Category Archives: Musings

But….

One question I’ve noticed that left leaning journalists like to ask people in various vox pops is; “How many gay friends do you have?”
If asked that question I’d answer: “But I don’t really know any gay people. Why is that important?”

Which is true, or at least if any of my very small group of friends is gay, then they are keeping that snippet to themselves. Probably because they know that I don’t really care about their sexual preference. That’s a personal matter for them in which any opinion of mine is immaterial, so why ask me? Of course over the years I’ve met a few openly gay people, but none I’d care to call ‘friend’, simply because we’d nothing in common and I occasionally found their antics rather off-putting. So we passed like far off ships in the night, never to cross courses again. But I never ‘hated’ them, that would have been irrational, like hating a fish for swimming.

Besides, in the circles I move in gays are not that common. Not that I’ve ever been a big socialiser. Given the choice between reading a book and going to a dinner party, the book wins every time. Besides, I have my own criteria for choosing friends and sexual orientation comes right at the bottom of that list. However, at the very top comes trust, and if I don’t trust someone, then they can never be any friend of mine.

Singing my own praises

Why sing my own praises? Because I’m the only one that will… hold up a moment, did Sister in law just give me a compliment? Can I cook for them again? Hells bells, I think I’m going to faint!

Well not to my face, but the Sticker household has developed a reputation for being pretty damn sharp when it comes to comestibles. Take for example Easter weekend, our dinner guests got treated to my roast pork with crackling recipe. Which for some reason didn’t seem to be on my ‘Cooking for Conspiracy theorists’ list. Even though I’d already posted it elsewhere. Have now remedied this omission. In-laws even asked for my assistance with getting a proper Lamb joint. I said that I would search around and try to source some proper Lamb, not the Mutton which too often gets passed off as Lamb in Canada. Fortunately we’ve found a good local butcher who should be able to help. I’ll get the Mint sauce out for a 2lb shoulder of Lamb this weekend and see what happens.

I know one thing, too few places over here know how to cook Lamb properly. For example, a Lamb Rogan Josh at one of the local curry houses was effectively chunks of lamb cut way too big and not cooked long and slow enough. The meat hadn’t had enough marinading either, which made what should be a very spicy dish that melts in the mouth into something akin to chewing recycled car tyres dipped in curry sauce. Seriously, that was one serious sheep. I bet it had been beating up bears and cougars before dying of old age it was so tough. Guess where I won’t be going again.

A word to the wise; Lamb, beef or chicken for curry should be roughly cut into half inch cubes before marinating at for least two hours. Then given ten minutes in a pressure cooker to tenderise it before adding sauce ingredients. That way the meat cooks properly and the sauce flavours penetrate the meat. As a proof I’ll post my method (Including quick cheat) on the sidebar at a later date. A clue, my good friends Messrs Patak and Sharwoods are often a great help. Providing the Canadian Food Inspection Agency lawyers don’t get involved and screw around with what ingredients my culinary friends are allowed to use. In which case, pass the salt cellar.

BREXIT Day

Well, well, well. It’s finally here. Official negotiations begin to get the UK out of the EU finally get underway. For my part, I’ve decided to ‘go long’ on my UK investments, keeping funds in Sterling as I have a ‘seeming’ that the value of the Pound Sterling is going to go up significantly, having been artificially depressed a la Marvin the Paranoid Android for far too long. The currency markets don’t like uncertainty, and will punish any currency where the political will of a country is judged as weak. A case in point being the Euro, which isn’t doing so wonderfully, what with the uncertainty of the Anti-EU groundswell in the Netherlands and France, to name but two.

Frankly, I think the EU has had it. Indeed, the old Warsaw pact collapsed because it was being artificially glued together by the old Soviet Union. But there were too many differing cultures and languages for such a beast to work without a rule of iron from the top down. So it will be with the European Union.

It’s a shame for Europe. Had the EU stayed as the European Economic Community free trade zone to standardise weights and measures I think it could have survived. However, the bureaucrats wanted a big federal state with all the trimmings, and economically sane people don,t. Because big bureaucracies are unwieldy and uneconomic. Too much is taken from the productive to provide millionaire lifestyles for a self-selecting and unaccountable political ‘elite’ which strangles everything else. Canada and the USA function because they are (mostly) held together by the grass roots of common interest. There is some form of democratic control. The EU doesn’t really have any.

Now the trigger has been pulled on BREXIT I’m quite sanguine. Indeed, this is a form of ‘triggering’ which along with several other factors directly affecting the Sticker household, are giving cause for celebration. BREXIT, like the Daffodils and Cherry blossom may be late, but all three are welcome, and presage better years ahead.

Dark thoughts

I have a stepdaughter whose legal work takes her all around the London law courts, and sometimes into the UK Houses of Parliament itself. After todays terror attack there was a concerned flurry of transatlantic telephonic activity to jolly old Londinium from the Sticker household and I am pleased to report that Youngest was not in the area at the time.

As a concerned parent, my first reaction is “Youngest safe. Good.” Although I’m deeply sorry to hear that the attacker took down a Police officer in the process along with another three un-named as well as injuring forty others, some of whom will have to live with the physical consequences for the rest of their lives. However, the attacker is dead, good riddance. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Good riddance also to Martin McGuinness, who died yesterday. We’ll never know how many deaths he ordered or was involved in personally, but it’s well known that his hands were bloody as hell. Which is why the flames will burn a little brighter from now on.

These people who murder for a ’cause’ are key factors in prolonging the suffering of their fellow citizens. Had the civil rights protests in Northern Ireland not been tainted by the terrorists, there would have eventually been peace, work and plenty for all, Catholics and Protestants. Unfortunately many Mk 1 Homo Sapiens masquerading as evolved life forms in Ulster still don’t see it that way. So the killing still goes on, only the initials change. So will it be with Islamic inspired attacks. The killing will go on and on unless those who push the ideology are eliminated from within by the very communities they hide behind. Or have their minds changed. Not that I’m holding my breath you understand. Most people aren’t self aware enough to see the obvious.

An interesting tale

Apropos of nothing. Back in the day when teachers didn’t have to fill in a twenty page risk assessment, we used to be taken out on School Trips. Bundled onto a coach twice a term and taken to somewhere ‘educational’ where a teacher would try and engage our interest. The poor benighted fools.

One day we were taken to Worcester in England to see the then-famous Royal Worcester china works and the cloister of Worcester Cathedral where, at the foot of a staircase, lies a tombstone bearing the simple legend ‘Miserrimus’. Our History Teacher, eyes glittering with the historical romance of her story, enthusiastically regaled us with the Wordsworth inspired tale of a medieval monk who took on the sins of the world and was buried as a reminder to all the other monks that he was the biggest sinner amongst them, and that just to remind them of how naughty they were, they had to walk over his grave for the rest of time. That learned ’em, right?

The truth though, is a little more prosaic. The tomb of ‘Miserrimus’ is that of a Parish Priest defrocked in the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688 for his loyalty to King James II and who spent the rest of his long life as an outcast until his death in 1748. Still, there was enough money to give him quite a fancy funeral and bury him outside the Church where his tombstone could continue to make his embittered point. Where it did for a while until the ex-reverend passed from living memory. Then along came some ‘romantic’ writers and poets who saw the stone and made some stuff up. Which is what they do.

Seriously. The guy spent fifty plus years carrying his political grudge instead of realising nothing was going to change unless he made it do so. Then he decided to be buried under a pseudonym, the reason for which was mostly forgotten. As was anything good or bad that he may have achieved in his life. Which is a shame, because he was not an unpopular man and was described as a caring and good looking chap who could have made a far larger impact on the world than his pseudonymous tombstone ever could.

There’s a life lesson in there somewhere.

More of the same

Things trundle on. More forms to complete, and I had to mess around with my handy dandy Printer / Fax to get necessary details off to the UK last night without getting charged an upper and larger extremity on courier fees. Seriously, these guys charge like a Rhino with a migraine then still don’t get the bloody thing there on time because of a lick of snow that they wouldn’t even notice over in Calgary, so it’s worth lugging the fax into the front room where the phone line connection is and spending ten minutes messing around with RJ11s and the like.

bills-weather-rockOn the subject of weather, I was checking my blogs history for ad hoc local observations on the weather, and noticed that we seem to get a serious dash of ice and snow here every two years, with more snow and ice than usual every three. Summer temperatures can end up in the low to mid thirties Celsius (Centigrade, whatever), which is nothing unusual, given that we’re on the same latitude as mid-France, so when someone blarts out that it’s the “Hottest year, EVAH!” I do have to suppress a chortle. I think these prognostications of media doom are simply cries for more funding. My Weather Rock, however, remains unconvinced, and has taken to lurking indoors on a nice cosy windowsill in the kitchen, hogging the view. It’s probably sniggering at all the other weather rocks forced to shiver outdoors, but it’s very hard to tell with rocks.

Anyway, it’s good that we have an AWD with decent all-weather tyres because I have to get Mrs S to a conference downtown today. Which means an early start allowing a bit of extra time for the inevitable dickhead faction out on the roads. Then I may amble into the downtown core for an hour to check something out before heading back to the barn and getting a nice hot feed set up for her ladyship when I go to pick her up around four. I hope to perform this task without any additional drama. Although I can hear the local snowplough already trolling up and down roads, so by the time we set off, our hill will be cleared.

On the drama front, we’ve finally stopped watching Canadian Netflix because it’s become so crap. Seriously, as a streaming service it’s really gone downmarket. Not that it was ever brilliant, but it was better than the alternatives. All there seem to be are tenth rate ‘documentaries’ with the odd watchable feature film and a host of what used to be called ‘B’ movies and teen series. Honestly, it’s like the PC Police have decided you can’t watch programmes which don’t comply with certain nauseatingly touchy-feely guidelines, which may ultimately prove their downfall. So we’ve signed up for a CraveTV account which gives us some reasonable HBO and Showtime series for the same price. The other choice, Cable, is terrible, chock full of adverts and not worth the fifty bucks a month our service provider charges for the ‘basic’ package. To which I am moved to retort; if I wanted propaganda, there’s plenty on YouTube for free.

One of the things I have noticed over the past 12 months is a serious decline in the overall quality of TV and Movie entertainment. To which I’m inclined to hypothesise that maybe all the slebs and half way decent writers have been so busy fundraising for the Clintons, protesting and electioneering that they stopped doing their jobs as entertainers. Don’t even get me started on the patronising crap about to be foisted on Netflix viewers like ‘Dear white people’, which is such a dire idea and so poisonous to race relations that it defies rational comment.

Here we snow again

It’s eleven on Monday morning. Two hours ago I looked out of my office window to see a grey sky that looked full of rain. An hour and a half ago it started snowing. Now it is snowing quite heavily, with visibility under a hundred and fifty metres.

This is rather absurd because over the weekend we were promised snow, which did put a dusting on the hills further north, but left our little domicile basking in sunlight. Now we’re getting dumped on. This is Victoria. The Canadian Riviera. It’s not supposed to snow here. Where’s that global warming when you really need it?

Seriously though this is just another part of the usual climate cycle. Some years it’s warm, sometimes it’s not, and despite all the fluffy whiteness currently descending upon us, it’s just weather. Like all the climate Cassandras out there, wandering round like old school bible thumpers constantly prophesying that “The end is nigh.” keep saying when things don’t happen as they predict, and that anyone who’s ever driven to work or taken a transatlantic flight is somehow guilty of causing a warmer or colder than average spring day. Earth’s climate is a chaotic system, and so far the climate models have more in common with the obscurity of Nostradamus’ poetic prognostications or a newspaper astrologer than reality. These are models that idiots like Trudeau want to impose carbon taxes for? The climate models that don’t actually work?

