Thursday, September 30, 2010

The New and Improved Flat Tire!

Okay, not really.
I mean it's very difficult to improve on near perfection, if you know what I mean.
So tonight, I had some time to fool around with the new templates Blogger came up with.
I've stayed with the old template for like a year and half, so I figured it's about time to change.
Besides, I read somewhere that white text on black is hard on the ole eyeballs, so I give to you, the reader, surprise! white on grey.
I suppose it looks okay, but I sort of liked the contrast of the old page.
Then again, I'm not the one reading it.
Hope I didn't make anyones eyes get all goofy.
I sort of wonder what happened to all the old templates. I mean there were a bunch of them, and now they're no longer available.
It was pretty darn hard pressing that button to change things up knowing I wouldn't be able to go back.
I mean folks get sort of used to things, and drastic change can be well, drastic and traumatic and all and that's not always a good thing.
I always thought the header was the most important, you know, something that should stay familiar, so that once you're here, you know you're here and don't have to look around to make sure you're here.
If you know what I mean.
Then again, I change up the header image every couple of months or so, so I guess that isn't such a big deal.
I enlarged the font a bit, just so the text is easier to read but the selection of fonts is sort of limited.
Not that I wanted anything fancy since everything else I write, I write in Courier New, so anything besides that is fancy enough for me.
The sidebar images are sort of funky though, I'm going to have to figure something out to make them look nicer.
Aesthetics, don't you know.
Anyways, to contradict myself, I suppose it's not really how your blog looks, it's more like what's in it.
I mean sometimes I come across these really cool looking blogs but sorry to say, there's just no content.
Okay, who am I to talk, for let's face it, this post has absolutely no content at all.
Well, sort of, but not really.
If you know what I mean.
I must say though, I'm getting pretty good at writing about nothing and making it seem like it's actually something.
Maybe it's all that practice I get writing about something and it comes out sounding like nothing.
Now writing about something and making it sound like nothing, that takes skill!
I get a lot of practice.
Oh wait, I said that already.
Okay then!
The Not Really New and Not Really Improved Flat Tire(NRNNRIFT)!
Dedicated to bringing you, the reader, only the most entertaining well, entertainment and educational content available in webland.
We'll see how long this lasts.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Paradigm Shift

Of sorts.
If you've been following along at home, you know that I've been working with a different bunch of youths.
That's being nice.
Well on Monday morning, we had a meeting with a couple of the VPs to discuss our strategies.
At first, my impression was that I was to go in there and lay down the letter of the law.
So the paper flew, and students were sent to where ever they go when the paperwork gets filled out.
Of course there's procedure when it comes to disciplinary problems, but I sort of cut to the chase, if you will.
By Friday, I think they got the message: no more fooling around.
Well in that Monday meeting, it turns out the good ole Hammer method isn't quite the recommended option when working with high risk students.
You'll lose them.
I was told to sort of "kill em with kindness" which is fine by me for that's another method I learned on how to overcome objections.
Well, I left that meeting feeling sort of bummed, for now I felt like I was only pushing them farther away.
Would I get another chance to do my thing?
Okay, time to rethink the strategy.
Only, I wasn't able to.
Not really anyways.
Monday, things went fairly well.
Fairly, isn't a good word, how strangely well.
For suddenly, things had calmed down considerably in class. No more walking around, talking out of turn, refusing to do work.
The eye of the storm I predicted.
Them tricky students, just lulling us into a false sense of security.
More head games.
No, not really.
I hope.
Yesterday, believe it or not, it was just like a regular school day, with a regular class.
The instructor and I kept sort of looking at each other wondering what was going on.
A breakthrough perhaps?
Have we finally got to them?
Finally, some behavior that deserves what the VPs suggested, which was positive reinforcement.
We'll see how that goes and if the stunning shift in classroom attitudes sticks.
The Japanese have a saying "the nail that sticks up get hammered down" and I was thinking of this all last week.
Perhaps it was a combination of the positive things, plus the efforts to "hammer" down the negatives that worked.
A compromise of techniques if you will.
I also think it was about building trust and providing a safe and fair environment.
A classroom where interruptions were limited and everyone is treated the same.
I look forward this morning to seeing how this week finishes as next week we go into a one week break from school.
I sort of wish break was two weeks from now so we have more time to establish this new trend in behavior.
The positive reinforcement?
The rewards?
Yesterday, I showed them some basic optical illusion stuff that blew them away.
Today, I'll try more of the same.
I knew that stuff would come in handy one day.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Shipping Department

So today, I finally got around to boxing up one of the promotional Chain Mugs.
I started searching around for an appropriate box, but apparently, the mug is of an odd size.
So off I went in search of a box.
Not as easy as it sounds.
I ended up at the UPS Store.
The first box I got was too small.
Thankfully this didn't turn into a Goldilocks like experience and the second box I got was perfect.
I got to thinking I should have gotten some bubble wrap, but then I started thinking, Hey! I'm shipping this out for free!
So I got an old envelope and cut that up to wrap around the mug:

