Appy Nu Yah

… and all that shizzle. Was amused by one of those ever so cuddly posters that read “Imagine what could be achieved if seven million people respected and loved one another…” Mrs S an I had a chortle at that one because the sum total ‘achieved’ would be zero.

Sorry chums but that kind of ‘harmony’ is not good for human progress. Conflict on the other hand, demonstrably brings the greatest advances in living standards and society. Why? Because in times of harmony and complete human cuddliness human societies stagnate and even degenerate. It’s my observation that we’re a funny old species because we need a good old shouting match to clear the air and work out new strategies every so often. If only to check that the ‘new’ isn’t just the same old tat dressed up and given a fresh coat of paint. Without the societal pressures that engender change, everyone tends to sit back and go; “Oh, that’s all right then.” and just carry on with the same old same old.

Anyway for the moment our little clan is sticking with the old standard of out with the old, in with the new. Bye bye 2017, hello with more of the same for 2018. Facing up to new challenges and not backing down too readily from a scrap. At least that seems to work.

Anyway. We’ve seen the Melbourne fireworks (The 9:35 prelude and the much louder display at midnight). Drunk some bubbly. Gone “Oo.” And “Ah.” with the rest of the crowd. Stayed up until midnight. Seen the horseback Police patrols and watched a little girl dance to the sound of a Didgeridoo in the middle of Swanston Street. It’s 2018. Despite all the prophets of doom and exploding fireworks barges further up the coast we’re all still here. Happy New Year you lot.

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Melbourne

Well here we are in the cooler climes of jolly old Melbourne and despite nutters occasionally driving vans into crowds, thinking it will somehow advance the cause of their religion, Mrs S and I are safe and sound. We’re more at risk from some of the local rogue skateboarders. Seriously.

Being ten degrees cooler than up in Cairns comes as a bit of a relief. Much as the lack of sunshine is a little bit disappointing, we’re enjoying the free tram travel throughout the city centre north of the Yarra river. Which means we will be watching the fireworks from somewhere in town. Not sure from where, as the city Fathers (Mothers? Who actually gives a shit, really? It’s a freaking free New Years firework display) have decided that there are to be several sites. All we have to do is stroll out of the hotel lobby, round the corner and watch the show tonight.

The local Police have determined that there shall be a ‘ring of steel’ around the city centre so we mere mortals who just want some old fashioned fun as opposed to the miserablist regime of those who claim to represent the religion of being blown to pieces can do so without too much aggravation. No one, at least anyone with any sense, would give a monkeys about any religion if they didn’t want to kill everyone who disagrees with them.

Speaking of aggravation, if like me you don’t like hard sell, avoid the Italian Restaurants in Hardware Lane. The restaurateurs who inhabit this one little bit of Melbourne take the absolute Biscotti with added double Espresso. Seriously, talk about pushy, we had trouble getting half way down the bloody street. It’s not that the food isn’t all right, it was just the sheer in yer face insistence that pissed me off. The only thing that kept me from flipping the whole damn lot the bird and walking away this evening was Mrs S. One guy followed us half way down the bloody street for heavens sake. Guess where I won’t be going back to?

Today is street market day at Queen Victoria Street market. Which might seem a little strange, but I love street markets. There’s a vibe, a buzz that goes with them that I find somehow seriously addictive. Might even visit the Old Melbourne jail where they hanged notorious bushranger Ned Kelly.

G’day mates.

Silence is golden

Just been reading a few articles in the FT and am getting a little pissed off with the EU remoaners who pollute every single comment thread with their small minded toxicity. As if sniping at others in comment threads will change hearts and minds. Which it won’t. Anyone with even a modicum of discernment can see that, can’t they? Or don’t they want to?

Honestly there should be a point at which a form of Godwins law in a comment thread should apply on this given topic. The remoaners are getting worse than the thousands of anti-Semites that pollute all sort of online discourse with their unhinged rantings.

For example, on a simple announcement that the UK is ditching those rather banal Maroon Euro style passports for the older, more classic pre-1988 look we have all the prophets of Euro-doom crawling out of the woodwork, saying why would the UK leave the bosom of the wonderfully fair utopia of mainland Europe? Ha-ha-ha you poor benighted fools. Sorry chaps, didn’t you get the memo, the UK is really leaving. Give it up.

Sometimes, when it comes to BREXIT it’s like listening to an abusive partner heap vitriol on a person who has had quite enough and is finally packing their bags. “Leave me, will yer!” Screams the soon to be divorced abuser. “Yew’ll be sorry, yew bar steward!” Before making further plans to drop cute ickle bunnies into a pasta pan of boiling water, just for petty revenge. Not realising that they have worse problems in the offing. Like having to find some other poor sucker to finance their lifestyle and failing to understand the old axiom that whilst speech may be silver, silence has far greater worth.

For example the groaning that the UK is economically doomed, all the banks will leave and everyone and their budgie will starve in freezing gutters. People will no longer be able to work overseas, damn you small minded little Englanders. Oh but hold on a minute, there’s nothing actually stopping people leaving the UK and going to live and work in Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand or elsewhere that they can’t already. All they need to do is get a visa then jump through the right hoops with a valid passport. Can you get a job? Speak the language? Got the immigration points? Yes? In you come then say most countries. Unless of course you get caught out by a rule change and get left in bureaucratic limbo like my brother in law, who is still sweating over his Australian residency. Which is weird as he has a very rare skill set, is highly regarded in his industry and has bagged a very good job. For which there is a permanent skill shortage. But that’s Australian immigration for you. Left hand, right hand, never learn to juggle.

