I’m all giggles here…

January 26, 2007

Ok, I realize I just got back involved in motorcycling, but there are some of the new trends I just don’t understand. I love the addition of body armor in everything. I love the reliability of the new bikes. I love the fact that most of the dealers these days seem to have a bit of social responsibility. But,…

What is up with the desire to have a car engine in a motorcycle??? I mean 1200, 1300, 1500, even a 2000….what is wrong with these people. The gas mileage is actually less than the cars with the same engine…some of the cars may even weigh less. Did everyone watch Biker Boyz and get overcome??? Do you realize that nobody even sells a 400 anymore?? A 400cc motorcycle will blow the doors off of most any car ever made….yet we have 1500s?? Where are you going to go that fast? Almost none of these guys are going on Track Days. What am I missing? Or,…..

Maybe my problem is that I don’t need a motorcycle to confirm my manhood. I don’t think that having the biggest motorcycle means I am “more” of a man than someone else. It doesn’t matter if I am or not. I have what I have. Besides impressing other guys just doesn’t seem to be important to me. It never was….but, impressing the girls, well that is a different story.

Most of these guys in their race leathers, huge motorcycles, and weekend excursions are attempting to make up for a missed youth. I ride because I love to ride. I respect the guy on a scooter…..even the 50cc variety. Vespa riders are some of the most dedicated riders I have ever heard of. I do notice that most of these “manly men” cannot bring themselves and their toys out when it is cool. Anything under 50 degrees finds me virtually alone on the street…and anything under 30 forget it…I AM ALONE. What happened…I thought these were “real” bikers. Oh, and God forbid it should be overcast, sprinkle, drizzle, or mist….again I AM ALONE. I see so many motorcycles that never move, why do they buy them? Mine is out rain, shine, cold, heat, I am a biker. Not some balding racerboy wannabe.

I ride because the wind calls my name. I ride because I still can. I am not like the bald guy in the Viper cruising the high school or junior college. I find myself more like the older guy with the MG Midget or Bugeye sprite…..that same silly grin of a young kid having the time of his life. Not an effort to impress others. Truly an effort to impress me. The guy with the Midget probably has a much or more fun that the guy with the Lambo, and he doesn’t need the approval of others to feel he has a fun toy. Neither do I, but I do feel sorry to the huge CC crowd who can’t even let their bikes growl without endangering their lives and risking an entanglement with the Law.

The truth is, as I have read a number of places, it is more exciting to ride a smaller bike fast than it is to ride a larger bike slow. It is the secret that the Midget driver recognizes. Yes, the giggly kid in me is running loose around here.

There are many things I do not understand….most of what happens in Hollywood comes to mind. One of those that catches me over and over is the fact that for a teacher to have a day away from the classroom requires more work that being there. I have just gotten home after 10+ hours today, not counting the 10+ hours yesterday, the hours this past weekend, etc. getting ready for a substitute to take over my classes for a few days. I really feel for the sub. Taking over established classes for even a day is very difficult.

Beyond that, most teachers don’t provide enough work to keep the students busy the whole time. They work for 10 minutes and the sub gets to dance for 40 minutes. That would turn into a real taxing day if the students don’t want to cooperate. I always leave more than enough for them to do…in addition,the work will be graded…not just busy work. I don’t do busy work.

When I return I will be bombarded by observations about the sub, that will most likely not be flattering, but often quite accurate. The kids tend to be very good judges of character, as a whole.

I hope I prepared well enough. I hope the kids behave. I hope the sub isn’t a complete dork. I hope the administration pokes their collective heads in once or twice. I probably worry too much. No, I always worry too much. I just can’t help myself. These classes are my responsibility. And, I don’t take that lightly. Guess I spent too many years in the Air Force, duty is something I cannot shirk.

But, I do promise to enjoy a few days away with my family…in Tennessee…which is colder than here. Why aren’t we going to the beach….I know….I know in the Virgin Isles….or Tahiti…or SOMEPLACE WARM…hey, with bikinis….oh well….grab a blanket, a coat, gloves, and warm hat, its off to Tennessee.

Well, this is turning out to be an interesting year. My daughter graduates from college pretty soon. She is a Vocal Performance major (specializing in Opera, of course). I have, over the past 5 years of her study, been the “official” videographer of her performances and those of others in the Music department. I have suffered with a couple of different video cameras. While they are no where near professional quality, I have done the best that I could….received a few compliments along the way. I attempt to edit the films a bit and get them “just right” or at least as close as I can. As her senior recital approaches I decided a “good” camera was in order. Or, at least a better one, unless I could get the old VHS-C one to work OK….

