Friday, December 23, 2016

All I want for Christmas is … camo?

Just recently a new Cabela’s opened up in Ottawa. For anyone not in the know, Cabela’s is essentially a big-box store selling everything any hunter, fisherman, or general outdoorsman (and the female variants of same) could ever want. And most of it is in camouflage so that, one assumes, if you ever put it down in the woods you’d never find it again and so would have to purchase a replacement – at Cabela’s of course.

Which brings me, in a rather roundabout way, to this conversation over-heard at a local Timmies.
Guy 1. Have you been to the new Cabela’s yet? 
Guy 2. No, but they’ve got their pre-Christmas sales on right now so maybe I’ll stop by and pick up some camo underwear for the girlfriend for Christmas. 
Guy 1. It better be for your girlfriend; your wife would shoot you if you ever gave her something like that.
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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Dreaming

Dreaming: The process one goes through to get from here:

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To here:

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Or here:

Honda c65_1

Or maybe here:

s-l1600

Or even here:

Shopping Honda

Well maybe not that last one. But with winter on its way it’s time to start thinking about where I want to take the Cub. It’s pretty rough right now so it will depend on how much work I want to put into it and how much of this I want to part with.

Money

And plenty of dreaming.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

And another one leaves the stable.

Many years ago now I used to participate pretty regularly with a group that rode trials in this area. Every week or so we’d go out and climb rocks (or try to), ford streams and creek beds, and generally play in the dirt, all the while collecting a fair assortment of aches, pains, scrapes, and bruises to remind us just how much fun we’d had.

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And the bike I did all that on was this ‘73 Honda TL125.

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As seems to be a frequent occurrence with me, this particular motorcycle and I crossed paths at least twice over the course of about 35 years, last coming into my possession 10 years ago. Again, as often happens, interests change, bones become more brittle, and the bike sat in the shed, unused and unloved, for the past 5 or 6 years. So when a young lad expressed an interest in it as a winter project to do a partial restoration and put it back into use among the rocks and trees it was time to let her go.

Sniff…..

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

When is a difference of opinion…

… just a difference of opinion?

Much has been written lately about the polarisation of uppercase-P-Politics in Western societies – Brexit in the UK, the recent presidential election in the US, Marine LePen’s ascendancy in France, etc. To that I would add lowercase-p-politics – the politics of religion, of race, of socio-economic status, of citizenship, and the list goes on. We see this every day, sometimes in the form of political correctness gone berserk, other times in the way those who agree with us are labelled “winners” while those who disagree are “losers”, and yet others where the overly sensitive among us are “traumatized” when they find out there may actually be dissenting opinions out there, the anti-Trump protests/riots being a good example.

And then we muse about how this all got started in the first place. We’ll here’s a clue. http://www.macdonaldlaurier.ca/how-cultural-relativism-on-campus-has-chilled-freedom-of-expression-philip-carl-salzman-in-inside-policy/

When I went to university, back in the Pleistocene, diversity of opinion was considered healthy. Universities weren’t merely echo chambers where one constantly heard only the most “correct” viewpoints on any topic. Sure, we had our problems, and we had our riots (the Vietnam war being the main, but not the only, cause), but no one ever demanded counselling after Nixon’s win, had classes cancelled to mourn Humphrey’s loss, or needed a trigger warning every time South East Asia was mentioned in geography class. It got ugly sometimes but we coped and, more importantly, we learned.

If opposing viewpoints belong anywhere, then surely they belong in our institutes of higher learning. Even if one accepts Foucault’s assertion that politics is war by other means, any competent military leader since Sun Tzu will tell you that understanding the enemy is key to winning. And that understanding doesn’t come from putting one’s fingers in one’s ears while chanting, “Nyah, nyah, nyah, I can’t hear you”.

Some blame helicoptering parents and their need to protect their children’s sensitive ears from non-conforming (by their definition) views. Others blame the “everyone is special” movement where no child ever loses – at anything. But to my mind most of the blame lies clearly at the feet of a liberal academia where disagreement is conflated with discrimination and non-compliant thoughts are considered dangerous.

Instead of being “safe zones” our colleges and universities should be “unsafe zones”, places where unpopular and/or uncomfortable viewpoints are debated, places that are the very antithesis of political correctness. (Now to be clear I am not advocating an open forum for extremist and targeted hate speech, although I consider the term “hate speech” to mean matters of true hate rather than its present broad brush application to virtually anything or anyone with which one disagrees.)

