Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Motorcycling: Why I have a Kawasaki not a Harley

I really don't get asked this question very often by people who know me. But "Why don't I ride a Harley Davidson."? Instead I am currently riding a Kawasaki 900 Vulcan LT, which I bought at a store. I also own and sometimes ride two 1970 Honda CD175's, and sometimes I can be seen riding Mary Ann's Burgman 400 step-through. And, to be fair I have ridden Harleys, a couple that belonged to friends and one I rented in Florida. I don't have anything against riding a Harley, I just happen to ride something else that strikes my fancy more.

But the question is directed at the bike I currently would call my main ride, that Kawasaki Vulcan 900. It looks like a Harley, and sounds like a Harley, the only thing is, it is not a Harley and therefore I lose out on all the credibility that I might acquire by owning a genuine Harley, and for another it is unpatriotic to own a vehicle from a country that bombed us at Pearl Harbour.

First let me address the patriotic issue. Japan didn't bomb "us", Japan bombed the United States naval station at Pearl Harbour. The United States is a separate country that has not yet given me permission to vote, and I am not even allowed to visit because I don't have a passport. A lot of Canadians are confused on this issue, at the big Toronto bike show, Harley Davidsons are registered as "domestic" motorcycles while Kawasaki is "foreign". This is the same problem we have with movies, where we also don't understand the meaning of domestic or foreign. To rent the movie "Jesus of Montreal", you must look in the "foreign movies" section at Rogers TV.  In case you were wondering, Montreal is in Canada, and the movie was made in Canada, by all Canadian people. Yes, we Canadians consider ourselves to be foreigners in Canada. But getting back to Harley Davidsons and patriotism, we have been bombed by the USA more than by Japan (who never bombed us), and we still get bomb threats from the USA, compared to none by Japan. So I will let the patriotic issue drop for now, although there is still a lot more to say on this issue.

Why does that Kawasaki have to look like a Harley?  The Kawasaki Vulcan does not look like a Harley to someone who knows bikes, it looks more like an Indian. Of course that's splitting hairs. But for sure it doesn't look Japanese. I have seen bikes designed by the Japanese for Japanese people, and they do not look good to me. Honda and Kawasaki figured this out in the sixties, and decided to make their bikes  look somewhat like British bikes, to boost sales. That's when British bikes were the most popular in America. Then, as the fickle western tastes changed in the eighties and nineties,  the Japanese switched to making their bikes look like American bikes from the thirties.

The Japanese produce bikes that are shape-shifters. Essentially they can design a bike in ten minutes to look and sound like anything you want. Apparently we want bikes that look like Harleys, so that's how they make them. Inside, the Japanese bikes are completely different. The "look" is achieved by sticking plastic covers all over the engine to make the engine look old American style. Internally, under the plastic outer cover, the engine is actually very good: reliable and efficient.

So a recap: I buy Japanese bikes because they are slightly better bikes than Harley at about half the price. I don't worry if people think I am not a patriotic American, because I am not, I am actually Canadian. I am not a person who buys a bike for the brand recognition, as I need a bike to ride, not to attract chicks. I also worry about money, and I would rather rebuild a 35 year old Honda 175 with my own money and tools, than borrow money at no dollars down, zero percent financing to buy a shiny new Harley. I don't want to rebuild a 1970 Harley because it would still not be reliable, and I own metric tools and don't like the fractional measures of the SAE tools.

And that's the short answer to why I don't ride a Harley. The picture is a Photoshop of me getting a push on my Honda, which you can tell by the smile, is easier to push than a Harley.

The Danger of Texting and Driving

I saw on the news this morning, a "texting while driving" message. I thought we were still fighting the battle about cell phone use, and now before we can even get a law against that, along comes texting. Just to make my point clear, I consider texting while driving more dangerous than cell phone use, which is in my opinion more dangerous than talking to a passenger.

A safe rule is to minimize time spent looking away from where the car or motorcycle is going. I like to keep it to less than 2 seconds, for example looking over my shoulder when changing lanes, I do not lazily crank my head around, then stare at the front door post for a while before I decide I can't see anything, then gradually turn my head back. I turn my head at about the same speed I might if I was playing a hockey game on a breakaway, and wanted to see if I had a teammate in the clear to pass to.

Some people might think it is silly, overdramatic, or whatever to make fast urgent motions while driving. Well, it's another problem if safety is seen as being overdramatic. I can remember when seat belts were like that. Putting on a seat belt was a sign that you were going to drive recklessly. Not putting on the seatbelt was a sign that you were going to drive cautiously. Maybe this came from the movies - I remember the car chase in "Bullitt" started with putting on the seat belt. Putting on a seatbelt in 1966 was about like putting on a helmet in a car in 2009. Too dramatic. Too scary.

When I grew up in Quebec, we didn't worry as much about being too dramatic. That's because the way we drove was actually kind of dramatic already. Lots of near misses while overtaking on the crest of hills, lots of corners taken on two wheels. And some missed, too. The driving itself was scary. So driving as if you were in a death sport made sense.

Then I started travelling to other places where the cars went slow because of speed traps. The first time I saw reading while driving was in Chicago, on a freeway in 1973. I was horrified. I never saw anything like it again for many years until the late 1980's, when the habit seemed to spread to Toronto. Once I even saw two consecutive cars driving on the 401, both drivers absorbed in a book. It was about the same time I first started seeing people driving while talking on the phone, which was another shocker for me. Today, out of every ten cars, I see two drivers talking on the cell phone. I don't think it's safe, and I explained why in this blog.

I watched a Dr. Phil Youtube video about a teenager texting while driving, some of her comments: "I don't think anything can stop me from texting while driving." I think getting rid of free texting might do that, and another thing might be a fatal accident. Another comment from her "I can get away with it because I'm a good enough texter". So now apparently some people think texting skill is more important than driving ability. And some of the other Youtube comments are interesting as well: "There are hundreds of people getting killed at gun point a day and we are worried and concerned about text messaging."

The last time I was threatened by someone with a gun was about 15 years ago, before gun control legislation. The last time I was almost run over by a texting driver was last spring, walking across a street. I'm glad the driver looked up in time. I had a clear walk signal at the light, the driver was turning left right into me.

Photo is taken off the internet, (funny it was a Minnesota website, but the driver must be in England) yes it's a woman, I do not think this applies only to women, men should not text and drive either.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Making Sense of Kitchener and the Twentieth Century

The smoking remains of the twentieth century are barely cooled , and already I want to make sense of what happened. I live in the City of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. The name of this city can practically sum up the entire history of conflict during the 20th century.

It used to be named the city of Berlin, due to the large number of German settlers in the area, but bad feelings caused by the Great War in Europe led to a name change to "Kitchener", who was an English military figure. Ironically, Kitchener had something to do with the alignment of Germany vs. England in the war. For that, we can go back to the very first war of the twentieth century, the Boer War.

The Boer War in 1899, was fought between the British Empire and the free Dutch settlers of the Transvaal, in today's South Africa. At the time, Britain was the "sole superpower" as they say today. The British Empire had prevailed during the nineteenth century and was unrivalled at the time, although the rising new country of Germany had been formed out of a group of kingdoms during the 1800's.

Germany's main resentment at the time was having been left out of the scramble for colonies in Africa, due to their late arrival on the scene.

