Thursday, June 28, 2018

Abandoning Pretense

There is a fundamental difference between what most people claim they want to do and what they actually are willing to put the work in to accomplish. I certainly fall into this heading under most people. I am full of big ideas and the bluster to sound really excited and engaged with them. When the rubber meets the road though, in some cases, I am just not willing to enforce the discipline required to bring these ideas out of my head and into the world.
Today I have committed to changing my life. Rather than scattering myself between a host of different things I am going to embrace the things I am actually willing to see through to fruition. I have done various things over the years as commitment indicators. When it is time to talk about losing weight I will buy new work out gear, a gym bag, and a gym membership, but I never really walk through door of the gym.
One of the things I did to commit to getting back to recording a podcast was start my own website. I didn't just maintain a blog on blogger. I purchased a domain, I purchased hosting, I worked up a design, and then I spent two months blogging just like I did on blogger. I did this while paying monthly hosting fees. That is just the worst kind of ineffectual stupidity. It is also wasteful. I don't like being stupid or wasteful. Because of that this post is a more realistic move. Why pay for a website to blog when there is a perfectly acceptable (and free) solution I have used for years?
I am going to apply this thinking to all of my life. The first part of that is assessment. Am I honestly working on my writing right now or do I like to romanticize the notion that I will some day? If I am honest, I haven't developed my writing in months. My focus is on other things. While I am analyzing everything I expect to make a whole host of changes to my life with the goal of being honest about my willingness to do things. I certainly spend a lot of time lying to myself. It is long past time that changes. It will save me a ton of time, money, and emotional friction.
Here is what I have figured out I am changing thus far:
I am not pursuing a podcast. My idea is neat, but I don't really have the passion for it. I am taking down the website and moving all of the written content back to my blog. This saves me money. It saves me feeling like I am failing at not doing something I felt a strange sense of obligation to do. Funny how the human brain works.
I am done collecting board games. I have already sold off some of the bulk stuff I had that were only sitting around collecting dust. Next I am going to eliminate the games I never play. If a game is on my shelf I actively enjoy it and I have people willing to play it with me. Those last two conditions will probably purge the majority of my sentimental favorites. This will save me money and space.
I am giving up bread and potatoes. This eliminates most of the options of eating fast food. This will save me money and it will also help me to continue losing weight. I have made a ton of progress. I can celebrate my victory by doubling down my commitment to myself. I am very willing to make this change.
I am done lying to myself. I am making a genuine effort to live with my own reality. We don't live a world of should or want. We live in a world of am and is. I am embracing reality with all her faults and blemishes and taking her as my lady.
Riding and hiking. Adventures are very important to me. I am investing more into doing things with my motorcycle that also have a physical benefit. I think I am going to spend a dedicated bit of time to hiking all the trails around the area. Getting to them on Sharon Carter is just a bonus.
 Here are some changes I am considering:
Getting rid of most all of my hard copy books. I prefer the portability of digital. I also like not having to house the books. The exception to this is my strategy/ self help books. It is valuable to have reference material.
Cutting back or stopping reading comics. This one I really struggle with. On the one hand it is a huge expense. On the other I get a lot of pleasure out of reading comics and discussing them. In fact, I have a really fun idea for a blog post about art vs. story. This one will be a debate.
Getting into a very minimalist lifestyle. This one has everything to do with keeping life simple. I hate sorting through things. My DVD collection has become the family library. Most of my fiction collection has been given to my oldest daughter. I want to have the basics covered and not have more than I need. Clutter is not my friend.
That list could go on and on. I often think of abandoning video games. I think about turning off Netflix and Hulu. I have never regretted cutting cable. It seems that each time I have focused and become more dedicated in my life I have seen an improvement in the quality of my living. I think casting aside any pretense about who I think I should be and who I want to be and focus on being at peace with who I am will have a tremendous impact on my happiness and satisfaction.
Isn't that what life is all about?

