Saturday, July 05, 2008

Damned Statistics

"The mathematics of the collection, organization, and interpretation of numerical data, especially the analysis of population characteristics by inference from sampling." - American Heritage Dictionary

There it is in black and white. "...analysis of population characteristics by inference from sampling." A mathematician knows this. A statistician knows this. The problem is that much of the public don't seem to understand this.

Here are a few interesting statistics to discuss before your next bike ride...
  • The average person eats 8 spiders while asleep in their lifetime.
  • Women over 35 have a .5% chance of getting married.
  • About 11 percent of young citizens of the U.S. couldn't even locate the U.S. on a map.
  • One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth.
Not only are some of these statistics worthless, they are specious at best. A statistic is only as good as the sample it is based upon. What group of people has this nocturnal arachnid appetite? Only a .5% chance of getting married if you are a woman and older than 35? How young are these young citizens and how were they asked? One in five Americans think the earth goes around the sun?

These are all bad or misrepresented statistics. Here is a good motorcycle statistic for you: "Since 1997 motorcycle rider fatalities have increased by 89 percent from 2,116 to 4,008 in 2004." Sobering, yes. But for myself, it begs the question why? Is it lack of training? More squids on the road? Inattentive car and truck drivers? Increase in speed limits? Larger moto engine sizes? You can read for yourself here: if you like.

But really, statistics can be used or misused. When implemented properly, they can be used to bring to light real world problems. Unfortunately, there are those who would dissect these statistics and turn them against those trying to do good.

A good example are the statistics publicized by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. You see, this morning I started to do some research on using Google or Yahoo groups to open an e-mail discussion group for my little October ride. What did I find? I found some good links and a few groups, but predominantly what I saw turned my stomach. It seems there are those that would rather pick apart statements and statistics in an effort to discredit the work of a valid organization.

Questioning statistics is one thing. Questioning an organization's intentions is valid as well. Picking apart and criticizing valid statistics that follow the scientific method in an effort to belittle a real life problem is abhorrent.

Whether you eat 20 spiders or 2, the statistic is still valid.

Whether you use one definition of abuse or another, it does not minimize the problem. Pardon my language, but why don't these people quit their bitching and do something to solve the problem. Tweeking a number may make things look better but does nothing to help the woman or man down the street that was just hit in the eye by an intimate partner.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Not sure where this came from!

As I have been posting recently, it should be no surprise to anyone that I have been bike shopping. I looked at the Honda 919, Suzuki SV650, V-Strom 650 and finally settled on the Kawasaki VerSys.

I don't need to buy a new bike at all. There are just certain things I would like to do; things that my Honda Rebel struggles with. Things like touring. Things like riding down the desert dirt roads out of Vegas. Logical, conscious, perhaps adventurous riding desires. They make a certain amount of sense.

The VerSys is my solution. Capable of functioning fairly well in all of my desired riding categories, it is the logical choice. I went to the dealership Friday and pulled the trigger. Unfortunately the deal was not struck. The best they could do was $1500 down and payments of $230 per month.

Too much. The only way to justify, if not make it completely feasible at this point in time, would be to rely on the future sale of my pickup before my first new bike payment came due. Then there is the matter of the $1500. Sure, I could get it, but that would completely drain my trip fund AND consume all available credit I have.

I am getting ahead of myself, here. This post is not about my financial woes or to lament my lack of savings or to whine over my non-purchase of the VerSys. It is about something much more dark. It is about something primal, incorporeal, deep, sexy, something that joins logic and madness. It fuels dark two wheel, midnight and mid-day fantasies. Memories of a hormone fueled puberty scratch at my subconscious.

And I am not sure why. This is a repulsion and attraction; I cannot look away.

What the hell caused this? I sat on a bike. Not just any bike; something I really wasn't looking for. I sat on it anyway. And to be honest, I sat on one early this year, January I think. Perhaps I was not ready.

Saturday, I decided to ride to my exhaustion in the 110F Las Vegas temps. Not out of any 'death wish' or depression. I just wanted to see how long I could go. So, water bottles mounted, I took off to do a little bike sittin'.

First up, Carter's on the other side of town. They have some nice bikes but nothing I am really interested in. I ride over to my normal dealership, Ride Now on Boulder and look at a few used, but nothing is really swaying my desire to get that VerSys, even if I have to wait until later this year or early next. I am in no hurry.

Then something takes my bike by the handlebars and points me South. I was at this place last year before I bought the Rebel. I walk in & the smell of leather is almost tangible. I look around and am greeted by no less than three women and a man. There, twenty feet away was the low black bike that struck me. A new Harley Davidson Nightster.

Unfortunately, this bike was even more expensive than the VerSys. I then sit on another small HD. This is where the fantasies start. It's a 2007 Sportster XL 883R. All black but the pipes and a few other items. Sales person informs me that the 'R' is not offered in 2008 and probably not 2009. The one I sat on was destined for another dealership. It was already sold.

He sort-of winks at me, "Why not get a black 2009 Sportster and powder coat it all black?" I am not sure why I am being pulled in this direction. It feels guttural, comfortable in a primative way. And, only about $170with no down.

I am now unsure which bike I may get; but this feels wicked. This feels good...