of the calipers and rough up pads and rotors.
- Barely clearing the 10cm bar. Leave car up on jackstands for 24 hours and drive gently to testing station. Bring certification letters for suspension with me with setup that passes circled. I had considered removing the front valance, but this risked failing the obviousness test.
When I arrived at the testing station, the car was solidly at 11cm and my coil count matched the paperwork. Braking was acceptable. I got some dirty looks for my snow tyres because it was May. I earned a comment on how clean the engine was. I noted it and realized that I should have cleaned it a week earlier to look less obvious. And the emissions check was thankfully in spec with no weirdness.
I failed on a broken reflector lens.
When I went back two weeks later, the lens was all they could check. So my clearly leaking (it was dripping) and obviously too low Golf was cleared for driving, because I passed the test as it was written.
I feel kind of funny saying this, but the “pass the test as written” is a cultural thing. With regard to #Dieselgate, I am willing to bet all of Internal Combustion knew exactly what was up and didn’t really think it was that big of a deal, because they passed the test. Oops.
I just read another useless listicle about how to survive high heels. Urgh.
There is one and only one “secret” to a comfortable pair of heels (other than the “secrets” that apply to all shoewear selection) and that is heel pitch.
It’s not even a secret, you can see it right there in front of you. Just look at your shoe and find the top line of the heel where it meets the body of the shoe. I put a pink line on the image to show you where it is.
Now that you know what heel pitch is, you can use it. See how the pink line intersects the forward sole of the shoe between the ball of the foot and the toe? That is good. That means that some of your weight will be borne by the heel. Lower heel pitch allows for a more even weight split between the heel and ball of the foot. When the line is steeper, you bear more weight on the ball of your foot. That is not good for all-day comfort. It is also not good for walking – as the heel bears little weight in a steep shoe, it is difficult to walk normally. If the shoe is designed for the heel to bear weight, you will be able to walk more normally and plunk that heel down with confidence.
The only thing you need to check the heel pitch before buying a pair of shoes is a straight line to hold the shoe up to – the edge of the shoe box works great. Line it up with the top of the heel and see where it intersects the sole. Forward of the ball of the foot is better – you will be more comfortable and wear and enjoy your new shoes more.
Reminds me of the old book “MBO Can Work!” Um, not really, but that is out of scope for today.
Tech Push is a business practice where technological innovation is pushed from the lab into the market. If you ask the question “can Tech Push work?” to an assortment of people working in new product introduction, you will get a variety of answers. A smaller segment will extol the virtues of one or another projects that they sent to market, while others will vigorously swear up and down that the lab has never developed anything that was actually necessary. The truth, as usual, is somewhere in between.
The opposite side of Tech Push is Market Pull, when the market demands a change and tries to pry it out of the lab. Often, the laws of physics come into play – as far as I know, no one has defeated them and lived. If the state of the art in technology hasn’t progressed to what the market wants, the market is stuck waiting for technology to catch up. It’s the proverbial better mousetrap problem.
The great middle requires redefining Tech Push into two different tacks: Blind Tech Push and Informed Tech Push. Blind Tech Push is the classic version. Think of the Apple Newton. An answer to a question no one asked. AT THE TIME. In 1993, no one had any idea what to do with the thing. In 2003, when RIM released the first BlackBerry device, email had taken over as a primary communication means and the role of a personal multi-mode communication device was much more obvious. In fact, the history of devices of all types is littered with things that were released too early into the market and for that reason alone, failed. These Blind Tech Pushes are the ones people think of when they say that they view Tech Push as a failure.
The second aspect of Tech Push is Informed Tech Push. My favorite quote to illustrate this point is from Henry Ford – “if I’d asked the people what they wanted, they’d have asked for a faster horse.” In this case, the market was pulling for a faster horse, and Ford knew that that wasn’t going to happen. But he could replace the horse with something faster, more fuel efficient, and lower maintenance. The Model T (in fact, all of Ford’s work and before his, Karl Benz’) was dependent on an understanding of the market demands and production of new technology to meet them. Hr Benz, however, was actually nearly a victim of Blind Tech Push – without his wife Bertha’s intervention, the Benz Patent Motorwagen would have been a footnote of history. Bertha Benz’ willingness to reach out to the market and tap a vein of desire (go off to visit family for a quick, safe jaunt!) allowed Benz to reach the market successfully and paved the way for the rest of the auto industry.
