A new one on me

I was talking to one of my stepdaughters on Skype yesterday, relating a minor spat I’d had with some person who had accused me of being ‘sexist’.  Being, as my wife often tells me ‘an unreconstructed male’, I am happy to put my hand up to this thoughtcrime.  I am biologically and culturally male, within a given set of parameters, but also a gentleman.  By the same token my wife and stepdaughters are wonderfully female, for which I am alternately very grateful and highly perplexed, but hey, that’s my problem.  I celebrate their strengths, and offer my own up where theirs are not able to cope, on the very rare occasion that this is necessary.  In their turn they offer crusty old me the occasional hug when I’m feeling less than masterful.  It all works out.  Closer to home I open doors for people, particularly young mothers with their hands full of children, because I understand that they have their work cut out with these little not-quite-housetrained little humans bouncing around like manic pinballs, and need all the help they can get.  Does this make me a bad person?  I’d like not to think so.

Being male of course, I also can’t help my biological programming not to look at any passing young female of pleasant proportions or parts thereof, but I do try not to make them feel uneasy by staring overmuch.  Although this is sometimes very difficult and requires much self control.  So yes, I’m ‘sexist’ and unapologetic with it.  My girls (Wife and stepdaughters both) like grouchy old me this way.  Now kiss my cosi fan tutte.

Now what my stepdaughter actually said made me sit up and think; “What on earth is that?”  I’d just recounted that in a minor online spat with someone who seemed to have left their masculinity in their sock drawer that morning, I’d been accused of being ‘sexist’.  My stepdaughter remarked with an acid laugh; “Sounds like a right mangina to me.”  before changing the subject and going on to talk about her next job move, possibly to Australia.

Afterwards I wondered ‘what is a ‘mangina’?’  So I looked it up and burst out laughing. From the Wiktionary entry:

Etymology

Blend of man +‎ vagina

Pronunciation

  • IPA(key): /mænˈdʒaɪnə/
  • Rhymes: -aɪnə
  • Hyphenation: man‧gi‧na

Noun

mangina ‎(plural manginas)

  1. (slang, derogatory) A man with a pronounced feminine side, or a weak masculine side.
  2. (slang) A homosexual or bisexual man’s anus and rectum

Or perhaps a nominal male who thinks that being falsely ‘non-sexist’ will up their value to a certain radical feminist mindset.   It’s a submissive attitude which, if the student politics coming out of academia is any guide, owes more to sexual insecurity and immaturity than anything else.   However, the sad truth appears to be that many young women hold this mindset in the roundest contempt.  Hence the pejorative.

We males often let our limbic or ‘reptilian’ brains do our thinking, but as women have a similar, but not identical biological structure and often do the same in their own idiosyncratic and erratic fashion, I think with a little give and take we can all rub along together just fine.  Apart from those on the extremes of the sexual bell curve who should not be seen as spokespersons for the majority, or anyone else apart from themselves.

Blowing his own Trump

I’ve been watching the political news filtering up from dahn sarf in the good old U S of A with interest. This Donald Trump guy certainly has polarised voting opinion, and unlike the other candidates seems to be an über-pragmatist of the first water. Within the Sticker household opinions are sharply divided. Mrs S says she thinks he’ll be a ‘disaster’ if he wins the presidency because he doesn’t understand how the levers of power work, but I’m not so sure. I’ve a sneaking feeling he’ll deliver a few bitter pills, but overall he will undo some of the damage done by the current administration. Not all of it, but some.

From what I can see from this side of the border, his win is an increasingly likely eventuality, if not, according to a certain Dr Helmut Norpoth, a 96.1% certainty. Having checked out the good professors track record, I’m inclined to think he may be not far off the mark.

Now I think Trump will win the US Presidential election because he’s a better showman than his republican competition, and comes over better than the shrewish Hillary or wimpy Sanders. Because if there’s one thing the Yanks love, it’s a show, and if there’s one thing they hate it’s perceived weakness. Barack Obama understands this, which is why he’s won the last two US presidential elections, despite policies that have been highly unpopular in a great many quarters, as well as pissing off allies of the US and extending the current economic crisis, now beginning it’s epic ninth year.

What would overturn the good professors speculation is that some nutjob will probably try to kill Trump if he gets confirmed as the Republican candidate. This isn’t a laughing matter, no matter what some pundits might think, but it’s my observation that US presidential candidates, especially those as flamboyant and outspoken as ‘The Donald’ might as well have a bigger than usual target painted on their back. The US Presidency is a high risk job which often attracts the odd stray round from the mentally unbalanced. But that has always been the penalty for any high office of state. The raiments of Kings, Presidents and Ministers might as well come with a big bulls eye painted on the back, because there are always those mistaken enough to think that by smashing the figurehead you can divert the ship.

So yes, I think it’s more or less a done deal. Notwithstanding accusations of possible ‘election rigging’ or other malfeasance like voter bribing as pointed out in the Chicago Sun Times back in 2014. At that time a Rasmussen telephone poll indicated that 68% of Americans agreed with this point of view.

Of course I could be wrong, but in order for Trump to lose, he would have to self destruct spectacularly for the comparatively weak opposition to beat him or, as I mentioned earlier, he might even get killed by one of the lunatic fringe, but that’s the US Secret Services headache. As an aside it’s worth noting that Trump got his Secret Service protection back in November 2015, while Sanders got his in January 2016. The only other hopeful to get a protective detail is Ben Carson, while Hilary Clinton already had hers because of her previous rank as US Secretary of State and former first lady. Cruz and Rubio get Capitol Police protection because they are sitting Senators. Jeb Bush would have had a suits and sunglasses detail because of his family connections, but he’s out of the running now, so that’s by the by.

Any old road up, that’s enough speculation for now as Mrs S and I are hopping on the ferry tomorrow for a visit to the fleshpots of Vancouver. We’re also going on an extended US road trip in April and will be able to get a closer view of the American political machine in action as we pass through the afflicted states. Could be interesting.

Update: After a couple of comments from my last two readers, I found Conrad Black’s editorial in Saturday 27th February’s National Post enlightening.  Not just about Trump, but of the sea change his rise represents.

Bloody hell, Sarge

Oh this is absolutely precious. The ultra PC British Brainwashing Corporation made a ‘Documentary’ about how recruits are treated in the Army, then got all upset when a noncom instructor took a squaddie to task for not doing what he was supposed to and swore at the newbie. Yes, he swore at the delicate little petal. He said nasty words because someone couldn’t follow a simple written instruction. Aw, bless.

Then the BBC got their undergarments all rucked up about a few four letter words and complained to the MOD. Swearing in the Army? Heavens to Betsy old thing, you’ll be asking them to kill people next.

So what? I’ve never been in the Kate, but a good few acquaintances and boon companions have. They have told me that when you join up you should be certain of two things; people will try to hurt you, and no-one gives a flung turd about your ‘feelings’. You’re there to do what you’re told smartly and effectively, be that pulling a trigger, wielding a spanner, filling in forms or digging a hole. It’s called obeying orders, and according to my old acquaintances the Corporals, Sergeants and Officers tend to get rather cross if you’re a bit slow. So yes, they swear at dunderheads and people whose self centred little world view won’t allow them to keep their kit clean and tidy or turn up when they’re supposed to, and justifiably so. No matter what some prissy middle class pursemouth at Al-Beeb thinks. Or rather doesn’t.

However;

“The BBC says it has now been informed a meeting will he held to address the issue, but that it is unlikely swearing will be banned throughout the British Army.”

An amused thought just crossed my mind. I have a vision of a British RSM loudly telling off a bunch of new recruits and brandishing the regimental swear box : “So you ‘orrible lot. There will be no more fucking swearing. One more incidence of bad sodding language and you sad bunch of useless cunts are all on a fucking fizzer, got that?”

Well, it’s put a smile on my face.

Addendum: I’ve just seen that the paedo-witchhunters have been going after Tony Blackburn. Yep. I thought that too. Tony fucking Blackburn? Now that’s just plain desperate. Back in the day he was the breakfast DJ everyone loved to hate because of his corny jokes, but no-one in their right mind would think he was a groupie-groper. I hope he sues his accusers and their sponsors back to the dark ages. This whole persecute a retired celebrity thing is so blatant that it’s got to crash and burn soon.

Chowderhead

I confess. I’m becoming a full blown chowderhead, but not in the classical definition. No. Today I shout my new found affiliation from the rooftops. I love chowder! I’m getting quite good at it too, developing my own recipes from the many variants out there on the jolly old Interweb.

Over these comparatively mild Winter months, Mrs S and I have elected to eat a little more frugally, as our mainly sedentary jobs don’t involve burning up a whole lot of calories to keep warm. So I’ve been batch cooking in the kitchen and storing my output in the freezer, ready to be taken out and defrosted for a hearty late lunch. My current chief favourites are; Tiger shrimp and Basa fish with mixed veg; Chicken, bacon and sweetcorn and variants thereof, and they’re pretty easy to make. Guaranteed brownie points and a Nobel Peace prize.

All you need for this particular gastronomic delight are the basics; onion, potato, celery, sweet corn niblets (canned or frozen) chicken, bacon, flour, salt, black pepper and garlic or garlic powder, oh yes, and water. For seafood variant, simply replace the chicken and bacon with your preferred frozen or fresh (but never canned) seafood. There are ugly rumours that you can make a totally vegan chowder by substituting bean curd or Quorn, but as I’m not a fully paid up follower of Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch I won’t be turning my culinary eyes to that corner of the kitchen, ta very muchly.

Now chowders are meant to be thicker than a Vice President of the United States, but far more tasty. That is, almost dense enough to stand a spoon up in. Gloriously glutinous, cheerfully chunky, and stick to yer ribs slick. Anything else is just soup.

To achieve such a state of nutritional nirvana, simply follow this basic recipe and you can happily disappear, leaving only a simple message reading; “Missing, presumed fed.” while your stomach hugs your spine to say thank you. Oh yes. It’s that good. Well, I think so, anyway. My blog, my opinion, so there.

Right. Here we go. Chop up one very large onion fairly finely. Likewise one stick of celery. Put the celery and onion in a very large saucepan over a low heat with about a tablespoon of cooking oil, canola is okay, as is vegetable oil. For that little extra edge, a dollop (tablespoon) of peanut or olive oil can be substituted. Leave to sweat down and soften thoroughly. Half a teaspoon of garlic powder or two crushed and finely chopped cloves of garlic may be added after it’s all gone slick and semi-translucent. Some authorities advocate a large pinch of allspice, others chilli. But as seasoning is such a personal thing, I’ll leave that to you.

While the onion and celery is on the go, take one cardboard (skinless and boneless) chicken breast, or three boneless chicken thighs. Chop into small chunks. Do likewise with two rashers of bacon. Put on one side. Mix a tablespoon of flour with salt and black pepper, roll the chicken and bacon chunks in the flour. Heat up a tablespoon of cooking oil (Canola, Olive, Peanut, Vegetable, whatever) in a frying pan and throw in the floured chunks, turning and stirring almost constantly until light gold. Keep the remaining flour mix. You’ll need it.

Take a baking potato and partially (over 50%) cook it in your microwave (If no microwave, peel and dice spud, the only difference will be to extend the cooking time by half an hour). Remove potato skin and cut into thumbnail size chunks. Add chunks to the frying chicken and bacon and keep stirring. As the chicken is turning light gold, add a cupful of sweetcorn niblets and fry gently with the potatoes, chicken and bacon. When chicken is cooked through and can be easily cut with a wooden spoon, add frying mix to the pan of softened onion and celery. Stir. Add enough water to the same level as the mix in the pan. Do not cover with water. Bring to a slow simmer and stir every five minutes or so. Do this for half an hour.

If you have a liquidiser or blender, ladle in two or three medium ladlefuls (about half a cup size) of the chicken, bacon, potato onion and celery mix. Blitz. Put liquidised mix back into the main cooking pan. At this point take the remaining seasoned flour mix and add water until it’s the consistency of thin mud. Add flour and water mixture to slowly seething mass of chowder in the large saucepan. Stir every five minutes or so.  Keep on heat until reduced to a thick, glutinous and chunky consistency, tasting the mix periodically to ensure it is neither too watery and bland, or too salty. Add salt and black pepper to taste. A little extra garlic or garlic powder can be added at this late stage, just to get the desired flavour.

When you’re happy with the taste, take chowder off the heat and decant a couple of ladlefuls into a bowl. Cut some fresh bread or get some crackers. If you’re feeling really posh you can sprinkle a pinch of fresh parsley to give a little visual appeal. Eat. Enjoy. Relax. Let your taste buds do the talking. Think deep thoughts. Solve the worlds multiple crises. Chowder is so good it can help you do this. Although it is recommended that you do not try to leap tall buildings in a single bound afterwards, no matter how good you feel, as that kind of behaviour always ends in tears, charges of criminal damage and multi million dollar civil lawsuits.

When the rest of the chowder left in the pan has cooled, decant into some one or two serving freezer containers, and when cooled completely, seal these and put in the freezer for future consumption. You know it makes sense.

TTFN

Facts and fantasies

Finished my studies and other work for today and took time out to pop over to Wattsupwiththat. A few minutes later Mrs S was knocking on my office door because I’d been laughing so hard.
“Bill, what’s happening?” She asked. By way of a reply I pointed at the screen. She paused, read, and then giggled mightily.

It turns out that some academic ‘green’ fantasist is trying to promote a return to collective manual labour and draught animals in farming as a solution to the non-problem of ‘global warming’. Well I’m sorry. I come from a long line of farmers and market gardeners and am calling this garbage out for the complete and utter ivory tower shite it is. I’m presuming that said Swede has never lived and worked on a farm that has no machinery to till the soil, or if he has, has only tried his theories out on a part time hobby farm for a couple of years at most.
Back to the land
Well, excuuuse me! There’s only one reason for such a retrograde move, and that is blind necessity. I’ve worked and grown up around farms for much of my younger life throughout every season, and I’ll tell you this for free. The last thing anyone with two brain cells to rub together is to go back to doing things the hard way. Without mechanised assistance, farming is hard, very hard work, not that I’d expect a soft handed academic to have even the faintest idea of what it’s like to graft for at least nine solid hours six days a week shifting shit, planting, weeding, harvesting and getting ready to do the same thing all over again, year in, year out, regardless of the weather.

Being in the great outdoors may look like fun while the sun shines or the rain is light, but if like me you’ve spent a few (In my case three) years with a fork in your hands in all conditions where the sky is flinging it’s load hard and horizontal across a farmyard and that job has to be done today or it won’t get done at all. And if it doesn’t get done, well, no crop, and after that, no wages. My excuse was that I was working my way through college at the time, and it was a local job that meant I could finish work in time to drive into town for my evening class. So I shut up and pitched in. Not that there weren’t fun moments. Getting the livestock together for a vets inspection. You’d think a fit young two legged man could outrun a three legged lamb with an ulcerated shoulder wouldn’t you? Wrong! I’ve helped a goat down from a tree, other livestock (mostly sheep) stuck in mud, herded sheep and cows, lost more than one Wellington boot (always the left one, oddly enough) in deep piles of cacky, and developed a sense of smell that can distinguish between numerous types of shit. I think said boots will still be there centuries from now until some latter day Time Team dig them up. “Arh, that be one of they 20th century foot garb.” An expert will opine. “Oi got this theory that in the 20th century they left these as offerins to some pagan goddess of shite.” That’s my best Phil Harding impression.

In cold weather, the boss usually got to ride in the relative shelter of the tractor cab when yardwork had to be done. The rest of us insulated ourselves against the elements as best we could. On one memorable occasion when the snow hit, I was swaddled in a waxed coat, gamekeepers gilet, two sweaters, two pairs of jeans, long underwear, two pairs of thermal socks and heavy boots. The wind cut through all of that, and after two hours I was quite drenched. By the end of the day my toes and fingers were numb, and when I got home the pain as my near frozen extremities thawed, was quite incredible.

My point is that really living such a life puts calluses on your hands and heels, turns the skin of your hands into leather and in Summer gives you a ‘farmers tan’ deep enough to pass for an ethnic minority in poor light. Notwithstanding all the constant little aches and pains from bone and cartilage damage due to prolonged physical labour in later life (Around 40). Hard agricultural work is neither for the faint hearted or the less than robust.

Not as though people like Andreas Malm, Naomi Klein, would ever sully their hands with such honest labour. That’s only for the little people….

Today’s lack of amusement

Today I have the signing of forms. Legal matters in the UK require my notarised signatures, so off I went to the local Notary Public to get my drunken spider crawl witnessed and stamped. Such are the occasional inconveniences of being an Expat. That and having wills in multiple jurisdictions. Not to mention the extortion that Canada post tries to apply while delivering a distinctly third rate overseas service. I’ve all but given up expecting Air Mail to be delivered within 4 to 7 working days. From Canada it’s more like three bloody weeks. So in future I’ll be sending important post UPS or Fedex. They’re actually cheaper would you believe? And they do express post to places Canada Post seems unable to reach.

Of such is the coarse cloth of my lack of amusement cut. Still, I stand to make a pretty penny, so I shouldn’t bitch. I just wish I didn’t have to send hard copies via an insecure means because of companies whose business models haven’t quite made it into the 21st century. Why my Bank and Lawyers won’t accept a fax or have a secure portal I can update my records on is a source of all too frequent irritation. Every time I have to authorise changes, with legal costs and postage we’re talking about a hundred and ten dollars, which is about fifty five quid a pop at the time of writing. That’s a hell of a lot to have your signature witnessed and to send ten sheets of paper. I don’t care how ‘carbon friendly’ the service is.

Anyway. While browsing the pilots forums at PPRUNE.org, I see the desperation about so called ‘man made climate change’ has sunk to a new low. At least according to the propaganda machine called the BBC. Apparently it’s supposed to make transatlantic flights longer, although the mechanism detailed in both the article and study looks like some sort of doomsday fantasy, which is what the lamestream keep feeding us. Yay! Wreck your economy and doom your descendants to penury over ‘science’ that would even make a Fourteenth century alchemist go “Carbon Dioxide? Really? Pass that philosophers stone will you and bugger off, I’ve got to transmute this lead into gold by next week or I get shortened by ten inches. Monarchies, eh?”

Well just let me pull my worn and tattered scepticism out of the drawer, yet again. The models this ‘science’ is based on makes Piltdown Man and Phlogiston look like cutting edge. None of these carbon dioxide driven climate models has ever made an accurate prediction three days ahead, let alone a century. So isn’t it about time they were consigned to the junk pile of failed theories? Like the flat Earth, Earth centred astronomical model, celestial spheres and Angels dancing on pinheads? The climate changes, and if you listen to people who are thinking outside the CO2 box, you start to get the idea that the Earth’s Atmosphere in no way resembles a greenhouse (Lack of glass, no frames or doors), and that a trace gas which is essential to photosynthesis could be a whole lot higher and actually improve the biosphere of dear old mother Earth. Cut the level of CO2 below 150ppm, and photosynthesis stops. The plants die and so do we. We need more CO2, not less. The whole ‘back radiation’ thing is an assumption based on the work of 19th century Swedish researcher Svante Arrhenius, whose equations assume straight line values for temperature response. Which is fine, to a point.

However, anyone who has studied meteorology in any depth, like those whose livelihoods are shaped by atmospheric physics, for example pilots, will understand that there is nothing straight about nature. A few years decades ago, when I was much younger and flush with funds, I had an ambition to learn to fly. Part of this entailed taking lessons how to fly gliders, light aircraft and even on two wonderful occasions in a helicopter (Once as navigator, once hands-on). Necessary background study gave me a rough working knowledge of atmospheric physics, airflows over laminar surfaces, cloud formation, air currents, the Jet stream, Anabatic and Katabatic winds etcetera. In short, what causes your tiny airframe to be lifted and tossed around by outside forces and how not to die when it is. Wish I’d kept my log book, now lost in multiple house moves, up to date. But that’s by the by.

What my studies have taught me is that Nature is curly. Things have limits. The speed of sound is a good one. Flying faster than sound requires much more complicated mathematics than simple straight line equations. Supersonic pressure wave build up is not a straight line response. Likewise, the speed of sound is not an absolute, it’s a variable which changes with pressure, density and temperature. Likewise, the IR absorption of Carbon Dioxide does not follow a straight line or even, as some have claimed, an exponential relationship with proportion. Any increase of temperature down to CO2 drops off rapidly after 20ppm.

Wait a moment. Twenty parts per million, but our atmospere contains around four hundred now? WTF? If it was an exponential relationship, shouldn’t we be baking in a Venus-like hell already? Apparently not. CO2 and Temperature H/T to Jo Nova for the original graph based on the work of Lindzen and Choi, 2009. So all this stuff about CO2 being a major climate driver doesn’t look so solid when you take a long, cool look at the real information.

So why is CO2 even an issue? Possibly because there are a lot of people with money tied up in Carbon derivatives, and politicians who have already spent all your tax dollars and need an excuse to raise even more taxes, who would like us all to think otherwise. So a number of very able Public Relations specialists are paid to keep the issue on the boil, brain dead media luvvies who leech off the whole apocalyptic drama of the thing, protestalot ‘climate’ activists who get back door funding from rich donors, and the politico’s making sure that grant money is directed to those who are (unsuccessfully) trying to prove that CO2 is the big climate bogeyman come to murder us all in our beds. Notwithstanding the ‘groupthink’ by the underinformed and credulous. If it wasn’t for the constant demands with menaces, I could laugh at these people a whole lot more.

Doomsday

Tonight I’m ferrying Mrs S to a work related potluck ‘Do’ downtown, and have promised to ride to the rescue with the promise of red wine and chocolate when she’s finally lost patience with the mandatory Vegetarian and teetotal catering these events seem to attract. Why vegetarian? I have no idea. Unless of course this is an experiment in social exclusion. Personally I’d give it a miss, or deliberately take sausage rolls, claiming they’re flavoured Tofu.  However, as these people are key to her job, Mrs S feels obligated to go.  So we’ll be raiding the Deli counter at our local Thrifty’s this afternoon.

For those of you not familiar with North American custom, or not residing in the not so frozen North, see the definition of ‘potluck’ below.

pot·luck
ˌpätˈlək/
noun
used in reference to a situation in which one must take a chance that whatever is available will prove to be good or acceptable.
“he could take potluck in a town not noted for its hotels”
NORTH AMERICAN
a meal or party to which each of the guests contributes a dish.
“a potluck supper”

To my mind there is nothing remotely lucky about vegetarianism.  From a dietary standpoint it’s more like a form of masochism with no real health benefits.  However, some people are into BDSM and that sort of thing, but like veganism etc, I’d prefer if they kept it amongst themselves.

Danger warning robotNotwithstanding….. Danger!  Warning, warning Will Robinson!  Incoming Asteroid Alert!  Well kind of.  Possibly.  Maybe.  Not really.  Which might come as a reason to forgo the dubious delight of an evening of enforced vegetarianism.  If only said astronomical event was happening this evening.

What’s actually true is asteroid 2013 TX68, a hundred foot wide (All right, 30 metre) piece of space rock is due to pass, at closest approach, 0.044 Lunar Distances or 0.00015 Astronomical Units and change from Earth, which works out around about 14673.322 Miles between March 5th and 8th 2016.  At around 14.5 metres per second.  At least according to the NASA small body database.  Wikipedia quotes 0.06 Lunar Distances (12,000 km; 7,400 mi). Which is quite close.  Very close by astronomical measurements.  An impact remains a distinct possibility.

Now the orbital data is well known, but what we don’t know is the density if 2013 TX68 does take a last second detour into, rather than past dear old planet Earth.  Which can be the difference between the firework display of a bolide type detonation in the atmosphere like the Chelyabinsk Meteor (Of which 2013 TX68 is twice the size) in the case of porous or even dense rock, or an unsightly crater in someone’s back yard around eight hundred and fifty metres across if it’s a nickel iron body.  Which can play havoc with the Crocuses and ruin that nice rockery you’ve just put together.  However, if you’ve always wanted an ornamental lake or waterfront property opportunities in your neighbourhood, then this is the asteroid impact for you.  Although local real estate prices might take a bit of a dive in the immediate aftermath.  I try to retain a positive outlook, and am inclined to think that with the right financial planning, doomsday can be converted into financial boomsday.

For those so inclined, you can have endless fun scaring yourself silly with Purdue University’s asteroid impact calculator here.

If you are planning to miss this specific apocalypse not by pulling a sickie, please be aware that 5th March 2016 is a Saturday.  The good news, for a given value of ‘good’, specifically for those at the point of impact, is that you won’t have to worry about Monday mornings any more.

Planning on having a lazy day to myself.

A little less than coruscating….

Managed to contract a rather nasty little cold virus which is proving difficult to dislodge. The effect isn’t that debilitating, but the low level fever and snottiness is just enough to put a crimp in anyone’s day. More of an irritation than a handicap. Fortunately work has eased off from the ‘we want it yesterday’ to more sensible deadlines, so I can relax a little.

