Monday, November 29, 2010

Ice Road Biker (Does an Ice Cube Float in Hot Water?)

To Canadian motorcyclists, the characteristics of ice are a big problem. The expansion of ice causes bumps in the road every springtime. The expansion of ice means that you need to put antifreeze in your radiator (if you have one). The slipperiness of ice means we can't go riding most of the winter. And the fact that salt can melt ice, means that the road crews put salt on the road in the winter, which can cause rust and corrosion if it gets on our bikes.

Southern Ontario has been clobbered with some snow and ice in the last few days, officially kicking off the nasty phase of the motorcycling season. Although it was melting this morning, I can still see powdery white salt on the roads.

This morning I happened to witnesses a rare event, the breakup of the ice in the storm canal near my home. Ice breakups are very important in the spring, when the ice on rivers melts to the point where the whole ice surface breaks up and is carried off by the current. In the storm canal it was a smaller event, but probably took place in about ten minutes. Suddenly it went from an ice covered canal to clear water, with sheets of ice up to 10 metres long floating away.

The ice is here, we might as well learn something about it instead of complaining. This trivia question was brought up a few weeks ago. Every Canadian (and probably everybody who drinks Scotch on the rocks, but I don't know why they would do that) knows ice floats in cold water because it is less dense than the water. But would the ice sink if it was in hot water (or hot Scotch), since hot water is less dense than cold water? I used to teach Physics, and I must admit I don't remember this question coming up before, so I Googled it. It took a while before I finally found an answer at this link,

The confirmation of ice density is here.

So what happens is that as water is heated, the density goes from 1.000 g/cc at 4c down to 0.958 g/cc at 100c (boiling point). The maximum density is at 4c. The density also drops down to .99998 g/cc as the water cools to 0c.

At zero C, the water turns to ice, which instantly has a much lower density (.917 g/cc) than boiling water. Ice is less dense than any water, hot or cold, and so it will always float.

Next question is, why do pipes burst when they freeze? Well, we already know water expands as it turns to ice. The liquid expansion itself could burst the pipes if the water had no place to go inside the pipes before it changed to ice. But in general, there are places where the liquid water, can go before it changes to solid, so the initial freeze does not typically burst the pipes. But even in an open-air water barrel, the ice will eventually break the barrel. That's because the ice continues to expand a little as it gets colder, after it turns solid, and that expansion (as a solid object) will eventually crack the barrel.

Picture: A studded motorcycle tire cutting a trench in ice.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

There is No Santa Claus

I don't want to be accused of spoiling Christmas for any kids, so if you are under 10, stop reading right now. And stop Googling any other "Santa debunked" websites too.

Up until this year, I have not had a problem with other people believing in Santa Claus. I personally began to question my faith around the age of six, but hey, if you didn't, and you still put out the milk and cookies every Christmas, I was OK with that. But here is my problem. Santa used to be a nice guy, and took no sides politically. But now several extreme conservative factions are starting to make Santa out to be a Republican-voting, gun carrying, religious extremist. There is a holy war going into its third year right now, splitting families up. It is the "Christmas Greeting War". Now everyone has to choose sides and decide to say either "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays". If you say the wrong one, you will get someone mad at you. This, to my knowledge never happened before. I could say "Happy holidays" and no-one would hate me. Or I could say "Merry Christmas" without my friends calling me a racist right wing extremist.

Some bad things have happened to Christmas, so I think it's time for the truth. Any of you little kids still reading, this is your last warning. If you don't hit the "back" browser button right now, Santa is going to put you on the naughty list. OK now we can continue as adults. THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUS.

In the last hundred years, not only have we sent expeditions to explore the North Pole, global warming has in fact melted the North Pole, so now it does not exist except as either open water (with a Russian flag stuck under the sea) or floating packs of ice on top of the ocean.

Another piece of evidence indicating that Santa may not exist is that the number of nice children is now ten times as much as it was when Santa started delivering presents. And they are spread over a larger geographic area, actually all the way down to Invercargill in New Zealand. The sheer impossibility of making all those deliveries in one night can be proven by calculating the shortest possible house-to-house route. Then, even allowing the speed of light, Santa can't do it.

Not all homes have chimneys either. Maybe they used to when he only delivered to northerly areas. But now we have people located in areas where chimneys are not required. Not only that, new homes are being built with high efficiency furnaces that only need an intake and exhaust port out the side. And for those people who say Santa may be really small, even then he could not make it past the heat exchanger. Ever thought of that?

Unfortunately, the Santa myth seems to have been based on the idea of flying reindeer. Back when this nonsense started, we had not developed heavier than air flight. So we did not know that wings were actually needed to fly. Now we know. In fact, we know so much, we can even prove mathematically that bumblebees can't fly due to their weight and small wing swept area. So what hope would a reindeer have with no wings at all?

There are a lot of fundamentalist Santa believers out there saying "This can't be. What hope would be left in a world without Santa? If nobody was afraid of getting on the naughty list, everyone would grow up to be just like Hitler or Stalin." Well, you'll just have to trust me that nobody needs to believe in Santa to have a reason to live, and a reason to be decent.

A couple of years ago, the next article appeared in the Toronto Star, proving that Santa could deliver all the presents travelling at a speed of no more than 23 times the speed of sound. Honestly, I just don't have time to deal with all these charlatans that keep springing up with their theories. But if you have time to waste, I will give you the link to the Star article and one from the Guardian.

Picture: Elizabeth Banks in the movie Fred Claus. By the way, for people watching that movie, there is no "North Pole Standard Time Zone", the north pole is at the convergence of all time zones. Secondly, and as a direct consequence of point (A) the sun does not rise in the morning of December the 25th at the north pole. It rises once each year on March 21.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

North Korea's Side of the Story, Hope this Helps

The recent military incident between North and South Korea may baffle some people. To hear the pro-west propaganda, you would swear that the North Koreans are evil bullies.

I would like to help clarify the extremely confusing situation. One problem is that we only hear one side of the story. Obviously, we don't get Pyongyang's Cable Network News station in North America, nor do we find the DPRK People's Daily newspaper at the corner newsstand. But surely by now these guys have figured out how to use the Internet to set up a website, and learned a little English to give us their side of the story.

I think I have found it here:

Hopefully this is not a hoax website, because after all it has that .jp suffix that I assume means their service provider is in Japan. Maybe it was cheaper than any of the local North Korean Internet companies.

If you want to read the page for yourself, just remember DPRK stands for "Democratic People's Republic of Korea", and that is what most of us call North Korea (i.e. the bad guys), and what I assume Sarah Palin calls "South Korea" (because she said the North Koreans are our allies.)

So I am here to help English speaking people understand the North Korean side of the story. It could take a while, because first I have to to undo the years of hateful anti-North propaganda.

I am going to begin with the "Dear Leader". I have no idea why the people of the west make fun of this term. What part of "dear leader" do you not understand? He is a dear, i.e. darling cute, cuddly, sweet, helpful, lovable. And he is a leader i.e. He tells us were to go, what to do, what to believe. What more does a person need in life than a dear leader? You Americans have your own Dear Leader, whose name is Jesus Christ. But our dear leader is even better. (Hint, he has a pulse.) Aren't you people sitting around waiting for the second coming jealous now? I thought so.

Lesson two, where I explain the meaning of "Puppet Group". South Korea is not a real government, so for the sake of truth in advertising, we always refer to them as the Puppet Group. That implies that they have no independent thought, unlike the DPRK. The Puppet Group is forced to jump around according to the puppet master, who is the arch evil United States of America.

