Thursday, July 9, 2015

What "3% of the Population" Means to Me

I may regret posting this, but it seems to be the only way I can get this off my mind.

Shortly after the ruling declaring same-sex marriage as legal, striking down laws in some 13 states that still had laws against it, I saw a post from a Facebook friend.  It was simply this:
3% of the population.  That is all I have to say.
The comments following ranged from outrage at the Supreme Court's ruling to a few that I hope were attempts at humor that I'll not repeat regardless.

That comment has stuck like a craw in my mind.  Even now, nearly a month later, so much that it prompted me to risk writing a politically-based blog entry - worse, an entry that marks a return after being away nearly 6 months.

3% of the population.

So, what does "3% of the population" really mean?

  • About 14 million Americans, or about 4.4%, ride a bicycle more than 25 times a year, and 3.2 million, or about 1%, ride more than 110 days a year. (Gluskin Townley Group)
  • There are 9 million or so mixed-race people in the US, about 3%. (2010 Census)
  • Judaism make up 1.9% of the population, Mormonism about 1.6%. (Pew Research Center)
  • About 1 in 33 babies are born with a birth defect, about 3% of new births. (CDC)
  • About 11 million Americans are over 80 years old, about 3.5%. (2010 Census)

This is where the comment sticks in my mind.  Fundamentally, the comment is condoning the idea that there is a minimum size for a minority to receive recognition or equal treatment - but only when they disagree with that minority's position.

Everyone is entitled to their opinions.  Those opinions must not be allowed or enabled to infringe on the rights of others.

To me, this isn't a discussion about "gay marriage," no more than our national conversation about mixed-race marriages in the past.  This is about the individual right to self-determination, the right to - within a practice of law designed to protect its people - do as they wish with their lives.

This is fundamentally about freedom and equality.  The freedom to worship as you wish.  The freedom to associate with whom you wish.  The freedom to speak your mind.  The freedom to bear arms.  The freedom to smoke weed.  The freedom to congregate.

The freedom from discrimination.  The freedom from being treated differently because you have the freedom to be who you are, what you are, who you should be.

No more than I plan to get a gay marriage do I plan to do drugs, or worship Cthulu (or Jibbers Crabst).  I may not do those things, but that doesn't mean I don't support the freedom of others, and doesn't mean I don't respect those who do.

I don't celebrate gay's right to marry.  I celebrate the small step closer to equality we took by allowing them to marry, just like the rest of us.

Chris.

P.S.: Some feel the Supreme Court over-reached its power in this ruling, and that is the sole basis of their argument against it.  I won't weigh in on that opinion; it's a deeper, and more academic discussion than I have knowledge.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Cyclist's Reference: Organized Rides (and Races)

One thing I hear a lot about is people talking (read: complaining) about how a group ride is run.  I'm going to take off the gloves here and give some definitions to different ride types so everyone can be prepared for what they might encounter.

A dictionary, as it were.  We'll start with Organized Rides.

Organized Rides

Let's define an Organized Ride.  These are events that have event directors with some amount of support staff enabling the event.  They have (a) specific start time(s), (a) pre-planned, published route(s), (always) have some sort of entry fee (pay-to-play).

T-Shirt Ride (or Bicycle Rally): 90% of the "bicycle races" you see are actually T-Shirt rides.  These are not races, despite what most of the participants might try to tell you.  These are gatherings of recreational cyclists of varying levels of talent and skill, many with an over-inflated sense of capability, lightly spiced with a small number of local riders (read: racing experience) with some amount of "real talent."  They're called t-shirt rides because you typically get a unique t-shirt with your paid $30-60 registration, although some give out other items like socks, hats, and other goodies.

Commonly as dangerous as races, sometimes not as well insured, heavily enabled by volunteers, with some known for the qualities of their rest stops (Best baked goods!  Volunteers all in reed skirts and coconut halters!).  Most rallies have some roving vehicle support (called SAG) and rest stops usually every 10-15 miles along routes typically ranging from 10 miles to 60 miles, occasionally with 100 mile routes.

