Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Restoring isn’t the only way, folks

As many of you already know, I have a lot of hobbies. Too many, probably, but they keep me occupied. Two of them are classic cars and BMX bikes. I have joined forums that showcase each of those activities, and some of the people on them just get ridiculous. Allow me to explain what I mean.

Although it’s technically not the correct word, I call these particular people purists. They are the folks who do not, for whatever reason, believe in modification of any kind. They believe that both cars and bikes should be brought back to their factory glory if you are going to mess with them at all.

Case in point, someone on the BMX forum I’m a part of redid his Robinson race bike in colors he wanted instead of factory stuff. Very bright colors. The bike looked super cool, and I was extremely impressed with the build. However, the purist gang teamed up on him and berated his bike because it was custom. What? That attitude, to me, is nothing more than fourth-grade immaturity.

I have built both bikes and cars for quite some time, and I have never once done a full restoration on either. Not that I don’t think it’s sorta cool to source parts and make an old, jacked up bike or car factory correct again, but it takes a ton of money and time to do that. Unfortunately, money and time are the two things most of us don’t have a lot of.

When I build a bike, I strip the paint off the frame, forks, bars, sprocket, stem (what I used to call a Gooseneck), seat clamp, and whatever else may be painted. Then I prime and re-paint it in whatever color I want using spray-bomb cans from Ace Hardware. I get grips and seats and brake pads from wherever has them for cheap, and replace the tires if necessary. The bikes come out looking great and they work well because I know what I’m doing. The purists don’t like that a Mongoose which was only offered in red, black, or chrome left my garage bright blue with Huffy rims and a GT crank? Tough. My bike, my build. Neener-neener.

The same goes with cars. Most of my gear-head friends think stock is boring. That’s because it is. I like cars from the ‘60s and ‘70s, but I wasn’t around to see most of them new. For that reason, their stock forms mean very little to me. For instance, if I get an old Plymouth and the paint is brown, I’m going to redo that. Brown sucks. That leaves me with a plethora more options than the stickler purists have.

Also, nobody wants to drive a small-block with a two-barrel carburetor and tiny, restrictive exhaust manifolds. So, my classics run headers, custom mufflers and four-barrel carbs. It’s just that simple. Why go through all the trouble to make the danged engine stock when it put out 195 horse power in that form? I like my V8s to run strong. I’m no racer, but I don’t mind a little punch off the line, either.

The point is that the people who bitch and complain about custom builds should really be grateful that someone built the things at all. Too many nice old bikes and cars end up in the scrap yard, never to see the road again. Not for me. I don’t care if you lower your ’59 Edsel, put twenty-inch rims on it and paint the thing zebra-striped; at least it’ll be on the road instead of crushed or recycled. Build it how you want it, gang. Life’s too short to whine about factory correct.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Driving: Even Morons Do It

I had the unfortunate experience of driving on the freeway for a few hours in the last couple of days. There’s nothing in the world like a sixty-mile drive on a CA freeway to remind us that the average I.Q. is 99. In light of this, I am proposing some new rules for moron drivers. Not that they’ll read this blog post, but it’ll sure feel good to type it.

Rule 1: Use your head in the left lane. While sixty-five or seventy may in fact be the speed limit in a certain area, take your ass out of the fast lane if you are going to drive that slow. If by VW Beetles and mini vans are passing you on the right, you are doing it wrong.

Rule 2: Turn off your damn brights. If you are going to lift your pickup obscenely high and not re-aim the headlights, at least please leave your brights off. It’s bad enough that your thirty-eight inch tires sound like a freight train approaching and that your exhaust is annoyingly loud. Adding the bright lights in my mirror seals my hatred for you.

Rule 3: Pick a speed and stay there. Few things boil my blood like a missing-link that goes from eighty to sixty-five in the span of four seconds, and then back up to eighty. Then back down. Then up. Your car, like almost every car offered after 1978 probably came with cruise control. Use that shit. That way, you can maintain your speed while you text someone and change the station on your crappy radio.

