Sunday, 30 March 2014


The Scots are not unknown for their predilection for sweet and fatty foods. This is after all the home of the deep fried Mars bar. Scotland is rated second for obesity levels after USA and has serious health issues for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Not surprisingly I discovered this treat on sale at the local bakery.

It's called a Yum Yum and is a log shaped cake made of sweet ( very sweet) doughnut mixture, covered with caramel icing and filled with sweet cream.

The picture above is of only half of it as after eating the first half I had to have a lie-down before tackling the second half.

Sunday, 23 March 2014


Watch the video clip below from about 4.05.

I was reminded of this scene in John Carpenter's Halloween from 1978 when I was in the parking garage in our building and saw this sign:

Now I'm not sure if the building authority is just being paranoid or not but I don't think I'll hang around the garage much.

Saturday, 15 March 2014


I watched  A Bronx Tale last night, Robert De Niro's film set in New York of the 1960's.

The kids were dressed in a way I remember dressing at about the same time.

At Marist Brothers school we had to wear black uniforms (black shirt, black socks, black shoes, black shorts and black jumpers).

The dress code was severely enforced with getting the cane the usual punishment for transgression.
Nevertheless we, when reaching standard five (age about 11) tended to rebel a bit. What was fashionable was wearing black basketball boots.

These were 'cool' to wear but got your feet really hot and smelly so that classrooms in the summer reeked of smelly socks.
 I remember one year when my father bought me an expensive pair of black brogues. To my shame today back then I was embarrassed to wear them.

A partially hidden fashion statement was wearing a white t-shirt underneath the black school shirt. The top two buttons were left open to allow the shirt to peek out. Cool.

Added to this we used to wear gold or silver chains. These often had a cross or medal (being little catholic boys the medal was often a saints one like a St Christopher medal). This would be worn inside the shirt when in the classroom and outside the shirt when no Brothers or prefects were about.


Friday, 14 March 2014


When I was in my late teens I wore 'Beatle' boots.

These were black leather calf length boots with fairly high Cuban heels.
The heels made me taller although that wasn't the intention. I'm just under 5' 10" and I'm happy with that. The heels on the 'Beatle' boots probably made me look about 5' 11" but meant that I was a bit unstable (in posture that is). Hey, it was fashion no matter how ridiculous we looked.. Even Richard wore red corduroy trousers, a velvet jacket and love beads!

Fashions change constantly and what was desirable in the short past is soon undesirable.

When travelling on the subway I notice that most of the commuters spend their time between stops playing with their fancy phones. These things just seem to be getting bigger and bigger.

Many years ago the early models of mobile phones were huge and looked like this:

They called them 'bricks'  for obvious reasons. At first they were a (dubious) status symbol and were ostentatiously plonked on restaurant tables. To be fair though they could hardly go in a pocket.

Over time the phones became smaller to be more practical and every new model was smaller then the previous one.

The phone companies were making a killing with people wanting to upgrade to a smaller model all the time as tiny was the fashion statement of the day.

Eventually the phones became too small to be practical and became too easy to misplace.

With new technology 'smart' phones appeared and they too were small as per the fashion of the time. With all the 'bells and whistles' on them though consumers found that being small was impractical especially when touch-screen models came out.

The movement has been for newer models to have larger screens than the earlier models so, in contrast to the old technology phones with the new technology phones bigger is seen as better and more fashionable.

Plus ca change plus ca meme.

Maybe I'll replace my 'trainers' for Cuban heels when I go out walking.

Thursday, 13 March 2014


We seem to have a mix of seasons at the moment here in Toronto. After months being snowbound and needing to dress in many layers to go out in sub-zero temperatures, yesterday was like a spring day. It was too warm to wear a coat and so I went out walking with just shorts and a tee-shirt. Nearly all of the snow on roads, roofs, footpaths and playing fields had melted away.

Today, snow is falling heavily, blocking roads again and the temperature has dropped. The forecast is for the snow to continue for the week and people are staying indoors again.

How weird is that?

