30 June 2009

Friday Joke - something topical

I have resisted the temptation to be topical and post a large stack of Jacko jokes, about him tripping over prams and blaming it on the buggy; being recycled into any number of childrens toys; about asking the ambulance man to take him to the childrens ward etc etc. I figure you've heard them all already anyway...

So here is something that is always topical if you live in Norway.

A father walks into a restaurant with his young son. He gives the young boy 3 pennies to play with to keep him occupied while he goes to order.

Suddenly, the boy starts choking, going blue in the face.The father realizes the boy has swallowed the pennies and starts slapping him on the back.

The boy coughs up 2 of the pennies, but keeps choking. Looking at his son,the father is panicking, shouting for help.

A well dressed, attractive, and serious looking woman, in a blue business suit is sitting at a coffee bar reading a newspaper and sipping a cup of coffee. At the sound of the commotion, she looks up,puts her coffee cup down, neatly folds the newspaper and places it on the counter, gets up from her seat and makes her way,unhurried, across the restaurant.

Reaching the boy, the woman carefully drops his pants; takes hold of the boy's testicles and starts to squeeze and twist, gently at first and then ever so firmly.. After a few seconds the boy convulses violently and coughs up the last penny, which the woman deftly catches in her free hand.

Releasing the boy's testicles, the woman hands the penny to the father and walks back to her seat at the coffee bar without saying a word.

As soon as he is sure that his son has suffered no ill effects, the father rushes over to the woman and starts thanking her saying, "I've never seen anybody do anything like that before, it was fantastic. Are you a doctor? "

'No,' the woman replied. I am a Tax Collecter

28 June 2009


Interesting post from Ian at Hypo-theses about what inspired him to become a geologist. This is part of a thread accumulating at Volcanista under the "Accretionary Wedge" festival.

A couple of things influenced my career choice. I grew up on a small farm in mid-Wales and always enjoyed being outdoors, I knew from a pretty early age that I didn't want to be stuck in an office wearing a suit. Infact it never really occured to me that I cound end up in an office. I knew that I was going to work out doors and it would be something that involved both my hands and my brain.

The second major influence on my career direction was my parents. Before settling on the farm, both of them had travelled extensively. My mother had toured the US, Canada and Europe with a Circus in the 1950's and my father had spent 17 years in the far and middle East with the Special Forces and later as a mercenary. I grew up in a world where far-away places were desirable and obtainable, you just had to want it and work for it!

By the age of 15 I had already dropped the idea of farming, long days, bugger all money and no travel. I briefly considered being a vet but soon found out that I was not smart enough. After that I started to consider forestry, I knew how to use a chainsaw and had met some people who had worked in Canada and parts of Africa, it sounded like it fitted the bill.

Then at some point around the age of 15 I read a novel called "Landslide" by Desmond Bagley. The lead character was a geologist working on a site survey for a dam in BC, camping-out in remote terrain and mapping. This simple story, combined with a strong love of physical geography, which had been inspired by a great teacher called Michael Trew planted a seed. The more I read about the early oil explorationists in North Africa and the Far East the more I knew that I found something that was both interesting and could also give the lifestyle that I wanted.

At my school Geology was only an option at A'level*. It was an odd set up where you took both the O' and A'level in two years. I returned to the sixth form and signed up, also taking Biology as a way of keeping the Forestry option open.

The geology teacher was a nice guy, but had some pretty dated views on the subject. We learned about mio-eu-geosynclines, continental drift and various other 1950's concepts which had filled the text books when he had been a student. Totally unaware of how completely dated all this material was, I lapped it up. Come the final exam I was the only person in the class to pass, infact I was the first person in 10 years to pass, and although not great, the grade that was just enough to get me to Cardiff Uni. Nice guy, shitte geologist.

Cardiff was a whole new World, some awesome lectures who really got my started. The rest, as they say is history...

To be continued...

