Friday, August 28, 2009

Baby's 61st...

Wednesday morning, I backed Baby out of the driveway and headed in to work. I ran through the serpentine which leads to Innes Road and was lucky enough to get a break in the traffic, which allowed me to carry on with my left-hand turn, when I had reached the end of Dorima. For it being 0640hrs, traffic was already starting to build as we headed Westward. I travelled along as far as Jeanne D'Arc, where I then turned right and headed North towards St.Joseph.

I was quite happy that the Rockcliffe Parkway was now open for business as usual. I had gotten to enjoy the alternate route of Innes/Blair/Ogilvie and Aviation, but I was more than ready to leave the traffic behind by returning to my old and favorite way into work. As I reached the Bottom of Jeanne D'Arc and St.Joseph, the light changed to red and we were made to cool our heels for a bit. I happened to glance down at the odometer. It read 61,003kms. I patted Baby's tank and muttered: "Happy 61st, Baby...". Each thousand klicks is an anniversary of sorts. A milestone. I try to notice and remember where I am whenever I see the thousand mark changing. Not with any great success, however.

The light changed and our line headed left along St.Joseph. I swung to the outside lane, rapidly upshifting to 4th and then settling into a slow cruise. I still really eyeball the intersection at Youville, everytime I come up on it. That being the site of my life-altering accident last year... We cruised through, unmolested... The air was remarkably cool. A chilly 9 degrees, if I remember right. Clearly a sign that whatever "summer" we had been accorded for this year, was now drawing to a close. The leather and fleece Bristol neck wrap I had decided to put on before leaving home, felt decidedly toasty. It was not even September yet and we were at the beginning of fall. Still, fall riding is probably my favorite.

As we engaged the Parkway, there were a couple of cars ahead of me and a couple behind. We strung out so that there was a comfortable distance between The remainder of the ride in was casual, non life-threatening, good. We passed our 'sacrificial lamb' near the Rockcliffe Airport. The Mounties were writing him up as we motored by. Stereotypical young guy with the backwards hat on, obviously not paying attention. Too bad, so sad... Better him than me. We arced over the airport overpass, sweeping into the long left-hander which led us past the RCMP stables. I felt as though I could ride all day...

Before I knew it, I was pulling into the parking lot on Clarence Street. So much for my daydreams of a prolonged road trip. I backed Baby into her habitual spot and shut her down. "Sorry, Hon... No more fun for this morning!" I dismounted, payed for my parking and gathered my stuff to lug upstairs with me. As I walked away, I stopped and turned. I don't know why. It's like an involuntary habit. I always need that last look at her. Just to see her sitting there at rest. Just to make sure she's okay. Just to appreciate the view...

Yeah... Happy 61st, ol' gal...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

On "The Hurt Locker"...

There aren't too many times when I can walk away from a movie and feel like I've really gotten my money's worth. Last night proved to be an exception. Last night being 'Toonie Tuesday' at Ottawa's Rainbow Theatre, my better half and I decided we'd go see 'The Hurt Locker'. At the staggering price of $4.00, we got two tickets (that's $2.00 per ticket) for the show and even decided to splurge on a $4.00 bag of popcorn.

The director of this film was Kathryn Bigelow, who among her credits can claim: Point Break, K-19: The Widowmaker, Mission Zero, Stange Days, as well as 3 episodes of Homicide: Life on the Street. Now I'm not going to claim to be knowledgeable about her, or recite such plattitudes as: "Oh yes, I'm a big fan of her work...", or worse (and far more hypocritical), hold her up in comparison to other directors I know even less. I wouldn't know the lady if I tripped over her. I mention her name here simply because it ought to be known. As a director, she did a masterful job with this movie. The movie itself provides a stark, thoroughly unglamorous (and thereby fairly accurate) look at the day-to-day insanity of an EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) team, as it tries to survive it's rotation in Iraq.

Each scene is a microcosm of life as it must be for those who are forced to live it here, on a grinding, mindlessly exhausting daily basis. The heat, the confusion, the suspicion, the frustration and the brutality of it all, are exceedingly well presented. There were so many little instances, frozen moments, which were recognizable, that could be verified, identified with. The interplay between the characters, each one totally different from the next, yet whose lives (and fates) were inescapably interwoven. I was pleased by the knowing display of inter-service rivalry and competitiveness, contempt and jealousy (US Army vs. Rangers) exhibited by the main protagonists. Jeremy Renner was brilliant in his portrayal as Ranger S/Sgt. William James. He's the FNG, newly-arrived following the untimely death of his predecessor. He may be new to this company, but he outranks his US Army counterpart, played by Anthony Mackie. He is also vastly experienced in 'wearing the suit', with well over 800 'disarms' to his operational credit. His experience at times makes him appear reckless.

Anthony Mackie was equally convincing in his role as Sgt. J.T.Sanborn. He at once despises and envies his Ranger counterpart, played by Renner. Sanborn is the cautious, by-the-book NCO who views life in Iraq as a never-ending shitstorm. He just wants to make it out alive. The experiences they survive will forge a bond of brotherhood between them, despite their differences. Brian Geraghty rounded out the group as Spc. Owen Eldridge. He is the frightened youngster, still so unsure about the very basics of soldiering but who finally comes to grips with their reality when he is forced to kill an enemy insurgent, in order to protect his buddies. Just as he is hitting his stride, he is wounded in a firefight and sent home.

Every scene captures the unbearable tension of existing in a land, where every person is a possible hostile. Where the enemy is ever-present, yet indistinguishable. Add to this the very nature of the EOD's raison-d'être, and you have a movie which is pretty much guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. Ralph Fiennes puts in a surprise cameo appearance, in a scene which I will not detail. It involves a sniper duel, where for as much as they attempt to portray the damage which is inflicted by a .50 caliber Barrett semi-auto sniper rifle, it is the only scene which falls short of the mark in the entire movie.

Some actual .50 cal sniping footage taken in Afghanistan is available at the URL below. It has been credited to the Marines, but I have no idea which unit(s) were actually involved here. It could very well have been our own Canadian lads. I'm warning you, it's fairly graphic. And yes, that's someone's shoulder and arm that you see spinning off into space... Few people understand the type of kinetic forces involved here, when a bullet of that size, travelling at that velocity, hits a soft target like a human being... It simply liquifies it.

So I would have to end by saying yes, if you're looking for a movie that would typify and certainly not glorify operations in Iraq (or any other middle eastern locale...), this should certainly fit the bill. It also provides an insight as to how war can and does profoundly change individuals who are involved in it. Yet, in ways that at times might surprise us.

I thought this was a great movie (as in not filled with Hollywood bullshit, inaccuracies and hype...) and I might even consider buying a copy for my very small, very exclusive collection at home. High praise indeed...

Cheap nights at the movies... Ya gotta love 'em.

Pelley's Nails...

The president of a Newfoundland nail company, Greg Pelley, was looking for a new ad campaign that would launch his product into the mainstream.

He consulted an advertising firm based in Toronto and laid out what he had in mind. Within the hour, he received a call from the young ad executive, who advised him to watch his local CTV channel the following evening at 7:45pm sharp.

The next evening, he dutifully tuned in to CTV at precisely 7:45pm. He was aghast at what he saw. The scene depicted the Son of God hanging on the cross, while in the background the narrator's voice, thick with a bayman's Newfoundland accent intoned: "Pelley nails… they're stronger than Jesus, B'ye!"

Furious, the president phones the ad agency and gives them a royal reaming out. He tells them they have 24 hours to repair whatever damage they might have done to his company's good name. The publicist promises to set everything to right and pleads with the president to watch the next ad which will be scheduled to run the following evening, in the same time slot.

The president, anxious to protect his company's reputation, settles himself in front of his TV at 7:45pm the following evening.

The ad comes on and this time, the viewer sees a bloodied Christ, running in the desert, trying to escape Roman soldiers who are pursuing him. The camera cuts to the soldiers when one rants at the others: "You assholes… I told you we should have used Pelley nails!!"

Monday, August 24, 2009

A trip to Petawawa...

