Unless otherwise credited, all words and photographs are © David Ritchie and may not be used without permission.
In Defence of Learning and Knowledge.
Have you noticed that people don’t seem to buy things anymore- they grab them. I didn’t realize that stuff is free these days. I always have to pay for things, I guess I’m not quick enough. Besides, I was taught that it is bad manners to grab. Man, I’m really out of touch.
I am very close to abandoning this site. WordPress has made it almost impossible to continue using this format and the new editor may be a software engineer’s wet dream, but it’s a nightmare for me. I don’t recommend WordPress for anything- look elsewhere for a site that is user friendly. This site is paid for until the year-end, then it disappears forever.
I will take the best of ECW to a new home on a new domain. Thanks for tuning in, it’s been fun!
A link to the new site will be posted on this site when available. Ask to be notified if you wish to be added to the list.
Acceptance. Things are meant to change, whether we like it or not.
April 29 Like the Traffic tune says, sometimes I feel so uninspired. I’ve been from here away for over one month. The last year has been difficult for all of us in the Covid era and I’m no exception. Losing Wilson was a heart punch on top of many other things that I won’t bother you with.
I have almost given up on the news of the day, with the exception of my local news. And it hasn’t been good. I vowed to stay away from political and religious matters when I began this blog but some things cannot be ignored. A local cult passing itself off as a church has made national news by their irresponsible behaviour against the lockdown measures designed to protect us from this horrible virus, painting a nasty stain on the reputation of our fine town and embarrassing many residents.
They are not alone in the selfish behaviour exhibited by many, with their ludicrous rants about freedom and the Charter of Rights that I’m quite certain few have actually read in full.
Golfers ranting about closed courses, fitness folks about closed gyms, hipsters can’t get their $100 haircuts and beard trims, women can’t get their hair and nails styled. Nails! The horror!
On top of those terrible 1st world hardships, I read in the local paper that the fire chief of a nearby township wants to get a new logo for his firetrucks, stationary and flashes for the uniforms. That should put an end to house fires, eh?
Wilson 2006- 2021
With sad hearts, we said goodbye to my dear friend Wilson yesterday. He had a long life of 14 years and 7 months and loved living on the farm. I always told him that he won the rescue dog lottery.
March 13 Masquerade. Images are wherever you might find them. After washing a mask I hanged (hung?) it up to dry. Sign of the times and, hopefully, a grin on your face.
March 1 Real Rock ‘n Roll and dancing when it was exciting and fun. Enjoy it here , maybe do a solo around the room, and shake your hips!
Feb 23 Am I alone in thinking the new BMW R18 is one hideous looking abortion of a motorcycle? I’ve never been fond of flat twins with their cylinders stuck out the sides and this latest 1800cc has monstrous jugs that stick out like training wheels on a motorcycle. Not a pretty sight viewed from the front. Or the rear.
And then there’s the styling which is a pseudo-old school combined with Space Ranger, sort-of-cruiser, art deco mashup. Make up your mind, BMW.
Remember your last, even more hideous attempt at a cruiser? That didn’t work out very well, did it?
But there’s no accounting for taste, and the hipsters might run to it like a herd of lemmings.
I posted the above to a motorcycle forum I participate in. Reactions may prove interesting.
A note of optimism. For the past week or two on early morning walks just before sunrise, I’ve heard a cardinal tuning up his mating whistle. Despite it being -15c he calls for his mate, perhaps chatting about the nesting plans for the year, how many kids they’ll raise this year. Or maybe just bragging about the height and deep colour of his punk crown. And his sexual prowess.
Lockdown blues. Several months of isolation due to Covid containment certainly gives us time to consider our lives. What we consider deprivation was simply normal rural living before the era of telephones and automobiles. And for much longer too, as much as 4 or 5 months depending on the severity of the winter. No phones, maybe no electric lighting, no escape, no fresh food- in fact often to the point of near-starvation. Cutting wood to heat your leaky cabin, melting snow and ice for water. Not to mention the reluctance to freeze your arse in the outhouse.
No social media to brag on, spread rumours, gossip and lies. And no Netflix- oh, the horror of it all, how did they do it? Some, like the Mad Trapper of Rat River didn’t.
Jan 26 On Sunday I got some upsetting news. The Last Time, the largest fish tug built by Ralph Hurley, had partially sunk beside the dock in Bayfield, Ontario. Submerged on the starboard side up to the bottom of the wheelhouse. The port side was clear of the water but an 80-foot long steel fish tug with a 24-foot beam can hold a lot of water. Worse, it happened on a Sunday, making it difficult to get the salvage experts and equipment on location.
It was not a simple matter of plugging whatever caused the leak and pumping out the water. Divers had to attach lines to hoist her and two 80 ton cranes were called in on Monday. It took hours of slowly lifting her as the water was pumped out to lessen the load. By evening they had the Last Time back afloat. Now the assessment of the damage begins. A major concern is the engine, did the water get into the air intake? Plus the wide array of electronics and wiring to be tested and replaced as needed.
The good news is the Last Time will once again be fishing, feeding many people and providing families with an income. Tough boats those Hurley fish tugs.
Remember Speedvision? It was a cable tv channel that started 25 years ago and later morphed into Speed. It was often the only source to view motorcycle racing on television.
Being an American show it quite naturally featured American racing and, on occasion, the far superior racing from Europe. It also pointed out the glaring difference between the very knowledgeable British announcers and the not-so-wise American voices. The Brits tend to talk about the actual races, the techniques and the strategies of top drawer racers. The Americans tended to talk about personalities and, when talking about the racing, showed their amateur status. Often, they were car guys from the left-turn Bubba school shoved onto a new platform where their ignorance shone brightly.
One of them left a particularly bad impression on me: Greg White.
Ever since my youth, I worshipped motorcycles. One of the objects of my lust was a Ducati Diana Mark 111. It was unobtainable due to both a lack of a local dealer and my lack of funds.
Everybody pronounced the name as Ducati in both North America, the UK and Europe, particularly Italy, the home of Ducati. Along comes know-nothing Greg White, the mouthpiece of Speedvision. Greg, perhaps thinking it made him sound Euro-sophisticated, pronounced the name Ducoti. It irked me then and it still does. Now all Americans and, sadly, some Canadians too, pronounce it that silly way.
I no longer watch cable tv and I can find sanctuary online where I can view fantastic Superbike racing from the UK, Isle Of Man and Ireland plus worldwide Moto GP and Superbike races. The announcers are professionals who know what to speak about and how to pronounce names correctly.
Jan 11 Soft Language. A recent joke passed around here contained a description rarely used anymore: feeble-minded. Like many words, it has been replaced by mentally challenged or other nonsense designed to make us all feel better about ourselves by using what George Carlin once called soft language to water down tough conditions. Check out the link, it mirrors my thoughts exactly.
As the world gets more ill, words are changed to make the medicine prescribed supposedly taste better. But just as a large injection of sugar does little to mask the wretched taste of cough medicine, soft words change nothing about the situations or conditions of humanity. Death is just that- death, the end. We die, we don’t pass away. Pass away to what? or where? It’s not passing anything- it’s a total failure of all systems.
I have no soft language to describe the frustration I feel about the WordPress cretins who have ruined the format of my blog. A reader may have noticed how this current page goes on seemingly forever, compared to the previous menu where I broke down the rants into more manageable segments. I have just spent an hour trying to edit this page to form a new one with fresh content. No joy.
I need to decide if this struggle is worth it. Do I stick with what I have or chuck the whole damn blog down the drain and start with a new format? If so, what do I do with these years of writing?
I am not emotionally disturbed, I’m pissed off. That feels better.
Dec 31 Good Riddance 2020. A year that tested our resolve, patience and, in many cases, our tempers. I haven’t been writing as much due to many factors: the distraction of daily events and news- both local and international- plus dealing with an ailing, ageing dog. Poor Wilson, on top of getting old, weak and incontinent, is also now dealing with dementia. Familiar with the symptoms in humans, I suspected that he might have it. I checked with professor Google and found that, yes, dogs can get dementia. The symptoms are remarkably similar with the additional joy of constant drooling. But never mind, I’ll deal with it and shower him with kindness to ease his journey. Who knows, I might get like that myself someday.
Another hindrance to writing has been an alarming lack of the ability to concentrate on anything. Then I read an article that stated it has been a widespread trait this year. I forget the specifics of the explanation for it- my lack of concentration again- but it was relieving to read that no, I’m not losing my marbles… yet.
On a positive note, I am getting back to my fish tugs project. We found a few photos in the Hurley archive of a tug named the Ella N. We know the approximate date- circa 1944-46- by the age of a known person in the photo. That narrowed it down to Bronte, Ontario at Northern Shipbuilding, where Ralph Hurley built many boats. He built minesweepers for the war effort and then in 1944 production was shifted to domestic needs: commercial fishing boats needed for the Great Lakes to feed the hungry. So far the photos have stumped most of the experts and nothing is listed on the various vessel registries.
The hunt continues. It’s a needed distraction on these dark days when I can only dream of riding a motorcycle.
Dec 14 John le Carré 1931 – 2020 A dark day for me: my favourite writer has died. On June 17 I included a short piece on books and reading in which I wrote a bit of information and a John le Carré quote, so you might be familiar with my admiration of him. In my opinion- which means little- he was the best writer of any genre in modern literature. Upon reading each new novel, I always waited anxiously for the next . Sadly, there will be no next novel from the master.
Dec 11 Another Canadian First. And another reason to celebrate being a Canadian: Joshua Slocum, the first person to sail around the world alone. Sailing solo in his yawl Spray, the voyage took from 1895- 1898.
Sailing in 1895 was entirely different than today. Slocum had none of the electronic wizardry that is widely available today- GPS, internet, satellite communication, shortwave and broadband radio and more. Radio was beginning development in late 1895 (Tesla, Marconi), and capable of short distances only. It was an epic voyage, fraught with some terrible conditions and ferocious seas.
Imagine no weather reports, no emergency beacon, no communication whatsoever between ship and shore. Even worse; no fridge for beer ( he had several barrels onboard), no microwave to warm his food- the horror!
Slocum is widely recognized in the sailing and historical community. There have been more than 800 replicas of his yawl Spray built and sailed, some around the world.
Slocum wrote Sailing Alone Around the World, published in 1900 and still in print today. A good copy of the 1st edition can be purchased for up to $550 on a well-known book site I visited. I’ll settle for the library copy, I’m running out of book shelving.
Dec 4 Shameless Boasting. I am truly fortunate to have two talented and successful children, a fairly uncommon situation in the fractured world we inhabit today. Cody, my son, has had a 3-D graphic artist career at a large video game designer for several decades now. He has followed his path from the time he started with a Commodore computer and is highly talented. My daughter Melissa has always had an artistic eye too plus eye for designing commercial and residential spaces. She has a new website, Merit Design. Make a father happier, take a look!
Nov 29 A Rewarding Walk. This morning on a long walk with Wilson, I found a $10 bill in the corn stubble. I have found money before while walking. The most significant was a $100 US bill. I’ve also found a $50, a few fives and once, at an intersection, $20 in change- mostly $1 and $2 coins. How could someone lose that?
Hoping to keep that good luck running, I decided it would be a good day to buy a lottery ticket with my winnings. A few unchecked lottery tickets in hand, I headed to the store. Two tickets were winners, $10 plus another free ticket. I’ll report here if I win anything on the draw- unless it’s a big win, no need to have ‘friends’ at my door begging for cash.
Nov 28 My Motorcycle Season has come to an end, and what a strange year it has been. With no rides longer than a few hours and never more than 150 km from home, I still managed to put 6500 km on the clock.
Riding with a few fellow Rusted Nuts, as we laughingly call our small group, we explored close to home roads, many of which I’d never before ridden. It’s fun to discover new interests in an area previously thought to be well-known. Like finding a $100 bill in the pocket of an old jacket.
But the cooler weather has arrived and my bike has been put to bed for winter hibernation. All the maintenance that I’d put off for the last while has been done, battery removed and put in the warm basement for a monthly charge, fuel tank filled with stabilized gas, lubrication and tires prepped for a long nap. Plus the final step- remove the seat to keep it in the house. No need to contribute to the garage mouse’s winter nesting insulation.
It is satisfying to perform needed chores, yet sad to see the end of riding for the year. There was a time perhaps 15 years ago when I rode year-round with at least one ride every month for two years. But I was younger then with a large sport touring bike that had great weather protection and I wear a heated jacket liner and gloves. I also had greater tolerance to cold.
Today I more closely resemble what John Cleese described in an interview, “There’s one thing on my bucket list: never to be cold again.”
Nov 14 Too Good To Last. Spotify got me, fooled me good. After maybe six months of ad-free listening and building a decent library of tunes in a half dozen genres, the corporate wolf has attacked. My listening experience has been poisoned by advertising. Unless I opt for the Premium Service- at a monthly fee, of course- I’m subjected to ads, the worst of them from the evil Walmart corp.
Reluctant to listen to what is essentially an AM radio format screaming adverts at me between tunes, I went back to my iTunes for a while. Today I decided that I’d listen to the new AC/DC album Power Up on Spotify. It’s quite a good album as highly charged as any they produced while younger.
I’m reluctant to enter into another monthly fee contract but wonder how long I’ll be able to take listening to ads that are even louder than the AC/DC tunes?
Nov 8 The best advertising is a soft message done well. Near my home is a billboard with a new message selling…nothing. It is a competent rendition of a northern landscape painting complete with a moose. A much-needed message in these troubled times of chaos, conflict and conspiracy, “Take a breath, relax and consider the natural world. It doesn’t care about your petty, first-world problems. Instead, nature offers an alternative to anger.”
In his own way, Banksy does the same thing, except his messages are heavy with satire and irony. Exactly what this crazy world needs- art, not argument.
Nov 3 Scanning observations. I’m presently scanning a large archive of b&w negatives for a museum. The negs are of fair quality and appear to begin in the early 20th century. Donated by a farming family that carefully documented family members’ lives, they’re of interest to me for several reasons. I like the span of eras, clothing and particularly the artistic use of available light- no flash evident even indoors. The farm machinery from horses to tractors, the progress of transportation from horse and buggy to automobiles.
It’s easy to like a family that includes their dog in most of the people photos, and there were many dogs over the years. Another observation is that of the men in the family. There is a patriarch with an impressive Stalin- like moustache, although I’m not certain that is the look a pastor would have sought. He also never once smiles and is often shown in profile while the others are more or less facing the camera.
A very stern man by appearances. It made me aware that the other men (and to some extent the women too) who were smiling and joyful when younger all adopted the stern look after marriage and children. Was there an unspoken rule about that, some moral value that said, “No smiling from now on, life is serious”? It is quite obvious in the group photos.
History is fascinating, although there is an expression that reads, “The only thing that we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.” But that’s a subject for another time, I’ll enjoy discovering the family’s journey through time. It puts a smile on my face.
Oct 26 Enginecycle? Technically speaking (writing?), that’s what a ‘motorcycle’ is. The only motor on my motorcycle is the starter, the bike is powered by an internal combustion engine. The same applies to standard automobiles. But the use of words has never been quite accurate in the evolution of language. Automobile dealers are commonly named (XYZ) Motors and driving cars is sometimes known as ‘motoring’.
Would Born To Be Wild have brought Steppenwolf success if the lyrics began, ‘Get your engine running? I should not have written that, now I can’t get that damned tune out of my head. I never liked it and certainly don’t hum it when riding my enginecycle.
Word usage often gets quite strange. We drive on a parkway but we park in a driveway? Examples abound- do you have a favourite?
PS After writing the above I stumbled upon two articles that deal with word usage. 14 Colonial-Era Slang Terms, in which I found the delightful expression, Gut-Foundered meaning hungry. It’s thought to have originated in Newfoundland, that land of wonderful accents and quirky expressions.
The slang from the colonial era sounds clever and funny now. As the years passed American slang seemed to take on a more aggressive, macho, rebellious tone. Running shoes in Canada, trainers in the UK, were sneakers in America. Eyeglasses became cheaters.
Now stripped-down sport bikes are street fighters. I’m not certain what they fight but if the enemy is solid and contact is made, that fight is lost. A bunt into neverland, recorded on dash cams and uploaded to YouTube minutes later.
Another site that delights is Ben Franklin’s 200+ Synonyms for Drunk. Old Ben is (wrongly) credited with the expression, ‘Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” The unknown author may have been Drunk as a Wheel-Barrow.
Oct 16 Progress. Some good news for a change:
“According to the International Energy Agency’s latest World Energy Outlook report, power generated through solar panels (also known as solar photovoltaic) has reached an important milestone: in several jurisdictions around the world, it is now cheaper per megawatt-hour to build a new solar installation than it is to build a new coal or gas plant. (In India, for example, it could cost as little as $20 US per megawatt- hour.) This led the IEA to declare that in sun-rich areas with low-cost financing, “solar PV is now the cheapest source of electricity in history.”
Oct 12 My motorcycle made me do it (again). Riding my lawnmower for hopefully the final cut of the year, about half completed when a friend shows up on his bike, eager to ride. A warm fall afternoon, shut off the mower and gear up for a ride. The grass gets a pass on the trim for another day.
This, a holiday long weekend and my favourite roads have more traffic than usual, many doing a fall colours tour. Drivers poking along on a nicely paved road, ruining my ride through the twisty bits. Many were driving classic cars from a Model A Ford- with skinny tires half the width of my bike tires- to American muscle cars and British sport cars.
With plenty of ponies under the hood, I thought they’d be driving at a spirited pace but, no, those same drivers that might be road rage-ridden commuters during the work week seem to crawl along the roads on weekends. Maybe they’re enjoying the fall colours or perhaps looking for a place to drop off some garbage later on. That crap happens far too often in the country. Couches, fridges and large plastic bags spewing nasty contents, usually in a picturesque, secluded site.
The slow parade was soon a rapidly receding reflection in our mirrors. Motorcycles need a steady diet of curvy roads. The lawn can wait.
Oct 4 Odds, Ends & Angst. Fittingly, in this year of the turd, the struggle to learn the new software here has cost me both aggro and anxiety. I’m told that the software does amazing things but the instructions are poor and confusing- typical for the WordPress model.
I am now struggling to simply create a new page so that the reader does not need to wade through many thousands of words on each page and chronology is maintained. Worse than that, I can’t even figure out how to drop a photo into the text as I did before.
I would far rather write and photograph than start down the long road learning Editing Software 202. I get frustrated and ask myself why I am indoors getting angry when I have a motorcycle to ride? There is only one way to deal with that question; there is no good reason, so go for a ride. Hopefully, cold weather will place me in a better position to learn- at my desk, not on my bike. Then readers will not have to listen to my whining and instead be marvelled by the great new look and content on my blog. That’s the plan, anyway.
More wordplay. As stated many times here, word meanings and usage are always simmering in the weird passages my mind sometimes travels. An example from years ago: on my western motorcycle journey I stopped at a store in Oregon for a few items. At the checkout, the clerk asked, “Do you want a sack?” I was momentarily unable to reply due to the image in my mind of a large burlap potato sack. We call them ‘bags’ here.
On another occasion during which the subject of power grids came up, I used the word ‘hydro’ and was met with a blank stare likely similar to the one I no doubt wore at that sack request. It’s called ‘electricity’ in the US, and is probably another subject of ridicule towards Canadians there. Another of the scornful insults that we wear so well.
We’re good at putting ourselves down, which gets my back up because I think deep down we in fact feel superior in so many ways to our American neighbours. Back in February, I wrote a bit called The Quiet Canadian in which I listed some of the many inventions and innovations that we have contributed to the world.
This month the fine publication Canada’s History listed more Canadian inventions beginning with the Canadarm invented by Brampton engineers and built for the international space station. We have many links to the US space efforts- in fact, the majority of engineers who worked on the American space program were Canadians who were so shamefully discarded along with the vastly superior Avro Arrow fighter jet they had created. They flocked to America where their brilliance was recognized and snapped up in an instant. They were replaced by another crop of engineers, the Brampton Canadarm crew among them.
Follow that link above for more of our interesting inventions, some that might surprise you. We have much to be proud of and grateful for.
Sept 30 Chrome won’t get you home. The expression is an oldie in motorcycle circles, yet it never goes out of date. Similarly, you can’t see the bling on your bike when you’re riding it and you can’t see yourself either. Although when I had a photoshop on the main street I did notice a lot of riders check themselves out in the window reflection.
New motorcyclists often wander into accessory land, buying trinkets, shiny baubles and tech bling. Ride to the local cafe, show it off to the lads, brag about that machined-from-billet lever that cost you a bundle. Driveway jewellery.
Time passes, the joy fades and it’s time for an Arlen Ness Naked Stage 2 Big Sucker Air Cleaner. I didn’t make that up. And eventually, hopefully, learn that Arlen doesn’t provide moto buyer satisfaction for very long either.
Asked how best to improve any motorcycle, I usually advise the following- after all the mechanical maintenance and inspection is performed.
Handling, suspension and ergonomics- the best-suited radial tires, better brake pads, suspension set up, possibly better fork springs, handlebar, foot and hand controls set up to fit the rider, mirror extenders if the stock ones only give an excellent view of your shoulder, a new chain if needed. Each stage will provide a noticeable improvement. Upgrade your personal riding gear for comfort and safety, not for looks. Forget those finger-less gloves with fringe, you need practical, safe, comfortable gear suitable for each riding season.
Then buy that Naked Stage 2 Big Sucker Air Cleaner if you still desire it.
A friend, decades away from road riding recently bought a practical, lightweight, low usage ‘cherry’ bike- the same make and model as the borrowed bike he’s been sharpening his road riding skills on for a few years. It came with fresh Michelin radials- a big improvement over the tires he’d ridden on, the controls were tweaked to suit his ergos, mirror extenders now reveal a view beyond his shoulders of the rapidly receding road behind. A few more tweaks and then proper aftermarket fork springs topped the bill.
Now his grin barely fits inside his helmet. Every improvement he made was a positive, “It’s like having a new bike… again!”
Shame that those new excellent springs that radically improve the handling, the road feel and boost rider confidence aren’t chromed and are inside the fork tubes. There are no bragging rights at the cafe for invisible bits that don’t shine.
