Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Why I prefer driving standard

I'm certainly not the first to explain why I prefer owning and driving a car with a standard transmission. In fact I've read some write-ups on line. There are some humorous ones - and some on the more practical end.

I've been driving for 28 years. All of my cars have been 5-speed standard transmissions. Except for a regrettable span of owning a Mazda, all of these have been Honda or Acura products. So here is why I stick with this.

1.  Commitment to driving well

My philosophy on driving is to strive to concentrate fully on driving when I'm behind the wheel. Now I do change radio stations, and can toggle through the CDs in the CD changer. I don't eat or drink in the car - even at rest. I keep my use of the hands-free/bluetooth to short calls.

Even so, there are distractions when driving - mainly mental distractions - about work, about dinner, about weekend plans, about life.

When driving a stick, one must drive. Not only does the driver need to physically shift gears, he must anticipate and plan the shift. After 28 years, this is second nature to a degree - but it does require more attention that lolly-gagging along in an automatic. This helps keep the driver - if he is committed to driving well, sharp.

2. Fuel economy

Standard transmissions give better gas mileage than automatic.

3. Cost

An automatic transmission will add about $2,000 to the price of a new car. If you buy 8 new cars over your driving lifetime, that's $16,000 - a lot of money.

4. Winter driving

After you've driven standard for a while, and feeling how the car is reacting to the road becomes second nature, you know you to use the gears and clutch to ease the car out of a slippery spot. You can shift an automatic to a specific gear - but it's not quite the same. (And most people who drive automatics have no idea how to do it!)

5. Acceleration

Manual transmissions have better acceleration. Not only that, you have better control of the acceleration - because you the driver decide when to shift into the next gear. This is pretty important when getting on the 401, 400 or Highway 11 - or accelerating when going up a noticeable grade. (This is when you really enjoy ….er benefit from the Honda/Acura VTEC engine!)

Sure you can get great acceleration with an automatic - but your'e paying for a larger engine, and the gas mileage that goes along with that.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

re: G&M Bureaucrat demoted for alleged role in records purge

The criminals currently running Queen's Park have now tried to ever their tracks by demoting the civil servant who may have been responsible for Wipegate - the erasing of hard disks in the premier's office:

Globe and Mail article - April 2 2014

I'm guessing that this guy will get a secret raise or bonus from the McGwynnety government.

Now the Globe and Mail has suppressed comments for legal reasons. Does that mean that we will never again be able to comment on stories involving Wynne or McGuinty?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Another simple theory behind the loss of MH370

OK - maybe it's not that simple - but there are precedents: could the plane have been brought down by a bomb planted before takeoff?

In the First World, we are accustomed to the high level of scrutiny placed on checked baggage. Our bags are x-rayed, sniffed and, in most cases these days, opened.

However, it's obvious from watching the investigation play out that Malaysia isn't a first world country. Further to that, the political situation in that nation appears quite rancourous.

So here's the theory:

- operatives of the Malay government planted a bomb on board while it was docked at the airport - with the objective of getting rid of one or more persons who were deemed to be a threat. Perhaps the pilot was one of these.
- specific passengers (friendlies of the regime) were whisked off the flight at the last minute - remember there were 5 'no shows' - so to be out of harm's way
- the plane blew up shortly after last contact
- the Malay military dispatched small vessels to quickly retrieve the black boxes and make sure any debris in that spot was sunk
- the Malay military had another plane - flying with no transponder -  in the air to cross the path and divert attention from the original location where contact was lost. This plane had cloned the ping of the MH370 ACARs system - leading searchers further astray.

Yes - this is a conspiracy theory. It demands that many people stay quiet. People can be kept quiet with money or threats, or by being killed.

I'm not proposing this is what happened. I'm surprised that this is not among the theories being hashed out on the WWW. It seems that there are potential precedents. I vaguely recollect an African leader being killed in a suspicious air crash.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The lost and the completely lost MH370 and Kathleen Wynne

The disappearance of flight MH370 is disturbing for us all. It's especially disturbing for the families of the passengers and crew. The aircraft is lost and may never be found.

What's as disturbing is the situation in Ontario.  Here we have a premier who is utterly lost - and there is no hope she and her government will ever find reality.

The damage here in Ontario is profound and widely spread. Pray for us as you pray for those on MH370.



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Kauai by Helicopter

The second type of 'bird' you'll notice with frequency on Kauai is a mechanical one - the helicopter.

The island is spectacular - but rugged. For most visitors, the only way to get a view of it all is from the air - hence the prevalence of helicopter tours. There are a number of companies who offer tours. The itinerary for most will take you clockwise around the island. We were based in Lihue - and many tours are available from the airport. There are also tours from Princeville.

