Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Canning the Spam

I have resisted for as long as I can stand it.  I've always tried to keep the blog comments as open and easy to post as possible.  For the past few months, though, the spammers and their 'bots have been working overtime.  Most of the spam comments have been caught by Blogger.  They do a pretty good job.  About a third of the comments get through and I have to go clean them out.
Last week the number of comments I've been cleaning out have broken the hundred a day mark.  I no longer wish to deal with the anger I feel from seeing them show up. 
Thus it is with reluctance that I am activating word verification.  Those without a Google account can still post a comment. 
Please accept my apologies but I have been forced into it by evil forces beyond my control.  I wanted to offer an explanation since it will be something I've never done before.
Miles and Smiles,

Monday, January 14, 2013

Closing the loop

In March of 2010 a dump truck driver in Phoenix Arizona plowed into the back of a group of motorcyclists stopped at an intersection.  4 of the riders were killed.  6 others were injured. Lucky, a blogger in Phoenix, posted about it here.  Depending upon your view of justice, it was served in November of 2012.

According to the AMA, the driver has been sentenced to 26 years in prison.  Michael Jakscht was sentenced on November 26, 2012 after being convicted on several counts in a crash at a Phoenix stoplight in 2010.  Following a trial in the summer of 2012, he was found guilty of four counts of manslaughter, five counts of aggrevated assault and four counts of endangerment.  Jakscht was allegedly under the influence of methamphetamine when he plowed into a group of motorcyclists stopped at a traffic signal.

The sentence does nothing to make up for the lives ended, the pain of loss, and the agony of injury and recovery.  It is good, though, to see the driver held accountable and facing a long prison term.  It seems too many drivers have faced little to no consequences for actions that resulted in severely injuring and / or killing riders.

Please be careful out there.  Be vigilant.  Keep your mental and physical skills sharp.  It seems we need these skills more and more as time goes on.  Enjoy the ride but don't let your guard down.


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Too Long to Think About It!

"I see the flag waving waaaay down there. That's my signal to go. Time to snick the bike into first gear. Ease out the clutch, roll on the throttle, and smoothly get underway.  I'm nervous enough as it is, wouldn't want to embarrass myself in front of my fellow instructors by stalling the bike.  Up through the gears.  Accelerate quickly..... I've gotta' get up to 70 mph pretty soon.  So this is what it's like to go charging down the blacktop on a dragstrip!  This is way cool.  Crap!  There comes the pair of cue cones.  How did I get to them so quickly?  I'm nowhere near ready.
All right, time for a quick stop using maximum braking.  Eyes up, eyes up!  Don't look at the trainer. Knees against the tank.  Smooth on the front brake.  Remember to ease the pressure on the rear brake pedal as the front end dives.  What's the front tire doing?  Do I hear a squeal?  Is it sliding?  Dang, I wish I had ABS.  Calm down, remember what the instructors told you.  The bars are starting to wriggle side to side.  Light hands, light hands!  Use my knees to take the weight off my upper body.  I glance at the trainer that's coaching my braking.  What's that look on his face? It's not a smile. Is he looking worried?  Should I be worried?  That concrete barrier to my right is looking pretty close. Don't look at the wall!!!! This is way too long to  have to think about things.
Whew!  I'm stopped and the bike is still upright.  I don't smell tire smoke. What was my distance?  Did I do better this time?  I look to the trainer.  Finally, he smiles and gives me the thumbs up but tells me I forgot to do something.  With an evil grin Irondad tells me I'll find out soon enough when I try to take off.  I look down at the gear indicator on the instrument cluster.  Still in 5th gear?  I'd slap my forehead if my hands weren't so tightly clenched on the grips.  All FOUR paws!  Front brake, rear brake, clutch, light hands, AND tap dance on the shift lever.  Ok.  On the next run I'm going to get it ALL right!"
 One of the things I deeply appreciate about this job is that I have the opportunity to help people to grow in various ways.  That's also the culture of our organization.  As part of that effort we conducted high speed braking and swerving clinics earlier this year for our instructors.  It's the first time we've ever done that.  We felt it would be a chance for the instructors to experience something that most of them probably haven't before.  The feel of braking and swerving at high speeds is a unique dynamic.  The other thing the clinics would do is remind the instructors of the nervousness and fear our students feel. 
We arranged to get the use of the dragstrip for a couple of sessions.  We scheduled our police trainers to provide coaching and instruction.  Dean W, who often uses this forum to harass me, is one of those trainers.  Then I sent the invitation out to the instructors.  It was gratifying to see the number who signed up.  And actually showed up.  Not the number I hoped for but more than I expected. Most were quite nervous, but excited to participate.  That nervousness was what we wanted them to feel and remember.  New riders are nervous.  The instructors at the braking clinics were nervous.  Nervouse is nervous no matter what level of new skils we're working on. Remember what it feels like and be suitably empathetic.
I'd like to share a few photos from one of the two days.
We were supposed to be able to use the cones that the State Police use.  They were locked in the back of a mean looking black Chevy Tahoe.  Somebody was supposed to leave a key out for us.  That link in the chain broke.  So we improvised.  One of our "fast guys" grabbed a golf cart and we all scrounged for cones.  This dude looks fast on anything, doesn't he? 
The rider of this Ducati is good!  There's no ABS on the bike.  His right hand seems to be in perfect communication with what the front tire is doing.  I could literally see his hand flexing on the brake lever as he stopped by me. His stops were comparable to ABS on the dry pavement.  Here's a photo of the bike at nearly full fork compression.  I tried to still show a little bit of motion in the front wheel so the bike isn't quite fully squatted.
Have you ever heard of the color "Write me a ticket Red"?  Here's Mark passing by The Director. ST1300, meet ST1100.  
I was fooling around with putting borders around photos.  It can be useful to have a thin black border on a photo presented on a white background. Sort of keeps the eye from wandering off the photo. I caught the "red" bug as you can see by this border. It would be easy for the big red border to overwhelm the subject of the photo.  Not in this case!

