Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Alas my Rebel, I Barley Knew You.

It is time to prepare a farewell to my friend. We have seen and been through a lot together. She was not only a new mode of transport, but opened a life changing door.

Without the two of us meeting, it is quite likely most of the people I now know, would not even have crossed my path. Without her, the family I am now part of, would be forever beyond the horizon.

Without her I would never have met fellow bloggers and riders like Ms M, WooleyBugger, Iowa Harley Girl, Big Al, Biker Dietitian, Chessie, NormaJean, Bolty, Doug, Lady Ridesalot, Balisada and many more. It is no great understatement that my little Honda Rebel has been the catalyst for change in my life.

However, she is not happy. She sits in my garage, only coming out once or twice a month for a little ride around the neighborhood. A motorcycle isn't meant to sit idle. My little Honda Rebel needs an owner who will rider her. Hopefully I can find one.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Them Wheels are Spinnin'

Several years ago, a rather astute and relatively close work associate made an observation, "You really spin your wheels a lot, don't you?"

It's true. Some days I catch myself spinning badly. Perhaps it is human nature.

Starting a new project is far easier than following through with a difficult or stalled project. Creating new projects becomes it's own reward. Completion yields nothing; the number of things started is what matters. For better or worse, my brain is filled with things such as these.

My Suzuki VX800 project is stalled due to problems with my front carburetor. Farkling & equipping my Harley Sportster into a touring machine, is going no where because I am still paying for the bike. Learning to fly is stalled due to lack of funds and time. The operating system I started writing in 2004 is still only a few hundred lines long due to lack of time. The dozen or so stories I have floating in my mind are still floating, also due to lack of time.

These are all excuses and I know it. T'is far easier to leave obstacles in place and start over. T'is far more rewarding to obliterate the obstacles and keep moving.


Monday, December 06, 2010

Now, That's the Spot

Yes, there is is. As life proceeded, with its ups and downs, opportunities and adversities, lonely roads and groups, something hibernated. Reading of Ms M's recent Iron Butt accomplishment gave that little hibernating critter a nudge.

Over the last few months I have had the opportunity to buy a few things and pay off a few debts. The feeling of paying off a credit card was fantastic. Next up is paying off one of my bikes and taking care of another little debt. It's good.

As I sat here in my garage a few weekends ago, my little Suzuki just looked at me. She has been taking low priority for quite a while and understandably wanted attention. Within minutes the seat, tank and front air filter were on a little work table. 30 minutes later the front carb was apart and in pieces. Timing is not always my forte. I forgot something that had been scheduled for weeks. So, bike, parts and tools were pushed to the side... Pushed to the side like this little sleeping critter.

While shopping around for a light bar for my Sporty and a small scope for my pistol, the little critter rumbled. And, as normally happens, I ended up browsing over to ADVRiders. If you are not familiar with this site and are a motorcycle rider, just grab your favorite beverage and give it a visit.

At any rate, the critter seems to be wide awake now. Rather than looking at light bars and pistol scopes, motorcycle tires and tents and riding gear seems to be filling up my screen. It's time to get that Suzuki running 100%, buy some long distance riding gear, get some luggage and a tent, schedule some time off and get out of here.

Maybe the Northern California Wine Country... Maybe Canada... Maybe a few thousand miles of lonely two lane roads. Maybe ghost towning with a buddy. Anyone want to go for a ride?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Curious Times

Yes 'curious.'

So I meet a new female friend on line. We start e-mailing back and forth. I send her a picture of myself in full leathers, sitting on my bike. Also tell her that I work from home.

She says that I would likely scare her kids and she wants to know if I am paralyzed or something.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Seriously. Addressing any single item here would be a disservice to the overall WTF...

Why is it, people of the fairer sex that I would honestly like to spend time with are 500 or more miles away? Ah, well. I have plenty to keep me occupied, and my cold medicine to keep me warm. Perhaps poor substitutes for companionship but will suffice for now.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Fun Little Saturday

Ya, I overdid it again. The morning sun was bright, the air still and warming, the traffic light and coffee hot and strong.
Guess what I did today.

A few days ago I discovered a little gun shop called Spurlock's. Really, a great, laid back place. Most sales people at other, more prominent Las Vegas area gun shops seem to wince or snicker when they discover I am only interested in .22 rifles and hand guns. This isn't necessarily true; but is a test of sorts.

The sales person at Spurlock's passed with flying colors. Without wince or snicker he showed me his selection of .22 long guns. One caught my eye. A Marlin 25MN .22 magnum rifle. As you can see from the above picture, once the sights are dialed in, it is quite effective at 50 yards. Yes, that is a quarter I hit at 50 yards.

Respect. Just respect what the customer wants. Maybe that is what is needed in relationships; simple, straightforward, unflinching respect.

Oh, today I ordered a Beretta NEOS from Spurlock's and they have a nice little 380 that caught my eye. Just respect.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Another Project?



Last Saturday I broke, or minimally, damaged my foot. While quite painfull, at least it was colorful. The hues of blue and purple were quite... intriguing.

Wednesday my boss was nice enough to let us off work early. No, I didn't kick back and relax; no time. Given three hours before sundown, taking advantage of the available light, I manage to change the oil in my pickup, do a little electrical diagnostic work and remove and disassemble the front carb from my Suzuki.

I thought it would be a good idea. My foot had other thoughts. Where just that morning, most of the purple and blue was gone, it was back; pain included.

So rather than work on my bike today, which would involve a lot of bending and moving and Ibuprofen, I started another little project... The restoration of a Winchester Model 67 single shot bolt action rifle.
After reading a few websites that discussed gun restoration, and a few purchases at the local sporting goods store, I was ready. First the old finish had to be stripped. That was easy, just a
few squirts of remover, 15 minutes and it came right off. That was the easy part.

Then was the sanding. With a coarse grit sanding foam block, 180 I believe, then with a 360, it was ready for a steel wool scrub down. While my arms got a nice work out, my left foot didn't need to move around much.

After wiping the whole thing down with a dry cloth, it was time to apply the Tru-Oil finish. The instructions said to apply with my fingers? O... K...

Honestly, the first coat went on nicely. This is an old gun, likely from the late 1930's and has a real walnut stock. After some more rubbing down with steel wool and a few more coats, she is going to be pretty!
(Just a note... the dark marks in the stock are stains from the previous owner. Sanding them out might not be a good idea as there is no telling how deep in the wood they go.)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My Yearly Trip to North Carolina - With a Bonus!


This is what I awoke to see, nearly every morning a few weeks ago. Having morning coffee on the deck overlooking my friend's farm was sublime.

This yearly pilgrimage began three years ago when I rode my little Honda Rebel to visit. It wasn't easy riding a little Rebel 5800 miles round trip, but without a doubt, the friendship and fantastic view was worth it.

Last year I rode my Sporty down to Florida, then up to my friend's farm, and then back home. There was little time to visit on that trip. This inconvenience was likely a blessing; her boyfriend was a little psycho.

So, this year I flew. The visit time was much longer and her boyfriend is a great fellow. There was just something missing and I know what it was. It was the ride; the journey that was different.

What was the bonus? I spent time sharing stories and having a beer in front of a bon-fire with none other than Wooley Bugger! Buddy, I am definitely riding back there so you can show me some of the back roads and museums.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Did I Do Something Wrong, Officer?

I have only a few speeding tickets to my name. That didn't matter.

I have had multiple FBI NCIC background checks over the course of the past two years. That didn't matter.

