Thursday, November 30, 2006

Some Holiday Musings

Sorry to everyone, I know I've been a little lax on posting lately. Blame the holidays, my birthday, and the fact that Thor has been mistaking Washington state for New England lately.
Seriously, my birthday was spent hanging around the house watching dvds with my sweets. There was 2 inches of ice on the road outside our house. I guess that's what happens when you turn 35, you are perfectly happy to spend your natal day trapped inside with a hot young thing. Ok, well I spent several hours painting with my new air compressor, which works like a dream. For the first time in almost 15 years of dabbling with an airbrush, my air supply is something that I can just forget about. Ok yeah, so a silent compressor isn't totally silent, more akin to the compressor in your fridge, but at least I don't have a heart attack if I'm really in the zone when it kicks on.
I haven't done any serious airbrush work since before I went back to college, so I'm still blowing out the cobwebs in my technique. But regardless, it's nice to be painting again. Hopefully I'll have some completed work to post up here, early next year.

I do have some posts in the works, but with all our winter storms, the internet has gone down at the house, so I'm just jettin' off some quick posts in the slow times at work.
You may have noticed I've put some ads up, and I've started some affiliate stores. I'm hoping to upgrade the blog in the coming year, and integrate with some more professional level creative endeavors, so I'm hoping to raise some of the initial costs of hosting and domain registration this way. Anyone who knows me well, knows I'm pretty much a failure as a capitalist, so if you are strapped for cash, feel free to puruse my stores for ideas, and then purchase your booty elsewhere.
Yep, consider those stores my recommendations for the comic, art or scooter geeks christmas wishlist. Well, not mine, because I have most of the titles and supplies there, but that's why I'm recommending them. I'll be elaborating on the art geek present recommendations in the next couple days.
So, for now, I'll leave you with one recommendation for the geek who has everything. My good friend, and sometimes book-bucaneer cohort Eamon has recently lucked upon a first printing first American edition of the Hobbit in hard cover. He's asking $4k (usd) for it, which is more than fair, and I think there might be some wiggle in that asking price, if he can find the right home. So if you really wanna spoil your geek this holiday season, and up his or her positioning for Alpha-Geek in the coming year, here's your chance. Oh, and tell E-Doggy that the Dragon sent ya.

So that's it for now, and remember kiddies, only 16 more shopping days to Chanukkah.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Bookslut: Interview with Brian K. Vaughan

Interview with Brian K. Vaughan

Totally off-topic but Bookslut has got to be my favorite name for a website, EVAH! Reminds me of the cute pierced, tattooed, gothy librarian who turned me on (er, ahem, pun FULLY intended) to The Master and Margarita.

Anywho... This is a fun little interview, with a lot of discussion of Brian's new graphic novel, Pride of Baghdad, which I haven't gotten my hot little talons on yet. But if you've read any of Mr. Vaughan's other work, you know he is a sharp cookie, who is cranking out some of the best and most accessible to a wide audience graphic narratives today.

At the time of this interview, we're two days away from the fifth anniversary of 9/11, which has clearly been a huge influence, especially on Ex Machina. What inspired you to create a series explicitly inspired by those events?
I was living in Brooklyn at the time with my then-girlfriend/now-wife, and we watched the towers fall from the rooftop of our building. You feel particularly impotent as a writer at that time, especially as a comic book writer, and you want to respond in some way, but feel like the medium maybe isn't the most relevant. Over time I realized that wasn't the case, and that I wanted to write about way in which we changed -- and didn't change -- after 9/11.
Especially the way we are looking for our leaders to be "heroes." George W. Bush on the flight deck, Governor Schwarzenegger, John Kerry campaigning on his war record. Is there really such a thing as a hero, or is that just a fiction we create and impose on the people we chose to lead us? Comics ask that question, all the time, and I found a way to specifically answer that question with not just comics, but superhero comics.

Is Ex Machina a superhero comic?
Yes. I'm not afraid to call it that, I'm not snobbish. After all, Watchmen doesn't transcend genre -- it is the genre. And Spider-man isn't about a kid bitten by a radioactive spider; it's about great power meaning great responsibility. Superheroes work best as timeless metaphors, and I'm able to have both. There's a guy with a jet-pack having adventures, but he also deal with potholes and real world issues. Ex Machina was born out of my reverence for that genre, not out of my disdain for it.

How to Draw SteamPunk Machines

How to Draw SteamPunk Machines

Nice over view of the mechanics of steam enigines, slanted towards helping artists render functionally plausible Victorianesque technological fantasies. A guy who is quite an artist as well as having actually built some pretty cool functioning steampunk toys. Definitely worth mining the Crabfu site, if you're interested in this sort of thing.

South Sound Scooter Advisory

Well, I just got back inside from my last smoke break of the night, and it had just started snowing outside. It had been raining for the last two and half hours as well. So if you are scootin' it in Olympia or Lacey today, be extra careful, go slow and keep your eyes peeled for black ice. Or just take the bus.

Good Manga Studio Tips Site

Pencil Killer Manga Studio Tutorials

I recently picked up Scott McCloud's latest, Making Comics, and it has me itching to do some more work on my long neglected comic. Unfortunately, I think that project will have to remain on the backburner for a little while longer, at least until after the holidays. I've got some additions coming to blog soon (some have already been added in embryonic form,) and I've got a b-day present coming tommorrow that will probably keep me busy for at least the next month. But more on these developments, as they shape up.
Of course when I get back to the comic (or graphic novel) I will most certainly be diving back into Manga Studio Pro. Just browsing around the web, I found this link to some good tutorials for the software. The documentation for Manga Studio is better than most software, but it's still not the clearest, and the authors are really aiming to show you how to do traditional manga. That's all well and good, but the software is much more powerful than that, and could be used to crank out any kind of graphic narrative you can dream up. I'd actually recommend it as well to some one doing a zine. I know most zines are run on a shoe string, but more and more are being done with at least some digital tools, and for half the price of Photoshop you get a tool that gives you all the functionality you need from Photoshop, as well the same from Illustrator and InDesign. When you think about $300 ain't bad for a version of Adobe's Creative Suite, that has everything you need for black and white self publication. Add a lower-end paint utility, and you've got color functionality as well.
So anyway, if you take my advice and try Manga Studio, you owe it to yourself to check Pencil Killer. I wasted a lot of time, trying to figure out some the basics that are discussed here.

5:59am PST edit--
Just realized I've posted this before, but this is a far better post, so I'll let it stand.

Divided Britain

England wants its independence

Here's an interesting story. While a recent vote on Scottish independence was defeated, it seems popular opinion on both sides of Hadrian's Wall is beginning to lean towards it.

A clear majority of people in both England and Scotland are in favour of full independence for Scotland, an ICM opinion poll for The Sunday Telegraph has found. Independence is backed by 52 per cent of Scots while an astonishing 59 per cent of English voters want Scotland to go it alone.

Maybe it's time, since it's been almost 10 years since the Stone of Scone was returned.

Some Scottish political blogs & links:
Tartan Hero blog of Grant Thoms. Scottish National Party candidate in the north east of Glasgow.
Freedom And Whisky A libertarian returns to Scotland. "Freedom and Whisky gang thegither"- Robert Burns.
Free Scotland Now!
Wikipedia's entry on Scottish independence
the Scottish Independence Guide
Independence First : The campaign for a referendum on Scottish independence
Simply Scottish Scottish Citizenship Campaign

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Go-Go Gadget Gospel (live from Webster Hall)

Go-Go Gadget Gospel (live from Webster Hall)

It looks like DJ DangerMouse and Cee-Lo were as effected by the 80's as the Dragon, (and take themselves just as seriously.) Really, though you should check this out, I can't quit smiling, and tapping my feet. If you are at work, or around some little pitchers, you might wanna use some head-phones, as the language is NSFW.

Oingo Boingo - Gratitude

Oingo Boingo - Gratitude

If you didn't know, before Danny Elfman was rolling in the Hollywood soundtrack dough, he was the leadman for one of the greatest 80's synth-pop bands, Oingo Boingo.
Yes, the Dragon is a child of the 80's, and this video reminds me of why I loved having my attention span systematically reduced by cathode-rays.

Friday, November 24, 2006

A Morality Tale: for Scooterists

the wages of sin is death

Let this be a warning to you, kiddies. See what happens when this guy rides without a helmet? That's right, he ends up drinking Sierra Nevada ... and liking it!

Seriously, though, this ain't for kids, and the Dragon does not condone any of this behavior, especially drinking Sierra Nevada!

Oh thank Allah!!!

WATANDOST: Inside News About Pakistan: Empowering Muslim Women

Maybe a day late, but really here is something to be thankful for this holiday season.
The Dragon tries really hard to understand and respect all creeds, and has read the Koran, just as he's read the Bible, Upanishads, and Dhammapadda. I just have a problem with fundamentalism, hate, and intolerance. (So don't you born agains think you are getting away with anything just yet...)
I can even tolerate religious groups who practice traditional gender roles, as long as that practice doesn't extend to genital mutilation, and acts of violence and murder upon those who do not live up to those roles.
I'm just gonna shut up, now, because it would be too easy for me to rant about the negative. But here, my friends, is a little bit of light...

