Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tinkering With the Riding Gear: Helmets

We often hear of tuning up a motorcycle, but rarely of tuning up the gear (i.e. clothing) for a motorcycle ride. Yesterday, "The Lost Motorcyclist" (me) decided to adjust his (my) gear. Recently I have bought a new helmet that needs a better attachment. And another problem, we are coming into some cold weather, when my face shield must be lifted frequently, but the pivot is sticky.

On my Vega half helmet, the D-rings keep jamming when I try to tighten the strap. I decided to forget about the D-rings and buy one of those add-on snap clips that make the helmet much easier to attach and undo the chin strap. So I went over to Zdeno and asked for the chin-snap thing, which the girls at the counter immediately recognized as a "quick release". So I got what they said, it was an "Echo Quick Release" for $12.00 plus tax. I've bought some of these before, but this looked like a new design - three pieces instead of the usual two (like Mary Ann's helmet). I tried to put it on my full face helmet outside in the parking lot. At the same time, I was trying to help another customer stuff his purchase into his saddlebags. When he saw me looking puzzled about my "quick release" he suggested I go back into the store and let the girls figure it out for me. I said "Not before I at least read the instructions." Later when I got home with my quick release working properly, I remembered I wanted to put it on my half helmet, but now I couldn't figure out how to get it off the first helmet. I checked the Internet. One guy had hacksawed his off when he realized it took longer to do and undo than regular D-rings. This didn't sound too good. Somebody else said that their wife used one, had an accident and the helmet came off. Even worse!

A web page by the Echo company explained (with pictures) how the get their quick release off a helmet. Their method worked fine. But now I was worried about all the consumer complaints I read about. I could tell right away that this helmet quick release was harder to snap on and off than all the other ones I have used. But that might be a good thing in case of an accident. However there was one other problem, and that was if you don't snap it properly, it can jam in an insecure position.

I tried snapping it off and on many times, and basically, the spring is a lot stiffer for the release clips than the other quick releases I have used. And yes, it is possible to get it crooked, but some practice could avoid that. Some people apparently do it up looking in a mirror, but really I don't think that is necessary. As a final test I asked Mary Ann to put it on and take it off. She looked at the quick release clip first then put the helmet on her head and snapped it correctly. Then she had a bit of trouble getting it off, she could not feel the release buttons at first, but only because they are different to hers. Then I tried the helmet myself with gloves on. It's quite hard to put on with gloves, but not impossible, and fairly easy to get off.

My final analysis: this quick release looks like it might be even safer in a crash than any previous quick releases I have used, despite the three piece design. Actually, the two steel pieces end up locked to each other, and the third plastic piece simply keeps the steel pieces aligned. It hooks up very positively, and will not release very easily by mistake. But the Echo is a bit harder to snap and unsnap than the others. Some people may not have the patience for this, I suppose.

I remembered the face shield was hard to lift on the full face helmet. In the summer this is not too much of a problem, but in the cold weather, I have to move the face shield up and down frequently - either to prevent fogging at a traffic light, or to keep my face warm at speed. It was getting so stiff, that when I lifted it up, it tried to move the entire helmet on my head. So I took off the shield and put some Vaseline (petroleum jelly) on the rubbing parts in the hinge. That seems to do the trick, it was very easy to open and close on my trip to Port Dover today - and it still holds its detent positions in between.

So it seems that with motorcycles themselves getting more and more maintenance free, I am going to have to get my jollies tinkering with the riding outfit instead. At least I can do that inside the house in the winter, where it's warm.

Picture: I took this on the other side of Port Dover harbor channel today.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Time to Reopen the Climategate Debate

Most Americans now believe that global warming is a hoax. Not only that, but many also believe that science itself is unreliable, and believe that most scientists in any field of research will fudge figures in order to obtain research grants. Most of this ill-will came about because of the controversy around global warming, and specifically the stolen emails from climate researchers that seemed to indicate they were using underhanded methods to "fake" global warming. (A.K.A.Climategate).

