Tag Archives: Weather

Snow ho bloody ho

Just looked out of the kitchen window and it’s snowing for the second time in four days. WTF is going on? This is Victoria for heavens sake. It’s not supposed to snow in this part of BC. The road out front is pretty much clear, but as I don’t have to commute, that’s not much of a problem.

Still packing and wondering where the hell did I buy this? Every so often. And more to the point, why? As far as the festering season is concerned Mrs S and I will be on a pretty tight schedule, bouncing back up and down Island like we’re riding a Yo-yo on bad knicker elastic. Shopping is done. Cards sent. Presents bought. I think we may be ahead of the curve. However, it looks like a busy Yuletide.

One of the associated exercises to do with moving is that you have to run down the amount of stuff in the freezer. Which often gives up pleasant surprises, but also the occasional booby prize. Nice surprise of the day was a Liver and Bacon Stew, which will be served with mustard dumplings, a little mashed potato and cut green beans. Culinary disaster lurking at the back was my attempt to do something spicy with cauliflower that ended up having the effect of paint stripper on the palate. Well, we’re moving, so the cauliflower will join a couple of other pots in the recycle bin. Reminder to self, cayenne pepper has to be used very sparingly. Anyway, I’ll stick the recipe for mustard dumplings on the ‘Cooking for Conspiracy Theorists’ pages as it comes under the heading of tried and proven.

Sooo. What’s going on in the big wide world out there? Apart from the snow, which has now stopped after leaving an inch or so on the ground, further startling the locals, bringing the comment from some of the perpetually offended that the whiteness of snow is part of the ‘racist patriarchy’ (Derisive snort).

In the headlines the F-35A debacle took yet another blow in the shape of President-Elect Trumps disapproval which has made Lockheed-Martins share price nosedive. Frankly, I’m not surprised. The F-35A is five years overdue and counting. So why aren’t the orders being cancelled? Or doesn’t it count because it’s only taxpayers money? I think that the F-35A’s major problem is that it tries to be all things to all men and fails.

Then there’s the whole transgender fad sweeping through university campuses and educationalist circles. Oh well, it’s a fashion, and will die when the penny finally drops, along with the removal of funding for Gender Studies courses and various worthless NGO’s. Somehow I get the feeling that some very convincing schizophrenics are embedded within academia, at least judging from the flood of neologisms and other strangeness bubbling therefrom. Please note; Coining Neologisms is one of the symptoms of Hebephrenia, part of the grab bag of behaviours indicating disorganised schizophrenia. Inventing new ‘gender pronouns’ for the sake of it certainly raises psychiatric red flags about the mental stability of the inventors. Insisting that everybody else use them also has that certain ring of ‘the lunatics are running the asylum’. To which I would respond; “if only they could be persuaded to stay there and leave the rest of us alone.” (Heavy sigh)

Newsflash! (Or rather not) If anyone wants a decent job when graduating, a ‘Gender Studies’ (Or similar) degree is going to be worth less than used toilet paper. I’d also add that if anyone tries to address me as ‘Ze‘, there will be ructions. And vitriol. Possibly even legal action, because referring to people by the incorrect gender pronoun may soon be an official ‘Hate crime’ in Canada. Which is absurd. But then George Orwell distilled my thinking on this topic when writing his essay Notes on Nationalism (1945);

“One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.”

I know he was talking about academics voicing the belief that American troops had been brought to Europe not to fight the Germans but to crush an English revolution during the early to mid 1940’s. However, it’s a damn good quote and illustrates that even if someone can wallpaper their walls with University degrees, it does not automatically follow that they know everything about anything. Only that they know a lot about a little. A sentiment which was later echoed by Bertrand Russell in ‘My Philosophical Development‘ (1959) as “This is one of those views which are so absurd that only very learned men could possibly adopt them.”
Not: “There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.” For heavens sake, if you’re going to quote someone, at least take ten minutes to check the bloody attribution. To find that the usually trustworthy Goodreads gets it badly wrong is somewhat galling and devalues their brand.

Anyway; back in the real world, the snow has stopped and the outlook is for five days of sunny but cold weather. Which means black ice and watching obvious newcomers slipping and sliding all over the place. To which I have been known to comment; “Welcome to Canada.” However, it’s all part of the learning curve of immigration and learning that what’s really great about this cold weather is being able to watch it from inside a nice warm living room. TTFN.

