Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I Try Out a Half Helmet

A few years ago I switched from sport touring bikes to a cruiser (The Vulcan 900 Classic). And ever since then I have continued wearing full face helmets and other typical sport bike gear, like my fluorescent green Scorpion motorcycle jacket.

But two days ago, "The Lost Motorcyclist" (Me) slipped a little further into the "Wild Hogs" image, with my purchase of a half helmet. To recap the issues In case you are not aware, many sport riders and touring riders insist that full face helmets are safer than 3/4 or half helmets. But many "bad ass" cruiser types insist on the freedom to ride with the wind in their hair, and if they are required, will wear the helmet that is lightest, cheapest, and with the most exposure. There are exceptions, but usually half helmets go with cruisers, and sport riders use full face helmets.

So now I have a half helmet and a cruiser motorcycle. And I have worn it a few times already, on my Honda CD175 with no windshield, and on the Vulcan with the windshield. I have been out on the freeway, and in cross winds. But so far only in very nice weather, and if there was even a hint of rain I had a full face helmet strapped to the sissy bar just in case.

The half helmet is a Vega XTS black leather finish with orange flames stitched on with white thread. I know those are the Harley colours, and it clashes with my green jacket. So I wore it with my old black Joe Rocket jacket, which I use for hot weather anyway. I found it for a really good deal (half price) at Zdeno Cycles in Kitchener, and it looks like a good quality helmet.

I am not endorsing the safety of half helmets vs. full face, but you can be injured with either type, so always pay attention when riding. What are the differences between full face and half helmet, other than safety, which I am trying to not test for myself.

The half helmet is lighter, but the centre of gravity is really high compared to the full face. You feel it only when moving your head back and forth.  I assume the smaller helmet is easier on my neck and back. Actually it is hard for me to feel any difference in weight while riding.

I can see the instruments way down on the gas tank, where cruisers typically have them. without bending my head forward. My full face helmet has a wide enough opening that side vision is just as good as the half helmet.

The wind blast does not affect this helmet, but I did ride with a half helmet a few years ago when I rented a Harley in Florida, and that helmet was so bad it almost lifted off my head. So either this helmet is well designed for wind blast, or my windshield is what makes the difference. Actually, a windshield is probably almost necessary with a half helmet on the freeway.

I can hear a little bit better with the half helmet. For example, I can now hear a humming sound when I lean the bike over for a corner that I couldn't hear before. Also, I heard a big clang during a gear change, but that was from a Harley going the other direction. I'm not sure if I would have heard that with my full face helmet. Another thing, I can take out and put in my earplugs without removing this helmet.

Along with earplugs, I'm also wearing two pairs of glasses. One prescription lens, and an extra-large wrap around pair of polarized sunglasses over them for more eye protection.   I found the sunglasses did shake a bit loose in high winds, but it was fairly easy to push them back in place. The prescription glasses didn't come loose. This problem does not really exist with my full face, as I have a flip down sun visor. However with the full face, the prescription glasses arms are pressed into my ears, and this can become a bit irritating after a few hours. This irritation around the ears does not happen with my half helmet.

What else is nice about this half helmet? Well, my face does not look all squished up, so it helps me to not look too old in pictures. With the half helmet, it is possible to smile at people, and I think people are more likely to talk to me when I have it on. For example, I was at my first fill-up and a nice lady in the next car said hello to me. I think it was hello - I still had the earplugs in, but I always assume the best. And if I go inside, I always take off the full face because it's too intimidating and I can't talk or hear with it. I can do just about anything with a half helmet on, like drink a coffee, pay for gas, or just walk around .

I was worried that my ears would get sunburned, but that didn't happen, or my nose either. Maybe I was just lucky. But I was out for four hours of riding today, including Tim Horton's. (Yes I include sitting in a Tim Hortons in my riding time because the chairs are just as uncomfortable as the bike).
I find that my nose itches while riding in hot weather. With the half helmet, it seems to itch less and anyway it's really easy to scratch when there's no face shield.
The half helmet is cooler and more comfortable than the full face in town on hot days, and I don't need to open the visor at stops.
Picture: The Vega Leather Half Helmet. The peak in this picture (I think that's what the sun shade is called) is very small, but I happened to have a bigger one at home. So I switched to the longer one, in case I needed to ride into the sun. With my bike's windshield I didn't get any lifting on the bigger peak, if that was the reason Vega supplied the small one.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Vancouver Canux Lose, Prove God Exists

At last the suspense is over. November 2010, in a conversation with God, I asked for a sign that I was truly speaking to God, and not voices in my head. The sign I was given was this: God told me the Vancouver Canucks would win the Stanley Cup in 2011.

So for the last 8 months I have been waiting to see whether I was actually talking to God or not, and finally it's proven.

The Canucks lost the Stanley Cup. After thinking it over, I figure this outcome actually proves God exists. Why? you ask?

God's main rule is to never reveal Himself to us, for then it would be too easy to believe in God. So theoretically, God would be forced to tell me the wrong answer in order to test my faith. And that's exactly what happened!

Secondly, God would not predict Vancouver's victory, then eliminate them in the first round, as that has no dramatic effect. Instead, God would lead the Vancouver Canucks tantalizingly close to the Stanley Cup, and then send them down in defeat at the last opportunity, and combine that with a fair amount of humiliation and violence. Then he would turn loose the forces of Satan on downtown Vancouver to completely demoralize the Canuck fans. That also happened.

Thirdly, God would resurrect the Canucks a few days later and let them have another chance to win the cup next year, and that also is happening.

So the Bruins winning the cup has fulfilled the prophesies, and proves that God exists.

Unless, of course, that by proving God exists, He has violated his own rule of never proving that He exists.

Picture: Same "Talk to God" phone booth as in the original blog, but now this time there is no queue. Good now that leaves more of His time for me.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

About Taking Dives in Ice Hockey

I just finished reading an interesting hockey commentary by someone who thinks Vancouver Canuck Maxim St Pierre was playing at being hurt in order to draw a penalty.


It was referred to as "an act", as "embellishment". Basically taking a dive, pretending to be hurt in order to make the Boston Bruins' player look bad.

Of course this sort of stuff goes on all the time in sports. But at least the Vancouver team didn't send out for stretcher and send Maxim away in an ambulance, then announce to the crowd that "he can move his extremities", and then hide him away for two games, and then bring him out like the resurrection of the saviour when the next game was over.

I think Vancouver deserves some credit for using restraint in their play acting.

So now I want to ask the question "What do you think of Nathan Horton's injury?" Of course I am referring to game three, where Nathan Horton of the Bruins ran head first into Aaron Rome of the Canucks, not even looking where he was going. Then after a near riot by the Boston fans (of course this took place in Boston), Aaron Rome was suspended for four games for getting in the way of a Bruins player. Meanwhile, police had to be called out to protect Vancouver fans who had flown to Boston to attend the game. Quite a sad commentary that we seem to be hyping up the injuries to influence the judges and inspire the players.

Otherwise, I have quite enjoyed the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, and in the games I have witnessed there has been very little fighting.

A side note to the Nathan Horton injury, apparently Don Cherry has been campaigning for quite a while to eliminate these new hard shell shoulder pads, which as he said, will result in head injury, even if the contact is accidental.


Whose fault is Nathan's concussion, really? The player who didn't look where he was going, or the player he ran in to, or the NHL management for allowing shoulder pads to be weaponized? And give me a break with the whining from rabid Boston fans that Vancouver players embellish their injuries.

A related previous post below, the US press whining about the Canadian Womens' hockey team at the winter olympics. No, the Canadian girls didn't hurt any of their precious US players, they simply celebrated all wrong (according to the US sensitivities) after the game. The whining continues.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Lake Erie Shore, Port Stanley to Port Bruce

On Sunday I started from Dutton by motorcycle at 3 PM, stopped at Port Stanley then Port Bruce, and headed home through Aylmer and the 401.

In rainy weather I rarely think of cleaning my windshield, but with sunshine, bug spatters become unsightly. I remember reading an old tip about leaving a wet towel on the windshield to soak the bugs guts off, but it has never worked for me. Also, scratching the guts off with fingernails can leave scratches on the windshield. Here is a free tip from "The Lost Motorcyclist Blog": (I cannot guarantee that it will work for all types of windshields, and all kinds of brushes) I used my Mother's kitchen dish scrubbing brush to clean off the Vulcan's windshield, using a lot of scrubbing and soap and water. Finally, with the windshield almost perfectly clean, and yet not scratched by the brush, I waxed it with Armor All car wax. You may reduce the risk of scratches by trying it on a small patch lower down on the windshield first.

