Tag Archives: Local stuff

Today’s lack of amusement

Today I have the signing of forms. Legal matters in the UK require my notarised signatures, so off I went to the local Notary Public to get my drunken spider crawl witnessed and stamped. Such are the occasional inconveniences of being an Expat. That and having wills in multiple jurisdictions. Not to mention the extortion that Canada post tries to apply while delivering a distinctly third rate overseas service. I’ve all but given up expecting Air Mail to be delivered within 4 to 7 working days. From Canada it’s more like three bloody weeks. So in future I’ll be sending important post UPS or Fedex. They’re actually cheaper would you believe? And they do express post to places Canada Post seems unable to reach.

Of such is the coarse cloth of my lack of amusement cut. Still, I stand to make a pretty penny, so I shouldn’t bitch. I just wish I didn’t have to send hard copies via an insecure means because of companies whose business models haven’t quite made it into the 21st century. Why my Bank and Lawyers won’t accept a fax or have a secure portal I can update my records on is a source of all too frequent irritation. Every time I have to authorise changes, with legal costs and postage we’re talking about a hundred and ten dollars, which is about fifty five quid a pop at the time of writing. That’s a hell of a lot to have your signature witnessed and to send ten sheets of paper. I don’t care how ‘carbon friendly’ the service is.

Anyway. While browsing the pilots forums at PPRUNE.org, I see the desperation about so called ‘man made climate change’ has sunk to a new low. At least according to the propaganda machine called the BBC. Apparently it’s supposed to make transatlantic flights longer, although the mechanism detailed in both the article and study looks like some sort of doomsday fantasy, which is what the lamestream keep feeding us. Yay! Wreck your economy and doom your descendants to penury over ‘science’ that would even make a Fourteenth century alchemist go “Carbon Dioxide? Really? Pass that philosophers stone will you and bugger off, I’ve got to transmute this lead into gold by next week or I get shortened by ten inches. Monarchies, eh?”

Well just let me pull my worn and tattered scepticism out of the drawer, yet again. The models this ‘science’ is based on makes Piltdown Man and Phlogiston look like cutting edge. None of these carbon dioxide driven climate models has ever made an accurate prediction three days ahead, let alone a century. So isn’t it about time they were consigned to the junk pile of failed theories? Like the flat Earth, Earth centred astronomical model, celestial spheres and Angels dancing on pinheads? The climate changes, and if you listen to people who are thinking outside the CO2 box, you start to get the idea that the Earth’s Atmosphere in no way resembles a greenhouse (Lack of glass, no frames or doors), and that a trace gas which is essential to photosynthesis could be a whole lot higher and actually improve the biosphere of dear old mother Earth. Cut the level of CO2 below 150ppm, and photosynthesis stops. The plants die and so do we. We need more CO2, not less. The whole ‘back radiation’ thing is an assumption based on the work of 19th century Swedish researcher Svante Arrhenius, whose equations assume straight line values for temperature response. Which is fine, to a point.

However, anyone who has studied meteorology in any depth, like those whose livelihoods are shaped by atmospheric physics, for example pilots, will understand that there is nothing straight about nature. A few years decades ago, when I was much younger and flush with funds, I had an ambition to learn to fly. Part of this entailed taking lessons how to fly gliders, light aircraft and even on two wonderful occasions in a helicopter (Once as navigator, once hands-on). Necessary background study gave me a rough working knowledge of atmospheric physics, airflows over laminar surfaces, cloud formation, air currents, the Jet stream, Anabatic and Katabatic winds etcetera. In short, what causes your tiny airframe to be lifted and tossed around by outside forces and how not to die when it is. Wish I’d kept my log book, now lost in multiple house moves, up to date. But that’s by the by.

What my studies have taught me is that Nature is curly. Things have limits. The speed of sound is a good one. Flying faster than sound requires much more complicated mathematics than simple straight line equations. Supersonic pressure wave build up is not a straight line response. Likewise, the speed of sound is not an absolute, it’s a variable which changes with pressure, density and temperature. Likewise, the IR absorption of Carbon Dioxide does not follow a straight line or even, as some have claimed, an exponential relationship with proportion. Any increase of temperature down to CO2 drops off rapidly after 20ppm.

Wait a moment. Twenty parts per million, but our atmospere contains around four hundred now? WTF? If it was an exponential relationship, shouldn’t we be baking in a Venus-like hell already? Apparently not. CO2 and Temperature H/T to Jo Nova for the original graph based on the work of Lindzen and Choi, 2009. So all this stuff about CO2 being a major climate driver doesn’t look so solid when you take a long, cool look at the real information.

