Protests and pruning

March 16, 2018

Yesterday in the Globe and Mail I read profiles of seven protesters at the Kinder Morgan Pipeline construction site. Every one of them looked like someone I would willingly accept as a colleague and friend. So why are we on opposite sides over the expansion of a pipeline to tide water?

As a retired teacher in Leeds County, Ontario, I can do my bit for the environment at this time of year by pruning the many acres of young black walnut trees I grow on the property. But land is plentiful here.

Were I to find myself in Vancouver, I suppose I’d likely spend my days at the Kinder Morgan Pipeline Expansion site with the other well-meaning retirees.

There is so little flat ground out there.

In the Ontario countryside I’ll bet at least some of the protestors would be making maple syrup at this time of year and thoroughly enjoying the work.


Fuel octane ratings

February 25, 2018

My Porsche Cayenne S has a label on its fuel filler door which sternly warns that this engine requires 98 RON fuel. I have felt guilty giving Ruby 91 octane, but it’s the hottest gasoline I can find in my area.

Then this week on the outskirts of Kingston I saw 94 octane as a choice on my pump. $1.459 per litre was quite a premium over 1.139 for regular and about 1.269 for premium. Nonetheless I decided to try a tank of super-premium and rake in the performance and fuel mileage benefits.

At low speeds Ruby accelerates a bit more strongly with the hotter fuel, and I notice the gear changes aren’t quite as smooth, as if the engine produces more torque. I didn’t notice any difference in performance at highway speeds, though. The Cayenne is pretty strong in the passing lane with its usual premium fuel, in any case.

The surprise was Ruby seems to use a bit more fuel than with 91. I’ll update this when I have more data, but my impression is that fuel consumption is up 1 to 2%.

Wikipedia informed me that the German RON 98 is the equivalent of the North American AKI 91-92, so I wasn’t actually starving Ruby. With the hefty cost increase for super-premium, I can’t see the point of the richer fuel in a Porsche V8.

Tom Stutzman sent along this link:

UPDATE: 1 March, 2018

After a couple of drives on two laner’s in light traffic, I have decided that Ruby’s sparkling performance in the passing lane is rather good. Next fill-up if 94 is available I may try another tank, just to be sure it’s a waste of money.

Online they say it’s a 20 minute job, so I planned to devote the entire afternoon in the shop to the task. My estimate was just about right.

I ran mason’s cord from the trailer hitch up both sides to jack stands at the front. Then I stretched the string across the leading and trailing edges of the rear tires to provide a straight line up each side at the hub. I measured the gap between the narrower front wheels and the string, usually between 1 1/2 and 2″.

When I locked the steering wheel with ratchet straps, I decided I needed to reduce the toe-out from over 1/4″ on either side to just under 1/8″ on either side.

I ran the Ranger up on the hoist a couple of times to get the adjustment right, and the job was done.

That’s the 20 minute version.

In reality the right wheel was toeing out to where the combined track at the front was just over an inch wider than at the back of the front wheels. Most of it was on the right hand side where I had replaced a tie rod end (I think they call it) by screwing it on as tightly as it would go.

It had broken off one day a couple of summers ago, so I ordered a pair of them online and replaced the broken one on a temporary basis so I could use the machine. It turns out when you twist those things onto the little metal rod which goes to the steering gear, you don’t make everything tight. Things are supposed to be sort of in the middle, to allow for adjustment with the grub nut. So I had to take the part off and re-install it. Then it was fine.

Ranger suspension components are much easier to work on than their Porsche equivalents, though there is a dearth of information about them. Old Porsches have likely the best documented repair procedures on earth, and that’s just You-Tube.

The Ranger now makes tight turns more easily, especially at full lock. With any luck the expensive new tires won’t wear off once I start daily runs to the mailbox over pavement.

The local municipality legalized UTV’s for the road last year (helmets mandatory), so it’s a political act to go the 4/10 mile to Forfar for the mail in the Ranger now.

Lever of power

February 2, 2018

The Jian Ghomeshi trial pitted a very popular CBC radio personality against a number of prominent women who claimed that Ghomeshi assaulted them. In the courtroom the complainants proved no match for the exceedingly focussed woman who defended her client. No one doubted the survivors of abuse in this case, but the law found otherwise.

The pendulum had swung too far. A correction was inevitable, and over the last year it has taken the form of the #MeToo whateveritis which has relied upon public shaming on social media, rather than the court of law, as a way of finding redress.

Over the last two weeks in Canada we have seen the #MeToo tsunami sweep over our political world, both at the federal and provincial levels.

The sexual assaults have proven relatively straightforward: an aggrieved survivor or two can bring down a target at long range, without the necessity to reveal proof or even her name. Hearsay evidence is fine in the court of public opinion and politics, because everyone agrees that power imbalances make for taboo sex.

