19 December 2008

Panama and Costa Rica - first impressions

Arrived in Panama last night en-route to two weeks diving, surfing and volcano spotting in Costa Rica. Fairly predictably, my luggage didn't arrive, how I love KLM!

Stayed a night in Panama City before getting a morning flight to Costa Rica. Didn't get to see too much of Panama but the city looked amazing by night. A real eclectic mix of ultra modern skyscrappers, traditional old building with a few shanty towns thrown in. All pretty clean and organised. We stayed in a nice B&B run by a pleasant local couple and ate in a small local restaurnt. Then went to bed and slept that great sleep you only get with "travelling west jet lag" in which you go to bed dog tired at 10pm local time (4am body time) and then get to sleep for 8 full hours before getting up at 6am, fully refreshed and ready for a full day.

Then flew down to San Jose in Costa Rica, which was not as impressive as Panama City but still very pleasant. Staying tonight in a very nice B&B overlooking the city and surrounding volcanoes. Ended up in shopping mall this afternoon buying replacement socks, undies and board shorts. Shopping malls are the same the world over, could have been anywhere. The holiday proper starts tomorrow when we head down to Drake Bay for some diving and beach life.

18 December 2008

Current job market - A Central American view

In a very nice B&B in Panama City and I found this sitting on their computer desktop - a Central American view of the financial crisis - class!

17 December 2008

BSRG 2008

Annual sedimentology conference in the UK. This year being held in my old stomping ground of Liverpool. The trip over on Saturday started with a fairly typically KLM fuck-up, when a lorry gritting the runway sprayed gravel into the engine of the plane! Class. The utter tossers in the reservation office then told me that the lost conection which was a direct result of the ensuing 3 hour delay would be my problem - long story. At least by the time I had got to Skipole they had changed their minds and booked me on the next Manchester flight... I got in at 10 pm, hooked up with Chris J and hit the town.

Great to be back in Liverpool on a saturday night, scary looking skin-headed guys trying to mate with even more scary looking fat women with very little clothing! I had actually forgotten how much of a buzz there is in the town on a weekend. It was great, but we didn't stay out too late, knowing it was going to be a long weekend.

Sunday morning quick field trip to the Dee Estuary which corresponded with the years highest tide at mid-day! Tide and time bend for no man! But at least we got out and had some fresh air, before the ice breaker which was down in the Tate at the Albert Dock.

Getting to the Tate involved walking through the new L1 district which has been opened in the last year. Amazing how they have transfered the city centre - its actually really impressive, even to cynical old me!

The conference was good. Nice to catch up with all the folk. Hosting in the Adelphi was fairly inspired, I have always wanted to stay there and it lived up to its reputation. Big night on Sunday and a big night on Monday with the conference dinner. Not sure where the blow up doll came from but she seemed to be getting a lot of attention on the dance floor when we left for town. Didn't see who she went home with though.

Gave a couple of talks and chaired a session on the Tuesday. Was really impressed with the quality of almost all the talks at the meeting. Few random wild cards but overall lots of good stuff being done.

Tuesday night went for a meal with Kav and a couple of other folk, then got up super early on Wednesday morning to get a ride to Manchester airport with a cabbie who launched into a tirad about women which seemed a bit harsh until he told me that his wife had just slept with a waiter while they had been on holiday in Turkey which resulted in her a) getting pregnant and having an abortion and b) getting a dose of clap that she passed on to him. She then left him and went to live in Turkey for 2 months with said waiter before coming back (not quite Shirley Valentine) and accusing him of their daughter - which was proven to be unfounded. He then capped it all off with a summary of his views on crime and punishment which were slightly to the right of General Pinochett , before droppping me off at the airport rather shell shocked! Great way to end a few days in the Pool.

13 December 2008

Busy Week

Seven days is a long time in politics and an even longer time at karmasotra...

Last friday Håvard had his PhD exam and passed with flying colours! When I first met him 5 years ago he was working a journilist and had strong political leanings! I pulled him back on to the "rocky road" but some of his latant political talants were not lost in the exam - he did an excellent job of speaking and also of evading the questions! It was rather like watching Paxman and Campbell sparring! After the exam he hosted a meal for family and friends. All very pleasent and very Norwegian, lots of speaches etc.

Got home at 1am then got up again at 6 to drive to Hemsedal for the "start the season ski weekend" Drove up wih Ian Lunt with Toby ze German in the back. Made good time and were on the slopes just after 10!

Had a great morning, ankle was playing up a bit in the afternoon so I stoppped early. The others got back and we hit the ever crazy "Cafe Hemsdale" which is one of the maddest places on the planet...Sounds like I am exagerating but no really it is feckin mad!

Another good day on sunday boarding the Sandy and Ian in the morning. Then headed back to Bergen. Both Ian Sharp and Mark picked up speeding tickets from the childish wankers that are the local Police in Norway, desperate to justify their inflated pay cheques in the absence of any real crime. Fortunatley mobile phones saved the rest of the group!

The week was super busy at work, been getting home late but the weather has been really cold and clear and we have managed some very nice evenings out in the hot-tub surrounded by a moonlite, frozen fjord.

Friday night was the Rocksource Julebord - once again a drunken affair but lots of fun. Great to see everyone unwinding after what has been a pretty hectic year.

Now sitting in SkiPole en-route to that unique drinking and science mess that is BSRG. And this year its in Liverpool - 11 years since I organised the last one there. Its going to be a lot of fun!

Scotish Christmas

Yes I know its Saturday, but its been a long week and at least the joke is seasonal...

A man in Scotland calls his son in London the day before Christmas Eve and says,
"I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough".
"Dad, what are you talking about?" the son screams.
"We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," the father says.
"We're sick of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Leeds and tell her."
Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone.
"Like hell they're getting divorced,' she shouts, 'I'll take care of this".

She calls Scotland immediately, and screams at her father,
"You are NOT getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife.
"Okay,' he says, 'they're coming for Christmas - and they're paying their own way."

07 December 2008

Happiness is like a cat

"Happiness is like a cat. If you try to coax it or call it, it will avoid you. It will never come. But if you pay no attention to it and go about your business, you’ll find it rubbing against your legs and jumping into your lap".
William Bennett

05 December 2008

Friday fun

A couple of jokes this week from Angharad and Katharine. I would like to point out that neither of these stories is anecdotal...

After a long night of making love, the guy notices a photo of another man on the woman's nightstand by the bed.
He begins to worry. 'Is this your husband?' he nervously asks.
'No, silly,' she replies, snuggling up to him. 'Your boyfriend, then?' he continues.
'No, not at all,' she says, nibbling away at his ear.
'Is it your dad or your brother?' he inquires, hoping to be reassured.
'No, no, no! You are so hot when you're jealous!' she answers. '
Well, who in the hell is he, then?' he demands.
She whispers in his ear 'That's me before the surgery.'

A young man goes into the Job Center in Leeds, and sees a card advertising for a Gynecologist's Assistant. Interested, he goes to learn more;
'Can you give me some more details?' he asks the clerk.
The clerk pulls up the file and says, 'The job entails getting the ladies ready for the gynecologist. You have to help them out of their underwear, lay them down and carefully wash their private regions, then apply shaving foam and gently shave off the hair, then rub in soothing oils so that they're ready for the gynecologist's examination.
There's an annual salary of £30,000, but you're going to have to go to North Wales, which is 180 miles from here.
''Good grief, is that where the job is?''
No sir --- that's where the end of the line is right now…….

04 December 2008

A further 20 tell tale signs

Yet another 20 tell tale signs that you have been in Norway too long...

  1. You enjoy paying your taxes because you believe it gives you a better standard of living.
  2. You own at least one knitted jumper with a reindeer pattern and buttons.
  3. Your lunch is an open sandwich wrapped in grease proof paper.
  4. An outside temperature of 9 degrees Celsius ( 45F ) is mild in mid June.
  5. Your favorite take-away food is a hot dog.
  6. You know at least five different words for describing different kinds of snow.
  7. You drink 30 cups of coffee per day.
  8. It does not bother you that 60% of the population works for the government or local kommune and does nothing of any value.
  9. You know that there are hooks for your rain coat underneath the bar.
  10. You believe that having no choice of products in a supermarket makes it easier to shop.
  11. You leave work at 3pm.
  12. A stranger on the street smiles at you, you assume that: a) he is drunk b) insane c) American d) all of the above.
  13. You understand why people laugh at Danes.
  14. You understand umbrellas are a communial resource that nobody owns so when you leave the pub you take the first one from the pile.
  15. It seems nice to spend a week in a small wooden cottage up in the mountains, with no running water and no electricity.
  16. You know that "religious holiday" means "let's get pissed".
  17. You always ski off piste, even if it’s just between the runs at the ski resort.
  18. Your neighbours talk to you. (note this means you have been here at least 20 years).
  19. You use snuss.
  20. Du snakker norsk med dialekt.

See also here and here

03 December 2008

The BMW and the deer...

Man driving his Beemer at 140 mph hits a deer. He gets out to inspect the damage and can't find the animal anywhere! He pops the bonnet and...

Fairly grim!

There is more on the same incident here with some fairly pointless arguing. The original picture came from here via UKC.

02 December 2008

Geologists in the Gruniad...

Shitte but fairly comical article in today's Guardian talking about jobs for which there is a shortage of applicants. The chosen ones include "ships officer", "horse rider", "physics teacher" and "geologist".