The prices for the one-hour tour range from about $220 to $250 depending on options. We got our price down to $185 or so thanks to an AAA discount - which is available to CAA members.

This might sound expensive, but it's really a pretty good deal compared to helicopter tours in other locals.

Here is our 'bird'. The company we booked with is Sunshine Helicopters - who were super all around. They sent a shuttle to pick us up from the hotel. The ground crew very organized. The pilot was a consummate professional.

Here is a photo I took looking up (North) along the Napili Coast. We had clear skies all around - and even got to fly through the main crater. (The main crater on Kauai is the rainiest place on Earth - but  we enjoyed a clear day.)  We flew up and had a close look at the waterfall featured in the movie Jurassic Park. 

I recommend taking this tour. For most visitors, visiting Kauai is a once in a lifetime treat. This was worth the slight splurge. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The pineapple

Jumping ahead to our stay on Oahu. We enjoyed a week plus at Disney's Aulani Resort - which is really first class accommodation.

On this trip, we eschewed central Honolulu and Waikiki. We did make a trip over to the north shore -and stopped for the famous tour of the Dole pineapple plantation.

This is worth a stop on the way. It wont take more than a couple of hours - and it has a good restaurant for a reasonable priced lunch.

However, the pineapple is the star! You would have to try hard to avoid enjoying this fruit in some shape or form during a visit.

if you pay attention on the train ride around the plantation, you'll learn that the pineapple is a bromeliad. You might also learn that the fruit contains bromelain. This enzyme helps digest protein.

Now - why do I mention that. In the weeks before our trip, I was suffering from heartburn and acid reflux many nights. During my time in Hawaii, i did not.

I've been including pineapple in my diet almost everyday since getting back to our cold climate - and for the most, I have not suffered a relapse. As it turns out, pineapple and papaya are recommended as part of a diet to help GERD sufferers. All I can say is thank God that it's a tasty fruit that reasonably economical.

(I know I won't find a pineapple for $1 - as I did in the Safeway at Kaanapali.)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Kauai - Waimea Canyon

The next day we took our rental car in the other direction - along the south coats and then into the interior, specifically to drive up and into Waimea Canyon.

By this point, we had noticed that there are feral chickens EVERYWHERE on Kauai - well everywhere except inside the hotel grounds. We finally became curious enough to Google as to why all the chickens.

There are chickens on many tropical islands. On Kauai, however, there are no predators. You'll see mongooses scampering about on Oahu and Maui - but not on Kauai. In addition, the chickens are protected. (That aside, the birds - now a mix of guinea fowl and escaped domestics - are renowned to be tough to eat. (Look up the joke about the recipe for Kauai chicken.)

Below is a hen tending to her chicks. This is at the lodge/restaurant area in Kokee State Park - reached at the head of the Canyon.

Here is a typical view from the scenic drive overlooking the Canyon itself.

A short drive beyond the restaurant and museum is the Kalalau Lookout - providing a fabulous view of the Napili Coast. If you watch the intro to the Hawaii Life TV show, you'll see a photo taken from this lookout.

Something we were not expecting was to see another island off Kauai. Amidst the haze you'll see the island of Ni'ihau. This is known as the 'forbidden island'. This is a privately owned island - although there are tours allowed on a limited basis.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Reflections on Hawaii - Kauai - Part I

We are just back from three and a half weeks in Hawaii. Our timing was wonderful - given the the harsh winter weather that we left behind. I felt a little sorry for those back in Toronto and Muskoka - or just about everywhere. However, we all need vacations - this one worked out well.

We visited three island: Kauai, Oahu, and Maui.

Kauai - The Garden Island:

This was my first visit to Kauai. We arrived at Lihue airport late on New Years Day. Our hotel, the Kauai Marriott, was a short shuttle ride from the airport. The hotel is attractive - despite the less than appealing entrance way.

I found this island a little more laid back than the others - so a great way to start a vacation. Work, Christmas and the ice-storm related damage to my house had left me in a severely over-stressed state. Kauai is the perfect cure for stress. Here is a view from the hotel:


We spent a day or two - can't exactly remember - enjoying the hotel pool and beach, playing Scrabble, and checking out the shops reachable on foot. With this R&R under our belts we were ready to explore - by car.

Our first trip took us north from Lihue and all the way to Hanlei Bay and as far as the road would reach. You would have seen view of Hanlei Bay in the movie "The Descendants'.  The weather was 'cool' - meaning the locals feel chilly while tourists are happy wearing shorts and soaking in the sun.  It was ideal for taking in the sights. The road and various vista points gives great view of the coast, and the mountain backdrop.

Here is a view looking south from near Hanlei Bay:

This is one of the many beaches:

This - I believe show a view over the bay: