Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dynamite stuff

Wrenched my back a little yesterday shifting kit into my shed. The pain made me postpone a meeting with one of my volunteers today and generally feel sorry for myself all last night. Precious little sleep was had, and I found myself seeking the solace of the floor at three in the morning because my bed was too soft.

Went to the local Pharmacy and bought a tube of this stuff. Got home and rubbed a generous wodge into the affected area. Ten seconds later I can stand up straight again! Seriously impressive.

On the way out of the store we could see the sunset painting the mainland snowcapped mountains a shade of dusky cerise. "Wow. Pink mountains." Vouchsafed Wife.
"Well, that is Vancouver over there." I rejoindered.
"You, Jones, are too cheeky by half." Wife chortled.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Too nice to stay in

The past couple of days have been glorious in terms of sunshine. Air so clear you can see the snow capped Coastal Mountains of BC some eighty kilometres away from the middle of Nanaimo. What a view. Of course we have to pay the price of a fairly sharp frost (-6 Degrees Celsius), but seeing as our house is well insulated and heated, we don't have to worry much about the cold.

Have been reading up on the 'Frost fairs' on the River Thames, and watching the latest financial news with a little trepidation. I'm not too concerned as the credit crunch that started the slide is world wide, so meaning (hopefully) that our investments will not be too badly hit. Our house in the UK sold just before Christmas, and the money therefrom resides in a high(er) interest account, meaning it won't lose much value providing there's no exchange rate disaster.

Work permit application this weekend. I'm not a little anxious because my new job doesn't pay much, and the if the issuing officer has had a bad day already, I might have a problem. They can refuse to issue, which is my chief anxiety. Oh well, all I can do is fill in the forms, check them with Immigration and hope for the best. If Immigration in Nanaimo gives me the green light, I shall head for the US border with a light heart and a spring in my step.

Talked to one of my volunteers and opposite numbers yesterday. I was a bit nervous, but they seem nice people, and willing to forgive any immediate gaps in my knowledge and experience. Things seem to be rather neglected, and in need of publicity and an injection of new blood and fresh funding. Fortunately, I've found that I've more or less got a free hand in the matter, so if I have to get 'creative', there will be no one to slap my wrists and say 'NO!' My 'territory' runs from Duncan, BC all the way up to Port Hardy. This came as a bit of a shock, but I'm sure I can find some way of managing, so long as I'm not paying the Mill owner to go to work.

Today I am on the scrounge for kit, and am going to take posession of a wheelchair with a beautifully engineered pivot and tilt mechanism which some disabled person will find good use for. It's only an instinct, a 'seeming' or prescient feeling if you will, but it's just one of those pieces of kit that you just know you're going to find a use for in the near future.

Anyway, It's too sunny to stay indoors, I'm going to visit the shoreline with Dog, and see what the rest of the day brings.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Per ardua, ad astra

A couple of items of news have come to pass in the last month or two that have quite piqued my interest. First was the E8 'Theory of Everything' postulated by 'surfer dude' physicist A Garrett Lisi. Second was the news of 'First Plasma' on the WB-7 experimental fusion reactor.

Seen in isolation, these two pieces of news might elicit a "so what?" response from the unenlightened. "So what?" Mr / Ms A. Verage might say. "How do a theory of everything and method of attaining Nuclear Fusion fix my leaky tap / calm my raucous kids / lower my rising fuel bills / sack a corrupt politician?" Might be their response. The simple answer is it doesn't, so any debate generated by such a discovery might not be the one A. Verage should be bothered with.

Garrett Lisi's 'exceptionally simple' theory postulates that the interrelationships between energy, matter, gravity, and how it all fits together can be plotted using a single geometric 'map'. His model has come under fire from some grumpy 'String theory' physicists who might be a bit miffed that his theory might work better than theirs, and are a bit jealous of the publicity his theory has attracted. It may even be that String Theory physics can find a common thread (Bad pun, sorry) within the E8 model. However, that is a postulation all of it's own. By Lisi's own admission, the theory is 'young', and 'all or nothing' and 'requires work'. According to some sources, when the Large Hadron collider comes into operation, certain aspects of Lisi's theory can be tested against the results.

