Archive for September, 2006

Get ready for a long one…

For a while I was thinking about spliting this into several different posts, now I’m just going to throw it all out there in a SuperMegaPost. The last week has brought some pretty nifty goodies my way, and some quite interesting events as well. The least interesting bit is work related, so I’ll get that out of the way first.

My section decided it would be a good idea to get ahead of the game and setup the TOC early. Nature decided that being ahead of the power curve was unacceptable, and with one very large gust of wind, blew the TOC down – destroying a number of the poles that hold the tents up. When I say destroying, I mean snapping in half. That made for a very unfun Thursday and Friday. Lately some of the privates have fallen into this groove of continuing to speak and interrupt when I am putting out information they all need to have. That will come to an abrubt, and potentially painful halt around 1330hrs on Monday – when I fully cease being their peer, and officially become SGT Martinez.

More fun, for me at least, was all the stuff I ordered in the last week or so finally showing up. Namely new riding gear, a jacket, and two new pairs of gloves. I’m quite happy with my new textile gear – the pants my parents bought me, and my jacket. Both come with thermal liners, which I put to use this morning when I set out to Marietta Motorsports for dyno tuning on my SV. The pants are really hot when you’re stopped, even without the thermal liners, but that’s life. The gloves are both much more comfortable than the AGV Sport gloves I’ve been using for the last 11,000 miles. All in all I’m quite happy with the gear, it should serve me quite well as year-round gear for commuting and touring. I’ll still wear my leather gear if I plan on pushing the limits.

Those with even moderate attention to detail will recall my mention of dyno tuning just a few lines back. For months I searched for a shop that could do a custom map on my Power Commander III USB – and I wanted an eddy current dyno to do it. That was all wishful thinking until I joined GSB and found that one of the members had just the ticket at Marietta Motorsports. My highly calibrated nostrils and tip-of-the-finger exhaust gas analyzers told me that I was running very rich in the range I spend most of my time. The gas analyzer on the dyno proved me right. By the time the session ended I had a shiny new map, some extra horsepower up top, and a fuel curve that remains very nearly stoichometric across the powerband. I filled up before I got to the shop, and we ran my bike for at least an hour and a half on the dyno. That is only interesting because my idiot light for gas didn’t come on until just outside Ft. Benning – 164mi later. I got gas at 170.8mi, and put in 3.3gal. That’s well over 50mpg considering the dyno added no miles to the count (the speedometer/odometer goes off the front wheel). Roll on power is much smoother now, well worth the money and time spent.

Dyno Time

The real highlight of the week though came Friday – my new lens, the Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM. Somehow, I managed to find a lot of reviews with negative overtones about this lens. Personally, I can not fault it – my first shot with this lens is a keeper in my book, and it really does impress the heck out of me. The focus is fast and accurate, the way it captures colors is amazing, and full time manual focus rocks. I’ve had it for less than 48hrs and have already posted 25 photos, and started a new Flickr group for the lens. Naturally, this paragraph is worthless without pics.

Old Mill Sunset on the Chattahoochee
Enter? A splash of color

I nearly forgot the best part – at first, I only wanted a Mac Pro because they’re a good deal on a screaming machine that should more than adequately handle my image/video processing desires. There wasn’t really much reason, or thinking that my current hardware couldn’t handle the load acceptably. That all disappeared today as I edited two workflows simultaneously in Bibble Pro – chewed up a full gig of RAM, and went 500MB into swap. I’ve been sitting here doing nothing for several hours, and my load average for the day is still through the roof. Oh yes, I need more power.

Major Wish List Overhaul

As most of what was on my wish list has either been discontinued or purchased already, I decided it was time to do a major overhaul. If you visit the wish list, you will notice that at the present time it completely revolves around photography. Nothing on that list qualifies as inexpensive by any means, but everything on that list should last a very long time, and cover my bases fairly well. Over the next few years I will chip away at this list, though I will probably also add a few things related to either photography or motorcycling.

How it be?

Last week was fun stuff – 3 day field exercise in the middle of the week. A full week after the start of this exercise, and I still haven’t figured out why the hell I had to go to the field. I did nothing, but I did nothing while awake for the majority of the 72 hour exercise (over 60 of them.) One thing I did do was attempt to explain that no matter how big a wire you put in front of a 15A fuse, if you draw more than 15A after that fuse, it’s going to blow. That isn’t a generator problem, that’s a You Are Far Too Stupid To Grasp Even The Most Simple Electrical Theory Problem. Someone figured that out, eventually – and did exactly what myself and another non-idiot suggested. They of course, took full credit for the solution.

The official word on my promotion came during the field exercise – and I’m a GO. Date of rank will be 1 Oct 2006, a Sunday – so I will be pinned SGT on 2 Oct. My intention right now is to fly home for the long weekend to see my family, and of course the beautiful and amazing Amanda. I’ll need as many smiles as she can give me as the next 5 or so months of my life will like suck. From late October to late November I’ll be at the Warrior Leader’s Course, then it’s time for Thanksgiving followed by getting prepped for our rotation at the National Training Center. I don’t wish to risk taking leave over Christmas and being stoplossed as a result, so I have to make sure I will be able to take two 4 day passes on the key weekends I need (Christmas itself, and Natalie’s wedding.) This could of course backfire, and leave me with a large number of leave days after a stoploss which is not as much a problem as it seems.

That last statement deserves some explaination. I stand to have around 50 days of leave saved up when I am supposed to get out of the Army. That’s a good chunk. If I get stoplossed, and deploy for a year, I’ll probably have a full 60 to 65 days. When we get back, I will take all 60 days of terminal leave and go home to get settled in. I won’t have to worry about work, just getting things sorted out – like looking for a job, getting enrolled in school, and eating good food. The Army will still be paying me. At the end of that time, I’ll return to Ft. Benning and finish clearing out of the Army at which point I may resume life as normal.

Lately I’ve hit the movies a few times. If you like martial arts films, get yourself to “Fearless”, it rocks. I didn’t mind “Flyboys”, though some nitpicked that it was a bad movie, it entertained me. I want to go see “The Black Dhalia” and “The Prestige”, and that’s about all that holds my interest at this moment.

As soon as I pin on SGT I am going to try and move out of the barracks. I lack lease history in my credit report, and apparently my motorcycle insurance is higher for that (according to my insurance company anyway) – it is valid though, as I have no property lease history at all. Right now I am also completely out of space in my barracks room. Even if I did buy a Mac Pro right this red hot second, there’s nowhere for me to put it here. I’d like to get some video processing power, and see what all the fuss is about wrt to Apple’s huge displays. I don’t think I’ll have a problem with any of it myself.

Right now I have no good way to mount/store my video camera when I’m recording motorcycle rides. Keeping it in my tankbag causes problems due to the sensitivity of the stop button, and the power switch. I’m going to have to come up with some way to mount the camera where I can easily manipulate the controls, while keeping it out of the wind and soaking up vibrations – all the while keeping it out of my way when I’m riding. That might be a challenge, but I’m up for it.

I’ve taken a few photos lately, so here they are.

SV650S

Vacant by the River

Vacant by the River

An update of sorts

Lately I’ve been far to busy to update my blog, so I guess I’ll throw a handful of stones up at once and try to kill as many birds as possible. For those that don’t know, it is training season here in Army land. What that means, from the perspective of a soldier in a Brigade Operations Cell, is that any and all free time I may have once had, is rapidly evaporating. Having earned my promotable status, it is even worse for me. For the last several weeks I have been in charge of far more than your average SPC(P), to include direct supervision of 7 fresh privates.

For the most part, the tasks required of me are no different than they have been for the last 3 years of my life. The level of oversight as it applies to other people’s actions is however hugely different. Fortunately, of the 7 privates I have been in charge of for the last several weeks, only two of them are a significant problem. The other 5 are actually pretty squared away, motivated, and smart. That said, the two problem soldiers have cost me several hours of my life, and a few tanks of gas in my truck. If I had time to, I’d go have my blood pressure checked as I’m quite certain it’s gone up on account of the braindead actions of two privates.

Having been in the S3 shop for nearly 3 solid years, I also have more pull there than your average junior enlisted soldier does anywhere. During my time here, I have never used that pull for my own relief. This past week, I did. I work in an environment with several NCOs. Several NCOs taking no responsibility whatsoever for the junior enlisted soldiers they work with. Expecting me to handle everything associated with soldiers, as well as the duties our boss gives me, was breaking me off. We’ve now split things in a more logical fashion, more evenly spreading the responsibility across the other NCOs and myself. Now I’m only directly in charge of 4 privates, one of whom is a problem – that is dealt with easy enough. Come Oct 1, I should be SGT Martinez, which will only add to the ease with which I can handle problems of the soldier variety.

Work has been generating some outrageous phone useage, so I’m actively looking for a new provider – likely moving to Cingular for the GSM mojo, and rollover minutes. Also on the tech front, I think it’s about time I got a new computer. The Mac Pro is looking mighty tasty, though quite expensive. Given my increased interest in photography, and my intent to record more of the motorcycle rides I go on, there is some benefit to the power of the Mac Pro. There are some quite good A/V suites available for OS X as well, and the RAW photo processing software I use is fully cross platform so I can run it on OS X as well (I already run a copy on WinXP and Linux).

I am still trying to decide what I want to buy for the camera – either a flash unit, or new lenses. My Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lense is typically mounted, and while it is somewhat narrow for many situations, it is my fastest lense and does force some creativity when I use it. Right now I’m flopping between a wide to short telephoto zoom of the fastest available variety (f/2.8), and/or the Speedlite 580EX to get some bounce action going. I already have a 18-50 f/3.5-5.6, which isn’t fast enough indoors most of the time. A flash could help, but I question how often I’d actually use it. Another option is to get more prime lenses, in focal lengths I think would be appropriate. I could see myself getting a fast prime in the 24-35mm range, and maybe another longer prime like the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM Macro lense.

The SV is hovering around 11k miles right now, and will be over 11k after tomorrow. I need to pay attention to the brakes. They’re fine, but I should probably bleed the system, and replace my pads at a minimum. My tires have lasted longer than most said they would, having 5k miles on them, and still quite a lot of tread remaining. I recently joined the Georgia Sportibke Forums and have found at least one place that can strap the SV to a dyno and finally tune my fuel map to ensure I’m not overly rich/lean at any point across the power curve. Hopefully I get that done before too long.

Home for the weekend

I’m back in town for the Labor Day weekend. Saturday is going to be pretty busy, but other than that I’m not doing much. Call the cell or the house if ya got the #, I might be around.

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