Freedom of Information.

         More and more I realize I’m becoming, an old curmudgeon. Some insist I won that title several years ago already. In spite of that I feel it incumbent on me to try and bring light and truth to some of the murkier areas of our lives.

I was led to believe when I was a young lad and still idealistic, that I was living in a democracy. Not speaking Greek it took some time and considerable effort on the part of teachers and parents to inform me what that meant. It turns out that democracy is a form of government. It also turns out that it is quite rare in the world. In this form of government it is posited that the citizens of a nation actually are the owners of and organizers of the nation. It is the citizens that have the power to rule the country and direct it as they see fit. This is different from most of the places in the world and indeed different from the way things have been here except for the past couple of hundred years.

Our nation like most others 300 years ago was ruled by a king who claimed to have the authority to rule given to him directly by God. He got that authority not by getting the nod from the citizens but merely by right of being born oldest son of the preceding king. It is a system of government that is quite common and with minor variations about male versus female, elders agreeing, noble classes accepting etc, etc, etc, it has been used for centuries. The reality of kingship however was that often the guy who got to be king got that way not so much by God but by being a better warrior than the others.

Anyway to cut a long and often confusing story shorter over the course of many battles, many kings, many ups and downs the power and authority of the king was slowly spread out from him alone to include nobles, then to wealthy though not necessarily noble citizens, then to pretty regular citizens as long as they could read and do Euclidean geometry, till we arrived at our present situation where we suppose the authority and power of the nation belongs to all the adults in the country as long as they aren’t criminals and can recite the dead parrot skit from Monty Python. The government is presumed to be the group of people we the citizens hire to actually do the day to day work of running the country.

We presume the government will do this work in a fair and equitable manner according to the traditions and laws we have established over the last few centuries and we get the right to vote for who exactly gets to do this job every now and again just to remind the governors that they are in fact hired by, and can be fired by we the citizens.

This brings me to the area of freedom of information. We have a long standing tradition that since the government is actually doing our business we have a right to know how, what, where, why , they are doing it. But governing is a very seductive thing. Lots of people like ordering others around and many people don’t like being ordered around and so the governors often don’t really want to let us know what they are doing. I understand this. When I worked at GM I didn’t want my boss to know what I was doing all the time because as shocking s it might seem I was not always working as hard as I might have to do what the company wanted me to do. Still as much as I might ty to hide what I was doing or cnfuse the boss about it I realized that since they were paying me they actually did have a right to know what I was doing.

Likewise our governors know that the citizens actually have a riht to know what they are doing but they don’t always want us to know all that is happening. In fact often they are so secretive that we have had to write laws that codify the fact that we have a right to know.

Now I would like to propose a change in tone and function aout this right to know. I think it is high time that the laws were changed so that it was very difficult for the governors to do anything that was not openly displayed to all the citizens. I think they should be told that while they are doing our business for us we have aright to know everything they are doing and it should be up to them to come up with clear and reasonable claims for anything they wish to keep secret. The citizens should not have to request that information about the working of our governments be published, all the workings of our government should be published unless they can prove a very real and urgent need for kepping it otherwise.

It was not so long ago that virtually every meeting of every committee and panel and function of government was open to the public and the press with very rare exceptions. Lots of times they revolves around personnel matter, the feeling being that it wasn’t fair for everyone to hear how the bosses felt about a particular employee at job review time or salary negation time. If some legal proceedings were being contemplated they might be kept secret so as to not warn a criminal they were under suspicion or conversely to not smear someone who might be innocent although suspected of some wrong doing. By and larg though all the actions of out governments were expected to be open and carried on in public so we the citizens, the bosses, knew what our employees were dong and how and why they were doing it.

I think many of our leaders need to be reminded of this. I also think it might stop a great deal of the mismanagement of our nation’s business if all these proceedings were made open and public all the time and we could all marvel at the skill, erudition and just general classiness of those citizens we have chosen to be our representatives and employees. In spite of moments of general disgust at the way our politicians behave we are truly blessed in our democracy that most of them are in fact honest decent people who are trying to do what they think is best for the country. Let’s make all that work public and help them keep up the better side of their efforts because the ones who are trying to subvert the processes will be under better scrutiny by We the people.

Posted by: dave1949 | 2013/03/10

We need Change Now.

    Our nation is faced now with a prime minister who has realized that the way to power is, like the pols in the US to be constantly attacking any credible response to his rule. He uses the work of the Canadian government and tries to sell it as the work of the Conservative party. He endorses all sorts of dirty tricks and if not outright illegal he endorses attacking politicians whether or not there is an election running.

    The hacks he has assembled around him find no reason not to go along because we the population have rewarded his tactics. In parliament obfuscation and coverups of what is really going on is accepted. Scapegoats whether purely political or as in the past few weeks the unemployed are held up to ridicule, harassment and intimidation.

    Instead of letting parliament look at and honestly debate policies to try and find the best solutions for Canada he loads completely unrelated matters into omnibus bills to limit the amount of time the opposition can debate the matters.

    All this is being done by a man and a party that have never won a majority of the votes cast in an election. That particular fact is of course not new to Harper. Our election system was structured centuries ago when the forces in parliament were primarily arrayed in two groups. Those who supported the powers of the crown nobility and landed class and those who wished more authority and power for the mercantile and business groups starting to dominate society.

    When used to vote the choice between only two alternatives our first past the post system does a fairy good job of creating a parliament that reflects the wishes of the population. Today however we have multiple parties. For most of my life there have been 3  major national parties. Conservatives, Liberals and NDP. there have been and are now many other more fringe groups based on religion, ethnicity, economic theories you name it, and of course for about 40 years now we have had the Bloc Quebecois, a very definite power but with only 1 major desire which is not unfortunately the best governance of Canada. The old days of a 2 party Canada are never coming back and yet the election system is designed to select from only 2 choices.

    We really need to start looking at a better way of creating parliaments that reflect the wishes of the population. Some adjustment to first past the post needs to be created in order to allow the will of the people to actually show up on parliament hill. We are after all supposed to be a democracy.

    At present some talk is going around about getting the progressive parties to co-operate in the next election and try to oust the Conservatives by running only one opponent against Conservatives in ridings where the NDP and Libs combined have more votes than the Conservative but neither have enough to win. Of course if they could do this effectively we could ask why the 2 parties don’t just amalgamate, as the Progressive Conservatives and the Reform party did. THe reason thye don;t want to do that is because as soon as one or the other ousts the Cons they want this same flawed system to ensure they can maintain power.

The main players here have very little reason to look to more proportional election systems. The splintering of the electorate is a way for the main players to continue their domination. Look at how many votes the Green party gets in every election but still can;t elect people. Based on the number of votes they garner nation wide they should have several members. Other smaller players like some of the religious backed parties should also have representation but with a winner take all system getting over the threshold to actually elect a member is restrictive.
    Our system supposes that the local member of parliament will go to Ottawa adn actually, actively promote the best interests of their riding. In reality the party discipline is so tight and so important that these member seldom if ever actually vote for their constituents they do what they are told by the party whip. Most of us dislike the idea of a party slate put in place merely by the % of votes the party receives and still cling to the idea of the worth of the individual member to do good for the home town. There are systems which combine our old local representative ideas along with ensuring proportional distribution of seats based on party voting trends.
    One thing is clear, our present method favours the established parties and further works to the benefit of a man like Harper who uses everything and every moment to ensure his re-election rather than working for the benefit of all Canadians in the time between elections.
    Who ever wins the Liberal leadership, Or Mulcair as NDP leader will have to realize the same thing and if they will not work to reform our electoral system they will have to get used to our political process being more and more Americanized to the point that the electioneering never ends. The fund raising and the constant, on message, posturing looking only for votes at the expense of “good” governing will be the necessary way of the future.

    I haven’t written anything here but I need to get back to work and help enlighten the rest of the world In particular I need to take today to enlighten the United States.