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Level 38

I wake up to an unfortunate habit. While it isn’t the first thing I do within a few minutes of being awake I grab my phone and check Facebook. I normally follow this with a quick run through Instagram. I finish out my social media wake up with Twitter.
This morning I rolled through the usual variety of vague family updates, memes, and political rhetoric. I rarely comment. When I do it is often a huge mistake. Still, I often think to myself,” Self, I wish I could do something about this.” It isn’t that I believe I can fix racism, bigotry over sexual preference, biased thinking, or just wrong people being wrong in their thinking. I want to fix the impact these things have on the people I love.
Sometimes that is a very sad thought. For those of us who live with feeling a connection to our friends, even the friends we rarely speak to, seeing outrage is painful. Not being able to meaningfully intervene causes a sense of helplessness and starts to taint my worldview.
Today I realized I am a level 38 human. I have been playing the game a while. I am familiar with the levels and boss fights at this point. That experience does give me some ability to help newer players navigate the labyrinth a bit. I do understand not everyone wants to use hints and tips much less the strategy guide, but I can make it available anyway.
Social media presents an opportunity to object to a lot of things. When someone says or does something dumb and objectionable it seems to take off like wildfire. If you need examples of this just look at President Trump’s twitter. He is a polarizing figure at the very least. We have zero control over what he does, but we certainly do have control over how much attention we pay or react to it.
“If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do you no harm.” – African proverb
In the mid-’90s one of the churches on our ride into town put a message on their billboard that really ate my Mom up. It read,” You cannot be thankful and depressed.” Spoiler alert, My Dad and I both suffer from depression. The sign was wrong. It was also probably not well thought out when it was a message being delivered by a church. I remember my Mom saying,” How dare they be so judgemental!”
She wrote the church a long letter telling them point by point why their message was wrong. She ranted and raved every time we drove by the sign. Weeks after it was down she still was angry about it.
Who suffered more for the sign? I suspect Mom’s letter was probably not taken very seriously. So far as I know she had never set foot in the church. She certainly never went there after their well-intentioned blunder. The message may or may not have come down because of her letter. I have my doubts. Still, I would say that prior to her passing, if you had brought up that message she would still be angry about it. She very much internalized her outrage. She made it personal and kept feeding the flame long after the “event” was over. In the terms of the above proverb, she created an enemy inside herself.
I think social media makes it easier to fan the flames of enemies like this. It also can be used to do exactly the opposite (such as the purpose of this post). It is entirely possible to love people in a general way even when they are spreading hateful propaganda, outrage, being divisive, and stirring up resentment. I am a big fan of letting people say and feel what they say and feel without letting it affect me. Enlightenment doesn’t happen to a crowd. It happens in the heart of the individual, and with any luck, that person is able to spread it to others.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
All the levels I have gained in this life does not make “being the change” any easier. The purpose of my rules and strategies is to move me toward being the person I want to be. I love philosophy for that very reason.
I think that our modern world is full of outrage and obsession. People hang on every word of controversy. We are quick to trumpet opinions online if they are going to spark debate. We forget that debate and conversation are two different things. Typically a debate has sides and a victor. In a conversation, ideas are exchanged with the goal of everyone involved gaining understanding. Social media seemed to need less debate and more conversations.
There is a break between reaction and thought. A reaction happens immediately and may not always reflect the deeper truths of the person reacting. You see reactions on the news often. One of the ways I have “leveled up” is to control my reactions.
Just like everyone else I get upset when something strikes me wrong. I feel a reaction. The way I avoid (most of the time) expressing my reaction is to mentally count 10 of my breaths before saying or doing anything. I tend to just stare blankly while doing this and let the silence stretch into discomfort for the person who has caused my reaction. Sometimes this causes enough social tension to settle the matter without any need for reaction or response on my part. When I have to respond then I have had some space to consider my words or actions.
“A moment of patience in a moment of patience prevents one thousand moments of regret.” -Chinese Proverb
 The place where this doesn’t work is when action is necessary. If I see someone being hurt I am going to intervene. This isn’t always the wisest course.
Once upon a time, I was walking into the Wal-Mart. I saw a twenty-something couple loudly arguing beside their vehicle. It upset me and I was embarrassed on their behalf. I find public displays messy.
I went in. I bought whatever I needed. I came back out. The fight had escalated to red-faced shouting. I was dropping my bags in the truck when the guy backhanded the girl hard across the face. She went down. I promptly charged across the parking lot, spun the guy around, punched him in the gut to double him over, and then kicked him back onto his butt. I was angry enough that I was about to proceed to beat this scum bag into submission when the girl tackles me from behind beating on my back and telling me to stay away from her man.
I was confused. I was bewildered. I was so shocked I wasn’t even mad at her little fists thumping me on the shoulders and back of the head. I even had a moment to realize that people were staring at me now as the attacker. I extricated myself as quickly as I could and ran away. I drove home expecting the cops to chase me down. My reaction was poor. That couple is probably married with ten kids to this day thanks to that time they defended themselves together in the Wal-Mart parking lot. In their view, I was the bad guy. Thankfully, I realized my mistake and got out of there. Perception is reality.
I don’t regret my actions. At the time I was justified in my own mind. I acted in accordance with my morals and beliefs. I operated under the axiom of,”You never hit a female.” I doubt that would have kept me out of handcuffs had the police showed up. Thought instead of reaction might have prevented some scratches and bruising on my part. Also my actions didn’t have the effect I intended.
That is the moral of the story here. When you post a cause you are championing, more so if you constantly are posting that type of thing, some people will agree, some will disagree, and some will just start ignoring what you have to say. Causes shouldn’t divide people. At heart, people should come before issues. There is nothing wrong with letting someone being wrong as long as they aren’t causing actual harm.
I will close with two quotes.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” – Uncle Ben
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” – The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America
Taken together these two disparate quotes say that whenever change becomes necessary it is the responsibility of those who are able to act to make things happen in the right way. All of the outrage and talking in the world means very little if there isn’t action behind it. Sitting behind a keyboard full of outrage and anger does very little to bring about change. Channel those feelings into positive actions and the world will begin to improve around you.
It can be argued that you could inspire others to change with your words. I am trying to do that now in an almost hypocritical way with this post. I do accompany these words with my actions daily. Do you do the same or do you just beam negativity out into the universe and go watch TV?

