Black Friday…….

What’s the old Steely Dan number that’s been running through my head all morning? Oh yes, ‘Black Friday’. How does it begin? There’s that lovely, distinctly Steely Dan style keyboard riff to open and four or five bars in launching into the song; “When Black Friday comes / I’ll stand down by the door / And catch the grey men when they / Dive from the fourteenth floor”

This is the day for traditionally queueing up outside the big box stores to indulge in a bit of rampant overspending, maxing out those credit cards in the pre Xmas sales, and perhaps trampling the odd fellow shopper or innocent member of staff. Yet today my thoughts are perturbed by the news that Anna, Gildas, and Petunia at the Raccoon Arms are apparently hanging up their keyboards. Thus I will forego my desperation for that must-have discount on a multipurpose slow cooker / egg poacher / toasting machine to think out loud about their tireless dig for the evidence of truth.

End of the raccoon arms Being a natural sceptic, I’ve seen too much of what is presented in the lamestream media as ‘fact’ found wanting when it comes to real evidence. Instead of real journalism, what we seem to get is regurgitated press releases from people with a bigger agenda than the Committee for Really Screwing up Big Projects Again. Retrospective ‘Justice’ demanded by the mentally unstable with faulty memories for what was not an ‘offence’ over thirty years ago. The pursuance of petty grievances more realistically suited for a programme like the offensively lowbrow Jeremy Kyle show on British daytime TV “He touched my arm in 1979 and I’ve been peculiar ever since.” Anna, Gildas, Pet and friends had the experience and training needed to cut to the chase and expose the glaring lack of evidence. They brought their rationality to bear on the seeming juggernaut of lies daily presented as ‘facts’ in the media when faced with the angry, pointing denouncements of the unthinking mob.

Unfortunately we humans are not rational beings. If we were there would be fewer wars, less violence, fewer threats and perhaps we could turn our species’ boundless energetic curiosity to take us out beyond the stars, just to see what’s out there. To follow in the footsteps of our gods rather than kneel under the rule of priests. Instead we find ourselves perennially grubbing in a mud wallow of our own making, unable or unwilling to look upwards and outwards. Preferring the lowest common denominator of our own natures to that great expansionist impulse that could take our species onwards and upwards. Repeating the same old errors in the same old ways without seeming to learn very much. Sheltering under the umbrella of unreason, because comforting untruths are always preferred to feeling the refreshing rain of reality wash our spirits clean. Letting ourselves be ruled by habit rather than reason. Using the primitive Thalamus rather than our more highly evolved frontal lobes.

What’s worse is that we let people with an agenda build labels, those petty little mental fortresses built of words, or try to wall others in by projecting their worse natures onto them. Not only that, we apply these labels to ourselves; conservative, liberal, anarchist, communist etcetera. Not seeming to realise that applying a label is to paint a bloody big target on your position so the heavy artillery of propaganda and untruth, from all sides, can find you more easily. Anna and friends bravely planted a flag in their patch of sand and stood up for what they felt was real, questioning every piece of evidence, word by word, point by point. Questioning the main narratives. Defiantly refusing to be cowed by those who thought shouting the loudest and making sniping personal attacks made them right. For that alone the Anna Raccoon bar staff and some of the crowd in the Snug (a.k.a the Comments threads) all deserve medals. I hope that this time around they leave the site up as an archive rather than delete it all. At least while the domain name and hosting payments remain up to date.

Now I know very few people will ever bother to read and try to digest what I’ve written here. Most of those that do will think that Bill is going off on one yet again, and perhaps I am. It’s just my opinion about a far more worthy blog, and in the court of human words that doesn’t amount to much, except to me. But perhaps that is all that really counts.

Update: Looks like it’s not so much an end but a new beginning.  Whilst the Landlady (The eponymous Anna) has retired and Gildas also, Petunia is keeping the ball rolling in his own inimitable style in a new place called ‘The Tap room’.  Blogroll amended.

