Archive for the 'Motorcycle Talk' Category

Pirsig’s Gumptionology 101

Because with great power comes great respronsitrillitrance


Gumption describes exactly what happens to someone when they connect with quality … they get filled with gumption. A person filled with gumption doesn’t sit around dissipating and stewing about things, he is at the front of the train of his own awareness watching to see what’s up the track and meeting it when it comes. The gumption filling process occurs when one is quiet long enough to see, feel and hear the real universe, not just one’s own stale opinions about it. In climbing and other physical pursuits, gumption is akin to “flow state”.

An adequate supply of Gumption is the first and most important tool. Gumption is the psychic gasoline that keeps the whole thing going. If you haven’t got it there is no way the motorcycle can possibly be fixed. But if you have got it and know how to keep it, there is absolutely no way in the world that motorcycle can keep from getting fixed … it’s bound to happen. Therefore the thing that must be monitored at all time and preserved above anything else is gumption.

Gumption Traps

There are innumerable kinds of gumption traps. Essentially anything that can cause one to lose sight of quality and thus lose ones enthusiasm for what one is doing.

There are two main types of gumption traps:

  1. Setbacks – When you are thrown off the quality track by conditions that arise from external circumstances
  2. Hang-ups? – When you are thrown off the quality track by conditions that arise within yourself

Examples of Setbacks (External)

The Out-of-Sequence Reassembly Setback. This typically rears its ugly head right when you think you have it all just about done. You begin the reassembly and then notice a part that was left out. Everything has to come apart again, and this is a major gumption trap. This can require a substantial rest period to re-gain gumption (Pirsig jokes a duration of a month)


  1. Notebook used to write down order of disassembly and note anything worthwhile for reassembly later on. Notes should pay attention to left hand and right hand, and up and down orientations, and color coding and conditions of wires.
  2. Newspapers opened out on the floor of the garage with all the parts laid out left to right and top to bottom in order of disassembly.


  1. Gumption can be salvaged by the knowledge that information may have been gained and that the second assembly will be quicker/cleaner.

The Intermittent Failure Setback. The thing that is wrong becomes right just as you start to fix it. Electrical shorts often fit into this category due to things bouncing around as you ride. As soon as you stop things are okay. All you can really do it try to get things to go wrong again. These become gumption traps when they fool you into thinking you have the thing fixed.


  1. Wait a descent amount of time before assuming things are fixed (few hundred miles using the motorcycle example).


  • Actually more of a gumption trap to the owner who has to take the problem to professionals again and again than to those who struggle through the process themselves, due to knowledge they will gain. You will be more prepared to work on it when the intermittent occurs than professionals.
  • Be mentally prepared for a long fishing expedition

The Parts Setback. The price of the parts are often jacked up due to you not being a commercial mechanic. Also the part might not fit. It is always a major gumption trap to spend the money only to get home and learn that the part you just purchased will not work.


  1. Know your suppliers, know who is most helpful. Get to know them on a first name basis.
  2. Keep an eye out for price cutters.
  3. Always take the old part with you to prevent getting the wrong part.
  4. Take along machinist calipers with you to be sure you have precise measurements and can compare.
  5. If you have the time, money, and patience, learn to machine your own parts.


  • The work of machining your own parts becomes gumption building.

Examples of Hang-ups (Internal)

Value Traps – Those that block effective understanding, the largest and most dangerous group of hang-ups. Generally best to recognize value traps when you are in them and to work on getting through trap before proceeding with work on your project.

Value Rigidity – Most widespread of value traps. If your values are rigid you cannot learn new facts.


  1. Slow down deliberately to go over ground you have gone over before to verify that the things you thought were important are really important. Just stare at the machine and be interested.
  2. Chase nibbles when fishing. Go from motorcycle mechanic to motorcycle scientist.
  3. Check your ego at the door … be humble. If you have to, fake modesty.


  • Often shows up in pre-mature diagnosis. Have to clear your head of old assumptions.
    • We pre-select what we think has value meaning for our problem and ignore the rest.
    • Example of South Indian Monkey Trap, monkey values rice over life, trapped by its value rigidity. Stop yanking and stare at the coconut.

Anxiety – So sure you will do everything wrong you are often afraid to do anything at all.


