Posted by: silverback | 2013/01/14

(consider.)

Give the benefit of doubt to the government if you must, but only with a mind open to the possibility of the sinister.

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Posted by: silverback | 2013/01/14

the art of riding in the rain

All apologies to Garth Stein, author of The Art Of Racing In The Rain (HarperCollins, 2009), which is a magical novel that touches on almost all of my favorite subjects – racing, dogs, spiritual growth, and dreams. I highly recommend it.

We were just gifted with an utterly astounding mid-January weekend with springlike temps in the 70’s! The entire motorcycle community was abuzz with near-electric excitement. We don’t get days like this, not in the middle of winter. So plans were made, tires were aired, shields were cleaned,  the fine layer of dust wiped off midwinter leathers. We were to meet around midday and head south, where the temps would be even warmer.

Since I don’t have a a functional street bike at the moment, I was on my girlfriend’s Suzuki GSXR600, which is a very capable bike. The only issue with this bike is that the front tire is of questionable age and compound, from a decidedly third-tier manufacturer (whose name rhymes with “ginko”). I have no first-hand experience with these tires, and this one has not given me any overt problems, but I can’t really put a whole lot of confidence in its performing well when pushed. So I will not push today. I will be smooth, and I will bring myself and the bike home in the same shape we are leaving.

We make our final meeting of the day and begin to roll along our intended route. Almost instantly, the mostly clear skies give way to mostly cloudy ones, and the mostly dry roads quickly became mostly damp. Apparently the weather that had moved on through up in the north part of the district was still lingering here. Well – too late to turn back now, the route is set and we’re rolling with only hand signals to discuss things. That’s one of the things I love about riding motorcycles – not much midstream horse-changing once the helmets are on. Gas stops allow for minor course corrections if the consensus allows.

I am among a very small minority that truly enjoys riding in damp-and-drying or even fully wet conditions. They require different approaches, but ultimately the same mindset. Many times on a dry, clean road, a rider can afford to let his attention wander a little bit. Particularly on a familiar road – riding in a group, at a reasonable pace, the experience is almost a meditation. I nearly automatically hit conservative brake markers, select the right gear, execute the apex within a few feet of where it ought to be, and carry on into the next corner. At seven-tenths or less, I do these things almost without thought – so much so that if I turn my attention to the fact that I’m doing them, they become less smooth. I’m sometimes startled by the sheer number of things my hands, feet, fingers, eyes, and body are doing just from years of developing these habits. When conditions get less consistent, though, I must become a bit more attentive while still letting these inputs happen unconsciously.

rossi-rain-indianapolis-motogp

Click here for a list of excellent riding tips from a number of Pros.

In damp-to-dry conditions, the rider has to be intensely present & conscious of the surface. In full wet conditions, I must be intensely present & aware of the machine. In both cases, I need to be fully in the moment.

I enjoy the technical challenge of reading the pavement when patches of dry are beginning to pop through. I think adjusting one’s line to befit conditions is an under-emphasized skill. This is often important in rain as well, as there can be water pooled nearly anywhere – entry/braking zone, at the apex, or in the acceleration zone at the exit. By staying entirely present, and focused on the path of the bike, I’ll make slight adjustments  to where I’m placing the bike as I enter a corner, or on my path from one corner to the next. In drying conditions, obviously, I look for the drying spots – these are the places where, if possible and sensible (in the context of where I need to go), I’ll finish my heavy braking and make my turn inputs. If the dry spot is on corner exit, that’s the place I’ll try to get the bike picked up & more aggressively add throttle. I view it almost like rock-hopping across a creek. If I can logically connect the dry spots, I will. All my inputs are still smooth, I still leave a little room for error or for misjudging the available traction. Since usually the dry spots form where other vehicles are adding heat to the pavement from braking and turning, these spots usually make sense. Often however, they are merely products of sunny spots versus shaded or cooler, north-facing areas – one must remain in tune, intuitive to where he is in relation to his surroundings. Again, I must remain PRESENT. Because sometimes, rounding a right-hand uphill corner from sunshine into shadow under fairly heavy throttle, the road suddenly becomes fully wet.

Dani Pedrosa does not fret, in the wet.

Dani Pedrosa does not fret, in the wet.

Don’t panic. Hold what you’ve got. Slow hands. Freddie Spencer says “Fast riders have slower hands.” Nowhere is this more true than on fully wet pavement. Smooth inputs are crucial. Recently, I was instructing on a rainy day at a Sportbike Track Time trackday at Barber Motorsports Park. I had inexplicably missed the forecast for rain, so I was on track with full slick race tires in a downpour. At the crest of Turn Two, my bike, upon no input from me, began to swap ends. Since I had done nothing to start the movement, there were no corrective actions I could take. So I did nothing, save sharply inhale. In a very short amount of time, the bike caught traction and straightened itself out, allowing me to carry on. I also tell students when riding in the wet, to think about their front tire more, and to try not to make inputs that drastically change the load on the front at any point in the corner, but especially before the apex. Brake in a straight line, earlier is better. Trail off the brakes as I make my turn input, and then gently apply the throttle as I come off apex and get the bike stood up.

So back to that uphill right-hander into a shady wet midcorner…the bike is already turning, so the same rules apply. Be smooth. If I chop the throttle, startled by the sudden surface change, the sudden weight transfer will load the front tire. If I panic & try to stand the bike up quickly, not only am I likely to end up in the wrong lane, but I’m making a steering input, changing the load on the front. If I continue to add throttle as if the pavement were dry, I’m transferring weight off the front tire, also likely to spin the rear, which will set an unpleasant chain of reactions and overcorrections in motion. Steady. Slow hands. Finish the corner on the same line. Don’t add any more throttle – the bike is already accelerating a little. Ride the machine – if nothing has changed, make no further inputs. Read the surface now – look for the next place I need to be, my next braking point. Stay Present. Be Fully Aware. 

The thing about these challenging conditions to me is that the mindless meditation and habitual control inputs becomes overlaid by the scrim of right now.

Posted by: silverback | 2013/01/02

Brewing Storm (subtitle: The Conspiracy Piece)

Happy 2013, everybody!

Welcome to the Fiscal Cliff era, co-hosted by the new-new Feinstein Assault Weapons Bill, and presented by the further Enslavery of America’s working class, beholden to an oligarchy of power-mad douchebags. It’s become so prevalent and expected that we’re not even shocked anymore. What’s frustrating to me is the feeling of utter powerlessness. We have, over the past 236 years, managed to build an unwieldy, impossibly corrupt, overly bureaucratic, Rube-Goldberg device that, inexplicably, is still called “government.”

This government has built an unsustainable set of arcane laws and procedures that ultimately ensures zero progress. Our lawmakers spend so much time filibustering, making side deals, and scratching each others’ balls that no legislation of import ever gets passed unless a) it’s a dire emergency AND b) it’s been thoroughly diddled beforehand to make sure it includes all the perquisites each lawmaker has added along the way.

Here is a very good example of how legislation that was intended to get urgent relief to the victims of hurricane Sandy (October 2012) actually did neither.

A few months later as the Fiscal Cliff loomed, politicians were demonstrably more interested in posturing and inciting their respective bases by staunchly refusing to negotiate in any fashion, even to benefit the majority of Americans…but wait! The deal! The deal! In an amazing, urgent, last-minute backroom push by the Vice President and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, our public servants finally did essentially nothing. WHEW!!

The new old taxes

The math and more math 

The mounting debt

If you don’t feel like knowing all kinds of unpleasant, nightmarish, creeping reality, the short version is our lawmakers essentially inked a deal that on the surface might reduce our 15+ TRILLION dollar debt load by, at most, 600 billion dollars, or 1/25th of the mounting debt. Note that I said “mounting” debt, because we have to pay interest as a country on our debt, just like as citizens, right? If you check out this data you can see how since we’re paying nearly 100 billion per month in interest alone, there’s no way we can do anything to staunch the bleeding. Even curiouser, the US makes these interest payments to the Federal Reserve Bank, who is the party from whom the country gets ALL ITS LEGAL TENDER, and from whom it borrows money when it can’t pay its own bills, which is nearly always, at least lately. I’m sure the terms are more than generous, but just who is the Federal Reserve, anyway?

Here’s a nice nonanswer to that query, as well as some conflicting info, which, while sexier, is largely conjecture. Either way, there’s a whole lot of money moving around, and the taxpayers, particularly the 90% of us making under $150k a year, are shouldering the burden of paying the tab.

surely you’ve seen this by now…

Read More…

Posted by: silverback | 2012/10/15

your mom

I admit I’m a little bit of an asshole sometimes. Not quite to the extent of the “emails from an asshole” guy, but I often make the incorrect assumption that since I can laugh at myself about almost anything, that everybody else possesses that ability. We are some stupid, funny, ignorant-ass apes, though. People forget that.

I said something via a text message to my buddy. I’ve known this guy for four or five years, and I thought we were friends enough to give a little crap back and forth. I caught him on a bad day, I guess? It’s probably me – he’s got a four-month-old baby girl who doesn’t sleep well. He may be under some other financial stresses from starting a new family. I’ve been there myself, in a place where my friends just rub me the wrong way.

But I’m also well out of high school. By, like, decades.

So the message? The one my buddy went all apeshit on me, has now threatened to beat my ass, have his friends beat my ass, and then systematically ruin my life in whatever ways he can?

“Your mom. Wipe your mom’s pussy.”

That’s right – purely out of context, but he was already cussing at me so hard and calling me such horrible names that I honestly believed he was just taking the shit-talking a little far. He’d already called me an asshole & told me to shut the fuck up or he’d come over and beat my ass. He’d already called me a “super faggot star,” which had to be a joke, right? He’d called me a dick, and told me subsequently to “eat a dick.” Then, he called me a pussy, and told me to “wipe your pussy faggot.”

I replied with the above. It seemed appropriate at the time. Stupid boys talking stupid shit, right? Apes, with their genitalia in hand.

And then dude went apeshit. Like in high school. He was screaming crazy shit on the phone at me that I couldn’t even make out, but it was violent. He was truly and honestly very mad. He still is.

I sent a very considerate email explaining that I honestly thought he had to be joking, that I’d always held him in high regard, and that I was very sorry for offending him in any way.

His response included “…fuck off and leave me the fuck alone.” There was more, but since it’s crazy and makes zero sense in or out of context, I don’t feel it’s worth repeating. I wanted to respond one more time, but you know – I did the right thing. Hard to be rational with irrational people.

Mutual friends to whom I’ve expressed dismay all say about the same thing, “He did that to me once. Give him a few days.”

Nah dude. Give your mom a few days.

Posted by: silverback | 2012/10/08

imaginality

I had a good friend and spiritual advisor early in my recovery journey who was fond of saying, “What other people think of me is none of my damn business.” The first time he ever said this to me, a light bulb came on. I began to understand that many of my actions were based on what I thought people might think of me. I drank the way I drank often to be a part of some scene. I needed alcohol to lower my inhibitions because I felt that in general, people didn’t care to know me unless I could shine in some way – act more extemporaneously. I based most of my actions not on my own set of beliefs and values, but rather on what I thought others thought of me. It only made the painful rift inside – the reason I drank & used the way I did – even wider.

As I got more comfortable being a recovering alcoholic, I began to realize that I don’t really pay any attention to what most people are doing most of the time. It was another lightbulb moment when it became clear to me that most people are like me, despite my protestation that I’m much more special than you. If I wasn’t really cognizant or judgmental of how most others were acting at any given moment, then it followed that most people are paying no attention to me and what I’m doing. For me it was important epiphany to have, because it lifted the seeming unbearable weight of self-consciousness that I had carried since adolescence.

But this isn’t just about me. I recently went through a minor heartbreak with a woman who seemingly could not escape that burden of others’ opinions. As I look back, it is clear that for the entire duration of our brief, yet incredibly intense relationship, just about all of her actions – from the very outset – were shaped by what she believed others wanted or expected of her. Myself included. In fact, it becomes astonishingly clear that our thing began simply from the fact that she knew I had a crush…and it seems she felt obligated at some level to respond to that in a way that wouldn’t disappoint me. Despite the fact that we were not really compatible in our thinking or value systems.

My ego led me into dangerous emotional waters because I perceived myself as unique, despite the red flags. There were blatant warnings from friends. I was determined to get what I wanted enough to ignore all of them. My soul was hungry…but that’s another story for another day.

I played my part, for sure. She was a beautiful woman, and I was attracted. So I ignored many of the signs that the affair was doomed to come apart. I allowed my own needs to be sublimated by her desire to create a certain outward appearance. She kept me at a distance in public, because she was afraid of what people would say if they knew we were an item. For my part, I was infatuated enough to permit the subterfuge to continue. She came apart at times because it was impossible for her to balance fulfilling my needs as a partner and managing the imagined opinions of others in whatever situation we found ourselves.

It’s an important distinction to make – those imagined opinions. 

When I start to make assumptions about what others may be thinking about me or how they may be judging me, I’ve entered the realm of fiction. I’ve just stepped out of any version of reality, and have begun to create a story. It’s a story because I can never know what other people are thinking. If I begin to base my actions on those absolutely false assumptions, then I can never be true to my real self. I will never know what my true motives are. I will remain enslaved by fear – fear which is pure illusion.

What you think about me is none of my goddamned business. The converse of that is that what I may be thinking about you is also none of yours. Sorry to say, I’m probably not thinking much about you at all.

Posted by: silverback | 2012/08/08

the problem of self-proclamation

My subconscious is a moody sonofabitch.

It always hears the things I say consciously, it’s always aware of my conscious declarations and intentions. But sometimes, when it catches the scent of fear, it messily asserts itself as the stronger force. It usually goes to great lengths to put on a garish show of its displeasure, and doesn’t stop its dervish until everybody is hurting just a little bit.

I think we all have this disconnect in one way or another. Somebody will say, “Oh I’m a vegan because the commercial meat industry is killing us all,” while lighting their tenth additive-free cigarette of the day. I used to always hear serious statements like, “Oh no I’m not racist at all. I think most of those people are just lazy because they’ve been given welfare all their lives.”  The best stuff comes from the religious sector these days, simultaneously preaching the gospel of Christ which tells us all to love one another as God loves us, while simultaneously spewing hatred for persons of a certain sexuality. You could label it simple hypocrisy, but I think it’s deeper than that. I think we actually believe the shit we say for the most part.

I’m having a big problem with people in my life lately who claim to be inclined to behave a certain way or proclaim themselves determined to do a specific thing.  When the time comes to follow through, or when their true intent is tested by my reactions, I’m disappointed because they don’t seem to remember what they said. Sometimes, in fact, an argument will surface about my well-reasoned reaction to that thing they just said! “You’re being overly dramatic,” or “you don’t understand,” or even better, “you can’t possibly understand.”

Apparently, you are correct. I do not understand.

I’m sure the problem is mine, because I took what you said at face value, because I don’t listen for subtext. Because I do the exact same thing.

You see, I think what’s happening when I talk about intangible things, about situations that haven’t happened yet, or about complex matters of emotion – is that during the discussion I am always inclined to state my ideals. My conscious replies are always going to be “honest,” in the sense that  I’m not under the gun, but in a controlled event where I get to make unilateral determinations of “how things will go down should this situation become reality.”

When the reality hits, though, the other parties involved act in unexpected ways. Self-preservation and fear – of not getting something I want or of losing something I have – enters the mix, and I’m actually going to surprise myself with the size of the crisis I can create. I’m going to behave in a way that causes me the least discomfort in the moment. My subconscious comes to the fore, and fearlessly defends itself from the insurgence of reality.

It is never pretty. It’s probably going to be full of irrational recriminations, accusations, and reversals, and is likely going to look much like a train wreck before all is said and done. And I’m sure somebody is going to get hurt.

Posted by: silverback | 2012/08/07

(consider)

I have yet to find a magical place without a few stinging nettles or biting flies…an allegory for life, perhaps?

Posted by: silverback | 2012/08/05

dichotomy

It always comes down to a choice, doesn’t it?

I’m in the midst of some BIG shit – some life-changing, reset-button shit. Everything that I believed made up the basis of my life has changed. My foundation has undergone the proverbial seismic shift. Some of it is self-inflicted, some seemingly catalyzed by forces far beyond my control. The upshot is that I get to make some fresh choices. The problem with that reality is that as a human, I’ve got an epic internal battle steering many of my choices – that of my ego versus my true self.

The ego wants what it wants – it sees itself bigger than life, drop-dead sexy, irresistible. He’s a master at justifying the most selfish, ridiculous acts merely by muttering the words, “You deserve this.” But he’s shallow, driven by the short-term game. He wants to get in, make a killing, and get out with a stack of cash. He wants to bang the strippers. He’s more interested in the instant gratification that comes from an outside stimulus – a pill, a dollar bill, or a blowjob. He’s willing to live with the consequences of self-destructive choices, so long as it feels good RIGHT NOW.

The true self, in many ways, has been imprisoned inside the walls that ego has built. He occasionally puts his face to the window and feels the sunlight, but mostly he’s remained quiet for a couple decades now. He’s pensive, grounded. He’s not afraid to show his talents, and they are many. He has no shame for the person he really is – the artist, the loving partner, the sensitive man. He desperately wants an intense experience, a deeper life than Birth-School-Work-Death. He feels everything so intensely it sometimes sends him running back within the safety of the walls. He’s terribly insecure, and needs to surround himself with people who encourage him to reach higher, to stay true.

His ego has been in charge of choosing the friends. The problem with ego is that it’s self-strengthening. If he gets to run the show, the walls become even more fortified. He decorates them with the remnants of the armor of his enemies, the bits of lingerie of his conquests. He paints them in garish colors to distract passersby from the fact that there’s a deeper soul hidden in there. If anybody ever should ask why all the baubles? he regales them with hilarious stories of his adventures. He takes over the conversation in any moment of contemplative silence, telling bawdy jokes and laughing too loudly.

Meanwhile, the self sits inside, shaking his head. Wondering why he doesn’t say something. Wondering what happened way back then to allow these walls to go up? It’s possibly the most bizarre manifestation of the Stockholm Syndrome ever witnessed. My clear intention in this moment is to attempt a permanent escape from the captivity of my insatiable ego. To walk away from this self-imposed prison and become.

It’s scary as hell.

Posted by: silverback | 2012/01/11

momentum

“An object in motion tends to stay in motion, unless acted upon by another force.” A paraphrase of one of the most basic laws of Newtonian physics. I’m a big believer in physics, and I also tend to dabble in metaphysics.

When I first started mountain biking, I was learning to ride in some of the most technical terrain in the world – that of the northeastern United States. There were granite minefields strewn throughout every trail system, connected by loamy ravines riddled with old-growth rootballs. After months of getting thrown on my face by tentative approaches to tombstone-shaped slabs, I finally learned to keep pedaling thru the rough sections. The gyroscopic effect of my feet continuing around, and the corresponding rotation of the bike’s wheels, served my balance much better than trying to coast, pedals level to avoid striking the occasional rock. As time has passed, I like to think that I’ve achieved a good balance of pedaling and knowing when to coast.

Momentum is the force that keeps things going. My truck weighs 7000 pounds, and so it takes an enormous amount of power in the form of torque to get that thing rolling. If I’m in traffic and following too closely, then I lose momentum when I have to brake to avoid smacking the idiot in front of me. In turn, I have to then burn a few more ounces of diesel to bring my speed back up to cruise. It’s amazing how many people drive just like that. Brakes—gas-brakes–gas—brakes.. it’s a total waste. There are numerous other situations where momentum is key when piloting a vehicle. Left turns across oncoming traffic, for instance. If one looks ahead for a gap in traffic, then adjusts speed to correspond with the gap, often there’s no need to stop the vehicle, only to wait for an even larger gap to get all that mass moving again. Also in the snow; DO NOT STOP at the base of the slippery hill to gather your wits and assess the situation incorrectly. You will fail. If you have momentum in hand, USE IT.

My little Yamaha R6, on the other hand, is very light by comparison. It, however, is lacking in the torque department. On the track, my best lap times do not come from coming into corners too hot, using lots of brake, then heavily hammering the throttle out. I get my best times by maintaining higher midcorner speeds. I have to keep momentum for the drive out; I also have to try to start building that momentum earlier than the next guy, getting on the throttle just a little more, just a little sooner. I also have to be very careful not to overbrake on my entry to the corner, or risk losing any gains I’ve been able to make.

I also believe momentum is very important in life; in the things we’re trying to accomplish. As a parent, I find that keeping the child moving in the desired direction is often more important than the outcome. I don’t care so much what he’s putting on, just so long as he’s getting dressed. I don’t really care if all his homework is done, so long as he’s heading for the car that’s taking him to school.

I think too often we get stopped, or at least hampered, by the minutiae. We forget to consider the big picture, which is what I hope to accomplish at the end of the day.
In life I think we can also be stymied by such things as doubt and indecision. We end up selling ourselves short by accepting a career or situation that merely pays the bills. Or perhaps we let greed or pride talk us into remaining in a situation that slowly kills our passion.

In my career recently, I’ve been incredibly frustrated by the seeming unwillingness of my superiors to simply maintain momentum. Let’s just get the project fucking finished. That is the goal. Stop putting off the delivery. Stop looking for loopholes in the contract. Stop blowing money on making the wrong parts serve an inelegant purpose. Let’s do it, and do it right, as we intended at the start.

Newton was a very smart man. The converse of the statement above is a reiteration of Newton’s First Law, that “an object at rest, tends to remain at rest…”

So let’s keep it moving, y’all.

Posted by: silverback | 2011/12/30

Buh-bye 2011

This past year has been troublesome. Its main characteristics for this guy have been sacrifice, and loss.
That’s not to say it’s been a total crapper, because it hasn’t. I’ve done a bunch of cool stuff, with a bunch of cool people. I didn’t throw the R6 down the track, not even once; at the same time I set some PR’s and gained an immense amount of confidence.
I put more miles on my road bike than in the last five years combined, I bet. I also got back into the woods a bunch on the old Knolly, best mountain bike ever.
Learned how to root most any Android device, got pretty handy at flashing various ROM’s, kernels, and yes, restored more than a couple backups.
Designed and built a pretty radical machine that pumps out proprietary Smart Bottles™ at close to 25/min.

Lost my dog. Millie was our friend, companion, and blanket for 13 years. She came into my life right after I met my wife, partner, and one true love Laura. We knew she was getting old, but it still came as a painful surprise. Live long enough, and you’re going to lose some loved ones, I guess.
We also lost Marco Simoncelli, at the tender young age of 24. He was one of those riders destined for MotoGP greatness, but his time was cut short in that freak accident at Sepang. Watching it, it didn’t seem as if it could really have happened – an impossibility of physics. The Universe must have needed his energy elsewhere, like RIGHT NOW.
I’ve spent a ton of my time invested in perpetuating insanity, and for little reward. Neither salary nor job satisfaction. 2012 is going to see the end of that compromise.

Starting off the New Year right, with a trip to the track – a return to Jennings GP, as this blog began in early 2010. Only this time, we’re running it in reverse, which probably doesn’t mean anything really. But it feels different.

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