(Originally posted on 2008-03-04 as /archives/160)

This simulator could have been awesome, but the steering works backwards! BACKWARDS!

Someone asked me, “Are you using countersteering?” at my last track day, and I didn’t know how to answer that question. I thought, “Is there any way that I could not be countersteering at these speeds?”  Countersteering occurs when the rider of a single-track vehicle (bicycle or motorcycle) pushes on the right side of the handlebar to turn right, and pushes on the left side of the handlebar to turn left.  By pushing on the same side, the rider is “turning” the handlebars the opposite way.  With cars you steer right to go right, but with bikes you steer left to go right.

OK, so you might be thinking, “I don’t do that! I lean!”, but you are doing that.  Imagine this: a bicycle rider holds her arms out straight.  She needs to turn right, so she leans to the right.  What’s happening here?  As she moves her weight to the right her right arm begins to push the right side of the handlebars out farther than the left: she is now countersteering.  Countersteering has more to do with initiating the turn than the leaning itself does.  You might have to sit on a bike and actually try this out to be able to picture it.  Do it in an exaggerated fashion, lock your arms, and watch the handlebars as you lean.

Motorcycle instruction usually includes discussion on countersteering because the locking-of-the-arms-thing greatly slows down steering.  Sometimes the effect on steering is so bad that riders ride right off the road when they tense up.  If the rider can learn to loosen her arms, and consciously push on the opposite side of the handlebar, then she will turn much quicker.

I literally practice holding the bars loosely when I ride my wife’s cruiser.  I take each hand off the handlebars one at a time (it has a throttle lock).  I practice bending my arms.  Etc.  This can actually help in all kinds of conditions.  That instability that occurs next to a truck?  It’s less troublesome if you hold the bars lightly.  When you push back against the shaking of the bars, your pushes lag behind the bars movement slightly.  Your periodic pushing summates with the periodic movement of the bars increasing the shaking.  Really.

So, how does this all work?  Countersteering initiates the lean by using the bike’s momentum to pull it over.  Imagine the momentum that you feel when a car turns.  When you turn to the left the momentum makes you feel like you are being pushed slightly to the right in your seat: correct?  This is the same with a two wheeled vehicle.  Turning left simultaneously causes momentum to push your vehicle to lean to the right (like an upside-down pendulum).  The bike then turns in the direction that it is leaning.  It’s that simple.  Really.  I didn’t understand this for a long time, because I was told that the affect was caused by gyroscopic precession, and for sure, that occurs, but it doesn’t cause bikes to turn.  Anyway I am sitting there watching a Kieth Code video, and he explains it.  He only spent a few seconds on the subject, but it made the whole thing clear.

Here is the Wikipedia entry for countersteering. The very top says “For the similar technique used in automobiles, see opposite lock.”  Please ignore that first statement.  The technique described there is about pointing your car’s wheels in the direction that you want the car to move, even if your car’s body is stepped-out.  This automotive technique is not remotely like the motorcycle technique, even though Doc Hudson says otherwise.

Before I tell you about this next part I want to make something very clear: I very much appreciate MSF instruction.  Without the MSF I wouldn’t be riding.  I would have no idea how to get started.

I took the MSF Basic RiderCourse twice.  In 2007 I took it near Topeka Kansas (where I earned 100% on both tests), and in 2003 I took it in Plano Texas.  While in Plano one of the RiderCoaches told us some things about countersteering that weren’t exactly correct.  I don’t know if any of those things are part of the official curriculum, but I want to quickly cover them, just in case you are told something similar.

  • She told us about countersteering, and that it is caused by gyroscopic precession occurring at a 90-degree angle, but she didn’t tell us what plane the 90-degrees was measured from.  This Web site has a good example of what she was talking about. This is all true, but that force doesn’t cause countersteering to work.  In fact gyroscopic precession makes turning more difficult.  Robby Kasten proved that with his wonderful reverse rotating rotors invention.
  • She had us sit on motorcycles that were standing still and told us to turn our bars and feel the motorcycle fall in the other direction, while using our legs to not let it fall all the way.  About 50% of the time my motorcycle fell in the same direction.  Of course it did.  Countersteering doesn’t work while standing still: gyroscopic, momentum, or otherwise.  A motorcycle should never be used as a Ouija board!  To be sure the RiderCoach in Kansas had us do the same exercise, but he made it clear that we were to make the bike lean ourselves by using our legs and imagine that the handlebar turning caused it.
  • She told us to watch the other RiderCoach’s front wheel, and to see how it was facing the opposite way while he was riding around.  I couldn’t see this, and I said so, and the reason that I couldn’t see it is that it just wasn’t so.  The front wheel doesn’t go the opposite way once you are leaned over.  (The speedway/flat track thing is something slightly different.  It works more like the automobile-reverse-lock technique once the bike is leaned over.)
  • She told us that countersteering doesn’t work under 13 MPH. This is not true. What is true is that there is another, much-safer, turning-technique that involves turning the handlebars in the direction of the turn, weighting the outside peg, and using your own body to lean the bike. That doesn’t mean that countersteering won’t work. It just means that you are capable of exerting enough-force to overcome-it at those slower-speeds. Here is a video that proves that countersteering works at-all-speeds, and on-all single-track-vehicles (motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, etc.)

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Are emergency rooms really that big a drag on the medical system?

(Originally posted in 2009 as /archives/2634)

By Thierry Geoffroy (Thierry Geoffroy) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

My how things have changed since I wrote this essay in 2009. Governor Romney pandered to the voters in the 2012 Presidential Election—by continuously insulted the President of the United States for adopting a national health care plan—that is almost exactly like Governor Romney’s plan for Massachusetts. Massachusetts’ plan works, and Romney knows it; that’s why he signed-it, and that’s why the United States adopted it.

Our country has adopted Governor Romney’s and Massachusetts’ health care plan, and Governor Romney pandered to the Republican voters by insulting the

This is a new version of my contributions to Are emergency rooms really that big a drag on the medical system? on The Straight Dope board (A message board for fans of The Straight Dope).  I highly recommend The Straight Dope.   If your favorite newspaper doesn’t carry it, then go here. Everyone knows The Straight Dope has a different purpose, but it is Snopes equal in the fight against ignorance.

Emergency rooms shouldn’t be free, but they must help everyone, and some never pay the bill. If a patient doesn’t pay her bill, then who ends up paying it? The hospital does at first, but ultimately we all do. As Shodan said, “If you are mandated to treat everyone whether they can pay or not, you have to charge those who pay more to cover for those who don’t.” We now have a national health care system without a detailed policy for those that cannot pay. The patients, the insurance companies, and the Physicians have little means of controlling those costs.

I was in poverty for many years. I am certainly not against care for the poor. Being “against” national health care is meaningless. We have had it for some time (whether we are talking about Medicaid, Medicare, or yes, those that simply don’t pay). The question is whether we want control over what is happening, or not, and “not” is just bad business.

How bad is the problem? Go here to read Malcolm Gladwell’s Million Dollar Murray. Here is a teaser quote: “Culhane estimates that in New York at least sixty-two million dollars was being spent annually to shelter just those twenty-five hundred hard-core homeless.”

Being against national health care is unreasonable. We have it, we just do it really badly. Lets stop doing it badly.

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Scott Kelby: Two Lights, One White Background

(Originally published on 2016-03-28 as /archives/10922)

Scott Kelby made this video for Westcott, but it’s good information for everyone.

The next step would be to consider adding weak lights behind the subject: either to light-up the background, or to highlight the subject’s hair. A third light isn’t needed here, because the white backdrop reflects so much light.

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Lens Compression and Lens Distortion

(Originally published 2016-03-16 as /archives/10930)

This lens-compression-thing: we all agree on it correct?

Lens Compression

The definition of lens compression is this: if you use a longer focal length, then the background will appear to be closer to the subject. There are numerous examples of images that “prove” this out there (including the GIF below), but guess what? Lens compression doesn’t actually exist.

Here’s how the prove-it examples work:

  1. First the photographer makes a photo of a subject, standing in front of a background object, with a short focal length lens (wide angle, less magnification).
  2. Then the photographer takes the same picture, of the same subject, at the same distance from the camera, but with a longer focal length lens (telephoto, more magnification).
  3. Then we compare the two images, and note that the background object appears to be closer to the subject in image #2.Here’s the kicker:
  4. If we then crop image #1, so that the subject takes up the same amount of space in each image, we will note that the subject now looks to be the same exact distance from the background object as in image #2.

In other words: lens compression is just an optical illusion.

Lens distortion

Barrel Distortion, Pincushioning, Bokeh, etc., may be different with each of the two lenses. Generally the wider angle lens (shorter focal length, less magnification) will distort the image more and cause more foreshortening relative to the telephoto lens (longer focal length, more magnification), but not always. A lot depends on lens design, and post processing software is really good at removing distortion these days.

The following GIF was shared at “reddit /r/educationalgifs How different lenses affect portraits“. It shows the foreshortening issue and the so-called-lens-compression-issue at various focal lengths of a telephoto super zoom lens. For many people this will be proof that lens compression is real. It still isn’t real, and not all wide angle lenses will cause such drastic foreshortening.

