Sunday, January 31, 2010


I just re-read my last post. (Hell, If no one else is going to comment on what I write, I might as well.). (thanks Dragon)  I've decided to to try and promote my blog a little. After all, my original blog, Rich's Rants, has been around since 2001, with postings evenly distributed *over that whole time (but not a lot)..  That's got to make me one of blogging's original bandwagoneers. I don't claim to be an innovator, not yet at least. But I've got some history, and a decade in Internet years is like 50 dog years.  I figure might have all sorts of  blespect coming my way. Or maybe not. I guess that's fine too ,it's just not as appealing an option.

 Anyway, the purpose of this blog, other than someplace for me to write what I'm thinking, is to generate some scratch. You know, moolah!  I hope somebody besides me, finds my life interesting..  So, please don't forget to check out the cool and awesome products being advertised here.  The eggheads at Google 'know' what you are into.  I say give your Franklins to advertisers seen here, instead of your head shrink. Why? Because those eggheads (and their cousins over at TIVO) know what you 'really' want.  Probably better than you do yourself, and definitely better than that night school, head shrinker your health insurance company is willing to pay for.   So, please try to un-train your eyes from ignoring the ads on this here blog,.  I've got them set for text only now, so they shouldn't be to imposing.  I don't know how to teach you to do that, I can barely do it myself, so I can't really expect you to, can I, but try, OK? You have my permission to never read this again if this blog ever has gaudy or irritating ads on it.   I'm not saying to buy crappy products or anything you don't need.  Ever!  But try and give the google gods their due repsect. (is it scary that my spell check calls out google, for not being capitalized, and TIVO isn't even in the dictionary?  Hmmmm....), and keep an open mind.  Hopefully, if my audience is as cool as I think they should be, the advertisements on here should all be for good stuff, that you probably want to check out.  (I guess I'll have to intentionally misspell the names of things I don't like).  The only ad I've noticed myself, so far, was an add for winter tires. Probably because I talked about the Blizzaks on my car, which happens to be a BMW One series. See what I mean. Make comments, I'm sure they get higher weighting (If not, Call me Google, I can join your think tank. Can your algorithms identify, by context, if the comment is pro product, or con product). See that. I just linked to Google themself (kind of like speaking the name of the....).  Maybe They'll spend some of their ad money here. Why not, I'll spend Google's money as well as I do anyone else's.  (there's another idea google. Beat apple in coming  out with your own currency.  This post is timestamped so I want roalties on each Gdollar transferred, in payment for the idea.)  And remember, I love free stuff...  Oh ya, don't forget to  link to my site, I guess that helps a lot too, plus more people get to read.

By the way I had to agree not ask or encourage you to click on any of the ads here for the purpose of making me money. I don't want it like that, and I don't  want anyone doing that. (but thanks). Clicking on anything is up to you, but I'm not going to pretend to ignore it either. I'm not going to put in links myself to anything I'm not FOR, for now.  Apparently this is how people make money today, shy not me. I've got stories.

If I'm breaking any Grules I hope (ahem) that the powers that be will contact me, to inform me of my err.

P.S. I have never completed a college course, so don't rag on my bad grammar.  Helpful suggestions or benevolent advice is fine. Even constructive criticism.   No mean spirited stuff though. OK?


No, this post is not about Ethernet cabling and the merits of using the T568A or B standards for RJ-45 connectors. Thank God!  It's about connecting with people, hopefully with mutually beneficial results.

One thing that I've kind of discovered for myself, is that people are willing to help someone as long as they can be confident the person they are helping is worthy of it. That they will not be somehow encumbered. And that there may be some benefit to themselves.  I think that's why the bums with the good stories, do pretty well (for bums).  People see that they have some talent and are using what they got. It makes sense.  Nobody likes a leech.  People have built up defenses to keep from getting bilked., scammed, or screwed.  The easiest way to keep people from taking advantage, is to charge them. This works, and many people make their living off of it (it's called the service industry). Unfortunately it excludes the folk, like me, who prefer not to pay (money) for stuff.  We say things like: "The best things in life are free." in order to justify our cheapness.  I get a kick out of getting value for free. Or if not really "free" then at least for no monetary investment.  It's so true that "money is not everything", at least, after a point.  You should see me at trade shows, or conventions, county fairs, or anywhere there are people who want to give out free stuff.  I love going to Madison's annual Dairy Expo.  You would not believe the amount of freebies those sperm wranglers give out, not to mention all the free cheese!!

What does this have to do with my going to see the shuttle launch? Well, not much I guess.  I just sent an email to Ozzie (Robert Osband). This guy has created a great FAQ. The Space Launch Viewing FAQ
(and more I'm sure) about viewing a shuttle launch. It's been such a good resource to me, that I plan on copying the text of it into a note in my iPhone, so I'll have all that rich and chocolaty information on hand, even if I loose all connectivity.