I was not carrying contraband. That didn't matter.

Opt-out was not explained to me. That didn't matter.

When I purchased my flight ticket from Orbitz last month, I do not recall agreeing to a violation such as this. It didn't matter.

Yes, I went through a backscatter X-Ray machine at the Raleigh Durham airport.

While not necessarily a prude, the knowledge that some un-named person somewhere saw me naked is a little unsettling. There is no transparency. Doctors or other medical professionals seeing me "au naturale" can be researched and reviewed. A lawyer can check up on any law enforcement officer giving me a pat-down. Not so for this.

While I am not a scare monger, conspiracy advocate nor against any form of lawful protection, this is troublesome. Jokingly, I can think, 'Damn, someone saw me naked and I didn't even get lunch out of the deal.' Nonetheless, it is disturbing.

When planning my next trip, I will seriously consider utilizing other modes of transportation.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Little Hiatus

Yes, I have been absent from this blog for a while. The real world called and I answered.

Now, there are some things that simply cannot be discussed. There are some things that are far too trivial to be mentioned. And then there are things to write about and discuss and reminisce and ruminate upon. The latter will be fodder for likely the next year. Just to recap my current state of being:

1 - I have three running (for the most part) motorcycles. My primary riding bike is a Harley Davidson 2004 1200cc Sportster Custom, also known as a HD XL1200C. Then there is my first bike, a 2007 Honda Rebel. She has a few mechanical issues but nothing that can't be rectified with my tools and abilities. And finally, there is my 1991 Suzuki VX800; my project bike. Currently the later is having issues with the front carb but she runs.

2 - Still single. Had a few dates but nothing serious or involved ever came of them.

3 - My daughter will soon be leaving to the great mid-west. If all goes well, a year from now she will be in the undergraduate program at University of Iowa studying psychology.

4 - Work is quite throughly filling my days. In today's economy that is a good thing; and I am certainly not complaining.

5 - I now exercise my Second Amendment rights about once every other weekend at an outdoor range not far from where I live.

6 - I won a Kindle reader at a recent company picnic. This thing is amazing!

So... if you fall into any of the following categories, please give me a call: know much about balancing multiple carburetor V-Twin motorcycle engines; know about the University of Iowa; want to go on a date; know anything, or want to know anything about carrier call detail records, rating, phone switches or high-throughput data processing; want to go shooting one weekend; or have reading suggestions.

Oh, since my little Acer Netbook seemed to have run off with someone, I replaced it with a little Dell Mini this evening. Not sure how this will work out; we shall see.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Messages, Searching & Trips

A lot of miles in a car. Not my idea of an ideal trip but my daughter enjoyed it, and honestly, so did I.

A week ago, my daughter, her boyfriend and I embarked on a road trip from Las Vegas to New Boston, IL to see my family. Oil problems in Utah, going down the wrong way on a one way in Colorado, flat tire in Colorado, motel fire alarm and emergency vehicles in Iowa City...

By most definitions this was indeed an adventure and a good trip. Pics and commentary soon.

Ever have a 'sign' come up and smack you on the face, saying, "Hey, ya, I'm talking to YOU?"

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Little Geeky Sunday

On call...
Lack of sleep...
Nice thunderstorm last night...
Saving my clutch on Athena until I can afford a clutch job...
Cannot concentrate on my book of the moment ("Alas Shrugged," by Ayn Rand)...
Taking several peoples' advice and not working on my project bike, Vixen for about a month...

So, I turn back to an old hobby... Ham Radio. I spent yesterday afternoon mounting my antenna to a ladder in my little 'patio' area, tuning everything up, and... No signals. Bands are pretty much dead.

What that generally means is that there is no ionospheric propagation for the frequencies I can use. Ionospheric propagation is the bouncing of radio signals off the ionosphere, allowing a radio signal to travel thousands of miles. Well, there was none. The ionosphere is excited by unsettled space weather - sunspots. Very few sunspots, very little ionospheric propagation.

So, I built a little ham radio geek website while cleaning house. KC7RAD's Ham Radio Mashup Page. Eh... Why not...

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Switching Gears

It is time for a hiatus from my restoration project. The last attempt at cleaning the carburetors yielded nice shiny aluminum and brass that seemed to fit well and meet all service manual specifications.

What I actually got was a rear carb that spat out fuel as if it were being dumped on the ground. Likely suspect in this is the float or needle valve.

The operation of removing the carburetor is not minor. Several electrical connections must be disconnected, several cables removed, fuel lines disconnected and the airbox partially disassembled and carefully slid out of place. As much desire there is to take care of these issues, the Las Vegas heat expressed in the garage is just too much.

Combine that with Atena's clutch and other maintenance items needing attention, and the result is obvious. My VX800 needs to be shelved for a short while. It is better to have a well maintained, rideable bike than several partially rideable ones.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dating Site Humor

As I sit here eating lunch, wishing it were cooler outside, leafing through my e-mail, a friend mentions an internet dating site. Thoughts of updating my profile and maybe checking things out come to mind. But then, as is typical, my mind turns to humor.

So, here are some definitions and comments on the possible true meanings of the things some date-seekers post. Hope you get at the minimum, a few chuckles out of this. No disrespect meant to anyone, especially those who drive VWs.

Humourous Dating Site Definitions Explained!
  • Retired ~~ Has not been able to hold a job for the last decade.
  • Well Off ~~ Average bank account is $100.
  • Owns his own place ~~ Lives out of his VW Microbus.
  • Enjoys traveling ~~ See above item.
  • Multilingual ~~ Can swear in Spanish, Italian and French.
  • Takes care of his parents ~~ Has lived in their basement for the last 25 years.
  • Likes walking on the beach ~~ ...looking for lost change.
  • Enjoys the outdoors ~~ The VW Microbus needs to be fumigated once a year.
  • Full head of hair ~~ Beware the dreaded comb-over.
  • Easy going ~~ Enjoys a LOT of herbal supplements.
  • Enjoys growing things ~~See above item.
  • Athletic ~~ Jumps to conclusions on a daily basis.
  • Likes loud music ~~ Volume button is broken on the radio.
  • Enjoys quiet evenings by a fireplace ~~ The VW Microbus gets cramped once in a while.
  • Studied Pharmacology ~~ Currently or previously a drug mule.
  • Frugal ~~ Water is free, right?
  • Doesn't watch TV ~~ Either cannot afford cable or satellite service, or does not know how to operate a remote.
  • Enjoys technology ~~ Uses an iPhone or Droid to text friends and post on FacecBook about 50% of the time while on dates.
  • Enjoys reading ~~ While Calvin and Hobbes can be greatly entertaining, it is not literature.
  • Old fashion ~~ Doesn't believe in brushing teeth and showers once a week.
  • Rides bicycles ~~ Necessary when the VW Microbus breaks down.
  • Enjoys a drink now and then ~~ Has a separate refrigerator for the beer and box wine.
  • Well dressed ~~ Could mean many things. When combined with 'Frugal', this indicates a lot of ill-fitting t-shirts that have faded pictures of nearly naked ladies. When combined with 'Old fashioned', this indicates they wear the same clothes they did in high school.
  • Enjoys pets ~~ Free-range ants, cockroaches and a bees nest do not constitute 'pets.'
  • Likes weight training ~~ 12 ounce curls.
  • Enjoys running ~~ Especially after the police discover he is 'Easy going.'
  • Extravagant ~~ Spends all their money and overextends their credit on crap no one needs and they will use once, if that.
  • Has a large investment portfolio ~~ His drinking buddies bought him two shares of harley Davidson stock when he turned 40.
OK, I need to get back to work. Can anyone add to this list???

