Category Archives: Random Amusement

A Marxist Joke

I’m very busy at present with a new job, some medical tests my doctor seems to think are essential, despite feeling quite well and full of beans. So not much time to blog. This post has been put together over a week or so concerning a matter than has made me crank the old lips up in an ironic half smile.

Here’s a question. When did the workers begin to seize the means of production? I ask my last remaining reader because it occurs to me that it wasn’t a Marxist at all who made it happen. Not Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, Chavez, Maduro or Castro but ironically someone from the other end of the political spectrum.

I was over at Longrider’s blog last week I think, perusing the comments on one post and I suddenly had an epiphany. It’s a fairly simple exercise in applied logic with a large side serving of irony and I think anyone who doesn’t get the joke needs a quick jump start on the old frontal lobes with an ECT machine. I frequently see it said from left wing sources that ‘property is theft’ and that the workers should seize the means of production, but here’s a thing, what if the workers, of whom I count myself a part having spent much of my life as a working man, have already been taking a firm hold on the ‘means of production’ for several decades. At least in the UK. Certainly over here across North America where the practice is widespread.

No, I’m not talking about nationalisation, that’s just the bureaucratic state taking anything it can lay it’s greasy little mitts on. When it comes to actual ownership, the state and the individual are not the same thing, although the ‘State’ may be made up of a certain tranche of individuals it does not constitute an accountable entity. Indeed the ‘state’ is about as unaccountable as it gets with all the arse-covering that traditionally goes on in bureaucratic circles. I’ve seen state ownership first hand and it’s a process of managed decay, stillborn innovation, fear and inward bound loathing.

Now what I’m describing here is the quantum increase in small investors who are investing, crowdfunding, patreoning and supporting a wide variety of ventures all around the world. Literally enabling the means of production in a way that I think even old Karl would have gone “Yeah, Das Kapital, maybe needs a re-write.” Because the factory based society he designed his collectivist philosophy for died during the 1960’s and 70’s.

For my proof I’d first ask this question; where are the massive factories of yesteryear where thousands toiled? Where is the uniformity? In the much depleted corporate world? There are a few big employers, but nothing like the number of big industrial combines that once dotted the landscape. They’ve all been offshored, downsized, diversified and MBA’d. Where are the single workers collectives to ‘seize control’ of all the wealth generation?

The answer is very simple, via old fashioned much-disparaged capitalism. The kind of thing which allows people to put small pots of money in with larger pots to create investment. Pension funds, individual stocks and shares, government insecurities, gilts and all the rest. Through voting shares the individual investor is allowed a say in how a company is run and who runs it. In short, by purchasing shares they now have a small part ownership of the ‘means of production’. In the UK, this universal share ownership was most enthusiastically pushed by no less a person than, wait for it….

Margaret Thatcher.

Karl Marx wouldn’t have seen the joke, but I do.

Advertisements

An old favourite made new

I like Kent, his YouTube channel is well worth a look if you have the time. He does solid grub for outdoorsy folk to provide a warming welcome after a day out in the cold.

Essentially what his ‘mashed potato bombs’ are, apart from being ace comfort food, a different take on potato croquettes (See video below to ‘make from fresh’). Kids especially love them, and they’re a Sticker family Boxing Day favourite. Although don’t let that stop you preparing this treat any damn time of year.

Now I have an alternative method for the same thing which relies on the mashed potato being done British style. Firm, not all soft and creamy like the North Americans prefer. Nor the abomination that used to haunt 1970’s school dinners. When stirred, the British version (at least my preferred method does) tends to form a single mass rather than look like freshly made cake mix. The trick is to add a little butter while mashing so that the result becomes firm rather than sloppy. So you don’t have to use much, if any, flour. Which can leave a cloying aftertaste. Especially if your mash was made with one of the more floury varieties of spud.

So; starting with, say three and a bit cups of firm and slightly dry British style mash left to cool, crack an egg and whisk it properly with a fork so that the egg becomes a smooth yellow emulsion. Add about a half to your mashed spuds and mix thoroughly. Add a little salt and pepper if you like. I usually use a little more pepper because it gives the potato a bit more bite. You can even add a small pinch of cayenne if you like, but be careful.

