Friday, December 15, 2006

Kitty Rustlers?

Facing me from across the street, while i was waiting for a traffic signal last night, was a pet store. As i sat there staring at it, i began to wonder where the pets come from. Do they come from the humane society? If so, why would anyone buy from the pet store instead of just going to the humane society directly?

If not from the humane society, then where do they come from? Do the employees go around at night stealing people's pets? Are the great rolling kitten farms somewhere in middle america where free-range gerbils, lizards, puppies and kittens are herded about like so many miniaturized cattle?

I have a hard time envisioning animal wholesalers/distributors, but I suppose that could be the case. However, even if that is the answer, it’s no solution; it merely extends the question to, where do they get the animals. (should that sentence end with a period or a question mark?)

Hmm, these are the questions that drive humanity.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The New Ducati

So the 1098 images and write ups have been out there for a little bit; what does everyone think? I like the 999 better myself. Of course i said the same about the 998 until i saw the 999 in person, so who knows what may happen when i actually get a chance to touch one.

My main beef with the 1098 is that it looks just like everything else. If it had tuning forks on the gas tank, I'd assume it had just rolled off Yamaha's production line in Japan. I really do think it looks a lot like an R1. This is not a good thing in my opinion.

Don't get me wrong, R1s are beautiful. Yamaha has been producing the best looking Japanese bikes ever, and i think they're closing the gap between Japan and the European manufacturers in terms of style. Traditionally, Japanese bikes have worked wonderfully--often better than the European bikes--but have been lacking in soul, style and lust-factor. Honda epitomizes this for me. There is nothing you can fault in the performance of their bikes. The CBR series has always been the best thing for any rider to jump onto and immediately feel comfortable and in control--and actually turn good lap times. However (and I've owned a CBR and ridden several others), they are not exciting. Of course they're exciting compared to your mom's station wagon; but we're speaking relatively here, as compared to other sport bikes.

Sterile is a word i like to use to describe the Hondas. They almost work too well. Nothing stands out. Nothing adds character. There is no beastly streak that the rider must overcome. There is no odd habit that one must become accustomed to in order to master the machine. Where's the challenge? Where's the excitement? And traditionally, Honda has been fairly conservative in styling, so there's not as much lust factor.

Whether they do it intentionally or not though (usually not), the Japanese designers don't seem to be able to make cars that scream for your soul, that demand you sacrifice all in order to obtain them, that you feel like you will never be complete without. That is what the Europeans--and particularly the Italians--do.

Ducatis, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, MV Augusta, Bimota, Maserati, Alfa Romeo--these brands are pure sex. They create machines with so much soul, that a person can lust after them. These machines are hand crafted and contain imperfections both in function and in character, but are all the more endearing because of them. They are wild animals placed under your control, and controlling them can be a challenge. That is where the excitement is.

Anyway, as usual, I'm wandering off-topic. The point of all this is that the new Ducati looks Japanese (partly because Japanese bikes are looking more Italian, and partly because this bike looks more Japanese) and that I think that's a bad thing for Ducati.

The 999 was unique. It doesn't look like anything else. Any non-motorcycle person could pick it out of a line of Japanese bikes and tell you that clearly that is the hottest, most expensive and most desirable bike of the bunch. I'm much less confident that one could conduct that experiment successfully with the 1098.

Taxation Without Representation

Sent off the check for my most recent ticket today. Not particularly happy about that, of course. I hope they get the point. Of course the only person to see it will be some clerk who has nothing to do with the policies that resulted in my ticket, but it makes me feel better!

I have a proposal that most of my friends have probably been subject to during one rant or another. I think i'll now expose you to it as well...

I don't think i've ever posted anything regarding my fantastically amazing idea to revolutionize the way traffic is controlled and regulated here in the good 'ole U.S. of A. It's quite simple really, it's all about stages. There would be perhaps three primary stages--or classes--of licenses and of cars.

A stage 1 license would be very difficult to obtain, but would allow the driver greater leeway and freedom of judgement. A stage 3 license would be equivalent to what is now the standard-issue driver's license, and would require adherence to more strict regulations.

