04 February 2013

Me & Ruby

oldpicAbout a year and a half ago (on August 29, 2011 to be precise) I drove off the lot at Rawhide Harley Davidson on my brand spanking new 2012 Harley Davidson FLD Switchback motorcycle. I hadn’t actually intended to buy a motorcycle that day. I heard one of their commercials on the radio on the way into work. They claimed having lots and lots of used motorcycles with special interest rates on them.  I had been wanting a bike for a long time. I’d looked at several brands and styles. The 5/8 and I made a deal, once I got hired on somewhere full time again (I had been contracting for a few years – nice money but not completely steady income) then I would get a bike. An easy deal for me as I would not want another loan without that steady reliable income that only comes with either a full time permanent job or winning the lotto and taking the annuity option.


So I thought I would take off work a few hours early, drive on down to Rawhide there in Olathe and see what they had. As I said, I’d looked at brands and models over the past year or so. I’d decided the bike for me was the Fatboy. I know I could have got a Yamaha  V-Star (very nice looking bikes) for quite a bit less. I could have got a Victory (also an American company). Both of those are nice bikes, however, no matter how nice they are, the aren’t a Harley. Waiting for me when I got to work that Friday was an email from Harley Davidson. I had been on their email list for the last 8 months or so, ever since I made my decision that a yellow Fatboy was the bike for me. The email was promoting an all new model, the Switchback. It has bags and a windshield, however they can be quickly and easily removed (leaving nothing behind that makes the bike look like you’re missing something) to strip the bike down to a more basic street cruiser instead of a kind of Road King, jr.


They had a Switchback on the floor when I got to the dealership. I liked the idea. If I got a Fatboy, I’d have to buy bags and a windshield for the commute to work anyway, and this one had already bags and a windshield which I could easily remove to the weekends. In addition, it was a few grand less expensive than the Fatboy. We ran the numbers on it and I drove it home that day.


Since then I have put more than 25,000 miles on the odometer. That’s quite an achievement when most people put at the top end about 4,000 miles a year on their motorcycles. I ride her most every day. Cold, hot, cool, windy. I got heated gloves for the cold days – and I’m trying to figure out how to keep my helmet’s visor from icing up on days where the mercury drops below 30F.


The bike has been dubbed “Ruby” – thanks to the suggestion by one of my best friends in the entire world. The 5/8 calls it my mistress. I think there truly are some people who are “born to ride”. In addition, I truly believe I am one of those people. No matter the weather, I’d much rather ride than drive. Anywhere. Last summer the 5/8 and I went to the Harley Owners Group rally in Junction City. This year the rally is in Wichita, and we’ll be there. Additionally we’re planning a trip to Fayetteville, Arkansas in September for the Bikes, Blues & BBQ rally. One day, I’d like to take on the Dragon’s Tail in Tennessee (or is it South Carolina, I can’t remember off the top of my head ) and of course spend a week riding the Rockies over in Colorado – but that’s probably a few years out yet – one thing at a time.

03 February 2013

Book Thoughts: Carrie (Stephen King)

As you all should by now know my favorite author is Stephen King. I like the way he writes, his style, his ‘voice’ as they say. He can weave a story and using nothing but his words, paint a vibrant picture in my head.


King’s first published novel was Carrie back in t1974. The book has spawned three movies to date – with another re-make on the way supposedly to be released sometime around Halloween 2013.


The story centers around Carrietta “Carrie” White. The daughter of a staunch bible-thumping Jeezus howling evangelistic mother, Margaret White (Carrie’s father was said to be the same way, but is deceased in the novel). The way the book describes Carrie makes me picture a somewhat pudgy (though not fat) girl with a pale, pimply face. Not at all consistent with Sissy Spacek, but then again, that’s Hollywood for ya.


King takes us through the mind of this girl as her special telekinetic powers are beginning to show themselves. To be sure there were a few instances early on in Carrie’s childhood that gave her mother a hint that the devil was in her, but those were rare. The powers really begin to come in as a 16 year old Carrie experiences her first period in the showers after gym class. Horrified that she’s bleeding – her mother, it would seem, had never explained this to her (I can only assume that she was absent that day in school when the nurse took the girls into a special class about that stuff).


