I close my eyes

Successful day today.   I’m ahead of the game this morning, both in work and study.  So, it being a bright beautiful British Columbian day, Mrs S and I went out to sort out some last few details before we pootle off on our grand six week trans-american adventure in just over one weeks time.  We’re erring on the side of caution on our trip back across the Rocky Mountains and opting for the southerly route via I-70 via Colorado Springs and Grand Junction to miss the snows, then picking up the road north to Salt Lake City and Yellowstone Park.  We hope not to become asphyxiated by either the Sulphur or Carbon Dioxide emanations of the big caldera, or the Marijuana fumes while we’re passing through Colorado.  We’ve even set time aside so I can pay a flying visit to the Bonneville salt flats.  If they’ve dried out enough to drive on by mid May.

While Mrs S was shopping for last minute springtime clothes, I eschewed the normal respite of the Husband chair and sat outside in the main mall to enjoy the sunlight.  I put on my shades, closed my eyes, kicked back and let my other senses take over.  Why?  Let me explain.   When I was very small, I had a morbid fear of going blind.  No idea why, I just did.  Small children left to their own devices for too long often develop eccentric world views and I had a fairly solitary early childhood.  So in order to prepare for what I mistakenly thought was inevitable, I used to close my eyes and tried to use my hearing, smell and touch instead of visible light to fix my position in the world.  To train myself for the worst, if it happened.  Nothing serious, just trying to work out where I was, and what all the various noises and smells around me meant.  How the sound echoes off bare walls and in heavily furnished rooms.  Trying to use my ears and touch alone to echo-locate myself in the confines of my room.  Developing my sensitivity to sense the kiss of air on the back of my neck as someone passes close behind me, the sound of their footsteps dopplering from right to left, the scent of their body, perfumed or not if they come close enough.  Sensing the very electricity of their motion through the world, from the sparkling erratic uncertainty of small children, the fizzing of their older peers, crackling discharge anxieties of the born worriers with their erratic shallow breathing.  The soft grunts of an extremely overweight person as they make their heavy footway along the tiled mall.

As a boy I used to cheat, slightly opening my eyes so I had a visual memory to associate with the sensations surrounding me.  Now I don’t have to unless the smell is so obscure or the sound unfamiliar it falls outside my aural lexicon.

When you close your eyes the world of the other senses opens like a flower, swamping everything that sight normally blinds you to.  What is that approaching grumbling noise?  An Earthquake?  A massive truck?  Or more prosaically a deliveryman’s steel wheeled sack truck on concrete?   As he passes, a waft of Pepperoni, dough and cheese tells he just had pizza for lunch.  The “Yeah?”, “Right.”, and “Mm-hm”, “Well he like er..” and “She like er….” of multiple random cell phone conversations within earshot.  The meaningless squealing of teenage girls as they navigate their developing social vortices.  Does anyone really listen to themselves?  Or is that not the point?

Then the distinctively fleshy, slightly foetid, hormone heavy smell of a pregnant woman insinuates itself into my educated nostrils.  I can hear her behind me, the mildly waddling, shuffling gait, hesitantly stopping in front of the women’s clothing shop behind me, presumably looking enviously at all the elegant clothes she aspires to get back into when her child has come into the world.  I don’t know, there are things sound and smell alone cannot tell you, but the scent of a woman in late pregnancy is quite distinctive.

All the time the sheer background whispering roar of humanity and muted traffic noise passes by a single seated figure wearing sunglasses, head tilted slightly back, small smile ghosting across his face, precisely in the moment.  Privately wondering at the magic of it all and quietly praying that no-one interrupts his solitary enjoyment.

Then at the edge of hearing, a set of familiar footsteps that I know like my own heartbeat. Behind my shades, my eyes open and smile broadens.  “Hello love.  Got what you needed?”  Time to move on.  The rest of the day beckons.

