Wednesday, October 29, 2008

On Motivation...

"Hey... If this was easy, they'd have fucking civilians doing it!!!" - PO1 NCIOP Paul F. Prudhomme.

You mean: "Save the dolphins"...?

"Dear Minister:

I don't care what it takes - I want the whales protected. Whether it be lack of salmon stocks, stopping navy sonar equipment, curbing pollution in our have the office and the authority to do so and we are running out of time.I am also writing to Prime Minister Harper to express my concerns. Yours truly N.K."

We received this email this morning, from a very well-meaning little girl. I hesitate to use the term woman, as the childish innocence of this e-mail's composition leads me to believe that this is not from a mature individual. I'm going to guess that it's from a 10-year old. If the author is any older than that, not only would I be surprised, but they are dumber than a stick if that is in fact their understanding of how the world works.

I'm going to have to assume that she is talking about the orca (Killer Whale) populations in the Pacific Region. They would be the only ones that might consume salmon and therefore be adversely affected by the dwindling salmon stocks. Orcas, it should be noted, are not whales at all. They are in fact the largest members of the dolphin family. They live on many prey items, not simply salmon. If the salmon become less plentiful, they will simply switch their diets to accomodate. BC's coasts are rich in seals and sea lions, both known prey items of orcas. To carry this even further, orcas actively hunt down and kill several species of whales, which in reality is how they earned their name.

Dwindling salmon stocks are indeed a valid concern in the Pacific Region. The commercial fishermen, as well as those who fish recreationally for salmon, are almost besides themselves beause of the conservation measures taken by DFO in the Pacific Region. Conversely, the Aboriginals are allowed free reign as far as harvesting salmon goes, which they regularly do by spreading gillnets across a salmon run and basically hoovering the rivers clean. Our political correctness will be the undoing of us yet. It will certainly spell the end of the salmon stocks in the meantime. It is true that at one time in our collective history, the aboriginals were rightly seen as the stewards of our wildlife resources. The voices of wisdom when it came to the interactions between man and beast. Well, that's no more than just another bad and inaccurate Hollywood stereotype these days. The aboriginals are the absolute worse offenders when it comes to the bold, in-your-face raping and mismanagement of our remaining anadromous fish stocks. Then of course, there is the incredible amount of poaching which goes on, committed by non-aboriginal criminals. Fisheries research institutes are also pointing their collective fingers at global warming, when attempting to explain the decline of the returning West Coast salmon stocks.

Recent research has indicated Navy sonar equipment has been found in many cases to cause not only disorientation in whales, but actual internal injuries, in cases involving super-powerful USN types of active sonar. The Americans have never developed a shallow water ASW (anti-submarine warfare) capability, simply because their sonar sets are so overpowered. True, in the deep water ocean, there exists a requirement for a long-range sonar capability, certainly for vessels escorting a CBG (carrier battle group). Must these be used to their full potential in peacetime? If all the nations which are capable of fielding a serious submarine threat towards the US Naval assets played by the rules, no. But being realistic, that's not likely to happen anytime soon. As a brief asides, Fisheries and Oceans Canada does not dictate policy when it comes to matters affecting national security, or how our Navy conducts it's business. The Minister can make a case (as presented quite likely through the Marine Mammal Protection section of DFO - Pacific Region) for the judicious use of Canadian naval sensors, but we are not the ones who are in conflict with indiginous whale or orca populations here. This young lady is misquoting articles written with regards to US Naval units, who operate not only off the East and West Coasts of North America, but in oceans around the globe. They do not however operate in Puget Sound or the Juan de Fuca Straits, with their sonars blasting away.

Curbing pollution in our oceans is also a very worthy sentiment and a real emergency. No doubt it will shock this young lady to discover that there are many federal laws and regulations already in place (Fisheries Act, Species At Risk Act, Canada Shipping Act) and being enforced to accomplish this very aim. These laws however are only enforceable as far as our territorial waters' limits stretch. We do not own or hold sway over the Oceans. We regulate what happens along our coastal waters, that's about it... Oh yes, there is DFO's International Affairs section, but their involvement is rather limited.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada's International Affairs Directorate develops policies and coordinates relations and negotiations related to international fisheries management. The Directorate also carries out the following activities:

- provides Canada with benefits related to the transboundary and internationally managed fish stocks industry

- administers international treaties and agreements, such as the Pacific Salmon Treaty

- negotiates with international fisheries organizations, such as the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas

- participates in international forums on the conservation and protection of fish, including wild Pacific and Atlantic salmon

- oversees the resolution of disputes related to fisheries management and maritime boundaries.

