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On your knees. 3/29/2005

I waltzed into the bike shop on Saturday, expecting to get the Silver Lady fixed. And W. laughed at me, because this is race weekend. First race of the year. And I’m missing it, mainly because I got called in to work.

So I’m sitting here on a Sunday morning, waiting for the goddamned vendor to show up. We’ve been having problems with the installation of the surgical sinks, because the hoses keep bursting. Yeah, you heard right, burst hoses on a HW/CW system. Apparently the hoses are unable to take the pressure in the water system. I measured the pressure once, a few months ago, and it was sitting at about 4 bar. High, but not intolerable. Which meant that you should at least install a 10 bar hose. But 10 bar hoses are expensive.

I cut open one of the hoses, and found that the nozzle part of the fitting, where the crimping clamps on, is unevenly extruded. The nozzle wall is thinner on one side, and thicker at the other. This is the most likely cause of failure. I looked at the hose fitting, and it’s stamped “Made in Italy”. No other markings, no pressure rating, no EC stamp. Which leads me to suspect that the hoses were probably made in some cottage backyard in China. There’s going to be hell to pay tomorrow, especially when I make a visit to the vendor who supplied the hoses.

So, yesterday, when I got the call saying that hoses were bursting all over the place, I groaned, because there was really nothing much I could to to rectify the situation on a weekend. And then later in the Saturday got a message asking if I could attend to some work on site. Which basically blows my entire weekend. I wasted the Saturday because someone was being insecure, paranoid and suspicious. And I refuse to pander to that shit anymore. The Silver Lady couldn’t get fixed because the shop was busy, and anyway, Edham, the guy who supplies me my performance bits, was racing, and not picking up his fucking phone.

So this morning, I went anyway, and blasted in to work on a clear set of roads, no traffic, no nothing. Falling into corners at 160 km/h has never been so satisfying. With my knee down.

The Massage Bed.

I got a poke in my ribs last night, asking me if there was something wrong with the bed. I mumbled something about not tonight dear, and then realised that the bed was vibrating slightly. I woke up, and saw the wardboard shaking, and there was a slight feeling of uneasiness in the air. I looked around, turned the bedside light on, realised it was a tremor. And went back to sleep.

Which didn’t last long, because my mobile rang almost immediately, with Hamu asking if I had felt anything.

I am also having the flu, which, according to the doctor I saw yesterday, is seasonal. Don’t make me feel any better though. Smiffy took one look at me this morning and said I should go home, because I look like shit. Which I would really like to do, but can’t. I have a user group coming in for testing and commissioning, and the Project Director wants an all hands meeting at 1630 hours today.

I think I’ll go find a quiet corner somewhere in the facility and lie down till my head stops spinning.

Start your engines. 3/27/2005

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I must apologise for the mistake I made in the last post about missing the start of racing season. I can only plead guilty to being under the influence of caffeine. I was rather surprised, when dropping into W.’s shop to pick up some lubricants, to be told that the first race of the season was going to be on the weekend. W. and I were discussing the chances of the various racers participating this year, when the conversation turned around to logistics. Keith had contracted W. to run his bikes for him this season, and W. was talking about the logistics of having to run 2 race machines, alone, with only a young, fresh apprentice mechanic to assist him.

I was, at this point, messing around with the lap timer on Keith’s primary race bike at W.’s request, trying to get it to function and provide a legible output, as opposed to the weird Space Invaders figures we were getting. After changing batteries, checking contacts and the such, I gave up and chucked the lap timer across W.’s workshop, and told him he didn’t have to ride only one bike to the track, since my truck had a 2.5 tonne tow ball installed at the back.

W.’s face lit up when I said this, and he asked if I would like to assist him in Keith’s team this year. I replied in the affirmative, and said he was free to use my truck, provided he paid for my expenses. He readily agreed to this, and we made arrangements to meet up bright and early Saturday morning to bring the bikes to the track for free practise and qualifying.

I turned up on Saturday, and we proceed to hitch the trailer on the back of the truck, loaded with a quarter of a million dollars worth of race machinery. It was rather weird, because I paced off the length of the truck with the attached trailer, and realised that I had effectively doubled the length of my vehicle. I drove it around to get a feel of it, and it struck me that reversing the truck was now an entirely different proposition, because when you turn the wheel in the normal direction for reversing, the trailer wants to go the other way.

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We got to the track, and set up shop in one of the pits. I helped Keith get registered, and sent the bike for scrutineering. We slapped the tyre warmers on, and waited for free practise to start. As I sat on the esky, watching the other racers and machines, it struck me that the atmosphere this year was very different from last year. Last year, we were all a bunch of gentlemen racers, playing at being SBK heroes. This year, pukka race tackle was very much in evidence, with at least 3 sponsored teams coming to the fore, with specially prepped machines, and mechanics in matching colours, tool boxes the size of church organs displaying rows of gleaming chrome tools.

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The stakes this year have been upped tremendously, with the race now becoming a four way fight at the top, Keith being one of the contendors. Some very serious amounts of money are being spent in the pursuit of a tin cup and $3000 in prize money. No one ever said racing made financial sense, but this is bringing the game to a whole new level. And these guys were showing that they were serious when race #1 started, and a slew of banners and umbrella girls made their appearance.

Unfortunately, Keith was taken out in race #1 by Armand, due to Armand cutting inside of Keith in a corner, and wiping Keith out. I was standing at the front of the pit, round about lap 5, when W. comes running back to me saying Keith didn’t come around for lap 6. I ran out to the back of the pit, waiting for the marshal to bring Keith back, and to await the arrival of the crashed bike to assess the damage.

At this point, I shouted for Hoon, W.’s apprentice mechanic, to unload the spare bike from the trailer, and start prepping it, in case the damage to the primary bike was beyond the capabilities of a screwdriver, a pair of vise-grips and a roll of duct tape. When Hoon got the bike down, I raced like a madman to get the bike race ready, while W. looked at the damage to the race bike. I ran the spare bike over to scrutineering, and the cheif scrutineer was kind enough to speed up the entire process for me, giving the bike a perfunctionary once over, checking to see that the kill switch worked, and slapping a sticker on the tank saying the bike was scruntineered, and good to race.

At this point, Keith, after his return from his visit to the track medic, said he wanted to race to the primary bike in race #2. Which caused W. and myself to fall into a frenzy of banging and attacking the various bent bits on the race bike, and myself transferring the transponder, lap timer, bar weights and other things that were damaged in the crash. After getting the race bike back into a semblance of race readiness, I suddenly realised why I liked bikes so much. Nothing beats the adrenaline rush of racing.

Girl Friday. 3/25/2005

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The Luftwaffe flies again. 3/23/2005

A while ago, I got off my bike, and headed into a restaurant near my place for a take-away meal of claypot chicken rice. I placed my order, and walked out into the street for a smoke. As I was standing idly by, one of the customers in the restaurant walked out, and said to me,

“Ducati’s are nice bikes aren’t they?”

Which made me do a double take, because I wasn’t riding a Ducati on the day. And I then realised that he was refering to my jacket, which is a Ducati touring jacket made by Dainese. It had the name Ducati emblazoned on the back. We got to talking, and he was a nice chap, although not interested in bikes.

Yesterday, he called me, and rather strangely asked if I was interested in models. I scratched my head, and replied, yeah, I like looking at pictures of beautiful women. He then asked if I liked building them. I went, “Huh?” and it dawned on me that he was refering to scale model kits. Scale model kits was a hobby I was very into some years ago, and I have a cupboard and several large boxes filled with unbuilt kits. Various sorts, mostly in large scale, some of them limited editions or very rare, out of production kits. Others are special commemerative issues. Also a large collection of resin models, featuring work by some famous resin model artists.

He asked me to meet him in the evening, and I ambled along to the same restaurant where we first met. He produced a large plastic bag containing 4 kits. I was thrilled, because the bag contained 4 Revell Luftwaffe models. In large scale. And 1 of those kits was a plane which held some memories for me.

It was a 1:48 scale Junkers JU-52, affectionately known as “Auntie Ju” by the Luftwaffe pilots who flew her before and during the Second World War. She featured prominently in the German assualt on Crete, and was spectacularly utilised in the rescue of Mussolini by Skorzny and the Fallschirmjager. A tri-motor design, she was designed as a general purpose transport, and served that purpose admirably well. No other plane in the world can boast of having evacuated over 200,000 casualties.

I first saw the Junkers, in real life, in Frankfurt airport. I was in transit, heading out to Stavanger, and was idly cruising through the airport, when I saw a sign saying “Air Museum.” I followed the sign, and the doors of the museum opened out onto the roof of one of the airport buildings. And my jaw dropped, because standing in front of me was a collection of WW II era planes, in perfect condition. One of them was the JU-52, but there was also an ME-109, and a JU-87 Stuka, with the cannon slung under the fuselage, and pride of place for a Heinkel He-111, the bane and target of the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain.

Pictures to follow.

Butterflies. 3/21/2005

I was sitting by the pool on Sunday, kicking back and reading a book, when I noticed 2 butterflies flying around. It was beautiful, watching these two insects perform their dance in the sunlight, with reflections coming off the water. Just the kind of thing I needed after a hectic week performing testing and commissioning with the end users and other assorted idiots.

It was a shitty week overall, especially when I got a rather nasty letter from the C.O.O. saying that I had been absent from work for certain days in the month of February. Considering the fact that I was in HQ, attending meetings called by the Project Director, and on approved leave for the other days, I fail to see how I could be considered as absent from work on site. I immediately composed a nasty letter back, and then thought the better of it. I sat on it for 48 hours, and came in to work to formulate my reply after thinking about it for a bit. And then wrote an even nastier letter than the first immediate reply. I forwarded my reasons and explanations, and then demanded that my record be expunged, and a letter of apology issued to me.

I really have no idea what’s going on in HQ. If they want me to leave, it’s bloody easy. I’m on contract, and my contract terms are clear on things like termination. All they have to do is give me a letter saying I’m terminated. A pink slip, in American parlance. And I would leave, with absolutely no ill feeling on either side. Sending me what is, basically, a warning letter, without first investigating the facts, or obtaining a clarification from me, is untenable. Someone is perhaps playing some sort of game with me, and I don’t like it. Not one little bit.

Professional behaviour, at my level in the corporate jungle, is valued above all else. The slightest misstep I make, in the performance of my official duties, can have fatal consequences. And thus I am always careful not to give the bastards any kind of excuse. But being considered absent from work, when I was there actually working? Someone’s head is going to roll for this.

So I just sat by the pool, watching the dancing butterflies, and wished my life was as simple as theirs.

Inventory. 3/17/2005

The end user’s team is on site, performing an inventory check on equipment. Due to the way the procurement contract was structured, we are also responsible for providing miscellaneous equipment like nail bursh dispensers, and whiteboards.

So the end users split themselves up into five teams, and a consultant was assigned to each one. Smiffy took one team, and on his list of things to be checked, was desktop calculators. And the end user insisted on checking each one. Every single one. All 832 units.

And I just spend 3 hours in one room, doing performance checks on various items of equipment. One room. In three hours. Out of 40 in the entire department. I’m going to die.

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