Boys Trip to Hong Kong

Quick trip to Hong Kong with some mates underway.  We're just here four days, swooping in to get some custom suits made.  This place is NOTHING like I was expecting.  I expected something like Beijing or Shanghai, instead this is loads like NYC.  The masses of people, the retail options available, number of American stores around like 7-11 and Pizza Hut, English actually gets you pretty far, tons of white people everywhere, nice cars, great roads an infrastructure, interesting architecture, impressive public works and buildings.  

Didn't plan it this way but turns out this is one of the biggest party weekend in Hong Kong - some event called Rugby 7's.  Don't completely understand the cultural significance, but for some reason it's invaded by Australians and Europeans and many of them are dressed in elaborate costumes to partake in supporting their favorite rugby team?  Movie characters, super heroes, pirates, it's quite like Halloween in the states.  This isn't just a young mans game, the rugby fans are in their 40's and 50's and beyond as well.  It's like San Francisco's street festivals, roads are closed and streets packed with people.

Off to find Michelin star rated dumplings and traditional markets, hope to catch the light show on the city buildings tonight....


AFM Round 1 - Buttonwillow

Of the two racing leagues I compete in, American Federation of Motorcyclists (AFM) is the more competitive one.  It's one of the oldest racing clubs in the country, it's nationally known within the motorsports community.  Last weekend was the season opener at Buttonwillow Raceway Park (where yours truly is the proud Foursquare mayor).  Our race weekend was partially rained out, by Saturday it was clear that Sunday was going to be a wash (I'm so punny, aren't I?)  Contrary to many other racing organizations, ours does NOT run races in the rain.  I'm hugely in favor of this policy.  While the tire manufacturers do make tires purpose built for racing in the rain, that's another set of tires and rims to haul around, and frankly I can't afford to push my bike in the rain due to the inevitable mishaps that would occur.

New to my race career this year and racing season are a few minor changes:

(a)  Like with my other racing organization - WERA, I am racing as an "Expert."  This is roughly akin to varsity vs. junior varsity level competition.  Due to number of race weekends completed successfully I'm now classified as Expert.  This means the competition is as stiff as it gets, and I don't get to race in the "Clubman" series which is only for new racers.  My number plate on my bike is white to reflect my Expert status, Novice racers ride with yellow number plates.

(b)  I'm investing in racing this year like never before.  I'm hiring a professional coach (Ken Hill) a couple times for one-on-one coaching, very excited for this.  The waiting list to get in for coaching is literally years long, I'm eager to get with a master level racer and learn.

(c)  I have a second bike built out to campaign as my backup.  I may also use the second bike throughout the year as a tool to play with suspension settings and gearing changes.  The bikes have a small horsepower difference, mostly because one of them has 10k race miles and is getting a little tired.

(d)  My chief pit mate and racing buddy is now with kid and has halted his racing career.  Many of the guys I started racing with have crashed out and called it quits, lost the interest, don't have the life circumstances to still go after a fundamentally insane hobby, moved out of the area, or paused their race careers to pursue other things.  So this year promises to be an intimate relationship between me, the bikes, the track, and the sport.  I will inevitably develop new friendships along the way, but this not something to head out and do with buddies casually any more.  I am having a big gut check about my interest in this sport lately due to the solitary nine hour and more drives to tracks in Las Vegas and Utah.  Doesn't lessen my interest in the sport, but does make me qualify my reasons for doing with greater gravity.  This comes at great sacrifice to time spent developing geographically local relationships, and I have to be extremely deliberate about getting out of this what I'm seeking.

Now for the results!  Of my three races, two did not run on Saturday due to compressed schedule resulting from the impending rain.  Bike suspension is a funny thing.  It's something of a black art, with equal parts magic, mechanics, speculation, trial and error, geometry and personal preference.  There is certainly a right and a wrong, and currently my setup is wrong.  I hope to remedy the current configuration and am enlisting the help of paid experts to assist.  Things as they are, I feel pretty good about my performance last Saturday.

I raced in the Open Production class, bikes of any size engine can compete, but "production" means there is a limit to the modifications which can be performed on the bike.  Chiefly, must use OEM forks (internals of the forks can be and have been upgraded), must use OEM wheels and brakes, engine may not be modified.  Most of the meaningful and significant parts that one could upgrade for big performance gains may not be modified.

Of the thirteen bikes on the grid I placed fifth.  I started in seventh place, and had my best laptimes at this track by many seconds.  So I'm pleased.  I was also within reach of the next two racers in front of me - if I had my best lap time of the race EVERY lap of the race... I would have ended up with a better position.  This is also true for the people who beat me, but the point is that I'm in the hunt.  Probably the first time I've really felt "in the hunt" for a podium position in an Expert class race.  SO, it was an outstanding weekend!

I have a WERA race in Las Vegas between here and there, but next AFM race is April 17th at Infineon Raceway/ Sears Point in Sonoma.  This will be one of three races that my San Francisco friends can manage attending without much logistic challenge, so if you fancy being part of the Quinton "Slowpoke" Jones official pit crew - make sure to come by and root me on!

The Friendship Plant

I have a fun tradition going with my friends, thought I would tell you about it.  Similar in propagation to a chain letter or Amish friendship bread, we have a friendship spider plant.  I first was gifted a branch of this spider plant some fifteen years ago in college.

Spider plants are funny creatures.  As you can see above, they have spiky outgrowth on the top like Bart Simpson hair or something.   I think this gives them a punk rock undertone.  If my spider plants wore tee shirts, they would surely be black tee shirts with a tuxedo undershirt printed on them.

They are ideal pets for single people.  I travel some 180 flights a year and still have not managed to kill one of these things, despite weeks at a time of neglect, no attention to pot size, temperature, sunlight and frankly very limited attention to water.

When a spider plant is well watered, they spawn little offshoots like the one on the left in the picture above.  Those offshoots can be sat in a bucket of water till they grow roots, then planted on their own, and they make a net new spider plant!  I give them to my friends, then over time they give them to their friends.  We are probably on generation seven or eight in some cases since I started giving them away to friends.

There are few things in life I enjoy more than going to a dinner party at a friends house and seeing a distant descendant of my spider plant in their house.  Regrettably I am not as diligent and process oriented about the distribution of my spider plants as I would like to be.  Some of my best and most long time friends have still somehow escaped being the recipient of one of my spider plant gifts.

If you are one of the three people on this planet who actually reads my blog, it's 100% fair game to feel like you should have one of these plants and drop me a note to mention it.  I have a couple that need planted right now and gifted...  They are reasonably ugly little plants, but quirky and charming in their own way
(kinda like most of my favorite people...)

Important Statistics

This is an extremely important infographic about infographics I rather fancy from Phil Gyford