While work is slow(er), I’ve been putting a bit more energy into planning our forthcoming six week road trip into the good old US of A. We’ve booked the ferry and first few hotels, got the car booked in for a full service and new set of brake pads and rubber all round, checked our travel insurance and made sure our emergency fund will be there when we need it. We’re feeling fairly relaxed about the prospect. Should be fun.

One interesting but disturbing little snippet has raised its head. Specifically about law enforcement stops. Turns out that some of those guardians of law and disorder are not as honest as they should be. All under the semi-official training and information sharing programs “Black Asphalt”, “Desert Snow” and “420 Group”. Using the umbrella of ‘anti-terrorism’ and ‘war against drugs’ legislation which allows confiscation of assets without a guilty verdict. Often scooping up the property of those never even charged with a crime, or only related to those who were. For my part I shall be driving very carefully. Especially when passing through Oklahoma.

This is where all those RICO statutes and forfeiture without due process laws eventually lead. Someone, somewhere in the system will take advantage and the innocent suffer along with the allegedly guilty. Law of unintended consequences anyone?

The next scare story

Hitting a newsstand near you should be reports of a terrifying ‘brain shrinking’ virus called Zika. For many people I’d be inclined to say “But you weren’t using it much anyway….” as cerebral activity does not seem to pose a major part of their day.  If you’ve ever spent much time in Vancouver Island traffic, this will be a given. Even pedestrians seem to be affected. Very few of them seem to even look where they’re going. I’ve seen them try to walk straight into vehicles already half way over crossings. Like the eyes are somehow not connected to the brain. Or Mr Brain is in “La-la-la” shutdown mode, which seems more likely.

Symptoms of Zika are; fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes), muscle pain and headache lasting about a week.  Rather like a nasty dose of influenza with added rash and red-eye.   Dying is not likely.  But hell, don’t take my word for it, read the CDC’s Zika information pages.

Now before you all go panicking to your doctors and clogging up surgery waiting rooms, know this; Zika is a tropical virus for which there is no current remedy. No vaccination, no specific drug therapy, and it’s completely random, spread only by mosquito bites. Yes, and the whole ‘brain shrinking’ thing only affects a percentage of babies born to an infected mother. Scary huh? Well not so much. A bite from an infected Yellow fever (Aedes_aegypti) mosquito has only a 20% chance of causing an infection and even if you do get a bout, the treatment is as follows;

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink fluids to prevent dehydration
  • Take medicines, such as acetaminophen or paracetamol, to relieve fever and pain
  • Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen and naproxen, should be avoided until dengue can be ruled out to reduce the risk of hemorrhage. If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.
  • If you have Zika, avoid mosquito bites for the first week of your illness.
  • During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites.

That’s it; no need for panic. Usual anti mosquito regimen applies. Set up a zapper to attract and kill the little critters before they can become a nuisance, which is usually three days after rain. If your area is prone to mossies (Like most of BC), wear long sleeves and cover up after 9pm, use mosquito coils or other insecticide repellent. You’ll still get the odd nip, but de nada. Unless of course you’re a pregnant woman in an affected area, in which case, a bout of Zika during pregnancy, so some researchers suspect, can produce a child with microcephaly. But Brazil is the only place reporting such a phenomenon. So not going there while pregnant sounds like a modestly good idea. Otherwise your 2016 Olympic visit to the Rio games sounds pretty safe. Well, apart from Malaria, Dengue or Yellow fever, or any of the other infections endemic to that part of the world. In which case, stock up on DEET and use liberally.

Under a buck

Over the past few days the current oil glut, which looks like it’s going to go on for a while, has seen local gas prices plunge to levels we haven’t seen since our first trip through Ontario back in 2003.  See this screen grab below from the Gasbuddy web site this morning.

Gas Price Victoria Jan 2016

I’m almost tempted to fill ‘er up and head up Island just for the simple, inexpensive joy of doing so.  We’re also planning a serious road trip during April and May down into the good old southern US of A down through Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, then back via Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah and Idaho before heading for home.

That’s GBP0.48 per litre.  48p. Forty eight pence or GBP2.18 per Imperial Gallon at current exchange rate.  US$0.68 per litre.  Sixty eight cents.  About US$2.57 per US Gallon.  Down in the USA, I’ve seen prices as low as US$1.91, or CAD$2.77 (US Gallon).

Hang on.  Oklahoma City reports US$1.29.  Blood and sand.

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

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