Archive for the 'blog' Category


If Rudyard Kipling were blogging today

From out of the draft box – and in true web style, apropos of nothing – we hereby add to the enormous pile of parodies purloined from Rudyard Kipling’s most famous poem: If.

If…Rudyard Kipling had published his most famous poem in 2011 instead of 1910, here’s what it might have looked like:

If you can keep on blogging when all about you
Have moved to Facebook and say that you should too;
If you can trust yourself when others doubt you
Just keep on blogging – they can get one too;
If you can bait, but not get caught troll-baiting,
Or if on Twitter, don’t tweet no lies,
Or, being hated, don’t be swayed by haters,
And yet don’t Photoshop.  Don’t change those eyes:

If you can scream — and not post screams thereafter;
If you can think — while playing an online game;
If you can post both triumph and disaster
Most will click on Like just the same;
If you can bear to find a post you’ve written
Copied on a hate site to invite comments by fools,
Or watch the blog you gave your time to, ignored,
And stoop to build up hits with SEO tools;

If you can make one heap of online winnings
And risk it online gambling in one toss,
And lose — because they shut down full-tilt poker
And never tweet a line about your loss;
If you can rip off poems from mouldy dead guys,
Remember that it’s merely an exercise
To keep your brain in tune for the next time
You’re stuck for something to post that’s half-assed wise;

If you can source from crowds yet keep your virtue,
Or walk with Queens – nor lose your iPod Touch,
If neither trolls nor falsehood friends can hurt you,
If you can laugh at yourself — that counts for much;
If you can fill the neverending download minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of YouTube fun —
Yours is the Net and everything that’s fodder,
And – which is more – you’ll be a woman, my daughter!

09 front page fun

Go on, admit it.  If you’re a sluggo blogger like me trundling along with a few hundred hits a day, it’s fun to see your stats suddenly rocket skyward, if only for a little while.

The new front page at featured a photo from and link to a recent post about breaking my skates while playing hockey, and the view count went a bit nuts.

It lasted about 24 hours and brought in about three times as many visits this humble spot usually gets over a single day.  A few of the newcomers even left comments, which are always welcome.

What’s weird is, I’m not sure why the editors at picked that particular post.  Was it just dumb luck?  Nothing else better out there? Because I can point to dozens of others I’ve churned out over the last couple of years which are more deserving.   Better writing, punchier photos, more interesting content…to me, at least. 🙂   But they never made it to the front page.

I’m not complaining!  But if anyone at is reading this, can you let me know how you choose posts for your front page?  Does anyone else have a clue?


Search this!

Doctor, I said on my last trip to the shrink.  My wife has histrionic personality disorder.

What makes you think that?

Last night while stoned on camel dung hash she kept repeating, How do you get this damn thing to stop blinking?  She was trying to figure out how to make her Tamagotchi have sex.

Is she American? he asked.

No, I said.  As a matter of fact, she thinks she’s Queen Elizabeth, queen of fucking everything.  My wife whips me when I disobey, too. Imagine – she has me whipped bloody!

Maybe she’s the self you have to live with, he said with a sigh.

What do you mean? I asked.

Well, he said, shifting in his seat.  Look at Charlotte Roche, author of Wetlands.  She once wrote a book about Angela Merkel naked in the sauna.  Like some landscape artist on crack in London, it was a surreal collage of naked pictures of girls with tube breasts, American females totally shaved in German saunas, pictures of zoo animals with buggy eyes copulating while making screaming granny sounds, nude klingons, photos of naked ladies and girls from Squamish, sex in wheelchair pictures, photos of spanking all over Europe, ending with helpful tips on how to make your own shank out of a toothbrush and things to alleviate cramp.

Look, I said, I couldn’t care less about Charlotte Roche’s chaotic nightmare, saunas or Angela Merkel’s butt.   I’m worried about my wife!  Just the other day she came out with: I’m so British, I shit the queen!

Perhaps you should bring your wife’s cuddly butt into the office next time, he said.

