Category Archives: Random Amusement

Rain, rain

Blood and sand! That was a hair raising nine hours. The roads of Newfoundland are pockmarked like a pre-vaccination era smallpox survivor. And it was raining. Raining very hard indeed. So hard that the satellite connections were going down like victims of the Black Death. Fortunately we were carrying plenty of cash, so paying for food and gas wasn’t the problem it could so easily have been. Did I mention the aquaplaning? Jeebus, I might as well have been surfing. The wheel was almost kicked out of my hands at even moderate speeds, and led to our journey time being extended by at least an hour and a half.

I don’t normally mind rain, and BC but this time the Atlantic weather really chucked it down. I was only mildly surprised not to hear pained miaowing and yapping as cats and dogs bounced off our little tin box while we alternately drove and skidded most of the way from the finger of Newfie-land down to the Avalon Peninsula.

Apparently the Western side and perhaps all sides of Newfoundland are subject to a phenomenon known as the ‘Wreckhouse winds‘, winds so strong they on one occasion, pushed 22 freight wagons off the rails. Local legend has it that these hurricane plus force gusts have toppled parked vehicles and the occasional locomotive over. Whether the Gods of Wreckhouse were active that day I do not know, but do I know that driving conditions were as difficult as anything I can recall, even over Shap Fell on the M6 on a really bad winter day. Possibly even more so. Our little Subaru normally shrugs off wind and rain like they don’t exist, but that day all bets were off.

Anyway, we made our destination, somewhat belatedly, in one piece and parked up in a sheltered place to recover from our travel tribulations over a bottle of Cabernet and a nice meal. The following day it was almost sunshine all the way. Apparently this is average for this time of year. These Newfies must be made of tough stuff if they can cope with this sort of weather.

Newfoundland is a strange place, hostile, then with a twitch of the veil the sun shines and it’s utterly gorgeous. Rather like the North West of Scotland. And the mossies and no-see-ums are just as fearsome as the notorious Scottish highland midge, an insect so aggressive that when one is captured in a jar it will attempt to beat itself to death. However, two Newfoundland midges were reputed to have got into a fight over a particularly tasty moose and laid waste to half a hectare of trees. However, that is supposedly the stuff of folklore, but having seen the real thing I’m not so sure.

Pass the Benadryl and put in a bulk order for Deet. A Lobster dinner is beckoning. For your amusement, please view the following two videos.

Yes Prime Minister Global Warming etc Part 2 from Aris Motas on Vimeo.

How to?

Mrs S and I converse about a lot of things in the car, and to amuse my one remaining reader, I would like to enlarge. Yesterday we were heading south, me at the wheel dodging the plague of potholes on the 430 from L’Anse Aux Meadows when she asked me; “Bill, what sex is an iceberg?”
Caught off guard for a moment I mentally scratched my head before replying. “I have no idea.” I confessed honestly.
“Ships are usually referred to as ‘she’.” My good lady enlarged. “But what about icebergs?”

My wife likes to challenge me with these apparent non-sequiturs from time to time. I think she likes to keep me on my mental toes. As in ‘tenterhooks’. In the German Medieval sense. Nastily inventive people those medieval Germans. The English version comes from around the same period in the 15th & 16th Centuries when torture was considered de rigeur for all those pointed little questions like “When did you last talk to that heretic Luther?”

“Erm. I didn’t think icebergs had a gender. Ships, yes. Even cars. Bugger.” Was the answer forced out from between my teeth as I failed to miss a brace of suspension rattlers.
“Yes, that’s true. As inanimate objects they wouldn’t.” Was she testing me to see if I was getting bored with driving? Okay. I thought I’d throw out a few ideas.
“Upon reflection.” I said as we cleared the trees and the sea, with it’s complement of blue-green masses of ice hove into view like ghosts on the horizon in the mist. “Perhaps icebergs could be described as female. Sedate. Queenly. Even regal.” I averred carefully.
“And cold?” She joked.
“Definitely.” I replied. “At least until they melt.” Maybe there was an oblique message in the original question. Which is giving me pause for thought. We have had cross words in the last week or so and apologies have been made, but I have the feeling all is still not well in our relationship.

