Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Itch to Learn

Okay, so it's been almost a week since I wrote a post here. Where have I been? Why haven't I written? Frankly, it's not really any of your darn business, but it's mostly because I'm a lazy oaf. I've been busy with work, the motorcycle, and lots and lots of unadulterated, self-indulgent laziness. Regardless...

The last 59 months have officially been longest stretch of my life away from an educational facility. Be it college, high school, or kindergarten, I've never been so far removed from schooling. Add that to the fact that my little brother just graduated from college, my little sister will be receiving her Master's degree in a short couple of weeks, and my mother is nearing completion of her Doctorate degree, and I'm starting to feel like the most uneducated moron to don the family name.

So what does this actually mean? It means that I've got the itch to do something educational. Likely, that'll mean my getting my MBA.

I'm fortunate in that TCFWIW will pay for a good portion of my schooling, if I so choose. They probably won't cover the entire bill, but anything is better than nothing. In fact, they'll even foot the bill up-front, which seems to be a bit of a rarity.

Also, time is something that is now available to me, for the most part. I've settled into my position at work a little better, so the hours are shorter, MLB's and my wedding is over and done with, and the household in general is pretty stablized.

It seems the stars are aligning for YFNN's higher education. I'll keep you informed.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

More RD250 Progress

I've spent the last couple nights working hard on the restoration of my 1975 Yamaha RD250 (NOT the bike at right). I've taken what seems like a couple dozen parts to TCFWIW to perform some restorative work on them.

The majority of the parts are steel, and the black paint on them has weathered off long, long ago. Due to the paint's slow disappearing act, rust has decided to show itself, sometimes in large, destructive amounts. Fortunately, like I said, most of the parts are steel, so repair is not that difficult.

So, I loaded up the family truckster with some parts, some tape, some spray automotive primer, and some Rust-Oleum Rust Reformer and headed to my place of employment.

I'm lucky to have place like I do to perform this kind of work. The company for which I work (TCFWIW) used to have full-scale manufacturing capability under its expansive roofs, but as of late 2004, it's moved on. But, the large and well-equipped model shop has remained intact. Since the place is pretty lenient about after-hours work (especially if you're friends with the facility manager), I've got a full shop at my disposal whenever I'd like.

When I got to work, I let the guard know I was going to be there for a couple hours and toted my stuff inside. I powered up one of our solvent baths and made short work of all the grease, oil, and grime that had built up on the parts over the years. The swingarm was the worst. because of the drive chain, I'm sure.

Once that was completed, and the parts were thoroughly dried with compressed air, I fired up one of our media-blasting cabinets and went to work on the parts. Because the media and the through-wall gloves were recently replaced, getting rid of the rust and old paint was a comfortable and easy task. As I finished cleaning each part, I made sure it was dust-free and hung it in our paint booth. Some automotive primer did a great job covering the bare metal. In the places where the sandblaster couldn't remove some of the rust, the part was hit with some Rust-Oleum Rust Reformer (which is good stuff, by the way).

A couple of the parts had some pretty severe rust damage, so I had to fire up the welder to add some metal to them and then reshape them. Fortunately, that was pretty easy, and I got them cleaned and primed as well.

I left the parts hang and cure all night, and they should be ready for another coat this evening. Soon after, I'll hit them with some satin black and some clearcoat and they should look good as new. Heck, even in just primer, they look pretty darn good.

I've still got to find a place to blast and powdercoat the frame, though. unfortunately, all of the cabinets at work are too small to fit the frame, and I'm not going to make a mess of the backyard with an external blaster. Besides, I'd rather have the frame powdercoated, so I've got no issues paying someone to do it.

I also recently received the new (well, undamaged) steering stem and triple clamps, to replace my damaged ones. That's a headache lifted. I thought for sure that I was going to have a really difficult (and expensive) time figuring out how to replace the stripped threads on the main stem. I did a lot of swearing when I found that lovely surprise.

All in all, things are cleaning up pretty well. Once the frame is painted, I'm pretty much ready to start reassembling.

Once the paintwork is done, it's time to order a few new parts!


Monday, April 9, 2007

Dumb Things I Do All the Time

After reading a post on a personal finance blog about dumb things the author does on occasion, I felt rather inspired to create my own list. But, I'm not going to limit mine to just personal finance, mostly for your entertainment. Now, I'm a pretty smart guy. I got good grades, I've got an above average IQ, I excel at most things academic, but I still do some REALLY dumb things on a daily basis. Really dumb. Here's a short list.

1) Hit the snooze alarm about 6 times every morning.
My alarm goes off about an hour before I really need to get up. Every night, I think that I'm going to get up when the alarm goes off the first time and take my time getting ready and enjoy the morning. Does it ever happen? Of course not. I hit that snooze button every nine minutes until I'm 30 minutes away from having to leave. The real kicker is that I'm sure that hour of intermittent dozing does absolutely nothing for my rest, and it drives MLB crazy. Yet, every day it continues. Dumb.

2) Put off doing laundry until the absolute last possible day. My laundry hamper typically overflows onto the floor several days before I decide it's time to do laundry. What this means is that when I decide to do laundry, it ends up being an all-day chore, and I hate doing laundry. It makes for a miserable day. I'm sure it'd be much less painful for me to just do a load or two every couple of days, rather than all at once, but I never do. In fact, I've even gone so far as to buy new underwear so I could put off laundry a couple more days. Also dumb.

3) Buy a soda for the drive home.
I know it's expensive, I know it's a poor choice, and I know it's intentionally marketed this way, but I always do it. It never fails that when I go to the grocery store (or Target, or Lowe's), I'll pick up a bottle of soda on my way through the check-out lane. Why? Well, because I'm thirsty. Why can't I wait the four or five minutes until I'm home and get a drink of water? Because I'm dumb. Those check-out lane coolers get me nearly every time.

4) When working in the garage, place a tool down someplace unusual and think "I'll remember where I put that because it's an unusual place for it."
For example: If I'm underneath the car, I'll place the ratchet on top of one of the tires, rather than back in the toolbox or on the floor next to me. Then, when I'm ready to use it again, I spend ten minutes trying to figure out where the heck I put it. Or, I'll put the notes for the motorcycle restoration in with the sandpaper, thinking "I'll remember that," and then waste 45 minutes later in the day. Dumb.

5) Leave my cellphone at work.
I don't get very good reception at work, so I typically leave my phone charging on my desk all day. As I leave, I'll bet four out of five workdays, I leave my cellphone in my office. Usually, I'll remember as I get out to my car and have to go back in the building, unlock my office, and retrieve the phone. Somedays, I forget until I get home. I leave it there on my desk, just charging away 80% of the time. Dumb.

So, that's a good start. Maybe now that I've put these dumb things into writing I'm stop doing them. Not likely, but maybe.


Thursday, April 5, 2007


I'm no stranger to mechanical things, especially vehicles. I've spent a good portion of my life lying on my back on a piece of cardboard on concrete. I know the difference between a flat-tappet and hydraulic roller cam, and I think my fingernails are permanently grimy. I was the president of the Purdue Automotive Performance Association in my college days (back when it was about good friends and fast cars, NOT the bling-bling competition it is now), and have helped to build more than a handful of road-going rockets. I even spent a portion of my career with a professional race team, building racecars and chasing horsepower. It's pretty safe to say that if it's got an engine, I'll like it.

Last fall, I bought an old motorcycle as a project for super-cheap. It's a 1975 Yahama RD250B, US model. When I picked it up, it was pretty beat up, rusty, and older than I was. It's tiny by today's motorcycle standards and it sounds like pissed-off weedwhacker on steroids. But, it was so darned cool and with only 2000 original miles, I just had to put some wrenches to it.

However, it's provided me with some challenges so far, mainly because it's very different from what I'm used to working on. First, since it's older than I am, it's carbureted and I'm a fuel injection guy. I'm more comfortable adjusting injector pulse widths than I am changing jets. Now don't get me wrong, I fully understand how carbs work and how to adjust them, it's just not something that I've ever had to do.

Second, this bike is a two-stroke. A smoker. It's a high-revving, oil-injected, cam-less wonder, which is also new to me. Running down the road, it spews healthy blue smoke out the tailpipes and sounds absolutely vicious. Apart from my weedwhacker, I've never touched a two-stroke engine. I'm most amped about this aspect. There's just something completely appealing about a loud, fast, polluting, smoking, relatively unsafe, 30-year old, rolling piece of history. It's just so, um, irresponsible. I absolutely love it.

Third, it's a serious restoration project. I'm not a restoration guy. I'm more a modern-day, horsepower-building, racecar guy. This bike needed to be stripped to the frame and completely redone. That is very different from what I'm used to doing.

So, it's definitely going to be a challenge.

As of today, the bike has been completed stripped down to the frame, and the frame itself is ready to be sand-blasted and painted. I meticulously documented and photographed every part and bolt that came off, so I know exactly how it's supposed to go back on.
I've measured every single fastener that has come off the bike and have kept a log of their location, thread size and length, so that they can be replaced with new ones. I've kept a notebook with more notes that I care to remember, and have lots of labels all over every wiring harness and connectors.

It's going to take me a while, and I'm sure I'm make some bonehead mistakes, but so far, I'm having a blast working on it.


Wednesday, April 4, 2007

New Graduates and Focusing on Finances, Part Five - The Final One!

Finally, the last two foci on my list! I apologize for the long delay; the weather here has been beautiful lately, and I spent a lot of time in the garage putzing and working on the '75 Yamaha. I even took a half-day of vacation on Monday so that I could best use the great weather and continue my progress on the restoration. More on that later. Regardless, here's #9 and #10!

Focus #9: Create and maintain a budget.
This document is going to be your rock. It will guide you, help you make good, sound decisions, and keep you focused on your financial goals. It will keep you grounded and set you free at the same time.

It is absolutely imperative that you learn to work with a household budget. There's lots of good websites out there to help you get started, but here are my main points:

1) Know where you money is going. Track each dollar that you spend. You'll quickly realize where the leaks in your spending are, and where you can save some money. Once you know where it's going, you can make better decisions regarding where it should be going.
2) Give each dollar a job. Make sure that each dollar you receive in income is given a job. Make sure each income dollar is either put towards an expense, saved, or invested. Once each dollar has a task to perform, it's much more difficult to waste them. Idle dollars are easily blown on frivolous things.
3) Most importantly, spend less than you earn. That is the ONLY way to get ahead. If you're consistently spending more money than you have coming in, you're in a downward spiral into financial disaster.

I used to have a very elaborate spreadsheet that performed all the calculations, did all the tracking, and reminded me of bills. But, it got to be very big and clumsy. Now, I use a small program called YNAB Pro (available at It works beautifully.

Focus #10: The time to invest is now!
Compound interest is a beautiful thing. The earlier you start investing, the more time you have for it to work for you. More than any one mutual fund or stock selection, the age you start investing will determine how much wealth you actually build. This may be difficult for some to grasp, so here's a real-world illustration:

Employee A, we'll call him Dave, starts putting away $100 a month when he's 22 years old, right after he graduates. Dave's money grows at a conservative 8% a year, and after ten years on his 32nd birthday, he decides to stop contributing and just let the money grow. Employee B, we'll call him Phil, graduates at age 22 but waits until he's 32 to start investing for retirement. He sets aside the same $100 a month, gets the same 8% return, but continues investing until he's 64 years old. So, who's got more money at retirement?

Dave does. When they both retire at 64, Dave will have $234,600 and Phil will only have $177,400. Even after only contributing 1/3 of the money that Phil did, Dave's way ahead. If Dave had just continued to contribute the same measly $100 a month until 64, he'd have $412,000! That's over $175,000 more than Phil, just by starting ten years earlier.

The lesson here is to start saving early!

To review my Ten Financial Foci:

Focus #1: Get a good, low-fee checking account and know how it works.
Focus #2: Use direct-deposit.
Focus #3: Get a high-interest savings account.
Focus #4: Start an emergency fund and feed it automatically.
Focus #5: Don't fall into the lifestyle trap.
Focus #6: Ditch your debt.
Focus #7: Make sure you're covered.
Focus #8: Take inventory.
Focus #9: Create and maintain a budget.
Focus #10: The time to invest is now.

I hope the foci I outlined over the last couple days have been insightful and inspiring to new graduates or future graduates. Getting a focus on your finances now, when you're still young is immensely beneficial later on. So, pass these lessons on to any graduates you might know!