Cars would also be rated. A BMW M3, because of the quality and performance of its brakes, suspension and other critical systems, would be rated as a class A vehicle. An old VW bus, for the same reasons would be a class C vehicle.

If you're a stage 3 licensed driver, cruising along a 3-lane secion of Interstate 5 in your class C vehicle, you're limited to 65 mph and are not allowed to use the far-left lane. If you're a stage 1 driver in a class A vehicle, your speed is limited based on the basic speed law. In other words, if your vehicle is capable of safely reacting to road hazards while traveling at 120mph, and visibility is sufficient to allow you to see them, then go 120mph.

A stage A driver, in a class C car may be allowed to use the left lane briefly to pass, but must ensure that it is safe to do so (nobody closing on them at 60mph from behind), and is still limited to 70 mph. Other combinations of license and vehicle result in other restrictions. It seems complex, but it wouldn't take long for everyone to figure it out. We drive every day, we'd get it.

If 55 or 65 was safe 40 years ago, then 100mph is at least as safe today, given the technological advances now present in what would be considered class A vehicles. We've seen incredible advances in suspension, tires and brakes, we've got computerized systems to keep our cars under control and pointing the right direction, we have better headlights and we have better roads. Of course, humans are still driving, and accidents will still happen (no matter how fast or slow we go); but with frames designed to absorb impacts safely, air bags on all sides and numerous other life-saving technologies in place, new cars are much safer than ever before..

How about it?

(motorcycles of course would be subject to no restrictions whatsoever) (except for mandatory wheelies at least once per 100 miles travelled)

Friday, December 8, 2006

Oh yeah, it's for your own good...

Ha, i got carried away in the last post and wandered off topic before i even got started on the topic i had intended to write about. The post was supposed to be about traffic signals. Specifically, about the red left turn arrow.

There are very few times when that red arrow is necessary. The protected left turn--indicated by the green left turn arrow--serves a useful purpose by allowing left turns at intersections that may otherwise be so busy that there would be very few opportunities to make the turn without it. The red arrow however, cannot claim such usefulness.

How many times have you sat at an intersection, with a green light for straight-through traffic, and no oncoming traffic, held captive by that devil-spawn red arrow? There's no danger in ignoring it and proceeding to make a left turn as if you were at a intersection that did not have a protected turn signal. If my judgement can be trusted to allow me to make a left turn when there is room for me at one intersection, then why not at another?

At one time it probably could have been argued that the red arrow was present only in intersections that were particularly busy, complicated or dangerous; but that is not the case now. The red arrow now works its foul magic at countless intersections, many of them very simple.

On a precious few occasions, i've been witness to the work of a traffic engineer with a touch of sense who decided that while the green arrow is useful to allow breaks for turning traffic, the red arrow is not needed. Instead, this saint of traffic control decided that a blinking yellow arrow would be sufficient to warn turners that they should watch for oncoming traffic, but may proceed if the path is clear.

What's wrong with that? Why isn't every intersection like that?! I'll tell you why, it's because the DMV and the police and anyone who has anything to do with creating or enforcing road/traffic laws hates me. For that i apologize to the rest of you, but my civil disobedience has yet to break down the laws. Don't worry though, i'll keep speeding and busting through red arrows, as is my duty as a sensible citizen.

In fact, that duty is all of ours! I call to each of you, next time you're sitting at a red arrow, and there is more than enough space to make your turn, even at grandma in her oldsmobile pace, go for it! If a cop hassles you, ask who was in danger as a result of your actions, and ask him who you can write to about such needless impediments to the progress of man kind.

After all, Adam Corolla does it, so why shouldn't you?

It's for your own good

I wish big brother wouldn't try so hard to protect me.

The Man has got to try so hard to make this world fool-proof. It can't be done, why does he have to keep trying. Doing so only makes life more frustrating for those of us who aren't fools, or at least are willing to accept responsibility for our foolish actions. By The Man, I mean of course the government, but also much more than that, corporations, small businesses and each of us really. The litigious, nothing is my fault, bad things require recompense type of mentality drives me crazy.

Shit happens.

Deal with it.

