27 February 2009

26 February 2009

Fred Goodwin is an Utter Scumbag

Wouldn't normally comment on this sort of thing but I have to say the man is beyond morals.

He was largely responsible for the demise of the Royal Bank of Scotland in the UK. While he was at the helm, he oversaw the gross inflation, followed by the subsequent burst and total collapse of the bank. This was the biggest ever corporate loss in UK history, 24 billion UKP. He was sacked at he end of last year, but here is the good bit... he will continue to get 695 thousand pounds a year (that's 7 million nok) pension. That's comparable to the full time salary of 20 bank clerks, who having lost their jobs because of him are now probably getting 60 quid a week dole.

The guy has shown no remorse and now the wanker is upset when the government suggest that he might forgo his huge payout. His refusal and arrogance proves he has no sense of consequence and cares about nothing but satisfying his own greed. Utter scumbag.

I have no problem with rewarding success, if you create wealth and jobs you should share the benefit but, at the same time when you fuck up you should pay the price.

If you drove a bus and crashed through gross negligence you would go to jail. I see no difference, this smug cunt caused an even worse crash that has affected thousands of people directly and millions indirectly and he has shown no remorse. He deserves to be behind bars.

Another great weekend of winter action

Last weekend we had a visit from Katharine's brother Rik and friend Adam. We headed up to Hemsedal and our favorite cabins, right on the edge of the ski slopes at Vestestølen. We were accompanied by Cecelie and a possi from Bergen.

Drive up on Friday was fine, got there pretty quick. A quick discussion about whether we needed snow chains to get up the final hill which of course we didn't, just a bit of sliding around - snow chains are for the weak!

Saturday we boarded and skied. the place was pretty busy but we headed over the back and found a few quiet spots. Not a huge amount of fresh snow but still a fun day which finished with with afterski at the bottom of the slopes and then a trip to the ever mad Cafe Hemsedal.

Cafe Hemsedal on a saturday night is an absolute nut house. Tonnes of very drunk people all having an extremly good time. Great atmosphere, great music, mad dancing, lots of drinking... You look around and it feels like 1.30 in the morning in some crazy club and then you look at your watch and realise its 7pm! I love it there. We even run into some of the guys who were in Utah with us last year.

After that we had a pizza and headed back for an earlish night since it was snowing and we anticpated a full powder day on Sunday. Sunday had a bit of fresh stuff but not as much as anticpated, but at least the crowds had gone (not sure where). Another good, blue sky, off piste day before we headed back to drink the rest of the duty free wine that the guys had brought across. Some swift mobile phone action on the way back saved us from the tedious norwegian police and their ever, busy revenue generating speed traps. If it wasn't so expensive you could just right them off as childish tossers they are. Anyway once more we evaded them.

The gusy had to leave at 5am (groan) the next morning and we had a moment of excitment when Adam got to the airport and realised his passport was back at the lair, fortunatly there was just enough time to get it to him. You have to love the relaxed attitude at Bergen airport, so much more civilised than Heathrow etc.

Another awesome weekend, this winter has been a belter and its Åre next weekend!

20 February 2009

Friday Joke - Job with the mafia

The mafia had an opening for a hitman . After all the background checks, interviews and testing were done, there were 3 finalists; two men and a woman.

For the final test, the mafia agent took one of the men to a large metal door and handed him a gun.
'We must know that you will follow your instructions no matter what the circumstances. Inside the room you will find your wife sitting in a chair .. . . kill her!!'
The man said, 'You can't be serious. I could never shoot my wife.'
The agent said, 'Then you're not the right man for this job. Take your wife and go home.'
The second man was given the same instructions. He took the gun and went into the room. All was quiet for about 5 minutes.
The man came out with tears in his eyes, 'I tried, but I can't kill my wife.'
The agent said, 'You don't have what it takes. Take your wife and go home.'

Finally, it was the woman's turn. She was given the same instructions, to kill her husband. She took the gun and went into the room. Shots were heard, one after another. They heard screaming, crashing, banging on the walls. After a few minutes, all was quiet. The door opened slowly and there stood the woman, wiping the sweat from her brow.