Last Saturday saw me heading out to Petawawa, to attend a pig roast and receive my crest from the Veterans UN/NATO Canada group. I have been looking forward to this for some time now. They are a group of Vets, both retired and still serving, who get together to swap war stories and share good times. They have also been called upon to act as an honour guard at military funerals and repatriations. The link below will lead you to their site, if you're so inclined.

The Ontario chapter has only just recently got it's own website and eventually it will be updated to show pics from this event on Saturday.

I believe a total of 8 new members and supporters received their patch at this meeting. There was nobody that I knew beforehand but that never matters. They were all military and all riders to boot, so there was plenty of commonality right off the bat. They came from every element and MOC. Airborne, Infantry, Medics, Armored, Admin types, Navy, Artillery, you name it. One of the new members was actually the RSM for the RCD*, who are based at Petawawa. (*Regimental Sergeant-Major for the Royal Canadian Dragoons). It was the funniest thing when we first met. He had just arrived and was dismounting from his bike. I commented: "Holy Jesus... look at the mustache on this lad, what? You'd think he was friggin' RCD or something!" That's when he introduced himself as being their RSM. Everyone laughed...

The ride up had been interesting. I took the Rockcliffe Parkway and then the Western Parkway, to head out to the town's West End. I hadn't been this way in ages, it seemed. By the time I stopped off for gas on the March Road, the skies looked as though they would open at any given moment. They were lead grey and I knew I was going to be riding straight into something. I took the time to put on my rain gear before hitting the road again. I hooked back South along March Road until I found myself merging onto the 417 Westbound. Ahead of me were masses of black clouds, piled higher than mountains. Yet they seemed to be tracking slightly to the South of where I was headed. One could only hope...

I settled into a steady 115kmh, keeping to the inside lane (the curb-hugger lane...) so that the remaining traffic could easily get by me. One by one, the exits peeled by. Carp, Kinburn Sideroad, Galetta Sideroad and finally Arnprior. The first milestone. We split off onto the 17 West from that point. Some spits of rain by this point, but nothing terrible. We had actually skirted to the North of that enormous mass of clouds. The Gods were with me so far. Before long, we were sailing by and through Renfrew. I was tempted to stop at the Amtrim Truck Stop of theirs, where I had enjoyed such a fantastic breakfast before the Red Ride in May. Time was pressing however and so we stayed our course.

Haley Station, Chenaux and then Cobden. Cobden had the gas-up stop and the Timmies', neither of which I would be using today. But it was another milestone on this trip. It put us halfway between Arnprior and Petawawa. I saw an exit for Osceola and smiled. Osceola County in Florida, is largely populated by Puerto Ricans these days. Osceola was a war chief with the Seminole Indians of Florida. I can't hear his name without hearing John Anderson's 'Seminole Wind' play in the back of my mind and remembering my time in the Everglades.

Seminole Wind - John Anderson.

Ever since the days of old,
Men would search for wealth untold.
They'd dig for silver and for gold,
And leave the empty holes.
And way down south in the Everglades,
Where the black water rolls and the saw grass waves.
The eagles fly and the otters play,
In the land of the Seminole.

So blow, blow Seminole wind,
Blow like you're never gonna blow again.
I'm calling to you like a long lost friend,
But I know who you are.
And blow, blow from the Okeechobee,
All the way up to Micanopy.
Blow across the home of the Seminole,
The alligators and the garr.

Progress came and took its toll,
And in the name of flood control,
They made their plans and they drained the land,
Now the glades are going dry.
And the last time I walked in the swamp,
I sat upon a Cypress stump,
I listened close and I heard the ghost,
Of Osceola cry.

So blow, blow Seminole wind,
Blow like you're never gonna blow again.
I'm calling to you like a long lost friend
But I know who you are.
And blow, blow from the Okeechobee,
All the way up to Micanopy.
Blow across the home of the Seminole,
The alligators and the garr.

By 1600hrs we were passing through Pembroke. I stopped momentarily for a trip to the heads and some water at the Irving Big Stop, conveniently located right off the highway. I was now only 10 minutes out of Petawawa. I arrived at Layman Lane by 1615 hours. The road itself was dirt so I checked my speed as I turned onto it. There were probably a dozen people already there by the time I came riding in. It was maybe a hundred yards to the end of the road, where I could see the pig roasting in the pit. Yummers!!

As I pulled in, I recognized Captain Bonhomme, my host for the afternoon and one of the founding members of the club. I called out to him as I backed the bike into it's spot. He came to greet me and introduced me to his missus, who happened to be the club's admin officer. From there, I made the rounds and was introduced in turn to the remaining members. One member, Darwin, was a mountain of a man. There was some discussion around his ride and I soon found out that he had low-sided on the trip down, as he tried to avoid a female driver who had piled on the brakes at 110kmh, in the middle of a goddamn highway, because she had seen a small critter crossing the road. He had been hauling a trailer at the time as well. The damage was impressive, but not as impressive as the fact that he was standing there talking to me, with nary a scratch to report on himself.

As the afternoon progressed, more riders would arrive in groups of three to six. Some members had come from as far as Quebec City and Trois-Rivières for this get-together. I wandered from group to group, chatting about the old days, bikes and travelling. I checked out the rides and then wandered over to inspect the piggie. He looked awful tasty rotating on that spit there... I just love a good pig roast. And the trimmings they had laid on for this meal were wonderful. There was corn on the cob, meatballs, devilled eggs, salads, macaroni salad, potato salad, pickles, veggies, baked spuds with all the fixings... I couldn't wait to dig in. But wait we would have to. The ceremony was about to get under way, once they reckoned everyone had shown up.

Our host thanked everyone for attending and he was joined by 'Le Grand', the other founding member, an ex-R22R chap who looked like a cross between Father Time (he musta been 6' 4") and Papa Smurf. Five patches were given to the Dragoon's RSM, for the five of his yound lads who had just come back from Afghanistan. They themselves had been unable to attend this meeting, so the RSM (besides receiving his own patch...) was given theirs, to be presented by their company CO and the RSM at an upcoming parade.

There were 2 patches given to 'Supporters', another 2 full members received their patch and finally, the representative from the Senior Service (NAVY), me... was given his patch. Photos were taken, speeches were given, welcomes exchanged and words of thanks. Then... the pig was ready. It was 1800hrs by this time. We all cued up around the table to fill our plates. The food was delicious and there was enough actual seating room for everyone. I'm not ashamed in the least to say that I made 2 trips to the table. It was as delicious a piggy as I had ever tucked into.

As I sat sipping on a diet ginger ale, feeling wonderfully sated, I glanced at my watch. It was 1900hrs. I would be due for some gas on the way back too. Maybe that Irving Big Stop in Pembroke. I knew I had about an hour of good daylight left, by the time I said my goodbyes, got dressed and left.

I got up and stretched, announced I had to DiDi and began making the rounds to say goodbye. I thanked our hosts for putting on such a wonderful spread and Capt. Bonhomme for inviting me into the fold. I straddled Baby, thumbed her to life and gave a final wave before slowly heading down the dirt road. Pausing at the roadway, I glanced skyward. Didn't look bad here, but ya never know... I banked left and we scooted off down the road towards the 17 Eastbound. Within minutes we were at the stoplight and turning onto the 17.

The run back was interesting, to say the least. The entire run from Arnprior to Renfrew (or now Renfrew to Arnprior), is advertised as a high deer collision risk corridor. It would be dark by the time I arrived at that particular juncture. By the looks of the clouds that I was running into yet again, it would probably be raining as well... Time would tell, I muttered to myself. I stopped at Pembroke to gas up and use the head. I still didn't feel the need to put on the rain gear yet. I had left my Joe Rocket gear at home this trip. I had brought along my old Road Iron raingear, which has been with me since 1995. It made the trip from Dartmouth to Daytona with me and has yet to let me down. I still have not burned a hole through the right leg of it due to exhaust pipes. :)

I was maybe a third of the way to Cobden, when I decided it was time to get ready for the worst. I stopped along the roadside and dug out my raingear. I was sweating by the time I had it on and it did not allow for the recirculation of air. That was the only drawback to this gear. No breathability... Still, I figured with the oncoming rain and the gathering winds, there ought to be a cooling effect in there somewhere. I waited for a line of oncoming traffic to pass and we were back out on the road. I kept it to under 100kmh. When the rain started in earnest, which was just before we arrived at Cobden, I kept it at just 80kmh. The rain and the darkness seemed to arrive at the same time, as if on cue. Still, there was no long string of cars passing me at any point.

From that point on it rained steadily. I found someone towing a large trailer and stationed myself in back of them. There are drawbacks to doing this of course. For one, you are constantly drenched by spray which is kicked up by the trailer. For another thing, your vision is extremely limited and you stand a ghood chance of becoming hypnotized by the trailer you're following. On the plus side, if I was going to be transiting a 'high deer collision risk corridor', I wanted a good solid deer buffer between me and Ma Nature. This double-wide trailer was just the ticket. I could put up with a little additional water in exchange for a guarateed safe passage.

We coasted past Renfrew and I thought for a minute about stopping for a java at the Antrim Truck Stop. The rain was beginning to let up a bit and so I decided to ride on. By the time we had reached the exit for Burnstown, the rain had stopped and Baby and I were getting blow-dried. The air was cool but not overly so. As we neared Arnprior, it was evident that there had been very little rain, if any, in these parts. Back on the 417 heading East, traffic was moderate and we clipped along at a good rate on bone dry roads. As we rocketed through the city, I maintained my spot in the extreme left-hand lane. No merging nightmares to contend with there and we sailed right through to the split.

I decided to get off at the exit for Innes Road. This would slow the pace down somewhat and I was ready for that at this point. I also figured I would stop at Tim's for a coffee and a bit of a break. I pulled into the parking lot, past a few older gents who were parked there with a fine pair of '55-'56 Chev Bel-Airs. I parked around the other side of them and dismounted. I took my time taking off my lid and other gear, after which I walked on over to the Tim's. We exchanged nods as I passed by the older gents.

Inside, I ordered up a medium double-double and called my better half at home.

"Where are you?", she asked.

"I decided I'd grab a Timmie's over here on Innes, by where you work."

She sounded surprised. "Now why on earth would you stop for a coffee, when you're so close to home...?", she asked me.

"Trust me, Hon...", I replied, "I needed a break".

"Well, okay... you just get yourself home".

"I'll be there soon, Hon".

I drank about three quarters of my coffee. It tasted good and was just what I needed at that point in time. I saddled back up and headed back out onto Innes Road. Traffic was light and it was about 2100hrs by now. I would take my time getting back, as you have to make a conscious decision to slow yourself down, after any amount of highway driving. It's almost like a re-acclimatization to city driving. The remainder of the journey home was blissfully uneventful and actually, rather relaxing. I pulled into our driveway to find the garage door open and awaiting my return. I was ready for a wee rest, my pj's and maybe a nice cup o' tea. It had been a good day and a fine trip, where I had the chance to meet some new brothers-in-arms and enjoy the camraderie that I will always share with those who serve this country.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What's next?... "I pay your salary!!"...???

Here is a beauty we received from a woman in Ontario. It is abundantly apparent that her town of residence is perilously close to Toronto (about 40km from Richmond Hill or Mississauga), as far as being 'Torontarded' goes.

Quote: - I am a Canadian taxpayer. I do not want any of my tax dollars used to rescue idiot sailers(sic) stuck in the North West (sic) passage. Let them either pay or spend the winter there.
Since our Canadian government is charging more and more for heating fuel and electricity I am not willing to pay a cent for you to rescue people who only want to prove global warming and have just found out how wrong that is. - End quote.

This is very reminiscent of the "US military death ray experiments on the West Coast" e-mail we received only days ago. Although in this case, the main subject of this woman's concern is not even a legitimate cause for complaint. Seismic testing on the other hand, is a very legitimate area to bitch about. This reminds me of the segment in a Family Guy episode where Lois says to Peter: "Remind me to tell you when we get home, all the things that are wrong with that statement." Let's see on how many points this person is totally out to lunch:

1. Your 'tax dollars', do not pay for or fund Search and Rescue services anywhere in this country.

2. It is not the Canadian government that charges you for either heating fuel or petrol. They do slap an excise tax on it and then the federal portion of the GST (unless you're fortunate enough to live in Alberta...), followed by your provincial government's tax which is even larger. It is the privately-owned fuel oil and gas companies themselves who set the price for these commodities and who in fact is charging you for them.

3. It is not the Canadian government that charges you for electricity.
It is privately run companies who provide hydroelectric power services though their rates are regulated by your provincial government.

4. Those with a desire to explore and travel the Northwest Passage, do not do so: "to prove global warming". We already have plenty of proof of that, believe me...

5. If you mean that these same people have "just found out that global warming is wrong", that statement makes no sense. It is like saying: "I've just found out that hurricanes are so wrong". Or the monsoon season in India is so wrong. Or the high tides in the Bay of Fundy are so wrong... Global warming is an established fact. It is a climactic state of being, if you will. It is not the first time this has happened in the history of our planet, although this time around it seems readily evident that we humans and our senseless disregard for our planet, have acted as a catalyst for it's arrival.

So after analyzing this e-mail, I think it would be fair to conclude that it is not only completely inane and irrelevant, but baseless as well. Congratulations! You have not only wasted your time (of which you apparently have much to waste...), but mine as well. On the plus side though, you have provided some amusement on an otherwise uneventful Thursday and re-confirmed why there is this gathering trend for ridiculing "all things Toronto".

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Now you see you don't!!

I pulled into the driveway Monday afternoon, after having to thread the bike between my neighbour's car and my better half's van. The garage door was already open, as my wife has the endearing habit of opening it for me, when she knows I must be close to arriving home. I had just avoided a large patch of black clouds which had literally 'followed me home'. She opened the door leading into the house, as I dismounted and began removing my gear from the bike.

"So what kind of a day did you have?", I asked her. "Why don't you tell me?", she replied. I looked at her , baffled. "I don't know what you mean", I said to her. Without a word she walked out the open garage door to the front patio area near our front door. It was only then that I noticed that our entire old 'red brick' patio, frame and all, had been removed and the pea gravel combed out. An enormous job, to be sure. "Holy Crap!!", I said. "Wh-where are all the bricks??", I asked her. "I took them to the dump", she replied very matter-of-factly.

"All in one trip?", I asked. "Yep...". I was pretty amazed. This is a large project. One of the larger ones we have on our list. She related how she removed all the bricks which made up the patio (there were over 200 of them...), loaded them into the back of her van and carted them off to the dump, where she then had to unload them, two at a time she informed me, and bifted them into a pile. She did mention that when she went to sign the sheet for the dump fee, her hand was shaking a bit. I'm not surprised!! I was amazed she could still use them. She had also mown the lawn, dismantled the old frame, cleaned the patio area, done a load of wash and generally made our place look wonderful. Talk about a full day's work...

Truly... I never know what to expect when I get home. But then again, I mean that in the nicest possible way, of course...

A mini-marathon to Alex Bay...

Last Saturday saw us conducting a yard sale, in order to thin out the amount of 'stuff' we have in the house. It was fairly successful. So much so in fact, that my better half decided that she would do the same on Sunday. As for myself, I decided that I would take the first part of that Sunday to take a fast trek to Alex Bay.

I rolled out at 0715hrs, after a fast consult with the Environment Canada website. As the call was for temps in the low 30s, I brought only a hoodie, a bottle of sunblock and water. I made a stop at Tim's in Manotick, as I had yet to have a coffee. As I pulled in, I parked amongst a half-dozen local firefighters (The Red Knights), who I later discovered were also on their way to the US. I went in to fetch my coffee and a sour cream glazed doughnut (a staple for beginning any road trip...). When I came back out, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had been joined by a neighbour of mine, who used to go by the handle of 'Old School' on our VTX Riders website.

He had since sold his VTX in favor of one, then another sport touring bike, his latest being a Beemer GT model. He and his missus seemed very pleased with it. We chatted for a spell until I had done my coffee and decided to hit the road. They lit out ahead of me, only to stop at the gas station across the street. I waved to them as I left, heading down the Rideau River Road. I followed the Rideau River Road right out to the junction with the Southbound 416, near the Veterans' Memorial Park. The air was heavy with moisture, pungent with the smell of flowers and vegetation and mercifully still cool at that time of day. I had no doubt the sun would soon begin burning through the morning's overcast and haze. Then we'd be in for it...

