Wednesday, November 25, 2015

CBR project: head rebuild

Never rebuilt a Honda head before and probably didn't really need to do this one, but the bike had a stumble and I thought it might be a bent valve.  Pulled the head off, found a relatively inexpensive source for valve seals ($11 each from Honday, $4 each from the local indie shop; did I mention that there are 16 of them so I save about $110 buck right there), and ordered a valve spring compressor that would work on 23mm valves (a bit smaller than Harley).

Super easy, pulled each one out, lapped it with some valve grinding compound, cleaned the whole thing thoroughly, and then put it back together.  Took a while because there are so many but no snags and no bent valves.

Next step, install new base gasket, reinstall head, then pull carbs off parts bike and start cleaning and tuning them for install.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The view

Went running  around sunset the other day and thought this view worth sharing.


So I ordered a new (used) brake pedal for one of my Harleys.  The stock one is really short and sits where your foot should sit.  The later models have a longer one which fits and I've had one of those on the bike for years.  While the bike has been down, however, I sort of gave my longer brake pedal to a buddy who bought a bike with one of the annoying short pedals.  Now I have to buy a new one.

No big deal, $20 shipped off ebay, here's what I ordered.

It arrived yesterday, as advertised, in good condition, etc, etc.  That's not the weird part.

This is what was actually in the box.

Also in the box, five pounds of small steel pellets.  I have no idea what those are for, or why they are in the box.  Near as I can tell the only purpose they served was to make the box five pounds heavier.  Nothing to tell me what they are other than the fact that the State of California believes that they might cause cancer and they were made in Peru.  They are carefully sewn into small mesh bags and look quite professionally done.

Like I said.  Weird.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Verizon really doesn't want me as a customer

Years ago I signed up for Verizon's unlimited data plan.  They discontinued the plan a few years ago but grandfathered in all their existing customers.  I have kept that plan, purchasing new phones on the open market because it was worth it.  I still pay over a hundred dollars a month to Verizon but I have liked their service and the reception I generally get.

Today I got my new bill and it is twenty dollars higher than my usual bill.  A little exploration and I discover that they have almost doubled the price of my data plan, from $30 to $50 a month, $240 a year.

A couple thoughts:

1) I get that they can change the price when they want and that maybe they feel it is time to change the price.  It happens.  What I really don't like is the passive aggressive way that they have tried to get me off the plan over the past few years. 
  • They used to send me letters explaining to me how much better it would be for me if I switched to their more expensive 6GB per month plan.  They never did explain how less data for more cost was actually a better deal for me.
  • Now they have just jacked the price of my plan without telling me in advance, leaving me to discover this when my bill arrived.  They claim that they sent out notices a month ago, but how exactly did they send those is unclear.  At their urging I don't get a paper bill in the mail (saves them money) and nothing else arrived in the mail for me, they didn't send me a text message to tell me even though they do send me text messages on other things, and I certainly didn't receive an email from them.
2. They aren't losing money on my unlimited data plan.  I use an average of about 8.5GB per month and that is only over the past six months or so since I started listening to podcasts.   I don't stream movies or music.  The main reason I like the unlimited plan is that I am not good at monitoring my information.  I don't keep good track of my checking account, but rather make sure that there is plenty of money in savings for the bank to auto-transfer if needed.  I don't keep good track of my text messages or minutes, but mostly depend on having enough extra coverage that I only occasionally have to pay a bit for overages (once each in the last two years for talk and text).  Talk and text overages don't cost much, however, compared to what they ding you for on data.  I don't want to be surprised by a huge bill.

3. I went in to Verizon last month to look at new plans.  I needed a new phone and figured I might as well see what they had to offer.  They do have the 12GB data plan for $80, add in Canada that I need since my parents live there, and maybe it would be worth it to upgrade my old phone.  Turns out that the current Canada plans are significantly more.  Right now I pay a premium for my 900 minute plan so that I can call to and from Canada.  I visit Canada at least once a month and really don't want to be stuck up there with no communication.  It was called Nationwide plus Canada.  Now I have to pay an extra $10 a month to call Canada, plus an extra $25 a month to use my phone in Canada.  Still no data services in Canada but that isn't the end of the world.   Add the $80 for a calling plan plus another $35 for Canada and we are up to $115 a month which is what I am paying now for less service.

4.  OK, I needed a new phone so it might be worth it.  Turns out they don't do phone discounts any more.  I guess at this point they don't need incentives to get you to buy a smart phone, everyone has or wants one.  They were willing to sell me a phone at full retail but let me pay per month for the next couple years until it was paid off.  Thanks for nothing.  I went on Craigslist and found a lightly used phone in really good condition for a third what they wanted for the same phone.

5. I am now sort of screwed because I just bought a Verizon phone and they have changed the terms of my contract with no notice.  I don't know for sure, but I don't think my phone will work on any other network.  So, I spent money on a phone which I have used for about a month and a half ... due to the fact that Verizon didn't bother to notify me that they were going to raise my rates significantly, at which point I might have shopped around for better deals on phone services before I bought a new phone...

 I guess if people want to continue to have the service you agreed to provide them, and they won't quit voluntarily you raise the price until they go away.

Too bad.  I have promoted Verizon's service for years to my friends and family.  I have been with them for over fifteen years, even when others pointed out to me that there were dirt cheap services offering plans that were just as good for significantly less money.

Apparently keeping a few customers happy by leaving them alone with the plan that you agreed to is a bit too much.  Even being honest and just saying "we don't want to offer these plans anymore, even if you were grandfathered, so they will no longer be available" would be preferable.  I would grumble and complain a bit and then get over it.  Instead they are passively aggressively forcing me out in such a manner that they can claim that people just didn't want the plan anymore.

Oh well.  Goodbye Verizon.  If anyone knows what companies have decent reception up and down the West Coast, a plan that will let me travel to Canada, and a decent data allowance (I generally listen to podcasts rather than the radio so use a fair amount of data each month, on average about 8.5GB) let me know.  I am in the market and I won't have much good to say about Verizon, even if I end up having to stay with them to get the services I need, I certainly won't be recommending them to anyone.

Friday, November 20, 2015

How to enjoy writing

No, I don't mean typing on your computer.

I just bought a Levenger True Writer Teal Appeal fountain pen.  I've wanted one for some time but they don't make this particular model anymore, so when I found one on ebay I jumped on it.

The reality for me is that I don't enjoy writing on a computer.  It just doesn't flow.  I have a couple book projects that I started, both on computer, and they have gone nowhere.

This pen, however, is a joy to write with.  Maybe I will write more.  Even if I don't, I feel special just owning this pen.  Who knew that a pen could make you feel better?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Religion of peace update

Muslim extremism.

Islamic terrorists.

Just saying.  At what point will we say "hell no", we've had enough.  The FBI should be infiltrating mosques, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) should be denying immigration permission to Muslims coming from any country, and we should be asking our Muslim neighbors to denounce the attacks vocally and often.  I am tired of the so called "vast majority of peaceful Muslims" sitting silently in the wings while their religious brethren commit murder and mayhem.  Meanwhile every Christian is both expected and willing to condemn the slightest offense by his fellow Christians, no matter how idiotic and un-representative of the faith as a whole.

I fully expect these attacks to come to a major city nearby here in the United States and soon.  I happen to live in a small town so probably won't see it here, but if it happens in a restaurant where I am, you can bet your boots that I will be shooting back.  Unfortunately that won't help much against a suicide vest or car bomb but one does what one can.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Star Wars disappointment

I know. Already.  I haven't even seen the trailer.

For the record, I saw Episode IV: A New Hope thirteen times in the theater.  That was, of course, the only option back then, in the days before widely available videotape.

I saw the others but not with the enthusiasm of my twelve year old self for the original.  I was excited for the prequel but somewhat disappointed, especially with the whining of Anakin Skywalker throughout the films.  I also, over the intervening years, read many of the Star Wars universe books.

In case you didn't know, there are over 100 stories (books or trilogies) set in the Star Wars universe.  Each of the story lines had to fit in with the timeline and history of the universe.  I have read quite a few of them.

I now find out that Disney has done a reset for the new Star Wars movies.  Ignore everything you ever knew about the Star Wars universe, what happened after the empire was overthrown, the adventures of Luke (who reestablished the Jedi, married and had kids), Leia (became President of the Republic, married Han Solo and had kids), etc, etc.  The remnants of the Empire fought on, and the universe was, at one point, invaded by an alien species called the Yuuzhan Vong who terraformed planets after they conquered them.

All of this was very interesting and many of the books were very well written, especially if you are into science fiction (I know, Star Wars is technically fantasy, not sci fi, but I don't care) and now it is all garbage.

There is a new story and I already don't like it.  There wasn't anything wrong with the old story.  After all, movies were made from the Lord of the Rings books and millions of people had read those.  It's not like movie viewers of LotR were going to be disappointed that there wasn't a surprise ending, and it wasn't like Star Wars fans were going to be upset that the story was already predetermined by the books.  After all, most people have never read most (if any) of the Star Wars books.