Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The 1976 Summer Olympics...

The summer of 1976 will remain enshrined in my memory, as one of the best ever. I had just been posted to Montreal, to meet up with my first operational ship. HMCS Fraser (DDH 233) was a St.Laurent Class DDH. This acronym infers that the vessel is a helicopter-carrying destroyer. She had been deployed to Montreal as part of the security forces which were there to patrol the Olympic venues and escort the athletes as they were bussed from one location or the other. One has to remember that these were the first Olympic Games to be held after the 1972 games in Munich, where Palestinian terrorists slaughtered 11 Israeli athletes. Tensions were running fairly high.

We were also tasked with providing jetty security for the area where we were tied up. We were tied up outboard of another DDH, HMCS Skeena. We had an AOR or supply ship, HMCS Protecteur, tied up astern of us.

HMCS Fraser:

HMCS Skeena:

HMCS Protecteur:

A typical DDH carries a crew of about 340. With an aircrew, you can normally add another twenty bodies. DDHs are designed to carry one Sikorsky Ch-124 Sea King helicopter. These aircraft are built here in Canada and for as much as they are relatively long in the tooth, are still employed for ASW, PAX transfers, OTHT (Over-the-horizon-targeting), mail runs, reconnaissance and of course, search and rescue missions.

HMCS Fraser accompanied by her CH-124 Sea King helicopter:

I arrived onboard Fraser, a brand new OD (my actual rank was Ordinary Seaman/OS, though we were referred to as ODs (ordinary dicks). Just like anywhere else in life, when you're the newbie, you start at the very bottom rung of the ladder. We were considered lower than whale shit and Junior Sub-Lieutenants. I was awestruck by her as I crossed the brow area. I stopped on the gangway, dropped my gear and offered up my best and most military salute to the Quartermaster (QM), Corporal-of-the-Gangway and Officer of the Day (OOD).

I reported to the OOD, introduced myself and advised him that I was reporting for duty. "Well Prudhomme, I didn't exactly think you were on a camping excursion... Quartermaster?"

"Yes, Sir...?"

"Find out who the duty RP is today and pipe him to the quarterdeck!"

"Aye, Sir... Duty RP!"

Seconds later and the upper deck speakers crackled to life: "Able Seaman Bell... Lay aft! Able Seaman Bell!"

I stood there, trying to soak it all in. I was on a ship. A destroyer. MY ship. I had been wearing the uniform for a few months now, had earned my Naval Operations trade qualification and was entitled to wear my Naval Ops cap badge, but I still hadn't felt like a real sailor. A sailor without a ship, was no sailor at all. Now... finally... I felt the part. My thoughts were interrupted by a young matelot who rounded the corner from the QM's shack.

"Officer of the Day, Sir...?"

"Aaaahhh... Able Seaman Bell. This is Ordinary Seaman Prudhomme. He's an RP who has just been posted to us from Slackers (Halifax). Bring him down below to the Cox'n's Office and get him started on an In-Routine, would you?"

"Yes, Sir!... Straightaway!" Then turning to me: "Dave Bell", he said sticking out his hand. "Welcome aboard... you'll like it here, she's a good ship! Grab your gear and follow me..."

And off we went. We rounded the corner which led to a doorway. Opening the door, it led straight to a hatch which would lead us one deck down to Burma Road. On the old steamers (St.Laurent Class destroyers), there was a passageway which led from the VDS well at the very after end of the ship, all the way forward to No.2 Mess (where the Bosuns lived...). This passageway was commonly referred to as Burma Road. As we proceded forward, Dave was rattling off the various compartments we were passing.

"That's 8 Mess, that's where the stokers hide out... This is frame 56, watch your head as we go through...NEVER run through this doorway, you'll kill yourself... This is the ship's laundry... This is the ship's canteen stores...This is the Master Seamen and Below's Mess... It's our Mess where we eat and entertain... blah...blah...blah...".

As if there was ever a chance in Hell that I was going to remember any of this, beyond the first few seconds of having heard it... I remember being struck by how clean everything was. How every piece of brass shone like a miniature sun... how the decks gleamed, how the firefighting gear was stowed so perfectly, the hoses straddling their cradles, the hold-down devices painted red against the immaculately white bulkheads... I smelled a sickly sweet smell, which I was later to learn was the unmistakable odor of jet fuel (JP5), which the ship carried to fuel it's onboard helicopter. On we went, past the pay office, the wheelhouse flats, 4 Mess and finally we stopped. We were standing in front of the Cox'n's Office.

Now, the Coxswain or Cox'n, is the Senior Enlisted Rating on the ship. He is in charge of the lower decks as far as matters of good order and discipline go. He is basically God. Our Cox'n was Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Bob Wibberley. He burst out of his office and looked at the two of us. Sizing up Bell he then shifted his attention to me, glowering. He looked me up and down, hauled back and punched me a good solid one in the arm. I staggered back a couple of steps, totally caught off guard and not having a clue as to how I should react. "Geeeezzz, Chief...what was that for?!?!??" "Well Goddamnit, Prudhomme... I couldn't think of a nice thing to say to ya, so I just had to hit ya!!", he boomed. He then turned to Bell: "You make sure this young fella gets situated up in 1 Mess, then come back to get an In-Routine card... Clear?" He cocked a fist in Bell's direction and smiled.

Bell smiled back: "Right away, Cox'n!!"

"There's a good lad", the Chief grumbled. Then looking around at the small crowd that his outburst had drawn: "What the Hell's the matter with you lot? Don't you have any chores to set to? Perhaps I could find you something to keep you gainfully occupied in this man's Navy??? These are the Coxn's Flats and unless you're a Cox'n or are polishing brass here, CLEAR MY FLATS!!" he roared. Everyone scattered. He then spun on his heel and disappeared back into his office.

"Holy shit... holy shit", I mumbled. "What the fuck was that all about? Did you see that?? I didn't do nothin'! I'm properly turned out, I spent hours on my shoes last night... Why did he drive me in the arm???" I was halfway amused, halfway horrified. What the Hell had I gotten myself into. Dave just laughed. As we arrived in 2 Mess at the foot of a ladder he said: "The Cox'n's a great guy". Don't fuck with him and he's the best man you'll ever know. He's fair and he's funny, as you've just seen".

I supposed he had a point. I certainly hadn't been expecting anything like that and in truth, his broadside had surprised me more than anything. I had no doubt that if a mountain of a man like Chief Wibberley ever wound up properly and meant to do me harm, I wouldn't have all my parts... let alone be standing. I began to see the humour in this... Already I had often heard the old refrain regarding the military: If ya can't take a joke, you shouldn't have joined!

We climbed up the ladder and there I was... Home. "Wow... we're pretty far forward here, aren't we?" "We", Dave said gleefully, "are in the bow of the ship. The other side of that clamshell door in the hatch going down to the Bosun's paint locker and the anchor compartment. There is also a ladder that leads to the foc'sle. It's kind of our front door... Believe me, nobody bothers us here at sea!"

I got sorted out with a bed and a locker. I claimed a the top bunk on the port side, second row in, aft. There were 18 bunks and lockers in No.1 Mess. I beleive three or four of them were empty at the time. between the bunks, there were small storage receptacles which acted as dividers and allowed space for storing your 'war bags'. These were referred to as 'buggery boxes'. There was a small settee area on the starboard side of the hatch opening. Just aft of that, there was a small door which led to a small storage compartment for the ship's canteen. Almost directly overhead, were the muzzles of Fraser's 3"50 twin main gun mount. A fact I would be made keenly aware of in future travels. A locker on a ship measures about 6 feet high, 12 inches wide and perhaps 12 inches deep. There is one metal shelf at the top of the locker, for storing personal effects. Any additional shelving, such as to create compartments for storing your clothes, has to be hand made. First lesson in creativity. Empty milk boxes which contain the heavy plastic bags used in the mess' milk machines, when stacked one on top of the other, make a fine shelving unit.

