Philosophy and Motorcycles

Philosophy and motorcycles are two of my favorite things in life. This blog will be bits of wisdom gleaned from a misspent youth and an adventurous dotage. People who like/love wisdom or motorcycles, classic or modern versions of either, are welcome to visit and comment.

My Photo
Location: Wisconsin, United States

I have been married to the same lovely woman for decades. We have one son, two cats, and live in rural Wisconsin, USA. I ride and rebuild motorcycles, and I am semi-retired. Favorite bikes are Yamaha XS650, FJ1200 and Ducati 900SS. My wife is a home care nurse. I am a Myers-Briggs INTP. She is ESFJ. Our son works at the Apple store in downtown SF and is teaching English as a second language in San Francisco, no grandchildren.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


I saw three motorcycles out yesterday. Unfortunately mine was not one of them. My drive way is sheltered on the south by large pine trees and the layer of compacted snow does not melt off until long after others are out riding. There is also a large berm of snow surrounding the garage on three sides. My garage is 30x70 feet with 30x40 gravel and 30x30 concrete floor. There is a wall between the sections and a garage door that allows access to the concrete section where I work. This is generally an excellent arrangement. This spring we have had so much snow that the run off cannot get away from the garage and runs under the wall and into the gravel part of the shop. I now have an indoor area that is swamp by day and ice rink by night. It will not go away until it has been warm enough long enough for the frost to go out of the floor so the water can seep down. It's frustrating. My motorcycles remain dormant. It does give me extra time to work on projects. I have two machines done and ready to sell and am working on a third. Soon it will be warmer and the ice will melt away. Although I am anxious to see my classics out on the road I am content for now to keep working on a Suzuki GS1100E that is my current project. I had one of these in the past and sold it. It was by chance that I found another. This one is not so nice as my former machine but it will be when I am done. Like many of the machines I find this one has been repaired to death. Some people should avoid tools and some prior owner has modified this one into a thoroughly messed up piece. Luckily the basics seem strong. It will be a big job to go through the process of removing the black paint someone thought would improve the chassis and engine. It is a rough as undercoat with overspray everywhere. Yuck. Seeing it was almost like seeing a badly abused dog. I felt a strong urge to rescue it from further degradation. Even though the weather up here is not quite suitable for riding I remain happy to work on rebuilding another great classic bike. The GS1100E series were and are truly great muscle machines. Handling is dated, tires skinny by today's standards but oh that engine. The twin swirl combustion chamber, the bulletproof bottom end and general ease of maintenance make these wonderful machines. Just having adjustable valves makes them easy to own. That is a feature I wish I had on my Yamaha FJ1200. Shim and bucket systems have their benefits but for a street machine the adjustable rocker is still a blessing. The adventure continues. 3-28-13

Sunday, February 10, 2013

On the German front. The blinker switch on the vintage BMW, (Bavarian for Bring My Wallet) is on the right handlebar. It rotates up for left and down for right. Upon installing and charging the new specialty battery required, at a cost roughly equivalent to an evening with a fairly talented hooker, I tried each of the various electrical devices. All seem to be in working order except the switch for the foot brake, cleverly installed in such a manner as to make it inaccessible without hazarding the loss of a man's Christian vocabulary, and the left turn function of the bar switch. Floyd Clymer failed to describe the internals of the switch mechanisms of this machine so to diagnose and repair the miscreant machine will have a difficulty rating somewhere between preparing a state dinner for the white house and brain surgery. I am certain it will be a learning experience. I have not yet cleaned the inside of the gas tank. At the current price of gasoline I am reluctant to throw out the old gas and will probably dilute it with new fuel and burn it in my truck. Once the tank is clean inside new gas added it will be time to see if the famed quality of the Kaiser's workers has survived the decades long slumber and able to wake to face a new day. In my normally quiet life this experiment is approximately equal to a shuttle launch. May the Gods of engineering smile on me that day. My wife Norska has but one week left at her current employment. Following that we have some basic house projects to complete prior to our next adventure. We are planning a trip to Ecuador. I am looking for some place where we can retire and actually live on our income. Prices in America are going up far faster than we can hope to match. I have made it an evening project to research places around the globe where we could live on our fixed income and that have weather consistently superior to the Siberian exile of life in rural Wisconsin. For most of my life I have used the cold seasons, early winter, deep winter and cold sludge, to work in my shop and produce income or new toys for the other three seasons, rainy, mosquito and tornado season. To be fair there are some several days during the warmer seasons when it is quite beautiful here. They inevitably fall mid week an average of three times to one. On that one weekend Wisconsin is indeed God's summer home. The divine bill for those days of hedonistic delight generally does not exceed the hail loss of a few roofs and one or two counties corn crop. I have a nagging suspicion that our arrival in Ecuador will herald a seismic event of note. The spirits of the north are a jealous lot and given to tantrums when one of their born subjects attempts escape. I am fully prepared to sacrifice a goat or pig if that will guarantee a safe trip. LN