A nice day out

I like Vancouver. It’s my second favourite city on the planet. Well at least of those I’ve visited. Although I’ve got a soft spot for Berlin, and haven’t had time or money to visit Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Singapore etcetera. Despite there being a Starbucks or Tim Hortons on every other corner. To be honest I prefer Tim Hortons coffee to Starbucks, firstly it’s cheaper, secondly it’s less bitter. Their doughnuts aren’t bad either. Although I’m more partial to an Apple or blueberry fritter for a cheap carb and calorie treat.

While we were in Vancouver we hopped on the Skytrain and I popped into the Telus ‘Science’ Museum because the Animals Inside Out exhibit was on, which I was interested to see. I was to be disappointed. What I found was somehow redolent of a 19th and 20th century travelling carnival freak show. Plenty of ‘Euw’ factor with the anatomy of people and animals on display, but woefully short on detail. For example; the Mako shark exhibit made little mention of what the Blue Dynamite with the short fuse was all about. Nothing about how it is one of the fastest sharks in the sea (Able to swim in bursts of over 80Kph), or that they run over 3.2 (12ft) metres long and more than 600kg (1300lb+). Little about habitat and diet (Apart from being a sea creature). The split down the middle Giant Squid display was impressive, As was the trifurcated Camel, but was there any information about the curious structure of the giant squids eyes? Not really. There was one museum staffer wandering around with an anatomised and plasticised human arm, inviting visitors to examine it, but as far as information was concerned, I found myself thinking this was the intellectual version of junk food. While the exhibition promised much in the way of mental nourishment, all it delivered was hollow emotion. The same was true for the the rest of the displays at ‘Science world’. Rather than have layers of information where, if interested, displays could direct people to where they could find out more, all they had were toys for toddlers, of which there was a plethora. Shrieking and pressing buttons, aimlessly playing without actually seeming to learn anything. A sort of Fisher Price level of ‘Science’. Which is a bit of a shame. Shrieking toddlers tend to put off older children and even young adults who want to know more about science in general.

Now all these observations could be dismissed as the rantings of an “Ignorant, angry old white guy”, a description which incidentally hits the quadruple target of being incorrect, ageist, sexist and racist by the way, but for the fact that what is on offer is a solution. A solution that is easily and more importantly affordable and which does not shut out key demographics like simply catering to noisy toddlers with toys. All that is required is a few bar code links and a web site with all the information you need to share, or perhaps about associated exhibits there isn’t room to display. All the kids have Smartphones capable of reading barcodes, right? Print out one of those rinky dinky square barcodes and paste next to a short description of the exhibit. Link the square barcode to various web sites containing more in depth information about said exhibit, and Robert, as they say, is the male sibling of your biological parents. Ta-daah! Using such a barcode while visiting should also enlist the visitor on the Museums Twatter, Crapchat, Instagrunt and Farcebook feeds so that if they’re interested, previous visitors will know when to come back again to see a real exhibit up close and personal. Thus generating much needed extra visits and gift shop revenue. A useful tool for Parents, Teachers and those who simply like to see real science and history stuff on display.

The same principal could be applied to Theatres, Cinemas, grocery stores, Aquaria, and Zoos for a relatively low overhead. Latest production or movie release, new product line, birth of a rare baby sea creature or mammal, all the novelty of the world can be brought rapidly and in depth into the public eye. For those interested of course. All the components are out there, all the institution or business would have to do is a little regular link maintenance. But then I’m just an “Ignorant, angry old white guy” with a broad technical education covering well over twenty years and a deep seated love of technology, so what do I know?

Any old road up. Mrs S and I had a nice day in Vancouver, and despite missing our bus for the ferry (By five minutes) and spending fifty minutes hanging around in the cold, got home with much to think about. We did pass by the Cirque Du Soleil, but as we’ve already seen one of their disappointingly lowbrow shows of mugging contortionists a couple of years ago, I declined to repeat the experience.

Who are these people?

Who are these crazies? Enslavers of minorities. Ham handed YouTube butchers. Mass murderers and killers. The ‘Islamic State’ or whatever. Where did they come from and who are they? Who gives, or gave them the them money to get started? Who has declared war on our way of life? Because war is where we are. We are at war, declared or not. We are at war with the miserablist philosophy of radical Islam. That which hates joy in the human heart. That which hates music and art. Specifically those who claim their brand of killjoy Islam should dominate the world. They picked this fight. Not the secular West. The Daesh (Arabic pejorative) chose to take their petty little tantrums out on civilians. Bunch of murderous shitheels that they are. A single Police dog is worth more than the whole damn crew of them.

