Tweeting is a two edged sword

We’re hearing a lot of heated rhetoric about ‘shutting down social media’ because of the use some rioters have been putting it to. On the whole, I’d say this is a mistake, and proof positive that ignorant politicians who don’t understand the uses of technology should back off and let the Police get on with the tough job of keeping the peace.

Like the MPS used to keep the lid on the recent situation in central London. They couldn’t catch it all, as evinced by the copy cat riots around the country, but from all accounts it could have been worse. Much worse.

As for the rioters, don’t they understand all this public domain stuff is available to the Police? I mean posting ‘Going to xxxxx to nick stuff’ on Twatter is an invitation to arrest. Dozy lot. Especially if the cops have got your number, or even one of your mates Blackberries. Same epithet can be used for senior coppers who can’t understand what a useful tool Social Media is.

Can you imagine Rent-a-mob tweeting “To the barricades, Comrades!” Only to find a line of tooled up riot Police waiting for them? (Evil snigger) Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch.

A short interlude

Not really the time or inclination to blog recently. The awful reality is that an old family friend is, not to put too fine a point on it, dying. Cause; Mesothelioma (Cause, Asbestosis) probably contracted as a Petty Officer in the Royal Navy. So we’ve been spending quite a bit of our free time visiting, doing the shopping, running other errands for his wife (Who doesn’t drive) and reading to him, as he’s too weak to hold a book.

Nothing too strenuous, just a bit of Kipling, Frost, Robert Service. The more ribald the better. Although I have to tone the funny stuff down sometimes as the poor chap’s only got half a lung left, possibly less according to his Doctor. I don’t want him to die laughing because of something I said or did. Not that laughing is such a bad way to go, but I don’t think I could forgive myself if I was the cause. Besides, he and his wife helped us a lot when first we arrived in Canada, so we feel that we have a bit of a moral debt to discharge, and too little time remaining to do it in.

Considering the life the man has had; WW2 saw two of the ships he was on torpedoed and sunk; Distinguished Service Order; lost in the Arctic for ten days while surveying for Decca radar, travelled trans Canada any number of times with a Radar training unit. Yes, he is a ‘real’ person, and when he dies I will publish a link to his obituary if it’s available online. Although for our old family friend I think that’s pretty much certain, and if not I’ll bloody write it myself. Such people should not slip from memory so readily. They are too rare.

Watching someone die slowly is not exactly my favourite pursuit, so to lighten my glumness (and Mrs S’s), I’ve been scouring the Interweb for ‘cheer-us-up’ recipe’s. Stap me if I didn’t hit paydirt. Perfect chip batter in a simple, quick and easy recipe. See the youtube clip below. Just tried it out on Snapper and Pacific Cod fillets, and believe me, the result is light, tasty portions so easy even I can get it right every time. Much better than store bought, and rivalling most chip shop batter I’ve tasted. Try it for yourself.

Don’t forget, the water should be properly chilled and the mix thoroughly whisked for lightness. With only a handful of decent Chip shops on the Island, sometimes the DIY method is the only way.

Pub Justice

After an exchange of views over rough justice over at Witterings from Witney, I’m reminded of a system of ‘justice’ that used to exist in various out of the way places.  Back in my late teens and early twenties I used to frequent a lot of rural pubs and learned quickly that laissez faire was not permissible, but that you could get away with a hell of a lot providing you observed the landlords writ. Which usually went;

  1. Pay for your drinks and settle your bar tab
  2. Respect the premises and other drinkers
  3. Take your fights outside and off the premises

Failure to observe rule 1 often meant having your tie cut off, and more seriously no more beer until you had settled, knowing full well that you had blotted your copybook, and the privilege of a bar tab would no longer available to you.  Rule 2 was a little more fluid, and varied wildly from pub to pub.  Where landlord A) Would permit near naked drinking games and all manner of robust hilarity, landlord B) Might eject you from the premises for simply laughing too loud.  Rule 3 was sacrosanct.  All disagreements that threatened to tip over into a pummelling or even bloodshed would be met with a firm “Outside.  Now.”  Failure to comply was not on the agenda because landlords always had some form of ‘equaliser’ behind the bar.  From a heavy stick or cricket bat to a baseball bat, or even a shotgun reputed to be loaded with blanks wadded with sand.  No one was ever stupid enough, at least in my recollection, to test out that particular landlords patience.   The subsequent ban from the premises was also a serious incentive to mind your P’s and Q’s, never mind the F’s and C’s.