Sunday, January 06, 2013

There is, in the mirror, an absurdity staring back at me. I am young and robust, unlined by my brief period upon this earth. Yet looking out from the mirror is an old man, creased by time and experience, sagging from the sheer gravity of life. It is a most disturbing image, this character so much closer to the grave than I for I have not aged. Not in any real sense have I marred my countenance with traces of experience. I remain the child, the boy, the youth as well as the man but there in the mirror I do not see reflected all that I am. I see only the post mature man, the tired spectacle of all the tedious acts of this absurd and comic drama. How could life suddenly be so cruel? A moment ago I was lying in bed dreaming of youthful adventure and now looking out from the glass is a character I do not recognize. How can I reconcile this antique visage with the dreams of actions still swirling in my mind? At what moment will it finally occur to me that this creature of tainted meat cannot participate in my plans, my goals, fulfill my needs? The absolute absurdity of that contradiction between the it and the I causes me to shrink from the image, to turn from the glass. I can look out from myself but I cannot look at myself. There is comfort in the mental state to which I have arrived; in stark contrast to the physical image in the glass. Do I dare invite this decrepit being to participate in my dreams? Such is my morning. I am confronted by irreconcilable contradictions. The comforts of my dotage so severely impact the dreams of my eternal youth that I am once again confused and frustrated. This dilemma, an intrinsic part of every life, shows me the silliness of our existence. Why do I so often fret and fuss over the daily warp and woof of my life when it will be so soon over? I begin to understand Thoreau when he stated that age is not so well qualified to instruct as youth for in the process we have lost more than we have gained. Yet there is within me, even in the depths of my winter, an eternal spring and I will pursue those youthful dreams, although at a slower pace than I would prefer. I must now set my tempo to the limits of that being in the mirror who I must drag along with me through the day. He may be an encumbrance but is also a grand companion full of stories and anecdotes to amuse me throughout my day. The it and the I make good companions. Between us there is a sum wherein each tempers the folly of the other. Life is good at all of its stages. Which character will take center stage today?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A friend just sent me this link for a good motorcycle blog from Oregon. Check it out. Managed to Skype with our son in San Francisco today. I'm glad that modern gadgets make it possible to stay in such close contact with people who are distant.