Now what good has the Dear Leader done for North Korea? For sure, we have avoided the epidemic of obesity that is afflicting the USA and their puppet states alike. Next we have provided millions of good paying jobs, with pensions, in the military and secret services. And we lead the world in coordinated mass flag waving ceremonies, and we produce the biggest posters in the world of our Dear Leader. Our country is the sole remaining paradise on Earth, unspoiled by terrorism, capitalism, and Evangelical missionaryism. We are the only country where the press tells no lies. And second only to Newfoundland and Labrador in percentage of popular support enjoyed by political leaders. (Newfoundland 93% for Danny Williams, DPRK 89% support for Kim Jong Il.)

Now let's deal with this military incident which has confused so many people. Why is puppet group groundlessly taking issue with the army of the DPRK over its due punishment meted to the aforementioned puppet group?

What happened was that the puppet group military recklessly provoked and taunted the heroic, but peace loving army of the DPRK. And although the heroes of the DPRK army have streadfastly resisted temptation to pound the crap out of the puppet group for about fifty years, this time they could take no more, and with tears streaming down their cherubic faces, they loaded their heavy artillery and pointed their guns at Yeonpyeong Island. After about ten minutes of pin point surgical retaliation bombardment, they had killed two puppet group terrorists, and neutralized many of the Puppet Group's terror weapons of mass destruction.

Then, the Puppet Group claimed DPRK had killed two innocent civilians. How typical of their lying ways!!! We cannot confirm or deny this claim, as our inspectors were not allowed onto the island. But if we have killed any innocent Koreans, we are extremely sorry for the Puppet Groups tactic of using their Korean civilians as human shields.

Picture: The DPRK Self Defence Force parading in front of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Can We Learn Something from Caribou about Environmentalism?

There may be a debate about whether we should use wind power, about whether global warming exists, or if oil is indeed running out. But in that debate, I feel there is no doubt that one side is treating nature with respect, while the other has a superior attitude. As if Man can defeat nature with his immense brain and technology.

There are some lessons to be learned from native people about our relationship to the environment. Here is a story I found in Goliath

"According to narratives by Chisasibi Cree elders in the 1980s, a disaster occurred in 1910 at Limestone Falls, near the center of the Quebec-Ungava peninsula (Berkes, 1999, chapter 6). Equipped with repeating rifles that had just become available, hunters abandoned their hunting restraints and conventional ethics of respect for the animals, and slaughtered large numbers of caribou at the river crossing point. The caribou had already been in decline along the Hudson Bay coast. Following the event at Limestone Falls, the herd disappeared altogether from the lands hunted by the Cree and did not reappear until the 1980s. The Cree believe that all changes occur in cycles, and the elders at that time had predicted that the caribou would return one day."

You could argue that it was not one bloody and wasteful slaughter of the animals in 1910 that caused the caribou to disappear for over 70 years. After all, the caribou were already starting to dwindle. But there is no doubt that there was a lack of respect for nature in that 1910 hunt with the newfangled repeating rifles. Secondly, the lack of respect that year was a break from the traditional ways of hunting. The subsequent disappearance of the caribou certainly gave people a pause for thought. Over the next seventy years, the story was retold about the arrogance of the hunters in 1910, so when the caribou reappeared in the nineteen eighties, it didn't take too much to convince people to be respectful, and not wastefully kill the animals.

Are we to take this story as an example that being respectful toward nature is good? Or is it an obvious ploy to con the superstitious natives?

There are many such stories told all over the world, of native groups who have either managed their resources carefully, or wasted them. Some have survived, and some have disappeared. Funny thing is, it is not always the natives who manage their resources well who survive, and being wasteful does not guarantee the humans will not survive.

My own feeling is that it is better to show respect for nature than to wantonly destroy it. You may call that a spiritual feeling, because I sure can't prove it is scientific. You could also call it Karma. Something rings true about people who are most boastful, and wasteful, and full of themselves falling hardest.

If we go back to the same time, about 1910, it was believed that the cod on the Grand Banks were so plentiful they would never run out. And we ran our fishing industry on that belief, until the cod actually ran out. Luckily, with our global system of commerce, we can continue to snack on fish that comes from China as easily as the stuff that used to come from the Grand Banks. And as species get depleted, instead of protecting them, we continue to eat them at a great rate. Bluefin Tuna is endangered? Great, I think I'll order some for my dinner. That attitude shows a lack of respect for nature.

I'm sure people have some natural instinct to be respectful of nature, but somehow it is being lost in our modern global economy. Maybe it is propaganda that has got us convinced to consume, waste, throw stuff away without a guilty conscience. Maybe if we had a chance to think for ourselves, we would be cautious, and take only what we need. It may also make us happier people. We are certainly not that happy in our consumer-oriented throwaway society.

But ultimately, we may need about a 70 year catastrophe to convince us to be frugal with out resources. And then, we can just pray for a second chance. Imagine that we ran out of oil for seventy years. Seventy years of hearing stories from our elders about the old days, when people drove Hummers "just for the hell of wasting oil". Then one day, someone finds a new, huge reserve of oil. Do you think it would take much to convince those people to take the bus or a train instead of a Hummer?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Why It's Hard to Keep Motorcycles Clean

I don't mind having a clean motorcycle, but it's hard to for me keep dirt and bikes apart. I'm not one of those "rat bike owners", who consider dirt and rust on their bikes to be badges of honour. Some rat bike owners even persuade seagulls to take a dump on their gas tank, then clear coat over the bird droppings to preserve them from being washed away by rain. I would never do that. I actually like a clean bike. I am envious of people with clean bikes.

On the other hand there are bikers who are "clean freaks". I can remember once on a motorcycle trip stopping to wait for a ferry crossing. It was raining so my bike was dirty. The owner of the motorcycle in front of me decided to while away the time, waiting for the ferry, by washing his bike. I know that "Cleanliness is next to Godliness", but I don't want to be near God that bad.

When I bought my very first bike, I didn't even make it home before the bike was a mess. I had to ride over 60 km of gravel road, which even in Canada would get the bike dirty. But this was laterite gravel, common in Africa. It is a reddish rock whose powder gets into everything. It is mostly iron oxide, so I assume it is somewhat magnetic, because it seems to stick to everything metal.

When I do wash my bike, I always get a strong desire to jump on the clean bike and go for a ride. As soon as I am on my bike, I somehow get in a rain storm. Even if there is no rain, I will find wet roads. The wet roads can be from a previous rain storm. Or the can be from a broken water main. Or they can be from a person emptying their pool onto the road. Once, on a clean bike of course, I even got hit with wet cement as I passed under an overpass where some workers were fixing up the bridge and got sloppy.

Wet roads and cement are not my only problems. In the summer, bugs thwart my plans for a clean bike. Sometimes I drive through what can only be described as a bug storm. Bugs thick enough to obstruct the view though my visor. At least we don't have locust storms like they do out west, where bugs are so thick on the road that you can slide and crash.

Once I came across an irresistible set of circumstances that made me really keen to wash my bike. I had ridden it down to Florida, and one of the local bikers remarked that my bike was covered with bug guts. Of course, I thought. That's because nobody thinks to tell the bugs to stay off the road when traffic is coming through. But he continued to say that many of the bugs in Florida have acidic guts that, if left on the bike, will eat into the paint or chrome. That got me worried, so a couple of days later when I had set up camp, I happened to come across a bikini car wash, and suddenly I remembered the bike needed wash. So seeing that the girls were idle at the time, I turned in. But then the manager, whose name was Mr. Buzzkill came along and told me "We don't wash bikes." "Why not", I said. "I'll pay the same as a car." "Liability." said the manager, as if that one word was enough to explain everything you could ever think of.

Nowadays, whenever I get the urge to wash my bike, I end up with doing twice the work. That's because Mary Ann has her own bike, and whenever she sees me out in the driveway with a bucket and hose, she comes out to see if she can get me to wash her bike too. She does not like washing bikes. But she likes (a) having a clean bike and (b) riding on the dirtiest, crappiest roads you can think of, while raining if at all possible.

I continue to occasionally wash my bike, but without the idea of showing off a clean bike to my friends. Mostly, I clean it because it's a good way to spot things that are wrong with it. I sometimes see loose spokes, leaky oil seals, missing bolts and the like. And sometimes I want to get nasty dirt off, like the salt spray that sometimes happens in the spring, and is very corrosive.

My new bike, the Kawasaki Vulcan, has no centre stand, so I have quite a difficult time cleaning the wheels. With the centre stand, you can spin the back wheel, but on this bike I have to roll the whole thing forward and back. This increases the time it takes for the bike cleaning so much that I often just leave the back wheel dirty. Anyways it's mostly covered by the saddlebags so unless I just ran over you on the road you are probably not going to notice, and you likely won't care anyway. The other problem with the Vulcan is that it does not have an oily chain. While the oil on the chain makes a real mess, it does help preserve the metal from rust. I'm noticing that a bit of rust is already forming on my spokes and rim on this bike.

Top picture: Bike wash from this site:

The other picture, my back spokes, was taken yesterday. Not an especially flattering picture of the bike. I especially don't like washing the bike when it's really cold out. But then as soon as it gets warm, I want to go for a ride.

The Subliminal Message of "Fair Game", the Valerie Plame Movie

Mary Ann and I went to a movie last night "Fair Game" starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts.

Here is a link to Roger Ebert's review.

I think it's fair to say that the subject of this movie, the controversy surrounding Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson, is at the centre of the biggest issue of the Bush administration, the decision to go to war with Iraq. This decision turned out to be wrong on many levels. I can list some of them here.

1. It left Afghanistan to the Taliban and let them regroup, and turn their defeat around.
2. It did not, as promised, make Iraq a friendly, democratic, capitalistic country.
3. It got thousands of US soldiers killed.
4. The strongest arguments for going to war in Iraq turned out to be either false or an honest mistake (depending on your political leanings.) These arguments were that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, based on intelligence reports.
5. It cost the USA so much money that it weakened the economy, possibly accelerating the later near collapse.

To be fair, on the plus side, at least it got rid of US installed dictator Saddam Hussein.

But given that Iraq was on the whole a huge mistake, much bigger I think, than any of the other mistakes of the Bush administration, it would be useful to know if it was committed in error or on purpose. The treatment of Valerie Plame seems to hold the key to this mystery.

From watching the movie, you start to get the idea that covert CIA operatives are actually more vulnerable to pressure than regular citizens. Much of what they do is classified secret, and cannot be used either in a court of law or reported by the press. This secrecy is necessary to carry out their operations against opposing groups, but it makes them especially vulnerable to backstabbing from their own kind. This despite laws that supposedly protect them from being "outed", and despite the supposed patriotism of their fellow Americans.

In general, I guess spies and intelligence people are aware of their vulnerability and take pains to not ruffle feathers on either side. But Valerie Plame was married to Joe Wilson, a combative guy who may not have understood her precarious position, and went on a public attack of the White House and Vice President. In the counter attack, Valerie Plame became an easy victim, due to her sensitive and classified position within the CIA.

If the Republicans are right, that she was only a secretary, and she used her influence to land her husband a lucrative plum job flying off to Niger, then I guess the White House is morally right. But it is very difficult for Valerie Plame to fight back against these assertions, as an undercover operative. Any normal citizen could easily prove these assertions false (if they are actually false).

In the end I think it provides the best argument for the case that the CIA was indeed pressured to give the intelligence that Dick Cheney wanted, and that this intelligence was distorted into propaganda.

That it was so easy to destroy Valerie Plame's career, makes you realize that this could probably happen to any CIA operatives. One possible reason for destroying her career was to support the idea that the pre-war Iraq intelligence was an honest mistake. But the main reason I see for wrecking her career was to "send a message" to other CIA agents. The message is that they are not to question how the President uses the intelligence from the CIA. If that's true, it makes the CIA a tool of the White House, not a tool to get intelligence, but a tool to be manipulated into providing propaganda.

The Plame Affair is about all the proof I need to know that the CIA was manipulated into justifying a war that the White House wanted regardless of the truth. Unfortunately, it seems good intelligence is mutually exclusive to drumming up propaganda, so that might be one reason the war itself went badly.

This movie revealed many details that I didn't know about. I don't know how much of it is true, and because the CIA has classified so much documentation (apparently for 80 years) I'll never know. "Fair Game" so far has made less than a million dollars at the box office, and opened on only 46 screens in the USA. This, despite the fine acting, and a really great movie.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Witchcraft Hysteria Returns to America

Just yesterday I read in the latest MacLean's magazine, an innocuous statement about witchcraft. I can't remember it exactly, but similar to "It may be hard for us to realize in a modern western civilization that some people in primitive superstitious countries still believe in witchcraft."

American fundamentalist Christians do in fact believe in witchcraft. Actually, I don't have a problem with people who believe in witchcraft.  I do have a problem with anyone who believes witches exist and need to be killed. 

The fundamentalists don't yet tell everyone about their Witch Hunting Puritanism, but Sarah Palin, for example has been involved in an anti-witchcraft ceremony. So was another Tea Party candidate, Christine O'Donnell, who started off her campaign with with the statement "I am not a witch". Notice the difference between "I am not a witch" and "Nobody is a witch."

Why do Canadians, and even a lot of Americans continue to ignore the number of fundamentalists who believe in witchcraft, and worse yet, witch-burning?

Here is a webpage from Just for some perspective, my blog is ranked 5,537,322nd on Alexa (website traffic rating system), while ranks 44,542nd.

"It's sad that the average professed Christian nowadays sees little harm in the evils of Harry Potter, Sabrina the Teenage Witch or Walt Disney's Satanic W.I.T.C.H. series. Woe unto America!"
"The Bible, God's inspired Word, condemns all of the aforementioned forms of witchcraft. Witchcraft by Biblical definition is seeking spiritual guidance, power, or knowledge from any source other than God and His holy Word. A witch is one who seeks or derives powers from the Devil. God hates witchcraft in every form... “There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire [abortion], or that useth divination [psychics], or an observer of times [astrologers], or an enchanter [magicians], or a witch” (Deuteronomy 18:10). It is a serious matter to God. There's no such thing as “white witchcraft.” All witchcraft is rooted in rejection of Jesus as the Christ and the Son of God. Instead, witches worship hundreds of pagan deities, including the sex-perverted god of rape, Pan."

About the The 1692 Witch Trials

"Much propaganda has been circulated in recent decades to gain sympathy for witches in America, by focusing upon unjust executions and rigged juries."
It is not to gain sympathy for witches that we remember Salem, it is to make sure that never again are religions allowed to murder people for their imaginary magic.  The entire Puritan religion was driven underground shortly after 1692 and has remained there ever since. That's what should happen when a belief system promotes mass murder.  However the desire to resurrect witch trials and Puritanism has grown quite strong in the last couple of decades, as you can see from this web page.

Here are threats of further witch trials from this so-called Christian web page.
"We ought to obey the Laws set forth in the Word of God. Exodus 22:18 plainly states, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” The Bible mandates the death penalty upon all genuine witches, just as the Bible pronounces death for all abortionists, adulterers, murders and homosexuals. Get mad at God if you don't like it, because He said it. Salem, Massachusetts is in serious trouble with God for legalizing, encouraging, sponsoring and honoring witchcraft."
It really seems their only regret is that they didn't get the REAL witches. What are they going to do next time? Using actual evidence is not very likely when you accuse someone of devil worship.  Unfortunately, the only real evidence of a witch is confession, and the only way to get a confession is torture.  Coincidentally, torture is positively viewed by a majority of fundamentalist Christians. (Sorry to have to keep using the word Christian to refer to this type of person who is so obviously anti-Christian.) 