OK: so if the focal length is changing, then why is the subject’s head mostly the same size? Because the photographer is moving physically closer to the subject, for the wider angle shots, and farther away for the telephoto shots.

Here’s the GIF:
XBIOEvZ - Imgur

Back to the Lens Compression Example

OK, so Paul must be wrong about lens compression. I mean look at how that tree in the background of that GIF moves closer to the subject: right?

In the following video, Dieter Schneider does the steps (from above) to prove that lens compression does not exist.

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Free Portrait Guides

(Originally posted on 2016-05-06)

(The posing and lighting guides are below.)

The “Hers” blog Facebook page has a “Posing for one” guide.  I think that the negative reader comments are interesting:

The right way to make some one look better ????? In who’s eyes !!! That’s awful I’m sorry but this wrong on so many levels…so thinner arms make the shot better ??? Really come on this is hiding who you really are it’s as bad as photoshop …if you have fat arms or belly or bum so what you don’t look any less sexy fact if you show your flaws and own them with confidence there is nothing more beautiful or sexy than that !!!!fact!!!!

This is silly. People, love yourselves for who you are, not for what you think is the socially acceptable version of beauty.

She looks thin whatever pose she makes cause SHE.IS.THIN

When you put a set of images in front of a subject, which ones do they want? The ones with the better poses. Plus: posing-well is easier, and more accurate, than digital editing.

Here are some posing and portrait guides from Digital Camera World:



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Two Famous Big-plane Barrel Rolls

(Originally posted on 2016-11-19)

A barrel roll is a 1g maneuver. If done right, there’s no stress on the airplane, or more accurately, the stress is identical to that of not doing any aerobatics at all.

It’s so gentle that that late Bob Hoover doesn’t even spill his drink while pouring it:

Here’s Tex Johnston’s famous Boeing 707 Dash-80 Prototype Roll:

By Boeing Dreamscape (Flickr: Dash80TaxiTestK62712-5) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Boeing Dreamscape (Flickr: Dash80TaxiTestK62712-5) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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Target Shooting: Members Only? All Are Welcome.

(Originally posted on 2015-11-15 as /archives/10597)

NRAI was on a shooting team with Brian Kubricky. The NRA included Brian in one of their advertisements. I was there when they took Brian’s photo for the ad, so I want a copy. The only copy that I could find online was this little photo that Dr. David Serlin included in his “Members Only” essay for Members only? Punny.

In it he talks about how “preserving the status of heternormative masculinity – is one of the more familiar tropes of industrial modernity” and stuff. I think that he believes that gays, disabled people, and women, are only welcome in certain sports if they can look manly while holding a enormous rifle in front of a lake. Nothing could be farther from the truth in the case of this particular sport.

You should probably go read his essay first. [Jeopardy theme plays in background.] OK? All done? Here goes:

I sent an email to Dr Serlin with my thoughts below. He sent a very nice reply. I won’t quote it here, because it’s not appropriate to quote another person’s email publicly.

Dr Serlin also sent a hi-res copy of the ad.


Brian Kubricky and Beth B. were two of our top shooters. Their scores were some of the highest in the United States. The sport is inclusive: men, women, wheelchairs, or not: we were all equals.

Beth wasn’t in the ad campaign, but as Dr. Serlin mentioned, it did include another woman. It’s a sport that had equal opportunities for women, and disabled people, before Title IX.


Your job is to slow your breathing, and slow your heart. You shoot between breaths (at first), and between heartbeats (as you get better). You must completely relax under pressure. It’s the least violent sport that I know of: even bowling involves throwing something. This does not.

I used meditation to improve my scores.

There are shooting sports that simulate tactical situations, and there are shooting sports that simulate hunting (such as skeet), but this isn’t one of them. There is nothing particularly masculine about it.

The photographer took the photo in the high school basement. It’s an indoor sport, but that’s the best background that the photographer had on hand. Brian wore the clothes that he wore. The symbolism wasn’t intentional


The rifle looks big because it’s designed to be stable. It’s only a .22 caliber: one of the smallest. It has soft recoil (no kick). The competition involves shooting pieces of paper at 50 feet. It’s challenging, because the center of the target is the size of a pencil eraser. I didn’t realize that the rifles look big until [Dr Serlin mentioned it.]


Here’s a video about shooter Amanda Furrer. Her sport is a has a different distance, and more shots, but otherwise is very similar to what we did:

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Photos, Motorcycles, Models, Opinion