Phew!

26 05 2015

Well that was a busy few days. A few more to come too.

As I mentioned a while back, I flew to the UK to visit some customers.

Raven and Fog Woman - YVR departure lounge

Raven and Fog Woman – YVR departure lounge

LHR T2 art

LHR T2 art – Zivko Edge 540 stunt plane

Hotel view - gasometers

Hotel view – gasometers

I headed North to help my mum celebrate her birthday (“The North remembers”) with a trip to the Lake District.

Theakston's Bitter

Theakston’s Bitter – The Ship Inn

It's all backwards

It’s all backwards

Boat rentals: Bowness on Windermere

Boat rentals: Bowness on Windermere

Sir Ranulph Fiennes' sledge. Antarctic expedition 1996

Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ sledge. Antarctic expedition 1996

Vintage MG detail

Vintage MG detail

Ruined boathouse - Fell Foot, Windermere

Ruined boathouse – Fell Foot, Windermere

Limestone lintel - Fell Foot

Limestone lintel – Fell Foot

Ruined boathouse - Fell Foot

Ruined boathouse – Fell Foot

Speeding past Ingleborough on the way to Ingleton

Speeding past Ingleborough on the way to Ingleton

Then I spent a few happy hours walking the haunts of my childhood.

This is not a play area. Allegedly.

This is not a play area. Allegedly.

Skipton Road. Victorian houses... with satellite dishes

Skipton Road. Victorian houses… with satellite dishes

No longer an off-license but someone's home

No longer an off-license but someone’s home

Jeff - still cutting hair 40 years on

Jeff – still cutting hair 40 years on and proud to be a Yorkshireman. Doubly.

This used to be a butcher's; now a baker's; perhaps next a candlestick maker?

This used to be a butcher’s; now a baker’s; perhaps next a candlestick maker?

L'Arche. Meeting the need wherever it's found

L’Arche. Meeting the need wherever it’s found

Tag 'em and bag 'em - death co-op style

Tag ’em and bag ’em – death co-op style

Haute cuisine - Yorkshire style

Haute cuisine – Yorkshire style

Silsden bridge

Silsden bridge

Leeds-Liverpool canal with Ilkley Moor in the background

Leeds-Liverpool canal with Ilkley Moor in the background

Next I flew to Cologne/Köln for a trade show.

The back of the bar in the Gaffel brewery

The back of the bar in the Gaffel brewery

Kolsch from the Gaffel brewery

Kölsch from the Gaffel brewery

Hotel Dorint - literally over the road from the Messe

Hotel Dorint – literally over the road from the Messe

Art. Or poor taste?

Art. Or poor taste?

German graffiti

German graffiti

Police vans at the Dom. There was a nearby protest about refugee immigration

Police vans at the Dom. There was a nearby protest about refugee immigration

Beautiful reflected sunset on the Köln Dom

Beautiful reflected sunset on the Köln Dom

Sunset over the opera house

Sunset over the opera house

Then back to the UK for a quick curry then back home to Vancouver.

Ashari curry house - Sipson.

Ashari curry house – Sipson.

Bugger the jet lag – Saturday was my birthday and we took a trip to a local formal gardens at Darts Hill. It’s rarely open to the public, and I took my 100mm macro for a jaunt in the spring showers.

Flag iris - furled

Flag iris – furled

Raindrops on peony petal

Raindrops on peony petal

Edelweiss (no singing, thank-you...)

Edelweiss (no singing, thank-you…)

Delicate painted petals

Delicate painted petals

Sunday saw a bit of gardening and a visit to the cinema with my son to watch the Mad Max relaunch (basically a 2hr car chase through the desert. Think “Dakar rally meets Wacky Races”).

Because the trade show spanned a statutory holiday in BC to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday I took Monday as a holiday in lieu. A day trip to Victoria on the Island seemed appropriate and my two youngest and I spent an interesting day in the provincial capital.

