Downtown

Went to pick up Mrs S from her exercise class the other night and as I was driving through downtown was surprised to see a mini tent city had sprouted opposite Christ Church Cathedral near the junction of Quadra and Courtney Street. I knew things were tough, but it was the numbers that caught me off guard. We’re used to street beggars populating every street corner, but it seems a whole new influx are arriving to take advantage of the city bylaw that allows camping in city parks up to 7am in the morning. Here’s a Shaw TV special on Victoria’s problem panhandling (Begging) which barely scratches the surface.

Victoria, and BC in general has a homeless problem. To be frank it has everybody else’s homeless problems because the winters are generally mild and the culture generous and tolerant. A rough straw poll has down and outs from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and everywhere else, not just locals who have fallen on hard times. Local provision of homeless shelter places is (according to various sources) 175, with an additional seasonal 110, but it still doesn’t seem to be enough. My cynical side tells me it never will be. When the snows and real cold hits at the end of January / early February, even in the temperate climes we enjoy here, the city is going to be carting off human popsicles. As usual.

Which leaves Victorians with a problem. You can’t just let people starve and freeze to death, but how many have to turn up before downtown starts to get serious public order problems? More dependent people means more strain on local government, which has to cut other services or raise taxes to pay for all these extra mouths. Bylaw enforcement alone is currently costing the city CAD$700,00 a year and in September 2015 the figure of CAD$50 million (Now cut to CAD$30 million) was requested to build and run 367 housing units for homeless people. That’s right, fifty fucking million dollars, albeit over fifteen years. The additional taxes needed to raise this amount will put pressure on private landlords to raise rents, possibly resulting in even more homeless people. Then what? What with depressed resource prices, the economy not going anywhere fast, there will be less money overall to provide shelter and food. More beggars competing for fewer donations. Less tourism money as people get put off from return visits by being importuned at every street corner and then more cops needed to police the panhandling.

It’s got to the point where Mrs S and I are thinking of moving and buying a place in next door (and less expensive) Langford or Colwood. There’s no real economic advantage for us being this close to the downtown core, and so long as we have a viable fast Internet connection we can work from anywhere.

Now the homeless problem isn’t currently as bad as East Hastings in Vancouver or Seattle across the border, but it seems to me from an eyewitness point of view that despite all the money that seems to get thrown at the issue, homelessness is a bottomless pit. A slough of despond which takes a good chunk of determination for the afflicted to haul themselves out of, because no-one else can do it for you. I’ve been there. Had to live out of my car for a while a couple of decades ago and know how bloody cold and uncomfortable it can get, so I’m not totally unsympathetic.

It’s my observation that what keeps many people homeless are the little ‘luxury’ items like alcohol or drugs that they might take, just to make themselves “Feel a little better.” or take the edge off their misery, whilst at the same time prolonging it. I can tell you from personal experience that getting and staying out of that noisome hole takes willpower, persistence, and not a little luck. The intoxicants and non-essentials have to be ditched and every resource garnered to find work and a place to live. Anything but food and shelter has to take a back seat. Smartening up, swallowing pride and letting the slow burn fuel the push towards renewed prosperity. It’s a long, hard road with no short cuts and lots of potholes.

Sometimes I think the whole issue is like the foreign aid conundrum; give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he can feed his entire family. On the other hand; wells can be dug, irrigation taught, fish ponds created, seeds provided and the means to get produce to market improved, but if afterwards the buggers simply sit on their arses chewing Qat all day, or fight over everything, then you might as well have done nothing for them in the first place. Devil, deep blue sea…………

As for that New Years Eve business in Germany…. Can I join the Greek Chorus saying “We told you so!”

No snow

Well, not in our part of Victoria.  From our back window I can see some on the hills a few miles north, but seeing we’re at the approximately same latitude as Chartres, France,  Vienna in Austria and Sakhalin, north of Japan, we aren’t expecting any until late January.   Although ‘wet flurries’ have been forecast for the first week in January 2016.