  1. Work out your anxieties on paper.
  2. Read every book and magazine you can on the subject.
  3. You are chasing piece of mind.
  4. Organize things.
  5. Avoid fidgety things that can create more problems later on.


  • Results from over-motivation, can leads to all kind of errors of excessive fussiness. Jump to conclusions and chase all kinds of errors.
  • It’s okay to make mistake, take solace in the fact that you are least getting an education.

BoredomNot seeing things freshly and lost your beginners mind.Opposite of anxiety, commonly goes with ego problems.


  1. When you are bored … STOP! Go to a show, take a nap, call it a day, turn on TV.
  2. Sleep. It is easy to sleep when you are bored, and hard to be bored when you are well-rested.
  3. Keep a cup of coffee at the ready.
  4. Turn boring jobs into rituals … reacquaint yourself with the familiar.


  • If you press on through boredom you are inviting the BIG mistake.
  • If coffee and rest don’t help you might be suffering from deeper quality problems.  

Impatience – Close to boredom, caused by underestimation for amount of time a job will take.  


  1. If possible allow an indefinite amount of time for the job, especially for unfamiliar work.
  2. Value flexibility … overall goals must be scaled down in importance, and immediate goals must be scaled up.


  • Cleaning up shop is a good example of a scaled down goal. Helps you scale down impatience by helping you find what you are looking for.  

Truth Traps – When the context of your question is too small for nature’s answers.


  1. When your answer to a test is indeterminate that means that either your tests aren’t doing what you think they are or that your understanding of the context of the question needs to be enlarged.
  2. Do not throw away Mu answers. They are every bit as vital (or more so) than yes or no answers.


  • Strong statement could be made that science grows more by its Mu (non-discrete) answers more than its yes or no answers.
  • Yes or no answers confirm or deny hypothesis. Mu is beyond the hypothesis.

Muscle Traps – Those that block psycho-motor behavior. 


  1. Buy good tools. Good second hand tools are better than inferior new ones.
  2. Bad surroundings fall into this as well. Make sure you have adequate lighting, heat, air, etc.
  3. Avoid out of position work when possible.
  4. Take the time to insure you do not damage things while working on the problem. Handle precision parts gently.
  5. Take more time.


  • Primary example is inadequate tools. Muscular insensitivity is another example (bull in china shop).

All in all Pirsig’s outline of gumption traps provide a shortcut to living life. His intention is that if we are aware of the traps that we fall into, and in some cases the underlying cause of those traps, that we can more easily address them, climb out of them, move on and grow. As we get more comfortable and familiar with that process we improve our quality and the snowball continues to roll and grow.

Notes: Watch out for gumption desperation, where you hurry up wildly in an effort to restore gumption to make up for lost time. That just creates more mistakes. Know when to take a long break from your projects.


Do want

Motorcycle Diaries

Pipes Wrapped

Pipes Wrapped

I recently spent a couple of days wrapping my pipes with a coworker who had just done the same with his bike. There were a couple of snafus but it came out looking really good. So I decided to bring her up to the cabin for the first time. It was a fun ride but I could not help but notice that she was sputtering and significantly lacking in power. I know that it is advised to re-jet the bike to lean out the air/fuel ratio (stoichiometric ratio), but had not gotten around to it. That being said she had was noticeably more hesitant than the last time I took her out for a round trip to Denver. I spoke to my friend in San Antonio and found two very good references (below) and decided to check/gap/clean the plugs, check the point gaps, and manually adjust the fuel/air mixture screws.

Carbon fouled plug from running super rich

Carbon fouled plug from running super rich

I removed the plugs and noticed that they were covered in carbon deposits, which should have been expected since I knew the altitude had me running extremely rich. I cleaned the contacts a bit with 80 grit sandpaper, and checked their gaps. All four were gaped to .8 mm or so which is within the acceptable range (.7mm – .8mm).

After removing the plugs I checked the breaker point gaps and found that the right breaker point was only gaped to .25mm or so when fully open. I cleaned the contacts on both points with my sandpaper, adjusted the right point, and moved on to the fuel/air ratio problem.

Each of the four screws were about 2.5 full turns (900 degrees) from being screwed all the way in. I backed each out 1/2 turn and reassembled the bike.

When I started her up she ran and idled much more smoothly than the day before. I have yet to take her out for a spin but I hope to take her to work sometime this week. Next up, installing clip-on bars, powder coating the rims, and re-jetting the carbs.

4 Sporks in 7 Years

I must say much has changed in my life in the last several months. I suffered through a drama-packed job situation which is still settling and I had many opportunities to learn and do new things. Below are the details of some of the more interesting events of the last few months :

  • *I have changed jobs on 2 occasions with the possibility of a third coming
  • *I achieved Security+ and Network+ certifications (to get bonuses and add resume filler, currently prepping for CISSP & CEH), and a Cloudshield Certified Developer Certification
  • *I lost my fourth spork in recent memory at work (probably stolen again)
  • *I took a Christmas vacation to Colorado with my immediate family where I learned how to … quickly … put on snow chains and of the value of owning a Subaru in snowy conditions
  • *My motorcycle has broken down to an extent
  • *I have been prepping for the whole grad school routine again
  • *I finally finished Jades Robot Costume only to have her declare that she will no longer be known as Pickle
  • *I ran Warrior Dash as Lt. Dangle, and lost the keys to the cruiser (this one must be told verbally. I could spend all day writing about it)
  • *I may have determined what the hell is wrong with my weather station
  • *And finally Laura got a job … just kidding

Jerb Drama
The biggest life changer in the last few months was without a doubt, my job situation. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the DoD contracting process, a contract and its allocated positions and financial resources are usually reassessed or bid on annually. I worked with a small company developing software for a NIDS/NIPS system deployed by the Air Force. Most of my coworkers were rather unconcerned about losing the contract since our company had it for many years and since the government was relatively happy with our products. In fact when the negotiations for the contract were being made the contracting office and people affiliated with our work requested that bidders provide a detailed and technically specific development plan consisting of several hundred pages of information … in like 15 days in an apparent attempt to ward off bidders. Despite all of this, I was still pessimistic. I just had a weird gut feeling about it all and several small signs popped up as we closed in on D-Day. On the last day of our work we still hadn’t received an answer as to our future. Only then did I begin to see a shift in the moods of many of my coworkers. We all had to pack our stuff to avoid having to be escorted back onto the premises in the event of losing our jobs. The next night we finally received an email from our interim team leader who was rather shocked himself when saying “we did not get the contract”.

So like that I went from being the happily and gainfully employed breadwinner of my family to an unemployed software engineer (yeah think Office Space again). The good news when these things happen is that the company who wins the contract typically hires several of the old employees to fill gaps in technical skills specific to the project. This was also the case this time however the winning company grossly underbid on the contract resulting in all of the former employees having to walk the fine line between taking care of themselves and taking care of friends and former coworkers. In a way it resembled the shittiest game of musical chairs ever played, where those left standing when the music stopped playing had to drastically alter the lifestyle etc. For whatever reason I happened to land in the lap of L-3 Communications which was subcontracted by the winning company to provide developers, and for what it is worth I consider myself very lucky that I did. They are a very large established company who take good care of their employees, and they provide a $5000 bonus to me if I can get somebody hired … *wink*. That being said I do miss Meritec and my old coworkers. I was wonderful working with all of them.

I have since settled in again and though I still feel rather stressed concerning my new more senior role with the project, I have learned a great deal and can honestly see myself leading a development team in the near future. The biggest setback so far with the new company is that I lost my friggin spork AGAIN! I don’t know how or why but the damned things keep disappearing from my desk drawers. I know how asinine it might seem to think that someone is walking around stealing sporks, but we have caught no less than 3 people in the act of tossing our drawers late at night for CDs/DVDs/Pens etc. I will be the first to admit that one of them was almost entirely my fault since I probably left it in the break room. The others just walked off mysteriously. I am thinking about installing an alarm and/or booby traps. A bunch of crap it is.

Professional Development
So now that I am with L-3 (which offers certification bonuses) and since I have witnessed first-hand how quickly I can be out of a job, I decided to go certification crazy. I pretty much spent all of December reading Security+ and Network+ books to prepare for examinations. I learned earlier in the year that CompTIA had decided as of 2011 their A+, Security+, and Network+ certifications would expire every 3 years or so, unless a bridge examination was paid for and passed. Since I took both of mine in December I am certified for life (with the completion of CPEs).

I decided to use a Prometric testing center to take my first test, Security+. I had been studying for about 10 days or so, and had the material down pretty damn well sans some of the specifics regarding digital cryptography methods. The nearest testing site with an available date was located by the airport. I assumed that each test site would be fairly similar and quickly purchase my voucher to take the test at 2pm.

I woke up early on the morning of the test and rifled through my note cards and practice exams. Sometime around 10am I received a call from the test proctor who asked if I was taking the test at 2:00. When I informed him that I was, he asked if I would rather take it at noon or even 1pm. I told him I did not want to move it up because I was driving to San Marcos after the test and moving it up would require me wandering around somewhere for an hour or two. He then had the nerve to inform me that he was there until I finished my test and that he wanted to get out of there by 1pm to do something. He kept pushing his case on the phone, and eventually as I became more and more pissed, I gritted my teeth and told him I will be in at 1pm.

I arrived at 1pm and he immediately quipped that he could have been home by now. Again I was left rather speechless. I figured I would just go in, knock out the test and be on my merry way. I sat down and began the 100 question test. The first 10 or so questions were alien to me. It was crazy. I had studied very hard, I knew my way around my study material and could pass any assortment of 100 questions out of their 500 or so question test bank with a 98% average. The actual test however asked oddly worded questions that were either tricky or outdated. Often times the questions concerned subject or acronyms I had never even heard of. I was about halfway through the test when my little panic alarm went off in my head. I sat there dumbfounded and embarrassed, finding it hard to swallow that I was going to fail a friggin Security+ exam when my job was to develop secure software for the friggin DoD. I actually contemplated walking out and saving Joe Gotztago his hour or so and returning home to study for a test retake. After a few minutes of starring at the screen I became a bit more rational and thought; F-it you are here, you spent 2 weeks studying this shit, if you fail you are going to crash and burn not walk out.

So on with the test. Another 10 questions down, another 2-3 marked for review. It was about this time that Joe Gotztago apparently retreated to his little Civic and began BOOMING baselines through the wall. I really couldn’t believe it. Being a Kramer I quickly deployed our famous “I can fuck with you worse than you can fuck with me” game plan and made it a point to sit there and review every friggin question to the last second of my time limit. Honestly I was done reviewing at about the 1 hour mark but I wanted to stay there, stare at the wall, stare at the camera, pick my nose, and doodle on my scratchpad. At that point I didn’t care if Joe Gotztago was missing the birth of his first born child, my ass was planted like a Chia Donkey. I pressed the submit button about 20 seconds before my time expired and prepared myself to receive a proverbial kick in the sack. To my absolute surprise I was informed that I had passed with a score of 860 or some such, with 750 out of 900 being passing. Don’t ask me how. So on the way out Joe Gotztago was pissed off and kept commenting that he wanted to be home, and that next time I should sign up for an earlier test. I just smiled and nodded and walked out the door knowing damn well I would never take a test there again, and that I would be able to look forward to a couple of study free nights.

I wish I had an awesome story for the Network+ exam. I really don’t. I studied hard again, picked a Prometric testing site in Austin, and passed it rather easily with an 880 or something (90%).

Currently I am studying for my CEH exam next month at a much more leisurely pace.

Alright so on to Halloween. I wanted to do something over the top this year but I could not figure out what. I wanted to hit one our costumes out of the park, but was afraid time constraints would lead to 3 ground outs (there Laura are you happy? … I used a baseball reference). I spent some time looking around at Electro-Luminescent lighting. You can buy it fairly cheap and sew it into jackets, etc. I thought about sewing some into my motorcycle jackets so that when I give my bike gas the sound of the engine would cause it to glow more (they sell audio sensors). I really wished I had the time to make something like this. Oh well maybe next year. While searching around for Daft Punk patterns and pictures I stumbled across a guy who created a friggin Daft Punk replica helmet. <-- I am still amazed by that. That served to remind me that I am no artist and that I should stick to simple shit. So for me I only had to visit one costume site to fall in love with the Lt. Dangle getup. I spent a couple of months growing out my wannstache. Logan’s costume was not an issue since she inherited Jades from last year. I had asked jade 8-10 weeks before Halloween what she wanted to be and for some reason or another I drew a sketch of a robot and she was sold. I had a pretty good idea how everything would look and fit together, but I could not figure out how I was going to create the flashing panel buttons on her chest. Originally I figure I would just buy stain glass tiles and wire some Christmas lights behind them, however the light would not diffuse correctly and it frankly looked horrible. I then though I would purchase an old Simon game off of Amazon or EBay and mount that sucker to her chest box. Do you have any idea how expensive those things are nowadays? Like 100 bucks! I ended up going to cheap and shitty route of just cutting rectangles out of rubber mats we bought. It took a few weekends to finish everything. It all came out rather well except for the stupid buttons … oh yeah and except for the fact that I made her eye holes too high and that the lights mounted on her shoulders prevented her from turning her head too much. Most of our neighbors were in fact impressed and requested to get pictures of her etc. I suppose the costume would have been less glamorous to them if they would have stayed on the porch long enough to realize poor Jade had to remove her robot head entirely between houses just to be able to see and move. Oh well. Simple fixes for Logan’s robot next year right?

This was the first Christmas I spent back in San Antonio where I was comfortable enough financially to take a vacation. Since I like an 80 degree Christmas about as much as I would like rooming with Glenn Beck, we decided to head up to the southwestern corner of Colorado. Of course since everyone else in the Northern Hemisphere were had to make out arrangements a few months ahead of the trip. After calling no less than 20 places we decided to stay two nights at the Elk Point Cabins on Vallecito Lake, about 30 minutes Northeast of Durango. We also had to make reservations for 2 nights in Cloudcroft, 1 night going up, and 1 driving back.

Once we knew the trip was on, we began looking around for stuff to do. I found out Santa was going to give Jade and Logan Polar Express tickets to the Silverton train, so that took care of one evening. The hostess of elk Point Cabins suggested a horse pulled sleigh ride around the mountain as another fixture in the trip. we figured we would leave the rest of our trip unplanned since we might want to split up or do something else etc.

About two weeks before Christmas I woke up early to begin studying for my Network+ exam. I glanced at my phone as I typically do early in the morning and noticed something wrong. I have a pseudo-live image of Cloudcroft (up to 30 minutes old) as my phone wallpaper. That morning when I looked I saw a huge pile of something and a bunch of chaos. I quickly went to the upstairs computer and logged on to pull up the high resolution feed and looked in amazement as I realized a large portion of the historic downtown district (3 shops) had burnt down. It was a very sad scene since it was approaching their most profitable tourist season, and since the shops were nearly 100 years old, and since we would be visiting that very place in 14 days or so.

So on to the trip. there wasn’t really any excitement until we reached Colorado (except for Laura forgetting all of the girls snow clothes for whatever reason). I had checked the Durango weather for the last week and was actually afraid we would get up there and not see any snow. There was about 4 inches or less of packed melted/refrozen ice/snow at our cabin when we got there, but as we headed down into town that quickly disappeared. We went shopping in Durango and hung around town waiting for the Polar Express ride at 6PM. Weatherbug had changed their forecast to 100% chance of snow that night and the entire area was put under a Winter Storm Warning. Naturally my mother and father were a bit nervous about this since they came up in her Chevy Malibu, and since they aren’t accustomed to dealing with snow. We all decided to buy groceries in town in case we ended up snowed in at the cabin.

That night after the polar express ride we drove to the cabin together, played a few gamed and prepared for our winter storm. The owner of the cabins randomly gave us a nice set of snow chains that had been left behind by a previous renter. We moved my father’s car up to the top of the culd-a-sac so that he would not have to drive it up a steep embankment in snow and ice. I went to sleep that night very excited. Every time I would wake up I would roll over and try to peak outside to see if the snow had started. Around 4AM I finally fell into a deep sleep.

I woke up cold at 6:30AM or so. I shuffled out to the main room to see my dad fighting with the fire place. He immediately informed me that it was snowing. It wasn’t coming down very hard though. My dad and I decided to drop my mom’s car off at the local one-stop stop about 2 miles up the road and directly across the lake from our cabin. We figured the plows would operate more regularly there and that we would have a better chance of finding help etc if we needed it. Before taking it there I had to put on those damned snow chains. Wow that was quite the adventure. The gloves on they were too bulky for me to put on the chains, however if I took them off my hands would freeze and literally not work. It probably took us an hour or so to get them on. By the time we were done the snow was coming down like angel shit. We returned back to the cabin tired and dirty. We spent the rest of the day sledding, fighting, eating, and playing games. It was one of the best days I had in years.

ForrsterFor the next 24 hours it snowed and snowed and uh … yeah snowed some more. The place looked like Michael Irvin’s coffee table. There was about 20-26 inches on the ground the next morning and I started to wonder how much the Forrester could handle. We had to head up a semi-steep hill with about an inch of ice underneath it, and my ground clearance is only 9inches or so. As we assessed the situation the snow actually stopped falling. We took advantage of the weather and quickly hopped into the car to drive to the Malibu to dig it out and bring it back to the cabin. It took several attempts to make it up the hill since the plows left a rather nasty 3 foot embankment. The depth of the snow and the ice on the hills gave me fits even with all-wheel drive. After using about half of my clutch plate I blasted through the wall of snow and onto the cud-a-sac. From there it was smooth sailing to the general store.

Thankfully the snow was very lightweight and made for some easy shoveling. We had the Malibu out in no time and were heading back to the cabin. I already mentioned that both of my parents were petrified of getting snowed in. Honestly when I woke up that morning and saw that 2 feet had fallen I was beginning to wonder too. The plows did a good job with the roads, and the snow chains and all-wheel drive did the rest. It only took us about 2-3 hours to pack both vehicles and begin our trip back home. By the time we made it down to Durango the roads were in a condition that warranted removing the snow chains. We did run into more snow showers on the way home and the road was packed with snow for a hundred miles or so. Other than that and our stop at Ruidoso, the trip home was quiet and uneventful.

All 4 of my girls don’t work now
So my two daughter are much too young to work. My wife hasn’t worked since my oldest was less than a year old (approaching 7 years now). However my motorcycle at 37 years old has always worked, that is until a ride home from work mid-December. I was approaching a stop light and as I down shifted it shut off entirely, almost as if I had hit the kill switch. Due to its age the bike often acts in peculiar ways. I had become familiar with its eccentricities through riding it frequently. THIS though was new. I know I did not stall it. Once I came to a stop I put it in neutral and hit the start button; nothing. It wouldn’t even turn over. Normally this would be a battery issue except that my head lamp was on full blast and that I had no issues starting the bike only 3 minutes or so earlier. So there I was in the dark on a bike that wouldn’t start, in a rather remote are about 11 miles from my house. I looked around to see if I could determine an obvious culprit, which I couldn’t. Since the area was flat it would not be that easy to jump it. The only option I had was kick starting the thing.

Now I had read in a book or two about the difficulty of kick starting a bike, even when it is warm. I had never tried it though. The situation I found myself in was such that I had no other options than to see if I could make it work. I sat upright pulled out the kick start pedal and went to town. Stomp – right foot rest pedal to the shin – Lift – repeat. This went on a good 25 times until to my utter delight the bike started. Of course by then my shin was bruised to hell and back but I couldn’t care less. I had kick started my bike, something other cyclist that have never ridden a bike older than 1979 or so have never experienced.

So once I got home I tinkered around with it again. I charged the battery up and tried to start it and got the same results. I suspected a short, but tracing the starting switch the starter motor, I found none. I originally suspected the starter motor, but that wouldn’t explain why it just randomly shut down in the first place. In fact, I still don’t have an explanation for that. I did order a battery from O Reilly which I will pick up on Tuesday. I am keeping my fingers crossed that one of the cells was bad in the old one. With luck she’ll be working again soon.

Belated Gallery Update
Below are the galleries I recently updated, including our Christmas adventures.

Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->Road Shots
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->New Mexico
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->New Mexico->Cloudcroft/Ruidoso
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->New Mexico->Carlsbad Caverns
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->Colorado
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->Colorado->Polar Express
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->Colorado->Durango
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->Colorado->Vallecito Cabin

Holidays->Christmas 2010
Holidays->Halloween 2010

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