The article starts out well, acknowledging that there are lots of different types of geologist and that we are short of them all. It then goes on to polish the age old perceptions of geologists as people who hang out in landfills. Some of the class lines include...

"...I was just, I don't know, interested in earth processes. Looking at rocks. Walking round muddy fields with your mates" Probably should have become a farmer then!

"Engineering geologists (as opposed to pure geologists, who are mainly into research)..." OK so what about all the petroleum geologists, mining geologists, hydrogeologists - are they academic or unpure. Its not really clear.

"Sometimes it's more geo-technical," Cartwright says. "If you're on a motorway extension, you'll be more focused on things like the design of the earthworks, slope and rock face stability, soil compacting, that kind of thing. " Whoop-de-fuckin-do - sounds riviting! I can see the kids queing up to get a piece of that action!

"Part of the present shortage, Cartwright reckons, is down to the "massive explosion" in environmental and geo-technical work." I thought it had a whole lot more to do with a lot of very short sighted tossers in middle and upper managment of the major oil companies firing everyone when oil was $15 per barrel in the late 1990's and then being suprised when they had no staff in 2003.

"It's very hard to find the right people. We've paid to put people through a Masters."
I am struggling to see why that is bad?

Geology is not badly paid - with two or three years' experience and a bit of overtime you could be looking at £30,000
What planet is this guy on... get a masters in petroleum geology and you will start on more than that and in 3 years probably be doubling it!

I think the reason that geology is not sexy is because degrees in media studies are easier and those people then go on to write shit, factually incorrect articles that imply most geologists spend their lives worrying about subsidence on council estates.

In 1985 I became a geologist because I wanted to see World, work outdoors in exotic locations, do a job that actually made a difference and score a reasonable wedge. Half a lifetime later I would say that was pretty much how it turned out...

01 December 2008

Recent readings

Finished three books recently, all of which have been excellent in their own way.

"The life of Pi" by Yann Martel is a book that I have often looked at and even started twice before and never got in to. Katharine read it and then urged me to do the same, so I did. Found the first quarter really hard going, somewhat tedious and all the religous stuff rather annoying. But then, once the boy ends up in a life boat with a 450 pound bengal tiger it gets interesting. The story is not so far fetched that you think it is ridiculous but it is far enough out there to keep you interested. The twist at the end is brutal! Highly recommended although claims that "it will make you believe in god" are obviously bollox and actually do no justice to the book at all.

"Cityboy, Beer and loathing in the square mile" by Geraint Anderson was not what I expected. I was ready for a drug and booze filled romp through the life of typical suited, City of London, finance wanker. And while that's what it was in part, the guy was also smart enough to see why the whole system is totally screwed and why most of the people are utter scumbags. From that perspective he offers some very interesting insight into the lives of people who earn more in an afternoon than the average teacher earns in a year. But are they happy? Interestingly the book was published in early 2008 and towards the end he was predicting a fairly catastrophic crash - so I guess he was right then!

Continuing the drug fuelled, bacchalian theme, "Young men on fire" by Howard Hunt follows a bunch of dot.com hedonists on a night out in New York. Again it's interesting to note that the hero, turns out to be the quiet guy, sipping a beer in the corner. What ever happened to Irivine Welsh, Niall Griffith and Ian Banks, where the main characters are the most wasted? Maybe the world has become a more sober place in the last ten years. The book is an amusing romp regardless.

29 November 2008

Bike for Sale

This is a classic, apparently it's a real advert...

Same hemisphere, different planet

Have just got back from Houston and was thinking about the stark differences, both culturally and politically, between Norway and the US.

Two anecdotes highlight the differences to me
Story 1:
Back in 1999 a friend of mine told me that she was going to have a baby!
She said, " I live in Norway, although I am not Norwegian; I am not married to the baby's father and yet the Government here is going to give me a years holiday*. How cool is that?"
I has to agree it's pretty damn good.
At the same time a friend of mine in the US who had worked for 10 years and then gone back to college said to me "we can't afford health care while I am studying, if my wife gets pregnant it will cost $10000 for her to go to hospital have a baby and come out the next day. That's assuming no complications. If she gets pregnant it will be a total disaster!"
I had to agree that was not very good...

Story 2:
I was doing research work with two oil companies in 1999. Saga (Norway) and Arco (US company in UK). Both were taken over by larger companies. In Saga the employees went through several stages, starting with denial, "the government will not let this happen", graduating to indignant protest, "well if they do take over there is no way that I will move anywhere!"
And when it did happen, by enlarge people either got a job where they wanted it, or huge a payout. There was no forced redundancy and no forced relocation.
BP walked in to ARCO on a Monday morning and sacked the entire UK staff (200+ people), 2000 lost their jobs globally. No discussion, no complaining, no chance to demand where you might like to live, just goodbye!

Thats the difference between Norway and the US. I know where I want to live, even with the high taxes!

And some statistics...
Work hours - Norway 8-3; USA 7-7, it's a long day at the coal face. "Honey, who are those small people living in my house?". "That's your children dear!"
Holidays - Norway 25+ days; USA 5 days. Which explains my many Americans are so geographically challanged. If you only have 5 days holiday, its not suprising you think Norway is in Africa.
Tax - Norway 40+%, USA 25%. And interestingly there is an inverse relationship to attitude towards paying.
Cars - Norway hyper expensive, USA very cheap, e.g. a Volvo XC90 cost 1 million nok ($160k) in Norway and $35k (210knok) in the US.
Health Care - Norway, universal and fairly good; USA, excellent with insurance but terrible if you are part of the 20% who don't have it. That is very scary!
Drink driving - Norway, having a beer and then driving is worse than child molestation, USA if you can walk you can drive.
Maternity leave - Norway 11 months; USA, none
Women in the work place Norway 70% and USA 60%, probably related to the above
Crime rates - Norway very low; USA variable, but locally its a war zone!
Obesity - Norway 8%; USA 30%
Life expectancy - Norway 80; USA 78. I was actually surprised they were so close.
Politics - the policies of the Norwegian right (Høyre), lie significantly left of the Deomcrats!

They really are poles apart, to me they are opposite ends of the spectrum on work-life balance, with the rest of the World (western world at least) laying somewhere between these two end members.

What is odd is that a lot of the settlers in America came from Scandanavia, not that long ago. That must surely suggest that the differences are driven by culture rather than genetics...

28 November 2008

Friday Joke - the Iraqi Footballer

The Liverpool Football Club manager flies to Baghdad to watch a young Iraqi play football. He is suitably impressed and arranges for him to come over to Anfield.

Two weeks later Liverpool are 4-0 down to Man Utd with only 20 minutes left. The manager gives the young Iraqi striker the nod and on he goes. The lad is a sensation, scores 5 goals in 20 minutes and wins the game for Liverpool. The fans are delighted, the players and coaches are delighted, and the media love the new star.

When the player comes off the pitch he phones his mum to tell her about his first day in English football. 'Hello mum, guess what?' he says 'I played for 20 minutes today, we were 4-0 down but I scored 5 goals and we won. Everybody loves me, the fans, the media, they all love me.

''Wonderful,' says his mum, 'Now let me tell you about my day. While you were out playing football and having fun, your father got shot in the street and robbed. At the same time your sister and I were ambushed, gang raped, and beaten up and your brother has joined a gang of looters.

'The young lad is very upset. 'What can I say mum? I'm so sorry.'
'Sorry!' exclaims his Mum, 'Sorry is not good enough, it's your fault we moved to Liverpool in the first place!'

Courtesy of Katharine

27 November 2008

The six stages of academic fame

I have noticed that as you rise up in the festering lava pool of academia there are certain set stages in your career. These are illustrated by what happens when you go to conferences and meet people.

Stage 1 - You stare in awe at all the famous people who's text books and articles you have read.
Stage 2 - You go up to someone and say "Hi I'm John Smith" and they don't seem to care.
Stage 3 - You go up to someone and say "Hi I'm John Smith". They say "ah your John Smith!"
You are not sure why they have heard of you and your worried that it might have more to do with your bar antics than your science.
Stage 4 - You go up to someone and say "Hi I'm John Smith". They say "yes I know".
Stage 5 - You don't bother to introduce yourself because you assume people will know who are and/or you can't remember who you have and havn't met before and stage 4 is getting embarassing.
Stage 6 - Some first year PhD student comes up and says "Hi I'm Dave Jones" and you stare blankly at them while thinking "so what".

25 November 2008

US Car manufacturers - a dilemma...

Very interesting to see the mental conflict that is facing some of our more republican friends...
The great car manufacturer bail-out question.

The issue is fairly simple:
These people would never buy anything other than an American car. Despite the fact that they are ugly, uneconomical, badly made, horrible and wollowing to drive, expensive to run and generally shitte, they love them.
The same people are also totally committed to the free market. If a company can't hack it then it should be left to go under. You should not use tax payers money for bail-outs. Actually in their opinion there shouldn't be any tax.

So there is the dilemma, let Ford, GM et al go under and have to drive a Toyota or go against your deeply held moral beliefs and approve a bail out.

Ha ha - I am glad my life is simple

Long way home...

Went out on Friday night with Roy and a few beers turned into a few more and then a couple more. The world was put to rights and then some more. Great evening. As we left the bar, Roy proved that he wasn't really worthy of living in Texas but opting to walk home - yes leave the car and walk, in Houston. I should have realised it was going to go to shit.

