28 June 2010 – Closure and resurrected felines

I’ve never liked it when I’ve been put in situations where closure is in doubt. I define closure as being there to witness the end-state of something. It’s an important concept, particularly if you’re goal-driven. Let’s look at my careers to see if I achieve any semblance of closure.

1 – US Army – The Army offers me some closure, but it isn’t guaranteed. I was yanked out of my Iraq mission mid-stream and never achieved the closure I wanted with it, but many other missions reached fruition. Over my 18 year career, I’d say closure is hit and miss. Part of that is due to the transient nature of things. Also, many of the things I have done in the Army were a part of some bigger thing. I did my part, and moved onto the next task, often not knowing if what I did had any significance. Wearing the uniform is rewarding, but closure is fleeting

2 – Professor – Teaching is a perpetual deja-vu for me. I never get to see my finished products in action because students rarely contact me once they graduate.  Instead I get a fresh batch of students each semester, and do my best to prepare then without any feedback loop. The teaching is rewarding, but it would be nice to know if I’m making a difference.

3 – DT – DT has offfered the only real closure to me since I started the biz. I can tell when I make a Ducati run like new, and I usually contact customers to make sure they’re happy with the way the bike is running. That’s about as much closure as you can ask for. As far as the parts I sell, I do get the occasional kudo from customers for helping them solve their problems. I get more customers contacting me than ex-students, so I can’t complain in that arena.

4- Motojournalism – Not on your life. I write articles, most of which never get subscriber comments. Writing for magazines is nice, but it’s the worst at closure. I’ve learned to shrug it off. As long as the magazine doesn’t get complaints about my writing, I know it’s providing some value. People won’t necessarily write in when they like an article, but they sure will if they don’t like it.

So there you have it.  Of my 3.5 careers, the DT thing provides the most closure. Is it the most satisfying career? Nope, not by a mile. Is teaching? No. Again, I never get closure while teaching. It’s a deja-vu every semester with no closure. I dig teaching, but the most satisfaction has been the 18 years I’ve put into the Army. Sure there have been ton of wasted hours spent in uniform. Nobody can waste time like the military. But I’ve gotten more satisfaction out of that career overall than the other 2.5 careers.  So why am I not in uniform full-time? I love serving as a reservist. I think being able to pick and choose when I serve has made it a worthwhile career for me. I’m very glad that I never went active duty other than Mob or ADT/ADSW tours. This year marks the longest span that I’ve spent out of uniform. I burned all my active duty time for this fiscal year on 30 December last year. My clock resets in 3 months and the uniform goes back on.

Onto ailments again – I had a friend show another ortho surgeon my MRI pics and he hit the nail on the head. He explained my pain exactly, diagnosed the cause and told me what I can do. The first surgeon did none of that, merely saying to run until I couldn’t stand the pain and then think about surgery. It isn’t bothering me any more than it did in early Spring, but it will get worse. Most folks would just take care of it by not running, use the elliptical and enjoy life. I’m going down a different path, so I’ll probably have a different solution. I’m guessing that if I ask 10 surgeons for their opinion I’ll get 10 different responses. Gee, it’s kind of like troubleshooting a Duc.

