Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Jesus Quotes for Dummies: "Turn the Other Cheek"

There is a famous quote from Jesus "If someone slaps you on the cheek, turn the other cheek". This is considered a "provocative" teaching, in that it tells us to deny our instinct of retaliation and revenge, and adopt a non-violent response. In this short teaching, Jesus not only tells us to not respond to violence with our own violence, but to even assist the aggressor by giving him (or her I suppose) the other cheek to slap.

The original Christians took Jesus' message to mean they should be non violent in their own lives. In the early years of Christianity, it was assumed that a true Christian could not even join the military. But as Christianity spread and became the official religion of the Roman Empire, obviously the interpretation had to adapt to the new situation.

Today, many who call themselves Christians no longer have problems with this teaching, because there are now many people to help them reinterpret it, and explain what Jesus really meant, and to tell them when this teaching does not apply. With these new explanations of Jesus' teaching, Christian TV evangelists support such things as pre-emptive war, torture of prisoners, political assassination, and the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Update: An explanation of "Turn the other cheek" at this blog

[the following is sarcasm, because in my opinion this "violent Christianity" is nothing more than pure hypocrisy]

I have decided to throw this question back to Jesus Himself, and get Him to clarify this potentially frustrating situation he left us with, in trying to honestly follow His teachings. Meanwhile, there are a bunch of legitimate ways that you can get around this requirement of turning the other cheek without feeling bad that you are not following Jesus's advice.

Here are a few situations that come to mind, that I want explained by Jesus Himself.

1. Say a bad man slaps your 2 year old daughter on the face. Should you tell her to turn the other cheek, or should you offer to let the bad man slap your cheek, or are you allowed to punch the bad man's lights out?

2. Say an orangutang (which is a monkey, not a human) slaps you on the cheek. Do you have to turn the other cheek if it's not even human or can you hit back. And if you can hit back against a monkey, than what about other men of different skin colour that I, as a racist Christian, consider non-human?

3. If a bad man tries to slap my cheek, but is so uncoordinated or feeble that he cannot do it with any force, should I assist him by slamming my cheek into his hand?

4. If my country is attacked, must the entire army stand around waiting to get slapped on the cheek and then after they are slapped, turn the other cheek and surrender?

5. Say a mass murderer is caught, tried and convicted. Must we let him go, and furthermore set him up with some new potential victims? Or can we go ahead and execute him. (humanely of course)

6. Say we have a suicide bomber in custody, and he knows there is a hidden atomic bomb set to go off in New York. Can we torture him to find out where it is? And if he doesn't talk with mere waterboarding, or if we're not sure he's telling the truth, can we go ahead with mutilation. And if we're not sure mutilating him worked, can we also mutilate his wife and children? Because after all, we're talking about millions of good Christian people dying in an atomic blast vs. one little case of torture.

So I guess that should give Jesus something to think about. Next time, maybe He won't be spouting off with his left wing pacifist BS before thinking it through. Or maybe God should just check with me first before delivering any more sermons from the mount.

Until Jesus gets back to me with some answers, I think it is pretty safe for the Judeo-Christian countries to continue the policy of pre-emptive war, where, just in case another country looks like it might one day want to attack us, we can bomb the crap out of them right now and put an end to it before it starts. And we can also carry on a policy of assassination of foreign leaders who look like they are not friendly, and may one day want to slap a tariff on the oil we are drilling on their land. (Are you listening, Hugo Chavez?)

More importantly, we can continue the policy of stealing land from Palestinians, and if any of them fight back, we can bomb and kill a hundred times as many in retaliation. And if any of the suicide bombing terrorists happen to hide near women and children instead of standing out in the open, we can just go ahead and kill all of them with a clear conscience. And if we catch any terrorists we can torture them till the cows come home.

But the best part of all this is that we are still Christians, and we can still boast that we are the peace loving ones, because after all it says right in the bible that Christians "Turn the other cheek". Isn't it great to be a Christian? We are saved from hell by our personal love of Jesus.

Some other thoughts


Pictures: So many to choose from, this is a very controversial topic I guess
1. Game
2. Wanna buy the T-Shirt?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Alternate Riding Positions for Comfort

This may very well be something I shouldn't write about. Maybe it's illegal, maybe it's unsafe. But for many years I have used alternate riding positions in order to be comfortable on long motorcycle rides. And with a country as big and empty as Canada, there are a lot of long lonely motorcycle rides.

The worst thing you can do for comfort is remain in a fixed position for many hours without moving. Numbness sets in, in the rear end, and even in the hands and wrists. You can overstress your back and neck. Even if you have a soft pillowy seat and a nice backrest.

It really does not take much moving around to make things more comfortable. At the very simplest level, you could lift your rear off the seat, just enough to allow daylight between your rear and the seat, for just a couple of seconds, and repeat every five minutes. If you start doing this before you start to go numb, you will remain comfortable for a long time. It's easier to do this on some bikes, such as standards, but it can also be done on many cruisers, providing the floorboards are not placed too far forward.

Even this simplest little move may be too difficult for some riders to do safely, I don't really know. I don't ever read about other people doing this much, so maybe it is considered dangerous, or that only a professional should attempt it. I know I can do it any time I want, and not lose control of the motorcycle. I can even do it leaning over in a curve. And I use a few other seating positions that are probably a lot harder. Lifting the rear end is one of the easiest and safest "tricks" I do.

One problem with cruiser motorcycles is that they force you into a single position. It's very hard to ride them standing up, and it is very hard to even slide back on the seat a few inches, because of the ledge between the rear and the front seat. On a standard motorcycle (before the 1980's), the passenger seat was level with the driver's seat, so if you didn't have a passenger, you could slide back as far as you liked.

What a lot of cruiser riders do is add forward mounted footrests so that they can ride with their legs stretched out. That gives another position, but it is only good on long straight stretches without gear changes or braking. That's because usually these highway pegs do not have the foot controls, and so you will never see this type of footpeg offered by the manufacturers. Because of liability problems.

I don't have these forward highway pegs, but one thing I can do instead is to sit on the passenger seat. It does require a large and possibly dangerous movement, and maybe some people would lose control doing it, but in my opinion, a good rider should not have a problem learning to do this. Maybe it should even be a training requirement. Once on the back seat, I can also move my feet to the passenger pegs if I want to, but there are no foot controls. At least I still have the front brake available in an emergency. I never ever sit on the back seat in busy areas or heavy traffic where I am driving defensively. The main difficulty with the back seat is leaning forward to reach the handlebars. If I don't have a windshield, leaning forward from the passenger seat is actually very comfortable, as it just balances the wind at 110 kph. With the windshield on, this particular position is not much use, as it becomes too uncomfortable holding yourself up.

Without the windshield, you can use the wind to good effect. Or you can choose to let it make you tired. I choose to let the wind help me, by leaning forward into it. This takes the weight off your back and seat, and it should also allow you to relax your grip on the handlebars. If you lean back, then you will need to fight the wind for many hours and you will become tired. If it were not for fog, cold, and wet weather, I would never use a windshield. (although sometimes bugstorms are worse than rain!)

