Motorcycle Riding: How It All Started

JRP Reflecting

Reflection – written October 11 , 1998

It all started in 1970 when I was drafted into the U.S. Armyand was stationed at MacDill Air Force base in Tampa, Flordia. MacDill was the home of the U.S. Strike Command. STRIKE stood for “swift retaliation in any known environment” and it focused on preparedness for activity in the Middle East. The Strike Command was redesignated U.S. Readiness Command in 1972. My wife and I lived in an apartment about ten miles from the base. When she got a job as a nurse in the intensive care unit of the Tampa General Hospital we decided we needed a second car. This was not an affordable alternative at the time and so I had the brainstorm one day that a motorcycle would be a good idea. Warm climate, friendly terrain, economical transportation, etc.. Why not? So, I bought a Honda 90cc motorcycle. It was perfect. Or so I thought. Then I enrolled as a graduate student at the University of South Florida. The campus was 25 miles from the apartment via Interstate 75. If you ever rode a 90cc motorcycle on an Interstate highway being sucked along by passing tractor trailers you’ll know why I then upgraded to a Honda 160cc. It was bright orange and I loved it. By the time we moved back North from Tampa I had put over 16,000 miles of motorcycling under my belt. After a short 27 year break I recently decided it was time to get back to riding a bike!
So, what kind of motorcycle to buy? I was predisposed to Honda. My experience with the 90 and the 160 was great. Never a single mechanical problem of any kind. Low maintenance, high quality. I am sure that is still the case. Then I got talking to Carl Conti, a retired IBM executive with a very distinguished career at IBM and also as a consummate motorcyclist. He told me about his Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Yes, plural. I went to and began to learn about the “cult”. The decision was actually financial. Not the price of the bike but rather a review of Harley-Davidson stock (HDI). When I saw their stellar financial performance in terms of growth, profitability, return on equity, and stock price appreciation I knew there was something to the Harley movement. I also found that Harleys hold their resale value very very well. As final confirmation I went to a Harley-Davidson dealer and saw the crowds of people buying clothing, accessories, and admiring the new bikes on the showroom floor. I knew that this was a company and a product I wanted to be associated with. Seemed a lot like how I hope IBM is perceived; outstanding engineering, quality products, good reputation.
I couldn’t bear ordering a new one and waiting months to take delivery so I bought a 1995 Sportster 1200. It looked brand new! The Sportster has been a great bike for me to re-learn motorcycling on. I have been taking it very seriously from a safety point of view. I took a two day Motorcycle Safety Foundation approved class as part of getting my license. The instructor was outstanding and I learned a lot of things I wish I had known back in 1970! I think about riding much like when I was flying an airplane on instruments; constantly scanning the road ahead, rear view mirrors, speedometer, side traffic, and my GPS III.
Riding has been as enjoyable as I had remembered from 1970. Well actually more so. Back then it was a way to get to grad school classes. Now I think about it as a way to be out there in the open, explore roads I wouldn’t otherwise travel, meet new people, and enjoy the thrill of the curves.
If you visit the Harley and Guggenheim sections of the Photo Gallery you can see some pictures of motorcycles and motorcycling friends and, oh yes I can not tell a lie, a picture of the Harley I am dreaming about.

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History of this site

JRP Reflecting

Reflection – written September 24 , 1998

In late 1993, I wrote a paper called “Get connected“. It was about how companies could open themselves up, become more accessible, and generally increase their communications capabilities dramatically by using the Internet. The ideas would seem trivial today but back then they were somewhat controversial. I first talked about these ideas outside of IBM at Internet World in early December 1994. The response was heartening. I was flooded with emails from people (outside and inside of IBM) asking me for copies of the presentation. That is when I got the idea to create my own Web site. The motivation was two fold initially; to share the presentation materials and to facilitate a discussion. A discussion in the Internet space. With people who would subsequently inspire me, help me, critique me, and generally provide really valuable input which I in turn could use to inspire others inside of IBM.

The initial was modest. A home page with a link to download the presentation, a few links to IBM Web pages and “my top ten favorite Web sites list”. That was in vogue in 1995. The initial site was just plain old HTML that I created and edited with a text editor. I don’t even remember which one. Then along came John Landry from Lotus . He had a small group at Lotus doing some work they called InterNotes. John was somewhat of a renegade in Lotus as some people characterized me in IBM. He had a conviction about how Lotus Notes could ultimately be the best way to publish information to the Web. Our relationship with Lotus back then was tenuous. We re-marketed Notes but there was not strategic development relationship. I was enthusiastic about InterNotes because I was an avid Notes fan (since early 1992) and also because I saw it as a way to simplify and expand my Web site which was beginning to become modestly popular.