Ciao Italia

Well that was a busy Monday morning. A business deal was concluded before 8am and we had the movers in to take our first tranche of kit into storage. So I’ve been busier than a metaphor with two adjectives moving very quickly indeed.

Did I mention we had a little snow this morning in Victoria? Nothing much, hardly enough to wet the ground, but it’s still colder than usual for December, but fits in with the local cycles of warm and cold Winters we’ve experienced so far. All weather tyres on the car, check. The only thing I might need is a replacement battery for the old Satnag. Well, the car is hitting its sixth birthday, but still goes up hill and down dale without missing a beat.

Over the weekend I’ve been watching with amusement the next crack on the shins for the bureaucracy that should have been just a free trade zone, the EU. You know, with all the snappy terms for leaving the EU bouncing around like Brexit and Frexit, no one gave thought to the Italians, whose referendum on ‘reform’ came up with a big fat NO, with huge political gains made by the anti-EU faction. The obvious next contender for media neologism is “Ixit”, or even “Italexit”, which somehow lacks the big ‘E’, but as the Italians aren’t net contributors to the EU budget, any “Ixit” would not be as much of a blow to the EU as when Britain finally leaves or possibly even when France bails out.

Any vecchia strada su, we have our travel plans for Italy 2017 firmly in place and it doesn’t matter which way the votes go because we’re planning to insure ourselves up the wazoo so that no matter what happens, we go five star.

That’s all for now. Cleaners are arriving for the first stage of wrapping up this apartment this afternoon and there is more packing to organise. TTFN.

Update: It’s not ‘Ixit’ or ‘Italexit’, but the far more elegant ‘Uscitalia’.  Thank you Peter.

Winter is coming

Took a look out of our rear window yesterday morning and an early light frost had just started to melt off the carport roof and the tarmac tiles off the bungalow next door. “Is that snow?” Asked Mrs S, indicating the hills to the north of Sooke. I grimaced because there is a not quite denuded Poplar tree in the way, but was forced to conclude that yes, it did indeed look like there were bands of snow over a couple of the hills in that direction. Which is odd this far south. We don’t normally see anything roughly approximately resembling snow until at least the turn of the year. In the mid-island yes. The odd flurry is no big deal but doesn’t normally give anyone grief until late January. It actually took my 20×50 binoculars to determine that what looked like bands of snow was actually dazzling low angled sunlight reflecting off the new housing around Bear Mountain.

As far as Summer goes, it’s been warm but a little truncated here in Victoria, with the expected run on of warmth and sunshine that normally lasts until early October replaced with chilly showers from early September onwards. I’m told it’s actually worse where we used to live. An elderly friend has repeatedly complained that she’s seen more rain than usual. Sis in law is so fed up with the near constant drizzle that she’s seriously contemplating a move south. Other friends have come back from Guatemala and all points south, so we’ll be swapping tales of derring don’t with them over a curry on Friday. See what they say.

Oh yes, and the Yanks had something called an election Tuesday night. A Globalist vs Nationalist grudge match with the political Establishment and most of the lamestream media in one corner, and a billionaire businessman turned politician and a whole bunch of disenfranchised blue collar types in the other. Quick note to the propaganda arm of the Democrat party, latterly known as the mainstream media; you don’t win people over by insulting their intelligence. Which should translate as; you may have been to college, but that doesn’t mean that those who didn’t are thick. If certain commentators were really as intelligent as they claim, they would understand that true intelligence takes many forms, not merely the academic.

The stock markets, as they are wont to do when the narrative fails, initially tried to throw dolly out of the pram but then bounced back. But I’ve come to expect this kind of behaviour, and if you’ve the nerve for it there’s a great deal of money to be made by going against what the lamestream media tell you. Wish I’d had the capital in play to go short on the US dollar for the predictable market panics over the last couple of days, but it was not to be.

Will Trumps victory change anything? Well, the big money was behind Clinton but on the whole the grass roots weren’t. Which will give a yet another well-deserved upset to the apple cart of Establishment politics. But then again, that’s what all the anti-Clintonites were upset about. The same shit different day of endless wars, foreign influence, divisiveness, political correctness and large parts of the populace feeling dismissed as of no value. Not to mention the attempt to create political dynasties. As an aside, I wonder if all those foreign contributors to the Clinton Foundation are already asking for their money back? Who knows?