Now we hear that two one of the organisers of the Paris attacks are still on the run and two more are dead. Others are under arrest. The Daesh (ISIL / ISIS, Al – thingummy wossname) are also going to be on the sharp end of shock and awe. From not just the French, but also the Russians. The UK is also going to pitch in against these murderous bastards. Even if it means keeping the unpopular and murderous Assad regime in power. Stuff the Yanks. Some of this is the current US administrations fault. They began airstrikes in support of the Syrian rebels and created a void for the Daesh to move in. I’m glad Trudeau has pulled Canadian forces out of that mess. We shouldn’t have been fighting Assad in the first place.

Yet from what I can see, the Daesh are simply one head of the Hydra. In order to destroy the threat the whole beast must be destroyed. It has to be burned out and cauterised at source. Root and branch. No quarter. No mercy. I think the French understand this. At the moment of writing they are going loaded for bear. It’s worth noting that France has Nuclear weapons and might just be tempted to test one on a Daesh stronghold. The Charles De Gaulle, currently deploying to the middle east in response to the Paris attacks, has just such a capability.

Well this is a bit steep Bill. My better self says. Aren’t you over reacting a bit? Mmmm. I don’t think so. A few short months ago I stood, sat, walked, and drank Cafe-au-lait on the very ground where some of the murders took place, admiring the culture, the architecture, the fashion sense and the agility of the local graffiti artists. We didn’t just do the main tourist spots, Mrs S and I took in what I call the ‘real’ Paris and tried our best to fit in and live like locals. Even if the proprietress of my favourite corner Boulangerie / Patisserie did take the piss out of my terrible accent and muffed French pronunciations. After I went back a few times for my morning baguette, I was always greeted with a happy smile. There was the kindness of neighbours when Mrs S broke her arm. Fortunately none of whom have flagged up as victims. Therefore I’m claiming an emotional connection to that area. We were, and still are planning a return trip as part of a larger European tour next year. London, Paris, Amsterdam Maybe Antwerp and Bruges. We weren’t put off by the Charlie Hebdo massacre. We won’t be put off now. Screw the Daesh. If they hadn’t got that bunch of losers to shoot up Paris, there would have been little excuse to implement the European passenger tracking system. Which I object to because I think it’s yet another nail in the coffin of civil liberties. Practically it means more bloody paperwork. More disclosure every time we fancy a nice holiday.

There is, however, a bright side. Parisian hotel and travel prices might go down a little if some people decide to call off their visits as a result of the attacks. I will need a new hat for sitting outside on sunny days. Speaking of which, some Parisians are choosing to sit outside cafe’s as an act of defiance. Which is very civilised. And very French. “You shoot down my countrymen? Pah! I drink Espresso at you, scum. Now go away before I order my afternoon cognac!”

Anyway, Mrs S and I are in Downtown Vancouver tomorrow. It’s work related, but we’ll be making this trip our main Christmas shopping visit as well. Bonne journee mes vieux. Have a nice day.

Making an end of it

In Russell Books downtown yesterday, I was meandering around aimlessly while Mrs S was picking up a couple of extras for our bookshelves and whilst waiting for her to make a decision, idly perused a book about how to stop repeating history (Of which, maddeningly I have forgotten the Author and Title), one of the sections being about how terrorist attacks finally came to an end, from the Sicarii in ancient Judea, Assassins of early Medieval times through to the Anarchists of the mid to late 19th century, and more latterly the current Jihadist crop of murderers. With regards to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, it seems there is little new under the sun.

That evening, all the facts and figures cited in the work buzzing around in what passes for my brain, I googled “How to stop terrorism” and came up with How to Stop Terrorism: Seven Ways to “Drain the Swamp”. There are actually eight, but the eighth involves mass genocide as practised by the Romans (amongst others), therefore is not a palatable solution to the current crop of terrorist problems.

