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Dude... Where's My Motorcycle?

Friday, July 24, 2009
So yesterday, when I left for work, this is roughly what was parked in the street behind my car:

Last picture of my motorcycle.

Yup, that's a 2003 Kawasaki Ninja 500R - a decent motorcycle, and one that I've had since August of 2006. (I sold my Triumph Sprint ST to pay for grad school.)

Imagine, then, my surprise as I got home from work late at night to find that particular spot in the street empty. Okay, "surprise" doesn't exactly cover the range of emotions that I felt; there was some "dismay", a little bit of "panic", and perhaps even a touch of "indignation". After checking with my roommate in the morning to see if she'd seen it lately, I made a few calls:

First, I called the City of Portland towing folks, to see if the vehicle had been towed. (The tags were a few weeks out of date, and I hadn't gotten around to putting the new ones on - despite the fact that they were on my desk.)

Second, I called the Portland Police non-emergency number and left a message that went something like, "This is Burton Simmons, my phone number is such-and-such, and I'd like to report my motorcycle stolen. Please give me a call."

I took a quick shower and got out just in time for them to call me back. A few questions later, they were going to send an officer by.

At this point, I called my insurance company to get the claims process going.

With the waiting game started, I walked outside to survey the area and found some debris on the ground. I put a few pieces together, and found what appears to be the parts of the ignition switch that would control the fork lock.

What's left of my motorcycle.

A short while later, a nice police officer (I say this because Portland Police have been anecdotally awesome lately) showed up. He took down the info, offered some sympathy and vague promises of "we'll keep our eyes open, but motorcycles are easy to hide", gave me the case ID, and went to file the report.

Finally, I called Progressive back and got transferred to the local agent already assigned to the claim. I gave her the case number, a little history on the motorcycle, and emailed her a few photos of the bike. From start to finish, this happened in the span of about two hours.

What now?

For now, I wait. If the motorcycle is not recovered in 30 days, Progressive should pay for it (minus, of course, my deductible.) If the motorcycle is recovered, then they'll pay for the repairs (minus, of course, my deductible.)

I guess I didn't want to ride in August after all.

Walking the Road Less Driven

Monday, July 20, 2009
Yesterday, I thought I'd take a walk. (Yes, this behavior is quite strange for me.) What was just going to be a simple "walk downtown" turned into a 7-hour, 18.5 mile adventure that has left me a little sore today.

What I love about walking - and I'll say this a thousand times - is that you have time to notice things you'd never see while driving, and you're free to go places cars cannot. When driving a car, I generally try to stay on the road. When walking, I can go around "Do Not Enter" signs or past locked gates just to see what's on the other side. I can look down from an overpass, wonder what the road below is - and then find it. Walking takes me places that I like to go.

So I ended up walking down to the McCormick & Baxter Creosote Superfund site, where I was able to take a decent photo of the train bridge. I was also able to see some graffiti under a train overpass that I thought was amazingly colorful and artistic; how much time does it take to do something like this? Simple tagging, of course, is irritating, but this actually added value to the landscape.

Hidden graffiti: but it's damn near art!

Eventually, I ended up wandering south and, after a stop for water and StarBurst, I found myself downtown at Saturday Market. I hung out there, chilled out on the waterfront for a bit, then started walking again. It was then that I was reminded by a friend that the Sand In The City was going on. Being the curious sort, I walked up to Pioneer Courthouse Square just as they were going to demolish the sand structures and clean up. I managed to take this photograph moments before destruction!

Portland's Sand in the City in Pioneer Courthouse Square

Despite having left for my walk around noon, the sun was already starting to get lower in the sky as I walked home. I was up along Willamette Blvd when I spotted the following bench and snapped this picture:

A bench under a tree.

I think that came out well!

Anyway, Portland is a beautiful town to walk around and, as usual, I can't wait until my next one!

Forgiveness and Redemption

Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Let me preface this blog post by saying that, by being born late in the Carter administration, I missed the Vietnam war in its entirety and almost missed most of the relevant career of Michael Jackson. So how is it that this post came to be only after ruminating on Michael Jackson's death and yesterday's passing of Robert McNamara?

I'll admit that I don't know a lot about Robert McNamara. Aside from his position of Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson and the documentary Fog of War that I haven't yet seen, I know only bits and pieces of his life - and that he died yesterday at the age of 93. But I have heard his name discussed with a vitriolic hatred that I was compelled to know more.

The Vietnam War - also known as McNamara's War - is the central point of contention. It is the disastrous outcome of this conflict upon which the majority of judgement is laid. It is the death of over 58,000 Americans (and countless more wounded) that are blamed on him that seem to be at the crux of this hatred.

Robert McNamara, photo from LIFE via Google

And yet, writing of McNamara in his book Thirteen Days, Robert F. Kennedy indicates that McNamara heavily favored the (eventually successful) blockade solution of a direct military conflict; believing that the blockade would leave options on the table that direct conflict never could. There is nothing in the pages that indicates warmongering, but rather a careful approach designed to maximize options, minimize consequences, and achieve national goals.

I don't know a lot about the Vietnam war, but I can say that McNamara appeared to have understood the mistakes that he made. His book In Retrospect: the Tragedy and Lessons from Vietnam appears to be an honest attempt at helping the United States and the world learn from his blunders.

Does his work at the World Bank and his later efforts towards nuclear disarmament earn him redemption in the eyes of history? Can someone make the hard decisions that need to be made at the level he was making them ever sleep at night knowing the effects? Or is he finally resting only now? I can't answer these questions, but I think about them all the time.

Look, then, at Michael Jackson. Undeniably the "King of Pop", his contributions to the world - artistically and through charities - are numerous. His cultural influence was unimaginable. And, at the tender age of 50, he died.

Michael Jackson/Captain Eo, from MJJ Pictures.com

Yet, Michael Jackson was also an accused pedophile. While not convicted in a court of law, there seems to be enough uncertainty about the topic that the truth is less relevant to the discussion than the consequences.

Does the stain of being an accused pedophile outweigh the artistic and cultural gifts left to us? Can a balance be struck between the two opposing extremes? Would it be possible to be judged in two separate contexts, praised for the good and condemned for the bad? Is forgiveness possible?

These questions have all been on my mind lately. I certainly don't know the answer to them, but I would be interested in hearing the thoughts of others...

Death, Taxes, and Gmail in Beta

For the last five or so years, Gmail - my online mail service of choice - was in perpetual beta. Through multiple presidents, through wars, through natural disasters, Gmail's beta status was the constant. But now the unthinkable has happened: human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria, and Gmail is out of beta!

GMAIL IN BETA FOREVER!!!!

So a large and sincere "congratulations" go out to the Gmail team at Google. Despite an incubation period that was approached Duke Nukem Forever levels, the odds were beaten and bookies everywhere have had to pay out. Gmail is now an official application.

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