Black ice

Well wasn’t that interesting young Bill? I was out late last night, around midnight, on my way home from a job. No big deal, just routine. When I got a rude reminder about Winter driving.

There was a thaw yesterday, so I left the four wheel drive at home and used our thrifty little commuter car instead. Big, big mistake. As I fired up the engine, the internal thermometer read five Celsius. So being the trusting soul I am, took it as read that there would be no road icing and didn’t think to go extra easy. Clear roads. Some sanding had been done, but I was expecting fog and damp that evening. Not ice. Moron.

Two hefty broadslides later…… Yes, wasn’t that interesting? Almost too quick for that heart in mouth sensation to kick in. Also comforting that I haven’t forgotten how to control a skidding vehicle.

The first heart in mouth moment was on a clear looking ninety degree right hand bend. Yes, we do have bends in Canada. Knew things weren’t right when the back end kicked out unexpectedly to the left. Foot off throttle, and bugger, it’s an automatic so the down through the box engine braking trick wasn’t going to work. Telegraph pole looming on road edge to right, dab on brake to increase the skid and slip round the bend sideways, fading left and looking for a safe runoff point. Corner telegraph pole had slightly menacing extra solid look as it flashed past less than half a metre away. Steer out, straighten up as traction returns and slide over to the correct side of the road. Phew. That got the old adrenalin pumping.

The second rude shock was on another clear looking bend down towards the Parkway. Back end began to break just before the apex, and my car took the rest of the hundred metre curve a good forty degrees to the direction of travel, me countersteering frantically to compensate. Managed to control it all the way through, but oh my.

Slip sliding awayThought I’d given up these kind of antics years ago. The last time I didn’t have this much fun driving was back in the nineties, hitting an ungritted patch of black ice in my old grey Ford Escort. Before that, driving a Reliant Robin in six to eight inches of snow back in the mid eighties. Although, thinking about it, our old Ford Windstar did have an alarming tendency to wag its tail like an over enthusiastic Labrador in inclement conditions, and our battered old 4×4 was known to like travelling slightly sideways on packed ice.

The rest of the way home I was ultra cautious, and my midnight sashay down unsanded rural Canadian roads passed off without further incident. Once home, I raided my bottle of Jura single malt before falling asleep in a chair. That’s enough excitement for one day.

Hell, freezing over

Satan skating to workLocally it’s been nothing like the temperatures experienced in either Hell, Michigan or even Hell, Norway, but still cold enough to induce extra work for local metalworkers as local brass monkeys queue up for emergency repairs. Locally we’re currently entering our second week of sub zero temperatures. Not unheard of, but cold enough. Snow from the small covering we had over a week ago was still hanging around in our front yard Sunday morning.

Take the day before yesterday, 7th February 2014; Victoria BC. Never mind the Great Lakes (Ice cover at the time of writing 77.4%), Esquimalt lagoon, Colwood, Victoria was observed to be almost ninety percent frozen over. Hey but this is Canada, Eh? Land of the Yukon bar and near permanent snow cover? Dude, of course it freezes. Not so. While the Midwest provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba alternately bake and shiver on a regular basis, freezing temperatures here in South Western coastal British Columbia rarely drop so low for so long. Yet if, as many are so keen to tell us, the planet is warming uncontrollably because of humanity’s errant wastefulness; where the hell are all these gosh-darned icicles coming from? They’re everywhere. Along Highway One to Victoria, every single bit of rock face sported an impressive display of metre plus long natural ice sculpture. In the six years I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen so many.

This is nothing new. Just over a hundred years ago, the channel between Newcastle Island and Nanaimo harbour was ice bound on a semi regular basis, thick enough for local skaters to use. In the photo archives of the local museum, there are several black and white photographs of this occurrence. Yeah, but this is Winter, right? The coldest months of which are January and February, proves nothing. Which is true, and yet again, so terribly misleading. Taken in isolation, of course such observations are meaningless. Yet when compared with historical reports from the late 19th Century, when the world was exiting the Little Ice Age, there seem to be a number of correlations. Low Hurricane count. Tropical Storm force events occurring at less equatorial latitudes, suggesting a shift in temperature gradients. Which of course is all anecdotal, drawn as it is from newspaper and other reports of past times. Although ‘Warming’ seems to be noticeably absent. At least until Spring moseys on around. Or July, as last year.

