Tag Archives: Interweb

At least the Lemon Trees are doing well

January has come and gone and my Lemon tree plants are sprouting new leaves on the windowsill of my office. What else? I’ve also just spent my yearly holiday allowance on a trip to Londinium this Autumn. Mrs S and I want to see all the non-events that will characterise the UK leaving the EU.

Otherwise life at Chez Sticker is plagued by glitches. A whole shedload of the wretched things. Nothing insuperable, just minor bits of grit in life’s ointment. Banks that won’t do what they’re told. Stuff which should happen in forty eight hours takes a week to ten days to set up. Which is a bit tricky when you’re under the gun and on a tight deadline. I’m having to postpone investments because of them. Which is a pain. I was hoping to get a tranche of cash moved to invest before the stock market rose too high. The Canadian tax man (Nice chaps – when you have good accountants) you see has given me a more generous allowance for investments for last year and this and I want to take advantage of the loophole before March 1st when the opportunity disappears. Then there’s the extra payments to HMRC to ensure my UK pension is nicely topped up.

One minor irritation is having to postpone closing an offshore account because of a policy rule change. A complication because the money sent to HMRC from that account has to clear before I can do the necessary. This is mildly annoying. Of course any differential will only be pennies, but nurtured carefully how those pennies mount up.

Turns out I have a knack for shifting money around. Who knew? All those years working my arse off for a living when I should have followed my true calling in international finance. Although my calculus is sometimes questionable, I can usually convert between currencies in my head pretty well and I’m making a more than modest amount each year off my stocks and shares. Better than all the pension funds and other investment vehicles I’ve put money into over the years. Nothing spectacular, just solid, steady tax-sheltered growth over the medium to long term. All nice and legal. Even if it is hard work from time to time. I could retire tomorrow but I’m not going to. Deferring payment means a better hedge against inflation and besides, I’d only get bored.

On the BREXIT front The Financial Times is still very Remoaner and becoming rather irritating to the point where I may well be cancelling my subscription. I want news, information, not opinion dressed up as so-called ‘facts’ to support a pro-EU aganda. My increasing infuriation is driven by the imperative that in investment, good and timely information is everything. Without that information the news media has no real facility.

So what’s going on out in Interwebland? Lots of interesting stuff. As my last remaining reader is probably aware, there’s been a lot of screaming and yelling over ‘Fake news’ over the last three years. Then, more recently there’s been a lot of tearing of hair and sackcloth and ashes over ‘journalists’ being fired from various left of centre media outlets. Now these two phenomena might seem unconnected, but what might have slipped under the radar is the cessation of funding to counter ‘foreign propaganda’ begun during the Obama administration under the Portman-Murphy sponsored ‘Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act’. Like with Trudeau’s extra funding for CBC and other like minded media outlets introduced in 2018. All the money under the respective legislation has been strongly suspected of going to media outlets that toe a specific party line. Or in the case of the USA, did go.

Listen to a more well-informed commentator’s view below explaining the ‘Learn to code‘ meme doing the rounds, where alphabet soup commentators have been paid very well while spreading misinformation to support their ’cause’. All the time insinuating that right of centre and centrist Youtubers and bloggers are little better than pro-Russian propaganda ‘bots. Let me explain; for years, said journo’s have slyly mocked ordinary working people who lost their jobs. Now the boot is on the other foot.

Mass media redundancies? Couldn’t happen to nicer people.

Only a couple more months to Spring. I have the feeling April 1st is going to be really interesting this year. At least for all the prophets of doom.

Update:  Speaking of doom, is it finally ‘game over’ for the Maduro regime in Venezuela?  If so, what will replace it?  All rather academic as the answers to those questions are for the Venezuelan people and no-one else.

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Non Player Characters

There’s a very funny little take on a certain group of people doing the rounds of the jolly old Interweb that 85% of people are effectively what Gamers have taken to calling ‘Non-player characters’. Specifically people who react rather than think, use their limbic brains rather than their pre frontal cortex and often seem to be so self involved in their own little bubbles that any observations of neural activity can be thought of as purely accidental. They never seem to have the self reference to ask “Why am I doing this..?” or perhaps “What good am I doing…?” Followed by an existential “What defines ‘good’ and is attacking other people the right way to attain it..?” The more insightful might think that perhaps these NPC’s are painting themselves into a very small corner by not thinking.