Making things worse, science itself seems to still be locked in mortal combat with the religious fundamentalists about the theory of evolution, and the fundamentalists are lending their financial resources and publicity to the fight against real science. (I use the term real science because the fundamentalists' latest tactic is to claim to be an alternate, "honest" type of science where the Earth is only 6,000 years old)

It is really sad to see popular opinion turn against science. I can understand my sister, who is a fundamentalist Christian, thinking that science is evil. I have a harder time accepting that a friend I made in Africa with CUSO believes the same thing. Even harder to believe that old college friends, from the science program at university, also believe that global warming is a hoax. These are just the people I know personally who believe the Climategate scandal. I assume the public opinion polls are right, and that many more people believe the same way.

But apparently last week there was a bit of a breakthrough. An independent voice took another look at global warming data, to see if the Climategate scandal was true. A report came out by Richard Muller, who is a scientist who in the past was skeptical about global warming. Richard Muller obtained funding (some from oil companies, apparently), assembled a team, and embarked on a project to find out if the data from Climategate did indeed indicate warming or not.

The above article indicates that his independent effort corroborates exactly what global warming scientists have been saying.

Does this mean the end of the controversy? Of course not. This report has been given almost zero air time, compared to the massive publicity that was given to the stolen emails. In fact it was given almost no air time even compared to the coverage of MacDonald's new McRib, according to Jon Stewart of the Daily Show (Oct 26, 2011). Also, Forbes Magazine ran an opinion piece by James Taylor "The Birth of a Straw Man" that basically said Richard Muller had not done any new research and that Global Warming was still a hoax.

The Forbes article, if you choose to read it, claims Richard Muller's research is a failure, because it does not turn up anything new, and because it does not answer the question of whether or not global warming is man-made. Well, of course not. It was intended to only look at climate data from weather stations - because that was issue of the Climategate controversy. It was a very comprehensive study to see if the data had indeed been fudged to get grants, as was claimed by the press. And it found the climate scientists not guilty. Too bad people like James Taylor are given so much space in influential magazines to air opinions that a fifth grader should be able to rebut.

Of course, Richard Muller's study is only a small part of the huge amount of research being done on Global Warming. True, it brings no new information to light, but it is an independent fact checking on the scientists who were accused of fudging their figures to obtain grants. They didn't. Now can we resume an intelligent conversation about Global Warming, or is it too late?

OK then, while we wait, how good is that new McRib burger?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Port Dover Chronicles: October 23, 2011

I am slipping further and further into the "biker" image. It is hard not to notice that 99% if motorcyclists who visit Port Dover wear black leather jackets. I, on the other hand have a few textile jackets and an old brown leather bomber jacket. I will give you an idea how old my brown leather jacket is. When shopping for it, I had trouble finding a jacket that was not a copy of the red leather jacket worn by Michael Jackson on the "Thriller" video. I had a few other leather jackets of various colours, one was even older, but some of them developed mildew from storage, and Mary Ann gave them the old heave ho.

Most of my friends also ride with black leather jackets, while I often wear my fluorescent lime green textile jacket. The jacket is so bright I'm afraid to wear it into restaurants. It also makes me look fat. I appear to weigh nearly 400 pounds while wearing my 2XXL green jacket on the Kawasaki Vulcan. But I read that black leather jackets make you look thinner - another reason they are popular. Also, check out these pictures of Marlon Brando (a) wearing a black leather jacket and (b) not wearing a black leather jacket.

The Lost Motorcyclist (me) found a nice jacket on the Internet for $375 but I was reluctant to order it because I like to look and feel first. Then I realized the same retailer has a store in London, Ontario, where I know that they have hundreds of jackets to try. I found the exact same jacket in the store, but I found out that they have higher prices when you actually go into the store, as compared to what you get when ordering over the Internet. So I might have been better off going back home empty handed and ordering the same coat from the same store over the Internet. However, they allowed me to buy the coat in the store for the same price as the Internet (plus shipping, even though I did not need shipping). In the end the jacket cost more than I first thought, but I really prefer to buy what I can try on first. And I didn't feel bad about trying on something at the store then ordering cheaper online, because it was the same company doing both the online and the store business.

Today I got to try out the jacket on a ride to Port Dover. First I met up with Barry and Bob at Tim Horton's. Bob was riding his Suzuki Intruder 1400, with a Mustang seat. I am very curious about aftermarket seats so he allowed my to try his bike for a ride to another Tim Hortons. I was amazed at how smooth the ride was compared to my Vulcan! On normal roads the rear suspension seemed to float on air. But then we went over a few rougher roads and I could feel the suspension bottoming out a little. Bob said his shocks are old and probably lost all their oil, and that's why they're so soft. The Mustang seat on the other hand didn't feel any softer than my stock Kawasaki seat. On the Vulcan, it takes about 45 minutes usually for "numb butt" to begin. Maybe the Mustang could stay comfy longer, but my test was not long enough to tell. In the end, I did enjoy riding a different bike for a while, but it only made me appreciate the Vulcan more when we swapped back.

The jacket also worked out very well. The temperature was only about 15c, and the jacket kept me warm. I really like the high collar on the jacket, which helps protect my neck, and the zipper that goes all the way to the top. But the collar is also so stiff that it digs into my chin and may stretch my neck out if I wear it too long. That is a problem I have with a lot of jackets when I try to fasten up the neck, and I always find a solution in the end. I also found out that my jacket weighs seven pounds, which seems really heavy, but maybe that's also a sign of good protection. It also has armour in the elbows and shoulders, but I left those at home.

I was the only one to carry on to Port Dover, where I was lucky to get the last apple fritters of the season from "Apples", the place in Port Dover that sells real deep fried apple fritters. But by the time I was finished, the temperature was starting to drop, and I needed to head home without any further delay. By six o'clock, I arrived home and the sun was disappearing behind some clouds. At this time of year, you should not waste daylight.

Pictures: One of the Lost Motorcyclist with black leather jacket, riding my bike in a parking lot. Next two pictures of Marlon Brando, with and without black leather jacket. These were not photoshopped!

Since When is Lying a Conservative Value?

For several years now I have wrestled with this interesting question. Who is telling the truth on TV and on the Internet? On one hand you have the Conservatives claiming to tell the truth. On the other you have the Liberals with exactly the same claim. In order to sort out the difference, I might have to fact-check every single statement made on TV or in the media. Even I, with my high speed Internet connection, and abundant free time, have been intimidated by this prospect. And as a result I have disengaged from some political debates that seem bogged down because of conflict source material. The fact is, most source material for political arguments does come from the media.

But now I think there is finally an issue that separates Conservative values from the Liberal values. This issue promises to put to rest the question about who is lying and who is telling the truth. It all comes down to one word: "Knowingly".

Last February, 2011, the CRTC applied to change a rule prohibiting the broadcasting of false and misleading information in Canada. According to their website the effective date of this rule change would be September 1, 2011. As of September 1, radio and TV stations are only prevented from "knowingly" broadcasting false and misleading information.

Is the addition of the word "knowingly" that big of a deal? Well, for one thing, a TV network would do well to fire any fact-checkers and researchers that they currently employ. The less they know, the less their legal liability. There is no CRTC regulation forcing broadcasters to hire fact checkers or researchers - I guess that was implied in the regulation preventing the broadcasting of false and misleading information. So my legal advice would be to fire the researchers and real reporters.

To illustrate the legal case, what is the difference between "Speed Limit of 100 kph" and "Speed Limit of 100 kph* (* knowingly)". When you are pulled over for speeding, the first question is "Did you know what speed you were going?" The answer, "No sir, I was not watching my speed" is not a good defence. Wouldn't it be fun if the law was only to punish people who admitted that they know what speed they were going? I would love to answer, "No sir, I don't have a clue! My speedometer is busted/covered with mud/my eyes don't focus that close/I was busy texting". The officer then is forced to reply "Oh, I am sorry, I didn't realize that you were unknowingly doing 235 kph back there. Sorry for the delay and have a nice day!"

Now who is pushing this small, but disturbing change to TV regulation? First I do not think it is the Liberals or the left wing. Fact one: This change is being made under a conservative government. Fact two, a new conservative TV station, Sun News, coincidentally began broadcasting right wing propaganda in the springtime of 2011. I am not aware of any left wing propaganda stations starting up lately. I realize that this is just circumstantial evidence, there is no publicly stated policy from the conservatives on lying. But the evidence is still very strong, and has the implication that the Conservatives are in favour of spreading untruths and misinformation.

From now on, what is the point of debating "Global Warming" based on media sources? What's the point of debating war, labour unrest, religion, free markets, or any of the other hundreds of political hot buttons? We will no longer be able to have a common point of reference in the media, a reference that we have counted on for years.

In a final note, I have not been able to find final confirmation on the Internet of this CRTC rule change. Last I heard, the left wing groups were still fighting it. All my sources are from January-February this year. But even if the "knowingly" modification is thwarted, it still is a clear indication of which side is more willing to spread false propaganda.

Picture: The Lost Motorcyclist photoshopped this speed limit sign to add the word "knowingly".

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fire Don Cherry, Ban Bare Knuckle Fighting

With Spain considering a ban on bullfighting, is it time for Canada and the USA to ban ice hockey? (Because the NHL covers both countries)

Don Cherry had an outburst against people who are against fighting in hockey. This got me thinking. There is a movement in Canada that seems to be starting, to investigate the damage caused by fighting in hockey. Don Cherry, the commentator on CBC hockey games is one of the most unabashed promoters of fighting in hockey and he was visibly upset with the attitudes of some of the ex-players who had said something about fighting. Don Cherry called them "pukes and turncoats", as apparently these guys had been fighters themselves during their NHL careers.

Here is the situation. Bare knuckled boxing is against the law in Canada and the USA. But there is a demand for this type of brutality. Professional ice hockey has somehow developed a symbiotic relationship with bare knuckled fighting. We actually have two sports parasitically living on each other. Bare knuckled fighting uses "National Hockey League" ice hockey to gain legitimacy, as the fights take place during hockey games. Hockey uses bare knuckled fighting to attract "fans", and to make more money.

No other professional sport does this. This is what I believe. In the National Hockey League version of ice hockey, a certain number of players are recruited by each team to do the fighting. The coaches send the fighters out when they are ready for a session of bare knuckled boxing, and the hockey game is temporarily suspended while the fight is going on. These are not spontaneous fights between hockey players. These are planned fights between athletes hired for their fighting abilities (most of the time - occasionally some other player will be attacked.)

They say that "fighting is part of the game". It is not. I have seen plenty of games with no fights (e.g Olympic hockey). It's time for NHL hockey to ban fighting, it is a very easy thing to do. Just don't hire fighters, and give stiff penalties for fighting. And of course, fire Don Cherry, that loudmouth ignorant embarrassment. (I Googled "fire don cherry" and got 28,000 hits.) Hire a commentator who knows hockey. Let's get back to the sport of hockey, which is not a bad game without the fight fans screaming for blood.

Picture: I got it off this website. There is a video also, which I did not look at, but I assume proves my point, that the fights are a separate sport from hockey, and should be as illegal as bare knuckled boxing.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Glenn Fox, Trashing Green Energy Again

It seems Glenn Fox is up to his tricks again. He has co-authored a report claiming that green energy is too expensive for Ontario. I saw this report mentioned on TV today.

I have written two other blogs in relation to Glenn Fox. One about a different University of Guelph's economics professor and his political one sidedness when it comes to Green Energy.

The next was about a lecture I attended by Glenn Fox titled "It's not easy being green"

This previous blog attracted a few comments that were debated at length. And unlike the usual web comments section (for example the CTV article linked at the top of this blog), the debate on my blog was civil, and ranged from scientific to philosophical.

At the end of the debate I admitted that while I could give my opinion that lecture I attended was one-sided, I probably should not judge the rest of Glen Fox's life work as being equally biased against environmentalism and alternate energy.