We walked for a while and then parted our ways. Roy directed me to Dairy Ashford, which is a big long street with my hotel at one end. What could possibly go wrong? So I turned on to the street and started walking. I walked and then walked some more.

After about half an hour I was starting to think that Roy's perception of distance was skewd by driving all the time. After an hour I was getting seriously peeved. There was not to many people around and those that were either looked scared or very dodgy, or both.

After about two hours I had a sudden dawning flash of realisation. I pulled out my phone and got a map on the internet which proved what I had just realised - I had been walking in the wrong direction.

I have the sense of direction of a fridge!

So at that point I went to a garage and managed to call a cab. Eventually made it home at 5am!

Next day when I was out in the car I clocked the distance... 7 miles.

Hmmm Probably a bit more drunk than I had thought. At least I was sober when I got home.

21 November 2008

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Fantastic open letter to the Kansas School Board requesting that the theory that the World was created by the Flying Spaghetti Monster should be taught alonside Creationism and Intellegent Design. The Kansas school board are the group that insisted that ID is taught alongside Creationism in science classes.

I agree totally and would like to point out that science is mearly an opinion and there are many potentially correct theories, all of which should be given even weight, not just those two.

See http://www.venganza.org/

Friday Joke - Inspiration for the retired

Working people frequently ask retired people what they do to make their days interesting.

Well, for example, the other day my wife and I went to town and went into a shop. We were only in there for about 5 minutes. When we came out, there was a traffic warden writing out a parking ticket. We went up to him and said, 'Come on man, how about giving a senior citizen a break?'

He ignored us and continued writing the ticket. I called him a Nazi turd. He glared at me and started writing another ticket for having worn tyres. So my wife called him a Shithead . He finished the second ticket and put It on the windshield with the first.

Then he started writing a third ticket. This went on for about 20 minutes. The more we abused him, the more tickets he wrote.

Personally, we didn't care. We came into town by bus, but its important to have some fun at our age...

20 November 2008

Republicans are fat...

Following on from the previous post, I cross plotted the obesity map against the recent electon results - the results are shown below.

The obesity map showed a range of c. 19 to 32% obesity and there is an obvious correlation between the states with the higher obesity values and those that voted republican (red on the map above). To explore this further, Itook the approximate mid-point in the obesity range (26%) and looked at which fall above and which below. All but 4 of the Republican states have above 26% obesity (red with blue dots) and all but 5 Democrat states are below the mid point in the obesity range (blue with red dots). So the theory that republican states have a higher tendency to obesity is supported but 41 out of 50 states (82%).

So the simple conclusion is that the republicans ate all the pies!

18 November 2008

Land of the Large

Just in case you were wandering why its called the "Land of the Large", see the map below from the rather excellent Strangemaps site, which shows obesity by state. That is the percent of the adult population that is not just over-weight but obese (i.e. BMI >30). Obese means that your weight is impacting your health.

Texas comes in at a rather disappointing 14th place but, with the exception of the pig in lipsticks home territory of Alaska where they probably need an extra layer of fat to keep warm, the east and especially the SE is where all the lard is consumed (or at least stored on large arses). In fact the increased subsidence and flooding in New Orleans in recent years may be an isostatic compensation for the extra load that is applied to the crust in the deep south.

By comparison, 19% of the UK, population is obese. which means that the 51st State comes second from bottom of this list with a stern "must try harder" note from Mr MacDonald, the Headteacher. The UK is let down by the English because the Scots are doing their part with 23% and the figure in Wales is over 20%

I couldn't find any figures for Norway but my guess is that its lower.

God bless America and all who trough in her.

17 November 2008

In Obama's America

Just landed in Wayne County airport - Detroit, on route to Houston. With a name like that I was expecting a dirt airstrip and a guy wearing a baseball cap and a wife-beater with a mullet leaning against a pick-up directing cross-spraying Cessnas. Disappointingly it's just like any other US airport.

Haven't been in the land of the large for about 6 months, am going to be here for the next 10 days. Will be interesting to hear what our very republican employees in Houston make of the change (note to self - don't be smug, don't wind them up)

Not too much happening in Bergen over the past couple of weeks. Everyone was working super hard leading up to the Norwegian licensing round which ended 10 days ago. A very large Friday night followed in which I got home at 5 am - but that's another story. Since then the weather has been pretty kak. Ten degrees, windy and raining most of the time with the occasional clear and very cold day. Katharine was away having fun in the sun last week and I just had a quite one. Made it to the gym and the climbing wall apart from that not much to report.

Hanging in waiting for the winter fun to start.

14 November 2008

Friday Joke - one for the ladies

A woman rubbed a bottle and out popped a genie.
The amazed woman asked if she got three wishes.
The genie said, "Nope, sorry, three-wish genies are a storybook myth. I'm a one-wish genie. So...what'll it be?"

The woman did not hesitate. She said,
"I want peace in the Middle East. See this map? I want these countries to stop fighting with each other And I want all the Arabs to love the Jews and Americans and vice-versa. It will bring about world peace and harmony."

The genie looked at the map and exclaimed, "Lady, be reasonable. These countries have been at war for thousands of years.
I'm out of shape after being in a bottle for five hundred years.
I'm good but not THAT good!
I don't think it can be done. Make another wish and please be reasonable."

The woman thought for a minute and said, " Well, I've never been able to find the right man. You know - one that's considerate and fun, romantic, likes to cook and help with the house cleaning, is good in bed, and gets along with my family, doesn't watch sports all the time, and is faithful.
That is what I wish for...a good man."

The genie let out a SIGH, rolled his eyes and said,
"Let me see the f*cking map again"

Courtesy of Angharad

10 November 2008

20 more tell-tale signs that you have been in Norway too long

Following on from the original 20 tell tale signs - here are some more:

1. You think a queue should be 20 people wide and 2 people long
2. Girls with long blonde hair, nice bodies and clear skin, look kinda average
3. You use your elbows to get to the bar in a busy pub and shout to get served
4. You know the rules to hand ball
5. You own a house and two cabins (one in the mountains and one by the sea)
6. If you want to go to the toilet in a night club you take the shortest route and walk straight across the center of the dance floor
7. You can’t remember what those orange flashing lights on the car are for
8. You take more time off work at Easter than at Christams
9. The guys around you spend more money on hair gel and styling than the girls
10. You think "dancing" means "swing-dancing" even in a hip-hop club or heavy metal concert
11. You think £10000/$20000 for a 5 year old car is a good deal
12. You don’t see any problem with shouting loudly in the street at 3 am and it doesn't bother you when other people do it
13. You spent more on your boat than on your car
14. You know that the traffic will stop if you walk onto the crossing, regadless of its size, proximity, speed or the road conditions
15. You love brown cheese
16. You know that Thursday is Raspeboller day
17. Christams means lutte fisk (herring pickled in alkaline) and pinnekjøt (greasy lamb or pork that smells like dog food)
18. You know that Svalbard is somewhere you have to go once in your life, a bit like Mecca to a muslim
19. If you meet someone while walking in the mountains you do everything you can to ignore them
20. You know how much your neighbour earns because you checked the list in the paper

09 November 2008

There is probably no god - so stop worrying and enjoy life

The idea is pretty simply - bored of being subjected to loads of religious propaganda and doom & gloom death threats from nutcases like this (watch the video its truely horrible). The British Humanist Association have set out to redress the balance with a bit of light hearted atheist advertising.

They set out to raise £5,000 and have got up to £120,000 already…

Love it!

(Click on the picture to find out more and make a donation)

As an interesting postscript, a counter campaign by HTB has raised less than £1000 - which begs the question, where is your god when you need to decorate the side of a bus then? He's probably too busy over-seeing the 24 wars that are currently being fought in his name or maybe the brawling in Jerusalem* to worry about a bit of fund raising.

*Be sure to watch the video - its straight out of "Life of Brian"

08 November 2008

Friday Joke

Yes I know it's saturday but its been a pretty hectic week.
Anyway to honour the outgoing President of the USA...

Einstein dies and goes to heaven and knocks on the gates.
Saint Peter says, "You look like Einstein, but you have no idea the lengths some people will go to, to sneak in. Can you prove who you really are?"
Einstein ponders for a few seconds and asks, "Could I have a blackboard and some chalk?"
Saint Peter snaps his fingers and a blackboard and chalk instantly appear. Einstein proceeds to describe with arcane mathematics and symbols his theory of relativity.
Saint Peter is suitably impressed. "You really are Einstein! Welcome to Heaven!"

The next to arrive is Picasso. Once again Saint Peter asks for his credentials.
Picasso asks, "Mind if I use that blackboard and chalk?"
Saint Peter says, "Go ahead."
Picasso erases Einstein's equations and sketches a truly stunning mural with just a few strokes of chalk.
Saint Peter claps. "Surely you are the great artist you claim to be! Come on in!"

Then Saint Peter looks up and sees George W. Bush.
Saint Peter scratches his head and says, "Einstein and Picasso both managed to prove their identity. How can you prove yours?"
George W looks bewildered and says, "Who are Einstein and Picasso?"
Saint Peter sighs, "Come on in, George."

06 November 2008

Oh my God - He Won!

And quite convincingly!

Shouldn't get too excited because...

A. Some rightwing conspiracy nut will probably knock him off within 6 months anyway

B. Remember how excited we all where wehn Blair was elected. Finally got rid of the Tories the world was going to be such a better place - and look how that turned out!

Anyway there is no doubt he is going to be a vast improvement.

It's so pathetic to watch Bush congratulate him, like a spoilt, petulant child who has bullied the whole class and smashed all their toys trying to suck up to the new kid - horrible, horrible man.

04 November 2008

US Election Part II - the rest of the World

Should we care what happens in tonight’s election in the US?
I am sure that at least some of my American friends would say that it's nothing to do with you, you have no right to meddle in our internal politics. Which would of course be right if it didn't have such a direct effect on our everyday lives. Its a shame but unfortunately it has a massive impact on the whole World and we have every right to have an opinion - hell I even think we should have a vote!

So here is your chance - go here and vote and then go to the result tabs and see what the World thinks - its amazing.

At the time of writing the results indicate that 88% of over 800 thousand people from all around the World would vote for Obama if they had the chance. Out of 212 countries only 3, Macedonia, Albania and Niue (where the fuck is Niue?*) would give The Ovenchip and the Pig in lipstick the job.

So how come it is still close to 50/50 in the US? After all that Bush and his cronies have done to trash their own country and fuck up the rest of the World - the economy, the wars, the budget surplus to deficit etc etc. Isn't it just stunning that about 60 million people still support their ideals?

There are several reasons:
1. Single issue politics - lots of people only really care about one thing e.g. abortion, gun control etc. They will vote for a pig, if it means they can teach their kids the World is 6000 years old.
2. The American Dream, people have been sold the idea that they have to protect the rights of the 1 in 10,000 who made it big and got rich, just in case it happens to them.
3. Race - a lot of people just don't want a black man running the country.
4. Short holidays - sounds mad, but hang in there. Americans work the longest hours of anywhere in the western World and they have the shortest holidays. When you only get a week off per year what chance have you got of travelling abroad, experiencing different cultures and broadening you mind?
5. There are a lot of stupid people and there is premium put on being stupid. Unfortunately that has come to the UK and the rest of Europe as well - just check out how many people watch Big Brothers and think ignorance is cool.

* According to the CIA Worldfact book, it's a very small island in the Pacific. Out of the population of 1,144 one person voted McCain, so I guess we shouldn't be too hard on them

03 November 2008

US Election

There is not much that can be said - it's all common sense, which is probably the scary bit...
McCain is an old duffer, who already has skin cancer and is one burger away from a fatal heart attack.
Palin is truly scary, anti-science, anti intelligence, religious, small minded, xenophobic and a total red neck.
Just when you thought that Bush was the worst that could happen to the World along come this pair of jokers - it's truly frightening

Obama seems like a good candidate, at least he has two brain cells to rub together. Plus the fact that he is black is bound to wind up the nazi arseholes, which is always a bonus, just so long at they don't bump him off six months down the line.
And as for his running mate... who is his running mate?

So tonights electon will be interesting. Obama seems to have it sown up but never under estimate the power of stupid people in large groups. I would not be surprised if at the last minute it swings the other way.

A closing thought...

Winston Churchill on the human rights mess that Bush et al. have landed us in...

In a 1943 letter from Winston Churchill to Herbert Morrison talking about prisoners' rights.

"The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to law, and particularly to deny him judgment by his peers for an indefinite period, is in the highest degree odious, and is the foundation of all totalitarian Governments, whether Nazi or Communist...

... Extraordinary powers assumed by the Executive with the consent of Parliament in emergencies should be yielded up when and as the emergency declines. Nothing can be more abhorrent to democracy than to imprison a person or keep him in prison because he is unpopular. This is really the test of civilization."

Now this was in 1943 - when there was a proper war going on. Not a phony, 'lets spook the people into thinking we are all in immanent danger of terrorist attack so we can pass loads of dodgy laws and fleece tax payers money to your buddies', type of war. And yet even Churchill, who is not famous for being the most liberal minded soul, during a time of real crisis, against a proper bad guy, could see that the way we are behaving now is immoral and more importantly counter-productive.

Churchill may not have been a liberal but he was infinitely more intelligent than the cretins running the US and by default the World. Depressing isn't it!

Bergen's Burning...

Sat in work on Saturday afternoon - yes I know its sad but there is the licensing round deadline coming up and its all pretty busy. Anyway sat there and my phone rings. Its Lindsey and she says
"Where is Dan?" (Her boyfriend)
"He's not answering his phone and he needs to come home NOW!"
Whoops thinks I, the boy sounds like his in trouble... So I say
"I'll go and see if he's in the office, anything urgent?"
"Yes! The house next door is on fire!"
"Oh, I guess it is kinda urgent then. Have you called the fire brigade?"
She says that there are already 2 engines there and flames coming out the roof.
It sounds bad so I go and find Dan and send him home.

An hour later I am walking across town and I see the hillside lit up and smoke pouring out the roof. A serious fire then. There is some pics here and a not very good video here

Fortunately they were fine and their flat was untouched. It made me think though. There has been a lot of fires in Bergen this year. At least 5 really big ones and lots of smaller ones. Despite being the wettest place in Europe, it's still a firemans nightmare, lots of wooden houses, very narrow, steep streets and maybe even a bunch of arsonists on the loose. Its amazing the city has survived so long.

Found a great website a few years back which I moved to Bergen that documents the history of Bergen and the fires that have been such a big part of that story. Click down the date scale on the side of the map and see the major fires that have hit the town. It also shows how the city grew of the last 1000 years - pretty neat.

31 October 2008

Looking for my Leppard...

Well after about 3 weeks of near continuous goodbye parties including one that went on until 5.30am, our good friends, Chris and Christina have left for Canada.

Its a great shame to see them go, but what can you say. People move on.

In the mean time - just to remind us why we will miss them
Movie 1 - from the Bookcliffs about 6 years ago - rather sureal
Movie 2 - more of them same
Movie 3 - made for Christina's hen party

And nothing really to do with them but mildly topical...

Guess we'll just have to head out to Calgary and see them.

Friday Joke - it's an engineering thing

Not too many posts at the moment, super busy at work. Here is the friday joke anyway, this week courtesy of the Gregenator...

Understanding Engineers - Take One
The graduate with a science degree asks, 'Why does it work?'
The graduate with an engineering degree asks, 'How does it work?'
The graduate with an accounting degree asks, 'How much will it cost to make it work?'
The graduate with an arts degree asks, 'Do you want fries with that?'

Understanding Engineers - Take Two
To the optimist, the glass is half full.To the pessimist, the glass is half empty.To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

Understanding Engineers -Take Three
'What is the difference between mechanical engineers and civil engineers?Mechanical engineers build weapons and civil engineers build targets.

Understanding Engineers - Take Four
Two engineering students were walking across a university campus when one said, 'Where did you get such a great bike?' The second engineer replied, 'Well, I was walking along yesterday, minding my own business, when a beautiful woman rode up on this bike, threw it to the ground, took off all her clothes and said, 'Take what you want.' The second engineer nodded approvingly and said, 'Good choice; the clothes probably wouldn't have fitted you anyway.

Understanding Engineers - Take Five
Three engineering students were gathered together discussing the possible designers of the human body.One said, 'It was a mechanical engineer. Just look at all the joints.'Another said, 'No, it was an electrical engineer. The nervous system has many thousands of electrical connections.'The last one said, 'No, actually it had to have been a civil engineer.Who else would run a toxic waste pipeline through a recreational area?'

Understanding Engineers - Take Six
Normal people believe that if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Engineers believe that if it ain't broke, it doesn't have enough features yet.

And finally my favorite...
Understanding Engineers - Take Seven
An engineer was crossing a road one day, when a frog called out to him and said, 'If you kiss me, I'll turn into a beautiful princess.'
He bent over, picked up the frog and put it in his pocket.
The frog spoke up again and said, 'If you kiss me and turn me back into a beautiful princess, I will stay with you for one week.'
The engineer took the frog out of his pocket, smiled at it and returned It to the pocket.
The frog then cried out, 'If you kiss me and turn me back into a Princess, I'll stay with you for one week and do ANYTHING you want.'
Again, the engineer took the frog out, smiled at it and put it back into his pocket.
Finally, the frog asked, I've told you I'm a beautiful princess and that I'll stay with you for one week and do anything you want. Why won't you kiss me?'
The engineer said, 'Look, I'm an engineer. I don't have time for a girlfriend, but a talking frog, now that's cool.'

30 October 2008

Winter is coming

After the mad storms of last week it has got clear and cold with amazing blue skys. The first ice was on the fjord outside the lair this morning, it was really pretty with the last of the autumn colours in the trees and the bright sunlight shinning off the ice

Winter is defiantly coming and it is interesting to watch peoples reaction to this, somewhat inevitable fact. They seem to fall into 2 groups:

The first group are depressed by the idea, to them it is getting darker and colder, snow is a hassle and they yearn for the summer, they look very sad all the time...

Group two are getting excited, winter means skiing, boarding and ice climbing. We just need to get through November and then the proper winter fun starts.

I am definately part of group 2... Bring on the white stuff!

29 October 2008


Bergen International Film Festival has just finished. An amazing collection of films in a one week period. Didn't get to see too many but Man on Wire and "When did you last see your father?" were both excellent.