Under your bunk, you had a boot locker. This is where you stowed your sea boots and civilian footwear. It might hold three pairs of shoes and a couple of cans of beer. This became known as BLT Beer, or Boot Locker Temperature Beer. Problems arose as soon as I tried to stow my gear. I had brought every piece of kit that I had ever been issued. Winter and summer dress. I would have a Hell of a job finding room for everything, unless I had my own private yacht. I was pretty much screwed. I was incredibly fortunate that my wife, daughter, family and in-laws all lived in Montreal. I would have to store some of my kit ashore and have it shipped home after I had found us an appartment in the Shannon Park Married Quarters. But that would have to wait until we returned to Halifax.
I had arduously studied layouts of our destroyers prior to coming aboard Fraser, so I wasn't completely lost. But there was so much I had yet to learn. I decided to go topside on the foc'sle to see the view from there. I ascended the ladder and as I poked up through and looked aft, I saw I was staring at the business end of the 3"50 gun. Wow! I stepped out onto the foc'sle and took in the view. Looking forward, I was looking down the St.Lawrence River as it coursed by Montreal's Bonsecours Market. The current here had to be at least 12 knots.

I could see the old Man and his World emplacements from Expo '67. I could see St.Hélène's Island, the Jacques Cartier Bridge and La Ronde. Not too far away from us, I could see the locks at St.Lambert. As a very young boy, I would walk to the river's edge from our home on Birch Street and stare through the chain link fence, at the ships going up the locks, bound for the Great Lakes. These instances would fuel my dreams of travel on the high seas. Now, here I was... 16 years later. I had come full circle at last.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

So I joined the Navy...

Ever since I was a young lad, I was fascinated by the sea and everything in it. I used to love reading stories of the days of sail and would often imagine myself as a world adventurer. Many years later, those same daydreams led me to the recruiting office for the Canadian Armed Forces, on Bishop Street and Ste. Catherine, in Montreal's downtown area.

I enlisted on the 05 Dec 1975. I did my 11 weeks of basic training in BFC St.Jean, St.Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC. Basic Training is the process by which you are stripped of your civilian identity. It is a process of indoctrination into the military lifestyle. It is where you learn that life from now on is not about self, but rather about your unit, your platoon, your squad, your mission. It is where you undertake an oath of service to your country and to your fellow man. It is where you learn not only the power of the group, but where you find yourself constantly pushed, tested and called on to stretch what you had heretofore thought were your own capabilities and limitations. I discovered that I was capable of far more than I ever thought. It was an eye-opening experience, to be sure.

By March of 1976, I was winging my way to Nova Scotia, to undergo my Sea Environmental Training and Basic Trades Training as a Radar Plotter 271, at CFB Stadacona in Halifax, since renamed CFB Halifax. I had no way of knowing at the time, but Nova Scotia was to be my home for the next 25 years. I was initially quartered in 'A' Block, which was also known as: "The Hotel of the Slamming Doors and Screaming Whores". I had left my wife and daughter behind in LaSalle, QC. They would move to join me in Nova Scotia following my first deployment. I would fly home every 3rd weekend or so, or drive there with a roommate who also had relatives in the province. My Sea Environmental Training took place largely at Windsor Park, a training annex located a short military bus ride away from the main base. There we learned everything we would need to know about shipboard life, ropework, naval traditions and terminology, the layout of the ship, where every single compartment was, what it was used for, layout and location of fire fighting gear, as well as damage control gear, helicopter flight operations, various pipes (shipboard announcements), orders and alarms that were sounded onboard ship, how to use a Boatswain's Call, boat launching and handling procedures, watch and station bills, watch rotations (as in standing your watch or shift aboard ship) and routines in home and foreign ports.

Our Basic Training which I took in St.Jean, QC, had been our introduction to the military lifestyle itself, which was a totally different world than that of a civilian. Now, with this introduction to naval life, it was like learning to live in a different universe. There were also practical skills that we had to prove ourselves competent in, such as fire fighting, damage control and sea survival swimming. Regardless of what type of vessel you serve on, whether it's a military ship or a commercial one, every man-jack afloat has to know how to do certain things. There's no 911 number to call at sea, if you're taking on water or if you have a fire aboard. You're IT...

Fire fighting was intense and also exciting. It was conducted out at the Canadian Forces Naval Engineering School’s Damage Control facility in Purcell’s Cove, NS. I will always remember the first time the doorway was opened, leading into our first engine room fire. It was like stepping into Hell... Most impressive. We used 2 1/2" hoses which were tipped with solid brass Rockwood nozzles. The nozzle itself weighed 15 pounds. If you didn't acquire the technique of sweeping that charged hose using your legs and body, you'd find yourself using your arms and shoulders. Big mistake... Within minutes, you would find yourself arm-weary, exhausted, out of breath and the flames would get you.

Damage control training was just as challenging, mentally and physically. They would begin flooding the mock-up of a ship's compartment and then sound the alarm, calling us into action. "FLOOD...FLOOD...FLOOD...FLOOD IN NUMBER 3 STORAGE COMPARTMENT. FORWARD SECTION BASE TEAM TAKE ACTION!!!" There was a hatch passing through the compartment's deck and another above from where you would enter the compartment. Inside the compartment, there were pipes and conduits passing through, of varying diameters. Many of these were holed (presumably by shrapnel), as were some of the compartment's bulkheads (walls). The water was piped in directly from the North Atlatic Ocean, just outside, under considerable pressure. Invariably, every one of us were soaked to the bone. It is impossible to put a quantitive descriptor on exactly how cold that water was, but I can assure you that it would take days for your testicles to descend from inside your body cavity, after such a session.

Our shoring team would come thundering into action, with one person being designated to stay topside and cut the wood, while the remainder headed down below into the cold wet water, to take the measurements and send them up top. Their mission was to stop all leaks with either wooden plugs and rags, rubber patches and bandit clamps, coffer dams and shoring timbers. Every now and then, we would switch the person responsible for the cutting, so that everyone got a turn at being dry AND wet. We would attack the major leaks first (the hatch, the doorways and major ruptures) and finish with the smaller ones (small diameter pipes, shrapnel holes). All the while, training staff would inject smoke into the compartment and drop 'thunderflashes' down between the bulkheads. These were devices which simulated battle conditions and produced deafening explosions in such restricted confines, as they reverberated through the compartment. They could scare the bejeezus outta you when you weren't expecting them. And of course training staff being who they are, they would ride you pretty hard verbally, if they figured you weren't getting things done fast enough to ensure the survivability of the ship!

My subsequent initial Trades Training as an RP, took place at the Canadian Forces Fleet School (CFFS) Halifax, which was also on the main base. This was the more cerebral part of my naval training. There we learned the skills required to tune and operate radar sets and displays, detect, track and report radar contacts, operate plotting tables, perform relative velocity calculations on any given target track and man communications nets between our unit and other ships, aircraft, submarines and shore establishments. I particularily enjoyed learning relative velocity. We used this form of trigonometry in order to be able to calculate various aspects of a target's trajectory, how to open him to within a certain distance, how to close him to within a certain distance, how to intercept him, to calculate when he would be at his closest point of approach (CPA). We would subsequently learn how top plot 'scouting missions' for a particular unit.

