Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Forget about Social Networking Sites

Linked In, Facebook, Myspace, and a gazillion imitation websites have popped up over the last few years. All attempt to leverage social networking and while they have some value, they are still a pathetic attempt at mimicking real affinity groups. If you're building your personal and professional network, you'll get much more mileage from meeting people face to face, pressing the flesh, and remembering to follow up.

When you want to go online to network socially, forget about the usual social networking sites. Social networking sites are poor imitators of much older forums, email lists, and even chat rooms. People have been gathering in these forums and email groups since the Internet began. When you visit these websites and email lists, you'll find people with common interests and real experts, happy to dole out crucial advise.

Let's bring this back to Gear Thoughts. Here's a few groups in which I participate.

For my BMW K75s, I often participate in the Yahoo Group: KBMW. For my adventure riding addiction, I can spend hours reading the ride reports on the Adventure Rider Motorcycle Forum. For meeting local riders and going on group rides, there's the regional subforums. If you live in Colorado and are into sportbikes, you'll want to visit the Colorado Sportbike Club Forums. You'll find plenty of expertise and lots of opportunity to join other riders. If you're into BMW motorcycles, visit Colorado Beemers and join the group for a ride. When I want to feed my Audi addiction, I'll go to the forums on Audiworld although the Audifans site has a much better marketplace.

And on it goes. For every passion, you will find a forum or email list to support it. When you have a problem, the people you meet are often willing to help and you'll also find a treasure trove of useful technical information in the archives. There are always informal and formal gatherings happening, so there's plenty of opportunity to meet these people in person.

I don't mean to bash Facebook, Linked In, and other social networking sites. I have a few profiles out there myself and they've enabled me to reconnect with people I haven't spoken with for years. That's pretty cool. But they're also limited and the widget stuff is increasingly annoying. If you're looking for much higher quality interactions, visit forums and email lists on subjects you're passionate about.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sea Foam - Chinese Water Torture?

Wise men say that sucking water into your engine can result in hydrolock. Water doesn't compress very much, so you run the risk of causing severe engine damage by intentionally sucking it in.

Yet the automotive forums say that Water + Sea Foam = Fountain of Youth. The promises are remarkable; better fuel mileage, more power, smoother running. The horror stories, few. The online video tutorials, amusing.

So like a later day Ponce de León, I slid a can of Sea Foam across the counter at my local auto parts store yesterday. The clerk gave me a curious look, as if he knew something I didn't. It reminded of the first time I bought condoms at the grocery store. Then and now, I hoped the clerk's smirk wasn't knowledge of disaster awaiting.

Later that evening, under the cover of darkness, I began the ritual. The engine was warmed up while an old priest and a young priest were summoned. A few cups of water were sucked into the motor, followed by the sea foam. My helper, my wife in this case, kept the engine running at 3000 rpm but kept asking me if I knew what I was doing. I feigned confidence, all the while knowing that the price of failure would be measured in humiliating stories told at cocktail parties and family gatherings for years to come. With each puff of white smoke out the tail pipe, I wondered how this would turn out.

After the initial water torture, I took the car out for an Italian tune up. Given its advanced age and mileage (23 years old, 240K miles), I'd previously never pushed the engine much beyond 4000 rpm. Now I was repeatedly brushing past 6000 rpm into redline. For half an hour, I abused the car with boy racer antics and full throttle motoring. Gushers of white smoke poured forth, as I worried about law enforcement pulling me over for causing so much pollution.

Eventually, the smoke cleared and the engine began purring. It appears that the motor survived. Indeed, it was now running quite smoothly. From the seat of the pants, it also seemed like the engine was even a little more powerful. I'm not sure if it was the sea foam itself or the Italian Tune up which followed, but thus far I'm satisfied with the results (i.e. humiliation avoided). I've been tracking my fuel consumption, so over the next week I'll be able to tell if there was an actual improvement.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Why Gear Thoughts

Gear Thoughts was born from a tremendous passion for things that roll, fly, carve, or splash across the land, sea, snow, and air. This blog is for enthusiasts of cars, motorcycles, snowmobiles, planes, sailboats, mountain and road bikes. If it moves and even better, if it can be ridden, expect to see it on this blog. Great automotive writers like Peter Egan and John Phillips, whose words have provided countless hours of entertainment, also deserve a nod for providing the inspiration for this blog

Over the years, many places to buy previously owned products have appeared on the Internet. Sites like AutoTrader.com, Cars.com, eBay and Craigslist have unlocked vast marketplaces for previously owned vehicles. With a few extra minutes, I tend to wander over and let the imagination run wild. When I buy, I often find the stuff I want online and typically buy used.

Why buy used? Simple. Let someone else can take the hit on depreciation. Plus, used products are more environmentally sustainable. Buying something used also lets you enjoy the unique character of the secondary marketplace. Compared to shopping at a sterile brick and mortar store, shopping the secondary market is like visiting an exotic bazaar, with colorful sellers flogging nearly any item you mind can conceive.

Interested in finding a Unimog? You won't find one on your local car lot, but at any given time you'll probably find a handful of the rockcrawling German military machines for sale on eBay. Want an original (now 40+ year old) Mini Cooper in mint condition? Time to roll up your sleeves and start shopping online.

This blog is devoted to the joy of shopping the secondary markets. Our goal is to share our experience, share our research, and perhaps tell a funny tale. While you'll find hundreds of magazines and websites devoted to new stuff, you won't find very good information for used products. This blog is aimed to fill that void. We hope you enjoy the experience (and consider contributing).

Welcome to GearThoughts.

About our name. As you may have guessed, virtually everything that rolls, flies, slices, or cuts across the earth has gears. The simple and elegant concept of a gear is fundamental requirement for anything that moves. Plus, many people have taken to calling the swag that accumulates in our closets, the stuff needed to hike, climb, or walk.. gear.

image: Reportergimme