I would, I said, but it might be easier to drag her to a cave dwelling in Capadoccia or skating on canals in Holland.

Hmmm… let’s deal with your wife when the time comes.  You aren’t thinking about quitting blogging are you? he suddenly asked.

What? What gives you that idea?

You, Canadian skier Ian, may be the author of more than 300 posts ranging from chess and Hitler to Dutch canal winter skating,  but you’re starting to look like a Canadian idiot.   An EasyJet crashing into Big Ben wouldn’t make half the mess this blog is turning into.  You’ve got everything from how to make a bike look crappy and the dangers of ipods in saunas all the way to 12-year-olds buying condoms and a nude olive run video clip.

Besides, you hardly ever post lately, and when you do, it’s some take on something that happened 30 years ago.

Don’t give me any of your putrid paranoia! I said. I never set out to write the definitive answer to everything like some Greenland girls’ nude blog.  Those are just search terms that landed here!  And it’s not just text searches, either.  Most of them cough up photos via google image searches.

Really? he said, perking up.   You mean if you post photos, and stick tags on them, they will show up in searches?

Sure, I said.  Everyone knows that, even Derbyshire nude grannies, Canada’s most toxic waste dump/flute player or a jobless bum.  Besides, the less often I post, the more hits I get.  Go figure!

Well, he said with a sigh.  The hour’s up.  Same time next week?

Why not? I said.  I hope by then you’ll have done something about the reading selection in your waiting room.  Monocle Magazine is shit, and the “little red book” of Mao, 1968 is really out of date, don’t you think?  You should subscribe to magazines that answer life’s imponderables, things like what if the world stops spinning, or is nine too young to have a baby?

No way, he said.  To pass the time in a waiting room, it’s much better to read all about camel penis and skunk families in Montreal while peeking at pictures of mausi naked.  Her oldest got sprayed by a skunk, you know.

Just in case you’ve never read my sidebar, every line in this post is drawn from a search that coughed up this blog – most often as an image search.


Blogging for nothing, but the kick’s for free

Nobody likes to do something for nothing at all for very long, so it’s no surprise that most blogs peter out and die after a while.

I started this blog exactly two years and nearly 250 posts ago on January 19, 2007. Back then I had vague ideas of writing posts as if they were the letters back to my family, something to replace the emails they’d for one reason or another stopped responding to over the years.

If you subscribe to this blog in a reader, by the way, that’s the sub-heading you’ll see. 🙂

Because I quickly realised how confining that would be, after about six weeks I dropped the letters and simply started writing about whatever I was doing, thinking about or had an urge to let loose on,  occasionally indulging my wildest fantasies of being chief editor of The Onion and posting a photo or two to gussy it all up a bit.

So given the format change I suppose I should follow all the how-to sites out there and re-do everything, give it a punchy name and graphics and monetise my blog, but that whole thing just seems too much like work.  I’d just rather concentrate on writing about what interests me and perhaps a few others out there.

The thought occurred to me only a couple of months ago, but in the process I hope to have built up something that one day mybritannia-beach-sea-to-sky-highway-howe-sound-lettershometoyou daughter will be able to read, so that she can learn about her old man in a way I never got to know mine.

Still, there are times when I ask myself why I keep doing this.

And, once in a while, the answer just lands like a bird on the balcony railing:

So Ian isn’t particularly hidden.  But if you’re a fan of satire, irony, beautiful photography, a world-view wide as the horizon and occasional posts as poignant and touching as could be found,  expat Ian in Hamburg’s  point of view may be exactly what you’re looking for.  His Desiderata for Bloggers, 20 Blogging Commandments and What If the Buddha Were Just Some Guy in His Mom’s Basement are as inspirational as a 2×4 to the head.  Read him.

That comes from Linda, a most under-rated blogger who in the past nine months has not only rebuilt her life in the wake of Hurricane Ike, she’s kept her blog going and is now starting to get her writing published in “the real world.”  Linda, it really touches me to know that my writing has been an influence on you, and I hope you keep at yours as far as you can take it.

