Thursday, July 31, 2008

Motorcycle Miles: Postcards from the Side of the Road

Please visit Written Inc. if you enjoy sharing your camera work (or play) with others.

You’ll quickly discover that Carmi, the site’s creator, has created a unique opportunity for teachers and students of photography.

His theme this week at Thematic Photographic relates to - signs.

Lemme see what I can scrounge up from my recent or dusty files.

The power of seven.

What the heck’s a chilerellenos?

The store was closed so I never found out.

This store was open but I didn’t need grocery, milk, hardware, ice or worms.

Especially the worms.

[Click here to see earlier, unrelated (but still brilliant) shots.]


It Strikes Me Funny: As Mayor, how do I entice drivers to switch to electric?

I don’t know about yours but our city’s CO2 emissions related to transportation are through the roof and not coming down.

Good news is on the horizon, however, because our province’s transportation minister said the following recently about low speed electric vehicles:

“I certainly want to see them (i.e. Zenns and Nemos) used in Ontario.” [full article]

As unelected Mayor of Wortley Village (if elected I will not serve - unless Guinness is on tap) I know that people will initially see the Zenn only as an expensive second car because of its low speed and short range.

But I still want to encourage many drivers to use one in order to cut emissions.

What can I do?

Provide a designated green lane for LUVs (limited-use vehicles e.g. electric cars, scooters)?

Offer free parking spots to send the message that low emission vehicles are preferred on our streets?

Coupons for a free car wash?


[There's more to this story]


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Live Small and Prosper: A long history with small cars and bikes

In 1969 I visited Bermuda with a friend instead of holing up in our apartment near the university and studying for final exams.

I flunked Economics 21 but fell in love with VWs and scooters.

[GAH on Main Street, Hamilton, Bermuda, April 1969: photo by Scott Bradford]

As I recall Scott and I hit most of the pubs in Bermuda while skimming around on 50cc Honda scooters. ‘Twas a blast.

In 1970 I purchased a ’64 bug of my own for $400.

[1964 VW in context]

I paid it off in 10 monthly installments and learned how to steer with one hand while scraping ice off the windshield with the other.

[1964 bug interior in context]

“I’ll get the defroster fixed next week, Dear!”

My second favourite car is the Honda Civic. We’re now driving our third.

Though my 125cc Yamaha Vino was amazing I yearn for a 250cc Honda scooter.

Its weight and range are more appealing after two years on a 1000cc Virago.

Click here to read: Do you drive a car that sips gas slowly?]


It Strikes Me Funny: I’m on a roll - I’ll soon be digging for buried treasure

On June 18 I asked Liberal leader Dion to explain his carbon tax and Green Shift program and he’s now holding town hall meetings in order to comply.

One week ago today I said the following in a brilliant post:

“I’ve read we build small cars [like that] in Canada but don’t allow them on the road - yet (i.e. the Zenn). Are we making progress?”

Yesterday Jim Bradley, Ontario’s Transportation Minister delivered this message:

“I certainly want to see them (i.e. Zenns and Nemos) used in Ontario.” (Quebec and British Columbia already allow the environmentally cars and trucks on its roads.)

[Click here to see photo in context]

I can’t believe I may actually get something else I asked for.

(I close my eyes).

“Now I’d like to find treasure in my back yard when I replace the deck outside my shed.”

Three times is the charm, eh?

[Click here to read my recent weekly column: It Strikes Me Funny in The Londoner]


Monday, July 28, 2008

Motorcycle Miles: Postcards from the Side of the Road

Did I see what I thought I saw?

Yesterday at noon I slowed my motorcycle about one mile north of New Sarum and did a u-turn.

Coffee and lunch at Shutters at the Beach in Port Bruce could wait for 5 more minutes.

One hundred meters away stood a lone telephone pole.

No hydro or phone wires were attached to the pole but there were other things on it that caught my eye.