More recent examples of Informed Tech Push include the Nespresso coffee machine (you didn’t see that coming) and the FitBit, both of which carved markets seemingly out of the air. I’m ignoring the iPod here, because the market for mobile music players already existed, and the iPod was evolutionary in meeting market demand for smaller, faster, cheaper. In the case of Nespresso, the concept of single cup brewing was not new. Neither was hermetic packaging of foods. What was missing was the market for a $4 cup of high quality coffee. Up until good coffee became desirable in the US, it was virtually impossible to move the rather expensive single cup brewers that existed. Packaging issues with small volumes of ground coffee were too expensive to overcome, and the quality of coffee brewed in existing systems was actually dismal. However, by watching the market closely and following the price points of in-cafe coffee purchases, Nestle was able to introduce the (for the market) completely novel concept of long-term storable high-quality coffee in capsules combined with a brewing mechanism that looked like art and produced a very high quality cup of coffee, all at the newly accessible price point. If this sounds like market timing, it is. Informed Tech Push is all about market timing.
In the case of FitBit, micro accelerometer technology was available and recently deployed by Nintendo in the Wii. America had gotten the hang being measured with games like DanceDanceRevolution (in gym class, no less) and GuitarHero. The staff at FitBit saw the opportunity to move this technology into the world of personal health. Rather than languishing in the fitness world where only the hardcore participated, they looked to a chronically underserved market – people sitting on their butts. Of which there are significantly more. By reading the market and understanding the goals of the larger personal health target audience, they were able to do what Nike and Garmin had failed at – capture the attention of the non-gym rat crowd.
In all cases, a careful dance with the left foot of the lab and the right foot of marketing allowed new technology to carve out a solid market and succeed.
When you think about Tech Push and Market Pull, remember that they rarely work independently. They work best when the tech is ready before the market is, but never without a clear understanding of what the market actually needs and wants.
© 2015 www.atomicalex.com
I’ve been unable to track down the origin of the phrase “a job so simple a monkey can do it”, so I’ll make do here with a few other monkey aphorisms. All to set up for a useful post, I promise.
Some years (or eons) ago, it was posited that if you gave a million monkeys each a typewriter, eventually one would hack out some Shakespeare. Actually, it’s called the infinite monkey theorem, and it says (per Wikipedia) that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare. In truth, the monkeys did not type anything useful at all, and destroyed the typewriters in the process.
A monkey wrench is a wrench that is make-do, can be arranged to work in a given situation. It turns out to have a nautical origin in name, and a horsedrawn carriage origin in function. It is actually not a pipe wrench, being that the jaws are perpendicular to the handle instead of angled as in a pipe wrench. They are also often flat instead of toothed. But they can be monkeyed around with until they work, for sure.
Throwing the monkey wrench into something is another name for sabotage.
CareerBuilder.com’s monkey advertisements reinforced the idea the monkeys are not anyone’s choice of top recruits for jobs that might provide a decent paycheck.
Monkeys are a metaphor for small, unreliable operations and operators that can go wrongly, often with spectacularly bad (ok, hilarious) results.
Let’s head back to the monkeys on the job.
During work on a large, game-changing software installation that I recently participated it, a healthy debate set up between some of the stakeholders, one group of which wanted a process that “a monkey could operate”, and one group who wanted an expert process. Middle ground was, as usual, scarce. The process in question was a stage and gate process and one of the complexities was the processing of gates – should it be automated or should it require intervention from humans skilled in the art?
This posed two rather fundamental process governance questions – how complex should the process be, and how much knowledge should be required to operate it?
