What’s been Happening?

This is starting to become a weekly thing, isn’t it? Well, almost weekly. It’s at least updated when I have something to say! This week I don’t have much to update on, just some rambling to let people know that I’m still alive.

So what’s been happening this week? Well, not much truth be told. As an update to one of my earlier postings, I am going home again. Yep, it’s official; I’m taking two weeks off work in early October and going back home. I’m pretty sure none of my family know about this blog, so I can talk about this right now. I’m not going to tell them until I arrive either.

I won’t give too many details here though, but suffice to say I’ve got a pretty full two weeks ahead of me, and I’ll be creating a new article about the trip including pictures. I’m going to try to update it DURING my trip using my laptop and a wireless hotspot or three. So keep an eye out during the last couple of weeks in September when I’ll start a brief overview of my preparations to leave. I’m psyched and looking forward to it a lot. Should be a lot of fun, as well as make me feel a lot better about things.

Other than that, just work really. Same old, different day. My A/C works a lot better now, maintaining temperature pretty well and not freezing up like it did. Of course, given it’s been in the 90′s the last few days here (about mid 30′s degree celsius for anyone reading from a more metric country), so it’s been warm enough to really test the A/C. Riding the bike has still been fun until you get stuck in traffic, then it gets pretty grim. I deliberately stopped carrying my laptop around in my backpack during the really hot days as that extra weight on my back just makes me even more grim.

The bike… ah yes. I’ve now ridden that bike over 1500 miles since I got it. Surprised? I was too. I just realized that the other day. This weekend I plan to get it up on the center stand and adjust the chain tension, check the sprockets and generally do a little maintenance that needs to be done. Still getting about 50mpg, so I’m definitely not complaining, but I am concerned the idle seems a little low for a bike (around 800rpm)… I’d expect a higher idle since the bike itself is more high-strung (gets most of its power around 3000rpm and above). Still, I’m going to read through my Clymer’s manual tonight and see what I can figure out there. Maybe I just need to adjust something.

Well, ’nuff updating for today. I gotta go and get back to work. Coffee breaks are fun, which is what I use to get these little tirades written

Hot Stuff!

First things first; for those who’ve asked to know what I look like, here’s a picture I shot with my MPX220 on Sunday 6/12/05. As you can see (if you check my articles page) I’m wearing my AGV Aeromesh jacket and sitting on my bike. I’m also wearing my Axio Tekno backpack. Slight case of helmet hair and one of my two Motorola HS810 Bluetooth headsets attached to my ear. I prefer my Logitech, though…

The last couple of days have pretty much sucked! Anyone trying to get to my site lately and found it down (or had problems emailing me), I apologize. I’ve had problems with my air conditioning since Sunday and only now got them worked out… so during really warm periods I’ve been shutting down my servers. Sorry for any inconvenience (especially to the people whose websites I host… SORRY!)

I’ve also not updated for that reason (yeah, like I need an excuse!)… I’ve just been too hot and miserable to really worry about it to be honest with you.

So what happened? Well, it’s a sad and convoluted story… which I’ll tell you :)

Basically, on Sunday I was having a pretty decent day. I had been out and done some side-work for a friend, had a chance to ride my bike… all was well with the world. Got home and was puttering around the house when I made the realization that I was starting to feel sort of toasty. Hmm… interesting. I thought little of it, but as the day wore on I felt worse. Finally went to the thermostat to find it reading an ambient temperature of over 80 degrees in the house. Considering I have my A/C set on 74, that’s not good. So I check the register in my downstairs bathroom. No air flow. OK, this is not good. I head down to the basement to check in on the furnace and put my hand on the side of the duct-work where the condenser lives. Very cold. I then check where the pipes from the compressor run into my condenser coils, and there’s ice on one of them. Oh boy.

Up to the garage, grab a 1/4″ wrench and I start pulling apart the ductwork. As soon as I pull it off I’m blasted by a blast of cold air… and given the chance to see what my cooling coils look like with about 1/8″ of ice all over them. I mean they were covered. The reason I had no airflow is that the coils were completely blocked!

Joy. That means one of two things; either I have no air flow due to a blocked or dead filter, or I’m low on freon. Financially I think I prefer the former as a possibility.

So, nothing I can do at 11pm on a Sunday, so I shut off the furnace entirely and leave it to thaw overnight. Thankfully my furnace is right next to a drain and there’s enough of a slight slope that water will run down to the drain from the furnace.

That turned out to be a long night. There was no way I was going to sleep; temperature reaching at least about 90 in the bedroom. Windows open didn’t help because it was still around 80 outside most of the night and humid as hell (would’ve just made me even more miserable). So I spent most of the night up.

Went to work on Monday only to find that I was too exhausted to actually do anything. Finally left around lunchtime feeling kind of grim and headed to Home Depot to get a new filter for my A/C. Took that home, installed it and cranked up the furnace again.

Within a few minutes we were down about 2 degrees from the 83 degrees that the house had been when I got home. Air flow seemed reasonable and all was right with the world. Right? Wrong.

Roll on 7pm. I realize it’s getting warm again. I go check the thermostat… despite the A/C having been on all day we’re back up to 84 degrees. The humidity outside is a killer because there are storms rolling in as well… joy! Shut down the servers again to make sure they don’t get too toasty and go check the furnace again. Once again, ice (though this time not quite as bad as the day before). This time I don’t shut down the furnace entirely… I turn the cooling off and the house fan on to melt away the ice and at least provide some air flow through the house.

So I start a routine of A/C cooling on for one hour, then off for 30 minutes with only the house fan on. Nothing I can do this late at night anyway. By 11:30pm when I finally go to bed I’ve manhandled the temperature down to 79 degrees. Not perfect, but at least livable (and the humidity isn’t too bad now since the storms have rolled through and given us one hell of a light show).

So yesterday morning, with the A/C off we’re at 78 degrees when I get up. Reasonable enough to bring up the servers. Looks like it’s not going to be a stunningly hot today, so I leave my servers up.

Talk to a friend of mine at work, and it appears his future father-in-law does air-conditioning as part of his job… and is quite willing to do some side work. Sweet! So I call the guy and schedule him to come over.

Well to make a long story short (TOO LATE!), I was quite low on freon. Once we charged it everything started to work normally again. As of this morning I’m at 74 degrees in the house and quite happy. However, this isn’t the end of the story.

Freon doesn’t get “used up” in A/C systems, it’s permanently in there and won’t lose pressure unless you’ve actually got a leak. We already looked for the leak at the compressor end, no leak. That means I’ve got a leak somewhere in the coils, potentially meaning I might have to replace them. So despite having the system charged and working at peak capacity again, it won’t last. I’m going to wait for a relatively cool day when I can shut the system down again and start looking for the leak. Should be fun… I think.

Feeling Funky

It’s been a strange week since I last updated. First the news updates on the bike.

Got my new air filter in the mail last Thursday and replaced it. Bike works great now, no problems from a mechanical perspective. Also bought an AGV Aeromesh riding jacket for summer riding, an AGV Rain Suit so I can ride in the rain without getting completely drenched, a Clymer’s maintenance manual for the bike and a few other knick-knacks. If you look to my sidebar on the left you’ll see I added a new Articles and Reviews link. I’ve written a review of my Aeromesh jacket to kick it off, and I hope to add more as I get time to write more. There are a couple of pics in there too taken with my MPX220. Still need to get around to writing a review of that piece of kit!

So why am I feeling funky (see the title of this entry)? Well, I guess my feelings at the moment are a combination of a lot of things; a little homesickness, feeling alone and just a feeling of disconnection. What caused this? Read on.

Last night I got home from my rain ride (see the Aeromesh review) and checked mail. There was a package in the mail from my father who lives in New Zealand. Inside was a CD-R. Anyway, after a little mucking around I managed to read the data from the CD (the drive in one of my PC’s is apparently dead) and found on it a letter from him and a bunch of pictures. Not to mention a Powerpoint presentation put together by my uncle Bryan to celebrate the diamond wedding anniversary of my grandparents on the Haslett side. So I started browsing pictures…

Not sure when the malaise came over me exactly, but it was while looking at these pictures that I started realizing how far from home I really am. I was looking at pictures of my cousins, kids I grew up playing with and realized that I could only vaguely recognize them now. I knew their names but it took a lot of digging.

It was while looking at one picture containing “most of the grandchildren” that it really hit home. I made the realization that standing at the left side of the picture were both of my brothers… and I realized that I initially hadn’t recognized either of them.

That’s a strange feeling, when you realize that your own brothers might not recognize you either. My cousins, who knows if they remember or think about me? I was never that close with the Haslett side of the family, mostly because my mother was quite controlling and didn’t like them very much. Funny, that out of the photos only two of the cousins I recognized; Claire and Rachel.

Suddenly the feeling of being thousands of miles from your family hits home. It’s like a ton of bricks hitting you from several hundred feet; your heart sinks, your stomach churns and you suddenly feel incredibly alone in the world. Isolated.

I’ve never had time to go home again since I left 10 years ago. Funnily enough, the last time I saw all those cousins in the pictures I was at the 50th wedding anniversary. That was also the last time I saw either of my brothers. You know, it probably didn’t help my mood that the 60th anniversary was at Belfast Castle, same as the 50th. Everything looking the same except the people… and putting a lot of it in perspective in a way that really hit home.

So here I am, sitting here typing out my feelings and at the same time feeling like I need to go home… if only for a little while. But as usual it comes down to money and time; when I have one I never have the other.

Sometimes people look at me and think from my exterior that living half way around the planet from everything you knew growing up is easy. It isn’t.

Revenge of the Sith

OK, here’s my quick and dirty review of Revenge of the Sith, the third and final (?) installment of Star Wars.

So, to start with a small amount of background. I’m 32 now, which means that I’m old enough to remember seeing Star Wars first run at the movie theater with my dad. It was at the Brighton Odeon in Sussex, England, and I remember the day being wet and cold. It’s amazing how the human memory works because I remember everything about arriving at the theater, and I remember leaving afterward and walking to the toy store with my dad and brother (Ashley), but I don’t remember actually watching the movie itself. In all probability, the number of times I’ve actually watched that movie now diluted that memory to the point where it pretty much no longer exists. That’s a shame in a way, I would love to be able to remember that.

So, the background is that I’ve seen every episode of Star Wars first run in the movie theaters. My opinions of The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones are complicated; I enjoyed both of them but didn’t find much to recommend them to others. They were decent entertainment, but TPM I found pandering to children a little too much and took some of the magic out of The Force. AOTC was better, and I enjoyed it despite the painful “love scenes”. The imagery is another matter, and is actually well covered here in ways that will make you view that movie very differently. Worth a read.

Anyway, ROTS is definitely better than the previous two, though still weaker than the original trilogy with the exception of Return of the Jedi. In fact, I’d say that in terms of film quality I’d rate Sith and Jedi at exactly the same rating. While in terms of writing, FX and general pacing Sith is better than Jedi, the acting is significantly worse to the point that it’s distracting at times.

So what’s good? Well, the movie in general is good. The opening scene alone is breathtaking in its immensity, but a little busy and hard to keep up with. Now, I’m not going to pick holes in the scientific flaws of “gliding” a wrecked space cruiser to land… this is fantasy, not science fiction despite what people try to tag it. The story itself flows reasonably well, and while some people might find the middle part of the story slow, it definitely sets up a lot of the politics and background that will flow through the rest of the story (the original trilogy). I liked it, it’s definitely better written than either of the previous two installments.

So what’s bad? Well, as I mentioned before the acting is atrocious. This is a shame as Hayden actually can act when he wants to, but here he seems to flounder frequently as though he really had very little effective direction. The only time I can say that his acting got better is when he’s acting angry after “becoming” Darth Vader (pre-suit). Of course, acting angry and pensive is easy requiring little direction. Another thing that jumped out at me as REALLY bad was a Hollywood cliche that would almost be perfect if it were Homer Simpson instead of Darth Vader. You’ll know what I mean when you see it… it’s probably the only truly cringeworthy part of the movie.

So is it worth your valuable money? Yes. Is it cinematic perfection? No. Read this article for more detail from someone who views Star Wars in much the same way I do. He’s only a couple of years older than me, so has similar recollections of the history of Star Wars.

Star Wars, in descending order of quality;

  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • A New Hope (Star Wars)
  • Return of the Jedi / Revenge of the Sith
  • Attack of the Clones
  • The Phantom Menace

Contact me if you want more information, or want to discuss my review.

Stress is good for you

Ungh… long day. Basically, work has been a drag… lots of outage stuff to deal with today… so I figured I’d run out and grab myself a nice peaceful lunch at Red Robin in Chesterfield Valley. So anyway, riding down there the bike started to surge a little at 55 mph… so I held back at 55 thinking maybe I had water in the gas. Stopped off at a gas station, dumped a little bit of HEET into the gas tank and topped her off. Went to lunch… not bad.

Anyway, get back out on the bike, take her up onto highway 40, accelerate down the on-ramp… surging is back at 50mph. Keep riding… as I approach the Boone bridge suddenly the surging gets worse. I keep falling back… and falling back… only to have the cycle repeat. By the time I’m cresting the bridge I’m at 30 miles per hour and not happy.

So I pull off to the side of the road, the idle not running very happily. Out of curiosity I give it just a smidgen of choke. She dies immediately. OK… choke off… start again. Kickstand down and round the back of the bike. Yep, she’s running rich alright… like REALLY rich. I think I know what the problem is.

So here I am, sitting by the side of the road with screwdriver in-hand pulling the air filter out of the bike. I pull it out… more oil around it. Now all I can think at this point is that there’s oil actually embedded in the paper filter… and the damned thing is completely black on the inside. Trucks are shooting past way fast and way close… bastards.

Anyway, I finally get the thing extricated and put the bike back together again. Lacking a place to put the air filter and not wanting to foul up the side of the highway I straddle the bike and sort of lean in such a way to hold the filter between myself and the bike. Thankfully I had the Corbin seat today, the stock seat I wouldn’t have been able to do it. Start her up… no problems. Accelerate up to 30… 40… 50… 60… 65… OK, so I’m speeding a little… but no surging. No problems… and smooth running.

Ah well, on the bright side I have a filter on-order… only problem is I have to get the bike home this evening with no air filter. The old one was leaking oil into my hand as I carried it up into the office… so I pitched it in a trash can. I love maintenance problems, don’t you? Also on the bright side, Fedex shows my package including the filter should be delivered tomorrow.

So why did this problem occur now? Well, probably the heat and humidity today combined to create a naturally rich-running condition anyway. The clogged and ancient filter (last replaced in 1997 according to Sharpie-marks on the filter itself) just made it so the carbs couldn’t breathe. Over-rich running and the flames of the combustion were essentially blowing themselves out with fuel. I’m not so confident that I don’t need to strip down and completely clean out the carbs… I might do that this weekend. Wheee… fun!