Not exactly the best packing material, but as I said, what do you expect for free?
Now the thing about shipping ceramics is that you should pack things tight.
Like really tight, so that the item can't be moving around.
I use a special high tech material to insure the item doesn't suffer any damage:

Okay, not really.
I just used some balled up newspaper.
What I like about receiving stuff is the newspaper used for packing.
I like to read it.
Hopefully I get the Living or Today sections, and get a glimpse of life someplace else.
Today, I used parts of the Sunday paper, including the Sports and Dining Out sections:

Check out the top right corner.
Good brew.
Oh yeah baby!
This puppy's going to the right place.
Hopefully it makes it in one piece.
Okay, all wrapped up with no place to go!

Well, actually it does have someplace to go.
I'll try and ship this out tomorrow or the day after.
I sort of wanted to see exactly what all the shipping and stuff was going to come out to so that I could factor in all the costs.
I gotta head out and see my brother at The Warehouse and see if I can scrounge up some more boxes.
At least I can get those for free and most of the stuff I got for sale is about the same size.
Okay lucky promotion participant, consider your mug on it's way!
I also decided to put one of the other mugs up for sale, just to see if there's any demand.
We'll see how that goes.
Boy, I can't believe I actually posted pictures of a box.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday Cactus Update

So yesterday, I was looking at the Cactus Army and decided it's ranks were getting a little thin and it was time to call it some reinforcements.
Besides, I had these empty pots sitting around and they just couldn't wait for the mini cacti to grow up.
More on that later.
The neobuxbaumia are doing great!
I also have some protection now to make sure they don't start morphing into creepy crawly creatures with acid for blood:

That's right, good ole Ripley is back on the job.
At least I think it's Ripley, for I don't think it looks anything like Sigourney Weaver:

I thought she looked pretty hot as a blonde in Galaxy Quest, but I regress.
As I said the neos are looking good, but the Saguaro are looking a bit peaked:

I'm thinking it's time to let them dry out a bit and not let them soak in the damp potting soil. Cactus are susceptible to root rot if the soil is too damp.
I think I'll give them a few more days, then move the pot out of the tray.
The other seedlings, are finally showing some green:

I'm telling you, these cactus don't grow very quickly as it's been about five weeks since I first started them off.
At this rate, I may be an older old guy before they start looking like the pictures in the book.
So anyways, I had these planter pots sitting around collecting dust, and I decided to bolster the Cactus Army, so off I went to the plant place.
I picked up a couple of new little ones, and a I found a brand new favorite:

Now that, my friends, is what a cactus is supposed to look like!
Okay, the spikey ones look cool too, but tall and fuzzy rocks!
So much so that I've started to look at some other species of cactus and am putting together another seed order.
Anyways, I got that big one so that maybe the small ones see it and get all inspired to grow faster.
Or something.
Nothing's happening yet in the Flat Tire Cactus Incubator(FTCI), if things go about the same, I don't expect to see anything for at least another week.
I'm sort of excited to see what the agave looks like.
Hopefully I get some hot opuntia action too!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Scoop! Pt. II

As promised, here are some images of the Fortuna all wheel drive bicycle that made it's debut at the ride today.
People made great sacrifices to bring you these pictures.
Mostly Evil Hoku, who had to ride back to the start/finish where they were showing the bike.
I saw one on the road going up the back side of the Hill of Cardiac Arrest, but I was too gassed to turn around and get my own images.
All pictures by Flat Tire Staffer Evil Hoku, who by the way, is not that evil anymore:

Hoku said the bike looked really heavy. The dude I saw going up the hill sort of looked like he was struggling a bit, but then again, I passed him sort of on the fly.
Rear drive train:

Nothing special here, looks like Altus in back.
You can see the double chain though.
Here's the spec sheet again:

The interesting part is the front wheel drive.
I didn't get a good look but here it is up close and personal:

Too bad I couldn't take spin on it just to see how it rode.
Maybe a local bike shop will have one on hand for me to check out.
Okay, there you go!
Didn't I promise you, the reader, the latest in cycling news 24/7?
Okay, not really.

