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One of the problems with new recipes is deciding whether to risk splashing out on required ingredient only to find that the meal is a disappointment and that almost full jar of something is never used again. Several years ago a lot of voluntary groups used to raise money by putting out cook books with recipes contributed by the members. Some were very good. Others were rubbish. One of the worst I encountered was put out by a listener funded radio channel called CKUA. This shouldn't have been a surprise. Years before one of its star presenters was in a serious road accident and as a reporter I had to phone some of his colleagues. Without exception they were rude and unpleasant to me. Pretentious people, pretentious recipes. 

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Here in Alberta welfare benefits are paid by the provincial government. Old age pensions and the dole are federal responsibilities. Anyway, an awful lot of criminal scumbags aren't turning up for their court appearances. Someone suggested the no- shows should be encouraged to show by cutting off their benefits if they didn't. Oh, no, said the bleeding hearts. No benefits means they'll have to commit more crimes to address their budgetary shortfall. That's not how the scumbags' minds work. They get their benefits and they then still make everyone else's life a misery. But the bleeding hearts are saying that we should be bribing the bail-jumping scumbags not to commit crimes. I say to the crooks,  play by the rules and show up if you want my tax money.

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I was reading a history of New Zealand recently. One of the most interesting aspects was how the European and Australian settlers, and their successors, treated the descendants of the people who were there when they first arrived, the Maoris. And more interesting were the contrasts, and similarities, with how the Canadians dealt with , and continue to deal with, the Indians. Canadians should know more about the histories of the other parts of the old British Empire. I don't just mean New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. Looking at India, the Far East and the former African colonies could also yield valuable lessons. 

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Many many years ago some folk who'd recently moved into a house across the back alley held a really really noisy barbecue in their back garden. I was tempted to ask them to turn it down a bit. But then I noticed a number of them were wearing Hells Angels leather waistcoats. The Hells Angels don't like non members wearing their logo, so these were real Hells Angels. I didn't ask them to turn down their music. But if I had, I think they would have done. It became apparent that the last thing that my new neighbours wanted was for police to have an excuse to come into the area. The scary thing was that that included no more petty crime. For years, folk didn't have to worry if they forgot to lock their front door. It was scary that  the Hells Angels had that kind of control of all local crime. Undercover police surveillance of the house was so cack-handed that I could believe that for some reason it was supposed to be obvious to the gangsters. So, I doubt if it was the police presence that was creating a crime free zone. Once the Hells Angel moved out, crime levels went back to normal. Though I think the house was still owned by them because when I told the arsehole  who moved in afterwards that I was going to speak to his landlord about his antisocial behavior he got really really scared.  

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Why do many English people pronounce Loch as Lock? And yet they say the composer Bach's name correctly. I don't think there is something genetic that has malformed English vocal chords and prevents them making the "ch" sound in Loch. To pronounce Bach as Back would reveal ignorance. But then again the Welsh word Bach is often pronounced Back by English people. These are not bad people. But they are buying into an arrogance which says We Don't Care how You Say It, This How We Say It and That's What Matters. The same goes for North Americans who call Edinburgh Edinburg. I recently heard either Americans or Canadians interviewed on the Royal Mile say Edinburg. I'm pretty sure that by that point they'd heard it correctly pronounced Edinburra several times during their visit to the city. 

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It seems to me that the only people wearing Covid masks outdoors these days are sketchy characters who just want to hide their faces. I'm thinking of the young guys who zip along the pavements on children's bikes. The fact that they're riding on the pavement suggests that they are not the most socially responsible members of the community. More likely, they are simply using Covid as an excuse to wear a mask. I wonder if they wear their masks when they steal the tiny bikes they favour from small children.

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I'm toying with awarding  a Worst Book of the Year to compliment the annual Book of the Year announced every January. A sort of name and shame. There are a surprising number of really really bad books being published. I say  "surprising" because it's not easy to get published. My concern is that the Worst Book would be dominated by American academics. I foolishly thought American books would be give a fresh perspective from the histories written by the English Officer Class. Instead they usually turn out to be ill informed, muddle-headed, sloppily researched and nationalistic in the extreme. Though, that's not say that there aren't some pretty dire books from British and Canadian writers, but they are usually a better bet for a good read than their US cousins. But then again:- Any Fool Can Criticise; and They Frequently Do. 

