Tag Archives: Amusement

A place to go

Ever heard of ‘Liberland‘? A small, almost forgotten 7 square kilometre parcel of land on the Croatian and Serbian borders, recently claimed by a bunch of renegade individualists for a grand social experiment. I’ve just realised that it may be not too far off our planned 2017 grand motorcycle tour.

Freedom for Liberland! from MEL Films on Vimeo.

Worth a visit, not worth a visit? Worth going to just to get a stamp on our passports, if they do that sort of thing? I have no idea. But it’s just the kind of goofy, off the beaten track adventure we’re looking for. We’ve got a planned stop around Split in Croatia. Could be worth a day trip.

Wonder if there’s a decent hotel close by?

Old joke, but true..

A Biker (Motorcycle rider, not those wussies in spandex) is visiting a zoo when he sees a little girl leaning too close to the lion’s cage. Suddenly, the lion reaches out through the bars, grabs her by the collar of her jacket and tries to pull her inside, right under the eyes of her screaming parents. The biker runs to the cage and smacks the lion square on the nose with his fist. Whimpering from the pain the lion jumps back, letting go of the little girl. The biker then returns the girl to her terrified parents, who thank him profusely.

A reporter watches the whole event and approaches the Biker in the car park as he is about to leave, saying; “Sir, that was the bravest and most gallant thing I’ve ever seen a man do in my whole life.”
The Biker replies, “Why, it was nothing, really. The lion was behind bars. I just saw this little child in danger, and acted as I thought was right.”
The reporter says, “Well sir, I’ll make sure this won’t go unnoticed. I’m a journalist, you know, and I can guarantee tomorrow’s paper will have this story on the front page. So, what do you do for a living, and what is your political affiliation?”
The biker replies “Well I run my own small company, and as for my politics I’m generally but not always conservative.”

The journalist smiles, thanks him again, and leaves.

The following morning the biker buys the paper and reads the following headline:
“Right wing fascist thug assaults African migrant and steals his lunch.”

Well it made me smile.

How to eat an Elephant

Vaudeville comic. “I say, I say, I say! Have you seen my Elephant?”
Straight man. “I didn’t know you had one. Why do you have an Elephant? Is it a pet? Or are you just bragging?”
Vaudeville comic. “No, my dear chap, it’s for my lunch.”
Straight man. “Good god man, you must be hungry.”
Vaudeville comic. “I am. I am. Have you seen it?”
Straight man. “No good sir, but you’ve piqued my curiosity. How on Earth do you go about eating an Elephant?”
Vaudeville comic. “One slice at a time!” Ba-Boom!
Catch and eat elephant
Yerss… wellll. I’ve done it again. The realisation has sunk in that I’ve let my wife talk me into another mammoth (Groan. I know, I’ll get me coat) undertaking (Groan again) The Elephant in question is this three month European motorcycle tour for 2017. Mrs S as usual is dropping a good deal of the research in my lap and then when I’m just about to hit ‘Book’ on the accommodation booking site wants to take an entirely different route altogether. Also known as the “Oh Bill.” Manoeuvre. Which always leaves me with the sensation I’m following the Mrs Beaton recipe for Elephant a la Tanganyika (Serves 500), which not only requires half a tonne of star fruit and oranges for the sauce, but begins ‘first catch your elephant’.

Now the maps have arrived I’m reminded of the first round Europe tour we did on two wheels, which was a titch by comparison yet still took up slightly over three thousand miles in three weeks on my old 900ST. This version will be taking us almost three times as far in three months. Which is a much different ball game.

However, today I just saved myself well over three thousand dollars which is a little less Heffalump to scarf down. Let me explain. Touring motorcycles, even big ones like a 1215 Trophy, BMW KL1200T, Honda Gold Wing or ST1300 Pan European have a finite luggage carrying capacity. One of the solutions to improve the carrying capacity is to fit a tow bar and tow a small trailer. But these things, while popular in Germany and over here in North America, are expensive and leave rider and pillion vulnerable to people who are not particularly switched on. Here in North America, where on some roads you can go an hour without seeing another vehicle this isn’t a problem. In crowded old Europe it’s just more bike to be hit.

