Full Yoshimura on my ZX.

In October I bought a 2017 Kawasaki ZX-14R. It had huge stock mufflers. See below:

They weighed at least 20 pounds each, and looked stupid. The new Yoshimura slip-ons look better, more balanced, and sound better as well.

It took about an hour to take the old pipes off and install the double Yoshimura mufflers.

I bought my first motorcycle back in 1995 in Taipei for $600.

The new Yoshi’s cost more than that…. I’m gonna keep my Kawasaki for a long time, this is easily the most advanced (and fastest) machine I’ve ever owned.

I still have the stock mufflers, don’t know what to do with them.

Sell to the metal salvage yard?

Ben Alexander

November 2020

Your ZERO day.

Bought this house in 2003 for $157K. Still live there, keeps my expenses down.

Do you know what your ZERO day is each month?

The ZERO DAY is a concept I’ve been teaching in my financial management class at my church. Most folks have never heard of this concept, but it is very simple.

This is the day each month that your after tax income covers your monthly costs. If your monthly expenses are $4,000 and your monthly income is $4,500 then your ZERO DAY is the 26th of the month.

If you earn $12,000 per month and still maintain $4,000 per month in expenses all your bills are paid by the 10th of each month. That’s a great financial position to be in!

If your ZERO DAY falls early in the month you’re in good shape, if it falls in the last few days of the month you’re headed for financial trouble.

Part of being financially secure is keeping your expenses modest, even while your income increases. I put a picture of my home on this post… I bought my place for $157,000 back in 2003. Even as my income went up I resisted the urge to get a more expensive home… I even doubled down and put solar on the roof of my home and an electric car in my driveway, which further lowered my monthly energy costs by $300!

My income in the solar biz can fluctuate month to month, but my ZERO DAY usually falls before the 10th of each month, if not sooner.

If you have no idea what day is your ZERO DAY sit down for 20 minutes and figure our your monthly household income after taxes, then look at your monthly expenses.

This month the solar business has been quiet, so my zero day fell on November 14th. In October all my expenses were met by October 6th! That was a good month, indeed.

When I have a high commission month I take that extra money and pay my mortgage down. That’s my last debt piece, and my goal was to pay off my home in 2020…. until Covid19 started to muck things up!

The best way to prepare for lean times is get your expenses down in good times. I drive a used Chevy Volt, don’t use credit cards at all… stayed in my small house with a minimal mortgage and low property taxes….

What is your ZERO DAY this month?

What would you like it to be next month?

Ben Alexander

November 23, 2020

A rainy Veteran’s Day…..

(my 2013 Harley VROD on the left, and Kawasaki ZX-14R on the right)

Happy Veteran’s day !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As I write this hurricane Eta is blowing across Tampa Bay, and since I’d rather NOT ride on rainy roads my 2nd best option is to write about it…..

I bought a 2017 Kawasaki ZX-14R (The Green Machine) about a month ago, and I’ve been cautiously learning how to ride the damn thing.

The ZX has a 1441 cc engine, on a 600 pound frame…. with 200hp. An engine this large would work just fine in a 2000 pound economy car, so you can imagine how fast it moves a much lighter motorcycle.

I only had one good reason for buying the Green Machine; I wanted to know what it feels like to cruise at 130mph…. and then go MUCH faster with a twist of the throttle.

Mission accomplished.

My Harley pulls hard to 130mph…. then gearing and aerodynamics limit the bike past that point. The Green Machine is just getting warmed up at 130!!

You need a wind fairing to go really fast…. on the ZX the wind fairing splits the airflow starting at around 100mph, creating still air behind the windscreen. Riding that fast is very different than sitting in a car, you can feel turbulence wash behind 18 wheelers on the highway, and that turbulence pushes the bike around in the lane.

The ZX riding stance is slightly forward, my 46 year old back and wrists were sore if I was futzing around in traffic…. but once there was some open road…. low earth orbit, indeed!

