Thursday, September 30, 2010

Quebec Bashing from MacLean's Magazine

MacLean's Magazine recently ran a front page titled "The Most Corrupt Province in Canada", with the picture of Quebec's Carnaval Snowman mascot carrying a briefcase bulging with cash. At this point I have lived about half my life in Quebec, and half in the province of Ontario, (plus a few years in Sierra Leone), and I would like to share my perspectives on corruption.

There is an article about it in the Globe and Mail here.

I do not subscribe to MacLean's because of all their hate propaganda. I happened to read part of it when I saw it at a coffee shop. Apparently MacLean's is taking time off from bashing Moslems and the Canadian Human Rights Commission to have another go at the bad, bad province of Quebec and French Canadians.

I have never been able to find a reference to confirm this, but I remember many years ago reading an opinion piece by Barbara Amiel in MacLean's, which was then owned by Conrad Black, her husband. In this article, she claimed (I'm paraphrasing) that French Canadians were genetically unsuited to democracy. Of course, Conrad Black is the same one who recently got sent to jail in the USA for fraud worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and obstruction of justice. He no longer owns MacLean's, but I still see Barbara's opinions in there occasionally, along with articles by one of Conrad's supporters, Mark Steyn.

Now getting back to corruption in Quebec, and the inference that it is much much worse than Ontario, and as Andrew Coyne (National Editor MacLean's) has said it has something to do with "political culture rooted in nationalism and state interventionism."

My one and only experience with corruption, growing up in Baie Comeau, an isolated paper mill town in Northern Quebec was this. My father, a French Canadian, had an English speaking boss of Scots background. He hated his boss, let's call the boss MacLeanson, just to avoid any lawsuits against me, and to incidentally reinforce the ethnic stereotype of the magazine. The company would hire outside contractors to perform many functions including cutting wood, and maintaining the logging roads. All contracts were awarded by MacLeanson. All the contractors were independent French Canadian businessmen. My father noticed a few things going wrong in the woods department. One was that the roads were not being maintained, which annoyed him because of the pounding he took driving a pickup truck from camp to camp. Second he noticed Macleanson had a brand new luxury car every year. My father claimed that Mcleanson was totally corrupt and taking bribes to enrich himself, but my mother argued to not make any accusations down at the company offices, because she assumed this was a simple case of my father not liking his boss and inventing this whole conspiracy. After all, he could have been fired, and with a grade four education in northern Quebec, there were no other places to work. I personally heard about these stories as a young teenager, and tended to side with my English mother, as she was by far the most level headed of the two.

About 12 years after, I was back in Baie Comeau, as a teacher at the English high school. At one parent-teacher meeting, I happened to get into a conversation with the father of one of my students. He was telling me how he ended up living in Baie Comeau. The company had sent him up to Baie Comeau to investigate the books. It seems that the head office could hardly believe that the Baie Comeau division was losing money every year, and wanted to send an independent auditor to figure it out. This parent said that he had uncovered a huge amount of corruption in the woods department at Baie Comeau, enough to explain the lack of profits of the entire division. And one man had singlehandedly taken the company into the red. It was Macleanson. Following his "forced retirement", profits picked up again.

I never encountered any other corruption in either Quebec or Ontario that in any way personally affected me. All I know is what I get in the news and from various official inquiries. I assume that there might be a fair amount going on that is not being investigated, and I do not equate amount of corruption being investigated with amount taking place. In fact it might even be the inverse, as far as I know.

I do not want to be bashing other ethnic groups, like MacLean's does, but I have a question. Given that MacLean's is pushing the idea that this is a French Canadian/left wing thing, are they forgetting that the Mafia, even in Quebec, is from a background of Italian and Sicilian immigrants, whether they speak French or not?

Last night on TV I happened to tune in to the Michael Coren show on the Christian channel (another one I don't subscribe to). They were discussing the MacLean's Magazine article, and it was not long before one opinion was put forth that "all French Canadians supporting the Bloc Quebecois party should be hung for treason". As I recall, no one in the panel felt it necessary to belabour the point or to rebut it.

One more issue is the use of the Bonhomme Carnaval, the mascot of the Quebec Carnaval on the cover. Apparently MacLean's was given written permission by the Quebec Caranaval, although obviously MacLean's was negotiating in bad faith. I suppose French Canadians could be forgiven for thinking that any dealings with English Canadians would involve bad faith negotiations. But they don't. They see this as being just one small group of people at one magazine with questionable ethics, that resulted from the negative influence of convicted felon Conrad Black.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Imperfect Motorcycle

The subject of the perfect bike comes up quite often when people are shopping for a motorcycle. The types of imperfections you find in motorcycles today tells you bikes have come a long way.

In the bad old days, even brand new motorcycles leaked oil and gas, or sprayed it all over you while riding, they wouldn't start (or broke your leg with the kick starter), the electric system failed regularly, the vibration at speed would shake your fillings out and break parts off the bike. In those days, the idea of a perfect bike seemed impossible. Riders were happy if the things would just work and keep the engine oil inside the engine and the air inside the tires.

Today motorcycles must be approaching perfection, because the complaints are starting to sound petty. What types of problems do motorcycles have today?

I have a 2007 Kawasaki Vulcan 900. It does not leak oil, it starts every time with the push of a button, nothing has gone wrong with it in the first 40,000 km and three years. In fact it has never darkened the dealer's door since I drove it away as a new bike. It is fast, clean, fuel efficient. I guess it is good enough to now consider the "imperfections".

Here is my first nomination. It is difficult to check the oil level. Yes, they have provided me with a sight glass so that I can see the oil level at a glance without having to get my hands dirty wiping a dip stick. But the sight glass is very low, and I need to almost put my head down on the pavement to see it. That alone might not be an imperfection, BUT the bike must be upright and level to see the oil level in the sight glass. And I have to sit on the seat to make the bike upright, because it has no centre stand, just a side stand. So I guess I need another person to help me, or I need some kind of external jack or supports. How do you do that when you are alone at a gas station in Moose's Armpit Saskatchewan?

My second nomination, also for the Vulcan 900. Very often I try to change the bike into sixth gear and it won't go. Take it back to the dealer, you say, and they will fix it for free. No, they won't, because according to them this is normal, as the bike only has five gears. Well that stinks, says I, because I was trying to get it into sixth.

Here is the real problem as I see it. Although the engine is comfortable in fifth gear at any speed above 60 kph, I do not know for sure it is in fifth gear, I think it might be in fourth. There is no gear indicator on this bike, like there was on my last one. But going further back, I did not have this problem with my older bikes, because in top gear, the gear selector lever was loose in the highest gear, and all I had to do was put my toe under the lever and if it moved freely, I knew it was in top gear. So I didn't really need a digital gear indicator in front of me. But the Vulcan's gear lever feels the same in every gear. If I could count, this would be a non issue, but I have other things on my mind. Well then, why not look at the tachometer to see what gear you are in? There is no tachometer on the Vulcan. OK, so why not listen to the engine? Because apparently my musical ear is so tone deaf that it cannot distinguish between fourth and fifth gear.

So the missing sixth gear has become an imperfection. To be fair to Kawasaki, if they did add a sixth gear, I would simply start complaining that there is no seventh gear, so they wisely ignored customer complaints on that one. I considered adding an aftermarket tachometer to the bike, but then I discovered a solution that is free and requires no additional complexity. All I need to do is look in one of my rear view mirrors at the headlight of the car behind me at 100 kph. Although there is not much vibration, there is just enough to blur the mirror a bit, and if I look at the headlight in the mirror, I will see the light make a distinct pattern because of the vibration. In my case, the headlight makes a perfect vertical oval at 100 kph. At 90 kph, and 110 kph, the pattern is a horizontal oval. And so now I can tell which gear I'm in without trying to change one more gear and wearing out my clutch fingers.