'This gun is loaded with blanks' she said. 'I had to beat him to death with the damn chair.'

17 February 2009

Feeding the rat

He lives inside my brain, most of the time he sleeps and I often forget that he is even there. He only wakes up when he is hungry, but when he does it's chaos. He gnaws away at my brain desperate to be fed. So long as he is awake and hungry there is no chance to live a normal life, all of my focus shifts to satisfying his apatite.

The rat lives on a mixture of fear, adrenaline and the endorphins that come from hard physical labour. His preferred feast comes when I am climbing steep, technical ice. In the summer months he sleeps and snacks on the more meager rations that come from climbing rock. However, winter is his feast time. He responds to the shortening days and cold weather, awakening from his summer hibernation in late November. Initially, his gentle scratching makes me browse the weather on the internet, glancing at the temperature in the mountains. Each morning as I drive to work I involuntarily look up at the water fall that hangs above the town. Is it frozen yet? How fat is it?

As he gets more hungry I start to pay more and more attention to the weather. Conversations while driving to ski in the mountains are interrupted by pregnant pauses as another frozen waterfall, high on a hillside come into view and I try to see a line, is it connected all the way? How easy is it to get to the base? Walk off or ab the route? How many pitches? Eventually his constant agitation is too much, I have to feed him or there will be no peace.

So I submit and start to sort out the gear, 10 BD screws and some crappy Russian ones, 12 extenders, a couple of slings, a rack of wires and a krab of old pegs. The pegs and wires never seem to get used, but they comfort me and remind me of past days winter mountaineering in Scotland. The clanking on the gear wakes the rat and he is quickly alert. He is clearly agitated by the small spots of rust on the scarped metal of the picks and crampon spikes. I feel mildly guilty and try to rub the rust away, but it is too late and it reminds him of the neglect that he has endured.

We head to the hills. There are no guide books here, just driving around and looking up. We stop and stare at a hillside, trying to judge how do-able a frozen fall is. Now he is going wild he is scrapping and scratching, screaming at me to get on with it. It's a Pavlovian response and his gastric juices are flowing driving both him and I to distraction. I know I must battle his urges, control him so that what we try is both achievable and satisfying. Some low angle, dripping piece of choss will just leave him hungry for more, while something too steep, climbed without due consideration will result in failure. But he is a simple soul who ignores the fact that he needs me to feed him - driving me to injury or worse will be his own demise. But he doesn't understand or doesn’t chose to care, he is starving and he just wants to eat now.

We pick a line, two maybe three pitches, sitting up on the hillside and start to walk up through the snow. The approach to an ice route is a cyclic process. Firstly I look from a distance and thinking the route seems easy. As I gets closer it seems to get steeper and harder. Then just before the bottom it looks easy again, not vertical with some good rests along the way. I feel good while I gear up and its all going well until I stand directly beneath it, axes in hand and look up again - all off a sudden it looks very, very steep and the adrenaline starts to pump, and I begin to doubt if I can actually climb this and wonder why I am here...

I swing the first axe and it makes a satisfying low thump as it sinks into the ice, the second follows suit out to the left. Then I kick my right foot in and pull up...

The rat goes wild as he starts to feed!

16 February 2009

Extended winter fun weekend

Had three old friends from the UK visiting last weekend. Simon, Mike and Dave came to climb ice, drink beer, and catch up. They flew in to a snow storm on Thursday evening arriving at 1.30am, two hours late. Getting to bed at 3am we had a bit of a late start on Friday morning when we headed towards Voss and climbed in a new spot called Bergensdalen. The weather was stunning blue skies and there was a fair bit of fresh snow.

There was even ice outside the window of the Lair and the fjord was frozen

We found the valley almost by accident and traipsed up through the woods to the hillside. The trek up was not as bad as I had imagined although Dave pointed out that was because I wasn't breaking trail! Got to the bottom of a very nice looking route, two pitches, just off vertical in the first and a bit more broken up in the upper. Dave opted to lead the first pitch which turned out to be much steeper and more sustained than it looked - a great lead. I followed up and then ticked off the top pitch while Simon relaxed at the base and Mike took some amazing photos. I topped out just as the sun set and we scurried back to the car and drove to Hemsdal, bumping into Katharine, Cecilie and Lyndsey in Voss.