* Note to readers who are not middle aged Brits - an A'level is the exam you take at aged 18(ish) at the end of your school career. Most students do 3 or 4 subjects. The choice and results have a major impact on your subsequent career path. O'levels were the exams that you took at 16. Most people did a broad spread of subjects and the results of these determined which A'levels you could do. They have since been replaced with something called GCSE. I am too middle aged to understand how these are actually any different and why this was not just a cynical re-branding exercise.

26 June 2009

Friday Fun - more Irish humour

Today's friday fun, shamelessly stolen from Angharad (again)...
I am home alone this weekend and the weather looks amazing. Not sure what to do yet - climb, kayak, play in the boat, finish the terrace, go to the Extreme Sport festival in Voss? The list of possibilites is almost endless - you have to love western Norway in the summer!

The Joke...

Six retired Irishmen are playing poker in O'Leary's apartment when Paddy Murphy loses $500.00 on a single hand, clutches his chest, and drops dead at the table. Showing respect for their fallen brother, the other five continue playing standing up.

Michael O'Conner looks around and asks, "Oh, me boys, someone got's to tell Paddy's wife. Who will it be?" They draw straws. Paul Gallagher picks the short one. They tell him to be discreet, be gentle, don't make a bad situation any worse.

"Discreet??? I'm the most discreet Irishmen you'll ever meet. Discretion Is me middle name. Leave it to me."

Gallagher goes over to Murphy's house and knocks on the door.
Mrs. Murphy answers, and asks what he wants.
Gallagher declares, "Your husband just lost $500.00 at the poker, and is afraid to come home."

"The useless bastard" Proclaims the Wife. Tell him to drop dead!".

"I'll go tell him." says Gallagher.

23 June 2009

Midsummers Eve in Norway

This is how the celebrate the longest day of the year in Norway...

They do it on the 23rd June (which I havn't quite figured yet since the longest day is the 21st) and it's invariably raining...

22 June 2009

Alcohol and Latitude...

Through extensive travel and a lot of tough field work I have noticed an interesting link between three inter-related phenomena that I would like you to consider. These are
1. Latitude
2. The cost of alcohol
3. Social attitudes to being drunk

At lower latitudes, such as Spain or Italy alcohol is very cheap and lots of people drink but it’s not acceptable to be drunk – very uncool. A bit further north in France for example, the booze is still cheap, but to be a little tipsy is ok, but not encouraged. Into Germany, Holland and Belgium and the booze is getting more expensive and people drink more, not generally to get trashed, but they have their moments, mainly at parties and beer festivals.

Northwards in to the UK and the stuff is starting to get expensive and getting drunk becomes much more acceptable. On any Saturday night the local town centre is a war zone of trashed people, stumbling, vomiting, fighting and trying to get laid. Nobody seems to really care but there is still a bit of shame the next day.

As we move further north into Scandinavia getting trashed moves from something that is accepted to something that is a positive badge of honour. There is no shame to being wasted at pretty much any festive occasion. The booze is also getting pricey and people find creative ways to get trollied. On a Saturday evening the streets are full of smartly dressed young people with carrier bags of clinking bottles heading to a friends apartment for a forspeil (literally foreplay). They will drink a bottle of gin and then head out to town at midnight already totally trashed. The older generation tackle the expensive alcohol problem in a different way. They generally reserve their drinking for sponsored company events when somebody else is paying. Then the go wild and destroy the bar. The obvious disadvantage of this approach being that your boss, or worse your employees get to see you dancing half naked on a table at 2am. This has been tackled by the near total expectance of any drunken behaviour such that nobody is either judgemental or embarrassed.

Meanwhile in the far north, Finland, Russia etc, vodka is on the breakfast menu and the population is in a near permanent state if inebriation.

So the questions are
1. Why does an increase in latitude encourage increased consumption of alcohol?
2. Is the high price up north a failed attempt to stop people drinking more?
3. Does the high price make it more social acceptable to get drunk i.e. if you can afford to be that trashed you must be holding down a good job?

