Tag Archives: New beginnings

Anti-Viral

Well that’s a piece of good news in amongst all the hand waving hysteria. I refer of course to the two Malarial anti-viral drugs mooted as part of the treatment for cases of Covid-19. Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil, Quineprox), or Chloroquine (Aralen Phosphate, Aralen Hydrochloride). These two specific drugs are usually prescribed as part of both a preventative and treatment regime for Malaria. Mrs S and our girls are familiar with them, having been to the more malarial countries of Africa more than once. The US administration have authorised its use in large scale Covid-19 (a.k.a. the ‘Wu-Flu’) clinical trials, as they’re cheap, relatively easy to get hold of and the side effects and contra-indications are already well known.

Also showing promise is Remdesivir, developed to treat Ebola and Marburg, currently only available in Canada via a Special Access Program. I’ve heard tell that the WHO likes the look of it, but at the moment I think it’s still any port in a storm as far as stemming the Covid-19 pandemic is concerned. Fortunately I’m told these solutions can be rolled out rapidly, as soon as they clear the FDA’s accelerated program, maybe even as early as two or three weeks from now. Subject to favourable results Covid -19 will rapidly turn into a purely logistical, rather than an epidemiological issue.

There’s a lot of detailed professional scepticism which is quite hard to follow in this article and subsequent comment thread, but it’s good to see how a risky matter is being thoroughly addressed. It’s also very educational.

For example, I’d forgotten all about the difference between a nucleoside and nucleotide. Which, given my previous experience, I should know. But memory needs refreshing or it fades after a decade or three. The knowledge is still there in deep storage, but the links have switched. So it takes a while to get back up to speed again.

This does not mean that we should abandon extra attention to better personal hygiene and social distancing, but it will mean that quarantine is not going to be the only way we can beat this nasty bug. Covid-19 is out in the wild now, but at least there is the hope of effective treatment. Which will ultimately mean that people will be able to get back to work, no-one will starve, and we can all get back to fussing over whether someone has ‘mis-gendered’ somebody else, mis-pronounced their name, got their invented and highly personal pronoun wrong or even (Heaven forfend!) hurt their ickle feelings. Or some other ludicrousness construed as a ‘hate crime’.

Upon reflection, I think a societal paradigm shift is well overdue. There’s an episode from Douglas Adam’s radio series ‘the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy’ which outlines a phenomena where society undergoes a complete cultural reversal. Where, and I’m paraphrasing heavily here; people who had once written books about the anguish of spending half an hour alone in their bathroom with a chipped fingernail were now writing books about how they had run marathons and climbed mountains with a perfectly healthy fingernail, but just about everything else broken or falling off.

This pandemic may just be such a moment, when someone who has agonised for months about how someone hurt their precious ickle fi-fi’s suddenly grows up and turns to a more robust lifestyle perhaps even losing a finger or three to a random Rottweiller / Bear / whatever and still be able to play complex riffs perfectly on their beat up Fender strat copy with half it’s strings missing. Men will once more become real men, women will become real women, and anyone in between will stop caring about what they’re called and we can all get on with our day in peace. We may thus consign ‘hate crimes’ to the garbage can of social history. Well I can dream, can’t I?

Just as a matter of interest I used to know a guy who lost most of his fingers to an industrial press, but could still play guitar like Jimi Hendrix on steroids. Seriously, he was a Rock God. Even with all my intact digits I used to feel lame and clumsy in his presence, listening to him launch into ‘all along the watch tower’ note perfect, or do a highly competent Angus Young impersonation (But without the schoolboy outfits) with only three stumps, one and a half thumbs, and the calloused balls of his ex-fingers.

Which begs the question; would he have ever scaled such skillful heights without his injury, or had he not lost his digits would he still be stuck in the same old factory job? There are legions of people out there like my guitar playing example, damaged but choosing to rise above their injury rather than whining their way to obscurity. We rarely hear their stories, yet if we look, they are all around us. Everyday people doing extra-ordinary, but very ordinary things. Because they choose not to be victims.

We are what our choices make us. In my acquaintances case it was running his own music store and a very good tribute band. But he was a joy to listen to.

