Life Outside My Cube

My life, a work in progress.

Monthly Archives: May 2011

Thursday morning blahs

Failure to provide proof of financial responsibility, when required, will result in the following civil penalties imposed by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles:

  • Lose driving privileges for a minimum of ninety (90) days and up to two (2) years;
  • License plates and vehicle registration suspension;
  • License plate reinstatement fees for first violation, second violation, and third or subsequent violation (There is an additional non-voluntary surrender fee for failing to surrender the license, plates or vehicle registration to the BMV);
  • Require filing with the BMV (SR-22 or bond) to continuously maintain proof of financial responsibility for a minimum of three (3), up to five (5) years from the date of the suspension of operating privileges;
  • Vehicle immobilization and confiscation of plates for 30 to 60 days for violating FR suspension.  Third and subsequent offenses could result in vehicle forfeiture and a five (5) year suspension of vehicle registrations.

That sounds serious. Which is what my wife was thinking this morning when she asked if I’d gotten the bike insured yet (I hadn’t, out of laziness). So I drove the van to work today.

You would think I’d be terrified to be out on the road at all driving an uninsured vehicle. I have no explanation for why I rode to work the last 4 days. Looking back on it, that was really stupid. Stupid stupid.

There are a several things on my TODO list that I’ve been ignoring recently. I don’t have an explanation for that as well. Perhaps I’m just weak from the pounding I took last weekend at the volleyball camp, and it carried over into a kind of mental “don’t care” attitude. I know I have that state of mind, but I can’t pinpoint why.

Even this morning, I’m having trouble getting motivated to think through code problems, despite a good breakfast and coffee. I feel pretty lethargic physically and mentally.

I wish there was more to do at work. I’m stuck working on intermittent bugs, with no real project work ahead. Two major opportunities have disappeared within the last 2-3 weeks, which otherwise would have kept me busy through the summer and possibly into fall. Now, I don’t even know what I’ll be doing in the next month. I’m sure this affects my attitude.

So I’m a bit down today.

The Anti-Rain Man

Today is the second day I’ve ridden prepared and anticipating a soaking during my daily commute. And it’s the second day of overcast or simply sunny skies while I was on the bike. I’ll just bet that if I left rain gear at home, it would pour.

Not that I’m complaining, mind. I don’t mind riding in either condition; I just love riding period. And the beauty of it is, I’m 131 miles into the 2-gallon tank. :-)  At 31 miles per day commute, that’s almost a week’s worth of driving for one fillup.  65.5 mpg is fantastic, and the primary reason we bought the bike.

I figure, comparing the Kia at 20mpg and the Rebel at 70mpg, 30mi total daily commute, $3.50/gal fuel cost, and riding 9 months of the year, I save about $731 in fuel cost. So the bike itself is paid back in a bit under 3 years, and including all the gear, about 3.5 years. Gotta subtract insurance – $99/year from Geico – and potentially extra usage of the Kia, but for sure in 4 years it’s clear and we’re saving $731 per year after that, even more if the price of gas goes up. (wanna take bets?)

Carrying stuff is my second major concern. the guy I bought the bike from threw in a set of saddlebags for nothing; they’re cheap backed leather, and even though I tightened up the yoke, they still hang toward the wheels. I’d need to get a set of brackets. Or make ’em – they run around $40-60 online for just a couple stainless pieces, which is ridiculous.

I bungee’d an igloo cooler to the pillion instead of trying to strap down my gym bag; looked quite a bit neater. I’ve seen a larger luggage box that replaces the pillion cushion that’s big enough to store a helmet, I just don’t recall the manuf/name. It’s in the rebel250 forum somewhere. Anyhow, my igloo works for small stuff; I have a bigger one, but I’d need to relocate the brake light for it to sit level. Alternatively, I could get a luggage rack.

I like the one shown in this thread, and was fascinated to read about the low-temp aluminum brazing he fabricated it with. Turns out there are several kinds (alumiweld, HTS-2000, Durafix, etc), and someone said that Harbor Freight has some small packs; I’m going to stop by a local surplus store on the way home and check. My local hardware store might even have the stuff. Some aluminum stock, and I’m on my way! This seems like a very *doable* project.

Once built and mounted, I can use the larger cooler, which would fit lunch, books, maybe laptop, rain gear, jacket, etc. and easily bungee or velcro in place. Maybe I can get a local guy to bend me a couple stainless saddlebag brackets, and I’m all set for just about anything, rain or shine.

Soggy, but in a good way

That was a busy weekend. Pretty much spent all of it focused on riding. You guessed it – I won the lottery to fill one of the 2 empty spots in the MSF Basic class. Woot!

