New Ride for Summer

2009 V Star 1300 Tourer

Well, I finally made a move and bought a motorcycle this spring. This is something that I’ve wanted to do for several years, and I guess it took me a while to decide on what bike I wanted.

A couple of years ago when I had started looking into which bike I would get, I found that the Yamaha FJR 1300 really stood out among the crowd of models. However, after a year or so of drooling aver the FJR, I found myself not so enthusiastic about the “sport bike” aspect, and started taking a close look at cruisers.

It didn’t happen overnight, but I have found that I really, really love the classic lines and sound of a cruiser V twin over the revy whine of a sport bike. As I looked into what was available from both domestic and metric cruisers, I liked what I saw more and more.

In the end, I fell in love with the new 2014 Indian Chief models that Polaris brought out late last summer. These new Indians brought a lot of new technology, with traditional Indian styling. Just what I really want!

2009 V Star 1300 TourerTrouble is, it just didn’t make sense to buy what ends up being a $21K for a first bike. So then I started looking at something a little more “affordable” for a first bike, a Victory Gunner, which at $13K was a lot less. Since I’ve been thinking and planning about this for quite some time, my “sensible” side kicked in. I realized that I should take some of the great advice from friends, coworkers and many folks online and go with a used bike to begin with. So that’s what I’ve done.

Not that I haven’t ridden before, it’s been about 25 years since I was in the saddle, and it was a much smaller bike. Back in my youth, I had a mini-bike, and then later, an on/off-road metric bike (we called it an “enduro” back in the late ’70s) that I road through high school and a little beyond.

So with that in mind, I felt pretty comfortable picking up a used 2009 V Star 1300 Tourer for my first bike. So far I haven’t been disappointed. My thinking on it was that I really needed a reliable bike that was easy to handle, but had a little “growing room” that I feared a smaller bike wouldn’t have. I didn’t want to buy a bike this spring and be looking for something bigger by the end of summer.

So, I’m back on a motorcycle and with a little good weather this weekend, I’ve been able to rack up a little north of 200 miles. It feels good to be be riding again, and I’ve got a few plans for some weekend trips, including some camping ones with it as well.

Blogging at a Crossroad

At the crossroads by Thomas Guignard

Maybe it’s the years, or simply wanting to share my thoughts again. It seems I’m at a crossroads in regards to blogging, and to be honest I’ve been at this crossroads for a long time.

Over the last 8 years (can you believe this blog turns 8 next month!) I’ve focused almost exclusively on social media. It was a great ride and a lot of fun which taught me quite a bit in areas that I hadn’t even known to exist before. It brought me out of my introverted shell, allowing me to meet hundreds (thousands?) of great people who I would otherwise not have had the opportunity to.

All that time, however, there was another side to what I do and who I am. In fact, a larger more important aspect that I rarely touched on was my real career in information technology.

Though I mentioned it in passing many times, I never really delved into the technical aspects of my profession, choosing to explore the social media path at its infancy, helping to bring ideas and establish connections among people. This is what drove me to start Social Media Breakfast in Minneapolis early in 2008.

That experience was entirely possible from blogging and my work with early social media tools. Being among the first wave of people to really “get” what social media was about and take part on a national scale. It was great fun. It still is for many of the people I initially met and conversed with. Several have built and are growing great, strong businesses on local, regional, and national scales.

What I found over time was that it wasn’t exactly for me. In my heart I’m not a marketing person, though I do understand some of the inner workings. I’m also not a public relations person, though again I did seem to adapt to a portion of that role in my work with SMBMSP. What I am, however, is a storyteller… or at least that label feels more comfortable than the others, and that is a core piece of social, and the work I was doing.

Today, however, I have completely reverted to my IT roots, and I’m happy with that. What I have had trouble with though, is getting back to blogging. At one point back in the day, I was posting on a daily basis. Today, it seems I can’t even post monthly, let alone once a week. I seem to keep holding back on writing/posting anything because I’m afraid of what “my audience” might think of a change of topic. The reality, of course, is that practically all of the readers I once had have long since moved on.

I’ve fallen into the classic blogger’s dilemma of worrying too much about what people think and not enough of the value of my own contributions. Believing that I might let someone down just for being myself and following the path I’m meant to follow.

So what does it all mean?

What this post isn’t, is a proclamation or promise to blog more often. It’s really just a note to anyone interested that what I may post about in the future is likely to be a lot more technical, and a certainly a lot less about social media. Who knows, by changing the topic of this blog and my focus for it, I just may find that gumption and passion to actively write more often. That will be the true proof that I’m out of my writers block… we’ll see.

Home page header photo credit: At the crossroads, by Thomas Guignard

Blog post photo credit: Crossroads, by Richard Elzey

Computing Hardware 2014

HP Chrombook 11Another year is coming to a close.  2013 has been a great year for me as a consultant, with a lot of opportunities for learning and working with new things.

In my professional life I consult with companies to help them build & maintain managed IT services, specifically around Microsoft Windows server and client environments.  It’s a lot of fun, and both large and small clients have unique requirements, technology, and cultures.

On the personal side though, I use a completely different set of technologies.  Every year it seems to morph, usually little bits at a time.  For example, we all have a desktop or laptop that lasts us for years, maybe a printer, WiFi, storage systems, and entertainment of course.  Me too, though the end of this year seems to have taken a bit of a turn for me.

Nexus 7It will be no secret that I’m a heavy Microsoft user, and that I’m also a big consumer of Google services.  During this past year, I’ve found myself almost completely using online services rather than local software.  I do have an Office 365 account for myself, and having Office 2013 is great, but it’s the online portion of that subscription that makes it really usable.

Google Docs is another service I have begun to use much, much more, to the point of rarely actually using MS Office for personal use.  I use Office for work all the time, of course.  Along with Google Docs and Office 365, I use Evernote rather than OneNote, self-hosted WordPress for blogging, all the usual social networks, of course, and several other services as they fit unique needs.

What this means, is that I really don’t need MS Windows for personal use any more.  So here at the end of 2013, I’m changing the computing tools that I use.  Much of this isn’t a surprise, a Nexus 7 (2013, 16GB, WiFi) for a tablet, and a Nexus 5 for phone.  I still have my 3-year-old Sony laptop, but that dual-boots Ubuntu 13.10 and Windows 8.1 (spending most of the time in Ubuntu).  The big change was picking up the Chromebook 11, built by HP and Google.

Nexus 5I’ve been leaning towards a Chromebook for a year or more, but this one checked all the boxes for me.  Small, lightweight, instant on, USB charging (very cool), a great keyboard, very good display (even though resolution is only 1366×768), and stylish.  I can literally do about 99% of what I need from a computer from this Chromebook.  The only thing I can’t is video editing, and that’s mighty rare for me anyway.

The interesting coincidence, is that all three of these new devices have only 16GB of local storage and, of course, rely very heavily on the cloud to function.  For where I live & work, that’s not an issue, so I’ve found a significant boost in personal productivity by having devices that are instantly available, have the same synchronized information a click away, and are in some cases interchangeable. A study source – has proven valuable to me, with so much tech advancement it helps to keep up with the professionals.

So for the next year or more, I’ll be mainly using Google hardware and, for heavy lifting, Ubuntu on my “big” laptop.  As I said earlier, I’ve been heading in this direction for some time.  Now that I’ve moved fully over, I feel more empowered to actually *do* things with the technology I own, rather than having to manage the technology… which is what I do in my professional life.

At least this makes things a little simpler.

Comment Cleanup

Who's the dick writing comments on my blog? by Scott BealeIt was overdue really.  Over 7 years on this blog and I hadn’t done a thorough review and cleanup of my comment section ever.

There were nearly 4,000 comments and, unfortunately, a very large chunk of them were duplicates and a more than I want to admit were some kind of spam comments.  The duplicates undoubtedly came from the time that I imported my comments into Disqus and then exported them back out to my blog to stand alone. I should have caught the duplicates then, but I must not have been paying attention.

The spam comments are a frustration.  They weren’t rampant, but there were a lot more than I thought there were.  Some were the passive kind of spam where they didn’t leave a link in the comment, but the name and URL they used to “log in” were certainly links to follow.  Luckily, only a handful were “lightly” inappropriate, counting them on one hand easily.

In the end, it turns out that there are just under 2,000 comments left, but they are at least valuable conversations that I had regarding posts with a number of readers and a good many friends online.  These I will treasure.

Photo credit: Scott Beale

Backpacking – Rainbow Lake Wilderness

Welcome to Rainbow Lake Wilderness.
Signpost at the southern edge of the Rainbow Lake Wilderness

Finally, I’ve gotten a chance to get out backpacking and hiking. It’s something that I’d meant to do quite a few years ago, but somehow it never worked out. Either something came up, or people would back out, or that nobody was really interested in hoofing it with me out in the woods.

A couple of weekends ago, September 14th-15th, 2013, I headed out to the Rainbow Lake Wilderness in northern Wisconsin. It’s part of the Chequemegon-Nicolet National Forest, which part of the North Country Trail runs through on its Wisconsin section. Very remote, very thick forest.

asdIt was a simple solo overnight trip, and I got a lot out of it. Quiet contemplation, and a chance to test out a lot of the equipment I’ve gathered over the last year or so, specifically for this purpose. I’ll be doing more of this next year, but wanted to get one short trip in yet this fall before the really cold weather to test out my new mens hiking boots compared super well to all my other, more expensive pairs. Of course, I just might try a solo overnight yet this winter, but use my snowmobile rather than try to pack along everything in the middle of winter.

There simply isn’t a very good way to describe how relaxing and calming it is to get away from all the noise, the interruptions, and stress of our hectic modern lives and just listen to the wind in the trees. I you like getting away like this, then you know what I mean.

Here’s a few more pictures from that weekend:

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