Archive for January, 2011

The Sopranos – the ending that was never shown

Posted in Harley-Davidson with tags , , , , on January 31, 2011 by bleiglass

You may ask what a post about the TV series The Sopranos have to do with a blog about my Road King.

  • Reason 1: as I could not ride the Harley due to winter weather, so I watched the whole 6 seasons in January 2011
  • Reason 2: during my first ride in 2011, the day after I saw the final episode, Made in America,  while enjoying the engine and nature,  I suddenly understood the missing ending

Spoiler WARNING: if you did not yet see the final episode of The Sopranos, do not continue reading…

Lets just recall the last frames of the final episode: Tony meets his family for dinner at a local diner, arriving first. Carmela arrives second and Tony verifies that Carlo Gervasi is going to testify against him and the DiMeo Family. A.J. then arrives and the three Sopranos talk for a while. A man, who has been intermittently staring at Tony as he sits there, gets up from the diner’s counter and glances at Tony as he heads to and enters the bathroom. As Meadow enters the restaurant, Tony looks up and the screen smash cuts to black and silence.

After 10 seconds of absolute silence, the final credits roll without music.

This final episode was first aired on TV on 10th June, 2007, and since then millions of viewers, like me, tried to understand what happened. The writer David Chase was not exactly helpful, leaving it up to us to imagine the ending, like in a fairy tale: … and they lived happily even after.

In the episode “Sopranos Home Movies”, Bobby says: “You probably don’t even hear it when it happens” and I think, like many ohers out there in the virtual world, that these words are the explanation to the “black silence”, that somebody died suddenly.

But for the “lights to go out”, you have to see life through the eyes of the person being killed. As the camera shows Tony, it cant be him. It has to be the person looking at him, and that is from this angle of view his son A.J.

Lock at these 2 frames, the final moment and one from a scene some seconds earlier, when Tony argues with A.J.:

The last frame is clearly a view through A.J. eyes, as he would see his father the moment before the fatal shot is fired.

Here my very own conclusion: A.J. died, and it was a hit clearly directed at the son of Tony Soprano.

As Tony is still worried by possible reactions to the killing of Phil Leotardo, he had arranged for body guards to protect his family members. Carmela, A.J. and Meadow each had 2 “friends” assigned to secure their movements. The routine was that one bodyguard enters the restaurant before their “client”, the others stayed outside to secure the street. They were all at the lookout for potential assassins, but missed the real ones coming.

Shortly before Carmela enters the restaurant, one of her bodyguards enters

Even closer to each other, moving like a friendly team, A.J. and his bodyguard enters. The man may look suspicious from the counter, but he is actually friendly and worries about A.J. and the Sopranos.

Then the killer of A.J. moves into position when A.J.’s bodyguard visits the men’s room

Nobody expected a threat from such a different ethnic background, but we have seen the leader before, check this out

Don’t we know this guy? Isn’t he the “Somali” on the bicycle beaten up by A.J. and his friends? It may not be him, but a brother or very good friend, a gang member, and they have reasons to hate A.J. and his friends. It is sometimes just the wrong confrontation that escalate to murder.

Carmela’s bodyguard, sitting on the other side of the room can not react quickly enough to save A.J., but he shots down the killer and his accomplice in fear they move on Carmela and Tony. Meadow enters the restaurant, A.J. is dead, and the lights go out.

CUT

Or not… please comment, I am happy to read about your imagined ending.

Some suspected that writer David Chase had an ulterior motive for keeping the plot wide open: a future Sopranos movie.

Recently the future already started between him and James Gandolfini, who will star in David Chase’s feature film debut, Twylight Zones, set in 1960s New Jersey. What a coincidence…

James Gandolfini and David Chase

Thank you for many weeks and years of great entertainment

more please….

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The second season starts at 6052 miles

Posted in DIY, Harley-Davidson with tags , , on January 30, 2011 by bleiglass

Today was the day, sunshine and blue skies, my second season on a Harley-Davidson started.

It was still bloody cold at 4C (39F), but the first day in 2011 to be able to see through sunglasses, ideal for a short and lonely ride to remind my Road King Classic what is was build for.

The engine started without problems, 2 month of inactivity in the garage did not kill the battery. Well, all parts are less then one year old, I would have expected nothing less.

My small round trip to nowhere and back home was also designed to check out the small additions I made over the winter break. As I had to remove the front wheel to fix new fender parts, I was a bit careful for the first miles, but all turned out fine.

Here some pictures of the new parts and chrome I added

Road King Classic Chrome Fender Skirt

 

Road King Classic Passsneger Footboard Cover

 


Aileron brake pedal pad

Check out the drama behind this DIY job here<<

 


Aileron shifter peg

 


Aileron heated handgrips

Enough show-off, I can’t wait for the first Chapter rides to start…

 

Fashion Show at Guildford Harley-Davidson

Posted in Harley-Davidson with tags , on January 29, 2011 by bleiglass

Last week I joined the twice postponed Fashion Show at Guildford Harley-Davidson. What a great evening with professional models, staff of the dealership, Hogsback Chapter members and a dog showing off the latest range of Harley-Davidson clothes.