Maybe the aforementioned is a function of their peer group structure? The self awareness of an NPC-level mob being the cube root of of the dumbest member? Yet these ‘activists’ are people who claim to know what is best for everyone and are willing to beat people up who happen to disagree? What they forget is that even if they win once, there will always be someone bigger, tougher, more skilled and more determined right around the corner. Possibly with a warrant. Or a grudge. No-one is immune. Direct action meet reaction. Hope you’ve got good legal and health insurance.

As an apposite aside, long ago (3rd February 2005 Yikes!), on a blog far, far away I wrote;

“Several years ago I worked out that roughly 75% of the human race are either plain stupid or just not paying attention. Mrs Sticker agrees, and helped modify the criteria so that the rule covers 85% of humans. After much spirited debate I was forced to agree. A proper mathematical analysis would bear this figure out. Think about it. In order for a proportion of the human race to be of average intelligence and above, statistically there has to be a corresponding fraction below those levels. Furthermore intelligence manifests itself in a number of ways. For example a Professor of Mathematics may be highly intelligent in a specific way but be a complete klutz in the kitchen. He / she might be great at advanced calculus but like many humans, reduced to the standard of the average moron when in charge of a car.

I’ve even joked that the zombie apocalypse has been with us for some time and left wing NPC’s area prime example, only there are right wing NPC’s too. This means we have two main tribes of zombies out there. Oh no, that can’t be right, the zombies are everywhere because each tribe only watches their own narrow section of the media and here’s the kicker, that’s what is eating their brains. Or should that be past tense? Has eaten their brains?

Make up your own mind. Just look around, observe, draw conclusions. Do not simply accept what you are told without question. Too many are willing to lie to back up their standpoint. NPC’s, Zombies, call them what you like. They all unthinkingly regurgitate what they’re told. Why? Because in the little bit of humanity they still do possess, they realise they really do have nothing to say. Because it’s the line of least resistance.

Busy signal

New job, new software, steep learning curve. New Internet too, if Tim Berners-Lee has anything to do with it. As for me, I’m not quite biting off more than I can chew, but there will be a short pause and a word from our sponsors.

Love this quote: “We are not talking to Facebook and Google about whether or not to introduce a complete change where all their business models are completely upended overnight. We are not asking their permission.” Yeah, go Tim.

World domination doesn’t happen all by itself you know…

Conspiracy sunspots, Batman!

The Interweb has been ablaze with rumours about the closure of a Solar Sunspot Observatory, by of all people the FBI. Who turned up out of the blue in a Blackhawk helicopter and shut the whole site down, including the on-site post office. The site is normally open to the public and the local Sheriff was shut out too, which makes the whole affair even more puzzling. All sorts of stuff has been mooted from Aliens crossing the sun, pending massive solar storms, secret weapons tests, Chinese / Russian hacking / spying on the nearby White Sands Missile Range, Uncle Tom Cobley and all. No-one has mentioned the Mayans yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

So what is going on? No idea. Although the spying theory sounds the most likely.

A more studied perspective is available from Linda Moulton Howe, an American investigative journalist and Regional Emmy award-winning documentary film maker.

She has a World Domination Cat.  What’s not to like?

Update: As a point of interest, the adjacent Apache Point Observatory, a collection of telescopes about a half-mile away, was operating as normal on Friday, with about a dozen cars parked outside.  Nor have other solar observatories been closed down as stated in some quarters.  So, no Aliens then.  Again.

2nd UpdateAand it’s open again.  Phew, so those pesky little green men have given us the go by yet again.  Funny how often that happens.

 

An internet Bill of Rights – A proposal

Seen over at Minds.com

MINDS.COM PROPOSED DIGITAL BILL OF RIGHTS

Alternative social network Minds has debuted a digital bill of rights amid accusations of bias and political manipulation at Google, Facebook, and other Big Tech companies.
“Minds is officially adopting the Manila Principles On Intermediary Liability, a digital bill of rights, outlined by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other leading digital rights organizations,” the social network announced, Thursday. “The principles have been endorsed by nearly 300 leading press freedom and technology policy organizations and individuals. They act as a guideline for protecting freedom of expression and create an open environment for innovation.”

The bill of rights are as follows:

  1. Intermediaries should be shielded from liability for third-party content.

  2. Content must NOT be required to be removed without an order by a judicial authority.

  3. Requests for restrictions of content must be clear, be unambiguous, and follow due process.

  4. Laws and content restriction orders and practices must comply with the tests of necessity and proportionality.

  5. Laws and content restriction policies and practices must respect due process.

  6. Transparency and accountability must be built into laws and content restriction policies and practices.

Discuss. I’m off to do some gardening. There’s some judicious potting out to do. Lemon tree seedlings again.

