Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Things to be thankful for...

Thanksgiving is two days away.

It's going to be a rough one for me.

My son is away from home due to some unfortunate choices he made (I won't go into detail to preserve his dignity). My wife is in the hospital. My mother lives six hours away, and I wouldn't dream of visiting my wife's family without her (I don't fancy the pain I would have to endure).

But...I think Solomon said it best: "There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." My best friend's family invited me to join them for dinner on Thursday. I am so touched by their generosity and his continued support over the last several years.

My friend Kevin has been there since college. He helped me buy my first car and my first house. He stood with my wife and I when we adopted our son. And he has stood by me through all the ups and downs of my wife's illness over the last five years.His family accepts me as well, even if I am a little odd and scatterbrained.

I am thankful for family. Not just kin, but real family. Those who take us in and love us, even though they have no real reason to.

We've lost our sense of the value of this most simple and precious thing. Wal-Mart and Target will be opening on Thursday afternoon. They are counting on Americans valuing the saving of a few dollars, rather than cherishing each others company.

I won't be shopping. I'll enjoy the company of my friends; my family, then I will go visit with my wife in the hospital, after which I will go home and hug my puppy and be thankful that God has given me so much more than I deserve. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Conflicted Technophile on Board

It was just me and my friend Mike, rattling through the woods on our mountain bikes, not caring that we had no real idea of exactly where we were. No maps, no compass, just a general sense of direction and an inkling that we'd run into a road eventually. We'd see all sorts of things that we'd never see if we were paying attention to where we were going. One time, we saw a herd of five or six deer grazing contentedly. Another time it might be a muskrat or beaver in a still pond, or perhaps a red headed woodpecker or some other interesting fowl, like the time we saw the wood ducks.

Yeah, those were the days.

A few years back when I rode my scooter to Massachusetts, I had some paper maps, which are decidedly difficult to manage on a motorcycle, but no GPS and only a general idea of toward which direction I should head. Yeah, I got a little misplaced at least twice, but it was an adventure, so I really didn't mind.

The last time I headed north on my Sabre, I had a GPS, and it told me all sorts of handy stuff, and kinda spoiled the fun.

Last fall when I went to visit my family and thrash around the Berkshires, I didn't have any of that fancy stuff along. It was a bit different from my youth, since I was on actual roads, but the feeling was the same. There was nothing tying me down to a particular route. No irritating voice telling me I was going the wrong way (I'll skip the smart remark about having my wife or mother along, though I'm sorely tempted).

Now though, I'm back to having all sorts of gadgets. I have both a tablet and smartphone with GPS on each. They are handy and the maps on my smartphone are amazing, especially the satellite views. The trouble is, there's that feeling that I won't get lost. That assurance that I can figure out where I am without the adventure of finding where I left myself. The confidence that I won't end up in a seedier suburb of New York city with no certain route back to the open road.

This is a difficult dichotomy for a tech junky. On the one hand, I love tech devices (I have a degree in what could most easily be categorized as network administration after all). They do make life easier, and they are a heck of a lot of fun to fiddle around with. On the other hand, they do kinda suck the joy out of good old fashioned exploring. Wanderlust is an affliction I inherited from my dad. He'd always take "the scenic route" rather than the direct. Even after he passed away, the hearse carrying his mortal remains went the wrong way and ended up leading the funereal procession a merry chase through the wrong part of the cemetery (true story).

I often wish my dad were still living. I'm fairly certain he'd have enjoyed riding a scooter with me from time to time. He did ride a bit when he was younger from what my uncle had told me...and he didn't have a GPS. My dad never even carried a cell phone.

I suppose this is why, even though I have all these nifty devices, I often will just go exploring and won't bother to consult them. Sometimes it's nice to just be lost.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Yeah...it's that time of year again.

The following entry is in response to a...misguided...comment by a reader.

Gross generalizations are the refuge of those with no real argument to bring to the table. If you can't beat your opponent, demonize them. Call me a racist if you like, I have a Herman Cain sticker on the back of my truck. If you want to see racism, look at the way he was treated by the media. When they couldn't find anything else to pin him on they went with "He's a typical black guy who can't control his carnal desires." They found a few women who made specious claims (all were debunked as I understand), and used a tactic they would never have tried with a liberal candidate of his ethnicity. He was called all sorts of horrible things, because he didn't follow in lock-step with those who wanted to silence him. When he got out of the race, I decided to go with a third party candidate. I won't say which one, because I see no need to endorse anyone.

