Achtung! Deutschland!

Road trip planning this weekend for May to July 2017. We’ve decided to take a nodal approach this time round, as opposed to the more traditional linear model of road trip. Translation: we’re planning to travel to one place for a week and stay, making mini-excursions for days out as opposed to the logistical nightmare of stopping every day or so on the road, packing and unpacking every other night, dodging from place to place to ‘do’ places like we’re ticking boxes like we recently did on our road trip around the USA.

We’re currently, as the title of this post suggests, planning our route through Germany and I keep reading about the upsurge in violent attacks from the Muslim population over there. Now I happen to feel sorry for the Germans, who on a number of previous visits in the 1980’s and 90’s I’ve found to be generally warm and welcoming people. This generosity of spirit currently seems to be rebounding on them as their chancellor has imported a whole tranche of ingrates who do not have the wit to integrate in their new home. To quote two recent examples; a Suicide bombing in a bar, a pregnant woman hacked to death for refusing the advances of a newcomer to name but two incidents from the last week. Never mind the much more well known attacks like the attack on train passengers. And these are just the ones we hear about. Then there’s the backlash.

It’s easy to dismiss the civilian response to the terror attacks with the ‘neo-nazi right wing racist’ label, but that’s not ‘right wing’ at all. Hint; many of the attackers are identified as Neo-Nazi. But hang on, isn’t that National Socialist? Hmm. Not exactly ‘right wing’ are they? Rightist politics are by definition not pro big government or even remotely socialist, whereas the attackers tend to be of a big government, pro socialist bent (Often with big, gothic letter tattoos). Therefore the correct description for many of these backlash attackers who are described as Neo-Nazi (and therefore Socialist) is actually ‘left wing racist’. Not to mention that the majority of these attacks seem to be happening in Eastern Germany, territory of the old DDR (the Socialist German Democratic Republic). Now tell me, wasn’t that a left wing regime up until 1989? Answers on a postcard. No prizes for getting the correct answer.

Not that I’m overly worried about these attacks impinging upon our trip, except maybe peripherally. I’m more concerned about crazy Italian drivers, caffeine-driven eastern European truckers and diesel spills. Defensive riding will get us past most problems on the road, but it’s the thoughtless dithering of distracted drivers that sends chills down my spine. They’re a far bigger threat to me and mine than any would be terrorist.

Notwithstanding we’re plotting our route through Germany to run from Southern Italy, probably catching a ferry to Split in Croatia before doglegging back to Venice via Trieste and hacking north through western Austria and Bavaria, south east Germany (Which we’re told is very scenic) into the Czech Republic, thence back across the border into Berlin and up into Denmark, possibly via Lubeck or Kiel. Now I’m fairly familiar with south western Germany, the Saarland and Rhine valley, but want to see how the East has fared since reunification during the 1990’s. We’ll also be touring off the Autobahns, as they’re generally filled with crazy people trying to achieve light speed in their Mercedes and BMW’s. Our style is going to be more of the bimbling and pootling variety along minor routes. The road less travelled. Mostly away from the madding crowds.

For those not familiar with the terms; to bimble or pootle means to meander (Walk, ride, drive) in an amiable and casual fashion, without undue haste, allowing plenty of time to stop and sightsee. Although Mrs S has observed that my version of bimbling can involve high speeds when warranted. Around some very twisty roads indeed. Or; as she once vouchsafed after a mildly throttle happy trip. “Sticker, you are a fiend.”

After that, the rough plan is to stop around Copenhagen so we can make forays into southern Sweden. I may even try to visit one of my cousins, who I’m told still lives in Gothenburg. Although she’s often elsewhere in the world. After that we’re discussing staying in Amsterdam and possibly Delft before sliding off to Bruges and back across the channel before getting back on the plane home.

