*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

July Freedom

The wife takes the kids to Tokyo for most of July, from Toronto.  I get out of going to that armpit climate, because I can claim I am saving us money: almost $2K for the ticket in summer, and up to another $1K for various expenses there.

So, what do I do instead?  I'm not sitting in fucking Toronto when I have a month to be anywhere else.  My idea is I can justify anything that costs no more.  What do I do with my time?

Probably not, since it's not my thing, and much less fun alone, especially as I am long in the tooth and short in patience to do the 'backpacker' thing; and the rest costs too much money.  It's also more the thing she'd like to do with me, and the kids.  The other thing is the cost of flights to anywhere I'd do it in summer (Northern Europe): fuck no.

I do have a road and a touring bike, and can and have done tours alone, albeit not long ones previously.  Thing is, besides the risk of getting hit, I get to hear fucking cars blast by me more or less frequently... for weeks on end.  Not so appealing now.  Or I can go somewhere more remote, but has enough of a road for my touring bike, which means I die in a 'Third World' country.

I could buy a fourth bike, and lose my wife.  Anyway, the off-road bike wouldn't work for a long tour, mainly because there are no long off-road tours rough enough to stop cars, smooth enough to ride bike, where all wheeled traffic isn't banned.  Too bad.

Well, none of my friends have the right combination of time, fitness and interest, so I'm alone again.  Bit of a theme there...  Nixes the mountaineering, but leaves the hiking.  Hmm.  Something where the flight is not more than a grand: Iceland or 'the West Coast Trail'.  Not the Canadian Rockies again, as all the good views are technical.  I don't do America.

Canoeing or Kayaking
Finally something that Ontario has!  I have done no little bit of both, and of them the canoeing of rivers appeals more.  The Great Lakes can get too ugly for a little boat fast, and it's not wise to be on them alone anymore, as I have kids to live for.  Besides, I'll get a wee yacht to do that in a few years.  Canoeing is a partner-sport, but it is possible alone with the right boat.  Oh... I don't have one.
That's not the biggest problem: getting one small enough to solo, but big enough to explain away as a family purchase is.  More, something that I can move without a car, and store without a garage.  That's impossible!  There is no canoe that's narrow enough to solo, wide enough for kids; sturdy enough for river tours, but light and foldable enough to pack in a bag.  It would have to be like a skin-on-frame kayak, but have a way to alter the frame to widen the beam.

PakCanoe 165 is a smaller wilderness tripper. It works well for two moderate size paddlers and gear for 2 or 3 weeks. The 165 is narrower than the 170 and makes a nice expedition solo. Wider cross ribs can be installed for greater stability.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Bonfire of the Vanity Fair

There was a time a man could support a middle-class lifestyle on his own income: detached house, car in working order, summer vacations, Sunday roast, sundries and a college education for his children.  This in most of the 'Free World' of the Cold War years.  It was not a set-up equal for women, much less minorities, but it was the spoils of being on this side of a curtain and our 'leaders' buying off the men they'd trained and sent to kill in the last 'World War'.
As men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water... minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.
The gains for women and minorities are ephemeral: it takes two jobs to buy what one once did.  One may claim that the price of real estate, which has swallowed what gains a woman's second-income to a 'conventional family' has gained, always rises, except it doesn't, or that the market has corrected the excess supply of labour by buying it more cheaply, which is true enough.  In any case, we are poorer for it, but most of all, stressed and angry with each other, rather than with those who never seem put out by any economic changes.

A sure sign of the stress is the divorce rate, populism in politics (also a cause), and the evidence that people have just become assholes.  I see it in Japan.  I see it in Toronto.  I read about it elsewhere.  Honest people talk about it with me.  Is it such a gain that people hide their racism to minorities and are assholes to everyone?  Certainly not for everyone else, and there's evidence the lot of minorities is not economically better.

The problem isn't this or that government policy, or one or another educational policies being an attack on my teaching profession, but that we are exhausted from longer hours and busy-work, neither spouse able to run the home full time, and credential inflation both for us to keep gainful employment and for our children to get any at all: the poor kids trying to get into teaching now have twice the paper-credentials I have, and a fraction the chance of getting work I had when I got in fifteen years ago.

Until the revolution, or the 'New Deal' to buy us off from starting one, you have to opt out of 'aspirational' thinking.  Lose one or both cars, downsize your accommodations, avoid a mortgage until the market crashes, ask yourself if the little more the second income makes after daycare and taxes is worth the trouble, because the fucking Jones you'd keep up with are running with the lemmings.

Friday, 24 October 2014

"You know, there is no such thing as society."

There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It's our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations, because there is no such thing as an entitlement unless someone has first met an obligation.
At the time though, there was society, but conservatives like her hoped there wouldn't be, so they wouldn't have to pay into the obligations of having one.  Now they've won the battles and the war, and there isn't society.  Nobody even talks of one.

My childhood corresponded with peak of income equity in Canada, and much of the rest of the 'developed world'.  When I was ten, Canada's conservative government accepted tens of thousands of SE Asian refugees from a war a previous government had refused to follow its ally into.  Bracketing my birth year, Canadian governments brought in universal health care and legalized homosexuality.  A decade later, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  What remains of this legacy doesn't because voters are their 'brother's keeper' but because no government would stand that repealed them, losing a few points off the balance of power: otherwise they would.  Homosexual tolerance?  Do not confuse tolerance with inertia.  And do not forget a homosexual lost the Toronto election to Rob Ford.  The loss of reproductive rights?  Give it time and a government an excuse: like habeas corpus to security-theatre.

I was on a bus the other day and a young woman said to her friend,
I told him to get lost because I'm brown and I only date brown.
I don't know where to begin.  But I'll gloss over the universality of idiocy and racial thinking, and the irony of racism from a visible minority, and go straight to saying that the best reason not to tell her she shouldn't say that in Canada is because she shouldn't say it wherever her ancestors are from: she had no discernible accent.  And the tribalism...

Canada's had ethnic-Chinese longer than we've had railways, and many of their children since the nineties resented the 'investor class' wealthy from HK or the mainland, because they were wise enough to realize what kind of people get wealthy in those countries, and that your average Canadian would conflate them all.  My HK-born coworker came at ten, and without prompting spoke up for assimilation over multiculturalism, because are you immigrating to a new environment that welcomes you or wouldn't you be better staying home?

I'm not against immigration: father was and wife is, I have lived abroad, I find immigrants more interesting and their women comelier.  I am against cynical governments using it to atomize a society, use wedge-issues to get ethnic-communities to vote en bloc (which the Liberals started before the Conservatives) and aspirational thinking to destroy the social-welfare state, though voting against one's true class interests only decreases social mobility.

The geographic, social and economic ghettoization of ethnicity in the Toronto GTA's just a symptom, as 'race' and 'ethnicity' are hateful heuristics for status.  Rome had slaves of every available 'colour'; America found colour-coding convenient.  People, and the systems they serve, will change the details but support status, because humans.  Once we imagined ameliorating that, because we were 'in it together'.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

The Tour-Mutt

A new build up from new and old parts.  It's my take on the 'gravel mutt' idea: build a wide-tired rough roads bike as reasonably as possible from your parts bin.  Between the three bikes I have, I've now rebuilt almost every section of a bike, a few times.

The bike's been useful, if heavy.  My wife gave me the money for it as a present in return for her engagement ring: Japanese custom is to give half-back gifts, yeah!  It's been a fixed/free, singlespeed and a 1x5.  I learned enough from it about fixed/free to buy and build a lighter fixed/fixed, and that singlespeed is pointless.  As I have a paved- 'road bike'; this will be my unpaved road, and winter conditions bike.

It's not as economical as 'off the peg', but it is more economical than letting what I had go to waste, besides I wanted to keep the bike my wife bought for me, in some identifiable form.  A friend told me a Canadian Air Force story: you can crash and destroy every part of a plane but it's identification plate, and there's money in the budget to rebuild it, but there's no money in the budget to buy a new plane, even if that comes cheaper.

Since all that is left original is the following, it's a 'tour-mutt':
- touring frame and fork
- Brooks B17N saddle, seatpost and clamp
- headset and stem
- Tektro brake levers and rear low-profile cantilever brake
- Shimano pedals, one side clipless and one flats
- budget racks

I repurposed:
- the triple crank from my Lemond Croix de Fer, and its 26t chainring
- its Shimano 105 triple derailleur (used now as wide-range double)
- a 44t chainring from my fixed/fixed
- 37mm Schwalbe Silento tires from my wife's bike (gave her better rolling ones for pavement)
- parts to make a Shimano 105, 10-speed, 12-27 cassette

I bought for it... too much:
- Nitto Noodle Bar
- tektro cross bar-top levers
- a high-profile cantilever brake for better stopping power, front
- Dia-Compe bar-cons
- Tiagra rear derailleur (without indexed shifting you can mix 9 speed rear and 10 speed front derailleurs)
- 10-speed Shimano 105 chain
- Mavic A319 rim, Deore hub wheelset
- downtube cable-stops
- Arundel Stainless bottle cages
- SKS P50, 700x54mm 'chromoplastic' fenders
- cables and housing as needed
- orange cotton bar-tape, shellacked
- a 50t cross chainring guard

The build was epic in its delayed pace, back-tracking, reverse-engineering, and international sourcing (Canada, Japan and the US).  I could nearly start a business in bikes, if only there were any living in aught but schilling carbon 'dentist bikes'.

It will see use on local unpaved roads, and winter conditions, and I hope further afield.  Maybe even to pull kids in a trailer, as the cross brake levers begin to make it safer to do so.  There's room in that fork of 55mm: I could run 47mm tires for very poor road, so long as I push the fenders higher.

But bike wants are "n+1 , where n is the number of bikes currently owned."  +1 is a 29+ semi-fat, like the Surly Krampus, or 'Ops' version.