Honolulu Century Ride Pt.II

It's a nice ride along the Ka'iwi coast to the Makapu'u Lighthouse.
Unfortunately, there's also another hill and my worst fears became a reality:

I got passed by another folder!
Check this dude out! showing off and passing people going up the hill:

I was following the girl he's passing for about a half mile coming out of the rest stop. She was pushing the largest gears possible: big ring, small gear. I took notice for she was pedaling so slow, and thought she'd shift coming up the hill.
Nope. Mashed all the way up.
Talk about pain and suffering!
The ride turns towards the mountains and goes into Waimanalo. I think they do that to add some mileage for I usually just go straight towards home.
There's another rest stop at the district park were they were selling some water and Hawaiian energy bars, also known as spam musubi:

Think a rice ball with a slab of Spam on top.
Sorry for the image but I forgot to take a picture until after I started to wolf it down.
The spam musubi, I mean.
It's not an official rest stop, it used to be but I heard they did away with it due to budget and all that. Some locals who are raising funds for a youth baseball team saw an opportunity and ran with it.
Along the back roads of Waimanalo, the weather seems to have changed:

Flat Tire Central is just:

Over another freakin hill!
I looked behind me to check for any folding bikes.
Thankfully, there were none.
They must have been all in front of me.
Cows cruising under a tree:

Finally home.
Sort of:

The Kailua rest stop is twenty five miles out though it came out bit longer on my speedo. I came in at 9:15, about two hours and forty five minutes from the start.
I considered going further, but the weather made up my mind.
I also did the fifty two years ago so there wasn't much incentive to do it again.
Instead I took off my number and went to check out the beach.
Sort of deserted, but there was the usual jumpy thingy:

A couple of water walkers:

Nothing much going on so I headed on home.
The Honolulu Century Ride is a really nice well supported ride. Of course you don't need the support to ride the route but it's nice to be with all other riders.
Sharing the pain, don't you know.
Hopefully next year I'll feel better and try for a longer distance.
Or at least make it past my house.

Honolulu Century Ride-The Short Version

One of the things I like about doing these things is seeing all the bicycle people lined up at the start.
The announcer said there were three thousand this morning, about a third of them Japanese riders.
The cyclists are separated into four groups, A, B, C, and JRA(no relation to JRA of One Speed: Go! fame).
The A types are usually the tri dudes, who make the ride a hammerfest, B folks are slower, C even slower, etc.
Here we are, all dressed up with no place to go:

The start is sort of funky as we march down the parking lot and make a U turn back up the street.
From there it's on to Diamond Head and the lookouts.
Dawn Patrol at Diamond Head:

From there, we head on toward the east side of the island, trying to catch the sun:

Getting passed by a folder:

This section contains some traffic signals which serves to break up the groups and create some backlogs:

The Sun coming up over Koko Head crater:

Just about a quarter of a mile away from the Hill of Mass Destruction.
The ironic thing is that it's also a slight incline getting there.
I had to watch my heart rate for I it was running a bit high today. Perhaps the effects of my still lingering cold.
I took it easy here for I knew what was coming up:

Yes, my nemesis, the Hill of Crushed Souls.
Doesn't look like much in the image, but check out the tiles on the wall. It's also a double incline meaning it gets steeper at the top.
I hit the granny gear and tried to set a tempo.
Let me tell you, it wasn't too much fun seeing my heart rate begin to redline, then go into the implosion zone.
By that time though, I was so close to making it, I wasn't stopping!
I think can, I think can, I think I can.
Like the Little Engine That Could I made my way to the top at a blistering pace of six miles per hour.
My heart rate ended up around ten beats over my max and although it worried me, it didn't feel so bad.
Sort of.
The rest station was just up ahead:

First thing I looked for was the water.
It wasn't hard to find for there were four young lasses hawking the H2O:

I paused(rested) for a bit to look out over the Ka'iwi Channel. It was remarkably clear and you could see the island of Moloka'i quite clearly:

From there it was back on the bike toward the Makapu'u Lighthouse.
Part II coming up.

Sunday Early Edition

Okay, it's really early on Sunday.
I mean I'm not writing this on Sunday, it's really Saturday but since I'm hopefully on the road right now, this is being posted via the automation of Bloggerland.
So that means you, the reader, are well, reading this on Sunday.
I picked up the Honolulu Century Ride packet yesterday, Diamond Head in the background:

A lot of Japanese tourists there and also riding around Waikiki. Evil Hoku is actually somewhere within the concrete jungle doing bicycle inspections for the ride. Seems this ride is popular with the tourist folk some of whom ship and have their bikes assembled here.
If all goes well, Evil will have picked me up at around five this morning and we'll line up with the B riders at the start/finish at Kapi'olani Park in Waikiki and head off around six fifteen.
The joy of traveling in a pack of around three thousand riders!
Map of the ride:

If you know O'ahu at all, you can see it hugs the south/east side of the island all the way up towards the North Shore ands returns back to Kapi'olani Park.
If you've been following along at home, you know that I'm not doing the whole thing, in fact I'm not even going back to the start finish.
I decided to cut my ride short since the route goes right by The Flat Tire Central. THere's a festival on the Marine Base and the Blue Angels are flying today.
They actually flew today(which is actually yesterday) too, I heard them, and I want to get some pics.
Besides, I've still got a cough and the SAG wagon is not something I wish to utilize.
There is one challenge in store.
The Hill of Possible Collapse:

