Sunday, December 29, 2013

Picking a Tent for Motorcycle Camping

I have enjoyed motorcycle camping for many years, even though I have sometimes had troubles with tents.  Twice I have had a tent fall down on me during a rain storm, which might make you think that buying a waterproof tent comes second to buying a windproof tent.  But when you manage to finally get it together, camping is fun.

I must start with a clarification.  My definition of motorcycle camping is an activity done by a riding a 2 wheeled motorcycle to where I'm going while carrying all the stuff I need to sleep.  I do not bother to bring cooking appliances with me. If I cannot make a meal with firewood and food from a nearby grocery store, I will ride or walk to a nearby restaurant.  So I hope everything is clear now, and I can proceed with my explanation of what kind of tent to bring, assuming I already have figured out what kind of mattress and sleeping bag, and that I know how to pack everything.

Most tents have poles, and the poles break down into segments.  The length of the pole segments is what  determines how long the tent will be when packed, and so will also determine the size of bag I need to pack my camping gear. By way of explanation, I have already decided the most efficient way to carry sleeping accommodations on a bike, is to pack the tent, sleeping bags and mattresses in a duffel bag and strap it to the luggage rack or the passenger seat (if either is available).  Some people prefer to pack the poles separately, which gives them more freedom in jamming the tent in any old space.  I prefer to roll up the poles in the middle of the tent, where they are well protected and will not be lost.

As I read about tents, I come across this concept: A "Bomb Proof" tent.  Be assured, that no tent will survive a direct hit from a bomb.  But neither will a tent survive a tornado without some precautions. (Precaution number one, never camp in Kansas. People in Kansas, don't write  comments complaining about this, do something about those tornadoes then get back to me).    In the same vein, there is no perfect do-all tent.  What you must do is decide where you want to camp, and in what weather (and other) conditions.  Then get a tent that is the best balance of your conflicting requirements.  And then, go to where the conditions match your tent.

A tent design is always a trade off between different requirements.  A tent designed for winter conditions does not need to be waterproof, for example.  Neither does it need to have bug screens.  But it should have a very strong roof support, and probably also be fireproof in case anyone lights a fire inside for warmth.  Tents for "stealth" camping (i.e. free camping) should be subdued in colour, not gaudy oranges or yellows with glow in the dark ropes.

When I go camping, I hate being bitten by mosquitoes, so I always get a tent that seals up completely except for screen windows to let in air.  In fact I hate mosquitoes so much, that I also want my tent to be windproof, so I can set up out in the open, far from sheltering trees.  Preferably on an open beach area.  That's because I know mosquitoes don't like windy areas.

I don't need a tent so big that I can sit in it all day.  When I'm motorcycle camping, I spend most of my time outdoors.  So the tent only needs to be big enough for me and my wife to sleep in, and to be able to change clothes in.  I know can change clothes with about 110 cm of head room.  I don't need a tent that I can stand up or sit in a chair.  I also don't want something the size of a coffin where I can only lay down.  The headroom is very important, and everyone needs to make their own decision.  But the more headroom you have, the less wind resistant the tent is, and the heavier it needs to be.  Weight may not be as important for a motorcyclist as it is for a backpacker, but my luggage rack can only take so much weight.

Head room is an important consideration, but so is the floor plan.  A person needs to be able to stretch out straight.  Some people sleep on their sides with their arms stretched out.  You need to allow for this.  I have a "wide" mattress: 25" or about 60 cm.  I need the tent to be wider than the mattress so that I can sleep properly, because I cannot not fit my arms comfortably on the mattress.  I find that 160 cm is good enough for two people to sleep side by side without interfering with each other. Never mind those diagrams that "prove" two people can sleep with only 130 cm of space. I can't sleep like that.  And I also like extra space to put my stuff.  So normally, for me and my wife, we would need a 3 person tent. But one exception to that is the MEC Wanderer 2 tent, which I have, and it happens to be as big as other makers' three person tents.  There are exceptions to every rule, I guess.

In 2012, we took our tent out west and ended up in some extremely mosquito infested areas.  I almost wished I had a bigger tent so we could spend all our time inside it.  Once, it was so hot and buggy in the campsite, I simply went for a motorcycle ride, solving both problems at once.

Next summer, we are heading to Newfoundland with the same tent.  I am already searching for campsites next to the ocean and away from trees. Good thing our tent is not much bothered by wind, although it is fairly heavy.  But we will also probably have lots of rain, and that is another area our tent is quite good.  It has no fancy windows, but it has a simple streamlined shape, with aluminum poles and lots of guy wires.  It should hold up to steady 50 kph winds with rain if necessary.  In those conditions, we will not be bothered by too many bugs.  And that's how I like it.

Nice picture: I know it is not in Newfoundland.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Is Megyn Kelly a Racist? (And a lot of other people)

There has been a controversy about Megyn Kelly saying Jesus is white, and a big part of that controversy centres on whether or not the comment was racist.

The second part of this controversy, one that has not been clearly stated, is whether or not racism is still alive and well in America, or if racism is all in the past, as many people want to believe. If you can prove Megyn's statement is not racist, you could probably also say racism is over.  But if you can prove the statement is racist, then you have proved racism is still rampant.

Here is my proof.  The fundamental belief that is necessary to support any racist system, is that people can be classified neatly into races.  Let me give you an example.  In Nazi Germany, in order to support their racist policies, not only it was necessary to believe that "Germans" and "Jews" were two different races, but it was necessary to believe that you could easily classify any person as either a Jew or not a Jew, and based on that certainty, you (as a for-sure-German) were now morally permitted to ban the for-sure-Jews from your society.  And then to kill them when it suited you.

To be non-racist, you would have to believe that being a Jew or Non-Jew did not matter.  Another small but important part of that non-racist point of view is that you cannot always tell whether someone is a Jew or a non Jew.

This argument about being able to tell which race is which is fundamental to racism, and cannot be ignored.  A racist always tends to think that races are immutable, that mixing races is an abomination akin to homosexuality.  If you believe that mixing races is not a problem, and recognize uncertainty, then you are probably not a racist.  In fact, logically, I do not think it possible to be a racist if you do not think in absolute terms.  Separating the races is absolutely fundamental to racism, without it, racism cannot work.

Now for Megyn Kelly's remark that Jesus is white, because it's a historical fact.  To me, just the very fact that Megyn apparently believes that it is a "fact" that Jesus is white, and makes me wonder if she is racist, whether the historical "fact" is true or not.  And I'm pretty sure Megyn Kelly does not think of herself as a racist, but then that's true for most racists these days.

But is it really true that Jesus is absolutely white?  Well, no.  For one thing, if he was a historical person, then when he was alive he was probably something in between white and black.  But for true Christians, Jesus is much more than a historical figure, he is "Son of God", right?  So if Jesus has a race then God obviously has a race, as I think we all agree that race is handed down from one generation to the next.  So by saying Jesus is white you are saying God is white.  Carrying this racist idea a little further, you are also saying that races exist in Heaven.  (Heaven being where God and Jesus "live" right now.)  And you are making an assumption that if any orientals, black people, or Arabs make it to Heaven, they are going to be stuck with their race for all eternity.  And I'm sure Megyn thinks that when she goes to Heaven, she is still going to be a cute white girl, and her opinions will still count for something.

Another thing that is believed by many (if not all) Christians, is that Jesus is coming back to Earth.  Not as a spirit, but as a real man, like he did back in year nought.  After all, Jesus himself said so, he just didn't give us the precise date.  I'm sure you see by now where I'm going with this, but anyway... Jesus will have do decide what race He is going to come back as.  Does he come back as the same race as last time, or does he pick some other race?  Does he come back as a man or a woman? I'm sure the white supremacist Christians would have a conniption fit if he (or she) came back as a black ghetto kid.  In fact, I'm pretty sure they would absolutely deny that this was Jesus, no matter how much water he turned into wine or people he raised from the dead, how much water he walked on, or how many people he could feed with a basket of loaves and fishes.

In my opinion, if people in America do not believe that race exists in Heaven, then they can say they are not racists.  But if they believe that Jesus was white, and stays white in Heaven, and will be white when he returns to Earth, you can tell they are still racist.

Picture: From Daily KOS website.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fox News Tries to Steal Christmas

At Christmas time, there are many ideas floating about on how to make the holiday more "Christian". For the last few years, Fox News has been saying the greeting  "Happy Holidays" is offensive to real Christians.

