Pain

Canadians, without making too much of a broad sweeping generalisation, aren’t used to manual gearboxes or clutch operation. Over here, motoring tends to be of the point and click variety. Most vehicles sold are automatics. Even our little Subaru is one of those half breed four speed gearboxes. We’ve had a 4×4 with a manual box, but that was 1970’s vintage. Nowadays if you pointed most North Americans at a vehicle with a proper clutch and gearbox, they’d look at you as if you were asking them to operate a nuclear power plant. Most cars over here have Column shifts or centre console gear levers that only get shifted out of gear to go straight to ‘park’. It makes for lazy driving.

Today this was brought home to me when we pulled up alongside what looked like a Yamaha YZF-R6. Nobody was going anywhere fast as the speed limit varies between 40-60 Km/h on that section of Hillside Avenue.

Yet what had me wincing was the guy on the Yam totally failing to change gear. It was awful. Whilst the rider could stay upright and seemed to have the hang of gentle cornering, he hadn’t quite grasped the correct coordination of left hand and foot. He pulled away from the lights in second gear, he accelerated from 0-60km/h in second, did he change up or down a notch to third gear or down to first? No. He seemed not to have mastered the concept of a non-automatic gear box. It was actually painful to hear, even when we had all the car windows shut. I’ve had more fun having my teeth drilled. God alone knows what it was doing to the engine.

If there were a BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Motorcycles I’d have reported him on the spot.

Google off

I’ve dropped the once but no longer useful Google as a search engine as they have made the decision to be the arbiter of ‘truth’ on the jolly old Interweb. Google will now rank websites based on the Google decided amount of ‘truthiness’ of a sites content. Now isn’t that something the original Googlers told us they would never do? Besides, apart from loading the algorithms, which may have the law of unforeseen consequences bounding out into the limelight as usual I can’t see the benefit. Especially when sites that have forked out good money to the advertising arm of said organisation find themselves losing web traffic, yet have had their rank adjusted downwards for reduced ‘truth’ levels. How are Google going to vet all the sites on the Internet? Also, who gets to say what the ‘truth’ is? Especially surrounding areas of controversy? Put your lawyers on danger money, baby.

The problem is that Google has become the victim of its own success. It became big enough for the political and corporate world to take notice and insert their insidious tentacles into the enterprise (I’m told there are Manga web sites that cater for just such proclivities). In order to ‘go along and get along’ Google will toe their new masters line, warping their search engine to fit in with various corporate and political orthodoxies, serving up the version they are told into a neat little pre-package of ‘truth’, ranking web sites accordingly. Which will go down like a lead balloon with the Interweb’s more discerning abusers. It’s fun to Fisk.

After little more than a week of switching search engines from http://google.com / co.uk / .ca to the highly functional http://duckduckgo.com in three of the five browsers I regularly use, my spyware detection programme is showing a marked decrease in detected threats. My antivirus and both firewall logs also show a marked decrease in recorded threats.

Without having more than a three scan dataset off each, it’s hard to quantify the actual percentage, but using Google as my search engine meant I was getting around 150-155 spyware ‘threats’ every five days, much of which were those cheeky little web tracking cookies. Now I’m only logging 85-95. My web usage hasn’t varied that much either, apart from switching search engines.

To be honest I’m quite pleasantly surprised. Security scans take only two thirds the time they did less than a fortnight ago. I may even end up dropping Chrome as a browser. Who knows?

Just passing through…

UK General Election day May 7th 2015 I’ll actually be in the UK. Specifically in jolly old Londinium, taking in the sights, raiding Marcus Expensius for some specific items of apparel I just can’t seem to source our side of the pond. Having a nostalgia trip to the V & A and maybe the Natural History and Science Museums. Perhaps a boat trip down the Thames to Greenwich, you know, the whole touristy thing. All the things we never did when we actually lived there.

Mrs S and I will no doubt pass by Wastemonster, and will probably see whoever has won the political X-factor lack of talent contest as they wave at the curious (and possibly bemused) crowds. We’ll grouse a little at the disruption to local traffic and try to avoid the worst congestion hot spots as the new head boy / girl / whatever does a lap of dishonour with their underwear figuratively wrapped around their heads on the 8th. Might even stay up while my time sense adjusts to watch the results come in.
Mappe of olde Londinium
This whole general election thing promises to be a head and heart experience for me. My heart wants poor old Blighty to be freed from the expensive clutches of the turgid bureaucratic EU. However my head says it ain’t gonna happen, and the electorate will simply opt for more of the same old partisan same old. Even if Big Nige and the Purple gang look likely to upset a few small scale apple carts.

In passing I might cast a jaundiced eye at the constituency I used to live in and hope against hope that the current incumbent is one of the political casualties. Frankly the man’s a buffoon parachuted in from CCHQ, and I’m told about as popular locally as a bad case of piles.

As for talk of a Referendum on the EU; well, vote for the donkey with the Blue, Yellow, Red, Rainbow or Green rosette and see where it gets you. Apart from nowhere. Cameron and Milliband, despite all current and previous promises to the contrary, certainly won’t. The lamestream of British politics is all soundbites with no bite.

Hey, is that my cynicism? I just knew I’d put it down somewhere.

Still feeling a little carp

Well wasn’t that fun young Bill? Well, actually a clear and resounding ‘No’. Not a fun bout of the dreaded Lurgi at all. My chest is still a little sore, with leftover muscle aches from all the coughing and spluttering which has seen me consigned to the spare bedroom for over a week. “One of us has got to get some sleep dear.” Said my good lady wife, pointedly shutting the door on my palsied frame.

The green chunks have faded to clear, my snottiness quotient is now at more or less normal levels, and I am a functioning human being again. Feeling thankful that bouts of this kind are few and far between. Still feeling a little carp, but that’s to be expected.

Feeling a little Carp Normal sarcasm levels will be restored as soon as I’ve got a handle on what they should be anyway.

In the meantime, doubt is being cast (yet again) on those ‘Government Health Guidelines’ this time on salt. When you actually read the article and see the various assumptions the original researchers made, the light should dawn. The prodnoses have it wrong yet again. Or should we say ‘as usual’?

Grot

Not feeling so wonderful. I have either a heavy cold or a mild case of influenza. Fever, night sweats, aches, sore throat, coughing, sneezing and all that jazz. Nothing the Quack can do anything about as antibiotics are merely placebos when it comes to viruses.

So I’m just hunkering down, trying not to dribble snot and cough green chunks all over the place. Taking plenty of fluids and as much exercise as I feel comfortable with. Letting my immune system do its thing. Helping things along with the occasional medicinal hot toddy; 1 large measure blend whiskey (Not Single Malt you heathen!) to equal amount of hot water, stir in 1 teaspoon of brown sugar, stir until dissolved, taking paracetamol (Acetaminophen) for the fever and decongestants for the snottiness. Yes I know it’s not a cure, but the alcohol and sugar hit does take the edge off the worst symptoms.

I should be all better by the Saturday. Or Sunday. Or Monday. Possibly.

RIP Top Gear

As predicted, the BBC have fired Clarkson. The current iteration of Top Gear is no more. Ah, me. All good things must come to an end. Well, maybe the situation is not so terminal, and a return to the slower paced days of someone like William Woollard is on the cards.

Chris Evans has already publicly declined the poison chalice of following Clarkson, May and Hammond. Which for Evans is a wise move. The chemistry of the three bozo’s is a tough act to follow, and anyone taking a new, PC sanitised Top Gear on will have to be really, really, good, or more likely be so blindly ambitious they don’t realise they’re committing career Seppuku.

The end of the show will, no doubt please the Politically Correct Puritan faction. Who of course know what is good for everyone, whether ‘everyone’ likes it or not. No doubt said repressives will not be happy until all television (and the Interweb) is as anodyne and unchallenging at the Test Card or worse.

You know, I’m wondering if news of the replacement show or succeeding presenters will turn into one of those tedious media soap operas where the BBC announces Top Gears return in a “Yes it is” oops! “No it isn’t” pantomime, until a daytime TV version with the budget of Gardeners Question Time finally hiccups and gasps into life for one truncated season to fade and die in TV hell on BBC4, sandwiched between Countryfile and endless reruns of Cagney and Lacey hosted by some nonentity ‘Dub poet’.

Update: On the other hand, if David Camerons 11 year old daughter and Guido Fawkes get their way, Clarkson may not be on the scrap heap challenge just yet. Time will tell. If popular support fails against the monolithic diktats of the Beeb, then it’s Requiescat In Pace Top Gear. It was fun while it lasted.

Overdone idioms

There’s a little Polish saying; “Nie mój cyrk, nie moje malpy” which translates as “Not my Circus, not my Monkeys”. Which in context can be an appropriate and very witty thing to say. Where an employee makes ‘the dog ate my homework’ type excuse, or someone’s being a drama (Or in the case of Buddhists a dharma) queen over a trivial issue unrelated to the task in hand. It’s a way of telling them to get on with it and stop wasting your time.

However; like all sayings there comes a time when it can get a little wearing.
Not my Circus Not my Monkeys

Nothing much to say

……and no real inclination to say it. Life trundles on. On the downside, I’ve just had to set the lawyers on a family member. A situation I’ve striven manfully to avoid, but they’ve been so dumb and plain obstructive I feel that a quick lick of the legal cat o’nine tails might bring them to their senses. If not, well, That’ll be their tough luck. Not that this gives me any satisfaction. We left the last chance saloon late last week and are now in the alley out back. It could get messy and expensive. For them, certainly.

Now excuse me, I have a trip to Paris to organise.

Soup day

Every so often on non-work days, maybe once every month I have what I call a ‘cooking day’. Not really a day, usually just four hours maximum, where I cast my cares aside and focus on a manual task while my subconscious does all the heavy lifting. At the moment this is because I have a knotty legal problem which I am reluctant to hand on to my legal Piranhas because it involves a family member. However, I have firmly informed said family member that while we may not quite be in the last chance saloon, I’m definitely outside the door perusing the menu. As a last ditch measure I’ve enlisted the assistance of other family members who are trying to intercede on my behalf and talk some sense into him. I’m also trying to stay away from Mrs S, who is stressing over pension transfers, future payments and UK tax forms. Not only that, but she’s being clueless about the document feed settings on the office scanner. All the information is but a web search away, and she’s giving me grief about it. The kitchen is currently my only refuge from the stress and I’m trying to utilise some downtime in a positive way. Then there’s our trip to Paris to organise.

Notwithstanding; today I’ve been making soup. Two varieties; firstly Carrot and Coriander, then Asparagus and Parmesan. Seven litres of the stuff are cooling, ready to go into the freezer. I picked up the ingredients for less than fifteen bucks, so they’re cheap eats. They’re also jolly good for vegetarian(ish) type soups and should see us until the warm weather arrives.

For the Carrot and Coriander you will need;
5lb carrots
Two medium onions
1 bunch fresh Coriander (a.k.a Cilantro) A handful
A large teaspoon of bacon grease (I did say Vegetarian-ish didn’t I?)
Half a teaspoon of dried chili flakes or 2 dried chilis
Half a teaspoon of garlic powder or three cloves of garlic (that’s three segments of a bulb)
A teaspoon of salt
Black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon cornflour
Four litres of water (Maybe more, maybe less)
A large pasta pan
A liquidiser or blender
A second large saucepan
A frying pan

Put the frying pan on a low heat, add the bacon grease, fine chop the two onions and drop them in the frying pan. Add the garlic or garlic powder and chili and let the onions sweat until they are very soft. Take off heat and put aside for the next phase.
Wash and clean your carrots, cutting off the green tops which should be discarded. Put four, possibly even five litres of water in your big pasta pan, chop the carrots, add half the salt and bring to the boil before leaving them to simmer for at least half an hour until the carrots can be mashed into a mush with a fork. If they aren’t soft enough to be mashed, they ain’t ready.
Fine chop Coriander (Cilantro) and enjoy the smell. Dried Coriander or powder simply doesn’t work so well. It’s okay, but not that brilliant.
In suitable batches, depending on your blender or food processor, put the carrots, their cooking liquor and Coriander through blender, adding a large dollop of the onion garlic and chili mash with each batch, decanting each blendeed batch into second large pan until the onion mash and boiled carrots are thoroughly blended.
Put Carrot and Coriander mix on a low to medium heat.
Now put a few tablespoons of water in the cornflour and mix to a milky liquid. As soup mix starts to bubble a little, stir this liquid in until thoroughly mixed. Keep on the heat until you have a smooth, orange liquid dappled with dark green specks. Add rest of salt and black pepper to taste. Serve with bread of choice. A crusty bun is nice.
Let the rest to cool before decanting into a plastic container and putting in the freezer for future use.

For the Asparagus and Parmesan recipe, you will need;

Around 3lbs (2 Bunches) of fresh Asparagus (Providing it’s being sold off cheap)
Two medium onions
A large teaspoon of bacon grease
Half a teaspoon of dried chili flakes or 2 dried chilis
Half a teaspoon of garlic powder or three cloves of garlic (that’s three segments of a bulb)
A teaspoon of salt
Black pepper to taste
4 ounces salted butter
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 ounce grated Parmesan (Or more)
Half a pint (Quarter litre-ish) of milk
Three litres of water (Maybe more, maybe less)
A large pasta pan
A liquidiser or blender
A second large saucepan
A frying pan

Prepare the onion mash as per the carrot and coriander recipe. This forms the base of the soup.
Chop the Asparagus into one inch lengths, cutting off the last quarter inch of the asparagus tips. Put the asparagus tips aside for later. Put the one inch lengths of asparagus into a pan with half the salt and three litres of water. Bring to boil and simmer for half an hour.
Melt butter and mix in Cornflower, add milk and stir thoroughly until a paste is formed, add milk and Parmesan to create a moderate cheesy sauce.
Blend the onion mash, Asparagus and cooking liquor in batches, decant into second pan until all is thoroughly liquidised. Put pan over heat and when bubbles start to rise, begin adding the Parmesan sauce to the onion and Asparagus mix. Add remaining salt and black pepper to taste. Add tips of Asparagus, simmer for half an hour, stirring occasionally. Enjoy with a crusty bun. Put remainder aside to chill in freezer for future use.

Please note; this blog takes no responsibility for failure to observe the most basic of hygiene and safety precautions. They’re your fingers, and dear reader, we sternly admonish you not to cut them off as they will ruin the flavour of the soups. Nor do we accept any responsibility for your failure to keep preparation equipment in a suitable state of repair. Your exploding blenders, burned saucepans, broken utensils, ruined kitchens and subsequent breakups or divorces due to your inattention and carelessness are nothing to do with me. We also take no responsibility for your culinary expertise or lack thereof; we can only assure our reader that a soupcon of common sense will produce results that will be most acceptable.

Have fun. Or not.

Expatriate expostulations from Canada

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