Sunday, November 28, 2010

A little trouble

Once again, I'm way behind in posting things on this blog. The reason this time is that I took a spill on my scooter and I'm a little banged up. It's hard to concentrate and everything takes more effort.

I fell on the way to work on Thursday, November 18. It's kind of hard to admit but it was a stupid mistake on my part. There is a sharp left turn (it's essentially a 90° bend) on the way and I usually slow way down for it. But that day, a car was coming the other way around the curve. Instead of slowing down even more to let the car finish the turn before starting it myself, I kept going. I took the turn a little wider than usual to give the car plenty of room (not that the car was taking a wide turn). I just took the turn too fast and too wide and before I knew it, I was nearly off the road. I made the double mistake of a rookie on a powered bike - I turned too sharp and I hit the brakes! I fell to the left and skidded along the road until I was in the ditch. It didn't hurt at first. I was more embarrassed than hurt (at first) and I wanted to quickly get the scooter up and make sure no one was coming that might hit me. I stood the scooter up and walked it out of the curve.

I made a quick check and adjusted the mirrors. I started the engine and it sounded OK. The tires looked fine and the brakes worked so I headed back toward work. Then the pain hit. My left shoulder was killing me and my knee and elbow were stinging. When I got to work, I cleaned the scraped areas and put bandages on them and took a few aspirin to help with the aches and pains. I put a long sleeved shirt on so I didn't look quite so ghoulish. Then I remembered the plan for the day - we were going to be sitting in a conference room for four hours watching a video presentation. Under normal circumstances, I'd be able to get up from my desk whenever I needed to take care of some problem that cropped up but I couldn't ask them to pause the video presentation every time I needed to check a new pain or adjust my bandages. It was going to be a long day.

Somehow, I made it through the day. I wasn't happy about having to ride home that night on the scooter but, once again, my embarrassment over the whole situation kept me from asking for a ride home. Plus, I remembered all those cowboy movies I'd watched as a child - when you fall of a horse (or a motor scooter) it's best to jump right back on. So, I did. My family was at the hospital where my wife and mother-in-law were getting radiation treatments (see this post and this post for more information) so I arrived home to an empty house. I cleaned up and took some more aspirin. I wanted to tell my wife about it but she was going through a tough time getting the radiation treatment schedule organized. She was having a hard time sleeping and was getting headaches. Her mother was having the same problems.She didn't need another thing to worry about. I'd tell her in a day or two. Now that I'd made it through the day, I knew I hadn't broken any bones and my only problem that I was going to be stiff and sore for a while.

Well, it's turned out to be worse than I thought but not much. Yesterday was the first day I really felt like doing anything. Of course I had to keep doing things but I certainly wasn't enjoying them. My wife was upset when I told her but she understood why I waited. I may go to the doctor this week as a double check that nothing permanent is wrong but I pretty sure I'm fine. As I say, it's been hard to concentrate on things and since a lot of my job is concentrating on things, my work has suffered. I hope to make it up this coming week.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Driving at night

Since the motorcycle learner's permit lasts for 2 years, people have asked me why I worried about getting my full license after only 4 months. The answer to that is the title of this post - driving at night. When you have a learner's permit, you can only ride during daylight. Also, you can't have any passengers. That is another nice thing to be able to do (once we get helmets for the rest of the family) but it's not a necessity. But being able to ride my scooter at night is a necessity. With sundown coming earlier and having turned the clocks back the previous week-end (the infamous Daylight Moving Time but in the fall), it's dark by the time I head home. Yes, I could have continued with the learner's permit and just hoped that I wouldn't get stopped. But why worry? Other people might say, "Well, now that it's dark when you leave, isn't it dangerous? Why don't you just put the scooter away for the winter and wait until spring?" There are two answers to that. One is that I am a cheap guy and saving all this money on gasoline has really made me happy. The other reason is that I love driving at night.

I've always been this way. Even when I couldn't drive, I loved going out with my parents at night. Part of it is feeling like you're all alone. Just you and the people in the car. It's like you're in a different world. You could be almost anywhere. You notice the feeling of the road and the turns. There is a feeling that the car itself is pushing you one way and then the other. There is also the excitement that it is easier to get lost at night. So, you've got to be more on your toes. You need to watch the street signs more closely. There is a sense of accomplishment when you get to your destination. But being on my scooter at night is even better. You can smell what people are having for dinner. You feel more in tune with the scooter because you depend on it more. In some ways, it is safer because you see cars coming from farther away because of theirs lights. And I love the headlight on this scooter. It lights a wide path so you can see the entire width of the road. I think the high beam lights up as far down the road as our van high beam does. I'm more alert because you do have to be more careful, though. I feel my heart pumping harder. The worst part is that potholes sneak up on you and it can be jarring when you hit one unexpectedly. But that adds to the trill. You can't be looking down the entire ride. You need to keeping looking ahead, scanning for other, more dangerous things. I'd hate to hit a dog or a deer but by staying alert, you can see their eyes in the dark. They don't want the accident either.

By the time I get home, I'm more tired but happier. I feel like I accomplished one more thing that day. And when I turn into our yard, I see the lights on in the house and my my family moving around. Sometimes they see me coming and wave out the window to me. Sometimes they don't see my until I open the door. Then they smile and ask me about the day and I can rest. It doesn't get any better than this.

The picture above is from here by Michael Pierce. It's an interesting post about his own ride at night through the California mountains. He's a much better writer than I am. His ride is more dangerous than mine, too, and he rides a real motorcycle.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I've got my license... out! I just passed the road test for my motorcycle license. Yes, Massachusetts makes you get a motorcycle license to drive a scooter when the scooter can go above 30 miles per hour and has an engine larger than 50cc. My Honda Elite has a 110cc engine and can go over 45 MPH (50 if I'm lucky). Also, the state makes us register the scooter and get insurance for it. I guess it's OK. I'd hate to think a bunch of young kids would be riding these things around with no training. And the cost of the registration, license and insurance is much less than for a car. Plus, it didn't hurt to have to study the rules of the road again after all these years. More about this in a later post.

I was so nervous. I didn't know what to expect. As I mentioned in my first post about the scooter, I'd just barely passed the written test to get my learner's permit. So, my fantasy of being old enough to know everything was shattered. Would there be another written test? Would the tester ask me questions from the driving manual? How hard would the road test itself be? Would they follow me around the town in a patrol car or would there be some elaborate test course with obstacles and hidden traps? Would the tester ride behind me on the scooter seat? My test was scheduled for 10 AM but the testing site is almost 30 miles away (there is one Registry of Motor Vehicles office for all of Cape Cod). I didn't want to ride on the main road the whole way so I took back roads and my wife and kids followed me in the minivan. We hoped that they would get to watch my test and they were my back up in case something happened on the way. We left at 8:30 so we'd have plenty of time to get there and, perhaps, we could have a snack before the test.

Taking back roads added to the time it took to get there and we arrived at 9:30. Not enough time for anything but sitting there getting nervous.I made my first mistake when I saw a station in the back that said, "Check in here for road test". There were a bunch of signs and forms there but I'd already filled out my form so I asked the person in the office if I was supposed to check in with them. "Read the green sign!" I guess "checking in" means "read the sign". Finally, my name was called. I nervously shuffled my papers, gloves, helmet and wallet. She wanted to see my helmet first. Don't drop it! Keep hold of everything else! Don't look nervous! What am I? Sixteen? Then she inspected my learner's permit and registration. Why are the town names different? Good grief, now I've got to answer for the US Post Office not having home delivery from the post office in our town so sometimes the next town shows up when our Zip Code is used because they actually deliver our mail. Then she says to meet her behind the building with my scooter. And no, my family is not allowed to watch the test. Rats!

I rush out to get my scooter ready. Would she expect me to go through the motions of checking my tires, fluid levels, mirrors etc. as they mention in the manual? What were the hand signals again? What signal do you give if you're stopping just before you turn left? The stop signal or the left turn signal? Should I say something funny to calm myself down? No! Nothing you say is funny except to your wife and kids. I get out behind the building and the tester is not there. Did I take too long to get there and she has left? Was she watching me out the window and see that I didn't check my bike and adjust my mirrors and that I got here too quickly?

Finally, she got there with a huge notebook. How long was this going to take? First she asked me to demonstrate the hand signals. I said, "Right turn," and showed the right turn hand signal. I said, "Left turn," and showed her the left turn hand signal. I said, "Stop," and showed her the stop hand signal. Then she said, "And?" What "and"? There are three signals. "What about slow down?" she said.  I guessed and showed her the stop hand signal again. She said, "OK." I was going to fail this thing.

She did a quick safety inspection of my scooter (turn signals, brake lights, headlight and high beam, horn) then gave me instructions on what I'd be doing. There was a large circle painted on the pavement (maybe 20 feet in diameter) and a figure-8 inside that. I was to follow the figure-8 once then reverse direction and follow it back the other way. It looked like tight turns to me. I wouldn't be allowed to touch the ground with my feet. As I started out, she called after me, "Wait!" Oh, no. I've failed before I even started! I stop the scooter (I forgot to use the hand signal for the stop!) She was questioning my not putting my face plate down but then she remembered that I had glasses on so it was OK. I left the face plate up because it fogs up if I'm going too slow and I didn't want to shut out any sound so I could hear her.

I'm on the figure-8 tracing the line. I think I'm doing pretty well. "Can you speed it up a bit? You're going kind of slow." Oh no, another bad mark. I speed it up a bit but I'm afraid I'll not be able to make the turns. But I manage to finish the first figure-8. I turn around (was I supposed to signal a turn?) and head back around the figure-8 the other way. Am I going fast enough this time? Am I supposed to stay exactly on the painted lines?

I get back to where the tester is standing. Now I'm supposed to trace the large circle. Twice one direction, turn around and twice in the other direction. This one is easier because it's a wider turn. But after the first two times around and I'm turning to go the opposite direction I realize I forgot to ask if I was supposed to use turn signals. Too late, I didn't. I get back to the tester again. Since we're continuing the test, I assume I haven't failed yet. Now I'm supposed to drive up to a marker in the parking lot, make a left U-turn and drive back to another marker and make another left U-turn and drive back to the tester. I am to use the slow down signal and the left turn signal. I head off to the first marker and go to make my left turn. Oh no! I didn't use the slowing down hand signal. I just used the left turn hand signal. I finish the turn and head to the second marker. I do remember to use the slowing down hand signal then the left turn hand signal as I turned. Then I slowly drove up to her. I had made at least three mistakes. Maybe four if you count going too slow in the figure-8. She asked for my learner's permit again. "Congratulations, " she said, "You've passed." I could have fainted. I was sure I was going to have to do this all again.

I couldn't wait to get the scooter back around to the front of the building so I could go in and give my family the good news. But I didn't want to rush and make a mistake on the way. The tester could be watching. It could have all been a ruse to see if I'd go flying off without using hand signals or stopping or some other infraction. It took forever to get around the building as I stopped at every possible stopping place and signaled at every possible signaling place. Finally, I got in and saw them with expectant smiles on their faces, "Did you pass?" my wife asked. "Yes, I did," I said. It was so good to see them so happy for me. Being married with a family is the best thing in the world!

The leaves are getting ready

I can tell that the leaves on our trees are anxious to drop off the tree and onto the ground to make work for us because they are quivering with excitement. Last year was a big year for leaves and this year may be just as big. The story of last year's leaves is here.

We almost started raking up leaves this week-end but decided to wait until more leaves drop. This is a picture of our house, one of the trees and some of the leaves that have dropped so far. It's been a beautiful week-end. We had a full week of rain until Thursday this week. The bad weather makes the good weather seem so much sweeter. The colors of the local trees have been disappointing this year. There have been some isolated brilliant colors but not like in previous years. Oh, well, as we Red Sox fans said last month, "Wait till next year."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A jihad was declared against the West today...

...96 years ago - in 1914. It was declared by an Islamic leader on behalf of the Ottoman Empire - what we now call Turkey. They were desperate to keep their diminishing empire. They had aligned themselves with Germany and Austria in World War I and wanted Muslims all over the world to take up arms against England, France, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro - the Allies in the Great War. How did they explain that Muslims should be angry at the Allies but not Germany and Austria? I don't know. But it makes me realize that declaring a Jihad is not a purely religious act.

There is a bit more explanation at the This Day in History website here. It's important to study history. It shows that many things we think are modern problems or ideas are not so modern.

Friday, November 12, 2010

An interesting irony

Can irony be interesting or is it just ironic? Perhaps it's similar to there not being anything that is "very unique". Something is either unique (one of a kind) or it's not. Here I go drifting away from my story.

This morning on the way to work (still riding my scooter), I was approaching an off-ramp from the highway. A truck with "Solartec" on its side was pulling off the highway onto the back road I was on. They were going to have to wait for me to pass but the sun was at my back. I could see the driver squinting into the sun and shading his eyes. He saw me but just barely. He was having a hard time seeing anything!

I could see the angry expression on his face and his mouth was moving and I don't think he was saying kind words about the sun. It's ironic, isn't it? His work depends on the sun or, at least, his work has a lot to do with the sun shining and not being hidden by clouds, but here he was saying bad things about the sun. The sun was OK if it knew its place but how dare it interfere with what he was trying to do. We're all like that. God may be the creator of the Universe and of me but when He asks me to go out of my way to do something, well, that's another story. It's OK if God asks me to go to church on Sunday. But all that other stuff? Love thy neighbor? Love thine enemies? Love somebody at 2 AM?

Lord, help me to not be so self centered. Help me to look at the big picture. Help me to be more accepting.

By the way, the image is from this site.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Now that the election is over

Again I'm late in writing about something. But should I lament that fact and just never write about it or should I say something and hope that it is still relevant? I choose to write about it. This is my blog and I can say anything I want. The main purpose of this thing is to get my thoughts down so that later, when I'm old and feeble (or older and more feeble as some may say), I'll be able to look back at this and say, "I don't remember thinking that but there it is in black and white." This is for me and my family. If anyone else happens to read this blog, I hope they enjoy it. If they don't, it isn't going to ruin my day.

Back to the election. This year, the Republican Party won a lot of races. They now have the majority in the US House of Representatives and have narrowed the gap in the US Senate. They also picked up a number of state governorships. Not in our state, though. Massachusetts remains a Democratic stronghold (although our local representative to the state legislature went from a Democrat to a Republican). There is a lot of hand-wringing and worrying going on in the Democratic party. There are a lot of people who tend to like the ideas of the Democratic party who think this election is going to be bad for the country. They may be right but I think in the end that the people who were elected will, for the most part, have the good of the country in their heart and do the right thing. Of course, as an old ad for the 1964 election might say, "Yes extreme right." And that worries a lot of Democratic-thinking folks.

There were a lot of exit polls where the voters were asked who they voted for and why. The people who were polled were categorized by age, sex, religion, ethnicity, political affiliation and many other things. The people who do polling will analyze those numbers for months and make many interesting conclusions about what happened in this election. But the most telling numbers I saw were that about 40% of registered Democrats voted and about 60% of registered Republicans voted. Those numbers are just what I remember seeing on TV and they may be off. I wish I could find a reference for those numbers. If I do, I'll add it here. But the point is - if Democrats are upset about the results of this election, they have only themselves to blame (not me, I voted). Instead of sitting down and worrying about how the election would go and now crying about the results, those 60% of Democrats who didn't vote should have gotten up off their lazy butts and voted! That's all it would have taken. Just get up, go out the door, get to the polling place and make some marks on a piece of paper (or pull a few levers).

I have no sympathy for them. And, like in 2008 when the circumstances were reversed, the Republicans at that time stayed home and didn't vote. They allowed the Democrats to win big in that election. So, stop your crying, people. A lot of you didn't vote. So, just shut up. If the country goes down the tubes, it's your fault - not the people who were elected.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

My wife beats me

Yes, that title caught your attention didn't it? It is not what you think. My wife is very kind to me. She does a lot of things for me and is one of only a few people who think my jokes are funny. She would never hit me and I would never hit her. No, what I meant about my wife beating me was that she beat me in getting pictures of our Halloween outfits into our blogs (Cindy's entry is here). As a matter of fact, this blog is very much behind - in everything. I can't believe my last post was 11 days ago! I try to post something every 2 or 3 days (trending more toward the 3 than the 2). So, without further ado, here is how three of us went out trick or treating.

Last year, my son Evan went as Mario of the Nintendo game fame. I mentioned it in a post last year. This year, he wanted to go as Luigi (Mario's brother) and we thought it would be fun if I wore the old Mario costume and we went together. To keep with the theme, my daughter Emma decided to go as Princess Peach who is always either being rescued by Mario and Luigi or is helping them on their adventures. Also, in keeping with the theme, my wife was going to make a Princess Daisy costume but she wasn't happy with it in the end so I was just going to go out with the kids. Then Emma came down with a cold and we thought it best if Emma came home early so my wife ended up going out with us and then she and Emma came home early.

First of all, it was amazing that I was able to wear a costume my then-13-year-old son had worn! Then it was fun to hear the comments of people who recognized us as the Mario Brothers. Also, it was nice to see Emma perk up when we said she could go trick or treating for a while at least. I feel like I'm a kid again.