31 January 2009

Happy Birthday to my Blog!

The first posting on karmasotra was on the 31st Jan 2008

That means the blog is one year old today,
In that year it has accumulated 144 published posts and god knows how many more half written and half cocked bits and bobs lined up for future realise

Currently on the way back from Japan so there will be plenty to scribble, rant and wax lyrically about once I get back...

So if there is anybody out there, thanks for coming by


16 January 2009

This weeks Friday Joke

On time this week! By the time you read this I will be on a plane heading east to the land of the rising sun!

Some things to ponder over the weekend...

Only in America ......do drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.

Only in America.....do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries, and a diet coke.

Only in America.....do banks leave both doors open and then chain the pens to the counters.

Only in America.....do people leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and put useless junk in the garage [Actually I think that is everywhere...]

Only in America......can you buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight.

Only in America.....do they have drive-up ATM machines with Braille lettering.

Why the sun lightens our hair, but darkens our skin?
Why women can't put on mascara with their mouth closed?
Why don't you ever see the headline 'Psychic Wins Lottery'?
Why is 'abbreviated' such a long word?
Why is it that doctors call what they do 'practice'?
Why is lemon juice made with artificial flavor, and dishwashing liquid made with real lemons?
Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?
Why is the time of day with the slowest traffic called rush hour?
Why isn't there mouse-flavored cat food?
Why didn't Noah swat those two mosquitoes?
Why do they sterilize the needle for lethal injections?
You know that indestructible black box that is used on airplanes? Why don't they make the whole plane out of that stuff?!
Why don't sheep shrink when it rains?
Why are they called apartments when they are all stuck together?
If con is the opposite of pro, is Congress the opposite of progress?
If flying is so safe, why do they call the airport the terminal?

Courtesy of Thor-Magnus

12 January 2009

Angels in Moab Utah

It’s the summer of 2004 and we are in Woody’s Tavern in Moab Utah. Moab is an old uranium town in the high desert of the Colorado Plateau. The small town nestles besides the Colorado river, when seen from the air, or even from the high ridges of white and red slickrock that tower above the valley, it is literally an oasis, green in the otherwise brash, red countryside. Its also an oasis of hedonism in the otherwise, ultra conservative mormon state. Moab is where the irreligious go to bike, climb, jeep, play in the big rivers and drink beer. Moab is probably the only town in Utah that has more bars than churches! I love Moab.

So we are in Woody's Tavern, there are carvings of long gone peoples names in the bar, next to a sign saying don’t carve the bar. A rock band is playing and a lot of drunk hippies and rockers are dancing, badly. They have all been exposed to way too much sun and their sandaled feet probably haven’t seen a proper pair of shoes in 15 years. They mix effortless with bikers and the occasional, slightly perplexed looking tourist.

Its all going well, we are playing a bit of pool, having a laugh, then Roy or Tor suggest that we go for some white Russians and the downward trajectory steepens significantly. The level of banter rises with the volume of the band and the number of cocktails. We have been working hard for a month, now its time to play. Tomorrow we will head on a five day river trip on Cataract Canyon.

A couple of hours later and we are staggering back along main street to the single hotel room that the 5 of us will share. Its pretty quiet. I say to Atle “I am sick of Americans bitching about the price of gas, big fuckin deal if its 2 bucks 50. Its 9 bucks back home!”
He agrees, but without much conviction.
And then shinning out of the night is the towering light of the Shell sign.
“Fuck it, lets do something about it” I declare!
“Oh no!" He looks worried and then has a little glint in his eye. "Ok what? He replies”
“We'll solve the gas price problem, here help me up”
So with some undignified grunting a pushing I am up the sign, changing the price from 2.51 to 1.25… Problem solved!

Suddenly I am illuminated in the light of a torch, hmmm we don’t have a torch.
While I am pondering this a stern and very American voice says
“What are you doing?”
Without trying to be smart, I reply
“errr, changing the price of gas?”
“Why? Say the voice in blue.
“Cos I thought it would make people happy?”
This is not going well, I look around and I see Roy and Tor climbing onto the roof of the gas station in the shadows, I am not sure why. I don’t see Atle or Chris – so much for my look outs!
“Well get down here!” Commands the law, clearly not as interested in pleasing the public as I am. So I start climbing down...
“Get back up there and put the price right!” He instructs
So I climb back up and fix the price. Then just as I start to climb down I look up the main street and I see something that you don’t see everyday, even in Moab.
...Two totally naked women walking down the street...
The policeman sees them at the same time as me and mutters under his breath “fuck me – what a night! Maybe it’s a full moon!” To nobody in particular and I almost feel sorry for him.

Atle and Chris reappear immediatly and are in shark mode. They are failing badly, maybe it's because they have clothes on?

The policeman now has a fairly complex dilemma, he can:
1. Continue to arrest the idiot who was messing with the gas sign. In which case he has to leave the naked chicks with the guys with strange accents.
2. Arrest the naked chicks and the foreign idiot, which puts all three of them in the back of the car together, is he allowed to do that?
3. Rescue the naked chicks from the foreign guys.
Fortunately for me the girls start to look scared and he opts for option 3. Net result, I am saved from a night in the slammer. In retrospect I think they must be angels, set down to protect me from the ravages of the law…

Next morning we all wake up in a very small space with bad heads. Simultaneously 5 guys say

“I had a really weird dream last night, there was a policeman and two naked girls on the highstreet…”

11 January 2009

Vibeke's birthday and a lot of rain

Back in work with a fairly full on week. Was out on Wednesday night with some visitors from the UK at an extremely understated restaurant in Bergen. Seven courses – yep 7, each with its own wine, all tasted great. It took 5 hours! The bloke on the table next to us fell down the stairs in a most spectacular fashion, all sorts of slow motion smashing glass and crashing around. It may have been the wine, but more likely that he had seen his bill. I was very glad not to be paying ours until Gregor played the “I’ll pay, no worries”, closely followed by “oh they don’t seem to accept diners club” (does anybody?) so I got landed with debt of a third world country on food for 9 people – but it was jolly fine and the visitors were impressed.

For the weekend we headed up to Myrkdalen for Vibeke’s birthday. Had been watching the weather for a week and it promised snow, snow and more snow! Arrived Friday night, ate lots of pizza and drunk some wine. Next morning was beautiful blue skies but a very icy mountain. Conditions were less than ideal for boarding so I headed to climb ice with Sandy. The ice falls were all fat but melting so went to board and the mountain was too icy. Hmmm not icy enough to climb but too icy to ski. You have got to love western Norway in January.

Had an ok day in the end, at least it was good to be out on the snow, we found some patches of wind blown powder and did runs across the crusty bits in between. We had a party in the evening, which was all very civilized. Vibeke got a list of 30 tasks for her 30th year, the last of which was to keep a blog of the other 29 – will she manage?

It started snowing in the evening so everyone was psyched for Sunday. Sunday morning it was somewhat of a let down, 2 degrees and raining! Who stole all the snow? So much for the weather forecast. Headed back to Bergen, with Emma counting the tunnels between Voss and Bergen. There are a totally of…. Nope I am not going to say, she is going to write a review for this blog, I couldn’t still her thunder. Now its Sunday evening and I am sat in the lair with the fire blazing and a wet pussy purring - outside it is 7 degrees and raining very heavily.

Friday Joke - Male or Female?

- yes I know its Sunday,
There goes my New Years Resolution "to always post the Friday Joke on Friday..."
Anyway here is it, once again courtesy of Angharad...

Male or Female? You might not have known this, but a lot of non-living objects are actually either male or female.
Here are some examples:
FREEZER BAGS: They are male, because they hold everything in, but you can see right through them.
PHOTOCOPIERS: These are female, because once turned off; it takes a while to warm them up again. They are an effective reproductive device if the right buttons are pushed, but can also wreak havoc if you push the wrong Buttons.
TYRES: Tyres are male, because they go bald easily and are often over inflated
HOT AIR BALLOONS: Also a male object, because to get them to go anywhere, you have to light a fire under their butt.
SPONGES: These are female, because they are soft, squeezable and retain water.
WEB PAGES: Female, because they're constantly being looked at and frequently getting hit on.
TRAINS: Definitely male, because they always use the same old lines for picking up people.
EGG TIMERS: Egg timers are female because, over time, all the weight shifts to the bottom.
HAMMERS: Male, because in the last 5000 years, they've hardly changed at all, and are occasionally handy to have around.
THE REMOTE CONTROL: Female. Ha! You probably thought it would be male, but consider this: It easily gives a man pleasure, he'd be lost without it, and while he doesn't always know which buttons to push, he just keeps trying.

07 January 2009

Holiday Photos

Now have a flickr account which can be found here
Uploaded some pics from Costa Rica - the better ones are on the later pages, I need to work out how to shuffle them around, but in the mean time any feedback welcome

06 January 2009

Holiday Reads

Read a fair bit while on holiday including:
"Snowball in Hell" by Christopher Brookmyre - I love his stuff, this one saw the return of my hero Simon Darcourt. I knew he wasn't dead!
"Call me Elizabeth" by Dawn Annandale - Middle class women with 6 kids becomes an escort to keep her brood in public school. More about middle class poverty than working in the sex industry
"Chance - a guide to gambling, love..." by Amir Aczel - summary of probability theory, well written but fairly basic. Does what it says on the tin.
"Touch wood" very amusing tale of an accidental pornographer. Has some very funny moments, I was laughing out loud in several places, highly recommended.
The Time Traveler’s wife” by Audrey Niffenegger - definitely the best of the bunch. A really beautiful and haunting book. About the relationship between a couple where he is periodically and involentarily shunted back and forth through time. They keep meeting at differnt stages in their respective lives. Sounds fairly far fetched but it really works and its very cleverly done. Probably the best book I read in 2008.

04 January 2009

100 things to do as a Geologist

A Geological meme (from Geotripper via Hypo-theses)
The ones I have done are in bold, was going very well until the Great Barrier Reef, in the end I scored 68 which I guess isn't too bad - A couple of good ones to aim for!

