29 May 2009

Friday Joke

Three guys drinking in a bar in New York

"As good as this is," said the Scotsman, "I still prefer the pubs back home. In Glasgow, there's a wee place called McTavish's. The landlord goes out of his way for the locals. When you buy four drinks he'll buy the fifth drink."

"Well, Angus," said the Englishman, "At my local in London, the Red Lion, the barman will buy you your third drink after you buy the first two."

"Ahhh, dat's nothin'," said the Newfie. "Back home in Sin Jahn's, there's the Codfish Bar. The moment you set foot in the place, they'll buy you a drink, then another, all the drinks you like, actually. Then, when you've had enough drinks, they'll take you upstairs and see dat you gets laid, all on the house!"

The Englishman and Scotsman immediately shout down the Newfie's claims, but he swears every word is true. "Well," said the Englishman, still suspicious. "Did this actually happen to you?"

"Not meself, personally, no," admitted the Newf. "But it did happen to me sister quite a few times."

28 May 2009

Saved by a bunch of hillbillies

Hayseed Dixe, my favorite blue-grass AC/DC cover band played Garage last night and were awesome. If you haven't heard them check this and this as a taster. Musically great and very funny...

Before the gig I was dragged to another pub to watch the first half of the european cup final: The only good thing I can say about that half hour of my life was that it was good to remind myself just how much football is not for. Loads of pissed blokes, dressed in over-priced imitation strips, screaming at the telly.

"Hello - they can't hear you, that's a moving picture, the people you are shouting at are 2000 miles away. Even if they could hear you they wouldn't take any notice because they are professional atheletes and your not".

So we arrived 10 minutes after the start and missed the first goal and then watched 35 minutes of people running up and down a field. It was very very dull. By half time I couldn't take anymore so I headed to Garage which I was pretty certain would be the one pub in Bergen not dominated by the gorey spectacle. I know that lots of people love watching football and maybe it's because I don't understand the subilites of it but it is not my idea of entertainment.

The band came on half an hour later and very quickly cheered me up and revived my faith in mans ability to entertain his fellow man.

27 May 2009

Jonny Traveller - maybe not...

Interesting site that allows you to work out how many of the World's countries you have visited. A bit suprised to only be on 27% - must try harder!

visited 62 states (27.5%)

Doing a better job in the US, especially since a lot of the ones that are missing are the crappy flat ones in the centre

visited 19 states (38%)

You can create your own visited map of The World here

22 May 2009

Satellite Radio - Scientific endeavour at it's best

A couple of the cars that I rented in the US this time came with satellite radio. 240 channels of pretty much everything you can imagine, most of it totally shitte.

So we listened to various rock and alternative music stations before getting bored of that. Then tuned in to Patriot Radio to listen to right wing idiots eschew their views on guns and how Obama is the anti-christ. Over on Fox News and various other "news" channels the views were pretty much the same. Interesting insight into the cretinously stupid, which got even better on the Christian stations. "Experts" arguing if the second coming and Revelations had already happened during the reign of Nero bla bla bla ... as if it wasn't all a fairy tale anyway.

But the best of the bunch was Playboy Radio, where hick white trash men call up an attractive sounding woman for "advice". Goes something like...

Bunny "Hi Brad from Kansas, how can I help you?"

Brad "er hi Bunny, lurve ur show. I got just one question..."

Bunny "well thanks Brad, glad to have you on, what's your question?"

Brad "Er I wanna stick a dildo up my wife's butt..."

Bunny, totally unphased, "wow that's really cool, you and your wife are experimenting like that"

Brad " Yeah but what colour should it be?"

Bunny " Well I prefer blue, but it's really up to you guys. What colour is your bedroom?"

Brad "Er that's a bit complicated cos my Wife lives with her boyfriend some of the time"

Bunny "Well that's cool..."

And so on....

Fantastic! The scientific endeavour involved in placing those satellites in space was obviously so worthwhile...

A rant about "expenses" on both sides of the North Sea

I haven't had a good rant for ages. The current parlimentary expenses scandal in the UK got me thinking about the whole expenses deal.

The crisis in the UK parliament regarding MPs expenses is, first a foremost a victory for "freedom of information". No wander they were so keen to stop this getting out! The current system dates back twenty odd years when that vile bitch who destroyed the heart and soul of the country, changed the system of expenses for members of parliament so that her cronies could fleece the country without paying tax. That system, along with most of her other policies continued into Blair and eventually Brown's, not very left wing, labour governments.

So MPs have been claiming thousands to have their lawns re-turfed, their moats cleaned and to buy floating houses for their pet ducks. More seriously many have built property empires at the tax payers expense. Some have been out-right criminal, claiming mortgages that didn't exist and claiming twice for the same house and I am struggling to see why these people haven’t yet faced criminal charges. Most however have just screwed the system, trying to justify it as recompense for only earning £65000 per year - oh it must be tough!

While is satisfying to see all this coming out in the open I am a bit surprised at how shocked the public are. Are we really that naive? Politicians are, by definition, back stabbing, self serving, scumbags, why would you be surprised that they are screwing the country when presented with such a free for all opportunity?

Meanwhile on the other side of the North Sea, the whole expense thing is far more regulated. Strangely though this doesn't seem to stop the worst coming out in people. State employees and the staff of big companies such as Cornershop Oil are paid a very generous day rate when they are away from home. This is to avoid having to collect a receipt for every cup of coffee. It's a system that is supposed to make life easier but in my experience all it does is cause a huge industry of screwing the system further. A few observations...

1. People see the day rate as extra income rather than covering their costs so they squabble tediously about restaurant bills etc. The day rates are so generous that these people will never be out of pocket but they still want to fleece that little bit extra.
2. Processing an expense claim at the cornershop costs about 1500 nok – that explains what at least some of the missing 32000 people do all day.
3. I have seen people on a field trips in Utah asking about which "overtime code" to use because they spent more than 7.5 hours in the field - for fuck sake! The company has flown them half way around the world to see amazing geology on a course led by world experts, rented a fleet of vehicles and put them in a nice hotel. And there biggest question is about is what over time code to use. People like that are a disgrace and should not be allowed on trips, but it gets better...
4. A group of drillers on a trip in Utah calculated that they were entitled to danger money because they were "in an extreme area away from paved roads, in a country were people carried guns and in an environment that was hot". Do you think they really felt threatened and in danger? No of course not, its just another opertunity to screw the system.
5. It’s not just the big companies, a group of university researchers were totally open about the fact that they stayed in the cheapest hotels and then claimed the highest rate possible to maximize return. It's expenses! Its supposed to make sure you are not out of pocket. It's not supposed to be an earner, and if you think that you deserve extra money for the hardship of "being away from home", then fuckin well stay at home.
6. But my absolute favorite is a guy in a service company who was sent back onshore from a rig after causing "a major safety incident". When called in to the office for a bollocking from his boss, he sat there passively whilst being told he was an idiot etc and then at the end of the meeting produced a claim form for travel and overtime! It’s awesome.

This is all true, scary, depressing, horrible but true...

So what is the point of this rant and how does it relate to British MPs. After all one of these systems is a free for all, the other high regulated. The common theme is that the more generous the system the more people will abuse it. My Argentinean and Spanish buddies largely pay for their own field work and never complain. They get in there own cars or a beat up truck from the department, they drive long distances, they camp or stay in cheap hotels and they are happy to have a chance to go out and look at rocks, because that is what they love to do. In contrast this bunch of spoiled tossers are so busy worrying about how to make even more money they miss the whole point of being out there.

Ahhhh! Feeling much better now - thank you for reading.

Field Season...

It's been a busy month...

