I really must fly

Another year, another transatlantic flight. This time we’re going to ride in bigger comfier seats, which, when you realise that the airlines bean counters are having aircraft refitted to cram ever more steaming humanity on board, is no bad thing. Fly economyFrankly, I’ve done the whole air cattle truck experience, and while it’s okay if you’re five feet five and under a hundred and thirty pounds, if you’re like me, over six feet with broad shoulders, well, the muscle cramps after ten hours in an alloy tube are really unpleasant.

So we end up paying more (Half as much again – yikes!) for the extra legroom and seat width. Which pays off as you don’t suffer from post flight muscle cramps for the next forty eight hours as well as the jet lag. Which really pisses me off. Economy seats are like paying to be put in Skeffington’s Gyves. Thoroughly unpleasant. Unless you’re one who gets their jollies that way. If you have to travel, the choice is increasingly boiling down to get yourself surgically reduced or prepare to suffer. Me, I’ll take the comfy chairs.

Unusually for me, I’m already packed to Mrs S’s satisfaction. Which is a surprise, not least of all to me. Hold the phone. She thinks I’ve packed properly? There’s a first. Also this trip I have brand new luggage, a decent suitcase instead of the falling to bits piece of crap I inherited from somewhere, new Targus bag for all my retro but still serviceable electronics. A brace of Nokia 6310i’s for local calls to dodge the horrendous overseas roaming charges our regular Canadian cell phone companies impose. I’ve also set up a secondary non google webmail address, onto which all my email will be forwarded. Which means Google won’t get all shirty and lock me out when I try to access my email from La Belle France instead of BC. Like my last transatlantic trip. Or the last one. Or the one before that. It’s not as though my passwords are something easy to crack like name123, date of birth variants, or heaven forfend; ‘password’. I like obscure, multi character and case sensitive which only means something to me. It seems to have worked so far. So far so…..bugger. Or not.

In the meantime, I must fly. Comfortably. Until someone invents a viable means of teleportation or Worm Hole travel.

Any old road up, while I’m passing through the UK I’ll be keeping a weather eye on the election; I may be scathing, I may be sardonic. Watch this space, and for your edification a little Tom Scott video of 7 illegal things to do in a UK election.

TTFN

Life before the Interweb

I love gadgets. I own several. One of which, a Samsung ten inch screen tablet S4 is proving its worth with every single advancing day because it has built in GPS, and I don’t have to bother with logging on to every single dodgy Wi-Fi connection every time I use most of the non-Interweb maps. Do I care that ‘the authorities’ can track my every move when I bother to take said item with me? No. I don’t feel the need to cart it around, so whoever wants to figuratively read over my shoulder will know what city I’m in, but that’s it. If I’ve locked it in the Hotel safe they won’t be able to find it at all, as a quarter inch of pressed steel makes a reasonable RF shield. That and the RF shielded carrying bag I keep it in when travelling. Switch it on when I need it, the rest of the time it’s pretty much invisible.

Anyway, that’s beside the point. Yesterday had me thinking. Over the weekend I’ve found myself remembering times past, and how we young ‘uns (as I was then) got by without the instant in-your-face immediacy of modern mobile communications. We had no Windows, Android, Tweets, blogs, Skype, Whatsap, Texting, Sexting, aps, iPhones, mobile phones, or Tablets. Computers and Telephones were far too unwieldy to be mobile, but we did have access to a form of Radio Telephony. If Dad was a high level service or Civil Engineer. Which one of my boyhood friend’s Dad’s was. No-one else we knew was, so it was no use to us. Yet we got by without much fuss. No zombie cannibal gangs dropped by to eat our brains. None of the nightmares conjured up by Hollywood came to play. The Apocalypse was for other people.

Yet we had the three day week. Scheduled power cuts for eight hours at a time in Winter. Strikes that seemed to shut everything down for days. The phone worked, but we kids weren’t allowed to use it. Later on I had my own place, and the joy of getting a phone (or trying to get) put in by British Telecom. BT’s advertising slogan ‘It’s for You-who‘ carried particular irony.

Indeed, the pace of life was slower. Much slower. Treacleishly so. People raised in today’s society would have trouble coping because their brains would be set up wrongly. Their memories are not so well developed. I also remember doing a hell of a lot of walking to see far flung friends. A brisk twenty five minute hike down unlit English B class roads with a national (60mph) speed limit which was more of a guideline than an absolute, to the nearest form of public transport. Which was usually late. Closest shop in the next village. One black and white TV in the house. My Dad liked watching snooker, which is a slightly surreal experience when you have to guess the colours. No remote control (That was me). And only, horror of horrors, three erratic channels! Remember signal ‘ghosting’?

So we kids spent a lot of our time outside. Tramping across ploughed fields. Dawn to dusk. Hunting water rats, pigeons and rabbits with catapults (slingshots) or air rifles. Or just walking, simply because you had bugger all else you could afford to do. Under age sneaking into local pubs and clubs, the closest of which were a fifteen minute shank up and down some quite steep hills and dales. Learning about building our own cars and motorcycles in our mid to late teens, if our parents allowed us the garage space, and the guy with a car was king. Or at least someone to sponge lifts off with up to eight of us crammed into an ageing Ford Corsair with suspect brakes and limited power on a Saturday night. Using side roads which we knew the local coppers rarely patrolled. Come to think of it, the Police didn’t figure much in our lives. And we were invariably unsupervised. Walking and talking. Face to face.

You had hobbies, part time jobs. You experimented. Especially with something dangerous (Particularly the local girls – especially those who rode horses). Travelling for two hours just to go ten pin bowling or to see a movie. Hunting through poorly indexed racks of twelve inch vinyl for your favourite bands latest album. Then the luxury of hours spent reading, standing rapt, almost statue like in front of the paperbacks in W H Smith.

Some would call it ‘idyllic’, even a ‘golden age’, but I disagree. There were long, dare I say interminable periods of boredom, staring listlessly out at traditional English weather (rain, sleet, hail). Rarely getting out to play under heavily cloud punctuated blue or more often totally grey skies. Come to think of it, that’s what the Internet is; like constant sunshine with occasional light refreshing showers. Information to bathe, soak, indolently loll and roll recklessly around in the long grass. A world of knowledge and opportunity at your very fingertips. Book a rail ticket on the other side of the world. Book a restaurant or day trip. Learn a language. Watch a movie. Watch endless ‘banned’ content. Compared to the pre internet days, when all information was closely guarded, hard to find, and only sporadically available via the nearest library (two hours away on foot and by public transport) today is the golden age.

Yes, I’m evil, so sue me….

Firstly a small declaration of interest; I am a landlord. An owner of property in the UK which is rented out to others. A ‘parasite’ in the words of those whose grasp of economics is considerably lower than that of a heavily sedated slug. A ‘blood sucking vampire’ whose untimely passing shall be rejoiced at by all the lefties doing X-talentless dance challenges on his grave. If they can drag themselves from in front of their taxpayer-subsidised video games to be bothered. Please be advised; dancing on my grave may prove difficult, as my will stipulates that my ashes be scattered outside territorial waters. But chaps, don’t let that stop you trying.

Okay, that’s that out of the way. I’m out of the closet. Yes I’m an evil landlord, so sue me (Good luck with that). Now to the meat of the subject. In the run up to the UK general election there’s a lot of talk about ‘Mansion’ taxes on wicked and predatory ‘buy to let’ landlords. As prophesied many times in this blog and elsewhere across various forums and comment threads of the jolly old Interweb, this is a mark of the mainstream politicians desperation. They’ve spent all your money, and your grandchildren’s money buying votes, now they’re coming for private property. The public cupboard is bare and the pollies* are desperate, and anyone with any assets at all (unless they can afford really good tax accountants) is in their short sighted target area.

The reason behind this post is me getting into a minor comment thread spat in the Tellytubbygraph with one of the ‘Entitled’**. In a mildly robust exchange of views I posed the question; Does anyone remember the late 1970’s and early 80’s before people could buy their council houses so readily?

I do. I have clear and vivid memories of vandalised and derelict council housing throughout the industrially declining UK West Midlands. Whole streets of them. Whole council estates even. A little like a genteel version of modern day Detroit. Post WW2 semi-detached properties (for a North American equivalent – think ‘Duplex’) boarded up like wall eyed ghost towns. Broken side doors where unruly kids, copper thieves and the down and outs had broken in to leave devastation, illiterate graffiti, human faeces, decay and piles of syringes in their passing. In short, places where no one cared now made uninhabitable through lack of maintenance. There are still instances of houses, especially in Liverpool and similar, where whole streets are in this condition. And the equation is simple; Economic stagnation = few or no jobs = fewer people with less money = Lots of unwanted housing.

Throw left-wing, ideologically stifled bureaucracies into the mix and there you have it. ‘Managed decline’. The default position of big government. Empty houses in economically stagnant districts with no-one who can afford to live in or maintain the existing properties. Which might as well be bulldozed and the whole site left to turn into unproductive scrubland and swamp, thence woodland, followed in a century or two by the Greens favourite; ‘Ancient Forest’ full of Bambi and friends, but very few humans. Hooray! Or rather not. As a side note; putative Bambi’s should take note that ‘Ancient Forests’ are not full of pixies, elves, gnomes and pretty ickle flutterbies like in those cute animated Hollywood movies but rather home to Mr B B Wolf and friends, whose name for Bambi translates loosely as ‘Lunch’.

So what’s the answer? Government subsidies and plane loads of immigrants to provide a future tax base and spend their money on improving the housing stock? Which won’t do much good if said migrants don’t have the skills or motivation to build a better or economically active society. Or whose imported culture means they spend their disposable income on new religious buildings. Ending up dependent upon handouts from an ever more cash strapped country where the cupboard has been bare for quite some time. Because no-one is actually innovating, trading or making things. So more migrants will be needed. Who will bring their own baggage. And not much money. So the slow spiral of decline will continue. Until some far sighted politician (Unlikely to be elected, never happen) decides to take the wheels off said cycle, or the whole lot burns to the ground. BTW: The riot and burning strategy was tried in UK city centre riots of the early 1980’s (Which didn’t work – see the economic ‘broken window’ fallacy).

In these blighted areas, where councils can’t or won’t maintain and rent out the properties in question, the buy to let landlord becomes a tool of regeneration. They will put money into vital property maintenance and indulge in the necessary day to day negotiations and arguments with tenants. Where there is a market. It’s how we Evil Landlords make a living off our investment. If there are people with jobs and money, they need places to live. That is what we provide. A ready base of operations, especially for a highly mobile workforce.

To call someone who actually spends money on a building to make it fit for habitation a ‘parasite’ is rather ungracious to say the least. The tenants did not wish to invest time, effort, and twenty (possibly thirty!) years or so in their own bricks and mortar, but are happy for others to risk doing so, no problem. For property investment is a risk, one of the largest anyone will ever make. A hint about renting; treat it as a business arrangement, and all will be well. Mess things up then bleat like an entitled sheep about how ‘unfair’ it is that you have to actually pay for the roof over your head, then the Gods of decay and desolation will never be far from both your and your landlords door. I’ve heard it said that houses are not built as slums, they are made slums by the very people who live in and own them.

At this point I would like to introduce my reader to some useful Evil Landlord rules.

Rule 1: Never rent to male students, people on benefits or those with extensive skin art.
Rule 2: Insist on direct debit for rent. Avoid anyone who wants to pay by cheque or cash.
Rule 3: Never get involved in anything longer than a 6 month ‘Shorthold Assured‘ tenancy.
Rule 4: Keep in touch with your tenant on a monthly basis and make any non tenant incurred repairs promptly. Agree regular maintenance schedules in the tenancy agreement and stick to them.
Rule 5: Avoid entanglement with Social Services or any Local Authority body as much as possible.
Rule 6: Trust nobody and use lawyers.

Of all the above, please note that Rule 6 is the most important. Keep it brisk and businesslike. Anything else invites disaster.

*Pollies; Lamestream politician. So called because of their characteristic repetitive parrot like squawking.
** Entitled; someone who thinks they should be given a free ride off the backs of others, in short, a parasite.

Workarounds and sidesteps

Have managed to get around WordPress defaulting to their silly ‘bingledy beep boop’ whatever post editor by ducking out to the main WP admin page and launching the post editor from the sidebar. Bit of a pain, but at least I’m now back in the driving seat.

Unlike the presenters of Top Gear. May has quit. He, Clarkson, Hammond and the shows old producer who also quit, Andy Wilman, have been meeting up, possibly to discuss creating a whole new car show. They won’t be able to call their new show Top Gear of course, but there are a bunch of digital channels that will happily fork out part of their budget, and sponsorship can fund the rest. It’s as good a workaround as any. As for marketing and distribution; globally there’s a host of avid ex-Top Gear fans who will gobble up the content as soon as it’s uploaded, sidestepping any attempts at restriction. The advertisers and sponsors who get on board with any new show hosted by the three goofs will make a mint, while any BBC relaunched Top Gear will sink slowly into the self imposed mire of BBC politically correct green lunacy, rarely to be seen again as they try to impose Hybrid solar self driven cars with backup wind turbines on the market. Unless the Beeb by some miracle rediscovers the personality magic that made Clarkson, Hammond and May work so well. Breath will not be held waiting for that to happen.

