Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ed, Bill and Ralph

Edgar - King of the chair

Bill - Has a cold

Ralph - big puppy

Edgar and Ralph moving - I like the expression on Ralph's face

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cold Weather Motorcycling

I wanted to get the Harley Davidson Cold Weather Gauntlet gloves since in the Motorcycle Cruiser review of Cold-Weather Motorcycling Gloves they say they are the warmest - but it doesn't appear HD makes that particular glove anymore.

I ended up getting the Firstgear Voyager 2.0 glove at Bent Bike in Lynnwood.

I like the quality of my Firstgear cold weather One-Piece Suit so I assumed they make pretty good winter gloves too. My hands were nice and warm on the 15 mile ride home at speeds from 35 to 60 mph with the temperature in the high 30's.

I'm looking forward to seeing how they work in the rain.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

KZP Headlamp Replacement - It Pays to Shop Around

The low beam on my Kawasaki burned out awhile back and I went shopping for a replacement.

The replacement bulb for a 2000 KZP is Kawasaki p/n 92069-1002. A local Kaw dealer and want $62.96 for that bulb. The stock bulb is a H4 (Halogen 4) 60/55W. This bulb is also known as a 9003 bulb. It's used on some automobiles as well as motorcycles.

That seemed like a lot of money for this little bulb so I ended up buying a couple from Napa online for $5.49 each plus $7.49 shipping. I would have bought them locally but none of the Napa auto parts stores had them in stock and they wanted me to pay shipping and then pick them up at the store. Made more sense to have them shipped to me.

I replaced the bulb and noticed it wasn't as bright as the one that had failed. I assumed the burned out bulb was stock but it turned out to be a H4 100/80W bulb. You can buy one of those at JC Whitney or Amazon etc. for 9 bucks. The description of the 100/80W bulb says it's for use in off-road conditions only. If I was doing much night driving I might go ahead and get one - it made a difference in road visibility and no one was flashing their high beams at me while I was driving with it - so I assume it wasn't blinding oncoming drivers or annoying them.

You can read about the H4 9003 designations on Wikipedia or at CandlePowerForums. The H4 comes in a range of wattage ratings e.g. 60/55W, 100/55W, 100/80W, 130/90W. This first number is the high beam and the second is for low.

I guess it pays to shop around and check to see that the part you are ordering is actually same as the the one on the bike. I never thought of going through the minor hassle of pulling the old bulb to make sure what wattage it was - I was more interested in riding and I had a high beam and a couple of driving lamps working.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Immediate Feedback

A lot of things we do tend to be fairly abstract in the sense that there is no immediate relationship between our actions and the results. We accept that is the case when we raise children, work as teachers, put effort into becoming more educated or do things like limiting our food/alcohol intake and increasing physical activity in hopes of being healthier.

The challenge is that in our modern world we sometimes find too many things we do in our work and our leisure time (if we focus on online activities) to be abstractions or distractions.

If you were a subsistence farmer and made a mistake in your crop planning, planting, cultivation, or harvesting you might end up starving. If you were a cave person and got too close to the Saber Tooth cat you might be lunch.

It doesn't have to be anything that dramatic though - if you are sewing a shirt, knitting a sweater, cooking a meal, working on a car or motorcycle - you get pretty immediate feedback that what you are doing is or isn't working. I think that appeals to people - you don't have to wait and wonder if that email you sent did what you wanted - you can see you knit one sleeve longer than the other, you stripped that bolt - you burnt the pie.

If you interact directly with another human (especially the younger type humans) you will get immediate feedback.

If you pet or play games with a dog or a cat - you get immediate feedback.

Individual sports like golf, bowling, fishing have that same sort of appeal where what you do has an immediate impact on the results. Not so much a team sport where the team wins or loses - although there is certainly the opportunity for one person to have a positive or negative impact on the game (sort of like work for some people) - but you can't say one person won or lost a football, basketball or hockey game.

One of the appeals of gambling is that you either win or lose a bet, and thereby validate your actions, although money in itself is a bit of an abstraction in some context.

You can take it up a notch with other activities like bicycling, kayaking, mountain climbing, motorcycle riding where the risks are higher and you either manage risk - or one day your luck runs out.

I think it's all about wanting to be alive while you're living and know that what you do has an impact. So go bake a pie or ride a bike or talk to a little kid or something (talking to myself again...)

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Deep Roots Project

I'm posting this video because I like the background music. The song is "It's My Youth" - lyrics written by Jesse Altig, and music by Andy Tabb. It's one of the songs written by high school students for the The Deep Roots Project which was started in the Portland area in 1998 by a high school teacher named Chris Gragg. You can listen to samples of their music and buy CD's at CD Baby

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Westlake Holiday Carousel

It was a lot of fun to volunteer tonight. I got more carousel rides in one
night than in my whole life. All for the good cause of supporting
Treehouse for Kids.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Today's Ride

I rode my KZP from Everett to the Seattle International Motorcycle Show today.

It's the first time I've been to one of those. I thought it would be like the Seattle Bicycle Expo where you can get some good deals on clothing and bicycles. I'm not in the market for a motorcycle but I was surprised at the prices (and lack of selection) for clothing and gear. I was interested in a pair of over-pants, but the prices at the show were higher than what you pay online - at least for the couple of pairs of Tour Master pants that I looked at. They were asking MSRP but these things always seem to be on sale online.

It was a good day for a ride - sunny and 36 to 38 degrees, parking was free and I think I can use my ticket at a Harley dealership for $10 off on some gloves I want - so the show cost me a buck.

On my way home I snapped a picture of the 75 cent room sign in Pioneer Square -

I wandered over to Peets in Freemont and had a double espresso on the deck in front -

Then went under the bridge and got a picture of the troll -

Then I headed North through stop and go traffic on I-5 and got home in time to see the University of Montana Grizzlies win their football game against Appalachian State in the semi-finals. Game time temp in Missoula was about 18 F with some blowing snow thrown in for extra excitement.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Quest for Warm(er) Hands - MSR Hand Deflectors

I ordered some MSR Hand Deflectors from They don't completely enclose your hands, and aren't insulated with fleece, like the Hippo Hands.

I have some cold weather neoprene bicycling gloves I wear under a pair of leather gloves that work pretty good - but it would be nice to have my hands just a little warmer. I think the MSR hand deflectors might offer just enough wind protection to keep my hands comfortable on short rides on cold days and those longer rides on chilly days.

The MSR units are advertised as universal fit - they strap on, so they don't require a mounting bracket. I'm interested to see how they work out.

Postscript Jan 7 2010:

The MSR hand deflectors didn't work for me. With the single strap they tend to flop around and were impossible to mount securely, orient correctly since they hit the mirrors and they tend to push on the clutch/brake lever as the wind pushes them back. You could, if you were so inclined, modify them by drilling a hole in them so they'd fit over the mirror stems and construct (or buy) a mounting bracket to keep them from pushing on the clutch/brake levers. I wasn't so inclined so I returned them.

