A new motorcycle website

I’m building a new website with the hope of attracting a sponsor and for sharing my enthusiasm for my latest hobby. In the last two months I’ve learned to ride a motorcycle and I absolutely love it. Well, love mixed in with moments of anxiety, uncertainty, and frustration. Hmm, that is love, isn’t it? I’ve secured the domain newmotocylerider.com and I will be building the site there.

My initial thought is to pen ten essays on different topics. Things like taking the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course, buying one’s first motorcycle, clothing and accessories, dealing with the weather, and so on. All subjects squarely focused on the beginning rider. In addition, I’d have some original photography as well as a video or two. My ideal sponsor would be Cycle Gear (external link), a nationwide accessory retailer. But I will have to work very hard to impress them.

The initial articles would all be samples. Only five hundred words or so, just to show a sponsor I can write. Instead of posting one article at a time, like with a blog, I think I will post all ten articles at once, inside a conventional website. One possible article is below, something on my first ride two months ago.

First ride

I was so worried about my upcoming Motorcycle Safety Foundation course (external link) that I found a guy on Craigslist who gave motorcycle coaching by the hour. I’ll call him Pirate Rick. I wanted some practice with a motorcycle clutch before the group lesson. Although I had years of using manual transmissions in cars and trucks I had never been on a motorcycle before. I knew the experience would be very different and it was.

Using a manual transmission in a car means doing three things at once. So it is, too, with a motorcycle. Let’s consider starting. Simultaneously, you shift into gear while depressing a clutch while pressing the accelerator. Let’s break that down.

In a car you engage the clutch with your left foot pedal. With a motorcycle, by comparison, you work the clutch with a hand lever. With a car’s manual transmission you shift with your hand. With a motorcycle you shift with your foot. To get a car moving you press the accelerator pedal with your right foot. With a motorcycle you twist a rotating handgrip on the handlebar. Got it? Somewhat? Same results in all three cases, but done in three different ways.

Shifting shouldn’t be overwhelming. If you get flustered remember it’s because there are many things going on all at once. It’s not your fault if you learn slowly; it’s a process to repeat over and over. Motorcycling is a skill. It takes practice to become proficient. And that challenge is partly why the sport is so engaging. But back to Pirate Rick.

On a sweltering Tuesday in May in north Sacramento, I met Pirate Rick at his suburban home. A few cars whizzed by now and then on the city street, too many for my nervous condition. Rick introduced me to his Honda Rebel, which he used for instruction as well as for renting out to people for their DMV exam.

I was ready to ride, or so I thought: I had helmet, gloves, boots, and jeans. “Do you have a learner’s permit?” Rick asked. Oops. Didn’t think about that. I was not legal to ride on a public road. I had assumed we would go to a private parking lot or somewhere else that was low-key and anonymous. Actually, I hadn’t even thought about where we’d ride. I was just hoping it was somewhere with some shade. Rick surveyed his street. He said, “I think will be okay here.” And so I began my first ride . . .

Motorcycle shift pedal.

Motorcycle shift pedal on the left. Foot rest in the center.

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My next blog post may not be for another week or two. I’ll be busy writing articles and putting the framework of the website together.

Logo for NewMotorcyleRider.com

Logo for NewMotorcycleRider.com

 

A new site

Railroadsounds.net (external link) is now largely complete. To get more traffic I will have to promote it, and I’ll have to add a pay mechanism if there is enough demand for the audio tracks. But, by and large, the work is done. I’m glad to have had a chance to work with audio and using a new hosting service. This is the first new site I’ve built since 2006. Much has changed since then and I am happy to learn new things. What strikes me most with the new web authoring programs is their lack of design flexibility and at the same time the ease of posting and making corrections. For my next site I’ll try to find something that provides more formatting options.

