Category Archives: Random Amusement

Did I miss anything?

Recently bought myself a copy of Larousse on Cooking, am learning how to make good Yoghurt. Have also been spending time and money upgrading my office with a new, more secure Wi-fi router which goes like wet smelly stuff off a large steel digging implement and a new ultra comfy office chair from which to oversee my affairs and plot world domination. Did mention to Mrs S about getting a White Persian Cat to stroke while hatching my evil plans, but she said we couldn’t because they shed like crazy and we have a ‘no pets’ agreement with our landlord. She also said that we’d need to put it out at night (Who sets their cat on fire? – That’s cruel) or coax it down from the curtains, or clear its collection of sacrificial offerings up every morning. So, no cat. No Bill, no cat and that’s final. Oh yes, and can you clean up after yourself a bit better.

No-one tells you all this when you first decide to be an evil genius. Someone has to scour the Piranha tank and the scorpion pit. Or vacuum up the cat hairs. Or rake out the embers from your private volcano and power wash the high powered laser spy splitter after use (It gets really messy and burned on blood is hell to get off the stainless steel). Not to mention pay much higher electricity bills for powering all the various torture instruments that are de rigueur for the socially mobile world domineer. Sorry, I thought I was supposed to do the plotting and planning not spend all my time cleaning. One doesn’t get where I’m not today with having to take care of every single fine detail myself. I’m supposed to have people for that. Speaking of which, frankly me dears you just can’t get the henchmen nowadays. No-one seems to teach the right skills. When I tell a minion to carve a couple of slices off a helpless victim or do the waterboarding properly, the last thing I want to see is one of those blank ‘What do you want me to do that for?’ looks.

To which I have only one response:
I’m busy reading the financials, because it’s where all the real news is.

Apart from that, it’s been a nice few days. The winds have returned, blowing the wildfire smoke away and we can see the Olympic Mountains and the Juan De Fuca clearly once more. All right, the breezes make putting up our sunshade a little problematic and we have to watch it in case it gets blown into a back yard two blocks away but our Deer decimated flowers are making a comeback, bringing a much needed splash of colour to our deck. I can see the Fuchsia once more.

The other good news is that Mrs S has now relented and allowed me to look for a World domination cat. Just so long as it’s not a real one. Heavy sigh. Suppose I’ll have to clean the Piranha tank and muck out the Scorpions myself then. Either that or it’s fish and chips or Mock-Scampi in a basket. Again.

Smoking

The hills are disappearing under a veil of wildfire smoke as I write this. Softly fading into grey-blue invisibility, range by range until we can see no more than a kilometre or so, and the taste of burning forest is in the thick, still air.

It’s wildfire season and the wildfires have the upper hand at present (See this interactive map). The state of emergency has been extended for two weeks and the volunteer firefighters are all fully engaged, NOTAM’s (Notice to Airmen – like those issued about volcanic activity and war zones) are in effect over the fire zones. Which is nothing new. Happens roughly every third year or so in BC. Out here in the ‘burbs of Victoria it’s an inconvenience, but the smoke does keep the Summer temperatures manageable. Could do with a stiff Pacific breeze or two though. Even the forecast for today simply says ‘smoke’ (Or should that be ‘vape’?) See screengrab below.

From some sources the usual cries have gone up that it’s all the fault of the mythical man made global warming, although I don’t think anyone with an active brain cell actually believes that any more. Although man is no longer wholly at fault, apparently our domestic cats and dogs are major contributors because they’re carnivores. According to some dotty academic from UCLA.

Seriously, we could kill off 99% of all animal and human life on this planet and all these whining catastrophists wouldn’t be happy. Right up until the moment they realised that all these animals and people are, in many and diverse ways, keeping the many Cassandra’s comforted, fed and provided with all the comforts of life they enjoy. They’re just selfish. They want the world to themselves and in their narrow solipsistic little minds other people don’t count unless we’re doing what we’re jolly well told. By them of course. Because their inferiority complexes demand total compliance or they feel so thweatened, poor ickle bunny’s. Sheesh.

On a more positive note, we’ve rescued our deer-decimated Geraniums and Fuchsia’s, potted them up and placed them on the deck, where we will get the joy of them throughout the flowering season and those bloody deer can’t get at our prized blooms. Not unless the greedy little sods learn to pole vault.

A Sunday Post

I love Tech, both old and new. Particularly tech that has stayed the course and proved worthy beyond any predicted life. See below two pictures of Catalina’s or Canso versions of the PBY flying boat, designed in the 1930’s and still flying today. The one on the left can be found slap bang in the middle of St Anthony’s Newfoundland. Not near any airstrip, just parked on a vacant lot as a museum type exhibit. The second we sighted from the northern perimeter road at Victoria International Airport 21st July.
These two venerable airframes have been around since the late 1930’s / early 40’s and still have that look of, how should I phrase it, worthiness. Solidity. Yes, they’re an old design, but in their heyday were known for staying in the air on long range patrols of up to 24hours. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another manned production aircraft that can match that.

Don’t ask me what it is but there is a strange kind of beauty about these grande dames of the air.

Oh yes. Have a look at the map below with the locations marked, then take a look to the extreme right at a small group of islands off the coast of Europe. We drove all the way between these points (Apart from two ferry trips) A shade over 17,000Km or well over 10,000 miles. I still don’t think I’m fully recovered.

I love food scares

All this fuss over ‘Chlorinated Chicken’. Actually chicken that has effectively been washed in water with around the same percentage of Chlorine as a swimming pool to get rid of some of the harmful bacteria which fowl is heir to. Hands up who has inadvertently swallowed a mouthful from the local municipal baths? What, never? So you’re a non-swimmer then.

It’s yet another storm in a teacup brought to us by people who whore themselves out, writing nonsense to earn a crust, then for a bunch of room temperature IQ’s to get all incensed about it. Honestly. No, if you eat cooked chicken that has previously been washed in a mild solution of Chlorine pre-preparation you’re probably a whole lot safer than with Chicken ‘au naturel‘ and all the nasty stuff that fowl is heir to. Salmonella, Camphylobacter, E.coli to name but three. Seriously, put a raw, unwashed chicken on your kitchen counter and you might as well have taken a shit on it. It’s why you should always wash your hands properly when preparing fowl. Never mind that accepting US food standards may be part of a putative UK-US trade deal post BREXIT. Seen in this light, the originating articles are all poorly veiled anti-Trump, anti-BREXIT scaremongering. The ‘Chlorinated Chicken gives people cancer’ implication is no better than lefty doublespeak. It’s such arrant nonsense I’m not even going to link to it.

Anyway, that’s beside the point. I absolutely love these silly food scares because most of them are complete bollocks. Especially when some politician gets in on the act and intones that ‘something must be done’. Oh dear, if only they knew how dumb they look.

You see when these scares hit the boob tube (Major TV networks), the first effect is that the gullible stop buying a previously popular product, so the Supermarkets have to get rid of a lot of less salable stock in a hurry before it goes off. Which is my cue to head down to the relevant supermarket aisle and raid the product in question. Result; I save quite a few dollars and my freezer gets a top up. There’s two salmon and six chickens in there at the moment awaiting my culinary mercies. The Salmon are Pinks, which are currently in season, so the price has dropped like a jumbo sized lead sinker, and the chickens? Well, thank the propagandists for that. Cheers, lads. I would buy you a pint, but you aren’t men enough to drink them, so it would be a waste of time and effort.

I’m just waiting for something horrible to be announced about pork ribs. Because I’m rather partial to my own ribs recipe and am looking for an opportunity to stock up cheaply. It’s not that I can’t afford it, it’s just that I’m cheap.

Never work

Well there’s a probability that I will be dead before this piece of idiocy comes to pass and just as well. A proposed UK 2040 ban on sales of all Diesel and Petrol engined vehicles. Oh dear, there are so many things wrong with this proposal that I’m having trouble enumerating them all.

Now Diesel, yes, I can see the utility from that, given the ‘known’ link between Diesel fumes and cancer. Well, at least according to the most recent IARC report. Worse than smoking, by all accounts. But that’s by the by. But petrol and diesel? Hmm.

The problems with the proposed ban on internal combustion engines begins, as the source article says, with the necessary upgrades in generating capacity that going over to a predominantly ‘renewables’ based power grid as mandated by legislation will entail. When the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine there won’t be enough batteries in all creation to power the UK’s energy needs, especially if millions of electric vehicles are all plugged into the grid. Even if every spare hillside is covered in bird killing wind turbines. So investment in Nuclear seems like the obvious solution. Thorium seems the safest option, as the end product can’t be used for bombs. However, that technology need to mature. As for fusion? Well given the current rate of progress, that is at least fifty years away. Especially if the focus remains on the ‘bang in a bottle’ Tokamak based designs. Research has been focusing on that branch of technology since the 1960’s to my recollection, but the goal of sustainable nuclear fusion reactions remain just as far away.

The next issue is grid capacity. I haven’t actually done the sums but even a back of a fag packet guesstimate means that the UK grid will need at the very least triple the current infrastructure. Given twenty plus years, this isn’t beyond the bounds of possibility, however, expect lots of brown outs and power rationing. Then you can triple the number of pylons marching across the landscape. All the scenic views will be interrupted by cables and wind turbines. Don’t even mention hundreds of thousands of substation upgrades, and extra diesel powered backups. No, sorry, no more diesel backups. Everyone’s electrickery bill will be through the roof. Not to mention the price of everything because transport costs will rise as all those Diesel powered trucks which tow containers of food to supermarkets will go out of style.