Hey, it’s just weather. All storms and fury, signifying nothing. At least nothing worth getting taxed over.

Smoking in cars, a modest proposal

Was meandering around the Tellytubbygraph website, and came across this little gem by Boris Johnson, a UK Tory politician who says that he is a Libertarian (Cough, cough, cough, snigger). In it, he argues, that smoking should not be allowed in any vehicle because of the damage second hand smoke is alleged to do to the delicate bodies of children. Whether the vehicle will be used for their carriage or not. Having read what he had to say, I was moved to key in the following comment:

Boris. Why not a law to keep children out of cars instead? Let the smokers have some sanctuary for pity’s sake, the poor dears being addicts, and addiction, as we are told, is a sickness not a crime. Besides, keeping children out of motor vehicles will protect them from poisonous exhaust fumes leaking in through every vent, seal, and window. Even the most eco-friendly vehicle is not air tight.

The regular reader of this blog will note tongue being inserted firmly into cheek at this juncture. Although I am moved to propose that any vehicle marketed as ‘eco-friendly’ should be made completely air tight to protect the occupants from the errant exhaust fumes of all the other vehicles on the road. This is only right and fair. Why should the eco-pious be forced to breathe the polluted soup of the worlds highways and byways? They should have their own space and atmosphere. And windows that won’t open. Sealed vents that will not share the pollution from other road users like in inferior vehicles, such as those only smokers will be allowed to drive. For the hand wavers own protection of course, which will spare them the merest whiff of the dreaded tobacco smoke, no matter its source.

But wait; what of the benefits to road safety? No children allowed in motor vehicles would mean a considerable improvement in quality of the parents lives as follows;

Such legislation would have the benefit of lowering the blood pressure of parents, sparing them from the back seat quarrels, unfortunate little gastric accidents, demands to be driven to unhealthy fast food outlets, and querulous whining and driver distracting litanies of “Are we there yet?” Thus improving road safety at a stroke and saving the NHS billions.

Boris, me old china, this is genius! By banning children from all vehicles, several modern major social scourges are solved at the stroke of a pen. By forcing children out of cars, they must take more exercise and therefore become less obese. Lowering parents blood pressure means fewer circulatory disorders in later life. Fewer distracted parents on the roads mean a reduced accident rate and a further lowering of the UK’s national health care budget and insurance premiums. Children would be insulated from the evils, whatever they might be, of second hand smoke and grow up healthier. Furthermore, the tobacco smoke would be contained inside a controlled environment, to wit the smokers car or house, thus not affecting anyone else. Fantastic! Win-win. Time for tea and a knighthood methinks.

Fortunately, or rather un, depending on your viewpoint; the only other problem such legislation would leave behind would be what to do with the bodies of all the self righteous planet savers, suffocated in their air tight mobile eco-prisons. Still, I’m sure it’s a sacrifice, considering how doomed we are through over population as we’re continually informed by eco-worriers, a salutary price a lot of the remaining population wouldn’t mind them making. Just think of the emissions they’d be saving.

I don’t normally go in for gloating, but…..

In the UK, über green trougher and griller of climate sceptics MP Tim Yeo has just got it in the neck from his constituency association, prompting the following little bowdlerisation of Alice Coopers ‘Elected’.

Once a prime cut of meat, Cameron’s choice,
Yeo’s been deselected,
Top golfing dandy with a ‘green’ Rolls Royce,
He’s just been deselected,
Party wants a saviour, don’t need a flake,
He’s just been deselected,
No-one’s gonna rock to the rules that he makes,
He’s just been deselected, corrected, deselected.

Grilling climate sceptics who won’t think like they’re told,
He’s just been deselected,
Said it was getting warmer, ignored all the cold,
Yeo’s been deselected, rejected, deselected,
Hallelujah, he’s been deselected,
By the majority of his local association!

Yeo’s lost this one, because outside there’s storms,
He’s just been deselected,
Tear down all those windmills, everyone stay warm,
He’s just been deselected, deselected,
He’s just been deselected, disrespected, call collected,
He’s just been deselected.

“And if he is deselected
He’ll have only his green directorships for company
Toppling windmills, soaked solar panels
He knows we have floods,
They got flooding right there in Somerset
They have flooding on the North, South, East and West,
Yorkshire, London, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire,
Devon and Cornwall,
Everybody has floods,
And personally, he don’t care.”

Well, it put a smile on my face.