Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Vigil of Solidarity and Healing

Sunday morning, while I was re-learning how to ride a motorcycle safely, Mr. Jim Adkisson walked into the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville Tennessee and opened fire with a 12 gauge shotgun during a children's performance. Two people were killed and Six others were injured before the gunman was tackled by members of the congregation.

This evening I attended a vigil at the Unitarian Church that I attend. It was a simple service intended to give people an opportunity to come together in community, to stand in solidarity, to reflect, and to heal.

As a part of the vigil, people were invited to stand up and tell a story or express their thoughts and feelings. One person told about having been gay bashed; another person told about their experience living in and teaching school 60 years ago in a mixed race community; another person expressed their outrage over the hatred that spews out of conservative talk radio programs; another person expressed compassion for the gunman and pointed out the irony of how the people who tackled him probably saved his life.

I chatted briefly with another gentleman after the service and commented about the hate speech coming from conservative talk radio. The gentleman's reply made me stop and think more deeply about the whole service that had just concluded. He said (I'm paraphrasing) "You really shouldn't try to assign blame like that. If talk radio was the cause then everyone would be doing it. The gunman was insane. You really can't make sense out of insanity."

Reverend Morran said very nearly the same thing in his Reflective remarks. We humans have a need to try and find meaning in chaotic and senseless times. In our effort to find meaning out of chaos we often assign blame to blameless people and things. For example: September 11 was God's punishment for the Liberals support of Gays, or Hurricane Katrina was sent to clean New Orleans of its ghettos, or mad gunmen are caused by conservative talk radio - none of which is true. Insanity is without meaning and it is not caused by talk radio. Hurricanes do not have meaning - they are simply the forces of nature.

We must learn to see reality as it truly is. Meaning is found within ourselves and within the relationships and communities we create together.

Also see:
Gunman opens fire in Tennessee church, 2 killed
Unitarian Universalists Respond to Knoxville Shooting Disaster
Supporting Our Friends in Knoxville

Monday, July 28, 2008

Basic Motorcycle Rider Course

I successfully completed a 2 day Basic Motorcycle Rider Course over the weekend. The course was conducted by ABATE of Colorado Motorcycle Rider Education. Successfully completing the course makes me eligible for a motorcycle endorsement on my drivers license.

There were 12 students in the class; some had prior motorcycle experience but some did not. We spent most of the time on the motorcycles on a riding course set up in a parking lot. It was very hot both days. It reached 95F/35C degrees Saturday. Sunday hit 100F/37.8C degrees. I was too busy to take any pictures but did manage to squeeze off one snapshot.

The course assumed the students had never ridden a motorcycle before (but could ride a bicycle) so they went over all of the controls and how to shift gears. I use to ride motorcycles during the 70's but had forgotten which lever was the clutch and how the gear sequence worked. The field work was followed by a couple of hours of classroom time.

Saturday we learned to power walk the bike, how to start off and stop, how to shift gears, basic turns, and stop-and-go (commonly called a "California stop" in the USA.) Sunday we learned to fast-stop, take curves, swerve, and make U-turns.

The course concluded with us being scored on 4 riding exercises then a 50 question multiple choice test. All 12 of us passed the course. I scored a 100% on the written test but was marked off a few points on 2 of the riding exercises. In the fast-stop I should have stopped in 14' but took 15' to stop. In the taking curves exercise I rolled off power and was too slow going through the curve. But, I did well enough to pass.

While I was miserably hot and totally exhausted I still had a lot of fun and got a lot out of the course. I would recommend this course to anyone thinking of taking up motorcycle riding, or just for fun. There is a similar 1 day course designed for experienced riders.

See also:
Does humidity affect judgment?
I am so embarrassed
My First Ride
I buy a motorcycle and it starts raining! (updated)
Basic Motorcycle Rider Course

Monday, July 21, 2008

Brain dead

I've been struggling to come up with something interesting to Blog about but it was a rather uneventful week and I didn't put any effort into thinking up something really profound or insightful to Blog about.

The temperatures have been approaching the 100F/37C mark all week; it did break 100F on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday (yesterday.) I did ride my bicycle on Monday and Friday evenings but with temperatures still above 90F/32C at 7PM I didn't do any riding the rest of the week.

The city resurfaced the streets in my neighborhood last week and had the traffic all snarled up for four days. It was a minor inconvenience but it needed to be done. They didn't strip the old pavement off they just put down a layer of tar and gravel mixture over the top.

I got a pleasant surprise last week. There was one more short season (3 episodes) of "Foyles War" that started airing here in the USA. I found out about it just in time to catch the first episodes; the final installment will air next Sunday. I have all of the DVD's and will order the last set when it goes on sale (probably next week.)

I'm signed up for a motorcycle riding class next weekend. I had the required bluejeans but didn't have the required eye protection, gloves or boots, so this week I bought a motorcycle helmet, motorcycle gloves and riding boots. I'm confident I can ride and control a motorcycle, I rode motorcycles for 15 years and I didn't have any problem getting back on a bicycle, but I do question if I have the physical stamina. The class runs two days from 8AM-5PM; they say most of the class will be on the bike. If the temperatures hit 90F-100F I might not be able to cut it. I worry too much; just keep hydrated.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I bought a bicycle!

Hay! The old fat guy bought a bicycle!

BicycleI was motivated to get a bicycle by a couple of other bloggers I've been following. Nic at 5 wonderful things is getting into shape so he can cycle from the south west tip of Wales up to the north east tip of Scotland next year. Nic is close to my age. He posted some video of a couple of his short rides; when I watched the video I said to myself "Man! I would love to ride through those old English villages and country side."

I've only been on a bicycle a few times. I rode a little bit when I was in grade school and I rode a few times one summer in the early 80's. I am not a proficient rider.

Curtis Baker just completed a trip on a motorcycle from Atlanta to Alaska and back. Curtis is quite a bit younger than I am. He blogged almost daily during his trip and posted a lot of great pictures.

I rode motorcycles quite a bit when I was in high school and several years after school. I started with a Honda 90 trail bike then went to a Honda 125 then a 350, and finally a 750. The 750 was fully dressed out with a Vetter fairing with AM/FM radio cassette player and saddle bags. I sold it in 1980.

I didn't get the bicycle for health reasons or the high price of gas or for the environment - it was reading about Nic's goal of cycling from Wales to Scotland and following Curtis's trip to Alaska that motivated me. The credit goes to them.

I remember how much fun I had riding motorcycles and started thinking I should get a motorcycle, but I don't have a motorcycle license and haven't ridden a motorcycle in 28 years. I found out that the State will wave the written exam and ridding test if you complete a certified motorcycle riding class. I registered and paid for an upcoming class. One of the prerequisites for the class is "recent experience on a bicycle" - but I haven't ridden a bicycle in 25 years and was never a strong rider. I was fairly sure I could still ride a bicycle, but thought I should make sure and get some experience, so Saturday I went out and bought one.

BicycleOh golly! I am so out of shape! That doesn't come as a surprise. Today I rode it over to the little park that's close by and took some pictures then got onto the Cherry Creek bike path. I rode the path down stream a few blocks before turning around and coming back. I tried different gears to learn how they worked and when to shift. Going down stream was easy but coming back was really hard! I had only gone a few blocks but was still panting and wheezing and was really tired when I got back.

I will need to do that simple ride every day, adding a few more yards each day, until I can do it without panting and wheezing. Nic is measuring his progress in terms of miles; I'll have to measure my progress in terms of yards - blocks is still a little optimistic. I need to stop smoking too.

I think getting a bicycle was a good idea but is doesn't rule out getting a motorcycle in the future.

Also see:
Salvagetti Bicycle Workshop

Monday, July 07, 2008

How I spent my summer stay-cation

My Two weeks off came to an end. I really enjoyed having time away from work; very relaxing; just what I needed. I would like being retired - assuming I could still pay the bills.

I don't really know where my time went. It seemed to have passed by quickly. I didn't do very much: I did laundry, did some banking, listened to podcasts, read a book, watched YouTube videos, wrote a couple of Blog posts, uploaded some pictures, went to the park (x2), took more pictures and video to upload, went to the eye doctor (I'm getting new glasses), went out with friends, watched Midsomer Murders and Poirot, watched fireworks, and spent a lot of time tinkering with video editing software. That doesn't seem like Two weeks time but it was.

I didn't do everything I had planned. I planned to do more reading, write a long and miningful Blog post (a "Pillar article"), make a "serious" YouTube video, and visit more parks. I shrugged those plans off when they started to feel like "obligations". I said to myself: "It's my vacation; I'll do what I want to with it." I can be very assertive sometimes.

Fortunately there weren't any crises at work. They got along just fine without me. Uh, maybe that's a bad thing.