One of my favorite places on earth, the Book Cliffs from the Beckwith Plataeu
Flew out to Utah at the end of April and joined a Nautilus field course to the Book Cliffs, the idea was that I would contribute and see what they did with a view to running it. This was attractive from my side because I haven't been on a course or trip since 2002 that I wasn't running - you learn more when you are not talking! Turned out to be an interesting experience for a variety or reasons. Firstly it was an excellent course with two good guys running it. I had seen most of the outcrops before but a new perspective is always good. It was also very interesting to be on a trip which was mainly English speaking. Made me realise how much I had been missing out on during the last 6 years when I normally just tune out. The trip started in Grand Junction and then headed to Green River, followed by Moab. Had a couple of good nights in the Rio including some fairly random karaoke.
Nautilus folk in the field describe Coal Canyon
From there I drove to GJ and then flew to Salt Lake and meet up with Tore. We drove down to Price and spent a couple of days in the field. He's really keen and it was great spending time in the field with him. We traced the Lower Ferron unit from the subsurface into the outcrop and realised that the existing lithostrat is a pile of poo! Not bad for your first three days in the field.
A moody sky above the Lower Ferron

Drove back to Salt Lake and meet up with the UiB fieldtrip. Big contrast to the previous trip in that it was largely in Norwegian and that it was comprised primarily of blonde girls. You win some you lose some! I only stayed with the trip for a few days but it was fun, nice bunch of students and they worked hard - at least while I was there.

A field trip or a Miss Norway contest?

Left them to meet Simon and Toby back in Green River and we went scanning with the HyperSpectral Scanner. This is a new technique that we have been pioneering. We have had it working in Spain and now wanted to collect some more datesets. We collected a shed load of data from a variety of spots around Price Green River and Moab. Met up with the field course and finished the oil game for them. The oil game started as a geology exercise with the students in teams trying to find oil in a certain area. Despite being fairly simple it produces some very realistic and competitive scenario's. Ironically, it was supposed to be about geology but the commercial aspects have taken over. Depressingly like real life!

Take one scanner into the field? Not us!

After that I headed back into the field with Andreas (new PhD) Siri and an Iranian girl called Rozita. We spent a couple of days scanning shoreface systems for Rozita and logging sections with Andreas and Siri, including a long day high up in Woodside Canyon which involved crossing a 50 degree scree slope with a 100m drop - Hmm safety in the field? I must be getting old because this stuff never bothered me before. Good times even if Rozitas lack of English and lack of geology were a bit of a challenge.

The World famous Ray's Tavern in Green River
Always good to be in the field in Utah. Nice to catch up with all the people in Price and Green River, many of whom remember me from one year to the next. Moab is a fun town but less personal as there are some many visitors each year. We spent a lot of time in Rays Tavern which is always full of geologists, caught up with a lot of people I haven't seen for a while. We also took breakfast everyday in the Green River Coffee Shop which is a converted gas station serving excellent coffee to aging hippies and river rats.

A rather fearless antelop (not Elk! - thanks Roy) looks on while Toby tries to explain to Siri why he is scanning his suitcase

After a week of ground based work the helimap guys from Switzerland turned up and the logistics got complicated. Co-ordinating 5 students, helimap, a chopper and fuel truck, the weather, optimal light on the cliffs, GPS coverage, places to land and take off and, myself is a challenge. Resorted to the trusty "MS paper-napkin" and sorted the whole think out over breakfast in Ricardo's diner.

A helicopter, fuel truck and Simon with the Book Cliffs in the background

Despite my detailed planning (or lack of) everything went well. riding the helicopter was just amazing, not much else to say really - it was fantastic to fly over the Book Cliffs. The pilot was awesome and Julian and Sam worked like crazy to make the system work. Haven't seen the final result yet but the initial ones look amazing.

The Cliffs look different from up here

Bagged a lift in the copter back to SLC - fantastic flight back across the Wasatch Mountains into the Salt Lake Valley. Then spent a couple of days at the core store with Tore finishing up with the project it had all started with. Flying home tomorrow.

The trip in numbers...
2000 miles driven - getting very bored of driving Green River to Price
36 Days worked straight
18 Days in the field
15 The number of years since I first came to Utah
14 Nights in Rays Tavern, Green River
10 Days teaching
9 Hyper spectral data sets collected
7 Cars rented - with zero incidents (that is a first!)
6 New lidar datasets
5 Research students supervised
4 Sessions spent guiding the heli mapping
3 different helidar datasets
2 Field trips ran
1 Very expensive road bike purchased
0 Days off! When work is this much fun who needs holiday?

Back to Bergen Tomorrow - looking forward to getting back for summer in Norway

19 May 2009


In the beginning we used a notebook, a photocopied base map, a compass and a pencil to do fieldwork. In 1994 I was given a GPS to use, it was the size of a brick and after it repeatedly placed me several hundred meters away from where I knew I was on the map, I gave up on it.

In 1996 I was in Nambia with Nige Mountney and, due to the total lack of maps we used a GPS, which by this time was only the size of a beer bottle. These were actually useful! In 1998/9 we started our first reservoir modelling of outcrop projects. These were in Patagonia and in Utah. In Patagonia a man from Statoil appeared with a crate of boxes, cables and antennas and then wandered about the field looking like a spaceman. In Utah we tried to use a total station to shot points on bed boundaries. In both cases the technowank failed to produce anything useful, but reservoir models got built anyway.

At this point it was realised that you could not just borrow or hire the gear and head to the field. So the next project I was involved with in South Africa we got so heavy duty help and proper training. The Nomad project involved lots of dGPS rovering which meant a couple of guys wandering around the field with GPS receivers. It was hard work (for them) but produced some great data, a lot of blisters and some very fractious incidents.

Once I moved to Norway my budget was somewhat curtailed so we went low tech. Data was collected with a hand held GPS, a digital camera and a florescent ball on a string. It was low tech but it worked and we got 3 masters students and a couple of papers out of it. At the same time I started working with some photo-realistic data collected for Norsk Hydro by the University of Texas. A couple of masters students later I realised that this was the way forward but unfortunately certain very short and angry individuals in the cornershop decided that they didn't like me, so it was time to build my own virtual outcrop system.

So I went and got a very large grant, bought a ground based laser scanner (lidar), the first of its kind in Europe, and found Simon. Now we are getting hi-tech and we had someone who knew what he was doing. Progress! The scanner sends out a laser beam that calculates the position of a point. It does that 10000 times a second and collects a couple of million points, marries them with digital photos and produces a Virtual Outcrop - like google earth but with cm precision!

Several groups got into Lidar at the same time but we focused on doing our own thing and working our methods for data collection, processing and utilization. A couple of PhDs and several publications down the line we branched out in to the hyper spectral scanner to see if we could marry space remote sensing technology with ground based lidar. If I had realised how hard it was going to be I would probably not have bothered trying - but ignorance is bliss! Fortunately we drafted in Toby ze German who is nothing if not tenacious. So now we can map the geology in 3D and remotely map the mineralogy (as long as its sunny).

All working well but a bit slow and cumbersome. So we found some Swiss guys who had put a similar lidar system together with the gyroscopic inertial navigation system from a cruise missile and produce a scanner that could be used from the side of a helicopter. They were using it for mapping rock fall hazards and power lines So we got another big grant and hooked up with them to collect a series of geological datasets.

And that is where we are today - a guy dressed as a ninja, hanging from the side of a helicopter collecting data at a rate of 10 km per hour and producing huge virtual outcrops. Its getting close to the ultimate in technowank and its the future of field work.

Five years ago we were dangling fluorescent balls over cliffs and taking pictures with a digi camera! Things move fast - what's next?

17 May 2009

Friday Joke - Before Peter there was Tommy...

1. The roundest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.
2. I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.
3. She was only a whisky maker, but he loved her still.
4. A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class because it was a weapon of math disruption.
5. The butcher backed into the meat grinder and got a little behind in his work.
6. No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.
7. A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.
8. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.
9. Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.
10. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
11. A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.
12. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
13. Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to theother, 'You stay here, I'll go on a head.'
14. I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.
15. A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: 'Keep off the Grass.'
16. A small boy swallowed some coins and was taken to a hospital. When his grandmother telephoned to ask how he was, a nurse said, 'No changeyet.'
17. A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.
18. The short fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.
19. The man who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.
21. A backward poet writes inverse.
22. In democracy it's your vote that counts. In feudalism it's your count that votes.
23. When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.
24. Don't join dangerous cults: Practice safe sects!

08 May 2009

The friday joke is back...The wisdom of Peter Kay

1) Triangular sandwiches taste better than square ones.
2) At the end of every party there is always a girl crying.
3) One of the most awkward things that can happen in a pub is when your pint-to-toilet cycle gets synchronised with a complete stranger.
4) Sharpening a pencil with a knife makes you feel really manly.
5) You're never quite sure whether it's against the law or not to have a fire in your back garden.
6) Nobody ever dares make cup-a-soup in a bowl.
7) You never know where to look when eating a banana.
8) You always feel a bit scared when stroking horses.
9) The smaller the monkey the more it looks like it would kill you at the first given opportunity.
10) Every bloke has at some stage while taking a pee, flushed half way through and then raced against the flush.
11) Its impossible to look cool whilst picking up a Frisbee.
12) Driving through a tunnel makes you feel excited.
13) Old ladies can eat more than you think.
14) You can't respect a man who carries a dog.
15) Despite constant warning, you have never met anybody who has had their arm broken by a swan.
16) You've turned into your dad the day you put aside a thin piece of wood specifically to stir paint with.
17) Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

1) Why does your gynaecologist leave the room when you get undressed?
2) If a person owns a piece of land do they own it all the way down to the core of the earth?
3) Why can't women put on mascara with their mouth closed?
4) Is it possible to brush your teeth without wiggling your bottom?
5) Why is it called Alcoholics Anonymous when the first thing you do is stand up and say, 'My name is Peter and I am an alcoholic'
6) Why are they called stairs inside but steps outside?
7) Why is there a light in the fridge and not in the freezer?
8) Why does mineral water that 'has trickled through mountains for centuries' have a 'use by' date?
9) Why do toasters always have a setting that burns the toast to a horrible crisp no one would eat?
10) Is French kissing in France just called kissing?
11) Who was the first person to look at a cow and say, 'I think I'll squeeze these dangly things here and drink whatever comes out'?
12) What do people in China call their good quality plates?
13) Why do people point to their wrist when asking for the time, but don't point to their crotch when they ask where the bathroom is?
14) What do you call male ballerinas?
15) Why is a person that handles your money called a 'Broker'?
16) If quizzes are quizzical, what are tests?
17) If corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil is made from vegetables, then what is baby oil made from?
18) Why is it that when someone tells you that there are over a billion stars in the universe, you believe them, but if they tell you there is wet paint somewhere, you have to touch it to make sure.

04 May 2009

Panties on a bull; tales from the Rodeo

In Utah having just attended/helped to run, an excellent field course. Then spent 3 days in the field with Tore (new student) who has taken to things like the proverbial duck. It's great to see the place through fresh eyes, really reminds me of when I was first out here back in the early 90's.

On that note here is a tale from back in 1995 which I wrote a while ago. I will write more about this field season when I get a few spare moments. In the meantime back to 1995 and the Price Rodeo...


So its back in 1995, I have been working in Utah for the three months, doing field work, camping out and generally enjoying the summer. It’s my second field season and things on the fun front have got a whole lot better since I met two, unrelated people, Lance and Andy.

Lance is a Marxist academic who works summers as a river guide whilst completing PhD on Henry Thorue. Lance introduced me to the guys at Crate which, in addition to giving me fun people to party with in Green River also got me on great trips on all of the big rivers in the western US, including the Colorado in Grand Canyon. Andy is a mormon local from Price who I met in Pizza hut when I couldn’t pay a bill. Andy is a climber and all round great guy. He is one of those people who makes things happen and in Andy’s case they are usually dangerous and very funny at the same time. In the words of one of his brothers “when we go on Andy’s adventures we have a whole lot of fun, somebody always get hurt but we have fun”.

So I had known Andy for a couple of months, we had climbed some sandstone cracks, camped in the desert, thrashed his truck and generally had a fun summer. It was now about two weeks before I was due to leave and he comes up to me one day and says
“Wanna go in the Rodeo?”
This doesn’t sound too bright, “What do I have to do, ride a bull?” Says me, knowing this is not going to be a good idea but also knowing that I will probably say yes.
“Nope its called steer dressing, you just gotta stick some panties on a small bull”
Why, seems an obvious question that didn’t actually come out at the time.
“It’s the competition for all the non-pros that want to participate rather than just watch the rodeo” he continues. “It will be fun…”

He goes on to explain that you have 8 or 10 teams of 3 people in the ring, the steers are released and you have to wrestle it to the ground and stick some panties on its back legs. How hard can it be? So I agree.

A few days later and the Rodeo is in town. I meet up with Andy and he introduces me to Sven – a monster of a Swede who is on a one year exchange at the college. Looking at this guy I figure the cow will just lie down and submit? I begin to feel more positive about the whole thing and we discuss some tactics. Andy will get it around the neck, I’ll rubgy tackle the back legs and Sven will knock it over and put the pants on. How hard can it be?

So the show starts up. We try not to laugh at the sincerity with which the Americans clutch their hearts at the anthem, the brits are simply too cynical for such nonsense. Then we watch various Rodeo stuff which is pretty entertaining and try not to think too hard about what is coming. After a couple of hours they announce the steer dressing and we head towards the ring. Andy disappears for a moment and then comes back to say that he has had a chat with the organizer and arranged for us to have the most psycho bull. “Why” does cross my mind this time.

So we stand in the ring with all the other teams, milling about. Then we are directed to the gates and I look at our steer, it does look slightly mad as it slowly and methodically butts it’s head against the steel gate. It also looks kinda big. Hmm maybe this wasn’t such a bright idea?

Then before there is any chance to think twice, a buzzer sounds and all hell breaks loose. The gate opens and I think, “in for a penny…” and lurch at the steers back legs whilst Andy grabs its neck. The steer promptly takes off around the ring with both of us hanging on, we collide with another, equally out of control team and I get trampled all over and let go. By the time I stand up, our bull is on the other side of the ring with Andy still attached to its neck. I can see it’s getting tired so I jump up and run across, put my shoulder down and hit its back legs hard in a rugby tackle. Nothing happens and I bounce off! So I get up, abandon the rugby tactics and just grab the back leg furthest away from me and pull until the steer goes over.

I am suddenly aware that the crowd is going wild; we are the first team to have our bull on the floor despite all the bad technique. So we are both lying on top of it and we look at Sven, who despite his size hasn’t really done anything yet. He has the panties and he is trying to decide which way around they should go. Above all the noise I am just screaming at him “put the fuckin pants on the bull, just do it” while the unfortunate animal is thrashing about beneath us.

While Sven continues to consider the panties and look at them from various direction, inside and out, somebody else gets there bull to the ground and does the business. We come a rather surprising, but also a bit disappointing, second. We let the steer up and it bounds away kicking its back legs and shredding the panties.

Everyone is cheering and laugh and then just staring at me… I am aware that my t-shirt is shredded and there are some fairly big rake marks across my chest, but they seem more interested in my face. Somebody says that I need to go and see the rodeo nurse and I am pointed towards a caravan with a big red cross on the side. The nurse checks me over and there seems to be equal concern about the sight from my large bruised and blood shot eye and whether I have broken any ribs. I am so hyped on the adrenaline that I can’t feel anything, at least until the nurse pokes my ribs. It hurts but apparently not enough to impress the nurse who has seen it all before and after a quick sight test I am dispatched with a clean, if slightly battered, bill of health. Back at the stands some local guys seem highly amused by the dumb foreigner and several offer to take me bull riding. I decline I have had enough of cows for this month.

That night we camp in Panther Canyon and the beer and banter flow around the camp fire. This is field work in Utah at it’s best, good friends and good times. Next day I have to drive to Wyoming for a conference while the Gary, Jo and Keith head to the Grand Canyon.

Twelve hours in the car and things are stiffening up and starting to ache. I arrive that evening and am greeted by Roy, who being Glaswegian and seeing my black eye assumes I must have been fighting. I lift my shirt and show him all the bruises on my chest while telling my tale. He is obviously amused.

Sometime later a very senior and very straight, east-coast academic asks Roy who I was and how I got the bruises. Roy just says “och that’s John, he was trying to pout some panties on a bull…”
After a long, considered pause the Professor replies,
“hmmm panties on a bull. That’s the most ridiculous thing I ever heard!”

I had to agree…