In a comment a while back the author of Deutschland über Elvis needled me as usual: Now, 2009 is the year that both of us get published thanks to our heroic blogging efforts. What’s our plan?

Good question, HB8.  We’re already getting published, aren’t we?  Or did you mean for real?


Time to donate to charity

I wrote a rather long travel / what-we-did-on-our-summer-vacation post not too long ago with the following tucked in around the mid-point:

What?  You’re still reading?  Good for you!  Most would have started skimming or given up ages ago.  In honour of your perseverance, I will donate 10 euros to charity for every reader who takes the trouble to find my email address in the sidebar and send a mail with the following subject line:  I can’t believe I read the whole thing.  I bet I won’t have to pay a dime.  I’m dead serious.

Despite that rather cocky assertion that I probably wouldn’t have to fork it over,  four readers let me know they indeed had read the whole thing.  One left a comment instead of writing an email, but that’s OK.

So now it’s time to put my money where my keyboard is.

Saving the rainforest, curing cancer, feeding the homeless and supporting animal shelters are all worthy causes and I suppose the money would be put to good use wherever it goes.

We already sponsor a girl in Sri Lanka through Plan International, but there are also people close to home who could use a hand.

nutzmull-hamburgThat’s why I’ve rounded it up by €10 and given €50 to a workshop in Hamburg that employs deaf people as bicycle mechanics.

They take bikes that nobody wants anymore, fix them up with spare parts, and sell them for a reasonable price.  They not only give a steady job to people who might not otherwise find one, they recycle the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation going.  I’ve bought two from them over the years, using them as bad-weather wheels to save my main bike from the ravages of winter grit.nutzmull-hamburg-computers-printers

They have also developed a really good sideline business rejuvenating out-of-date computers and computer equipment and selling them on to people who might otherwise not be able to afford top-of-the-line gear.

So thanks once again Michele, Bellicose, Onkel Mo and Silke, who took the trouble to let me know they’d slogged through the whole thing.

It was a pleasure to drop by there and say hello today, and pass along the money to a worthy cause.  They were quite happy to see me, too. 🙂


Canadian blog awards results

Careful readers of this blog will recall that this has happened before.

I make it into the finals, yet come in last. 🙂

No matter! Back in 1977 the race was broadcast live on TV, the winner blew past everyone, set a record that stood for years, and went on to compete for Canada in the Olympics.

In this year’s Canadian Blog Awards the race was live on the Internet, the winner of Best Personal Blog blew by everyone, and if her latest post is anything to go by, who knows where she might end up?

Knitnut gets some shots of some Ottawa cops after they’ve roughed up a woman on a downtown street. She refuses to give in to their intimidation, keeps the photos and publishes them. I hope that post – and her blog – get the attention they deserve.

Knitnut actually won two categories. Best local blog as well.

As they noted on the page announcing the winners, the personal blog category was especially competitive. Based on the number of votes cast, even the fourth-place finisher would have won had that blog been slotted in other categories.

Thanks to all who voted for this blog, and once again to Indeterminacy for the nomination.

Second place went to No Ordinary Rollercoaster, Meg Fowler third, The Peach Pit fourth, and Under the Mad Hat fifth. By careful process of elimination, that puts me in sixth.

A total of 57 blogs were nominated, many of which I think should have made it to the finals. Check out these, for example:

Matthew Good

It’s like I’m mmmagic!

Rigo’s Days


Canadian Blog Awards: Final Round!

Well I said that if I got past the first round of voting, I’d be happy.

So I’m happy!

This space has made it into the final round of voting for Best Personal Blog in the 2008 Canadian Blog Awards.

Again… in true Canadian Olympic fashion… if I get the bronze medal, I’ll be overwhelmed.

And since it takes a lot less than two minutes… you could, like…vote for Letters Home again, eh?

Thanks once again to blogging pal Indeterminacy for the nomination, and to you for voting. -)


Dr. Seuss asks Roald Dahl: whatever happened to The Leaky Brain?

The other day I searched in vain
For some sign of The Leaky Brainthe-leaky-brain-call-me

This lady, see, was so much fun
Among my reads was number one

The first I’d go to in my reader
Some days I’d wish I could go meet her.

But then one day near end of summer
She stopped posting.  What a bummer!

Did she get a fake ID
And go to live up in BC?

She failed to leave a mail address
Along her sidebar.  Such a mess!

I wonder if she’s still alive!
Not long ago she did survivethe-leaky-brain-acrobat-photoshop

A dive into the world of porn
We all laughed.  But then one morn,

She up and left.  Came back no more,
She only left an open door,

For comments still come far and wide
Though nowadays no source of pride.

Oh I know.  Just let me guess…the-leaky-brain
She’s found those candies in her dress

But choked on one while a-composing
Another post that’s based on hosing

Hunky guys who wear no shirt
Just another daytime flirt.

Or did those strippers she made fun of
Catch up with her and give her some of

That rice that she was yelling for?
Tell me please.  It’s such a bore

That I can’t find my Leaky Brain
Since she’s not here my life’s a pain.

Maybe she’s in North Korea
With Kim Jong-Il, caught diarrhea

Or is she now a Twitter victim?
In two-line bursts, her wit and wisdom

Lost among the pointless chatter
Of many things that do not matter.

Then again, she is a teacher.
Could it be that, like a preacher,

She had to keep her nose quite clean
Until the day her blog was seen

By the chairman of the school board
Who looked unfavour’bly toward

A teacher unafraid to show her cooter
Instead of teaching kids computer?

Although some blogs have had a boost
From their authors getting dooced

It seems our Leaky Brain has flown
Leaving me to sit and moan.

The web is full of jokes and stuff
Crap and garbage and plain fluff

‘Tis rare originality
Pokes through all that banality.

So if you find The Leaky Brain
The one whose drips were quite insane

Tell her to send a signal flare
Some sign of life.





Canadian blog awards

After much hemming and hawing about whether or not to mention this, I have decided once again to interrupt my 10-part series on Turkey to announce that this space has been nominated for Best Personal Blog in this year’s Canadian Blog Awards.

Much hemming and hawing because I am terrible at self-promotion of any kind, in real life as well as blogging.

But if you’re not doing anything over the next two minutes… you could, like…vote, eh? You’ll have to scroll down a bit to find the Letters Home name, but it’s there.

In true Canadian style, if I make it past the first round I’ll be more than happy.

Thanks to blogging pal Indeterminacy for the nomination. 🙂


A funny thing happened on the way to Bremen

I got lost.

Lost because I followed the signs for the bike path, which seemed clear enough to me at the time.

I mean, it does seem to indicate Bremen that way doesn’t it? So I took the turn and ended up on this horrible stretch of cobblestone and sand, absolute hell for anyone on two wheels. The former because if you don’t have all the latest fancy-dancy bike suspension rig-thingies the rattling pummels your balls to hamburger, the latter for how it gums up your gears.

After gritting my teeth and cursing whoever it was that must have turned the sign 90 degrees to the left and forcing a traverse of that awful, monstrous and neverending line of cars and trucks I was so hoping to avoid, I somehow got on the right track again, re-joining the path I’d printed out thanks to Via Michelin.

Via Michelin is really helpful if you’re cycling. You enter your start and end points, say you want to travel by bike, and voilà! Out comes a clear description of how to get from point A to point B on two wheels. No need for expensive bike path maps you can never figure out how to fold up again anyway.

Once in Bremen I met the friendly owner of Gästehaus Peterswerder 35 euro a night for a single with shower, great breakfast, clean and homey – locked the bike up in the back, showered, ate lunch overlooking the Weser, flaked out for a couple of hours, then met the first group of bloggers.

Talk about getting whirled from one world to another. From hours of long, solitary stretches lined with oak to patches of pine forest, horse pasture and cornfields with nothing to listen to but the twittering of birds to suddenly be thrust into the company of people bent on over-using a particularly strange adjective at almost every turn…


At one point that first evening I just couldn’t take it any longer and so finally blurted out WHY are you guys calling anything and everything MOIST?