Please enjoy the collection of photos, grouped into 3 themes

Fashion Show A at 6pm

Art Bleiglass - View my 'Fashion Show 6pm' set on Flickriver

Show Intermezzo

Art Bleiglass - View my 'Fashion Show Intermezzo' set on Flickriver

Fashion Show B at 8pm

Art Bleiglass - View my 'Fashion Show 8pm' set on Flickriver

A look behind the scenes of a HOG Chapter

Posted in Harley-Davidson with tags , , on January 27, 2011 by bleiglass

I am starting my second season riding a Harley-Davidson Road King Classic, and my second year as a member of a HOG Chapter.

If you followed this blog last year, you saw that I joined many interesting rides and rallies, and now have a better understanding of what is expected and what is special.

But what is going on behind the scenes? How is all this organised?


Steve, chairing the meeting

To assemble and run such a diversified program, many people must put a lot of effort into, because it is not done by just agreeing to meet at 10am and ride… somewhere.

I decided to have a look behind the scenes, something a riding member does not always see, and tried to capture the activity and participants in some photos.


Last weekend I visited the Road Crew Ride-Out planning meeting, to see for myself if the 20+ Road Crew members of Hogsback Chapter UK just sit around the Hotel bar, drinking pints of lager and tell jokes while eating chips.

It was very different, more like a business meeting with tap water on the tables, serious looking man and one woman sitting around U-shaped table, with numerous laptops and Powerpoint presentations, and a central high-beam projector displaying a Excel sheet on a large screen, to be filled in with all details of the 2011 program.


I could not stay long, but got a good impression of how serious this task is taken by the Road Crew, and want to thank all involved for their work in finalising the 2011 program.

Then I realise that now even more work starts, preparing the details of the actual ride-out and leading the group as Road Captain or Road Marshal in a entertaining and secure fashion.

A big Thank You to all members the Road Crew from my Hogsback Chapter UK, and to all other HOG-Chapters around the world, for this commitment.

And now, let’s ride…

To view all 29 pictures in high resolution, click on the link to Flickriver

Art Bleiglass - View my 'Road Crew Ride-Out Planning' set on Flickriver

Dyna had sex with a Fat Boy again

Posted in Harley-Davidson with tags , , , , , , on January 22, 2011 by bleiglass

It is not the first time these two went to bed together, their first child is the FXCWC Softail “Rocker C”. Their new baby is called: Blackline

Take the front of a FXDWG, and the back of a FLSTFB, and the result is something like the new FXS Blackline Softail.

I think this cross family breed was created by “in vitro fertilization”, combining the DNA of Dyna Wide Glide with the hardtail looking back of a mean Softail Fat Boy Special.

I am still looking forward to something really really new, a creative jump, not just a new mixture from the shelf, diluting the Dyna and Softail styles, because at the end, they will all look different and the same at the same time. The last time a new family was created was back in 2001 with the V-Rod.

About FX exchange rates – many ways to pay for your Harley Holiday

Posted in DIY, Harley-Davidson with tags , , , , , , on January 20, 2011 by bleiglass

For my US friends it may be irrelevant, but here in Europe, specially if you live in the UK, you may not just forget your passport, but you also need sufficient money in the different currencies.


Since the introduction of the Euro, it is much simpler to travel in Germany, France, Belgium and Italy, but there are still islands (like Great Britain or Switzerland) who do not accept the Euro as their national currency. Lets not discuss if this is good or bad, its a fact that you have from time to time exchange one currency for another.

Currency exchange is a messy business, offered by your trusted banker, glossy online brokers and then some dodgy homeless unshaven street fraudster offering “velly cheap” rates, preferably bought in combination with some illegal telephone cards.

I had some serious exchange to do, and choosing the right path can save you hundreds of £ or €, and more US$. The problem is, you never know what the right path is, and I decided to to split my transfer from Germany to the UK into 3 equal portions, choosing 3 different means of transfer and comparing the final result. One will be the best way, the others… lets call them a learning fee.

The task was simple: exchanging Euros to Pounds, while making a international fund transfer from a German € account into a UK £ account, and I choose 3 path, blue, yellow and green, coloured by the logo of the institution involved in the actual FX trade.


The blue path

the SEPA way


European bureaucrats hail SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) as a big financial step in unification money transfers in the Europe. And I must agree, it is very comfortable. All you need is a IBAN and SWIFTBIC code, and you can transfer funds from Germany to England, from France to Luxembourg, with one form, and unified fees, most often no fees. The catch is that you can only transfer Euro’s, so you can send Euro’s from Germany to the UK, but if you want British Pounds coming out of the pipe, the exchange will be done after the actual money transfer, by your UK local bank.

