Saturday, November 24, 2012

My New and Scary Electric Vest

This morning I woke up to a layer of ice and snow on the ground, and on the car.  The summer is over.

My latest motorcycling purchase is a new vest to replace my  5 year old electric vest, which just suffered a partial failure.  By 2:00 PM Friday afternoon, it was windy, cold, dark, and threatening rain. Perfect conditions for a test ride with the new electric vest which I got at Royal Distributing for $159.99.  It is an "+Venture 12v Heated Vest Light" in XL size.

My new vest has carbon fiber mat heating elements rather than copper wire heating elements.  The new pad is supposedly more rugged, and many of my vest failures have been caused by breaking the thin heating wires.  Also, the carbon pad is supposed to be more energy efficient, and I can feel heat quickly, 3 seconds from turning on the vest.  The old vest took maybe 15-25 seconds before I would feel heat, if it ever did come on.

I am not one of those "early adopters" of new technology, and I was not really ready for the major technological revolution I got with this new type of electric vest.  According to my research, these new vests use carbon fiber heating elements that give off far-infrared radiation that penetrates your body up to three inches.  Whew! Far-infrared is the infrared band that is right next to microwaves.  Apparently far-infrared heating has become very popular in saunas in the last ten years, gradually replacing the traditional hot rocks and water.  There are claims that far-infrared is good for your health.  Although I did see a warning in the Royal Distributing catalog, that "Heated apparel not recommended for diabetes."  Some questions come to mind.  Do I have diabetes, or more importantly, does this heater cause diabetes? I looked on the Internet and found another interpretation.  There are hundreds of claims that far-infrared helps cure diabetes, so in that light we could interpret the warning as "These heated vests are not intended to cure diabetes". With all these scary changes, no wonder I could not find out any real information about these vests before I started getting serious with Google.

So to summarize, these new vests are a couple of wavelengths away from being microwave ovens, and furthermore are not guaranteed to cure diabetes.  The heater element is a thin flexible mat with wires attached. There are four heat settings on the power switch, so far I have tested "Full" "Defrost" and "Popcorn" (I had to come up with the names myself for the power levels, they are represented only by different coloured LED lights on the panel).

Heated clothing is starting to be used more widely than ever before.  Mark's has a battery powered heated jacket. Apparently the military is getting in on the act too, to extend their fighting season.   Quiksilver has battery heated vests to go under wetsuits for diving or surfing in cold weather.

If you have the right equipment and use it properly, you can extend your season no matter what your choice of activity may be. Although I am not able to extend my riding season very much because often when the weather is cold, there is also ice or salt on the road.  But still, I can't go back to riding without electric vests in cold weather.  When one heated vest expires, I will replace it.

Some people have extended the riding season to extremes. See these videos to know what I mean.

Picture: From this web page;start=10

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Electric Vehicles Perform Some Functions Better than Gas

Today the Globe and Mail had an interesting headline: Why modern electric vehicles are like cars from 1905

I could not figure out what the headline meant, even after reading the article.  Anyway, one comment got me motivated to write a blog, it goes like this

Edgenet 9:23 AM on November 17, 2012
"Electric cars will never replace the gas cars. Electric cars are for crazy professors and people like them that do not live in the real world."

I know many other people think the way Edgenet does.  So it's time to have a public service lesson in how an average Canadian uses a car.  I do not wish to argue that electric cars will completely replace gas cars.  But they will be increasingly creating niche markets alongside gas cars, where a family may own one of each.  So instead of owning three gas cars, a family may own two gas cars and some kind of an electric vehicle.  Electric cars are not just for crazy professors and people who don't live in the "real" world.

Although I don't have statistics in front of me, I know that many Canadians are turning to electric four wheel and two wheel vehicles to get around.  The four wheel vehicles (also called mobility scooters) are often used to go to supermarkets for shopping, and can in fact go right inside the mall or supermarket, because of their electric technology, and because their owners have great difficulty walking.  You may not want to call these things "cars", but they use the same technology, and they perform the function that a car used to perform, but do it better.  Their batteries and charging systems are adequate today,  to accomplish the goal of shopping.

A second use for an electric car, this time a more conventional electric car, is getting kids to school.  School busses do not carry all the kids, for proof you only need to go by a school at 3:00 to see all the parents waiting for the kids to come out.  Those people drive their kids to school or back four times a day, with a cold start each time.  And it is getting to the point where some families have a minivan that is only used for this one purpose.  Toyota is having some problems with engine failures in minivans whose oil turns to sludge and burns out the engine, because the vehicles never get operated for more than 15 minutes at a time. So the engine never has a chance to get up to operating temperature.  Families who use a minivan like this, usually also have huge four wheel drive pickups and SUV's that they use for longer trips, relegating the minivan exclusively to school shuttle duties. It would make a lot more sense for this type of work to be done with an electric vehicle, that needs no oil changes, no gas fillups, no warmup time, and does not burn out the engine on stop and go driving.  200 mile range and top speed of 100 mph are not needed in this application.  Just plug it in at home and drive around the block when you need to.

I don't necessarily agree with driving the kids to and from school four times a day, but I'm just observing the "real" world that I see developing around me.

Picture: Taken from this website "EV World The Future in Motion"

Friday, November 16, 2012

Benghazigate: Coverup or Statesmanship?

I was just reading through Canada's National Post on the subject of General Petraeus and his remarks today on the Benghazi situation.

First I will rant about the headline of the National Post story contradicting the text, with the headline as usual leaning to the right and the text (and presumably the more accurate and fact-checked) text of the story skewing to the left.

The headline was

"David Petraeus says he believed terrorists behind Libya attack all along as pressure mounts on Obama’s version"

The text contains this

"Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Petraeus disputed Republican suggestions that the White House misled the public on what led to the violence in the midst of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.
“There was an interagency process to draft it, not a political process,” Schiff said after the hearing. “They came up with the best assessment without compromising classified information or source or methods. So changes were made to protect classified information.
“The general was adamant there was no politicization of the process, no White House interference or political agenda,” Schiff said. “He completely debunked that idea.”
Schiff said Petraeus said Rice’s comments in the television interviews “reflected the best intelligence at the time that could be released publicly.”
 So the headline suggests that Petraeus testimony conflicts with the President's version.  But according to an eyewitness (I'm taking this from the text of the story), Petraeus backed up the President's version as "the best intelligence at the time that could be released publicly.”

Once again, the title composer at the  National Post seems to have a right wing agenda.  But I suppose I should be thankful that the text itself is not pure fabrication, like Fox News in the U.S.  I'm thinking the real title, before the composer redid it, might be seen by reading the computer filename in the internet link (which I suppose the title composers forgot to edit: )

"david petraeus says he believed terrorists behind libya attack all along but talking points removed by other agencies"

Next, I made the mistake of reading some of the comments. Woo-wee!  Is it just me or is the tone of the comment section going to h-e-double hockey sticks in a handbasket?  It is quite clear that people are divided along party lines.  Some people suggest that, had they been President, they would have sent in a large enough contingent of Marines to protect the Ambassador and all the people in the the US embassy.  And furthermore they suggest that Obama failed to do this through sheer laziness, and then lied about his incompetence and dereliction of duty so that he could get re-elected, while 52% of the American public are simply too stupid to realize they have been duped by the mainstream media, and voted for incompetent Obama again thereby completing the destruction of America so desired by people with their heads up their asses.

The pro-Obama side are inclined to give Obama a break for the following reasons: 1. You cannot send marines into a sovereign country to kill people without an invitation, or you risk war, or at least a backlash that could end up killing more Americans and tipping the political balance to the anti-American side.  2. This was not in the embassy.  The consulate, unlike the embassy, is not technically U.S. territory  3. S-h-double hockey sticks happens.  4. The president is not obligated to keep inbred hillbillies informed of every nuance of foreign affairs. 5. Sometimes, diplomacy requires you to keep your thoughts to yourself until the right time.

I am not really sure why Petraeus is such an important witness anyway? He, like Obama, was not on the scene.  Both were in Washington getting their information through the usual channels.  He is not even really a General any more, as head of the CIA. Notice he is wearing a business suit now?

In the final analysis, this difference of opinion shows how much the entire world needed Obama to win the 2012 election.  To keep out the "Shoot first and ask questions later" crowd for at least four more years.  Just to give us some rest before the pro-war faction gets their next turn.

What I Didn't Know About Being Canadian

Readers Digest put out an article "13 Things You Didn't Know About Being Canadian" (or should I say aboot?)  Anyway, I took this as a challenge, because as a Canadian, I guess I should know almost as much about Canada as I do about the USA.

1. Our Parliament Has a Sanctuary for Stray Cats

At first I read this as "Our parliament is a sanctuary for stray cats", which would explain why the conservative Members of Parliament are so fat.  But seriously, I saw that sanctuary a few years back when I visited Ottawa and wandered around the parliament buildings and talked to one of the unpaid volunteers who was feeding the cats. If this was coming out of the taxpayers pockets, though, you can bet all Canadians would know about it.

2. One of Our Prime Ministers Used a Crystal Ball

That would be William Lyon MacKenzie King, a native of the city where I live, Kitchener, Ontario.  I knew this, I think its taught in history class.  It was taught in my classes anyway.  Funny coincidence, the previous town I lived (Baie Comeau, QC) in was also a home to a Prime Minister, also had a middle name of "Lyon"

3. We Launched a Secret Project To Build an Aircraft Carrier Made From Ice

OK I did not know that.  My excuse is that it was a secret, and it never was built.  But it makes sense.  It would never rust, and we have the know-how to build that Ice Hotel in Quebec City.

4. Our Beavers Built a Dam Visible From Outer Space

Actually I knew that, I think it was on the news a few years ago.  So I went to Google Maps to see if it was visible from way up, which it is because there is water on one side, and green on the other.  Actually way more visible than the Great Wall of China that is reputed to be the only man made thing visible from space (which I doubt).

See this 2010 report, stating that the dam is 2800 feet long.  I guess it shrunk in the last two years, or was that a rounding error because Canadian beavers use metric units?

5. Our Cities Have Some of the Freshest Air in the World

I did not know that.  One example given is Kitimat, a town similar to my home town of Baie Comeau, because it has an aluminum smelter and a paper mill, and is far from other cities.  As I recall during the sixties, the aluminum plant air pollution killed all the coniferous trees for about 20 miles around, while the paper mill air pollution was killing all the deciduous trees.  Finally, people started getting serious about air pollution when the acid in the air started etching the car windows.  Today it is pretty much cleaned up, but I don't know how they did it.  However, I would bet that the the air sampling centre in Kitimat is upwind of the paper mill and aluminum plant.

And finally, Googling Kitimat CLean Air, I came across this site, asking "Please don't burn garbage".  In Kitchener we are more serious about clean air, I believe there is a law against burning garbage.

6. Have a Taste of Home When You Travel

I knew we grew mustard seed in Canada, but did not know they use our seeds in France to make Dijon mustard.

7. Iceberg Vodka? How about Iceberg Wine?

I did not know that Newfies make wine with iceberg water, but also I have never been to Newfoundland.  I do know that in Ontario we make wine with grapes that got frozen on the vine, and furthermore we charge a premium for that type of wine.  We are clever people.

8. Leave Your Door Unlocked in Churchill Manitoba...or Else!

I have never seen a polar bear in the wild, but I did see a documentary on Churchill's polar bears.  In the documentary they were interviewing this old native grandmother who got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and encountered a polar bear in the hallway and shot him.  The interviewer was shocked and disgusted that she would kill so magnificent an animal.  The old lady did not understand, she said "Well, I had to go to the bathroom"

9. You Can Drink a Toe Cocktail in Dawson City, Yukon

Yes I knew that, even though I have never been to the Yukon. I believe it is common knowledge to Canadians, and the main reason I have never been to the Yukon.

10. One of Our Cities Aims To Be the World's Greenest by 2020

I did not know this.  Go for it, Vancouver.

11. We Have the World's Most Dark Sky Preserves

Another thing I didn't know, although I did know that we have got dark sky preserves near Southern Ontario .

12. We've Minted Many of the World's Coins

Another interesting fact I didn't know.

13. Just Think, Being Canadian Means You Could Be From...

I pass through Punkeydoodles Corners, Ontario on the way to visiting my Mother most of the time.  Newfoundland has the best place names. If Ontarians weren't so uptight, Punkeydoodles would have been Punk Ass Corners.  Now what Canadian has not heard of Dildo, Newfoundland?  Mary Ann camped there one night a few years back, but she didn't take a picture.

OK, then I didn't do too badly on this quiz.  I have come up with a fourteenth thing I didn't know about being a Canadian, although technically, Newfoundland was not part of Canada at the time, but: The ferry from Sydney NS to Port Aux Basques NF was sunk by a german submarine in WW2.

Picture: Dildo Run Provincial Park sign from the

Friday, November 9, 2012

My Advice to Republicans, FWIW (i.e $30 million)

A lot of money was spent in the US election to try and swing the voters.  I think Karl Rove was given about $700 million, and basically all that money is gone.  At least the taxpayers don't have to foot the bill.  But that amount would have been able to bail out half of Chrysler Financial, and would not even have cut into Romney's campaign funds because they were all external funds (Super PAC rules).

I would love to get a piece of that money.  But obviously I am not Karl Rove.  Anyway, to start it off, I will offer some advice for free to the wealthy Republicans, and see if that gets me a job the next time round (if this advice seems good).

Advice from "The Lost Motorcyclist" to fix Republican election problems

Obviously one place to start would be to eliminate racism and anti-female rhetoric, because it is not working now, and the demographics (ignored by your current highly paid experts), are changing to make it even worse.  It is not enough, as Rush Limbaugh suggests, to place minority groups "front and center".  You know why that does not work? Because Rush Limbaugh makes racist comments on radio all the time.  And so it looks very fake to make racist comments and then call on the party to put racial minorities "front and center" at the national convention.

It is not enough, either, as Charles Krauthammer suggests, to give "AMNESTY" to all illegal aliens.  According to Charles, this one simple move could tip the balance, and get the Republicans elected.  I don't think so.  Your first problem is that you have to get elected first.  Because until you are elected, all you can do is promise amnesty.  So your election is based on the assumption that voting aliens will believe you and vote for you to make illegal aliens legal.  Some of those people are going to think you're lying, and some are not going to want amnesty granted to others anyway.  And for sure you would lose many of your racist supporters, guaranteeing you won't get back into power.  So, Krauthammer's strategy is not going to work either.

I see the Republican problem as lack of trust.  There is a perception among many Americans, that Republicans make up facts to get elected.  And I believe that as time goes on, you will have more people thinking like that.  Here is why. You have several high powered, Republican pundits like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Fox News, and Pat Robertson (and maybe others), who regularly make false claims on TV or radio.  Most of the time, you can count on voters to not bother fact checking for themselves.  But it seems like the population is getting better and better at spotting the falsehoods in the Republican story.  And at the same time, the Republican pundits are making even more outrageous false statements.

Think of Megyn Kelly (normally a Fox News hardliner) asking Karl Rove  "Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better"?

If all the extremist rhetoric and misleading information have not succeeded in unseating Barack Obama for a second term, you have to wonder if maybe that strategy has lost it's power.  As somebody once said, you can fool all the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.  Apparently that time is passed.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Who Would God Vote For?

Hurricanes are starting to be a pain in the behind to Republicans. To some people who believe that hurricanes are controlled by God, and that God cares about who wins the US elections, it is starting to look like God is helping Obama.

Let me just go over the list.

Does anyone remember hurricane Katrina that wiped out New Orleans and made President Bush and the Republicans look bad?

In 2008, there was a failed Christian prayer campaign for God to rain out Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention.

However, a few weeks later, the Republican Convention was disrupted by Hurricane Gustav, forcing President Bush to cancel his speech.

As we all know, Obama won the 2008 election.  Let's move forward to the next presidential election.  Hurricane Isaac, in August 2012 again disrupted the Republican Convention. (Democratic Convention had no problems)

The latest is Hurricane Sandy, which allowed Obama to "look presidential" and apparently convinced a few people he was not trying to destroy America. (Including Republican Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie)  In the end, Obama won a second election, with the hurricanes voting 2-0 for the Democrats in 2012.

I'm not going to make any hurricane predictions based on this pattern, because I think it was all coincidental.  But some people  conveniently forget about unfavourable coincidences, and boast about favourable coincidences as being the result of their personal prayers to God.  I just want to put a reminder here for the next time somebody mounts a political prayer campaign.

Picture: from this website

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Who Does the Rest of the World Vote For?

Canadians cannot vote in US elections.  But US elections affect not only the US, but Canada, and also the whole world.  I think that if the US election was open to the whole world, only two countries would support Romney.  They would be Israel and Pakistan.  My impression is that both those countries have more than enough religious fanatics. (so does the USA, by the way, as a recent survey says more Americans believe in Demonic possession than believe in Global Warming.)

So I am going to try to explain this mysterious tendency for Canadians to favour Obama over Mitt Romney. To do that, I will use only one question, which I think is the most important. Was four years enough time for Obama to turn the US (and World) economy around?

I have heard some Republicans say that Obama could blame Bush for the deficit for the first six months in office, but after that, Obama takes the blame.  I'm not sure I agree, because my understanding of debt is that it does not expire magically after 6 months.  If I personally were to get saddled with a million dollar debt for something I didn't do, I know that I would have to pay it, no matter how long it took. Even if I did pay it off somehow, there were plenty of other things I could have done with a million dollars.  I will resent that unfair bill forever.

Sometimes a debt can have a silver lining. For example, if it was a mortgage to a house with a good market value, and if the debt came with the ownership of the house.  Then I could sell the house, or possibly even keep the house if I needed it.  But in some cases, that one million dollar debt may have no silver lining, for example if it was paid to a lawyer to fight a legal case that I didn't win, or it paid for a house that has been flattened by a hurricane without insurance.  In political terms, if the deficit handed to Obama was because money was spent for new infrastructure (such as a new road system or electric grid), then Obama could leverage the value of those items to help improve the economy.  So that kind of  deficit would not be all bad.  But if the deficit was created by two lost wars and trillions of dollars lost in financial shenanigans, then none of that money can be recovered. There is no silver lining. Not only that but four years later, the negative repercussions of the wars and the financial meltdown are still hampering economic recovery.  I guess you could argue that the deficit's only silver lining was that some lessons were learned about what NOT to do next time, and I admit it's worth something that Saddam Hussein is gone.  But the problem is that smart people would not have needed to waste trillions of dollars learning this, so all this money proved only that Republican neo-con ideology was wrong about militant go-it-alone foreign policy and about economic deregulation and laissez faire theory.

I suppose that if the only net benefit from Bush's legacy was to learn that the Republicans were wrong, that might be worth going trillions of dollars in debt over, but has the lesson actually been learned?  Actually, no, not by the American voters anyway.  Sure they voted for Obama in 2008, and may again in 2012.  But from what I can see it's a toss-up and it's all about the wrong things.  Don't vote for Obama because he's black, or because he "looks presidential".  Vote for Obama because the US is not in a major depression today.

In my mind, the question is not so much about "Was 4 years enough time to get the economy moving again?" It should be "Was four years out of office, enough time for the Republicans to figure out where they went wrong?"  You would think they could learn by watching how Obama is finessing foreign policy.  They could compare Obama's taking care of Osama Bin Laden and Mohammar Gaddafi's in four years, and then think about how Bush took care of Saddam Hussein in seven years. They could observe Obama's investments in rebuilding the US economy, compared to investing in war.  But when when you hear that the Republicans are still talking about deregulating the banks, and next bombing Iran, well, what more incentive do you need to vote for Obama?