Fun

Cirque de Soleil: Kà


I kept waiting for something impressive to happen.

This is not a good sign when you’re dealing with a troupe whose reputation is built on delivering something impressive. is entertaining, but if you’ve seen any of the other three Cirque de Soleil shows in Las Vegas, it’s a bit of a letdown.

What’s wrong? First, the lack of any “wow” moments; they deliver a number of decent pieces, loosely strung together by a half-page of storytelling, but nothing that really stands out. Second, the attempt to pass off the usual acrobatics as stylized combat; half a dozen scenes were marred by dreadful “fight” choreography. Third, the balance between technical gimmicks and artistry was weighted heavily toward the former; it looks like the production was built around the hardware, not the other way around, and much of it seems to be used simply because it’s there.

It can’t be a coincidence that the director of O and Mystère was off working on a show for the new Wynn Las Vegas casino…

Did it suck? No, it’s just not worth planning a trip around yet. There are plenty of talented performers in the show, and the sets are technically impressive; once they arrange a proper marriage between the two, they’ll have something. Except for the combat scenes; those really did suck.

[other shows this trip? The reliably terrific Blue Man Group, and the mostly-amusing George Carlin; his political material has always been weak, but the farther the rest of us get away from the early Seventies, the harder he tries to drag us back there. “No thanks, Uncle Dave”]

Personal health care, Bad Haiku Edition


hole in arm closing
biopsy was negative
springtime is bike time

Little monsters


Not a bad night for trick-or-treaters. 60 degrees and clear skies brought nearly twice as many kids to my house as last year, so I went through about 35 pounds of candy. I’ll try not to eat the remaining 15 pounds of the stuff myself.

Update: dumped the leftover candy in the breakroom at work. It’s all gone now.

Wanted: Rick Brant's egyptian cat


Many years ago, I got my hands on a few titles from the classic Rick Brant series of boy’s adventure novels. One that stands out in my memory (that I currently don’t have a copy of…) was The Egyptian Cat Mystery. The cat in question is a small stone statuette, the possession of which gets Our Heroes into the usual hot water.

Great fun, and as was typical for the Brant series, the science was both plausible and well-explained. I think it’s the only juvenile novel in existence that gives a decent explanation of how SETI works.

Anyway, a while back I decided that I wanted to have Rick’s cat sitting on my mantel, for the benefit of the six people in the world who might walk into my home and realize what it’s supposed to be. Every time I stay at the Luxor in Las Vegas, I check out the gift shops for an appropriate cat. It needs to be around six inches tall, plain (no gaudy gold paint, please!), and apparently constructed of smooth dark stone.

Imagine my joy when I spotted this in the bazaar last weekend:

Rick Brant egyptian cat

Imagine my crushing disappointment when I picked it up and discovered that it was chipped in several places, and was the only one they had. Sigh.

[oh, and this is the first photo I’ve posted from my Motorola V600 cellphone. Reduced to 50% and Leveled in Photoshop to fix the low contrast, I’d say this is fair representation of the image quality.]

First rule: save all the parts


So, after carefully disassembling major portions of my motorcycle so that I could install BMW’s add-on trip computer, I discovered that the dedicated socket it’s supposed to plug in to isn’t there.

Not in the mood to run out to the store for a splitter, nor to assume that I should split off the cable that powers the heated grips, I called a nearby dealer and scheduled time to chat with the one person there who has experience with this particular part. No doubt he’s the one who originally told me it was a piece of cake to install…

Update: They were overbooked for service, so they’ll install it for me next week.

Update: Sigh. There’s a new data harness for the ’05 bikes, and they didn’t have it in stock. Naturally, this took three hours to discover (partially because BMW hasn’t shipped all the service manuals yet, and they had to play phone tag). It’s now on order, and when it comes in, I can finish up the installation myself. At least I was right about where it was supposed to plug in, although I apparently traced the other end of that cable to the wrong thing. :-)

Things I like about my motorcycle


  • Heated grips.
  • 60+ miles per gallon (they claim 55mpg at 75mph and vice versa, I've measured it at 62), 4 gallon tank.
  • Terrific headlight, brighter and with better coverage than many of the cars I'm out on the road with. The high-beam is rarely necessary, but still fun to use.
  • ABS brakes.
  • Smooth throttle response across the usable rev range (apparently a big improvement over the pre-2004 CS bikes (which some owners have found a cheap fix for)). The service loaner I rode yesterday had the problems described in these links, and it was not a fun ride.
  • Stuff bay. I'll have to put up some pictures of this, but basically, the place where most bikes have their gas tank is a storage area on the CS, sized to fit a large helmet, tank bag, locking hard case, or powered speaker system. I've got the helmet spider installed on mine (as shown in my first baby picture), which hides under the tank bag when riding, and provides reasonable security for a helmet when parked. I'm not planning to buy the speakers.
  • Nimble. Hard to quantify, but compared to most of the other bikes I rode while shopping, it feels "sportier". The low-mounted gas tank definitely contributes to this.
  • Comfortable riding position. My ride to work is about seventy miles of highway, with a strong crosswind most afternoons and evenings. The upright body position creates a stronger sail effect than a sportbike crouch (especially with the boxy Samsonite Moab backpack that's holding my laptop and other accessories), but I don't get blown around too much, and my back approves.
  • Ergonomic controls. All the buttons and switches are well-placed and sized, and easily operated with a gloved hand.
  • Accessory socket. The BMW battery charger plugs right into this, as does a heated vest. Yes, it sounds a little odd to make a fuss about electric heating in California in June, but the wind coming in off the Pacific is cool and damp, and when you're zooming around on a motorcycle at 3am, you want heat.
  • Comfy seat. It could use a bit more padding for long trips, but the aftermarket has that covered.
  • Looks. Okay, it's... "non-traditional," but I think it's rather attractive. The mirrors took some getting used to, but combined with the dual headlights they contribute to a bug-eyed monster effect from the front, and that's a good thing. And I love the color.
  • Logo on side panel just the right size to replace with laminated printout of anime character. The leading candidate for this small customization is still Steel Angel Saki, but I'm exploring the options. Phil Foglio's Buck Godot: Zap Gun For Hire series includes a small goofy-looking alien race that would look good on a round portrait. It's not a sexy anime chick, but it seems appropriate: it's called a Beemah.

What don’t I like? The current lack of support for hard luggage. BMW’s top case has been delayed due to mounting problems (and now that I’ve seen pictures, I understand why; the added “support brace” bolts onto the plastics, not the frame!), and is pretty small. The Happy Trails mounts for a full set of Givi cases look quite sturdy, but even if you just buy their side-case mounts, you have to take off the stock luggage-rack mount, which changes the lines of the bike. The Krauser side cases still look ugly to me, and Riderhaus seems to be in the middle of switching their online sales to Twisted Throttle. Hepco & Becker have mounts for side and top cases that look nice, but not only do you have to relocate your turn signals for the side mounts, there’s also just enough of a design change in the ’05 bikes that only one of their side-case styles will fit.

So, if I give up on the side cases for now, there are two basic options: Hepco & Becker and Givi. Unlike the current mount for the BMW case, both of these have supports that bolt onto the frame, and the cases you can mount are a lot larger (up to a 45 liter Givi scooter case or a 48 liter H&B). The price is about the same. I’m leaning slightly toward the Givi.

What’s the problem with side cases and bags? The gas cap. It’s located on the right side, below the passenger seat (where the logo is on the left side). All the standard products cover this space; many soft saddlebags would also extend through the space occupied by the luggage rack. The Happy Trails and Krauser side mounts partially obscure the rear turn signals; the H&B relocates them. Of course, the F650GS has the same design, but everyone’s worked around it; the CS seems to be the redheaded stepchild in the current BMW lineup.

Update: Still looking for a good Saki or Beemah graphic to use, but for now, I think I’ll go with this image from the free Girl Genius Holiday Gift Tag collection:

Mimmoth

Of course, if someone else pops a mimmoth, he’d add mine to his collection, but that joke will only make sense to people who’ve played the Girl Genius card game.

Baby pictures


Rode into work this afternoon (through ridiculous winds), and took advantage of the late afternoon sun to get a few pictures of the bike on campus. More coming, once I coax Photoshop into doing batch conversion of Olympus ORF-format raw data files. And buy a bigger CompactFlash card to hold them…

2005 BMW F650CS

Voices in my head


So, after my Thursday riding plans were cancelled by a database crash, and my group scheduled an all-hands meeting for Friday afternoon, I decided to take the bike into work to show it off. Officially, I’m on vacation, so I was really just riding 70 miles, hanging out for an hour, and riding back. Hopefully getting past San Jose before the southbound traffic got too heavy.

It worked, too, but I didn’t get away quite soon enough to avoid the slowdown around Morgan Hill. Coincidentally, I needed to stop for gas, so I figured I’d cut over to Monterey Road for a few miles, then get back on 101. This worked out reasonably well, but when it came time to get back on the highway, I went into the turn too fast on the on-ramp, and the bike started edging closer to the yellow line and the end of the pavement.

Suddenly, I heard the voice of one of my MSF instructors, Jim Pereyra:

"What do you do? Lean more!"

I pushed on the low grip, the bike leaned over farther, and my turning radius tightened up. One of the many reasons I’m glad I got professional training before I bought my motorcycle.