It’s a lot more difficult to defend an untenable position in public than it is to simply "like" the latest Facebook clickbait posting that supports your world view, and in doing so in an open and honest way both sides will come to a better understanding of the battlefield on which they are engaging.

And if they did that then maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to find a few more people who are interested in actually discussing politics rather than simply assuming the fingers in the ears position and shouting slogans and spitting epithets. After all, it is just a matter of a difference of opinion.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Lest we forget.


Vimy

French Cemetery

Tyne Cot

Roses in cemetery

Neuville St Vaast

Brooding soldier

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(Previously posted November 11, 2009 at viewsfromthelake-eh.blogspot.com)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Beverly Hillbillies Redux

GrannyFor those with fewer trips around the sun than I’ve experienced, The Beverly Hillbillies was a ‘60s sitcom where a poor, uneducated (at least formally), family from Tennessee or thereabouts strikes it rich and moves west, going from a 1-room shack to a mansion in Beverly Hills. Playing on stereotypes the family’s fish out of water experiences in this new world lead to much hilarity – or at least a lot of laugh track usage.

There is also the post turtle story, trotted out after every election, where the wise old farmer says (when describing why and how a turtle came to be perched on top of a fence post): "You know he didn't get there by himself, he doesn't belong there, he doesn't know what to do while he's up there, and you wonder just who in hell put him there."

I was thinking about these things while contemplating the impacts of Donald Trump’s win, one of which is their upcoming move to the White House in January. It’s not a rag-to-riches story like The Beverly Hillbillies; it’s more like a riches-to-rags story. Like Uncle Jeb trying to decipher what a billiard (billy-ard) table is used for (eventually deciding it was the fancy eating table) I can see The Donald looking at plain white porcelain bathroom fixtures and assuming he wandered into the servant’s quarters by mistake.

Donald Jr. and Eric will be out in the back yard practising marksmanship (and entertaining the NRA) by shooting squirrels and anything else on four legs that wanders into range, while Melania goes all Elly May with cut-off short shorts and a plaid shirt tied up under her breasts showing off plenty of cleavage and a toned midriff.

Both President Obama and Secretary Clinton quite properly expressed their support for President-elect Trump and made it clear that all Americans should do so as well. He won the election and deserves the benefit of the doubt that he will be a good President for the next four years.

trump homeBut when I think of this rich, entitled First Family moving from their lavish, gaudy, over the top penthouse in midtown New York to the White House, a house previously occupied by so many statesmen and people of modest origins, that post turtle isn’t far from mind.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Slow rollin’

This is cool on so many levels, so why have I never heard of it before?

Started in Detroit 6 years ago, Slow Roll is a weekly group bike ride that tours different areas of the city every week. The concept has now spread to other major US centers and even internationally. The idea is simple – get a group of people together and go for a ride once a week. But what’s really interesting is that the rides have become somewhat mainstream, crossing all socio-economic and racial barriers, and the fact that suburbanites are now coming into the city to experience neighborhoods they would never otherwise venture into.

It’s also a venue to display your latest custom bicycle – worth the price of admission by itself I’d say as there are some pretty amazing builds out there.

Slow Roll 1

This article in The Guardian is how I found out about Slow Ride. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/gallery/2016/nov/02/pimp-my-bike-detroit-custom-cycles-slow-ride-in-pictures?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Gmail

Something like this might even be enough to get me on people-powered two wheels once a week.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

A More Unbending Battle – A Review

A More Unbending Battle I had heard of the Harlem Hellfighters and their First World War exploits but it was more just in passing, like a bit of trivia that barely registers at the time but stays lodged in some deep recess of the brain. So when I came upon this book at a local used bookseller's a few weeks ago and saw the subtitle “The Harlem Hellfighters Struggle…” I grabbed it. And I’m glad I did.

This is the story of one of the black American regiments that was pulled together to fight during The Great War. Established in 1916, the Fifteenth New York National Guard’s first battles were at home with the overtly racist policies of the US military of the time. Fortunately they had an officer cadre (all white, of course) that believed in their men and helped them deal with a lack of proper equipment, substandard training, and a blatant disrespect by many of their military peers.

