30 August 2008 – Heading Home

After a final morning of classes, an afternoon graduation ceremony and a lot of packing, I’m ready to head out early tomorrow. Destination – Bluto’s in Birmingham – 900 miles away. I have a watchful eye on Hurricane Gustav. If it makes a jog to the West all we’ll get is a breeze. If it continues as projected we’ll get some rain. If it jogs to the East, we’re screwed. I’m so sick of coming home to hurricanes in Sept. Bad month all around.

MotoGP and AMA this weekend. I’ll miss both. My attention is in the Gulf and getting home anyway. I’m glad Monday is a holiday. I have 75 orders in my inbox to process before Tuesday. I’ll be incognito when I get to Pcola until they’re filled. Guess what? I have another 2 weeks of Army duty the beginning of Oct. I know, selfless service, honor, integrity.. and the soldier’s creed. I’ll quit bitching about self-inflicted wounds. Waah….

29 August 2008 – Where’s my f-ing tree?

Several weeks ago when I visited my home town, another one of my rare tirades materialized. Let me start at the beginning. My family moved from Philly to the suburbs in 1968. My parents paid $7000 for a house on a small thumbsized parcel of land. The house was really a row home, but with an attached neighbor on only one side. When you’re a kid you think everything as big so I thought the house was fine, but by the time I went off to college I hated the house. It was small, and signalled being poor both in terms of how it looked and felt. Anyway, when I was 9 I planted several trees, one of which was a small pine tree in our 25’x25′ front yard. By the time I was in high school, the tree was 15 feet high. By the time I finished my PhD, it was 35 feet high. My Mom lived in that house for 39 years, and cried when she left. When she left, that tree was a mighty 50 feet high.  The one constant through the years for me was my pine tree. It signalled continuity and the growth of my own life.

So, two weeks ago when I visited my Mother, I decided to go for a run, and ventured by my old street. As I ran by my old house, something was amiss. The house looked the same, but there was something missing. I stopped dead in my tracks in front of the house. A guy in his thirties was sitting on the porch of the house reading a newspaper. I could see him reading the newspaper. The problem was that I shouldn’t have been able to see him read the newspaper. I shouldn’t have been able to see him at all. My tree was gone. The only thing that signalled its 37 year life was a few bits of sawdust and a fresh stump with sap bubbling out of it. “Where’s my f-ing tree?”, I blurted out. “Excuse me?” he said. “I said, where’s my f-ing tree that I planted in 1969, right where this stump is?”. The man was taken aback and defensively replied “It was obstructing the view of the front of the house so we cut it down”. Still on my game, I then blurted out “Look, the house was a sh-thole in 1968, and still is, but at least I had a f-ing tree that I could watch grow from a sappling to an adult. You know that 50 foot poplar tree in the back yard? I planted that too. If I come back and see that tree gone next year, I’ll call Greenpeace and tell them you drive a Hummer, have the largest Carbon footprint in the state, hunt whales and baby deer, and like to play Paul Bunyon to any tree you see. Then I’ll let the air out of your car tires and sh-t in your back yard. Don’t touch another f-ing tree that I planted”. The guy sat there in stunned silence as I continued my run. Imagine the nerve of him to cut down MY tree.  It’s rare that I get a chance to speak what’s on my mind in public, but I had no control of my mouth that day. Honest. PTSD? What’s that? Hmm, I wonder if he knows any Ducati owners? Hope not.

28 August 2008 – NYC

Today’s trip to NYC was great. First, if you want to get treated right there, wear a military uniform. We must have had our picture taken a hundred times with passers by, including tourists from overseas and locals. We were given a nice tour of the WTC site because we were in uniform as well. Other than the other side of the subway, the excavation is complete. A huge mural hangs on one of the adjoining buildings of what the new WTC will look like. It will be spectacular. To see the scale of the build is mind-boggling. Bigger than any construction project I’ve ever witnessed. We also went to the stock exchange, saw lady liberty, battery park, times square. and few other local sights. I like NYC. A boatload of people, and a boatload to do.

I only saw 2 motorcycles in NYC, a 1000ss and an S4RS. Fitting sights in a fitting city.

27 August 2008 – Spiraling Away from Ducati

I’m about as far from thinking about Ducatis as I have since being overseas. Today we discussed the configuration of the National Security Council and other legislative arms in Washington during the morning session and then more dimensions of Leadership in the afternoon. Tomorrow we head to Ground Zero and then write a brief on the strategies and objectives of Al-Qaeda.  Nowhere in any of this discussion is there any wiggle room to discuss Ducati’s or motorcycles. No time to swing by Ducati Manhatten tomorrow either. Damn…  I do have a funny Ducati story though. It occured the day I arrived in PA to stay with my Mom for a visit.  In the middle of the day I decided to head to the local car wash to get rid of 1300 miles worth of bugs on the Prius. As I washed the car, a guy came up to me and asked me if I owned a Ducati. I remembered that I was wearing one of my Desmo Times T-shirts. I smiled and said that I did indeed own a Ducati. The guy then proceeded to tell me that he had a Monster and learned to do the wrenching on it from a manual written by Desmo Times. I smiled again and told him so did I.  He didn’t ask where I was from, and I didn’t tell. I shook hands with him and wished him well. I’m incognito and loving it. Winning the Long War (new term for the GWOT) one customer at a time.