Picture: We joke a lot about witches. If you want to buy this costume, go here. Thankfully, burning witches at the stake is still illegal. Let's keep it that way, and no this is not a joke.

Bob and Doug McKenzie, Canadian Stereotypes

Last blog I commented on "Phil the Alien" a Canadian movie, and compared it to "Men in Black", an American movie. But perhaps I should have also mentioned another Canadian movie called "Strange Brew", and especially, the impact of it's main characters Doug and Bob McKenzie.

Doug and Bob burst on to the scene in the early eighties. In my opinion, they were a self parody of Canadians, or what a Canadian thinks an American thinks is a Canadian. In this way, it was kind of ground breaking, because never before had Canadians ever seen themselves though this double looking glass.

The skit started because of a two minute difference between Canada and the USA versions of the Canadian TV show "SCTV". Canada did not allow as many commercials as the USA, so an extra two minutes of material had to be found for the Canadian audience. And, according to the overbearing Canadian government, this two minutes had to be specifically "Canadian" content.

So their skit was originally a two-minute filler, shown only in Canada, dictated by the typical government intervention of socialist Canada, to replace the paying commercials that were run on the same show in the free enterprise USA.

What Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas came up with was an extremely dumb and cheap filler to poke fun at the "Canadian Content" requirement. Full of cliches, catchphrases, and stereotypical Canadian behaviour. Although beer drinking, and saying "eh!" were based on some pre-existing widespread Canadianisms, they popularized some other lesser known traits, and possibly invented some others out of thin air. The wearing of woolen toques indoors was a slight distortion of reality, in that Canadians did often wear toques outdoors, but usually took them off if it was not freezing cold.

The stereotype included lumberjack clothes, sitting in easy chairs, cooking back bacon, smoking and drinking beer on the set. They made up supposedly important Canadian topics to talk about, dealing with donut shop etiquette, how to get a free case of beer by putting a mouse in an empty bottle.

They padded their skit with every stupid Canadian thing they could think of to please the CRTC and the Canadian Federal Communications Ministry. This skit popularized the word "Hoser" in Canadian-speak, and the modified the meaning of the term "Great white North" to include all of Canada. Up till then, if you had used the word "Great white north" you were probably referring to the North West Territories only.

In this early version of the show, the credits say "There are four Americans working on this show, but they have landed immigrant status, and have signed CRTC affidavits swearing that they dink beer, eat back bacon, drive snowmobiles, and wear toques. Any resemblance between this program and the content of any American program is purely coincidental and not the intention of the producers or the various television agencies of the Canadian Government who have screened these programs prior to bulk erasing in accordance with the policies of the Federal Television Identity Board."

Somehow a few of these largely embarrassing episodes accidentally made it into the American homes, and instantly became a hit. Apparently these dumb carefree Canadian characters struck a chord with Americans. And once they were a hit in the USA, suddenly Doug and Bob McKenzie were adored in Canada. Soon Bob and Doug had a movie out called "Strange Brew". That's the way it used to go thirty years ago.

So for about a decade, the "real" Canadian character started to take form around the stereotypes provided by Dog and Bob McKenzie. A stereotype promoted by the television show, and recognizable by Americans. For the first time, there was a real Canadian stereotype, an identity for people who up till then could only describe themselves as "Not Americans".

I think that since then we have moved forward. Well, either that or Americans have moved backward. Today there are some other popular stereotypes of Canada emerging, besides the donut shops, the beers, and the back bacon. Now we are more of a multicultural society than we were thirty years ago. The donut shops, possibly helped by Doug and Bob, have thrived and multiplied. Today you can't avoid a donut shop almost anywhere in Canada. We have four Tim Horton's within a 20 minute walk of our house. People don't say Hoser anymore, and I'm not real sure we ever did before the McKenzies.

A Canadian movie from 1995 still showing inspiration of Bob and Doug (starring John Candy) was "Canadian Bacon". Candy and friends are attempting yet another American invasion of Canada, when their stolen "RMPC" truck gets pulled over by a Canadian motorcycle cop. Here is a clip with Dan Akroyd as motorcycle cop.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Phil the Alien, A Canadian Movie

This movie is too Canadian to pass up. I would like to start a new Academy Award category: Movies where you wake up for no reason in the middle of the night and can't get black to sleep, and turn on the TV and say what the heck.

May I introduce, as Oscar nominee in this category, "Phil the Alien". Even in my half awake state of mind, with no introduction, I could tell two things about the movie within seconds. It was low budget. (later confirmed on the Internet at $340,000) And it was Canadian. (talking beaver the clue).

I don't want to do an actual review of the movie, (for that see the link above) but I would like to compare the American movie, Men in Black, and this movie which is sort of similar and occasionally pokes fun at it from a Canadian perspective.

The heroes in Men in Black are the U.S. Government agents, who hunt the aliens, and keep them under control. The hero in Phil the Alien is Phil himself, who ends up hanging around with a bunch of guys in a bar, and trying to avoid being rounded up and killed by government agents. That is a more typical Canadian point of view. In fact, the government agents seem to be linked to the US government rather than Canadian. Although the freelance assassin Madame Madame, is apparently Canadian.

Contrast the attitude toward guns in the two movies. In M.I.B., the new agent is presented with a huge array of weapons to choose from, even the smallest one having mega firepower. The guns are given a traditional "cowboy gun" role throughout the movie. i.e for killing people, and for pointing at people to make them talk, or just to intimidate them. In P.T.A. the guns look like either a plastic toy handgun bought at a dollar store, or regular hunting rifles. In one scene, the beaver is a sharpshooter and accidentally kills a bystander instead of the target. In another scene, a government agent points his handgun at a man to make him talk, and the man says "Go ahead an kill me. Just shoot for the head please." In other words, guns have a more realistic and less effective role in the Canadian movie than in the American movie.

Another difference between Canada and the USA is attitude towards religion. In Canada, you can get away with making off handed jokes about religion. In the USA, religion is not to be trifled with. At some point in the movie, Phil becomes a born again Christian. While he is spreading the word of Jesus, and simultaneously using some of his alien powers, such as levitating and telekinesis, some people become convinced that he is the second coming of the Messiah. Jokes like that do not play well to the large numbers of fundamentalists in the USA. And yes, it is a joke in case you were wondering.

Some reviewers have mentioned the lack of beautiful Canadian scenery in the film. I'm not sure what they were expecting, but the film was shot in southern Ontario where maybe half of all Canadians actually live, and we don't have that much great scenery, except Niagara Falls. And the Falls were actually featured quite centrally in the film, to the point where they become almost another in-joke.

Even this preview is kind of funny.

And the theme song

The entire movie is not on youtube, but here is one of the funnier scenes. I need to do a lead in though: the man (an alien) tells the woman that he is from another planet and wants to have thousands of babies with her, .... and now you are ready to watch the rest of the scene on youtube at this link:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Joey Smallwood was not an Idiot

Reading about the dispute between Danny Williams and Hydro Quebec about the Churchill Falls contract, I have seen this comment many times from Newfoundlanders. They seem to think that Joey Smallwood was an idiot for signing a 65 year fixed price contract with Hydro Quebec, to sell the electricity from Churchill Falls.

First of all, I highly doubt that this man was an idiot. And I'm sure he didn't act alone without advice from knowledgeable people. But many people are not really knowledgeable about long term fixed price contracts. It could also be that people are much smarter in hindsight than the other way round. If I had known for sure back in 1969 that oil would one day hit $150 a barrel, today I could be a billionaire. But sadly, I am not, while many other people are billionaires many times over. That's life. The key to riches it to know the future for certain. Or trust good luck.

Why do people sign long term fixed price contracts? I don't have a long term fixed price contract for my  home electricity, or my natural gas. That means I am taking a chance that prices won't go so high that I can't afford to heat my home.  If I can't afford to heat my home, I freeze to death. The decision is mine to not have a long term fixed price contract, and I live or die by my decision.

Sometimes you are forced to take a long term fixed price contract, because you are not in control of your own risk. That's because sometimes you have to borrow money to do something, and when you borrow money, the lender does not like to see risk. So the lender may force you to get a long term fixed price contract, which will protect you from risk, and so protect the lender from risk. That way, the lender is sure to get their money back.

I don't know if long term fishing contracts are possible, but say there is a situation where  you want to buy a ten million dollar fishing boat, and you need to borrow the money. One big risk is how many fish you catch, and how much you get for them. For someone to lend you the money to buy the boat, they might like to see you have a long term fixed price contract. If the market price for fish goes up to a thousand dollars a pound, the fisherman is going to feel bad that they are not getting rich. But they were forced to get the fixed price contract because they didn't have the money to buy the boat in the first place. Once the boat is paid off, and the contract ends, then they can charge all the money they want until the fish run out.

The Churchill Falls long term contract is something like the fishing boat contract. There was a risk involved in the sixties. The risk was that atomic power would provide unlimited cheap energy, and that energy prices would drop and never come back up. Sure in hindsight you can say that atomic power would be too risky and would actually drive up the cost of energy, and that eventually oil would hit a hundred dollars a barrel, and that global warming would become a problem. But back then, the people lending Newfoundland the money to build the Churchill Falls dam didn't care for risks, and wanted a fixed price contract long enough to pay off the dam. With that contract, if the price of electricity fell, Quebec would be forced to continue overpaying for the electricity for 65 years, and lose money every year. If the cost of electricity went up, Quebec would make money. Newfoundland was not risking anything, so they also would not reap the windfall. Quebec was free to take that risk because they had enough money to cover the losses. That's because Quebec is a very big province. Newfoundland was not free to gamble with the money they borrowed because they were a small, poor, province with limited resources. And back in 1969, nobody knew that one day Newfoundland would be rich with oil revenues.

So before you call Joey Smallwood an idiot, read up on long term fixed price contracts, to see how they work, and why they are sometimes necessary for projects that are too big for one party to handle without borrowing money.

I see a lot of bitterness and jealousy in this Newfoundland Quebec dispute. Bitterness and jealousy are not good emotions whether on a personal level or a national level. Fanning the flames of anger without the facts to back it up is technique used by demagogues who have caused much grief in the past. And we don't need it in Canada today.

Picture: Churchill Falls transmission line

Friday, November 19, 2010

Do Motorcyclists Know What They Want, Really?

Quite a few new motorcycles have been announced lately. And as usual, there are a flurry of comments from critics on the internet. If I may for a moment, be a critic of the critics, the tone and substance of these comments shows lack of appreciation for what the manufacturers do for us.

I don't understand the attitude in many of the internet comments. I feel that the manufacturers risk a huge amount of money to research, develop, and put on the market new and improved motorcycles. As customers, our part is to decide if we can afford the bike, and decide if we want it enough to part with our hard earned cash. Then if we buy that bike, it is up to us to ride it, maintain it, and possibly share our opinions on that bike with other motorcyclists.

Now some of the bad attitudes start because many sales today are on credit, with no money down. How can you have a common sense attitude, when you consider it normal to be able to "buy" bikes you cannot afford with money you don't have?

Many comments are made by people with no intention of buying this particular bike. It doesn't stop them from complaining about it, though. Take for example a Yamaha Super Tenere. "Take 60 kg off it, get rid of the shaft drive, add two cylinders, paint it powder blue and put clip ons on this bike and it'd be a winner. Oh yeah, get rid of the fairing too." You have no intention of buying it, do you? The bike you are describing is a different bike, so why don't you buy one of those instead.

One thing you always hear is how wonderful any bike is that is not sold here. "Please, Honda, bring the CBRXX1234XXRR to the U.S.A., I would buy it in a heartbeat. Why is it that Honda never brings the good bikes to America? Is this a plot by mean Mr. Honda to drive American motorcyclists bonkers?" And yet, the instant that bike is made available in America, suddenly everything turns around, and it's the wrong colour, too heavy, too expensive etc. I know who would be going bonkers. It's the motorcycle manufacturers, if they were stupid enough to pay attention to all the whining.

People like to give advice to the bike makers. "Please, Kawasaki, invent some new whiz bang technology that we don't know about yet but will totally revolutionize the industry, then make it available to us for mere pennies, and our gratefulness will know no bounds." Yeah, sure.

Now I'm not saying I'm perfect. I have done a fair amount of complaining myself in the past. And right now, I'm wondering why Honda's new CBR250R was not a CBR350R instead.

But I also appreciate what I can get. When I bought my first motorcycle, I didn't know what I wanted. But went out and I found a bike I could afford and paid cash for it. Then I drove it as much as I could, chopped and modified it if there was something I didn't like. And for the stuff I couldn't change, I simply put up with it. I was thankful to the company that made such a marvellous machine, happy that I could afford it, glad it could get me wherever I wanted to go, and it was reliable and I could maintain it myself.

The first time a manufacturer ever turned over the design of a new machine to marketing people, it was a disaster. This was the Ford Edsel of the early sixties. The marketing people started off by asking potential customers what they wanted. Then the car was designed to be exactly what everybody said they wanted. It was a gigantic flop. Why? Because when it comes to what people want, they are full of B.S. What they buy is not what they say they want. The Edsel was the first big expensive lesson in automobile marketing, that you don't take customers comments about cars or motorcycles at face value.

Here are a few sample actual comments below (unlike the made up comments above) about several new bikes from just the Cycle Canada website

The comments are about different bikes, I just collected a few to give a sample of some things being said.

"Wow what a freakin mess. Check out the front quarter view and you have to agree that thing is seriously ugly. The headlamp treatment looks like a copy of a Ford Edsel grill and that had to be the biggest mistake in design history.
I can`t wait `till the old codgers who buy these abortions finally pack it all in and retire to their lazyboys so that the market for these giant piles of dog poo can be put to rest."

Can I have it in a 650cc that weighs 60 kg less please?

Too bad Yamaha...I was one of the guys waiting for an updated version of the original Super Ten, with the 900 motor. Now I'm waiting for a Tiger 800XC instead. Hell, I'd gladly put decent tires on the much lighter TDM900 and ride that...if it was available in to Canada.

Is this bike the answer to a question that no one was asking? Do we really need a bike between the big sport tourers and the Gold Wing? Are the Big Bike Weirdos here already salivating over this new bike?

Too rich for my blood. I could buy an enclosed trailer and tow vehicle for that kind of donero - and get my ass down to NC as much as I want with my current VFR.

Has anyone noticed how ugly this thing is? It might sound good on paper but unless they clean up the front & change the can I'm keeping my '99.

2010 is the year of the UGLY, new VFR and new Multistrada prove my point. I've got a chainsaw if anyone can point me to the relevant ugly tree they fell out of, I'd be more than willing...

What I see is an overweight, oversize, overplush, overengineered, overdone example of what the marketers at Honda seem to think American motorcyclists want

The irony here, of course, is that none of these comments really represent what American motorcyclists want either. The manufacturers have marketing departments today that do a much better job than Ford did with the Edsel. They know what will sell before they import it.

Picture: Kawasaki's new Vulcan Vaquero

Danny Williams End Run Electric Power Play

Yesterday a new project was started up by Newfoundland, to develop an electric power corridor, and to build a new power station in Labrador. The plan is to take the route to Newfoundland (the island) first, and supply power to it's own citizens, and then cross the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and carry on to New Brunswick and the USA.

Much of this deal is the result of an ongoing battle between Quebec and Newfoundland over power transmission routes. It is no secret that Danny Williams, Premier of Newfoundland, is angry at how much money Quebec is charging for the transmission of power through their province. And obviously, this new route is chosen because it is an "all English" route skirting the Province of Quebec.

On the whole, it may be a good project, but because of the hot tempered Danny Williams, I would be concerned about whether it is more of an ego driven fiasco (and not the first time for Danny, either), or a logical approach to energy development.

My first observation is that this is going to cost a huge amount of money. With a bit of cooperation, a route through Quebec would have been less expensive, and use proven technologies. However, Danny says Quebec refuses to allow Newfoundland power to pass through their territory.

A quote from the news story in the Halifax Herald
"Williams delighted in striking a deal with Nova Scotia after Quebec wouldn’t allow access to transmission lines for Lower Churchill power".
And they quoted Danny as saying
"The people at Hydro-Quebec and/or people who were involved in decision-making there didn’t really want to do a fair partnership with us, ... We have embraced Emera, embraced the government of Nova Scotia. . . . Quebec are the losers."
Another quote from Reuters
"Hydro Quebec has refused to transmit power from the Lower Churchill to markets in the United States, saying it requires all the available capacity for its own projects."
Next, Danny Williams is appealing to the Federal Government for funds to help cover the costs of bypassing Quebec. Of course, Quebec, being part of Canada is objecting to this subsidy against themselves.

It is just anti Quebec rhetoric to say that Quebec "would not allow access" for Newfoundland's electricity to pass through its territory. Quebec is currently carrying Newfoundland power, and has been doing so for years. The question is not about allowing the electricity to go through, it is about how the much Newfoundland is willing to pay to upgrade the existing corridor to carry a large amount of extra power.

The anti-Hydro Quebec argument is that it does not cost much money to build, maintain, or upgrade a long distance power transmission corridor. Newfoundlanders downplay the distance and the cost, and the technical difficulties in transmitting power. To Newfoundlanders, apparently generation of power is the big thing, and the transmission is trivial. It's like having a diesel generator in your back yard, and running an extension cord to your house, where generation will be 99% of the cost, transmission is 1%. But the reality is that in remote projects, transmission is a very large part of the cost. Put that diesel generator in Labrador, and now figure out how much it is going to cost to run a 2500 km extension cord to your house. And that is the short way, through Quebec. Now figure out how much extra it is going to cost to run it under the ocean for 180 km. in addition to the extra thousand or so kilometers above and beyond the distance through Quebec.

Here is the breakdown (from the Chronicle Herald again) estimated costs.

$2.9 billion generator facility
$1.2 billion undersea cable for 180 km. Nfld to NS
$(?) billion for above ground transmission lines Muskrat Falls to St. John's 
$(?) billion for other undersea cable (Strait of Belle Isle)

It's significant to me that the cost for above ground transmission lines is is not itemized in the Herald article. Once again making my point that this project is more about spite than about making money. Well, if the total cost is 6.2 billion, I can do the math. The missing part is $2 billion.

I also don't see an estimate for upgrading the existing transmission lines. Quebec has already tried to explain the concept of upgrading the transmission lines to Danny Williams, with no effect.  Do you need to be an electrical engineer to understand overloaded lines?   Also, the all-English route enters the USA in a remote corner of Maine, where American transmission lines will also need to be upgraded  to get the power down to where it is needed. It is going to cost somebody some money.

If Newfoundland indeed goes ahead with this, good luck, and somewhere in the future I hope this is going to pay off for them. They will certainly get an education about the true cost of power transmission.

My other blogs on the topic of Hydro Quebec

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How to End the Creation vs Evolution Debate

Last night I went to a presentation by Dr. Ryan Gregory about Darwin's finches. After talking to him about creationism vs. evolution, an idea came up that may settle the evolution vs. creation question once and for all. He suggested that if we could eliminate every dog breed between Great Danes and Chihuahua's, we would soon get two different species from the dog species. It would be cruel to exterminate all other dogs, but here is an article in Scientific American about using dogs to prove (or disprove) evolution.

I would be nice to once and for all put an end to the evolution vs. creation debate. Not because it hasn't been fun, but it has been going on too long, and too much money and talent have been wasted in an unproductive argument. I call it unproductive because, unlike a real scientific debate, this argument has produced no new knowledge to benefit mankind. If we could settle the debate once and for all, we could get one of two results. On one hand we would at last know that the creationists are right, and everybody could accept Jesus as their saviour. On the other hand, if the Darwinians won, the Creationists would promise to stop harassing teachers for teaching science in public schools, and use their considerable religious financial resources, brain power, and imagination to help rebuild the system of public education.

We can learn from the past. There used to be an argument between Bible believers and scientists about the Earth being flat or round, and that eventually got settled. All it took was one great experiment, called the Bedford Level Experiment. A flat, straight canal, ten kilometer long was used. Markers were set up, at intervals, and a surveyor's scope was used to determine that the the surface of the canal did indeed curve as predicted to follow the roundness of the Earth.

Of course, there are still a few hangers on for the Flat Earth society, but no large organized religious movement supports them, and no legal challenges to teachers for spinning a globe in the classroom. This, despitethe fact that there are a number of statements in the Bible alluding to the Earth being flat. The Bible believers simply found new ways to interpret God's words, so they now can mean that the Earth was round.

There is a problem with Evolution that may explain why almost half of Americans apparently do not believe in it. The problem is that no-one has ever seen a species evolve that God didn't create in the first place. As a matter of fact, no one has ever seen a land-based animal species that was not on Noah's ark. So apparently every species today is still descended from a pair of animals on Noah's ark. (45 percent believe God created man in present form in last 10,00 years)

To end the evolution/creation argument once and for all, we need something similar to the Bedford Level Experiment. Something you can see with your own eyes, that is so obvious that most reasonable people would be convinced one way or the other regardless of their previous beliefs.

If there was some way that we could see a new species evolve, this would be the end of the argument, I think. Even if we used selective breeding instead of natural selection, it would still prove the point conclusively. The point being that new species can evolve from existing species.

The basic experiment would be to use selective breeding to create a new species of animal or plant. I think this would be pretty conclusive, in that creationists claim it cannot be done, and if it can be done, it proves that not all species were created by God.

Dogs would be a good choice because we have been breeding dogs for years, and we have apparently never produced a new species that cannot interbreed with dogs, but can still reproduce itself. We have bred hundreds of different kinds of dogs already, but we have never attempted to breed a "Not-a-Dog". We don't even know what a not-a-dog looks like, except it must be a species different from dogs, and different from any other species created by God.

In order to perform this experiment, with the desired results, it is not enough to simply breed a new animal from a dog. That is a scientific, approach, and it is wrong, because the ultimate goal is not to breed a new species from a dog. The ultimate goal is to convince millions of people on one side or the other, that their cherished belief is wrong. So unlike a true scientific process, the experiment needs to be closed ended,  it needs to be widely publicized in advance, and the rules need to be mutually agreed to. Finally, there needs to be a way of declaring a clear cut winner at the end, with impartial judges approved by both sides.

Here is my own suggestion. Take a Chihuahua breeding pair, and breed them back up to as big as they will go, eliminating all the intermediate stages. Once you have created a giant Chihuahua weighing over three hundred pounds, try mating it with a Great Dane or a Russian Wolfhound. If you cannot mate them together, you have created a new species, and Biblical creation will need a new interpretation. If they can mate, then Darwin was wrong, Jesus is Lord, and we will promise to start teaching the bible story in school instead of dinosaurs etc. Is that fair or what?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I am Still A Conservative

I have recently discovered that I am still a conservative. When I was younger I described myself as a conservative, I had short hair during the hippie era, and I have voted conservative, too. But about the time that George W. Bush took office I had already started thinking of myself as Liberal.

There were only a few central issues that got me to dissociate myself from conservative values. The first was the adoption of increasingly anti-environmental policies. Back in the eighties, both Canada and the USA had conservative governments, and both worked together to put an end to acid rain. Today, it seems to me that conservatives have abandoned any attempt to clean up the environment.

The second cause that pushed me away was the increasingly racist tone of conservatives. If you go back to the civil war, the Republicans under Lincoln were the party whose agenda was to end slavery. After the Civil Rights bill was passed by the Democrats, the Republicans adopted a policy of courting the opponents of Civil Rights, and today they are the party that attracts southern white racists. It seems to me the conservative appeal to racism is also creeping into Canada, and I do not want to be associated with it.

A third issue that got me to move away from conservatism was the influence of the Fundamentalist Christians. I do not believe in their version of a Jesus who promotes "prosperity" and "superior firepower", which is contrary to my own Christian upbringing. Not to mention teaching that, contrary to scientific knowledge, God created the world in 2000 BC, and started with Adam and Eve.

Those issues alone would push me away from any political movement, but there is another big one. I don't like the propaganda war being waged right now by conservative right wing groups. They have convinced some thoughtful people who I have known for years, to simply regurgitate their right wing talking points. It seems to me pretty close to total brainwashing of the type the Soviet Union employed in the sixties.  This issue of propaganda is important because once you control peoples minds, and they stop thinking for themselves, you have basically destroyed freedom and democracy. 

So what are these values that conservatives believe in, and how can I still I call myself a conservative (except for the points mentioned above)?

Conservapedia mentions that

"Conservative values are useful and powerful in combating common human weaknesses: Lust Laziness Jealousy Gluttony Pride Conflict Corruption Credulity, and Liberalism."

OK, now come on. Just how brainwashed do you need to be to actually think that liberal values are "A common human weakness"? And just how much contempt for freedom of thought do some conservative leaders have? Because of the pervasiveness of this kind of nonsense, I actually found it quite difficult to Google a reasonable set of conservative values. But I did find one here, that at first sight anyway, is neutral.

According to this website, conservative values include

-Traditional Family Values and the Sanctity of Marriage
-A Limited Role for the Government
-Strong National Defense
-Commitment to Faith and Religion
-Right to Life

(I know there are many more on other websites, but I need to stop somewhere, so I will just do the five from )

-On the sanctity of marriage, I used to believe that gay marriage was a joke. In fact I feel like plenty of straight marriages are not too serious either. However, in the interest of protecting children, and giving them financial security, I see the need for a set of rules around the institution of marriage. The only reason I see any need for marriage, is about having and raising children. If it does not involve procreation, people can do what they want as long as it is consensual and private. I would say I am conservative on this topic, however I am not anti-gay. And unlike some conservatives, I do not deny that some people are born with mixed male-female genes.

-I strongly support a limited role for government. The government should not be telling me what God to believe in, or that I should believe in God. A Government should not be telling me I need to wear a helmet to engage in a particular activity. The government should stay out of my house unless there is a fire or a robbery. But I want the government to maintain peace and order, too. And part of government's role in maintaining order, is to prevent my neighbours from dumping toxic waste on my property, or in the air. And, unlike some extremists on the right, I believe that unregulated free enterprise is now a proven failure.

-I also believe a strong national defence is necessary to prevent our country from being overrun, but so does everyone with an ounce of sense, including liberals. I think that this so-called "conservative value" is nothing more than anti-liberal propaganda. If there is an issue that separates conservatives from liberals today, it is not about national DEFENCE, it is about national OFFENSE. If we are taking the war to the other country before they bring it to us, that is "offence". When we occupy that country, it is offense. In defensive war, I will shut my mouth and support the troops.  In an offensive war, it is my duty as a citizen in a free, democratic country, to question our policy. When we go on the offensive, everyone should be concerned about what countries we choose to attack, and which to leave alone, and why. And if we attack some country, it better not be about an intelligence mistake. Going back to WW2, it was the conservatives in the USA who opposed the USA going to war, the liberals were for it. In Canada, during WW2 I don't think there was any such conservative/liberal split. For Canadians, WW2 was actually considered a defensive war because of our connection to Britain.

-Commitment to faith and religion. OK I'll admit I used to go to church every Sunday, and now I don't. But that is because good religions are hard to find. I think the Catholic Church is losing it's way and getting too involved in politics. The Fundamentalist Evangelicals are making a mockery of Christianity and Jesus' teachings, and they are also meddling in politics. I happen to believe in "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you", and that is what makes me a true Christian. Going to a church every Sunday does not, especially when that so-called Christian church teaches you how to pray for wealth, and calls for assassination of foreign leaders, and tells me I'm going to hell if I vote Liberal.

-Right to Life. I don't believe that life begins at the union of sperm and egg. I believe it begins before that. I used to support Right to Life with donations, and my wife did volunteer work for them, but today the Right to Life movement has gone crazy, killing abortion doctors and insisting that even young girls who have been raped by their fathers must carry their babies full term. That is too extreme for me, and they will get no more of my support.  But another reason I now reject the Right to Life movement is because they support the death penalty, and they support war, and they don't have a problem with murder of abortionists. It seems to me they have become more about support for conservative politicians, and punishment of the poor women (who cannot afford European abortions), than they are about actual life.

So, although there are many more issues, I am obviously comfortable with traditional old conservative values. But I am a conservative who thinks for myself, not a knee jerk conservative who listens to Rush Limbaugh. Now if I am more comfortable with moderate liberal views, than with conservative views, whose fault is it? It is not me who changed, it is the conservative agenda.

Picture: I did the photoshopping from pictures from the Internet (I added the words and the Liberal mug)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Very Short Ride on a 2010 Yamaha V-Max

Once, I had to pull off onto the shoulder of the 401 on my Honda CBX. You are not supposed to do that unless it's an emergency, because it is very hard to get back into the traffic, moving at 100 kph. One big advantage was the CBX, a six cylinder motorcycle with over 1000 cc of motor. When I did pull onto the highway, I noticed that a big truck had moved into the passing lane to give me a chance to get on the road. So just before he passed me, I gave the CBX full throttle from a standing start, to see how fast it could get up to traffic speed. The CBX is geared so that no shifting is required until 100 kph. The truck was not able to completely pass me before I shifted to second gear, and a few seconds later I was ahead.

Today, we have motorcycles that make my 1981 CBX feel slow.

Let's look at the zero to sixty mph (about 100 kph) times of various vehicles, starting with some cars for comparison.

A Toyota Matrix with the sporty 180 hp engine (mine is only 132 hp) does 0-60 mph in 7.2 seconds.
1992 Lamborghini Diablo 4.5 sec
1985 Ferrari Testarossa 5.3 sec
2004 Porsche Turbo X50 3.7 sec

If there are cars faster than the Porsche Turbo, I don't know what they are.

Next, the typical Honda CBX is 4.6 sec., however mine may have been a slower model for touring.

One of the powerhouse bikes of today is the Triumph Rocket Three, which is a 2300 cc bike, does zero to sixty in 3.3 seconds. The 2011 Yamaha V-Max, at 1700 cc., does it in 2.5 seconds, and I don't think there is anything faster than that.

I am going to throw in a theoretical speed calculation here for the V-Max. I will assume that the acceleration is uniform (just to make it easier to calculate). In this test, assume the V-Max starts accelerating on the shoulder of the 401 from a dead stop, at the instant that the front of an 80 foot long truck passes it, doing 60 mph.

When the V-Max reaches 60 mph, (the same speed as the truck) it is about 30 feet behind the rear bumper. That is about one third of a truck length. If the V-Max was directly in front of the truck, it would have to launch when the truck was 110 feet behind in order to just avoid being rear ended.

Car times are from

Monday, November 15, 2010

I Speak Directly to God

This is a humour piece, and I wrote it because it seems more and more Christian religions are saying that magic and witchcraft exist. Even the Catholic Church seems to be getting in to the act, by recruiting priests to do exorcisms. So, because I wanted to know the truth, and because "if you can't beat them, join them", here is my own conversation with God on the subject.

My sister, who is a Born Again believer suggested in an email a while back that I talk to God.

"I recommend this, that you simply communicate with God directly. Tell Him you are interested in knowing the truth. Is Jesus the only hope for humanity? Is the Bible His Word? Am I lost forever without Jesus? Something like that. And since God doesn't care for mere curiosity, tell Him you are willing to accept truth as He reveals it to you. If your can agree with that prayer, try it."

I never thought of speaking to God directly, but she was right. If God could take the time to talk to charlatans like Peter Popoff, Benny Hinn and Pat Robertson, I figured He might welcome a break to talk to me. I thought why not try, and it would make my sister happy. I didn't get an answer right away, so I asked her how long I should wait, and she said "Give Him time and expect Him to answer you."

"So while I'm giving Him time, is it OK if I continue to bash Pat Robertson in my blog, or does that interfere with the process?"

When I got my chance to talk to God, I could not see God, and I didn't even hear Him, instead, the thoughts just popped into my head. So I have no proof it was God, but then I never saw Pat Robertson produce any Polaroids of God, or recordings of his conversations with God either.

This is how the conversation went.

I: God, will you speak to me?

God: Go ahead. This is God.

I: (Utterly shocked) I forgot what I was going to say.

God: You were going to ask me if witchcraft and black magic exist.

I: How did you know?

God. I read your blog regularly. Oh yeah, also I am omniscient. Anyhow, continue.

I: Do witchcraft and black magic exist?

God: No. They are made up by people. Along with all spells and demonic possessions.

I: So for sure I don't need an exorcism or anything?

God: Well if demon possessions don't exist, why would you think you need an exorcism to cure it?

I: OK Next question. Did you write the bible?

God: No, but there are a few things in it that I believe, if you know what you're looking for.

I: Is Pat Robertson going to hell?

God: There is no hell, and for that reason, and only that reason, no.

I: How can I be sure I am talking to God right now, and that I'm not talking to myself?

God: Maybe if you ask me some better questions?

I: It seems kind of suspicious to me that you seem to agree with all my previous beliefs.

God: I admit, it's a bit of a coincidence. Unless, of course, you are God but don't know it. Then you could talk to yourself and talk to God at the same time.

I: Am I God?

God: No. But you are still concerned that I am echoing your thoughts. Would it help if I disagreed with you?

I: Yes, that would help.

God: So ask another question.

I: Was Darwin right about evolution?

God: He made a lot of mistakes. But the biggest was where he got the whole thing backwards.

I: Wow, Darwin got it backwards. What do you mean?

God: Monkeys evolved from humans. Otherwise he was pretty close.

I: Well, that was not what I thought, so maybe I am not talking to myself after all.

God: There you go.

I: Could you give me a prediction of the future to prove I am really talking to you?

God: I could, just don't ask for lottery numbers or stock market insider information.

I: How about predicting who will win the Stanley Cup?

God: Well, not the Leafs, that's for sure.

I: Could you be more specific?

God: Do you want to give me the name of a team and make them win, or do you just want my prediction?

I: OK Just predict who is going to win this season.

God: Vancouver continues to build to their very strong lineup. Keith Ballard was picked up in a trade with Florida during the NHL draft last weekend.Then much sought after Dan Hamhuis was signed as a free agent on July 1. Then the team added some role players - Manny Malhotra and Joel Perreault, and Jeff Tambellini. Cody Hodgson has done everything there is to do in junior hockey and is likely to make the Canucks out of training camp. But likely the best move was to let Kyle Wellwood and Pavel Demitra leave through free agency. So I would say Vancouver.

I: So Vancouver Canucks then?

God: Yes, they will win.

I: So if they actually win, I'll know I was talking to God. If not, I am just listening to voices in my head.

God: That's right. Well, I have to go now. That pest Pat Robertson is on the other line. May Me be with you.

I: Thanks. See you again in June when the playoffs are over. Or maybe not, if the Canucks don't win.

Footnote: The discussion of the Canucks came from the blog "The Curse of Frank Mahovlich"

Picture: Direct line to God at Burning Man festival, link below. That is not me in the picture, I would be just waiting my turn.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The War on Terror is Really About Cults

The "War on Terror" is not going as well as it could, and we really need to rethink our basic assumptions about it. By basic assumptions, I mean we need to question what is the essence of terrorism, and if we know what it is, then can we come up with an effective method to fight it?

We could think of terrorism as a criminal activity, or a cult activity, or we could think of it as a clash of civilizations. Each one would require a slightly different approach, and maybe terrorism is a broad enough concept to have elements of all three. But the approach we seem to have committed to most strongly is treating it as a clash of civilizations. Therefore we are fighting two wars using modern military technology against guerrillas (terrorists, freedom fighters, militant Islamists). This technique seems to be a self reinforcing diagnosis, and the more we treat it as a war, the more it becomes a war. And as I said, this is not working too well.

We could treat terrorism as a crime, but we do not seem to have the international system of justice and enforcement to bring it totally under control. So that seems unsatisfactory also.

We rarely try to treat it as a cult activity. A cult is a group that makes members psychologically dependent on it, and controls their behaviour this way. I suspect that a large part of terrorism has cultish aspects. Although we often blame the Islamic religion, the truth is that these are cults within Islam. A cult does not have any true religion. A cult adopts whatever religion is handy. We have many thousands of cults or near-cults in North America, and many of them use the name of Jesus. Back in the sixties, it seemed cults had a lot of success with eastern religions, and so many of them went with Hare Krishna or some other faddish religion. In the middle East, these cults go with Allah, because the usual way for cults to work is to start off with a popular local religion and simply use the local God as one tool in their bag of mind control tricks.

The reason we don't want to face the reality of cults is that so many North Americans are in cults, and they do not want the light of reason to be shone too brightly on their activities. Many of these cults are benign, and don't disobey the law in any way, although some are violent and perform terrorist acts. But even law abiding cults still cause grief to families who lose members to them. Deprogramming is an effective technique to use against cults, and many cults have been weakened, as their followers have been rescued through these techniques.

Take for example Omar Khadr, a story that has elements of all three. He was rounded up using a war, with bombers, and soldiers killing most of his cult-like party. He was tortured during interrogation, and I don't even know whether that activity falls under war, justice, or some sort of medieval throw back to the dark ages or the inquisition. Then he was put on a show trial, with some elements of a legal system, however flawed that might be. As a result, he will spend the next year in solitary confinement, after which he may be eligible for release in Canada. All of these things are unsatisfactory to some degree.

If we had recognized the cultish aspect of terrorism, we could have used deprogramming from the start. Instead we seem to be increasingly blaming the Islamic religion.

Many cult like churches in the USA, have an agenda that includes a broad based struggle against deprogramming, so this was never tried in our "War on Terror". The cultish Christians also have a belief in the end of the world, and the superiority of Jesus over Allah, and as a result find a holy war not only acceptable, but pre-ordained by God. Of course they are going to suppress any talk of terrorism being nothing more than another form of cult activity, which happens to borrow its rhetoric from the Koran instead of the Christian Bible. (And in case you are wondering, the Bible has plenty of quotes to support any kind of evil activity if you twist the words enough) For example, Elizabeth Smart's kidnappers were Jesus based cultists who used the bible to justify kidnapping and rape.

Americans do not really need the cults to fight a war on terror, as they have the military. But some people in the middle East have discovered the use of cults as a serious weapon in their fight against the USA or even the USSR.

Deprogramming works:

Top Ten Cults:

Picture: Cultish practices,