The Honda Ruckus: A Scooter for , um, Real Men?

I saw one of these for the first time, parked in front of the library last week. Honda has been making these since 2002, selling them in Canada as the Zoomer and in the U.S. as the Ruckus.

When I bought a used Elite 80 for $650 in 1997 to go to grad school at FSU, I could count the scooters I saw around town on one hand. And it was still the case when I sold my Elite and bought my dream machine, a Vespa ET4 150 in 2002.

Times have surely changed. With inflation and the rise of gas prices, scooters have become popular, and many new models are available. But they have all tended to either borrow from the Italian look of the old Vespas and Lambrettas, as the Honda Metropolitan and the Velocifero do, or to look like modern sport bikes, or, (to me), like some of the more extreme athletic shoes.

The Ruckus, with its fat tires, its open, tubular frame, and its dual headlights, appears to have an off-road lineage. It makes me think of an all-terrain-vehicle or a Hummer. I imagined people bogging with them, and indeed, a little searching on the Ruckus turned up videos of Ruckus bogging. It is reported to get 100 mpg.

As with the Netbooks, I seem to have picked up on a viral product just as it begins to become contagious. Many fan sites and posts about it seem to have gone up over the summer. One writer likens the market for the Ruckus to that for the Honda Civic in the '90's, young guys without a lot of cash and with a taste for extensive customization. And the Ruckus is very affordable. At $2,149 for the 2009 model, it is cheaper than a Vespa by an order of magnitude.

I guess I was amused by the idea of a "bad" scooter. A scooter for rebels. A scooter with "attitude". Don't rebellious bad boys ride motorcycles, leather-jacketed Rockers sneering at art-school Mods on their girly scooters? But I don't suppose all that means a thing to young Americans in 2008. After all, Quadrophenia was released 35 years ago, (gulp!). To them, Harleys are for bandanna-headed grandpas who buy their machines complete with "biker" outfits in an expensive boutique. It's a brave new world...


Blogging Reference, Saturday

10:00 a.m.: Doors open.

"Someone turn in a seat cushion I left here yesterday? A camouflage seat cushion?" (No.)

Magnifying glass.

"Do you have an automotive repair section?" Replace O2 Sensor on '94 Taurus. (Chilton database, Mitchell guide.)

Mrs. Stivers, whom I haven't seen in years, former Chaires Elementary schoolteacher and bookmobile patron, now retired: Where are Jim Butcher Dresden Files titles? Catalog says "on shelf". Horror, mystery, sci-fi? (PB Fantasy carousels.)

Me: "You might want to try our electric stapler. That's pretty thick for a hand stapler."
Him: "Oh yeah, I forgot."

"Where's the first floor, down here?"
Me: "That's right, next one down."

"Do you have any paper? I want to write something down." (Scrap paper in wire basket.)

"So if you have to copy, it's ten cents a page?" Counts pages. "If you have a lot of pages, you have to pay for every single page?" (Yes.)

"It, (the self-checkout machine), says take book to librarian." (Book belongs to branch, and is in transit. Override and checkout.)

"Do you have two pieces of paper and a pencil?"

11:00 a.m.: Sunny & cool. Game day, FSU v. Virginia Tech, 3:30 kick-off.

"May I put these, (DVD's), in the book return?" (Yes.)

PC for James.

#58 won't print. (Cancel job & try again.)

"If I am at #61, where will my print commands go?"

"Where is your Henderson Room?" (Tallahassee Zeta Archonettes.)

Phone request for Sgt. Frog and Negima! anime books.

Self-checkout won't scan book. (Scan at desk.)
What happened to his request for Team of Rivals? (Note on card: unfilled letter returned. Verify address. Place hold again.)
What are we going to do about the urine and stench on the Park Avenue stairs? (Have him fill out a complaint card.)

PC for Franz.

PC for Kenneth.

PC for Penny.

PC for Michael.

12:00: Lunch.

12:30-1:00 p.m.: Staff Media desk so S. can eat.

1:10 p.m.: back.

"Can I have a pencil and paper?"

10 minute wait now for PC's.

PC for James. Explain it's his second session. Won't give him another unless no one is waiting.

