Monday, July 10, 2017

Getting motivated … or not.


Day after day we continue to be deluged with near-record rainfall. May was about 3 times normal accumulations, June came in at about double normal, and we’ve already had a normal July’s worth of rain and we’re just 1/3 of the way through the month. Golf has been rained out more often than not and riding hasn’t fared much better with only a few hundred kilometres put on the bike since I got it – about 4 fill-ups worth. Our garden is drowning and all I’ve done with the boat this year is bail it out – several times. And if one does decide to venture out of doors the fact that mosquitoes and black flies are breeding at a rate previously unheard of for this time of year will drive you back inside in short order. Depressing seems too mild a term.

IMG_0050Instead there’s been a lot of indoors activity, including adding to my collection of ‘some day’ projects.

As some may know I’ve started making cigar box guitars just for fun. Up until now they have been acoustic only because I didn’t have an amp. That changed Sunday when I picked up a gently used practice amp that will allow me to start putting pick-ups in my guitars and test them out. I have a few that now need to return to the workbench to be modified and they have been added to the projects list.

IMG_0135I also scored a vintage Singer treadle machine base on Sunday. Not sure what I’ll do with it just yet (the most obvious solution is to make it into a table, but I have some other ideas as well). It’s intact but for the pitman arm which is missing and I’ll need to make a replacement for that. On this particular model the arm was made from wood so I should be able to create a reasonable approximation from some scrap oak or maple. That’s another project for another day.

Now I just need to get motivated to “git ‘er done”, as the locals would say, and start finishing some of the dozens of other small projects I have underway.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Syringa vulgaris

If the title hasn’t already sent you to Wikipedia, syringa vulgaris is the taxonomic name for the common lilac, which grows in abundance in these parts and throughout much of Europe and the US as well. It is also the state flower of New Hampshire.


And why am I writing about this? Well this is peak flowering season for lilacs here and the air is filled with their scent, making for very pleasant rides in the countryside.

This month (May) has seen record rainfalls in this area with accumulations more than 3 times the normal average. Combine all that rainy weather with a 2-week absence while we were swanning around Europe and you’re left with about 3 riding days all month.

However yesterday offered up a few hours of sunshine and dry air so I managed to jump on the bike (I really do need to come up with a proper name for her; “the bike” just doesn’t do it) for a quick ride into town to run a few errands. All along the route the lilacs were in full bloom and the smell as I would pass a house with dozens of bushes in the yard was truly divine. Mother Nature’s perfume as it were.

Just another excellent reason to ride rather than being cooped up in a cage with the air-conditioning on.

Monday, May 29, 2017


No trip is complete without at least a few curiosities.

Germany is, overall, pretty progressive when it comes to disabled access. Of course it is an old country and retrofitting for wheelchair access is not always possible. However in this case the shop owner made the effort, installing a small ramp beside the main door. Unfortunately the 6-inch curb surrounding the establishment makes the ramp somewhat useless.


One thing we noticed was how dog friendly it was. Everywhere we went we saw these Hunde Bars (literally, “hound bars”) where pooch could get a drink of fresh water, or where the owner could ‘park’ Fido whilst shopping or contemplating the stained glass in the local cathedral.

DSC04223         DSC04292

In Germany getting married is a civil act, not a religious one. Therefore, while you can get married in a church, you must, by law, also have a civil ceremony for it to be legit. And so that’s why on any given weekend you will often see brides (and grooms, of course) hanging around outside the Standesamt (Registry Office or Marriage License Bureau). And that’s how we participated(?) in 3 separate weddings, including the one of Marie Antoinette (really???), and another involving the Wiesbaden fire department, complete with coiled hoses and sirens. A third, just-in-time wedding (no pic) had a *very* pregnant bride who, I expect, was rushed to Obstetrics immediately following the ceremony.