Now if you’ve got it right, the mix, when stirred should tend to form one piece like a soft ball of dough. The ideal texture being not too firm but kneadable and not leave sticky trails when you roll it in your hands. Roll into balls, tip; bite size is best, leaving a little over half a cup of mash in the bowl. Make a dent in the ball. Add filling. Spring onions or Chives, a good strong cheese (A strong blue is particularly good) and bacon bits if you wish. A tiny smidgeon of sour cream or cream cheese will help to bind the filling, then use a little of the remaining mash to seal it all in each little ball. You don’t need much filling for each one or they will leak into the frying oil and the desired effect will be lost.

A quick side note; I’ve found alternative fillings like cream cheese and pre-cooked prawn or shrimp bits with Spring Onions or chives are excellent but honestly, the choice is down to your individual palate. Leftover Beef or burger bits, fine cut lamb leftovers in a tiny hint of mint sauce, chicken, whatever. Just so long as it is firm and not liquid. If you are that way inclined and your brand of vegetarianism allows egg as a binder, then even some heavily spiced Tofu can be used. If you’re a vegan, sorry, but you are missing out. It’s why very few people remain lifelong vegans. There is so much they miss out on, poor damned souls.

Now give each filled ball a quick (just enough to round it, no more) roll in flour and paint with the remaining egg mix, then roll in breadcrumbs. Heat oil in pan then gently lower each one of the stuffed potato balls in to cook. I prefer to deep fry mine as you don’t need to flip them as with shallow frying, which runs an added risk that your carefully crafted creations will split and ruin the whole thing, but the desired end result is the same; crispy outside, melt in your mouth detonation inside.

So if stuffing the balls sounds like too much fuss and palaver, there is an alternative. Simply mix your finely chopped chosen filling with the pre-mashed potato and omit the sour cream or cream cheese from the recipe before putting on the egg wash and breadcrumbs. Just as moreish, just as tasty and just as calorific. Which is why I won’t be making any for myself any more. Although I’m very, very tempted.

Yet if you’ve made too many to be consumed at one sitting, despair not my last remaining reader, simply allow to the finished item to cool, then stick in the freezer on a tray for twenty four hours to set before bagging for longer term freezer storage. After that, feel free to take out and deep fry a few every so often to repeat the experience, because good things should never be done just once.

Sauce!

Cookery and diet related post. A few observations on the low-carbohydrate lifestyle we’ve adopted here at Maison Sticker. First, too many almonds give you seriously vivid dreams. Second, after several weeks without potato, Mrs S and I allowed ourselves a portion of chips (fries) as a treat, result; again, hallucinatory 3D and full orchestral soundtrack dreams with CGI. Nothing unpleasant, but unusual for us both, so probably food related. Have decided not to have any more potatoes for the next couple of weeks. That was a bit freaky.

We are both slowly and steadily losing weight without too much inconvenience, although eating out is tricky because all the ‘casual dining’ sector has to offer in Canada is mostly deep fried food or salads smothered in sugar loaded dressings. I guess they’re just catering to their market, but I’m certainly saving a lot of money by not going out.

Instead I’ve been experimenting with our slow cooker or ‘crock pot’ and have worked out how to get the sauce nice and thick the way we both like it without cornstarch. The answer is Arrowroot flour or powder. Which has a similar calorie count to cornstarch or flour, but you use far less of it for the same amount of thickening. I’ve worked out that I can thicken a sauce to the same amount of glutinousness with half the Arrowroot as opposed to cornstarch, ergo fewer calories added to your diet. And no aftertaste which you can get with cornstarch. Especially if you add just a little too much.

Now arrowroot as a sauce thickener reacts differently to cornstarch. Whereas with cornstarch you can put your thickening agent in at any point in the cooking process, Arrowroot works best when stirred in as a cold roux, or water paste, toward the end of the cooking process. A roux being a mix of thickening agent and water in a two part water to one part thickener. But you all knew that didn’t you? Didn’t you? Well now you do.

For a pint of sauce, a half teaspoon of Arrowroot flour or powder should be mixed with a little cold water then added to the sauce juices about ten minutes before taking off the heat. Today I did a poached chicken madras (Two frozen cardboard chicken breasts, a handful of sliced mushrooms, three diced cooking onions and a roughly diced red pepper with a small diced turnip, half a pint of water, two generous teaspoons of curry paste and a pinch of cayenne) with the assistance of Mr Sharwoods Madras paste and an extra pinch of cayenne pepper. Left it in the slow cooker for six hours, stirring in an Arrowroot roux ten minutes before taking off the heat. Result; hot without being scorching, with the chicken falling apart and just enough zing for that lovely little chilli tingle inside the mouth, but not enough to send you running for the water jug. I served it with ten minute simmered Broccoli instead of rice and the verdict from Mrs S was “Bill, is it my imagination or are your curries getting better?” I’d just chucked everything in the pot and switched it on. Frozen ingredients included. No defrost, no fancy prep, just chop the veg up and sling it all in. Set on ‘low’. Walk away for the day, come back, stir in roux, prepare broccoli and enjoy.

All this, a days work and assembling a new dining table to serve it on. I was so damn impressed with myself I lit a candle.

That’s interesting….

Reported in Liberty about mass surveillance in the UK. Headline reads.. “Court of Appeal rules Government surveillance regime IS unlawful” According to Martha Spurrier, Liberty’s Director:

“Yet again a UK court has ruled the Government’s extreme mass surveillance regime unlawful. This judgment tells ministers in crystal clear terms that they are breaching the public’s human rights. The latest incarnation of the Snoopers’ Charter, the Investigatory Powers Act, must be changed.

“No politician is above the law. When will the Government stop bartering with judges and start drawing up a surveillance law that upholds our democratic freedoms?”

Well, that will put a few noses out of joint. Kudos to UK MP Tom Watson for following through.

Meantime, many UK porn sites have been pushed by new laws into creating a registration scheme for users. Although this only affects UK (ab)users from April onwards. But not those with a VPN. Or accessing the web via an offshore proxy. Stuff many tech-savvy teenage boys can do without even bending a neuron.

Trip planning redux

Well, now here’s a thing. No sooner have Mrs S and I returned to Vancouver Island than we’re talking about another trip overseas. This time back to Europe.

At the moment we’re talking about flying direct to that shopping centre with an airport attached, Schipol, and using good old Amsterdam as our base to go gallivanting around Northwestern(ish) Europe. However, this is purely the discussion phase; we have to cost out the trip and keep track of our funds. Germany will be expensive, if we decide to include parts of it. I have business to attend to which cannot be put off any longer in the UK, and Mrs S is going to pop into London to visit with Youngest for a few days. By the end of the week we’ll have a better idea of where and when, although my UK visit is going to be limited to the northwestern Midlands. I’ve found out one of my Uncles is still alive and sinning, and I’d like the old boy to know all is good between our respective branches of the clan before he slips into the long night.

Not much else happening otherwise at El Sticker’s Hacienda. I’m already missing Australia, or rather the sunshine and warmth. And the awesome Asian fusion food. Tip for my last remaining reader, in Canada, Gourmet means with extra cheese. In BC most ‘curries’ are just big, very chewy chunks of meat in sauce, not a melt in the mouth spicy sensation at all. In Oz, getting a decent genuine curry is no problem. Why, in some places one almost might be in Manchester’s famous ‘Curry mile’ the quality is that good. Although that’s changing. Which is slightly saddening.

Nevertheless, one thing did tickle my funny bone this afternoon. Mrs S and I went out to purchase a slow cooker for preparing winter curries etcetera and noticed that you can purchase a marriage license at a store called London Drugs. Which kind of begged the question, where do you purchase a divorce? The spares department at Canadian Tire? (Although I daren’t look, herself is watching) You can certainly buy fishing and hunting licenses at most semi-rural grocery stores here on the island. So why not?

