Sunday, March 22, 2020

Donald Trump and the Coronavirus



I am a big fan of truth.

I guess that is an occupational inclination. The law firm I first worked in, articled for, and became a partner of, had a rule that turned out to be very rare for law firms generally.

No matter the path you intended to take, you had to litigate for your first five years with the firm. When I factor in the time I spent doing what we students called the "court run" (getting subpoenas issued, filing law suits and motions, examining court records) and my articling period, I racked up close to ten years hanging around the courts.

In that time I faced off with a fair number of lying witnesses. I learned very effective strategies to deal with perjury.

I guess that's how I developed my very low regard for liars.

I'm not talking about kids lying. Often that makes you chuckle and becomes a fond memory.

No. I'm talking about adults who lie to advance their interests at the expense of others.

Donald Trump is the most egregious example of that I have come across in my life, and that's why I hold him in such low regard.

So far his lying ways have proven very successful for him, and difficult for people of integrity to deal with effectively.

Then came the Coronavirus.

It's shaping up to be a massive challenge for governments around the world. The slightest misstep, the merest delay, any momentary uncertainty in selecting a response, allows the exponential beast to blossom and sicken more victims.

It's not a democrat or republican challenge, a capitalist or communist challenge, a white black or brown challenge, an Asian European African or Latin American challenge.

It's a brutal unforgiving scientific challenge. It's immune to lies. You can downplay it, insult it, it just doesn't care.

In many ways it is poetic in delivering to the Trump presidency a custom-made crisis that preys on all of the signature moves of Trump's administration: undermining institutions, denigrating the press, stripping down the organs of government most needed in this kind of crisis. Famously just a few days ago, questioned about his administration's move to dismantle the pandemic preparedness function of the national security counsel, Trump said "I don't accept any responsibility" and claimed he knew nothing about it.

It's laughable and pathetic. Words fail.

And that led me to the clown tone of this episode.

The music for this episode of Life on two wheels is Twirly Tops by the Green Orbs, and Minor blues for Booker by E's Jammy Jams, both those tracks and the sound effects are made available courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library.

I wish you the best of luck avoiding the virus.

Please remember to keep your distance (two meters, or six feet) from your brothers and sisters.


Saturday, March 14, 2020

Vlogging: iPod or GoPro, OR BOTH?? Welcome to my studio!


This is the episode where you get a better, more technical understanding of what went well, what was challenging, and what was disastrous, with the three vlogging rigs that I use in the production of the Life on two wheels vlog.

The unmentioned ironies in the whole production debacle are...
  • yesterday I had to return the brand new GoPro Hero7 Black that I received in a warranty replacement just a couple of weeks ago... because... there was another issue with the camera's USB-C port. This time it's not the audio, it's the computer interface. Nothing I could do could prompt the camera to connect with my computers and allow me to download clips.
  •   That means having to disassemble the metal cage, unplug the microphone adapter, open the camera, remove the micro-SD card (smaller than a small child's pinky fingernail - amazing that it holds up to 64 Gb of video), plug the micro-card into the standard-size SD card holder, plug that card into a USB SD card reader, plug the USB card reader into the applicable USB hub, then download the video. Way too much complexity, plus constantly fiddling with the temperamental USB-C port on the camera is a recipe for further disaster.
    After an hour or so on the phone with the GoPro support team (by the way, I have been very impressed with their product support) my camera has been shipped back to GoPro for replacement once more. I have been advised that they plan to test the new replacement before shipment to ensure that the port is working properly in every respect. 
  • I discovered to my great chagrin that my lavalier Rode mic broke. There is a break in one of the wires right at the plug. No big deal, I have two other lavaliers with long cords that I can use for future interviews, BUT... I had used that mic with my iPod to record a farewell get-together with Stephanie Yue last summer when she flew off from Toronto to Europe with her Vespa. You guessed it, the audio is buggered all to hell by that mic defect. Now I have to figure out
    • how to break that news to Ed; and
    • how to salvage what I have for an upcoming episode. 
While this video is yet another nerdy vlogging how-to video, with a (hopefully) click-bait-ish thumbnail and intro, I am genuinely enthused (in case it's not clear in the video) with the studio set up.

I love it because I think that using my iMac desktops as studio lighting is such a cool and efficient hack. So many bloggers have massive amounts of gear that turn their studios into virtually single-purpose spaces.

In my case, my studio is a secondary purpose for my home office, whose primary purpose is my law practice hence the books, the computers (MacBook, old iMac, new iMac), printer+scanner, desk lighting, shredder, back-up drives (nicely concealed I might add, I am sure you didn't notice). I actually have a green-screen in the closet that I have tested which can be set up behind my office chair and that allows me to completely eliminate the entire background with a mouse-click.

For an after-thought video production studio it works really, really well for me.

So that's it folks.

I'll be back with something on Stephany's adventure, and on the 2019 Distinguished Gentleman's Ride.

The music for this episode of Life on two wheels is Complicate Ya by Otis MacDonald and Minor blues for Booker by E's Jammy Jams, both tracks made available courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library. The ULANZI V3 Pro Aluminium Vlog Cage with cold shoe and protective housings for the GoPro USBC microphone adapter for Gopro Hero 7 6 and 5 cameras, the Saramonic SR-XM1 microphone, the Comica dead cat windscreen, and the Joby Telepod Pro are all available at, you guessed it, Amazon.

Monday, February 24, 2020

GoPro Clusterffffffail!!!


You'll learn in the video that I have been mired in a video-and-blog-production-free zone since July of last year.

Finally, I can see clearly now (sad 2020 joke). Yet I truly do think that I have found a path back to creativity and production.

