Tag Archives: Observations

A nice day out

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

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

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

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

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

Making an end of it

In Russell Books downtown yesterday, I was meandering around aimlessly while Mrs S was picking up a couple of extras for our bookshelves and whilst waiting for her to make a decision, idly perused a book about how to stop repeating history (Of which, maddeningly I have forgotten the Author and Title), one of the sections being about how terrorist attacks finally came to an end, from the Sicarii in ancient Judea, Assassins of early Medieval times through to the Anarchists of the mid to late 19th century, and more latterly the current Jihadist crop of murderers. With regards to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, it seems there is little new under the sun.

That evening, all the facts and figures cited in the work buzzing around in what passes for my brain, I googled “How to stop terrorism” and came up with How to Stop Terrorism: Seven Ways to “Drain the Swamp”. There are actually eight, but the eighth involves mass genocide as practised by the Romans (amongst others), therefore is not a palatable solution to the current crop of terrorist problems.

Another school of thought is argued by the Rand institute, part of which is opening a dialogue with the Terrorist faction (Get a download copy of “How Terrorism Ends”here). But seeing as the current crop of Islamists are demonstrably a bunch of crazies who like to practice human sacrifice by crudely beheading their victims on video, I don’t hold up hope for any meaningful dialogue beyond ‘convert or die, infidel’. Even if we were to stop all military action in the Middle East, the likelihood is that attacks like those in Paris would continue. The crazies’ love of death being sometimes stronger than all other forms. We are not dealing with people who will say “Oh that’s all right then, home for tea and medals.” and neatly hand over their guns and other weapons when the need to fight has gone. ISIS (ISIL, whatever) have proven themselves too steeped in blood for reason to prevail.

The only national leader who seems capable (At least to my mind) of ending the current crisis is that big bad bogeyman of the Western media; President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation. No matter what else you think of him, he is both intelligent and ruthless, both qualities lacking amongst many Western leaders, wedded as they are to the politically correct idea of at least appearing ‘nice’ and therefore electable. The Russians I feel, are a little more realistic. For us, being ‘nice’ or ‘moral’, at least for a given value of ‘niceness’, and morality being the movable feast that it is, only seems to open up more cans of worms, politically speaking.

Right, what can we do? Cut off the money supply to terrorists? Easier said than done. So far the regulations intended to cut off the terrorist money supply, which I believe do not apply to the Islamic system of banking, or various ‘Intelligence’ agencies and other covert and not so covert Government offices known to fund terrorists, have proven ineffectual. When alliances shift and morph like fog, murdering fantasists will always find one agency or other more than ready and willing to fund the proxy wars of their political masters. Gosh, is that my cynicism? I was wondering where I left it. Said regulations are a pain in the bum for the law abiding, that much I do know. For those of us needing to legally transfer money between institutions, I think the phrase “Buggers muddle” seems appropriate. The levels of disclosure are quite incredible.

Having said all this are we any closer to a solution to terrorist attacks? I really don’t know, but the lessons of History, palatable or not, are out there for those who would read.

You know, if the UN really had the nerve, instead of faffing about with imaginary problems, it could spend far less and really enforce the outlawing of funding terrorist groups by nation states and their intelligence organisations. Although whether the various powers in question would comply is moot.

I know that place

La Belle Equipe cafe at the intersection of Rue De Charonne, Rue Faidherbe and Rue Godefroy Cavalgnac. Across the way from the Palais de la Femme. Next door to Sushi Maki. A prime breakfast time peoplewatching spot. Old stonework, fading posters and tightly spaced small steel tables and folding chairs. A small cellar. Perfectly shaded for those Parisian dog days when temperatures rise over thirty Celsius. Just a cosy little neighbourhood cafe restaurant. They do, or rather did a very elegant brunch and a very nice Espresso, not too pricey but very French. Our taxi driver recommended the place when first we arrived on the Eurostar from London. “I get my breakfast there.” He told us. Great location. Less than a hundred metres from the apartment we rented for most of May and the first week of June 2015 at 97 Rue De Charonne. Hope my landlord wasn’t caught up in the attacks. Nice bloke.

Now a regular breakfast spot and very nice neighbourhood cafe has become a venue for late night mass murder. Blood has run in streets I knew. In whose name? For what? ‘Vengeance’ by a murdering gang of scumbags who deserve only the brief mercy of Madame Guillotine or better still, Napalm. Love death do they? Then let them have what they love. Wholesale. Bulk order to go. Don’t hold the Garlic. Grease with bacon fat. Turn that sand into glass.