Besides, the EU has more problems that Britain’s impending exit. The Eastern states of Poland, Austria and Hungary are taking huge wodges of Chinese investment, threatening the formation of the federal states of Europe because the Chinese are eager to extend their economic influence across Asia into Europe’s back door. Effectively reopening and extending the ancient network of ‘Silk road‘ trade routes that were firmly chopped off by colonialism during the 18th and 19th centuries. Not that the original silk roads were ever more than long and dangerous trade routes crossed by caravans. Which are okay to carry your holiday stuff in, block the highways, but aren’t really worth a bugger off road and who really wants to carry stuff around in a chemical toilet on wheels? Or live in one for your precious yearly Summer holiday? No wonder it used to take months to get trade goods from point A to B in the ancient world. That and having your aged camels left to eat sand after being overtaken by some flash git called Alexander in his brand new Macedonian built four horsepower chariot.

Anyway, all that’s moot. At the time of writing all the girls all have gone shopping and brother in law went off to read a book. I’ve been dangling me tootsies in the pool and have cracked open yet another bottle of beer to cool down. Which for the moment will do. Tomorrow Mrs S and I wend our merry way down to Melbourne. Indeed, as this is a timed post, we may already be there.

Minor hitches

Have somehow managed to pick up a small case of sore throat. Perhaps I mistook it for a large case of beer. I don’t know. Must see if I need glasses. Which has led to a mildly unpleasant 48 hours. However my mild fever has broken and aside from a minor frog and a few aches and pains, that’s it.

Seriously chums it’s too darned hot, it really is. The temperature feels like the low forties Celsius, which I’m told is usual for this time of year, and the humidity even has the Wallabies in hiding. I’ve been tasked with pootling down the the local ‘Bottle-o’ (Off licence or liquor store) and keeping the ‘Eskies’ or cool boxes full of beer topped up with ice for tonights party. Which in the words of Jonah Lewie, is why you’ll always find me in the kitchen at parties. Why? Well you wouldn’t want me to report that some crafty so and so had scarfed all the best vino now would you?

The Stepkids on the other hand are thriving on this oppressive heat. By thriving I mean they’re using the pool sunbathing and making themselves useful for their antipodean Aunt and Uncle.

TTFN

Regards.

A very hot and sticky Bill. Merry Christmas, solstice, Yule, whatever.

See Queensland and….

…be struck dumb. The beaches are in-smegging-credible. See the video I took below with me own delicate little pinkies.
So long as you don’t mind the Killer Salties or estuarine crocodiles, sharks, jellyfish, spiders, scorpions or the occasional maddened sheep. Although I am reliably informed that you are more likely to die from a coconut dropping on your head or a bad dose of skin cancer from not applying enough sun screen. Honestly. Unless my brother in law is bullshitting something cruel. Which I wouldn’t put past him. He’s a maritime cove after all.

We’re off to a crocodile farm tomorrow to see the real thing from relative safety. And I’ll be asking for a quick sandwich at the restaurant, and make it snappy! Well maybe not. I don’t want to be their next course. The Crocs I’m told, say we taste like chicken. Hmmm. Then we’re off to see the Great Barrier reef for an evening cruise. Providing the visit to the Croc farm hasn’t already cost us an arm or a leg.

In the meantime we’re layering on the SPF 50 sunscreen, wearing sun hats and serious polarised sunglasses. And drinking whiskey to keep the dreaded Lurgi at bay. You know it makes sense. Allegedly.

Meanwhile; back at the ranch.  Looks like a little inclement weather back home.  Such a pity we’re missing all that snow-covered fun.  Not.

Totally tropical

Up in Queensland today, sampling the delights of Brother in laws Tropical domicile. The heat is taking a little bit of time to get used to, but with two showers a day and sufficient cold beer, I’m actually enjoying myself. The only minor upset was when I found I’d forgotten to pack my swimming shorts, so I’ll have to go shopping for a new pair, may the lord have mercy on my soul. Mrs S will no doubt insist I get something a little more colourful, but what the hell.

Which rather sums up my attitude in general. Currently I’m so laid back that I could probably turn my head and kiss my own bum, figuratively speaking. Seen my first Kangaroos. Quite a lot of them actually. Grazing the roadside grassland like some outlandish Megarabbits. I thought we had a lot of Deer in BC, but Kangaroos, they go around in herds of forty or fifty. There are so many that you half expect the buggers to come bounding out of the damn fridge (See below).

I’m told the meat is good though. One of my ambitions to to prepare some barbecued ‘Roo this year, just to see what it’s like. Maybe wrapped in bacon. So brother in law and I will be heading down to the local market to provision the household after Mrs S and I return from a brief sojourn up country to see the Barrier reef, Sharks, Crocs and Koalas. Maybe go see if the legend of the Drop-Bears is true.

I see the war of words between the extreme left and right is making Twatter suspend and delete accounts, again. It still won’t make me use it. Too many room temperature IQ’s screaming at each other like chimps for my liking. Too much knee-jerk emotion. Little reasoned examination of ideas, few cooler heads, too often it’s like watching toddlers in a playground. Where do they think they are, parliament?

One of the things I am getting, from various tours and conversations is an insight into is Aboriginal or First Nations issues, which seem to arise because the natives never had any concept of land ownership. Previously they always lived on the land, but did little or nothing with it. Their territory shifted when they did. Yes, interesting oral traditions and well-adapted way of life, but no real development. Because their societies don’t adapt readily to societal change. Which is where conflict arises between them and incoming cultures. A nomadic tradition will always be at odds with the modern ideas of personal property rights, self determination and challenging old orders. It’s really no wonder they’re so prone to drink and drugs problems. Their traditional way of life is highly structured and when that structure conflicts with external influences, or breaks down the bond between generations, many just can’t cope.