Picture: Four riding positions clockwise from the top left.
*Dirt riding, often from a standing position to allow the legs to absorb the bumps.
*Ape hangers, on a cruiser, this bike has highway pegs for good measure. I would not recommend the high handlebars (called apehangers), in any case they are illegal almost everywhere.
*An old fashioned position, lost favour when decent brakes were invented.
*A modern cafe racer, crouched forward. Can be comfortable at higher speeds without a windshield.

Different Opinions on the G20 Summit Riot

In the wake of the G20 summit held in Toronto, there are conflicting headlines in the newspapers, concerning the police actions. I am going to pick four papers from Toronto and contrast their stories, mainly looking at the titles rather than the content. I got the titles from looking at each paper's web page this morning and clicking on the story I saw about the summit controversy,

The Toronto Star:
"Outraged protesters rally against police"
[sub title] "Female protesters strip searched by male officers, detainee says"

The National Post
"Police work was ‘commendable,’ Mayor says"

The Globe and Mail
"Police chief offers no apologies for G20 tactics"

The Toronto Sun
"Anarchists were 'stupid' — Blair" [explanation required: Blair is the police chief]

There is a theory in spreading propaganda that you can get your readers to think a certain way by your choice of title, so I chose only the title rather than get bogged down in the content of the article, which you can read if you want to, by clicking on the links. But don't be surprised if the content does not exactly convey the same message as the title, that's part of the technique.

If this theory is correct, each paper will pick a title to get the readers to think along the lines dictated by its overall editorial approach.

I think it is agreed that the Toronto Star is a liberal, if not left-leaning paper. So their title seems to match their left wing slant, and appears to sympathise with the left wing protesters.

I am pretty sure most people know the "National Post" is a right wing paper, and by definition, would be on the side of the riot police. I am making the assumption that conservatives and right wingers are in favour of "The Man", the police, who are working for the governments and/or the corporations.

The "Globe and Mail" is the most widely respected paper in Toronto, and considered more neutral than the previous two. And the message of the headline, I feel, is somewhat in between the left and right wing views. Their headline manages to simultaneously suggest that apologies were in order, and that none were needed. Maybe you also noticed, the only title that did not quote someone.

The "Toronto Sun" is a tabloid, and tries to appeal to the average working class guy, as you can tell by the scantily clad Sunshine Girls in every paper. Their intended audience is looking for a simple, easily understood opinion.

Incidentally, I am not trying to promote the "Globe and Mail", although I suppose it might look like that from this post. I subscribe to none of these papers, I do not even live in Toronto, and I do not work for the Globe and Mail company. If you feel my assumptions about the Globe and Mail (or any of the other papers) are misguided, your comments are welcome.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Long Way Round, Compared to What?

On Sunday, I was talking about the movies "The Long Way Round" and "The Long Way Down". A friend of mine, who has given up motorcycling as his years advanced, said to me that he thought "The Long Way Round" was actually quite easy, with the support vehicles and crew, and all the money. And that he was more impressed with a trip I made back in 2004, where I went alone on my motorcycle, leaving in late February, and going to Loreto, on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico, and back.

In "The Long Way Round", a couple of movie actors, Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor, travel from the U.K. across Europe and Asia through Mongolia, and Siberia to Alaska, Canada, and then across America to return home to the UK. And they made a documentary film of their adventure.

And one of several bits on Youtube: Mongolia

I myself was pretty impressed with Ewan and Charley's trip. And although I really enjoyed my own trip to Baja, it was very unstressful compared to Mongolia and Siberia.

The significant differences would be in the amount of experience I had, and in the difficulty of the trip. In my opinion, the amount of money and presence of a support crew and planning staff do not make the trip that much easier. I had experience doing the coast-to-coast North American trip, and all the money I really needed for comfort, and I never missed having a support crew. Ewan and Charley had practically no experience at all travelling long distances by motorcycle, they didn't even have experience in riding motorcycles, and their bikes were also new and unfamiliar.

I was on paved roads virtually all the time. They were in entire countries where they hardly saw a paved road, and often no roads at all. I was in only three countries, and all three were very motorcycle friendly. Ewan and Charley were in Mongolia, and Russia, and a lot of other places where they do not try to make it easy for tourists. And their trip went entirely round the world, while mine stayed on one continent.

I was amazed by the sheer audacity, or recklessness, of just heading out there on motorcycles and going around the world, with their level of experience. (basically none, at the start) It was a few years since I saw it, and honestly I could not remember whether they took support vehicles or not. Must be my memory going on me.

Ewan and Charley ran into a lot of difficulties on their trip, but kept going regardless. Ewan kept falling down, because he was riding a very heavy bike off road. Roads were blocked by rivers. Bad weather. Accidents.

My own trip was like a stroll in the park. I had all good weather, and that was not just dumb luck. I took full advantage of accurate weather tracking, now available to anyone with a TV, all over North America. I was riding with fully tested gear and equipment, including the motorcycle and the clothes. I took advantage of excellent roads, and good facilities all the way down, even in Mexico. I slept comfortably in motels every night, and ate at friendly restaurants with familiar food. My trip required minimal planning, actually none at all, other than an attempt to learn a little Spanish, and reseaching requirements on crossing the Mexican border.

I suppose with enough bad luck, I could have been faced with even worse difficulties than Ewan and Charley. I could have had an accident, I could have frozen in a blizzard, or been robbed at knifepoint, or even killed. Yes, every trip has the potential of turning into a nightmare. But on the other hand, when you have done similar trips dozens of times, you mostly eliminate those random chance problems. There were very few times on the trip when I doing something new that I had no experience at all in.

In one place, half of the road in Mexico had collapsed, washed away, and there were no warning signs posted, or cones or flares. Nothing. A couple of hundred metres of road (again in Mexico) were under water. I avoided both those obstacles by luck or experience. I never got the runs (Montezuma's Revenge) for eating local tacos. I never got hassled by corrupt cops. Only one person even asked for money, I see more panhandling than that in Kitchener.

I encountered a couple of other motorcyclists from Texas whose bikes had both broken down. My bike did not break down, and maybe I can take credit for that, maybe it was just a really good bike (1992 BMW K1100LT) that I had already driven for 90,000 km basically with no reliability issues, or accidents. Another motorcyclist, on a bike similar to mine died in an accident the day I was there and I met some of his companions after the accident. I suppose that could as easily have been me.

Some of the most difficults moments for Ewan and Charley are not only with the obstacles and dangers, but with each other. I never had that problem on the Baja trip, as I was alone, or I was free to leave anytime the other people's agenda didn't suit me. And I didn't have to worry about somebody else crashing and ending the trip for me.

Actually, what Ewan and Charley did was so monumental, that my own trip is kind of unworthy in comparison.

Pics: From My Baja trip. Also in this album, with precise GPS locations if you care to check them out.

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid Back in the Pride parade

Recently, I was sent a copy of an email by an activist friend of mine, which was critical of the group "Queers Against Israeli Apartheid". I had no interest in it initially, but on second thought I decided to look into this unusual development.

This group was going to be banned from participating in the upcoming Toronto Gay Pride parade, which has become a major event. But after some protests, the ban was overturned.

My question is why are the gays, lesbians and transsexuals supporting Palestinians, while Palestinians themselves apparently discriminate against homosexuality? At the same time, my understanding is that Israelis were very tolerant.

After I read a bit on this web page, explaining the origin of this group

more questions arise and some answers.

