Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday, Wash Motorcycle Jacket

So far it's been a poor winter for motorcycling. I couldn't get out in December or January. The day after tomorrow we're going to have the biggest storm of the year so far, and after that, the 2 week forecast says no thawing in sight.

Mary Ann is out of town to visit her relatives, so my entertainment for the day is to wash my motorcycle jacket. Early last season I bought a high-visibility green Scorpion Commander motorcycle jacket. You get noticed on the highway, with that colour, and I think that's a safety benefit. Unfortunately it does not take long before the jacket starts to look dirty, and the last day I went riding in November, I got caught in the rain. The road spray makes the jacket look dirty, and there are also black marks, it looks like they are caused by rubbing something. Anyway, it's dirty and a bit of wiping seems to make it worse. So I decided to try a real cleaning. I am going to write about it in this blog. Disclaimer: I do not know that your jacket and machine will work the same as mine, and in fact I don't even know if my jacket or washing machine are going to survive. That's why I waited till Mary Ann was out of the house.

The label inside the jacket says "machine wash, cold". We have a Bosch front-load washing machine that has a whole bunch of settings more complicated than that, so I had to get out the owner's manual and read it a bit. I finally decided to set it to the "permapress cold" cycle (suitable for synthetic fabrics), and set the spin cycle to 1000 rpm.

Before starting, I took out the liners and the armour. All the shoulder and elbow pads are the same, so I should not have to worry about mixing them up. The back armour is actually not armour at all, it's a bit of light foam. I would not trust it to protect my spine in an impact. Anyhow that's another issue, right now I'm supposed to be cleaning the jacket. Next I stuffed the jacket into the machine all by itself, after turning the sleeves inside out (that was a suggestion in the Bosch manual, no idea why.). I set the spin to 1000 rpm (max). Then I put about half a cap of high efficiency detergent in the soak tray and and the wash tray.

One thing is for sure, I would not have the patience to do this jacket by hand. The washing machine just tumbles it back and forth gently coaxing the dirt out while I sit down and write my blog.

My final stage would be to hang it on our wooden drying rack. Our house is very dry in the winter, and we never need to use the dryer for anything. Besides, I don't think a dryer is even recommended.

OK, right at the top I should have mentioned "Empty the pockets". I forgot, and I'm pretty sure I have some gas station receipts in one of the pockets.

The jacket is out of the washing machine now. The two front pockets still had water in them, as they are meant to be waterproof. The rest of the jacket is spun dry. I found a few receipts and papers in one pocket, but not shredded. In some other pockets I found four packets of desiccant that came with the coat.

Pic 1: That's our washing machine with my jacket inside.
Pic 2: I am surprised the jacket is so clean, but then this washing machine always seems to do a good job. When the jacket is dry and I get it outside in the sunshine, it should be just like new (i.e. blinding)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Advertising Standards of Canada Skewer Themselves in an Ad

Last night I watched a commercial on TV that I am going to nominate for an academy award in the category of Fearless Advertising. This ad was an example of "That Idea is so Crazy that it just might work". I did not notice at the time which program carried the ad, as it only struck me this morning. But the only program we watched on TV last night was "Tipping Point" by David Suzuki. And this program was about the Alberta Tar sands.

The advertisement was a silly one from the Advertising Standards of Canada, where a teenage girl is caught by her father, sneaking out of her bedroom window, and she hires three mimes to announce that "I was going to the library". The punch line of the ad is "Dressing it up doesn't make it true". The video of the ad is on this link, in case you have not seen it.

Honestly nothing clicked for me right away, but later I remembered. I have written a blog about this organization, about how they OK'd an advertisement claiming toxic sludge was "like yogurt". So according to the Advertising Standards, that's not a lie. But according to most people it is a lie.

After a ruling like that, they should hang their heads in shame, caught in the act of lying. But apparently that's not the way advertising people think. Their motto must be "When caught in a lie, repeat it louder and longer, right to their face".

It seems they have an actual code of conduct, which you can read online. I assume it is kind of a study guide to deception for advertising people.

Their advertisement is a perfect parody of what the Advertising Standards people did themselves. Caught in a lie, they called in the mimes and the party balloons to announce that they never lie. And of course they must run it during an Alberta Tar sands documentary. Why not? Despite what they say, all advertising is based on "Dressing it up will make it true"

The documentary itself was quite hard hitting about the oil sands, and I would think the oil companies will not be liking it very much. It exposed their fraudulent water quality monitoring. Of course, what can you expect when the only people to monitor the water are hired by the oil companies. They apparently did no monitoring, and claimed that any sludge in the Athabasca river was naturally occurring because the river flowed through bituminous soil, and always had. Also, there were no toxic outflows into the river, as all water borne toxins were held back behind dams in toxic pools. Finally, an independent scientist got tired of being lied to by the oil people and did a scientific investigation where he found a way to separate the naturally occurring toxins from those falling out of the air from the processing plants. His evidence was enough for our Conservative Environment Minister, John Baird, to admit that we didn't have exactly a "World class" pollution monitoring system. And knowing the Conservatives are funded by and based in the oil area, that is quite a humbling admission.

Another part of the documentary I found interesting was the connection to James Cameron and Avatar. I did not notice when I saw the movie, but several of Avatar's depictions of mining on the planet Pandora were inspired by the Alberta Tar Sands, apparently done by a background artist from Alberta. And so the movie was similar enough to the Tar Sands that James Cameron later made a trip to Alberta to see the Tar Sands for himself. I didn't know about that tie in when I saw the movie last year. But it was very clear after seeing "Tipping Point". When I was watching Avatar, I was thinking it was based on Talisman Oil in the Sudan, where they actually helped the Sudanese government bomb natives who got in their way. That is obviously not happening in the Canada Tar Sands project.

My 2 blogs about Avatar:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Luddites of the Future

Things change in our modern world. If you think about sailing ships from 1000 AD to 1800 AD, there was very little change in those 800 years. A sailor from 1000 AD could have probably figured out a sailing ship in 1800 AD without too much trouble. But in the last 100 years, the changes have been enormous and its mainly due to technology driven by scientific discoveries.

Human societies have not naturally evolved in to keep up with such a fast pace of technological change. People are more comfortable with gradual change, where people can raise their children with more or less the same values, skills, knowledge that they had themselves. When change occurs too rapidly, parts of society retreat mentally into the past.

How can we tell when and if we are retreating into the past? I'm guessing that religion can be in indicator. People who convert to religions that oppose scientific advances would be an indication that science is moving too fast for them.

Just as people in the early 20th century opposed electricity in general, today people oppose new green energy wind turbines.

I am not trying to pass judgment and say just how fast science is supposed to advance. I agree that at times it goes too fast, and I can think of some examples: The atomic bomb, drilling for oil over a mile under water, the technology for cloning humans, cell phones in cars, nuclear power plants, genetic engineering, the AK47 assault rifle, poison gas, biological warfare, air travel. All seem to exceed human civilizations ability to control them properly.

Today, we can see evidence that some people think things are changing too fast. There are religions and political movements in the USA that would like to take us back to America's golden age. (Probably the cowboy era)

  • Opposed to new immigrants coming in
  • opposed to restricted gun use
  • opposed to destruction of the environment (pesticides and clear cutting for example)
  • Opposed to equal opportunity programs for minorities
  • Opposed to finding alternate green sources of energy
  • Opposed to the theory of evolution proposed by Darwin
  • Do not believe in Global warming
  • Opposed to gay marriage
  • Wants a return to the gold standard for currency.
  • Opposed to modern contraceptive methods and abortion.
  • Need a return to old time religion, before people challenged the words of God in the Bible.
  • Opposed to modern culture, such as movies, dance, immodest dress, long hair.
  • Then again, some believe that the world is going to end soon anyway, and none of this really matters.