And now the Vulcan 900 is one step closer to perfection. But what about the oil level? I never check the oil any more, because like I said, the Vulcan doesn't leak any oil, and it doesn't burn any oil, so according to the Law of Conservation of Mass, that level will just stay the same.

Photo: Stock photo of a BMW rider checking the oil at a gas station. I don't have a picture of myself checking the oil because I don't check the oil.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Fall of France, 1940, Explained

Marc Bloch, a French officer in WW2, wrote a book about the defeat of France. This book, titled "Strange Defeat" survived the war, although the officer did not. After the French surrender, he joined the resistance and was captured and killed by the Nazis a few weeks before France was liberated.

The Wikipedia entry for Marc Bloch has a link to a small Wikipedia article on the book "Strange Defeat". I found a much bigger entry for "Strange Defeat" on Wikipedia in French. I wrote a translation, which I have included below. (Disclaimer: Although I understand French well enough, I am not a translator, and for me this entry was a bit difficult to follow.)

A translation of the French Wikipedia entry about the book "Etrange Defaite" or "Strange Defeat"


The analysis of the French Army by Marc Bloch starts at the bottom and goes to the top levels.

A Sclerotic Army

He denounces first the bureaucratic character of the army, attributing it to peacetime habits: in particular the "cult of beautiful stationery" [maybe "Desk Jockeys"?], and also the "fear of displeasing one with power, today or tomorrow.". These habits led to a dilution of responsibility between too great a number of hierarchies, as well as a delay in transmitting orders. He sees as a prime cause the the advanced age of the French Army's staff, little renewed, as opposed to a much younger German army.

This bureaucratic organization is also founded, according to him, in the training of the officers, which revolved around a cult of theory and tradition. The main source of this education is the "Ecole de Guerre", where Marc Bloch had refused enroll, which he pays for in not being allowed to be promoted past the rank of captain. Based on the experience of the First World War, the teaching of this school, in fact, advocated the superiority of infantry and artillery, as opposed to mechanized units (tanks and aircraft, among others), supposedly "too heavy to move". Similarly, education policy is based on theoretical rules of engagement, elegant and abstract, which do not pass the test of practice. This teaching is associated with a culture of secrecy, which slows the transmission of information, and a cult of command, in reaction to the questioning of authority that took place in 1916 and 1917.

The association between the bureaucracy and rigid training leads, on the field, to general disorder, with three captains who succeeded to his post in a few months, and especially serious shortcomings in the management of men and equipment. The soldiers are poorly housed and physically relocated regardless of their ability to move, wasting energy in marching forward and back again. Similarly, materials are in short supply, facing a well-equipped German army. The French army lacks in quantity, military budgets have been sunk in to the fortification of the east border (Maginot Line, among others), leaving open the north. It also lacks concentration, the tanks are scattered in many corps, which makes any concerted movement impossible. Soon this mess on the ground was found at all levels, with rotations too rapid for staff to have time to learn their duties, and a carelessness in upkeep of the premises and records, that in a bureaucratic context, completes the paralysis of the French army.

The incapacity of intelligence services [edit]

The army becomes exhausted, most often, not knowing where the enemy is, and Marc Bloch blamed the intelligence services. It is above all, he believes, due to poor organization. As a captain in charge of gasoline (supply of fuel and ammunition to troops), he will only receive low-level information bulletins, as important information was classified secret and communicated too high in the hierarchy. All information passes through excessively long reporting lines, and ends up being out of date by the time it comes to people who need it.

It becomes impossible to know how soon an order can be executed, which leads to other unforeseen delays in maneuvers, such as retirement of the armies of the Meuse and Sedan, which exposes the rear of the troops in Belgium. Faced with this situation, each corps and almost every officer, including himself, sets up its own intelligence operation, leading to a disastrous competition in services and the insufficient contact between the various levels of command, to the point that the officers often do not know where their own troops are.

The intelligence services have also seriously underestimated the scale and mobility of the German army, causing them each day to send the troops too late to the German advance. It highlights in particular a chronic inability to properly estimate the speed of movement and the number of German tanks and aircraft, by the French armed forces who are still obsessed by infantry and artillery. This inefficiency of information leads to great surprise in the French high command.

This concentration of information, on what was not the spearhead of the German Army, is the sign of a rigid and outdated strategic thinking from the French command. Rather than respond to the errors in estimation, the senior officers are continually surprised that "the Germans simply had advanced more quickly than what appeared to conform to the rule", the rule in question is based on the study Napoleonic campaigns and the previous war. Similarly, officers are often locked into basic plan that they knew to be obsolete, not having been trained to adapt to new situations. "In a word, because our leaders, amid many contradictions, argued, above all, to redo the war of 1915-1918. The Germans were doing the war of 1940."

This neglect naturally had a serious impact on the morale of the troops, beaten down both by a feeling of helplessness and fear, the enemy was never where they were expected by the army command. A man can better endure an expected danger, than the sudden threat of death at a bend in a supposedly secure road.

Command responsibility

"We have just suffered a tremendous defeat. Whose fault was it? The parliamentary system, the troops, the English, the fifth column", say our generals. Everyone, in short, but them. "

Marc Bloch's indictment against the French General Staff was particularly heavy. He first noted a crisis of authority. The big chiefs were reluctant to change collaborators, resulting in a "divorce" between command and those who carry out the orders. He noted especially the inconsistencies within the command, where leaders have a near-total impunity despite major deficiencies, while subordinates are harshly punished for little mistakes. This impunity leads to less accountable leaders who are able to dodge the necessary solutions, as long as they to buy into the thought patterns of the War College. Promotions based on age over competence, which makes it even more difficult because of the [high?] average age of officers. Coordination of command also disappears in turf wars between chiefs, and rivalries between multiple offices and between various army corps.

The Allies

Because of his position, Marc Bloch is often in communication with allied forces, and he draws a gloomy assessment. He first pointed out the difficulties with the soldiers and people.

Although professional soldiers, the British apparently have a disastrous "rape and pillage" behaviour. This reinforces among the peasant population, whom they despise, a latent historical Anglophobia. This feeling is again reinforced when one realizes that the British have turned tail and are fleeing first, and are jockeying to be evacuated, blowing up bridges to cover their retreat without worrying about the French troops remaining behind. "The British refused, naturally enough, to commit themselves to a disaster for which they felt they were not responsible." The British, meanwhile, judge the inadequacies of the French army harshly ("our prestige had outlived itself and they did not try to hide it from us"), and the French command in turn resorts to Anglophobe propaganda to hide its own failures.

On several occasions, as with the breakthrough to Arras, the British did not provide promised aid, seeing the faults of the French strategic plan. These failures led to an abandonment of collaboration between the staffs, a failure of the alliance. The armies were no longer coordinated by common authority following the encirclement of the GHQ (General Headquarters). Without effective linkages, or camaraderie, the French army remains ignorant of the weaknesses of the British army. In the United Kingdom, subsequently, the population welcomed the French, but for the authorities, a "a stiff bit of suspicion" remained.

Examination of Conscience by a Frenchman

Bloch does not attribute responsibility for the defeat solely to the army. He connects the shortcomings of the former with the unpreparedness and the myopia of the French people as a whole.

The State and the parties [edit]

His first target is the State and parties. He denounced "the absurdity of our propaganda, its irritating and rude optimism, his timidity, and above all, the impotence of our government to honestly define its war aims." The inertia and the softness of the ministers are stigmatized, and the abandonment of their responsibilities to technicians, recruited on the same corporate basis (Ecole Polytechnique and Sciences-Po, above). All these petty functionaries are advancing in seniority in a shared culture of contempt for the people, of whom they underestimate the resources.