Thus #MeToo provided a slick way to get rid of a couple of ineffectual leaders for the Ontario Provincial Conservative Party in the run-up to an election.

But when the complaint against a quadriplegic man for saying “You’re yummy” in an elevator is equated with attempted rape, there’s something wrong here, even if the guy is a creep.

And how about when a slammed door, or shouting in the presence of subordinates becomes grounds for an anonymous complaint? Or how about a rival for a committee position writing to the party leader that she would not feel comfortable alone in a room with the named MP?

Witch hunts have a long and ugly tradition. They never had to do with witchcraft, but with economic competition. For example, most of the accusers of witches in the medieval era were physicians, and the accused, midwives who competed with them.

In every era when there’s been widespread fear of a hidden enemy, character assassination has become a lever of power.

It appears to me that there’s no mechanism in place to protect the #MeToo complainants and their targets from trivialization. Because of the lack of evidence of even genuine complaints, trivial and false reports must necessarily receive equal status. The process of reductio ad absurdum can’t be avoided. There will always be venal adversaries and those pursuing trivial, personal beefs from behind the cloak of anonymity which social media provide — as long as they work.

This week’s sudden departure of Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown left many viewers not knowing what to think.

From a historical perspective it was easy. The last two PC leaders scored own- goals during their election campaigns. John Tory promised full funding for religious schools in Ontario. Tim Hudak’s difficulties with basic mathematics led to an implied promise to fire 100,000 provincial public servants in order to balance the budget. So Patrick Brown’s alleged seduction efforts easily fit into an existing narrative of Progressive Conservative leaders shooting themselves in the foot to allow another Liberal victory.

I distrust political narratives. Considering that the sins brought forward in this case allegedly occurred about a decade ago while Brown was still a backbencher in the Harper Government, I find it hard to believe that the timing of this scandal does not have more to do with the preparation of some individual or group for the June provincial election campaign than any sense of moral indignation.

Patrick Brown is out, his career destroyed by rumours from two complainants and his sudden and utter repudiation by his own party. At what point does the initially positive energy of #MeToo degenerate into a witch-hunt mechanism available to cut-throat political operatives?

In a column two days ago The Toronto Star’s Rosie DiManno famously asked, “Show me a male over the age of 16 who hasn’t asked a female (or another male) to ‘Suck my d—.'”

But PC MPP Lynn McLeod created a tizzy Friday morning when she told a reporter that she had reported Brown’s womanizing to the party executive two or three times last fall. After a caucus meeting she hastily backtracked on that statement, explaining that she had told a friend, Dimitri Soudas, at that time a volunteer setting up a war room for the Brown campaign. This left in the clear the four executives who had resigned so abruptly when the scandal broke.

McLeod further credited ex-NHL star Eric Lindros with the initial source of the rumours. Intrepid reporters from competing media (CTV exclusive scoop, eh?) canvassed bars in Barrie and seemed to have little difficulty unearthing rumours about young women “going to Brown’s house” and one bartender’s comment about the non-drinking Brown’s “peacock behaviour” in the local bar scene.

This coup just doesn’t sound like something Kathleen Wynne would get up to. Her policies may have many Ontario voters on edge, but she has no history of going for the ad hominem cheap shot.

On the other hand columnists this week have had no difficulty finding sources to speak about the split in P.C. ranks over Brown’s win of the leadership. Hostile takeover, voting irregularities, “instant Progressive Conservatives” hinted at Brown’s machinations, while others commented about the leader’s enigmatic personality and lack of warmth.

To my mind the Progressive Conservative party were suspiciously well organized to deal with this crisis when it came up. Faced with the accusations, Brown looked around and discovered that his campaign executives had resigned en masse at the first mention of the complaint. Today caucus is calling for Brown’s expulsion, has unanimously appointed an interim leader, and are planning a leadership convention. The campaign platform is ready to go, though they’ll need to reprint the front cover with a new face.

Perhaps Brown’s fall because of his past behaviour was inevitable, and the closer to the election it occurred, the more damage it would do to Party fortunes. Perhaps Progressive Conservatives genuinely believed that he had stolen the leadership from more deserving candidates. Perhaps they had come to believe that Patrick Brown could not defeat Kathleen Wynne, despite polling numbers which showed him as the prohibitive favourite.

To conclude this column I looked through John Diefenbaker quotations for one on Conservatives eating their young, but only found this riddle: What is the difference between a cactus and a conservative caucus? On a cactus, the pricks are on the outside.

First robin

January 21, 2018

There’s a lot of winter left, but a robin turned up outside our kitchen window this morning.

Syrian refugees give blood

January 2, 2018

The Calgary Syrian Refugee Community kicked off the new year by turning out for the first blood donor clinic. Blood Services appreciated the 80-unit contribution from the group, especially because supplies are low at this time of year.

Two Syrian refugees organized it and made it happen. That’s O.K. in my book.

Check Huffington Post for photos: