They think it’s all over – it is now

Having worked over most of the festering season, I’m heartily glad it’s all over and I can visit to the January sales replete with the knowledge that I don’t have to max out my credit cards to buy a brand new slaptop. Been a profitable Crimbo as far as I’m concerned. Lots of Clovertime and an inflated post foetid season paycheck to follow. January looks as though there’s more of the same on its way, which you won’t hear me bitching and kvetching about.

I mean, come on. Why spend the best part of two weeks off when you can coin it covering for people making themselves unhappy? I’ve always had misgivings about Christmas, and on the whole prefer to take my time off when the weather is warmer and I don’t have to trip over other peoples’ spoiled brats and unhappy spouses. There’s also the issue of not being squeezed for every last dime for taking a break during School holidays, as they’re always the most expensive.

Oh thank you dear, another glass of wine? The good stuff if you please. Now jusht ash I wash shaying.. (Hic) Whersh my key thingy wossname…. snore.

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2012 predictions

I’ve come over all prescient with the best part of two large glasses of Sauvignon blanc inside me (Actually both of them – never touched the sides). Being in a currently amused state of mind, I thought I’d throw my scabby hat into the ring with a few predictions bout current events.

Kicking off with the UK and politics;
1. People will carry on griping and grumbling, but following the collapse of the Conservative / Liberal coalition in late April there will be a June general election in which the Liberal Democrats are electorally speaking, toast. Support for all three main parties will take yet another big slump.
2. The ‘New Thatcher’ will fail to materialise, and there will be a hung parliament. The recession and ‘cuts’ will continue.
3. A small dog will die of heat stroke in one of the ‘Occupy’ encampments. Widespread arrests and clashes with the Animal Rights movement will occur. Sometimes with ‘Occupy’ protesters beating themselves up because they belong to both factions.
4. Taxes in real terms will continue to rise. Real cuts in public spending will fail to happen. So what’s new?

Europe;
1. The Euro will fail but be ‘rescued’ by imaginary money supplies dreamed up by a Dutch MEP who has spent too much time in an Amsterdam ‘Coffee’ shop.
2. A major French or German MEP will survive an assassination attempt (Cries of ‘Shame’). Nigel Farage will be arrested on suspicion, even though it’s nothing to do with UKIP
3. The Greek economy will ‘fail’ (Again)
4. French air traffic controllers will fail to go on strike in the holiday season. UK Government responds by causing a strike by UKBA staff throughout July.

Middle East;
1. Iran blockades straits of Hormuz. US postures but does nothing. Iranians run out of AK47 ammunition after firing all their bullets into the air in celebration. Blockade lifted.
2. More rockets fired at Israel.
3. ‘Arab Spring’ fizzles out as fundamentalists try to assert control, then see grass roots support fade away.

China etc;
1. Chinese have big ‘Oh shit’ economic breakdown when they find all their US Dollar bonds are worthless.
2. Kim Ying Tong of North Korea dies of massive heart attack while lounging on a couch made of peasants. Millions mourn (Although not really).
3. The Dalai Llama dies of acute smugness when visited by Bono of U2.

The Americas;
1. Hugo Chavez dies. Blames the USA.
2. Fidel Castro dies. Also blames USA.
3. Barack Obama loses US presidential elections to unknown independent.
4. Climategate 3 breaks. David Suzuki is ‘terrified’.

Apocalypse fails to arrive…………..

I’ve been told I have to stop and drink more wine now…

TTFN and may your 2012 be a little better than 2011.

Regards

Bill

In defence of Ebeneezer Scrooge

Every year the same old piece of pro over-consumption is trotted out; specifically versions of Charles Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’. The maudlin story containing a hidden threat that somehow one will be punished by supernatural forces for not emptying one’s bank account, instead spending one’s hard earned on tackiness and waste. Dickens mawkish polemic of seasonal propaganda could not have been written better by some shadowy organisation whose aim is to drain everyone’s bank account once a year.

