Three doves in close proximity


Since buying the Jeep this past weekend I’ve had one complaint about it. The location of the shifters. For some reason those who designed the Jeep located the transfer case shifter closest to the driver and the transmission shifter furthest from the driver. In the brief 150 miles or so I’ve driven the Jeep I have shifted the transfer case into 4-low two times and into 4-high three times. In that same mileage I haven’t counted how many times I have shifted the transmission. On my way home from work tonight I counted approximately forty-five shifts of the transmission (and I’m sure I missed a few).

What got me writing about this was David Cole‘s excellent article over at Smashing Magazine, Proximity in Design: Why I Can’t Use My Car’s A/C. It sure hit home in relation to my complaint about the shifter location in the Jeep. Yes, my proximity problem is a bit different than David’s but the principle is the same. It’s too bad the end-user and ease-of-use are rarely given the urgency and priority they deserve in the design of things both software and hardware in nature.

Getting back to my shifter problem I struggle to understand how anyone with even a teeny bit of common sense could determine that locating the transfer case shift lever easily within the drivers’ reach and the transmission shifter an arm’s length away is a good idea or will be comfortable for the driver considering the frequency at which each shifter gets used. But then, I once received detailed CAD drawings for the frame and rear suspension from an automotive engineer who chose to run the shock absorbers directly through the frame rails. Yes, I said directly. There were no cutouts or pass through holes in the frame, he just drew them right into the same space the frame rails occupied.

Looking at my shifter complaint and extrapolating the number of shifts I made on my drive home to the total mileage I’ve driven the Jeep I estimate I have shifted the transmission 338 times (most likely a conservative estimate). That’s a ratio of 68:1. For every one time I shift the conveniently located transfer case shift lever I shift the inconveniently located transmission shifter sixty-eight times. Does not compute. Sadly, the Jeep isn’t the only four-wheel drive vehicle that suffers this problem, most have the same layout.

The biggest problem with the design of most things is designers and engineers aren’t users. Designers and engineers don’t think like users. Designers and engineers don’t approach use of the application/tool/appliance like users. I don’t have a solution to the problem. It’s not possible to replace designers and engineers with users and in my experience it’s near impossible to get designers and engineers to think like users. They simply can’t. It’s not their fault, they just aren’t wired like users; that’s what makes them designers and engineers.


Accepting Fate and Moving On

After nearly three years of being a single car family I finally accepted the fact that I most likely won’t ride a motorcycle as my primary transportation ever again. As the kids have gotten older and involved in more activities living with one vehicle had become too taxing on the family, at least where we live. Sadly, Metropolitan Phoenix wasn’t built with public transportation in mind and what is in place is sorely lacking. So after being told by numerous doctors that my days of riding a motorcycle all the time were over I finally accepted my fate and took the plunge to become a two car family; kind of.

If you know me at all you know that I don’t like normal. I am anything but. So for our second vehicle I chose a used Jeep Wrangler. No, it’s not the perfect vehicle but it meets our needs. We will no longer take our trusty Kia Sorento off-roading. Something it is quite capable at but not something a responsible adult should do with their family’s primary transportation. We will miss our off-road excursions in the mighty Sorento but it took only one short jaunt (topless, of course) from Butcher Jones to Four Peaks to have the entire family loving the Jeep. I foresee many hours (you can’t cover many miles with an average speed of 12 mph) of enjoyment for the whole family bounding across the desert in our trusty little Jeep.

While I miss riding motorcycles very much I don’t feel like I can complain. I managed to get 34 awesome years of motorcycling under my belt before it came to an abrupt end and I’m still able to do most of the things I enjoy in life. I cherish the many memories I have and experiences I’ve shared with friends over the years whether track side or bench racing at the local shop. I won’t soon forget these memories, in part thanks to the many aches and pains that are constant reminders of just how much fun I had over the past three and a half decades of motorcycling. Sayonara for now my two-wheeled machines of joy, you’ve been good to me.

Our four-wheeled desert journey ended a spectacular day that began with a short hike at Lost Dutchman State Park. A fantastic way to spend time with the family.

Lost Dutchman State Park

Cafe Cowboy

An excellent short film by Benedict Campbell about Dustin Kott who turns old Japanese street bikes into magnificent British style cafe racers. Dustin’s comments about his work are inspiring, especially when he mentions that each bike he creates has its own spirit and no two are alike. Oh, the wondrous joys of the art of creation.

Thanks to derestricted for pointing this one out.

Preventing Traffic Collisions

In his recent TED talk, Sebastian Thrun (director of the AI Lab at Stanford and project lead for Google’s driverless cars) discusses his goal of saving one million lives per year by preventing automobile crashes. I admire him for setting out to reach such a lofty goal. It sure makes me wish there was accurate data available about traffic fatalities worldwide. Lacking that information I took a look at the United States where an average of 40,988 traffic fatalities occurred per year during the first decade of this century. A number far too high in my opinion.

I am fascinated by the technology being employed by Thrun and his team in successfully implementing driverless cars, however, with only 140,000 miles driven on public streets the technology is a long way from being proven. Considering that the NHTSA estimates an average of 2.9 trillion miles driven per year between 2001 and 2008 in the United States. Why am I comparing the average miles of all drivers you ask? Because when there is an average of 238,000 registered vehicles in the United States all those miles really do matter (I won’t get into statistical significance, you can venture down that road on your own).

Thrun accurately states, “driving accidents are the number one cause of death for young people.” A sad statistic that could (and should) be addressed. Thrun further says, “and do you realize that almost all of those are due to human error and not machine error and can therefore be prevented by machines?” This is where my opinion differs from Thruns. Well, not so much differs, but I believe the number of traffic fatalities could be significantly reduced in a much shorter time than it will take to validate the viability of driverless cars and populate our public roadways with them.

Sadly, the number of traffic fatalities in the United States represents a much larger and wider reaching epidemic. That of self. In my opinion, the leading cause of traffic collisions (not just fatalities) is selfishness. During my daily commute I watch hordes of drivers swerve across multiple lanes of traffic to get to their exit. Never mind the signs that have been warning them of its impending arrival for the last several miles. Never mind the hundreds of other drivers on the road. The only thing that matters is them and their need to depart the flood of traffic at this exact exit. It is plain and simple selfishness.

What ever happened to drivers thinking about not just themselves but about all those other cars and drivers around them? What happened to teaching new drivers that if they cannot safely (and safely does not mean Evel Knievel would be proud) perform whatever driving action they desire then they should not do so. If you are not in the proper lane to exit the freeway you should proceed until the next safe exit, backtracking if necessary. I’m not talking about a lone section of interstate with exits ten miles apart. I am talking about metro freeways with exits every mile. While it might be an inconvenience to drive an extra couple of miles because you weren’t paying attention to your driving it is far better than having to live with the fact that you took another persons life out of your selfish carelessness. Even sadder than anything I’ve covered so far, I doubt that many people who have been the at-fault driver in a traffic fatality ever recognize that in essence they committed murder. That’s right, I said murder. Perhaps if we actually treated drivers who kill another human being out of their selfish carelessness like criminals there would be some change of other drivers’ behavior. Perhaps not. Hard to say in this time in history when man has never cared so much about himself and no one else than he does now.

What I know is that if our drivers’ education programs educated people on actual driving skill and not just start it, put it in gear and go, we would have much safer roads. There would be fewer fatalities and injuries and as a result lower insurance rates. Rarely am I for a federally controlled program but a federally mandated driving course that requires more hours behind the wheel where a portion of that time is spent in a controlled environment where defensive driving techniques can be learned and experienced would surely reduce crashes on our roadways. Think of all the media attention given to rollover crashes. Face it, the word rollover sounds sensational. In most cases, a rollover crash is the result of driver error. Driver error that occurs as a result of lack of skill, experience, and training. Driving is a privilege, not a right. It needs to be treated and respected that way. Every time you get behind the wheel of an automobile you are in control of the deadliest weapon in America. Take that responsibility seriously.

Because I am a driver (and that will not change) I leave you with a ride around Monza, enjoy.

Out of the Shadows – Crash Reel

I am thoroughly enjoying this late winter storm after our earlier triple digit temps. Seeing the Superstitions with snow on top yesterday sure had me longing for wintry days and mountainous snows. A quick view of the Out of the Shadows crash reel fit the bill perfectly. While it’s been nearly twenty years since I slapped on a pair of skis I haven’t lost the bug and this crash reel is something I can easily relate to.

Now that you’re hooked go grab Out of the Shadows for some fantastic skiing footage and my favorite pricing plan.