At the moment we’re having a run of quite deep frosts (For Victoria). About -6 or thereabouts. Nothing to write home about, but it can make walking in leather soled shoes a little challenging.

One thing that can thaw a frosty heart is the promise of a good Sunday roast, which in our case is Pork, something which the Canadians do frightfully well.  I cook it rind on, with plenty of crackling. How? Oh how remiss of me, I’ve not posted the recipe, I abase myself for such uncharacteristic thoughtlessness.  For my rite of absolution, keep reading.

Roast pork and cracklingNow I base my own recipe on this article, but it’s the method that counts.

To get first class crackling; Buy a rind (skin) on Pork shoulder. 2lbs (A kilo) is fine for a modest joint that will provide a meal and sandwiches for the rest of the week for one or two people if sliced thinly. Do not buy if the rind and fat have been removed. Fat is key to the flavour and despite what the ignorant will tell you, is not harmful because ‘dietary’ fat is not that digestible and does not directly convert to body fat or cholesterol. Have the skin scored (cut into quarter inch or 6mm strips) just so the skin itself is cut through, or cut it yourself. Do not cut through the underlying fat to the meat. A Stanley or craft knife, the sharper the better, is ideal for this purpose. Now rub with cooking oil and salt.

If your joint has been frozen, leave out for at least 24 hours in a fridge to defrost prior to cooking, and make sure the scored skin is completely dry before rubbing with oil and salt. As for the rub, be generous, say a large pinch (A half teaspoon) of salt and a tablespoon of cooking oil. If you want to try olive oil, be my guest, but my recipe works and uses bog standard cooking oil. Put a smear of apple sauce on the underside of the joint, or cook with a large Bramley cooking apple in the roasting pan.

Pre-heat your oven to 230 Celsius (450F) and put prepared joint in a roasting dish, rind upward. Place in oven for ten minutes when the oven gets to temperature. This will ‘set’ the salt in the rind. After ten minutes, turn oven down to 180 Celsius (350F) at 22-5 minutes a pound or half kilo. Anything more will dry out the joint and leave you with pork of a flavour and texture resembling cardboard. Use the approximate cooking times below and it should turn out reet champion.

Cooking times and temperatures*
2lb (0.9kg) = 10 mins (at 230C / 450F) + @45 mins (at 180C / 350F) + @15 mins (Grill setting at 180 / 350F)
3lb (1.36kg) = 10 mins (at 230C / 450F) + @65 mins (at 180C / 350F) + @15 mins (Grill setting at 180 / 350F)
4lb (1.81kg) = 10 mins (at 230C / 450F) + @90 mins (at 180C / 350F) + @15 mins (Grill setting at 180 / 350F)
5lb (2.26kg) = 10 mins (at 230C / 450F) + @115 mins (at 180C / 350F) + @15 mins (Grill setting at 180 / 350F)

When the ‘cooking time’ has come to an end, stick a skewer into the joint. If the resulting juice runs clear it’s done, and the rind just needs a quick blitz for fifteen to twenty minutes under your ovens ‘grill’ setting to get it to ‘crackle’.   If the juice runs pink, depending upon how big your joint is, give it another thirty minutes,  if still too red, you forgot to switch the oven on, dimwit.

Keep an eye on the joint in the final stage to get the crackling to your taste. This blog cannot be held responsible for results if you aimlessly meander off to do something else while you should have had your mind on the job of cooking. Let the phone and the doorbell ring. They’re probably not anyone important.

Cooking can be held as a metaphor for life in general; pay attention and do things properly and you will be rewarded time out of measure. Be forgetful or unfocussed, and your desired outcome will not happen. Thus you will die a withered husk, embittered and resentful and devoid of the sense of species fellowship good cooking makes of all humanity.