In December 1917 they were placed on active service and shipped overseas as the 369th Infantry Regiment, but even then the US command was reluctant to use them in any capacity other than as cooks, porters, waiters, and ditch diggers. Eventually a combination of wartime pressures from the European powers for extra fighting troops and pleas from the regiment itself resulted in them being assigned to the French where they became the Trois Cente Soixante Neuvieme RIUS, part of the French Fourth Army.

Fully embraced by the French Army as equals, the unit went through a 3-week training period preparing them for the front where they first experienced direct action in April 1918 fighting alongside their French counterparts (the 369th never fought under US command). Known as the Harlem Hellfighters, a name given to them by their German foes who both feared and respected the unit’s bravery and fearlessness in battle, the unit distinguished itself earning many individual commendations for heroism as well as a unit citation for the French Croix de guerre.

By war’s end the 369th had spent a total of 191 days at the front – more than any other American regiment – and had taken significant losses – 1300 dead or wounded from an initial complement of 2000 men – the highest casualty rate of any American regiment. By any measure these men were heroes, and this is their story.  

If you have an interest in WW I or military history you will enjoy this book. Recommended.

P.S. Coincidentally, just as I was about to post this entry, this link came up on my Facebook feed. Interesting how that works sometimes.  https://www.warhistoryonline.com/featured/the-harlemhellfighters.html

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Any job worth doing is worth doing twice.

We just recently purchased a new vehicle, and with that vehicle came four new snow tires, already mounted on wheels to make the seasonal changeover a bit easier.

Today we had a rather balmy day for November and so I took the opportunity to put the snows on. (For those of you south of about the 45th parallel, ‘putting the snows on’ is a seasonal celebration that officially marks the change of season from mosquito-infested to ice-encrusted – and vice versa in the spring.)

RotateEverything was going well until I was bolting on the last wheel when I noticed some fine print on  the tire which said, Rotation, with an arrow pointing the wrong way. “Crap”, I said. Well, maybe not exactly “crap” but a similar sentiment was expressed. And sure enough, when I checked,  every.single.wheel was wrong. Left wheels were on the right and right wheels on the left. I had installed four wheels randomly and got all four wrong. No wonder I never win the lottery.

In my defense I don’t, in all the years of swapping summer and snow tires, ever remember coming across directional tires for a car. Motorcycle, sure, that’s normal, but not a car. I expect the worst that would happen is that they may not be quite as effective in the snow, but I changed them all again and now the arrows are all pointing in the right direction (forward).

And as I sit here with a cold beer as my reward, I am thinking it’s a good thing that I won’t have to spend the winter driving in reverse.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Season is over

No more second chances, even if the weather turns hot and summery for the next few weeks. Wheels go into the shop tomorrow for a new tire (rear) and new wheel bearings (both). For an hour or so labour those aren’t jobs worth doing myself so I’m happy to hand them off to the pros, who also have the special tools needed.

While that’s being done I’ll probably replace the steering head bearings, and then…? Well I do have a few ideas for upgrades and handling improvements so I’ll have to see how far I can stretch the budget.

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But I won’t be riding any time soon.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A love of riding

Everyone rides for a reason. For some it’s a lifestyle and for others it’s simply transportation. But few of us have a love to ride like Ron McLean.

57 years old, Ron lives in Edmonton Alberta and is a scooter rider. Due to a mental disability he is unable to get a driver’s license and so his entire riding world is his father’s driveway. But that has not stopped him from clocking nearly 10,000 kilometres on the two scooters he has owned.

Follow the link to a great story about a man and his passion. My helmet is off to you Ron McLean.

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Photo: Honda Canada

Friday, October 21, 2016

My world is yellow…

… and orange and red and brown. Every year millions of photos and thousands of hours of film are shot of the fall colours here in the northeast. It is a spectacle that Mother Nature puts on every year as the trees hunker down and prepare for their long winter’s nap. This year there was concern about the quality of the show because we were in a drought for a large part of the summer, but those worries were unfounded. In fact this year has been one of the most stunning in my recent memory.

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The other day I took a quick trip into town to run a couple of errands and to warm the oil prior to the seasonal oil change. I also mounted the GoPro on the bike hoping to catch some video of the remaining leaves before the forecast autumn winds and rain dash the last of them to the ground.

Like a gorgeous sunset or a star-filled night sky images on screen don’t do it justice but here’s a short video (click on link) of some of the beauty that we enjoy for a couple of weeks each fall.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoc68SvXD7M

Friday, October 14, 2016

Is it time yet?