1. See an erupting volcano (Arenal Costa Rica)
2. See a glacier (Norway, Svalbard, New Zealand)
3. See an active geyser such as those in Yellowstone, New Zealand or the type locality of Iceland (Yellowstone)
4. Visit the Cretaceous/Tertiary (KT) Boundary. Possible locations include Gubbio, Italy, Stevns Klint, Denmark, the Red Deer River Valley near Drumheller, Alberta. (Utah and on the Isle of Wight)
5. Observe (from a safe distance) a river whose discharge is above bankful stage (Numerous times)
6. Explore a limestone cave. Try Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, Lehman Caves in Great Basin National Park, or the caves of Kentucky or TAG (Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia) (Utah, South Wales, Peak District)
7. Tour an open pit mine, such as those in Butte, Montana, Bingham Canyon, Utah, Summitville, Colorado, Globe or Morenci, Arizona, or Chuquicamata, Chile. (Several including Chuqi)
8. Explore a subsurface mine. (Several)
9. See an ophiolite, such as the ophiolite complex in Oman or the Troodos complex on the Island Cyprus (Oman and Troodos).
10. An anorthosite complex, such as those in Labrador, the Adirondacks, and Niger (Harris).
11. A slot canyon. Many of these amazing canyons are less than 3 feet wide and over 100 feet deep. They reside on the Colorado Plateau. Among the best are Antelope Canyon, Brimstone Canyon, Spooky Gulch and the Round Valley Draw.(Utah)
12. Varves, whether you see the type section in Sweden or examples elsewhere. (Norway)
13. An exfoliation dome, such as those in the Sierra Nevada. (Half Dome, Granite Tors, Devon)14. A layered igneous intrusion, such as the Stillwater complex in Montana or the Skaergaard Complex in Eastern Greenland. (St David's Head Sill, Pembrokeshire)
15. Coastlines along the leading and trailing edge of a tectonic plate (check out The Dynamic Earth - The Story of Plate Tectonics - an excellent website). (Chile)
16. A gingko tree, which is the lone survivor of an ancient group of softwoods that covered much of the Northern Hemisphere in the Mesozoic. (Keele Uni)
17. Living and fossilized stromatolites (Several in the field but not the modern ones)
18. A field of glacial erratics (Norway)
19. A caldera (Utah, Navada, Chile)
20. A sand dune more than 200 feet high (Namib Desert)
21. A fjord (I live in one!)
22. A recently formed fault scarp (Chile, Houston)
23. A megabreccia (Gwna Melange, Anglesey)
24. An actively accreting river delta (Numerous)
25. A natural bridge (Utah)
26. A large sinkhole (Gaping Ghyll, Yorkshire)
27. A glacial outwash plain (Norway, New Zealand)
28. A sea stack (several, even climbed some)
29. A house-sized glacial erratic (Norway)
30. An underground lake or river (Several)
31. The continental divide (Colorado, Pyrenees and Alps)
32. Fluorescent and phosphorescent minerals (Only in the lab)
33. Petrified trees (several, in the field in Argentina and Namibia)
34. Lava tubes (Argentina)
35. The Grand Canyon. All the way down. And back (on a raft).
36. Meteor Crater, Arizona, also known as the Barringer Crater, to see an impact crater on a scale that is comprehensible
37. The Great Barrier Reef, northeastern Australia, to see the largest coral reef in the world.
38. The Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada, to see the highest tides in the world (up to 16m)
39. The Waterpocket Fold, Utah, to see well exposed folds on a massive scale.
40. The Banded Iron Formation, Michigan, to better appreciate the air you breathe.
41. The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania,
42. Lake Baikal, Siberia, to see the deepest lake in the world (1,620 m) with 20 percent of the Earth’s fresh water.
43. Ayers Rock (known now by the Aboriginal name of Uluru), Australia. This inselberg of nearly vertical Precambrian strata is about 2.5 kilometers long and more than 350 meters high
44. Devil’s Tower, northeastern Wyoming, to see a classic example of columnar jointing
45. The Alps.
46. Telescope Peak, in Death Valley National Park. From this spectacular summit you can look down onto the floor of Death Valley - 11,330 feet below.
47. The Li River, China, to see the fantastic tower karst that appears in much Chinese art
48. The Dalmation Coast of Croatia, to see the original Karst.
49. The Gorge of Bhagirathi, one of the sacred headwaters of the Ganges, in the Indian Himalayas, where the river flows from an ice tunnel beneath the Gangatori Glacier into a deep gorge.
50. The Goosenecks of the San Juan River, Utah, an impressive series of entrenched meanders.
51. Shiprock, New Mexico, to see a large volcanic neck
52. Land’s End, Cornwall, Great Britain, for fractured granites that have feldspar crystals bigger than your fist.
53. Tierra del Fuego, Chile and Argentina, to see the Straights of Magellan and the southernmost tip of South America.
54. Mount St. Helens, Washington, to see the results of recent explosive volcanism.
55. The Giant’s Causeway and the Antrim Plateau, Northern Ireland, to see polygonally fractured basaltic flows.
56. The Great Rift Valley in Africa.
57. The Matterhorn, along the Swiss/Italian border, to see the classic “horn”.
58. The Carolina Bays, along the Carolinian and Georgian coastal plain
59. The Mima Mounds near Olympia, Washington
60. Siccar Point, Berwickshire, Scotland, where James Hutton (the “father” of modern geology) observed the classic unconformity
61. The moving rocks of Racetrack Playa in Death Valley
62. Yosemite Valley
63. Landscape Arch (or Delicate Arch) in Utah
64. The Burgess Shale in British Columbia65. The Channeled Scablands of central Washington
66. Bryce Canyon
67. Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone
68. Monument Valley
69. The San Andreas fault
70. The dinosaur footprints in La Rioja, Spain
71. The volcanic landscapes of the Canary Islands
72. The Pyrennees Mountains
73. The Lime Caves at Karamea on the West Coast of New Zealand
74. Denali (an orogeny in progress)
75. A catastrophic mass wasting event
76. The giant crossbeds visible at Zion National Park
77. The black sand beaches in Hawaii (or the green sand-olivine beaches)
78. Barton Springs in Texas
79. Hells Canyon in Idaho
80. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado
81. The Tunguska Impact site in Siberia
82. Feel an earthquake with a magnitude greater than 5.0.
83. Find dinosaur footprints in situ (several in Utah, UK)
84. Find a trilobite (or a dinosaur bone or any other fossil) (lots of dinosaur bones and even a few trilobites)
85. Find gold, however small the flake (panning in Wales)
86. Find a meteorite fragment (Namibia)
87. Experience a volcanic ashfall
88. Experience a sandstorm (Namibia)
89. See a tsunami
90. Witness a total solar eclipse
91. Witness a tornado firsthand.
92. Witness a meteor storm, a term used to describe a particularly intense (1000+ per minute) meteor shower
93. View Saturn and its moons through a respectable telescope.
94. See the Aurora borealis, otherwise known as the northern lights.
95. View a great naked-eye comet, an opportunity which occurs only a few times per century (Hale-Bopp)
96. See a lunar eclipse
97. View a distant galaxy through a large telescope
98. Experience a hurricane
99. See noctilucent clouds (in Svalbard)
100. See the green flash (What is that???)