Okay, the weird story of the year involves my outside cat Mr K. Mr K is a cool customer and loves all people and all things. Unfortunately, he also likes to run across the street, which as you know uses up those 9 lives fairly rapidly. Well, last week I walked out of the Ark heading to the house and spotted Mr. K walking towards me down the driveway. He was bathed in blood and was staggering. I ran up to him and picked him up. Before I could make it to the garage of the house he had stopped breathing and was gone. There was nothing I could do. He was evidently hit by a car and tried to make it back to the Ark. I was devastated. That made 6 cats I’ve lost in 2 years.  As I did with the others, I went to the little graveyard I have in the yard, dug a spot next to Mr Tubby and laid Mr K. to rest. I wrapped him in the bloody t-shirt I wore when carrying him to the house.  That isn’t the end of the story. The next day I decided to take the Boxster-S to Brad to get have him read the error codes. The tranny triggered a fault code and I needed to know what was wrong. I rarely go to the detached garage, but did so after my workout. When I opened the door and turned on the light, there was a cat sitting on the top of the Porsche. Mr K LOVED to sit on the cloth top of the Porsche. As soon as I saw the cat I did a double-take. It WAS Mr K. I swore at him for being on top of the Porsche (where he likes to shed his brown tabby hair on the black cloth of the car) than ran over to him and picked him up. How the hell could he have been alive? I thought I was going crazy, and wondered if I imagined the prevous day’s events. Mr K must have been locked in the detached garage since I last went in there for a piece of yard equipment –  3 days prior. I got him some food and water and immediately went to the burial mound for the cat I buried the day before. Did I imagine things?  I gently dug up the mount and found my bloody t-shirt and the cat inside it. The cat was the same size and shape as Mr K, but was more orange in color than Mr K. I mistakenly identifed the cat as Mr K due all the blood and the heat of the moment. I recovered the hapless cat back with dirt and got my wits about me. When I first opened my garage door and saw Mr K I thought I was on an episode of Twilight Zone or a Stephen King movie. Very weird. Anyway, I asked around if anybody had lost a cat but nobody had lost an orange tabby. What a shame for him and good fortune for Mr K.  That tops my weird story list for this year.

I had a pleasant get-together at the casa yesterday. Mark & Shelly, Tyler and few gal friends of mine came over to make it a fun event.

I’m getting out of dodge the next few weekends. Finding cool weather is tough this time of year. I’d settle for weather where my sunglasses don’t instantly fog when I walk outside at 6 AM.

TTYL – LT

25.5 June 2010 – The Beach is Ruined

I went for my usual walk on the beach. I made it a whole 20 minutes before I gave up from the smell. The surf had a sheen of oil, the air reeked of it ,the sand was tinged red from it and there were tar balls everywhere. The contract-hire teams were set up under awnings to clean up. They work 15 minutes on and 45 minutes off.  They have to wear long sleeve shirts and pants, so the work schedule is to protect them in the heat. They’re getting paid $10/hour.  There are hundreds of them. You can see several of the awnings to the left in the picture. Also note the bags of debris they’ve picked up and the line of tar to the right of the picture.  The tar balls are everywhere. There was a fleet of bucket dozers standing by. I don’t know what good they’ll do. With the leak continuuing, I don’t see the point in cleaning up. I won’t be going back to the beach for awhile. Very depressing stuff.

25 June 2010 – Black Beaches and Bikes not in my future

I got off my ass and created the shell of the Desmo Times Fan page on Facebook. Just search for Desmo Times and request to join. It’s linked to the twitter feeds. Maybe it will get enough content to make it worth a damn.

I’m heading to the beach this afternoon to check out the damage. There’s a stretch I like to walk to unwind. I’m hoping that it too isn’t polluted. I didn’t think my post from several days ago would result in the comments about the oil industry, but it obviously struck a nerve. I’ve been a fan of $10/gallon for years. The only way to break the addiction is to make it hurt to get a fix. Our society would shut down without petroleum. It’s in everything we use on a daily basis. I hate to be a fatalist, but I think we’re screwed. The oil has peaked, our ground water is being depleted, it’s getting hotter, and… worst of all, motorcycles are getting too complex.