Now I know she’s not happy with our current accommodation (And neither am I), and this neck of the woods is a bit remote for her, (and me) but I’m getting the distinct feeling I’m in deep trouble. However, in keeping with my policy for these remoter sections of our epic road trip, I’ve booked us in for a nice spa break near St Johns for the day after tomorrow. Maybe that will get me out of the hole I appear to be in. Or the potholes that have had me swerving like a drunk to avoid our cars suspension being shattered, at the very least.

A few miles later while slowed to avoid yet more of these bloody potholes, we were treated to the spectacle of the RCMP making an arrest on the other side of the road as we drove by. Handcuffs, the whole thing. Which sparked off another discussion. Further questions about iceberg sexing were forgotten.

Icebergs and Vikings

Well there’s a turn up. I’ve seen my first iceberg. Only a grounded tide-rolled growler less than thirty metres across about a hundred metres offshore, but more than enough cold stuff to chill a million Martinis. Oh all right, officially it was a ‘Bergy bit‘ but it was cold and made of ice, so in my book it counts as an iceberg. So there. There’s actually a web site that tracks them, here. Cute or what?

Today we’ve sighted enough ice to keep Vancouver nicely chilled and am still blown away by the sedate blue green majesty of these berg cast offs. On the way back to our hotel we saw a Catalina PBY on display. Right in the middle of a tiny Newfoundland town. And the two Moose on the roadside. One of which stayed still long enough to let Mrs S catch it’s image before doing a lolloping high step into the brush and swamp at the roadside. Pictures will follow as soon as we’re home to my photo-editing software.

Well this is the area first settled by Northern Europeans in the 10th Century AD. At least the first evidence thereof. Other suspected sites have been found further North on Baffin Island and South at Rosee Point, Newfoundland. Indeed, Norse sagas specifically describe three lands; Helluland (Baffin Island) Vinland (Newfoundland) and Markland (Labrador). And if you read this article, a 10th century Norse coin was found at a North American Indian settlement as far back as 1957. Nineteen fifty seven? Sixty years ago and no one’s made a big deal out of it? Bloody hell. That’s like being told the Holy Grail actually exists and gets used as a toothmug by a Mrs E.Thrigg of Acacia Avenue, Watford, UK who picked it up at a bring and buy sale.

Mind you, I can see why the Vikings picked up and left after only a decade. This part of the world is a desolate place, despite Corner Brook & the northern tip of Newfoundland being rated as one of the most beautiful drives in Canada, at least according to the Canadian Book of Lists. Yeah, right. The bumper crop of potholes might put a crimp in that experience. We passed salt burned, stunted trees with blackened trunks, salt marshes and acres of rocks with little or nothing growing. I also hear tell the Norsemen kept on getting into spats with the local tribes over trade, so in the end the Vikings simply called it a day and buggered off back to Iceland and Greenland. Why? Because even in June it’s cold as a witches tit up here in the Northern finger of Newfoundland, with piles of snow still hanging around from Winter, even after solstice.

While I was asking some of the locals about why it was so unseasonably cold and damp, some elderly woman opined, quite seriously, that it must be caused by ‘global warming’. Sorry, but I almost laughed out loud. Some people are so brainwashed and ignorant that they’re inadvertently quite funny. Especially when the there’s more ice in the bay than usual. So tomorrow we’re doing like the Vikings did. Getting the hell out to warmer climes and stuff the scenery.

Ontario

Well we’re well over half way now to Newfoundland now and in the same time zone as New York. With a scenic Rocks and trees. Trees, rocks and Muskeg while making frequent stops and transatlantic phone calls to assure ourselves that Youngest and friends are all fine. I think the news is so far so good.

So here’s a quick musical interlude describing what Northern Ontario is still like. Even if some of the small towns we visited on our first run across in ’07 have had an upgrade, and some a downgrade. Some of the places I can recall exactly where we stayed, others have changed so much that they are little more than a blur. The rocks and the trees persist.

Oh yes, and we saw our first Moose grazing in a heavily shadowed patch of swamp at the side of highway 17. That and a red 18 wheeler on its side on the other side of the road with an upside down trailer. Five klicks on two Police cars were spotted incoming followed by two ambulances and two fire and rescue vehicles. As we paused at a gas station half an hour later the second Ambulance was seen returning to base, which probably meant there wasn’t more than one casualty. Hope the truck driver wasn’t too badly hurt. It didn’t make the online news, so I’m assuming he got off with a few bumps and bruises at worst. Which is a good thing. Mrs S tried to warn oncoming drivers to slow down by flashing our lights. Which isn’t much, but sometimes ‘not much’ is the best you can do.

Mosquito mania

It must be nearing Summer. The mossies and no-see-ums are beginning to make an impact on our hides despite copious anointments of bug repellent. Seriously, the little tinkers must be passing messages saying “Fresh blood, guys. Pile on.” Mrs S is suffering worse than me, poor lamb, and woke me around four this morning with a shriek when she twisted a muscle trying to apply ointment to an almost inaccessible part of her anatomy. Now she has to sit quietly to let the muscle settle, and my beloved does not sit still very well. Hi-ho. Unfortunately this means I have to do all the driving.

Well, we’ve crossed the Rockies and are well into ranching and oil territory. We missed a turn while admiring a Rocket III whoosh ahead, and because we didn’t realise our error for over half an hour and ended up driving for an hour longer than anticipated. Such are the grid patterns of Albertan roads. No biggie.

The one thing about crossing mile after mile of forest and pasture punctuated with the odd swamp is that it gets boring. Like with the Rockies, you can only take so much awesome in a day. I find when trying to stick to the 110kph (68mph) speed limit on dual carriageways such splendour gets more than a little dull. So much so that I start yawning, provoking a “Bill, you are drifting. Be aware.” from Mrs S, who paraphrased Omar Sharif’s famous line from Lawrence of Arabia at me with a playful slap. However, I got the joke, perked up, and an hour later we arrived safely at our hotel.

Anyway, tomorrow is a much shorter hike, with a planned stop off to do a little canoeing en route. Whether I end up doing all the paddling is moot. One thing is certain; those bloody mosquitoes will be trying to make a meal of us. Time for a trip to the drug store for more Deet, then.

Another day, another hotel

Off onto the land of the rising sun, and I’m not talking Japan here. We’re heading Eastbound and sideways. Scenery is still completely awesome, we raised the tally to nine Black Bears observed in the last four days when we photographed a mother and two cubs studiously ignoring tourists on highway 16 east of Jasper.

Which raises the question; are Ursus Americanus ‘black’ enough? Or will BLM and their cohorts claim that’s one of their sacred ‘ists’, and since I’m not the ‘correct’ skin hue am I on the list of people allowed to refer to these creatures as ‘black’? Having photographed a mother and two cubs; again, can one call the female parent of a bear cub a ‘mother’? I’m told there are people who make the rules in Ontario who have views about that sort of thing. They have a hit list of non-approved words, and ‘mother’ is most definitely on it.

Also a bit gutted because I slept through a magnificent display of the Northern Lights last night. Fortunately I met a like minded geek over breakfast this morning who let me know what tonights peak activity was going to be like. We’re also 100km north and 200km east of our last lodgings, so I’m going to stay up way past my bedtime, camera in hand in ‘movie’ mode to try and capture the sky dancing. Posting of pictures and such may be a bit delayed as I haven’t loaded any photo and video editing software on my new ‘pooter. However, watch this space.

As for the forthcoming UK election; are there people who seriously have a remaining brain cell going to vote for Labour with Corbyn in the driving seat? He’s a wetter re-run of Michael Foot for heavens sake! At least Foot was anti-EU. Corbyn is so keen to play lovable puppy to Juncker and Merkin that he’ll become everyone’s bitch as far as BREXIT is concerned. May is far too authoritarian, but at least she’ll get the UK out of the EU. Corbyn won’t, he’ll fold faster than a black belt in Origami.

Glad to see that Trump fellow is backing out of the Paris accord on Climate Change. He may be bombastic and a little boorish in manner, but isn’t he annoying all the right people? Must buy some more popcorn tomorrow, as I’ve run out and my handy dandy little hot air popcorn maker has remained at home.

That’s all for the present. Having a splendid time and am going up a glacier some time in the next day or so. Play nice now.

The indefatigable Anna

While road trip planning this morning, a process punctuated by the sound of American Robins bouncing off our windows, I was utterly delighted to hear the news that the Scriblerus’ groups doyenne, the redoubtable and worthwhile Anna Raccoon is very much alive and poking nethers. The link to her updated blog is on the sidebar. It just goes to show, you can’t keep a good Raccoon down.