Now Energy Minister Duguid of Ontario Government is saying that this new report is one-sided and flawed, and that one of the authors is known to be anti-alternate energy. I wonder if that biased person could be Glen Fox?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Non-Iron Butt Tour

It has been raining steady for a few days now, so I'm going to write about a crazy ride that I took long ago.

The Iron Butt rally is a long extreme endurance motorcycle ride, that first ran in 1984.

Since then, they have expanded their activities to many "self guided" rides. During these rides, the rider must complete a certain distance in a certain time, and document the result with gas receipts and witness signatures.

I have often read of the exploits of the Iron Butt riders, and I am quite amazed at the number of people willing to go on these runs. But I have never wanted to participate myself.

Except for the coincidental similarity, this trip has nothing to do with the Iron Butt association. I have no documentation to even prove I took this trip. It predates the first Iron Butt rally by one year.

In 1983, I bought my third motorcycle, a Honda Silver Wing GL500. I was 35 years old and living in Kitchener, Ontario. It was a hot August, and a plan formed in my mind to take my new motorcycle on a long solo trip to Baie Comeau Quebec, my home town, located about 800 miles away to the northeast. I packed my bike and left home at about 1:30 on Friday afternoon, Aug 12, 1983, planning to be back by Sunday night. This was already quite an ambitious schedule. It was my first ever long distance motorcycle trip on my own. I figured I could make more miles a day alone than with a passenger.

The journey started off quite normally on a hot sunny afternoon. I rode the ever so boring 401 heading east. I planned to stop and stay with my sister in Quebec City for the night, but I didn't phone ahead to let her know I was coming, that is something my passenger might have done, if she was coming along with me. Anyway, Quebec City is a good 11 hours from Kitchener, driving non-stop except for gas breaks and the occasional burger and coffee. I arrived there at about 11 PM, and it was a bit too late to drop in unannounced. But that was where the interesting road began, as I left the freeway and entered the mountains. I was psyched up to hit the mountains for the very first time on a bike over 250 cc, and unencumbered by the weight of a passenger. So I just kept going into the darkness.

By this time there was a bit of a chill in the air. I was getting further north and the sun had set. I had no windshield on this bike, and I had not thought of bringing my cold weather gear. As the night wore on, I stuffed some papers in the front of my jacket to help insulate me. Right now I forget where I got those papers - maybe free papers at some roadside tourist stop. By about 2:30 AM I had reached the ferry over the Saguenay River and I was cold. So I appreciated being able to warm up in the lounge and also grabbed a hot chocolate from a vending machine.

I was still wide awake and keen to ride on. I enjoyed watching the stars, and in fact there was a meteor shower going on that I could watch with fascination as I drove through the night.  Also, in the moonless night, the northern lights were visible.

Soon after I left the ferry, I saw the bus behind me. This would be the Quebec City- Baie Comeau bus, that I had taken as a passenger a few times. It stops in most towns to see if there is someone to pick up. And I knew that it was fast. I was going about 110 kph on the straights, and the bus kept catching up. But each time we reached a town, it had to drop back and look for passengers. I was driving as fast as I dared in the mountains in the dark, but gradually the lights of the bus gained on me between towns. It was a close race. Finally at about 5 AM, I was still ahead, but too cold to carry on. I was beginning to shake. So I stopped beside the road right near the Outardes river as the sun was coming into view. I started jogging to build up some body heat. Within less than two minutes, the bus roared by, leaving me in a wind vortex. Right behind the bus, looking like it was being towed, was a police car. I was glad he wasn't following me. The sight was intriguing enough that I got back on the bike and tried to follow to see what would happen, but I couldn't catch up.

Before long I had reached Baie Comeau and I wasn't really sure what to do next, because my plan didn't go that far ahead. I was hungry so I went to a restaurant for breakfast. Back then, there were no Tim Hortons or MacDonalds in Baie Comeau, so I went to a real restaurant and got a huge breakfast. I don't remember what I had, but I still remember it as one the best breakfasts ever.

Still without a plan I rode around town looking at the houses I used to live in. Then I decided that I had seen enough and I wanted to do more riding. So I turned around and headed back home. I knew I would need sleep at some point, and I would deal with it when I got tired. By about 8:30 AM it was starting to hit me, so I pulled off into a picnic area on a beach. There were some big flat rocks, so I laid down and immediately fell asleep. I woke up about an hour later with an itchy mosquito bite. I got back on the bike and started riding again, this time I was warm and actually felt rested.

Passing through Quebec City again, I stopped at a tourist information to find out how to get to my sister's house. I had not been there before, so I asked for instructions on how to get to "la rue Des Tours". The girl at the counter said there is no Rue Detours in Quebec city, perhaps I was mistaken and it was a "detour" sign? No, I insisted. And then I said it is located near "La Rue Larue". At this point the tourist information girl began to become suspicious that I was pulling her leg, "rue" being also the French word for "street"). I left without any instructions, and so continued on towards home without stopping. Later on, I found out that it was not "Rue LaRue", it was "Avenue Larue". Excuuuuuse me, and anyway, both those streets are in Beauport, not Quebec City, and so not on the Quebec City map, even though they are right next to each other.

Somehow I kept going through the rest of the day and well into the night again but in southern Ontario the night was warm - over 25c. My final pit stop was a 401 service centre just east of Toronto, about 200 km from home. While I was sitting drinking a coffee outside another motorcyclist came over to talk, and wanted to know where I was from. "Kitchener" I said, and he said "Man, you are far from home."

So I continued on and made it home just after midnight, for a total distance of 2650 km. There was no one home, so I just fell asleep until the alarm went off at 6:30 AM, I guess I forgot to turn it off for the weekend.

Picture: That's me (The Lost Motorcyclist) in 1983 pumping up the air shock on the rear of the Silver Wing. The picture is also on my Microverse website, along with a review of the bike.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It Grows on You

There is an expression about something that "grows on you", which means that it takes time to get to like something. This usually happens when I get a new motorcycle. At first I'm a bit uncomfortable with it, then with time I start to appreciate it.

The process of "growing on me" happens in many different ways. Most importantly is the appearance. Often I think new motorcycles are a bit strange looking. But with time, I sometimes see why they look the way they do. Or maybe I just get used to it. When I first got my Vulcan 900, I was a bit put off by all the fake chrome covering the bike. With time, I have removed or covered some of it. And now I realize the fake chrome is a very durable finish, in some cases better than real chrome. Also, as the bike gets older and dirtier, the chrome bits keep it looking almost new. So appreciation begins to take hold as "The Lost Motorcyclist" (me) understands better why the bike was finished that way.

At first I didn't like the look of the tires. Way too fat, I thought. But with time I found out that they lasted twice as long as the tires on my old BMW. All of a sudden they look good to me, and the BMW tires look too skinny. But I was remembering the Vulcan's handling was heavy compared to the precision of the BMW. So I decided maybe I should check the tire pressures, as heavy handling is sometimes caused by loss of air. Each tire was about 10 psi too low, and when I pumped them up, the handling returned to acceptable - although not quite like the BMW. So now the balloon tires are looking even better.

Other than appearance, reliability is an issue for me, and the longer the bike goes without needing repairs, the better I like it. Two days ago I was starting off on a trip down the 401 but when I got to the corner of the street, I saw a cloud of oil puffing out the front of the engine. I thought "great, now the engine has a hole in it." But no, I had added some oil and forgot to put the filler cap back on. It was not entirely my fault, I will explain why. On my previous bike, I forgot the filler cap once, and developed the habit of leaving the filler cap on the footpeg so I could never forget it again. I continued doing the same trick on the Vulcan, but the Vulcan has a strange system of checking the oil. You have to hold the bike upright (with no centrestand this is tricky) to check the oil level. While I was leaning the bike over, the cap slipped off the floorboard and I forgot about it until I saw oil coming out the engine. So I still don't like the method for checking oil level, but eventually I will remember to put the filler cap back on before riding away. When that happens, the bike can "grow on me" a little more. Until then I am a little put off by the oil level checking routine. But one big difference: the filler on the Vulcan is at the front of the engine, where at least I can see it the cloud of oil before I get past the end of the street. On the BMW I didn't notice the oil until the next exit on the 401.

When I first got the Vulcan, I thought the seat was too low. The salesman pointed out that I could always add an aftermarket seat pad if the seat was low, so later on I did do that. With some experimentation, I have found a seat pad that works for me. But with a "normal" height seat, adding a pad is a problem because you will not be able to reach the ground easily. Now I have an appreciation for low seats. And I also found out that if I take off the pad, in the rain or cold, I can duck down behind the windshield more easily. So two unexpected benefits of the low seat.

I'm wondering why the two mufflers are on the same side. I don't see any point to it, and it creates a problem for the passenger footpegs and saddlebags. Because of the twin stacked mufflers on one side, the saddlebag must be shallow, and the passenger footpegs are cramped. And yet almost all cruisers follow the same pattern (except for the touring models like the Nomad.)

When I first got my BMW I was a bit uncomfortable with the idea of having a BMW, which had the image at that time of a luxury vehicle for yuppies. Before long, I started to like having a BMW identifiable brand. When people asked my what kind of bike I had, there was a good answer. But since getting the Kawasaki Vulcan, the conversation goes like this: "Is that a ----------?" my answer: "No, it's a Kawasaki Vulcan". End of conversation. What I find amusing is the different questions I get. "Is that a BMW?" was the first one that almost made me laugh. Nobody ever asked me before if my BMW was a BMW. But last week I got one that had me scratching my head. A little old lady came over to ask me "Is that a Volvo?" I said no, she replied, "I thought it said Volvo on the back of your motorcycle." We  looked, and I said "No that's Vulcan". Looks like another senior will be heading for cataract surgery.

Picture: My bike at Port Stanley.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Port Dover Chronicles 10/10/11

For all you people who think a warm day proves the Global Warming theory, or all those who think a cold day proves it is a gigantic hoax, I would like to explain why you are wrong.

Today I went down to Port Dover on my motorcycle and it was about 25c. This is at least 10 degrees C over the normal average high for this time of year (Oct 10). It is the Canadian thanksgiving weekend, and I cannot recall seeing people sunbathing and swimming on this weekend before.

But even this strangely warm day does not prove global warming, because it is still within the normal range of temperatures. In the winter we can have highs of -20c, and in the summer highs can be up to of +38c.

Global warming theory predicts a change in average temperature a hundred years from now of only about 2 degrees Celsius, which is so small that you could not "feel it" even if it were 100 years in the future and global warming (for the sake of argument) had come true.

And while I'm in the mood for an educational blog message - Canada's Thanksgiving comes a month earlier than the USA because we have an earlier harvest, not because we need a head start on our prayers to God. And Al Gore did not "invent" global warming, other scientists had proposed it long ago. There is a Youtube video with scientists from NOAA warning of global warming in 1984. The video could be mistaken for something produced this week, because it is still close to current scientific findings.

Picture 1: Me leaving home this afternoon, wearing my warm weather motorcycle gear. Only a t-shirt under the unlined leather jacket. Signs of the times include the tree turning yellow, the car with its winter tires already on, and the election sign still up on our front lawn.

Picture 2: These are the palm trees at Port Dover that need to be replanted every spring. I sometimes screw up pictures not realizing there is some background thing like a telephone pole ruining the picture. This time there was a dead branch in the foreground hanging down. But I decided to keep it in there because it looks like the tentacle of some space monster coming to get the girl who is sunbathing on the beach. There is an appropriate quote I hear all the time: "When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade". Assuming life also gives you sugar and water. And if life also gives you alcohol, make "Mike's Hard Lemonade", which I am drinking right now after that long hot ride.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Historical Question about the Waterloo Region, Ontario

Yesterday, "The Lost Motorcyclist" (me) had the opportunity to go on a historical walk around one of our local quaint villages, known as Blair, Ontario. Previously, my only knowledge of Blair was that it was a 50 kph s-bend with a few nice looking old buildings, and it was on the west side of the Grand River, opposite Cambridge. It also used to have a good bar for bikers, the Nicholson Tavern, which closed many years ago. But during the walk, I found out several things. Blair now has both a Krishna and a Hindu temple. (weird, but not really the subject of this story). And Blair was the first European settlement in Waterloo Region, with notably the first gravesite, cemetery and school. This discovery got me thinking, that today Waterloo region has three major cities: Waterloo, Kitchener, and Cambridge, all over 100,000 people. Blair is still practically a pioneer village, seeming to have hardly grown at all and the entire thing could almost be considered a living museum of the 1800's.

I decided to investigate on the Internet why Blair is so small, and why it has been overtaken in size by almost all the other settlements in Waterloo region. I suppose I could have asked the tour guide, but it's a complicated question, and it was kind of cold yesterday, and also a bit hard to hear the tour guide with all the traffic noise.

To follow the history, you need to know that community names have changed over the years. Kitchener used to be called Berlin until WW1. And when it was first settled, it was called Sand Hills. Cambridge city is made up of three previous towns of Galt, Hespeler, and Preston (of which Galt was the largest, and was originally called Shade's Mills). Blair was named Shingle Bridge, and Carlyle, before finally being named Blair.

So to begin with, Blair started off around 1809 as a Mennonite settlement for a few people coming up from the USA. Although it was the very first European settlement in Ontario that was not on the shore of the great lakes, its settlers had no grand vision of becoming anything more than a good place to live. The founders of Galt, about seven years later in 1816, had a big vision of bringing in many settlers from Scotland. They started with a very large tract of land, which they subdivided and then sold to settlers that they brought in from Scotland. They picked a site for a town to be the centre of all this activity, and in 1825 a post office was set up, which was called Galt. At the time the post office opened, Galt was the largest, and would remain the largest community in the Waterloo Area until about 1900. Blair would not get a post office for another 30 years after Galt's.

Then in about 1900, Galt was overtaken by Berlin in population and importance. The community of Sand Hills, which had taken the name Berlin in about 1833, had experienced an influx of immigrants from Germany between 1833 and 1900 that was big enough to overtake Galt. Why did so many Germans immigrate at that time, and why did they come to Berlin? The second question almost answers itself: Because it was named Berlin. But that's not the whole story. Most immigrants tend to go to the largest cities, but there was a problem with German immigrants going to Toronto that may have diverted the bulk of them to Berlin. In the 1800's Governor Simcoe attempted to get a large group of German immigrants to move to Markham, just north of Toronto. In this plan, he recruited William Berckzy whose biography is in the credits for this story. William Berczy brought in some Germans and began setting up the town of Markham, and extending Yonge Street from Toronto to Markham, but ran into some difficulties. I can't tell if it was because Torontonians were suspicious of Germans moving in so close, or just financial bad luck, but the deal fell through, and there was considerable ill will between Berczy and the establishment. Hence I assume Germans felt less welcome in Toronto than Berlin, Ontario. And the town of Waterloo, being next door to Berlin was equally welcoming to Germans. The name Waterloo, by the way, is not only named after the site of a great British victory over the French. We also sometimes forget that the Battle of Waterloo was a joint effort of Germans and British.

There were a lot of German immigrants to Canada because Germany is a very big country in Europe that did not really have it's own colonial destination for its people. So, many of the immigrants to Canada were Germans. Canada generally did not object to Germans because after all Queen Victoria was originally German. Also, many Germans had fought for England against the Americans in the revolution, so Germans were actually seen as being more loyal to Canada than Americans. (all that would change with the animosity of two world wars, but hopefully now is almost forgotten).

Picture: I found a picture postcard on the site below of one of the first power generating stations in the Waterloo area - it did not use electricity to transmit the power as we do today. We had a chance to walk around it yesterday in Blair on our historical tour.

Picture from:

Historical material

William Berczy:

German Immigration to Canada:

Blair history:

Galt history: