Tag Archives: Canada

No real surprises….

After yesterdays fatal shooting in Ottawa we find out that the privately educated son of a deputy head of immigration is the culprit. The divorced Father of whom had gone to fight in Libya in 2011. Apple, tree, not far. His Mum of course is apologising madly to save her career, although given that said son had a string of drink and drug offences before briefly getting religion, I don’t think any real blame can attach to her. Even if the Mounties posted a warrant for her yesterday. Although that was for her van rather than her. Oh yes, even if she was implicated in a 2010 investigation regarding favouritism over appointees within the immigration department. Nothing to do with ISIS / ISIL at all. Just having a hissy fit over not getting a passport. Which is a hell of a dumb reason to kill an unarmed man.

Another unsurprising piece of news is that Vegetarians and Vegans are not as motile as the rest of the population. Well yes of course, we kind of knew that all along, goes the Greek chorus of commenters. It’s a life choice, and everything has a risk and reward, right? No doubt there are vegetarians and vegans with large broods of pasty kids, but so what? It’s not an absolute, but think of how many they’d have if daddy wasn’t deliberately malnourishing himself. Now that’s scary…..

Halloween and stuff

Halloween is a big deal over here. People deck their houses in carved pumpkins, fake cobwebs and all sorts of foolery. Lots of kiddies dress up in silly and totally unscary costumes, students put on Zombie makeup and totter around the streets muttering “Brains, brains.” Are they asking for a donation or lunch? So I thought I’d get into the spirit of things. Join in the fun. For a given value of ‘fun’ (Evil snigger).

This whole trick or treat business however, has always struck me as rather mean spirited. A “Give us sweeties or we’ll kick your bins over, spatter your windows or scratch your car” kind of meanness. Which isn’t really fun at all and simply encourages tooth decay and hyperactivity.

My Halloween tradition circulated around bonfire jumping (Small bonfires), bobbing for apples, pub crawls, cider drinking games and general horseplay between consenting youth. No one went round banging on doors demanding candy with menaces. The older folk were always part of the festivities, but mostly as spectators while the youngsters made bloody idiots of themselves. Those who didn’t want to play stayed home and no one bothered them. Well, apart from drunken singing stumbling past at two in the morning. The only real fallout was massive hangovers and the odd inexplicable bruise the following day. On one rare Halloween when it wasn’t raining, a bunch of us ended up on top of a local hill having a howling contest at the Hunters Moon. No-one called the cops. Although I recall one old farmer type did turn up in his Land Rover with Purdey on the front seat. He took one look at us, muttered something about ‘bloody kids’ before promptly turning round and going home to bed. We got the hint and dispersed. Of course this was a long time ago. Nowadays we’d have a bloody SWAT team round our necks. Which begs the question; when did people become such wussies?

This year my fancy dress is going to be a ‘biohazard’ sign for the front door, hooded painters overalls flecked with a little red, breath mask, face shield or safety glasses. Perhaps Wellingtons or even these to top off the ensemble. Which can all be used if and when I get round to a little DIY, or there really is an Ebola epidemic. So win-win there I think.

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.

Neuro-Linguistic programming for kids – a small epiphany

Down at the drug store this morning getting a knee strap to help reduce the pain of an ancient knee injury, I was fitting said item when a young family pulled up in their big Ford F250 pickup. Mum, Dad and two boys, and a babe in arms. Now in England this is a recipe for chaos. Sulky, ill natured kids who don’t want to be there and exasperated parents who would rather be anywhere else than with their whining ungrateful little mini-thems. Over here in BC it’s (Well, mostly) a totally different atmosphere.

