Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rules for the Cult of Capitalism

Recently, my buddy Klint renamed his Technoccult blog, Renegade Futurist, and his focus for the blog seems to shifted some.
No worries, though, he's posting some awesome stuff like this "Rules for the Cult of Capitalism":

3. When the government charges for its services (taxes), this is theft. When private enterprises charge for food and rent, this is just.

4. Theft is the worst crime known to man. It is a far worse that rich people are forced to pay taxes (if their accountants can’t get them out of it) than that poor children are allowed to go hungry.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Triggering Traffic Lights on a Scooter.

Every scooterist has faced this at one time or another, those damned traffic light sensors that your scooter can't trigger.
I've seen discussion of this on several scooter forums, but really never expected to see it addressed in the mainstream media. But apparently, the Columbus Dispatch has tackled a story that other papers have been afraid to touch... perhaps out of fear of losing the advertising dollars of those traffic-light-triggering magnet vendors. ( I kid, of course, I kid.)

The long and the short of it is, those sensors detect metal, not magnets. You are best off positioning your scoot on a corner of the rectangle. You will have better luck with a classic metal-body scoot than one with plastic panels. And finally if nothing else works, and you want to modify your scooter to trigger the sensors, mounting a metal plate with as large a surface area as possible will be more effective than some snake-oil magnet.

American Scooterist: Issue # 54/55 Scooting to the Beat

Somehow, I got the latest issue of American Scooterist today. My dues for Vespa Club of America must have expired two years ago, and I never changed my address with them when you changed coasts.
Not that I'm complaining.
If like me, you are interested in the history of American counter-culture, the Beats, and scooters, you owe it to yourself to get a copy of this issue.
Proving there is nothing new under the sun, this issue gets deep into the history of scooters as a gentle rebellion against the prevalence of American car-culture. Just check out this paragraph:

For the Beats, the automobile and automobile culture - that great destroyer of urban life - had become the most potent symbol of American consumerism and alienation. As Kerouac expressed it: "Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?" For many young bohemians, the natural progression from this line of reasoning often led to the purchase of a scooter and investing it with larger political overtones. Like beards, European scooters had eccentric and mildly subversive connotations that often signified that one was already well-advanced on the pathway to an alternative conception of reality.

Heady stuff.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dave Arneson has Left the Prime Material Plane

As is my wont of late, I am late in this post in observation of the late Dave Arneson, who failed his last saving throw versus Cancer earlier this week.
This means that the two main minds behind the origins of Fantasy Role Playing Games, have left us.
I know there were some issues about Dave not feeling he got his due credit for his role in the creation of Dungeons & Dragons, though for me personally, I always remember his name being right there on the front of my rule books.
Fare the well, Dave.

Now here's hoping Ken St. Andre will still be with us for awhile.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Scooting Again!

And Hello again!

Well, I have to plead fatherhood for the umpteenth time on my lack of posting recently.

But it is Spring, and I have a new (to me) scooter.

It's a 1992 Honda Elite 80. This little beauty came into the shop as a trade-in on a new Vespa, and I just couldn't bear to see him go to the wholesaler. So, I sold my Honda Magna 500, and bought this little guy. Probably the best downgrade of my life.

The Elite was a very faded Honda red when I got it. So the first thing I did was paint it white, with just little black along the bottom edge. Originally, I was planning airbrushing a 70s / 80s starfighter theme, you know along the lines of an X-Wing or Colonial Viper. But once I realized how much time such a project would likely consume, I decided to just emulate that vibe loosely with some hand-cut reflective vinyl. Not the showiest custom scooter, but I'm pretty happy with it.

I think this scooter lived most of its former life at a marina or making trips to the beach. The red paint was extremely faded, as was all the original black plastic and rubber. I decided that I liked the "patina" of dark grey plastic, rubber and vinyl, so I've left those parts alone.
Oh yeah, that cup-holder? It came with the scooter, and probably one of the things that endeared me to it.

Besides the painting and reflective vinyl, which the flash photo above illustrates the effectiveness of, most of my other customizations to date are also pragmatically centered on increasing visibility. After loosing my second scooter to being rear-ended, I have decided that I'd take as much control over being seen as possible. So I added a Givi topcase with an integrated brake-light, and a "Stopper" license plate brake-light. All-in-all I'd say it makes a big difference.

My last electrical upgrade was a volt-meter with integrated clock, thermometer, and black-ice warning. I thought this was almost a silly add-on at first... just a way to make it more retro-sci-fi, but I am finding that it is really nice to have all that info on the dash.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Elite 80, Honda made them for 22 years, from 1985-2007, so there are a lot of them out there and lot of replacement parts. There's not much in the way of performance upgrades, though Battlescooter has a few. Their exhaust is much nicer looking than the stock pipe, but I'm really not interested in making the bike louder, and the general consensus is that these bikes are best left alone, providing years of trouble-free reliable use as long as one does basic maintenance and accepts them for what they are.

For me, right now, what this bike is, is perfect. So far I've gotten an indicated 49mph on a long straight-away (and tucked, of course), but really I'm rarely on roads where I need to do 45. Most of my territory is 25 -35 mph zones, and the Elite can usually hold at least 30 even on the worst hills I face. I'm getting 100mpg, so it's great for commuting. Plus it is very light and maneuverable.

So for a new dad, who does most of his scooting between work and home, with the occasional run for small errands, the Elite is perfect. I hope to post some resources for near-vintage Japanese scooters, and a meditation on the safety differences between scooters and motorcycles, soon.