Good day, Bad morning

Yesterday I had a very good day, for a number of reasons:

  • A big project I’ve been working on for the last month or so took a huge step forward, and this will mean a lot for the company if everything goes according to plan.
  • We had a very nice (free) lunch with wine on the company, plus a cake for dessert.
  • My vacation application for this summer was finally approved, this will be my longest vacation ever. And hopefully I will have taken the MC driver’s license and bought a bike by then.
  • After several years of hinting, asking and convincing I finally got toΒ  order the latest version of the Adobe Web Suite (CS5), to replace the ancient Photoshop v5.5 (from 1999) that I’ve been using up until now at work. I’ve been using Photoshop CS4 at home, and am constantly reminded of a lot of missing features when I use v5.5 at work.
  • I managed to write a nice little script that automates a common procedure at work. It only saves a few minutes, but it will give a consistent result and after a year or so those minutes will have added up to much more than just a few minutes. Those are my favorite scripts.
  • I went out with some friends after work and had an excellent dinner, good drinks and a very nice time, followed by a cab ride home.

Today, not so good.

I woke up with an intense cramp in my right calf, and it felt like the muscles/tendons would snap. At first I could hardly breathe, and then I started hyperventilating instead – which also made me nauseous. After two minutes or so the cramp started to go away, but as soon as I touched the leg it came back. It’s been about three hours now, and I still cannot support myself on the leg without getting the cramps back. The calf feels tense all the time, and massaging the leg doesn’t help.

It’s a pretty bad experience waking up almost screaming of pain, and at the same time desperately needing to go to the bathroom. :p

Update: It’s now been 16 hours, and I can still not walk without limping, and get that tense pre-cramp feeling as soon as I put some weight on the leg or stretch it out to much. πŸ™

Wishful thinking: Canon EOS 550D

Me and Marianne has applied for testing my current dream camera, Canon EOS 550D. We have been talking for quite some time now to buy a new one, preferably one with more manual settings and better at taking pictures in low-light situations without using flash, and the EOS series has always been my favorite. This camera has an incredible 12’800 ISO, and it would be very interesting to see how dark you can go without having too much noise. Hopefully this would mean more night photography! Back in school when I studied photography, we used the Canon EOS 500 (analog), and it would be fun to see how much of the functionality that has remained or improved since then.

Other highlights from the spec that I find myself smiling for when I read:

  • Sensor: CMOS, 18 Megapixel (APS-C)
  • File format: JPG, RAW
  • Movie:Β  1080p

Judging from how much you get from the camera the prize of around 7000 SEK is not that high, but unfortunately that is more that I can afford right now. Smartson does however have the possibility for four test teams to evaluate the camera for a month, and where you then get to keep it afterwards. The chances of being selected are quite slim, but here’s to hoping! Sign up here if you are also interested in applying. πŸ™‚

Movie mini review: Defendor

I just watched the movie Defendor, which is a drama comedy starring Woody Harrelson. He plays a slightly mentally challenged person who roams the streets at night dressed up as a superhero. The movie follows his struggle to reach what in his mind is his arch-enemy, Captain Industry, using quite unorthodox methods. It is a very funny film, but has it’s dark (and quite gripping) moments. Woody Harrelson does a wonderful job of portraying the protagonist, and not once do you see him as an actor playing a role, but as the character he plays. While some of the supporting actors does seem a little flat, Michael Kellys performance stands out and his character feels genuinely caring.

All in all, I would strongly recommend this film.

One step closer

Today I took the practical safety education course, which is since this year a mandatory step before you can take the written or practical exam for the motorcycle driving license. This was held at Gillingebanan.

We started with some introduction in a classroom, talking about our previous experiences and what we hoped to learn today. Shortly thereafter, we changed into driving clothes provided by them. Since this is a new education, everything was brand spanking new, from clothes to the bikes. A nice change from the clothes at Slussens trafikskola, where most of the gear have seen better day (and it’s not uncommon that when you take on the jacket it is still moist and sweaty from the previous driver – even if you have the first pass of the day.

The bikes we drove were Honda CB600FA Hornet, a 600cc bike with over 100 horsepower, about 10 hp more than the Suzuki GSX 750 that I’m used to from driving school – but with less weight. Fun bike! It also has ABS brakes which was a new experience for me. Just a few days ago I locked the front wheel brake when going in 70 km/h (about 45mph). This was at the end of the brake path, but it was still quite scary to feel it slide without being able to fully control it. Today I hit the brakes hard when going in 110 km/h (70mph), and with full control. ABS can add a bit to the length of the brake path, but it is so much nicer to use, not having to worry about locking the brakes!