Right. That’s the rough plan. Spirited discussions about where we’re going to stay and for how long have been had over the weekend, and no doubt will continue until I start putting money down, which isn’t going to happen until late August. This kind of trip takes time to organise if you don’t fancy taking your chances on accommodation. Berlin is by necessity going to be a weeks stay on its own. Likewise Copenhagen. The possible fracturing of the EU may well impact on our operational necessities, but being Canadian tourists, I don’t think it’s going to change our plans that much. At least not in the short to medium term.

Achtung Deutshland! Wir kommen. We’re coming. Oh yeah.

Trump card

Now that Donald J Trump is officially the Republican Presidential nominee I expect to keep hearing even more stories about people from south of the border (and I don’t mean Mexicans) threatening to move to Canada should he become President of the USA. Trust me chaps, it’s a bad idea. Honestly, as this cartoon by the irrepressible XKCD points out. Our Winters can get a bit brutal, especially in the Rockies and Eastbound. Which is why most of us prefer to snuggle up close to the 49th Parallel or thereabouts. Even here in the comparatively mild Maritime climate of the Pacific Northwest it can get decidedly chilly. Especially Campbell River and north.

Dont move to canada To begin with, north of the 49th parallel we do not enjoy the same diversity of goods as in the US of A. Grocery stores do not stock wine or even lite beer. Did I also mention it’s more expensive to live up here as well? Food and rent prices are generally higher, and property costs more to buy, even with the current exchange rate. A lot of places close on public holidays as well as Sundays and Mondays and Wal-Mart is no longer taking VISA payments in some of its stores. And if you want to shop at Target instead… oh, wait. You can’t. They’re all shut. Permanently. Then there’s the bears. Who aren’t to be messed with, even in the suburbs of Vancouver. They’re are also known to break into cars (To be fair, it was a Lexus). On the plus side, the wildlife does tend to keep the human varmints indoors, when they’re not indulging in the odd gang shooting (The gang bangers, not the Bears or Cougars). Which keeps our local Police busy. Yes, and Marijuana isn’t fully legal just yet. So before you sell up and fill up the U-Haul, take a deep breath.

Then there’s the Governance. It’s a bit more, well, intrusive if you know what I mean. Especially at the local scale. We might currently have a progressive prime minister, but no, Canada is not the progressive paradise you might think it is. Trudeau or no.

Don’t even mention the First Nations land claims or the endless prevaricating over relatively simple decisions like building a new sewage treatment facility for BC’s provincial capital. Or that our Provincial Prime Minister avoids coming to Victoria as much as possible because there’s “No real people” here (Which I find a bit insulting). Dear me no. A can of worms? More like truckloads. It’s why things move at a slower pace up here in the not so frozen north. Especially immigration.

However, we like it, but for Americans some of our more, ahem, eccentric practices might be too much of an an acquired taste. So are you damn Yankees absolutely sure you’re going to head north if, or more likely when, Donald Trump becomes the next US President?

What he said

Read this article penned (or rather keyed) by the ever logical Mr Willis Eschenbach over at Wattsupwithat.com. Which is a fine analysis of exactly how many people get killed by the Police in the USA and more to the point, why. It makes interesting reading. Especially the information that two ‘white’ people die in Police related incidents for every single ‘black’ or African American. That’s right, double the deaths that the BLM activists are all worked up about. Not percentages, but actual cold hard numbers.

Back in my foot patrol days I recall a conversation with my old beat buddy Asif. It’s still clear in my memory even ten years on. We were bitching about the job, and what we were thinking of doing with our lives instead of pounding pavement, collecting abuse and blisters for the sake of parking tickets. I suggested to him that he might make a first class dog handler in the Police Force. Seriously, never met a better man with animals. He loved dogs (Especially German Shepherds) and would have been brilliant at it. Asif, as his pseudonym implies, is not ‘white’. Lovely bloke, but his own worst enemy.
He demurred, responding; “Yeah, but the Police beat up black people.”
To which I half-jokingly replied; “The Police beat up everybody. It’s their job.”
To my shame I was never able to convince him otherwise. He had this peer group driven belief that the Police arrested by skin colour alone instead of criminal behaviour and nothing would shift it. Sad really.

