Monday, May 26, 2014

2 Bikes and a Bike Trailer in a Honda Fit

My wife has been the proud owner of a 2007 Honda Fit for the past 7+ years.  We have taken it from San Antonio (where it was originally purchased), up to DC, all the way up to Maine, and lots of places in between.

It's truly an amazing car.  Honda really did something right when they set out to design a small hatchback with a premium on cargo space.  For example, they moved the gas tank under the driver's seat (similar to the Jeeps of the 1940's) -- giving you as much room as possible in the back.

This Memorial Day Weekend, we did a family trip to a nearby park for a bike ride: me, my wife, and our daughter Beth.  This included my road bike (a 58 cm Motobecane Vent Noir), Bonnie's road bike (a 53? cm Specialized Ruby women's road bike), and Beth's bike trailer (a Nashbar bike trailer).  Oh, and of course, Beth's child seat, and all associated wheels, helmets, gloves, and backpacks for a picnic lunch.

Here's everything OUTSIDE of the car, ready to go on our picnic bike trip.

... and here's everything IN the car, as we were leaving for the morning trip:

Not to worry, Beth had plenty of room for herself:

Loading takes a little bit of care: Bonnie's bike goes in first as it's the shortest.  Then my bike goes in, and its handlebars fit neatly between the driver's and passenger's seat, as you can see in the above photo.  I also place a towel over the greasy chain to avoid greasing everything up.  And then the Kid Karriage II fits nicely in next to that.  Strap everything to the handy fittings on the driver's side of the car, and voila!  You're all set for a picnic.  Total load time takes a little over 5 minutes.

On a bittersweet note, we will be selling her trusty orange Fit soon.  Daughter #2 is due in July, and we need to move to a bigger car that can safely carry all kids, associated Stuff, and we'd like to have room in the car for a Friend if we ever have to carpool.  Although fitting 3 kids across can be done in a Fit, we are blessed that we have the financial ability to purchase a larger car.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

How Much Does the World Value You?

Doing things on your own can be a difficult and humbling process.  Such is the case for me and my first self-published book.  Below is a screenshot of book sales over the past 90 days:

Sorry if that's tough to read.  The x-axis goes from February 2 to May 3, 2014.  The y-axis has a maximum of 5.   All told, I think I have sold about 60 copies of my $0.99 book since I first published it in mid-December 2013.  At $0.35 cents profit per book, that's a little over $20 profit for my efforts. That doesn't quite cover the cost of beer while I was writing it.

Now, please don't misunderstand me, I had no illusions of grandeur here.  (Ridiculously distant daydreams, maybe, but illusions, no.)  I published it myself.  My attempts at marketing have been a few posts to LinkedIn, emails to friends and co-workers, and the occasional line-dropping in conversations at the office and elsewhere ("Hey, have you heard I published a book?").  In the grand scheme of things, my marketing efforts have been pathetic.  I'm an engineer, not a advertising specialist, and these kinds of things really don't come naturally to me.

But it's kind of humbling: if you told all your friends and all your contacts and all your acquaintances to buy / support / spend money on you, could you still put food on the table?  In my case, the effort required of friends was: 1. Have an e-reader of some type and be willing to by an e-book, and 2. Spend $0.99 on me.

I was surprised at the number of people who said, "Nope, I don't have an e-reader" and/or "I don't do e-books."  Wow.  With a few notable exceptions -- like when I'm doing research and want to write notes in the margins or highlight things to come back to -- I really prefer e-books for their portability.

But to take this to a more general level, society is quick to celebrate and remember the victories and NOT the vast majority of failures.  The Kindle Direct Publishing Newsletter is just such a vehicle.  To read their monthly newsletter of people extolling the virtues of KDP and how they have been able to "sell more books than they ever thought possible..."  The sentiment and the rhetoric are as addictive as crack.  The managers of KDP know it, and man, are they good at selling it.

And of course, it's all hogwash.  There are only 14 people in the "Kindle Million Club."  Almost half of all startups fail within 3 years.  (another similar source)  The overwhelming majority of participants never win the lottery, and it's only the winners that are celebrated.  Perhaps that's why we take a perverse pleasure in reading about those who won, and then lost, everything.

The deck is stacked.  People fail every day, probably far more than we realize.  But it's a blessing that the human brain tends to hold on to those slim chances of victory and persevere, even when the odds are overwhelmingly against us.  For, if we didn't try, the world would be a much more boring place.

So treasure and value the successes that you do have ... and keep trying.  Statistically, you can't miss every time.