Sunday, March 28, 2010

Creepy Right Turns

Here's another little traffic pet peeve of mine. You approach an intersection with a street on your right. It could be a major intersection, an entrance to a shopping center, or just a side street. You most certainly have the right of way. You see a cage approaching the intersection on that street to your right and in front of you. There is a stop sign or a red light for the cage. But the cage never completely stops. Maybe just sort of creeps along slowly, anticipating a right turn. They probably see you, but they continue to creep along. Are they going to stop? Are you sure they see you? Better keep an eye on them. You are doing your best little scanning routine. Still have to watch out for other potential bogeys, but this bogey is demanding further attention. But then again, they are probably just waiting for you to pass so they can make a right turn ending up behind you. "Probably" But they never come to a complete stop. Is the human cargo inside putting on makeup? Talking on their cell phone? Are they being as attentive as you are? You are at the "Predict" and "Decide" stages of SIPDE. Cover the brakes, maybe slow down? How fast are you traveling? How fast are they creeping? Check for escape routes? You do what your best judgment and experience dictates what you should do depending on the situation. All of this happens in just a few seconds. Usually it never turns out to be a problem. But what if........... A lot of my riding is urban commuting, some of it in heavy traffic. I see this situation almost every day. It drives me just a bit crazy. Question: Are you as attentive when driving a car as you are when riding on 2 wheels?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dumpster Diving

Look Fred! Over there in that Dumpster! Someone threw away a perfectly good blonde girl! A not so typical day at the office of: Jim's Bar and Taxes "You Drink While We Think" We have gobs and gobs of paper here. Files all over the place. Many tax returns in various stages of being processed and prepared. Post it and phone message notes galore. Multi-tasking abounds. We have to be very organized. We cannot "lose" things. That doesn't mean we don't occasionally "misplace" things. With all the paper flying,....... Well you know. There's that sensation. You had something in your hands a couple of hours ago, maybe yesterday, but now when you really need it, you can't seem to find it. Usually it turns up. It's only a couple of sheets of paper. We know what it looks like and what information should be there. We could call the client and get them to bring in another copy, but that's embarrassing. Makes us look bad. So you think back to what you were doing when you last saw that piece of paper. Maybe it accidentally got put in the wrong file. A mass search of those files (and others nearby) by all personnel ensues. Nothing found. Maybe it got thrown away. Surely not. Anything with personal data, especially with social security numbers on it, gets shredded. If it was shredded then we are SOL and we will have to call the client. Damn. But nobody can remember recently doing any shredding. So, it's not in another file, not shredded, maybe in the trash? The Dumpster! Volunteers? Two people respond, services well beyond the call of duty. Really dedicated employees! Long story short, We Found It! In the dumpster. No need to call the client. YIPPEE!!!!! It was a little dirty. A little wet, but all there and intact. At the time we were very worried and very concerned. Stress level was very high. Maybe in a day or two we will be able to chuckle about it. Hell, a year from now, we'll be laughing our asses off.