Looking forward

Well, the champagne (A small bottle of Pol Roger) is on ice, awaiting 3pm Friday 31st, BREXIT day. That’s 3pm Pacific Standard, 11pm UK, midnight in Brussels, or should that be midnight for Brussels? Mrs S just reminded me, but I’d already made preparations.

Rain permitting I will be hanging out the Union flag to rub various noses in it. At least if I see any of the despised circle of stars banners on display in the neighbourhood. I choose to celebrate my countrymen’s decision and success in wresting themselves from the pelagic ooze of Brussels. Good luck chaps. I wish you all well. May the sun always be on your backs and the road rise to meet your feet. I have a seeming that those backing a Bojo led BREXIT have put their money on a winning horse.

My path looks like I shall be taking a different road and despite the current threat of Chinese Coronovirus, Mrs S and I are feeling optimistic. Plans are afoot and so shall we be.

The sad news is that Elderly Friend declines further by the day, her marbles continue to rattle out and down the memory holes of existence. However, that’s dementia for you. Within the next month or two we expect to visit her only to be greeted with a surly “Who the hell are you?” and the door of her sheltered accommodation slammed firmly in our faces. This is a thing we are resigned to facing. It’s part of the downside of being a Power of Attorney, but one you have to expect. All we can do is play along with her continual confabulations and await the long-dreaded phone call from the staff. She might see one more Spring, she might not, but at the current rate of decline I think she’ll be pushing up the daisies before they break bud. We’ll sigh, Mrs S will cry a little and I will do the honours like we did for her husband back in 2011. My goodness, was it that long ago?

Notwithstanding, the future beckons and we must heed its call, stepping up to the challenges we are set.

May our gods go with us.

Happy independence day UK.

Merry whatever

These are strange times when even wishing someone well can elicit a hate crime prosecution. Despite this, I am feeling pretty optimistic for the New Year what with a successful BREXIT being on the cards, want to wish my last remaining reader all the best for the festering season. Solstice, Christmas, Yule, whatever; and if you’re offended by that there is no hope for your diseased and raddled soul.

Here’s an old favourite of mine to pass the flowing bowl around to. Unless you’re one of the perpetually offended, in which case you do not love yourself and will find that very few others do.

See you in the New Year.

Democrats in name only

There are a lot of people like this. Democrats in name only or DINO’s (Pronounced to rhyme with Rhino’s) They lose a democratic vote, or can’t win by the pre-agreed rules of the game, then get all precious and clutch their pearls when their guy loses. Or refuse to accept a democratic vote and get all bent out of shape when those who actually won cry “Foul!”.

There’s far too much of this from the political class. They have forgotten who they are supposed to serve. Perhaps they need reminding? Just in case it’s slipped their mind. You know how easy that is. Busy taking cheap shots at each other and virtue signalling, calling people names. Well, there’s just so much to do.

Now they’ve shifted the putative date for BREXIT to October 31st 2019. Well, well, well. I will actually be in London that day and look forward to whatever events unfold. Parliament Square anyone? This should make for a Halloween worthy of remembrance. Or bonfire night. I’m quite looking forward to seeing the fireworks first hand.

If the wife lets me.

Service guarantees citizenship.

Are they mad?

Over here in BC we’re watching the farrago of BREXIT with a heavy sigh in our hearts, all I can do from this side of the pond is shake my head in astonishment and quote Malvolio from Shakespeare’s 12th Night:

My masters, are you mad? Or what are you? Have you no wit, manners, nor honesty, but to gabble like tinkers at this time of night? Do you make an ale-house of my lady’s house, that you squeak out your coziers’ catches without any mitigation or remorse of voice? Is there no respect of place, persons, nor time in you?

This is how the current shenanigans of the UK Parliament look to me. There is no rhyme or reason to the remainers antics. They, like my Brother in law, are behaving like a bunch of spoiled brats. If they cannot have their way to stay in the EU as their corporate masters dictate, then they will abuse every parliamentary tactic at this late stage of the game to throw spanners in the works and thwart the democratic mandate.

The EU has done a great deal of damage to blighty over the last forty years, from the decimation of UK Fisheries and Agriculture to hamstringing certain areas of commerce and continually attempting to move the major banking centres in the UK over to places like Frankfurt. The European Union post Maastricht and Lisbon devolved into one long slow motion car wreck. Not to mention the selling out by the Major, Blair and Brown administrations.

