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Archive for February, 2010

Santosh Electric Pocket Bike

A pocket bike is a miniature motorcycle.  Often referred to as MiniGPX or “mini-moto” and first made popular as ‘pit-bikes’ for drag racers to travel around in the pits during races in the late ‘50s.

These days pocket bikes are available in both gasoline and electric versions with engine’s ranging from 40cc to 50cc.  A typical mini-moto is about ¼ the size of a standard racing motorcycle and there are Pocketbike races across the country on tracks used for kart racing.  There is the Northwest YSR-50 enthusiast HERE or YSR Racing HERE.

Now we have the world’s smallest electric pocket bike.  Apparently the builder felt that the current generation of electric pocket bikes were just too big so they recently introduced Santosh pocket bike is literally quite small.   The bike is just 12 inches high and 18 inches long. The way Santosh pulled off this compressed miracle was to make the battery pack wearable, rather than mounted on the bike which is capable of running at speeds of almost 10mph.

Talk about a little guy speed junkie!  Check out the video if you want to know more.

Photo courtesy of Santosh bikes.

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It’s disturbingly commonplace and pretty workaday stuff for law enforcement.

If you are an owner of one of the country’s 277 million cell phones, it’s possible that your cell-phone company retained records of where your device has been at all times.

Cell phones have tiny GPS devices embedded inside or because each phone call is routed through towers that can be used to pinpoint the phones’ location to within areas as small as a few hundred feet.

And as the government continues it’s relentless intrusion into the private lives of citizens, cell-phone tracking has become commonplace and among the more unsettling forms of government surveillance. The ease at which your location information can be accessed is a question posed by a Newsweek article, which outlines the various methods local law-enforcement agencies and the Justice Department can use to trace Americans’ cell phones–tracking that in some cases can be done in real time. According to the article, courts across the country routinely agree to police requests for cell phone location information.  The legality of such requests is somewhat murky and there is anecdotal evidence of abuse of the system, with requests that are clearly personal.

What if the Justice Department wants to track political protesters or motorcyclists at the Washington CoC Run?  Or how about track all the motorcycle enthusiasts who arrive at the state capital for “Black Thursday” in Olympia to protest unfavorable biker legislation?  Apparently, it may all be allowed.

It would seem the Orwellian day of Big Brother secretly following motorcyclists movements through the cell phone device in our pocket is here.  Currently, the records are obtained under what is known as “2703(d)” orders—a reference to an obscure provision of a federal law known as the Stored Communications Act—in which prosecutors only need to assert that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe the records are “relevant” to an ongoing federal criminal investigation, a much lower standard than that needed for a search warrant.

When the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Enhancement Act of 1999 was passed, I don’t think they thought about law enforcement over reach or customer’ privacy information related to location-based services.  I encourage preservation of the Fourth Amendment and think it’s time that Congress clarify the terms under which location information may be released to law enforcement.

Until then, if you’re someone who does not wish to disclose their movements to the government then you’ll need not use a cellular telephone.

Photo courtesy of Apple.

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When traveling the open road it’s important to grab a snack in order to maintain driving alertness level.

I’m not talking about a SlimJim or a can of Vienna sausages and a cracker here.  Rather, a big stack of buttermilk pancakes augmented with some eggs, link sausage, bacon, fried potatoes, cat head biscuits smothered in gravy and a large glass of OJ.

Fortunately, today is flap-jack-pot at IHOP restaurants where any guest can request a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes until 10pm tonight.  Why?  It’s IHOP National Pancake Day.  The day dates back several centuries to when the English prepped for fasting during Lent.  Strict rules prohibited the eating of all dairy products during Lent, so pancakes were made to use up the supply of eggs, milk, butter and other dairy products… hence the name Pancake Tuesday.  As part of the IHOP event, patrons are invited to make a donation to Shriners Hospitals for Children which last year the benefit raised $1.5 million nationwide.

Ride, drive or walk in for your free pancakes and help contribute to a good cause.

Photo courtesy of IHOP.

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Motorcycle Awareness on Amber Alert Signs

The pacific northwest and Oregon in particular has an abundance of great motorcycling roads.

If you are like me you have a lot of pent up desire to get out there and hit the open highway.  The riding season is always too long in coming due to wet and cold weather, but this past weekend was outstanding for mid-February and brought out the motorcycles.   Light winds, sunny blue sky and a temperature brushing up against 60 degrees.  Wow!  Incredible spring weather two months early so I jumped on the opportunity to get out and enjoy the riding experience.

Financial crises, public debt exploding, taxes rise and unemployment lingers…all a distant memory when you’ve got the wind in your face.