And now just to prove that it must be real science – a graph!

19 June 2009

Friday Joke - The luck of the Irish

Pretty busy this week so I have copied this one from Angharad. Have a good weekend. I have a big pile of jobs to do...

Some years ago, Paddy married an attractive woman, Maggie, half his age, in a small coastal Irish community.

After several months, Maggie complained that she had never climaxed during sex and according to her Grandmother all Irish women are entitled to a climax once in a while.

So, to resolve the problem and since there was no trustworthy doctor anywhere in the village, they went to see the Veterinarian. The Vet didn't have a clue, but he did recall how, during the hot summer, his mother and father would fan a cow that was having difficulty breeding, with a big towel. This would cool her down and make her relax.

So Paddy and Maggie hired Sean, a strong, virile young man from Dublin to wave that big towel over them as the Vet suggested in the hope that this would cause the young wife to cool down, relax, then climax.

After a few tries, Maggie still had not climaxed. Getting more and more frustrated Maggie suggested that Paddy and Sean swap over. SO that night they did and Maggie went wild, having several screaming, ear-splitting climaxes, one right after the other for about two and a half hours. When it was over, Paddy looked down at the exhausted young man and, in a boasting voice, said:

"And that, me son, is how ya supposed to wave the bleedin towel."

17 June 2009

Statoilhydro official song!

This is the Statoilhydro official song , it should be the Friday Joke but I just can't wait...

Its so bad it's fantastic. It's like watching a train crash, weirdly compelling but at the same time you know it's a tragedy for all those involved.

But to be fair to the Cornershop, they are not alone.
This is JT's list of Oil Company promotional songs - it just gets better.

Starting with ExxonMobil which is utterly and unbelivably awful the "totally shitte bar is further raised by Shell to the extent that it can't be serious.

And just to prove that the former iron curtian is longer a boundary for taste or talant here is Gazprom's offering.

After those three the Statoilhydro video seems great, think I'll watch it again...
"we are always on top when we go down,
get it up,
drilling is not boring
la la la "

Post Script
Just found the big red - Haliburton
and Aker

The Times...

…used to be a quality respected newspaper with a fairly middle of the road view point and excellent writing. Times journalists were respected the World over.

This week those respected journalists took time off from dealing with really important stuff (like Iran) to expend effort "outing a blogger". They applied the best of their hooned journalistic skills to unearthing and then publishing the identity of someone who was publishing a popular and interesting blog under an anonymous identity. This was supposedly done "in the public interest".

The blog in question was NightJack and the blogger was a serving police office. So it's pretty easy to see why he would want to stay anonymous, both from the perps he put away and his bosses. The blog was honest, gritty and fairly entertaining. It was also very popular, read by literally hundreds of thousands of people per week and winning the Orwell prize for political writing in April 2009. It provided a great insight into the trials and tribulations of being in the force and put a human face on a bunch of people who are not always super-popular with the public. And now thanks to some scumbag jorno at the Times it's gone.

A few points that should be considered here…
1. The guy blogged anonymously for a reason.
2. Journalists are the first to try and protect the anonymity of their sources, how is this different?
3. The Times online actually includes an anonymous blog called babybarrista which is an inside view of the legal profession. How hypocritical is that?
4. The Judge at the case, Mr Justice Eady is at best inconsistent, having ruled that Max Mosley could get beaten by german hookers in private.

On top of the sheer hypocrisy, I simple fall to see how this piece of tabloid style gutter journalism has done anyone any good. A cheap story at the price of the loss of the blog. Worse than that, this case has huge implications for bloggers in the future.

11 June 2009

Friday Joke - Palaeontology

This is a bit of an oldie, but I love it. Apparantly it is a real letter sent from the Smithsonian Mueseum to an avid fossil hunter - even if not true it's still pretty funny. Have a good weekend, friday I will be on a flight back to Norway, no real plans for the weekend, except Katharine's mother is visiting - fingers crossed for nice weather.
Paleoanthropology Division
Smithsonian Institute
207 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20078

Dear Sir:

Thank you for your latest submission to the Institute, labeled "211-D, layer seven, next to the clothesline post. Hominid skull."