On a more serious note, I think there’s traction here for the various Police Unions in the USA to start some class action lawsuits against media and other organisations that exaggerate and twist the facts over Police related deaths. The proceeds from which should pay the college funds for the dependants of officers killed in the line of duty because of such propaganda. Hey, Gloogle, Farcebook and Twatter have billions. Maybe they should form a financial trust for the families of officers killed in the line of duty, seeing as it’s their platforms that are used to transmit much of the anti-Police rhetoric.

Just general stuff

Well that’s the beginning of our next big trip sorted out. Two new touring jackets and helmets, body armour etc. Matching his and hers ordered. Pricey, but I’ve got the money having made a good deal over the weekend, despite being out of the country. After that I pulled my assets out of stocks and shares because I’m concerned the US market may be close to peak, and don’t fancy losing all my gains if there’s a Wall Street Crash event while I’m busy elsewhere. So, a little profit taking has been done, and I’m standing back for a moment to catch my breath and see what’s going on in the background.

One of the people I’ve begun listening to a lot is Mark Blyth (See sample talk below)

He actually seems to have his finger on the pulse, talking clearly and concisely about macroeconomic matters and their consequences. He’s rational, logical, amusing, down to earth and makes an otherwise difficult topic, so often clouded with politically motivated bamboozlement by the doctrinaire, sound so simple. Save, don’t save, export, trade balances, assets, liabilities he covers a great swath of the worlds economic ills and their root causes. One to follow.

crow and half mastSo, we’re back from the northwestern USA, having seen a lot of flags flying at half mast in memory of the five murdered Dallas Police officers. Every Police station, city hall, fire department and quite a few businesses we saw were flying the stars and stripes thus. Which leads me into a puzzlement. How does whipping up others to kill Policemen advance the cause of the BLM activists? That’s a completely counter intuitive strategy, rather like fucking to increase virginity. Add to that the knowledge that a good many of the class warriors stirring things up are northern European in appearance. In short, what we used to call ‘rent-a-mob’. Turning up at any protest to scream and shout mainly because it gives their miserable lives a perverse sort of meaning.

Not that we saw much of their antics. Near the place we spent last weekend, we observed a great many people blundering around peering intently at their dumbphone screens, headphones on, almost oblivious to the outside world. Apparently many are engrossed in an online game called ‘Pokemon Go‘. Even to the point of playing while driving. Which may qualify them for a Darwin award. One man in New York state is known to have wrapped his car around a tree while playing (I’m surprised he’s the only one reported thus). Stories are emerging of players wandering aimlessly into busy traffic and various Police forces have issued safety warnings. There have been no reported fatalities as yet, but it’s early days. The shallow end of the gene pool always gets emptied first.

As for the Nice attack, words fail me. Well, apart from thinking how pointless it was. Like with Paris last year, we’re not changing next years travel plans for it.

Gosh, is that my cynicism? I was wondering where I’d left it.

Minor issue

If my last remaining reader visits the comment stream in the previous entry they could be forgiven for thinking something is amiss. Particularly comments marked “Fake comment” or “Another fake comment” with Longriders gravatar attached. Not so; we have an impersonator troll issue from a total slaphead who used to hound the late lamented Captain Ranty amongst others. Our impersonator troll seems not to have learned anything from that experience, which does not imbue one with any confidence in his cognitive abilities. At present I’m actually having a bit of fun with our unwanted visitor, who is currently reduced to the level of highly unimaginative monosyllabic invective. Poor ickle bunny, has I upset oo den?

An Internet TrollSo I’m trying very hard not to howl with laughter as I type. He is such a sad, deluded little puffed up pile of unpleasantness I’m almost tempted (But not quite) to get my pity out of cold storage. On the other hand, why bother? To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw’s Henry Higgins from the stage play ‘Pygmalion‘ (Act 2, pg. 40) “He’s so deliciously low”

Should any of you wish to hear the story of how our rather unpleasant little visitor was first encountered, may I refer you to this post from May 2012. You may be amused.

I’ll block him when I tire of his shenanigans.

On the road again

Another day, another hotel room. It’s like being a road warrior again without all the chasing after customers. Shonky, insecure wi-fi, cable TV, identical corridors (where am I today?) and little time to write. I have, on the bright side, sourced a copy of ‘Mencken’ by Alistair Cooke containing a collection of articles by the great H L Mencken. While Mrs S and I are doing different conferences in differing places, it provides a little brain breathing space. Reading through, the thought occurs that very little changes in politics. At least in the USA.

Told you so

Well colour me cynical. Not that I’m a nice person anyway. My days of wide eyed innocence were lost many moons ago. But today’s news of a top level resignation has me sitting here with a smug smile on my face. Back in March 2015 I wrote:

“…anyone taking a new, PC sanitised Top Gear on will have to be really, really, good, or more likely be so blindly ambitious they don’t realise they’re committing career Seppuku…”

Bye, bye Chris Evans. Told you so. When I told Mrs S, she promptly punched the air with a shouted “YES!” She doesn’t like Evans either, he’s “Just loud.”. Me, I think he’s a very noisy one trick pony. Some people find him funny, but then they’d probably have a good giggle at a public execution.

No seriously; the Beeb tried to ‘keep the old format’ and re-create the same kind of car show. Which was a mistake. And like the vast majority of remakes it turned the revamped show into a complete turkey which threatens to fold after only one year. By contrast Clarkson’s version ran for thirteen years.

So, the new revamped Top Gear looks like sinking without trace whilst The Grand Tour, starring Clarkson, May and Hammond comes out sometime this year on Amazon Prime. Which may get shown here on Shomi, as for some reason known only to Canadian Broadcasting, we can’t get Amazon Prime north of the 49th parallel. Not that I watch TV anyway. Well, apart from advert-free streaming on Netflix and Shomi. At least I get to choose which repeats I watch.

Not that we’ll be watching much for the next week or so as we’re going into conference mode. Mrs S and I are heading over to the mainland and then down south of the border for a few days to partake of our respective conferences and shop for a few electronic bits and bobs before heading back home for the rest of the Summer. The only trip I intend making after that for 2016 is to hire a motorcycle and pootle off up island some time in August or early September. Maybe the week after Labour Day, when the weather is still good and the crowds have all gone.

Interesting…

I’ve just been fielded an email about the UK’s referendum to exit the European Union. Specifically about this press release from London Law firm Miscon De Reya’s legal challenge regarding the EU Referendum result. Oddly enough on behalf of anonymous clients. The briefest précis of which is to forbid the UK’s Prime Minister ‘triggering’ Article 50 without a full parliamentary debate and act of Parliament.

However, there are differing opinions; the Jack of Kent blog runs a legal thought experiment on whether or not, because the intent had already been stated to ‘trigger’ article 50 if the British people voted in favour of leaving, then a Parliamentary debate and act of Parliament is unnecessary.

Pass it on; this looks like being fun.

So…

Another day, another picnic. Today I have prepared Tacos and Southern Fried (In my case baked) chicken. Previous taste tests have been positive, so I’m sticking with the tried and trusted today.

Anyway; what’s new out in the wider world?

I see 50,000-odd (Some odder than others) people have been marching against Democracy in London. By comparison; London February 15th 2003, around 750,000 protested against the Iraq war. Didn’t make a spit of difference. 50,000 by comparison, some of whom (If you read the text) are not UK citizens and therefore not eligible to vote in a UK referendum, making the protest a mere drop in the ocean. Not that the anti-Iraq war protests really achieved anything. Blair still committed the UK’s armed forces. 50,000? As the French would say; “Call that a march? It’s not even a Janvier – pff”