Bid To Bring Female Voice To Islamic Law Ben ArnoldyMuslim Women From 25 Countries Meet In New York, Forming CouncilChristian Science Monitor:November 21, 2006

Meeting in New York over the weekend, Muslim women from 25 countries began laying groundwork for the first international all-female council formed to issue fatwas. Their idea: to ensure that women's perspectives on Islamic law become part of religious deliberation in the Muslim world — particularly on issues such as domestic violence, divorce, and inheritance. ...
The number of women officially sanctioned to issue fatwas is hard to pin down, but certainly tiny. The emergence of such women, known as muftias, usually makes headlines: A religious school in India installed three in 2003, and the Turkish government last year hired two assistant muftias, its first. Governments and schools try to license who can issue fatwas, but Islam stipulates only certain prerequisites, such as knowledge of the Koran and Arabic. As a result, the ranks of unofficial authorities are deeper and the barriers to women surmountable. ...
The New York gathering, called the Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equity, plans to seat the new council — perhaps seven members — within a year. Drawn from diverse schools within Islam, the members will be versed in Islamic law. The group also plans to give scholarships for more women to pursue advanced training — open to women in places like Morocco, Egypt, and Iran — in an effort to broaden the qualified pool. "Islam is a religion of law, and it is important to express the principles of social justice within the framework of Islamic law," says Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement and leader of the effort. "This is why we need muftias, in order to do that. Otherwise, it falls on deaf ears." Traditionally, religious legal authority was local, vested in muftis and other leaders who attained their status via government appointment or community esteem. But today's global communications are challenging that, as more Muslims seek religious opinions far and wide through the Internet. The women's council takes advantage of this: Its members will be in different places, taking questions and conferring over the Web.

The Inter-Galactic Playground

The Inter-Galactic Playground

Just stumbled across this site, but I must say I'm already impressed, and will checking it out more in days to come. Inter-Galactic Playground is Farah Mendlesohn's blog which focuses primarily on children's science fiction. Looking it over, I'd say children's and the dreaded Young Adult demographic. (What 12-17 year old reader wants to read "young-adult" stuff? I mean if you're a SF reading teen, you probably want the same stuff the adults do, maybe with a few more characters your age, but you sure don't want it to say "young adult" on it. Any teen worth their salt knows (or thinks) that means lit with training wheels.)
err... ahem...
Anyway this looks like a really cool site, and I'm curious to read many of the books described here...

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory...: Levithan, David. Wide Awake. New York: Alfred Knopf, 2006.
There has been a Presidential election, the Gay Jewish candidate won and the conservatives are up in arms. But this is a bit further into the future and the evangelicals have split. The Jesus Freaks are more concerned with community and kindness, leaving homophobia to others. But the election is challenged in Kansas and Duncan's boyfriend decides to go and join the many who refuse to let this election be stolen. Most of the book is about the personal relationships on the bus, and on Duncan's anxiety that he cannot live up to his boyfriend's more radical spirit. It's also about Duncan's belief that the relationship is forever and Jimmy's rather more mature approach. As with Boy Meets Boy (a wonderful utopian novel about a high school) Levithan's protagonist is rather young for his age.

Cooking For Engineers - Recipe File: Roasted Asparagus Spears

Cooking For Engineers - Recipe File: Roasted Asparagus Spears

I've been meaning to do some more posts about food and recipes, but it always seems to slip my mind. I don't know why, the internet is my favorite cookbook, as it allows me to compare several recipes quickly, apply some pattern-recognition, and come up with something halfway original, that has an increased likelihood of success. One of my favorite sites for recipes is Cooking for Engineers, which has an attitude towards cooking that is in step with Alton Brown. Cooking is part science, part art. But if you've done your research and know the science bit, well you're halfway there, right?

Snap off the bottoms of the asparagus stalks. The bottom of the stalk is fibrous and not very pleasant to eat, so just grab the bottom and bend until it snaps. Let the stalk snap at a natural breaking point as close to the cut end as possible. This position will be different for each stalk, but will very nearly guarantee that all your asparagus stalks will be tender. (Cutting off the bottoms doesn't work too well since you have to guess where the stalk stops being tender.)

Combat Commuter: Scootouring

Combat Commuter: Scootouring

John over at Combat Commuter has put up a long post detailing a four and half hour trip from Tallahassee, Florida to Mobile, Alabama. It's actually a fairly indepth review of his Scarabeo 500 as well.

This was really a test trip, to see how she would do on the freeway. As soon as I pulled onto I-10, I knew this scoot could go anywhere. I accelerated up to 80MPH, and enjoyed cruising along with the traffic with ease. Kristen had already left earlier in the day while I was at work, so I did not have to worry about her keeping up with me. I had heard from other maxi-scoot owners that wind from the rigs would throw me around a bit, but it really didn't bother me. My BMW was certainly blown around more than Beo. Everything was smooth at 80MPH. Now, Beo has rougher suspension than most bikes I have had, but that is attributable to both the weight capabilities and the engine/swingarm setup. That's alot of weight to swing up and down when the rear wheel hits a bump. However, I have found that she smooths out considerably with a bit of load or a passenger.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Cure Me - New York Times

Cure Me - New York Times

Here's a little something for you food-nerds out there. Yes, I'm looking at you, Mom. But really this time of year, I think most of us become a little bit more food nerdy. Parties and family gatherings, both potlucks and catered, we are exposed to so much food this time year, so many variations on so many themes, like a Frat-boy at a wine tasting, pretty soon you develop a palate without even meaning to.
This article from the New York times touches on something that has always fascinated me, MEAT! Well and meat preservation.

If I really am dedicated to cooking by the seasons and supporting local agriculture, I thought, now would be the obvious time to buy a whole pig. Ideally, I would break it down into primal cuts, put the hams in salt for the next month, and then hang them at room temperature for two years, allowing them to slowly dry into prosciutto. And why not grind up the dark, fatty shoulders with salt, pepper and juniper, stuff the mixture into casings, and then leave the sausages in a cool room for six weeks to naturally ferment, developing delicious, tangy porcine flavors?
I can’t, because the United States Department of Agriculture and the local health departments do not allow commercial processing of meat without refrigeration.
This is astonishing, because since Neolithic times, people have safely cured and preserved meats without refrigeration. Europeans have turned curing into an art, and the best processors are revered craftsmen who earn national medals of honor. Salt, time and a good dose of fresh air are the only additions needed to produce salsicce, culatello and 24-month-old prosciutto or serrano — foods that Americans smuggle home from Europe in their luggage.

I do hope I haven't offended any vegetarians or vegans out there. I totally respect your dietary desicions, and have no desire to convert you to carnivorism. All I ask is you do the same. Besides, who ever heard of a vegetarian Dragon?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

They Might Be Giants - The Long Grift

They Might Be Giants - The Long Grift

Here's a rare one for you. I'd never heard or seen it before.

Rare promo video for They Might Be Giants' cover of 'The Long Grift' from the musical 'Hedwig And The Angry Inch', released on the charity tribute album 'Wig In A Box'. This video is one of the very few TMBG promos never to appear on a DVD release. Puppets by the Deeply Felt Puppet Theater.

They Might Be Giants on 120 Minutes 1988 Part 2

They Might Be Giants on 120 Minutes 1988 Part 2

Oh yeah, on more hit from back in the day when MTV stood for Music Television. "I'll Sink Manhattan", and that previous little ditty was "Letterbox."
And the Dragon wishes you a happy Turkey-Day. Save me some of that pumpkin pie, ya hear?

They Might Be Giants on 120 Minutes 1988

They Might Be Giants on 120 Minutes 1988

Oh man, 120 minutes used to be my innoculation before another hellish week of High School. Gawd, I miss that show. But at least we still got accordian geek-rock!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

CMSI's Modern L (for Lambretta)

CMSI's Modern L (for Lambretta)

This has been in the works for a while. So long in fact that many scooterist believed it was going to turn into Vapor-ware. But both of these images are of the 2nd prototype, which apparently is undergoing review for suitablility and tooling at this time. The above picture is from the EICMA 2006, and was one of the bits of news I was most anxious to hear about it. CMSI (manufacturer/ distributor of the TN'G brand scooters) has been working on this in partnership with PM Tuning and Piaggio. That's right, this baby is going to be sporting the Piaggio Quasar 250cc 4 stroke engine, same motor as the Vespa GTS 250ie, and the Piaggio BV 250. Looks like the old Lambretta vs. Vespa rivalry will have a new twist.