Monday, December 24, 2012

It is Christmas Eve. I was thinking about the words of Christ when he said things like money being the root of all evil and how a rich man should give away everything he owns and follow Jesus. I don't think of myself as rich. I'll bet most Americans don't. We think of the 1% or the 5% as rich and have other terms for ourselves. If, however, I wanted to live anywhere near so well as I do now and do it in the years 0031-0032-0033 I would need to have a bunch of servants. It is winter and now I have a mechanical servant to heat my house. To heat a house in this weather in the year ad 31 I would need servants to cut wood, tend the stove, haul the ashes day and night. To have lights come on very quickly I would need servants to make candles or collect lamp oil and to follow me about, lighting lamps in every room I enter. To travel the 15 minutes each way I traveled tonight, in comfort, I'd need servants. Someone would have to hitch up the animals, heat stones to put in my carriage to keep me warm, Guide the animals. You can see where this is going. By the standards of those day I am stinky rich. I don't carry water these days, or put up enough wood for more than the occasional fire. I don't hunt, fish or garden. I know a magic person who can fix dental cavities painlessly. I have a device that flushes all my personal waste away to some underground . . . . . place. When I worked I only worked a maximum of five 10 hour days except in real emergencies. Now I have a stipend provided by the government, paid for by me. I can visit foreign nations with little more effort than a trip across town in the year 31. With all the mechanical servants I have now replaced by people would require a mess of minions working just for my benefit. So how can I claim to want to follow the words of Christ? I'm rich and I don't want to give it up. Sure Bill Gates and Mitt and Newt have more money than I but I am still, by any historical standard, filthy stinking rich. Just how narrow is the eye of the needle? Sometimes I think that any Christian with more than 2 suits of clothing is a fraud. Verily, it is a quandary. Am I so arrogant as to think I can live like an American and expect to go to heaven? What colossal hubris! Maybe there's some wiggle room to compensate for being born lucky. I'll always be glad I was around during a great era of toys for boys. From pinball machines to motorcycles, from guns to ATVs there are a lot of great toys out there. Sports car, fishing boats, ski boats, big screen TVs. How many people would I have to keep around just to provide me with full time entertainment of a thousand varieties? When Americans talk about possibly having to pay a bit more taxes to provide programs to take care of people they generally seem to believe that more taxes should come from someone else. In order to even pretend to live like Christ commanded I would need to work about half time and learn to live on half what I make now. That would free me up to devote half my time to helping others. Or if I wanted to keep working full time I could give half my money to pay people to help those in need. The argument that I already give through taxes does not absolve me since what I keep is more than I need. Since most of the highly needy don't live around here it would be better for me to hire people for the most part and I'll
just do what I can around here. Someone else could bring food to Kenya. I don't do that. I like being rich and I don't want to give half my time or half my money away. I damn sure don't want to give it all away and follow some prophet. I can't resolve this issue in any way that makes sense. So once again I will celebrate Christmas. Just so I don't have to act like He is real. That would call down too much of a burden and I like being rich. Can I still get to heaven?

