No wonder

High tide at lunchtime today, and am going down to the waters edge to play with my little friends the Smallmouth Bass. It’s a fair bargain; I give them a free feed, one or two of them get a free ride to the surface before I let them go. None of them are big enough for the pan, so why not? I use barbless hooks. Win-win.

Fishing is a more a contemplative than physical exercise anyway. It’s why people do it. The luxury of time to think without distraction. It was a zen thing before zen and all that complicated yoga twisting and bending came along.  In male terms at least, fishing is to zen what yoga is to the garden shed.  Both are designed to fulfill the same purpose, to free the mind for contemplation. Something which is in short supply nowadays.

There are far too many strident voices with agendas spouting falsehoods. From Politicians in hock to every vested interest and lobbyist under the sun to big Eco, with its original wide eyed idealism bought and sold by those with major financial interests in the currently flatlining ‘Carbon trading’ markets. Everybody is shouting, but oh so few are actually sitting back and doing some serious critical listening.   Apart from a few ‘lunatic’ bloggers.  Then again, we’re all ‘conspiracy nuts’ aren’t we? Tinfoil hats on permanent and prominent display. Candidates for the rubber room to a man. Yeah, right.

I haven’t quite got to the point where I need to fact check everything everybody else says, but it is very tempting.  Honesty and integrity have been devalued to the point where ordinary day to day folk might be active practitioners, but the higher* you go, the less these qualities seem in evidence.  An appeal to authority as a means of proof can therefore be seen to be less than adequate.  White lies were once seen as a necessary means of smoothing social intercourse, (and also as a very necessary means of smoothing the path to sexual intercourse) but now the falsehoods are so common, it’s easy to become overtly cynical in record time**.  Search engines may be the discerning readers friend here, but remember, just because it’s written down doesn’t make it true. Trust only the evidence. Which so many fail to look for.

No wonder the world’s in a mess. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Hi ho, it’s a gorgeous BC day and I’m off to enjoy it. TTFN

* Some, including myself, might posit that the adjective ‘higher’ when applied to human hierarchies should have the caveat; “The higher you seek to climb, the lower you have to sink.” firmly attached, like those interminable warning labels on half the hardware in the shops.
**Just as an aside; I wonder whether there is a ‘speed of cynicism’ like in ‘speed of light’?  Some form of self limiting factor?

What does FTW Mean?

I used an acronym in this morning’s post which I think could use a little disambiguation. That term was ‘FTW‘. In the lexicon I learned as a youth it has only ever meant one thing.

Now hands up those who thought FTW means, ‘For the win’? Really? No. I’m sorry, that is so weak it isn’t true. That is geek speak, and as such ephemeral (Not to mention teeth grindingly, embarrassingly awful).

Hands up those who think it means ‘Forever two wheels‘? Work in marketing do you? It most definitely does not carry this meaning. Never has. Knowing Biker society as I used to, if it was meant to carry that meaning it would be ‘TWF’. Karol Griffin’s quotation from ‘Skin deep’ is bullshit, crap, total bollocks, and just goes to show you shouldn’t believe all you read. ‘Real’ bikers, or at least the ones I used to know, would laugh themselves senseless if they heard anyone espouse this view. Probably uttering that expression of Interweb amused incomprehension; “WTF?”

Hands up those who think it means ‘For those wondering‘? Okay, this acronym has a little more credibility as the syntax makes reasonable grammatical sense if you’re a nerdish researcher on one of the more studied and polite Internet forums. However, it is not correct.

Hands up those who think it means ‘Fuck the world‘? Correct! Go to the top of the class, give yourself a slightly tarnished gold star. This is the meaning it had prior to the 1980’s, and the one I always use it for.

“FTW” expresses the desire for the rest of the world to stop interfering, for solitude, for surcease from the falseness and the doublespeak that perverts the course of human relationships. It means ‘I don’t care, leave me in peace’s. A meaning of honest brutality. It is the last snarl against the world on a suicide note. It means; “I am going my own way and damn the rest of you.” Usually expressed in a tattoo or graffiti. It is the frustrated roar of the underdog who has slipped his leash. It is sound and fury made flesh. It is an angry phrase made from gasoline, alloy, spilled SAE 10w40 oil, scarred fists and steel toed motorcycle boots.

I can see where the other, and much later invented meanings came from. They are the lies you tell your Mum when she finds you in hospital after a nasty crack up, undressed for the first time since you were three and sees your motley collection of skin art. The lies you tell the cute Nurse or the pretty young thing with doe eyes you’re having serious lustful thoughts about. The lies you tell your beloved on your wedding night when she asks you to tell her why you got that strange tattoo and what it means. The lies you tell your parole board or crusading prison visitor (Never done time, never want to, but some of my old close friends have). The lies you tell teacher when he / she finds the hastily written expostulation in your homework and you don’t want to fail the course. The lies you tell an employer / employee who sees you with your sleeves rolled up and doesn’t know about your previous unsavory history. The lies you tell an Officer who has the presence of mind (or not) to read squaddie tattoos. The lies told to a curious child who Daddy does most definitely not want to follow in his footsteps. A clumsy but well meaning attempt to ‘gentrify’ motorcycling from its less than respectful late 20th century outlaw roots.

All the aforementioned are reasonable excuses to dilute this most pejorative of phrases. They were invented and promoted by the kind of middle class meddlers who ‘preserve’ old folk songs but deliberately exclude the mucky (and some would say the best) bits.

“FTW” is, and to the best of my knowledge has been outlaw biker / con / squaddie speak since the 1950’s for ‘Fuck the World’. The ultimate expression of frustrated liberty. Everything else is a pallid falsehood.

It is also worth noting that Vietnam era GI’s sometimes meant it to mean “Fuck the war”, but this is a perversion of its original meaning.

A thunderingly good day

While the world goes to hell, the prissy ‘ban everything’ brigade continually interferes in the lives of ordinary people, politicians build follies based on flawed ideas, agents provocateurs and their proxies burn embassies and threaten others in a kind of proxy warfare (Er, how come they burned the US Embassy when the movie was made by an Egyptian?), what was I doing?

Not much.

I went fishing.

Bugger it, this world gets crazier. News of the insanity delivered by dramatically breathless news anchors in irritatingly jump cut and superficial coverage. Media coverage is increasingly like a sandwich which is all bread and no filling. All emotion and no logic. I hate it for the warped picture of the world it delivers, and don’t watch if I can help it.

Yes, I went fishing. Took some local advice and went to my favourite pile of rocks at the waters edge with a set of small hooks and spinners. Set for another three or four fruitless hours of what I’m often given to describe as ‘casting practice’. While I’m there I watch the Seals, seabirds, Blue Heron, Sea Lions, Otters, Eagles, and occasional Orca. It’s peaceful. I don’t mind not catching anything. You have time to think.

No one bothers a fisherman. An armed mob of headhunters with machetes will ignore a man intent on fishing. Well, they might stop and politely enquire if he’s caught anything yet, but then rampage on. Said putative mob might even pause to watch and cheer if the fisherman caught something while they were watching. Unless it was a mob from a bunch of animal rights hypocrites, in which case the fisherman would be first on the list.

Yesterday the fish were biting. Every cast. Every single, wonderful, mother loving cast. Only young Smallmouth Bass, but they’re spunky little fighters and fun, fun, fun. Caught a few, threw them all back. Ran out of bait with a happy heart for all the sport they gave me. As sunset was colouring the rocks of Link Island a dusky Martian pink I tipped my hat to the Water Gods in thanks and began the mile long scramble back home over logjams and rocks. I had a thundering good day.

Sometimes you have to say “FTW” (Number 3) and have what fun you can.

No I’m not telling you where it is. Because after I’ve been to the store this morning to get some fresh bait and a couple of spinners I will be back there. With a big grin on my face. Up tide and down. Yeah.

Wind turbine noise

There is lots of Interweb ‘noise’ on this subject, specifically to do with a thing called ‘infrasound’. On a casual google there are a number of fairly cursory looking studies that look like they are based on single measurements. However, I did come across this rather more in depth article from India on the physiological and psychological effects of low frequency noise. Rather than just focus on infrasound and thereby miss the point, it discusses associated phenomena such as steady tone and intermittent noise, and the evidence of ill effects. I’ve served time on noisy shop floors, and understand things like pain thresholds, and the irritability an erratic low frequency noise can engender.

I don’t normally do formal citations, as this is only a blog, but this study which is about industrial low frequency sound (As opposed to the supposedly ‘eco-friendly’ and therefore ‘harmless’ noise from Wind Turbines) but today I will;
Mahendra Prashanth KV, Venugopalachar S. The possible influence of noise frequency components on the health of exposed industrial workers – A review. Noise Health [serial online] 2011 [cited 2012 Sep 13];13:16-25. Available from:

Also of interest:

Schust M. Effects of low frequency noise up to 100 Hz. Noise Health [serial online] 2004 [cited 2012 Sep 13];6:73-85. Available from:

I wonder whether anyone has actually done a formal assessment to see if the noise profile of wind turbines cross correlates with the above research. From what I’ve seen so far, I think not.

Anyway. Day off from the day job, and I’m going fishing. Just me, some rocks, my road and lures, the Otters, Sea Lions, Orcas and Seals; and maybe even a fish.

Smart meter gossip

Wonder if anyone from Florida can assist on this one. One of my contacts within the local power utility was overheard saying something about ‘Smart meters’ being removed from various premises in that state. They weren’t specific on the reasons, and of course it’s purely tech gossip and therefore not to be trusted as gospel, but are there any locales where the not-so-smart meters are actually not going in due to local opposition / operational difficulties? Or even where they are being removed?

The local meter readers don’t seem to be being laid off Like they were when this whole business began, and indeed appear busier than ever.

There are all sorts of rumours flying around about the so-called ‘smart grids’ not having a snowballs chance in hell of going fully operational because important decisions have been made for political and aspirational reasons rather than technical feasibility. Unverified, but all the same…

That’s all I know for certain right now, but I am starting to hear metaphorical wheels squeaking from all the backpedaling going on in the background. Very interesting…. Pity it’s eaten up so much taxpayer subsidy in these straitened times.

Another day, another foot in the mouth

Back in the old country, I see the idiot Limp Dems are at it again. The UK is in one of the worst economic fixes since the 1930’s and they’re talking about a Nationalised National bank and the ‘rights’ of homosexuals to ‘marry’.

Nationalised banks? Another way to rob the poor bloody UK taxpayer of even more of their hard earned to subsidise lending and spend it inefficiently on politicians pork barrel promises. The fallout will make the 70’s, where UK industry almost collapsed look like a stroll in the park. Some say it already does.

To the homosexual lobbyists wanting the same ‘rights’ as heterosexual couples I would say; are you crazy? Do you really see the legal and fiscal noose you’re running your necks into? These are the self same ‘rights’ that politicians mess around with regarding tax breaks and inheritance whenever they feel like a little wealth redistribution. Which is just about every other budget. Trust me, the whole marriage business is too complicated by half, and you’d do better by using the law as it stands to circumvent all the tax tricks and traps by getting a decent specialist tax accountant. It will be much cheaper. Cheaper than lawyers. Although my youngest is in training and will no doubt welcome your business later in her career. The whole marriage thing needs a serious overhaul to redress the imbalances laid for the unwary in the divorce courts.

For those homosexuals still determined to get legally hitched I would counsel thus; politicians will cheerfully lead you down the garden path to a place where more of your disposable income can be liberated for the privilege you so desire. Trust me on this. If it were a simple matter of ‘with ring I thee wed’ and sharing the tax breaks I’d simply shrug my shoulders and say “Go for it.” It isn’t. Read the fine print. I say this as a very married man. However, if you’re determined to ignore my advice, I have no issue. Knock yourselves out; but remember, any tax savings aren’t that great. Good luck. You’re going to need it.

I’d even go so far as to make a little prediction. As soon as Homosexuals get the ‘equality’ they desire, all the tax breaks for marriage, tax free pension and asset transfers, will dry up like spit on a hot stove. For everyone. So there will be no prejudice. Everyone will be truly equal, regardless of sexual orientation. Won’t that be nice?

Quite frankly I don’t give a shit what Nick Clegg’s office says about dissenting voices. Every time he opens his mouth he must have trouble making himself heard for the shoe leather. Sometimes I think that UK politics is going to eat itself and he’s just trying to be first politician to do it literally. Who knows? These are part of life’s great mysteries. Better that they remain so.

Just as an aside, did you know that the word ‘Bigot’ is taken from a Montreal dwelling Francois Bigot, Intendant of New France around mid 1700’s? Rather like ‘Chauvinism’ was also named after a Frenchman, the eponymous and legendary Nicholas Chauvin. Fascinating stuff, History. Pity that UK politicians ignore it so much.

Will the light dawn?

From today’s Tellytubbygraph; the ‘how come this is news item’ that Government campaigns to make everyone ‘happy’ actually have the opposite effect. Rather like those parodies of American Summer Camps where over enthusiastic camp hosts with their over the top happy clappy routines drive the kids crazy. Rather like a theatrical production, which all run on the razor edge of a disaster curve anyway. Some people like having their ‘happiness’ packaged up and delivered like pizza, some don’t. Particularly if it’s the pizza someone else wanted you to have, not the one you ordered.

