Well, sunny days have been here for a few days now…..I think the little Ninjette likes the warmer temps. Heading home yesterday I noticed that I was entering a number of the turns, on my commute, about 5-10mph higher than normal. OMG, this is why I wanted this bike. Nothing could be more nimble. It makes the commute home a strafing run through enemy territory. So far, I have eluded all pursuers. Well, that was just a warm up….

Today, the motor was revving to beat the band. I was zipping along at about 9K and noticed the speedometer was beginning to slap towards the right. Had to back off…before I became part of a tailgate ornament for an F350. Gonna have to order those Pirelli Sport Demons soon…..EVEN TIGHTER CORNERS.

Sorry, didn’t mean to shout, but this is so exciting. And, I am getting 55mpg. Could probably be higher, but it revvs so easy…it just isn’t fair. I had to back down as I past 65 in a 45. I feel like a hyperactive terrier restrained by a thread…..just a bit more and….ZZZZZZOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!

NO NO, bad dog…..down, down. If you are in the market for a beginner bike, a return to motorcycling, or fun/dollar sportbike the 250 Ninja couldn’t be a better buy. Mods are available, so you can customize it to suit you. I couldn’t be having more fun if I had spent twice the money. But, if I had, I couldn’t afford to do the mods I have planned.

And, I have my wife to thank for all of this. Days like this make you forget that other motorcycles exist….they can’t be as much fun….just more expensive. Tomorrow….the stealth run to the safety of the distant parking lot…..then another strafing run home. Then Friday…..

Advertisements

Well, my wife and I stole ourselves away for a weekend in the big city….Atlanta. While there I had two life-changing experiences…

The first, and by far the most important. I have always regretted the fact that life has gotten so complicated. Me with work. My wife with our daughter, her mother, and her volunteer work. While I do not regret the relationships in our lives, especially the one with our child, the complications that all of our concern for others creates along with our various responsibilities, require a great deal of time. Time that, when we were first married, some 27 years ago, was filled with just us. Sometimes, we did nothing, that required leaving home. Other times, we went off on adventure. Picking a direction and proceeding just to see what was over the next hill. Those days are mostly gone. But, it is nice to know that when we are left alone, left to our own devices, we fall together again to frolic just like in days of old. Like many of you, I know too many couples who no longer frolic, heck they barely look at one another, speak, or acknowledge any remaining affection. Fortunately, for us that is not the case. Although I do believe that my daughter wishes it were more the case. She has constantly reminded us that we “did” have a couple of days alone, and now we “need” to talk to her….not just each other. Eh, what does she know??? Oh yeah, the life-changing part, well, maybe it didn’t change my life…merely reinforced what I thought to begin with…. Our relationship is the axle upon which these lives revolve. Without a solid axle the whole machine stops running. Too often couples allow other things to weaken their relationship, never realizing the fact that the erosion of that relationship endangers everything…..

Ah yes, the second experience. I have ridden a bunch of motorcycles over the years. Many of them were scary. Some were fun. Heck, some were even mine. In all of these years I had never ridden anything with a Harley-Davidson engine. But, like many others I had read the derisive remarks of the magazines, websites, and fellow riders. But, also like many of you I have been intrigued by the devotion of the Harley faithful. And, since Buell has recently begun to produce Harley-powered sportsbikes I thought I’d give one a try. So, while we were in Atlanta, we went to Stone Mountain Harley-Davidson, just to give one a try. I had read with great interest about the Buell Blast. So, that is what I chose. I figured it wasn’t that much larger than my Ninja 250 and shouldn’t scare the crap out of me.

When I asked could I ride one the sales lady quickly agreed. I was surprised how easy that was. Most Japanese motorcycle dealers won’t let you test ride anything. So, I put on my gear….she was surprised that I had all of my stuff….body armor and all. It was 28F outside, but I was toasty warm. While I was donning my gear, she readied the bike. I was so excited. She reassured me that I would be fine. I attempted to start off…killed it. Killed it again. Killed it again. Killed it yet again…..aaaarrrrgghhh. What a touchy clutch. Finally, I got going. Had to stop and check my fillings. OMG, this thing almost rattled the boys loose….eeeeegggggaaaaaddddd. I have ridden thumpers before, but this was crazy. It never seemed to get better. I hated the riding position. I hated the vibration. It was slow. It had no power. It was terrible. My 250 is much faster, much sharper, and has more usable power. Sorry Eric, the Blast is a bust.