For the ideal accompaniment, roast potatoes (roasties) can be produced simply by heating a dish with a little oil in, throw in uncooked potatoes cut into chunks into the heated dish. flip the potatoes to coat with oil, sprinkle with a little dried Rosemary or Thyme and black pepper. Perchance a mere strinkling of salt. Leave in same oven as joint of pork for an hour and a half or until golden and crispy. Roast parsnips can be prepared in much the same fashion and add a sweet counterpoint to the roasties. Please note; cooking roast potatoes in the same roasting tray as the joint may leave you with soggy roasties, which in my view is not a desirable outcome. Prepare green vegetables of choice. Make gravy in the traditional English manner as outlined here and Robert is one’s Father’s brother.

When the pork is cooked to perfection, lift off crackling, leave meat to ‘rest’ for ten minutes while finishing off veg and gravy. Lay table, slice joint, humbly accept much deserved praise. Be prepared to fight for a portion of crackling.

Have a nice day.

*I have an older model oven for which these cooking times are valid. These timings should not be considered definitive and should only be used as rough guidelines.  There is no substitute for simply paying attention. 

New year resolutions

Well, they certainly don’t include giving up drinking because I have two decent single malts and a bottle of Famous Grouse gracing my drinks cabinet.  Nor eating meat, which I won’t be giving up because there are no measurable health benefits to doing so.  And I won’t be giving up  smoking.  Talking of which;

I will be restricting myself to taking a little more moderate exercise (Brisk daily walks), completing my college courses and working a little smarter.

A very Happy New Hangover to everyone……

P.S. I haven’t smoked for over a quarter of a century….. I’ve been restricting myself to giving smouldering looks…… (Evil snigger)

Philosophically thinking

As I was preparing the seasonal repast  (It was excellent by the way – best Pork I’ve ever cooked – wonderful crackling), I came over all reflective and philosophical. You know the kind of thing, those useful titbits of folk wisdom you sometimes wish your Dad or Mum had taken the time to sit you down and tell you about. Not the two-fingers-down-the-throat ‘truth posters’ you find in gift shops that are all about such insincere wetness as ‘peace’, ‘joy’ or even more nauseatingly ’empowerment’, but something a bit earthier and pejorative. Something you can paste up on your wall without your mates thinking you’ve gone all born again and religious, yet retaining a positive spin. One you won’t feel ashamed showing to your tougher friends. Who knows? They might want one too. Copyright free for non-profit and personal use.  Use it as a get well soon card.  Knock yourself out.

THIS IS YOUR LIFE

For those who have difficulties reading the odd bits of upside down and back to front text, I’ve transcribed the key phrases below with a few hopefully helpful notes. Although not necessarily in the order you read them.

 

  1. This is your fucking Life (Well this is a no-brainer, surely?)
  2. You will fuck up (Also true, but I’m always amazed at how many people this catches by surprise.  Even the greatest of us has feet of clay.  Or just aching feet.  Or aching whatever.)
  3. Learn to say “Fuck you!” (But always with a smile, because some people really, really, really deserve it.  You might also want to learn how to run away really quickly.)
  4. Learn to fucking apologise.  (If you’re wrong, put your hands up to an honest mistake – you’ll be amazed how much respect this can earn you.)
  5. There is no fuck up so big it can’t be fixed (With enough time and effort, yes – sometimes not worth it.)
  6. You are not fucking God (Also self evident. Religion has its limitations and should only ever be considered as a rough guideline.)
  7. Learn to smile at your fuck ups (A much better way than endlessly beating yourself up about whatever you previously fucked up)
  8. It’s only fucking pain (Even the most intense pain is temporary, it always goes away eventually) 
  9. Suicide is fucking pointless (No matter how big the hurt, the sun will rise, whether or not you make the poor quality decision not to see it. So long as you’re breathing, you have the opportunity to right the wrong done to you. If not, your friends and family might mourn for a week or three, but the unrequited ‘love of your life’ will eventually move on to someone else or some other lucky sod will reap the rewards of all your hard work.  Sorry, but that’s the truth of it. The only exception to this rule is the alternative of a slow, painful death.)
  10. Get the fuck over it (Too much pride is an Achilles heel – learn to forgive – but not absolutely everything.)
  11. Sometimes you have to walk the fuck away (Truly,  you really have got to know when to move on from a bad situation)
  12. Don’t fuck over your family (Like it or not, these are the most important people in your life. Without family, your life is based on shifting sands.  Although if they fuck you over first – all bets are off.)
  13. Fucking is not love (It’s just sex.)
  14. You can love without fucking (Oddly true.  The physical act does not automatically require emotion and vice versa.)
  15. This is not a fucking dress rehearsal (Get on with it or your dreams will never come true. All good things do not come to them that wait.)

