26 April 2008

What is it with me, Utah and hospitals at the moment?

Got to Utah and had a great day in the field on Thursday with Turid. Did a series of sections along the Wasatch Plat, saw some good stuff, answered a lot of questions and only had a light dusting of snow! It was good to be in the field with her because last year, the only supervision she got was me with a broken leg pointing with crutches from the back of the car! In the evening met up with the guys and headed for some food.

Was feeling a bit rough with a stomach ache during the meal and went to bed as soon as we got back. Was up all night with stomach pains and in the morning opted to go to the hospital. Was pretty sure that it was nothing that a good dump couldn't sort out but best to get it checked and I needed something done about the pain. Was thinking that some industrial strength laxatives would do the job!

In hospital I sat in the waiting room surrounded by some fantastic, blabbering white trash , sitting there eating donuts, drinking mountain dew and complaining that you couldn't afford healthy food on food stamps and that her diabetes was getting worse... So were my stomach pains

Got admitted pretty quickly and they were immediately sure it was my appendix. A quick cat san revealed it was twice as big as it should be and need to come out immediately. This was bad news for a number of reasons, not least because I have 3 field trips to run in the next two weeks and the first one started the following day.

The hospital staff were fantastic, very professional and very pleasant. They did have a tendency to ask the same questions again and again and I think I signed more autographs than David Beckham but apart from that it was fine. They dosed me up with morphine and I can sooo understand how people get addicted! Its great stuff and for the first time in 20 hours I was able to doze while I waited for the op.

The op went fine, although I was asleep so I can't give a blow by blow account. Was all done with key-hole techniques so instead of one big cut I just have three small holes. When I woke up all I could tell was that my stomach didn't hurt and I was a bit drowsy.

I say the staff were great and the medical staff were. The admin staff, especially the financial people - well I guess they are like sharks anywhere. I am lying in a post-op daze and this dumb, grinning moron is waving papers over me and telling we that because my insurance is from over-seas I need to pay on my credit card, now! These people are scum. So at the same time I had precision surgery on my stomach from an excellent doctor I had precision surgery on my wallet from this hard nosed, xenophobic bitch who believes her stupid bill won’t get payed by a “foreign” insurance company.

Got out of hospital that evening and back to the motel. Eat yogurt and bananas to fix my bacteria and went to bed, trying to sort out all the logistics of the next two weeks. Slept like a baby.

24 April 2008

Alligators and AAPG

The day after Rush I drove up to San Antonio with Rolf and Kjerstin. Since they had lived in Houston for a while they know there way around and suggested a trip to Brazos Bend state park. I was not fussed either way but it sounded interesting.

The park is basically a swamp and is supposidly filled with alligators and all sorts of other wild life and there were plenty of big signs instructung people not to swim, not to wade, keep that small snack (poodle) on a lead and best of all "if an alligator takes the fish you have just caught, cut the line and let it have it, do not fight for it" Classic.

Pretty soon we saw an alligator, well a pair of eyes sticking out of the green water, then another and another, then some babies in a nest. It was true the place was filled with them, and some of them were rather large! Fortunatly I had my DSLR and big lens so I was snapping away like crazy. Also saw turtles, lots of different birdlife, a rare snake infact pretty much everything that was on the menu! All in all a great place to visit - photos to follow.

From there we headed up to AAPG for 3 days of science, old friends and beer! Fairly typical conference, better from the Uni aspect than the Rocksource side but learnt good stuff for both. Gave a talk and was co-presenter on four posters which all went very well. The guys did a great job and we got good feedback

San Antonio is a nice place, well nicer than Houston anyway, its smaller and there is a river running through, below the main street level with lots of bars and restuarants. Nice places to hang out, eat drink and catch up with a lot of folk that I havn't seen for ages.

Flew out on wednesday evening to Utah and two weeks of fieldwork - yeah!

21 April 2008

This is a song about a red car - Rush at the Woodlands

Roy Fitzs sent me an email a couple of weeks back saying "if you want to skip the first evening of AAPG, a certain Canadian 3 piece beat-combo are playing a few tunes Sunday night". I was very very tempted! For as long as I have listened to serious music I have loved Rush, I bought "Moving Pictures" from a kid in school in 1982 and have wanted to see them live ever since, but just never got the chance.

Then on friday, while I am still undecided about missing part of the conefernce, Roy calls and tells me that the gig is moved to saturday - seems like they really wanted me to see them after all. How could I say no now?