I respect the 200hp ZX the same way I’d respect a fully loaded machine gun, there are times to to fire and times to refrain from firing. I’ve been learning my ZX in 20 to 40 mile runs; getting used to the controls, the weight of the bike, how the brakes respond, the throttle response, etc.

I got my first 1,000cc Honda back in 2018 and did the same thing. At that time I’d never owned anything that fast… some motorcycles are more advanced, and I took my time learning how to operate my 1,000cc Honda. In many ways these bikes are incremental, from the 1,000cc Honda to the 1250cc Harley VROD to the 1441cc ZX-14.

My first 2 wheeled moped had 50cc’s… and no working brakes. Ran from the cops on that one, I got away but the cops took the moped. Oh well.

The great thing about learning how to ride really fast bikes is that smaller and slower bikes are still fun…. a friend of mine bought this 250cc Yamaha from me…. I was over there the other day and rode it again for kicks…. super light, super slow, really easy to ride…..

All motorcycles are fun, but when you go heavier and faster they can also kill you in MORE ways.

We motorcycle nuts think about the inherent dangers in riding, your skill level has to be higher than your crazy level, and good riders ride on a regular basis to keep their skills sharp.

On that note… I wear gear and don’t touch alcohol before riding. What really keeps me alive is 25 years of riding experience, and having a pretty good sense for when someone is about to cut me off or pull out in my lane of travel.

Good thing about being my age is that one develops a finely honed set of defensive driving skills, which come in handy on 2 wheels or 4… I met a young kid (17 years old) who got in a dumb accident on his 600cc cycle, probably because he lacked all around driving experience.

New riders might live longer IF they got a few years of driving skills under their belt before jumping on a motorcycle. I was 21 when I got my first cycle in Taipei, Taiwan…. I had a whole bunch of (low speed) accidents on my 150cc San Yang !! God forbid if my first bike had been a 600cc crotch rocket…. I would have been tiny little bits all over a Taiwanese street!

The goal here is to ride until I’m 105. Don’t know if that will happen, but it would be cool to be the old grumpy guy at the crotch rocket meet up.

I wanna pull up on a really fast machine and everyone thinks I’m younger until I take off my helmet and they see my gray wizard beard.

Goals, right?

Thank you Veterans !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

November 11th, 2020

A Turning Point, November 2020.

Like many people I held my breath this past week, waiting for the election results to come in, hoping that we wouldn’t have 4 more years of incompetent chaos at the highest levels of our government.

I’m a shareholder at Tampa Bay Solar, so I’ll benefit financially from a Biden administration, especially if Biden’s team extends the federal tax credit on residential and commercial solar.

I understand why Christian folks voted Republican in 2016. The Right had the best shot at stacking the Supreme Court with conservative justices, which might overturn Roe v. Wade.

(I’m a Christian who also believes in science: evolution, genetics, geology, the Big Bang theory, etc.)

Any abortion is a tragedy, but in cases of rape or medical threat to the mother that issue gets really complicated. One thing that I don’t want to see is a return to back alley abortions, which certainly would happen if Roe v. Wade was reversed.

I get it when people voted for a “Washington Outsider” who was going to be a change agent for the better… let’s see what a creative entrepreneur does in position of leadership, Drain the Swamp, right?

If Trump had been a smarter billionaire; like Mark Cuban, Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, etc… he would have filled his cabinet with the best and the brightest and actually listened to them.

There were some highly qualified people around Trump in the beginning, but when the best and the brightest started to disagree with the “Stable Genius” they were fired in a humiliating fashion.

Here is a Wikipedia page listing all of the people catapulted out of the Trump White House:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Trump_administration_dismissals_and_resignations

Why would any professional even entertain the idea of working with a tyrant who will eventually destroy your reputation via Twitter?

Anthony Fauci (who turns 80 this December) was in his position before Trump was elected, and if Covid19 had not broken out he would have kept on quietly doing his life’s work at the NIH.

Fauci has an impressive background, he’s advised every President as far back as Ronald Reagan when HIV / AIDS began to spread across the United States in the early 1980’s.