Such top down attempts of making people ‘happy’ are doomed to fail. The psychodynamics are too complex, and the ‘one size fits all’ approach beloved of overweening states are doomed to failure. There is too much (Excuse me while I pause for an ironic snort of laughter) diversity. Newsflash! A lot of people actually like doing different things.

Totalitarian states, with a huge slave client population can please a lot of people most of the time because the population don’t know any better, but even there dissent will fester because there will always be an excluded element who think that the great leader is a greasy fat pillock with all the charm of a spitting cobra on amphetamines.

Here’s my experience. Making everyone ‘happy’ in any given household is an impossible task. Think of trying to please everyone like having a house full of teenagers (horrified shudder). Put on a big noisy event (Oo, I don’t know, you could call it the ‘Olympics’ or some such) and give them lots of cake, and apart from having to have the place redecorated / rebuilt they will, for a given value of happy, actually experience ‘happiness’ for a while. The cake might get consumed (possibly in a food fight) or just thrown in the bin, and someone will inevitably smuggle in some booze to ‘loosen things up’ (Usually female knicker elastic) and let the chaos begin. The fallout of hangovers, unexplained pregnancies, unresolvable blood feuds, broken fixtures and fittings, and still soggy condoms found in the oddest of places a year later will provide the grown ups with endless topics of conversation. Yet will the kids be happy? No. They’re happier when they can take a DIY approach to their own pleasures. Grown ups just get in the way, even if they are the ones to pick up the pieces. This is the downside of power and authority; responsibility.

Better not to try, hide the valuables, let the teens sort themselves out in a barn down a remote garden. Let them take care of their own entertainment, sort out their own supplies and get on with it. The fallout will still be the same, and the official ‘happiness’ index won’t move an iota, but at least the grown ups will have the satisfaction of knowing they can do their own thing while the kids are pleasing themselves. Apart from the inevitable panicky phone call from a friend saying your offspring have passed out and need rescue at 3am. Been there, done that.

Will the UK Government realise that you can’t please all of the people all of the time? Will they understand that getting the economy right is more important than bread and circuses? Or is the real power so far out of their hands that behavioural modification, bread and circuses is all they have left? Take your pick.

Vive la Résistance!

Haven’t smoked in a quarter of a century, but I’m putting this blogs miniscule weight behind Pat Nurse’s counter movement which is a counter campaign against the ‘Do as you are told!’ faction that manages to spread such misery wherever it goes.

Thou shalt…not

Since we’ve been in Canada, Mrs S and I always get a shock to the system every time we skip back across the water to visit friends and family. Canada may be one of the more highly regulated places this side of the world, but there’s none of this nitpicking day to day micromanagement that goes on in the old country. Apart from the various smoking bans in restaurants and bars, which everyone fails to get too stressed about. You want to smoke? Sure buddy, over there. Just not here, okay? I’ve yet to see any of the hand waving hysteria that gets reported in the UK.

For example, no self respecting coffee shop over here would dream of not offering cream with coffee simply because it’s suddenly become ‘company policy’ for some strange and arbitrary reason (EU regulations. no doubt).

Pharmacies over here don’t refuse to sell non prescription items, even if they aren’t usually on the shelves. To be succinct, I’m on a high protein, low carbohydrate diet regime to shed a few pounds. 1) Because I like it, and 2) Because it guarantees the weight loss without the cravings. Now one of the little monitoring tools used to regulate this diet are called Ketostix, reagent strips used to measure ketones in the urine. Ketostix are not a drug, they won’t hurt you even if you chew through an entire package, and they are only used as a urine monitoring device, rather like a pregnancy test kit.

Last time we were in the UK, despite their non-prescription status, several large outlet ‘pharmacists’ (Unqualified minimum wage shop assistants in white coats) refused to sell Ketiostix to us, stating that it was ‘company policy’. “Yes, but who will you sell them to?” We asked.
“Diabetics.” The answer came back. “If they have a prescription.”
“But Ketostix don’t need a prescription, and how do you know we’re not diabetics who’ve left our documents at home?.”
“Ah, but it’s company policy not to sell them to anyone but Diabetics with a prescription.” Said the pharmacy assistant.
“Why?” I asked. “What else do you refuse to sell because it’s company policy?” I snarled as a parting shot, and did not wait for an answer before wandering round the corner to a more traditional pharmacy where the request; “I’d like to buy some Ketostix.”
Was met with a cheery. “Here you are sir.” And money changed hands for goods. Sorted. All smiles. Job done.
Yesterday I was in Wal-Mart and couldn’t find what I wanted on the shelves, so I asked one of the Pharmacy Assistants. “Sure. Have an awesome day.” She said, handing over the Ketostix. Big genuine smile, friendly eye contact. You don’t get those in the UK either.

We don’t have the silly 16 tablet pack maximum restrictions on Aspirin, Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen (Paracetomol) either. I could go on, but upon reflection the majority of you voted for Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, and the EU, and will keep on voting for the same old, same old, so you’ll get no sympathy from me.

At this point the line from Tommy, the Who’s 1969 Rock Opera pops into my head;
“You’ve been told many times before,”
“Messiah’s pointing to the door,”
“But no one has the guts to leave the Temple………”

Kitimat and Enbridge

Don’t normally post about BC, because I generally consider myself still very much learning the ropes over here. However, there are things that pique one’s attentions, so I thought that instead of running off at the blog, I’d find out what was really going on in the Northwest corner of the province where a lot of people are up in arms about the proposed terminus / refinery for the Enbridge pipeline. According to the Wikipedia entry, Kitimat is a company town built by Alcan Aluminium in the 1950’s with a population of just over 8,300 people. I’ve looked at it from Google Earth, and as far as I can see, there isn’t much of the pristine wilderness about the area.

The town of Kitimat was designed as a ‘garden city’ back in the 50’s and looks quite spacious while some of the actual industrial facilities have a run down look about them, even though RTZ, the current owners, are putting a new smelter in place as part of a modernisation project. It’s a heavy industrial site. Go look for yourself.

Google Earth shows a first nations community down the fjord from the Alcan works, and a sheltered deep water channel with existing deep water port facilities open to the Pacific. These are already in use by shipping.

Terrace, and Burns lake are two other towns which are slated as points of interest for the Enbridge project. These are ex logging towns which could both do with a serious economic injection. Neither of these areas are ‘pristine wilderness’ as claimed by some eco-worriers. ‘Thousands of lakes’ are not even in the same valleys that the proposed pipeline will pass through. Wildlife tends to recolonise as soon as all those pesky two legs and their noise have moved on and left this big long shiny thing which is about as threatening as a Ground Squirrel.

Man made pollution has been a problem in the past, but modern technology is a lot less leaky and far cleaner than the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. The proof is all around us. Hell, I live less than five kilometres from a massive pulp mill, and the only time you know it is there is when the wind shifts to the North. Locally, no one pays it much mind, and even when the gluey cabbage pickling smell does pop round like a visit from an ageing tramp, it’s taken more as a weather omen. Locally the Harmac mill has just been given a grant of nine million bucks to clean up its act and reduce the stack emissions amongst other things, but even so, when the smell finally goes I think we’ll actually miss it.

Regarding past pollution; the city where I live and work is half built upon coal mine tailings. Yet Nanaimo is known as a very clean place to live. Twas not always thus. Mid 19th century photo here, and a helpfully annotated picture of the same area from 1858, here. Likewise, the Departure Bay coal wharves of yesteryear, and the same general area now (ish).

Isn’t a little industrial archaeology interesting? Go check out the local coal mine exhibit at the local museum. Read books like ‘Boss Whistle’ then have a walk around downtown for the landmarks. See any? They’re quite easy to miss, even though in plain sight.  This place used to be filthy.

I’ve also been looking at the causes of pipeline spills, and in the main these tend to be accidental due to a combination of poor contractor information and accident, with a little sabotage (people making their own taps into large pipelines to steal the oil), and even dynamiting installations thrown in for good measure. Ironically often by people who claim to ‘care’ about the pollution threat from any given pipeline.

Another area for concern is in older pipelines (around thirty to fifty plus years old) where the corrosive nature of oil and water vapour have corroded weak spots / welds in the lines, connections to valves and similar locations.

So, pipelines do leak, but how do they compare with road accidents? Or rail? There is little available data apart from news items on rail derailments and road tanker crashes. Yet the oil has to move, to be sold, or it can be left in the tar sands as part of the biggest natural oil spill in the world. But hey, that’s Alberta’s problem, right? Or if BC doesn’t want the jobs a new pipeline, refinery, and attendant extra shipping can bring, it can continue to hemorrhage skilled people and their taxpayer dollar.

My conclusion?  BC needs the pipeline as much as Alberta and the rest of Canada.  BC needs the jobs and the income, as does Alberta.  The pipeline and refinery should be built because comparatively speaking, the environmental risks and impacts are fairly low compared to the economic impacts of not selling a resource to an available market with real money; a.k.a. the Chinese.  We can clean up any spills because we know how, and there’s another employment opportunity.

*I’d like to point out that I have no association or affiliation, paid or not, with any of the interested parties, apart from being a payer of Canadian tax dollar.

One I will be watching

Just popped into my inbox. The trailer for the second part of the movie series ‘Atlas Shrugged’. Due for general release 12th October 2012.
Lots of Hollywoodesque special effects of course, but the theme of the rights of the individual against the collective is still as valid. Not that it will make the theatres up north of the 49th parallel. I will no doubt have to order it from Amazon.

Didn’t see the first of the series being shown locally. Nor will it appear on Netflix. Too subversive for the proles no doubt.

Just as an aside; another of Rand’s uncompromising ‘objectivist’ novels ‘the Fountainhead‘ was made as a movie back in 1949 with Gary Cooper in the lead role.

Those damned selfish individualists! When will they understand all their hard earned belongs to everybody? /sarc

Government as Godzilla

Picked up from the irrepressible Frank J Fleming of IMAO, the idea that most modern Governments resemble Tomoyuki Tanaka‘s comic creation, the fictional raging Japanese Manga* Monster, Godzilla. O-okay. Kind of weird and goofy as a mental image, but upon careful examination, quite accurate, even witty.

What do Governments do best? Hmm. That’s fairly easy. Big stuff like defence, wars, infrastructure, all that jazz. What do Governments do worst? Another easy one. Everything.

Asking Government to fix a relatively small scale problem is rather like calling for Godzilla to do your windows. The end result is the Windows smashed, your home and all its contents trodden into an unrecognisable pile of rubble, and the shrubbery thoroughly trampled. Not to mention the resultant defoliation caused by its radioactive breath. Watching Big Government at work is an entertaining spectacle from afar, but not so funny when you’re the poor sod getting under its feet. Big Governments do not do small. They do the one size fits all thing very well indeed, but when it comes to the fine detail bring the Loki like law of unforeseen consequence grinning and dancing in their footsteps.

For example; dealing with Government departments, as we all know, is a difficult and delicate process. One must always be aware that there is a massive gap between the brain, which like Godzilla is a long way off and difficult to reach, and the bit you want to stop doing what it is doing, e.g. radioactive halitosis, trampling, claws, tail and property damage. Unfortunately, successfully dealing with one Government department often leads you into conflict with another. Also like Godzilla, discovering it has another vestigial brain in its bloody tail which you must now successfully deal with. Which is frustrating. All the boxes must be ticked in precisely the right order to placate the beast and send it happily wandering back into the primordial ooze from whence it came.

So yes; I think Frank’s entertaining little metaphor works. Invulnerable monster, heavy handed, do not summon lightly. Yet there are a lot of people who will cheerfully call on the beast without a thought for the consequences. Which is where a whole new set of problems arrive.

*Yes, yes, I know, but the alliteration was just so darned tempting.

Is organic orgasmic?

Okay, a quick declaration of interest here; I don’t have an axe to grind one way or the other. I grew up on home grown food. Vegetables from our garden (in season), home reared chickens traded for favours or work done and I must say thrived on it. Some of it was flavourful, rich and much nicer than mass market store bought, but the quality was uneven, and you occasionally had to mind not sinking your teeth into a juicy apple or pear and having to spit out half a mouthful of Codling Moth larvae. Or tuck into a nice fresh green salad to experience the minor horror of half a caterpillar gently writhing on your fork tines. Maybe having to cook the chicken until it was slightly dryer (Or adding butter under the skin to keep the flesh moist) than fashionable to ensure the many bacteria that flourish in domestic fowl do not end up giving you a bad case off the trotsky’s. So yes, I grew up on organic food and know the meaning of the old country saying. “Eat a peck of dirt before you die“? A ‘peck’ being a dry measure of two imperial gallons, or just over 8 litres. That’s a lot of shit to hide in a sandwich.

Yes, but is ‘Organic food’ better? That’s the million dollar question; and my answer is you get what you pay for. Top notch non pesticide tainted grub is very good indeed, but because less of it, proportionally speaking, is fit for market. Pound for pound it costs way more to produce. Which is why ‘organic’ food stores charge like a Rhinoceros with a bad migraine and a psychotic hatred of 4×4’s. Apart from hiking their prices skywards to cash in on the middle class guilt factor.

So when one report says Organic food is no better than more mass produced foodstuffs, buck for buck I’d have to agree. When another report claims that organic food is way better for you than the mass market stuff, I’d have to hang a big “Not so sure” sign on it. Average quality organic, I can tell you from first hand experience, is not better for you, apart from occasionally acting like a vaccination against all the ‘natural’ pests we are heir to. Specifically letting your body get used to toxic bacteria and material in the ‘organic’ foodstuff by exposing you to low level doses like happens with vaccines. It’s all about exercising the immune system. If the foodstuff concerned doesn’t have this slightly icky quality it is most probably no better for you than its mass market equivalent. I derive my proof from the adage; “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Organic food has no more vitamins or mineral content worth writing about, contains no more calories or anything significantly pound for pound, and although the expensive stuff sometimes tastes much nicer (Providing you prepare it right) with major emphasis on ‘sometimes’, you are still paying for a premium product which proportionally speaking takes way more resource in terms of land to grow per unit produced. I won’t say it’s bollocks, but for me, organic food has never lived up to the hype. Even though I grew up on home grown.

As for ‘organic wine’; from the samples I’ve tasted, I’ve rarely been anywhere near even mildly impressed. In fact, if I’m at a function where such beverages are offered, the car keys will magically spring into my pocket, and I will politely demur on the grounds that I do not, under any circumstances, drink and drive. Whether I’d agreed to be the designated driver or not.

Organic meat is a conundrum; but quite frankly you’ll get the same result if you feed, say pigs, windfall apples in a farrowing pen, or let them root for apples in someone’s orchard or after a potato crop has been raised. It’s the feed that gives the flavour, and ‘cardboard’ meat as found in many supermarkets is more down to the quality of feedstuff than whether antibiotics and chemicals were used to ensure the animals were healthy right up to the moment of slaughter. I grew up in the English countryside, and many boyhood hours were spent watching livestock and listening to the farmers who raised them. Amazing what you pick up if you learn to just listen.

I’ve had my doubts about this Organic malarkey for a long time, mainly on the grounds that the overblown claims of health benefits had a phony ring to them. I spent a couple of years in Marketing, so am quite aware of grandiose, even spurious claims are made over any product. So it is with organic foodstuffs.

To conclude; is organic food orgasmic? Well, I hate to say this, but not so’s you’d notice.

Mad dogs and Englishmen

At work recently, one of my co-workers was discovering the restorative value of what is colloquially known as ‘builders tea’. “You know.” She said to me. “I’m beginning to see what you Brits like about this stuff.”
“Oh yes.” Said I, airily, although a little nettled by the ‘you Brits’ label. “It’s one of life’s great restoratives. We built an empire on it.”
“Is it true that you guys used to stop battles to have tea?” She asked.
No idea where that one came from, but I thought I’d play along. “Only the senior officers.” I replied mischievously. “Generals and upwards. Colonels had to drink on the go, and all other ranks had to brew up in foxholes and the like while they were fighting.” Which is probably closer to the truth than most people would like to admit. You can’t exactly down bayonets and say to the other side; “Look chaps, we’re a bit hot and dusty, and it’s close to three o’clock, so would you mind while we take a quick tea break?” Although upon reflection, the sheer psychological value of doing so must have caused many a foreign potentate to think more than twice about taking on the English and their Northern ginger devils in skirts. Especially when the commanders of said forces decide to take a spot of Tiffin mid slaughter. “You don’t build Empires by being nice.” I pointed out. “Tea takes the stress out of Empire building. It’s very soothing.”
“Well you guys don’t have an Empire any more.” She pointed out gleefully.
“Ah yes.” I riposted ruefully. “That’s the curse of Empire, even stronger than Tea. Middle class guilt.”
“Middle class guilt?” She said, suspecting that I wasn’t being entirely serious.
“It’s why Empires fall.” I explained. “At every point in an Empires story, it becomes rich enough to support an extended middle class. Furthermore, the middle class evolves to a point where they feel terribly guilty for all the war and associated naughtiness required to build said Empire and they destroy it from within by not believing in it any more.” I expanded. “The expansion of Empires depend upon their self confidence and ruthlessness. Take that away and they begin to shrink because the energy necessary to push the boundaries of an Empires expansion grows less than the opposing forces. The supply chains get over extended because the will to maintain them fails. Tea is a kind of mental lubricant for this belief. Without it the Empire collapses. Happens to them all. The Greeks built theirs on trade and Hoplites. The Romans on Falernian wine and their Legions fighting discipline. The British on Tea and bayonets. The Americans on Coffee and technology.” I said. “The Germans and Austro Hungarians built a smaller version on Sausage, bombs and Sauerkraut, but that collapsed because it was mainly due to wind. The Ottoman Turks used religion. The French under Napoleon gave Empire building a go, but the smell of garlic and too much red wine did for them in the end.” I added with an air of impeccable logic. “Without tea and belief, Empire becomes too difficult to maintain.”
“What about Canada?” she asked.
“You’re too nice and civilised to have an empire.” I said. “With or without tea. You imported too much middle class guilt from England, and it’s too well embedded in your culture.”
“Oh, that’s all right then.” She said. Although I caught her staring at her teacup with new respect.

Yes I know. It was naughty of me, but I’m just a mad dog of an Englishman at heart, and must take my entertainment where I can find it.

Canadian wine

Sounds like a joke doesn’t it? Wine in the land of the frozen north? Bill, are you taking the piss? Oddly enough no. Mildly irreverent and contemptuous of fools as ever, but no piss taking.

When Mrs S and I first made the jump over to this side of the pond I secretly wondered if I would ever taste a reasonable wine vintage again. At least nothing that was not Australian, New Zealand, a Chardonnay, which is not my favourite grape variety, or hideously expensively imported French. However, it is with significant pleasure I can report that there are some quite reasonable, even remarkable, wines springing full blown from the Okanagan valley. Even at the budget end of the market ($14-20 a bottle).

Although I make no claims to have an educated wine tasters or epicures palate, I do know what is drinkable, and would like to share my top nine vineyards and most liked wines (in no particular order) with whomsoever cares to visit this blog. To set my baseline; I like wines with a pleasant bouquet and nicely rounded flavours that leave little or no aftertaste.

Mission Hill: 2010 Viognier, 2009 Pinot Noir
Quails Gate: 2009 Pinot Noir Stewart Family Special Reserve
Volcanic Hills: 2011 Gewurztraminer
Mt Boucherie: 2011 Pinot Gris, 2010 Gamay Noir
St Hubertus: 2010 Pinot Blanc
Cedar Creek: 2011 Pinot Gris
Gray Monk: 2011 Siegerrebe, 2010 Auxerrois
Intrigue: 2011 Gewurztraminer
Ex Nihilo: 2010 Pinot Noir

Best red: Quails Gate’s 2009 Pinot Noir Stewart Family Special Reserve. No question. By a country mile. Superb. Close second was Mt Boucherie’s 2010 Gamay Noir. Light and nicely balanced.
Best white: A tie between the subtly perfumed but eminently quaffable Gray Monk 2011 Siegerrebe, Cedar Creeks clean and rounded 2011 Pinot Gris and Mission Hill’s perfectly suppable 2010 Viognier. Honourable mention to St Hubertus Pinot Blanc.

We have tasted and purchased bottles of all the above wines and look forward to making suitable occasions to drink them. Did try an Ice Wine, but only one and did not purchase any so any comparison would not be fair. I would also like to mention that no Rose’s were tasted in the writing of this blog.

About the vineyards we visited: Some awards.

Bill Sticker Prize for most impressive goes without contest to Mission Hill. Their open air restaurant is superb and the staff a delight. Beautifully styled grounds. Architecturally stunning.
Bill Sticker Prize for most intimate: This is a toughie, but after due consideration I’d recommend Mt Boucherie. Smallest wine shop, but really worth a visit. Close run second; St Hubertus.
Bill Sticker Low Bullshit Quotient award: St Hubertus. No fancy talk. Small gift shop. Will go again. No question.

Downside: Being charged $5 for tasting three less than impressive wines.
Upside: Incredible views and some surprisingly sippable vintages.

We only managed to visit about sixteen vineyards, but were pleasantly surprised by the variety and quality of most. There were few disappointments (No names, no pack drill, but SBML knows who I mean), and places I wouldn’t visit again, but they are not mentioned in this post. As for the mentioned; fill your boots. They’re good. Even to a tyro with a Biryani ravaged palate like mine.

There are vineyards we didn’t visit simply because of time pressure. Which means, oh dearie me, heavy sigh, we’ve got to go back there at some stage. Life’s a bitch, eh?