Thursday, April 28, 2011

Who Do You Vote For In Canada?

With the opposition to Stephen Harper split between four parties, this election may finally give him the majority he needs to carry out his most unpopular policies. His agenda has been delayed by years of Liberal rule followed by a frustrating Conservative minority rule.

Ignatieff, the leader of the Liberals, made a serious error early in the election stating that he would not join a coalition against Harper.

In a surprise turn of events, the Liberals have slipped to third place in the pre-election polls. The NDP, led by Jack Layton are running second.

Canada is a country where it is quite easy for one strongly united party to rule the country even when most of the people vote against it, as we do not have a "top-two" runoff system. Whoever scores highest in the first round ballot wins, as there is no other ballot. As a result, many Canadians waste their first vote on parties that are not even in the running, and are not given a second chance.

If you would like to Stop Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, there is a way to make sure your vote counts, even without reforming this voting system. Simply cast your only vote for one of the top two candidates instead of the candidate of your choice. This is known as "Strategic Voting".

How do you do that, when you don't really know who the top two candidates are? Well, you may be surprised to know that polling organizations have the advanced numbers on how people say they will vote, riding by riding, and the information is available on the internet. Click on the link below, enter your postal code, and you will see the latest poll numbers on your riding.

This is the website link:

Saturday, April 23, 2011

CKXT's New Format as SUN NEWS, is All Right Wing

There is no way this is not going to be a rant, as one of my TV channels, CKXT, has been reformatted as a Fox style 24 hour right wing news channel. (Quote from Wikipedia)

"The simulcast began at the same time Sun News itself launched, at 4:30pm ET on April 18, 2011.

That said, it is not presently clear if this simulcast will be maintained on a long-term basis. Unlike specialty channels, CKXT cannot presently avail of subscription fees. If the new news channel proves popular, with subscription revenue, Quebecor might have an incentive to move to a specialty service-only model. Conversely, if fee-for-carriage were implemented this could change; further, CKXT can solicit local advertising in Toronto, which national specialty channels generally cannot do."
I subscribe to Rogers basic cable in Kitchener, which includes about 36 channels including CPAC and French channels, a right wing Christian 24/7 channel, and a shopping channel. As a customer, I resent losing one more of the entertainment channels in favour of a biased right wing so-called news channel.

I called the Rogers toll free number and received sympathy, and the information that other people had been calling to ask about the change, and that the CKXT format changed on April 18, 2011 (while I was away from home).

I'm not going to criticize the CKXT content right now, except for one thing. This morning, I heard a news host (Possibly Theo Caldwell) comment that "liberals think we conservatives are so stupid we can't spell CBC." That comment itself is stupider than not being able to spell CBC.

My options right now are
  • call Rogers to see if I can get either a discount or another channel to replace CKXT
  • drop my cable and go for a satellite dish
  • drop my cable and use rabbit ears.
  • keep on paying the same price and remove channel 15 from my remote channel surfer.
At least CKXT is not getting subscription money from the Basic cable, but it's still annoying to keep paying the same for one less watchable channel.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Most Common Motorcycle-Car Accident

The most common motorcycle accidents do not involve other vehicles. But of the accidents involving another vehicle, the car turning left into an oncoming motorcycle is the most common.

Recently, Ted Laturnus, writer for the Globe and Mail was struck just in this manner. Ted is not a novice motorcyclist, and had written about this type of accident a few years before it happened to him.

If we want to reduce this type of accident what can we do about it? Many approaches have been suggested.

Stiffer penalties for car drivers. Motorcyclists wear bright colours, leave headlights lights on. Public awareness campaigns. Advising motorcyclists to drive as though nobody can see you. Some motorcyclists have the idea that loud exhaust pipes will overcome the "blindness" of car drivers.

In my opinion the key to ever solving a problem like this is to understand what causes it, and I'm not sure anyone has correctly identified the cause of this problem yet. I am not convinced it is simply carelessness, or selective blindness. What if this is not because the car driver did not see the motorcycle, but that it is because the car drivers' brain has not process the information coming from the eye fast enough. Think of it this way. The human brain can process "normal" visual inputs (I'm talking about seeing other cars as being "normal") very quickly, but abnormal inputs (Motorcycles) require a bit of extra thought - which delays the reaction time a half second or so. I have no scientific data on the amount of delay (if there is a delay), but it should be easy for scientists to rig up experiments to measure it. If there is a delay of even half a second, it can be the difference between life and death.

If this hypothesis proves correct, there may be ways to solve the problem. But in the meantime, here is what I think could help.

- Brighter colours on the motorcyclist will help the car driver spot them sooner, and hence give a little extra time for the brain to kick into gear. This has already been suggested.

