31 July 2008 – Fly in the Ointment

I got an email a few days ago asking me whether the VDST would work with the new Monster 696. I replied that it would indeed, assuming the 696 has the same Marelli 5AM ECU. Wrong… The new Monster uses Siemens injection. This marks the first time that a Ducati has ever used anything except for Marelli injection on a production bike. I’ll be calling Technoresearch later today to chat, but I’m guessing we’re screwed. Ducati has probably already adapted the DDS to work with the 696, but if they plan on switching over to that brand of injection, the aftermarket is going to have to come up some other solution. If Technoresearch develops something for it, it will take years to get through their R&D. Sounds like a good reason to stay away from the 696 to me. I’ll write again if my assertions turn out to be incorrect.

UPDATE: Called Technoresearch and they confirmed the VDST won’t work with the 696, but they’re working on it… I’m guessing, but by the end of 2009, they should have a solution. I’ve been thinking about why they switched to Siemens on the 696, and I’m guessing it is to cover their bases. One of the proposed strategies to deal with suppliers is to minimize their power by not sole-sourcing from them. If this is the case, you’ll be seeing more Siemens F/I beneath Ducati bodywork in the coming years.

While sweating off 5 pounds today during the early morning run, I pondered the time of the year and the heat. Okay, so June 22nd is the summer equinox, meaning were closest to the sun on that day. If that’s so, then why does it continue to get hotter after June 22nd. The hottest months in Florida are July-Sept. The days are getting shorter, which means less sunlight in terms of time and intensity. So why does the heat peak in September? I’ll let you science majors fill me in.

All hail Patrick. He took pity on me and came over yesterday to help me measure out and mark my floor for the upcoming tile job. What a PITA. Being the anal-retentive one, I’m going to double check our measurements, but it should be fine. Hey Patrick, we forgot about the border. I have to start in each corner and work towards the center on each wall. If I don’t the double border will be offset in each corner because there won’t be full tiles. I thought of that while laying in bed last night.

Enjoy your TH.

30 July 2008 – Grading Blues

  A shot of the Me, Donnie Searle and Dave Searle in the middle of Utah. Our Adventure-Tourer comparo article will be out in a few weeks in the forthcoming issue of MCN.

I’m up to my armpits in student papers, reading Strategic Analysis of assigned cases. As fast as I get them graded I pick up a fresh batch in class. It’s another self-inflicted wound. If I didn’t give the assignments, I wouldn’t have the grading. I have 63 students hurling towards the end of the course next week. They’re stressed, but I’m more focused on ensuring they have the necessary skillsets to graduate.  

I’m in a holding pattern on the Ark’s tile. I need my father in law to help me measure and strike lines to get the exact mid-point of the room so that I can put down the center piece and start my diagonals of tile. In the meantime, I’m finishing up some electrical work. The workshop is in a total state of disarray, with all my wood-working tools and equipment strewn everywhere. Until the Ark is complete, I don’t have enough room to do a minor oil change.

Off to teach a night class.

Enjoy your Wed….

29 July 2008 – Off a cliff

Sales the past few months have been decent, enough to allow me to come out with a few new products. The fear for any retailer is that one day the sales will just stop and they’ll be stuck with tens of thousands of dollars in inventory. As I’ve expanded my offerings of tools and tidbits the past few years, that fear has been growing — that one day Ducati fans will just stop spending. There’s no rhyme or reason for sales patterns, but if the last week is any indication, something is afoot. Web site hits are the same per day, but purchases are way down. The upside of this is that I’ve had time to reorganize my inventory racks and do some admin stuff, and maybe nobody will notice when I depart for my military duty stints this fall. The downside is that low sales halt all product development, and make me rethink restocking some items. In the last month, I’ve shelled out $6000 to restock Surflex clutch packs, Gunson Gastesters, and V-Two billet clutch hubs.  With the stock market tanking, and job loss compounding the already fragile economy, my worry is that the aftermarket parts market is at an inflection point, and that motorcycles will be considered a luxury we can no longer afford. It’s a scary thought, but then a Ducati in the garage can’t be used to make a mortgage or credit card payment… unless you sell it of course.  Still, with low sales, at least my focus is shifted away from my dwindling 401K. Retirement? What’s that?

