New kids’ books for adults help with hipsters and hangovers

12 10 2015

Glory be!

Source: New kids’ books for adults help with hipsters and hangovers

I have very warm memories of Ladybird books. Now there’s to be 8 new tongue-in-cheek titles for the (sadly) grown-up fan.

Thanks Internet, for letting me know…

More can be found via The Guardian.

Walhachin Ways

5 07 2015

Just got back from a weekend away. We did what any sensible family does when the weather forecast is for 30ºC… go somewhere even hotter! [OK – to be clear, I hate the hot weather and tried really really hard to resist the over-whelming vote.]

We went camping to an old family favourite – Juniper Beach Provincial Park, just outside Cache Creek on the Kamloops road. It’s not to everyone’s taste. It is bordered by the Thompson River, complete with a protected swimming hole, and as well as several RV sites it has a beautifully flat, lawned tent area. The site is managed this year by a retired couple who were eager to help with change for the hot showers, advice on local hikes and attractions, etc. All in all – right up our street.

The downside? Oh… there’s just the little matter of the trains.

Tail end Charlie, offering a little extra push

Tail end Charlie, offering a little extra push

The site is on the north of the Thompson, and between it and the highway is the CN rail line. It’s a busy track carrying a lot of long freight trains every hour or so.

All night.

On the south side of the Thompson is the CPR line. It too carries a lot of freight. All night.

Add to that the tendency for heavy waggons to squeal when forced to negotiate tight bends and warm nights and you’ll perhaps see why the site was not as busy as one might otherwise expect.

We arrived at about 10:45pm having left White Rock reasonably sharpish after work on Friday. The night was still and there was a full moon – disturbingly red in colour due to the smoke in the air from all the forest fires at the moment. The tents went up quickly due to practice and my insistence that things are always put away “just so”.

Saturday was stupid hot. Mid thirties at least, and the narrow east-west valley formed by the river reflected the heat onto the campsite. After a hearty breakfast we headed off to Ashcroft which has a lovely little bakery that we like to frequent. Oh – and a liquor store, but that’s just by the by.

Despite the long hot summers, this is a fertile area, and a little relocation of the river water via pumps and pipes makes it a very productive farming area. That said, Ashcroft is struggling economically, and there were a few reminders that nature is always ready to reassert herself if the chance is given.

A small tester to see if anyone is noticing...

A small tester to see if anyone is noticing…

After stocking up on supplies we headed off for the main event… a visit to Walhachin. Walhachin is a fascinating place. Blink and you’d drive right past the turning on Highway 1 between Cache Creek and Kamloops. The road takes you down to the Thompson and over a girder bridge built in 1911 to help the village (300 strong back then) to trade its apples with the rest of the world.

Walhachin Bridge

Walhachin Bridge

Walhachin began in 1907 with the allocation of 5000 acres of land for growing fruit. In the end it turned out that less than 2000 acres were suitable for growing, but they were very suitable indeed! An American engineer – C.E. Barnes – saw the potential of irrigating the fertile, sun-drenched benches above the Thompson when he visited Penny’s orchard at the little CPR station. He managed to get support from the Marquis of Anglesey – a rich Brit – and they formed “the BC Horticultural Estate”. The 5000 acres of crown land was bought at a dollar an acre, and a dam was built on Deadman Lake – due north of Walhachin. Using his engineering skills and Chinese labour, a wooden flume was built to supply water from the dam to Walhachin, carefully contouring the hills along the way to ensure a steady flow of the precious water. This avoided the need to pump it up from the much closer, but lower, Thompson.

The town was ultra-modern and attracted lots of English “second sons” – wealthy gentlemen in search of adventure as an alternative to joining the clergy or – later ironically – the army. A new house included hot and cold running water, inside toilet and all “mod cons”.

Every convenience

Every convenience

It was a model town, complete with hotel, school, ice rink (hey – this is Canada!), swimming pool – the lot! The men worked hard, and the town prospered. The water brought the fertile land to life and 100 years on, some of the fruit trees are still producing.

Walhachin Apricots

Walhachin Apricots

Then, just as Walhachin celebrated a bumper crop in 1914… news arrived of a dire conflict in Europe. By 1916 there was not a single man of fighting age in Walhachin. The call for help was heeded and men – often with their entire families – headed back to Blighty to fulfil their duty. After some debate, Canada itself sent thousands of men to help the mother country too.

The women and children left in Walhachin were not able to continue the hard work that orchard farming demanded. After the war, the men who had survived the hardships in Europe or further afield were tired, and few returned to Walhachin to help salvage the now-struggling community. The Marquis decided to withdraw – having spent $1.5M – and offered the land to the provincial government as a soldier settlement scheme. The project had proved itself viable, but needed manpower. The government turned him down and instead began a similar scheme near Oliver (now a fruit and wine growing area).

Today, Walhachin is barely a shadow of its heyday. At its peak 300+ people lived there. Now, barely 30 call it home, and some of them are mere weekend visitors. A casual walk identified 2 properties for sale – I’m sure others were available.

