Tag Archives: Observations

Dog days

Hot sunny days with nothing much happening at present. Mrs S is popping out for her weekly physio on her busted wing, which seems to be healing nicely. All our paperwork is up to date, the usual silly season stuff permeates the press, and various crises grumble on. I have little to contribute, so while the opportunity exists I’m going to do what my dog used to; lie down and enjoy the warmth now that the short spell of weekend rain has passed. Just listening to birdsong and chilling.

While it’s this warm there’s a knack to managing the airflow through our little apartment to keep it at a pleasant temperature. Other places we’ve lived have become stuffy and uncomfortable on days like these, but the natural breeze from leaving the north facing window in my office and the front window open makes for a very comfortable working environment.

As for news, I haven’t read a UK online newspaper properly for weeks, and to tell you the truth I think I’m happier for it. The British press do love to dramatise, don’t they? Hell, I’ve gotten to the point that if they state that the sky is blue, I’ll take a look out the window to check.

There are still figs on the tree outside my office window, which are nice when ripe and sweet, but there are so few of them left that we’re leaving them to the Ravens. My own experiment with processing the crop is now in its second phase, having scooped out the inner cores and added a little brown sugar and put them aside to steep for a few days before Vodka is added. So far it’s looking good. A report on taste and intoxicating effects may be forthcoming.

TTFN

Still here then?

Well, we’re back. Enjoying a nice cool breezy day or three after the all-encompassing heat of the last seven. Mrs S and I are indulging our new found tastes for things like ‘Moscow Mule‘ cocktails. The ingredients for which are Vodka, lime juice and Ginger beer (Not ale, not enough Ginger). Very quaffable. Mrs S does like Cosmopolitans, but we didn’t have any of the right liqueur (Cointreau) in house, so I had to adapt and improvise with Stolichnaya. On its own, Ginger beer with a shot of Roses lime cordial over ice is very nice, but add Vodka and a generous squeeze of real lime and well, you’ll have to try it for yourself.

The various global crises keep grumbling on. The Greeks constantly wanting more money to pay their old age pensions, then shifting the bills onto someone else continues. The Chinese economic woes. Iran getting nuclear technology so they can build atomic bombs (That’s not going to end well). A surprise medical bill for four thousand Euro’s that should have been paid by our insurance company which has led to several frantic phone calls. Pension paperwork coming at us from all directions. Oh what jolly bloody fun. I’m not even of pensionable age yet, and they’re going to change the rules yet again. Good job I won’t be relying on a pension then. Hey ho. We’re taking it all in our stride.

Well, we’ve had a thoroughly nice time in the USA, apart from a few navigation hiccups on Saturday because our SatNav had a minor nervous breakdown caused by all the roadworks off the I-5 into south Tacoma. We had a wander around the American Car Museum and saw these. American 1930s classics Which cost the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of modern dollars in their day, such were the costs of hand coach building, even during the height of the American depression of the 1920’s and 30’s. Oh yes, and from the triumph of hope over experience department, these examples of Electric vehicles; Electric cars from the 20th century Their modern descendants only possible because of massive subsidies. While electric cars are superficially economical, they will always remain a fringe technology until the fuel / refuel issues can be fully addressed, or failing that, a small molten salt nuclear reactor, hydrogen or other non battery technology becomes practical for personal transport. You can probably hear the sound of my breath not being held from half a world away. Until a long time hence we’re probably stuck with the reliable(ish) Internal Combustion Engine. Seven litre Chevvy CamaroWhich on the plus side, has given us beauties like this Seven litre Chevrolet Camaro. It couldn’t match something like a Porsche on European roads of course, but on North American highways, it has the legs and legroom to just eat up those endless miles.

For those who protest about how much energy those naughty Gringos use, they forget the large distances between towns. You can walk down to the store to get the groceries, but that walk will take a long, long time. They also forget that continental North America is a bloody big place, and therefore tends to suffer from more extremes. Everything is bigger over here. Weather, distances, trees, and also the average fast food restaurant customer. We are talking three hundred pounds and upwards.

Anyway, back home in the more environmentally friendly land of British Columbia, I’ve just been given about twenty pounds of fresh figs which I have to find a use for. Do I make some preserve? Chop a few then soak in Vodka? Make Fig rolls (yum). Put a few out to ripen in my office? Apparently there’s a trick with a dab of Extra Virgin Olive Oil which hastens ripening. See these posts on a gardening forum. Treating figs with motor oil, we have been assured, does not work. At least if you want something vaguely edible afterwards. I may do all these things. There may be a progress report.

Bye for now.

Road trip, day four, hiatus

Back at the Pacific coast for a forty eight hour pause in the relentless round of road running. Although I will say this; Route 126 from Eugene, Oregon, out to the coast is a delight to drive. The bends are cambered, which in my book adds to the driving experience. I’ve mentally bookmarked it for a motorcycle ride sometime in the next twelve to eighteen months. It’s that good. Over fifty kilometres of lovely swooping right and left handers reminiscent of some great stretches of UK tarmac from my Halcyon riding days. Only there’s way more of it with nicer scenery and less traffic. Oh yes, and it’s currently being freshly resurfaced. Go for a run if you’re in the district in late August, early September.

The only downside of the Pacific coast, at least from what we’ve found in Oregon, is finding that a great deal of it is Pay-per-view. It is also very windy at the moment. Very sunny, but the breeze is stiff enough to thicken gravy. Then there are the jellyfish. Thousands of the little buggers, so barefoot isn’t a very intelligent choice in footwear at the waters edge. Miles and miles of sand though. All the way from California and northbound to Washington. Which the wind blows into metre deep drifts all over the beach. Some of the more mature dunes are as high as a block of condos and a bright yellowy white.

On an even nicer note, Mrs S treated me to a brand new Skagen Titanium wristwatch yesterday, which I wasn’t expecting. She said it was an apology for all the extra aggro I’ve been putting up with over the past few weeks since she broke her arm. Well, I have been more of a body servant, chauffeur, scribe and general factotum than usual. But it is nice to have the extra effort recognised. I like Titanium watches, the metal is light, matches your body temperature so much that you hardly know you’re wearing one. On the other hand it may have been because I was less than my usual decisive self and she wanted me to simply get a move on. She could have said “Bill.” In her meaning voice which would have done just as well.

Anyway. We have beer and Jameson’s in the hotel fridge. Some has even found its way down my willing throat, me havin such a terrible thirst, begorrah, said he, indulging his inner Irishman. I’ve also been introduced to the delights of Double Stuf heads and tails Oreos. Oh, the calories, the calories!

We’re both having a thoroughly splendid time. Hope you are too.

Road trip, Day three

Right, we’ve made it down to Oregon of all places. Down from the bleak vastness of the High Chaparral to the lush lower reaches of the Columbia river valley. Past four major hydro-electric dams and tens of square kilometres of those next best thing to useless twirly things.

When it comes to describing the good old US of A, the word ‘vast’ is so inadequate. ‘Huge’ is a vapid description of something so big that merely being humungous can only go halfway to describing a hundredth of the open country we’ve passed through. Towering waterfalls, highways so straight that their vanishing point disappears half way to the horizon. I thought Canada was big, but we mostly snuggle close to the 49th parallel to keep warm in winter. The US is, how should I put it, more three dimensional, spreading down from the 49th Parallel to the Mexican border. It’s almost like dipping a toe in the total perspective vortex.

Gas, or petrol is about a third cheaper then back home and doled out in US gallons, which are smaller than Imperial measure, 3.785 litres as opposed to 4.546. Which has made the conversion in my headometer run a little slower than usual when checking out the prices. I’m sure there’s an ap for this function, but I haven’t downloaded it yet. Growing up when I did, we had Imperial to Metric conversion drilled into us until it became second nature. Even now I can freely convert from pounds and pence into the old pounds, shillings and pence. Funny the way some things stay with you, isn’t it?