However, minded as I am to look on the bright side, as my deck garden is doing well, we do indeed have germination.

One thing did strike me today as I looked south to the vast snow capped peaks of the Olympic Mountains. I am beginning to look at the current period of populism and overturning of the old order as the dawning of a new enlightenment. Like in the late 18th and early 19th century. Maybe we’ll get a better form of democracy. Not discredited old ideas like Socialism, but something better, which prevents usurpation by NGO’s and vested interests. A less easily manipulated media. The parallels, at least to my mind, are out there if you look. Or is that me being hopelessly naive?

Oh what the hell, you can call me a dreamer… Sounds like a song lyric, doesn’t it?

Whole lotta shakin’

Well actually no. Despite three big quakes hitting within reach of Vancouver Island at 11 last night, all I can tell you is that the Sticker household might have been shaken, but not stirred in the slightest. Not really surprising as the tremors were geologically speaking on the other side of the Juan De Fuca fault zone. Which means that, although I was sitting at my desk at the time, I never felt a thing. Not a grumble, rumble or anything else going ‘umble’ in any way shape or form. Now this may be down to the quality of my office chair, which is very comfy indeed. However, my six ten inch(!) tall Lemon tree plants never moved a micron on their window-ledge perches. Nothing shook or even essayed the faintest shimmy. So I think we dodged a bullet there.

Now of course this could be a precursor to something I think of as the ‘Great unzipping’, where 700 miles of the North American West Coast undergoes a massive 9.0 plus Richter scale event, one which we’re often told is way overdue. However, when the Cascadia fault does go, we’d all better be good at learning to surf, really, really quickly. At least in downtown Victoria, where a three or four metre Tsunami would put a crimp in everyone’s day. The Sticker household not so much, as we’re a hundred plus metres above sea level. Although we have been hearing unexplained booming noises over the weekend, which might be the Yanks trying something secret out of Puget Sound, where their big Naval base is.

Central Washington University geology professor Nick Zentner has an interesting lecture on the topic. Could be another hundred and ninety years until the next great unzipping, or it could be tomorrow. Who says Mrs S and I don’t like living dangerously?

Update: At 12:02 PST today (Tuesday) I was mildly startled by a loud booming noise that actually rattled my office window.  Checked the online seismographs – nothing.  No quake reports, nothing in the newspapers or online news, nada.  But it was just like an explosion had happened nearby.  Yet construction explosions don’t sound like this and are always muffled by blast mats.  Curiouser and curiouser…..

Excuse me for a minute or two.

The new job I’ve taken on is one of those you really really hate after a while. Not because it’s that difficult, just that I have to interact with smug NPC bureaucrats who have to follow their obstructive rules ‘cos it more than their job’s worth to meet me half way. I don’t get this kind of dumb insolence dealing with the private sector.

Between them and my employers asking me to do the highly improbable, I’m having a real ‘Dave’ kind of a day.

Travelling again…

Next step of our journey looms. Amsterdam and all points Dutch. A Switch of beers from Tuborg to Heineken. From apartment to hotel. A few points further south. Day trips to the Hague and similar are planned.

As cities go I’ve enjoyed our stay in Copenhagen. Very easy to walk, very flat. Picturesque, with few buildings more than seven storeys tall. Also undergoing a couple of large scale redevelopments in the centre. I wouldn’t want to drive here, that’s a certainty. This is not a vehicle friendly city, even if it is mostly a friendly city. Fine to visit, but like most capital cities, very expensive to live in.

Youngest, although she’s not a girl any more but an intelligent young woman in her own right, capable of making her own way in the world, has gone back to jolly old Londinium to continue her work of trying to sort other people’s legal lives for them. She has a solid network of friends and associates now, some quite highly placed in her section of the legal firmament, so needs very little assistance, either emotional or financial, from us. ‘Youngest’ no longer seems an adequate term because although she’ll always be the second born, she’s earned the right to a more flattering label. Something will come to me.