Sept 20 The old adage, “Bullshit baffles brains” has never been more relevant. Pseudo-truths, false assumptions and outright lies are the norm. What to believe, what to discount? Science has been hijacked and shoved into a dark, soundproof closet by con men and women with their own agendas and poison messages.
To help sort out the bullshit and restore proper, analytical science to its rightful place, this video by Joe Hanson offers some practical guidelines. If only the worst perpetrators with the largest manure spreaders would follow his advice. But that would require reading, thinking and a mind not locked on to some conspiracy or rumour.
“There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance.” Hippocrates 460 BC- 377 BC
Sept 13 Motorcyclists’ bad reputations are sometimes earned. I’m not referring to fast riders- many of them are highly skilled, getting their adrenaline rush on secluded roads. I plead guilty to that myself.
I’m speaking of slow riders, uncertain riders, often bloated riders on loud, bloated bikes. Many, I suspect, are returning riders with a grandfathered motorcycle license who haven’t ridden since the far-off glory days of their youth. Instead of taking a refresher riding course they just climb aboard the heavy machines they choose as the best option to haul their fat arses around. The lightweight slim bikes of their youth would collapse the suspension were they to attempt to mount. Besides, Bubba knows how to ride, he was a legend many years ago. Just ask him.
I’m not knocking their ride of choice (well, maybe just a bit), rather the manner in which they ride. This week I saw two prime examples for ridicule and driver’s anger. The first case occurred on a road with hills, curves and limited sightlines. Exiting a curve I brake for two bikes ahead of me. Both riders on identical his-and-hers large-barge cruisers, each hauling a trailer.
Brake lights on, they were just creeping along a road posted at 80, considered by most to be a ‘suggested speed’. Then they stopped. In the middle of a road with no shoulders and bad sightlines. No signals and nowhere to turn. I dropped down two gears and blasted past them, cut in close and gave them a one-finger salute. If it were a heavy truck that overtook them instead of my bike that can stop in a much shorter distance, the outcome would not have been good for either of them. I doubt that realization even brushed the edge of their thoughts.
The second example is far too common. Perfect riding conditions on a good county road, suddenly slowed down by a stream of cars and trucks, brake lights glowing. The holdup… motorcycles? Yes, two of them, obliviously
riding tottering along.
It goes against the grain. Motorcycles should never slow down a family sedan on a weekend tour, let alone a truck. It’s an unwritten law. Motorcycles were born to escape, not impede traffic. I won’t be that rider you have to slow down for.
Sept 8 Art can say far more than words do. This amusing piece gave me a morning smile- it beats the endless stream of political crap that I’m avoiding as best I can. The “Sending Moms Back to the 50s” cartoon is right on point.
Banksy is doing some very positive things these days. He’s a treasure for these fractured times. Artists have creative ways to make a statement that no political huckster ever could. They’ve been a critical mirror for society right back to the cave days, and are needed now more than ever.
Sept 2 A Conscience Struggle. Climate change is not slowing down and it’s undoubtedly exasperated by human use of fossil fuels. 200+ years of industrial and personal pollution have done the damage.
Whether or not it’s reversible is debatable. Ignorance can be an excuse for earlier years but it’s no longer an alibi. I don’t agonize over my personal ‘footprint’ but I’m certainly aware of it.
Particularly my use of a motorcycle for pleasure. Yes, my bike has stock exhaust with a catalytic converter, but there’s no doubt that it pumps carbon into the atmosphere. I can justify it somewhat by the fact that it uses much less fuel than my SUV and I ride more than I drive for half the year.
But then there is my lawnmower, a 19 hp twin-cylinder engine with no pollution controls and a muffler loud enough to satisfy the ‘loud-pipes-save-lives’ crowd (actually, loud pipes only annoy and damage hearing). It’s also burning some oil now in its old age. An argument could be raised that it would take more energy to build a replacement mower than the excess energy I will use. But still, that’s a weak lesser than two evils case.
What to do? Well, I do use my bicycle for short runs into town if I don’t need to carry more than a light load in a backpack. But that does not offset the fact that I burn 30-40 litres of gas every few weeks. The lawn still needs to be mowed, although I wait until it’s absolutely necessary. It’s an onerous task, a noisy, smelly chore. I also need to pick up picture framing supplies in the city, using the SUV in foul weather and for large loads- carrying 30×40 inch mat boards or foam boards on a motorcycle might work in China or a Laurel & Hardy film, but I’ll leave that trick to more adventurous (or foolish) types.
Do I consider all this when I ride? Yes, sometimes I do but those thoughts are soon replaced with a huge grin as I carve through a set of twisty bends on a good road. Pleasure overrides conscience every time.
Aug 31 Watching Wilson age is like a version of my own journey through the years sped up in dog time. I treasure every day, good or bad, with him and today was a good day.
Aug 27 Resistance is futile. I’ve reached the conclusion that I must learn the new editing software. I haven’t gone away, stay tuned.
Life is currently busy with motorcycle repairs, riding and maintenance, giving Wilson attention in his senior years, a large custom framing project, plus the fact that I do not enjoy being indoors on a computer in this glorious summertime. But don’t worry teacher, I will do my homework and get back to work here eventually. Heck, I’ll likely love the new editing software; it’s the daunting task of learning a new trick challenging this old dog.
Aug 22 Still unable to navigate the deep waters of the new blog editor (see below) and anxious to write a piece with photos inserted, I posted the bit on a motorcycle forum I habituate under the screen name Smiley, after one of my favourite characters in a novel, George Smiley. Read it here.
It is technical but relevant to any engine owner- car, lawnmower, anything gas-powered.
Aug 20 Wilson revives! Full recovery, he’s back to normal. Massive relief, all’s well in my world again. Dogs are so resilient and Wilson is incredibly tough for an old (14) dog of his size.
Frustration. This blog is a WordPress design and it was a struggle to learn from the beginning. I want to write and post photos, nothing elaborate, just a clean easy to read design. It took a very long time to learn how it works.
And now they’ve changed the editor. I’m quite certain that it does some amazing visual tricks but I do not want to invest hours (days?) to learn how to use it and I’m not looking to win some puffy design awards. I want my old editor back. I can write copy but can’t insert photos as I’ve always done. But apparently, if I spend the next week learning how the new editor works, I can have all manner of visual delights that I neither want nor need.
The instructions for switching back are simple, but the screen I see is not what is shown in the example. Grrrr, does the steam escaping from my ears show? I’ve spent several hours both trying to use the new editor and failing to switch back to what I know. Anger and the throb of blood pressure in my ears has replaced the excitement of publishing a new rant that I’d mentally constructed.
Why this constant desire to arbitrarily force us to accept a web designer’s latest wet dream? Never mind, I’ll figure it out and share the tale I have to tell.
Whine, whine whine. Another first-world problem. If that’s the worst thing I’ll have to face it’s still miles ahead of wondering whether or not I’ll have food to eat today.
Aug 15. 2020, The Year of the Turd. I try to maintain a positive attitude, I find life is much better and who needs doom and gloom? There’s more than enough of that to wallow in online that will satisfy even the most demanding of humans who seek it.
This year has proven a difficult challenge to stay upbeat. Too much death and pain in the world. Reckless psychopathic behaviour from so-called world leaders, greed-driven profiteering regardless of human cost- the list is long.
The most difficult thing for me to deal with has been watching Wilson’s declining health. 14 years old (yesterday) and he is a large dog. Humans can voice their pain and concerns, dogs depend on us to interpret their signs and signals. There is no doubting Wilson’s condition, and it nearly overwhelms me.
Having a dog’s companionship and devotion comes with responsibility. And like many things in life, painful decisions are involved. The worst decision lies ahead of me and it’s truly painful. The choices are limited- it’s like picking up that turd by the clean end.
“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.” Isaac Asimov
Aug 2 Strange Days. How very odd these times must be for young kids. What do they think about these times? Do some of them worry about the virus, fear for their parents and grandparents? Are they happy or sad that school has been out for so long? Probably a mix of all those emotions and more that we adults cannot fathom. I certainly hope adults are having conversations with their children about those fears. And speaking with each other as well.
And what about school? When I was a teen, I disliked school intensely, so I expect that I would not miss going to school. Nevertheless, I probably would also miss school friends, the ones I never saw all summer because they lived far from me and bussed to school.
If school is once again cancelled, as I think it inevitably will be after some time for the virus to slither into the children’s homes, how will they handle another lockdown?
Many parents of children around here have little to no education. In fact, many of them only speak Low German and are incapable of educating their kids much beyond basic arithmetic- every adult can count money. Homeschooling is not in their picture and many don’t have computers or internet access. Parents with both the skills and technology to home school may have jobs.
Teachers must have anxieties about getting infected and taking it home, plus the stress of trying to keep youngsters apart. Herding cats come to mind. Children are by nature touchers, huggers and feelers. Being told not to do so may produce a generation of fearful kids with lasting psychological problems. Not to mention the weakened learning abilities.
I’m glad my children are adults with no children of junior school age. These are strange days indeed.
Aug 2 It’s Only Rock & Roll part 4 published below.
July 27 It’s Only Rock & Roll part 3 published below.
July 24 It’s Only Rock & Roll part2 published below.
July 21 Around a year and a half ago I started to write a sequel to The Sad Saga of Odious Oats. For various reasons I was unhappy with it and left it unfinished. That has bothered me ever since- it gnaws at me, rearing its ugly snout occasionally like some alien creature that has burrowed into my guts.
Recently I re-read it and couldn’t believe how I’d forgotten the story details. After some deliberation, I’ve decided to publish the unfinished story in bits, a chapter at a time. Hopefully, I will get recharged and complete it. Please read it and tell me if you think it’s worth the effort. If the reviews suck I’ll know why I didn’t finish it. And maybe just the act of putting it out there will give me a shot of a desperately needed writer fix.
It’s Only Rock & Roll
Rash had arrived, living his dream, working the hush-hush VIP room at the Alphabet Club. Rash billed himself as ‘Vlad, the Grand Master of Bondage and Discipline’, a vocation the vicious punk was well qualified for. Rash had to remind himself not to get too enthusiastic on the job, ignore the ‘safe’ word, permanently damage a client and draw attention from the law. Self-control was a struggle and his cheap, fake ID would stand only a cursory inspection. Steroids and growth hormones added to his edge. Violence was his rush, inflicting pain gave him pleasure. The Alphabet Club catered to wealthy clients with extreme tastes, a rocking circus of every sexual persuasion, enjoying seeing and being seen. The bar and dance floor was a designer’s dream unleashed: light, colour, texture and sound, with two stages and wrap-around the dance floor bars. The VIP rooms catered to most sexual peccadilloes stopping just short of bestiality. A stable would be impossible to hide, although there could be a strong urban market for composted organic manure.
The club was owned by Olivia and Olga, who married the first week that same-sex marriage became legal.
Olivia Oats came from a small town and an even smaller marriage that had ended badly. Her poorly chosen mate was in prison (to the relief of the neighbours), her son was arrested for theft and sent to a ‘youth centre’. Without income or support, Olivia left her past behind. Olga showed her the delights of the big city. Olivia blossomed, her new life with Olga was exciting and interesting beyond any expectations she had entertained.
Shortly after they arrived in the city a man in a cheap suit showed up. Police had found Olivia through her driver’s license address change. “Olivia Oats?” he asked her, showing his badge, “Detective Smiley with the metro police, 2nd division. I’m afraid that I have some bad news.” “Since when did you people ever bring good news?” Olivia snarked. She was not fond of the law having encountered many legal difficulties with her ex-husband and her son. “I didn’t expect that you came here to tell me that I won the lottery.”
“No, I am here to inform you that your son Edward was found dead in an east-end alley a week ago. It was not a natural death, Ms. Oats, the autopsy revealed that he was a homicide victim. He was identified by both his landlady, Mrs. Lucia, and the photo ID he carried in his wallet but we still require you to make a formal identification as a family member”
Olivia was numb but not surprised. For many years she had felt that her husband and her son were distancing themselves from her. Her husband, Ted, treated her with the same contempt he held for all, a poison blend of arrogance and self-righteousness. He was a neighbours’ worst nightmare; belligerent, loud and unwilling to compromise. Ted’s behaviour progressed to a feeling of invincibility propelled by alcohol and anger. He was shocked when arrested for screaming threats, obscenities and waving his wedding tackle at the neighbours. The shock was from the taser hit that it took to stop him. Off to prison with Ted.
Her son Teddie “Odious” was a thug, double trouble from pre-school to reform school. Odious started stealing loose change from her purse at five years old. He lied to her for no reason, he simply had an aversion to telling the truth.
When he was sentenced for theft and assault Olivia was actually relieved. With both of her tormentors locked up, Olivia was free at last. She fled with her new love Olga to the city. They each had some savings squirrelled away. They would start a new adventure, they had exciting ideas.
It turned out that the detective was inadvertently there to tell her that she had won the lottery. The effects of Edward Oats included a scruffy pair of boots, some worn-out socks, dirty underwear, a few porn mags, various t-shirts, some suspected stolen jewellery withheld pending investigation, and an unsigned winning lottery ticket worth $14.3 million. The court awarded the prize to be split equally between the only surviving family members- Olivia and Ted.
Olivia contested the decision claiming her husband was abusive, mentally unstable and undeserving. The case dragged out long enough for Ted to launch himself into a further prison sentence for income tax evasion. Hey, he had to make a living somehow right? Besides, he claimed a religious exemption as the Rev Otis Oates, member of the cloth. Olivia’s appeal was denied and both parties ended up with 50%- less the 1.6 million the lawyers, courts and accountants skimmed off the top. Everybody’s got to eat and those with the sharpest fangs and claws get the biggest bite.
With her disastrous former family life dumped into a mental file labelled “past mistakes not to be repeated”, Olivia now had the resources to build the dream club that she had long wanted to build with Olga. They charged ahead with plans, bought a vacant theatre with a classic marble-walled entryway that included a ticket booth and a rat-infested interior. It was situated on a large lot zoned for entertainment. They kept the entrance, marquee and projection booth. The rest was demolished and replaced with a custom-designed, purpose-built club. The former projection room was converted to an office, complete with cameras covering every room, digitally recording the entire premises excepting washrooms and the VIP rooms. Reputations were at stake and clientele protection was crucial. No mayor, police chief or minister wants his sexual peccadilloes broadcast on YouTube, and they were willing to pay exorbitant prices to protect themselves. The Alphabet Club had the most discreet reputation in the city.
A dream built with cash has distinct advantages over financed endeavours. Nothing was too extravagant for the club budget., the best bands were hired, the staff were stunningly gorgeous, and security was top-drawer, without parsimonious bankers watching every dollar spent. The grand opening was a near-riot of social strivers, the fashionably hip, extravagantly wealthy clientele, a mixture of the It crowd, has-beens and never-wuzzers, all recorded by the current top fashion photographer. Coverage in the best trendy magazines guaranteed future demand. Olivia and Olga had arrived.
Part 3 The problem with getting away with a major crime is that one is truly never away until the statute of limitations kicks in, but the statute does not apply to the charge of murder. Away is a life of paranoia, constantly looking over the shoulder, dark thoughts at 3am filled with nagging what ifs? What if I left DNA traces, what if my alibi is busted for an equally serious crime and turns on me? What if an investigator stumbles upon unrelated crimes that suddenly do relate? Criminals may not be the sharpest minds but some do watch television. Law & Order is easily understood.
Is it worth the years of paranoid thoughts, the running, the lies? If I’d been busted and had a speedy trial with a lenient sentence, I’d be out by now. Unless convicted of first-degree murder.
Deep thinking was not something Ezekiel Zavitz was familiar with but he’d watched enough CSI to realize that a plea bargain down to manslaughter would not float. Tough to talk your way out of having caved in the unarmed victim’s skull with a Louisville Slugger in an unlit alley. Self-defence would not go down well in court. He’d not even had the sense to take the wallet to make it look like a robbery.
However, Zeke’s main beef was boredom, the boredom of living a quiet life under the radar in a small town. No bars, no drugs, no women (as if he were ever the stud he imagined himself to be) and absolutely no excitement. He drew the line at attending church.
His limited income came from detailing cars, cash under the table, no social insurance number needed, and certainly no pogey benefits. Zeke was a ghost. Coins found under the car seats along with the occasional bump of hash or a mangled joint were the only perks. The sleazy boss even kept his tips. Zeke considered ripping off the greasy bugger and even worse, had visions of hitting another home run off his skull.
But Zeke knew he had to keep a very low profile, pocket his anger. When sleaze’s wife came to pick up her husband’s two-seater sports car for a stylish shopping expedition with a girlfriend, valet Zeke dropped a gay magazine into the trunk.
Home consisted of a tiny rental room at the end of the hall, the second floor of Mrs. Luthy’s house. There didn’t appear to be a Mr. Luthy currently on the scene if ever there was one. Mrs. Luthy had a cat for a companion, an outrageously fat specimen named Lolly. Zeke hated cats- he considered them good for target practice only- and fantasized about torturing the beast that he secretly called Butterball.
The pong of cat litterboxes was throat-grabbing, an eye-watering hum. They were scattered throughout the house, lessening the chances of weight loss exercise the horrid lard bag might otherwise get.
Mrs. Luthy loved cats. Zeke figured that her sense of smell must have been seared away by years of exposure to Butterball’s exhaust deposits. Zeke took advantage and sifted out farts in Mrs. L and Butterball’s presence. It was a convenient way to disperse the cat. “Look how fast Lolly is running,” claimed Mrs. L, “she must have heard a mouse in the hall.”
‘Running’ for Lolly was more of a low-speed wobble. As for mice, Zeke had seen them climb over the sleeping bag of lard, knowing it was incapable of capturing anything that had a pulse.
Lolly, aka Butterball, had an offensive habit of rubbing itself in between Zeke’s legs when Zeke was short of gas. In the company of Mrs. Luthy, Zeke praised and petted the beast, but in private he’d give it the boot. Butterball repaid the favour by pissing on Zeke’s pillow. Zeke was careful to keep his door shut after that.
After nearly two years of hiding with no attention from the local cops, Zeke figured it was safe to return to the big city. He had a small nest egg of pilfered cash from the car wash. He told Mrs. Luthy that he had decided to go to divinity school and become a minister. Mrs. Luthy beamed her approval at him and didn’t bother to tell him the word was not pronounced divine-ity. The Lord works in mysterious ways, she figured, and word pronunciation was perhaps not His strong suit.
She sent Zeke off with a large gift bag of sandwiches, some bottled soft drinks and a new bible. The pages would make excellent rolling papers. Zeke left Butterball a gift of ground glass mixed into hamburger.
He found a quiet low-rent room in the city and landed a job the next day, car detailing again. It was an undemanding job, it paid cash and the hours were flexible. Deciding to get in shape, he joined a fitness club. The club trainer was an impressively built strongman, unfortunately, named Ishitu Knott. He was the product of a union between a Japanese lady and a Canadian with a finely honed sense of humour. With a name like that, Ishitu had to get tough- the Boy Named Sue syndrome. He was also trained in many dark arts of self-defence. He was a formidable man, a new role model for Zeke.
After several months of training, Zeke was fit but disappointed in his physique. He wanted to bulk up and was there not a faster way to gain muscle mass? Of course there is, science will provide. Ishitu introduced him to a club member with connections- steroid connections. What a shortcut to bulk that proved to be. It did require extra cash, but if Zeke were willing, certain elderly gentlemen would pay handsomely if he posed naked with his well-oiled muscles pumped up. No touching and the gentlemen were content to pleasure themselves watching him and take a few photos for later entertainment. Zeke wasn’t recognizable in a black leather mask. The first time that Zeke had unlimited power over another person the feeling was exhilarating.
The next step was to acquire a fake ID- the steroid provider had a connection for that too. Top drawer ID was hugely expensive so Zeke settled for a cheaper version: an identity card in the name of Rashid Arafat. A week in the tanning booth darkened his skin for the photo. It would have to do. Good enough to hopefully land a job at the Alphabet Club, move his game up a notch. Maybe Ishitu could tag along, work security, watch his back and reap the rewards that were sure to come.
To Be Continued
July 11 Frugality and practicality are traits that I’ve acquired either from learning or perhaps, my Scottish ancestry.
A few years back I wanted a birdbath. Not willing to spend the $65- 250 or more for the bath, not to mention the further hundreds in available accessories, I came up with a simple and cheap solution- my hillbilly birdbath.
It’s in its 4th or 5th season, standing up well and the birds love it. All plastic, but if you’re flush and not of Scottish heritage, terra cotta would work too. Available at hardware stores near you, some assembly is required. The flat stone in the middle of the bath is not an option, find your own. It stabilizes the bath and provides an ‘island’ that appears as rambunctious blue jays dive in and create tidal waves that lower the water level like a fat man’s belly flop into a small pool.
© David Ritchie 2020
The water needs swishing out and topping up daily plus scrub when needed. I use (free) rainwater from the barrels. Birds aren’t fussy, hell they’ll drink and bathe in dirty gutter water. They can eat the hottest peppers on earth and suffer no effects. In comparison, this is birdbath heaven. And they don’t seem to mind not having a garish pseudo-classic big-bucks bath to frolic in.
July 5 No surrender. In June 2018 I wrote about an attack by the dreaded Viburnum Beetle on my snowball shrub. An invasive species with no native predators, they stripped the large shrubs of leaves shortly after blossoming. The shrubs fought back in full leaf a second time, only to be eaten by the pests again.
That cycle was repeated last year and again this past month. I am amazed that the shrubs can survive the repeated onslaughts, but somehow they do, refusing to give up.
This year I have another unidentified pest, the target a lovely yellow Lilly of unknown species. I first noticed the leaves were being devoured shortly before blossom time and had doubts it would flower, let alone survive. The Lilly won round one.
© David Ritchie 2020
A closer look reveals the severe damage to the leaves.
© David Ritchie 2020
Despite attacks by pests, plants somehow survive. The will to flower and propagate is strong. They teach a lesson in perseverance that we can certainly use, particularly in this stressful era of viral attacks. Wonder if the birth rate will go up this year?
“Nature does nothing uselessly.” Aristotle
PS. A friend’s lilies were also attacked and unfortunately, the flowers did not blossom.