Thursday, March 8, 2012

To those who would fix the world

I just read these comments on Reddit, forwarded to me by our good friend Atticus:

Have I supported IC with my money and time over several years? Yes.  Do I have an IC inspired tattoo?  Yes.  Is IC the only organization I give to because they have cool videos and I have no heart or brain?  No.

As I read the comments above I wanted to be upset, but I couldn't been.  Maybe it is because I am sleep deprived or maybe I'm just tired of the joke.  People were upset that IC doesn't give all their money to developing Northern Uganda.  I think that simply shows that they, like most everyone else, responds to these sort of things in the usual "fly-by media" way, as old Rush would say.  They see a video, look up their financial stats and criticize them for being selfish.  Is a group that sends people all over the country going to do so without paying for a ton of airline tickets, probably not.  The purpose of Invisible children is not solely to develop Uganda.  The primary purpose of IC is to get Americans interested and involved.  The very fact that people are talking about the new Kony video, on both sides of the isle, is proof that they have been successful.  If they made documentaries that were not hip and cool with sweet music and moving cinematography would our generation watch?  Probably not.  I think that it is interesting that we are a culture that demands to be entertained to pay attention and then criticizes those who understand that fact.  It is very difficult to send a message these days without wrapping it in an artsy-cool veneer.  And like most good veneers, that stuff is expensive.

I am also confused that though I saw a lot of criticism from "the experts" that this not only is a bad way to generate attention for N. Uganda but is not a long term solution to the problem.  Firstly, they did generate a lot of interest in a segment of the population that has a history of not caring meaningful about much of anything.  Would a significant part of the population be talking about the heinous crimes being committed by the LRA if not for IC, I doubt it.  I think it is interesting that the comments were so negative towards IC when they are merely feeding the appetites of the times.  They understand that we are more interested in Snookie and the spoilers on our favorite tv show than on children being abducted and forced to mutilate one another.  They understand that if something doesn't sparkle that the public attention will shift without notice. I think that these commentarians should be more upset at the apathetic decadence of our culture than a group that is attempting to do some good by leveraging said culture.  Secondly, do I agree that US troops helping national soldiers capture Joseph Kony is the cure for the turmoil in central Africa?  No.  I think very few people are as naive as that.  I don't think that IC is trying to say anything of that nature.  They saw something that needed fixed and actually did something about it.  Are a lot of issues in Africa a direct consequence of western imperialism?  Absolutely.  Does that mean we should not help African nations?  I doubt it.  Would the US go to Uganda if there was no oil there?  Hard to say but probably not.  Will Uganda profit from the infrastructure and work provided by oil exploitation?  Yes. I totally agree that it would be so much better for indigenous corporations to extract the oil and give equal shares of the profits to all those living in Uganda.  Maybe the CEO would work for the same wages as the new hires?  Our world is horribly flawed but we can use the tools available to try and not only improve the world but also to try and improve the tools that we attempt to use.  I did not see any offer for a better solution to the issues of Central Africa, which is probably good because if you thought you could spell out the fix for Africa in a post on Reddit you would be wrong.  I guess we could propose that someone cure greed, that would probably do it.

Maybe the cynical voices on the webs are taking the time from their busy, humanitarian lives to post a comment about how IC is doing it wrong.  They probably don't suggest a better solution because they have to get back to working on this better solution.  Maybe.  I would guess that many of them sit around and post on Reddit, and then go back to their decadent lives fueling the very global inequalities they criticize others for trying to fix with their consumerism and decadence.  I could be wrong here.  But I see a lot of people who feel like they can fix the world because of what they read on the Huffington Post but sit at their home, complaining about corporate greed while they ignore the 90% of humanity that is poorer than they are.

I want to address comparing the LRA's attrocities to Guantanamo Bay but it makes my head want to explode.

I have made and will continue to make posts about old motorcycles because I want to empower people to have a problem that they overcome with their own too hands instead of paying someone else to do it.  Motorcycles are an easy way that is within the grasp of many Americans to develop some of the chutzpah that our culture has, for the most part lost.  I believe that that same attitude should be applied to world issues.  If you see something wrong in your community or your world you should get up and do something about it.  If you see evidence that kids are being abused in your community you should not mind your own business, you should do something about it.  If you see that children are being mutilated, forced to commit atrocities, and that girls are being kept as slaves to be continually gang raped by the masses of brain washed killing zombies around them, you should probably do something about it.  At least IC did that.