The kind of bond you can build with YouTube is really odd.

It is simultaneously insanely public, yet paradoxically intimate. It's like my audience is a massive intimidating horse, but I have learned to whisper in its ear, and it listens patiently and intently. My studio is like the horse's ear.

Well, that's certainly not the most poetic description of YouTube as an artistic platform for mankind, but you get the drift.

This is episode 40 of the vlog.

As I grew progressively sidelined by the course of events, the horse wandered out of its stall, out the proverbial barn door, to become a random distant dot grazing in the meadow. The thought of slipping on a bridle, coaxing it back, and climbing back into the saddle became daunting. It was no longer the horse I knew, the one I whispered to. I began to doubt if I even remembered how to ride, or what its name was.

I can now safely say, if there are others who have lost track of their steeds, that it's akin to riding a bicycle.

My new reality is that I have two purpose-built production facilities, two mounts willing to let me ride shoeless and bareback, lean into their manes, and whisper confidently in their ears.

A studio that you see in the video (actually you can't see behind the scene at all, but it's a dedicated iPod tied to a bunch of other cool stuff), and a new Go Pro designed for roaming (with some special bullet-proof ingenious add-ons protecting the disastrously frail ill-conceived external microphone sub-system).

It all sounds so dry, nerdy, and boring, not at all like thoroughbreds who prance in their stalls and swing their heads out to greet me. And yet there they are, and they are mine.

A source of comfort.

There is still so much to learn, there always is, but I am back in the paddock, at least for now.

It's great to smell the hay.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Still thinking...

I really appreciate all the support, I truly do. I am referring to the kind and thoughtful comments responding to my previous post.

This morning I was lying in bed just before sunrise with the New York Times on my iPad. I was reading an amazing story of Auschwitz survivors, a guy and a girl, who fell in love in the concentration camp, and, against all odds survived. They planned to meet in Warsaw if they survived, but it didn't work out. They finally met again only very recently in New York City. What struck me was that they were artists. She was a graphic designer, and he was a singer. Their respective arts skills played crucial roles in their survival.

It got me thinking about the role that art plays in our lives.

Susan and I collect art. It's a little bit of a joke in the family: whether we are running out of wall space (we aren't). We don't have the means to invest in major league art. Maybe not even minor league art. We are both drawn to artists who create art that isn't strictly figurative, tending towards some form of abstraction. It's hard to explain.

I want to learn art appreciation. What differentiates good art? I distinctly remember being blown away by a Riopelle abstract painting that was absolutely stunning. There was nothing figurative about it. You can go to Homesense and find abstract works for $100. That 'art' may even be overpriced.

Susan and I typically spend quite a bit more for the art we buy, in the very low four figures. Definitely minor league.

The burning question is, what makes art good and worth owning?

The answer I have so far is basically unhelpful. My measure is that art I consider to be 'good' is art that stands the test of time. In other words, I liked it when we bought it, and many years later, the painting still works for me. 'Bad' art, tends to lose its appeal quite quickly. Like the abstract Susan and I bought when we were first married. We liked it when we bought it, obviously, but within mere months we began calling it the 'pizza'. The Pizza didn't follow us to our second apartment.

Back to this morning reading the New York Times in bed.

I went from the couple from Auschwitz to John Farago's column discussing the infamous duct tape banana sculpture by Maurizio Cattelan. Mr. Farago is an art critic with a serious international reputation. Really? A banana duct taped to a wall is serious art? As I read, I was beginning to worry that all abstract or cutting edge art might all be bullshit. How sad would that make me?

So I dug into John Farago, and that took me to the Hidden Noise podcast, and a panel he moderated about how modern art intersects with blockchain. Blockchain? Now I was really concerned.

It turned out that the panelists were really very interesting. Extremely knowledgeable and thought provoking. The best by far was Sarah Meyohas and her Bitchcoin project.

In the end, my early morning reading (and listening), far from convincing me that modern art is all bogus trash hyped by vacuous and pretentious curators and critics, definitely had the potential, when it was 'good' art, to inspire me, and could certainly stand the test of time.

So much for other people's art.

What about my art?

What about my posts, what about my videos? Are they art? To me they are. Do they pass my crude test of time?

I sometimes go back to read posts I've written, or to watch my videos. I expect to wince and cringe. Often I don't. I often find I still like things I wrote years ago. My videos are still crude, and aren't close to good art, not yet, anyway.

As I lay in bed I found myself editing a video in my mind out of the footage I shot over the summer and fall. I was beginning to feel inspired.

Susan and I discussed the question of good and bad art over breakfast. I now think that what makes any art form 'good' is the degree to which it conveys a message beyond the colours, the shapes, the strokes, the words, the notes, the tune, the lyrics, the scenes, and the dialogue. Like Take five, Dave Brubeck's classic composition that I fell in love with when I was a kid. I still pause and listen when I hear it. It moved me then, and it moves me now.

Now I need to find a path back to a place where I find the time to indulge the artist in me.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

What's my excuse...

What's my excuse?

Truth is, I don't really have one.

There is no doubt that shifting from plain old posts to video posts, and changing this from a simple blog to a blog-cum-vlog really upped the ante in terms of the work required to post.

Perhaps rather than posting these thoughts here... I'll continue with a post. Maybe that will prompt me to get back to sharing my life..

[THE FOREGOING COMMENT ON THE PREVIOUS POST NOW CONTINUES AS AN ACTUAL POST...]

It's not like my life got too boring to share. Quite the reverse. A whole bunch of interesting things have happened, most of which are certainly begging to be shared here.

