Tag Archives: Local stuff

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.

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.

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.

Boats and other impedimentia

Last weekend we went looking at boats. The object of this exercise is to sidestep all the dullness of living on land to find a slightly more interesting way of life. We’ve looked at houses, but quite frankly there’s not a place where Mrs S and I feel we would fit in. On a torrentially rainy day, on a muddy stretch of the Fraser river I think we found an answer. Not perfect, but certainly with all the comforts of home. GPS, depth sounder, radio, recent anti-fouling, Blue water capable, solid diesels, spare generators, which with a little internal remodelling, electrical upgrade and a satellite interweb connection would prove very liveable indeed. Reminder to self, shop around for a radar set. The boat has a washing machine, dishwasher and joy of joys a tumble dryer, as there’s nothing worse than not having a dry stitch to put on. Did I mention I spent some of my formative years bumming around on canals and canal boats? Before getting used to the vagaries of the English Channel. Being wet for days on end is no fun at all.

We came up with this wheeze a couple of years ago, but the stories of municipalities all around BC shoving out all the liveaboards gave us pause. What indeed is the point of having a decent boat as a base if you keep on getting moved on like some water borne Pikey? Now the heat is dying down, and there are places to moor up without the threat of summary eviction. I’ve also been cultivating contacts in the Marine section of the RCMP and local Harbour watch as a kind of insurance. Took an enhanced security check, but now I have legit ID to flash if need be. Never hurts to show you can jump the hoops. Having worked in municipal enforcement, I know how handy officially sanctioned ID can be in some circumstances. The trick is knowing when and how sparingly to use it.

What attracts me is the ability to simply up sticks for the weekend, scoot across to the bright lights of Vancouver or Seattle, moor up and go visit the bright lights for a few hours before coming home to your own cosy floating apartment. Or go work in Vancouver (without paying Vancouver prices), then shove off at the weekend for pastures new. Don’t like the neighbours? Hey, move on. Repel boarders (and snub the day boys and prefects- arr matey) There’s obstacles of course, surveys, insurance, fuel costs, boat security, permits etcetera, but nothing insuperable.

The glass is falling hour by hour

I swear the Weather gods are trying to tell us something. This is the mid Island, one of the warmer climates in Canada, and yet again it’s been snowing. Yesterday evening we transported in-laws around Victoria in pleasant but chilly greyness. The minute we get to the Malahat summit, the Malahat being a bloody great piece of rock that literally splits the south of Vancouver Island from everywhere else, snow. Thence snow all the way back home. Fortunately not the settling kind like we had last weekend, but enough to coat the trees and fields in a dusty white. It was a long drive home.

Today we’re in Richmond, I hope, viewing a boat. An ex-military tug converted to a liveaboard. Tonight evil dreams rob me of blessed repose and I’m sitting here emptying the sleeplessness into my keyboard. That’s the last bottle of Crane Lake Cabernet I’m drinking. Not bad on the palate, but I was jarred into wakefulness by dreams of intruders and various misdeeds. It was either the wine or some dodgy Canadian Brie. Whatever. Going back to bed now.

All white now

A fine to moderate snow has been falling since Saturday night down here by the water, leaving us with a covering of three to five inches. Reports from town say that there’s ice in the narrow channel between Newcastle Island and the marina. I can’t confirm. It doesn’t show up on the local webcams.

Here everything is pasted white. Even roads that were clear yesterday have a four inch covering. Our traditional fortnight of winter is officially here. Well, one of them anyway. We tend to get three of four of these episodes of varying severity every Winter. This is our third so far. The first two were more or less gone in forty eight hours. This bout may last a little longer. Semi regular thumps announce the fall of wet snow from the roof, frightening the dog, and our scenery has been seriously photoshopped.

I’m not working in town until Wednesday this week, so there’ll be plenty of time for chilling (Ouch, sorry). Not that there’s really going to be much choice. According to Environment Canada we’re in a short lived ‘Abnormal temperature trend’. Just seems like an average BC Winter to me. Lots of rain and a little snow. Although I’m also informed Mount Washington Ski resort was suffering from too much snow recently. A ski resort with too much snow? Seriously? Well don’cha just live and learn.

Oh well, work calls, and I have an online course to sign up for. TTFN.

Update: All incoming phone calls are being answered thus; “Ski Shop. How can I help you?”

Variety

There’s a jokey little local saying over here on Vancouver Island; “If you don’t like the weather, go inside for five minutes.”

Over the last week we’ve gone from needing snow shoes and ice skates to go outside, to webbed feet, thence sunglasses. This morning the rain clouds have pootled off to bother someone else, and the sun is up. Out on our deck it’s T-shirt weather, if still a little damp after the rains. In the kitchen, it’s simply too bright to sit down. In short, typical BC weather. The odd damp basement. Nothing to write home about. Although I’m seriously thinking about buying a sea going boat. Nothing to do with weather, I just fancy spending some non-working time pootling up and down the coast, that’s all.

Reading the news from the other side of the pond and hearing relatives complain about having to evolve fins and gills, I’m inclined to count my blessings. Yet I remember similar floods from late July 2007, when on the last working day of our UK careers, Mrs S and I almost had to swim home. In the mid 90’s, when floods turned a twelve mile commute into a thirty seven mile detour to get home and dozens of occasions before and since.

Here’s my thinking; every year in the UK there are floods. This has gone on for millennia. Over the last twenty years, it seems, every year there are hosepipe bans. Every year, reservoirs are decommissioned (Don’t take my word, Google it for yourself). More expensive PR friendly ‘wildlife sanctuaries’ take their place instead of simply replacing or maintaining ageing Dams. Less active dredging and water management. More housing built. Bigger floods. Is it just me, or is there some form of correlation here?

I ask myself; what’s the point of creating a habitat for voles and grass snakes, for example, when the very critters the decommissioned reservoir is meant to preserve will get all drowned, and very dead, when the next, and inevitable, seasonal flood comes around? Well, Duh! I find it rather ironic that ‘ecological diversity’ can be so easily transformed into ecological uniformity (underwater) every time it gets a little damp.

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.