The trip down the 416 was casual. Traffic was light and I kept it down to a conservative 110kmh. 'Baby' loped along easily as we let other, more hurried travellers pass us by. It felt great to be cruising along, even on a highway. The sun began peering through the now scattered cloud formations and I could already feel the heat. It was going to be a scorcher. I was thankful for the protection the hoodie would afford my skin against the sun's rays, yet at the same time I wasn't sweating my bag off. By 0945hrs we were approaching the exit for the US.

As I reached the foot of the Ogdensburg-Prescott bridge, I stopped in the shade of the duty free shop. I downed half the bottle of water I had with me and re-applied some more sunblock. As I was preparing to head out again, I heard the thunder of bikes. Sure enough, there were the Red Knights and Old School. I let 'em pass by before I picked up the rear of the formation as we made our way across the bridge. It took a little while for us all to pass through the bridge tool booth and even longer still to clear US Customs. They only had so many lanes open and all us bikes had lined up at the same one.

We switched off the bikes and left them on their jiffy stands, as the rider ahead of us went through their customs check. I dug out the camera and snapped a pic of our lineup. The sun was really out now and it was getting hot. I drained the remaining water from the bottle, making a mental note to grab some at the first chance I got. I was keeping a close eye on my mileage and figured I'd be due to top up pretty soon. I remembered a gas station just down the road from the Ogdensburg Mall, where I had stopped before and decided I would stop there on my way out to Alex Bay.

We finally all made it through customs within 20 minutes or so and their group had pulled over to the side. I trundled past them and gave them a wave, wishing them a safe ride. It was too hot to stop and chat. That wind felt mighty good at this point. We carried on to the end of the bridge road and then hooked a right along the 37. We turned off on State Street to fuel and replenish our water supplies at the Nice an' Easy. After I filled the bike, I emptied half the new water bottle. Then we were on our way. Soon after, we crossed the little bridge that spans the Oswegatchie River. It always provides such a pretty view... Besides the bridge leading to Canada, Ogdensburg is known for it's port, two state prisons and having been the residence at one point, of none other than Frederic Remington.

The ride along the 37, which hugs the St.Lawrence River, is always a scenic and relaxing affair. It is not a very heavily travelled road, considering where it lies. The eleven miles to Morristown were soon behind us and we came to the split. The 37 from there leads to Hammond, South Hammond, and Redwood. It then joins up with US Route 11, before entering Watertown. We banked right onto State Route 12. This road wanders through Jacques Cartier State Park, Oak Point, Chippewa Bay, Goose Bay and finally, Alexandria Bay. Eventually it will lead you to the Thousand Island Bridge and the very beginning of I-81.

I took my time along the 12, enjoying every minute spent surrounded by fields, forests and river views. I stopped at one of the lookoffs and snapped a shot of Baby with the St.Lawrence as a backdrop. More water, fresh sunblock and off we went. I was mindful of the time, as I did not want to be gone all day. There were no deer spotted on this trip. I suppose they were smart and remained in the shade provided by the woods.

Before long, we were turning right onto Church Street and entering the village of Alex Bay. We followed it to the end then turned onto James Street, looking for a vacant spot. I found one right in front of Good Dog Charlies. It's a charming little shop, full of great and whimsical items revolving around the theme of dogs, of course. As I dismounted, I noticed the sun felt even hotter. I drained what remained in my water bottle and decided not to stay too long in town, as there was just one item I really wanted to pick up. The streets were teeming with tourists and locals. This is one popular spot...

Some time back, on a previous trip, I had seen a t-shirt which featured a serene, tranquil tableau of a person in a canoe. The caption at the top of the shirt reads: "Where is that banjo coming from?" I hadn't picked one up that day and it had been haunting me ever since. It's a classic in my books and I just had to get one.

I wandered up the street, snooping through different storefronts. I noticed there was a plethora of 'Pirate Days' gear for sale. Clearly we had missed the festival this year. Too bad, so sad. Maybe next August we would have more disposable time on our hands. I arrived at the store where I recalled seeing this one particular shirt and ducked inside. The air conditioning felt great, so I took my time looking around. I also wanted to get a long-sleeved, white t-shirt of some sort. It would be lighter to wear than the hoodie, yet would still save my arms from the sun.

I made my way up to the second floor and headed for the very back. Sure enough, they had several of them left in a buff colour. I picked one out in an extra large, so it would fit loosely on me and allow for air circulation when at speed on the bike. I was happy. Mission accomplished. I had no such luck however, in locating a long-sleeved shirt, in any type of light colour. Ah well... Ç'est la vie. It was after noon by now and I was getting peckish. That doughnut was a long faded memory by now. I had thought about grabbing a bite in town while I was there, but then I thought about how hot the saddle would be when I finally landed back in it... Nope, not today. I ambled back to the bike after paying for my purchase. The sun was blazing down... "This is gonna be one hot ride back", I thought to myself. By this time I had stripped off my hoodie and stuffed it in my starboard saddlebag.

I thumbed Baby to life and we inched our way out of town, following a slow-moving conga line of cars and bikes. Reaching the end of Church Street, we swung back onto the 12 heading West. We would take the Thousand Island Bridge back over, which would give me the chance to take the 1,000 Islands Parkway to Brockville. I love that stretch of road. It's even nicer when you can take it straight through from Gananoque. *Sigh!*

Within 10 minutes, we were turning off the 12 and onto I-81 North. This would take us to the bridge itself. I paid my toll and crossed the bridge, admiring the view below me. One day, I'll do like so many others. I'll park on one side and walk across the bridge, camera in hand, to get a series of great shots. You just can't see near enough when you're crossing in a car or on a bike even.

There was a bit of a lineup coming through Canadian customs. I'd have to guesstimate it took all of 20-25 minutes to get through this time around and it was brutally hot waiting in line. My turn finally came and I was waved through without fanfare. I was out of water and very thirsty by this time. I stopped at the duty free shop, grabbed some more water and took a trip to the head. When I emerged, I stripped off in the parking lot and put on the new t-shirt. It was a lot drier than the one I had on 'til that point... A fresh application of sunblock and we were good to go.

Flashing up the bike, I headed off and very soon, we were merging onto the 1,000 Island Parkway. The trees on either side provided minimal shade as the sun was overhead by now. Still, the breeze by the water was considerably cooler and it was beautiful riding. I took my time and savored my surroundings, clipping along at a sedate 80kmh. We passed Rockport and Mallorytown Landing. But all too soon, I was taking the left-hander by the sign for Butternut Bay, headed to the on-ramp which would spew us out onto the 401.

I cranked her as we merged with the afternoon traffic. Surprisingly it was still light and we covered the 1 klick to the exit for Brockville in very short time. I rolled off the throttle and snicked her down a gear as we rolled up the off-ramp. Reaching to stop sign at the top of the ramp, a quick check showed no traffic approaching, so keeping her momentum going, I tipped her to the right and onto Route 2. I normally get the urge to stop when I'm passing through Brockville, but not this time however. I had done the deed, got my shirt and now it was about making tracks back to home base.

Still, I enjoyed running along the river's edge. Notably at this time of year. I loved the soft turns and bends of the road, the carefully manicured properties, the lack of traffic. Such a pleasant experience. Before long we were at Johnstown and the 416 beckoned to me. I debated running along the 2 until we reached Morrisburg, then head North along 31 (Bank Street). The 416 won out however and my idiot light on the dash was intimating I could use some fuel. Fine... we'd stop there and I'd get some more water while I was at it.

After filling up with some whoringly overpriced gas (they're right by the highway, whaddyagonnadoo?), I headed up the 416. Again, traffic was still moderate and we were at 1330hrs by this time. I kept her under 120kmh like a good sailor and it wasn't long before the exit for the Rideau River Road came into view. I followed my usual route home from there, arriving without incident in Orleans by 1420hrs. My better half and her little girl were sitting out, catching some rays, working the garage sale and chatting. Apparently things had gone even better with me gone, as they had successfully unloaded every one of the big items they were looking to get rid of.

All in all, a successful day for the both of us. I blew off some of the cobwebs in my brain and my Honey made some cash AND some extra space in the ol' homestead. Ya can't beat that...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Dude... Sound waves create tidal waves???

First of all, you have to understand that for as cynical as I might come off at times, I truly am a believer in such things as the environment, the sanctity of our oceans and the marine life that inhabits it, to say nothing of it's importance vis-à-vis the air we get to breathe (it is after all, a huge oxygen-producing device).

I believe in the legitimacy of our existence as human beings on the planet. However, I also believe that we as a species, have lost touch with nature and with it, our understanding of our place in this world. We have forgotten how to interact constructively with that which surrounds us. How else can you explain the actions of a species which threatens the very existence of another (sharks, for example...), simply because a very small percentage of our population happens to enjoy a particular dish (shark fin soup)??? Does it even get any worse than this? Yes it does... Bottom trawling. Where the ocean floor is turned into a veritable moonscape, devoid not only of life, but of the habitat that would allow life to regain a foothold. And don't even get me started on long-lining...

You will find no greater opponent of shark-finning or long-lining, of bottom trawling or air pollution, or of the clear cutting of the rain forests in Amazona. I need no convincing whatsoever to accept and embrace the knowledge that each of these areas represent unique and irreplaceable ecosystems. I'm already totally onboard with that... Really!

I do have to state however that some people who also share these concerns, are the causes' worst enemies. If you are going to rail against a section of the government for doing something which you actually know to be injurious, unfair of unethical (or all three...), that is one thing. If you want to be taken seriously, make sure you have your facts straight and all your ducks in a row, before you blast away at them.

If your protest is based solely on conjecture and you back up your reasoning with absolute drivel and nonsense, you will be rightfully classified as a nutbar and your electronic missive will be the victim of the 'delete' button. Case in point, this literary masterpiece we received today:

Quote - I was mortified to read that Fisheries and Oceans Canada had agreed to allow seismic testing in Canadian waters by a U.S. Research Vessel. It is alleged that this so-called research is in reality sponsored by the U.S. military to test killing with sound. (WTF...???? - Crypt.) Sound waves create tidal waves create climactic changes. It is all connected! (Again...WTF...???? - Crypt.)

No wonder our weather patterns have gone awry. (Wha-aaaaaatttt...???? - Crypt.) No wonder our marine mammals are beaching themselves. This is criminal. I am hoping that this e-mail reaches someone who is intelligent and has a conscience. This testing must not be allowed in Canadian waters or any waters. Seismic testing affects the globe. I am pleased that environmental groups have filed a lawsuit concerning this (Although she clearly has no real idea why, other than it's "bad"... - Crypt.). And, I hope that Fisheries and Oceans Canada reconsider their initial allowance of such testing. - End quote.

Dude... Sound waves create tidal waves? Seriously?? I smell ganja here and lots of it. Tidal waves create climactic changes?? Ummm... No. Climactic changes and the resultant storms produced by these environmental changes, sometimes produce tidal waves, yes. In passing, the scientific community apparently doesn't like using the term 'tidal wave' nowadays. They prefer the term 'meteotsunami', as in a tsunami caused by weather. Tsunamis themselves, which are not tidal waves by any means, are created by either tectonic activity beneath the ocean surface, or can occasionally be caused by volcanic activity. But um-mmmmm... not by sound. 'Killer' or otherwise.

As an aside, anyone who was straight and wrote: "It is alleged that this so-called research is in reality sponsored by the US military to test killing with sound.", would have stopped, re-read it and said to themselves: "Whoa... did I just write that? Jesus, they're gonna think I'm on crack or something. I'd better change that or better yet, just delete it altogether. I can't possibly have been thinking that...".

The US Navy is trying to develop the technology to kill with sound??? Don't get me wrong here, you can do an awful lot with sound, and it is no secret that many high-power naval sonar units employed by the USN and other navies of the world, are capable of causing appreciable (read: fatal) damage to marine mammals. Not that it was ever intended for them to do so, mind you. (It will also do a very good job against enemy divers when the ship is tied up alongside or anchored out.) This is simply an unfortunate by-product. Mass beachings of whales, porpoises and dolphins are yet an unresolved enigma, although I for one could certainly see marine sonar use being at least a contributing factor, in some of these instances.

Sonar however, is essential. Certainly for vessels making up part of any naval Task Force. Sonars are there for one purpose. To find submarines. As long as Russia is committed to the resurgence of the Red Fleet and in deploying it around the globe in a show of naval might, the West will always require it's navies to be equipped with potent acoustic arrays and sensors. It's really quite that simple.

Seismic testing however, has nothing to do with any of this. Seismic testing is a process used by the oil and gas industry, in their unending quest for new reserves to meet the equally never-ending demand for fossil fuels. Seismic testing is done with an array of 15 to 45 air guns that send explosive shock waves every 10 to 25 seconds into the seabed that then echo back through the water. The sound is loud enough to disrupt, injure or possibly lead to the death of fish and marine mammals. Surveys can last several months. Seismic testing is the equivalent of acoustically raping the ocean and everything in it. Seismic testing conducted off the coast of Cape Breton, was recorded as far off as in the Bahamas. This stuff travels. So...

Picture this acoustic undersea world where marine mammals live in total darkness, relying on sound to navigate, communicate, find and capture their prey and avoid predators. Increased noise obviously affects their ability to survive. There has been research carried out which ties the use of these air guns to the beachings of marine mammals species.

Should Fisheries and Oceans Canada rethink it's position on allowing sesmic testing in Canadian waters? Absolutely. Should concerned Canadian residents make their opinions known? Again, absolutely! But it shouldn't be because: "The Blue Meanies are stealing my socks and I have aliens in the wood shed!" Do yourselves a favor and research the topic first. Learn about the issue and define why you are set against it. Get your facts straight and don't just yell out anything that comes to mind. Sometimes, things are not 'all connected', as this one person believes. Notably so, when one thing has bugger all to do with the other. Oil exploration by a bona fide research vessel, does not equate to death ray research by the American military, no matter what or how much you smoke.

Friday, August 14, 2009

On the Northwest Passage...

This afternoon I received one of those calls. This was from a representative of Heritage Canada in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She had a client who had 'confided to her', that he knew the whereabouts of the long-lost ships, from Franklin's ill-fated Arctic exploration of 1845. Yep... this lad's grandmother had let him in on the family secret of where they lay in the frigid Arctic waters.

I found myself humming the melody of Stan Rogers' Northwest Passage, which sounds kind of contradictory, as the song is in fact sung a capella. Nonetheless, for as much as I am pretty familiar with the saga, I decided to do a little reading up (Hurray for Wikipedia...) and share some of the info I uncovered.

You can read more on Sir John Franklin at the following URL:

Quote - Franklin's lost Expedition.

Exploration of the Arctic coastal mainland after Franklin's second Arctic expedition had left less than 500 kilometres (311 mi) of unexplored Arctic coastline. The British decided to send a well-equipped Arctic expedition to complete the charting of the Northwest Passage. After Sir James Ross declined an offer to command the expedition, an invitation was extended to Franklin, who accepted despite his age, 59. A younger man, Captain James Fitzjames, was given command of HMS Erebus and Franklin was named the expedition commander. Captain Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier, who had commanded HMS Terror during the Ross 1841–44 Antarctic expedition, was appointed executive officer and commander of HMS Terror. Franklin was given command on 7 February 1845, and received official instructions on 5 May 1845.

HMS Erebus at 370 long tons (380 t) and HMS Terror at 340 long tons (350 t) were sturdily built and were outfitted with recent inventions. These included steam engines from the London and Greenwich Railway that enabled the ships to make 4 knots (7.4 km/h) on their own power, a unique combined steam-based heating and distillation system for the comfort of the crew and to provide large quantities of fresh water for the engine's boilers, a mechanism that enabled the iron rudder and propeller to be drawn into iron wells to protect them from damage, ships' libraries of more than 1,000 books, and three years' worth of conventionally preserved or tinned preserved food supplies.