Our principal instructor was a giant of a man, with hands the size of my chest. He was Petty Officer (PO2) 'Moose' Milne. He was skilled in his trade, was a humorous old salt and a great instructor to boot. I recall on our second day of training, as we approached 1600hrs, he stood up in front of the class and said: "Well, gentlemen... FUFO." And with that, he left... We sat there for a good while before someone asked: "What do you think he meant by that? Do you think he"s coming back?" Nobody knew what the Hell "Fufo" meant, but we did know that we had not been secured for the day by our instructor. So there we sat. Finally, at around 1615hrs, we decided that perhaps he wasn't coming back after all and we quietly filed out.

The following morning, 'Moose' seemed rather jovial as we entered the classroom. "So, I see at least one of you figured out what "FUFO" means! You must have, otherwise you'd have still been here this morning!" "Actually" I stated, "about that PO... none of us knew what it meant, though we figured by 1615hrs that you probably weren't coming back, so we secured for the day."

"Well done", he chuckled. "And by the way, gentlemen... FUFO means simply: Flash Up and Fuck Off!" We all laughed and Moose launched into the topic for the day, which was not coincidentally the Navy's preponderance for using acronyms to describe everything under the sun. Just as the Navy had their own word for everything. We didn't have families and belongings, we had DF&E (Dependants, Furniture and Effects). It wasn't lunch or dinner, it was 'scran'. You didn't want dessert, you wanted 'duff'. It wasn't garbage, it was 'gash'. You didn't go do your laundry, you were doing your 'dobeigh', it wasn't a floor it was a 'deck', it wasn't a wall it was a 'bulkhead', it wasn't a ceiling it was a 'deckhead', they weren't stairs it was a 'ladder', it wasn't a kitchen it was a 'galley'.. and on and on it went. We had to learn an entirely new vocabulary. 'Moose' patiently led us along the path that would see us become proficient and enthusiastic young RPs.

ASW was Anti-Submarine Warfare. AAW was Anti-Air Warfare. ASUW was Anti-Surface Warfare. Once we were posted aboard a ship, while on watch we would be responsible for the safety of that ship and all who were on her. As radar operators, we were the 'eyes of the ship'. This sense of almost overwhelming responsibility was drummed into us by every one of our instructors, very early on in our training. They did so because it was a simple basic fact. One that we had to embrace and believe. It was June by the time I had finished my trades training and was deemed suitable to be posted to an operational unit. I couldn't wait. Then my posting message came in. I was to travel to Montreal to join HMCS Fraser. She had been deployed to Montreal along with HMCS Skeena and HMCS Protecteur, to provide athlete escort and venue security for the 1976 Olympics.

My adventure was about to begin...

Monday, September 28, 2009

What the Hell is a "Ride Bell"...?

Every now and then us riders can have things go wrong while out on the road. We may be plagued by Evil Road Spirits. A Ride Bell is a charm, if you will, which is intended to ward off/drive away these Evil Road Spirits.

The Purpose of the Ride Bell

Many of us have heard the story about Evil Road Spirits. They are little gremlins that live on your bike. They love to ride, and they’re also responsible for most of your bike’s problems. Sometimes your turn signals refuse to work, your battery goes dead, your tire goes flat, the clutch needs adjustment, or any of several hundred things that can go wrong. These problems are caused by Evil Road Spirits.

Evil Road Spirits can’t live in the presence of the bell, because they get trapped in the hollow of the bell. Among other things, their hearing is supersensitive, so the constant ringing of the bell in the confined space drives them insane. They lose their grip and eventually fall to the roadway. Have you ever wondered how potholes are formed? The bell has served its purpose.

If you pick up a bell of your own, the magic will work, but if your bell is given to you, the power is doubled, and you know that somewhere you have a special friend helping to look after you.

So, if you have a friend who doesn’t have a bell, why not give them one? It’s a nice feeling for the recipient to know you care. The bell, plus a good preventive maintenance program by the bikes owner, will help eliminate Evil Road Spirits.

Polishing the Bell

It has been a tradition among some of us for a long time to attach a bell to our left swingarm (or wherever), to remember our brothers and sisters who have gone down riding.

It’s a small thing, but the reason a brass bell is chosen is that, as we ride, it gets dirty and tarnished. Every time we get down to wash and polish it, we are reminded of friends lost, and our thoughts turn to the meaning of being in the wind.

As we ride and hear the bell ring, we know that our brothers and sisters are riding with us, and how easy it would be to join them with a single mistake.

And maybe, just maybe, the next time a situation comes up; they will be there to help long as we remember them by polishing the bell.

A "Chef Paul Cajun Chili" weekend...

Saturday started off bright and sunny. If nothing else, I knew I would be able to get out for a ride. I also had a couple of items in mind that needed addressing. I had gotten the idea that I wanted to pick up a ride bell for my daughter. I also had made a short list of custom parts (14), that she might find interesting for her trusty steed. Just little things here and there, which would replace some of the stock, dull, uninspired parts with a little bling and class.

Tops in my humble estimation amongst the plethora of parts-producing companies, are KuryAkyn:

and Big Bike Parts, makers and distributors of Show Chrome Accessories:

Companies like Cobra:





and Custom World International:

also get a hearty nod of approval, for supplying some of the very best parts to be found anywhere. It's funny to think of nowadays, but there was a time in the not-so-distant-past, when custom parts for metric bikes had to be pretty much made from scratch. Now...? There are a wealth of parts manufacturers who have cashed in big time to the metric cruiser market. The riding community has literally exploded over the last 15 years or so. Savvy riders have sent the message to Milwaukee that it takes a lot more than an antiquated 'bar-and-shield', to get their hard-earned cash. The ancient and ridiculous mantra of 'real bikers ride Harleys', has been relegated to the urban myth locker, once and for all.

When it comes to actually ordering parts, I have learned through trial and error (more like: trial and rape...), that "supporting my local dealers", is a thankless, expensive and foolhardy proposition.

My two favorite providers of bike parts are in fact CruiserCustomizing and XtremeRevolution.

Both companies hail from California and both provide first-rate, unequalled service. They also offer the best prices you'll find anywhere on custom parts and free shipping (UPS - ground) anywhere in the continental USA.

Case in point: I stopped into my local Powersports location off of Hunt Club. I wanted to check out the immediate availability of a couple of parts, that I planned on getting for my little girl's ride. As I stood there scanning the KuryAkyn parts wall, I was disappointed not to see the chrome deep dish bezels I had previously bought, for her front turn signals. The rear ones needed done as well, just to give the bike that 'balanced' look. I was also toying with the idea of using red bulbs for the turn signals. But it was not to be. I did however spy a great looking chrome rear brake pedal cover. It was on sale for $36.00 and change. I snapped it up on the spot.

Later canvassing through my favorite online sites would reveal that they (CC and XR...) were selling it for considerably less. ($28.15 USD). As for the chrome turn signal bezels? I had the young parts lad look up the going price in the Kury catalog. Without batting an eyelid, he informed me that they would cost me $75.00... not counting taxes. I almost had a coronary and told him outright that was way-yyy too much. I then informed him that the US suppliers were charging no more than $36.00 for the same parts. Actually I lied. Upon verifying that figure as well once I got home, I discovered that I could buy them online for $36.85. My bad...

It don't take a rocket scientist to figure out what side your bread is buttered on, in this case. I would be ordering them from the States and would take a leisurely ride down to Ogdensburg to fetch 'em... I then stopped into Ottawa Good Times, to see if they had any ride bells that would fit my requirements. They had some in stock, which were your typical offerings... a nice, floaty little guardian angel on them. I had previously purchased a ride bell there for Baby, which was in the shape of a grenade. I thought it a little more appropriate and in keeping with my general character.

