We are vacationing so posts will be more erratic than usual. We are currently in Canada. We first became regular visitors to Ontario when our move to the Midwest coincided with the US moving to a national 55 MPH speed limit. As Wikipedia notes, many jurisdictions found it to be a major source of revenue. We found that a less enforced 100 kilometers per hour (KPH) or 62.137 MPH got us home quicker.
Sidebar: In the old days we used 5/8 or 62.5% as an approximation. Now we just tell the car to use the metric system. Both the digital readout and the dial speedometer give us kilometers per hour. It is an impressive bit of technology but another loss for mental math. End Sidebar.
We thought that this would be a story of democracy. In the US the scolds have lost and the speed limits have been returned to the states and most states have raised them so that the maximum speeds in most states are 70, 75 or 80 MPH. Canada has not changed its speed limit in any province we have chanced to enter it is still 100 KPH. Almost nobody drives 100 KPH but it is still the listed limit.
There is, however, a signal of the real Canadian speed limit. Every not so often there is a sign that lists the penalties. Because it happens rarely and we don’t have a photographic memory you will get an approximation of the sign. It has three lines: 150 KPH means up to a $10,000 fine,
some speed between 120 KPH and 150 KPH means $xxx, and
120 KPH means $100 fine.
All numbers except for 120 and 150 KPH are approximate. The signal is clear. The police are not going to give you any trouble up to 120 KPH which is approximately 75 (more precisely 74.56454) MPH. We passed three police cars at 111 KPH to test the the enforcement of the signal. We were not willing to test it any more robustly with out of country plates. You will get some leeway in the US but not as much. So it turns out the systems are pretty similar. There is just a different method of communicating the signal of what speed is acceptable.
We are big fans of Iceland: The place, the soccer team, and Arnaldur Indridason.
Sidebar: We saw the Iceland soccer team play a FiFA qualifier in Reykjavik in 2002 or so. They tied an eastern European team, Romania, we think. The echoing cheers of Is-land and the folks that looked like Vikings made the game great fun. We enjoyed, on TV, their success at the recent European tournament. End Sidebar.
Arnaldur has written many books about Inspector Erlendur but we just finished reading a stand alone book: Operation Napoleon written in 1999. All the books are written in Icelandic and translated into British English. It might be described a political fantasy that pokes fun at Americans and Icelanders alike. What got our attention was this on page 50:
“They [American politicians] were always putting themselves centre-stage. Especially Democrats, with their demands for open government, for having everything transparent and above board.”
When we first saw it we thought that Arnaldur was just another clueless European leftist but the rest of the book led us to believe he as capable of deeper insights. We would like to ask him but we think it is tongue-in-cheek. Remember that is was published in 1999 so it was written during the height of one of the Clinton scandals. Democrats arguing for open government would have seem dated by then. Certainly Obama has convinced everyone that the Venn Diagrams of open government and Democrats do not intersect.
Jay Nordlinger, in his Stockholm Diary at NRO, notices Swedish pedestrians:
Swedish pedestrians wait patiently at stoplights — when there are no cars coming. My American legs can’t. They just can’t. (See? It’s not me, it’s the legs.)
We have not made it to Stockholm but have found this behavior in England, France, Germany, and Poland. In fact, when our American legs walk against the “red man” there is likely to be comments from the Europeans.
Sidebar: In Europe the pedestrian walk signals are red and green as opposed to the white and orange we have in the states. In Europe, we signal our spouse with “green man”, meaning it is time to cross. The American alternative can be a little tricky in the big cities. End Sidebar.
In our experience, only the Irish are immune from total allegiance to waiting for green man. We look forward to additional investigations.