- If the motorcyclist travels at a lower speed, this will also give a little extra mental processing time to the car driver. I am sure travelling over the speed limit makes it worse!

- Driving on the right side of the lane while passing an oncoming car may give a bit more time. (This tactic has been proven statistically, but I don't remember where I read about it.)

- When I'm worried about someone turning left in front of me, I weave the bike a little to make myself more obvious earlier.

- Sticking to divided limited access highways obviously is safer than travelling busy side streets, because it eliminates the possibility of this type of accident altogether. This is not really a "solution", but it acknowledges that we cannot solve the problem by threatening car drivers with stiff penalties.

I personally don't think the loud pipes count for anything, the car driver does not usually hear the exhaust, or pay any attention to it, or even knows where it comes from if it is heard.

Banning cell phone use would help, as this practice is making a bad situation worse, by slowing even further the reaction times.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Modern Russian Propaganda Includes Biker Gangs

I'm noticing Russian propaganda now features a biker gang (kind of a Russian Hell's Angels) called the "Night Wolves". The best I can figure is the club is about 21 years old and has about 5 thousand members. There are chapters as far away as Serbia, I don't know where else they are.

Although nobody gives a lot of thought to Russian propaganda any more, the Russians are still active propagandists. There is a Russian news network in English, that hammers away at the U.S. every chance it gets. I watched a couple of their videos from last year, and found them quite well done. They focus tearing down the very thing that America is most proud of, the rich lifestyle.

Here is a Night Wolves biker-related feature: Putin meets with Serbian members of the motorcycle gang "Night Wolves"

It seems to me that the Russian message, while it is polished and well focused, is not really making any impact. The Russians are yesterday's news. There is far more world wide interest in the conflict between Muslims and the US.

Picture: Putin on a Harley from this Russian Blog.

If you understand Russian, take a look at the Wikipedia entry for Night Wolves and tell me what its about.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

How We Would Have Been Better Off Without Slavery

This is the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, where slavery was officially abolished. This month is the 50th anniversary of Sierra Leone's independence.

But the effects of the slave trade across the Atlantic to America will continue to be felt long after this year, both in America and in Africa, and to some extent all over the world.

The Lost Motorcyclist has already seen a southern American on TV denying that the civil war was about slavery. Apparently, their argument goes, that very few Southerners actually owned slaves, therefore the war was not about slavery. So, what was it about? "Defending our country from invasion".

It saddens me to think that some people believe this, and worse yet that TV stations will run it on news programs.

Of course the civil war was about slavery, and it was not just the slave owners who were guilty. The vast majority of the white people in the south supported racist slavery. They had jobs supervising slaves, chasing after runaway slaves. And they voluntarily committed racial atrocities for no pay at all. For example, if any union soldiers surrendered, the black soldiers were killed, while the white soldiers were kept for later prisoner exchange. It could even be that some of the slave owners could have been kinder than many of the general southern population.

Slavery does not corrupt only the slave owners. It corrupts the people who benefit materially from slavery, it corrupts people who believe that slavery is just, it corrupts religion that uses the Bible to argue for slavery. And along with corrupt religion and unjust laws, the morals of an entire people become corrupt.

Even today, you can look at the morality and cultural values of the old slave states, and see that it is lower than the morality of places that did not rely too heavily on slavery. To see the lingering effects of slavery, one needs to look at the current culture of the southern USA, starting with their descent into primitive superstitious religion, in this case the religion is masquerading as born-again Christianity. Look at their distrust of science and education, their destructive attitude toward the environment, toward war, toward anyone but white people, toward guns. Look at their love of money and consumerism. Their hatred of other countries (including large parts of the rest of the USA). But they do love Israel, I suspect it is because Israel is the last modern officially racist state. Finally, their firm belief that they are the only real Americans and everyone else should get out.

Yes, I'm talking about the modern right wing fundamentalist, Republican voting conservatives. These warped ideas fuelled by Nazi style propaganda and lies do not spring naturally from a free civilized society. They are born of fear and terror. Fear of the terror they unleashed with the institution of slavery. Fear of what may become of them. Sadness at how they have ruined their country by importing slaves, but at the same time anger that they needed to have their asses kicked before they were forced to give up slavery forever.

But just the way slavery has corrupted American society, it has also had devastating effects on Africa. Although the Africans have been able to make up for the loss of population by birth rates, the African culture has also been perverted. We really do not know much about African history, or what actually went on there during the slave trade. We imagine that it was simply a matter of white people getting off a boat and chasing black people, and bringing them back to the boat in chains. It was not that simple.

The Europeans needed to first destroy African society in order to make the slave trade work on the large scale they needed. On the very simplest level, ancient Africa was made up of many tribes and social groupings. The Europeans devised a scheme of franchising certain tribes as their slave trade partners. The selected tribes were provided with guns. The tribes that were not selected were not allowed to have guns. That is all you need in your basic recipe for destroying a civilization, and destroying it for generations to come. It was so thoroughly destroyed, that even today, many Americans believe that there is something basically flawed about black people.