I had held a consultation with my daughter's hubby, prior to beginning this shopping errand. It was decided that my daughter would probably prefer the same model I had purchased, as it was a little more 'hardcore'. I searched fruitlessly to find another one. Ah well... Perhaps at another time.

The ride out had been absolutely great. I had taken the Rideau Road and hung a right on the Bowesville Road, which took me up to the road running the perimeter of the Ottawa Airport. I followed that down to Limebank Road, where their impressive widening project is just going great guns. The changes which have taken place down in that area, in the last year alone, are flabbergasting. Holy urban encroachment, Batman! I carried on to Hunt Club from there. On my way back, I decided to take the River Road out to Manotick and stop in at Tim's for a small double double. I took my time and enjoyed the wonderful riding temperature. It simply couldn't have been better.

Arriving home, I parked Baby down at the foot of the driveway. I wanted to leave plenty of space for bringing out my daughter's bike, so that I might install the new piece on it. I flashed her up and let her idle at high revs for awhile, until I knew I could safely bring her down to her normal idle, without her stalling on me. Everytime I bring her bike outside, I scan it looking for water spots, missed areas, anything which could be made/cleaned better. The painted surfaces, the aluminum, the chrome, the rubber, the plastic. Everything is cleaned, waxed, polished, Armor-All'd. The stock brake pedal cover was a simple black rubber pad. Yuch! That does nothing for the soul at all. Even less for the eye... The new, KuryAkyn brake pedal cover, is a wonderful chrome and rubber clamshell design, securely held in place by four set screws, which of course I Loc-Tited in place. The whole procedure took perhaps 5 minutes to complete. The difference was amazing.

It would be so easy for me, who loves bikes, loves working on them and in particular, customizing them, to get carried away here. But I was reminded by Matt, that for as much as my intentions might be honorable, it should fall of course, to my daughter to customize her own bike. He had mentioned that she was a little apprehensive about me doing so, while she was so far away. The customizing process is an essential, innate, integral part of owning a bike. It is the process of looking at it, as though it were a blank canvas. Of figuring out what might not only look good, but what would reflect her personal taste, her values, her beliefs. The hours spent scouring through magazines and websites, of checking out other people's rides at events and chance meetings on the road. There is no way that I could rob my little girl of this opportunity. On this, her first bike ever...

So I fired her off a rocket, telling her to lay aside her fears. Yes, I might go out and buy her the odd widget for her ride, but I would serve more as a source of technical advice. I would forward her on the list I had compiled on various parts, to see if any of them struck her fancy. I also provided her with my very best websites for parts. I also advised her to make her own "wish list" and dist copies to family and friends. That way, whenever special occasions arose (Birthdays, Christmas, Channukah...), we would have a ready-made list from which to pick, assuring all concerned that we would be getting her something that she actually liked/wanted.

I ended Saturday with a shopping trip to the Metro store in the late afternoon. There I picked up the provisions I would need for my chili. Arriving back home, I set up shop in the kitchen, where I proceded to cook up a storm. A Cajun Chili storm, that is... The aroma wafted through the house and made it feel super-homey. I let it simmer for four hours or so, before removing it from the heat. I kept stirring it occasionally, to help it cool some. I finally laid a layer of cellophane between the pot's opening and the lid, basically creating a hermetic seal. I then let it stand on the stovetop overnight. I would re-heat it the following afternoon, as the time drew near for my guests to arrive.

Sunday was spent doing chores, such as vacuuming, cleaning the washrooms, cycling the laundry and watching the rains come down. I dashed out to the store momentarily between sowers, to pick up some cheese sticks and some pre-grated double cheddar cheese mix. As a topping on a nice bowl of chili, it's pretty hard to beat. Upon returning home, I did manage to get in a little gaming as well. At 1520hrs, I turned the heat on under the chili. I dialed in the setting on 3 and let it idle until it heated right through, stirring it every 15 minutes or so. Once I was certain that it was well heated, I replaced the lid and put it on simmer. My step-daughter and her hubby arrived a little after 1630hrs, bringing with them cheese rolls and a scrumptious lemon meringue pie for dessert.

Supper was wonderful and we all ate our fill. Dessert followed along with a cup of tea, after which we repaired to the games room where we watched the latest of the "Transformers" saga. It was a very well made movie, which proved to be very entertaining throughout it's 2 1/2 hour length. With the movie done and another successful "Chef Paul's No Fail - Southern Gale Cajun Chili Fiesta" under my belt, it was time to see the kids off. I always thoroughly enjoy their company, whenever we have the chance to get together.

I was not long in calling it a night, following the cleaning up of dishes and sorting out the kitchen. Monday morning would come early enough, although as I was slated for the 10-6 shift, I would have the luxury of sleeping in somewhat. And that is always a good thing! All in all, it was a very good weekend indeed.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The difference between 'educated' and 'intelligent'...

The following piece of correspondence was received this morning. I have no doubt the author and his colleagues are very educated people. After all, they are budding engineers, are they not? People that put "P.Eng" at the end of their name, so that you'll know they're super-smart? Yeah... that's them alright.

So anyway, this e-mail deals with an idea they have for designing an autonomous mainsail for sailing boats. That, one would have to guess, would be a mainsail that would deploy and furl under it's own power, remotely or automatically controlled. This is all well and good, but read on so you can get a better gist of what he is asking us here:

Quote: - Hello,

I am an engineering student at the **** ******* Institute, University of Southern *******.
Together with fifteen other engineering students I am taking part in a project regarding making an autonomous mainsail for sailing boats.

The exact concept and target group has not yet been decided and therefore we would be pleased if you would help us to fill out a survey made for your company.

You can either reply to this mail and just fill out the 12 questions below, or you can return the attached document.


How do you organize your search & rescue activities at the moment? There are 3 JRCCs across Canada. One in CFB Halifax, NS... one in CFB Trenton, ON and one in CFB Esquimalt, BC. There are also 2 Sub-Rescue Stations, one in St.John's, NL and one in Québec City, QC.

What is the most important fact to accomplish a rescue mission? Time. The difference between life and death in many rescue missions, is routinely measured in mere minutes.

What task takes the most time? Finding the victim.

How do you search for people at the moment? By air and sea using DND and Coast Guard assets.

What role does technology play in these activities? That depends largely on the equipment onboard the stricken vessel or aircraft.

How do you think will search & rescue activities be organised in 5 years? In a country as vast as Canada, no differently.

How many search boats do you have? 41 SAR Lifeboats, 4 Offshore Patrol vessels, 7 Mid-Shore Patrol vessels, 5 Medium-Endurance Multi-Task vessels, 7 High-Endurance Multi-Task vessels.

How much does it cost a year to keep the boats operable? Couldn't tell you, but it's money well spent according to those we rescue annually.

How much fuel does a boat consume? Depends on the size of the vessel, the load, weather conditions, sea conditions and the distance covered.

Do you have permanently search boats on the water or just in case of emergency? Both.

Do you care about environmental issues? D-uh! Hello...??? We"re Fisheries and Oceans Canada...

Can you imagine using autonomous sail boats? Absolutely not.

What would you use it for? Target practice for our small-arms teams.

You are done! You're a 'tard!

Thank you! Think nothing of it!

If you are interested in knowing more about the project or have any questions, feel free to contact me on my phone number.

Thank you for your help!

Best regards, - End quote.


So, if you're awake and alert as you're reading this, you can clearly see where he's heading with this. He is looking for input as to how the Canadian Coast Guard might employ an autonomous sailboat, for carrying out search and rescue missions. On the surface, it probably even sounds like a plausible idea. Unless of course you're that person treading water, waiting to be found and rescued.

