31 July 2009

Friday Joke - Swine Flu

Was in Houston last week and got back to Norway at the weekend. KLM managed to transport me and all my bags without mishap which is a bit of a miracle and an improvment on the way out.

It's been a busy week at work and not much play. Got my boat back from the menders on monday and it seems to be going pretty well. Was also cheaper than expected. Took the fat cat to the vet who said that she needed to go on reduced rations...

Bergen is empty and the weather is shitte - summer in western Norway!

Swine flu is topical at the moment so here's the friday joke...

See somegreyblokes take on it all as well, some interesting theories abound

25 July 2009

Things that kids today will never understand...

I remember my Grandfather, who was born in 1912, telling me that he had lived through the most dramatic period of change in World history. By that he meant that he had seen a World with virtually no cars on the roads, no universal electricity, telephones etc. evolve to a World which put men on the moon and had supersonic passenger aircraft. However, he died in about 1981 and never saw a computer.

Born in the late 1960's I would suggest that in my life time the degree of change has been even greater. So I started thinking about the things of my youth that have been totally eclipsed by technology. Things that a child growing up today would never experience - here's a list of few in no particular order, if you can think of any more I'd love to hear them so leave a comment...

1. Sitting in the hall way at home talking on a telephone that is attached to a cable
2. Watching movies on video (VHS and Betmax)
3. Typewriters
4. Music on vinyl that got scratched or cassettes that stretched or snapped
5. Getting a cable to connect two tape machines so that you could make mix tapes for parties, journeys and friends. The rich kids had twin cassette machines.
6. Travelling with a Sony Walkman and a selection of tapes
7. Not being able to contact people at all times - making a plan and then having to stick to it.
8. Having a diary and an address book.
9. There only being 3 TV channels
10. Houses with just single glazing and no heating
11. Cars without central locking
12. Cars that could be started with a starter handle (yes I really do remember that)
13. No telephone answering machines (voice mail), if they didn’t answer you just rang back later.
14. A world where shops opened from 9-5 and were closed on Sundays and holidays (hanging I live in Norway, its still like that here!)
15. A world without computers
16. Computers that were just stand alone
17. Sending birthday cards to people
18. Dialing on a rotary telephone
19. Being excited about getting post
20. The filofax
21. TV channels that shut down at night
22. Learning to climb by just going out trad climbing. No walls, no sports routes, no bouldering
23. A world without McDonalds in the UK - it arrived when I was about 22!
24. Being served petrol by an attendant at the petrol station
25. Getting paid in cash in a brown envelope that was filled out with details of all your deductions in special boxes
26. Computers that just ran on floppy disks
27. Computers were software was loaded from a cassette player
28. A World without big brother
29. Teletext
30. Computers with green screens, that replaced just using the TV as a monitor
31. Sending your camera film off to be developed
32. Using cash
33. Scheduling at least some of your life around the timing of the TV shows you wanted to watch.
34. An alarm clock that you have to wind up
35. Using log tables
36. Using stereonets
37. Chequebooks
38. Using a travel agent to book a flight
39. Meeting your bank manager
40. Navigating using just a map and compass

20 July 2009

Another great day with KLM

Sunday was heading to the land of the large with my favorite airline. Left Bergen fine and met Aris in Skipole. Then things started to go downhill.

The Houston flight was cancelled, no explanation just a 737 full of angry business class people all waving gold and platinium cards talking loadly at their travel agents down the phone will arguing with the people at the check in desk.

We managed to get booked on to a flight for Monday but it was very interesting to watch the fairly blatant way that the airline lie. They are pathalogical liers. We are sat there talking to a nice smiling lady who tells us that there is no way we can travel today and no direct flights tomorrow. She says all this whilst pointing at the computer and looking apologetic. Later we talk to people behind us in the queue who got put directly on early morning direct flights. I understand that they had more expensive tickets than us, I just wish the airline would be open and honest. Why can't they just say"you have a cheap ticket and your at the bottom of the shit heap, loser!"