Now Anna and I have corresponded on occasion, and I’ve always found her a delight and a pleasure to deal with. Quite simply because people of her determination and integrity are admirable above all others. And her integrity, let me tell you, is constructed of Chobham armour plate with reactive munitions on the side. Even during the worst mudslinging of the Savile saga, she remained unflinching and resolute in her pursuit of factual accuracy. Standing aside from the media and compensation driven witch hunt asking simple questions that turned out to have far more interesting answers than the denunciations reprinted ad nauseum in the mainstream UK press.

Now Anna, our own Suzanne Cameron-Blackie is standing (or rather lying in bed) in the UK General Election June 8th as an independent candidate in the constituency of Islington North. If you are an Islingtonian who wants to really stick it to all sides of the political spectrum then I would recommend you vote for her. Because in the simplest terms she is a damned sight more worthy than Corbyn, or any of the other mainstream party candidates.

Now some would say “Hey, she’s terminally ill – what good can she do?” Suggesting that a vote for a dying woman is wasted.

My response would be that Suzanne has been told she was going to ‘die in six months’ before, a couple of years ago if memory serves. And another time before that. This alone would indicate an almost indomitable will and blast-your-eyes bloody mindedness powering her cancer ravaged frame. For which other mortal flesh can only stand in awe. Most other people faced with such pain and suffering would have turned their face to the wall by now and slid under quietly, but not her. This old girl is going down fighting all the way. The grim reaper is probably frightened of her anyway. So I have a feeling La Raccoon will be with us for a little while yet. I’ve even had an amusing vision of her delivering her maiden speech from a hospital bed wheeled into the House of Commons. Or even on a Skype screen installed for the occasion.

What a trooper. God bless her and all who sail with her.

Science, settling

Gritting my teeth today over a large car service bill. However, it’s money well spent as it keeps our little SUV chugging along and less likely to end up letting us down at some critical juncture. It was a large chunk of change, but we only get this kind of expense once a year. Well thrice if you count what’s coming next.

Mrs S and I are about to undertake another epic road trip, this time to Newfoundland and back. Unlike ten years ago we don’t have the complication of the dog, which meant we spent a lot of time looking for ‘pet friendly’ motels who would charge thirty bucks extra a night for the privilege of having our dog with us. We’re also taking the road less travelled along the northern route where cell phone coverage is spotty at best. However, so long as the motels we book have decent wi-fi, we’re all good. We’ve also bought a nice big cool box for picnics en route.

Talking of comestibles and the politics of food, sometimes you just have to give a grim faced nod of ‘told you so’ and shake your head at the sheer capriciousness of the diet industry and the quasi-political organisations that keep on handing down doctrinaire dictations about what we should and should not be eating, having first lobbied the WHO into backing their unhinged assertions.

Over the past few years there have been a number of food scares. All of which seem to be falling by the wayside. Recently the Framington Study, an analysis of dietary salt intake, came up with the long suspected result that a salt intake greater than 2300mg per day is not as dangerous as some would have us believe. The results indicate that good old sodium chloride is not the death dealing masked super villain the hand waving anti-salt lobby would have us all believe. See this article for the alternative guidelines and follow links back to the study.

Of course the anti-salt lobby have pointed out the weaknesses in the study, but the evidence indicates that so long as your kidneys are functioning normally, any excess salt gets flushed out of your system anyway. So why all the fuss? Indeed, more rational voices have argued that a daily intake of 4-6000mg per day is essential for a healthy heart and that the 2,300 FDA guidelines are far too low and may even be damaging.

As always, it seems that moderation is key and maybe the health problems the ‘experts’ claim, along with their total low-taste lifestyle recommendations are just wild guesses. Like the scares over dietary fat, the alcohol intake guidelines and just about every other claimed killer, all the figures behind these claims seem to be plucked out of thin air. It could be argued that by setting the limits way too low they are actually devaluing the case against excessive dietary intake which may well prove harmful at 10,000mg / day. Or are the panicmongers doing what I used to do with Eldest when we were going out, telling her that we were going half an hour earlier than we actually were and to get her buns into gear? Pitching the upper limit way too low because they know no-one’s going to do what they’re told anyway. Well I’m certainly not.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned it is that these Government Health guidelines too often have their genesis in advocacy organisations and commercial lobbyists (Sometimes working for the same people) who want to have their preferred product given more favourable market conditions. Like margarine was once promoted as ‘more healthy’ than butter (Hint; it isn’t). Or Gluten free diets for people without Coeliac Disease leading to an increased risk of heart disease. As with fanatic teetotallers pushing for yet another ban on booze, we’re still living with the consequences of that complete cock-up.