Expect a race-pace start that quickly sheds the less talented/skilled while creating many opportunities for conflicts between people with fitness, talent, and those with less.  Once the riders are suitably divided, groups tend to cooperate with the intent of keeping the pace high and finish as quickly as possible.

This set is the most likely to brag about how fast they did 100k.  Mind you, they probably wheelsucked the whole way, and even if they survived the 99k they were probably dropped when the pace accelerates to sort out the "winner."

USAC Races: In the rare event you see a real bicycle race (in the US), it's very likely a USAC (USA Cycling) sanctioned race.  These are events on partially closed courses where fields are made up of similarly-skilled riders enabling a real sense that anyone could win.  This is where the "local talent" looks to be "discovered," even when the vast majority of them are a decade or more past any chance of being "seen," even if they were actually fast enough to catch someone's eye.

Races are where the real hard riding happens.  If you think a T-Shirt ride is hard, you have experienced nothing until you're in a pack of evenly matched riders all riding near your limit as others strive to push everyone over their limit.

There is no doubt that these riders are among the most fit of all cyclists, but many take themselves or their hobbies too seriously and that arrogance makes them standoffish around most of the cycling community.  (Especially commuters and the hipster set.)

To racers, finishing "on the podium" is really all that matters.  And when they're on the podium, all that matters is being on top of the podium - i.e., first place.

Brevets (RUSA): French for "too f**king far", Brevets are self-supported long-distance rides with pre-defined routes and specified checkpoints to ensure all participants complete the course.  These events are where you see generally older riders who "can't ride fast anymore" with heavier bikes loaded with panniers and fenders creeping along under miserable conditions at all hours of the day.

For these riders, it's a point of pride to have a 30lbs bicycle with 20lbs gear, and riders that roll up on modern carbon with aero wheels are quickly ostracized.  This set measures success by the mile, not by the minute; it's not about being fast, it's about how far you can go.

For this group, it's survival that matters.  They won't talk about how fast they ride because, frankly, it's embarrassing.  Instead, they'll try to one-up a racer's first place or a rally rider's 2h20m 100k with their survival of a 1200km permanent in the heat of summer.

UMCA Races: If you're at a timed event with some ridiculous distance to cover, able to have a team but can't ride together, and plain confused about what what the hell you're doing, you're probably at UMCA race.  This is the intersection of the RUSA crowd and the USAC crowd, where speed and distance both matter, where you play the gamble between minimalist gear and the chance you'll need that gear to finish.

This is the world of no sleep.  And (almost) everyone knows how to not sleep.  This is about as accessible as racing gets, while being about as un-serious as racing gets; the range of participation shows that.  When looking at the starting line, the only difference between a T-Shirt ride and a UMCA race is ... well ... nothing.  There will just be fewer people at the UMCA race.

Many UMCA races have an "everybody's a winner" mentality, giving out trophies for being upright with a pulse - and having turned over the pedals for whatever minimum distance the event required.  These events usually break down the competition by bicycle type (upright, recumbent, sometimes mountain), then solo riders by gender, age; or by team make-up, all men, all women, or mixed.

This makes for an interesting award ceremony, with sleep-deprived racers barely conscious as hundreds of over-sized trophies are awarded.

There you have it.  A list of Organized Rides.  Now you have a sense what you can expect when you decide to try one of these out.

Which you should!  I've done all but Brevets (and, someday, when I'm slow, I'll do that too), and I've enjoyed every one of them.

Stay tuned for my next installment: Informal Group Rides.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Organizing a Pick-Up Ride

I started riding again over 10 years ago.  I quickly moved from a hardtail mountain bike that I rode on local trails to an entry-level road bike - a 2004 Specialized Allez Elite - which expanded my horizon from trails to roads.

In my explorations one day I ran across a group of riders congregated in the parking lot of a large park.  I stopped and chatted and learned of the Group Ride.

