chickenfeet: (mew)
 I've been reading Susan Brigden's biography of Sir Thomas Wyatt.  It's dense and interesting but one really interesting modern parallel struck me.  Diplomacy becomes all but impossible when one party self image of itself is something that the rest of the world simply doesn't acknowledge or recognize.  In this case it's Henry VIII's insistence that he is an orthodox Catholic despite the Break with Rome and the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  This puts his ambassadors to the Catholic powers (Wyatt was ambassador to the Emperor) in an impossible negotiating position.  This seems remarkably close to the current British government position on Brexit in that there seems to be a belief that the UK can be part of the Single Market while rejecting the bits it doesn't like.  Now Henry was a megalomaniac and probably had fallen on his head a few too many times jousting.  I'm not sure what May's excuse is.
chickenfeet: (canada)
 Just watched the highlights of the Singapore sevens.  Canada's first gold medal in the HSBC series and over the USA in the final at that.  And Lucas Hammond scored the winning try.  I used to coach that kid.  So not only have the Nomads produced the last two captains of the women's XV team and the captain of our medal winning women's sevens team in Rio but now this.
chickenfeet: (Default)
Reading about the massacre of the Eigg Macdonalds is leading to very silly speculation about the odds of there being a clan McMuffin or a clan McNugget. Neither seems intrinsically unlikely. Why should one not run across the McNuggets of ghleann cearc?
chickenfeet: (Default)
 So today's culinary excursion was an exercise in simplicity.  I had a lake trout fillet caught in Lake Huron yesterday.  I had asparagus.  I cooked some du Puy lentils and seasoned them with butter, salt, pepper and balsamic.  I grilled the asparagus.  I cut the trout into portions and heated a non stick pan as hot as I could get it.  A little olive oil and the fish skin side down.  A couple of minutes and I turned down the heat.  Flipped the fish to get some colour on the other side then flipped it again, whacked up the heat and nappéed the fish with some butter until it was just done.  I served the fish on a bed of lentils with a sprinkling of sea salt and a wedge of lime with the asparagus on the side.  Gorgeous!

Clean up

Apr. 12th, 2017 03:44 pm
chickenfeet: (Default)
 As part of the clean break from LJ I am disabling all sub and access links to LJ.  Everyone in my Dreamwidth Circle should be unaffected in terms of access from within Dreamwidth.

Time Reborn

Apr. 7th, 2017 01:39 pm
chickenfeet: (Default)
 I just finished reading Lee Smolin's Time Reborn.  It's a tough piece of writing that, like earlier Smolin works, argues that contemporary particle physics and cosmology are largely barking up the wrong tree.  It's a view that Roger Penrose also holds for different reasons.  This time the argument, crudely reduced, is that the methods of "physics in a box" cannot logically or realistically be transfered to a theory of the universe as a whole.  "Physics in a box" assumes independent observation and measurement of time and space.  Clearly at the scale of the universe there can be no such independent observation etc.  He then argues that the route forward is to reintroduce a heuristic view of time as we experience it (as opposed to the time invariance of Newton, Einstein, Maxwell and the Standard Model).  It's a clever blend of physics and metaphysics and he is a very, very smart person so maybe he has a point.  Then for reasons I don't fully grasp he goes off on a tangent into economics where he really hasn't done his homework.  He correctly points out that all the insights that the use of advanced mathematics have provided have been largely ignored by academic economists (though not by hedge funds) and then keeps drawing parallels with physics.  This drives me nuts.  Having spent umpteen chapters arguing about how, physically and metaphysically, a universe can have laws; whether universal for all time or not, he completely misses the point that economies are not ruled by extrinsic laws.  They are created and shaped by the decisions of the actors within them.  The "laws" can be changed by legislation or other government action.  The "initial conditions" of an economy are determined by things like trade rules and decisions on what lies in the public and what in the private sector.  It's as if Parliament or Congress could decide on the strength of gravity or the mass of the electron.  He just doesn't get this.  He seems to think the "Economy" is like the "Cosmos" and is just waiting for clever people like him to discover how it really works.  Would somebody please buy him the "Dummies Guide to Marxism" (not that I think Marx got everything right but he did realise that economics and politics are inextricably intertwined).  It's not just a case of finding a new class of Philosopher Economists who believe in evidence based decision making.  Gah!
chickenfeet: (srscat)
 I just went to check in on the handful of LJ friends who are not on Dreamwidth.  Apparently to do so one now has to sign a contract with what appears to be the Russian Mafia.  It isn't going to happen so I will no longer be visiting LJ.  There are a handful of accounts I'll miss so "byee".   Not that I'm terribly active over here anymore either but I do check in on my reading list fairly regularly.
chickenfeet: (resistance)
 Reflecting on the latest douchebaggery from US Customs and Immigration which "service" seems to be on a tear to make entering the US even more awful.  I don't want to exaggerate the changes because these people have always been complete bastards and I have had plenty of unpleasant experiences though nowhere near as bad as many people I know.  They epitomise the callous, rules driven approach of American officialdom at its worst and they have only been encouraged by the lack of scrutiny they expect from the Cheetoh Benito regime.  Anyway, the thought I had was that quite possibly Douglas Adams based the Vogons on US Immigration.  They have all the right characteristics; rude, loud, absence of empathy, bureaucratic.  I just hope they don't write poetry.

Well w00t!

Mar. 8th, 2017 10:00 am
chickenfeet: (resistance)
 A while ago I rather speculatively sent off emails to just about every producer/distributor of opera videos that I could get any sort of contact for.  The initial response wasn't great though Euroarts came through and a contact put me in touch with Universal Classics (DGG, Decca etc).  Now Naxos have come through and, in North America, besides their own stuff they distribute literally dozens of labels including Opus Arte, C Major and Arthaus. I may never have to buy another opera recording!

I did it

Feb. 21st, 2017 03:35 pm
chickenfeet: (four seasons centre)
 Today is technically my last day of employment with the Central West LHIN though really I haven't even pretended to do anything for a week or so.  I did apply for the Opera Canada editorship.  I'm not sure I can live on it but it's not full time and I can probably find enough other consulting/writing work to get me through to retirement!
chickenfeet: (resistance)
 The admirable First Dog on the Moon's latest creation is Raccoons of the Resistance.  Not content with saving Science by spiriting it away to safety in Canada they are now gearing up to take on Twitler on all fronts, especially garbage cans.
chickenfeet: (Default)
 The US DoD is the largest operator of IT infrastructure in the world.  It has over two million devices on its networks and, depending on the metric one chooses, is 2 to 4 times bigger than the next largest player; Google or Microsoft depending on the metric.  The mouse is mightier than the sword!

Microsoft's cloud offerings now include videoconferencing with real time language translation (latency measured in milliseconds).  Among the languages available is Klingon.  Geeks will be geeks.
chickenfeet: (death)
 Vlad's dream just came true...

Forget Syria.  Russia has no real strategic interest there.  The front line is the Donbas and the Baltic States.  Suppose, just suppose (and for fun let's pick inauguration day) Russia were to annex the Donbas?  Or even couple it with an invasion of the Baltic states?  Answers on a post card please.  Oh, and if I were Netanyahu I would choose the same day to announce the annexation of the West Bank and Gaza.  Strange times make strange bed fellows.
chickenfeet: (mew)
 Just back from a few days in Australia.  It's been twenty years since I last flew to Australia and, I think, thirty since I did it in cattle class.  Observations:

1.  I'm 20/30 years older than last time.  This does not help.

2. The introduction of new, really long range planes, has changed the game.  Used to be that LA to Sydney was about the longest flight segment out there (12 hours or so).  Now AC flies Vancouver to Sydney (15 hours).  This is quite a big change.  Also much shorter layovers as same plane Sydney to Toronto which makes for a lot of plane time pretty much non-stop (22 hours or so).  I could take this in J/F as it does shorten the overall journey time but it's very hard on the body in cattle class.

3.  It's going to get more that way.  The latest airliners have the range to do Sydney to London in one swell foop.  Guessing 20 hours plus.  The airlines will love this as it means lower costs (less fuel for takeoff/landings, fewer airport charges) and it will be a big win with the front cabin who will certainly prefer shorter journey times and where comfort, already not bad on e.g. 747s now allows for real sleep.  Could be pretty hard in cattle class though.

4.  No prospect of reduced journey times though until someone revives supersonic.  Air speeds are currently up around 900 km/hr which is about as fast as subsonic gets.

5.  I really think this will be my last Australia trip.  Another few years and I really will not be able to take it.

chickenfeet: (canada)
 So last night we were standing on Wynford Drive across from the Aga Khan Museum waiting for the 34 bus to the subway.  So were two other dudes who had been at the concert.  Bus arrives.  Out come four Presto cards.  "No Presto" grunts the driver.  Frantic scrabbling for the elusive "emergency token".  There are still places where one can get bitten by the TTC's half-assed/half-hearted Presto implementation.

FWIW we got to the museum on the Flemington Park bus.  This is surely the weirdest bus route in Toronto.  It must cross the Don Valley about four times as it weaves a bizarre route through those bits of Toronto that most white people never see.  Also it was packed.  Despite two coming together on a Saturday evening.  TTC outside the core?  The food bank of transit systems.
chickenfeet: (bike)
 It's not a particularly nice day today but I needed some fresh air and exercise so I decided to check out some of our new, improved and not so good bike infrastructure today.

So, north on Sherbourne to Gerrard, which is now open again.  The bike lane as far as Yonge is much better than before with more separation and an improved surface.  West of their it's like trying to drive a tank through the Siegfried line, as ever.  North on Bay to College, then St. George and west on Harbord.  All familiar, solid biking routes.  I cut north to check out the new lanes on Bloor which are alleged to have cut sales of kimchee by 40% or something ridiculous.  They are quite nice with decent physical separation as far as Avenue Road, then OK sharrows to Church where it gets really skeezy until Sherbourne.  OK bike lane Sherbourne to Parliament but the section from there to Castle Frank desperately needs flexipoles.  The traffic is really fast and inclined to clip the bike lane.  No fun.  The poled section from Castle Frank to Broadview is a massive improvement.  It's definitely glass half full.  I'm just vglad they don't let city planners design bridges because I swear they would design them with a gap in the middle.  

I then decided to try out Broadview since this is the city's recommended alternative to the currently closed Lower Don Trail.  It's a nightmare.  Clearly the recommendation was made by one of those planners who has never actually ridden a bike.


Sep. 18th, 2016 12:37 pm
chickenfeet: (Default)
 It occurred to me the other day that the current farcical state of the British government is curiously reminiscent of Turandot.  The icy princess waits for someone, anyone to answer her riddle "What is Brexit for 5 billion, Alex?".  She's already stuck Gove and Cameron's heads on spikes for failing to deliver.  Clearly she doesn't expect any answers from the comic trio of Ping, Pang and Pong  appointed to "lead" the negotiations.  Is there a Calaf?  Watch this space.
chickenfeet: (penguin)
[personal profile] nanila  asked me to tell you what I was up to in 1992 

Age then: mid thirties
Age now: late fifties

Relationship then: Married with two kids who turned five and three that year.  We'd been married for seven years and were still getting used to having kids and the changes that made.  Also, see below, we were living "overseas" temporarily though the strains of that wouldn't become apparent for another couple of years.

Relationship now: Living happily with the lemur in downtown Toronto.  We've been together more or less since the marriage referred to above broke up.

Where I lived then: This is a bit complicated.  We had recently relocated from Ottawa to Toronto but had transplanted temporarily to Clayton-Le-Woods; a sort of suburb of Preston just off the M6.  I was working on a project at the big Heinz plant in Wigan and had taken the family over.  We were renting a furnished house on the company.  I still had responsibilities in Toronto and frequent need to be in Chicago and London so I travelled a lot.  I was on first name terms with the Air Canada staff at Manchester Airport.  It was a bit weird being back in the UK but not really being back.

Where I live now: A condo in a rather nice, if increasingly touristy, part of downtown Toronto close to the lake.  I can't see moving until they have to put me in a home.  Most of my life is either walking distance or accessible by public transit.

