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Harley-Davidson 100th Celebration Parade

Harley ParadeSaturday morning we awakened to a constant rumble of motorcycles that has become quite normal around Milwaukee since mid-week, when riders began rolling into town. It's hard to explain how the rumble sounds, because bike engines are sometimes close enough to the house to clearly hear them, yet most of the time they sound more like a collage of bike engines that blurs into a hum. The rumble is pretty loud too... even down in our basement we could hear the constant hum quite clearly.

August 30th was the big day when 10,000 Harley-Davidson motorcycles paraded across town in celebration of the company's 100th anniversary. Since we didn't live far from the parade route, we decided it'd be a fun experience to walk down and see the parade as a family. So, we had breakfast and dressed for the occasion in our Harley-Davidson t-shirts.

Nathan was sporting a home-made shirt with Harley-Davidson logos ink-jet printed and ironed on Friday night. The front of his shirt had a 100th anniverdary logo while back had "Harley Lovin' Half-Pint Hog" encircling a Harley-Davidson logo.

Harley T'sGail and I wore t-shirts from a Swedish Harley-Davidson dealership we visited in 1998, on the outskirts of Uppsala, north of Stockholm. It was great fun meeting the owner of he store, Kjell, especially when we mentioned we came from Milwaukee. We chatted with him a while, talked about the upcoming 95th anniversary celebration taking place in the summer of '98 and bought two dealer t-shirts (he even gave us a Milwaukee discount!). As a small thank you, we gathered 95th anniversary items and sent a care package to Kjell, which he really loved.

Once we were packed up, we headed off to see the show. Milwaukeeans were already streaming toward the start of the parade at the Milwaukee Zoo. As we approached the exit point of the Zoo parking lot, we could already hear bikes rumbling past us, but couldn't see a thing because the crowd was about 8 to 10 people deep! We kept walking east, until we were able to find an opening in the line of spectators.

The crowds in general were amazing! From the reports I heard, spectators filled the entire 7.5 mile parade route 8-10 people deep and 15-20 people deep at intersections and corners on the route. One rider in the parade interviewed on TV said "I don't think anyone in Milwaukee is home today!"

Harley Parade FlagsOur spot was pretty good, but because of the crowds and the narrowness of the road, it was very difficult to see bikers coming more than a few feet ahead. I was looking in particular for international riders and flags they might have mounted on their bikes. Fortunately, many of the flags were large enough to see above the heads and shoulders of the crowd. I saw quite a variety too: Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Ireland, Wales, Honduras, Sweden, Germany, France, Netherlands, Japan, Canada, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, South Africa and there were probably some I missed. This for me was the coolest part -- seeing visitors from around the world coming to Milwaukee with their Harley-Davidsons and being welcomed so warmly.

The riders cruised down Bluemound road two abreast, and at a reasonable speed so that we could see them as they passed by. Many in the crowd cheered, waved or gave thumbs up signs to passing riders while others held signs like "Welcome Home" and "Come as Visitors, Leave as Friends" which the riders would wave, beep at or cheer to.

On occasion, a backup would occur ahead of our position and the group of riders would bunch up and come to a stop. When this happened, riders would rev their engines to the cheers of the crowds.

Gail knew a work colleague who lived a bit further east of our first stake-out spot, so we decided to continue east and look for him. It actually turned out to be a much better location for viewing the parade, as the crowd was much less compressed. We spotted Gail's work colleague across the street but couldn't yell loud enough to get his attention. A reunion would have to wait until after the parade.