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I heard part of a radio documentary from the Irish state broadcaster RTE recently. Most of its documentary output is little better than an hour along the lines of "Cork Man Saw photo of Hitler in 1935 edition of Daily Mirror" and stretches the subject matter way beyond how far it can be stretched. And let's not forget the sequel Limerick Man Once Met Cork Man Who Saw photo of Hitler in 1935 Daily Mirror. The half- decent documentary I'm referring to is one of the half dozen or so I've heard in the last decade that demonstrated even competent journalism. It was about fellahs from the Irish Republic serving in Afghanistan with the Royal Irish Regiment. Contrary to what the Australian Broadcasting Corporation declared when it rebroadcast the programme, the regiment is not exclusively recruited in the Irish Republic, far from it. But since 1922 when the Free State was created, everyone from the island has been able to serve in the British armed forces. Lads from Northern Ireland have been equally welcome to serve in the Irish Defence Force. I remember meeting a crowd of them on home leave in Northern Ireland. They held the IRA in complete contempt. But then the IRA was the main threat to their lives in the early 1980s. Every security van in The Republic needed a army escort and a carload of detectives as escort to foil the IRA's fundraising hold- ups.

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I recently came across an American book for people who collect old military vehicles, as in tanks. The 1994 book gave details about how to refurbish and maintain your tank. It turned out that about the cheapest tanks to buy at the time were British Centurions and Chieftains. Both were being sold off in some numbers by the Ministry of Defence  around 1994 for $10,000 a piece. But the book advised going for the older Centurions, originally designed during the Second World, as the Chieftains  were a little more complex and difficult for the enthusiast to maintain. I seem to remember when I was younger a lot of ex-Polish Army T-34s were being imported into the UK by collectors. I believe the customs forms described them as "agricultural vehicles", as in heavy duty tractors. 

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Who could be against the 1914 Christmas Truce on the Western Front? British and German troops in some sectors clambered out of their trenches into No-Man's Land and mingled. There was even supposedly a football game. But here's the thing. Breaking the enemy's morale is a key part of war. The Germans were, and are, even bigger on Christmas than the British. Many British Christmas "traditions" were introduced by our German Royal Family; don't be fooled by them calling themselves Windsor these days. The Christmas Truce boosted German morale to a greater extent than it did the British. Of course, the Germans didn't throw up their hands and surrender in the sectors where there was no mingling. But The Truce did boost their will to carry on with the fight. 

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I sometimes wonder if the collapse of journalistic standards has stoked the fires of misinformation. An ever increasing number of people now get all their news via social media. Sadly, their scorn for "traditional" media is fed daily by sloppy journalism. It is hard to believe anything that comes from a media source that tells you one Russian rocket destroyed 72 apartment buildings in Ukraine. Unlikely, unless the Russians are using tactical nuclear weapons. Maybe try try 72 flats in a complex of more than 300 apartments. Can a bus overturning on an icy road in a single vehicle accident really be said to have been involved in a collision? Recently several reporters could not tell the difference between an unmarked  potential gravesite and a mass grave.  Another reporter spoke of "portable water"; more likely that water was "potable". Or is it too much to expect for the newsreader to say which country is suffering from anti-government riots? From the politicians named, it was Peru. No wonder so many folk ignore the increasingly inept mainstream media and end up falling for lies and conspiracy theories. 

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A lot of people apparently believe I'm a red-head. Not flame ginger red but red just the same. In fact, the hair on the top of my head is a dirty blond. As a toddler I was, like my brother and cousins, a golden blonde. What fools people is my beard. It is indeed red, or was; it's now streaked with grey. Somehow, all people saw was red hair. The beard is now more of a goatee but in the old days it was full. Well, full some of the time. I used to stop shaving during my two week summer holidays and by the time I went back to work I had a good enough beard. It would then grow for a while. Then I would attempt to cut it with the kitchen scissors. Year after year all I did was cut doorsteps in my facial fungus and had to go clean shaven until the summer holidays came again. Oh, my eyebrows are black. Three hair colours on one head. 

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The BBC World Service recently celebrated it's centenary. They played a recording  of the first head of the BBC, Lord Reith,  speaking at the launch of what was then called The Empire Service. He apologised for the poor  quality of the programming and promised it would be get better. He must be turning in his grave. The Newsroom programme had an item about the supposed reintroduction of beavers to Britain on the legendary first Duke of Wellington's former estate. Less than a minute on a search engine shows that beavers were reintroduced to Scotland more than a decade ago and have been in northern English rivers as well  for several years now. The only recent development is their arrival in Hampshire. Is it BBC World Service policy that nothing that happens north of Watford counts? Or, let's look at the 23 January edition. What the heck is World of Witchcraft? I've heard of World of Warcraft. This was one of several examples of sloppiness in an edition that could be taught at broadcasting school as a "how not to do it". Or what about mentioning several times mentioning the Archbishop of Canterbury was on a joint visit to South Sudan with the Pope with only a brief aside that the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was also a member of the party.  But then again, Canterbury is south of Watford.  