I have transferred a number of videos to DVD and attempted to download one to my hard disk to be edited by iMovie, on my MacBook. That is when the adventures began. Well, I downloaded it alright. I can be edited by iMovie….just as long as I don’t want to save any of the editing features I add along the way…..a Bug. A big bad creepy bug, right in the middle of my Mac. I checked the Apple website, sure enough….it is a bug. A lot of people are facing it. They are fighting it. It is a tough little bugger. It scurries off into the dusty corners of the hard disk at the approach of a common user….errr me. I cannot begin to explain how frustrating it is to think you have found a solution…..then….not. So, editing the VHS-C download might not be as possible as I had hoped.

So, I went about researching new cameras. With little money to spend….errrr charge….I knew I’d have to make compromises. I discovered that those that record straight to DVD won’t do what I want. MiniDV tape recorders are on the way out. Hard or Flash disk drive cameras, to get a good one, are way too expensive. I wanted 3-CCDs….few choices. In the consumer market only Panasonic makes them. I went to Best Buy….whaddaya know they had a 3-CCD Panasonic PV GS300 on clearance. Yippee…..well….”Sir, I cannot find the box, I only have the floor model, I can’t sell you that one, but…..” AAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGHHH. Why does this always seem to happen to me? I am not a video hobbyist. I don’t know much….so, finding what I thought I wanted and then having it slip through my fingers, is very frustrating. Well, they did have the newer GS320, which wasn’t even on the floor yet, at the same price. I was still kinda excited….for awhile…..

Seems that Panasonic has removed some of the features that I liked best about the GS300. The GS320 doesn’t have the external mic jack. How important could this be to someone who has never had one? Further, the GS320 does have stereo audio capture along with audio zoom….NO EXTERNAL MIC THOUGH!!!!!! No longer do we get a headphone jack….thanks a lot….while I have tinnitis, my daughter doesn’t. She could have listed to the videos without the rest of us having to do so….AAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHH….. Why does this so often seem to be the case anymore??? So often the “new improved” version leaves out important parts of the “old sad” version it replaced. Even the salesman didn’t realize this and I have a microphone to take back…THAT DOESN’T FIT ANYTHING I OWN!!!!!!

I went on-line and discovered that the GS320 does have better low light recording than the previous model. That is a very high plus…people who are performing often do so in low light settings…. I have no idea what to do. Is the new model better? Do I take back the “new” one and search around for the “old” one?? Sometimes it seems that the manufacturers have no idea what the people using their products are concerned about. At least Kawasaki has kept the Ninja 250 nearly the same for about 20 years…mine being the latest version. Why is this good???

Well, it is good because it gives the consumer confidence concerning a product’s performance and features. It allows aftermarket people to produce equipment even for semi-popular models. It also lets the consumer know that the new model will not be abandoned like it predecessors. Maybe its age. Maybe its just stupidity. Maybe it is just my usual cranky personality, but I would prefer products that are innovative, long lasting, durable, and SUPPORTED BY THE MANUFACTURER. DO YOU HEAR ME????

I remember the Mustang II. I remember “New Coke”…which fortunately was quickly abandoned..some companies do listen. I remember the upgradable motherboards, from years past… I am old, cranky, and frustrated. And, really confused, what to do? What to do? So, here I sit here, in camcorder confusion.

What is wrong with us? Are we, and our children, so desperate to ally ourselves with celebrities that we assign our allegiance to anyone who strikes a chord with us? Witness the current fascination with Paris Hilton. If she were in any of our “normal” families, those without great wealth, we wouldn’t be happy with her behavior. But, our fascination with the living pales miserably when compared with our fascination with some former living folk.

I remember when Elvis died. For more than 10 years, we were all witness to a parade of folk who swore they had seen the dead man. He was seen worldwide. He was seen in small towns. He was seen in laundromats. It is fascinating that his “living” quarters were never identified. He seems to have been living on a cloud…never to surface again. Nope…he really was dead…no matter what we wanted…

I am reminded that Elvis’ fan club wasn’t the only one to be caught up in rumors, fantasies, and wishes that never came true. Tupac fell to an assassin’s bullet in 1996. Today, 10 years after the fact, we still have people claiming he faked is death and will arise. Some of these fans argue with great passion, as if their passion will bring him back. Unfortunately, it won’t, the object of their affection is well outside their reach. But, they still believe. As though belief will change things. Like their Elvis fan counterparts they are often the least educated, poorest read, and most easily led blindly along. They tend to be blown with the wind from one trend to another.

How disheartening must it be to find that there are “secrets” around every corner that you cannot get in on. They always seem to be hiding things from you. There are so many little secrets for those that skip over the “big” words in the newspaper. Those “big” words aren’t important, your friends can tell you all you need to know…of course. If not they, then the TV will tell us, or the never-lying internet, or maybe our illiterate uncle or aunt. But not, God forbid, a……book….eeeeegggadd that horrible word. Why would we read a real book, or even expand our vocabulary to include those “big” words….