Swedish RidersMeanwhile, bikers just kept coming and coming and coming... At one point I saw a huge blue and yellow Swedish flag coming towards us and pointed it out to Gail. The parade slowed down and the Swedish rider and his wife came to a stop right in front of us. Thinking quickly, Gail jumped into the road and turned her back to them both, pointing at the 'Uppsala, Sweden' on the back of her Swedish Harley shirt. After a moment of reading and realization, the Swedish rider's eyes lit up, a big grin spread across his face and and he screamed "UPPSALA!!!" His wife yelled "Yea!" Gail and I just smiled and waved. The parade of bikers began moving again and the Swedish riders were off with big smiles and a great story for their friends back home. For us, that moment was the highlight of the parade. :-)

As a designer, I was impressed with the variations of bikes we saw. Each Harley seemed a uniquely customized bike. I suppose a few riders may keep their bikes stock, but the vast majority seem to modify them with accessories or paint. We saw nearly every model Harley represented, including classic Fat Boys (like the one Arnold Schwartzenegger rode in Old TimerTerminator 2) to the new high performance V-Rod, which I think looks very cool. Some of the bikes had gorgeous custom paint jobs while others sported flags. One bike from Oregon was covered with animal skins. Eewww.

We were a little concerned about Nathan and his reaction to the noise, because he didn't do well at the July 4th parade this year with fire engines' sirens. However, he did just great! As long as we were nearby, he was enjoying the rumbling bikes. In fact, near the end of the parade, he became overloaded with all of the people and action, and fell asleep in his stroller. Pretty amazing.

Nearly 2 hours later, all 10,000 bikes had rolled past. Three Harley-Davidson semi trucks finished off the parade, beeping their air horns as they lumbered past us. What an amazing sight. We crossed the street and visited with the friends we'd spotted earlier and then began the walk back home as spectators and bikers alike, packed it up for the 100th parade.

HD SemisOn the way home I thought about how cool it would have been to ride in the parade. Just imagine, you're a regular person who's chosen to ride a Harley-Davidson. You've come to Milwaukee with your bike, an entire city welcomes you for the 100th celebration of your cycle's company and cheers as you ride through town. Man, that must have been an amazing, emotional feeling for the riders to experience.

Overall, I think the 100th celebration went very well. I've heard of no problems in the city and that the events were all well organized and attended. Bikers and residents of the city seemed to have high respect for each other, with many business offering special deals and freebies to visiting riders. This is probably the biggest event ever to occur here in Milwaukee, and I'm really proud to have been part of it.

If you happen to be a Harley-Davidson rider who was here in August 2003: thanks for coming! We'll see you again in 2008 for the 105th! :-)


A Coffee Update

Coffee makersI'm a coffee lover who is always looking for ways to improve the coffee I drink. I've come across some revelations since I posted Good, Cheap Coffee back in June that I wanted to share.

First, I received some great comments on the Good, Cheap Coffee post, primarily from Daniel Stout and fellow Palm OS User Council member, Rachel, which got my mind thinking about making better quality coffee. Daniel offered suggestions about nice espresso makers, and the difference in quality between his old Krups (like mine) and his new Gaggia. He also mentioned how important fresh coffee is to the mix.

Well, as much as I would love a Gaggia or other high-quality home espresso machine, we can't really afford it at the moment. Darn. However, I was able to take Dan's fresh coffee suggestion to heart, by picking up some fresh espresso roast at Milwaukee's Alterra Coffee Roasters. Wow, that made a big difference in the flavor compared to the pre-ground Goya espresso I had been using.

Then, in August, fellow weblogger and coffee freak, Michael Ashby mentioned digging up an old Bodum French Press pot after his coffee maker busted and how much he was enjoying the excellent coffee it made. When I mentioned his post to my wife, she reminded me that the now defunct Coffee Trader (a very popular Milwaukee east-side coffee hangout in the 80s and 90s) used to serve tasty coffee in french press pots. Many memories of visits to the Coffee Trader and the delicious coffee they served, floated to the surface of my mind.

So, Inspired by Michael and memories of the Coffee Trader, I used a part of my PalmSource Champions $50 quarterly gift certificate to pick up a Bodum Chambord 8-Cup Coffee Press coffee maker. I should have it next week, and I can't wait to try it out! :-)

With my mind still on coffee, I re-read comments by Rachel on the original Good, Cheap Coffee post and saw that she loved the coffee she makes with her Italian stovetop Moka Pot. I had a stainless steel pot like this in my single days, and really loved the coffee, but have since lost track of my pot.

Then I remembered -- Gail and I had been given a Lavazza Carmencita moka pot and two demitasse cups as a wedding gift by Martin & Thea, two good German friends who had come over for our wedding. So, today at lunch, I located and dusted off the Lavazza, and cranked out several ounces of thick, rich espresso-like coffee on the stove. Mmmm, and was it ever good stuff!

So, I am happy to report that I'm re-learning ways to make really good coffee and it's still surprisingly cheap -- the Bodum French Press is only $30 and Moka Pots start at around $30 as well. Maybe they're a little more work than a Mr. Coffee drip maker, but the results are so much better.

Hey, have a great weekend!


Outlook, Corporate IT, "Trustworthy" Computing & Reliability

Matt sent me a link today to Good Times, a very funny and pointed rant by John Gruber of Daring Fireball. John discusses the scourge of Outlook and Exchange, how IT departments put more emphasis on job security than on "Trustworthy" computing, and his solutions to the problem, which include making systems (Windows, Linux or Mac) truly reliable.

I love that John takes the time to step back and take a broader, common-sense look at computer reliability. Why do viruses and Outlook seem inseparable? Why don't corporate IT department CIOs and workers understand their systems better? Why we should require much more of IT people on system reliability. In short, he suggests IT people should be expected to make their systems as reliable as plumbing.

Here's a long, but hilarious quote from the article:

Imagine if the plumbing in corporate America worked with the same degree of reliability as their computer infrastructure. This would mean that individual sinks, urinals, and toilets would go out of order on a regular basis. Water from drinking fountains would turn brown, but, hey, that’s just how it is. Every few weeks, teenage pranksters from Hong Kong would overflow every toilet in the building, knocking them out of commission.

In response to these problems, large companies would have large in-house plumbing staffs, led by a CPO (chief plumbing officer) reporting directly to the CEO. New restroom equipment would be chosen by the same plumbing staff that is employed for maintenance, thus providing a nearly irresistible disincentive to choose reliable low-maintenance equipment from other vendors.

In fact, all of the plumbing comes from a single company based in the state of Washington. This company’s plumbing equipment is engineered such that it is extremely difficult to see how it actually works. The corporate plumbers are often equipped with certifications from this manufacturer, but they (the plumbers) in fact understand very little about how toilets and sinks truly work.

Woo hoo! Go read the whole thing! :-)


Regular PDAs Dying? Uh, No.

ux50I've been amused (and a bit bugged) by the doom and gloom "research reports" being released by popular "market research firms" now claiming that PDAs are dying and will soon be replaced by happy plastic über-phone-cam-communicator-thingees. I often wonder if because communicators are just the "new hot thing" which fortune-telling consulting firms figure they ought to jump on the bandwagon and predict them as the only devices that will survive into the future. Come on guys.

I dunno, maybe I just generally take research consultancy prognostications with a huge grain of salt. In reality, nobody really knows what will happen in high-tech beyond maybe a year from now, yet research consultant reports are often passed off as high-tech gospel and swallowed whole without much challenge. I often wonder how many of these predictions are written to please whomever may be paying for them, or to fall into line with other predictions so consultants don't get any heat at the next industry convention.

However, what bugs me more is this idea that the communicator will without question replace the PDA and I had just better get used to it. I believe there are many users out there who don't want a telephone integrated with a PDA, those who like having these two devices separated. I happen to be one of those people.

Why? First, I don't use a mobile phone much, though I use my PDA all day long. I want all of my battery power reserved for my PDA and not impacted by an integrated phone. I don't want a wireless company to "activate" my communicator in order for me to buy it. I don't want to deal with my mobile phone crashing in the middle of an important call. I prefer a simple, separate mobile phone.

Now, if you're talking wireless capabilities like Bluetooth or WiFi (or whatever follows them) integrated into future PDAs -- that I love. I love the concept of the Sony UX-50 or Tungsten T and a Bluetooth phone, or the Tungsten C for WiFi networks. I want my PDA to talk with my other devices if I choose to connect them. That includes my network, mobile phone, laptop and maybe even my digital camera. I mean, at some point it's going to be cheaper to include wireless technologies on integrated PDA chips than to leave these features off. Wireless doesn't necessarily mean mobile phone. See the difference?

I believe there is a huge market out there for many variations of devices. PDAs, phone-oriented communicators (Kyocera 7135), PDA-oriented communicators (Treo 600), specialized handhelds (Garmin iQue) and even not-so handheld devices (such as the Dana Wireless). All of these devices can co-exist together in the same market.

Simon Buckingham, the CEO of Mobile Streams as quoted in the Register's article, sums it up nicely I think:

"I don't think any huge conclusions can be drawn about the industry at this stage," he said. "Our philosophy is, 'different devices for different people.' And don't forget there is a big installed based of people with Palms and other handhelds who may not want to switch. It's our position that there is a future for all devices."

Amen brother!


The Harleys are Coming!

Harley-Davidson 100thHere in Milwaukee we're in hog heaven -- literally! This weekend Harely-Davison Motorcycle company will mark their 100th anniversary in business with a huge Harley parade through the middle of the city, followed by music and festivities at the lakefront. Actually, the party has already begun in the city, with thousands of Harley riders from around the world already in town for the weekend bash.

Currently there are 4 groups of Harley riders making treks from the Northwest, Southwest, South Central and Northeast this week, arriving in Milwaukee in time for the 100th anniversary celebration.

So, this town is going to be a hoppin' place the rest of the week and this weekend. Already, every hotel room in town is booked solid. Yesterday I heard that riders have booked up hotels within a 50 mile radius for this event. There are even people who've rented out their homes to visiting bikers, in some cases $1000 per week! There's one way to pay the mortgage.

At the party portion of 100th there's supposed to be top-secret, musical guests flying into town. I've heard rumors of Elton John, Tim McGraw and Kid Rock, but who knows. There are already plenty of planned musical acts playing at the Summerfest grounds on the lake, and many, many parties happening all over the city. I get the feeling the average Harley rider will have no trouble finding something to do this week.

I was in downtown Milwaukee on the parade route for the 95th anniversary back in 1998 and it was amazing. The rumble of bikes and the array of Harley-Davidson motorcycles on display was very impressive. New bikes, old bikes and everything in between were rolling through town. I think I stopped vibrating from the loud pipes on Tuesday of the following week!

The design firm I worked for then produced 10 home-made signs with "Welcome to Hog Heaven" on them. During the course of the 95th ride, riders passing by asked if they could have them as souvenirs. We managed to give every single one of them away within minutes! The riders were tickled to have them and we were pleased to contribute to their positive experience. Funniest thing is, I bet all 10 of our signs are hung up in the garages and dens of bike riders around the world right now.

For the 100th anniversary ride I happen to live closer the starting point than to downtown, so our family is planning to make our way to the start of the Harley parade route on Saturday and experience the event first hand. I hope to get some great shots with my Canon digital camera and post them here on the weblog come Monday.

I'd also love to have a story to tell. I'm hoping I can run into a few out of state, or even better, international Harley-riding visitors. I think it would be interesting to hear what riders from around the world think of the Harley-Davidson 100th Anniversary event and Milwaukee. So, stay tuned for that.

Lastly, if you're interested in the 100th, here are a few links to learn more about it:

Official Harely-Davidson 100th Anniversary Site
OnWisconsin's Guide to the Harley-Davidson 100th Anniversary
100th anniversary Story (Flash)
The Ride Home Photo Gallery
Harley Owner's Group (H.O.G)
Harley-Davidson 95th Anniversary Article archive

If you're not far from Milwaukee and would love to see and feel the rumble of 100,000 loud-piped Harleys as they parade through the center of town, come on over this coming Saturday August 30th -- it's gonna be a blast! :-)