Tag Archives: Canada

A nice day out

I like Vancouver. It’s my second favourite city on the planet. Well at least of those I’ve visited. Although I’ve got a soft spot for Berlin, and haven’t had time or money to visit Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Singapore etcetera. Despite there being a Starbucks or Tim Hortons on every other corner. To be honest I prefer Tim Hortons coffee to Starbucks, firstly it’s cheaper, secondly it’s less bitter. Their doughnuts aren’t bad either. Although I’m more partial to an Apple or blueberry fritter for a cheap carb and calorie treat.

While we were in Vancouver we hopped on the Skytrain and I popped into the Telus ‘Science’ Museum because the Animals Inside Out exhibit was on, which I was interested to see. I was to be disappointed. What I found was somehow redolent of a 19th and 20th century travelling carnival freak show. Plenty of ‘Euw’ factor with the anatomy of people and animals on display, but woefully short on detail. For example; the Mako shark exhibit made little mention of what the Blue Dynamite with the short fuse was all about. Nothing about how it is one of the fastest sharks in the sea (Able to swim in bursts of over 80Kph), or that they run over 3.2 (12ft) metres long and more than 600kg (1300lb+). Little about habitat and diet (Apart from being a sea creature). The split down the middle Giant Squid display was impressive, As was the trifurcated Camel, but was there any information about the curious structure of the giant squids eyes? Not really. There was one museum staffer wandering around with an anatomised and plasticised human arm, inviting visitors to examine it, but as far as information was concerned, I found myself thinking this was the intellectual version of junk food. While the exhibition promised much in the way of mental nourishment, all it delivered was hollow emotion. The same was true for the the rest of the displays at ‘Science world’. Rather than have layers of information where, if interested, displays could direct people to where they could find out more, all they had were toys for toddlers, of which there was a plethora. Shrieking and pressing buttons, aimlessly playing without actually seeming to learn anything. A sort of Fisher Price level of ‘Science’. Which is a bit of a shame. Shrieking toddlers tend to put off older children and even young adults who want to know more about science in general.

Now all these observations could be dismissed as the rantings of an “Ignorant, angry old white guy”, a description which incidentally hits the quadruple target of being incorrect, ageist, sexist and racist by the way, but for the fact that what is on offer is a solution. A solution that is easily and more importantly affordable and which does not shut out key demographics like simply catering to noisy toddlers with toys. All that is required is a few bar code links and a web site with all the information you need to share, or perhaps about associated exhibits there isn’t room to display. All the kids have Smartphones capable of reading barcodes, right? Print out one of those rinky dinky square barcodes and paste next to a short description of the exhibit. Link the square barcode to various web sites containing more in depth information about said exhibit, and Robert, as they say, is the male sibling of your biological parents. Ta-daah! Using such a barcode while visiting should also enlist the visitor on the Museums Twatter, Crapchat, Instagrunt and Farcebook feeds so that if they’re interested, previous visitors will know when to come back again to see a real exhibit up close and personal. Thus generating much needed extra visits and gift shop revenue. A useful tool for Parents, Teachers and those who simply like to see real science and history stuff on display.

The same principal could be applied to Theatres, Cinemas, grocery stores, Aquaria, and Zoos for a relatively low overhead. Latest production or movie release, new product line, birth of a rare baby sea creature or mammal, all the novelty of the world can be brought rapidly and in depth into the public eye. For those interested of course. All the components are out there, all the institution or business would have to do is a little regular link maintenance. But then I’m just an “Ignorant, angry old white guy” with a broad technical education covering well over twenty years and a deep seated love of technology, so what do I know?

Any old road up. Mrs S and I had a nice day in Vancouver, and despite missing our bus for the ferry (By five minutes) and spending fifty minutes hanging around in the cold, got home with much to think about. We did pass by the Cirque Du Soleil, but as we’ve already seen one of their disappointingly lowbrow shows of mugging contortionists a couple of years ago, I declined to repeat the experience.