While I was getting ready to ride the Blast, the saleslady suggested that I try a Sportster. I really didn’t want to. I knew about Harleys. I figured it wouldn’t be any fun. I am such a left-brained guy that I am almost never surprised. I research things to the point of adnaseum. I spend hours and hours on each little detail. So, I knew about Harleys. But, I figured why not??? So, she got a Sportster ready too.

After I vibrated my self away from the Blast, I went inside to regroup and tell my wife how much I hated that thing. Then, I went out to the white Sportster sitting quietly outside. It fired right up…very little vibration. Then I eased away….I mean literally eased away. No problem. I gave a bit of a twist…off we went. I rode around and around and around…..and…..and….and….well, you get the picture. Yes, there was some vibration, but it was nice. What a smooth motorcycle. I had a Yamaha 650 Maxim, years ago with an inline-4, that was smooth, but nothing like this. No, it wasn’t overpowering….just smooth. What great brakes. Hey, wait a minute…this is a Harley…isn’t it???? Have I been wrong?? Maybe this is why….maybe this is the mystique. I am shocked. I don’t have words to express how I feel…other than I really want one. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the Ninja, but this was different. I have never had a machine induced life-changing event, but I think I just did. I have been concerned lately that if my daughter goes off to grad school my bike might not be the best choice for the interstate between here and there….so, I have been looking for something a bit bigger. I think I found it…in the most unlikely place of all. Now, I think I understand why they are selling as many as they can make…wow.

So, what do I take from this weekend….I need to get my wife on the back of that Harley. We’ll go adventuring. I know we’ll frolic.

Welcome, to the best day of the year. Well, at least it is here. For, you see, today is a celebration of the day my wife’s delusions began….she married me 27 years ago this evening. When I write that it seems like such a long time. But, it doesn’t feel that way inside. I cannot imagine my life, or any life for that matter, without her. She is still “the one and only”…..and, will always be.

Unfortunately, it is not that way for many. I hear their conversations, I teach their children, and I watch the sadness in their eyes. They have set their hopes and dreams on someone who doesn’t take great care of the precious gifts they were given. I cannot imagine how hard it must be to get up each day knowing your wife is no longer yours. Knowing that she wakes up in the arms of someone else while he raises your children. The pain that each morning brings must be nearly unbearable. Beyond that, I cannot imagine how difficult life must be when you know that you will not be welcomed into her bed tonight. You know that if you do get together it is only to keep from fighting. I feel so sorry for these people.

I met a man once who had been married for 75 years. When his wife, who was wheelchair bound, was in the room he was Tarzan. He still stared at her with the elated eyes of youth, yet he was a mere 98 years old. She, on the other hand, sparkled when he was in the room. She laughed, giggled, wiggled, and whispered to him….constantly. They both turned beet-red. To me, he is the man who knows how to love a woman…..not some poor schlep who can only keep one for a night, a day, a week, etc. No, here was a man who not only stayed with her for decades, but he kept her happy….happy, wow what a word. Don’t see that used to describe marriage much anymore…..save the day she receives a too-expensive ring that, just a short time later, means nothing. I guess the expense of the ring in no way equals the love of the man.

My wife, much like me, has changed dramatically in these many years. But, as a couple, we don’t see these changes as a problem, just another source of laughter…yeah, laughter. Sure, knees, hips, backs, feet, etc. don’t work quite like they once did, but did we really expect them to? We don’t look the same either, but should we? The laugh lines around her eyes, show years of teary-eyed peels that lit the room around her. And, every where I look…and I do look closely….she has become more beautiful by the day. Unfortunately, her husband has retained his beauty….or, serious lack therof. No, I am not aging as gracefully as I would have liked, but I am still here…..mostly functional, yeeha. Yes, we have changed, but then again we haven’t. We are still trying to get away, by ourselves. We are still the ones giggling in the audience, while everyone else is quiet. We are still the ones looking forward to just another minute together, stolen from a day jammed with way too much to do.

