Sunday, November 29, 2009

Soulcraft (Sort of a Book Report)

One of my hobbies is woodworking and home remodeling. I fondly remember my 7th grade Wood Shop class. Our teacher was Mr. Pauls, who was an older man. Very patient and gentlemanly and perfect for the class he taught.
Our first assignment was to make a sanding block out of a small piece of pine. It was supposed to be about 1 1/2 inches wide by about 3 inches long and, of course, as square as possible on all corners.
The piece of pine given to us was a bit larger than the supposed eventual dimensions. We were given as tools a block plane, a handsaw and the vice on the shop bench. That was it. .
Mine ended up far from perfect. It was a bit short on one side, not very square in every respect and the ends were a bit rough because I had a little trouble mastering the plane on the side of the wood where the wood grains were exposed. Using a block plane can be a little trickier to use than at first glance. .
I learned a lot from Mr. Pauls in that class.
I never did take the Metal Shop class although in retrospect, I wish I had.
I have a couple of clients that run a machine shop and make aircraft parts for some of the airplane manufacturers here in Wichita. It is a small shop, about 10 employees, and these guys can do almost anything with any kind of metal. Their handiwork and precision is really amazing.
I wish now that I had taken that Metal Shop class because I would have maybe learned a few tricks of the trade that might have helped me later on in life.
Like the time I overtightened a screw on the points inside the distributor of my old '69 VW bus and ended up ruining the distributor. Oh well, it gave me the opportunity to buy a new Porsche distributor which added maybe 2 hp.
I thought it was very cool to successfully install a Porsche distributor on a VW engine.
. But working with wood or metal was not to be my calling in life. As I think back on how I ended up doing what I do for a living, I recall a song by Supertramp. The song is entitled "The Logical Song" and some of the lyrics are as follows.
. Then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible, logical, responsible, practical And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable, clinical, intellectual, cynical
(and later on in the song)
. They said watch what you say or they'll be calling you a radical, a liberal, fanatical, criminal Won't you sign up your name, we'd like to feel you're acceptable, respectable, presentable, a vegetable
. I sometimes find it a bit ironic how I ended up doing what I do for a living. I am not sure I fit the mold. I am not sure anybody really does.
. But I am not really complaining. I like what I do. But I also like being a bit ornery and trying not to conform to what I am maybe supposed to do (or be) all the time.
Sharon had recently suggested that I read Shopcraft as Soulcraft by Matthew B Crawford. In part it is about the fact that he had been educated and trained to be someone or something, very intellectual, that he discovered that he didn't really like as much as he liked working with his hands. He ended up starting a motorcycle repair shop.
. There is an old adage that says:
. "Do what you love, the money will follow."
. Not really sure how true that is. If I might, I could rephrase it as:
. "Do what you love, the satisfaction will follow."
. The book Sharon recommended is full of this kind of insight and reflection. I recommend it.
. The author is no dummy. He has a doctorate degree and I am sure he is successful in life being the person he was educated to be.
. But one of the themes in his book is that making and fixing things with our hands has lost much importance in today's society. Even though I don't do this for a living, I have always enjoyed working with my hands and one point that Crawford makes is that it can be quite noble to work with your hands.
. He compares being a mechanical repairman with being a doctor in that both professions involve the repair of something that the repairman did not design originally. This can make it much more difficult, because the overall picture and theory of the design is not always readily apparent. It can require some careful thought and analysis.
. Crawford also says that part of the enjoyment to being a repairman is the opportunity to get completely mentally involved in the activity. I can do that sometimes, even with my regular profession. But doing it while fixing something with your hands can be very enjoyable also. There can be a really enjoyable sense of accomplishment when the job is done.
In doing some electrical work on my home awhile back, I was trying to diagnose a problem we were having with some light switches. It involved some 3 way switches. The use of 3 way switches was to enable you to turn off or on some lights either at the top or bottom of a stairway in our home. I spent a lot of time just trying to figure out why the wiring had been done originally in the manner it was. I finally determined that the electrician had just screwed up and had connected some wires incorrectly.
. But as I was working on it I realized that I had been concentrating very hard and my mind really got into a zone of extreme concentration. Then when I eventually figured out the problem and repaired it correctly, there was a really nice feeling of satisfaction.
. Crawford has written the book in a very scholarly manner. He quotes Aristotle and Pirsig frequently throughout the book. He includes many anecdotes from his experiences repairing motorcycles and because of that, the book is enjoyable and meaningful.
. At least is was to me.
Many of the readers of this are well acquainted with the joy and frustrations related to working on mechanical vehicles such as motorcycles and scooters. I specifically mention Domingo Chang and Stacy, who have indirectly encouraged me to take on more of my own maintenance chores with my scooter. I am sure that I may never become a full blooded mechanic. But their examples give us all an insight into their world of maintenance and repair.
It is something to be appreciated and encouraged.
. Crawford's book is highly recommended by me.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What to do with Leaves