I notice the two minute media hate is still spewing against the President Trump who has actually been talking to those naughty Russkians instead of listening to the constant litany of ‘Russia is bad’ propaganda, which gets us nowhere. Newsflash kiddies – this is not the old Stalinist Soviet Union we’re dealing with here, they’re mostly democratic and quite capitalist nowadays and definitely not filling mass graves with tens of millions like they used to in the bad old socialist and communist days. So why aren’t we talking to them? Jaw-jaw is better than war-war, as Winston Churchill once put it. Trade better than conflict. All right, Putin jails the odd journalist, but so does everyone else. The Russians are just more open about it. They have a robust attitude, which is to their credit.

Eldest has been to Russia and recommends Moscow and St Petersburg as Summer tourist destinations. So a trip there might be worth the price of a visa. There’s a lot of Russian tourists here in Copenhagen if these old ears don’t deceive me. Just like there are a lot of Americans. I’ve picked up a pdf copy of ‘Russian for Dummies’ and over Winter will be trying to gain a smattering of Russian so we can at least navigate and negotiate our way around.

Evil travel planning

Travel planning today for our July trip over the big eastern water to jolly old Londinium and points east and south. Double checking bookings, passports etcetera and making sure that we have the finances in place for the Copenhagen leg of the trip, which is all Danish Kroner. Then back to Euro’s for Amsterdam and France. Sterling is the least of our worries.

One of the things that has flagged up in our discussions is the increased crime rate in London. So we asked Youngest for a few handy hints, as she is our resident legal eagle in the great metrollops. First piece of advice she came up with is not to stand on a street corner with a map or cell phone in your hands discussing where to go. This marks you out as a ‘tourist’ and is an open invitation to the opportunist bicycle or moped shod thieves to swoop in and nick your stuff. So she suggested we do our map reading and route planning in a handy coffee shop or bar. Much more civilised. Safer too. So that is what we will do.

Aside from our impending trip all potters along steadily Chez Maison Sticker. My potted out Lemon tree seedlings are merrily pushing tiny leaflets up into the light. Out on our little deck garden most of the seeds Mrs S and I have planted have germinated and are in leaf. The rose has put out it’s first blood red blossoms, and the rain it raineth this morning. Which is good. In a small way.

Something else which might turn out well is the denuclearisation deal being done with the North Koreans. See the video below, whose clear persuasive message is quite compelling and is obviously designed to hit Kim Jong thingummy right in the ego. Hey you, young man. Want to be a really great leader? Get the prosperity like your neighbours? Sign here and put those dangerous toys away. We’ve got something better. There’s basketball too! Yes, I know it’s a Farcebook video, but someone who really understands people put it together, so I’m happy to share.

Wonder if the same kind of sales oriented approach would work with the Middle East? Selling the idea of prosperity rather than some wishy-washy idea of compelled ‘niceness’ and the odd handout. Well I like it. Palestine being open for business rather than just being a war zone? A shifted focus. A different zeitgeist. It could well happen. Of course my inner realist says that it won’t all be a bed of roses (Watch for those thorns buddy!), but it’s a way better idea than the current bed of nails.

Planting out

The time has come the Walrus said; to talk of many things
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax — Of cabbages — and kings — And why the sea is boiling hot — And whether pigs have wings
.

Right, the time came today to plant out my germinated lemon seeds. All thirteen (!) of which have germinated and have begun putting out tiny rootlets. So I potted all of them out this morning, watered them in and will keep these precious tiny Lemon seedlings indoors in my office until the warmer weather arrives. Because it still gets very cold at night, even in June here on the Canadian Riviera. As evidenced by our Geranium’s leaves going red with cold stress, so yesterday we brought them inside to recover. Likewise, some of our Sweet Peas and Nasturtiums have the look of being lightly scorched around the edges, a clear sign of unseasonal cold. The hardier plants, like my Indonesian Lime, perennial herbs and the rose bush have been doing okay but the more delicate items, like our Geraniums, have been suffering more than a little. Based on the aforementioned the plan is to keep the Lemon seedlings and similar outdoors during July, August and September where they will be tended by our automatic watering system. But not until then. When the weather cools we’ll bring them in to the sunny part of the kitchen for the Autumn, Winter and early Spring. In the depths of Winter when snow and ice abound we’re planning to transfer our more delicate blossoms to hibernate in the Garage with the Geraniums for occasional watering by our Landlord while we’re away in January / February 2019.

What I’m going to do with a kitchen full of home grown Citrus fruit plants I have no idea, but this is simply an experiment to see if growing such verdancy can be achieved in BC. Note to self; I may need to invest in one of those big fcuk off machetes they stock in all our big outdoor stores if things go well. Especially if the Avocado kicks off like I’m hoping. The little bulge in it’s bottom grows larger by the day, and should break out by the weekend after next. Maybe even within the week. I’ve never grown an Avocado plant from seed before, so all this is new territory.

Mind you, on the topic of machetes, anyone can make one with a power hacksaw blade using an angle grinder. Available from many industrial tool suppliers, even in the UK. I used to have one such fourteen inch double edged blade as a weed whacker many years ago. Great tool to go camping with. Good for cutting down and splitting dead saplings for firewood. Made from High Speed Steel so it never lost it’s edge. Gave it away in the end to a mate who wanted it for clearing the long grass at his favourite riverside haunt. A modern urban SJW would have a screaming fit and call the cops if they so much as saw one. Presumably because they’re so paranoid they think everyone is out to hurt them. Which isn’t true by the way. No one I know really cares enough about ‘social justice campaigners’ to do anything but avoid them like the plague. Or wind them up and watch them run. Whichever happens to be most fun at the time.

All of which is rather academic. Such people cannot make anything grow faster or slower. Or indeed do anything but make life exceptionally tedious for others. Seeds and greenery have their own laws and seasons. Which are a much better type of vegetable matter.

Best Christmas message ever

Got a letter today. An old fashioned honest to goodness handwritten letter on ten pages of paper written in real pen from one of my two surviving Aunts. It absolutely has made my entire Christmas because it’s helped me reconnect with people who I didn’t think cared I still existed. My extended family. The pages repeatedly scanned today could not have been more precious if they were written in diamond on 24 carat solid platinum sheets. All right, my Aunt hand wrote the letter because her printer ran out of ink and my cousins won’t be visiting until next weekend to buy and fit a new cartridge for her, but as I read my crusty old eyes were almost moved to sentimental tears. Even if she hadn’t sent a Christmas card, this was far better.

I say better because all the sentiment within was genuine, not forced or the grisly secondhand saccharine sloppiness or ghastly lame humour of the usual run of Christmas cards. The letter was chock full of the dark humour typical of my clan, stuffed with information on a branch of the family who I thought had forgotten all about yours truly decades ago. Some of the news was sad, about a distant aunt and uncle who have left this world, but more was happy because people I used to love and trust, and think I still do, are still around and sinning despite all life’s vicissitudes. No, none of us do ‘Social media’, we have real lives. We connect in four dimensions not the two of Farcebook or Twatter.

Which gladdens my scabby blackened old heart. As my good lady wife observed having noticed my smile; “Well, something undid a twist in your soul Bill.” With which I agree, because I feel part of my own special river of humanity again. Connected. No longer as distant or excluded. And you know what? It feels good and it’s the best Christmas present I’ve had for decades. Possibly the best seasonal missive I’ve ever had.

Honestly, I’ve come over all North Brummagem.

I’ve been told that some of our lot are visiting Oz at the same time Mrs S and I are. It would be interesting to run into them and see what they’re really like, or if we’ll even recognise each other after so much time estranged. Family, eh? Who knew?

By bread alone

Man does not not live by bread alone. At least goes the biblical quote from Matthew 4:4. Which is kind of the introduction into a matter of diet. Mrs S and I have given up bread. And rice, pasta, flour, noodles and potatoes.

So apparently have brother and sister in law in the fabled land of Oz. Like us they’ve given up on chocolate and sugar entirely. Which some might find a little extreme, but honestly chums, I feel much better for it. Now you might be forgiven for thinking this expensive, but considering the price of bread over here, the cost of two reasonable quality loaves buys a pound and a half of steak once a week. The elimination of chocolate, sugar and other candy pays for more fish like Salmon, which is almost a basic staple over here. And of course there’s room in the budget for more bacon. Especially as I’ve found a decent butcher in our locale who actually knows their meats. They do four (Thank you God) varieties of proper dry cured bacon although I eschew the sugar maple cured stuff.

For her part Mrs S is eating more full fat yoghurt rather than that awful low-fat garbage with the strange aftertaste, and I’ve even taken a liking to garlic stir fried Taiwanese Cabbage of all things. Indeed our consumption of low carbohydrate vegetables has more than doubled. Which pleases Mrs S because she harbours the idea that vegetarianism is somehow virtuous. Odd how a lot of women feel this way. I of course, choose to differ. Meat is my métier.

Essentially what we’ve done is cut all the fattening starch and stodge out of our diets. Which does lead to a few strange looks from waiting staff when we go out for lunch and stipulate no fries or potato and definitely no bread. However, a good steak with buttered Asparagus is always a sound choice. We snack on Hickory smoked Almonds instead of popcorn or sweets when we rent or go and see a movie. I’ve even got to the point where I can easily out-stare a large bar of Cadbury’s Dairy milk fruit and nut without a single pang.

One issue I’ve been struggling with is sauces. So many require a roux of flour and water as a thickener, I’d almost given up hope of tasting the delights of a good thick gravy like substitute. And I do love lovely thick British style gravy. Fortunately, the jolly old interweb has ridden to the rescue to provide the outline recipe for a remoulade Cajun sauce. Which I have since refined to the recipe below.

A quarter of a large Red Pepper (Fresh Red cabbage can be substituted if no peppers)
Half a stalk of Celery
One Green (Spring) Onion
A quarter cup of fresh Parsley (Not dried)
Half a cup of full on Mayonnaise
Half a cup of full fat Sour Cream or Creme Fraiche (Creme Fraiche is best)
Two heaped teaspoons of Dijon Mustard
Two heaped teaspoons of Horseradish
A shake or two of Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce
A shake or two of Tabasco
Two heaped teaspoons of Paprika
Four heaped teaspoons of crushed Tomatoes or two medium size tomatoes
A third of a teaspoon of Cayenne pepper

Throw it all in a blender and puree until relatively smooth. It will come out pink, but this is good stuff which warms the mouth without setting it ablaze. Serve hot or cold. Just don’t boil it on the reheat. If you’ve gone down the red cabbage route, this sauce develops a fresh crunchy texture that never tires.

To serve, put a small amount in a side dish bowl, something about three or four inches across for immediate use at the table. Heat it in the microwave if you like. Stick the rest in the fridge or freezer. This sauce keeps. If it lasts that long. It also survives being repeatedly thawed and heated, even in a microwave. Goes pretty well with Steak, Chicken, Pork or Fish. Which is nice. It’s an all rounder with plenty of roundness and flavour.

Haven’t tried it with poached eggs, but I’ve found a quick and easy way to make fresh Hollandaise which is wonderfully buttery and mouthwateringly moreish over Asparagus. Then there’s the delight of French style omelettes, which kick the dessicated flat North American type into touch.  See Below.

Yes the dropping of starch and sugar has been challenging from a cooks perspective, but I don’t miss the rice, potatoes or starch and my waistline is thanking me for it. As for the substitute for cornstarch for a roux, I’ve been experimenting with Psyllium Husk powder, although so far some of the results have been disturbingly motile.

Will report back on this topic once I’ve cracked the method.

TTFN.

The future of transport

There’s a lot of political motion about transport at the present moment. First there’s the ban on sales of Internal Combustion Engine powered vehicles from 2040, which California looks like replicating in order to ‘save the planet’. These impending bans to reduce air pollution due to ICE powered vehicles are all well intentioned but one is tempted to ask, what will said proscriptions actually achieve?

For practical purposes not much, because the nature of logistics within cities is already changing. But the future does not lie with self driving electric cars. Nor electric cars or any variant thereof. Except on an extremely limited scale. For reasons as discussed here. The changes that are coming are more far reaching than a simple change in how tin boxes are powered and controlled. For a given value of ‘simple’. Which has already turned into a whole different, and over-subsidised bunch of complicated.

For example; both Mrs S and I ‘telecommute’ every day using video and other online messaging services, rarely needing to physically visit clients or sites more than once a year. Up until ten years ago our jobs didn’t, couldn’t exist. But thanks to the dear old Interweb, we earn a reasonable crust and pay our way in the world without too much drama. Yes, we have a car, and in the next five years this will have to be replaced and a motorcycle added to our means of getting about two or three times a week. But we don’t need to commute every day. Which adds hours to our productive working days. Which means we can pick our time of day to go out to enjoy a bit of a drive. As well as keep things up to snuff at home without losing precious ‘us’ time. And there’s a growing number like us who don’t have to turn up at the office to put in a (very) full day’s work. We’re also contractors, so we don’t show up in public employment stats. Like the people who run small businesses off a laptop over a coffee shops wi-fi link and cell phone. There’s part of the future, and it’s already here.

