A little rogue English

Sometimes things just pop out. Especially if you haven’t done your zip up properly, but that’s another matter. Yesterday’s little turn of phrase turned up when I was out in the car, signaling left for the next set of lights when some dimwit in a grey Dodge Caravan carved across my path at speed then back into the lane to my right. I think there was less than six inches between us for a brief heart in mouth experience moment. Mrs S, in the passenger seat braced for an impact I was able to avoid by some pretty lively braking (Good reflexes there Bill) and shrieked loudly, it was that close. To the lack of road etiquette I responded loudly “What the fuck are you on, blue eyes?” and indicated my displeasure to the offending driver, if you could call what she was doing driving, with a single upraised digit. Not that the zombiform item supposedly in control of the offending vehicle paid any attention, she seemed to think that smiling and waving made it all better. Goddamn stoner chick posing as a soccer mum.

Had I possessed a little more presence of mind I’d have logged her registration number and reported her as a possible Driving under the influence. But it’s easy to say that in hindsight. When you’re trying to avoid a large insurance claim, your attention tends to be a little more tightly focussed on your driving.

From the passenger seat came sudden peals of laughter. Which rather puzzled me despite briefly enjoying a little vented road rage at the offending driver. “Oh I must remember that one!” Exclaimed my lady wife.
“One what?”
“That saying.”
“Pardon?” I pulled up at the red stop light in the left hand filter, furrowing my brow.
“What the fuck are you on, blue eyes?” She repeated.
“Oh that. Didn’t you see that crazy bitch?” I responded, still a trifle miffed at almost being run off the road into oncoming traffic.
“You do come up with them.”
“Up with what?” The filter light went green and we pulled out and turned left, watching for morons turning right into my lane instead of taking their turn like they’re supposed to.
“These rogue English sayings of yours.”
“Sorry.” I don’t swear that often. Not in real life anyway.
“No Bill. You make me laugh.”
“That bad, huh?” We turned into the car park and a parking space, watching all the time for more charm school dropouts.
“Not bad, just funny.”
“Sorry love, I just get fed up with the blind deaf and dumb sometimes. I have to vent.”
“You keep on venting like that. It keeps me amused.”
“Well I’m glad about that. Rogue English, eh? I like it.” I replied. Then I stalked off to the grocery store, still vibrating a bit from the anger, while she went to the pharmacy.

She was still grinning about it when I came back from my own errands.

Oh well. Whatever makes you happy…

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I know those streets


…the streets of Barcelona. It’s one of the jewels of continental Europe and now the ground zero of the Catalan secession movement. I’ve sat and drunk coffee in front of the main cathedral, listened to the chatter around me, navigated the nearby flagstoned alleyways and peoplewatched the other tourists being startled by the dozen or so living statue mime artists that make a living at the foot of the Cathedral steps. It is one of my favourite European cities, one with a cultural identity you could bend rebar around. Like Seville, but not so much Madrid.

Now the Catelonians have voted for independence in a referendum the Madrid government and probably the EU, didn’t want them to have. The actions of the National Police riot squad have become global news which the Madrid government has totally mishandled. See this report from CGTN Africa below.

Regardless of whether the referendum itself was illegal, riot police beating up old ladies people for no better reason than they wanted to vote is like pointing a loaded gun at your foot, pulling the trigger and wondering why it hurts so bloody much. There is no way that is protecting anyone’s rights, or any form of justice, as claimed by the Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, save that of wielding naked power for it’s own sake. Reporters on the ground say even the local city cops or ‘Mossos’, got in the way of the cruise shipped in riot police when ‘unofficial’ polling stations were raided. See the France24 video below and the linked story on RT.

And you thought that BREXIT was a big issue. Think of it this way, the Catalans are getting a dose of what the Spanish authorities have been doling out to the Basque since before 1876. This time however, the ‘rebels’ have tried to do things the right way, the peaceful and democratic way, yet the heavy hand of the Spanish authoritarian state has fallen upon them. As many libertarians and those who have fallen foul of any government department would say; “The State is not your friend.”

Update: After reading around and doing a little historical background I note that this is not the first ‘illegal’ referendum on Catalan independence.  The last was 2014 and before that smaller versions throughout 2009 to 2011.

Here’s a post referendum interview from Vlogger Tim Pool of expat journalist Simon Harris who is based in Barcelona.  Very enlightening insider perspective on Spanish political attitudes.

 

On the nature of trolls

Every so often in the Scriblerus group we get various types of trolling attacks. Which some justify with the WW2 derived dictum; “If you’re taking flak, you must be over the target.” Yes, we occasionally get abuse, which is why many of us have some form of moderation on our comments section because without it we’d be forever chasing our tails deleting dozens off topic comments intended to drag a discussion thread into a morass of a given trolls own unhinged obsessions. Whatever those might be.

For me this isn’t a problem, as I tend to have a rather simple ‘delete and ban’ policy toward provocateurs and police my WordPress spam filter assiduously. Theres also a handy feature in WordPress that blocks some anonymous proxies which I make use of to keep out the unwanted. My comments policy for this blog lays down some very simple rules which boil down to the following: if you’ve something to say and are willing to be civil, no problem. If you’re just abusively trolling just to see if I’ll bite, don’t even bother. You’ll waste your time and energy, not mine.

But what makes a troll? I’d call it a behaviour rather than a person. Someone who disagrees with me might indulge in a trollish attack, which in footballing terms would be called ‘playing the man, not the ball’ or if you prefer, foul play or underhand tactics. Lurking under bridges, attacking the unwary. Attacking the person, not addressing their arguments. Now that’s being a troll.

You can’t call someone Troll either simply for voicing an alternative or simply criticising a given point of view, as has been described by many of the more thin-skinned commentators out there. To them, any opposition is the work of ‘Internet Trolls’. Which isn’t true. At worst it’s heckling. A heckler openly tells you you’re being an idiot. A troll is the person who tries to push a speaker off their soapbox, throws rocks or tries to shut them up using the power of social media. Indeed, the Twitter and Facebook hate mobs who infest those benighted platforms are being trolls if they ‘go after’ someone for simply holding an opinion they don’t like, costing someone their job or damaging any other part of their social life. Which isn’t fair play by anyone’s standards.

In the words of Gomez Addams;

As for the Scriblerus group of bloggers, one thing we do when under attack is co-operate, acting as a mutual support group where an outside threat is trying to disrupt one or more of the contributors. This is a purely informal arrangement, but seeing as certain of our members have extensive experience of Interweb related stuff and a great deal of real-life experience, it works quite well. For any would be attacker I would point out that nothing on the internet is truly anonymous, just as there’s no such thing as a burglar proof house. There are only degrees of difficulty in tracking. So don’t be surprised if your nastiness comes back to bite you.

This is not to say that we in the Scriblerus group agree on everything (or anything), far from it, we might not fight like cats in a sack, but we can disagree without it turning into a mudslinging bitch-fest, regardless of style or content. It’s called maturity. We’re grown-ups (mostly). And we’ve retained our own individual senses of fun. With the emphasis on ‘our own’. So a little light ribbing between members does not lead to meltdowns or petty vendettas. Because we’re all (I think) about freedom of speech and opinion, in varying degrees. So long as it’s not destructive or abusive.

As for those taking umbrage at any point of view espoused within our loose coalition I’d say; “Just because you’re offended, it doesn’t make you right.”

Of course, this blog only reflects my personal view, you’d have to ask the other members of Scriblerus for theirs.

Like wot I wrote

Yesterday I was meandering through the back channels of the FT and came upon an article which intrigued me. It linked to a series of six youtube videos concerning active and passive phrasing in English. Fairly dry stuff you might think. Not so dear reader. There is considerable dusty passion raised within the grammarian community on this issue, even about misquoting Orwell over his famous active vs passive quote. What Professor Pullum says about Strunk & White, long thought the short cut to grammar expertise, is highly entertaining. Well, at least to anyone even vaguely interested in constructing cogent prose.

Most people’s eyes will glaze over and go away to watch a funny cat video when he starts talking about transitive verbs, but I found his six talks highly enlightening and a classic example of how groupthink and widely promoted misinformation can degrade a subject. Particularly such a critical one as English.

Like quoting out of context, because in communicating an idea, context is everything. Particularly from Orwell’s much quoted essay “Politics and the English language” in which he says;

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.
(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.
(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Now point iv is the one writing ‘gurus’ always trot out, but this raises the question; have they been abusing this quotation all along? Now I think point vi is the money shot because it tells the reader to ignore all of the above rules rather than write something which lacks clarity.

Because clarity in communicating ideas is everything and a soft word spoken truly is sharper than a swung Katana.

Chips with a twist

We’ve all suffered. Horrible oven chips with that mouth clogging floury aftertaste. Soggy fried potato strips which slip down the throat as though they were greased, but leave no enduring pleasure. Overdone, underdone, wobbling free and all phases in between. The humble chip or French fry is a difficult dish to get right.

Aficionado’s of this often-abused comestible recommend the double or even triple fried potato fries using electronic means to regulate the cooking temperature. Often recommending complex methods requiring washing, patting dry and sprinkling in salt distilled from a virgin’s tears, waiting times and special oils, or a special deep oil fryer that needs a protracted and labour intensive cleaning out after every use. Everyone has their own pet method. Well let me add my own.

Now cooking the humble French fry should not be a complicated or prolonged procedure. Yet getting it right from a standing start to produce a firm but crunchy end product that is thoroughly cooked is often a right bloody mission.

My own method came to me as a happy accident when I was looking at a way of cooking a small batch of fries just for me when I was running out of cooking oil. It’s very simple and you will need the following:
A Russet or baking potato.
1 pint of any old cooking oil.
A pan you don’t mind using for frying.
A microwave oven.
Seasoning to taste.

Method:
Put oil in pan and heat to medium high on stove.
Put potato in microwave oven and cook on full power, depending upon size from 5-9 minutes, turning once.
Leave to cool enough for handling (usually 5-10 minutes) while oil in pan heats up.
Peel loosened skin off Russet potato and cut naked spud into desired shape and size. I cut mine into at least 3/8 inch (9mm) thick slices of potato and strips of a similar cross section so they are square.
This method works best of all for really chunky chips or potato wedges. Almost more roast potato than chip. Throw cut chunks into hot oil and scoop ’em out after ten minutes or so when a light golden brown. Drain oil off using paper kitchen towel or let drain for five minutes in a large sieve. Season if necessary and serve to adoring public. Accept naked adoration (If you’re really lucky) and any concomitant praise.

Works every time and there’s less mess to clear up than with conventional fries. Job done.

Note to self

The world ended on the 23rd September. Or at least it was supposed to according to some people. Did I mark it in my calendar? No. Did I bother to look up into the skies to see when we were annihilated by a rogue planet and the sinless were transported to some domain of bliss? Well stap me vitals I missed it. Again. Too busy booking hotels in Melbourne, Australia for the New Year and looking up details of things to do on the Princes Highway between Melbourne and Sydney. Then Mrs S needed a chair fixing, there were mirrors to be hung and trans Atlantic and trans Pacific calls to be made to family and friends, and someone (me) had to cook the supper, to a brand new recipe I might add. Not to mention an online University course assignment. So yes, I missed the end of the world on Saturday. Guilty as charged, goshdarnit. Now what?

I mean, this is just not good enough young Mr Bill, you missed the apocalypse. Doesn’t matter that it didn’t happen. Again. Detention for you and a damn good spanking. If you’re lucky, you little scamp. Don’t do it again. Pay attention next time someone starts their semi autistic attention seeking about oblique biblical prophesies, Nostra-vague-as-all-fuck-damus, asteroid impacts and volcanoes. There’s bugger all you can do about them but cower, tremble and hand over the contents of your wallet. So cough up there’s a good boy, then go and quiver in that corner over there, all right? Do as you’re told.

Okay, we’re all still here on the 25th, but the end of the world schtick continues. Whether it’s climate change, running out of drinkable water, zombies or Sharknadoes, those who wish us to be frightened all the time have the UN / Al Gore / Bill Nye / David Suzuki frighten-everyone-with-dire-predictions business model. Which is fleece the punters, then feed them more scary stories so they can be fleeced again without ever doing anything about real issues. Major religions have been doing it for millennia, and now everyone else is at it. Politicians, media whores, the UN, everybody. All they want is your money. Stuff the planet.

Frankly me dears, all this doom mongering gets more than a little tiresome sometimes. There are so many real things to take simple pleasure in, even workaday chores like shopping, editing reports, cooking supper and researching. Even assembling flat pack furniture can be relaxing with the right attitude when her ladyship isn’t kibitzing over my shoulder. So long as she tells me where it has to go, that’s just dandy.

Anyway. World still here. Still be here ten centuries on. I’m cool with that. What else happened? Oh yes, my desk has a sparkly new chrome LED lamp.

Isn’t that nice?

1971 Redux etc.

I see the current situation with student unrest somehow reminiscent of the early 1970’s. I don’t know if it’s just me, but seen through the Hollywood mirror there are a lot of similarities. The banners, the language, the shouts of ‘Fascist’ at every less that extreme left wing view. Which were forgotten when the instigators ran out of other people’s money and had to get real jobs. As happened in the early 1980’s and into the 90’s, when stuff settled down and people stopped shouting about all the ism’s and we all just got on with things. Regardless of skin colour or sexual orientation. We learned to joke about ourselves again and not worry too much.

Until of course the next generation forgot the lessons of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Or at least some people forgot, or more like never learned that it is wrong do what the hell they like to hurt others, regardless of political views, just because they think they have some nebulous moral ‘right’. To them, the slavery that stained the 16th-18th century West is still real, but instead of moving on, go full retrograde and act as though slavery of the African descended importees to America were a real modern issue. All the time ignoring the real slavery of non-Western states like India (14.3 million), China (3.2 million) and Pakistan (2.1 million) to name the three biggest offenders. Map here. All the bleating is a cheap ‘give us your money’ con trick because the people who really need help will never see a penny piece while their ‘leaders’ will have pockets so full they’ll need weight training to hold their trousers up. Twas ever thus.

In the 90’s most people got over all the fuss and worked as part of a team with whatever colour skin your workmates had. No-one even asked about religion, because the question never arose. Of course there were minor frictions, but if you were good at your job and paid attention, who the hell cared? Tolerance was more widespread and opinion was less polarised than at present. Sometimes I feel that if everyone nowadays wound their collective necks in and went back to a more relaxed live and let live attitude we’d all be miles better off.

The rot seemed to set in in the late 00’s on the run up to the US Presidential elections. The Messiah was to become the US President and all the people dispossessed by the financial crash, ironically caused by an attempt to legislate ‘fairness’ by the Clinton Administration, coupled with the financial sectors solution to all the dodgy debt it created, thought that their chosen one would magic up money and make all their problems vanish. Only their problems didn’t. They got worse. Then we got all the divisive rhetoric to go with it. Here in the late 2010’s race relations are dropping through the floor because no one seems to understand that the solution to all Bear problems (Racism) is to stop prodding the fucking Bear! (and in the process giving the real racists ammunition). The answer is, as Morgan Freeman said so succinctly; “Stop talking about it.” But no-one seems to be interested. They just want a fight.

Speaking of which, looks like there’s going to be a scrap over the forthcoming Catalan referendum. If you thought there was a fuss over BREXIT, the powers that be are gearing up for some serious fun. A whole cruise ship full of armed riot Police have been brought in, just in case the election rigging doesn’t go the right way. While the EU bureaucrats look like they’re relying on Tessie May to cock things up so Britain comes back to the EU fold with tail tucked tween it’s legs, they must reckon those rebellious Spaniards will only be cowed by a sound public whipping. After all, they’ve stepped up raids against those angling for independence. Tomorrow’s vote in Germany will probably keep Merkel in power by the look of things. But polls have been wrong before. As have bureaucrats.

Meanwhile, back on the topic of BREXIT I have a hunch that May’s Florence speech was a bluff, or at least a form of damage limitation. The UK’s credit rating has been marked down, which she probably knew was coming, so her seeming to give way might just take the pressure off the city despite the fast recovering value of Sterling (Up seven cents against CAD since last Friday by my reckoning). A lot is going to happen politically and economically over the next month or so and I’m going to hunker down, financially speaking, and see what happens. This could get real interesting real fast. For a given value of ‘interesting’. P.S. I’ve sold all my Euro’s.

Update: Re the two ships reputedly full of riot Police currently docked in Barcelona. Each has a passenger complement of around 1,760. So that’s a possible 3,520 riot Police, a small army in anyone’s books. Could of course be more, as I recall tales from drinking mates who went on a little ‘Pussers holiday‘ back in 1982, and how tightly they were crammed onto every berth they could find. So the total capacity of these two ships could be over half as much again. More, if they’ve taken over all the crew cabins.

Another thought occurs; are all these riot Police actually members of the Spanish Guardia Civil or CNP, or are a few on loan from other parts of the EU? Enquiring minds etc. My, this is getting interesting.

Another Update: Merkel has held onto Germany for a fourth term, but her pro-open door immigration policies have given the extreme right a doorway into power with 13% of the vote. This is also very interesting. We’ll see what the markets say on Monday morning.

Another day

….another bomb on the London Tube. Woke up early to the news. First response is to try and raise Youngest on the blower, but she’s at work and not answering. I saw pictures of one woman with extensive burns to her legs being carted off to hospital, but I don’t think it was our girl. No deaths, so that’s a mercy. Doesn’t make you not worry though. You never really stop being a parent.

This is just five am me anyway. That part is and always has been an old worry guts. Although I’ve heard it said that pessimists get fewer nasty surprises, I’m not so much of a pessimist any more. More to lose.

My one hope is that they catch the amateur who made the device before they get better at it, and that said amateur learns the hard lesson of why they shouldn’t bend down to pick up the soap in the prison showers. Maybe we should be rethinking the prison system for terrorist offences. A secure basement somewhere soundproof where the guilty can be kept in solitary for up to thirty days at a time. No entertainments, no books, no conversation, just pictures of the casualties on a screen showing them the reality of what they did and who they hurt. If the injured or dead include those of their own belief system, so much the better. Shine a searchlight on their own petty hypocrisies and thus undermine them from within. Then before going back out to the general prison population for the rest of their sentence they get psychiatric treatment to ‘recover’ from the solitary. Prison on it’s own isn’t the answer.

As for the device, from what I’ve seen in the news it was a poorly made thing, as all the current bomb attacks seem to be, that blew off in a fireball rather than exploded. More incendiary than a proper bomb like the IRA used to salt around the place back in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.

Update: Youngest is fine. She was on an different train. A small part of me just came back to life.

Who knew?

…I’m developing green fingers. Well at least as far as tomato seeds are concerned. Monday my little white bag of compost was sprouting eight distinct tiny tomato plants. Tuesday there are around thirty. The tripod widgets made out of bamboo kebab skewers are there to support and train the baby plants until they’re ready for potting out in around a weeks time.
Monday
Tuesday

Wednesday

What a difference two days make, eh? Think I’m going to need a much larger windowsill.

The weather generally has cooled down a fair bit from the 30+ sultriness August generally brings around here. Now we’re back in the low 20’s Celsius and far more comfortable. Lawns are greening again after a few showers last Saturday and no doubt we’ll be hearing the first lawnmowers for a while in a day or two. The wildfire smoke has blown away and Mrs S and I have taken to spending at least two hours out around sunset on the deck, just taking in the view and chilling before she goes indoors to watch some Netflix and I watch the stars come out.

