You Just Think You Know How to Fill a Tank

For day 2 I rode around Redwood Shores — great place to practice shifting, as there are few cars and a LOT of stop signs — Belmont and Emerald Hills.

I learned first-hand how motorcycles are invisible (they are, even when a driver makes eye contact with you). Not by a near miss, but by being passed by another biker whom I did not see behind me, despite frequent mirror checks. Interestingly, he didn’t do the secret wave as he went by. Then again, he was weaving among cars, splitting lanes, etc. Clearly a moral degenerate :).

I also set a new personal speed record, hitting 45 mph on one stretch. Not that I’m trying to set records — believe me, 25 mph on a bike feels very fast! — but because that was the speed limit, and it was the speed at which the traffic was moving. And if you’re going to ride roads, you have to be able to keep up with the flow.

The gyroscopic balancing effect of the spinning tires was much more pronounced at higher speeds, making the bike more stable. But it also became more resistant to turns, requiring “formal” countersteering rather than just leaning.

Unfortunately, I also picked up a shard of rock on my rear tire which is going to have to be repaired. The tire’s not leaking, or if it is it’s doing so very slowly. But it’s not safe to ride with a tire that may go out on you. I have no desire to practice the emergency procedures they taught us in the Basic Skills class.

One truly comic moment from today’s ride: Having run the gas tank down to about 1/4 full (I left the dealership yesterday with half a tank) I wanted to fill up before going home. No big deal, right? I’ve filled gas tanks on cars thousands of times.

Only it turns out motorcycle gas tanks are different. You can’t stick the nozzle in particularly far. Certainly nowhere near as far as you can with a car.

Which is a problem in any state, like California, which requires vapor recovery systems at gas stations.

After a few frustrating minutes I gave up and rode home. A quick goggle search showed that the easiest solution is to pull back the vapor recovery sheath — which normally happens automatically when you press the nozzle into your car’s filling tube — by hand. Simple, but not obvious.

A Long Sought Dream Realized

Today I took my new Honda CB500X for a spin.

Actually, no spinning was done. Nor any falling or slipping, for that matter. There was a bit of chugging/lugging on a few hills — have to relearn how to deal with a manual transmission on steep hills — and a little bit of tipping at one point. But that’s all.

Which is a good thing.

Overall the experience was a blast! I can’t wait to get back out on the road again (weather permitting; rain is a big turnoff). Turns out that 25 miles per hour on a bike feels much faster than 25 miles an hour in a car. More like doing 50 or more behind the wheel.

There were a few funny moments during the 20 miles I put on the bike today. As I drove off on my test ride I realized I’d never used the turn signals on a bike before. All the signals on the training bikes at the course I took were broken. I had no idea how to cancel a turn signal after making a turn (they don’t automatically cancel like in a car). Do you just slide the switch back? No, that just signals for a turn in the opposite direction! I’m sure I confused the drivers behind me: he’s going right…no, he’s going left…no, he’s going right again!

It turns out to be pretty simple: just press the signal switch in. That cuts off the current signal.

I wonder what I’ll learn next?

Sox (1999 – 2014)

The cycle of life took another turn today. We had to put down Sox, one of our two kitties, because she had gotten into bad shape, and was suffering. Actually, considering she was 15 years old, give or take, she wasn’t in that bad shape. But fifteen is pushing it for cats.

Besides, Sox was a fighter, and I’m sure she wouldn’t have wanted to go out totally enfeebled. She always reminded me of a line from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, about Batman coming out of retirement: surely the fiercest survivor, the purest warrior. She started out life as a stray and had to be re-adopted, by us, because her first family developed an allergy to cats.

Shortly after Sox joined our family Caroline came up to me while I was getting dressed for work and said “Daddy, there’s a dead baby fawn outside our side door.” To which I responded, “Right, Caroline, of course there is”.

But when I went downstairs — holy !#$!$#!!! — there really was a dead baby fawn on the side deck. And Sox, looking very prideful. Now I doubt she killed the fawn. Even as a newborn it was bigger and heavier than she was. But I have no doubt she dragged it from wherever she found it up onto the deck to share with us. She had that kind of determination.

She was also the only cat I’ve lived with which my neighbors used to greet when she trotted after us on walks. Why? Because she apparently hunted down and killed every gopher in the area.

But she was friendly and outgoing and cuddly and loved to play, too. Her reflexes were blindingly fast, as I experienced, painfully, on several occasions while teasing her with a string or cat toy. But if you respected her, she would respect you, and sit purring in your lap for hours.

We miss her.

In Praise of the Sky

We’ve really been enjoying living in our rental property adjacent to where our new home is being built. As I’ve written about before, we love having a back yard again! It was something our prior San Carlos home, built into a hill, didn’t have.

Today I realized it’s not just the backyard which is so wonderful. Or rather, there’s an aspect to having a backyard which isn’t part of the yard per se, but is definitely part of the experience.

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It’s Not a Pejorative

Recently my brother Art confessed to being a dinosaur because he dislikes web video snippets which would work much better as an article (I share the  same feeling).

But that got me to thinking: why is being a dinosaur a bad thing?

Sure, they’re extinct. But:

  • They ruled the Earth for hundreds of millions of years.
  • They supplanted early mammals, or at least mammal-like creatures, and kept them suppressed for eons.
  • It took a giant 10 kilometer diameter asteroid or comet impacting the Earth to knock them out.

There’s nothing shameful about being a dinosaur. Except for the being extinct part. And, hey, everything dies eventually :).

Hummingbird Photos

I’ve been having fun taking pictures of hummingbirds at our feeder.

I must admit to being surprised at how territorial these little guys are. There’s one hummer in particular who chases every other bird away from the feeder when he’s in the neighborhood.

Taking Flight

Over the last few months I’ve heard several hummingbirds use our feeder. Usually I don’t see them; all I get to experience is the sound of a giant bumblebee, because they don’t spend much time feeding.

But today I managed to watch three different hummers feeding. It was cool to see them at a standstill in mid-air with their tiny beak jammed into the feeder tube. A small bubble would drift up through the nectar reservoir and they’d be gone.

The most interesting one, though, was when I was close enough to see the action but far enough away not to hear the bass hum. The lack of sound made it all the more magical.

Maybe one of these days I’ll get the chance to photograph one of these amazing creatures refueling themselves.

Cruising at 5 Miles per Second

This past Sunday morning I got up a little before 6 AM to see the International Space Station cruise over San Carlos. It was one of the better displays, going from the western horizon to the eastern horizon, and passing very close to straight overhead. So it was visible for almost 10 minutes, outshining everything in the pre-dawn sky.

I waved at them, too. But I doubt they noticed me :).

It being Sunday I then went back to bed, waking up for good around 8:30 AM.

By which point the ISS was just about completing it’s second lap around the Earth since I’d watched them pass out of view.

Now that’s fast!

Masonry Foundations

Today I went to a 150th anniversary celebration for the local Masonic lodge. While San Carlos, where the lodge resides, hasn’t been around that long, the lodge itself traces back to one which was founded in San Mateo in 1863, moved to Redwood City sometime around the early 1900s and then merged with the San Carlos lodge.

It was a very interesting experience, as I hadn’t known anything about the Masons. Except that they figure in a large number of conspiracy theories, I suspect because they don’t share the details of their beliefs with outsiders.

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The Clock Is Running!

Today, after more weeks of delay and effort than I want to remember we — finally! — submitted the plans for our new home to the City.

If it weren’t for Dave Crabbe, who stepped in after we had to abandon our first architect due to glacial slowness (non-global-warming-impacted glacial slowness), we still wouldn’t have begun the design review process. Thanx, Dave!

There are a number of key hurdles left (e.g., hearing and attempting address issues raised by neighbors, approval by the Residential Design Review Committee, soliciting construction bids to see if we can afford to build what we’ve designed, getting building permits) and a lot of work to come (e.g., finishing off the interior design and landscaping, identifying all the appliances, fixtures and treatments). Not to mention getting the thing built.

But at least we’re moving!

And now, for those of you who found the title of this posting oddly familiar, here’s Tom Hanks in Apollo 13.