Friday, August 27, 2010

I Can Explain...

As usual, my schedule is crazy. The day job has settled into what can be best described as a frenzied comfortable-ness that I can mostly deal with. Derby is just freakin' insane with upcoming games and scrimmages galore. And apparently it all caught up with me while I was waiting for practice to start on Wednesday when a sudden wave of exhaustion took over and I had to take a power nap:

I can't believe I look angry even when I sleep!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Moar Adventures in Motorcycle Ownership

In short: I have both motorcycles home and running. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The long version meanders below:

Sportster wrap-up: on Thursday I get a call from the local dealer where I had dropped off the Sportster last weekend. They say the bike is ready and running wonderfully. Great! I tell them I shall come pick it up Friday morning. No problem! they say.

Friday morning I get dropped off to retrieve the bike. I'm greeted by the service manager by name. As he's printing up my receipt to take in to the dealer to pay, he says, Do you happen to draw cartoons?  Whoa. Uh, yeah...I reply with a combination of suspicion and nervousness. He sees my expression and happily explains,

When you brought in your bike, I thought you looked like an actress. And while the mechanic and I were working on your bike, we talked about that and the mechanic saw your personalized plate on the bike and so we thought we'd Google you to see if you actually were an actress.


I laughed heartily at that, and told him how I worked on Scooby Doo for seven years, blah blah blah. We laugh and I go in to pay for the Lazarus they managed to pull on the bike. I come back out, wait a few minutes, and hear a mighty roar. The service manager rides the Sportster out, and it. Was. BEAUTIFUL.

So the local dealer is now OK in my book, as the bike ran great when I took it to work on Friday.

Softail wrap-up: Fred and I play email tag about me picking up the bike yesterday. Friday night we proceeded to phone tag. On one message he starts up my bike and says, Do you hear that? Your bike is saying, "Come get me, baby!" On another message he threatens to sing if I miss his call again. Obviously, everything went well in putting the bike back together with its upgraded cam chain tensioners.

Yesterday morning I run errands, dig around for a black Better Red Than Dead t-shirt, and make a thank you card for Fred. Of course I didn't think to scan in the finished design, but you can get a clue-by-four of what I did below:

With helmet, shirt, and card in tow, we make our way to Orange County for bike retrieval.  We hang out with Fred and his wife Cindy for a few hours, and he shows me that the stock cam chain tensioners that the Other Dealer SWORE were shot to hell were barely scuffed at 25k miles. I really didn't need to switch out the tensioners, but the Dear Husband insisted that he get a little peace of mind by mildly upgrading the cam tensioner system where they don't have to be checked for about 50k miles. In other words, the Other Dealer was totally wrong about what was wrong with my bike. I'm not going back there again anytime soon. Fred says, If anything ever goes wrong with your bike again, DON'T TAKE IT TO A DEALER. Bring it here. I know it's kind of a pain in the ass, but I'm not gonna fuck you over on it. ISN'T THAT AWESOME.

So I gave Fred the shirt and card(I think he was more delighted over the shirt!), and we take him and Cindy out to lunch at a local Italian joint that had ridiculously delicious pastrami and calzones with the best meat sauce I've ever had.

After that, I rode the bike back to the Westside...and took a weird detour. Usually, I take the 105 to the 405 freeway to get back home from Fred and Cindy's house, but I spaced and took the 110 freeway instead of the 405. So I ended up lanesplitting to downtown before finding my way to the 10 freeway headed west. Silly me!

I'm tickled to death that the bikes are back up and running. I'm also damned lucky to have good friends!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How Would You Feel?

Today I got another bite from the past.

I learned that a classmate died back in Woodland. His body was found in a storage unit, sitting in a car with a laptop computer in his lap. No obvious signs of foul play. He was 43 years old.

He was an interesting case in my life in that during jr. high, he was a tormentor of mine. Not as bad a bully as a couple others that I made the mistake of catching their attention in the hallways of hell known as middle school, but he was definitely a dark little cloud on my horizon on a semi-regular basis.