The fact is, that lately (by lately I mean for several months now), I frequently tell people how lucky and blessed I am.

Blogging began for me as a way of returning the favours I received when I found the inspiration and support I needed to begin a fresh chapter of my life commuting to work on a scooter. I thought someone like me might be similarly inspired to take a chance and start a new adventure if I shared my experience, so I started this blog.

Where am I now?

For one thing, as many of you know, I retired. Then I moved to Toronto from Montreal where I had lived my entire life. Then I slowly got back into the practice of law, part-time, as a means to make a little money that Susan and I could spend as we wished in retirement without a financial care in the world.

So how's that going David? [I seem to be interviewing myself now...]

It's going too well I'm afraid.

Care to explain?

My home office is amazing. Three computers, a new bookcase... it's frankly the best office I have ever had.

And how's your practice?

That's also amazing.

And there's the rub.

Since July I find that I am working full time. It's a blessing in some ways. It's challenging, rewarding, occasionally exciting (for the first time in a very long time I have actually been to court!!), and I am really enjoying it.

I admit it can be stressful, but ultimately in a good way. My efforts on behalf of my clients have been successful, and in one case I truly think that what I accomplished for my client ranks among the top five achievements of my career.

So it's all just wonderful great news, right?

Not quite.

This year, actually the last six months, while my professional work soared, my creative work hit an all-time low. As in zero, nada, zip, nothing. Well that's definitely an exaggeration. Did I mention I tweaked my home office? Added a new Billy, a Gnedby, some Ommlops, a new bridge, a remote, showcased my white porcelain flying pig in the way it deserves, bought myself a kickass new 27" iMac... there was some creativity involved there, don't you know?

But...?

Right. The creativity I promised myself I would pursue, like writing (I actually have a novel in the works that I was going to finish in retirement), sharing my thoughts here, making regular YouTube videos, well none of that is happening.

Let me digress, slightly.

Back in February, a day before Susan and I were to leave for a break in Florida, I took a tumble on my morning walk. Hit some hidden ice, crashed on my side, cracked some ribs. I still made it to Florida, but my exercise regimen came to a grinding halt. When that happens, when you break a healthy habit, it can be quite difficult getting back on track. I wasn't until mid-August, or early September, that I finally gave myself a kick in the butt and started exercising again. So far, so good.

In July I took a creative tumble. I let my busy professional life push all my creative work to the wayside. That sucks just as much as abandoning exercises. If life on the couch is bad for the body, foresaking creativity is bad for the soul. Or at least, I think it's bad for my soul. I need to claw my way back.

Hello. My name is David, and I'm a workaholic.

Hi David, welcome back. Take a seat at the keyboard and share some thoughts with us.

I'll try my best to take it one day at a time.


Monday, July 1, 2019

Go brand yourself!!


Sorry for the long absence!

This video has been in the works since February of this year. I am in awe of YouTubers who produce high quality content daily. It requires a lot of talent.

This episode is about my long-standing fascination with branding. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it.

I'll come back with more of a behind-the-scenes episode with practical advice for those of you who would like to brand your own efforts.

The video was made possible by the kind folks at StickerYou.com who provided custom decals for the vehicle graphics, and Sharon and Sam at Ink Living Color.

The incredible soundtrack is Grind by Andrew Huang, made available by the YouTube audio library.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A new season, a new ride

As soon as the first ABS Vespas appeared on the scene, I wanted one.

Last fall a fellow vespa addict mentioned to me that both he and his girlfriend had ABS Vespa GTSs and that it was possible they were selling them. Hers was a red 2016 model, and his was a matt grey 2018 model.

As between the two, my preference was the red GTS. The timing wasn't quite right for me, and I said I would put off a purchase to the spring.

I assumed that I had passed on both those opportunities. Oh well, I would just begin a fresh search in the spring.

A couple of months ago, my friend reached out and said that while he had decided not to sell his GTS, his girlfriend was definitely selling hers.

The challenge was that while he lives here in Toronto, his girlfriend lives in cottage country north of Montreal. The logistics proved to be a hassle: a) the April weather has been atrocious (ice storms, snow storms, massive flooding...), b) figuring out how to weave between the somewhat inconsistent motor vehicle regulations of Quebec and Ontario was a little bit of a puzzle requiring multiple phone calls to the authorities, and c) riding a GTS 550 kilometres back to Toronto from the seller's home with the atrocious weather made us reschedule the pickup.

But when the prospect of a new Vespa GTS 300 with ABS and traction control is the bait, the rest is child's play.

This morning I am tackling the last hurdle between my Vespa and its new Ontario license plate.

One unexpected and really, really useful perk with the new Vespa: dual trip odometers. They came in really handy in minimizing the number of refuelling stops on the way home. This was no pleasure ride, so I took the most direct route: ~500 kms on the 401 at ~120 kmh. The closest I came to a dry tank was when I opted not to stop in Kingston, gambling that I had enough fuel to make it to the first service centre ~20km west of the city. The low fuel light had come on, and the last bar on the digital fuel gauge had gone white.

The Vespa thirstily gobbled up 8,55 litres of premium gas: I was down to about 1 3/4 cups of gasoline. That was close.

There may be a video in the works, so stay tuned. If one gets done, it will show up here.




Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A fairytale come true


This video tells the story of a second grandchild on the way, ETA mid July.

I have been told that this little production has caused tears to flow by some members of our family. To me as the producer, that's right up there with an Academy Award.

I hope you enjoy viewing this as much a I did making it.

The musical selections for this episode are Tragic Story by Myuu, A long cold by Riot, and Hush little baby by the Green Orbs, and all are courtesy of the excellent Youtube Audio Library.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

A new beginning

It’s been a while.

My excuse is that I am only slowly coming to grips with my re-born self.

Does that sound like a little much?

I agree, it certainly does. 

Let me lay it out as clearly and accurately as I can.

From April of 1980 until June of 2015 my life had acquired a distinct pattern and become quite predictable: Susan and I lived in Montreal. I had a job downtown. I commuted from the suburbs to my job. I worked in an office tower. I practiced law. Those were the primary constants of my life.

That daily pattern stretched over those 35 wonderful years.

My yearly cycle was punctuated more or less predictably by vacation time. Early on by weeks’ vacation, that became three, then four, and ultimately five weeks.

In the course of those thirty-five years, Susan and I raised three wonderful kids. The rhythm of our lives, within the bounds of those constants, changed with time as as our children grew, in the same way as millions and millions of parents come to know and love. Eventually, one by one, those amazing kids left the nest.

That was a major adjustment, but not quite what I call a sea change. I continued to commute from the suburbs to my job. The rhythm of our lives was still punctuated by vacations.

The commute that became this blog evolved over that time as well, in very satisfying ways.

It began as public transit on buses, subways, and trains with delightful morning and evening walks serving as its bookends. Later my commute shifted to a beloved two-seater sports car that Susan was fond of telling people was “mid-life-crisis red”. Ultimately, from 2010 to 2015, I commuted on my Vespas. The latter commutes were the very best of all, and nearly every commute came with its own special trove of treats and delights, the best of which were recorded and reported here.

2015 started out that way too.

Then… in May, seismic changes began that literally shifted the landscape under our feet, and the very fabric of our lives.

First work changed. I decided in the course of a week that it was time to declare independence.

It happened like a slow-moving chain reaction. One event leading to another, and another, and another, like so many pebbles dropped one by one into a pool of still water.

I began to see that everything I had done to that point in my life were threads, paths, streams, or lines that were converging towards a very pointy intersection. The children were independent; a lifetime of diligent saving had blossomed nicely; our home was ripe for sale; for the first time I had the means to become free, truly free. 

Things happened at work that I disagreed with. Until that day I would have hunkered down, and soldiered on. But the lines all converged at that singular point, and snap!

Enough! I’m done. It stops here. That’s it! 

In the matter of an instant I became the true master of my fate.

Can you imagine?

It turned out to be the latest sea change: I was a child for six years; then a student for twenty-two long years. My career began when school came to an end in the spring of 1980.

That was the second sea change. It lasted thirty-five years. Wow!

This third sea change turned out to be massive. Much bigger, much more compelling, than those that preceded.

Overnight, no commute. Slam! No job. Wham! Bam!

Then… our kids started getting married. 2015, 2016, 2018: Snap! Crack! Kaboom!!! What a spectacle!! It was amazing!

We sold our house: Whoosh! 

We moved. 500 kilometers away, to Toronto: Flash! New city; new neighbourhood; new house! Bang! Pop!

It was a three-year rolling earthquake, with tremors, after-shocks, and joyous upheaval! Did I mention we became grandparents?

Nothing prepares you for what happens when there’s a sea change.

It was spectacular, truly spectacular. 

Then, like kids rushing and spinning down a white-water slide on brightly coloured inner tubes on a sparkling summer day, the current slowed and we drifted into a peaceful eddy, a new normal.

A beautiful new home, in a new exciting city.

It was as if Susan and I had cast the past aside, plowed our field with deep furrows, and planted new seeds.

The new normal started to set in as the seeds began to sprout. Susan got a job, and then, against all odds, my career began again. A new law firm, a fresh round of Bar exams, and just like that, I am back in private practice. Wow! 

Expressing what living this change has been like is a challenge.

Now that I am taking stock, I can see that it has been a little like Alice in Wonderland, or the Wizard of Oz. Like everything you knew, everything you thought would never change, all the places that defined your life, all the familiar faces, scenes and landscapes, the people, the sights, the sounds, even the tastes and familiar scents, all shifted and swirled like bouncing beams of light in a huge kaleidoscope.

All that swirling change, all that energy later, and here I am, in my new normal.

It’s calm. It’s comfortable. It’s very nice. The rhythms of this new life are just beginning to define themselves. By most measures, life is wonderful.

I see it as the essence of life on two wheels. It’s the fruit of taking chances, of having the courage to stake a claim, to shake things up, to spin the giant wheel of life. The process can be a little unsettling, even scary at times. It’s ultimately deeply satisfying.

What does all this mean for this journal, this Life on Two Wheels?

The blog and the vlog are aspects of the landscape that have been taken along for the ride, shaken and spun in the glorious upheaval, though you could be forgiven for not noticing.

This story began as an exploration of my commute when it shifted to two wheels. It blossomed to follow my explorations further afield, meeting new friends, experiencing a little far-flung adventure.

What role should it play in the new normal? What does it become now that I work from home and my new commute is climbing flights of stairs three floors up to my office? What is the new message, the theme? What will it offer now?

These are the questions I have been asking myself for the past several months as the pace of new posts here has come close to zero.

In many ways I am becoming a new person.

The 2018 Bar exams were like a rebirth for me. A challenge that required all of my energy and intelligence on so many levels. When the deed was done, crowned with success, I was spent. Physically and emotionally spent.

It has taken physiotherapy to cure the resulting physical kinks, an excursion into philosophy to settle and align my spirit, a diet to trim accumulated pounds, and exercise to strengthen my body. 

These new habits are tiny life-seeds that are just beginning to sprout.