So as you can plainly see, for as much as we can probably agree that time is running short for many marine species (and probably mankind as well...) and contrary to what our young N.K. believes, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada has neither the office, nor the authority required to save all the whales, whether they be in our waters or not. Even those which are not whales. Lastly, I might suggest that she is currently behind the trends. For as much as our orcas deserve every protection we can afford them, the world's shark populations are in a far more perilous state. But then again, that is yet one more situation that neither the Minister nor his organization, can do anything about. Yes, Canada as a country can voice it's concerns to other world leaders, but all we can actually do is to care for the species which inhabit our waters.

Little N.K. opens by stating: "I don't care what it takes". This might have been better versed as: "I don't know what it takes...". Just so you know, little girl, what it takes is a world commitment to safeguard all marine species. As it stands now, the world is far more intent on it's commitment to clean the world's oceans of every living thing, in a bid to feed our world's ever-exploding population. We're talking Indonesia, China, Japan, Spain, Portugal, Russia... any one of the nations that fish illegally and/or wastefully, in the waters of other countries. Lastly, even countries that follow the established commercial fishing regulations of their respective governments, often cannot help avoid serious tonnages of by-catch. These are fish species which are unwittingly harvested along with other legitimately targeted species. They were simply at the "wrong place at the wrong time". The worldwide damage done by bottom-trawling alone, where the ocean floor is turned into a virtual moonscape, is something that our oceans may never recover from.

I admire this young female wanting to do something positive, but she really needs to take her blinders off and get educated. Learning about the oceans and the creatures that live in them, about how they are affected by what we as humans do, is the first concrete and positive step an individual can take towards making a difference. Chanting a slogan out of abject ignorance, simply to appear trendy or making preposterous demands out of hand to a government department, does nothing to further your cause nor the welfare of the creatures you claim you want to protect. You can't talk out of your ass if you want anyone to take you seriously.

Harper's office? They'll drop the delete button on her e-mail so fast it'll make her head swim. Why? This has nothing to do with the Office of the Prime Minister of Canada. And neither I might add, does the seal hunt.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A very good weekend...

Okay... so it rained for much of Saturday. We all knew what to expect so I made plans accordingly. My honey was actually off this weekend, which was quite a surprise, actually. We hooked up with some old friends of hers on Friday night, for pizza and conversation. Nice couple. I'm hoping we get to do it again.

Saturday, we worked in a walk in the late morning and ended up getting caught in the beginning of the rains, as we made our way back from Rockcliffe Park. My arm was complaining as we made our way back into the van, but the heat soon took care of that. We grabbed a quick brekkie at the Tim Horton's drive thru (what did we ever do before those breakfast sandwiches???) on the way home. I decided to get some physio done then, as my better half headed out for some shopping with her daughter, I closed up to play some XBOX 360. After all... there are an amazing number of evil forces out there that need to be dealt with, if our life and liberties are to be maintained.

I have spent countless hours traveling the globe, conducting covert and overt ops. I have rapelled from helicopters, parachuted behind enemy lines, have been delivered by small boats, armored vehicles and tanks. I have fast-roped down the face of colossal dams, crawled through jungles, taigas, deserts and ruins, as I confront and dispatch armed miscreants of all nationalities. Muslim extremists, Chechens, Russian Ultranationalists, North Koreans, greedy North and South Americans... all wielding vast arsenals of cutting edge weaponry, including small arms, heavy weaponry, aircraft, armour and renegade MRV nuclear weapons. All this I do at great personal peril, without ever once expecting a thank you from the oblivious civilian population.

I have seen many of my fellow warriors mowed down in battle, but still I forge ahead... I myself have felt the Reaper's touch on many occasions, whether through over-exuberance, misadventure of singular stupidity. I have survived on the occasional bite of cold Kraft Dinner sitting on serving trays, or warm drinks long past their prime of effervescence... a sip of forgotten coffee... cold as the blood of these our cyber-enemies. Through unimaginably trying circumstances I have battled alongside the forces of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six - Vegas and Vegas 2, Ghost Recon 1 through 3 (Advanced Warfighter), Call of Duty 1 through 4 (Level 2), Gears of War, Army of 2, Battlefield Bad Company, the list goes on...

So, much of my Saturday was spent completing the Intermediate level of Call of Duty 4. I cannot tire of that particular game. It is simply so well done, the graphics so awesome...small wonder it won Game of the Year in 2008. And the harder the levels, the more enjoyable the gameplay. I look forward to obtaining my own XBOX 360 system when 'the kids' move out...

Sunday was... well, sunny! So much so that we decided to take a little road trip. First (following a quick stop at Timmie's...), we took a ferry ride from Cumberland over to Masson-Angers, to investigate the flea market. It's always an enjoyable little trip, though as the price per passenger vehicle has now climbed to $8.00, it's actually cheaper to drive into town from Orleans, cross over the bridge to Gatineau and head East from there along the 50 to Masson. Seriously... that doesn't take $8.00 worth of gas, even at today's prices.

Returning from Masson, we decided to take a trip down Route 31 (Bank Street), to pay yet another visit to McHaffie's Flea Market, just 2 miles North of Morrisburg. It just seemed to get sunnier and warmer as we motored along at an unhurried pace. We saw many folks out on their scooters, enjoying what turned out to be a perfect fall riding day. As we passed through Winchester Springs, we came upon a particular white-framed house which is always wonderfully decorated for every holiday and special event of the year. Halloween of course being no exception! They had done a fantastic job of decorating not only their house, but the front yard as well. At my wife's suggestion, we reckoned we simply couldn't pass by without taking at least a couple of pictures. The shots turned out great and we were happy we had decided to stop.

Arriving at the flea market, we toodled around for a little bit, my Honey obtaining information on the prices for renting a table there and about their waiting list. We browsed around upstairs and downstairs before deciding to head home. We bought a bushel of beautiful Cortland apples on the way out, for a mere $10.00, which we proceded to munch on as we made our way back to Orleans. They were delicious! Firm, sweet with just a little tang and so juicy! Yummy!!

I had appraised my better half that I intended on taking Baby out for a quick romp, if the weather was still holding by the time we made it home. As we made our way back, I could see the masses of dark clouds moving in from the Southwest. The sun was still out and the temperature was still warm enough and I figured I could squeeze in a quick ride to somewhere. As we arrived home, I headed to the shop to get it some physio exercises before heading out. I have found that some stretching exercises help, just before taking the bike out, as they limber up my arm and shoulder. Having completed these, I went back into the house to brief my spouse. I told her I planned on taking the ride I never finished on the 20th of July. I was going to ride along St.Joseph, through the intersection where all the bad shit happened, along the Parkway to downtown. From there I would head out along Colonel By to Hunt Club, then complete the loop by heading down River Road to Rideau Road, left along the Ramsayville Road, etc...

She watched me back Baby out of the barn, the wind picking up and gusting now as I slowly crawfished down the driveway. She shot me a worried glance and told me to ride safely. I assured her that I would be fine as I switched on the ignition key and that I would ride "like a little old man". I thumbed the starter and Baby sprang to life instantly. She remained in the driveway, watching me until I snicked Baby into gear and trundled off. God knows I appreciated her concern and love her for it, but fear is a loathsome emotion. I despise it. It paralyzes a person, suffocates them... can stop you dead in your tracks and not allow you to progress any further in your life.

I'm not a superstitious person, but I felt I had to go through that ill-fated intersection as soon as I could. If for no other reason than to take the curse off it. It was the old analogy of 'falling off a horse' all over again. I refused to allow it to hold any power over me, to colour my emotions one way or the other. This was the whole reason behind this particular outing. As I weaved down Jeanne D'Arc on my way to St.Joseph, I was perfectly serene. Again, my shoulder and arm gave me a little grief on the right-hand curves, but I ignored it. I was focused... in the zone. Arriving at the lights marking the intersection with St.Joseph, I patiently waited for the left-turning arrow. It came and I wheeled to the left, picking the inside lane this time and checking my speed. There were several cars behind me but I was not about to be pushed around. I held my speed at a sedate 65-70kmh. I scanned all lanes ahead, Eastbound and Westbound. There were no cars waiting to turn left. Had there been, I most likely would have laid on my horn, just to make sure I had their undivided attention. The green light held for me at Youville and St.Joseph and we sailed through the intersection without incident.

It was done! The demons had been banished. I would never have to think about this intersection in a negative light again. I carried on to the Parkway and thoroughly enjoyed the ride. I passed many fellow riders and was able to prop my left hand up on the handlebar at an angle that I could shoot them a 'stationary wave'. They saw it and returned it. Excellent! It was getting darker and more blustery as the time wore on, but clad in my Joe Rocket ballistic nylon jacket and riding pants, I was toasty warm and weatherproof. I knew I could smell rain in the air, despite what the 'weather witches' had said about rain only arriving later on in the evening. An old salt can't be fooled. I decided then to make a loop around 47 Clarence and head back home, after a brief stop at The Lookoff. The ride back was every bit as enjoyable and I actually kept my speed below 80kmh.

As I arrived back home, the garage door opened and there stood my Honey. She has developed a sensitive ear for the sound of Baby's thumping 1800cc V-Twin engine. She is very considerate about getting the garage door for me, when I return from my travels. She was happy and relieved to see me back, safe and sound as it were. I had ended the day on a note I could be happy with. I had no sooner parked Baby in the barn, than it started sprinkling outside. I smiled as my spouse advised me of this. Score another one for the Old Salt. All in all, it had been a very good weekend.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

On chain letters...

The internet, for as much as it can be an endless source of useful information, is also full of junk, spam and bullshit. That's the problem with an unfiltered milieu. Every so often, despite our best defenses, we will find in our e-mail inboxes, that most annoying of communications: the chain-letter.

I do not suffer from the guilt of not forwarding however many billion chain-letters have been sent to me, by people who actually believe that if you send them on, some poor 6-year-old girl in Arkansas with a breast on her forehead, will be able to raise enough money to have it removed before her redneck parents sell her to a traveling freak show. To be brutally honest, I delete them as soon as I realize what they are.

Is it possible that there are people stupid enough to believe that Bill Gates is going to give them and everyone to whom they send "his" email, $1000? How stupid are they? Or: "Hey!! Check this out... If I scroll down this page and make a wish, I'll get laid by Christina Aguillera next week!" What a bunch of bullshit.

Yes, it's entirely possible that the evil chain-letter leprechauns will come into my house and sodomize me in my sleep for not continuing a chain-letter that was started by Peter in 5 A.D. and brought to this country by midget lesbian pilgrims on Leif Ericson's longboat.

Fuck 'em.

And the very worse of these chain-letters, are the ones which nowadays use the pretext of supporting our Canadian troops in Afghanistan. I don't even care that the vast majority of the soldiers depicted are in fact American troops, serving in Iraq. But whoever decided to trivialize, demean and mock our men and women in uniform, by making them the subject of a fucking chain-letter, deserves to be hung up by their eyelids and beat in their nutsack until they blink!! They also have the gall to include such gems as: "I'd better not see this chain-letter not forwarded or deleted!", as if these idiots actually have access to my personal e-mail account and settings. They want to make us believe that their sense of patriotism and 'esprit de corps' with our military is right up there in the stratosphere, while having the nerve to call into question ours. You're not worthy to tie the fucking laces on their boots, you senseless, moronic, attention-seeking civvie!!!

If people actually, really wanted to show support for our troops overseas or here at home, there are many official websites where they can do so, where our military men and women will be able to see such posts. Facebook has several... These chain-letters strike me as a means of simply having others believe that you support our troops, without actually having to do anything. Even forwarding on a photo-montage of our troops, fine. But don't insult them by making them the subject of a chain-letter.

If you're going to forward something to me, at least send me something mildly amusing. I've seen all the: "send this to 10 of your closest friends, and this poor, wretched excuse for a human being will somehow receive a nickel from some omniscient being" forwards about 90 million times.

I don't fucking care. Show a little intelligence and think about what you're actually contributing to by sending out these forwards. Chances are, it's your own unpopularity.

The point being? If you get some chain-letter that's threatening to leave you shagless or luckless for the rest of your life, delete it!! If you receive any type of chain-letter which challenges your patriotism, your intelligence, your ethics or your compassion for others, delete it!! If you receive a chain-letter which promises to bring you luck, love, riches, fame or popularity, delete it!! If you are desperate enough to buy into any of these, you have way more issues than can be discussed here. If it's funny, by all means send it on. We can all use a little more humour in our day...

Don't piss people off by trying to make them feel guilty about some leper in Botswana with no teeth, who has been tied to the ass of a dead elephant for 27 years and whose only salvation is the 5 cents per letter he'll receive if you forward this email. Forwarding chain-letters does not make you a good or a better person, it does not show others that you care or that you have a soul. What is does show people is that you are gullible, have a low sense of self-esteem and are desperate to be recognized, even if it's only by attaching your name to some piece of unintelligible drivel.

Now forward this to everyone you know. Otherwise, tomorrow morning your underwear will turn carnivorous and will consume your genitals.

Have a nice fucking day.

P.S. Send me 15 bucks...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"I'd like a Canadian fishing license..."

Among the many calls that we deal with, one of my favorites is the one where we have an American caller, asking to obtain a "Canadian fishing license". Now I've never purchased a fishing license in the USA, but I can pretty much assure you that each individual State manages their own natural resources. I'd lay odds that there is no one office in Washington, DC that is responsible for issuing "American fishing licenses". The same would go for hunting and/or waterfowling...

I'm not sure how small Americans think this country to the North of them is. Odds are they've never looked it up on a map, or they'd realize that Canada is larger still than the USA. Just like in the US, our federal government has little to do with the managing of each province and territory's natural resources. That's a responsibility which is left up to them. Just like education and health care.

I also enjoy how cavalierly they advise me that they'll be doing a little fishing in Alberta, then they're planning to skip over to Ontario then Kwee-Bek, to try their luck there. Again, these folks have obviously not measured any distances on a map and have no idea that they are in for days of driving.