My big fear, if you could call it that, is that we may be on the downhill side of all this. Few couples live long enough to see 54 years together. This life just doesn’t seem like it will be long enough to know her completely. No matter how much I long to do so. No, but I promise that I will cherrish each and every one that I get between now and eternity, for I share it with “the one and only”.

I have not always been a teacher. Matter-of-fact, I spent many years, in my youth, as an anti-teacher, that kid in the back of the room. And, I spent many years in the USAF. This past experience allows me an unusual perspective on the profession and the current state of affairs for our children.

First, as a whole, most of the teachers I know are caring professionals who have nothing but the child’s best interest at heart. Many of them sacrifice a great deal of their own time and money to see that their students get their best effort. Second, many are beginning to feel very burdened. They are tasked with attempting to teach in a system that no longer focuses on that relationship…..

The most obvious of these new focuses shines a light on, what many see as a real problem, accountability. While I agree that it is desirable to attempt to ensure that teachers are getting the subject across, making sure that all children succeed is not the way. Not every piece of wood can be made into heirloom furniture. And wood doesn’t have a mind of its own. Not every dog is willing to be leash trained, although most are. Further, the dog that is incorrigible may never cooperate enough to be so trained. But, dogs do not have the strong will of a child and teachers do not have the authority of an owner. While there are deadbeat teachers out there…the admission must be that there are deadbeat students out there too.

This brings us to No Child Left Behind. Wow, that makes such a great sound bite. Doesn’t make a very good law. Why, you ask? Because sit doesn’t take into account the fact that some student may choose to stay behind. Why would anyone choose that?? Why indeed?? But, even the Bible states that the poor will always be with you. The poor doesn’t just include those who cannot do, but those who choose not to do. Those who truly cannot help themselves must be helped. The others…….

This brings us to inclusion. It is a great idea. Include all students in the general student population. But, in fact, it may not work out so good. How much is education supposed to cost?? No teacher, and many have 30 or so students per classroom, can be all things to all students. Yet, the Special Education laws insist that they continuously modify their lessons, assessments, and tasks to accommodate every student. Many of these students need individualized care that that the teacher doesn’t have the time to provide. So, a paraprofessional or additional teacher is hired per classroom to help facilitate these new students. This goes a long way toward doubling the cost of each classroom. But, does it double the success of the students….sometimes. Many times it merely adds another layer of authority and gives the bureaucrats a great number to bandy about. They have increased spending in Education….yeah, but much of that money is spent on people to administer the programs, not teaching the child.

Education is a very unusual field. You do not have to prove that your idea is actually viable, you just have to get legislators behind a new trend and you are a success. Never mind attempting to see if our children actually know more. Oh yeah, according to almost every possible comparison to students in other countries they are not. No, we are attempting to make education painless and comfortable for all. Hey, do you remember when learning was hard for you??? I sure do. I am constantly asked by students to prove that the subject at hand will be needed later in life, which is a foolish argument at best. I cannot prove it. I cannot begin the argument on that level. So, I ask them to tell me exactly what they will need to know. I ask them to tell me how a teenager can possibly know what they will need to know 20 or 30 years from now. Then, I tell them that the effort is more to teach them how to think. How to imagine a solution to difficult problems. For, if you mess up the solution on a sheet of paper with a pencil it is no big deal. But, as an adult many times you will be faced with life-changing problems that can have grave consequences…..and, you had better be able to think clearly when the time comes.

Along with the new “included” students comes a large number of rules and regulations that indicate exactly what the teacher must do to accommodate these students. Many times the student isn’t allowed to become frustrated or challenged. They are expected to be treated just like always but in a larger setting. How does this help them? Without challenging them to attempt things they may fail at how can we ever know what they can do? More importantly without challenging themselves how will they ever know what they can do?

Does inclusion prepare them for the real world?? Probably not. They will not have their own personal teacher or instructor. They will be expected, like the 3-legged dog, simply to keep up or be left behind. Most often the 3-legged dog does keep up, or even lead. If they learn to struggle, and succeed, in the classroom where it is safe for them, imagine how much better they will do once the safety net of the school is removed. If the 3-legged dog had everyone feeling sorry for it and bringing its food to it, does it become stronger, hardly. More often than not, it learns to be a cripple. What happened to being proud that our child is able to do things that others thought impossible?? No, today we attempt to accommodate……without regard to the pain and agony that the crippled suffer later. But, hey maybe it is easier to give into the struggling child than to stand by providing a safe place for them to fall. The net doesn’t make the trapeze easier, just safer. That is the true role of the adult in the life of a child.

I’m not sure exactly when it happened…but, it is here. I’m not sure how it got so bad, but it is. I’m not really sure exactly when or how I gave over to it, but I did…..

It was a rainy Thursday around here, as it was in much of the SE U.S. It was also a bit cool for this area….some 28 degrees F. I TOOK THE TRUCK TO WORK….there I said it. I am ashamed, but I said it. I felt walled in. I felt…..caged…..a sheep on the road of life surrounded by other sheep. Waaaaa, er baaaaa????

My Ninjette was at home….I was alone. No motorcycle. No wind. No helmet…..I did think about wearing it in the truck with the windows down, but I didn’t want to hear that kind of laughter from my wife and child, I’ve heard it too often. I thought about racing home during my planning period and riding it back, but I had grading to do…drat.

When the freezing rain, sleet, and just plain cold rain ended late that night I could feel life coming back to my heart and mind. Yes. Yes. Yes. Friday!!! The cover would come off the Ninjette and I would ride again……couldn’t wait.

That is, of course, until Friday came. Sure, I rode away from home gleeful and thankful. Until, I came upon the sight seers. What is going on??? The speed limit on the road I take is 45-55mph, why are they DOING 25-30mph with their foot on the brakes and no where to turn or stop?????? I just don’t understand. AARP should cancel their membership…they are too old. If you are too scared to get out and go…..DON’T GO.

I am normally a patient soul. I have been known to hand-feed box turtles, but this is just rediculous. LOOK IN YOUR MIRRORS…when you see a long line of traffic building up behind you….ITS YOU!!! YOU ARE THE PROBLEM. In addition, the small town I work in has very limited access and between the sight-seers, trains, etc., it gets congested real quick…DON’T BE THE CONGESTION….BE THE COUGH. Clear it up. Get it out. This is happening too often.

Between the trains, sight-seers, and the white women trying to cover up their faces with goo (using their   mirrors no less), it is a wonder any of us make it to work without having a coronary incident. I mean you have the right to be so ugly that you need to wear a chemical mask, but have the decency to put the mask on…..AT HOME. Not where you are endangering my life…..aaaaaaa.

Oh yeah, I guess I didn’t notice it when headsets for cell phones got to be so expensive. They must be, for I see so few people using them. How hard is this??? Yeah, talking to Gramma about her pathetic little dog is far more important than….SAFETY. Thanks a lot. But, what the heck, lets add it a smoke, some coffee, and a nice read while we’re at it. You people amaze me.

Over the past year or so I have ridden a bicycle and a motorcycle to work. I love the freedom and the fresh air. And, since I have been out of motorcycling for so long, until recently, I forgot how much I hate cagers. Stupid, stupid, stupid people. Probably the same morons who yell and scream at their kids about their driving too. AAAAArrrrggggghhh, where do you think they learn how to drive so badly, HUH?????

Yes, I am an addict. Two wheels. NOT FOUR. Fresh air. Not scurrying desperately trying to reach the car from the house without dropping the phone. While my addiction is my own problem, I would like to arrive to work and home…….ALIVE…QUIT CUTTING ME OFF, QUIT TAILGATING, QUIT SMOKING, QUIT TALKING, QUIT PLAYING, and drive like a human…not just a humanoid.

