RGV Update

“Good news everyone!”  The RGV’s engine officially works.  The reinstallation of the engine took far longer than planned.  That was due to a combination of intentional stalling to get the budget back on track, unplanned extra work due to faults discovered along the way and limited spare time.

When I went to install the engine back in the frame, I discovered a hairline crack in the engine cradle.  Although the engine has rubber mounts reducing the amount of vibration transferred to the frame, common sense dictated that I should not ignore such an obvious weak point.  A quick trip to a local aluminium welder had that problem sorted out.

During this time, I took the opportunity to superficially tidy up the expansion chambers.  (exhaust pipes)  I say “superficially”, as I made no attempt to reduce the carbon build up that is surely deposited on their insides.  Instead, I sanded back the existing layers of paint, removed as much of the surface rust as possible, treated the remaining rust with a “rust converter” and treated the pipes to a fresh paint job with heatproof paint.  Whilst being a “far from perfect” job, it should give the pipes a bit more protection against the elements.

The reinstallation of the engine, exhausts and cooling system went remarkably smoothly, given that I do not have a workshop manual.  I have yet to buy myself a workshop manual for the bike.  This is largely due to the fact that I used to have one and they are not cheap.  I cannot quite bring myself to buying a new one.  These days, “bootleg” PDF versions are available on the internet.  I have found the PDF version of the RGV manual to be an incomplete series of bad quality scanned in images.  Still, using this and referring back to photos I took of the bike at the beginning of the year meant I did not end up with “bits left over”.

Once it was back in one piece, half a litre of fuel and the battery were “borrowed” from the VFR, and I was able to fire the bike back into life quite easily.  The “build” itself still has a fair way to go.  The high-level short list comprises of:

  • Replacing the brake lines and servicing the brake calipers
  • Front fork rebuild or replace (to be decided based on pricing)
  • Replacing various bits and pieces that are worn out. (chain and sprockets / clutch lever and cable / etc)
  • Fitting the new bodywork.  But that’s a story for another time.
  • A nerdRider’s guide to teleconferencing

    I suspect the IT industry is an early adopter of the “remote office worker”.  It is an industry that is reasonably well suited to it.  In time, I suspect more and more roles will diversify into roles that can be conducted remotely.  One component to office life when working with remote co-workers is the teleconference.
    From my perspective a teleconference typically takes the form of a “traditional” meeting held around a table, and dialing me in via a speakerphone sitting in the middle of the table. There was a stage in my career where I used to conduct teleconference meetings for the stakeholders of the software project.  So, it is fair to say that I have sat on both sides of the fence (phone?) when it comes to teleconferencing.
    There are some fairly obvious rules that should be followed when participating in a teleconference meeting.  For the benefit of my reader(s) I am going to state them here, just in case my definition of obvious does not match someone else’s…

    For the local participants:

    Project your voice
    Yes, this is obvious.   Even people who speak quietly know this rule, but still manage to avoid doing this in a meeting.  Pretend the speakerphone is in fact a little old lady with a cone held up to her ear! If you have something that is important enough to say in the meeting, then I want to hear it!  Say it loud enough to be heard!

    Talk towards the phone
    Try and avoid addressing an individual in the meeting room in what could be considered a “traditional manner”.  Western culture dictates eye-contact of varying degrees to indicate the intended target.  Instead, phrase your question or statement, by starting with the person’s name.  Until real-time video-conferencing becomes a flawless implementation used universally, this rule is important.  It may help to imagine that your intended target will only hear you, if you are facing the speakerphone.  The volume of a person’s voice changes markedly depending on how directly they are facing the speakerphone, so try not to move your head from side to side as you speak.

    Do not gesticulate to describe issues
    Some people just naturally love to use their hands to describe things.  Meetings with many people are rarely technical, so you get some people who insist on using hand gestures (not necessarily rude ones) to describe things.  Such as “I have this much difficulty when I use feature x of your software”.  If you are on the other end of the phone, you are left wondering whether they were indicating a small distance between thumb and forefinger, or something more akin to how big the fish that got away was…

    Stop people from tapping on the desk
    Not so obvious, but it can be a real show-stopper for the person on the other end of the phone.  The large flat area of the desk amplifies any sound made on it.  When the speakerphone rests on the desk, all it picks up is the tapping – often at a deafening volume.

    Soliciting feedback from the remote parties should be done explicitly.
    A question such as “Does everybody understand?” is not something that should be asked in a teleconference.  In a traditional meeting, a quick scan of faces will give a good idea as to whether everyone is following along.  From personal experience, I can tell you the “Does everybody understand?” question is meant with a stony silence.  If you have multiple remote participants, single them out individually. “Did you follow that, Jack?”  –  “Yes thanks”.  “How about you, Jill” and so on…

    Rules for the remote participants:

    Pay attention!
    I have found that being a remote attendant in a meeting means you quite often take more of a passive role.  Avoid the temptation to try and do other things whilst “in” the meeting.  It is too easy to let the meeting “get away from you” and it will cease to be of any value.  The people on the other end of the phone are doing their best to communicate solely through voice, the least you can do is give them your full attention.
    Don’t be afraid to ask people to speak up.
    Yes, you shouldn’t have to, but I bet you will need to!

    Have an ergonomic phone
    I cannot recommend hands free headsets highly enough.  Holding a phone to your ear for long periods of time is remarkably difficult and off-putting.  Just remember the first rule that you should obey.

    Have a phone that is easily volume adjustable
    Despite ranting about vocal projection, the unmistakable truth is that everyone will come across at different volumes.  Having a phone that is quickly adjustable and does not require you to take the speaker away from your ear is essential.

    Understand half-duplex communication
    A lot of speakerphones are “half-duplex” to avoid echo and feedback.  In a nutshell, if you speak, the microphone on the other end will cut out.  Effectively, you stop hearing what anyone else is saying.  Even polite people tend to “interrupt” a person’s conversation from time to time.  If you do so from the other end of a half-duplex speakerphone, there is a very good chance you will miss something being said.

    Be an active participant
    I do not mean that you should talk endlessly.  Understand that your lack of physical presence in the meeting space will mean that people can tend to “forget” you are there.  If the meeting “drifts” away from the intended subject, being remote can mean you “lose interest”.  Respectfully requesting that the meeting participants keep focused on the aim of the meeting quickly can avoid the communication breakdown that will otherwise occur.

    I think that’s about it!  If you have got any tips, feel free to leave a comment.

    Avoiding becoming a “wobbler”

    Gone are the days where I ride every day.  Although I hate to admit it, these days I am just a weekend warrior.   Sometimes, times between rides stretches longer than that.  Somehow, you just seem to end up with less spare time the older you get.

    I notice a real drop off in my riding ability, if I am not on the bike often enough.  The old adage of “time on bike” makes a big difference to my skill levels.  I marvel at how testing bans in MotoGP do not seem to affect the top riders in the sport.  At their level, I guess, they are simply not as prone to decreasing performance as us mere mortals.

    It does not take too long to get back into the groove of riding well again. (The term “well” is of course, highly subjective…)  I had noticed definite “wobbler” habits that I form when I am not riding well.  Typically in corners, I will turn in too early, giving me a shallow entry and risk me running wide on exit.  Knowing that this would be the case, it would seem obvious that I would know how to correct the problem.  But, I discovered this was merely the symptom and not the cause of the problem.

    When learning to ride a motorbike, rider trainers always make a big deal of looking through the corner.  “You go where you look”, is a common enough statement.  There in-lies my real issue.  Without the familiarity of riding regularly, I lose the confidence to look further through the corner.  That something so simple makes such a difference to my own riding is staggering.  Sticking with the basics is all that is required.

    This is probably what makes “refresher” courses in rider training so effective for many riders.  They may only reinforce the good habits previously learned, but that can make a substantial difference to your everyday riding.