I've figured out that the fairing on the KZP makes a big difference in wind chill compared to the Sportster, and for the type of riding I'm doing a pair of winter gloves is sufficient on the KZP. For the Sporty you would need some heated grips or gloves or some sort of wind deflector if you were going to ride it in below 40 weather (which I don't anyway since I'm not using a winter weight oil).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

AMA Membership - Includes Motorcycle Towing

For $39 a year an American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) Membership provides some pretty good benefits.

You get towing service that covers -
  • All of your motorcycles, cars and trucks
  • Towing up to 35 miles.
  • Up to five dispatched service calls per year
  • RV's
  • Trailers
  • Trip Routing
You also get a subscription to American Motorcyclist Magazine and discounts on motorcycle rentals, lodging, campgrounds and motorcycle supply stores. You get a $10 gift card from when you sign up for the AMA.

I think getting the tow coverage for the price of a magazine subscription is a good deal. I'll find out for sure if I ever have an occasion to use the service.

For comparison purposes AAA"Plus RV" covers motorcycles and is $125 a year. The basic AAA membership is $59 a year but only covers tows up to 5 miles and doesn't cover motorcycles. It might make sense to sign up for the AMA even if you don't have a motorcycle.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Motorcycle Consumer News

I haven't read a lot of motorcycle magazines since I was a kid, but I have to say nowadays my favorite is Motorcycle Consumer News. The other magazines have lots of ads and pictures and tend to focus on a particular type of bike or riding. Motorcycle Consumer News doesn't have any ads and has a wide variety of articles of interest to any type of bike or riding.

They also have a Used Bike Value Guide that's a handy reference point when you're perusing the craigslist motorcycle classifieds. It's not surprising that the majority of motorcycle owners are asking more for their used bikes than the NADA price.

The NADA prices are for the "full retail value of a stock motorcycle in a reconditioned or clean, undamaged and well-maintained condition with average mileage, ready to be sold by a dealer or between individuals. The value assigned is a national average." These prices are a good starting point for determining if that craigslist bike is a good deal or not.

It's not online but Motorcycle Consumer News also has a summary of every popular motorcycle showing 0-60 time, top speed, horsepower, torque - if you like to compare those things.

I'd guess Motorcycle Consumer News probably appeals more to a mature rider, or someone who likes motorcycles, and riding motorcycles, in general and isn't locked-in on a particular brand or type of riding.

MCN is available at the Everett Public Library or you can get your own subscription for $22/year.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Google Chrome - For Linux

The Google Chrome browser is available for Linux now. It's still beta but seems to be working great for me - faster than the fox. You can search from the address bar using CTRL K, so you don't need a separate search box and you don't need to move your cursor to start typing a search term. Chrome has other Keyboard and mouse shortcuts that might make things quicker for you too.

I downloaded a pre-beta version months ago and it wasn't ready for distribution. Google developers were clear on that, so I just played with it for awhile and got on the mailing list for when the official beta came out.

Chrome will import all your Firefox favorites - so it's easy to switch over and see what you think.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Creamy Squash Soup Recipe

I made this soup yesterday using the recipe from the back of a Silk Soymilk container -

Ingredients -

3 cups butternut squash chunks (de-seeded and peeled)
3 cups vegetable stock
1 clove garlic - minced
1 cup Silk Organic Unsweetened Soymilk
1 pinch ground ginger
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute the garlic in your saucepan, add the vegetable stock and squash chunks - let simmer until squash is soft (about 10 minutes).

Puree in a blender. I used a hand blender, because I don't like pouring boiling hot stuff in a blender, and didn't feel like waiting for it to cool off. You could probably use a mixer or a fork if you don't have a blender.

Add the soymilk, ginger, salt, pepper and reheat.

I used a couple of random squash (squashes? squish?) that were in the kitchen (not butternut) and it turned out very good - nice and sweet and good on a cold wintery day.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Time To Garage the Bike - Maybe

It was 28 F when I left for work this Friday morning. The cold isn't really a problem but the frost could be. I felt my tires start to come loose from the pavement while going around a corner - an adrenalin boost on a two-wheeler...but a little too risky for my tastes. Riding a motorcycle on icy streets is probably a bit stupid, so I'll be trying to avoid that in the future.

Postscript - Saturday was nice - sunny and cold, but there was some frost in the shady areas so we spent the day going up North to cut down a Christmas tree (drove the pickup...not a bike). Sunday afternoon it was 36 F and sunny. I rode my Kaw about 70 miles - mostly on the freeway. It wasn't bad at all with the windshield and riding suit. I just need something a little better for my hands - maybe some Hippo Hands or something like that.

I tried to fire up the Sportster when I got home and that 20-50 oil was like molasses in January. It's suppose to be good down to 40 F, so it was a little cold for that weight oil and the engine just couldn't get spinning fast enough to fire-up, plus it's probably not the best thing for the engine bearings, cylinders, push-rods to run that weight oil when it's below 40. I have the trickle charger/maintainer on it now and hope we see some 40 plus weather here in the not too distant future.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Kawsaki and Harley - A Few Observations

A few observations on the 4 cylinder Kawasaki vs. the Harley V-Twin - (a) it's a lot easier to change the oil and filter on the Harley. The Harley has a spin on oil filter and a drain plug held in place with a hose clamp, so you if you have a screwdriver and fairly strong grip to spin the filter you can change the oil and filter. The Kawasaki on the other hand has a complicated filter assembly that won't clear one of the exhaust pipe clamps, so you get to free that rusted nut before dropping the filter out. Make sure you get the two o-rings, spring, washer, and top cap back in correctly when you reassemble (see pic below for the parts that make up the oil filter assembly) (b) hydraulic lifters make the Harley worry free when it comes to valve adjustment. The Kaw on the other hand is supposed to have the valves checked, and adjusted using shims if necessary, every 3000 miles. This involves removing - the gas tank, 20 bolts from the valve covers and some other stuff (I haven't tried it yet...). and (c) The Harley has a belt drive. No messy chain lubing like on the Kawaski.

They are both fun to ride and wrench on. Just different. The Kawasaki is lighter and more maneuverable. The Harley gets up and goes at low RPM's. The Harley sounds good and gets 50 mpg around town. The Kawasaki sounds like a 4 cylinder engine revving pretty high (4000 rpm at 60 mph) and gets about 30 mpg around town (more than 50 mpg on the highway though).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Two Favorite Motorcycle Forum Topics - Engine Oil and Chain Lube

People love to ask and answer questions about what's the best oil to use in a motorcycle engine and the best lubricant, and how to apply it, for a motorcycle chain.

You get all sorts of opinions.

Some folks think it doesn't matter what brand of oil you use and that is doesn't need to be specifically formulated for a motorcycle. I tend to think there's some happy median (medium or something). Harley recommends diesel engine oil if you can't find the secret formula HD brand oil. Diesels run hot and go long distances between oil changes, so the oil for those engines has to be pretty good stuff.

The economics of trucking make the price for diesel engine oils competitive, unlike motorcycle oil where people can afford and are willing to pay 10 dollars for a quart of oil - because it's all discretionary spending to begin with unless it's your only vehicle - which is unlikely.