Unfortunately, the latter was supplied from a cut-rate provisioner who was awarded the contract only a few months before the ships were to sail. Though his "patent process" was sound, the haste with which he had prepared thousands of cans of food led to sloppily-applied beads of solder on the cans' interior edges and allowed lead to leach into the food. Chosen by the Admiralty, most of the crew were Englishmen, many from the North of England with a small number of Irishmen and Scotsmen.

The Franklin Expedition set sail from Greenhithe, England, on the morning of 19 May 1845, with a crew of 24 officers and 110 men. The ships traveled north to Aberdeen for supplies. From Scotland, the ships sailed to Greenland with HMS Rattler and a transport ship, Barretto Junior. After misjudging the location of Whitefish Bay, Disko Island, Greenland, the expedition backtracked and finally harboured in that far north outpost to prepare for the rest of their voyage. Five crew members were discharged and sent home on the Rattler and Barretto Junior, reducing the ships' final crew size to 129. The expedition was last seen by Europeans on 26 July 1845, when Captain Dannett of the whaler Prince of Wales encountered Terror and Erebus moored to an iceberg in Lancaster Sound.

After two years and no word from the expedition, Franklin's wife urged the Admiralty to send a search party. Because the crew carried supplies for three years, the Admiralty waited another year before launching a search and offering a £20,000 reward for finding the expedition. The money and Franklin's fame led to many searches. At one point, ten British and two American ships, USS Advance and USS Rescue, headed for the Arctic. Eventually, more ships and men were lost looking for Franklin than in the expedition itself.

Ballads such as "Lady Franklin's Lament", commemorating Lady Franklin's search for her lost husband, became popular. In the summer of 1850, expeditions including three from England as well as one from the United States joined in the search. They converged off the east coast of Beechey Island, where the first relics of the Franklin expedition were found, including the gravesites of three Franklin Expedition crewmen.

In 1854, explorer Dr. John Rae, while surveying the Boothia Peninsula for the Hudson's Bay Company, discovered the true fate of Franklin party from talking to Inuit hunters. He was told both ships had become icebound, the men had tried to reach safety on foot but had succumbed to cold and some had resorted to cannibalism. Rae's report to the Admiralty was leaked to the press, which led to widespread revulsion in Victorian society, enraged Franklin's widow and condemned Rae to ignominy. Lady Franklin's efforts to eulogise her husband, with support from the British Establishment, led to a further 25 searches over the next four decades, none of which would add any further information of note.

In the mid-1980's, Owen Beattie, a University of Alberta professor of anthropology, began a 10-year series of scientific studies known as the "1845–48 Franklin Expedition Forensic Anthropology Project", showing that the Beechey Island crew had most likely died of pneumonia and perhaps tuberculosis.Toxicological reports indicated that lead poisining was also a possible factor. In 1997, more than 140 years after Dr. Rae's report, his account was finally vindicated; blade cut marks on the bones of some of the crew found on King William's Island strongly suggested that conditions had become so dire that some crew members resorted to cannibalism. It appeared from these studies that a combination of bad weather, years locked in ice, disease including scurvy, poisoned food, botulism and starvation had killed everyone in the Franklin party.

Historical legacy.

For years after the loss of the Franklin party, the Victorian era media portrayed Franklin as a hero who led his men in the quest for the Northwest Passage. A statue of Franklin in his home town bears the somewhat false inscription stating "Sir John Franklin — Discoverer of the North West Passage". Statues of Franklin outside the Athenaeum in London and in Tasmania bear similar inscriptions. Although the expedition's fate, including the possibility of cannibalism, was widely reported and debated, Franklin's standing with the public was not diminished.

The mystery surrounding Franklin's last expedition was the subject of a 2006 episode of the Nova television series Arctic Passage and a 2007 documentary on Discovery HD Theatre. The expedition has inspired many artistic works including a famous ballad, Lady Franklin's Lament, a verse play by Canadian poet Gwendolyn MacEwen, a children's book, a short story and essays by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, and several novels, and is referenced in Canadian musician Stan Rogers' ballad Northwest Passage. (When sung properly, it can raise the hair on my arms... - Crypt.). There is also a direct reference to John Franklin's ill-fated expedition in the Irish-American group Nightnoise's album Something of Time, specifically in a track titled: "The Erebus and the Terror". Additionally in 2007, a fictional account of the expedition was authored by Dan Simmons titled The Terror, ISBN 978-0-316-01744-2.

The explorer was also remembered when one of Canada's Northwest Territories subdivisions was named the Distrisct of Franklin. Including the high Arctic islands, this jurisdiction was abolished when the Territories were divided in 1999. - End quote.

The Northwest Passage (Stan Rogers)
Copyright Fogarty's Cove Music, Inc.

Ah for just one time
I would take the Northwest Passage,
To find the hand of Franklin
Reaching for the Beaufort Sea.
Tracing one warm line
Through a land so wild and savage,
And make a Northwest Passage
To the sea.

Westward from the Davis Strait
'tis there 'twas said to lie,
The sea route to the Orient
For which so many died.
Seeking gold and glory
Leaving weathered, broken bones,
And a long-forgotten
Lonely cairn of stones...

Ah for just one time
I would take the Northwest Passage,
To find the hand of Franklin
Reaching for the Beaufort Sea.
Tracing one warm line
Through a land so wild and savage,
And make a Northwest Passage
To the sea.

Three centuries thereafter
I take passage over land,
In the footsteps of brave Kelso
Where his sea of flowers began.
Watching cities rise before me
Then behind me sink again,
This tardiest explorer
Driving hard across the plain...

Ah for just one time
I would take the Northwest Passage,
To find the hand of Franklin
Reaching for the Beaufort Sea.
Tracing one warm line
Through a land so wild and savage,
And make a Northwest Passage
To the sea.

And through the night , behind the wheel
The mileage clicking West,
I think upon Mackenzie,
David Thompson and the rest.
Who cracked the mountain ramparts
And did show a path for me,
To race the roaring Fraser
To the sea…

Ah for just one time
I would take the Northwest Passage,
To find the hand of Franklin
Reaching for the Beaufort Sea.
Tracing one warm line
Through a land so wild and savage,
And make a Northwest Passage
To the sea.

How then am I so different from
The first men through this way?
Like them I left a settled life
I threw it all away.
To seek a Northwest Passage
At the call of many men,
To find there but the road
Back home again…

Ah for just one time
I would take the Northwest Passage,
To find the hand of Franklin
Reaching for the Beaufort Sea.
Tracing one warm line
Through a land so wild and savage,
And make a Northwest Passage
To the sea.

Unpublished additional verse:

And if should be I come again
To loved ones left at home,
Put the journals on the mantle
Shake the frost out of my bones.
Making memories of the passage
Only memories after all,
And hardships there
The hardest to recall...


Post scriptum:

The Canadian Heritage representative? I recommended she send her client to her regional Transport Canada - Receivers of Wreck office in Edmonton, AB.

The Receivers of Wreck program assumes the role of custodian of wreck in the absence of owners in order to protect their rights through the following activities:- attempting to find wreck owners over a one-year period- providing information related to owners' and salvors' rights and obligations- disposing of wreck when owners cannot be found.

So what's a wreck, right?

A wreck is a ship, a boat, an aircraft or part of a ship, boat or aircraft that floats, sinks or lands ashore and includes cargo or the personal belongings of the crew or those of shipwrecked persons.

A receiver of wreck is an officer of Transport Canada appointed by the governor-in-council to act as custodian of wreck in the absence of their owner.

In the salvage context, a salvor is a person or an organization that saves a ship, its equipment or cargo from loss or damage at sea. Salvors may include the following:

- businesses

- owners of wreck and their representatives

- municipal, provincial, territorial and federal agencies.

So now you know... if you find a boat floating somewhere on the water, or beached on a shoreline, it ain't a simple case of "finders...keepers". Actually, if you ever find a boat floating in the water with nobody onboard, the very first thing you'd want to do if you had even half a brain, would be to contact the local authorities. If the occupants are not in the boat, they could be in the drink...

If it's been sitting on a trailer, out back of someone's farm for the last couple of years or some other similar situation, that's another matter.

In that case you go talk to your local law enforcement agency and ask them the steps you'll have to take to make that boat rightfully yours.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

On reporting bad drivers...

I had a run-in with some young fella in a pick-up a few weeks ago, as I made my way in to work. He was lane hopping, no signals and cut me off, forcing me to put the binders on. In a car, this can be a real wake-up. On a bike, it's just way more excitement than you really want. So I noted this young asshole's particulars and phoned it in to the local Gestapo once I got to work. I was content that I had done the right thing and that junior would get his comeuppance for his less-than-responsible driving habits.

I received a phone call from Ottawa's finest to confirm the details a day later and the matter was put to rest. Perhaps less than a week following that, I received a phone message upon arriving home, from the Ottawa police. They informed me that they had located the info on the owner, but as he was from another town, there was nothing they could do. I had to let this sink in for a while... So what was the point of all this? I have always been under the impression that the rules of the road applied across an entire province, not just on a city by city basis. If I should have reported this to the OPP, they should have let me know. But the OPP don't have any jurisdiction over the streets of Ottawa/Orleans...

I have witnessed many other bad/dangerous driving practices since that event, as I'm sure we all do on an everyday basis. Just this morning as I was coming in along the Rockcliffe Parkway, some moron was tailgating me, obviously in a big hurry to pass. As we reached the stretch running by the RCMP stables and paddock, he screamed out around me and hurtled towards the string of oncoming traffic. Needless to say, this was in a double line zone. I have been known myself to stray on the other side of this line, when following the dawdlers, as I like to call them. Thoses who severely interrupt the 'swoop and flow' of riding the Parkway when it's not under construction. But never in the face of oncoming traffic.

There was a single line zone just a little further down the road, if he really wanted to pass. As it turned out, he ended up right in front of me for the remainder of the trip in. I passed him as he was waiting in line for the left-hand turn at King Edward, waiting to go to the Dark Side. As I passed him, our eyes locked and with my thumb and forefinger forming a circle, I thumped it against the forehead part of my helmet, thereby sending him the international sign for "Asshole!!!"

Sad to say, but I have resigned myself to doing absolutely nothing about it. Just like everyone else around me. I have come to the realization that just as with every other instance regarding lawlessness and wrongdoing, we the citizens are pretty much left to our own devices as far as protecting ourselves and striking back. So if you happen to cut off a biker or are crowding his ass-end as you both scoot down a highway or boulevard, don't be too surprised if your windshield ingests a 2-ounce, flat steel washer. Just think of it as a self-protection device against BCICs.

Besides... When we do, what's the other guy gonna do? Report us...??? :)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The accident / L'accident...

When filling out a Workman's Compensation Form, it is vitally important to describe precisely the events leading up to a workplace accident. The worker who turned in the following compensation claim, understood this only too well...

His job for that day consisted in bringing down from the roof of a two-storey building, a pile of bricks which were left over from the twin chimneys.

Here is how he described what happened (you'll have to forgive the vulgarity, but it's just too funny...):

"I though I'd save myself some time. I fashioned a beam with a pulley at the roof's apex. I then strung a rope through the pulley, so that both ends extended down to the ground. I attached an empty barrel to one end of the rope and then pulled it up to the top of the roof. I tied off the free end of the rope to a nearby tree. I then climbed up to the top of the roof, where I proceded to fill the barrel with bricks. Having done that, I climbed back down and loosened the rope from the tree.

But the fucking barrel was way too heavy for me at this point and before I knew what was happening, I was yanked up into the air. I was now too high up to let go so, not really having a choice, I held on for dear life. Halfway up, I met the barrel which was plummetting earthward and it smashed into my shoulder. Jesus Christ that hurt!! I almost swooned from the pain...

That's not the end of it either. I kept rocketing upwards until reaching the top, I smashed my head into the beam and my fingers got caught in the pulley... I thought I was going to pass out. At that same moment, the barrel hits the ground, the bottom splits out of it and the barrel empties itself. Sonovabitch!! Now I'm heavier than the barrel... so now I'm the one plummetting earthward. Halfway down, I now meet the barrel rocketing upwards... It didn't miss me and just about shattered my left fucking leg. I turned white as a sheet.

Hitting bottom, I crash-landed on the pile of bricks. I thought for sure I was going to die. I couldn't focus, I was stunned and my ears were ringing. I let go of the rope at that point and of course, the barrel then fell back down striking me square on the fucking skull. I awoke in the hospital two days later. For this reason, I am hereby applying for sick leave and workman's compensation benefits."


Lorsqu'on fait une déclaration d'accident de travail, il est important de décrire précisément la façon dont l'accident s'est produit. Le travailleur qui a produit la déclaration qui suit, l'avait bien compris...
Son travail consistait à descendre du toit d'un édifice de deux étages un surplus de briques qui était resté sur le toit.

Voici comment il décrit ce qui s'est passé (désolé pour la vulgarité, mais c'est trop drôle) :

J'pensais sauver du temps. J'ai fixé un madrier avec une poulie en haut de la bâtisse et j'ai passé une corde dans la poulie avec les deux bouttes qui descendent jusqu'à terre. J'ai attaché un baril vide au boutte de la corde, pis j'lé monté en haut de la bâtisse. Ensuite j'attache l'autre boutte de la corde à un arbre. La j'monte sul toit, pis j'remplis l'baril de briques. Ensuite je r'tourne en bas pis j'viens pour détacher la corde pour faire descendre le crisse de baril.

Mais le tabarnac de baril est benque trop pesant pour moué et avant que je réalise quoi que ce soit, hostie, le baril me monte en l'air yenque d'une chote. La chu trop haut pour lâcher la corde j'avais pas le choix, j'ai tenu la corde en hostie. À moitié chmin j'recontre le crisse de baril qui descendait. J'ai reçu un calvaire de coup sur l'épaule; tabarnac que ça m'a fait mal...

Mais cè pas tout; moué j'continue à monter, rendu en haut, j'me pette la tête su l'câlisse de madrier pis j'me prends les doigts dans l'hostie de poulie... J'pensait parde connaissance. Quand l'baril touche à terre, l'fond pette pis l'baril se vide. Asteur, ciboir, chus plus pesant que l'baril; ça fa qu'hostie la j'descends en tabarnac, pis à moitié chemin en descendant, j'rencontre encore le crisse de baril qui, lui montait. Y m'a pas manqué l'câlisse, y m'a pogné dret s'une jambe, chu v'nu blême.

Rendu en bas, j'mécrase sul câlisse de tas de brique. J'pensa mourir là. Rendu là j'me rappelle pu grand chose; chu tout étourdi, ça fa que l'lâche la crisse de corde pis l'baril se met à r'descendre pis me câlisse un coup sa tête pis j'me r'trouve à l'hôpital. C'est pour ça que je d'demande un congé de maladie.

Slow going...

So it's been a while in between posts here. We're shorthanded at work and swamped with e-mails. On the home front, there's trying to get the house ready for market as we're committed to downsizing, in order to lead a saner life. I managed to get the deck stained last weekend, but the list of 'To Do' items seems long and unforgiving. There is still the front yard to re-landscape, getting rid of a hundred or so red bricks which are decomposing in situ as we speak... possibly replacing one of the upstairs bathroom floors... lattice work on the sides of the rear deck... finish building the stairs and railings... stain same... we really should re-surface the driveway while we're at it, if our neighbor is willing to chip in for the cost...

As my younger daughter would say: "Le sigh!". I try to sneak in the odd short ride out in the countryside to retain my balance and sanity, but nothing really satisfying. "But you ride everyday to work...", some might say. If you've ever rode a bike, you'll know that jousting with morning and/or evening rush hour traffic, is NOT the definition of a nice, relaxing ride. It's more like going on an air combat mission... Your senses are on high alert from the second you pull out of the parking lot, until you switch off the ignition in the garage at home. You head is constanly swivelling, eyes constantly checking, gauging, estimating... It's part enjoyment, part aggression, part fear, mostly adrenalin. With the memory of last year's 'unplanned dismount' still fresh in my mind and in my reconstructed shoulder, I am far more vigilant, far less trusting and far more belligerent. By the time I dismount, I need to walk it off or take a few moments to myself, to come down from it. And that's if I don't have any close calls...