One of the things I’ve noticed, being a recent import to these shores, is how generally quiet and well behaved many Canadian children are. But I’d never quite made the connection until today. Babe in arms, about a year old I’d reckon. Too big to be a newborn, too chubby for a Toddler, was swung into Mums front facing papoose and began squalling. Dad was leading his two boys across the car park, urging them on without raising his voice. Answering their torrent of questions and demands with a good natured; “But that’s not what we’re here for.” Mum was paying attention to the baby and using the same quiet, insistent and non-confrontational voice. There was no demand for the child to “Behave! Or else!” Just patient explanation that yes they were going to the store, no they already had too many toys and treats, and we’re going out this afternoon for a picnic. Please keep your voice down, I can hear you perfectly well. No heightened emotions, no drama and after the first exchange, no raised voices. The kids weren’t being ignored, au contraire, they were being engaged every step of the way. None of the usual parent to child guilt or threat exchanges. Just persuasion. I’ve overheard children at every turn presented with a “How would you feel if….?” option followed by a suggested positive outcome. In this particular case I got the feeling that this was a long-practised routine which both parents engaged in. A form of neuro-liguistic programming of their children, encouraging their progeny into preferred behaviours. Specifically not behaving like self-entitled little socipaths. At least until the soup of raging adolescent hormones turn them all into Kevins. Been there, done that. Twice, God help me. With girls, who make teenage boys look like pussycats, let me tell you.

Most of us grow out of the more unlovable traits of childhood. We can even break the generational cycle of abusive relationships, should we develop the will. Unfortunately this is often a protracted and very painful process for the person involved, and can be a terrible waste of a human being. Heavens to Betsy, some might even end up bloggers.

Which rather leads me to the thought that we are what we are programmed to be. Larkin expressed it as “They fuck you up, your Mum and Dad” but then again, Larkin was always one of my least favourite British poets. Having seen that side of the coin, I’m becoming convinced that parents don’t have to screw up their kids, they can engage, communicate and guide. Minimise the damage peer groups and aggressive marketing can do to kids minds by ensuring a child knows where their support mechanisms lie.

So it is with grown up life. Treat people with trust and engage them without being judgemental and my experience is that most will respond positively. Not too much trust mind, just enough to account for the one in twenty five that is a conscience-free zone. Treat everyone like wayward children, regulate their every waking moment with near incomprehensible rules they can’t help but break, and what response profile will they follow? Got it in one.

Chilled

Mrs S and I have finally moved in properly to new Victorian gaff here in BC and just delivered our first weekend guest safe home. To celebrate we took a bus downtown and did a little bar surfing. While we were on our way, the oddest feeling crept over me. A sense of complete calm, serenity, even a sense of being touched by God. A veritable nexus of null anxiety, to the point where my paranoia kicked in and whispered salaciously to my hindbrain “It’s been a wonderful day so far-so what’s going to go pear shaped? Who is going to screw it up?” You know what? Nothing did.

In Iraq, 800 crazies, including three holders of UK passports so we are told, are murdering all they choose while an army flees in front of them. The Ukraine crisis lumbers on. The USA seems weak and vacillating. UK Civil liberties are eroded with every half baked directive from the EU Commission and everywhere the media are complicit in the decline.

Yet none of that matters, because at present we’re having a lovely time. Walking here and there, enjoying the locality. Don’t take this personally, but I won’t say ‘wish you were here’. There’s only just enough happiness for me, Mrs S and the dog.

A Victorian afternoon

Taking advantage of our new domiciles proximity to the provincial capital, Mrs S and I took the bus downtown to have a pootle around and a few drinkies without the necessity of putting hands anywhere near a steering wheel.

Around one of the clock, having bought birthday presents to try and heal a rift with sister in law, Mrs S saw a jewellery store on Government Street and bade me wait outside in the sunshine, which I did, just settling down on a bench to peoplewatch from behind sunglasses and generally chill. While I was amiably ensconced on a bench, from down the street came a steady drumbeat. Thump, thump, thum-thum-thump. At first I thought it was a busker. There were guitarists, violinists, so hey, why not a drummer? The only thing was this sound kept getting closer. At length I caught sight of a small phalanx of marchers, about a hundred or so coming up the street, holding a banner in front, a good portion of which was obscured by two marchers, one a well built girl consulting her phone, and the other a stripy hi-viz jacket wearing body. The sign read, at least from my angle ‘TWALK’.