Anyway, I'm not a fan of Romney, and I won't be casting a vote his way. I will vote for someone with whom my conscience is able to be comfortable. I have family in Massachusetts and what his health care plan did in that state ended up costing them more in the long run.

I find it humourous how disagreeing with our current president is considered racist by many of his supporters. I'm sorry, but I'll judge someone by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. It's shameful that many people voted for President Obama based on the latter rather than the former, just so he could be the "first black president." I've had first hand testimony to this fact from friends and acquaintances, not to mention the various articles I've read on the web with testimonials to the same end. It's sad but true.

For me, I look at the man's record. He had two years in which he had a Democrat controlled Congress and Senate, and he barely got his health care plan passed, even after shady deals were made. He has had a democrat controlled senate for the last two years, and still he blames the last president (or whomever else is handy) for governmental failures. If Romney blames a previous president for anything, he'll at least have company. 

As for FDR, the manufacturing boom started by the war brought the economy back, not anything he did, but that's history for ya.
I'm not going to go into details about how "I'm not a racist because I have friends of various ethnicities etc. etc." There's no reason to because the idea is silly. I've even been told by a friend that "all white people are racist, just because they are white and don't understand the plight of black folks." It doesn't follow any rational train of thought, but this is the kind of thinking that is out there.

It is high time we simply put aside all sorts of divisiveness and live together in peace. We should revel in our history and our ethnic diversity. The more we focus on what separates us, the more likely we are to relive the horrors of that second world war mentioned in the comment on my previous blog entry. Yeah, my wife's grandfathers both fought in that war. They were both there on D-day. My great-grandfather's second wife lost her first husband and all of her children in one of the camps. That little bit of family history is the main reason it burns my biscuits when people start throwing the race card into the mix.

The lesson I suppose is this: If you don't know what you're talking about, don't throw idle accusations around just for the sake of trying to shame people into agreeing with you. It's a bullying tactic through and through and it won't work on me. Use real facts, and I'm happy to have a discussion. If you'd rather use gross generalizations and baseless accusations, I hope you enjoy the taste of feet.

In the end, I do not care how the election comes out. In the scheme of things, the outcome of next Tuesday's voting is outside of my control. God knows the outcome and I'll leave it in His hands and be happy for the freedoms I have in His grace. The prophet Daniel wrote: "He sets up kings and kingdoms..." How can I compete with that? I'll love my family, enjoy my friends, play with my cats and puppy, and enjoy leisurely (and not so leisurely) rides on my scooter. And I'll be happy. :)

And KZ- No hard feelings, just don't do it again. :)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Deep thoughts, politics and such.

I haven't had much time to write due to my work schedule over the last month. My scooter still needs to be fixed but it runs, and I still haven't had the time to do anything about the Sabre or my truck.

More on my mind of late has been my feeling about politics. This is my opinion, and my venue. If you're offended by my opinion, you don't have to read it. (insert goofy smiley emote here)

The buzz in the news today seems to be all about who will "win" the debate tomorrow night. Technically, we won't know who won the debate until November 6th, but while I personally hope for nothing less than a landslide loss for our current president, I've been burned too many times to become excited about an election. I'll vote on November 6, and leave it in God's hands because ultimately, He's the one who puts men (or women) into political power and His will is going to be accomplished despite the best efforts of mankind to try to circumvent it.

And that is the crux of my opinion. I won't cite specific Bible passages, but the Scriptures are pretty clear about who controls the future and who puts men and women into power in government. You may disagree, and that's fine, but in the end, my faith tells me that God is in control and know what He is doing.

I need to be willing to accept His will, even when I do not like it, and move on and live the way the Bible teaches that I should, loving my fellow travelers on this ball of rock and giving Glory and praise to God, regardless of my personal feelings on a matter.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Sad and Happy

I'm a little sad tonight. The last few days have been an exercise in patience, and dread, and hope, all at once.

The motorcycle shop called to say the damage was assessed at $859.75, and my concern was that this might be enough to total the scooter, depending on what the adjuster decided. So...I started to look reluctantly at my replacement options.

I was rather excited at the prospect of a small bike like the Suzuki TU-250, or a Kymco Like 200i. Honestly, I like the Suzuki just a bit more, but then I got a bit of happy news.

They didn't total the scooter and she'll end up with all new plastics over most of the body. I am so relieved. I don't have the cash on hand for a new bike, and I didn't really want one. I like my scooter. We've become quite comfortable with each other and know each other's idiosyncrasies. It's a little like an old shirt that has a few holes in it, but it's just so comfortable you can't bear to part with it.

Now I just need to get my Honda running again (I haven't had the cash to keep it on the road, but it only really needs a carb cleaning and an oil change, and maybe a little polish here and there), and get my truck fixed before winter (also not running at the moment).

Let's just hope I don't park in front of any more inebriated motorists.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Domino effect

Tonight was a pretty normal night at work. I arrived and parked my scooter between the two cars parked out front just like I always do, and went about my business.

It was 9:50, with just ten minutes to go until I could go home when I heard a horrific crash from in front of the house. I popped up to look outside, joking to my co-worker that my scooter must have fallen over.

When I saw a younger man pacing around muttering beside a 2001 Jeep Cherokee, I knew something wasn't right, then I noticed that my co-worker's 2004 Jeep was nosed up against the scooter. (a full three feet from where it had been previously).

The man in the street was muttering loudly and then looked at me and asked "Dude, are you ok? You weren't hurt were you?" My shocked response of "well, I was kind of on the couch at the time, so, yeah, I think I'll be ok," was followed by the realization that this guy was definitely toasted.

A short moment later, my co-worker emerged from the house (restraining himself from strangling the idiot in the street, who was more concerned about where his cigarettes were than with what had happened), and I popped inside to call the police. While I was on the phone to the police, the idiot in the street decided to turn his Jeep around, and took out the mailbox in front of the house in the process.

At first I did not notice any damage to my scoot, being distracted by the rather large wrinkle in the back end of my co-worker's car. however, my scooter had been wedged between two other cars and I eventually noticed that there were cracks in the front fairing that hadn't been there before. 

 On either side of the front fairing, in front of the bubbles where the turn signals would be in any other country, there is a new crack caused by the squeezing of the scooter between two vehicles, not to mention some cracks to the fender beneath the seat.

After the drunken neighbor moved his Jeep, he ran into his house and hid. This happened just as the police were beginning to arrive. We were hoping for a COPS moment, but unfortunately they didn't see the need to bust down the guy's door. It turns out the guy has a suspended license and a previous DUI. They won't be able to get him on DUI again because of the circumstances, but he will be charged with a huge laundry list of other things, and he'll probably be hearing from a few lawyers as well, not that he's likely to have the ability to pay, but the vehicle apparently belongs to his father, who allowed him to drive it.

The scoot is rideable, but it feels a little wobbly at lower speeds. I guess I'll have to take it to Trans-Am tomorrow to get it looked at, and I've already filed a claim with my insurance.. Updates will be forthcoming.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sad songs

Music has power over the mind. There are songs that move the heart and songs that stir the soul. Music can be happy, sad, angry, melancholy, moody, or engender any feeling in between.

I went to visit an ailing friend today. A man of music. He has rubbed shoulders with the greats of the musical world, yet despite this he told me "there's a difference between knowing people and knowing people." (or something very close). I think his meaning was, you can know a lot of people, but it's the folks upon whom we have an impact (or who have an impact on us) who really matter.

His is a sad song at the moment, but with bright notes. Even in his ailing state, he was willing to give this young musician some guitar playing pointers.

Lee, my friend, you've had an impact on me, and I appreciate it.

Friday, August 31, 2012

It's not a question of if...

Yeah, you seasoned riders know just where I'm going with this post just by the title.

I was riding home from the chiropractor and had almost arrived at home. A white Jetta stopped suddenly in front of me and the choice was either hit it or drop the bike.

Sooo...down the scooter went and me with it, though somehow only my hands and right knee hit the pavement. I wasn't going terribly fast, so the worst of it was an emptied carb, a crack and some scratches on the front fairing and brake handle, and somehow a bit of rugrash on my left ankle...which never hit the ground. I didn't even scrape my hands or knee.

The damage was minimal, as can be seen from the photo, and the cure for the emptied carb was to simply tilt the scoot the other way and she started right up.

I love East Petersburg. It's generally a quiet little town, but the light at State and Main is a hazard. This is my fist crash there, but I've had a number of close calls. For some reason drivers seem to think that it's a good idea to rattle on through town at 40+, then slam on their brakes just before the light.

I'm thankful for a father who taught me to give a good amount of distance between myself and the preceding vehicle, otherwise I'd be decorating the hood of a white Volkswagon right about now.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fog and flowers

 Lancaster county on a late August morning is a place of muted beauty. The sun is rising later. Mist rises from the meadows after the nearly nightly rains. The air is cool. If one is fortunate to be out early enough (say, six am), traffic can be non-existent.

The other day, I arrived at work a few minutes before six, to find that I wasn't actually scheduled. So, the scoot and I traveled the back roads of Lancaster County for a bit before returning home. There were some small surprises, like the light foggy mists hanging above the fields, and a table on the side of the road with gladiolas for sale at 25 cents a stem.

Having a crate on the back rack is helpful and my wife was pleased to be greeted by fresh flowers when she awoke.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Them's the brakes

 As stated before, the Silver Streak's brakes were shot. The inside brake pad was completely missing (no idea how that happened), and the master cylinder was rubbing against the rotor. Not a good thing. Thankfully, no scootsters were killed by the faulty brakes on this vehicle. 

As one can observe, a replacement was definitely needed. So, last week, a new caliper and disc were ordered through Trans-Am Cycle Sales. Ordering online would have cost about the same after shipping, so the local store got the business.

The new caliper went on yesterday. The brakes were bled (they still need a little bleeding yet as they are slightly soft), and the Streak carried its rider safely to work and home again.

This afternoon, the new rotor went on, all shiny and bright. It was amazing how simple the whole process was. Just a handful of bolts to remove, put on the new parts, screw the bolts back in, and voila! all fixed. The only hiccup in the process was the need for allen wrenches to remove the brake disc. Luckily, there's a socket attachment for that!

The new brakes work well and stop the scoot competently. They feel nice and smooth. Thinking back, it would have been a good idea to shoot a video of the process, but holding a camera and two socket wrenches at the same time is a bit complicated.

So, if you're moderately inclined to tinker and you need to replace your brakes, it's an easy enough job to do on a scooter.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Good times...

 Wednesday dawned cloudy and somewhat crisp. It was a day much as any other, but I had to go to work, then I could relax and take a ride to Hershey Park to spend the day with the Church youth group.

The ride north was good. Due to issues with my front brakes (which I will get to in a bit), I took it easy and relied on the back brakes. It was truly a fun ride, and the park loomed into view with no incident...Until I arrived at the parking attendant's booth and she charged me $12.00 to park my scooter...oh, alright, I didn't cause an incident, but I sorely wanted to.

They had me park very close to the front gate, right next to one of the guard houses on the lot in a non-space (one of those odd lined in areas that aren't designated as parking spaces), in which the scooter was later joined by a large Harley bagger.

The day at the park was quite enjoyable. This picture was taken at the large flume ride, which I opted not to try as I did not desire to get quite nearly as moist as the folks who were getting off it.

Yesterday was uneventful, but today, I decided to remove the front caliper assembly so I could install the brake pads I'm waiting for. I had thought that there were two brake pads still there...but no...see:

In case it's not obvious, the outer pad is completely missing. 

As you may be able to see here, the bottom edge (as it would sit on the rotor) of the cylinder is bent inward....so, I have another caliper assembly on order as well as a new disk, which has also been damaged.

On the plus side, I have a great opportunity to get my hands dirty.

I will keep you all apprised of my progress as various parts arrive.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Riding buddy

My son is...out of town...for a while, so I needed a riding companion. She's only nine weeks, but Maggie seemed to like the crate on my scooter right away.

We will need to get some tips from others who ride with their dogs, but it's something to look forward to when she is old enough.

Maggie joined our family yesterday. She is a white and cream Maltese with a sweet temperament. She gets along well with our cats (though they are wary of her). She also gets along well with our rabbit (who mainly ignores her).

But long story short, my little family has another rider waiting in the wings.

Friday, June 22, 2012

There are many things that move the soul...

Scooters move the body as well as the soul, but I have long had another interest that seems to do the same. recently, I've gone back to that passtime. I started by painting on the walls. My wife said she didn't mind. The first item is on our dining room wall. All the others are on canvas, except the one sketch. I hope you all enjoy the little art show.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Rainy days and Mondays...

It was a beautiful morning for riding today. The scoot took me to work for a brief meeting. Afterward, we puttered around the back roads and up to Trans-Am Cycles in Lititz.

The scoot has somehow lost one of the anchors that hold the exhaust pipe to the cylinder head. There's still one anchor there but it is missing the nut that usually covers it. So, the scoot gets to go in to the shop in a week and a half.

After visiting the shop, we puttered back down the road. There are some lovely farms between Lititz and East Petersburg. I wanted to get some pics of the Amish haying, but rather than offend them, I just took a pic of the scoot in front of a farm.

It was a beautiful morning, but now it's hailing and there is a tornado watch. It will be the truck that takes me to work and the bikes will sit under their covers.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Moving pavement

I love night riding as a general rule. Yes, it is even more dangerous than riding in daylight, but I think that's part of the draw. Tonight, whilst returning home from work at 11 pm, I discovered one of the many perils a night rider might at some point face.

I was traveling down a stretch of 25 mph suburban roadway, approaching a stop sign. About 15 feet from the stop line, a patch of the center line seemed to detach itself and head into my path. in the first millisecond I thought "what the heck." My next thought was oh, "it's another cat," as I had just seen a feline cross the road a quarter mile back. That thought was quickly followed by "OH CRAP!" as I counter steered to miss the wandering polecat.

As I passed within two feet of the pungent little bugger, I could see him turn as if to load both barrels.

Yes...I blew that stop sign.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Weather...or not...

It's a little odd to have 80 degree days in March, not unheard, of, just odd, but when it drops back down to the 40's, it tends to be a true joy-buster. Today is the first day of trout season. A gloomy cold day (as it kinda should be in March, but still), and though the trout were released eleven days ago, they were feisty.

Not fishing last year was difficult. Little disposable income meant no fishing license. They do cost 32.50 now with the trout stamp, which is more than the budget would allow.

But this year, a little silver scooter will be parked by the edge of the road while its owner trudges along the edge of a local trout stream or two.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Who knew?

Motorcycle and scooter repairs and maintenance can seem daunting at times. When it comes down to brass tacks, they aren't as bad as they seem on the surface.

Hopefully one doesn't run over any brass tacks while riding either.

As mentioned in the previous posting here, there was a little excitement when the Kymco's brakes gave out on an excursion in the middle of February. As per the suggestion of my mechanic friend and the folks at Trans-Am, new brake fluid was purchased and the job of emptying and refilling the brake system commenced. A total of five screws needed to be removed (three from the plastic cowling covering the handlbars, and two from the brake fluid reservoir), a tube was placed on the bleeding valve (fish tank tubing worked fine with a little stretching), and the valve was opened.

After some vigorous pumping of the brake lever, the old fluid (a deep amber color like a better beer, but I wouldn't want to drink it) emptied into the catch pan, and new fluid was poured into the reservoir and pumped through until there were no more bubbles coming out the other end. The reservoir cap was replaced and the brakes now work as they are supposed to.

Now my truck sits in the driveway looking forlorn while I once again motor back and forth to work on two wheels...steering clear of any brass tacks.

Monday, February 27, 2012

First long ride of the year...in February!

This past weekend was the annual men's retreat for the Terre Hill Bible Fellowship Church. It was held this year at a campground just over the Susquehanna river in York County, south of the Holtwood hydroelectric dam.

Since the retreat was closer to home this year and the weather was nice, I decided to take my scooter. I loaded it up with all my stuff and headed south out of town on route 741. Everything was going well, until I got to the intersection of Rohrerstown Road and Columbia Avenue. Suddenly there was a popping sensation from the front end. I still was able to stop, pulled over to the side and checked the forks. Everything seemed fine, so I wondered if it wasn't all the weight. My pastor had already agreed to meet me at the junction of 741 and 272, so, thinking it might be just the weight disrupting things, I slogged on and leaned forward a bit to keep the weight more toward the front. The popping seemed to subside after this, and I made it to my meeting with my pastor, only to have my front brake fail completely when I stopped the scoot on the side of the road right where we were going to meet.

My back brake was still working, as much as rear drum brakes ever do on a scoot, and I'd just had a new drive belt put on so my engine braking was excellent. I loaded my guitar, backpack, duffel and sleeping bag in the pastor's truck. and followed him south, giving a ton of distance between us. A short while later, I discovered I had my front brakes back, but they were weak and spongy. At this point it had started to drizzle and my helmet's visor was fogging up. Despite this, I made it to the campground with no further incidents. I parked the scoot and left it for the next day.

Saturday morning found the front brakes of the scoot almost completely restored. One of the men from my church is a competent mechanic and he suggested the brakes might have some air in the lines or there might be some other issue with the fluid. After consulting with Trans-Am Cycle's mechanic, they suggested I change the brake fluid since it hasn't been changed in three and a half years.

Despite the Scooter issues, the weekend went very well. The group sessions were good. The fellowship was wonderful. Spending time with other men of like faith was refreshing to my soul. There was an afternoon hike down to the Susquehanna River, through the woods and along a pleasantly burbling creek.

Sunday morning dawned warm and sunny. We had breakfast and our Sunday morning session, then a light lunch. The scooter sat there on the cement slab outside the camp building. It appeared harmless enough, but the possibility of a brake failure loomed like a specter peeking out of the woods. I loaded my bags in the church van and put on my riding gear and helmet, and despite my trepidation, I got on my scooter and rode out, following the church van carefully and with a fair amount of distance between us. The brakes worked well, if a little spongy, but I took it easy on them and made it home in one piece.

Riding in fifty degree weather in February is surreal. There's nothing I can really compare it to. It was a fitting end to a fantastic weekend. Even unpredictable front brakes could not dampen my enjoyment.

Ride on!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mobile devices for the Scootster

I like to have music when I ride. I have put speakers in my helmet (as I've written about previously) so I can listen to music while I ride and still hear ambient noises. I started out with a cheap Wal-Mart brand MP3 player, upgraded to an iPod, and now have a Samsung Focus running Windows phone 7 (from here on, WP7). The generic Wal-Mart player is hardly worth mentioning. I don't even remember the brand and the quality was so poor it doesn't come close to comparing to better brands. The iPod and Samsung Focus WP7 will be compared here. I wish I had an Android to compare as well, but I don't.

As a scootster, I primarily use the music and photographic capabilities of both of my devices. These will be the primary focus of this entry.

We shall start with the iPod. It is a fourth generation 8 Gb iPod. It's capacity isn't huge, but for my purposes, it works fine. Sound quality is superb (it's an iPod), and the output is good in the standard iPod headphones. The music player is easy to use, but I haven't found a way to set up playlists on the device itself. It seems they much be organized on my computer. getting to the music player is simple enough since it's one of the main icons. I only use my own music while riding, so not having 3G or 4G isn't a problem. iPhone users can use Pandora Radio or Iheartradio (or other services), but these use the data plan.

The interface is easy to use with only a minimal learning curve. Using the camera isn't so bad, but the built in camera doesn't deliver the highest quality photographs. It's alright if the lighting is good, but bad lighting ruins a lot of pictures that I've taken. The biggest gripe I have is the lack of an external camera button. the only buttons on the iPod control the volume. One advantage the iPod has is a huge app store which has a plethora of photography apps, some of which make up for the poor quality of the camera.

Battery life is good. Constant music playing takes about 10 hours to drain it. Not bad. While not riding, I can watch videos on Netflix for about 6 hours. Good stuff.

As for the Samsung Focus WP7, the sound quality is excellent. Even the external speaker is quite good. The volume controls are easy to access on the side, and the lock screen displays playback controls when music is playing (the iPod doesn't, and I have not seen a setting to enable such a thing). Maximum volume in regular earbuds varies depending on the buds. Playlists are organized through the Zune software on a computer (much as the iTunes software is used for the iPod). I'd like to be able to switch things around a bit more on the fly, but I can see why such a function is not enabled. Since my phone does have a data plan, I can listen to Iheartradio, but not Pandora since it is not compatible with WP7 devices, but I prefer not to.

The interface has huge icons and a secondary screen accessed by the arrow at the top right, or by a finger slide. I think it's a bit easier for me to use than the iPod's interface. The camera is excellent, and even though there aren't as many apps in the Windows Marketplace, the picture quality is excellent. I took the picture of the iPod with my phone and vice-verse. The camera is a little slow if you use the autostabilizing function, but it provides a very sharp photo. The shutter button on the side of the phone is handy as well.

The battery on my phone is...not so good. It lasts about 6 hours with constant music playing and only about 4 if I use it for Netflix.

So, the better of the two? It's really close. The iPod is a better sounding music and media player, but getting back to the music player to pause or skip songs takes more than just a couple finger swipes. The Focus has a better camera and accessing the music player is simple and easy. It also has a bigger screen. If I'm just out riding, I carry the phone, but if I'm at work, I take both.