Me cranking steep ice in Bergensdalen (Photo c. Mike Hutton)

Dave topping out as the sunsets on an awesome day

We had booked a cabin just south of Hemsdal and when we arrived there, Sandy and Rich were already settled in with a big fire going. Headed to bed after a couple of bottles of wine and some pizza.

Simon "I'm in semi-retirement" Dale

Cabin near Hemsedal, note the very scary looking WI6 in the background

Next day was super-cold (-15c) and we headed south to a new venue. Had directions which turned out to be spot on and we found it no trouble. It was a small gorge with several fat, steep ice falls and a couple of mixed lines. There were also some other people climbing there - shock horror! including to crazy french guys climbing some very radical mixed lines - lots of dry tooling and icicle smashing and a couple of Norwegian guys, doing what they do best and hogging the easiest line with a top rope.

Rich (top) and Sandy (bottom) on some great steep ice near Gol. Temperture -12c

Because the obvious warm-up (is that the correct term when its -15?) was taken I opted for a mixed line which turned out to be fairly easy, despite the fact that the ice was very brittle and there was a gnarly step sideways at the top. Then moved on to a steep line straight up the main fall. Wasn't sure if I could do it, but doing something seemed better than freezing to death and in the end it went fine. Pretty sustained but fairly straight forward. The day wore on, everyone except "Simon, I am in temporary retirement", ticked a few routes in between standing around and shivering and chatting. A good day and a good spot to know about - but bloody cold.

Dangerous stuff this ice climbing lark

Headed back to the cabin and meet up with the ladies who had been skiing. A big chilli was made and a considerable amount of wine was consumed. At one point a bottle was being opened every ten minutes! Eventually we stumbled off to bed.

An evening of fine food and wine

Next morning it was dumping fresh snow but at least it was warmer. We cleaned the cabin and headed to rjukenfoss, just outside of Hemsdal. A small gorge with a load of lines, all fairly straight forward but good fun. At first glance it looked a bit disappointing and choosy. The water in the pool had frozen and then the level had dropped, Shattering the bottom of many of the lines and making them look rather suspect. There was even discussion about whether we should cross the pool, but we did and it was fine. Geared up and everyone picked off lines and Simon even came out of retirement to bag a sweet route up the middle of one of the falls.

Rjukenfoss near Hemsedal. Ice fun for everyone

Then we headed back to the Big B. Driving conditions were pretty crappy and it was carnage on the roads with all sorts of cars in ditches, up hedges, in gardens etc. We had a few slides but nothing to bad, making it back in time for an evening of extreme sports vids.

By Monday both Dave and I felt opted to abuse all the fresh powder that had fallen. Drove to Myrkdalen and Simon and Mike headed to climb ice while we went to the ski centre. Had an awesome day of fresh powder and absolutely no people, except a small group of Japanese (how odd is that?) who predictably never went off piste. The weather was pretty shitte as was the visibility, but the powder was excellent and we carved it up, hardly stopping all day and grabbing the last t-bar with jelly like legs.

...and after the climbing they went and played in the snow - day at Myrkdalen

The boys stayed at the lair while I went to work on Tuesday and then headed back Tuesday eve. It was great to see them and great to climb ice. Found some excellent new locations, did some good lines and I can safely say that the rat is fed and back in his box, at least for a couple of weeks.