The above points generally define conservatives.

Luddites is another word for people who resist change. Named after Ned Ludd, these people were scared of losing their jobs as weavers, and so destroyed the new mechanical looms in England, that could be operated by unskilled labour to do the work of many skilled craftsmen.

It could be argued that technology was moving too fast in Britain at the time of the Luddites, and that's why the Luddites appealed to so many people. At some point during the Napoleonic wars, there were more British soldiers fighting Luddites at home, than fighting the French in Europe. Speaking of which, there was also a war going on, increasing the economic stress on the country.

Just to be fair to Luddites, here is a paper that argues the point that Luddites were not opposed to technological change per se, just opposed to reductions in their economic situation. (being laid off, having the prices of cloth undercut, wages reduced, etc.) And they broke machines to enforce their bargaining power with the factory and mill owners.

You could probably argue that there are Luddites among liberals and among conservatives. I do not own a cell phone, and I have wind-up windows in my car with manual door locks, and I generally call myself a liberal these days. Change will surely come, and some people better get used to it faster than the currently are.

Picture Dog sled (but I photoshopped the GPS):

Picture Modern Igloo

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Forget About the Price of Tea in China. Think Buick.

I was surprised to find out that GM sells more vehicles in China than in the USA. So, imagining hordes of Silverado pickup trucks with gun racks and cowboy hats cruising downtown Shanghai, I went to look up some confirmation.

While it is true that GM sells more vehicles in China than the USA, there are several related facts that make it less surprising. First is that these vehicles may not be "made in the USA", and their brand names may not be recognized by American customers. There is an active partnership between GM and several Chinese companies.

But there is also the story of Buick. The typical Buick owner in America is basically an old fart who can't afford a Cadillac, in China the Buick nameplate is revered. This may be due to the last Chinese Emperor, Pu Yi, having owned a 1932 Buick Tudor.

Picture: Hopefully the Emperor had the good taste to not pimp out his ride as much as this. From this web site

From the Wikipedia entry for Pu Yi. I have to confess, it is way too complicated for me to figure out from this, exactly why this guy should set the standard for the Chinese car buying public. In the article I did notice that he was the one who kicked the Eunuchs out of the Imperial Palace. Don't know if that was bad or good. Then he was the emperor reputedly collaborating with the Japanese invasion before WW2, and was captured by the communists and spent time in jail. And somewhere in there, he had a Buick. Then, apparently by some mysterious butterfly effect, GM ends up selling more cars in China than in the USA. Well, I don't get it.

So, GM is selling a lot of Buick branded cars in China. In many cases these cars are rebadged Opels from Germany or Holdens from Australia.

Nice to know that even in China, the marketing of the automobile is based on the sizzle and not the steak.

While I may have been surprised, the "China Car Times" was not, with the headline "No Shocking news: GM sells more cars in China than it does in the USA"

In the China Car Times, the writer is pleading for someone to enlighten them as to why Buicks are not revered in the USA as much as in China. I have no answer for them. Other than the obvious, of course.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fox TV News uses the Munchhausen Trilemma

I never used to be very good at lying, and with recent advances in that art form I am getting left even further behind. Here are three recent examples.

In an unsolicited phone call, I was told that my computer was being monitored, and I had viruses, and that I should to download software from a given website. I asked if this was a prank call, and I was told, no, this is serious, and to call back at 1-201-338-6180 for confirmation. I then asked if they could tell me what operating system was on my computer, and was told it was Windows. I answered that it was actually Linux, and the reply was "Sorry, wrong number *click*"

Yesterday I was given a wind power petition to sign. I was a little suspicious of the obviously conservative wording. I saw in the fine print the petition had been initiated by John O'Toole, MPP Ontario, but it did not mention party affiliation. I asked which party he was in and I was told he was in the Liberal party. When I checked the Internet later, he was in the Conservative Party, (according to his own web site).

On Monday night, I watched a Fox video clip, where Megyn Kelly was expressing outrage about a Democrat in the US Congress who was referring to the Nazi "Big Lie" theory. That is the theory that if you tell a big enough lie often enough, it will be believed. The Fox reporter said repeatedly that the Fox News Network never used Nazi imagery for their opponents. Then Jon Stewart, of the Daily Show played several clips where Fox News was calling liberals Nazis. I have certainly seen enough of that myself, that I didn't need John Stewart to prove it. Megyn Kelly was using the Nazi "Big Lie" theory to prove that they didn't call other people Nazis.

There are so many lies, so openly and confidently told that we can no longer pretend to ignore them just for the sake of peace and quiet.

I came across an interesting dilemma (or at least trilemma) mentioned on the TV show "The Big Bang Theory", a weekly comedy show about four brainiacs and one hot blond. One interesting aspect of the show is that they do sometimes resort to un-dumbed down dialogue. So according to this show, apparently the Münchhausen Trilemma, explains why it is difficult or impossible to ever know the truth. And by extension, maybe there is also no such thing as lying.

Season 2 episode 1. (In this video at 7:00)

From Wikipedia: The Münchhausen Trilemma

"If we ask of any knowledge: "How do I know that it's true?", we may provide proof; yet that same question can be asked of the proof, and any subsequent proof. The Münchhausen Trilemma is that we have only three options when providing proof in this situation:

* The circular argument, in which theory and proof support each other (i.e. we repeat ourselves at some point)
* The regressive argument, in which each proof requires a further proof, ad infinitum (i.e. we just keep giving proofs, presumably forever)
* The axiomatic argument, which rests on accepted precepts (i.e. we reach some bedrock assumption or certainty)

The first two methods of reasoning are fundamentally weak, and because the Greek skeptics advocated deep questioning of all accepted values they refused to accept proofs of the third sort. The trilemma, then, is the decision among the three equally unsatisfying options.

In contemporary epistemology, advocates of coherentism are supposed to be accepting the "circular" horn of the trilemma; foundationalists are relying on the axiomatic argument. Not as popular, views that accept (perhaps reluctantly) the infinite regress are branded infinitism."

So now is it finally clear why nothing is ever clear?

Picture: From the movie Adventures of the Baron Munchausen, after whom the trilemma is named.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Did "Star Trek" have a Liberal Message?

In 1965, a television series called "Star Trek" began, and although it was cancelled after three seasons, it is by no means forgotten today. That is because, after the show was cancelled, its followers banded together to try and bring it back on the air. These followers have been called "Trekkies". As they grew in number, they helped bring about spin off movies, and several spin-off TV series of the same name. Now, because there are so many descendants of Star Trek, you would normally write "Star Trek TOS" for "the original series". I won't do that here, as TOS for me is the only real Star Trek, I'm not really considering the rest, which may or may not have the same philosophy.

The Trekkies never believed in Star Trek as the literal truth, although that concept was explored in the 1999 movie "Galaxy Quest". However, they do believe that the actors themselves existed, and the stories told about them, such as Lt. Uhura being asked in person by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to remain on in her role as communications officer after the first season.

Star Trek was the first TV show in America to feature a black woman as anything other than a maid, and the first to show an interracial kiss. And it's message was liberal and multicultural in many other ways.

Like the Bible, Star Trek has a canon that has grown around it, comprising all the known information about their universe. Even things that were not revealed in the original series. For example, Lt. Uhura's first name. Or the blueprint plans of the starship Enterprise. Or the complete lexicon of the Klingon language.

Star Trek presented a philosophy, a vision of the future, and a moral code. All were based on science and reason rather than magic and superstition. The positive message of the program was hope for the future of all mankind. This was explored through many episodes depicting variations this vision of the future.

The future vision of Star Trek can be summed up as this. Humans discover space travel, and begin exploring space, moving Earth colonists onto an infinite number of new uninhabited, but habitable planets. There are other non-human planets with intelligent life already, some primitive, which are left unharmed (hopefully) after a scientific investigation. Others are hostile, and advanced technologically, and are a direct threat to Earth's Federation of planets. For example, the Romulan and Klingon empires.

Star Trek was introduced just a few years before man finally stepped on to another planet, and Star Trek's vision of the future assumed that man would achieve true space travel. At the time of the original show, it did not seem so impossible, but soon after landing on the moon it became apparent that the human race was at least a thousand years away from travel to other stars. Soon after, a new philosophy had to replace the "space travel" idea. It seemed that the only way to ever achieve space travel was to first ensure that the planet Earth was not destroyed, giving us time to develop this new technology. The idea developed that we were already travelling through space on a ship called "Earth", and we needed to treat it like a space ship, meaning to keep it from being polluted and make sure we don't run out of fuel until we reach a refueling station or discover independent space travel.

The Star Trek moral code was just as important as its vision for the future. It started with the acceptance of different races as equals, and with all countries being part of a united world government. This would bring peace to Earth, and was the best way for Earth to move forward into space exploration.

A second part of the Star Trek moral code was stated in the Prime Directive.

That there would be no interference with any civilization that had not discovered interstellar travel. This of course was a reference to neither colonizing nor exploiting primitive civilizations.

By examining many other episodes, it is quite easy to fill in the rest of the moral code for Star Trek. Do not attack anyone who has not attacked you. And if they are a primitive civilization, do not strike back, simply retreat. No torturing prisoners. No brutal punishments, no revenge. Actually seems more or less in keeping with a peaceful version of either Christianity or some other Earth religion, with the superstition and supernatural removed.

Of all the episodes of Star Trek, I do not remember one where there was any terrorist attack on the Federation of planets. I don't think that this was because the writers had not thought of it. Terrorism was inconsistent with the rules of Star Trek. In Star Trek, those who would do you harm have giant space warships, and know how to use them. If they do not have space travel, then they stay home, protected by the prime directive, and have no reason to hate you because they don't even know you exist. You might say that terrorism comes about because you ignore the Prime Directive. It is the result of exploiting and interfering with primitive cultures. I don't remember terrorism being an issue when our enemies were Germany, Japan, or the USSR.

Was Star Trek an example of Moral Relativism? I guess its debatable. In the case of primitive cultures, it was quite clear. No missionaries were sent down to tell the people their culture was evil. That was an example of Star Trek's Moral Relativism - morality is relative to the culture, not to be judged evil by another culture. In the advanced cultures of Kilingons and Romulans, there were no missionaries either, as they would have been quickly slaughtered. The contrast in morals was obvious, though never put into words. The Federation was not out for war and conquest, while their enemies were.

Within the crew of the Enterprise, there was little chance to explore moral relativism. All the crew members were loyal and seemed to have the same values, regardless of their race or country of origin. The misfit was Spock, a Vulcan who was half-human. But even there his relative difference was mostly in use of self-control and logic rather than violence and emotion.

The Ethics of Star Trek, from

"Gene Roddenberry, a man who was very open-minded about the customs of different cultures, said: "[By the 23rd century, we] will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. [We] will learn that differences and attitudes are delight, part of life's exciting variety, not something to fear". Roddenberry certainly must have supported cultural relativism, which, according to James Rachels, a contemporary American ethicist, is a theory that makes six basic claims:
1. Different societies have different moral codes.
2. There is no objective standard that can be used to judge one societal code better than another.
3. The moral code of our own society has no special status; it is merely one among many.
4. There is no "universal truth" in ethics - that is, there are no moral truths that hold for all people at all times.
5. The moral code of a society determines what is right within that society; that is, if the moral code of a society says that a certain action is right, then that action is right, at least within that society.
6. It is mere arrogance for us to try to judge the conduct of other peoples. We should adopt an attitude of tolerance toward the practices of other cultures."

Picture: Mr. Spock. Half human, half Vulcan I consider him to the real moral leader and inspiration despite his status as second in command to Captain Kirk.
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Friday, January 21, 2011

Another Cure for Winter: Dagmar Midcap's Boss Hoss Video

I have seen a few Boss Hoss motorcycles around, and in my opinion they are excessive. So now I have my opinion on record, I want to say something in general about the way we describe big motorcycles vs. small motorcycles, because it has a lot to do with how easily we are attracted to them. Statements of huge horsepower tend to be be backed up with fact, and we insist on it. But statements of nimble handling and ease of maneuvering are allowed to be hugely exaggerated, and we don't care.

In this video, from Driving Television season 1, Dagmar Midcap takes a Boss Hoss for a ride. Although she is rather small, she appears to have no difficulty handling the Boss Hoss.

My only problem is with the use of words and descriptions, that in this case give an unfair advantage to larger bikes. If we continue to insist that bikes live up to the horsepower claims, but we never insist they live up to ease of handling claims, bikes will tend to get bigger. These attitudes may even explain why we have so many excessively large motorcycles.

First the description:

"She's smaller than the average motorcycle rider, and she handles the Boss Hoss with ease. And that's something we've been seeing more and more of."

Dagmar: "Acceleration is phenomenal, The small block 350 V-8 has 405 foot pounds of torque. And the larger 502 engine, well that has a pavement pounding 567 foot pounds of torque. The Boss Hoss is a lot easier to balance than you might think. It'll take you a few minutes to get used to the sheer bulk and mass of this vehicle, but after you toss it around in the corners, you'll notice that it's really well balanced. Throttle acceleration is obviously incredibly powerful, but it's smooth. At about the half way barrier, you'll notice that this engine changes dramatically. That's when the full force of the 385 horsepower kicks in. The secret is in the engineering. With the engine mounted in line with the frame and a right angle drive transmission, that allows the length of the bike to be kept to a minimum, the Boss Hoss is relatively easy to maneuver. And its low centre of gravity provides good balance. This monster needs to be treated with respect because it can bite you. As North America's ultimate cruiser, this is one bike you have to ride to believe."

I have no problem with the use of superlative words to describe the power of the Boss Hoss. When you have a bike so powerful, of course you can get away with comments like "pavement pounding torque". But then again with a bike over 1200 lb., are you really justified in saying "handles with ease", "a lot easier to balance than you might think" and "relatively easy to maneuver."? I guess the key is "relatively" and "than you might think". I never have a problem with weight while actually driving at any speed. The problems begin as you come to a stop. They continue as you try to park the bike in your shed or garage, or even in the open air. More problems occur at motels, restaurants, gas pumps, camp sites, coffee shops, beaches, ferries, U-turns, and on slippery or uneven surfaces. So if Boss Hoss is "relatively" easy to balance once rolling, then my moped makes "more power than you would think" while on its centre stand.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"The Legend of the Seeker" to the Rescue for WInter Blahs

January will probably be my second month in a row with no motorcycle ride. Things are looking pretty bleak, so it's a good thing I've been able to find some Youtube videos to watch. One series that has been entertaining is "The Legend of the Seeker", which has about 40 hours of fantasy adventure episodes, from the producers of on old favourite "Xena". The show was cancelled a few years ago after two seasons, but I have not seen any of it until now. Usually I don't like these fantasy "Lord of the Rings" type shows, but this one has plenty of leather clad women, some humour, and the sword fight scenes are easily skipped over, and the magic rules are reasonably simple and sort of consistent. Actually, that was my major objection to wizard shows, in that the magic rules changed at the whim of the writers. They basically could come up with any stupid new magic power whenever they had written themselves into a corner. I want to see the writers work for their living. Make the magic rules, then live with them when writing the end of the story.