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Riding Sharon Carter: Honda CBR250R Review

Purchase Day: Sharon Carter
I have certainly mentioned my new bike enough. I figure that she deserves a review. I had intended to write this yesterday. I spent the morning mowing and weed eating. I took a trip to meet with a guy about selling my Explorer. I worked a bit on said Explorer. About 3 o’clock in the afternoon I decided to grab breakfast.
I hopped on Sharon Carter and shot up the road to Nease’s Deli. It isn’t even a 10 minute ride. I got there. I picked up my hot dogs and a bag of chips. I got everything stowed in my tail bag. I started the quick ride home… and the skies opened up. It rained hard until I was about a quarter mile from my drive way. I laughed hysterically and out loud almost the whole ride. I simply cannot ride this bike without getting rained on.
I tell that story up front because I think Sharon Carter must have some jet ski parts on her or something. When I rode Irene I had to make a point to go out and ride in the rain to gain wet riding skills. It is as if something up above sees me on the Ms. Carter and turns on the water. Sharon doesn’t mind. She handles just as well in the rain.

Irene & Sharon
Since I learned to ride on Irene ( a 2010 Kawasaki Ninja 250r) I draw lots of comparisons between the two bikes. There are some some differences mechanically but they are very similar.
  Ninja 250r CBR 250r
Year 2010 2012
Engine 249cc liquid cooler 4-stroke 8 valve DOHC parallel-twin 249.5cc 4-stroke, single cylinder DOCH 4 valve per cylinder
Induction 2 x Keihin CVK30 carburetors Electronic fuel injection PGM-F
Bore/Stroke 62.0 mm x 41.22mm 76.0 mm x55.0 mm
Ignition TCBI with digital advance CDI
Tranmission 6-speed constant mesh, chain drive wet multiplate clutch, constant mesh 6-speed, chain drive
Tires Front: 110/70-17M/C Rear 130/70-17M/C Front: 110/70-17M/C Rear 140/70-17M/C
Rake, trail 26 degrees 25 degrees
Wheelbase 55.10 in 54 in
Dimensions W 28.10 H 43.70in L 80.1 in W 28 in H 44.3
Seat Height 30.50 in 31 in
Wet Weight 375 lbs 355 lbs
Power 29.9 hp / 22 kW @ 10500 rpm 23.7 hp @ 9900 RPM 21.9 hp @ 8500 hp
Fuel Capacity 5.8 US Gallons 3.4  US Gallons
There is an important stat missing from that table. I did not include fuel economy. One of the primary reasons I ride a motorcycle is saving money on gas. The Ninja and the Honda are nearly identical in that category. They both pull in between 64 and 68 miles per gallon. Comparatively speaking my Hyundai Veloster averages a respectable 35 mpg on the same commute. The Ford Explorer only get about 19 mpg. This means that I have nearly tripled my gas savings versus what I was paying out at this time last year. If there is a practical selling point for riding a motorcycle, this is it.

Sharon’s Headlights
There is just something fun about the sport bike style of motorcycle. I don’t get that same riding excitement when I ride a cruiser type. Frankly, I don’t get the big deal about Harley Davidson other than the name and supposed outlaw image that comes with it.
I can tell you that there aren’t that many outlaws on bikes anymore. The guys riding Harleys now are white collar weekend warriors for the most part. They bounce from one tourist trap to the next feeling rebellious on their two wheeled stallions. Honestly, I see more Sons of Anarchy wanna be riders on Harley Davidson’s than anything else. That is a major turn off to the entire cruiser style for me. I want to enjoy my ride not impress soccer moms.
Dad’s Kawasaki and my Honda are both fun to ride. I think the Kawasaki is a little more agile, but the difference is very slight. I am more gentle with Sharon because she is faster off the mark. Irene tops out about 10 mph higher.
Sharon’s seat has MUCH better padding. I have done day rides on both bikes, and while the Kawasaki isn’t horrible I certainly get more distress to my tail end on it. I admit that when I am sitting longer rides I tend to bring along my Egg Sitter. Even with it riding back from the Dragon on the Kawasaki was pure misery. On our run to Maggie Valley weekend before last I had no stiffness or pain at all. As a matter of fact, I sat through Deadpool 2 the same day and had more trouble out of the theater seat.
You wouldn’t think an extra half inch of seat height would make a big difference, but the Honda fits my height just a little better. Most cruisers come in between 26 and 28 inch seat heights. The Honda and the Kawasaki are just shy of my inseam length. That puts a lot less stress on my knees when leaning at a stop. Sharon gets a slightly higher mark for that extra half inch, but again this is so minor.

Luggage Load out!
I can’t do a whole lot of compare and contrast with bike luggage. I never put any luggage on Irene. I will say that the Honda has a much taller tank. My male parts don’t always appreciate the snug fit. In fact, I once racked myself quite well on a quick stop. The bad thing there is I was practicing quick stops at the time. They are a life saving skill after all! Still, my fellas sure weren’t happy with the taller tank. Of course the Ninja has a Pro Grip patch on the crotch facing portion of the seat. I truly fear what a sudden stop with a pro gripped penis and/or testicles (depending on tuck and lean)results in.
As you can see above I have a put a tail bag and tank bag on Sharon. I am trying to both dumb down and maximize my ability to carry stuff on the bike. On a long enough ride a backpack can cause shoulder fatigue. It also produces some drag. I have always carried STUFF. Because of that finding a way to make carrying easy is important.
To dumb down what I am carrying I bought a cheap tank bag. I do mean cheap quite literally. I paid $45 for it on Amazon because I was not convinced that I even wanted a tank bag.
Boy, my reservations were wrong. I love the tank bag. It is large enough that I can slide comic books in (probably an odd consideration for most riders). I can carry all of my routine daily stuff in the large pouch. That equates to comic books,work badge, phone, charger, power bank, phone cord, gum, mutli tool, swiss army knife, organizer, pens & pencils, sketchbook, iPad, iPad cord, and any hard copy book I am currently reading.
The tank bag is not large enough for a full sized legal pad. It isn’t big enough for D&D books. I also wouldn’t want to carry my pistol in it. There just isn’t much organization to the bag and who wants to have their fun sliding all over Batman’s newest cover art? I also tend to leave the tank bag on the bike except during long stops.
The tank bag came with a nice shoulder strap so it works as a purse- *ahem*-sling bag. Nah, let’s be honest, carrying a bag that size over one shoulder makes it a man purse. My masculinity can take that level of self honesty. The strap is a little flimsy and short for me. Eventually I will replace it with a wider and more durable strap. It works for now though.
My Nelson Rigg tail bag is fantastic. It also holds comics and all of the above mentioned gear easily. I use it differently. It stays mounted to the back seat. It holds my rain suit (a thing I never thought I would bother with), gloves, helmet bag, cargo net, a pen, a sharpie, my registration, my insurance card, and often my cup. On longer trips I am not against shoving a lunch bag in there too. The only draw back to this bag is that it doesn’t mount and dismount quickly. It straps under the seat. I have considered a few different quick release systems of my own design, but to date I don’t want to do the sewing. I can say that being able to use my cargo net on top of the tail bag to hold my helmet when parked is handy. I also am not afraid to strap my gym bag in that way too.
Bikers may be wondering why, since I carry all this gear, I don’t just add saddlebags. Well, I haven’t found any for the sport bike that are practical and look decent. I am going to hold off on them for the time being. If I run across something amazing I may have to post an update.
The Honda CBR250r is a great bike. It is good for a starter bike. I am already outgrowing it in some ways. My eye strays toward dual sports or super motos more and more for their height and utility. Until I graduate from the Honda it makes a great commuter or weekend day trip rider. It has the agility and speed to be a fun bike with fantastic fuel economy.
I love the sport bike riding posture. It keeps me more focused and alert than the lean of a cruiser. I don’t think I am ready to lay down on one the way you would on a Hayabusa. The Honda is extremely comfortable for its size.
If I were starting over and had the cash for the Honda or the Kawasaki my money would go to Honda. Based on the merits of the bike itself I get slightly better fuel economy for my riding style. My butt and legs are slightly more comfortable.  I do think the electric blue for the Kawasaki is slightly prettier than my patriotic paint scheme. The Ninja certainly garners more interest and casual compliments. I want a bike to ride more than to be stared at.

Now I need to go find a test ride for a KLR650 and a Vstrom to figure out my NEXT bike.

December 2nd Comic Books on a Budget