North America is more civilised than you think

Made the mistake of reading a clickbait article in the Barclay Brothers Beano this afternoon where an unrepresentative sample of New Yorkers were asked about that particularly English delicacy, Sausage rolls. Astonishment, surprise and dare we even say it, dicombobulation were expressed by those who were told that you cannot purchase Sausage rolls in New York, and thus by imputation, the whole of the USA. Just so some ignorant English people (Who are so stupid they believe everything printed in English newspapers) can giggle at the Yanks’ lack of knowledge of that quintessential savoury, the humble Sausage roll.

The article is, as must be expected from such airheaded space filler, complete balderdash. I have been to New York and seen a wide range of foodstuffs produced for consumption, including, yes, you guessed it, Sausage rolls. Just because Starbucks don’t have them in stock, or the New York Times ‘introduces’ them to the North American diet does not mean they haven’t been available for yonks. For example; Myers of Keswick on Hudson Street, has been making said delicacy in New York for nearly thirty years. Then there’s ‘The Tuck Shop‘ and ‘Parkers‘ in Buffalo, New York. Unlike the much lamented Pie Face eatery that once graced Broadway until 2014, these are still going concerns.

You could recycle said article and say the Belgians are astonished by the mention of English savoury pastries. Or the Germans, Swiss, Italians, French or Danes. But I know quite a few places in Paris and Frankfurt where you can get a form of Bacon sandwich or sausage roll even if it goes under another name, but this does not mean the French or Germans are culinarily ignorant or deprived, merely disdainful about the lower meat content of English sausage.

To conclude; just because there isn’t a Greggs on every bloody corner doesn’t mean the Yanks have never heard of the British taste in Savoury pastries. Here in BC, Thrifty’s and several other grocery store chains do a very nice example, although getting decent flaky pastry over this side of the great divide is a bit hit and miss and they do tend to put more sausage meat in the pastry than the classic English version, but that is no bad thing. On my travels south of the 49th parallel I’ve seen such sundries as Scotch Eggs and Pork Pies on delicatessen displays in Eugene, Oregon and elsewhere. True, Sausage rolls etcetera, are not as widespread in the USA and Canada as the UK, but then we’re not in Clapham any more, Dorothy.

Red tide

I greeted my wife with one word this morning; “Trudeau.”
Her response; “Oh, fuck.”

Yes it’s true. A toxic red tide of votes has swept the nation and there’s another brain dead Trudeau as Canadian Prime Minister. God help Canada.
red tide warning
Well I know that Harper wasn’t the most popular choice, but picking a party headed by a Trudeau? Seriously? That is soo coming back to bite us all. Mulcair would have been better as a national leader.

Why? Because I remember the economic disaster Tony Blair made of the UK, and Trudeau is a politician very much out of that mould. So we can look forward to higher taxes, extra ‘Carbon’ levies, more foreign involvement of our (Canada’s) armed forces and a deeper economic downturn caused by ‘capital flight’ as investors seek safer, or more profitable havens for their hard earned cash. On the plus side, he’ll probably cancel the problematic F-35 and legalise Marijuana, so it’s not all bad news. Even if Trudeau’s policies will probably squeeze out the little guys on the Grow-op front and put up the price of groceries.

For my part I’ll be keeping an eye on real inflation and currency fluctuations over the next year or so and keeping my European funds out of Canada until I’m sure which way the wind is blowing. As I observed to Mrs S this morning, it’s not time to pack our bags just yet. There may yet be a silver lining under this cloud. Canadian dollars ran at 2.15 to the pound sterling back in 2006. Due to the economic downturn in the oil and gas industries occasioned by the Saudis dumping their oil at ridiculously low prices, CAD to GBP is currently about two bucks to the pound. With a Liberal government in power, I can see that value dropping to about CAD$2.20 per GBP along with a drop in local property prices as the canny move their money elsewhere.

Looks like I’ll be using my ‘get a free apocalypse’ card sooner than I thought.
Apocalypse gift card


It’s Federal Election day in Canada, and Mrs S and I took a walk down to the polling station to cast our votes like good Canadians. In and out inside five minutes. We’d done our research and both independently decided who was getting our ballot. Unsurprisingly, we both went for the least worst candidate. Yes, I know we shouldn’t vote because it only encourages politicians, but nowadays I like to have a say rather than hide in my burrow muttering ‘snot my fault guv’nor when everything goes south.

Now Canada used to have fairly strict rules on political campaigning until this month. No campaigning on polling day (At least on TV). Which was supposed to allow the voter to make as informed and non-coerced a decision as they are capable of on the day. This afternoon, I watched Mulcair and Trudeau supporters waving their candidates signs in the middle of the main drag through Quadra village. One, carrying a ‘Vote Mulcair’ banner was even waylaying passers by, presumably to solicit their vote. Which I still feel is a bit naughty on polling day. I say chaps, that’s not Cricket, or even Hockey. At least with Hockey the Umpires can send offenders to the sin bin.

Not that such polling day pranks can have any effect apart from a negative one. I think most Canadians, even some of the superannuated hippies out here on the Wet coast wouldn’t fall for it. Or would they? Surely not? Although speaking from personal experience, if I see anyone campaigning on election day, that is a high level motivator not to vote for their candidate. This time round they’ve had seventy eight days to get their point across and if they haven’t done so by now, bad luck. Seventy eight days of blitzing the gullible on social media. Seventy eight days of speeches, conferences and photo opportunities. Blood and sand. I’m so glad we don’t have Cable.

This time round I actually bothered to read all the manifesto’s and electoral leaflets before doing a bit of old fashioned joined up thinking and making my choice. Which I hope was a sober and informed decision. So who did I vote for? Ah. No-one’s business but mine. My vote is strictly between me and the ballot box.

And today…..

……Nothing happened on the Interweb. At least nothing that piqued my interest. Just the usual.

In the real world, all our recent guests are home safe, with airplane adventure tales told over Skype. Which now lets me off the hook to catch up with a little work and to generally chill out after the last few days chasing my tail. I don’t really mind since we only get to see Youngest once or twice a year, and it was her birthday week. What sort of parent would I be if I didn’t help her celebrate? Apart from Pizza cremation and a few other minor happenstances, like coffee machines almost, but not quite, going foom! All went swimmingly, and our stock rides high with our recent guests.

All is now settling down. I hope. Apart from Cougars in the back yard. Seriously. Actually I missed the Downtown fun. The conservation officers tranquilised it and now doubt the oversized moth eaten moggy will be dumped up island to annoy another community. It’ll be back. Who knows? Maybe it’ll have a chew on one of the local animal rights groupies. Don’t you just luurve natural selection?

On the work front I’ve just finished prying my good lady down off the ceiling, and she is recovering slowly from a recent upset. New software, no project plan, no staff training, deadlines cut; need I say more? I’ve had to restock the Tylenol and tissues twice. For the moment things are settling down before the next crisis digs into my schedule. That and credit cards being stuck in the Freezer to cool off after a months frenetic activity. A decent batch of curry has been prepared for the freezer, as has a similar sized block of home made chilli bolognese. I’ve done enough cooking for a while.

What else? Oh yes, I’ve received my voting card for the Federal elections and remain staunchly unaffected by sundry faces mugging out of billboards all over the place. Eeny, meeny, miny mo, who to vote for? Not telling. It is after all a secret ballot don’cha know, but despite my history as an ex-green party member (A youthful error of judgement on my part) my ticked box won’t be for the Greens. As some are given to say locally; Elizabeth May, but probably hasn’t. I’ve also put a ‘no soliciting’ sign at the front door. First to ring the bell gets a free earful of colourful Anglo-Saxon invective and a stern lecture on the parlous state of their reading skills.

Candy for Halloween is being purchased from Bulk Barn and left in a bowl on the doorstep for the kids to help themselves or next doors cat to shit on. I may leave out some beef jerky in the hope that a passing Cougar or Bear will spend some quality time on my front porch. Failing that, next doors surly moggy will do. Bad tempered animal. I shall leave a besom broom outside for effect. Perhaps with a sign saying; “Warlocks to Witches.” or “Prey, do not disturb.”

What can I say? I’m not allowed to put out Claymore Mines for the unwary or hard of reading.


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.


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.

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.