This was also in a time when there was such a thing as a village Policeman, who was responsible for enforcing things like gun licences, and turning out with a couple of other coppers to hit any trouble spots mob handed, and leave serious drinkers to their own devices.  Like the ‘lock in’.  also known as “Roll on four o’clock, let’s get out of here”.  That was another thing.  If you were part of the ‘in’ crowd, you gradually migrated into the serious drinkers bar, and waited for all the strangers to be sent home before the doors were locked, curtains drawn, and the party could begin in earnest.   Misbehaviour or disrespect could lose you this privilege, so you had an incentive to respect the ‘rules of the house’.  this was a time of course when landlords had the right refuse service to whomsoever they pleased, and suffer little or no sanction from outside.  This might be ‘No Bikers’, ‘No Travellers’ or even ‘Anyone I don’t like the look of’.  Argument meant a ban.  A ban meant no beers.  It was a sellers market with plenty of punters, so the system of enforcement after a fashion, worked.

The big change in pub culture was apparent in the late 1980′s.  Breweries had developed a policy of asset stripping publicans with punitive rates for ‘barrellage’.  Which essentially meant that the more beer a landlord sold, the more he tended to be charged for it by the brewery company.  His margins shrank, so prices went up, which drove drinkers away to the few Free Houses and private clubs.  Flowers / Whitbread used to be a major villain in this regard.  I don’t know whether this practice still continues.

As the 1980′s wore on, country life became more attractive to the suburban crowd, who bought up local houses, pricing locals out of the market and changing the village demographic.  These new suburbanites brought their own rules, demanding more food, no smoking areas, and whined about everything.  By the late 90′s, the rural worker, once the backbone of any country pubs clientelle was an endangered species.  The New Labour war on the countryside, resulting in the foot and mouth debacle, was more or less the death knell for the pubs I knew and once drank in.  Quite a number of my farming friends got out of the business, others went bankrupt, and fewer survived.   Again this meant fewer rural drinkers, and the rise of the appalling ‘Gastro-pub’.  Now there is the smoking ban.  Even fewer people visit public houses now, and that’s without even mentioning the frequent drink driving ‘crackdowns’.  My last visit to England six weeks ago included a ghastly experience in one of the remaining watering holes I used to frequent.  Only one guest beer, and the rest of the place almost deserted on a Saturday night.

There may be places where pubs are still frequented by locals, with laughter and good conversation the order of the day, but their time is almost up I fear.  The forces of darkness have driven such people from each others company, and the country of my birth is all the poorer for it.

Or as a drinking companion of mine (an old school country lawyer, and latin speaker) might have said; Sileo in pacis meus imbibo frater. Pro virtus decretum ut vestri carmen quod risus.

Interesting point there..

H/T to Bishop Hill for this one. Martin Durkin (Director of the Great Global Warming Swindle) points out that a lot of the top dogs in high profile ultra green advocacy groups come from very wealthy backgrounds. You know, the ones squawking about how global warming will kill everyone, setting up protests to block airports, shopping mall protests, anti capitalist protests, anti cheap energy advocates. Those sorts of people.

Prosperity is good apparently, but not for us proles.

Almost ready

New bowstrings for my favourite fifty inch recurve are almost shot in. Have ten shafts to be cleaned and refletched. Need inserts for readily converting field points to broadheads. Spent my evening shooting to test out how hard and flat my bow still shot and the initial results are encouraging.

A little more practice and I think I’ll be ready for the start of the hunting season in September. Excellent. I’m looking forward to it.

By the way, just in case there’s a little disbelief out there. Since I’m not working today, I’ve been doing a little prep work. (See photo) Centre foreground is an arrow in my one and only fletching jig along with some old XX75 Easton Alloy shafts cleaned and ready for fletching with glue, pliers etc. The 50 inch recurve is one of these The sharper eyed will see the ‘Quicks Archery’ logo on the belly of the bow itself. Had it for over twenty years, man and dog, and it still shoots sweet, fast and flat. Cost me the princely sum of forty pounds back in 1987. Might only be a forty five pound draw weight, but ballistics beat brute force any day.

Meanwhile…….

Over here on Vancouver Island…..

In a meeting this afternoon I introduced myself as ‘The token Englishman’. Good meeting, lots of ground covered. Stuff organised without fuss and bother. People have heard my accent and diplomatically tiptoed away from the subject of wall to wall riot reports.


This evening Mrs S and I went to see ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ a Spielberg Sci-fi / Western / Horror romp. In the queue outside one of our two local multiplexes we took our place in line, only to be handed a free two for one ticket by a complete stranger. Not a promo worker, just someone who had saved up a bunch of special offers and handed them out to the queue. So we had the added bonus of getting in half price. Enjoyed the movie thoroughly with Mrs S hanging tightly onto my arm during the shlocky bits where the monsters almost leap out of the screen at you.