In keeping with the romantic theme, we discovered what looked like trees emblazoned with ribbons in many of the small towns. Upon closer inspection it became obvious that the trees were recently cut and usually tied to a lamp post or some other fixed item like a downspout. Turns out that in Rhineland one of the May Day traditions is for young men to dress up a tree or branch with ribbons and place it in the yard or in front of the house of a girl he wishes to marry. And during a leap year it’s the girls who decorate and place the trees. Judging from the numbers there are a lot of young ladies out there who are someone’s target. It’s quite a nice idea, and colourful as well.


Usually the streets in the older parts of the cities were paved with cobblestones. While this is in keeping with historic accuracy it sometimes made walking a bit unsteady when one is used to smooth pavement. My teeth rattled just watching bicyclists traverse these streets, often at speed, and I marveled at the local ladies who managed to get around wearing 4 inch spike heels without breaking an ankle, their neck, or both. And I was certainly not tempted to  take a guided tour of a cobble-stoned city on rollerblades, like this group did.  No wonder they needed a rest.

And finally, the cost of maintaining these ancient churches and cathedrals is phenomenal so fund raising is critical. However I don’t think you’d see too many houses of worship in North America selling booze in the vestibule. Some sold wine, often from their own vineyards, while others, like the Koln Cathedral, sold brandies.



And those are just some of the little things that can make a pretty good trip truly memorable.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Where in the world …. ?

One of the reasons, among many, that I have been silent for a while is that the frau and I just spent 2 weeks in Germany. We escaped miserable spring weather here in Ontario and arrived in Frankfurt to sun and mid-20s temperatures, which stayed with us for the entire 2 weeks with the exception of 1 day of rain. And that was a driving day anyway, so nothing was lost.

The objective was to visit the “romantic Rhine” which is loosely described as the part of the Rhine between Frankfurt and Koblenz. Sloping hillsides covered with vineyards and spotted with medieval castles, it’s one of the more picturesque areas of Germany to visit, and we had wanted to do so for some time.

Of course we could have taken a river cruise, but for maximum flexibility we opted to drive. And as a result we saw more and got much further afield than we contemplated when initially planning the trip.


Route 2
It’s hard to overstate how beautiful this part of the lower Rhine is. It’s in the heart of wine country so vineyards cover every surface, some on slopes so steep that maintenance can be done by hand only (and, as one local put it, by people with one leg shorter than the other). As a major trading route during medieval times it also attracted many of the great houses of the time which built castles on its banks to both control the flow of goods but also to extract tolls from anyone using the river for commerce. Now those castles spot the hillsides as ruins or, in some cases, have been renovated as inns (one of which we stayed in) and hostels. And visiting the villages built around those castles 1000 years or so ago, seeing still-occupied buildings that are 7 or 8 times older than our country is, is simply amazing.



It’s impossible to cover all the key points of a two-week trip in one blog post, but I will touch on a few significant items which, hopefully, might encourage you to visit this area one day. It is well worth it.

One of the highlights for me was to visit Remagen of “The Bridge at Remagen” fame. Though the film was highly fictionalised seeing the actual location, the remnants of the bridge, and visiting the associated museum brought to life an aspect of WW 2 history that had long interested me.


You can’t visit Europe without also visiting cathedrals. Of the dozen or so we saw, by far the most impressive was the cathedral in Cologne. According to Wikipedia the Cologne Cathedral is the most visited landmark in Germany, and with good reason – it’s beautiful. An added benefit is that you can climb the tower, if you’re up to 533 steps up – and 533 down – a spiral staircase that will make you dizzy if you proceed too quickly. Of course we decided to climb, and we did get dizzy, but the views were worth the effort.




From Cologne we left the Rhine and headed west to Aachen. Back circa 800 AD Aachen was Charlemagne’s preferred place of residence and as a result the two names have become almost synonymous. That’s not a period in history that’s of particular interest to me but the missus found it fascinating. And, to be fair, I quite enjoyed poking around in some of the ancient buildings and looking at religious relics that, supposedly, contained the actual bones of Charlemagne. Of course, hundreds of years later who knows whether the relics are in fact a part of his cranium, or his forearm, but the believers believe.


While in Aachen I was looking at a roadmap and, purely by accident, noticed that our route to Luxembourg passed close by the town of Bastogne. The name meant little to my traveling companion but Bastogne was the epicentre, more or less, of some of the bloodiest fighting in WW2, aka the Battle of the Bulge. So we had to stop. And I’m glad we did. The Mardasson Memorial at Bastogne is beautiful, and the museum is a fascinating place where one could easily spend hours and hours looking at the exhibits.


And as icing on the cake, we stayed in a little town near Bastogne called Hauffalize. Located in a small river valley this was probably the prettiest place we saw on the trip. It doesn’t get much more idyllic than this.


And then we were on the road again to Luxembourg City, a city of traffic jams, impatient drivers, and a million (at least) tourists. But, again, the historical aspects were fascinating and the scenery was incredible. Luxembourg City is one of the 3 official capitals of the European Union and dates back to circa 900 AD. Much of the city walls and fortifications were built during the 10th and 11th centuries, again giving one the sense of treading the ground where history was made.


Next stop, Trier. Founded in the 4th century BC, Trier is probably the oldest city in Germany. Arguably, it’s most famous artifact is the Porta Nigra, the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. Dating back to 200 AD the gate is still in remarkable condition, its name deriving from the darkened stone used in its construction.


But to me the most impressive structure in Trier, and the one that left me most in awe on the entire trip, was the Basilica of Constantine. Built in 310 AD (complete with in-floor heating) as a Roman palace for Constantine, the building later became an Evangelical church, which it remains today. It comprises a massive single room, about 200’ long, 75’ wide, and 100’ high, imposing in its scale but also its simplicity. Standing in the centre of that room left me with a feeling I will not soon forget. It’s easy to see how a religious person might feel (as one did actually say to me there) God’s presence in such an edifice.



Last stop, back to Frankfurt for a few days. We wanted to see the city but also we were going to meet up with Sonja and Roland of  Find Me On The Road fame. I’m not going to post a lot of Frankfurt pictures but suffice it to say Frankfurt is booming (in no small part to the anticipated financial fallout from Brexit) and we had a great time, including a lovely afternoon spent with Roland and Sonja who drove in from their home a couple of hours away to spend some time with us.


So that’s it, a (very) brief overview of a great trip.

By the numbers:
  • Kilometres traveled by car – 993
  • Kilometres travelled by foot (we like to walk)  - 170
  • Castles visited – 9
  • Churches/cathedrals visited – 15
  • Pictures taken – 1354
  • Harley Davidson dealers visited – 1
  • Socks lost – 1 (??)
  • German cakes/tortes consumed as mid-day snacks – too many.
Auf wiedersehen Germany. Until next time.

Monday, May 8, 2017

We are doomed.

A while ago I saw this image on line. My first thought was, “Hey, that guy’s wearing my shop jeans!”. Those would be the ones the missus won’t allow me to wear into town, and only grudgingly allows me to wear in the shop. My philosophy is, with a pair of jeans like that who cares how often they get washed. Right? It’s all about saving the environment – fewer washes, less electricity used, less detergents going into the groundwater. And, probably most important, less effort on my part.


Anyway… It turns out that no one actually absconded with my grubbies because this was an ad for Nordstrom’s Barracuda Straight-Legged Jeans. According to the ad copy, these jeans “embody rugged, Americana workwear that's seen some hard-working action with a crackled, caked-on muddy coating that shows you're not afraid to get down and dirty.”

Except you are afraid to get down and dirty, else you wouldn’t have to pay $400 for a pair of jeans. And if you did actually get down and dirty your $50 a pair jeans would look just like this in a couple of hours.