'Murrikans sure are a funny bunch... 'Course then again, they're no funnier than the Canadian folks that call us up from one province, wanting to know if their fishing license is valid in another province they're planning on visiting... Why sure. They're just like having an International Driver's License. Better yet, they're just like Visa or Master Card. You can use 'em anywhere... Ummmm... I'm NOT actually serious about that, for those of you who might seriously be wondering. You can't use them in any other province/territory but the one they were issued in. Sorry if I got anyone danced up out there...

Monday, October 20, 2008

A fine fall weekend...

As weekends go, in the realm of 'things accomplished', this past one would be hard to beat. No, it was not filled with pre-winter preparations for vans, gardens or other such concerns. Nor was it a blitz in order to prepare for this coming Halloween. But this past weekend saw the return of Baby, the Queen of the Rockcliffe Parkway, and myself to the local back roads and byways.

Yes... I went out for a ride. Not just on Saturday, but on Sunday as well. True, I am paying for it this Monday morning as I sit writing of this particular exploit, but it was worth any amount of discomfort it might have caused me. It is hard to put into words, the feeling that riding provides me with on a normal day. To have been able to get back in the saddle this weekend, after a 3 month forced hiatus, was beyond words. Mother Nature provided us with the perfect weather, as well as a palette of wonderful colours and all those evocative aromas which are associated with the fall season.

My first ride on Saturday afternoon, for as much as I tried to make it a joint venture with my buddy Ben, turned out to be a solo effort due to circumstances outside our control. I had tried to arrange for a 'safety number' to be with me on this initial outing, but it wasn't to be. I half thought about calling it off, but then decided I simply couldn't. I had built myself up in anticipation of this and I couldn't turn it off. The deal I had made with myself was pretty much: "If you can dress yourself for the ride, you can go...". My little bout of running the bike up and down the driveway had also gone some ways towards convincing me that maybe this was doable. I had been looking at the lid (helmet) I had been wearing when I went down. The visor was pretty much trashed on one side and provided a constant visual reminder of what had transpired that day. I decided a trip out to the dealer's was in order, to replace said offending visor. That would become my mission...

At precisely 1207hrs, I left a message with Ben's answering service and flashed Baby up. Backing her out of the driveway, I could feel the first twinge in my shoulder. It was manageable. I snicked her in gear and we were off. Veering onto Innes Road, it seemed almost like an out-of-body experience. It had been so long since I found myself idling along with traffic. My shoulder had a way of reminding me it was real enough, though. I trundled along with the hordes of Saturday shoppers until we finally came to Mer Bleue, where I wheeled left and left the crowds far behind me. It was now just Baby, me and the back roads. Traffic was practically non-existent as we loped along. I found I could actually relax and enjoy the sights and smells. We poked along and I experimented with various strategies for alleviating the pain in my arm and shoulder. I rapidly discovered that any right-handed turns which caused a hyper-extension of my left arm, caused more pain than anything. Well, except for crossing the train tracks on the Anderson Road, before meeting up with the loop on the 30.

Keeping my speed between 60 and 80kmh, I made my way down Rideau Road. Arriving at the 31, I opted to turn left and make for the McEwans gas station on Route 8, which leads into Manotick Station and finally, Manotick itself. I reckoned I could use some gas as my idiot light had come on and my shoulder needed a break. I stopped at the pumps and took some time getting myself upright off the seat. My shoulder was on fire and with every increment I moved it downwards off the handlebar, it hurt even more. I glanced around to see if anyone had noticed my situation. Nope. Two young Air Cadets were parked outside the doors, collecting donations in exchange for tags. I filled the tank and headed in to settle up. The younger of the two wannabe-aerdales opened the door for me. "Why thank you, Sir!:, I boomed. They both smiled. On the way out, I plunked a toonie in the young feller's can. "Do you want a tag, Sir?", he asked. I answered: "Nope...and don't call me 'Sir', my parents were married...". More smiles from the pair of them.

Gingerly, I got back onto the bike. This had now become an exercise in saving face. I couldn't have those two young future Zoomies see me wince as I headed out. I reckon I managed to pull it off, as I peeled out. I carried on along Route 8 until I came into Manotick proper, where I hung a right at the Tim Horton's and onto the River Road, to begin heading back into town. All the while, I find myself making a conscious effort to register each sight, each aroma, into my memory. Storing for future reference, I suppose. So I could look back and retrieve them, enjoying each one over and over again during those long winter months. Before long, I had made my way to the airport. Running along the edge of the runways, I came to the lights at Hunt Club and Riverside. A short left-hand turn, the run across the bridge, past Prince of Wales and finally, the right hander onto Laser Drive and into the Powersports parking lot. Made it! After I had disembarked, I took a couple of pictures to preserve the moment.

My luck held out, as I managed to locate a replacement visor for my particular make and style of lid. The last one left, as it turned out. All for the princely sum of $7.36. To buy anything motorcycle related, where the dollar price is not at least in the two-digit range, is uncanny. It just doesn't happen normally. I bought a Coke from the machine in the staff's lunchroom and ambled about the riding gear section, looking at some of their newer items. Sure, there were plenty of bikes to look at on the showroom floor... but none that could possibly interest me. Oh sure, there's that sweet little ST 1300 model, but that's only an "if I had too much money" kind of bike. There's no way any bike in there could take my Baby's place.

Finishing my pop, I was anxious to be once more on my way. I had changed my visor on the spot, throwing the old reminder in the garbage where it belonged. I straddled Baby and backed her out of her spot, thumbing her to life as we went. As we idled, I again felt this wave of gratitude wash over me. We pulled out of the parking lot and made the light at the corner. We left in an effortless arc to the left, Baby roaring ever louder as I twisted the wick, leaning her hard over. Crossing Prince of Wales, I shifted over to the right-hand lane and left the building traffic at the River Road. I retraced my way back home, taking my time and trying to extend my time in the saddle, despite the pain it sometimes caused. I stopped twice on the way back, just to rest my shoulder. I made it back home just before 1500hrs. I felt good as I slowly dismounted in my driveway. Vindicated, some might say... Yes, my shoulder was smarting some, but I knew that after a session of physio exercises, I'd have it back in shape soon. My shoulders and neck muscles, that might be another story.

I finally did hook up with Benny on Sunday and we retraced the route I had taken on Saturday. We had to make an unplanned stop coming off the Ramsayville Road onto the Rideau Road, as my shoulder was really giving me Hell. Maybe I was pushing it after yesterday's session. Benny had a smoke while I just chilled and rested my shoulder. Many bikes passed us as we stood there chatting. At last I felt up to leaving again so we headed out once more. We stopped at Tim's in Manotick, for a coffee and a snack. While there, we met up with three fellow riders, one of whom was a retired Air Force type riding a pristine red and black Valkyrie. The man was a true chrome whore, to boot. His buddies were riding a black Wing and a nicely painted H-D Rocker. Good people. We chatted for a bit then wished them well as we mounted up and headed out to join up with Riverside, then Hog's Back and finally Colonel By Drive.

The drive back into town was great. We continued through Sussex and onto the Rockcliffe Parkway, where again at my insistence, we stopped at the Lookoff. The pain of getting off the bike and letting my arm down was incredible. Clearly I was pushing the envelope, but I couldn't very well throw in the towel now. A little rest and we'd be good to go for the final push. The Parkway was not overly crowded, though we kept a sharp eye for Mounties. We're not speed demons by any means, but sometimes as you're cruising along, the bike likes to find it's own speed. It just happens... and it's not normally in the realm of no 60kmh, either...

We made it back to Casabella in fine shape. I was happy to put Baby back in the barn and silently thanked her for such a great weekend of riding. Ben and I then engaged in some serious gaming, ridding the world of terrorists while happily munching away on hot, delicious pizza from Gabriel's. Truly, a great way to close out such a fine fall weekend.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Where the Wind's Like a Whetted Knife......

Sea Fever

I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

John Masefield, Poet Laureate of England (1930-67).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A shocker of an election...

This election's results have been nothing but shocking. I'm not talking about the results as far as who was elected, who lost a seat or a riding, or which party ended up in power here. The most shocking tally was the one which counted voters who failed to exercise their right, their privilege to vote. Are you ready for this???

10,000,000 voters did not bother to vote!! TEN MILLION VOTERS!! Are you hearing this???? Jesus, folks... That's fully one third of this country's population!! Who the Hell are these people...? Are they immigrants from other countries who don't know that they can vote here yet? Do they think they are not allowed? Let's face it... Many of the people we get here come from countries where the average individual does not have the luxury of voting. Some come from countries where their compatriots have given their lives in a struggle for democracy, so that others might have the right to vote. People have killed and died, for the privilege of voting. Somehow though, I find it hard to believe that someone who is finally given the right to vote, would fail to exercise this right. No... I don't think most of those who did not vote yesterday, were foreigners.

I would tend to believe that it is rather those who have become fat, lazy and complacent with endless helpings of democracy and human rights, who do not see the importance or the necessity of exercising this most fundamental democratic right. Those who have never been without this right. Those who have never faced tyranny, oppression, or lived under a dictatorship. Only these people, could think of treating the right to vote so cavalierly. So hear this, you lot... If you didn't vote, you have also given up your right to bitch about anything having to do with the federal government. No vote? No say! If I hear someone bitching about the federal government, the first thing I will ask them is: "Did you vote?" If they did, well and good. If they did not? Then it's a big: "Shut the fuck up!! You have nothing to say about anything! If you didn't vote, you have forfeited your right to complain!!!"

After all, that's just the democratic way...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A little custom physiotherapy...

During this Thanksgiving weekend, I found a way to be even more thankful than I would normally be. I pulled the bike from the garage and flashed her up. As she idled along, I gently rolled her backwards down the driveway, until her rear tire rested in the street. Then, I snicked her into first and rode her up the driveway, until I reached the open garage door. There, I would haul the clutch in and put her in neutral.

I would then allow her to roll backwards again, until we wound up in our starting position once more. Again, I would ride her up to the garage door and put her in neutral. I did this a number of times, not only to warm the engine, but to warm my heart and stoke the flames of hope and determination. I could not suppress the smile this brought to my face. It allowed my arms to stretch to their appointed positions on the handlebars. I could feel muscles, tendons and sinews of my atrophied left arm working overtime, as I handled the bike coasting in reverse, operated the clutch and took the strain of the bike lunging forward under power.

One thing I did discover, is that the shifter pedal has to be raised some, to accomodate a riding boot under it, without having to go 'digging' for it. I also discovered that my arm is not as strong as it needs to be yet. Still, it was a marvellous bout of physio. As good for the body as it was for the morale. I have a sneaking suspicion that I just might get in that one last hurrah, before the snow flies...

I can only work, hope and pray...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

On motorcycle clubs...

Regardless of what Hollywood might have to say, motorcycle clubs back in the day were just that. They were clubs composed initially of World War 2 veterans, who were seeking an alternative lifestyle as they recovered from their experiences in the war. They chose to be with other like-minded individuals who understood where they were coming from and who shared the same set of values. They did not reassimilate well with civilians and so formed their own society. They could be a hard partying bunch, but it was not within their nature to spread fear, terrorize communities or deal in shady undertakings. They were simply anti-establishment and chose to hang with their own. Bikers were intimately familiar with their rides and many were well able to build them from scratch. It was a source of pride for a biker to be able to diagnose and repair any ill his bike might be suffering from.

The so-called "incident" which would forever brand motorcycle enthusiasts as hoodlums in the eyes of the public and Hollywood, never really happened. The Hollister "riot" occurred during the Gypsy Tour motorcycle rally in Hollister, CA from July 4 to July 6, 1947. The event was sensationalized by yellow news reports of bikers "taking over the town" and staged photos of public rowdiness.

The rally, which was sponsored by the Americain Motorcyclist Association (AMA), was attended by approximately 4000 people. This was several times more than had been expected, and the small town of Hollister was overwhelmed by bikers who were forced to sleep on sidewalks and in parks.

About 50 people were arrested during the event, most for public intoxication, reckless driving, and disturbing the peace. Members of the Boozefighters Motorcycle Club (the oldest motorcycle club in North America), in particular, were reported to be fighting and racing in the streets. There were 60 reported injuries, of which 3 were serious. Hell, during Bike Week in Daytona Beach, FL (first week in March, every year...) several people are killed outright in car/motorcycle mishaps and it never receives any national media attention whatsoever...

The 1953 film The Wild One (starring Marlon Brando) was inspired by the event and based on an article run in Life magazine which included a staged picture of a drunk man resting on a motorcycle amidst a mass of beer bottles. The so-called 'rider' in the photo didn't even own a bike and the bottles were placed around the front end of the bike for dramatic effect.

Representatives of the AMA, seeking to deflect the negative press surrounding the rally, stated at a press conference that "the trouble was caused by the one per cent deviant that tarnishes the public image of both motorcycles and motorcyclists." This statement led to the term "one-percenter" to describe "outlaw" bikers. Again, all based on sensationalist reports by over-eager news reporters.

Bikers were (and still are, for those who wear the title honestly...) a breed who lived for the freedom of the road. Who reveled in the pure pleasure of the ride. But motocycle clubs started to change. In the sixties, they became caught up in the drug counter-culture and discovered there was a lucrative business to be had in supplying the hippies and others with their drugs of choice. Thus began the downward slide of organized MCs. They branched out from drugs to the other domains normally run by organized crime families across the USA and Canada. Throughout the years, they steadily became that which they loathed: Big Business... 'suits' posing as bikers.

These days, bonafide MCs are no longer "motorcycle clubs". For any club to actually fly a patch (wear a set of colours on their back...), they must obtain explicit permission from whichever of the 'Big Four' controls their local area. (The Big Four are: Hell's Angels, Outlaws, Bandidos and the Pagans). They also become a de facto type of 'farm team' for the local Big Four chapter, as a manpower pool and source of possible future prospects (strikers). But a motorcycle club is the last thing they are. Yes, the regulations of many clubs stipulate that their members "are required to own a Harley-Davidson motorcycle", which in fact after they join, no longer belongs to them. Nothing does. Everything a patchholder owns, becomes property of the club, once they've been accepted into the ranks. Few of them actually ride anymore. They are organized crime syndicates, pure and simple. Big business masquerading as travellers of the open road. You're more likely to see them in Beemers or Escalades, these days. Yet they have no freedom of movement. There are rival factions just waiting to gun them down if they stray outside the areas that they control. They are no more bikers than I am an astronaut.

Many people who are star-struck will attempt to defend 'motorcycle clubs' as simply being misunderstood gypsies. Stupid fucks... They will regale you with tales of how these clubs thrive on brotherhood and a free-spirit style of life that 'citizens' just don't get... That they're just normal, hard-working Joes with families and honest jobs...that they're just bikers on the side because they enjoy the "brotherhood of riding". Fuckin' gimme a break!! What a load of horseshit!! It gives you an idea of how clueless these people actually are when it comes to this world of outlaws and more to the point, the world of actual bikers. If they are patch holders in a bona fide MC, they are criminals. Plain and simple. Just like there were no "good Nazis". They'll also try to sell you the idea that these assholes INVENTED motorcycling. Whatever!! Nothing could be further from the truth. Motorcycling was undertaken by hundreds of thousands during the twenties. It was all the rage back then... Brotherhood my ass. These people butcher each other on a regular basis. You will find far more honour and brotherhood at any rally attended by GDIs (God-Damned Independents) or non-associated riders. We are the people who still understand what all this is about. We are the ones who ride. Not those crooks, extortionists, murderers and pushers who are riding on the coattails of our predecessors.

Motorcycling forums on the internet are rife with debates amongst newbie riders, agonizing over whether they have the right to call themselves 'bikers'. It's almost laughable. They are still convinced that the Hollywood definition of a biker is the only one that holds any truth, when in reality, it is the least truthful. Whatever an individual chooses to call himself, if he is a free individual who does not wear any club's uniform and therefore does not belong to another man... he is a biker. Because a biker is free. A biker embodies the very principle of freedom. Members of motorcycle clubs are slaves in uniforms, who must obey the whims of a few and cannot ever dream of experiencing the freedom that even the most novice of riders enjoys.

We are the 99%ers... and very happy for it.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A visit from the Ladies...

I was fortunate enough to have been offered a ride into work by my spouse this Friday morning. The ride in by bus is never traumatic but all the same, the thought of a smooth, comfortable ride with no banging and jostling, was a great way to start the day. As we headed off from St.Joseph Boulevard and onto the start of the Rockcliffe Parkway, I found myself musing out loud if we would see some deer on the way in. My spouse chided me that I was becoming spoiled, after seeing a graceful doe bound across the road just the day before.

We arced over the overpass spanning the six lanes of the 174, noticing the long line of headlights inbound to the city's centre. My head was steadily pivoting from left to right, scanning the sides of the road and beyond, into the bush. I remarked to my wife that this was a tricky time of year for spotting deer, as the deer's coats took on a subdued moca shade, allowing them to blend in perfectly with the dead vegetation of the fields and forests. Descending the slope from the overpass, we engaged the slow right-hander, where that doe had skipped across the road just the other day. No repeat performance today, however.

I willed my eyes to concentrate further down the road, still nothing. We came up to the first curve to the left. As I've trained to do a thousand times, I checked my eyes to the left, leading into the turn with my line of sight. There! In the shallow ditch to the left of the opposing lane, stood 2 does. One, the larger of the two, was closer to the edge of the road. "Deer!" I sounded off. "Over to the the ditch...the smaller one is under a sumac shrub...". My wife slowed the vehicle to a crawl and the closer of the deer turned back to rejoin the smaller one in the relative safety of their small hollow. We slowly passed them, mesmerized by their beauty. "Good morning, ladies...", I softly called through the open window. They tracked us with their big, brown liquid eyes... "Aren't they beautiful...!!?!??", I heard one of us say... I always get excited when I have the chance, the privilege to observe wildlife. There are times whe I really don't know how I could hunt way back when I was a young 'un.

We maintained a slower pace, signalling oncoming cars by momentarily flashing our brights. There were no further sightings on the way in, but it was a great way to start a Friday morning! We're getting into the fall rutting season now and deer will be everywhere. Stay alert out there and I hope you get to enjoy such encounters as we've been fortunate enough to have.