I'd done T-Shirt rallies, organized rides with support and rest stops where you could get cookies and sport drink, but I'd not considered the idea that riders might ride in larger groups elsewhere.  Yes, I was naive.

So I joined what was the Tuesday/Thursday Benbrook pick-up ride.  It was a salty bunch, with guys who wouldn't hesitate to tell you what you're doing wrong.  They wouldn't hesitate to tell you when they were impressed, either, but it's always the critiques we remember.

I learned a lot.  And I got much faster.

After a year, I started to earn a nickname - Red Chris, because I rode a red bike, wore kit that was largely red, red helmet and red sunglasses.  I might have been a bit of a Fred, complete with hairy legs, but I was color coordinated.

Over time I earned the respect of the group - I was a consistent and safe rider, cautious and respectful of everyone.  I also started to earn a reputation as one of the big dogs.  I wasn't the fastest, but I wasn't afraid to challenge the faster guys - while putting hurt on the slower ones.

Life changes moved me away from the ride.  Where I used to be an easy 15 minute ride from the start, I was now, and still am, a 45 minute traffic-mangled drive away.  Don't get me wrong, I wasn't the anchor, but I was a center of gravity.  I left about the same time as a couple others and within two seasons the ride had largely disappeared.

Quite sad.  It had a great route with a really good group of riders.  Even more, little took its place, the vacuum only partly filled with trail-based rides and lots of solo riders doing their own thing.

My racing team, MBBC Racing, participates in a ride that starts on the Trinity Trail here in Fort Worth.  The ride was originally a moderate-pace recreational ride, but our team has largely converted it into a training and sometimes race-pace ride.

The Trinity Trails are a wonderful thing, but a training ground they are not.  I rarely ride them as they are simply unsuitable for the level of riding I'm capable of, a pace that is disrespectful of the vast majority of trail users.  Our team shouldn't be, either.

Part of being a member of a community is giving back to it.  I am very fortunate that I had access to some very talented riders early in my return to riding, and I'd like to give others the same.  At the same time, it helps protect the valuable resource we have - the Trinity Trails - for those who use it as it was intended.

I'm resurrecting the ride, and planning to lead it through the woods of the first season.  I want to create a place where people can learn from others, where they can push themselves; I want to re-install the lower rungs on the bicycle performance growth ladder.  There is no better place to be than on the wheel of someone faster than you, digging to hold on.

If you're in the Fort Worth area, look us up.  If not, look around your area.  Find a good group, or help create one.  If you're fast, give the rest of us a chance to get stronger with your help.  If you're trying to get stronger, join a group that pushes your limits and work to keep up.  You'll get there.

It's all about the group ride.  Get out there and enjoy it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

My Focus on Integrity

Over the last few weeks I've been engaged with the editorial staff at WiseGate as I strive to understand the result of some informal polling I did about Integrity - Change Monitoring, Security Monitoring, and maintaining the integrity of computing environments for security and compliance.

I won't dive into those results here, except to say they have revealed something that, perhaps, I should have already known: there's a gap between what we want to do and what we're able to do.

I've been having a back-and-forth with one such editor, and following is my e-mail where I tried to both distill the meaning of Integrity, and show how the focus on Integrity starts with the system - not the data.

This is my classic method - use examples, preferably car examples, to describe the more intellectual subjects of information security.  Sadly, this shows that what you see here in my blog is exactly how I write - and how I think.

After reading this e-mail, the editor said it needed to be published.  So, here it is.  Enjoy.

(Note: the editor I was talking to is British, hence the selective use of a few words in here like "petrol" for "gas".)



I think I need to take another run at explaining Integrity.

Yes, it’s all about the data.  But, sometimes, it’s about the systems, too.

Take a system like your car.  You’re the data, the car is the system that handles the data.  The purpose of the car is to deliver the data safely at its destination while allowing some changes (aircon, heating) and not allowing others (theft), and protecting from the eventuality of yet others (seat belts, airbags).