The Israeli treatment of Palestinians is probably worse in many ways than the Palestinian discrimination against homosexuals. Not being a homosexual or a Palestinian myself, I am not an expert on these issues, and I may not fully understand the discrimination each one faces. And furthermore, maybe I'm using the incorrect terms such as "queer" instead of LGBT. In which case I apologize, but I am not anti-gay/lesbian/bisexual/transsexual/queer. I am simply for universal human rights and freedom.

Homosexuals, even in Islamic countries, do not have their rights taken away unless they are "discovered", and even then, their entire families are not punished by having their houses bulldozed. Homosexuals are not marked from birth to be denied housing and free access to jobs. Homosexual leaders are not regularly targeted by missile attacks in densely populated areas.

On the other hand, I am told that homosexuality is something that has been around a long time, and apparently homosexuals exist all over the world, and throughout history, in many antagonistic cultures.

I find it interesting that a homosexual group such as this would take the trouble to speak out in support of other people (like the Palestinians) who have been denied their rights, even though most Palestinians may not be queer themselves, and may discriminate against homosexuals.

Meanwhile Israel has apparently been the only country in the middle East to openly tolerate homosexuals, while gays are persecuted in the Islamic Arab countries.

Here is Wikipedia on Israel, Palestine and homosexuals

Meanwhile, this right wing web page calls gay marriage in Israel "Worse then the holocaust" and "far worse to allow the homosexualization of the Holy Land than to give back land to the Arabs" I guess Rabbi Levin thinks it is better to give the Holy Land back to the Arabs than to allow homosexuality.

Also, homosexuals can still be (illegally) murdered in Israel, presumably by Orthodox Jews:,8599,1914391,00.html

Then, in a weird turnaround, Israeli settlers plan "Jewish Pride" parades through Arab neighbourhoods in retaliation for "Gay Pride" parades in Israel.

And a long article about the politicization of homosexuality, and how it is affected by the occupation of Palestine.

And furthermore, a documentary on the Iranian practice of forcing sex change operations on homosexuals.

It's hard for me to draw any conclusions, but still, I find it interesting that Gays, who have plenty of problems of their own, are not so self absorbed that they can't also express support for fellow human beings who are suffering from discrimination for a different reason.

Picture: Israeli gay pride parade

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Trash Journalism, Mixing Gossip and Propaganda

There has always been trash journalism. The difference is that today, there is more opportunity than ever before in human history, to spread false or misleading stories. This is done for a variety of reasons, and to make money is not the only one. Many people take delight in spreading fear, hysteria, or crackpot theories without any hope for compensation. The motivations can be many and varied. Sometimes just the desire to ruin someone else's life is enough motivation.

Just today, three stories I came across help illustrate that trash journalism is much more than just the Fox News Network. Perhaps I should refer to it as "gossip journalism", as "trash journalism" sounds so negative. And in some cases I am not totally negative about it. Here is the first example. Rolling Stone magazine published an article called "Runaway General" that got General Stanley McChrystal fired. In one sense, I would call this trash journalism because on a very basic level, it was trap set by a reporter, to gain the confidence of the staff. Later, he created a report that made them look disrespectful of their Commander in Chief and lots of other people. Whether they were disrespectful or not is not the question for me. They allowed the reporter to talk to them, and apparently approved the article, and were fired because of the tone of the article. In the final analysis, the story was the story. Like I said, not necessarily trash, not necessarily false or misleading, but not really great journalism either. Just banter that was put into print.

The second example is out of The National Enquirer. A 55 year old masseuse, employed (or contracted) by a hotel Al Gore stayed at four years ago, and reported Al had sexually harassed her. National Enquirer printed the story with a front page picture.

National Enquirer is one of those magazines you see at the grocery store checkout. The others are Star, Globe, OK, "Weekly World News" and many other titles. Quite honestly, I group these grocery store papers in one of two categories. Those that are true, but gossipy and unimportant, and the others that would be of colossal importance, if they were true. The National Inquirer was the first I know of to report on Charles and Diana breaking up. And of several similar personal and or sexual stories, like Canadian motorcycle racer Mike Duff wanting a sex change operation. A surprising number of these stories ended up being scoops for the National Enquirer, and later were proven to be based on fact.

The other stories would be of monumental importance if true, but have never panned out. Most of the other magazines specialize in that other type of story, such as "Obama appoints extra terrestrial alien to be Secretary of Space". Or "Pet Dog born with head of Elvis", showing the obviously photoshopped picture of Elvis Presley's face on a puppy. Yes, if it was true it would be of great scientific importance, but these stories never yet have proven true.

In reading about "The National Enquirer" in Wikipedia, I came across this interesting allegation I have never heard before:

"Founded in 1926 as The New York Evening Enquirer, Sunday afternoon newspaper distributed throughout the city. It was founded by anti-Semite William Griffin in 1926 and became a voice for isolationism and fascist propaganda in the 1930s and 1940s.[2]"

Obviously, the National Enquirer has changed hands since then, and is not in the business of Nazi propaganda any more (I don't think).

The third and last, for now, is from a website on the internet. I'm not sure how current that link will stay, due to the design of the website, but here is how the article starts off with this unfounded and probably false statement:
"EXTREME ALERT-MOVE YOUR FAMILIES NOW!: Inside sources have informed me that Full scale Gulf Coast evacuations are expected to begin in next couple of weeks--With Methane now surfacing and Bubbling in Florida waters the potential for a Methane Explosion of unimaginable devastation now comes into focus Further Law Enforcement Sources are being Advised of "ESCALATING VENT DETERIORATION" Two Definitions were provided to me--First "VENT" DEFINITION-"The opening in a volcano from which gas and molten rock erupt" and "ESCALATES"- DEFINITION GIVEN-"To expand step by step as from a limited or local conflict into a General NUCLEAR WAR"--to become unmanageable--You don't need a rocket science degree to read between the lines. Ten Years ago after the Papua New Guinea Earthquake in which "Burnt to a Crisp" bodies were pulled from the Fiery Seas-Stan Deyo and I did multiple Radio programs together over the years, warning of the Methane Hydrate Problems off our Coasts that could turn into "Seas Of Fire". "
Two links are provided in this section, I suppose to provide background scientific information.

It just happens that I have a sister in law living in Sarasota Florida, and so somehow one of Mary Ann's cousins came across this website and asked her if she thought it was the real thing, in which case a warning might be in order.

As far as I'm concerned, it's quite one thing to believe Al Gore sexually harassed a masseuse, and quite another to tell your sister in law to pack her bags and flee her home, based on a website story with no reputation of credibility.

By the way, if you do actually follow either of those links in the website, you will find that the first one is about a carbon dioxide explosion, not a methane explosion, and you should not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out those two are different. The second link, you can decide for yourself whether it is relevant.

Apparently it is true that there are localized high concentrations of methane gas dissolved in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, presumably due to the oil spill. Another link was provided here: In case you do not know, Reuters is more credible than Knowing how credible a source is comes with much experience, I guess.

What do we do about this spread of gossipy trash journalism? It seems that it is getting worse instead of getting better. I might as well admit that I don't have a clue yet, except to (1) search various reputable sources, including (2) stay in school when you have the chance and do your homework (3) Don't evacuate your house until you email another family member or friend for a second opinion. (4) try actually reading the whole thing, sometimes it's a joke or there is some context to consider.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Scooters are Coming, and What Can be Done About It

It's starting to look like scooters are taking over, and if so what can be done to stop them?

I was living during the time of the big Harley Davidson comeback circa 1985. I remember the buzz in our motorcycle club, as member after member traded in their Honda Goldwing touring bike for a big V-twin Harley Davidson. Honda Goldwings used to be the most popular bike in the club by far. We didn't know it at the time, but that would be the beginning of at least 20 years of Harley Davidson growth in market share, to the point where they now dominate the big bike market.

What am I starting to see recently, reminds me of those heady times for H-D Co. But now it is scooters. First, Mary Ann rejected my finely tuned 1970 Honda CD175 in favour of a 2005 Suzuki Burgman 400. I could understand that, as she did not like messing with the gears and clutch while driving a two wheeled vehicle. And it had space for shopping under the seat, and protection from the rain and cold. And then once we had it for several thousand kilometers, it became apparent that it was also fully capable of transporting two people on a freeway at over 110 kph.

Then, another friend, (my age) who I advised to buy a medium to small cruiser as his first bike, ended up with a sport bike. When he showed me, I wondered "Why?". He told me a sport bike, being shorter, would fit into his garden shed while a cruiser would not. OK, good enough reason I suppose, but after a couple of trips on the sport bike, he was wondering if he should give up motorcycling, as it was so uncomfortable. Mary Ann told him the Burgman was comfortable, and to prove it she lent it to him for a 200 km trip. Within a week, he had sold the Suzuki Katana 650 and bought a Yamaha Majesty 400cc scooter. And he still has it and loves to ride it.

This year, Barry bought a scooter after selling his 1400 cc Harley Davidson Dyna Sport. It's a Kymco Bet & Win 150, which he bought lightly used. A few years back, Barry was telling me he would never let somebody on a scooter ride with him. Now we ride together with these bikes: Barry's Bet & Win 150, my Vulcan 900, and Bob's Suzuki Intruder 1400. These are 200 km plus rides, and we move at a reasonable clip of 90 kph. The only question on all our minds is when will the 150cc engine blow up, since it runs most of the time at 9,000 rpm and full throttle. It has not done so yet.

Bob and I have given up on insulting the Kymco Scooter, after several months of side splitting witticisms. Today when we were at Tim Horton's in Port Dover we discussed picking up the scooter and hiding it while Barry was in the bathroom. Unfortunately (or fortunately) Barry got wind of the plot and took out his owners manual to show us the weight of the scooter, so that we would not be so foolish to attempt this in the future. It weighs 300 lbs, which is enough to give both of us a hernia even if Bob lifted 200 lb while I got the remaining 100, as was my plan.

Shortly after that botched prank, we were in the little shop called "On the Fringe" where Bob had heard that the 2010 Friday 13th T-shirts were on sale. He needed to get one ahead of time, as he has the full collection and it's really difficult to get in there on Friday 13th, and not only that they will probably run out early this year if the weather is half decent on Friday 13th. Anyway, it was a partially false rumour, as they had the women's T-Shirts but not the men's, and Bob could not be persuaded to try on the women's. But as we were leaving, I spotted a sticker for $5 that said "Remember when sex was safe and bikes were dangerous?" I remarked that this would be a good sticker to put on Barry's bike, and Bob decided to get one and put it on. That makes it an official "bike", with the sticker in place.

At the last stop on our ride, we were at the Tim Horton's in Paris, and as our gang pulled in, there was another 150cc scooter parked next to us. I asked the rider where he was going, as he had a basket strapped to the luggage rack with shoes and clothing in it. He was heading to Mississauga with his scooter, and had started from his home in London (Ontario). Also we inquired as to why there was all this duct tape over his scooter, and he informed us that it was the result of being hit three times by London drivers, who are the worst in the world, according to our friend. Anyhow he took off in the direction of Mississauga after a friendly chat, and it looked like he was going to make it. I did not have the heart to tell him that Mississauga is the road rage capital of Canada. No sooner had he left than another man with a Burgman 650 (scooter) pulled in looking for coffee and willing to brag about his bike. He had a trailer hitch, where he told us that he attached a 250 pound one-wheel trailer, and was planning to make a trip to Nova Scotia and PEI this summer. I asked him if it was his first bike, no he said, he used to have a Burgman 400 that he put 60,000 km on and then traded on the Burgman 650.

Picture: Quicksilver, a steam-punk custom scooter,just to give you an idea where scooters might be headed when designers figure out what they should look like. From this web site:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Protocols of Biker Trash Talk

I came across an old blogger post from February, 2008. "A Loose Interpretation of "Brotherhood"" from the blog called "Twisted Roads" By Jack Riepe.

In it, Jack tells an amusing tale of bikers trash talking each other. I assumed it was written tongue in cheek, with a few "changes" to enhance the drama of the tale.

Unfortunately, I think there is a tendency for new riders to be intimidated in situations like these. And this blog entry, with it's aggressive language will do nothing to allay their fears. So it's up to me to try and set things straight, and at the same time put into words the unwritten code of biker talk. Let's start with this: You can be a lot more trashy in your talk with an old friend than you can with a complete stranger. Hopefully everyone knows that already.

I will admit that I enjoy talking to other bikers when we meet on the road, at places such as Tim Horton's for example. But I have also travelled around North America by motorcycle, and the friendliness I have found is the same everywhere I go (although I have never been to New Jersey, the place of the first alleged remark, but on the other hand I was given a gift by a New jersey bike rider I met in New York). In fact it's almost embarrassing at times. There are places that you can't even stop for a second to adjust your helmet without four other bikers stopping to ask if you need assistance. And it really does not matter what you ride, from a Harley Sportster to a Puch moped. Once I was pulled over at the end of a long day by a guy on a Harley in northern Michigan, to warn me that my wife was falling asleep on the back, and to tell me where there was a nearby motel. And he gave us a wood carving he had made himself of a fisherman, that still balances on our living room wall unit.

So the first rule of biker talk etiquette is don't be intimidated, they are all friendly. The only exception might be if you were to stop and try to talk to some bikers who have already drawn their guns on each other, you may get a frosty reception. But that never has happened to me. Also, admittedly I do not hang out in biker bars at night when everyone is drunk. So I guess I'm mainly talking about daytime stuff where people are out enjoying riding their motorcycles, and not when some of them are getting into mind altering drugs and booze.

The second rule, and this is my own rule, is "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all". This is about another person's bike of course. So the nastiest thing I might ever say about a bike would be "My, that sure is a nice symmetrical looking oil puddle under your crankcase."

In reading the "Loose Interpretation" blog entry, I came across a number of trash talking comments that didn't sound real to me. Maybe Jack punched them up just a little for effect. For example, calling someone's bike a "little girl's bike" is always wrong. Calling it a girl's bike is OK however, as it is well known by now that girls can ride almost any bike ever made. One day as I was looking at a Boss Hoss, musing aloud to my friend how hard it would be to ride, a young lady (NOT a Little Girl) piped up with "It's easy, and I know because I have ridden one." A Boss Hoss is a bike with a Chevrolet V8 for an engine, and it does not look easy to ride.

