I’m In the Market

I need to get a car. I sold my Ram 2500 King Cab long-bed diesel truck a few months ago. It was a pain to drive, but convenient for towing our travel trailer and doing hauling. Honestly, though, while I really liked the truck’s capabilities, I never liked driving it. it was, like, 30 feet long, and impossible to park. I wasn’t planning on ever selling it, though. But, as it happens, it turned out that selling it was a convenient way to round up a bunch of cash to do some landscaping, and get the house painted, so it went on the block for a good cause.

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New WordPress Motorcycle Themes

I’ve updated the selection of free, motorcycle-related WordPress themes that you can download. There are five new themes in the collection, all of which are fully compatible with WordPress 3.x and above. That means they have all the proper theme options you’re used to. They also use some nice Google fonts that make them very readable. Please feel free to download and enjoy.

The Bane of My Existence

The 2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GTS that is sitting in my driveway is not mine. It belongs to The Lovely Christine. Yet it taunts me mercilessly, mocking me for ever having gotten involved with it. It now symbolizes everything that is wrong with my life; everything that has gone terribly, terribly wrong. It is a hateful malevolent presence that corrupts everything it touches. Before last month, it was just a mildly irritating vehicle that Chris thought of as a sports car, and I thought of—when I thought of it at all—as something I’d like her to trade in for something fun. But circumstances forced me to become entangled with it, and it has made everything about my life worse. Well, that’s not quite true…it’s just one of the two things that have done so, recently. There’s a story behind it all, you see.

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Backyard Photography

Chris and I were spending time in the backyard with the dogs, and I decided to pull out my Panasonic Lumix FZ-200 and take some pictures. The star of the show turned out to be—as it almost always is—our goofy boxer, Apollo. Click on the photos for the hi-res versions.

Apollo plays with a ball

Apollo has this little hard plastic ball that was once a baby toy. He goes full-goose loony whenever he plays with it. Giving it to him is a good way to get him to play himself to exhaustion.

Titus

Titus, my big, old, lazy, dumb galloot.

Titus

Titus is also a bit…slobbery.

Apollo and his long, long tongue

Apollo has a very long tongue. The more he plays with his ball, the longer it gets.

Apollo is not only obsessive about his ball, he’s obsessive about playing with water. So, once he gets himself overheated by playing with the ball, we can cool him down by letting him play with the hose. The rest of the pictures show Apollo’s um, complicated relationship with the hose.

Apollo and the hose

Apollo and the hose

Apollo and the hose

Apollo and the hose

Apollo and the hose

Apollo and the hose

Apollo and the hose

Apollo and the hose

Apollo and the hose

Apollo and the hose

Our lives would be a lot emptier without these guys.

Reforming English

Dreaming an Impossible Dream

One of my personal little personality quirks is a deep sense of privacy. I mean, I’m civil enough, I suppose, but deep down, I don’t really trust people very much, and I don’t want them to know much about what I’m thinking or doing. For instance, because I have to attend meetings and take lots of notes, I don’t want people to see what I’m writing. But, I also don’t want to be the wierdo who’s obviously guarding his notes from the prying eyes of the other meeting attendees.

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Resurrection, Again

Let’s try this one more time

Blogging is hard. I don’t mean it’s hard physically, but it’s hard in terms of finding the time to do it. This especially true when you write at other places besides your personal web site. I write on politics and economics elsewhere, and I didn’t want this to become a political site. Plus, I got an invite to write at Medium, so I sort of did all of my personal writing there, and created my own collection of automotive and motorcycle writing there. (Most of which, By the way, I’ll be transferring over here, bit by bit.)

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A little Photoblogging

Chris and I went downtown to take some pictures. This time, instead of lugging around an SLR, I took my new Panasonic Lumix FZ200. It’s a 12.1 megapixel bridge camera, with a 28mm-600mm superzoom lens. I wanted to see how it would do as a walking-around camera. I think the answer is, "very well."

ship

The Star Of India, docked in downtown San Diego.