There is not someone at fault for every bad thing that happens to you. You are not owed money or any other form of compensation for every bad thing that happens to you. Sometimes not even if it was preventable. We've got to be reasonable here. Take things back about 100 years or so to when people took some responsibility for their actions. No, take it back a thousand years to when the stupid people just flat didn't make it. The world was dangerous and not all survived it to old age. Maybe we shouldn't try so hard to keep stupid people alive. It brings down the average and makes society a more cluttered and inefficient system. They slow down the machine and reduce the quality of its output.

As a business owner, this is even more frustrating now than it's ever been before. I've got to to try to predict what kinds of stupid things people might do with my product, things that common sense would prevent most from doing. The fact that they might choose to do things that are a bad idea is one thing--hell, i do that pretty frequently myself--where it gets worse is when they pretend that they never heard the voice in their head telling them that it was a bad idea. That's when they say that I, being the expert, should have told them it was a bad idea.

I'm being vague here because it doesn't matter what my product is; every company that provides a product or service has to worry about this mentality. The mentality that feigns ignorance, that plays dumb, that refuses to acknowledge the truth. The truth is, I knew better but I thought I could get away with it so I did it anyway, it didn't work, shit happened, and now instead of accepting responsibility, I'm going to get mad at the company because they have money and I can sue them.

The process people and companies go through in an attempt to protect themselves from such litigation is called Risk Management. It should be called Retard Management. I've got to think that the earth would be a smoother running and more sustainable machine if it didn't now have to support all those who before would have perished. Of course i'm recalling the principle of survival of the fittest. Would society not be better off without that bottom layer that contributes nothing, yet consumes many benefits provided by those who do?

I'm mixing my issues here. Not all ridiculous lawsuits are filed by "that bottom layer" of society, and the supposed upper levels of society are often not above filing such suits themselves. I suppose you get the idea though. It's a bit of a wandering rant, but probably clear despite that.

On an entirely different note: The weather has been beautiful here in Central Oregon lately. The other morning I was driving to work and the mountains seemed to be suspended in the atmosphere. It was an odd light and although the sky all around the mountains was fairly dark and grey, and there was a heavy haze covering the foothills, the mountains themselves seemed to glow in the sun. the effect was that the haze and the sky melded together all above, around and below the mountain, so that it appeared to levitate like some meditating monolith. The effect was particularly pronounced for Mt. Jefferson. It was very cool. We've had some great sunsets and evening light too, but i'm out of corny stuff to write for now.

Thursday, December 7, 2006


A rather profound thought struck me tonight on my drive home from work (what was going on in my brain, maybe i should stop working so late!).

Two wrongs do not make a right, but three rights make a left.

See if you can get your head around that!

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Kids Who Rip

I went snowboarding last saturday for the first time this season. The snow was mediocre at best, but the sun was shining and i had new gear to try out, so it wasn't too bad, apart from being separated from my friends and stranded at the bottom of the not-quite-operational Northwest Express lift for over an hour.

At one point during the day, I rode up the lift with two very young kids. I overheard their conversation and one was 13, the other 11 years old. They were talking about trying to find a good kicker to do backflips off of. Now, i don't know anyone who can do a backflip on a snowboard, much less an 11 year old kid, so i tended to assume that he was totally full of crap, or joking or something. But he sounded kinda serious, and he was kinda weird.

Well, i was just checking the local news and saw a video piece that reminded me of the encounter so i watched it. The piece is called Kids Who Rip and is about young Bend residents who skate and snowboard. Sure enough, the kids are in it. I believe Ben is the one and i think i saw the real young kid with long hair too. Anyway, i guess they were for real.


I'll never be that good, and this kid is only 11! It's happened to me on a motorcycle too. I've been at the motocross track and had kids come flying past me. I think to myself, 'uh-uh, that's not happenin, i can keep up with that little runt!.' And i try to keep up, only to watch them fade away ahead of me (rocket away may be more accurate), and that's on their tiny little bikes!

Anyway, i'm gonna try to link to the video but it was a flash gizmo embedded in a pop-up window, so i'm not sure how successful this will be. Leave a comment and let me know.

Video Here