Hotels are good, the food is okay, but our southern cousins do have a predilection for frying everything, so the cuisine is not up to Parisian standards. Although their steaks are bloody wonderful. If there’s one thing the yanks do really well it’s a steak. Not burgers, but thumb thick slabs of juicy pinkness. The aftereffects of consuming a 10oz include making my stomach hug my spine as it goes ‘thank you – thank you’. So I’m in pretty good humour.

Short drive starting today, down to the West coast to begin the northbound leg of our trip. Listening to some of the locals talk about distance the other day, I noticed that they talk of journey times, not in miles or kilometres, but in hours. But in a country this size, it makes perfect sense.

Road trip, day two.

Clint Eastwood riding palelyWell that was interesting. Yesterday we started off pootling through thickly forested landscapes reminiscent of Upper BC, only to end up scooting down the Columbia River valley. This is territory I can only describe as ‘the Big lonely’, endless dry grass, horizon spanning expanses of chaparral, sagebrush and tumbleweed. I fully expected to see Clint Eastwood and his mule riding out of the East to greet us. Some of the tumbleweed we actually saw tumbling. Which was a sight more active than the crop of Wind Turbines we passed through.

I mean who takes these colossal wastes of money seriously? They only generate a maximum of twenty percent of rated capacity and rely on an unpredictable source. When that source isn’t available, they need energy from the grid to keep turning so their bearings don’t seize up. As a means of serious energy generation, they’re a very bad joke. Unless of course you’re one of those with their nose in the subsidies trough. Same for electric cars. They’re hardly any better than those built a hundred years ago. A dead end, junky technology that only really exists because of taxpayer dollar.

Anyway, that’s besides the point. This morning we’re back over the Cascade range of mountains and heading towards the jolly old Pacific Ocean before turning Northbound to head up the Coastal Highway. Hotels and ferries are booked, our fuel tank is full, the horizon beckons. There’s a whole world out there to explore. Well, a couple of States anyway.

TTFN.

And away we go!

We’re off! Away from conferences and nitpicking fine detail, away from the smoke shrouded hills of upper BC. Away from the terrible Vegetarian food which even some stalwart Vegans on the team were calling tasteless. Maybe the conference won’t be held at that place next year. I think the only thing stopping a lynch mob being formed for the catering staff is that lynching is so un-Canadian. Although from some of the grimaces I observed, there were definitely a few people who could have been persuaded.

On the final day we scooted off after the last meeting, only to run into a four hour delay, not at the US border, which we were expecting, but on the Sea to Sky southbound, where two motorcyclists got hurt hitting a Jeep Cherokee that had allegedly run out of petrol and had stopped in the outside lane. Considering the vehicle couldn’t have long passed a Gas station, that seems like someone just hadn’t bothered to fuel up, or was hoping to make Vancouver on just fumes. Who knows? We just pulled aside to let the emergency services though, wandered around, chatted, read books, walked dogs, watched some kids playing catch and in some cases seethed quietly until everyone had to do a three point turn, backtrack to the previous junction, then go up and around a couple of sleepy little suburbs until we were decanted back on the main drag. After that, the five minutes wait at the Peace Arch was a breeze.

Impressions of the USA so far? Mostly positive. Upstate Washington reminded me of our 2007 trip across Southern Ontario. To celebrate, we tucked into a steak each. Real food! Just a wonderful slightly bloody steak and salad each chased down by a modest dusty Californian Red, but to us we felt we’d escaped from dietary jail. There was rain too. A blessed strinkling. Just enough to remove the dust from the air. Free at last. Free at last! I think. Maybe. Probably.

Wildfires and other issues

Well we’re off. On the road for the next two weeks after fussing over details like routes, ferry timetables and possible road closures. Keeping a weather eye on the wildfire warnings that might throw our carefully planned schedules all over the place.

Because it’s been a lovely warm Summer so far, but up here in the not so frozen north all the Huskies are lying down in whatever shade they can find, and igloos are reduced to puddles, which is playing merry hell with property prices in Nunavut. Not that anyone lives in anything as retro as a igloo, apart from wilderness survival freaks who like wearing razor wire corsets, just to so how tough they are.

So far it’s been an fairly active wildfire season. Quite normal for an El Nino year. Could do with the odd drop of rain, but that’s not likely just yet.

On the first part of our road trip I’m not enjoying the cuisine at Mrs S’s conference. I can honestly say this lo-fat, lo-salt, lo-every-fucking-thing excuse for food is making me ill tempered and edgier than usual. Last night was salad without any real protein. Breakfast was soggy, vapid hash browns, flavourless pork, and scrambled egg polluted with beans and some other crap. I tried to eat it, but two mouthfuls were enough. The rest was summarily binned.

Being an avowed omnivore, I’ll tuck into most things given three falls and a knockout, but this mornings attempt at ‘cuisine’ was an insult to my Parisian tuned tastebuds. There wasn’t even any toast. This wasn’t food, it was probably illegal under articles 11, 12 and 13 of the Geneva convention covering treatment of POW’s. If I fed this to a dog I’d expect the SPCA to come calling. Furthermore, I’m sorely tempted to say whoever ordered this crap needs putting in the rubber room. You will note I’m not blaming the catering staff – yet. But if lunch is more of the same, I shall be eating exclusively at the Tim Hortons down the road. Oh Gods, I’ve just seen the bloody menu. “Dairy free”. Fuck me rigid.

You know, I don’t mind other people being Vegetarians, Vegans, Gluten free, dairy free, breath free, whatever. Hey, your life, your choice, but when it impinges upon me, I’m inclined to get more than a little testy.

Now where’re my car keys?

Orange skies

This morning the sky over Victoria is a pale pastel orange. Is this the result of ‘Global warming’? No. It is the result of that recent Coronal Mass Ejection from the sun? Is it the harbinger of a really big thunderstorm? No and no. Apparently it’s good old seasonal wildfires in all those jolly wonderful trees, where the smoke has risen and mixed with the clouds and is refracting the sunlight in that part of the spectrum. When it has been visible, the sun has been a hot pink spot.

Sheer HellWhere is all this smoke coming from? Well, according to wildfires today, a good deal is coming from upcountry Alberta and Saskatchewan. Possibly from fires to the East of Vancouver and West of Seattle. Which feels a bit strange because the last few days have been nearly clear blue skies with nary a surcease of shade. There’s also a mountainside on fire up island but someone else is getting our second hand smoke….. Pass me a beer, will ya?

So much for smoking bans.

Comment of the day

“The more you help some people, the more they need to be helped.” These words drifted across the breakfast table, making me blink. Now there’s an intriguing thought was my unconscious response. Mrs S had been working online, talking about one of her clients. One of the needy ones. One of several she has to deal with in her day to day. Members of ‘the clueless’ who, no matter how many times they are shown, assisted, mailed the instructions and generally babied along, keep on asking the same questions about the same old subjects. It’s almost like their ability to remember has atrophied to the point of nothingness.

I remember thinking; ‘I must pass that one on to the Axiom testers down at the Bill Sticker Institute for word juggling and infinitive splitting.’ So I did.

One of our helpful customer service IgorsUpdate: The Axiom testers have come back with Proven. There are a lot of people in the world who fit this precise and pithy description. The lads down at the lab (See left) looked very pleased with themselves when they delivered this particular verdict. Well, I think they did. They’re mostly Igors, so it’s very hard to tell.

The good news is that these hapless members of the zombie apocalypse will probably be the first to starve to death if everything does go pear shaped. Not that it will of course. These are precisely the people that politicians buy the votes of with their endless promises of jam tomorrow and scare stories about the man-made (of course) heat death of the Universe. George Bernard Shaw called them ‘The undeserving poor‘. The rest of us, who can’t be bought or fooled so cheaply, will no doubt be the cash cows wrung out to dry so the pollies can keep their jobs.

Heavy sigh.

Routine shizzle

Not much happening chez Maison Sticker apart from hanging around for Mrs S’s appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon. She needs to talk to one to get a proper referral for rehab. Because she broke her arm out of country, she needs to follow procedure to get into the BC system. Which means a BC Orthopod has to give her busted wing the once over before she can get any physio. No matter our health insurance is paid up to date, and we’ve got cover coming out of her ears, the niceties must be observed. It’s a pain, but it’s slack season as far as work is concerned, so it’s not like we’re having to juggle two dozen other items at the same time. Just a case of hurry up and wait. So long as we can make our conference next week, we can easily shift arrangements. There’s also a little road trip dahn sarf to see how the folks across the border are faring and take a pootle along the Oregon and Washington scenic coastlines.

As for the Greek business, our investments aren’t going to be hit as we’ve no real exposure in the affected markets. The whole schemozzle, at least from this side of the pond and the FT’s pages, looks like it’s devolved into some kind of bizarre economic winking contest. No-one is actually dumb enough to take the last support from under their respective houses of cards, but it does look like the financial penny is dropping regarding the Euro. The ‘one-size-fits-all’ top down financial philosophy is showing a pair of Achilles heels which anyone with any real financial acumen could see a mile off. Real life economies are subject to the financial whims of populaces, politicians, banks and corporations, which tend, at least in Europe, to be a bit more locally focussed. The financial systems of the USA evolved from a roughly common culture with the same basic language. Europe can’t be like the USA, no matter how much the federalists would like it to be, because Europe doesn’t have the basis of that roughly common culture. It’s too, well, Balkan if you catch my drift. Not literally, but kind of. While the Common Market wasn’t a bad idea as far as promoting free trade was concerned, trying to shoehorn all the splendid diversities of mainland Europe into a centrally governed Federal republic was always a step too far. Various empire builders have had a go by assimilation and even military invasion, but in the end the locals always end up having their say.

And the centralisers wanted to bring Turkey and the Ukraine into their hegemony? Oh dearie me. Soo not a good idea.

What else? Various mini sagas over property etcetera grumble on. As far as that’s concerned I’m just biding my time. New neighbours downstairs. Some sociable, others not so much. Landlady is looking after a yappy little Yorkshire Terrier with a habit of shitting on doorsteps. Which can make walking through the back yard a very eyes down affair. Its owners will return next week, so by the time we come back from our conference and road trip, the little bastard will be gone. You can’t even make friends with the territorial little sod, it just runs away and yaps at you, as it it were his territory alone. Then when you turn away, tries to sneak after your ankles.

In my more evil moments, most of them between waking up and going to bed, I’m minded to remember a small rural adventure from my younger days regarding stupid dogs that have no off switch; a mate was shagging his girlfriend. Both of them a little shy of their sixteenth birthday, but this was in the 70’s and everyone involved but me is no longer around. No injury, no foul – right Officer? In the way of hormonally charged youth everywhere, he begged me as his best friend to keep his intrusive twelve year old brother out of the way. In my youthful lack of judgement I agreed, providing we could go rough shooting the following day with his Dads then-legal pump action shotgun. The lovers arranged their horizontal jogging, I baby sat younger brother downstairs and out of the lovers tryst. His and her lust was satisfied and all was well. Up until we were exiting the house. As we did, next doors Jack Russell broached the fence and began having a go at my friends ankles as we made our way out of said girlfriends back garden gate (That is not a euphemism BTW). I still have to work hard not to collapse in fits of giggles as I recall the rapidly dopplering ‘Yap-yap-yap-yap-yeellpppp!’ as my friend perfectly drop kicked the noisy little tyke back over the garden fence to where it belonged.

The temptation to do likewise to Landladies friends’ Yorkie is sometimes quite hard to resist.