As you can see, the Hill of Burning Needles in My Legs is right around the half way point to The Flat Tire Central. No avoiding that puppy.
There is an alternate route off the course that you can take called the Hill of Blindness Caused by Fatigue that loops around world famous Hanauma Bay.
I did that hill on my Epic Ride back in March.
Well, the Hill That Leads to the Ninth Gate of Hell is a bit shorter, but I think it's steeper, at least it feels steeper, so I hope to climb it without rest.
Let me emphasize the word hope.
Let me tell you, this cough ain't helping.
Sure Mr. Flat Tire, make up excuses before you even get there.
But, but-
Just admit it. You're a wussy!
Okay, I admit it.
I'll tell you what though, if I can make it up the Hill of New York, I can make it anywhere!
Well, maybe not anywhere.
You get my drift.
So, if all goes as planned and I don't drop dead on the Hill of the Merciless Incline, I'll be posting up pics of the shortened route for the final edition.
Hopefully I won't get dropped by old ladies riding folding bikes like two years ago.
Talk about shame!
Have a nice Sunday ride.
I am.
I think.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Sort of.
I went to Waikiki this morning to pick up my pre ride packet for the Honolulu Century Ride.
Along with all the usual bike shop paraphernalia and safety stuff was a brochure for a new sort of bike:

I went to the website(here) and there's nothing much there.
The brochure says it's making it's debut tomorrow at the ride start/finish area.
Oh wait.
I'm only going one way!
Meaning I'm not going back to start area.
I'll try to get Evil Hoku to take some pics and as soon as I get them, I'll post them up.
Two wheel drive!
I wonder if that means climbing hills will be easier?

Chain Mugs v.2, Flat Tire Promotion

I glazed up a few of the version 2 Chain Mugs a couple of days ago just to see how long it would take me.
What I'm trying to do is figure out how long it take me to complete one mug, that way I can begin to start setting a value on it.
There were also some durability issues that I needed to address.
More on that later.
If you've been following along at home, you remember that I did five mugs last week and it took me somewhere around five or six hours to finish.
Well, I glazed up three mugs and that session lasted around two and half hours.
Actually one mug only took like fifteen minutes, but I did that one in a single color just to see what it would look like:

Not too good.
Maybe if I used a lighter color or something. I just used whatever glazes I had the most of and I got the blue glaze for free(thanks Ceramic Hobbyist!).
Oh, and that mug was the Does Not Pass Inspection(DNPI) mug for it has some flaws in it.
The other two took the longest to glaze.
I did one large and one small and unlike the prototype, I used a different glaze on the gears.
For the petite coffee drinker:

First time I've used that blue. I actually bought it for the UFT project but after consideration, I didn't think it would work.
The glaze on the handle and gears is the same as on the Industrial Teapot.
For the mainline coffee guzzler:

I had to add two small gears on the side for with just one, there was too much negative space for my tastes.
I like the contrast of color here, the off white glaze against the semi metallic black.
There are a couple of problems though.
Because of the linked nature of the handles, there is difficulty in getting the correct proportions. For instance the handle on the mega mug looks too big but taking out a link and it becomes too small.
I need to strengthen up the handles a bit. I think I need to cut the link off where it joins and attach the handles at that point to get the strongest bond.
Right now, I'm cutting them off mid link and actually doing the above may make it easier to glaze:

Now about the durability thing.
I broke the handle on the prototype.
It didn't actually break off, but it did crack.
There was a hairline crack in it before I fired it, so I think it was a construction defect.
Still, the handles do look a bit fragile to me so they are Not Yet Ready for Etsy(NYRFE).
What I need is real world feedback before I unleash this on the masses.
I don't drink coffee.
What I want to do is send out the three mugs above for some hardcore testing.
If anyone is interested in trying one out, free of charge, drop me an email or just comment below.
Now you have to be a dedicated coffee, well I suppose tea is okay too, drinker. The more coffee or tea you drink the better.
I'm talking gallons here.
GAGILLIONs of gallons
There are three mugs so if three of you reply, no prob.
I mean there are only like five of you, the readers, that are actually out there in webland and I'm not sure if you all drink GAGILLIONs of gallons of coffee.
If you do and more than three of you respond, maybe I'll come up with a contest. Like maybe you'll have to write an essay or submit a picture.
Or something.
Here is your chance to get a Chain Mug v.2 for free!
That's right, absolutely free!
Okay, not really.
You'll have to give me some responsible feedback. "This is the greatest thing since sliced bread" I can do without.
"This mug sucks!" is okay as long as you tell me why.
Okay, there you go.
The Great Flat Tire Free Chain Mug Conditional Promotional Giveaway(GFTCMCPG)!
We now return you to your regular programming.