I asked the Lotus InterNotes team for a copy of the code and they happily obliged. That was the end of me being self-sufficient with my Web site! It turned out that creating the content was in fact significantly easier. I no longer had to use an HTML editor. I could simply create Notes documents. As simple as doing an email.

This is where the simplicity stopped. Behind the scenes InterNotes was a cobbled together variation on Notes which looked simple to the Notes document creator and simple to the Web visitor but was a nightmare for the person who had to make it work on the server. This is where my colleague Mary Keough came in. Mary was (and is) an expert in Notes and she painstakingly figured out how to make my Web dreams come true. In particular, I had this crazy idea of expanding my “top ten” list to a “top fifty” list. It went on to become a “top 100” list and then I got the idea of creating “categories” of my favorites. Mary figured out how to make this work and I renamed it “My Favorite Places”. 

As InterNotes evolved into what it now known as Domino, the process became easier and Notes began to really shine on my Web site. Adding a new “Favorite Place” became trivial thanks to a form formula created by another colleague, Dipen Mehta. Now all I had to do was copy a link to the clipboard, click a SmartIcon on the Notes action bar, and then enter a category, and a description of the URL. Notes would then automatically place the link in alphabetical order, place it in the right category, and put a “new” or “update” icon as appropriate. “My Favorite Places” is currently over 1,000 links!

As the site evolved I got all sorts of ideas for things to add. I was encouraged by the many emails from visitors and constant feedback, ideas, and consultation by other colleagues including Dave Grossman, David Singer, Jane Harper, Jennifer Kilian, Todd Watson, and of course Mary and Dipen. I added sections about my hobbies: gadgets, running, gps, music, and technology. Then I began to write short stories I call “Reflections”. The site continued to escalate. Dipen expanded the technical capability and Mary expanded the Notes ideas. The biggest changes were the addition of the Photo Gallery (now nearly 1,000 high quality digital pictures) and the addition of high quality graphics by Bette Herod. I had always wanted to keep the site simple without too much glitz and Bette has done a masterful job in helping me maintain a down to earth yet at the same time sophisticated graphical look and feel. 

I get a lot of questions about “who does your Web site?”. In the beginning it was just me. I still call this my Saturday morning hobby, but as you can see, I’ve been lucky enough to get a terrific team behind the scenes to help me keep it going. The truth is the technical and graphical underpinnings are done by Dipen and Bette and the content and organization are done by me. But its still my hobby. I enjoy writing content and adding links. People say they like it so that inspires me to keep doing it. I hope you enjoyed this brief history of the site.


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The Art of the Motorcycle

Art MuseumIt was quite a trip! Started out at Carl Conti’s house in South Salem, NY at 7:30 AM and went down to Banksville, NY to meet up with The Riding Club of Greenwich (Connecticut). From there we went to Bear Mountain Inn to meet up with the Ducati Club of Morristown, NJ. The combined groups then went to New York City to visit the Guggenheim Museum exhibition called “The Art of the Motorcycle“. It was very a worthwhile visit. There are pictures from the trip in the photo gallery.

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Electronic Commerce

Electronic commerce means different things to different people. To many it means electronic shopping. I think over time it will mean much more than that and will include things like certified mail, transfer of medical records, applying for mortgages, loans, and life insurance, and perhaps filing a will. All these things and others will be made possible by the widespread use, understanding, and trust we will learn to have in public key cryptography. One of the technologies that I believe will make this happen is the X509 V3 certificate.