So, the Ancien Regime of globalism is down, but not out. A Winter is coming, and we should be prepared for a tough ride for the next year or so. However, I console myself that no matter how rough it gets, the Winter we will have to endure will not be of the nuclear variety. As would have been likely had the crazed Clinton implemented her insane ‘No Fly zone’ over Syria. I was watching Vlad Putin’s reaction to the news of Trumps election, and despite his affected public calm, looked very relieved.

Me, I shall be planning for the worst, but hoping for better. The 2017 Europe trip is still very much on, and I have a few more financial tools in the box to make things happen.

Stormy weather

Not felt much like posting recently. Mainly because I felt I’d run out of things to say, so did the natural thing, which was to shut up and listen for a while. Not much to do apart from hurry up and wait anyhow.

We’ve had a few storms locally, which have shut down transport to the mainland and smaller islands for a day or so. Nothing out of the ordinary out here on the Pacific Rim. I’ve been entertaining myself watching the odd scad of airborne debris heading up the road horizontally at about fifty to sixty kilometres an hour. Just clumps of leaves and the odd twig or two zipping by, and the trees in the garden thrashing around like a hyperactive teenager in a mosh pit.

Lots of storms in teacups, well apart from near misses with hurricanes on the eastern seaboard. This whole Trump thing. Oh seriously? Is this the best they can do? The guy has less baggage in his past than I do. Anyone who can get all bent out of shape over a bit of locker room talk must have serious issues themselves. Especially when the opposition is associated with cheating charity organisations, taking massive, barely concealed backhanders from overseas and corporate interests, has defended child rape, sexual assault and a number of other crimes, not to mention breaching US National Security. And people think she’s a safe person to trust with the US Nuclear codes? Holy shit! One bout of PMT and we’re all history.

Not that the US elections aren’t all bought and paid for anyway. I don’t think the popular vote will mean a thing. The Electoral College is the one that counts. Buy enough Senators and Congressmen and the electorate can all go hang. Having read the linked article, I’m moved to comment that it’s come to a pretty pass when Russia (!) has a more democratic selection process. Who knew?

The world events that have me currently pacing the floor are the various provocations going on over Syria and Iraq. Military presences are ramping up, and with the current idiots in chief declaring a ‘cyber-war’ on Russia, they may just get the shooting war they want. Not only are US ‘intelligence’ services complicit in creating and funding the current major terrorist threats, the current US Administration want to get in a military pissing match with the Russians and Chinese.

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, I breathed a huge mental sigh of relief, thinking that the threat of nuclear annihilation was past. Now that threat is firmly back on the table. If, as I think is likely, Clinton becomes US President, seriously people (either of you), I think there’s even more stormy weather ahead. The glow in the dark sort.

Katla

In-laws are currently in Europe due to fly back next week, and if the signs and portents from Iceland are right, they may have a bit of a wait to get home. Yes, it’s time for seismic grumbling from South East Iceland again. Which I ascribe to all the illicit Hákarl dumping. I’m told rotting Greenland Shark meat is a ‘delicacy’, which is one of those hilarious euphemisms for “Let’s see what we can get the tourists to eat”. Either that or one of those “Well, it’s not that bad once you get used to it” foods dreamed up when it was a case of eat your putrescent poisonous fish or starve to death.

Seriously, there’s a Yellow warning for Katla, a large volcano lurking under the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, which is one of those wonderful Viking names you’d swore the locals made up to make English speaking newsreaders look like idiots. Well, just because they don’t do the rape, burn and pillage thing any more doesn’t mean these descendants of Vikings have lost their sense of mischief, does it? The little tinkers.

Anyway, nothing has gone boom just yet, but those in the know are betting on an eruption in the not too distant future, even though at the time of writing there’s no harmonic tremor. However, when that is detected, then an eruption has already started and it’s a bit late to put your nearby Icelandic Holiday Home on the market.

Icelandic Met Office pages can be found here for regular updates.

What else might delay In-laws return? Hurricane Matthew, which is currently tearing northbound through the Caribbean? Hmm. If I was going to attempt a Transatlantic flight during the next few days, I’d be making damned sure my travel insurance covered accommodation costs in case of delay. I’ve tried kipping in airport terminals before, and it’s no fun at all.

Above and below the snow line

That was fun, wasn’t it young Bill? All we needed was hail and a hurricane and we’ll have collected the set as far as weather is concerned on this trip. As you can see by the photo below we’ve been up above the snow line, watching the less prepared skid and swerve after powering past us on dry roads lower down. The chap in the picture below for example, was travelling on summer tyres and shortly after Mrs S took this picture shimmied into a left filter lane to let us past when the fog got too much for him.
Snow Joke driving Then he cut in behind us as we caught up with an eighteen wheeler on the downgrade, only to vanish off the road a few minutes later, having already stirred my survival instincts with his mildly erratic steering. Did he lose the road completely or lose his nerve? No idea. All I know is that he was there one second and gone the next. The three pickups and cars behind us showed no signs of alarm, so I assume he swung off into one of the laybys on the other side of the road to catch his breath. The old US-50 through the mountains isn’t a road I’d like to travel in less than totally dry conditions on summer rubber. Anyway, I digress.

A week left. Wow. I keep getting asked by various people about what I, as a Canadian and expat Brit, think about the USA. To which the answer is a big “Don’t know”. Which sounds like a bit of a cop-out and maybe it is, but my sense of scale is still in complete overload. ‘What I think’ is not something I care to distil into a single sentence. I could of course cheat and resort to vague and cheesy adjectives like ‘fantastic’, ‘amazing’ and even ‘awesome’, but these would be highly misleading. The USA is too diverse, too big to sum up in this fashion. From desert to swamp, farmland to forest, from flood plain to salt flat. Oh yes, regarding Bonneville salt flats (Another one ticked off my bucket list), this is what the raceway looked like yesterday.Bonneville salt flats 11th May 2016
The bullet hole riddled black sign (I estimate at least 20 perforations, and another 30 bullet dents) in the lower right of the picture is at the end of the access road. After that the rest of the area, several square miles, are two to six inches deep in water. By the end of the month this water will be gone. Evaporated, just like every year. We didn’t take our sturdy little SUV out on the waterlogged flats, as the fee for getting towed out of the mud and salt should you get stuck, is a cool twelve hundred bucks US. I’m not sure if the towing companies take credit cards either. Anyway, the salt will all have dried out by early June, and the crust will be hard and smooth enough for race week and speed record attempts by the blistering head of mid July and August. I’d like to see that. Fly into Salt Lake, hire a car, park out at the rest area at mile 104 with a big sunshade and my 20×50 binoculars and watch the fun.

Back in time

Well sort of. We’re now only an hour and six days from home base. One hour in time zones and six more days of driving around the good old US of A. National Parks and general meandering around. Yesterday in Colorado Springs however brought a nasty reminder of how things can catch you out, but also an object lesson in using available resources to sort it out.

In short, an old health problem raised its head. My back locked up. A legacy of years of weight training and generally abusing my body with physical exertion. Two muscles, specifically the Quadratus Lumborum that help stabilise the lower back took it into their fibres to spasm and seize up. Now if you know anything about this condition you will understand two things; firstly it is paralysingly, spine gratingly painful. Secondly you cannot bend or straighten, and walking is sheer torture. It’s a show stopper. Even the slightest misalignment of the back when lying or sitting is agony. A bed or chair that is too hard or soft renders you immobile, teeth clenched, and there is no painkiller short of Morphine that will make a dent in the pain. How do I describe it? Like someone has jammed a rusty crowbar in your lumbar vertebrae. Then twisted it. Attempting to move or bend is impossible. Yes, it’s that bad. I’ve suffered from periodic episodes since I was in my late twenties.

There is a trick, however, that works when painkillers or traction will not. All you need is a nice firm ball like one used to play Softball and something to roll it between you and the unlocking pressure points. This will start the ‘unlocking’ process and with a half days rest, will return you to almost full working order. Ideally you’ll need 36 hours of proper rest to let the muscles fully unwind or run the risk of recurrence.

