Unless otherwise credited, all words and photographs are © David Ritchie and may not be used without permission.
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 it’s 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 sight lines. 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 sight lines. 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 it’s 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 favorite characters in a novel, George Smiley. Read it here.
It is technical but relevant to any engine owner- car, lawn mower, 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 designers 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 staying 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 comes 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’ve 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 writers 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 club was owned by Olivia and Olga, 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 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.
“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 photo ID he carried in his wallet but we still require you to make a formal identification as a family member”
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.
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.
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 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.
‘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 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 and the feeling was exhilarating.
The next step was to acquire 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.
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 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 attack. 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.