That’s where the second most famous scene associated with Carrie happens, with the girls in her gym class throwing tampons and pads at her yelling “plug it UP, plug it UP, plug it UP”. Later in the book, not quite the end, but really the beginning of the end, comes the absolute most famous scene, the one with the pigs blood. In between those two milestone events, we are taken on a journey. Some into Carrie’s past and some into her mother’s past (she claims she had sex only twice, both times resulted in pregnancies – the first was stillborn, the second was Carrie).


Carrie is horribly bullied in school, all the way through school. If she were in school today, she’d probably be the poster child for some federal anti-bullying campaign. Given what kind of religious kook her mother is, combined with her appearance (I keep seeing her with stringing hair and shiny, oily skin) it’s not a wonder she was treated so poorly. Kids are going to be kids after all, and at their most base, I firmly believe all kids are mean as snot until they are learned better by their parents and teaches (and their peers but usually only after a good ass-whoopin’).


It is clear to me reading this, that it is one of King’s early works (of course it is, it was his first). His prose isn’t as polished as it is today, almost 40 years later. His backstory isn’t as in-depth. On the other hand, the novel is only a few hundred pages long, far short of his 1K+ page works of today.

02 February 2013

Video Thoughts: The Dark Knight Returns I & II

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/7/77/Dark_knight_returns.jpg/225px-Dark_knight_returns.jpgNot to be confused with Chris Nolan’s latest installment of Batman: The Dark Knight Rises this two part animated movie is tightly based on the four part limited series comic books by Frank Miller published in 1986. The comics where issued in what was called (not sure if they still are or not) “prestige format”. Thicker card paper, no ads between the pages and rich painted panels instead of printing ink. The exceptional artwork was done by Lynn Varley. You might remember Frank Miller from other projects of his such as Sin City and 300 (both made into movies). He also lead the post Crisis on Infinite Earths re-vamp of Batman with Batman: Year One and Batman: Year Two.

The story was a whole new concept for me. I’ve always preferred Batman to any of the other heroes in the comic book universes. But this series was something completely different for me. It takes place in a future where Bruce Wayne is nearing 60 and Batman has been retired for 10 years or more. Commissioner Gordon is retiring and medical science has progressed enough that doctors were able to fix Harvey Dent’s (a/k/a Two Face) face and finally let him out of Arkham Asylum. The Joker has been in a coma for more than a decade and all the heroes have quit doing their thing.

There is a history alluded to where some agreement was made between the world’s heroes and the governments. We aren’t really let in on that completely, but we know that Superman still is around and more or less working for the government.

The movies follow the book almost to the letter. One thing I miss is that in the books there is a narrative. A kind of Mike Hammer-ish first person telling of things. This really helps the reader to get into the head and http://www.geekzenith.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/dark_knight_returns.jpgthoughts of Batman. It is missing from the movie. I don’t know why they didn’t include it in the movie – it worked well in the Batman: Year One animated movie adaptation that was released a few years ago.

The artwork in the movies is spot on with the artwork in the books. They didn’t do any updating to the tech from the book either. There are a few scenes where you see people with giant boom boxes (you remember those, right?).

If you like Batman, or animated movies, or can just appreciate great art and great story telling, these videos should be on your “to watch” list.

And, let’s face it, anytime you get to see Batman kick the crap out of Superman, it is a good day!

01 February 2013

Television Thoughts: The Americans

The-Americans-FX-PosterA new television series started this past Wednesday. I had been seeing commercials for it even as far back as while watching the past season of Sons of Anarchy. Didn’t pay all too much attention at first. I thought “ho hum, Russian spies – how good could that really be with no more KGB?” But later I realized this is a period piece. It takes place in 1981, towards the climax of the cold war, just before the Soviet Union collapsed under it’s own idiocy ( or before Saint Ronald Reagan spent them into the poor house – however you want to go with that one).