A lot of the classic scooter fans have been skeptical of this project to say the least. And while many classic Lambretta fans (who if anything are more rabid than Vesperatti) will never be happy unless they see something with classic Innocenti lines and manual tranny (2 stroke engine wouldn't hurt either), I think this is the best retooling of a classic to date. Better than the modern Vespas, VW bugs, or Ford Mustangs, by a long shot. CMSI had tried to get rights to the Lambretta name, but could not secure them world-wide, so are instead going with the "L-series" name. Word on the street is that much of the body will be fiberglass instead of steel. If so that should make this scoot faster straight out of the box than the Vespa GTS, due to a lighter body.

This is a very tempting scooter. I've had some issues with TN'G in the past, and am still unsure how much of it was the dealer I was going through, and how much of it was CMSI. I would take some convincing to plop down some money on one of their scoots again. And rumour has it that this baby is going to be in the same ballpark as the Piaggio 250cc models, probably in the range of $6 to 7k when all is said and done. So this will definitely be a high-end specialty scoot. But the QUASAR is supposed to be a stellar engine, and one that many trained mechanics (any modern Vespa shop) would be able to work on. Plus with both cowls removable, more minor mechanical tinkering should be much easier than on most 4-strokes.

Another thing going for this project, is that CMSI have tried to involve the Lambretta fan base with the early steps of the production. They haven't been rushing to get this thing on the market either. They have definitely been taking their time, and getting the kinks worked out. Plus, CMSI is based in Preston, WA, so luckily, this one on-the-drawing-board scoot that we should certainly see state-side. It may still be a year or two, but by then, I may be looking to add another scoot to my stable...

Thanks go out to The Scooter Scoop and 2Stroke Buzz for breaking this story first. If you are interested in this story, you should check out what they and their respective communities are saying about it.

Jack Kerouac Interviewed by Steve Allen

"go thou and be little before my sight.." oh, we are Jack. No one has ever made the Dragon feel as little as you.


The Specials - Gangsters

This one goes out to Ian de Sane. Hope it's not all you have to be thankful for this week, buddy. I miss ya.

Dang, this makes those aftermarket stereos for scooters all the more enticing!

Foul Weather Rider Addendum

Combat Commuter: Cold Ride to School:

Combatscoot over at Combat Commuter has a good post on electrically heated gear. I've kinda wondered about the intricacies of how these things pull juice, but haven't really looked into it, as here in the Sound if you can stay dry, you'll probably stay warm. It's a post definitely worth checking out if you are (or aspire to be) a four-season scooterist.

If you use electric gear properly, what it gives you is reserve capacity. You still dress warmly enough for the conditions when you leave home, but you don't have to carry as much extra as before, and if conditions suddenly change for the worse while you are riding, you don't have to pull off the road and don more layers, you just reach-up and turn the electrics on. That's nice, because when it's cold, you really don't want to stop unless it's for coffee. And, that extra reserve capacity of heat can save your life if conditions get really cold. Hypothermia is alot like drunkenness, because your body doesn't know how bad it's being affected until it's too late.

Monday, November 20, 2006

I'm Naked from the Waist Down! (File under gloriously self-defeating)

So, after like a week of trying to find some decent way of keeping my legs warm, dry and protected that won't make me feel like a total dweeb, I found out Corazzo has a new jacket. (see below.) Dang! I wish they made scooter pants! So I sent them this email. Why is this self-defeating? The punch line is at the end.

Why is finding a decent way to keep my legs dry and warm such a pain in my toukkiss?
So since MetroScoot is no more, do you still have TermScuds? Will you be getting them? I'd rather give y'all the markup than some random network of EU shipping agents.
Or wait, better yet, y'all should come up with your own line(s) of pants. Come on, the only things out there that don't look drain bamaged are the Draggin Jeans. But for Buddha's Sake! I'm a daily rider, what am I supposed to have like seven pair? (Wait there's no way I'd do laundry once a week...)
Please, Brandon! I see your posts on Modern Vespa. I know you know what I'm talking about. Ya gotta be feeling me on this one. Hell maybe you already have something in the works.
C'mon, you know you wanna... Hell, maybe you already are! Thor-only-knows you been cranking out the new jackets lately. I've barely broken in my 5.0, just got my sweetie a bomber, and now I wanna get both us Shop Jackets. ***Sigh***
Better to have too many options than too few or none.
But pants for scooterists are non-existent.
Scooterists need pants!
Seriously, you've planted your flag. You have carved a unique niche in riding gear. I hope you continue to expand it. I think people would pay for a pant that could easily be worn over your daily wear, but that you'd be tempted to just leave on. I know I would.

Thanks for listening to me rant. I have also just contacted you, through the "employment" link. I'm not just shooting off at the mouth, I'd love to see some of the above ideas come to light.

Note: the original email had some more specific ideas for scooterist trousers, which I have deleted from this post. I gotta have something to bargain with, right?

New Corazzo "Shop Jacket"

New Corazzo "Shop Jacket

This has got to be the perfect scooterist jacket!

Finally, the jacket that everyone has been asking for. Designed to look like a regular mechanics jacket, the Corazzo Shop Jacket is constructed of a heavy duty cotton/poly twill with abrasion resistant patches of Cordura placed under the twill at the elbows and back. The quilted lining keeps you warmer on chilly daze and combined with the adjustable waist fit, makes for a very comfortable fit. The is the perfect jacket to mix form and function to have your rally patch jacket offer actual protection.
There are two pockets up front, one inside pocket, and a pen pocket on the left arm. The Shop Jacket is armored with Knox CE rated armor in the the shoulders and elbows as well as a back pad. Trimmed tastefully with 3M Scotchlite for visibility.

Rise in Motorcycle Deaths in the Armed forces

Rise in Motorcycle Deaths in the Armed forces

This article really struck something in me, that I'd like to discuss. First off it brought to mind the great T.E. Lawrence, better known as "Lawrence of Arabia," seen to the left on one of his many bikes, one of which, was literally the death of him. In a way that makes him the patron saint of Western veterans of Middle-Eastern conflicts who tragically die on two-wheels upon returning home.
There has always been a strange link for me between motorcycles and the "warrior" mentality. Coming up, a lot of the adult bikers I knew were also Vietnam Vets, which I think influenced that connection at least as much as pop-culture images. I guess a lot of it has something to do with the macho fascination with pushing yourself to your limits, yet still maintaining control. Living on the edge. C'mon, the original Hell's Angels were ex-fighter pilots, who were trying to find the rush of dog-fighting in civilian life.
It's just a strange sad corellation. Motorcycles as a therapy for shell-shock and PTSD. I'm not saying that I relate. I've never been in combat, I've only faced the threat of mortal violence on a few occasions. But I've got my demons. And let me tell you brothers and sisters, those demons can easily catch you in a cage going 60. But they can't touch me on a Vespa doing 35.
Life and Death, the two wheels we balance on every day. Some of us try to forget it, push those thoughts away, insulate ourselves from it. And some of us just need to be reminded of it, to realize that every day we make it is another day we have snatched life from the jaws of death.
Sounds grandiose, I know, especially coming from a guy who rides a scooter. And I ride it safe, I armor up, I swallow my pride and let cagers pass me routinely. I don't have a death-wish. But still, there was a time when people had a concept of a "good death." Being plucked from this planet right as I pop a perfectly tuned two-stroke into fourth... I'd be happy with that.
Life and Death, those two wheels are inseperable, the beast can't move with only one. The true joy of living comes from balancing them both. The joy you see on Logan's face when he pop's Cyklops' bike into gear in the X-Men movie. The look on Harry's face as zips into the clouds at the end of the "Prisoner of Azkaban" film.
So yeah, even though I've never been in combat, and hope to never to do so, I sure understand why these boys are buying the big bikes, and tempting the fates. And with all that said, I think these statistics are a great argument for no-shame readily-available PTSD therapy for those returning from combat zones. It shames us as a nation, that these boys have no where else to look for it but steel and chrome.

from the article-
A big part of the problem, say commanders at North Carolina bases, comes when soldiers return from war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan with months of tax-free salaries and extra pay for combat and overseas service. They buy high-powered motorcycles and hit the streets to burn off adrenaline, testosterone and boredom.
Dying on American roads after months or years of combat abroad seems to survivors like cruel irony. ...

Sgt. Bobby Barker, 26, a handsome paratrooper whose shyness belied a daredevil approach to living, was home on leave from Afghanistan on Dec. 5 when he decided to take a ride on the Harley he had bought himself for his birthday. He was rounding a curve at Fort Bragg doing 90 mph or more when he drifted wide and a foot-peg snagged a traffic barrier. His widow, Deanna, 25, said she purposely hadn't sought much detail about what happened next.
She was left alone to raise their three young children.
In an interview last week, she recalled his deployment to Iraq -- where he was injured during a raid -- and then his volunteering for Afghanistan. He had sent back photos of himself checking caves for insurgents, photos that told her about some of the dangers he hadn't talked about.
"Being a soldier's wife, you know there is always the possibility ... ," she said, her voice trailing off. "But I always thought he was safe when he was here. That's the thing I'm having the hardest time with."
There's probably nothing that the Army or anyone else could have done that would have helped, she said.
"Honestly, I don't think anything could have prevented the accident," she said. "This wasn't the first time he had opened up the throttle. It was just him being himself."