As a segway from that last sentence, I spoke to a friend, bemoaning the problems in dealing with the leanness on injected bikes ever since O2 sensors showed up. It’s getting worse. Here’s the latest for you. Ducati is requiring dealers to purchase a bevy of new tools to deal with the new Multistrada 1200. Add to that the expense of sending a technician off to school for a week, then the hard sell for the dealership in selling a bike that has 6 ECUs. That’s right 6 ECUs.  I’m hear to tell you that the owner of Desmo Times says “no mas” to that. It takes the aftermarket years to figure out fixes to design issues. How long do you think it will take to ferret out the problems for a bike with 6 ECUs? How about never?  I’m close to putting up on main website the byline that Desmo Times supports Ducatis from 1991-2010, not inclusive of the D-16 or the MTS1200. There’s only so much I can do to keep up, and the engineer geeks are adding electrical wizardry faster than I can cope with. Add to that a new brand of ECU and I’m throwing in the towel. I think dealing with 20 year’s worth of Ducatis will keep me busy for a long time. I pity the dealers for having to deal with the new stuff.  IMHO the last thing factories need to do in a severe recession is to cajole and screw with their dealers. Without good dealers they’re toast. Some factories view dealers as a necessary evil, making it seem like they’re doing the dealership a favor by letting them sell motorcycles. Give me a break.  A lot of people think dealers are the devil. If dealers are the devil, factories are the antichrist.

I got the go-ahead to do the 41mm FCR conversion to Seth’s M900. Ah, there is justice in the world when I get to retire another set of old Mikuni carburetors. I’m thinking of making some piece of modern art with the old ones I have and then hang it on the wall.

I’m going to have to wheel the 916 into the workshop, park it next to  the half-torn apart 748 and figure out how to tuck all the wires in the front end of the bike where they should be. Thank God I have a model of how they SHOULD be. The 916 has everything tucked where it should. Things got weird on the 718 when I did the conversion to track form and shitcanned all the extra stuff, including left controls, light harness, etc. That was 6 years ago. I’ll figure it out. I’ll probably do that this week while awaiting the Keihins for Seth’s bike. I also have a host of mods to do to the 748, not the least of which is adding an oil cooler. That 853 kit that I put in last year is going to pump up the heat. Even when the 748 is streetable, I won’t be happy. I half-assed it. The frame didn’t get painted and I’m not about to put in the solo tail wiring harness in order to change out the biposto subframe with the aluminum mono subframe I have on the shelf.  I’ll do a proper upgrade in the distant future. The 853 is going to be my mule for commuting when it cools off. The Chinese vintage  Bayliss Rep bodywork awaits, but I have a ton of fitment issues with the tail section. God knows what mold the Chinese used, because the tail is FUBAR!

Enjoy your weekend folks.

TTYL – LT

23 June 2010 – The airbox doesn’t fit? Where’s my saw?

On Mike’s SS I decided to purchase the full Sudco 41mm setup, which comes with complete instructions. Unfortunately, they were crap. The stock airbox doesn’t fit with the keihins, no matter what you try. That’s why I went with pod filters on my SS and M900 years ago. I thought I’d give their kit a try though. Of course, if their kit included the throttle tube to go with the throttle cables in the kit, it would have been nice. Anyway, since nobody makes battery boxes for the old SS and Monsters any more, I had to dig out the reciprocating saw and lop off the entire front two-thirds of the airbox. Man, I love using power tools. The nice thing about the 41mm keinins is they are plug and play. No more jetting changes, no more fussing the the stock airbox. It’s all just so nice… and pricey. $950 for the mod. It probably gives and extra 5 ponies in terms of performance, along with hair-trigger throttle response. They’re pretty awesome.

When upgrading Mike’s clutch, I ran into a common problem – a frozen/rusted spring bolt. I don’t know what I’d do without my dremel tool. It only takes a minute to slot the head of the bolt and then use an impact driver to pop it loose. 

Above – A common sight – a rusted clutch pack,basket,bolts and keepers.

…And a stuck bolt just to make things interesting.

Money talks, doesn’t it?

I have to do my test rides first thing in the morning or after the sun goes down. It’s just too freaking hot. Dink, I don’t know how you test-riding customer bikes in this heat, but you’re a better man than me. Frack….

I want out to dinner with Tyler last night. Tyler is in town working for a contractor that landed the BP business for cleaning up the beach. Tyler is a supervisor, with a territory from the Alabama line all the way to Destin. He’s got hundreds of beach sweepers working for him. They get paid $10 an hour to clean the beach. The kicker is that due to the heat, they work 15 minutes and get a 45 minute break. Now THAT”s my kind of job. Tyler’s been pulling some long hours helping set everything up. It looks like it will be semi-permanent thing. As long as the well keeps spewing oil, he has job security. Damn.

FLASH UPDATE: A friend just texted me this AM that the tar balls have now hit Pensacola Beach. Our beaches were so gorgeous. Goddam oil companies, or should I merely curse our dependance on petroleum?

I’m awaiting Seth’s go ahead to do a 41mm Keihin upgrade to his bike. In the meantime, I may actually open up the 2v book files for a look see. I haven’t opened them up in several months.

I return to the classroom tomorrow. I’ve got full classes this summer and all the way through the fall. I guess business is good at the University. I’m already scheming how I can do my 2-aday workouts several days a week while teaching. The summer term is a quickie. 6 weeks and out. I’ll be here for every class.  I have a lot of traveling looming for the fall term. It should be interesting.

TTYL – LT

19 June 2010 – Walking Wounded

Back to the beginning – The Ark returns to eye candy mode. The bikes are back in.

I took a much-needed break from the gym yesterday to rest my poor muscles.  I have a little bit of tendonities in my right forearm and a slight pull in my right deltoid. It’s no biggie. By this point in my life I’m used to dealing with aches and pains, so I’ll use this post to chronicle my maladies. Since my “personal” posts by far get more comments, I think this will provoke responses.

1. bad neck on left side – football injury as a kid created a slight curvature in my neck. Shoulder shrugs iritate it, as well as looking down for extended periods or having to deal with annoying people.

2. bad right hamstring – Army related from repeatedly pulling the hamstring and having to keep running on it during my Officer Cadet days in my 20s.

3. Bad big toe on left foot – Sports related. Jammed it bad playing baseball and never had it looked at. Probably pre-arthritic but it doesn’t keep me from doing anything.

4. Left knee tweaked – Army related from years of running. Still good to go for running, but long term it will have to be scoped.

5. Left eye – Army related. This is my biggie. I was conducting the Tank Commander engagement on a night gunnery table in my M1A1 at Eglin AFB. Through the rest of the day engagement and the preceding night engagements my crew score was perfect. The last engagement was a 3-man crew exercise to simulate being shorthanded. I can fire the main gun from the commanders hatch with a joystick in my right hand. I did it by the book. The target popped up, I spotted it quickly in my thermal sight and called my fire command. The loader loaded a 120mm Sabot round, and the driver moved the tank up into a firing position. Unfortunately this wasn’t my regular driver and he was awful on the brakes. Instead of bringing the tank to a smooth stop he jammed on the brakes and caused the tank to lurch to a sudden stop. Meanwhile I had my eye glued to my sights. When he jammed on the brakes the brow pad of my sight broke. The brow bad prevents your eye from jamming into the sight. Well, my left eye jammed into the sight. I saw stars and was immediately incapacitated, falling to the floor of the turret. I couldn’t complete the engagement because I didn’t have a gunner due to the 3-man crew. There went my perfect score. They evaced me to the Eglin hospital and gave me a ride home the next day. I couldn’t see out of my left eye for a few days because of all the tearing. To this day that eye, or more specifically the eyelid, gives me problems. The incident wasn’t written up as a Line of Duty incident, so I’m on my own as far as the military is concerned. All I remember is that I missed out on a perfect gunnery table because of that mishap. My driver felt awful, so I didn’t give him a hard time. The TC engagement was always my favorite. Laying the gun tube onto a target a mile out and tracking it with a joystick is a blast. Feeling the concussion from a simple squeeze from index finger, feeling the air get sucked out of my lungs as the gun tube recoils 18 inches next to my left arm and seeing the dart of the sabot dart streak towards the target pretty much beats anything I’ve done before or since. That’s why pistol and rifle ranges are no big deal to me. Once you’ve fired big caliber stuff, small arms is for pussies. No offense.