At this juncture Fauci might be the last person with any level of competence in Trump’s circle…. and last week Trump said he was going to fire Fauci after the election!

I admire Fauci tremendously. He was 79 years old when Covid19 hit our shores, he could have given up and retired when Trump started to contradict Fauci and call Covid19 a “Democratic Hoax” back in February.

No one would blame Fauci if he retired right now.

When conspiracy loonies on the right started to harass Fauci’s family and call him incompetent he stayed in the limelight, the one voice of reason at the highest levels of government.

While Trump was holding rallies with thousands of elderly Trumpers gathered together Fauci was saying “wear a mask, avoid large crowds”.

I’m still surprised that Trumpers went to rallies after Herman Cain died. I wonder how many Trump fans came down with the ‘Rona after a rally and didn’t tell anyone… I wonder how many have died.

On a personal level, I’ve been wearing a mask since March, in the last few months I’ve donated blood twice, both times I came back negative for Covid19 antibodies in my bloodstream.

I guess that silly mask works.

Many on the Right would call me a liberal snowflake radical communist who is “giving up my Freedom” by wearing a mask.

Maybe I am, but my main reason for wearing a mask is that I don’t want my clients or my family to catch Covid19 from me, especially if I can avoid it.

I’m 46, in OK health and exercise daily, low blood pressure, with O+ blood type… I’m lower risk than most.

I wonder how fast Covid19 would slow down if everyone took precautions and wore a mask for the next month.

????????????????????????????????????

I can’t predict what will happen in the next 4 years, but I’m confident that Joe Biden will fill his cabinet with the smartest and most competent people he can find.

Biden has a reputation for working with both sides of the aisle, and that one factor alone will make get more done than another 4 years of hyper partisan bickering.

I’m going to continue closing solar deals, and do everything in my power to help my team do the same.

Ben Alexander

November 9th, 2020

Evolution of my addiction.

2017 Kawasaki ZX-14 with a 1440cc engine.

This past Friday I traded my black and gold 2014 Honda CB1000r for the Green Machine pictured above. I took this pic to remember the moment….

I bought the black Honda CB about a week after my divorce went through two years ago. It was my first brand new bike, and in two years I put 8,000 miles (and 2 rear tires) on the Honda. It was BY FAR the fastest machine I’ve ever owned, electronically limited at 145mph.

I was also dealing with that internal emotional turmoil that anyone goes through at the end of a 20 year marriage. There were times when I went out and rode until my hands buzzed. There are some who say riding is like therapy, and I’m not going to argue different. Sometimes I would ride far out into the boonies with no destination in mind, just riding, listening to the wind and shifting through the corners.

With a 1,000cc engine the 2014 Honda was my first truly modern motorcycle…. before the 2014 I owned a 1978 Honda Hawk with a 400cc motor. It was a cool bike, I rescued it from a barn in the late 1990’s and cleaned it up. It had a kick starter!

I rode the Hawk from 1997 until 2015!

I had to adjust my brain and riding skills to go from the ancient 400cc Honda to the 2014 Honda CB with the 1,000cc motor. The 2014 bike had a close ratio six speed shifter, so there was power all over the place, but it revved too high above 120mph. On high speed runs I could burn half a tank of gas in just 20 miles…

Going from the 2014 Honda to the newer ZX-14 also requires a shift in skills, the Green Machine is even faster and the stakes are higher… but I’m taking my time getting used to the new bike.

Inexperienced riders get into trouble because they ignore physics, don’t wear safety gear, and they fail to respect the machine. I’m not doing at wheelies at 100mph waring flipflops cargo shirts and a tank top.

Yes, I’ve seen riders do this.

NO mandatory helmet law here in Gator land. ‘Murica !!!!!!

OK, this is the point when you are going to tell me I’m going to die, and you’re 100% correct, I’m going to die at some point in the future. When I do high speeds I tend to do it on an empty highway when traffic is light to non-existent. I never ride in the rain if I can help it. I’m wearing helmet, long pants, ballistic jacket, gloves, boots, etc.

There are some riders who will claim they rode from Tampa to Orlando going 150mph the entire time and I can tell you with normal traffic that’s damn near impossible. Most riders will go fast for a little bit, maybe a mile or so, then slow down as they catch up with traffic.

Going REALLY fast on 2 wheels is super loud, super windy and exhausting.

So why the hell did I buy an insanely fast ZX-14 ??????

#1. Because I got a high trade value on the CB1000r.

#2. Because the ‘Rona might kill me next week.

#3. Both the 1978 and the 2014 Hondas had very little wind protection. Getting blown around at 100mph is not fun, even worse on a gusty day with crosswinds. The full fairing on the Green Machine creates an aerodynamic bubble that wraps around the rider starting at 80mph. This makes a big difference, especially on a longer highway ride.

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I sold my ’78 Honda a long time ago, but it would be fun to ride the 2017 Kawasaki and then jump on the old Honda, just to see the change in technology from 1978 to 2017.

Most of the guys who buy a ZX-14 tend to be around my age, with a few decades of riding experience… I’ve been riding on and off for 25 years.

I respect the machine, and I’m a sober rider. I want to be one of those cool dudes who still rides a crotch rocket at 65 years old.

But sometimes you just want to take it easy…. and this is why my other bike is a 2013 Vrod:

Happy Riding !!!!!!!

Ben Alexander

October 10, 2020.

Best way to get a higher credit score, long term.

Your credit score is based on a formula that looks at your age, your amount of debt, and your record of paying bills since age 18. In many ways your credit score measures how much you can be trusted with money, so if your score is too low it will make your life difficult, unless you have oodles of cash in the bank and you can buy everything without a loan.

When I turned 40 my credit score was below average, in the low 600’s. I had too much debt as a ratio to my income and my debt was increasing over time. I bought some used Dave Ramsey paperback books on Amazon and read them from cover to cover.

If your credit is poor take a minute to go to Amazon and buy one of Dave’s books as a used paperback. Read the damn thing, and start changing your thinking about money. You’ll spent $6 to get a book that will help you save tens of thousands of dollars in future interest payments!

You can have low debt and great credit even if your income is low, it just takes discipline and time to get there.

I don’t have a credit card to my name, and that one factor alone insures that my debt is decreasing every single month. The only plastic I carry is a debit card, with a couple hundred bucks on it… and I’ve been using debit only for the last six years!

I’ve paid off over $300,000 in debt since I started reading Ramsey’s books. I now teach the class at my church…. my credit score went from low 600’s to 800 plus. I can now qualify for loans at 3% interest, but I don’t need any loans!

When you fix your THINKING your finances will improve. When your finances get better your credit score will get better and you’ll have MORE peace and less stress.

Hope that helps!

Ben Alexander

August 24, 2020

August 23… the ‘Rona and other stuff.

SUNDAY : August 23, 2020

I spent the last few days hanging out with my girlfriend and her kids, but I needed to mow my lawn and take care of some other chores at my house so I came home, mowed my lawn and then rode my Harley down to Ybor city for lunch. Ybor City is the oldest part of Tampa, with several restaurants and bars. Lotsa motorcycle folks hang out in Ybor, so you can always see cool bikes down there.

My Harley is a 2013 Vrod model, 1250cc engine, about 670 pounds. I’ve been riding it all over, but on the highway above 80 mph this motorcycle is too windy. The Harley is more fun on country roads, just cruising along at 60 mph and taking it easy. I bought it used this past Spring, and I don’t regret the purchase. My other bike is a 2014 Honda CB1000r.

Florida is a Covid19 hotspot, but I don’t know anyone here who got sick. I have friends and family up in New Jersey, some of them got symptoms… but I think most Floridians are not as worried about the pandemic as folks in the Northeast. I’m wearing a mask when I’m out and about anyway, until a safe vaccine hits the market.

A bee hit my neck and stung me, but I pulled the stinger out and the pain went away. One of the many hazards that come with going too fast on 2 wheels, I guess. This has never happened to me in 25 years of riding!

Today I was feeling grateful for a bunch of things; thankful that I have love in my life as a 46 year old (non-married) guy, thankful that my finances were not destroyed by the last few months, thankful that my weight is down to 180 lbs, thankful that I haven’t gotten Covid19 (that I know of).

I’m thankful to have a house, and a lawn to mow, even if I sweat my guts out when I’m out mowing it.

My youngest daughter (20 years old) is not living in Pittsburgh year round… and my oldest daughter (22) still lives with me. She’ll be finished her business degree the end of this year… so i might be alone in this 4 bedroom house by this time next year….

I really love my girlfriend, and I love her children… we’ve been dating on and off since the beginning of 2019. She’s not sure about me sometimes. She’s probably right.

I’m not afraid of commitment, I ask her to marry me all the time, but she keeps turning me down. Yesterday I was at her house and her daughter put her foot on my forehead.

I love having a 4 year old in my live, that kid is almost as wacky as me.

This is my life, in a pandemic, in August of 2020.

Ben Alexander

A Moral Imperative

Our team at Tampa Bay Solar comes from a variety of service backgrounds; every military service branch, retired police, and former and current firefighters.

We have put our own safety on the line for our brothers and sisters working with us, regardless of their race or religion. We responded to the call when someone needed help because they were a fellow human being and that was our moral imperative, honor and duty to do so.

Now that we are in the solar business together we are helping bring about clean and green energy across Tampa Bay, which also benefits all of us because the local electric company is now burning LESS coal into the air we all collectively breathe.

As of June 2020 we have installed over 750 solar applications on rooftops within a 150 mile radius of our headquarters in Tampa.

We watched with horror and disgust as George Floyd died underneath the knee of a racist and corrupt police officer. A police officer who was trusted to “serve and protect” all people, not serve as Judge, Jury and Executioner on the streets of Minneapolis.

We didn’t just watch George Floyd die that day, we saw the faces of the hardworking black men on our install crews, being pulled over by a racist cop and fearing for their lives.

We saw the face of our CEO, Steve Rutherford.

We saw our sons, our brothers, our fathers… having to live in a country that we served, but not having equal rights under the “unwritten law” of law enforcement prejudice.

This is a tragic chapter in American History, one in which 120,000 people have died from Covid19 while black men and women have to fear for their lives, even during a routine traffic stop that our white coworkers don’t have to worry about.

We don’t condone the property destruction, riots and arson that have resulted from this current crisis, but we DO support the peaceful protestors who are asking for changes in the law at the local, state, and federal levels.

If a police department has a history of racism and brutality that organization needs brand new leadership, from the top down. Racist cops need to retire, or go into another line of work in which they do not have authoritative discretion over other people.

Police Unions need to STOP making it difficult to fire racist or violent officers.

Derek Chauvin, the police officer who murdered George Floyd, had 17 complaints for excessive force.

Once a pattern was established officer Chauvin should have been forced out of law enforcement permanently.

Let us also state that many police officers are NOT violent nor are they racist. Most police officers go to work, serve with honor and integrity, and they don’t get any complaints because they are fair and evenhanded, even with suspects who are high on drugs, drunk, or suffer from mental illness.

Police officers have to deal with the most dangerous and violent 1% of our population, and they put themselves in existential danger every single time they do so.

It only takes about 9 months of training to become a police officer in the United States, perhaps that time in training needs to be extended to a 2 year program with additional educational requirements.

Here at Tampa Bay Solar we are proud to employ a diverse team and treat them with the fairness and the respect that all human beings deserve.

Our new headquarters is being built in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood in East Tampa, our goal is to reach out to that community and employ more of our black brothers and sisters.

We also support honorable law enforcement officers who work every day to eradicate racism within the ranks. It starts with good men and women in leadership positions, fighting the good fight.

We pray for our country in these times of hardship and crisis, in the hopes that hearts can be healed and that this current pain can result in positive and lasting change.

The KEY to health.

