Monday, May 14, 2018

Cycling for Fun and Fitness

I love cycling. I ride primarily for fun and fitness. It's the best workout plan for me, but I recommend it for everyone.

It's no secret that most people who join a neighborhood gym are gung-ho at first, but, not long afterward, working out becomes too much like work and people slowly slip into their previous routine of slothful behavior, not enough sleep, and devouring junk food. The weight they wanted to lose or the fitness level they wanted to reach becomes more distant with each day that passes.

I recommend cycling because having fun is not at all like working out.

If you love to engage in some outdoor pursuit that can keep you fit you will stay in shape the rest of your life, provided that you do it frequently. Cycling, swimming, and hiking are three examples. There are lots more.

It seems that for several years I have bought a new bike each spring and sold it very late in the year, after the riding season is over. Well, I plan to change that this year. I just bought a new bike a couple of weeks ago and I intend to swap the cheaper components that came on it with high-quality, race-worthy parts instead of what the manufacturer put on this frame.

Here it is...

This is a Fuji Sportif 2.5 (the cheapest of that model series).

I bought the Fuji 2.5 for the frame because it is the same exact frame quality as their top-of-the-line model, but, it has cheaper, heavier components. I just loved the color and none of the models produced this year had the component package I wanted anyway.

I plan to change the derailleurs, shifters, brakes, crankset, rear cassette, chain, and bottom bracket with a custom-picked set of parts of racing caliber. All I needed was the frame. Now, I will start swapping the factory-supplied parts with those I'd really love to have and build the bike I really wanted.

When I am done, this twenty-three pound bike will weigh about twenty pounds and will provide years of dependable service.

For the average rider, this bike is good enough. But I am a long-distance rider and plan to ride thousands of miles on this bike. I'll be using this bicycle as the center of my over-all fitness regimen. I want it to last the rest of my life.

By the end of this summer I hope to have made all of the parts swaps I am planning and I'll be riding this bike on the trainer over the coming winter.

I highly recommend riding a bicycle if you want to have fun and enjoy good health and fitness. Pedal on...

Monday, April 30, 2018

It's Been A Busy Month

It's been a busy month. Now that it is almost over I'll try to post more frequently.

April 15th, most years, is the income tax filing deadline. When I was single I always managed to file my tax returns early. With my wife, every year, it seems, we come down to the wire. This year was no different.

After the taxes are finally done it is time to start gearing up for the cycling season. This year, I bought a new bike from Performance Bike in Columbus, Ohio. Unlike last year, the bike is not a high-end ride, it is a basic model-- the Fuji Sportif 2.5 (2018). I picked this one specifically for the frame. 

Descriptions of the bike have a conflicting list of features. According to the information Fuji gives to retailers the product information says this: "and the new Full-Carbon Monocoque fork makes this bike even lighter than before" --although the spec list says the fork is an "alloy integrated" one.

It looks like a carbon fork. It feels like a carbon fork and Performance Bike is not the only dealer with the phrase in italics above in their product information.  Is it aluminum or is it carbon? Does it matter? Well, not really.

I bought this bike specifically to "build" one with the components that I really want on a Sportif frame. Since Fuji did not offer this bike with the Shimano 105 or Ultegra group, but, I want better quality derailleurs and shifters, cranks, and brakes, I decided to go this route. Why? Because the Sportif frame is a masterpiece. It has everything I wanted in a sport geometry with a more comfortable upright posture, and it is very high quality.

When I am finished this bike will have race-worthy components, a superb ride, and long-lasting durability. It will be the bike I've always wanted and no manufacturer would make. The only solution for me was to take matters into my own hands.

In the end, I will tell Fuji my story and see where it goes. If Fuji provides a custom-made option that mimics what I've done, then, that would be really cool. Likely, they won't. But either way, I'll be riding this bike with a big grin on my face and logging mile upon mile pedaling my way through the rolling hills of Ohio farmland.


Monday, March 26, 2018

Be Careful Out There

Be careful out there. The Internet is the wild, wild west of modern day.

I am a very careful computer user. I have been using computers since before the IBM PC ever came to market (that was 1981, in case you don't know). I can spot a computer issue or tentative threat a mile away. I worked in the industry for many years and I have also been a technical writer and editor.

Over the years, I have had two incidents where my own computer somehow got infected with a virus or some sort of malware. The first time, I could credit a good friend who brought over floppy disks with the marijuana stoned virus on them. It was a boot sector virus and I killed it as soon as it was discovered.

The second time was a recent event. I was searching the 'net for an Android image file that would enable me to root-kit a Lenovo A7600 tablet and install a previous version of that operating system on the device to rid it of a wi-fi issue that is inherent in "KitKat" incarnation of the OS. 

To make a long story short, I succeeded in root-kitting the tablet and installing "Jelly Bean" (I hate those silly CANDY NAMES). But somewhere along the line, I clicked a link that was supposed to take me to a site to download the image of the tablet's older operating system. It was click-bait mimicking a real tech site.

I had a trojan on my computer. I spotted an unknown folder on my computer and investigated. Well, how about that.

Enter Microsoft Security Essentials.

The trojan was first quarantined, then deleted, problem solved. Lucky for me I am very careful and use a secure browser for trusted sites and business. I also have multiple devices and use different systems for different work.

For me, a computer is a tool, not a toy. It is a means to an end. That is why I am always so careful.

If you can learn anything from my account, it is this:

If a long-time computer professional can get infected, so can you. There are lots of vulnerabilities in today's computers. With all of this technology and all of these connected devices, the world-wide-web has become the bastion of rebels and hackers. It is the wild-wild-west of our time.

Be careful. Avoid porn sites, music trading sites, file-swapping sites, and any site with game cheats and browser enhancements like search-bar tools. They are malware. Don't use instant messenger tools, they are a portal to your hard drive. Don't open attachments unless you know what they are and they come from a trusted source. If you have anti-virus software on your computer, right-click on the attachment and scan the file before opening it.

I hate the performance hit that you take from anti-virus software, but, Microsoft has done a great job with Security Essentials and Windows Defender. Over all, those two programs should keep your computer safe and any performance hit is marginal.

Be careful out there.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Epiphone Masterbilt DR-400 Guitar

I have played guitar for around fifty years. I've had just about every brand of guitar you could imagine. I've owned Gibson, Fender, Taylor, Ibanez, Breedlove, Martin, Epiphone Masterbilt, Epiphone, Gretsch, Parkwood, Hofner, and Yamaha guitars. I won't bother listing all of the ukulele brands I've had-- there are just too many.

Anything you do to relieve stress or anything that gives you joy and makes you smile, and is not harmful in any way, or to anyone, is a good thing.

For me, music has been one of the best ways to relax and forget about my problems. I love playing guitar and singing. I love writing songs about life and good times. I love singing harmonies and jamming with other musicians. In fact, most of my friends are musicians. Some of them are famous and some are just as talented and totally unknown.

Music is the highest form of expression.

My Epiphone Masterbilt DR-400 acoustic/electric guitar is not just an example of beautiful workmanship. It sounds fantastic! It feels great in my hands. It will just get better with age.

Everyone needs some form of relaxation. Everyone needs a way to unwind and forget about their problems. It's why we have so many great blues artists from past to present.

When life gets you down, pick yourself up with music.

Here is a picture of my Masterbilt DR-400 MCE VBS guitar.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Technology's Dark Side

Life was a lot less complicated before technology took over our lives.

Don't get me wrong, I really do love technology, but, some of the things that are supposed to simplify our lives can make things a lot harder and a lot more stressful.

I have a checking account that I use to pay all of my normal monthly bills. For a long time I resisted using any sort of debit card. I just wrote checks and had cancelled checks sent to me along with every account statement. That gave me assurance that all was well and every check payment was cleared for the proper amount. Mistakes happen and I found a few tiny errors in payment over the years where a bank teller entered the wrong numbers by "fat fingering" something. A penny here or there was not worthy of pursuit and I let it slide, but I updated my records to reflect the actual amount paid due to their error. I was meticulous about it.

Then along came electronic fund transfers and payments. After a while, banks stopped sending cancelled checks. Now, they don't even send monthly statements, I have to go online and print them myself. See, I like balancing my checkbook the old fashioned way.

My wife is a freelance copywriter and marketing consultant. She runs into timing issues on occasion. She's waiting for payment when a bill comes due. On those oddball occasions, I've stepped up to the plate and let her use my debit card from the checking account to make a payment on time. That's where the trouble with this great technology begins.