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We get a radio programme here in Canada, courtesy of the BBC, called In The Studio. It's usually pretty dull, pretentious, people talking pretentiously about their latest project. The interviews and updates are usually assembled over a period of several months. But the biggest problem is that the programmes are often presented by the subject's best friend or someone who wants to be their new best friend. Too often the programme stinks of "you scratch my back and later I'll scratch yours" careerism. I'm reminded of a student journalist's interview with Andrew Neil when he was editor of the Sunday Times. It was so sycophantic. It was pretty obvious that the student hoped Neil would give her a job when she finished college and didn't want to upset him with any probing questions. 

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I'm glad the odious  Aung San Suu Ky has had seven years added to her existing 2ear prison sentence. She deserves it for what she did to the Rohingya Muslims. In the old days bad cops used to frame criminals on the basis of "you may not have done this one but you've done a lot of bad stuff and for the sake of your neighbours you should be in jail". Wrong, but how much wronger than defence lawyers giving prosecution witnesses' addresses to their clients? The charges Aung has been jailed for were trumped up by the military regime that runs Myanmar, once known as Burma. But if Aung hadn't been born a girlie, she would have been part of the junta  founded by her father. Aung and her father, General Aung San, occasionally showed disarming honesty.  Long before the genocidal attack on the Rohingas, Aung said she would not never lift a finger to protect them because such a move would be electoral suicide. Her father when challenged that he only only stopped fighting for the Japanese  when it became obvious they would lose the Second World War, pretty much replied with a smile  "Of course". 

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Quite  often when I hear folk complaining about racism I can’t help feeling their narrow focus is missing the bigger picture. And that is that the problem is not really skin tone but of being poor. Take for example police stopping people. It’s often about location rather than skin tone. Now, it's true certain neighbourhoods may have a lot people with certain skin tones. But the police are suspicious of everyone on the streets of that neighbourhood and stop them for “a chat” regardless of skin tone. Those who cry “racism” are, intentionally or through stupidity, doing the work of the Boss Class. Divide and Conquer. The old Klu Klux Klan was more about stopping black and white workers uniting to fight poor pay and working conditions than any genuine belief amongst its financial backers in racial superiority. 

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It's not very often I hear much worthy of praise on the Canadian taxpayer funded Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; never mind something that involves moral courage. The item concerned was about a scheme to teach Black people how to become professional wine tasters. We were told that this necessary because a black person had once been told that a wine tasted of quince. When further explanation was sought the person in question was told to eat some quince and then they would understand. After the interview tape ended one of the programme presenters remarked she had never tasted quince either. It was like something from the Emperor's New Clothes and at least one other presenter also declared he had never tasted quince. Now, we're talking about a programme here in which if brains were gunpowder, collectively the entire production team would not muster enough to blow one nose. Certainly no-one involved in producing the item concerned had challenged the woman behind the training scheme to give a better example for the need for a race- based training scheme. So, it was kind of refreshing to hear the racism even obliquely  challenged on air. 

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Well, the blog you've all been waiting for is finally here. The2022 Book of the Year is being announced today. In reality, it would appear that even the winners don't care. My Boys' Book of Successful Authoring told me it might be good idea to let the winners know. Only a handful ever got back to me. The noticeable thing was that the ones who did respond were also the ones who wrote the best books. I doubt if that's a coincidence. 

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Years ago I worked for a newspaper with a lot of satellite offices. It was a fact of life that the emergency services in each office's area were often reluctant to mention what they had been up to because they didn’t want the extra work that would be generated by media interest. But many were happy to mention events involving neighbouring stations. So, reporters used to call their colleagues in those neighbouring areas just to make sure they knew about these happenings. Except for one guy. He used to call the assistant editor-type people at head office. Guess who got the promotion to assistant editor type person. And who was the biggest creep at head office? As well as being a creep and all round nasty piece of work, he was also a pretentious snob of the first water. I remember once, after his ill- deserved promotion, reporting to him that for once there was nothing doing in my neck of the woods. "Nothing will come of nothing; speak again," he said to show off his expensive private education. I didn't have the heart to tell him they teach Shakespeare in the state schools too.

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