So we have a very sad situation for the USA, which might have been a better country without slavery and the civil war. More freedom, less violence, better relations with other countries, and better treatment of the native Americans. I'm not saying it would be perfect, just better than it turned out to be.

And the same could have been true for Africa without the slave trade. More democracy, more education, less corruption, more sustainable jobs. Again, I'm not saying it would be just like Europe (and I am also not saying our modern civilization is necessarily the best model), but much better than it has turned out, especially in places like Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, and Congo.

For a quick look at how slavery affected Africa:

Picture: Gallows built for war criminals after the US civil war. There were only two war criminals executed, must have been a very civil war compared to most. Anyway the alleged war crime was for the death by starvation of thousands of Union prisoners at Andersonville prison camp, which came about after the prisoner exchanges were halted, which came about because the south refused to treat black and white Union soldiers the same. Namely, the southern policy of killing the black prisoners of war, a war crime which came about because of slavery.

Is Driving in a Car Like Watching TV?

Robert Pirsig, in his book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", tried to explain why motorcycling was more exciting than driving in a car.

"You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it's right there, so blurred you can't focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness."

Now that I'm getting out to ride for the first few times this year, I'm starting to wonder if I might also be "in a compartment" while riding my motorcycle. While I don't have any doors between me and the outside, I do have a full face helmet to frame my view, and an armoured motorcycle jacket. I have never before had such a heavy, stiff outfit to wear. I have the face shield down, and the inner sun shield also down, and I am wearing earplugs, and the jacket with five armoured sections has the two front zippers done up, and a neck protector stuck on. It's starting to feel like I have traded away a lot of freedom just to eliminate the windshield and doors on the car that Pirsig says makes everything look like TV.

I have improved my motorcycle gear over the years. As my motorcycle gear gets better, and has more features, it also gets heavier and stiffer until I can hardly walk in it. Getting into the motorcycle gear is also quite a strenuous exercise, both mentally and physically. I have to make sure I don't pull a muscle in my back as I pull on my motorcycle boots, and I have to get dressed fairly quickly or I will get overheated before I can get out of the driveway. If I forget one thing (earplugs) I have to back up and try again. Even if I forget that my keys are in my jeans pockets, I have a lot of undressing and redressing to do to get at them.

I cannot help comparing this to how "The Lost Motorcyclist" (me) started out, as I have an identical motorcycle to my first one in the garage right next to the 650 lb. Vulcan 900. Now let me try to remember, what did I do before getting on my Honda 175 for a "short" ride forty years ago? Nope I can't think of anything for a short ride. For a medium ride I would put on sunglasses. For long ride I would wear a helmet, long pants and shoes. You don't need to tell me how stupid that was, I know by now that I was lucky to live through it. I once got hit with a big, hard, bug in the eye. I was almost bitten on the ankle by poisonous snake, and I was actually bitten by a dog that could have had rabies (but didn't). I skidded and fell once wearing shorts and flip-flops. I got hit by many rocks, soaked with rain and also mud, covered with dust, sunburned, and left with a ringing in my ears. Which I hardly noticed compared to my fingers numb from vibration and rear end pounded by over a hundred miles of crappy roads.

But all that discomfort is far behind me now as I waddle out to the bike wearing 70 lbs. of armoured gear, and ride around almost as comfortable as if I was in my car. I can look down as the road whizzes by just below my floorboards and my heavy boots, although it is a bit difficult to bend my neck far enough to see that. In fact it's a bit of a chore even to look down and see the speedometer, because of the helmet chin bar and the stiff jacket collar.

So last night, I was out for a ride in the car, and thinking how nice it was to be dressed in ordinary comfortable clothing, and to be able to turn up the heater and listen to Pearl Jam playing "Last Kiss" on the radio (until I remembered it was all about a fatal car crash.)

When I reached my destination, I thought I might just get out and go for a little walk to enjoy the sights. I got out of the car, locked the door, took two steps and turned around and got back in. I almost forgot! It's cold out there, and I forgot to bring my winter jacket and toque. One thing you never forget on a motorcycle is how cold or hot it is outside, because no matter how you dress for it, while you are riding, you are still outdoors.

Picture: Robert Pirsig and his son Chris posing on his bike. I suppose they wore helmets on their trip, although I don't see any in the picture, but they do look comfortably dressed for walking around the picnic area.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Canadian Election, Leaders' Debate

Canada is having a federal election, and last night "The Lost Motorcyclist" watched the leaders debate. Not because I really wanted to, but because it bumped my favourite TV show.