    I find lots about the States to complain about but let’s face it in the entire world it is one of the better places to live. There is relative peace and prosperity. The police are not very likely to just shoot you and dump the body. The local clergy may condemn you but they will probably not actually stone you to death. If for some reason I had to leave Canada the States is definitely in the top ten spots I’d consider moving to. Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, most places in Europe are other possibles. That being said the states does have a violence problem.
    
    The terrible mass shooting in Connecticut has once again blown this up into the national media as a worthy story but that is where the first part of their violence problem starts. If every mass shooting in the states was allowed to go un punished there would still only be a few hundred killings per year. The fact is, however that they shoot about 30,000 of themselves every year.

    After 9-11 Bush beat the drums of war and away they went again on another crusade to rid the world of some evil. That was because of approximately 3000 deaths. Ever since then they have continued to shoot 30,000 citizens a year and that does not count the military deaths in the wars they are fighting overseas.

    The outcome of this latest mass shooting is entirely predictable and as usual entirely unhelpful. One side stood up before the bodies were cold and began demanding the disarming of the population. The other side, spearheaded by the NRA immediately began wailing about their 2nd amendment rights and crying that the best way to protect the population was to make sure everyone is armed.

    I want to be clear here. I am entirely in favour of guns being regulated and people having to get a background check in order to be allowed to own lethal weapons. Thoe with mental illnesses and those who have already shown a predilection for violence and crime should not be given the right to have guns. I’m also fine with the idea of limiting magazine capacity and getting rid of assault weapons etc.  I don;t know any hunters who really want to go out after Bambi with a full on machine gun. Most hunter I know are proud of their ability to shoot well and accurately and take some pride in being able to score a 1 shot clean quick kill. Even most target and recreational shooters are more interested in accuracy than fire power but there are also a certain element that like blasting away in action shooting games.
    
    I also want to be clear that I like guns. They are among the best made products in the world. Well made Remingtons, Winchesters, Rugers, Brownings, Glocks, and many others are products that with reasonable care will last generations and perfprm their intended functions wonderfully for hundreds of years. I also spent quite a bit of time in my teens at shooting sport. Pretty much all of it at bullseye target shooting but I also dabbled in skeet and a tiny bit of hunting but with very limited success.

    All that though is beside the point. Those who wish to avoid another mass shooting are for the most part attacking the problem in an old, time tested, and useless manner. They want to limit the supply of guns. This is the identical method espoused over year by those opposed to drugs, alcohol, gambling, prostitution, abortion, etc, etc, etc. If we have learned anything, and often I feel we have not, it is that you cannot solve a behavior problem by trying to limit supply. As long as there is a desire for the thing someone will find a way to supply that demand and people will find a way to get what they want. The limiting of the supply of whatever has been a failure everywhere it has been tried on everything it has been tried on.

    When I first went to university in 1968 we had as part of our teaching programme at Brock a seminar system. Large courses were split up into small 10 to 15 student groups and we discussed and studied topics of interest and importance for the course In all the seminar rooms we used everyday the tables around which we met for these discussions were always supplied with ashtrays, because of course, people smoked and needed a way to safely dispose of the buts and ashes. If anyone had walked in then and said that in less than a generation no one would be allowed to smoke anywhere inside the building let alone in a small room full of a dizen students we all, myself included would have assumed they were nuts. Yet here we are. over the course of my life the tolerance for smoking has been eroded to the point that it is now known to be harmful by any reasonably intelligent person and it is banned in virtually all public spaces in north america.

    The battle however has been won not by trying to ban cigarettes but by changing peoples minds about the propriety of subjecting others to smoke they don’t wish to consume. And again lets be clear. The battle is not over, there are and always will be people who are going to keep smoking and the use of tobacco, like that of other drugs and other risky behavior is never going to be completely eradicated.  

    The same is true for the use of guns and violence. This problem will never be completely ended and it is most certainly not going to be ended by trying to limit the supply of guns. THe only way progress is going to be made here is in changing the mind set of the population till the use of violence is looked at as wrong.