Having said that I noticed a couple of items that I wanted to share my experiences.  There is no substitute for personal experience and this is that time of year I typically wear a full face helmet.  Why?  Not because it’s colder, which it is, but because just a short 5 weeks ago the ambitious ODOT road crews were “sanding” roads for the possibility of icy conditions and those ‘rocks’ are prevalent everywhere.  Nothing worse than gravel pebbles in your face.   Even with a windshield they manage to pepper your body.  Second, is the fact that “cagers” are not aware of or are they use to seeing motorcycles.  And they were out in force this weekend.  As a result,  the less observant auto-drivers make me twitchy when I’m out driving busy freeways this time of year to get to the lone two-lane blacktop.

As I cruised around I remember looking up at the freeway congestion and “Amber Alert” electronic sign on I-5 and thought about how it could be used for motorcycle safety and education efforts.  For example it could display the words: “LOOK TWICE. SHARE THE ROAD WITH MOTORCYCLES.”

The flashing signs across Oregon state would at least put a message out there in the minds of drivers to be aware.  This could be done in the spring when those warming days and sunshine bring everyone out on their motorcycles. Or at minimum during May, which is Motorcycle Awareness Month.  In the interest of being thorough I did a web search to see if the electronic display tactic had been used previously.  It turns out California Highway Patrol uses this technique as part of their campaign to reduce motorcycle-related collisions.

What do you think.  Waste of time or good suggestion?  Either way I’ve sent recommendation email to both ODOT and OSP on using the electronic signs  for motorcycle safety in May.  I’ll provide updates on any feedback or responses I receive.

Photo courtesy of Union-Tribune.

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Productivity.

It’s the manufacturing mantra of the corporate world.  It’s about making X number of  “widgets” an hour and reducing unplanned absences to maintain plant productivity.

Harley-Davidson’s CEO and President, Keith Wandell, told analyst during the Q4 2009 revenue results that the company intends to enhance profitability through continuous improvement in manufacturing, product development and business operations.

I would submit that H-D doesn’t have a productivity problem.  They have an absenteeism problem!  If a worker calls in sick that is considered an unplanned absent which brings down manufacturing productivity.  In fact, a company document indicates the motor company incurred some 382,000 hours of missed work time during 2009 which was worth about $13 million.  The document doesn’t state whether that number refers to the company as a whole or some other subset of operations, but we do know that one of the major considerations cited for moving the York Vehicle Operations from PA. to another state was the excessive absenteeism at the Springettsbury Township plant.

As a result of the concessions to keep the plant in York, changes in work culture and a new attendance policy was negotiated as part of the multi-year restructuring process.  A point system was created and the new policy gives an employee points or partial points for failure to appropriately report an absence in addition to the actual absence.  Now there are reports the Union (IAM) is whining about unilateral policy changes and trying to move the debate from absenteeism to policy.

Many would debate that unions cripple companies.  The debate often centers around how they are anti-technology, anti-productivity and pro-wage growth.  It’s like they live in a virtual reality world where price points, product-market pressures, and capital returns don’t matter.  The net-net is that unions are adept at demanding the highest dollar for the least amount of time worked.  And as worker costs escalate firms cut back on technology, plant investments and business process improvements.  Sound familiar?

Still don’t believe me that H-D has an absenteeism issue?  Well let’s look at the numbers.

H-D has about 9000 employees worldwide.  Taking H-D supplied numbers of 382,000 hours and divide it by the total number of employees (9000) equals 42.44 hours of unplanned absence per employee.  That’s more than one work week of absenteeism for each and every employee!  This in addition to the 15 work days of annual leave (vacation + holidays) employees typically receive in U.S. based companies.  Wow, talk about “iron-clad” benefits!  Yet, it’s actually worse because to correctly analyze the absenteeism number you need to take into account standard manufacturing practices which are based on the number of Full Time Equivalents (FTE) and available work hours a year (1928 hours) per FTE.  Calculating absence using this method means there were 198 employees (FTE) absent all year during 2009.

I don’t know if this situation is an accurate reflection of the mental state of the H-D work force or if it’s an edge case due to issues like H1N1?  However, an absenteeism rate which effects ~20% of your work force is a systemic issue and without a doubt one of the most significant factors to affect quality in an assembly line along with negatively effecting employee morale.  Let’s hope they get a handle on this issue.

Photo courtesy of Scribd.

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“What a long, strange trip it’s been,” said the infamous Jerry Garcia.

And how true that statement is after tuning in to the “news briefing” by Tiger Woods yesterday.  The whole controlled and sterile event with a so-called heartfelt speech was bizzare.