[Wanted: 25 glass insulators in very good condition]

All I need is a friend with a ladder and we could collect enough insulators to make 50 bucks at a yardsale.

Maybe 75 if we pulled in 3 bucks apiece.

Got a ladder?

[Click here to see other monochrome photographs]


My Point of View: I have a few questions for Mr. Dion about CO2 numbers

I hope Liberal leader Stephane Dion not only continues his town hall meetings in Ontario as part of his effort to explain the necessity of a carbon tax and the fundamentals of his Green Shift program but makes it as far as my front porch.

And he might make it here to London - if he continues far enough west on the 401 after he’s finished answering questions in Belleville.

Though I agree when he warns “greenhouse gas emissions are threatening our relationship with the planet” I wonder if he and I agree with certain numbers.

For example, in a recent column I said CO2 emissions are not at the point of no return “unless industrialized countries such as Canada are unwilling to make unprecedented reductions in the burning of fossil fuels and stabilize carbon in the atmosphere at 350 parts per million, a point we’ve passed and are leaving in our wake.”

Is 350 a healthy goal?

Should we cut deeper?


It Strikes Me Funny: Mr. Dion is bringing his Green Shift to my front door

In my June 18 column I asked Liberal leader Stephane Dion the following:

“Will a carbon tax affect the price of bread, milk, eggs and cheese?”

I wanted him to explain the tax and Green Shift program as fully as possible because I eat hearty breakfasts on a regular basis.

To show him I’m just your typical concerned Canadian I also asked:

“What happens if I buy a new toaster, TV, CD, pair of jeans, shoes, underwear, T-shirt and new socks? Sure, I’ll look and smell better - but what else?”

Readers, it appears Mr. Dion not only read my article but in response to my brilliant questions is now holding town hall meetings in Eastern Ontario (e.g. Kanata, Cornwall, Belleville).

If he bears west another 300 kms. on the 401 highway he'll likely hit Deforest City in the next week or so.

Looks like I’m getting what I asked for.

I’d better go sweep off the porch.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Simple Life: Bird houses and wall art for the next generation

Got lemons?

Make lemonade, save the seeds, plant one in a small pot. Encourage it to grow. Enjoy.

Got scrap lumber?

Make birdhouses with 1 - 1.5 inch holes and a clean-out door. Nail them to fence posts. Encourage the next generation of seed and insect eaters and songsmiths.

[21 birdhouses ready to deliver. Five were rubbed with linseed oil. Ever tried it?: GAH]

Or make LP album holders, hang your old albums in the hallway and remember the days when bell bottoms and polyester ties came in matching colours and paisley was a word on everyone’s tongue.


Got smaller scraps now?

Make CD holders and show people what music is ‘now playing’.

My old radio is now playing ‘Ruby Tuesday’ by the Rolling Stones and I’m still singing along.

Next up - Kodachrome (written by... anyone? Anyone?)

[See below for more monochrome pictures.]


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Even in black and white Canada rocks

Carmi at Written Inc. has created a unique opportunity for students of photography who live near things that exist in black and white, or like me, know how to click a button or two on iPhoto.

Does this include you?

Carmi’s theme this week at Thematic Photographic is - monochrome.

Three things I know for sure about monochrome.

1. My brother, a professional artist, taught me how to paint in monochrome and add colours later. Toughest assignment I ever had.

[Old cottage on Bass Lake, near Wiarton ONT: oil paint, GAH]

2. Georgian Bay feels even colder in black and white

3. Without colour Canada still rocks

[Click here to see four more photos, three in B and W]


Live Small and Prosper: Read about the 100 Mile Vacation

It summer time, hot, the back of my neck is getting dirty and gritty, my shirt is stuck to the vinyl chair in my study and even the Beach Boys (belting out a tune on my old radio) are starting to sound a wee bit pissed.

It’s time for a quick break and a cold beer.

Sound good?

Do the same.

Then take a few minutes to visit the site 5 Minutes for Going Green and read a short post entitled 100 Mile Vacation by Deanna, guest writer and creator of Crunchy Chicken, one of the “Live Small” sites I list in the right hand margin.

Cool collaboration. And I need cool.


It Strikes Me Funny: Deforest City will become a green, creative city

Call me optimistically pessimistic or pessimistically optimistic but I think London is about to turn a corner, environmentally speaking.

Though the city’s CO2 emissions in four sectors - transportation, residential, industrial (including commercial and institutional) and landfill - have stabilized, two sectors have made excellent reductions.

For example:

Residential and landfill greenhouse gas emissions were reduced by 9 and 18 per cent respectively between 1990 and 2007.

See, we can be a creative city.

I admit, our transportation emissions did not change and industrial emissions increased by 8 per cent in the same time period, thereby causing overall reductions to average out to minus one per cent, and things don’t look good according to the latest challenge issued by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (they’re calling for 90 per cent reductions of emissions by 2050), but a new corner is surely about to be turned.

As fuel prices rise I’m optimistically pessimistic our creative side will burst its seams.

Or pessimistically optimistic. Whichever comes first.

[I’m not always optimistically pessimistic. Click here to read my recent column in The Londoner]


Friday, July 25, 2008

Ollie and Me: The kid used to look just like me. Not anymore

A few weeks ago, shortly after I parked my bike on the front sidewalk, Ollie tucked up right beside me and I thought, the kid is going to me a chip off the old block.

Why, he’s so handsome and mature. So much like me.

Lately, however, I’ve seen a different side.

First, he’s taken to poking things up his nose. Not a good thing in my book.

I'm sure he doesn't get that from his Dad Paul (upper left), Uncle Dave, cousin Jack (David's son) or Papa.

And now and again he gets into snarly mood.

Maybe he’s cutting new teeth at about the same time I’m losing some of mine.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

It Strikes Me Funny: I concede - Deforest City is getting greener

Yesterday I asked the question “Is Deforest City visibly getting greener?” after reading the claim in the local paper that it actually is.

Because we have stabilized our CO2 emissions, not reduced, I concluded my brilliant post by saying:

“Getting greener” begins when reductions in emissions are made and they go deep enough to make a noticeable difference. Am I on the right path?”

Reader ‘mojo’ responded:

“Breaking even isn't positive progress... but you have to hit the zero sum point before you can talk about reductions.”

Good point.

I concede that progress has been made. CO2 emissions are not rising - they are staying the same - for now.

[Minor 1000cc: "Won't pass anything but a gas station": photo GAH]

Also, a stoppage after years of increases related to many inefficient home building, transportation and business practices is good news.

Decreases might be just around the corner.

[Click here to visit a site with references to opinions re peak oil.]


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It Strikes Me Funny: Is Deforest City visibly getting greener?

A recent headline certainly sounds positive:

“Forest City getting greener” (Free Press, July 18)

In the accompanying article Gordon McBean, a professor at UWO and winner of a Nobel Prize (for work on climate change) says London is on the right path toward combating and coping with climate change.

Jay Stanford, London’s director of environmental programs says London “is seeing a stabilization of greenhouse gas emissions.”

And after a steady rain we appear to have pretty darn good looking lawns too.

However, “on the right path...stabilization of GHG emission...and pretty darn good looking lawns” does not mean we’re getting greener.

When Mr. Stanford said, "Now we've got to get to the reduction” I thought the following:

Admittedly, we are working hard to stay even but we’re not getting greener.

“Getting greener” begins when reductions in emissions are made and they go deep enough to make a noticeable difference.

Am I on the right path?

[Click here to read about one personal way to make reductions @ It Strikes Me Funny]


Live Small and Prosper: Do you drive a vehicle that sips gas slowly?

I have no idea if my Civic gets better gas mileage than other cars.

It travelled 450 kms on 26 litres of fuel on Sunday; or, 100 kms per 5.7 litres.

Is that good?

I want to live small but I actually don’t drive the car often enough to keep gas mileage records to compare with other vehicles. And when it’s low on gas I let my wife fill it up.

[1000 cc Minor; parked in Cameron, ONT. on Sunday: photo GAH]

Now, my 1000 cc motorcycle I know about.

Average mileage is 20 kms per litre, or 100 kms per 5 litres.

I have a record of every fill-up I’ve bought and can prove it got better than average mileage while fully loaded with gear last summer when I biked to Thunder Bay.

I know my scooter (2004) got 120 mpg. I’ll likely get another one next year.

I wonder what a 1000 cc Minor gets (MPG)?

I’ve read we build small cars like that in Canada but don’t allow them on the road - yet? (i.e. the Zenn) Are we making progress?


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Live Small and Prosper: The perfect storm spills more than beer

The price of beer, like many other things, is threatening to rise.

Beer makers are affected by rising prices of hops, malt, aluminum, energy, distribution costs weather, likely even wages.

Makers of thousands of other diverse products have their own tales of woe.

The days of cheap oil are gone so what will manufacturers and consumers do to adjust?

I’m hoping that a growing percentage of people will become more self-reliant and do more tasks for themselves.

["Supplies for 3 cases - so affordable!": photo GAH]

E.g. take 5 minutes and learn how to make their own beer.

It can be cooked in the kitchen, bottled in recycled plastic or glass and enjoyed for under $20 for 3 cases of 24, or under 30 cents per bottle.

Are there other big industries we could easily downsize?

Is it time for a cold Scottish Heavy or Irish Stout?

[Click here for It Strikes me Funny: How old will you be when Antarctica melts?]


Monday, July 21, 2008

24-hour Shifts: A new firefighter is still on the job

In the post below I mentioned my son’s first day on the job would be memorable because he laboured at a hydro vault fire in a highrise a few blocks from his Toronto station.

900 residents were evacuated.

[One of several training towers for Toronto firefighters: photo by GAH]

In a comment heidi said:

“Hope your son did well on the first day of his job... will you worry much about him?”

Dave will adjust quickly; he did a solid job with Emergency Services and has the ability to do many things well.

Will I worry?

Some. Not as much as I would if he was 25 years old or if he was starting in the early 1970s when a good friend did.

Equipment wasn’t as state-of-the-art and regulations related to chemicals wasn’t as strict. Young men went into toxic fires without adequate gear and had short careers in some cases.

Thankfully, my friend had a stellar career and retired as a captain.

Dave could too.


A Family Moment: A new firefighter is on the job

Last Friday, 24 new firefighters graduated from training and were posted to stations in Toronto, Ontario.

[My son - centre - inherited my crooked nose: photo by GAH]

They are looking forward to continuing friendships made during training and getting to work, some as early as this morning at 6 a.m.

[Graduation is over, the training tower fades into the background: photo GAH]

My son is now stationed at a hall in south-east Toronto, close to Kingston Rd., and is, according to City-TV news, on the job at a highrise apartment (Danforth and Dawes) that suffered an explosion on Sunday, forcing all 900 residents to evacuate.

I think he'll remember his first day at work a lot longer than I ever did.

Can you recall your first day at a new job?


It Strikes me Funny: How old will you be when Antarctica melts?

In my next column (online this Thursday) in The Londoner I ask the questions:

Will I be alive when Greenland and Antarctica completely melt?

Will I want to be? 

Based on current information about the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere at present (387 parts per million) and annual increases I calculated that Greenland and Antarctica would melt about two weeks before my 72nd birthday.

I also wrote that things could change for the better or worse.

Consumption of fossil fuels related to our excessive consumption of goods and services could decrease or increase based on our own actions.

[On the beach at Port Bruce, not Antarctica: photo by GAH]

Readers may surmise from final statements re China’s high production of coal-fired energy plants and our own wasteful habits in Deforest City that I’m leaning toward the belief I’ll be younger than 72 when Antarctica disappears.

How old will you be?

Click here for another post re Antarctica and Greenland.


Friday, July 18, 2008

A Family Moment: A short ride to see a new firefighter

My wife and I are just about to hop into our Civic and brave 401 and then Toronto traffic.

I wouldn’t make the drive for any small thing.

However, I’m delighted to drive twice as far and more to see my son graduate from his 4 month long firefighter training for the City of Toronto.

The ride will remind me of when he graduated at the top of his class in Commerce, Texas several years ago.

Two days on the road, meeting his classmates, learning he’d been voted Prime Minister of his class - unforgettable.

Between Texas and Toronto lies one long and winding road.

Be back Monday. See you then. GH


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ollie and Me: He’s a chip off the old block

Ollie gets dropped off at our house most weekday mornings at 8:30 - 9:00 a.m.

Ollie doesn’t like to see his mother head out the door without him so I put him on my lap and entertain him at the computer, let him strum my guitar or ask him questions about his favourite topic - Thomas the Train.

Or Diesel, James, Edward, Gordon or Percy.

Shortly thereafter we go for coffee at The Little Red Roaster.

It’s only a short walk and he likes to sit outside with Grandma and I.

I’m teaching him how to get his point across to others.

“Wagging your finger is good. Well done,” I say.

Oh yeah. And the kid’s a natural talker.

Click here for another picture of the cutest kid in the entire universe.


Do you own a camera and know an animal by name?

Carmi at Written Inc. has created a unique opportunity for folks with a camera and an interest in using it regularly.

Do you own one?

His theme this week at Thematic Photographic relates to - animals.

Do you know one?

I met a couple of birds and one snake recently at Cape Chin (Georgian Bay) and Port Bruce.

Click here if you can identify the second bird.

Remind you of anyone?


Mystery bird from Cape Chin, Georgian Bay

If you’ve seen my workshop lately you’ll know I’ve either taken more interest in birds or I can’t turn stacks of cedar end cuts into anything but simple birdhouses.

It’s a bit of both.

Though I can identify the few varieties that appear in my yard or sit on fence and phone lines beside the country roads I regularly visit on my ’84 Virago 1000 I don’t know what name to attach to the bird below.

It was walking south near the intersection of East and North Chin Rd.

And when I approached it spread its wings to make itself appear larger.

It tried to lift off the ground two or three times without luck.

I hope it learned to fly before night settled in and the coyotes came out to play.

Can you identify it for me?

Click here to see more pictures from Georgian Bay.


It Strikes Me Funny: I’m attracted to certain arguments re plastic bottles - Part 2

A Letter to the Editor entitled ‘Don’t ban water bottle sales’ by Sandra Aziz [London Free Press] caught my eye recently.

I thought, Hasn’t she got a thermos?

[Click here to see photo in context]

In defense of water in plastic bottles she wrote:

Those who are at public sites for long periods of time in the summer need plenty to drink.

She’s absolutely correct.

Sandra and others require liquids frequently.

Therefore they shouldn’t leave home for a concert etc. until fully prepared.

[Click here to see photo in context]

And if people can buy tickets, select proper clothing, shoes, fix their hair and make-up, pack a cellphone, snack bar and extra tissue (for their favourite tune), and give one last look in the mirror before they walk or drive to an event surely they can manage to fill a large thermos with water or juice.

Will a ban reduce Sandra’s personal choices? Just the opposite.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Motorcycle Menus: Shutters at the Beach serves up more than Hickory Smoke

When Deforest City gets hot and muggy I warm up the bike and leave town.

That is, after I rip myself off the vinyl chair in my study.

I often ride south-east toward Lake Erie and settle in at Shutters at the Beach, a small diner at the very end of imperial Rd. in Port Bruce.