The news about the 'Polywell' reactor design is interesting because it may be able to produce the long sought after result of a workable Nuclear Fusion generator. Not only that, but a Fusion Generator small enough not to require a fixed location. In short, something that can put out enough power (Megawatts as opposed to Kilowatts of power) to make something like a Magnetoplasmadynamic thruster work for example. With enough cheap power, there is the potential for more economic spaceflight, more chance of actually attaining the velocities needed to take mankind to the stars. In addition, E8 theory might even provide one of the keys which could unlock the secret of Faster than Light travel.

Of course both E8 theory and the Polywell Fusion device might turn out to be one massively disappointing damp squib; or the politicians, in order to placate the squabbling masses of our crowded little planet, might argue that we should solve all of Earth's problems (As if that were likely) before even thinking of travelling to the Stars and cut the funding.

For myself, I remain optimistic and feel that there is much going on worth being sanguine about in the world of Physics. I will not go to the stars, being too old and farty, but my grandchildren might; and that will be something worth looking forward to.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Beautiful morning. Brilliant blue sky, and the narrows looking like newly hammered steel, bright and pale blueish. A nice change after the wind and waves we've had recently. There was an item in the news that Vancouver had been badly hit by a windstorm. No one really hurt, but power outages and stuff hanging off buildings caused a lot of inconvenience.

If anyone were to ask me what I worried about most in terms of catastrophe, the truth is I don't. I understand that the global and local climates follow cycles. I don't believe that mankind has much effect on the climate. We can muck up the food chains by overfishing and over hunting. We can poison the very ground we walk upon, temporarily speaking (Temporary in this case to mean events around 1-200 years), yet when it comes to the climate, and the earth we stand upon, we have very little effect.

One thing that surprised me is the lack of Earth tremors felt in our little neck of the woods, especially when four moderate to strong (5.3, 6.7, 6.4 and 5.4) richter scale events have occurred since the 5th of January, a couple of hundred kilometres north and west of us in the Cascadia subduction zone. Did we feel anything? No. Not so much as a tinkle of glasses on the shelf.

People keep on telling me that we on Vancouver Island are expecting 'the big one' of a magnitude of 8 or more on the Richter Scale any time now, but if this site is to be believed, as the big quakes come every 4-600 years, and the last one was in 1700, we've got at least another 90 years at the very least before the 'big one' comes, although three or so larges event of around 7 plus is likely as we tend to get a group of those around every 50 years. If it does hit, I expect to get a phone call to put on my working togs and help out, such is the way of things over here.

Certain stores stock ready made 'Emergency kits' which look quite handy. Simple stuff, flashlights, small radios, water purification tablets and space blankets, that sort of thing. I hope not to make use of mine, although it sits in a 'grab and go' location in the car. It's like an insurance policy. It's comforting to have, but it would be nice if you never had to use it.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Snow in Saudi Arabia

A story oddly ignored by the mainstream media for it's significance. Saudi Arabia has experienced it's first snow for a long time. Absolutely true. It's also snowing heavily in Iraq and Iran.

Funny how this significant event has been mainly treated with a 'so what?' in some quarters. Strange how you have to go all the way to a Russian news agency to find a link. The view that we are due for a trip into one of Earth's periodic cold spells around 2012 also actually gets credence. Tried a similar link on the Guardian's website which came up repeatedly with a 404 error. Hmm. Nothing much in the Times, Telegraph, or BBC websites either. Double hmm.

Upon reflection, when it comes to cold spells, I reckon the Russians might have more of a grip on the realities than many of the western 'greenies'. Let's face it, they know cold up in Siberia.

Back to the books. Now where was that data on more efficient house insulation?

Interesting stuff

Browsing around yesterday, I found the news via the Devils Kitchen an item of great import. Especially, if you actually give a monkeys about the future of civilisation, even though viewing it with a severely jaundiced eye.

The latest prototype of the late, great Dr Robert Bussards team, now led by Dr Richard Nebel, has attained 'first plasma', one of the steps on the road to practical nuclear fusion. The WB-7 is actually making progress, as opposed to the false alarms in the 1980's over 'Cold fusion', and the continued lack of success by mega funded projects such as the Tokamak based approach by ITER.

The only front line web source seems to be run by a Mr M Simon from Illinois, as in the main, the newspapers haven't picked up on it. Not that they would, the current state of the news is way below their celebrity obsessed radar. It's not dramatic enough; although, fair's fair, there have been so many false alarms over the years, and Nuclear Fusion has been such a damp squib apart from the H-Bomb, that 'it ain't news'.

If it were true, and the Polywell based Hydrogen-Boron Fusion device does work, then cheap plentiful energy will be the future. Although this may displease some of the more vociferous 'Back to Earthers' who won't be happy until we're all living in caves, I'm sanguine. Energy means civilisation. Small power plants mean diversity and portability. If the ECM2 team have cracked it, then we may even have an energy source that will take us to the stars. Now that will be something.

Anyway, all this exciting news is one thing; I must do some studying on insulation values, local zoning and construction rules today. The future of Nuclear Fusion will happen whether I watch it or not.

Friday, January 11, 2008

I recycle because

I was brought up with recycling because my family has never been rich, and every penny has always counted. Kitchen waste went into the compost heap which provided compost for the soil, which fertilised the garden where we grew vegetables to eat.

Bottles went back for the deposit so we could afford some sweets or pop. Maybe a comic.

We bought meat from the butcher wrapped in greaseproof paper. We bought cheese in the same manner, cut off a larger cheese at the grocers. We generated very little waste for the bin men to collect.

I grew up with the Irish tradition of fishing and hunting 'for the pot', not for sport. Although if the fox that was in the chicken pen last night got torn to shreds by the local Hunt, I was always pretty relaxed about that, too.

Our pets earned their living too. Cats by hunting out mice and rats. The dogs kept vigil so we could sleep safe at night.

My brother and I cut logs for the fire. Dad and Mum ran businesses. Everybody in the household had chores. We did them, and even when times were tough, no one ever went hungry.

In the power cuts of the 1970's we traded cut seasoned logs for our neighbours solid fuel stove in return for borrowing their cooker. We dug snow and packed it in tin boxes in the garage when the refrigerator couldn't run because there was no power. We ate well under lamplight, and sang old comic music hall songs and Gilbert and Sullivan while Mum or Dad played the piano in candlelight.

I don't recycle because I believe what scaremongering politicians tell me. I recycle because I'm a cheap bastard and understand that people like me never let their families go hungry. Ergo I recycle, and have done since I was a child. I will continue to recycle because I despise the casual wastefulness of others, not because I have the self centred arrogance to believe that I am helping 'save the planet'. Earth can get on quite well with or without me, but I have this little habit called breathing I'm rather fond of, call me an old silly if you will.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Am I a crackpot?

Sent to me from an old friend and fishing buddy.
An Elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.
For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, but the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.
After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream. 'I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.'

The old woman smiled, 'Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side?'
'That's because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them.'
'For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.'

Each of us has our own unique flaw. But it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. You've just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.

So, to all of my crackpot friends, have a great day and remember to smell the
flowers on your side of the path, and send this to any or all of your
Crack Pot friends within 5 minutes and see what happens! Don't forget the
Crack Pot ! that sent it to you!!

On the more mundane side, Wife and I are sat snugly indoors catching up with little tasks, watching the rain fall over the Narrows, while according to friends up in Nanaimo, it's been snowing a fair bit.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Jam Daywalkers

Dropped Wife off to do her voluntary stuff this morning, and returned home to do some work, and see when I was going to receive the letter which would enable me to pootle off cross border, and come back to apply for a Work permit.

Heard the local Bald Eagles wheeling around, but could not photograph them as the zoom on my little digital camera is too weedy to capture their wheeling majesty. There's also a 'feature' on the wretched thing that sometimes prevents the shutter operating if it's pain in the arse little silicon chip tells it there's too much / too little light.

Mildly frustrated after a fruitless morning, I got back in our well worn old battle bus and set off to collect Wife and run a couple of errands. On my way into Cedar I was forced to brake sharply by three Peacocks crossing the road. WTF!? Peacocks? In Canada? I thought they were African or Asian, or only kept on English Country Estates or Zoos, not parading around south Vancouver Island like they owned the place. A few hundred metres later I was forced to slam on the anchors quite precipitously as a string of Quail scuttled across in front of me. Damn Jaywalkers, or as Wife spoonerised, Jam Daywalkers. What has got into the local avian population? Acute depression or something? Or are the little sods trying to frighten me into a cardiac arrest? Can't trust birds, cunning little tinkers.

After that, we returned home and I managed to get through to my new boss re the job. I asked her about the letter, which I was assured would be with me within the next week or so. As soon as I get that, Wife and I will take a wander over the border and back with all our paperwork. That done I can get cracking with the new job, and see what good I can do. I may even finish the book.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

House dreaming

One of the things Wife and I crossed a third of the world to do, apart from bring Wife back to her homeland, was to build a family home for the generations to come. Not just any home mark you, but a mostly self sufficient house with non-dependent heating systems, water, electrical power etc to keep me and mine safe and snug, even if the rest of the world went to hell in a handbasket.

There are others who have tried this approach with their 'back to nature' model with such measures as earth closets. I like my plumbing a little more sophisticated, and while crossing Canada was reminded of the noisome horror of such toilets in the height of summer. Besides, I want it to be a place I am happy to admit guests to, and don't want them going home with stories about 'roughing it'. I've done my share of sleeping under hedgerows, in sheds, and smoky, poky little rooms, and quite frankly that's for masochists. My thoughts circulate around a well constructed and insulated shell with an open plan feel about it. That and a comfortable bed to sleep in at night.

To this end, Wife and I have spent months poring over house designs, studying issues like 'passive solar heating', air circulation, power generation and heating. All of the aforementioned appear at the moment of writing to be little more than partial solutions. Especially just above the 49th parallel. More research is needed.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Climate change bitch fight

Being an outdoor sort, I'm a keen observer of the Birds and beasts of the field. No sign of our local Deer herd, the Bald Eagles, or the Sea Lions, so I just sat me down to write and browse through my list of favourite blogs and web sites.

After a thousand words or so, I took a break and pootled over to Mr Eugenides to see what his latest amusing rant was about. Took a few minutes out to comment that all this Anthropogenic Global Warming was, at the latest reports inference, more likely to end up as a global cooling, only to get a little scorched by a flame from a person who, on the scantiest of evidence, called me an ignorant so and so. He obviously didn't like what I had written, and posted a couple of hundred words of pretty ill founded invective against my good self for saying I thought that AGW is a bit of a con. I took it in good part, and in a return post observed that if we could stretch the dog analogy a little, I was not so much a "British Bulldog" as a Border Collie, or sheepdog. Also that I was a 'Practicing Environmentalist' and habitual recycler rather than some short sighted Colonel Blimp, as he inferred.

Shortly afterwards I googled "Climate Sceptic" and found site after site, and post after post devoted to the subject of how to 'deal with' those who spoke out against the political dogma of Human Centred Climate Change. To be honest it was a sobering experience. Previously I had no idea of the propaganda campaign being waged against such doubters as myself by the 'believers'. For propaganda is what it is, because it makes little room for honest doubt or discussion of the evidence. The sheer unthinking zealotry of the pro AGW camp left me a little unsettled. They accept the dogma of anthropogenic climate change unquestioningly, which appears to have taken the place of religion for them. It's very sad for them. Maybe they should go out and get lives instead. Perhaps we could do a Golgafrincham 'B' Ark on them. Now that really would be an environmentally useful solution. Although we could do without the telephonically transmitted disease.