Oh, and here is IC's explainations of some of the key attacks that the commentarians leveled against them.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

RV90 Day 1

Made some progress on the RV90 yesterday.  Didn't take any pics but the rust was minimal and the electrical and rubber components all looked good.  There was no spark when we started but we put in a new plug, gapped it, reset the points, and we got a good consistent spark.  Still no pop or gurgle but we brought the little Mikuni VM carb home to rebuild it.  Hopefully we will have some pictures next time.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Brian Despain

Just stumbled across this guys work while Pinteresting.  Right up my alley.

Vintage BikeGeek

I am positive that our RV90 is going to look nowhere as nice as this one
After many attempts and persuasion my good buddy has finally picked himself up an old motorcycle.  I know a 1972 RV90 almost doesn't classify as a motorcycle but the more I have looked into it the more stoked I am to be the technical adviser on this project.  I love to see an old motorcycle that has been rotting a rust heap in the back of someone's garage or barn be resurrected or even reincarnated into a functional machine that someone will enjoy.  I have several friends who are at various stages of the process.  Most of my friends on such an adventure have simply moved the rusting hulk from one garage to another.  This includes my '81 XS850 that was sold last winter (Chew's Cafe) and a friend's Virago 920 that I envisioned as a sweet bobber but has so far had one exhaust pipe removed.  Another friend of mine went so far as to strip down his RD250 and hopefully will start putting it back together in the near future.  Atticus here is my shining prodigy.  He not only bought the bike but he has taken steps to take a stripped down GS550 that was thrashed for a crappy race bike and has made it into a smooth running machine.  Unfortunately he is heading off to Iberia and may be selling it.

Atticus began the journey in a very similar place to myself.  Both of us started more likely able to assemble a light saber with the proper components than to rebuild a carburetor.  When I moved to the state of Ohio in 2007 I did not know how to change my own oil.  I did not even know what the purpose of a carburetor was.  I dreamed of buying a bike my whole life and after working with a 'Winger for 2 years I finally felt like I could make the jump.  When I bought my bike it was an ugly bagger.  Large fairing, hardbags, huge windshield, it was the bike I never wanted but it ran and so I bought it.  After it stopped working a short time later I tore out the carbs, the starter, and basically made the whole situation a whole lot worse.  After I finally located the real problem was in the  bus fuse housing I had a much bigger repair and rebuild than I had started over with.  Luckily the motor was in good order but the carburetors were filled with rust and the bike was still ugly.  Luckily my buddy Tony made the concession to allow a piece of 'Jap Junk' into his garage and under the ominous sign reading 'Harley parking only, Rice Burners will be crushed' we began to put Mio back together.  We stripped her down to look like a real motorcycle and got the carbs tuned in and running great.  My dream was to cafe the bike but I never had the time or money in the timespan available.  Last summer she didn't run for a large chunk of riding season due to a failed brake system landing my in a ditch along the state route.  But a few master cylinder rebuilds and SS brake lines later she ran (and stopped) like a champ.

Atticus pursued the motorcycle experiment after hearing tales of the mechanical chutzpah I had accrued during this time.  After reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance he started to dig in.  There is a perfect correlation between those nerds who read ZATAOMM and actually worked on their bike, and those who didn't.  Interesting.  After working on some ignition issues, putting mufflers on the straight pipes, and velo stacks on the intakes, he had a bike that ran and the courage to actually apply a tool to something mechanical.

All this brings me to a little 90cc beach bike that my buddy's father-in-law found in his barn.  It has no spark,  the tires are probably dry rotted, and who knows what condition the frame is in.  The important thing is, though, that when we have applied our limited wisdom and intelligence to the project we will most likely have a running machine that was good for nothing more than scrap previously.  This new buddy has very little mechanical experience and even less gusto but by the end he will be a code flinging grease knuckle like myself.
The FZ6

Part of what I love about motorcycles is they are very simple machines.  The systems are easily visable, are easy to access, and easy to understand.  Plus motorcycles are pure cool.  I fell in love with the Kawasaki Ninja when I was 6 years old.  I saw toy ninja at a flea market and it looked fast, and it was a Ninja.  Ninjas are cool.  Ever since then I liked motorcycles but new nothing about them.  Then in college I stumbled on the Yamaha FZ-6.  I have never totally been sold on crotch rockets.  I have never liked cruisers.  I can dig an occasional bobber, something nice a ratty but I had never heard of cafe racers at the time and this bike, a sporty but utilitarian bike, sang to me.  As I started to dig deeper into bikes I found that there was a whole spectrum between a Harley Electroglide and a Hyabusa.  And I was hooked.  I started reading Cycleworld and similar rags and then, after college, I found an article about WrenchMonkees.  I saw this bike:

I never realized what was possible with 2 simple wheels.  The simple beauty, the feel of speed while standing still, plus I had a weakness for the copper piping.  After I saw this bike, I had a new obsession.  An obsession that I have done my best to pass on to anyone who will let me.