Next year its in Stavanger, I am wondering if StIFF will have a more adult theme?

26 October 2008

Stuck on Sotra with three Filipino girls...

The weather last week and into the weekend has been getting progressively wilder, brewing up to a big storm, the surf at Stadt this weekend was 25 ft - I opted to stay at home!

We were out on Friday evening, one of those spontaneous nights when the correct people turn up and it develops into an unplanned large one. Consequently was not feeling super sharp on Saturday. But it's the party season - so its' not like we are missing out on anything anyway.

Saturday lunch time and the weather was getting really foul. We popped in to town to collect Vench, a small Filipino girl who had offered to come out to the lair once a month and give it a quick blast on the cleaning front.

When we arrived to collect her, one had become three, all very small and giggling a lot. They seemed fairly oblivious to the high winds and pouring rain and keen to get to work. We piled them into the back of the car and drove out to Sotra. While they started cleaning I got on with some work. All the time the rain was lashing against the window and the house was shaking in the wind.

Then I noticed out of the window that the traffic towards the bridge was backed up. Not a good sign. A quick look on the net told me that the Sotra Bridge was shut due to high winds! The Sotra Bridge was built in 1972 and is 1236 m long with a span of almost 500 m. Its the 74th longest bridge in the World - not bad for a road that connects a small island with a population of 25,000 with a small town with a population of 250,000! When all the oil money has run out at least this country will have an impressive collection of bridges and tunnels!

Anyway the bridge was shut because the wind was over 25 m/s which is about 54 mph (90 km/h) - fairly windy and apparently that is only the 15th time its ever had to be closed. Not much of a conciliation to the three girls who were now stuck there. They actually didn't seem very bothered as they had by this time finished their chores and were drinking tea. They then magically produce a cake from somewhere and we had an impromptu party, which was entertaining and amusing since they didn't really speak too much English.

So the next challange was how to get them back to the mainland. Contemplated the boat but a look out the window suggested that would be a short cut to a Darwin award. Eventually it was Katharine to the rescue, she had found out that the bridge had reopened to some traffic and the police were busy stopping people with ski boxes! So we made an escape - the girls to go home and us to the Leppards leaving party.

24 October 2008

This weeks friday joke - The difference between men and women

Some differences between men and women
If Laura, Kate and Sarah go out for lunch, they will call each other Laura, Kate and Sarah .
If Mike, Dave and John go out, they will affectionately refer to each other as Fat Boy, Godzilla and Four-eyes.
When the bill arrives, Mike, Dave and John will each throw in £20, even though it's only for £32.50. None of them will have anything smaller and none will actually admit they want change back.
When the girls get their bill, out come the pocket calculators.
A man will pay £2 for a £1 item he needs.
A woman will pay £1 for a £2 item that she doesn't need but it's on sale.
A man has six items in his bathroom: toothbrush and toothpaste, shaving cream, razor, a bar of soap, and a towel from M&S.
The average number of items in the typical woman's bathroom is 337. A man would not be able to identify more than 20 of these items.
A woman has the last word in any argument.
Anything a man says after that is the beginning of a new argument
A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend.
A successful woman is one who can find such a man.
A woman marries a man expecting he will change, but he doesn't.
A man marries a woman expecting that she won't change, but she does.
A woman will dress up to go shopping, water the plants, empty the bins, answer the phone, read a book, and get the post.
A man will dress up for weddings and funerals.

And finally my favorite....
A woman knows all about her children. She knows about dentist appointments and romances, best friends, favourite foods, secret fears and hopes and dreams.
A man is vaguely aware of some short people living in his house.

20 October 2008

Autumn in Bergen

Winter is definitely on the way, its now dark when I get up and the rain has arrived big style.

The autumn colours are amazing. I am not sure if I haven’t noticed them in previous years or if they are especially vivid this year. Either way it's spectacular.

Last week was pretty mad at work - both jobs!

Went to the October Fest in CIPR on friday then picked up the boat on Saturday. The weather was pretty grim and I was the only boat out on the water - it was fun, if a bit wet and cold. Felt good to be outside. Then saturday evening we had the Leps around for food - they are heading to Canada in two weeks, it will be sad to see them go.

Sunday we cleared up after the party and went for a walk up Gullfjell which was pretty wet but again good to get out and get some exercise. Have spent far too long sat at my desk recently.

12 October 2008

Ten things to do on a weekend in Wales

Just been back in Britian for the weekend to catch up with family and friends. Also visited Antony Gormley's Another Place on Crosby beach which was great.

Whilst there we realised that there's certain things that have to be done on a weekend back in the old country - here, in no particular order is the top ten:
1. Eat fish and chips on the sea front.
2. Go to a country pub and drink a good pint of bitter.
3. Have a decent curry.
4. Go to a supermarket and fill a suitcase with 20 kg of good veggie food.
5. Visit an art exhibition/installation.
6. Buy some sandwiches in a garage that are not made with plain white bread and do not contain putrid sliced ham.
7. Drive at 80 mph (140 km/h) and travel at the same speed as the rest of the traffic.
8. Hold a door open for a random stranger and hear them say thank you.
9. Drink gallons of tea.
10. Go to a petrol station that doesn't stink of pølser (hot dogs).

Hmmm I just realised that I am strangley obsessed with food...

10 October 2008


How To Shower Like a Woman
Take off clothes and place them sectioned in laundry basket according to lights and darks.
Walk to bathroom wearing long dressing gown.
If you see partner along the way, cover up any exposed areas.
Look at your womanly physique in the mirror - make mental note to do more sit-ups / leg-lifts, etc.
Get in the shower.
Use face cloth, arm cloth, leg cloth, long loofah, wide loofah and pumice stone.
Wash your hair once with cucumber and sage shampoo with 43 added vitamins.
Wash your hair again to make sure it's clean.
Condition your hair with grapefruit mint conditioner enhanced.
Wash your face with crushed apricot facial scrub for 10 minutes until red.
Wash entire rest of body with ginger nut and jaffa cake body wash.
Rinse conditioner off hair.
Shave armpits and legs.
Turn off shower.
Squeegee off all wet surfaces in shower.
Spray mold spots with Tile cleaner.
Get out of shower.
Dry with towel the size of a small country.
Wrap hair in super absorbent towel.
Return to bedroom wearing long dressing gown and towel on head.
If you see partner along the way, cover up any exposed areas.

How To Shower Like a Man
Take off clothes while sitting on the edge of the bed and leave them in a pile.
Walk naked to the bathroom.
If you see partner along the way, shake willy at her making the'woo-woo'sound.
Look at your manly physique in the mirror.
Admire the size of your willy and scratch your bum.
Get in the shower. wash your face.
Wash your armpits.
Blow your nose in your hands and let the water rinse them off.
Fart and laugh at how loud it sounds in the shower.
Spend majority of time washing privates and surrounding area.
Wash your bum, leaving those coarse bum hairs stuck on the soap.
Wash your hair.
Make a Shampoo Mohican
Rinse off and get out of shower.
Partially dry off.
Fail to notice water on floor because curtain was hanging out of bath the whole time.
Admire willy size in mirror again.
Leave shower curtain open, wet mat on floor, light and fan on.
Return to bedroom with towel around waist.
If you pass partner, pull off towel, shake willy at her and make the'woo-woo' sound again.
Throw wet towel on bed.

Not mine but still pretty funny

09 October 2008

The BBC goes to eleven

I just noticed that the media player on the BBC website goes to 11. If you don't believe me click here, don't worry about the content just click on the volume slider, it goes all the way to 10 and then 1 more!


If you don't understand why that is so brilliant you need to click here

PC Britian gone mentally disadvantaged

Great news item on the BBC website in which the Students Union in Manchester Uni are changing some of the toilets from Gents and Ladies to toilets with- and toilets without-urinals. They are doing this because they are concerned that people who's sexuality does not fit into one of those two, fairly common, categories may be disadvantaged...

Fantastic! I didn't realize British students still had this much time to waste! I thought that since the introduction of loans and the demise of the grant system they were all way to busy studying hard and doing 2 paper-rounds and 3 bar jobs to play fruit-case politics.

Watch the video and ask yourself one question...
Do you think that the ridiculous girl with the green hair has ever laughed at anything? I mean properly laughed out loud at something ridiculous.
Probably not.

So much anger, so much angst, so little direction – its great

05 October 2008

Andrew Halliday... the fastest builder in the west!

Norwegian Builders are famous, at least amongst the expat community, for their very high prices, lack of urgency and general slackness...

So to reward their supreme efforts I have decided on... the "Oscars for Bergen’s Worst Builders", which are presented below, as always in reverse order.

Third place goes to:
The team of guys who agreed to line the outside of my basement and then rebuild the steps down to the house. One of them (not Norwegian) was very keen and worked super hard, rushing about doing all the work, while his mates either didn't show up or when they did, stood around smoking and chatting. Unfortunately, he had a family holiday booked and disappeared before the job was finished, promising that the slack bunch would be in next week to finish up and build the steps.
It should be noted that at this stage the only route to the house was down a steep gravel covered slope and I was on crutches! I was also planning a summer party and had several visitors coming from the UK who are not exactly agile. Predictably, the guys didn't show up despite repeated calling. The job was eventually completed by some mates from the UK who came over, and polished it off in a week doing a grand job.
One months later the slack crew reappared and then got angry that someone else had down the job. It then took them another 3 months to collect their tools. They finally tried to tell me I owed them money.
So they make the list, but because one of them was actually keen to work and did a good job on his part of the project they only get the brozen medal - there is better to come...

The silver medal:
Second prize goes to the builder who turned up at Mark and Tanja's house to fix the bathroom, disconnected their only toilet and then disappeared for 6 weeks summer holiday. After repeated calling he popped around with a bucket to tide them over. They have an 8 year old daughter!
Fantastic effort but still pales behind our final winner...

The gold medal for Bergen's slackest builder goes to:
A man who is in a league of his own...
Mr Andrew Halliday
After claiming to be "the fastest and cheapest carpenter in Bergen", he turned up at Katharine's place to fit some wardrobes. He only ever showed up at night and did a few hours here and there. Generally making more mess than anything else. Then he stopped showing up all together.
She called him repeatedly but he never came back. We actually thought he might have died or moved away, so I fixed some of his more immediate botches and eventually she got someone more reliable in.
Ten months (yes 10 months!) later he texted to ask, "when do you want the work finishing?"
She said that she had waited a couple of months and then got someone else to do it, at which point he got very arsey and sent her a bill for 6500 nok that was all itemised - the bill is fantastic because:
1. It is written in Norwegian despite the fact that both the contractor and the client are British - me thinks he is trying to hide something.
2. The bill includes 2 hours to remove 1 m of liste (ceiling skirting boards)
3. Four and a half hours to fit a cupboard door (the manufacturer says 2 hours)
4. One hour to fit a clothes rail
5. Half an hour to fit some liste that contains 20 nails - working out at 1.5 minutes per nail

And to just to re-iterate this is the self proclaimed "fastest and cheapest carpenter in Bergen"

So he gets our Gold Medal but the the most embarrassing thing is that he is not even Norwegian, he is a Scot!

03 October 2008

Lucky number 13

Turid was my 13th masters to finish since I arrived in Norway. You might not be superstitious but during the course of her project:
1. I broke my leg 3 days before going to the field with her on her first field season
2. Next field season I had an appendicitis after 1 day in the field with her
3. She waited 8 months for the tossers in Schlumberger to give her software training before they finally decided that they wouldn't do it
4. Seismic Exchange wanted quarter of a million dollars for some shitty old 2D data across her area. That offer was very generously discounted from $1700/mile to $1600/mile since we were academics!
5. Five different companies offered to get her the data and then didn't get around to it
6. Her exam ended up being delayed by 3 months because everyone was so busy

This poor girl has been dogged by some pretty bad luck...

But today, she had her exam and I am delighted to say that despite all her troubles she got a well deserved A!

Good job Turid and good luck

Friday Joke

Not much of interest going on at the moment - so here is a joke...

It was the Scotland vs Wales 'Rugby International' in Edinburgh , and as the crowds made their way down Princes Street towards Murrayfield, a Rottweiler suddenly lunged towards an eight year old Scottish lass, with its jaws wide open ready to attack.

The crowd nearby gasped in horror but, quick as a flash, a man jumped out of the crowd, grabbed the dog by the throat and throttled it. As the dead dog lay there, and the crowd cheered in admiration, a journalist from the Glasgow Herald who had witnessed the heroic deed, went up to the man and said.
'That was brilliant, I can see the headline now.''Welsh Rugby Fan Saves Young Girl From Certain Death.'
The man replied 'No you've got it wrong. I'm not here for the rugby!
''Don't worry' said the journalist 'I can see the headline now.'
'Welshman Saves Girl From Jaws Of Rottweiler'
The man replied 'No you're wrong again. I'm not Welsh; I'm from Berkshire .
'The journalist said 'Don't worry; I can see the headline now...

''English Bastard Strangles Family Pet’

30 September 2008

Dwain and Henry – A guide to the current financial crisis.

Henry is a very rich banker from New York who votes republican so that he can get richer. Dwain is a dude from Ohio, he has a limited grasp on geography. He has heard of someplace called Europe, although he can't point to it on the map or tell you what the capital city is called. Dwain also votes republican but he is not sure why, somebody told him it was the patriotic thing to do and he knows he’s defiantley a patriot. Dwain is on welfare, he his 5 children by 4 mothers, a big pickup and a bad hair do.

Henry is smart, very smart. One day he was trying to dream up ways of getting even richer and he came up with a cunning plan. Since nobody else would lend Dwain any money to buy a house, he figured that he could and then he could charge Dwain extra interest, especially if payments were deferred for a few years. Now Dwain doesn’t really have much of a long perspective, he plans for the end of the week when he’ll drink a few beers and maybe the up coming holiday when he’ll go and shot stuff with his buddies. So when Henry says “have $500000 get a nice house and pay it back in a couple of years", he just thinks – cool, so long as it has a big garage!

Is Henry worried that Dwain won’t be able to make the repayments? Nope, this the smart bit. He packages up the debt, with lots of others like it, hides the downside and sells it on to the Northern Cock Bank in England as a high return investment. He is out of trouble and has made loads of money out of both Dwain and Northern Cock. Northern Cock are also happy because lots of investors in other banks in England are saying, wow look at Northern Cock, they are getting better returns than us, I want some of that. So lots of other banks buy similar packages from Henry and his buddies.

And what about the people who are supposed to regulate all this? Well Mr George and his mate Alan believe that this things are better left to sort themselves out and anyway, Henry votes republican and donates to George's birthday party - so he must be a good guy. George is a bit simple and can only concentrate on one thing at a time and he is far to busy funneling tax payers money to his mate Cheney, via lots of dodgy dealings in Iraq.

So everything goes unchecked until one day when Dwain has to decide between a very expensive repayment on his home loan or a new pick-up and he thinks to himself "damn those alloy wheels look fine". So he defers on the debt, Northern Cock goes belly up and the whole World comes crashing down.

As for Henry – he doesn't care because he is hanging out in his beach house in Gran Camen, drinking a cocktail and spending his inordinately huge bonus.

27 September 2008

Crossing the road - Scandinavian style

Stunning video on the BBC website of two Swedish girls on the M6 in Britian who, despite the best efforts of the Police kept hurling themselves into the road and getting run over.

It all seems pretty baffling at first, esepecially to the viewers back in blighty. What on earth where they thinking?

However the explanation is already here, buried deep in the compost of karmasotra.

They are Scandinavian sacred cows and as such, they know that they have an absolute, cosmically derived, right to step in to the traffic and it will not harm them. Just like the pedestrians who jump onto the crossings in Bergen and Oslo, they know that are immune to moving traffic.

This is proven by the fact that despite one of them being hit by a truck and another being hit three times by cars, they are both now fine!

Long Way Down

Our favorite whinging thespians get another 5 million quid to go on a bike tour and feel sorry for themselves. Then they write a book to cash in even more...

This one was actually much better than the last (longway round). If one were cynical (perish the thought) you might suggest that their agents have said "look boys, most people would kill to have the opportunity to ride around the world so your continued moaning and self pity doesn't come across as "honesty" it just makes you look stupid and a bit pathetic".

Well whatever the reason they spend a lot of the book telling us how lucky they are and saying how much they are enjoying themselves - regardless of whether they are riding through a hellish sandstorm in Libya or squabbling about their itinerary. So in that sense its a significant improvement on the last one.

The good bits -
Taken at face value, its a boys own adventure of travelling through Europe and Africa on BMWs. As such it is infinately better TV entertainment than the inane cretins on Big Smoother, shit soaps or Gorden fuckin Ramsey and it also makes for a good read
They are pretty good at describing the countries they pass through and giving a feeling for it all.
They charity stuff is genuinely moving and they are doing an excellent job of raising awareness.

The annoying bits -
They keep talking about how its just the two of them on this great adventure - we all know that Claudio the camera is there the whole time, he must get pretty pissed off with them both.
The pay little heed to the real adventures they meet along the way, people without a massive budget and no support crew doing exactly the same journey.
Ewan Macgregor’s wife
If they wanted to start at the top of Europe why didn't they go Nord Kapp?

Anyway better than expected and worth a couple of hours to read... I think it will be interesting when Claudio or even Russ Makin publish their version of the trips - now that would be worth reading.

25 September 2008


A brief thought experiment:
  • A recent study conducted by Aberdeen University found that the average Scotsman walks about 900 miles a year
  • Another study by the Scottish Medical Association found that Scotsmen drink, on average, 22 gallons of alcohol a year.
  • This means, on average, Scotsmen get about 41 mpg (miles per gallon). 41 mpg is 6.9 liters per 100 km for all you metric europeans.

Pretty efficient, especially when you consider the they will operate on all sorts of really cheap shitte (e.g. buckfast).

Interesting, but it gets better
  • There are approximately 8760 hours in a year
  • Therefore the average speed of a Scotsman is 900/8760 = 0.1 mph
Kinda slow...

Now according to the BBC, the slowest mammal on Earth is the three toed sloth which does....

You guessed it... 0.1 mph

From that I think we can safely conclude that

Scotsman are sloths wrapped in tartan travel blankets, but they are cheaper to run than a Ford Focus

Thanks to Dan for the initial data

24 September 2008

A warning to all you drinkers out there...

As Aris said when he sent it around - would this really stop you drinking?