So compare that with a leisurely cruise through the countryside, mooing at the cows, startling the earth-pigs (I generally scream: "Earth-Pig!!!" at them, while brandishing my two crooked fingers to resemble their oversized incisors) and breathing deeply of the wonderful aromas that do not include car/truck and bus exhaust fumes. Yeah... that's the kind of riding that does it for me. This is the main reason I cannot and will never be able to understand these idiots who spend their time downtown posing. What is the attraction with 'Flintstoning' your bike around town, in bumper to bumper traffic, baking your engine oil right in the cases (for those with 'air-cooled' engines...)? I could never get that... Whatever. To each his own...

So on the whole, not a lot of really fun things to report on. My little girl is still doing well and drinking lots of water. Guess she didn't need anyone to tell her to do that, with the temps over there in the high 40s and low 50s. (Holy Crap!!!) God love her...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Call of the Week...

So my cohort 'Grouchy' has once more bagged what seems to be the 'Call of the Week'.

A woman from Ontario phones us up and asks him to verify if a certain type of fish (black cod) is extinct.

Caller: "My daughter is getting married next month and I want to make sure the caterer is not trying to serve extinct fish!"

Grouchy: " want to make sure the caterer isn't serving extinct fish. Madam, he wouldn't be able to serve it, if it's extinct."

Caller: "I know but he'll be serving black cod and I want to be sure it's not extinct...".

Grouchy: "Madam... don't you mean a species of fish that is perhaps endangered, or at risk?"

Caller: "Yes... it's the same thing. I want to make sure it's not extinct...".

Grouchy provided her with the DFO program for Aquatic Species at Risk.

The following are the categories of species at risk:

- extirpated species, which no longer exist in the wild in Canada, but exist elsewhere

- endangered species, which are facing imminent extirpation or extinction

- threatened species, which are likely to become endangered if the factors threatening them are not reversed

- special concern species, which possess certain characteristics, such as particular habitat needs or a vulnerability to environmental influences, that may cause them to become threatened or endangered species.

Species which are deemed as extinct, well... simply are. It means that they simply don't exist anymore!!! Who would ever have thought that you would have to explain the meaning of the word 'extinct' to a grown person.

"Madam... how many living dinosaurs have you ever seen in your lifetime?"

"Why... None. There aren't any!!"

"And the reason why there aren't any, Madam... is because they are EXTINCT!!! That means they have ceased to exist as a species... there are no more of them left... the very last one of them died a long, long time ago... That's it!! No more!!!"


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Scent-based discrimination in the workplace...???

Although the following scenario is about as likely as the Second Coming of Christ, this is nonetheless the type of employer that most of us would love to find ourselves working for:

The young lady sat comfortably back in her chair. She was brimming with confidence. The interview had been going swimmingly. She felt supremely confident that she would be hired on for this position. After all, she had the education, some previous experience, how could they not want to hire her?

"Miss Wilson", the interviewer stated, "you have a fine resumé here and you certainly seem to meet all of our expectations. I do have one question however... as I'm reading through your personal dossier, you state under 'allergies' that you have "MCS". What exactly is that...?"

"Oh, that...", she brightened. "That means that I have Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, or MCS for short. I can't be around any scented products of any type or I get deathly ill. I would imagine that a company as advanced and as forward-thinking as yours seems to be, would already have a 'scent ban' workplace policy in effect, correct?"

The interviewer looked at her quizzically, closed her folder and slowly pushed it towards her. "I'm sorry Miss Wilson, but I'm afraid we will not be able to hire you on after all."

"But... I-I...", she stammered. "I don't understand... this was all going so well! I have every qualification you need for this position... I'm a very hard and reliable worker", she continued. "How can you simply say that you can't hire me? What is this decision based on???"

"Miss Wilson, please understand", the interviewer continued. "Your statement that you believe you suffer from MCS is unfortunately the one factor which closed this position to you."

'But...but... you can't do that!! THAT'S discrimination... isn't it???"

"On the contrary, Miss Wilson. If I were to hire you on with your specific condition, I would be in fact discriminating against the other 58 normal, healthy employees I already have working here for me. All of them good, reliable workers. All of them friendly and getting along very well with one another. If I were to hire you, their rights to enjoying their workplace, which includes their personal use of scented products for reasons of personal hygiene, self-esteem, self-expression and a feeling of well-being, would be jeopardized."

"Loyalty works both ways, Miss Wilson. My workers have been loyal to this company and it would be nothing short of treasonous and disloyal on my part, if I were to willingly put them in such a position. Surely you can't reasonably expect me to make them pay, because you were either born with or somehow acquired this disorder? Are you asking me to denigrate their rights, simply in the name of being "politically correct"? I might also add that you and I would both become pariahs, and with very good reason."

"If you and I were of a different species, you would either have been eaten at birth or left to starve in the woods. But being humans, we strive to allow all of us to live, regardless of our shortcomings, limitations or quality of life. And so here we are...".

"If I have learned anything over the years Miss Wilson, it is the value of loyal, dependable employees. I would not dream of subjecting them to this type of injustice. And so I'm afraid this interview is over. I do wish you the best of luck in your job search, however. Good day."


The following was taken from the website of SPEIAC (Scented Products Education and Information Association of Canada):

Typically, individuals who believe scented products make them unwell, also react to many other substances in the workplace such as building materials, upholstery fabrics, carpeting, diesel fumes, dry-cleaning residue, newsprint and inked papers etc.

Eliminating any single substance is not likely to have a significant effect on the long-term health of individuals who believe they have multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS). Experience shows that whenever particular substances are removed from a sufferer's environment, sensitivities frequently develop to new substances.

Introducing a scent-reduction policy or a voluntary scent ban into a workplace is an important decision that affects the rights and responsibilities of all employees and visitors. It is also a complex decision with many implications. Before making a decision, it is important to consider whether allergies or Multiple Chemical Sensitivity are intended to be addressed by the policy. In the case of true, medically-diagnosed allergies, all potential contributors to allergies will need to be addressed, including dust, moulds, pollen, food odours, etc.

Although SPEIAC is not aware of any legal precedent, ruling or otherwise, we do not believe that an employer in Canada has a right to impose and enforce a scent-free policy. The issue of scents and a person's odour is extremely subjective and virtually impossible to enforce. This lack of enforceability and infringement on a person's rights are the two major reasons that no formal regulations have been passed anywhere in Canada at any level of government. Fragrances are regulated as cosmetics under the Cosmetic Regulations of the Food and Drugs Act. There is no health and safety issue related to the use of scents, as Health Canada, the industry, and the mainstream medical community have established that these federally-regulated products are safe.

It may be argued that where the employer has received 100% concurrence (a corporate ultimatum and/or coercion does not constitute concurrence, by the way...) from all staff to implement such a policy, and has some sort of defined test to indicate when a threshold has been exceeded, the policy may prevail. However, the introduction of such policies establish an extremely dangerous precedent and open the door to similar policies for body odour, garlic odours, smoke odours, flowers, and so on.

It is very important not to confuse dislikes with diseases. Everyone has dislikes and people can have strong reactions - even physical reactions - to things they dislike. This does not mean they have a disease.

Our society believes that the rights of individuals should only be restricted when clearly necessary for public health reasons. This is not the case with scented products. Individuals who believe they suffer from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity or allergies to scents should be encouraged to visit their medical practitioner for a complete diagnosis.

Indeed, fine fragrances and scented products have been enjoyed for thousands of years and most people use them because they contribute to personal hygiene, self-esteem, self-expression and a sense of well-being.

Be Specific

Some people wear very strong scents and some wear too much. Any strong aroma - perfume or otherwise - can be unpleasant and can cause a short-term reaction. Rather than ask all employees to eliminate all scented products, try to identify only those individuals whose use of scent may be inappropriate and ask them to modify their use.

Stay Inside Your Scent Circle

Everyone has a personal "scent circle" about an arm's length away from their body. Ask that employees modify their use of scent so that no one outside their "scent circle" is aware of it.
Maintain Good Indoor Air Quality ******

If indoor air quality in a workplace is poor, many substances will linger and accumulate contributing to a stale air environment. Ensuring good ventilation and fresh air intake will contribute to all employees being more alert and energetic.