Political parties are also stigmatized in their contradictions. Thus, the right-wing parties, who forget their Germanophobia, bow to defeat and to pose as defenders of democracy and tradition. Similarly, the left votes down the military budget and preaches pacifism, but calls for guns to Spain. Bloch accuses the unions of philistinism, obsessed by their own immediate interests to the detriment of their future or the interest of the country as a whole. Similarly, he condemned pacifism and internationalism as incompatible with the worship of the country, criticizing in particular their pacifist preaching that war is a matter of rich and powerful that the poor have no power to interfere (a Marxist interpretation of the conflict)

Workers and citizens [edit]

In the population as a whole, he denounces back to back, workers and bourgeois. He accused the former of seeking "to provide the least possible effort, in as short a time as possible for as much money as possible" in disregard of national interests, resulting in delays in war production.

Conversely, he accuses the bourgeoisie of selfishness, and blames them for not having informed the man of the streets and fields on the challenges of the country or even in providing a basic education (reading problem). It depicts a bourgeoisie living off investments, studying only for for their own pleasure and thinking only of having fun. He thus describes "the great misunderstanding of the French, who are facing a bourgeoisie whose investment income declines, threatened by the new social strata, forced to pay for themselves and finding that workers work less and less, and people are poorly educated, unable to understand the gravity of the situation. It highlights in particular the sharpness of a bourgeoisie which has never recovered from the Popular Front. Away from people, the bourgeois "unintentionally deviate from France as well."

In the more immediate level, Marc Bloch describes a people poorly prepared. Propaganda maintains a sense of security, although we have known since Guernica there is no more "sky without threat". Despite the image of Spain in ruins, "we had not said enough to make us afraid, and not enough so we would accept the inevitable new or renewed war."

The class of 1940 had hardly been prepared, and as we did not want war, we went with no zeal, with resignation. Bloch suggests instead that, faced with national peril, no one should have immunity, even women can fight the war. But the politics were to avoid the death and destruction of the previous war: "We thought it wiser to submit to anything rather than accept, again, this type of loss." In this context, the outflow is from a common cowardice, especially the lack of effort by the people to understand, who prefer to return to the rural life and refuse modernity.

Conclusion

Marc Bloch notes therefore a shared responsibility, which leads to a surrender, too quickly, of a war that may have been continued. Few people are blind, but one dares not speak up and denounce the deficiencies before they are revealed by the conflict and, therefore, no one dares to question conventional wisdom.


Picture: Hitler in Paris 1940.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Camping Experiences

Yesterday I packed my tent and sleeping bag on the Vulcan, and went for a 150 km ride to spend the night in the forest. This is the second "Malt Run" of the year, we had 7 motorcycles along for the ride.

My philosophy on camping is that I do not deliberately intend to suffer. It rained a bit, but I have a mid-priced tent which does not let water in, if set up right. I also have a good sleeping bag, that has always kept me warm, even when the temperature drops to zero (C). If I have no passenger, I always bring along a 3" foam mattress, and a real pillow, which is very bulky. But it is a good backrest for me when riding.

My comfort-while-camping philosophy started when I was a Boy Scout. One unforgettable weekend, the Head Scoutmaster took us camping in January. We lived very far north, and none of us scouts were particularly interested in suffering any more from the winter than we absolutely had to. In other words, we wanted to stay near the comforts of home. In the end, we were persuaded. Our head Scoutmaster worked for the paper company, and he found a guide who knew something about winter camping. Our guide, Romeo, also was an employee of the Paper Company, and his job was to live in a tent far from civilization for a couple of weeks at a time, drawing up maps of the forests. Romeo's camping philosophy, as you may imagine, involved suffering as little as possible.

Romeo gave us a list of items everybody should bring, and he arranged all the other equipment. Our list said to bring (1) bearpaw snowshoes (2) A good sleeping bag, (3) pots pans, food, matches etc. and (4) of course dress warm. He arranged transportation, tents, axes and saw, and various other items that he always took on exploration with him.

One of our two assistant scoutmasters, Mr. P2, apparently did not think much of Romeo's "suggestions", and brought along his own camping equipment. I don't know what else he brought, but I remember he brought cross country skis, a wire saw, and no bearpaw snowshoes. Everyone else brought what Romeo said to bring.

We were going to be camping in a little bay on the St. Lawrence River,at the bottom of a 300 ft. cliff. We were driven in a pickup truck to the closest point by road. Romeo had also brought toboggans to load our equipment on, including canvas tents and wood stoves to put inside the tents. The first six miles or so was fairly level, so Romeo also arranged a Bombardier 12-person snowmobile to carry us and drag all equipment behind. When we reached the top of the cliff, the Bombardier left us and we got ready to pull the toboggans down the cliff. As this point, Mr. P2 realized that his skis were of no use for pulling a toboggan. And the snow was so deep they were almost no use even walking. Plus, the climb was steep, going from one ledge down to the next, and his skis were too long to navigate this trail. So he had to follow behind on the path packed down by everyone else. So lesson number one, when Romeo says bearpaw snowshoes, bring bearpaw snowshoes.

My observations continued. Romeo showed us how to set up the tents, cutting down trees for ridge poles and A-frame, and how to set up the wood stoves in each tent so as to not burn down the tent. Because we were standing on snow about six ft. deep, we laid down a bed of spruce boughs first for each tent.

There was a lot of tree cutting involved. We had not brought a chain saw, but Romeo has a cross cut saw, which he could cut through a six inch log in about a minute (if memory serves, and I certainly didn't have a stop watch.) Mr. P2 went off to cut some wood using his wire loop saw, and about an hour later had still not made a serious mark on the tree. So by this time, the cross cut saw was available, and Mr. P2 attempted to finish of the remaining 99% of the job with it. But minutes later disaster struck, and the saw blade snapped off our only cross cut saw. Romeo was not too distressed, and within minutes had punched holes through the broken saw blade and wired the two parts of the blade back together, however I noticed Mr. P2 did not use the saw after that and someone else cut the wood he needed. Lesson number 2, bring the right tool for the job, even if it's a bit bigger, and it's handy to know how to fix stuff on the spot.

That night I was given the job of waking up early in the morning to light up our wood stove for the rest of those lazy buggers. I had a really good sleeping bag, so I was warm despite the temperature going way below freezing (probably minus 20). My father lent me his sleeping bag, which was professional equipment, as my father was also an employee of the woods department and often went on these explorations. (a.k.a. paid winter camping trips). But when I woke up to put on my leather boots, they had frozen while folded over, and I couldn't straighten them out. So I put them inside the sleeping bag for about ten minutes to soften them up enough to get them on my feet. Then I went out and got the wood and started the fire.

The last day, we were heading back home, and at the top of the cliff, were waiting for the snowmobile (or snow-cat) to arrive. Our Scoutmaster wanted to boil up some tea while we were waiting and sent me with an axe and a bucket to the lake to get water. I chopped a hole in the ice, I don't know exactly how deep, but in the end I was lying down reaching into the hole, so it was probably about 4-5 feet deep, but still no water. Finally Romeo came over to see what the trouble was, or if maybe I was drowned or eaten by wolves. When he saw me reaching into the hole, he suggested I go closer to the middle of the lake, and he was right, the ice was a lot thinner. In fact, it was open water in the center, despite the cold temperatures.

In later years, I began to enjoy camping by motorcycle. Going without a guide, I often made mistakes that ended up with the tent flooded or collapsed. But eventually I guess anybody can learn how to do it and be comfortable.

Pics 1 Malt run 2007, with my tent and bike.
2. A picture of a Bombardier 12 person snowmobile I found on the net
3. A tent similar to what I remember of our winter camping tents

Thursday, September 16, 2010

About Heather Mallick's Article on Fox News North

Heather Mallick wrote a commentary in the Toronto Sun "Fox News North is a Rancid Idea". In it she slams Quebecor's project of starting a Canadian right wing 24 hour news channel, and in the article she mentions the one time she was invited to appear on Fox News.

Bill O'Reilly has a popular US TV show where he often invites liberal guests and then "crushes" them in a debate. I don't think I have ever seen any liberal hold their own against Bill O'Reilly (maybe Richard Dawkins was close even though Bill called him a fascist). Conservatives love to watch the dismemberment, but to me it illustrates why we do not need a news channel like that in Canada. The tactics Bill uses include making up facts and statistics (otherwise sometimes called "lying"), and famously cutting off the microphone of the interviewee. Basically the interviewee has no chance. But Bill continues to attract new liberal guests, who naively hope to convince Bill he is wrong and present an alternative point of view to the rabid Fox viewers.

Here is a small part of Heather's interview.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbX-2X7_h-M

My blog on O'Reilly-Dawkins debate on teaching evolution:

On the one hand, the argument for why we need a Fox North (a Canadian version of Fox News), is based on freedom of speech. In other words, to have freedom of speech, we must have an outlet for right wing views. That's because the mainstream media like the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and CTV, are both allegedly biased and show only the left wing point of view.

I don't think we need Fox News in Canada, because Canadian mainstream media is not propaganda. And it is not right that Fox News is demanding special status where it must be included in popular packages on cable TV. Third, that Fox News is in the business of propaganda, not presenting news, and they get caught lying so often to support their right wing point of view, that independent fact checkers are suffering from shell shock. And finally, Fox News has an agenda that is not good for the country, an agenda of promoting racism, hatred, anger, anti-science, war and violence.

In the post 9/11 atmosphere in the USA, Fox News has done remarkably well, but the USA as a country is worse off for it, in my opinion anyway.

Yesterday, the face in front of the Fox News North push, Kory Teneycke, resigned. Kory has a bombastic style that would be well suited to Fox News South. Maybe it is a sign that this type of over the top hate propaganda is not welcome in Canada, I can only hope. Because if we do ever get a Fox News North, freedom of speech wins, but freedom of truth and decency loses. It's really too bad that we even have to make such a decision.

Globe and Mail article: "10 things you need to know about Fox News North" by John Doyle

Here is a "Canadian" conservative blog, a taste of what a "Canadian" Fox News could be like. Actually, you can Google Barack the Barbarian, and take a look at some of the pages from the comic book if you are interested.

http://thecanadiansentinel.blogspot.com/2009/04/not-another-obama-superhero-comic-book.html

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A List of French Military Victories

It seems that in the last few years, many Americans cannot get enough of this joke: "List all the French military victories? Answer: There are None!" (or some variation of that.) This seems to have gotten started when the French refused to join Bush's war against Iraq.

It goes to show what a lack formal education in world history at the high school level can do for the USA. Even university level world history in America is very one sided, if their view of Canadian history is any example.

This topic comes up a often in wartime in Canada, because our country is officially both French and English. Being an ex-history teacher, and half English and French myself, I feel that I can answer the question at least as well as most Americans.

List some of the more notable French Victories:

732 A.D.: Tours, the French hold off the Muslim invasion of Europe

If the French had not won that one, we all might be speaking Muslim today and this entire discussion would end here.

1066: French soldiers under William (the conqueror) invaded and conquered England. If Americans are not aware of this date, they should ask an English person for confirmation.

1214 Battle of Bouvines Phillip II of France defeated King John or England, indirectly forcing the weakened King John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215 to retain the loyalty of England. The Magana Carta is the basis for rule of law and taxation under a parliamentary system.

1427 Joan of Arc leads French armies in a series of military victories to save France.

1690 Battle of Quebec. This is the first major face off between the Americans and the French in the colonies. William Phips, Governor of the British Colony of Massachusetts, led an invasion against the Colony of New France (today Quebec). The French colonists won, despite the greater population of the American colonies.

1781 Two battles in one offensive: The Battle of Yorktown (American/French land siege) and the Battle of the Chesapeake (French naval victory) These two battles, one on land an one at sea set the stage for the British surrender in the American War of Independence, leading to the formation of the United States of America. Many Americans have decided that the French were of little or no help in these battles. Most of the casualties were in the Battle of the Chesapeake, and all of those casualties were French. Originally only one gravestone was put up to honour the French dead, but much later, at the request of the French government, headstones were set up to represent all the fallen French soldiers.

France under Napoleon had a series of military victories in Europe. At the peak of their empire, they controlled more of Europe than Nazi Germany did in WW2, and similar to the Nazis, the French were defeated when they tried to conquer Russia in 1812. After the losses on the Russian front, a weakened French army was finally defeated.

French Victories during the Napoleonic wars:

1796 Battle of Lodi drove the Austrians from Italy

1805 Battle of Austerlitz, defeated a coalition of Russia and Austria

1806 Battle of Jena defeated Prussia (today Eastern Germany)

1809 Battle of Wagram French defeat Austrians


Now just for some balance, lets look at the historical French Defeats, as told by an American humour website.

Basically, as most of the arguments go, any French victory was either led by a foreigner, or a woman, or was too long ago, or they won a battle but lost the war, or had help from somebody else, and therefore doesn't count. Therefore, the French are cowards. Just a reminder, it is battles, not wars that are usually won or lost on bravery or fighting skill. The winning of wars also depends on depth of resources and strength of the economy, and geographic issues.

One of the most famous French defeats was the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The U.K. and their allies (most of what is Germany today) vs. France.

Even worse was France defeated by Nazi Germany in 1940. At the end of this battle, France was fighting alone against Nazi Germany. Their allies Belgium and Holland had surrendered. The Soviet Union had signed a peace deal with Hitler. The British had evacuated their troops back to England. America was neutral, or helping any side that could pay for it. Italy joined in on the side of the Germans following the British withdrawal. At the end of the war, Americans found out that it was tougher than they thought to beat the Germans. Most of the heavy work was actually done by the Soviet Union in forcing Germany to surrender.

By comparison to the defeat of France, the Russians did not surrender when the German Army invaded. However, in stopping the Germans, the Soviets lost 800,000 soldiers who were killed and another 3,000,000 injured. The Russians also had the advantage of a large territory to retreat into, and a long hard winter to slow down the Nazis. The French had no such geographical advantage.

A major recent French defeat was in Vietnam. The French asked the US for assistance, but instead the US decided they could do better and went at it alone after the French withdrew. Most people agree today that the US did not do any better than France in the Vietnam war.

Here, from an American writing on a Chinese website (I'm guessing, see for yourself on the link), is a quote
"But there are two things I hate more than I hate the French: ignorant fake war buffs and people who are ungrateful. And when an American mouths off about French military history, he's not just being ignorant, he's being ungrateful."


http://www.napolun.com/mirror/napoleonistyka.atspace.com/bayonet_battles.htm#hatefrance


Further reading: French Army 1600-1900

http://www.napolun.com/mirror/napoleonistyka.atspace.com/FRENCH_ARMY.htm

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Newt Gingrich's Comments on Obama Make More Sense Turned Around

Recently there was a blatantly racist comment on Obama by Newt Gingrich. Check this website "obamareleaseyourrecords.com" Gingrich described Obama's behaviour as Kenyan. Racist theory says that having one drop of black blood in you will make you an inferior being, and hamper your ability to think rationally. Racists believe only pure white blood will make you a rational intelligent human.

OK that's all I want to say about why his remarks are racist. Now to get down to my purpose here, which is to show how it makes more sense to turn around this propaganda against the people Gingrich supports.