Today saw me back at work just to do a bit of paperwork, and tomorrow I’m off again. This time to Connecticut. A US state I’ve never before seen. I gather it’s quite a sight in autumn. As for spring, I’ll let you know…





Busy Few Days

13 05 2015

Well this afternoon I make my way to old Blighty for a couple of customer visits in Brum. It’s an overnight flight so when you add the inevitable lack of sleep from annoying seat-mates or teething children to the lost 8 hours due to physics and time zones, I’m really hoping I just remember to drive on the left when I get there! As I recall, LHR to Birmingham is pretty straightforward, but traffic in the UK was already a nightmare 15 years ago when I left. I think I’ll swing by my father-in-law’s in Milk’n’beans for a sit-down and a cup of tea en route. He’s coming to the Wet Coast in June to join us for my eldest’s graduation from Waterloo, so I’m half-expecting he’ll be wanting me to carry something or other back with me.

Anyway, from Milton Keynes I continue to the hotel in Birmingham tomorrow night and visit the customers on Friday. I have to pick up a colleague flying in from Dusseldorf, so it’s a lot of to-ing and fro-ing.

The pay-off though is that I get the weekend in the UK to myself. It’s my mum’s 74th birthday on Saturday, so I’m heading up to Yorkshire to buy her a fancy dinner (despite her insistence on using some voucher at the local pub/restaurant). Sunday night I’m flying with Germanwings to Cologne, and spending the week there at a trade show. FESPA if you’re in the ‘hood.

Monday’s a holiday here though, so I’ll miss out on that. I’ll just have to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday on my own in Köln. Quelle domage. Fizzy beer and sausage!

Thursday night, I’m back in Heathrow and stopping off for a curry in Sipson – most recommended, by the way. Time zones and physics pay back on Friday and I land in Vancouver at a time that is impossibly close to the time I set off. Saturday I’ll most likely sleep it off, which is a shame because that’s my own birthday.

I really must start looking into the possibilities of growing up.

Nah… maybe next year.





What goes around…

29 04 2015

Recycling starts and ends with you.





Spare Ribs and Fish Guts

29 04 2015

I’m reading a book at the moment that I bought in last year’s local Rotary Club book fair. It’s an anthology of some of Philip K Dick’s short stories. No less than 10 films have been spun from his stories, including Minority Report, Blade Runner, Total Recall, Adjustment Bureau and others. These stories obviously had merit enough to be spun up into full length films even though the original story might have only been a few pages long. Most of the stories in the anthology are a lot less spectacular. In fairness, most were written in the 50s and 60s and though tame (or lame) by modern standards, would still have been inspired and original back then.

One story is built around the concept that we all have our own world/reality. In it, everything goes just as it needs to, for our own benefit. Everything that happens – even the bad things – are ultimately for our benefit. Everyone else we encounter is basically there just for our amusement and aren’t really fully realised. They each have their own world where they are the focus and we are the bit players.

So I read this story today, and it got me thinking – as any worthy read should. I realised that the only reason I hadn’t written a more substantial “linking a few disparate ideas together” blog posting of late was basically because I hadn’t tried! I hadn’t looked for the links that are there for we pattern-seekers to find in any day we consciously experience. As humans we actually have to be careful to not find patterns and links where none actually exist. There’s a well documented phenomenon called pareidolia – one aspect of which is seeing human faces in inanimate objects or clouds, shadows, etc. I guess we’re so good at suppressing it that we forget to allow it to happen when we’re wanting a bit of creativity.

So today, we’re going to discuss spare ribs and fish guts. Hey – I never said the link couldn’t be tenuous!

I share an office and my colleague and I have known each other for many years. Since before I moved to Canada in fact. We know each other’s families well and rarely feel the need to be particularly discreet or guarded when speaking on the phone with our kith or kin. So today my colleague was speaking with his father about a recurring issue he has with a dislocated rib. Sounds painful, but apparently a bit of prodding and poking from a chiropractor (which I discovered is a North American witch doctor, but quite legal and covered by insurance despite being previously unknown to me in the Old Country) can rectify things. After the call, I was updated with the details and I jokingly suggested his father might have the troublesome rib removed. Indeed he could perhaps have it fashioned into a second wife. I think this quip surprised my devout friend because I am not known as being even slightly religious. This superficially seemed to confirm how deeply ingrained the judeo-christian traditions were within European society and how well known the biblical story of Adam’s rib was.

