Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Lost Glove

Sometimes it is good to be lucky. This last Tuesday I was very lucky. The Saturday before I wasn't too smart, I did something sort of absent minded. The lost glove was one of my favorites. An Aerostich Hot Weather Vegan. Okay, I know, it's just a glove. I'm lucky I didn't lose something more valuable. But this glove is the greatest invention in the history of glovekind. I kid you not! On Saturday I had stopped to take a couple of pictures near the town of Sedgwick, KS. Because it was a cool morning, I was riding with my winter gloves. My summer gloves (the Aerostich Hot Weather Vegans) were in the top case. After I took a couple of pictures, I put the camera away in the top case and drove off. I didn't realize it at the time, but I apparently forgot to completely close the top case. Somewhere in about a 10 mile stretch of county road, one of my Aerostich Hot Weather Vegan gloves flew out of my top case. I did not realize it was gone until I got home. I was not happy. They are my favorite gloves. I wanted it back! On Monday I decided that I was going to try and go back the next morning to that same road and see if I could find it. Odds were probably not good, hell the odds were ridiculously low, but it was a good excuse for another ride. The glove could be anywhere on that 8 to 10 mile stretch of road. But I did have hope. Maybe more like blind faith. Have you ever ridden off and forgotten to close up something. I suspect that maybe some of you have. The gloves are not irreplaceable. A short trip to the Aerostich website and another pair could be shipped to me quickly. But they are by far my favorites. And I really didn't want to spend another $47 plus shipping, even if I consider it a good buy. I am so cheap! Tuesday morning I had an eye doctor appointment at 9:00am. I wanted to look for the glove before I saw the doctor, so I left the house well before 8:00am. (Canadian and USA time). I boogeyed out of town and reached the town of Sedgwick a little before 8:30am. This gave me plenty of time to carefully peruse and scan the side of the road as I rode back to Wichita to the doctor's office. Sedgwick KS is connected to Wichita by Ridge Road. It is a straight shot because Ridge Road is a Section line road as are many of the county roads in Kansas. I knew that it was a mile or two south of Sedgwick where I had stopped briefly to take a picture and I looked first for the place where I had stopped. I found it quickly and hoped that my task would be easy and the glove would be right there where I had stopped three days before. No such luck. I rode on, carefully scanning the side of the road on my right and occasionally glancing over to the left side of the road just in case. The glove is black and the ground was very green and I thought there was at least some chance that I would see it. But there were about 9 miles to cover and my hopes were becoming a bit dimmer. I rode a little slower than normal, but not slow enough to impede the flow of traffic. But on a road like this there is usually little traffic so that was not much of a concern. After a couple of more miles my thoughts turned to expressions of frustration at the apparent futility of my quest. How the heck can I ever find a little black glove in all this area. I imagined Darth Vader encouraging me to give in to the Dark Side of the Force and give up my quest. Images of Frodo and Sam on their way to Mordor and the obvious improbability of accomplishing their quest also crossed my mind. Ahhh, who am I kidding! I was mostly just thinking that I was a complete dummy for even being out here and doing this. Jimbo, you are never going to find that glove. A couple of miles later I saw something. About 2 feet from the right side of the road. I was riding fast enough that I rode on past about 50 more yards before I was able to safely turn around and go back to get a closer look. A faint glimmer of hope swelled within me. But as I approached it became apparent that it was just a small piece of a shredded tire. It wasn't my "precious" glove. I rode on, feeling frustrated a bit, but not yet ready to give up. I recalled how Yoda would encourage Luke Skywalker and how Galadriel and Gandalf would encourage Frodo in their battles of good vs evil. I persevered. I rode on some more. I started to realize that there were only about 3 more miles to go. If I was going to find it, it had to be soon. Traffic had increased a bit as I got closer to Wichita. It might be harder to find. I approached an area of road construction and a little while later I saw something again. This time it was a small black object in the gutter at the side of the road. Again, I had to ride past the object before I could safely turn around again to go back. Could it be my "precious"? I remember thinking that I should not get my hopes up.
But as I rode back past it again, this time more slowly, I became even more excited. This could be it! I wasn't positive until I parked and walked over to it.
It was the famous Aerostich glove. My "Precious" had been returned to its Master. I laughed out loud as I realized I had found it.
A workman working on the roadway nearby looked at me like I was crazy. He may be right. He looked even a bit more surprised whan I got my camera out and took a couple of pictures.
I picked up the glove, put it with its mate in the top case along with my camera, made damn sure the top case was closed properly, and rode on to my appointment with the eye doctor. I was 2 minutes late for my appointment.
Pure Dumb Luck? .................Maybe
I prefer to think that it was destiny and that all good things will eventually return to those people that are righteous, pure in heart, and who never give up in the face of overwhelming odds.
Ahhh, Whatever!
Sure was nice to wear those Aerostich Hot Weather Vegan gloves on the way home later that day.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Gettin' Out of Town

I just really needed to get out of the city. Max and I had mostly just been commuting to and from work for the past 3 months. All in town, and all at city speeds. It was time to see the country. Blow out a few cobwebs for both Max and me.