Ask the Diesel Dyke

Ask the Diesel Dyke

By Lena Thompson
Originally printed 11/16/06 (Issue 1446 - Between The Lines News)
So, some guy asked me if I only work on female cars, since I am "the diesel dyke." The answer is no, but it brings me to another question. Are cars/trucks female or male, straight or gay?
I think it's safe to say that the personalities of people are definitely reflected in their choice of vehicle. And there are Web sites that list the most popular LGBT vehicles, so there is something to say about vehicle preferences vs. the subculture we may belong to. Case in point: a friend asked me if I was going to Score nightclub on a Friday night. I told her I didn't think it was gay on Fridays, only Saturdays, but I decided to drive by anyway, looking for a place to party. When I arrived in the parking lot, I got an immediate feeling that I had NOT arrived on lesbian night. Just looking at the types of vehicles, their make/model, color, condition É I could tell it was a "straight" night! I didn't even have to go inside to confirm. The vibe was overwhelmingly hetero!
So, this brings me to the real questions of the day...

Found on Jalopnik

MAKE Projects: Small Form Factor PCs

MAKE Projects: Small Form Factor PCs

This looks sweet! I've been wanting to do something like this for a while, and been predicting that this is the direction that high-end pcs are gonna go, for even longer.

You know all those crazy case mods and small PC projects we showcase on MAKE? Now we have book you can download right away and starting making projects with! Make Projects: Small Form Factor PCs by Duane Wessels, Matthew Weaver is the only book available that shows you how to build small-form-factor PCs -- from kits and from scratch -- that are more interesting and more personalized than what a full-sized PC can give you. Shoebox sized and smaller, small-form-factor PCs can pack as much computing muscle as a full-sized desktop computer. They consumer less power, have few or no moving parts, and are very quiet.
Whether you plan to use one as a standalone PC or want to embed it in your next hacking project, a small-form-factor PC can be a lot of fun to build. Included in the book are projects for building personal video recorders, versatile wireless access points, digital audio jukeboxes, portable firewalls, and much more. This book shows you how to build eight different systems, from the shoebox-sized Shuttle system down to the stick-of-gum-sized gumstix

Diesel Motorcycle

Diesel Motorcycle

Gizmag has a post up on E.V.A. Motors new production diesel bike. the Production numbers will be low initially, but it looks like they already have a US distributor set up. Bike is engineered to run off Diesel, whatever grade of bio-diesel you desire, or pure plant oil.

The Trackstar T-800CDI is being produced by E.V.A. Products BV Holland and uses the 800cc three cylinder Daimler Chrysler diesel engine used in the smart fortwo diesel, military UAVs and marine applications, matching it with a CVT, frame, driveshaft, running gear and ECU produced in-house. The engine uses a turbocharged intercooled Commonrail direct injection engine and produces a brutal 150Nm of torque - more than anything on the road I.

I really like the Mad-Max, rat-bike aesthetic of this baby. I bet it will do real well with that crowd as well.

The Dutch manufacturer's English site. They also have set aside for their US site, but for now it just forwards you to the British page.

Otterbox review on Pencomputing

Otterbox review on Pencomputing

I don't do a lot of blogging on computer hardware and digital gadgets. That vein is pretty much strip-mined by Engadget, Gizmodo and a host of others.
But I ran across this on PenComputing and thought, you know there is some digital buckaroo up in Seattle who is only held back from year-round scooter-commuting, by the need to haul a laptop back and forth. So here you are my friend, the Otterbox 7000 series laptop case. It's in the range of that oh-so-hip messenger bag you've been eyein', even. (Though you'll still have an excuse to pick up one of those as well, since this thing stores a laptop, and only a laptop.)

Otterbox has done is create a case that essentially eliminates any danger of your precious notebook ever getting damaged. Not as long as it's inside this case. This case is so tough, you can stand on it and even jump on it. No problem.
The whole thing looks almost like a computer itself. It is a clamshell made of thick, very thick, black plastic. Inside it is lined with velcro material. That's because the case comes with three different sets of bumpers that attach to the velcro lining so your notebook fits snuggly. And just to make extra-sure, there's a velcro strap that ties it down. Why three sets of bumpers? Well, so that the case can accommodate virtually every laptop on the market. The standard bumpers fit most. A second set allows machines with larger footprints. An a number of extra L-shape bumpers can provide additional support.
What makes this case even more amazing is that it's also waterproof. Yes, it has a continuous O-ring seal all around the case. You can see that, too, in the picture to the left. Otterbox doesn't rate the case as to its ingress protection, but it looks like it's substantial. We're of a mind to test that in a swimming pool. Those of you who spotted the lock in front of the case may wonder how Otterbox managed to seal that. Well, the lock is mounted outside the O-ring seal, so it doesn't matter if some water gets in. Well, but will it come back out? Of course. Otterbox thought of everything. There are drainage holes at the bottom.

Well, now, that's a relief!

Sausages affected by draconian trade laws - Britain - Times Online:

More truth in labeling:

A SPICY sausage known as the Welsh Dragon will have to be renamed after trading standards’ officers warned the manufacturers that they could face prosecution because it does not contain dragon.
The sausages will now have to be labelled Welsh Dragon Pork Sausages to avoid any confusion among customers


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Foul-Weather Rider Roundup

Foul-Weather Rider Roundup

Well, last week, the South Sound was blessed with clear golden sunny Autumn days, though it was cold at night. I've definitely been putting some miles on the Sprint V. But, today on the ride home I got pelted. I was actually kind of excited though, when the morning shift came in and said the rain had started. It was a chance to try out my new rain coat. The Corazzo does alright in the misty drizzle we usually see around here, but after 15 to 20 miles cruisin' at 35 in driving rain, water starts to seep into the under layers. But the tourmaster elite performed admirably, and I have a much clearer idea of what I want to keep my legs dry and cozy.
You see since I got the rain jacket, I've been debating about what to do about my legs. The rain pants that match the jacket are only like $20 to $26 on the internet, and look like they would be very dry and the set packs into a small bag, which I believe will just fit under the P200's seat. I'm sure there would be some significant warmth gained due to blockage of wind and rain. There are also unorthodox solutions such as lap aprons, and scooterskirts. There are times when I really drool over TermoScuds. As for skooterskirts, I guess I'd consider one if I could get it in Armstrong Tartan.
There is also the issue of having two scooters... The P should running soon, do I really want to switch a lap apron back and forth? Hmm... maybe chaps or riding pants. I had chaps on fifteen years ago, when I laid my 400cc Honda down in the rain. I slid about 25 or 30 feet, got up brushed my self off, turned the bike off and wheeled it out of traffic. Very nice. I also had several earnestly friendly, well-groomed men engage me it what was supposed to be stimulating conversation, whilst they stole glances at my crotch... Not exactly the look I was going for, though you are free to do what you will with the information...
The problem with pants and chaps, is the problem most scooterists have dealt with at some time or the other: Gear made for motorcyclists, is made for motorcyclists. It will work for scooterists, but it's rarely ideal. I mean my boots (which I love) have a patch on the left toe for shifting gears... And in motorcyclist gear, there are two flavors, Hell's Angels and Power Ranger. Please bear with me while I make some gross generalizations... Motorcylcists whether they ride cruisers or sport-bikes, think of motorcycling as a sport. While there are year round daily riders in both camps, you find far more year round daily riders proportionately amongist the scooterists. Scooterists regard their rides with more pragmatism, and utilitarianism. Sure they fun, but that's gravy. Or rather it's just one part of the whole package.
But leg protection for motorcyclists is easier to find than weird scooter specific solutions, and has one other thing going for it as well. A much higher degree of protection.
So I've been doing a lot of research, trying to get a feel for what's out there. Because sure enough, I was scooterless all Summer, but once the nasty weather starts, I'm back on the road. And this year I want to get to work without the tips of my fingers being numb. And the tops of my thighs and lap looking like I wet myself...
In other words it's undeniably time to winterize the scoot and myself.
And figurin' others could benefit as well, I've rounded up some of my favorite inspirational (and informational) articles about the best way to convince everyone you are crazy, while in actuality make yourself more sane...
Becoming a four-seasons scooterist.

The Baron in Winter (Archive)
An experiment in commuting with an modern automatic scooter in Minnesota during winter

Finally, I learned to take some time to weigh the risks of my actions against the possible rewards. The risks I took on Monday were way out of proportion to what I had intended at the beginning of this project. But I got so carried away with the challenge that I let my brutal jarhead mentality come to the fore, crushing all reason and rationality with it’s implacable, relentless will to win against impossible odds.
Riding to work is a wonderful thing, for so many reasons, but it is not an overpowering mandate. Never risk your life just to get to work. Wait a day, and the misery will still be there, waiting for YOU. Get there safely, so you can live to ride another day.

