Turanmay

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.

chickenfeet: (mew)
 Yesterday was the annual trip to the vet which just gets more traumatic (and more expensive) as the kits get older.  Yesterday Jane demonstrated her typical contrariness.  On being placed on the floor so that the vet could see how peculiar her gait is becoming she launched herself across the room and up me so that in two or three claw intensive bounds she was firmly wrapped around my neck and hanging on for grim death (probably mine... from puncture wounds).  Anyway, they both seem OK though we'll need to wait for the blood work.

I've been amusing myself with a couple of new apps... no not Pokemon Go.  One is called Kleptocats which features kitty scavengers who furnish one's home with things that make an eviscerated mouse look positively normal.  I do wonder about the cat who has brought me a car tyre and a cello.  Also Quizzup which allows users to make multiple choice quizzeds and play other people's.  Some of these make me wonder what is (and isn't) considered "wot any fule no" anymore.  Really there are people who CAN'T identify the war that ran from 1914-18 or the year in which Germany invaded Poland?  It seems so.
chickenfeet: (Default)
OK so this isn't as flamingly American high school as most of the genre:

1. Do you like blue cheese?
Quite a lot and usually the bigger and bolder the better. Bring on the Valdeon.

More questions - with answers already )
chickenfeet: (Default)
Cherries - probably the last of the season
Lake trout - caught yesterday in Georgian Bay
Tuscan sausages - for a grilled sausage and potato salad
Cherry tomatoes - ditto
Asparagus
Lettuce
Basil
Lamb for lamb burgers
Buns for same
Cheese
Olives
chickenfeet: (penguin)
I haven't done one of these in ages and I'm only doing it because it seems so utterly loopy in the context of the time and place the events took place.

My Senior Year = My Upper Sixth year.

The year was: 1974-5
1. Did you know your spouse? I'm not sure I knew anybody of even the same nationality as my two eventual spouses.
2. Did you car pool to school? I walked.
3. What kind of car did you have? Oh c'mon.
4. What kind of car do you have now? I don't.
5. It's Friday night...where were you? Probably either the pub or the local arts centre.
6. What kind of job did you have in high school? Holidays I worked for a bank. I think the summer between Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth would have been at Stock Exchange branch and the following summer at Mincing Lane.
7. What kind of job do you have now? ehealth guru and opera critic
8. Were you a party animal? Not until a year or two later when I became a Labour Party animal
9. Were you a cheerleader? About as likely as that I should have been keeper of the falcons.
10. Were you considered a jock? I was a keen but not very good cricket and rugby player. I tried sufficiently hard that I got some respect from people who were actual good at such things.
11. Were you in band, orchestra, or choir? Nope though I did act in a few school plays.
13. Did you get suspended or expelled? No. One of my my closest friends got suspended for pouring a jug of water over the head boy when he was sat next to the head at lunch. Said head boy was an utter prat..
14. Can you sing the fight song? We had a school song to words by Browning. Junior boys were typically made tomlearn it by being stood on a chair and having darts thrown at their legs until they got it right. I can still remember bits.
15. Who was/were your favorite high school teacher? Ernie Charlwood, head of maths, though he had left by the time I was doing A level double maths. He's probably responsible for getting me hooked on maths.
16. Where did you sit for lunch? We were supposed to eat lunch in a rather avant garde octagonal dining room. The food was awful so mostly I just didn't bother..
17. What was your school's full name? Bishop's Stortford College.
18. What was your school mascot? Do what now?
19. If you could go back and do it again, would you? No. University I might have another crack at though
20. Did you have fun at Prom? Not in the sense that's meant.  I did go to a few prom concerts when working in London during the summer holidays.
21. Do you still talk to the person you went to Prom with? See above.
22. Are you planning on going to your next reunion? No.
23. Are you still in contact with people from school? Very occasionally i've bumped into someone but no, not really.
24. What are/were your school's colors? The school tie was navy and red but by Upper Sixth almost everybody had a right to wear something different for one reason or another.  Rugby/hockey jerseys were navy, maroon and yellow.

This really doesn't make much sense does it?

chickenfeet: (Default)
 I've been thinking about that thing in the 18th century where people went to the opera to meet their friends.  After a few weeks lay off I was realising how many people I really don't meet in other contexts and then last night I was at the opera and I met tons of people.  Naturally the context is a bit different but It seems like very much the same thing in a lot of ways.

The fruit is good this year.  The strawberries were excellent; sweet and fragrant, and the cherries are big, succulent and full flavored.  Let's hope we don't get a mealy peach year.

We found an actual pub pub yesterday; a place that served beer but had no pretensions to being foody.  Virtually all Toronto pubs do food ranging from fairly basic fish and chips and burgers type stuff to fairly elaborate.  Here when I asked the girl at the bar whether they did food said "Nothing that you'ld want to eat but you are welcome to bring in take out".  This, in the middle of the Kensington Market, was not a problem.  It's scruffy as all heck but the service is friendly with a decent selection of local craft brews on tap and a good bottle/can selection.  And to cap it all it's called "Thirsty and Miserable".  Recommended.
chickenfeet: (srscat)
 I'm looking for a good general work on The Thirty Years War.  I've read Wedgwood but I'm wondering if there is something a bit more up to date.  Suggestions?

Crossword

Jul. 10th, 2016 09:11 am
chickenfeet: (Default)
 I finally got it together enough to compile a cryptic crossword.  It's got a not too difficult theme.  If you want to have a crack it's to be found at:

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/25919334/Crossword.pdf
chickenfeet: (cute)
 I guess nothing had come up to remind me about until today but I think it was probably exactly fifty years ago come Easter that I first stood on the terraces at Old Trafford with my grandfather.
chickenfeet: (widmerpool)
 I am working through the recent one volume abridged, annotated version of Ivan Maisky's London diary (he was Soviet ambassador to London from 1932-43).  I've got about as far as Munich.  It's really interesting and has stuff in it that really hasn't impacted much (AFAIK) on British historiography of the period.  Some points:

Maisky has a really low opinion of some British politicians and officials.  He clearly thinks many of them are stupid, unimaginative and physicaaly and intellectually lazy, as well as having their judgement badly clouded by gut hostility to the Soviet Union.  He does though have high praise for Vansittart and Churchill and regards Eden as no fool though spineless and ineffective.

It must have been pretty difficult to justify the purges, especially when aware that one might well be the next victim.

Maisky identifies a line of thought that I have seen much in histories of the period.  Some Conservatives seem to have thought that allowing Hitler to take over central and Eastern Europe would be a good thing because
(a) The German Empire would no longer be culturally and racially homogenous and would therefore be weaker (my note - this implies a pretty serious failure to grasp German history)
9b)It would lead inevitably to war between the USSR and Germany which would fatally weaken both.
Dumb and cynical but not something I've heard before.

Maisky is an inveterate intriguer.  His activities go way beyond the proper roles of an ambassador.

His description of the House of Lords is priceless.  He makes it sound more dead than tea break at a zombie convention.

Then, as now, leading Conservative politicians were quite prepared to sacrifice the national interest to bolster their position in the party.

Fascinating stuff.
chickenfeet: (canada)
 So the power went out in a few parts of downtown last night.  It was weirdly localised; three non-contiguous pockets in the general area bounded by Front, Queens Quay, Parliament and York.  Ours went off at 5pm and came back on at 4.30am.  Given how small the pockets were (apparently just 16 buildings) there must have been some serious damage somewhere to need 12 hours to repair.  Our building was completely blacked out and we needed a head torch to get down the stairwell and back again, after going out for dinner.  Bags of fun when one lives on the 1oth floor.
chickenfeet: (Default)
Things I could have bought for $15 at the market this morning:
  • 3 or 4 not very fresh looking sardines ($37/kg)
  • A reasonable size Muscovy duck breast  ($28.50/kg)
  • 1.5kg of pork belly ($10/kg)
It's a bit absurd really.

chickenfeet: (widmerpool)
I'm finding the British EU referendum rather disturbing and I think it's the "remain" camp that disturbs me more. Don't get me wrong I realise the Brexit campaign is made up of a mix of xenophobic nutjobs, old (and not so old) fogies dreaming of some kind of return to an imagined imperialist idyll and particularly unscrupulous Tory careerists but still... The "remain" camp's one message seems to be that exit will result in unspecified DOOM. They give the impression that they would leave in a moment if it wasn't going to be an almighty cock up. It's like a couple who really hate each other staying together for the sake of the kids. Are there really not people in the UK who recognise that the EU represents the best prospect for Europe not becoming entirely irrelevant in a Sino-US condominium? Or have they taken a vow of silence or something?

Responsio

Apr. 20th, 2016 12:32 pm
chickenfeet: (cute)
Just been listening to Peter-Anthony Togni's piece Responsio. It's pretty amazing, mixing a 14th century mass with partly improvised bass clarinet. Below is the Agnus Dei.


Responsio: Agnus Dei from Jeff Reilly on Vimeo.

Useful

Apr. 8th, 2016 10:55 am
chickenfeet: (Default)
I'm probably the last person on the planet to discover that one can buy miso with dashi mixed in. This is most excellent as it makes making a mug of miso soup rather simpler than making a cup of tea.
chickenfeet: (penguin)
There's an issue that's been bugging me for a while; the proposition that Hilary Clinton is a "liberal". Just to help me understand this can anyone point to an issue on which Hilary is more left wing, progressive or liberal than Angela Merkel?

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