Nope. If you buy and wear these (and many have as Nordstrom’s is apparently “sold out” of them) you’re a poser, a wannabe, someone who is probably still living in your Mom’s basement.  Which, now that I think about it, is the only good reason to fork over that kind of cash – to convince your Mom that you really are going to work every day and not to the local Starbuck’s where you sit and play with your laptop all day while nursing a grande frappacino latte with soy milk, comparing ruggedness quotients with tattooed baristas.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

The day the rally came to town

We live next to a 10 kilometer stretch of dirt laughingly called California Road. Clearly it’s nowhere near California, nor is it anywhere near being what one would consider to be a road. It is sort of maintained during the summer months by fixing the washouts caused by the spring runoff and beaver dams. The township will sometimes run a grader along it, and every few years there might be a load or two of gravel dumped on it to fill the larger potholes and gullies. But that’s it. The sign says “Drive at your own risk” when it should more precisely say “Abandon hope all ye who enter here”.

All of which made it a perfect venue for one leg of this year’s Lanark Highlands Forest Rally. Sponsored by the Motorsport Club of Ottawa this is the 9th running of this particular rally, and the first year that California Road has been one of the sections. So, of course, we had to walk over and check it out.

We didn’t get there early enough to walk out to what should have been a couple of great vantage points, but that’s probably just as well as we would have been stuck there until they were finished with the section (about 4 hours). And since it was 0 degrees and windy with on and off blizzard conditions (Yes, this was today – May 7!) we would have frozen.

But a little cross-country hike through the woods did get us to a spot not too far from the start where we saw a bit of the action.

Monday, April 17, 2017

It takes a special kind of idiot…

“Just put it in your checked bag.”
“You sure?”
“It’ll be fine.”

Image Of Mock IED Seized At Pearson Airport Released By US Customs

Just came across this story of a passenger flying out of Toronto to the US who thought having this in his checked baggage would be okay.

Apparently the device is an alarm clock designed to look like a bomb, complete with fake sticks of dynamite, and lots of twisty wiring (aesthetics are important). A quick glance would tell you that the circuitry is far too complicated to be just a simple device to make something go boom, but still, what was he thinking in this day and age when every tube of toothpaste is considered a mortal threat?

The owner has been charged with mischief, because stupidity isn’t actually illegal - yet.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

My edumacation wern’t to good.

“Ya i have the seats to took them off so I wouldn't loose them on their way to there new home in my attic for restore”

Okay, I know I’m a pedant when it comes to basic grammar, spelling, and punctuation but recently it seems that the race to the bottom is accelerating. Either that or internet bloggers and commenters have, of recent, become emulators of James Joyce’s Ulysses in style and structure. Then again, perhaps not; Joyce could at least spell. (Modern variant: “Joyce cud at leest spel.”)

I can appreciate that English can be difficult for newcomers to learn and master, but when your name is Joe Smith and you hail from Pittsburgh (or Tampa, or Toronto), I expect it’s your first language that you are butchering, not your second.

Now some would argue that if “people understand what I mean” anyway why does it matter? Or the claim is made that languages evolve over time, new words get added, old words get dropped, and punctuation standards change (vis current discussions over the use of the Oxford comma) so this is just a natural evolution, possibly hastened by the need to compress ideas into 140 characters or less, entered on a very tiny smartphone keyboard/pad. That’s true, to a degree, but the proper use of any language offers a precision to our communications that is too easily lost when it strays too far from its normative path.

There is no shortage of internet memes that use humour to illustrate the misunderstandings that are possible when basic linguistic rules aren’t followed, but there are also more serious consequences.

Julia Layton expresses the importance of spelling in How Stuff Works: “As adults, our spelling affects the perception of our intelligence and credibility (emphasis mine). Fair or not, many people in the professional world are going to toss that resume aside without even finding out what your child's "job experiance" entails. To people looking to hire someone smart and detail-oriented, to people reading and grading college essays, to people deciding whether or not to take a serious blog post seriously, spelling counts.