But the exercise is not without some entertainment as the large, heavily tattoed Brit replies to request of "is there anywhere else you would like to go near Houston?" With "yes the Bahahmas would be nice!" To which the KLM woman loses the plot totally!

So then they send us to a hotel and we have to wait over an hour for a shuttle bus. We keep calling the bus and the hotel keeps saying "10 minutes!". When they eventually arrive and take us to the hotel we are told to stay outside for "10 minutes" because there is a fire alarm.

One hour later we are still outside and the alarm turns into a real fire, so they open the bar and start dishing out free beer.

Start chatting to a few folks, everyone on the way to Houston is in the oil field. Large tatooed guy turns out to be a "security expert" who clears land mines. He keeps us going with a plethora of funny stories and amusing observations, such as asking for a smoking room and being told they were all non-smoking. Apart from the ones that are on fire, he quips!

Another hour later and we eventually get to check in.

I head up to Den Hag to meet up with Pete and Caroline who I havn't seen in years. We go for a curry and a few beers and catch up.

Another great KLM cock-up but at least it had its funny moments.

17 July 2009

Friday Joke - Word play

The Washington Post has published the top submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words. The winners are:
1. Coffee (n.) - the person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted (adj.) - appalled over how much weight you have gained.
3. Abdicate (v.) - to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade (v.) - to attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly (adj.) - impotent.
6. Negligent (adj.) - a condition in which you absent-mindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
7. Lymph (v.) - to walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle (n.) - olive-flavored mouthwash.
9. Flatulence (n.) - emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash (n.) - a rapidly receding hairline.
11. Testicle (n.) - a humorous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude (n.) - the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokemon (n) - a Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Circumvent (n.) - an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

The Post's Style Invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are this year's winners:
1. Bozone (n.) - The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
2. Cashtration (n.) - The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
3. Giraffiti (n) - Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
4. Sarchasm (n) - The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
5. Inoculatte (v) - To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
6. Hipatitis (n) - Terminal coolness.
7. Osteopornosis (n) - A degenerate disease.
8. Karmageddon (n) - It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.
9. Decafalon (n.) - The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
10. Glibido (v) - All talk and no action.
11. Dopeler effect (n) - The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
12. Arachnoleptic fit (n.) - The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
13. Beelzebug (n.) - Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
14. Caterpallor (n.) - The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.

And the pick of the literature:
Ignoranus (n) - A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

12 July 2009

Take your 40 grand a year and shove it...

We are camped in a small gully, the low rock walls shelter us from the wind. The fire is providing heat for the blackened cast iron poki-pot that contains our supper and for us as the sun dips below the hills. All around the barren desert terrain takes on a gentle reddish glow as bright daylight passes quickly to dark night. Nige stokes the fire and sips his beer while discussing the merits of various gritstone E3s (climbing routes in north England). This is how we have spent most of our evening for the last two months. This is field week in northern Namibia, one of the most remote places on earth.

But tonight is different, because just as we settle into our evening routine a convoy of 4x4's comes over the horizon. These are the first people we had encountered in the field since we got here. We had sort of known that they were coming, but this is the days before mobile and satellite phones and there is no email. When you went to the field – you cut yourself off from everything and then emerged a couple of months later with notebooks filled with data. So we knew a group might turn but had no idea where or when.

The trip is from an oil company called Enterprise and was being lead by Dougal. Dougal had been with us since we first started working in Namibia and knows this area as well as we do. His entourage however had no place being outside an office in London. We greet them and they eye us suspiciously. We were suddenly aware of our appearance. Wearing the same clothes for 2 months, with no water to wash anything more than your teeth can make one look a bit rough and when you both smell as bad as each other, you don’t tend to notice.

As soon as the group disappeared to set up there tents Dougal lets out a tirade about how useless they were, how they drive at 10 mph on the dirt roads and how the moaned about camping. Moaned about camping! They had tents, which we never used – it doesn’t rain, why would you need a tent? They also had a cook, fresh meat, loads of water and they are only out for three nights.

A bit later they joined us by the fire and one particularly obnoxious individual sat next to me and in a loud, public school voice attempted to socialize
“So how long have you chaps been out here?”
“About two months”
“My Gawd! Bet your looking forward to getting home”
“Not really, I am quite happy here” I say, while I am thinking, what a wanker, this is one of the most amazing places on earth and he’s more worried about missing the pub on Sunday and the squash club.
“Is it just the two of you? You must be getting on each other nerves a bit”
“Actually no, we get on just fine” which was true.
“So your doing a PhD then”
“Nope, I am a lecturer and he’s a post-doc”
“Blimey!” He blustered and then continued, “I thought about being an academic but the pay was so crap! What do you earn?
I have heard similar statements before and I am always amazed by the arrogance of someone who thinks being an academic is an easy option...
“About 16 grand a year” I reply reluctantly
“Sixteen grand! That’s terrible, I earn 40,000 pounds a year”
“Good for you” I saw as I get up and go to tend the fire and make sure I don’t go back.

Fuck me, being sociable is hard work after so long in the desert. I go to chat to Paul, their cook. Paul lost a leg to a land mine in Angola, he is a good guy who understands the desert. He sees the ostrich egg bead in my earring, picked up by a 2000 year old fire place in a cave high on a mountainside and we compare notes on various San sites we have found.

We camp with them for two nights. They are not all as obnoxious as Mr 40-grand-a-year, but they are out of their depth. They fail to appreciate the beauty of the desert, focusing only on the discomfort of the spiky bushes, the dust in the food and the problems of shitting outdoors. One girl throws her socks into the bin and Paul tells me she has done that every morning. I later catch Nige, picking the socks out of the rubbish because they are so much cleaner than the pair he is wearing.

And then as quickly as they arrived, they are gone. Back to their idea of civilization, and its just Nige and I in our little camp spot. It’s wonderfully serene. While Nige cooks supper, I climb up the large volcanic plug behind the camp. Scrambling over the sharp jagged rocks is therapeutic and I focus on moving faster and faster as I race the sunset. Just below the summit I find a comfortable spot, out of the cold wind and settle down to take some photographs. As the sun starts to dip below the horizon the sky erupts into a wall of red and the entire Etendeka Plateau is bathed in it's fiery warm light. I can see for hundreds of miles and I am pretty certain that there is not another living person anywhere within my field of view. I drink the silence and contemplate what it all means.

Such sunsets are not unusual and the scenery is the same as it has been for the last two months, but tonight it’s impact is improved by the absence of our recent visitors. I smile as I think to myself, “Fuck you! Take your 40 grand a year and shove it up your arse! This is worth so much more than that and the best thing is, you’re too stupid to actually realize that". I also know at the point that I love my life, I love the places it has taken me, I love what I do and I am immensly happy. I appreciate that 3 months sleeping outside in a remote desert is not everyones idea of fun, but I swear I won't let my life change too much as I get older.

I told this story to a few friends and Gareth, who actually worked for Enterprise was able to tell me who the guy was. One time a couple of years later I called Gareth at work and he said, guess who I am sitting next to? I had no idea, even when he said Steve Kenyon-Smyth, I didn’t recognize the name. When he explained it was Mr 40-grand-a-year, I asked how he was.

Fat with two kids – Gareth replied, and that was enough.

10 July 2009

Friday Joke - Teaching Biology

Mr. White, the biology teacher at a posh suburban girls' school, asked during class: "Miss Smith, can you name the organ in the human body that, under the appropriate conditions, expands to six times its normal size, and define the conditions."

Miss Smith gasped, then said snottily: "Mr. White, I don't think that is a proper question to ask me. I assure you that my parents will hear of this." With that, she sat down red-faced.