This is now archived at Gary Charpentier's other rider's blog, Rush Hour Rambling .

Scooters are hot, even when it's cold
Columbia News Services Journal

“If you love riding and if you want to ride, then you’ll overcome just about anything,” said Grant, 37, who’s been riding a scooter for the last six years. “You’ll overcome being wet, and you’ll overcome being cold. Once you do it and you’re out there, it’s about 80 to 90 percent mental.”
“With more and more cars on the road, people are seeing this as a viable transportation model,” said Mount, who suggested that riders use their best judgment when deciding whether to brave harsh weather.
For an emerging scooter subculture that includes hipsters, Mods and purely practical riders, piercing temperatures translate into different types of riding gear that vary in price and style.
Grant, who admits the “coolness factor” was a big part of his decision to buy a scooter, defies cold weather with an electric riding jacket that connects to the battery of his bright red Vespa. At upscale Vespa Soho in Manhattan, “scooterists,” as they call themselves, can buy a $160 vinyl and wool lap blanket that is popular in Europe and $100 handlebar mitts.
“You can’t just put on your snow gear,” said Mary Anne Powers, general manager of the store. “You have to wind-proof yourself.”
New York delivery drivers, who scoot around the city every day for work, often make cold-weather gear from items found at local drugstores. Surgical gloves worn under mitts trap moisture and heat, and shields made from plastic bottles affixed to handle bars block frosty wind.
But even hard-core riders have limits for winter traveling. Most find an alternative when roads are covered with ice.

Scooter in the Sticks on rain
It seems like most of my daily commutes to and from work for the past week have been done in the rain. I find a quiet calm riding in the rain. It requires me to be prepared physically and mentally and the normal focus that occurs during riding is turned up a notch. Riding home today I could not help think of the times I have been sailing in bad weather. The feeling is the world has been reduced to basic elements---weather, the boat (or scooter), the water (road), and me. Everything else falls away. It is a good place to be.

and snow
I don't have any formal winter riding gear. I put on long underwear, shirt, pile shirt, windstopper jacket and on top of it all my Triumph armored jacket (vented). I have a Mountain Hardware skimask and full face helmet. That is plenty as long as I stay dry and the temperture doesn't drop below 15. Someday maybe I'll get a one-piece riding suit.The main roads into town were mostly clear and I could ride along with the traffic. Once in town on secondary streets I found some to be covered with a frosting of worn snow. I stopped and put my feet down to check the slickness and decided to slow down a bit more. Down the hill to the first stop sign I used the rear brake and was fine. Got to my free parking and walked on to work. I took this photograph from the library across the street.I have to say it was just fun riding in cold and all. When I ride the bus or drive my car I am just putting up with the commute. This is a much better use of my life.

Winter Riding Tips
orKeeping Your Cool When It's Cold

Those of us who live in the northern portions of the so-called "temperate zone" — upstate New York, for example — are blessed with several months of wonderful riding weather. However, in return for that blessing we're forced to endure The Curse of Winter. When the first freeze hits, some riders (and in this in stance we use the term loosely) take it as a sign to add fuel stabilizer to the tank, haul the battery inside, and act cranky for a few months. This syndrome is called POS, for Post (or, come February, Pre) Motorcycle Season.
Other riders — real riders — simply take the beginning of winter as a sign that it's time to adapt the pre-ride preparation to account for the change in the environment. To them we say bravo, or brava as the case may be. They know that motorcycling is far too much fun to let a little cold weather put a stop to it. In fact, it's possible that the satisfaction of coping with the challenge of cold weather riding makes it even more fun than the comparatively easy warm-weather sport.
With a view towards increasing the number of intrepid souls who venture forth when the temperature dips below T-shirt levels, we're pleased to present the following tips. Some relate to rider comfort, which is to say, keeping the cold at bay; others address the motorcycle itself, for machines behave differently when the mercury falls; and a few are concerned with the road and other external factors that can have a significant impact (if you'll pardon the expression) on the ride.

So as long as you are prepared, and careful, you too can be scootin' in a winter wonderland... or at least to work.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

DIY Scooter White-Walls Tutorial

DIY Scooter White-Walls Tutorial

Just found this link from a post by Bald John over on the Stella Speed forum. This is up over on the VespaZine blog, which sadly hasn't been updated in awhile.
Why not just buy white walls initially? you might ask. Well, It seems that when it comes to Vespa tires, you can either get performance tires, or pretty tires. It's dang hard to get both in one package. Here is the supplier of the paint, but once the price of tires and paint and shipping is all combined, it seems this is really for the kind of obsessed nut who might consider a Vespa tatoo... Not that I'm aware of very many of those...

Holiday Hacker Helper

Holiday Hacker Helper

Those illustrious humanitarians over at LifeHacker, have done a recap of a post from last year that was a quick rundown of processes and free-ware tools you'll need to tune up Ma and Pa's 'puter this holiday. This year they've gathered together all the tools you'll need into one handy-dandy download. Also useful to install on any new systems you might get for Kwanzaa, Tet, Hanukka, Christmas, Saturnalia, or Great-Sky-Dragon-Eats-the-Sun-Gets-Indigestion-and-Burps-it Back-Out-Day.

from this year's post:

Your essential programs for post-turkey family tech support are:
Ad-Aware (adaware.exe)Scan and remove adware and other malicious programs from the PC.
ClamWin (clamwin.exe)Uninstall naggy Norton and replace with the open source anti-virus program ClamWin.
Spybot Search and Destroy (spybot-s&d.exe)Scan and remove spyware and other malicious programs from the PC.
SpywareBlaster (spyware-blaster.exe)Prevent spyware from installing itself on the PC in the future.
CCleaner (ccleaner.exe)Remove the "crap" from your computer - like temporary files, cookies, system logs and programs set to start up with your computer automatically (and slow it down.)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Nice news story on the SCA

This is a CBS Sunday Morning news story on Gulf War in Mississppi. One of the better representations of SCAdian life that I've ever seen in the media. The Dragon doesn't really play anymore, but has a friend at work who does, who turned him on to this clip. (Thanks Gavin!) Lots of great melee and siege footage.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Combat Commuter

Combat Commuter

The daily commute on a scooter is more like combat than travel. My daily experiences, plus some stories from my two-wheeled past.

Amen, Combat, Amen. The Dragon would like to welcome Combat Commuter to the scoot-blogosphere. Found him through a comment on Scooter in the Sticks recently. (yeah, the pros may call, the blog ghetto, but being able to view profiles with a click from comments makes me feel like it is Myspace for grown ups.) And if you think he's kidding about the "combat" check this out....

One dangerous aspect of aviation is the phenomenon called a Bird Strike. It doesn't happen very often, but when a bird of substantial enough size is hit by an airplane, it can do serious damage to the aircraft, and can even kill the pilot or copilot. As a structural mechanic, I have dealt with a few bird strikes. Besides the damage that has to be repaired, cleaning the carcase and guts is a pretty messy job. As a motorcyclist, I have also claimed a few bird kills. Many people have run-over squirrels, possum, or collided with deer. I kill birds. My first was in North Dakota. When I separated from the Coast Guard, I was in Alaska, and got the bright idea to ride my vintage Russian sidecar bike from there back to my native Georgia. My wife followed in the family car. Crossing North Dakota, I encountered a pretty stiff wind from the southeast, and was doing pretty good to maintain a steady 55mph. I was leaned into the wind and concentrating on the road, when a Killdeer appeared off to my right, moving from the same direction as the heavy wind. It never swerved or moved from it's path, but plowed right into my faceshield. The impact sounded like a shotgun going-off in my helmet. I stopped for fuel soon-after and surveyed the damage. The critter had left a nice-sized divot in my faceshield where the beak had hit, and there was blood and feathers all over the helmet and leather riding jacket. My wife told me that the bird had gone strait up over my head in a shower of feathers after impact and then tumbled to the right side of the road. My ears rang for the rest of the day. Another time, my wife and I were on a leisurely ride through the Virginia countryside on my BMW sportbike, when a small bird hit me in the shoulder. I stopped immediately and went back to investigate. The bird was laying on the left side of the road, dead. My wife jokingly called me a Bird Killer. We discussed the possibility of painting outlines of dead birds on the side of my bike. Most of the warmer months in Virginia, there are cardinals everywhere, and they seem to like landing on the roads to do their hunting and socializing. I like cardinals. I mean them no harm. I usually would beep my horn to warn them as I bore down on them at a high rate-of-speed. Some were too busy mating or fighting to react quickly enough. One particular male flew into my front wheel spokes just as I passed. I had to wash the blood and feathers off the front wheel when I got to work. Vultures are always fun to deal with. It takes a good bit of horn honking to get them to leave their road prize to let me pass. One fellow irritated me by waiting until I was almost on him to take-off, and then he flew right beside me for a short ways, screeching at me. He moved closer to me, and I vaguely remember swinging at him before he moved over the top of my head, across the road to an embankment on the other side. Several times, I have had close-calls with hawks, and once, I had an owl skim the top of my helmet. Fortunately, none of these encounters have done any significant damage to me or my bike.