What the failure of all these guidelines should tell us is; a little bit of what you fancy is probably far better for you than stressing over Government guidelines that are based on 1) Wild guesses or 2) Advocacy directed ‘research’. Maybe Governments should stop giving out diet related advice as all they seem to do is get it wrong.

A sea change

The tides of my fortune have undergone a welcome sea change. To be honest I haven’t quite let it sink in yet. Busily patting myself on the back today. New Stand / Sit desk and full length dining table have been ordered. Debts paid in full with quite a bit left over, so I’m feeling fairly chipper. I’ve also bought half a dozen bottles of assorted single malt whiskey. Mostly 10 and 12 year old. Auchtentoshan, Talisker, Aberlour, Laphroaig, Bowmore and Singleton. Nothing too fancy but these are my personal favourites. I also picked up a bottle of Famous Grouse smokey black, which is for day to day unwinding.

Mrs S is in London at the moment with Youngest, so I’m rattling around the homestead on my lonesome planning our Canadian Summer road trip and Christmas in Australia and New Zealand. Which is nice because I get to slob out a bit, get some beers in, leave the toilet seat up, all that guy stuff. That and binge watching Boardwalk Empire when I’m not working or planning.

I’m not with Mrs S this trip because I don’t really like London or big cities that much. Why? Because I get a bit fretful if I can’t see the horizon from time to time. Not really a people person either. So cities have always left me feeling a bit ‘Meh’. They’re okay to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there full time. Even the ‘burbs out where we live sometimes feel a bit confining.

Anyway, it’s at times like these I’m reminded of Ariel’s song from from Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’

Full fathom five thy father lies; Of his bones are coral made; Those are pearls that were his eyes: Nothing of him that doth fade, But doth suffer a sea-change Into something rich and strange.

So it seems with the Sea change on the Interweb. Hunters are becoming hunted. Twitter stormers who ‘go after’ people they don’t agree with are being caught in a digital tornado of their own making. Why? Because the nerds have now weaponised their autism and are expressing their disdain for censorship in all its forms. See Sargon of Akkads video on 4Chan/pol.

One of 4Chan’s chief targets is Antifa, that bunch of black clad haters who want to shut down the free discussion of ideas. Antifa are violent. Antifa are totalitarian, Fascist by the most concrete definition of the word, even though they are really a bunch of loser Communist agitators founded by Leon Trotsky. This is the Leon Trotsky who was murdered on the orders of his fellow communists you understand. And I’m not surprised. He was an unpleasant shit. Clever, but still a shit. The Ice Pick in the head was well-deserved.

Now Antifa and their mates have good reason to be quaking in their little black painted sneakers because they are finding out what it’s like on the receiving end. I hear they’re deleting their Farcebook and Twatter accounts so 4Chan can’t find them. Which won’t help. In this digital day and age you can find loads out about people in seconds without going anywhere near their social media accounts.

Anyway, it’s their own silly fault, they’ve been prodding a bear through the cage bars, now the bears have just strolled around the end of the fence to take issue with the dickheads who have been trying to mind their business for them, the opposition is widespread. From the ultra-right faction known as the ‘Soldiers of Odin’ who actively walk into Antifa squats around Vancouver and elsewhere, cleaning up graffiti and taunting lefties, to some of the geekier gamer basement dwellers inhabiting forums like 4Chan, who are unleashing their focused Autism on the injustices perpetrated against freedom (and gaming), as well as helping target the odd terrorist training camp. Performing some epic trolling in the process. It is even rumoured that they may even break the jolly old Interweb. See Tim Pool’s analysis below;

Personally I think the real World War Z has already started, but the zombies are waking up to how few they actually have on their side. Now I’ve topped up my whiskey supply I am really going to have to go get a bigger popcorn maker. Canadian Tire, here I come.