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Archive for July 20th, 2009

LEM

LEM

Anyone who grew up in America in the ‘60s must find the present state of space travel a major disappointment.

It was the year Harley-Davidson merged with AMF, the cool movie was Easy Rider which portrayed hippies who rode choppers and Neil Armstrong walked/bounced on the moon.   Forty years ago the crew of Apollo 11 squeezed together over an eight day period and a half-million mile journey to place a plaque on the moon that said “came in peace for all mankind.” I was a child, but like others of my generation, I fully expected there to have been massive space stations orbiting the earth and colonies on the moon by now.

What a rush the space race was. Using German WWII rocket technology, both the Americans and the Russians innovated like mad to launch the first satellite in 1959 (Russia’s Sputnik); to put the first person in orbit (Russia’s Yuri Gagarin in 1961); and finally the first person on the moon (Armstrong in 1969). Clearly lunar bases and spaceships in the solar system was expected by the Twitter-first century, right?

In reflecting about the time and place I realized my path is connected.  Sort of a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon thing.  First were the years I lived in El Paso, TX and my father worked at the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR).  He spent 1968 in Vietnam working with Hawk Missiles, but on his return to Texas they were involved in some Apollo testing.  I didn’t fully know or understand the significance at the time.

And later like many who graduated from college, I joined the electronic masses at Tektronix.  In 1980 Tek sold the Patient Monitor business to pharmaceutical conglomerate Squibb (a.k.a., Vitatek) and I moved into the healthcare arena.  Squibb was on a buying frenzy of medical devices and services so it was anticipated to be a good career move.  Little did I know what it would be like working with Carl A. Lombardi (CEO) and his not so interesting view of business.  The next year Vitatek merged with Spacelabs Medical (originally out of Chatsworth, CA).

Spacelabs was co-founded by Ben Ettelson and James A. Reeves in 1958 for the express purpose of working with NASA and the U.S. Air Force on systems to monitor the vital signs of astronauts in space.   The company manufactured and delivered prototypes of miniaturized signal conditioners which measured astronauts’ temperature, respiration, and cardiac activity. In July 1969, just days after Neil Armstrong become the first man to walk on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission , NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center (now Johnson Space Center ) honored Spacelabs Medical with a certificate of appreciation for its “outstanding” contributions to the Apollo Program—contributions which proved vital for the Nation’s goal of landing men on the Moon and returning them safely to Earth.

When I worked at Spacelabs we adapted the technology it originally developed for NASA for the first bedside arrhythmia-monitoring system which allowed physicians to view real-time arrhythmia data, at the patient’s side, for the first time.

Congrats to Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins on your 40th anniversary and historic return to Earth with moon rocks!

LEM Photo from a visit to Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama.

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HDFS_CarsonCityThe eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains offer motorcycle enthusiasts an interesting blend of motorcycle rides and some of the best scenery in the west.

Unfortunately, Northwestern Nevada is also the location of Harley-Davidson Financial Services (HDFS) who took quick action after the parent company, Harley-Davidson, posted disappointing Q2’09 financial results.   More than 100 employees were laid off of which many came from the facility in Carson City, NV.

HDFS provides financing for H-D dealers to buy inventory for their showrooms as well as loans for customers who are buying motorcycles.  The Carson City facility is co-located on the Western Nevada College campus and one of the largest HDFS facilities.  H-D negotiated a $750K tax break with the Nevada Commission on Economic Development and opened the new 100,000 sq-foot-office in 2005.  Laurie Cole (Director of HDFS Communications) stated that HDFS has 770 employees with the largest number based in Carson City and there were now ~300 employees remaining at the Arrowhead Drive office.

The economic changes have been dramatic and it’s a difficult time for the folks who have made this beautiful area their home.  The process of making H-D leaner and more efficient is filled with painful actions effecting really good people.  H-D is a good company that will continue to deliver great products. It may not feel like it today, but motorcycling enthusiasts around the world are counting on you to bring us the products we want and need in the future.

Photo courtesy of H-D and WNC.

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DenverColorado.  Well known for its magnificent scenery of mountains, rivers and plains.

Harley-Davidson management determined that the Rocky Mountain region with 53 peaks above 14K feet was the perfect place to hold the Summer Dealer Meeting in the Gold Rush mining town of – Denver. Later this week (July 25th) dealers will get revved up to ride the new 2010 models and discuss next year’s sales strategies.  At the same time Denver merchants will all be smiling as they enjoy a big boost from the ~1000 H-D reps and company personnel attending the meetings who will open wallets and infuse significant $$ into the local economy.

Wait!  Wasn’t Denver the city that passed one of the most unfriendly ordinances against motorcycle noise?!  Sure enough the city leaders passed a stringent ordinance (Chapter 36 of municipal code) to keep motorcycle “noise” at or below 82 decibels.  Most non-stock Harley’s idle at about 102 decibels with aftermarket exhaust pipes!  I’m not advocating obnoxious noise, but the ordinance also requires motorcycles made after 1982 to carry an EPA compliance seal or sticker displayed on the exhaust pipes verifying that the pipes have not been modified and are in compliance with the ordinance.  Essentially it’s stock exhaust or literally pay the consequence.

Not to worry — the Denver police have gone through extensive “exhaust sound training” to enforce the new ordinance.  Sure enough, 9News.com reported that an officer will make the determination if a motorcycle is louder than what motorcycles “should sound like” based on their experience and training and will initiate a traffic stop to inspect for the EPA compliance stamp.  Good grief –  reading that made me take a moment of pause and reflect on the legal system…  I could rant on about boom boxes, helicopters flying over neighborhoods, trash/waste trucks at 4:30am, high-pitched exhaust on imports, construction noise and festival events with loud music, but won’t.  It’s common knowledge that a lot of bikers (many who are affluent business people) have voiced opposition and totally avoid Denver now…and taking their $$ with them to other biker friendly locations.

The ordinance clearly is an attempt to limit one specific group in the motorcycle community and I’m sure there may be some quieter neighborhoods as a result.  But, how ironic that Harley-Davidson would compensate a city that obviously finds motorcycles just plain intolerable.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

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