This field was startlingly green even if the plants were very small.

There was no plan for the ride, other than gettin' out of town.

But as I rode I kept ending up in a smaller community of some sort. Wichita has a lot of smaller communities surrounding it.

This city/community even has a slogan. Bel Aire is definately a bedroom community. No downtown area, mostly housing developments. The dog at this house was letting me know that I was "invading his territory". Up the road a little further is another city/community, also with a slogan.
Kechi is known for its antique shops. My camera batteries crapped out on me soon after the next shot, so ended up with no pictures of antiques today. Guess I wasn't prepared that well. Buying batteries would happen in the next town.
But today I encountered these beasts that didn't seem to care about Max and I stopping to take their picture.
From the sublime to the ridiculous? Another horse in the next town, Park City.
Park City, in my mind is sort of like a big truck stop. Fast food abounds. Good place to get batteries.
A Harley rider stopped here for breakfast.
. There is a dog track here that closed a couple of years ago. The owner says that if the State Legislature would let him have slot machines, then he would open up the track again. I'm not holding my breath. For now, the track is looking a bit tired.
A little further away from Wichita is a town called Valley Center. More of a real city. They have their own school system, railroads, grain elevators, a downtown and other definitive attributes.
Railroads were important to these small towns over the years as farmers brought their grains to town to be loaded onto a train.
Then the grain elevator.
And a decorated water tower. Home of the Hornets.
Max and I ride a little more out on the open road.
We eventually reach the town of Sedgwick, more railroads and grain elevators. Another pretty nice little town.
The town of Sedgwick lies in Harvey County. Wichita is in Sedgwick County. Go figure!
More beautiful country as we rode.
Then I passed by this coffee house on the way home and couldn't resist stopping to take a pic.
I personally have decided to lay off coffee for a week or so. I drank too much over the last 3 months and I now wonder what my system is like without being wired a bit.
Max and I had a great ride. I have a week off from work now. There will probably be a few more rides.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

An Ode to a Breakfast Sandwich

On Saturdays during tax season, on my way to work, I sometimes treat myself to a croissant sandwich from a nearby coffee shop. They advertise themselves as a "Drive Thru, Seattle Style" type of coffee establishment. This shop was here before Starbucks came to town. There are now many Starbucks stores in town and this store, locally owned, has seemingly survived the onslaught of mega-sized corporate competition. Their coffees are just as good and the variety of your desired coffee order is just as potentially intimidating. But one thing they have that Starbucks doesn't is this incredible little breakfast sandwich. Healthy? Probably not! But it is a wonderful culinary combination of egg, sausage and cheese buried in a very fresh and tasty croissant. You could get bacon or ham instead of the sausage if that suits your taste. The egg yolk today was actually just very slightly runny, like an over easy egg should be, and just right for me. Yeah, it can be just a bit messy to eat, but a more heavenly and delectable delight would be hard to find anywhere at 7:00 am on a Saturday morning at a drive thru location. In my opinion it beats the hell out of anything similar you can get at McDonalds. At $2.79 it might be a bit pricey, but in this case, I think you get what you pay for. I also ordered a Venti, Vanilla and Raspberry Soy Latte with my sandwich and it, too, was very tasty. It was more expensive than the sandwich and makes for a very pink looking drink. Drinking a pink drink could be embarrassing for such a manly man, such as myself, but I worry more about people wearing pink crocs, and the taste is just to my liking. I have nothing against Starbucks. I feel that I have certainly done my share to help fuel their meteoric rise in the corporate world by buying their products on occasion. My daughter has worked at one and they are a good employer. Helped her get through college. But in this day and age, to me, it is just a bit refreshing to see a locally owned company survive and thrive in a world seemingly dominated by large corporations controlling vast parts of the consumer marketplace. Now, I don't know about you, but I find it a bit inconvenient to take the scooter to a drive thru. I have done it a few times, but find that it requires some advance planning. One problem for me is that my money and wallet usually reside in my top case when I am riding. The other problem is no cup holder, but these obstacles can be overcome in various ways. If I am on 2 wheels, I generally just park and go inside. Today, regrettably, I drove the famous Canadian Subaru to work, but breakfast was absolutely superb! Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Office Technology

