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