Sugar maple for webThere are a number of things I love about this time of year but one I don’t is the uncertainty about the weather. For most of October and part of November we can experience anything from sunshine to rain to sleet to snow, and temperatures anywhere from 0 to 20C. And that can be from one day to the next, and often completely unpredicted by the weather guessers.

So the question then becomes: When do I put the bike away for the winter? If there’s a chance that next week might see some decent temperatures and a chance for “the last ride”, do I wait? Or do I say I’m done and get on with it?

Generally I don’t do much to put the bike to bed other than topping up the fuel and putting in some conditioner, changing the oil, and plugging in the battery tender, but this year there are some other jobs I need to do. The rear tire is worn out and both front and rear wheel bearings should be replaced. A new front-end clunk points to possibly worn steering head bearings that I also want to replace. And it’s time to replace the rear brake pads. So the bike will be up on a jack for a few days while all that is being worked on and I’d rather do it now so when spring comes I’m good to go.  At the same time I have the Kawasaki carbs to refresh, the S65 engine to finish rebuilding, and some suspension work on the Ford. And that doesn’t include any of the many other outdoors, electronics, and woodworking projects on the to-do list.

All of which is to say I have more than enough to keep me busy for the next while so I might as well get started. I guess it’s time to say I’m done.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

“Have your wages been garnished?”

Why yes they have. In fact last week’s paycheck was covered with mustard, relish, and some sort of pickle.

GAAAAAK!

This quote is from a radio commercial I heard today advertising a financial planning/restructuring firm. I’m not sure I’d go to a financial expert who doesn’t know the difference between garnish (a condiment) and garnishee/garnishment (withholding of wages to satisfy a debt). What kind of financial management advice would they give? “Hold the mayo”? 

How often do you see people use the word breaks when referring to a vehicle’s stopping system, aka brakes? You can break your brakes, but you really can’t brake your breaks. The words sound the same but they are not interchangeable although it seems that 75% of the population think so.

And don’t get me started on the possessive/plural issue. When I see a sign like this I always wonder, drop-in’s what are welcome? What do drop-ins have that anyone would welcome, especially a hearing clinic? It’s confusing as hell.

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Here’s another favourite: “Him and me went to the mall”. Say what???? Would you say, “Me went to the mall”? Of course not, unless you're (your/yore) trying to do a bad Tonto impersonation.

And it’s not just in common speech or local advertising you see these errors; it’s in media as well. The ‘amount’ (aaaaak!) of linguistic errors found in your local paper every day is appalling. If so-called professionals can’t be bothered to use the language properly what hope do we have for the great unwashed who take their cues from people who should know better.

Now I know that languages (language’s?) evolve over time but we’re not talking about spelling changes or new words entering the lexicon. These are basic structural elements to the language that millions of people speak every day and which deserve some respect. Years ago when I was hiring staff a resume with basic linguistic errors such as these went straight into File 13. If I were to do the same thing today I expect I’d have a hard time filling any position. Now, as long as a word passes Microsoft’s spell check, it’s fine.

It makes me crazy. (And a ranting pedant, but so be it.)

Monday, October 3, 2016

Got no dog in this fight

But is that true?

I’ve not used this blog to comment on the US presidential elections up until now but the more I see, and hear, and learn, the more I realise that we all have a dog in this fight, no matter where we are on the planet. Because the US is undeniably the most powerful nation on earth, everything that happens south of the border has a ripple effect right around the globe. We may not like the undue influence the US exerts in our daily affairs but it’s undeniably there.

So when I read the news and watch the debates and see a run for the presidency of the United States of America looking like a school yard campaign undertaken by an out-of-control 6-year-old running for 1st Grade Class President I despair. Not only for my American friends, many of whom are also watching in horror, but for all of us who have seen our politics become nothing more than a crass, cheezy reality show, ultimately destined for the dinner time slot on A&E.

It’s a disgrace that out of a population of 320 million people this is the best candidate the GOP could find to present to America and to the world. It’s a disgrace that it’s deemed acceptable to offer inducements (veiled though they were) to have your political opponent assassinated. It’s a disgrace that encouraging your enemies to meddle in an election is shrugged off by your spokespeople. It’s a disgrace that it is now acceptable to publically disparage women, the handicapped, war heroes, your neighbours, (it’s a long list) and be rewarded by your supporters for doing so. It’s a disgrace that otherwise sane Republicans are twisting their morals and ethics into pretzels to justify their support for this man. It’s a disgrace that this cringe-worthy caricature of himself has made what is arguably the most important decision Americans make every 4 years into a joke, little more than fodder for comedians and late night show hosts.

The world is fragile enough without an ill-tempered bully in the Oval Office, so I despair and hope for all of our sakes that sanity prevails in November and this is as close as he gets to real power.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

What do you think?

Had an interesting (and, surprisingly civil – no one called anyone an idiot for a starter) debate online this past few days. A rider posed the following question:
When you as a biker come up behind another biker, who is a stranger, do you go into the stagger formation or do you treat it like another vehicle on the road and ride directly behind?
There was a lot of talk about “respect” (whatever that means in this context) and whether it’s safe to assume the lead rider actually wants a riding buddy or would rather you just pass and carry on. But to me the debate boiled down to whether two riders (strangers or not) should ride in line, as you would if you were on 4 wheels following another car, or take a stagger formation with the lead rider in the left tire track of the lane and the following rider in the right tire track.

Most posters said always stagger and some referred to the following excerpt from the Ontario Motorcycle Riders Handbook as being the definitive authority on the matter. (One poster even suggested it was the law. It isn’t.)

Stagger

Back in the day when I was teaching advanced rider programs the thinking was that the following rider should also assume a left tire track position to help protect both riders’ space, because by doing so it forced any passing vehicles to make a complete lane change before passing. This would also apply to larger groups in a stagger formation. If the sweep, or tail gunner, would normally find him/herself in the right tire track position they should move to the left (and open up a bit more following space behind the rider immediately in front) to protect the lane.

The same principle would apply on a multi-lane freeway. In all but the left-most lanes the last rider should be in the left tire track, but in the left-most lane the last rider would move over and ride in the right tire track, thus blocking any in-lane passing attempts.

I know I have some readers who are active in motorcycle training and others who are Road Captain qualified. What do you think? What would you do?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The eagle has landed

Well maybe not an eagle exactly, more like an ugly duckling. And landed? Let’s just say arrived. But “The ugly duckling has arrived” doesn’t have quite the same cachet. So sue me.

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It was definitely easier to get it out of the truck than in. For a small’ish motorcycle (it only weighs a little over 400 pounds) it was surprisingly difficult to get up the ramp and into the back of the truck. The narrow ape hanger bars didn’t help of course, nor did 2 flat tires. So I opted for the strain-free alternative for removal. Worked like a charm.

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It’s a 1981 Kawasaki 440 LTD with 28,000 kilometers on the clock. It’s complete and original, which is a new experience for me when it comes to acquiring old motorcycles. It supposedly even runs, although poorly, and not for long. We’ll see.

So now I have (another) winter project but it’s so tempting, seeing it sitting there, to just dive right in. Then I look at the half re-assembled S65 engine, the TL125 needing some TLC, and the C65 frame that needs major work – and that’s only the bike projects – and I tell myself to try and finish something else first. But it’s a hard sell.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Motorcycle math

We’ve all seen variations of this meme:

Motorcycle math

Well, in keeping with the theme of today’s post, N will soon equal N + 1 as I am about to acquire yet another project bike (imagine the missus’ eyes rolling here). This time it’s not an orphaned mid-60s Honda to keep company with the ones I already have, but rather a relatively (with an emphasis on relatively) new mid-80s Kawasaki 440LTD.

Relegated to the back of the garage by the current owner, the bike comes into my possession as a result of a casual comment on the golf course, “It’s yours if you want it.” How could anyone who considers himself a biker ever say no to that?

And so tomorrow I will be in a rental truck heading down Highway 401 to Kitchener to pick up another stray needing some TLC and a home for the winter. It’s a disease for which there is no known cure. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Race of the Century – a review

Race of the Century1908 – 108 years ago – the US was not crisscrossed by an interstate highway system like it is today. In fact, outside of the major population and commercial centres in the northeast, actual roads were few and far between and road maps nonexistent. Travellers either went by train or followed trails and cart paths originally established by settlers heading west, and for the preferred means of travel at the time – horseback – that was more than adequate. And in the winter, when snowdrifts covered even those trails to a depth of several feet, people just stayed home and waited it out.

Such were the conditions when 6 intrepid teams of ‘automobilists’ started the Race of the Century in New York City on February 12, 1908.  Destination: Paris. Seen off by by a crowd estimated to be more than 250,000, the 6 cars (1 American, 1 Italian, 1 German, and 3 French) left New York’s Times Square shortly after 11:00 AM, embarking on what would be an epic 5-month, 22,000 mile journey through some of the most difficult conditions imaginable.

What followed was months of hardship for the teams as they shoveled roads clear of snow with daily progress sometimes measured in yards, not miles. Frequent breakdowns meant waiting, sometimes for days, for spare parts to arrive by train. Rivers and streams had to be forded or bridges built to cross them. Mountain ranges had to be traversed. And that was just in the US. In Siberia, where these would be the first automobiles ever seen, conditions were even worse as spring thaws turned the ground to gumbo. But still they motored on, bent but unbroken.

This is the story of that race, a tale of perseverance and resilience, of ingenuity and strength (both mental and physical), and of a small group of men who ultimately overcame all obstacles put in their path to succeed in what was variously considered either a foolhardy or heroic undertaking at the very dawn of the automobile age.

It is a good read. Recommended.

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Photo: The Great Auto Race

Monday, September 5, 2016

Guilty pleasures

When it comes to what we watch on TV we all have our guilty pleasures – those shows that we watch faithfully but sort of cringe when we have to admit to watching them. And with the explosion of reality TV over the past decade there’s no shortage of cringe-worthy television, whether it’s Housewives of ---, Pawn Stars, or The Kardashians. Okay, maybe the last example is so bad it doesn’t even deserve to be listed along with, by comparison, such intellectual heavyweights as Duck Dynasty. But you get my drift.

Still, we watch this pap.

My present guilty pleasure (because I’m a serial guilty pleasure kind of guy) is Scandal. Playing in modern day Washington (There’s a First Lady who wants to become President in her own right; how much more modern can you get?) the show centers on a group of lawyers who, by means fair and foul, “fix” things for people who get themselves into trouble of a legal, ethical, or moral variety. Anthony Weiner would be a typical client.

Complicating issues is that the head of the firm is having an on-again, off-again affair with the President, the First Lady is having an affair with the Vice-President who is staging a palace coup, and the Chief-of-Staff is an ends-justify-the-means guy not above using murder and less violent means of coercion to advance his (and the President’s) agenda. Of course this doesn’t all come out in episode 1; you need to spend several many hours in front of the aptly named idiot box before all the details emerge.

And then – Yes! There’s more – there’s B613, a secret paramilitary group established to protect the republic but which reports to no one, not even the President. Funded by hidden budgetary line items this shadowy group is a law unto themselves, causing mayhem wherever and whenever they are deployed. Not above killing US military personnel when they deem it appropriate, or reporters getting too close to a story, or anyone else for that matter, the most remarkable thing about this group is they leave mutilated bodies behind by the dozen that the authorities never seem to notice. That and the fact that they are everywhere, including the President’s Secret Service.

Think of it as a variation of ‘24’ but at a slower pace and not nearly as believable. Seriously.

So it’s all very silly, but it follows the pattern of success for this type of show – get the viewer invested in the characters early on and they’ll stick with it, no matter how stupid the storyline gets, just to see what happens next. But 106 episodes? Good grief, I’ll be at this all night!

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.

prudhomme2

Prudhomme

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.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

It’s all about security dontcha know?

We recently had an opportunity to attend Toruk, a Cirque du Soleil show, at the Canadian Tire Centre, our local NHL arena, home of the Ottawa Senators.

What promised to be a fun night got off to a bad start when I was intercepted by security and told that the keychain penknife I had on my keychain (of course) was prohibited and would be confiscated unless I took it back to the car. We’re not talking about a switchblade or a straight razor; it’s a small penknife with a 1” blade, a nail file, scissors, and a toothpick. After voicing my displeasure somewhat strenuously (for which I later apologized as she was only following the rules) I trudged back out to the car to deposit said weapon of mass destruction. And it’s not the value – Lee Valley Tools sells them as “losable knives”, which perhaps should be renamed as “confiscatable knives”, or “TSA specials” at $3 apiece – but I’d had this particular knife for quite a while and, before 9/11, it had travelled the world with me.