Think about all the components of that car.  As a driver, you’re relying on the integrity of every component – the steering, the engine, the suspension, the brakes, the tires – but the only assurance you have that your car still has integrity is the garage it’s parked in, a check engine light, and a penetration car alarm.

A criminal picks you.  They put a pinhole in the fuel line feeding petrol to the engine.  Sure enough, the car alarm goes off – but, of course, car alarms go off ALL THE TIME, so no one checks it.  (Barking dog syndrome.)  A fuel line won’t trigger the Check Engine Light.  Do you know your car’s integrity has been compromised?  No, and somewhere along your drive to your next destination, your system flames out and self-destructs.  Hopefully you get out safely (probably, since cars are designed to handle engine fires).

What happens if the pinhole is in the brake system?  One time you go to stop – no brakes.  That’s much worse.

Now, a real hacker wouldn’t even set off the penetration car alarm.  They’d sit and wait, capture the signal from your remote keyless entry, and use that to disable the alarm before opening the (now unlocked) car.  They’d put a camera and GPS in the car to see all the data and track the use of the system.  They’d accumulate the information, periodically re-entering the system to retrieve the captured information.  The most you’d notice is a new rattle in the dash and finding your car strangely unlocked some random mornings – which you attribute to old age.

The garage is the company firewall.  The car alarm is the host IDS.  The check engine light is the SIEM.  Each suits their purpose perfectly, but each can be circumvented in the process of compromise of the overall system.

Integrity monitoring would catch these events.  It would see that the fuel line has been modified, the brake line has been modified.  It would even report the hood being opened.  It will even alert you when your oil was changed – but, since you planned that, you’ll dismiss it.

As an aside, encryption tints the windows.  No one can see the data within the car, but everyone still knows there’s a car carrying data – and, now, suspects it’s valuable.

So, as much as it’s about the data, it’s about the systems too.  Forget the data for a moment, think about those systems and the implications they have on the data we find so valuable.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Being Thankful

It's the season.  Sadly, it takes the season for us, particularly me, to even consider what I am thankful for.  Maybe I'm too preoccupied with the concerns of the moment, maybe I'm wrapped too much into my little part of the world to realize all the great things that happen in life.

Regardless of what it is, the very fact I'm writing about the things I'm thankful for is a step in a direction I've never gone.  Even if it's triggered by the season.

I have a lot to be thankful for.

I have a beautiful wife.  She's not just pretty on the outside, she's got a heart of gold.  She gives constantly and selflessly.  She's brilliant.  She puts up with my huge list of weaknesses.  My selfish tendencies, poor ability to communicate, fleeting desires and interests, inconsistent moods.  She celebrates my strengths, seeing parts of me that can be obscured by my weaknesses - but are really, and intentionally, there.  She is, in many ways, what I could only aspire to be.

I have an incredibly talented, sharply intelligent, witty, wise beyond his years son.  I take very little credit for him, I'm absolutely floored by how everyone around him has helped him turn into the young man he is, limited only by his own intent and desire to be what he wants to be.  He somehow finds ways to live and grow within my constraints - those same things my wife puts up with - and enjoy spending time together with his dad.

And, while it may seem strange, I am thankful for my ex.  Despite all my weaknesses, all my failings, all the challenges I create and present, she persevered for 15 years, and even after the difficulties of our separation and divorce she has managed to find the reserve of patience to allow us to maintain a peaceful relationship.  Her investment in our son is clear and apparent, the influence of her husband on our son is constructive; my son will be a better man for all the differing perspectives.

I'm healthy and fit, fortunate to have a relatively deep athletic capability, and have the opportunity to develop and use that ability and fitness doing one of the things I love: riding a bicycle.  I'm thankful that I have that opportunity, and that I have been able to turn that opportunity into once-in-a-lifetime events that will always be in my memory.