29 July 2008 – Credit Cards

Most of you are used to giving out your credit card number, expiration date, and the 3-digit code on the back. Credit card processing companies have made the 3-digit code irrelevant. The 3-digit code supposedly makes it tougher to steal your card because the information isn’t stored on the receipt and anybody scanning your card would have to scan the backside too. Unfortunately, if somebody steals your card, they’ll have all the information they need… until now. My new credit card processing company uses something called AVS. Unless the credit card number and expiration date match the billing address entered during the transaction, the transaction will be declined. It gives a lot more security to a transaction. It’s only a matter of time before crooks come up with a way to make this new security measure obsolete, but it should have more staying power than the simple 3-digit code.

Still no word on Stoner’s teammate for next year or Bayliss’ replacement. Rumors are Nicky on the MotoGP squad and Vermuelin to replace Bayliss. We’ll see how true such rumors are.

There will be an interruption to shipments during the last 2 weeks of August. If you need something, get your order in before August 11th.

27 July 2008 – It’s not easy being green

I’m not what one would call a tree-hugger. I’ve never demonstrated against development or threw my body in front of a Hummer. However, I do believe in conservation. I have a heavy enough footprint on the landscape, so I figure it’s the least I can do. Here’s what I and DT due to promote energy and environmental efficiency.

1. No oil or solvent has ever been thrown away at the shop. Instead, I have separate containers for oil and coolant and take them to recycle centers. Likewise with old batteries.

2. My workshop and the Ark are equipped with super energy efficient ductless A/C units. The Workshop is insulated to R-10 (next year to be boosted to R-30), and the Ark is insulated to R-39 in the ceiling and walls.

3. I drive a hybrid, which gets better fuel economy than most of my Ducs.

4. I take steps to maintain the habitat on my property, and the only chemicals I use are organic lime to neutralize the acidity wrought by the damn oak trees.

5. I water the lawn with stream water instead of city water.

6. We now recycle most of our trash. This part of the country is pretty backwards in this regard, and we have to haul our paper/plastic/aluminum to a recycle point. Doing so has reduced our trash output 75%.

That’s about it, and about as far as I go. I’m not about to throw out my “pave the planet” t-shirt or eschew development or drilling in Anwar. I’m a moto-journalist, not an environmental activist. But that doesn’t mean I can’t plant a tree with the same degree of enthusiasm as working on a Ducati valvetrain, or do something to reduce what is otherwise a pretty big carbon footprint.

The woodwork in the Ark is now 100% complete now that the stairs and bannister have 2 coats of urethane. Zachary and I picked up 2500 pounds of ceremic Italian tile today, so that’s the next challenge in my life.

26 July 2008 – Honkered down in the heat

Yesterday was your typical July day in the Panhandle. I went for an early morning run. To do that, I put on my usual running gear, then spray deep woods off on the back of my neck, arms and around my ears. That is to keep the yellow flies at bay. Their bite marks leave welts and you often aren’t aware they’ve landed on you until they bite. God awful bugs.  They attack from behind like Liberals (That’s my political statement for the year). I worked the day half inside and half outside. Anything more than 30 seconds spent outside results in sweat pouring off my head. Last night I fed the critters in the stream behind the house. To accomplish that, I don long pants and grab one of those bug zappers in the form of a small electrified tennis racket. While feeding the turtles and fish, I swatted and zapped a dozen kamakazi gnats and yellow flies. The only thing missing from the equation was chiggers and no-seeums. I did see a few snakes wiggle by in the stream.

Two new products enter the mix next week. One is a helmet breath guard to prevent fogging and dry eyes, and the other is an inexpensive wall-mounted tasteful helmet, jacket and glove rack. Charlie’s back at work and fighting his suppliers trying to get me clutch baskets. I popped up the ad already. The baskets will be here the middle of the week. Red ano baskets now sell for $250 (up from $230) and the hard anos will be $270. While talking to Charlie, we chatted about the eventual bottoming out of the US Dollar. We don’t see an end in sight. It’s crazy. Unless the next President does something to correct the financial position of this country, we’re heading further into a black hole. We’re already so far into the hole that the only thing we can see forward or backward is blackness. I don’t like blackness, unless it’s my GC, MTS1000 or Sport Classic. Otherwise I prefer red or yellow.

It’s 0400 and time to head out into the Ark and sand some wood. I’d rather be laying some wood.   

25 July 2008 – Spreading Love one sentence at a time

One of the downsides of spreading myself across multiple careers is the amount of time I spend on any single one. Some people comment that they don’t know where I find the time. The truth is that I don’t excel at any career in which I endeavor. I made a decision long ago that I’d rather be a jack of all trades than a master of one. Either my attention span is short due to adult attention deficit disorder, or I just get bored easily. Whatever the reason, I tend to split up every day into snippets. One of the prices of viewing a day in this manner is that I tackle emails and communication the same way I do my careers — in snippets. I get a lot of emails. Some are product queries, some are tech questions on the message board, some are Army correspondence, some are from friends and family and some are student/university based. I try to handle each as quickly as possible, but I don’t wax philosophic. It’s commonplace for me to return a full page email with one or two sentences. It’s unfortunate, but that’s all the time or attention I seem to be able to muster.  One of the downsides of email is that it is very impersonal form of communication. Words can be misconstrued, and their intent lost in translation. Still, it is my preferred form of communication. By forcing things through email, I can protect what little semblance of personal life I maintain. I’ve seen too many people burn out by allowing others full access to their daily lives. By limiting where and when I accept interruptions, I’ve managed to juggle things fairly well. It’s kept me from burning out, and also made me look forward to each of my careers. So please don’t be offended if my emails are short and to the point, or I return a phone message with a one sentence email. I’m about as efficient as I’ll probably ever be, and writing flowery emails isn’t my idea of having fun. Speaking of fun, time to go for the morning run. It is, after all, 0500 and the sun will be up in an hour. 

24 July 2008 – Spam

Now that the economy has slowed down, companies are doing everything they can to spur sales. This includes sending me weekly emails about their latest promotions. They capture my email when I make purchases. I use a dummy email address used for such orders, but I still check it for tracking #s, etc. When I get spammed, some emails have hyperlinks for me to unsubscribe from their list, but such attempts usually don’t work. If anything, the spam seems to get worse after my unsubscribe attempts. I have the last word though. Sending me spam against my wishes is a surefire way to piss me off and terminate my support for the vendor. I must be the only one offended by such spam, for if everyone else was and listened with their wallets, vendors would get the hint.  

The backer board flooring is complete in the Ark. Now it’s tile time and the completion of the building is in sight. About the time I finish it will be cool enough to ride again. I’m shooting for a late Oct or early Nov grand open… Only 1 year after my initial target date. It’s a good thing I don’t have such time overruns when working on customer bikes….. Then again……..

23 July 2008 – Burned and Engineless

I got a call yesterday from a friend who got burned on an internet deal. Greg has a 748 and a 999. He grenaded the 748 (with an 853 kit) last year and has been looking for a suitable donor motor. Another friend found one on the Ducati Index for him, so he contacted the guy and closed the deal on a 748 motor with 6K on it. I was going to be the one to do the engine swap and was expecting Greg to drop off the stuff a few weeks ago. Well, it’s a deal gone bad, with the usual tale. He sent a money order to a Mr.  Kelly Baker from Rosamond/Baker California.  As soon as the money order was received Mr. Baker stopped returning phone calls. Greg called Chris from Calif Cycleworks and Chris has also been burned by the guy. To make a long story short, Greg emailed the owner of the Ducati Index to pull the ad (yes it was still an active ad ready to dupe the next guy), is out $900, and still looking for a bonafide low-miles 748 motor. I’ve been fortunate enough to never get burned by such internet deals, but that one might have hooked me too. There is a certain degree of trust you give when ordering through the internet. eBay has their rating system, but few other places provide indications of the integrity of the seller. Without a bonafide website and/or testimonials from friends/internet acquaintenances to verify the integrity of the vendor, a would-be shopper is at risk. Too bad California is so far away. I can think of better ways to have fun that to grab a few baseball bats, pile into an old beater with a few friends and visit somebody who has stolen my money.

22.5 July 2008 – the Great Sucking Sound

For the past few weeks there has been a great sucking sound emanating from my wallet. First it was the expense of the driveway. It’s money well spent, but I think of things in terms of the bikes/aftermarket goodies that money can buy. Last night I stroked another check for the rain gutters I had installed on the outside of the carport, workshop and the Ark. It was a small bill compared to the expense of the concrete, but it would have purchased some nice goodies for my bikes. So, while some people will look at the look of the new DT setup and see nicer facilities, I just think of what all that money could have purchased – a brand new Desmosedici AND a Hypermotard-S.  The Ark and property will look great, but I can’t ride them…..Wahhhhhhhhhhh :-(