Here is his quote:

“What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” Gingrich asks. “That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”

The statement makes no sense, because Obama was raised by white grandparents, and was not taught about anti-colonial ideas by his father. Here is the reverse, where the assumption is that Obama is rational, and it is the Republicans who are batsh*t crazy:

“What if [The Republicans] are so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand southern Slave-owning Racists behavior, can you begin to piece together [their actions]? That is the most accurate, predictive model for their behavior.”

Second quote:

“I think he worked very hard at being a person who is normal, reasonable, moderate, bipartisan, transparent, accommodating — none of which was true,” Gingrich continues. “In the Alinksy tradition, he was being the person he needed to be in order to achieve the position he needed to achieve . . . He was authentically dishonest.”


And reversed:

“I think [the Republicans] worked very hard at being a party that is normal, reasonable, moderate, bipartisan, transparent, accommodating — none of which was true, In the Nixon tradition, they were being the party they needed to be in order to achieve the position they needed to achieve . . . they were authentically dishonest.”

Notice first how easy it is to turn it around, and how it even ends up making more sense that way.

Picture: From the same website. "Obamareleaseyourrecords" By the way, it's not really about where he was born, and everybody should know it. The Republicans are just not allowed to say it's because he is partly black, because racism is unpopular with undecided voters.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Cannonball Run, Real and Imagined

Cannonball runs are best left to car drivers, not motorcycles. That's because a cannonball run is too long for one driver to finish without sleeping. With a car or truck you are allowed to bring along a spare driver to go through the night. Of course this is allowed on a motorcycle too, but it is impractical for a second driver to sleep on a motorcycle. Although no doubt it's been done by somebody.

November 15, 1971, was the start of the first real Cannonball Run, a technically illegal coast-to-coast race dreamed up and made into reality by Brock Yates, the editor of Car and Driver Magazine. Brock and Dan Gurney (a race driver) won the first race in Ferrari Daytona with a time of 35 hours and 54 minutes, averaging 130 kph, and as Dan Gurney said "At no time did we exceed 175 mph."

There were several movies made based on the Cannonball Run. The first ones were "Cannonball!" in 1976 starring David Carradine, "Gumball Rally" with Gary Busey also in '76, and probably the best, which was "Cannonball Run" 1981 with Burt Reynolds.

In his August 1976 review of "Cannonball!", Roger Ebert made the comment that "If we can get Burt Reynolds into a Trans-Am with the devil in the back seat, we've got a winner on our hands." Although he probably knew that "Smokey and the Bandit" was coming out the next year, he could not have known that Burt Reynolds would star in the 1981 movie "Cannonball Run". But it made sense.

To me, the appeal of these movies is simply this: I have done 8 cross country one way runs by motorcycle, 7 more by car, 2 by motor home, and that's how I would want to drive if there were no cops on the road, and no family in the car. I am not condoning driving at illegal speeds, or driving until you fall asleep. But if there were no speed limits, I would often drive faster than what the current limits are. And at times, when I was on my own, and younger, I have driven over a thousand miles without stopping for a motel, just sleeping on rocks and picnic tables.

I can relate personally to one aspect of the Cannonball run. One of my favourite motorcycle trips roughly followed the Cannonball run, but not on purpose. A friend of mine had a friend who had moved to Redondo Beach California, and was living aboard his yacht in the marina. Unknown to us at the time, this marina was the location of the Portofino Inn, which was the actual finish line of the Cannonball Run. We made the trip there and back on two motorcycles in 9 days. The distance of the Cannonball Run was 4,608 km., starting in New York. Kitchener to Redondo Beach, California is 4166 km, which is not much less. We also came back, which I suppose, to be fair, a lot of Cannonballers did too.

We were both riding "six bangers", a 6 cylinder Kawasaki Touring bike, and I was riding a Honda CBX. He brought along a radar detector, as I guess he expected we may be exceeding the 55 mph speed limit from time to time. I'm not sure the radar detector was any real use, but we didn't actually get a speeding ticket. On the other hand, once we drove for about 50 kilometers in the middle of a desert, at a painfully slow 55 mph because the radar detector was buzzing like crazy. Finally I saw what was causing the detector to go insane. The road went right through the VLA radio telescopes 80 km west of Socorro, New Mexico.

http://www.vla.nrao.edu/

During the planning stage of the trip, I just happened to see the movie "Earth Girls Are Easy", a parody of Southern California culture. In the movie was a rendition of the old song "Route 66". This song inspired me to change our route a little to look for the old Route 66, which used to be the first paved cross country road. On our trip, as we struggled to look for signs of the old Route 66, several locals told us that there were people trying to revive the old highway as a historical road. I guess by the mid nineties, this had been accomplished, and now you can find signs all over the place leading you to sections of old Route 66 that are now being preserved.

Here is part 9 of the movie Earth Girls are Easy. "Route 66" by Depeche Mode, starts at 7:24.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CpAFCF-v-jI&feature=related

By way of explanation for the strange behaviour in this clip, Jim Carrey is playing the role of a shaved Martian. If you are curious, the rest of the movie is on youtube.

Picture 1: Poster of the movie
Picture 2: The Very Large Array (VLA) telescopes.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Why Smart Gods make Stupid Choices

In an earlier blog titled "How Intelligent is God Anyway?", I discussed how God must be infinitely more intelligent than Humans. And I gave several examples of how He could display this intelligence, and why He might not want to.

Now I want to discuss why God appears to be quite stupid to many Atheists. Here is one non-believer's argument.

So God created the entire universe, including the Garden of Eden, and put man and woman in the garden. Then he put the tree of knowledge in the garden, and a talking snake. God told Adam and Eve to not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge, but then the snake said "Eat the fruit!" to Eve, and she ate it, and then convinced Adam to eat it too. Then God punished not only Adam and Eve, but every single one of their descendants, except the select few who get saved (in a later chapter.)


Although the story is a little confusing, Atheists insist that it demonstrates God's woeful lack of planning. It seems as though God did not really understand what decisions the woman's brain might make when presented with a given stimulus. And this, even though God claims to have designed every cell, every synapse, every neuron, of her brain Himself. To computer programmers, this is like writing a program where you have no clue what it does, or is even supposed to do, then with no testing, you run the program and it fails with a core dump.

If any programmer reading this has ever done what I described, my apologies for implying that you are not too smart. You may have good reason for wanting to write your program like that, or maybe you didn't have time to get it done and tested. Who knows? But I would certainly expect more from God if He was the programmer on this project. I expect Him either to know what the program will do, or to run a little test just to see what would happen first without plunging humanity into endless hellfire.

If you don't understand computer programming, maybe a more human analogy would make more sense. A parent makes a nice treehouse for his two little kids. He puts them in the treehouse with a loaded revolver and says "Do not use that revolver", then leaves them alone. Most normal parents would call that parent stupid, evil or deranged. Not hyper-intelligent.

The story of the Garden of Eden is not the only one where God comes off looking like He is not thinking a lot. What about Noah's Ark, where God drowns over 99.9% of all living creatures, including Humans, because they didn't meet his expectations, and then within a few minutes (not even hours or days) of the end of the world-wide flood, things are right back to being just as bad as they ever were. Eventually He has to send His only Son down to straighten out the mess, and He gets crucified. For the next 2000 years, Christianity splits into a thousand or more factions warring against each other.

OK, so it seems that God, to our limited human intelligence, appears like a mystical Kim Jong Il. But to explain why smart Gods make stupid choices, we are frequently told that humans are just too stupid to be able to appreciate His mysterious plan. That's true, I suppose, but if so, I am not the only one who thinks God's plans don't work very well. Apparently God thinks so too. And He should know better than me.

