Tag Archives: Canada

Double standards

I’ve just had a stressful morning trying to pay a bill online, spending valuable vacation time on the phone to my bank in Canada. All safe and sorted now (I hope, but you can never tell with banks) and way more expensive than I wanted. I lost out on charges and exchange rate differentials. When I tried to pay the bill you’d think I was staging a smash and grab on a diamond deposit the way these guys carry on. You tell your local branch you’re going away (“Have an awesome time!” With a big happy smiley face). Use your secure ID to transfer funds between your accounts, all the while on the phone (International call, telling them who and where you are) to Bank tech support. Yay! Easy peasy. Try to transfer via the banks byzantine international money transfer? “Sorree. Security flagged it up as unusual activity and cancelled your transfer.” Which has led to much grinding of teeth and tugging of what little hair I have left. FFS! Whose fucking money is it? My bank are quite content to accept funds from my Brokers, yet ask them to pay exactly the same company so I can do a quick, efficient, less than 24 hour transfer? You got it – no fcuking way. When I get home my banks customer service department will be getting an ear bashing. My money has to work, to move, to breed, and they’re getting in the way.

Large companies use currency brokers all the time. I know because I used to run tech support on the applications side. Transfers of millions went through every day and the banks never blinked. Try that as a private citizen. Even after double confirming your identity and bank details. Go on. Clucking bell. The big guys use third party money transfers all the time, yet can I do so as a private individual? No. I run headlong into the brick wall of ‘money laundering’ restrictions, even when I’ve already jumped through all the hoops of account verification, exemption forms and the like. Then I have to pay the banks extortionate charges and loaded exchange rates, which can lose me up to a hundred bucks a transaction. I can buy a lot of wine with that. Especially here.

To make matters worse, we’ve run out of wine to lower my blood pressure, so I’m off out in a few moments to replenish supplies. At this rate I’ll be making a serious dent in the much-vaunted EU ‘Wine lake’. Well, at 2-5 Euro’s for a half way decent bottle I can do that. A lot. To add insult to injury, I haven’t smoked for over thirty five years, but I’m eyeing the displays of cigarillo’s right now with fond nostalgia.

Maybe I need a better bank.

Pain

Canadians, without making too much of a broad sweeping generalisation, aren’t used to manual gearboxes or clutch operation. Over here, motoring tends to be of the point and click variety. Most vehicles sold are automatics. Even our little Subaru is one of those half breed four speed gearboxes. We’ve had a 4×4 with a manual box, but that was 1970’s vintage. Nowadays if you pointed most North Americans at a vehicle with a proper clutch and gearbox, they’d look at you as if you were asking them to operate a nuclear power plant. Most cars over here have Column shifts or centre console gear levers that only get shifted out of gear to go straight to ‘park’. It makes for lazy driving.

Today this was brought home to me when we pulled up alongside what looked like a Yamaha YZF-R6. Nobody was going anywhere fast as the speed limit varies between 40-60 Km/h on that section of Hillside Avenue.

Yet what had me wincing was the guy on the Yam totally failing to change gear. It was awful. Whilst the rider could stay upright and seemed to have the hang of gentle cornering, he hadn’t quite grasped the correct coordination of left hand and foot. He pulled away from the lights in second gear, he accelerated from 0-60km/h in second, did he change up or down a notch to third gear or down to first? No. He seemed not to have mastered the concept of a non-automatic gear box. It was actually painful to hear, even when we had all the car windows shut. I’ve had more fun having my teeth drilled. God alone knows what it was doing to the engine.

If there were a BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Motorcycles I’d have reported him on the spot.

Why I vote for……..

The silliest candidate available.

Apropos of Sweet Fanny Adams; when I resided in the UK, it was the Monster Raving Looney Party. Even my late mother used to vote for them. Mainly, she said, because the mainstream parties had grown so unrepresentative of the everyday folk, that having a complete self avowed barmcake schlepping down the corridors of power in clown shoes would be a definite improvement. Yes, you’d still get roads and bridges to nowhere, but mandatory caravans as second homes for MP’s, population limitation to 63 million and an end to the war on terror, along with repatriation of anyone who emigrated to the UK prior to 55AD, which is a bit of tough luck for all those Saxons, Vikings, Normans, Huguenots and other johnny-come-latelies thinking that it was safe to take a breather and revert to their native accent. The OMRLP are also firmly opposed to Greyhound and Whippet racing to prevent the country going to the dogs. Which can only be deemed a sensible policy. Dog track goers might disagree.

Why I used to vote the Monster Looney ticket was mainly because the UK’s three mainstream parties were, and are, far sillier than any nonsense the ‘fringe’ parties can come up with. I mean, never mind the economy, the Tories main achievements in this term will be Gay Marriage and Plain Packaging for cigarettes. Which, lets face it, are hardly mission critical issues. Although if UKIP get a larger share of the vote on May 7th, I may have to modify this statement. UKIP I feel, would reduce the overall silliness quotient of the UK’s Parliament.
Although……..

Meanwhile, back towards the topic; in IT, when we want to say a software application application is complete and utter pants, we call it “Counter intuitive”. So bearing in mind their total ineffectiveness, the LibLabCon of mainstream UK parties can therefore be designated “Counter intuitive”. So can those institutions terminally infected by the PC virus like the BBC. So that no matter how many times a right of centre French politician says “No, we’re not connected”, the bimbo interrogator insists “Yes, but you love that Nigel Farage bloke and want to have his babies don’t you?” Without letting said politician finish, or in at least two places, even start their answer. No wonder the man in the street is increasingly losing faith in mainstream politics. It’s got so bad even the Guardian has noticed although the ‘globalisation’ attribution is missing the goal by a country mile.

Here in Canada the Harper Government has, for all its many faults, remained a steady hand on the economic tiller. Economically speaking, I wouldn’t trust any left of centre party like the NDP or Liberals because they simply don’t have a clue and would have strode in lockstep down the road to economic disaster with our cousins south of the 49th parallel. Just so no-one would call them ‘racist’ for not seeing the current President in his true colours. For the record; my sole criteria is; never mind his skin colour, is the guy any good at his job? Which in Barack Obama’s case, the answer has to come back as a ringing and emphatic ‘No’. Neither was Bush Jnr, but that’s by the by.

So, Harper and Co will probably get my first Federal Canadian vote this 2015 because overall they are far less silly than the alternatives.

Bought and sold, modern environmentalism?

Seeing as I’m interested in belief systems and how they warp what should be purely intellectual debates, I thought I’d have a nose round some fairly reputable sources and try to sort some wheat from the mountain of chaff. Now I do have a dog in this fight, as during my youth I was a card carrying member of the Green party. I’m firmly on the side of the environment, anti pollution and pro recycling when it’s done properly, not simply sorted and shipped off to landfill. What I’m definitely not on the side of is the Environmental movement as a bought, sold paid for advocacy group used to manipulate markets by foreign investors. I’d heard or chequebook Journalism, but chequebook Environmental protest?

Well, yes. It’s been an open secret for years that various protest groups from both left and right have bolstered their numbers by offering ‘incentives’, mostly for small scale events that they want to look bigger, ‘bussing in’ supporters to areas where there wasn’t really any ‘support’ at all apart from the less with-it residents of various care homes. Not so much ‘rent a mob’ but ‘protest a gran’.

If I can offer a true story of my very own from the times I used to (cough) hang out with (cough, cough, no this isn’t a confession Sarge) what in polite circles was called ‘the rougher type of boy’ there were three separate occasions when a bunch of us greasy looking yobbo’s were gently carousing (No casualties, just a little friendly ‘horseplay’ and discussions regarding the intricacies of various friends social lives) in various drinking establishments to be approached in a faux-matey manner by some grinning soft handed type, telling us earnestly all about some ‘bad people’ who we should go and ‘protest against’. Sometimes we listened, mostly not, before returning to more important matters like motorcycles and where to go in Summer.