ads

Old advertisements

corridor

Mall corridor, Horton Plaza

jail

San Diego County Jail

bird

A little bird

building

This odd building looks like an optical illusion

chairs

Chairs in a residential courtyard

dog

A homeless man’s dog, downtown San Diego

leds

LED marquee at the Balboa Theater

trains

Trains at Union Station

UnionStation

Architectural detail of Union Station

reflections

Window reflections

courtyard

Skyscraper courtyard

details

Architectural detail of a restored Victorian-era building

downtownstreet

The Gaslamp District

generalgrant
Architectural detail, Ulysses S. Grant Hotel

lobby

Lobby, Sempra Energy building

mosaicwall

Mosaic Wall, Horton Plaza

parkbuildings

Park and skyline

screens

Each window of this building has a screen that can be lowered to cover the glass

sempra

Architectural detail, Sempra Energy building

victorianbuilding

Restored Victorian-era building in the Gaslamp District

Moon

The Moon and Venus

And finally, to show you how powerful the zoom and video capabilities of this little camera are, I give you The Dog Walker.

httpvhd://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Elkh7GKzPAU&feature=g-upl

Brief Lumix FZ200 Review/Comparison

As a photographer, my first choice for any professional assignment is a digital SLR. But, as a guy who just walks around and likes taking pictures, I want something slammer and more convenient. And I also want to be able to shoot video. Also, as a pro, a nice camcorder that I can use as a B-roll camcorder to back up my big video camera is a big plus. So, after a lot of research, I settled on getting a Panasonic Lumix FZ200—the successor to the impressive FZ150—as a walking-around camera/camcorder.

Today, I decided to do a little comparison of images taken with my Canon D50 with the FZ200. All images are zoomed to 100%.

canon50djpeg

Canon 50D original JPG image

lumixfz200jpeg

Lumix FZ200 Original JPG image

canon50drawconversion

Canon 50D Uncorrected RAW Conversion (Photoshop RAW converter)

lumixfz200rawconversion

Lumix FZ200 Uncorrected RAW Conversion (SilkyPix RAW Converter)

iphone4sjpeg

iPhone 4S JPG image, included for curiosity’s sake. iPhone shoot 8 MP compared to the 12.1MP of the FZ200 and 15MP of the Canon 50D. It’s actually really good for a tiny cell phone camera.

A couple of interesting differences are evident. The Lumix shoots much warmer. Dropping the color temperature of the RAW image from 5100 to about 4600 produces a much closer color match.  The smaller 1.2/3" sensor on the Lumix loses some fine detail, producing a softer image, which is not totally fixable in RAW, but can be sharpened nicely in SilkyPix.

The Lumix JPG compression is really too aggressive. The image is full of compression artifacts at 100% when you shoot in JPG. However, for sharing images on the web, you’ll resize them down by quite a bit, anyway, so much of that won’t be obvious. Shooting for the web and sharing via email will work just fine with the FZ200 in JPG mode. If you’re interested in blowing up any of the images, then you’ll really want to shoot in RAW, so you won’t have to deal with the in-camera JPG conversion.

I’m hoping that a firmware update for the FZ200 will be forthcoming from Panasonic in the not-too-distant future, to improve the in-camera JPG conversion. Until then, shooting in RAW is the best option for shots that you’ll want to use at 100% of zoom.

On the other hand, if you’re just shooting for vacation or family pics, and for sharing online, the Lumix FZ200 is a pretty good camera.

I also took some test shots, using both 6x and 12x zoom with the camcorder function. The long zoom length is great, and the full 1080 HD video shows more detail and clarity than the Canon Vixia I was using. I’ll be very happy to shoot B-roll with this camera.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tECJNQ6kplY

Overall, the Lumix FZ200 is a fine camera/camcorder for casual shooting, and—using RAW—for some light pro applications. It’s perfect to use as a camera for online sharing, and has quite a lot of capability for such a small, compact camera. So, far, I’m pretty happy with it.

I’ll be even happier if Panasonic cleans up the in-camera JPG conversion with a new firmware update.

Living with the VFR

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I could ride this thing all day and not get tired of it. It’s comfy for my 5’10"/195lb stature. It’s got a great stonkin’ engine. The DCT makes any kind of riding you want to do a joy.

This morning, a guy in a new CBR100RR pulled up next to me, and was checking out the VFR and all I could think was, "you poor bastard…your bike sucks."

Admittedly, he may feel differently.

I’ve been pounding around recently in manual mode, and man, this thing moves when you get the RPMs up over 5k. It pulls like a truck. The Sport mode in auto is nice, and has lots of get up and go, but in manual mode, when you just let it pull to the redline for every gear, it’s scary fast.