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

That Wasn't So Bad

After a day or two to reflect on my carburetor issue, and all the help from the kind folks on the VX800 e-mail list, it was time to dig in. Honestly it was not all that difficult. The success or failure of the carburetor cleaning is yet to be seen but the process of disassembling, cleaning and reassembling the front unit was not very difficult.
One big problem with this carb became evident within moments. The diaphragm was not seated properly when the previous owner had the carbs rebuilt. Honestly, it is a wonder this one worked at all.

There is the rear carb yet to clean, and the success or failure only to be determined once both are strapped back onto the engine. Sometimes a task that seems daunting is honestly rather small after a day or two of hydration and reflection.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Plans and Limits

"Failure is nature's plan to prepare you for great responsibilities." -Napoleon Hill
"It is an ill plan that cannot be changed." -Latin proverb.
Those two quotes seem quite apropos at the moment. There is no anger nor even a hint of irritation; just a tired, hot confounding pressure in the back of my head, radiating out to my knees and fingers.

For the last three days I have pushed against the oppressive Las Vegas summer heat and aching pressure in my fingers and knees in an effort to clean and check the carburetors on my VX800. They were successfully removed, cleaned and reattached, all without blood loss or single broken part.

At about 7PM yesterday with the thermometer displaying 105, I mounted the tank, turned on the petcock, opened the choke, turned on the key and hit the starter. She cranked and cranked and barely caught once and then backfired. And that was the end of my work for the day. The battery was dead from excessive cranking and there was a puddle of fuel on the ground below the front carburetor.

Apparently I had maladjusted the rear carb so that the needle valve would not allow sufficient fuel into the bowl, and I had not cleaned the front carb enough as it was still overflowing. The course of action was obvious. The air boxes and carburetors had to come off again. The carbs had to be opened up and cleaned and inspected and readjusted again.

And my 40-something body is telling me, 'enough pushing for now.' All spare time for the past four days, excepting the times where temperatures were over 115, has been spent in the garage. My (according to my doctor) pre-arthritic fingers and knee are telling me to take a day or two off.

Maybe it is time to have someone else work on a thing or two. Would it soil my desire to rebuild this bike if I paid someone to take care of the carburetors for me?

Minimally, she does have new fuel lines, a few new vacuum lines and I know how to get in deep if necessary.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Patience, Grasshopper

So, Friday I picked up another VX800. For only $200 I bought a 1990 (first model year) donor bike. Plans... What are plans if they aren't bent or broken a little?

The initial plan was to get this bike and use it as a test-bed of sorts. The previous owner told me that just before it was put in storage about six years ago, the entire engine was rebuilt; both top and bottom end. The rear carburetor started giving him issues so he just parked it in one of his storage units and drained the fuel.

Over that time he sold, gave away or had stolen several pieces from the bike. There was no fuel tank, no plastics, no speedometer worm gear on the front wheel and no exhaust. Perhaps a challenging project at best for many. Given I already have two 1991 model year bikes, this was a purchase dream come true.

On Saturday I started cleaning her up and checking parts. It occurred to me that rather than just using this as a parts bike, why not just build on this one instead? Sure, I have a great bit of time invested in the other VX carcass. It was cleaned, painted, clearcoated, received a new steering head bearing set, completely re-wrapped wiring harness and likely quite a few other things.

Optimistically I picked up a fresh battery, oil filter, oil and battery strap from Nevada Suzuki. After returning home I replaced the oil and coolant. Carefully attaching the battery, all the electronics seemed to check out except for the brake light switch for the front brake. No problem, I had a working one. The choke cable was seized but an afternoon soak in WD40 took care of that. Plugs were giving off a good spark, oil pump was able to generate acceptable pressure when cranking, cylinders and valves were holding compression; it was a very promising and productive day.

After mounting the exhaust system (incorrectly the first few times I may add), the temp had soared to near 115 in my garage. As much as I really wanted to continue working, continuing would have likely been a little dangerous.

This morning, bright and early at 5:30 I couldn't sleep. There was an excitement in the air. I wanted to hear her run, as admittedly unlikely as that could be. Bikes usually don't crack right off after a six year nap in storage.

By 6:45 I had a mixture of SeaFoam and fuel in the tank and had installed a new fuel line and fuel filter. After taking my daughter to work, it was time. With fire extinguisher close by, I mounted the tank and connected the fuel line. With the petcock open, all fuel lines and electronics were methodically checked. We have GO.

The choke is open, key on, clutch in, I hit the starter. Within five seconds of cranking the front cylinder starts catching. It was exciting but not elating... yet. Then the rear started to catch. Blue and white smoke and all sorts of dust and dirt start flying out of the exhaust. A few twists of the throttle and the bike is showing life! She is limping and coughing and sputtering but is alive.

Now I am elated!

The blue smoke is from old junk hydrocarbons that have accumulated in the engine. The white is from the SeaFoam. All is good. Then I smell fuel. That is something I didn't want. As sublime an experience this was for me, attention to every little thing was necessary.

Under the bike was a large pool of fuel. Hitting the kill switch and turning on my vent fan I go over everything. After consulting a few people it was obvious. The floats or needle valves were gummed up. This caused fuel to be pumped out the carb breather tubes and enrich the air/fuel mixture to a point where running the engine would be a severe challenge.

After several further running tests, each time the engine running smoother and more confidently, it was obvious the carbs needed to be removed and cleaned. The temp was about 115F. As much desire there was to continue, as much drive as there was to hear her growl again, doing so would have been, as it would have been on Saturday, dangerous.

Yes, she growls. Two separate people heard her run and they both used the same adjective; growl.

Before the dis assembly process began, I HAD to do it. After a few minutes the plastic pieces and seat were mounted. She is tall, narrow, she growls, balance is better than any bike I have ever been on, and in the saddle, she feels wonderful.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Motorcycle Quote of the Day

"As recent memory serves, the most I have felt at home is while on two wheels, riding a solitary road."

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Close Enough

While attending college, one is exposed to quite a few jokes about their course of study. Here are some of my favorites:

Q. How did the programmer die in the shower?
A. He read the shampoo bottle instructions: Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

How many programmers does it take to change a light bulb?
None – It’s a hardware problem.

What’s the difference between drug dealers and computer programmers?

Drug Dealers Computer Programmers
Refer to their clients as “users”. Refer to their clients as “users”.
“The first one’s free!” “Download a free trial version…”
Have important South-East Asian connections (to help move the stuff). Have important South-East Asian connections (to help debug the code).
Strange jargon: “Stick,” “Rock,” “Dime bag,” “E”. Strange jargon: “SCSI,” “RTFM,” “Java,” “ISDN”.
Realize that there’s tons of cash in the 14- to 25-year-old market. Realize that there’s tons of cash in the 14- to 25-year-old market.
Job is assisted by the industry’s producing newer, more potent mixes. Job is assisted by industry’s producing newer, faster machines.
Often seen in the company of pimps and hustlers. Often seen in the company of marketing people and venture capitalists.
Their product causes unhealthy addictions. DOOM. Quake. SimCity. Farmville. Facebook. etc...
Do your job well, and you can sleep with sexy movie stars who depend on you. Damn! Damn! DAMN!!!


One of my favorites, while not specifically about computer scientists is told and written in various levels of sexuality and innuendo. Here is a fairly clean version:

A man and a woman are at opposite ends of a basketball court. Every 5 seconds, they walk HALF the remaining distance towards the half court line. A scientist says, "They will never meet, it is useless"; an engineer says "Pretty soon, they'll be close enough for all practical purposes".

Maybe this has some deeper connotations. We may never meet a specific goal or complete a project exactly as desired or designed. However we just may get close enough for all practical purposes.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Baby

Yes, this made me giggle for some reason. Maybe I am just loosing it; or maybe random guffaws at spam is a sign of a healthy mind. Eh... Who knows. OK, here it is.. I am still chuckling...

Subject: I LOVE YOU
From: Baby

Hello, (miraclelovedd@hotmail.com)
My name is miracle, i saw your profile today when i saw searching in google search and became interested in you,i will also like to know you more,and if you can send an email to my email address,i will give you my pictures here is my email address (miraclelovedd@hotmail.com) I believe we can move from here! Awaiting for your mail to my email address here.
miracle.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Don't Cry Like A Bitch When You Feel the Pain

It was out of no where, a sucker-punch, a cheap glancing shot. The hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention as the demon scratched at it's grey cell walls. He wanted attention, an he received it.

Walking out of the bookstore for a smoke and inner communion with the jail keepers, he hit again. This time not a glancing blow but one directly to the center of my back. He meant business this time.

But this time it was different. Straddling my bike, bringing this steel and rubber and chrome beast alive, we prepared. Hot asphalt and blood red setting sun swayed to my request; we rode.

Friday, June 25, 2010

What Will the Neighbors Think?

And so, there was wrenching to do.

A friend of mine will be borrowing my Honda Rebel until her bike is fixed. It would not be prudent handing over the key before being certain the bike is in fine working order.

Over the past two months or so I have been wrenching on her here and there. The crankshaft oil seal needed to be reseated. Engine, fuel tank and carbs cleaned out. Spark plugs changed. That sort of thing.

Well, the rear brakes needed to be checked. With only about 6,000 miles on the front brakes, they are fine. However, those rear brakes felt soft and somewhat ineffective. So, my task for last night was to remove the rear wheel and check the brakes. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Rebel, the rear wheel has drum style breaks, necessitating the removal of the wheel just to check the darned things.

Alas, I do not have a bike jack or stand. A buddy of mine who lives in the same apartment complex does have a bike stand/jack but it is far too wide. Being designed more for large cruisers and dirt bikes, making it fit the Rebel would have been time consuming and tricky.

So, I MacGyver'ed it. With three tie-down straps anchored to the rafters, and some spare rope, there came to be a bike winch of sorts. I would lift the bike up a little at a time while my daughter tightened each tie-down strap. Suspended, the bike was honestly rather stable and secure. Not that I would recommend this method for larger bikes but it worked well with my little 350 pound bike.

Should probably remove the tie-downs and straps before the neighbors see them. Wouldn't want them to think anything funny is going on in there. :-)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Motorcycle Plastic Repair - Adventure in Plastic Welding

Aside from a few other things going on in my life, I have been busy experimenting with chemical plastic repair on my project bike. And guess what... SUCCESS!
If you are so inclined, you can read of my plastic repair success on my VX800 blog, part 1 and part 2.

NOW! New and improved with Part 3 - Repairing a completely broken piece.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

No Offense and No Disrespect, But...

Nearly a decade ago when I started to grow out my beard and hair, my loving work associates started something that still follows. "No offense Ken, but you look like Captain Caveman."

And so I did.

It was a crazy time where I work. Projects and new clients were coming fast and hard. This particularly crazy morning was after a 24+ hour stint in the office; this co-worker was certainly sharp in their observation.

But it was said in jest, in good humor. There was no malice intended.

Perhaps some kind blog reader out there can clarify something... Why do some people preface a patently offensive or disrespectful comment with "No offense or disrespect intended, but..." ???

"No offense, but you stink and look like Captain Caveman." And your point?

"No offense or disrespect but you ride like shit, can't write a decent program to save your ass and the grammar you write with reminds me of my brother's three year old. No offense of course." STFU!

No one said this specifically, it is merely an example. Over the course of the last week many hours have been spent reading public comments on different news articles. This seems to be a new theme, attempting to divert responsibility for comments that indeed offensive or disrespectful. Perhaps it is a societal facet becoming more evident.

Regardless, no offense or disrespect intended, it is disingenuous, irritating and I just don't like it.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Abby Sunderland Saved - Soap Box Out Again!

Abby Sunderland Rescued

Not terribly certain why these comments are rubbing me the wrong way, but DAMN am I irritated. Here are some from this CNN article with my personal response.

"yngvi No, those that put time and effort into rescuing her, have done more of value than she will ever do." So... You can look into the future? Violate the laws of physics that easily and know what she is going to do? Let's talk about the stock market.

"demmieKrat Sad that so many here wouldnt spend tax payer money to rescue a "thrill seeking" teen but would gladly spend tax payer money to repair any gluttonous fast food junky ... that plops their azz in the USA" -BRAVO!!!

"alboze It is no wonder we are witnessing the demise of the once great USA. With all the wooses that are criticising a heroic effort of an extremely brave pioneer, the great heroes of the past must be turning in their graves. You should be ashamed of yourselves! The boat is licenced and has all the safety equipment required by the Coast Guard to make it eligible to be rescued in the event of failure. Are you guys saying that rescue services should be reserved for commercial vessels in the South Indian Ocean? That would be whalers and toothfish poachers and of course a few extreme tourists who have a lot of money. For the people who are afraid to leave the comfort zone of 911, there are adventurous people out there who have a life. It is great people like Abby who once made America great and sissies like you that will result in America's fall. Well done Abby!" - BRAVO!!!

"yngvi You forgot to mention that the boat was not the right type for this kind of journey and older, more experienced sailors have said it was foolhardy to do in winter." #1 - wrong. That type of boat was designed and built specifically FOR the open and rough seas. Foolhardy... Many people thought the Wright Brothers were foolhardy, and Christopher Columbus and Magellan.

"MalTempo Priceless daughter. Yes, the price is the cost to taxpayers. How many more of these daredevil imbeciles must we pay to rescue?" So, we should not pay to rescue someone? Should the Search and Rescue check credit scores? "You have an emergency? What is your credit card number?"

"ghj Does anybody remember that little girl Jessica from a number of yrs. ago? She was 7 or so. Flying across the country w/ her dad. They crashed and died. 'nuff said'." I have flown. I have lost a friend, a trained, seasoned instructor and FAA check pilot when he was instructing a student. Wresting control of an aircraft from a 7 year old is NOT hard to do. Training accidents happen regardless of the student's age.

--------------

Some of these people's comments truly irritates me. I think perhaps I will do something dangerous and adventurous rather that sit on my couch watching television or play video games while eating fast food and let my brain atrophy. I'm riding.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Abby Sunderland Effect

If you have not already read the news about Abby Sunderland, here is a brief bit from The Guardian Weekly (click here to read the entire article).

"Rescuers launched a desperate search tonight for a 16-year-old Californian girl attempting to sail round the world single-handed, after she set off distress beacons in stormy conditions in a remote part of the Indian Ocean.

Abby Sunderland's parents lost satellite phone contact with her today after she had told them she was repeatedly knocked down in 60 knot-winds and 50 foot seas, about 2,000 miles east of Madagascar. An hour later the US coast guard notified them that two emergency satellite beacons on her 40ft yacht, Wild Eyes, had been activated."

