Saturday 18 January 2020

Fake News

Fake news. Popularized by the current resident of the White House and his entourage, the term has come to mean “news with which we don’t agree”. No matter how many videos, audio clips, photographs, or how much corroborating evidence exists, anything that casts a bad light on the administration, or more specifically, the President is fake news. So there. The big lie.

However, despite the fact the expression has been usurped for crass political purposes there still remain many examples of real fake news, ‘news’ based on pure speculation and/or outright falsehoods. While Fox News may be a prime practitioner, the rest of the mainstream media is not immune.

Anyone not currently living under a rock is most likely aware of the turmoil facing the Royal Family as a couple of the lesser members try to cast off the yoke and live a normal life – or at least as normal as members of the Royal Family will ever be. So while Harry and Meghan try to sort out their way in the world while not surrounded by inbred racists and rabid paparazzi the press has gone nuts.

Somewhere along the line it became known that their intention was to spend some time living in Canada. To which I, and most Canadians, say, “Welcome”. If you want to carry a Tim Horton’s reward card, learn to love poutine, and spend half the year wrapped in Canada Goose down, we’re here for you.

Then the Canadian media (the amorphous ‘they’) decided that a major issue with this will be who will pay for the Royals’ security in Canada? And that started an entire range of public surveys, national TV news items,  newspaper articles, and so on pointing out how Canadians were hugely averse to paying their security bill, estimates of which ranged anywhere from $4 – $10 million a year. Which is all well and good except no one (to my knowledge) has ever asked, or even intimated that Canada should pick up the tab. In other words, this entire scenario was completely manufactured by the media, consumed countless hours of TV, radio, and online discussion, and tons of ink. All fake news.

Meanwhile, in real news, the US President has been impeached, the Iranians shot down a civilian airliner, China is still being China, Putin is cementing his long-term hold on power in Russia, and Australia is on fire. But, “Harry and Meghan…. blah, blah, blah.”

It’s no wonder the media is struggling to retain viewers/readers..

Wednesday 1 January 2020

Made in North America quality ..... pfffft.

After spending the last 30-odd years fighting with and cajoling old, second-hand, sometimes free, snowblowers into action, I decided to treat myself to a brand new machine this winter. With a simple set of requirements (not least of which was the missus would be able to use it without needing my efforts to get the bloody thing fired up) I started searching, finally deciding on an Ariens, “The King of Snowblowers”.

After checking one out at the local mega-store - made in the USA, good ergonomics, robust construction – I became the proud owner of my first ever new snowblower, an Ariens “Deluxe 28”.

Then it snowed.

Within a half hour it became obvious there was something wrong with the unit – banging and thumping are not normal sounds. Dragged it onto the trailer and into the dealer for a warranty repair. Ten days later I got it back (fortunately it didn’t snow during that time). The brand-new friction disc had delaminated and was duly replaced.

Then it snowed again.

This time the unit worked for about an hour before the drive cable broke, so tomorrow it’s back to the dealer for more warranty work. Both repairs are simple but if I fix it the company gets away with selling a crappy product, and I want them to feel my pain and aggravation.

I can hardly wait to see what will break the next time it snows.

So much for Made in North America quality.

Thursday 5 December 2019

Messing about with electricity

I know. I know. One does not simply "mess about" with electricity, as to do so one invites disaster(s) of immeasurable proportion. Or so I'm told.

But still, when most of the dozens of YouTube videos on the subject start with, "Do not try this at home..." one has to discover what it's all about.

And how better to discover than by doing.

So being well aware that "A SIMPLE MISTAKE CAN KILL YOU!" I tried my hand at making Lichtenberg figures.

Step 1 - find an old microwave oven. And where else but the dump?

Step 2 - I pulled the guts out, minding that the capacitor was fully discharged (another thing that can, apparently, kill you), and then removed the transformer which was to become my power supply for this experiment.

Now the risk when using a microwave transformer is, obviously, getting a shock. However when you have 2,000 volts delivering 500 milliamps, it's more than a tingle; it's an electrocution. Hence all the red flags and DON'T TRY THIS warnings.

Step 3 - So, fully informed of the risks, and with multiple levels of safety including a large physical separation and an (unfortunately named) deadman switch, I tried it out on a couple of cherrywood scraps I had lying about.

For a first attempt I'm pretty happy.

There are other, less dangerous, power sources that can also be used - just not as readily available as dump-find microwave transformers. So while this was fun I don't think I'll tempt fate again until I can find a safer option. But the end result will make the search worthwhile.

Saturday 12 October 2019

It never gets old

Enjoying the fall colours, that is.

I’ve circled the sun more times than I care to count and every year I am still awed by the wonderful show Mother Nature puts on for us in the fall.

This year the colours have seemed especially vivid and, given a 13-degree, sunny day, there was nothing to do but take a ride to enjoy them before the inevitable autumn winds and rain turn this particular palette to drab gray.

With no destination in mind I simply followed my nose and explored an area I don’t know too well, west and north of Calabogie.

The little jog south to Ompah took me to a dead-end at Norcan Lake and the Mountain Chute hydro dam.

On that stretch I came upon a coyote, just standing on the edge of the road eating a sandwich. True. I expect some workers in the area must have tossed the remains of a lunch out the window and he found it. I watched him eat while I slowly tried to get my camera out, but before I could an oncoming car spooked him and off he went, sandwich and all, into the woods. You’ll have to settle for this image instead.

After that interesting little interlude I backtracked and swung west and then north to Griffith on  Centennial Lake Road. The roads in that area are narrow and twisty as they meander through and around dozens of lakes and swamps. And although they are rough in places it was a good opportunity to let the horses out and enjoy some spirited riding.  Fortunately I encountered very few other vehicles so it was a great run for 30 or 40 kilometers.

However, once I hit Hwy 41 that all changed. From there it was pretty much a straight shot into Renfrew and very busy. Few places to pass and lots of traffic demanded a more sedate pace. Which wasn’t entirely a bad thing as I had a chance to sightsee and enjoy the views as the highway skirted Mount St. Patrick and the highlands.

It was a great day, and I now have a nice little 215 km loop that I can do again, although next time I’ll skip the Mountain Chute dead-end.

Friday 4 October 2019


I suppose back in the early 80s these bikes were considered cool with their pullback bars and sit-up-and-beg stepped seats, but in truth they’re an ergonomic nightmare in stock trim – especially for a 6-footer.

So flat bars were the first change but I had trouble finding a seat option that didn’t involve cutting and welding a new frame loop in place for a different type seat - and I hate the idea of chopping up old motorcycles. But I finally found one that uses the stock seat pan but a different shaped foam and replacement cover.

Fortunately the seat pan was still in great shape and all it needed was a shot of paint.

Then I put on the new foam and cover.

And voila. It’s been too cold to ride (7C is too cold – I’m a wimp.) so I’ve only had a chance to sit on it in the drive, but it’s sure a lot more comfortable and doesn’t feel nearly as cramped. And I think it looks better too.