I have an idea of a way to settle matter once and for all if God is a Genius or a compete idiot. I will challenge God to a simple game of chess. Here is how it works. I set up the chess board and give God white, let Him make the first move. In order to get the moves from God, I would have to go through one of the people who God speaks to directly (God does not speak directly to me, that's for sure). Maybe someone like Pastor Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach, or just about anyone with a direct line to God. All that person needs to do is get the next move directly from God, and send it to me.

A few ground rules:
-Any side that gives an invalid move, will be disqualified, infinite intelligence or not.
-I am allowed to consult with any human for my counter moves, that would not be considered cheating, as Humans are all less intelligent than God.
-We are using the honour system to prevent cheating. i.e. if I use witchcraft or voodoo, or God uses a computer to make His moves. Either one is cheating.
-No specified time limit, but God gets disqualified if He makes me wait until I die of old age to give me His move.
-Any lightning, plagues, floods, earthquakes, or tornadoes that interrupt the game will result in disqualification of the side causing the disruption.

So, if you, or anyone you know has a direct line to God, and wishes to demonstrate God's infinite intelligence, please send me the first move for God's side, leave it in a comment below.

Picture: found it in several locations on the Internet with no source given. I guess it's public domain.

Explaining America to the Rest of the World: "Koran Burning"

Sometimes, a story in the media is lost in translation as it goes from one country to another, where language, history and culture are different. This headline is an example:

"Pastor Terry Jones, of the Dove World Outreach Center will Burn Korans on 9/11"

Let me explain each point of this story for non-Americans. (Actually I'm not an American myself, but it is becoming clear that one of the main uses of Canadians is to translate from "Americanisms" to "Rest of the world language" and vise versa.

Let's start with "Dove World Outreach". In America, the second word, "world", does not mean the same as what foreigners think it means. "World" simply means whatever Americans want it to mean. For example, the "World Series" of baseball does not mean the rest of the world participates. In football (soccer), "World Cup" means the rest of the world does participate. So "World" to Americans sometimes means only the USA, or occasionally, the USA plus some foreigners.

The first word "Dove" may also be a little confusing. A Dove is a universal peace symbol. But Americans do not see "peace" the way other people do. To Americans, peace is more or less synonymous with "Superior firepower". This of course explains why all the members of the "Dove World Outreach" carry loaded pistols.

The last word is also a bit different. To most people, "outreach" implies to reach out and help other people. To Americans, it also can mean if help is not accepted to at least "send a message" that if they do not accept help, their behaviour will not be tolerated.

So now we have taken care of the first three words. Hopefully, things are beginning to make sense.

Now the most important word, "Pastor". In America, a Pastor can be anyone with ten dollars and an internet connection. You do not need to be "hired" by a Bishop or Pope or Imam. You also do not need followers, although it's a nice to have, and adds a little credibility. But the followers can be your wife and kids for example. You can also have followers by getting a TV or radio station or a website. Anyone who can hold a sign or sing or make comments on a blog or shoot a gun, can be a useful follower.

Second thing about American Pastors. Everywhere else in the world, a religious figure has a boss to answer to. Not in America, where people and religions are free. In most countries there are at most a handful of religions. In the USA, there are over 40,000 more-or-less independent religions often referred to as "churches".

The last aspect of being an American Pastor, that needs further explanation. Pastors do not need an education either. I really don't know what the minimum requirement for a pastor is, and not to insult my friends and relatives who are pastors, but I don't think there is a minimum requirement (except maybe for having a pulse). That is not to say there are no really good, educated, brilliant pastors. It's just that in America, unlike the rest of the world, there is no minimum requirement.

Finally, the phrase "book burning". Everyone must understand that to Americans, burning stuff is not as horrifying as it is in other parts of the world. Americans do not feel strongly about waste, like many other countries do. Americans regularly burn garbage in their back yards without a permit. Garden waste, brush, and household garbage including small T.V.s, disposable diapers, and Dixie Chick CD's have been burned . It is my belief (I have no proof) that even bibles may have been burned along with other books in the trash. The only thing no American is allowed to burn is the US flag. But since US flags are burned frequently in the rest of the world, then some Americans don't see why there is a problem burning the Koran in the USA. (except that for some reason the rest of the world thinks it is a problem). At any rate, Korans have already been burned and flushed down toilets, so why would anyone would care about a few more.

On the other hand, some Americans associate book burning with the Nazis. So they are conflicted about the symbolism. But then it's also important to remember that not all Americans are alike. You have the entire range from insane redneck racists, to liberal pinko fag pacifists, and everything in between, even including many well educated world travellers who can even speak French or other foreign languages.

So now everyone can understand the context of the headline "Pastor Terry Jones, of the Dove World Outreach Center will Burn Korans on 9/11". Apparently he decided not to in the end, but there are plenty of other crazy pastors out there, so don't be surprised.

Picture: One of my photoshop efforts. It is Terry Jones' head on the body of a girl with a handgun and a crazy T-shirt. I crossed out MOON and substituted KORAN, and I put the words at the top of the picture.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Book Review "Two Stroke Motorcycles"

Over the last 40 years I have read a lot of motorcycle books, but there is one particular type of book that, for me at least, defines the true spirit of motorcycling. These book(s) are the British books from the twenties to the fifties. In less than 200 pages, they attempt to tell you everything you ever would need to know about motorcycling. They are filled with so much motorcycling trivia, mostly applicable to the '30's in Britain, that it is almost like being there.

The first time I read one of these books I was actually in a library in England, where I was on vacation. My own motorcycle was back home, and a book caught my eye. I no longer remember the title, but I do have a copy of a similar book called "Two Stroke Motorcycles and How to Get the Best of Them". My copy is the American Edition published by Clymer in 1967. The original was from 1920 by Iliffe and Sons of London. Lucky for me, Clymer didn't do anything to adapt it to the American market. To quote from page 86 "On foreign machines, the gear pedal is sometimes on the left". Clymer didn't even bother to change the spelling of "tyre".

This book was written for know-nothing newbies in Britain between the wars. As the foreword by Harry Lois, the editor of "Motor Cycle" says, "Primarily this book is for owners who know little about the technicalities of the machines they ride and would like to know more." And even though the book is only 134 pages, with many pictures, we still get in pretty deep, with comments like "Alternatively, you can cut out another [cylinder base gasket] for yourself-the cover of "Motor Cycle" is quite good material for this purpose." and "you haven't forgotten, of course that the piston has to be the right way round, so check that the mark you made in dismantling is at the front."

Motorcycle noobs in Britain in 1920-1940 were expected to know a heck of a lot more than newbies in Canada today. Now, motorcycle riders are not expected to know anything but how to add fuel and read warning labels. And even with that, you might be better going back to the dealer to have it done for you. As I said in an earlier blog, a BMW rider I met could only guess at how many cylinders his bike had. To be fair he did guess right, it was 4.

This particular book is not the only one, I know of one other called "Motorcycles and how to Manage Them" also published by Iliffe & Sons. But it is older, from 1903. Unfortunately I do not have a copy, but I found it on this web page.

Anyhow, what I like about these books is the level headed, unemotional, practical approach to motorcycling. It is taken as a basic fact that motorcycling is nothing more or less than a mode of transportation, where you are responsible to ensure that the machine continues to run. You are expected to drive safely, obeying the rules, and keep riding come rain, cold or (very likely) fog. You are not expected to be rich, or have any other form of transportation at your disposal. The authors never discuss assless chaps, motorcycle gangs, tattoos, or even engines with more than two cylinders or 50 horsepower.

As it says in the book "when faced with a steep hill, the novice usually makes the mistake of changing down too late". Of course they are referring to changing gears. Most Canadian or American beginners start out on bikes that are faster than Grand Prix bikes of the thirties, and they would be puzzled about why someone would want to change down a gear just for going up a hill. If these new riders were actually forced to so much as twist the throttle a bit to go up a hill, "Screw this, man, I need a bike with more torque", and would rush to the dealer for a new, and bigger bike.