The new American sport is apologizing.

Maybe it should be an Olympic event?!  You barely have to offend before some nitwit demands you whip out a confession admitting your crime, talk about rehab or therapy and express regret.  Huh?  Have you ever stopped to think maybe the person meant to do it.  Maybe they’re just not like you and I?

As if athletes are not jocks doing it for personal glory.  And cash!  That’s the real story (money), but we don’t want to admit it to ourselves.

And how about that Buddhist comment?  It’s the first time we’ve heard about his “lifelong” teachings.  And why is it we never hear about them when the athlete is on top, but they make up a major part of every “victim’s” apology speech when they hit bottom.

Tiger cheated on his wife and family.  Why is this even on TV?  His actions had no impact on the actual results of the golf events he participated in.  I don’t think he owes anyone an apology other than his wife, family and friends.  I could care less if his apology and confession were sincere or not.  It won’t change if and when I play golf.  So, the Great Apology, a speech about how a man had been living a lie and a dishonest life expects people to take him on his word that everything he says is true – now.

Quoting the Accenture ad… “Opportunity isn’t always obvious”…  It would seem prudent for the soon-to-be single Tiger to collaborate with Harley-Davidson.  And I mean this as no disrespect to Harley.  Go to commercial:  Cue opening to George Thorogood playing “Bad to the Bone” as the camera pans across a leggy brunette to his face as he looks back with that pouty-lipped look he does, then there is an Elvis snarl…while revving the throttle…another Elvis snarl as the bagger burns out.  Cue announcer as Tiger smiles and says “Screw It, Let’s Ride”…

Personally this whole greedy geniu$ event had me believing in him less today than I did yesterday, but it’s his life.

Photo courtesy of PRX Radio

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For more than a year I’ve commented ranted about the various motorcycle rallies and the city council fiascos.

Many concerned city governments do their best to dissuade motorcycle rallies altogether using a series of tactics designed to run off motorcycle tourism.  By raising vendor and booth fee’s or trying to rein things in with stricter vendor rules or outright banning activity.  And if that doesn’t work they’ll pull the “P” card…exorbitant costs for policing the event to protect against the villain that doesn’t exist.

There have been boycotts by motorcycle enthusiasts, public forums, petitions, protests, organizations formed, news reports, and lawsuits filed (Myrtle Beach for example) so, I backed off on beating this dead horse which had begun to dominate my posts. I won’t say motorcyclists lost because we are still riding when, where, and how we want to, but some of the cities got their wish and several rallies were cancelled or downsized to the point where riders washed their hands of the whole thing.

Well, frankly I’m over it and looking forward to Laughlin River Run 2010.  If all goes well I will be saddling up in April.  I’ve attended this rally in various forms nine of the last 10 years.

Our posse is like most Laughlin River Run visitors in most cities that host motorcycle events. We don’t belong to a club or motorcycle gang. We don’t ride recklessly because we want to make it home in one piece. We aren’t going to walk out on our check or assault your families. Hotel furniture remains unbroken!  Several in the posse own a family business. And most all have worked their way up the ladder and been in management at a number of white collar companies.  All are family men and just looking to get away from the work-a-day world for a few days. We’ll spend money on lodging, we’ll go to restaurants, we’ll shop the vendors, we’ll have a few laughs, smoke a cigar or two and then we’ll go home. We’re the same people that cities work to get our tourist dollars, but have tried just as hard to run off as “villains.”

I read an article in, the Feb. 10 edition of The Sun News who reported that “For the first time in many years, hospitality revenue didn’t grow in Myrtle Beach in 2009, leaving the city with a larger-than-normal financial gap to overcome to balance its budget.” I told you so, Myrtle Beach.  But in reality we could [insert any city name USA here!] rather than Myrtle Beach.

Call my crazy, but here’s a novel idea for the Pacific Northwest Chambers of Commerce…in your city’s Chamber of Commerce embrace the, well… commerce, generated by the motorcycle rallies and maybe even play a key role in promoting them.  Yes, there will be times when city officials will have to deal with some complaints of congestion and noise. Instead of pulling the plug on tourist dollars hold the elected officials, heads of law enforcement, and Chamber of Commerce feet to the fire and ask them to do their jobs and address the issues.

Almost a year ago there was a CNN article where Kevin Kilian (Sr. VP of Daytona Beach/Halifax Area Chamber of Commerce) stated that their spring (Bike Week) and fall (Biketoberfest) motorcycle rallies generate $650 million dollars a year.

Could the same be true here the northwest?

Photo courtesy of Random House and Chip and Dan Heath.

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