The Axis of Evil

Well I declare; Facebook is sniffing around US banks to obtain users transaction data. By proxy, considering that Facebook maintains databases which compile profiles on even non-users like myself, this is dangerous territory. I have already written to the banks of whom I am an account and shareholder for assurances that they will not provide any customer transaction data to Facebook or any other Social Media company whatsoever. Whether these ‘Social Media’ companies are ‘actively’ seeking it or not. Personally I find the denials flimsy and untrustworthy.

The risk here is that Facebook, Twitter, Google et al are actively seeking to extend their tentacles into every aspect of modern life. Given these platforms propensity for shadow banning, account deletion and general censoriousness, there is good reason to suspect that once such access is gained they will use it to further their own corporate agendas, not just sell advertising. Given that these platforms have demonstrated a clear propensity for de-platforming people they disagree with, those who do not conform may find their financial affairs restricted.

Working as I do with money, which has no politics, I find the hinted intrusion of Social Media companies into the financial arena a direct threat to my affairs, even if that threat is so far existential. As far as I am concerned, Facebook (LinkedIn), Alphabet Corporation (Google, YouTube), Twitter etc. just became the bad guys, forming an ‘Axis of evil’. “Don’t be evil.” just lost the “Don’t.” These corporate monsters now represent a more insidious form of soft Fascism than anyone would have previously thought possible, but here we are. All the trust we have given them, they have routinely abused.

Over the next few days I will also be deleting my Facebook-owned professional LinkedIn account, after first informing all my real life friends and professional contacts that I am doing so via email. LinkedIn never brought me any worthwhile work offers anyway.

Shall we talk?

I’m busy listening to a Livestream with interest when the phone rings. It’s our cable company. Hmm. That’s the third time this month. Oh well. I picked up.
“Hi, is this Bill?” Comes a friendly voice.
“It is.” I already know what this call is about. They’re going to try and sell me Cable TV. It’s Deja vu all over again.
“Hi. Notice you have internet and phone with us and we’re doing a special deal on cable this month.”
“No.” I can’t help but be amused. “We’re not interested. Not at any price.”
“Not even for ten bucks a…. Er, why?”
“The quality of content is terrible.” I’m trying not to burst out laughing. You can’t fault them for persistence but I’ve elected to be amused rather than get mad. “Two hundred channels and nothing worth watching.”
“What about the sports?”
“I don’t watch sport on TV.” Which is a bit of a fib as I will watch England Rugby matches when there’s footage online, but as most cable sport coverage is heavily cut Soccer, Ice hockey, American Football or Baseball I’m not interested. Watching cable sports coverage whenever we’re at a hotel or bar always irritates me as they keep on moving from game to game on the main cable channels as it’s all re-runs and best ofs. So you can’t get a good feel for the game. The decent coverage is all pay per view and I don’t like televised sport enough to go down that route.
“The news? We got news.” Tantalises the Telemarketeer.
“Which I can get online and in depth instead of the rotation half hour of soundbites cable news channels offer.” Oh I am a tease, but there’s no sense getting mad at these people as their Internet service is quite good.
“Oh.”
“We’re just not interested.” I affirm, so we close with the usual ‘have a great evening’ pleasantries.
“Was that the cable company again?” Mrs S calls from the sofa as she’s watching Midsummer Murders (Again) via our AppleTV box. “They don’t give up do they?”
“I think it’s rather sweet of them.” I chortle. Had I been busy I might have been less welcoming, but what the hell, I enjoy a little sport with sales callers now and again. Normally we don’t hear from them more than once a year, but they must be getting desperate to keep on trying a refusenik like me. Personally I think they should shut down the TV and free up bandwidth for even faster Interwebbiness.

Honestly, from what I’ve seen, the cable TV providers can’t even match the quality of something like The Rubin Report on YouTube which interviews people like Jordan Peterson or Niall Ferguson, who explains in quite an entertaining fashion how his position over Brexit shifted. And quite an insightfully nuanced view on Donald Trump to boot. Which I found quite interesting. A lot more engaging than any of CNN’s partisan cable TV output.

Don’t give a……

The weather continues colder than usual, and we’re getting out first decent bit of sunshine for a month, which is a relief. Don’t know what’s happening to the weather, but it’s definitely a lot cooler this year. Locally the flowers and tree blossoms are almost a month late. Farmers can’t plant yet and the temperature here in Victoria is decidedly chilly. Which is odd, considering all the prophesies of doom we’ve been fed over the years. I think we’d all welcome a little warming right now.

On the upside I’ve just bought a copy of Mark Manson’s ‘The Subtle art of not giving a fuck’ which should be arriving tomorrow as an antidote to all the emotionally underdeveloped stuff happening online. Not that I actually do give a spit about the twatter hate mobs roaming the Interweb like weaponised teenage girl gangs. Which is really all they are.

Personally I tend to leave twatter to others. It’s too full of bitch fights and pubescent personalities. To be honest it’s outgrown any facility or worth as the hormone-crazed lunatics are well and truly running the asylum. See the little talk between Jordan Peterson and Johnathan Haidt below which rather neatly explains the current state of (anti) social media.

Does this point of view make me a Dinosaur? Maybe. But then I don’t really give a fuck about that. My weaponised apathy acts as an antidote to all the hate mobs online insanity.

Social death

Facebook is hurt. Badly hurt. 30 points down and falling as of 28th March.
See my screenshot taken on the 23rd, a mere five days ago.

Yes I know one is for over the last twelve months, the other for the last three, but neither paint a pretty picture. I have a feeling that the Cambridge Analytica scandal is just the tip of a very big problem-berg. Over the next few months I can see a larger loss en-route, as in shit, fan, incoming! Perhaps a complete collapse. Who knows? It’s like watching a run on a poorly funded bank.

While this is all very entertaining in the median term, it may blow over, it may not. Facebook may survive, but it is what I’d describe as a ‘Castle in the Air’ stock. Looks pretty, but has no real fiscal security, as like one of the fairy fortresses, the only thing that keeps Facebook going is the power of belief.

Elon Musk (To name but one) has pulled his companies out of Facebook and there’s a class action in the offing. As far as some of the other tech giants go, Alphabet, parent company of YouTube and Google is also suffering with a less drastic 4% fall after accusations of bias, which they strenuously deny, but a number of their users who have had their content demonetised and even deleted aren’t convinced. Amazon may be worth a punt though, as their share value has taken a hit. But they actually sell real things, so I’d view them as a fairly safe bet and treat the current downturn as a buying opportunity for their stock.

Facebook on the other hand, what do they have to sell, apart from their users data? Twitter likewise. Which begs another question. Where will all the Twatter outrage mobs go if the platform collapses? Will they suddenly find themselves suffering a form of electronic social death? Mmm. Couldn’t happen to a nastier bunch of people.

Talking of social death, the institutional antisemitism endemic within the UK Labour party has surfaced once again. This is no surprise to me, as every extreme left winger I’ve ever met has been a racist anti-Semite. Never understood it myself. I think the only half way sane reason must be that extreme left (and right) wingers are avidly pro big government and the Zionists are big on family. The family (A very human, grass roots institution) and big government (Big state, top down driven) are philosophically opposed. The big government people see the family as the biggest obstacle to their authoritarian utopian fantasies, so to their mind anyone who has a strong family as the basis of of their culture must be undermined and if need be, eliminated.

Well it makes sense to me.

Tool blaming

Watching the impassioned “March for Our Lives” anti-gun crusade currently hogging US headlines with vague amusement. According to the surprisingly well-funded and organised teenagers (Organised teenagers? wTF?), all guns are bad and the NRA is the scapegoat. As if an NRA member pulled the trigger. Or as if NRA members are responsible for the routine gang shootings in LA and Chicago. Or Vancouver BC, Canada.

What, Vancouver Canada? Oh, didn’t you know? In January and February 2018 there were eight (I think) fatal shootings in the Metro Vancouver area alone. And we have much tougher gun laws than anywhere in the USA. You do have to jump serious hoops to get a gun licence north of the 49th parallel, but it’s not impossible and any legal gun owner is heavily restricted on how any guns, especially handguns, are moved. However, it’s not the legal gun owners that are the problem.

In every mass shooting it’s always an unbalanced individual that does the killing with firearms that don’t belong to them. So simply banning a particular weapon will not reduce the risk of bloody murder, simply move it downstream to serial killer territory. The impulse to kill will still be there and cannot be removed simply by means of banning guns, or knives, or trucks. Or even large pointy rocks and sticks.  School shootings won’t be ended by banning guns.  The killers will simply use other means.

Or even banning online swearing. Like Microsoft will be doing across all their online platforms including Skype and Microsoft’s cloud services from May 1st. Which will be a bit of a bugger for people who write the dialogue for a number of popular TV shows where ‘Fuck’ gets said a lot. Oh, like Game of Thrones or Boardwalk Empire. No saying that Windows 10 is a bag of shite either. Even if it is.

Imagine a world where you can’t let off steam with a good swear-fest occasionally without being permanently banned from public discourse. Where you can’t call idiots out for the shitheads they are because that is ‘hate speech’. Well friends, it’s nearly here so you won’t have to tax your imagination that much.

Well, Tech stocks are tumbling and the only way is down. I’ll miss Skype. But there are other platforms up and coming which will do the trick. The genie is out of the bottle and the censorious will only damage themselves trying to put it back in.

Anyway, here’s a blast from the past about dystopian futures and swearing.

Oh dearie me

… I missed the pointless farce called ‘Earth Hour’ yet again. It’s still a bit parky outside, so switching off the heating wasn’t going to prove anything but the gullibility of the switchers off. Light a candle? I often do, but only for the ambiance. I’m not dumb enough to think that candle light is good enough to read by, or that shivering in the dark is a way of promoting responsible environmentalism.

Last night around ten, we’d just finished watching season 7 of Game of Thrones with it’s rather chilly finale when I picked up my Tablet and got a notification. “Oh, Earth hour? That foolishness.” I thought as I dismissed it. “Don’t they know all the big activist outrage is in gun control this week?” Some people, eh?

On the topic of Interweb money and gun control, YouTube is probably going to be the next stock to nosedive. Fortunately I’ve pulled all my investments out of those side of things, taken my profits and put the cash to work elsewhere. If, as seems likely, YouTube are going to delete any content and channels about guns and military stuff, it means they’ll delete whole channels and in the process leave nothing but funny cat video’s until the Animal Rights activists get round to denouncing those as ‘cruel’ and get them deleted and banned. Maybe YouTube are hoping all the faux-outrage will blow over and it will be business as usual by the start of April so the new guidelines won’t have to be implemented.

The fallout will be telling. I foresee YouTube and Google owner Alphabet’s stock price taking a big, big hit. They’ve already damaged their brand by going after even moderate content creators who are critical of certain policies. This should make many advertisers realise that YouTube is effectively becoming worthless as a platform. End result; fewer advertisers, less revenue, Youtube shrinks and all their flash corporate HQ offices go off into the electronic unknown with the content creators. Such is life.

Update: Well, as far as content is concerned I’ve signed up for Bitchute, which I will be using far more often.

An old favourite made new

I like Kent, his YouTube channel is well worth a look if you have the time. He does solid grub for outdoorsy folk to provide a warming welcome after a day out in the cold.

Essentially what his ‘mashed potato bombs’ are, apart from being ace comfort food, a different take on potato croquettes (See video below to ‘make from fresh’). Kids especially love them, and they’re a Sticker family Boxing Day favourite. Although don’t let that stop you preparing this treat any damn time of year.

Now I have an alternative method for the same thing which relies on the mashed potato being done British style. Firm, not all soft and creamy like the North Americans prefer. Nor the abomination that used to haunt 1970’s school dinners. When stirred, the British version (at least my preferred method does) tends to form a single mass rather than look like freshly made cake mix. The trick is to add a little butter while mashing so that the result becomes firm rather than sloppy. So you don’t have to use much, if any, flour. Which can leave a cloying aftertaste. Especially if your mash was made with one of the more floury varieties of spud.

So; starting with, say three and a bit cups of firm and slightly dry British style mash left to cool, crack an egg and whisk it properly with a fork so that the egg becomes a smooth yellow emulsion. Add about a half to your mashed spuds and mix thoroughly. Add a little salt and pepper if you like. I usually use a little more pepper because it gives the potato a bit more bite. You can even add a small pinch of cayenne if you like, but be careful.

Now if you’ve got it right, the mix, when stirred should tend to form one piece like a soft ball of dough. The ideal texture being not too firm but kneadable and not leave sticky trails when you roll it in your hands. Roll into balls, tip; bite size is best, leaving a little over half a cup of mash in the bowl. Make a dent in the ball. Add filling. Spring onions or Chives, a good strong cheese (A strong blue is particularly good) and bacon bits if you wish. A tiny smidgeon of sour cream or cream cheese will help to bind the filling, then use a little of the remaining mash to seal it all in each little ball. You don’t need much filling for each one or they will leak into the frying oil and the desired effect will be lost.

A quick side note; I’ve found alternative fillings like cream cheese and pre-cooked prawn or shrimp bits with Spring Onions or chives are excellent but honestly, the choice is down to your individual palate. Leftover Beef or burger bits, fine cut lamb leftovers in a tiny hint of mint sauce, chicken, whatever. Just so long as it is firm and not liquid. If you are that way inclined and your brand of vegetarianism allows egg as a binder, then even some heavily spiced Tofu can be used. If you’re a vegan, sorry, but you are missing out. It’s why very few people remain lifelong vegans. There is so much they miss out on, poor damned souls.

Now give each filled ball a quick (just enough to round it, no more) roll in flour and paint with the remaining egg mix, then roll in breadcrumbs. Heat oil in pan then gently lower each one of the stuffed potato balls in to cook. I prefer to deep fry mine as you don’t need to flip them as with shallow frying, which runs an added risk that your carefully crafted creations will split and ruin the whole thing, but the desired end result is the same; crispy outside, melt in your mouth detonation inside.

So if stuffing the balls sounds like too much fuss and palaver, there is an alternative. Simply mix your finely chopped chosen filling with the pre-mashed potato and omit the sour cream or cream cheese from the recipe before putting on the egg wash and breadcrumbs. Just as moreish, just as tasty and just as calorific. Which is why I won’t be making any for myself any more. Although I’m very, very tempted.

Yet if you’ve made too many to be consumed at one sitting, despair not my last remaining reader, simply allow to the finished item to cool, then stick in the freezer on a tray for twenty four hours to set before bagging for longer term freezer storage. After that, feel free to take out and deep fry a few every so often to repeat the experience, because good things should never be done just once.

Loneliness of the long distance twatterer

Reading the FT the other morning to find an article speculating upon how loneliness might be driving the very partisan and uncivil ideological war currently raging online. Well it’s hardly a revelation. But who is to blame? What is creating the loneliness of the long distance tweeter? Well the answer to that is a no-brainer – ‘Social media’. Let me explain…

Everywhere I go I see people riveted to their phone screens walking down the street, crossing the road, sitting on benches, eating, drinking. Plugged in to their little electronic blinkers filtering out what’s going on in the real world. Indeed, doing little to interact with their immediate surroundings, choosing instead to evade reality by living in another. I see these damned souls every time I’m out. Hiding in plain sight in the modern expression of the ‘safe space’. Connected, yet so terribly isolated but convinced they are living in the real world whilst stuck in their own tiny echo chambers. A sort of 21st century tribe of Lotus Eaters.

My reaction is generally ambivalent and my only irritation with these slow motion creatures is their lack of consideration to their fellow humans when they won’t get out of the bleeding way. As I’ve written before, the zombie apocalypse is here and now, and they’re all plugged into their own bit of erratically cyber-policed anti-social media. Determined to hear nothing that challenges their narrow little world view, or getting all riled up enough to shout down an opposing faction. Useful note; shutting people up that you disagree with is not an argument. Calling strangers names is not debating.

Which is one of the many reasons these cell phone addicts look so deeply unhappy. Seriously, not a smile in a trainload. Some studies indicate that the little screen in your hand is actually robbing you of any happiness life might throw under your feet. Not to mention actively reducing your functioning intelligence. Ergo the tribalism. People are slowly stopping thinking for themselves, courtesy of that oh so handy four or five inch screen. Which has the additional downside of being about as secure as leaving your wallet on the sidewalk.

Which is why I have decided today not to buy another cellphone. I’m not in on-call tech support any more and I certainly do not want to be a mindless Google or twatter drone, which is all these social media addicts are. Anyone who knows me can get in touch any time via email or my home phone. If I’m out, then anyone who desires to hear my dulcet tones (I’m often told I have a nice voice) wafting into their ears will have to leave a message on my home phone. Maybe I’ll call them back. I’ve got other things to do first. Besides, I’ll be saving fifty bucks a month, or put more succinctly, six hundred bucks a year. Plus the cost of a phone, that’s well over nine hundred. Hell, I can almost buy two laptops for that. Or a few cases of decent wine. Which will give me far more pleasure.

As for being ‘out of the loop’ and therefore vulnerable to some great public harm, I respond thus; there is no messaging system that will save us in the event of a cataclysm. If say a nuclear war is declared, regardless of whether we own a cell phone or not we’ll be casualties, because if you’re too busy watching funny cat videos or a slappy video message from someone you met last year and can’t seem to get rid of, it’s lights out either way. I cite the old nuclear air raid sirens I grew up with during the cold war. Four minute warning? Four minutes only if you were lucky and had any time to do more than indulge in three minutes and fifty nine seconds of blind existential panic. In the recent Tusnami alert we could hear the sirens going off from three kilometres away and besides, our home is built on a decent bit of solid rock, we’re way above the Tsunami line. And if old Spoonbanger does manage to drop a big one on Seattle, hey we’re all toast anyway.

So I’ll leave Twatter and Farcebook alone. They’re nothing but vacuous echo chambers anyway. I have no use for them. Apart from something to point at and go WTF? occasionally.

Am I just being anti-social? An embittered old blogger railing against smarter (Guffaw), prettier people? Perhaps I’m simply expressing a preference for real life human contact, which, at least I think it is, far more conducive to improving my quality of life.

Bunyips

There is a mythical monster in Australia, one that is even feared by the biggest killer of humans, the Estuarine Crocodile or ‘Saltie’. I write of course of the Bunyip, that terror of tourists, ravager of ‘Roos and consumer of the cutest Koalas. The name appears to have devolved into slang, where having ‘a case of the Bunyips’ is a minor but undefinable health inconvenience akin to being a bit upset or nervous about something.

On that subject; Mrs S woke me the other morning while we were staying in a pleasant little off the beaten track B&B to confess that she had felt a ‘presence’ which had disturbed her otherwise unblemished repose the previous night. I knew what she meant, as I’d felt the same thing too, as a vague sense of unease, a sense of something not quite right drifting across the room. She characterised it as an unhappy feeling with no material stimulus of connection that clouded her consciousness. For myself I had a sense of a disturbance in the unseen just as I was drifting off. Then it was gone. All sins forgiven.

Rather like the Interweb being on the fritz across Southeastern Australia. Which has something to do with lightning strikes over the last few nights, so we’re told. Lots of fried routers, or should that be routers with fries. Thanks Telstra. Mobile phones seem to be working though. At least they haven’t succumbed to the heat and rain. Although our recent heat wave has apparently been ‘boiling’ Fruit bats alive not far from our current location. Someone should have told them about drinking plenty of fluids staying in the shade and slapping on the SPF 50 sun cream.

Oh yes, we actually had rain yesterday afternoon en route to last nights picturesque little lodging. First big drop hit our windscreen like a paintball round with a loud ‘Spack!” Then another and another for twenty seconds until it was like automatic fire. After about a minute this bombardment settled down to regular rain which the windscreen wipers could cope with. That lasted about thirty minutes then everything dried up again until the evening when the wind it blew and the rain it did fall, but by then we’d consumed a couple of bottles of a very quaffable Savignon (Not Sauvignon, it’s a hybrid grape) and couldn’t have cared less. Temperatures have now returned to the mid to high twenties Celsius. So the Fruit bats will be back to their normal habit of shitting out of the trees instead of falling out of them.

In the wake of the recent brief heat wave have come brief but very intense storms flooding over the Blue Mountains, which is where we rest our weary heads this very eve. Thunder, lightning, high winds and torrential rain have paraded past our windows in the last three hours. In the wake of these storms followed an almost ethereal sunset and a single truncated pillar of a rainbow.

The local Aboriginal peoples claim this land has magical powers, and after the last few hours, I’m inclined to believe them.

BTW: There is nothing ‘intrepid’ about this trip. Indeed I have gone to great lengths to avoid any hint of derring-do, knight errantry or bravery against hostile elements of any shape, form or substance. Indeed, we have employed all the magical arts of modern techno-magery such as air conditioning, bug repellent, booking websites and the financial assistance of Mister Mastercard to avoid having to be even slightly courageous or resourceful. Courage is a fine thing and a useful tool, but should be kept in reserve for those occasions when you cannot help but need it. Let it be known that if the Bunyips come calling again I will have made strenuous efforts not to be there when they arrive.

That’s all for now. Back in Sydney to begin our last week in the Fabled land of Oz tomorrow. So perhaps we’ll have a more reliable Interweb connection by then.

Not your average French Fry

One of the things I’ve been trying to do of late is reduce the amount of carbohydrates (And therefore calories) in our diet whilst retaining variety and taste. To this end, while burrowing around the Internet I found out about the uses of Celeriac or Celery root. At simplest it turns out that you can fry Celeriac like potatoes to make a slightly nutty tasting form of French fry or chips.

Now to look at, Celeriac looks like something dreamed up by a Dr Who scriptwriter with all it’s gnarly tight packed roots and rough skin. You could even be forgiven for thinking it’s some strange sessile alien creature awaiting it’s chance to leap out of the vegetable bin and burrow it’s way into what remains of an unsuspecting cooks brain. But this is not so. This sci-fi looking root vegetable has a firm texture like turnip, without the risk of horror filled school dinner flashbacks caused by mashed Swede or ‘Rutabaga’.

If asked to describe the taste, I’d say it was a mild form of Parsnip with a hint of hazelnut and Crimini mushroom. Actually quite pleasant when you get past the first shock of the unfamiliar, yet definitely superior in flavour and texture to the mouth cloying fries most Canadians are offered in ‘Casual’ dining outlets. There’s no starchiness, and definitely none of that horrible floury aftertaste so many commercially produced French fries leave in the mouth.

Right: Onto the method. Not much to it. Peel Celeriac root and carve off extraneous alien looking tendrils with a knife. Do use a sharp knife unless your vegetable peeling tool is really robust, remembering not to carve off your delicate little pinkies. I refer you to rule 1 of peeling and cutting. Fingers behind the blade edge children. Either that or invest in Bandaid futures.

Once peeled, cut into 12-15mm (About 3/8ths to 1/2 of an inch seems to be optimal) square sections for traditional English style. Put a pint of cooking oil into your oldest and deepest sacrificial saucepan or no more than a third full and put over a medium high heat. Why only a third? It’s very simple, filling less than half your cooking vessel will spare you kitchen fires if you’re called away for five minutes to tell someone on the Interweb that they are categorically in the wrong and you just have to tell them so.

Once your oil goes on the heat, in another pan, boil some salted water and dump your cut Celeriac pieces in. Take off heat immediately you’ve brought them back to the boil and leave for five minutes. Drain Celeriac chip shapes and pat them dry using paper or cloth towels. Check oil temperature periodically by chucking in a tiny piece of Celeriac. If it foams and sizzles immediately, your oil is hot enough for deep frying. If not, patience. All good things come to those who prepare carefully.

When first piece foams and froths in the hot oil, put in as many pieces of cut Celeriac as will fit in one layer floating in the oil and fry for five minutes. Then using a slotted spoon or similar haul them out onto paper towels or into a sieve and wait two minutes for the oil to reheat. Now chuck in the next batch. Follow the same procedure. Let the oil get back up to temperature then put in the first batch again until most frothing and foaming has subsided and the fries are a light browny gold. If you aren’t sure, nick a chip out of the hot oil (Not with your fingers, dimwit!), drain it, dry it off, and when cool enough to eat, taste for desired texture.

At this point it might be a good idea to heat up a serving dish, dry thoroughly and line with paper towels. As each batch of fries becomes ready, drain and decant into this lined bowl or dish to keep them drained and warm. When all batches of fries are done and in the bowl, switch off the stove and serve with Mayonnaise. Or Ketchup. Or Brown Sauce, in fact whatever you want as a dip. Be adventurous. Cook naked if you want (But this blog advises a decent cooks apron, because even a small spot of hot oil on your important little places can really put a painful crimp in the whole experience).

Now serve. Remember, this is a very adult taste, and those under 25 should not bother unless they are as sophisticated as wot you obviously are.

Talking of adventure and I haven’t done this yet, but it’s next on the list; try oven cooking these chips. Instead of deep frying them, after boiling and drying off, roll the cut pieces of Celeriac in a little olive (or any other cooking) oil, dust with dry seasoning of choice, be it salt, salt and pepper, garlic powder, a light sprinkling of curry powder or Chinese five spice, or even a hint (And I do mean only a hint) of Cayenne pepper. Whatever you fancy, but it has to be dry. Then bake, just like you would Oven chips at 220°C/ 425°F for around 30-35 minutes depending on your oven.

Oh yes, a word of warning about Cayenne pepper. Wash hands immediately after handling, just in case you feel the need to rub your eyes. Trust me, you do not want Cayenne in your eyes. Not unless you’re into heavily swollen eyelids and not being able to see properly for a few hours. Cayenne has the same effect as Pepper spray. It stings. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.