Review of 2008

2008 was another interesting year. Still managing to hold down two jobs, which should be getting easier but doesn’t seem to be. Rocksource continues to grow despite the chaos on the world financial markets and the best efforts of some of our more random partners. Life at the Uni is also good, published a lot of papers last year and finished up several projects. The Virtual Outcrop stuff just keeps getting better, especially with the addition of the hyper spectral element. The stressful relationship between Norway's largest oil company and myself, momentarily warmed but then took a nose dive. Fortunately several other, larger companies are now supporting our work so it's more of an irritation than a problem.

As always didn’t climb as much as I should have but still managed to haul my inexorably increasing bodymass up the odd 6+ and a few ice routes. Had a couple of great kayak trips, plenty of good boarding and a fantastic offroad bike trip in Aus. Just got back from an excellent holiday in Central America with Katharine and getting ready to start another year…

On the international front, was delighted to see Obama win the US election, maybe there is real hope for change after the utter, totally avoidable, cretinous diaster that has been the last 8 years. With a million dead in Iraq and the World economy in tatters, Bush and his cronies should be tried for crimes against humanity. On a lighter note it was great to see lots of investment bankers loose their highly paid jobs although the capacity for the system to reward failure with massive bonuses never ceases to amaze. The financial crisis could be an amazing opportunity for restructuring the system and building a much better and greener future, like Roosevelts New Deal of the 1930's, but in reality the huge cash injections will probably disappear into the pockets of a few scum bags. Well that's something to look forward to...

Anyway on a more personal note, 2008 can be summarized with the following numbers...

