Leaving gaps in the lives of others

I don’t know about you, or even whether you have these thoughts, but it’s the everyday stuff that filters through my mind.

I think about the routines.

And I think ‘What will happen if I’m not here?’

Who will do the things that I do?

Who will cover for me at work?

Who will put the bins out on a Wednesday?

Who will do the washing up?

Who will deliberately be the focus of occasional jokes, for the emotional betterment of friends, colleagues, loved ones?

Who will fill the gap in the lives of these friends, colleagues, loved ones – a gap that should be filled with mirth, and infrequent faux rage?

And it isn’t so much the ‘who?’; it’s the ‘what happens if nobody else does these things?’

A guy I know died on Saturday.

He was much younger than me.

He leaves behind two small children, and their grieving mother.

And I wonder how they’re dealing with the crushing grief that I know they must be living through.

I hope they’re going to come out of this without permanent damage.

I wish I could help, but I don’t know them.

So I think about some of the things that he did.

And I wonder how they are coping with the gaps.

Maybe time to change the commuter?

In one and a half weeks I will have had the ZX9R for a year.

In that time the mileage has somehow crept up from 18,230 to 41,000.

For no other reason than the mileage, I’m mulling over changing the commuter for something that hasn’t done as much work.

But what to look at?

My first thought was a Gixxer thou, because I know they’re reliable, durable, and nimble.

GSX-R1000

And then I started wondering about an R1.

Yamaha R1

Truthfully, I don’t know which way to jump.

But yes, I do think that 41,000 miles is a bit long in the tooth for an everyday workhorse commuting bike.

So if you have any (sensible) ideas, drop me a line.

My full criteria is: Must be reliable, durable, and nimble.

And a sportsbike. Obv.

Threes

I am not a superstitious person.

Well.

Yes, I salute magpies.

And I don’t walk underneath ladders.

But the latter isn’t really superstitious, it’s just common sense.

Obv.

Anyway, in the last few months I’ve had three fairly significant events.

I have had a big health scare, and an emergency admission to (and stay in) hospital.

I have had a fairly major collision on the Daytona.

And on Tuesday this week I had a blow-out in the car.

On the M1.

At speed.

So even though I’m not at all superstitious.

That’s my three, yeah?

Moving…

I have moved this website (the TLD and this trailing sub-domain blog).

These websites (and databases, etc) are no longer hosted on my NAS in my lounge in Rugby.

They’re now hosted at a Tier 2 datacentre in Nottingham.

That I built.

Yes, that’s right, I’ve built a Tier 2 datacentre.

I could fill your head with the wonderfully geeky adventures that I’ve been through, to establish the datacentre.

But I won’t.

But it’s been a stunning experience.

In a very good way.

However, it all seems to have been set up rather too well (thanks to my design, and thanks to the sensational technical assistance of a Belgian uber-ninja-geek who I got onboard to do the virtualisation, install the KVM HyperVisor, and build the admin tools).

I say ‘too well’, because now that it’s done it’s all…

Well…

Done.

And I’m bored, because the actual admin overhead is…

Minimal.

And by ‘minimal’ I really mean ‘next to nothing at all’.

Anyway, the Belgian uber-ninja-geek is sticking around to handle first-line support (none!) and to virtualise the next set of infrastructure which I will finish building, RAIDing and installing the OS on, next month.

I shall move have also moved the Geekblog from the NAS to the datacentre this weekend/early next week.

I could fill your head with the amazing fun and games and geeky adventures and outright learning curves that I’ve been through in the last couple of months.

But it would only bring your excitement to fever pitch.

And we want to avoid you frothing up your underwear at the thought of such rampant geekage.

I have moved contracts.

I’m no longer slogging my heart out trudging down the M6, M42, M5, M4, M32 to Bristol.

Now I just potter a little way down the road to Northampton.

This is a massive improvement in my life, obv.

Especially as the weather has improved, so I’m doing most of these daily trips on the ZX9R.

And finally…

I am moving.

House.

Again.

To Nottingham.

Not voting Green (by a member of the Green Party)

In which a fully paid-up, card-carrying member of the Green Party sets out why he will not be voting Green in the 2015 General Election.

And in which the same fully paid-up, card-carrying member of the Green Party will be resigning his membership as soon as the 2015 General Election is over.

I’d like to set a scenario before you.

Imagine that you found a political party that you agreed with.

Imagine that the more time you spent reading about the same political party, the more you found that their core ideals and stated political goals chimed with your own personal, social (and political), values.

Imagine that you move beyond the certainty of voting your support for this party in the 2015 General Election.

You read this parties election manifesto.

You love it.

You became a member of the Party.

And then…

Imagine, some months later, you stumble across some Party policies that are not in their 2015 General Election manifesto.

But these policies are Party objectives.