At least I'm worth something

Sunny day out in the Narrows, lots of log debris out there espied through my new binoculars. Not much sign of the local wildlife. After yesterdays little exertion, even Dog is refusing to get up and go. As for me, I've been pootling, waiting for contact from my new employer re a start date.

Apart from editing the MSS, I browsed by a couple of UK web sites and found this via the Devils Kitchen. Nice to know that Wife could get a few months rent out of my corpse should she need to.
$4225.00The Cadaver Calculator - Find out how much your body is worth.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

12th Night and the Cable Bay Trail

Today Wife suggested we have a late brunch type breakfast and a good long walk to burn it off. I was happy with this. January 6th for my family is traditionally 12th Night, when all Christmas celebrations should cease and all the decorations should be taken down. It is also the day I generally begin the month long detox that is January to ensure I am in good condition for the rest of the year. No sweeties, little booze, and plenty of healthy exercise to trim the post Christmas bulge back to size. I like a good walk, it clears the mind and lets you think.

We set out and decided to walk to the head of the Cable Bay trail, which is only a couple of miles from our little corner of British Columbia. Dog fretted on the lead as he always does, and was a total pain until I let him loose when we were safely clear of the road.

On the way we got a good view of the local nesting pairs of Bald Eagles wheeling overhead. Tried to take a photo, but our four year old digital camera wasn't playing ball, so, wildlife photo opportunity failure number one. I was mildly cheesed off, but what the hell, there's always tomorrow morning, which the weatherman says will be sunny like today.

The paths were full of friendly fellow hikers, almost all with a friendly word, which we responded in kind to. Lots of fellow dog walkers, and no sign of the local Black Bear, who was spotted frequenting the woods during fall. All in all, a nice easy walk, if a little steep in places. We even took the Joan Park section of the walk along the waters edge to the throat of the Dodds Narows. En route we saw the first of the migrating sea lions pushing up current against the tide. See below for an empty piece of sea where one had just dived for cover.
Other hikers told us that there was a whale in the channel, but I reckon it was one of the Sea Lions blowing. If you blink, it's very easy to mistake one from the other, although Humpback Whales are not unknown in these waters.

We walked all the way down to Joan point at the top of Dodds Narrows to watch the choppy tide race through the narrows and promptly lost Dog, who had gotten bored and wandered off. He finally responded to my calls and sat down at my side while Wife caught up with us, his customary "Sorry Boss" look on his face. She wagged a finger at him for worrying us to death before we set off home.

Going up the trail head is harder than the walk to the waters edge because it is rather steep in a couple of places, and our home made walking staves were put through their paces. The paths do have the odd skid pan, and a trip or fall would get either or both of us in trouble, despite serious travel insurance cover. By the time we reached the inland end of the trail again, we were tired and looking for a nice hot cup of tea, which according to that sage of sages, Douglas Adams, is the cure for all ills and civilisations troubles. "Whose idea was this?" I asked when Wife complained that we still had a couple of miles to go. "Mine." She replied, unabashed, but slightly puffed out.

Half an hour later we were home, and I was stripped off in the shower washing both myself and Dog, lest either of us be cast into the outer darkness for tramping mud all through the house. Dog was so knackered he lay down in the shower and let me wash him thoroughly without fussing like he normally does. He acted up a bit when I turned Wife's hair dryer on him, but since this afternoon has been flaked out with Wife while watching 'House' on the DVD player. As soon as this is posted, it's a large Jamesons for me and a nice early night. So long as Wife isn't feeling randy, I should sleep the sleep of the blessed.

Busy week ahead.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A couple of minor changes

Looking at the latest evidence against the great global warming con job, have elected to change a few details of the MSS. Instead of setting the story against a post climatic upheaval, I have decided to change the parameters to one set in a world gripped by a semi perpetual Winter. Not so much snow in the summer, just freezing rain, semi permafrost and slush.

Roughly re jigged the first chapter, and damn me if the story doesn't work better. Got to carve out a few thousand words, but 'mini ice age' fits better and is more original than the tired old chestnut of a climate gone mad.

Not much else of note. Did the recycling this morning. Wife is in slowdown and currently curled up in bed. The two pairs of Bald Eagles that frequent our skies when the rain lets up were in evidence this morning. Our local mini herd of deer paid us a late night visit, and the jackrabbit population seems to be in decline. The dwindling number of bunnies probably means the Eagles have been busy. No doubt we'll be overrun by bloody rabbits come spring, so I'm rooting for the raptors.

The rain has been pretty relentless of late. It seems to have been impersonating an English Summer (Drizzle, dampness and downpour) for the past 72 hours. Fairly stormy last night, with plenty of whitecaps out in the Narrows today, even with the tide at full flood. Time to hunker down over the keyboard with a nice hot cup of tea methinks.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Staying away

Glad I'm no longer living in Britain. According to the on line papers the economy is on the slide, rail chaos, a thing called a Norovirus has laid over 2 million people low. Add to that the loss of civil liberties and rising cost of living, I reckon we're better off out of it.

The only thing that bothers me is that our girls have gone back to that mess. Despite the fact that we had a very crowded Christmas and New Year which sent me crawling up the nearest vertical surface, I am mildly concerned for their future; although they are as capable as we could bring them up to be. On the other hand, they have travelled half way around the globe without us fussing over them, so perhaps our anxiety is ill founded.

Have spent the day dodging back and forth on ferries to Vancouver airport and back. Wife was a bit tearful, but I leant her one of my broad and manly shoulders and let her have a little cry. Despite what all the radical feminists would have us believe, most women seem to like a good cry now and again. It seems to come more readily to them than us mere males. I don't hold with weeping just because you've seen some family off on a long flight, although I get a bit of a catch in my throat sometimes. I am concerned for their welfare of course, and overjoyed when we get notice of their safe arrival at journeys end, but tears aren't a big part of my emotional response. My own take on the matter is that if I dissolve into puddles at the drop of a hat, I'm no good diving into a phone box for a quick change into my hero costume when the need arises. Someone has to be ready to pitch in if it all goes pear shaped.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Starting 2008

Feeling much better after that alarming chest flutter. It was nothing serious, just palpitations brought on by an electrolyte imbalance from too much rich food and too little exercise. I must write out 100 times "Don't suddenly pig out on chocolate when you haven't had any for three months." Regrettably I will probably cheat by cutting and pasting as I usually do.

Keep on sniggering at the 'Climate change' panic mongers. Every time they gibber on that the heat death of the Universe is at hand, the climate contradicts them. Britain is currently bracing for a 'Siberian chill' where falls of snow as deep as one inch will bring the whole country grinding to a halt. Last time my one time home had any real snowfall was back in 1987. Previous to that the last heavy snow in the UK midlands was, if my memory serves me correctly, 1965. I remember walking just over a quarter mile to school in wellingtons and a duffle coat wearing mittens instead of gloves (Oh, the shame, the shame!) In 1987 we got our electricity, gas and water cut off for almost 72 hours. Before that, 1946/7 was supposedly a very heavy winter in Britain. Is it just me, or is there some sort of pattern emerging here?

Canada is suffering storms in the East, and here on the Island we have had the first serious snow in Nanaimo for; according to some friends who were living here then, twenty years. Great for winter sports.

The girls go back to England tomorrow, as does mother in law. Then I must mend fences with Wife, who currently considers me an unfeeling brute because I would not be bullied from my sick bed to spend New Years Eve at sister in laws place up in town. Humble pie looks to be my fare for a while until honour is satisfied. Failing that, I might just try and play the masterful male and tell her that if I'm feeling poorly I won't be budged with a bulldozer. Not that I'll get away with it of course, she knows all my weak spots.