My wish is that Life on Two Wheels will become the story of this new life. The exploration of a new city and all it has to offer, explaining how the changes Susan and I have made continue to transform our lives and bear fruit beyond what we imagined on that day in June of 2015 when the threads, furrows, streams of fate, and lines began to converge, shimmer, quiver, and spark at the intersection setting in motion the reaction that completely changed our world.

Let’s see if I can make it work, for both of us.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Democracy needs you

What are the pillars of democracy? How strong are the pillars of democracy? How far can we go in challenging democracy before it weakens or collapses? Do the pillars of democracy need our support? What should we do? What can we do?

I have been asking myself these questions in the last few years. It's odd, I think. Previously I took democracy for granted and didn't ask questions. Elections came and went, I voted, governments came and went.

I felt secure.

Sure there was a threat of nuclear annihilation. Sure there were epidemics. But we tamed those threats. Mostly. Life was good, mostly. Threats were elsewhere, not here. Then came terror. Democracy stood strong.

And now this.

One of the most powerful people in the world, the really important one, and a man pledged to his people as a guardian of democracy, has gone wrong.

Every day he strikes hammer blows at the pillars of American democracy.

Vicious unwarranted attacks on his political opponents and rivals of all political persuasions. Vicious unwarranted attacks on journalists. Vicious unwarranted attacks on judges and the courts. Vicious unwarranted attacks on the members of the legislature. Vicious unwarranted attacks on long-serving civil servants. Vicious unwarranted attacks on senior members of the military and celebrated war heroes. Nothing is sacred. No one is safe.

The relentless repetition, the thud, thud, thud, thud, thud of these senseless hammer blows must be harmful, wouldn't you think?

If those pillars were columns on your front porch, and you heard the hammering, how alarmed would you be?

The hammer blows are a litany of lies. Mean-spirited, uncaring, deliberate disinformation, delivered in a torrent of vile invective.

The President simply doesn't care about the truth. Not one bit. He says anything. About anyone or anything. But seldom the truth. It's painfully clear he has a strong ingrained preference for lying.

How can the President of the United States of America not stand on a podium of truth, trust, and dedication to the Constitution he swore a sacred oath to preserve and protect?

The Presidency is arguably the pinnacle of American society.

Presidents have generally understood not merely the power they wield, but the immense mantle of responsibility they assume when they ascend to the office. It is more than a job, more than a career, more than a calling; it is a summons to duty unlike any other, and a summons to diligent hard work.

Most Presidents have understood the weight and the importance of the office the people of the United States entrusted to them.

Most Presidents have done their best to rise up to the office they are privileged to hold. They have worked hard to find and appoint the strongest, smartest, most diligent persons they can find to help them govern. Presidents have been known to work tirelessly to absorb information and to learn from their appointees, to study their reports, assessments, and recommendations, and consider their judgments and opinions.  That is the way most Presidents have led the country and charted its course.

And here is a man who, for the most part, is none of those things. A man who routinely does none of those things.

To sum him up in a single sentence, he is a liar, a bully, a man who cares for himself exclusively and before all others, a person without loyalty, and a person who resists expert briefings designed to make sure that the decisions he must make rest on a solid foundation of tested fact.

This President prefers instead that his decisions lie on an unmade bed of prejudice, ignorance, and venal self-interest.

It's a shame really.

But apparently these things happen.

Which brings me back to the questions I have been asking myself.

How many hammer blows can those pillars withstand?

A recent count maintained by Daniel Dale, Washington Bureau Chief of the Toronto Star, stood on November 25, 2018 at 3,800 hammer blows. Lies and baseless accusations hammered at judges, legislators, and even members of his own administration. Lies and baseless accusations hammered at journalists. Lies and baseless accusations hammered at allies.

I know that I am not alone with a deep concern for the fate of American democracy and for the global alliances that flow from a river of patriots' blood spilled to defend and uphold them.

What can you and I do?

Learn and speak.

Learn about what is happening. When you learn about the hammer blows, speak out. Make your voice heard. Speak to your family. Speak to your friends. Speak to your colleagues. Share your concerns. If you are in the US and you are a republican, call your member of congress. Write them an email or send them a letter. Tweet at them if you must. If you are a democrat, call your member of congress. Write them an email or send them a letter. Tweet at them if you must. If you are an independent… well, you get the point.

It really doesn’t matter which way you lean politically. Democracy is an institution that all of us must cherish and help to preserve and protect. Every conservative, every liberal. Without democracy not one of us has a voice.

Say no to the hammer blows; say no to the lies; stand with journalists; stand with judges; stand with legislators.

The Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court has spoken out: democracy has no favourites, neither republican, nor democrat.

You must speak out too.

Stand and be counted.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Travel, and Travel with Parosites

Welcome back to Life on two wheels.

Every now and then, when you leave your comfort zone behind, remarkable things happen.

Remarkable?

Yes, truly remarkable things.

Things that alter your perception. Quite simply, things that change your life... for the better of course.

To illustrate, I give you a vlog episode musing on travel, and a companion journal entry on the blog which follows immediately below. Not surprisingly, I think that the one compliments the other. But you already knew that.

First the vlog episode in which I attempt to explain the somewhat challenging relationship I have with travel. I told Stephanie Yue during her interview in Episode 35 of the Vlog that I wasn't a traveler, which Stephanie thought was "nuts". In a way she was right, and yet...  I'm not a traveler. It's complicated. This episode of the vlog seeks to provide some insight. It may, or may not... sigh...

https://youtu.be/GtmdRn0VY3A

... and now, without much further ado, herewith a reading of the first gospel of the Parosites.