I have the world's perfect dog.  I've never been a dog person, I have an affinity for cats, but my wife brought her into our family and, somehow, this pup has somehow found her way into my heart.  She's attentive, energetic, but peaceful and quiet when the time demands.  She is a perfect fit into our little family.  I couldn't have hoped for a more perfect first dog, and that's still not saying enough.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to make good contribution to good things, being asked to contribute, being recognized for what I have to offer, and being part of greater and growing organizations.  I am truly fortunate to be recognized for my contributions and to have those contributions lead to greater and greater involvement.

And I'm thankful for each and every one of you, every one of you who takes the time to read my thoughts and ideas, every one of you who gives me comments and feedback that leads me to more ideas and writing.

Be careful, please have a safe and happy Holiday season.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Motivation, Engagement, and Leadership

One of the hardest things about my job is maintaining engagement and motivation in my team.

I'm sure many of you are nodding in agreement.  People are the hardest part of any leadership job, and for people like me who rose through the technical ranks people are a whole lot different to engage than routers, switches, servers, and SANs.

I know everyone has a story about the temperamental server that, if ignored, would slowly fail but with a little TLC and a periodic check would run happily forever.  There may even be a lesson inside those experiences.

My CIO is one of those rarefied technology people who can actually give a sense of warmth, closeness, and caring.  You can feel that she sincerely cares about the people around her.  In our staff meetings, we make time to talk about our company and organizational culture; the company's social contract and our perspectives on what the contract is telling us.  A few weeks ago she shared this link with us and asked for our perspective:

Is Your Company Culture Affecting Your Employee Engagement?

I read this article several times, picking up on new ideas both from the article and how companies are following, or not following, the principles presented.  As I thought about this article and looked back on back to presentations from CEOs, I remembered one of Flip Flippen's mantras for The Flippen Group: No organization can rise above the constraints of its leadership.

Employee engagement is inherently limited by the personality of company leadership.  That made me think about some of the ideas I'd heard from CEOs:

"A" people hire "A" people.  "B" people hire "C" people.

This CEO explained their perspective that "A" people were the top-level performers in the organization, the 5% doing 50% of the work.  "B" people were the 9-to-5 workers, the one who punch the clock and get a paycheck, fulfilling and even excelling at their duties but generally not exceeding them.  "C" people were the one barely scraping the minimums of their duties in quantity or quality, resulting in the need for additional work to complete tasks.

The CEO's view was that "A" players wanted to be surrounded by other "A" players, focused on accomplishing goals through whatever investment needed to get there.  "B" players didn't want to be shown up, such they would hire "C" players to ensure they looked good compared to others.  "C" players were of limited to no value.

He coached his leadership team to focus on the "A" people, work to eliminate the "C" people, and limit the influence of the "B" people.


I want my leaders to be aggressive, taking business away from our competition.

This CEO expressed that his ideal leadership team was made up of highly competitive, highly aggressive leaders.  He wanted a leadership team focused on wresting away business from the competition, taking calculated risks to attack the sales positions of competition and gain favorable market share.

This leader made it a point to talk about business ethics, focusing on the need to earn and retain business based on acceptable practices, a point he recognized as necessary given the highly aggressive nature of his team as they used (almost) any means necessary to gain the upper competitive hand.


I want Type A people, self-starters who seize problems and push people to drive them to conclusion.

This CEO explained that Type A personalities were the ones that got things done.  He coached his leadership on how to be Type A, how to identify a Type A player, and how to develop and promote Type A players into leadership positions.  It was his goal to build a team full of Type A people who wouldn't pause in the pursuit of company objectives.

Type B players, by contrast, were needed to do daily work, but the lack of pure drive for accomplishment meant they were best relegated to less senior positions.  The CEO coached his leadership to help develop assertiveness and need for achievement as a requisite for advancement into leadership of the company.


So, to be honest, I'd been affected by each of these presentations.  I let myself be somewhat swept up in their (much better presented) points of view.  Organizations are all about accomplishing goals, achieving new things.  By extension, clearly things like drive, assertiveness, aggressiveness, were the traits that made such possible.