Oh yes, and prepare, because adequate planning and preparation prevent piss poor performance and also the avoidance of complete clusterfucks.  Even if you never have to use the skill or resource.  Happy New Year.

Stirred…..

Just clambering into bed last night when the whole house shook for around five seconds. “I know what that is.” Mrs S and I chorused. “Earth tremor.” Just like a big truck had clipped the house, a big grunt followed by a five second rumble. No damage, just half of Victoria jarred into wakefulness. No fuss, no sirens and no damage to speak of.

Quake MartiniTurns out the epicentre of our little 4.8 Earth grumble was only around twenty kilometres away. Of course we keep on getting told by ‘experts’ that the ‘big one’ will ‘rip Vancouver open like a zipper’ and that we’re all doooooooomed. Well of course we are. All you can do is keep the emergency kit in the car refreshed, and a small grab bag of useful things, like fire and cocktail making materials ready bagged in the closet. A few heavy blankets and some bottled water and we’re good to go. If the big one does come I can build a nice fire quickly because firewood will not be in short supply. No biggie. As for the cocktails, if I’m forced to rough it, I’m going to rough it in style.

On a more sombre note, I hear Lemmy, Ex-Hawkwind Bass player and heavy metal hellraiser has pegged it just two days after a cancer diagnosis. Sad to hear of his going, but surprised to hear that he’d made it to 70. Amazing what you can do if you ignore all the warnings and plough on regardless.

Tough love needed

Every week it seems that some entitled University student or other gets their panties in a bunch about something, whether it’s the racist ‘Rhodesmustfall’ campaign or some sensitive little petal getting all het up about ‘safe spaces’ where they are not able to see or hear anything that might possibly upset them, including people of another gender or ethnicity.   Not that there’s any such thing as a ‘safe space’. I was rather under the impression that Universities are places you go to learn things rather than just kick over apple carts, or is that just me being hopelessly naive?  Maybe the University authorities need to exercise a little tough love and ‘send down’ the odd less than diligent protestalot student once in a while. Rhodes scholar or no. I think ‘no tolerance’ for abuse of any sort (Including against University institutions, employees and faculty members) should be the policy, but that’s just me.

As for safety, should we not be teaching these ‘Childults‘ that there is no such thing as a ‘safe space’ because all risk is relative?  If these people truly want to be safe they’d never consider even crossing a deserted street because who knows what might come along.  They shouldn’t even think about applying for a driving licence or getting into a car because have you seen the UK road death figures lately?

Deaths for 2013
Pedestrians; 398
Cyclists; 109
Motorcyclist / Pillion; 331
Car occupant / driver; 785
Other; 90
Total road deaths; 1,713

Overall UK deaths data sheet here.
The Guardian’s accidental death comparison for 2007 and 2011.

That’s without examining the ROSPA reported approximate UK death toll of 6,000 every year(2002 figures), of people in their own homes. Hold hard a minute! Six thousand people a year, in the UK alone dying in home accidents? Most of which happen in the ironically titled ‘living’ room? That old grim reaper must have a hell of a job keeping his scythe sharp. If you can’t find safety in your own living room, where can you be ‘safe’? You’re ‘safer’ on the pillion of a drunk biker riding at 100mph plus? Who knew? Which isn’t strictly speaking true by the way, but statistically it might seem so. In the comparative period for 2010-2011 there were 636 homicides, 60 of whom were shot. That’s including one mass shooting incident where 12 people were killed. Of the total homicides 232 died from wounds given by a ‘sharp instrument’. Official UK report here.