So why is CO2 even an issue? Possibly because there are a lot of people with money tied up in Carbon derivatives, and politicians who have already spent all your tax dollars and need an excuse to raise even more taxes, who would like us all to think otherwise. So a number of very able Public Relations specialists are paid to keep the issue on the boil, brain dead media luvvies who leech off the whole apocalyptic drama of the thing, protestalot ‘climate’ activists who get back door funding from rich donors, and the politico’s making sure that grant money is directed to those who are (unsuccessfully) trying to prove that CO2 is the big climate bogeyman come to murder us all in our beds. Notwithstanding the ‘groupthink’ by the underinformed and credulous. If it wasn’t for the constant demands with menaces, I could laugh at these people a whole lot more.

Under a buck

Over the past few days the current oil glut, which looks like it’s going to go on for a while, has seen local gas prices plunge to levels we haven’t seen since our first trip through Ontario back in 2003.  See this screen grab below from the Gasbuddy web site this morning.

Gas Price Victoria Jan 2016

I’m almost tempted to fill ‘er up and head up Island just for the simple, inexpensive joy of doing so.  We’re also planning a serious road trip during April and May down into the good old southern US of A down through Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, then back via Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah and Idaho before heading for home.

That’s GBP0.48 per litre.  48p. Forty eight pence or GBP2.18 per Imperial Gallon at current exchange rate.  US$0.68 per litre.  Sixty eight cents.  About US$2.57 per US Gallon.  Down in the USA, I’ve seen prices as low as US$1.91, or CAD$2.77 (US Gallon).

Hang on.  Oklahoma City reports US$1.29.  Blood and sand.

Downtown

Went to pick up Mrs S from her exercise class the other night and as I was driving through downtown was surprised to see a mini tent city had sprouted opposite Christ Church Cathedral near the junction of Quadra and Courtney Street. I knew things were tough, but it was the numbers that caught me off guard. We’re used to street beggars populating every street corner, but it seems a whole new influx are arriving to take advantage of the city bylaw that allows camping in city parks up to 7am in the morning. Here’s a Shaw TV special on Victoria’s problem panhandling (Begging) which barely scratches the surface.

Victoria, and BC in general has a homeless problem. To be frank it has everybody else’s homeless problems because the winters are generally mild and the culture generous and tolerant. A rough straw poll has down and outs from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and everywhere else, not just locals who have fallen on hard times. Local provision of homeless shelter places is (according to various sources) 175, with an additional seasonal 110, but it still doesn’t seem to be enough. My cynical side tells me it never will be. When the snows and real cold hits at the end of January / early February, even in the temperate climes we enjoy here, the city is going to be carting off human popsicles. As usual.

Which leaves Victorians with a problem. You can’t just let people starve and freeze to death, but how many have to turn up before downtown starts to get serious public order problems? More dependent people means more strain on local government, which has to cut other services or raise taxes to pay for all these extra mouths. Bylaw enforcement alone is currently costing the city CAD$700,00 a year and in September 2015 the figure of CAD$50 million (Now cut to CAD$30 million) was requested to build and run 367 housing units for homeless people. That’s right, fifty fucking million dollars, albeit over fifteen years. The additional taxes needed to raise this amount will put pressure on private landlords to raise rents, possibly resulting in even more homeless people. Then what? What with depressed resource prices, the economy not going anywhere fast, there will be less money overall to provide shelter and food. More beggars competing for fewer donations. Less tourism money as people get put off from return visits by being importuned at every street corner and then more cops needed to police the panhandling.

It’s got to the point where Mrs S and I are thinking of moving and buying a place in next door (and less expensive) Langford or Colwood. There’s no real economic advantage for us being this close to the downtown core, and so long as we have a viable fast Internet connection we can work from anywhere.

Now the homeless problem isn’t currently as bad as East Hastings in Vancouver or Seattle across the border, but it seems to me from an eyewitness point of view that despite all the money that seems to get thrown at the issue, homelessness is a bottomless pit. A slough of despond which takes a good chunk of determination for the afflicted to haul themselves out of, because no-one else can do it for you. I’ve been there. Had to live out of my car for a while a couple of decades ago and know how bloody cold and uncomfortable it can get, so I’m not totally unsympathetic.