Never mind. Today I have forms to fill in and send to the UK. My offshore bank is closing down because similarly bureaucratic-minded morons think that relatively small time investors like me are all wicked money launderers who need to have Mr and Mrs Spank take a quick trip to bottyland. So the bureaucrats have upped the regulatory burden to the point where there’s no profit in it for my bank any more. Of course the big guys with millions will be fine, they can afford the lawyers and shell companies, but people with only a few hundred thousand are being squeezed out of the market. Which means I have to find a new bank account and jump through even more bloody hoops to transfer my funds around Europe and the UK without getting caned by my Canadian banks extortionate foreign currency transaction fees.

At one point last week I was reduced to naked sarcasm with a bank functionary over the levels of disclosure they required to open an account. Not being satisfied with my notarised ID and credit references and previous bank statements, my late parents sources of income were demanded. To which I was forced to respond; “I don’t know. Can you hang on while I go and find a first class spirit medium and ask them?” Seriously. Trying to find another bank that will take my funds is turning out to be a Kafkaesque labour of Hercules. You’d think they didn’t want the money.

And outside the snow is falling. Onward and bloody upward.

New books

A literary interlude is on the cards with probable forthcoming hospital stays. Last time I was so immobilised, I took to reading and trying to memorise the complete works of Rudyard Kipling with a side order of Defoe and Melville. This time I went and raided the bookstore for almost the complete works of Earnest Hemingway.

Mrs S will be travelling to London on her own to see Youngest this year because I have to keep my diary clear for possible surgical interventions. Which is annoying, but as one brought up in the stoic tradition of “What cannot be cured must be endured”, what else am I to do? Keep taking the tablets and chill with the pills.

I haven’t read Hemingway since my English Literature class trudged (mostly – I still like reading) unwilling teenagers halfway through ‘A Farewell to Arms’. As for literature in general, just don’t talk to me about Brontes or Jane Austen. Did Wuthering Heights and Sense and Sensibility for English Literature A level, and I’m still having unpleasant flashbacks. Fortunately we had a teacher who explained how to understand the middle English of Geoffrey Chaucer and some of the better Shakespearean jokes. Which was a compensation for the Wessex novels of Thomas Hardy (Don’t ask). Frankly I found Calculus, Logarithms, and Binomial expansion more fun.

a-few-hemingwaysFirst pick was of course ‘The old man and the sea’, but as it’s a bit on the short side I also bought ‘The Sun also rises’, ‘Death in the Afternoon’ and seven others. See the picture of my latest acquisitions currently hogging the seat of my office reading chair. There is also a used collection of Milton, Conrads classic ‘The Heart of Darkness’ and sundry others to grace the old bookshelves and keep Lady Chatterly’s Lover warm on those draughty upper shelves above my collection of Terry Pratchetts. If time allows I’m going to delve further into D H Lawrence, I’m sure he won’t mind.

As far as ‘macho’ writers like Hemingway are concerned, there are people out there who are keen to tell everyone what they can and cannot read, say or think because it contradicts one of their sacred ‘ists’ or ‘isms’, but right at this moment they can all sod off because my plate’s a little full right now and I truly can’t be arsed.

Happy reading.

A very good question

Was wandering around the local supermarket to top up the groceries yesterday and caught an old half remembered Matt Monro song “We’re gonna change your world” over the PA which contained the line “Died for others to live better…” Which tweaked a cynical nerve.

I found myself asking the question “How does dying improve life for other people?” Well, they might be a complete, irrevocable, anti-social, destructive pain which humanity is better off without. Yeah, that would help. If the person to die were damaging to the rest of humanity, certainly their death might help others live better. Like putting down a monster will save them taking more lives. But what I’m driving at today is the whole notion of martyrdom, be it religious or secular. Who does martyrdom, in light of even the most cursory examination, help? It’s almost exactly like suicide, this willing surrender of precious life. Because no matter what anyone else tells you, you only get one.