After a while, a person can get used to all the overblown drama of these "Quest to save the World" magic and swordplay fantasies. From there it is quite a letdown, going for a simple motorcycle ride to Tim Hortons in Port Dover. Unless... through the power of imagination, to transform a simple ride into a quest. For example, Timmies becomes "The Palace of Horton" where I am seeking the chalice of decaf and donut of cruller. The barkeep refuses my Tim's Card, because he is so grateful that I am the great "Seeker of Truth" who is saving the world by slaying the evil minions of Half-truth in the Underworld of Blogosphere.

The reason I need to go to the Palace of Horton, is because my truth seeking powers grow weaker when I am trapped for too long in my Dungeon of Edgewood, fighting waves of mind-controlled zombies. So I need to rebuild my powers with the aforementioned chalice of decaf. I also enjoy meeting up with other fire breathing dragon riders of all types. The Slow Riders of Hog, and the Slow Riders of Non-Hog. Even the fast riders of Squid are welcome company.

Of course, I could not safely ride my fire breathing Vulcan past all the evil cagelings who are trying to kill me without my "Lid of Invincibility" and my "Cloak of Anti-Invisibility" (my helmet and high visibility colour motorcycle jacket).

So back to reality. The jet stream is dipping all the way south to Mexico right now. January is a washout. Can't wait to see the long range weather forecast for February.

Picture: Tabrett Bethell, on a "Legend of the Seeker" poster, that I lightly photoshopped. I like her character, Cara, a reformed evil "Mord'sith" now allied to the good guys. But she has hard time resisting the habit of killing people they meet along the way. Such as Tim Hortons cashiers who pour coffee instead of decaf. Or forget to put it in a china mug and save the environment.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Is the Jeremy Clarkson Ford Fiesta Test Fake?

Jeremy Clarkson Top Gear road test of the Ford Fiesta Youtube video

What a piece of marketing propaganda, and coming from where? the most unlikely source, the BBC!

A Ford Fiesta gets tested by a TV car show called "Top Gear". In the test, it is allowed to take part in a beach assault. It is carried by a Royal Marines landing craft and Jeremy drives it ashore under fire to let off one of the soldiers on the beach.

The episode has got to have had a huge positive impact for Ford Fiesta sales. Ford could never have hired the Royal Marines for their own commercial, and even if they could, it would not have had the same powerful effect. But apparently the Royal Marines are willing to cooperate with a BBC TV show, and in return they get some positive media attention for themselves.

During this spot, Jeremy manages to avoid looking like a Fiesta commercial by calling the car shit several times (but only the stripped down model) and dismissing its "green" features in a joking way. However, everything else he says about the car feeds a fantasy image that Ford could only hope for in its wildest dreams.

Although Top Gear apparently started out doing serious car testing, they have gradually gotten into more faked and thus more exciting simulations. I guess they found that this was the way to increasing the number of viewers.

One viewer apparently missed the old style road tests, and wrote in asking to go back to real car testing, which inspired Jeremy to do this totally over the top "serious" mock road test of the Fiesta.

So instead of seriously considering the power, fuel efficiency, space, reliability, speed etc. in comparison to another car, Jeremy sets up a series of exaggerated so-called tests that are faked to show off the best aspects of the Fiesta. Luggage space? A stuffed Zebra head happens to fit exactly in the back, and so that is judged excellent. The Fiesta is small and maneuverable, so he stages a chase in a Mall against a much larger and more powerful Corvette. I believe it is possible that the Fiesta would win, given the slippery floors and extremely limited space. But the whole fake chase was scripted and choreographed like a Hollywood movie. And he should have put the Fiesta up against a Honda Fit or a Toyota Yaris. And finally, nobody drives in a mall anyway. Of course we all knew that, didn't we? especially the last one.

But Jeremy was not finished yet, the Royal Marines beach landing was next. The Fiesta went off the landing craft and was immediately over the "bonnet" in salt water, nose down. That apparently didn't kill the unsnorkeled engine. Also, the front wheels with regular street tires on them had no problem finding traction on the mud or sand under the water, and the Fiesta plowed its way, apparently with no help, up onto the beach. I have driven on beaches at times, and I would not try that. The beach above the water line seemed hard packed enough to drive on, so that part was credible, but not the part under the water. In fact, if the Fiesta could drive through the water, we would have a whole new class of amphibious assault vehicles being tested right now.

The real outcome of the test was probably at least one written-off green Fiesta. And if they did, I'm sure Ford would be happy to write it off. We are not told if they have paid any other money to make this show, but really I would not be surprised.

Picture from this blog, that mentions the Marines came up with the idea, and specifically mentions they understood the show as comedy, not a serious test. It does not mention that any spectators were allowed to watch. I figure either a tow rope, or an underwater ramp would do the job, but I was not able to find any confirmation.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"An answer for non-believers" is not a Real Answer

By I. Tawt Itawapuddytat. January 2011

Another forwarded email, this time the joke about April Fool's being the Atheists religious holiday. Actually that is funny, even to atheists (I imagine), as it can be taken two ways.

Here is a related article by Benny Reppond titled "An answer for non-believers" on

This article unwittingly exposes the central hypocrisy of Fundamentalist Christianity, if you try to follow the logic. Starting with the statement:

"People do not want to believe in God for a simple reason: They don't want to be held accountable for their actions."
OK So far that's a plausible statement, if you assume that God holds people to account for their actions.

Then some explanations and examples of the above statement that you can read in the original article linked above. But next comes the unravelling of the argument with:
"How can you escape the judgment of God? It is very easy."
Was Pastor Benny Reppond asleep during his Logic 101 class at Bible School? He is now promising an easy way out of God's Judgment, apparently blissfully unaware of what he just wrote a few lines above about atheists. He continues:
"All you have to do is to believe that Jesus is God's only begotten Son and to ask Jesus to come into your heart and forgive you of all your sins and to guide your life through this journey on earth.

When we ask Jesus into our hearts, then He pardons us from all of our iniquities and transgressions against God."
Well in the end, it seems that we have a toss-up. This is on the central idea of Fundamentalist Christianity, not some insignificant fact like how many animals were on the ark. We are told atheists don't want to believe in God because they don't want to be held accountable for their actions. But the exact same thing is also true, people like Pastor Benny himself believes in God as an easy way to "escape the judgment of God." So apparently nobody wants to be held accountable for their actions.

I sometimes wonder how on Earth people can come to such absurd contradictions. I heard one yesterday. Somebody's grandmother was just told that a friend of hers was starting to use a walker. "Thank God", she said "that I don't need one yet." Except that not only does she have a walker, but that she never goes anywhere without it. Nobody is going to call this bulls**t of course. So this person can and will carry on with the delusion. But when we have delusional religions like so-called Christian fundamentalism, trying to take over the government and the schools, and trying to launch an apocalyptic nuclear Armageddon, and make Jesus out to be a warmonger, somebody needs to speak up against this. It might even be blasphemy.

Picture: Random kitten off the Internet. No connection to this article unless the Kitten is an atheist or born on April Fool's day. But kittens are so cute, and all the other pictures I had were stupid.

2011 Ford Fiesta Hatch for Fuel Economy Fans?

I happened to be at a Ford dealership yesterday and noticed a 2011 Ford Fiesta hatchback. What caught my eye was the Transport Canada rating of 58 mpg highway, significantly higher than my Toyota Matrix's rating of 48 by the same agency. (Canadian gallons, or 4.9 l/100km)) Because I like the hatchbacks, and cars with good fuel economy, I stopped in to talk to a salesman and find out a bit more.

There were some very interesting discoveries. First is that the high fuel economy comes at a price. Usually, you can get the best fuel economy on a stripped down standard transmission model with no options. Now economy is being marketed as an option. The Fiesta has a "Super Fuel Economy" package listed at $500, which is "side tire deflectors, underbody shields, lower grille blocker, cruise control, spare wheel with wheel cap (?), and a rear spoiler on the sedan. (the hatchback has a spoiler standard). Then the book says "requires 6-speed automatic." The six speed auto is listed at $1250 and it is a dual clutch transmission, automatically shifted for you.  My Ford booklet did not mention the low rolling resistance tires, that I think are also part of this package.

The SFE package is worth 3 mpg, the automatic transmission has a 2 mpg advantage over the manual, so it will cost to make those extra drops of gas work for you. And the six speed has no manual shift mode.

According to the MPG-Omatic test below this Fiesta is missing an real time mpg readout (I cannot confirm this yet , apparently it is standard on the Euro model) , which I will want for my next car. That is a pretty cheap item to add, and I want one. I think they should be in all cars, even Hummers (as a punishment). But in a Fiesta with good fuel economy, it would be a shame to miss it.

The Fiesta hatchback is 3 in. lower and 11 in. shorter than my Matrix. The hatchback model is simply the Fiesta sedan with the trunk lopped off. So it has less overall room than the sedan. I would prefer a station wagon type, where the roof line is extended to the end of the sedan's trunk, to get more room. Or at least part way. The hatchback is not available in standard trim, and so it is also more expensive than the sedan. That was a problem I had with the Mazda 3 hatchback five years ago, where it was not available with the standard engine.

Speaking of engine, I like variable valve timing, which is becoming more common. This Fiesta has a 1600cc "Twin independent variable camshaft timing". Unless this is just marketing hype, I'm assuming that is better than my Matrix's system of adjusting both camshafts together.

Anti-nibble electric power steering which compensates for wheel imbalance, side winds and road camber. If I was to take a test drive, that's something I would be paying close attention to. Being as lazy as I am, I hate constantly having to move the wheel back and forth, and correct for side winds. One more step to the car virtually driving itself. And of course I hate the feel of a vibrating steering wheel.

Another fuel economy booster is the tire pressure monitoring system, which is standard. But it's kind of expensive to then add winter rims and tires, because I believe the new rims will need new sensor units in each one. Maybe I would just forget about the tire pressure monitoring on the winter rims.

So to sum up, I thought the hatchback with good fuel economy would be available as a base model, but I was wrong. The hatch is an upscale model only, and I would also need the automatic transmission to get the best fuel economy. I'm going to need a new car in about ten years, so that gives some car maker the chance to look at the Fiesta, and make a hatchback model a bit longer, in standard trim, with an MPG readout on the dash (that I do not have on my Toyota Matrix). I don't mind shelling out $1500 for a 6 speed dual clutch automatic, if it gets better gas mileage, but make sure there is a manual override. That would make it more fun.

I forgot to mention the Fiesta fuel filler with no screw on cap. Last night I almost could not get the Matrix cap back on, I was shivering from standing there in -10c waiting for the gas to fill up. (yes I was wearing a parka and gloves) I want one of those no-cap fillers.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bikers Guide: Kitchener to Port Dover

In honour of the next Friday 13th (May 2011), this is my Biker's Guide for the trip from Kitchener to Port Dover, a distance of 87.8 km. I am very familiar with this road, due to the fact that I go there a lot in the summer with my motorcycles. Map here.

This is not a twisty road, so you won't be needing any road race equipment. Likewise, speeds are never over 110 kph, there are no places where you are alone without traffic or police cars patrolling. I guess everybody in southern Ontario knows what I'm talking about since the whole southern part of the province is kind of like that.

So let's start from the corner of Homer Watson and Sterling In Kitchener. This is at Lakeside Park, and if Lakeside Park had not been the centre of a big fight over road right of way in the sixties, Homer Watson would have continued on right into the heart of Kitchener, but it didn't. So the plan is to go more or less the length of Homer Watson, a big multi-lane road with traffic lights and Tim Horton's all the way along. Although it's really not much fun, you will find the traffic does at least move quite quickly, never over 90 kph, but it's a bit of a struggle when I take my Honda 175 with only 15 horsepower. But normally I have my Vulcan 900 Classic.

At the other end of Homer Watson, you have the 401, and just before that is a Petro Canada station, next to a Tim Horton's, next to a McDonald's. Pretty much heaven on earth. And if you turn right at the Petro Canada, you will come to New Dundee Road, which runs west, right beside the 401 for a few kilometers. You need to make a left onto Reichert Dr, which is immediately after Robert Ferris Drive. Now you can go through a bit of nice forest where hopefully you will not hit a deer, and continue down to a fast right hand sweeper, then another right hand sweeper (about 40 kph slower than the last one) then a really sharp curve to the left (under 50) with a stop sign as you come around the corner. This is where you turn left.

You will follow this road over the 401 and turn right at the next junction on Dumfries road. Not only do you have a lot of trucks coming in and out here, but the Police Association has a compound, and there is an extremely rough railway crossing. This is not the most pleasant part of the road, but let's keep a positive attitude. No traffic lights!!!

Well no traffic lights until you cross Cedar Creek Road, a couple of kilometers south of of the tracks. But something nice is coming up, and you want to be sure you are not following a granny in a station wagon before you get to the next nice curve, the downhill s-bend before Wrigley's Corners. Luckily there is a good long passing area just before it. Although I think the sign recommends 50, this curve is often taken by trucks at 100 kph.

Soon after the curves, turn left at the stop sign, then right at the next stop sign and you will be on Highway 24A to Paris. Actually a nice piece of road if the pavement was not upheaved by frost most of the time. Slightly curving, through forests, but slow with a double yellow no-passing zone most of the way. And every 10 metres, another lurch as the motorcycle crosses a frost heave.

Paris Ontario is next, a really pretty town built right on the Grand River. Many restaurants have little decks out the back that overlook the river. The river is just to the east of the main road (on your left). Apparently Paris is named after a plaster of paris factory, and not after Paris, France. So you will not see very much fake French culture staged by the Chamber of Commerce to entice the tourists. A very wise move. And every June, Paris hosts the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle rally, and event I try to never miss.

There are a couple of pedestrian crosswalks to watch out for, and then as you come up the hill on the other side of town, begin signalling a right turn immediately, even though you have no clue where you are going. That's what the sign says to do. So curve to the right, then soon after, you will have another very sharp uphill merge to the right onto highway 2. This hill climbs rapidly with a passing lane and a fairly sharp 50 kph curve in the middle, then a flashing light and a 40 kph school zone at the top that is often a radar trap on school days when the kids are milling about. Half way up, there is a pullout to the right where you can park and look down at the town of Paris if you like.

Finally when you are past all the kooky signs and traffic situations in Paris, you come to the Pioneer gas station, where I often stop because it has pay-at-the-pump, my favourite splash 'n dash place. I hate taking off my helmet to walk inside and line up behind people buying lottery tickets to pay for gas. Instead I just use my credit card at the pump and remember to take my receipt just in case.