"I'm new here. Is there a Kroger grocery store here?" (No.)

"Do you have Meridon, by Philippa Gregory?" (Not on shelf, did not want to reserve it. Set missing.)

Regular returns paper.

Magnifying glass? (Somebody's got it.)

D. goes off to get Michael to bring back the magnifying glass.

Man wants to find article in April 12, 2008 issue of the Democrat that reported event at the Clifford Hill Cemetery. Wants it because it listed the address of the cemetery. Article not in NewsBank. Cemetery not in phone book and not online. Offer to set him up with microfilm, but he is reluctant. Get it set up, and now he's not sure it was April 12. He doesn't have time to browse the microfilm. This is going nowhere. Time to bail. He says he'll ask someone who might know the address.

Magnifying glass returned.

Man can't print doc from FAMU BlackBoard, a notoriously frustrating site. (Show him how to copy & paste into Word.)

"Do you know who wrote The Secret Life of Bees and do you have a copy?" (20 copies, 27 holds.) "Because of the movie?" (Yes.)

PC for Malik.

PC for George.

"Do you know where the Science Museum is?"

2:50 p.m.: Hustling, too busy to blog... Let's see...

More paper in printer.

Phone request for Fun Food to Tickle Your Mood: a cookbook for children who cherish the earth. Austin: Piccadilli Press, 1992. (Do not own, 41 libraries own, but ILL would take too long.)

PC for Ms. Hall.

Where can a study group sit and talk and use WiFi? (Schedule for Henderson Room at 3:30.)

Today's paper.

Library Assistant reports complaint about noisy study group. Explain that they are waiting for a room, sorry, I won't shush them.

Deputy Capece heaves into view off the stairs, rolling like a sailor, surveys first floor from railing.

Dad & daughter: "We're looking for the junior non-fiction section."

Woman wants to email herself a doc from her laptop and get a PC to print it out. (Ok.)

"Do you have Why I am a Jew?", says thin woman with gravelly voice, struggling with leg in cast and tubular aluminum walker. (No, show her section on Judaism.) Am I Jewish? Their father is an atheist, but they should make up their own minds. She is Reform.

Phone: Does the Lake Jackson Branch have Forever, by Judy Blume? What's their number?

Phone: Where is Diana Ross on the list of greatest female recording artists? (Been a while since she, [some say he], has called, always with this anxious question about the standing of Diana Ross.)

Run off copy of county job application.

Put new roll in reservation printer.

Phone: Do we have Henry Hudgins, by Beverly Cleary? (Transfer to M. in Childrens.)

Put another call on hold.

Where is National Council of Negro Women meeting? (Program Room A.)

Open Henderson Room for study group.

Phone: Do we have The Diabetes Lifestyle Book? (No, take ILL request.)

What does she need to get card?

3:45: Bushed, out to Park Ave. steps for smoke.

PC for John.

PC for Marion.

Help with copier.

Self-checkout didn't give receipt. (Print out record for her. Need to see if paper out. Paper jammed, but almost out.)

Change roll in Self-checkout.

Give intro to Gale database tools.

Cancel unwanted reservation.

PC for Dave.

Phone: What's on the shelf by Carl Weber and Mary B. Morrison? (Hold A Dollar and a Dream and Never Again Once More for Ophelia.)

How to send a file attached to an e-mail in his web-mail in-box.

4:45: Put book on mending shelf, turn off catalog PC's in stacks.

Woman thanks me for db intro. Fortyish returning grad student, struggling with how much school has changed. Sympathize. I too, ten years ago.

Closing at 5:00: Signing out.


Blogging Reference, Friday Morning

10:00 a.m.: Doors open.

Man wonders where his PC is.

Man wonders whether "Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles", by Don Felder, has come back in.

Woman looking for her daughter at a PC. "I thought they said the third floor!"

Phones quiet. Steady rain outside.

Two boys want PC's. Library cards? "I left it at home." "I didn't know I would be coming to the library"

E-mail from Ronda wondering about the Tefellin we saw Hasidic Jews putting on men at the Stock Exchange.

PC-Reservation says woman has already used card twice. Make her a reservation.