Every time, over the last several years, when the idea of going down to experience a launch would pop back into my head, the way things in my head do, his FAQ would always be on the top of the Google results.  I was reading through his FAQ again this morning and realized that a great deal of the information in my head, is there because he felt fit to write it down and share it with anyone who looks. Thanks Ozzie!  Anyway, I figured, who better to give me some advice on how to manage my trip down his way, than the guy who write the FAQ.   I'm nervous about the fact that I haven't made (and do not plan to) any hotel reservations for this trip.  I think that it will help me to keep it spontaneous. I really love the idea that for over a entire week, the only place that I HAVE to be, is the press area,  near the Vehicle Assembly Building   at the Kennedy Space Center at 4:39 A.M. on Superbowl Sunday 2010.  Other than that, my plans are wide open. (except meeting up with my Navy buddy in Louisville, possibly visiting a club brother in Florida somewhere, seeing the D-Day museum in New Orleans (not the one I've already been to, and have a t-shirt from, in Virginia), driving the Tail of the Dragon, and maybe making it back by Thursday so I can see some burlesque friends perform.)  So remember, not everybody that is looking to get something for nothing, really has nothing to offer, it's just not always the green. 

P.S. not that anyone reads this, but if you do, and have a bed,  near the Kennedy Space Center, that is unoccupied, and wouldn't mind a biker looking, space geek, journalist in a hot BMW on a long road trip, to occupy it for a night or two, let me know.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Vehicle prep

I leave next week. I'm very excited. I like telling people about it and seeing them get excited too. Especially eople who could care less about the manned space program.  At my motorcycle club (MC) meeting last night, I told the club what I was doing.  Other than a bunch of 'gay' jokes because of a poorly worded description of something, this group of rough and tumble bikers were a little bit captivated, and curious too.  Mostly I think they were happy for a brother to be doing something he really wants to do. Of course, the ribbing was good of the good natured sort, not mean spirited.  These men are my brothers, my family. I do love finding other people who can admit to being a bit of a space geek, like me. I found a few in my club, cool!

I'm under prepared for this trip, I know that. It's an aspect of this trip that I'm enjoying (and dreading). The spontaneity of it is what makes it fun.  I like the fact that I leave in just a few days, and I still don't even know for sure what states I'll be driving through.  I like keeping the plot simple:  Me and my car are in Madison.  The space shuttle is going (kow) to launch very early in the morning on Superbowl Sunday.  All I need to do, is to negate that difference. The shuttle is not coming to Madison, so the only option is for me to go there. Other than that, I just have rough ideas, that's what's making it fun. We'll see how it goes, I guess.

I'm finding that going on a 3000 mile road trip in the middle of winter, having never done it before, requires some vehicle prep.  The newest member of my vehicle stable (in addition to my Giant bicycle, and My highly modified Harley Davidson  2005 FLSTSCI motorcycle) is a 2008 BMW 135i.  I'm almost ashamed of how much I love that car. I never thought I would find a car that gives me the same feeling I get from riding a motorcycle. This one is as close as possible, and it's very close.   I'm not so fond of the class stigma those kidney grills put onto me, from both directions. I kind of wish it wasn't as recognizable as a; fancy, la-tee-da, yuppie, rich people kind of car. That's not why I got it, but if that comes with it, oh well. Oh ya, it's a convertible too!  It just seems like the next natural step, after my last German car.  My last car was a Volkswagen Jetta (turbo 1.8).  I really liked that car. It was the car I bought after spending significant time working overseas, where all I drove were small cars.  Back then, I found myself back in Bakersfield California, (where I lived for 7 years) driving around in my giant Dodge Ram that I had leased . Back when I leased it (huge mistake), I actually needed a truck for transporting the occasional jet engine tooling, or parts,  but when my job role switched from field service to installation and start-up, I had no need for it.  I stuck out the lease and then, upon advice from a very smart guy, downsized to the Jetta.  The little car with the zip, thanks to it's turbo, was great, I miss it.  Even my sister in law liked driving it.  She got to drive it because  my brother let me store the car with them, in Chicago, after I sold my house in California, but hadn't gotten a new home yet, because I was working in Europe, and living out of hotels there.  It was useful and sporty. Fun to drive, and dependable. With the exception of the clutch once getting damaged, because I drove through a giant puddle and immediately parked it, it never gave me a single problem.  I've got nothing against big vehicles because of their environmental impact. I don't know why some people think that.  In fact I feel a little bit of pity for those nuts who demonize SUVs and big trucks.  They're obviously people in search of an 'enemy', not my kind of people, that's for sure.   Anyway, I needed to get my BMW prepped for the road trip. This being a modern car, oil changes are not done on a standard schedule, the on board computer monitors the stuff and tells you when to bring the car in for service.  According to my car, it's not yet ready for an oil change (it'll be it's first one).  This, possibly the most important, issue has been neglected by me so far. I sent one message to my local dealership asking about getting the oil change done a little early (on their dime, as the car came with no cost maintenance for 4 years), but it went mostly unanswered.  For some reason I'm hesitant to ask them.  They are great, but I still have that strange feeling of not belonging to the elite BMW family around that place, and I think that's a good thing. What was it W.C. Fields said....? Oh well, I guess I'll just have to settle for people thinking of me as the biker with the hot BMW.  I get it from both sides. Not that it's true, but sometimes I get the feeling that my biker, and even work, friends think I'm 'putting on airs' because of the car, and that the folks at BMW think I don't quite fit into their demographics. It's true, I don't fit into boxes very well. I'm me, and I'm unique!   I don't much care though, because I love that car!  I do care what other people think, people that say they don't are liars or sociopaths. But I only care to a point.  Now that I wrote this I think I'll go to the dealership this weekend (If I can make time), and see what I can get done.  After all the car still has the same oil some German in Leipzig, Germany put into it in June of 2008, when it was built there.  That was well over ten thousand miles ago.  I don't think it's unreasonable to want it changed before a 3000+ mile road trip. Right? But I guess changing it isn't really the issue, money is the other. I could pay to have it changed, many people do, but I don't want to.  I want to get them to do the FREE service early. That might take some talking. I'll keep you updated