The coming changes will be as radical as the migration of methods between travel by horse and the first steam powered railways and they are right on our doorstep. Indeed, delivery companies and start-ups are already experimenting with what was up until recently merely a toy. Especially in heavily congested areas. Particularly for small, highly specialised manufacturers and distributors. Amazon have been running trials and there are a bunch of other startups which recognise that where drones will really come into their own is in the short run courier business, at first as an adjunct to, then as a replacement for, inner city bicycle and motorcycle couriers. Point to point small packages, high speed and high security with the capability to home in on a mobile phone or tablet so that no matter where the recipient is within a given radius, they will be able to receive a physical document or critical replacement part at exactly the time the text or component are required. Or medical supplies on a Just in time basis.

As for personal transport, no matter how it is powered, as the ability to deliver to a precise location at an exact time improves, the need for someone to physically get in a car and drive across town to an appointment or to hire an expensive courier will slowly decrease, therefore so will the road congestion of the inner cities. In short, we’ll stop needing to drive everywhere quite so much. That’s where the future lies. Not Electric Self driving cars. Batteries will never be that good, but they will be good enough to transport small packages a hundred miles or so. Like John Hopkins Medicine managed with this trial, beating Team Roadrunners previous 97 mile record, set in May 2017. In the UK, Centrica have run trials for remote inspection of production sites out in Morecambe bay. And that’s only three examples.

This is the way real change for the better begins. Not with governments, but with people utilising an idea in new ways.

Now there is a major impediment. Legislation. Whether lawmakers fail or succeed to address the benefits of point to point lightweight deliveries. From a purely safety perspective, Drones with semi-autonomous Artificial Intelligence packages can be made to navigate crowded airspace to and from sensitive locations, but this must be mandated by clear laws that lay down a simple legal framework for the new technology to operate within. Simply banning their use does nothing but stave off the inevitable.

Of course, early adopters will (and probably do) already include your friendly local illicit substance provider and smuggler. A drone that can fly more than twenty plus kilometres carrying a kilo or two of whatever substance the market demands is no more detectable than a bird. The only real risks to drones being the territorial instincts of large birds, such as with Wedge Tailed Eagles in Australia, or the French and Dutch Police training Bald Eagles to take down unauthorised UAV’s.

On the topic of drone interdiction, Mr Trumps much vaunted border wall is no more use than the proverbial chocolate teapot at preventing cross border drug trafficking by drone. Short of shooting at everything that crosses a certain line, and that would be simply impractical. For example, two people with backpack sized controls and half a dozen drones could run rings around any number of border guards, eliminating the risks and expense of human ‘mules’ and couriers across say, the US-Mexican or US-Canadian borders. Who is to say this is not already happening. Because it already is.

Thus far, even prison walls have proved little use against drones, like with this smuggling operation into a prison. Although contrariwise, Enforcement monitoring Drones will be, (are and have been) used to remotely monitor and detect illegal activity so that flying squads of border agents can home in and make arrests. However, so far these drones are of the larger, military types and have so far proven uneconomic, but as quadcopter technology improves, the cost per enforcement unit will decrease. For example; Los Angeles Police Department is even experimenting with smaller drones.

What overall effect this technology may have on cities is covered in this interesting little TED talk by Julio Gil (See below). And he’s right. The technology is almost with us. In fact it’s so close early adopters are already using much of it. The rest is trying methodologies until we find one that really works.

I particularly like his idea of the mobile drone delivery platform. Post office or delivery van pootles down suburban or rural road while a squadron of drones busily drop mail and small packages off on doorsteps leaving the driver (and maybe a helper for the heavier stuff) free to concentrate on dropping off the bigger packages. Maybe even some form of pickup device could be provided to save on postal delivery people having to traipse around emptying mailboxes. Drone picks up your mail, reads a printed address bar code or number and pre-sorts it before the delivery van even arrives back at the distribution hub.