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Stuff I didn’t know

Road trip again. Ignore me if I’m beginning to bore you with my heretofore unexplored positivity. It’s not that I don’t care about the latest terrorist outrage in Brussels, because all I feel is a sad certainty in my bones that the situation is all too avoidable and a bit of a cultural own goal. If it were down to me, the politicians who laid the groundwork by supporting mass immigration from a hostile culture would be made to write out ten thousand times; “I must stop importing voters from incompatible cultures” and “I will not sell out my own people to gain short term political power” before being sent to their rooms without any supper. Permanently.

Nonetheless, Nashville is all booked, our ‘America the Beautiful’ National Parks pass has arrived and I’m avidly examining our options for the trek back westbound across the great divide. One thing I didn’t know about the USA is that up until the mid 1300’s it was home to a thriving culture. A civilisation that began to die out at the end of the Medieval Warm Period.

Called the Mississippian culture, it appears to have been of Mayan in origin (because Mississippian art has distinct similarities to middle Mayan, look it up) and spread north up the Mississippi and it’s tributaries from 600AD onwards to far as agricultural practices of the time would support it. Then as the global climate began to cool in the mid-14th Century prior to the Little Ice Age, this culture began to disintegrate, the population largely abandoning their ‘cities’ as their political structures began to fail along with their crops. Three to four hundred years later European settlers began to arrive in the area, finding only hectares of grassed over mounds and the mainly nomadic descendants of the Mississippians. The best example of these mound cities being the Cahokia Mounds near St Louis.

Now as I’ve said before, Mrs S and I are avid history buffs, she covers the more academic side, and I have instincts trained by years of tramping the English countryside and it’s plethora of Deserted Medieval Village sites, with all their lumps, bumps and crop marks punctuating otherwise deserted pastures. Which is why we’re spending an extra day on the eastern side of St Louis. She reading the books, me spotting the landscape and map reading then discussing our respective findings in the evening over a long drink. Because up until last night we’d never come across this culture, being brought up on the limited narrative surrounding the ‘wild’ (and some argue, mild) west. Which tends to pointedly ignore the French and Spanish influences in these lands (De Soto expedition and subsequent Spanish colonisation, the Louisiana purchase which the French had nicked off the locals whilst fighting British claims in the not so frozen north) before the main tranche of northern European settlers arrived. Which is all absolutely brand spanking new to me. There’s still this narrative about how wild and uncivilised North America was, yet for long periods North America was relatively civilised and colonised. Until it all fell apart in internecine warfare and crop failure from around 1350AD onwards. Which is stuff I previously didn’t know anything about. Well, not really. But which I’m quite looking forward to finding more out about.

Anything else? Well over at the professional pilots forum there’s talk of more debris, possibly from MH370 washing up on the South African shoreline. Which confirms that it went down in the Southern Indian Ocean. Although that’s a big deep piece of water, perhaps too big and deep for even the modern wonders of sidescan sonar to explore with any accuracy. I did once ask a respected Oceanographer about the definition of sonar at those depths. His answer surprised me. At the depths and densities of water found at 3000 metres, sidescan sonar definition can be as much as ten metres between contours. No wonder the search teams are planning on giving up in June this year.

Choosing Chattanooga

That’s the next stop on our epic road trip sorted out. Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain and the recently modernised riverside. It’s a bit of a shank to get there, but with Mrs S and I splitting the driving we’ll do just fine. According to a youtube video I watched last night, the city fathers have transformed the city from a beat up post industrial wasteland to a modern metropolis. Well, we shall see. I’m actually looking forward to a trip up the funicular railroad on Lookout Mountain.

Saw the bad news from Brussels which made me regret looking at the news this early in the morning. Brussels is a nice city, a bit dull looking until you get into the night life. I have fond memories of goofing about with a few friends there back in ’03. Great seafood restaurants and bars. What can I say? The bombings and killings were pointless and will no doubt rebound upon the perpetrators and their friends and families tenfold. The killers and their sponsors will probably still be grinning, high fiving each other and gleefully talking about what a ‘victory’ they’ve just scored against the hated Kufar, ironically this ‘victory’ probably includes one or two of the sympathetic people who supported giving the killers’ families sanctuary from their original middle eastern hell holes. The killers need to read their socio-political history a little more critically. Bombings only work as part of a greater social demographic for change. The killers’ faction don’t have that demographic. Unless a bunch of stupid vote-importing politicians have their way.

