Category Archives: How to

Life is Like an RC Car 2.0 The Upgrade

 

This post is an update of a post from 2016.

It’s been a year and five months since our journey began into the RC vehicle hobby. For the first part of the story click HERE  and when you are all caught up, the link at the bottom will bring you back. Or just ride it all the way through and read the beginning at the end. The original post is here.

Anybody that’s in it can tell you it is an addiction, albeit a good one. It can cause some financial strain but is not know to destroy relationships. Rather, I think it can build good ones among friends, strangers, parents, and siblings. And, those two have had some serious upgrades that have taken them from 20 MPH cars to 45 MPH  back-flips and wheelies.
At this writing, we now have cars that can easily go 85 MPH and our game has been seriously upgraded. We have an entire room in our house dedicated to the care, maintenance, and storage of our eight cars. Only two cars from the time of the original posting are still in our stable. And, those two
Most recently, my six-year-old son Tobias picked up two sponsors for RC Racing. I know right, a six-year-old with sponsors for a technical sport. I think it’s crazy too. The sponsorships came about through a Pro RC Car Driver named Thello Jordan who owns and maintains Speedworld Raceway in Roseville, CA.
Watching Tobias drive at a gathering of off-road drivers, Thello exclaimed, “You need to get that kid racing.” At his track, Speedworld, they only race on-road cars as in the word asphalt. Up till last week, we only had off-road cars meaning dirt, rocks, and mud every boy’s favorite. On-road racing and off-road are like apples and oranges, they’re both cars, but the similarity ends there.

In subsequent conversations, I asked many questions and Thello advised me on what it would take to get into on-road racing. I sold a big pink and scary-fast monster truck to get the money, and Thello offered to sponsor Tobias to race.

Tobias' Sponsors

Tobias’ Sponsors

 

Allen and Tobias with TC4 kit

Allen Tannehill of Hobbytown with Tobias and the new kit and a body.

I told our Local Hobby Shop proprietor, Charles Tannehill, about Thello’s offer and he offered to sponsor a car. His store Hobbytown in Folsom, CA ordered a Team Associated Touring Car and we received the kit last week Tuesday.

 

 

A big race, King of Cali, with Pro Drivers from three states away was scheduled for three days after we received the kit to race in the electric USGT class.

With one day remaining, the car is finished and ready to go.

Yes, the car on the right is the same car. As it turns out, I had selected the wrong body for the class he was racing. It needed to be a two-door. Thello gives us new correct body and I stayed up till eleven at night painting the shell with leftover paint hence the green and red.


That first day, allocated for practice, we were plagued with problems, yet Tobias was able to get in some good practice time. In the end, we were tired and hot but blown away by the generous support of the track and the professional, highly skilled and very fast drivers. I am continually amazed by the generosity of the people in this hobby/sport.Tobias is a great driver, but he is still six and never driven this kind of car before. The next youngest kid on the track was seventeen. Tobias got in the way, caused a few crashes, and there was some under breath cursing by other drivers. Yet, every one of them offered only encouragement, tips, and praise. Amazing.

Tobias is a great driver, but he is still six and never driven this kind of car before. The next youngest kid on the track was seventeen. Tobias’ car got in the way a few times causing a few crashes, and under-breath cursing could be heard from a couple drivers. Still, every one of them offered only encouragement, tips, and praise. Amazing.

A steering servo failed on the first day and we purchased a new one. It also failed, so, Tom, the guy next to our pit area loaned us one. More awe and wonder. We scored some good swag at the end of race raffle. A driver who won a gift card gave it to Tobias. MORE and MORE Astonishment at liberality and graciousness of the people in this sport/hobby.

At the end of the qualifying runs, Tobias was placed in the B Main, the winner of this heat would be elevated to the A Mains. Tobias came in last in every heat, but he improved exponentially each time. The fact that he could navigate the track at all is a testament to his skills.

Here is Tobias’ first lap of his first real on-road race (Watch the red and green Camaro):

And if things couldn’t get any better…

The News Team from Good Day Sacramento showed up on Sunday, THE BIG DAY of the A Main races. Thello and Jessah ushered them to Tobias. On his debut on-road race day he is interviewed on LIVE TV.

Here are some more pics from the race: 

 

This is a toy

This is a TOY — These are not what this story is about.

So, this bragimony was supposed to be on how Life is Like an RC Car. I think it applies. If you stretch yourself out in life, in other words, if you refuse to settle for where you are at and shun the day to day grind, life will likely bless you with joyous moments and opportunities. Often we miss the best things in life because we don’t take a chance. Now, Tobias will be confident that he can rise above the mundane and middle ground. He will come away with a confidence borne on a large circle of peers and mentors.

No telling where he will go from here. Today I just learned the story behind Lewis Hamilton the most storied World Champion driver in the history of Formula 1 racing. For him, it all started with an RC car when he was six Tobias’ age.

 

 

 

 

Now for where it all started.

The Prequel

This story first began back in April 2016 when we got our five-year-old son a REAL radio control car for his birthday April 1st. Real meaning from a Hobby Store (what they call Hobby-Grade cars) not what you buy at Walmart, Target or even Toys R Us. Those all gobble dry cell batteries like I do Cheerios, and break in a week. And did I say SLOW? Tobias had gone through a dozen. All failed and ate batteries except this one. It wouldn’t die. We ended up chasing it with the REAL RC car until we crushed it.

I thought he’d have a lot of fun with a real car as I coached from the sidelines and told him what and how to do it. As I watched, I realized one thing, I was missing a whole lot of fun.
This first car is a 1/18th scale Monster Truck made by Dromida, a division of Revell. In no time at all, Tobias was very good at driving it.
The title of this piece is, Life is Like an RC Car, which brings up my first point.
  • You can sit on the sidelines and watch someone else live life a la TV or Cable News and Reality shows or perhaps even your more adventurous friends. Or, you can get out and live it. Join in the fun.


So, I decided that WE needed a second car. Bigger and better of course. The red one on the right is our second car A Redcat Volcano. The second point in Life is Like an RC Car:
  • We live under the false impression that bigger, faster, and better—is—better.
You do know the answer to this, don’t you?
First day out, that new car dropped a steering hub with no parts locally available. Our new Golden Calf had let us down.
Once it was back up and running (a week later), it proved itself to be a whole lot of fun, but again things started to break. I now know one of the main Axioms of RC cars: They break. Get used to it.
So, anyway having one big car and one little car proved itself a mismatch and less fun than ideal… In comes the second small car. $100 Brand New at RC Country in Sacramento. The fun quotient ramped up once again.
The third point in Life is Like an RC Car:
One, two, or even three is never enough. Rockefeller (the original) was once asked, “How much money is enough?” The world’s richest man at the time replied, “Just a little more than I have.” Same holds true for RC Cars and all the friends I have made in this hobby/sport, all agree.


 
 
 
 
 
‘Most’ of our stable
Now we have two big ones and two smaller ones and we use them often. Now that we’ve found some cool racetracks, especially Rescue Raceway in Rescue, CA , we want them to run more often which means upgrades. And, did I say faster too?
This brings up the last point I’ll make in my RC Cars as a metaphor of life.
  • Once you get it working, you want it to work better and faster.
    • And once it goes faster, the weaker systems start to break. You beef up that weaker system and now the next weakest fails. Same too in life.
Just when you think you have it all together, the next weakest link will fail. Which will cost you money, sweat, time, and frustration, but it’s worth it.
Or, you could just sit by never change and watch others have all the fun.

Back To Top

 

Impossible

Taking Jericho, my next book, is not about playing the odds, it’s about beating them by not living according to what’s possible but instead ordering our lives along the lines of impossibilities; not being limited by what is the commonly accepted definition of possible. A life like that is entirely possible.

To be enslaved by or at the very least limited by what’s possible in life is much too narrow of existence for me, much like how I once heard a rut described.freshly-dug-grave

“The only difference between a rut and a grave are the dimensions.”
Ellen Glasgow

stuck-in-a-rut-295x300

 

Many of the things, goals and/or accomplishments I want seem so unlikely, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe they could happen. Some call that arrogance or a fanciful form of extreme optimism. I am often guilty of the former but seldom the latter. Still, I realize my faith can at times be arrogant.

“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Jesus of Nazareth

The words of Jesus inform the basis for my belief in the impossible coming to pass.

On that note, the grave is not the end. We all live forever. Living forever is something many people have searched for, and there it sits, right under their noses, either stinking up the environment or adding the sweet perfume of eternity.

As I sniff the crisp air of eternity, I sense the possible dressed up as the impossible.

IMPOSSIBLE is the impostor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s possible for you?

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well. Psalms 139:14

 

 

5 Inspirational Books on Writing

I’m big on inspiration. I believe most writers are unless, of course, you write plumbing manuals, and then you still need a smidgen of inspiration to keep your readers awake through a paragraph. I once belonged to a writers group whose conscience was that authors shouldn’t read other people’s work lest it influences their own writing… The active word here is that I ONCE belonged to that group. After all, could you imagine a Professional Basketball player who never watched any basketball games other than his own?

The group leader was a published author, and fairly good. I read his book–that’ll teach him…

Like I said, I was once a part of that group, and since then I have participated in a group moderated by a nurse in the cancer center I went too. It was based on the idea that writing could be a healing art. Tremendous. I met some great influences, was inspired, and learned a great deal along the way. My most notable connection was a man who had a degree in Spanish Literature which he told me he was still trying to find a use for—the degree not the literature. He turned me on to one of the better authors I’ve ever read, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a famous author and Pulitzer Prize Winner.

Some like data. Some like facts. I’m an inspiration junkie.

forest-green-bike

There’s a great story here… Romance or Tragedy?

JUNK-IE
A person with an insatiable craving for something.

Like the gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, only one was of the mystic variety. Whenever he mentioned himself, he used the disciple that Jesus loved to describe himself and his relationship with Christ. Not that he was loved more, but that was his frame of reference. He loved inspiration, and in my arrogance, I think everyone else should too.

So, without any more of my drivel, here are the most inspirational books on writing I have read up to date.

I’ve listed them in order of their impact and influence on me personally. I hope it’s helpful.

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle

As writers, paintersmusicians we desperately need what MS. L’Engle has to say.

Madeleine L’Engle was an American writer best known for young-adult fiction, particularly the Newbery Medal-winning, A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels.

I have read her YA novels; they are tremendously great reads for anyone, but it was this book I read first. Shared with me by an artist friend, it was chock full of mind-altering, paradigmbending inspiration. The magnitude of what she was saying had to be taken in small bites, and chewed slowly to let it digest properly; it took me six months to finish reading this small paperback.

Walking on Water altered my thinking on the entire creative process. 

We as artists, authors, or… can create anything–there are no limits–we can walk on water.

From AMAZON: Through L’Engle’s beautiful and insightful essay, readers will find themselves called to what the author views as the prime tasks of an artist: to listen, to remain aware, and to respond to creation through one’s own art.

The next two are a toss up for second place- so I’ll give deference to my hero, the best storyteller on the planet… Stephen King



On Writing: a memoir of the craft by Stephen King

on-writing-stephen-kingPart autobiography and part inspiration, ‘On Writing’ has many reflections on his own personal tragedy. It quietly bursts with tips on the mechanics of writing and lots of good simple advice. He wrote this book while recovering from nearly being killed when a motorhome ran him down as he was out for a walk.

From WIKIPEDIA: The first section of On Writing is an autobiography, mainly about King’s early exposure to writing and his first attempts at it. King talks about his early attempts to get published, and his first novel Carrie. King also talks about his fame as a writer, and what it took to get there. This section includes his relationship with his wife, the death of his mother and his history of drug and alcohol abuse.

The second section is also autobiographical, in which King discusses the 1999 accident in which he was struck by a vehicle while walking down an isolated country road. He describes the injuries he suffered, his painful recovery and his struggle to start writing again.

WHAT I TOOK FROM ‘On Writing’:

Stephen King’s definition of when you can actually call yourself a [talented] writer. I Win. Goodreads Records it as:

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check and if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce. If you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” I remember it saying, “then you can call yourself a writer.”

Somehow King manages to read 60-75 books a year and still produce more than one epic book every year. AMAZING!!! But, if I lived in a big house on a lake and wrote for my sustenance, perhaps I could too. Still Inspiring.

Nuts and bolts: After you have finished what you think is the final draft of your book or story, get out the scalpel and shorten your book by 10%. There is at least that much worthless stuff. Personally, I have a hard time NOT making it longer, but ever since I read King’s book, his voice rings in my ear as I take a hatchet to my precious prose.

The line that rings in my ear comes to me quoted by Stephen King‘s literary hero, Richard Matheson: “Kill your darlings.” Literary hopefuls are told to learn that maxim.

More simply stated, take a merciless hatchet to your most darling and self-indulgent verses for the greater benefit of your work.

There’s a lot more to On Writing, but it’s much less tangible and shows up when needed.


Tied for Third Place:

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott  is certainly hard to pigeonhole into a class or category. If you’ve never treated yourself to her raw style, do yourself the favor and find any one of her many books. I think what does it for me mostly is her transparentness. She is very candid about her own failures and struggles with life. I’m a whole-hearted subscriber to the idea that a rough life makes great writing.

“If you don’t die of thirst, there are blessings in the desert. You can be pulled into limitlessness, which we all yearn for, or you can do the beauty of minutiae, the scrimshaw of tiny and precise. The sky is your ocean, and the crystal silence will uplift you like great gospel music, or Neil Young.” -Anne Lamott

Excerpt from Google Books

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by Bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”

“A gift to all of us mortals who write or ever wanted to write… sidesplittingly funny, patiently wise and alternately cranky and kind — a reveille to get off our duffs and start writing “now,” while we still can.” — “Seattle Times.”

The following description from Wikia  is what endears me to Anne Lamott, the author and narrator of the Bird by Bird.

A former drug addict and alcoholic, Lamott has become an author, teacher, mother, and devout Christian. She is heavily influenced by her author father’s bohemian lifestyle. She believes that writing can help create community and lead to personal satisfaction. She also believes that writers are an integral part of society and must have a moral perspective.

AMEN!!


Remember, the main point of this piece is to share the books on writing that inspired me… There are many fine books on grammar and style, but inspiration is an elusive beast and frame of mind is everything to a writer.


Zen in the Art of Writing:

Releasing the Creative Genius Within You by Ray Bradbury

Before I knew I was a writer, Bradbury’s stories were working insidiously to turn me into one, and before I was a teenager, his Illustrated Man carved its deep mark in my soul. I still make it a point to reread some of his books every year. His short stories are my favorite, and I suppose that has some connection for me to my writing as I love penning a short story or a long short in my case.

As it says in the title, there is a Zen to writing, and as all these authors I’ve listed have said in their own way, If you write to be rich and famous quit now.

“I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.” ― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Most memorable in this book was how he fed dimes to coin-operated typewriters in the basement of the LA public library writing and submitted stories not only out of ZEN but because he had to eat. It drove him to improve and hone his craft. That form of Zen was inspirational in that his only formal education was high school.


The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop: A Guide to the Craft of Fiction by Stephen Koch

I read this book a long time ago, and it helped me immensely to grow as a writer. But, the standout thing in my mind’s eye is the green cover and this quote:

“The cat sat on the mat’ is not the beginning of a story, but ‘the cat sat on the dog’s mat’ is.” 
John Le Carré

At the time I didn’t even know who JohnLe Carré was, but it caused me to search and opened another treasury of incredible reading.

I was a raving fan of Kurt Vonnegut since my teen years and I’m sure it was his blurb that caused me to pick this from the countless books on writing:

“Make [your] characters want something right away—even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.”Kurt Vonnegut

So there you have it. That’s my list. Be inspired. Keep writing.

M. Matheson

How To: Switch from a PC to a MAC

Mac Keyboard Shortcuts Legend

Switching from PC to Mac. This legend is nearly all you need.

Early in the late 90’s when personal computers first took hold of America and the world, I spent a thousand dollars for a Desktop PC that had only a smidgen of the computing power the iPhone in my pocket has now (and that came free—sort of—with my account).

Last year one day, I stacked up of all my used PC towers and laptops. I deceived myself into thinking I might be able to sell them on Craigslist. I wiped the data; I knew enough to know you don’t sell or donate a computer with your data still on it.  How to securely wipe a hard drive.

I put up the ad; no takers. Then I tried to give them away, again, No Takers. It seems that wiping all the data includes nuking the Operating System which makes them worthless.  The year before, I had purchased a MacBook Pro and soon after realized that compared to that Mac, those PCs were trash even with all my valuable data and an operating system. Their only value was as gadgets designed to suck hours from my day, fill my head with frustration, and siphon dollars from my wallet to pay to fix problems that randomly appeared from this air.

PCs, I found, are like teenagers. Constant attention is required to keep it from hurting itself. I am afraid to think about the thousands of dollars spent on Antivirus software and subscriptions to updates.

Why the hell didn’t I buy a Mac earlier?

The day I purchased my Mac, the quality of my life dramatically improved.

No longer did I have to stay up late guarding the gate or ferreting out unwanted malicious malware.

Felix the cat hypnotics

 

I shudder to think how many hours I had spent simply staring at the screen waiting for something to load or an image to appear?

The Mac works tirelessly. Gone are the freeze outs and Blue Screen of Death after the PC feels overworked and goes on strike.

Apple Computers, in my book, are nearly flawless. I can work with two browsers open, six tabs on each, an image editing program, a Word document, and an Excel spreadsheet all open on my desktop, and when I need to leave for awhile, I close the lid.

No special shutdown sequencemagic dance, or praying, it will work when I’m ready. Hours later, I can open the lid to find my work area just as I left it and ready to perform. My Mac has only frozen twice in two years. Rebooting took under five minutes. Not a bad trade considering the number of cumulative days spent on the same task with a PC over the years.

The only tight spot, a speed bump really, was the learning curve. I’m a big user of keyboard shortcuts, and Apple speaks another dialect. If you haven’t learned to use shortcuts while working on a computer, you are wasting precious seconds of your life and productivity. Why pull down a menu and search for the item when you can place two or three fingers simultaneously on the correct keys and get the same result? Mac Shortcuts

Pull down whatThe steepest part of the learning/unlearning curve were these hieroglyphic symbols for keys labeled with something different.

What the hell are those? The Command key symbol is obvious enough, but those others are not exactly intuitive.

AND…

  • Backspace vs. Delete: On Macs, the Backspace key as PC users know it is named Delete. And the Delete key deletes from right to left, just like the Backspace key.
  • If you want to delete text from left to right (à la the Windows Delete key), you have to press Function-Delete (particularly if you’re on a laptop).

It only took me a few weeks to get that pattern hardwired into my frontal cortex.

The intrigue supplied by Apple with their hieroglyphic style keys was amusing and mildly frustrating but nothing that would send me crawling back to the Windows World. Mac Keyboard Shortcuts Legend Stapler Forehead

Still, every other day or so, after I pull a new menu down from the top bar on my computer, I have to get out a handy-dandy cheat sheet to decipher these symbols.

I need to staple these to my forehead.

Command-keyThe Apple Command Key is Union Station on your Mac. Contrary to the Windows key function, the Command key works much like the Control key does on a Windows PC. Don’t go pressing the Apple key and expect a system menu to pop out of nowhere. Instead, use this key for your most common keyboard shortcuts.

Control KeyThe Control Key on the Mac isn’t used in the same way as the Control key on a Windows PC. I use it most often when I’m “right-clicking” on my Mac – often referred to as Ctrl-Click.

Option KeyThe Alt/Option Key is used to skip through words in a document (and highlight words when used in conjunction with the Shift key) – much like the Ctrl-Arrow functions work on a PC.

Shift KeyThe Shift-Arrow Symbol is straightforward enough and functions the same as Windows shift or a typewriter.

Esc Symbol       The whacked out ESC key symbol. But, as I meditate on it, it makes perfect sense.

Check out this handy reference table, for a more comprehensive list of the Mac keyboard symbols.

A final word on Keyboard shortcuts (I promise)

Fortunately, when it comes to keyboard shortcuts, many on your Mac are the same as on your Windows PC. Ffor many of the usual shortcuts, you can simply swap out Command for Control. The Ctrl-C/X/V to Copy/Cut/Paste become Cmd-C/X/V.

Simplicity is the reason Apple Products are so popular. That and the COOL FACTOR.

simplicity

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