Interesting that if you're driving a semi-truck you can get service at Peterbilt including - oil (up to 44 quarts), oil filter(s), fuel filter, water filter and chassis lube for $179.95, and there are people who claim a Harley dealer wanted $225.00 to change oil or $191.00 if you supply the oil (4 qts). For that price it's probably a good idea to buy a screwdriver and a manual unless you don't like getting your hands dirty or are wrench challenged.

I only recently discovered that motorcycle forums have almost as many threads on chain lube as engine oil...

Some people like to remove chains from motorcycles and boil them in kerosene and then bake them in the oven to get a nice coating of grease - those would be your single motorcycle riders with a lot of time on their hands, who have older bikes that have a master link in the chain. Recommended interval for drive chain lubrication is every 200 miles and if it's wet/dirty on the road you may need to do it more often - so the boil and bake probably isn't very practical.

Some people use 3 in 1 oil or WD-40 on their chain. Some people think you should use a lubricant that says it's for a motorcycle chain (I'm with them).

Some people don't think you ever need to oil a chain - they must of never ridden a bicycle with a dry chain and realized how much easier it is to pedal when the chain is oiled.

I don't have any answers when it comes to oil for motorcycles but this guy seems to know what he's talking about when it comes to All About Motor Oil.

I've been using Mobil V-Twin 20W-50 synthetic oil in my Sportster and Shell Rotella Diesel Engine Oil 15W-40 in the Kaw. I used some super cheap Safeway brand before the Rotella. From what I've read that isn't a problem, as long as you change your oil frequently - which I was planning anyway. I was using the Safeway oil to make sure I had the right amount of oil in the crankcase and as a pre-drain oil before I put in something better a few days later when I did my first oil and filter change on the Kaw.

Rotella is around 14 bucks a gallon and Mobil 1 is 10 something a quart, at Autozone, which is about 7 blocks from my house - which plays into my decision to use those brands. Both the HD and the Kawasaki use a little less than a gallon of oil for an oil change and the recommended oil change is every 5000 miles on the Harley and every 3000 miles on the Kawasaki.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Taking The KZP Out For a Spin Today

This is on the bluff by Legion Park - there's a hint of sun today,
after lots of rain.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Keeping Busy

I haven't been updating my blog for awhile because I've been busy with motorcycley things. Mostly outdoors or in the garage.

I really like my Sporty but I don't like riding it when it's wet out because it's so nice and shiny, and the saddlebags on it are made of leather which soaks through in the rain. I looked into saddle bag upgrades and a rack - but those are pretty pricey and I like the clean look of the Sportster as it is.

Not that I'd buy them, but a pair of color-matched Harley hard bags for a Sportster are $1400 and a rack/sideplates/sissy bar/light relocation kit is another $350. Throw in a windshield and a fairing and you are getting up there.

Once I'd justified to myself that another motorcycle might actually be less expensive then adding those things - and allow me to leave my Sportster looking cool, I started looking for a used bike. One that already had storage space, and maybe a windshield and fairing. Something I could ride and not care if it got wet and dirty. I know a Harley could be just fine in the rain and slop - I just wanted something to beat around on and want to keep my Harley shiny and new looking for awhile at least.

I ended up getting a 2000 KZP 1000 (Kawasaki Police Motorcycle Model P19), from a guy in Silvana, for commuting when the weather isn't so nice and for general banging around. The bike has 29K miles on it and belonged to the Snohomish County Sherriff's Department. He bought it at a local auction. The P models were made from 1982 to 2005 in Lincoln, Nebraska, and are all basically the same motorcycle so parts are easy to find.

It has two hard bags, a big rack, three nice bright head lights, a windshield and fairing with a couple of storage pockets. It also has a big trunk the previous owner gave me off another bike that I can mount with a little drilling and adapting.

I've been busy riding and learning the basics of maintaining the bike, getting the owners manual, repair manual, oil and filter change, air filter, tire pressure, brake pads, chain lube...that kind of stuff.

It's a fun bike to ride to work and has enough storage space to carry my stuff. So far it runs great and it's old enough that it needs a fair amount of tinkering for fixing small stuff - which I like. It still has the run-flat tires on it so if I ever have to run across a spike strip roadblock, I have that going for me.


I've been doing some online lurking in the various motorcycle forums like What is the strangest thing you hit/almost hit? - ADVrider

You can learn a lot from those forums - for example I learned that if you ride a motorcycle you should stay the hell out of Georgia - they have all kinds of weird crap on the road that might hurt you. One guy from Georgia has this almost hitlist -

"1) A live turkey, back roads, Austell, GA. Spun me around but I did not go down.

2) Aluminum Ladder, I-285 Atlanta. Kinda jumped it, should have wrecked but didn't.

3) A steel nut, about 2 inches in diameter, straight to the chest (thought it stopped my heart it hit so hard) I-285 Atlanta

4) Muffler and attached exhaust pipe, 575 near Canton, GA. No wreck

5) Water melon, I-75 near Valdosta. Almost, and I mean almost but no wreck.

6) Wooden pallet (empty) East/West Connector, Austell, GA. Scared me shitless.

7) A helmet, unstrapped and blew off another rider in front of me, Daytona. No wreck.

8) German Shepherd, near Bo-Bo's house. No wreck but torn up a guys fresh grass stopping it."

"Weirdest I have heard, guy from Earl Smalls Harley Davidson in Marietta, Ga was headed to the Hard Rock Cafe in Atlantawith a group of bikes. I-75 south after dark. He hit an upside down wheelbarrow tub that already had the wheels and supports knocked off. Was almost a perfect ramp. Said he was about 8 feet off the ground, got some good distance and landed without crashing. LOTS and LOTS of damage to the bike."

But he's not done yet...

"And then on I-20 near Madison, Ga early one morning I am zipping along behind a big generic Fed-Ex/UPS kinda truck when he abruptly swerves and right there was a camper shell from a pick-up! Easy to react on a bike but still odd. Same place the next year was a bed liner."
They must not have much traffic in Georgia because if there was that much stuff laying on I-5 in the Seattle area we'd have total gridlock or a lot of accidents quick.

My stories are boring compared to that guys. I grazed a pig at high speed one time (me at high speed not the pig...he was going pretty slow and came up out of some brush as I was rounding a corner). I was Southbound out of Columbus Montana just before the bridge over the Yellowstone River, steep banks on either side - so there wasn't much room to maneuver. I swerved and just clipped him which bent the shifter pedal sideways. Another time lane-splitting in California I got my foot caught between a tire on a car going about 70 mph and my foot peg. The friction from that spinning tire melted my cheapie tennis shoe really quick. Nothing that exciting - I haven't got any air jumping over upside down wheelbarrows on the interstate...yet.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

"It Is Better to Travel Hopefully Than to Arrive"

The title of this post is from Robert Louis Stevenson.

I ran across the quote in a good book called Lois on the Loose written by a young woman who left her cubicle in London to ride a 225cc Yamaha Serow trail bike from Anchorage, Alaska to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina at the tip of South America.