So when someone comes in to build a bunch of new houses the indigenous often don’t really understand why these incomers want to live where they do, and hang on a bit, there was a mountain there last year. Didn’t someone say that was sacred or something? Modern culture doesn’t just live in a place, it actively manages landscapes. Which hunter gatherer societies don’t seem to get. Gardening for example, at least as far as aboriginal cultures are concerned, generally happens to other people.

Off the leash

The Sticker clan’s guard dog (Me) got let off the leash today and went lamp post sniffing in his own figuratively inimitable fashion, just ambling around Darling harbour, peoplewatching, doing the museums on a grey and humid Sydney day. Mrs S wanted to go shopping with daughters and friends, so I pleaded for a time out and slipped my collar shortly after breakfast. And I’ve had a throughly pleasant time. Totally failed to get up to any mischief, which might disappoint my last remaining reader, but this is real life. There’s a flight to catch in the morning and we’ll be back here in Sydney in just under three weeks, so anything left undone can be done then.

It’s definitely two shower a day weather, and I’m trying to keep sweet and relatively odour free after sweating buckets and failing to drink enough. Which is a matter I intend to remedy later on after putting on fresh clothes and ensconcing myself in the nearest pub. Let the rest max out their credit cards Christmas shopping, there’s beer to drink, even if the CAD to AUS exchange rate is not currently in my favour.

The downside is that I now have a working cell phone so Mrs S, Stepdaughters, uncle Tom Cobley and all can now find me. Not that I’ll be giving out my Australian number anywhere, but will be sloping down to the bar for a beer or two to replace all the fluid I lost in perspiration throughout the day.

Interesting question from last night; how does a devout, fully paid up member of the religion of blown to pieces get errant husband out of a bar when she’s all burka’d up and therefore not allowed in? Simple, she sends in her cute as a button little kiddy to go tug on daddy’s trouser leg. Aren’t workarounds wonderful?

To the bar. See you lot of mongrels later.

G’day

Well here we are in the middle of Sydney ‘stralia and overjoyed at connecting with Eldest once more. Youngest has just landed after winging her way cross dark and foreign lands having qualified as a genuine honest-to-goodness fully fledged lawyer. Give her any trouble and you’ll be ass-deep in lawsuits before you know it.

For me, the time travel lag travelling from BC to Sydney hasn’t been that bad, despite being cooped up in an alloy tube with about three hundred other souls for over fourteen hours. The cabin crew kept us fed and watered, although the menu was a bit starchy for my liking, so we just tucked into what protein there was and left the sweet and stodgy stuff alone.

So, Sydney. First impressions. I like it. We overnighted in Redfern before heading to our downtown base in one of the more upmarket hotels. Redfern is a cute little place full of narrow streets lined with iron ballustraded houses, and at this time of year the blooms are blooming colourful. The architecture reminds me a little of French Quarter New Orleans with narrower roads. Very relaxed. Very old colonial. Redfern used to have a bad rep for shall we say the less salubrious type of Bogan, but since the 2000 Olympics, when they were shunted out wholesale, the Pink Dollar has taken over as the main currency and coffee shops abound. The main shopping areas surpass Vancouver, even if it seems that half the city is being dug up to install tramlines. The atmosphere is overall busy, friendly and fun.

Oddly enough about these new trams, Mrs S and I were tucking into some salads on our first day and on a hoarding across the way there were pictures of the old tramlines from the 1940’s and 50’s. Wonder how long it will be until these tramlines are removed for the next big thing.

Currently suffering a little from retail induced migraine. Which is a condition induced by doing too much shopping with female companions. A man needs man stuff, or he becomes little better than a pet, a lapdog. Which is something women often don’t really understand. However, I growl every once in a while and do the equivalent of a good scratch at the door so Mrs S knows when to let my inner geek off the leash. She goes off with the girls, and I get to take a stroll through the gadget stores, Science museums and suchlike. Seems to work.

Oh yes. The spiders over here are kind of big. Saw my first Huntsman splayed across a fence in Eldest’s back yard. Not a big one, only three inches across. I’m told they come way bigger, but the little ones like Redbacks are more poisonous. Rather like the Black Widows we get in our woodpiles back in BC. So a little caution when sticking vulnerable tootsies in sandals or when negotiating midnight bathrooms is warranted. Then there are the three inch long cockroaches, which amble through the most active night time pedestrian areas as if they owned the place.

What else? The Gay marriage thing is big local news at the moment, and since Redfern has more of those folk than generally speaking the campaigning is a bit in yer face, but people can’t help what they are, so I tend to deflect with a friendly “I’m just a boring old heterosexual – not really my issue.” excuse. Which nobody seems to mind. Although when the divorce bills come in they’ll probably get the hint, but like I say, not my issue. Just remember that we warned you guys. Civil partnerships are far less legally problematic. And it’s not like the non-heterosexual demographic will be actively breeding, so the out of wedlock side of things won’t be an issue. Nor the fact that their genes won’t be swirling around the gene pool if fifty or so years. Which is probably an ‘ist’ or ‘ism’ thought crime by modern standards, and if so I’m guilty as charged but don’t really care any more. I’ll cop a plea in mitigation of total apathy about the SJW obsession if I’m ever brought to book. Whatever...

Aside from that, I find the directness of the Aussies rather refreshing after the cloying PC-ness of BC. Yesterday morning for example, I found myself explaining the whole business where some Feminist ‘comedians’ in Canada would only work to female only audiences with no heckling allowed. To which my partner in conversation could only stand aghast. They, like me, understood that Comedians, in order to be any good at all need to learn their craft in a hostile environment. Honing their wits and reacting to their audience so that they can communicate effectively and do their job, which is to help make people laugh. Simply standing up on stage telling lame simpering stories with bad punchlines to an audience which cannot criticise does not develop any would be comedians talent. Such milquetoast routines centuries before would have a local ruler sending their old style medieval fool to the scaffold for a quick downsize. Nowadays the only thing such restrictions will kill is the art of comedy.

This is where modern ‘third wave’ feminism fails because it’s not funny at all. Yes, and I include Amy Schumer in this statement. ‘Feminist’ comedy is often two-dimensional, lamely unfunny and takes itself way too seriously, then compounds the error by shutting out almost half the population from the audience. From where I stand they’re all gimme, gimme, gimmie for nothing in return. This isn’t a bid for equality. It’s an attempt to get something for nothing.

My own stepdaughters understand this, which is why they are well liked and already modestly successful in their own fields. As capable young women they are both well able to make their way in the world without the irritating whining of media feminists. This is how we brought them up to be. Seems to be working.

That’s the way the money goes..

Aaaaand we’re off! Writing this in YVR’s very nice Maple Leaf lounge, sipping a seriously dry Martini, awaiting our call to travel across the wide Pacific. We booked Air Canada but it looks like we’re flying in an Air New Zealand plane. Well, that’s what’s parked in our departure gate at the moment of writing and it’s just finished refuelling. I’ve heard good things about Air Kiwi, so we’ll see what’s what when we board. More on this later.

Speaking from later; I just took a quick saunter round to our boarding gate. No, we won’t be flying Air Kiwi, that one leaves at six-thirty. Our flight is a bit later. Me and my big keyboard.

So, what are we leaving in our wake? Looks like pop goes the weasel, or in this case Bitcoin. Investors are saying the blockchain based cryptocurrency is the next best thing but I’m not convinced. The time to get into Bitcoin from an investors perspective was at the very beginning. Yet money is visibly flowing out of tangibles, which is depressing the price of commodities, and into intangibles. Which makes me think that the New Year will be the time to swim against the tide and buy up some of the low(er) priced gold etc while everyone else is off chasing the next big thing. That’s the thing with chasing the next big media thing, by the time it’s all over the press all the best opportunities have gone.

Anyway, if the bozo’s are dumping precious metals to buy blockchain that may just put gold within my preferred price range. Which is good if you’re looking for a hedge to put cash into. Then when the Bitcoin bubble bursts, I’ll sell out of precious metals when the silly money comes back. Win-win I think.

Another bit of silliness is the recurrent meme, and it has to be a joke, that if we all went vegetarian this would somehow stop the nebulous ‘global warming’ or ‘man made climate change’. Frankly me dears, every CO2 driven model has failed dismally to correlate with rises or falls in global temperature. Indeed, there is better proof that CO2 lags, not leads temperature changes. The warmer the Earth becomes, the higher CO2 levels will eventually be, not the other way around. CO2 is only an indicator, not a cause. Well, it’s not for me to convince anyone, the science will bear me out when we stop focussing on the fake cause, and do a little real research instead of flawed statistical models.

So taxing meat won’t change a thing, even if the farts of all those steers was part of the problem. It’s just part of the ‘climate change con trick’ designed to divert cash from the pockets of the general public into those of the ultra-wealthy. You think the Rockefellers and Soros’s of this world would be funding the many vociferous climate activist groups if they didn’t somehow profit from it? Oh pur-lease.

That’s it for now. I’ll be back online from the fabled land of Oz in about 48-72 hours to catch up with the ridiculae of life, or when the jet lag has faded to manageable proportions.

On being an Expat

Apropos yesterdays post. Another in-car conversation on life, the Universe and everything found Mrs S and I discussing our lives. Why we keep so few real friends, which is more an act of personal preference than anything else. Neither of us have ever been manic socialisers. Although we are decent enough folk, well, we like to think so, we find that there’s little point getting involved as everyone else has stuff to do and so have we. So dinner parties are rare events as neither of us is that keen on small talk and always find ourselves at odds with some of the regurgitated media talking points certain people call their opinions.

There are sayings that “You can never go home again.” or “You can’t cross the same river twice.” and now ten years after Mrs S and I began our Canadian adventure I find there is much truth in them. Having gone back to blighty on five separate occasions, visiting places where I grew up only to find a chilly welcome and a “Oh, what’re you doing back here?” No one wants to know you. Old work mates make repeated excuses to not have a beer and a chin wag like you used to, even when you’ve spent thousands to go and see them. When you meet people you thought were good friends it’s a little spooky to watch their faces close down when you say “Hi.” Like while you’ve been living and working overseas you’ve been doing something they’re ashamed of, but it’s not simply that. There’s often a mix of jealousy and disconnection which gives you the sense of being a stranger in your old home town. A feeling of isolation within familiar spaces. Like you’re just a tourist. Which feels like truth. Because it’s not your home any more. You moved on, they stayed. You’re now an outsider, an exile, who shouldn’t ever have come back. This is not your tribe.

There’s a century old story about a man who went to Australia and made his fortune. I think it was told as an anecdote in one Thomas Hardy’s Wessex Novels, not sure which. (Correction: From Laurie Lee’s classic “Cider with Rosie” – A staple of my Senior School English Literature classes – Thank you to the commenters for this correction)  Now the story goes that this newly enriched Australian came back to visit the English village he’d grown up in but left twenty years before. While he’s there he shares his good fortune with old friends and neighbours. Even spending one evening in the village pub buying drinks for everyone. Yet on his way back to his lodgings he was beaten up and robbed by some of the very people he’d once called friend. The very people he’d tried to share his good fortune with.