Hang on, she’s finding this just as funny, so in the word of the old joke*, I’ll just risk the one eye. Holy Maracas Batman! Divorce for as little as three hundred and thirty bucks? Two hundred for filing with the court plus ten bucks for registration. Eighty for the final registration and another forty for a certificate. Bloody hell, that’s quite a… sorry dear. I’m getting a look now. If you’ve been married for over ten years you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Returning to the less domestically dangerous topic of slow cookers, or ‘crock pots’ as they are called this side of the pond, the smallest we could buy was four US quarts capacity. Which is a tad over six and a half Imperial pints or a large gulp under four litres. That’s a lot of Chicken Madras and no mistake. So batch cooking a few stews will be on the agenda too. Our freezer can handle the overflow. Set everything going first thing and be ready for a substantial supper around six. Well, that’s the plan. Whether said scheme survives contact with reality is another matter.

There is such a concept as too much of a good thing.

TTFN.

* From the old English folk tale of Lady Godiva. The legendary Peeping Tom and a friend are lurking behind a fence with a large knot hole in it as the naked form of Lord Leofric’s wife rides through the streets of Coventry in her one woman tax protest. “Tom, don’t do it mate! Don’t look!” Urges Peeping Tom’s friend. “If you look at her naked flesh, you, you’ll go blind!”
To which the errant tradesman ties a strip of cloth over one side of his face like a crude eyepatch and replies. “Well in that case I’m only going to chance the one eye.”

If you see Sydney….

…. Don’t tell him we’re passing through again. Busy embarrassing Eldest’s friends and have just done doing the beach barbecue thing with Kangaroo meat. Aside from that we’re just pootling around, going to outdoor opera events, learning our way around the local trains, buses and bars. The usual tourist stuff. Walking Sydney Harbour Bridge, but not paying to get vertigo at over 150 Australian dollars a pop. With the help of native guides and spent a day at the beach. Our native guides are a complete gas by the way and have treated us with grace and generosity. Despite all the ballistic missiles failing to rain down on Hawaii. We’re all cool. Figuratively

The thing I really, really like about Aussies is their complete lack of ‘side’; generally speaking they either like you or not and aren’t shy about letting you know. Which is very refreshing.

The automotive news is interesting, with talk of ‘million mile cars’ specifically vehicles designed to be continuously upgraded and maintained like modern airliners currently are. Cars designed for leasing for ride sharing rather than individual ownership. Not there aren’t private cars which have actually done a million miles already. Wonder if this is a bid to sidestep the proposed bans of private vehicle sales of internal combustion engined vehicles. Riight. We’ll see how that works out.

Off time travelling tomorrow back to BC where we will land four and a half hours before we took off from Sydney. Don’t ask.

On the road again

Well we’ve waved TTFN to Melbourne for now and are now on the fourth leg of our Australian Jaunt, dodging ‘roos and Drop-Bears with the added threat of bush fires today. We hope to dodge any large scale fires by hugging the coast as much as possible. Which has paid off so far as we’re heading toward sundown.

Rather ticked off at the car hire company for being a bunch of chiseling cheese parers. Decided to have a go back by painstakingly highlighting every last single fault which they had not spotted in their pre-rental checklist, photographing every single ding or rock chip, as I’m sure the bastards will try to charge my credit card for every last tiny scratch. They didn’t even wash the bloody thing properly. However, I’ve already spoken to my credit card company, and they agree there’s dodgy dealings afoot.

A stern but polite letter will also be going out to the hire company’s head office like the previously mentioned franchise practices I’m not happy with. I did ask them to countersign my updated damage report, but the staff refused. That too will be in my very detailed report to their head office. People who try to cheat me nowadays tend to lose. My ducks are all patiently sitting in a row, each carefully recorded piece of evidence awaiting every attempted incidence of overcharging. You might say I’m being a bit paranoid, but my attitude simply reflects previous experience with car hire companies. Trust does not figure largely in the relationship.

Regardless of the aforementioned, we are now well on our way and have been doing even more “Oohing” at the big sky scenery and deliciously turquoise seascapes. Yes it’s hot, with me taking plenty of roadside time-outs to snooze through temperatures topping 42 Celsius according to the cars thermometer. Well, we’re not in a rush and have made lots of time for this trip, so an impromptu snooze is just the ticket. Tomorrow the temperature is predicted to drop to something more comfortable in the mid 20’s as we round the corner into New South Wales and decide upon whether we’re going to bother with Canberra.

Wildlife sightings have been reduced to spotting roadkill, with two ‘Roos and a couple of Wombats today. Wombats are about the size of a Vietnamese pot bellied pig covered in dark brown fur. There was one bloody smear that could have been an incautious Koala, but it was hard to tell. All we’ve seen of live Australian fauna is cattle and sheep. Oh, and the many Parakeets and Lorikeet variants with the odd Fruitbat around dusk. Beware the Fruitbats, they’re like Socialists, they shit on everything.

Reading has been restricted to my rather dog eared copy of the Gulag Achipelago, Alexandr Solzhenitzyn’s chronicle of his arrest and imprisonment in the Soviet Prison system. It should be compulsory reading for anyone studying ‘political science’ at University. Full text pdf here if you want your eyes opened about totalitarian collectivist government. I first read it in 1975, along with his fictional follow-on “The First Circle” having cut my teeth on the disturbing A day in the life of Ivan Denisovich at school. Hardly holiday reading, unless of course you’re me, but interesting first hand perspectives from someone who survived the Soviet system of thought crime and punishment. Anyone thinking of creating thought crime offences should take careful note.

More cheerfully I can report on my first experience with the notorious Australian “Meat pie” which is as close as the Aussies have to a national dish. The flavour, for my last remaining British reader, is akin to one of the old “Fleur de Lys” latterly “Pukka” steak and kidney pies with a smidgeon of Bovril, encased in pastry that would probably sink a German WWII pocket battleship. Quite tasty, although a little heavy for a hot day.

Anyway, that’s it for now as supper time beckons and I’ve been saving my appetite. TTFN.

Glad to be here

We’re enjoying Melbourne, even if it’s a tad on the expensive side. The food? Lots of Italian, Vietnamese and Chinese, but if you get a chance, seek out one of the little Fusion eateries just off the main tourist trails. Stay away from the tourist traps along the Yarra, they aren’t worth the price. Seek out the unusual and your taste buds will thank you for it.

Sleep patterns are being a little messed up by phone messages going off at (to us) odd hours from Youngest, who has returned to her job in the soggy old UK and is already missing the warmth and suffering from the ravagers of jet lag, poor lamb. All we can do is urge her not to sign anything important until she’s fully compos mentis again.

What we’re also enjoying are the pleasant temperatures, currently around 22 Celsius, which we’re told will peak out on Saturday after we’ve left Melbourne to Sydney on a little road trip at a scorching prediction of 41(Yikes!) Celsius. Which is warm for even Victoria, where we will hide from the heat on a boat ride or so before wafting up the coast for our last week in the sun. All ahead SPF 50 Mr Sulu and mind those photon torpedoes.

North America on the other hand, seems to be not enjoying any heat at all, with sub zero Celsius temperatures as far south as Mexico and Florida. Which happened last year and the year before that. Can’t speak for Australia of course, because we weren’t here. However we’ve enjoyed our time down under so much that even now plans are afoot for another antipodean Xmas. At least if I have any say in the matter. Cold is nice occasionally, but only if it comes as a breeze from the air conditioning unit. I think I’ve outgrown any emotional attachments to White Christmases, because aren’t they supposed to be racist or something. Not that it’ll stop the snow falling. Weather’s like that, very politically incorrect.

As far as weather is concerned the old tune “But baby it’s cold outside” is appropriate in the Northern Hemisphere at present. Which song is annoying all the right people because it’s about ‘rape culture’ which some neurotics out there have transposed onto normal human courtship behaviour. Weirdo’s.

All the above notwithstanding. Before we push off, I’m going for a pamper at one of those fancy mens grooming places for a spiff up with hot towels to clear the pores, the whole nine yards.

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.

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.