It’s my observation that what keeps many people homeless are the little ‘luxury’ items like alcohol or drugs that they might take, just to make themselves “Feel a little better.” or take the edge off their misery, whilst at the same time prolonging it. I can tell you from personal experience that getting and staying out of that noisome hole takes willpower, persistence, and not a little luck. The intoxicants and non-essentials have to be ditched and every resource garnered to find work and a place to live. Anything but food and shelter has to take a back seat. Smartening up, swallowing pride and letting the slow burn fuel the push towards renewed prosperity. It’s a long, hard road with no short cuts and lots of potholes.

Sometimes I think the whole issue is like the foreign aid conundrum; give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he can feed his entire family. On the other hand; wells can be dug, irrigation taught, fish ponds created, seeds provided and the means to get produce to market improved, but if afterwards the buggers simply sit on their arses chewing Qat all day, or fight over everything, then you might as well have done nothing for them in the first place. Devil, deep blue sea…………

As for that New Years Eve business in Germany…. Can I join the Greek Chorus saying “We told you so!”

No snow

Well, not in our part of Victoria.  From our back window I can see some on the hills a few miles north, but seeing we’re at the approximately same latitude as Chartres, France,  Vienna in Austria and Sakhalin, north of Japan, we aren’t expecting any until late January.   Although ‘wet flurries’ have been forecast for the first week in January 2016.

At the moment we’re having a run of quite deep frosts (For Victoria). About -6 or thereabouts. Nothing to write home about, but it can make walking in leather soled shoes a little challenging.

One thing that can thaw a frosty heart is the promise of a good Sunday roast, which in our case is Pork, something which the Canadians do frightfully well.  I cook it rind on, with plenty of crackling. How? Oh how remiss of me, I’ve not posted the recipe, I abase myself for such uncharacteristic thoughtlessness.  For my rite of absolution, keep reading.

Roast pork and cracklingNow I base my own recipe on this article, but it’s the method that counts.

To get first class crackling; Buy a rind (skin) on Pork shoulder. 2lbs (A kilo) is fine for a modest joint that will provide a meal and sandwiches for the rest of the week for one or two people if sliced thinly. Do not buy if the rind and fat have been removed. Fat is key to the flavour and despite what the ignorant will tell you, is not harmful because ‘dietary’ fat is not that digestible and does not directly convert to body fat or cholesterol. Have the skin scored (cut into quarter inch or 6mm strips) just so the skin itself is cut through, or cut it yourself. Do not cut through the underlying fat to the meat. A Stanley or craft knife, the sharper the better, is ideal for this purpose. Now rub with cooking oil and salt.

If your joint has been frozen, leave out for at least 24 hours in a fridge to defrost prior to cooking, and make sure the scored skin is completely dry before rubbing with oil and salt. As for the rub, be generous, say a large pinch (A half teaspoon) of salt and a tablespoon of cooking oil. If you want to try olive oil, be my guest, but my recipe works and uses bog standard cooking oil. Put a smear of apple sauce on the underside of the joint, or cook with a large Bramley cooking apple in the roasting pan.

Pre-heat your oven to 230 Celsius (450F) and put prepared joint in a roasting dish, rind upward. Place in oven for ten minutes when the oven gets to temperature. This will ‘set’ the salt in the rind. After ten minutes, turn oven down to 180 Celsius (350F) at 22-5 minutes a pound or half kilo. Anything more will dry out the joint and leave you with pork of a flavour and texture resembling cardboard. Use the approximate cooking times below and it should turn out reet champion.

Cooking times and temperatures*
2lb (0.9kg) = 10 mins (at 230C / 450F) + @45 mins (at 180C / 350F) + @15 mins (Grill setting at 180 / 350F)
3lb (1.36kg) = 10 mins (at 230C / 450F) + @65 mins (at 180C / 350F) + @15 mins (Grill setting at 180 / 350F)
4lb (1.81kg) = 10 mins (at 230C / 450F) + @90 mins (at 180C / 350F) + @15 mins (Grill setting at 180 / 350F)
5lb (2.26kg) = 10 mins (at 230C / 450F) + @115 mins (at 180C / 350F) + @15 mins (Grill setting at 180 / 350F)

When the ‘cooking time’ has come to an end, stick a skewer into the joint. If the resulting juice runs clear it’s done, and the rind just needs a quick blitz for fifteen to twenty minutes under your ovens ‘grill’ setting to get it to ‘crackle’.   If the juice runs pink, depending upon how big your joint is, give it another thirty minutes,  if still too red, you forgot to switch the oven on, dimwit.

Keep an eye on the joint in the final stage to get the crackling to your taste. This blog cannot be held responsible for results if you aimlessly meander off to do something else while you should have had your mind on the job of cooking. Let the phone and the doorbell ring. They’re probably not anyone important.

Cooking can be held as a metaphor for life in general; pay attention and do things properly and you will be rewarded time out of measure. Be forgetful or unfocussed, and your desired outcome will not happen. Thus you will die a withered husk, embittered and resentful and devoid of the sense of species fellowship good cooking makes of all humanity.

For the ideal accompaniment, roast potatoes (roasties) can be produced simply by heating a dish with a little oil in, throw in uncooked potatoes cut into chunks into the heated dish. flip the potatoes to coat with oil, sprinkle with a little dried Rosemary or Thyme and black pepper. Perchance a mere strinkling of salt. Leave in same oven as joint of pork for an hour and a half or until golden and crispy. Roast parsnips can be prepared in much the same fashion and add a sweet counterpoint to the roasties. Please note; cooking roast potatoes in the same roasting tray as the joint may leave you with soggy roasties, which in my view is not a desirable outcome. Prepare green vegetables of choice. Make gravy in the traditional English manner as outlined here and Robert is one’s Father’s brother.

When the pork is cooked to perfection, lift off crackling, leave meat to ‘rest’ for ten minutes while finishing off veg and gravy. Lay table, slice joint, humbly accept much deserved praise. Be prepared to fight for a portion of crackling.

Have a nice day.

*I have an older model oven for which these cooking times are valid. These timings should not be considered definitive and should only be used as rough guidelines.  There is no substitute for simply paying attention. 

Stirred…..

Just clambering into bed last night when the whole house shook for around five seconds. “I know what that is.” Mrs S and I chorused. “Earth tremor.” Just like a big truck had clipped the house, a big grunt followed by a five second rumble. No damage, just half of Victoria jarred into wakefulness. No fuss, no sirens and no damage to speak of.

Quake MartiniTurns out the epicentre of our little 4.8 Earth grumble was only around twenty kilometres away. Of course we keep on getting told by ‘experts’ that the ‘big one’ will ‘rip Vancouver open like a zipper’ and that we’re all doooooooomed. Well of course we are. All you can do is keep the emergency kit in the car refreshed, and a small grab bag of useful things, like fire and cocktail making materials ready bagged in the closet. A few heavy blankets and some bottled water and we’re good to go. If the big one does come I can build a nice fire quickly because firewood will not be in short supply. No biggie. As for the cocktails, if I’m forced to rough it, I’m going to rough it in style.

On a more sombre note, I hear Lemmy, Ex-Hawkwind Bass player and heavy metal hellraiser has pegged it just two days after a cancer diagnosis. Sad to hear of his going, but surprised to hear that he’d made it to 70. Amazing what you can do if you ignore all the warnings and plough on regardless.

No more Halloweens

As per my last post, I’m not a well cat. Mostly from the side effects of medication. A little light headed and more tired than I should be. So I’ve been resting a lot over the weekend. Nothing much, just chilling and reading. However, being mindful that it was Halloween, I put out some candy at the front door so the kids could help themselves, as that evening I was in no shape to walk down a flight of stairs unaided. This morning I found half the candy we’d left out for them strewn all over my landlady’s front yard.

My response? Oo-kay. I’ll clear up the mess they made this time, but next Halloween the trick or treaters can fuck right off. Ungracious little bastards. So much for being environmentally friendly Canadians.

Naughty

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.

Autre jours, autre choses

There are days when you wish you were younger when you made certain choices in your life, but today hasn’t been one of them. Today I have been indulging in a little light cruelty upon political canvassers. Nothing illegal, quite the opposite, just done with a tiny bit of malicious glee on my part. The ones who ignore our ‘No soliciting’ sign have been getting their basic numeracy and literacy challenged; “How can I vote for someone using people who can’t read?” I said tartly to one idiot who chose to ignore the sign.

Oh yes, we have another local big cat sighting. Is it another, or the same one returned to snack on a student? Considering how tame the wildlife is around these campuses, it wouldn’t surprise me if that happened. I went to an evening lecture at UVIC last month and walked within six feet of a three and a half point buck Mule Deer. The deer didn’t blink, even when I took a flash photo below. I bet that’s what the Cougars are coming after. Tame food. Yum.
Mule Deer Buck UVICThose of you who click on the photo and see the blueness of my little pocket cameras flash reflected in this Bucks right eye might be forgiven it was animatronic, or at least controlled by the IT department. Not so. There was another buck and three does within stone kicking distance.

Looks like the local bears are also heading toward human populations as there’s an upsurge in reports from the west of town. Maybe they know something the humans don’t…….

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.

TTFN