Tuesday, August 23, 2016

All politicians lie

How else would they get elected? Every election campaign I have ever followed consists of candidates promising the moon to their constituency even when ‘the moon’ is any or all of impossible, idiotic, insane, or illegal. And many, many voters lap it up, generally without any form of second thought – sober or otherwise.

Examples abound. A few years ago provincial candidates in Ontario promised to reduce auto insurance premiums by 15%, even though they had no control over the insurance industry other than to threaten to remove their license to operate in the province. This had the entirely predictable result of companies reducing basic coverage by a significant amount allowing them to offer a skinny policy at a 15% reduction. If you wanted to bump it up to the coverage you had before, you could, but it would cost much more than the 15% ‘saving’. So the voters voted, the consumer lost, the politicians checked off another “promise kept”, and the people wondered what the hell happened.

Stephen Harper, our last Prime Minister, famously said on the campaign trail that a certain type of investment vehicle (Income Trusts) favoured by seniors for income generating purposes were a “sacred trust” and would never be touched, in spite of rumours to the contrary. Within weeks of being elected he banned them, driving tens of billions of dollars out of pension funds (both personal and public) overnight. He remained unapologetic in spite of economic evidence that it was a disastrous assault on Canada’s economy and seniors’ incomes for years afterwards. People believed him and then wondered what the hell happened to their pensions.

A border wall will be built and paid for by Mexico. Sounds like a great idea; I’ll vote for that guy. But it can never happen. Not only is the basic premise stupid (Mexico will pay to cut itself off from it’s largest market? Yeah, right.) it’s quite possibly illegal as well. So if Mr. Comb-over should, by some freak of nature, find himself in the White House, the people who put him there expecting the Great Wall of Mexico to be erected in the next 4 years will be left wondering what the hell happened.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s municipal, state/provincial or federal, the electorate seems unwilling or unable to actually consider what is being promised in the context of what is possible. So we keep electing representatives who, through the very nature of their campaigns, have proven themselves to be unethical and immoral, willing to lie through their teeth if it means one more vote.

And they do it because we reward them for it.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Random observations in an ER

web IMG_20160819_171233362Due to a serious car accident (don’t worry, everyone is fine – the car, not so much) I got to spend several hours hanging around an emergency room observation area on Friday. When you have nothing but time on your hands it’s interesting what you can see and learn.

First of all their procedures. All the medical stuff seemed okay to me; how would I know otherwise? But the non-medical was the worst hodge-podge of systems and processes I’ve seen in a long time, in fact since I was in the hospital myself a few years ago. One example: The central monitoring area was replete with large screens, patient status information, etc. However when x-rays and CT scans were called for the ER faxed (that’s right – faxed!) the request to the appropriate department, they’d get an acknowledgement back, and a porter would eventually come and take the patient for the requisite test and then return them to the ER afterwards. Their central system has all the information – I could see it on the screens. Why are the imaging department and others not simply plugged in to see what tests are required and proceed accordingly? Faxed? How 70s. 

The porters work their asses off – literally. The one young lady I spoke to says she walks, usually pushing a bed, some 20 to 25 kilometers per shift. That’s in the region of 5,000 kilometers (3,000 miles) per year. As she said, “I don’t need a gym membership.” I didn’t ask if she got to write off her sneakers as a tax deduction, but I bet she goes through numerous pairs a year.

The young (and very handsome, according to the missus) ER doctor took his lessons on bedside manners a little too much to heart. I understand the need to not talk past the patient, but when I would ask direct questions about possible after affects or treatment plans for her injuries he would always respond to her directly, and not to me. The only problem was she was still in shock and somewhat sedated and hardly able to remember anything he said. Of course if that’s the only nit I have to pick (and it is) I suppose it’s no big deal; it just struck me as odd.

And when it comes to odd, one unfortunate woman came in apparently suffering some sort of seizures. The paramedics brought in not only her but also her companion dog, a male golden retriever. While a number of the staff were attending to her another nurse put together a water dish and a mattress pad for the dog’s comfort. Of course the dog preferred the bed and staff had to keep moving him so they could get at his owner. But it seemed just as normal as anything that there’d be a dog in the ER, the porters would carefully move beds around him, and every so often one of the nurses or other patients would stop and scratch his ears. It was quite heartwarming to see.

I remarked to one of the nurses that all the biologic and dangerous waste bins were in locked cages, and most were bolted to the walls. He replied it was for staff and patient safety as apparently it’s not uncommon for some visitors to the ward to flip out (non medical term) and try to get at needles or other dangerous items to do themselves or others harm. Not really surprising when you think about it, but a bit shocking to see the extremes staff have to go to to feel safe when they’re just there to help.

I would like the contract to provide the ER (and the hospital in general) with hand sanitizers. They go through the stuff by the gallon. I can only imagine how dry the staff’s hands are after 8 or 12 hours of rubbing them with what is essentially alcohol every few minutes. Actually, perhaps a contract for hand cream would be more lucrative; I didn’t see any of those dispensers around.

And finally, after all this attention and care, x-rays and CT scans, finding out that there are no injuries other than scrapes and bruises that will heal with time is simply awesome!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Does this ever happen to you?

I had a free afternoon the other day. A friend had dropped off an ATV for me to work on, but there was no urgency and it could wait a day or two. The missus was out golfing with the ladies, so the honey-do job jar had the lid on – at least temporarily. And none of my own projects were time critical.

The tank on the Harley was down to fumes so I thought I’d take advantage and run into town to fill it up and perhaps stop at Timmy’s for a coffee or an iced capp. There are usually a few bikes in the parking lot so I might also have some company and friendly conversation at the same time.

So that’s what I did – gassed up, got a coffee, chatted in the parking lot. But then, because it was such a beautiful day, I decided to take the long way home. Which became the longer way… and then the longest way.

empty-gas-tank-image By the time I pulled into the garage 3 hours and 225 kilometers later the Harley tank was back down to fumes.

And I can’t decide whether it was mission accomplished or not.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A thing of beauty

Back when I was still a spring chicken I was a huge fan of anything car-related. I subscribed to all the current hot rod and racing magazines, followed Formula 1 faithfully, and my greatest desire was to own a chopped and channeled street rod, or maybe a T Bucket. (In truth I’d still love to own either one but the toy budget is somewhat constrained by she who must be obeyed – and the fact I need to eat for a few years yet.) And while the art of customizing was interesting where the rubber hit the road for me was always the engine.

And nowhere was the engine more front and center (literally, pre-1970) than in top fuel drag racing. I faithfully followed the exploits of drag racing legends like John Force, Don Garlits, Don Prudhomme, and later drivers like Shirley Muldowney, Kenny Bernstein, Joe Amato… it’s a long, long list of greats.

In their day drag racing (Top Fuel in particular) was mostly about the driver getting a barely controllable, on the verge of exploding, 2000+ horsepower bomb down a 1/4-mile track in one piece – and do it in under 6 seconds and at 225 mph. The skill and heroics involved in accomplishing said task and living to tell the tale (not all drivers did unfortunately) were incredible, but it was really the power plants that got my crank turning and I would study the spec sheets and drool over photographs of these incredible engineering marvels for hours.

But eventually, as with most things, time moved on, as did my interests. Cars were replaced by motorcycles. Marriage, mortgage, family, and career took care of the rest. However I still maintain a passing interest so when I saw this article in autoweek.com about Don Prudhomme having the Shelby Super Snake he championed back in the 60s restored to its former glory I had to comment. It’s an interesting read but first look at these images.



Now THAT is a thing of beauty.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

“For the want of a nail”

I thought of Benjamin Franklin’s thoughts on weak links as I was reassembling the S65 engine today. Ol’ Benjie put it much more eloquently than I ever could when he said:
“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”
IMG_20160710_121102579_thumb4When I reassembled the cases I took another closer look at the timing chain sprocket. It was worn but on an earlier inspection I thought I could get by with it, but now, considering how much time and $$ has already gone into this old engine, do I take a chance on the timing chain slipping a tooth or two with some potentially disastrous consequences? Or do I bite the bullet and replace the sprocket and chain while everything is mostly still apart? It might run fine for a few thousand more miles the way it is but it will always be a weak link – and worst of all, a weak link I’d be constantly aware of.

And there’s another factor to consider. Once the cases were bolted together I discovered that the crankshaft end play was way over the limit (20 thou vs. 4 thou), so pulling the cases apart again would let me shim that up as well and reduce the side-to-side sloppiness in the crank which, for an engine that runs 8,000 – 10,000 rpm, can be a problem.

IMG_20160710_115057883_thumb1So I did bite the bullet and ordered a new sprocket and chain which have now arrived. The next task will be to get the old sprocket off the crank (it’s a press fit) and the new one installed without destroying anything important.

And for shim stock? I have this old Harley Davidson beer can that should do the job just perfectly. I’ll have to make sure that enough of the HD branding stays visible to get a WTF????? out of the next owner when he realizes a 50 year old Honda has some Harley in it.