A "girl's bike" in the right context can be funny, but calling a bike a "little girl's bike" is just never done, unless someone is wanting to pick a fight in a "Wild Ones" movie, or maybe a bar at 2 AM.

Also, any talk of kicking in the nuts, or head butting in the nuts, or Turkish prisons, is similarly not done in normal biker talk. And, to be fair, these were comments that Jack did not actually say, though he obviously was thinking of it after the fact.

Next, I am doubtful of the comment "Why do you jerks dress like that on such a hot day?” from some hard core biker types at an ice cream stand in West Virginia. The clue is being at an ice cream stand and not a saloon. Actually, there is just one word that gives it away: "Jerks". A motorcyclist at an ice cream stand does not call another a jerk unless he has just knocked off the top scoop of the ice cream. Then it might be justified, and everybody says sorry and moves on. Take out the word "jerk", and it is a reasonably friendly comment and an opener for a conversation.

No matter what stereotypes might exist, most bikers are normal people. You can break them down into four major types. The ones that have been riding a long time, the ones who have just started, the ones who rode when they were young, gave it up for many years and have just come back to it, and the ones who have owned a motorcycle continuously for many years but average only about 100 miles a year.

In general, the new riders do not trash talk other people's bikes, because they are aware of how little they know about motorcycles, so they are more into asking questions. And in general the experienced riders have ridden everything (including Jap bikes and maybe mopeds) and they have met everyone, and have respect for all motorcyclists. And I might add, generally Harley riders are actually more friendly than most, maybe because they are aware they are making up for the bad image they got from a lot of low grade biker movies.

Now how would I answer a comment like this: "“This looks like a copy of Japanese bike made for a little girl.” (if it was ever said like that to me)

The answer should be "Actually it is German." And sometimes I have made that very comment, and it usually starts a conversation like "I didn't know BMW made motorcycles!"

The most embarrassing comments of all, are when I am pushing my bike home because it broke down. Then I am in a mood when no comment is taken the right way, even the usual offer of gas, or a ride to a gas station, is unwelcome. But that's just me when pushing a motorcycle home. Because I'm usually not in a real talkative mood at that time. But I do try to not respond with harsh words, because I know they mean well.

Picture: Steve Tyra, professional humourist, playing the character of "Charley Davidson", that naughty biker.

Looking Back on "Bike Fever", 1973 by Lee Gutkind

The book "Bike Fever" by Lee Gutkind is like a ghost from the past for me. It was copyrighted in 1973, and as I read it in 2010, I wonder if I have actually read it before. I don't remember, actually, whether I did or not.

When it was written, I was just starting out in motorcycling. My two stroke Yamaha 250 was brand new. The Hells Angels were still just a bunch of fighting drunks who loved motorcycles and Nazi helmets. The British bike industry was on its last legs as thousands of young people were buying the ever larger Japanese machines. The median age of motorcyclists was about 26 years old. Travelling across the country was still a great adventure. "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" had not come out yet, but "Easy Rider" was already part of the folklore. All motorcycles were "standard" motorcycles, we did not yet have "Dirt Bikes", "Touring Bikes", "Sport Bikes", or "Cruisers". Harley Davidson was still in business, but many suspected it was in even worse shape than the British bike makers. And all motorcyclists were suspected of being outlaws. Especially if they had a leather jacket, and worse if it was black.

There were a couple of flashbacks for me, especially a comment that the only difference between riding a bike in the Sahara or on the moon was the availability of air. For the last ten years (or so) the picture on my motorcycle website was my Honda on the moon with the caption reminding you to bring air. Did I get that inspiration from reading a book even though I don't remember it?

Today the median age of motorcycle riders is in the mid fifties. I am still within 5 years of it, so I guess I was part of the generation that really stuck with motorcycling. When this book was written, I was still about the median age of other motorcyclists, but I was 35 years younger than I am today. Apparently not as many young people are getting into motorcycling any more. And it's not surprising, if you read some of the reasons to ride a bike in 1973. It was cheaper than a car, you could go places with it that you couldn't take a car, it was easier and less expensive to repair on your own. It got better gas mileage, and emitted less pollution. You could park it anywhere and you didn't need a special drivers licence. Insurance was cheaper (in the province of Quebec where I lived it was actually not even required, and I didn't have any). Almost all those reasons have evaporated over the years.

In the book, Lee Gutkind speculates about the Hell's Angels

"But what prevents another motorcycle group, hungry for similar publicity, or even an old ladies' canasta club, from christening themselves "Hell's Angels"? Motorcyclists were not even the first to own the Hell's Angels label. Long before Porterville, or even Hollister, the Hell's Angels were a crack fighter squadron for the United States Army Air Force."

My, my, how times have changed. Try calling your gang the Hell's Angels today, or using the flaming skull logo, and you will find yourself visited by a gang of highly scrubbed lawyers driving SUV's, and throwing around lawsuits like the Angels used to spill beer. The Hell's Angels have grown into a legitimate corporation, although still arguably involved in criminal activity. They hand out franchises like McDonald's, to any innocent group of wannabe's that lust after the Hell's Angels cachet.

Another section of the book gets very psychoanalytical of the disease known as "bike fever". This is the disease where all you can do is daydream about motorcycles. And even worse, it is linked with sexual urges, with the main accusation being that the motorcycle itself is mechanical penis extension. I remember this argument from the seventies, but I have not heard it for many years. Also known as "Motorcycle Syndrome", "Dr. Nicholls reports that his patients were mostly impotent, obsessed with worry about discovering they were homosexuals, and haunted with fears of mutilation and death."

Again, times have changed. There were no "Gay pride" parades in 1973, nor could you marry your same sex boyfriend. Homosexuals were well and truly marginalized, unable to appear on TV or be recruited in the military. Even the false accusation of being homosexual could get you beaten up. People apparently spent a lot more time in the seventies repressing homosexual urges than they do today. OK maybe that still happens today, but not as bad, and not everywhere. Now we pretty well know that motorcycles have nothing to do with homosexuality, and even the Christian fundamentalists have more important things to worry about than gay bikers.

When I was younger, I did actually worry a little about these psycho-pop verdicts, because to be quite honest, I did daydream about motorcycling, and I used to like riding my motorcycle a lot more than most people thought was healthy, even other motorcyclists. But today I realise that this disease is not just for motorcycling. You could make the same accusations about TV, computers, video games, riding lawn mowers, golf, surfing, poker, KFC, or vacations in Cuba. The number of perversions (such as these) has spread and diversified so much that motorcycling seems quite normal now. Actually, when I go to Port Dover on a Friday 13th I do worry a little about the mental health of all the other motorcyclists who go there. Including Dave McDonald, our local weatherman on CKCO TV in Kitchener. He talks about his motorcycle during the weather report. That's another example of how times have changed.

Picture: Daytona Beach 1948 from this web page, says all you need to know about motorcycling madness.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Firing McChrystal was Necessary, Unfortunately

McChrystal does not seem to have much respect for the Commander in Chief. Not only must he be fired, but there is a requirement for court martial too, in the military code of conduct. I don't know if this will happen though.

Here is a comment from Jay on the CTV website:

"Everyone knows the war in Afghanistan is a new and unique challenge, that no politician is going to know anything about. How would like you it if some politician showed up and told you how to do your job, especially when they know absolutely nothing about it?"