13 February 2009

Friday Joke - Its still fun to bash Bush

George Bush has a heart attack and dies. Obviously he goes to hell, where the Devil is waiting for him.
'I'm not sure what to do,' says the Devil. 'You're on my list, but I have no room for you. As you definitely have to stay here, I'm going to have to let someone else go. I've got three folks here who weren't quite as bad as you. I'll let one of them go, but you have to take their place. Since it's all a bit messed up I'll even let you decide who's place you take.'
George thought that sounded ok, so he agreed.
The Devil opened the first room. In it were Richard Nixon and a large pool of hot water.He kept diving in and climbing out, over and over. Such was his fate in hell.
'No!' said George. 'I don't think so, I'm not a good swimmer and don't think I could stay in hot water all day.'
The Devil led him to the next room. In it was Tony Blair with a sledgehammer and a room full of rocks. All he did was swing the hammer, breaking rocks all day every day.
No! I've got this problem with my shoulder. I would be in constant agony if all I could do was break rocks all day.' commented George.
The Devil opened the third door. In it, George saw Bill Clinton lying on the floor with his arms staked over his head, and his legs staked in a spread-eagle pose. Bent over him was Monica Lewinsky, doing what she does best.
George Bush looked at this in disbelief for a while, and finally said 'Yeah, I can handle this.'

The Devil smiled and said, 'OK, Monica, you're free to go!'

11 February 2009

Life in Norway VII - Contrasting attitudes to a bit of snow

It has been dumping snow fairly consistantly in the big B for over a week now. We are not talking meters of the stuff, but almost everyday there is 10-15 cm of fresh stuff, laid down over night, while the day time has been cold and clear with blue skies. The place looks stunning - this is western Norway at its best.

Meanwhile the UK has had a fair bit of the white stuff as well. "Harshest" winter for 27 years! I remember the winter of 1982 pretty well, I was living on a farm in Wales and we were cut off for several weeks. It was great! The farmer down the road took it upon himself to use his tractor to clear the road and when the snow pile he had accumulated finally melted a month later there was a huge pile of cat-eyes left behind!
Back in the 21st centuary and from my current perspective, its interesting to compare the reaction to the recent cold spell in the UK and Norway, its an interesting insight into the national pyschee of both places.

Two newspaper front pages sum it up perfectly.
The first is from the Sun, the UKs most popular gutter tabloid. Basically it bemoans the weather, slags the government for not being more prepared and focuses on kids missing school and the cost to the economy of all those lost work days.

In contrast, this is from BA, a comparable popularist paper from Norway. The headline translates to "Take the day off from work!" and is an instruction to get out and make the most of this great weather.
It says so much about the work life balance and general priortites in the two countries.

09 February 2009

Winter fun in Norway

Lots of snow at the Evil Lair and in the mountains, Bergen looks great when it's like this.

Saturday we headed to Voss with half of the JAPOW crew. It was a bit of a shock to go back to flat light, T-bars and lots of people, after being in Japan but at least the snow was good and there was lots of fresh powder. Had a great morning doing fresh lines up on top of the mountain although the poor visibility was vaguely reminiscent of the night surfing scene in Point Break were Bodhi tells Utah to "just go accept its energy..."

Saturday night we had chili with the Hesses and everyone tried very hard to stay awake despite being wasted from the efforts of the day.

Sunday was an amazing blue sky day. I headed out with Sandy to climb the first ice of the year. Drove up past Eikedalen which was not in condition. almost all the way to Voss. On the way we spotted a few things that might have been climbable but didn't inspire and one wall that looked huge and very, very scary (see below) - maybe another day.

Eventually ended up at Skjervsfossen, which is a big water fall just outside of Voss, much loved by bus loads of tourists that wind up the very steep switch back road in the summer. It looked frozen and do able.

We got out of the car and it was seriously cold (c. -12c) and there was a brutal biting wind. Kitted up and headed over to the fall. It was still flowing on the right hand side and the occasional large block came crashing down, inspiring! The left hand side however looked pretty easy and I was wandering if we would get anything else done afterwards.

Sandy whizzed up the lower part and then got to the vertical bit which he pronounced to be overhanging, rotten and rather unpleasant. He came down. For some reason which I haven’t quite figured I then went up and discovered that that he was correct but he had failed to mention the spray from the waterfall which was being blown across the face and coating everything with a layer of ice. Nice!