I'm confused. Some of my neighbors do some pretty wierd things with the autumn leaves on their property. We have lots of old trees in our neighborhood and as a result there are a lot of fallen leaves this time of year. Of course, this can be a bit of a danger to two wheeled vehicles. Danger Will Robinson!

Some of our neighbors do nothing and the leaves accumulate on their lawns and blow around the neighborhood as the wind blows.

Others, painstakingly rake up the leaves, put them in large trash sacks and set them at the curb for the trash haulers to pick up. To them, apparently leaves are a menace that need to be gotten rid of.

Still others employ the use of leaf blowers, the high tech device that blows anything and everything. They get out there and blow leaves around and rid their yard of the unsightly (their opinion) leaves that have accumulated. I do not own a leaf blower, but I do have an attachment for my 400hp, 16 gallon Craftsman Shop Vac that allows me to blow rather than suck. I have used it to blow leaves out of the garage, but not in the yard.

Some neighbors either rake or blow their leaves out of their yards and let them reside in the gutters in front of their homes. I do not think this is more attractive. And what do they think will happen to the leaves? I think they are just liable to blow back into their yard or into another neighbor's yard. Maybe they think that it will now be somebody else's problem.

At my house, we mow them down and turn the leaves into mulch. We may do this 3 or 4 times during the season. In my opinion there is not a better food for the grass. To me it is just nature's way of recycling organic materials. I am not opposed to leaves and do not consider them a threat, unless I am riding and come across a pile of wet leaves as I ride.

Then there is the neighbor right next to me. He owns a riding lawn mower. I don't have anything against riding lawn mowers, but I seriously question why he has to have one, other than a feeling of power and maybe laziness. His lawn is no bigger than mine, and I can do my whole yard in less than an hour, including the trimming.

He also has a leaf blower. Reminds me of Tim Allen on the old "Home Improvement" show.

More Power!

He actually gets his blower out and blows the leaves into the street in front of his house. Then he gets on his riding lawn mower and mows them down while they are in the street. He makes numerous passes to insure the only remainder is a fine degree of leaf dust to be absorbed by the asphalt of the street. Am I missing the logic here? And finally in remembrance of a certain BMW K-75 rider who just recently posted his own obituary. Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Communists and Left Wing Republicans