None of the above keeps me from doing anything, but I have to pick my fights more carefully. So let’s hear your walking wounded stories…. after I knock out some DT news of course.

I created the ad for the +1″ billet sidestands and will put it up later next week. I only have two of the stands from my supplier and the rest should be back from anodizing in a few weeks. I also rolled out a fender eliminator for the Streetfighter. I only have 3 of the ST4S hose kits remaining. I can’t borrow the hoses from anybody’s ST2. When the company makes a prototype set they literally carve up the stock hoses. I’m not going to take a customer’s stock hoses for 6 weeks and return them to him in shread. The ST4S hose kits didn’t exactly fly off the shelves, so I’m leary about pumping out the thousands necessary to do another variant for the ST2. We’ll see.

The 900ss in my shop is now awaiting a $20 part. The 41mm FCR kit I got was missing the throttle tube. It’s kind of hard to use racing carburetors without a throttle. Damn. I think this marks the longest any one bike has ever sat in my shop.

The Ark is completely redone on the inside. More bikes went in, both workstations were collapsed into one. and it looks more like the Ark of old. I like it a lot.

The 853 is in the workshop to get converted to street trim. I had already torn off all the bodywork and front end last winter. Now I have to remember how it goes back together for the street. It’s been 6 years since it had a headlight bucket. We’ll see how that goes.

The house is mostly repainted and redecorated. I don’t think I’ll keep all the bikes in there. Maybe one or two, but I’m over the whole cool aspect of being able to put bikes in the house. I think if I had a bigger house it would look better, but then my dream house of a 60×60 steel building with a house built into it as a loft overlooking all the boy toys isn’t going to happen. That’s probably a good thing. I’m weird enough.

Dave emailed from MCN that he’s finally going to run my motorcycle collection article a full 2 years after I submitted it. He thought the story was fantastic. I wish he would have read it when I submitted it. The end of the article warns about the dangers of focusing on material things at the expense of a relationship. Gee, I was a bit prescient about that.

Okay, let’s hear about your battle damage.

I just fired up a little Quadrophenia from The Who. If that album doesn’t get your blood pumping you’re dead. Keith Moon was such an incredible drummer.  Time to hit the gym and get pumped. Enjoy your weekend.

TTYL – LT

16 June 2010 – Southwest Tour Recap

What a beautiful view. These kind of vistas greeted us for 3 days. It truly is God’s country.

Just a few quick notes on the ride 2 weeks ago. It’s been awhile since I tested sport-tourers, so I was looking forward to testing the FJR, Concours and VFR. We also tested the R1200GS, but that wasn’t in the comparison with the other three. We didn’t do any long days, but they always seem that way. Each fuel stop is a 30 minute affair because all 4 bikes have to be pulled up to the same pump. Then we have to take the readings from the odometer, tripmeter and record the fuel consumed. None of the guys like to get an early start, so it’s rare to have 100 miles knocked out by noon. That makes for a long day. This time though we had an extra day of testing, so the days really were short. We never rode past 6 or 7 at night. Riding up into Utah again was the highlight, as well as the Grand Canyon. We also took some new roads in CA on our way back over the hill to the coast. Unfortunately, Scott bounced the FJR on Day 4, and screwed it up. He mushroomed the right bar end with the throttle, snapped off the right rider footpeg and bent the right clip on. The bike was out of sorts after that. I didn’t include that episode in my writeup. Scott passed Dave on a mountain road and lost the front end immediately after passing Dave. Donnie and I never saw it. We checked out as soon as we hit the twisties.

How many motojournalists does it take to saw the end of a throttle tube? The answer is 3, plus a herd of Mexicans sitting on benches in the background. I wonder what they were thinking of our escapades?

I can’t spoil the test results because the magazine goes to press next week, but we weren’t really surprised with anything. The Honda was a non-player, and the FJR is a bit long in the tooth for a redesign. The GS was stellar. The new radial-valved head has a lot more low end torque, and they opened up the exhaust sound a lot. It sounded great! The Connie-14 was magnificent, although it wasn’t without fault either. Read next month’s MCN for the 12 page spread.

Okay, apology time. While we were up at the snowline on Big Bear Mountain in CA I got a terse email on my phone from Christian at Speedymoto. Somebody sent him the link to the post I made last month when I blasted them for being late with a shipment. He got the link while on vacation, and I’m sure it spoiled his fun for a bit. Just like getting that email from him while I was on vacation (of sorts) raised my blood pressure. A big apology to Speedymoto. Christian tries as hard as anybody to fill orders, so he didn’t need the salvo from me. And I would be better served keeping my gripes anonymous.. that is unless I want to burn bridges with suppliers.

I finished my 5K last weekend in 23 flat. I was 2nd in my age bracket, but big deal. The front-runners checked out from me after mile 1. It was so freaking hot I thought I’d explode. The knee held up fine. 2nd in my age bracket was cool, but that’s like placing in the special olympics.. and I’m still a retard. I’ve had no luck finding a workout partner for my 0600 workouts. Even the ROTC guys aren’t that motivated. Other than bench press and a few other exercises I don’t need a spotter, but a partner for motivation would be nice.

Now that the article for MCN is done, I can concentrate on the biz. This week it’s finish up the SS and clean up the shop for the 748 conversion back to street trim. I also have to take an online defensive driving course for prevent points to my license, but that’s another story for another day. Love those AZ state troopers.

I’ve had a few nibbles on my bikes for sale, but no takers yet. Money talks, and xxxxx walks.

TTYL – LT

14 June 2010 – Just another 999

 

This is the view for almost 2 months while I did a full service and waited for the bodywork.

After 2 months of waiting on parts and painters, I finished the conversion of Greg’s 999 on Friday. He was so excited he got a drive over from Fairhope to pick it up. We call Greg “sticker boy” because he loves race replica graphics. His Fila Yellow replica was in need of a serious makeover with various scratches and scuffs.  


It took hours to strip off the old fasteners and put the new bodywork together. Of course, a dremel was my savior. NO aftermarket bodywork fits as planned.

I found a company that made the 1098 Bayliss replica livery for the ’03-’04 999 bodywork style.  We waited on the bodywork for a full month. In the meantime I performed a full service and valve adjustment. It took a full day to do the bodywork fitment and then come up with a paint scheme for the tank that accented things. It turned out great, and Greg loves it. Another successful conversion.

 

The finished product. Yeah, Desmo Times can still cook up a Ducati! Ain’t she perty?

See, I can still manage to post motorcycle-related content on my blog from time to time.

TTYL – LT

6 June 2010 – Happy D-Day

Another year and another D-Day. Nothing new to report.

The ST4S hose kits are under construction and will start shipping tomorrow. I think that working 2 hours a day will keep DT ship-shape. I’m a bit faster than she was, but I tend to make some errors. She NEVER made order errors. She was a phenom in that area. Actually, she ran DT so smooth at the end that I rarely had to answer a question. I’ll try to knock out the DT stuff early in the morning after my workouts.

I have a full week – Finish the MCN Article, Finish the 2 bikes in the shop, get all the orders out, send my incoming students a message to welcome them to the upcoming classes, and contact the local CA Unit about switching my new military home back to Pcola. God I wish there was Armor close by. I’d love to finish up back in Combat Arms. That damn inverted pyramid of rank in Combat Arms is a killer tough, with no room for a senior CA Major. If Alabama still had tanks, I’d be a Battalion XO by now. I miss gunnery so bad I could scream. I’ve got exactly 2 years left on my Major clock.  I dread getting the mandatory lobatomy when I hit LTC.

TTYL – LT

2 June 2010 – ST4/4S Hose Kits

The long-promised hose kits shipped to me yesterday. I should have them out by this time next week. Talk about a long wait. In all, it took almost 3 months. I owe you guys a wrap-up of my ride out West, but other stuff that is brewing is distracting me.

TTYL – LT