Eco Friendly Stig NotSo the blokey car show is not dead, It will come back under another name simply because the audience is there. Despite the wishes of the politically active but personally inept. Life’s like that.

As a side note; the law of unintended consequences was last seen gleefully prancing in through the back door of the BBC TV centre, up the back stairs and out through an emergency exit with a whole tranche of future BBC revenue.

Same old same old

Every day it seems we are promised climate disaster as unthinkingly regurgitated by the lamestream media. Yet here we are at yet another ‘Earth’ day, the continually predicted disasters and inconveniences supposedly attributable to humanity’s annoying habit of breathing out carbon dioxide still absent. No real sea level rise, only the slow increase of temperatures as Earth gently warms out of the Little Ice Age. Although a lot of this warming isn’t certain, as temperature measurement ‘error bars’ are 0.8 of a degree centigrade (Celsius, whatever, it’s an SI unit) and the temperature ‘rise’ over the past century is maybe a degree or so centigrade. Do the math, as they say over here. A degree is only 25% or a quarter of the potential error in temperature measurement. So the actual temperature ‘increase’ could be as much as 1.8 degrees, or as little as 0.2 degrees. Depending upon who read the thermometer and how carefully they did it. We’re talking about temperature monitoring from the early 1900’s and before, which is not as ‘accurate’ as today’s digital thermometers. Not so scary now, huh?

The one thing that constantly amazes me about this whole ‘climate change’ thing is how flimsy the ‘evidence’ has been for all the decades of pantie bunched hand waving. Yes the temperature is gently rising. Has been for over a hundred years. So what? Quite frankly I think the whole hysterical “You’re all gonna die horribly” panicmongering of ‘Earth’ day is coming from people who should stop worrying everyone to death, and go out and get lives. Maybe actually do something useful for a change. Help the disabled. Volunteer to get their hands dirty for a change.

Viewed objectively, the current overall climate of the Earth is unusually benign at this point in time. Sure there are tropical storms hitting Australia, but that’s nothing new. 60mph winds aren’t that extreme. We regularly get windstorms around the island of that intensity. Tornadoes in the midwest? Meh, nothing unusual. Fewer Hurricanes than 1997, certainly. When was the last big one to make serious landfall? Sandy in 2012? Yeah, but wasn’t that only rated as a Tropical Storm when it hit New Jersey? Not even a ‘hundred year storm’.

What is certain is that there will be storms in future, like there have been in the past. The sun will shine. The rain will fall. Californians and other short sighted fools will neglect or even dismantle their water infrastructure and then whine when the water companies can’t keep their golf courses green enough. Then they’ll blame it all on some poor dude who needed to drive their car to work. Which is as irrational as it gets. But then that’s the whole ‘Green’ mentality for you. Irrational.

Oh yeah. I see that Greensleaze have their old rustbucket the MV Esperanza tied up at Ogden Point downtown. Man, that vessel needs a decent paint job. Considering how much money said organisation has sloshing around in their coffers they can surely afford to have it dry docked and given a serious refit. Or maybe just sink it as a marine ‘reef’ to encourage sea life. Improve the fishing. Now that would be really useful.

Beep bloody boop bolleaux

I like WordPress, I really do. As a blog platform it works, or should I rather say worked. I know it’s free and the mildly customisable templates are free, the widgets are not as adaptable as other blog platforms, but that’s by the by. I like the anti-spam and IP blocking features which help keep the trolls at bay. All that was needed was to engage one’s intellect a little, and it’s a solid piece of kit. Which in my book is high praise. The only thing that is scrolling my knurd at the moment is the way it’s defaulting to this bloody silly ‘Beep, beep, boop’ post editor.

FFS! Who decided that a lower function, less intuitive, far slower to load post editor was a good idea. I mean, seriously guys. It dumbs down the whole platform and has me wondering aloud if there’s something better than WordPress out there. Blogger was once a decent platform until it became too hidebound, too vulnerable. There’s Tumblr and Pinterest of course, but neither fit my needs as a small time billy no mates of the blogosphere. Ghost might be a good idea, but it’s not really free. The software is, but the hosting isn’t.