There's an interesting article about the author Lois Pryce here and information about her motorcycle at this link.

She doesn't think the world is a scary place, and consequently is able to do things some people only dream of and others would never consider.


A little side-note on Robert Louis Stevenson.

He is considered one of the first outdoor adventure writers for his book Travels with a Donkey in the CĂ©vennes written in 1879. He writes about the sleeping sack he designed saying "I was determined, if not to camp out, at least to have the means of camping out in my possession; for there is nothing more harassing to an easy mind than the necessity of reaching shelter by dusk, and the hospitality of a village inn is not always to be reckoned sure by those who trudge on foot."

His sleeping sack was 6 x 6 feet, waterproof, lined with sheepskin and so bulky it forced him to travel with the donkey to carry it.

The hull of his schooner the Equator is stored at the Everett waterfront.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Rode To The Olympic Peninsula Today

I rode my motorcycle over to the Olympic Peninsula today. It was a fairly long day with two ferry rides and quite a bit of circling around through Port Orchard to locate the office of the person I was meeting. I should have listened to his directions a little better - but my iPhone saved me from having to ask for directions again.

The purpose of my trip was to look at a nice old Harley Davidson leather jacket I saw on Craigslist and to enjoy riding on what may be the last warm/dry day for awhile. The jacket fit me perfectly and cost less than a 1/4 what you'd pay for a new one. It's heavy leather and like new - never been wet or scraped along the pavement. The guy I bought it from was really nice and interesting to talk with. He wants to downsize before moving back to Tennessee so he's selling a lot of items he's collected over the years at good prices.

He bought the jacket at a Harley dealership when he lived in Hawaii, but it was generally too hot to wear it there so it hung in his closet for years. He's 66 and currently doesn't have a motorcycle, but he loves to talk about them. His grandfather was riding motorcycles until his 80's and one of his uncles into his 70's - until he died in his sleep on the front porch after a motorcycle ride.

It was a good day. I got to ride along the West side of the Hood Canal which I've been wanting to do for quite awhile. I got to feel the weather warm up and cool down as I rode. There wasn't any rain. It got a little chilly riding in the shady areas, but not too bad. I need to work on my layering techniques and get a pair of warmer gauntlet style gloves for longer rides when it's in the 50's or below. The ferry ride from Edmonds to Kingston is $5.15 for a motorcycle and rider.

View Around Hood Canal in a larger map

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Motorcycle Links

I've been immersed in reading about motorcycles lately - magazines, books and online.

These are some of the links I've bookmarked.

General Interest -

Adventure Rider Motorcycle Forum
Horizons Unlimited
MicaPeak dot com

Sportster / HD Specific -

The International Portal for Sportster and Buell Motorcycle Enthusiasts
The Sportster Home Page
V-Twin Forum
Harley-Davidson USA
Home Page - Sound Harley
Washington Motorcycle Dealer - Eastside Harley-Davidson
Harley Davidson Maintenance - Harley Davidson maintenance tips and advice.
How to change transmission oil in a sportster
Poor Man's Sportster Service Maintenance Guide
Self Help Information and Tips - Harley Davidson Community
YouTube - Harley Davidson Motorcycles : How to Do an Oil Change on a Harley Davidson Sportster

Equipment -


The most interesting link for me right now is the first one - Adventure Rider Motorcycle Forum. It has stories from a guy who rode a Harley hard-tail chopper around the world The WRONG Way Round.... on a Chopper! - ADVrider and one about a young man who rode a moped from Australia to London Sydney to London on a moped called Dot - ADVrider

Nothing new about boys wanting to have a motorcycle adventure as you can see from these early 1900's Online Books at MicaPeak dot com. I haven't read them but they look amusing and it's interesting to think about what young men in 1906 were reading.

MicaPeak dot com also has Motorcycle Registries where owners leave their impressions of motorcycles they own or have owned.

Horizons Unlimited looks like a good site if you want to ride your motorcycle across the Sahara Desert or something like that.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

2000 Miles

I've put about 2000 miles on my motorcycle in the last 5 weeks. I've been going in circles a lot and haven't gotten much more than 100 miles from Everett. If I would have driven in a straighter line I could have driven to Juarez, Mexico or Madison, Wisconsin. Maybe next year.

It's interesting to think about what makes a good motorcycle and why people buy motorcycles and ride motorcycles. I've been lurking around the Harley forums and some owners like to modify/customize their bikes not so much for riding as for the aesthetic pleasure. That's cool - you see some real works of art.

Other people like the speed factor. That's cool too - but when you get to be my age enough speed tends to be something quite a bit less than it is when you are younger. Before I bought this latest motorcycle I was thinking about putting a motor on a bicycle, but I wasn't sure if it would have enough power to pull me up a hill. So my sights (powerwise) were set pretty low.

Some people like to belong to a club or define themselves by what mode of transportation they use. That's not really my cup of tea - I'm happy riding a bus, bicycle, train, airplane, subway..walking etc. But I don't think of myself as a member of the occasional bus riders club. I'm not really brand or mode sensitive when it comes to transportation.

My definition of a good motorcycle is one that runs. I like all sorts of motorcycles but I'm especially pleased when I see some old beater type bike that someone keeps running and uses to commute or for touring. There's just something about the functionality and keeping something old running that appeals to me. Not that a nice decked out BMW, Gold Wing or Harley isn't cool too.

I was thinking about putting on a different seat, shocks and saddlebags but the more I think about it I think I'll just leave my bike as it is and see how long I can keep it running without having to take it to a mechanic.

I just have to stop looking at other motorcycles on Craigslist...there's a 2007 Suzuki Bandit 1250 with various upgrades and 2900 miles on it for sale in Ellensburg for $5900. That looks like a nice bike and a good price - but it doesn't make sense to have two motorcycles sitting in the garage over the winter. Maybe next spring...


That's a picture of the back of the stock seat at the top of this post. I like the stitching that says "Sportster Since 1957" - it looks sort of old fashioned and reminds how long this particular Harley model has been around.

Harley Davidson motorcycles have a long history, having been around since the early 1900's.

My maternal grandfather John Williams had a Harley in the 1940's, and he and my grandmother belonged to a motorcycle club that would go on rides around Wisconsin and stop to have picnics and socialize. He was a machinist and quite mechanically inclined - he built my mother and her sister an electric car and built his own speedboat, among other things.

He was killed riding his motorcycle when a car load of women who had been drinking stopped to make a U turn in a blind spot in the road. I'm sure it was very sad for my mother, her sister and mother to lose a father and a husband. My grandmother was an independent sort and worked as a school teacher for many years, after moving back to Montana from Wisconsin, where she'd worked in a defense plant during WWII.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Katsura This Fall

Katsura This Fall
Originally uploaded by Jack Crossen
This Katsura tree has done well in our front yard. It has a nice shape and delicate leaves that really get bright in the fall. I used to pinch off the ends of branches when it was small to stimulate more branching, and prune the crossed branches - but it's doing fine on it's own now.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ferry Then Motorcycle Ride

I took the ferry from Mukilteo to Whidbey Island on Sunday and this motorcycle was in front of me in the ferry line. It's a Suzuki 650 that looks like it's been around the block a few times - including Alaska. It's a functional bike with the metal saddle bags, large rear rack and GPS. The guy riding it lives in Seattle and was meeting his friend who got on the earlier ferry. I hadn't thought of a 650 as a touring bike but reading through reviews at it's obvious that owners really like the Suzuki DL650 for distance riding and lots of other things. It's got a big gas tank (5.8 gallons), top speed of 115 mph, 0-60 mph in 3.98 seconds and there's a new one on eBay for $6000 (MSRP is $7500).