Let me explain here to Jay and others why the Commander in Chief is at the top of the military chain of command.

The goal of the US military is not only a victory in Afghanistan. Winning in Afghanistan is a fairly low priority. This higher priority is a broader, long term international peace and security.

President of the USA is the person that must understand the bigger picture. Right now, I am going to let you in on a top level military secret, just so you can understand that Obama is the one who is in charge, and McChrystal is the smaller fish who messed up big time.

Afghanistan is not a major threat to the USA any more, as Al Quaeda has left for Pakistan. Iran is a big threat, and is trying to get nuclear weapons. Pakistan already has them, but has a major internal problem with religious fanatics and Al Quaeda. There is a real war going on under cover in Pakistan. US Drones are being used, mostly on the quiet, and the Pakistani Army is trying to hunt down Al Quaeda fighters, and they need the support of the USA to keep them from crossing the border into Afghanistan. In the mean time, the Russians and Chinese need to be kept on board, which Obama has managed to do, also pretty much on the quiet through diplomacy.

You will not hear a discussion of top level strategy like this from Obama, because it would be counter productive to advertise it. But he has the right to expect his top generals will follow orders and act respectfully towards him, and assume he has a bigger world strategy that they are small part of. McChrystal was not smart enough, or did not have enough respect for Barak Obama to believe that the Commander in Chief had good reasons for doing what he did.

The only reason I can get away with writing this is because I have no credibility on the world stage. But if you give it some thought, you will at least see that Afghanistan is not the be-all and end-all. General McChrystal apparently thought he was the one deciding the entire US foreign policy.

And even better, if all the know-nothings in the USA, including Fox News could stop their constant disrespectful criticism on Obama, and let him get on with the very important job of making the world a safer place in the wake of the last fool in the white house who let it all fall apart. Unfortunately, we seem to have two Americas living in one country - the Conservative south wanting a holy war and the end of the world, and the liberal north wanting world peace. I am thankful the decent people are in charge for a while, but McChrystal definitely needs to go away, he and all his advisors are apparently on the conservative (anti-Obama) side, and his understanding of Afghanistan is weak at best. Obama needs a General that will trust the judgment of the Commander in Chief, or at least take orders and keep his mouth shut, as required by the military code of conduct.

And for those of you who say McChrystal was fired for telling the truth, what part of "Joe Bite Me" is the truth? He was being disrespectful, and that is all. And that is not permitted in the military.

Picture: CENTCOM Map. You can clearly see that Afghanistan is not the only country in this area of the world. Hopefully Petraeus has a bigger world view than McChrystal.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How to Interpret the Bible with Pat Robertson

Matthew 7:21-23 is a passage in the bible that I think condemns many fundamentalist Christians, such as Pat Robertson, who practice faith healing, and miracles in the name of Jesus.

'Not everyone who says to Me, lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name and done many wonders in Your name? and then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.' Matt. 7:21-23
However, Pat and other Christian Fundamentalists do not read the passage as a condemnation of their practices. The interpretation they take is that no matter what good works you do on Earth, it means nothing unless you are "saved" or "Born again" in their church.

In order to understand the Fundamentalist interpretation, you start with the assumption that performing miracles, casting out demons, and making prophesies, all in Jesus name, are all good things.

According to Fundamentalist Christian interpretation, Jesus saying: "Even if you do wonderful things in your life, you still may be turned back from heaven if you are not a Fundamentalist Christian."

However, I would have a different interpretation. "You who practice miracles in my name, cast out demons in my name, do many wonders in my name, practice lawlessness."

I do not believe Jesus picked those three examples to be the best things people could do. All three have in common magic, or miracles, or displays of supernatural power, and all three are done in the name of Jesus. The emphasis is in doing magic, not in doing good things. And not only doing magic, but doing it in the name of Jesus (repeated all three times).

And at the very end, Jesus says specifically about these people that they "practice lawlessness".

Would Jesus have ever said it this way?

"Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not loved our neighbours and our enemies, have we not helped the poor and needy and spread the words of love and peace? and then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness."

No, I don't think so. In my opinion, Jesus is condemning specifically the practices where people, using His name, perform magic tricks to impress people and make themselves famous or wealthy.

However, in the same passage Jesus mentions that people who do the will of God are OK. So, if the will of God is not to perform magic tricks in Jesus name, what is it? I'm guessing "do unto others as you would have them do unto you", or "love those that hate you", or "judge not lest ye be judged".

Picture: Pat Robertson, wealthy TV Evangelist and Fundamentalist Christian, making prophecies in Jesus' name. You can also purchase miracle water on his TV program that will help you grow rich. All while listening to him call for the assassination of Hugo Chavez. Way to go, Pat.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Destination Port Dover: Apple Fritters and Tall Ships

I finally got to the Fritter Place in Port Dover for my first half dozen fresh apple fritters of the year. Mary Ann didn't come because I was stopping a couple of times on the way to Port Dover, first for a motorcycle gang meeting at Tim Horton's and next to take a peek at the last day of the Paris Vintage Motorcycle Rally, 2010. Neither of those interest her.

We all showed up at Tim Horton's on time as usual. We are a punctual gang, if nothing else. The main item on the agenda today was verbally bashing Bob's Intruder 1400. As we were getting into it, a Harley rider parked next to us and remarked that we seemed to be picking on Bob, and one of our members (The V.P in Charge of Motorcycle Judging) took the time to point out that our actual favourite object of verbal bashing was the 150 cc Kymco scooter, but that we have grown bored with 6 weeks of steady abuse of the scooter.

After the meeting adjourned, I headed for the Paris rally, but there were only three tents left and they were all being taken down. So I took the opportunity of riding my motorcycle through the show grounds, in order to introduce my Kawasaki Vulcan to the tire tracks of legendary motorcycles such as the Rudge, as featured on the T-shirt commemorating the 38th Annual Paris National Rally of 2010, and the 100th anniversary of Rudge. Check out the top photo on this page of my motorcycle website, with my mother and all her brothers and sisters in 1939 with both my uncles on Rudge motorcycles. (Click it to enlarge)

A quick lap of the rally site, and back on the road this time to Port Dover. Because of the nice Sunday weather it was packed with beachgoers and motorcyclists. I parked my bike near Tim Horton's along with maybe fifty other bikes, and walked over to the Fritter Place. This year the Fritter people are only going to open three days a week in the summer, and they have a new cashier to help out, and a bigger machine for peeling the apples. After looking at this machine in operation, I asked exactly how new is this machine, and I don't remember the exact date, but it was a four digit number and the first two were 18. I commented that Tim Horton's apple fritters were probably being made on a much more modern machine, but then realized that the apples in Tim Horton's "apple fritters" would not need to be peeled, as they were mostly imaginary apples. (That is not a type of apple, it is when you think there is an apple but there is no apple)

Tied up at the dock near the door of the Fritter Place was the "St. Lawrence II", a training ship with square sails. Beautiful to look at. Scary to change the sails.

So to summarize the ingredients of a perfect day: A motorcycle club meeting where my motorcycle is not on the agenda, a ride across the field of motorcycle dreams, a new Rudge T-shirt, a half dozen real apple fritters (I only ate three, three for Mary Ann), a square sailed tall masted ship, 25 degrees C and sunny weather.

Picture: The Dock in Pt Dover, I took this picture today at 3:00 PM.

Safe Merging for Motorcycles

There are some dangerous situations that are not well understood by most motorcyclists. I think this is one of them. Yesterday, I was a passenger on Mary Ann's Burgman, and we were merging on to the freeway. An aggressive driver was following her down the ramp, and at the point where she actually merged onto the freeway, he pulled out to pass us and managed to get into the exact spot where we merged. So, two vehicles in the same spot at the same time. We didn't touch, but that is way too close for comfort.

Now why? She was travelling at a reasonable speed, she signalled properly, and did a shoulder check before moving over. A real scientific investigation would need to re-examine all those statements, of course just to make sure for example that the turn signal light had not burned out, or to find out exactly what the speed really was.

In my opinion, this could not normally happen because a car would not be able to accelerate fast enough to get into that spot in the time it takes to complete the merging process. However, a combination of everything going wrong at the same time might just do it. That would require all of the following.

1. To allow the scooter slow just slightly while doing the merge.
2. The car behind has a lot of power, and has left a gap, which is already closing with full acceleration.
3. Doing the shoulder check a fraction of a second too soon, when the car has not come close enough yet.
4. Not turning the neck quite far enough, or having the view partially blocked by the passenger (me)

Of course, if the other car drivers were any good, they obviously should plan for, and allow the driver in front to merge ahead of them. But because of the high density of traffic, this stupid situation happens frequently enough (in southern Ontario anyway) for the lead driver to plan for it and take precautions to prevent the following driver from trying to shut them out. What can be done?

It is no good to try and leave them behind with pure speed on the ramp, as they might then accelerate to follow you and this might make things worse. But here are things that can be done.

1. Try to merge into the freeway lane as soon as possibe, which is at the beginning of the dashed lines. Unfortunately, a few following drivers merge before the dashed line starts, crossing the solid lines.
OR if the merge lane is really, really long, you could wait for the tailgater or whatever to get by before merging. This is only possible, if they start the merge too early, AND if the ramp is long enough, and we have some ramps around here that are over a kilometer long.

2. Accelerate as you merge. I think this is always better than steady speed or even (heaven forbid!) slowing while merging. The only reason I slow when merging is to fall in close behind another vehicle. But even then I try to accelerate as I cross the dotted line, to try and match speeds. However this matching speeds trick needs practice. By the way, practice is always good, just do the practicing when it's not raining, or night, and the roads are not busy, and no construction or other distractions. Otherwise it's not called practice, it called dangerous driving.

3. Shoulder check twice when some driver is following you onto the freeway. The last shoulder check should be as you cross the dotted line. I have occasionally been saved by a second shoulder check. It's really shocking, when it happens, because the car is so close, and because of that surprise I may jerk the handlebars a bit, but I have always managed to get back into my lane before contact.

4. Sticking a left hand out to help indicate where you want to go is another way to get attention, when you have a potential danger behind, who may not feel they need to respect turn signals.

Anything else? I suggest a bumper sticker on the back "Honk if you like to see guns fired from a motorcycle", instead of "I brake for turtles" (guess which is Mary Ann's bumper sticker)

Friday, June 18, 2010

We Need Better Risk Assessment and Management

People are incredibly bad at risk management. BP's estimate for the gulf oil spill was 75 million dollars liability for the worst possible accident, but the reality is going to be more like at least 20,000 million dollars. 

The fundamental idea of risk management is that first, you must know the cost and second, the likelihood of an unplanned event. And then be able to do some simple math.

Ten years ago I was trying to set up a small computer software company. I found out that I better keep this quiet or my home insurance would skyrocket. Apparently, my home insurance company considers writing a computer program at home to be high risk, and I would have to pay double or triple for my home insurance. Then I tried to rent a table to display the program at a business convention. The insurance cost alone for the three day show would be $5,000. It was considered a great risk that I might sell a program that would create a huge amount of damage, and the show organizers might be sued. My program was a database for tracking the location of wires in a building. The way it was explained to me, was that all software could be easily modified, and what started as a wiring database could end up as a space shuttle guidance system. And today, of course it could have been modified again to guide BP drilling platforms.

Was that $5000 insurance warranted? Of course not. It was not only outrageous, but also stifling free enterprise and entrepreneurship.

Meanwhile, BP, drilling one of the deepest oil wells ever, estimates that the worst case scenario is a 75 million dollar cleanup tab. Who exactly is making these estimates that are simultaneously destroying the ecosystem, and stifling entrepreneurship? Because they are not accountable to anyone, and they are making monstrous errors at the same time, and everybody suffers in the long run.

Other examples if poor risk assessment, leading to poor risk management:

My relatives worrying that I might be at risk driving my Toyota Matrix. Even if it was on the recall list (it was not), the chance of an accident, using the most extreme figures is only about 2% more than any other car. While my motorcycle is 500% more dangerous than a car, using statistics gathered from traffic accidents. Logically, I would be much safer in the Toyota.

I was visiting the shopping mall yesterday, where there are two small wind turbines on the roof. People were up in arms when they installed these turbines, afraid apparently that a blade might fly off an injure someone. I guess that likelihood would be about 1 in 100,000,000. But nobody seems concerned at all about the fast moving cars everywhere in the parking lot, posing a much greater danger to pedestrians and their children than those small blades ever would. I would certainly not step off the curb to get away from the wind turbines, and put myself in front of the traffic. So why the protest over the wind turbines but not the cars?

Picture: Saturday Night Live skit illustrating the risk assessment of driving a Toyota. By the way, it seems that the press has now forgotten about Toyota in the wake of BP's oil spill. And so the fear of driving a Toyota subsides, and so do the number of reported unintended accelerations.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Worrying about Motorcycle Safety for Others

This may be a stupid thing to say, but I now seem to worry more about other people being safe, than I do for my own safety. I suppose it may be natural, as my wife and all three of my sons ride motorcycles. But keeping myself safe is one thing. Keeping other people safe is quite different, and up until today I did not have any idea how to do it.

Also, I have been riding a motorcycle for forty years now without an accident, and the suspense alone is killing me. And until three years ago, I had not even had a car accident ever since my first accident, where I rammed a police car, and that was 46 years ago. Since then, up to now at least, my driving habits seemed have proven themselves.

But one thing I do know is that I am not able to impart this wisdom (or luck, depending on how you see it) to other people. Other people I know have gotten into accidents, some with serious consequences.

A few weeks ago, Michael got a bee in his helmet and, with that distraction, crashed the bike into a curb which resulted in a fall and a bent engine crash guard. As we were trying to straighten it out yesterday, I started thinking it must have taken a lot of force to bend the crash guard, because we could not straighten it. It could have been a nasty accident if his foot got in the way and broke the fall instead of that mangled crash guard. Then today at the motorcycle shop, I spotted a display of motorcycle charms called Biker Bells. If you hang one on your motorcycle it wards off evil spirits. Michael noticed some had skulls on them, and I speculated maybe there were some charms to attract evil spirits and other to ward them off.

Michael and I have a different way of looking at the world, and of course our approach to motorcycle safety is also different. What works for me is science and reason. His way is more mystical. He may argue that for all our science and reason, we know practically nothing of the workings of the human brain. For all we know, there may be some mysterious force in the universe that the brain channels for its energy if we think in certain ways.