    Many will of course suggest that we already know it is wrong but that is in fact not the story we are presented with every single day of our lives. In America in particular I would suggest the archetypical story we are shown is of good and decent person, who wants to go about their lives doing what is right but is forced to eventually resort to violence to solve the problem. For every time we see a show like “the Good Wife” where people struggle with each other through a court system, we are presented with ten shows where the triumph of good is achieved through violence. Whether it is the cops killing a criminal, or the citizen defending his home or family, or the business man defending his business, or the secret service saving the president, the gun are drawn and the problem is solved violently.
    
    This has been the American “story” since the beginning. Old cowboy and indian movies showed the settlers circling the wagons and defending themselves against the savages. The wars are always started by other evil people and we have no option but to take up arms and shoot back. The space aliens are a threat till we can kill them with our ray guns. The beasts are a threat till the bear can be shot . The gangs take over and terrorize a community till either citizens or cops or both take up arms and slay them. We are shown this scenario over and over for our entire lives but then people seem shocked when someone decides that they have had enough, of whatever it is that plagues them and decides to solve the problem violently.

    I don’t believe in a simplistic, if you watch violent movies or play violent computer games you’ll end up violent behavior scenario. I do believe however that if you are shown thousands of times the heros of your entertainment resorting to violence, it will affect you. If you are told over and over and over that it’s ok to go to war as a way to solve your international relations problems, it will affect you. If you think your police are drawing guns and shooting people every single week in the execution of their jobs, no pun intended, it will affect you.

    We have been shown better ways to solve these problems. Ghandi and Martin Luther King showed that non violence can and does work. Non violence however is a slow way forward. The Dalai Lama has been peacefully advocating for Tibetan independence his entire adult life and it seems no closer now than when he started  but it is in fact closer. Everyone in the world now knows who he is. Almost the entire western world believes and accepts his views about Tibet. At the time he left for India no one n the west had any idea who he was or what he wanted. Will he see his goals realized in his lifetime. I doubt it, but it will happen eventually. All we need to decrease the violence and shooting in America is the belief that slowly we can make a difference in changing the minds of people about whether violence is acceptable.

    Trying to ban guns will never get to the root of this problem. Changing attitudes over time will finally overcome the obstacles. Think again to the advances in tolerance we have seen in our lives. Our world is far from perfect. It will never be perfect, but we have now seen a black man elected president. In Canada the majority of our premiers are women rather than men. Gays although certainly still paced with hatred and violence are now getting rights and the freedom to be who they are and most people now realize there is nothing inherently evil or wrong about that. Likewise if we start telling stories about peaceful problem solving, if we refuse to try to take the quick and nasty violent solution, we will eventually change the minds of most people so that they will not turn to guns as the way to fix their troubles. Then these mass shootings will become rarer and rarer and more importantly, we will stop shooting thousands of people every year.

Posted by: dave1949 | 2012/09/08

Pro Sports. Meh!

It is sometimes embarrassing to admit but I grew up and remain a Maple Leaf fan. Of course when I became a leaf fan way back in the last millennium the team used to win the cup every few years. It was usually a toss up between them and the Montreal Canadiens as to who would take Stanley home.
Now to say I’m still a fan requires a bit of explanation. I would like it if they won again but I seldom if ever watch a game anymore for any team let alone the Leafs. Every spring I sort of pay attention to the playoffs as long as there is a Canadian team still in contention but after that I really don’t care who wins the trophy presented to the nation to celebrate our hockey champions.
When I was growing up and interested in hockey and other sports to the players used to remain with a team for years on end. Fringe players were traded around but the mainstays stayed. Duff, Keon, Armstrong, Brewer, Horton, Baun, Bower and others were always Leafs. When Duff was traded I was upset he had been my favourite. Gordie Howe was always a Wing. Hull and Mikita were Black hawks. The Richards, were Canadiens. I cheered on the men that played for my favourite team not the business enterprise that managed and owned the franchise.
Like most of my buddies if I got hockey equipment I wanted it Maple Leaf stuff. Sweaters and Pants and socks always blue and white. One of the biggest days of my life was when an older cousin who lived in Toronto got tickets to a game and I got to go the MAple Leaf Gardens and see a game live. Now however with the exception of my TIm Horton card I have no Maple Leaf memorabilia and no particular desire for any.
Which brings me to this thought. Why do we have so many men, otherwise mature responsible men who are still nuts over a team in any major sport. You know the kind I mean. They have the regalia, they paint their face, they get season tickets or TV packages that feature the “home “ team and they know the standings and lookout for the season. In a time when corporations have totally taken over the sports why does anyone still care. The people you are cheering today are going to show up next year in another uniform. As we watch the NHL and the players association decide whether they’ll cancel another season for business reasons I can’t help but wonder why anyone cares about pro sports anymore.
My brother in law was a Manchester United fan. He grew up in Manchester and this was his home team. Through the years regardless of how they played he remained a loyal and dedicated fan. He also had masses of their gear. Everything from actual game uniforms to cheap kitsch. The team is reportedly the richest franchise in the history of sports. Each year they make millions in royalties from the sale of licensed gear all over the world. The sale of the gear totals up into the billions and most of the fans have never been to Manchester, are not English, don’t even play soccer. The fans of pro sports in s many cases now have no actual affiliation with the teams they back they just choose a team in some manner and then support it.
As I said before I can understand children doing this. Children actually play these games. During the time I became a Maple Leaf fan I. like millions of other Canadian boys over the years dreamed of one day playing the game so well I might become a pro player myself. Of course like millions of my colleagues that never happened. What I find myself wondering now is why it is that so many adults get so excited at the prospect of grown men being paid truly exorbitant amounts of money to play children’s games.
Throwing, kicking, shooting hockey pucks, hitting golf balls, riding bikes, shooting baskets; are these things really that important and if the answer to that is yes the next question is why?

Posted by: dave1949 | 2012/09/02

What did He Say.

    As we started getting into the internet age there was a lot of worry on the part of the older news media about the affect untrained reporters might have offering up their opinions without the checks and balances built into the old media. It was said that a reporter having to answer to an editor, answering to a publisher had to follow certain guidelines and ethical mores in order to get out to the public.
    Now two decades in we see a prime example of how the old media serves us so much better than the untrained unfiltered mob who can get exposure because of the internet.
    There is a rumour going around that Mitt Romney has been chosen as the candidate for president by the republican party. Further some people believe that Mitt gave a speech the other day accepting the nomination and setting out the start of the official campaign to gain the presidency. Now I had a vague desire to listen in to that speech but let the opportunity slip by because of tiredness etc. I reasoned that the news would be full of excerpts of anything important he had to say and I could catch it then.
    Apparently however Mitt never gave that speech. Clint Eastwood gave a speech. To an empty chair. I know al about that. It has been on every news channel, it has been discussed by the talking heads that worry we will not get the important news from the internet and everyone, left right or centre has had their say about Clint. On the other hand I still have no idea what if anything Mitt said. I suppose it wasn’t very important since it has gone unremarked by virtually all.
    Now I personally think democracy is a pretty good way to operate a government. I have faith in the inherent intelligence and decency of the population as a whole. I do however worry that if the population isn’t given factual information on which to base their decisions you might end up with rather bizarre people elected to positions of power and authority.
    You might get college educated senators who believe women can avoid pregnancy if they are really raped. You might get governors who can’t understand the difference between decent hard working people who need financial help and criminals who abuse welfare systems.
    The traditional media have abdicated their role in educating and informing the population about the reality of their lives. They have consistently gone for the shiny and ephemeral rather than actually informing when some politico espouses stupid ignorant opinions.
    So here I sit still vaguely wondering what Mitt says he stands for. On the other hand if Clint runs for the most important office in America I at least will know what he thinks about empty chairs.

Posted by: dave1949 | 2012/08/29

Common Wealth For an Uncommon country.

    Lately as I watched the opening of the Olympic games in London I was struck by the number of countries coming in that were or are part of the British CommonWealth. That got me thinking about the idea of common wealth and government.
    I suggest that it is time we stopped referring to government as something other than ourselves. Our government is not an alien force separate and foreign to us. Our government is the agent we select to manage the assets of our society we deem too important to be left to the machinations of the profit motive alone.
    We are blessed by a tradition developed over the past centuries of having a government that is responsible to we the people. We task that government with organizing and managing those things we value to the point of forcing the behavior of our citizens. It is right and proper to spend time and effort in deciding exactly what those things are. The call for more governing or less governing of our lives by the wishes of the majority is valid political discourse. Some of our functions are too large, complex or dangerous to be left to the whims of the market. Some of our functions are too important to be left to decisions based solely on whether or not they are profitable.
    We have the benefit in this nation of having vast public,common assets. Land held for parks, schools for all citizens, hospitals for anyone ill, police vastly unbiased, fire protection service for all who need it.  We have military power put to use to protect Canadians rather than controlling us and a judicial system both criminal and civil that is the envy of most of the world.
    How much of these functions should be controlled by government and how much we as citizens should be coerced to pay for these services is open to civilized debate. Wherever you like to see the line drawn on these things however it is plain that the government we have acts as our agent in managing them not as some foreign entity forcing us to do what we don’t want and taking from us freedoms we value.
    I personally am pretty far towards the left side of our political spectrum. I am happy that our medical, educational, and justice systems are so well controlled and built by our governments. I wish that business was more rather than less controlled and forced to operate for the benefit of society as well as for profit. I have relatives much farther to the right. They feel our government controls too much of our society and requires too much of our wealth in taxes to do so.
    Both sides however are aware that the government we have is one we put in place. The government is not different from us it is us. The government is put in place to organize and operate the areas of our society we wish.
    Living in any society requires that the individual must surrender some personal freedom and autonomy in order to gain the shared assets of the society. THe common wealth of our nation is great compared to most places on earth. The use of these common areas is one of the things that makes living in Canada such a benefit compared to most places in the world.
    No government is ever perfect. No one wants government waste or intrusion into our lives any more than is necessary to run our society but no one who is intellectually honest can complain about our government abusing our freedom. Let’s not get caught up in belittling the politicians and parties we disagree with but spend our energy trying to promote what we feel is best for Canada without dropping into hatred and anger towards those who feel differently about our society.

Posted by: dave1949 | 2012/03/06

Robocalls. Who you gonna call?

The following came from Buckdog.

http://buckdogpolitics.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, March 06, 2012
Conservatives Didn’t Declare Payments Made To Robocalls Company, Can’t Explain To Elections Canada Why Not

“OTTAWA — Elections Canada investigators probing the robocalls scandal are interviewing workers on the Conservative campaign in Guelph, Ont., and trying to determine why payments made to an Edmonton voice-broadcasting company were not declared in financial reports filed with the agency.

In recent days, the agency has spoken to at least three workers from the campaign of Conservative candidate Marty Burke, including the official agent responsible for ensuring the campaign’s financial report was accurate.

Elections Canada wants to know why the costs of automated calls the campaign has admitted sending out never appeared in the campaign’s expense report, as required by law.

Andrew Prescott, the deputy campaign manager, said he is co-operating with the investigation and handing over bills he received from RackNine Inc. for a series of robocalls promoting Burke events during the election.

The same company was used to transmit misleading Elections Canada calls on election day.
Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher
National Post

WHat a huge coincidence. A conservative campaign that didn’t properly explain its finances and surprise surprise the company in question is the one that seems to have sent out all those fraudulent phone calls. As usual the questions keep coming and the same tired old answer, “It wasn’t us”, looks more and lore suspect.

I think any reasonable person by now has to assume the conservatives were in fact behind this criminal activity and the only question left is how far up the corporate ladder did it reach and more importantly can anyone prove it. A full public inquiry is needed into this and charges should be laid to the full extent of the law when it is determined who paid for these calls. I’m surprised the cons don’t want and demand this themselves aren’t they the ones who constantly want to fight crime and lock up criminals wherever they are found? Maybe not if they are found too close to the PMO,

Posted by: dave1949 | 2012/02/24

Comfort Biking

It’s almost time. I am one of those wimpy cyclists. I hate riding in bad weather. Bad in this case is anything colder than about 15 degrees. I have found since losing the weight I get chilled very easily. Another odd thing is that with the rebuilding of my neck and jaw the right side of my face is very very susceptible to stiffening up in anything chilly. Also this puts a strain on my jaw as the muscle brought up from my chest tends to pull down and to the right when it gets cold. Even before this however I disliked riding in the cold.
MY feet and hands get numb and something few men talk about, cold wind gets funneled right between your legs into your crotchal area. I have gotten off a bike in the winter before only to find that I was completely numb there. An alarming thing for a young man.

As to comfort on a bike all is relative. When you ride very much at all you soon develop the muscles needed for posture on the bike as well as for motivation. YOur ass hardens and adapts to the seat as does the seat to your ass and your hands and feet get used to the vibration and pressures of the handlebar and pedals.

Long ago I started to realize that the specialized clothing worn by cyclists was generally designed over decades to make riding more comfortable and more efficient. The padding in the shorts and gloves along with the hard sole and cleats on the shoes all lend a bit of support to making biking comfortable and easy compared to riding in shorts and sneakers. As for helmets, I use one about 99% of the time. I’m not convinced that they are very needed in a non racing environment. Nor do I think they save nearly as many lives or injuries as the safety mavens would have us believe but that said they are now so light and also protect me a bit form the sun that I usually wear one anyway. I have to admit that on occasion when I know I’m just going on a short trip to the store or something I go without my helmet and taunt fate. I’m just a rebel like that.

Several years ago I did find however that even as the season progressed and I got fitter and tougher from a lot of riding, I couldn’t get the same comfort on the bike I used to have. On one particular trip I took to Baltimore I found that as the trip continued my shoulder started to ache more and more.

I have dislocated my right shoulder a couple of times in my life and after falling from a horse I dislocated it again but also drove it down and in towards my chest that time breaking six ribs in the process. Since then, I suppose because of old age it has never been quite the same. I then found that when I rode for more than a couple of days in a row it got worse and worse instead of getting better.

THe solution I came up with was to get a recumbent bike. What a breakthrough. The particular model I chose is designed more for touring than racing so the efficiency compared to a good diamond frame road bike isn’t very different. After a few thousand kms I think I can say it is a bit better on the flat but a bit worse climbing a hill. More useful to me however was the comfort the bike gave me.

With a posture like sitting in an easy chair there is no pressure on my hands or arms. They are in front of me almost like steering a car. My head is vertical and there is no strain on my back or neck. I found another benefit to this posture. I can see. With my head up like that the surrounding country is available for viewing with ease. I no longer ride with my nose over the front wheel looking at the world over the top of my glasses. I am instead treated to the view of the world rolling by in panorama view.

It’s the end of February now and the weather man says we are due for another snowstorm today. Right now it seems to be missing us again like they have most of this very mild winter. We are however right on the edge of getting the rain falling now turning into snow. Regardless whether it hits or not the fact is the winter is practically over and as soon as the temperature climbs another 10 degrees I’m getting back out on the bike and checking out the peninsula again.

There is no better way to get around on a nice day. In spite of what Rob Ford thinks.

Posted by: dave1949 | 2012/02/19

Skin Games

I’m 62 years old now and it occurred to me that there is a major difference between men and women. I know that thought probably comes as a shock to most of you. THe difference I thought of was this.

The average 60 yr old man in North America has spent about 3 hour of his life in caring fro his skin. This includes all aspects of that care as well as even thinking about it. The bulk of that time was spent putting on sun tan lotion of some sort to try and avoid sunburn.

The average 60 yr old woman on the other hand has spent about 3 years of her life trying to care for her skin. This includes moisturizing, defoliating, foliating, peeling, pruning and otherwise gardening the pelt with an array of drugs, oils, pro-biotics, pre-biotics, and botox.

The cost for men is in the range of a few bucks up to maybe a hundred and the cost for women is in the thousands.

It also occurred to me that there really isn’t that great a difference in the general quality of the skin in all these 60 yr olds which leads me to one conclusion.

The women of North America must have significantly worse skin than the men if it takes all this effort and an entire industry to keep them looking approximately the same as their men.

I don’t see how there could be any other answer.

Posted by: dave1949 | 2012/02/17

Riding Fast In Hamilton

My buddies and I had finished a season rowing for Brock. It turned out one of our number was planning on taking a year in Europe after the summer and had to get a passport.

What happened was that in order to get his passport in time for his trip he had to take it personally to a passport office to get served. The nearest one was in Hamilton 50 km away but rather than drive, 3 of us decided to take an afternoon and cycle there and back. We were all in excellent shape so the distance wasn’t going to be a problem and we all had good bikes to use so we set off.

The office was in a building in downtown Hamilton at Catherine and Main. It remained a federal office building in the city for decades although I think it has now been changed over to other uses. I happened to know it well because I had been there several times going through some of the procedures to qualify for officer training during university but that is an entirely different story.

As Ken, the names have been changed to protect the guilty by the way, went in to the office to get his needs taken care of Jim and I stayed outside and watched his bike. During this time I mentioned to him that the street lights down Main street in Hamilton had been synchronized so that if you drove the speed limit they would all turn green for you. Again back then this was a fairly new and remarkable thing. To this day through downtown Hamilton it is possible to drive through several lights in a row before getting snagged by one and it the traffic is light and you restrain yourself to about 50 km/ hour you can go blocks and blocks without having to stop.

When Ken got finished and we turned to head home Jim relayed the info I had given him and we decided to see how many lights we could make on our bikes. Remember to stay in sync we would have to travel at 50 k so we knew we couldn’t make it all the way but we wondered how many we could get.

Ken I must add was at times a bit of a rabble rouser and somewhat of a tough customer.  I don’t think he was ever in any serious trouble while growing up but he did have a short fuse and certainly the body and temperament to make it unwise to cross him very much.

As we set off down the road we made about 6 lights before getting stopped the first time. part of that section had been down hill and the next few miles were practically flat making it tougher to try and keep up but we were young fit and having a good time reveling in out own athleticism for no other reason than that we could.

As we headed off on about the 4th set of lights for us though things got suddenly very serious. Ken had gotten to the front of out trio and we were whizzing down the road almost matching the lights. As we fell a bit farther behind each set it became clear that in another block or two we would lose them again when an inattentive driver suddenly pulled out of a side street right in front of us. Jim and I managed to swoop around him but Ken who had ben closest t-boned the car at full speed and I remember seeing him go airborne right over the top of the vehicle.

He somersaulted in the air over the car and came down feet first on the pavement. Normally that would have resulted in him then pitching forward onto his face and grinding to a halt on the street but Ken who had a full tilt racing bike to ride also happened to have on cleated cycling shoes. For anyone who has ever worn these they are extremely slippery to walk on because the cleats back then were either hard plastic or metal and protruded from the sole of the shoe. AS it turned out this saved him. Instead of getting traction and sticking to the pavement when he landed he skidded several feet on the cleats essentially skating down the street. and came to a stop still upright.

I expected to see him immediately take after the driver and punch the shit out of him but he turned looked him in the eye and wagged a finger at him like a schoolmarm chastising a bad student. We later asked him about it and he said he was so glad to be upright that it never occurred to him to do anything else.

THe bike however was totaled. The front wheel was pretzelled and the fork bent back till what was left of the wheel was jammed into the down tube. There were several scratches and dings and the drivers door had been caved in by the force of the collision.

To give the driver credit he stopped,apologized and ended up paying for the replacement cost of the bike. He also took Ken to the Hamilton Bus depot and paid for his ticket home as he had no other way back since his bike was trashed.

Ken used the money for his trip instead and when he returned form Europe the next year he had bought a very nice BMW motorcycle over there that he could then ship back home duty free because of the length of time he had owned it. Jim and I made the rest of the trip home uneventfully and other than the inconvenience of doing without a bike for a couple of weeks no harm was done.

Oddly enough decades later the world cycling championships were held in Hamilton and I went there as a volunteer. My first day of working there was as a traffic marshal on the corner of Main and Catherine the same building we had gone to that day. There I got to watch some of the best cyclists in the world tearing along Main street which had been closed to traffic. I don’t think any of them could have kept up to the lights either but luckily for them they didn’t have to.

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