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.