Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Gadget and the Petrolicious Time Machine

Long live the gadget.

I get asked all the time how a guy infatuated with bicycles also justifies a love of cars.  Well I can only answer that I don't just love cars or bicycles.  Cars are not inherently evil.  The evil part about the automobile is the car-centric culture and wasteful land development and mass consumerism that so many people believe has to come with a car.   All of that is a conversation for another day though, so lets just keep it simple.  In the end I just love all things Gadgety. Gadgets are awesome!

Like the bouncing lights on a stereo equalizer.  You'd better be in love with those little goofy lights and all those slider button doodads because today those equalizer things have little to no value because the capability of modern home audio components mean that they can nearly think for themselves, and messing with an EQ is admittedly just that, messing with it.  So what? They are fun!  Mess on!

Or the floppy power meter needles on an amplifier.  Most high-end amps seem to be happy with finely finished aluminum casings or anodized heat sinks, but not this Onkyo 504.  It has bouncing needles and boy does it make a difference in sound to watch them wiggle. Like little people enjoying boat-drink cocktails and dancing in a tiny disco in your living room.  A toast to you, Gadget.

Like the clear station preset buttons on a vintage 80's Alpine 7347 car stereo that glow green at night.  You know the one.  It came in a Lamborghini Countach back in the day, which was the epitome of 'slathered in useless gadgets'.  The poster children for useless decoration, hand in hand, Countach and Alpine. Today these vintage Alpine's fetch nearly as much money on eBay as a Countach.  Buy it for looks, buy it for life!

Like the glowing tubes in a McIntosh amp.  If you've never sat in a dimly lit room and listened to something mellow and flowing on a McIntosh amp and just watched the tubes dimly glow like distant Christmas lights in a tiny village far far away, then you don't know the meaning of the word 'warmth'.  Yuppy excess?  Fine. It will still be the last yuppy excess you'll ever buy.  I'll take two, please.  After all, they are mono.

Like an Omega watch, which has a Helium release valve to purge pressure buildup in the case when diving at depth.  Never mind that I no longer dive, or that I never dove to a depth great enough to require a Helium Purge in the first place.  The valve even has a little 'He" on the crown of it. Over the last 20 years I've probably bought 20 watches hoping to feel for my investment and to love my decision and I probably spent thousands doing it.  Why didn't I just buy the one in the first place? Because it was 'just a watch'?  But it isn't. It's a Gadget.  Gadgets are awesome.

Like my affinity for stickers.  Nobody knows why and I can't explain it.  Stickers are wonderful.  The colors and logos.  The shapes of the die cutting.  They serve no purposes but to essentially advertise for somebody else's business success, but they sure do help the imagination carry you to a distant place or memory like a well composed photograph.    

Or the absolutely useless Niner headset top-cap, which actually covers a functional bolt necessary to adjusting bearing pre-load on a bicycle headset with something that is admittedly a piece of garbage.  Oh, but what a cool piece of garbage it is. Color, shape, detail, silhouette images and shaded relief.  Simple and small can still be lasting and valuable. My personal Niner top-cap is crowned with a Left Hand Brewery bottle cap that I harvested from a beer in Colorado in 1996.  When I ride the Turner, I get to remember that beer.  Gadget meets Gadget, sparks memory.

Gadgets that last are the best.  Have a relationship with your Gadgets.  Make the investment in time and thought like you would with the people you know.  See we all buy these things, we just don't embrace the Gadget.  We almost all have watches, stereos, bicycles, cars.  We use these things daily without thinking about it.  What a shame!  The opportunity to have something that lasts long enough to be a reminder of an experience or a pleasurable moment. Things? Yes.  Just things?  Not so fast.  With memories and experiences they become so much more. Gadgets are our friends. Gadgets need us.  Gadgets can miss us.  They like us.  They like me and I like them.  You can trust a Gadget.

 Sometimes the hardest part of getting rid of a gadget is thinking about it after it's gone.  In 1993 I bought a Cannondale M800 Beast of the East mountain bike.  It creaked a lot, and a year later I sold it, only to buy another one a few years ago, not with the intention to ride much, but with the intention to just have.  I did the same thing with a Klein Rascal that I rarely ever ride, and the original EWR that I also ride sparingly and gingerly even though I know it is built like a tank and will probably outlast me.

Now imagine a family connection to your gadgets, a personal historical connection. Multi-generational Gadgets! Your grandmother's Steinway, or your father's VW.  Imagine you had a chance to own a gadget similar to one your father or grandfather owned many years before and you grew up with but they had to sell.  Maybe they even had to sell it off under dire circumstance. You buy the replacement, love it, make it like you remember it as a child.  You keep it as a reminder of a simpler time.  It warms you like the tubes in that McIntosh amp.  It is a Gadget.  It speaks to you.  It makes you feel.  Makes you remember.  Maybe even tingle.

Time Machine indeed.
Long live the Gadget.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tillie Fowler Park Trail Armoring - Round 4!

Round two of the trail armoring project out at Tillie Fowler Regional Park in Jacksonville was completed this past Saturday.  We cut and groomed a new section of trail adding on to the last ridge crossing section completed on the previous trail day, built two berms as a run-up, and then the deck up onto the ridge was completed.  Three more decks to go!  A drop down from the deck completed on this trail day, and then another crossing which will also have an up and down.

Dropping down this deck, which is the second half of the first crossing, completed at the last Tillie Trail Day.

You enter this berm for a right handed curve.

Continuing through the curve, the berm tapers off and then picks up again just past the pine tree on the left.

Coming out of the berm you flatten out and carry speed up to...

This scoop-up deck which puts you on top of the ridge for another drop down the opposite side.

This is the view back down the deck from the top of the ridge.  The ridge is about 8-10 feet higher than the surrounding land, and the deck is a 35 degree rise.  It is quite a hoot to hit at speed.  The profile is scooped out at the bottom rather than just a hard transition so you can easily carry speed up and over.

Looks like fun you say?  That's because it is!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Stiftung AutoMuseum Volkswagen

I ordered the "Birth Certificate" for my bus from the VW affiliate museum in Germany.  They keep a manual index card based inventory of all VWs manufactured to date, and by sending in the VIN number for your car, you can request the manufacturers records on file showing information such as equipment and original color.  I already knew what the "M-Codes" for the car were as they are posted on the M-Plate behind the driver seat, separate from the VIN Plate which is on the overhead airbox, passenger side.  I also already had the day of manufacture from the M-Plate, and below the M-Plate the original paper color sticker for the bus is still there too, so I knew the original color as well.  Also, the import code on the M-Plate for the bus shows the US as country of destination, with Philadelphia/Baltimore as entry port.

So long story short, I knew the info on the Certificate before ordering it, but what I wanted was the confirmation that I was right, and that there were no other tidbits available from the car's original manufacture card on file with VW.  Also, the idea of having a car's "Birth Certificate" is neat too.

So there it is.  M-Codes for Seat Belt Mounting Points (M-025), Six pop-out side windows (M-114), Sunroof delete (M-130), and Standard US Market Equipment (M-425).  Original color was Pearl White over Velvet Green, and that would have the Platinum interior trim.  The old girl launched on the line at the Hanover VW plant on the 28th of June, 1966.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sticker Bomb!

For the love of the Sticker Bomb!

The bed of my departed Tacoma 4x4.

Owned this car from 1999-2004

Aint nobody love stickers like me!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Droid-o-Phone Culture!

Dumpage from the Phone.  Does anyone else do this?  Think, "hey THAT's a neat-o shot.  I should snap that  with my handy Droid-o-Phone camera and then act like other people care about my pictures and put them on the interwebs later"?

I do that crap all the time.  What's worse is I don't think enough of other people to actually go to the effort to bore them to tears in an even slightly efficient and timely manner.  I make you people WAIT for your Droid-o-Phone uselessness.

We call it customer service, and it is all spelled out in the employee handbook for the drones of One Utahdog Center, World Congress of the Americas.

Let's catch up...

Bus on a strange moonlit evening in NE FLA.  Don't tell the boss lady I was tooling around at night!

Nice Try.

You are seeing that right.  In the middle of the lane, were you to follow the signals and not the skip lane shift, is a tree.  Here in Florida we call this "Traffic Engineering". 

Why aren't there more of these "wrong way" signs in bike lanes.  Seems like a perfect solution to solving the Fred Salmon proliferation condition that the world is facing.  Fred's do not understand directional markings.  By "Fred's" I mean me, and by "directional markings" I mean arrows.  By "salmon" I don't mean fleshy pink fish meat.

Rice for the Grape.  Yeah, I did that.  Hey, if my brother wants to wear cranberry plain front hipster trousers at the age of 46, I can rice up my purple Fit.  We are both equally stupid individuals.

Remember that tree in the middle of the lane were you to miss that skip lane shift?  Strike one.  They restored the tree to vertical shortly thereafter.  The beauty of the Sable Palm is that you can stick it in the ground like a cotton swab in pudding and it will grow.  I guess re-sticking it works as well? 

Wrong on taxes, wrong on wine.

Skip lane dodging tree, strike two.  This time they hauled it away.  I was tempted to snatch it up and put it in my yard to save it from the further embarrassment of being knocked over again.  Poor tree.

Fried food.  Locally we call this the "Diet Plate".  Yummy.

And we are done with the Droid-o-Phone camera catch-up, so stick that in your pudding and smoke it.