Monday, March 15, 2010

An Apology

Legends say that the city of Topeka, Kansas is protected from tornadoes by Burnett's Mound. The 250 ft tall mound is situated at the southwest corner of the Kansas capital city. It is named after Chief Dan Burnett, a chief of the Pottawatomi tribe. Last October, Max and I made a little trip to the place, took some pictures and I made a blog post. The blog post was primarily about my memories of the place as a child. I lived not far from the hill and spent much time there. There is a nice view of the city from the top of the hill. Tornadoes generally travel in a northeasterly direction. Because the mound is located just on the southwest part of town, the legend said that any approaching tornado would hit the mound and be pushed back into the clouds. As we all know, legends like that rarely hold true and in 1966 that legend was debunked rather forcefully by a devastating tornado. The storm went right over the mound and cut a path of destruction straight across the heart of the city. I was there when it happened. Part of my post was about Chief Burnett, who was a very colorful character and very famous in the Topeka area for many reasons. He was known as a tough negotiator for the local indian tribes. He had actually met with President Lincoln. He spoke to the Kansas legislature just after Kansas had been admitted to the union. People were surprised to find out what a sharp and knowledgeable person he was. He was also known, or at the very least there are some stories, about his abilities to be able to drink large quantities of alcoholic beverages. It was that mention of these stories that offended a certain descendant of Chief Burnett. I received an e-mail from a descendant that criticized me for mentioning the drinking stories that exist about Chief Burnett. I was very surprised to even be contacted by this relative. Not even sure how the person could have even found a reference on the internet to my little insignificant blog primarily related to scootering and motorcycling. The point was that he took offense to the drinking stories and felt that my blog post helped to perpetuate the image that native americans are prone to the abuse of alcohol. I e-mailed him back and apologized, but have never heard back from him again. For a few months now I have been thinking about a post to make a more formal apology. So here it is: I hereby sincerely apologize if any offense was taken by the descendants of Chief Burnett as a result of my blog post last fall about the mound in southwest Topeka that is named after him. My personal reactions to this take a couple of forms. First, I never meant to offend. The post was only indirectly about Chief Burnett. I actually have a lot of respect about the man and his reputation. Indeed, the stories of some of his purported drinking escapades, in a way, make me respect him even more. He was not known as a drunkard, but rather a man with a healthy ability to enjoy life. Some of my old friends that know me can relate tales of my former drinking escapades that certainly didn't turn out so well. I can imagine that anybody could be offended about a reputation for drinking alcohol. But there was much more about this man than that supposed reputation. His legacy is full of great deeds, love and respect for his family. He was known as tough, but also a man of his word. There is a great deal of respect for him by all who know of him. Secondly though, I have had feelings about this that make me want to say to the person that e-mailed me: "Blow It Out Your Ass!" My post was only very indirectly about Chief Burnett. He lived a great life 150 years ago. You should be proud of him, not embarrassed. Do you not have anything better to do? I mean, how sensitive can you be? I didn't make up the stories, I just mentioned that they exist. Maybe I should be more careful about what I write on this blog (this post included). But then again I am sure I have said and done things in my life that are much more serious and possibly offensive. So there you have it, My formal apology..........But Jeez! Maybe I am just bitchy today because I am having a bad hair day. (helmet hair, don'tcha know)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Getting Warmer?