Reading reports of connected incidents in Belgium, it looks like the murderers were barely twelve hours ahead of the security services. Arrests would have been made, but the murderers and their accomplices weren’t bagged and tagged soon enough. Now it’s down to the regular Police to pick up the pieces. A good many of which pieces are from the seven who blew themselves up. It is one of the few points of satisfaction about this affair to note that the heads of the murderers who blew themselves up would have still contained consciousness as they flew through the air before smashing into whatever surface they landed upon. See this Wikipedia excerpt. Perhaps in those few seconds they experienced the true terrors of hell before the evil they brought to others was extinguished as their separated craniums hit the street. One can but hope.

Here in Canada, our new Prime Minister has said that we are to import twenty five thousand people from the very place the terrorists originated. Twenty five thousand immigration queue jumpers. Maybe none of these twenty five thousand have any hostile intent towards Canada and the west, but maybe they will, wittingly or not, help others who have.

As an immigrant myself I’ve had to jump serious hoops to get my citizenship and know how hard it is to get and thus how valuable it is. Like many immigrants I’m also a little resentful of people who get preferential treatment over those of us who have stood in line, patiently waiting our turn, filling in the forms, not asking for preferential treatment, just dreaming of and working for a better life. Bringing our worth, experience and knowledge to a new homeland. Unlike the terrorists, who only have death to offer.

Update 15th Nov: Just heard from a Parisian friend who lives just up the way from Rue De Charonne. He reports being a little concerned over the attacks but otherwise he and his family are well. Currently getting my news direct from France24’s Youtube live feed.

North America is more civilised than you think

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

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

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

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

Watching the pills go down

Another day, another damn pill. I’m not one who suffers illness with a glad heart, but I also get a bit impatient with the cure. However, the pill bottle content is shrinking day by day, and although I’m not counting, I do give a jaundiced glance at the level in the container every so often and note that it’s decreasing. Slowly but surely. Each day of treatment means I get more of a nights sleep, fewer bouts of feverishness, less discomfort.

Like many men of my generation and blue collar upbringing, we were told to shut up and put up with it. Whatever the ‘It’ happened to be. Bleeding? When you’ve stopped, don’t forget to clean up after yourself. Does it hurt? It’s only pain. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, it’s only ‘Man Flu’. Even when you’re so sick and feverish you can hardly see straight. Or the pain is so great you can hardly put your feet to the floor. There have been those days, I can tell you. Although looking on the positive side, I’ve never had the misfortune to have a digit or worse ripped off by machinery then had to crawl or walk half a mile carrying the separated body part. There was one case from the pre internet 1980’s where a farm worker did just that. Fortunately, my illness is nothing of that extremity. Just something I ignored too long because I was busy with other people’s issues. So it goes.

If all of the above just makes me sound like a grouchy old cuss, well I have news for you, you old cynic. I’d just like to state that I love everyone. Without exception. That’s right. Old miseryguts here. I love people. People I love to be around, others I love to avoid, and a few I’d really love to see dropped into a tank of hungry Piranhas. So there.

Now that’s made me feel a whole lot better. Excellent.

The Daily Grind

Feeling a little better now my system has adapted to my medication and the source of my ill-health is slowly but surely responding to treatment. So yesterday I went out and bought a little conical burr coffee grinder. Just to cheer myself up. Said item now resides next to my filter coffee machine, helping finesse my caffeine quality control. Which is a very pleasant duty after the unpleasantness of the last three weeks.

A nice cup of coffeeI’ve always been a fan of fresh ground coffee. One of my happiest childhood memories was simply sitting in the kitchen watching our (at the time) new fangled electric percolator burbling and burping away. My Dad taught me how to open it up, clean out the basket, add just the right amount of water and ground coffee before closing up properly and hitting the switch. Which I suppose was the beginning of my occasionally distant love affair with real coffee. All my friends’ families of the time always drank instant, and even at the age of eight I found myself preferring even badly stewed tea because instant coffee was, and is, so unremittingly appalling. As well as containing the suspected carcinogen, Acrylamide. Frankly dahleengs, I wouldn’t use instant to clean our drains with. Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that even bad percolated or filter coffee is far superior to Instant, no matter the brand.

Good coffee is, I feel, rather like wine. It has nose, bouquet, body and flavour with the added benefit that it sharpens, not clouds the senses. I’m only vaguely surprised that the better class of coffee bean doesn’t have a vintage (“I’ll have a cup of the 1989 Brazilian Couer De Rio please, waiter.”). Same for tea. I buy loose leaf teas because with a little practice and care, even a fresh cup of PG tips can provide a greater lift than the best tea bagged product, and I do have some very nice herbal (not that kind of herbal) tea bags for when bog standard orange pekoe just can’t deliver.

Now I have a half way decent grinder I think I’ll put together a few small airtight canisters of beans; Columbian, Honduran, Kenyan and various other varieties. I may even cast around for an Italian coffee roast variety, as when it comes to Espresso the Italians produce far and away the best roasts. Despite being on our figurative doorstep, Starbucks and all the coffee houses in Seattle don’t seem to be able to produce the depth and richness of Espresso that the Italians can. Ah yes, a small Espresso machine might be in order.

As for tea; down here in Victoria we have the Empress tea rooms, where we go for a civilised treat every time we’re flush with funds. They do an extremely nice and refreshing Kenya and Indian blend to which Mrs S and I are very partial, even if it is brewed from tea bags. I keep a couple of boxes in stock for those occasions when caffeine is preferred to alcohol. Mrs S is even badgering me to start making tiny lemon cakes and similar for afternoon Tiffin. Although this might entail the purchase of a small Toaster oven for small batch baking. It’s not really worth firing up the big stove for five or six mini-cupcakes.

Working from home as we both do, we’re relearning the art of being gentle with ourselves, instead of simply sticking our noses to the grindstone without remittance from dawn to dark. Good tea, Lemon cakes and small bite size delicacies can make for a pleasant afternoon interlude when we can sit down to discuss work issues and bounce ideas off each other rather than just grab a snack and run back to our respective keyboards. By way of an aside; it’s surprising how much more productive you can be if you take your time and step back from it all. If only to get a fresh perspective.

Oh well, back to the grind….er.

The meat of the matter

Not a well catNot posting much because I’m a bit crook at the moment, having contracted an infection in a difficult to medicate part of the anatomy. Ergo I am suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous side effects like nausea, vomiting, flatulence and sleeplessness to mention but four. As well as having to take pills that would choke the proverbial Equus ferus caballus every morning.

The problem with being unwell is the ‘diet experts’ who pop out of the woodwork telling you a bacterial infection is all the fault of your food intake (WTF?). These being the self same ‘experts’ who seem to suffer more from ‘allergies’ and ‘food intolerances’ than anyone else on Earth, from ‘genetically modified’ or GMO to bananas and peanut butter. They’re brimming over with ‘good’ dietary advice despite having all these allergies and intolerances. Which for me is a good indicator that they are full of shit. If their chosen regime were that healthy, how come all these foods make them sick, huh?

For the record, I do not suffer from any food intolerances, apart from a deeply held prejudice against badly prepared food. Whether ‘organic’ or whatever.

There is no subject more chock full of complete bollocks than the politics of food. Politics of food, Bill? Bloody hell, isn’t that a bit of a reach? Not so gentle reader (Either of you). We are constantly told by our ‘betters’ (Hah!) that this or that is bad for you. Eat more vegetables because they are ‘nutrient dense’ go the hectoring voices. Dietary fat is bad for you. Despite so much of what we are told by the lamestream has been proven to be flat out wrong. So it is with the latest foray into nannying by the World Health Organisation that eating red meat is bad for you and may give you cancer (Probably due to lobbying by from ‘food’ and supplement manufacturers) when it is more likely that processed food like ready meals etcetera are more harmful. Even when it has been established that two thirds of cancers are down to genetics and pure bad luck. Face it chums, we all die. All of us, without exception. Life’s a bitch, but like all bitches has a fun side, so enjoy what you got while you got it.

Red meat only gets a bad rap because it’s not politically correct. Vegetarians don’t like it, which is fair comment, as they don’t eat red meat for whatever reason, but that should be no reason I have to give it up. I’ve tried a vegetarian diet and after a month it gave me gastric cramps so intense I needed IV painkillers. My digestion is adapted for a high protein diet, light on the grains and carbohydrates. I can subsist on other stuff, but it’s no fun. However, a good steak once a fortnight puts a spring in my step and a song on my lips. A mixed grill (6oz steak, lamb or pork chop, liver and kidney set off with Mr Heinz best baked beans – no fries) is gastronomic heaven.

As for vegetables being ‘nutrient dense’, well, yes and no. Grass and silage for example, is only really ‘nutrient dense’ if you have the required four stomachs (Rumen, omasum, reticulum and abomasum) to digest it properly. Which is why vegetarians so often resemble rakes, and those that don’t have found other sources of protein, normally some form of whey (A cheese byproduct) or Tofu (Like whey, only made from soy milk). I’ve been told one extreme vegan regime even needs a specific form of clay as a supplement. Pardonnez moi, but I think I’ll pass.

Our digestion is capable of stripping the nutrients from a wide variety of substances (Including grains). We are omnivores. Opportunist feeders. There is, and this is where the dietary proselytisers are dead wrong, no single, top down one-size-fits-all solution. Not vegetarian, vegan, carnivore or otherwise. We are all different.

None of which helps me at the moment. Although my present condition is not that debilitating, it’s certainly put a crimp in my week. Although I will be trying to look on the bright side. I’m allowed beer, and apart from these ‘experts’ (May they boil in Olive oil spiced with a dab of Rosemary, Chili flakes and a clove of garlic) coming at me from all angles I’m mostly fine.

Hi-ho, only forty more days of this and hopefully I’ll be back to my usual self.

Red tide

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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…….