Sunday, April 8, 2018

A Village Divided






Back in the early 80's, when I was working for VW,  my host on my first visit to Wolfsburg made a point of showing me around.  We had a drink at the Alter Wolf, an inn and pub that was a postal and customs house in the 1700's.  We drove by the castle that was the genesis of the town.  And we drove out into the country to view the Iron Curtain between East and West Germany.  We visited a small village, similar to the one in the photo above, that had been split by the divide, complete with fences, wall, and machine gun towers.  It was a pretty scary and stark image.  My host told me of the families that had been divided along with the town.  Forty years on at that time, generations had grown up not knowing their family members living only meters away.

Nothing as extreme as the Iron Curtain, but I was recently traveling back roads in eastern Ohio and ran across a village divided.  The village that was built around the junction of 4 small creeks.  It has been a hard winter and the bridge through the center of town was damaged and closed by the creek.  It wasn't a complete washout, you could still probably walk across, but otherwise it is like two separate villages.  Depending on weather, first responders like ambulance and fire have a 30 mile detour to get to the other side of town.

Ohio road officials know that they have to fix this one, but they don't have a contractor willing to do the job at the moment, so they don't know when it will be fixed.  That got me thinking about how small town and country infrastructure is being neglected and underfunded.  It's creating ghost towns and defacto iron curtains, like this bridge job.  Sure, lot of people are moving into cities, but we should be able to support the small places too.  I just don't want us to end up with a city like the one in Logan's Run.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Intelligence and Creativity





I have been known to talk about the zen of the motorcycle helmet.  While I am ridding, I am working my body and aware of my surroundings and the tasks required to manage them, but I am at least partially disconnected mentally and sometimes find creative solutions in that space.
It turns out that this is a pretty good way of thinking about creativity and intelligence.  This link takes you to an interview with an expert on intelligence and creativity.  It's a pretty long read, but there are some interesting ideas in it.

https://onbeing.org/programs/rex-jung-creativity-and-the-everyday-brain/

 Quoting one of my favorite parts;

"So with intelligence, there’s you know, the analogy I've used is there's this superhighway in the brain that allows you to get from Point A to Point B. With creativity, it's a slower, more meandering process where you want to take the side roads and even the dirt roads to get there, to put the ideas together."

So, now you  know why you are looking at pictures of back roads.  It's time for all of us to start meandering and get creative.
 One other interesting idea from the interview is that we reach our peak intelligence potential in our 40's.  After that, the connections in the brain start to degrade.  But the cool thing is that when those connections degrade, the opportunity for creativity grows.  Those fewer connections make it easier for the brain to meander and create.





Friday, February 23, 2018

At Last. A Winter Like My Childhood

I know most of you hate winter and can't wait for it to be over.  But for me, it is part of my favorite memories and something I enjoy very much today.

Alas, my work kept me going off to warmer climates in the winter, sometime being gone more than 2  months each winter.  I counted it up.  It has been 38 years since I got to enjoy a whole winter.

One of the things that I looked forward to in retirement was being able to enjoy a whole winter without interruption.  Alas, the first two years of my retirement were a big disappointment, almost no winter at all.  But this year, we are finally getting a winter I can be proud of.

A few weeks back, in the January thaw, my sister and I went north because she had never seen Michigan's Upper Peninsula in winter.  So I thought I would share a few photos from that trip that I had already been sharing by email.  These are a mix of mine and my sister's photos.



A Copper Harbor Invitation


Pine Grove Cemetery



  Ice on Eagle Harbor



 The Eagle Harbor Light

 
The north coast of the Keweenaw




Sunset from the Mackinaw Bridge

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Very Best of Advertising


I ran across this in an old draft post that I never got around to finishing.  For me, as the audience, this is the very best that advertising can be.  It's memorable, exciting both visually and audibly, I remember what the product is and who is the company, and I want to support their product.  And it's a little funny too.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/1_kwxzU4wL4

Turn up the volume and enjoy.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A few More Street View Twisties - Thank You Google

I'm still working on riding routes for this summer.  I use Google Street View to see what the road conditions are and what date the Street View was photographed.  Since W. Virginia is fracking country, you can't count on older Street Views, a lot could have changed with the fracking trucks.