I got a couple of good screws in and climbed about 3 m vertical to a large mushroom pedestal where I could stand and review the situation. By this stage I was coated in some much ice that I could hardly open the gates on the crabs and both the ropes and my jacket were like cardboard. The next 5 m was more vertical, chandelier stuff and I began to regret my bravado. Still the only way was up and two more good screws should at least stop a ground fall...

Hacked my way up, rapidly running out of steam and racing my draining energy. Fortunately the angle eased just in time and I began to think I might just make it. By this time my left arm was jelly and my calves were burning like crazy, I had to just tell myself to keep it together and not fall now, cos that would be stupid.

Lunged onto a belay and lay their panting like the proverbial fish out of water. Brought Sandy up and he then dispatched the upper pitch in good fashion. By this stage the ropes were solid and I had a chronic case of the hot-aches. How I love ice climbing!

Finished up and headed back to Bergen feeling suitably prepared, mentally at least, for the arrival of the UK ice crew next weekend.

08 February 2009

Go build a snow man and stop moaning

The UK is in the grips of the worse freeze in 27 years and everyone is up in arms that the government has not done enough. I am not a big fan of said government but in this case I feel compelled to rant in their favour. Its not very complicated, its basic risk management with a dose of common sense thrown in. Here is how it works...

1. You look at the historical weather patterns
2. Then you look at predicted future weather patterns
3. The models tell you at some point in the next 20 years there will be a severe winter, but the models can't predict exactly when it will occur.
4. You calculate the cost of a severe winter spell and then compare it to the cost of having 5000 snow ploughs and a million tones of salt on hold every winter doing nothing for 19 out of 20 years.
5. The economics tells you its much better to just accept the consequences of the bad weather when it does come, than to maintain an expensive state of permanent readiness. So you do that and it saves tax payers money.

Then, as predicted along comes some bad weather and everyone immediately starts whinging that the country wasn't ready and they can't get to work! This is compounded by the cretins in the press stirring it all up. These are the same people who would, in a normal year, be complain about the "scandalous cost of having all those snow ploughs sitting doing nothing"

So there is a bit of snow and the roads are shut and the schools are closed.
GET OVER IT! Take a couple of days off, enjoy the snow, go sledging and build a snow man with your kids. The world won't stop turning and you might even have some fun.

05 February 2009

Friday Joke, teaching maths

*_1. Teaching Maths In 1970_**
A logger sells a lorry load of timber for £1000.His cost of production is 4/5 of the selling price.What is his profit?

_2. Teaching Maths In 1980_* *
A logger sells a lorry load of timber for £1000. His cost of production is 4/5 of the selling price, or £800. What is his profit?

_3. Teaching Maths In 1990_* *
A logger sells a lorry load of timber for £1000. His cost of production is £800. Did he make a profit?

_4. Teaching Maths In 2000_* *
A logger sells a lorry load of timber for £1000. His cost of production is £800 and his profit is £200. Your assignment: Underline the number 200.

_5. Teaching Maths In 2008_* *
A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is totally selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of £200. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers. * *If you are upset about the plight of the animals in question counselling will be available)

_6. Teaching Maths 2018_

JAPOW - 2009

In the process of writting a bit of a spiel about our Japan Powder trip, in the meantime a selection of the photos are on my flickr site here.
Meanwhile the evil lair and the Big B are looking great under a 20 cm of fresh snow.

View from Lair this morning. No tweaking in photoshop, it was that colour.

Meanwhile despite a thick fur coat and a lot of subqutaneous insulation, the fat cat looks less than impressed.

02 February 2009

Did the earth move for you?

Sunday morning 7am,in Toyko, I was awakened by the bed shaking with a gentle rythmic, back and fore motion, which continued for about 20 seconds.

The sado geologist in me was so excited by the prospect of being in a real live earthquake that I forgot to be scared about the fact that we were on the 9th floor of a high rise block.

No damage done and I was rather suprised to find out on Monday that it was 5.8 on the richter scale. Details here

Even better is the fact that as I lay in bed and the earth moved for me, my score on the geo-mime was increased to a suitably inuendo ridden "69".

Pathetic isn`t it...