I reflected on myself and others - am I an "A" player?  Are my team "A" players?  Am I aggressive enough?  Am I Type A?

For those of you at home keeping score:
- "A" Player: Not my call, but my leadership consistently says "yes"
- Aggressive: I have a small aggressiveness pool, which I tend to only I feel backed into a corner.
- Type A: No.  I'm a Type B.  One word: reflective.

My CIO sends this article, and I start to think.  29% of workers are actively engaged.  What percentage of the population is an "A person", "Aggressive / Competitive", and "Type A" (or could coach themselves to be close)?

I bet it's less than 29%.

I bet most companies are burning the Type A wick to cover their big productivity needs; a select few companies are figuring out how to unlock the other 71%+.

The comments from those CEOs show how a leader can hold back an organization.  You can't build a team of high-drive, high-aggressive, high completion-oriented people and expect it to stick together.  Such organizations are powder kegs; the explosions can be somewhat directed to rapidly accomplish a goal, but the harm the explosions cause results in those organizations splintering and failing to produce long-term results.

Start-ups are a great example.  Sudden bang, then wholesale replacement of staff and leadership to turn rapid initial progress into long-term value.  Failure to bring in long-term, sustainable staff will reduce value to the point of either company failure or acquisition for intellectual property rather than inherent value.

No one wants to buy a company that relies solely on overworking and stressing staff to accomplish its goals.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.  So it is, or should be, in business.  Sprints may deliver an initial victory - assuming the finish line is close enough - but the marathon runner will ultimately surpass the sprinter's accomplishments and deliver victories over and over again.

The article made me realize that the long-term success of a company really comes down to the diversity of its leadership, a diversity that must be as broad as the people who work for that leadership.  Each employee needs different treatment and handling to coax the best out of each of them, and only complete appreciation and understanding will accomplish that goal.

So what does this mean?

The value of an individual is not based on easy-to-define categories.  There's no single magic formula for a high-performance team, or a high-performance individual - because there's no single formula for a person or team who can transform to be high performance.

The magic is awareness.  Be aware of the strengths and limitations of each employee.  Be aware of what motivates each employee.  Be aware of how each employee reacts and responds to work, life, and circumstance.

Be aware of how your statements and actions influence your employees; in other words, be aware of how your leadership may be inhibiting the growth and future of your employees.

Stay engaged with your team.  Build a means to communicate.  Use that opportunity to give feedback, good and constructive.  Use each individual's strengths to help them grow, adapt to manage their vulnerabilities to limit their impact on the future.

And don't be part of their problem.  No organization can rise above the constraints of its leader, and no member of a team can rise above the constraints of their organization.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

BMW Drivers Suck

That's right.  BMW drivers suck.  All of you.

I was riding with our normal Tuesday/Thursday group south on White Chapel Boulevard near Bob Jones Park.  Our group is pretty orderly (well, usually), and that day we were riding downright politely.  We had a nice single-file line moving up the road, with the lead rider pulling off to the left in a slow rotation.

If you're not familiar with this area, which many of you probably are not, this section of White Chapel Boulevard is a 30mph two-lane country road with 2-6" of shoulder right of the white line.  It provides access to neighborhoods north of TX114 near the south side of Lake Grapevine.  Since these neighborhoods do provide access back to the south, it's not technically dead-end, but the road is only useful as access to those neighborhoods.

It has a huge park with ballfields and soccer fields (football, for the rest of the world), playground, a dog park, and miles of lakeside hiking trails.  It has two schools along it, horse farms, and lots of open space.

In other words, a perfect road for bicyclists.  Out of the way, quiet, pretty, and lined with facilities that encourage outdoor sports and activities.