Most people around here seem to close their doors after sunset, but where we are we have a nice little breeze that keeps most of the mossies and no-see-ums at bay. Mosquitoes and the like are weak fliers and a stiff breeze or even a fan will keep your hide untrammelled by their haematophagic attentions. They just can’t fly fast enough in the airflow of an electric fan. So, no bites apart from one who just had to give the back of my leg a nip last week. Normally they come after me like it’s a free bar. So I’m quite pleased and relatively lump free this season.

The outside world continues. The value of the pound to the Canadian Dollar continues to disappoint, but I’m leaving significant funds in sterling, understanding that when the dust settles over BREXIT, the UK economy is going to really take off. So I’m maintaining a positive view of old blighty’s future and treating the current fiscal erosion as a mere temporary inconvenience. The unemployment figures at least look good, with the undervalued pound giving exporters a boost. Juncker can say what he likes, so can the op-eds of the remoaners, but these are just hollow words. The EU needs a good boot up the arse to rescue it from falling into a slough of ideological despond. It has long needed a restructure away from making it easy for bureaucrats to ‘manage’ and back towards a vibrant trading bloc. In short, it has to evolve or die. Either will suit me.

The current culture war doesn’t need my input either. Apart from pointing out, yet again, that you can’t change minds by kicking someone’s teeth in. I’ve seen it tried and it never works for long. As for the violent antics of the far left, do they not see that they’re pushing even moderate centrists straight into the arms of the real fascists? Talk about a bunch of room temperature IQ’s. But that’s Socialists for you.

At least my tomato plants are doing well.

And now for something..

…completely mundane. We’ve been nursing our Deer Decimated pot plants back to health, and I am happy to report that our Geraniums and Fuchsias are well on their way to a full recovery. Indeed, here they are. Along with the small herb garden I started a few days ago. Nothing exotic, just some culinary basics and perennials that will survive BC conditions the year round. Sage, Dill, Rosemary, Lavender and a variegated leaf thing that Mrs S liked. You might notice a little white bag at the far right of the picture which is currently sprouting a number of tiny tomato plants. There’s a Basil pot in the kitchen, so during the Winter months I will be potting the resulting tomatoes out so we can enjoy my home made Tomato and Basil soup recipe (To go on the sidebar when I can be bothered to write it up) made from the fruit. No idea where I’ll leave the plants out. Maybe in our West facing kitchen window.

Yes I know tomatoes are from the poisonous Nightshade family of plants, but seeing as you’d have to subsist off the damn things to see any long-term ill-effects, it won’t stop me cropping and cooking them. Just hope I’ve got enough space in the freezer for all the Pasta Sauce I’ll be making.

So, what’s the news from chez Sticker? Well not that much actually. Saw Wind River on Friday. A thought provoking drama which touches on the sensitivities of First Nations North Americans and the scandal of missing young women. Jeremy Renner puts in a workmanlike performance as the Cowboy hunter and Fish & Game officer and there’s just enough detail to give an insight into how the reservation system both protects and harms the indigenous tribal peoples of North America. Worth a view.

Well, travel news. We’re off to see the Ozzard, the wonderful Ozzard of Whiz. Australia is the next venue for the grand touring ambitions of the Sticker family. Sydney and the Blue Mountains first while we get over the jet lag. Then up to Queensland to visit family for Crimbo, thence off to Melbourne for New Year before a small road trip back to Sydney to be packed onto the flight by Eldest in January. Flights are booked and paid for. Which is why I had to walk away from the motorcycle thing. It boiled down to an either / or. Couldn’t afford both. Family takes precedence.

Sorry to hear about the bit of inclement weather the Texans are suffering with. There are the usual voices trying to make political capital out of it, but by contrast there’s the heroism of the ‘Cajun Navy’ turning out to help the afflicted. However, I’ve seen how quickly Houston’s streets drain, so knowing the Texans it’ll be business as usual ten minutes after the Hurricane has gone. One can only wish them well.

Expatriate expostulations from Canada; a.k.a. A Sarcastic man abroad trying to stay in the middle of the road without getting run over.

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