How do we really put the Christ back in Xmas?   I have come up with a list that I would like to share.  It is partly ideas I got from other people, some ideas are rooted in tradition, some ideas come from the 4th annual Fox News "war on Christmas" campaign.

1. We need to make some strong statements that Santa is of the white race.  Apparently a lot of non-white people feel like they can make Santa any colour they wish, and this has to stop if we are to retain the true Christmas spirit.

2. We should not entertain thoughts of a "Christmas Penguin" similar to the Easter Bunny.   In case you couldn't guess, this idea came to me from the Fox News campaign, although the original idea came from Aisha Harris, of Slate.  Another reason we can't have a Christmas Penguin is that the Penguin is the symbol of Linux.  But when I Googled "Christmas Penguin" (with quotes) I got 457,000 hits.  And Google Images has no shortage of examples.  So apparently, this anti-Christmassy move is underway already.  And while we are on the subject, how many times must I remind you people there are no penguins at the North Pole? So it makes no scientific sense at all.

3. A third idea inspired by Fox News, ban all Festivus Poles, especially those located in public places where they may interfere with Christian Baby Jesus Manger scenes.

4. Christmas time might be a very appropriate time to read the bible, especially the Christmas Story in Luke 2:1-20.  If you know anything about shepherding, just ignore Luke 2:8, because you will know that shepherds in the holy land to not actually "watch their flocks by night" in December, which might make you think that the birth date has been changed to match a Pagan tradition of worshipping the winter solstice.

5. While reading the bible, you may also want to skip all the chapters advising people to stone each other for minor transgressions such as working on the Sabbath.  By the way, "working" is interpreted to include air travel.  And for sure the pilots, baggage handlers, and mechanics are working, so they must all certainly be killed in this particularly gruesome way.  But hey, how else are we supposed to show our true Christianity if not by obeying the Bible blindly.

6. If you want to upstage the neighbours piety, may I suggest this instead of setting up even more inflatable front lawn displays.  I suggest you sacrifice some of your livestock to God.  If you are not a farmer, I think it would be acceptable to instead sacrifice the family dog.  Please do not sacrifice any of your children before consulting with your pastor, no matter what you may have read in the Bible.

Now seriously, I hope everyone who reads this can tell it is humour.  I do not really recommend any of these measures, I am just trying to point out, with examples, what is wrong with some people's narrow view of Christmas, as promoted by Fox News, which I am thankful we don't get in Canada.

I prefer a liberal kind of Christianity that is based on freedom of religion, on tolerance, on helping the less fortunate, on making everyone feel welcome regardless of race or creed. I suppose this might offend some stricter Christians who think they are doing good by saying prayers in school, wishing people "Merry Christmas" and not "Happy Holidays",  singing carols and putting money in Santa's pot.  But come on, everyone should know that the real spirit of Christmas is feeling love and not hate.

Happy Holidays to all.  (and I mean that in a good way).

Picture: from this website

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Green Party of Canada: Good or Bad Science?

Here is something I came across in the National Post.  The headline reads

"Elizabeth May’s Party of Science seems to support a lot of unscientific public policies".

I don't always vote for the Green Party, but that is mainly because we don't have runoff voting.  Your first vote better count when you vote in Canada.  I support science, and any party that also genuinely supports science.  So if it's true that the Green Party is supporting a lot of unscientific public policies, I will not vote for them.

Knowing already that the National Post runs a lot of prejudiced material supporting the Conservative Party, and knowing that many NP titles do not match the article they were pasted to, I decided to read it and see for myself whether the Green Party was science based or B.S. based.

I would have to say first, that for once the title matched the content of the article.  And that seems to support my rule that if the title matches the URL link name, then it didn't get a make-over by the Propaganda-wise Title Editor.  So now on to the content and see if the conclusions are fair.

The first jab comes from Michael Kruse (I don't recognize the name)

“I really think the Green Party is just doing the same things everybody else does, which is to make up an idea that matches with your ideology, and then go looking for evidence to support it,” said Michael Kruse, chair of Bad Science Watch, a non-profit devoted to rooting out false science in public policy.

I had to investigate who Michael Kruse is.  Although he does not seem to be a scientist, he has set up a non-profit group called "Bad Science Watch".  I didn't see anything on the web site about global warming, but I did see something about Wifi radiation.  "Investigating ant-wifi activism in Canada."  Then I did a cross check and found that the Green Party (or Elizabeth May) has said that we rolled out wifi too quickly in schools without proving that it is harmless. So if understand correctly, that makes Elizabeth May an anti- wifi activist, and so Michael Kruse is not a really impartial scientist making his anti-Green party claim.

Furthermore, if Bad Science Watch is committed to rooting out *all* bad science in public policy, maybe they should be investigating how the Conservative government is ignoring global warming.

At this point, I have not really settled yet whether Michael Kruse is an impartial  commentator.  And so far I have only gone through about 10% of this National Post article.  I'm not sure I have the time to slog out all the remaining details, so after the first dodgy reference, I will just start to skim for glaring errors.

If it is Green Party policy to oppose new scientific technology, such as Wifi, nuclear power, genetically modified foods, coal powerplants, and tar sands development, that does not necessarily make them unscientific.  They would only be unscientific if they opposed these technologies regardless of scientific evidence.  But the Green party clearly states that they believe that much of the true unbiased scientific research has been undermined by corporate interests, with big think tanks funding pseudo scientific research to support their profitable activities.

Continuing in the rest of the NP article, I notice this:, for instance, is host to a two-part blog post earnestly trumpeting the evidence for “abiotic oil,” a theory from Stalinist Russia that petroleum is not derived from biological matter, but is rather a geological substance dating to the origins of the earth.

I happen to think it is particularly nasty (though not unusual for the NP) that the article finds this way to link the Green Party to Stalin.  But Abiotic Oil is not a policy of the Green Party at all.

The blog they refer to is here, is written by David Bergey.  This blog is, as they said, hosted by the Green Party website.

But of the three comments following this blog post, all are dismissive of abiotic oil, mainly because it is unscientific.  And abiotic oil theory has not been the basis of any policies of the Green Party.

Picture: I found the picture  of the kitties on the internet.  I added the word "Science" to illustrate the dilemma facing scientist who are offered funding by large corporations.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Are Cost of Living Subsidies for Northern Canada Too Expensive?

Do Canadian First Nations people in the north of Canada really have too high a cost of living?  Do we need to keep subsidizing them? I want to help answer this question.  Here is a comment to start us off.

Mike Zwarich Yesterday 11:00

You have to wonder whether it would help, just a bit, if they moved to a part of Canada where it didn't cost ridiculous amounts of money to ship things to them.
When it costs $20 for a jug of milk, you know you're not going to have the standard of living that we enjoy in most of Canada.

(I cannot continue without addressing the Freudian slip calling the southern part of Canada "most of Canada".  It's not most of Canada.  Now I can go on.)

In answer not only to Mike Zwarich, but to everyone I know who is at a loss about why Indians and Eskimos (or First Nations people) continue to live in that part of Canada where milk is expensive, it is not because Canadians are a stupid people.  The answer is partly in the subject of  sovereignty. I may have to explain "sovereignty" later, in the meantime you could Google it if you didn't learn it in high school history.
Now, here is a quote from a government of Canada website about our sovereignty.

With 40% of our landmass in the territories, 162,000 kilometres of Arctic coastline and 25% of the global Arctic – Canada is undeniably an Arctic nation. The Government is firmly exercising our sovereignty over our Arctic lands and waters – sovereignty that is long-standing, well-established and based on historic title, international law and the presence of Inuit and other Aboriginal peoples for thousands of years.
At the same time, international interest in the Arctic region is growing, in part as a result of possibilities for resource development, climate change and new or longer access to transportation routes. Canada is demonstrating effective stewardship and leadership internationally, to promote a stable, rules-based Arctic region where the rights of sovereign states are respected in accordance with international law and diplomacy.

I think there are two problems some Canadians have in understanding the north of Canada.  First is, most Canadians do not live there, have never even visited there, never would want to visit there even if it was an all expenses paid trip.  Most Canadians are huddled close to the US border, and spend more time wishing they could get into the US than wondering about what goes on in 90% of Canada's land territory.  Second, never take "sovereignty" for granted, no matter how uninhabitable the land is, somebody always wants it.  See how Canada is already fighting Denmark over possession of some island nobody even knew existed?  We have fought most wars over sovereignty, believe it or not.