26 August 2008 – The Fog of War

Today we had a lively discussion on different political viewpoints and the buttons that those views pushed in terms of policies. Interesting stuff. We finished the day seeing the movie “Fog of War”, a movie I had with me that is a documentary style movie on the life and times of Robert McNamara, Secdef during Kennedy and Johnson, and then head of the World Bank. Interesting but depressing stuff.

Today we planned a trip to Ground Zero in NYC on Wed. I’m looking forward to it. I haven’t been to NYC in… forever, and I heard the tour of the site is good. I don’t have a desire to relive 9/11, but it’s part of history now and we’re using it to discuss some political topics. I can remember the exact place I was on 9/11 though. I had just finished giving my OPFOR brief as S2 of my Armor Battalion at a training exercise in Simnet at Ft Knox KY. I saw a TV in the corner of the room and soldiers begin to gather around. I wandered over as the scene unfolded. We halted our exercise and stood in stunned disbelief. Within 2 months I had transferred to a specialty that would give me a greater chance to be involved in the coming war. It worked.

Enjoy your Tue.

25 August 2008 – Fitness and Filly

Today started off with the usual – 50 situps, 50 front crunches, 50 side crunches, 75 pushups and a fun run of 6 miles. The 6 miles isn’t a usual thing, but I had the time today. Ft Dix rocks. Serene, empty, good roads, and plenty of relaxing places to run. Actually, I’m impressed with the whole area around the post, including the many little towns.

The run pretty much wiped me out for the remainder of the morning. A few of the guys decided to make a tourist trip to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. I passed on the opportunity. I didn’t have many good memories from living on the outskirts of Philly as a kid. Instead, I grabbed a book and the new issue of Motorcyclist and relaxed. Yes, I actually sat down for more than a minute. Take me away from my property and I’m left with no projects. No eyeing the clock to see how much I can get done. No stress. That doesn’t mean I can’t be somewhat productive though. I’ve been meaning to write an article for MCN on fitness, so I outlined the article and wrote the intro. I should have it finished by the time I leave here, then take the pictures for it in the next few weeks.  In the midst of my relaxation, the guys that went to Philly knocked on my door. After spending a few minutes in Philly, they returned disgusted. They said it was the dirtiest city they’ve ever seen and that Independence Hall was nasty. This from 3 combat veterans. It’s a shame they had to see that, but I’m glad that I didn’t have endure the same. If I want to see a shithole, there are plenty of them around where I live.

I didn’t see anything of note in the latest Motorcyclist. Bike of the year went to the Kawi Versys. Neat bike BTW. There was also a good review of the Bimota DB7. Nice bike, but for 40K it better stand up and whisle Dixie. I blasted through the rest of the issue in 10 minutes.

Back to reading US Strategic Policy for tomorrow’s classes….

Enjoy your Mon.

23 August 2008 – Time Enough to Wrench

Although it seems most riders are familiar with the Ducati reputation for being maintenance intensive, my books probably scare off a lot of owners from doing their own maintenance. The time and energy required to do a full service on a Duc can be daunting. While 2-valvers aren’t nearly as bad, 3/4 valvers take considerably more time and energy.  Often the time requirements can seem insurmountable. The saying goes that time is money. The older we get, the former tends to go down while the latter goes up. I relate it all to the fun-meter. When we’re young, we have time and patience enough to experiment and do our own wrenching. As we get older, time become more scarce and our patience thresholds go down. My own fun-meter pegs out at a lower number than it did 10 years ago. It takes me almost 2 full days to do a full service on a Duc. That means taking my time and doing it right. It doesn’t include the time needed to then time-test the bike for leaks and other problems. If I was to work on a bike a bit at a time, the time required would balloon up to several weeks. And every minute spent on the bike comes at the expense of other things – time with the family, working out, riding, reading a book, relaxing, working, etc. So, owners have the option of trusting someone else to do it for them, or to tackle it themselves. I can think of a million things I’d rather do in my spare time than wrench on a bike, so I completely understand people who either pay a technician to do it for them or decide to stay away from Ducatis.  Can wrenching be enjoyable? You bet, but only if you have the time and patience (and tooling) required to do it right. One mistake, and you’ll be wishing you paid somebody else. Of course, the reward of the sound we hopefully get when we touch the starter button on a Duc often sways owners that it’s all worth it.

22 August 2008 – Halfway There

I turned in my mid-term assignments today, and Phase I is now 50% dead. I’ve got a group exercise tomorrow morning, then the rest of the weekend off. The weather has been spectacular — low 80s all week with no humidity. We’ve got a mixer tonight for all of us at the O-club. I’m running a 10K both tomorrow and Sunday for kicks. I’m glad I’m here after seeing the weather forecasts in Pcola. Yuck!