Another bit I like is the page on hand signals. Clymer should at least warn us that one signal in particular could be confusing: putting out your left arm, with the elbow bent up 90 degrees, does NOT mean "I want to go straight" in the USA or Canada . Here it means "I want to turn right"!

Some of the other warnings are strange too, if you don't know about English roads. For example "In a country lane there are little knots of people at intervals on the opposite side of the road; more than likely you will soon meet an oncoming bus." I can hear an American or Canadian saying "who gives a crap, I have a motorcycle, why do I need know how to catch a bus?" Well you misunderstood. You will meet the oncoming bus head on, in the middle of the bus's front bumper, because an English country lane is about the same width as the bus. And there is no shoulder of the road as we know it.

Picture: I photoshopped a bus onto an English country lane for illustrative purposes. The A-roads were not much wider in some places, like Devon and Cornwall, at least when I was there in 1988.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Koran Burning at the Dove World Outreach


Or: Reach out and Burn Some Books

Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville Florida is planning to burn copies of the Koran on 9/11. On their website, they have a blog on "Ten Reasons to Burn the Koran". I tried to read it, but the blog was temporarily out of service.

But, not to worry, there was another blog on the Dove World Outreach website: "Five more reasons to burn the Koran".

http://www.doveworld.org/blog/5-more-reasons-to-burn-the-koran


On the page I linked above, I saw two replies, both from Joel Cushing.

After reading his reply, I realized I would never be able to write anything as good, so I'll just leave the link to it in my blog. But if the Dove World webmaster "burns" Joel's reply, like they are planning to burn the Koran in the real world, I do have a copy and will be prepared quote it on my blog.

Photo: This is a Reuters photo of a mural in Bethlehem by Banksy, to which I added fire and the words, using Photoshop.

Why Sport Bikes are Uncomfortable

Motorcycle Daily: April 2008 "Aerodynamics and Reality"

..."riders that like to ride fast through twisty roads don’t need to be hunkered over the gas tank the way a racer does on a 180 mph straight-away."... "Perhaps, it took supermoto to remind us all that going fast is not inconsistent with an upright riding position"..." I can’t help but think that most riders feel a greater sense of control sitting upright on a motorcycle."

I did not know that some people were of the opinion that you need to lean forward to go round a corner, and it is simply not true anyway. The only reason I lean down to go around a corner is if I am on my Honda CD175, taking a corner at top speed, and maybe against a headwind and going uphill. In the old days racers used sit up for the corners. These days it is more common for them to hang off the inside of the bike on the curve.

There are some good reasons for leaning forward. One is to combat the wind force, or to tuck in behind a small fairing to reduce wind resistance. Another reason is to resist being thrown backward by fierce acceleration. I think it is safe to say that most American motorcyclists do not worry too much about wind resistance. Sure, it may mean a few mph off the top speed, but hardly anyone goes top speed on the street. And it may mean fewer miles per gallon, but again, most riders are not that worried about fuel economy.

When going around a corner, wind resistance is not important, but these things are: Seeing where you are going, keeping things from dragging on the ground (feet, parts of the bike), keeping wheels from lifting off the pavement, and good control of the handlebars. The exception to the rule about not dragging stuff may be racers who like to get the knees down (equipped with slider pucks) or dirt oval racers who have steel soles on their inside shoe that they slide on the gravel surface for stability. But on the street you should not be doing that kind of stuff.

Sport bikes have a riding position with the rider hunkered forward over the gas tank. This position makes sense in a race bike, because you cannot make compromises if you want to win. Leaning forward reduces wind resistance, reduced wind resistance means more speed, and races can be won with hundredths of a second. The only time you can afford to sit up in a race is when you are slowing down. If you are in a race, and sit up, your bike will slow down. Maybe only a few miles per hour, but that is quite enough for a competitor to pass you and win the race. So no matter how uncomfortable it may be, you must keep down out of the wind if you want to win.

A street bike is not always run at full throttle with a competitor trying to get by. On a modern bike, in traffic, if you want to go faster, usually you twist the throttle a little more. Again there are exceptions, where a small 100 cc street bike might actually need to be run at full throttle most of the time, and so it would benefit from the rider hunkering forward over the tank to reduce wind resistance.

There is actually one more reason for leaning forward on a racing bike. When accelerating at full throttle, which you are doing at least half the time, you need to keep some weight on the front wheel to prevent it from coming up in a wheelie. If this was the only problem, it could be fixed with a redesign of the frames, but there is also the need to counteract the force of acceleration itself, trying to pull the rider off the bike. So with the wind and acceleration together, the rider feels well balanced leaning far forward on the motorcycle during a race.

On the street at low steady speeds, the racer riding position puts a lot of pressure on the hands, and on the muscles that hold the head up. That is the reason for most of the complaints about the comfort of sport bikes. The other comfort related issue is how far the knees are bent, which is actually to keep the feet from dragging in hard corners.

One other complaint surfaces from time to time, but I do not consider it to be only a sport bike complaint. It is the hard seat. Many bikes of different types have hard seats, and it really has nothing to do with the type of bike.

Are there any solutions to the discomfort of sport bikes? One is to take pain killing medication and physiotherapy.   Another is raising the handlebars. Even a little rise can get air under your torso and relieve wrist, hand, and neck pain. Lowering the footpegs can help the knees, if that bothers you. But if you are bothered by all of the following: wrist, hand, neck, knee, and rear end pain, maybe a sport bike is not for you.

Link: Here is a bike that apparently is leaning into a corner with both wheels off the ground:

http://zrxoa.org/forums/showthread.php?t=245291

Top Picture: Hyosung sport bike racing. Taken off the internet somewhere.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Jesus is In It to Win It

Before I begin, I am not a believer in the pro-war Jesus.  So read this in light of the fact that I do not think it is right for pro-war Christians to boast of their peacefulness, while ignoring Jesus's messages to love those that hate them.

Pro-war Christians argue that Jesus came as a strong warlike God, not as a wimpy pacifist. You can take a look at the web page I linked to here, to see many arguments for a warlike Jesus, and to re-interpret everything Jesus said in light of right wing pro-war conservatism.

Now, the rest of this blog is what I might think if I was hypocritical enough to believed in a pro-war Jesus.

>I kind of like the idea of Jesus as a winner, leading his troops to victory over the heathens, and not a pathetic loser pacifist. Once all the liberal crapola is removed from the Gospel of Jesus, I finally do get His message,

The Short Version of the Gospel According to Pro-War Jesus

Once upon a time, God looked down from the heavens, and decided that His people of Earth were not powerful enough or rich enough, so he sent his only begotten son to restore their God given lifestyle. Jesus came to Earth, with the good news "Get yourself a sword" (or a gun, in case they have been invented by the time you read this).

Jesus taught us these important words in his Gospel:

Matt. 10:34 reads:

34 Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword (New International Version, NIV)


And Luke 22:36 reads:

36 [Jesus] said to [the disciples], "But now the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag; and the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one." (New Revised Standard Version, NRSV)


Then Jesus went into the temple and overturned the tables of the money changers. By this one example, we know that God wants us to act aggressively to get what we want.

Then Jesus performed miracles etc. to prove once and for all he was God.

In the end, sadly Jesus was crucified. At first it looked like He was just another loser in a long list of losers posing as God, but no, that turned out to be the final victory for Jesus, because he only died for a three days then came back to life with even more superpowers. And better yet, by being crucified, He pre-paid for all of Man's future sins. So Christians became powerful and rich, as God intended. And if any sins were committed along the way by true Christians, Jesus had already paid for them. Praise the Lord.