Britain's performance during the Boer War was not unnoticed by the Germans. The German view of the war was that the valiant and honourable Boers had held off a British Empire, with a force one quarter the size, and only conceded defeat in the face of inhuman atrocities by the British. These atrocities included rounding up the Boer women and children in concentration camps, where 20,000 of them died. Also, the burning of all the grazing land to deny food to the Boer horses, as all the Boer fighters were on horseback. Also, the burning of the Boer towns, and a "take no prisoners" policy where all Boer wounded and prisoners were shot (denied by the British). The person implementing these policies was Lord Kitchener, the same one that my own city was named for.

Although Britain had the ability to put a happy spin on the war for their own people back home, the rest of the world took a horrified view of the nature of the conflict. The amorality, and the greed for resources, which at this time seemed to include the rich gold and diamond deposits near Johannesburg. Also, the British Empire had put on a display of weakness as well as cruelty.

World opinion turned against Britain, you might say similarly to the second Bush war in Iraq. (Interesting note: Like Iraq, there were also two Boer wars, the first one being more successful for Britain). Britain decided to shore up their tattered image by forming an alliance with France. The Germans seemed to feel more sympathy for the Boers, given that the Germans themselves had few colonies in Africa, and that the Boers were seen by Germans as being almost like them. The language is quite similar, and the Dutch homeland shares a border with Germany. Also, the Boers were seen by Germans as heroic freedom fighters, while the British saw them as stupid and racist farmers.

Not long after, World War One pitted Germany against Britain and France, with the British portraying the Germans as a violent and warlike race. At the same time, the Germans kind of saw the British as a weakening evil empire that they were helping bring to an end. The British Empire was personified by Lord Kitchener, who was by that time, Britain's Secretary of State for War.

You know most of the rest of the history, Germany losing WW1, then losing the rematch in WW2, but by then the Germans had begun to believe the only way to win was by taking the evil route themselves, including the British idea of concentration camps. Following WW2, the entire African colonial system was broken up.

There are a couple of recurring themes to this history, leading to the current Israeli Palestinian conflict, which most obviously arose out of the holocaust of WW2. In 1899, Jewish diamond and gold agents in Johannesburg were blamed with stirring up the war against the Boers. Both Kitchener and Jan Smuts (a Boer Leader) had involvements in the Holy land. And both South Africa and Israel have been accused of apartheid policies.

The picture is a famous WW1 recruiting poster depicting Lord Kitchener.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Buggywhips and the Green Car Challenge

Jay Leno is back on the air, and I'll admit I usually like listening to him. Last night, though, his guest was Rush Limbaugh, one of the most widely listened to radio hosts in the USA, who also (in my opinion) is an ignorant right-wing ass. OK now I got that out of the way, I will make my own comment on the appearance, as I finally decided to watch, in a very close decision.

Jay took issue with Rush's criticism of Obama for bailing out the auto industry. Jay's point was that he wanted cars to be made in the USA. Rush's point was that you had to let the market take its course, and Rush was certain that whatever the market did would be good. I am not sure that sending all the manufacturing jobs to China would be the best outcome, which is exactly what Jay was worried about too. Jay Leno represents the average American with general knowledge who can also use reason. The Rush came back with an analogy of the type that I love because it is so easy to turn around against the perpetrator.

Rush said that the car industry today is like the buggy whip industry of a hundred years ago. Let it fail, something better will come along if you just leave the free market alone. What Rush appears to not understand about this analogy is that buggy whips are not like cars. Buggy whips are so easy to make that even I could make one. And if you really need to hit a horse, maybe a long stick would do in a pinch. The buggy whip industry died a natural death. But manufacturing a car is complicated, and involves many different processes. From making steel to developing electronics. If manufacturing moves away from the USA, all that will be left is an unskilled and almost defenseless country with no domestic manufacturing. When the factories have gone, they do not come back.

Rush's highly paid job is not a productive one. Rush is more like a parasitic disease on America society - destroying knowledge with disinformation, building up senseless fear and promoting class warfare. If the free market had any say, Rush would be broadcasting only to some county of Oklahoma where nobody knows the name of the first president of the USA. It is the lack of free market competition that allowed Clear Channel Communications to buy out all the competitive radio stations and replace them with the sea-to-sea drone of Rush Limbaugh's ignorant rants.

What Rush has done to radio, he wants to do to the American car industry - destroy it.

But nothing illustrates Rush's lack of character more than the "Green Car Challenge" Jay has set up a race track with obstacles, and he wants some of his guests to drive an electric Ford Focus around the track as fast as possible. Last week, Drew Barrymore was a good sport and did a nice job, missing the cutouts of Al Gore on the second lap. Rush seemed quite a poor driver to me, and refused to wear the helmet. He gave up on the last lap and simply ran back and forth over the cutout of Al Gore, then said he lost on purpose. Jay kept up his cheerful demeanor, but I think I know how he felt.

Motorcycling: Is 200 km/l possible?

About 19 years ago, I had my first fuel economy challenge. Mary Ann told me her Toyota Tercel got really good gas mileage, and asked my what kind of gas mileage I got on my Honda CBX. We did a trial run of about 300 km, and I lost. OK the CBX has 6 cylinders to the four on the Tercel, and I went faster because I can't drive as slow as Mary Ann (or at least I couldn't then - now I'm older, more mature, and I have a Kawasaki Vulcan).

In 1985, at Laguna Seca, California USA, the winner of the Craig Vetter Fuel Economy Challenge acheived 470 miles per gallon (US), with a motorcycle. Is this practical for the street? I want to go through some of the techniques and give my opinion on whether it is practical or not. I do not have the full explanation from the video, unfortunately which must be ordered on the web site, but some things are obvious from the rest of the web page.

First, although the web page talks about normal street speeds and conditions, this particular effort was a closed race track performance. Traffic and normal rules of the road would reduce this fuel efficiency. Speed was not mentioned on the web page, but probably reasonable, as streamlining was useful.

This was a relatively low budget effort, starting with normal street bikes. A manufactured design would do much better than this, but there would have to be a mass market for it, which there is not right now.

The motorcycle was a 1980 Honda XL125 displacing 185 cc. The engine was modified adding a neutral between 5th and 4th to allow the rider to drop into neutral and coast easily. Another modification was increasing the stroke to get 185 cc.

All grease and oil was removed and replaced with lightweight machine oil. This would not be good for long service life, though. This includes grease in the drive chain and wheel hubs. No wonder this guy won! Not because of this change alone, but just an example of the thoroughness of the preparation.

Lightweight valve springs were used to reduce internal friction, unfortunately this would permit the valve to float at high rpm and possibly cause engine trouble. At the very least to hamper performance.

Overall gearing was changed, I assume to reduce engine speed. Which of course would mean torque (or acceleration) at the rear wheel would also be reduced. High air pressure in the tires, makes a bit of a hard ride, but otherwise not difficult to put up with.

On a personal note, and you can judge the practicality of this for yourself, the rider's clothes were duct taped to stop power-robbing flapping.

The rider had to assume a low crouched position, which would be uncomfortable to hold for any length of time. I will do this on my CD175 just to get into a wind or go up a hill, but it's too uncomfortable to hold unless it was a serious competition.

One important modification was the addition of a streamlined body. I noticed some pretty small foot holes, meaning the average rider would fall down a lot at stop signs, unless there were training wheels. Which of course would add to the wind drag. In this competition, a pit crew could probably help you get started and stopped.

This winning machine was crushed by Honda in 2006, from that I assume they had something to do with building it.