"You have attempted to perform an illegal function. "
"This program must now be terminated. "
"Sorry as hell if you didn't save your work. "
(And then, just to pour acid on the wound)
"Press any key to continue." .
I have a couple of ancient laptops on display at the office.
One is a Compaq, more accurately a portable than a laptop. Mid to late 80's vintage. Not originally mine. Was probably about $4,000 new? 5 1/4" floppy drive (remember those?).
The other is an Epson. Early 90's vintage. Was originally mine. About $2,500 new. 20mb hard drive, 3 1/2" disc drive (low density). Weighs a ton, but we used the crap out of it. It still runs.
I just bought a new Lenovo laptop recently, it runs circles around those now ancient laptops. Was only about $800.
Our first network, if you could call it a network, consisted of connecting 2 computers by serial port cables and using a program called LapLink to copy files. We thought we were in Hog Heaven at the time.
Then there are cell phones. I resisted getting one for a long time. I was the last one in the family to get one. First one was a pretty basic Samsung, then a Blackberry Pearl, now a Blackberry Tour. The computer chip in my phone is way more advanced than the ancient laptops pictured here.
I started my own accounting practice in 1988. At that time we did about 125 tax returns each year. We now do about 400 per year. There is no way we could do near that many without the use of computers. We have electronically filed returns since the early 90's. Kills less trees that way.
Well, maybe.
Back in those days a 20 page tax return was rare. Nowadays a return like that is almost pure joy. I have done some that had over 400 pages to them because it seems that every deduction, credit or item of income now has to have some sort of a peculiar form or worksheet of its own.
I have always been interested in computers. So much so that I even considered majoring in that field when I was in college (1970's). Took a couple of Fortran courses in college and really enjoyed them.
Then I took a course in Boolean Algebra (the algebra of switching circuits).
That course singlehandedly ended my interest in making Computer Science my life passion. The guy that taught the course looked and smelled like he hadn't had a shower in a week or so. But he wasn't the real problem, the subject matter was so dry as to make Arizona look like a rain forest. There weren't any cute women in the class either.
. After that I decided to leave most of the bits and bytes to other people. I just want it to work and not give me messages like the one appearing at the top of this post.
. How about those operating systems over the years? .
DOS 5.0 DOS 6.2 Windows 3.0 Windows 3.3 Windows 95 Windows 2000 Windows XP Windows 7 (We skipped Windows 98 and Vista)
I used to think I had a pretty good knowledge of computer systems. Used to help out some of our clients a lot.
Then one day a college student intern that was working for us showed me what you could do by right clicking on the start button and other places. I was so pissed! Why hadn't I known that years before.....
Remember 1,200 baud modems? Compuserve?
Early AOL?
I am showing my age.
Used to think that my knowledge of computer systems was pretty near the forefront. We used to use an old database program called Paradox. Designed some pretty neat applications for ourselves and for some of our clients. Nowadays, you just buy specific software for some of the same functions.
I generally use WordPerfect for word processing and QuattroPro for spreadsheets. I'll use Microsoft Word and Excel only if I have to. I almost despise the Microsoft products. Granted, they all do the same stuff, my preference is mostly just because I am more familiar with using the others. We gravitated from using Wordperfect and Lotus123 in the old DOS days and at the time it seemed to be an easier progression.
Maybe I am just mad because I didn't buy Microsoft stock in the early 90's.
My blog is pretty simple (formatwise). Yeah, I know I can get in there and mess with the html settings, but for right now I don't have the patience or time for it. I do plan to dress it up a bit in the next few months. I am a little tired of the way it looks. I really need to take better pictures too, and that is a blogging goal as well. It's another after "tax season" project.
I am also planning on some riding and picture taking that weekend after the 15th of April. Stay tuned!
Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed

Friday, April 2, 2010

Gear, But No Helmet?

I had a nice but very brief chat last Wednesday with a guy riding a Boulevard (Suzuki?). A very nice looking bike, by the way. I was walking back to my office after just having picked up my lunch from a little Japanese/Chinese eatery. He was just mounting the bike as I passed by and had not started the engine yet. As a greeting, I said something like "What a great day to be out riding!" (Sunny with temps in the 70's). He looked up at me and gave me a big grin. To look at me, dressed in business casual, he wouldn't maybe have guessed that I rode, except for what I said. (And maybe how I said it) But there was an instant little connection between us. You know what I'm talking about. Like we know something no one else does. The joy of riding on a beautiful day like today. The breeze was strong today from the south. He said he had ridden this morning from Newton, a small city about 25 miles north of here. He complained a bit about the wind, but also said he was really looking forward to the ride home with the wind at his back. I smiled and laughed back at him, knowing the feeling all too well. That was about the extent of our conversation. I had to get back to work and he was ready to ride. As I walked back to the office I heard him start the bike, pull out on to the street and pass by me. As we were talking I noticed that he had on a fairly well worn denim jacket with pads in it. I had actually admired one like it recently while thumbing through a catalog. But he wore no helmet. Just sunglasses. It just seemed a bit odd to me to wear armor on his body, but not his head. Maybe I am way off base, but to me, my head takes a high priority when I consider safety issues. On the ride home that day I saw more motorcycles than I had in probably the last 4 months. I would guess that 70% were not wearing helmets, many of those just wearing T-shirts. It was a really nice day. Kansas does not have a helmet law. It gets proposed at the state legislature occasionally, but usually quickly shot down. Choruses of "Freedom!" and "Individual Rights!" are the usual response to any proposed legislation. I guess I can appreciate the feeling of wind in your hair on a warm sunny day like today was. And maybe a rider like that knows something more than I do. I certainly do not have many years of experience. And I am not the kind of person that tells others how to lead their lives, but the logic here escapes me just a little bit. I may be in the minority and a "daredevil accountant" (as Iron'Gran'Dad sometimes refers to me), but I plan to continue wearing a "Lid" and "Gear" simultaneously and indefinitely. Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed