All posts by Bill Sticker

Expatriate observer of life in the UK and British Columbia, Canada. Politically slightly right of centre with a pro libertarian bias. In August 2007 published a book called 'Walking the Streets' about three sporadically unpleasant years spent working as a UK Traffic Warden. Now a lot happier with life in general and keeping his accent for tax purposes.

So what are you going to do?

There’s a lot of causes out there. Some good, some not so good, and some so downright fucked up they’re over the insanity event horizon and accelerating past lightspeed. It’s easy to feel snowed under sometimes. Anyway, I’ve done contributing to other peoples causes. Those that were supposed to be good weren’t that good. Those not so good turned out to be stupid and the rest aren’t even worth mentioning. Nowadays it’s hard to find one without a vested interest behind it, so I won’t be looking any more.

Having just been through a double bereavement with all that entails, I’ve been re-evaluating what I want from my life. Where I’m going, what I might do when I get there sort of thing. Becoming the joint senior member of our little clan has come as a major culture shock. No excuses, no deferment, it’s my ball and I have to make the rules now. If they need making. Which more often than not they don’t. My work as a parent has, and continues to be largely done. I’ve morphed role from family guard dog and occasional shepherd to long distance shoulder to cry on, which is as it should be. No doubt grandchildren are somewhere on the horizon, but please, not just yet. What gets me most is the odd sensation that I now have no-one to defer to, which makes me mildly uncomfortable. Adrift and hollow. Much better off financially, but directionless.

So, that begs the question. What do I do now? The world beckons. I’ve a hankering to live in Paris for a month or two next year. Ride those wonderfully curvy Swiss motorways on something like a Triumph Rocket III. Meander through Southern Europe, park the monster 2.3 litre sports cruiser motorcycle outside a little Bar Tabac and let the local kids stare slack jawed at it. Dance the centre line a little along the coast road from Marseille to Genoa. Thence down to Rome, see Naples and live a little. Maybe down to watch Stromboli and Etna spit fire before heading up the coast road with Venice and Vienna in mind. Wander round Prague and Berlin with a side trip through Warsaw. Up through Denmark and across the big bridges into Sweden. Visit a cousin of mine who lives in Gothenburg. Catch a freighter to Immingham and grey, damp olde England. Pay my respects to the wider clan. Ride a container ship back to Canada and run Highway One from Halifax Nova Scotia to mile zero again. Perhaps even zipping south of the border to revisit New York and swing in a wide arc from New Jersey to Texas then North through Nevada. Indulge my wanderlust. Write about what happens as it happens. Perhaps. Then I’ll pitch up on the Pacific shore again and think about the other side of the ring of fire. China, Japan, South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

Of course these are all mere dreams and may never come to pass, but I’ve done some instalments of that trip at various times in my life and truly want to do them again. While it’s still possible to do so.

Badarbunga

Transatlantic flights might just get a little rare shortly. Badarbunga in Iceland just went to code red. Just hope the Europeans don’t completely shut down their airspace like last time. Although this is a possibility, as expert opinion is that this Icelandic crustal burp might just turn into a biggie. Right on the flight path to Europe with a 200 nautical mile exclusion zone around the volcano.

Local Webcams are up and down like yo-yo’s because of server overloading, not much to see anyway apart from monochrome, even at four in the afternoon local time.

If you want the real skinny on what’s going on under (or shortly through) the glacier, visit Jon Frimanns site or the Vatnajokull seismicity page of the Icelandic Met Office.

As for flight disruption, all my old resources have gone all touchy-feely and no longer provide the information required. Which is annoying. Travellers don’t want to know how wonderful and sparkly the CEO’s latest marketing wheeze is. They want pertinent information so they don’t have to lie around making extra work for the cleaning staff in brand new sparkly airport termini, waiting for flights that may not arrive. Especially when the airlines won’t help, or tell you anything worthwhile if your long haul flight is cancelled due to weather or in this case, a volcano. Guidelines for Europe are here. The Irish IAA have a page with useful updates here.

Update: One of the things you don’t hear much of in the lamestream is that magma from Badarbunga has been travelling to another volcano some forty kilometres away called Askja. Although Badarbunga has been downgraded to flight status orange, Askja has been updated to yellow. This could get real interesting, real fast.

Update 2: Just started to get interesting. Glowing lava visible on webcam here.

Secrets & Lies

Busy reconnecting with estranged family members at present following my Mother’s funeral. The ceremony was a Church do which was well attended. Close on a hundred packed into a small English Parish church for the public goodbye. A day which saw me standing around with siblings doing the duty. Greeting old family friends and occasional relative at the church door on an uncharacteristically sunny English day, wishing protocol allowed sunglasses and a hat. Feeling numb and heavily jet lagged.

Having shed my tears two weeks before, I found myself standing in the front pew at parade rest in my best jacket eyeing the closed coffin bedecked with white roses and lilies, wincing as the organist muffed hymn intro’s and wondering what Mum would be thinking if she could have seen all the fuss. Listening to siblings trying to sing with shaking voices unused to the exercise of a tune. Admiring the architecture of some late medieval robber barons ornate tomb. I think the Ma Sticker I knew would have laughed herself senseless at the irony because we’ve always been such a cheerfully agnostic bunch. However, the local societies wanted to say thanks for all the voluntary work our family and specifically my mother put into the village, so I kept my mouth firmly shut and let priestly platitudes rattle past.

My major issue is there’s a lot of highly personal stuff coming out of my particular woodwork right now making me a deeply unhappy bunny. Why our little clan couldn’t have sat down and talked it all out years ago has left me feeling like Tim Spalls character from Mike Leighs “Secrets and lies“;

There’s been quite a bit of “But we all thought you knew, Bill.” Recently.
Well I didn’t. Much was kept from me by my parents and I am desperately trying not to be very angry with them indeed. Which has taken the edge off my grief. Inheritance isn’t the issue. That’s down to probate and settling the estate. It’s just money. The tax man will no doubt take his bite, but I’m more seriously pissed off at my extended family for keeping me in the dark all these years. I’d suspected of course, but no one took me aside and said; “Bill, there are a few things you should know.” That’s the kind of conversation I’m having with several of my cousins and aunts right now. Clucking bell. First mother in law dies. Next we had to move house and fast. Then my my car gets trashed. Mum dies. My dog dies. Now all this. If I didn’t know better I’d think someone had it in for me. It’s been a tough few months with only a few brief respites.

Notwithstanding, I’m trying very hard to look on the bright side. Be positive. Letters have been written to mend fences. I’m trying to do the right thing and move forward keeping my chin up.

Mrs S and I are back in Canada and heavily jet lagged. Stepkids are good and making their own lives. We have kept nothing from them. My wife still loves me, although sometimes I wonder why. And I’m quite well balanced, insofar as the chips upon both my broad and brawny shoulders are in a state of perfect equilibrium.

The curtains of darkness have been stripped from my past and they have revealed a tangled emotional forest that would give the Brothers Grimm nightmares. One which I have to traverse alone. So I think I’ll be taking a chainsaw with me. With extra gasoline and maybe some Gelignite. Bring it on.

I’ll be back in due course. You know how it is. Dragons to rescue. Damsels to slay. Providing the next media scare story doesn’t get us all first, or stupid EU politicians don’t talk us into a war.

Regards

Bill

Celebrity asset stripping

There’s an illegal business practice called Asset Stripping. It’s where an undervalued company is bought up, by fair means or foul, and the assets sold on for a profit leaving nothing but its debts. Whereupon said company is liquidated and fat wodges of cash are salted away beyond the wot of Tax Inspectors. It’s a nasty practice that destroys industries and puts people out of work. Which is why it’s a crime.

One of the tactics asset strippers use is to devalue a company by attacking its brand and devaluing it in the eyes of investors, allowing the asset strippers or their proxies to move in, buy the company up cheaply and literally denude its physical assets. Premises, equipment and holdings all go under the hammer before the shrivelled corpse of a once thriving business or brand is thrown onto the midden of bankruptcy, leaving Directors, Employees, Legitimate creditors, Investors and their families high and dry.

Seems to me there’s continual attempts to emulate this dirt cheap dirty deed in Celebrityland under the guise of sex crimes, where even a celebrity looking into a pram to say “What a cute baby” is viewed, not as a well meant compliment to the parents, but as a statement on the lines of “I’m horny, can baby and I have a party? I have drugs.” According to the feminist meme of “All men are rapists” and no child is safe from them. At least according to the wave of Paedo-hysteria that has been poisoning my home shores for over two decades now. Like with the Salem Witch trials, a pointed finger is enough and if the perpetrator has money – evidence will be found. Or fabricated. Or imagined. No matter how tenuous.

The fact that all the allegations seem to stem from thirty and even forty years ago should ring very loud warning bells to anyone involved as an evidence gatherer. During my streetwalking days we were taught that after each ‘incident’ we were to write down exactly what was said and done as soon as possible. Not half an hour later or end of shift, but right there and then. My wife often comments on how good my memory is because I can recall whole conversations up to a week after the event, but even then I’m cautious. Memory is a tricky thing; and even I’ve been known to get it badly wrong. Because I’ll tell you from hard first hand experience how a charged emotional state will change someone’s perception. People will literally make stuff up, mostly because they weren’t really listening at the time and are covering their arses. They will even happily perjure themselves in a court of law to cover up a minor lapse in attentiveness. Having first convinced themselves that what they thought they saw actually happened. Even if Mr Brain was in ‘idling’ mode at the time.

Even mild mannered me (I am – Honest Guv) has been accused of being ‘abusive’ and even of ‘threatening to hit’ people I’d just issued a parking ticket to on several occasions. None of these accusations were true. Even under direct verbal and physical threat on duty I never swore at, or in front of, a member of the public, nor made any gesture that a sane person would interpret as threatening. Apart from pull out my notebook or hand held computer. As an example, a polite hat tipping gesture was once misinterpreted as ‘flipping the bird‘ to a member of the public. This one minor ‘incident’ like so many other spurious accusations from those times, probably still lie on my personnel file in some dank archive and can be brought back twenty years hence should the will be there. I wouldn’t have a clue after that length of time. Would you?

Having done two stints of Jury service, I’m also more than painfully aware how one prejudiced and assertive voice in the jury room can turn a majority ‘Not Guilty’ decision into ‘Guilty’. Especially when everyone is tired of arguing over minutiae and just want to go home. Juries are strange twelve headed beasts that pull all over the place, sometimes led by the evidence, but more often by strong opinions and emotion. In these infantile days, it is my sad observation that opinions and emotion matter more than facts. Which can be the difference between conviction and freedom.

Scales of injustice clipartIt is also said that everyone lies. We do. Most especially to ourselves. What starts as a little white lie to cover up a trivial misdemeanour takes on layers of untruths to cover up the initial lie. Especially after a protracted period of time. Our imaginations embellish the trivial to make the mundane significant. To make ourselves look and feel more important than we really are. People mishear and misinterpret. Especially children, the emotionally upset, or even someone with a minor electrolyte balance. This is all too human, yet poorly corroborated accusations are being turned into convictions against once-famous old men with a bit in the bank. All so their accusers and their lawyers can feed off the corpse of a career.

So let’s call the current hysteria by its proper name. Celebrity asset stripping.

Speeding up

I’ve just moved my office space into the sun room behind the kitchen and very nice it is too. Not too warm, not too cold, and a decent view. Only one issue; because of where the Cable guy wired in our modem, the wi-fi router is at the front of the house. Which means I get a wi-fi signal of under forty percent. Downloads were like watching treacle pour, streaming bandwidth felt restrictive and meant every YouTube video I tried to watch stopped and started like they were running on a 56kb telephone link.

So yesterday I elected to spend a few bucks on a wi-fi extender. Being a cautious kind of person I went to the local Future Shop and purchased A Linksys N300 extender for sixty bucks. Linksys used to be owned by Cisco, I have a Cisco Wi-fi router which has worked flawlessly since we bought it for under a hundred bucks about three years ago when our last Belkin router died. As an aside; we’ve had two Belkin Routers – they’re cheap and cheerful, but that’s the best that can be said for them. So I thought, yeah, great. Linksys don’t do duff kit (Insert ironic laugh here). How wrong can you be? After two hours of teeth grinding, finding out that Belkin had bought out Linksys and a demanded charge of twenty five dollars for tech support on a brand new item. Not to mention the setup programme crashing two browsers and taking me to a BSOD. At which point I thought “Bugger all this for a lark.” And hiked back to Future Shop with the offending item. This time I purchased a NetGear WN3000RP Universal WiFi Range Extender which cost just over ten bucks more. I avoided the D-Link N300. Cheap it might be, but I haven’t worked in Tech support for a while and I’ve got better things to do with my life than fuss over issues which shouldn’t exist. Half an hour later after a minor panic looking for my Wi-Fi SSID password I’m home with a 95% plus signal in my new office and a very happy bunny indeed. Yes, the NetGear Extender does create a new Wi-Fi network segment to manage, but the improved signal more than makes up for the minor inconvenience and best of all, no need to delve into my ageing laptops registry to fix problems caused by iffy setup programmes. Streaming video and downloads streak along at full tilt. I’m delighted. For under a hundred bucks the NetGear is good value for money, even if it does look a bit clunky. It works.

Canada recognises Bitcoin

Bitcoin CanadaJust caught this off The Register. Bitcoin just got the endorsement of regulation in Canada. My, my. On the same footing as the Dollar no less. A little bit of a two edged sword this, as by putting Bitcoin on the official list of currencies, the various exchanges will have to register and comply with the financial regulations up north of the 49th parallel or get out of Canuckland. However, the upside is that by recognising Bitcoin, it gives the controversial crypto-currency a veneer of respectability, and encourage wider trading and convertibility. Which in a wider sense can be considered a good thing. Even if the main intent is to allow the taxman to get a piece of the action.

First the Enbridge pipeline gets approved, now this. Canada’s economic future is looking brighter all the time.

That Playboy Gary Oldman interview

This comes under the category of “Well, it put a smile on my face”. Gary Oldman fulsomely deserves something like one of DK’s old ‘Bloody Devil’ awards for outspoken sweariness. Read the Playboy interview here. I enjoyed it immensely.

The terrified mealy mouthed statement from Gary’s agent published underneath an article about the interview in the Barclay Brothers Beano about ‘Taken out of context‘ and but, but, but, ‘he really supports gay marriage‘ underneath made me chuckle all the more. Sounds like Urbanski is terrified that the interview would be a career killer for Oldman, and hence his fat agents fees would dry up.

Which is where the issue over political correctness lies. PC is dishonest and mendacious. It makes honest words curdle in the face of authority’s wrath. It’s the trump card in Victimhood Poker. The battle cry of the perpetually thin skinned. The poison of society. Passive-aggression for the emotionally retarded. I think what’s really wrong with PC is that it’s from people who’ve been told by bloodless bureaucrats what emotions they should have as opposed to what they’re really feeling.

Like a lot of people, I applaud Mr Oldman’s forthright stance on many issues. I consider his name on a movie billboard a hallmark of quality work, regardless of his political views. He’s entitled to them. They are honestly his and do not detract from his work. Such honesty in public life is very rare and like all rare things, precious and worthy of preservation.

Update: Score (Yet another) one for the forces of darkness. Oldman has ‘apologised’ because of pressure from the pro-Israeli Anti-Defamation League. Even though his comments were a defence of free speech citing what happened over a drunken rant by Mel Gibson and not a direct attack on things Jewish.

On politics and banking

The Politics of BankingI’m currently a very happy bunny and enjoying the relief that my new knee strap has brought. No crunching noises in my creaky old knee joint when I try to move quickly, or lift heavy objects. No detectable pain and I can now walk miles without a single twinge. Why aren’t these things compulsory for old knee injuries like mine? They’re worth all the painkillers and surgery in the world. None of the surgeries I’ve had have done anything to alleviate the discomfort since I first popped my knee playing Rugby. This fabric and gel pad thing has relieved all my symptoms inside forty eight hours. Although I’m taking it easy, just in case I screw up again.

Whilst enjoying this surcease, I visited Theo Sparks blog and saw the above. So I nicked it. Says a hell of a lot about the West’s current regime of casino banking. I think the world and his wife are aware that the current structure is unhealthily unbalanced, allowing those who control the flow of numbers to confiscate at will. Especially now the UK HMRC has the power to asset strip at will anyone it even suspects of not coughing up what the tax man says is a ‘fair’ share. Fair for whom? One might ask. In the US the tax man currently even ‘audits’ people for having the ‘wrong’ political views. Whoosh! Where did all those emails go and how many Server hard drives did they have to trash?

Both of which make me wonder about how open to abuse and corrupt the West’s financial system now is. The Russians are looking for a way out and the Chinese basically own all the USA’s markers. Even the fiscally cautious Mrs S has been asking me about Bitcoin and there’s even a Bitcoin ATM Downtown on Government Street. I’m tempted to try Bitcoin out on a small scale myself. Stick a few on a SDHC flash card (Not a USB stick DVD or CD – lifespan issues) in a shielded safe and Robert is one’s Father’s Brother n’est que-pas?. Unless someone crashes the entire Internet, in which case the West’s financial pooch is so screwed it’ll have had puppies.

Bitcoin as an alternative to the current mess of fiat currencies makes sense to a certain extent, but how vulnerable is it to external interventions? There was the market glitch back in December 2013. What happens if the US Government were to declare by presidential decree that Bitcoins were banned? Probably the same result. There was a big drop, a massive rebound, and Bitcoins that were trading around 4-580USD are now valued around 6-690USD (June 2014). Which left a lot of economic prophets of doom with serious egg on their faces.

That thought leads me to wonder about some of the recent political upheavals of the last fifty years. The Anti-Apartheid movement wasn’t making much headway until the Afrikaaners introduced the Krugerrand as legal tender. Then the politicians really got involved. At the time of the second Gulf War, it was rumoured that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was contemplating going back onto the gold standard, as was more recently Libya. Look what happened there. Iraq made large purchases of Gold in March this year, and lookee here, a bunch of foreign sponsored raiders are invading while the US drags its feet. At the risk of raiding the bacofoil, I’d say a certain pattern is emerging. Oil rich Country tries to go onto gold standard = Casus belli. Not so much blood for oil as blood for gold. Or in the Ukraine’s case, blood for gas.

Which further leads me to think that if the pattern of money and war, boom and bust is to be broken, maybe a more democratic currency (Out of the hands of politicians and bankers alone) is the way forward. Hmm.

That’s it for now. I’m off for a walk to test my recovering knee joint. The Galloping Goose trail calls.