Regular comes for today's paper.

"I want to find out about the best biography of Lyndon Johnson". Robert Caro, Doris Kearns Goodwin. He takes Goodwin.

11:00 a.m.: Time to "rove".

"Is there a special section for books on travel? I want to find books on Geneva, Zurich, Berlin". I rise to take him, but, "Just give me a number". 914.

Today's paper. "Someone's got it. Will you be sitting over there? I'll come find you."

Mrs. Rounds calls from Georgia Bell Dickinson Apartments to check on her reserves. "It's cawled The Gatehouse, but ah don't ruhmembuh the authuh. Ah've had it own resuhve faw a long, long tahm."

Mike stops by to talk about Vollman's theory of violence, Iraq, right-wing extremism if Obama gets elected. Feelings running high everywhere, it seems.

Two wet old men want a PC.

Do we have change for the copier?

Another man holding a copy of Scientific American asks where the copier is.

A PC for Jamone.

PC for Tyrone.

Another e-mail from Ronda, asking about Hasidic sidecurls or "payot".

Man wants help writing a motion for a criminal case. Show him Florida Rules of Court, tell him about FSU Law Library.

12:00: Lunch


Bodily Transport to Manhattan

I am back, and greetings to any lurkers who are not my two sisters or my wife!

The Worldwide Web has changed life in an isolated town like Tallahassee. It is so easy to explore distant places online, through sites where travelers post their photographs, or with Google Earth. I often augment my reading with geographical searches. But Ronda and I were ready to quit this place entirely for our fifth annual fall trip to New York City. We arrived on Thursday, October 9, and left on Monday, October 13.

We stay in a guest house in the West Village, a neighborhood that reminds me of Pass-a-Grille Beach in St. Petersburg. Pass-a-Grille does not allow new buildings to be taller than a few stories, so that you have the feeling of being in old Florida, without the towering condominiums that crowd the shores elsewhere in Florida. The West Village is very much like that, as opposed to the granite canyons of Mid-Town. It has a human scale.

Growing up in the South, I always heard how rude New Yorkers were. My experience has been that they are unfailingly kind when they suspect that you are a stranger there. Ronda and I had many offers of help when we were trying to orient ourselves, or wondering which subway train to take.

This trip was a little different. We didn't visit any museums or eat at any "hot" restaurants. We tried a couple of times, but the Italian place we tried in Chelsea was hosting a private party, (probably in association with the NYC Wine & Food Festival that weekend), and a colorful Hispanic Day Parade on Sunday prevented us from walking up to the Museum of the City of New York, where we wanted to see, "Paris/New York: Design Fashion Culture 1925-1940".

I did stop in at Left Bank Books for a good old-fashioned browse. Found some titles by Alan Sillitoe, one of the crop of '50's/'60's British working-class writers I've been reading. They were all too expensive, signed or first editions, and I didn't find the one I wanted, The Key to the Door.

I had decided to find the perfect Italian sub or hero sandwich this time. Searches had indicated that Faicco's Pork Store on Bleecker street was the Italian Hero Mecca. So on Saturday, following a walk through Washington Square, I made my pilgrimage to Faicco's. I must admit that I was out of my depth. This sandwich was HUGE. We found a park where I could sit and attempt to eat it. It was as big as my face. I gnawed around the edges of it, and finally managed to eat half of it. It was delicious. The other half I saved for a midnight snack. So I've "seen the elephant" now. I would have been happy with a "Faicco's Italian Hero Lite", for Southern persons with small mouths.

You can see photographs at my FaceBook page.


Netbook Lust

I found out today what they are called, these tiny wireless laptops I've seen proliferating in the study carrels of the library: netbooks, also called sub or mini-notebooks.

Facing the prospect of being offline for five days during our upcoming trip to NYC, I began to want one. I decided to find out more about them.

Several things surprised me. Some of them have small solid-state drives, two or more gigs in capacity, rather than conventional, spinning hard-drives, making them less fragile than other portables. Many of them have versions of Linux installed, rather than Microsoft Windows.

