Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tom Lehrer: Ahead of His Time

When I was in college one of my roomates introduced me to the music and satire of Tom Lehrer. Thanks to YouTube, I have rediscovered Tom and his music. Here is one of Tom's songs that ties to one of my current passions: Pollution.

Friday, December 05, 2008

I Don't Think This Will Help Lance's Hill Climbing Ability

Through my favorite cycling internet forum, I found a link to a very good sports photographer, Elizabeth Kreutz. Apparently, Ms. Kreutz has access to Lance Armstrong and she has chronicled his return to professional cycling with a series of photographs. Go to her web site and check out photos 21 to 25 under Index => Lance's Comeback.

I don't think that all of that upper body strength is going to help get him up the Alps or Pyrenees.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A Small, Hidden Tragedy

The global news has been anything but good this past month. With the true human tragedy in Mumbai, India, the financial woes of the Big Three US automakers seems strangely juxtaposed on the list of recent tragedies. Yes, the decline of these companies affects millions of people, but somehow the tragedy of business failures pales against the loss of lives and the For several years I've been discussing the general inability of US automakers to compete in a global economy and today, the CEOs of these company laid out the billions of dollars that they need in government financing to be able to survive.

Hidden in the USA Today article is an assessment of the GM brand, Saturn:
And Saturn, the quirky brand launched in 1990 to win sales from Asian rivals, could be on its last legs. Henderson says the company will meet with its retail network to discuss options, which could include a shutdown, such as GM did to Oldsmobile a few years ago, or selling it.

"We have to do something with the Saturn brand, because frankly, it has not been successful," [General Motors (GM) CFO Frederick "Fritz"] Henderson says.

During Saturn's early years it was lauded in business journals and academic case studies on how a conservative American car company, like GM, could emulate the best efforts of Toyota, Nissan, and Honda. The workers at the Saturn plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, were examples of how employee empowerment could yield benchmark levels of quality and productivity.

Unfortunately, over the years, the culture at Saturn eroded and became more and more like the rest of GM's other brands.

So what looked like a great step forward in American industrial evolution may now end up as footnote in American automotive history.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Not Their Fault!!!???

I have no idea how people can either lie or be so deluded that they can't see the obvious. Among the sources reporting the UAW's view on the crisis in the US auto industry, USA Today has this alarming quote from United Auto Workers president, Ron Gettelfinger:
"We're here not because of what the auto industry has done," he said. "We're here because of what has happened to the economy."
I'm not blaming the UAW for what's happened to the Big Three, but they have certainly contributed to what the industry has done to itself -- not what some nefarious, external action has done to it. If the financial crisis was to blame, auto makers worldwide would need government bailouts or be in similar dire straits because the economy is global.

For instance, on October 29, 2008, The New York Times reported that, "During the third quarter, G.M. sold 1.28 million vehicles outside of the United States, accounting for 61 percent of its total sales compared with 56 percent a year ago." So if you believe that the financial crisis (domestic or global) is to blame, why is it that only US auto manufacturers are in such bad shape?

The thinking, tactics, and strategies that have gotten the Big Three into such bad shape are not peculiar to the auto industry. US businesses in general need to re-think how they creating value in a global economy.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Speaking of Global Warming

I wonder how the current Southern California firestorm affects global warming?

I wonder if the weather conditions that led to the current Southern California firestorm are a product of global warming?

By noon today is was 90ºF with less than 10% humidity with wind gusts over 25 MPH -- prime brush fire weather. Of course you need an ignition source to start the fire. I heard that a smaller fire today on Palos Verdes peninsula was started when a power pole transformer exploded. It definitely doesn't take much though. Someone thoughtlessly throwing a cigarette out of their car window will do the trick for starting a brush fire that will burn thousands of acres and dozens of homes.

Why Commute by Bike?

There are a lot of ways that all of us can help save the planet. Here is one.

Friday, October 24, 2008

They're Fixin' the Road

A couple of days ago I was driving to work (late -- long story) and I got stuck in traffic on PCH because of some road work. It looked like they were re-striping the road so the only thing that I really thought about was that it took me 30 minutes to drive 1 mile.

A day later I was riding on the same stretch of road when I noticed that part of the shoulder on the northbound lane was "chewed up" in the way that they normally do when they are going to repave the road. For those of you familiar with the area, this is the stretch of PCH north of 2nd Street / Westminster Blvd up past Loynes Drive.

By coincidence, I found out at a (Long Beach) city forum that CALTRANS decided to repave that section of PCH. My question is, "Why!!!???"

I can think of a lot of other roads of sections of PCH over which CALTRANS has jurisdiction that need repair much more than that section of road. Is this really the best use of our tax dollars? Doesn't California have a significant budget problem?

Of course, this is all water under the proverbial bridge since they already started chewing up the road. I just wish that somehow the would do a better assessment of the roads so that they can set better priorities.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


I'm not talking about panning for gold either.