So it came to pass that my beloved wife and lifelong companion Susan, dragged my sorry ass far, far to the east. So far east, that truly, never easter had I ever ventured.

In that mystical way I came to be delightfully yet utterly stranded. We were on an island far, far away, in the middle of the fabled Aegean sea, in the ancient haunts of Zeus, Poseidon, and ModernVespa fellow member Aviator47 (may he rest in peace) who made a significant contribution to my Tuscan Loop. We came to be cut off from the world we knew by winds so fierce that no boat would sail, and no plane would fly. We quite simply had no means of egress.


What to do?

We soon found ourselves in the company of another couple. For the sake of this incredible narrative, let’s just call them Errol and Lisa.


I will now share with you what happens when strong winds blow and a Jew, a Catholic, another Catholic, and another Jew, Canadians all, set out to plumb the secrets of a marvelous island where the spirit of Ulysses and of the Odyssey remain present to this very day.

Should this story cause an awakening in you, should you choose to become, of your own free will, a pilgrim, an adherent of a sort, a fellow traveler of a new order, to become followers of a new and mysterious cult, set your course for Paros and Anti-Paros. There you may yet find our footsteps on the sandy shores, on the pebbled beaches, perchance, in the very rock of this island paradise.

Every journey worth the telling of its tale requires a beast of burden. Christianity traces its roots to wise men on the backs of camels. We chose a Panda. Pandas are large enough to carry four prophets in comfort, they are fierce and strong enough to ward off evil, kind and gentle enough to ease fears and carry on tirelessly, as well as nimble and sure-footed enough to venture to the very furthest reaches of the realm, to the loftiest peaks, to the very ends of Paros, to the very peak of Anti-Paros, and to the threshold of its truly mysterious depths, where the ancients scrawled a precious few words of wisdom on the stalactites and stalagmites of the depths, those silent and stoic witnesses to the countless millennia of human evolution.


We came to call ourselves Parosites. We are Parosites. You can become a Parosite too. Parosititus is simply the encapsulation of the lessons we learned, that we have vowed to impart to others who wish to follow on the enlightened path we, your prophets, your icons, forever after have pledged to follow.

Fear not. Like early Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Persians, Egyptians, Incas, Mayans, and other predecessor religious orders, behold here the true font of all that is Parosititus. It is simple. We have no commandments, and we have few rites, though we do suggest some modest guidelines that Parosites must commit to memory.

Notwithstanding the essential simplicity of the new religion we impart to you, and of the fundamental truths we pledge to seek in your company, Errol, Lisa, Susan and I concurred that we couldn’t do without some form of worship. So we have worship. But relax, there are no armies of saints to memorize, no repetitive obsessive-compulsive hand or body motions you are required to perform. You need only worship the four of us.

The only gesture you may choose to adopt, should you wish to embrace it, but that is by no means required of even the most devout Parosite, is to greet fellow Parosites with a benign smile and the merest hint of a wry knowing wink, while raising your middle finger proudly in a form of salute. The Parosite's salute.

Oh... we also decided to have tithes. We, the four founding brothers and sisters, accept, with absolute humility, and a solemn vow to avoid all forms of conspicuous unbecoming consumption, including travel on private jets or yachts over 50 feet, or other overt displays of wealth or privilege (other than travel in business class), annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly, or daily donations of small and modest gratuities never, ever, under any circumstances, to exceed 25% of Parosites’ net, after-tax annual income. Bear in mind that no amount is too small, and all donations will be acknowledged promptly on Twitter (#Parosites, #PandasRule). The Parosites’ PayPal account will be up and running in no time at all, so please be patient. In the meantime BitCoin tithing is encouraged. Your generosity is our pride and joy.


We trace our awakening to a modest table in a simple yet elegant restaurant a stone’s throw from row upon row of frond parasols and the gentle, cool and rythmic surf. This became a recurring theme. A meme really. Could it have been that our table was in fact a white marble altar? Yes, that must have been the first of many revelations. I asked Errol “Errol my dear friend and fellow traveler, what must this table weigh?” In truth, the white slab was a good three or four inches thick, four or five feet long, and the width of a generous kitchen table. The altar of the Parosites. It will surely weather the test of time.

Please bear in mind that in the very beginning we knew not that we were Parosites. True awakening, true fellowship in the path of the Parosites, dawns slowly.

Days later, as our trusty Panda carried us onward and outward bound, our consciousness rose and blossomed. In that way, a second truth revealed itself to us, once more with the blue expanse of the Aegean spread before us, shimmering in the midday sun, as we sat before a glorious meal of octopus and pizza. The essential revelation was this: when as a Parosite, you find yourself faced on the one hand with a choice of labour, toil, or industry, and on the other hand with the alternative of strolling ankle or knee-deep in the cool welcoming surf after a glorious heavenly meal, soon followed by an afternoon siesta on a lounge chair lulled to the very doorstep of a snooze by the rhythms of the sea and of the breeze in the palms ... always choose the latter.


The charcoal grilled octopus might have become the perfect emergent animal spirit and icon for our new religion... but for a later revelation, in another moment of enlightenment, that the leech was to be the true and lasting icon of our faith.

If you feel compelled to seek the comfort of a good book, a compendium, or guide to the meaning of life, beyond the simple truths laid before you here, by all means rely on the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the immortal words of Douglas Adams who famously recommended "... to congregate at boundary conditions. Where land meets water. Where earth meets air, Where body meets mind. Where space meets time." He also observed, quite rightly "I love deadlines, I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by." Clearly he must have been an early Parosite.

Nevertheless, to be a true believer, a true Parosite, you need only worship the four of us, scrupulously and periodically submit your tithes, and commit to memory and forever loosely abide by the following Ten Guidelines:

I. Seek out and ponder the surf, and immerse yourself in it, unless it’s too damn cold.

II. Worship no idols save for Errol, Lisa, Susan and David, and learn from their indolence.

III. Study the ways of the leech, only then can you become a true Parosite.

IV. Always seek the perfect pizza, borne of a blistering smoldering brick oven.

V. In ordinary conversation or in the game of bridge, wheresoever you may be, when there is a mention of trump, raise the Parosite’s salute and spit upon the floor.

VI. Apologize at every turn, and learn to say “Eff-Harry’s-toe”.

VII. When your Panda tears a paw, seek out a kind fixer in the dead of night to shod the beast with new rubber for a modest fee.

VIII. When the pavement ends, carry on regardless and seek the ocean, even when the peril seems great, and the Panda scrapes its belly on the rocky soil.


IX. When you are speaking the truth to Parosites, never fail to embellish it with stretchers and knee-slappers.

X. When on the path to your resting place for the day, up is always right, and down is out.

So there you have it. Parosititus. It’s truly simple, and simply enlightening. Become a Parosite. You won't regret it.

That's it for a riveting double travel, lifestyle, and religion edition of Life on two wheels. Don't forget to like the video, please click to subscribe to the Life on two wheels YouTube channel, and don't forget to visit the blog where you'll find the Touring Guide, the Gear Guide, and so much more! See you next time, on life on two wheels!

The music for this episode of Life on two wheels is Mysteries  by Dan Lebowitz, made available courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library.

If you are interested in moto-touring routes in the UK, check out the following infographic published by Trago.


Finally, here are the links to the moto-adventure travelers mentioned in the video:

Stephanie Yue:
It's easier to link to Stephanie's Life on two wheels profile that contains links to her blog, professional website, and most of the interviews she has given

Lois Pryce:
http://www.loisontheloose.com/

Steph Jeavons:
https://stephjeavons.com/meet-steph
http://www.stephmoto-adventurebikeblog.com/

Michael Strauss:
http://soloscooterist.com/

Ken Wilson:
http://lostboater.com/

Bill Leuthold:
http://billleuthold.blogspot.com/

Tim and Marisa
:
https://www.notiersfrontiers.com/
https://www.notiersfrontiers.com/wherewearenow.html

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The unicorn fridge, Ikea, and a Vespa

https://youtu.be/aAkL9Vohn-A

Well I'm at it again!

Shopping for seemingly impossible things to carry on my Vespa.

This time it's a 36"X15"X24" Sektion over-the-fridge wall cabinet from Ikea.

It all started when our Bosch fridge up and died in the dead of night.

Fortunately, we discovered the looming food disaster when we returned from the airport with Andrew, Anuschka, and Kaia who came to celebrate Lauren and Harris' wedding. Talk about a good news, bad news, great news story.

It turned out, of course, that our dead Bosch fridge was a unicorn! Basically, it turned out to be one-and-a-half critical inches shorter than any other fridge we could find in the market. That meant that our built-in custom kitchen cabinetry was built in a way that would not accommodate any of the new fridges.

The only solution was to replace the cabinet with one that was 15" from top to bottom, rather than the 30" cabinet installed in our kitchen.

Then it turned out that the very nice folks who updated our kitchen when we renovated a couple of years back were retiring. While they agreed to make the new custom cabinet doors we needed, the cabinet was turning out to be... well let's just say that we were on our own on that score.

That's when Ikea came to the rescue!

Susan was at work with the car, and I was itching to start work on the cabinet. What to do... what to do??

The answer, don't you know, was painfully obvious!

Fetch the cabinet from Ikea on my Vespa!

And there you have it. Another exciting episode of Life on two wheels!

The music for this episode is Morning Stroll  by Josh Kirsch/Media Right Productions made available courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library, as usual. Thanks YouTube!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Catching Ms. Yue

https://youtu.be/AKT6SmGX8nc

Welcome to episode 35 of the vlog: Catching Ms. Yue.

The vast majority of our fellow humans are dedicated to a 9-5 work regimen (or to even more demanding jobs). We live relatively close to where we work and we commute from home to work week in, and week out, with precious few breaks in the routine.

That is why there is something very special about adventurers. These are people who decide to uproot their lives and head out to discover the planet.

In this episode I share an interview with Stephanie Yue at the 2018 Isle de Wolfe scooter rallye. By the time I managed to snag a few precious minutes of free time with Steph the sun was rapidly fading, along with the quality of the video. I have Steph's boyfriend Fred to thank because he agreed to act as the second camera man.

Steph has ridden Serenity, her Vespa GTS, through all 49 continental states of the USA, and her most recent adventure was a moto tour in Pakistan.

You can learn a lot about someone like Steph by following her blog. But nine times out of ten, there is no way to connect the voice to the blogger. This interview scratches that itch. If you visit her rider profile on the Rider Profiles page, you will find links to other interviews, but, as far as I know, until I stand corrected, this is the first YouTube interview of the intrepid Ms. Yue.

With a little luck this may not be the last time I have the privilege of catching up with her.

The music for this episode is Game Plan by Bad Snacks, made available thanks to the YouTube audio library.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Going out on another limb

I am edging myself cautiously into new territory: e-commerce


I have no illusions and, while I will earn a 10% commission on the sale of WrapTies through this journal (click here or go to the "Shop: WrapTies" link above), I am more motivated by the opportunity to promote an excellent new moto product and by the excitement of experimenting with an e-commerce affiliate setup.

Hopefully I have managed to set up the page properly.