I cannot fathom how hard for these people must be, but I have taught some of their children. They are full of suspicion, superstition, hearsay, and blind guess work. They put faith more in the fantasy’s of their illiterate friends than in the books that are so mysterious. For those of us who are tasked with the enlightenment of the next generation, it is very difficult to fight our way through all of this. when your friends are the ultimate authority…it doesn’t leave much room for teachers and such.

While I do not believe that the behavior of the parents is a direct cause of a child’s behavior…it can help to lead them along a certain path. I just wonder how many books their parents read. I wonder if they realize that most people, like the coroners involved in the cases mentioned above, are, almost without exception, people of honor who take their oaths of office as a sacred trust. And, as scientists, the pursuit of the truth is a cause that transcends all other concerns, and that would include and bribes that might have been bandied about. But, of course, that would mean trusting people you don’t know, who may not be part of your immediate society, and/or family. Thus, they cannot be trusted.

If the trust of these types of people cannot be given, then who can be trusted to tell the truth??? Magazines that are in the business of titillating the public??? Websites that make their living by keeping rumors going?? By listening to those who know as little or even less than the children I teach. I agonize daily of the ignorance of those around me. How hard must it be to go through life feeling that everyone knows “it” but you??? “They” are keeping it from you. “They” are the reason you can’t accomplish. “They” are the ones that don’t try to understand you. It is “their” fault that you are an outsider!!!

Could it be that maybe our lack of understanding is our own fault??? And, maybe that of those that care about us?? A good teacher can teach a student to read using a phone book….but, only a student that sees worth in the knowledge, and is willing to work hard to acquire it. Where does that work ethic come from?? When does it arrive?? Can it be instilled at will?? Who is in charge of doing so??

And…for those that don’t understand…we, who care about your understanding, will do our best to give you all the effort we can muster. But, you will have to try to. You may have to do things that aren’t fun. You may have to work hard. And, at least from here, the assault on ignorance will continue…and we’ll work on those “big” words.

While I have been feeling pretty good about my renewed motorcycling adventures, today the shiny began to be rubbed completely off the apple (the fruit not the computer). This morning the weather had changed, as our Midwest friends are well aware, and, at least here in the southeast, rain was in the offing. No big deal, the gear I have is either waterproof or water resistant. I was excited to try out my new stuff….

As I was about a block away from home I noticed that the rain was sticking nicely to my visor. Not running off you might note, simply beading up and staying put. Turning my head slightly, to allow the wind a different attack angle, made no difference, save the expectation that my peripheral vision would be sufficient. It wasn’t. I wound up running with my visor slightly ajar.

The effect of headlights on all those little beads is kinda like trying to read a newspaper looking through glasses made of a zillion cut diamonds. So, I plodded along at a mind numbing, traffic snarling, nerve jangling, 30-35 mph. This is just unacceptable.

All this and it isn’t like I didn’t expect this. I tried Rain-X wipes on my visor. I had used them years before. Apparently they didn’t work….at all. Now, I have to change my underwear….or at least add lots of Cologne when I get to work. Yes, there are other preparations, but I didn’t have those handy. Still don’t. But, I will be looking for them.

My other gear was nearly flawless. My Tourmaster equipment seems to have worked as advertised. I really appreciate that. HEY RAIN-X…you hear that!!!! I just keep wondering if they have changed their formula over the years I was absent from the motorcycling scene. If so, this isn’t the first product that I’ve taken a liking to that went weird. It wasn’t that long ago that the idiotic Pepsico changed the formula for Mt. Dew. Yeah, lets add more caffeine, more sugar, less carbonation, but hey its still the same stuff……aaaaaarrrrrgggghh. Why do they do that???? Why change what seems to be working already???? I guess I am not smart enough to understand.

I recognize the structure of packaging, promoting, and advertising a product. I understand that many industries that are gravely concerned about how much can be sold today and in the future with scant attention paid to product continuity with the past. Each company seeks to “improve” their products…never mind the customer that has grown accustomed to the current formula, construction, or practice. I am, therefore, thankful that a large corporation like Kawasaki has kept the Ninja 250 much as it has always been. It works very well. It is inexpensive. According to what I have read, it is durable. It is a great value for the money.

People deserve the best efforts of the company that they do business with. When payment is made, it is made for the best effort. Imagine how irritated a corporation would be if every credit card purchase made was canceled just as the goods were received. It wouldn’t take long and the business would be requiring cash payments. Maybe we should require true value….up front. I quit using Thinkpads when I noted how poorly Lenovo was beginning to make them, once the bought out IBM. I was no longer an IBM fan when they refused to move their computer business to Linux, even though they contribute greatly to the kernel. Who cares about the consumer? They’ll buy whatever we make…yeah, tell that to GM.

I have read a few reviews castigating Kawasaki for not changing the Ninja 250 very much in 20+ years of construction….maybe they were watching GM. I know that I have been watching GM….from the inside of all of my non-GM vehicles.

Wow, am I off topic….anyway, I tenderly made my way to work. I wasn’t happy, but I made it. Like flying, where any landing you walk away from is a good landing, any time you arrive with body (and bike) intact, it is a very good arrival. At least that is the way it seems to me….here….for now.

Well, over the past few days I managed to cross a threshold….the 500 mile break-in period for my Ninja 250. Now, I can open it up. Today was the first day that I began to explore the 7K+ range of the bike. For such a small engine to make such power it has to rev very high. The Kawasaki has a red-line of 11-12K or so. I have yet, and probably won’t, see the high side of 10K, but when I hit 9K this morning on a lonely stretch of familiar rode….whew….. The cams came on and the little Ninjette began to growl. It was amazing. It has been so long since I have ridden that I had forgotten that feeling. OMG, I felt like I was flying. I have no plans for a Hayabusa in the future and for me anything in excess of 60mph is probably a bit fast, I am old enough to be a grandpa, so the 250 will do just fine.

Now that I have completed my gear acquisition; a Nitro mesh jacket with body armor, Fieldshear mesh pants with body armor, and Tourmaster jean pants with body armor to match my Tourmaster saber jacket…..wait…..be patient….oh yeah, with body armor, I am ready to be a bit more adventurous….errr…not much. I have renewed my low speed efforts and am beginning to see results. If you want to check your skills try riding a figure 8 inside of a quadrant of 4 parking spaces. It will test your patience. I am beginning to be able to do so without flinching too much. I can weave in and out on the ends of the spaces without too much trouble, but that figure 8 thing is tough.

I have been reading “More Proficient Motorcycling” and am trying to apply some of the lessons…without injury to myself or the bike. It is difficult at times to teach this old dog new tricks but I am learning. It is getting kinda old having the little kids at the park laughing at me though….but, as a teacher I am accustomed to embarrassment.

So, now encased in body armor, I sally forth to slay the demons of traffic, asphalt, and all that nature can bring to bear…provided I don’t get scared and take the truck from here.

For all of those non-geeks out there…ya might wanna stop reading here…have a nice day. For all you normal people….away we go!!

In addition to Linux on my desktops I have a MacBook Black,running OSX, obviously, that I use for most of my work and portable play. I must say that OSX is truly a work of art. I have loaded numerous open source/freeware onto it without any difficulty, once I learned how to get X11 loaded. Things are running very smoothly. It is funny how smooth….even the X11 programs seem to run natively w/o waiting for X to load, then the program, then the file you wanted, etc. It just works.

In my efforts to run a smooth ship, I have worked hard to find an office suite that did what I wanted and leave me appendages for riding my motorcycle. I have tried Apple works….aaaaaarrrrrrgggghhhh (dinosaur). I tried pages….funky interface that I just don’t seem to be getting accustomed to. (Meanwhile Keynote is an extremely user-friendly and productive program, Powerpoint would do well to learn some lessons here.) I started to try OpenOffice, like I run on my Linux boxes, but decided to use NeoOffice, an OSX port of OOO. It runs quite smoothly, although it opens a bit slowly.

But, therein lies the snag. I depend on Neo to keep track of my attendance and grades at school, which consist of 4 different spreadsheets. I had set Neo to open at login. Then, I manually opened each spreadsheet individually. This seems to take forever, especially when a student is waiting semi-patiently to learn a current grade. I decided to try to automate the process.

I tried Apple’s automator….but, for me at least, it is a bit more complicated that I expected. I decided to try my hand at Applescript. After all, it couldn’t be that hard….oh yeah right!!!! I spent a full hour being told, over and over and over again, can’t find file XXX, can’t open file XXX, etc. I have a book I consulted “Mac OSX, the Missing Manual”, which sort of helped, but not exactly. I did manage to open Neo via my script…but, duh I could do that via a single click ANYWAY!!!!! Then, I consulted the discussion groups on Apple’s website, which are a great resource BTW, and between the two I managed to put together a small script. It opens NeoOffice and all 4 spreadsheets without further adieu. I even compiled my little program and placed it on the dock…and, IT WORKS!!!!

Boy, it is so much faster than the old manual way. Although compilation wasn’t part of it, this reminds me a great deal of writing autoexec.bat files back in the days BEFORE WINDOWS BEGAN TO SUCK BIG TIME. But, it was a good bit easier, and it didn’t screw up the system when it was wrong. This is my first Applescript…but it won’t be the last.

I had been wondering if I was going to be able to be a bit more geeky with OSX, and now I have the answer. OH YEAH, BABY, OH YEAH!!! We be crunching simple code here……YEEEEEHHHAAAAA!!!!