Turns out it was really a running gag they were pulling to see how long I would be able to hold off asking what they were going on about, which I readily admitted I was reluctant to do. When you’re pushing 50 and don’t get out very much and don’t pay attention to pop culture or what’s on American TV it’s a safer bet to follow the old adage: better to keep mouth closed and appear dumb than open mouth and remove all doubt.

Which is probably why I don’t talk very much unless the beer’s been flowing. Rather I take notes. The much-missed B from Eurotrippen wanted to know just what I was jotting down all the time during the Dresden meetup she and her husband hosted last year, so here’s a transcription of my scribblings this time ’round: (links added for flavour and freshness)


thankfully not a gravy moment – Adam

Everything is referred to as moist – what is MOIST?

= fantastic

Write Feuchtgebiet translated excerpts post with moist as hook? headbang8 is member

The Culture Code – buy it or find at library?

Madmen – new TV series – slingbox what costs etc?

Fresh Air NPR Podcast – look up in list

Dexter – psychopath as hero?

Well, there you have it. No nuclear launch codes, I’m afraid – not even free passwords to stuff white people like, especially if you’re a queer expatriate living in Weimar.

Speaking of whom, Adam set the bar pretty high by mentioning my post last time about Dresden was the best of the Whiney Expat Blogger write-ups that time around.

Well, don’t get me wrong – I do appreciate the compliment, Adam – but comparisons are for boy scouts dangling their wieners around the campfire. The reports from across the country are starting to trickle in and – no surprise – we all enjoyed it in our own way.

Highlights for me besides the lovely fall weather and relaxed atmosphere was the chance to finally meet so many people face-to-face.

Like Jen and Sparky, my sole contact with Jen up to now having been comments on her blog, a couple of emails and one enthusiastic Baaaaayyyy-beeeeee! she gave me as she answered her phone expecting it to be her number one.

And headbang8 – as much a pleasure to meet in person as to read online and I’m bracing myself for his weekend review – as well as Diane Mandy, Max and Doggie, sharp-as-a-razor G, our fearless tour guide, organiser and providor of wonderful gift bags Claire, Kim from Bremen, PapaScott from Hamburg, tireless traveller Heidelbergerin and beau, although the latter belongs to the usual gang of suspects rounded up for fingerprinting, eyeball patterning, Canadian passport control, inadvertent impromptu golden showering and general posterity.

I also enjoyed slipping into the relative safety and comfort of social avoidance mode for a couple of hours in late afternoon to have the energy to make it through the second evening. It was on that walkabout that I managed to really see what was all around me, observe detail in buildings, the faces of the people and above all avoid coffee at Starbucks or sliding on dogshit.

It was on that wander through town that I came across a surprisingly common sight in Germany. Some guy dressed in funny clothes sweeping the steps of the city hall clean.

Seems if a young man reaches his 30th birthday and still isn’t married, he has to go down to the town hall and perform the task for his friends and family. They helped out by spreading around hundreds of beer bottle caps which they promptly kicked around as soon as he’d managed to get a few into anything remotely resembling a pile. Ordnung muss nicht immer sein.

The ride back was wonderful. I managed to make it in six hours instead of seven on the way out by ignoring the bike path signs and simply following the Via Michelin map and directions. A tail-wind helped. As luck would have it the S-Bahn I wanted to take from Harburg over the Elbe to Hamburg was closed for repair for a stretch so I had to lug the bike with gear off the train, onto a crowded bus, off the bus, back onto the S-Bahn and then onward, making the journey from just south of the Elbe to home 15 minutes longer than if I’d boarded a train at the station way back in Bremen.


The banner photograph shows the town of Britannia Beach, BC, Canada, where I grew up. It's home. But I don't live there anymore.

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britbeach / at / yahoo dot ca

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A few reasons why I sometimes get homesick

1oo% Blogthings-free since January, 2007

and one last factoid about me: according to these people, i can type per minute

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