There’s a bunch of others which I’ll be investigating over the next week or so. Or WordPress could ditch the ‘beep,boop, bloody beep’ crap and let everyone use the classic interface which loads cleanly and without kitsch. Not that I expect anyone to be listening, but it would be nice if they dropped the cutesy nonsense, which frankly chums, is a bit too girly for my liking.

Secret societies

A humble Bacon buttyWhilst researching today for my impending trip to Paris, I found that while there is a recipe for ‘French bacon sandwiches’ it is sadly not French. The French have no recipe for bacon sandwiches. Probably because this humble dish is  so simple it does not require one. However, they do have the ‘Croque Monsieur’ which is a toasted bacon and cheese butty. Which is all very fine, but can the French be said to be truly civilised if they have no bacon sandwiches? Alas no. It’s almost like there is a secret cabal of chefs dictating what recipes may or may not be produced in la belle France.

Secret society recruitmentSideways from that topic, back in the 1970’s and 80’s there was a big fuss about ‘secret’ societies, particularly Freemasonry. Which was a bit silly, as Freemasons were about as secret as ‘dogging’ in public is today. Everyone knew who the local Masons were as they would be spotted leaving home in their neat suits with their neat slimline briefcases, or outside the local Masonic hall. Their (hardly) bloodcurdling rituals were supposed to be secret, but there were just so gosh-darned many Masons that you couldn’t help but hear about the aprons and rolling up of left trouser legs, never mind the Golf Club tales of secret handshakes and initiation rituals with hood, noose and dagger. When I was small, my father could cite their rituals chapter and verse, and he wasn’t even a member. Masons couldn’t have been less secret if they’d tried. Nowadays they’ve even got their own web site. Some secret society, huh?

In these Interweb connected days there can be no secret societies. Well, none worth being a member of. From Opus Dei to the Rosicrucians, they’ve all got their own web sites, which is hardly ‘secret’ is it? The moment your little clique opens a Farcebook page, they’ve come out of the closet and can’t really claim to be a secret society. Heavens to Murgatroyd, even a Childhood Secret Club is more secretive, and they won’t have members over nine years old. Unless of course they are Trainspotters.

A Secret Trainspotter
A Secret Trainspotter

Trainspotters are said to have a top secret inner cabal who are so furtive they don’t even go trainspotting. At least during the hours of daylight. They are sometimes pictured wearing masks while prowling for that rare Deltic or Type 1 Diesel.

Trainspotters top secret headquarters, Ipswich
Trainspotters top secret headquarters, Ipswich

Rumours of Vampirism abound.

More sinister though are the ‘leadership’ organisations like ‘Common purpose‘ who actively form a cabal within public institutions, pushing a politically correct agenda upon the rest of us via their cosy little sinecure posts in various Quango’s, NGO’s and other neo-fascist organisations. They claim to want to create a ‘better’ world, which fits in with their own personal agenda’s. Everyone else is an outsider.

Frankly all these soi-disant societies want is exclusivity. Their own exclusive little club where they get to set the rules and bugger all the great unwashed. Who will just have to sit up straight, be quiet and do what they are told. So there. Rather like organised religion in fact, where a bunch of old farts in dresses get to boss everyone else around because God says so. By the way, God says he always ignores priests, as none of them ever listen to him, so why should he give the snotty little eejits the time of day?

As for exclusivity, if that’s what these people want; then it should be freely given. Along with a very large portion of cold shoulder.

Banned?

No book zoneI was loading up my eReader today with freebie books to read while Mrs S and I are visiting and digesting the Cite de Lumiere and was directed to a download site called http://www.manybooks.net. While perusing these web pages, I found my eye taken by a ‘banned books’ category.

Being eternally curious, I decided to take a quick look at the contents of the ‘banned’ pages to see what salaciousness was contained therein. Well let me tell you chums, I was shocked. Shocked, offended and scandalised to my very core. And also not a little disappointed. Apart from not having a copy of the 1951 epic “Racially pure Nazi BDSM Anal Virgin Porn Queens from planet 9”, by the Paraguayan Science Fiction colossus M Bormann*, a rare but worthy classic where every third word in the dialogue is sexually pejorative, all that I found were things like “Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain, “Common Sense” by Tom Paine and that dull collectivist treatise “Das Kapital” by one of the Marx brothers (Harpo possibly, I’m not sure). Should they have been banned? And upon whose say-so? See for yourselves.

* Bormann, originally a German politician of the 1930’s and 40’s, never got over the poor reviews of his work; was later heard to muse “Maybe I shouldn’t have made the heroine so Jewish”

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

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