One of the policies you discover says:

TR320
Smaller, low powered vehicles are generally preferable to most cars (especially those with a single occupant) as they take up less road space and are more economic consumers of fuel. However, the Green Party does not wish to see increased use of cars because they emit pollution and noise and can endanger road users. The aim is to encourage much less use of high powered machines and for low powered machines to offer an alternative for those who currently use cars and could not transfer to more sustainable (transport) modes.

That’s blatant vicitimisation.

Picking on just one form of transport?

This is a vote losing policy.

Is that why this policy is not in the 2015 General Election manifesto?

What car-owning (or car-driving) voter is going to vote for a political party that has stated it wants to see all cars reduced to tiny, limited output engines?

You dig on in to the party Policies and find:

TR321
The Green Party would take measures to encourage a transfer of car manufacture and use from larger, powerful machines to less powerful ones. These would include setting and enforcing strict noise limits and, for higher powered machines, speed limiters

Well, any person who uses a car for any form of transport is going to support this party, are they?

Now the thing is, these policies are not 100% accureate.

But with one or two minor edits in these policies, each of these political objectives are Green Party objectives…

But not for cars.

For motorbikes.

Yes, this is the Green Party singling out motorbikes for wholescale legislative curbs, yet leaving every other form of road user untouched.

These are those two Green Party policies, unedited, and with one more policy included:

TR320
Smaller, low powered motorcycles are generally preferable to cars (especially those with a single occupant) as they take up less road space and are more economic consumers of fuel. However, the Green Party does not wish to see increased use of motorcycles because they emit pollution and noise and can endanger road users. The aim is to encourage much less use of high powered machines and for low powered machines to offer an alternative for those who currently use these or cars and could not transfer to more sustainable modes.

TR321
The Green Party would take measures to encourage a transfer of motor cycle manufacture and use from larger, powerful machines to less powerful ones including scooters and mopeds. These would include setting and enforcing strict noise limits and, for higher powered machines, speed limiters

TR322
For the safety of other users, the Green Party does not feel it appropriate for motorcyclists to be able to use any priority measures put in for pedestrians and cyclists, including those shared with public transport.

These are the most blinkered, uneducated, short-sighted, stupid and illogical transport policies.

These policies fail to recognise motorbikes as part of the solution of our increasingly congested roads.

These policies penalise motorbikes through the use of inaccurate sweeping generalisations.

These policies fail to understand the benefits of motorcycling over the use of cars.

These policies lack all manner of comprehension of the problems that British roads face every day.

These policies are why this Green Party member will not be voting for the Green Party in the 2015 General Election.

These policies are why this Green Party member will be resigning his membership after the 2015 General Election.

That these policies are hidden, that these policies are not in the Green Party 2015 manifesto is beyond dishonest.

The Green Party needs to be called out on this blatant victimisation.

One can’t help wondering what other nasty, victimising, policies the Green Party might have tucked away, that are also not highlighted by their 2015 manifesto.

Blogathon 17/15 – ensuring insurance

The insurance on the Daytona is up for renewal in early March.

I know this because I had a letter from my current insurer (MCE), giving me the usual friendly prod that insurers give you, when they want your repeat business.

Being slightly sceptical of insurers, I went online to one of those cost comparison websites, and put the usual information in to the webform.

The cheapest quote, offering me a like-for-like policy, was from Hastings Direct, at £106.

MCE came in with the next-cheapest quote at £107.

I called MCE.

After running through the details on my letter, and confirming a few points about me and the Daytona, MCE offered me a renewal policy of…

£174.

I double-checked the comparison website.

Yep, definitely £107.

I told the chap on the phone that I wasn’t going to accept £174.

He put me on hold and went to discuss my case with the underwriters.

A short while later he came back and offered me a renewal at £150.

I won’t go in to great detail, but after an extended discussion that included refreshing the fact that the now-sold Honda VFR had been insured with MCE, and that its predecessor, the Suzuki Bandit, had also been insured with MCE, and that there hadn’t actually been any gap in my insurance cover, he went away and discussed my case with the underwriters once more.

After a few minutes he came back and offered to renew my policy, and include personal injury, and helmet, and leathers insurance, for £107.

I paid by card.

Blogathon 11/15 – commuting fantasy

I don’t know why it should, but yesterday evening’s discovery that one can’t cross the border from Algeria in to Morocco has been troubling me.

Not, I hasten to add, that I’m so concerned about the free-flow of market economy products across international boundaries, that I worry about the trading balance of the eastern Morroco folk (and, by mirror image) the lack of international trade of the western Algerian people.

No, I feel sure that the local economies have their own methods of *cough* ‘enabling’ trade between the two countries.

I have no idea why this cross-border blockage should trouble me so much.

It just did.

Earlier this evening, as I was driving back to my flat (which is a euphemism for ‘sitting in the globally-famous Bristolian gridlock: Southmead Hospital chapter’), I began to conemplate other holiday routes.

As I sat, surrounded by traffic, mentally flicking the Vs at the cyclists (who cut up the inside of the line of traffic like lemmings heading for the tallest, fattest, juiciest cliftop, instead of overtaking properly), I revisited the original trip.

A short motorbike journey around the south of France?

That can’t be too difficult, right?

Right!

I decided to set my doubts aside, and mentally began to plan the route.

Rugby to Eurotunnel. That one was easy.

Eurotunnel (via appropriate stops, obv) down to Viaduc de Millau.

Because what’s the point of going to France if you aren’t going to see and/or cross this?

viaduc

After the viaduc, head on southwards to the French Riviera, stopping first at St Tropez.

Then Cannes.

Antibes.

Nice.

And, of course, Monaco.

When I’d reached my limit of French sunlight, and got my toes sufficiently wet, and had my fill of French food and wine, I’d head homewards, and not fanny about too much.

That sounds simple, doesn’t it?

And it’s a trip that isn’t going to take too much time either, right?

Er.

France

Not really.

Just meeting the above checkpoints, and travelling on motorways (which I wouldn’t do, for reasons of mental tedium avoidance), the oracle that is Google Maps says I’m looking at around 2,100 miles.

Jesus!

Why does this have to be so difficult?

And why does everywhere have to be so many road-miles away?

Blogathon 10/15 – warm (but not wet) dreams

*edited*

I was talking to SWMBI SWMBO the other day.

It’s a thing.

We do it often.

Anyway.

The subject of holidays came up.

Now then.

Holidays present something of a problem.

Or two.

For example:

I have a little bit of a hankering to sit on a motorbike and trundle around the warmer parts of Europe for a week.

As I did last year, with my round-Spain tour.

But where to go?

Having done southern Spain (but thoroughly enjoyed the experience), I’ve been looking at the map.

Yeah, dangerous I know.

Wherever I do choose, the simple criteria is that *getting there* has to not be stupid mileage from the UK.

For example, I love the idea of trundling around mid-to-southern Italy, but just getting there is a hell of a stretch in itself.

So much of a stretch that the journey *to there* might take the fun out of it.

So I’ve been looking at France.

Southern France, to be precise.

And that is a problem in itself.

Southern France, in case you didn’t know it, is in actual France.

A little French geography for you there.

And unlike my Spanish, my French never really made it out of the ‘où est la plume de ma tante‘ and/or ‘où est la piscine‘ starting blocks.

And I find the thought of being an ineffective communicator in a foreign country quite intimidating.

The other problem is that if I get too close to northern Spain, I might not be able to resist the pull of the country in which I used to live, and could quite quickly find myself in Barcelona.

Where I’d potter about for a bit.

Before heading down to warmer Valencia.

And then southwards to even warmer Alicante.

Hmm…

You know, from Alicante I could get a ferry across to hot Algeria.

Poke about in Algiers for a bit.

And then motorbike westwards to Oran.

And then over the border in to equally hot Morocco.

And then on to Fez.

Then continue west to Casablanca.

Then head up to Rabat.

Then Tangiers.

And then get the ferry across to Taifa del Algeceras

Then trundle around Gibraltar for a day or two.

Then head west and north to Cadiz.

And then Jerez.

Sevilla.

Merida.

Caceres.

A couple of nights in Salamanca.

Palencia.

Santander/Bilbao.

Plymouth.

Home.

That’s an absolute beauty of a road trip.

But it would take more than a week.

Maybe two.

Possibly three.

*edit*

Well, the border between Algeria and Morocco is closed because of a territorial dispute.

So it would be down to Almeria and then a ferry across to Melilla and then through Morocco.

The trip would be something in the region of 3,500 miles.

Over 15 days that would average 234 miles/day.

Travelling for 20 days would bring the trip down to 175 miles/day.

I think SWMBO would have an opinion on this.

Blogathon 9/15 – bike comparisons

This time last year I compared the first ‘proper’ motorcycle I ever owned (the hair-raisingly bonkers 1,000cc Laverda Jota) with three of my most recent bikes; the 650cc Suzuki Bandit, the 850cc Honda VFR, and the (then) very recently purchased Triumph Daytona 955i.

So, exactly 12 months on, it’s an appropriate time to revisit this subject.

Since I wrote last year’s comparisons, I’ve done a lot of bike mileage.

I’ve put 25,000 miles on the Daytona in the last year.

CYMERA_20141003_133020

I had also put 8,000 miles on the Honda VFR (before I sold it).

In June last year I bought a Kawasaki Ninja ZX9R,

ZX9R2 (1)

and began running that in conjunction with the same Triumph Daytona 955i.

And I’ve put 8,000 miles on that bike!

The whole reason for getting the Ninja/ZX9R was to take the strain off the Daytona, but doing all my local running around and commuting on the (much lower mileage) Ninja.

I knew the ZX9R, it belonged to someone in the area that I’m friendly with. I managed to scrape together the cash and soon it was mine.

Right from the outset of the Ninja arriving I still preferred the Daytona.

There is something about the lightweight triple-cylinder racing engine that was so enthusiastic about the job than the Ninja’s hefty lump of a 4-cylinder engine.

In the last 12 months I have had a very enjoyable round-Spain tour on the Daytona.

If I had a choice, I would still be giving all my mileage to the Offensively Yellow machine.

But I didn’t have the choice, because I wanted to keep the Daytona.

And that meant keeping the Daytona’s mileage as low as I could manage.

So I stuck to my plan.

The Ninja, if I’m honest, is actually a very tidy machine to commute on.

It’s got quite a lot of grunt, it has excellent brakes (both front and rear), it’s well balanced, and it’s very responsive.

And, unexpectedly, it’s very nimble in extreme congestion.

The Ninja is also capable of being quite quick.

I’m very lucky that the ZX9R/Ninja I have is the last model, and one of the very last machines of its type, to roll off the production line.

The ZX9R engine is 899cc; it delivers 143bhp and has an advertised top speed of more than 175mph (which we all know to be complete bollocks, because manufacturers have ways of getting top speeds out of a car/bike, that members of the public don’t have).

But I have easily achieved 150mph.

And the engine/gearbox/clutch package is unbelievably sweet to operate, at any speeds.

If I have one adverse observation with the Ninja, it is that I have to *make* it go faster in order to go faster.

What I mean is I have to really open my wrist to make progress quickly.

However the weight of the Ninja (183Kg), coupled with its nice nimbleness, and its beautiful balance makes the ZX9R one of the nicest commuters I’ve had the good fortune to sit on.

And that brings me to the Daytona.

I am biased.

The Daytona is the best bike I’ve ever owned.

If Triumph still made these, I’d be selling the Ninja and my Daytona this spring, and buying the latest model Daytona 955i.

But they don’t make them anymore.

Sure, I could go out and buy a brand new Triumph Daytona 675R, but why would I want to?

I want a bike in the 1,000cc range.

Why would I consider downsizing the engine?

I wouldn’t, obv.

The Triumph Daytona is everything that I like to have in a supersports bike.

The 955i is very swift, it’s well-balanced, it has good manners (almost all of the time), it is tremendously nimble.

And it has a character.

On the downside, the Daytona is a bike that encourages poor behaviour.

The 955cc engine will seductively lure the unwary motorbike rider in to potentially licence-losing territory.

Unlike the Ninja, one needs to make no special physical effort to encourage the Daytona go quicker.

It’s too easy to get lulled in to the belief that one is just pootling along, and then check the speedometer, to realise that one has (unknowingly) come on the edge of extremely high speeds.

The bike just does it.

It seems to ease itself through faster and faster speeds and all of a sudden the rider will look down and say, ‘How the hell did I get this quick?’

Indeed.

The Daytona is a very swift supersports bike.

She’s also a very comfortable machine to tour on – my 1,400-mile round-Spain tour last year was great fun on this little bike.

The 955i has tremendous character (as well as having a very distinctive noise from that sweetly-engineered triple-cylinder engine).

And the Daytona looks good.

The single swing arm shows off the bike to its very best.

Weighing in at slightly more than the ZX9R (191Kg v the Kawasaki’s 183Kg), the 147bhp Daytona should feel heavier than it does, and it should feel heavier than the Ninja.

But it doesn’t.

After changing from one bike to the other, the Daytona has caught me out once or twice, especially on sharpish bends, when she has behaved in a way that the ZX9R hasn’t.

I put this down to the contrasting differences in the way weight has been distributed around the two frames.

The Ninja is quicker (even easier) to settle in to a line through a sharpish bend. She just feels more grounded. Planted on a line.

The Daytona needs more body-shifting from the rider to achieve the same line. Otherwise you’ll be sitting in the hedge wondering how you came to be there.

If they were horses, I’d say the ZX9R/Ninja is a part-bred performance horse. The Daytona is a very coltish Thoroughbred.

But appreciating the difference between these two bikes is part of the utter joy of owning both of them.

I would give the Kawasaki Ninja/ZX9R an easy 9.7 out of 10.

I would give the Triumph Daytona 955i 9.8 out of 10.

Maybe I’ll change bikes again this year.

Maybe I’ll change one. Maybe I’ll change both.

I do quite fancy the look of the RSV4R.

2015-Aprilia-RSV4-RR-03

But for now, I love having these bikes.

And I love the differences between them.