Anyway, the oil change is the last of my vehicle prep. Another hurdle I had to overcome was the wheels and tires.  The original tires are long gone. I chewed them up in WAY too few miles. I couldn't help it. I did a couple autocrosses and generally drove the car hard. I was not gentle with the factory runflats. I knew that those tires would not be going back onto the car next spring. In fact, back around Thanksgiving '09, the day before I dropped the car off at Terry's car care to have my new winter tires (Blizzak LM-25s from the installed,  I went out into the UW's (the University of Wisconsin, where the power plant I work at is located)  lot 60 and demolished the little remaining tread by doing some very childish, yet amazingly fun stuff (burnouts, donuts, drifting, etc...).  They put my new winter tires onto the same wheels that came with the car.  When I bought the car I knew I would need two sets of tires. A summer set, and a winter set. So, I bought a second set of wheels along with the car.  As of yesterday those wheels are now mounted with my new summer tires (Yokohama S drive) and  waiting at Terry's for me to have them swapped out, just before I leave. In order to accomplish that I had to move my schedule for buying new summer tires up by a few months. I wasn't going to get them until spring.  The only possible hold up was that when I dropped off the boxes with my new wheels, at Terry's, I decided I wanted to take a look at them and opened a box. Uh oh! the wheels in the box were not the ones I ordered. I ordered the type 182s in black. The wheels in the box were type 216s in silver (I found out later thanks to In the end, after much thought. I decided I liked the ones they gave me, better than the ones I ordered. Fate, I guess. Whew.... ok, nuff said about tires and wheels, other than I hope switching to summer tires for this road trip doesn't end up being a mistake.  I'd hate to slide off a road or something just because I wanted to save my precious winter tread.

As far as other prep to the car, it mostly involved getting my electronics up to date.  After getting more tickets than I care to think about in the last year, in my new hot rod, I bought a radar detector. It's the escort 9500ix. It's a good one with GPS and lots of bells and whistles. It's easy to configure using a computer. It's update-able via the Internet, and I've got it all up to date now. I also got the cable to hard wire power to it from my car, so I don't have to use the stretchy cord to the cigarette lighter.  Unfortunately, I won't have enough time to install that before I go (I think).  I also updated the maps on my GPS. It's the Garmin zumo 450. It's made for motorcycles (which I got more than  my fair share of grief for having it, as a former head Road Captain for my MC. One guy even started calling me "GPS" until I set him straight.), but other than being a bit clunky (it's made for being outside) it'll work just fine in the car.  I have some new RAM mount stuff on order that will let me stick it to my windshield and use it. I'm hoping to make some time to create a route for my drive through the Great Smokey Mountains and the Tail of the Dragon.   Like the 9500ix, I also have a power cable coming so I can hard wire it to the car, someday.  I also have some performance stuff on it's way for the car. I'm hoping (and planning for Tuesday night) to install it before I leave.  That is the Dual cone intake from  Burger Motorsports.  My car is slightly modified already. I have their JuiceBox3 (pinout version) installed in my little kroutmobile. How could I not get that thing. It gives you gobs more horsepower for just a few hundred bucks (thank God I have a good job (kow)). I had to do it, how else would have I been able to shred those tires.  Well, apparently the mod bug is taking hold in me, because now I  bought that intake. I also bought a chip burner from them. This tool allows me to keep the JB3 up to date with the most current maps and upgrades.  That already arrived, and I've already burned the chip that comes with it with the latest version (1.41beta) of Terry's (as in Terry Burger of Burger motorsports) product. All I'll have to do now, is when I'm under the hood anyway to install the DCI,  is to dig my way into the ECU, pop open the JB3, and stick in the new chip. Easy breezy lemon squeezy.  I have to say thank you to Terry, at Burger MS, he went out of his way to get send me the DCI. I got an email saying that they were currently out of stock, and that they were waiting on some to show up. I told him about my upcoming road trip, and he made an extra effort to get them sent out to me as soon as they had them. I should have the parts on Monday. Thanks Terry.   Next step in my mod journey (but not for quite a while) will be new downpipes that let the turbos breathe a little easier.  Yes I said turboS, as in plural.  My bimmer has two of em.....damn I love that car. One of the best things about it now, is that I own it outright. I just (yesterday) refinanced my mortgage and added the car into it. It's all mine. I hate debt. Now if I could just get the snobs and elitists at BMWCCA to allow open (convertible) cars to participate in their driver events, I may get a little closer to happiness. Especially since this year's Oktoberfest   is at Road America, very near me,  this August.