To his immense credit, who should show up for the clinic but our very own Troubadour!  Check out that great stopping form.  Eyes up looking well ahead.  Knees firmly against the tank.  Please notice that there is no smoke coming from either tire.
Our instructors execute a great stop.  What do the trainers tell them?  "Good job, do it again."  Never happy are we? So back to the start point for another nerve wracking run.  It DOES get easier with repetitions.
Check out that great head turn!  Not to brag, but "That's my boy!"
Like I mentioned above, the drag strip is in a canyon between two concrete barriers.  It can look pretty darn close ( not to mention scary ) at speed.  Especially when you're SWERVING towards it at 60 mph!

As I said, the turnout was a bit lower than we'd hoped for.  I think that the instructors who participated this year will spread the word about their experience.  The fear factor holding people back should hopefully be a bit lower for future sessions.  We did maximum braking at 45, 60, and 70 mph.  We did swerving at 45 and 60 mph.  I required full riding gear, just in case.  Fortunately, nobody "splashed".  We were a little bit worried about that.  We did have a couple of close calls.  A couple of riders got reminded that you have to be fully upright and out of the swerve BEFORE you apply the brakes. Some of the instructors riding ABS bikes found out that you can still slide the front tire.  When you're braking that hard and putting extra weight on the bars the front tire will tend to move side to side.  ABS works in a straight line.  Once the tire gets turned a bit, it WILL slide.  That's one of the reasons for using your knees to take the weight off your upper body, especially your hands.  Remember:  LIGHT hands!
We're offering the clinics again this year.  Here's looking forward to some more fun!
Miles and smiles,

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

He's Back. Look out!

I had never really thought of myself as a workaholic.  I've now had to consider the possibility that it may be true.  The Director, himself a driven person, has urged me to find balance.  I find that an extreme signal.

Upon reflection, I find that I have, indeed, immersed myself deeply in this journey.  This really has been a journey, too.  I see myself as being on a pilgrimage. Let me share some words with you from David Whyte.  This is from Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity.

"At its best, work seems never-ending only because, like life, it is a pilgrimage, a journey in which we progress not only through the world but through stages of understanding.  Good work, done well for the right reasons and with an end in mind, has always been a sign, in most human traditions, of an inner and outer maturity.  Its achievement is celebrated as an individual triumph and a gift to our societies.  A very hard-won approval.

Seen in the light of a pilgrim's journey, work takes on a greater significance than merely paying the bills and keeping the ever-present wolf from the door.  With something larger in mind, something yet to be fully imagined, something to be looked for, then the hazards and hopes, the trepidation and the triumphs of work are magnified and given import and meaning."

I am a pilgrim seeking continued enlightment. This "job" has proved to be an excellent vessel for that purpose. As engaging as this journey has been, and continues to be, I find that I have neglected other things that have brought me pleasure and relaxation in what seems now like another life.

Blogging is something I've particularly missed.  My sincerest appreciation goes out to those who have left comments now and then wondering when there might be more posts. One in particular rode all the way here to see if I was still alive.  It's good to be missed instead of finding out that people are happy to no longer hear from you.  The past 10 months have given me plenty of material.  The pressure has caused the writing bug to blow into the open again.  You've been warned.

The quote above talks about trepidation.  There was some when I applied.  But I gritted my teeth and went for it.


I grabbed the proverbial bull by the horns.

I would either fly or crash.  By the way, I didnt' know you could go someplace to get training in how to properly collide but the sign above the door says differently.

Imagine being invited by a team owner to jump onto the factory bike.  ( Ok, I know this isn't anywhere near that, but it's the only photo I had on short notice ).  You worry about even staying on the track.  Then imagine surprise, followed shortly by elation, that you not only keep up but actually improve the lap times a bit.

To celebrate my newfound rediscovery of fun outside work I did my first panoramic photo of a rainbow that appeared a couple of weeks ago.  Yes, it's an accomplishment that's way behind what some of you have already done.  A certain blogger in Denver did that years ago.  What can I say?

I'm also working on the blog lay-out.  Bear with me.  This new fangled template stuff is going to bend to my will eventually.  For good or bad, I'm back.  I'm smiling, hope you are, too!
Miles and smiles,