Fortunately I am happy to report that there is an additional short cut. A Shiatsu massage chair like this one. One of those things you find in some malls and service areas. The ones that cost a couple of quid, Dollar or Twoonie to operate when they haven’t been switched off because the mall rats or someone’s messy little four year olds have been hogging them. I spent the best five dollars of my life and fifteen minutes in one yesterday. It hit all the pressure points and reduced my pain from excruciating to mild discomfort. Today I found the pain completely gone and full mobility returned. For five measly bucks. Something my UK doctor would only prescribe painkillers for. Painkillers that took forty eight hours to even begin returning me to normal, yet dulled my other senses and reduced my effectiveness. Yet a toy ball and five bucks in a massage chair did the trick, no chemicals required within twelve hours. Bloody marvellous.

Colorado Springs? Nice place. Very tidy downtown. Recently upgraded with a lot of money being spent on tidying the place up. Quite a few beggars around until the Police patrols hit the streets around 10am, then the crusties evaporate like morning dew. That was yesterday. Today we’ve been up above the snow line, letting our little Subaru strut its stuff in the fog and ice when other vehicles on their summer tyres were slip sliding away. Tonight we’re stopping over in Grand Junction, feeling relieved and quite pain free. Looking forward to the rest of our trip and also planning the next.

What day is it?

Colorado Springs and we’ve been on the road so much I’ve hardly had chance to put fingers to keyboard. We crossed the great plains yesterday, racing a big storm that looked like it was after us personally. To the south and east a huge dark core, at its heart a tornado, on the edges, long fingers of cloud clutching north and west like a dismembered hand still moving inexorably toward a victim. Ghostly grey virga curling tendrils of smoky rain drifted toward the ground from these dark grey bellied monsters. I was driving, and the illusion of parallax made it look like those grasping fingers were hungrily converging with our little tin box, hurtling across the wide rolling expanse of Western Kansas and Eastern Colorado at sixty five miles an hour. Elsewhere it was less fun for those who could not get out of the storms path. Hope their insurance is good.

We’re back in mountain time today prior to cutting across to the national parks via Bonneville salt flats and various other stops. While en route in various hotel lobbies we’re seeing a lot of news reports about the big fire up near Fort McMurray, Alberta, which had burned a lot of peoples homes to the ground and displaced a whole lot more.

There are rumours and informed speculation that the original fires were started by people. Some think careless campers, others have more darkly suggested radical environmentalists. Okay, so no human deaths to date, but for the livelihoods, property and wildlife destroyed still really bad. It’s so bad our photo-op seeking Prime Minister hasn’t put in much of an appearance. Heaven forfend he might get his glossy hairdo all messed up. Me, when we get home in a weeks time I’m off to volunteer what help I can give from the BC end instead of bleating that it’s all to do with the mythical man made climate change like some hideous little tools claim.

One parting shot; if radical environmentalists did set the original fires to shut down the oil sands production for good, then they and their sponsors (Rockefeller, Tides foundations, Sierra Club) should be made responsible for fixing all the damage done. To everyone. Hell, they’ve got the money. They could spend it on something useful for a change.

The heat is on

Or it ain’t half hot Mum. Well it was, honest. Now it’s not.

Charleston at the end of April and Mrs s and I were wilting a bit by the end of the day. We’ve been exploring history on the run up the the US Civil War, which had roots way back in the US Declaration of Independence and the compromises made to bring the plantation owning slave owners in with the rest of those rascally rebels against King George. What we’ve learned is that the actual fighting was simply the hot phase of a conflict over ‘States Rights’ which had been going on for years before a shot was fired. Oh yes, and Fort Sumter is actually a lot smaller than I’d imagined. Somehow I’d expected it to be much bigger for the focus of such a momentous event. Mrs S and I have decided that in two days we’ve barely scratched the surface and are going to grace the Palmetto City with a second visit sometime.

Chattanooga was a bit of an overnighter, and we ended up giving Lookout Mountain a miss because of the weather. So we checked out Nashville for a couple of days. Sunday night we ended up downtown watching such oddities as ‘Pedal bars‘ carrying whooping groups of partiers. We, being of a more sedate years, chose to enjoy our drinks in more peaceful surroundings, and despite our obvious grey hairs, had to show ID before getting alcoholic libations. Apparently it’s state law in Tennessee.

The weather recently hasn’t been our friend, what with the odd passing thunderstorm, but we made the best of it by getting me some new cooking knives (Proper Sabatier’s) and a chef’s apron for when the cooking muse hits. Plugged some holes in our old movie collection with a Bogart compilation and some others we fancied at the moment while it bucketed down in Nashville. Picked up a couple of the more obscure CD’s we’ve had trouble sourcing in BC. Overall, despite downpours, we had a good time. The only downside was our hotel. Advertising itself as three star was a bit of an exaggeration. Two would have been more appropriate. I could go into detail, but I’ve saved that for a rather scathing comment on booking.com.

As for the political news, well there’s a fine howdy-do and no mistake. However, I made my feelings plain on this issue back February 25th based on this story. Is the big C destined to win the Democratic nomination only to get whumped in the real thing by the big T? Will this encourage voters to put their X where their heart tells them, and not where they are scared to by the lamestream? Intriguing…

Anyway, this evening finds us in St Louis on the Illinois side, plotting and planning our visit to the Cahokia Mounds and perhaps one of the local plantations, the day after to the city centre to see the big arch and perhaps visit a few museums.

Après le déluge, nous

Two weeks into our road trip and we’re out of Houston and in New Orleans. The storms have passed and the sky is as clear as if nothing has happened. Our first morning in Houston was another matter. Lightning, thunder and the car park and road outside at least two inches deep in water. All we could do was stand and watch the fireworks, mainly because I didn’t have to drive and didn’t really want to. Road trips are supposed to be fun, right? An adventure at least. So far it has been, but Houston is a business town more than anything else, and although the parks and museum districts are interesting, the rest, well, I’d give it a miss next time round.

After the morning rains passed, we took the bus into the Museum District, only to receive a friendly warning about walking around looking like Canadian tourists from the transit station security people. I can see what they mean, our end of Houston did look a bit worse for wear even after the flooding, and on the way home we had our first real stoner encounter. Talk about a zombiform human. A white guy in his 20’s, buzz cut sandy hair, hollow, hopeless eyes and a shuffling gait. He managed to sneak up close behind Mrs S, but I got her on the bus before he made contact. He was probably harmless, but my beloved certainly isn’t. I probably did him a favour by whisking her away.

New Orleans is a totally different kettle of seafood. It’s a party town, and we spent all nof today wandering around the French Quarter, finding one of the best breakfast spots in town (Camille) and inadvertently wandering into a gay bar for a beer. All of which completely failed to faze either Mrs S or myself. Maybe I’m just getting to old to worry about that shit any more.

I’ve decided I like New Orleans. It’s everything Vegas aspires to be but with attitude. Less of the glitz but more about people. The Big Easy has a history and culture which Vegas lacks, but more than that. At the grass roots it has a real beating heart made up of people. We had more small kindnesses come our way from the locals than in our entire journey so far. Nothing much. Unsolicited directions to great eating and sightseeing experiences. We got a little gentle backsass from certain locals, which we gave right back and got a laugh out of each encounter, which was fun. Even if the local accent is a bit broad, drawly and difficult to understand with all the background noise. Which made us want to return and do the place a little bit more justice than we could in our schedules forty eight hours.

New Orleans is a town not afraid to have some fun at it’s own expense. To be honest, if I was ever forced to walk the streets again, I wouldn’t mind doing it there.

Challenging my preconceptions

Tonight we’re well into central Texas (Abilene no less) and it’s raining. Again. Worse than Manchester on a wet day. And lightning. No risk of Tornadoes today in our neighbourhood as they don’t form this far south and west (Allegedly).

Anyway, How do I describe northern Texas? Flat. Currently wet. Prone to flooding. Full of Wind Turbines. If my British reader thinks East Anglia or Lincolnshire is flat, sorry, the fenlands are comparatively lumpy compared with the country between Amarillo and Lubbock. I have honestly never seen a land horizon so straight. Which incidentally makes for seriously dull driving, even at Texas’ generous 75 MPH speed limit. Mrs S, in the co-pilots seat for this leg of the journey, was chafing at me well before we’d even gone a hundred and fifty miles, but once she’d taken over at the wheel after a placatory Ice Cream, equanimity was restored.

