27 November 2009

Friday Joke - Its a funny old world

So after Thanksgiving, a trip to the gym...

Lots of work and not a lot else at the moment, which make the joke even more appropriate...
Weather is shitte anyway. Have a good weekend

25 November 2009

Wednesday Movie - from down under

Two movies this week from Gareth in Perth
The first just proves that he has too much time on his hands...

The people in the movie, apart from myself, are Gareth, Ben, Justin and Jen. That's the team from last years outback challenge where I can catagorically state there was no dancing and nobody was dressed like an elf...

The same Ben also features in our second movie which features Western Australias "Boat of the Year". This monster was built by Ben and his father at Kirby marine and does 58 knots. It has two V8 350 horsepower Yamaha engines. When asked why he used 350 hp engines he stoically answered "cos they don't make a 400!"
Thats a boat and a half, but given that the seats cost more than my RIB, I am not sure I'll be buying one just yet, but you gotta have dreams...

23 November 2009

Culture is a bullshit excuse for brutality

Each year in the Faroe Islands the locals go out in motor boats and herd schools of pilot whales into a bay and then set about massacring them with metal spikes, while large crowds gather to watch and cheer. Teenage boys and men with very small penises attempt to prove how macho they are by hacking up defenseless, docile marine mammals.

This is not tough people on the edge of the known World scrapping a living from the ocean. This is mindless brutal thugs, with no compassion and no empathy, tragically clinging to culture that is obsolete and redundant. These people are not starving, the Islands are rich and heavily subsidized by Denmark. The chief medical officer of the islands has "advised against eating pilot whales because of high levels of toxins" so there is no reason for this gory spectacle beyond its cultural and historical significance.

So what about culture? Is it ok to do things just because our ancestors did them?
The ancestors of my Spanish friends tortured people in the inquisition - but that is unacceptable in a modern society. Not so long ago we kept slaves and castrated black people, fortunately that is also a part of our barbaric past. The Viking ancestors of these pathetic Fareo wannabes massacred christians and burnt churchs, also probably a bit of a no-no in modern Europe. The list goes on and on, but the point is clear. Part of being a 21st Century civilization should be the recognition that such barbarism is unacceptable, especially since it is utterly unnecessary especially in Europe, less than 600 km from Aberdeen and Bergen. This is not some far flung poverty striken corner of Asia, this is supposed to be the civilized western World.

Stop and ask yourself what kind of sick sadistic wanker derives pleasure from such brutality? What kind of massive inferiority complex makes you want to stand up to your waist in blood and murder gentle, intelligent, harmless beasts? Isn't the whale swimming in the open ocean a far more beautiful thing than a plate of fatty meat full of PCBs and Mercury? What is wrong with these people?
And if you can stomach a movie try this .

22 November 2009

The caring employer

What sort of Company would tow their own employees car from a totally empty car park at the weekend because "they needed the space"?

Norway's recently rebranded, largest oil company of course...

The car in question was parked in car park while the employee was away for the weekend. The employee left the car there on Friday evening and returned Sunday night to find it gone. The fine for getting it back is 1800 nok - 200 quid, plus another 400 nok for a taxi into town to retrieve the car. That's about £250, which is a lot of money.

The Security Nazi was quick to point out that "it's the rules, I am just doing my job" (Nuremberg established that was a not an adequate defence for being an arsehole). He was also keen to point out that there were signs saying cars could not be left there over night. Problem is that most of the signs were in Norwegian, while the working language of the company is English, so there is no reason why their large international workforce should actually understand them.

But language is not the real point here. We have a multi-billion dollar international company that cares so little about it's employees that it fines them £200 for parking in an empty car park over the weekend. How utterly pathetic is that?

And then they wonder why people are leaving in droves...

21 November 2009

Get your hands up

Roy and I are in driving along highway 6 in front of the Book Cliffs in Utah. This is classic cowboy country, a long straight road across the badlands with huge continuous cliffs on the left and in the distance redrock desert on the right. It’s been a long day in the field and there is a cold beer waiting in Green River. The road is pretty empty so I am doing a healthy 85 mph.