I then had to confess that the entire story was unknown to me until I was in college. I went to what then was an all-male college in Durham University – Grey College. It’s named after Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey of “The Duchess” fame. Tea too. Yes, that Earl Grey. Anyway, some time before I attended, there had been a motion passed that in addition to the usual dailies and several stoic publications like The Economist, the Junior Common Room would also subscribe to a publication called Spare Rib. If you’re not aware, this is a now-defunct UK feminist magazine. Pretty forward thinking for an all-male college really. Anyway, not being afraid to learn (I was after all purportedly at university for just that reason!) I had to ask what the name was all about, and someone or other set me straight about the biblical story regarding a rib, clay and whatnot.

Of course, I had to explain all this to my colleague and we quickly came across an early cover from 1972.

Wikipedia: Spare Rib 1972

Yes, that is John Cleese on the cover as “sleazy boss”. The headline reads “On the boss’s lap for Christmas – back under his thumb next year”. If you’d like to read the article on page 13 of this, the sixth edition, you can buy your very own copy for a mere £60 from Amazon.co.uk. Somewhat dearer than the original 17½p… even with inflation! I feel I must apologise that I could not ascertain the name of the young lady posed on Mr Cleese’s undeserving knee. If anyone can tell me, I’ll gladly add it to this piece. When I was a kid we actually had a mustard yellow rotary phone just like that on the table.

Today my day was pretty busy, trying to organise travel to Chicago, Connecticut and various European destinations. Also the UK, which is even now reluctant to admit it’s part of Europe. That 22 mile stretch of water has served the islands well over the millennia! Anyway, I found myself on LinkedIn trying to locate contact details of one of the clients I was to meet. Whilst trolling around various possible formats of his name and that of his company in vain, I noticed that I had received an invitation to link with someone and curiosity dragged me onwards.

The person desirous of my connection was a very northern European looking lady , but with a very Japanese name. Oh come on… you’d be curious too! I read on…

She was genuine as far as I could tell, and did indeed claim to speak Japanese, despite being a professor in a northern Icelandic university. The best bit though was her area of study. It was to do with the unexploited resources that are the byproducts of food processing. As well as vegetable trimmings (which just sounded a bit rude), my favourite was fish guts. It seems that there are useful antioxidants (and presumably other things) being discarded as part of our industrialised food creation.

Which brought me back to my lunchtime reading of “vintage” science fiction. My colleague had noticed the book and mentioned he had enjoyed reading the similarly vintage “Stainless Steel Rat” series when he was younger. I’ve not read them myself, but was aware of them, and surprised him that I knew they were penned by Harry Harrison. I knew this because Harrison also wrote a book called Make Room! Make Room! I haven’t read this either, but would very much like to. It is the novel from which the 1973 classic Soylent Green was derived. And there we have it. Spare rib, fish guts and a side of Soylent Green.

Now if I could only parley that into a trip to Iceland, we’d be golden…





Don’t regret regret

24 03 2015

Personally, I find TED talks a bit hit and miss. That’s not to say they’re not a great vehicle for spreading ideas. Not all ideas are great in any case. Others depend on your perspective as a recipient of that idea.

This one came to me via a LinkedIn page. I’m not familiar with Kathryn Schulz as a writer, but I found her presentation style a little staid. All that said, I thought her piece was quite thought-provoking. Her message, ultimately is this:

Regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly; it reminds us that we could do better.

I can buy that.

Kathryn Schulz: Don’t regret regret | Talk Video | TED.com.





Grouse Ascent 2015 No. 1

18 03 2015

Route: BCMC Trail

Time: 1:25 (unofficial – GG timer not available)

Bunked off work a bit early and got there dead on 5pm. Car-park was empty. So much so, they’d fenced off the overflow car-park altogether. The resort must really be hurting by insisting that the Grouse Grind remain closed “due to current conditions”. For Pete’s sake…

Some community-minded soul had wedged open the gate and a couple with the obligatory large dog were warming up and stretching as I arrived. I’ve suffered a lot less leg cramp on runs since a great friend had recommended this stretching nonsense, so I too began my cursory regime of calf stretches – more for show and to fool myself into thinking it helps. At this point a red-coated Grouse Mountain Resort employee stomped over to the gate and slammed it shut. The lady with the hound asked why, and he grumpily pointed at the many yellow placards loudly declaring that the Grouse Grind is still shut due to “current conditions”. Completely unruffled, the couple descended the steps over the little bridge and began to walk the 15m to the end of the fence to enter via the completely un-gated alternative route. Assuming I would also take this route, I continued my stretching as a couple of Asian ladies approached the gate and called to a bloke on the inside who was still performing his own elaborate pre-Grind regime. He happily opened the gate from the inside and all three of us began our hikes. The ladies were indeed doing the Grouse Grind, but I set off on the BCMC Trail via the BP Trail. After about 20 minutes I was over-taken by the couple with the Cerberus wannabe, so I guess they went a really long way around the fence!

The BCMC is always a lot quieter than the rat race up the Grind, but out of season and close to dusk it was delightfully empty.

Around the 3/4 mark there was a definite shift in the temperature and though there was no low cloud and lovely glimpses of the sun reflecting off Howe Sound through the trees, it was definitely a lot cooler. I was glad I had my MEC fleece jumper in my rucksack, though I didn’t need it until I’d actually got to the top. The “current conditions” were absolutely fine. Admittedly the top 1/4 was still pretty wet from snow melt, but it was perfectly safe, and I imagine the Grind was just the same. I totally support areas being closed off for safety concerns, but this seemed to be nothing more than an economic decision. A bad one at that. Closing the main entrance to the Grouse hikes was dissuading people from hiking up and spending cash at the top. Presumably in the mistaken belief that they’d be forced to pay to ride the gondola instead. Nope – they just stay home.

At the top, I had the best laugh yet. Though the impressive looking chain-linked fence and gate at the bottom seem to deter most people from hiking up (those that can’t be bothered to walk the 15m or so to circumvent this stupidity), at the top, they relied on a particularly large yellow “closed” placard and a single hurdle – like the kind you’d use for crowd control at a public event.

Eastern Fence: Barrier

Yup – that should work! No attempt at all to fence off the myriad of other trails that go down the Grouse though. Bizarre. Sadly, its apparent effectiveness goes to show just how unimaginative most Grouse Grinders really are. They do it for “the time” or whatever, not for the joy of hiking the mountain. Let’s face it, if they did… they’d never choose the Grind. It’s got to be the least scenic hike in BC!

The chalet was empty. Probably no more than 20 people in it. They’d even closed off the main restaurant part. It was a bad ski season this last winter, but by unnecessarily keeping the Grouse hikes closed they must be haemorrhaging money. There was no snow anywhere at the top, except bizarrely for a little bit around the ice rink – presumably shipped in from elsewhere for effect. There were puddles on the rink. Temperature was ~12C today.

I was the only one waiting for the gondola down, and they were making the one girl do everything – check people in and ride shotgun up/down. I asked her if it was individual limousine service this evening, but a handful of others arrived before we actually descended. There was even a couple of kids with their mum – they’d apparently just had a skiing lesson, so I guess the snow blowers installed for the 2010 Winter Olympics are being put to good use on at least one of the runs.

I quite enjoyed pretty much having the mountain to myself. It’ll be in contrast to the merciless pounding it’ll receive when the Grind officially opens and the hoi palloi descend in droves.

 





The thing about unconscious bias…

16 03 2015

… is that you don’t know you’re doing it!

Google chairman gets called out for cutting off a woman while talking about diversity.

Mashable: Eric Schmidt

Kudos to Judith Williams, who heads up Google’s unconscious bias program for calling out her own boss Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt as well as Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson for continually interrupting the United States’ Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith in a SXSW Interactive panel discussion.








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