Was I happy then: It was a very eventful year.  The project was immensely high profile and the project partner had the reputation of being the partner from Hell.  I was leading the manufacturing team and would go on  to be, effectively, temporary chief of staff to the client exec responsible for implementation.  I felt under so much pressure from my boss that on one early occasion I suggested to him that if I was as useless as he seemed to think he should kick me off the project.  That's when I learned he was all bark which made my life a little more understandable and bearable.  Also I was the only Brit (let alone the only one who could speak Lancashire) and the only person with hands on food manufacturing experience on our team.  So, the pressure on me was huge.  It remains the highest profile and the second most stressful gig of my career.  So, was I happy?  I don't think I ever had the time or mental energy to think about it. 

Am I happy now: I'm more content in my skin.  I'm older and wiser and have a hell of a lot of scars; physical and mental.  Life is far from perfect.  In some ways I feel I'm underachieving but in a Stoic sort of way I'm OK.

Ask for a year in comments if you'd like one. If I happen to pick one you're not comfortable writing about, please let me know and I'll choose a different one.
chickenfeet: (bull)
 I can't do a poll on here so please answer in comments.

When I see a burning cross I think:

1. Bold highlanders gathering for kilted derring do

2. White racists trying to intimidate people of colour

3. Something else

4. Nothing at all

This brought to you by Paul Curran using burning crosses in a production of Rossini's La Donna del Lago (based on Scott's The Lady of the Lake) in Santa Fe and New York.

chickenfeet: (death)
 Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century by Geoffrey Parker is a very ambitious attempt to summarize and contextualize the various inter-related famines, epidemics and wars that plagued most parts of the world in the middle decades of the 17th century.  It's not easy to give a brief summary of 700 pages covering such a broad range of issues but I'ii try.

I guess the starting point has to be the state of the world as the 17th century began.  With exceptions, the 16th century had been a period of benign climate, long periods of peace and stability and hence population growth with a great deal of marginal land being brought into cultivation.  Given pre-industrial technology some kind of correction was probably inevitable but maybe not one that might have reduced world population by a third and affected all parts of the globe with the exception of New England and Japan.

So what happened?  First, there was a dramatic cycle of global cooling that devastated crop yields directly in the temperate zone and led to severe drought in the tropics.  A reduction in sunspot activity, and hence solar energy reaching earth had a direct effect but also dramatically increased the incidence of El Nino years causing widespread drought and flooding but also leading to a major shift in the weight distribution of the Pacific Ocean, which in turned seems to have led to increased volvanic activity, which reinforced the cooling effect.

Human agency seems to have directly reinforced the climactic impacts.  In Europe, the 80 Years War, The 30 Years War, The War of the Three kingdoms, the disintegration of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and major revolts in Naples, Portugal and Catalonia all contributed to a cycle of rapacious soldiery being billeted on starving populations with a good chunk of religious hatred thrown in.  In China the 60 year struggle between Ming and Qing had similar effects as did religious turmoil in the Ottoman Empire and dynastic revolts in India.  In Africa the desertification of the Sahel caused population migration that drove the wars that provided the raw material for both the Mediterranean and Atlantic slave trades.  No one cause explains all these events of course but Parker posits the rise in "composite states"; where one monarch ruled multiple people of different customs, as one factor.  The monarchical impulse to impose uniformity leading to trouble and an inability to compromise.  Charles I's attempt to impose Laud's Prayer Book on Scotland would be but one example.  A general tendency for such monarchs to tax their subjects in polity A so that those in polity B could be brought to book seems to have been a general source of discontent made intolerable by prevailing economic conditions.

The evidence Parker marshal's is impressive both in relation to the human record and the natural record.  Rarely can so much tree ring data have been correlated with so many primary sources!

The bottom line is that governments coped very badly except in Tokugawa Japan, where the government seems to have learned from the catastrophes of the previous century and invested in famine amelioration rather than foreign war and New England where a sparse European population largely avoided the epidemic diseases that hit most of the Americas and was able to expand very rapidly.

The question it raises of course is that if 17th century governments dealt so badly with climate change can we expect 21st century ones to be more prescient?  The answer to that of course is obvious.  The ray of hope is that if the world can recover once from a combination of natural factors and gross governmental ineptitude perhaps it can do so again.  Even if it takes half a century of Hell to do so.

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