As far as the scenery is concerned, once you get past Lubbock it’s not so linear. As you pass through the oilfields, the landscape is peppered with Nodding Donkey a.k.a. “Pumpjack” engines and the periodic smell of warm oil straight out of the ground. Further south, yet more wind turbines pepper the landscape and brood over the tops of the Mesas. More are going up all the time. We saw a trainload of turbine blades and passed three tower base units on their way south and east on Highway 84.

In my idle moments I’ve been experimenting with collective nouns for huge expanses of Wind Turbines. Front runners are ‘blight’ or perhaps ‘obscenity’, as they sure as hell ruin the view for precious little return. The relative lack of visible transmission lines and some Amarillo folklore also tweaked my bullshit antenna. Apparently the local power grids in Amarillo and Abilene do not get any power from these massive whirligigs. Instead, all the electrickery they produce goes direct to Houston, some five hundred and fifty miles distant. If you understand anything about power grids and transmission, that’s whole a lot of conductivity losses and no mistake. Even at 110kv. Two hundred miles, okay. That’s not too bad, but over five hundred and fifty miles? Ouch. Something is missing from this story.

And if any F4-F5 Tornadoes touch down only twenty or thirty miles west of their usual track, as they have been known to do, there is a risk of serious damage to these big wind farms. While F1-F3 Tornadoes won’t hurt most wind turbines, a big F4-F5 tracking through a wind farm would be a different matter. How often do the big ones occur in this neck of the woods? Not that often, but I wouldn’t underwrite the insurance risk. I guess time will tell, and there will be much wailing, gnashing of teeth and pointing of fingers when it does.

Anyway, at the moment all the downpours mean everything is green and fecund. Even in the desert areas. Whatever happened to General Philip Sheridan’s famous “If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent out Texas and live in Hell” Civil War quotation?

Then there’s the food. Specifically the steaks and pork ribs. The Texans do meat very, very well. Perhaps even better than that. I’ve taken to tucking into a 6-8oz slab of beef and salad every other day. By comparison, last year we resided in Paris for a month and on several occasions were treated to a splendid plate of ‘Steak Frites’. But the Texan version is better. Much better. Sorry mes amis, but the Texans win the Bill sticker award for serious steaks. Even in relatively average roadside eateries.

So. Do I like Texas? Well so far yes and occasionally no, but it certainly is challenging my preconceptions of the state as a dry and dusty wilderness. We’ll see what San Antonio brings.

Time travel for beginners

Bit of a breezy drive today, and a few bursts of rain as we were clearing the Eastbound pass out of Albuquerque. Which saved me getting the car washed. Lots of crosswind as we drove along I-40, which made keeping our ever-steady little SUV on track a bit awkward, and we appear to have made it from rough desert and prairie into farmland. One of the issues we’ve come up against on the Eastbound leg of this epic trip has been time zones. We’re currently two, or is it three, hours adrift of our usual Pacific Standard Time. Time travel diagramNo, I’ve just checked and it’s definitely two. At present we’re on Central Time. What threw a spanner in the works of the normally efficient Sticker travel machine was Arizona, which has not adopted Daylight Savings Time, and thus thrown our calculations off by an hour.

So tonight we’re overnighting in Amarillo, catching up with the laundry and resetting our clocks before scooting off to Abilene. Mrs S has elected to take on the washing tonight as she says I never do it properly. Which suits me just fine. Sometimes being an ‘unreconstructed male’ as she is wont to describe me, has it’s advantages.

So we’re in Texas for the next week. Yee-haw! Mrs S has decided that we’re making an early start for Abilene in the morning so she can hit the Malls. Ah. Bugger. Was that a Tornado warning for just north and east of town? I think I just saw a pillar of cloud pass by in that direction and the girl on hotel reception says to head for ground floor if the warning sirens go off. Ooo-er.

Due South

Due SouthI’ve spent most of my day today driving south to Sacramento from mid-Oregon. By my reckoning that’s a shade over 822 Miles in two days. Not bad considering. I could have done it all in one hop if I was on my own and feeling masochistic, but frankly me dears, nowadays I’ve gotten used to being comfortable. I’ve served my time, and if I had to do it all again, frankly I’d have given the job to somebody as gullible as I once was.

One of the things I will say for our southern cousins, they’re far more switched on as drivers.  They pay attention and move over sharpish if you’re closing on their tailgates a little on the quick side.  I had nothing to grumble about.  Apart from the Satnav going AWOL just as we hit the city limits and the minor drama that unfolded.  Yes, and rogue Wi-Fi connections that just wouldn’t.  Connect that is.  It all got fixed, and our secure VPN’s are doing their thing the way they should.  So everything is kind of under control, as much as it ever is.

What else?  Oh yes, it’s raining.  In Sacramento, California of all places.  And if you’d been paying attention to your geography teacher (Or Albert Hammond, see below), you would be aware that it very rarely rains in Southern California.  Even the desert areas look quite green.

Off to the Napa valley tomorrow to taste some wine and enjoy all the other stuff out there.

TTFN

Facts and fantasies

Finished my studies and other work for today and took time out to pop over to Wattsupwiththat. A few minutes later Mrs S was knocking on my office door because I’d been laughing so hard.
“Bill, what’s happening?” She asked. By way of a reply I pointed at the screen. She paused, read, and then giggled mightily.

It turns out that some academic ‘green’ fantasist is trying to promote a return to collective manual labour and draught animals in farming as a solution to the non-problem of ‘global warming’. Well I’m sorry. I come from a long line of farmers and market gardeners and am calling this garbage out for the complete and utter ivory tower shite it is. I’m presuming that said Swede has never lived and worked on a farm that has no machinery to till the soil, or if he has, has only tried his theories out on a part time hobby farm for a couple of years at most.
Back to the land
Well, excuuuse me! There’s only one reason for such a retrograde move, and that is blind necessity. I’ve worked and grown up around farms for much of my younger life throughout every season, and I’ll tell you this for free. The last thing anyone with two brain cells to rub together is to go back to doing things the hard way. Without mechanised assistance, farming is hard, very hard work, not that I’d expect a soft handed academic to have even the faintest idea of what it’s like to graft for at least nine solid hours six days a week shifting shit, planting, weeding, harvesting and getting ready to do the same thing all over again, year in, year out, regardless of the weather.

Being in the great outdoors may look like fun while the sun shines or the rain is light, but if like me you’ve spent a few (In my case three) years with a fork in your hands in all conditions where the sky is flinging it’s load hard and horizontal across a farmyard and that job has to be done today or it won’t get done at all. And if it doesn’t get done, well, no crop, and after that, no wages. My excuse was that I was working my way through college at the time, and it was a local job that meant I could finish work in time to drive into town for my evening class. So I shut up and pitched in. Not that there weren’t fun moments. Getting the livestock together for a vets inspection. You’d think a fit young two legged man could outrun a three legged lamb with an ulcerated shoulder wouldn’t you? Wrong! I’ve helped a goat down from a tree, other livestock (mostly sheep) stuck in mud, herded sheep and cows, lost more than one Wellington boot (always the left one, oddly enough) in deep piles of cacky, and developed a sense of smell that can distinguish between numerous types of shit. I think said boots will still be there centuries from now until some latter day Time Team dig them up. “Arh, that be one of they 20th century foot garb.” An expert will opine. “Oi got this theory that in the 20th century they left these as offerins to some pagan goddess of shite.” That’s my best Phil Harding impression.

In cold weather, the boss usually got to ride in the relative shelter of the tractor cab when yardwork had to be done. The rest of us insulated ourselves against the elements as best we could. On one memorable occasion when the snow hit, I was swaddled in a waxed coat, gamekeepers gilet, two sweaters, two pairs of jeans, long underwear, two pairs of thermal socks and heavy boots. The wind cut through all of that, and after two hours I was quite drenched. By the end of the day my toes and fingers were numb, and when I got home the pain as my near frozen extremities thawed, was quite incredible.

My point is that really living such a life puts calluses on your hands and heels, turns the skin of your hands into leather and in Summer gives you a ‘farmers tan’ deep enough to pass for an ethnic minority in poor light. Notwithstanding all the constant little aches and pains from bone and cartilage damage due to prolonged physical labour in later life (Around 40). Hard agricultural work is neither for the faint hearted or the less than robust.

Not as though people like Andreas Malm, Naomi Klein, would ever sully their hands with such honest labour. That’s only for the little people….

No snow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a nice day.

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