Similarly; Mrs S’s Open University course on the EU is proving lively, with a great many sceptical voices in the forums. It’s an online course with people from as far away as Brazil and New Zealand taking part. She tells me that only one pro-EU voice spoke out to indulge in a single trollish ad hominem attack against everyone else, which was promptly ignored. I think the person who made the bitter remark subsequently left the course in a huff as they haven’t been heard from since. Or possibly even huff a minute. (Ouch. Sorry, I’ll get me coat)

Over here the Postal workers are going on strike next week. I will be using UPS myself for important documentation. They get my packages and letters where needed on time every time. Not in three bloody weeks (For Air mail no less!) I have some important legal documents to go to the UK next week and am not entrusting sensitive documents to Canada Post. I can’t afford to muck around either as Mrs S and I are off to a conference on Wednesday and have to get stuff notarised and sent before then. Costs me a hundred and fifty bucks a time for notarising and sending, but as the deal is time sensitive it’s worth the expense.

It’s also National Fishing Week. Which I’m going to miss this year (Again!). Never mind, when I’m back home on the 12th I intend to cast my cares on the waters regardless of whether there’s a festival or not.

Another day…

…Another few dollars, although not quite as many as I’d hoped. Still, not a bad result for all that. Money is complicated. People must be reimbursed for their services, taxes must be paid, and so the money goes round. The timing could have been better, but I’m not totally unhappy. Next time it will only be me with my finger on the financial trigger, so I’ll only have myself to blame if it all goes arse about face. However, I’ve looked at the options of my chosen course of action, and I’m fairly confident of a stable long term outcome. Short of a cataclysmic meteorite impact or the Earth suddenly opening up and swallowing the piece of rock my money will be accumulating in, or the world having a total civil and cultural meltdown of course. Which is the investment version of touching wood or other action meant to placate the gods of finance.

2017 Europe tripAnyway; with all the whining and bitching about Brexit, this weekend I thought I’d post something a little more uplifting and pro-Europe (Although not pro-EU). Or annoying, depending on how sore a loser you are. The road map for the Bill Sticker European tour of 2017. Ta-daa! (Click to enlarge)

Now as no plan survives contact with the enemy, the above map should only be viewed as a general guideline. All locations are open to change. No definitive bookings have been made, and only a deposit has been put on the machine we are to purchase. Proposed starting date is from the UK in the first week of May 2017, thence heading south and west into France, towards the Rhone Valley and may take us further East and North than illustrated on the return leg, depending upon weather. I’ve done my stint riding in all sorts of shit and slush over the last three decades and have decided it’s not much fun. Especially when even the most impermeable waterproof trousers (Why is it always the trousers?) start to fail and unwanted moisture begins to make its presence felt in all those embarrassing little places.

The only way our proposed tour can go tits up is if all the wronged Brussels bureaucrats have a major snit at anyone speaking English and decides visas and passports from predominantly English speaking countries are invalid. In which case I’ll have just flushed a great deal of money down the great white telephone to no good purpose. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. Article 50 negotiations and changes will take a lot longer than two years because the lawyers will want all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. Then said negotiations can’t even start until there’s a new Prime Monster in Number Ten Downing Street. Even if Brussels decides a total ban on all things and people British is a jolly super wheeze, we’ll have until at least September 2019 to shoehorn our trip in. Besides, we’re Canadian with certificates to prove it. With an EU fiendish PM no less. So will bluff our way through somehow.

I’m not going to find myself in the position my dear departed old mother found herself in around 11th June 1940. She was touring with a band in Italy at the outbreak of World War II and found herself with a whole train load of British, French and other refugees at the French / Italian border, having been kicked out by Benito Mussolini’s Fascist government. “Suitcases all over the place.” As she often gleefully recounted her temporary predicament. How she got out of Vichy France she never said, but I think she escaped as one of the civilians taken out by Operation Ariel, which is the unsung cousin of the famous Dunkirk evacuation.

Not that anything like that is going to happen to we 21st century travellers. We might get a little unhappiness from border guards, but frankly I think their attitude will be; “We’ve had your money – now piss off.” Which is fine by me.

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

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