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Took this pic today, June 6th, 2020. 180 lbs.

Was 200 lbs just a MONTH ago, been using intermittent fasting, daily swimming, weights and rollerblading to slim down.

Goal is to get to 170 and stay there.

I don’t eat until 7PM. Every. Single. Day.

Drink water, tea or coffee during the day.

My low back was really problematic at 200 pounds, at 180 it feels 90% better.

I crashed my motorcycle back in 1995 in Taiwan a few times… so my low back will never be at 100%, but I’ll take 90% improved vs. fat and in pain.

7 days a week.

Don’t eat until 7PM.

Until I hit 170 lbs.

Intermittent fasting also decreases insulin levels and reduces inflammation. Anyone can do it. You just have to have an IRON will.

After I reach 170 I’m planning to experiment to see what it takes to maintain that weight for the rest of my life.

More later.

 

The Rickety Chair.

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This chair might be the oldest object I own.

When my Dad was growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s he sat in this chair to do his homework. When my Grandmother passed this chair wound up in my childhood bedroom, me and my brother George did OUR homework in this chair in the 1980’s!

I inherited the chair and took it from New Jersey to Maryland to Florida, where it sits today in the corner of my bedroom. Over the years the wooden supports had come unglued, and the wood stain was faded, so I used some gorilla glue to make it sturdy again then painted it with layers of white and blue paint. I was originally going for solid blue, but the white and the blue layers looked kinda cool so I kept it that way.

The old wooden chair is no longer rickety, and the blue adds some pop to the muted tans and browns in my bedroom.

Seeing the refurbished chair makes me happy every time I walk into my bedroom.

Sometimes there are things in our lives that sit in the corner, rickety and broken, yet we don’t take action to fix them.

When I was 40 years old I realized my finances were a total mess.

From 40 to 43 I read financial fitness books, chopped up ALL my credit cards, paid off a ton of debt and permanently changed my financial habits. Currently I teach the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace course at my local church.

I transitioned from operating a failing business to selling for a larger entity (Tampa Bay Solar) and succeeding. My income tripled.

I went through a divorce at 43, which delayed my plan to pay off my mortgage, but I was on the right track.

From 43 to age 46 I began to fix and update my home (see my previous blogs).

Today I have a home that is sale-ready… or I can live here and not worry about fixing stuff because everything is new, from the roof to the entire HVAC to the remodeled bathrooms and kitchen. If I sell this place in the next few years I’m in great shape to get top dollar. It feels great to live in a place that LOOKS great!

So finances were a rickety chair, then a house that needed work… what next?  

Recently I went through a break-up, with a woman that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with… she didn’t like my ego, and the fact that I was 25 pounds overweight.

She did me a favor, by pointing out my NEXT rickety chair.

Pain can be a catalyst for ACTION.

I cut alcohol out of my life, started fasting until 7PM every single day. Started swimming every morning… even dusted off my roller blades! Been lifting weights as well.

Just after a few weeks I’m already lighter, stronger, and on my way to better health!

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From 46 to 49 my goal is to slim down to 170 pounds and establish the lifetime habits that keep me there. I’m tired of being 25 pounds overweight with a bad back.

Once I get to 170 pounds I’m NEVER going back to fat and slow ever again.

I might get old and slow, but at least I’ll be trim.

Rollerblading actually reduced my back pain, who knew? Something about lateral muscles and developing the core? I don’t know.

Bought a Chirp wheel and use it to stretch a few times each day. Great product!

Spending some time every morning in meditation… my stupid ego has been a BAD thing in my life for far too long. We all need internal work.

In seeking awareness I hope to identify the issue and hopefully eradicate it.

The goal here is to lose 20 pounds of fat and 400 pounds of ugly ego!

Even though I’m single now I’m NOT focused on dating. If I get my health optimal and focus on the growth of Tampa Bay Solar the rest will fall into place.

Put yourself in God’s hands.

God knows about all the rickety chairs in your life, but He won’t fix them, you alone have to take action!

Ben Alexander

May 26th 2020