2000 - Kilometers ridden offroad in Australia
550 - The number of whales saved from Japanese whalers by Sea Shepard
154 - Post on my blog
150 - Horsepower engine on the boat I bought
11 - Scientific articles published (a record year)
10 - Friends that have added to the world population
9 – Number of lives used up by Florence :-(
8 - Ice routes climbed
7 - Countries visited outside of Norway (quite a small number by normal standards)
6 - Visitors from the UK who stayed at Karmasotra
5 - Trips to the land of the large
4 - Garages that have failed to fix the persistent knocking in my car
3 - PhD students finished during the year
2 - Masters students finished during the year
1 - Volcano seen spewing lava in Costa Rica...
-2 - The current temperture outside

02 January 2009

Costa Rica and Panama

Have always wanted to visit Costa Rica, having heard some many good things about it from numerous people over the years. So when Katharine and I started planning our “get out of Norway in the dark-wet period that is December”, we decided to give it a go. I was super busy at the end of last year and Katharine did a fantastic job of sorting all the logistics and booking hotels etc. All I had to do was pass the odd opinion and then turn up!

We flew to Panama City and as is often the case with KLM my bags didn’t turn up, useless bastards, but at least for a holiday in the sun you don’t need to much stuff anyway. Spent a night there and although we were pretty jet lagged managed to get out for a meal. Considering all I knew about the place was a canal, some hats and General Noriega it was pretty impressive and very cosmopolitan.

From Panama we flew to San Jose in Costa Rica, still no bag. San Jose was a bit of a dump and not at all impressive. Went shopping for shorts, t-shirts underwear and a tooth brush. We spent a night there and then caught an early flight to Drake Bay which lies down in the south on the Pacific Coast. Now it felt like the holiday was starting properly. Wild flight in a twin otter, landing on a grass strip in the jungle.

Drake Bay was beautiful and very relaxing. We spent a day diving where we saw sharks, rays, eels and all sorts of other neat stuff. Then a day relaxing followed by a day in the Cordova National Park with a wildlife guide who pointed out birds, lots of monkeys, a sloth and a tapir. Lots of great pictures.

Drake Bay was good but everyone went to bed at 9pm and got up at 6! Fortunatly we met some brits who wanted to drink beer and stay up until 9.45! Anyway after all that sleep we were ready to move on after a few days so we flew back to San Jose and I got reacquainted with my bag.

We also picked up a hire car, with a nice upgrade from Avis to a big pick-up. At the last minute we opted for a sat-nav which was good and bad. It managed to get us out of town but then sent us a very long way around the gulf of Nicoya despite our plans to use the ferry. The roads in Costa Rica are totally awful, a 4WD drive is definitely required, if just for the clearance. Despite the detour and shitte roads we made excellent time and arrived in Mal Pais just as it got dark.

Checked in to the Moana Lodge which is extremely nice, with a somewhat strange, but tasteful African theme. The place is run by a really nice Irish chap called Aden who rants more than me – no really he does, and he hates taxi drivers! Instant bonding! Spent 5 days surfing, sleeping, eating great food and just relaxing. Met some nice people and enjoyed beach life. A great way to spend Christmas, although I still suck at surfing!

From the beach we headed into the middle of the jungle to see the volcano at Arenal. Stayed in an amazing lodge with a medicinal garden. The guy who ran it gave a fascinating tour and told us all about the drug research and history of all the various plants. We also saw the volcano, with lava tumbling out, very impressive in the dark, did a rain forest walk and visited some hot springs.

From there we headed back to San Jose, dumped the car and flew back to Panama where we spent 2 days including New Years eve at the Gamboa Resort. This is a huge hotel, full of loud annoying Americans. We visited the canal – well you have to really! It is amazing, especially the locks. We also did a tour in the jungle and best of all, went kayaking on the canal. Not actually the cut bit, but where the canal goes through a huge lake which supplies the water. That was awesome, saw loads of wild life, monkeys, iguana, birds etc. Highly recommended.

We then flew home on new years day. Due to chaos on the plane I managed to get us both upgraded to business class and immediately forget that I hate KLM! Arrived back in Bergen on Friday evening and it was -2 and clear. Lola was extremely pleased to see us!

I was a fantastic holiday in a great part of the World with just the right mix of activities and resting. Just what I needed at the end of a pretty long year! Katharine did a fantastic job of sorting it all, I have suggested that she should give up working and become a tour operator!

Now ready for the ski season to start…