Well that’s another sermon from the church of the bleeding obvious.

On a more cheerful note, I’ve come across an Über-like concept called Jetsmarter, an app which lets you book empty seats on private jets instead of having only the options of cattle class and not quite so cattle class offered by the major airlines. For USD9,000 a year membership, the service gives ‘unlimited’ Business Class travel (Think two Business Class trips with BA out of Heathrow every year), which for the corporate flyer sounds like a pretty good deal if your work or pleasure takes you all over the globe, with complimentary helicopter borne transfers to Manhattan if you fly into New York. Now you don’t get that with the major airlines. ‘Unlimited’ travel on Private Jets on your cell phone? Now that’s more interesting and world changing than a pointless terrorist bombing. More likely to change the world for the better, too.

But that’s the problem with terrorists, no imagination.

Charleston

Well that was a bloody mission and no mistake. Finally booked our hotel in Charleston without breaking the bank. Charleston is an expensive place, but then it’s a historical resort, so fair deal. What we aren’t spending on the hotel we will spend elsewhere, of that I have no doubt. The good news is, we’ve saved money on the midwest leg of the trip and I’ve just fed the details into a spreadsheet to calculate the cost and the overall trip is running slightly under budget. Which is nice.

That being done, I’m off back to my studies and will leave my one remaining reader with the talents of notorious 1920’s dance icon, Josephine Baker, performing her version of the ‘Charleston’.

Cunning planning

Well, I’ve successfully planned our road trip from up here in the not so frozen north all the way down to Florida and our planned turnaround point. Hotels are booked as far as Jacksonville, just so’s I can get a chance to see the scheduled SpaceX launches for that week. After which we’re looking at Charleston for a few days to soak in the local Revolutionary and Civil War history. It’s taking a lot of discussion, argument, rolled eyes and subterfuge to agree on where to go and stay. Still, we’ve more or less agreed on where we want to be and what to do while we’re there. It’s proving a mammoth task, especially as Mrs S wants stuff all booked up in advance. Which I feel interferes with the spontaneity of the trip, but that’s where we’ve had to compromise. So far we haven’t quite threatened each other with divorce. Yet.

Minor frustrations aside, things are shaping up nicely. Mrs S did ask me if I’d buy her an Alligator skin handbag. I smiled and did my usual ‘yes dear’ until I saw the prices. A thousand bucks! Yikes!

No doubt whilst we’re down in the deep south we’ll have to dodge all the political campaigners. I’m watching with amusement as the Republican party upper echelons appear to want to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, simply because the current front running candidate is not “One of us.” and is more of a pragmatist than they’d like. As for the Democrats, I can’t see much of a choice from Bernie Sanders’ redistributionist policies and Hilary Clinton’s, the only difference between them is whose pockets the ‘redistributed’ wealth ends up in. Sure as hell won’t be the voters. Never is, never will be. But that’s left wing politics for you. The little guy always gets screwed, only the insiders ever get anything out of it.

Talking of people getting screwed by officialdom. In our municipality some dozy half wit passed the EDPA bylaw in 2012, which on the face of it isn’t much. Basically what the bylaw is supposed to do is to protect endangered species. Which is a laudable sentiment. Unfortunately, the road to hell being paved with good intentions as it is, this bylaw is in some places preventing people from mowing their lawns and repairing properties into which the rot has set. All in the name of ‘protecting the environment’. This bylaw is being enforced with such zeal that even the new Mayor wants it repealed. Which won’t happen. Because the problem is that the ‘green’ insanity is so entrenched in our locale that this will never happen. Which is why Mrs S and I won’t be buying a house in Saanich. Why bother buying a property when some silly bylaw takes a chunk off it’s value whenever your house needs repairing or the hedges need cutting back? What happens when you can’t lawfully trim the big tree in your yard that tries to put a branch through your bedroom window whenever there’s a windstorm? All in the name of ‘protecting’ the environment.

What the zealous enforcers do not seem to have a grip on (apart from reality) is that properties and land need maintenance. Like the environment. We live in a managed environment. Our houses are proof of this. 21st century man is not well adapted to living without the necessities of life like shelter, heating, fresh water on tap, sewage disposed of, light at the flick of a switch, clean dry clothing and food they don’t have to catch or grow themselves. What is it modern people do when deprived of these things? Oh yes, starve. I wonder how the enforcers would fare if deprived of these modern conveniences. Probably not well, although going onto a more survivalist footing might deprive them of the time they spend on gleefully interfering in the lives of others.

One thing I have promised myself this year is that I’m going to join the local fish and game association, do my gun safety course, get my license and buy a couple of rifles for Mrs S and I to do a little off duty plinking. We may even do a little hunting up Island. Maybe not. Fresh Game is nice for a special treat five or six times a year but it’s such a nuisance to prepare and process a whole animal just for two people.

Dictionaries are for everyone

I’m going to start keeping a dictionary by the front door. Let me explain; I have put up a simple ‘No soliciting’ sign so that Mrs S and I can work from home without unnecessary interruption. Necessary interruptions include delivery of ordered goods and cordially greeting those with an appointment. Unnecessary interruptions are canvassers for whatever purpose, door to door sales people and anyone who has not let me know they’re coming (Friends and family are exempt from this rule).

Yet still there are people who ring my doorbell to try and sell me stuff or worse, use emotional blackmail to try and wring twenty bucks a month direct from my bank account. I had one this afternoon who said; “Don’t get mad, I’m not soliciting.”
“Okay, what do you want? I am quite busy.” I stated, already knowing where this conversation was going.
“Can I just show you this leaflet for..”
“That’s soliciting. Good day.” I saw no benefit in prolonging this conversation with someone who seemed to have failed basic High School English. So I closed the door and locked it firmly behind me, not forgetting to loudly affix the safety chain.

Honestly, what is it with some people? Can they not understand simple written English?

Definition
solicit
Pronunciation: /səˈlɪsɪt/
VERB (solicits, soliciting, solicited)

1 [WITH OBJECT] Ask for or try to obtain (something) from someone:
he called a meeting to solicit their views
[NO OBJECT]: don’t solicit for money
More example sentences Synonyms
2 Ask (someone) for something:
historians and critics are solicited for opinions
3 [NO OBJECT] Accost someone and offer one’s or someone else’s services as a prostitute:
(as noun soliciting) although prostitution was not itself an offence, soliciting was

Origin:

Late Middle English: from Old French solliciter, from Latin sollicitare ‘agitate’, from sollicitus ‘anxious’, from sollus ‘entire’ + citus (past participle of ciere ‘set in motion’).

General usage:
I solicit, am soliciting, have solicited
You solicit, are soliciting, have solicited
He solicits, is soliciting, has solicited
She solicits, is soliciting, has solicited
They solicit, are soliciting, have solicited

In short, ‘no soliciting’ can thus be defined as “Don’t ring my doorbell to try and sell me something I don’t want, or otherwise waste my time. Got that, bozo?”

Why the dictionary? Oh that’s not to explain anything, that’s to hit them with if they won’t go away.

Just a thought…

While I was meandering through the Internet this morning, checking out the news and looking for interesting stuff not to miss on the Texas phase of our road trip, I kept tripping over news of disruption at political rallies by various catspaws.

Here’s the question that popped into my head. If a foreign funded organisation funds disruption and / or voter intimidation, does that qualify it as a ‘terrorist’ entity? If the answer is yes, then moveon.org, change.org etcetera which are known to be Soros funded, along with all those protest groups that indulge in ‘direct action’, within any democracy, are by definition ‘terrorist’ organisations. Presuming of course that we define terrorism as violent direct action upon a given target, be that a person, group or a structure associated with them. The definition of ‘Violent’ to include attempted intimidation, to strike or disrupt with fist or other weapon, be that club, bullet or bomb. In that case, should not the funders of such groups be subject to the same RICO-type seizure laws as drug barons or other criminals? Unless of course they publicly disown the terrorists and defund them immediately.

I’m also moved to consider that beating, or worse still, blowing up people with a differing opinion to you has the teensiest tendency to piss them off. Permanently. Because it’s a fundamental truth that it’s very hard to change anyone’s mind after they’ve had their brains beaten or blown out. Unless of course they were in receipt of the other kind of blow job.

Just a thought. I do have them occasionally.

Texas

Right. That’s us all booked and planned as far as Albuquerque, New Mexico. Our next big step is Texas and frankly I’m a little stumped. We’ve decided to head down toward the Gulf coast to Corpus Christie to take a drive along the beach at Padre Island, but there are so many route options. Do we dogleg down from Amarillo through Lubbock, or cut down through New Mexico via Roswell and Carlsbad toward San Antonio? Or even take the easy route south into El Paso? The plan is then to take I-10 through Houston and across to Baton Rouge thence to Jacksonville on the Florida coast where I hope to make a side trip to catch one of the two scheduled SpaceX launches from Canaveral in or around the last week of April.

So many choices they’ve given me a wall to wall grin. As for the inevitable election stuff, no matter who asks me about it, my reply will be “What do I know? I’m a Canadian.”

Update:  Revision of route will take us from Albuquerque to Amarillo, thence to Abilene and the following day to San Antonio.  We’ll give the whole Roswell, Carlsbad, UFO route a miss.  Why?  Because I’ve already seen this movie and we’re having nothing to do with illegal aliens, honestly officer.

 

A musical interlude

Yay! Have updated my music collection with some oldies but goodies for our impending sashay over the border. However, this is not without it’s downside. Mrs S voiced concern that our little SUV’s CD player would not play my purchases. I said “What? They’re CD’s, not DVD’s, of course it’ll play them.” But nothing I could say would placate her and I ended up sitting in the car for an hour and a half last night test playing the opening bars of every song. In the case of David Bowie, Steely Dan and one specific Queen track, I played whole songs, twice. Loud enough to make the car doors vibrate and all fourteen new CD’s worked perfectly. Including the track below, which was on one of the CD’s that got sacrificed when we sold up and made our leap of faith across the Atlantic in ’07.

All in all, quite a nice trip down memory lane. Yes, yes, I know I could have downloaded them as MP3’s, but having the CD after I’ve ripped the songs to my hard drive means we can play them in the car using either a USB drive on shuffle, or the cars CD player if we’re in the mood for back to back Bowie or suchlike. So this morning I busied myself organising my collection into one of those little fifty CD carrying cases so while on the road so the non-driver can pick and choose an epic soundtrack for whatever scenery we happen to be passing through.

While I was performing this mundane task prior to preparing Mrs S’s breakfast, I let my mind drift onto the subject of breakfast cereals. Now I’m not a fan, far too much wheat and corn for my liking. Not my thing because I’m still a bacon and eggs kind of chap. For me, most breakfast cereals are not only boring, but there’s far too much carbohydrate and processed sugar in them for my liking. Now for breakfast I generally get Mrs S a variant on a Parfait every morning, which is served in a largish sundae glass. Dead easy to make; Two generously heaped teaspoons of Balkan Yoghurt, a serving spoon full of Granola on top, two more heaped teaspoons of the same yoghurt covered with a sprinkling of bran flakes, walnuts and dried cranberries, sometimes capped with a little chopped apple or strawberries in season, serve and smile. I’m not keen, but she who cannot be ignored has declared it ‘healthy’. So there. But herein lies the rub; the commercial version of Granola tends to be polluted with wheat, wheatgerm and similar packing material, which Mrs S says does not agree with her. Now normally I purchase a Spelt, Flax, and Dried Cranberries variant, but of late this has been withdrawn from sale locally. Soo, being the inventive type I am, I spent five minutes looking up Granola recipes online and adapted one for my purposes.

A quick raid of the kitchen cabinets found all the necessary ingredients; rolled oats, demarara sugar, honey, vanilla essence, whole plain almonds, chopped walnuts and dried cranberries.

My home made granola was produced thusly; put three heaped cupfuls of rolled oats into a big mixing bowl, add half a cup of chopped walnuts, half a cup of chopped almonds, just over half a cup of dried cranberries and half a cup of demerara sugar, then mix until evenly distributed. Following that mix in a tablespoon of honey and a few spots of vanilla essence. To cook; lay out a large foil pizza tray and preheat the oven to 120 Celsius (about 250 Farenheit), spread the mix out on the tray and shove it into preheated oven for fifty minutes. Pull out and leave to cool before decanting into an airtight container ready for use.

Mrs S declared upon taste testing the result “This is good Bill. Bet you can’t do it again.”

Oh yes I can. ‘Cos I wrote it down. Nyer, ner, ne nyer-ner.

Update:  Mrs S has just announced she can’t use my home made granola because I made it with brown sugar and honey, and she’s not having any sugar any more (Yeah, right).  So I’m making a sugar free batch without honey.  Oven roasted like before, but you know what?  I wish she’d let me know before making these arbitrary decisions.  Heavy sigh.

 

On the plus side I’ve plugged a couple more holes in my music collection with Blackfoot Sue’s classic ‘Standing in the road‘, and R Dean Taylor’s ‘Ghost in my house‘, ‘Indiana wants me‘ and ‘Gotta see Jane‘.

Another day, another booking

The road trip planning proceeds apace. The first two weeks are pretty much mapped out and sorted. We have our ‘America the Beautiful’ National Parks pass, which covers us for most of the big National Parks without us having to hang around in line at a ticket booth. As far as I’m concerned we’ve got all the mechanisms and insurances in place for a jolly nice time. A hundred and twenty eight CAD now will probably save us two or three hundred (and a lot of blood pressure) later. Well, that’s my thinking.

However, this isn’t enough for Mrs S, who has chosen this week to go all obsessive compulsive and anxious at me, then refusing to discuss various route options, getting all bent out of shape when I don’t agree with her right this minute. She’s been like this since last weekend, obsessing over tiny details we covered in last years experimental road trip through Washington and Oregon. To tell you the truth I’m half way inclined to take out extra separate insurances, just in case hers fall over. Something is very wrong and she won’t tell me about it. She’s also been visiting the Doctor, who has put on his black cap and pronounced that her Cholesterol is borderline high and written her a prescription for Statins. Then there’s the rule changes on the UK state pension that I’m not going to rely on. Two months ago I was pronounced eligible for a full whack, now it’s looking doubtful – bloody hell. Notwithstanding that your pension value gets ‘frozen’ if you’re an expat. She’s obsessing over that as well, despite having full eligibility and two other fully paid up schemes.

Statins sentenceNow I’ve read the pharmacopoeia and various studies on Statins and I’m not convinced of their necessity in her specific case. She’s worrying about stroke risk twenty years ahead when I think she should be getting more exercise and eating an apple a day, which will probably do her far more good than all the prescriptions in Christendom. My big issue with Statins is that once you’re on them, you’re taking the bloody things for the rest of your days. Which is a long time, and a lot of money. Given that the link between Cholesterol (naturally produced by the liver) and heart and stroke risk Atherosclerosis has been found to be relatively weak, seems like a massive pharmacological sledgehammer to crack a relatively small health nut. Statins can reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol by five percent, but all that fuss for five percent which diet and exercise can handle just as well? That’s without considering the arms length list of side effects like muscle cramps, muscle pain, higher risk of Diabetes 2, memory loss and liver problems. Me, I’ll take the apple and brisk walks route thank you very much and enjoy active life to die at an active ninety with all my marbles rather than sit in front of a screen, bunched up with anxiety and serial popping pills until my body decides it’s had enough and major bits stop functioning age ninety one. Hey, but what the hell do I know? I’m not a Doctor.

It’s all very frustrating. Oh well, never mind, it’s Deals Day on Booking.com and I’m off to take advantage of the deeper discounts on some very nice hotels. Perhaps what I get out of it today will help get her out of this fugue.

Note to self; blessing count. The kids are fine. My college results are great. So far so good. As the falling man said as he plummeted past the tenth floor. Going down.