Saturday 19 November 2016


Dreaming: The process one goes through to get from here:


To here:


Or here:

Honda c65_1

Or maybe here:


Or even here:

Shopping Honda

Well maybe not that last one. But with winter on its way it’s time to start thinking about where I want to take the Cub. It’s pretty rough right now so it will depend on how much work I want to put into it and how much of this I want to part with.


And plenty of dreaming.

Thursday 17 November 2016

And another one leaves the stable.

Many years ago now I used to participate pretty regularly with a group that rode trials in this area. Every week or so we’d go out and climb rocks (or try to), ford streams and creek beds, and generally play in the dirt, all the while collecting a fair assortment of aches, pains, scrapes, and bruises to remind us just how much fun we’d had.


And the bike I did all that on was this ‘73 Honda TL125.


As seems to be a frequent occurrence with me, this particular motorcycle and I crossed paths at least twice over the course of about 35 years, last coming into my possession 10 years ago. Again, as often happens, interests change, bones become more brittle, and the bike sat in the shed, unused and unloved, for the past 5 or 6 years. So when a young lad expressed an interest in it as a winter project to do a partial restoration and put it back into use among the rocks and trees it was time to let her go.


Tuesday 15 November 2016

When is a difference of opinion…

… just a difference of opinion?

Much has been written lately about the polarisation of uppercase-P-Politics in Western societies – Brexit in the UK, the recent presidential election in the US, Marine LePen’s ascendancy in France, etc. To that I would add lowercase-p-politics – the politics of religion, of race, of socio-economic status, of citizenship, and the list goes on. We see this every day, sometimes in the form of political correctness gone berserk, other times in the way those who agree with us are labelled “winners” while those who disagree are “losers”, and yet others where the overly sensitive among us are “traumatized” when they find out there may actually be dissenting opinions out there, the anti-Trump protests/riots being a good example.

And then we muse about how this all got started in the first place. We’ll here’s a clue.

When I went to university, back in the Pleistocene, diversity of opinion was considered healthy. Universities weren’t merely echo chambers where one constantly heard only the most “correct” viewpoints on any topic. Sure, we had our problems, and we had our riots (the Vietnam war being the main, but not the only, cause), but no one ever demanded counselling after Nixon’s win, had classes cancelled to mourn Humphrey’s loss, or needed a trigger warning every time South East Asia was mentioned in geography class. It got ugly sometimes but we coped and, more importantly, we learned.

If opposing viewpoints belong anywhere, then surely they belong in our institutes of higher learning. Even if one accepts Foucault’s assertion that politics is war by other means, any competent military leader since Sun Tzu will tell you that understanding the enemy is key to winning. And that understanding doesn’t come from putting one’s fingers in one’s ears while chanting, “Nyah, nyah, nyah, I can’t hear you”.

Some blame helicoptering parents and their need to protect their children’s sensitive ears from non-conforming (by their definition) views. Others blame the “everyone is special” movement where no child ever loses – at anything. But to my mind most of the blame lies clearly at the feet of a liberal academia where disagreement is conflated with discrimination and non-compliant thoughts are considered dangerous.

Instead of being “safe zones” our colleges and universities should be “unsafe zones”, places where unpopular and/or uncomfortable viewpoints are debated, places that are the very antithesis of political correctness. (Now to be clear I am not advocating an open forum for extremist and targeted hate speech, although I consider the term “hate speech” to mean matters of true hate rather than its present broad brush application to virtually anything or anyone with which one disagrees.)

It’s a lot more difficult to defend an untenable position in public than it is to simply "like" the latest Facebook clickbait posting that supports your world view, and in doing so in an open and honest way both sides will come to a better understanding of the battlefield on which they are engaging.

And if they did that then maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to find a few more people who are interested in actually discussing politics rather than simply assuming the fingers in the ears position and shouting slogans and spitting epithets. After all, it is just a matter of a difference of opinion.

Friday 11 November 2016

Lest we forget.


French Cemetery

Tyne Cot

Roses in cemetery

Neuville St Vaast

Brooding soldier


(Previously posted November 11, 2009 at

Thursday 10 November 2016

The Beverly Hillbillies Redux

GrannyFor those with fewer trips around the sun than I’ve experienced, The Beverly Hillbillies was a ‘60s sitcom where a poor, uneducated (at least formally), family from Tennessee or thereabouts strikes it rich and moves west, going from a 1-room shack to a mansion in Beverly Hills. Playing on stereotypes the family’s fish out of water experiences in this new world lead to much hilarity – or at least a lot of laugh track usage.

There is also the post turtle story, trotted out after every election, where the wise old farmer says (when describing why and how a turtle came to be perched on top of a fence post): "You know he didn't get there by himself, he doesn't belong there, he doesn't know what to do while he's up there, and you wonder just who in hell put him there."

I was thinking about these things while contemplating the impacts of Donald Trump’s win, one of which is their upcoming move to the White House in January. It’s not a rag-to-riches story like The Beverly Hillbillies; it’s more like a riches-to-rags story. Like Uncle Jeb trying to decipher what a billiard (billy-ard) table is used for (eventually deciding it was the fancy eating table) I can see The Donald looking at plain white porcelain bathroom fixtures and assuming he wandered into the servant’s quarters by mistake.

Donald Jr. and Eric will be out in the back yard practising marksmanship (and entertaining the NRA) by shooting squirrels and anything else on four legs that wanders into range, while Melania goes all Elly May with cut-off short shorts and a plaid shirt tied up under her breasts showing off plenty of cleavage and a toned midriff.

Both President Obama and Secretary Clinton quite properly expressed their support for President-elect Trump and made it clear that all Americans should do so as well. He won the election and deserves the benefit of the doubt that he will be a good President for the next four years.

trump homeBut when I think of this rich, entitled First Family moving from their lavish, gaudy, over the top penthouse in midtown New York to the White House, a house previously occupied by so many statesmen and people of modest origins, that post turtle isn’t far from mind.

Tuesday 8 November 2016

Slow rollin’

This is cool on so many levels, so why have I never heard of it before?

Started in Detroit 6 years ago, Slow Roll is a weekly group bike ride that tours different areas of the city every week. The concept has now spread to other major US centers and even internationally. The idea is simple – get a group of people together and go for a ride once a week. But what’s really interesting is that the rides have become somewhat mainstream, crossing all socio-economic and racial barriers, and the fact that suburbanites are now coming into the city to experience neighborhoods they would never otherwise venture into.

It’s also a venue to display your latest custom bicycle – worth the price of admission by itself I’d say as there are some pretty amazing builds out there.

Slow Roll 1

This article in The Guardian is how I found out about Slow Ride.

Something like this might even be enough to get me on people-powered two wheels once a week.

Saturday 5 November 2016

A More Unbending Battle – A Review

A More Unbending Battle I had heard of the Harlem Hellfighters and their First World War exploits but it was more just in passing, like a bit of trivia that barely registers at the time but stays lodged in some deep recess of the brain. So when I came upon this book at a local used bookseller's a few weeks ago and saw the subtitle “The Harlem Hellfighters Struggle…” I grabbed it. And I’m glad I did.

This is the story of one of the black American regiments that was pulled together to fight during The Great War. Established in 1916, the Fifteenth New York National Guard’s first battles were at home with the overtly racist policies of the US military of the time. Fortunately they had an officer cadre (all white, of course) that believed in their men and helped them deal with a lack of proper equipment, substandard training, and a blatant disrespect by many of their military peers.

In December 1917 they were placed on active service and shipped overseas as the 369th Infantry Regiment, but even then the US command was reluctant to use them in any capacity other than as cooks, porters, waiters, and ditch diggers. Eventually a combination of wartime pressures from the European powers for extra fighting troops and pleas from the regiment itself resulted in them being assigned to the French where they became the Trois Cente Soixante Neuvieme RIUS, part of the French Fourth Army.

Fully embraced by the French Army as equals, the unit went through a 3-week training period preparing them for the front where they first experienced direct action in April 1918 fighting alongside their French counterparts (the 369th never fought under US command). Known as the Harlem Hellfighters, a name given to them by their German foes who both feared and respected the unit’s bravery and fearlessness in battle, the unit distinguished itself earning many individual commendations for heroism as well as a unit citation for the French Croix de guerre.

By war’s end the 369th had spent a total of 191 days at the front – more than any other American regiment – and had taken significant losses – 1300 dead or wounded from an initial complement of 2000 men – the highest casualty rate of any American regiment. By any measure these men were heroes, and this is their story.  

If you have an interest in WW I or military history you will enjoy this book. Recommended.

P.S. Coincidentally, just as I was about to post this entry, this link came up on my Facebook feed. Interesting how that works sometimes.

Tuesday 1 November 2016

Any job worth doing is worth doing twice.

We just recently purchased a new vehicle, and with that vehicle came four new snow tires, already mounted on wheels to make the seasonal changeover a bit easier.

Today we had a rather balmy day for November and so I took the opportunity to put the snows on. (For those of you south of about the 45th parallel, ‘putting the snows on’ is a seasonal celebration that officially marks the change of season from mosquito-infested to ice-encrusted – and vice versa in the spring.)

RotateEverything was going well until I was bolting on the last wheel when I noticed some fine print on  the tire which said, Rotation, with an arrow pointing the wrong way. “Crap”, I said. Well, maybe not exactly “crap” but a similar sentiment was expressed. And sure enough, when I checked,  every.single.wheel was wrong. Left wheels were on the right and right wheels on the left. I had installed four wheels randomly and got all four wrong. No wonder I never win the lottery.

In my defense I don’t, in all the years of swapping summer and snow tires, ever remember coming across directional tires for a car. Motorcycle, sure, that’s normal, but not a car. I expect the worst that would happen is that they may not be quite as effective in the snow, but I changed them all again and now the arrows are all pointing in the right direction (forward).

And as I sit here with a cold beer as my reward, I am thinking it’s a good thing that I won’t have to spend the winter driving in reverse.