For example, why is it that patients in medical drug experiments experience the "placebo" effect. That is where a patient believes they are being treated with a drug, and so they get well even though the experimental "drug" they were given was a fake tablet?

So this gave me a brilliant idea. Charms to ward off evil spirits would not work for me, or might even go the other way and attract evil spirits. But maybe other people respond positively. It is not impossible that a "charm" installed on the motorcycle might actually have some mysterious effect on the mind that might result in no more spills, just like the placebo effect. Maybe its worth a shot.

Disclaimer I am not selling these products, and the opinions I expressed in this blog are not necessarily the opinions of the Lost Motorcyclist Blog editor, who is me.

Is God Like Hitler?

Many Evangelical Christians will tell you that the Muslims are a warlike religion, based on the Koran, while their own religion, based on the Holy Bible, is peaceful.

I don't know the Koran, nor do I want to read it because apparently you can be murdered for repeating anything found in there, or for drawing a cartoon of Mohammed. So I will just stick to the bible for now.

If you believe, as Evangelicals do, that every word of the bible is the word of God, then God is kind of like Hitler. Here is a little quiz. Which of the following statements were made by Hitler, and which were in the Holy Bible?

And he brought out the people that [were] in it, and cut [them] with saws, and with harrows of iron, and with axes. Even so dealt David with all the cities of the children of Ammon. And David and all the people returned to Jerusalem.

Was that said by God or Hitler?

"And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. And the LORD said unto Moses, 'Take all the heads of the people and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel.'"

Was that said by God or Hitler?

"And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation. And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up also. And there came out a fire from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense."

Was that said by God or Hitler?

"But God shall wound the head of his enemies, and the hairy scalp of such a one as goeth on still in his trespasses. The Lord said, I will bring again from Bashan, I will bring my people again from the depths of the sea: That thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thine enemies, and the tongue of thy dogs in the same."

Was that said by God or Hitler?

"Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass."

Was that said by God or Hitler?

"And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword."

Was that said by God or Hitler?

According to the Bible, these sayings were all by God, not Hitler.


I welcome any comments from people who believe every word of the bible is true, and at the same time insist that their religion is peaceful, and furthermore spread stories about Islam being the religion of hate and war.

There is actually a peaceful message that is in the bible somewhere:

- Jesus said love those who hate you
- Let he who is without sin cast the first stone

And let's use good judgment on the rest, meaning forget about the scientifically unsound myth of creation and Noah's ark. The Bible has some inspiring messages and other than that it also has some primitive nonsense and blood lust. Maybe its the same for the Koran.

Picture: That is the God of the bible, with the Hitler mustache and cowlick. Strange, that I was not able to find a picture of God with a Hitler mustache on the entire Internet. So I had to photoshop it myself. It is TOTALLY NOT a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed.
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Science vs. Propaganda

In a real life debate, each side will refer to their argument as scientific, and refer to the other argument as propaganda. To help eliminate the confusion, I want to give you an objective way to look at which is really science and which is really propaganda.


A scientific approach to the truth is to take all available facts and evidence, and create a hypothesis that explains all of them.

What is a hypothesis? It is a proposed explanation, a theory, an idea, an insight into how certain facts might occur. Let's take the theory of a round earth. At first, this was a good explanation of why the shadow of the sun was at different lengths at the same time of day, at different latitudes. It also explained why ships masts appeared first as they came over the horizon. I was further proven by people sailing around the world, and by pictures taken from space. No fact or evidence yet discovered has ever contradicted the theory of the spherical Earth. So that was so far a good hypothesis. But of course it did not prevent the Flat Earth Society from organizing and trying to disprove it.

Basically, scientists direct a lot of attention to any fact that seems contrary to the hypothesis. If even one piece of evidence is contrary to the hypothesis, then the hypothesis must be revised, or the evidence must be re-examined to see if it is faulty.

The most powerful tool of the scientist is the "Peer Review" process, where a hypothesis or experimental result is published in a journal that goes out to all the scientists in the world to read, and criticize. Other scientists around the world attempt to duplicate the experimental results, or the mathematics, looking for errors, trying to come up with a better hypothesis. In this way, certain hypotheses are accepted by the scientific community, adding to humankind's total body of knowledge, and becoming part of our educational system.

Scientists are funded by university professorships, by government grants, by charitable contributions. All with the idea that they must participate in peer review, and their results must be made available public, and that they are not trying to prove one given point of view, but to seek the truth wherever that may take them.

If any falsification or bias in the logic is detected through peer review, a scientist loses their reputation and possibly their teaching or research post.


With propaganda, a hypothesis is created first that seems plausible, and more importantly, supports the ambitions of an interest group, who we may call the propagandists. For example, proving that cigarettes are good for your health, and do not cause cancer would be good for the tobacco companies. A propagandist pays for research, and the more money the sponsor has, the more they can pay for literature, opinion pieces, TV channels, radio programs, conferences, think tanks, speeches and videos that support their hypothesis. They do not pay for any that may disprove their hypothesis.

No peer review process is required for this research, and hypothesis may be spread via email or TV, radio or newspapers directly to the public.

The propagandist tries to recruit the support of other people by making them think they also have a personal stake in the same outcome, that is they would also benefit in some way from the given hypothesis being true. Although the secondary supporters may not gain much monetarily, the sponsor will try to make them think they have something to lose if the pro-smoking propaganda is proven false. For example, the smoker would be prevented from smoking, if this pro-tobacco propaganda eventually proves false.

You may call these the secondary sponsors, or the supporters of the propaganda. While not gaining vast power or wealth, they do have a small stake in the outcome, and they become allies of the sponsor.

Which is best

If the propaganda eventually proves to be actually true, then no harm is done, of course. Maybe even great good will come of the propaganda. But unlike Scientific reasoning, propaganda does not allow for examination of every detail. By its very nature, propaganda hides facts, and ignores non-positive results. The sponsors and their allies develop the same habits of ignoring facts. The habit of ignoring facts becomes ingrained and so automatic they are not even aware they are doing it. If there is any truth to propaganda, it is only by blind luck, and is really quite rare.

So while a scientific inquiry would instinctively home in on anomalies, and data that does not support the hypothesis, adherents of propaganda will just as instinctively ignore inconvenient facts. This can take the form of simply ignoring a question or statement and replying with another topic altogether. Changing the subject. Accusing the questioner of being insulting, or attacking the character of whoever questions their hypothesis.

You can pretty much tell in any argument between a propagandist and a scientist, how the argument is going to go. The scientist will present a hypothesis that they think explains all the facts. The propagandist replies with one or two new facts that hope to destroy the hypothesis. The scientific person methodically looks at the new facts for confirmation that they are true or not, and comes back with the findings. If these new facts have been discredited, the propagandist ignores the reply and will then come back with even more new facts to disprove the hypothesis. The cycle continues, with the propagandist heaping up a virtual mountain of easily disproved facts. A scientist treating each one as if it were important, is wasting their time.

Net result? The average layman thinks there is a controversy, and that nobody really knows the truth, and the truth itself may be unknowable. This result is exactly what the sponsor wants, as they can now carry on with their business of making money, spoiling the environment, bribing politicians, raping the land etc. etc. Business as usual.