So Roy and his mate Andy picked me up in his jeep and we rattled around the beltway to the Woodlands in north Houston. Got a ticket from a tout at a reduced price (it gets better) and we headed in. The Woodlands is a smallish revenue with seating around the stage and a big grass bowl behind. We found a spot on the grass and settled down to wait with a beer. I love seeing bands in small venues and there can't have been more that 7000 folk, mostly sitting out on the grass chilling and waiting for the show to start. Some of them were even smoking it...

The band came on to some very weird little sketches on the big screens and then kicked off with “limelight” - it was awesome I could feel the hairs standing on the back of my neck. This was worth the 25 year wait… and it got better The next three hours (yes 3 hours) went by in a trance, they played some stuff we didn't know off the newest albums but loads of old stuff, Freewill, Spirit of the Radio, Red Barchetta, Witch Hunt, Tom Sawyer etc etc . Geddy Lee's voice isn't quite what it used to be on those high notes - but fuck he must be 60 so you can't complain. Despite his slight vocal limitations the playing was tight and they were super entertaining – just what I had hoped for, a great show and as the moon rose behind the stage it was cut by the laser show.

After the show it was off for a few beers which degenerated into a few more, overall an excellent evening and another dream fulfilled.

20 April 2008

Sir - you need a visa if you are going to tell Americans what to do!

On my way into the US I joined the queue for passport control. Got to a desk with what looked like a nice little old lady behind the desk. When it was my turn she asked why I was here?
An abbreviated version of the conversation goes something like...
Marg Simpson lookalike "Sir why are you here?"
Me "work"
(I come here about 8 times a year and that normally keeps them happy)
Marg "what work"
Me "I work in the oil business"
(They normally love that)
Marg "What work, what are you doing?"
Me "Geology"
Now at this stage she is getting more and more agitated and I am trying very very hard to be pleasant, polite and defiantly not sarcastic. Its too easy and just not worth it…
Marg "But what are you doing"
Me "correlating well logs, building models, planning wells, interpreting seismic etc"
Marg "but why are you here doing it"
Me "Well my company has an office and I come over from time to time"
Marg "got a business card"
I produce one
Marg" it says that you're are VP Production on here"
Me "yes mam that is correct"

Marg "Well I think you need a visa if you are gonna tell Americans what to do"

And yes the last line is a word for word quote!
It would seem that in the land of the free the government has got to vet you before they let you tell any of their citizens what to do...
What a country! What a people!
At least she let me in...

17 April 2008

Off on tour to the "Land of the Large"

Flying out today for a 4 week US trip starting in Texas. Heading to AAPG then on to the field in Utah, two field courses to run and a weeks field work followed by a few days of play. Feels a bit odd to be going back to the desert and it serves as a reminder that its 11 months since I broke my leg. Thats depressing because its still no where near fixed yet - not sure if it ever will be :-(

This is always a bad time to leave Norway, late April and May often have the best weather, spring is coming, the evenings are getting noticably lighter by the day and it has briefly stopped raining. Was sitting in the evil lear last night, in between the last minute packing freenzy, just watching the sunset over the water, it was beautiful and really made me question leaving again! Maybe its possible to spend too much time chasing around when the good life is right there under your nose!

Having said that I am always happy to be in Utah, especially the Book Cliffs and Canyonlands. Got some great field work planned with some top students, partially catching up on the stuff that I missed last year but mainly just carrying on the program. Also running the standard student trip, which is always fun and also running a trip for the guys from NR. NR is the Norwegian Computer Centre and these guys are code trolls and statisticans - they are great fun and very smart but its also fair to say that most of them don't get outside very much. Have taken some of them in the field before and it was very entertaining - I am sure this trip will be even better!

For play time at the end Katharine comes out for 5 days. We will do some biking and climbing and maybe rent a jeep for the day - all the standard fun stuff. Also planning to hook up with Andy and head down to Zion to finally crack Kolob Canyon. After 10 years of talking about it and one failed attempt, this time we will do it!

10 April 2008

Climbing outside... Spring is here

One of the things I love about living on Sotra, in fact part of the reason I moved out here is the climbing. There are a whole series of crags within about 30 mins drive that all face west and get the evening sun. The rock is a compact gneiss with excellent friction and there are several sports crags which are well bolted. Some of them even have a fire pit and people come out on summer evenings to hang out and tick a few routes. It is idilic, the obvious downside being that it rains for 2/3rds of the year!