The Book Cliffs and Highway 6 - never meant for 60 mph

Suddenly I realize that one of the cars just about to pass going in the other direction has a rack of blue and red lights on the top. Bollocks! Bollocks! Bollocks!

So I say to Roy, we are about to get pulled over, stay cool, we’ll get a ticket and be on our way. Just don’t get out the car, don’t make any sudden moves and make sure he can see your hands. As I say this, I look in the mirror and see the blues light up and the sheriff does a u-turn.

So I pull over before he is even behind me and put my hands on the wheel in plain view. Roy raises his in a stance of surrender, I am not sure if he is scared or being ironic but I think its kind off funny so I do the same…

The plod approaches, moving along the side of the car cautiously. This is with good reason, too many of Utah’s finest have been shot by crazy people out on these open roads.

When he reaches the open window he immediately asks “Why the hands up? You got a concealed weapon license I don’t know about?”
“No officer” I reply, in earnest, “we are British and we heard that if we got pulled over then we should show our hands or risk being shot”.

He visibly relaxes and apparently thinks this is the funniest thing he has heard today. He takes my license to check it out and then comes back with a big smile on his face.
“Since you guys aren’t from around here I am gonna let you off with a warning”
“Thank you officer, we’ll be more careful in future”

Nice one!

Two days later, early morning we have hooked up with Chris, Atle and Helen and we are all heading south from Green River to Moab for a five day raft trip. We are all pretty excited; I am doing my predictable 85 mph when we pass a policeman. Bugger!

So I pull over and say “get your hands up everyone, now!”

Roy gets it straight away, the others comply but a bit more hesitantly.
The police man approaches and fortunately it’s a different one and this is a different county. Again he asks why our hands are up and again I say the same thing. Helen, who is rather striking and has a pretty plumy English accent at the best of times, hams it up and says
“We’d rather not get shot officer”

He looks less than impressed but goes off and 10 minutes later comes back, telling us he is going to let us off. We thank him profusely and drive away slowly.

Nice one!

Maybe this is the solution to all those speeding tickets? The question is, how far could you push it?

Two years later Atle and I bottled out of trying it again and took the ticket. That time it was at 3 am and we had been out sampling sandstone in Arches with a large drill which was in the back of the car. We were also half cut and didn't want to try and explain what we were doing, but that's another story…

20 November 2009

Friday Joke - Lets go for a drink

Some graphic illustrations of the differences between the thought process in a typical men and women...

(click on them for a bigger version)

Lets go for a beer...

After all this beer I need a piss...

Lets go on a date...

19 November 2009

Life in Suburbia

Been in the Smog for the last couple of days, meeting investment analysts - not sure how I ended up here, last time I looked I was a geologist...

Being in London reminds of a time, twenty years ago when I arrived here, fresh from Uni with a very large debt, trying to get enough cash together to go and do a PhD. It was an entertaining 9 months but it also made me realise that I never wanted to live here again. Each time I come back and visit only serves to re-enforce that view. Anyway here is a tale from back in the day...

The year is 1988 and I have just finished my degree. The job market sucks and I am very short of cash, so I have taken a job in London with a small consulting company. At £7500/year the pay is so bad that I can’t actually afford to live here. In fact I would probably be better off back in Wales landscape gardening or delivering cars (which, along with stage crew work, had helped to finance my degree), but I also need to get some relevant experience to strengthen next years PhD chances.

So I end up living on my cousin’s floor in deepest, darkest Kent. I have been here for 2 weeks, long enough to work out that if I leave the house at exactly 7.30 I can walk 10 minutes to the train station, then catch a train followed by two tubes and get to the office in Putney at five to nine. I am already part of that well oiled commuter machine!

So for two weeks everything is going just fine and I am making a good impression at work. Then one evening, the guys ask me to come and play cricket with them. I am not much of a batsman but my long lanky arms assist in fast bowling and as it turns out the opposition are fairly crap anyway. We win and there is much beer downed to celebrate until the last train home.

I get to Oprington Station and head home, its pouring with rain and rather grim I realize that I must be more pissed than I thought because I am now lost. Bugger! It takes me about 2 hours to get my bearings, make it into the house and collapse on the bed.

Next thing I know, the room is flooded with daylight and I am awake and alert. What time is it? A quick look at my watch says 27 minutes passed 7. Shit! Shit! Shit! I know that if I miss the next train it will trigger a chain reaction of delays and I won’t be in work until 9.30. That is bad! Drinking on school night is fine as long as you make class the next day. Especially when it’s your first time out with the team.

I jump up, throw on some clothes and bolt for the door, running down the street towards the station, I might just make it! Half way I start to get a stomach cramp so I slow down a bit, I am sweating and feeling very rough, I start to walk. By now my goal has been down graded to making it to the station and finding a toilet before I crap my self.

More spasms and I am in serious trouble. Then just as it’s looking very bad, a man walks out of his house and asks if I am ok. I ask if I can use his toilet, he looks at me rather horrified and says no. I should emphasis that I can’t blame him, I am 6’2”, scruffy, with very long hair and I am sweating like a horse. I probably wouldn’t invite me into my house to use the toilet either.

But it’s desperate so I plead and eventually he relents and quietly says the toilet is at the top of the stairs. I need no second bidding, I barge past, take the stairs 3 at a time, while undoing my trousers. At the top of the landing I come face to face with his wife, dressed in her nightie. I am pretty sure that every morning he leaves for work at 7.36 and she gets up as he goes and heads to the toilet. I am also pretty sure she has never been head off at the pass by a large yeti with his trousers undone…

I pull down my trousers and my arse explodes, solids, liquids and gases under pressure. It’s a real mess and it stinks but it’s also immensely relieving, I feel so much better. A quick look at my watch tells me that this diversion has actually only taken about 3 minutes and if run I might just make the train. So I pull up my trousers and bolt down the stairs and up the street to the station.

I make the train and my honour at work is intact. My honour on the way to work subsequently is more challenged as every morning my new found friend waves and says hello. I wave back and hurray along.

The thing that really worries me about the whole affair is trying to imagine what his wife thought was happening and what she said when he got home that night …
“Darling, after you left this morning some long-haired hippy ran in to the house and stank the toilet out before running off. Can you imagine?”
“Really dear? In Orpington, imagine that...

18 November 2009

Wednesday Movie - Reasons to diet...

As the long dark nights draw in and we see the start of 3 months of rain, some movie inspiration to get to the gym

15 November 2009

Accretionary Wedge #21 - Geology for insomniacs and night security guards

This months accretionary wedge is being hosted at Magma Cum Laude and is about science (geology) out reach. Here is my offering.

Most people are so amazingly uninformed about the World around them it’s depressing. Understanding a bit of geology leads to a greatly improved insight into so many things from simply appreciating the scenery, to having a better insight into the context of climate change and, ultimately realizing that the World probably isn't 6000 years old, so religion is not a very good reason to blow people up. Yep, the World would be a better place if a few more people understood the wonders of it's workings just a bit better. But they don't and in the majority of cases it's not their fault, it’s just that nobody even tried to explain it to them in a way that was interesting or accessible.

Geology in the media is invariably dinosaurs and volcanoes, with the odd earthquake thrown in. Admittedly these are interesting and no doubt dynamic, but what about the rest of it? I love sedimentology and stratigraphy and what it can tell us about palaeogeography. I love the detective work that goes in to pulling all the fragmentary pieces of the jigsaw together. I could (and do) spend hours on Ron Blakeys website pouring over his beautiful reconstructions and I want to make everyone understand how truly awesome and dynamic the earth is.

I have done many bits of outreach, field trips, public talks, articles etc but the largest project was an eight part TV series which was made for Channel 4 and the Discovery Channel called the "Big Monster Dig". The format of the show was 3 "experts", a palaeontologist, a palaeobotonist and a sedimentologist, spend a weekend trying to "solve"a geological conundrum.

I was the sedimentolgist and how it got involved is another long story (see here), but suffice to say I was drafted in for two main reasons, firstly I was happy to hang off a cliff on a rope, dangle from a plane, go up in a balloon, paraglide etc and secondly because I could get a word in edgeways with palaeontologist Dave Martil who can talk like an auctioneer.

During the series we dug up mammoths in a gravel pit, we looked at the world's biggest fish in a brick pit in Peterborough, I hung off a tottering cliff on the south coast of England looking for Iguanadons and we headed south to Europe to study dinosaur eggs in a vineyard in France and saber-tooth tigers in Spain. It was fantastic fun.

Each show typically took 2 to 3 days of full time shooting, plus time spent filling in bits here and there. We never staged anything and since you can never guarantee finding fossils we always had lots of other stuff going on. For example I visited a brick factory to compare the weight of fired and unfired bricks as a way of determining the organic content of the London Clay.

I leant a lot about TV along the way. How much work goes into an hour long show, how many people slave away behind the scenes, how challenging it is to pull it all together and that it is possible to get out of a landrover the "wrong way". The phrase that echoes in my mind is "that was great, can you just do it again please?"

At the end of shooting the series there was a big buzz about it. The crew were really fun people to work with and also really interested in what we were doing. One of the camera men actually said to me after one scene "so this area was all sea then?" It would seem that he was actually listening.

The shows were aimed at children and families, with a serious geological undertone. I think we did an OK job of trying to get a serious message across in a fun way. The shows were shot in 2002 just as the Iraq invasion kicked off. Consequently they didn't make it on to the screens until late 2004. When they did they were not broadcast in the Sunday tea-time slot they were designed for but against Eastenders* at 8pm on a Tuesday evening. Because of this, they didn't quite get the viewing figures Channel 4 wanted. We thought 2 million people was pretty good for a geology show but C4 were looking for the next Big Brother and geology was unfortunately not going to deliver it. So the decided not to make anymore, which was a shame.

The programs are still re-run on Discovery, normally about 3am, so if nothing else there are a lot of insomniacs and night watchmen who know a lot more about geology than they otherwise would.

* If you are not from Europe - Eastenders is a depressing soap opera about people in London, it is one of the UK's most popular TV shows, although I will never understand why.

¤ Big Brother is the original shitte reality show for the vacuous

13 November 2009

Friday Joke - House Rules

House rules
(according to a man - so we know it doesn't really matter anyway)

Please note.. these are all numbered "1 "ON PURPOSE!
1. Men are NOT mind readers.
1. Learn to work the toilet seat. You're a big girl. If it's up, put it down.We need it up, you need it down. You don't hear us complaining about you leaving it down.
1. Sunday sports: it's like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Let it be.
1. Crying is blackmail.
1. Ask for what you want. Let us be clear on this one: Subtle hints do not work! Strong hints do not work! Obvious hints do not work! Just say it!
1. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.
1. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.
1. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become null and void after 7 days.
1. If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us.
1. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.
1. You can either ask us to do something Or tell us how you want it done. Not both. If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.
1. Whenever possible, Please say whatever you have to say during commercials..
1. Christopher Columbus did NOT need directions and neither do we.
1. ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.
1. If it itches, it will be scratched. We do that.
1. If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing," We will act like nothing's wrong. We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.
1. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.
1. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine. Really.
1. Don't ask us what we're thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as football or motor sports1. You have enough clothes.
1. You have too many shoes.
1. I am in shape. Round IS a shape!
1. Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight; but did you know men really don't mind that? It's like camping.

11 November 2009

Remembrance Day - the hero, the scumbag and Shell

Last Sunday was remembrance day and the weekends Sunday Times* contained two vastly contrasting stories, both of which prompted a strong emotional response in me.

The first was the story of Olaf Schmid, who was a bomb disposal officer in Afghanistan. The story was about his work clearing IEDs leading up to his untimely death. The article was by a free lance reporter who had met him on several occasions and befriended him. The story was incredibly moving and one of the best pieces of journalism I have ever read. Schmid was a true hero and his death was a tragic lose to both his family and humanity. I cannot urge you strongly enough to read this article.

The second, which was the front page story, was about the self serving, sanctimonious cunt that is Goldman Sachs who claims, that being part of a system that made him ridiculously rich and left the rest of us with billions of dollars of debt, was “doing God's work”. The fact that these two articles are even in the same news paper makes me feel sick.