While much of the above may be conjecture one thing is certain; the future is almost here, and that future contains Drones.

Update:  You know that naughty man (Well, most of the lamestream pundits say he is) who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC?  Well, kiddies, he’s just signed an executive order enabling the testing of Drone Technology for deliveries and the FAA has just given CNN a waiver for camera drone flights to take place over crowds.  So yes, the future is closer than we think.  Cool.

I know those streets


…the streets of Barcelona. It’s one of the jewels of continental Europe and now the ground zero of the Catalan secession movement. I’ve sat and drunk coffee in front of the main cathedral, listened to the chatter around me, navigated the nearby flagstoned alleyways and peoplewatched the other tourists being startled by the dozen or so living statue mime artists that make a living at the foot of the Cathedral steps. It is one of my favourite European cities, one with a cultural identity you could bend rebar around. Like Seville, but not so much Madrid.

Now the Catelonians have voted for independence in a referendum the Madrid government and probably the EU, didn’t want them to have. The actions of the National Police riot squad have become global news which the Madrid government has totally mishandled. See this report from CGTN Africa below.

Regardless of whether the referendum itself was illegal, riot police beating up old ladies people for no better reason than they wanted to vote is like pointing a loaded gun at your foot, pulling the trigger and wondering why it hurts so bloody much. There is no way that is protecting anyone’s rights, or any form of justice, as claimed by the Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, save that of wielding naked power for it’s own sake. Reporters on the ground say even the local city cops or ‘Mossos’, got in the way of the cruise shipped in riot police when ‘unofficial’ polling stations were raided. See the France24 video below and the linked story on RT.

And you thought that BREXIT was a big issue. Think of it this way, the Catalans are getting a dose of what the Spanish authorities have been doling out to the Basque since before 1876. This time however, the ‘rebels’ have tried to do things the right way, the peaceful and democratic way, yet the heavy hand of the Spanish authoritarian state has fallen upon them. As many libertarians and those who have fallen foul of any government department would say; “The State is not your friend.”

Update: After reading around and doing a little historical background I note that this is not the first ‘illegal’ referendum on Catalan independence.  The last was 2014 and before that smaller versions throughout 2009 to 2011.

Here’s a post referendum interview from Vlogger Tim Pool of expat journalist Simon Harris who is based in Barcelona.  Very enlightening insider perspective on Spanish political attitudes.

 

Interesting times

My, my. We do live in interesting times. Niall Ferguson argues in his “Five ingredients for a populist backlash” talk about why we are where we are using history, from 1873 onwards;

While he doesn’t give any definitive answers, he does give a broad brushstroke picture of what will result. Which for small time investors and currency speculators like me are useful straws in the wind. I like Niall, he’s not afraid to admit when he gets it wrong, especially over BREXIT. Unlike so many others in academia.

What I’m hearing about is political and economic forces similar to those which resulted in ‘la Belle Epoque’. There will be a few hiccups along the way, but as the EU collapses because that organisation is correctly observed to be little better than a hollow bureaucratic shell to fund lavish lifestyles for European ‘elites’. I foresee a new, more localist optimism driving economic growth, and the fading of many bugaboos like the anti-human notions of man made climate change and similarly pointless divisiveness of identity politics. A new liberalism of less government, greater individualism and wealth awaits over the next decade or two for those who are willing to embrace this nascent trend. Those that do not face obscurity and the scratching pens of scholars trying to work out how ‘progressive’ politics got it so badly wrong. The ‘elites’ amongst them. Word is leaking out that they’re beginning to lose big, and like Soros and his ilk, are doubling down on political interventionism while billions leak out of their back pockets.

There’s a lot going on out in the big wide financial world with talk of Marine Le Pen’s bid for the French Presidency and possible ‘FREXIT’ vote. Not to mention the possible Italian ‘Uscitalia’ (Thanks Peter) I’ll also be keeping a close eye on the proposed Catalonia referendum vote scheduled for late 2017. As well as the Chinese doing a possible deal with the US over Alaskan oil. Which will spell yet more pain for the politically hobbled Alberta oil sands. Which are some of the reasons why I’ll be going short on the Euro and Canadian Dollar but long on the US Dollar and Sterling.