The weather has been pretty nice for the last couple of days, we even manged the first bbq at the weekend, there is a definate spring feel in the air and its now light until 9pm. Tuesday night headed out with Sandy and Katharine to Gjøkeredet, the closets crag to my house. The goal, to get my first outdoor routes of the year and see how my ankle would hold up. We arrived at the crag at about 6.30 and were the only people there, great!

We did about 5 or 6 routes, I have done them all before but all of them are excellent. Was very happy to get up a 6+ with only one fall and a couple of 6 and 6- clean. Felt really good to be climbing outside and on real rock! Great evening, the air was totally still, the sun was shinning and the sunset across the island was beautiful.

I love living here when its like this...

06 April 2008

Hayseed Dixie at Ricks - Awesome!

Couple of years ago while climbing in Spain, I was introduced to a blue-grass band doing AC/DC covers called Hayseed Dixie – I loved it, they were awesome. Tore, the same guy who introduced me to the music sent me a message a while ago to say that they were coming to Bergen, all the way from Tennessee - chance of a lifetime.

One of the many good things about Bergen is that when bands go on tour the often visit Norway’s second city. The fact that said second city is very small (by European standards) means that you can go and see the Levellers with only 100 other people (as opposed to 10,000 in the UK) and even the Foo Fighters or David Bowie with only 5,000 rather than 100,000.

Anyway was very excited to get to see them, especially since I hadn’t seen any bands for a while. I got the tickets and dragged Lepard, Steve Corfield and Mark Scott along with me. Had a funny day down in Oslo, got back late and headed straight to meet the boys in Finnegans. We were having a good evening waiting for the doors to open next door when I got told I couldn’t eat outside despite the fact that everyone else was allowed to smoke, Tossers! It was a good time to leave anyway and we head to Ricks – Bergens cheesiest cattlemarket type night club, where the band came on at 10.30.

There was a good mix of people and the place was pretty busy but not rammed. The band came on and they looked pretty much you’d expect, dungarees and denim – big beards. They opened up with a few old favorites and then played a few new songs. They were awesome, great music and really entertaining little snippets and stories. The crowd loved it and that includes us.

They played a pretty full set, about 2 hours and then came out into the crowd and had a beer with us. Top bunch of guys. They were fantastic – if you get a chance to see to them, jump at it. Best band I have seen in ages.
The photos are from my phone so they are a bit crappy, but you get the idea...

04 April 2008

Life in Norway II- Drumming in Bergen

With spring comes the onset one of the more unpleasant aspects of Bergen life – that of the drumming corps. All through the spring and summer, normally starting at about 7am on a Sunday morning, small groups of acne-ridden young boys in badly fitting uniforms parade around drumming – badly!

I am sure there is some history behind it but everything about it is horrible: its militaristic and nationalistic in the nastiest way; its always the ugliest, spottiest and greasiest kids that seem to be indoctrinated by their stupid parents to take part in it; they block the traffic and most importantly they disturb people who are trying to sleep on a Sunday morning. These people would be quick enough to complain if I played loud music at 2am so why should I have to listen to your tuneless banging at 8am!

It’s a contentious issue in the town, lots of people think its culture, others like me think it’s a flashback to paramilitary, nazism, not unlike those orange wankers in Northern Ireland. Last year some really horrible greasy specimen was in the papers claiming that he should be excused military service because disturbing people by drumming was more important. Fuck that – send the greaseball off to Afghanistan and let him bang his fuckin drum there… if the Taliban don’t shot the fucker, I will.

01 April 2008

From the best snow conditions to the worst...winter is over

Got back from the US and head out for a local top tour on Saturday. Weather was pretty crappy in Bergen but headed to Kvamskogen, just by Eikedalen, the local ski resort. Arrived at the bottom of the slopes and it was grim, 4 degrees and raining. Decided to go for it anyway since we were there, trudged up past the inactive lifts to the top of the ski slope, into a cloud. Conditions were about as shitte as they could be so we opted to scarp the day. Stopped there, dug a sofa, had lunch, buried avalanche beacons, found them again and had just hung out. We then boarded back down to the car through snow that was like wet concrete and about as slow as it can get. It was raining all the way…

I think winter is over… the clocks changed on Sunday and spring is coming – Yeah!!!