For comparison, with official sources where available:
2011 US Death Stats Domestic (Unintentional deaths 96,753), Road (32,479), Homicide
2011 Canadian Death Domestic (No comparable figures), Road, Homicide
Now compare those with the rest of the world (Mapped data by worldlifeexpectancy.com)

So much for ‘safe spaces’, eh? By the way, around eight (8) people in the UK die by accident in their own bed every year. That’s twice the death rate of bee, wasp or hornet stings. Blood and sand.

Personally I’m not averse to a modicum of risk taking because you have to die of something. It’s part of the human condition. I will die, as will everyone else currently breathing. Mortality is built into our very DNA. We all have a ‘sell by’ date whether we like it or not. Death is a capricious beast and all we can do is manage our risks because if the statistics teach us anything, they show that there cannot be any such thing as a ‘safe space’. Life isn’t ‘fair’, never has been or will be. All you can do is keep your eyes open, grab a little ‘fairness’ for yourself and have some fun in the meantime. If it’s your time, then that’s that. Who wants to live forever?

And finally….

This is a timed post, as I’m probably busy cooking and eating (Although not simultaneously) a seasonal repast. I will also have consumed far more alcohol than others might deem advisory, but then I rarely take the advice of advisories, unless of course……….

But if you’re into over indulgence in a big way……

TTFN

Bill

451 Error

A.k.a. 403: Forbidden; which is what you may be finding in place of certain blogs shortly if you try to access the content from places where thought crimes are punishable under law. Map here. It’s the new Internet code describing a proscribed interweb site subject to a Government imposed ban or legal stricture.

Well at least if a site flags up with this code we’ll at least know the powers that be are paying attention. Which is rather sweet of them really. Nice to be noticed. Cheers. Of course this will not affect those using VPN’s or the TOR network or browser.

Not that shutting down a blog, Farcebook or Twat feed will actually make an individual blogger go “Oh dearie me. I’m being blocked by the Government. I’d better not do this any more.” The exact opposite of the desired effect should be expected.

Meanwhile…

Over in the UK, Sky Broadband have enabled ‘porn’ filters by default to all new customers from the New Year until 9pm(?) for the ‘sake of the children’ as promoted by the UK’s current Prime Minister. Forgive me for sounding cynical, but all this sounds like fiddling while Rome burns. Shouldn’t the UK government be focusing on more pressing problems like the migrant crisis, the economy being in the tank and fuel poverty to mention but three? Compared to those, porn is a very minor issue, and this decision may just blow up in Sky’s face as they find their market share shrinking. Why? Because human nature.

Some Internet filters block specific web sites and traffic to and from specific IP addresses. For example readers coming to this blog from a certain set of anonymous proxy servers may find themselves unable to comment because, due to a previous troll infestation, I pasted in a tranche of ‘anonymous’ proxy IP addresses into WordPress’ handy dandy little spam filter feature. However, arrival from a ‘non-anonymous’ source means you can contribute or not as much as you please. Just Cave Canem and be aware that the blog authors have a robust attitude which some might not be comfortable with. This is not a ‘safe space’.

Other filters work on web addresses and URL’s and yet more on text strings. Which means that intellectual works such as Somerset Maughams classic work ‘On human bondage‘ might be unavailable along with references to the Wessex novels of Thomas Hardy. So, bang goes the English Literature homework. Or won’t you be able to write ‘bang’ any more? Especially when this piece of onomatopoeia is used as a verb to describe the sex act? Oh, and any Junior School PHSE homework may go out of the window too for those brave new UK Sky customers. Whoosh! There go your kids grades.

Then there’s the assertion than anyone discussing the prohibition and control freakery surrounding drugs, tobacco, vaping, alcohol and sweet stuff will get caught up in the ‘mission creep’ of said filters. To the point where anything not strictly allowed will be Verboten. Unless of course the Sky customer in question has invested in a low cost VPN connection to bypass all the filtering. Lots of people need VPN’s, like a ‘road warrior’ sales rep who doesn’t work in a regular office but needs a secure ordering connection to their companies network. People working from home or those needing secure remote server control. Like it or not, VPN’s are a growing market sector.

Better still, don’t use Sky. Especially if you may need to change address, ever. The tales of Sky subscribers who have difficulties cancelling their subscription are legion. If legend is to be believed, they’re worse than BT used to be. And that takes some doing, believe me (Had to do it once – never again). There are plenty of other, much better, UK ISP’s out there. I used to like Zen up to 2007, but have no idea what they’re like nowadays.

As for trying to impose a ‘top down’ morality? What may be moral to some people may be completely immoral to others. Which may lead to prohibitions on just about every human activity. That said, I tend to fall back on Heinlein’s maxim; “The principle [of censorship] is wrong. It’s like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can’t have steak.”

Which leads to the thought that the young children this filtering is supposed to protect are generally not interested in sex at all, in fact there’s a massive “Euw” factor for pre pubescent children as far as matters of the flesh are concerned. Conversations generally go like this;
Child one (Giggling); “I heard Mum and Dad having sex last night.”
Child two (Hides face); “That is soooo gross.”
As for children being ‘damaged’ by porn. Maybe not. Incest has been a crime for centuries, and as far as I’ve been able to ascertain, is no more widespread than previously. Besides, sexually violating children, the activity which this measure is presumably supposed to suppress, is Internet independent. Those who have such urges will indulge their baser impulses (so my lawyer stepdaughter informs me) whether there’s any such material available or not. Even if it isn’t in ‘Fifty shades of Grey’. Which I wouldn’t be surprised to find in Mr & Mrs Camerons bookcase.

Regarding bans, it’s worth noting that such blanket prohibitions always make any given problem far worse than it was in the first place. See effects of Prohibition and the ‘War on Drugs‘ to name but two.

But no, you can’t get that through Cameron’s (Or many other modern politicians) thick head because ‘morality’ is such an easy soundbite. He’s saying “Hah! Look at me, I’m fixing something which isn’t that big a problem…” when there are so many more pressing issues. Heavy sigh….

Something for everyone

Over at Leg-Irons a couple of days ago, I happened to mention that there was such a thing as a ‘Bondage Barbie‘. Specifically a Barbie doll into whips, chains, ball gags and all the impedimenta of certain sexual proclivities. Hell, whatever floats ones boat, as I have learned to accept. So just to amuse myself I googled ‘Bondage Barbie’ and good grief! My eyebrows shot half way up my forehead and I had to step away from the keyboard for a while. I mean, it’s not what I’d want to find in my seasonal stocking, if I actually wore that sort of thing, but then I’m boring like that.

bondage barbiesApparently the whole ‘Bondage Barbie’ meme been a minority fetish since the 90’s and early 00’s since a certain Ms Pitt, doll and dressmaker first tried to commercialise the concept. Something which Mattel, who market the mainstream version of said childs toy, strongly objected to on copyright grounds. It’s very big in some circles, allegedly.

However, I suppose the wrist cuffs and latex malarkey could be construed as aftermarket adaptations, therefore strict copyright infringement is probably a bit of a reach. You might make a product, but if someone else chooses to adapt it for a particular application, you can’t tell them what colour it can be repainted. So long as they don’t come back to you for a warranty refund after modification, that’s fine.

All this on its own might seem odd, and that’s without getting into the whole ‘Cosplay‘ thing, where fans of various TV programs and movies dress up in (often highly revealing) costumes based on their favourite character. Very popular at Science Fiction conventions and events like comic-con‘s ‘Maskerade’ where only the very staid dress up as Captain Picard or Mr Worf, where other more adventurous types prefer to dress up like Barbarian heroes and heroines with lots of flesh and much less loincloth. Which some might find a little weird when such role playing is (inevitably) carried into the bedroom, but chacun à son goût. There have even been Star Wars themed Church services and Las Vegas (of course) can cater for Intergalactic Weddings. So I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised.

Which can get some folk’s panties in a bunch but nowadays my only reaction to that sort of costume is “Don’t you feel a little cold?”

Expatriate expostulations from Canada; a.k.a. A Sarcastic man abroad

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