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Bandwidth Galore

I’m optimistic about bandwidth. It’s too easy to conclude that the Internet is overburdened and in trouble. Though we may see a few hiccups, and maybe even brownouts along the way, there’s a lot going on to suggest that bandwidth and infrastructure will grow more than fast enough to meet consumer demand.
First, telecommunications companies including AT&T, US West GTE, Bell Atlantic, BellSouth and SBC are working on Subscriber Digital Lines, a technology that at least 90% of American homes are capable of using. They all have pilots underway. It promises millions (maybe up to 10 or more) of bits per second to the home or small business. As many as nine variations on xDSL have been evaluated in various stages. It looks like to me like ADSL and VDSL are most likely to achieve large numbers of users. It is really shaping up as a strong race between ADSL and Cable Modems. A standard will develop just as it did for 56K (X.90). 90% of the homes in Holland and 60% in American have cable close by. With that large a market it is a certainty that companies will develop practical cable modems which promise at least 384k bits per second. Time Warner cable has a trial underway that claims in excess of one million bits per second. Standards are evolving in this area too.
Yes, there are some problems with some of these new technologies but my over arching reason for optimism, in addition to the technology, is competitive forces. There are five main players (at least); copper, fiber, satellite, wireless, and cable. This is to the home. None of these has reached it’s potential and each is threatened in some ways by the others. Result will be breakthroughs and leapfrog moves. This is already happening between cable and ADSL. Just like we have seen in the PC industry we are likely to see surprises. I predict we will see quite a bit of this over the next 12-18 months. Maybe it will be wireless that will surprise us. Bits can move through the air as fast as they can move through fiber or wire. CS Wireless and other companies are already deploying two-way MMDS capabilities (multiple megabit capability). The leapfrogging is underway already. Some communities (like Phoenix) have had cable modems introduced and shortly thereafter the telco introduced an xDSL offering. Who would have thought we would have 57.6K bps with analog modems in 1997. We did. Remember when 4800 bps was thought to be the limit for PC modem connections?
The other issue is the backbone; the "superhighway" that links the various hubs of the Internet together. This is where Internet 2 comes in. Over 100 U.S. universities have now said they will build out their infrastructure to include gigapops. Giga is billions of bits per second. Pops mean points of presence.
A new non-profit company called UCAID (university corporation for advanced Internet development) has been formed and it is busily laying out the architecture and advanced applications for the next generation of the Internet. There is much work to be done but the benefits are so compelling I think this is going to happen and quickly (next 18 months). In April 1998 an advanced project called Abilene was announced at the White House which willbe the precursor to this next generation Internet.

The other development of some significance is in the deployment and potential of optical fiber. A recent article in IEEE Spectrum by Alan Eli Willner called "Mining the optical bandwidth for a terabit per second" predicts that 100 billion bits per second systems will come on the market within a couple of years and that terabit-per-second systems should go commercial around 2005. Not really that far off. This incredible increase in bandwidth is being made possible by wave division multiplexing and erbium doped all optical amplifiers. The May 1998 issue of Wired has a story about Qwest, a new fiber optics based Internet technology based telecommunications company. Qwest (and at least four other companies) are busily laying fiber in the ground to provide incredible increases in bandwidth for the backbone. They are laying two conduits in the ground along railroad tracks; thousands of miles worth. One conduit is orange and it will carry 48 fibers for Qwest and 48 for other telecommunications companies. Each fiber can carry 10 billion bits per second of capacity per "window". A "window" is one of 8 spectra that is enabled by dense wave division multiplexing. The result of all this is that each of the fibers will have the capacity for 80 billion bits per second. Times 48! That is more capacity than AT&T, MCI, Sprint, and WorldCom put together!

As for the collapse of the backbone that some people have predicted, Scott Bradner at Harvard points out that earlier in 1996 , a major failure of the power grid left most of the western U.S. trying to communicate by candlelight. He also reminds us that on an average day, more than 30,000 people in the U.S. are without telephone service for an average of five hours each — visit the ATIS Network Reliability Steering Committee page.

I haven’t heard anyone talking about an impending failure of the power or telephone systems.

Another point about bandwidth is that for Intranet applications (inside of a company or university) an organization can have dedicated network capacity at whatever bandwidth they feel is justified. It is becoming more and more common for businesses to install OC12 Sonet capacity (622 million bits per second) for their Intranet backbones. Gigabit Ethernet is beginning to emerge as a technology for incredible intranet bandwidth. Basically, companies can have almost whatever bandwidth they choose (and can afford) to have.

One more thing that makes me so optimistic about bandwidth is that since we all know that having more of it is good, we will be willing to pay for it. Today many people pay 2-5 times more for cable than they do for Internet access. People will demand much higher Internet bandwidth as soon as they know it is available. The marketplace somehow finds a way to get things done at the right performance and price as long as there is competition. Witness the PC market. Since there is intense competition and a free market operating in more and more parts of the world the "invisible hand" will take care of things.

There was also a very bullish story on this in Forbes ASAP magazine (April 7, 1997) by George Gilder called "Fiber Keeps its Promise". George says "Get ready. Bandwidth will triple each year for the next 25, creating trillions in new wealth." More recently the The Financial Times of London had a story on July 9, 1997 called Internet2: Traffic Moves into the Fast Lane.

Epilogue: And while we all complain that 50-100KB is not enough, the Sojourner rover is sitting on Mars communicating with the Pathfinder lander at 2400 baud! See Todd Wallack’s story in Network World (July 14)

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