So we're riding this road, as we do every Tuesday and Thursday.  There's a mean little hill that rises out of a creek bottom perhaps a quarter mile from the elementary school.  There's always south wind in Texas, and this is a southbound section of road.  It's not a big climb (this is Texas), but it's punishing and we tend to ramp up the effort to make up for the lack of pitch or length.

I'm leading the single-file pack up this hill.  I've hit my limit for suffering, so I wheel off to the left, letting the next rider continue the push as I slide backwards relative to the line to find an open spot.

We're probably only doing 20mph or so.  We may be quick, but we're not world class.

I get about 3 wheels back when a BMW 760LI blows by me, engine roaring as the driver accelerates hard.

When I say he blow by me - and I assume it was a "he", it's a typically male car, being driving in an escalated-testosterone-level way - I mean he passes me with inches to spare.

And when I said inches, I mean precious few inches.

I have the image of the passenger mirror missing my handlebars by such a small margin that I had cognitive dissonance - I was still upright, but my conscious was curiously thinking I was flying through the air.  The blast of air of the 50mph car (in the aforementioned 30mph zone) probably augmented the reality.

As I say: BMW drivers suck.  All of them.

Sadly (and, perhaps, funny at the same time), many of my cycling friends are nodding their heads in agreement.  There's no doubt that the, shall we say, "more financially endowed classes" are more likely to treat vulnerable road users (like cyclists) like scum.

(Transparency: My wife and I just bought a Mercedes-Benz.  A *used* MB.  6 years old, because we can't afford a new one.  And we hope it doesn't break down because we can barely afford to fix this one.)

But that's an aside; not just a statement about BMWs, but a statement about many premium brand owners.  I'm talking about BMW owners.  They suck.

Right?

Of course not.  There's clearly at least one BMW driver that sucks.  One BMW driver that has no respect for other's life or well-being.  One BMW driver defines all BMW drivers.

Unfortunately, like most people, cyclists tend to unfairly lump people into groups.  I've done it at least twice in this post, and I'm about to let loose with a little bit of our little "club's" prejudices.

Our perspective is different from most, which makes for interesting conversation.

I've had fewer little problems with people who are in the lower end of the socioeconomic scale.  For whatever reason, those drivers tend to make room and be in less of a rush.  This seems to cut across almost every race and creed.

There are a lot of Mexicans and Central Americans in Texas, and from a cycling perspective I'm glad.  There's no doubt that some look at me funny, but they are absolutely respectful on the roads.  When I see them working as landscaping / lawn crews, they go so far as pause work and slow their weed-whackers, leaf blowers, and lawn mowers so I don't get a blast of clippings as I pass.  (That happened again last night - some people are awesome.)

Don't worry.  The local Caucasians make up for it - except for country folk.

I have few problems when riding around the country.  If anything, country folk are the people I enjoy riding around the most, aside from their absolute passivity when driving.  I've had farmers and ranchers sit 100' off my wheel for minutes waiting for a passing opportunity delivered on a golden platter accompanied by light from the heavens and angels singing.

That does not apply to certain groups of rednecks, however, who seem to relish the opportunity to throw objects, buzz, or belch fume-laden diesel smoke on anyone that triggers their feelings of inadequacy.

Rock haulers are downright scary.  I think drivers would agree with me.  Frac trucks aren't much better.

I have never once had a negative encounter with anyone remotely resembling a Muslim.  Never.  Every single case has been respectful.

But with that in mind, there are places where I feel more in control of my survival during rush hour than I do on Sunday mornings before church.  Between the relatively poor driving of older folk (which I'm rapidly becoming) and some "God will be PISSED if I don't run down this cyclist who could make me late to church!" mentality, certain roads can be downright dangerous.

That's right.  Practicing Christians are part of the problem.

And that brings it back full circle to our BMW driver.  BMW drivers suck.

I know it's not fair, and perhaps that's precisely the point.  If you don't like how you, or your "group", are perceived, change it.  If you don't like how you're lumped into a "group", don't do it yourself.

And, please, don't drive like an asshole.  Thanks.