Walked outside, in the middle of town with the highway less than a hundred metres away. You know what? Without a siren in earshot. Not a Cop, a Fire Engine or Ambulance. The traffic barely a whisper. In the car park there was no discord. No shouting, no arguments, just a little far off good natured joshing between friends. Even in my relatively quiet town of origin in England that would almost be unthinkable. Every day was punctuated with sirens of one sort or another.

There are days on this Earth, in this locale, with the neighbours and space we have, that it seems like this part of Vancouver Island is the place God comes to chill with the locals on his time off. Although I’m sure some selfish self-entitled tosser will try and ruin it at some stage. But for the moment we have peace. I intend to savour it while it lasts.

Parentless

Have been watching the riot situation in the UK from afar. Eldest, who is still in the UK at present, yesterday vouchsafed over Skype that the rioters were “Disgusting.” Fortunately she’s in an area unlikely to be hit by major civil unrest. Although if push came to shove, we’d have her on the next flight / whatever out, either to relatives or friends far from the troubles.

With reference to my recent offering regarding my one time friend and work buddy ‘Dave’, and his grab bag of selfish and self destructive attitudes, I’m inclined to make the following observation; people like ‘Dave’ have one attribute in common. They owe more loyalty to a peer group than family, or the well being of their community. All they care about is their own worthless self gratification. Which is probably why they can’t be ‘reached’ except in extremis. Not that the PC culture currently endemic throughout the UK courts / social services will allow that hard line approach.

If a rioter were a puppy, sometimes the figurative rolled up newspaper or being locked in a dark shed for two hours might be the only way to get their attention. Failing that, if they still go bad / antisocial / feral and harm others, then the sad last walkies down to the vet as a (literal) last gasp. However, people are not dogs. Dogs are usually better behaved and more predictable.

The root cause of the rioting is, as some are waking up to, a lack of parenting and a cultural bias against bettering yourself. Absent / weak fathers, careless / weak mothers and fragmented families. Alienation from a stable peer structure always means the human animal will seek out an alternative. We need to belong. It’s hard wired in (to greater or lesser degrees) as a survival trait. It doesn’t matter what the peer structure is. It can be bullying or abusive, but the peer group structure has to be there, and it has to have status. It may be a perverted form of status, but if the peer group offers nothing else, that is what it must have. The opportunity to be more than the individual alone.

Now I don’t know all the answers. Far from it, but the fact that I’ve played my part in the successful (Stable, well socialised and now with good honours degrees) upbringing of two girls. I reckon that makes me more of an authority on the matter of parenting than any social worker / university professor.

It’s my assertion that you can’t teach parenting tick box style in classes. There are way too many variables. Every child is different. Some are more headstrong / others passive on a sliding scale of zero to infinity. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. Every child will need a different approach. But it must be an active approach.

There is one key item. Respect. You can’t get it through beating / berating. That way only gets you the fear of the peer group, which is fragile as blown glass. You can’t get it by purchase, that only buys you contempt. You can’t just get it by simply ‘giving’ respect – that simply makes you look weak and powerless. You have to actively make your respect and approval worth having.

Now with my two stepkids I’m lucky because Mrs S is a strong willed woman with good teaching skills, but even that might not have been enough. She needed a pack alpha (me), a bit of a wild card, to defer to. A family guard dog, someone who cared what the kids got up to, and would turn out at ungodly hours to rescue their sorry asses. Someone who would be available to assist with homework, help celebrate their successes, and treat their failings with justifiable derision. Someone who loved them, but also made the limits clear (Get into trouble with the law and we won’t /can’t help). Someone who picked up their Mum when she fell, and promised the same for them. Someone who was fun enough to play with, but not a complete doormat. Their crusty old Stepdad. Me. Villain, hero, who knows.

In light of the above, there are some who might ask (In patronising tones) “So Bill, are you willing to ‘mentor’ some of these ‘lost’ kids? Willing to share your ‘expertise’ on the front line then?” In a nutshell, no. Being a Stepfather or Father as far as I’m concerned is a high stress occupation. Frankly, I don’t think I could survive another bout, and my ‘turn around the park’ was relatively smooth (For a given value of ‘smooth’). Although I’m steeling myself for step-grandchildren in the medium term. That’s going to be fun.

Have promised my Stepkids that I am going to be the most disreputable Grandfather ever; taking their progeny on motorbike rides, showing putative grandchildren how to hunt, fish, make things go ‘bang’ and generally have old fashioned fun that no drug can ever match.

This is what the rioters are missing. This is what many of them will never have unless they make a conscious decision to wise up and do something positive with their lives. To actively engage with their progeny. No one, not even the most ardent social reformer can do that for them. Only individuals, making a positive choice to make their kid’s lives better than their own were will do that. Sitting on your arse taking dole money or simply ‘getting by’ just won’t cut it. You have to try and share that trying with your kids.

For our own part Mrs S and I have always tried to deliver a message like the following to our charges;

Ineffectual? Middle class? Wet? Really? I’ll say this; it’s way better than the alternative, which from a historical perspective, always ends in tears.

Update: Must have done something right. Eldest just got the exact job she was after. Utterly delighted. Youngest due here on the island (with friends) to start a post degree gap year travelling through Canada in less than three weeks. We parents do have our uses.

Reading and rioting

Watching the news come in about the continuing riots in London, I’m minded to recall an old workmate. Someone I considered a good mate and tried to support (when he’d let me), but always ended up being his own worst enemy.

He ticked all the boxes. Mixed race (Anglo / African) with a chip on his shoulder that almost made you duck every time he turned around quickly. A lover of ‘Gangsta culture’. Yet behind all that he was a good chap. A mate, a buddy. Someone I was happy to share off duty time with. My family liked him, my dog liked him (But then again my dog likes everyone, he’d even give Hitler a manic waggy tail welcome). We all thought Dave (Not his real name) was a ‘good kid’. Just frustrated and rather unhappy.

His major issue from what I could see, was a problem with authority figures. “The Police beat up us black people.” He was often heard to say.
I did try telling him once; “Dave, the Police beat up everyone if they’re causing trouble. It’s part of their job.” But my words fell on deaf ears. He just couldn’t see past his own sense of personal injustice. Every single ‘oppression’ centred around his skin colour and predilection for getting off his face with beer and ganja. Which was his way of coping with ‘fitting in’, or rather not. He was kind of a part time ‘gangsta’, but too gentle natured to be one of the real nasty bastards.

Yet he wasn’t a total waster. A better man with dogs I’ve never seen. He often talked of his ambition to become a breeder. For all his wide boy street talk he was both literate and numerate, when he wanted to make the effort. Yet because of his own attitude and reluctance to put the joint and beerglass down, he’ll probably never realise his dreams. This means that every so often his frustration boils over into angry outbursts. Like a child, he will strike out without discrimination.

In this way I see ‘Dave’ as typical of the rioters down in London. Doomed to personal failure by their own self gratification and lack of self worth they hit out at anyone seen to be ‘keeping them down’. Cops, Business people, anyone ‘better off’ with ‘more stuff’. So they see no problem with smashing everyone elses stuff up. Yet if their awareness and aim was better they’d be throwing rocks at themselves.

London’s Burning

Or at least places around Tottenham are. I recall the reports of rioting in the same area where Keith Blakelock was killed back in the 1980′s.

Looks like not much has changed with regard to the Broadwater Farm Estate and surrounding area, then. Tweets and other pictures here.

Police Officers have been fired at, shot back and killed someone who had a handgun. Tell me, aren’t handguns illegal in the UK? To the point where the English Olympic shooting squad has to leave the country to practice? What gun crime?

What seems ridiculous is that all the guys mates protest, then some decide to torch some of the area, yet who fired the first shot? The Police? Then how come they found a bullet lodged in a Coppers radio? Did the pixies put it there?

Gold

The price of Gold is high and getting higher. At the time of writing it’s around USD$1663 per troy ounce, which is a few grammes less than an Imperial measure. To put that in words; one thousand, six hundred and sixty three dollars for a nugget of 1.6 Cubic Centimetres. Which isn’t an awful lot of gold. In British pounds that is a gnats over a thousand, in Euro’s eleven hundred plus.

In 2006 I looked at the price, which was a shade under USD$400 an ounce and thought that was pretty steep. Now some pundits are predicting USD$2000 per troy ounce by the end of the year, but perhaps they just want to sell / talk up the price to make money. Gosh is that my cynicism showing? Wondered where I’d put it.

Now I find myself wondering if history is going to repeat itself with a re-run of the notorious 1933 US gold grab Executive Order 6102 or Australia’s similar actions in 1959. Although there might be another re-run as US citizens who own gold ship it to Switzerland or hide it from the IRS by other means. No doubt one of the boy presidents fawning fan club will suggest it to him. Perhaps they already have.