We also learned about different turning techniques, most of which I knew from before. But it was surprising how much you could turn just by pressing your feet down on the foot pegs while letting go of the handlebar completely with your hands. My favorite is however still using counter-steering; pushing the handlebar forward on the right side if you want to turn to the right and vice versa. It’s also most effective if you want to turn quickly to avoid an obstacle.

Reaction time, line of sight and other things were also demonstrated and discussed, and the general feeling was very good. The teachers were very happy and enthusiastic, which is also contagious in a good way.
It was however very warm, and a lot of discussions were between driving sessions where we just turned off the bikes and opened the helmets (flip-up type). So in the heat from the sun in black, warm clothes you got soaking wet.

At the end of the day there were some more discussions in the classroom, and a few of us also got to drive a virtual motorcycle. It was a mock-up bike with a seat, a fully equipped handlebar and foot pegs with brake and gear pedals. This was in turn hooked up to a computer connected to a projector and speakers, and you got to drive around in a 3D environment with a lot of common dangers. I almost hit a door that was flung open right in front of me, but managed to brake in time. One of the other students crashed several times, and it was a good lessons of common hidden dangers.

All in all, it was a very good experience. I learned some new stuff, and I had fun.

Tomorrow I’m taking the written exam, and after that I have only the practical exam left.

Can’t hardly wait.

Driving license update

I have now been driving for a couple of weeks and am really making progress.

I have my written exam in about two weeks and I’m pretty confident that I will do well there. 65 questions in 50 minutes, where you have to have at least 52 correct answers.

The practical exam, which you can’t schedule until you have passed the written exam, has five parts.

It starts with a security check for the bike where you have to know how to check the all vital parts of the electrical system, breaks, wheels & tires, bearings and a bunch of other stuff.

After that is a low speed driving test, which looks something like this:

Swedish low speed test for motorcycle
Swedish low speed test for motorcycle - Full stop at each double cone.

The above should be done as slow as possible, no faster than you normally walk. I’ve got most of it under control, but needs some more polishing before final tests. For some reason I keep forgetting to keep my eyes up in the distance, which you need to do for proper balance (like a line dancer). I also need to remember to squeeze my thighs to the gas tank, to keep the body and bike balance together.

The high speed part looks like this:

Swedish high speed test for motorcycle
Swedish high speed test for motorcycle

Last time I tried this I instinctively used the front brake when turning around the last cone, and since the bike was leaning so much to be able to turn in that narrow space, I of course crashed. The knee pad took the blunt of the force, and I tore the fabric of the pants tore open (belonged to the traffic school). However, I strained my arm either when falling or when lifting the bike up (dry weight is 220kg/485lbs). That was about a week ago, and it still hurts a bit when lifting stuff. Anyway, need some more practice for this part.

After this comes the brake test, where you have to demonstrate hard, controlled brakes from 70km/h (45mph) and 90km/h (55mph), using both front and back brakes. I haven’t actually tried at those speeds yet, but I often lock the back brake (ABS not allowed) and forget to look up, same as in the low speed test, when braking from 50km/h (30mph). So some more practice needed here as well.

Last out is the traffic test, where you drive both inside and outside of a city towards a given target or directions given by radio through a variety of roads and streets with different traffic intensity. You will be judged by your driving position, selection of gear, attention, Eco driving and how you technically handle the bike. This part takes about 25 minutes.

But before I can even take the written exam, I have to take (and pass) a practical safety education, where you for 5 hours will be tested and teached about hard accelerations, braking from high speeds and driving independently. The idea is to learn not to overestimate your ability and the dangers of different road types. Gravel is a bitch in curves! This is scheduled one day before the written exam, so if I don’t pass I have to redo it. And pay another 1925 SEK for this, and another couple of hundred SEK for the written exam, which I will have to reschedule. Taking a driver’s license in Sweden is expensive, and most people spend at least 15000-20000 SEK altogether. Which is too bad, since then you don’t have any money left to buy a bike. πŸ˜‰

Speaking of bikes, I have refined my wishlist a bit, and the following bikes are now the most interesting:

Suzuki VZ 800 Marauder
Suzuki VZ 800 Marauder

Kawasaki VN 800 Vulcan Classic
Kawasaki VN 800 Vulcan Classic

Kawasaki EN 500 Vulcan
Kawasaki EN 500 Vulcan

Yamaha 650 XVS Dragstar Classic
Yamaha 650 XVS Dragstar Classic

All bike pictures above are taken from Blocket.

These bikes all have the look I’m after, and even the smallest of them have well enough performance for a first bike. And even if many cc’s and a fat sound from the pipes are fun, they are not that important to me. More important for my first bike is maneuverability, reliability, comfort and price. I mean, after a year or two I can always trade up to 1600 cc if I feel I suddenly need to compensate for something. πŸ˜‰