That changed in high school. How? Welllll, as I've mentioned before, I found my own little freak flag by hanging out with the punk kids. He found his tribe with the heavy metal kids and was in a few bands. One of those bands would hire my dad to fix their sound equipment when it went on the fritz...which turned out to be quite often. I don't know how they initially got in contact with my dad, but I clearly remember the first time I found out that my dad did repair work for him and his friends when they came by to talk to my dad about something-or-other-that-was-related-to-whatever-job-he-did-for-them and I answered the door when they came by my HOUSE. Have you ever had a tormentor show up on your doorstep before?! It's...SURREAL and a bit FRIGHTENING to say the least.

But he stopped tormenting me after that. I assume it's because he didn't want to rock the boat when it came to having my dad fix his band's equipment. The kicker is I never said a thing to my parents about him. I didn't want to be weak. To be needing help, or to rock the boat. I assumed that being bullied was part of my lot in life at that time.

And, really? If he stopped bullying me, what would have been the point to bring it up to my parents?

So everyone dad got work, the guy who used to harangue me stopped, and best of all, I was left alone. Win/win.

I'd see him occasionally at parties or concerts through high school, and he was polite to me. I never saw him after I left for Los Angeles.

I'd like to think that he stopped being mean to me for more than what I could've done to wreck his easy access to getting his band equipment fixed for cheap. That he matured to the point where he realized that I just wasn't worth the effort. And so I shall say that I hope David is in a good place now. Take care, hope you're all right now.

This photo doesn't have anything to do with anything...I just thought it was interesting.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Adventures in Motorcycle Ownership

A week ago last Tuesday(or...almost two weeks ago)my 2000 HD FXST Softail motorcycle got sick. After taking it to the HD dealer closest to me at the time, I waited for them to get to tearing into the bike to see what was wrong with it. Initially they said exhaust leak, shot cam chain tensioners, and probably Other Stuff.

Now, I bought the bike at that dealer, but I hadn't taken either of my motorcycles to that particular dealer in about five years due to them kinda screwing up my other bike, a 1998 HD Sportster XLH. I had taken it in for a routine checkup, and came out with a bent rear axle and other little mistakes. Some added irony: I remember one of the service guys remarking at the comparitively high mileage the bike had. Most people who buy Sportsters aren't actually wanting a Sportster; they want a bigger bike but didn't get one because of money or they see the Sportster as an "intro Harley". Which is crap, but whatever. So they generally sell off such a bike before reaching 15-20,000 miles. I think I have around 40,000 miles on my Sportster. Which is apparently a Big Deal to the average city HD rider. FML. As a result, I didn't feel safe on the bike, and let it sit in the garage, always intending to get these little things fixed, but didn't. The poor thing became my personal Entropy Project for years.

SO, back to the Softail. While it sat at the dealer, I emailed a smart friend of mine who happens to know a lot about motorcycles and happens to drink a lot of beer(it kills the slow brain cells), Fred. I told him the symptoms of the bike, and asked him if it was possible that the dealer was right about what's wrong with it. He said yes, and also offered to look at the bike himself if needed. I said I'd give the dealer a shot first, but would let Fred know if I changed my mind.

On Friday, I call the dealer and ask about my bike. They still hadn't gotten to it, but were planning to get to it that day. Riiiiiiiiiiiiight. I told them to not do anything, I'll pick the bike up Saturday morning. They apologize but agree. Fine. I tell the Dear Husband what's going on, he says he'll go to the local Uhaul to reserve a pickup truck for the bike. I email Fred asking if his offer to look at the bike is still open. I then get a call back from the dealer about an hour after the previous call to say that they "pulled strings" to get the bike looked at right away. Riiiiiiight. The preliminary work they did still says bad cam chain tensioners, bad lifters, and they'd have to drain the oil to see if pieces of the cam chain tensioners got sucked into the engine. JEEEZ.

I had made all these calls while sitting in my cubicle at work. When the dealer started to say that they could start work on my bike, I apparently got quite loud when I told them politely but firmly that they can stop looking at the bike because I WILL BE PICKING IT UP IN THE MORNING. I also mentioned that I can't drive my car for much longer because I was going insane. The reason I know I was getting loud was because after these calls happened, I had three or four coworkers stroll by over the course of the afternoon saying, So, you're going to go pick up your bike tomorrow, eh? Is it fixed? D'OH!!!!! Next time I'll go outside to be an asshole.

I hadn't heard back from Fred for the rest of the day, but I figured that even if he wasn't available, I'd take the Softail to the dealer closest to me, who I'm not particularly fond of either sometimes, but they're the only other dealer that's reasonably close by, and they had done a good job on the previous routine checkup of the Softail, which was done right before I started on the current job. Saturday morning I decide to call Fred to see if he was around. He wasn't. He was down at Sea World in San Diego. Ca-RAP. I tell him what happened with the dealer, and he muses for a few minutes and says, Drop the bike off at my place and I can get to it when I get home from San Diego Sunday afternoon. I'll tell the housesitter to expect you and I can have my neighbor leave a ramp to get the bike out of the truck. Awesome! The DH and start the Great Wanderings on a Saturday Afternoon.

We gather the pickup from Uhaul. We drive to the dealer where the Softail sits. They're expecting us. One of the service guys(who wasn't the one I'd been talking to when I brought the Softail in) comes up and apologizes. Profusely. And he keeps saying the same thing, which was meant as a compliment, but I was a little unnerved by it. He kept saying, I know who you are. I know your bike. I know you used to come in here all the time. But it was the I know who you are which stuck with me. I think his apology was actually sincere as he explained that last-minute riders headed for Sturgis clogged up the service area, as well as losing a key mechanic who has proved to not be easily replaced has tripped them up too. I get it, but the bike sat for almost TWO WEEKS. Whatever, they were actually very helpful in getting the bike into the pickup and getting us on our way.

We get to Fred's house. With the help of his neighbor we get the garage open, the bike off the pickup and into the garage without a hitch. As we're heading back to home, the DH says, Since we don't have to return the pickup until tomorrow morning, what about getting the Sportster in to the local dealer to see if it can be resurrected?  Ooh, good idea!

I call the local dealer to see if they'll take on the job(some HD dealers won't work on bikes over ten years old. Yeah, I know). They can, and they will. But they don't have a bike ramp we can borrow to get the bike onto the truck. Hmmm. So we arrange to drop me off at home to clean the thick layer of dust off the Sportster while the DH goes to buy a ramp to get the Sportster on to the pickup.

An hour later we have a ramp and a reasonably-cleaned-up-Sportster to transport. We get the bike in the pickup without incident and go to the local dealer. The bike gets dropped off and we return the pickup before 5pm that day. BOOM. Done.

Yesterday afternoon I get a call from Fred asking me what the symptoms on the Softail I heard. We go over it, and he muses about the cam chain tensioners and says he'll call me back when he opens the bike up, probably the next day. Instead, I get a call about two hours later. Fred excitedly tells me that it's NOT the cam chain tensioners, but a locknut that had eased off one of the pushrods. The nut fell down and lodged itself onto a small shelf inside the cam chest. The pushrod then pushed itself short and that's what caused the ticking I had heard as well as the lack of acceleration. The pushrod can be easily fixed. The lifters were untouched. The cams are fine. The tensioners had about 25% wear after over 20,000 miles(most folk recommend to switch out the tensioners at 15,000 miles, so I got good performance from these tensioners).

If I had left the bike at the shady dealer, heaven knows what they would've done to the bike. Or if they would've been honest about the cam chain tensioners. Or if they would've found the real problem with the missing nut off the pushrod. So for now, it seems that I'm going to be spending way less to get the Softail back on the road than I had feared. It's going to cost a pretty penny to get the Sportster back up and running, but it'll be worth it. I'm pretty excited to have both bikes back up and running again.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What a difference a day makes...

After much futzing, it looks like we have ourselves a flier:


Not quite there...

Here's the latest on SuperLace:

This is tweak #2. The first one is just...weird, mainly in composition.

Obviously, the writing on the side of the building needs desperate fixing. I've been playing with the "shear" function in Illustrator(results NOT seen here), but I haven't gotten the right amount of shear in the right direction...yet. It doesn't help that the font I chose for the Derby Dolls/team names/date is sheared in the wrong direction that I need it to shear to. DAMMIT.

Ah well, I'll figure it out eventually...well, before next Monday, at any rate...

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Just starting...

What happens when you take one completely kickass photo that Stalkerazzi took at Battle on the Bank this year:

And give me a deadline and an idea for derby artwork?

You get this preliminary result:

More to follow as soon as I get more than a 3 hour stretch of free time(which has been pretty much IMPOSSIBLE these days).

Oh, and my motorcycle is sick. Very sick.

I was riding in to work on Tuesday when I noticed that the bike's exhaust started getting louder and more choppy, as if it were imitating a very low-flying helicopter. Hmmmmmm. Since I was lanesplitting down the freeway at a not-too-crazy-fast speed, I also picked up the distinct sounds of ticking coming from the engine. Uh-oh. And then I noticed that when I tried to accelerate, the bike was sluggish in responding. OH CRAP.

I had to make a quick decision whether to limp the bike to work in Borebank, or limp the bike to the Glendale HD shop. I chose limping to Glendale.

After a terrifying ride to Glendale, I was quickly informed that just by hearing my bike come into the service yard, the service tech determined I had an exhaust leak. Okay, I can deal with that. We let the bike cool down to see if the studs holding the exhaust pipes to the engine could be tightened up. They couldn't, because they were rusted over. The service dude hinted that I might need a whole new exhaust(which I'm not going to do. I'm digging up the stock exhaust pipes for my bike and will have them reinstall those if they insist that I need new pipes). Then I tell him about the engine ticking sound, and he listens and says that it may be the cam chain tensioners. That would explain the loss of accelerating power, too.

The cam chain tensioners have been replaced before, but apparently they need to be replaced periodically unless one switches to a gear-driven cam system. Which if the cam chains are the problem, I'm going to do.

The lame part of all this is that it's now Sunday and the dealer hasn't had the chance to even inspect the bike for reals. LAME. So I've been having to drive more and borrow the Dear Husband's unused motorcycle for work purposes.

The cool part of all this was that when I texted the show producer that I was going to be late because of the bike woes, she arranged to have someone from work come pick me up so that I wouldn't have to take a taxi from Glendale to Borebank. How many studios would do that?! I was able to catch a ride home from a former Scooby colleague who happens to work in Borebank and lives on the Westside, so I totally lucked out on transportation that day.

So life continues to be very, very interesting these days. I would totally dig it if I was able to get a full night of sleep one of these eons. So far, no luck on that front.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Rollercon '10

It was the best of conventions, it was the worst of's ROLLERCON.

Highlights and stuff in no particular order:

  • Flying Southwest Airlines from LAX to Vegas on a delayed flight on a Friday night is almost fun when the flight attendants decide to pass out peanut packets by dumping the entire bag onto the aisle floor on takeoff and shoving the peanuts down the aisle. You should've seen how they served the drinks.

  • Not having to stay in a dumpy room at this year's convention hotel, theTropicana. Apparently they screwed up our room reservation, and instead of the usual dumptastic Rollercon room, we scored a pad in their recently remodeled Paradise Tower, and that was a fantastic place to leave our derby shirts while we wandered around.

  • Next year the convention hotel needs to be Hooters, which happens to be right next door to the Tropicana. The rooms are a more uniform scuzz than Tropicana, but they have a 24-hour pool and bar. That turned out to be the default hangout spot for skaters. 

  • Finding out one's daiquiri tolerance. Just because you're in the heat and you think you're sweating out the alcohol you're busily consuming from a huge plastic football filled with the stuff that you purchased on Fremont St. doesn't mean you can get away with it for long. Drinking two daiquiri footballs creates more folly. Trying for three is attempted suicide. Thank goodness I didn't have to figure this one out firsthand, but I heard the stories.

  • The drink line at the Black & Blue Ball was horrendously long. Luckily I didn't have to stand in it because I got loaded on a melted football daiquiri, grabbed my Sharpies, and made my way down poolside to the Ball and started drawing on everybody in sight in exchange for drinks. I needed a drink caddy that night. And a new liver.

  • Being greeted at the Black & Blue Ball by many skaters from many leagues as if I was Kind Of A Big Deal.

  • Volunteering. Apparently when one receives a last-minute email about volunteering for Rollercon, one shouldn't assume that because they're going to be volunteering all day that they're actually be on the Volunteer Check-In List. That was fun to work out. Wait, NO, it wasn't. It fucking sucked, and I'm still a little pissy about it.

  • BUUUUT, my volunteering was in the form of announcing ALL DAY. I started with a hoped-to-be-webcast game of Team Awesome vs. Team SeXY. Awesome=women skaters. SeXY=men skaters. I met and worked with Jet City announcer Bulldog, who is fantastic at play-by-play, so I let him do most of the work. After the Awesome/SeXY game, we made our way to the Fremont St. Challenges where we announced three silly challenges: Team Derby Name that one named after an Animal vs. Team Derby Name that one named after a Celebrity. Team Bimbo(mostly white and blond skaters) vs. Team NAACP(Nat'l Association for the Advancement of Colored Pivots...some were black, some were NOT), and Team 420 vs. Team Wasted. I thought my performance was severely underwhelming due to the heat and tragic lack of sleep. Luckily I made up for it by going back indoors to announce one last referee skating challenge between Team Banked Robbers vs. Team Flat and Furious. I got to work with the amazing Bob Noxious, and since this wasn't a public game, we had more leeway to be funny and free-flowing. When people could hear us through the shitty sound system at the Sports Center, we were apparently good. I also got great announcing tips from Chip Queso, who has been announcing for TXRG for the past seven years, as well as TXRD's WundaMike. I'm stoked.

  • The Rollercon Volunteer shirt is awesome.

  • Wicked Skatewear rocked the world. First, they offered to sell the shit-ton of Notorious that I brought with me. Then they had a Party Palace set up in their room at Hooters with not one, but two slushie machines full of margaritas. If that wasn't enough, they had bottles of wine and beer for guzzling at a moment's notice. Founder B-Train is scary smart and savvy...she's gonna take over the world.

  • Australian skaters. They were out in full force this year. They put together a Team Australia vs. Team USA challenge where they named their team Mortal Wombats. They now need to make shirts to sell to other skaters due to the popularity of that theme. They had a mascot in the form of a wombat hat. Yes, a wombat hat. They were making everyone wear it poolside at Hooters Saturday night. And yes, I got a turn when I ended up drawing on a few of them. And there's video. I hope it surfaces soon!

  • Nobody wore pants, except for the Dear Husband. 

  • While Rollercon was going on, there was a national annual meeting of the Buffalo Soldiers that was going on at the same time. Mix roller derby skaters with black motorcyclists and you have a big fuckin' party. I was told it's a shame that I'm married and that I have nice legs. I'm sure the second part of that previous sentence was uttered to just about every skater in Vegas this weekend.

  • We didn't get to the Hash House-a-Go-Go. We settled for inferior eggs and toast at Hooters instead.

  • No all-nighters, though we didn't get more than a couple of hours of sleep each night.

  • Derby Dolls were representin' big this year. 

  • Hanging out with the Enforcers is a guaranteed good time.

  • Not skating at Rollercon sucks, but the classes were crazy-crowded, and I think I would've been very unhappy with the crowded skating conditions if I had brought my skates. On the other hand, not skating in the challenge games this year was a major bummer.

  • So, SO glad we didn't drive. It's always a nightmare driving home, and I'd rather spend a little bit more money by flying to and from Vegas to avoid traffic, wear and tear on the car, and not getting into pissy fights with the DH so that we can get home when we want to. The only downside is that it puts a severe limit on how much crap I can buy. Wait, maybe that's a good thing.

As usual, Rollercon is what you make it. Some people complain about how it's a big party. Well, DUH. It is. But it's also a great place to get a kick in the butt by watching skaters from all over the world do their thing. Or to get new training tips. Or to get ideas on how to start a derby-related business. Or to promote your own derby-related business. Work it out, and you'll have the time of your life...