For MONTHS afterward Netflix kept deducting payment from my checking account rather than my wife's account because they now have my debit card number on file.

On February 21st, Time Warner Cable deducted $52 and change from my account to cover my wife's internet service bill because she used my debit card in January for a one-time payment since she was awaiting a payment from a client that was dragging their feet (clerical issue on billing payments).

Today, if my wife does not deposit money into MY account first thing this morning (to make up for the Time Warner deduction that I did not discovery until about thirty minutes ago) a check I wrote yesterday afternoon will bounce. 

I don't keep a lot of extra money in this account. I use it, as I said, just to pay the basic monthly expenses.

The thing that really annoys me here is the fact that all of those online payments take place without notification. I don't receive alerts on my phone. The less information that filters in and out of my devices, the more secure my bank accounts will remain. If I lost a phone that had access to bank accounts, think of the possible repercussions. No, I don't want that.

The dark side of online banking and bill payments is the fact that information is often retained and accounts are sometimes used over and over without your knowledge or approval. If you are not checking on bank account activity constantly, you could start bouncing checks and racking up some really nasty late fees and overdrawn penalties.

I don't like it. Life was a lot easier and far more secure before electronic bill payments and checks actually being sent from bank to bank for issued payments. Sure, things took longer, but, that was the reason things were more safe and secure.

In the blink of an eye, you can go from "life is good" to "OMG! What happened?"

Can I have things the way they used to be?


That's too bad. Things were so simple in the good old days.

Carry on.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Plans Are Important If...

Plans are important IF you want to get something done.

Right now I am planning to use an old analog multi-track studio recorder to record a bunch of songs I wrote long ago. I loaned the unit to my younger brother and when he returned it to me he forgot to give me the power supply, a microphone and cable, and a brick of tapes that I will need to do my project. My brother never used the equipment, by the way.

See, I plan, but, my brother pretty much lives in the moment. That's why he still has all of the other stuff and I have the recording unit itself. Sigh...

Most people are like my brother. They live in the moment. They don't plan and they don't think very far ahead-- if  at all.

When I sit down to record a song I have everything I need at my fingertips. I even have a cup of hot tea or coffee to sooth my throat when I start to record vocal tracks. If you walked into the studio space in my home you would see an acoustic guitar, a bass, a keyboard, drums, and a few other instruments lying around. I am ready to use each one in its part in the creation of the song. It all takes planning.

Life is like recording a song. You either plan your path and travel from where you are at the start to your destination or you simply meander along without any definite plans and just react to whatever events unfold. I prefer the former, not the latter.

A song needs a foundation. The drums and bass guitar (or string bass) tie everything together. The rest of the composition is built on that platform.

The rhythm guitar sets the melody. Lead guitar licks are just window dressing-- they add flash, but, they are not really necessary if the rest of the song is compelling. The vocals tell a story and help make the song dynamic. Harmonies help build drama and excitement. They are icing on the cake.

Your life is a song. All of the elements are there. With proper planning and execution, you'll have a hit. But, fail to plan and you plan to fail.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

I Am Happy

Yesterday, my wife told me that she was looking through my archive of blog posts and she was really impressed with my titles.

Mary Rose is in the marketing and copywriting business. It is her job to help people get noticed. She knows the importance of a good title in that regard.

In the old brick and mortar business world it used to be said that the secret to success was "location, location, location." While that may have been true, to some degree, the secret to long-term prosperity for any business was repeat customers.

My old blog was hosted on Netfirms. It was a Canadian company back then. I had tons of readers and subscribers. Sadly, that all came to an end when the site was hacked, thanks to a lack of security on Netfirms' part. There was a backdoor placed on every single file in WordPress. They offered to scrub the site and remove the backdoor for a fee. That sounded somewhat spurious to me, so, I removed the WordPress blog and started using Blogger and never looked back.

I don't have as many readers as I once did, but, I am still blogging and plan to continue writing books and doing what I can to help people find happiness and plan their future success.

If you are new to my blog, thanks for reading. There are links to my books on Amazon at the bottom of the page.

You'll find the archive goes back a couple of years and there are lots of articles about positive thinking and motivation, setting goals and turning your dreams into realities.