Another school of thought is argued by the Rand institute, part of which is opening a dialogue with the Terrorist faction (Get a download copy of “How Terrorism Ends”here). But seeing as the current crop of Islamists are demonstrably a bunch of crazies who like to practice human sacrifice by crudely beheading their victims on video, I don’t hold up hope for any meaningful dialogue beyond ‘convert or die, infidel’. Even if we were to stop all military action in the Middle East, the likelihood is that attacks like those in Paris would continue. The crazies’ love of death being sometimes stronger than all other forms. We are not dealing with people who will say “Oh that’s all right then, home for tea and medals.” and neatly hand over their guns and other weapons when the need to fight has gone. ISIS (ISIL, whatever) have proven themselves too steeped in blood for reason to prevail.

The only national leader who seems capable (At least to my mind) of ending the current crisis is that big bad bogeyman of the Western media; President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation. No matter what else you think of him, he is both intelligent and ruthless, both qualities lacking amongst many Western leaders, wedded as they are to the politically correct idea of at least appearing ‘nice’ and therefore electable. The Russians I feel, are a little more realistic. For us, being ‘nice’ or ‘moral’, at least for a given value of ‘niceness’, and morality being the movable feast that it is, only seems to open up more cans of worms, politically speaking.

Right, what can we do? Cut off the money supply to terrorists? Easier said than done. So far the regulations intended to cut off the terrorist money supply, which I believe do not apply to the Islamic system of banking, or various ‘Intelligence’ agencies and other covert and not so covert Government offices known to fund terrorists, have proven ineffectual. When alliances shift and morph like fog, murdering fantasists will always find one agency or other more than ready and willing to fund the proxy wars of their political masters. Gosh, is that my cynicism? I was wondering where I left it. Said regulations are a pain in the bum for the law abiding, that much I do know. For those of us needing to legally transfer money between institutions, I think the phrase “Buggers muddle” seems appropriate. The levels of disclosure are quite incredible.

Having said all this are we any closer to a solution to terrorist attacks? I really don’t know, but the lessons of History, palatable or not, are out there for those who would read.

You know, if the UN really had the nerve, instead of faffing about with imaginary problems, it could spend far less and really enforce the outlawing of funding terrorist groups by nation states and their intelligence organisations. Although whether the various powers in question would comply is moot.

I know that place

La Belle Equipe cafe at the intersection of Rue De Charonne, Rue Faidherbe and Rue Godefroy Cavalgnac. Across the way from the Palais de la Femme. Next door to Sushi Maki. A prime breakfast time peoplewatching spot. Old stonework, fading posters and tightly spaced small steel tables and folding chairs. A small cellar. Perfectly shaded for those Parisian dog days when temperatures rise over thirty Celsius. Just a cosy little neighbourhood cafe restaurant. They do, or rather did a very elegant brunch and a very nice Espresso, not too pricey but very French. Our taxi driver recommended the place when first we arrived on the Eurostar from London. “I get my breakfast there.” He told us. Great location. Less than a hundred metres from the apartment we rented for most of May and the first week of June 2015 at 97 Rue De Charonne. Hope my landlord wasn’t caught up in the attacks. Nice bloke.

Now a regular breakfast spot and very nice neighbourhood cafe has become a venue for late night mass murder. Blood has run in streets I knew. In whose name? For what? ‘Vengeance’ by a murdering gang of scumbags who deserve only the brief mercy of Madame Guillotine or better still, Napalm. Love death do they? Then let them have what they love. Wholesale. Bulk order to go. Don’t hold the Garlic. Grease with bacon fat. Turn that sand into glass.

Reading reports of connected incidents in Belgium, it looks like the murderers were barely twelve hours ahead of the security services. Arrests would have been made, but the murderers and their accomplices weren’t bagged and tagged soon enough. Now it’s down to the regular Police to pick up the pieces. A good many of which pieces are from the seven who blew themselves up. It is one of the few points of satisfaction about this affair to note that the heads of the murderers who blew themselves up would have still contained consciousness as they flew through the air before smashing into whatever surface they landed upon. See this Wikipedia excerpt. Perhaps in those few seconds they experienced the true terrors of hell before the evil they brought to others was extinguished as their separated craniums hit the street. One can but hope.

Here in Canada, our new Prime Minister has said that we are to import twenty five thousand people from the very place the terrorists originated. Twenty five thousand immigration queue jumpers. Maybe none of these twenty five thousand have any hostile intent towards Canada and the west, but maybe they will, wittingly or not, help others who have.

As an immigrant myself I’ve had to jump serious hoops to get my citizenship and know how hard it is to get and thus how valuable it is. Like many immigrants I’m also a little resentful of people who get preferential treatment over those of us who have stood in line, patiently waiting our turn, filling in the forms, not asking for preferential treatment, just dreaming of and working for a better life. Bringing our worth, experience and knowledge to a new homeland. Unlike the terrorists, who only have death to offer.

Update 15th Nov: Just heard from a Parisian friend who lives just up the way from Rue De Charonne. He reports being a little concerned over the attacks but otherwise he and his family are well. Currently getting my news direct from France24’s Youtube live feed.

North America is more civilised than you think

Made the mistake of reading a clickbait article in the Barclay Brothers Beano this afternoon where an unrepresentative sample of New Yorkers were asked about that particularly English delicacy, Sausage rolls. Astonishment, surprise and dare we even say it, dicombobulation were expressed by those who were told that you cannot purchase Sausage rolls in New York, and thus by imputation, the whole of the USA. Just so some ignorant English people (Who are so stupid they believe everything printed in English newspapers) can giggle at the Yanks’ lack of knowledge of that quintessential savoury, the humble Sausage roll.

The article is, as must be expected from such airheaded space filler, complete balderdash. I have been to New York and seen a wide range of foodstuffs produced for consumption, including, yes, you guessed it, Sausage rolls. Just because Starbucks don’t have them in stock, or the New York Times ‘introduces’ them to the North American diet does not mean they haven’t been available for yonks. For example; Myers of Keswick on Hudson Street, has been making said delicacy in New York for nearly thirty years. Then there’s ‘The Tuck Shop‘ and ‘Parkers‘ in Buffalo, New York. Unlike the much lamented Pie Face eatery that once graced Broadway until 2014, these are still going concerns.

You could recycle said article and say the Belgians are astonished by the mention of English savoury pastries. Or the Germans, Swiss, Italians, French or Danes. But I know quite a few places in Paris and Frankfurt where you can get a form of Bacon sandwich or sausage roll even if it goes under another name, but this does not mean the French or Germans are culinarily ignorant or deprived, merely disdainful about the lower meat content of English sausage.

To conclude; just because there isn’t a Greggs on every bloody corner doesn’t mean the Yanks have never heard of the British taste in Savoury pastries. Here in BC, Thrifty’s and several other grocery store chains do a very nice example, although getting decent flaky pastry over this side of the great divide is a bit hit and miss and they do tend to put more sausage meat in the pastry than the classic English version, but that is no bad thing. On my travels south of the 49th parallel I’ve seen such sundries as Scotch Eggs and Pork Pies on delicatessen displays in Eugene, Oregon and elsewhere. True, Sausage rolls etcetera, are not as widespread in the USA and Canada as the UK, but then we’re not in Clapham any more, Dorothy.

Watching the pills go down

Another day, another damn pill. I’m not one who suffers illness with a glad heart, but I also get a bit impatient with the cure. However, the pill bottle content is shrinking day by day, and although I’m not counting, I do give a jaundiced glance at the level in the container every so often and note that it’s decreasing. Slowly but surely. Each day of treatment means I get more of a nights sleep, fewer bouts of feverishness, less discomfort.

Like many men of my generation and blue collar upbringing, we were told to shut up and put up with it. Whatever the ‘It’ happened to be. Bleeding? When you’ve stopped, don’t forget to clean up after yourself. Does it hurt? It’s only pain. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, it’s only ‘Man Flu’. Even when you’re so sick and feverish you can hardly see straight. Or the pain is so great you can hardly put your feet to the floor. There have been those days, I can tell you. Although looking on the positive side, I’ve never had the misfortune to have a digit or worse ripped off by machinery then had to crawl or walk half a mile carrying the separated body part. There was one case from the pre internet 1980’s where a farm worker did just that. Fortunately, my illness is nothing of that extremity. Just something I ignored too long because I was busy with other people’s issues. So it goes.