I hope she is rescued and at worst, has a minor broken bone and minor case of hypothermia. It is my opinion that she shows a great deal of determination, personal ambition and Joie de vivre; all key properties of an adventurer.

The comments posted by readers of articles about this unfortunate situation range from supportive to uninformed to imbecilic. Unfortunately, the majority of comments fall into the later portion of the spectrum.

Since this is my little stage on the interwebs, I am going to take my little, rarely used soap box, and make a few comments about the comments others have left. Registering on a dozen websites to make comments just is not that productive.

So, my fair readers, here is what I read:

  • This sentiment was posted so many times it strengthened my belief that the pseudo-anonymous public would rather speak an uninformed opinion than read and perhaps change a personal opinion. Many, many places, ad nausium, people posted their concern that so much money is and will be spent paying for the search and rescue. First of all, there are insurance policies for this particular situation. If she has it, great; you people lamenting, "...Oh, now WE are paying for her..." can ST%U. Secondly, there are loose international treaties covering Search and Rescue and fiduciary responsibilities. Google "search and rescue treaty," do a little reading, learn a little.
  • This is one of my favorites: pirates. "THAT IS PIRATE AREAS AND THEY KNEW IT!" "The only thing she has taught people is sailing around the world by yourself in pirate infested waters is stupid." "Did someone else, such as a pirate, board the boat?" OK, all you pirate folks, check out here: The Live Piracy Map. Abby is roughly between the southern-most tip of Africa and Australia, and just a little south. That would put her about 3,000 miles from known pirate activity. Next.
  • "...Horrible parents..." "...child endangerment..." "...the parents should be held responsible..." blabla friggin' BLA! Let's do a little logic, reasoning and abstraction here, shall we? It is my understanding she was a fairly experienced, certified and trained sailor; not a 'weekend at the Yacht Club' sort of person. So, let's extract that into an abstraction; person A is certified to perform B. Further, person A was trained to perform B. Now, let's fit that abstraction into something more concrete; drivers licenses. A 16 year old gets a driver's license. But there is more, say that person had already been driving for years, and trained for years to drive. If that person proves themselves as being a competent driver, should they be restrained from driving and exercising their certification? And further, if there is an accident while they are driving, are the parents to be held responsible?
Seriously, some of these comments are aggravating me near the point of anti-social behavior. Should we keep our children indoors, on the couch playing video games in a nice child-proof sterile home, or out in the world? Adventurers such as Abby push at our preconceived notions of things. In order for the human experience to be expanded, the envelope must be pushed.

Honestly, the comments some people have made are disgusting, inappropriate, ill-conceived, uneducated, illogical and disrespectful. Everyone has a right to their own opinion. Here is mine...

I hope she is rescued and tries it again, several times as a matter of fact. People such as her do not typically come about (as proven by the majority of comments I read.) She is an adventurer and it seems to me her parents did what they could to prepare her for this journey; and for that they should be applauded.

It seems to me the majority of the public commenting on this story would rather live meek, safe lives while judging people and their actions behind the pseudo-anonymity provided by the internet.

Soap box is put away and I am checking out for a while.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Vixen Has Her Brain Stem!

No abstractions or metaphors here. This was a hot, busy Sunday.
Vixen has her brain stem! I ripped her wiring harness apart, scrubbed it down, taped it up in protective wrapping and assembled the front end. HOLY COW! Read all about it here if you are so inclined.

She is definitely coming together.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Found When Not Looking

It has been said that to truly find something, one must not be searching.

While at Nevada Suzuki last week, the owner and I were discussing my little VX800 restoration project. I had ridden in to say 'hi' and order the radiator guard mounting screws, headlight assembly dampener and ignition module boot/holder/rubber thingie.

Last year he told me of his VX800. In the 90's he had several and ended up selling all but one. His VX had engine problems and a fellow rebuilt the entire engine in exchange for some money that was owed. The owner told me she ran like a top for a little bit then the rear carb began malfunctioning. He had other things to worry about and put the bike in a storage container.

Over the last ten years or so he sold off the headlight, exhaust system a few other items.

After buying my first VX about a year and a half ago, and subsequently deciding to rebuild her, I started searching for a donor bike. I became nearly obsessed. For months I would check CraigsList and E-Bay and the local classified ads and even the auto auction houses.

Late in 2009 I made the choice to back off. If one became available, all the better; and there by chance I found a donor in San Diego. By merging VX #1 and VX #2 I now have a complete frame, front end, wiring harness, drive train, seat and tank.

Oh but that engine. Both engines in my garage combined could not operate properly. Minimally about $400 worth of parts will be required to make these engines merge into a functioning internal combustion engine.

And, after the analysis of the situation and needed parts, I did not search any of the places I used to. Sure, occasionally I would peek to see if anything was out there, but there was minimal stress; plenty of other things to deal with.

While talking with the owner, he tells me his VX is out of storage, and at his home workshop. He is ready to sell it. The engine should be in good shape and simply require a good cleaning; same with the carbs.

I don't honestly know much about her; She may be a match, or with all the different minute variations, she may not be. But it is worth looking; worth the time thinking of the possibilities.

I know where she can be found; the more apropos question is "Where do you want to ride?"

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ohhh... My aching Fingers...

Today was a busy, painful day. My pickup is having some clutch, transmission and electrical issues so a few hours this morning were spent wrenching on it. All that could be found wrong on this first cursory review was a broken vacuum line and a loose crankcase breather pipe.

My hands were hurting. So, I retired to my bedroom to take some ibuprofen and play a little on-line game a neighbor introduced to me. It is a first-person-shooter game that, even for this non-gamer can provide a fun little escape.

In this game I like to snipe. Not much movement is involved, just good aiming. Well, one of the other players was a little irritated with me. "Why don't you move around more? Get a higher score?"

"Well," I replied, "my fingers aren't terribly young anymore and don't move that well. Actually, they hurt."

After the ibuprofen kicked in, I went back down to clean some nuts and bolts from my bike on a wire wheel. After about a dozen my fingers started to hurt again; and I wondered... 'Just how much punishment have these fingers been through?'

And, so I retired to my computer to figure it out. Follow me if you will...

  • I have been a computer programmer since about 1988; that's 22 years.
  • If I have worked on average five days a week for 22 years, that's 5720 days.
  • An average programmer produces about 300 lines of code per day. There have been days when I produced no code, simply doing research or data manipulation or testing or debugging. Then there are the intense days when I have produced over 600 lines of code. So, I am sticking with the 300 line average.
  • And, so, over the course of the last 22 years, I have created an approximate total of about 1,716,000 lines of programming code.
  • Let's assume the average line of computer code is about 25 characters. Many are longer, many shorter. This is just a good ballpark number.
  • This yields a total of 42,900,000 characters my two little hands have produced.
  • Further, divide this by four fingers (Ignore the thumbs) and that gives us 5,362,500 characters or keystrokes per finger for the last 22 years.

That's a LOT! Is it any wonder my fingers hurt?

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Life of a Telecommuter

Well, onto a more concrete, less abstract topic... Telecommuting.

For the past month or two I have been working at home. Being a professional computer programmer does seem to lend itself to this particular mode of employment. There is also the 'cool factor...' In front of me is two laptop computers; one sporting a Windows 7 running on a seven core 64 bit Intel processor, tickling nearly eight giga-bytes of RAM. The other is sporting Windows XP Pro on a 2 GHz Celeron processor. Both have dual LCD screens, one of which is a high-def wide-screen format.