We have given this specimen a careful and detailed examination,and regret to inform you that we disagree with your theory that it represents "conclusive proof of the presence of Early Man in Charleston County two million years ago." Rather, it appears that what you have found is the head of a Barbie doll, of the variety one of our staff, who has small children, believes to be the "Malibu Barbie". It is evident that you have given a great deal of thought to the analysis of this specimen, and you may be quite certain that those of us who are familiar with your prior work in the field were loath to come to contradiction with your findings.

However, we do feel that there are a number of physical attributes of the specimen which might have tipped you off to its modern origin:
1. The material is molded plastic. Ancient hominid remains are typically fossilized bone.
2. The cranial capacity of the specimen is approximately 9 cubic centimeters, well below the threshold of even the earliest identified proto-hominids.
3. The dentition pattern evident on the "skull" is more consistent with the common domesticated dog than it is with the "ravenous man-eating Pliocene clams" you speculate roamed the wetlands during that time. This latter finding is certainly one of the most intriguing hypotheses you have submitted in your history with this institution, but the evidence seems to weigh rather heavily against it. Without going into too much detail, let us say that:
A. The specimen looks like the head of a Barbie doll that a dog has chewed on.
B. Clams don't have teeth.

It is with feelings tinged with melancholy that we must deny your request to have the specimen carbon dated. This is partially due to the heavy load our lab must bear in its normal operation, and partly due to carbon dating's notorious inaccuracy in fossils of recent geologic record. To the best of our knowledge, no Barbie dolls were produced prior to 1956 AD, and carbon dating is likely to produce wildly inaccurate results. Sadly, we must also deny your request that we approach the National Science Foundation's Phylogeny Department with the concept of assigning your specimen the scientific name "Australopithecus spiff-arino." Speaking personally, I, for one, fought tenaciously for the acceptance of your proposed taxonomy, but was ultimately voted down because the species name you selected was hyphenated, and didn't really sound like it might be Latin.

However, we gladly accept your generous donation of this fascinating specimen to the museum. While it is undoubtedly not a hominid fossil, it is, nonetheless, yet another riveting example of the great body of work you seem to accumulate here so effortlessly. You should know that our Director has reserved a special shelf in his own office for the display of the specimens you have previously submitted to the Institution, and the entire staff speculates daily on what you will happen upon next in your digs at the site you have discovered in your back yard. We eagerly anticipate your trip to our nation's capital that you proposed in your last letter, and several of us are pressing the Director to pay for it. We are particularly interested in hearing you expand on your theories surrounding the "trans-positating fillifitation of ferrous ions in a structural matrix" that makes the excellent juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex femur you recently discovered take on the deceptive appearance of a rusty 9-mm Sears Craftsman automotive crescent wrench.

Yours in Science,

Harvey Rowe
Curator, Antiquities

The rise of fascism

It's interesting and a bit scary to see that as soon as the economy starts to go to crap, the far-right appears from the gutter. Stupid people the World over become more protectionist and seek to blame someone else who looks a bit different for their problems.

This has been evident in a series of unrelated events in the last week.
In the European elections in the UK the BNP just won their first two seats. Whilst many have been quick to point out that this has more to do with voter dissatisfaction with main stream politics than a shift to the right. This disatisfaction is not without good reason but being pissed off with your MP for swindling his or her expenses does not seem like a very good reason to allow a bunch of bigoted, scum bags to have a forum. When a bear comes to eat you just saying "I'll stand still because I don't want to climb trees today" is not going to stop you getting mauled.

Meanwhile in the US, George Tiller a doctor who performed abortions was shot dead in church by a "pro-life" activist Scott Roeder. I am sure that I am not alone in detecting a stench of irony and hypocrisy in the phrase "pro-life". Whilst those who claim to be pro-life will say this psychopaths' actions were protecting the life of someone who is innocent, they would not rush to ban war or even the death sentence, despite the fact that both will result in the death of innocent people. See cdk007's excellent youtube site for a more in depth discussion on that point.