The governance issue was the subject of much debate within the chartering organization, and both sides made compelling arguments. The monkey side wanted a process that could not be perverted for individual gain and that would not place additional burden on the already thin staff. The expert side wanted to know that the right decisions were being made regardless of a number, that no opportunities were being missed, and that common sense would always prevail. Both agreed that the governance of the process was critical to its success and turned back to the team for an answer.
Out of this challenge, my team, the team in charge of implementation, threw up our hands in frustration and exclaimed “if the process is so simple that it only requires monkeys to operate, then why do we need (to pay) senior managers?” We christened this “the monkey rule”.
We created a paradox in the process: the only people who could specify a monkey-enabled process were the senior managers, who then would become irrelevant in doing so. At the same time, the managers demanding as expert process were committing to the work required, because it could not be delegated to monkeys by virtue of its expert content.
Both arguments hold water – some processes are suitable for “monkey-enabling” and others will never make it out of the C-suite. The middle ground is where application of the monkey rule is required. For example, simple invoice checking for completeness is a relatively straightforward process – are all of the pieces of information there? Ok, move it on to the next step. Choosing a vendor is much more complex and not all of the useful information has a numeric value or can be converted to one. How do you rate the sole proprietor’s chances of a heart attack in the next ten months? Well, it probably starts with a phone call and might proceed to a face-to-face meeting over lunch. Things that are often handled by managers of some level with some amount of gut expertise. An expert, if you will.
In the end, the team and the chartering organization went the route of the expert process requiring the senior managers to actively participate. It’s mostly working, and it’s generating accountability that was previously unheard of in the organization. It’s also revealing some opportunities for improvement and a non-trivial number of missing experts.
Most importantly, the monkey rule served its purpose – to differentiate between the truly monkey-level tasks and those that do require a well-funded paycheck. Our managers are still being paid.
Where are you going to deploy the monkey rule?
… only if you check it. Drownpour on the way home from work that started about two minutes into the ride and ended about two minutes before I got home. Fifteen minutes of pounding surf.
Yeah. There was a little bit of water in my boots.
I saw it on a beer ad – “Always drink responsibly.”
I thought about it for a while and wondered who teaches our children to do this responsible drinking thing? By the time my children can legally take a sip of wine, they will be past the point of me teaching them much of anything. At twenty-one years of age, they can for the first time partake of an alcoholic beverage. Three years after they have left the protection of my home. Three years after they have flown the coop. Three years after I have had the best chance of instilling some sensibility in them.
With this, I would like to raise the question – how can I teach my children to drink responsibly if they cannot drink with me and learn from me?
Other nations have sorted this out. During our time in Germany, we availed ourselves of the local liquor laws that allow children to partake in this dangerous game so long as they are at home and in the care of their parents. A sip of wine with dinner and tastings of various beers that crossed our threshold were little chances to expose our kids to America’s forbidden fruit. They discovered all kinds of things – bubble wine tickles. Sweet whites are “yucky”. Dry wines taste like the earth. Light beer is not really beer. Dark beers all taste different. And so on. One simply liked trying new things and the other turned into a cheese snob with a preference for dry whites. Their feedback and comments were delightful as they learned about the role of beer and wine on the table for those three precious years. And now, we are back in the US. It’s not as much fun when we can’t include them in the pairings we’ve carefully arranged for dinner.
Had we stayed longer, we could have bought them a beer at a restaurant at the tender age of 14. One beer, which in our town was a whopping 7oz. At 16, they could buy themselves beer or wine, and at 18, hard liquor. That’s right – graduated drinking laws. Just like graduated driver’s licensing, which nearly every US state has now.
Imagine being able to introduce your kids to alcohol in a holistic setting. Imagine them running off to college while thinking that the only reason to drink wine was to improve dinner. Imagine teaching your kids responsible drinking, right in your own home, when they are still receptive to your guidance. Imagine their first poor judgement call as a teaching moment instead of painful shame. If you have daughters, imagine preparing them for the worst, arming them with self-knowledge needed to protect themselves from potential harm.
I want my kids to drink responsibly. I want them to learn to drink from someone whose ulterior motive is something other than drunken stupor. I want them to know when to say when, before they have to for real.
It’s time to start a new discussion about US liquor laws.