The fare for a motorcycle is $3.05 and you get to get on and off first. You have just enough time to drink a cup of coffee on the run from Mukilteo to Clinton. You get to park your motorcycle on the front of the ferry on the main deck at water level so you get a nice view too.

I rode the back roads along the water up Whidbey Island to Langley, over to Fort Casey State Park and then north over the Deception Pass Bridge and dropped down to La Conner where I sat by a fireplace in a bookstore and drank a cup of coffee.

These are a couple of pictures I took at Fort Casey of the water and some tame deer that were hanging around.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Bad Driving - Kills People

Riding a motorcycle makes you hyper-aware of how bad some drivers are. You learn to drive defensively - look ahead, plan ahead, anticipate what may happen based on what's ahead, never assume someone is going to do the sensible thing and leave yourself an escape route for those times when you need it.

I was driving East on Madison last night at about 9 pm. At the intersection with Broadway the light was red. The light turned green right after I stopped and no one was behind me so I wasn't in a big hurry and sat for a couple of seconds after the light turned green getting ready to enter the road. I was wearing some goggles that force me to turn my head to see to the sides, so that added some time as well.

A guy in a full sized pickup talking on a cell phone blasted through the red light. He would have hit me if I would have entered the intersection as soon as the light turned green or if I would have arrived a couple of seconds earlier and went through the green light. The speed limit on that part of Broadway is 35 mph and he wasn't going any slower than that. He apparently had no intention of stopping since the light was red for several seconds before he drove through it. I don't know if he didn't see me or just assumed I saw him and would stay out of his way.

I followed him for a few blocks at a distance because I was curious to see if he was drunk or just an idiot. He got out of his pickup at what I assume was his house/apartment and was still talking on his cell phone standing on the porch.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Washington Motorcycle Safety Training

I'm taking a Washington Motorcycle Safety Training class this weekend.

I'm pretty psyched up to learn all I can about safe riding in the morning classes, and in the afternoons we get to ride little motorbikes around a course - which sounds fun.

I'm taking the Novice Rider Course to get all I can out of the experience. It's two days and costs $125 so it's a good deal.

I haven't ridden a motorcycle since I was in the Navy in the 70's and high school in the late 60's/70's - so I'm pretty much a novice.

I started with a minibike, went to a Honda 350, then a Yamaha 750 and now a Harley 1200. I've ridden my Harley over a 1000 miles in the last few weeks; up to the top of Stevens Pass, up highway 410 by Mount Rainier, around the Everett area, and once in rush hour traffic to Seattle.

I'd forgotten how fun it is to ride a motorcycle and one of the best things for me is it gets me away from my laptop and out of the house.

Friday, September 25, 2009

iPhone Repair

I cracked the glass on my iPhone last week. The Apple Store wanted $199, for the repair, which would end up being $217 after tax. That seemed pretty steep considering I paid $199 for the phone (with a two year contract), and the same phone is $99 now (with a two year contract).

I sent a text to Tom at Jet City Devices in Ballard and set up an appointment for that afternoon. Once I showed up he had my phone glass replaced in a few minutes, with a 1 year guarantee, for $95 including tax. Jet City Devices has a shop in Chicago as well.

Monday, September 21, 2009

On The Way Home

Originally uploaded by Jack Crossen
I took this picture of Rachel on our way home from the Grape Stomp at Jack's place in Yakima. It was a fun weekend as always. Great to be with family and friends.

I put the photos Betsy and I took (and some old ones from a grape stomp 15 years ago) in a set called Grape Stomp on Flickr.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Meditation on a Bike

I rode a few hundred miles yesterday on a motorcycle. It was a fine early fall day with sun, coffee, forests, shade, smells of cedar, pine, rivers and meadows. Washington State Highway 410 is designated an All-American Road for it's beauty. It's also one of the most popular routes for motorcycle riders, as I learned yesterday.

I also learned to not follow cars too close and how to use my front brake. I was following two cars around a sharp corner near the top of the pass going about 35 mph and the girl driving the lead car decided she needed to make a quick stop to look around. I locked up my back wheel and started to go a little sideways before I got the front brake engaged.

That brings me to the point of the title. When you are on a motorcycle about all you can think about is riding safely. There's no time to think about what you did yesterday or what you will do tomorrow. There's enough time to smell and feel the open air, sun, shadows, the sound and vibration of the bike and engine. You are in the moment.


I've been thinking that when people ask me what I do my answer will be, "I'm a student of the good life with a focus on happiness."

We would all benefit from some introspection on what makes life good for us. There's a distinction between having fun and being happy. There's a lot of ways to have fun. There are a few simple (not easy) rules for being happy. Work hard, love one another, be kind to all living things and yourself.

Tom Barrett over at the Interlude Retreat has a mediation this week on The Good Life.

A pretty good book from Utne Reader on this topic, Goodlife: Mastering the Art of Everyday Living, is available used for 47 cents on Amazon.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mt. Rainier Today

I'm riding my motorcycle around the mountain today - it's beautiful.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Worlds Smallest Motorcycle Repair Shop

I've been driving by Randy's Cycle Repair in Everett since it opened in 1985. It looks like an interesting place with lots of old motorbikes, and often the owner, out in front talking with people or working on bikes.

It's a tiny little shop - but big enough.

Randy has a book out called How To Get Your Motorcycle Up and Running - Service and Repair Manual.

I like the practical nature of this video from Randy where he explains you have to have spark, fuel and compression for a motorcycle to run.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rent-a-Ruminant : Winning the War on Blackberries The Eco-Friendly Way

I've been reading about people using goats as a green way to clear brush and was particular curious about how goats can eat blackberry brambles.

Himalayan Blackberry and Evergreen Blackberry are European species that were brought into Washington State as a fruit crop. They are now one of the most invasive species in this part of the state and in some spots cover more area than all of the other invasive species combined.

If you are curious about goats in general, or using goats to clear blackberries or other brush, Rent-a-Ruminant has a cute website with some good information. Rent-a-Ruminant is a company based in Vashon Island, Washington that rents out a goat herd to clear brush. Really quite fascinating - the woman who started it was a paramedic and worked in the burn unit at a Seattle Hospital. She decided she needed a break from that life and started with 10 goats and eventually grew her herd to over a hundred. She rents her goats out to people who want to clear brush off of land. The goats are confined inside an electrified fence while they work the land and can clear blackberries, ivy and other invasive species from about 1/4 acre in 3 days.