A couple of my social circle actually went on two of these ‘protests’ for a free pint and a chance to grope some hippy chicks. These are the large unkempt leather and denim clad gentlemen featuring in numerous police photographs of said events, grinning hugely, with a can of beer in one hand and the other fondling one of the least ugly women. Was that my old mate DA exposing himself? Surely not constable. He must have been experiencing a minor crotch malfunction with his zip. DA was known to have issues in this department, especially with not being able to keep said zip done up in female company. Were incentives offered? Of course, and it was common knowledge that there was cash to be had. Although those I knew who tried to take up the offer were always bitterly disappointed in the amount that was often never paid.

If you want to look up who has been paying for what over here in BC and Canada generally, you could do worse than start with a visit to Vivien Krause’s worthy little web site, which while not encyclopaedic, does have extensive public domain evidence of back door payments to various soi-disant ‘Green’ activist groups. Not to mention the very public big oil sponsorship of Environmental causes from companies like BP, Exxon, Chevron. So much for ‘Big Oil’ being on the side of the ‘deniers’.

BTW; if a ‘science denier’ is someone who does not believe in the scientific method, because without method there is no science, only dogma, then those who bandy the D word around the most are ironically those most guilty of ‘denying science’. Because their faith is belief in fixed constructs, and ‘science’ only deals in facts subject to constant change and update, no-one can be a ‘science believer’, therefore there can be no such thing as a ‘science denier’. Succinctly put; ‘science’ is never settled. Only professional liars and the perpetually befuddled and deluded will say otherwise.

I mean, never mind the Koch brothers, of whom I’d only heard because of their contributions to PBS programming. There are far richer fish to fry. For example Billionaire financier and currency speculator George Soros is a known sponsor of the Tides Foundation, which has backed Vancouver Mayor George Robertson to the tune of over half a million bucks, amongst other things; including the current US Administration’s Internet grab via the ‘Open Society Foundation’ (Oh, the irony). Russian and Chinese funds filter via various shell companies into various advocacy groups back pockets in a massive protectionist financial shell game. Nine bob notes aren’t in it. Never mind the wild Salmon, it’s honesty which is the real endangered species. Frankly it’s the biggest open secret in Canadian politics.

Things I’ll miss about England….. Part one

I’m in a bit of a nostalgic mood at the moment. Missing my dog a lot, even over four months on I’m still having the odd little moment when passing displays of pet food in the local supermarket. Funny that. Having lost two close family members this year, you’d think my mind would be constantly referring back to them, not the family pet. On the other hand, the revelations I received about my parents and what they did have tempered my grief somewhat.

Having recently sworn the oath, signed on the dotted line etc, this is the time to count ones blessings and take note of why Mrs S and I walked the path that we have. While I’m in this reflective state of mind, I thought I’d list a few things I miss and don’t miss about the country I was born in.

The weather; there’s actually quite a lot of this in England. Microclimates by the bucketload. Morning sunshine almost inevitably followed by a cloudburst around teatime and leaden grey skies the rest. Nonetheless, despite having been stuck out in some pretty inclement stuff at all times of the year, I have a genuine affection for it. Particularly the last week of April and first two weeks of May when all the buds have broken and the air is laden with heady Maythorn blossom, new mown grass, the first scent of roses outdoors, keeping all those whiny hay fever sufferers inside.

The countryside; Outside of the urban centres the UK can be quite a pretty little place, when the inhabitants are not busy fouling their own nests with windblown garbage. Doesn’t take much to find it either. Just a small step off the beaten track with a mind to wonder and an ordnance survey map. Leaning on a gate, reading the landscape for the plethora of hidden history. Lumps and bumps in pasture that could be a hidden Roman ruin, Medieval fishponds or last years silage heaps. As a long time fan of Time Team, I’ve always been amazed at how chock full the British countryside is with the remains of civilisations long gone.

The class envy; Canadians are, on the whole, not really bothered about whether someone has an educated accent or not. Education for most is a thing to aspire to, rather than be jealous of. But the whole unthinking “He’s posh / poor so I think he’s a tit.” or “I went to Eton / Inner city compo so I’m better than you.” (Having met a few public school types, this is so often not the case. Likewise for its inverse) attitude is not so embedded or widespread as in the UK. We have no real equivalent of Jeremy Clarkson.