Then upstairs is my Linux file server and desktop 'play' system. Not bad on the 'geek nirvana' scale.

However there are some danger points in this mode of employment; namely, lack of saddle time.

Commuting to work yielded about 30 miles of daily riding. Now I barely get 30 miles of riding each week. That is not something easy to adjust to.

Then there is the damned kitchen. I wake up about 5:00, make coffee and take my daughter to work. I am usually in front of the computer by 6:30. Walking into the kitchen for more coffee is an exercise in self control. Ooooo the snacks and munchies that await in cupboards and on refrigerator shelves.

After the first three weeks, I started getting healthy snacks like apples and carrots and the like. But still, thoughts of cookies tickle my brain stem. Ooooo... I could whip up a batch in no time and have them baked before lunch. Who would know??? :-P

Friday, May 21, 2010

Putting the Parts Together

Honestly, this post has been tumbling around for a while, just waiting for the proper words and metaphors and the right day. From time to time, a fellow blogger and friend, Ms. M and I play off each others posts. I am not sure who started it, but she wrote an entry that inspired this one. While perhaps a bit delayed, writing this post before now would have been premature.

Rebuilding a motorcycle requires patience, time, a little money and determination. There are few shortcuts. Less patience requires more money. Less time requires more money. Less determination and the bike may never be rebuilt.

More money bypasses many of these things. With more money, people can be hired to rebuild the engine or powder coat the frame or even perform the complete rebuilding process. Doing this, however, tends to distance one from the bike; it creates a chasm of sorts.

I have a lot of parts. I have a lot of projects.

Let's say for a moment A person, an old bike mechanic walks by my garage and notices all of the parts, and the nearly complete, almost rolling frame.

He offers his assistance but tells me it will cost a beer now and then. And, the old parts I have lying around need to be thrown away, "The only way these parts are gonna fit together is if ya pitch the ones ya don't need. If ya pitch a few good ones, don't worry. We can get others or make new ones that fit even better."

He tells me it may be tough and there is no guarantee she will run when she is all back together, but he will do what he can.

Sure, I may do fine without his assistance, but here is a fellow offering to help. He loves these old bikes and wants to see this one run again.

So, do I throw out a few good parts, buy him a few beers and accept his assistance or continue down my current path, lugging old parts where I go?

Do I accept the short term hardships, challenges and possible losses to get her running well again or continue down the safer course?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Little Restraint Needed

As much as I enjoy my Sportster, and as much as I enjoy my little Rebel, there is a special place in my being for adventure riding. Sure, one can partake in riding adventures on any bike, my little cross-country adventure on my Rebel was proof of that. However, available time for such a ride is rather rare; I am only glad my boss rides and could be convinced a three week vacation was in order.

The back roads, the narrow paths, the solitude and beauty of areas less traveled has, as far as can be remembered, held a special place. While moving into my apartment, an old notebook was found at the bottom of a box. "Over 60" was scrawled in red permanent marker over its fading green cover. Inside, on the first few pages were plans and route ideas I had formulated in the mid-90's for a trip above the 60th parallel. Optimistically it was to take place in the year 2000.

Perhaps it was a bit of escapism from the facades of Las Vegas, or perhaps other things. Regardless, the year 2000 involved no travels to the Northwest Territories or the Yukon. It was spent in a certain layer of insanity.

That being neither here-nor-there at this point, I want to ride the trails and gravel roads. Both my Sportster and Rebel can do it, albeit poorly. They were not meant for this sort of riding.

A bike on my 'short list' of next stable additions is the Suzuki DR650 line of dual-sport bikes (pictured above). Last night was spent reading reviews and history of this line, and I was hooked. The DR's are light, simple, efficient, durable and popular. Alas, due to all of these fine attributes, the resell value is quite high, even for those made in the mid 90's.

Going out to the garage to grab a beer I see my project bike. 'What are you thinking??? Your adventure bike is right there! Patience!'

Sure, she is a bit heavy, weighing in at about 450 pounds dry. Sure, she is more of a 'standard' than dual-sport. Yes, it is a V-Twin, not a thumper or inline twin like other adventure bikes. But, what am I thinking? SHE IS the adventure. It has already begun! For the most part, a bolt-by-bolt rebuild by a novice bike mechanic, reconstructing a unique bike with a few additional tweeks to make her off-road worthy.

Fantasy adventures may be fun, but the concrete adventures are the ones that stay with, and are a part of us.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

An 'Ill-Advised' Ride on a Honda Rebel

Yes, the urge was there. Two years ago I took my little Rebel on an ill-advised ride from Las Vegas to Kitty Hawk and back. Last Saturday I took her on another 'ill-advised' ride. We went out on some desert roads to the South East of Vegas. Damn, that was fun. Maybe I need to get a real adventure bike.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Lessons From Mice

It was a fabulous morning. The sky was brilliant blue, the sun mild, sneaking its way up past the mountains to the east. The wind sang a delicate melody in the trees as the birds chirped out a dissonant harmony.

While taking my daughter to work at six AM, she discussed her day, "I am going to get off at noon, come home, separate the mice, have a bite to eat and then 'caterday.' You up for that?"

"Sounds like a fabulous plan, Bri."

"I really want to get those mice separated into their big tanks. They will have SO much more room and won't get pregnant again!"

As a bit of explanation, my daughter has a pet Ball Python. He eats a mouse about every other week. So, after she got him several months ago, I purchased two feeder mice for him. Unknown to me, one of the mice was pregnant. She had ten babies a few weeks later.

Bri separated them but one of the males got out and visited the female cage. You may have heard how promiscuous rabbits are. Well, they must have learned from mice. The one male got six of the females pregnant over the course of a single night.

And so, four of the females had babies that survived; about 19 babies in all. One momma mouse had only three. Bri called them the 'chill' mice. Momma was calm and enjoyed human contact as did her kids. "These," she said, "I am keeping as pets."

In all, the 'chill' mice were three females and one male, including the mother.

Prior to today, each mother and her litter were in different containers. The males and females needed to be separated so that they didn't procreate further; as they were coming close to sexual maturity.

My daughter had two nice aquarium style containers prepared; one for males, one for females. They had fresh bedding, new ceramic food dishes, exercise wheels, and just about everything a mouse destined to be snake food could want.

On the way home from work she seemed excited about her mouse chores, making sure it was the first thing she did; and it was, even with her work clothes on. After the procedure was complete, she called me in from the garage to watch the shenanigans.

The males, as males of most species do, were sniffing butts and fighting for dominance. Honestly, they were not a lot of fun to watch; running around, eating, drinking, fighting...

But the females! They were fun. Many would dig under the bedding and hide. Bri would scoop up a bunch of bedding in her hand, let it tumble out and there would be three or four mice running around on her hand.

Others females were running on their exercise wheel, the mommas knowing how it worked, but the babies would grab on and twirl around as their mommas' ran. We sat there for nearly an hour guffawing and belly laughing. They seemed to be having the times of their little mousey lives; running and jumping and making mistakes and trying again; and eating and drinking and generally being great entertainment for two humans.

After a bit we decide to break from the laughing and retire upstairs for 'caterday.' 'Caterday' is one day of the week we spend looking at goofy websites such as icanhascheezeburger and the like. And more laughing for about an hour commenced.

When were were both exhausted from laughing our brains out, I put my baseball cap on and head down stairs. My plan was to run to the store for groceries and then make dinner. There was a delay.

