Rome: Ancient Supercity Infographic — Interactive Games, Maps and Timelines

8 04 2013


What did the Romans ever do for us?

Rome: Ancient Supercity Infographic — Interactive Games, Maps and Timelines.

Er… 1,000,000 people and 144 public toilets?!


17 years after world’s last airworthy Mosquito crashed, rebuilt Canadian ‘Wooden Wonder’ flies again

20 03 2013

As a kid, I used to have Airfix models of the WWII vintage de Havilland Mosquito. Such a beautiful shape. Second only to the Spitfire, in my humble opinion. Grace… with teeth. Powered by the distinctive RR Merlins too.  (See how the under-wing engines look like a pair of Spitfire noses?)

Read all about the rebirth of this little piece of Canadian history in the Vancouver Sun.

17 years after world’s last airworthy Mosquito crashed, rebuilt Canadian ‘Wooden Wonder’ flies again.

General background as ever on Wikipedia.

Get out of THAT! This day in history: March 1, 1923

1 03 2013

90 years ago today, Erik Weisz hung upside down, shackled and in a straightjacket from the Vancouver Sun building in er… Vancouver, while crowds stood and stared. Perhaps not so weird when you know he preferred to go by the name Harry Houdini.

Here’s the story from today’s VS:  This day in history: March 1, 1923.

And here’s some photos of the event from Vancouver is Awesome!

This day in history: March 1, 1923

The Great Yorkshire Pudding

5 02 2013

<Beware loud music from when clicking the link below for full story>

Ben Cox of The Star @ Sancton and James Mackenzie of The Pipe And Glass celebrate the great Yorkshire Pudding | This is Hull and East Riding.

Ben Cox of the Star @ Sancton with his prize Yorkshire Puddings

Believe it or not, the UK has “National Yorkshire Pudding Day”. I shit you not! First Sunday in February. Honest – check here, if you (wisely) don’t find it easy to believe what you read on these pages.

It’s hard for me to admit this… but I believe it’s a French invention. Allegedly came over with William the Conqueror. He supposedly beat the English National Conker Team, lead by Harold, in 1066.

One in the eye for him, you might say.

Harold: Ow! I’ve got something in my eye! (Wikipedia)

A tweet to Eric Idle

5 02 2013

A little wit makes the world go around.  :)

Found on Twitter…

Twitter / paulmcbride4: @EricIdle here you go Eric ….

Haggis it’s OK.

30 01 2013

Now, despite my proud ownership of a blue Canadian passport, it can’t be denied that I was born in England. Yorkshire to be exact (as Yorkshiremen often are in such emotive matters of origin). I went to university slightly further North, in Durham. Slightly further North still (at least in galactic terms) lies Scotland, or Écosse as the more trendy Jacobeans would have it. The recent Burns Night celebrations reminded me of my collage days back in the early ’80s. The local Woolworth’s in Durham used to sell fresh (I use the term loosely)  haggis.

Being at a collegiate university, there was no need to cook or otherwise fend for myself during my undergraduate years. This was a major godsend (or Darwinsend, I suppose) to the hapless teenager I was then. I later matured and developed into a full-grown hapless adult, but that’s another story. In any case I remember acquiring at least one haggis (hey – it was 30 years ago – memories fade! I couldn’t swear to the exact number)  and cooking it.

Wikipedia: Durham Cathedral and Mill-house

Now, if you’ve never “partaken” of haggis, you’re missing out on one of life’s great experiences. Great as in large. It’s a personal decision whether it’s also great as in good. Memorable either way. Suffice it to say at this juncture that boiling up a haggis is a somewhat, er, pungent affair. Popularity was never one of my goals at university, and haggis-cooking pretty well excluded popularity from the horizon for a while.

Fast forward to a few days ago, and a cheeky exchange I had at work with a Scottish colleague. He proudly flies a St. Andrew’s cross on his desk, and I engaged in light-hearted nationalistic jest. I asked if he’d received a discount for said flag, as most of the white, and all of the red was missing. We both shared a laugh, but had to explain to the blank-faced “proper” Canadians about the various component flags making up the Union Jack. Anyway, conversation came around to wee Rabbie, and the Scots capability of making up a drinking excuse out of pretty much anything. From there, I lamented my failure to find haggis in the 12 years I’ve lived in Canada. I did however have to qualify that by admitting that I hadn’t actually, in all honesty, looked!

Wikipedia: Flag of St. andrew

Wikipedia: Union Jack

So tonight (there is a point to all this – stick with me…) Mrs E told me she’d bought me a present. Now this in itself is a massive event, so I rushed home with my mind’s eye full of Lamborghinis and holiday cottages. On arrival, I was told it was in the fridge. Strange place to keep a sports car, but hey ho. I gave up looking in the end, having incorrectly guessed that several bags of frozen blueberries and a loaf of unsliced bread were the goal.

No – there, hiding timorously  in the bottom tray, unassuming and shy was… a haggis! Frozen obviously, but a haggis nonetheless. The brand is Goodricks from New Westminster, BC. Purveyors, the label assures me, of quality meat products since 1987.

38846_143416432354535_3753815_n(Not sure how good their meat was before 1987, but that’s not the point here really, is it?) The ingredients list on my new haggis is short and to the point. In this day and age that in itself is a rare thing not to be undervalued.

The haggis itself does seem to be in a traditional sheep’s stomach, though it’s hard to tell through the frost-coated plastic. Nice to know there’s still a role for traditional sheep. Modern sheep with their piercings and tattoos remind me of a great New Zealand comedy-horror. But enough frivolity. The ingredients, I am assured in writing, consist only of the following:

  • Lamb Pluck
  • Oats
  • Spices
  • Onions
  • Stock

“Spices” of course can hide a multitude of sins, but otherwise pretty innocuous. Hang on though… “lamb pluck”? What in the name of Jamie Oliver is lamb pluck when it’s at home? It sounds like belly button fluff.

Enter my good friend Google…

Lamb Pluck, it would seem, is esophagus, lungs, heart, liver, kidneys… all still connected.

Lamb Pluck

egullet: Lamb Pluck

Well I guess that’s OK then. I thought it might have been something unsavory for a moment. What can I say? Well - “waste not, want not” springs to mind. I guess it depends on your upbringing. I frequently ate and loved the taste of lambs kidneys and liver too as a kid. I think I’d have drawn the line at lungs or heart – even in onion gravy – though on my trip to Brazil, I enjoyed many chicken hearts from the grill. (They’re like almonds – you can’t just have one. You need at least a handful.) I have also eaten “duck entrails soup” in a newspaper press-hall in China which I guess has pretty much the same ingredients… just with a dash of soya sauce.

Anyway, the haggis is defrosting in the fridge, and no doubt there will be complaints from the neighbours once I start to cook it. That’s OK – I’ll offer them a slice. Then tell them what’s in it.

I can be like that sometimes…

It was 25 years ago today…

28 01 2013

Today I got a shock. I’d even go so far as to say it was a nasty one.

Driving home, I heard a news piece about how today was the 25th Anniversary of a legal decision in favour of Dr. Henry Morgentaler. He’d been running an illegal abortion clinic in Toronto I believe, and had finally won his case that denying Canadian women timely access to safe abortions was a denial of their rights under the Canadian charter.

My shock though was that 25 years ago… was 1988!


That was when I bought my first house in the UK. Surely it was too recent. Surely abortion in Canada can’t have been illegal that recently. Actually, it turns out that it was actually de-criminalized in Canada in 1969, following the passage of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, amending section 251 of the Criminal Code. However, this only allowed abortions to take place at accredited hospitals, and even then it was subject to the approval of a three-doctor committee, when the health of the mother was at stake. Unfortunately “health” was not well defined, and so it basically came down to who was on the committee as to whether a woman got access to safe and legal abortion or not.

In the UK, a similar law was passed in 1967. According to Wikipedia, it said “…a person shall not be guilty of an offence under the law relating to abortion when a pregnancy is terminated by a registered medical practitioner if two registered medical practitioners are of the opinion, formed in good faith … that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated…

So – broadly similar, except the registered medical practitioner performing the abortion need not be in an accredited hospital, and only 2 medical practitioners were needed to decide.  The clincher seemed to be the following:

In R v British Broadcasting Corporation, ex parte ProLife Alliance, Lord Justice Laws said: There is some evidence that many doctors maintain that the continuance of a pregnancy is always more dangerous to the physical welfare of a woman than having an abortion, a state of affairs which is said to allow a situation of de facto abortion on demand to prevail.

It took nearly 20 years for Canada to catch up. That, dear reader, I find shocking.
To be clear – I am not suggesting abortion is a trivial thing in any shape, size or form. But a woman must surely have the right to safe choices where her own body is concerned. Of course she should have access to counseling and be made aware of other options. But ultimately that is the point I believe. She should have access to options, and sympathetic support to help objectively make the choice that is right for her.

Historical Morgentaler decision marks 25th anniversary | The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti | CBC Radio.

Supriya Dwivedi: Morgentaler 25 Years Later: We’ve Come a Long Way Baby.

25 years on, Canadians don’t want to reopen debate on abortion, Ambrose says – Health – Times Colonist.

Times Colonist: DR. Henry Morgentaler addresses a news conference in Montreal, Oct. 27, 1999.

Couldn’t have said it better myself!

18 01 2013

Some of my Canadian friends embarrass themselves occasionally by referring to my “British” accent. In an attempt to educate, I recommend the following video which helpfully explains the differences between England, Britain, the UK, Great Britain and the British Isles. Yes – they’re all different. The only thing missing is a mention of Yorkshire… but I’ll let it pass.  :)

Thanks to a helpful Rover Scout for pointing this YouTube video out to me.

The Difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England Explained – YouTube.

Don’t Mention the War!

7 12 2012

Interesting little project.

They went back and geo-located every single bomb that was recorded in the London blitz.

Thank goodness for the good ol’ Civil Service. Whole country getting seven flavours of shit kicked out of it, but they can still keep good bureaucratic records going…

Bomb Sight – Mapping the World War 2 London Blitz Bomb Census.




Robert Bateman

19 11 2012

I was privileged over the weekend to be invited to attend the national conference for Scouts Canada, held in Ottawa. One of the speakers was Canadian artist Robert Bateman. He spoke eloquently on ecology, the need to get young people outside in nature, and his various projects including three schools across the country. Given his audience, he boldly pointed out that the “game of Scouting” so readily associated with Robert Baden-Powell, was actually a refining of a previous idea by Ernest Thompson Seton.

Ernest Thompson Seton (1860-1946), founder of ...

Ernest Thompson Seton (1860-1946). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Seton was born a Geordie (well not technically – he was from South Shields in County Durham) and moved with his parents to Canada in 1866 where he became fascinated by First Nations (“indians” as they were known back then). He met BP in 1906, only a year before the latter launched what became the worldwide movement of Scouts. Seton himself went on to found the Boy Scouts of America. One of Seton’s more famous books “Two Little Savages” covers much of the same ground, in a similar way to BPs own later work in “Scouting for Boys“. Well worth a read, and a treasured present, I’m sure, for anyone interested in Scouting and its ideals.

English: Robert Baden-Powell Русский: Роберт Б...

Robert Baden-Powell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bateman began by confessing that the best part of being awarded no less than 12 honorary degrees was “being able to watch all the co-ed students file past”. I immediately warmed to him, and was not disappointed as the feisty 82 year old mentioned he was born on the same day as Queen Victoria… just not the same year (and a day after me I might add!)

He spoke of being a high school teacher in the 50′s and the day after Presley was first broadcast (from the waist up) being amazed at the still-swooning teenage girls he was faced with in class. He claims he earnestly told them that within a few years “nobody will have heard of Elvis Presley“. He then humbly confessed that he still regularly tests the theory, and that recently, 57 years later, grade 3/4 students still know who Elvis Presley is. “I’m still waiting” he chuckled.

It was a joy to hear, in this day and age, someone who encouraged children to go out, have adventures in the woods and live life. Statistics show, he claimed, that children today access one screen or another for 7 hours a day. EVERY day. By contrast, they spend only 30 minutes a week “in the outdoors”. Our youth are more and more disconnected from reality and instead are maxed out on explosions and over stimulation via video games and action movies. The danger here, as with any drug, is that you need to up the dose to get any future “hit”.

He quoted a friend of his – an elder from the Cowichan nation – who said “We often worry about the world we are leaving for our children. I think we need to worry more about the children we are leaving for our world!”



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