Canada currently has five federal political parties. I do not use the word "national" parties because one party, "The Bloc Quebecois" is intent on breaking up Canada, so it is a Federal party but not a National one.

Another party "The Green Party" has no members in parliament, never has had a member in parliament. Their leader was excluded from the debate for this reason. But there is no rule about this in Canadian politics, it is a decision traditionally made by TV executives depending on what they think will make the most interesting TV show.

We had the debate in English last night, and soon we will have the same debate (sort of) in French. Last night, only Gilles Duceppe, the Bloc leader, had any trouble with English. It's not because of his French accent, either. He has no trace of a French accent when he speaks English. He seems to have made up an accent of his own. Let me give you an example. The word "Panama" came up in the debate (no idea why and it better not be because we are bombing them). In French it is pronounced "panna - MAW". In English is it pronounced "PAN - uh-muh). Gilles pronounces it "pa - NAME - aw".

Let's try another one, "Ghetto". Even easier, it is the same word in French and English, and pronounced just about the same way "ge -to". You can verify that yourself by listening to it in French on this web page (click the triangle button). Gilles pronounces it "GETE- to".

The only conclusion I can come to is that Gilles Duceppe's English Language coach is a Conservative party supporter.

Now for the substance of the debate. The most effective technique used was contradiction. Your opponent says something and you say "That's not true, the very opposite is true."

For example: Layton (NDP leader) says to Harper (Conservative, and incumbent Prime Minister) "You are bad because you cut funding to xxxxx program.". Harper responds "That is not true, we have tripled funding to xxxxx program." Layton: "Why did you cut the funding?" etc.

My time was not totally wasted watching the debate, there were a few good barbs. Jack Layton: (paraphrased) "Why build more prisons? Criminals seem happy enough in the Senate". Reference to Harper appointing senators with a criminal past.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Heavily Loaded Scooter Saves Money on Gas

By The Lost Motorcyclist April 2011

On Sunday, we had the first high temperature of the year, 22c. On the same day we had the highest gas prices of the last two years at $1.28 per litre.

We were going to visit my mother that day, and with the weather and the gas prices, Mary Ann had the idea of taking her Suzuki Burgman. It would also be her first time driving the scooter in 2011, and at those gas prices, the Burgman could save us about seven dollars on the 300 km. round trip compared to the Toyota Matrix.

At 9:30 A.M., there was rain falling a few kilometers to the north of us, and it was only 8c. Also, we wanted to arrive back home at 9:30 P.M. which is after dark, and I usually avoid riding in the dark in April because of the freezing. But the detailed (hour by hour) weather report said it would still be above 15c at 9:30 P.M.

As I was packing our rain gear under the Burgman's seat, I could see raindrops hitting the driveway bricks. I told Mary Ann that we should get going, and according to the radar weather, we should try to drive south as far as we could to get out of the path of the rain. We didn't actually make it out of the city before it started raining enough to get our face shields wet. The road was still dry, but behind us the sky was dark, and we saw at least one lightning strike. It didn't help when Mary Ann made the wrong turn on one of our poorly marked roundabouts and we headed back north into the city. But then we got that sorted out, and soon after the skies brightened, and the rain stopped. We just made it out of Kitchener before a storm struck and covered the ground in hail. (we found out later).

We stopped for our first fill up of gas that was only $1.24 per litre at a truck stop near the 401 at Woodstock. Once we were on the 401, the Burgman matched the speed of the big trucks, and we made it all the way to Dutton by noon.

The afternoon in Dutton was sunny, and it did get up to 22c, so it was actually almost too hot. We started the return trip just before 8 P.M. It felt a bit strange, putting all that warm heavy motorcycle clothing on, with the temperature still at 22c. Mary Ann headed right back down the 401 to the same Woodstock gas station and we filled up a second time with the "bargain" gas. Then we decided to take some back roads in the dark, and arrived home at about 9:30.

That was about the most comfortable I have ever felt as a passenger on the scooter. With my bladder stone removed, now I don't feel any pain on the bumps. Every year Mary Ann is better at balancing the scooter, and I am also learning how I can minimize the effect of my weight when we come to a stop.

I still worry about the small rear tire, so every time we go on the freeway together, I make sure the rear pressure is 40 psi. Actually I suppose I should also check even with a big tire like the Vulcan's, but it never seems to need any adjustment.

The three pictures are: Mary Ann and the Burgman (in Dutton), the first fill up (Woodstock, daytime), and the last fill up (exact same place on the way back, night time) She is filling up the bike while sitting on it, because the filler cap is right between her feet.