That was the last official Vetter Fuel Economy run. Today, Craig is still working on fuel mileage. His latest challenge is a bike that gets 100 mpg at 70 mph into a 20 mph headwind, carrying three bags of groceries. To me, that seems like a high bar to set, maybe we could make do with 60 mph with no headwind? And a bag of Doritos? Anyway, streamlining is the answer. He is nowhere near 470 mpg though, more like 64 mpg. Although that is actually pretty good for a 20 mph headwind! One thing about a headwind is that it is much worse than doing (70+20) mph, because at 90 mph you are at least going somewhere at 90 mph. With a 20 mph headwind, you have the drag of 90 mph, but moving at only 70 mph, which really hurts your gas mileage. That's why I would suggest forget the headwind aspect of the challenge.

So far, for a lot of reasons, 200 km/l seems out of reach, even for a motorcycle. But 50 may be possible if people were interested in going for streamlining, and a manufacturer would take the risk of mass production.

Picture: Matzu Matsuzawa Honda XL125

NOTE: This blog entry was recreated from a backup after Google lost the original

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Why and How Obama Must Meet Fox News

Fox News is the most recently in the news itself, when President Obama went on all the other News networks to explain his program for the American people, and seemed to snub Fox News, the network with one of the largest viewing audiences, if not the largest, in America.

What was he thinking? How could he ignore the millions of American who watch Fox News, whose motto is "Fair and Balanced?". Chris Wallace (the son of famous newsman Mike Wallace), now a Fox News anchor, appeared on a Fox News show to criticise the White House for being the biggest bunch of crybabies he has ever seen. I'll bet Obama never saw that coming. Now in addition to fighting a war in Afghanistan, he has stirred up a real hornet's nest if Fox News is against him.

Now there are millions of Fox Viewers who have no idea what Obama is up to, just because he childishly shunned that network. Will that make the Fox viewers any smarter? I don't think so. Will it make Fox viewers any better informed? Probably not. How can NOT APPEARING in Fox, help those viewers understand his programs any better?

I am going to have to step in with some advice because I don't want to see ignorance in America spread any further.

My advice to Mr. Obama is this: Go on Fox News and give your message to ALL the people of the USA, not just those who don't watch Fox News. This advice is coming from a person who would have actually voted for you if I had the right to, which I don't, being Canadian.

Speaking to you personally, President Obama, (if you even read this blog) I can help you prepare for your appearance for Fox News. Some advice on how to communicate with the viewers on Fox News, and maybe in some ways to help bring those viewers around to your way of thinking. Just a reminder before you start, you're going to have to lie a little here, it's OK, the viewers are used to it. In fact the viewers basically do not trust anyone who is "fact based" as they say. That would show a liberal bias.

  1. Start off by doing a terrorist fist bump with Chris Wallace, to show him and Fox viewers that it is harmless.
  2. Hang a sign around your neck during the interview that says "Please tune to another channel"
  3. Make sure to spend the first part of the interview defending yourself against the Fox News claims that you use too much mustard on your hamburgers.
  4. For God's sake make sure you wear the biggest American Flag pin you can find or make.
  5. Remind the viewers that you also believe the Earth is only 6000 years old, and that Adam was the first man, and he did not look like an Ape.
  6. Insist that you personally torture suspected Al Quida terrorists every day, and that's how you get your best information to keep America safe.
This advice is now public domain, you do not need any further permission to use it in a non-profit or educational situation.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Darwin is 200 Years Old

This year of Darwin's 200th birthday, a book was published in an attempt to shed more light on Charles Darwin, and his ideas and motivation.

"Darwin's Sacred Cause" by Adrian Desmond and James Moore

I came across the book in the library yesterday, and only skimmed through it a bit before putting it back (typical of me), then I looked up some comments on the Internet.

I was surprised to read this new take on Darwin, that apparently his scientific work was in the context of an Abolitionist background. Darwin's most influential friends and family were anti-slavery, and so was Darwin, in his own way. Of course, "science" cannot be used promote theories to try to prove a certain ideological point of view, like Abolitionism. So it would unethical, scientifically, for Darwin to formulate scientific theories ideas with the goal of abolishing slavery.

I have a copy of "Naturalist's Voyage on HMS Beagle". I last read it about 35 years ago, I skipped through it again to see what attitude Darwin might be shaping toward slavery and racism when he was in his twenties.

P. 18 (about some runaway slaves who were eking out a subsistence in the mountains) "At length they were discovered, and a party of soldiers being sent, the whole were seized with the exception of one old woman, who, sooner than again be led into slavery, dashed herself to pieces from the summit of the mountain. In a Roman matron this would have been called the noble love of freedom: in a poor negress it is mere brutal obstinacy."

P.22 (visiting an estate near Rio de Janeiro) "As long as the idea of slavery could be banished, there was something exceedingly fascinating in this simple and patriarchal style of living." .... "On such fazendas as these, I have no doubt that slaves pass happy and contented lives."

p. 480 "On the 19th of August we finally left the shores of Brazil. I thank God, I shall never again visit a slave-country. To this day, if I hear a distant scream, it recalls with painful vividness my feelings, when passing a house near Pernambuco, I heard the most pitiable moans, and could not but suspect some poor slave was being tortured, yet knew that I was powerless as a child even to remonstrate. I suspected these moans were from a tortured slave, for I was told that this was the case in another instance. Near Rio de Janeiro I lived opposite to an old lady, who kept screws to crush the fingers of her female slaves. I have staid in a house where a young household mulatto, daily and hourly, was reviled, beaten and persecuted enough to break the spirit of the lowest animal. I have seen a little boy, six or seven years old, struck thrice with a horse-whip (before I could interfere), on his naked head, for having handed me a glass of water not quite clean; I saw his father tremble at a mere glance from his master's eye. These latter cruelties were witnessed by me in a Spanish colony, in which it has always been said, that slaves are better treated than by the Portuguese, English, or other European nations"

Darwin continues on a rant for about a page, along the same lines followed up with:

"And these deeds are done and palliated by men, who profess to love their neighbours as themselves, who believe in God, and pray that his Will be done on earth! It makes one's blood boil, yet heart tremble, to think that we Englishmen and our American descendants, with their boastful cry of liberty, have been and are so guilty: but it is a consolation to reflect, that we at least have made a greater sacrifice, than ever made by any nation, to expiate our sin."

After that re-read, I would not be surprised if he was quite happy to see one of the pillars of slavery come down in his Theory of Evolution. That pillar being the religious argument that "God created man in His image, to have dominion over the beasts etc." Where racists insisted, and insist to this very day that Adam was a white man. Since there are no photos in the Bible, it's hard to prove that Adam might have been African or Asian, or possibly even monkey-like.

Darwin's theory of evolution blew away this white racist religious argument, along with many other beliefs of the time. But religious extremists are still fighting it tooth and nail, blaming Darwin for the Nazi holocaust, and claiming he has held back scientific advancement. I believe the opposite is actually closer to the truth.

It should come as no surprise that hatred of Darwin is strongly based in former slave territory of the Southern US. What is a surprise is that their numbers seem to be growing. Where once the racists' main goal was the return of slavery, it seems like they have now given up on that as hopeless, and now are turning themselves more toward end of the world scenario. Their goal now is to start a nuclear holy war: Christians united with Jews against Muslims, leading to the final days of the planet. It is a natural psychological progression, actually, one followed by Hitler when he found out that he could not dominate and enslave the rest of the world, he would then try destroy as much of it as he could before killing himself.

It's too late for Hitler and the Nazis, of course, but it's too bad we can't get some therapy for the leftover religious racists before they hurt somebody. We know it can be cured, just by the example of Germans today, but first you have to admit you are sick.

The picture? In case you couldn't guess, it's Adam and Eve from a Christian website.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Making Sense of Racist Regimes

As far as I know, there have only been three democracies that developed racist "apartheid" type regimes. The Southern USA, South Africa, and Israel. I am against racism, and I consider it to be evil. I believe all citizens born in a given country must have equal rights under the law regardless of parentage. This is the law in Canada, and also now in the USA and since 1991 in South Africa. But the racist system has not yet been abolished in Israel.

As the International Criminal Court phrases it, apartheid is “the systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”

If you wish to read more about international law and apartheid and whether or not it applies to Israel, here is a web page.

In any racist society, there is "domination by one racial group over another". There are always some people who will proudly accept their racial status (such as Black, Jew, Aryan, White) but there are many in between types who desperately want to be "certified" as part of the dominant group. So there has to be some official way of keeping up the barrier of separation.

Palestinians are officially defined by the state of Israel meaning they can never "convert" or become like the rest of the full citizens who have rights, due to their birth, and because of their official classification by Israel. The classification is based on keeping records of parentage to ensure that no one can officially move from the subordinate class to the dominant class without authorization. A racist society always has a bureaucracy to accept or reject applicants who wish to be declared as part of the dominant class. "White" (USA, South Africa) or "Jewish"(Israel) or "Aryan"(Nazi Germany) as the case may be. This government body has the power to remove the rights from any person they deem to be from the "inferior" race.

A typical racist society has armed men of the dominant race (and sometimes the inferior race employed by the dominant race), continually checking people's documents. Those documents may be racial certificates or permits to travel. Dead- end racists even demand to see Obama's birth documents, or stand as close as possible to him with loaded assault rifles, even though he is President of the United States. The habits of racism do not die quickly.

In the old days, in the southern USA, a person was deemed black (and could be enslaved or segregated) if just one great-grandparent was black, even though the other 7 great grandparents were fully white. However that person (called an octoroon) could conceive a child with a white person of the opposite sex, (same sex marriages don't work in this case) and the child would be considered white.

In Nazi Germany, to be declared Aryan, you needed a certificate based on birth certificates of grandparents. Hitler personally issued thousands of certificates to mixed race German Jews. The important thing in Nazi Germany was to get this certificate. Without it you were no better than an animal.

"People born from marriages of Aryans with non-Aryans were called in Reich "mischlinge". The 1935 racial laws distinguished "mischlinge" of first level (one of parents was a Jew) and that of the second level (grandmother or grandfather was a Jew). Despite the juridical "imperfectness" of people with Jewish genes, dozens of thousands of "mischlinge" were called up to Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe and German Navy."

"Hitler's Jewish Soldiers" Bryan Rigg

Check out this page discussing the question if German/Jewishness.

In Israel, the racial rule is that your mother must be fully Jewish in order to be considered a Jew and get all the rights of Jews. There is a well defined conversion process you can go through, but as you could imagine very few Palestinians ever qualify for this process. Strangely enough, many German ex-Nazis could qualify as Jews under the existing laws of Israel.

Oklahoma not OK (according to poll)

I have done several blogs now on the value of education, the need for an informed population. Still it comes as a surprise to me that according to a poll, most Oklahoma high school students don't know that George Washington was the first president. I don't know exactly how this poll was conducted. Was it a followup to the one where American students could not locate America on the map of the world? It is also possible that the students were motivated to answer in a "dumb" way, or at the very least had no motivation to put down the correct answer. But I am also going to consider it a problem if students have started to put wrong answers just for fun.

I can think of these possible explanations:
1. Students decide to answer wrong even if they know the right answer
2. American history is being taught incorrectly or not at all
3. American students no longer have the brain power to retain facts, names, etc.
4. The poll is wrong
5. This only happens in Oklahoma
6. A similar result can be had in any country, substituting an appropriate foreign question.

The first three are bad, and number three is possibly the worst as it has consequences for the future survival of the USA and the rest of the world. Four would be the best result for everybody, and five is bad only for Oklahoma.

What implications does this have for motorcycling in America (especially Oklahoma)? Say you were riding along and had a crash, and cracked your helmet. In the past, when the ambulance attendants arrived, they would ask a simple question to determine if your brain was still functioning. "Who was the first president of the United States?" I know this is unfair to Canadian motorcyclists, and instead they should ask "Who was the first prime minister or Canada", but we both know that either way, you are just as likely to be loaded in the ambulance for a ride to the nearest hospital with a brain trauma unit. You need to know the correct answer to prove you are not concussed, and avoid the expense of an ambulance ride, and even more if it is a helicopter Medevac ride. Just say "Since 75% of Oklahoma high school students cannot answer this question correctly, why not pick an easier question?", hopefully you will be able to say that, and will be sent on your way.

In the final analysis, even if everybody in the country is armed to the teeth with assault weapons, the country still is doomed when 75% of the population are ignorant. Education has to be valued more highly than the "right the bear arms". (Or as you see on the placards "bare arms")

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Motorcycling: Back to the Future

Yesterday being another day in our unbroken string of over two weeks of good weather, I decided to go for an all day ride with my camera and my new (got them yesterday) binoculars. As a destination, I chose Hawk Cliff, near Port Stanley. The annual hawk migration is in full stride, and on some days I am told 10,000 hawks fly by. For my ride I decided on Mary Ann's Burgman, as recently the Burgman has been acting strangely, and I wanted a full test after the recent tear down to do a valve inspection. I also took a water bottle, not the plastic pop-bottle type, which Mary Ann says is dangerous, but a new stainless steel space age type.

All 21st century stuff seems to have warning labels. The Burgman is loaded with them, and in Canada you can double that because for every English label you need a French one of the same size and equally visible. Even the water bottle comes with warning instructions. But my favourite is now the binocular instruction book, which is full of warnings and death threats. "You should never look at the sun with binoculars." Good one, binocular book writers. What else? Do not pinch your fingers between the two binoculars when adjusting. Do not swing the binoculars by their strap, you may conk somebody on the head, do not give the plastic bag to a baby, do not swallow the lens caps, do not drop the binoculars on your foot, if you chafe your eye area with the eye cups, see your doctor.

So off I go on a crisp cold but sunny morning for who knows what may come my way. I got on the 401 and started pushing the Burgman a little. It was running really well, a bit of a surprise, which encouraged me to push a bit further. Soon I was matching speeds with the faster cars, meaning 140 kph. It felt great, with the wind and sun at my back where they should stay all the time but don't. I turned off at the Aylmer overpass, and waved to the cop standing on the bridge with the radar gun in one hand and walkie-talkie in the other. He's been there for at least a week now, I could actually feel the 401 slow down as we came over the hill before the radar trap.

In less than 90 minutes I had reached Port Bruce on Lake Erie, and noticed a public washroom near the beach. There was a motorcycle parked in front of it, looking a bit like the 2010 Triumph Scrambler that I had been lusting after in my previous blog.

As I got closer to the olive green bike, I realized here was something that was not new. The rider himself looked like he could have been cryogenically frozen in the fifties, with his helmet, beaten up leather jacket, boots and jeans. As I pulled up and parked beside him, his face took on a look as if he was watching an alien spaceship landing. Then I remembered I was on the Burgman.

The rider from the fifties waited for me to remove my helmet and earplugs and we began to do what we obviously both love best, swapping stories of motorcycles with somebody else who actually cares. I wanted to know where he got the bike, he wanted to know if the Burgman had any gears (It doesn't) The Triumph rider was sympathetic to my tale of valve clearances, as his 1955 Triumph TRW was a sidevalve model that you could probably do in your sleep in under 5 minutes - given a set of Whitworth wrenches of course.

The Triumph appeared to have the original paint and tires too. He explained to me that the worst thing about the cracks in the tires was when you got sand in the cracks, that would eventually work down to the tube.

Another old timer walking his dog joined the conversation, and suggested a race between the bikes around the park. I don't know if all the ports along the Erie Shore are jammed full of bullshit artists, or if this was all true, but the second man began to tell us quite detailed stories of his trip to the ISDT in Sweden in 1978, financed by the insurance settlement on a car accident, to help his son compete for the Canadian team. It all sounded true, but being the skeptic I am, I had to Google it when I got home and found out that yes indeed the 1978 International Six-Day Trials were in Sweden. And they were actually rained out, as he mentioned. (To anyone into scramblers, the ISDT is beyond legendary)

Well all things come to an end, we parted ways. With my 25 hp, I easily overtook the 15 hp Triumph on the road, and with a wave, carried on to see the migration. Unfortunately no hawks.

Anyway, the day was not a total loss.

Picture credit:

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Triumph Street Scrambler

One of my most-read blogs is the one I wrote about the "Street Scrambler".

So I thought I would do another especially being inspired by the new Triumph scrambler. This is not a road test, I have not even seen this bike yet, other than a picture or two. But I almost wanted to sell my Vulcan when I saw the picture of one with the Arrows exhaust. Although the exhaust is the most striking feature of this scrambler, I was not at all impressed with the original pipes. The heat shield seemed inadequate, and the entire system looked too long. The front of the pipes quickly turn blue (true to the sixties look), and not to mention the sound, which allowed the engine whine to drown it out. Only from the youtube, I'm not sure if the whine is too loud, or the exhaust too quiet.

When I read comments about any bike, on the internet, I get the feeling motorcycle consumers are very fussy. I suspect the only way they would be satisfied is if they were allowed to personally design the bike on a napkin, and have it turned into a perfect machine that required no maintenance. And furthermore, (A) Nobody else on Earth was allowed to buy that bike (B) It cost absolutely nothing. Strangely, the one place motorcycle consumers, in North America anyway, are never fussy, is on gas mileage. If it gets poor mileage, it seems to be a badge of honour, something to be desired as if they were trying to out-do the Hummer consumers. I'm not sure what the Scrambler gets for mileage, but I'll bet it could be better if motorcyclist cared more about efficiency and less about speed.

One comment made a direct hit on one of my pet peeves, as the past (and present) owner of a Honda 175. This comment was "The Triumph Scrambler is not remotely fast". I assume it was a motorcycle consumer expressing this opinion. In my own not-too-humble opinion, any motorcycle over 50cc is fast enough to get an immature rider into a lot of trouble. Even pedal powered bicycles can be involved in fatalities. The Triumph Scrambler is 900 cc, and can go 160 kph. People who like to proclaim their opinion that certain bikes are "slow" should stop and think about what they are saying. Why not be objective, just say "The Triumph scrambler cannot exceed 200 kph", let other people judge for themselves what they think is "remotely" fast.

Motorcycles: Riding in the Rain

Mary Ann dragged me off to the library this morning for a walk, with the promise of stopping at an outdoor cafe on the way home. While in the library, I flipped open the latest Cycle Canada, and read the editorial by the new editor Neil Graham. It was a thought provoking article. Because of this summer's weather in Ontario, Neil was finally learning to deal with rain. One of Neil's comments: If it is already raining, then at least it can't get any worse.

I was reminded of a trip in 1988, returning from Florida with Roy. He was on his Kawasaki 1300 six, and I was on my Honda CBX (also a six cylinder). As we approached the border crossing at Detroit, on the way home, we encountered very heavy rainfall through all of Ohio. We were not really slowing down, and maintained about 130 kph in the passing lane of I-75, partly to avoid the heavy spray thrown up by the trucks which was being blown to the right by a strong west wind. I could hardly see (reminder: Helmet visors had no windshield wipers then, I guess they still don't.) But I could hear the motor sound suddenly change from the silky smooth howl of six-into-two semi racing pipes into a slightly ragged sound of a five cylinder bike. I guess the water had penetrated the ignition wires of one cylinder. Not to worry, though, the CBX had more than enough spare power to maintain speed. Then the sound got a little more ragged, and I was riding a four cylinder 650. About fifteen minutes later, I was down to riding a 500 cc triple. I decided I better catch up with Roy and announce the bad news while I still had enough power to keep up. We decided to find a motel for the night and see what we could do the next day. Next morning was dry, the motor started fine and ran perfectly all the way home. Then the next year, both of us were returning from California in a similar circumstance, we got soaked all through Ohio, but I had sealed the ignition over the winter and we made it without any cylinders giving out.

Usually touring riders keep their heads when it starts to rain. They know they are too far from home, and they put on rain gear. Or stop somewhere until it blows over. But some motorcycle commuters get caught in a rain shower unprepared, on the way home from work, and try to speed up in heavy traffic. They forget that the streets are slippery, and the number of idiots on the road is undiminished, possibly even increased in the rain. Then suddenly can get worse.

This summer, I noticed a lot more rain in Southern Ontario myself, but I only got caught twice. I find the weather forecasts are much better than they were in the old days. Once, this summer, I was out all morning in beautiful but threatening weather. Mary Ann and I were going to ride our bikes to Elora with a friend and stop at an outdoor cafe (I love those things), and at least the morning was supposed to be beautiful. Then problem number one hit, Mary Ann's Devil-Burgman decided to get a flat tire in the garage. I had to drive to Canadian Tire and get a tire plugging kit, then plug the leak before we could even start. The rest of the trip was perfect, but we could see threatening clouds beginning to build in the afternoon. Just after we dropped off our friend and were waiting for a traffic light right in the city, it started to rain enough to begin flooding the streets. I arrived home soaked right through. But it was still worth it.

Picture credit the Guardian (Covers PEI like the dew):

Making Sense of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham

I assume it is the anniversary of the defeat of the French in Canada, from the piece in the National Post today. Here is a section taken from that article:
"The Battle of Quebec may be the most important event in Canadian history. But the official position is to pretend it never happened.
Among those who still bother with the events of 250 years ago, the modern perspective has become blurred by revisionism and myth-making. The battle itself is generally considered to have been an entirely haphazard affair between two incompetent generals. But for a few lucky breaks on the part of British, victory could just as easily have gone to the French. And then, who knows, Canada might today be a French-speaking paradise.

But such a retelling of Canada's founding moment is disingenuous and bad history besides. In a two-part series, the National Post clears away the myths obscuring the real story of the Battle of Quebec. Today, why the French were never going to win the Seven Years War in North America. Tomorrow, the true military genius of Major-General James Wolfe, "the dauntless hero" of Quebec."
Some Canadian Anglophones have been in despair ever since it was announced that there would not be a re-enactment of this battle to mark the 250th anniversary of the defeat of the French in North America. The logic behind their complaints is that people need to learn the truth of history, and not deny the facts. The facts apparently, being that Wolfe was a genius, and that this battle was the most significant in Canadian history.

Well, not according to my research, which shows that the surrender of the French did not take place until about a year later, and was not based on this battle. In fact, the same French forces that lost this battle, returned the next year to defeat the British forces holding Quebec. No, there was another battle, far more important in deciding that the British would keep Quebec. There were other factors that led to the eventual reorganization of power in North America, where the British lost their 13 colonies, but retained Quebec and the other previously French colonies.

Let me just put the history in a bit larger perspective than the mythical focus usually attributed to the battle of Quebec at the Plains of Abraham on Sept. 13, 1759.

For years the British and American strategy in North America had been to try to cut off Quebec from France. Quebec was a problem to the American colonies because the French held much of the interior of North America, from Quebec City all the way down to New Orleans. In spite of the much larger population of British Americans, they had not been able to take this large territory from the French by military force.

The strategy was to rely on a British Navy blockade to stop French supplies and arms from reaching Quebec. The first step was to take the French Colonies known as Acadia (Nova Scotia and New Brunswick), including the supposedly impregnable French fortress of Louisburg, guarding the Gulf of St Lawrence. While they succeeded in this, they were still unable to cut off the French supply ships, which somehow managed to get past the blockade and to Quebec city down the long open waters of the estuary of the St Lawrence river.

The decision was made that Quebec city itself had to be taken or destroyed, and consequently a large force was assembled and laid siege to Quebec in the summer of 1759, causing a lot of damage to the city itself and razing the villages and food supplies along the St Lawrence outside of the reach of the Quebec defenders. Finally, they took the city in September while most of the French forces retreated back to Montreal and prepared to retake Quebec city the next year.

But unknown to both sides, another battle took place two months later in Europe, on November 20, 1759. I will confess that I do not remember learning about this battle when I was in school. Perhaps it was not mentioned, perhaps I was asleep at the time. So I am not going to try to blame anyone for this little point of ignorance, although I should mention that I was attending an English school in the province of Quebec. But here it is thanks to Wikipedia. I will insert this quote indirectly from Wikipedia

Alfred Thayer Mahan (The Influence of Sea Power upon History), "The battle of 20 November 1759 was the Trafalgar of this war, and [...] the English fleets were now free to act against the colonies of France, and later of Spain, on a grander scale than ever before". For instance, the French could not follow up their victory at the Battle of Sainte-Foy in 1760 for want of reinforcements and supplies from France and so Quiberon Bay may be regarded as the battle that determined the fate of New France and hence Canada.

France experienced a credit crunch as financiers recognised that Britain could now strike at will against French trade.[11] The French government was forced to default on its debt.[11]"
After the Battle of Quiberon Bay, the Royal Navy was able to blockade the entire coastline of France, which finally succeeded in isolating Quebec. The result was that the French in Quebec finally surrendered, but not because of the temporary loss of the city of Quebec.

If the British had lost the battle of the Plains of Abraham, it might have actually served their long term interests better, meaning they might have retained the 13 colonies, and the interior of the continent. The 13 colonies were subsequently lost partly through the debt accumulated in the longer war, and partly through the removal of the French threat in North America.

But in a final irony, who could guess that after losing the 13 colonies, that the British would then enter an age of science, reason and invention, leading to the industrial revolution, the abolition of slavery, and the greatest empire the world has ever known? It almost seemed like trading the English speaking, slave owning, American colonies for French speaking Quebec provoked a revolution in thought in England.

Maybe that's what we should focus on instead of a one-day land battle that the English won and the French lost.

Anyhow, that's another version of the "real" history of Canada and Britain to ponder. Tomorrow, I can't wait to find out why Wolfe was a true military genius, in the next article from the National Post.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Motorcycling: Driving on the Right

For once, I am going to explain the difference between right and left without getting into politics.

I was sitting in the Doctor's office reading MacLean's again, and I saw an article about Samoa switching sides of the road. In the article, it mentioned this was the first time in 39 years since a country had switched driving from one side to the other. They did not mention the previous country, but I was in Sierra Leone in 1971, when they switched from the left to the right hand side. (Samoa is going right to left). Nigeria switched even more recently, in 1972.

Unlike Samoa, there was no controversy in Sierra Leone. Everyone knew our neighboring counties drove on the right, as did almost all West Africa. If the switch was not done soon, it would have to be done eventually at far greater cost. Thinking back, it seems so nostalgic that people could make a decision based on rational thought and foresight, unlike the decisions we make today about global warming (or anything else you can think of). It was thought to be responsible to make a relatively small sacrifice now rather than let future generations suffer a far greater burden.

There would have been plenty of chances for opponents of right hand traffic to recall that Hitler ordered right-hand traffic in Czechoslovakia and Austria in the 1930s. But back in those days, Hitler comparisons were not a popular debating game.

Coming from Canada, I had learned to drive on the right all my life, but switching to driving on the left in Sierra Leone was not too difficult. Motorcycles have an advantage over cars in that you don't need to move the steering wheel from one side to the other, they are equally at home on either side of the street. And if you see a vehicle approaching on the wrong side, you may still be able to find space on your side to squeeze by. If you have to make the last minute decision to swerve to the wrong side, you will sometimes find that the other driver does the same, and you're finished.

Sierra Leone did the change in the middle of the night and declared a 4 hour moratorium on driving. Of course, my motorcycle ended up on the road during that time. I had lent it to my housemate for the night, and he didn't return until after the moratorium started. I was a bit concerned, but as he said, it was actually the only time he had ever really been safe on the roads, so all was forgiven.

Funny thing was, the next few days I had a really hard time adjusting to driving my motorcycle on the right side of the road. I guess it was easy enough to switch when on unfamiliar roads, but hard to change once you adopt certain habits.

Everyone was expecting carnage on the roads during the next few weeks, but as far as I could tell, there were few or even maybe no accidents. I certainly never met anyone on the wrong side of the road although I was over on the left a few times by mistake.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Making Sense of Obama's School Message and the Critics

Briefly: President Obama has been attacked by the right wing extremists because he is planning a TV speech to kids in school. The objection is that he is trying to indoctrinate kids into being liberals and democrats. Obama insists it is only to tell kids to stay in school and work hard.

The liberals don't understand the objection, but then they also didn't understand the objection to Obama ordering Dijon mustard on his hamburger (and many other similar controversies). Apparently many right wing conservative parents are threatening to keep their kids home from school as a political protest of the TV presentation.

I think some light can be shed from a historical perspective. There was a civil rights movement back in the sixties, that allowed black kids go to school, while conservative whites threatened violence and even killed some people to stop the black people from going to schools where the whites were. Now 40 years later, we have a black president who wants to make a speech telling kids to stay in school and work hard. Some of those kids will obviously be black, and to many conservatives this is like rubbing salt in a wound. Even today conservatives are willing to sacrifice the entire public school system that they are still convinced has been 'tainted' by the black kids attending.

I think that looking at the criticism of Obama in the perspective of the Civil Rights movement helps in understanding why there is hysteria surrounding the current presidency. For another example, the civil rights movement also allowed blacks to order hamburgers in white restaurants, with any kind of condiments they wanted.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

9/11 is not Over Yet

It's coming up on the anniversary of 9/11 again. I was just thinking this morning that I don't have a passport yet, so I can't visit the USA until I get one. Before 9/11, there was no need for me to have a passport to visit the USA.  That is one of the effects of 9/11 that will stay with us.

I am reluctant to get going on topics like this, but I do like to exercise freedom of speech, and the worst that could happen (I hope) is that Google Blogger suspends my account. So here goes.

Republicans are fond of saying that they kept America safe from another attack. But it is not another attack that they should be worrying about. They should be concerned about the potential breakup of the nation and civil war. The actual 9/11 attack, although it killed over 3,000 people, is really a drop in the bucket for a nation that, since 9/11 has had 320,000 people die in traffic accidents. Another attack even on the scale of 9/11 could be shrugged off, but not a civil war.

The real damage since 9/11 has been to raise the general level of paranoia in the United States, and along with it, a resurgence of racism, as racism is based on paranoia.

I'm pretty sure I'm not giving away any secrets here about America's greatest weakness, which is racism. For the most part, America is a great country, but with an unfortunate history of racism that has caused a civil war, and has not been properly healed, even today. Racism occurs in all countries, and if it was confined to certain isolated groups it would not pose a threat to a country as strong as the USA. It is only when the poison gets into the life blood of the country that it becomes a threat the continuing existence of that country.

In Germany, Hitler rode the dragon of racism in his drive to dictatorship. Today the Germans have learned the lesson. They try to keep it in check, and mostly are succeeding, I hope. In America also there is a desire to keep it in check. Wherever possible, the Republicans place Afro Americans in visible positions within the party. Evangelicals and Southern Baptists have renounced slavery and racism. Fox News does not allow any commentators to make racist comments on the air. And even Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity never mention it unless it is to say that coloured people are the ones who are actually racist, and the whites are oppressed.

But at least one national television station, a radio network, and several Christian religions are squarely against Obama, and spread anti-Obama propaganda 24/7, saying he is a tyrant, a baby killer, a socialist, and a traitor trying to destroy America. Religious "celebrities" claim he is the Anti-Christ. Maybe this is politics as usual, maybe it is the beginning of the end.

If I am wrong and Obama is actually trying to destroy the USA, then I would agree with Fox, Rush, and Hannity, and the birthers and the gun carriers, and the pro-lifers and the Secessionists. But I would not like to see a great nation like the USA brought down like a house of cards over this issue, whether they are right or wrong.

In my opinion, it is far more likely that the extremist hatred of Obama and liberals is all the result of paranoia, that was ignited first by 9/11 and since then has been burning out of control, fuelled by a lot of leftover racism from the civil war days, and the civil rights movement of the sixties. If it does not stop soon, the entire supporting structure that keeps America great is going to soften and buckle, and the USA itself may unexpectedly go down like the towers themselves, just a delayed reaction to 9/11. And that would be a really sad day.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Motorcycling: Valve Adjustments

Valve adjustments are one of the still unresolved problems of motorcycle maintenance, although with incredibly careful design and modern metallurgy, engine now hold their adjustments for a long time. This is the result of careful design balancing the natural tendencies of some parts of the valve train that tighten up, and others of eventually loosening up. Back in the sixties, I needed to adjust the valves on my Honda 175 about every 3000 miles.

Then I had a ten year span of riding a Yamaha 250 two-stroke with no valves. It was so simple mechanically, yet conceptually it was hard to understand how the thing worked at all, with almost no moving parts. Well the pollution Nazis and clean air Gestapo put an end to that little idyll, and the next bike was back to adjusting valves, but not as often as before, and now we had 4 valves per cylinder. But two cylinders and screw type adjusters meant the job was easy enough to perform every 10,000 or so kilometers.

My next bike was the one with the legendary valve adjustment, as in "You ain't never seen nothing until you adjust the valves on a CBX!" The CBX not only had 4 valves per cylinder, but also shim adjusters. Six cylinders equals 24 valves. No simple screw adjustment, you had to measure shim thicknesses and buy new shims to get everything back in spec. I actually did an adjustment of those valves, one three day weekend. I needed to buy a caliper micrometer, and a special Honda shim removal tool. I did not lower the engine, as I was instructed by the shop manual, which saved some time. Then I had to devise a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet to keep track of what shims I would need to switch, and which I needed to purchase. Also, I had to drive across town three times to finally end up with all the correct shims. That was the only valve adjustment I performed on the CBX.

My next bike was better and worse. The BMW had only four cylinders, so 8 fewer valves. But to remove the shims, both the camshafts had to come off, which also required a new special tool, which I ordered, then drove an hour to London to pick up when it came in. Then I drove to Newmarket to buy the shims (only one trip this time, one and a half hours each way). I got the job done, and again it was the last time I ever looked at the valves, and the bike lasted another 80,000 km before I got rid of it, and not because of the valves.

I have a new bike, the Vulcan 900, at 30,000 km, and no human being has ever seen the adjustment since new. I believe shims are involved.

But then there is Mary Ann's Suzuki Burgman 400. We bought it used at 2,000 km, and I hope somebody else performed the initial valve adjustment. Now it has 20,000 with no further inspections. I was only slightly concerned about this single cylinder engine running at ungodly rpm's on the 401, with the old fashioned screw adjusters that were not famous for keeping a steady clearance. Then two days ago her bike would not start, and one of the possibilities was the valve adjustment. I did eventually start it, but then decided it needed the adjustment anyway. My only choice was take it to a dealer or do it myself. This would have been the very first time in my life that I trusted a dealer to do a valve adjustment, so I seriously thought about doing it myself.

When I looked at the instructions for the Suzuki, I noticed that I needed to remove the passenger back rest pad. I should not need to explain how stupid that was to anyone with enough interest to read this far. Upon further reading of the instructions, I realized that the seat, the underseat storage, all the back body work, most of the front bodywork, the seat, the air filter box, the throttle body, and many other nameless items, electrical connectors, and hoses all needed to be disassembled just to get at the cylinder head. Every single one of these items was a puzzle to solve with only the guidance of the perversely obscure (I might even say obfuscating) shop manual. However, there was a Burgman 400 forum online, which had instructions plus photos in colour. In case you're interested, it's here:

With almost 200 parts to keep track of, I asked Mary Ann to act as kind of a parts storehouse manager, cataloging and labelling parts as they came off the bike and washing the parts that needed it.

I finally got the bike apart in about 4 hours, and checked the valve clearances. They were all OK. Mary Ann found this funny and broke out laughing, but you had to be there to understand the joke. Another three hours putting it back together, and it is NOT as easy as "assemble in reverse order of disassembly". I only lost one nut that fell into the engine compartment never to be seen again, and one plastic bodywork fastener that was left in an aluminum pie plate on the patio, but a squirrel ran off with it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Motorcycling: Sidetracked Again.

I just realized that I kind of forgot to write about the ride yesterday, and got sidetracked onto the subject of speeding tickets. Well, that's actually how many rides themselves end up: sidetracked. When you are not on a coast-to-coast run with a deadline looming to get back and go to work, when you are retired, you actually don't worry too much about getting sidetracked. Now back to the ride that I forgot about yesterday.

Many rides we go on involve a Tim Horton's at some point. Usually at every point. Yesterday, for example, we met at one Tim Horton's, rode to another for lunch, then stopped at a last one before splitting off and going our own ways. Tim Horton's is a coffee shop chain. You may find them in the USA, but nothing like what they are in Canada. On one main street in Kitchener, near where live, there is a Tim Horton's at every traffic light. I believe you can look that up on Google maps.

Although Tim Horton's is now sadly, American owned, it is still the brand Canadians associate most with Canada. We don't care who owns it, as long as it has a parking lot, a toilet, coffee and doughnuts in that order. Actually I should write that as donuts, as there is no "dough" in the donuts any more.

I want to stop for a second to defend Tim Horton's against an insidious rumour probably started by Krispy Kreme. About 5 years ago, Tim Horton's opened up a coffee shop for the Canadian forces in Kandahar, Afghanistan, just to make them feel at home. A rumour went around that Tim Horton's was taking advantage of the Canadian military to line their greedy corporate pockets. So when I was talking to my nephew recently about his tour in Kandahar, I asked him about the Tim Horton's. Apparently the prices were the same as in Canada. So here's the thing. How do you make money if you fly a donut and coffee from Canada to Afghanistan and sell it for $1.80? Plus you have to convince your Tim Horton's staff to take combat training (not as severe as the military, but still some training) and go to Kandahar for a year. Somebody would have to pretty stupid to think you can make money off that. Yes, I said "stupid" so hopefully none of you readers got sucked in by that piece of propaganda put out by the spawns of the devil at Krispy Kreme. And by the way, Krispy Kreme's invasion of Canada is now officially over as they are closing all non-essential outlets and heading home to the USA.

Now where was I? Oh yes, sitting in the Tim Horton's in Port Dover. Everything that happens in Canada, happens in Tim Horton's. During the Bosnian conflict, Tim Horton's were divided up between Serbs and Croatians, so that they didn't have to speak to each other. I have it on good authority that Serbian and Croatian, although they are different languages officially, can be understood by each other if they want to.

Right beside us in Tim Horton's at Port Dover is a group of about 7 Chinese teenagers chatting among themselves in Chinese (which I don't understand at all, but it sounds like Chinese I think). But in the parking lot sitting on the trunk of a car alone is one of the Chinese girls, and the car has the bumper sticker "Free Tibet". So now I'm thinking, these kids have to be Tibetans, not Chinese. I was going to ask her what was the story with the Tibetan bumper sticker, but Bob and Barry were more interested in talking to the guy with the old red Harley and an aluminum sidecar, and his friend who looked like an outlaw with ape hangers on his bike. So instead I went over for a discussion about how high ape hanger handlebars have to be before you are hassled by the fuzz.

When we go to Port Dover, we rarely even bother to take a look at the lake or the palm trees. When I go with Mary Ann, we always have to look at all the normal stuff, but not with Barry or Bob. Just go to Tim Horton's, sit around and talk, then head home - or more likely to another Tim Horton's on the way home. That's just the way we like it.

And finally, on the way home we were treated to an aerial display by some kind of fighter jet. It actually looked like a Korean war vintage Saber jet, doing loops in the sky and passing low over the road. It was a little bit dangerous looking up to see the plane, and then realizing maybe all the car drivers were doing the same and going all over the road. (which they didn't, so maybe in a car you don't notice overhead things)

These trips to Port Dover may not seem like much, but there's always interesting stuff going on while we're going for rides on our bikes.

P.S. The picture is not mine, it's Port Dover Friday 13th from the look of it. But if I were to take a picture of my own, instead of stealing it off the Internet, it would look about the same.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Motorcycling: September is Here

September is here, and I went for a ride today with two friends. Usually I'm not really keen to write about a ride like this, because the subject matter seems too boring, but I'm going to make an exception for this one. Not because it was a real standout ride, but just about any ride has some interesting stuff in it.

Today is the second day of what looks like a week of nice weather forecast. It started cold, but warmed up to about 25c in the afternoon, which I consider the perfect temperature to be able to wear a lot of protective gear without discomfort. Also, I don't need to open the cuffs on my jacket, meaning no bees or wasps can fly up there and sting me. That happened once last year, and I think I would rather get a speeding ticket than have a bee sting. (More on that later). I'm also thinking about bees because I found a wasp nest behind the bricks of my house and this morning I was spraying the wasps, wearing my full motorcycle gear (with a scarf wrapped around my neck) to prevent getting stung. I didn't actually get stung, but my face shield fogged up so I couldn't see where I was going, and ended up having to lift the visor with all the mad wasps buzzing about.

After all that excitement, I got the Vulcan 900 out of the garage and went off to meet Barry and Bob at Tim Horton's in Paris. Of course, were headed to Port Dover, as none of us is original enough to come up with a better destination. Besides, we've seen every other place in driving distance from here, and Port Dover at least has lots of other motorcyclists to talk to. You never seem to meet the same person twice and you can hear the most amazing stories if you're willing to listen to some of these random bikers.

Bob has an old Suzuki Intruder 1400 with about 60,000 km on it. He briefly sold it a couple of years ago to buy a Kawasaki Ninja 1200. Now as a rule, many motorcyclists do not like lending their bikes, but Bob is OK with exchanging bikes with me, so not only have I ridden a Ninja 1200, but also I got a chance today to ride an Intruder 1400. So I would have to give my opinion here that a Kawasaki Ninja 1200 is just too powerful for me. I rode a Honda CBX for many years, which I did not think was too powerful - despite the fact that I almost slid off the back of the CBX once at full throttle when I released my grip on the left bar to grab the clutch lever. But the Ninja, well that's just too much power. I think Bob felt the same way, and sold it, and was lucky enough to buy back his original Intruder. After trying the Intruder a couple of times, I think I see the appeal. It's fast enough, it's comfortable, it actually has a great feel when you set it up right. Bob has a Mustang seat, crash bars with highway pegs, a small windshield, and plastic saddlebags. We exchanged bikes to let me get a feel for that oh-so expensive Mustang seat that you can't properly test unless you actually go for a longish ride. The rear suspension was so much softer than my Vulcan that it actually felt like I was floating over the road. So it was not a scientific test of the seat, because the rear springs soaked up most of the pounding I would have gotten from the Vulcan seat/rear suspension setup.

The styling of the Intruder 1400 doesn't appeal to everyone (Barry for example, but he has a Harley), but I really liked the unusual bend to the narrow handlebars, the thumping of the big pistons, the smooth hydraulic clutch, and the highway pegs were also useful. With the highway pegs and the back lip of the Mustang seat, it's easy to push yourself back far enough to completely take the pressure off the seat base. When you can do that, you can ride for a long time without numbness setting in.

Getting back to the speeding ticket - while Barry was leading we got into a small town with a 50 kph limit, and came up behind two tractors pulling trailers at about 30 kph, followed by a couple of cars that were reluctant to pass. Barry pulled out and went by all of them in the blink of an eye, and ran straight into a radar trap. The lucky part was that he didn't lose his licence. Cops in Ontario can suspend your licence on the spot and impound your bike if they think you are stunt riding, or racing. Merely riding with a couple of other people can be called racing, so Barry is probably lucky I didn't pull out to pass right behind him, which is what I often do. And I have heard rumours that even lifting your ass off the seat of a motorcycle can be called "stunt riding". Hey, I do that just to go over a bump so that I don't lose an internal organ.

By the way, it may be different in other places, but here, if we ride in a group and one guy gets pulled over by the cops, the rest just keep driving on and wait up the road a ways - or go to the next meeting place. We do not stop to talk to the cops as a group, that just asking for extra speeding tickets to be handed out. Not that we get a lot of tickets, my last one was 15 years ago, Barry's was 30 years ago. I don't think Bob has ever got one, if he did it must have been a bum rap. I sometimes ride with people with different rules. But I am never going to get into another group whose rule is "If you see a cop everybody split up and run for it".

Other than that, we had nice weather, talked to a few other bikers, and got home safe. Not the most original or exotic ride on Earth, but we make do with what we are dealt.