Monday, April 17, 2017

It takes a special kind of idiot…

“Just put it in your checked bag.”
“You sure?”
“It’ll be fine.”

Image Of Mock IED Seized At Pearson Airport Released By US Customs

Just came across this story of a passenger flying out of Toronto to the US who thought having this in his checked baggage would be okay.

Apparently the device is an alarm clock designed to look like a bomb, complete with fake sticks of dynamite, and lots of twisty wiring (aesthetics are important). A quick glance would tell you that the circuitry is far too complicated to be just a simple device to make something go boom, but still, what was he thinking in this day and age when every tube of toothpaste is considered a mortal threat?

The owner has been charged with mischief, because stupidity isn’t actually illegal - yet.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

My edumacation wern’t to good.

“Ya i have the seats to took them off so I wouldn't loose them on their way to there new home in my attic for restore”

Okay, I know I’m a pedant when it comes to basic grammar, spelling, and punctuation but recently it seems that the race to the bottom is accelerating. Either that or internet bloggers and commenters have, of recent, become emulators of James Joyce’s Ulysses in style and structure. Then again, perhaps not; Joyce could at least spell. (Modern variant: “Joyce cud at leest spel.”)

I can appreciate that English can be difficult for newcomers to learn and master, but when your name is Joe Smith and you hail from Pittsburgh (or Tampa, or Toronto), I expect it’s your first language that you are butchering, not your second.

Now some would argue that if “people understand what I mean” anyway why does it matter? Or the claim is made that languages evolve over time, new words get added, old words get dropped, and punctuation standards change (vis current discussions over the use of the Oxford comma) so this is just a natural evolution, possibly hastened by the need to compress ideas into 140 characters or less, entered on a very tiny smartphone keyboard/pad. That’s true, to a degree, but the proper use of any language offers a precision to our communications that is too easily lost when it strays too far from its normative path.

There is no shortage of internet memes that use humour to illustrate the misunderstandings that are possible when basic linguistic rules aren’t followed, but there are also more serious consequences.

Julia Layton expresses the importance of spelling in How Stuff Works: “As adults, our spelling affects the perception of our intelligence and credibility (emphasis mine). Fair or not, many people in the professional world are going to toss that resume aside without even finding out what your child's "job experiance" entails. To people looking to hire someone smart and detail-oriented, to people reading and grading college essays, to people deciding whether or not to take a serious blog post seriously, spelling counts.

And nowhere is the precision of language more critical than in the law, a perfect example being this case where millions of dollars hinge on a single comma.

Finally there is simply the matter of pride. Why would you want to present yourself to the world as a person who is barely literate?

Unless, of course, you are.

The Huffington Post reports, “According to a study conducted in late April by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read. That’s 14 percent of the population. 21 percent of adults in the U.S. read below a 5th grade level, and 19 percent of high school graduates can’t read.”

And according to some surveys, Canada offers no beacon of hope when it comes to basic literacy either, with “Four out of ten Canadian adults have[ing] literacy skills too low to be fully competent in most jobs in our modern economy.”

When graduates of the education systems of two of the richest countries in the world produce rubbish like the lead-in quote it’s no wonder the west is losing its global competitive advantage at such a stunning rate. It is depressing in the extreme.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

In my defense, I was left unsupervised.

Although I wish it was so I can’t claim credit for this quotation; I saw it on a tee-shirt and have appropriated it for this post (and to be used as a future motto).

I imagine the “left unsupervised” defense would get little traction in a proper court of law, but in most motorcycle households I expect it is frequently utilized, with varying degrees of success.

Exhibit A, yer honor.
Do what you want

And this is where having a loving and understanding spouse/partner comes in, or at least an iron-clad pre-nuptial agreement that recognizes one party’s two-wheeled compulsion as being paramount, not to be superseded by any amount of eye-rolling, teeth-sucking, yelling, or tears. This understanding is important because we can’t be supervised 7/24, the internet is always on, and the temptations are just too many.

Now just to be clear, I am not speaking from personal experience here, having both a loving and understanding (usually) spouse and a pretty solid, if verbal, pre-nup agreement. But even with all that there is still an understanding gap when it comes to all things motorcycle.  For example, if I had $10K burning a hole in my pocket I’d be at the dealership seeing what I could get for it. The spousal unit? She’d be booking a vacation trip to some far-off land with lots of historical sites (or rubble piles as I prefer to call them). See what I mean? A gap.