What damage they thought I could do in an arena of 10,000 people with a 1” blade escapes me – it’s not like I could demand the building be flown to Cuba, or Trump campaign headquarters. Perhaps they thought I was a latter day MacGyver, able to control an arena full of hardcore Cirque fans with nothing more than a belt buckle, shoelace, and a 6 inch stiletto heel taken from the lady preceding me through the security screen. Or maybe not.

No, this is all about the “appearance” of security, and that’s what drives me crazy. We are being increasingly subjected to arbitrary intrusions and humiliations (other than the screeners, who enjoys a full body scan?) that result from political kneejerk reactions to overstated threats. And every bit of attention focused on this sort of nonsense is another bit of attention that isn’t being focused on identifying real security threats like the guy who, one day, is going to go postal on being told a glass of crap beer at the CTC is $12 – take it or leave it.

But it all turned out okay in the end. The show was an amazing display of physicality, staging, and lighting, and we enjoyed it immensely. We had an opportunity to reconnect with some old friends. And my penknife was waiting for me in the car when we left. (Sorry security people – this is one penknife you’re not getting – yet.) It’s all good.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

There are idiots, and then there are IDIOTS!

First a legal disclaimer. Charges have not yet been proven in court; innocent until proven guilty, blah, blah, blah.

And now to our story.

Last week our protagonist decided to go for a ride. No story there – it was the first bout of real nice weather in quite a while and lots of us were on the road that day. However, influenced no doubt by all the stupid sports bike videos flooding the interwebs, he decided to ride like an asshole, weaving in and out of traffic, speeding, and offering the finger to slower motorists as he passed. 

At least one driver managed a photo of our friend which then appeared on the front page of all the local newspapers and on numerous Facebook feeds, thus reinforcing the public’s image of motorcyclists as being irresponsible dolts who can’t become organ donors fast enough.

motorcycle-driver-final

So far so good, I guess, as being an asshole isn’t a crime.

But then he took it a step further and began waving a handgun around as he wove his way through traffic. (Note to American readers: In Canada brandishing a handgun in public is not considered some sort of faux-NRA patriotism but rather a criminal offence, and is treated pretty seriously by the authorities.) That’s when he really crossed the line.

With the various after-market accessories and distinctive decals, this particular CBR600 is pretty unique and so it wasn’t long before tips began flooding in, including several pointing to a Kijiji ad listing the bike for sale, along with the seller’s information. But the clincher was the previous owner, currently residing in Germany, who saw the photo online and contacted authorities, providing a starting point for an ownership trail that quickly led to a Mr. James Cole who is, as they say, “known to police”. He has since been arrested and I expect he may miss the rest of this riding season, at least.

It’s not known what happened to the motorist who, clearly ignoring the hands-free laws, snapped the picture that led to the arrest.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

We’re from the government and we’re here to help.

Really?

passportIt’s time for the missus and me to renew our passports so off we went to get the required photos – eyeglasses off, no smiling, just look like you’re a really pissed off terrorist in waiting and the picture will be perfect. Then they take two shots so they can be sure to have an ugly one to submit with your application.

After downloading and completing all the forms (Seriously? It’s a renewal – you already have all that info!) we headed off to submit them to the  Great BureaucracyTM  (aka Government of Canada) along with a couple hundred bucks for processing of same (aka doing their jobs). There’s a Service Canada office in town so that’s where we go.

Service Canada

Logical, right?

Not so fast. As the lone woman behind the counter who seemed to have nothing to do today – a canon fired in the office wouldn’t have hit a thing except a Closed for Lunch sign hanging on the door -  explained, you must read the fine print which, she was kind enough to show me, said “Many Service Canada Centres are passport receiving agents”. Unfortunately this office was not one of the “many”, but she offered to check the forms over for completeness anyway. Beats mind-numbing boredom I guess, and it looked like she’d already done her nails.

She also offered some options.

I could go to the nearest Service Canada office that did accept passport applications but that was 60 miles away and I should expect to “wait a couple of hours before you’ll get to see someone”. If I did that it would then take 5 to 6 weeks to get the new passports.

Or I could go to the passport office itself which is about 70 miles away, only have to wait in line for an hour or so, and we’d get our passports in 10 business days.

Or I could take them to a Canada Post office which, for another $20 apiece (plus tax, of course), would send the forms along (aka doing their job) to the passport office. And your guess is as good as mine how long that would take once Canada Post’s requisite mail storage and retention period gets factored in. Which is all academic anyway as the local post office isn’t one of the designated “receivers”, and the closest one is further away than the passport office itself.

Yup, we’re here to help, unless we don’t feel like it, in which case you get to spend 3 or 4 hours and a few gallons of gas chasing down someone who cares.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Winning the lottery

What? Me? Win the lottery? I wish.

The running joke in this household is every time I express an interest in some new toy, a bike upgrade, a new truck, or any other frivolous (as determined by the spousal unit) expenditure which would, beyond the shadow of a doubt, improve my life our lives immeasurably, the stock answer is “When you win the lottery”.

And, it seems, even that is conditional. When I last won big and hauled out the new Harley ads it was somewhat patiently explained to me, accompanied by a lot of eye rolling as if it should be obvious, that the winnings had to at least cover the cost of the acquisition and $100 wasn’t going to buy much of a motorcycle. Hah – fooled her. Got this beauty for $39.99.



But I did get to thinking. If I did win the lottery and money suddenly became no object, would I keep the Dyna, upgrade to something different, or start a collection Jay Leno style? Well maybe not Jay Leno style exactly, but a modest version of same with, say, a nice even half-dozen bikes in the garage – one for every occasion.

Based on past history I expect I’d collect, and my ideal garage would house: a long distance tourer (aka Geezer Glide); an on-off-road dual-purpose bike (possibly a BMW F700GS); a modern day-tripper (for which the Dyna is perfectly suited, so I’d keep her); a sidecar rig for 3-wheeling during bad weather (a Ural comes to mind here); a vintage Brit bike (a fully restored mid-60s BSA A65 Lightning would fit the bill perfectly); and a real old classic like a mid-20s Indian or similar, just for the fun of riding it once in a while and trying to get it back home under its own power and with all the bits still attached.

And then if I still had some room in the garage I might throw in a few bikes I’d either owned or lusted after in the past: a 1974 Kawasaki Z1 900 (I wish I still had mine); a 1974 Norton Commando (ditto; or the new Commando 961 Sport – the collection wouldn’t be complete without a Norton); and a vintage Ducati café racer like the bright yellow 750 Sport (always wanted one) to represent Italy’s contribution to motorcycling – besides it would be a blast to ride.

So that’s 9. It’s only about 1/10th the size of Jay’s collection but I could live with that.

What about you? What would be in your perfect stable?

Monday, May 23, 2016

PMS

As every rider knows that acronym has nothing to do with female biology but rather represents the emotional impact of not being able to ride for an extended period of time for any reason. Up in this neck of the woods Parked Motorcycle Syndrome usually occurs during the winter months when snow, ice, and freezing temperatures force all but the hardiest and most foolish among us to park the 2 wheelers for a few months. That comes with the territory, as they say, and we are mostly accepting of its annual inevitability and use the time to catch up on wrenching and various upgrades over which riding took precedence during the summer. We deal with it.

It’s the other causes of PMS that are really troublesome.

empty-garageWhile not strictly Parked Motorcycle Syndrome, I had an extended period a while back when I had no motorcycle at all. During those years of No Motorcycle Syndrome the first few weeks of summer were the worst. As the dandelions multiplied, opening their bright yellow faces to the world, so did the number of motorcycles on the road. And I missed being on one of them. Badly. Until 2008 when I got my current ride and the universe once again began to unfold as it should and the empty garage was no more.

Storm for web (9)But it was not to be all smooth sailing riding from that point onward. Four years ago a major wind storm and several broken ribs kept me out of commission for most of that summer, from mid-July to mid-September. 

Then two years ago I had another brief bout of PMS when our roads were under repair and it was both difficult and dangerous to get through on two wheels for a period of about 3 weeks. Watching day after day of our already short riding season tick by was not how I wanted to spend the better part of  June.

And now here we are, May 2016, perfect riding weather, and again she sits parked as I curse the vagaries of life, health, and the pursuit of happiness while trying to nurse an inflamed hip back to normal function. While not life-threatening it is extremely painful and sitting in the saddle doesn’t help (nor does swinging a golf club as it turns out). So now again I wait until my body is as ready as my head and heart are, counting the missed days.

All of which begs the question, why doesn’t this crap happen during the winter months when I can’t do anything anyway?