There were about 24 people in the class, 2 instructors. We spent the first rainy evening going over the MSF manual together. Pretty boring. Rainy Saturday and Sunday the class split and we spent going over “drills” of various kinds in the rain on provided bikes (I had a Kawi dual, though several others rode on the several Rebels provided for the class). Sunday we took a skills test in the rain and I passed and got my card, which allows me to skip the BMV skills test – all I need to do now is get my license updated for a motorcycle endorsement.

Did I mention the rain? We had some clearing on Saturday afternoon, but were soaked by the end of class, and it pretty much rained all Sunday. The instructor joked that we were going to get in more riding in the rain than most riders get all year. I didn’t quite care for it. :-)  I didn’t have a real waterproof jacket, the rain pants I bought at Wally World on Friday night weren’t that much good after a couple hours of hard rain, and I had to literally wring out my leather gloves at each break. At least my feet (thanks, mom, for the hiking boots you bought at Christmas!) and head (I bought a helmet in 20 minutes before the Friday night class) were warm.

So now I have all the basics in my head. It’ll be a long time before I feel comfortable, though. I was pretty tense going above 20mph, and never shifted above 2nd gear. I really need some time on the road around my home town. I’m still a bit apprehensive about riding the 30 minutes to work, despite the fact that I’ll never be going over 45mph the whole way. Maybe Friday; it’s supposed to be nice weather then.

So I’ve taken the first step; the road awaits!

Licensed to ride

Passed the test for my motorcycle permit. I can riiiiiide!

Well, I *may* ride. I still don’t know beans about it. Unfortunately, the MSF course I was planning to take asap is Sold Out until September! I didn’t notice that before when I checked out class times! Well, I still may be able to sneak in – they have a “standby” list in case someone doesn’t show. I’ll show up for this weekend’s class – it’s Friday night, half Saturday and half Sunday – and continue to show up until I get in. And it looks like rain all weekend, so perhaps there will be some dropouts.

The Rebel

I – who have never owned or ridden one – bought a motorcycle today.

The wife and I have been having an ongoing discussion about finances and vehicles, and one of the options that arose was getting a commuter bike (inexpensive to purchase, great gas mileage, would allow family the van each day). I’d researched bikes a number of years ago and determined that I could get a reasonable one for $2-2.5K, but at the time there was no money for that. Now, however, there was.

I began hunting online again, and found  the Honda 250 Rebel. A smallish one, but universally liked as a great starter bike. It’s commonly found in MSF basic courses, and pretty widely available. I zeroed in on Rebels, and found a 2003 for $2000 about an hour away in the sticks. A quick decision to look with the option to buy (we’d already been thinking positively about the motorcycle option), and I hit the road after work to see it.

Good looking except for a gas tank dent, small amount of rust, and an older front tire, it *looked* like what I wanted. The owner ran it through the gears for me (I didn’t even have a permit at the time), threw in a wind screen and side bags, and I gave him what he asked for it. Not sure whether I was just trusting – he was a software guy as well – or naive. But we loaded it on the truck and I hauled it home.

Now I need to take a test to get my permit, and sign up for a MSF course. I should be excited, but it’s still kind of surreal. I never really thought I’d purchase one, especially on such short notice. But it’s a lovely-looking bike, and I’m more than anxious to learn how to ride it.

While the purchase price was pretty reasonable, I’ve started to look at motorcycle gear, which is *anything but* reasonable. I realize that I’m going to need a helmet, gloves, jacket, rain gear, etc. which could easily add another grand. Think I’ll start with the minimum, and add as we can afford it. Hoping to get 60+ mpg, so that’ll help a bit in saving gas money.

I Made a Difference Yesterday

I voted.

Thankfully, my lovely wife reminded me when I arrived home from work that it was May 3rd, so we all went over to the local precinct and cast our ballots. Didn’t take much consideration; one of the primary (no pun intended) reasons we wanted to vote was to make our voice heard about the local school levy.

This school levy was put on the ballot for two main reasons – overcrowding in the district, and the age of the local elementary school. It would have funded the construction of a new high school. The timing of the ballot coincides with the near-end of the current school levy, as well as a gub’mint contribution of 65% toward new construction. Technically, it was a bond issueof 1.8mills, plus .5mills added to the existing 11.1 millage.

The total estimated cost for the construction is just over 35 million. To a guy who’s never signed on anything over $150,000, and whose children have never darkened a classroom doorway (home-educated all the way), that number’s a bit beyond my comprehension.

Our current millage of 11.1 places the district’s current income at around 60 million dollars annually. Divided by the 3618 enrolled students, that makes about $16,500 total cost per student per year (including salaries, building, maintenance, etc). In contrast, we spent, on average, $4-600 per year. For both of our kids. Somehow that new $35M building just doesn’t seem to make sense to me.

Apparently, though, there were a lot of people to whom it made a lot of sense. Fortunately, there were enough of us who voted against the issue, though it was the closest one in the state. I like to think that I was one of the 197 voters who made the difference.