Testify, brother Combat, testify. Combat Commuter has just started his scooter blogging, but with posts like these, I doubt it will take long before I'm checking him daily.

craftgrrl: Cheap screen printing tutorial

craftgrrl: Cheap screen printing tutorial

This isn't just cheap, it's super easy. girlx512 has boiled silkscreening down to the barest of essentials. This is zen-screening my friends. I've done some silkscreening in my day, and I've seen a lot of DIY directions geared towards punkbands doing their own patches, shirts, even LP covers, (which reminds me, did I ever tell you the story of the door I used to own that was silkscreened by GreenDay back when they were on LookOut!...?) but these are the simplest, most down to earth instructions I have ever seen.

Materials needed: a t-shirt, yucky/cheap paint brushes, an embroidery hoop, screen printing ink (I use Speedball brand), a glue that isn't water-soluble (I use Mod Podge), curtain sheer material/tulle/old nylons, and a computer with a printer (or a good hand for drawing things).

via the Photojojo newsletter

A few weeks on fire

These images are already gone. At least for this year. We've had a week of heavy rains, complete with turbulent wind, and surprisingly even a couple nights of thunder and lightening of the sort which the mid-West is famous for. Now these glorious flames are extinguished, and line the gutters and sidewalks.
Still, for a few weeks early mornings outside my workplace in Lacey, were like a raging pagan bonfire.

What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism.-Albert Einstein

Motorcyclist's Memento Mori

Recently, when I was riding the bus and walking/bicycling home, I would pass this everyday, about a quarter mile from my house. When the light struck it right, it would strike me as both whimsical and ominous. The skeleton of some alien dragon, somehow amused by it's demise. It is of course, what is left of the chasis of a wrecked motorcycle. A memento mori for the Dragon, like the skulls writers once employed as paperweights, constant humbling reminders of the inevitability of death, and the futility of vanity. Yet, as I said, there is also something queer, and light-hearted about this carcass. I imagine it shambling down to the water, on moonless nights, and feasting on thrashing salmon.

Fieldsheer Warrior Gloves

So Jes has given me an early B-day present, and while going against her personal preference/ tradition of only giving folks handmade things as presents, she has adhered to the classic rule of gift-giving, "give 'em something they'll love, that they'd never get for themselves."

I've been lusting after these Fieldsheer Warrior gloves since we went shopping this fall for gear for the rider safety class. Sure, they look like Darth's Vader's formal wear, with a price to match, but man-o-man! do they feel good. Very lightweight, but with substantial padding and armor over key points. (Being an artist, I'm a little paranoid about my hands.) One of the key selling features for me though, is the construction of the palms, and inner fingers. These are constructed of buttery, supple kangaroo leather. A little online research showed why this is a superior material for motorcycling gloves:

Similarly when split into thinner substances kangaroo retains considerably more of the original tensile strength of the unsplit leather than does calf. When split to 20% of original thickness kangaroo retains between 30 to 60% of the tensile strength of the unsplit hide. Calf on the other hand split to 20% of original thickness retains only 1-4% of original strength.

I've only had the chance to wear them riding once, and while I will hopefully never be able to review their performance in a crash or skid, and can say they are REALLY nice. Besides enabling more sensitive interaction with throttle and gearing on a vintage Vespa, they are also supple enough, that I could fish keys out of jean pockets, and fasten and unfasten the D-rings on my helmet strap. Most telling of all, when fishing the scooter key out of my pocket, I happened to pull out a few folded dollar bills, which fell onto the pavement. Without thinking I reached down and picked them up, not realizing until I'd stuff the currency back in my pocket, that such a feat would have been near-impossible with any other motoring gauntlet I've ever owned.

Thanks again, Jes!

New Yamaha scooter

New Yamaha X-City

More shiny newness from Milan...

Well this looks suspiciously like the Piaggio 250cc models (I mean really! Look at that seat), still, it's always nice to see the Japanese producing larger displacement scooters that don't look like a cross between a Goldwing and a Lazee boy. Of course, no word yet on availability to us Damn Yankees.

· Yamaha’s first ‘big-wheel’ Maxi Scooter

· Stylish and sporty bodywork
· Steel tubular U-frame
· Underseat storage compartment
· Glove compartment and carry hook
· Lightweight 6-spoke cast aluminium wheels
· 16-inch front wheel, 15-inch rear wheel
· 120/70-16 front tyre, 140/70-15 rear tyre
· 270 mm diameter front disc, 245 mm diameter rear disc
· 100 mm travel telescopic front forks
· Rear shock gives 105 mm wheel travel
· Comprehensive instrumentation with fuel reserve indicator and digital clock
· 249.78 cc liquid-cooled SOHC 4-stroke single cylinder engine
· Maximum torque developed at only 5800 rpm
· High fuel efficiency
· Low-noise exhaust
· Low-emission, environmentally-conscious design
· Bore x stroke 69.0 x 66.8 mm
· Electronic fuel injection system
· Fully-automatic, constantly variable transmission (CVT)· Durable, quiet-running low-maintenance V-belt final drive
· Outstanding manoeuvrability in crowded city and highway conditions
· EU3 compliant 249 cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke single cylinder engine
· Underseat storage, glove compartment and carry hook
· Lightweight cast aluminium wheels – 16-inch front, 15-inch rear
The new X-City will be available in three different colours: Neptune Blue, Midnight Black and Solid Metal.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Gilera....(wait for it)... 800!

Steve over at the oh-so-aptly-named site The ScooterScoop, has been following this story for a while, so all props go out to him for this link.

That being said, Wow! That's some scoot. Still it's got that major hump in the middle, which makes it almost a motorcycle in my book. I guess that v-twin takes up some room!

Piaggio have shown their new 800cc maxi scooter at Milan today. The scooter will wear a Gilera badge, with a 90 degree V-twin motor, making 75bhp powering the machine to an estimated 120mph top speed.The new Gilera 800 scooter is actually heavier than some sports-touring bikes, at 235kgs dry, and a steel frame, with 41mm forks and 300mm twin front discs indicate that the chassis is designed for high speed stability and handling. The scooter also has an 18 litre fuel tank.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