Yes, Canada is the second largest country in the world.  Most Canadians are aware of that fact, although they do not really understand it.  We often call the 49th parallel the border between Canada and the USA, and yet most Canadian cities are on the American (or southern) side of that imaginary line called the 49th parallel.  Feel free to look that one up on a map.  I will concede Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver are north.  Victoria BC is south of the line, so is Toronto, Montreal, Fredericton NB, Halifax NS,  St. John's NL, and Punkeydoodles Crns., ON.  And (I'm guessing) 80% of the population of the country, along with 3 entire provinces.

Canadians think they understand that Canada is really big, yet they do not understand how much of it they have not seen, how much is almost a wilderness.  That is a problem, when you remember that most Canadians do not really understand why Canada, with a population of only 35 million (now, it used to be less) has sovereignty over this huge land mass, larger than the entire United States of America.

One way to exercise sovereignty is to buy military equipment and train a large army, navy and air force. Canada with only 35 million people, does not actually have the economic ability to do that, and still maintain a high standard of living for it's masses huddled along the border. Russia can hold its territory with a population of 144 million and 17 million square km. (8.4 people/sq km) Canada's 35 million people claim 10 million sq. km. (3.5 people/sq km).  For the Russians, claiming all that territory involved shipping millions of prisoners in chains to Siberia, raising a huge army and keeping everyone's standard of living quite low.  Canada has had a relatively easy time of it, for various reasons that I don't really know right now, but I'm sure it'll come to me.  But part of our equation would have to be our hospitals, schools, airports, harbours, the extensive maps, and the Canadians who live in the far north, and most of them are still First Nations people.

In the end, it is much cheaper and more effective to claim land by treating the First Nations people as part of Canada than to bring them south to live in squalor in Saskatoon and spending a hundred times as much money on new jet fighters.  A ten dollar litre of milk doesn't seem so expensive now, does it?

Picture: From

The National Post's Take on Nelson Mandela's Memorial

A headline in the right wing conservative National Post reads:

"After sneaking past security to get into Mandela event, Mulcair bops along with Kim Campbell’s dance moves"

Someone at the National Post is fond of writing sensational right wing headlines that have a significant disconnect with reality and not even connected with the words of the attached article.  This title needs a walk-through, as it is more highly salted with mockery and propaganda than most.  And I find it particularly in  bad taste that the National Post's title mangling editor is using Nelson Mandela's memorial like this.

Let's start with Mulcair sneaking past security at Nelson Mandela's event. By way of explanation, Thomas Mulcair is the leader of the opposition in Canada's federal government, and apparently annoys Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, by asking too many questions in parliament.  By stating that he is a sneak, The National Post (which supports Harper) degrades Mulcair's public image.  And if this occurs at Nelson Mandela's funeral, you also imply Mulcair would not have been welcome at the world hero's funeral.  Nelson Mandela is most famous for opposing racism and Apartheid in South Africa.  The truth is, that Mulcair's NDP party actually is far more in line with the anti-racist, pro-peace views of Mandela than the Conservative Party of Canada, which struggles to keep its racist element in check.  (for proof of that, you only need to read the comments following almost any article in the National Post)

After reading this article, (and I can only hope that the National Post readers actually read the articles) it is quite obvious that Mulcair did not sneak past security.  It was a mixup at the security outside the stadium, probably very run-of-the-mill happening.

Next, the dance moves.  I actually have more to say about that, as I lived in West Africa for three years during which time it gradually became obvious that Africans dance to everything.  Actually, I could go even further and make a strong case for all our modern popular dance in North America (at least since the end of the big band era) having African roots, including the Twist.  Back in the fifties, when it first started becoming popular among White Americans, there was a massive backlash against it, claiming that this type of dance was only appropriate for Negros.  And even today there is a slight residual negative feeling about dancing (or "bopping" as the Post calls it) among our more stuffy white right wing citizens.

I myself am not a great dancer, OK not even a good dance, OK pretty bad dancer.  I would probably lose a dance contest to Sheldon Cooper of the Big Bang Theory.  But never mind that, I did dance while I was in Africa.  You have to be very stuffy indeed to not feel the infectious rhythms, and nobody makes you feel foolish for dancing.  I say that despite the fact that my high school age students used to invent dances based on their white teacher's dance moves.  There was no offence intended, and none taken.  It was actually all in good fun.

Just to give one more example, although this one is not in Africa, the funeral marches of New Orleans. Watch this one.

Dancing in Africa does not have the scandalous, and sexual overtones that it has in Canada, especially among older white conservatives.  It goes on at any time, and funeral celebrations are no exception.  I applaud Kim Campbell, a past Prime Minister of Canada (Progressive Conservative party, long story) and Thomas Mulcair for being open to the spirit.

Here is another dance video to illustrate: George Bush dancing on the White House lawn in 2007 during Malaria Awareness Day, in company with a dance troupe from West Africa.  (This is the video, ignore the caption about Ossetia, it's just wrong, at best maybe it's humour)


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

This So-called "Optical Illusion" Should Make You Question Everything

The exaggerated headline in Yahoo news read "Optical Illusion Will Make You Question Your Eyesight".  The truth is, you actually should question your eyesight, and there are hundreds of optical illusions available to help you do that.  But this is not one of them.  Why?  It is based on the Cornsweet illusion, and unfortunately, by attempting to jazz it up a notch, the presenters have kind of lost the original illusion's point.

The question is, which object is lighter, the top of the bottom.  The bottom one looks lighter, but the presenter says actually they are both the same, and you can prove it by blocking the center part of the image out.  OK no, that's not an illusion.  Because in this version of the illusion, it is quite obvious that there is a light source, and that given the light source and shading in the picture, the bottom object is actually lighter.

If you were to check the original Cornsweet illusion, you would notice there are no shadows, it is not an attempt to paint a 3 dimensional object.  It is a pure scientific illusion, showing how our perceptions are influenced by a boundary with brightness contrasts.

To explain it another way, your eyes are not really fooled.  Any painting, where shadows are used to simulate a 3 dimensional effect will use a similar illusion.  For example, to darken one side of a ball to make it look spherical with a light source.  It should come as no surprise that, in real life the ball was supposed to be a uniform colour, but the painter used a darker colour on one side and a lighter colour on the other.  That is not an "optical illusion" in the true sense. (all 3D paintings are in some respect an illusion, but let's not get too philosophical)

You are not really being fooled by this picture.  Your eyes are simply telling you that if you saw that scene in real life, the bottom shape would necessarily be lighter.  In fact there is no "normal" way to set up that scene in real life without having the bottom shape lighter.  And by normal I mean without using specially focused multiple spotlights or other trickery to lighten or darken the shapes.

But, I accept that in the picture, the paint colour of the two flat areas would be the same, and you would probably not notice that without blocking out part of the image. However, that is not a real optical illusion if you are stating the "top object is the same colour as the bottom object", as it is quite clear that the rounded edges are part of the objects, and they are not the same.

What I wonder about is how easily someone in the hustle of ad-driven media can screw up a perfectly fine optical illusion and pass it off as real. And I also see once again, how Wikipedia, dull as it may be, almost always gets it right.

Cornsweet illusion

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pray Nice in School

For all those religious people who want to pray in school, I have a suggestion for a prayer.  I got the inspiration from a website in the US, called

Back when George W. Bush was president, a prayer-focused website was put up called

I scrolled through some of the many prayers posted on the web site, where they do in fact ask for us to pray for President Obama.

Here is the prayer, that inspired me for my choice of a prayer to say in school.