The final horrible piece of news is the death of security guard Stephen Johns while on duty at the Holocaust Museum in New York. John's was shot by an 88 year old White supremacist called James von Brunn who went on a rampage at the museum with a hunting rifle. How full of hate and loathing must the sad, pathetic old man have been to want to just go and kill random people?

But of course the real irony is that the religious right in the US is absolutely no different to the Taliban who they purport to have a moral high ground over. Both believe that their God has given them the absolute right to murder people with a different point of view; both groups denounce science and promote ignorance and both want to inflict a barbaric, misogynistic, old testament way of life on the population.

Maybe there is something positive in all of this. Maybe having a liberal, black president is drawing all the nutcases out of the wood work. Maybe seeing minor BNP success in a fairly insignificant round of elections will galvanise people and stem voter apathy. Seeing the fat sweaty form of Nick Griffin, spotting ignorance and hate on the TV will make people realise that, yes Labour have abandoned the working class but no fascism is never the answer.

10 June 2009

The floor of champions

I wouldn't normally bother writing about a hotel but this one is great. Staying at the Curtis Hotel and its all very nice but slightly wacky. The floors are all themed so that when the lift stops you get an annoucement. I am on the 10th floor and when you arrive Rocky music plays and a voice says "welcome to the 10th floor, the floor of champions"

Others include the one hit wonder floor (5th) and the floor of love (4th)

Sounds crap but for some reason it works...


In Denver for a conference which is going fine, usual round of science and socializing. Great to catch up with people like Roy, Nige, Bruce and others. Gave a talk which seemed to be fairly well recieved, lots of networking and a fair bit of bullshitting. Denver is a great city, Roy and I headed up to the hills on Sunday for a few hours and a bit of a walk. It snowed!

Plenty of drinking but all a lot quiter than the first time we were here but that stories for another day...

Back to Norway on Friday...

08 June 2009

The invisible queue

I am stood at the bar, it’s Friday evening and the pub is busy. The crowd is a diverse mix of students, suits and tradesmen, clustered in groups and speaking loudly to make them selves heard. The bar itself is busy but not too crowded and as I move in and perch my elbows on the wooden surface I subconsciously note the people already being served and those waiting. The bar staff are efficient and nobody is stressed, both the bar staff and those waiting instinctively know who is next and people take their turn. A new barman comes in from the back room and approaches our end of the bar. He gestures to the large tattooed and shaven headed guy who has just appeared at my side. He immediately and without fuss, defers to me just saying “this fellas was ere first”. I nod appreciation with a quick “cheers mate” and place my order.

This is the “invisible queue* in action. It’s a British thing and it works amazingly well. Nobody is lined up, but everyone at the bar knows their place and the place of those around them. Nobody tries to get served faster or earlier and everyone is happy. What is most interesting is that nobody ever taught us this, it just happens automatically. Most people are not even aware that it is happening it just a part of the etiquette.

Meanwhile back in Norway and I am standing at a bar, I suggest to the barman that the women next to me might have been before me and she is straight in without any acknowledgement. Just as she is getting served I am elbowed in the side of the head by a guy who forces his way through the waiting people and leans right across the bar waving money and shouting at the barman. When I turn and suggest to him that he may like to wait his turn he looks at me with totally incredulity, like I am some sort of idiot.

Were ever the “invisible queue” came from in the British national psyche, you can be pretty sure that it didn’t come with the Vikings.

(*The concept of the invisible queue was first coined by Kate Fox in her excellent book, “Watching the English)

06 June 2009

Back in the UK for the first time in ages...

On a whistle stop tour of the UK and then on to the US. Flew in Wednesday night and stayed out in Horsham in Sussex. It was unexpectedly nice! Got in late in the evening, just enough time to grab a couple of pints of proper beer in a pleasant little pub. Dataroom on thursday, then up to London. Spent Thursday evening writing the final report on a Phd which was then examined at Imperial on Friday. The exam went fine and she passed. We started drinking champagne which went on until we started drinking beer which went on until midnight when Gary and I went for a curry in South Ken.

A few things really struck me about being back in the UK after so long...

1. Nice beer - great to have a pint of IPA, Pedigree etc

2. Cars on the "other side" of the road, Lars Kristian almost got run over several time, I am just confused

3. Plugs that you need to turn on - phone won't charge if you don't flick that switch. How come the rest of the World manages without a switch?

4. Strangers acknowledge that you exist. All sorts of little incidents

5. Things are cheap. Two curries, a starter, nice, nam bread , beers, 40 quid. Bargain!

6. The countryside seems incredibly green and luxuriant, not sure why this is, maybe because of the broad leaved trees.

7. The traffic moves fast, just watching the cyclists weaving through it makes me feel nervous

8. The language thing... after 7 years of just switching off and filtering out the sing-song noise it's really strange to keep catching snippets of peoples conversation

9. Veggie food - lots of it. Too much choice!

I can't believe that I just wrote 1, 4 and 5 about the SE of England and London in particular.

02 June 2009

Runnin down the road trying to loosen my load...

I am not the biggest Eagles fan but I grew up listening to "One of these Nights" and "Hotel California" and they were definitely a part of my teenage years. When you live in North Wales it's easy to try and imagine that being a beach bum in Rhyl is just like being in California (it isn't!).

So I was pretty keen to see them live when I heard they were coming to the big B. Seeing bands in Bergen is always a treat because you get to see stadium bands in a small castle with a few thousand people, rather than at the back of some huge arena. There are some downsides, which include -
The atmosphere - open air, broad daylight, doesn't really create an intermit environment, feels more like some festival warm up
The weather - this time it was great - it can be very grim, standing in the rain for 4 hours
The people - or at least some of them! There is a special kind of person who goes to concerts in Bergen, typically middle aged women with perma-tans and awful dress sense, who just stands with their back to the stage and talk endlessly at their friends. Why the fuck are they there? They should have just saved the money and gone to the pub or a restaurant and left the people who want to see the band enjoy the show.

Anyway it’s still great to see big bands, pretty close up and its fantastic that the likes of the Foo Fighters, Metallica, the Eagles, Bruce Springsteen etc all come to a small town, population 250 thousand.

So back to the Eagles. They played for just under 3 hours (with a smoke break at half time). Very professional show, sound was great, visuals were also really impressive and entertaining. Very polite and gracious with a hint of humour thrown in. It must be shitte to know that all the crowd really wants to hear are the old favorites and you have played them a billion times! But it didn’t stop them, they played all the songs I wanted to hear including Hotel Calif., Long Run, Take it Easy, Life in the Fast Lane, finishing up with Desparado just for Katharine. They also played Don Henlys "Boys of Summer" which so reminds me of being 17, I could almost taste the summer of 1985 in North Wales!

Overall, very glad we went, another great band ticked off.

Long weekend at home...

Very pleasent long weekend at the evil lair. The weather is stunning, blue skies, great sunsets.

Saturday went climbing with Katharine and Alex, 5 or 6 routes, not too bad considering I haven't climbed for a couple of months. Saturday night we had a bbq on the terrace, drunk wine and watched the sunset. Sunday played with my boat and got it started. Then later went for a ride on my new road bike, which is rather good. It feels like you are flying, even up the hills! Don't think I'll ever be a super keen cyclist but as a lard reduction exercise it beats sitting in the gym.

Monday pottered around the garden, mowed lawn, cut wood, cleaned old boat etc, then rode new bike into town and went to see the Eagles which was also pretty damned good. I am not their biggest fan but I think at some point in your life, everyone should hear "Hotel California" live.

Life in western Norway at it's best...