New Olympia Vespa Dealer

Took a little trip out today to visit Cycle Mart, which has started carrying Vespas, as of this summer. This was the longest ride I'd done on the Sprint, the shop being farther out East than my work commute. I probably spent an hour or so hanging out, kicking tires and talking scoots, and scooter business with R.A. Van Horn, who is the Sales Manager there.
Sadly, Cycle Mart is just carrying the new 4-stroke Vespas. I'd been holding the admittedly unrealistic hope that they would have some stuff geared (no pun intended) for vintage Vespas. In their defense, Vespas are a new line for them, and it seems their attitude on adding scooters to their inventory is to take it slow, and do it right. My only other constructive criticism would be that I wish they had more gear, like rain-wear and gloves and such. They do have some leathers and such, but not what I was in the market for today. Not much of a complaint really, I just acquired some REALLY nice gloves, and a rainjacket today, at Paulson's Suzuki, but I would have rather supported the Vespa Dealership. The folks there are knowledgable, and personable, and I'd really like to see them thrive selling higher end scoots in the South Sound.
R.A. Van Horn seems to really know his stuff, and was kind enough to chew the fat with me for some time. I asked him point blank about issues that have been raised time and again on Modern Vespa, about delays in parts and such from Piaggio USA. He answered this question and others relating to it, quite readily, and even addressed some of the issues that many have faced with Piaggio USA distribution network before I could bring them up. One quickly gets the feeling that Mr. Van Horn and his bosses did their research before they picked up this franchise, and really want to do right by their customers. I believe they went into this with their eyes open, are aware of the supply chain problems, and have measures in place to deal with them. I'd be interested to hear, if any one has had experience with Cycle Mart in Olympia.
Now, the Dragon is generally a scruffy looking customer, and I'm used to getting the hard sell at motorcycle shops, that is when I'm not getting the cold shoulder. I guess I don't look like I've got the cash to drop on a Harley. But the folks at Cycle Mart were very helpful and polite, even when I informed them I was just looking. They've got a nice shop, kind of humble from the outside, but the inside is alot nicer than most cycle shops I've been to. I actually felt comfortable enough to browse the motorcycles, as well as the scooters. They have some gorgeous Triumphs, as well as a line that was new to me, Victory Motorcycles, which are made in America by Polaris. The Victory cruisers are plenty pretty. I think I'll have to do some research on them, as well as Triumph's current offerings. They also stock Kawasakis.
But of course, the Dragon is all about the scooters. They've got a good stock of all the current Vespa models, except the PX's. I finally got a chance to get a feel for the GTS, and I gotta say it is one nice scoot. Beefy but comfortable. I had such a good time chatting with R.A., though, that I never got around to asking their policy on test rides. But speaking of beefy but comfortable rides, I was surprised to find Cycle Mart also stocks most of the current line of Piaggios as well. I think they have everything but the Typhoon. But I was talking about "beefy but comfortable"...
Well, I've heard some buzz about the Piaggio BV and X9, and looking at them on the internet, thought they were better looking than most maxi-scoots, but... eh, they're not Vespas, and they're not outlandishly cool like the MP3. That smacking sound you might hear right now, is the Dragon eating his hat, with a side of humble pie. The BV 500 and X9 500 are some serious scoots! By far the most comfortable step throughs I have ever placed my hiney on. They've got the cushiness of the Japanese Maxis, whilst still having a riding position that is much closer to a classic scooter posture. They pretty much beg to be taken out on long roadtrips, preferably with a sweet young thing perched comfortably behind you. They both have three linked disc brakes, one on the rear tire and two on the front. They both feature the Piaggio 460cc four valve Master engine, which is suspposed to be a damn fine motor. The X9 features two 14" wheels, while the BV has a rear 14" and a front 16", so they should both have excellent high speed stability for scoots. The BV 500 was the real find of the day for me, a lot of the nice modern scooter features, some real sustained highway power, and body lines that pay respect to classic scooter stylings without slavishly copying them. I think the BV500 is now my "#1 with a bullet", most lusted-after scooter. Next time I'm up at the shop I'm definitely asking about their test-ride policy. MSRP is $6300 and $6200 for the X9 500 and BV 500, respectively.
R.A. said they probably wouldn't be getting any of the GTVs in, it sounds like they are seeing the most traffic in LX150s, so maybe they couldn't move many of what is essentially a higher priced GTS (albeit with sweeter body styling.) He did say however that they probably would get an MP3 (or whatever it ends up being labeled in the states), though he is concerned with whether or not it will have to be registered as a trike in Washington State. If so it would require a seperate endorsement, which would eliminate many riders.
As maybe you can tell, I had a good time talking shop with R.A.. He's not a scooterist, (yet, though working around all those pretty scoots, you can tell it's starting worm it's way into his consciousness) but he is a biker, and he "gets" scooters and scooterists, which if you ever been in a regular motorcycle dealership that stocks scooters, you know is saying something. So if you are in the South Sound and in the market for a new Italian scooter, you should go up and talk to R.A., or any of the folks at Cycle Mart. Maybe we'll get really lucky, and they'll do well enough with the Vespas, to start carrying the Genuine Motor Scooters! Of course, with our population of college students and state workers, they might end up selling more of the medium end Buddys, than the high end Piaggios! Anyhow, the Dragon is glad we finally have our own Vespa shop, and especially glad it looks like it is in the hands of some smart, and friendly folks. Hell, tell 'em the Dragon sent ya. (It'll make 'em wonder...)

The Piaggio MP3 on steriods!

The Piaggio MP3 on steriods!

Now here is some of the big news from EICMA 2006, the new Gilera Fuoco (Italian for Fire). Based on the MP3 (Gilera is owned by Piaggio) this is a 500cc version of the MP3, the styling of which looks a lot more like the naked pictures of the MP3 which were circulating a while back. This is one sick looking scoot! No word yet, again!, on if it will come to the US of A, but we can dream, can't we? Really with 500cc s and the front end suspension and brakes of the MP3 this is a true 365 daily rider. Hell, I bet with an experienced rider this thing, it would be safer on winter roads than a cager!

A company spokesman said: “The Fuoco’s main advantage over a conventional two wheeled big bore scooter will be handling in the wet or on less than perfect surfaces – the extra wheel will mean it is incredibly stable and less prone to losing front end grip. "Commuting and town work is still likely to be its natural territory, but the added power should make it a better proposition for motorway and A-road work.”

via 2StrokeBuzz

"It's the reason we hang out in bars... 'cause we can't find our way to the stars."

Variable Star; interview with Spider Robinson and David Crosby. (Yes, THAT David Crosby.)

So award winning SF author Spider Robinson took detailed plot notes and character sketches which Robert Heinlein drafted up in 1955, and turned them into into a book. Along the way, he enlisted folk-rock legend David Crosby to help. Here is a nice interview with the two of them.

via SlashDot

Modern Vespa : NEW VESPA "S" IS HERE !!!!

Modern Vespa : NEW VESPA "S" IS HERE :

A member from Belgium has posted this on Modern Vespa, this is expected to be announced, among other things, by Piaggio at EICMA 2006. This has some of the cleanest, most classic lines of all the modern Vespas, though I still think I prefer the retro nod of the GTV. The link has the best pictures to date of this model. No word yet if this model will be released in the States.

The reduced handlebar on the Vespa S holds a new rectangular headlamp. It’s not the first time we’re seeing a Vespa headlamp in this shape: Vespa fans will remember its use on the extraordinary 50 Special, a teenage icon in the Fabulous Seventies. The front shell is now bigger and hosts a new air intake that confers an aggressive touch to the frontal.
Downsized to highlight the view of the suspension, the mudguard in a new shape features stylish chrome trim for a sleeker look. Its reduced size also puts the wheel and the light alloy wheel rims on display in a tribute to the Vespa S’s performance and technological content.

But it is the front shield that has gone through the most significant changes. It is back to being a two-dimensional structure: no plastics, only the pure lines that have always been the Vespa’s trademark. The very simplicity and minimal thickness of the shield make it a strong design element.
The seat has a new shape with two versions available: a single seat that highlights the vehicle’s racy dynamism or a two-seater for extra comfort and use with a passenger. Both versions are impeccably clad in new upholstery with a classy clear trim to highlight the shape of the seat.
The rear end of the Vespa S has an all-new look: the shape is sleek and simple with a new tail light designed especially for this model to enhance its dynamism.
The minimalist yet striking design and simple yet stylish lines of the Vespa S evoke the fresh, dynamic look that made the Vespa the favourite ride of 1960s and 1970s teenagers.
The front wheel has a diameter of 11” to give the Vespa S stability and the rider an obvious feel of safety. The tubeless tyres measure 110/70 in front and 120/70 on the 10” rear wheel. The braking system is a conventional disk-drum combination. The stainless steel front 200 mm disk brake is gripped by a two-piston caliper and dependably backed up by a 110 mm drum. The 8.6 lire fuel tank is placed inside the chassis without however reducing the underseat storage bay, making it easy to access the engine.

» Top 10 Reasons Gay Marriage Should Be Illegal

» Top 10 Reasons Gay Marriage Should Be Illegal:

I don't wanna be a spoiler, so click the link for the top 6.

07) Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.
08) Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That’s why we have only one religion in America.
09) Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That’s why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.
10) Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven’t adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Eicma 2006 Part one

Brudeli 625L 3-wheeler

I've been putting off posting pre-lease news on several new scoots until the Eicma show Milan starts, since I figured more would coming. Well I guess we are a day away, so I'm gonna start. Here is the first, the Brudeli 625L, a 625cc single cylinder motorcycle that features 2 front wheels on a suspension similar to the forthcoming Piaggio MP3. The two front wheels are further apart than those on the MP3, and this definitely looks like it has been designed for off-roading as well as street-riding.

Scheduled for launch in June 2007, the Brudeli 625L is the product of inventor Geir Brudeli’s engineering creativity and passion for motorcycles. He wanted to design a vehicle that filled the gap between motorcycles and small cars and off-road four wheelers. The result was unique, with two motorcycle tires up front, each slanted in parallel 45-degree angles to the ground when the bike is stopped. The construction allows the rider to lean into corners (as if on a motorcycle) at high speed with substantially more traction than on a motorcycle – at least at the front where it counts – a rear wheel slide is controllable – a front wheel slide usually means crashing.

text from Gizmag; photo gallery here

“V” Meets The Secret Service

“V” Meets The Secret Service
In the first stage of a peaceful political action which ventures closely to performance art, an activist dressed as comicbook and movie anti-hero "V" delivered Petitions for Redress of Grievances relating to the Government’s violations of the war powers, tax, privacy and money clauses of the Constitution the White House, the main Treasury, IRS and Justice Department Buildings and the Capitol, on November 6, 2006. (OK, for logistical reasons some of these Petitions were mailed, but an attempt was made to hand-deliver them.)

On November 14th, over 100 "V"s are expected to return to those sites, to receive responses to the petitions.
The Dragon is frequently dubious about political protest, it seems that many "actions" serve little purpose than to stroke egos, and end up being little more than preaching to the choir. And too frequently, they end up further radicalizing those on the extreme ends of the debate, whilst alienating those in the middle. This political action, however seems that it might just be effective in communicating the concerns of those involved, in way that will engage, intrigue, and encourage thoughtfulness to those who become aware of it. Read the full article, and tell me what you think. It seems to me those involved have found a creative, non-partisan way, to hack the system. I'm curious what others think of this approach, and anxious to see what happens tommorrow.