Rule 4: Sit up. Just because you’ve seen a few Snoop-Dogg videos doesn’t make you a gangster. Leaning to the side in your primer-gray Honda Accord with a buckled hood isn’t cool. At all. The chick you managed to take with you thinks you look like an idiot, and she’s correct. Maybe if you spent less on cologne and hair-gel you could get the stupid thing painted. Just sayin’.

Rule 5: Merge smoothly. I don’t see houses or school crossing signs or speed bumps on the freeway. I see cars moving along at eighty miles an hour. The people in those cars want to get somewhere. Entering the freeway at forty miles an hour is not only unbelievably annoying, it’s also dangerous. I realize that many cars these days have no power, but when the on-ramp is the downhill kind and it’s a quarter-mile long, you can get to sixty. Trust me, jerk-off, you can.

Rule 6: “Powered By...” stickers are stupid. Like, really dumb. If I see a 1998 Honda Civic, I do not assume it has a Chrysler mill under the hood. That a Honda Civic would be powered by Honda is very logical, and unnecessary to advertise. It makes you look as dumb as the wing on the back and the coffee-can-sized muffler you have installed for “performance”. No matter what you do to that car, it will never be a hot rod. You have failed.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Baseball Game

The other day, I attended an Angels game with an old friend. I have never been a sports fan, for various reasons, but if I had to choose one it would definitely be baseball. I have always liked it, but never taken the time to really get into it. Mostly, not making it another hobby saves money and time. The game was a fantastically awesome time and I’m really, really glad I went. But I still do not believe I could become a rabid fan.

The tickets to the actual games are rarely very expensive unless you want really kick-ass seats. Normally they are between $8 and $14 bucks somewhere. However, that’s where the savings stop. Just about everything else baseball or sports related is unreasonably expensive.

A good nine of ten people were wearing red Angels clothing at the game. You can pick up a ball cap at the stadium for less than $10, but the clothing is much more expensive. Oh, and we musn’t forget the $10 parking fee and the fuel costs to get to the game. So, let’s say you want to join in on the festivities and enjoy yourself, yet as cheaply as possible. So far, with an $8 ticket, $10 in gas to get there and back (pretty conservative number these days), $10 to park, $8 for a team ball cap, $4.50 for an “Angel Dog”, $3 for a small soda and $8 for a single beer, you are already up to $51.50. So, a “cheap” baseball game can become a nice ding on the pocketbook real quick. And that is just for one person; if you bring the family, that number climbs exponentially.

Then you have the trading cards, the time to invest in watching a three-hour game on TV and following all the team stats, the extra strain of seeing your favorite players perform poorly or get traded, and subscribing to the whole “My team is better than your team” attitude. I really cannot stand that. All pro ball players are pretty good, and all teams win and lose. That’s why I just enjoy the game in general and only follow it loosely.

Football is way worse to me, though; I do not go for the brutal sports. Running toward a huge man with the intent to knock him over so that your team can get control of a small, oblong ball makes absolutely zero sense to me. I believe I’ll continue playing chess and sacrificing rooks to get my kicks. The worst injury I have ever sustained in a chess game is damaged ego after losing a game. That, friends and neighbors, I can subscribe to.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ana Kefr Show

Last night I went to the Music Room in San Bernardino to see my buddy’s band, Slanderus, play a set. They were billed with two other bands, one of which was Ana Kefr. All the bands were “screamer” bands, meaning it’s aggressive metal music with, well, screaming vocalists.

It usually isn’t quite my cup of tea (I’m a child of the ‘80s; I like anything from Metallica to Lionel Richie to alternative to classical , but the screamers are a bit new for my taste) but Ana Kefr is quite simply an amazing band. I mean it. They were amazing.

The music was more “musical” to me than many of the new bands. Like, really musical. I could clearly hear the classical influence, even though it was metal music. They played for one hour, and never once stopped. That alone is impressive considering the intensity of their music. They incorporated different genres in their act, too, such as ska, a horn solo, keyboards and of course, brutal metal.

Just when I thought I had heard it all, Ana Kefr comes along. Never before have I seen or listened to anything remotely similar. Mark my words, folks, Ana Kefr is going all the way. You may not know their name now, but you will. It was hands down the most impressive five-dollar show I have ever attended.

You can find 'em here: http://www.facebook.com/#!/anakefr

If you like new metal or progressive rock at all, you’ll wanna give these guys a try. Trust me.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My new Canon camera

Well, since my last blog entry was so horribly... horrible, I wanted to create a more positive one today. Besides, I’m in a much better mood. It’s amazing what a little distance will do.

So, late last week I decided that I needed a better camera. The one I have is a little point-and-shoot Kodak and while it does the job, it does it barely. Oh, sure, if you are out in the bright sunshine and wish to take a picture the thing turns out swell. But images taken in the night time or indoors left quite a bit to be desired. In its defense, it was only a run-of-the-mill $100 job from Best Buy. It still works great, I just desired a little more.

I did quite a bit of research and read a staggering amount of reviews on various cameras. I eventually decided pretty firmly on the Canon SX130 IS Power Shot. Yea, it’s still a point-and-shoot but it cannot be thrown into the same category as my little Kodak. Not by a long shot.

This bad boy has 12x zoom and is capable of 12.1 Megapixel images. When using the zoom function the pictures are really clear and vivid. The average image was about 2.5 Mb on the disk but I really don’t need to take every shot in 12.1 Megapixel mode and so will likely turn down the volume a bit on that.

It has series shooting, fisheye function, a timer, fifty-eleven different modes for both indoor and outdoor shots, etcetera. One of the things I really like about the camera is that it uses two AA batteries, and we have a good number of rechargeable ones. I just added my own SD card and started shooting.

I’m very happy with the thing and would recommend one to anybody who wants a little more out of their pictures. It was only $200, which is double the price for quadruple the features. It’s a tad bulkier than some other digitals but not cumbersome at all. The camera will still easily fit into a coat pocket.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

I have not been very active this week on the Internet. I have not kept up on forums or Facebook as I usually do, I have not created or participated in writing prompts for a few days, and I have not played any chess. Why? Well, that’s simply complicated.

On Monday, a good friend and Jeep club acquaintance of mine was found naked in his apartment with a four-year-old girl that wasn’t his. She was naked, as well, and yelling out of his window for help. Her dad finally broke the door down and saved her, sparing my friend’s life in an unimaginable show of self-restraint. I didn’t then, and do not now, know how to process this information.

This man had been to my house on several occasions, and I to his. Hell, I even helped the guy move. We have put countless miles behind us on four-wheel drive trails together, and shared a campfire more than a few times. Now my wife and I get to be the people we sometimes see interviewed on TV who say, “I never saw this coming!” We didn’t.

This guy was outwardly a good guy. He laughed a lot, he was always ready to drink a beer with ya’ and he had a family. His views in general were very similar to mine and we always hit it off and had a great time whenever we hung out.

And then he hurt a four-year-old. This news could not have been more left-field and unexpected. It’s on the same level as if someone had told me the moon was overcome by Earth’s gravity and would collide with us in two weeks. I can’t even comprehend it, much less process it.

He has affected a lot of people with his actions. That little girl will never be the same, her family will never be the same, and his Jeep club has turned on him like a rabid dog. My wife and I are just completely stunned and depressed over it. She has been crying, I cannot seem to concentrate or feel driven to do much of anything. This man was our friend, and welcome in our home any time.

And now his life is over, too. Never again will he have an enjoyable shower, or celebrate a birthday with a few Budweisers and good friends. He’ll never drive an off-road trail again, he’ll never walk into a store again, he’ll never sleep comfortably again. All that may not matter in the long run; people accused of these type crimes tend not to last long behind bars.

And for what? For one decision that will haunt droves of people for the rest of their lives, myself included. One decision that changed everyone even remotely involved. One decision that hurt more people than he ever would have imagined.

I have been following the case as closely as possible. He is charged with five counts, ranging from kidnapping to, well, worse things. The little girl was hurt. If convicted of everything, he’s looking at three life sentences. Even if he somehow manages to plea out and reduce some of the charges, he’ll die in prison sooner or later.

What’s the point of this entry? I guess there isn’t one, really. It has been on my mind constantly and so I thought I would share here. But I implore all you parents out there to please, please watch your kids closely. They cannot defend themselves and they are so trusting. Be very careful with them. This is really scary shit.