I started riding with a clean windshield, the temperature about 25c and in sunshine. Port Stanley was crowded with cars on the roads and people on the beach, and parking was tight close to the beach. Near the turning circle beside Lackey's, I couldn't find a free parking spot, then ended up in some loose sand that nearly could have dumped the bike. Once the bike was safely parked in the big free parking area, I walked around taking pictures, and looking at bikes and cars. One low rider car was scraping the bottom over any bumps in the road. When I finished taking in the sights, I fought my way to Dexter Line through all the traffic.

Dexter Line is the road to Port Bruce, and with little traffic I was having a good time zipping along. But just before getting to Port Bruce, I passed a car, then as I was beginning to think about slowing down to my normal cruising speed, I spotted a police car parked in the middle of the curve on the road with its lights on. Despite my unclear conscience, I turned onto Martyn Line just before the police car. Martyn line is narrow, and unpaved, and has several ninety degree corners for no apparent reason. This new route includes some hills and curves, and comes out on Rush Creek road, which is mostly paved, with an iron single lane bridge. Rush Creek Road comes out on the opposite side of the bridge from Dexter Line in Port Bruce, and so I got my bearings again. One of these days I have got to get a GPS, even if I just use it for all the detours and blocked roads due to accidents and construction!

Port Bruce had a completely different atmosphere from Port Stanley. I often see Mennonites bringing their children to the play area near the beach. Most of the people on the beach were fishing, not sunbathing or playing beach volleyball or swimming. Near the lake, the beach is made of pebbles, not sand. There are several cafe's and ice cream places, with outdoor patios (or indoor service) to sit and have something to eat or drink. There are two public toilets, but the one I went to, which is usually clean, was all plugged up and fairly gross that day.

I had just killed 2 hours, and it was already 5 PM by the time I left Port Bruce. Usually it takes me about 90 minutes to go from Dutton to Kitchener. I decided to head up through Aylmer to the 401 and home. My next stop was at the Ingersoll exit on Culloden Road, where there is a Petro Canada, a Tim Horton's and an A&W drive through. I decided to go to the A&W just for old times sake. Some things have changed. It's now a "Drive Thru" not a "Drive In". In the old days, you were expected to eat while parked, and waitresses brought you a tray that they hung on your roll-down window. Today you speak to a microphone, your food is tossed in through the window, and you screech off, munching on your papa burger as you avoid pedestrains and other cars while driving with your knee and using a cell phone to tell your wife you'll be home soon (or never, depending on your luck).

While the "Drive In" is now a thing of the past, I did hear some oldies playing on the PA when I took off my helmet. The first guy to come out of the restaurant section looked like he could have starred in "Grease". And when I asked for root beer, they served it in a big frosty mug. Wow! Seemed almost like old times. I also notice the menu has now expanded to Grandma and Grandpa items, while in the old days it only went from Teen burgers to Papa burgers.

First picture: Me leaving Dutton with clean windshield
Second: Port Stanley Sunday crowd. Sailing ship in background is on a mural.
Both pictures taken with new camera, not sure if the red motorcycle colour is exactly right.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Nikon Coolpix S8100 and a History of my Cameras

I got my first camera in 1969, the same year as my first motorcycle. It was a Canon SLR. As usual, I was a little behind the technology curve, as my model had already been obsoleted by the next, which featured a light meter that you could read through the viewfinder. On my camera, I had to look away from the viewfinder to read the built in light meter on the top of the camera body.

I thought that snapping pictures from a moving motorcycle would be a good idea, drive and shoot at the same time. My first picture, which I still have, features a small Volkswagen pulling on to the road directly in front of me. After that close call, I decided to never again shoot and drive.

I still have my ancient Canon SLR, and hundreds of slides and an old fashioned slide projector. Then twenty years ago, I decided to buy a small point-and-shoot film camera because it was easier to take on motorcycle trips. Ten years ago, I made the transition to a digital point-and-shoot camera. The digital camera's major failings were slowness between shots, and short battery life. It also did not reproduce the candy colours of my Honda CD175's very well either.

In about 2005, after missing way too many pictures because of the time delay, I upgraded to a newer and better digital camera, a Canon Sureshot S410. A Lithium Ion battery had not only a much longer time between charges, but it recharged in 4 hours, instead of 12 for the previous camera. This made it more practical for motel room outlets. The Canon also took much less time between shots, and the colours were improved, especially candy red.

But in the last few months, I noticed that my (now old) Canon seemed to be brain damaged. I assumed it started when I took a picture of my blindingly visible new lime green fluorescent jacket. But that might be just a coincidence. Anyway, its' performance is now unsatisfactory. Although I hate shopping for stuff, I decided instead of repairing it, I would look to see how far technology had moved ahead in the last five years.

I was able to buy a Nikon Coolpix S1800 camera for less money than I paid for the Canon Sureshot S410, with quite a bit better performance. It is actually very difficult recognizing the difference between a good camera and a cheap one today. The options, specs, and features are endless. In the old days, you could tell a good camera from a bad very quickly: bigger lens aperture, more adjustments, faster shutter speed etc. Today, these features seem to mean very little. At least half the picture quality in a film camera comes from the choice of the film itself. With a digital camera the "film" is actually digital sensors, and they are built in and irreplaceable, and they are a big part of the specification and cost. You can make up for a smaller lens with better quality digital sensors.

So what makes my new camera better than the old? The most quoted specification is megapixels, and the new one is 12 MPx compared to 4Mpx on the old camera. But that's not the only change. The camera "boots up" in less than a second, and takes less time between pictures. It has an optical zoom of 10x, while the old one had 3x. The viewing screen on the back is bigger, and bright enough to see in daylight. It can take high definition video with stereo sound (the old one took grainy videos with mono sound.)

One of the more obvious features is the 10x optical zoom, which is basically a telephoto lens in a camera no bigger than a cigarette box. Not only that, but the camera has a variety of vibration reducing features to make it possible to get good hand-held pictures at long range (without using a tripod).

It also takes amazing (to me) pictures indoors with no flash. But I was shocked when I tried to take a picture of my cat, as the book case and carpet were in sharp focus, but the cat had disappeared! What happened was the camera took a very long shutter opening, which permitted the moving cat to blur away to nothing. The reason the bookcase was still in sharp focus was that the camera was using its processing power to cancel out the blurring of the fixed objects. With my old fashioned camera, a long shutter opening always meant the background got blurred.

Memory cards are replaceable, and so do not become obsolete as fast as built in features. My most recent Canon memory card was a whopping 500 Mb. But technology will obsolete even the replaceable cards. The newer SD memory cards are smaller, and I bought one for $20 with 4x as much memory as the CF card (which I paid $40 for).

The height and width of the two cameras is almost the same, the weight is the same. The new one is about .7 cm. longer. Technology also removes some features. The new camera has lost the optical viewfinder, much like motorcycles lost their kickstart levers. Now all aiming must be done in the LCD screen.

I have not really scratched the surface of all the computerized features of the camera. But already I can see it is far better than the Sureshot, which could not expose a picture properly if a person was sitting in front of a bright window. When I took a similar picture of Mary Ann with the Nikon, a flashing box appeared on the viewfinder framing her face, the camera automatically set the focus and the brightness to that target. The outdoor view in the background was overexposed, but that's what I would have done manually. It just took a lot less time for the camera to do it automatically.

Nikon did not stop there with face recognition. The camera can recognize faces in profile or head on, from what I saw. It can frame multiple faces at the same time. It has a blink recognition feature, but I'm not sure what that feature actually does. Maybe it tells you to keep your eyes open, then retakes the picture? And now for the funniest feature of all (I think). I'm not too good with the automatic 10 second timer, so I was quite impressed that this camera has the option of waiting for someone to smile instead of going off blindly at 10 seconds.

I cannot imagine what more I would ever want from a camera, but I probably should take another look five years from now.

Picture 1: My back yard, and please no comments about unmentionables hanging on the line to dry. That's how the pioneers used to do it before the invention of driers. Incidentally, this picture resolution was reduced by me for uploading.

Picture 2: Taken from the same spot, but using the full 10x zoom. It's the socks from picture 1, I did not reduce resolution in this picture. (click to enlarge)