Goats, like cows, goats, sheep and deer, are ruminants with multi-compartmented stomachs. They regurgitate their food (cud) and chew it again, which helps explain how they can eat woody things like blackberry canes and the bark off trees. Unlike sheep who graze and will eat grass to the ground, goats are browsers who like to munch on things higher up. When goats are used to clear brush, any trees that the owner wants to keep have to be fenced off.

There's a 3 part interview with Tammy Dunakin, the owner of Rent-a-Ruminant, on YouTube where she talks about her goats. She has Snowflake her "ambassagoat" with her. She says the goats favorite food is blackberry bushes, but they won't eat the big blackberry canes. From the looks of the before and after photos they eat enough of the blackberry bramble to make it a lot easier to clean up what they leave, and if the goats are brought back to the same area for a few seasons they will get rid of the blackberry brambles. In the interview she says she has more business than she can handle and would like to involve people in franchise rent a goat operations.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Double Nickle

I've been celebrating my birthday this weekend. Today's my legal birthday and tomorrow's my traditional birthday. Fifty five feels like a good age. This has been one of my best birthday's, right up there with last year when we went to Elk Horn and Fairmont Hot Springs in Montana. I'm very fortunate.

I grew up in Montana but I was born in Cody Wyoming where my Mom and Dad had traveled to a cattle auction. My parents went to Wyoming to get a cow and came back with me. My family always celebrated my birthday on the 25th and I was surprised when I got my birth certificate, so I could get a drivers license at fifteen, and found out my legal birthday is the 24th. My Mom told me I was born after midnight and the nurse filling out the birth certificate got it wrong. It's worked out fine - although I have to stop and think for a second when people ask me my legal name and date of birth. My legal name is John, which no one has ever called me, and my legal birthday is on the 24th, but my real birthday is the 25th.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

August Weekend

Originally uploaded by Jack Crossen
Bill, Buckley, Edgar and Ralph (front to back) playing in the backyard this afternoon. Edgar's all tuckered out now, asleep on my lap. It was a fun day and weekend. Got to eat at Sutra where the food is wonderful and the chef comes out and rings a nice gong reminding people to give thanks before the meal. They have a nice selection of wines. I had the juniper berry DRY Soda. They serve 4 courses, and the food is fresh and vegan with no tofu or fake meat in sight.

I received a huge variety of vegan food from the Sno-Isle Natural Food Co-op, we stopped at Peets in Fremont, Archie McPhees in Wallingford and we went to the Everett Farmers Market to get fresh flowers, blueberries, corn, peppers, and some tasty baked goods - and then spent the afternoon enjoying an August Backyard Lunch

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Setting the Record Straight on Health Care Reform

From the website Organizing for America -
"It seems like a new lie about health insurance reform crops up each day. These lies create fear and anger – and we're seeing the results around the country.

It's time to work together to set the record straight and expose the special interests and partisan attack groups who deliberately spread these rumors and lies in a desperate attempt to preserve the status quo."

It's going to take a broad based citizen effort to push Congress into enacting meaningful health care reform. It will be interesting to see if the grass roots effort that helped elect Barack Obama can make another positive change to ensure quality affordable health care is available to all.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Who Opposes Health Care Reform?

Richard L. Scott is on Hannity tonight talking about his group Conservatives for Patient's Rights that is funding ads "intended to pressure Democrats to enact health care reform based on free market principles."

It's too bad Fox doesn't provide a more complete biography of their guests.

Richard L. Scott was the head of Columbia/HCA, a for-profit hospital chain. Mr. Scott was forced out of that job amidst what turned out to be the nation’s biggest health care fraud case to date. Columbia/HCA reached a plea agreement with the U.S. government to avoid criminal charges and ended up paying more than $1.7 billion to settle.

In the New York Times article Health Critic Brings a Past and a Wallet Jim Rutenberg writes,
“He hopes people don’t Google his name,” said John E. Hartwig, a former deputy inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services, one of various state and federal agencies that investigated Columbia/HCA when Mr. Scott was its chief executive."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Health Care - What's The Problem?

If you are lucky enough to have good health insurance or receive socialized medicine via Medicare it's easy to forget about the millions of American's who can't afford to go to the Doctor, Dentist or Optometrist.

The Independent has a sad article about thousands of people, who can't afford to see a dentist, get prescription eyeglasses or have basic medical tests and treatment - lining up for a temporary free clinic staffed by volunteers in Los Angeles.

The clinic is made available by the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps which was originally created by Stan Brock to deliver basic medical aid to people in inaccessible regions of the world - but which now does 60% of their volunteer work in the U.S. - doing their best to help the hurting and helpless, those who don't have medical insurance or are under-insured and can't afford the deductibles.

The article Hidden Hurt from the Washington Post describes the work this organization does in Appalachia and this CBS video, describes the work they do in Knoxville.

If you watch these videos and read the associated articles - it's very clear how dysfunctional our society is in providing basic health services to the approximately 60 million people (about 1 person in 5) without health insurance. It's sad to think that in a country as great as ours that we would be so callous when it comes to something so basic to human dignity.

Depending on which measurement you look at in the World Health Organization study the U.S. is either 37th or 24th among the 191 nations in quality of health care but we spend 13.7% of our GDP on health care - compared with a socialized program like in the U.K. which spent 5.8% of GDP or Norway that spends 6.5% of GDP.

The people that don't want change in health care policies are those with money to lose. They are willing to spend money to convince relatively affluent people who can afford health care via private insurance and those who already enjoy the benefits of socialized medicine (Medicare), that the status quo is fine. They are of course also willing to spend money lobbying members of Congress to keep whatever facet of our current health care system provides them with a profit.

I'm guessing that the people who showed up at the Remote Area Medical free clinics in Knoxville, Virginia or L.A. hoping to get some free basic medical care; are not the same people holding signs and yelling about the evils of the government intervening in what they know to be a broken system. I'm hopeful the millions of thinking and caring Americans can work together to do something we should have done a long time ago - make health care available to everyone and find ways to reduce health care costs.

Change will be hard with the big money special interest groups lobbying, and tabloid news going for the idiot angle, but it isn't impossible - Norway and Great Britain are just two examples of nations who provide quality universal health care while spending half what the U.S. does as a percentage of GDP.


I was watching Sean Hannity present the non-thinking person's view of health care reform while writing this. It was a weird juxtaposition to think about working people queueing up in L.A. at 3 am in hopes of getting an abcessed tooth pulled for free, and what the cable news and radio talk show hosts are feeding the sheeple who take their drivel seriously.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Health Care Reform Scare - History Repeats Itself

In 1961 Ronald Reagan was shilling for the AMA in their opposition to Medicare. He tried to scare people with a prediction that if Medicare passed, the government would among other things - force Doctors to live in certain locations, tell your children where to go to school, what job they could have, how much they'd be paid and we'd end up spending our not so golden years, telling our children that freedom ended in 1961.

The great actor was talking about the evils of Medicare, with a few jabs at Social Security thrown in for good measure. He asked people to write to Congress supporting the "continuation of our traditional free enterprise system."

He wrapped it all up saying -
"And if you don't do this and if I don't do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children's children, what it once was like in America when men were free."
Of course Medicare passed thanks to John F. Kennedy and the Democrats, and has turned out to be a very popular, and necessary, program for senior citizens.

This Sunday on Meet the Press, Dick Armey picks up the Reagan mantle and gets skewered by Rachel Maddow. There's some funny (I guess) video of Ronald Reagan's 1961 Medicare ad in the video as well.

This is a much more in depth description Ronald Reagan and Medicare if you are interested in learning more.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Improved Health Care Reform Plan Being Created by Pitchfork Wielding Mobs

Why are some people expressing so much irrational anger at the health care reform town halls being held around the country?

I'd say it's because working together to reform health care is hard work and we are lazy. It's a lot more fun to dream up some evil Bogeyman and then yell with other people in a crowd. Sort of like going to a sporting event.

Watching Faux News, listening to Rush (the talk radio guy not the band) and getting a few made up emails about death panels and the conspiracy to take away Medicare is like the pre-game warm up. We should get a keg of beer for the party at the house, tail gate before the town hall and paint our faces.

We spend a greater percentage of our GDP on health care than any nation in the world with the exception of East Timor yet the U.S. quality of health care is 24th out of industrialized nations (Japan is number 1). Insurance companies take their cut with excessive administration costs while denying claims and cherry picking who will be covered to maximize profits. Pharmaceutical companies are allowed to spend huge sums to advertise prescription drugs targeted at the uninformed, with the intent of getting the patient to lobby the Doctor to prescribe something they may not need and often times with a scary list of possible side effects. We ration health care based on a persons ability to buy insurance, pay for care directly or their employers ability/willingness to provide them with a insurance. We have sick people who don't get preventative health care and end up with catastrophic illnesses that cost society much more than simple solutions that would work early on. Health care costs impact businesses ability to compete in a global market.

Forget all that - it's too hard to think about and change is scary. Lets leave things as they are and if anyone wants to change anything we'll yell about socialism and big government.

On the other hand we could open up our minds a bit, become informed and offer solutions.

From the Seattle Times article about Congressman Rick Larsen's health care reform town hall event in Everett -

"The event at Memorial Stadium in Everett began with the singing of the national anthem.

Get it?

We are all Americans who love this country.

Common ground."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mariners Baseball

I've followed the M's off and on since the late 70's when I was stationed in Bremerton and went to games in the Kingdome on a military discount. I could get good seats behind home plate or along the baseline back then - because attendance was so low. A fans biggest hope in those days was that the M's would have a plus 500 record. As someone wrote in Wikipedia "the Mariners teams of the late 1970s and the entirety of the 1980s were characterized by perennial non-achievement, gaining a reputation for poor performances, low attendance, and losing records." The M's first game was in 1977 and they didn't have a winning season until 1991.

As of today, the M's are 70% through the regular season with 48 games to go through August, September and then 4 games in October.

They've played 114 games and I've probably watched or listened to 100 including the 14 inning win against the White Sox last night. They are 60 and 54 which puts them 9 games back of the Angels in the West and 5.5 games from a wild card behind Boston, Texas and Tampa Bay. Their .526 winning percentage is good - they'd be in first place today in the Central division.

I liked playing baseball as a kid and like listening to the games or watching them on TV now. The game is a nice combination of individual and team effort, mental concentration and athleticism. The mental part is big - a batter is trying to concentrate on hitting a ball with a good swing like a golfer - except in golf there aren't 30,000 screaming fans, and the ball you are trying to hit is stationary, not coming at you at 90 miles an hour. It's a long 162 game regular season from April until October where a team is bound to lose some games and has to have the mental fortitude to shake off the losses and come back the next day.

Baseball has lots of traditions that surround the game - sunflower seeds, rally caps, organ music, beer, peanuts, hot dogs, cracker jacks, homer hankies...players chewing tobacco and spitting. Baseball has a long history with the first professional game being played in 1869, seven years before Custer's last stand at the Little Big Horn.

Mostly baseball is a nice diversion from whatever serious things are going on in the world.

Listening to a baseball game on the radio with a good announcer calling the game is one of the most pleasant parts of summer for me.

It's a great game.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Just How Slippery is a Banana Peel?

You can find out from the Leonardo Centre at the University of Sheffield which specializes in research and development in Tribology and surface engineering.

Tribology is the science of interacting surfaces and covers all aspects of friction, lubrication and wear.

The study concludes that in regards to slip hazard - "A dry banana skin is probably ok, definitely don't step on any wet banana skins. But perhaps best of all deposit you banana skins in the rubbish bin."

I'd add that if you are a really bad housekeeper at least pick up the banana peels out of the tub or shower.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Share Something About Yourself Most People Don't Know

Sharing something about yourself most people in a room don't know is an ice-breaker that is fairly common in seminars, training classes and team building exercises - where strangers are put together and need to complete some sort of task or engage in conversation.

This request usually comes after you've separated into smaller groups to complete some task - although occasionally it's something the whole group does if it's not too many people.

Most people say something fairly innocuous and self-congratulating. I was staying at a Hotel in Florida and wrestled an alligator into submission that was threatening guests around the pool - or something in that vein. What people decide to share may be funny, touching, sad, or really surprising - to the point where you may ask yourself what sort of context filter they have on sharing personal information with strangers. As a student of the human condition I find that any time I've participated in one of these exercises it's always pretty interesting.

You'll find some interesting answers to this type of question in online forums. One problem with these, same as for any online activity, is that there is no context - you can't see what the person looks like, hear their tone or observe their body language. So their message loses something. Saying "I love the Jonas Brothers", or "I used to be quite a party girl" would be unusual if I said it but for someone else you'd think - sure, now tell me something I don't know.

The whole idea of sharing something most people don't know reminds me of the way I used to go to confession when I was a young practicing Catholic. I'd give the priest a taste of what I'd been up to in general terms - stealing, lying, using the Lord's name in vain etc. etc. etc. but never any details. I was lying while confessing my many sins, but I never mentioned that to Father Kelley because I was an altar boy after all. I guess I could have told him I stole a beer out of the basement of the church during summer bible camp and drank it with my friend Tim during lunch when I was 8 years old - but that's probably too much detail.

Monday, August 03, 2009

We Need Fewer Experts

I recall 45 years ago or so that my mother was playing Bridge with a group of people and afterwards told me she found one of them a bit hard to take. He was an engineer of some sort and according to Mom he thought because he knew a lot about something he also thought he knew a lot about everything (or at least many other things). He was boring..and a bit of a jackass.

Knowing a lot about a little and then thinking we know a lot about everything is not uncommon in experts. Aside from making a person very boring it takes away their ability to grow, learn, solve new problems, take on new challenges or otherwise expand their horizons.

The expert mantle also takes a lot of the fun out of life if you can't do anything that might make you look foolish, silly or stupid. Experts take pride in their ability to master something and get paid for it, but then may be too fearful or self-conscious to ever look like a beginner again.

Thinking we know more than we do in the wrong circumstances can cause real problems. Just because I'm an expert in say Molecular Biology it doesn't mean I'm an expert in wiring a house, advising people on taxes, recommending investments, or installing a gas hot water heater. We have electricians, accountants, and plumbers who are expert in those things - but we all know someone who is expert in something who's perfectly happy to give out advice on house wiring, taxes, investments or installing gas hot water heaters. They may actually have something worth sharing if they are amateurs who have done these things, which they are unless they are Molecular Biologists who moonlight as paid electricians, accountants or plumbers - but we could all lighten up a little on the expert mode.

There's another issue at work here in that people who are Molecular Biologists (for example) sometimes give the impression that, because they have a degree and have studied and work in an academically challenging domain that makes them somehow "smarter" than a waitress, cook, electrician, plumber, farmer, etc. Not only is this a bad assumption it also makes it hard for them to learn much from others because they can't listen or they shut down other people with their attitude.

As long as we have some experts (people who know all they need to know in their specific area) but hopefully more beginners (people who are pretty sure there is a lot to learn) society will continue to evolve.

Life is always providing us with something new to learn - if we just look with a "beginners mind".

This is a quote from the August 10, 2009 Time Magazine article The Avenging Amateur by Kurt Anderson -

"...frankly admitting that we aren't absolutely certain how to proceed is liberating, and crucial. I like paradoxes, which is why, even though I'm not particularly religious, Zen Buddhism has always appealed to me. Take the paradoxical state that Buddhists seek to achieve, what they call sho-shin, or 'beginner's mind.' The 20th century Japanese Zen master Shunryu Suzuki, who spent the last dozen years of his life in America, famously wrote that 'in the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few.' Which sounds to me very much like the core of Boorstin's amateur spirit. 'The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance,' Boorstin wrote, 'but the illusion of knowledge.'"

The specialist says - I learned more and more about less and less that I finally knew all there was to know about nothing. The generalist says - I learned less and less about more and more until I finally knew nothing about everything. Someone in between there's a happy medium.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

By Thinking We Make it So

I've been reading the small book Zen And the Art of Happiness by Chris Prentiss. It's the kind of book that you would either really like or really dislike depending on your current circumstances, whether you think the world is generally a good or bad place, and your personal beliefs regarding a supreme being. In this book the Universe (with a capital U) replaces God in that the Universe wants what's best for you. If you can suspend disbelief and go with the flow the book has some valuable lessons.
  • Whatever happens is the best thing that could happen
  • We choose to be happy (sad)
  • We become addicted to anger, fear, sadness or happiness
  • Zen is mindful living combined with recognition that our mind makes our reality
  • Mindfulness allows for concentration, calmness, simplicity and ultimately happiness.
If you can fool yourself into thinking everything that happens is perfect - you'll be a perfectly happy fool...or maybe the wisest person in town - it's up to you to decide.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Who Cares About Operating Systems?

I just spent a fairly useless hour or so perusing the comments on the article "Windows 7 is the same as Ubuntu". The article appears fairly non-controversial since the author is making the point that for someone who uses a PC to access the web it doesn't really matter what the OS is.

It turns out the article is very controversial based on the 500 plus comments that range from fairly well thought out (but rarely new) ideas about Windows or Mac or Linux systems. It's entertaining to see the bait and hook techniques where someone says the equivalent of Linux (Windows) (Mac) sux and then the flames start to rise...but one comment struck me as pretty right-on.

The author says that while some geeky and sometimes fanatical types spend their time arguing (or trading insults regarding) the merits of an OS, applications, and the GUI - the world goes on and the average computer user could care less as long as their computer does what they want it to do. The author linked to this YouTube video to show how little people know (and need to know) about what's under the hood of their computer.

It's possible that the browser will be the only application resident on a computer in the not to distant future - but users don't care about that, unless it makes their computers faster or cheaper or capable of doing more. Companies that develop stand alone or enterprise applications and their competitors who want to provide applications in the cloud (think Google Docs), care about that - a lot. But users don't even need to know what a browser is - like the guy says in the video; to him the browser is that big e thing he clicks on to get to the web.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How to Pronounce Linux

In case you were wondering how to pronounce Linux this article links to Linus Torvalds saying lee-nooks but lin-icks and lie-nuks is okay too.

Usually the long i sound has the magic e in the word, so we use the long i sound in fine, pine, mine and the short i sound in pink, ring, link - so saying lie-nuks sounds weird to me. On the other hand if someone pronounced linotype as lee-notype that wouldn't sound correct or be in accord with Websters pronunciation since it calls for the long i sound.

I guess it really doesn't matter as long as people understand what you are saying.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Google Operating System Coming Next Year

This is fairly old news since it was announced July 7th, but I was on vacation and missed it. I'd read something about a Chrome Operating system but I thought someone was confusing Google's Chrome browser with an OS...turns out that's not the case and Google really is developing an OS for PC's.

Next year at this time you should be able to buy a netbook with the Google Chrome OS. Netbooks are just the start though since the open-source OS is being designed to work with computers from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems. The OS will run using the Linux kernel and promises to provide fast start-up/web access times, no viruses, and computers that always run as fast as when you bought them. The main app installed on the PC will be the browser and there's no slowing down your computer as apps are added since every app you need is on the web in this vision of computing.

Start up and shut down times have become more and more of an issue as Windows has gotten to the point where it can take minutes to boot up and get online or shut your computer down. I'm happy that this laptop with a 2.6.30 Linux kernel and ext4 file system takes 43.5 seconds to power-up and connect to the wireless router (actually a little less since I have to manually select which kernel to boot and enter my user name and password) and about 15 seconds to power down. The Google OS is supposed to be online in "a few seconds" - I assume that's with a solid state hard drive.

As a big fan of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, open-source software in general and someone who's been happy with anything Google I've tried - I'm looking forward to seeing how the free open-source Chrome OS works.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Originally uploaded by Jack Crossen
A photo I took in Northern Minnesota earlier this month.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bemidji Cafe

Maybe I'm getting crotchety in my old age but I have to admit there's something about this that bugs me. I'm not sure if it's the suspicion that if you have to say your nice it might be because you aren't so nice to begin with or the idea that some place has a corner on "niceness".

I think what actually happens is that wherever you are - you create, what to you is, reality. If you find that wherever you go (or most places you go...or many places you go) the people aren't nice (or are nice) it says more about you than them.

I've been in this cafe and the people are nice - just like a lot of other places.

Heading West Tomorrow

I'm sitting in the Dunn Brothers Coffee on Paul Bunyan Drive across from Lake Bemidji using their free wireless. This is my last day in Minnesota for this summer. It's been fun as usual - the North country of Minnesota is a special place.

This is a picture looking towards Lake Bemidji from inside Dunn Bros -

Usually we make the trip from Washington to Minnesota on I-90/I-94 but I'm looking forward to a trip west on highway 2 this summer. I haven't been along the Montana highline for years and it will be nice to see that big sky unimpeded by mountains or trees. Highway 2 turns into Glacier Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road which gets up to 6646 feet so it isn't all flat land.