Life is a river, and like water, time flows in only one direction, unless you’re a very advanced physicist. Sometimes it pools, other times it bounds along, effortlessly carving its own way through solid rock. But always onwards, down to an estuarine end, or abruptly off a cliff or down a hole. So it is with old friendships and family. Those who stay still get left behind. This can breed resentment within them because perhaps they did not really want to stay, but somehow lacked the impetus, like me, to begin new lives for themselves in a different land, or even wonder, and feel a little betrayed by, my need to do so. In their minds, I left them. Which may have bred ill-feeling.

Which leaves me in a dilemma. I have to visit the UK next year anyway, but knowing what I do now, do I go visit and try to reconnect, or just accept what I’ve been told at face value and forever suffer a small nagging doubt? Considering my family history, or rather lack thereof, it has been characterised by a certain; “You don’t need to know that.” feeling. Indeed, trying to track my own Mother’s side of the family has proven interesting* because I was always shut out of the conversation because my very existence (Well I am a bastard from a time when this was frowned upon) is a source of embarrassment. Very few will even acknowledge that I am a blood relative. That and my Mother’s tendency to ‘re-invent’ herself every twenty years or so has not helped.

Oh bugger it, I’ll go and knock on some doors while I’m back in the UK. What can my relatives really do apart from tell me to sod off?

Update: There is also the thought that if we were such great friends and family, all my emails and letters would have been answered. But instead responses dried up fairly quickly, so maybe my erstwhile family and friends don’t really want to know at all. Heart says go and see, head says that they haven’t been in touch because they don’t want to be. Rather like an old mate who broke surface only to disappear into the mists of the Interweb. I offered to come over next time I was in the UK and have a chat over old times and where our lives had taken us. Result; complete radio silence. I’ll take my Aunt and her son out for dinner next time I’m in Blighty, but as for the rest, yes, well. Their lack of interest has been duly noted. Moving on…

* “Interesting” in like pulling a Bull’s teeth without anaesthesia.

Best Christmas message ever

Got a letter today. An old fashioned honest to goodness handwritten letter on ten pages of paper written in real pen from one of my two surviving Aunts. It absolutely has made my entire Christmas because it’s helped me reconnect with people who I didn’t think cared I still existed. My extended family. The pages repeatedly scanned today could not have been more precious if they were written in diamond on 24 carat solid platinum sheets. All right, my Aunt hand wrote the letter because her printer ran out of ink and my cousins won’t be visiting until next weekend to buy and fit a new cartridge for her, but as I read my crusty old eyes were almost moved to sentimental tears. Even if she hadn’t sent a Christmas card, this was far better.

I say better because all the sentiment within was genuine, not forced or the grisly secondhand saccharine sloppiness or ghastly lame humour of the usual run of Christmas cards. The letter was chock full of the dark humour typical of my clan, stuffed with information on a branch of the family who I thought had forgotten all about yours truly decades ago. Some of the news was sad, about a distant aunt and uncle who have left this world, but more was happy because people I used to love and trust, and think I still do, are still around and sinning despite all life’s vicissitudes. No, none of us do ‘Social media’, we have real lives. We connect in four dimensions not the two of Farcebook or Twatter.

Which gladdens my scabby blackened old heart. As my good lady wife observed having noticed my smile; “Well, something undid a twist in your soul Bill.” With which I agree, because I feel part of my own special river of humanity again. Connected. No longer as distant or excluded. And you know what? It feels good and it’s the best Christmas present I’ve had for decades. Possibly the best seasonal missive I’ve ever had.

Honestly, I’ve come over all North Brummagem.

I’ve been told that some of our lot are visiting Oz at the same time Mrs S and I are. It would be interesting to run into them and see what they’re really like, or if we’ll even recognise each other after so much time estranged. Family, eh? Who knew?

Just Desserts: Lemon Mousse

Before I leave for Oz, which means I will be incommunicado for a while depending upon the notoriously fickle Interweb service provider service referred to as Telstra, I’d like to donate my low-carbohydrate recipe for Lemon Mousse to posterior. Whatever. Talking of waistline and posterior, mine are much reduced after only a month, so the low carbohydrate diet does work. Plenty of fresh veg, good servings of meat or other protein, don’t spare the fats and salt. Just exclude the starchy stuff.

This recipe is so incredibly easy. Well, it’s easy enough for a bozo like me to get right consistently. Lemon Mousse. Light, delicious and a lovely finishing dessert for after a really Gastrointestinal tract searing curry.

Here’s the low-carbohydrate version first which produces two servings.

Ingredients:

1 Cup Whipping cream
A drop or two or half a capful of Vanilla essence
Zest of a whole fresh lemon
A dessertspoonful of Xylitol sweetener, not any other kind because they don’t work very well in cooking.

Method:
Whip cream until it starts to thicken.
Add lemon zest.
Add vanilla essence
Add dessertspoon of Xylitol
Now whip that cream. Whip it good and hard. Go on. Lay on MacDuff. Spank that whisk mercilessly. Lash it until the cream mix you’re whipping stands up and screams for mercy. Don’t feel guilty. You’re only being cruel to be needlessly sadistic. Whip it enthusiastically until the mix stands erect and doesn’t flop over again.
Decant into portion sized bowls and put in bottom shelf of fridge (Not the freezer!) for at least half an hour.

Remove from fridge when chilled. Eat. Enjoy. Add a little defrosted fruit as a topping or use instead of ice cream.

Of course you could add a dessert spoon of cocoa powder (Not hot chocolate mix) instead of the lemon zest to get a chocolatey effect. Or even substitute the zest of an orange plus cocoa and a hint of vodka to create something that will put a smile on anyone’s face. My wife has officially declared the vodka, cocoa and orange version “Complete evil.” And has stated that it may not be served more than once or twice a week. I was planning to chuck in a measure of Cointreau to create another variant, but have been jokingly warned that this may lead to ‘sanctions’. What forms these ‘sanctions’ may take is not immediately apparent. Although my lady wife has been rummaging in our little bedside box and she’s currently dangling the pink furry handcuffs I thought I’d ‘lost’ sometime last year in front of my nose. Bloody things. Sanctions indeed.

To close; the high-Carbohydrate alternative to this dish is simply to replace the dessertspoon of Xylitol with two of sugar. Change flavourings as need be. It has as many variations as any fevered imagination will allow.

I may be back. What condition I will be in is another matter.

Bullion for me

Right. That’s the current job done and dusted and I can glance up above my particular foxhole and take stock, or in my case buy some. I’ve been watching the price of Gold and silver of late, and it looks like the market may be bottoming out. So yesterday I went out and bought some silver. The 999.99% variety. Just a couple of small 10 ounce ingots to begin with. Which is still a minor gamble. Maybe the market in precious metals isn’t quite bouncing along in the benthic depths, but I think it’s close, hence me splashing out a few bucks. The dealer I go to downtown also has a 100 ounce bar I have my eyes on, and may just purchase if conditions are right when I get back from the fabled land of Oz late January. They’ve got a few lumps of gold bullion in stock that look tempting, but the price needs to drop a few dollars more before I’m convinced it’s a good investment for the safety deposit box. Maybe I’ll stash some capital in Platinum. Just as a hedge. Just for the comfort of owning something solid with a readily convertible monetary value that won’t depreciate (much). Now there’s a thought.

Gold, Silver and Platinum bottomed out on July 10th this year, but as I was on the road I missed the opportunity to buy in at that point. However, everything but Palladium is cooling off in the precious metals world at present, at least in Canada, so I’ll have a rethink in January 2018 and see what the market indicators are like.

I’ll have the money as there’s a possible new job offer on the horizon for me in January. Nothing spectacular, but steady enough to pay for the usual household stuff and a little travel on the side, as well as setting my own hours. Nowhere near as much as my full consultancy rate, but fairly reasonable. I’ll just have to wait and see if it materialises, or not. I’m not that fussed, I’ve got more than enough on my plate right at this minute, and January is not generally a time for market panics. At least not this side of the pond, or unless old Spoonbanger (Cheers Mitch) starts punting off Nuclear tipped fireworks across the Pacific and throws one at Seattle, it’s likely to end in my back yard. In which case we’re all toast, or not, as the Sticker clan will shortly be together in Australia. If it all went into TITSUP mode we’d literally find ourselves ‘on the beach’ a la Nevil Shute. From the pictures we’ve been sent it’s a very nice beach. With a nice bar and restaurant. What a place to claim refugee status eh?

What else? The pound was crawling back up despite all the negative media coverage. Then the Northern Irish decided to throw Teddy out of the nursery and possibly allow the election of Corbyn, the true nightmare candidate. I mean, Jaysus me bhoys. May is hardly the most competent statesperson on the planet but Corbyn is about as batshit crazy as they come. If it ever looks like he will win an election then my money will be out of Sterling into US dollars faster than you can blink, even if I have to take a loss. I know May is a pretty poor PM, but Corbyn would be abysmal, leading the way down to economic hell with a brass band and choir of idiots in front, Brexit be damned. He wants his authoritarian utopia and nothing and no-one is going to stop him short of a mass implosion of the UK Labour party. He’d also probably repeat the biggest mistake of the Wilson Government and put the troops back into Ulster. Which would give the good auld IRA a hobby apart from run the regional drug trade.

Labour used to be the political party of the working man, but that hasn’t really been true since the 1950’s. Now it’s all about political power and ideology, the ordinary working man be damned. And if Corbyn did cancel Brexit, the Eurocrats would really put the screws on the UK. Just to make an example of all you uppity Brits. Because that’s the arrogant way they think. If you’d ever seen a few of them blasting around Paris, Brussels or Strasbourg in motorcades or their bodyguards blocking streets outside the best restaurants you’d understand. These are people who don’t really care about the people they rule.

As for May getting all humpty about Trump Twatting out some video’s she disagreed with in a desperate attempt to placate a certain minority death cult, oh pur-lease. It seems that the Tories (And most of the other big three UK political parties) believe these sparkly new RoP imports will be future taxpayers whose output will keep the political classes forever in champagne and caviar. Dream on kiddies. That won’t happen for at least two more generations, around fifty years, if you’re lucky. That’s how long it will take to even partly assimilate this latest bulk buy of bargain basement bozo’s with the general population of the UK. By way of proof I’d like to point out that there have been ethnic ghettoes in most of the UK’s major urban conurbations since I was in my late teens, created by short sighted mass immigration policies. Matters have not improved in all that time.

Anything else? The UK media is full of anti-Trump, anti-Brexit hit pieces with rarely a fact in sight, but everyone in the mainstream seems afraid to deride those whose evil must not be named or be labelled ‘hate speakers’ and sent to the naughty step forever and ever.

Frankly I no longer care. I shall simply keep my eye on the news that really matters and slip any spare cash into solid and readily liquidated assets while prices are good.

Restrictive practices

The longer I’m a global citizen, travelling the globe and finding what differences there are between countries, the more amazed I become. Today’s object lesson came from those jape-a-minute practical jokers, the main Canadian cell (Mobile, whatever) phone companies. Let me enlighten my one remaining reader. I have a GSM phone. One that works in just about every country on Earth. Tri-band, three frequencies, great range. Yet GSM phones are only supported by one Canadian company, Rogers. Bell, Telus, and all the sub variants of these companies, including Virgin Koodoo and Fido don’t support GSM-only phones. They have gone straight to LTE, 3G and 4G networks. So if you need a SIM card for a retro GSM phone, don’t waste your time with at least three of the ‘big four’.

There’s also the bit of news that GSM phones are being phased out in Australia. Vodaphone is the last supplier of GSM pre-paid SIM cards down under and will be shutting down their last GSM network in March 2018. So there’s just enough of a window for me to have a working phone while I’m there. In the new year I’ll be in the market for a new phone because otherwise I’ll have no means of emergency contact. Not that I’m that bothered, but Mrs S does fret when she can’t get hold of me in ten seconds flat. Besides, I like to talk to people rather than text at them.

One of the issues up here in the not so frozen north is that Canada is so mired in protectionism it acts as a direct hit on the bank accounts of the general populace. Calling long distance is a credit killer, and you would be amazed how short a distance that can be. Every cell phone ‘plan’ I’ve come across is designed to get at least CAD$50 out of a users pocket every month as a bargain basement figure. Then there are all the other little charges that hungrily suckle on your financial teat that were abandoned in Europe back in the early 00’s. I’m loathe to say ‘rip off’ but it’s funny how the layers of costs mount up.

As for those who trot out “Well, Canada is a big country…” to justify the cell phone companies glaring omissions and excesses; that’s a very poor excuse. My considered opinion is that Canadian monopolies and their subsidiaries just can’t be bothered to cater to the market sector that neither wants nor needs to upgrade their cell phone every three years. Indeed, they could be missing out because at present there is a very strong ‘retro’ movement. Even if the planned shut down of 2G networks goes ahead. A lot of people only want their phones to make calls and texts. To them, Data is just a character from Star Trek- the next generation played by Brent Spiner in heavy makeup. Besides, who wants to ruin their eyes staring at tiny screens all the time? Do your eyeballs ache a lot? That could be a clue you spend waaay too much time checking the mindless garbage on Twatter.

By way of a personal observation, two of the people served before me at the four cell phone stores I visited today bought old style flip phones. That’s two out of seven people in total without me going after a GSM compatible prepaid SIM card. With my input that’s just over a third of the total customer base in a random Sunday sample. Now there’s a message in there for those who would but see.

This sort of thing is true for many other services and goods this side of the border. Especially when every attempt to import has certain folk raising their arms in horror and shouting about ‘protecting Canadian Jobs’, which probably don’t really exist because Canada has huge manpower overheads and a relatively high minimum wage, which means many goods are simply too expensive to manufacture this side of the 49th parallel. Then the Government gets lobbied into leaving economic power with a few large companies who have had what some might call a stranglehold on the Canadian economy since the early days of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Take for example cheese. A recently successful motion to allow specialist French imports raised a loud outcry because, claimed the protectionists, it would ‘cost Canadian jobs’. Even when Canadian dairy manufacturers can only just managed a very average Brie or Camembert. Although they can manage a halfway decent Aged Cheddar, but not much more. But don’t ask about the near tasteless ersatz yellow rubber substance called ‘Monterey Jack’.

Now when it comes to cheese, the French rather bake the quiche, with the Italians and Germans coming in a close second and third and the British finishing a very creditable 4th, having clawed their back way up from the bottom of the cheese producing pile where they had languished for far too long. Well, that’s my estimation, having spent quite some time around British, French and German street markets and the local fare on offer. Same for beer. It’s only since the mid 00’s that we’ve seen a proper resurgence of what are called ‘craft’ beers over here.

Talking about markets, that’s another thing Canadians don’t really understand. Street markets, which are found throughout the rest of the civilised world, are almost unknown up here. The last time I went into a Vancouver Christmas street market, it wasn’t really a market at all as I understand them. It was a theme park designers idea of a street market. It was fenced off, you had to pay fifteen bucks each to get in to get in and it was full of tourist trap garbage. Nothing like the open access, noise, bustle and sheer doggoned fun of a proper street market. Far too twee. Far too restrictive, and there lies the crux of the matter. Something will have to give.

Anyway. I now have what I need, my tomato plants are beginning to develop fruit and the deadline for stepping onto that plane for a sunshine filled festive season in the fabled land of Oz draws ever closer. Yeah.

Non Disclosure

Currently the level of cock-up in my current contract has reduced as after four weeks certain people are starting to get the idea that they can’t just throw company money around any more without proper recording or authorisation. The folks who hired me are looking at their cashflow and marvelling at how many procedural holes it was leaking out of. They’d been relying on an old fashioned cheque book and Corporate credit card to pay the bills and always wondering why they were struggling to keep their fiscal heads above water. Now they know. All we have to do is tidy up the in-house documentation and that’s another contract done. Think I’ve broken the back of this job with under two weeks to go. Well done Bill. Providing my clients stick to the Inventory, Purchasing and Sales order procedures we’ve thrashed out and don’t slip back into the bad old ways, they’ll be fine. Why they didn’t do it that way from the off is a mystery. They had the accounting package, the computerisation, all the software licences set up, they just weren’t using them. Oh well, it all makes work for the working man to do. Another happy tick on the old CV and another non-disclosure clause. Which everyone signs, but so few pay attention to because we humans are such terrible gossips.

Regarding non disclosure agreements, as a follow on from a recent post I’ve been asking around my legal contacts about civil Non Disclosure Agreements, those tricksy little contract clauses forbidding a signatory to publicly or privately discuss matters they have been paid not to discuss with others. The consensus seems to be that such orders are no protection against a criminal court action. Only courts can issue what are effectively ‘gagging orders’ and those will only be effective within a specific court’s jurisdiction.

So say if you know your organisation is breaking the law and that criminal activity is reported to the relevant authorities, that non-disclosure clause in your contract can be worth less than used toilet paper. In the case of a criminal prosecution, individuals are not allowed to hide behind NDA’s if called as witnesses. Especially if someone is trying to cover up fraud, sexual assault or worse. Which means the civil penalties outlined in such agreements cannot be enforced in a court of law if they were designed to prevent witnesses and victims testifying. Not without a charge of perjury at any rate. This is my understanding of these matters, if it is flawed, then corrections (With citations) in the comments, please.

Now, onto the juicy stuff. The Weinstein scandal. Ooh yes matron. The dark and shady doings circling actress Rose McGowan’s possible testimony are interesting. A warrant was issued for her arrest because she left drug contaminated luggage, which may or may not have been McGowan’s own drugs, on a plane. Unfortunately for the prosecution, mere contamination means nothing. Bank notes contaminated with cocaine still circulate out of ATMs. Indeed, back in 2010, it was reported that most British Bank notes were so tainted. Which is a whole heap of nose candy in circulation if you ask me. According to Wikipedia, most bank notes are contaminated and such false positives have even led to unfair dismissal of employees following drug tests. So the contamination of items left on a plane is meaningless and won’t hold up in a reasonable court. For a possession charge to stick, more than just trace amounts have to be found and the chain of possession confirmed. Besides, in the current climate, there’s a reasonable suspicion of evidence tampering.

As for potential paedophile scandal star witness Corey Feldman’s marijuana charge, that wasn’t him, that was his crew. He just paid the fines. Which is average for any rock band on the road.
Storm meet teacup. Whether he can name the names and out his erstwhile abusers is another thing. That has yet to come into the open. Although it is public knowledge that Hollywood has been manipulating their pet media for over half a century and then some. Just watch the documentary below about just one of the notoriously Gay film stars of the 1920’s and 30’s. You heard that. Public Homosexuality in the 1920’s and 30’s? – abso-freaking-lutely.

1930’s scandals aside; the problem with all these scandals and allegations is summed up in one word; evidence. The courts can get very picky about that. Verifiable proof is required. Unless you’re hauled before the laughably titled Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Kangaroo Court of the Star Chamber more like. It’s no good just naming names, or going into “He said vs She said” territory, credible witnesses must be produced. Victims identified. Verifiable evidence confirmed. The chain of evidence has to be close to watertight or there’s no real hope of conviction. However, reputation damage is another thing.

Because Hollywood, as Kevin Spacey has recently found out, is a place where reputation is all. Reputation gets an actor their part in a movie, confidence from investors and Distributors funds Production companies, who fund movies. Tens of Millions can rest on a single word. Now that reputation lies in tatters. It was already under pressure after multiple box office flops, but now the money, the life blood for all creative endeavour is leaving. You might say that parts of Hollywood are bleeding out after being shot by moral outrage. And there lies the opportunity for more savvy small production companies to persuade distributors to fund and allow their creative products access to the wider US markets. Fresh new blood is needed to save Hollywood. New ideas backed by non politically strangled dialogue. Not the same shit different day. That and time to heal. Simply trying to paper over the gaping wounds with NDA’s won’t cut it.

On the other hand, the current feminist litany of complaint about ‘too many men’ either as actors, producers and writers has one major flaw; the market. Women can act, produce and write as well as any man, there is no question about that. Whether they can sell a heavily pro-feminist end product, or even if a mass market for such a product exists, is another question entirely. Wonder Woman worked, but only because of the strong female lead, long-established character and story. Which is interesting, as the comic books the character was culled from were written by a man, Dr. William Moulton Marston with an all male scriptwriting team on the movie. Hmm.

Yet women writers get rich from various projects. Margaret Mitchell wrote ‘Gone with the wind’. Harper Lee wrote ‘To kill a mockingbird’. J K Rowling isn’t exactly impecunious from the Harry Potter movies and associated merchandising to name but three. And there have been many others. Yet still the endless “It’s not fair we’re being repressed by horrible white men and their patriarchy!” Whining. Yet there are many successful female agents and one particular casting Director who works (Her name has slipped my mind for the moment) for Jerry Bruckheimer and gets credited in many major movies and TV series (Including Star Trek, the next Generation) from the last two decades. Don’t take my word for it. Watch the credits after a movie and look for specifically female names. There are more than you’d think, and they’ve all earned their stripes. Same as all the men.

This is because everything Hollywood puts out is driven by the market. Because if people like an idea they will go to see it, pay for their theatre tickets, buy the DVD’s and the movie or TV show will make lots of money, then the Producers and Distributors will be looking to fund another to make even more money. If an idea isn’t popular, then it will graunch and the likelihood is that particular writer or team will not make any more, regardless of sex. Simply because no one likes losing money. There’s no patriarchy involved. Just dollars.

The truth is that a big movie project takes years of concerted effort, even for established Writers, Directors and Producers. A hit is a hit is a hit, and it doesn’t matter if you’re whatever race or religion, male, female or one of the thirty or so recently invented ‘genders’ – if the idea isn’t a ‘sell’ the likelihood is that you won’t be asked to make another. Or even get in on the ground floor. If there’s a ground floor left when all the Weinsteins etc have finished coming home to roost.

Anyway, for me that’s rather academic. My path to the fabled land of Oz lies wide open. Australian dollars obtained. Ferry booked. Airport parking booked and paid for. Maple Leaf lounge (The VIP bit at YVR) booked and paid for. Tickets, visa’s and passports. Flights sorted. Hotels and cars all good to go. Friends and relatives eagerly awaiting our arrival. Christmas presents packed along with my best silk shirts and other lightweight clothes for those sultry climes. All we have to do is make sure the house is properly cleaned and shut down for our return in January.

Not much else for me to do but practice saying “G’day.”

Update: Sorry about the cookery video instead of the documentary I mentioned. Situation remedied. No idea how that one happened.