By this time of the year, most manufacturers have usually signed their riders for next year. That isn’t the case right now. There are a lot of weird things going on. First, the AMA is so screwed up that manufacturers are indicating they’ll either start their own series or pull out. As a result, US AMA riders are looking for European rides next year. Second, the cost of MotoGP has gotten so cost-prohibitive that the grid is small. This makes for great racing, but is bad if your a 2nd tier rider looking to break into the #1 series. Ben Spies probably won’t have a MotoGP ride next year. This after winning AMA last year (and probably this year due to a non-spec crank on Mladin’s bike). I’d rather see 1 good series than 2 bad ones, so I don’t lament any AMA shakeup. Superstock and FX need to go away. I’d like to see a 250 or 550 single entry class, 600, and superbike… That’s it… With a 3 second rule. If you don’t qualify within 3 seconds of the leader, you don’t race. That would eliminate 1/3 of the AMA superbike grid. In MotoGP, we know that Melandri is off the Ducati squad, having signed with Kawasaki for next year. Who will Casey have as a teammate? Will it be Nicky? One of the other Ducati testers? We’ll see. And in WSB. Will Fabrizio get another year? Who will Ducati choose in the succession from Fogerty to Bayliss. Tall shoes to fill.

Nothing else to report. I’m 1200 miles from my motorcycles, and thinking on a different plane, wondering how I’m going to pull off the 3 career thing again next year. Maybe Mark can post a more exciting motorcycle-related DD.  

21 August 2008 – The Tile

There is 2500 pounds worth of fine Italian tile sitting in the workshop awaiting installation when I get back. I’m dreading it. Installing tile is about as much fun as getting a root canal, only it takes much longer to cut and lay tile, and it costs a lot more. The tile has been sitting there for a few weeks now, clogging up the workshop. Supposedly I’ll install it when I get back, but I’ve got to tell you I’m not very motivated. I’ll do it only because I’m cheap and I do better tile work than most tile outfits. Go figure.

I woke up this morning with a huge zit on the side of my nose. Question – how old do you have to be before zits are a thing of the past? I’m 46 and still get a few every year. Can’t blame it on diet. I haven’t had anything other than water in months and am eating well. It must be the stress from the impending tile work.

I spent the day with my classmates. Awesome group of guys/Majors. There is so much similarity in values between us that it’s scary. It’s a shame that I won’t ever see them again. It’s a big Army and we’re all heading in different directions. Still, a great group of guys. America’s finest Sons.

I sent an email today to preregister for Phase II of this course — 8 months of one-weekend-each-month. It looks like I’ll be driving to Montgomery or Birmingham for that. After Phase II I’ll be able to sign up for Phase III back here late next year. Then it will be off to the maneuver portion called AOWC.  Then I’ll be academically qualified… and burnt out. Two weeks in Oct, a weekend from Oct – May, in addition to 5 weeks of normal duty next year + 2 weeks next fall for the schooling. Moral of the story — the next time you hear of a boss giving a reservist a hard time because he’s missing a lot of work, try to tell him what the reservist is sacrificing. I just hung out with one such guy – my classmate. Lost his job after the last deployment — his third to Iraq. He’s heading back again in a month for another year. Marital problems, financial problems, but he’s still proud to serve and is the kind of guy you want wearing a US Army uniform.

Enjoy your Fr.

20 August 2008 – Personality Tests

Today I took a bunch of personality profile tests to assess my leadership tendencies. I’ve taken most of them before, but never from a leadership/military. The rest of the day was spent discussing my individual development plan with one of the instructors. The IDP is a short to long range plan for your life and includes my military career, non-military career, and personal goals. I filled up the damn sheet, but I tried to plan in a gentle down-slope in activity as I factored in the push into my 50s. It will be interesting to see how much I stick to the plan over the coming years. In the plan, I spelled out long term to be able to hand off DT to somebody else by the time I’m 55, have my bike collection scaled back a few each year for the next few years, and focus more on happiness than material possession. Don’t ask me which bikes will get for sale stickers, because I don’t know and they won’t go cheap. Every one is custom and maintained by my own 2 hands. I’d rather give them to a museum than give them away for cheap. That rules you out Mark.  The fact that I have NO patience with buyer questions will make the process more painful.  Sound like a mid-life crisis? Can’t be because I’m already more than half-dead. More than half-dead crisis? Perhaps. What brought it on? 14 bikes sitting under tarps with battery tenders flashing. I’ll never leave biking, but a few bikes may leave me.  Now don’t get all worried that DT will go away. I’m very passionate about my business. While cooling my jets up here in NJ I’ve had time to think about my careers and how long I see myself in each of them. DT is my baby, born and bred from a lot of hard work. It won’t go gracefully into that dark night, and, hopefully, neither will I.

Enjoy your TH.