And nowhere is the precision of language more critical than in the law, a perfect example being this case where millions of dollars hinge on a single comma.

Finally there is simply the matter of pride. Why would you want to present yourself to the world as a person who is barely literate?

Unless, of course, you are.

The Huffington Post reports, “According to a study conducted in late April by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read. That’s 14 percent of the population. 21 percent of adults in the U.S. read below a 5th grade level, and 19 percent of high school graduates can’t read.”

And according to some surveys, Canada offers no beacon of hope when it comes to basic literacy either, with “Four out of ten Canadian adults have[ing] literacy skills too low to be fully competent in most jobs in our modern economy.”

When graduates of the education systems of two of the richest countries in the world produce rubbish like the lead-in quote it’s no wonder the west is losing its global competitive advantage at such a stunning rate. It is depressing in the extreme.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

In my defense, I was left unsupervised.

Although I wish it was so I can’t claim credit for this quotation; I saw it on a tee-shirt and have appropriated it for this post (and to be used as a future motto).

I imagine the “left unsupervised” defense would get little traction in a proper court of law, but in most motorcycle households I expect it is frequently utilized, with varying degrees of success.

Exhibit A, yer honor.
Do what you want

And this is where having a loving and understanding spouse/partner comes in, or at least an iron-clad pre-nuptial agreement that recognizes one party’s two-wheeled compulsion as being paramount, not to be superseded by any amount of eye-rolling, teeth-sucking, yelling, or tears. This understanding is important because we can’t be supervised 7/24, the internet is always on, and the temptations are just too many.

Now just to be clear, I am not speaking from personal experience here, having both a loving and understanding (usually) spouse and a pretty solid, if verbal, pre-nup agreement. But even with all that there is still an understanding gap when it comes to all things motorcycle.  For example, if I had $10K burning a hole in my pocket I’d be at the dealership seeing what I could get for it. The spousal unit? She’d be booking a vacation trip to some far-off land with lots of historical sites (or rubble piles as I prefer to call them). See what I mean? A gap.

But, on occasion, the gap gets closed and we both get what we want. In an unsupervised moment a few weeks ago I was browsing the interwebz and came across a pristine 2014 Road King. After several emails and photos were exchanged (the dealership is 5 hours away) I was convinced. A brief family discussion later (See? Understanding!) and a deposit check was on its way.

And that’s how I ended up with my new-to-me Road King last week… while the missus plans our trip to Europe in May. 


Sunday, March 19, 2017


In one of the Facebook groups I follow a member posed this question: “Anyone tried a car tire on the rear of their bike...lots of info on you tube...just wondering?”

car tire 2

Well that question started a flame war of the like not seen since the PC-MAC conflagrations of the last century. Aside from sidecar rigs (Petunia over at Arizona Adventure Dude, for example) which often sport automobile tires, I’d never heard of anyone putting them on a regular, two-wheeled, motorcycle. Until now. And to say there are advocates for this would be an understatement. The car tire disciples are many, they are vocal, and they even have a name for themselves – Darksiders.

As with many things on the interwebz, there are many opinions but very little solid evidence one way or the other. Some positions make a certain amount of sense ( while others rely simply on the passion of their arguments to make their case.

As a lay person with no practical experience other than 40++ years of riding, I find the very idea of putting what is essentially a flat-profiled tire on a vehicle intended to lean to be disconcerting, if not downright frightening. Tire design is not rocket science, but it is complex. Different vehicle types impose different loading factors and forces that determine a tire’s characteristics such as sidewall flex, compound hardness, profile, and so on. So to take a tire designed for one set of conditions and stake your life on it functioning properly under a completely different set of conditions strikes me as idiotic in the extreme.

UPDATE: For anyone who really wants to get into the minutiae of this topic, here's a great link:

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

And we have liftoff….

The space analogy may not be overly apt, but it did take me about as much time to get this little engine running as it took the US to put a man on the moon, so I’ll let it stand.

After a year spent on eBay searches (and purchases), joining countless special interest Facebook groups, and lurking on a plethora of other interweb sites, it finally all came together. And what a glorious sound it was.

So now it’s on to the frame. The first challenge will be to come up with a way that it can be straightened, or at least untwisted enough so it will get past a safety check (i.e close enough for government work). Eyeballing it it looks like the steering head is about 5 degrees off vertical, and it's a stamped steel frame, so I'm open to suggestions.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

I Got The I Wanna New Motorsickle Blues

I got the I wanna
New motorsickle blues,
I wish that all I had
To do was choose.
But nothin’s quite so easy
With the Missus actin’ nasty
And sayin’ if you do yer gonna lose.

Oh lawd, I got the I wanna
New motorsickle blues….

Played to a slow Mississippi delta beat with a slide guitar accompaniment. I think it would be a big hit amongst those of us still frozen in and waiting for that annual rite of spring, the first ride of a new year.

One of the problems with being locked up (so to speak) for 5 or 6 months of the year is it gives one time to think, to think about rides past and future, and bikes past and future. But it’s the latter that tends to get one into the most trouble. Right about now all the bike mags on the newsstands (or delivered right to your door) are covering the new 2017 models. And they are fine looking models indeed, designed to cater to every riding style and every dream, reasonable or otherwise. Want a 200-hp crotch rocket so you can wheelie be an idiot? Got ya covered. An adventure tourer so you can cross the Sahara (like that’s going to happen)? No problem. Or how about a geezer-glide so you can muscle 900 pounds of comfortable seating for your wrinkled old cheeks over to Timmie’s for a coffee? Got that too.

Yep there’s lots of shiny new stuff out there just waiting for us PMS sufferers to come to the conclusion that the best way to deal with Parked Motorcycle Syndrome is to dream of buying a new bike. They say that spring is a time of renewal, of change, so what better way to celebrate? And it doesn’t have to be new new, just new to me is often enough to satisfy the urge.

So where to next? Craig’s List? Kijiji?


Friday, February 24, 2017

Progress of a (slow) sort

Well I finally got the engine for the S65 all back together. Actually, that’s not strictly accurate. More precisely I got the engine for the S65 (incorporating various parts cannibalized off the C65 engine) back together. I may be slow but I’m also much more efficient than the Honda factory assemblers as I did it using fewer parts. To be fair the extra parts could be from the second engine … or not. Time will tell.


I was going to build a stand-alone platform for testing it but then I realised I already had one in the form of the original frame. So today I bolted it all back into place. A quick run into town tomorrow to get some fuel line and I’ll be able to see if it actually runs or just barfs, belches smoke, and quits.


Ever the optimist, I am assuming it will run, in which case the next decisions will be frame related. Besides having to be straightened, the frame could use some minor body work, but I’m actually considering doing only the work needed to make it safe and forgo cosmetics for now.

One step at a time.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Waking up to the smell of burning plastic…

As the lazier member of this particular family unit I usually manage an extra hour of uninterrupted sleep while the spousal unit enjoys an hour of peace and quiet with her first cuppa every morning. That’s normally a good thing and I awake to the smell of a fresh pot of coffee brewing. But this morning was different as I was disturbed by the distinct odor of burning plastic and a wall of smoke when I surfaced from the Land of Nod. Our Bosch dishwasher had burst into flames. Fortunately my wife was right there at the time and was able to extinguish the fire before too much damage was done, but it was still a frightening experience. Who expects their dishwasher, of all things, to catch fire?


Well, it seems like the manufacturer does. Apparently Bosch made a number of dishwashers in the early- to mid-2000s (this one’s vintage) that are known to be a fire hazard, and multiple recall notices were sent out to have defective units repaired. We never got any notice but there was a move in between so maybe it got lost in the mail (giving them the benefit of the doubt). The recalls had limited success it seems as Internet searches indicate that 10’s of thousands of these machines are still out there with this ticking little firebomb in their circuitry.  (So far two Facebook friends have learned they have affected Bosch units in their kitchens so, if you have a Bosch dishwasher, check their web site ASAP.)