But, on occasion, the gap gets closed and we both get what we want. In an unsupervised moment a few weeks ago I was browsing the interwebz and came across a pristine 2014 Road King. After several emails and photos were exchanged (the dealership is 5 hours away) I was convinced. A brief family discussion later (See? Understanding!) and a deposit check was on its way.

And that’s how I ended up with my new-to-me Road King last week… while the missus plans our trip to Europe in May. 


Sunday, March 19, 2017


In one of the Facebook groups I follow a member posed this question: “Anyone tried a car tire on the rear of their bike...lots of info on you tube...just wondering?”

car tire 2

Well that question started a flame war of the like not seen since the PC-MAC conflagrations of the last century. Aside from sidecar rigs (Petunia over at Arizona Adventure Dude, for example) which often sport automobile tires, I’d never heard of anyone putting them on a regular, two-wheeled, motorcycle. Until now. And to say there are advocates for this would be an understatement. The car tire disciples are many, they are vocal, and they even have a name for themselves – Darksiders.

As with many things on the interwebz, there are many opinions but very little solid evidence one way or the other. Some positions make a certain amount of sense ( while others rely simply on the passion of their arguments to make their case.

As a lay person with no practical experience other than 40++ years of riding, I find the very idea of putting what is essentially a flat-profiled tire on a vehicle intended to lean to be disconcerting, if not downright frightening. Tire design is not rocket science, but it is complex. Different vehicle types impose different loading factors and forces that determine a tire’s characteristics such as sidewall flex, compound hardness, profile, and so on. So to take a tire designed for one set of conditions and stake your life on it functioning properly under a completely different set of conditions strikes me as idiotic in the extreme.

UPDATE: For anyone who really wants to get into the minutiae of this topic, here's a great link:

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

And we have liftoff….

The space analogy may not be overly apt, but it did take me about as much time to get this little engine running as it took the US to put a man on the moon, so I’ll let it stand.

After a year spent on eBay searches (and purchases), joining countless special interest Facebook groups, and lurking on a plethora of other interweb sites, it finally all came together. And what a glorious sound it was.

So now it’s on to the frame. The first challenge will be to come up with a way that it can be straightened, or at least untwisted enough so it will get past a safety check (i.e close enough for government work). Eyeballing it it looks like the steering head is about 5 degrees off vertical, and it's a stamped steel frame, so I'm open to suggestions.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

I Got The I Wanna New Motorsickle Blues

I got the I wanna
New motorsickle blues,
I wish that all I had
To do was choose.
But nothin’s quite so easy
With the Missus actin’ nasty
And sayin’ if you do yer gonna lose.

Oh lawd, I got the I wanna
New motorsickle blues….

Played to a slow Mississippi delta beat with a slide guitar accompaniment. I think it would be a big hit amongst those of us still frozen in and waiting for that annual rite of spring, the first ride of a new year.

One of the problems with being locked up (so to speak) for 5 or 6 months of the year is it gives one time to think, to think about rides past and future, and bikes past and future. But it’s the latter that tends to get one into the most trouble. Right about now all the bike mags on the newsstands (or delivered right to your door) are covering the new 2017 models. And they are fine looking models indeed, designed to cater to every riding style and every dream, reasonable or otherwise. Want a 200-hp crotch rocket so you can wheelie be an idiot? Got ya covered. An adventure tourer so you can cross the Sahara (like that’s going to happen)? No problem. Or how about a geezer-glide so you can muscle 900 pounds of comfortable seating for your wrinkled old cheeks over to Timmie’s for a coffee? Got that too.

Yep there’s lots of shiny new stuff out there just waiting for us PMS sufferers to come to the conclusion that the best way to deal with Parked Motorcycle Syndrome is to dream of buying a new bike. They say that spring is a time of renewal, of change, so what better way to celebrate? And it doesn’t have to be new new, just new to me is often enough to satisfy the urge.

So where to next? Craig’s List? Kijiji?


Friday, February 24, 2017

Progress of a (slow) sort

Well I finally got the engine for the S65 all back together. Actually, that’s not strictly accurate. More precisely I got the engine for the S65 (incorporating various parts cannibalized off the C65 engine) back together. I may be slow but I’m also much more efficient than the Honda factory assemblers as I did it using fewer parts. To be fair the extra parts could be from the second engine … or not. Time will tell.


I was going to build a stand-alone platform for testing it but then I realised I already had one in the form of the original frame. So today I bolted it all back into place. A quick run into town tomorrow to get some fuel line and I’ll be able to see if it actually runs or just barfs, belches smoke, and quits.


Ever the optimist, I am assuming it will run, in which case the next decisions will be frame related. Besides having to be straightened, the frame could use some minor body work, but I’m actually considering doing only the work needed to make it safe and forgo cosmetics for now.

One step at a time.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Waking up to the smell of burning plastic…

As the lazier member of this particular family unit I usually manage an extra hour of uninterrupted sleep while the spousal unit enjoys an hour of peace and quiet with her first cuppa every morning. That’s normally a good thing and I awake to the smell of a fresh pot of coffee brewing. But this morning was different as I was disturbed by the distinct odor of burning plastic and a wall of smoke when I surfaced from the Land of Nod. Our Bosch dishwasher had burst into flames. Fortunately my wife was right there at the time and was able to extinguish the fire before too much damage was done, but it was still a frightening experience. Who expects their dishwasher, of all things, to catch fire?


Well, it seems like the manufacturer does. Apparently Bosch made a number of dishwashers in the early- to mid-2000s (this one’s vintage) that are known to be a fire hazard, and multiple recall notices were sent out to have defective units repaired. We never got any notice but there was a move in between so maybe it got lost in the mail (giving them the benefit of the doubt). The recalls had limited success it seems as Internet searches indicate that 10’s of thousands of these machines are still out there with this ticking little firebomb in their circuitry.  (So far two Facebook friends have learned they have affected Bosch units in their kitchens so, if you have a Bosch dishwasher, check their web site ASAP.)

I have reached out to Bosch to see what they are prepared to do by way of compensation but I’m not holding my breath. The machine was nearing its end of life and had served us well until this morning, so I expect the standard warranty disclaimer letter in response. Whatever will happen will happen and eventually we’ll acquire a new dishwasher. And the burnt countertop will be a conversation item for the foreseeable future.

But the real lesson here is about attending to operating appliances.

Over the years we have become so habituated to the ubiquitous presence of these labour saving devices that we simply assume they will function, and function correctly and safely, every time we turn them on. We set the dishwasher (or clothes washer, or dryer, or stove …) and then head out, expecting it will go through its normal cycle and then shut down, just like it did the last 1,000 or 2,000 times it was used. Had we done that this morning I would be writing quite a different post about today’s experience, so I think we’ll be doing a lot less of that in the future.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

“I’m from Missouri”

Not really (although I understand it’s a beautiful place to be from, if I was), but this post reflects on how, in these times especially, we should all be “from Missouri”.

“I’m from Missouri; show me” entered the public domain some time in the 19th century. It was, apparently, popularized by Willard Duncan Vandiver, a Democrat from Missouri who said, in an 1899 speech, “I’m from Missouri, you’ve got to show me”.

“Believe half of what you see and nothing that you hear” is another common idiom. Attributed to many, including Benjamin Franklin and Edgar Allan Poe, it also cautions against blind acceptance.

Bowling GreenWhat brought this to mind was the recent foofaraw over the Bowling Green Massacre. In case you have been living under a rock and missed it, President Trump’s spokesperson, Kellyanne Conway, referred to the Bowling Green Massacre as justification for one of the President’s policies.  As no such ‘massacre’ ever took place she was forced to backtrack, claiming she “misspoke” (or, in common vernacular, lied). Of course the twitterverse exploded with riotous indignation but the damage was done and some actually took her statement as a truth that had been suppressed by a complicit media. Not to be outdone, we also had a recent example in the Conservative leadership race in Canada where a political operative tweeted information he knew to be false, not to help his candidate but just to “make the left go nuts”. And some did, for which he, somewhat unwisely in my opinion, then claimed credit. Then there’s the whole fake news industry that enriched a handful of teenagers in Macedonia over the course of the US presidential campaign and continues to befuddle attempts by social media companies to control it.

All of which is to say, with the (possible) exception of this blog, IT’S ALL LIES! Welcome to the post-truth world.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Perusing the ads

Sometimes when I have nothing better to do, or am grounded for whatever reason, I will browse the various online markets in search of that elusive interesting old motorcycle that is actually complete and runs and for which the owner isn’t demanding a King’s ransom. So far it has never quite worked out.

Here’s what I’m looking for:


And here’s the kind of thing I usually find that’s in my price range:


When I do find something interesting and affordable it’s nearly always encumbered by one (or both) of two caveats. It either has “no ownership” or it “needs nothing to pass a safety”. (In Ontario a vehicle cannot be licensed until it passes a basic safety inspection.)

No ownership is an immediate red flag. Especially for older motorcycles for which the provincial records no longer exist (or were never digitized and put on line). If it wasn’t stolen it may have been an insurance write-off or have other dubious pedigree and who needs that aggravation? And the safety? If the advertiser claims it “needs nothing” for a safety that’s code for “I have no idea how bad the condition of this bike is and I don’t want to take it to a dealer because he’ll tell me and then I’ll have to either tell you or fix it before selling.”

So, as with most things advertised and sold on line, it’s buyer beware. But I remain optimistic that eventually the perfect deal will surface so, like buying lottery tickets, I continue to spend time on eBay, Kijiji, Craig’s List, and other sites hoping for that rare win. In the meantime I just have to resist deals like this:


Monday, January 30, 2017

A bad few months for cars.

Coming home from a dump run yesterday, minding my own business, listening to some good tunes, and out of nowhere, boom, two deer in full flight land on the road mere inches in front of the car. Even if the roads hadn’t been ice covered there’s no way I could have stopped. Fortunately I hit them just as they landed on the road so they connected with the grill and not the windshield, but still lots of damage to the car. Not so sure about the deer. By the time I pulled over they’d scarpered, and I wasn’t in any mood to follow them into the woods to see how badly they were injured.


And so here we go again with police reports, insurance adjusters, repair estimates, and deductibles (always the deductibles). I’m hoping the car can be repaired but I’m not sure the insurance people will agree, given its age.  Fortunately no airbags deployed, so perhaps… I’ll know in a couple of days.

I’ve had numerous close calls before as deer are a constant threat on these roads and it’s pretty much inevitable to experience a deer strike at least once around here (there’s something in the order of 1,200 a year in the Ottawa area). I’m just thankful it happened when I was on four wheels and not two.

UPDATE: $6,000 damage. It's a write-off.

Monday, January 16, 2017

2017. Already?

Yup, it’s 2017, whether I like it or not, and it’s time to check in since I haven’t posted in quite a while. I wish I could say I’ve been AWOL, spending the last month riding in some location that enjoys sunnier and warmer weather this time of year, but I can’t. I’ve been right here through every perverse cycle of snow, thaw, rain, snow, thaw, freezing rain, thaw, blizzard, rain, –30, +8 that have so far defined this as absolutely the worst winter in my memory. With conditions like these it’s nearly impossible to actually enjoy being out of doors so the best place to be is in the garage.

And that’s where I’ve mostly been.

The Hondas (remember them?) are proving to be a bigger challenge than I expected. IMG_20160509_095141753Both bikes were abused, but the S65 (the red one), which was the one I had the most hopes for, was both abused and involved in an accident. As I dig into them I’ve concluded I may only get one usable machine out of the two, but first I want to have a running engine before spending any time or money on body work. So I’m rebuilding one engine to S65 specs (the C65 is automatic). The cases have been reassembled and I managed to get one good top end out of cannibalizing the second engine for parts.  Now I just have to bolt it all together and see if it runs. If not it will be decision time – continue or part out what I have?

IMG_20160925_113842892webAfter getting the Kawasaki into the shop it didn’t take long to determine that at least part of the problem was a badly rebuilt carburetor. The throttle slide had been installed wrong causing it to jam the choke butterfly open. That, and a few assorted springs and o-rings that were missing from that rebuild, would likely have caused the poor running condition. It took a while to find carb kits but eventually eBay came through. Carbs have been rebuilt (properly this time with no left-over pieces) and the bike is now ready for a good tune-up, which can wait for warmer weather. Still not sure what I’ll do with it at that point.

Elm and mahogany vaseAnd it’s not only been old motorcycles demanding my attention.

The lathe has been getting a workout since I acquired a few cords of good dry elm from a neighbour. I didn’t realise what a nice grain pattern it had until I started turning some of that firewood into small bowls and vases. It’s been fun to get back in touch with a machine that I’ve all but ignored for a few years, but the missus is now complaining about running out of space to display my creations.

And then I came across this ( and got interested in 3-string guitars, and then, more specifically, 3-string cigar box guitars. I don’t play, but I do have access to lots of cigar boxes and a keen interest in the oddball, so I built one. It actually sounds amazing but I made a few mistakes and discovered some areas where it could be better so I now consider that to be the prototype. I have started on version 2 which will be similar but electric. Who knows, perhaps I’ll even learn to play a bit. I mean it’s only 3 strings, right? How hard can it be? And if I can’t figure out 3 strings there’s always the diddley bow.


So I’ve been ignoring the weather as best I can as I suffer through another winter of PMS. But the days are already noticeably longer so spring can’t be too far away. Can it?