(Yes, where The Beach Hut used to stand).

Their Hickory Smoked Sausage, fries and coffee are worth the trip.

They should be. The owner, until recently, cooked meals for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. (No wonder he's such a pudgy little begger).

Other sights, sounds and smells are also worth the ride.

Because Sunday was a windy day the gulls often stood still in the air.

Another hot seat - before heading home.

Click here for other recent photos.


It Strikes Me Funny: I’m attracted to certain arguments e.g. for plastic bottles - Part 1

Like a moth attracted to a white-hot zapper I fly toward Letters to the Editor every evening to see what and if people are thinking.

Last night ‘Don’t ban water bottle sales’ by Sandra Aziz [London Free Press] caught my eye.

I thought, Why would she support water sales in plastic bottles?

Sandra wrote:

First, I agree the ban would take away personal choice.

Sandra is wrong.

A ban on plastic bottles, rather than reduce her personal choices, would quickly refine them for her own benefit and for future generations.

[Click here to see photo in context at]

Rather than buying one-use bottles that don’t always get recycled (and therefore congest landfills) she could easily carry her own multi-use thermos filled with tap water, ice and a slice of lime.

Or filled with homemade kool-aid, lemonade or juice. (There are unlimited choices).

Or gin and tonic - depending upon the occasion, of course.

Reduce personal choice? Not one chance.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It Strikes Me Funny: Antarctica might disappear before my 72nd birthday bash

Yesterday, after reading an article by Gwynne Dyer re how quickly CO2 concentration is increasing in the atmosphere I wrote (among other things) that Antarctica would melt completely on my 72nd birthday.

And then, thinking more positively, I wrote:

“Of course, our consumption might radically decline because of rising fuel costs, CO2 concentration might decline as well and my birthday bash will become front page news.”

I’m so naive.

I was assuming CO2 concentration would increase annually only at its present rate - at 3 parts per million - and not faster.

[A return to the simple life - how likely?: Photo gah]

But how likely are we to conserve any resource, slow consumption, burn less fossil fuel, move away from Market First economies (or business-as-usual) and produce essential goods sustainably for the sake of future generations?

I bet Antarctica will likely disappear before I turn 70 in 2019.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Zoom with a View: Cape Chin, Georgian Bay

The following photos were taken last week while visiting Cape Chin, several kilometres north of Lions Head, Ontario.

Georgian Bay is still very cold.

A quick dip to cool off didn’t usually last much longer than five minutes.

I steered this tractor - without brakes - while a pickup pulled it over Forty Hills Rd.

I still swear there are more than 40 hills in that road!

Click here for more photographs from Port Bruce and Georgian Bay.

Click here to visit Carmi’s Thematic Photographic 6 at Written Inc. and see excellent photographs from more than 20 visitors.


Live Small and Prosper: Antarctica will melt on my 72nd birthday

According to a recent newspaper article by Gwynne Dyer carbon dioxide concentration will be so high by 2021 that “all the ice will probably melt: Greenland, Antarctica - the lot. And the sea level will go up by 70 - 80 metres.”.

Mr. Dyer bases his claim on the following information:

We are already at 387 parts per million for CO2 concentration.

CO2 concentration is rising at almost 3 ppm per year.

At that rate of increase CO2 will hit 426 ppm by the year 2021.

Antarctica will probably melt completely at 425 ppm.

I turn 72 in September, 2021 and it will be just my luck the festivities will be overshadowed by the sale of Antarctica’s last ice block on eBay.

Of course, our consumption might radically decline because of rising fuel costs, CO2 concentration might decline as well and my birthday bash will become front page news.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Psst. Gotta light? And a camera? And a minute?

Carmi at Written Inc. has created a unique challenge with this week’s offering of Thematic Photographic 6.

This week’s photographs relate to - light.

So, grab your camera.

Click here to see a few other rough-edged pix.

If you’re still here click again.