The saving comes from digging out my old water resistant ripstop nylon thirty inch duffel bag which will bungee and cargo strap neatly onto the rear top box platform of the Trophy whilst giving us at least thirty kilo’s of extra luggage capacity. It also gets us round several logistical concerns, like whether Air Canada will treat such a trailer as a separate vehicle and charge me another three thousand dollars on top of what I’ll already be coughing up for the air fares. Then there’s parking, overnight storage and security in the less secure environments we may find ourselves passing through. Better a single bag I can sling over my shoulder, Mrs S can take the electronics in my old weatherproof Belstaff backpack and I still have a bolt cutter resistant wheel lock and cable. I’ll spend some of the money I’ve saved by purchasing a proper tank bag and cover.

Overall this little epiphany may end up cutting at least five thousand dollars off my original trip budget, possibly even as much as seven. Which is money that can be put to other uses like upscale accommodation, and nicer country restaurants who don’t bat an eyelid at people who amble in from the car park wearing full motorcycle gear. Any of you who were alive and riding in the 1970’s and 80’s will recall the many ‘No Biker’ signs around every pub in the UK. Contrariwise, I have found continental Europe blessedly free of such blind prejudice.

The one dark spot on the horizon is a household disagreement over the current state of US politics. Mrs S thinks Hilary Clinton should be the next president of the USA, mainly because she’s female and a veteran politician. My view is that if I had a vote it would be for anyone but Hilary Clinton, precisely because she is a ‘veteran politician’, and thus part of the problem not the solution. She may have a ‘track record’ but so has a horse that’s run a lot of races and consistently come last. As an observation; during our road trip around the US, and latterly when we spent our last long weekend north of Seattle we saw lots of Bernie Sanders bumper stickers and lawn signs and quite a number for Donald Trump, even a few for Barack Obama, but absolutely no visible support for Hilary Clinton anywhere. From Washington State down through California and across to South Carolina. We saw no bumper stickers, lawn signs, billboards or anything. Well, perhaps her campaign has been pacing itself, or they were hiding off the main Interstates, but I’m not convinced.

Anyway, that’s someone else’s Elephant to eat. Hope they brought plenty of mustard and a bakery load of bread.

Maps and books

We’re busy buying books and maps at present, as our old stuff is way out of date, and when you’ve got a map of Europe blu-tacked to the kitchen wall with some brightly coloured bookmarks tags on, it’s easier to build up a mental picture of the route in your head and get an idea of the physical distances between places. Okay, the satnag might tell you it’s a three hour run down the Autobahn, but what about that interesting road over there leading off to who knows where? Does it loop back towards Magdeburg or Kiel? How far is it, and how fast can we do it without grinding the top off the sidestand or occasioning fits of hysterics from my pillion passenger and collecting speeding tickets? What do those squiggles tell you? Apart from that particular road has a lot of sharp bends.

Anyway, the maps and physical map books arrived arrived today, and are being deployed ready for the next phase, which is deciding precisely what is doable in terms of side trips and what is simply a bit of a slog just to tick off a place name. Google maps is all very well, but doesn’t take to having sticky labels put all over the screen and not getting them mixed up with other people’s stuff. Besides, where’s the adventure in that? As I’ve said before, we’re taking the roads less travelled and finding stuff which may not be on the main tourist trails.

Yay! Phone call from the Motorcycle store over at Esquimalt. Our helmets and jackets have arrived for trial fittings before I go visit the local Triumph dealership and rent one of their big bikes for a two day up-island trip in August. I’m also plugging the gaps in my Terry Pratchett book collection, including copies of his very underrated Johnny Maxwell trilogy. Which were scheduled to arrive today, but they’re coming in from the UK so when they actually turn up is anybody’s guess. The sun is shining and for the moment we’re on top of our work and courses. So far so good. Or as we used to say; “It’s a very nice day. Now watch some complete tit try and ruin it.”

Trump card

Now that Donald J Trump is officially the Republican Presidential nominee I expect to keep hearing even more stories about people from south of the border (and I don’t mean Mexicans) threatening to move to Canada should he become President of the USA. Trust me chaps, it’s a bad idea. Honestly, as this cartoon by the irrepressible XKCD points out. Our Winters can get a bit brutal, especially in the Rockies and Eastbound. Which is why most of us prefer to snuggle up close to the 49th Parallel or thereabouts. Even here in the comparatively mild Maritime climate of the Pacific Northwest it can get decidedly chilly. Especially Campbell River and north.

Dont move to canada To begin with, north of the 49th parallel we do not enjoy the same diversity of goods as in the US of A. Grocery stores do not stock wine or even lite beer. Did I also mention it’s more expensive to live up here as well? Food and rent prices are generally higher, and property costs more to buy, even with the current exchange rate. A lot of places close on public holidays as well as Sundays and Mondays and Wal-Mart is no longer taking VISA payments in some of its stores. And if you want to shop at Target instead… oh, wait. You can’t. They’re all shut. Permanently. Then there’s the bears. Who aren’t to be messed with, even in the suburbs of Vancouver. They’re are also known to break into cars (To be fair, it was a Lexus). On the plus side, the wildlife does tend to keep the human varmints indoors, when they’re not indulging in the odd gang shooting (The gang bangers, not the Bears or Cougars). Which keeps our local Police busy. Yes, and Marijuana isn’t fully legal just yet. So before you sell up and fill up the U-Haul, take a deep breath.

Then there’s the Governance. It’s a bit more, well, intrusive if you know what I mean. Especially at the local scale. We might currently have a progressive prime minister, but no, Canada is not the progressive paradise you might think it is. Trudeau or no.

Don’t even mention the First Nations land claims or the endless prevaricating over relatively simple decisions like building a new sewage treatment facility for BC’s provincial capital. Or that our Provincial Prime Minister avoids coming to Victoria as much as possible because there’s “No real people” here (Which I find a bit insulting). Dear me no. A can of worms? More like truckloads. It’s why things move at a slower pace up here in the not so frozen north. Especially immigration.

However, we like it, but for Americans some of our more, ahem, eccentric practices might be too much of an an acquired taste. So are you damn Yankees absolutely sure you’re going to head north if, or more likely when, Donald Trump becomes the next US President?

Minor issue

If my last remaining reader visits the comment stream in the previous entry they could be forgiven for thinking something is amiss. Particularly comments marked “Fake comment” or “Another fake comment” with Longriders gravatar attached. Not so; we have an impersonator troll issue from a total slaphead who used to hound the late lamented Captain Ranty amongst others. Our impersonator troll seems not to have learned anything from that experience, which does not imbue one with any confidence in his cognitive abilities. At present I’m actually having a bit of fun with our unwanted visitor, who is currently reduced to the level of highly unimaginative monosyllabic invective. Poor ickle bunny, has I upset oo den?

An Internet TrollSo I’m trying very hard not to howl with laughter as I type. He is such a sad, deluded little puffed up pile of unpleasantness I’m almost tempted (But not quite) to get my pity out of cold storage. On the other hand, why bother? To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw’s Henry Higgins from the stage play ‘Pygmalion‘ (Act 2, pg. 40) “He’s so deliciously low”

Should any of you wish to hear the story of how our rather unpleasant little visitor was first encountered, may I refer you to this post from May 2012. You may be amused.

I’ll block him when I tire of his shenanigans.

Interesting…

I’ve just been fielded an email about the UK’s referendum to exit the European Union. Specifically about this press release from London Law firm Miscon De Reya’s legal challenge regarding the EU Referendum result. Oddly enough on behalf of anonymous clients. The briefest précis of which is to forbid the UK’s Prime Minister ‘triggering’ Article 50 without a full parliamentary debate and act of Parliament.

However, there are differing opinions; the Jack of Kent blog runs a legal thought experiment on whether or not, because the intent had already been stated to ‘trigger’ article 50 if the British people voted in favour of leaving, then a Parliamentary debate and act of Parliament is unnecessary.

Pass it on; this looks like being fun.

Not doomed then…

There’s a lot of doom and gloom being talked at the moment, and what Julie Birchill calls ‘poncing around on twitter’. Seriously, she’s in good fooling with this article (Thank you Bishop Hill). If you take all the pessimistic views from the bought and paid for lamestream and all the ‘Remainder’ twats panicking on twitter, then everything in the UK is going tits up in a massive way. Which back in realityville, just isn’t happening. The market has taken a hit, that much is true. Sterling is down over ten cents against the Canadian and US Dollars, but it was far lower when Harper was Canadian Prime Minister.

Yesterdays rate is about the same as back in September 2014, (around CAD$1.72). If you go back to my 2013 screenshot, the exchange rate was even lower.Currency screenshot November 2013 So it’s not the ‘lowest in 31 years’, far from it. As for ‘dollar parity’, that’s just a wild guess invented to scare the peons. As someone who needs to move money between countries a few times a year, I’m not panicking, far from it.

Actually I have a more positive view. I’m actually quite sanguine about the whole ‘out of EU’ business. Which my instincts tell me will be good for UK businesses and their trading partners after this short-term glitch, thus good for those who need a job, long term. The Bank of England has good liquidity and is solid as a bank can be. The UK economy overall isn’t in that bad a shape. The European banks and EU, I’m not so sure. With their track record of ‘losing’ 6 Billion unspecified Euros in 2013, to cite but one example, and not getting their finances signed off by the European Court of Auditors up to 2007. Since then the accounts have been rubber stamped but with some ‘observations of wastage’. No matter what the Euro apologists say, I’m less than confident about the EU’s ability to remain fiscally stable. No matter the gripes and veiled threats of raised tariffs, the EU has way more to lose from a divorce than the UK, and all the globalist bedwetters certainly don’t have a clue.

Now before Brexit became a probability, I was going to pull my money out of Sterling, but have decided to leave it where it is so it can breed with all those other lovely UK connected currency units and raise far more babies. Which will turn into more readies for Mrs S and I, and probably pay off the college funds for the next generation when they arrive (Although, please God, not just yet). And if handled right will provide for another generation after that.

As for Europe and travel. Our next big trip for 2017 has just entered the planning stages and we will be taking in the UK, Denmark, Netherlands, Atlantic France, South of France, Italy and maybe further East. On a motorcycle. Specifically a 2017 Triumph Trophy SE 1215. We’re going to ship it over via Air Canada’s new motorcycle service and ride around some haunts old and new. The general overview is a week or two at each location, maybe more depending on whether we’ll be hitting the vineyards in a big way or just pootling around sightseeing. Mrs S and I are both dual nationality, so can use either passport to cross borders and thus get around some of the visa restrictions that might be put in place.

Languages? Our French is adequate for day to day conversation, my German and Italian pretty basic, but enough to get by on. When I say ‘pretty basic’ I mean being able to count to a hundred, order a beer or three, say ‘please’, ‘Good day’, ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m Canadian / English’, book a hotel room and ask people to speak more slowly. I’ve even picked up the odd word in Swahili from Eldest who is currently working in Africa and heading off to the fabled land of Oz later this year. Our legal eagle (Youngest) is coming over for Christmas, even if we end up paying her air fare, so we’re looking forward, not back.

Money, it’s a gas

Well actually, yes. For those willing to pay a little attention and try not to get frightened by all those pesky zero’s, Billions, Trillions and ones it’s quite interesting. I used to tune out of discussions about finance, until that is, I learned about international currency transfers. Now to illustrate my points I’m going to add a little bit of code to my sidebar over the next day or so, linking to Xe.com or CurrenciesDirect.com, who are two of the services I use when moving money around the world. Just so those interested can get more source information without having to navigate the factoids twisted by someone with an agenda, be they politician, speculator or ‘journalist’. Why? Because, unlike people, numbers don’t lie. Both web sites are having difficulties at the time of writing, and I know all the brokers (Cheers, guys) are working double shifts.

Here’s an interesting question (And I wish my younger self had understood this better).

Q: What is money?
A: The means of exchange, also a process.
Er.. WTF Bill? That’s bollocks. Money is a thing that you possess, what rich gits have and no one else does, surely?
Not so, and don’t call me Shirley. Money evolved from Barter as a representation for a sack of foodstuff as people began to notice it was a whole lot easier to carry round small pieces of rock, metal tokens or specially marked paper rather than have a chicken hanging off your belt in order to pay this weeks tithe. Money does not cluck, for one thing (Although in the right circumstances it can be made to sing), and can be recirculated so that the token can come to represent anything. The token or paper has no real intrinsic value of it’s own, but the token becomes the amount it represents. Also, the cost of producing the token has no bearing on the value of the token itself. Got that? A gold coin, for example, has the value that everyone agrees it is worth. No more, no less. A paper or plastic bank note likewise, is only ‘worth’ what everyone agrees is its value. Neither the coin, regardless of metallic composition, nor the note have any real value. A simple proof of this concept is to offer a gold coin to someone for a sack of spuds whilst there’s a shortage of spuds and a glut of gold coins from people desperate to be fed and breathing at the end of next week. Gold may be US$1270 or thereabouts an ounce today, but what was it six months ago, or last year, or forty years ago? Ampex Chart here.

In short, all value is relative. Stock prices and bond prices are what they are because all the traders agree this is their value. It’s a concept so elegantly simple that even I can understand it.

Well that’s all very well Bill you old smartarse, but what about wealth redistribution, or guaranteed base income? What about ‘fairness’?
I’ll come to that later you cheeky little scrote. Show a bit more respect or I’ll set the Igors on you. Did you get the bit about “All value is relative”? Remember it, it’s very important. Like at the moment with the uncertainty over Brexit, the pound is plunging on the markets. I know this because I am a fully paid up international capitalist, albeit in a small way, and make it my business to watch these things as they happen. I probably ‘made’ CAD$500 last night by timing a small international money transfer correctly. Although if the pound rebounds in the next few days or the fop does something economically irresponsible to make CAD sink through the floorboards, I’ll have ‘lost’ it again. It’s not Dragon Magic. In the meantime I’m quids in.

Right; ‘Fairness’, ‘redistribution of wealth’ et cetera are empty buzzwords which keep on getting bandied about by those without an understanding of simple economics. They’re empty political soundbites which really mean; “We’re going to take money off you and give it to our friends who vote for us to stay in our cushy non-jobs.” Which isn’t actually generating anything, in fact it’s a classic method of how to shrink an economy. As for ‘guaranteed base income’; that’s a thousand truck highway pileup just waiting to happen. It’s an economic train derailment of an idea. If it’s brought in over here I’m going into the alcohol and marijuana distribution business, because that’s exactly where the money will go. Not rent payments. Not on a better diet. Not paying increased Hydro (Electricity) bills because much of that ‘redistributed’ cash will go in politicians boondoggles and subsidies. Because the remainder will go straight into the dispensaries, liquor stores and bars. Hey, I’ve seen too much of human nature close up and personal not to be cynical.

Anyway, that’s besides the point. All value being relative. Which is the only absolute in terms of money. Trade is trade, and the big secret of trading is what? Come on. I’m waiting. That person at the back whining that it’s cheating and everyone would be better off under socialism, WRONG! (Venezuela, Cough, cough, isn’t that yet another failing socialist regime? Like all the others?)

The answer is timing. Like space is relative to time, like surfing is to waves, comedy or music, so is money to trade. Which is why I ‘made’ five hundred bucks in two hours last night. My small amount of money is now worth that much more because the markets got talked into a panic. That much on a basic 5K transfer.

All this came about because the pound ‘plunged’ in the wake of the UK referendum vote (Two weeks ago it was 1.78 CAD per GBP. Last night it was 1.87). If you had a little money put by in say, dollars, now would be the time to buy Sterling. Or invest in some stocks and shares when their markets hit bottom on Friday. Because there’s a bloody good chance it’ll all bounce back on Monday morning when everyone who panic-sold has sobered up and thought about it. Only to find the cash-rich Chinese have pounced and driven prices back up. Markets are like that.

As for the whiny little tossers on Twitter saying that the older ‘Leave’ voters have just screwed the ‘Remain’ young. Wrong again. The older folks who voted ‘leave’ may have given their heirs (Providing Britain is allowed to leave the EU on such a narrow margin) the legacy of having a vote that actually counts for something. The freedom to choose their own time and place. Their own futures. To take the tide of fortune and sail to riches or failure (I’ve done both – still here). By their own efforts. Which is far more valuable than anything the unelected EU Commissars will ever let them have, and they can take that to the bank. Or in the case of the EU commissioners, not.

Who said that….

” I think it will take a nonpolitician to break the logjam. Somebody with a big-picture outlook. “

I wonder who said that back in 2000? Hmmm.

First to answer doesn’t get a prize for being a smartass. I wouldn’t like to be around to argue with the mildly scary guys who are volunteering to do extra security for his supporters either. Oddly enough, I’ve seen rent-a-mobs fade away from such a robust response. Well, they don’t want their asses handed to them on a plate. It’s why vegan activists generally don’t throw things at big guys wearing lots of leather.

Gosh, this looks like it’s going to be fun.