Norwegian Girls are blonde – it’s scientifically proven

A couple of years ago I agreed to do the “skål for damen” (literally toast for the ladies) at the faculty Christmas party. I said yes to this without really knowing what I was letting myself in for, so when I started asked people for advice they just looked at me with a mixture of pity and concern. The more constructive ones suggested that it was a bit of a minefield, you had to be funny, but not offensive. Not offensive but not patronising. Not patronising but not pathetic. I was starting to worry. Now it was obvious why I got the task, nobody else was dumb enough to volunteer. I worked this over and hit upon a plan. I am a scientist, this is a University, I’ll hide behind some research…

So I emailed all the guys I knew and asked them to return 5 adjectives that came to mind when they heard the phrase “Norwegian Girl”. I then collated the results and subdivided them into 3 groups: guys who had never been to Norway or maybe just visited once; ex-pats who lived in Norway and, Norwegians. The results were very interesting and formed the basis for the speech where I introduce the concept and then returned the results by group:

Foreigners (mainly Brits) who had never lived in Norway
Blonde! Was the most common adjective, followed by beautiful, sexy, pretty, sporty etc , coupled with available, free and promiscuous. The overall perception was universally positive, an image of beautiful, liberal mind, Valkerie maidens.

Expats living in Norway
For this group blonde was once again top of the list! They also agreed that these women were pretty, beautiful, sexy and so forth but a few negative terms crept in. Some used phrases like strong-minded and independent (arguable not negative traits) while others resorted to the more definatly negetive stroppy, stubborn, bitchy etc. The promiscuity of the group was also brought in to question by some respondents, who presumably had more experience on the matter than their overseas cousins and replied with cold, cock-teasing and frigid.

Norwegian Men
Blonde was once again the number one response. This is odd because, while it is true for eastern Norway, on the west coast the Scandinavian gene pool has long be diluted by the dark eyes and dark hair of the Iberic sailors and traders of the middle ages, to the extent that only about half the population is now actually blonde. But regardless of the facts, Blonde was their observation. They also agreed, broadly speaking that Norwegain girls are pretty and beautiful but beyond that they split into two very clear groups. The first group were the patriotic Norwegian males who unashamedly believed their women were the best in the world – strong, athletic, independent, sexy, intelligent etc. The second group came with some unexpected responses and extremely negetive phrases including shallow, manipulative, bitchy, frigid, childish etc. That was a bit shocking, especially since I know these people!

So the conclusion of the research was
1. All Norwegians girls are blonde!
2. Everyone thinks they are beautiful
3. They look better from a distance, the further away the group, the less negetive the response
4. They have a strong independent streak which is valued differently by different groups. Some (expats) see it as a negative trait – stroppy, while others (Norwegian males) see it as a positive thing. This is probably because they have been beaten into thinking that way by strong women ;-)
4. Some Norwegian men are very bitter
5. If Norwegian girls want to be fully appreciated they should move to England

And that was the basis for the talk and I made it out of the hall alive and in one piece so maybe they are not that scary after all…

22 September 2008

Laser scanning in Cantabria - techno music and techno wank

Headed south to Bilbao for a couple of days field with Simon and Toby ze german. The plan was to test Toby’s hyperspectral laser scanner on some fault related dolomites which are well exposed in Cantabria. This fieldwork can only be done in bright sunshine – yes that is correct we have managed to find work that can only be undertaken when its nice a sunny – it’s a tough life.

This project is the pinnacle of “Technowank”. We scan the outcrop with a laser scanner to produce a 3D realization of the cliff sections. Then we scan it again with a hyperspectral scanner which maps the spectral absorption of the long infer-red light bands and allows you to remotely map the distribution of minerals in the cliff section. Basically you point it at a cliff and after whirring and beeping for a few minutes it tells you all about the geology.

Only minor point is that it isn’t exactly pocket sized. No longer can a geologist go to the field with a notebook, hammer and compass. Now you need 5 large pelicases, 3 tripods, 2 lap tops and a generator. When we arrived at Bilbao airport the car hire guy upgraded us from a Citreon Zafera to a “Dodge Avenger”, for not apparent reason othe than we looked like the sort of people who should be driving something called an Avenger. The car is as butch and crap as the name suggests. We then went back and tried to explain it wasn’t big enough (as in boot space) so the guy upgraded us again, this time to a 3 series BWM, which might be great for impressing Essex girls and wankers at the golf club but once again doesn’t have much of a boot. So after much pleading we managed to get downgraded back to the people carrier which had enough space for all the kit.

Toby has seen the outcrops before but I hadn’t. I was very pleased to be shown a disused quarry with some very impressive cut faces, ideal for the scanning. The quarry itself had been turned into an open air theater and had some very funky acoustics and a small visitor center by the entrance. From the quarry we went to get the generator which was booked, only to find the shop owner had gone on holiday. After a couple of hours we tracked down another but I was slightly concerned that the locals might be upset by the noise we were going to make in their quarry.

Next day we drove back up the mountain to the quarry. The valley was full of cloud but as we climbed above it the views were fantastic. We hide the jeni around the back and did some excellent scans from the rim of the quarry where the funky acoustic completely hid the sound. Then we scanned from behind the visitor center using the batteries. All day car and even coach loads of people went into the ticket hut but very few people came into the quarry. It was all rather Dr Who.

As said the scanner needs bright sunlight so once the side diappeared behind the mountain we went off to reccy some other outcrops. We visited a small village called Matienzo which I realized that I had been in back in 1991 with Mark H and Kev B when we biked around northern Spain. Mark had spent several summers there caving and was keen to visit again so we had camped the night. Now 17 years later I was back and was delighted to see that it was still full of shouting mad old basque guys playing noisy card games in the bar.

That night we went for food in Loredo and there was a fiesta going on, lots of fireworks and a great medieval procession through the town. The Spanish love this sort of thing and its great to watch, even when you see a crusader Knight on his mobile phone or a damsel dragging on her cigarette – all very authentic . We got back to out hotel to find out that the hard core techno part of the fiesta was in the square just outside and went on til 5am – oh joy!

Next day we drove up the mountain to another stunning cloud inversion. Scanned again inside the quarry while coach loads of people arrived in the visitor center. Over come by curiosity I went into the center, paid 5 Euros which seemed a bit steep for a small shed and went in. I figured, I don’t know what is going to happen but this many people can’t be wrong. And they were not, it was actually the entrance to some very impressive show caves! Another mystery solved. Toby said that he had spent ten days here before with a group of geologists from Statoil and a Belgian University and they hadn’t realized there was any caves! Yes really.

At this point we realized that nobody cared if we ran the generator in the quarry as that was not why they all drove up the mountain. So we were able to scan through the day. We got some excellent results until the scanner packed up at, just as the sun was going down.

Back to Lerado for food and there was a big display of fire eating, juggling, theatricals and most bizarrely bag pipe music, to wrap up the fiesta. I have never seen bag pipes in Spain before but maybe there is some sort of historic NW Atlantic link between the Celts and the Basques? Whatever the reason the old medieval town was a great setting to watch and the crowd, from little kids, right through to very old folk seemed to love it. This aspect of Spain is just fantastic, as is sitting outside eating and drinking in a t-shirt in late September.

Was dreading going back to the hotel and another night of very load music, and sure enough when we got back it was all going off on the stage. Then just as I climbed into bed and started to pull the pillow over my head it all stopped. Thank you, thank you thank you!

Monday we got the scanner going again and I headed by to Bergen, leaving the boys with another 5 days fieldwork. Shit journey back courtesy of the Luftwaffe via some small sheds in the middle of Germany, after delays got back at 12.30 sans luggage.

Back to reality. The up coming week is gonna be hell, Bergen tonight, London tomorrow night, back to Bergen and then Stavanger at the end of the week. Bring on the weekend!

21 September 2008

Techno isn’t dead

Fantastic news. It has recently been reported that Euro-techno was extinct. I am delighted to be able to tell you that it has been sighted (well heard at least)in North West Spain. The sighting can be confirmed by my colleagues Simon and Toby.

Hard core euro-techno of the 200bpm and shouting DJ “Scooter are you readdddddy?” variety was believed to have died out shortly after the turn of the century, replaced by thrashy, out of tune, floppy haired indy guiter music. It is with great reflief that I can report that the electronic beats were not exterminated, simply displaced south, from the industrial heartlands of northern Europe to the rolling green hills and medieval towns of the Basque homeland where they are alive, well and very much kicking.

We made this discovery by accident. After a pretty full day in the field we headed to a nice sea front restaurant, then the bar and then bed by midnight. Perilously oblivious to the fact that across the square from our hotel was a stage. At about half past midnight the DJ fired himself, his sound system and his crowd of 50 glow torch waving skin heads into a frenzy which continued at breath-taking volume and ferocity until about 5am. Just what you need to set you up for another long day of field work.

20 September 2008

Hurrican Ike - full report from our Houston correspondent

Had a great e-mail from Roy Fitz. telling what it was like to be in Houston while Hurrican Ike was giving it a pounding. The entire mail is below - Cheers Roy.
Hurricane Ike

They shut the office on Thursday morning. By that time there was already a mandatory evacuation order for Galveston and the Bolivar Penninsula, though they still thought the storm would hit south of here and we would see more of the rain than the wind. We had two days to get ready, but most of the work was done after the early warnings had meant that our drill was pretty slick. The roads were pretty quiet, as most people decided to stay (even in the mandatory evac areas they reckon at least 50% stayed put).