The show centers around Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings. Typical suburban couple with two kids and a mortgage and jobs – everything but the white picket fence actually. Though they look and act like a married couple for all intents and purposes, they are not. They are Soviet spies. Part of the KGB S-directorate (if you remember much about the cold war, that was the rumor of KGB sleeper cells living and working in the good ol’ US of A).

Their kids (teenage daughter and pre-teen son) of course know nothing of their parents’ true identities.

The pilot was at times fast paced and at times seemed to be a bit slower. But in true FX original programming fashion, it was anything but boring or generic. From the opening scene where Elizabeth is “coaxing” information from a high-level white house employee (and not violently, I might add), to the closing scene where Phillip – dressed up as a left-over from the 70’s beats the crap out of some guy who earlier in the show made some sexual remarks about Phillip’s daughter – you never got to a point where you thought “isn’t this over yet?”

Whether it continues to be as good as the pilot only time will tell. For now though, it stays on the DVR record list.

Oh, yeah and the music was great. A very good and nerve wracking kidnap and escape sequence was set to Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk”, and other scenes paired against music of the times made the music seem like a character all of it’s own.

04 January 2013

Four Days In

Four days now into the new year and it seems pretty much like the old year. Not that I ever remember the new year being all that different from the old, ever. Each year of course does bring new challenges and experiences. As does each month, and each week and each day.

We did get some snow on new year’s ever, it is still covering a good portion of the ground. That’s good. I don’t mind the cold so much, but I’ve always been of a mind that if it is going to be cold, it might as well snow. I love the snow. It’s bright whiteness covering all the dead vegetation we have all winter long. Looking immaculate and pure. At least at first. The snow left on the ground still now four days along is looking rather dull. It’s lost it’s luster. What lines the roadways is of course brown and dirty from the exhaust and road grime that coats it.

Good news though, Monday and the rest of next week is supposed to bring us warmer weather. Mid 40s and above. Looks like it’s time to pull the cover off Ruby and fill her tank this weekend for the anticipated rides to work this coming week.

28 December 2012

Is This Normal?

Is it normal for people who have a blog, who’ve enjoyed writing in it now and again, but invariably put their posts and writing onto the far far back burner as life gets in the way, to pop their heads back in at the close of the year just to say something, anything, to let the world know they are still alive and kicking? Does it even matter? In the grand scheme of things, I would have to say “no”. In the big picture, the musings of one guy on teh interwebs doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

Be that as I may, I have to say that I miss writing. I enjoy it. It’s peaceful in a way. Let’s me just nearly close off my mind and my fingers fly across the keyboard tic-tac ing out words which form sentences which sometimes lead to some kind of rational though (not often, I grant you that). Maybe I’ll make a new years resolution to do more writing.

To catch up the year in a nutshell…

  • No. 1 Son finally got off his duff and enrolled in school, studying networking and computer repair.
  • No. 2 Son “came of age”, turning 18. Now a full-fledged adult (except, of course, where the intake of alcohol is concerned).
  • Little Sister turned 14 and also somewhere along the way this year discovered Doctor Who. She’s hooked. Such a little geekette she is, but I probably have only myself to blame for that.
  • Picked up a Star Wars version of Monopoly for our annual New Year’s Eve monopoly game (which Little Sister usually wins, btw).
  • Put about 20K miles on my Harley.
  • In TV land we saw the end of Eureka – which was a great light-hearted show, and (presumably) the end of Clay Morrow in the season finale of Sons of Anarchy (probably not though) as well as the end of House.
  • In the movie world we were treated to Dark Knight Rises (treated might be  bit of stretch maybe I’ll make a post on that sometime) as well as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
  • Oh yeah, and recently discharged Marine moved in with us. She’s mostly living with us while her fiance is off training etc. in the Corps.

And that’s about it for the year in review. All in all, not really such a bad year, despite seemingly having less and less money to make ends meet as the year progressed. Maybe 2013 will be better (not bloody likely!).

26 March 2012

A Beautiful Day for a Ride

A nice day on Sunday. Beautiful actually. The sun was shining, the air was clear and blue. Went for a ride with the local chapter of the Harley Owners Group, Oz HOGS as they are called. Oz, of course, referring to this being Kansas, and Dorothy being from Kansas in the Wizard of Oz books (yes, to all you film buffs, there are more than one Wizard of Oz books!).

