Oi – I’m talking to you…

18 06 2013

Don’t you hate it when you’re trying to talk to someone in a bar or café, and they only have eyes for their smart phone?

Salve Jorge Bar in São Paulo, Brazil has come up with an interesting solution. Their beer glasses will only remain upright (keeping your undrunk beer where it’s supposed to be) if you rest them on your phone… thus keeping it safely out of reach, and freeing you up to once more take part in the human race.

Well I Never!

2 04 2013

I’ve driven in a few places in the States. Never in Florida though.

Turns out it was just as well! Until today, it was illegal to drive in Florida unless you had a driving license issued by one of the US States. Despite what some down there may think… that didn’t include our 10 provinces and 3 territories (one of the questions on the citizenship test, BTW.) Alternatively  you could get an International Driving Permit (which seems to magically make you a better driver).

Apparently the law was never meant to exclude the many Canadian snow birds who pour millions of dollars into Florida’s economy when it gets a bit chilly up North. Like the hardening of the border crossing to a maximum 90 days after 9/11 supposedly wasn’t intended to exclude them either.

Anyway, thanks in part to efforts by Canada’s Automobile Association, it was repealed today.

CAA Applauds Repeal of Florida IDP law.

Mind you… Canada is no better. It may have changed now, but in 2001 when we immigrated to Canada, BC required UK drivers to re-take their driving test in order to drive for more than 90 days. At the time it seemed to make sense. After all the UK drives on the left and the road rules are different here (turning right on red lights, it being perfectly OK to do 50kmh in “the fast lane” on highways while drinking your coffee, petting your maltipoo on your lap and smoking a joint, yada yada…).

But wait… if you emigrated from Japan you could just swap your license. They drive on the left too! Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Actually – Denmark I’m not so sure about. Austria and Switzerland though – they can drive for free. Weird. But, if we’d immigrated to Alberta, we could have swapped our UK license for a Canadian one there – no trouble. Moving between Provinces is a straight swap too. So hang on…

Moving directly to BC meant we took a test, but if we’d moved to Alberta then BC, we wouldn’t? How does this make me a better qualified driver?

It kind of reminds me of when I applied for my Brazilian visa a few years ago. I just checked – the anecdote is still true. A business visa for a Canadian citizen going to Brazil is $75. For American citizens it is free.


However… there’s a $200 administrative fee if you’re an American citizen! I’m sure this has nothing to do with the way Brazilian tourists were suddenly required to have their fingerprints taken when they entered the US after 9/11. Nothing at all…

AV Chiado / Turismo de Portugal: QR Code

7 10 2012

20 years ago Mrs Elephant and I went on honeymoon to the island of Madeira. It’s a Portuguese possession, and this stonework was beautifully represented there too. I sat for ages watching the workmen carefully size and position each piece as they repaired a stretch of pavement. Much more recently I visited Belo Horizonte in Brazil – a former Portuguese colony and was surprised to see the tradition had even crossed the Atlantic.
As a child, I remember the pavements in Yorkshire being constructed of great slabs of sandstone. They blended in perfectly with the other local stone in the houses they served. Now… it’s all a monotonous black tarmac. Quick to lay down. convenient. And soulless.

AdPitch Blog

“The idea was simple; Launch a QR code, one of the most innovative technologies of the XXI century, made by Portuguese cobblestones, one of the most ancient Portuguese traditions.

From the fusion between technology and historical traditions a new and innovative way was born to promote Portugal abroad and to provide relevant cultural content for tourists visiting Chiado.”

I actually think they look quite cool, the cobbles definitely gives them a different feel to them, it’s also interesting to see how they cut the stones to size and how much work goes into it.

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Unaccustomed as I am…

2 10 2012

So I first got into this blogging lark at the tail end of 2011. I was in Belo Horizonte, Brazil at the time on business, and feeling a bit “meh”. A colleague suggested I start a blog to exorcise my demons, or maybe it was to exercise my deviance, I forget now. So here I am, almost a year later looking at things a little differently.

The planet’s spun itself around about 300 times since then. The music hasn’t stopped yet, thankfully. To my knowledge nobody’s been reported as having been thrown off or floated away, despite the fact that if they lived at the equator, they’ve been for a roundabout ride at roughly 1,600km/h! The third rock itself has almost done a complete lap of our little sun, travelling at around 107,300 km/h. Quite astonishing really… and we take it all for granted.

Lots of water has flowed under the bridge in that time. I’ve changed jobs, travelled to Europe, visited Salt Lake City and Phoenix, drunk an immeasurable quantity of Russian Caravan tea, experienced some incredible friendship, hiked both the Grouse and the Stawamus Chief every way imaginable, been eaten alive (by mosquitoes… what were you thinking?), discovered some new World Music, learned an awful lot about myself – some of it pretty uncomfortable, some of it surprising.

Where was I before I got distracted? Oh yes – Brazil. So anyway, as well as having travelled untold miles/kilometres* (*delete as applicable in your locale) going nowhere in galactic terms, I have also typed in and posted 490 blog entries, and had a few hundred comments on them in return. Feeling quite smug with myself really – despite still having just as many demons and deviances as before. At least they’re all neatly alphabetised and cross-indexed now. Well – the ones I’ve found so far.

So today I got a comment telling me I was now the recipient of a blogging award! Not had one of those for a while. Was a little taken aback really. Always nice to feel noticed, especially when you’re not particularly expecting it. Unless you’re a bank robber I suppose.

Anyway, sheriji over on Just Sayin’ offered me The Reader Appreciation Award. Aw shucks – thanks!! If you’ve not visited her blog yet, you’d best be working on a good excuse! She was kind enough to describe these humble pages as “a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, but all about life and our reactions to it. Plus I always want to know, quieter than what?” The answer to that of course is quite irrelevant. (Please don’t make me explain…)

Inevitably there’s some “rules” (self-imposed. Aren’t they always?) to follow.

1.  When I pass it on, I provide a link to the giver’s post, and thank the blogger who nominated me.

So thank-you sheriji – really. I’m glad you found a few crumbs of entertainment here.

2.  Answer 10 questions within my own blog.

My favourite colour

Hm… when I was a kid, it used to be red. I remember being over the moon when I was 8 and being in “red team” on sports day, and getting to wear a red sash for the egg and spoon race. Then as I got older this became associated in my mind with politics, so I decided I should like blue. These days, it depends what mood I’m in. I like ambiguity. Except when I crave certainty. Greenish-bluish makes me smile. Especially when it’s really grey with attitude, but nobody dare argue.

My favourite animal to include in a story?

Though I have yet to write the story, it’d have to be the echidna. Not an echidna, THE echidna. I did once write a story about a goldfish. But it wasn’t my favourite.

My favourite non-alcoholic drink while writing?

While doing anything: tea! Writing, talking, philosophising, or just floating in the moment.

Printed books or e-books?

Printed. I’m old-school with words. I write with an ink pen (which I refill every Friday to make sure I don’t run out of ink at a crucial moment). I love the texture of a well-made book – even if I can’t read its words. I also like the musty smell of old browning paperbacks. Weird? Who? Me?! I did win a Kobo eReader last Christmas, and I have used it. But, it’s just NOT the same… Like a text-message conversation is not the same as looking into the eyes of the person you’re sharing ideas with. It’s more than a means of representing the words. It’s part of the experience.

My favourite writer(s) now?

Terry Pratchett is always “up there” – he has such wit and breadth. I am sad for his failing health with Alzheimer’s – I liked the old him, and business and books being what they are, I’ll never know the new him.

I like Giles Milton too, for non-fiction.

As I turn to look at my bookcase for anyone else I might especially like, I am struck by the wide diversity of what I see there!

Jasper Fforde I guess should be there. The Eyre Affair was such a great concept.

My favourite writer(s) ten years ago?

Well Pratchett was still churning them out faster than I could read them back then, so he’s still on the list.

Philip K Dick. He couldn’t write for toffee, but boy did he have some great story ideas!

I read a lot of Ranulph Fiennes back then. What a life that guy has lived!

John Wyndham. What Dick could have been. Each book a great central idea, but much more well delivered with richer characters and human depth.

My favourite poet – Classic & Current?

I’m not really that well read in poetry.

I remember having to read a poem by e e cummings with my class when I was in Primary School, and being awestruck that he dared to break the rules of English, even when I barely knew them myself. Of course, now I’m more cynical and think his typewriter was just broken. I believe it was “hist whist“, if you’re interested. Yup – that’s right: I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I remember what poem I had to read in front of assembled parents 40 years ago!

I think of songs as poetry (some listen to the tune, I like the words). I love Fiona Apple‘s imagery, but John Lennon will always be the master for me, with Roger Waters a close second.

My favourite time of day to write?

When I have something to say! I think we make time to do the things that matter to us. We take risks and break rules to do what we think is “right” or “important”… whatever those words mean to us at any given moment. We justify not doing things by claiming there was no time or some rule prevented us. Really it was because we didn’t think it was important enough right there, right then.

What is your passion when it comes to your writing?

Passion is a strong word!

I like to be entertaining. Witty if possible. Educational possibly. Sometimes sneaky or wriggly.

[That’s only 9!! It’s the engineer in me… I notice things like that. Or maybe I’m just anally retentive.]

LATE EDIT: I traced the daisy chain back and found where the 10th question went. I was asked to offer a substitution, so here it is…

Which of the five senses do you value the most?

I think they’re all important obviously. We’ve evolved them as a “necessary and sufficient” set. However, we’re really good with this brain thing too, so we can adapt. I think I’d have the toughest time losing my sight. If I’d never seen at all, it might be different, but now, I think I’d struggle to not have those glimpses of other people living their lives. The changes of the colours in the trees. Glint of sun on water. I think the other senses would heighten, but I’d always mourn the loss of seeing a child smile when they see their parent. A lover’s glance over a dinner table. A raised eyebrow in signalled mischief.

3.  Nominate other blogs that I find a joy to read. (Ten is recommended)

I don’t think I regularly read that many, but let’s see how we do…

Photo . Lord Content – a daily photo competition that has some unbelievable images posted

Misfits’ Miscellany – Fostering poetry and writing that others might not. A good virtual friend to-boot. And believe me, if we ever meet, I’ll boot him!

Breathtaking Portraits – Wha’? It’s art… honest!

Scout Magazine – For what’s happening in Vancouver, my adopted home.

Howtodateboys – An insight into how women think. (I’m none the wiser, but it’s heart-felt and honest)

illustration & calligraphy – You’re joking right? What do you THINK it’s about?!

4.  Provide links to these nominated blogs and kindly let the recipients know that they have been nominated.

Photo . Lord Content

Misfits’ Miscellany

Breathtaking Portraits

Scout Magazine


illustration & calligraphy

5.  Include the award logo within your own blog post.

I can do that… thanks again sheriji!

Scout Magazine – AWESOME THING WE ATE #868: Truffle Oil Potato Chips From Rootable At The Market

20 07 2012

Scout Magazine – AWESOME THING WE ATE #868: Truffle Oil Potato Chips From Rootable At The Market

You had me at “truffle oil”!
I had to go all the way to Brazil to buy my (Italian) truffle oil. [Not really – I just happened to be there on a business trip]. Can’t find it anywhere in BC.

Small Milestones

25 05 2012

So way back in November 2011, I was in Brazil on a business trip. I was discussing with my colleague about my lack of focus and general disgruntlement with the world. She suggested I begin a blog, and on 13th December the Quieter Elephant was born. That’s 164 days ago apparently. Since then it’s kept true to its mandate of being, when all is said and done, the dust has settled, the cows have come home, and the clichés are all finished – quite irrelevant. I also changed jobs which helped!

According to those kind folks at WordPress and their statistics software, I have since written 341 blog entries (which is an average of more than 2 a day), garnered 996 comments (though at least half are probably my own responses to misfits’ miscellany), had 11,006 hits with a peak of 199 hits in a 24hr period, and most importantly for my ever expanding ego: have today acquired 100 followers.

Though I’m sure I’ll embarrass her by singling her out (apologies Anne), Anne Steenhuis (which I assume is Dutch for stone house – a good solid name if ever there was one) came on board to tip the scales at 100. Nothing by some measures – there are plenty of blogs out there with tens of thousands of followers. However this one remember is Quite Irrelvent!!

So – thanks for reading. I hope at least some of you are entertained at least some of the time. And if not: just remember what the blind man said when he walked into a bar…

“Bloody hell, which daft bugger left that there?!”

Nirvana: Smells like tea spirit

12 02 2012

Some readers may recall mention of my not too distant (temporally) trip to Brazil. I think I forgot to mention though my introduction to a soft drink containing the delicious Guaraná berries. It went by the rather grand name of Antarctica brand, and was delicious to the last drop. A little reminiscent of Vimto for those in the know. It’s very Brazilian, and though Coke brand their own variation with more than twice the added sugar, it’s a poor imitation.

Guaraná Antarctica

Guaraná Antarctica

Having left the environs of Blighty some 11 years ago, I was therefore all the more PO’d to learn that Tesco is one of the few non-Brazilian chains to carry this drink. Wikipedia claim it’s available in Canada now, so I’m definitely keeping my eyes open for the distinctive green cans/bottles, but thus far, there seemed little chance of tasting the fine flavours until a possible return trip to sunny Brazil. Then, quite by chance, I was in the local corner store looking for some mint imperials(a little luxury I sometimes afford myself if I’ve been well-behaved. I don’t get them often as you can imagine, and I’d cheated even on this occasion when I wasn’t looking).