In his survey (for which I've taken the liberty of filling in the blanks...), he asks the question: "What is the most important fact to accomplish a rescue mission?" Allowing for bad English, we might assume he is in fact asking what the most important factor is, when conducting a rescue. The answer to that is simple: Time.

Time is the all important factor when it comes to search and rescue. In localizing the person in distress, in finding them and in rescuing them. Disasters don't usually happen in fair weather. Searching for and reaching someone in mountainous seas, howling winds and driving rains, is not something you are going to accomplish in a timely manner, using a fucking sailboat. The same applies in fair weather conditions, by the way. To be perfectly honest about this, using a sailboat for any search and rescue application, is retarded. It is something that might have had merit in the days of the Egyptian Dynasties, but not since the invention of the steam engine.

So here again, we can appreciate the difference between the terms: educated and intelligent. It IS educated to be able to conceive, design and produce an autonomous mast. It is NOT intelligent to think that this would have any viable applications in the world of search and rescue. Yet one more case of being over-educated and under-smart.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

To represent your country...

I got involved in an online discussion last night, which centered around people wearing the Maple Leaf when traveling abroad. The initial post was made by a young, linguistically-challenged fellow from Ontario. In his initial rant, he was attempting to call out Canadians who traveled to Europe and wore the Canadian flag "just so they can get free stuff", to use his own words. He went on to say that they had no right doing so, mentioned something about our military's service over there and finished by stating that he was "aware that a lot of people do it, so they should just stop".

One bright young lady (who could actually spell, mind you...), joined the discussion and asked him where he was getting his facts, as it seemed to be a somewhat serious blanket accusation. Obviously, there was no response from the other end. I decided to join in with my take on this matter, which is actually based on many years of travelling around through Europe and not simply on speculation.

I opined that many Canadians wear our flag when they travel to Europe and that it was their right to do so. I pointed out that as Canadians, we did not "receive free stuff", as this one young lad seemed to believe. I did state however that we were treated courteously and with respect, because unlike here in Canada, the children of these European countries learned about us in school. They were taught how Canadians traveled across the sea, to fight and liberate their country from tyranny. These people have taught this history to each successive generation of theirs. These are the same people who tend our war cemeteries, with such devotion and loving care. It is their way of acknowledging and remembering, the blood shed by Canadian troops, so that they might have their country and their future back.

I reminisced about one occasion in Belgium, when I was ashore in uniform. It was perhaps the moment when I was never more proud to be Canadian. I recalled how I had been approached by survivors of those war years. With tears in their eyes and love in their hearts, they embraced me and shook my hand, wanting to thank me personally, for what our ancestors had done for them, so many years gone by. All they saw was the word "CANADA" emblazoned in gold thread on my shoulder and that was enough for them. I became the recipient of their gratitude and affection.

I came to understand that they were perhaps not thanking me personally, but they were thanking the country which I represented. That moment remains frozen in my memory. I never forgot that incident and it forever reminded me that as long as I wore the uniform of my country, to all these people and their children, I truly did represent Canada. Whenever I was abroad in uniform, I strove to conduct myself in a manner which would reflect credit on myself and my country.

I also stated that I did take exception with people who traveled abroad, wearing the Canadian flag and who were NOT Canadians. In the past, these were normally American civilians, but Europeans quickly caught on to this and the charade does not normally last long. You cannot pass yourself off as a Canadian, if you're not from here. Let's face it, it's pretty bad when you're ashamed of advertising your country of origin. The cure for that is not wearing the flag of another country, it's education and proper behaviour when in a foreign country. Briefly put: not being an ignorant and/or obnoxious asshole.

Whether we recognize it or not, when we travel as civilians, we share that same responsibility. We should always be mindful that when we wear our country's emblem openly, with pride, our words and actions will be associated with the country we represent. We already know how some other countries are perceived abroad. Let's not let ourselves fall into that category...

There is a recruiting ad which runs occasionally (on the Military Channel), for the US Marine Corps. The monologue is simple, to the point: "In this world it's not who you represent... but what." The shot then pans outwards, showing a young black Marine, dressed in his No.1s (ceremonial dress blues), the very picture of sharp, crisp, military perfection.

I for one, second that thought...

Monday, September 21, 2009

What a great weekend... (2)

Sunday morning found me champing at the bit to get going. Over my first cup of coffee, I had gone online and sent Matt a message. I basically stated that I was up and about and ready whenever he was. Today I would rescue my daughter's trusty steed. 'Bike-nap' it, as I call it. While I waited to hear back from Matt, I had many other tasks calling for my attention. Laundry had to be caught up on and there was that nagging detail from the lattice work to see to. The last two sections which had to be cut and fited onto the 2 hinged, wooden frames at the end of the deck.

I threw the laundry in and went back up top to check for a response to my e-mail. It would be some time before Matt was inbound to the city. He had the poultry and the canine to tend to first of all. I had time to concentrate on the lattice work. By 1200hrs, I had finally finished and cleaned up the shop. I had also cycled the laundry to the dryer. I then went up top to check on Matt's progress. According to his message from 1100hrs, he had just to let the four-legged one out and he would be outta there. That meant that he should be arriving shortly. I got changed into my riding attire and finished just as the doorbell rang. Sure enough, it was him.

We took a leisurely drive through the backroads to Chesterville, then on to their homestead. Upon arriving I backed her out of the barn one final time. I told Matt I would touch base with him once I was safely home and that he could inform my daughter that I would of course, treat her bike as if it were my very own. I fired her up and we headed out for the 31. I had loaned my daughter the small windshield I had been running on Baby, initially. I had since realized that for long road trips, a full windshield was much more practical and efficient. It sat perched in front of me, not really accomplishing much of anything. The wind blast and noise when at speed, were pretty horrendous. I decided to remove it once I arrived home. She needed one that fit and actually did the job.

Taking my habitual route back became a different experience, while riding this new bike. She handled much differently than Baby. She was lighter, more nimble. I found myself being really cautious on the turns, not wanting to touch down those floorboards. On the straightaways, I pretty much let her take her head. She tracked along really good. Just before arriving home, I stopped into our local PetroCan to fill her up with fresh stuff. $6.00 later we were back out in traffic on Innes, threading our way through the Sunday shopping traffic.

Arriving home, I parked her in the middle of the driveway and gave her a while to cool down, before starting the process of bringing her back. I removed the windshield and brackets. I then ran the hose and broke out the Meguiar's Car Wash. I stopped into the computer room to fire off a message to Matt, informing him of our safe arrival. Then it was time to get down to business. I first soaked her bike down from stem to stern, concentrating on the hidden areas, like inside the fender wells and under the frame. After letting her sit for 10 minutes or so, I whacked the suds to her.

I find it better to concentrate on washing one section at a time. I break each side of the bike up into quadrants. Slowly, the glorious bike that I remembered from the Powersports showroom began to emerge. The wheels had the worse amount of deposits on them, though from what I couldn't tell you. It was sort of a sticky, waxy residue which required some amount of elbow grease to finally dispose of. Even when cleaned, there remained some galling that would require polishing to see it finally removed as well. After finishing with the rear fender and pipes, I stood back to admire the change. Now this was more like it! With the late afternoon sun striking her from the angle it was, she gleamed. Between the chrome and the gold-based metalflake burnt-orange paint, it was enough to hurt your eyes.

I spent the next 45 minutes wiping her down, noting areas which would require some chrome/metal polish and perhaps a coat of sealant applied afterwards. I had also noted that the left hand grip had a tendency to want to slide off the handlebar. I'd have to secure that with some 'death-grip' adhesive. There was an excessive amount of play in the clutch cable... I would set that right as well. The throttle assembly had to be taken apart and the sleeve and cables lubed with teflon. The throttle return springs on the carb body itself, also had to be lubed.

I had yet to disassemble the airbox for a visual inspection, or the side covers, to inspect and clean beneath them. The radiator cover had to be removed as well (Hm-mmm... they make chrome ones for her, don't they?), to ensure that no dirt remained trapped behind it. I have been eyeing her horn as well... Surely there has to be a better place to route that to. And maybe provide it with a classy chrome cover, perhaps? Her rear master cylinder still maintains that same, blah, stock, black tin cover. And a black plastic cap? Puh-leeeease... I sense a new chrome one in her future... The clutch and brake levers are the stock, dull aluminum ones. Tsk! Tsk! Chrome would look better. Ditto for her front master cylinder cover. Her rear turn signals are still those two ugly lumps of orange plastic... And that stock airbox? Girl, you got to do you some shoppin'...!!! I could go on and on (and I probably will, as time goes by...), but enough of that. She was now clean and dry and looking a thousand times better than she had just hours ago. It was time to take her out for a romp to Cumberland.

Closing up the shop, I flashed her up and took her back out onto Innes. Don't ask me why, but I have always gotten the feeling that bikes just run better when they're clean. She was certainly no exception. She was getting the eye from everyone that saw her, too. She really is a good looking bike, when she's all cleaned up. As we passed Trim Road and headed out into the country, I was able to admire the view from the cockpit. Her dash was different than Baby's. The speedo sat mounted on the tank itself, rather than being cradled between the handlebars. Sans windscreen, the wind blast actually felt really good, after working up a healthy sweat by washing and wiping her down. I kept our speed down as we trundled along. You tend to ride more conservatively when you have no protection up front. Common sense dictates it...

We turned North down Dunning and headed to Old Montreal Road, which would take us through the village of Cumberland. Again, old route, new feeling onboard my little girl's ride. It was a real joy. I remember thinking how days like this were nothing short of a gift. Montreal Road is always a treat to ride. It twists and turns, rises and drops. It's just a pretty ride. All too soon, we were back at Trim Road and I had to turn left and climb the hill which would bring us back to Innes. It was just a short romp, just enough to blow the last remaining droplets out of hidden places.

She ran like a champ, all the way home. As we pulled back into the driveway, she was still wanting to idle poorly. I took advantage of her being fully warmed up, to re-adjust the idle speed. It took me all of a second to find the thumbwheel, located just below the airbox on her starboard side. One minor adjustment later and she was now idling smoothly. I shut her down and went inside to brief Matt. I had been searching for my billfold, which contained my insurance and registration for Baby. I went through the entire house at least twice. No luck. I had sent Matt an e-mail before taking the princess out, asking him to check his car and property to see if I hadn't left it out there. Sure enough, I had...

I tucked 'The Princess' as I now call her, into the garage and secured it. It was a little after 1800hrs and I was outbound with Baby to Chesterville, once more. As the sun set, you could feel the heat being stolen by the shadows, as they lengthened and covered the countryside. Gone now are those balmy evenings where even a t-shirt would be too much clothing to bear. Traffic was light and we made good time travelling down there. I stopped just long enough to collect my wayward paperwork and thank him again for his help. And then we were off again. Even in the time it took to do the turnaround, the air had chilled even more. I decided to stop at Tim's on the way out from Chesterville.

Pulling into their parking lot, I decided that a small double double would not be out of place. I also took the time to zip the liner back into my helmet and swap my light leather VTX gloves for my heavier rain gauntlets. I also cleaned the windshield, as we had collected more than our share of insects on the way down. I had every intention of remaining toasty and comfy on the ride back. Notably since getting cold had a tendency to aggravate the pain in my shoulder. By the time I headed back onto the road, I was just fine. I switched on the passing lamps when I turned onto John Quinn Road, 'cause that there is deer country. I wanted to be able to spot 'eye-shine' from a long, long ways away. I maintained our speed at around 80kmh and kept a vigilant lookout for critters.

By 2015hrs we were pulling into the driveway for the last time. It had been a superlative day, with plenty of great riding and many accomplishments. I looked at Baby's windshield after she was tucked in and I knew I had one more remaining task before I could call it a day. There's no way I could let her spend the night looking like that and I had no intention of cleaning her off in the early morning. Some 20 minutes later, she looked her regular pristine self again and I was ready for my jammies.

I sent off one last e-mail to Matt, informing him that all was well. Before trudging up the wooden hill, I checked in one last time with the shop. There sat two of the most gorgeous bikes I knew of, nose to tail. I had me a garage full of awesome. I felt much better knowing that my daughter's bike would no longer be a source of concern. Either for her or for myself. Let's face it, she has much more pressing matters to concentrate on. I'm just glad I can help her to do that.

What a great weekend... (1)

I have to admit that this past weekend was quite splendid. Not only did I get some chores done on the home front, but I got in a whole mess of riding, in absolutely perfect weather conditions. My little girl's bike has been residing in a barn for the past few months. A barn with a dirt floor, mind you... and open to every critter God put on this earth. The chrome, the aluminum wheels and some of the painted metal surfaces, were already beginning to show signs of neglect. This is a brand new bike (a 2008 Honda VTX 1300S, with R Model wheels), with just a little over 340 klicks on her...

So bright and early Saturday morning, I loaded up my bike with a battery charger, a multimeter and some basic hand tools, and headed out to Chesterville. Thankfully the bike's battery had been removed and stored indoors, before my little girl had been posted overseas. My plan was to give her a once-over and try to get her out on the road for a little systems check, if I could. I thought it likely that I'd have to leave her on charge overnight, before she'd be ready to hit the road. When I finally got there and metered the battery to check what kind of voltage remained, it registered a surprising 11.45VDC. Now a 12 volt battery that's in top shape, ready to go, will normally read a little over 13VDC. The way I figured it, it wouldn't take us that long to have this battery charged up to specs and ready to re-install in the bike.

We hooked up the battery to the charger and I then busied myself inspecting the bike. She was dirt-encrusted with bits of straw here and there. Cobwebs abounded, there was the beginning of galling on those fine CNC-machined aluminum wheels and even the odd scattering of surface rust on her pipes and the hardware for her saddlebags. No... no... nononononono... This would never do. This was no longer a steed fit for my daughter, let alone for one of our country's finest. Something had to be done. I think I pretty much resolved right there to "bike-nap" my daughter's ride. But first, we had to bring her back to life...

Her man and I shot the breeze for a spell, we observed the goings-on of their chickens (and 4 black ducks) and he was kind enough to brew me up a cup of coffee. I admired his handiwork in building several small outbuildings for their growing brood. After a while, I decided to check on the battery and see how it was coming along. The voltmeter read 13.25 VDC. Good enough! I was going to get to take this little princess out for a road check after all. In short order, we had re-installed the battery in the bike and buttoned her all up. Finally, we installed the seat.

I made a mental note to get a better battery charger for my daughter... one which came with a set of "pig-tails". Pig-tails are a set of permanent connections that are wired directly to the battery terminals. They end in a simple, generic 12V plug. This can be hidden in back of one of the side covers, so that whenever you need to recharge/top up your battery, you just pop the side cover and plug it in. It's just that simple. No need to remove the seat, the battery cover, etc... They are a godsend.

With the battery once more where it belonged, it was time to see if this little darlin' would fire up for me. I turned on the petcock, pulled out the choke, turned the key in the ignition and hit the starter. She turned over fine but no ignition yet. I turned the ignition off and gave a couple of twists on the throttle, just to make sure there was enough fuel in the carb's bowl and down the throat. I once more turned the ignition to "On" and thumbed the starter. She turned over a couple of times and then caught. Success!! I let her idle at high revs for what I reckoned was a good while, before attempting to ease the choke back in.

In the meantime, I had donned my riding gear and was pretty much set to go. When I pushed the choke home, she stuttered and died. Hm-mmm... The slow speed circuit didn't want to play the game. I had been told that fuel stabilizer had been added prior to the bike being put away, so it might simply be some small impurities which had found their way to a fuel or an air jet. I cracked the choke just a tad and starterd her up again. She was running fine. I headed out onto the small two-lane blacktop strip that would lead me over the South Nation River and towards Route 31.

I kind of goosed her as we motored down the road. 100kmh... 120kmh... I figured I might be able to dislodge whatever bad stuff was making her act up. I could barely make out the sound of the engine over the roar of the wind. As I neared the small bridge which arced over the river, I downshifted to fourth, then third. I still could not really make out the pitch of the engine, so I downshifted to second as I readied to take the turn. As I released the clutch, I heard a chirp as the rear tire bit into the road and the ass-end fishtailed slightly. Whooooa... apparently I had still been rolling a little hot for a shift down to second. Mental note to self: go slower so that maybe you'll be able to hear the engine better. Second mental note to self: Tell daughter she needs a set of throatier pipes for her little beast. Stealth and motorcycles do not and should not mix... ever.

I have to tell you, this bike scoots along very, very well and with little effort, I might add. The throttle was a little stiff, but I think I can massage that by the judicious application of some teflon-based lube and better adjusting the throttle cable free-play. There is a very solid, planted feeling you get while riding this bike. The floorboards contribute to this in a big way, I feel. The heel-toe shifter (commonly called a rocker shifter) takes a little getting used to, but after the first few up and down shift patterns, it becomes almost natural. The bike is effortless to manoeuvre. Cornering is a little more restricted than with other models (I.E.: those without the floorboards), but it's always good to remember that they are hinged and will give when they first touch down.

It's always a little disconcerting when you first 'scrape the boards'. The thing to remember is not to freak out, don't make any severe or harsh corrective measures that will land you in actual trouble. The scraping is simply a warning device to tell you: "Okay... that's enough leaning. Now stop leaning before you dig in the mount for your floorboards. That is a solid mounted piece of the bike that does not bend of give...". Dig that sucker in and you're going for a ride, alright...

Some riders develop a predilection for grinding down their boards. Some make a habit of honing them down so they look like a knife edge. They delight in dragging them through curves, impressing their buddies trailing behind them with a long shower of sparks. It works better at dusk or at night, obviously. They reckon they're riding on the wild side, courting disaster by living life on the ragged edge. Me? I reckon they just like shelling out the bucks for new floorboards... Either way, it's not a big thing when it happens and can actually be kind of entertaining.

I made it to the juncture of Route 31 (Bank Street, really...) and she was still refusing to idle with the choke in, unless I stayed on the throttle. I veered to the right, which would lead me into Chesterville. I figured I'd go as far as the local Timmie's and see how she did, before turning around and heading back. We blasted along that stretch of highway pretty good. She ran like a trooper, seeming to like the 100kmh/120kmh bracket just fine. As we pulled into Tim's and I let off the throttle, she was still sputtering a little, but not as bad as she had been. I had to fish around like a 'tard with my heel for the kickstand, as she still had the short, stock one mounted on hers. A small group of riders watched me with some amusement and I felt mortified. Blast!

I finally got her on her sidestand and dismounted. Quickly shedding my lid, I headed inside for a small double-double. I realized I had not brought my phone to let Matt know where I was, and that if I tarried overly long, my daughter's hubby may find himself pondering how to explain my untimely demise to her. The group of riders had gathered around the bike and were waiting for me when I emerged with my coffee. "I really like those bars... where did you get them?", one of the riders asked. I was relieved to explain that this was in fact my daughter's bike and I was taking it out for a little shakedown cruise. I explained the carb problem as well, so that they would not be left with the impression that they were talking to a newbie.

We talked bikes for a spell and I noticed that one of the lads was riding a 1300S model in black. She had white wall tires, laced wheels, Vance & Hines pipes, KuryAkyn Hypercharger, batwing fairing and hardbags to match. It was drop-dead gorgeous and immaculately maintained. A real showbike. I made some mental notes on it as we talked. It suddenly hit me that I really should get back so I bade farewell to my new buddies and saddled up. I made sure I cracked the choke just a bit as I started her up. I didn't want anymore "embarassing moments" as I made my way out of there.

I tromped her once more as we headed back to my daughter's place. She ran rock steady. As I rolled back into her driveway, I rolled completely off the throttle and she died. Hm-mmm... Clearly some more 'cleaning out' was needed. Some fresh gas ought to do the trick. I'd work on that tomorrow. For the time being, I was satisfied she was up and running again. We'd work on the specifics later on. I thanked Matt for his hospitality and we made plans for him to come out and fetch me on Sunday, when I would then take my little girl's bike back home with me. I would restore her to her former glory and provide her with a comfy and loving home until her owner's return.

I left the battery charger with Matt and saddled up for the retrurn trip. I arrived at home after an exhilarating ride in perfect weather. I had to do some floor space planning for how to shoehorn two VTXs in this garage. Though smaller in displacement, the 1300S model had a longer overall length, thanks to her valanced fenders.

I couldn't wait to get her into the shop. My daughter needed my help to keep 'the nasties' from overwhelming her pride and joy. How in the world could I refuse her?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ummm... Who's web is it again...?

And the winner by a clear margin, of the "OH-MY-GOD-DO-YOU-HAVE-A-PLATE-IN-YOUR-FRIKKIN'-HEAD-OR-WHAT!!!" award, over any other call we have received this week, is one which came from the State of Quebec, just an hour or so ago.

The female caller asked one of our information officers in French: "Our internet here in Québec... will it work with the internet in the United States...?".

That's right. Those 3 w's in front of every website URL ever created stand for what, again...?

Go now... and in the name of all that is holy, procreate no more.

A great end to the week...

Yesterday as I rode home along the Parkway, following a line of cars, there occured a noteworthy event. Just as I was rolling through the carousel turn at the end of Deer Alley, there standing in the ditch to my right-hand side, was a big, beautiful doe! This is the first deer I have seen on the Parkway, since before they started their 'pavement rehabilitation project'. Hopefully they are in the process of making their return to these parts, as I do so enjoy seeing them as I ride through.

This morning I peered out the window of our computer room, at zero zero dark. It was literally pissing down rain. In fact, it had been the sound of the rain which had drawn my attention outside in the first place. "Great!!", I muttered to no one. "Don't tell me I'm gonna have to bus into work on a Friday...". The thought of bussing in was bad enough, but it was the prospect of hanging around, waiting for a bus after quitting time and then suffering through the bus ride home, that really got my goat. Notably when I had this feeling it would probably not be raining at the time and that would make me want to kick myself even harder, for not having taken Baby in.

I debated what plan of action to follow. Screw it, I thought. I've ridden through deluges before and came out just fine. What's the worst that can happen? I get a little damp? I decided I'd ride in after all. When it came time to leave, I threw open the garage door and was greeted by... no rain. It had stopped raining. The streets were wet, but there was no precipitation. "Well this was obviously a good call", I thought to myself. I threw on my rain gear, backed Baby out and secured the door. We were off...

Traffic was relatively light along Innes and moved along well. Before long, I was waiting for the light at the bottom of Jeanne D'Arc and St.Joseph. The trip in along the Parkway was wonderful. I was kept toasty and dry by the Joe Rocket jacket and pants, and had even zipped on the weather panel for my lid, which took care of my ears and neck. My well-worn Alpinestar all-weather boots kept my feet dry and warm as well.

Truth be know, I could have rode all day. It was comfortable and Baby was purring along like a bandit. Sure enough, she looked a sight after we arrived at work, but I have plans to take her out in the driveway and give her a good wash and wax after we get home from work this afternoon. She has certainly earned it and I want her to look her best for this weekend's outings.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

You can run, you rat-bastards...

It was with great personal satisfaction that I read about a US Special Ops strike against Al Qaeda targets in Somalia. I had surmised as much when the first obscure reports emerged 3 days ago, referring to an air attack of 'unknown origin'. The following article is right off the CNN website:

U.S. may have killed al Qaeda target in Somalia, officials say
September 14, 2009 -- Updated 1525 GMT (2325 HKT)

U.S. special operations forces raid in Somalia on Monday may have killed a wanted al Qaeda terrorist, U.S. officials said.

The U.S. unit used a helicopter to fire on a car in southern Somalia, killing several people, including one the U.S. military believes was Saleh ali Saleh Nabhan, a senior al Qaeda operative. Nabhan has been tied to several attacks in East Africa, including the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, according to the sources.

He also was wanted by the FBI for questioning in connection with the 2002 suicide bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel and the unsuccessful attack on an Israeli charter jet in Mombasa, Kenya.

The officials who talked to CNN are familiar with the latest information on this incident but did not want to be identified because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The helicopter flew from a U.S. Navy warship offshore, one of the sources said. The ship kept watch on the operation and was ready to rescue the U.S. troops if they got into trouble.

The official said the troops landed to take away the body believed to be that of Nabhan for positive identification.

The United States had intelligence that he was in the area, and was monitoring the situation for several days, the sources said.

President Obama signed off on the operation, a senior U.S. official told CNN's Ed Henry.

Farmers in the southeastern town of Barawe, Somalia, who said they witnessed the assault, said a number of helicopters attacked a car and its occupants and that at least two people died. They said some helicopters landed and that some of the injured or dead were pulled into at least one helicopter.

Farahan Ali Mohamoud, minister of disarmament for Somalia's transitional federal government, confirmed to CNN that there was an attack in Barawe.


This story comes hot on the heels of other success stories from Pakistan and Afghanistan, where other senior Taliban and Al Qaeda members have been brought to ground, captured and/or killed outright.

Pakistanis themselves, displaced by the recent heavy fighting in the Swat area, have now returned home and are not about to be moved again. 1.6 million of them, by Pakistani and UN counts. They themselves have formed militia squads and have taken to eliminating the local Taliban, wherever they are found. Bodies of dead Taliban are found on the roadside daily. It has become a routine. Better them than the locals...

So yes, the worm has turned. For those who still champion the cause of religious extremism, it is high time you understood one thing: YOU CAN RUN, YOU LOW-LIFE, RAT-BASTARD SONOVABITCHES... BUT YOU CAN'T HIDE!!!!

It may take some time, yes. But you will be found and you will be terminated with extreme prejudice. It doesn't matter if you run to Egypt, to Pakistan, to Afghanistan, to Iraq, to Iran, to Kurdistan, to Khazakstan, to Lebanon, to Yemen, to Syria, or to any one of the lesser countries on the African continent. There is no safe haven for you cockroaches... And that is how it should be. Retribution should know no borders.


Well, unless they moved here to good ol' North America.

Here? Why we'd give them rights and protect them. They would be perfectly safe. We'd make it a crime to persecute them regardless of their crimes (Arar) because our misguided, fucked up and brainless interpretation of religious freedom, includes such heinous practices as honour killings, female genital mutilation, female subservience, indiscriminate killing of 'non-believers', denial of education, incestual rape and Christ knows what else.

We will go so far as to forbid North American religion in our schools, but build a prayer room in the school, for Muslim students. (Québec). We will alter our description of North American religious holidays (don't say: "Merry Christmas"...), but adopt as sacrosanct the Koran and the name of their fictional deity: Allah.

Can any of you say: "Tail wags the dog" here...??? Oh wait... my bad. We've already gone through that scenario, with one province holding the entire country hostage. Yeah... that's why we deserve whatever particular brand of Hell history has in store for us.

This country used to be great at one time. In an era that most people would scarcely remember. We showed so much promise. Then the vast majority of our male population grew vaginas. How the Hell did that ever happen? Was it something in the water supply? Have we poisoned and contaminated ourselves to the point where we have trumped evolution itself, and are now spiralling ever-downwards towards our own self-annihilation? Thank God we weren't such pussies during the Second World War, or today we'd all be goose-stepping and singing "Deutschland Uber Alles".

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Nothing lower than a thief...

So my cohort 'Grouchy' here at work, is grumbling more than usual today. It seems that one of our 'colleagues' here thought they would help themselves to some of his lunch, which he had stowed in the communal fridges, in our lunchroom. He's not a happy lad and I can totally understand him.

To be honest, there has been a rash of such thefts over the period that I have been working here. Clothing, sunglasses, lunches, umbrellas, cigarettes, the list is endless... Now where I come from, a thief is the lowest form of life there is. And that's even taking into account politicians, lawyers and socialites. In the Navy, we had a very particular way of dealing with a thief.

You have to understand that in the military, people don't just work together, they live together for prolonged periods of time, in very difficult, demanding and at times dangerous circumstances. Not only that, but they rely implicitly on one another, they depend on each other to perform to the best of their ability, to watch out for one another. Their lives depend on each another. It's a pact. An unwritten code upon which rests every value and belief that they share.

Then you discover that one of your own is a thief. It is a betrayal. Not only of shared values and beliefs, but of trust. If you cannot trust a man in the military, there is no place for him. He cannot remain. He has to go. I cannot speak for other branches of the service, but in the Navy we had our very own brand of justice to meet out, once a thief was discovered onboard. I can still recall vividly one destroyer I was priviledged to serve on, it was discovered that we indeed had a thief. The 'old man' got on the blower and made the following announcement, his voice fairly trembling with rage: "Gentlemen... we have a thief amongst us. There is a thief onboard my ship!! I don't care how you find him. And once you do, I don't care how long it takes to get him up here... but I want that man standing before me in my cabin!!" A trap was laid and sure enough, he took the bait.

When word got out that we had caught the thief, Burma Road was lined with matelots of all ranks and trades. They began back aft by 12 Mess, the stokers mess. They dragged this sorry, miserable excuse for a matelot through the gauntlet, all the way forward to the ladder outside Sick Bay, which led up to the Wardroom flats, via Radar 3 and the CCR. Every man-jack who had a notion to, felt free to clobber him as he was dragged past.

There have been cases where it was common for a man to have a hatch closed on his hands, breaking several or all his fingers, just to get the point across. It was called "Messdeck Justice", back in the day. It was the retribution of the crew, prior to dealing with the official channels of justice. I can tell you that he was in a sorry state by the time he had reached the CO's cabin. But there was not a man there felt sorry for him. What he had done was the worst offense immaginable. To steal from your shipmates... He was subsequently charged by the Captain on the spot and flown off the ship to the 'Crowbar Hotel', which was the military stockade (prison) in Edmonton. Following his time served, he was dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces.

I will always have an abiding love for the military, partly because of it's clear sense of division between right and wrong. Because you ARE responsible for your actions, as well as for your own defense. Because in the military point of view, scumbags are scumbags and are treated as they rightfully deserve to be. Because black is black, and white is white. There is no quagmire of grey in the military world. Because a military man will not blame himself when somebody else fucks up.