CompUSA has a video review of the new Asus Eee PC 4G Surf that gives you an idea of what the Xandros Linux + KDE desktop looks like.

I installed and used Linux in 1999 in graduate school, when it was still rather daunting. I will never forget the rock-solid connectivity I had with Linux in those 56k dial-up days, when I was taking distance-learning courses.

This thing is amazing. You buy it, turn it on, and it works. It's got Open Office installed, the Sun Microsystems open source office suite, which I use at home in the form of IBM's Lotus Symphony. But these little machines are ideal not for offline, client-side work, but for cloud computing.

The Internet has matured to the point where the cloud network is a reality now. You can trust Google and other "Web 2.0" networks such as YouTube to store your work for you. We are currently offering a course on how to use Google Docs at the library. You may no longer need a big hard drive for file storage and client software on a mobile computer.

That is what excites me about netbooks for public-access computing, and that is surely why I am seeing so many of them at the library. It is easy to forget that millions of people do not have jobs that come with a desk and a networked PC. Our public-access PC's and our wireless network at the library are used by travelers, by students, and by people who are unable to afford and/or to set up an Internet PC at home. They use web-mail exclusively. They keep their files on floppies, CD's and Flash drives. We should make sure that our patrons know about netbooks as an option, if they are dissatisfied with the access they are getting with the library's public-access PC's.

The downside I see is that users who are not tech-savvy may not understand that the ubiquitous Windows-compatible programs available online will not work with a Linux netbook. One hopes that sales staff will make that clear.

There are Windows XP-based netbooks as well, but this kind of machine cannot hope to reproduce all the features of a full-sized laptop, and some buyers are bound to be disappointed. Already, as more manufacturers enter the netbook space, you can see feature creep: larger screens, more storage.

Larry Dignan at ZDNet said back in June that he thought $200 was about the right price point, and I have to agree. They are going for around $400+- now. At $200 for a stripped-down, dedicated "cloud machine", I would probably be taking one with me to NYC. He predicts a netbook/smartphone war, but I am not so sure. I think that the two appeal to different groups of users.

But I don't really fit the profile for a netbook user. We have a conventional network at the library. I can access my files anywhere within the library system. I don't take work home much, where I have a decent desktop PC with broadband cable access. I only travel a few times a year.

So, no netbook for me. If only I were younger, poorer, and renting!

Honest Tea bottle cap oracle:
"Even if I knew tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree."

-MLK Jr.


The perfect ice cube

In our mid-fifties, with many of our life-choices having been made, Ronda and I have settled into a fairly comfortable routine. Days roll into weeks, weeks into years. We've turned our attention to the things that repeatedly crimp that daily rhythm, things that cause needless frustration and dissatisfaction.

We realized one day that the pair of scissors we had been using in the kitchen irritated us every time that we used them. They were common, cheap scissors with inferior blades and plastic handles. They cut very poorly. We had had them for something like twenty years. No more! We tossed them and bought a pair of Kitchen Aid shears. These shears are a pleasure to use. They will cut just about anything, from chicken bones to that tough plastic packaging that encases many small articles that we buy these days.

And again, I was making a lentil soup one day that called for a food processor. Our food processor was too small to handle the recipe adequately. We had received it as a hand-me-down from one of Ronda's friends, again, twenty years ago. We replaced it with a professional model Cuisinart.

I consume a lot of ice; with iced tea and lemonade during the day, and in my Scotch at night. When we bought our refrigerator, upon moving into our house, we selected one without an ice maker. I disliked having a machine that idiotically cranked out ice into a bin whether I wanted it or not, to become a mass of solidified cubes that I would have to defrost periodically. The aluminum ice-trays of long-ago, with their levers for freeing the cubes, had given way to plastic, flexible trays that still produced uneven results. Sometimes I would get good,solid cubes, but more often the cubes would break up when I flexed the trays, forcing me to break fingernails or even use a knife to remove them from the trays. I decided that I had had enough. Surely, I said to Ronda, there must be a better way. Ronda discovered the Tovolo silicone ice tray. These ice trays are wonderful. They produce gorgeous, crystalline cubes of ice! It is a bit of work, thumbing them out of the tray, but it is worth it.