Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ed, Bill and Ralph

Edgar - King of the chair

Bill - Has a cold

Ralph - big puppy

Edgar and Ralph moving - I like the expression on Ralph's face

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cold Weather Motorcycling

I wanted to get the Harley Davidson Cold Weather Gauntlet gloves since in the Motorcycle Cruiser review of Cold-Weather Motorcycling Gloves they say they are the warmest - but it doesn't appear HD makes that particular glove anymore.

I ended up getting the Firstgear Voyager 2.0 glove at Bent Bike in Lynnwood.

I like the quality of my Firstgear cold weather One-Piece Suit so I assumed they make pretty good winter gloves too. My hands were nice and warm on the 15 mile ride home at speeds from 35 to 60 mph with the temperature in the high 30's.

I'm looking forward to seeing how they work in the rain.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

KZP Headlamp Replacement - It Pays to Shop Around

The low beam on my Kawasaki burned out awhile back and I went shopping for a replacement.

The replacement bulb for a 2000 KZP is Kawasaki p/n 92069-1002. A local Kaw dealer and want $62.96 for that bulb. The stock bulb is a H4 (Halogen 4) 60/55W. This bulb is also known as a 9003 bulb. It's used on some automobiles as well as motorcycles.

That seemed like a lot of money for this little bulb so I ended up buying a couple from Napa online for $5.49 each plus $7.49 shipping. I would have bought them locally but none of the Napa auto parts stores had them in stock and they wanted me to pay shipping and then pick them up at the store. Made more sense to have them shipped to me.

I replaced the bulb and noticed it wasn't as bright as the one that had failed. I assumed the burned out bulb was stock but it turned out to be a H4 100/80W bulb. You can buy one of those at JC Whitney or Amazon etc. for 9 bucks. The description of the 100/80W bulb says it's for use in off-road conditions only. If I was doing much night driving I might go ahead and get one - it made a difference in road visibility and no one was flashing their high beams at me while I was driving with it - so I assume it wasn't blinding oncoming drivers or annoying them.

You can read about the H4 9003 designations on Wikipedia or at CandlePowerForums. The H4 comes in a range of wattage ratings e.g. 60/55W, 100/55W, 100/80W, 130/90W. This first number is the high beam and the second is for low.

I guess it pays to shop around and check to see that the part you are ordering is actually same as the the one on the bike. I never thought of going through the minor hassle of pulling the old bulb to make sure what wattage it was - I was more interested in riding and I had a high beam and a couple of driving lamps working.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Immediate Feedback

A lot of things we do tend to be fairly abstract in the sense that there is no immediate relationship between our actions and the results. We accept that is the case when we raise children, work as teachers, put effort into becoming more educated or do things like limiting our food/alcohol intake and increasing physical activity in hopes of being healthier.

The challenge is that in our modern world we sometimes find too many things we do in our work and our leisure time (if we focus on online activities) to be abstractions or distractions.

If you were a subsistence farmer and made a mistake in your crop planning, planting, cultivation, or harvesting you might end up starving. If you were a cave person and got too close to the Saber Tooth cat you might be lunch.

It doesn't have to be anything that dramatic though - if you are sewing a shirt, knitting a sweater, cooking a meal, working on a car or motorcycle - you get pretty immediate feedback that what you are doing is or isn't working. I think that appeals to people - you don't have to wait and wonder if that email you sent did what you wanted - you can see you knit one sleeve longer than the other, you stripped that bolt - you burnt the pie.

If you interact directly with another human (especially the younger type humans) you will get immediate feedback.

If you pet or play games with a dog or a cat - you get immediate feedback.

Individual sports like golf, bowling, fishing have that same sort of appeal where what you do has an immediate impact on the results. Not so much a team sport where the team wins or loses - although there is certainly the opportunity for one person to have a positive or negative impact on the game (sort of like work for some people) - but you can't say one person won or lost a football, basketball or hockey game.

One of the appeals of gambling is that you either win or lose a bet, and thereby validate your actions, although money in itself is a bit of an abstraction in some context.

You can take it up a notch with other activities like bicycling, kayaking, mountain climbing, motorcycle riding where the risks are higher and you either manage risk - or one day your luck runs out.

I think it's all about wanting to be alive while you're living and know that what you do has an impact. So go bake a pie or ride a bike or talk to a little kid or something (talking to myself again...)

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Deep Roots Project

I'm posting this video because I like the background music. The song is "It's My Youth" - lyrics written by Jesse Altig, and music by Andy Tabb. It's one of the songs written by high school students for the The Deep Roots Project which was started in the Portland area in 1998 by a high school teacher named Chris Gragg. You can listen to samples of their music and buy CD's at CD Baby

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Westlake Holiday Carousel

It was a lot of fun to volunteer tonight. I got more carousel rides in one
night than in my whole life. All for the good cause of supporting
Treehouse for Kids.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Today's Ride

I rode my KZP from Everett to the Seattle International Motorcycle Show today.

It's the first time I've been to one of those. I thought it would be like the Seattle Bicycle Expo where you can get some good deals on clothing and bicycles. I'm not in the market for a motorcycle but I was surprised at the prices (and lack of selection) for clothing and gear. I was interested in a pair of over-pants, but the prices at the show were higher than what you pay online - at least for the couple of pairs of Tour Master pants that I looked at. They were asking MSRP but these things always seem to be on sale online.

It was a good day for a ride - sunny and 36 to 38 degrees, parking was free and I think I can use my ticket at a Harley dealership for $10 off on some gloves I want - so the show cost me a buck.

On my way home I snapped a picture of the 75 cent room sign in Pioneer Square -

I wandered over to Peets in Freemont and had a double espresso on the deck in front -

Then went under the bridge and got a picture of the troll -

Then I headed North through stop and go traffic on I-5 and got home in time to see the University of Montana Grizzlies win their football game against Appalachian State in the semi-finals. Game time temp in Missoula was about 18 F with some blowing snow thrown in for extra excitement.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Quest for Warm(er) Hands - MSR Hand Deflectors

I ordered some MSR Hand Deflectors from They don't completely enclose your hands, and aren't insulated with fleece, like the Hippo Hands.

I have some cold weather neoprene bicycling gloves I wear under a pair of leather gloves that work pretty good - but it would be nice to have my hands just a little warmer. I think the MSR hand deflectors might offer just enough wind protection to keep my hands comfortable on short rides on cold days and those longer rides on chilly days.

The MSR units are advertised as universal fit - they strap on, so they don't require a mounting bracket. I'm interested to see how they work out.

Postscript Jan 7 2010:

The MSR hand deflectors didn't work for me. With the single strap they tend to flop around and were impossible to mount securely, orient correctly since they hit the mirrors and they tend to push on the clutch/brake lever as the wind pushes them back. You could, if you were so inclined, modify them by drilling a hole in them so they'd fit over the mirror stems and construct (or buy) a mounting bracket to keep them from pushing on the clutch/brake levers. I wasn't so inclined so I returned them.

I've figured out that the fairing on the KZP makes a big difference in wind chill compared to the Sportster, and for the type of riding I'm doing a pair of winter gloves is sufficient on the KZP. For the Sporty you would need some heated grips or gloves or some sort of wind deflector if you were going to ride it in below 40 weather (which I don't anyway since I'm not using a winter weight oil).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

AMA Membership - Includes Motorcycle Towing

For $39 a year an American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) Membership provides some pretty good benefits.

You get towing service that covers -
  • All of your motorcycles, cars and trucks
  • Towing up to 35 miles.
  • Up to five dispatched service calls per year
  • RV's
  • Trailers
  • Trip Routing
You also get a subscription to American Motorcyclist Magazine and discounts on motorcycle rentals, lodging, campgrounds and motorcycle supply stores. You get a $10 gift card from when you sign up for the AMA.

I think getting the tow coverage for the price of a magazine subscription is a good deal. I'll find out for sure if I ever have an occasion to use the service.

For comparison purposes AAA"Plus RV" covers motorcycles and is $125 a year. The basic AAA membership is $59 a year but only covers tows up to 5 miles and doesn't cover motorcycles. It might make sense to sign up for the AMA even if you don't have a motorcycle.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Motorcycle Consumer News

I haven't read a lot of motorcycle magazines since I was a kid, but I have to say nowadays my favorite is Motorcycle Consumer News. The other magazines have lots of ads and pictures and tend to focus on a particular type of bike or riding. Motorcycle Consumer News doesn't have any ads and has a wide variety of articles of interest to any type of bike or riding.

They also have a Used Bike Value Guide that's a handy reference point when you're perusing the craigslist motorcycle classifieds. It's not surprising that the majority of motorcycle owners are asking more for their used bikes than the NADA price.

The NADA prices are for the "full retail value of a stock motorcycle in a reconditioned or clean, undamaged and well-maintained condition with average mileage, ready to be sold by a dealer or between individuals. The value assigned is a national average." These prices are a good starting point for determining if that craigslist bike is a good deal or not.

It's not online but Motorcycle Consumer News also has a summary of every popular motorcycle showing 0-60 time, top speed, horsepower, torque - if you like to compare those things.

I'd guess Motorcycle Consumer News probably appeals more to a mature rider, or someone who likes motorcycles, and riding motorcycles, in general and isn't locked-in on a particular brand or type of riding.

MCN is available at the Everett Public Library or you can get your own subscription for $22/year.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Google Chrome - For Linux

The Google Chrome browser is available for Linux now. It's still beta but seems to be working great for me - faster than the fox. You can search from the address bar using CTRL K, so you don't need a separate search box and you don't need to move your cursor to start typing a search term. Chrome has other Keyboard and mouse shortcuts that might make things quicker for you too.

I downloaded a pre-beta version months ago and it wasn't ready for distribution. Google developers were clear on that, so I just played with it for awhile and got on the mailing list for when the official beta came out.

Chrome will import all your Firefox favorites - so it's easy to switch over and see what you think.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Creamy Squash Soup Recipe

I made this soup yesterday using the recipe from the back of a Silk Soymilk container -

Ingredients -

3 cups butternut squash chunks (de-seeded and peeled)
3 cups vegetable stock
1 clove garlic - minced
1 cup Silk Organic Unsweetened Soymilk
1 pinch ground ginger
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute the garlic in your saucepan, add the vegetable stock and squash chunks - let simmer until squash is soft (about 10 minutes).

Puree in a blender. I used a hand blender, because I don't like pouring boiling hot stuff in a blender, and didn't feel like waiting for it to cool off. You could probably use a mixer or a fork if you don't have a blender.

Add the soymilk, ginger, salt, pepper and reheat.

I used a couple of random squash (squashes? squish?) that were in the kitchen (not butternut) and it turned out very good - nice and sweet and good on a cold wintery day.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Time To Garage the Bike - Maybe

It was 28 F when I left for work this Friday morning. The cold isn't really a problem but the frost could be. I felt my tires start to come loose from the pavement while going around a corner - an adrenalin boost on a two-wheeler...but a little too risky for my tastes. Riding a motorcycle on icy streets is probably a bit stupid, so I'll be trying to avoid that in the future.

Postscript - Saturday was nice - sunny and cold, but there was some frost in the shady areas so we spent the day going up North to cut down a Christmas tree (drove the pickup...not a bike). Sunday afternoon it was 36 F and sunny. I rode my Kaw about 70 miles - mostly on the freeway. It wasn't bad at all with the windshield and riding suit. I just need something a little better for my hands - maybe some Hippo Hands or something like that.

I tried to fire up the Sportster when I got home and that 20-50 oil was like molasses in January. It's suppose to be good down to 40 F, so it was a little cold for that weight oil and the engine just couldn't get spinning fast enough to fire-up, plus it's probably not the best thing for the engine bearings, cylinders, push-rods to run that weight oil when it's below 40. I have the trickle charger/maintainer on it now and hope we see some 40 plus weather here in the not too distant future.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Kawsaki and Harley - A Few Observations

A few observations on the 4 cylinder Kawasaki vs. the Harley V-Twin - (a) it's a lot easier to change the oil and filter on the Harley. The Harley has a spin on oil filter and a drain plug held in place with a hose clamp, so you if you have a screwdriver and fairly strong grip to spin the filter you can change the oil and filter. The Kawasaki on the other hand has a complicated filter assembly that won't clear one of the exhaust pipe clamps, so you get to free that rusted nut before dropping the filter out. Make sure you get the two o-rings, spring, washer, and top cap back in correctly when you reassemble (see pic below for the parts that make up the oil filter assembly) (b) hydraulic lifters make the Harley worry free when it comes to valve adjustment. The Kaw on the other hand is supposed to have the valves checked, and adjusted using shims if necessary, every 3000 miles. This involves removing - the gas tank, 20 bolts from the valve covers and some other stuff (I haven't tried it yet...). and (c) The Harley has a belt drive. No messy chain lubing like on the Kawaski.

They are both fun to ride and wrench on. Just different. The Kawasaki is lighter and more maneuverable. The Harley gets up and goes at low RPM's. The Harley sounds good and gets 50 mpg around town. The Kawasaki sounds like a 4 cylinder engine revving pretty high (4000 rpm at 60 mph) and gets about 30 mpg around town (more than 50 mpg on the highway though).