Often I see people on photography forums ask about how to shoot fast moving cars or bicycles. Their initial notion is to use a very fast shutter speed to capture the action. Unfortunately, there are few times when this is the best way to capture a racing car or bicycle. A fast shutter speed freezes everything in the photo and it looks like the subject is standing still -- not a great way to convey a sense of speed.

The technique called panning is a method for keeping the subject (car or cyclist) sharp while blurring the background and the wheels. In my opinion, it's the blurring of the wheels that creates as much of a sense of motion as having the background blurred.

Copyright 2008 © Cleaveran O. Law

Since I am such a great believer in re-use (not re-inventing the wheel), I'll refer you to a couple of web sites that have a good explanation of panning:

Panning In Motorsport Photography

Mastering Panning - Photographing Moving Subjects

The technique in the first link is closest to my own. A couple of points to emphasize from that article are Rotation and Release Point and Shutter Speed. It is very important to position your body so that you are facing where you want the subject when you release the shutter and you want to make sure that you follow through after you release the shutter. If your body is "twisted" at the shutter release point you run the risk of having vertical movement and camera blur on your photo. Also, when you start learning the technique, use a slightly higher shutter speed and work your way down. It can be very frustrating to get a lot of blurred shots your first time out when shooting too low a shutter speed.

One last point on shutter speed. I have seen numerous articles on panning that suggest shutter speeds as low as 1/15 sec with many suggesting 1/30 sec. Most of the photos that I see with those shutter speeds have great blurring of the background but I also see too much blurring of the subject. The might be a great way to create a speed effect but it's not a great way to capture the cyclist or car.

I'll leave you with one last panning shot with a slightly different perspective.

Copyright 2008 © Cleaveran O. Law

Saturday, September 13, 2008

9/11 Revisited

Just thought that I'd link back to my post from the days after 9/11. Note that there is also a link in that post to an article that I posted to our web site.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Racing in 2008

So as of the next to last weekend in August I'm pretty much done with mass start races for the year. Not much left on the calendar for me except for some time trials. Here are some of the pertinent stats for the year-to-date:

45 road races / criteriums / circuit races
2 of 45 were road races
20 of 45 were Tuesday evening series races (circuit)
Total of 952 miles
4 DNFs (3 too slow, 1 mechanical)
1-2nd place
1-3rd place
0 primes

7 time trials
Total of 99 miles
3-3rd place (including SoCal District Championship 180+ Team Time Trial)

The year could have gone better but it could also have been worse.

Stats courtesy of my Garmin 305 and SportTracks.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Toyota Continues to Improve

...and my guess is that they will do so -- continually.

So the latest business news is that Toyota will probably be the #1 auto manufacturer in the world -- displacing GM -- at the end of this year. Now Toyota publicly states that they do not place much stock in being #1 (and I believe those statements), but there are a couple of important points related to this news. First, Toyota got the lead during a period of (arguable) global economic decline by increasing sales by 2% versus GM's sales decline of 3% over the same period. Second, at these sales levels, Toyota continues to turn a profit while GM continues to lose money.

How much longer will GM and the other US auto manufacturers continue to do business within antiquated paradigms? They can only lose money for so long.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Heavy Medal

So this bicycle racing season has been one of ups and downs. Right now I'm on a big up. This past Saturday was the Southern California / Nevada Cycling Association (SCNCA) Team Time Trial District Championships in Palmdale (Lake Los Angeles). I rode it with three other Lightning Velo members, all of whom were over 40 years old. We were in the 180+ (total age) category and I was the oldest rider on our team. The punch line is, despite some problems on my part, we averaged 27 MPH for roughly 23 miles -- good enough for a bronze medal!

The most satisfying part of the race was that despite not training together as a team beforehand, we rode very smoothly as a team -- no close calls with respect to running into each other. Next on the satisfaction list was beating the 4th place team by 11 seconds. Their team leader is someone who I've known for a long time and we have a "friendly" rivalry that usually includes some smack talk (on his part).

A few days later, on Tuesday, I was at El Dorado Park in Long Beach for the California State Senior Olympics. First and second place in these events qualified you for the 2009 National Senior Games in Palo Alto.

First up was the 5K Individual Time Trial (ITT). I had never raced anything that short and I didn't have a good feel on how to meter my effort. In the end I went out too fast but I still ended up 3rd for my first medal of the games.

Later that day, I did the 40K road race on the standard "Eldo" course. There were 10 of us in the race, eight in the 50-54 age group and two in the 55-59 age group (which included my friend Craig). In my age group there were three members of La Grange, a Los Angeles team, and three members from Peninsula Velo, an northern California team. Things were not looking good.

The race pace at the start was tepid at best. I tried once to speed things up with no luck. My next attempt to get some response from the pack was met with an inadvertently large gap. As I sat up waiting for them to reel me in, my friend Craig and a Peninsula Velo guy came up to me and when they caught me we still had a reasonable gap. So with about 17 miles to go in the race, we put our heads down and stayed away for the rest of the race. We almost lapped the field.

Bell lap and I had second wheel coming out of the last corner which was still about 500 meters from the finish. I decided to try to open a gap on the slight uphill and try to hold it to the finish. Unfortunately, that didn't work and I ended up with 2nd.

So today, Wednesday, started with a 10K ITT. I had high hopes but my legs were too tired from the previous day so I couldn't quite hold a 25 MPH average. I don't know my exact placing but I suspect that it was another bronze. Note that per my computer, the course was short by about 0.3 miles.

The road race was supposed to be 20K but it was also shortened by about 2 miles. We were the last race of the day and the wind had come up (more on the wind later). I had decided to stay with the pack which consisted of 11 50-54 year old racers and 3 55-59 year olds. A half lap into the race a La Grange and a Peninsula Velo racer moved off the front never to be seen again. I know that I could have hooked up with them but I thought that I shouldn't be too greedy with the qualifying spots. The race was the slowest that I've ridden in years. I pulled a whole lap a 22-23 MPH just to get a bit of a workout.

Coming out of the last corner I was last, but I noticed that the guy who had won the previous day was now sprinting off the front of the group going after the bronze. I thought, "hey that's being kind of greedy," so I took off on the left side and fortunately everyone else was single file on the right blocking the wind. I went flying off the front of the group, worked it a bit to catch the guy, sat on his wheel for 20 meters, and then sprinted around him for the bronze.

All in all a pretty good couple of days of racing -- a silver and two bronzes (and maybe another silver or bronze).

[Update: I ended up with a silver in the 50-54 40K road race and bronzes in the 50-54 20K road race, the 5K time trial, and the 10K time trial. Next stop is Palo Alto in 2009.)

Monday, May 05, 2008

Toyota's Success is No Secret

A colleague led me to this article in the The New Yorker online. It is one of the better "general" pieces that I've seen on Toyota and the core reasons for its success.
So how has Toyota stayed ahead of the pack?

The answer has a lot to do with another distinctive element of Toyota’s approach: defining innovation as an incremental process, in which the goal is not to make huge, sudden leaps but, rather, to make things better on a daily basis. (The principle is often known by its Japanese name, kaizen—continuous improvement.) Instead of trying to throw long touchdown passes, as it were, Toyota moves down the field by means of short and steady gains. And so it rejects the idea that innovation is the province of an elect few; instead, it’s taken to be an everyday task for which everyone is responsible.

As I've noted before, the culture of Toyota is its obvious secret. It's not the artifacts that we can see everyday in its factories and offices. It's a coporate culture that works in Japan and in Toyota's American factories.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

From the Back of the Pack: 2008 Mark Reynolds San Luis Rey Road Classic

The short story is I finished for the first time in my last several attempts at this race and I stayed in the peloton longer than I have over the same period of time. Though this doesn't sound like much progress, at my age you have to savor any progress that you make.

I really didn't start the race in a good frame of mind. I've been worrying about getting dropped quickly -- especially after last week's debacle race at Devils Punchbowl. My teammate and I stayed at my parents' house in Murrieta on Saturday night and we got to the start not-so-bright but early at about 6:15 AM. Got ready, warmed up a little, and waited with 65 other riders for the start.

I felt OK on the initial climb up to Old Highway 395. Going over the top I faded to the back but I didn't have a problems on the descent or being right in the peloton after the hard right-hand turn at the bottom of the hill. I was conserving energy on the back side of the course and the we made the very hard right on to climbing section back to the start / finish. I felt pretty good until we got to the 1 Km to the finish sign. I started coming off the back but I was hoping that the pack would slow a bit approaching the steeper climb. I was maybe 50 meters off the back when we crossed start / finish but once we got to the steeper climb I was history.

I stayed within myself back up to Old Highway 395 and just as I got to the top another racer caught me. Cutting to the chase, we ended up working together for the duration of the race. I dropped him (not intentionally as we were finishing the race -- 4 laps) but as we were approaching the finish I realized that he was charging up next to me. We sprinted to the line for next-to-last (56th) and last place. I beat him by inches.

So two weeks in a row with next-to-last finishes (of those who finished). However, after comparing my Garmin data to last year this year is a marked improvements. I take my small victories where I can.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

From the Back of the Pack: Some Mediocre Racing

My bicycle racing season started off pretty well and I felt that my training was going reasonably well. However, after a month of vacation and business travel, my most recent races have not gone well. Most recently I competed in the Devil's Punchbowl Road Race (Masters Men 50+) on Saturday, April 26th, and the El Dorado Tuesday Twilight Training Series last night.

Now I'll preface my lack of results at Devils Punchbowl by saying that after competing in two races at the Torrance Criterium on Sunday, April 20th, I did not ride at all until I got on my bike to warm up for the race. This was because of my Boston business trip. After my warm up I felt like I could have a good race. Unfortunately this was not the case. I got dropped on the first climb on the first lap! I was with a couple of other guys over the top of the climb and I worked with them on the big descent. Unfortunately, I couldn't stay with them on the false flat. I ended up finishing alone and was classified 31st out of 32 finishers. I am guessing that about 50 guys started the race.

I had a good (not great) training ride on Sunday and I was hoping for better things at Eldo on Tuesday. Well things didn't go as hoped. I attacked once on the lap leading up to the second prime and for the first time in ages I couldn't get back into the peloton when I got caught. I ended up sitting out a lap and then finished the race sitting at the back. Definitely not satisfying.

I'll see how things go on Sunday at the Mark Reynolds Memorial San Luis Rey Road Race. I'll then decide on whether or not to race the district road championships in Bakersfield. I hate to think this, but I'm not optimistic.

Boston Finally!

I grew up on Long Island and went to college in upstate New York, but somehow, I never visited the "fair city" of Boston. Well that all changed when I got to attend the Lean Advancement Initiative (LAI) Annual Conference last week.

I had the opportunity to walk a good chunk of the Freedom Trail with a colleague and I took a number of photos (some of which may appear in an upcoming Photoblog post). The skyline and architecture of the city is impressive and the food -- especially the stuffed lobster -- was good.

The most amazing part of my trip was running into my oldest friend who is a pilot for American Airlines. I was unexpectedly on a flight from St. Louis to Boston as my Dallas to Boston flight got canceled. We were on an MD-80 and since I know that my friend flies that aircraft type, I generally peek in the cockpit to see if he is in there. Well getting on to the plane I wasn't paying attention and forgot to look inside the cockpit. However, when I was deplaning I looked inside and guess what? Yes, Harris was the 1st Officer (right-hand seat).

So I ended up chatting with him coming off the airplane and we had dinner one night. I told him which flight I was taking out of Boston and he said that he would try to get that flight. Sure enough he was there. I got to watch him do some of his pre-flight stuff before I took my seat. It was all very cool. Between a good conference, a fun, first visit to Boston, and getting to fly with my friend as one of the pilots, this was one of the best and most memorable business trips that I have taken.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Glass on the Road

I know that this sounds like a trivial subject but I believe that it is a symptom of something more insidious. Of course, I may just be paranoid.

Regardless, the has been an inordinate amount of glass on the roads in SoCal as of late. A couple of weeks ago, my club members had numerous flats on our Saturday Social Ride. Personally, I have been having to swerve around too many patches of freshly broken glass over the past month.

Why do people need to throw bottles out of their cars?

Back in the 1980s, California did not collect deposits on bottles and cans. My cycling friends and I supported the adoption of a state law to start collecting deposits and to establish recycling centers. Of course we supported the proposed law to help the environment, but we also supported it to try to decrease the amount of broken glass on the road.

The first proposition failed to pass in the land of propositions, but the second time it passed. When the law went into effect it really did seem to help. However, over time, the positive effects of the law seemed to diminish. Over the past 10 years or so, there seems to be a cycle of increasing and decreasing amounts of glass on the road. Unfortunately, this latest spate of broken glass seems worse than ever.

What does this mean? I'm not sure. It might be the economy. It might be a declining social consciousness. It might be that people are out to get cyclists. Who knows?

I'm not happy and I'm concerned about the core reason for all of the glass.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Catching Up

Obviously I have not been a prolific blogger. As one of my self improvement projects, I have decided to spend 15 minutes per day (either during lunch at work or at night at home) writing something for this blog.

So with 15 minutes per day, six or seven days a week, my goal is to have three posts per week. I will try to have these post rotate through three topics, bicycling, Lean, and photography. Of course, I will reserve the right to have other topics that are topical or strike my fancy.

Part of why I haven't been posting to this blog is because I have been posting to or lurking at several forums. But as has happened in the past with my forum experiences, things start to get stale for several reasons: repeating topics, member familiarity breeding contempt, too many "personal" problems, etc.

I also have seen that forums seem to follow this kind of anthropological evolution:

Tribe => Village => Town => City => Urban Blight

When a forum hits the Urban Blight phase, you start to see posts whose subject is essentially, "I'm Leaving." If enough of the original members leave, the forum sometimes reverts back to the village or town phase where the cycle starts again.

So, as Urban Blight has started to creep in to yet another forum that I used to enjoy immensely, I will re-allocate some of my energies back to my blog. Oh, and I won't create an "I'm Leaving" post on any of those forums. I'm not quite that dramatic.

Where I've Been