Gift giving in some circles has disappeared beyond the ridicule event horizon. In some it resembles the custom of Potlach, where items of value are destroyed in a massive display of one upmanship “Hey, look how much I can afford to throw away!”. In others the gift becomes almost a competition “Hey, I can afford to give you this big shiny thing because I’m better than you”. In others a bribe “I hope this shiny thing makes up for my total indifference towards you over the past year”.

Money replaces sentiment. Cash subverts emotion. Not to follow the pack leads to accusations of ‘Scrooge!’ after Charles Dickens fictional creation in ‘A Christmas Carol’.

Personally, I feel that Dickens unfairly traduced the character of poor Mister Scrooge, painting him as villain rather than victim. Through the medium of Dickens story, we see a man embittered by being denied love, subsequently hiding his emotional life from rapacious relatives and a hostile world. We see him struggle to stay in business, maintaining a frugal lifestyle, whilst manfully saving for old age and potential infirmity. No NHS or Social Services for the Self-employed in Victorian times. No remaining close family? For those who had no blood relatives to care for them, there was only the terror of the Poor House in those days.

So, when Scrooge maintains an austere business model in a time of financial recession, Dickens holds him up for censure because of his model of thrifty behaviour. Denying himself creature comforts Scrooge becomes the very model of probity and austerity. In times of shortage a man to be copied, not scorned. In the exacting business of a small counting house, he is seen to demand as much from himself as his employees. Promptness, accuracy, and attention to detail his businesses only defence against penury. His laughter when counting out his small, hard won fortune should therefore be viewed not as a mean maniacal cackle, but rather one of relief, a sense of pleased propriety that he has funds to continue another day.

Scrooge, Dickens appears to contend, is merely callous because he has little time for the fecklessness of Bob Cratchit. He points to the acts of thrift and necessary discipline within the workplace as meanness and heartlessness, not the deeds of a business owner struggling to maintain employee payroll and premises. Scrooge is furthermore not a profligate man, he ‘lives over the shop’ and I would argue that he is not the miser Dickens portrayed, but rather a struggling small businessman with many sterling attributes. To be emulated rather than abhorred. Therefore for us to cheer his supernatural persecution is in itself an uncharitable, and one might say reprehensible, act.

The tyranny of the office party

Visiting Longriders blog this morning, I was not unsurprised to read his account of a Christmas ‘celebration’, and enforced playing of a silly game thought up by HR. The person who thought that one up deserves to be stabbed in the eyes and burned alive. As a team building exercise, making people play ‘Christmas games’, although the one Longrider described was a new one on me, has to have FAIL stamped all over it. It was a complete waste of After Eight mints too.

Who dreams up this shit? Have they nothing better to do with their time? Those of us who are humble working stiffs come to work to perform our duties as agreed in our contracts, hopefully to mutual satisfaction before going home to our real friends and families. The idea being that after a suitable break we return refreshed and enthusiastic to our cash-earning tasks, thus contributing to the health of the enterprise we work for.

I will say this to any Manager or employer who wishes to drop by this blog; please, please, no more ‘organised’ office parties. They are always unremitting mental torture. Anyone of anything but the basest intelligence or sophistication abhors them, so why bother? People should have lives outside of the daily grind, or they tend to lose their effectiveness over time.

Every ‘Works; Christmas party (Although I know these are only a tax dodge) I have ever been to has been intended to motivate, but actually had the opposite effect upon me and my co-workers. Let me explain; my personal time is precious to me. I spend enough of my life with the people I work with. If I wish to socialise further with them, I will do so, but will not be forced to.

In addition, asking people to pay to attend such an event is I think, merely rubbing salt into an open wound. Like the appalling forced gift giving, or ‘Secret Santa’ practice, which only a minority really enjoy. On the whole, only a few, and if you’ll forgive me I’ll be sexist here, persons of the female persuasion ever suggest such activities. Males, on the whole, do not.

If an employer wishes to show their appreciation for loyalty and good work, perhaps a small cash bonus might be in order, or a small gift. The best Christmas gift I ever had from my boss was fifty quid, a bottle of decent blend Whiskey and large jar of Quality Street Chocolates (Well, it was the early 80’s). Sure, he’d probably bought them at wholesale prices, but for this I was duly grateful to my employer (I’m easily pleased). In fact a lot of this kind of informal reward went on until the tax man cracked down on such practices. Mostly because the exchequers in question thought it was a tax dodge. Up until that point, the ‘Christmas Box’ or seasonal bonus had been a long standing British tradition. I once left work with a large deep frozen Christmas turkey in my backpack that my boss had handed to me, along with a small cash gift, having to hitch-hike twenty miles home on a damp and unpleasant evening with a frozen patch of skin. This gift too was deeply appreciated, as my family was a bit borassic at the time.

For my own part, I am no Ebeneezer Scrooge. In our house we are always delighted to welcome friends at this, or any other time of year, and Mrs S and I will happily break bread or share a toast with friends old and new. In Canada, there is the long established practice of the ‘potluck’, where neighbours bring along beer, wine, and some other goodies to share and have a damn good jaw. You come or go at your pleasure, and there are no hard and fast rules about how long you can stay or who leaves when. However, that is purely voluntary. Shouldn’t this always be so?

What raises my hackles every time is any attempt at coercion to attend any event. This single element is what makes the office party one of the most unpleasantly tyrannical and demotivating acts an employer can visit upon their employees. Notwithstanding, such an event is a minefield of inappropriate conduct, so that any Employer / Manager with even the slightest concern about litigation should steer clear of by a country mile. Similarly, alcohol and the workplace should never mix, unless of course you are a taster of wine or other alcoholic liquor.

No more. Or at least make attendance a purely voluntary affair outside working hours. Your employees will reward you for it. At least, the ones who have lives.

Puritans in denial

Haven’t posted much because I’ve been reading at lot. Books. you know those papery, cardboardy things that used to be our main source of reference before hyperlinks and all the jolly whizzy interconnectedness of the dear old interweb.

To cut to the chase, I was ploughing through ‘Utopias of the classical world’ by John Ferguson when I came across this little homily;

“The Puritan through Life’s sweet garden goes,
To pluck the thorn and cast away the rose,
And hopes to please by this peculiar whim,
The God who fashioned it and gave it to him.”


I thought about this a while with a gentle smile playing about my lips, and suddenly had a minor epiphany. Connected two dots in life’s big puzzle, and it’s this; Puritans, bansturbators, the anti-fun brigade, the ‘do as I say’ faction, the anti-smokers, anti-drinkers, low-fat advocates, low-carbon, anti-war, ‘big oil will kill us’, paedophile fearing, privacy hating, prodnoses and busybodies all have one single thing in common. They’re all in some part of denial.

By this I mean as in Denial, the first stage of the Kubler-Ross model of the grieving process. Denial is where all their proposed utopian ‘solutions’ are embedded. Logic plays little part in their thinking processes. Well, at least not the “If you drive an economy over a cliff you’ll be sorry and so will I” kind of logic, or the “If we all live in a more primitive society we won’t be rich enough to clean up our environment”. kind of thinking.

The thing is, I think they simply don’t see the cliff or risk, because in their utopian mental model the cliff simply cannot exist. The thought processes they exhibit seem to have more to do with wishful thinking than full examination of a given issue.

Like with the Yanks latest Internet anti-piracy bill. Apparently if the bill as written is passed, then a single complaint from a dishonest source will be enough to shut down a web based business. YouTube, DailyMotion and all the other video sharing sites will cease to exist. Blogs hosted on blogger, like my old one, will go. Possibly even this one because it is openly critical of the forces of darkness currently promoting censorship.

Puritans who promote such prohibitionist measures are, I contend, in denial because they do not understand the lessons of History. All Puritanical regimes are relatively short lived. Even Ancient Rome allowed unrestricted free speech in the forum, and above all, paid attention. When the regime in power forgot that lesson it fell. Civil war erupted, and blood washed the streets. To censor, and not pay attention to dissenting voices forgets the maxim Better to Jaw-jaw than to war-war, as Winston Churchill once remarked back in 1954. Simply shutting people up because you do not agree with them denies their expression and emotional release. Without a release, said people will seek it elsewhere, often in a manner that the shutter up did not intend.

Fortunately, puritan regimes are always short lived because they deny others their safety valves. They deny that others, and themselves, are merely fallible humanity, who need to goof off once in a while. Without that goofing off to relax, be it sounding off on the Internet, having a smoke or a drink, an extra large pizza and fries, or the odd toke on a joint, we all get tense. Many people get angry, resentful, or violent if they are denied release from the workaday world once in a while. If sufficient people get angry and disenfranchised enough, regimes fall. Then we end up in a dark age again wondering what on Earth hit us.

Heavy sigh. Won’t learn, can’t teach ’em, thicker than pigshit. Now ban me you stupid puritanical fuckers. Cnuts.

A very indecent European proposal

From a German source via Dan Hannan at the Tellytubbygraph.

Just watch, and tell me if you don’t think it will all end in tears.

The writing on the wall

Locally we have our own downtown ‘occupy’ encampment which I passed through on my way to the library. This actually had me wishing I’d brought my camera along to take a few pictures of the real writing on the wall because otherwise no-one would believe me.

Prominently amidst all the calls for revolution and the violent demise of the ‘Banksters’ (Gangster Bankers) there were anti-AGW (Calling Global Warming a ‘Lie’) and more predictably anti-HST slogans. There were slogans calling for a more people centric government, and that ‘Big Government’ was the enemy of the people, and corporatism denounced as the enemy of small business. Oddly enough, all of which I found somewhat reassuring. Reassuring that I wasn’t the only one to think this way, and also hopeful that not everyone at the demonstration has their idealogical blinkers on. There is common ground.

I feel oddly optimistic. Perhaps (At least locally) the protestors do represent the 99% after all.

Sic intereo totus tyrannus

The above is a warning from History, the rough translation being ‘so die all tyrants’. Muammar Quadaffi is dead at the hands of his ‘own’ people, as is Saddam Hussein, Nicolai Ceaucescu, and others.

Perhaps those within any unelected and unaccountable ruling cabal should heed such precedents.

Just making an observation, that’s all.

A small act of rebellion

See picture below. This just under the external electricity meter for our little domicile. The notice below was posted there by our landlord.

These notices have been appearing all over BC. According to some sources at as many as one in 12-15 households. Gossip has it that Bill Van Der Zalm, ex Provincial Premier, is just one of the many voices behind this campaign, including the Greens oddly enough (As ‘Smart Meters’ are supposed to be a ‘Green’ power solution). Rumours also abound about the Meters reliability and safety.

Gossip has it that the Corix installers are instructed to leave meters or premises with this notice on alone.

Gossip has it that BC Hydro, when the rollout of ‘Smart Meters’ is complete, will cut off the electricity supply of any premises that do not have a ‘Smart Meter’ installed.

Gossip also has it that BC Hydro has only three people in the entire Province capable of fixing ‘Smart Meters’ if they go wrong. Apparently they fired the rest.

Word is that the threats are baseless, and premises will not be disconnected, as legal challenges are already prepared to hit the courts.

Now as far as the health concerns go, I’m of the mind that they are baseless and with about as much credence as the ‘Cell phone radiation causes Cancer’. However, I personally am opposed to the idea of Smart Meters on purely economic and Health and Safety grounds. Some of the models being installed have had issues with overheating, and there is a very real fire risk. Especially where wood frame building methods are the norm. On economic grounds because BC Hydro are reported to have doubled or tripled the electricity bills of premises equipped with Smart Meters. On the basis that this will increase my rent and other base living costs for no good reason, I am further opposed to the installation of Smart Meters.

Despite the growing opposition, the current BC leadership have brushed off dissenting voices as being of the tinfoil hat persuasion. Yet the opposition grows. If I was the current BC leadership, I’d be looking for a fallback strategy over this issue, because this is how they lost the HST referendum. It may well be how they lose the next Provincial and Federal Elections.

Whatever happens, it’s going to get really interesting really quickly. Log store topped up, propane tank full, generator ready……

Update: The head of BC Hydro has just resigned, seemingly over political interference from the Provincial Government. Well, well, well.

Moving on

At the risk of coming over all morbid, I’ve elected to post my thoughts about our family friends recent demise over the next couple of days. If you don’t like descriptions of dead people and bereavement, stop reading right now and pick something a little more light hearted off the sidebar.

Todays unpleasant little task was the formal identification of our friend before cremation. Just to make sure we get the right pile of grey granular dust from the crematorium on Saturday.

Mrs S and I arrived at the funeral Directors at three as arranged, and were shown into a very comfortable side room. Our newly widowed friend elected to come with us, even after she’d said she wouldn’t. “Okay, here’s the drill.” I said after we had settled on the sofa. “I’ll go in, do the formal identification as agreed, and if everything’s okay, I’ll call you in.” Mrs S and Widowed friend nodded approval and I was shown into the little side room where our old friend lay.

My first thoughts were how like a manikin he looked; all dressed and tidy in his old Royal Canadian Navy dress uniform. Patent leather shoes polished to a brilliant shine. Hair and beard neatly trimmed to match an old passport photo. Crisp white shirt with uniform tie perfectly knotted. Quite an array of medal ribbons, including (I’m told) a DSO, on his dress blue jacket with Chief Petty Officers badges embroidered on the lapels. All smart and polished, yet lying in a cheap chipboard box. The pallid waxy and mottled complexion with dark pink filmed blue patches under his fingernails. Knobble jointed fingers with fading bruises under the skin where in his penultimate confused delirium, he’d lashed out at everything. Cheekbones standing proud above cheeks collapsed into shallow bowls, mouth and eyelids open just a hairs width, and so terribly, irrevocably still. Looking like all the life had been forcibly vacuumed from his earthly husk. Which is what I was looking at. A very smartly presented shell. Not the sharply humorous and bluff old cove I first met over four years ago. Mrs S of course, has known him since she was very young, when she first came to Canada.

After a few moments checking that all was neat and there was nothing apart from the inertia of flesh, I was moved to remark to the empty room; “My, my old mate. You do spiff up well.”

After a moments considered pause I went to tell the girls it was okay to view. Leading them into the little viewing room, I let the Widow grab hold of my hand for comfort, then let she and Mrs S go and see for themselves. There were subdued tears, and a few sniffs, but the major dam breach of heartbreak had spent itself on Monday night, and this was simply a further closing of the door between past and future. For my own part I felt a smaller tightness in the throat than seeing him ekeing out his last moments on a hospital bed. Yet the last bit of grieving was still palpably there.

My only criticism was perhaps the funeral home might have improved their presentation by draping the naked chipboard cremation shell with a cloth or something. Five dollars for a sheet for him to lie on whilst waiting for his last trip through the crematorium might not have made such a difference to their margins, and made it look like they cared a little more; even if what they do is ‘Just a job’ as one of my workmates commented earlier in the day.

We dropped the widow back at her house, and Mrs S went on a short errand, leaving us to talk about her deceased husband. I recounted my own experiences of bereavement. You know, the little hallucinations the brain creates to take your mind off the pain of loss. Hearing the voice of a departed love, seeing them out of the corner of your eye in quiet unguarded moments. Even holding conversations with them just as you’re drifting off to sleep or daydreaming. The sound of their voice reconstructed from memory and used by your sneaky subconscious to spur you into a specific course of action, and how they fade, but never quite go away.

She seemed comforted, and talked about moving forward into a future of her own. The house will go of course, and she’s been packing stuff to go to the Salvation Army and local Thrift stores. I’ve seen her new apartment, with its view over the nicer end of a lake. It was to have been for two, but her husband of many years did not live long enough. Still, I wish her what joy she can find, and hope we get an invitation to lunch occasionally.

Did I mention the care home sports a very pleasant restaurant. High end Canadian care homes are more like fully serviced apartment blocks, including shops, hairdressers libraries and gyms. I believe the one our widowed friend is about to enter has a physiotherapist and full time nurse on duty.

She is moving on, and that is as it should be.

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

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