The yellow path
traditional international money transfer

This is done with long forms, many informations, you need the address of the receiving bank and the recipient, so in case anything goes wrong they can send you a letter. Quite traditional, and slower, and there is a fee. But the major difference to SEPA is: you can send a foreign currency, not just Euro’s. Using this path, you can select for the exchange from Euro’s into Pounds is done at the origin of the transfer, in Germany, and the UK bank receives Pounds, which they then just deposit into your UK account.

The green path
using a online foreign exchange broker

I think we all have a healthy portion of distrust to big banks, specially in the field of foreign exchange, where there is lot of movement but little accountability. Using a online broker is a interesting alternative, as they offer online a high level of information, transparency and control. You decide what exchange rate is used, you can wait for it to go up or down, and lock it in simply by pressing the enter key. You then have sold and bought the currencies involved, and have 4 days to provide the money.

Not sure what happens if you do not provide the money, but maybe you will have a chance to meet some friends of Tony Soprano… kidding, it just gets quickly expensive with roll-overs, so better pay in a timely manner, or if there is a problem: call them and be honest. This green path requires more actions then just filling in one online form, but you feel like sitting in the driver seat, informed about what is going to happen at what rate.

The results

Surprisingly to me, the clear winner was the traditional international money transfer, the yellow path. No SEPA IBAN hype, no online trading, it even had a clear advantage over the online broker, and I may have saved hundreds of pounds if I went for this path alone. But I didn’t, and it would never have been my first choice, as I am a confessing Nintendo kid, enjoying my online experience.

As you can see from the table above, I made some adjustments (negative values) for the yellow and green path. On the yellow path its the German fee of 19.50 € converted into 16.08 £ and for the green path its the difference in trading date, as the first 2 trades were done on the 11.1., and the third one 2 days later. By then the FX rate improved for a sale of Euro’s, thus the small “handicap” of 14.80 £ to make the results comparable.

I am most disappointed by my UK bank, not only for applying a very bad retail rate, but also for not even telling me in the statement what exactly contributed to the final amount.

The big blue-yellow difference can not be found in the FX mid rate fluctuation, as it was trading in a narrow band from 10.1.-12.1.  All rates (blue, yellow and green) are for normal customers, no friend and family bonus applied. All orders were placed online, the blue and yellow ones on a Sunday within a short time window of few minutes.

Following these results, I gained 2 major insights:

1) understand the fees, but do not worry too much about them

At first sight I was shocked to be charged a fixed fee on the yellow path, but this actually proved the most economical route. Fixed fees are good for large amounts, but bad for smaller amounts to be exchanged. In the business of currency exchange, fees are usually well hidden, and please do not trust anybody who starts his advertisement with a “No fees” promise, run away quickly. Everybody always charges fees, there is no free lunch, if it sounds to good to be true, it isn’t true.

Most of the time, the fee, or profit for the bank or broker, is hidden in the exchange rate offered. The professionals will not use the mid rate, but their sell or buy rate, and the distance of these rates to the mid rate are in effect the hidden fees.

I liked the transparency of the green path, the broker clearly quoted the mid rate (0.8355), also called the commercial rate, and the used rate (0.8143), called the retail rate. For the 4k of Euro’s exchanged this represents a implied fee of 84.80 £, or about 2.6%. If you want to learn more, watch the educational video “Commission Free” is a Myth <<< of RabbitFX.

2) the music is in the FX mid rate used

The biggest factor in foreign exchange is timing, but to get that right you have to understand the market. I assume no one of us is a FX professional, monitoring the market movements on a daily basis and understanding the influencing factors, therefore we are ready to use for occasional currency exchange the rate is prevailing at the time of exchange. But even some days of observation, trying to hit at the right time, can save you more money then all the fees directly or indirectly charged by the banks or brokers.

If you look at the pink points, representing 2 very different FX rates just for this one week, and manage to hit the right (high) rate on the Friday, the difference can suddenly be 80£ more positive on 4k€.

I will make this effort next time I have a greater amount to exchange. As you plan your holiday well in advance, you should also try to understand the exchange rate tendencies, at least have a feeling to better wait some days, or quickly exchange right now. And then the green path may well be the best path.

The online website of brokers provide a lot of analytical information, and you could quickly “earn” the money for your first candlelight dinner on the beach.

New Harley-Davidson Motorcycle To Be Revealed

Posted in Harley-Davidson with tags , on January 20, 2011 by bleiglass

The news ticker reads: Harley-Davidson will be announcing a new model at the Vancouver Motorcycle Show January 21st.

I wonder of this will be just another variation in seating height or paint job, or something really really new like the V-Rod was when introduced in 2001?