At the White House about a dozen Secret Service agents appeared on foot, bicycles and car to meet “V.” While virtuously assuring the security of the state, they were curious about the image of “V” and asked many questions. Most, when asked if they had seen the movie “V for Vendetta”, smiled their approval.
When an agent asked if “V” would remove his mask for identification purposes, “V” explained that would defeat the very purpose of the mask, which was to give expression to the fact that the nation was becoming a police state, that too many people were becoming afraid to be identified as dissenters or protestors, and that this was not in the long term interest of a free people. The agents accepted the veracity of “V’s” message and refrained from veering “V” from his vanguard visit as the vox populi.
Many law enforcement agents dutifully responded to the first impression security concerns caused by “V’s” dramatic and startling presence at the seat of governmental power. All but one who confronted “V” were generally pleasant, professional and ultimately respectful of the voraciously valued Rights of peaceful protest, dissent and Petition that “V” was claiming and exercising.
All local and federal law enforcement agencies in DC now know the purpose of these events is to show peaceful support for the First Amendment Right to Petition Government for Redress of Grievances and to give expression to the fact that too many Americans are beginning to fear the Government and that that is unhealthy to the longevity of a free people and our Republic.
All participants are asked to arrive at Lafayette Park between 11 and 11:30 am on the 14th. The event starts at NOON. The group will wait up to 1 hour for a representative of President Bush to appear and to tell the group when they might expect to receive a response to the Petitions for Redress of Grievances.

It's a Vintage Vespa thing... you wouldn't understand...

Now everbody knows the Dragon loves ink, whether it be printed, crowquilled, rapidographed, or lovingly subdermally injected, but I've long been wary of tats that can't be covered by a business suit or tux. It's not that I'm worried about fitting in or offending those of so-called higher social status with delicate sensitivities. It's more a case, of well, I like to dress to the nines once every year or three, and having "OZZY" scrawled along my knuckles, just seems a little incongruent with a full dress kilt.

All that being said, I'd sport this tat. It is, as the kids say, "tight."

Too bad it's already been done...

found on Stella Speed

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Little Willies

The Little Willies

When Jes and I were up in Sea-town recently, Mage was playing some right fine old-timey music. At one point between shots of burbon, as the tones of a sweet, sweet female vocalist was crooning out the words to "Night Life" (The night life ain't no good life, but it's my life... heh, heh, oh yeah), I had to ask who it was.
"The Little Willies," replied Mage with his usual nonchalant sagacity.
"The Little Willies?" asked I.
"Yeah, it's a band with Nora Jones, that covers a lot of Willie Nelson songs, Kristofferson, some originals... stuff like that."
"Dude, you just described a musical fantasy, that I hadn't had yet!" I responded, both disappointed and elated that reality had outstripped my imagination.

The self-titled debut by The Little Willies is an album that perfectly distills the fun, down-to-earth spirit of this New York band's club shows. The group - Lee Alexander (bass), Jim Campilongo (electric guitar), Norah Jones (piano, vocals), Richard Julian (guitar, vocals) and Dan Rieser (drums) - tears through a mix of covers and originals, from the revved -up western swing of Fred Rose's "Roly Poly" and Willie Nelson's "I Gotta Get Drunk" to the cutting wit of Kris Kristofferson's "Best Of All Possible Worlds"; from the poignancy of Townes Van Zandt's "No Place To Fall" to the cosmic absurdity of their own "Lou Reed."
As one Little Willie noted "Something about living in a big city like New York makes you miss the stuff you grew up with, and in our case it was some of these songs. The original idea was to just be a cover band and play all these great songs we knew. It became really fun to have that outlet, and also a great excuse to seek out other songs we didn't know."

Their album has been available since March of this year, but if you haven't had a listen you should check 'em out.

If Physicists wrote warning labels...

A Call for More Scientific Truth in Product Warning Labels

Or, as it says at the very top of your browser window, if you naviagte to this page, "A Big Red Label That Says: 'Warning! Lark's Vomit!'"

These are a lot of fun, though in our increasingly contentious society, I see these popping up as atheists' repostes to the "Warning: In Case of Rapture, Vehicle Will Be Unoccupied" bumperstickers.

WARNING: This Product Warps Space and Time in Its Vicinity.

CONSUMER NOTICE: Because of the "Uncertainty Principle," It Is Impossible for the Consumer to Find Out at the Same Time Both Precisely Where This Product Is and How Fast It Is Moving.

ADVISORY: There is an Extremely Small but Nonzero Chance That, Through a Process Know as "Tunneling," This Product May Spon- taneously Disappear from Its Present Location and Reappear at Any Random Place in the Universe, Including Your Neighbor's Domicile. The Manufacturer Will Not Be Responsible for Any Damages or Inconvenience That May Result.

PLEASE NOTE: Some Quantum Physics Theories Suggest That When the Consumer Is Not Directly Observing This Product, It May Cease to Exist or Will Exist Only in a Vague and Undetermined State.

IMPORTANT NOTICE TO PURCHASERS: The Entire Physical Universe, Including This Product, May One Day Collapse Back into an Infinitesimally Small Space. Should Another Universe Subsequently Re-emerge, the Existence of This Product in That Universe Cannot Be Guaranteed.

Early Morning in Lacey, WA

Greeners and Scenesters in Olympia like to talk smack about Lacey. It's basically a suburban bedroom community like any other, complete with Costcos, HomeDepots, etc, etc. Sure a lot of it is ugly "Shakedown Street" sprawl. But well, it's catch as catch can when it comes to beauty.
Olympia has the Sound, Lacey has Ranier. There is a great view of Ranier from my workplace looking southeast, and since I work nights, I've been getting some nice shots of Ranier tickled by "rosy-fingered Dawn." This is one of my favorites.

Bicycle powered-photos

This pic is from the recent era when I was doing the two-part bus and bicycle commute. Any guesses what this is?

Strange Omens

I saw this strange vision a few hours before Lucas and I went up to SeaTac to pick up my Vespa P200e. Sometimes, the Universe winks at you... and sometimes it gooses yer hiney!

This is Lucas and I, tooling down I-5 on our way to get the scoot.

Gretchen's B-day

Well, I'm trying to get some more photos loaded. This is one of Gretchen Drew at her recent Birthday party.

Cool Javascript Image trick

Cool Javascript Image trick

Ok, this is a total waste of time, but it's fun nonetheless. Make sure to scroll to the top of the page after pasting the script into the address bar.

This is a really cool javascript trick that you can try out. Paste the following code into the address bar when any website with images is loaded. It is best used in uniform size pictures such as the one in Google Images.

javascript:R=0; x1=.1; y1=.05; x2=.25; y2=.24; x3=1.6; y3=.24; x4=300; y4=200; x5=300; y5=200; DI=document.getElementsByTagName("img"); DIL=DI.length; function A(){for(i=0; i-DIL; i++){DIS=DI[ i ].style; DIS.position='absolute'; DIS.left=(Math.sin(R*x1+i*x2+x3)*x4+x5)+"px";*y1+i*y2+y3)*y4+y5)+"px"}R++}setInterval('A()',50); void(0);

To stop the animation, just click on your browser's refresh button.

via Hemmy

House Democrats to hit the ground running with Congressional ethics reform

House Democrats to hit the ground running with Congressional ethics reform

Here's an interesting little tidbit from the CBC website. Nancy Pelossi has promised to making a Congressional ethics bill her first priority upon the swearing in of a Democratic majority Congress. Her proposed bill aims to eleminate all gifts, and perks from lobbyists to Congress-critters and their staffers, as well as requiring that final iterations of all bills be available for public review 24 hours prior to coming up for a vote, and instituting an Office of Public Integrity, which will report, directly and only, to the U.S. Attorneys Office.

In the spirit of reuniting an ideologically divided country, I think (hope) this bill has a good chance of passing, as I think it might help wash the nasty taste of the recent election out of the mouths of conseratives who were disappointed by the results, while at the same time feeling betrayed by their party.

Here are some of the new rules Pelosi wants:
No House member may accept any gift of any value from lobbyists, or any firm or association that hires lobbyists.
No free travel, which means an end to the corporate jet line every Friday at Reagan National Airport.
No free tickets to Redskins games; or no meals of any value, even at a McDonalds; no front-row seats at entertainment venues. No, no and no.

To reduce temptations to cheat, Pelosi's bill attacks the usefulness of members to richly endowed lobbyists.
House members will no longer be able to slip in special-interest projects on unrelated legislation. Such measures will no longer be allowed on a bill once negotiations between the Senate and House are complete.
Further, all bills will be made available to the public a full 24 hours before a final vote; presumably this gives watchdog groups a chance to flag any skullduggery.
Under the Pelosi rules, lobbyists will no longer be able to use the House gym (you'd be surprised how much gets negotiated in a sauna). Lobbyists will no longer be allowed onto the House floor or to use the cloakrooms just off the floor, preventing last-minute arm-twisting.
What's more, no member or staffer will be able to negotiate for employment in the public sector without disclosing such contacts to the House Ethics Committee, and within three days of such contact being made.