Saturday, December 08, 2012

MAYANS IN DANGER OF JUMPING OFF FISCAL CLIFF I believe there are a lot of people who want the world to end in their lifetime. My thought is that they want to be a part of what will certainly be the most dramatic event of all time. More importantly I believe that people want to have their particular version of truth confirmed and to be able to cast scorn on those who did not believe them. If I predict that the world will end Tuesday and God will come down and carry myself and my fellows off to some eternal bliss, and it happens, everything I said or predicted will be proven. I will be vindicated. There are always people who are skeptical when someone begins to talk about the world ending soon. I will be able to blow the world a giant raspberry for having doubted me. Nana nana boo boo. Now the idea that such arrogance would bar one from heaven doesn't seem to occur to such people. If I want the rapture to happen soon to prove to my doubters that I am one of the righteous and be able to look down on them with contempt I believe that level of hubris would offend any God. If I am convinced that I should be getting a better set of rewards in the here and now but the government, the illuminati or some other nefarious group is keeping me down, then I look forward to armageddon. Once there is chaos I will be able to unleash my inner brute. Money won't matter then. It will be survival of the fittest, the meanest, those who are armed and prepared. I will rise to my rightful position as leader of (fill in the blank). Even the apostles thought Christ was coming back soon. It is human nature to want to be recognized and appreciated. Taken to a neurotic extreme we have the doomsday preparers and those who anticipate being raptured into bliss. It is all fantasy but it fulfills a need in some people. It is a fear that seeks to be swept away by events. Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering. Rather than face the possibility that they might be wrong, that their view of this world or the next one is based on magic thinking rather than fact, they assert louder and begin to prepare for their fantasy to come true. In mild forms we see people like me who find it difficult to throw something away because I may need that widget some day. I was so poor so long that it is psychologically difficult for me to really believe that I will have enough money tomorrow to buy both food and to replace that widget I threw away. Having been raised in a predatory culture it is difficult for me to believe that someone would give me, or help me get, a widget no matter how much I needed one. In my mind's eye they will always laugh at me for having thrown away my widget, not being wise enough to pile up widgets, and certainly enjoy seeing me suffer in the shadow of the superiority of those who knew enough to save their widgets. I however, shall be proven right. When the end comes I will have widgets. Then you'll see who the smart one is. Nyaaahahahahaha. . . . And that's my theory on people who are looking forward to the end of times. Of course when the giant comet hits earth and the planet splits that box of candles you've been hoarding probably won't help you. If I am whisked away at the last moment by aliens they will probably have their own widgets and not be interested in hauling mine to some other planet. Aliens are like that. You'll see. My personal theory is that January will arrive as usual and the world will not have changed substantially. A lot of people will have spent a lot of money buying underground shelters and filling them with food and widgets. A lot of people will have made money selling them those things. The world will go on about as usual. When people believe the ship is sinking there are limited options. One can jump overboard, get in a life boat with others and take as many people as possible and leaving the baggage behind, commandeer a lifeboat and fill it with treasure and with just room for I and my group, or try to fix the ship. We see a lot of reactions to the Mayan calendar and the impending Fiscal Cliff. Unfortunately not many people in power are interested in trying to fix the ship. At least not until they've filled their personal fleet of lifeboats with treasure. And then any repairs have to guarantee that their staterooms will be secured first. Such is life. Ours is not a culture of cooperation. It is one of competition and those who enjoy competition insist that it is man's nature to be competitive. They need to believe people are more competitive than cooperative. It justifies hoarding widgets.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Baby Duc

Unlike the little ducks of carnival games and easter baskets my baby duc isn't yellow. It's red and gold. After working on other people's machines and my old Gold Wing sidecar rig for much of the summer I am finally getting back to finishing the details on the 1966 Ducati 160 Monza Junior. These days we think of Ducatis as speed machines but back in '66 the Monza Junior was built with a top speed barely north of 60mph. It's a beautiful machine that has all the simplicity and style of any of the Ducati singles in a small package. A man of my height looks rather silly on a 160 but I don't see myself on it. I only see it sitting next the the R75/5 and the T3 as shop art. I don't drive any of them much. They are inspiration and comfort machines that are more functional than the Easter Island statues but like those monoliths their prime function is esthetic rather than practical. This is especially true during winters. I drive the T3 in the summer but in winter these three grace my shop as immobile objects of affection. They give the place some class. Since I live where a motorcycle is only practical half the year during the other half I need my indoor space to be comfortable and beautiful. Modern appliances like a fine furnace make it comfortable but what about those long dark cold days when even the idea of going outside briefly is a fearful proposition? It is during those times that I enjoy being surrounded by beauty and reminders that better weather will come again. Few things in my life fulfill that function as well as classic motorcycles, well done and waiting. My other great comfort in winter is to spend more time in the kitchen cooking meals that, in summer, would consume too much of my day. Winter is a time to slow down and remember the smell of the roses and enjoy the scent of beef stew, apple crisp, Persian jeweled rice, aebelskiver, fresh bread. The gentle pleasures of winter are different from the more exhilarating pleasures of summer. Winter up here is a time to slow down and enjoy the simple joys. It's six months of making love, eating well, reading good books, taking naps, enjoying the close company of friends and building new toys for the next summer. In other words as a friend of mine said, it hardly seems long enough. I am lucky in that I do not have a need to go out into the weather much or often. My work is 50 paces from my house and both are well heated. When blizzards arrive I don't think of myself as snowed in. Rather I think of it as the world being snowed out. Such weather isn't here yet but it will not be long. The hardwood trees are bare now, prepared for their hibernation. I have sufficient projects to last more than one winter and a large wood pile. Life is good and baby Duc is looking grand.