I found a video by a guy who drove his Burgman 400 from Texas to Seattle and back, and I'm posting a link here. Mar 14, 2010 — 5,938.5 mile trip to west coast from Texas in Sept 2009. 95.64 gallons (US) = 62 mpg (US). The video is mostly a slide show of still pictures, but well done.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Port Dover Chronicles 1.2011

Today was my first motorcycle trip to Port Dover of the year 2011. It was a sunny day, at about 13c was almost too warm for my usual gear, so I removed the throat protector collar from my jacket.

There was one major difference from 2010 "en route", a new Tim Horton's is open, Rest Acres road on the south edge of Paris. We started the trip at the Rest Acres Tim Horton's. I ordered my lunch as usual, but there were no trays to put it on. I was just going to ask for one, when the woman behind me asked for one first. The cashier pulled out a tray and put it on the counter for her. Then I asked for one, and she had to walk to the other side of the store to find another one. Most Tim Horton's have a place to stack trays right at the front of the counter. I just can't figure out, with over 3000 Tim Hortons built by now that they still can't seem to get each new one right. It's not like they are built by people who have never seen a Tim Hortons before! Ooops looks like I'm ranting. That often happens when my blood donut levels get too low, like right now.

I was so distracted by the tray incident that when I left Tim Hortons, I forgot to roll up the rim of my decaf to see if I won a new Toyota Venza.

While Barry was leading we got lost on the way to Port Dover. With the number of times I have driven to Port Dover (over 30 times last year), I thought that would be impossible. Even though my blog name is "The Lost Motorcyclist", I don't really get lost that much. But we ended up on a road I had never seen before heading south, between the old highway 24 and Cockshutt Road. It was paved and narrow, and actually had two curves and a bridge on it. So getting lost was actually the best part of the trip, as we had no urgent deadline for getting to Port Dover.

Then Barry had to stop for gas, and complained about the price. I told he shouldn't have to worry because his 150cc Kymco Scooter only takes about 2 liters per thousand kilometers. But Barry insisted the thing needs ultra high test gas, which was $1.41 per liter in Waterford, compared to about $1.27 for regular, which is the type my Vulcan 900 takes. So I guess for Barry that works out to about an extra 15 cents a year. Meanwhile the Venza I just lost was probably worth about $30,000, but do you hear me complaining?

The parking lot at Tim Hortons in Port Dover, and at the abandoned restaurant next door were both full of bikes. Mostly Harleys, but we did talk to one guy on a Suzuki GSXR750, who had a "Suzuki Sucks" sticker on the front fender. I asked him to explain this curious sticker, and he said he was supporting a friend of his who bought a Suzuki Hayabusa that was a lemon and the dealer didn't refund his purchase price. So the friend made up a batch of these stickers and passed them out to anyone who would put it on their bike for him. I guess that'll teach the Suzuki dealer to mess around with a guy that owns a custom sticker business.

Picture: At Tim Hortons' on Rest Acres Road. The colours are a bit off because I think the bright green on my newly cleaned jacket must have maxed out the colour balancing meter in the camera. I'll have to start taking pictures in the shade.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Cycle Canada: Getting Past the Porn

I just received my Cycle Canada for May 2011 today, handed to me by a very suspicious Mary Ann. The cover boldly proclaimed "The Italian Bike Porn Issue". She had already gone through it and was unable to find the porn, I tried to explain to her that the meaning of the word porn has now been expanded to include non-sexual stuff which you would like to sound more exciting. Mary Ann, a farm girl, is unaccustomed to city slicker ways of twisting words, and remains doubtful.

I like reading motorcycle magazines, and I have been reading Cycle Canada for forty years. In fact this year, it is publishing it's fortieth anniversary editions. Under the new editorship of Neil Graham, Cycle Canada seems to once again have regained its top form.

In this issue, I found many interesting bits of reading, which I won't bother getting into. But one letter to the editor got me thinking. I have often complained of the bad drivers in Canada, especially southern Ontario, where I have lived for the last 30 years. This letter was from Asif Ikram, who recently moved to Oakville Ontario, from the UK, and is commenting on incompetent drivers and unsafe cars on the road, and wraps it up with "I'm sure a trained chimp could get a licence here."

To that I would say, the worst I have ever seen here was a dog driving a minivan. No I don't know what kind of dog, I only had a brief look as he (or she, I don't want to be sexist) went by at about 100 kph. But I'm betting the dog has neither a licence nor insurance. Which brings up another point, that Asif may not be aware of. I think I read somewhere that the police estimate 30,000 drivers in Toronto do not have a driving licence. It happens all the time here, friends of mine tell me they know people who do this. So the issue is not about giving driving licences to trained chimps, it is getting the unlicenced trained chimps off the road. And because these chimps look so much like humans, it's hard to do. Besides, what's the difference if people are driving and reading magazines or texting on the cell phones anyway? I would prefer the chimp, if the training included not reading or texting while driving.

Of course accidents will happen in Canada, but they also happen in the UK, in fact everywhere. It seems to me that every time you go to a new place you have to get used to subtle differences in driving style. At first these differences may seem like incompetence, but gradually you realize it is a different culture. Even between Quebec and Ontario you find differences in driving style. In Quebec it's more aggressive and faster. In Ontario it's more about multi-tasking while driving and hogging the fast lane. You just have to get used to these differences as you drive from one place to another.

I have not spent a huge amount of time in England, a total of probably less than six months over the last 50 years. But during those six months I was involved in two accidents and one near miss where an oncoming driver forced me to go onto a lawn to avoid being hit head on. (very freaky for a guy who is not used to driving on the left, but I was on the correct side of the road for England.) In the two actual accidents, I was a passenger in a friend's car, and a passenger in a bus. I have only been involved in one accident in Canada. Someone making an illegal u-turn wrecked my car, and another unreported incident was slight touch on my back bumper at a stop sign . So just by my personal experience, you would not be able to prove Canada had worse drivers. But for sure, in the UK on a freeway, I never saw drivers hogging the fast lane like they do in Ontario.

The second point was about rusty cars and cars that should not be on the road because of mechanical issues. Remember, we have salt here, we are more used to rust than Brits are. Asif also commented that in the UK, they have safety inspections "so rigorous that three year old cars routinely fail", well I for one would vote against that kind of inspection in Canada. Who in their right mind (other than a safety inspector with a nice steady paycheck) would want that? Or, maybe a more interesting question, what kind of cars do they sell in the UK?

Finally, yes, there is one place where the competence of British drivers is clearly demonstrated. Recently we had the "Toyota Scare", where Toyotas were accelerating into fatal accidents, and the drivers claimed it was the car's fault**. Now that the investigation has been completed, it seems conclusive that it was all driver error. But this happened only on our side of the pond, although Toyotas were also sold in the UK. Maybe Asif does have a point about our incompetence.
** It may sound contradictory that a driver in a fatal accident says it is the car's fault, but in the most famous case, the driver phoned 911 to complain about the car's acceleration seconds before the fatal crash.
Picture: Marc Yskamp lets Cheeta the Chimp check out his classic Ford Mustang.

"None So Blind as Will Not See" Does Not Apply to Everyone Equally

There is an old adage "There are none so blind as will not see". Recently this quote was used in a response to one of my blogs, citing Jonathan Swift as the source. The saying refers to a person who refuses to see the truth, who is "blinded" by something. The "blinding" could be as a result of many things, for example: education, parental values, patriotism, habit, stubbornness, fear, or hate.

Another commenter responded that even if this adage applies to a given controversy, it is impossible to know which side is the one that "will not see". I wanted to investigate whether there is indeed a pure symmetry in the statement of who "will not see", or if there are some characteristics that would lean the "will not see" to one side or the other.

Swift's quote was used as cliche in polite society. The idea appeared in the Bible, too, where you were told to remove the plank from your own eye before you tried to remove a splinter from another person's eye.

When I looked up the quote by Jonathan Swift, I found it in "Polite Conversation". Jonathan Swift in his typical ironic style, explains in the introduction that he is writing a book that captures all the witty repartee (and apparently cliches too) of "Polite Society".

Dialogue III 174


Lady Answ. They say, she's quite a
Stranger to all his Gallantries.

Lady Smart. Not at all ; but, you
know, there's none so blind as they that
won't see.

Miss. O Madam, I am told, she
watches him, as a Cat would watch a


An upper class lady "would not see" that her husband was fooling around, even though everybody else knew about it. I guess we could generalize that as anyone in a very comfortable lifestyle, who will tend to ignore warning signs of serious problems they don't know how to deal with.

How can we apply this quote to the global warming debate? We are fond of our lavish lifestyles, with cars, SUV's, big houses, plentiful cheap energy all around. We would prefer to not think about what damage our lavish lifestyle is doing to the environment. We would prefer to not think that our need for resources causes wars even as it creates pollution and waste. So we turn a blind eye to the bad side, and continue consuming more and more, ignoring anyone who tries to warn us, or tell us anything that might burst our bubble.

So if we look at the environmental controversy, it is not actually symmetrical. Both sides would prefer in their hearts to believe the same thing, that pollution, global warming, overpopulation etc. will never cause a problem. The one "uncomfortable" side of the controversy is to believe that something is going on that we must take difficult steps to prevent.

So in this controversy, I believe we can all agree that one side of the argument is the preferred side, the other side is the uncomfortable side. One side is the one we desperately want to believe, the other side, if we believe it, can make us unhappy, and may force us to do something about it.

Global warming deniers fall into two camps. One is to believe that there is no global warming, that this is all cooked up figures by rogue scientists to try and get grants, or to impose a socialist government. The other view is that yes, the earth is warming, but this is a natural process, and there is nothing we can do about it anyway.

With the two denial camps I have referred to, "There is no warming" vs. "Warming is natural", it is amazing to me that most people I know believe both arguments simultaneously, which strikes me as illogical. But I guess they're really saying "Hey nobody really knows anything for sure, so I can believe both at the same time"

Although there are warning signs, deniers would prefer to either ignore them, or blame everything bad on socialists or environmentalists, or just Al Gore. We would ignore warnings rather than than scale back our God given lifestyle to any degree. We would rather deplete our oil supply than begin developing renewable technologies that may prolong our civilization. Instead of exercising caution, we write articles about how caution is overrated.

Like the upper class lady with a cheating husband, even when we really do see disasters happening, we often "do not see them" and carry on as usual. Two recent examples, the 2008 economic crisis and the BP oil spill, the multi million dollar bonuses paid to bank executives who nearly wrecked the world's economy, and more recently multi million dollar bonuses paid to oil executives involved in the spill. Apparently there is no disaster big enough to force comfortable people into a reality check.

I believe that the expression "None so blind as will not see" is appropriate for global warming deniers. It does not prove that global warming exists of course, merely that the deniers are the ones who really should ask themselves if they are on the side of truth, or if they have succumbed to the common human failing of refusing to see anything which is a threat to their comfortable lifestyle.

Picture: Blind driver off the Internet. Motorcyclists always say the car drivers are blind and are out to get you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tigers and Pigs Living Together Does Not Disprove Darwin

This is a public service for creationists, who want to give up the story of Adam and Eve as literal truth, but have a lot of trouble understanding evolution, because of all the misconceptions they have been fed.

For Born Again Christians who would like to become more integrated in mainstream western society, here is an explanation of why tiger cubs in a zoo being fed by a mother pig does not disprove evolution.

One of the supporting stories of the Born Again Christian creation story is that before the fall of Adam and Eve, none of the animals ate each other. Every creature was in harmony.

"The Bible teaches that the original diet of both humans and animals was vegetarian (Genesis 1:29–30). Thus there was no death of humans or vertebrate animals, which the Hebrew Bible calls nephesh chayyāh (נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה). Plants and invertebrates are not described that way, so are not ‘living creatures’ in the same biblical sense. It was only the Fall of Adam that brought death and suffering into the world (Genesis 3:19, Romans 8:20–22) when God cursed the whole creation."

Darwin proposed his theory of evolution, which stated that animals had evolved their size, shape and most other characteristics, in order to better survive. In other words, every characteristic of an animal was in some way to help either get food, to avoid being food, or to reproduce efficiently. Most animals have very little that is not needed for survival. Almost everything is fine tuned for hunting or defence. This would tend to support the idea of evolution, rather than creation as a vegetarian creature.

However, there are cases in nature where animals help each other, or do not try to kill each other. And that has been taken as proof that before Adam and Eve wrecked everything, God actually intended for all these newly created animals to live together in vegetarian peace and harmony.

So let's take an example of a mother lion, not killing and eating all her young. If the theory of evolution says that the strong must eat the weak, then the lion mother, being strong, would normally eat the weaker lion cubs. But that's not really what the theory of evolution says.

Darwin did not say that the strong must kill the weak. He said that the species would evolve according to which animals' young survived best. By the way, survival of the strongest was not Darwin's idea either, it is a simple observation that did not take a giant intellect to figure out.

A second example, two wolves help each other to hunt and kill a caribou, instead of one wolf trying to kill and eat the other wolf. Again, any wolves that have a stronger instinct to kill and eat each other than to join forces against a Caribou, will not survive very long. The big wolf, eating the smaller wolf, gets a meal but then may starve to death. So both wolves die, probably before even having any young. But two wolves teaming up will be able to hunt Caribou more successfully for the rest of their lives. So therefore wolves with an instinct to hunt together will survive better, and so will their young.

Now that the basics are understood, it should not be too hard to figure out that inter species cooperation sometimes can happen too, based on exactly the same principles. There are so many different cases, I could not explain them all, but anyone should be able to, once their creationist misunderstandings of "Darwinism" are cleared up.


"From this biblical framework, Christians can present a logical answer to any scoffer’s challenge. Any specific case is likely to fall into these general categories of explanation:2

(a) Those things that are now used as DAS (defence-attack structures) may not have been designed for this purpose, and had a different function before the Fall. They reached their present function by degeneration, e.g. mutations.

(b) The design information for DAS was already present before the Fall, perhaps in latent or masked form. God foreknew the Fall, so it’s likely that He preprogrammed creatures for the information needed to survive in a fallen world."

From the previous quote I would simply ignore point (a), once you know that (b) is "God foreknew the fall", and so built in all these defence and survival systems. To me, the explanation of God planning ahead for the fall is opening another door to a convincing case that God was not really too serious about the Garden of Eden. Apparently His anger at Adam and Eve, and His "cursing all creation" was not much more than acting with mock anger about something he knew would happen and had actually planned for.

So that's one more problem cleared up for Christians tired of arguing against scientists, and looking to be more integrated in modern society.

Picture: A tiger not eating a pig. From here:

Old Guys on Motorcycles: "Go Grandrider"

This is a commercial called "Dream Rangers" on Youtube, I'm not sure what it's selling exactly, or why it's made by a bank, but it tells an inspirational tale of some old men dusting off their motorcycles and going for a group motorcycle tour.

There are a lot of reasons that I feel something from this video. When I first started riding I was 21 years old. Now I'm 62 and of I have been feeling the effects of aging, and several of those effects have made it more difficult or possibly even dangerous to go motorcycling. When I was young, it was all about the bike not breaking down. Now the bike is fine, it's all about me not breaking down. But I'm still almost 20 years younger than the average age of the group in this video.

One of my older friends had to give up riding a few years ago, and has since died. I know quite a few people who used to ride but do not any more. I would like to at least be able to ride as long as possible. I think as I get older, I would even be willing to change over to a motorcycle that is easier to handle, such as a scooter or even my CD175.

I was interested in knowing if this was really based on a true story. The "Dream Rangers" video, although obviously staged, is apparently based on these men who spent thirteen days traveling around Taiwan -1139 kilometers. There is a documentary about their trip, which looks believable.

An introduction to the documentary is here (called "Go Grandriders"):

Anyway it's nice to keep the dream alive.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Viral Video Gone Wrong: Eugenie Harvey

By The Lost Motorcyclist, April, 2011

I am trying to make sense of an awful video advertisement produced by an environmental group called 10:10, which was trying to get people to reduce their carbon footprint through video public service announcements (or ads). So here I have written my own opinion on the post mortem of that train wreck.

One of the trends in advertising today is viral videos. Instead of running your ads on TV, at huge cost, you can leverage them by putting them on Youtube, and hope they become "viral", meaning millions of people forward links to their friends. Ultimately, popular viral videos even make it onto the regular TV news programs. This gives them high impact and advertising for little cost. Unfortunately, in order to go "Viral", your ad must have a big enough impact on a viewer to make them want to tell their friends about it. So your ad needs to be extra edgy, with content shocking beyond what you can see on network TV. And there may even be slight temptation to not seek everyone's approval of the ad before posting it, for fear of losing that edge. But there is a possibility of a backfire, which can destroy your campaign, with no hope of ever pulling the viral video back out of circulation. Because a viral video, if it takes off, can be like an uncontrolled nuclear reaction.

This is a story of a young, inexperienced, environmental PR group, directed by Eugenie Harvey, trying to run an ad campaign with a shocking video advertisement. They obviously were looking for a certain Monty Pythonesque humour, and they did achieve that, but it was completely at odds with the goals of the campaign.

Ten-ten realized very quickly that the ad was a mistake. They lost some important sponsors over the release. Because they were an environmental group, they also damaged the credibility of other the people working for the environment. In the end,  Fox News caught up to the ad and broadcast it to America. The propaganda value from something like this is so valuable to the anti-environmentalists, that Fox News risked going over the bounds of good taste to make sure everyone saw it. And of course, Fox would need to mention that everyone in the environmental movement is really like this underneath their fake exterior disguise. (in case you didn't know, Fox News is anti-environmentalist)

The Fox news bit starts with the typical call to "Outrage!" and shows the clip, with appropriate conservative anti-global warming commentary. (there is a graphic violence warning)

Full original ad here. (contrary to Fox's statement, they probably did show the worst of it.)

Here is an article about 10-10, the group that launched the ad. It is a British environmental group I never heard of before this Fox News video, which appeared on October 10 last year.

This "humour" may pass as funny to the younger generation in Britain, I suppose. But, humour does not travel well. I have had discussions with some of my kids (even while adults) about "too much violence on TV" and they think I'm an old fuddy duddy.

Given the huge negative impact of ads like this, I am a little bit tempted to think it was a set-up by a covert anti-global warming operative. But the only suspicious background I could dig up was that Eugenie Harvey, the director of 10:10, had earlier worked for FoxTel (Owned by Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News Channel).

My own final verdict is it was probably a genuine attempt at making a pro-environment video go viral, but that backfired big time.

Picture: Randi Zuckerberg (of Facebook) and Eugenie Harvey (of 10:10), ironically discussing ways of leveraging small non-profit advertising impact back in June 2009. On this blog: