28 April 2009

Back in Utah

As the title suggests - I am back in Utah.
Currently in Moab with a hangover - some things never change...

Will write more when I get the chance but in the meantime here is some HDR from the Bookcliffs which I took in 5 mins and then processed at 5 am yesterday - the joys of jet lag.
More pictures and high res versions of these on my flickr site.

24 April 2009

Friday Joke - Software support for girls

No Friday joke last week - sorry. This week I am on a plane to Utah while you read this, its one for the ladies...

Dear Tech Support,
Last year I upgraded from Boyfriend 5.0 to Husband 1.0 and noticed a distinct slow down in overall system performance -- particularly in the flower and jewellery applications, which operated flawlessly under Boyfriend 5.0.

In addition, Husband 1.0 uninstalled many other valuable programs, such as Romance 9.5 and Personal Attention 6.5 and then installed undesirable programs such as Soccer 5.0, The Ashes 3.0, and Golf Clubs 4.1. Conversation 8.0 no longer runs, and House cleaning 2.6 simply crashes the system. A friend suggested that I run Nagging 5.3 to fix these problems, but it hasn't worked. What can I do?



Dear Desperate:
First keep in mind, Boyfriend 5.0 is an Entertainment Package, while Husband 1.0 is an Operating System. Please enter the command: 'http: I Thought You Loved Me.html' and try to download Tears 6.2 and install the Guilt 3.0 update. If that application works as designed, Husband 1.0 should then automatically run the applications Jewellery 2.0 and Flowers 3.5. But remember, overuse of the above application can cause Husband 1.0 to default to Grumpy Silence 2.5, Happy Hour 7.0 or Beer 6.1. Beer 6.1 is a very bad program that will download the Snoring Loudly Beta.

Whatever you do, DO NOT install Mother-in-law 1.0 (it runs a virus in the background that will eventually seize control of all your system resources).

Also, do not attempt to reinstall the Boyfriend 5.0 or worse still 6.0, program. These are unsupported applications which will lead to serious systems conflicts.

In summary, Husband1.0 is a great program, but it does have limited memory and cannot learn new applications quickly. You might consider buying additional software to improve memory and performance. We recommend Food 3.0 and Hot Lingerie 7.7.

Good Luck,

Tech Support

21 April 2009

Wookie John

Had a visit the other evening from an ex-student of mine from my Liverpool days who, due to his uncanny likeness to Chewbacca, was called Wookie John back in the day. He was over visiting Roy who described it like "Renton having Franco Begbie to stay in Trainspotting. You never know quite know what's going to happen next". They came out to the lair for a barbi on Thursday night.

John comes from a fairly rough part of North Wales and always had a passion for knives and crap cars. After his degree he trained to be a teacher and ended up working in a special needs school in the roughest part of one of the roughest towns in Wales. The school is the last hope for really bad kids before they get sent down. Once you get expelled from this one the next stop is jail. John seems to be getting on pretty well there and regaled us with some funny stories of what the kids get up to and how he deals with teaching and crowd managment on a day to day basis.

Life in North Wales is an extension of the "Jerry Springer show". Our own cousins are prime examples, multiple kids by multiple fathers, boob jobs, fake tans, anorexia, family quarrels etc etc, they have it all. So it follows that John's tale of life since uni was only getting to get better and it did.

John has a son who he evidently adores, but he is separated from the mother, no big deal but the custody battles sound rather interesting. He then found out via Facebook that he was going to have a second child, not with the mother of his first child, nor with the girl he was living with at the time. His cuurent girlfriend, who was already slightly unhinged due to excessive drug use, then totally lost the plot.

Amongst the things she did to get "revenge" was to invite him around for tea and then called the police claiming rape while he was setting in her living room drinking his cuppa. The Police kicked in the door and dragged him out, locking him up for 16 hours. He was then suspended from teaching for 7 months while the case went to court. In that time he started doing other bits and bobs to keep busy which included dishing out parking tickets until somebody deliberately ran over his foot. He also then got heavily into the rave scene, which is very much alive and well in the north west despite the rest of the world having moved on to floppy hair, indy guitar music 10 years ago.

He was eventually acquitted of the rape charge, when the psychotic girlfriend couldn’t remember what her story was supposed to be and he is now back working at the school and the kids are very happy to see him.

And just to confirm his ability to attract randomness, while he was in Bergen he was walking down the street and a large Rasta approached him with a carrier bag full of recreational pharmacuticals. Now in 7 years in this town I have never seen a dealer on the street, let alone been approached by one. I guess looking like a starwars character has that effect.

20 April 2009

Student perception

Two years ago I was in Salt Lake City with a group of students on the first day of a field course. For some rather inexplicable reason I ended up getting interviewed for the local TV station about the price of gas (maybe they had heard the Angles in Moab story).

Two weeks later I broke my leg sky-diving.

The following cartoon was put together by one of the students (Per Olav Svendsen), its kinda funny (click for a big image).

18 April 2009

Summer is on the way...

Fantastic day today, the weather is stunning.

Spent the afternoon trying to get my boat started. It's been in the water all winter and it wasn't looking good, not enough power to raise or lower the engine, let along turn it over. That was odd since I had had the battery on charge for two days.

Eventually tracked the problem down to a heavily corroded contact by the power cut off. By-passed it with an old nail and some gaffer tape and it started almost immediatly - result!

Took it for a spin out into the sound and after most of crap was scrapped off the bottom it was flying. Summer is here! Now I need to get a wake board

The Pirate Bay

So it seems that the rather than chasing the real pirates in Somali, the powers that be are expending huge amounts of cash and effort chasing the "pirates of the internet" at Pirate Bay. These four Swedish mavericks have just been sentanced to a year in prison and fined 2.5 million euros for helping people to file share - seems a bit harsh to me. Here's my thoughts on the matter...

1. This is not about poor struggling articsts being robbed of their future. Those artists will always find novel and creative ways to cash in on their talant. This is about big corporations, the same big corporations that screw the same artists rotton.

2. That is the same corporations that brought in DVD zoning in a pathetic attempt to prevent you playing a DVD bought in the US back in Europe. The only reason for that was so they could charge more in one country than they could get in another. This is still going on so while they whine about fairness, they are ripping you off.

3. This is the same companies (eg Sony) that make the hardware for copying music and movies - if they were that worried about it maybe they shouldn't make it so easy.

4. A very positive effect of the drop in music sales is that the bands are back on our tour to make some money. The last couple of years have been fantatsic for seeing live music.

5. The fact that it cost about £20,000 to fill an 80 gig ipod at the imusic store, must imply that there is not many people in the world who have not copied some music at some stage.

The inudstry needs to shape up and find new ways to earn its crust. File sharing is a way of life for a whole generation. It can't be stopped.

Evolve or die losers...

17 April 2009

Easter in the Sunnmøre Alps

Easter is mountain time so just like last year we fled the abandoned city and headed 6 hours north to the Sunnmøre Alps. We stayed in the same place in Ørsta as last year except this time instead of 5 of us in a very small, 4 person cabin, we upgraded to 10 folk in a much larger and more salubrious pad, complete with hot tub.

Great drive up in my new car on Wednesday afternoon and arrived in good time. When we arrived we were amazed by the lack of snow. Last year there was snow down to sea-level and there was about a metre at the cabin. This year the snow line was at about 350 m and Spring was most definitely in the air.

First day of top touring we headed to Skårasalan. Parked amongst a group of marauding Swedes at the snow line and started up the track. Then turned up the hillside. As we started heading up more and more people appeared behind us, all moving quicker than me on my split board. It was a zoo! The climb was too steep for the board and made for pretty heavy going. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it! At one point I was ready to head back down but kept going and the angle eased off enough to make it just a steep slog. At the ridge line it was pretty windy and cold and the final 200 m to the summit was enshrouded in cloud so we stopped for a spot of lunch and watched the queues of people skiing off the top and back the way we had come it. It looked like a busy Saturday at Voss.
We opted to head down the glacier on the other side of the mountain. It was fantastic run down to the snow line with no other people. We then hiked the last klick down to the fjord, called a water taxi and were back in Sæbø in 20 minutes. An awesome first day out finishing up with an evening in the hot tub and an awesome massage and stretch from Sue. Great to have a professional on the trip.

Google earth view of the first day, note the water bit at the end (kml from Andy)

Second day and another tour. This time up Svinetinden. The climb was not so steep at least initially and the split boarding was going much better. Bailed out of a serious traverse at the very two and Katharine and I went back the way we had came while the other guys finished up the last couple of hundred meters. Another great day with some slack lining in the evening.

Google earth view of day 2 to 4 (kml from Andy). There was a bit more snow in the real world
The third day we headed to Stranda whilst the other guys did Kolåstinden, the peak that we did last year with Arne and Vibeke. We drove the long way around, took in the scenery and some HDR. At Stranda the conditions were shit so we opted for a bit of cross country which I am monumentally crap at. It actually went better than previous attempts and I actually managed to do a couple of hours, only ending on my arse twice.

The last day in the hills was a great blue sky day and we headed to Sylvkallen a long day which started with a hike through a peat bog which lead to a long traverse followed by a very long sustained climb . Things were defiantly getting better on the spilt board and I had no hassle as long as I took a less steep line than the other guys. Another great run down.

Last night, drank the remaining booze and eat the remaining food. Everyone too tired for a big party but still a fun night. Scott was leaving for Canada the next day and Amy goes in a couple of months, will be really sad to see them go, they have been good fun to go to the hills with.

Monday was an awesome blue sky day and we drove back to Bergen taking in the amazing scenery that is western Norway, deep fjords, snow capped mountains, dark foreboding cliffs with water falls cascading down. This is such an amazing time of year here.

07 April 2009

Cars and Bikes - things to do in 15 minutes when its raining out

Following on from the previous post I put the data on the cost of my cars and bikes through the ages into excel and made some interesting discoveries.

First of all you can see the cummulative spend on cars, bikes and both through time.
Then I plotted the spend per year on all three. Note that to be able to see anything in the early days on the money axis (y) it was necassary to use a logrithmic scale.
Finally I plotted the spend through time on both bikes and cars and added an exponential trend line.
Note that the money scale is again logrithmic so the exponential is straight.
Both cases (bikes and cars) conform very well with an exponential curve (R2 = 0.93 and 0.83) implying that my spending on vehicles increases expotentially through time and that by 2020 I will probably be blowing a million quid on cars!
I think this tells me two things:
1. I need to start saving and...
2. I probably need to get out more!
Off to Sunmøre for easter. Have a good one!

05 April 2009

A life history in cars and bikes

Just got a new car which I am very happy with. Its fast and it goes around bends like a train. It is also, by far and away the most expensive vehicle I have ever owned.
This got me think about my earlier cars - which are summarised, in chronological order below

1983 (ish) - bought an Austin 1300 for £30 to drive around the fields on the farm and eventually make a buggy out of. The buggy never got made but we had some fun...
1985 - Honda CB1oo my first bike which I bought for £150. Fell off it quite a few times trying to go around corners too fast.
1985 - Was given a half share in a Vauxhall Cavalier 1300 by my Mum. eventually gave it back to her after her car blew up
1986 - Bought a mini for £200 at the car auction where I worked in the holidays. It was a classic case of a botch up job but I drove it around for a year, while bits stopped working and feel off. In the end I scrapped it
1987 - Mazda 323, bought it for £100 and drove it for 3 years. Lived out of it for 5 month in London. Had to replace the prop shaft 3 times and it leaked like a sieve so all the carpets were rotten (I ripped them out). Apart from that it was great. Eventually had to scrap it when the rust holes above the windscreen were too big. Engine still ran fine.
1990 - Ford Fiesta which I bought for £50 off a guy called Rocky who was towing it to the scrap yard. Replaced the 950 engine with a 1600, XR2 unit. Up rated the brakes, suspension and exhaust, put some big wheels on it and hooned! My first real boy racer machine. I had it for 2 years then my XGF took it and drove it in to the ground. I re-inheriated it in 1993 when she went to Aus and sold it for £200.
1991 - Second bike, CB 125 which I bought to take my bike test on. Sold for £350, same as I paid for it.
1991 - First proper bike, CBX550 bought for £500. I did some epic trips on that bike. For a while it was my only mode of transport and I rode it around Europe twice. I had it for about 6 years before it was stolen and torched by some Scallies in Liverpool
1993 - Bought a Mitsubushi Colt for £400. Had 8 gears, which was rather odd. Drove ok though. XGF crashed it numerous times but it lasted for a 2 years until the gearbox packed up on a weekend in Wales.
1996 - After the colt I bought a meastro van for £900. A great machine which I lined the back of with ply and we used for numerous camping trips all over the UK. XGF was driven into by a truck and the engine blew up. Eventually sold it for £200
1997 - After the CBX was torched I bought a Kawaski 900 Ninja from a guy in a pub in Llanberis for £1600. I still have it today. That is still the fastest I have ever been on land (155 mph on the M58 out of Liverpool).
1998 - Rover 800, which was bought off my brother. A huge boat of thing that I bought for £700. Was good for sleeping in the back of. It was stolen numerous times but kept turning up in Toxteth. Can't remember why I got rid of it.
1999 - After the Rover I bought a Peugot 205 diesal for £1000. It was shit. Sold it for £850 a couple of months later.
2000 - Renault Clio from a scrap auction that was fixed up by my mate Chris. It cost £600 to buy and another £500 in parts to fix. Taken over by XGF who kept it after I moved to Norway
2001 - Ducati 750ss bought from Gareth when he moved to Aus for £1800. Great bike but way to "nice" for me.
2001 - Landrover class 10 racing offroad beast, bought from Andy Nash for £2500. Had a lot of fun with that and spent a huge amount of cash keeping it going. eventually moved to Norway in it and its still sitting outside my house now.
2003 - Volvo 340, the cheapest car in Norway at 5000 nok. Had it for two years and sold it on for the same price.
2004 - Range Rover - a class motor which I bought in the UK for £1800 and brought over to Norway for a year. Eventually took it back and sold it for £900.
2005 Audi 80 - at 90000 nok the most expensive machine to date. Drove it for 4.5 years, the last 3 of which it was juddering like a kangaroo on E. Just swapped it for a major service on the new machine, valued at 15000 nok.
2008 - KTM 450 trials bike, bought for the off road adventure in Aus. Currently residing in Gareths garage in Perth.
2009 - Audi A4 Quattro. At 4 years old, by far and away the fastest, shinnyist and most expensive car I have ever owned.

Now if you are quick at maths you will see that, proir to the new Audi I have spent a total of £17380 on cars. With the new Audi that has just more than doubled! Interestingly the amount also doubled when I bought my Audi 80.

Does this imply that my next car will cost 50 grand?

03 April 2009

Friday Joke - the priest and the frog

Old Father O'Malley was strolling through the church grounds one sunny summer evening, when he came upon a little frog sitting by a tree.

"My Lord," he said, picking it up: "You're the saddest, most forlorn-looking frog I've ever seen. I only wish you could speak, so that you might tell me your troubles."

The frog replied, "Actually, I can. You see, I was once a choirboy in this very parish. One day I offended a passing Gypsy, and she put a curse on me that turned me into a talking frog."

"Incredible!" said Father O'Malley.

"Is there anything I might do to help you?"

"Actually yes, there is. The Gypsy said that if I can find somebody to take me home and let me sleep in their bed, the curse will be lifted and I'll be back to normal."

"Well," said Father O'Malley, "the good Lord teaches us to be charitable. I think I can manage that."

So Father O'Malley picked up the little frog and put it in his pocket. That night he placed it gently on the pillow beside him and drifted off into a long, dreamy sleep. When he awoke the next morning, the frog had turned back into a choirboy, just as it had said it would.

And that, Your Honour, is the case for the defence...

Breaking News! A nation worse at queuing than Norwegians…

Just travelled with norwegian airlines from Gatwick back to Bergen. The check-in was an utter zoo. Ten check in desk but at any one you could check in for anyone of 7 different flights. Each desk had a huge queue trailing back from it, almost all the people were Danes crowding together, because that will obviously make the check-in faster! Shouting*, barging into each other and tripping over the bags that they had left on the floor. Then when the staff opened on another desk all the people at the back surged forward to try and jump the queue. It was the closets thing I have seen to a cattle pen since I left the farm 24 years ago.

Norwegians are fairly bad at queuing but this took things to a whole new level. In Norway a queue is generally 20 people wide and 2 people long, but at least people aren’t physically barging into one another, repeatedly. At one point a member of airport staff actually came out gave instructions on how to queue – for real!

At the check in desk I commented to the guy that it was a zoo and he just looked at me with a dazed and slightly scared look and said the Copenhagen flight is always like this.

Makes me glad to be going back to Norway!

(*Danes shout a lot. They speak in a variation of the Nordic language that I have heard described as a drunk German trying to speak Norwgian)

02 April 2009


Spent the last week in London at a conference. Travelled over Sunday night and found that I had been booked in to a rather nice hotel on the Strand, very central and significantly nicer than most of the flee pits I usually end up in London. Monday morning I headed to the conference centre to set up my virtual fieldtrip audio visual extravaganza. The conference centre turned out to be right next to the houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. Found out that I wasn’t able to get in to set up until the afternoon so I head over to the Geol Soc to use the library. Since the weather was nice I opted to walk.

When you visit London it’s normal to spend most of the time travelling about on the tube which is both practical and fairly unpleasant. Travelling underground also makes it very difficult to grasp the relative geography of all these familiar names. Walking was great, I wandered past Westminster Abby and across St James Park up to Buckingham Palace. Then across Green Park to Piccadilly. Later I wandered past the house of parliament and Big Ben which seemed smaller than I remember, but that is probably because I haven’t been there since I was 14. London is an amazing city with so much history and great architecture. No wander the Americans love it.

And on the subject of Americans, Obama was in town at the same time as me. I saw his motorcade whiz past as I walked along Whitehall. He was on his for breakfast with Gordon. I had already eaten so I kept walking.

Wednesday, there are 800 petroleum geologists in a conference centre, right next to the city and all those banks. It seemed like a pretty good target for the 100000 anarchists and climate change protestors who were supposed to descend on London for 1st April. From our perspective the day went off peacefully and we didn’t see a single person with green hair or a dog on a rope. Was subsequently pretty surprised to see all the rioting and fighting with the Police on the news that evening. It makes you realise that you have to treat so much of what you see on the news with a pinch of salt.

Conference was ok, not the best. I was involved with a session doing virtual reality fieldtrips which went pretty well. There were several key guys showing some pretty amazing stuff. Its great to see what everyone else is doing.

Had a few nights out but nothing too big. Caught up with Gary and a few other folk and got to socialise with people from Bergen that I never seem to get to go out with and the beer was cheap and nice.
Now heading back to the big B