Once in a while, I come on a Street View picture that just makes me smile.  So all honors and attribution to Google for these two photos.  I couldn't resist sharing them.



 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Flash!

Something has changed in the headlight world while I wasn't paying attention.

Back in the early 2000's, HID headlights were a premium car, premium option that cost more than $1000.  It was mainly OE, but you could find aftermarket options if you were willing to pay $800 per headlight.  So I lived with Halogen and wondered about the future LEDs, but I knew that just changing to an LED bulb wasn't going to work because the LED doesn't work as a point light source like the Halogen, so the reflector design is all wrong.

I'm in my 6th winter with my Fiat.  In the past, I didn't need to drive much at night since I was out of town much of the winter.  This last couple of years, I have been driving more at night and noticing that the Fiat headlights are not great.  The Fiat uses a kind of projector headlight, but rather than 4 lamps (2 low, 2 hi), they use only 2 lamps and have a mechanical shutter to form the cutoff in low beams.

Having 4 lamps on high beam is a real plus for cars that are built that way because the light from each of the lamps adds together to make things brighter.  So even though the projector headlight in the Fiat may be a good design, it isn't very bright on high beam.

This point became critical when I was down in West Virginia looking for motorcycle roads.  I'm on twisty, hilly, and narrow roads in the country and it's pitch black darkness at only 5 pm.  I just can't see enough to keep going at any speed.  Ok, so my eyes are getting older and we can blame them as much as the headlights.

That evening down in West Virginia, I started looking online to see if there was a brighter bulb or something available.  What do you know.  Since the last time I paid any attention, HID conversion kits have become much cheaper.  First of all, the HID bulb is very similar to the Halogen in the idea of a point light source.  So they can make an HID bulb to work well in the the housing of a Halogen headlight.  I guess the market grew and the cost of electronics became smaller, because now you can buy a cheap HID conversion kit for as little as $30.  There are some issues with the cheapest versions, so even a better quality version can be had for less than $100.

Today I installed my HID conversion kit.  It was a bit fiddly as the British say, but it went together nicely and only took a couple of hours.  I just got back from a test ride and it's totally worth the effort.

First you turn on the headlights and get a FLASH.  Then it's like a slightly slow fluorescent bulb where it dims after the flash, then slowly gets brighter over 4 or 5 seconds.  By the way, you get to choose your color and I chose 6000K which is slightly blue but mainly white.  Much whiter than the 4300K original Halogens.  A whiter light makes it easier to see details at night, so I'm already ahead of the game.  And the light is so much brighter.  I'm ready to jump in the car and go back to West Virginia.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Merry Christmas and Twisty New Year


In addition to a really nice family holiday, I have been spending time between Christmas and New Years planning routes for a motorcycle ride this summer.  I know, thinking about motorcycling in the middle of winter is crazy, but certain types of mental illness are not preventable.


Naturally, you can do a lot of planning online these days, but there is no substitute for going there.  Every route that I planned at home needed "adjusting" once I saw it in person.  Happily, I can have fun driving these roads in the Fiat and exploring is fun, no matter what the weather.  Well, almost any weather.



I learned a long time ago that it's difficult to take good pictures of curvy roads, so I've taken the liberty of showing screen clips of Google Maps, both terrain maps with fun roads and street view of select corners.  Full kudos and honor is due to Google for their wonderful maps and full credit for the map images and street shot views.  Full warning, Google street view shots vary in quality depending on when they were taken and where along the road, so the screen shot above is more than a bit fuzzy.  The road is fun, though.  I just love a high speed esses section like this.


Naturally, I took a few shots myself, but only with my poor phone.  It's easy to tell the Street View shots, mine are winter with ice and theirs are summer with leaves.


This is Ohiopyle Falls with ice on the edges.  I do like exploring in winter.  The trees have lost their leaves and the snow lights up the shadows, so you can see many things that you would miss in summer.  Let's just face facts.  I have an itchy foot and have to travel to scratch that itch, no matter what time of year.

I wouldn't have wanted to try this road in winter.  Better saved for summer.


This is what happens to the bedrock faces along the road.  Water seeps out between the layers of rock and forms icicles.  They are everywhere in Ohio and W. Virginia and they are as varied as they are beautiful.
 

 Here is wishing you and yours a wonderful new year.