I look over to see what silliness the female mice were doing now, only to be faced with a horror. While we were upstairs laughing together, the sneaking sun became furious and made its way through the window, through an open spot in the shade and into the tank. Seven mice were dead and four barely holding on.

I grab the tank, pull it to the shade and sprinkle the still live mice with water. Just an hour ago they were clean white mice, living it up; playing and running and exchanging mousie stories. Now they were dead or barely living. They were burning up. We did what we could with the living ones; the last one to die, expired in my daughter's hand.

Only one ultimately survived; 'chill' momma. And even though she survived immediately, the next 24 hours will likely indicate whether she survives longer. Bri has already said that should she live, she will certainly not be snake food; she has earned a long mousie life.

Perhaps there is a lesson here. Perhaps we should play more, and not care whether we fail or succeed so much, and keep trying when we do fail, and maybe after falling off the wheel a dozen times, try it one more time.

One never knows one's last day or hour or minute. Play, enjoy life, hop on the wheel.

Friday, May 14, 2010

State of Indeterminate Unsettlement

These are not necessarily bad times in the Razor household. My daughter and her boyfriend are both employed and paying their rent. Further, my daughter starts her second year of college in a few weeks and is determined to earn her Masters in Psychology. To that end, we have been discussing graduate schools, and at her prompting, not mine!

I have two motorcycles in my garage that are running well and my VX800 project bike is proceeding well with only a few minor glitches. Nothing bad or depressing there.

The weather has been nice; not the typical Las Vegas heat of May, heralding in the blow-torch desert summer heat. There have even been a few light showers to break the endless blue skies.

Work has been interesting and thrown a few new challenges my way. About three weeks ago I started working from home. My employer of more than a few years decided to move to a different building. In their effort to minimize costs, volunteers were sought to work from home. Guess who volunteered.

Aside from the strong temptation to go downstairs to the kitchen for snacks and the occasional twinge to visit my garage to enter into some wrenching, it is actually proving to be successful.

Perhaps this is the catalyst for my recent unsettlement. Previously my daily commute required a thirty mile ride round trip. Now, I may get 20 miles of riding every week. Withdrawals perhaps?

Well, Saturday morning I have some ill-advised riding planned. A three day Memorial Day ride is in its planning stages. Perhaps these will help bring some much needed quiescence.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

A Truly 'Wrenching' Weekend

Upon review of my previous post listing the interests I have had over the years, there was one glaring omission. There are simply some things that are so entwined as to be obvious beyond enumeration. I am, and have been a ham radio operator since 1983. KA9RVK, first licensed as Novice class.

Oh, the sultry Illinois nights spend rattling out Morse Code, chatting with folks all over North America. Earned my Tech Plus certificate in 1985 and used my radio equipment to be a storm spotter. Passed my General exam in 1999 (I believe) and received the call KC7RAD. Most of my equipment was sold in the mid 2000's to cover various expenses relating to... changes. BUT, if all goes well, I shall be back on the air again soon.
And, here is my stable. On the left is "Athena", my Harley Sportster XL1200C. In the center is "Reb", my Honda Rebel. On the right is "Vixen", my Suzuki VX800 project bike. Recently "Vixen" has been the object of my attention.

Not long ago she transitioned from 'tear down' status to 'rebuild' status. I hit a wall; a wall so solid I was ready fold. It was the engine. Honestly, there are two VX800s in my garage; one rebuild and one donor. The rebuild bike's engine has issues; the cylinders need to be bored out to remove rust damage. It was my hope that the donor bike's engine would be in better condition. Better, yes, but not by much. Rust in the cylinders, bad pistons, rusty primary crank gear, carbs that required complete rebuilds. It was not a pretty picture.
Then it hit me, where are the bolts? There are these parts that require major rework and I have no idea where the bolts are. What am I doing? I am not a motorcycle repair professional, let alone one with skill to perform a bottom-up restoration! Parts with out bolts, without something to hold then into a functional piece of motorcycling beauty is nothing! Parts of a life with nothing holding them together; is that nothing as well?

After posting my frustration to the VX800 e-mail list, a fellow building a custom VX800, and author of the VX800 Restoration Project sent several great e-mails. They were the kick in the seat inspiration that was needed. It isn't about building a perfect bike. It isn't about having deadlines or hard goals each week or month. It isn't about worrying whether the bolts are all there.

It is about the rebuild and about enjoying the time spent doing what few do to an uncommon motorcycle. It is to be enjoyed. The pieces will fit together eventually. The bolts will be located. This is an act of enjoyment not toil.

Perhaps less time and concern should be wasted worrying about the connecting pieces of a life and more spent on enjoying the act of connecting. Finite things, regardless of their connectivity should be enjoyed.
And so, this weekend was spent, for the most part, in calm wrenching bliss. The radiator and general cooling system for my VX800 was disassembled, cleaned, tested and reassembled. The foot pegs, mounts and shields received the same treatment, plus the shields received several coats of flat black engine enamel
Enjoy and be mindful that the screw driver may be sharper than you think.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Interests and Hobbies and Thoughts, Oh My!

Before continuing on this narrative, as boring as it is likely becoming, I am changing gears. While thinking of the classes in college that I excelled at, one stood out as being odd - Communications. It was the standard communications course required for all baccalaureate students. Most of the coursework was focused on public speaking. Why can I publicly speak on a topic but have difficulty speaking on an interpersonal level?

Throughout my professional career I have given training sessions and seminars to hundreds of people at the same time, in the same room without any hesitation or apprehention whatsoever. Something a work associate said to me years ago stood out, "Damn, you do a lot of things. It's a wonder your brain doesn't explode!" Well, or something like that.

Perhaps that is it. Growing up on a very rural farm, verbal communication and interpersonal relationships were not as important as being able to put pieces of knowledge together and acting upon them. Perhaps that is why I am more comfortable with e-mail and chat; there is time to cogitate.

Cogitate what? Knowledge? Information? Data? Personal experiences? Is there too much of this stuff tumbling around in my gray matter to be an effective interpersonal communicator? So, I started to mentally list some of my interests. After the first 25, the choice was made; I had better write these down. To keep it simple, the list contains the items Topic, First Year of Interest and a * indicating current interests. Dang there is a lot of junk tumbling around.
Farming, 1972, *
Sustainable and Organic Agriculture, 2005, *
Reading, 1975?,*
Science Fiction, 1980
Writing, 1991
General Science, 1975?
Space, 1968
Astronomy,1978?
Physics,1977?
Aeronautics (airplanes and flying in general), 1977?
Geology, 1982
Philosophy,1986?
Nanotechnology,1986?
Cosmology,1982?
Quantum Mechanics (a.k.a. 'Weird Science'), 1986?
Anthropology/Archeology, 1987, *
Historic and Prehistoric Native American Culture and History, 2010,*
History,2009,*
Music,1977
Orchids,1978?
Orchid Breeding, Genetics and Hybridization, 1996
Meteorology (specifically severe meteorological conditions), 1978?,*
Electronics (analog), 1975?,*
Radio Electronics, 1976?
Electronics (digital), 1978?,*
Physiology, 1980?
Microbiology, 1978?
Pharmacology, 2000
Firearms,1981?,*
Firearm Restoration, 2010, *
Martial Arts (Bujinkan and Kenpo),1983 and 2006
Photography, 1987
Travel,2007
Motorcycle Riding, (briefly in the early 80's) 2005,*
Motorcycle Repair & Restoration, 2008,*
Broadcasting, 1983
Webcasting (i.e. internet radio), 1994
Hypnosis, 1982
UFOs and Paranormal, 1984
Coffee,1980,*
Comparative Study of Cultural and Theological Cosmologies, 1986
Model Rockets, 1979?
Stone Masonry (specifically, something called 'slip form stone masonry'), 2007
Hiking,2006
Bicycle Riding, 2005
Beer Making,2001
Wine Making, 1976?
Baking & Cooking, 1970,*
Woodworking, 1982
Geography, 2009
Cartography, 1982?
Domestic Violence & Abuse,2003?,*
...likely more...

Maybe this is the cause of my inner insecurity with interpersonal communications. Too much stuff rattling around in there. Perhaps I should take up wine and beer making again to kill off some of those brain cells. JUST KIDDING!

From Day 0 - Part Twenty

It is time to get past college time.

Firstly, just to clear any misconceptions, my first ex and myself still converse occasionally and are on good terms. Honestly, aside from a few infantile, alcohol fueled outbursts as I moved into my own apartment, we have always entertained a friendly relationship. She has two great sons, a good husband and a decent job.

OK... college. After moving into my own apartment, the shell closed. It was comfortable. Work and classwork consumed most of my time.

Honestly, this was likely the healthiest I had ever been. My apartment was in an old building on the town square of Macomb, IL. I owned a little Mercury Bobcat but loaned it to my ex. So, with an average of five miles of walking every day, general exercising was not an issue. I even had 6-pack abs!

After a semester of recovering from the divorce (regardless of how logically reasonable it was, it still hurt), my grades were recovering and reasonable. There were plans rolling around for further education. School was becoming fun again, regardless of my un-social life.

Life was school, playing with what would soon be the internet, extracurricular programming, longingly looking at the female students and planning my further education. Aside from that and the occasional night at local bars, there was no socialization. The life of a 'lone wolf' was satisfying yet left certain voids.

Things were coming together in a somewhat socially dysfunctional way. I still remember my Systems Programming class; a graduate level course that for the most part I slept through. Being conscious through an 8 AM class after working until midnight was not always something easy to accomplish. It was finals week and this class's final was on Thursday; my last final of the semester. The night before was one filled with drinks and semi-social stupidity. 8 AM, still thoroughly buzzed from the night before, head pulsing I took the final and stumbled home. Aced it.

So, with the semester over, grades in good shape, work keeping me busy, my counter-social self started the ball rolling for graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The plan was to take a year off, work with my Grandfather and then enter graduate school to earn my masters degree in Computer Science. Little did I know, these plans would never come to fruition.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Special Relationship

We spoke briefly last night; the first time in just over a year. This morning we chatted and spent nearly an hour of quality time becoming reacquainted. Yes. We have a special relationship.

There were no thoughts of women or work or phone calls or computers or reading or writing. It was nothing but riding.

Please do not misunderstand, I like my Harley Sportster. I like my Suzuki VX800 project bike. However, my little Honda Rebel 250 and I have a special history; one that honestly few share.

With the help of Jack from Jack's Rebel Warehouse and the local Cycle Gear, my Rebel is alive and breathing again. She still coughs a little and the engine dies once in a great while at stop signs, but she lives.

For me, the minimalistic Rebel brings a tranquility that my Sporty cannot. She is quiet, unobtrusive, unpretentious and simply fun to ride. If she does fall over, picking her up is not a problem at all. Gas mileage? She is a teetotaler, averaging nearly 75MPG. When we were on our cross country ride in 2008, her mileage was calculated at nearly 90MPG during one slower, straight and flat stretch.

Now, if you will pardon me; I have some neighborhood riding to do and yard sales to check out.

Friday, April 23, 2010

From Day 0 - Part Nineteen

Sometime during the first semester I fell into a certain group of programmers that were honestly not known for their high social standing. Yes, they were hackers. While I partook in only a few minor, mischievous pranks, some of the funny business they instigated was honestly on the darker side of the line between legal and illegal.

They were misfits; cultural disconnects; social dropouts. I fit in quite well as a sidekick.

One fellow by the name of 'Tomas' had a penchant for espionage, robotics, science fiction, lock picking, foreign languages and sneaking around where he didn't belong. He was tall and thin and liked the occasional cigar. Last I heard he was doing 'something' for the government in Europe.

Another fellow who went by the name 'Greeny' had a Dr. Who fetish, and was almost never seen without a crazy scarf around his neck. His hair was even the same as the good Doctor's. He was the angry, devilish, sometimes black-hat hacker who lived UNIX and thoroughly enjoyed confusing the heck out of clueless users by piping ASCII animations to their terminals. Several years ago he was the head of a large company's security team.

Another sidekick, 'Pinky' had some decent skills of her own. Typically she was the quiet prankster, not really letting people in on her tricks. She was admittedly hot and enjoyed dressing like a punk-goth rocker. She was likely the most intelligent one of the group. I am not sure what happened to her after college.

There was another woman in the group but for the life of me, cannot remember her name. She was more the academic but enjoyed the occasional prank.

The last one I remember was a dark fellow, brooding and angry with a taste for beer. He hung around the group but had the intelligence and temperament of a grade schooler. Last I heard, about 20 years ago, he was living with his parents taking odd jobs.

This is where troubles in my interpersonal relations became apparent. The hacker group was not an issue; it was my then new wife and more socially acceptable associates. While it was stupid to lie about things such as working until 3AM on a program with the group, or experimenting with the nascent internet all night, I did. It was not to do any harm, mind you, it was rationalized into protectionism; protect my wife and friends from the occasionally mischievous things we did, and protect me from criticisms. Part of me wanted to be 'normal,' whatever that is.

If I were quiet, and the things I took part in were not illegal, where's the harm?

We were divorced after our Junior year.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

From Day 0 - Part Eighteen

A few minor things have been left out of previous posts for the simple matter that there would be some future context in a later post. Here is one of those minor things.

While a junior in high school I became interested in broadcasting. Little did I know how ill equipped I would be. It was a summer day and I was invited to meet with someone at WRMJ, the local country station regarding a high school internship. After attempting to read about ten minutes of content, the person I read for politely suggested that should I be interested in the broadcasting field, perhaps something technical would be a better option.

After finally adjusting to college life in my second semester, I started looking for a job. Well, the ones that paid were of course all taken, but there were volunteer spots open. The broadcasting bug bit again.

There was a volunteer position available at the college radio station WIUM. Specifically, it was reading news and magazine articles for broadcast on a sideband of the station's FM carrier. Blind and visually impaired folks could receive a free received specially tuned to receive the signal.

So, I practiced, tried out and got the volunteer spot. I was still not proficient at reading things out loud but apparently good enough. Before too long I was the night operator, there all alone, completely in control of the station. To me, at the time, that was COOL!

My boss was an interesting character, Tom was his name I believe. And he was unique. According to him, he was the only man in the country that read Playboy for the articles. Yes, he was blind, and yes, he read Braille Playboy.

At the start of my Sophomore year, apparently word got around the broadcasting group that I was looking for a job that actually paid money. So, without much hassle, I was offered a job at Broadcast Services. It agreed with me so much that I held that job until I left, three and a half years later.

Oh, the stories... Late nights on video shoots, running the audio board, duplicating tapes, working on the satellite TV system... Oh, yes... Contrary to what my Mom and Grandma told me, I WAS paid for watching TV.