And then to add to the glut of hypocrisy was the story earlier in the week that Shell had banned the sale of poppies on their forecourts. A few years back I travelled all over the World doing work for Shell, places like Brunei, Oman and Malaysia. At the time my Mum commented "you are visiting all those countries that your Dad went to". This was an interesting observation, because my Dad was in the SAS in the 1950's and 60's and the British government back then was happy to use the Army to help political establishments which would in turn secure an energy supply (some things never change). Shell were pretty happy to ride on the back of that so, I would have thought that letting the legion sell a few poppies in their forecourts is the least they could do now. But I would think that, because I have something that resembles a conscience.

We watched the Rememberence Parade from the London eye and wandered around the crowds as they dispersed afterwards. It's very moving and also very important to remember that you don't have to agree with a particuliar war to appreciate the bravery and sacrifice of those who fight in it. Lions led by Donkeys, manipulated by Snakes.

(*yes I know I said I wasn't going to read the Times again, but it was free in the hotel and soon Murdoch is going to charge for it online and then none of us will read it anyway)

Wednesday Movie - Awesome Ants

This weeks Wednesday movie is about ants - apparently there is more biomass of ants on the Earth than humans, which if you have ever been to Houston you might find difficult to believe...

Anyway here is the movie - enjoy

(Apparently the nest was deserted BEFORE they conducted this experiment)

09 November 2009

In the Smog with the Mathers Clan

Spent the weekend in London with the Mathers Clan, well at least the part of it that aren't reproducing at the moment. Congratulations to Rick and Kath on the birth of Lizzy!

Flew in to the smog on Friday evening and headed to Ronnie Scotts were they were all entrenched listening to jazz - nice! I had missed the first half of the show which was apparently very much like this, so I am not complaining. Second half was actually very good. After that ended up in a random club trying to fend off a very scary woman in a suit by telling her I was gay, whilst Katharine was swing dancing with a random Norwegian.

Next day, in an attempt to avoid shopping, we headed to Highgate Cemetery which was awesome. History meets hammer house of horror with a bit of Karl Marx thrown in. Well worth a visit. Saturday evening we went to see “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” which was extremely entertaining - the bus was fantastic!

Sunday we did the London Eye, also worth a punt, then headed for home. I was flying out of Gatwick with SAS whilst Katharine was going from Heathrow with KLM (we always use different airlines, its a safety thing).

So I was sat in Gatwick doing some work and drinking a cup of coffee when I looked up and noticed a 17 year kid, in a uniform with a large machine gun stood about 20 m away just staring at me. So I posted on my facebook about how young the police look these days when I looked up and there were 5 of them all standing around me looking menacing. Then one of the says "sit still and don't move!" which, mindful of John Charles Mendes and the potential teenage hormonal problems of my aggressors I opted to cooperate with.

Another one then appeared with an over excited beagle who jumped all over me and then my bag and not smelling drugs or explosives, then wagged its tail and wandered off. Then without a single word, the plod with the weapons wandered off after the beagle. Not to check out any other costumers, they just disappeared, it was obviously me that was "of interest".

Note to self - try and look less like a terrorist next time!

Got home at midnight which was better than Katharine who KLM marooned in Amsterdam for the night,

06 November 2009

Friday Joke - a load of cocks in London

Weather has got nice in Bergen, cold and clear. First ice on the fjord in front of the lair this week.
Spent a very pleasant Guy Fawkes night up on Fløyen with some friends and a bonfire. Was planning to write more about this strange tradition, the history, the culture, the modern aspects and ultimatley why the english we train their children to burn catholics and set off rockets in the street - maybe another time

Off to London for a weekend with the Mathers Clan, in the meantime here is the friday joke, courtesy of Aris....

Not sure what Dan Brown would have made of this, some sort of medival pornographic conspiracy?

03 November 2009

Wednesday Movie

A rather interesting view on the demise of the Death Star


Perhaps all the followers of Emperor Bush and his evil side kick Darth Blair should take heed...

On a happier note it's nice to see Americans making significant social comment such as this