We rode from Topeka out U.S. 40 to Lawrence. That is a fun road to ride when you're on your own, or with maybe one or two others. In a larger group, it didn't quite seem as fun. Part of the fun are the twisties, the curves and the rolling hills. Hitting a 40mph curve at 55 can be thrilling. Downright exhilarating even! Hitting a 40mph curve at 30 or 35? Not so much. Regardless, it was still good. A reason to burn the fuel and have the wind in my face and to see the fields as they turn green with the wheat and corn and whatever else the farmers are planting out there.

There is a house on that road, one I remember from when I was just a wee tyke. It has a rather large clock in a gable facing the front. The clock must be 10 or more feet in diameter. It doesn't work. Never has as far back as I can remember. There were several years during my youth when instead of the clock, there was a covered hole there, the clock leaning against the side of the house. I'm glad whoever did so put it back in it's proper place.

It was in the general location of that clock-house that I caught a whiff of fresh-cut wood as I rolled down the road. The odor taking me instantly back to my youth, many many years ago, and also transporting me several hundred miles south, to Pittsburg, Kansas.

The home of my grandfather. His home and the workshop in the back yard. He was a furniture maker. "Tomorrow's Antiques Today" read some business cards that we had found just a few years ago. The same motto used by my grandfather and his father before him. Both furniture makers. The smell of the fresh-cut wood made me think of that workshop. Saw dust covering the floor. Light angling in through the windows, catching all the tiny bits and specks of saw dust that were floating in the air. The building was a rather drab looking gray, but I loved it there. It was a place of magic and wonder. I sometimes wonder if he had lived long enough, and we lived close enough, if he would have taught me how to create beauty from a twisted tree like he could. "Let it be said of me, that I could find beauty in a twisted tree." That is the phrase on his grave marker.

Now I feel the need to make a trip to Pittsburg. To visit his grave. The workshop is long gone now, the contents sold after his death and the building torn down. But Chicken Annie's is still there in Pittsburg. Best fried chicken you'll find anywhere.

A few moments after the whiff of saw-dust filled my nostrils, and dragged out the pleasant memories, I rode past a skunk someone had hit. Its repugnant stench cancelling out the sweet memories of saw dust and youth (before it had a chance to be misspent).

13 September 2011

Life Is Good

imageIt was sunrise. You couldn't see the sun yet, it was still below the horizon, but the daylight that is the sun's entourage was bright yellow and orange. It reached out in a sunburst pattern, fingers of yellow-orange daylight reaching into the dark blue purple of the night. The sight was truly magnificent. I only remember seeing that sunburst effect in drawings or paintings, or other works of art. I'm sure I've seen it in reality a thousand times, but none of those have ever registered in my memory. Either I wasn't paying attention, or they simply weren't that spectacular. Probably a combination of both. This sunrise though, was awe inspiring. I fully regret now, not pulling off to the side of the road and taking a few moments to snap a couple of pictures. Though I'm pretty certain the pictures would not have been as inspiring. Like pictures of the Grand Canyon. There's no way a picture can match the real thing. No way it can make you feel the way being there and witnessing it makes you feel.

The vibrant yellow-orange of the day reached out fingers of light into the dark blue purple of the night. The demarcations between day and night were well defined, almost sharp. Shafts of night narrowed into dagger like points between the widening fingers of daylight. It didn't last long as I rode the highway through Lawrence, by the time I reached the Eudora exit, the scene has muted. The light and dark mixed and the lines blurred until there was a sort of day-horizon, with a pale blue-purple curtain of night slowly dissipating as the pale yellow of the day made progress, winning the battle - as it does every day. The sun finally made it's appearance. Like some giant red general or king riding high on his stallion behind the front lines into battle. Supervising as the troops of daylight vanquished the dark soldiers of nighttime.

It was a glorious sight.

09 June 2011

Day 7: Power Outage

(Yeah, I know, I'm behind catch up this weekend....promise!)

Sent from my Windows Phone