It seemed like ages for the strom to arrive. Got the kids to camp out down stairs in the internal hall, and though the wind was getting up by 11 there was no rain.

The electricity went out around three - when the eye was over Houston. The double glazing kept the noise down to a low roar, but looking out the tree's were blowing about like crazy.

Went back to sleep and woke to the rain/wind around 7.00. Everything outside was green, as so many leaves and small branches had came down. Across our property only a couple of biggest branches came down. However, when I walked out to the main road some real big oaks had come crashing down, one tree also had all of its upper limbs twisted off.

After everyone got up we went for a wander - more trees were down but remarkably only one had hit a house (so our neighbourhood got off lightly). Everyone sounded pretty relieved. As more info came in on the radio it sounded that the damage was bad down at the bay and along the coast. Downtown had taken plenty of abuse with lots of windows in the skyscrapers smashed up. The radio was dominated by emergency annoucements and people with home remedies.

The water went off at around 12 - and was expected to be out for 36-48hrs - then after that you would have to boil everything as they reckoned it would be contaminated. We went out that evening for a drive - a couple of places still had power and were open but the queues were massive. Luckily having a pot burner on the barbie and planty of stoves.

By this time it was a good idea to get out of dodge - so we drove up to Austin to stay with Murray - kids now treating whole thing as a holiday. I came back on Monday evening - local area pandamonium - some shops on the main arteries had power but rather than park cars and walk all the bozos were still trying to use the drive thrus.

Power was off so not a lot could be done. However, the temp had dropped as a cold front came thru and the weather was almost chilly. Ened up getting up at 4 the next moring to start tidying up - broke the curfew by dredging the pool. Spent the whole of Tuesday cleaning up. First reports coming in of how whole communities had been erased (Crystal Beach, Gilcrist etc) - since no one knew who had evac'd they don't have a clue how many are missing - go on the NOAA site for some great shots of the coast after the storm - see how ravinement works (for the geos!).

Water pressure ramped back up and the power came on yesterday evening - lynda and the kids home then. Camping out in your own house was pretty weird but very 18th century - would have been better if all the pricks hadn't been running generators in the neighborhood.

Came to work today and heard all sorts of war stories. Lynda called at 9.30 to say the power was off - some tubes cutting trees had brought one down on the line…..

Some neighborhoods are not expecting power for another 3 weeks. Petrol is scare and all people are looking for is ice!

Needless to say the pricks are sitting up all night with there guns hoping that someone will try and steal there generator!!

19 September 2008

Back to Spain and running from the police...

After a fairly full on week in the office I have come back to northern Spain for 4 days of field work. In Cantabria with Simon and Toby looking at dolomites with our new hyper spectral scanner.

Will post more when I am not so knackered in the meantime here is a story from a few years back...

FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! I look down at the speedo and it registers just over the ton, not so fast but considering I am in a 30mph zone and I just got all four wheels in the air as I passed a cop car lurking in the shadows … FUCK!

A quick glance in the mirror shows a burst of activity in the otherwise darkened astra. Huh, this guy must have been asleep or pretty close to it. It is after midnight and this is the middle of bum fuck nowhere, Mid Wales. I am probably the first car he has seen for an hour – and now I am going to make is evening, probably his month, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK!

Heading from Liverpool to Pembrokeshire, it’s a four an a half to five hour journey but I am late and I have no intention of spending that long on it. There is a beer and a bed waiting for me at the other end and I have had a very long week. Its late at night, the roads are empty, it’s a clear dry evening and I grew up driving on these roads. I was driving on roads like this before I had a license, I love these roads. The car is not the best, nothing special but its fairly new and quick enough. Four an half hours, fuck that I’m gonna get there are fast as I can.

That was until I went through that tiny village, crested the brow of the hill and saw the police car hiding in the blackened out pub car park. Sneaky bastard! But there isn’t much point hiding out if you are going to fall asleep on the job.

I look in the mirror, the village and the pub car park are in the distance, far back and disappearing fast. No sign of Mr Plod yet. I contemplate what to do, my heart is racing. Maybe he won’t come, maybe he can’t be arsed. Hope, pray!

I look back again and while I stare into the mirror I see the tell tale blue flashers come on. FUCK! But they are a long way back and my mind is racing. I wouldn’t normally take a chase, especially in a car like this! Maybe on the bike but not in a VW Passat. No, I am pretty law abiding, 3 points and a fine is better than a ban and a jail term. Three points is part of the deal, you drive fast, they give you some points and its on you way. Everyone knows that’s the way it works and as for the fine, its just another tax. You go fast and from time to time they tax you. That’s life.

So my mind is racing, if I stop immediately will that make me look good, on the ball? A nice guy? Maybe play the doctor card? If I don’t stop it will definatly piss him off. But then again, at those speeds he's gonna roger me whatever and why should I pull over before he catches up with me? He must be at least 3 miles behind me, fuck it I can only see him occasionally, and that because I am looking. Bollocks to it, I’ll stop when he catches me up – if he catches me up.

This spurs me on, I switch off the music and concentrate. Push a bit harder, breaking later and a bit heavier into the bends, faster and more aggressive out of them, drawing on my past, watching the signs, following the line of the hedge in the distance, studying the road surface, feel the wheels, just on the breakout point in the corners, screeching ever so slightly. Concentrate, drive fast but smooth, nothing too jerky, stay in control, the last thing you want is to end up in the hedge. I look in the mirror at the end of the long straight, yep he is still coming. He must be thrashing the arse off the astra – ha ha ha! This is actually fun. I’ll stop when he catches me up – if he catches me up.

This goes on and on. Progressively I notice he is falling further and further back! Wanker! These are his roads, this is his patch, he should be better than this. My heart is still racing – I am waiting for the chopper to appear. Do they have one in this part of the world? Does it fly at night? If so then I am fucked. Has he been on the radio, will his mate be waiting up ahead? I know that in these rural parts there are very few coppers on duty, but you can never be sure.

Occasionally I look down smaller side roads. I consider trying to pull off and kill the lights, let him pass. But its risky. I don’t know the roads and if I do that and get caught I’ll never be able to say Sorry officer I didn’t see you behind me, was concentrating on driving

Anyway I am making ground on him, my driving is smooth a fluid, sometimes it just comes together and this is one of those times, hit every bend on the racing line, tyres stick to the dry tarmac and flooring it in the straights, hitting 120, 130. Its only a diesal passat but it rises to the challenge.

After 15 minutes of high octane adventure I approach the outskirst of Cardigan, a small town. I hit a roundabout with 4 exits and take the one to Pembroke Dock. I slow right down and relax. There is no way he will know which way I have come, in fact this is probably the least obvious of the choices – fuck me I got away with it. Drive slow, don’t want to attract any attention, at least to the other side of town.

I arrive in Narberth 20 minutes later. My boss asks me how the drive was. I tell him I did it in 3 hours, he doesn’t believe me till I show me the petrol receipt from Liverpool with the time showing 9:56, its now ten to one. That is 177 miles in less than three hours on some very shitty roads. He laughs, buys me a beer at the camp site bar and calls me an idiot! I don’t tell him I had some help along the way because its his car!

17 September 2008

Ghost Rider by Neil Peart

Just finished Neil Peart's book Ghostrider.

Peart is the drummer and lyricist with Rush and in the mid 90's his life was pretty much perfect, international rock star, great house by a lake, place in the Caribean, nice family etc. Then suddenly, it all went to shit and he lost is daughter in a car crash and then, 9 months later, his wife to cancer.

So, to deal with the pain he got on to his trusty GS1150 and rode and then rode some more. And he just kept riding, all around North America, from Canada, up to Alaska, down the west coast, through the Rockies down into Baja and across to the rest of Mexico. This book deals with his travels and the healing process he went through.

As a motorcycle travelog it is pretty good, although he comes across as a bit of a wimp at times he covers some long miles and is a good observer of the countryside he passes through. He fell in love with some of my favorite places in the western US, Moab, Canyonlands etc and his writing on Baja is pretty inspiring.

But the book is not just a a story about a bloke on a BM and much of the story is written as letters and extracts from letters to friends, especially his pal Brutus who has just been busted with a lorry load of dope - opps! To be honest I found these pretty tedious to read and actually quite repetitive, I caught myself sighing and having to force myself on when I turned a page and saw another "dear Brutus" sub heading.

The other place at which the book failed for me was at the end. He basically just stops riding and then in an epilog we are told that he feel in love again, got married, started back with the band and basically got himself sorted. It would have been great to follow that journey through, that is the real uplift to the story and it felt, at least to me like he just got bored of writing and did the last 2 years in 5 pages.

So I am really split on this one. Part of my enjoyed the book and would say it was essential reading if you love western North America, bikes and have any interest in Rush, other part of me feels its drawn out, indulgent and only half a story.

I guess you need to make up your own mind, I am just about to embark on Long Way Down, which if it is anything like its predessor will involve huge vats of self indulgant whinning and self pity from a couple of thespian tossers who only have a 5 million quid budget and 20 person support crew to ease the sufferring they endure when they miss their families while completing another once in life time, epic, trip.

Why do I feel compelled to ride books about people on bikes. I blame it on Jupiters Travels - the orginal and by far and away still the best.