As soon as you come out of the Pioneer Gas Pumps, Rest Acres Road is on the left, and that goes down to Simcoe and Port Dover. You will pass a third Paris Tim Hortons that is opening soon, just before you leave town, it will probably end up being a good motorcycle stopping place, just like the other two in Paris.

Now you finally have a bit of plain road, all the way through past Simcoe there is no more confusion. But there is a big problem with police patrols, and lines of cars travelling together. If you follow one of these lines, for sure somebody is going to stop at a side street and everybody comes to a sudden stop in the middle of nowhere. It is a bad place to be looking at the scenery. Good thing there is none. Simcoe is big enough to have traffic lights, so you might have to stop four or five times before you get out the other side.

Once you get past Simcoe, look for the sign for Port Dover to the left. That will be highway 6, and follow it down to the bottom of the hill in Port Dover just before the BB Gas Bar, where you get all the hot dog places and beach shops. The Tim Horton's is on the left, and the still vacant Rossi's restaurant next door is a great place to park a motorcycle. You should have lots of company there. From here you can walk to the beach, to restaurants, to boat cruises, and of course to Tim Horton's. In the summer time, there are deluxe porta potties, and public toilets are open. That's probably why so many people enjoy coming here. Also, to the east and the west are scenic roads following the lake Erie shore.

Picture: My bike at the pier in Port Dover, October 2009. The sleeping bag on the back seat is only there as a backrest. I bought a studded leather roll pack at the motorcycle show to replace it, just for the looks.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dragging Floorboards, Keeping Up With Harley

A thread on the "All Things Motorcycle" forum starts off
I've been noticing that I can't seem to keep up with my riding buddies through curves. Whenever I try to keep up by increasing my speed I end up scraping my floorboards therefore I end up slowing down in order to negotiate the turn. At first I thought it was because my bike was lower to the ground (I have a Honda 2005 VTX1300S), but one of my friends has a Harley Softail and he seems to have no problem going faster through the turns. Am I doing something wrong if I'm scraping the floorboards? Is it a matter of technique that I will be able to improve?

Two questions. Your buddy on the Harley, is his name Valentino Rossi? No? Could you keep up to your buddy on a Harley if you were driving a normal passenger car? If yes, then you can be helped.

A cruiser is not designed to go around corners fast, but it can keep up with normal grandma-driving car traffic quite easily, if the rider has any experience. However, the design limit of this motorcycle is its limited lean angle. When a motorcycle leans over so far that the weight rests on some solidly mounted steel instead of rubber, the whole motorcycle will either be levered upright, or it will slide on the steel. Levering upright will make the bike go wide of the turn. Sliding on steel bits lifts the tire off the road and eliminates tracking stability. Then the bike lowsides (falls down into the turn) and then goes wide of the turn just because objects tend to go in a straight line when there is no rubber on the road.

It is not a good idea to push the cornering limit on a cruiser, if you don't know what you are doing. It is also bad to push the cornering limit on a sport bike, but that is usually done on race tracks, a safer location for many, many reasons. And I'm not talking about wannabe racers on sportbikes. I mean riders who really can go fast enough around a corner to push the sport bike's performance envelope. That is insanely fast. Riders who don't practice on a racetrack, do not have the skill to push a sport bike's limit on the road. They will crash long before the bike reaches its limit.

Don't ask me why, but cruiser riders never take their bikes to a racetrack to push their limits. What's wrong with pushing the limits of a cruiser on the road? You will crash into oncoming traffic or into a solid object like a tree if you exceed the bike's limit. And yes, even a moderately skilled rider can push the cornering limits of a cruiser. When you hear that floorboard scraping, it is a warning that you are approaching the limit. While the floorboard will fold up, if you lean it much more, a non-folding item will become your main contact with the road, and then you will crash. Probably into something hard.

You are puzzled by a friend on another type of bike who can corner a teeny bit faster than you. Let me clear that up. Every cruiser has slightly different cornering clearance. Put it another way, it is perfectly normal for each bike to have a different angle that it can lean over before scraping. In case you were wondering, there are no government regulations that say a motorcycle must be able to corner at a certain speed. So there is your answer. Every bike has a different limit. You are probably riding with someone who has a faster bike. Get used to it.

But given that you are slower than a Harley, this could be a hazardous situation, so I am willing to give you a few pointers in case it is indeed your technique that sucks. You can actually learn how to minimize scraping in the corners. All the riders I see scraping floorboards are sitting upright on the bike, letting the bike do all the leaning, while they do none. The answer is to learn how to lean your body into the corner, which takes skill and practice. I will just cover a few of the main techniques. First you must learn countersteering and use it. Once you know how to countersteer, lean your upper body with the bike (or even further). While leaning your body, keep your head vertical using your neck muscles, because keeping a level head is how you maintain your balance and perspective. That's why it's called "Keeping a level head". If you need a little more clearance, you can hang half your butt off the seat on inside of the corner.

I mentioned countersteering, which is necessary for you to keep the bike leaned over to the correct angle. It is also very useful if the bike scrapes something hard on the ground and stands up, because countersteering will allow you to lean it back over immediately and maintain your line. Countersteering also allows you to apply the brakes while leaning over, which is another thing that can stand the bike up. Countersteering is a huge safety factor while cornering, in my opinion it is a basic necessity of life.

I forgot to mention about the passenger - they can throw off your balance, so I would leave them at home. And don't take this "hanging off" technique too far, or you may end up losing traction, because typical cruiser tires are not very sticky either.

There is another approach to take when trying to keep up to another bike. You will find that by taking it easy in the corners, and not touching down, and keeping a smooth unhurried line, through the corner, you will actually be going faster overall and scraping less. But every time you rush, and overdo it, you lose momentum, make corrections and fall further behind.

Something I have not really talked about yet is braking and accelerating, because I rarely do that while riding on twisty roads. But if I was trying to keep up with a really fast rider, who is faster through the curves than me, I would brake harder and later for the curves. And I would shift down and hit the gas full on as soon as I am straightened out after the curve. But because this is not a race, I could ask the other rider to try to keep a steady speed, to not speed up between the curves. That gives each of us a chance to take the curves at our own speed, and I will be able to close the gap on the straights. And of course, if he does not want to keep a steady pace to let you catch up, then you need a new riding buddy, or a new bike.

Picture: First of three pictures off the page mentioned in this blog. What do I see here? Wearing a t-shirt, jeans, fingerless gloves, beanie helmet is not going to provide much protection in a fall, and would not be allowed on a race track. One hand off the handlebar while leaned quite far into the curve. From this angle, it is also possible to see the rider is not leaning to the right with the bike, and is sitting more or less up straight. The other two pictures I linked to, show the same rider possibly in the same curve, scraping the underside of the bike, sliding and falling off.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fear of Lack of Height

Does my Kawasaki give me Vulcanophobia? I think so, but not because I may get into an accident, or because it may break down, but because when I look at the Vulcan, I'm afraid of how much my ideas of motorcycling are changing.

In December, I went to the Motorcycle show and sat on the BMW K1600GT six cylinder sport touring bike. Because this bike is a perfect blend of my two most recent long distance motorcycles, I should have caught a severe case of bike fever. But I didn't feel much of anything. Right now, I should be busy figuring out how I can liquidate my retirement savings plan. But no. Instead I'm wondering about how to attach a pillow to my Vulcan.

I always liked the Vulcan's fairly traditional lines, but not too long ago I would have scorned it for its low-seat and foot-forward riding position. Now I can hardly imagine going back to a sport touring bike. Even for an earth shattering knock-em-dead bike that blows everyone and everything away. I'm afraid that in my old age I have decided to settle for a bike that is not all that it could be.

I may indeed be ready to settle, judging from where my trips took me last year. Instead of one trip to the Baja Peninsula of Mexico, I made about 30 trips to Port Dover Ontario. How scary is that? The answer is yes, it is very scary, to me anyway. I used to do trips to Port Dover just to test out the equipment, to make sure the bike would hold together before heading out on a real trip. Now I go round the block to make sure I'm ready for a trip to Port Dover. Sometimes I am really tired even after a trip to Port Dover. It's only like 200 km there and back. And I sit around Tim Horton's or the Apple Fritter place for at least an hour at Port Dover, consuming donuts and other unhealthy things.

When I had a Honda CBX, or my BMW K1100LT, my main goal was to get out on the road. For sure to get out of Ontario, and hopefully as far as I could go until I hit some major obstacle like an ocean. Although I used to stop sometimes to eat, I rushed my food so I could get back on the bike.

With the Vulcan 900, in the three years I have owned this bike, I never made it to the Pacific. I never even made it further west than my Mother's house on the 401. At Port Dover, I pretend Lake Erie is the Pacific ocean.

To me one of the most significant changes between my previous bikes and this Vulcan is the 5" lower seat height.

BMW K1100LT seat height 31.9 in. 810 mm.
Vulcan seat height 26.8 681 mm.

This is the lowest seat of any motorcycle I have owned. Five inches is an awfully long way to drop the seat.

Usually the main reason to have a low seat height is to be able to actually touch the ground with your feet when stopped. Now I can almost touch the ground with my knees. One disadvantage was not being able to see as easily over other cars. However with the number of SUV's on the road now, even the higher seat does not help too much.

Another disadvantage of a low seat is that your feet must be raised more for riding. I find that uncomfortable. Cruisers solve this problem by placing your feet further forward to avoid cramping the knees. They also lower the footrest for a little extra space. But low footrests inhibit high speed cornering at steep leaning angles. Funny how one seemingly little thing like a lower seat seem to have endless repercussions.

But there is some good to sitting low and slow. By sitting 5 inches lower, you can more easily duck behind a protective windshield. Or, with the windshield being lower, you can have less wind resistance. The lower seat height makes it easier to compromise between windshield protection and power robbing wind resistance.

Also, the lower sitting position with the feet out front works well with an aftermarket rider backrest for longer distances if back ache is a problem.

I am starting to get used to the lower seat height. It makes me look fat however, because with my legs higher, I push up the bottom of my coat into a bulge that looks like a beer gut. Oh, wait no that is actually a beer gut.

Picture of a woman riding a Vulcan 900 classic, probably on the Pacific Ocean. Definitely not me.

"Turn the Other Cheek" Also Means Nations

I have had a second conversation with Jesus, this time he explained what he meant by "Turn the other cheek".

J: Hey, it's me again.

Me: I thought we agreed to not talk until after the Stanley Cup, and then only if the Canucks won, proving that you were actually God.

J: I know. But they just had a 19 game winning streak, and are on top of the standings, so I thought you might be willing to take a short message for me.

Me: That is a pretty impressive start for the Canucks. So why not? Fire away.

J: I wanted to leave a message for the world to re-explain what "Turn the other cheek" means. A lot of people get that wrong.

Me: You know what would be easier, God? Why not just return, like you said you would. You can explain it to humans yourself instead of going through this blog.

J: That's a fair question. Long story short. There are about a thousand other planets with intelligence similar to yours that seem to only understand when other intelligent beings are sacrificed. It takes on the average about 30 Earth years to sacrifice myself for each planet. I have to do one at a time. I expect to be back to Earth in about 30,000 years. I'm giving you this message now because it only takes a few minutes, and who knows, it may catch on.

Me: Wow! I would love to know more about the other forms of intelligent life out there.

J: I'm sure you would, and I'm sure they would like to know about you too. Now lets get back to the subject. I read your highly sarcastic blog about why turning the other cheek does not work. I want to explain my point of view again, and give you time for a little Q&A, then I have to be off to another planet to sacrifice myself.

The whole point of "Turning the other cheek" is that people must live in peace. My story is of course a bit exaggerated, in order to make the point in a dramatic way. In other words, it is not literally true. I obviously did not mean that to be a lesson in what to do only if you were hit on the cheek. By extension it covers head butting, punching in the mouth, eye-gouging, kicking shins etc. Furthermore, it applies to group acts of violence, such as gang rumbles, civil war, attempted genocide, world wars, etc. Being struck on the cheek was a simple allegory for all violence where retaliation may be considered as an option.

Turn the other cheek is easier to understand as "do not return violence with violence". All that does is to perpetrate more violence in an increasing cycle.

I have heard all the objections to "Turn the other cheek". A lot of people do not get it. In fact, out of a thousand planets with intelligence roughly the same as yours, only about half "get it". Unfortunately that does not include Earth. On Earth, even among Christians, I hear objections like "This does not apply to nations, only to individuals." That argument actually hypocritical, when it comes from people who do not practice "Turn the other cheek" in their personal lives either. If you can really understand on a personal level, you will understand on a group level and on a national level too.

Don't strike first. Don't strike at all unless there is no other way. And if you are going to strike you must not do it based on hate, lies, and false information. You must never gain materially from violence. If you must strike and injure another human, you may not profit in any way from that action. This principle applies to individual people as well as nations.

You must never strike another person who cannot fight back. Never torture prisoners, for example. Do not use violence to "teach someone a lesson". Any questions yet?

Me: So what would you think about Israel vs. Palestine.

J: That is a great question. It brings out all the issues. First issue is that some Palestinians are hitting back with rocket fire against Israel. My advice to Palestinians would be to forget it, a perfect example of violence accomplishing nothing but to create more violence. Second advice, this time for Israel. They have a perfect opportunity to turn the other cheek. The Palestinian rocket fire has not really done much harm, so in this case turning the other cheek basically means let it go if you can, and especially do not punish all Palestinians for the actions of a few. And finally, under no circumstances must Israelis use their military superiority to steal land and water from the Palestinians. Unfortunately neither side ever formally accepted my teachings, did they? But still, a lot of so-called Christians support the Israelis morally, (by twisting my own words!) and with money and by giving them weapons. Without misguided Christian support this violence would not have continued so long. And of course the big issue, "God told us this land is ours". Well, no I didn't. I want all countries to follow international law, but I'm going to leave that complicated issue for another time.

Me: I don't have any other questions about that, but I have plenty about the other planets with intelligent life.

J: OK Just one more question. Then I really have to get going, a mob is already getting impatient to crucify me on planet number 759.

Me: Only one? OK Does all intelligent life look about the same, or are we all really different?

J: Humans are about average actually. Two hands and two feet are pretty normal. So are two eyes, a head. So the crosses look about the same on most planets, but there are some very strange variants among Octopus people. Well, thanks for your time, see you after the Canucks win thus proving for sure I am the Lord God creator of Earth and all the Universe.

Me: See you next time. Amen?

Picture: Martin Luther King from this blog post "Turning Cheeks and Tables"

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Case Study on How a Left Wing Brain Works

I have been told that among the common psychological characteristics evident in conservatives are:
  • Fear and aggression
  • Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity
  • Uncertainty avoidance
  • Need for cognitive closure
  • Terror management

The Case Study

This email can serve as an example of the difference between the mental operations of a left wing type brain, and a right wing type brain. This email was posted on a conservative website:

This woman is 51.

Gillian McKeith is a TV “health guru” advocating a holistic approach to nutrition and health, promoting exercise, a pescetarian diet high in organic fruits and vegetables. She recommends detox diets colonic irrigation and supplements, also making statements that yeast is harmful, that the colour of food is nutritionally significant, and about the utility of lingual and faecal examination.

This woman is 50.

Nigella Lawson is a TV cook, who eats nothing but meat, butter and desserts. So forget “join a gym and eat more celery”...remember "everything in moderation."

How does a right wing brain process this email?  1. Very quickly get past the critical thinking part. 2. Arrive at conclusion:  this proves that eating meat and doing everything the big corporations say to do will make you healthy and beautiful. 3. Hit "Forward to all contacts" key, giving cognitive closure.

How does a left wing brain process this email? 1. Think who is sending these ridiculous emails now? 2. Think how easily some people are duped by anything they read. 3. Ask some questions such as, was Nigella's picture taken when she was 50? After all the caption says "This woman is 50.", not "This woman is 50 now, but in this (possibly photoshopped) picture she was 41. Second question: Why is Nigella holding a bowl of cherries if she only eats "meat, butter and desserts"? A bowl of cherries is fruit, isn't it? Maybe you consider a bowl of raw fruit a dessert, but I don't. To me dessert is cake, pie, or ice cream. Raw, unprocessed fruit is health food. If you think raw fruit is a dessert, you probably have a healthier diet than me.

4. Left wing brain looks up this miracle woman on Google, because a left wing brain is inclined to be skeptical that a fit, youthful, 50 year old woman would not exercise.

5. Left wing brain spends a little time looking at some other web pages such as this one. Puffy Eyed Nigella

6. While looking at the above website, the left wing brain notes that Nigella looks a bit worse for wear, and 7. Nigella admits to going to a gym, which sort of contradicts the email, but not really if you read it right. It never said Nigella does not go to the gym, it merely told you to forget about going to a gym.

8. Left wing brain hits "delete" key.

So to summarize the difference in brains. Right wing brain handles the job quickly, efficiently, takes action and moves on to other important stuff. Left wing brain dilly dallies, faffs about, and in the end does nothing. Second conclusion, 99% of forwarded emails are probably going to come from right wing brain type people.

By the way, what does the other woman, Gillian McKeith, look like in a flattering photo?

Are Liberals Being Targeted?

Are Assassins More Likely To Target Liberals?
It's complicated.
By Brian Palmer
Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011, at 4:57 AM ET

I have a different interpretation of the facts discovered by Brian Palmer. Brian's basic interpretation is that it is complicated, and assassins and wackos come from all over the place. Now, I don't disagree with him on that. But I also look at it a different way.

In my opinion, it does not really matter what the assassin believed. You may be simply wasting your time trying to figure it out in the case of a disturbed, unhinged psycho. One example would be Lee Harvey Oswald, where many have speculated on how his Marxist views could have led him to kill John F. Kennedy. Karl Marx didn't even know who John F. Kennedy was. I think someone else had to help point the way to Oswald, to interpret history and current events for him. Anyway that's only my opinion, as Oswald died long ago.

I think that the politics of the victims is more important than the politics of the killers. The reason you don't really care about the killers is that more and more often they are deranged individuals with no clear connection to any side. If you try to figure it out, you will become confused, and that obscures the most important pattern of who is being killed. There will be a pattern in who is being killed if there is a general culture of violence by one side and not the other. For example, if there really is some secret force promoting the killing of liberals, recruiting deranged killers without any real connection would help disguise their motives, but they obviously will not kill their own people just to throw you off the trail. The killers may be slightly unhinged lunatics from any political stripe who are merely duped by smarter, more goal oriented, possibly more normal people.

Recently there has been a clear pattern the assassination attempts, and it is known to be mostly against liberals.

July 2008, Jim Adkisson went into a liberal church and randomly killed two people, because he said he hated liberals:

August 2008, Timothy Dale Johnson walks into DNC headquarters in Arkansas and kills Arkansas Democratic Party chairman Bill Gwatney dead.

"Know this if nothing else: This was a hate crime. I hate the damn left-wing liberals. There is a vast left-wing conspiracy in this country & these liberals are working together to attack every decent & honorable institution in the nation, trying to turn this country into a communist state. Shame on them…."

April 2009: Richard Poplawski Killed three Pittsburgh police officers and injured two others. Although the police officers political leanings were not important, it was obviously about the liberal government directing the police to "take his guns away".

May, 2009 Dr. George Tiller, the abortion doctor was shot after being called a baby killer on Fox News.

Feb 18th, 2010 Joe Stack flew his plane into the IRS building in Austin, killing one and injuring numerous others.

January 2011, A mass murder focused on Democratic member Gabrielle Giffords, but involving other bystanders.

Against that, the right wing have desperately researched a number of offensive acts by left wing wack jobs, however, none of them appeared to result in killing anyone. And they have attempted to paint some of the killers in the above incidents as left wing wack jobs, and some of the victims as Republicans. The overall pattern though, is of a preponderance of liberals being killed.

By itself, this may be simply a coincidence. But combined with other evidence, such as a Sarah Palin rally where supporters were fired up enough with anger to begin yelling "Kill him" as she spoke about Obama. And there are plenty of examples of incitement to use firearms by prominent politicians on the right. Not to mention that the entire gun culture is owned by the right wing. That begins to add up to more than coincidence. It is the conservatives who are clearly feeding off anger, and may have crossed the line into terrorism.

But here is something I found very interesting in Brian Palmer's article. Following the Civil War, liberals were targeted for assassination by southern Confederate supporters. The Republican Party in those days was made up of liberals, and the most famous assassination was President Lincoln. But he was not the only one. According to Brian Palmer's article, apparently twenty-four politicians were murdered in the South, (not sure if this includes Lincoln) most of them Republicans. At the time Republicans were liberals who were trying to enforce liberal racial policies on the racist southern states.

The post-civil war era was not the only time when liberal politicians were murdered. Liberals were murdered during the Civil Rights era in the South. And if you call the Obama administration another liberal-killing period, that's three times. What do all of those three times have in common? White racism for one. The white racists being out of power. The people who support blacks are in power. The opposition to the liberal (and black-favouring) government is anchored in the southern USA in all three cases.

OK Maybe it's all just a coincidence, and really it's just random killings by unhinged wack jobs. Maybe leftists have just as many guns as right wing nut jobs, and maybe Liberal radio hosts are also calling for murder of Republican politicians, and maybe left wing TV news stations are encouraging their audience to "take out" people, and maybe Democrats hold assault weapon firing practices. But I don't think so. That all seems to be happening on the right.

Gabrielle Giffords, Democratic member of congress who was recently shot, won the election against Tea Party Candidate named Jesse Kelly, and you can see here he held a free public assault-rifle training session June 12, 2010 . (For you liberals who don't even know what an M16 is, it is classified as an assault rifle)

So, Brian, still think it's complicated? Yes, it may be complicated, but there is a bit of a pattern emerging and unless you are bending over backward to be politically correct, you should not have to totally ignore it, no matter how ugly the truth is. And of course, nobody wants to encourage revenge or retaliation. That's why liberals are asking the conservatives to at least "tone down the rhetoric", and why the conservatives should heed that advice.

Picture: Got it from this web page. In case you don't know, American Chickens are NOT the Conservatives. Guess who? It's not that complicated.