Now I’ve seen it written down that there are few good reasons for dying, but an awful lot more for living. Causes to die for? Don’t make me laugh. That kind of cause is as cheap as chips and common as shit, because it’s not the people who want you to cease to exist for their espoused ’cause’ who are in the front line. Besides, dying is easy, any bloody fool can do it. The real challenge is ordinary day to day living and making life better for others one day at a time. Now that’s hard.

In the Western Christian tradition, we are indoctrinated from our first words that a certain Judean Carpenters son ‘died for our sins’ around a couple of thousand years ago. And I reiterate my question, why is dying for other people a good thing? Surely living for them might be a better idea. Living people can build, debate, repair, love and compose. Dead people, no matter their symbolism, can only decompose.

Perhaps if Joshua Ben Joseph had got out of town while the getting was good there would have been a whole lot less religious persecution and a lot better carpentry. The Jews would have had it better too. No two thousand years of Christian or Muslim inspired pogroms and massacres because Christianity might have become a different faith, and Islam might never have arisen. Which from a casualties point of view, might not have been such a bad thing. Pagans too would have been better off with fewer of them burned alive, not so many drowned on ducking stools or any other form of religion inspired execution.

Unfortunately, what I have learned about humanity during my life is that, at least emotionally, so many bog standard humans resemble Minions for their spiteful zealotry and mindless tribal tendency to bicker in what appears to many, complete gibberish. Unlike the cartoon Minions, the real life version is neither comical nor harmless.

So in all probability these zealots would have only found another excuse to violently attack and even kill others in remarkably inventive ways down the centuries. Often over little more than a difference of opinion. And will continue to do so on the least pretence. Not only will they let their untrained Dogma crap all over your philosophical lawn, they’re more than willing to murder you and yours if you object. Then tell everyone else they did it because you were ‘a ‘bad’ person. For whatever they say is ‘bad’. Even though you are no real physical threat to them, your contrasting opinion cannot be heard, because they say it’s wrong. As we have seen with the anti-Trump protests. The unhinged zealotry of the protesters, and their willingness to do harm to others holding an alternative point of view are a classic example. They view all opinions outside of their own tight little sphere as heresy, and in earlier times would most likely have been enthusiastic witch burners or ardent National Socialists. The same mindset applies. Even if these zealots are guilty of the same ‘sins’ as those they accuse. It is their violence that separates them from those who have a justifiable grievance.

Me, I’m content for people to hold other opinions, but am of the strong view that martyrdom or death in any cause save immediate preservation of your family or defence is utterly barking.

Anyway. Hospital this evening for scans and fluids. Lots of bloody fluids and lying still holding my breath wishing I could see what the scans were telling me. Not sure what’s up. Perhaps some of those people who screamed “I hope you fucking well get CANCER!” in my face back in the day are getting their wish. Perhaps it’s something more benign. Whatever the quacks find, I’ll deal with it. Although I happen to be rather fond of living, and will use any available means to keep indulging my favourite breathing habit, no matter how irritating it is to some. Because my dying will not improve anybody else’s life. Also because, in the words of Robert Frost;

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

And the promises I have solemnly given must and will be kept.

There’s news, and then there’s news

Now this post isn’t about ‘fake’ news, or op-eds decrying whichever side in the ongoing media wars that swamp all the mainstream outlets, but more the result of my nasty suspicious little mind. I’ve lived too long on this Earth to be anything less than cynical and as an investor, cynicism is a very useful tool. So it is with me.

There are lots of stories in the news about Iran preparing to give the USA a ‘slap in the face‘. Which looks like an act of monstrous ingratitude considering the bundle of cash Obama sent them special delivery over the much vaunted Iran Nuclear Deal. Why would this be? Weren’t the USA trying to be nice to the Iranians? Maybe it’s time to turn that sand into glass.

But hang on. Considering recent attempts to improve relations between Iran and the USA there’s more to this situation than meets the eye. Especially when I did a little googling of my own and found that the Iranians are having severe internal troubles. In one instance recently they deployed large numbers of elite units to Ahvaz in the agricultural region of Khuzestan where massive riots have broken out over a collapse in public services. And Iran being the type of state it is, is looking to do the old “Look! Over there!” trick by blaming the eternal enemy, the USA, which is the whipping boy for all Iran’s troubles. Nothing to do with Iran’s rulers cocking it up at all. Some sources are talking about another internal ‘Green Revolution’ against the hard line Islamic state. The one in 2009 failed, but what about this time round? Oil revenues are way down, so how are the Iranians going to fund this war-talk?

Similarly with North Korea and their threats to drop a nuclear bomb on the USA. If their missiles worked reliably and could carry such a warhead without the Yanks shooting it down. Now flip the news and consider the following. The Chinese, long North Korea’s biggest coal customer are pissed off over the Koreans bumping off Kim Jong Un’s older half brother, who was under Chinese protection and have been stopping shipments of coal at the border. No coal sales (for the rest of the year) mean no money, no wages and no food for all the soldiers that the North Koreans need to keep their top down militaristic state staggering along. Which in turn means economic collapse and somebody, no names, no pack drill, might just end up getting stomped to death by an angry mob while his bodyguards are having a suspiciously long tea break (or even his own bodyguards). So the North Korean state has to divert attention from the privations of their population. Nowadays I look at these repeated threats of a missile attack as being just North Korea’s funny little way of putting out the begging bowl for foreign aid. Essentially saying “We’ve got a missile and a bomb, honestly. Send money, we’re broke.”

Thinking about it, perhaps President Trump should be talking to the Chinese about letting the current North Korean regime collapse and maybe negotiate the withdrawal of US troops from the DMZ and South Korea with some form of ‘hands off’ agreement from both sides while a reunited Korea rebuilds and gets the North Koreans used to a better standard of living. The smart move would be to let the Chinese gain ‘face’ (Which is more important to them than money) and lose a troublesome neighbour. Then apart from the row over the Spratly’s, perhaps there could be a cooling down of tensions in the region. At least as far as the Chinese and Americans are concerned. The recent dispatch of an aircraft carrier to the region could then be turned into a ‘goodwill visit’ and allow the Chinese to have a field day trying to steal some of the USA’s less valuable military secrets. It’s a thought.

Mrs S and I often discuss these matters over our weekend breakfasts, and find it useful to look at the news as a ‘join the dots’ puzzle, because while a lot of people get ‘offended’ by superficial stuff then run around like headless chickens with their knickers rammed up their arses, the smarter folk take a breath, step back and try and get a feel for the broader picture, which is often very different from the one many news outlets would have you see.

The X-files were right about one thing, the truth is out there, but it’s not about aliens or strange phenomena. No, it’s far more interesting and profitable than that.

Update: The North Korean regime are now openly mocking China, as well as pissing off the relatively friendly Malaysians. This may be a great miscalculation on their part. China will not like losing face to these upstarts, and I can already hear the squeaking of economic screws tightening from all the way across the Pacific. This may be peppered with gunshots as the NK’s lash out (A very bad move) leading to a Chinese invasion. The NK’s may even have a go at the South (an even worse move), but burning their bridges with their only real protector is about as dumb as it gets.

So; what to do? That’s one for the military and political tacticians with a nod to the UN security council. Let the Chinese invade to the 38th Parallel? By negotiated arrangement of course. Then let the Chinese do their thing and install their own new puppet of a civilian administration. Add a little Chinese style capitalism, some inbound western investment and leave to brew for a decade.

Outcomes? Short term; very bad for the North Korean populace, so no change there. Medium term; very bad for the current North Korean regime. Which I don’t think anyone will shed any tears over. Long term; better for North Korea as it opens up to the greater world and finally discovers, like China, the delights capitalism can offer.

From the comments; just loved Elenamitchells nickname for NK dictator Kim Jong Un as ‘Spoonbanger’. Very apt.