Unperturbed, Mr. White called on Miss Jones, and asked the same question.

Miss Jones, with complete composure, replied: "The pupil of the eye, in dim light."

"Correct," said Mr. White.

"Now, Miss Smith, I have three things to say to you: one, you have not studied your lessons. Two, you have a dirty mind. And three, someday you will be faced with a dreadful disappointment."

06 July 2009

Life in the Big Brother household...

Had my little brother visiting for the last week – he keeps saying “Day 3 in the big brother house”, in a gordie accent, so it seemed like a fitting title for a post. Apologies to anyone who came here via a search engine whilst looking for info about the mind numbingly dull, reality TV show...

Anyway we’ve had an entertaining and varied week and on the whole the weather has been stunning. Les arrived very late Monday night. Tuesday was my birthday, 42 which is apparently the “meaning of life”, no white mice or vogons but I do know where my towel is. Had a barbq in the evening with a few folk coming over, all very pleasant and civilized. Got lots of nice presi's, so thanks folks.

Wednesday, Les and I tackled the building job that has been taunting me for two years every time I walk up the steps to my car. Not just a question of building a garden wall but also lots of drainage to be put in place. Apparently it rains a lot here! Got a fair bit of it done, including the tricky bits, now I need to wait another two years and then finish the job.

Thursday we took the boat out. All was going well as we skimmed over the mirror like waters, around the back of Lille Sotra. Then I let Les drive and he was having fun, making appreciative noises, just about the time smoke started coming out the engine. Bugger! We let it cool down but it was not looking good, so we bobbed about for a bit and then waved down a passing boat to get towed to the nearest marina. Then called Rolf and he came and towed us home that evening. Not sure what is wrong yet, best guess is a stuck impellor which has buggered the cooling system. Hmm probably going to be expensive.

Friday we pottered about, enjoyed the sunshine and got ready for the weekend. Saturday morning we headed up to Gudvangen with Katharine, Emma and four kayaks to meet Sandy and Helen. After some car shuffling we put the boats in the water at Flåm and started paddling. Now since Emma and Helen and never been in kayaks before and Les, not for a few years there was potential for another epic like the last time so I checked the weather repeatedly and made them practice getting out the boats etc. Fortunatly the water was warm and the tourists were entertained. We then headed off for two days on one of the World’s most outstanding fjord trips.

Saturday afternoon we paddled to the top of Nærøyfjorden and camped on a small headland. Not too many flat spots for the tents but we managed to squeeze on, got a fire going, popped some champagne for Helen’s birthday and cooked food, drank some beer and had a very pleasant evening, retiring to bed at a still very light, midnight.

Next day the weather was a bit more cloudy but still great. Paddled along the amazing Nærøyfjord back to Gudvangen. Finished up at about 3pm, with some tired and sunburnt people but no major incidents. I have done the trip before but never in that direction. The situation is just amazing and it’s definitely worth doing again and again.

Sunday night we returned to Bergen, sorted out the gear and watched some DVDs. All in all a fine week at the Big Brother household.

03 July 2009

Lola's adventure

I am sitting in the house and it's hot, too hot especially when you have a thick black fur coat to wear like me.
They have gone away and left me again... they do this quite a bit, normally when there is lots of that weird white stuff on the ground and also when it's hot like this.
Maybe they don't like the sun either. Maybe they get lost, I went up on the road one time and it was all pretty confusing. I think they get lost a lot.
No worries they always find their way home eventually and when they do get lost they always leave lots of food and water and I have my own door.
It gets kinda lonely without them, there is nobody to play with, but they always find their way home eventually.

Bugger this, it's too hot, think I'll go and check next door, see if it's any cooler there.
The house next door is a big green one with a grumpy old man living upstairs.
In the down stairs flat there was a girl.
Havn't seen her for a while, maybe she got lost?

The door to the downstairs is open, maybe that girl found her way back, think I'll go and see. Nope, no sign of her but it's nice a cool in here, it's really dark.
Think I'll hang out here for a bit.

What's that noise?
I must have been asleep, but I am awake now.
Someone is moving about, it sounds like that grumpy old man coming, quick, under the bed!
I hear him enter the room and then leave again. Then I hear a bang and a clicking sound.

Once I am sure he's gone I slowly poke my head out and the door is shut.
I have a quick wander around and all the windows are shut.
Oh well! Guess I'll go and lie down.

It's dark now and there is nobody around.
I check all the doors and they are still shut.
Oh well, I'll have another sleep.

Morning now and I am feeling a bit hungry, think I'll go home and have some breakfast.
Oh the door is still shut!
Hmm, I'll check the windows.
Nope all still shut.
Never mind I'll have another sleep.

Wake up again and eveything is still quiet.
Go for a wander and see what I can find.
Getting pretty hungry now and also pretty thirsty.
Maybe I can drink some water out of that big wet litter try by the raining room.
Hard to get my head in without falling and it tastes a bit stale, but I am so thirsty I don't care.

The water makes me even more hungry, this is getting boring, when are they coming to collect me?
I need a cuddle and I need some food...

...been here for 3 or maybe 4 days now and I have got into a bit of a routine. Sleep, wander around, get a drink, then sleep some more, it's pretty boring but at least I am losing some weight. Must be down at least half a kilo.
Maybe this is not so bad after all, but I am definitly bored and lonely.
And did I mention hungry, I am bloody hungry.
I hope they are ok, I don't like it when they get lost.
I would hate anything to happen to them...

What's that sound?
Somebody outside the window.
Meow Meow!
If I make enough noise maybe they will come a feed me.
Meow Meow!

It's my mum, she is looking in, quick, go and say hello.
I suddenly realise how much I have missed her.
Hello mum, meow meow.

She seems really pleased to see me but she doesn't open the window.
She just stares at me and is talking to that bloke that looks a bit like my dad, but I can't really hear what they are saying.
Then they are gone.
I was hoping she was going to let me out and feed me and give me some love.
Now I am really hungry!
Maybe she didn't recognize me cos I lost half a kilo?

Nope she is back with my Dad and they are staring at me. C
ome-on guys!
This isn't funny, get me out of here.
Then they have gone again.

But no they are back with another guy I don't recognise.
After a while he starts banging at the window.
Now they are doing more of the stupid house fixing.
Don't they even realise it's not their house.
These people are so dumb!
And I thought they were coming to help me, bugger this then I'll go for a lie down again.

I can hear them calling but if they are not going to feed me then sod em!
They are still calling.
Ok ok, I'll go and see what all the fuss is.

Oh that's strange, the window is open and my Dad is leaning in.
He is gesturing me to come towards him.
Maybe he'll stroke me.

Oww! Now he's picking me up by my neck.
I hate that, it's just like my cat-mum used to do when I was young!
I am not a bloody kitten you know!
Put me down!
Thank you!

Ah that's better now everyone is making a fuss of me. Thats nice.
Don't they know I am hungry - food first, fuss second guys!

They carry me home and put me in front of the food.
Its been there for a least 5 days and its pretty stale.
I am hungry but I have limits! A
h, that's better, I am getting some fresh stuff now, and some fresh water.
Bloody hell I am actually really hungry.
Yumm yumm cat food, my favorite!

All that was 3 days ago and I am happy to be home.
I can eat and drink when ever I want and everyone is making lots of fuss of me.
I really missed them when they were lost and I was actually pretty worried about them.
It's great that they found there way back and came to fetch me.
I like it when everyone is home.

It's still really hot though.
Hmm the back of that big metal box on wheels looks nice and cool.
I wander what is in there.
Think I will have a quicky noisey.
Ah its all full of tools and stuff.
That pile of coats looks really comfy, think I'll have a quick sleep.
Oh! It's all gone very dark!
Feels like we are moving...