Here’s my argument; there will be around 75-80 million people in the UK. This estimate is based on the demographic boomer dieback that is in progress. Yes, all those post 1940’s and 50’s born folk will be going away leaving fewer descendants and many more immigrants to pick up the slack. Incidentally, all that finger pointing and blame attribution (“It’s all the boomers fault!”) won’t do a spit of good when the following generations haven’t picked up the slack. So, a less productive population demanding more from Government and services. Including electricity. Which is going to be a bit of a bugger when Winter comes. Considering a lot of solar physicists are predicting global cooling from around 2030. There’s also a possibility that coal and wood stoves will get banned along with the ICE. People are going to have to learn to wrap up warm. Just like I had to do as a boy. And get used to walking a lot more. Used to do a lot of that, too.

As for all of the UK owning electric vehicles? Never work. Even an enhanced grid couldn’t take the strain of thirty plus million vehicles (Number of vehicles currently using UK roads) probably fifty by 2040, slurping an average of 17.6 kWh (Average) each for a 62 mile journey from the grid, every night. More if the daily commute is over 40 miles each way. More if owners (As they are wont to do) leave all their vehicles on charge when not in use. Even more if someone can make battery technology work for trucks. Although some form of diesel electric would work. Diesel running at peak efficiency to power generator and thus drive electric motors, like one of these. Although if you scroll down and read, the uphill and top speeds are hardly on a par with modern Diesel trucks. Very stylish though. But if diesels do get banned, what then?

I’m all for cleaner air, but you can’t eat it and it won’t keep you warm in Winter. Anyone got any better ideas than a ban?

Update: It seems that there are few good solutions to the particulates issue, although there are some interesting but economically non-viable Electric power devices being mooted.  The electric vehicles Achilles heel remains, after over a century of development and taxpayer dollar being thrown at it, range and refuel times.  Not to mention the generation capacity and infrastructure resilience of the supporting electricity grid.  No, I think the EV is doomed to remain little better economically speaking, than Lohner-Porsche’s 1900 model, The Baker 1901, Anderson’s models from 1907 and Edison’s 1912 attempt.  Source here.   Yes, the Hybrid concept goes back to the early 1900’s.

As for banning ICE powered vehicles; there is an idea that will be quietly dropped when EV’s fail, as they did around a century ago, to provide a viable alternative.

What day is it?

After a few dozen days on the road, you tend to lose your sense of time and, well not exactly space, but place in the calendar. Today was definitely Tuesday. I think. Well my automated calendar thingy tells me it is, and I know the name of the town we’re in so it must be Tuesday 4th July. I think. It’s actually Wednesday the 5th at the time of posting, but even then I had to stop and check.

Well, we’ve crossed half of Northern Ontario and I can honestly report that there’s next to bugger all up here, so if Kim Jong willy waver manages to fire a missile that can actually hit North America, the odds are that such a warhead will detonate somewhere in northern Ontario, where it will not be noticed by anyone but the local wildlife and maybe a very lost deep woods hiker. You have to drive across Northern Ontario to appreciate how abso-sodding-lutely vast this country is. Then remember that all you’re seeing is a very limited slice of what is actually here.

We left the environs of southern Montreal, just on the border of Ontario three days ago, and we’ve still another full days driving to reach the Manitoba Border. You might think it’s a long way down to the shops, but hey, that’s nothing compared to Canada.

Frankly I’m beginning to feel tired and irritable. Mrs S likewise and we’ve had a couple of occasions when we’ve come close to taking chunks out of each other. Voices have been raised. Then apologies have followed. I do not lose my temper or raise my voice lightly, but with just over two weeks to go, it’s becoming a chore. By way of relieving the tensions I’ve scheduled a few days at the Calgary Stampede followed by a wine tour in lower eastern BC before we leg to to Vancouver for a quick bit of shopping in Vancouver and then the ferry home to clear the spiders out of the bathtub. Which should calm things down.

Then I’m going to wonder (As usual) why people in the UK (and elsewhere) keep voting for left wing policies. Every time they do vote in Labour it all ends in tears. The seventies were a case in point. Getting anything done took an age and fifty bloody forms. Taxpayers money simply got pissed up the wall up to the point where everyone seemed to be on strike because the government were trying to do everything and succeeded in fucking it all up. It seems this is a lesson the Canadian electorate have yet to learn. Or re-learn. I see the evidence every day on my travels across this wide land, so full of potential and resources. Closed stores, idle machinery, abandoned farms and houses. Honestly. In seven hours driving yesterday we must have passed a couple of hundred houses with broken windows, no windows, no doors and open to the elements. Abandoned churches and other buildings that seemed to be collapsing in on themselves, like the owners had just packed their bags and simply walked away. On that topic I recall council estates in the UK all boarded up and left to the vandals, simply because well-meaning but economically illiterate people had simply made it impossible for business to provide the necessary work opportunities. That’s the problem with lefties and any other people who think they can run other people’s lives for them, they have to meddle with things they don’t really understand. Like matters of economics, or just about everything else, really.

Car keys, full tank of gas. Here we go again.

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.