Now about that "turn the other cheek" slogan that pacifists are endlessly spouting off about. That is another teaching from Jesus, frequently misquoted by liberals to promote appeasement, light sentences for rapists, and pacifism. If you liberals knew anything about Biblical times, what Jesus actually meant was: if somebody strikes you on the cheek, they obviously used the back of their hand as an insult, therefore by turning the other cheek, you force them to strike you with the FRONT of their hand, meaning that you are now an equal. In Biblical times, that meant you were free to pound the crap out of them.

But Jesus was a very clever God, so he gave this quote a double meaning and two purposes. The other reason Jesus gave this quote is so that, in the future, if Christians want to lure their enemies into a trap, they can use this quote out of context. That way, Christians can speak of their Lord's desire for peace, and then when the enemy comes to the peace talks, the Christians can ambush and slaughter them.

Is this a great religion or what?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

An Apology to Hunters and Conservatives

Last blog I quoted from a comment that was left on the Fox News website. I really should not have left a troll's comment without explanation, because doing so actually puts conservatives and right wingers in a bad light. And by doing that, I am simply generating left wing propaganda. So now I am going to explain it further and remove all the BS and propaganda from it.

Here is the quote again, from libtardhater67

Sept 2, 9:28 AM on Fox News (previously quoted on my "Survey of the Press" blog.)
"This guy was a worthless libtard! Too bad he is dead, I would have wanted him to know the last time I went hunting I took my last 4 oil changes from my pickup and my last 2 from my ATV and dumped them in the stream where I was. I was visualizing some crying libtard's face when he saw it. Then I killed two more bucks than I had tags, kept the largest and left the other two to rot. Take that, libtards! I hate the "environment"! We humans have the right to do anything we want to the environment."

To state the obvious first. Libtardhater67 does not represent all conservatives. I know some conservatives myself, and they would be shocked that he was dumping used oil into forest streams. And even the most extreme conservative "ant-environmentalist" would at the very least dig a hole and pour the oil in rather than have it float away on top of the water on a stream that could potentially be used by fishermen, or would be necessary to attract deer to a good hunting place. The oil stinks (especially to animals), coats the banks and is generally icky. So this statement by Libtardhater67 is obviously either designed to provoke anger, or make conservatives look bad, or if true, was the act of a not-very-bright person acting under the delusion that this was a political act to further the cause of conservatism. Ironically, exactly the same type of "worthless libtard" behaviour that Libtardhater67 was condemning on the part of a deranged gunman taking hostages at the Discovery Channel. The fact is, that oil spills are not a left wing/right wing issue. All sides come together on the need to prevent and to clean up oil spills. No side wants wanton destruction of the environment as part of their image.

Then, about killing three bucks and taking the largest, I can actually imagine that happening. But once again it is nothing to boast of, even to other hunters. Or maybe especially to other hunters. A good hunter takes a certain amount of pride in what they do, or they would not do it. That means they take pride in their ability to aim a gun (if they are using a gun, I know some who consider bow and arrow a real test of hunting skill). And they take pride in bringing in the biggest buck. But everybody knows there are ways to cheat, and there are some people who can neither hunt, nor aim a gun, who go around bragging of their "expert hunting skills" and their huge kills, while all they do is pay to sit in a prepared blind and wait for thoroughly tamed deer to come and eat food that has been set out for them months in advance. That, my friends is not hunting, that is a firing squad in a petting zoo. Even if they miss, someone else will finish it off with a good shot. Yes it offends some liberals - those that are also animal lovers. But there are also conservatives that are animal lovers.

I have done a little hunting myself when I was a kid, (very little), and I know that some hunters can hardly tell the difference between a deer and a cow, and often wound an animal with a poor shot rather than kill it with a clean accurate shot. The animal then might get away and dies later and rots because the hunter does not have the skill to follow it any more than they have the skill to shoot straight.

And finally I am pretty sure that even the most conservative of right wing extremists does not advocate that any human, no matter how retarded, has the right to do "anything they want" to the environment, no matter how destructive, no matter how dangerous. I'm thinking setting forest fires, but there are other issues too.

So libtardhater67 is just a troll. I'm guessing some 12 year old kid with a bad attitude (it happens!) who has liberal parents who he hears talking about things.

Anyway I want to correct any mistaken impressions I might have left with that last blog of mine. Conservatives are not as stupid as this troll makes them look.

Picture: Taken from this forum, (it is not me or anyone I know) the picture is set on Anticosti Island. Over a hundred years ago, my grandfather hunted deer for food, when he lived on Anticosti. There are still 200,000 deer on Anticosti Island, and many of them are so tame they come up to beg for food at picnic tables.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Who Promotes the Gun Culture: Liberals or Conservatives?

I came across what seems to be a reasonable creationist, making a statement about James Lee, the hostage taker at Discovery Channel. In his blog, he had these words:

"before anyone gets too smug about how Darwinism leads to violence, let's remember two words: James Kopp. You know, the guy who bought a sniper rifle and assassinated abortionist Barnett Slepian? The fact is that deranged people do violent things because they're deranged. Darwin no more caused Lee's violent acts than the Bible caused Kopp's."

Well at least no one can accuse blogger Todd Wood of being one sided. On the other hand this was the first time I heard that Darwin causing James Lee to buy a gun and take hostages.

But now I have a name, let me try to compare the two acts in several different ways.

1. James Kopp killed someone, James Lee did not. You may think this is splitting hairs, or that this is unimportant. But there is a fundamental difference in what these people did. Both were arguably deranged, but one was also a murderer. Pointing a gun at someone is not the same as shooting someone in cold blood.

2. Nobody directly or indirectly incited James Lee to do anything.

3. There has been no support shown for James Lee's methods or even the terms of his manifesto after the fact. There was support for James Kopp even after he killed the doctor.
http://my.execpc.com/~awallace/herokopp.htm

4. Kopp is not the only killer. There were other incidents, such as the bombing of abortion clinics on the other side. Also, at least one other abortionist was murdered, Dr. George Tiller (I think it was May 2009) Also Dr. Tiller had been shot and wounded before. Let's not forget John Lennon being murdered by a Born-Again Christian, incited by other people in his church.

5. James Lee threatened The Discovery Channel, which was supposedly on his side, whereas James Kopp murdered Barnett Slepian who was an opponent of his.

So in the final analysis, Todd's assertion is true. Darwin did not cause Lee's violent acts any more than the Bible caused James Kopp to commit murder. But on the other hand, nobody supported Lee's idea of pointing a gun at someone. Many creationists supported James Kopp's actual act of violence. And other creationists have carried out other murders.

So if somebody says James Lee is equivalent to James Kopp, what they are saying in an underhanded way, is that Darwinism and Environmentalism did something to incite James Lee.

These two events are not equivalent. There is still the clear rhetoric of incitement, and the evidence of other acts of violence incited by the right wing (and religious) extremists.

I think the evidence is solid that the right wing extremists are doing the overwhelming amount of violent incitement, especially with the use of guns. Another clue is that the left has been trying to pass "Hate Laws" making it illegal to incite violence, while conservatives oppose such laws. Nobody bats an eye when right wing Christian TV Evangelist Pat Robertson calls for assassination of opponents publicly on television. Have you ever heard Michael Moore or Al Gore calling for the assassination of anyone?

In my opinion, with the gun-happy culture in the USA, promoted by conservatives (including Christians) , it's surprising that more people have not turned to guns as the answer. You can hardly turn on a TV without seeing people waving guns at each other.

Here is a blog on the consequences of violent conservative rhetoric.

http://the-reaction.blogspot.com/2010/03/consequences-of-conservative-speech.html