While growing up I must readily admit that the activities of others didn’t distract me very much from the goals that I set for myself…while modest, they were achieved. I watch my students and listen to them talk and I find their take on friendship to be disquieting.

I stated to them that a friend doesn’t ask, or expect, you to do things that are against your morals. A friend doesn’t take you places where you are put in danger just for arriving. In addition, a true friend doesn’t expect you to hold their hand during their bad behavior. For example, if you are trying to quit drinking, they don’t ask you to be the designated driver. Further, they don’t take you to places where you’ll be tempted. In addition, if they are really good friends they will quit too.

I have students whose friends take them to places where they know trouble will erupt. They get taken to places where all are aware fights will occur. A true friend doesn’t endanger you. Matter of fact, they will do what ever is necessary to get you not to go. They would hate to see you hurt. A true friend has your best interest at heart, not just their own selfish desires. And, if a friend does go “bad” they understand when you don’t call or drop by. They don’t expect you to condone their bad behavior.

I understood when I wasn’t invited to parties where drinking and drugging was going on. They also understood why I wasn’t there. I cannot understand what friendship is supposed to be these days.

The kids say “they got my back”. I say they wouldn’t need too if you hadn’t been endangered by their behavior. A true friend takes the “rap” for you, not just shaking their head as you go down. When I was in the military, having your buddy’s back meant you took the bullet. And, you did everything you could to keep you and he out of ANY danger…not charging into it when you didn’t have to. It is not a test of friendship to drag your friend to a fight that you both happen to survive.

A true friend won’t let you drive drunk, drugged, or without a proper license. A true friend keeps the drunking and drugging away from you. How sad for so many that “party” means alcohol, drugs, and fights. Don’t sound like fun to me. Why must we change our personalities just to have fun? Why must we lower our inhibitions to have fun? Inhibitions are there to keep you from…oh, yeah….GETTING HURT!!! Isn’t that what we all want…less pain, emotional and otherwise???? I have known a great many people over the past nearly half-century and none of them regret missing out on that one “drunken escapade” that eluded them. No, more often than not, they regret that one “drunken escapade”. And, of all the escapades how do we know, in advance, which one will be the one to be regretted? Then why risk it? You are the only you you get…..haven’t we lost enough young people??

Most of the kids today think that we are all so old and weird, with so few redeeming qualities. If they feel this way, why do they follow my generation down the path to divorces, abortions, smoking, alcoholism, addiction, and regret??? Can’t they learn from our mistakes? Or, did they, in fact, get stupider from our glorious leadership example?? Why is the child who saw the chain-smoking parents and didn’t smoke so often the exception??? Are we so stupid that we follow blindly in the direction that we are led without regard to the consequences??

While I will admit that many of today’s kids are wonderful, and have learned a great deal from our stupidity…too many have not. Why is it acceptable in many people’s eyes that some “have to learn the hard way”, when too often learning that way leads to heartache and pain??? Didn’t we want save them from this??? Boy we did a very poor job of it didn’t we?? The pain, regret, and disappointment of poor choices is being revisited on our future generations…could this be the payment due for our transgressions while we are here??? I hope not.

Well, put the first battle scars on my Ninjette today. I was practicing low-speed drills. I was making a near donut right hander….slowed down to tighten the circle a bit…. Well, lets just say low-speed doesn’t equal no-speed. Geez, bike fell over, I stood over it. Of course, there were a lot of people hanging around to watch it happen….when no one was there two weeks ago I did fine. I am trying to develop as much control as possible…. Simply scratched the lower fairing, bar end, mirror, and brake lever. Nothing bent, broken, or twisted…save my ego. After doing these practices, I have discovered that I wasn’t as good, years ago, as I thought I was. I am working hard to relearn and surpass my old skills. But, learning isn’t always easy or fun.

I didn’t stop though.  I kept at it for another 30 minutes or so.  I just hate the scratches……mostly the ones to my sorely bruised ego.