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Readability and random notes

I recall reading in the Chicago Manual of Style that the ideal line length for printed sentences was between 65 and 72 characters. Alas, I cannot now find that citation, but there is much interest on sentence length on the net. Here’s just one article (external link). The point is that readability is a subject of study and has been for decades, for centuries even, ever since Gutenberg. In this Internet Age we think we can design as we will, but that ignores common rules that the print world has always observed. In a time when a website can be viewed on a phone, a tablet, and on a desktop machine, we must be constantly reminded of how our words and sentences appear on a screen and how our readers are trying  to understand them. I’m not a web designer so I do not know how to standardize sentence length on my websites. But I try to stay aware of the similarities and the very real differences between computer and paper.

Have you ever proofread an important report? Especially a long one? It is amazing how many errors one can find when the paper is printed. There is something about how the eye jumps back and forth, this way and that, catching things at the top and bottom of the printed page, seemingly instantly, that is not done on a screen. We miss things in the small window of a computer. Even when looking at a full page screen you still find mistakes on the print-out that you will not catch on a monitor. Which brings me to another point.

If we cannot fully catch all mistakes on a monitor, can we fully understand what we see on a screen? Screens are really meant for looking quickly, often just a paragraph or two at a time. We browse or graze on a computer, instead of taking it in fully like with a book. Does this mean we have to print out every long form article on the web? No, but it does mean we should think about whether we are reading or reading well. And that we should probably put our web writing into small chunks, with illustrations to help explain the text, and enough repetition to get our points across, even if we didn’t get them across in the viewer’s first reading.

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I’m over at RailroadSounds.net

I recently queried a few motorcycle organizations, asking if they needed a column or blog writer. Unfortunately, there has been no response. I am sad about this because I think I could write very well on the topic of beginning motorcyclists; there is little in print on this and as a new rider I feel I have the right outlook and experiences to relate to the subject. Oh, well. Perhaps something will happen with this later.

For the next several weeks I will be building a new for-pay website. It’s sort of like starting a small business. I’ve written about http://railroadsounds.net before. It’s will be an online library and store of words and sounds about railroading. I’ve entered most of the text that will be on-line; I now am concentrating on the audio. Read my daily entries here: http://www.railroadsounds.net/?page_id=72 I am learning a great deal about building a modern website. I think what I’ve learned about video and building an app in the last few months will be helpful. Sign up for the e-mail update list if you like. It’s on the left hand side of every page.

Installing a Genesis framework from StudioPress using a Mac

I’m in the throes of producing a website called railroadsounds.net. It’s a WordPress website using Justhost.com as the, well, the host. On this website, thomasfarleyblog.com, I am using WordPress itself to host. That’s for simplicity’s sake. But for railroadsounds.net I need more storage space than WP economically offers. And there are other reasons as well, the chief one being more flexibility in choosing a template. Which brings me ’round to today’s techno jabber.

I had trouble downloading and uploading a StudioPress web page template called a Genesis Framework. It’s a suite of pages and so called style sheets that you use to develop your website. All their download directions were centered around a .zip file which I never saw. .zip files are generally a PC/Windows thing, not something we see regularly in the Mac world. In any case, in my download folder, a nest of three files appeared. Not one was a .zip. Turned out I had to use a FTP (file transfer protocol) program to upload the folders to my host. I used Fetch, a pay program, because I have used it before. After I figured out all the passwords for my host, the first miracle, I discovered FTP directions at WordPress. They are not wholly accurate. What they call for is this directory path:

wp-content/theme

What you really are looking for is this:

public_html/wp-content/themes/

When you upload your genesis theme in a folder the directory should now look like this:

public_html/wp-content/themes/genesis

If none of this makes sense then feel free to e-mail me and perhaps I can send you some directions and screen shots. Better yet, use Justhost.com. Their tech support people are hyper-alert and hyper-friendly. V. quick responses. And, no, I do not get a commission. They are simply good people and if you are setting up a website for the first time I would recommend them highly. Great prices, too!

On e-zines or electronic magazines

I said that my next blog entry would be on publishing an e-zine, or on-line magazine. Another freelance project has come up in the meantime, so I didn’t get to do my research on e-magazines. Here are a few points, though, some general observations.

How much time do you want to spend on illustrations? Layout and photos and graphics become key to a professional look and to helping readers understand a subject. The best e-magazines like Popular Science, are really a balance between graphics and text. If you are the lone person working on a complicated publication you will be spending a huge amount of time on producing images, charts, and photos. Is that what you want? Is that something you can do? The more technical or hard to explain your text is, the more you should rely on graphics. Why? How do you describe, using words only, how to tie your shoes? Illustrations help even the best writer explain complicated subjects. When I wrote at privateline.com, explaining electronics and telephony, I spent at least a third of my time on graphics.

On the other hand, really interested readers, people pursuing a specialty business or hobby, will tolerate your lack of illustrations if you get them quality information. A photocopied newsletter can often deliver more good content than the most costly, slicked up e-zine. It’s all about knowing your audience. Bob Brinker, a financial expert, produces a low tech newsletter that sells for $185 a year. He can get away with an elementary presentation because his subscribers trust his advice. One of my hobbies is prospecting. I will totally tolerate a photocopied zine if it has good, authoratative information. It all depends.

Oh, and one last thing, something I keep forgetting to research. There’s a market in overseas magazines. I’ve sold into Norway, Germany, and Japan. What’s needed is a good list of foreign periodicals that will accept English articles. Hmm. Maybe that could be a website as well.

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Thanks to http://thestylishspot.blogspot.com

A website as work for a freelancer

I am now working on something that should produce a small revenue stream once completed. I am building a pay website using amazing digital recordings produced 20 years ago by an accomplished audio engineer.  I just happened to run into David Reaves over e-mails. At one point he told me that in the early to mid 1990s he had produced seven CD recordings of different railroad sounds. After sales languished he put the remainder of his stock into his basement. Now, living in West Germany, he can’t afford to ship them stateside. But they can live again on the internet! With his cooperation I am moving toward setting up a music-like store to sell digital downloads of his works. We will split any profit that results from the site.

The site I create will only be a small money spinner but I look forward to it going on-line. His liner notes are amazing. I am posting just two below. The text describes what you hear on the tape. Listen to the two samples below. They are not the full quality recordings, as these have been cut down from 13 megs to 2 for this post. I hope to keep downloads at their highest, CD quality. The site will also have maps and pictures. Yes, I know, a small audience for this sort of thing. But rail buffs are fanatics. And Google will grab all the keywords in the liner notes and quickly put them into the search results. A person searching for a railroad or a locomotive will find not only text and pictures, but a link to a site with sounds. If you do take a listen, try headphones. And then imagine, the whole site: 99 tracks!

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CD TITLE: From Safety Valves . . . to Ribbon Rails

Picking Up Where the Critically Acclaimed Riding In An Open Vestibule Left Off

More Spectacular Sounds of Railroading Across the U.S.A.

Track 05. Challenger Runby (1:14)

My niece Emily, nephew Jonathan and I went chasing UP Challenger (4-6-6-4) (external link) across Wyoming. The star performer in Union Pacific’s passenger excursion program, it is the world’s largest operating steam locomotive – and sounds it! Paralleling the UP Overland Route on I-80, we followed the big engine east with its yellow cars and trail of smoke. We caught #3985 racing up to crest the Continental Divide at Latham, WY, exit 184. Examining a track profile, this looked like a good spot to catch the loco working upgrade. Working? The 3985 shows no sign of strain, whizzing by at breakneck speed. The Challenger is one muscular steed of an engine and those passenger cars are like mere flies on the horses back, as it strides toward the next stop at Rawlins. [Gets going at the 25 second mark, ed}

 

Track 06. The Little Engine with the Big Horn (1:09)

This is the Black River and Western’s (former Washington Terminal) Alco RS-1 #57, hauling a couple of passenger cars from Flemington to Ringoes, NJ. I just love the tone of the horn. Who says diesels have to sound ugly?

 

© 1993 – 2014 Audio and text by David Reaves. Web production by Tom Farley. All Rights Reserved.

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Full liner notes for this album: http://railroadsounds.net/?page_id=29