If all of the above just makes me sound like a grouchy old cuss, well I have news for you, you old cynic. I’d just like to state that I love everyone. Without exception. That’s right. Old miseryguts here. I love people. People I love to be around, others I love to avoid, and a few I’d really love to see dropped into a tank of hungry Piranhas. So there.

Now that’s made me feel a whole lot better. Excellent.

The Daily Grind

Feeling a little better now my system has adapted to my medication and the source of my ill-health is slowly but surely responding to treatment. So yesterday I went out and bought a little conical burr coffee grinder. Just to cheer myself up. Said item now resides next to my filter coffee machine, helping finesse my caffeine quality control. Which is a very pleasant duty after the unpleasantness of the last three weeks.

A nice cup of coffeeI’ve always been a fan of fresh ground coffee. One of my happiest childhood memories was simply sitting in the kitchen watching our (at the time) new fangled electric percolator burbling and burping away. My Dad taught me how to open it up, clean out the basket, add just the right amount of water and ground coffee before closing up properly and hitting the switch. Which I suppose was the beginning of my occasionally distant love affair with real coffee. All my friends’ families of the time always drank instant, and even at the age of eight I found myself preferring even badly stewed tea because instant coffee was, and is, so unremittingly appalling. As well as containing the suspected carcinogen, Acrylamide. Frankly dahleengs, I wouldn’t use instant to clean our drains with. Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that even bad percolated or filter coffee is far superior to Instant, no matter the brand.

Good coffee is, I feel, rather like wine. It has nose, bouquet, body and flavour with the added benefit that it sharpens, not clouds the senses. I’m only vaguely surprised that the better class of coffee bean doesn’t have a vintage (“I’ll have a cup of the 1989 Brazilian Couer De Rio please, waiter.”). Same for tea. I buy loose leaf teas because with a little practice and care, even a fresh cup of PG tips can provide a greater lift than the best tea bagged product, and I do have some very nice herbal (not that kind of herbal) tea bags for when bog standard orange pekoe just can’t deliver.

Now I have a half way decent grinder I think I’ll put together a few small airtight canisters of beans; Columbian, Honduran, Kenyan and various other varieties. I may even cast around for an Italian coffee roast variety, as when it comes to Espresso the Italians produce far and away the best roasts. Despite being on our figurative doorstep, Starbucks and all the coffee houses in Seattle don’t seem to be able to produce the depth and richness of Espresso that the Italians can. Ah yes, a small Espresso machine might be in order.

As for tea; down here in Victoria we have the Empress tea rooms, where we go for a civilised treat every time we’re flush with funds. They do an extremely nice and refreshing Kenya and Indian blend to which Mrs S and I are very partial, even if it is brewed from tea bags. I keep a couple of boxes in stock for those occasions when caffeine is preferred to alcohol. Mrs S is even badgering me to start making tiny lemon cakes and similar for afternoon Tiffin. Although this might entail the purchase of a small Toaster oven for small batch baking. It’s not really worth firing up the big stove for five or six mini-cupcakes.

Working from home as we both do, we’re relearning the art of being gentle with ourselves, instead of simply sticking our noses to the grindstone without remittance from dawn to dark. Good tea, Lemon cakes and small bite size delicacies can make for a pleasant afternoon interlude when we can sit down to discuss work issues and bounce ideas off each other rather than just grab a snack and run back to our respective keyboards. By way of an aside; it’s surprising how much more productive you can be if you take your time and step back from it all. If only to get a fresh perspective.

Oh well, back to the grind….er.

No more Halloweens

As per my last post, I’m not a well cat. Mostly from the side effects of medication. A little light headed and more tired than I should be. So I’ve been resting a lot over the weekend. Nothing much, just chilling and reading. However, being mindful that it was Halloween, I put out some candy at the front door so the kids could help themselves, as that evening I was in no shape to walk down a flight of stairs unaided. This morning I found half the candy we’d left out for them strewn all over my landlady’s front yard.

My response? Oo-kay. I’ll clear up the mess they made this time, but next Halloween the trick or treaters can fuck right off. Ungracious little bastards. So much for being environmentally friendly Canadians.

Expatriate expostulations from Canada; a.k.a. A Sarcastic man abroad


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