Monday, 10 March 2014


I'm reading Antony Beevor's excellent  Second World War at present.

His use of first hand memoirs interspesed amongst the historical facts is interesting and effective.
The scale of the suffering and losses of life in China and Eastern Europe is hard to grasp.
The bombing of cities in the UK, Germany, Poland, Russia, Japan and other countries while not resulting in as much loss of life is described well and has a lot of pathos. It is still hard to imagine the worry and fear that the inhabitants were subjected to.

When in Aberdeen over Christmas and New Year I saw an empty lot at the end of the street that The Old Girl's mother lives in. She told us that the house which had stood there was obliterated by a bomb during a raid on Aberdeen in 1943. They never rebuilt.
The gap next to a still standing building was visceral and in a way haunting meaning a lot more to me than thousands of words could describe.

Saturday, 8 March 2014


I see that Richard (Of RBB) is writing a school song.


He's worried that it may need to be ultra contemporary - featuring rap or hip-hop elements.
I say "what about the old tried and true?" It never did us any harm.
The old St Patricks College school song was spot on:

"Sectare Fidem is our rule,

We'll hold our faith while we have breath.

Loyal to home, church crown and school,

St Patrick's sons we'll remain to death."

So what's wrong with that?
The tune was a bit boring, kind of like the New Zealand national anthem but it was effective for some.k Ask Second Fiddle.

Richard, the cad, in a previous post suggested that Sectare Fidem was never his rule.


I think then tahat he should take guidance from George Michael.


I'm sure he was a WHAM fan back in the day.

Friday, 7 March 2014


I've watched a few 'Horror' films recently. I get them free from the local libraries. Selections include the Paranormal Activity series (1 to 4), Halloween and Poltergeist among others.

They are of varying quality with very few having a decent 'scare factor' but John Carpenter's Halloween still has some edgy moments and PA is quite well done in parts.

What frustrates me though is that they could be done better. The genre is not bad, in fact it's a hell of a lot better than the vampire, comic book hero and invaders from outer space genres. I just wish that a real good director like Scorcese would direct one. I know that Ridley Scott did the excellent Alien, Stanley Kubrick did a great  job with The Shining and Spielberg did his usual schmaltzy job with E.T. and Close Encounters but where are all the others.

The genre has lapsed into non-frightening but gross slasher films like the Friday the 13th  and Nightmare on Elm Street series.

I'd love to have a go at writing/designing one and if I did I'd try to make it as scary as hell while at the same time keeping it realistic without the usual cheap- tricks and cliches.

Some examples of what annoys me are:

Setting up video surveillance of paranormal activity and then not bothering to review the recordings.
This happens all the time in the Paranormal Activity series and similar films. They record things that go bump in the night like sleeping people levitating, knives flying up in the air, doors opening etc. but then don't watch the recordings or, if they do, don't show them to the obligatory sceptics (who usually end up decapitated).

Turning their back on the bad guy/spirit/monster after they've stabbed, shot or hit it. Invariable while they are sitting there with a relieved look on their face the monster sits up and comes back at them.

Entering houses, rooms, garages, cellars etc and not turning overhead lights on. If they do turn a light on it is usually a table lamp that you know will get knocked over and broken.

Hearing unusual sounds and not investigating them properly.

Not having a self defence plan in their mind, preferring to scream stupidly.

Not having enough petrol in the car.


Thursday, 6 March 2014


Yep, you read the title correctly today I was locked out of the bedroom.

Not last night.

The Old Girl and I have been together for over 26 years but she's never done that.
She might have threatened it but hey, I just remind her that I'm lovely and all is OK.

I must have bumped the little locking toggle on the back of the door when I was cleaning today.

You heard right.
Not just lying around getting a soft bum like Tracey suggests.

Last year when my sister visited I arranged a room for them in the guest suite in the apartment building we're staying in. This is a great facility being a luxury hotel-type suite at about $50 a night.
My sister managed to lock the bathroom door (she was on the outside) and had trouble trying to unlock it.The concierge (this apartment building has 24 hour concierge attendance with 4 guys working around the clock) was unable to open it and in fact managed to jam a tool in the door. The suite is on the 4th floor and we are on the 16th floor. My sister rang me and I came down and sorted it. I managed to remove the tool that 'Mr Fixit' had jammed in (he told my sister that an emergency locksmith call-out would cost her $200!) and I used an opened out large paper clip, j j j jiggled it about a bit and hey presto the door opened.

Today I no longer had said paper clip but found a wire rubbish bag tie that I fashioned to work the same. The 'privacy' lock on the bedroom door in this apartment is the same as in the guest suite.

J j j jiggling again did the trick. The Old Girl won't be able to lock me out!

Maybe I've discovered a whole new career.


Wednesday, 5 March 2014



Manufacturers are increasingly using additives in food and everyday products that are dangerous to consumers health and the environment.

They do this for several reasons including - profit (synthetic ingredients are cheaper than natural ones), longevity (supermarket distribution chains demand long shelf life of products so more and more preservatives are being used) and for cosmetic reasons (to dupe consumers into believing the colours and aromas denote freshness).

Governmental regulations put the onus on manufacturers to declare what ingredients are in a product and, to be fair, many do (depending on the country of origin). The problem is the descriptions are either non-scientific like ‘Fragrance’ or too scientific like ‘Cyclopentasiloxane’ both meaningless to the uninitiated.

There are many examples of additives causing problems. I’m going to highlight one. Methylisothiazolinone known as MI.

I have developed a dermatitis-like rash and was referred to a skin specialist. Some excellent topical medication cured the rash much quicker than the non-efficacious ‘over-the-counter’ remedies. I was very pleased but some weeks later the rash resurfaced necessitating more topical medicine application.

I considered going to an allergy specialist to see if I had any food allergies that could be causing this but recently I saw a news article about methylisothiazolinone. Apparently this additive, amongst other side effects can cause contact-dermititis.

Methylisothiazolinone is commonly used in products in conjunction with methylchloroisothiazolinone, a mixture sold under the registered trade name Kathon CG. A common indication of sensitivity to Kathon CG is allergic contact dermatitis. Sensitization to this family of preservatives was observed as early as the late 1980s. Due to increased use of isothiazolinone-based preservatives in recent years, an increase in reported incidences of contact allergy to this product have been reported, and in 2013 it was dubbed the 2013 Contact Allergen of the Year.”


And they still put this shit in consumer products?

I checked the household products we have and found MI in shampoo, dishwashing liquid, hand cream and, the one causing my uncomfortable rash, Cottonelle wipes. I checked on the web and the wipes I used in New Zealand do not contain methylisothiazolinone. It is only since using this product in Canada that the problem has arisen.

A Perth Now Lifestyle article on the web ( dated 2 March 2014 stated:

“A PRESERVATIVE used in baby wipes is causing a rash of skin complaints. The problem is an increasingly common allergic reaction to a preservative used in some brands.
But it’s parents’ hands, not babies’ bottoms, that are breaking out, according to a research letter published in the latest issue of the Medical Journal of Australia. But the rashes could also appear on other parts of the body because the preservative, Methylisothiazolinone (MI), is also used in make-up removal wipes, shampoos, conditioners, body washes, moisturisers, sunscreens and deodorants.
MI is now the most common cause of allergic contact dermatitis among our patient population,” write dermatologist Dr Jennifer Cahill and her colleagues.
The most common source of MI is disposable wet wipes, now commonly used in nappy changing.”
She and her colleagues at the Skin and Cancer Foundation in Melbourne routinely test people with rashes for the allergy.
The proportion of positive tests has soared from 3.5 per cent in 2011 to 11.3 per cent in 2013.
Ironically it is the parents who are consulting doctors with rashes on their hands,” co-author Associate Professor Rosemary Nixon said.
But there could be under-diagnosis among babies, partly because nappy rash is common and partly because they are unlikely to be tested.
People with concerns should look for MI among the ingredients on their product, she said.
The best thing was to try determine the cause of a rash through a process of elimination.
If it failed to go away or returned, people should see a GP.”

So it’s not just me overreacting.

Why do they use this stuff if, as reports suggest, problems have been known about since the 1980’s and certainly during 2013 have come to a head (or bottom as the case may be)?

Here’s what Wikipedia says:

“Methylisothiazolinone and other isothiazolinone-derived biocides are utilized for controlling microbial growth in water-containing solutions. Two of the most widely used isothiazolinone biocides are 5-chloro-2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one (chloromethylisothiazolinone or CMIT) and 2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one (methylisothiazolinone or MIT), which are the active ingredients in a 3:1 mixture (CMIT:MIT) sold commercially as Kathon. Kathon is supplied to manufacturers as a concentrated stock solution containing from 10-15% of CMIT/MIT. For applications the recommended use level is from 6 ppm to 75 ppm active isothiazolones. Biocidal applications range from industrial water storage tanks to cooling units, in processes as varied as mining, paper manufacturing, metalworking fluids and energy production. In addition, one isothiazolinone, Sea-Nine 211 (4,5-dichloro-2-n-octyl-4-isothiazolino-3-one, DCOI), has quickly replaced tributyltin as the antifouling agent of choice in ship hull paint. A recent study reported the presence of DCOI in both port water and sediment samples in Osaka, Japan, especially in weakly circulating mooring areas. Of environmental concern, DCOI levels predicted in marinas are now considered a threat to various marine invertebrate species. Isothiazolinones are also extremely toxic to fish. The widespread use of isothiazolinones in industrial settings has resulted in a very large number of reported cases of human occupational exposure, sometimes reaching epidemic proportions. This occurs primarily, but not exclusively, when workers are exposed to stock solutions during the dilution process, usually resulting in chemical burns, contact dermatitis, and allergic sensitization. Inhalation exposure is also very common.”

Well fuck me!

Do they think my bottom needs to be anti-fouled like a ship’s hull?



Tuesday, 4 March 2014


We've had a glorious day today. Blue sky, no cloud, only light breezes and lots of sunshine. It's been a pleasure to walk around the city - as long as you are wrapped up wam. Did I mention that it's minus 20 degrees (minus 29 with wind chill!)

Monday, 3 March 2014


Rumpled. That's how I feel today (Sunday) after experimenting with rum cocktails last night. Richard's warnings in comments in the previous posts came too late. Won't be doing that again in a hurry.

Sunday, 2 March 2014


While drinking a 700ml bottle of Myers rum tonight, having a good time, listening to music and reminiscing we both came to the conclusion that we needed a bigger bottle. Good that.


I don't recall ever listening to an Areosmith song let alone a Run DMC one but when I saw this on TV in the early 1980's I was gobsmacked.

The concept of having two totally disparate 'musical' disciplines at first in conflict and then morphing to become something listenable was inspired.


While we're on the Carribean theme do you remember this? Classic!


OK, Trinidad is a long way away from where we are living and the climate is a lot better but when, in a minus 26 degrees late winter what's wrong with having a bit of a fantasy. Tonight we bought a bottle of Myers rum and have been drinking rum and coca cola in our apartment.
We usually drink wine but what the hell, spirits are (comparatively) a lot cheaper in Canada than in New Zealand.

Drinking my second glass I just had to find the great Andrews Sisters song.
Hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, 1 March 2014


The other day while reading some old publications in the local library I discovered that a couple of famous western characters were created by Canadians.

Clarence Dadforth and George Striker were actually classmates at Queens University in Halifax.
Dadforth came from Ottawa in Quebec and Striker originated in Toronto, Ontario.
Although they were friends these two budding authors were fierce rivals in the classroom, on the playing fields and later through public correspondence and in their literature.

Dadforth created the Hopalong Cassidy character that was featured in films and a long-running television and radio series.

Striker created The Lone Ranger which also featured on radio and television and more recently in film.

After reading an earlier draft of Hopalong Casidy that Dadforth had sent to him, Striker, looking at the cartoons that Dadforth had sketched in, made disparaging remarks about Hopalong's hat to his friend.
At first these were just in jest but when Dadforth reacted to this criticism Striker made a point of continually teasing him about It.

"He looks like his brain's exploded" Striker wrote in the Toronto Literary Times and,

"What's he got under there, spare ammunition?" he commented on CBC radio.

What began as ribbing, over years became a little more serious.

Seeing the success of Hopalong Cassidy in print, on radio, in film and on television Striker decided to follow in his once-upon-a-time friend's footsteps and he created another western hero. He named him The Lone Ranger.

In many ways this character was similar to the Hopalong Cassidy character that Dadforth had created and Striker hoped this would get up Dadforth's nose. Striker, being Striker though had to take things a step further. He knew that Dadforth was half Indian. Dadforth's mother was a full-blooded Glooscap Indian and had taught Dadforth the ways and culture of the first nation peoples. He was proud of his heritage and would get angry at any disparagement.

Striker created the character Tonto to be the Lone Ranger's sidekick.

Now 'Tonto' is a Spanish word for 'moron' or 'fool' and he knew that Dadforth would pick up on this which he did.

As time went on the rivals took every opportunity to slag each other off. The obvious examples were in printed interviews or in university debates but the more subtle ones that largely went unnoticed were in their bodies of work.

Some examples are:

  • Dadforth created a sidekick for Hopalong Cassidy named Windy Halliday. This was a direct reference to an unfortunate stomach complaint that Striker had which caused him to suffer from flatulence.
  • In several episodes of The Lone Ranger the hero, who was averse to killing his enemies, would shoot off their hats which were usually odd and funny shapes not unlike Hopalong's. The Lone Ranger would make witticisms like "Hats off to you old buddy" or "Now you're 45 litres lighter"
  • Hopalong Cassidy's enemies would invariably be wearing masks

On the face of it this could have been seen as spirited banter but there were underlying issues. The truth is that even in their student days the two authors never really got on well together. Dadforth was never invited into the circle of friends that Striker had. It is quite possible that racism was an issue. At the time, in the late 1930's and 1940's first nation people were still referred to as 'redskins' and there were many sanctions against them.

It all came to a head one evening in 1967 at a Queen's University reunion when Striker said to Dadforth "I hope you haven't taken any wooden indians".
Now Striker, who'd had a few beverages didn't really know what he was saying and in fact the question made no sense. It was his way of trying to make a joke. Dadforth, who'd also had a few beverages took umbrage and challenged Striket to a fight. Things escalated into a shouting match and eventually into a challenge. A duel. At first light in the field next to the university.

Everyone eventually toddled off to bed thinking that this was all bravado and would come to nothing. The old rivalry proved to be too deep unfortunately and at dawn the next day Striker and Dadforth faced each other in the chilly and mist shrouded field.
Striker was armed with a Walker-Colt .44 revolver. This was the model that his character The Lone Ranger used. It was an old weapon in the 1870's, made in the late 1840's but it had been created by a Texas Ranger and seemed appropriate.


Dadforth was armed with Hopalong's weapon of choice the Colt Peacemaker .45. This although old (circa 1875) it wasn't as old as the Colt-Walker.

Colt - Peacemaker

Striker called out a countdown and at 'Fire" they both pulled their triggers. Striker's revolver blew up in his hand, the barrel splitting sending the bullet ( a specially made silver bullet) off to the trees nearby.
Dadforth, who had intended to just put a bullet through Striker's hat, flinched at the explosion and dropped his aim slightly. His bullet hit Striker between the eyes. Striker fell backwards. Dead.

Dadforth was arrested and in an obscenely short period of time was tried, convicted and executed in 1968 being one of the final victims of capital punishment in Canada. There was speculation as to the summary nature of this with first nation people saying it was because he was an Indian.


I like John Oliver. His retakes of the news are insightful and very funny. Have a look via the link below at his latest review of Facebook...