Wikipedia: Mint Imperials

Wikipedia: Mint Imperials

The store had a promotion on for a brand of herbal teas I was unfamiliar with: Four O’clock. Experts of course will recognise this as “tea time” (along with one, two, three o’clock rock, and any other time there’s a warm enough kettle within reach.) I think they’re based in Quebec. I could be wrong. It sometimes happens. 😉

Four O'clock: Nirvana tea

Four O'clock: Nirvana tea

Anyway, one of the products, going by the name of Nirvana contains not only guaraná, but also mate for good measure. Both these plants are supposedly high in natural caffeine (my favourite “i after e even with no leading c” word!)

Wikipedia: Mate in a traditional calabash gourd

Wikipedia: Mate in a traditional calabash gourd

It’s only made with the extract of guaraná, which is a bit like mechanically separated meat, but for plants. Could be anything! Still, it’s quite tasty and remember, above all: it was on special offer!

Not one for the animal lovers…

9 01 2012

So I’ll begin by declaring my hand.

I hate cats. Not just “don’t like them”. I mean more of the “quite willing to sign up for any experiments being conducted to see how far they’d go if one were to kick them” ilk. I apologise if this entirely tongue-in-cheek line is offensive, but would point out that I did warn you in the title, so you only have yourself to blame. Agreed? OK, let’s continue…

Pigeons. Well, I have mixed views on pigeons. Knowing that the dodo (as seen on my rather spiffing tie) was a distant relative (of the pigeon, not me you understand. OK, so TECHNICALLY me as well. And you for that matter, but let’s continue, shall we? And stop distracting me so…) makes me feel a certain bonhomie towards them. I once saw stuffed dodos in the Rothschild museum in Tring. Actually – several times, we had annual tickets. They were stuffed. They tended not to move around between visits.

Wikipedia: Sarah Hartwell: Mauritius Dodo, Rothschild Zoological Museum, Tring.

Wikipedia: Sarah Hartwell: Mauritius Dodo, Rothschild Zoological Museum, Tring.

You can see why they were hunted to extinction, can’t you? Plus or minus some teenagers I’ve seen occasionally lurking in my house, it’s harder to imagine anything more gullible-looking. But I digress (moi?! Imagine that…). The more common image of pigeons is some scrappy flying rat, usually with less than the full compliment of legs, or at least toes, and trying to steal your chip butty while you’re not looking.

Flickr: Crippled pigeon

Flickr: Crippled pigeon

Or worse… crapping on your head. I had this last unfortunate experience while waiting for the lights to change in downtown Vancouver, so I could cross the road. I was careless enough to stand under one of the overhead lines that supply power to our lovely electric buses. I really must stop having that target buzzed into my scalp.

Odd Animals: Pooping on People book

Odd Animals: Pooping on People book

“Is this going anywhere?”, I hear the more fidgety amongst you asking. Eventually, I assure you. Patience, patience, dear reader – cross your legs if you must. This post is actually about cars. Bet you didn’t see that one coming did you?

Regular readers (or those OCD amongst you who have only just discovered these humble pages, yet have read all the back-posts) will be aware that I recently visited Brazil. Latest reports are that it’s recovering quite well from the experience and will soon be receiving visitors once more. Anyway – along with a statistically unnatural number of old-style VW Beetles, I also saw several Ford Kas.

Now the Ka (In the UK “car” is pronounced the same way, as it isn’t felt necessary or polite to pronounce every letter used to spell a word, as seems to be the case in North America. It’s like a lady’s age. It’s all known to be there, but a proportion of it is never quite admitted to,) went into production in 1996, but has yet to make its way onto Canadian roads. There’s a growing number of euro-sized cars here starting to counter-act the behemoth SUVs of the more ecologically irresponsible, and perhaps one day the Ka may join the Fiat 500, Mini, etc. After all, it’s a lot easier to find your lost earbuds for your iPod in a small car, and the North American love of automatic cars removes some of the risk of unexpected surprises from the gear stick when experimenting with more amorous options in the sub-compact.

No such issue with lack of Kas in Brazil… loads of them. This re-acquaintance with the nippy little Ka reminded me of a couple of TV ads I’d seen for the Sport version of the Ka… creatively named the SportKa! I’m sure someone got a bonus for that. From GM, like as not…

The tagline was “The Ka’s evil twin”, and the creative department must have had a ball making these!

Anyway, as a reward for you making it this far in my meandering waffle, I give you, the non-animal loving reader, two vaguely dodgy Ford Ka ads. I can put my hand on my heart and say without a moment’s hesitation that no animals were hurt in the making of this blog posting. Or possibly the ads either. CGI is a wonderful thing. I’m sure that’s not a REAL cat’s head. Probably.

Ouro Preto – Brazil

13 12 2011

Recent business trip to Belo Horizonte in Minas Gerais, Brazil provided a spare weekend, and the opportunity to visit the historic capital of Ouro Preta. Very European in feel, quite reminiscent of older parts of Funchal, Medeira.