The crowding; If I want to get stuck in a people jam I’ll go back to a rainy Oxford Circus tube station on a Friday at rush hour. Then there’s the narrow little roads full of narrow little houses and a lot of narrow little people. Not all, but they’re a dying breed. Here we all give each other room, and it’s not unusual for there to be a metre gap between people in the Tim Hortons queue, although the Canadian habit of leaving two car lengths between vehicles when stationary at traffic lights can get a tad frustrating. This is where Jeremy Clarkson’s attitudes might come in useful.

The bad manners; No, don’t miss this at all. Not a whit or even a gnat’s bollock of a smidgeon. Don’t miss the long faces, the bitter petty jealousies, the petty race-baiting. Yeah, well we get a bit of that, but not much. Everyone seems to be pretty relaxed about race and sexuality over here, apart from the odd fruitloop. Love the customer service over here, all the “Have an awesome day.” and “No problem.” (either Canadians are a nation of bloody good actors or they really mean it.) Apart from when dealing with cell phone companies, but that’s a global problem. Or is it just related to T-Mobile? Or Bell? Were they trained by Jeremy Clarkson?

Who knows. Maybe that’s something else to be happy about. Or not. TTFN.

Regards

Bill

P.S.; Watch this space….. or not.

No real surprises….

After yesterdays fatal shooting in Ottawa we find out that the privately educated son of a deputy head of immigration is the culprit. The divorced Father of whom had gone to fight in Libya in 2011. Apple, tree, not far. His Mum of course is apologising madly to save her career, although given that said son had a string of drink and drug offences before briefly getting religion, I don’t think any real blame can attach to her. Even if the Mounties posted a warrant for her yesterday. Although that was for her van rather than her. Oh yes, even if she was implicated in a 2010 investigation regarding favouritism over appointees within the immigration department. Nothing to do with ISIS / ISIL at all. Just having a hissy fit over not getting a passport. Which is a hell of a dumb reason to kill an unarmed man.

Another unsurprising piece of news is that Vegetarians and Vegans are not as motile as the rest of the population. Well yes of course, we kind of knew that all along, goes the Greek chorus of commenters. It’s a life choice, and everything has a risk and reward, right? No doubt there are vegetarians and vegans with large broods of pasty kids, but so what? It’s not an absolute, but think of how many they’d have if daddy wasn’t deliberately malnourishing himself. Now that’s scary…..

Halloween and stuff

Halloween is a big deal over here. People deck their houses in carved pumpkins, fake cobwebs and all sorts of foolery. Lots of kiddies dress up in silly and totally unscary costumes, students put on Zombie makeup and totter around the streets muttering “Brains, brains.” Are they asking for a donation or lunch? So I thought I’d get into the spirit of things. Join in the fun. For a given value of ‘fun’ (Evil snigger).

This whole trick or treat business however, has always struck me as rather mean spirited. A “Give us sweeties or we’ll kick your bins over, spatter your windows or scratch your car” kind of meanness. Which isn’t really fun at all and simply encourages tooth decay and hyperactivity.

My Halloween tradition circulated around bonfire jumping (Small bonfires), bobbing for apples, pub crawls, cider drinking games and general horseplay between consenting youth. No one went round banging on doors demanding candy with menaces. The older folk were always part of the festivities, but mostly as spectators while the youngsters made bloody idiots of themselves. Those who didn’t want to play stayed home and no one bothered them. Well, apart from drunken singing stumbling past at two in the morning. The only real fallout was massive hangovers and the odd inexplicable bruise the following day. On one rare Halloween when it wasn’t raining, a bunch of us ended up on top of a local hill having a howling contest at the Hunters Moon. No-one called the cops. Although I recall one old farmer type did turn up in his Land Rover with Purdey on the front seat. He took one look at us, muttered something about ‘bloody kids’ before promptly turning round and going home to bed. We got the hint and dispersed. Of course this was a long time ago. Nowadays we’d have a bloody SWAT team round our necks. Which begs the question; when did people become such wussies?

This year my fancy dress is going to be a ‘biohazard’ sign for the front door, hooded painters overalls flecked with a little red, breath mask, face shield or safety glasses. Perhaps Wellingtons or even these to top off the ensemble. Which can all be used if and when I get round to a little DIY, or there really is an Ebola epidemic. So win-win there I think.

Canada recognises Bitcoin

Bitcoin CanadaJust caught this off The Register. Bitcoin just got the endorsement of regulation in Canada. My, my. On the same footing as the Dollar no less. A little bit of a two edged sword this, as by putting Bitcoin on the official list of currencies, the various exchanges will have to register and comply with the financial regulations up north of the 49th parallel or get out of Canuckland. However, the upside is that by recognising Bitcoin, it gives the controversial crypto-currency a veneer of respectability, and encourage wider trading and convertibility. Which in a wider sense can be considered a good thing. Even if the main intent is to allow the taxman to get a piece of the action.

First the Enbridge pipeline gets approved, now this. Canada’s economic future is looking brighter all the time.

Neuro-Linguistic programming for kids – a small epiphany

Down at the drug store this morning getting a knee strap to help reduce the pain of an ancient knee injury, I was fitting said item when a young family pulled up in their big Ford F250 pickup. Mum, Dad and two boys, and a babe in arms. Now in England this is a recipe for chaos. Sulky, ill natured kids who don’t want to be there and exasperated parents who would rather be anywhere else than with their whining ungrateful little mini-thems. Over here in BC it’s (Well, mostly) a totally different atmosphere.

One of the things I’ve noticed, being a recent import to these shores, is how generally quiet and well behaved many Canadian children are. But I’d never quite made the connection until today. Babe in arms, about a year old I’d reckon. Too big to be a newborn, too chubby for a Toddler, was swung into Mums front facing papoose and began squalling. Dad was leading his two boys across the car park, urging them on without raising his voice. Answering their torrent of questions and demands with a good natured; “But that’s not what we’re here for.” Mum was paying attention to the baby and using the same quiet, insistent and non-confrontational voice. There was no demand for the child to “Behave! Or else!” Just patient explanation that yes they were going to the store, no they already had too many toys and treats, and we’re going out this afternoon for a picnic. Please keep your voice down, I can hear you perfectly well. No heightened emotions, no drama and after the first exchange, no raised voices. The kids weren’t being ignored, au contraire, they were being engaged every step of the way. None of the usual parent to child guilt or threat exchanges. Just persuasion. I’ve overheard children at every turn presented with a “How would you feel if….?” option followed by a suggested positive outcome. In this particular case I got the feeling that this was a long-practised routine which both parents engaged in. A form of neuro-liguistic programming of their children, encouraging their progeny into preferred behaviours. Specifically not behaving like self-entitled little socipaths. At least until the soup of raging adolescent hormones turn them all into Kevins. Been there, done that. Twice, God help me. With girls, who make teenage boys look like pussycats, let me tell you.

Most of us grow out of the more unlovable traits of childhood. We can even break the generational cycle of abusive relationships, should we develop the will. Unfortunately this is often a protracted and very painful process for the person involved, and can be a terrible waste of a human being. Heavens to Betsy, some might even end up bloggers.

Which rather leads me to the thought that we are what we are programmed to be. Larkin expressed it as “They fuck you up, your Mum and Dad” but then again, Larkin was always one of my least favourite British poets. Having seen that side of the coin, I’m becoming convinced that parents don’t have to screw up their kids, they can engage, communicate and guide. Minimise the damage peer groups and aggressive marketing can do to kids minds by ensuring a child knows where their support mechanisms lie.

So it is with grown up life. Treat people with trust and engage them without being judgemental and my experience is that most will respond positively. Not too much trust mind, just enough to account for the one in twenty five that is a conscience-free zone. Treat everyone like wayward children, regulate their every waking moment with near incomprehensible rules they can’t help but break, and what response profile will they follow? Got it in one.