March 4, 2010 A day of absolute beauty. The recorded high temperature reached 62 degrees. Unremarkable? Let me explain. The National Weather Service, for our city, has records going back to 1888. It has not reached 60 degrees here since November 28. (Over 3 months ago). According to the Weather Service, that has never happened before. (At least not since 1888) I rode to work every day this week except for Monday, because I had to go to a funeral . That hasn't happened for awhile either. It has had a positive impact on my outlook on life. I don't know about all of you readers, but I am much happier when I can ride to work. It charges me up! I always look forward to the ride. As I was riding this morning I could sense some changes in the air. The smells are a little different. The winds feel different. Can't even put my finger on it, but somehow there seems to be some changes coming. Spring is still, what, 15 days away, technically? This time of the year, I am pretty well "chained to the desk" at the office. Many times, in past years, a 60 degree day would happen in January and we would all look at each other in the office and wish we could go outside and play. It was difficult sometimes to stay inside and keep the nose to the grindstone. It hasn't been a problem this year. Nobody has had the desire to go outside, it has just been too cold, not exactly frigid, just well below normal. I am not opposed to riding in the cold, it's just ice and snow that usually holds me back. In fact, I find riding in colder weather to be rather stimulating. This winter has been much more of a challenge to engage in riding to and from work. A lot of people around here scoff at the idea of global warming. Especially this year. Who can blame them? Locally, we just don't see the evidence. I think I'll leave the debate about it to the experts who probably know a lot more about it than I do. I find it rather humorous that much of what we hear about it, pro or con, comes from people I consider to be unqualified in the field. Al Gore is certainly no scientist. Neither are the people on Fox News. There are a few things, however, that bother me. You only have to look at the atmosphere over many major cities with high smog levels and know that "It just ain't right". Also the pictures from space of glaciers and the polar ice caps and how they are shrinking are fascinating, even ominous. I am not qualified to evaluate it, but it makes me wonder. National Geographic magazine had an excellent depiction of what we might be doing to our atmosphere. They described the atmosphere like a bathtub. As we deposit greenhouse gases into the bathtub, it starts to fill. Of course nature has it's own ways of emptying the bathtub. Plants and trees in particular absorb and use many of these gases in a very natural way, thereby helping to empty the bathtub. The oceans absorb a lot also, just slower. The problem is that, by their analysis, the bathtub is filling faster than it is draining. What that means over the long term, I am not sure. Scientists will continue to argue over the implications. I just hope that with my scooter regularly getting over 70 mpg, that maybe I am helping a bit. My car gets good mileage, too. But the scooter gets about 3 times the mpg. What if more people rode motorcycles, scooters and, or bicycles to work? It's a big planet, 2/3 if it covered by water. Mother nature is extremely powerful on her own. Are we jeopardizing the atmosphere for future generations? I don't know. But some of what we do just doesn't seem right. With Spring just around the corner as the plants start to grow again, and the trees become filled with leaves, then maybe the atmosphere can get a little cleaner. I think Autumn is my favorite season for a number of reasons. But right now..... Spring is looking pretty damn good.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Shoes and Gear at the Office

I keep a spare pair of shoes at the office. This pair hasn't been home for over a year. I have a black pair just like them that are usually here too, just not today. The shoes stay here so I don't have to wear my boots all day. The boots go back and forth from home to office. The shoes stay at the office.
I keep a spare jacket at the office too. The gear jacket is cumbersome when I go out for lunch and people stare at it and ask questions. Not that I mind that.
My gear usually sits on one of my conference table chairs during the day. This time of year I have all the liners in my jacket. Just the windbreaker liner in my pants. My pants are one size larger than my jacket because I wear them over my office clothes. I rarely feel it necessary to wear the heavy liner in my pants. My legs never seem to get that cold. If my commute time was longer I might reconsider.
I often wear an LL Bean rain jacket over my gear just because it is such an excellent windbreaker. Plus, the jacket is red, my bike is blue, hence I ride in Jayhawk colors.
Do you ever consider the little routine things you do every time you ride? How about the helmet and gloves? Get the keys out. Open the top case. Get the helmet out. Set it on the seat. Take the eyeglasses off. Set them on the seat. Pick up helmet. Take the gloves out of the helmet where I usually stuff them. Open the visor. Put the helmet on. Fasten the chin strap. (Ever forgotten to do that?) Put the eyeglasses back on. Close the visor. Put on the gloves. Liners too if it's really cold. Move key from topcase to ignition. Ready to go. All routine. How about the gear? Don't you just love the sounds of Velcro? Sit down. Take off shoes. Stand up. Put the gear pants on. (Remember to zip) Sit back down. Put on the boots and lace them up. Stand back up. Put on jacket. Zip up inner liner. Zip up main jacket. Make sure cell phone in right pocket. Make sure extra keys in left pocket. Zip up both pockets. Put on windbreaker. Zip up again. More routine. Yeah, it takes a couple of moments to do all this. Not that long really. I have heard or read about a few of you expressing a mild dislike of the drudgery of putting on the gear. Maybe not a complaint as much as a mention that it does take a moment or two. It can get a bit old. I never go without the gear anymore. To me, there is always the chance that something might happen on the road that would make me very glad that I had it on. It's happened to me before. I refuse to complain about wearing gear. Like the Nike commercials, I say " Just do it". Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed