Monday 31 December 2018

Screw it, let’s ride!

Good riddance to 2018.

Those of us who ride know that a sure remedy for all the bullshit that surrounds us is to go for a nice, long ride. No matter what, two-wheel therapy will have all that nonsense flowing off your shoulders like water off a duck’s back; it’s just you, your bike, and the open road.

Right now, as 2018 shamefully slithers into 2019,  the bullshit is at epic levels. We have elected incompetents, fools, and criminals – sometimes all three – to positions of leadership who head up xenophobic, populist governments, or spend their time virtue signaling and berating China (and others) for not having enough female CEOs. Climate changes are coming fast and furious with damaging storms becoming the norm and what were previously considered to be 100-year events occurring as frequently as annually. The worlds’ major stock markets are in freefall (see leaders, above) taking untold billions out of our pension funds and personal investment portfolios. But the ultra rich continue to amass obscene fortunes (see leaders, above). It seems the only news that isn’t fake news is news about fake news, which is now being employed to destabilize democratic governments and long-standing institutions world-wide, with the tacit approval of some of those same leaders.

And, as depressing as all that is, it’s only going to get worse for the foreseeable future until the pendulum swings back to a saner, more rational world order and the damage begins to be undone.

Meanwhile, the majority of us are buckled in and simply along for the ride.

So screw it, let’s ride. Right?

Don’t I wish.

Ice-covered roads and sub-zero temperatures put paid to that notion for the next few months so I’ll have to find another distraction. Drugs and/or alcohol are tempting, but then I might just start thinking those incompetents, fools, and criminals aren’t so bad after all. No, it will have to be something less self-destructive. So I guess it’s time to get the next 440LTD out of the shed and under the knife/wrench. 


If I can’t spend it on a beach or golf course somewhere, what better way is there to start a new year than dismantling something.

See you all in 2019.

Monday 24 December 2018

Merry Christmas

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and all the best for the holiday season.

Merry Xmas
(Image from Orange County Choppers’ Christmas Bike)

Monday 17 December 2018

Free stuff

Every so often I get offered some piece of equipment ‘for free’. Motorcycles, lawn mowers, snow blowers have all come my way like this. Sometimes it’s because the previous owner didn’t want it any more – works fine, just of no use. Other times the previous owner is so fed up with trying to get it running the alternative was the village dump. It’s the latter that I seem to be a particular sucker for.

The last time it was 10-HP snow blower of unknown vintage. The PO said it “ran a bit rough” when it was last put away “at least 5 years ago”, but he couldn’t get it running again. So, the sucker for punishment that I am, I offered to take it off his hands.


A new friction disk, new fuel lines, a new spark plug, and a carb cleaning later I had it running – sort of. Nearly impossible to start it would then surge, fart, and stutter on occasion. Other times it would just blow flames out the burnt-out muffler and quit. But it was ‘free’ so I was prepared to put up with its generally obstreperous attitude. Besides, I had another, somewhat better working, blower in reserve for when it was being particularly aggravating and bad-tempered.

Then things changed. The daughter and her partner just purchased a house and could use a snow blower. I really didn’t need two, and they really didn’t need anything as cantankerous as Big Red. But the price was right and so back into the shop he went. This time I went all out.  A friend supplied a used muffler in return for a couple of my special butter tarts and I put a $25 carb kit in it. Now it runs better than my old standby blower.

It must have been the butter tarts.

Friday 14 December 2018

Right to repair

The concept is very simple: if you purchase a product you (or your designated agent) should have the right to repair that product without having to go back to the original supplier or “certified” dealer/repair center.

This is a situation well known to Apple product users. For years Apple has been forcing its customers to only use Apple service centers and certified (i.e. expensive) parts. You can’t even replace the battery in your iPhone yourself. And if you crack a screen? Might as well buy a new phone for what Apple will charge to repair it.

There was a major push driven by the farming community a few years ago about the proprietary restrictions put on farm equipment, preventing farmers (probably the most self-sufficient community out there) from working on their own tractors. They don’t usually break down between 9 and 5 during the week. More likely it’s going to be midnight Friday after a long day in the fields and losing a weekend during harvest is not an option.

And there are countless examples of other manufacturers doing the same, all in the name of maximizing profits.

With the number of electronic components in modern products, some of that makes sense. For example, do you really want your local backyard mechanic reprogramming a safety module such as your ABS system? Probably not. But replacing a phone battery? C’mon.

And some of it makes no sense whatsoever. Right after I got my 2018 Silverado I started looking for a second set of wheels for snow tires. Luckily I found a set from the identical vehicle where the owner had upgraded his rims. They even had the original tire pressure sensors. So I put the snows on the wheels, put the wheels on the truck, and discovered that the tire sensors have to be “reprogrammed” to my specific vehicle. And (go figure) only the dealer has the equipment to do that highly technical and important task.

Now I have no idea what the dealer will charge for that service, whether it’s $5 a wheel or $50. And it’s really not important as my low-cost solution was to put a bit of black tape on the dash display to cover the blinking light, and check tire pressures by eye, as we did for decades before the auto industry decided we were all incompetent morons who needed idiot lights on top of idiot lights to protect ourselves from certain doom. (I swear this truck has an idiot light to tell me when another idiot light isn’t working.)

This is, simply, nuts! There is absolutely no need for this other than it forces buyers back into the arms of the dealership and, in the process, undercuts the small operators who generally offer better customer service at much lower rates.

Fortunately there are at least some tentative steps being taken by governments to implement right to repair legislation to limit and eventually eliminate the practice. The US seems to be slightly ahead of Canada (and behind Europe) in that regard, but the manufacturers’ lobby has deep pockets ($$$) and, therefore, a lot of influence in the halls of power. But it will come – it must.

Tuesday 4 December 2018

Messing about in the shop

Winter is well and truly here now so, since golf and riding are out of the question, I get to spend time in the shop. Most recently it was spent making Christmas presents and cleaning up a summer’s worth of clutter, but today I felt like playing.

A couple of years ago we got new neighbours, and one of the things they did was get rid of a couple of old log buildings going back 100 years or so. I managed to scavenge some remnants from the original log home before it was moved to a new site and I’d been waiting for an opportunity/inspiration to use them. I had also picked up a plasma cutter at an estate sale a few years ago that I had never used. Today seemed like a good time to rectify all that.

A small piece of tin roofing had a nice patina (for the uninitiated, that means it was rusty)  and I could “see” a stylized sail in it. Combined with a bit of well-worn barn board it made a folk-artsy kind of sailboat.


As a first attempt I think it came out okay but I can already see a few changes I’ll make in the next version.

I also had a few empty beer cans lying about (never a shortage here) that I thought I could do something with. So I made this little tree.


Again, future versions will be better.

All in all a pretty good day just messing about in the shop. And the plasma cutter is just too much fun to leave sitting idle ever again.