I have reached out to Bosch to see what they are prepared to do by way of compensation but I’m not holding my breath. The machine was nearing its end of life and had served us well until this morning, so I expect the standard warranty disclaimer letter in response. Whatever will happen will happen and eventually we’ll acquire a new dishwasher. And the burnt countertop will be a conversation item for the foreseeable future.

But the real lesson here is about attending to operating appliances.

Over the years we have become so habituated to the ubiquitous presence of these labour saving devices that we simply assume they will function, and function correctly and safely, every time we turn them on. We set the dishwasher (or clothes washer, or dryer, or stove …) and then head out, expecting it will go through its normal cycle and then shut down, just like it did the last 1,000 or 2,000 times it was used. Had we done that this morning I would be writing quite a different post about today’s experience, so I think we’ll be doing a lot less of that in the future.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

“I’m from Missouri”

Not really (although I understand it’s a beautiful place to be from, if I was), but this post reflects on how, in these times especially, we should all be “from Missouri”.

“I’m from Missouri; show me” entered the public domain some time in the 19th century. It was, apparently, popularized by Willard Duncan Vandiver, a Democrat from Missouri who said, in an 1899 speech, “I’m from Missouri, you’ve got to show me”.

“Believe half of what you see and nothing that you hear” is another common idiom. Attributed to many, including Benjamin Franklin and Edgar Allan Poe, it also cautions against blind acceptance.

Bowling GreenWhat brought this to mind was the recent foofaraw over the Bowling Green Massacre. In case you have been living under a rock and missed it, President Trump’s spokesperson, Kellyanne Conway, referred to the Bowling Green Massacre as justification for one of the President’s policies.  As no such ‘massacre’ ever took place she was forced to backtrack, claiming she “misspoke” (or, in common vernacular, lied). Of course the twitterverse exploded with riotous indignation but the damage was done and some actually took her statement as a truth that had been suppressed by a complicit media. Not to be outdone, we also had a recent example in the Conservative leadership race in Canada where a political operative tweeted information he knew to be false, not to help his candidate but just to “make the left go nuts”. And some did, for which he, somewhat unwisely in my opinion, then claimed credit. Then there’s the whole fake news industry that enriched a handful of teenagers in Macedonia over the course of the US presidential campaign and continues to befuddle attempts by social media companies to control it.

All of which is to say, with the (possible) exception of this blog, IT’S ALL LIES! Welcome to the post-truth world.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Perusing the ads

Sometimes when I have nothing better to do, or am grounded for whatever reason, I will browse the various online markets in search of that elusive interesting old motorcycle that is actually complete and runs and for which the owner isn’t demanding a King’s ransom. So far it has never quite worked out.

Here’s what I’m looking for:


And here’s the kind of thing I usually find that’s in my price range:


When I do find something interesting and affordable it’s nearly always encumbered by one (or both) of two caveats. It either has “no ownership” or it “needs nothing to pass a safety”. (In Ontario a vehicle cannot be licensed until it passes a basic safety inspection.)

No ownership is an immediate red flag. Especially for older motorcycles for which the provincial records no longer exist (or were never digitized and put on line). If it wasn’t stolen it may have been an insurance write-off or have other dubious pedigree and who needs that aggravation? And the safety? If the advertiser claims it “needs nothing” for a safety that’s code for “I have no idea how bad the condition of this bike is and I don’t want to take it to a dealer because he’ll tell me and then I’ll have to either tell you or fix it before selling.”

So, as with most things advertised and sold on line, it’s buyer beware. But I remain optimistic that eventually the perfect deal will surface so, like buying lottery tickets, I continue to spend time on eBay, Kijiji, Craig’s List, and other sites hoping for that rare win. In the meantime I just have to resist deals like this:


Monday, January 30, 2017

A bad few months for cars.

Coming home from a dump run yesterday, minding my own business, listening to some good tunes, and out of nowhere, boom, two deer in full flight land on the road mere inches in front of the car. Even if the roads hadn’t been ice covered there’s no way I could have stopped. Fortunately I hit them just as they landed on the road so they connected with the grill and not the windshield, but still lots of damage to the car. Not so sure about the deer. By the time I pulled over they’d scarpered, and I wasn’t in any mood to follow them into the woods to see how badly they were injured.


And so here we go again with police reports, insurance adjusters, repair estimates, and deductibles (always the deductibles). I’m hoping the car can be repaired but I’m not sure the insurance people will agree, given its age.  Fortunately no airbags deployed, so perhaps… I’ll know in a couple of days.

I’ve had numerous close calls before as deer are a constant threat on these roads and it’s pretty much inevitable to experience a deer strike at least once around here (there’s something in the order of 1,200 a year in the Ottawa area). I’m just thankful it happened when I was on four wheels and not two.

UPDATE: $6,000 damage. It's a write-off.

Monday, January 16, 2017

2017. Already?

Yup, it’s 2017, whether I like it or not, and it’s time to check in since I haven’t posted in quite a while. I wish I could say I’ve been AWOL, spending the last month riding in some location that enjoys sunnier and warmer weather this time of year, but I can’t. I’ve been right here through every perverse cycle of snow, thaw, rain, snow, thaw, freezing rain, thaw, blizzard, rain, –30, +8 that have so far defined this as absolutely the worst winter in my memory. With conditions like these it’s nearly impossible to actually enjoy being out of doors so the best place to be is in the garage.

And that’s where I’ve mostly been.

The Hondas (remember them?) are proving to be a bigger challenge than I expected. IMG_20160509_095141753Both bikes were abused, but the S65 (the red one), which was the one I had the most hopes for, was both abused and involved in an accident. As I dig into them I’ve concluded I may only get one usable machine out of the two, but first I want to have a running engine before spending any time or money on body work. So I’m rebuilding one engine to S65 specs (the C65 is automatic). The cases have been reassembled and I managed to get one good top end out of cannibalizing the second engine for parts.  Now I just have to bolt it all together and see if it runs. If not it will be decision time – continue or part out what I have?

IMG_20160925_113842892webAfter getting the Kawasaki into the shop it didn’t take long to determine that at least part of the problem was a badly rebuilt carburetor. The throttle slide had been installed wrong causing it to jam the choke butterfly open. That, and a few assorted springs and o-rings that were missing from that rebuild, would likely have caused the poor running condition. It took a while to find carb kits but eventually eBay came through. Carbs have been rebuilt (properly this time with no left-over pieces) and the bike is now ready for a good tune-up, which can wait for warmer weather. Still not sure what I’ll do with it at that point.

Elm and mahogany vaseAnd it’s not only been old motorcycles demanding my attention.

The lathe has been getting a workout since I acquired a few cords of good dry elm from a neighbour. I didn’t realise what a nice grain pattern it had until I started turning some of that firewood into small bowls and vases. It’s been fun to get back in touch with a machine that I’ve all but ignored for a few years, but the missus is now complaining about running out of space to display my creations.

And then I came across this ( and got interested in 3-string guitars, and then, more specifically, 3-string cigar box guitars. I don’t play, but I do have access to lots of cigar boxes and a keen interest in the oddball, so I built one. It actually sounds amazing but I made a few mistakes and discovered some areas where it could be better so I now consider that to be the prototype. I have started on version 2 which will be similar but electric. Who knows, perhaps I’ll even learn to play a bit. I mean it’s only 3 strings, right? How hard can it be? And if I can’t figure out 3 strings there’s always the diddley bow.


So I’ve been ignoring the weather as best I can as I suffer through another winter of PMS. But the days are already noticeably longer so spring can’t be too far away. Can it?