Showing posts from July, 2008

Cyclefever '08: Finally went to a dealership

Finally cowboy'd-up and headed to a dealership to sit on some bikes.

Went with Joey to Bell's Honda here in Georgetown, and it was a pretty decent experience.

I didn't have salesmen climbing all over me or pressuring me. I did find out that they do NOT give test-rides until they're sure you're capable of buying the bike, and in fact that if you wreck the bike on the test-ride, you've bought it automatically.


So, anyway, I finally got to see an Suzuki SV650-S (the one with the fairing on the front) and I definitely found it wasn't for me: The handlebars were VERY forward and down, like a true "crotch rocket" sport-bike, and it wasn't comfortable. By contrast the GSX650 to the left was like slipping on a glove: Comfortable and natural, right down to the way my thighs grasped the tank on both sides. NICE!

* * *

And now the ranty-part: It seems motorcycle dealerships are like a car dealership with only two models: a Lamborghini Gallardo and …

Some handsome bikes

Kawasaki Versys:

Suzuki SV650:

Like both of these because they're 'Naked' and seem like capable all-around bikes--more comfortable than a sport bike, more sporty than a cruiser, can carry a passenger if desired.

They're both pricey (relative to what I'd like to spend) and they're > 600cc's so that probably means higher insurance rates. Yay.

Sermon response: "Killing yourself"

Heard a wonderful sermon from Warren French, our missionary-in-residence at Northside on Sunday. It was about how to deal with the relationship you have (or don't have) with God--this was a sermon aimed at "comfortable" Christians, who've let Satan come against them without realizing it.

Full Disclosure: I believe in divine (and infernal) intervention--that God and Satan are in a tug-of-war for people's soul, and that it's a battle that continues all one's life. I understand little of the 'why'; I just know what I've seen with my own eyes.

Anywho, Warren preached on two small passages from Matthew, chapter 7. The first is 7:13-14

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

It's easy to get lost, and hard to get to Heaven, even for "believers". Scary stuf…

MSF Day 2: The lighbulb

Somewhere among the repetition, self-deprecation, and muscle-memory, I "got" slow speed handling yesterday. We started the day doing the dreaded "U-turn" excercise, where you have to take the bike into a box that's 10 feet x 20 feet (roughly) and do a U-turn left AND a U turn right, exiting at the opposite corner. Maintaining momentum and engine RPM while remaining in the clutch friction zone was the key.

Of course, on the bike, that cold academic paragraph requires a coordination of head, body, hands and feet that requires every part of your neuro-muscular system. In other words, "IT'S HARD"

But somewhere around the 3rd try, it became easier. I kept my head turned, and found the sweet spot on the clutch, and around 1/4 to 1/8th throttle. The bike stayed up and I was easily through the U-turns. I'm not saying I'd like to do that maneuver 20 times a day, but it's a useful skill.

Then we learned proper cornering technique for a 90- …

MSF Course: First day on the range

Home, home on the range...
Where the Viragos and Nighthawks play.
Where seldom is heard
A discouraging word.
And you practice FINE-C all day.

Well, not all day, just before and after EACH of the 9 exercises we went through in the 6 hours of July heat. I got a Honda Nighthawk 250cc, pretty much like this:

Black-on-black, with 5000 miles showing on the odo, and a darling sweetheart of a clutch. So, fact #1--I look like a clown on a Nighthawk. I know because Whitney and Maria arrived at 6pm to spectate, and confirmed it.

Anyway, so the course. Our group of 12 riders had a mix of 125cc and 250cc bikes, and we had a mix of people, from experienced riders (one guy showed-up on his GSX-R) down through, well, me.

Our instructors are Bob (the ex-cop) and Bruce (the tubby guy who reminds me of my Uncle Arch). They're great instructors, taking us through all the elements: How to get on a bike properly, startup, moving the bike, stopping, quick stops, slow-speed maneuvers, road-speed turns.

Lets …

Motorcycle training this week...

Well, this is the week.

I'm taking my MSF training course this Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. I'm excited and a little scared--my total experience on motorcycle is < 1 hour, and I've never operated a hand clutch or anything like that.

I've read over the manual and tried to absorb what I can, learning many interesting things:

Seventy percent of the braking on a motorcycle is done by the front wheel, but you should use both front and rear brakes all the time so you're ready for a "maximum braking" situation.
If riding by yourself, you should ride left of the center in the lane to "protect" your lane. Essentially, you're communicating to drivers around you that this is your lane, and they should respect that.
Intersections are the work of Satan. Basically, on a bike you have to expect that no one sees you and that they're going to disobey every traffic law, or else you end-up a bug-smear on the front of a Mack truck. Or, as my Dad pu…

The weekend that was...

Such a joyous weekend:

Hung-out with Maria Friday night, while Whitney and Cathy went to Mamma Mia. Glad I didn't go, and Ree-Ree and I had a great time blitzing around Walmart, where I picked up my 35mm prints from the photo center. Yeah, that's the last time I try taking pictures without a functioning light meter. None of the pictures were exposed properly, even the ones that should've been Sunny 16.
Cathy stayed with us Friday night and watched Maria as Whitney and I finished staining our fence. Well, we would've finished, except that the paint store was out of stain. We could only get 3 gallons, and it was more like a 3.75 gallon job. Partial score for those scoring at home: 4 dead brushes, 1 dead sprayer, 2 gallons of mineral spirits, 21 lbs of kitty litter, 8 gallons of stain, two 5-gallon buckets, 4 ruined outfits, 4 sunburns, and 1 public throwdown between Bella and myself. Ah, memories!
Sunday was quiet--church and then lunch at BD's Mongolian Grille. …

Bad year to be in taxable stock mutual funds...

Ah, money. The thing to be talking about when the economy's receding, the stock market lost 20% of its value, and inflation's through the roof.

Many find themselves in another sort of double-whammy: The taxable stock mutual fund. I was in one of these turds back when the tech bubble popped, and it taught me some tough lessons.

First, I sunk thousands of dollars into an American Funds portfolio (yeah, I got sold a bunch of Class-B, back-load shares!). Then I watched that money tank over the next 3 years. Each year, come ~February I got a lovely 1099 form from Ye Olde Mutual Funde for capital gains distributions.

So, let's review:
1) The funds had lost money.
2) Despite my money being tied up and steadily decreasing, I was paying taxes on money I didn't have.

Now, if your portfolio is in a tax-deferred or tax-exempt wrapper like a 401(k), Roth IRA, or (God help you) Variable Life Insurance, you don't get 1099's and you don't pay taxes that year. However, for…

Wonderful night last night...

Man, I had a good time last night. Yesterday as a whole, actually.

I enjoyed some Hawaiian pizza and frosty beverages at Lexington's Mellow Mushroom with Todd, Serge, Varma, Vinnie, Narron, Ildy, and Patrick.

Good times, good times.

Then I came home and Bella wanted to watch the Whedon masterpiece, Once More, With Feeling.


So, if Satan wrote the sermon on the mount....

How to glorify the self and acquire power...

The 48 Laws of Power

Though ugly, it's good to read these in a Defence Against the Dark Arts fashion, just to know when they're in use against you.

I will absolutely agree with Law 39, having been on the wrong end of it so many times. I allow myself to get so worked-up and emotional, ceding control to my opposition.

As for the rest...IMHO, most make me want to vomit, and they're quite possibly a one way ticket to Hell. Practices such as these are lifehacks against the fabric of society--using base human frailty to one's advantage. Demagogues, Caesars, and Courtiers may practice them, but their power is only for a season. The true way is one of authenticity, truth, virtue, altruism, and love.

The fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. Aside from self-control, I see none of those here.

But then, I'm a boy scout with no zest for glory at others'…

w00000t---Bus from G'town?


This would be awesome...give me a chance to catch-up on my reading to and from work, while paying < 1/2 tank of fuel per month for a bus pass.

The tradeoff, of course, would be time: Probably 2 hours on a bus each day, compared to ~40 minutes now. Still...interesting that this is being considered.

Review--Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Friday night, Whitney and I went on a date. Honest-to-goodness, dinner-and-a-movie evening together. We ate at Friday's and went to see Hellboy II: The Golden Army. We even went to a theater that didn't smell like urine this time!

I loved the film. Loved was relentlessly funny, beautiful, and fun.

As the film opens, we watch a younger Hellboy watching Howdy Doodie with his father, who reads the overeager Hellboy a bedtime story about The Golden Army, a warrior race of 4900 indestructible Goblin-forged machines, commanded by the elf-king in his war against mankind. Though the Golden Army triumphs, the Pyrrhic victory fills the king with remorse: He has become the destroyer himself. To atone, he locks the Golden Army away and separates the crown that controls them into three pieces, one of which he gives to man.

Yes, yes, plenty of Lord Of the Rings references there. Done? Good.

Fast-forward to the present--Hellboy and Liz are having problems because Liz is a ball …

Taking the plunge

:-) Well, we'll see if like my foray into autocross (lifelong passion) or my obsession with SCUBA diving when I was 12 (yikes...bad memories...)

I've signed up for the July 23rd, 26th, and 27th Motorcycle Safety Foundation course through Balance Dynamics. If I pass everything, I can go get my motorcycle license using their endorsement w/o taking the state test. :-)

At least this way, if I ride Stu's scooter, I won't get arrested. Should be fun, and maybe a nice new hobby.

Tremendous article that started my day

Richard Feynman and The Connection Machine

Richard Feynman was an intellectual giant that prided himself on solving problems, getting at the heart of things, and making everyone smarter. He was right up there with the giants--Von Neumann, Einstein, Oppenheimer--but he never lost the common touch.

Ugh...did I get up on the wrong side of the bed?

Feel like I got hit by a amount of coffee is rousing a single brain cell.

I'm an interesting paradox (or collection of paradoxes): I hate stuff, yet I like stuff. I hate stuff in that it's all just so much future yardsale junk--the shiny gadget of today quickly becomes the Sony Walkman cassette player marked at $0.50 in somebody's yard.

And yet...there's usually some shiny new something that catches my eye that I want. Something I can't have, or don't really need, or that's somehow lower on the priority list than everything else. And I talk myself out of it.

There's the paradox: Me sitting contentedly in a room devoid of clutter, thinking "Wow, I wish I had more STUFF."

* * *

I'll wake up tomorrow and change my mind, I realize--but right now all I can think of is: Home ownership is utter crap. You're strapped-down to your quarter acre of GET-OFF-MY-LAWN heaven, paying a mortgage, insurance, repairs, and incidental things …

Car cataclysm

I read stuff like this and I have to admit it: Ford is in much better shape than any of the other domestics.

Look at it:

They're not the Ivory Tower. GM is, for better or worse, still the face of American automotive industry. They take the flak. They killed the electric car. They build Hummers. Ford is an also-ran...they're not haulling Mulally in front of Senate panels. They're hauling-up GM CEO Rick Wagoner. Ford benefits from GM taking all this flack because it can quietly consolidate and grow without too much focus.
They don't have too many brands. Not relative to GM, anyway. They sold Jaguar and Land Rover, and they're shopping Volvo. This Alan guy knows how to run a company! Focus on the core product and on the company to produce and market it.
They got the same UAW restructuring deal as GM. This is the only reason for hope. Without this deal, their legacy costs would strangle them even if everything else was rosy.
They're not Chrysler. That thin…

How I spent my 4th of July...

...or, What Theatre People Do in their Spare Time.

Simple curriculum dies:

Thursday night: Worked until 8:30 on spec due that day. Didn't finish it. Grudgingly resolved to come into work on 4th of July.
Friday: Up before dawn, work until 11am on spec. Finish version 0.2 and email. Return home, resolving to take daughter to Jackson for family fun. Recongize I'm exhausted and will probably crash into tree on return trip. Decide not to go. Take wife and daughter on excursion around Lexington, ending up at Fayette Mall around 6pm when torrential downpour hits. Walk through mall even though all mall stores closed, except JC Penny's and Dillards. Chase wife through baby clothes section on 3rd floor of Dillards ("But these are so CUTE!"). Watch Romeo Must Die, have chortling good time watching Jet Li parroting English phrases like, 'Right on!'
Saturday: Awaken wife with snoring at 2am. Wife has insomnia. Suggest she get out of bed to address her insomnia…

Ah HA! I'm not insane...

Nothing like some hard numbers to support one's anecdotal observations.

More motorcycle licenses, yup. :-)

Gadget freak, table for one...

Honey, you're not a monogamous shiny gadget guy; you're a promiscuous shiny gadget guy. You'd buy it. You'd use it. And then you'd be done.

Segue: I got to ride Stu's Silverwing for a good half-hour. I LOVED IT. Wow, the wind, the smells, the feeling of oneness with the road. I enjoyed it much more than the last time--felt much more comfortable maneuvering the bike.

Zeitgeist: Engineers' cars amid rising energy prices

I've been noticing some changes here in the Ivory Tower/Crystal Palace parking lots--there are fewer cars, more newer small cars, and more motorcycles.

Though of course the sample size is small and narrow (buncha engineers!), it seems clear that people's habits are changing where they can, from what they drive to even if they drive.

Some examples:

More people carpool, meaning fewer cars total in the lot
The new cars I've noticed in the lot are the new econo-class--Yaris, Fit, Scion, etc.
Motorcycles and scooters have exploded. (Granted, it's Summer!). I'm seeing double or quadruple the number of 2-wheelers daily.
From the human-powered front, cycling's on the upswing for those who live near the site. Again, this is weather-dependent, but I'm seeing cycles in every nook and cranny in the engineering buildings.
Public transit. Lextran ridership is at record levels, and looking at bus unloading by Bulding 005 the other day, it looked like a clown-car--the thing …

Quote of the Day

Me, talking to Chuck: "Well, now...full disclosure: We had a DLL that wrapped the details of..."

Patrick pulls off his headphones

Patrick: You have the most amazing way of saying 'I don't know what the hell I'm talking about,' that I've ever seen!