I have also added a link in the Gear Guide.

Monday, August 13, 2018

You always pay a price

Every choice we make requires that we pay a price.

Most of you know that last fall I made a series of choices along a path leading back to the practice of law. There were many baby steps. My sister Joanne insisted I had to meet with a law firm in the building where she works. They seemed really nice, and they were interested in meeting me.

I have a long standing policy of investigating every opportunity that comes my way. When I was in my early teens my Dad looked away from an opportunity that, in hindsight, would have been a game changer for all of us. I vowed that I would never do that. That vow led me to investigate many opportunities, a good number of which were game changers for me.

This blog, the vlog, and the chronicles you explore here are one example.

The dream of owning a Vespa, turned into the Scoot Commute, then Life on two wheels, the vlog, and adventures on two wheels in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Florida and Italy. That opportunity alone was like opening an old cardboard box and discovering unimagined splendors and treasures wrapped in old newspapers.

Where was I... right, I met with some really nice people at the firm and I realized there was an opportunity to return to the practice of law on my terms. Wow, I never would have guessed. That revelation triggered the baby steps. I had to come out of retirement, apply for re-instatement to active practice with the Quebec Bar; apply to the Law Society of Ontario for the right to practice in Ontario on an occasional basis; and then... why not fully qualify in Ontario?

Well you know how that turned out.

In January I began that quest. It seemed like it might not be excruciating. I only had to write and pass two exams. When I wrote the Quebec Bar exams, way back in 1980, there were six exams. That's like a two-thirds-off deal!  Then I found out that there were only two exams in Ontario. Every aspiring lawyer must leap those two hurdles. Two, seven-hour, 240 question exams. Gulp! At sixty-five, was my brain still up to it? At least Bar exams are open book. Still...

The materials made up about 2,300 pages, six three-ring binders' worth, in eight or nine point font, double-sided, with tiny margins. I bought highlighters. First yellow, then I added blue and green. I underlined, scrawled annotations in the tiny margins, took notes, did research, looked up Supreme Court cases, read key passages of more statutes than I care to remember. The Income Tax Act, the Criminal Code, the Residential Tenancies Act, the Family Law Act, the Personal Property Security Act, the Federal Court Act, the Courts of Justice Act, regulations under those acts... the list went on, and on, and on. I took notes. 497 pages of notes in 9 point font, plus 128 pages of subject matter, case law and legislation indexes. I have never, in my life, written so much.

Thank heavens the enormity of the task only became apparent bit by bit. Had I known the scale of the challenge before setting out, would I have done it?

How did I do it?

With the exception of two one-week breaks in Los Angeles, San Diego and Vancouver, I devoted 10-12 hours, every single day of the week, every week of the month, from mid-January to mid-June, sitting at my desk, surrounded by paper, chained to my keyboard, with my eyes alternating from the books on the desk to the computer screen.

I passed both exams.

What a price to pay!

And yet, like the price of a car, or of a fancy meal in fine restaurant, or of a kitchen renovation, the price to be paid comes with extras like taxes and tips.

In my case, that extra somewhat unanticipated cost came later, like a delayed final invoice.

In my mind, once the stress of studying, writing and passing the exams was behind me, I was going to spend a glorious summer riding and exploring, blogging and vlogging, celebrating my success with friends and family. Basically exploiting the law of averages by simply having a ball.

Hmmmm...

The final invoice landed on me a couple of weeks back. I knew I had gained weight. As my brother-in-law Chuck famously said, my exercise regimen for six months consisted of jumping to conclusions and pushing my luck. Between that, and consuming the calories my grey cells desperately needed, I gained weight. My office has mirrored sliding closet doors. I could see the weight slowly spreading like an unsightly unwanted bulge where my waist used to be.

Exercise would be the welcome cure. That's how I planned to balance the scales.

But wait... there was more.

Turns out that when you spend a ridiculous amount of time scouring pages and pages of paper, and typing endless pages of notes, your body decides that this is the new 'normal' and, without consulting you, adapts to what it perceives as the new rhythm of your life.

When you decide to return to the old 'normal', your body says "what the..." and rebels like a spoiled sulking ungrateful child.

In my case, in an attempt to keep me slouched in the best position for reading and typing 11-ish hours a day, my body threw me a curve in the form of what I'm guessing is a pinched nerve somewhere in the vicinity of C6 and C7. Before this I had never given my cervical vertebrae a second's thought.

Holy crap! I can't ride, heck, I can't even walk for more than twenty paces with my head on the level. Tylenol and Cyclobenzaprine are my new best friends.

It's possible that after two weeks, a trip to the doctor's office, a trip to the physiotherapist, two invasive deep massage sessions (feels like you're a chicken being boned without the aid of a knife), and four torture sessions with a chiropractor, I may be seeing a pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel.

Last week I had no choice but to ride Thunderbird for a legally-required safety exam prior to its sale to its new owner.

Look how happy Paul is!
That was sixteen-and-a-half painful kilometers.

I was praying for red lights. Long ones. Shift into neutral, come to a stop, release the clutch, and stretch my left arm over to the right side of the bike as I more or less kissed the gas tank... relief from the pain. The light changes, clutch, shift, accelerate, and the pain begins to travel from my neck, under my left clavicle, radiating down my left arm, cramping my elbow, throbbing in my wrist... taking my breath away... where is another red light?????

I survived.

In about a half hour I'm off to another chiro session. The last? I don't know. This morning I did return to the exercise regimen I foolishly abandoned last fall. That lifted my spirits.

Baby steps.

I will ride again.

Pain free.

Soon.

I hope.
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.