In parking lots, the DCT is about 1,000 times better than the FJR’s YCCS tranny. It’s easy to maneuver, though it does require a tad a foot-braking to keep it settled in low-speed maneuvering. It feels way lighter than 600 lbs, even trundling around at a walking pace.

Which I do as little as possible.

I’ve been asked about vibration. Yeah, it’s there in manual mode. It’s more noticeable at higher revs. But, to me, it’s part of the character of the V4, and I like it. And you really have to push it before the vibration becomes anything more than part of the background.

I’m immensely satisfied with the bike.

A bit of light farkling

wG8QI mentioned in a previous post that the beautiful paint job of the VFR’s tank was a bit delicate. I have solved that problem with some new tank protectors.

If you look at the full, high-res pic, you’ll see that the rear Rascal Grafik tank protector, while beautifully color-matched to the Honda paint scheme, is color-matched to the CBR-RR paint scheme, not the VFR one, but it’s close enough for government work.

Another CBR item that I’ve re-purposed for the VFR are the Stomp grip pads. I’ve put the clear knee pads on the sides of the tank, where they’re supposed to go, but I’ve additionally re-purposed the black ones to protect the front of the tank, in the cutouts where the handlebars go when turning the wheel sharply.

You can also see the Crampbuster at the end of the throttle—the little dealie that allows you to use your palm to twist the throttle–which is an additional little comfort thing I like. It allows you to manipulate the throttle without having to grip it tightly, for a more relaxed hand.

All of these items were purchased this past weekend, when I finally took the bike in for my rain-delayed 600 mile service.

Yes, she’s out of the break-in period, with 1160 miles on her now, which brings me to the most disappointing thing about the VFR1200.  It BEGS you to…do things. Awful, illegal things. Adrenaline-surging, V-4 growling things. Things you absolutely, positively, cannot do. It is a minute-by-minute struggle not to lay my palm heavily on the Crampbuster, feel and hear that growly V-4 and take off like a rocket. 100MPH on the VFR 1200 is nothing. It’ll do that in third, with plenty of top end to spare before redline. It is positively painful to obey traffic laws on the VFR in a way the FJR never was.

And I live with that pain every day.

So, I decided to unwind the VFR a bit…

…and here’s what happened.

It’s 6:30am, and I’m on an empty road outside of town, stopped at a light. Since there’s no traffic, I thought, "why not see what this baby can do?" So, I popped her into manual leaned forward, and peged the throttle as soon as the light turned green.

Nothing much happened. I mean, it pulled briskly off the light, as good or better than the FJR ever did, I guess, but it was just—I dunno. Boring. No excitement. Just smooth acceleration. "Well," I thought to myself, "for a bike that’s supposed to be capable of a sub 3-second 0-60, and a 10 second 1/4 mile, this isn’t very impressive."

Then the tach hit 4,000 RPM.

The VFR leapt forward as if a giant had smashed the back of the bike with a hammer, my arms jerked against my shoulder sockets, and the front wheel gently lofted off the ground.

I quickly decided that discretion was the better part of valor.

That was just…scary. In a split second, the VFR want from a tame little kitten to a rampaging beast. The FJR never did that.

I’ve gotten through the fist 600 miles, and I’ve been letting it unwind a bit. And I can tell that this is an extraordinary machine. It certainly has far more power than you could ever legally use on the street. It’s an absolute hoot.

It wants to take curves—even very sharp ones—far faster than the FJR did. It may not be quite as fast or sharp-handling as a 1000cc Gixxer on the track, but it’s pretty sporty for a middle-aged gentleman like myself. Or almost anyone else for that matter.

If you wanna rip, the VFR1200 will rip. If you want to take it slow and easy, the VFR will accommodate. The ergonomics, now that I’ve gotten used to them, aren’t uncomfortable at all, though more sporty than the other sport-tourers.

Handling is decently sharp, and turn-in is relatively easy, although it takes some conscious rider input. I blame the tires for that, and I’m still planning on getting rid of the EOM Dunlops at the earliest opportunity.

The more I ride the VFR1200, the more I like it. I love the DCT, and the ability to switch between manual and automatic modes. I like the size. I just like it. So far, I haven’t found a major negative aspect of the bike to complain about.