Alright. I guess that pretty much covers  (maybe a little too much) my vehicle preparations for this trip. My main concern is if having summer tires is the right choice. I guess we'll all find out together. Just a little quicker for me.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Go fever

OK, NASA just concluded their press conference. The launch is ON!  What launch? you say. Well the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour for mission STS-130 which will bring the Tranquility node (node 3), along with my favorite module, The Cupola, up to the International Space Station.  I waited to start this blog until NASA made the launch date official, which is exactly what they did by making that announcement.  For quite a while now, I've been anticipating and planning for my trip to 'cover' it's launch  for WORT 89.9 FM, the community radio station that I volunteer at .  My plans are starting to come together and I will be blogging all about it on this blog. Hopefully they will culminate with the,on-time, launch on Super bowl Sunday at 4:39 a.m. EST.  Followed by more posts about my return home.  This launch will be the last night time launch of a space shuttle EVER. Hooray for witnessing history!

OK, since this is my first post in this blog, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Rich, I'm a power plant worker living in Madison Wisconsin. I'm 39 years old and am a bit of a space geek. That's not all I am though. I'm lots of things, which I'm sure I'll get into eventually.  I'm not what you imagine. Not at all.  I've been wanting to see a space shuttle launch, in person,  for a long long time.  In elementary school, I remember my teacher rolling in a television set into our classroom, so that we could watch the first shuttle blast off. How cool that was.  Over the last couple of years I've tried a few times to get tickets to view the launch from the causeway (the closest point you can buy a ticket for). Unfortunately they sell out within the same day they are put up for sale and I've haven't managed to get one yet. I don't think that they are exceptionally hard to get, I just never did. Mostly my fault.

 A little over a year ago I started volunteering to engineer (operating the studio sound board) for a few hours, a couple days a week, at WORT 89.9FM.  I also joined a collective of people who produce a science themed show ( The Perpetual Notion Machine.) for broadcast there.  Throwing myself to the wolves I, with zero radio or production experience, volunteered to produce a upcoming show.  It was in preparation for that show that I had to deal with NASA. You see, I wanted to wow the people in the collective, in addition to myself, so I decided to try and get myself an interview with an astronaut. I went through their on line interview request system and a few days later I was recording a phone interview with Don Pettit, astronaut.  I was pretty giddy. I was actually having a conversation with a guy who lived (for a significant time) in space. A real spaceman!  After editing the interview down It turned into, what I felt was, a pretty nice show. The couple people that heard it, told me it was good.  Of course I have an mp3 of it for posterity.  After doing that, the idea popped into my head that I may be able to go see a shuttle launch, as a member of the media, which I guess I now was.  So I went back to NASA's web site again, this time to apply for media accreditation for STS-130.  There were some hoops to jump through to make it happen, but in the end I got em. I am now a accredited space journalist, I guess.  Thanks to some very nice people at NASA, who I guess don't get many personable emails, I have, waiting for me in the press center, my own chair (with a desk, I think), access to power, but no Internet access. That mess, will be a whole different post, but I'm hoping some bigshot news org may let me glom onto their wi-fi.  Keep your fingers crossed, or all my posts are going to be from my iPhone (which is actually pretty capable).

Now, here's the really fun part about my trip. It's not just a trip to Florida...It's a ROAD trip to Florida.  I'm taking a entire week of vacation, plus the previous Thursday and Friday, to drive my hot little car all the way from, sub-zero, cold Madison Wisconsin, down to hopefully sunny Florida.  I've even got plans to meet up with a past shipmate, and maybe even a current club brother. But that's stuff for other posts.  Wish me luck.