Here's a post with intrigue! A post about stupid politicians! A post that involves, at least indirectly, one of our beloved fellow bloggers from the great city of Key West Florida! I am speaking of the one and only Conchscooter of Key West Diary fame. A blogger we all know and love for his keen insight into politics, health care, Triumph motorcycles, Vespas and the general state of the world as it is. I am not being facetious. Through his great blog, many of us know more about the Lanes, eating establishments, tourist attractions, nude beaches, politics and other facts about Key West than perhaps we know about our own cities. Well, maybe there is not a lot of intrigue to this post, but there is definate stupidity on the part of a politician, and the story involves a neighbor of Conch's, that neighbor being the country of Cuba. Cuba is, of course, only a stone's throw away from the great city of Key West, or at the very least, it isn't too far away. First a little background. I have maintained for a few years now that there are actually 3 political parties here in Kansas where I live. First you have your Democrats who are vastly outnumbered by the Republicans. The Democrats are not always well organized or well financed, but they are steady and consistent. The Republicans, however, are divided into two camps. And the two camps do not always get along with each other. I'll refer to them as the Conservative Republicans and the Moderate Republicans. It is, of course, a philosophical impossibility to be a Left Wing Republican. The Conservatives are fiercely aligned with various social issues such as abortion, the death penalty, the teaching of evolution and a distrust of big government. I say fiercely aligned, because to them, sometimes, it's their way or the highway. Even If the person they are arguing with is a fellow Republican. Kansas is a very red state. Yet, for the last 8 years, we have had a Democratic governor largely because, in my opinion, the 2 factions of the Republican party could not agree to support the same candidate. The current situation is that we have a Senator that is retiring from the Senate at the end of his next term. Two of our present US representatives, both Republicans, are vying for the Senate seat being vacated. The Senate seat is expected to be won in the primary as the Democratic candidate is not expected to be much of a factor. Here's the deal. One of them is a Conservative, the other very much a Moderate. The battle lines have been drawn. The Moderate is an early leader in the polls, supposedly with a 10-15 point margin. The moderate has raised more money for his campaign and it is starting to look bad for the Conservative. You would think that in the interest of party unity, the Conservative might just resign and throw his support to his opponent. But this is Kansas. The concept of unity in the Republican party does not exist, at least not happily. So what does the Conservative do? His campaign managers send out an Email to many of their supporters that says, in the title of the Email, that the Moderate candidate has been endorsed for the Senate seat by the Communist Party of the USA! . ????? . Upon checking with the Communist Party, they deny the endorsement and go on to say that they never endorse any Republican or Democrat for office because they like to try and find their own candidates. Makes sense to me. So what gives here?
Well, as it turns out, the Moderate candidate is one of approximately 170 other congressmen that are co-sponsoring a bill that in part is designed to ease travel restrictions between the good old USA and Cuba.
Ah yes, those Communists in Cuba! ..........................Bastards!
Guilt by association and inuendo! The politics of Fear! Who knows. It just might work!
Of course, the Moderate candidate is no more a Communist than you or I.
This is also notwithstanding the fact that many people think that the way we treat Cuba and attempt to isolate it probably does more to keep the Communists in power there than any other action we might take.
Hell, I don't know about all the details of the bill, nor do I really care. I am just amazed that some politicians think they can get away with crap like this. I hope, in a way, that this is unique to Kansas politicians but I am pretty sure it is not. Which is sort of sad.
They say that some people should not be allowed to breed. Others should not become politicians. Perhaps, sometimes, certain politicians should not be allowed to breed.
I certainly cannot begin to understand what they expected to accomplish with this Email. I would hope that most people would be able to see through this kind of bullshit politics. It would be really sad If I was wrong about that.
But Conch, I want to sincerely thank you! For defending our freedom from the tyranny of the Communists that live so close to you. I cannot begin to adequately express my appreciation for the dangers you and your fellow Key West citizens must face each and every day from the menace just a few miles from your shores. I, here in the midwest, am so thankful that you have so steadfastly maintained a vigil to keep the rest of us protected from the dangers of the nation that means nothing but harm for us in the good old USA. I am indebted to you and your fellow citizens in Key West. You have my deepest respect and gratitude! Besides that, you have a Kick Ass blog!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Experiencing the Zen of Maintenance

Max was a bit overdue for an oil change. I had always had my dealer perform this little function for me in the past, but decided to do it myself this time In addition, I was goofing around on the web a few days ago. I ended up at the SYM website and to my surprise located a maintenance bulletin for my scooter regarding a problem with the wiring for the horn. The wiring apparently, on my model scooter, had in some cases been shorting out against the base of the radiator and causing one of the main scooter fuses to blow. I wanted to see if I could figure that out as well. More on this later in the post. First, I thought I had better take a peek at the air filter. According to the maintenance table in the handbook, it was due to be replaced soon. I took the cover of the air filter off. The outside of the filter looked like this. Not very clean. I took my 400 hp Craftsman 16 gallon shop vac to it. Didn't help much. But the inside of the filter looked like this, pretty clean.

If one side is clean and the other filthy, can you still get by?

I do know the answer to that question. A new one will be on order soon.

This is really the first time that I have ever taken apart anything on the scooter. Now, mind you, I am not a real gearhead in any shape or form, but I used to do a lot of maintenance on cars I have owned in the past. Particularly on the 2 VW buses I used to own, back many years ago.

Doing tune ups, installing new points and condensors, (remember those?) and adjusting valves were not a problem for me. But I have not spent a lot of time really getting to know my scooter. What little work that has needed to be done so far was done by my dealer. But now I am approaching 6,000 miles and a few other maintenance items are recommended such as adjusting valves, flushing the coolant and some other odds and ends. I am thinking that a lot of this I should be able to do. I opened up a cover that covers part of the floor and the front of the engine compartment. You can see the battery and the top of the engine. The engine is a 4 valve 4 stroke. Fairly sophisticated. SYM has made motorcycle and automobile engines for Honda for many years There was really no reason to take this cover off, it just looked like fun. I almost screwed up a bit putting it back on. The 2 screws on the floor were just a bit shorter than the others. I had forgotten that for a monent, but recovered nicely, thank you. You may have heard me say before, but the side stand on Max is virtually useless in my opinion. It makes the scooter lean just a bit too much for my comfort, easy to knock over. I use the center stand almost exclusively. The HD 200 comes with both stands, factory installed at no extra charge. But I discovered that the side stand is perfect for one function. . Draining the oil.

The oil change proceeded smoothly. The old oil was pretty dirty compared to the new oil.


While I was at it I decided to take the seat off and peek into the engine compartment a little more. Six (10mm) bolts later and Wah Lah! The seat is off.

It is pretty easy to take off and here is where the meat of the scooter is. First view is of the top of the engine compartment where the fuses are.
Then looking down at the engine.
Some of the stuff is a bit unrecognizable to me. For now.
I spent a little time just looking around and trying to identify where different parts are.
Then it came time for the real purpose of this little maintenance party.
About a month ago, on one of our club rides, I blew a fuse. Had no clue why. Nothing like that had ever happened before to me, in fact, Max has always been completely dependable.
But, I noticed that day when the fuse blew, that my horn had not been working.
Then when I found the maintenance bulletin, I really took notice, because it sure sounded like it could have been my problem on that day of the club ride. My horn had not been working recently, and I was a bit fearful of another blown fuse.
The bulletin instructed you to look for the position of some wires connected to the horn, and based upon the initial position of the wires, gave you 2 solutions. One solution looked pretty simple, the other a little more complicated, but not bad, just maybe a little more time consuming.
As with most instructions, there was not a lot of detail. When I first read it, it sounded a little strange, but assumed that once I got close to the scooter, it might make some more sense. I was ready to try. The first step on the bulletin said to remove the front cover.
Just that, nothing else.
I knew what front cover they were talking about, but just assumed that they might give me a little better clue as to how to remove it.
It was time for Zen.
Deep breath
Take your time, look around a bit.
It wasn't completely obvious. 12 bolts later, and undoing the wiring harness to the headlight, I had finally removed the front cover.
Here's what you get.
The horn is just beneath the radiator. The wires in question are partially obscured by the radiator hose, but were easily found. According to the bulletin, my solution was the easier of the two procedures to follow up with.
Thank Buddha!
. Essentially the solution was to re-arrange the wires that were sort of clipped together in a different fashion so that the horn wires were not on the outside of the bundle.
Was pretty easy.
Really not sure why the position of the wires could make such a difference, but that is what they said in the bulletin, and after I got everything back together, IT WORKED! . Here's Max all reassembled.
I got all the bolts back in their proper place, in spite of some brief assistance fom one of our cats, who was of the opinion that some of the bolts belonged in a different place on the garage floor.
Now I know a lot of this is very basic to many of you out there. But for me, it was a bit of a leap in faith. I even had some fun doing it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Toy Run

November 1, 2009 Our local scooter club, now known as the "Wichita Twisters" held its monthly ride. It was decided that we participate in the local Marine Corps Toys for Tots Ride. So in a manner of speaking we decided to join the Harleys and other bikers in this annual event. It was something different. I had never done anything like this before. I didn't have a clue what to expect. I really did not expect to see 3,200 motorcycles participate. Yeah, you saw that right! 3,200 motorcycles Various shapes sizes and types. I would guess about 90% Harleys. But 18 of that total was from the local scooter club. Actually one of our largest turnouts for a scooter club ride. Here is Max with a present safely stored on the purse hook.
The scooter club met at a parking lot across the street from the baseball stadium where the line up for the main ride was to be happening. We wanted to ride in together and line up together.
We had some new faces this month to join us on the ride.
Here's a few riding up to join us. A couple of new scoots joined us as well. This one is a Kymco Xciting 250 if I remember correctly.
Now you have to look carefully at the scooter on the left.
This little guy gets to ride up front on his scooter and has a great view of the surroundings.
The first canine member of the club.
Then, Gary, who manages our website, tried to spoil the fun by carrying the Grinch with him. Just kidding Gary, that Grinch came in very handy later that morning.
The line up for the ride started about 10:00. As people rolled in, they were directed to park their motorcycles in lines throughout the parking lot of the baseball stadium. I thought we were way back in line when we got there, but as it turned out we were only probably 20% back from the starters. I had no idea how many bikes there would be. A proverbial sea of motorcycles.
And here is where we lined up.
There was a group of marines chatting with some of the riders. They help sponsor the event. The event helps out various local charitable groups such as the Salvation Army and the local FoodBank. It really is a good cause. Something that some of us in the scooter club hoped to get involved with.
This lady was helping people to get parked and in line. They had us really close together. I just liked her colorful outfit. The organizers had the procedures well thought out and did their jobs efficiently.
There are a lot of pictures in this post. Some unusual bikes, some more ordinary, some Trikes and other custom bikes. It was actually a bit difficult to get good pictures because everybody was parked so close together. But I tried. I attempted to get pictures of some of the more unusual bikes. As soon as we got parked, we had a lot of time to walk around and take pictures. There were food and drink vendors. Lots of people seemed to have a good time visiting with other people
I grabbed the camera and headed around the area to take some pictures. After being gone from the location where Max was lined up, I realized that I hadn't made myself a very good mental note of where we ended up. Had a little trouble finding where we were, but eventually saw the Grinch on Gary's Burgman and knew I wasn't far away.
A Yamaha, I think. Very nice.
A dirt bike. Didn't see too many of these, but there were a few.
A Goldwing with a pretty fancy paint job. (and a trailer hitch)
And here is the reason for the trailer hitch. Some new bicycles to be delivered to some needy and hopefully appreciative kids.
A very unusual trike. I like the smiley face.
A Chopper
Another trike. I think those rear tires are bigger than the ones on my car.
Another view of the "ocean" of bikes. It was a beautiful day. Temps in the low 60's. A pretty good south breeze, but not bad. We were to ride north.
Another trike with a rather bored looking woman. Lots of storage though.
A very nice set of toys strapped to this bike.
There were some sport bikes as well.
And then there are the Masons that seem to have an opinion about proper attire while riding.
Another nice Yamaha, apparently modified a bit.
A Harley with sawed off pipes. I didn't stick around to see how loud it was.
And there is always stuffed animals.
Another fancy GoldWing with an albino tiger.
And here is Max amidst the sea of bikes. I was standing a few feet away when I heard a passerby say, "Look, A Moped!
Well I have to admit taking a bit of an offense to that. In my opinion a true Moped would have pedals. But no matter, just another example of the misuse of the English language.
A Honda trike
This chopper is made here in Wichita by a company called "Big Dog Motorcycles" I know a couple of people that work there. They produce mostly high end luxury type bikes, very expensive, in various configurations. They are struggling a bit recently with the state of the economy and have laid off some people, but still trying to hang in there.
For Conch and Lance, a very nice Triumph America.
The plan was to ride out to a sports arena just north of town to drop off the presents. Only about a 10 mile ride to the arena.
Here's a Victory. The Triumph dealer here sells these. Very unusual but nice looking bike.
I admit my knowledge of different types of bikes is wanting a bit. But I learned a lot today. This is the only bike I saw with a sidecar. Sorry, Dom, didn't see any Urals.
For that matter I didn't see any BMW's either. Maybe BMW riders are just a bit too snotty to take part in a charity event like this. Just kidding though. I bet there were some BMW's there, I just never found one. With 3,200 bikes in attendance, I am sure I didn't see them all.
Here's a Can Am trike. Two front wheels, one rear. The Ford dealer here in town sells these. I have seen a few around on occasion.
This beast garnered a lot of attention from onlookers. Has a V6 Chevy engine in it. Someone spent a lot of time on this one.
A view from the south end of the parking lot. The bikes were literally lined up clear to the buildings you can see in the background. An awesome sight.
The parade finally took off amidst a lot of loud engines, cigarette and cigar smoke and stereos blasting.
For many miles along the parade route people were at the side of the street waving us on. Was a bit unusual to take the streets we took and not have to stop at red lights. The police had closed all of the intersections along the way. Riders generally rode very carefully and politely. One lady at the side of the road tried to hand me a dollar bill for a donation. I was going a bit fast to try and do it on the run, plus I wasn't sure how to take it with my right hand. I am sure someone else stopped and accepted her donation.
The first bikes reached the arena north of town before all of the bikes had even left the original parking lot.
Bikers came from all over the local area. Many made a day of it by having breakfast first with friends, joining the ride, and then meeting up again later in the afternoon. A couple of local restaurants were giving out coupons for free hamburgers redeemable later that day.
Ahhh, people do some funny things for a good cause.
It was definately certainly something different to do.