Many in this United States are too busy with Thanksgiving, Christmas and just life to even care or know what is going on in this country. Obama is continuing to deceive the masses and perpetrate evil. Lord this man is not our friend. He needs you in his heart in a terrible way. Father he is misguided and listening to the lies of Islam and Satan to take us down. Father reveal yourself to him and others in his chain of command in the Executive branch. Lord Jesus touch the heart of Chief Justice John Roberts as he has time to redeem himself when it comes to doing the right thing as they hear the case for religious freedom in the Obamacare bill. Lord Jesus rule in favor of righteousness and saving our faith. Amen.
Received: November 27, 2013  (Prayed 9 times)"

So based on this "prayer", I developed a short one of my own, which would be acceptable to me, even for use in schools in Canada.   And maybe somebody could even post it on the prayer wall at "Presidential Prayer Team"

A prayer for all:

"Dear invisible being or non-being that may or may not have created the universe, please help us to accept freedom of religion for all except those who use it to abuse children.  Help the misguided to understand that you created science and mathematics, but that you did not create religion.  Help them understand that you gave us brains to reason with, not to blindly follow inappropriate and chauvinistic teachings written down thousands of years ago.  Help our children to understand why freedom, democracy, and our way of life, even the very video games we play, all depend on an educated population, and not on blind faith. May you rule in favour of righteousness and a real education for all. Amen."

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Don't Tell Me What it Feels Like

I can tell that winter has returned, because now instead of giving the real temperature on TV, they start telling us what it "Feels Like".  And "feels like" is actually just an easy to understand replacement phrase for "Wind chill factor".

According to Wikipedia,

"Wind chill (popularly wind chill factor) is the perceived decrease in air temperature felt by the body on exposed skin due to the flow of cold air."

Scientists have worked out the wind chill factor temperature for each degree of real temperature, and at each increase of wind speed.  Wind chill temperature tells you how quickly you will get frostbite if your bare skin is exposed to that wind.  The wind chill calculation is helpful for people who are at risk of frostbite.

But, in my opinion, the wind chill readings are not well understood by ordinary mortals such as meteorologists and weather announcers on TV.  "Wind chill factor of -30c" does not mean "Feels like -30c".

When I was a kid up north walking to school in the middle of winter, my mother used to always tell me the temperature before I left the house.  She would say "It's 30 below zero!!"  as I walked out the door without either hat or gloves.  Thanks to her constant reminders, I have a pretty good idea what it "Feels Like" at all the different temperatures and wind speeds, while walking without a hat or gloves and my ears in the early stages of frostbite.  It is not what the weatherman says it "Feels Like".  A real -35c feels a lot colder than a wind chill factor of -35c.  Why?  If you have a wind chill reading of -35, the "real temperature (i.e. the one showing on the "real" thermometer) is only -19 when the wind is 50 kph.  That means if you can get out of the wind, you will be much warmer (or less cold).  But if the real temperature is -35, you have no place to go, it is -35 everywhere.  If it is only a wind chill of -35, there are lots of ways to get out of the wind.  Walk behind a bigger person, change sides of the street. walk backwards, etc.  Additionally, if the wind happens to be coming from behind, you only need to walk a little faster, and you avoid the wind chill.  And I have not yet even put on my hat and gloves, which happen to be wind proof anyway.

Lately I have noticed a new trend on TV, which is to substitute "Feels like" for the more meaningful term "Wind chill factor".  Don't tell me what it "feels like".  I know what it feels like, or given the real temperature and wind, I can figure it out.  Your job should be to tell me the real temperature, and the wind speed and direction.  Different people have different tolerances to cold.  Different people wear different clothes.  Cold does not feel the same to everybody.

On a motorcycle, the weather presenter's "Feels like" temperature is even less meaningful.  Partly because I have no exposed skin while riding my motorcycle on a cold day.  And partly because, even if there was some exposed skin, it is not exposed to the wind at the normal ground speed they measure.

So unless someone with a perfectly average human body is outside in the nude, standing still on top of a treeless hill, don't tell them what the temperature "feels like"  You don't know what it feels like.  Just give the real temperature, and the wind speed and direction, and let them work it out for themselves.

Picture: from

Monday, November 25, 2013

Jews Fleeing Persecution in Quebec (and Israel, BTW)

A group of Jewish fundamentalists has left the province of Quebec, and is heading to southern Ontario.  The reason they gave is that they are not allowed to home school their children properly in Quebec, as they are required to teach their children "Evolution".

I find it strange that Ontario has more relaxed laws about the teaching of evolution than Quebec.  When I was growing up in the province of Quebec, it was widely believed that Quebec was a backward province, mired in religion, while Ontario was a modern, progressive province, based on science and reason.  Well, if nobody else believed it, I did.

Then, over the years, Quebec has gradually thrown off the religious image, and has become far more secular, while Ontario seems to be going the opposite direction toward religion. But I still wonder about the given reasons for this religious cult leaving Quebec for Ontario.  My sister, who does not believe in evolution, home schooled her 3 children in Quebec city, apparently without any harassment by the authorities.  OK that was a few years ago, I guess back in the nineties, so maybe things have changed.

There are a few more details in this story from the Montreal Gazette.  It seems that this group has been investigated heavily by the child's welfare services in Quebec, and you could argue that this amounts to harassment.  Seems to me no more harassment than having to go to school every day, though, and many people have to put up with that.

Some other side issues being looked at that are maybe really central issues:
- Child marriages to old men within the sect, and teen pregnancies
- The children have dental problems, and hygiene problems
- The children do not speak either English or French, and seem to not be learning either language.
- There are many other curriculum items, beside evolution, that the cult cannot accept

The leader of the sect also adds that some people in the surrounding community (Ste Agathe) call them the "Taliban" because of their women who have to wear clothes resembling burkas and are confined to the home. (See picture above from the Gazette, you decide)

This religious cult was accepted into Canada in 2004 as refugees,  fleeing Israel, where according to their leader, they were persecuted for not believing sufficiently in Zionism.

So in our "sound bite" journalism, we have a simple (and readily believed in Ontario) story of Jews trying to escape persecution in Quebec, but to me the more curious story is Jews trying to escape persecution from Israel. Unless these people were lying just to gain refugee status in Canada. Or unless Israelis had the same concerns for child welfare as Canadians.

Some follow up reading from different points of view (it seems to be a complex story)

Times of Israel

The Jerusalem Post reports on the move from Quebec to Ontario

Toronto Star (more Ontario oriented view, many of the readers' comments are also quite critical of the cult.)

Jonathan Kay, the National Post describes Judaism's Fundamentalist problem.

A private Investigation,

Saturday, November 23, 2013

John F Kennedy Joins Ronald Reagan in Conservative Mythology

We have just had the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy's death.  The memory is fuzzy now, I seem to recall that it was announced by the teacher while I was in school, but I don't remember which teacher or which grade.

Now we come to a modern headline attributed to Fox News.  "JFK posthumously joins the Republican Party".  That headline appeared as a text crawl in the Simpsons cartoon a few years ago, and resulted in the cartoonist Matt Groening receiving a warning from the Fox owners that he must stop putting fake Fox News crawls on his weekly TV animation.  Apparently, because people could not tell the difference between joke news and Fox news.

Now making it much harder to tell the difference between humour and fact:  On the 50th anniversary of JFK's death, Fox News joins a "growing body of thought" that JFK was more a conservative than a liberal.

This growing body of thought is backed up by a book by Ira Stoll  "JFK, Conservative".  Here are some quotes from Kennedy's life to back up the research.

I don't want to say these quotes are cherry-picked, or that they ignore famous quotes where Kennedy called himself a liberal, but let me take the worst of them for a closer look.

"5. I’d be very happy to tell them I’m not a liberal at all…I’m not comfortable with those people. Saturday Evening Post, June 1953 "

I don't actually have the book, I'm not sure if the "dot dot dot" was in the book or not.  But as a self-taught bullshit detector, I have learned to recognize telltale signs, and one of the easiest to spot for a novice is "..."

The full quote is actually

“I’m not a liberal at all. I never joined the Americans for Democratic Action—I’m not comfortable with those people.”
John F. Kennedy in the Saturday Evening Post, 1956"


Other than getting the wrong year, the missing "..." actually is about joining the ADA, a liberal organization that ranks politicians on a scale of 0 to 100 on their liberal views.  They were like a self appointed organization to define who was liberal and who was not, and how pure they were with the liberal agenda.  It seems to me that the "..." on this web page is being used to leave out important information rather than unimportant information.  If Kennedy refers to "being uncomfortable with those people", he is not referring to "liberals", he is referring to a specific sub-group, the ADA.  It's kind of like a conservative distancing themselves from the Tea Party.

What's next on the conservative agenda, now that JFK has joined their ranks?  I expect to see a Fox News crawl on the Simpsons "Lee Harvey Oswald posthumously joins Democratic Party".  Except, of course that the Simpsons can no longer do news crawls attributed to Fox News.