It’s a pretty little place, but sad too. It’s not so hard to imagine it once bustling with life and promise, but the dream was barely established when the horrors of war so far away, and the attendant duty felt by its founders, brought it crashing down. The little museum does its best to keep the history alive and identified an area where the First Nations had left a shell midden – attesting to the plentiful supply of fresh water clams they harvested pre-contact.

BC is a special place, and these little pockets of history make it very real and tactile. It’s a vast place, but it has very human stories we can all identify with.

Did sexual equality fuel the evolution of human cooperation?

27 06 2015

So yesterday, my BBC History magazine arrived. I love reading this publication. Pop science magazines tempt you with the sheer breadth of subjects we are researching, with respect to ways to destroy the planet, or at the very least ourselves. Not on purpose, of course. No – we’re motivated by greed. The whole end of the world thing is just a potential by-product.

Pop history illustrates the ways we’ve already tried and what we learnt along the way. Some things are quite spectacular. Crusades; world war; slavery (black on white as well as the more recent and well known white on black)…

July’s edition bridges the gap and refers to a report in Science magazine that suggests that sexual equality may in fact be a prehistoric concept, and that like so many other things, we broke a perfectly good thing along the way. The article posits that later, with the rise of agriculture and its systems of property and inherited wealth, sexual inequality appeared.

Did sexual equality fuel the evolution of human cooperation? | Science/AAAS | News.

By coincidence, July’s edition also reminds the reader that July 1848 saw the world’s first ever Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Men were supposed to be excluded, but early #HeForShe advocates were eventually allowed in – as long as they sat quietly and didn’t take an active part in the meeting. No iPhones in those days either… must have been hard for them!

The Imitation Game

10 01 2015

Back in July I wrote about the up-coming film of Turing’s life, “The Imitation Game”. Tonight I was invited to go and watch said film. I have to admit that there wasn’t really anything new in the film as far as story. It skipped neatly across the now well-known key aspects of Turing’s life. Being gay, being an odd duck, being potentially “on the spectrum” (autistic), being a genius, being sorely abused by a nation that owed him much. There were hints at other parts of his story, but not explicitly told. For example, there were scenes with apples and cyanide, but no mention that the two together were the method of his suicide.

Towards the end of the story, as Turing starts to lose his faculties because of chemical castration (a “treatment” for his homosexuality), I confess to a small tear. A great mind sorely wounded by those he helped so much. “Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of that do the things no one can imagine”. This phrase is used a few times in the film to great emotional effect.

It did however pay a little homage to his place as one of the fathers of modern computing. The US actually had a parental warning for the film because it contained… advanced maths (which it only did by reference)! It did though have a completely unnecessary rendition of “bollocks” at one point. There was even a contrived nod to The Turing Test that he’d developed to help define Artificial Intelligence (remember this is before computers even existed – the man was a true visionary).

Mark Strong plays an excellent part as “the spy guy” from MI6, also bringing a few of the unexpected but well done lighter moments. There’s a nod to the sterling work done to fool the Germans about the source of the intelligence to further obfuscate Colossus and also a faint nod to the “XX” (double cross) system to knowingly let secret agents for foreign powers operate in Britain, so that the the material they sent back could be controlled. It also paid tribute to the heartache of having to let many people die in order to protect the secret that Enigma had been cracked. The secret was so secure that the UK let its firm ally Canada use Enigma for transmitting its secrets after the war, still believing it was unbreakable. Few even in the UK knew. It was “Ultra” secret.

Turing, as I’ve said elsewhere is one of my few heroes. Cumberbatch is an awesome actor and caught the essence of the man well. I must however retract an unkind stance I took back in July’s piece. Keira Knightley actually did a reasonable job in this film. Well done to her. It is definitely one of her better offerings to the world of cinema.

Photo from Guardian: The Imitation Game

Photo from Guardian: The Imitation Game

The UK’s Guardian have a review here if you’d like a more professional review.

By the way, it turns out Cumberbatch is actually related to Turing… very distantly. I thought that was fitting, if accidental. As time goes on it seems he is getting more of the recognition he deserves. Though of questionable motivation, he was posthumously pardoned by QEII (the woman, not the ship) in 2013. It’s questionable because to give a pardon means accepting that the offence was real and needs pardoning. He was gay. That is not a crime, and need not be pardoned.

Alan Turing

Wikipedia: Alan Turing

A thorny case for Sherlock Holmes – UK in USA

7 08 2014

August 1st is Yorkshire Day, but also marks the Battle of Minden in 1759. The 51st Foot (King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry), now part of The Rifles took part, and subsequently wore a white rose of Yorkshire in their cap to commemorate the day.

Now, some mysterious person sends 6 roses (to mark all the British regiments taking part) to the British Consulate General in Chicago every 1st August. Nobody knows who…

The game’s afoot!

A thorny case for Sherlock Holmes – UK in USA.

FCO - Minden Day roses received in 2010

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 every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 140 other followers