“Oh that’s interesting” thought I in my innocent reverie. “Must be a march to raise funds for breast cancer perhaps?” At this point a guy in a black T-shirt and faded jeans, to my minor annoyance, stood on the bench I was sitting on, as did his girlfriend. I glanced around at the banner again. Still the girl in front on her iPhone or whatever, blocking out my line of sight. The marchers were chanting something I wasn’t paying really attention to. Hell, I’ve seen enough demo’s and tend to zone them out. My major concern is always to get where I’m going and let the marchers get wherever the hell they’re going.

As the front of the march drew level with where I was sitting, Mrs S arrived and said into my ear with a grin. “I bet you didn’t expect to see that today, Bill?” I stood up and turned around to take a look. Too right, several of the female marchers were sans brassieres. Letting it all hang out so to speak, or in several cases letting their exposed nipples wobble fearsomely on a ‘Slutwalk’. Holding banners proclaiming their opposition to being raped or otherwise sexually molested. None of which has changed my mind from my previous post on this subject. While I am in full accord with the view that how a girl dresses does not automatically entitle every red blooded male to haul her off down a dark alley for some non-consensual sexual activity, I still think that three years on from one Ontario Cops original remark, still to be harping on about it is a bit obsessive-compulsive to say the least. Especially as a number of the marchers weren’t exactly, how can I put this gently, (Ducks behind keyboard and hides) that likely to attract the kind of sexual misconduct they were protesting against. As I whispered into Mrs S’s ear as the marchers passed us; “Now I know why the brassiere was invented.”

As I swung my gaze around, the guy who’d stood on the bench next to me gave me a nudge and made some remark about the procession. Tell you the truth I wasn’t really listening, I’d just caught sight of the bar I’d been looking for. Mrs S and I went into the pub to lay the dust on our tongues with a couple of nice beers. The marchers carried on up the street.

Spotting a scam

I love Canadians. They’re so damn, well, uncomplicated. Rather like Paul Gross’s Mountie character Benton Fraser from ‘Due South‘ they’re extremely polite (mostly), easy going (except when the cable TV cuts out in the middle of the Hockey game) and oh so pleasant to deal with (when not being terribly passive-aggressive). At least in comparison to their UK counterparts who often are all too ready to froth at the mouth and throw Teddy out of the pram at the least provocation. Unfortunately this makes many of my Canadian friends all too vulnerable to every scammer and confidence trickster who sees an easy mark.

To the practised eye, scams stand out like pink sparkly searchlights in the night. Mainly because they sound like some modern day fairy tale. Long lost relative, or friend of a friend left you a huge pile of cash / winning lottery ticket / lost treasure of the Golden Behind in their will, and they just need your bank details to pass your good fortune to you?  Yeah, right.

Disney don’t make ‘em any better.  Pixie dust,  Unicorns and Rainbows rule.  Polar Bears are fluffy, huggable things, not massive slavering predators always on the hunt for protein.  Any protein.  Including human.  Oh yeah, and Dolphins are kind and gentle, if you conveniently forget about the beating Harbour Porpoises to death thing, yeah?

Now to us cynical sorts, whose eyes have been forced open by dealing with the slings and arrows of outrageous UK local authorities, the single rule to apply is; if it sounds too good to be true then it is.

A Canadian friend of ours recently got taken in by scammers. When he finally got round to showing me the email that had kicked it all off I put my face in my hands, groaned quietly and asked. “You haven’t sent these people any money have you?” He had the good grace to admit that yes he had.
“You know this is a scam, don’t you? For Pete’s sake mate, don’t send them any more.” I groaned. The scammers were asking for five thousand bucks to release several millions from a ‘locked’ bank account in the Far East.

So how easy was the con to spot? Very. Childs play in fact. I get two dozen of these missives a week, aren’t I a lucky chap? I derive considerable amusement from reading them all before throwing said missives into my yawning pit of hell-spam, ne’er to be seen this side of eternity. All right Bill smartarse Sticker, if you’re so bleeding clever, why don’t you tell all the boys and girls out in there interweb land how to spot one of these con tricks? Plaisir mon vieux. There now follows a brief lesson in scam spotting.

When one of these ‘too good to be true’ emails lands in your inbox. Ask yourself the following questions;

  1. Who is this?
  2. Where did they get my details?
  3. What is said glittering prize?
  4. Why did they pick me?
  5. How come they write such appalling English?

If any one of these questions make your bullshit detectors twitch, bin the offending email.  Or at least run a few simple checks. Does your benefactor really work at the United Nations? No matter how much their cause may tug at your heartstrings. African orphanages, baby animals threatened by eeeevil hunters or whatever. Remember, a little judicious cynicism now will save a whole heap of heartbreak later. I routinely bin these false messages of monetary gain because I never buy lottery tickets. You’d be better off betting on three legged horses at those odds. I also really used to know two people who worked for the UN in Geneva, but we don’t talk. Not even at Xmas. I don’t have any long lost relatives. Certainly none that would give me any money. Besides, any such offer would come directly from a UK based lawyer who I could check out in the phone book.  Any such legacy would also have to make it unscathed through a family who can make a shoal of ravenous Piranhas look like charm school graduates. There are specialists who trace relatives of large and small fortunes, but they write well spelled, grammatical English, and never, ever, ever, ask for your bank details or cash up front to ‘unlock’ funds.   Not even in ‘good faith’.  Nor do any of them live and work in Nigeria.   That last statement might be considered ‘raaaaacist’, but it is nonetheless correct.

If still not sure; check the originating email address.  If the organisation is a .com, why does the email address  end in .in.th?   It takes ten seconds to check out using WHOIS.com.   Is there a phone number?  Type said phone number into the search bar of your web browser and let Google, Bing, or any one of the many search engines bring enlightenment to your browser.   Then try one of the local phone directory services.  411.com for North America or in the UK 118118.com. The work of seconds.

When finding out that you are not heir or beneficiary to a massive business deal / lost millions, which the tax man would no doubt want an unhealthy bite out of, console yourself thus; it might have been real, but with all the scams out there, the odds are that it wasn’t. Add the sender to your spam or junk mail list and move on. There’ll be another one along shortly. That much is guaranteed.

Yet another snow day

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again; back in 2008 when we hunkered down for our first Winter in West Coast Canada, we were told by friends and family who had lived here since the 70’s “Don’t worry, it never snows in the Mid-Island.” Today I can confirm it’s snowing. Again. Cold, wet and heavy. It has snowed every year we’ve been here despite the assurances and blandishments of friends and neighbours. Despite all the assurances of those telling us that “Our children won’t know what snow is.”

The great lakes currently have about ninety percent ice cover, the most for over two decades at the time of writing, and almost as much as the 1973 record of 94.7 percent on 1979. The Midwest and USA are on the receiving end of Winter storm after winter snowstorm. Then we have witless fools chuntering on about how they think those of us with eyes in the front of our heads, and working brains between our ears are some form of criminal species they call ‘Deniers’. Deniers of what might I ask? Deniers of a changing climate? No, we can see that for ourselves. As for warming, if anything it’s getting colder. Simple observation will tell you that. In the words of Dylan; “You don’t need to be a Weatherman to see which way the wind blows.” I can tell you where it’s going to as well. Which is a bit of a disappointment as I was rather looking forward to some extra warmth.

The only people in denial are the politicians and activists who blithely swan around travelling Business class (Hey, what about their CO2 emissions, huh?) and never actually step outside for long enough to see that all their prognostications of doom are as valid as those made by some uneducated backwoods Bible thumper. And these bastards are robbing John Q Public and telling everyone it’s for their own good, and other like bollocks.

There is an upside to all this snow and ice, and I think it’s worthy of a mention. There’s a tiny colony of wolves on an island (Isle Royale – Google it) in Lake Michigan who since the 1940’s have rarely been able to get to the mainland. As a result they have suffered terribly from the misfortunes of inbreeding. Now there have been reports that some of them are on the move over the ice and looking for fresh realms to inhabit. Although one is reported to have perished recently on the mainland, others may have made the same journey and survived. The Spring thaw will tell.

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.