Picture: from

Sunday, November 10, 2013

My Thoughts on the New Harley Davidson Street 500 and 750

This year, two interesting new bikes were introduced. Polaris brought us the new Indian(TM) to compete with Harley Davidson.  And Harley Davidson brought us a new Indian(the country) motorcycle to compete with Polaris and everybody else.  Actually the Indian Harley will be manufactured in India and the USA (Kansas City), and it will be in two versions, a 500cc and a 750cc.  The 500 will just be a smaller piston version of the 750.

Like most Harley Davidsons, the new Harleys look good to me, with retro styling instead of futuristic Autobot/Decepticon cartoon styling popular in Japan.  And they still have a back fender to catch the road spray.

Recently, I have been avoiding Harley Davidsons, especially the smaller models because of high price, small fuel tank, little rear suspension travel and non-water cooled engines.  These new "Street" models answer three of these concerns, and they are also lighter than the previous Harley "entry level bikes".

The most significant specification to me for the new Indian Harley (I should start calling by the official name, the Street models) is the gas tank size, which at 12.5 litres is much more practical than the Honda Shadow 750RS tank at only 9.84 litres. But the 2014 Harley Sportster "Low" is bigger at 17 litres. However, it could be worse, the current H-D "48" has only 7.9 litres.  If that's a joke, it's not funny.

Almost as important as gas capacity to me to me is the rear suspension travel, a number that Harley Davidson is as reluctant to publicize as their horsepower. Apparently the Street model's travel is a full 2 inches more than the Harley Davidson Sportster Iron. I had to dig a little to find out the 2010 H-D SPORTSTER 883 IRON has only 1.63 inches.  In the road test of the Sportster Iron, Billy Bartels said "it didn't bottom out nearly as much as the Low we recently tested, despite identical suspension numbers and similar preload settings".  Maybe he lost weight, or was riding on a smooth road.

Read more:

The current Harley "Low" has more suspension travel, bringing it up to 2.5 inches (as they say, for "added comfort". In my mind, 2.5 inches is more like "still hurts real bad").  I assume the Street 500 and 750 will have a suspension with about 3.5 inches, similar to the Honda Shadow 750RS at 90mm or 3.54 inches.  My Vulcan 900 has 4 inches, which I think is just adequate.

I am not the young guy/girl that Harley is marketing to, as I am now a senior citizen.  But if I was in the market for a bike right now, I would look at their new Street models instead of the more expensive Honda Shadow 750RS with the teeny gas tank.  I'm even less interested in the cheaper but uglier Honda CB500. Although the CB500 is available with ABS, the retro style version is not available in Canada.

But then what about my supposed aversion for Harley Davidson in general?  Well, I don't really have an aversion to Harley Davidson on any absolute level.  I just didn't like the price/performance/reliability compared to many Japanese models.  I also didn't care for the superior attitudes of some ultra patriotic Harley Davidson owners about "made in USA" machines, but that's not really a deal breaker for me, as I know that many Harley Davidson owners don't have those attitudes.

I see the comments are already flying about the Street models being a reasonable starter bike.....for a girl.  If I was riding one of those, and anybody actually told me it was a beginner bike for a girl, I would just tell them it was my daughters bike.  According to Mary Ann, I am a pretty good liar.  I don't even have a daughter.  I could chuckle about that all night long.  But hey, I do have a grand daughter.  Wonder if her mom would like her to have a new Harley Davidson?  I'm just kidding,  I doubt if anybody would actually say that to me in real life, of course the Internet is another matter.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Remembrance Day Heats Up in Lucan

Just a few days before our annual war over Christmas gets into full swing, we have another annual war brewing, the war over Remembrance Day.  As you know, Remembrance Day is the day where we remember those who fought and died in the various wars that we participated in, which when I was in school meant mostly World Wars One and Two.  Now it also means the Afghan War, a war in which we tried to stamp out terrorism by invading Afghanistan, which had allowed Al Quaida terrorists to train openly in the years before 9/11.

So what is the war over Remembrance Day about, and more importantly, why must we have another war?

The opening shots were fired last year, in the tiny community of Lucan Ontario, where the local Public School did not say prayers as part of the Remembrance Day ceremonies.  The Principal decided, given that this was not a religious ceremony, and the school itself was not a religious school, that prayers were not necessary.

Now I must interrupt the story here, as my own experience is this:  When I was a kid, I do not remember saying prayers in school for Remembrance Day.  We sat in our seats in our own classrooms, and had two minutes of silence to remember the fallen soldiers.  I did not live in a big city, and this was back in the early sixties.  That was less than twenty years after the war, and many of our fathers had actually fought in the war, and I don't remember one peep of protest about it.  Not only that, but I attended a Christian Protestant school far from any cities.  To be fair, it was the province of Quebec which didn't have any non-religious schools at the time, and actually the Protestants were closer to being non-religious than the other public school system which was Roman Catholic.

Now to continue with my interruption by filling in a bit of theological background.  It was well known at the time in the Catholic schools that all Protestants went to hell, be they fallen soldiers or not.  And the Protestants were equally sure that dead Catholic soldiers were all in Hell.  So it seemed that by saying prayers, whether Catholic or Protestant, would only have the effect of increasing the suffering of many of the fallen soldiers, and do nothing for those who had already found heavenly bliss.  So I always assumed that the absence of religious overtones was a comfort for those of the wrong religion. (whichever it turned out to be).

Now to get back to the story in Lucan, which has a Catholic/Protestant connection too.  It seems that for over thirty years, the Catholic school and the Protestant (I mean non-religious public school, as this is Ontario) in Lucan have been holding joint ceremonies in the local Community Centre, presumably absorbing all the expenses of bussing in all their kids for the event.  Many parents also attend.  The schools alternate each year in organizing the ceremony.  And remarkably, (to me at least) the Catholics and Protestants have prayed together.  In one way, this is an admirable and much needed improvement on the religious discord between Protestants and Catholics that went on in my home town.  But it is a little late, as these days we have many other religions adding to the mix (Jews, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist etc) and we also have an increasing number of Atheists. So while the Catholics and Protestants in Lucan were finally getting their act together, other ideas were creeping in from the big cities, and last year the public school decided to stop saying prayers at school sponsored ceremonies.

But given the new situation, where Christians are starting to feel under fire from liberals, immigrants, and liberal atheists, the Catholics and Protestants banded together in Lucan to insist on prayer in the ceremony this year.  However, the Public school decided to skip the confrontation and have their ceremony in their own school instead.  Predictably, this did nothing to avoid a confrontation.

The London Free Press website (the closest big city) has a poll:

"Do prayers have a place in Remembrance Day ceremonies? " 

I don't like the question, as it seems to avoid the problem of how to let everyone have their own prayer, be it Protestant or Catholic, Jewish, or other, without offending anyone. My question is, Have any Canadian Soldiers who are also Jewish or Muslim, died in any Canadian war?  And if none have died, can we be sure none will ever die?  Maybe we should be at least be preparing for the eventuality by changing the immortal words "Between the crosses row on row", because Muslims and Jews do not use the cross as a grave marker.

Picture: Found on the Internet, could not find the credit for it.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Lost Motorcyclists' Review of "Larry Crowne"

Last night the movie "Larry Crowne" with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts was on TV. I had wanted to see ever since it came out in theatres in 2011, but never got around to it.  I am always attracted to movies featuring motorcycles, and because of Mary Ann's Burgman scooter, I thought she might be interested in going to Larry Crowne.  But she wasn't, really.

When it came on TV I decided to watch it myself, as Mary Ann still had better things to do.  As I watched the movie, I thought I noticed in one quick scene, that Larry Crowne, played by Tom Hanks, was reading "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance".  I wasn't sure, so I googled it and found out that it was true.  And at the same time I came across a conservative website that blasted Larry Crowne for being too liberal in its views.  They also awarded it with only a half "Reagan" (their unit of film stars), and even funnier, at the end of the review they changed their award to a half "Marx" as it was supposedly so extreme to be considered communist/socialist propaganda.

After Debbie Schlussel's harsh review of such an innocuous film, I simply had to do a blog about it.

What were Debbie's complaints?  First was that Larry Crowne was fired by UMart, which she perceived as a thinly veiled jab at Wal-Mart.  So apparently being against Wal-Mart brands you as a pinko, is that true?  Maybe it is. After all Mary Ann and I try to avoid going to Walmart, and extreme conservatives would label us at the very least as as liberals.  (Mary Ann's Wal-Mart boycott is more effective than mine, but still has failed to bring it to its knees.)  Many of the angry Tom Hanks hating commentators, on Debbie's blog, point out that Wal-Mart would never fire somebody like Tom Hanks, who served in the US Navy, and is regularly employee of the month.  Actually one of the conservatives' most beloved legends is that of the retired navy admiral serving as a humble Wal-Mart greeter.

Here is a link to a conservative website that in turn links back to my blog where I am poking fun at the right wing forwarded email about the retired admiral.  I guess my dry humour does not go over too well in some cases.

Tom Hanks was fired during a routine employee cull, where his lack of education got him a red flag.  Actually, not so much a lack of education, as it seems that even just enrolling in college would have spared him getting the axe.  Larry's understanding of the economic system is so weak that he thinks he was "downsized".

So the firing of Tom Hanks has all kinds of ideological implications.  The Conservative view of America is that serving in the military and  working Wal-Mart jobs are good enough to sustain the lifestyle of driving huge SUV's and buying monster homes in the suburbs. Tom Hanks finds out differently when he takes a course in economics at a local community college after he is fired.  And he does not learn about trickle-down free market capitalism either.  There's another good reason to give this movie a half a Marx.

Tom Hank's (I mean Larry Crowne's) education in economics ends up with him dumping his house and buying a scooter to save gas. Actually, to be fair, the idea of buying the scooter came before the economics course.

Another serious complaint about Larry Crowne is that it apparently reverses the Conservative stereotype of willingly subservient women and dominating macho men.  The romantic interests are Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.  Tom hanks plays a very nice guy throughout the movie, as Tom Hanks often does.  Julia Roberts comes off as kind of bitchy, impatient, hard drinking, bossy, petulant, aggressive, demanding etc., and this does not sit well with conservatives who claim that she is actually playing the man's role, while Tom is playing the woman's.

Another target for conservative ire was the fact that Julia Roberts gave Larry Crowne an A+, seemingly just because she was attracted to him romantically.  Of course this is unethical (if it is true, which it may not be), and I don't think it's fair for conservatives to be harping on this point as if it is a flaw of liberalism. But grading people's speeches is always a bit of a subjective affair, and always open to accusations of favouritism. I once took a community college course, many years ago in computer programming,  where the professor let us give ourselves our own grade at the end. He questioned a guy sitting a few rows back on his self awarded C.  "Why did you give yourself a C?"  "Because I didn't fart too much during classes."  The C stood.  I gave myself an A, and he didn't question it, and I don't actually think it made a bit of difference to my life whether I got a C or an A in that course.

Here is a link to another review, in which "Larry Crowne" is called one of the best movies of the year.

Picture: I got my picture of Larry Crowne reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance out of this second review, where it was correctly attributed.  One of the commentators of the conservative blog called it "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Riding".  Does that mean one of my favourite books is actually a liberal book?  I really never considered the possibility until now, when a conservative does not get the title right, and the book appears as a prop in a liberal movie.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Twelve Ways to Keep Your Hands Warm Riding a Motorcycle

Like everyone else, my hands are usually the first things to get cold while riding a motorcycle.  But I don't consider it to be a problem any more.  It's been about 40 years since I moved to Sept-Iles, Quebec and started riding a motorcycle in cold weather (Even July was pretty cold when I lived there).  I have since moved as far south as I can get in Canada, but I still sometimes ride in cold weather, using what I learned up north.  Actually, today there are even more ways to keep your hands warm, as technology has come to the rescue for people who freeze easily.

The first thing you should know is that there are many ways to prevent cold hands on a motorcycle.  But it is useful to know something about why your hands get cold, and that will help you understand why sometimes these tricks work, but sometimes they don't.  For example, there are some people whose hands just get cold very easily.  One condition is called Raynaud's disease.  Also, hypothyroidism can cause cold hands.  I am not a doctor, so I'm just warning you that some of these tips may not work for you if you have a medical condition.

It is a normal human reaction, that when your body temperature goes down just a little bit, the body will begin to shut off blood circulation to the hands.  This is a natural survival response to keep your main body toasty warm, and sacrifice your hands, which you don't really need anyway.  What I hear all the time is "My hands got freezing cold, but my body was toasty warm.  So I don't need a better jacket, and pants, I just need really warm gloves."  Well, my friend, that is because you just got fooled by your body into thinking you were toasty warm on top.  But if you really warmed up your body with, say, an electric vest, and then found out your hands also started to warm up, would you be surprised?  Well don't be, because this survival response is well known to people who study the cold, and to people who live in places where there is danger of frostbite.  French doctors began studying frostbite in earnest after Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia in 1812, and lost much of his army to the cold.  The French also lost the war, and Napoleon lost his crown due to ignorance of the cold.

So how to keep your hands warm while riding on a motorcycle? I am going to skip the disclaimer about "Watch out for ice and snow on the road". These tips are just to get you started, I don't have the time or the inclination to argue with you about whether or not these tips offend your fashion sense, or whether they are as effective in a crash as racing armour. Also I have no time for people living in warm climes who say that wearing cold weather gear is "wussy". Or whether you are able to control a motorcycle when you are wearing mitts instead of gloves.  I got over those concerns a long time ago, and now I'm just going to list, without tact or further disclaimers or  political correctness, the ways to keep your hands warm when riding a motorcycle in cold/freezing weather.

1. Use mitts, not gloves.  Good mitts, of course, not the woolen mitts your grandmother knitted you for Christmas.  Leather index finger mitts for snowmobiles are  pretty good, as are "lobster claw" type mitts.
2. Use an electric vest. (reasons given above, go back and review if you missed it)
3. Use electrically heated glove liners. But I recommend starting with the electric vest, which is what the mitts usually plug into anyway.  The vest is simpler and overall more effective.
4. Use a chemical heat pack in the mitts (or gloves)
5. A windshield or fairing for the motorcycle
6. Heated handgrips
7. Hand guards on the handlebars to deflect the wind blast
8. "Hippo" hands, or handlebar muffs to protect your hands from the wind
9. Stop the bike and go for a 10 minute run to build up body heat.  You make 10 times as much heat when moving than when sitting still.
10. Warm up your hands (wearing the gloves) on the engine, assuming it is hot.  Careful you don't burn your hands or gloves.  Safest to do this off the bike.  I mean with the bike parked.
11. Check the air temperature before going for a ride, to avoid surprises.  Also watch out when you are climbing a mountain, temperatures can drop drastically
12. Stop at Tim Hortons for a hot coffee or chocolate.  If you don't live in Canada tough luck. Or then again maybe you don't need to worry about the cold.

Here are a couple of interesting webpages for further reading on general cold weather dressing

Photo: From this blog

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Traveller's Guide to Moral Relativism

You sometimes hear conservatives accuse liberals of "Moral Relativism".  In their accusation, they define "Moral Relativism" as this (according to Conservapedia):

Moral relativism is the theory that moral standards vary from society to society, and from time to time in history. Under this theory, ethical principles are not universal and are instead social products. This theory argues that there is no objective moral order or absolute truth.

Moral relativity is a philosophy that states there is no absolute Right or Wrong, and that anyone can freely use his own conscience to decide what is moral. A moral relativist will not say that theft or murder is wrong, because he believes it is up to the murderer or thief to decide whether his behavior is justified.

I don't believe these quotes from Conservapedia represent the views of most conservatives about "moral relativists", and certainly does not represent the views of moral relativists themselves.  There is a lot of BS out there, making it hard to find real information on moral relativism.  I will attempt to do so here.

All through history, people have noticed that there were different cultures with different values, and that each culture regarded the differences between them and the others as an indication of their own superiority. The concept of Moral Relativism has been known for thousands of years.  But it was popularized during the European colonial period. During the colonization period, where European countries attempted to dominate the rest of the world, this feeling of European superiority reached a peak.  I guess that never before had so many different cultures been touched by any other culture.

As this colonization progressed, a few European intellectuals began to deny that Europeans were superior to all other cultures on Earth.

Let me illustrate with one example.  In many Polynesian islands, and in Africa it was quite common for women to go topless.  Now at the same time, in Victorian England, it was scandalous for a woman to show an ankle, and the rumour was that even table legs were forced to cover up.

So, when the missionaries first arrived in Polynesia, they had their hands full trying to convince the local women that their traditional way of life was scandalous.

The intellectuals who discussed cultural differences, theorized the following.  Since, at various times, different cultures had dominated other cultures, and even the method of dress within each culture changed with time, was it possible that there was no absolute definition of scandalous?  Could it simply be that one culture developed in cold climates where clothing was necessary,and other developed in hot places where clothing was neither necessary nor available?  And what about the institution of slavery, which was responsible for producing most of the cotton that made the clothing?  Was that not just as evil/scandalous as seeing a topless woman?

This argument was the core of the colonial era concept of "Moral Relativism".  On one hand you have religious zealots, insisting that their God was superior to all others and hence, their method of dress was also superior.  On the other hand, you have people who insist that there is nothing inherently evil about foreign cultures, and that their methods of dress and even their types of worship were as valid as European ones.

The moral absolutists (opposite of relativists) fought back, saying that many pagans and primitives engaged in cannibalism, which was evil under any circumstances.  I don't know about every nasty rumour started by conservatives or racists, but you can find plenty of evil in non-European societies if you care to look.  But then you can also find plenty of evil in our own society if you know where to look, and if you are allowed to make up stuff that sounds true.

I believe all cultures have their own ways of doing things, that generally make sense to them.  But these values also do evolve slowly with time, with contacting other cultures, and with changing circumstances.  I think some values are absolute, for example when it comes to killing and eating the still beating hearts of the victims, particularly when that victim is me.  But then some cultural norms I think are "morally relative", especially when they harm no-one.

Picture: Historical picture of native women in Hawaii. I found it on

Further reading: A novel "The Poisonwood Bible" By Barbara Kingsolver, a fictional account of an American missionary in the Congo, but  Barabara lived in the Congo for a while as a child, and so it gives the novel some authenticity.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Testing My Riding Gear on the Freeway in Rain

For my second road test of my rain gear, I went on a 150 km loop that included 80 km of freeway.  It was raining moderately all afternoon, the temperature was 6 degrees C, or 43 degrees F.  Humidity was 88%, good to know for testing the anti-fog spray on my face shield.

I was testing my "two waterproof layer" theory, where I have one waterproof shell on top of another waterproof layer.

I started off with ordinary indoor clothes, including jeans and a light sweater.

My first (inner) waterproof layer was made up of Gore-tex socks, waterproof/breathable hiking pants, and my Scorpion Commander jacket with it's inner waterproof/breathable liner.

The outer waterproof layer included my lace-up motorcycle boots, Teknic Tornado waterproof/breathable gloves, my NexGen two-piece rain suit, and a full face helmet with Anti-fog spray on the inside of the face shield.

The two layer approach was only for the pants and jacket.  The socks, helmet and gloves were just one waterproof layer each.  I could have put on a second waterproof layer with boot and glove covers, but chose to leave them off to test my Teknic gloves, Gore-tex socks, and non-waterproof boots all by themselves.  Also, I want to test the Teknic glove's built in rain squeegee, which would be covered if I put the overmitts on.

I managed to get all that gear on without pulling a muscle, and started off down the rain soaked street. The anti−fog spray failed within a few seconds.  To be fair, maybe the anti-fog spray was better than nothing, as the humidity was 88% and the temperature was only 6c.  Anyway, I had to leave the shield cracked open until I got on the freeway.

My next problem came from hitting a puddle at 100 kph, which momentarily made the handlebar feel loose, like I was hydroplaning.  I slowed a little and kept looking for puddles after that.  Blame the fat front tire, and the fact that it will soon be due for replacement.

When you are out riding, the faster you go, the heavier the rain feels.  That's because more drops are hitting you per minute, and the drops are hitting you at a higher speed, too.  One inch of rain when standing still feels like about ten inches when moving at 100 kph.  That's why I think that freeway riding is the best way to test rain gear.

At about the 60 km  mark, I could feel water begin to penetrate the index finger on my left glove. I already knew there was a leak in that finger by testing the glove in a bucket of cold water soon after buying it.  It took 45 minutes to discover this problem on the road, but only 50 seconds to find the same leaky spot in a bucket of cold water at home.

After another 40 minutes of riding, I could feel cold water getting into my leather boots.  The boots were not advertised as waterproof, but I found it interesting that they could last over an hour before they started getting waterlogged.  With my Gore-tex socks over two layers of dry socks, my feet were still warm, however.

As my left fingers were getting very cold and wet, I stopped and put the rain cover mittens over my Teknic gloves, and immediately I could feel my hands getting warmer.  They stayed warm all the way home after that.  But as my hands got warmer, my feet were getting colder.

The hot tip for rain riding is to put the gauntlet under the coat sleeve, but I found it too difficult to do.  With the gauntlet over the sleeves, my hands remained mostly dry until I put the rain covers over them.  This effectively ended the glove test after an hour of riding.

After I got home and removed all my riding gear, I had basically no wet spots on any of my inner clothes. Only my top layer rain suit, the leather boots, and gloves got wet through. Except for the one finger where the Hipora membrane leaked, the gloves were only wet on the outside.

I must remark that my crotch did not get wet. That is one of the worst problems with rain suits.  I am not sure why, but it could have something to do with my Airhawk air seat cushion lifting my rear end above any puddles that may collect on the seat.  I didn't have the time or inclination to try another test without the Air Hawk seat cushion.

Picture: from this web site  What might be a faceshield in the rain.  The Teknic glove's squeegee really didn't do much for me.  All the fog is on the inside of the face shield, out of reach of the squeegee.  Also some drops are on the inside too.  And then the outside raindrops can easily be blown away my moving my head to the top edge of the windshield on the bike, where the wind blast is most effective.  The squeegee may be more effective if there was fog condensing on the outside of the shield, as sometimes happens when the humidity is 100%.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

High Visibility Colours for Motorcycle Jackets

Yesterday, Mary Ann got a new motorcycle jacket in a bright green/yellow high visibility colour.  Her new jacket made the hi-viz colour on   4-year old jacket look washed out by comparison.  Apparently, these colours fade with exposure to sunlight, so if you want the colour to stay bright, you should not leave the jacket draped across the bike in the sunlight while you sit at Tim Hortons eating donuts.  Actually that is only one reason why you should not sit at Tim Hortons eating donuts.

So how do high visibility colours work?  Most colours work by reflecting back light that hits them, but they only reflect back the part of the light spectrum that is needed to create the colour.  For example, if you want orange colour, you make a surface that absorbs the non-orange part of the spectrum.  This is quite inefficient, in that most of the light is just absorbed.  Actually, white is the brightest colour because it reflects back the entire spectrum.  All the other colours give off a much lower level of light energy.

High visibility colours are different from ordinary colours in that they reflect back more light than they receive.  This sounds like it might be defying the laws of physics, but not really.  That's because we only can see a narrow range of colours in our visible spectrum. So the high visibility colours absorb invisible light (like ultra violet), and convert it to a colour that is visible, and then emit that colour.  So hi-viz colours can seem unnaturally bright because they are reflecting visible light by using energy they received invisibly.  Another example of this type of colour is a "black light" shining on a white surface, which you may have seen at a disco party.

High visibility colours are especially effective in low natural light situations like fog, and twilight, where they manage to make the most of the sun's invisible colours.  But they don't work at night very well, as most light is artificial (e.g. car headlights, street lights), and may not contain the necessary invisible rays that we always get from the sun.

Here is an explanation from "Dayglow" a company that specializes in high visibility colours.

Are high visibility colours useful on a motorcycle jacket?  Most riders opt for black, and the advantage of black is that road spray, and chain lube don't make it look dirty. Even if black fades, it doesn't look too bad, and black leather can easily be restored to its original blackness. Bright colours (like high visibility) have a tendency to fade, and get dirty easily when used on a motorcycle.  But they do have a beneficial effect, in that car drivers see you more easily.  This is why many safety cones in construction sites have high visibility colours now.  They just don't get knocked down as much.  There is a lesson in this for motorcyclists, who many motorists think of as not much more than a safety cone anyway.

I have one more personal observation on using high visibility colours in a motorcycle jacket.  I have had two situations where I think that my high visibility jacket may have created a dangerous situation for others who did not have high visibility colours.  Last year when Mary Ann and I were riding through Thunder Bay, she was in the lead when a car driver pulled out in front of her. This never happened on the rest of the trip, where I was mostly leading.  Maybe my high visibility colour drew the attention of the driver away from Mary Ann, even though she was closer to the car.  In one other situation, I was leading, a group of four motorcycles.  At one point, I had slowed down for a hazard in the road, then accelerated away.  The second bike was still moving slow, but the third accelerated to follow me, even though the second bike was closer, and crashed into it.  That may be another case of the eye being drawn away from a closer bike by the higher visibility of a bike further away.   I have no proof, I was just thinking that maybe the high visibility colours were not always a benefit if we are not aware of the problem.  But for one bike alone, or two bikes (with the high visibility colour in front or both have high visibility), I think the high visibility colours are a benefit.

Picture: This morning in fog in our back yard.  Mary Ann's new "Olympia AST" jacket is much brighter than my faded jacket. Now if I can just get her to wear it when she is riding her scooter locally.  It seems to me like she wants to save the bright coloured jacket for Newfoundland next year.  Actually, that may not be a bad idea, as I expect many foggy days on that trip.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bankruptcy as it Applies to National Health Care

The word bankruptcy is being used in the news quite a bit lately, referring to how either Obamacare will bankrupt the United States government, or on the other hand, the recent government shutdown could bankrupt the United States.

It's not only in the news, as I hear ordinary people referring to the possible bankruptcy of the US.  As in "Obamacare is going to bankrupt the USA, eh?"  That last quote is from a Canadian. Canada has had a more extreme version of health care for at least 40 years, and Canada is apparently not bankrupt.  So obviously, "bankrupt" is one of those words that everybody thinks they know what it means, but actually nobody understands it any more.

As a public service, I am going to go over the meaning of the word "Bankrupt", and we will see more clearly whether the USA is going bankrupt, and if so, what may cause it.

First, let's try to understand what bankruptcy is.  When a person or a company gets very very much in debt, they sometimes reach a point where they will never be able to repay the money.  In the olden times, this is when the lenders would seize their person and sell them into slavery, and be done with it.  The money they could fetch as a slave was often not as much as their debts, but the lenders were thinking that it was better than nothing.

The key thing to remember is that bankruptcy is not another word for "broke", or "got no money".  It is caused entirely by a decision that the lender makes, whether to give up on the loan, grab whatever assets they can, sell them and be done with it, or to continue on, hoping to be repaid one day.

The concept of bankruptcy really only applies to individuals and companies, and apparently in some cases to municipal governments (I live not too far from Detroit). The USA is a country. What about a country going into bankruptcy?  What is the difference between a country and a company or individual, or local government?

There are a few ways a country can go "bankrupt".  (or we can use the term "sovereign default")

One is where the country itself decides to stop honoring any agreement to repay debt or service foreign or domestic loans.  The other is where another country "B" or "C", who is a big lender to country "A", decides they will never get their money back, and so they seize country "A"'s assets.  They can readily seize any assets like bank accounts that are held in country "B" or "C" banks, but they cannot seize important tangible assets without declaring war, and so that is often the way things go.  As an example, the USA sent marines to seize Haiti's assets when they decided that Haiti could not repays its debts.  (July 28 1915)

The USA national debt is well over a trillion dollars, check the national debt clock website.

Also, each American's share of the national debt is $52,000 more or less. (mostly more)

But because the US government can raise money through taxes, most lenders assume they will be repaid eventually and let it ride.  The alternative, of course is either war or at least a break in relations.  By the way, a break in relations usually means a complete trade shutdown.  Which means (probably) no more foreign oil, and so no more giant pickup trucks and Hummers running around at top speed.

Now what will cause the USA to actually go bankrupt?  Obamacare?  Not likely.  The refusal of the US government to pay interest on its loans? Getting warmer.  A complete shutdown of the US government, including the Revenue department?  That starts to be worrisome.

I think the Republican slogan that they want to put an end to big government is more of a problem for bankruptcy than the watered down version of health care that Obama has proposed (actually, not only proposed, but passed into law.)

Back to motorcycling, I was reading on the Advrider site about an American rider who crashed, and would not go to see a doctor partly because he had no insurance.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Motorcyclists Do Try to Improve their Image

Motorcyclists try to improve their image.  Anyway, most do, but it seems there is a small minority always screwing it up for us.

This is my third blog on the same subject, the Hollywood Stuntz incident, where bikers pulled a man out of his car and beat him up.  This time, my blog is about what got the incident started.

I will start by comparing an authorized motorcycle group ride, such as a toy ride, pictured here.  Charity rides like this have been going on since the eighties to improve the often negative image of motorcyclists. Usually these rides are organized by a club, which invites any other motorcyclists who wish to participate.  A permit is obtained from the police, and a route is decided beforehand.  A large number of motorcyclists usually gather at the start-off point. The police, who have been notified in advance through the permit process, send officers to control traffic.  The ride leaves the parking area, and everyone follows, sometimes two hundred motorcycles may be in attendance.  The police temporarily block traffic at each intersection along the way to allow the procession to pass through without getting mixed up with cars.  It may last 5 minutes before the whole group goes by. Then normal traffic resumes.

At the final destination for the toy ride, each motorcyclist donates a brand new toy to the organizers, and these are then presented to a childrens' charity. Result? Some happy kids at Christmas.

There are sometimes problems on a toy ride.  For example one motorcyclist may crash into another, and somebody may get hurt.  I was on one ride where a police motorcycle officer crashed as he was rushing from one intersection to the next to block traffic.  Some of the public get steamed up waiting five or even ten minutes for the entire procession to pass, although I never heard of anyone getting so mad that physical violence was done.

Here is an article from an Edmonton toy ride with 3,500 participants.  These toy rides and other types of charity rides, have done a lot to improve the image of motorcyclists that were left in tatters by Hells Angels in the fifties and sixties.

Now let's examine the difference with a Hollywood Stuntz parade. In some ways it is the same as toy rides, in that maybe 200 bikers go for a ride in a group.  But there are differences. The Stuntz rides do not have permits, because their only purpose is performing illegal acts on public roads.  It goes without saying, that the purpose of the stuntz rides is NOT to improve the image of motorcyclists.

The lack of a permit for a Stuntz ride is the first problem, and starts a cascade of other problems.  I suppose this could have been worked out in advance with the authorities, but we are probably a long way from the authorities providing police escorts to permit stunt riding on public roads.  In any case, the way it stands today, the stunt riding parades have no police escort. But the need is still there to control non-parade traffic.  In fact it's even more necessary to stop traffic, since the riders will be performing dangerous stunts on the roadway.

I suppose in the minds of the stunt riders, there is not much difference between going on a motorcycle parade with or without a permit.  They appear to be quite excited to take over the job of the police officers stopping traffic.  Unfortunately, it is not that easy. All that the ordinary motorist sees is some hoodlum-looking biker trying to block his progress.  The car or truck driver may eventually realise that this is some kind of "event" with hundreds of motorcycles, that they does not really want to get into.  So most motorists, faced with a situation where their progress is blocked by bikers, will stop and wait it out.

There remains a huge difference between trained, disciplined, uniformed police officers stopping traffic, and mad-max-looking, untrained, and angry bikers stopping traffic.  Sooner or later some car driver is going to get scared at what is going on all around his or her car, and try to run for it.

A trained police officer would not (I hope) try to stop a car by riding a motorcycle in front of a moving SUV, then hitting the brakes.  A trained police officer would especially not try this when out of uniform, and with an unmarked motorcycle.  A trained police officer would not throw themselves in front of a vehicle to make it stop, or stand in front of it.  And hopefully, a trained police officer would not lose their temper and start screaming at a car driver while driving alongside them.  And unless this was the end of a long and dangerous chase, they would also not be smashing windows or breaking mirrors, or reaching in through an open window, or grabbing door handles.

Unfortunately all this is predictable when an unruly, undisciplined mob of bikers gets together with the sole purpose of having a large parade, without the assistance of the police to control traffic on public roads.

I hope that all the good done by hundreds of well organized charity toy rides is not undone by illegal Stuntz rides which end up with ordinary car riders getting beaten up.