30 December 2010

Round Britian Festive Tour...

As the title suggests I spent the festive period travelling around Britian to see family and catch up with old friends. I managed to avoid most of the travel chaos and the worst of the bad weather. There was however a strong tendency for the people that I was visiting to "take me for a walk" so now I know what it is like to be a labrador.

Flew in to Aberdeen on Friday (17th). The previous week involved lots of parties, Oli J leaving for Canada, Camilla getting her PhD, CIPR julebord and others. Got to Aberdeen with no delays Friday night and then spent the weekend there with Katharine. Lots of snow but we had no problems getting down to the farm on saturday to: 1) see it in the snow, its beautiful, and 2) to compare the house to the first set of architects plans. The snow was useful for sketching out building outlines and floor layouts and we came away with a good feeling. Sunday we met the architect and had a good two hour session with him. There are some people that are expensive but you feel like its money well spent. He is one of them.

Flew down to Southampton with Aid for BSRG. Lots of old friends and the standard cocktail of science and drinking. From there I scrounged a lift to Maccelsfield with the Liverpool crew and managed to earn my passage by fixing the wipers on their minibus. Wipers are useful when there is that much salt, crap and melting snow on the road and the windscreen. It was as simple as a blown fuse but the geniuses at Volkswagen do not provide a fuse map because, to quote "the fuse layouts changes so often it is not worth including one". Oh really? Well first don't change the fuse layout so often and second, it probably is worth including if someone is stuck on the motorway with no wipers randomly pulling out fuses to find the blown one and then trying to find one that doesn't matter to swap. Twats.

Spent Tuesday night and Wednesday in Macc and caught up with Dave, Rach, Mike and Clair. Also got to meet Rubon, who is a few months old. Went for a very nice snowy walk, had a pub lunch and hopped on a train to Leeds to collect a car.

At Leeds airport the Hertz man was a patronising twat (note to self stick with Avis) but I eventually got the car and headed over to the Peak. There I saw Chris C, Mark, Heather and Chris D, we had a few beers and I stayed at Farmer Clarks after extracting my revenge on Hertz by taking their car up his track, fast while drunk. Next day Margi headed off to work and Chris and I took a tour of their land, fed the sheep, checked out stone walls and the 1200 trees they have planted whilst discussing argiculture, the state of UK academia (its fucked) and the impending train wreck that is the UK economy. All good stuff and lovely to see Margi and Rio who is growning up to be a very sassy little girl.

After the Peak I headed east to Glossop and stayed with Jim and Emma. Havn't seen them for about 12 years so it was good to catch up. Their kids are now 12 and 15 - time flies! We chatted over wine and lemsip and before long it was like yesterday. Another long walk the next morning with Em and their dog before I drove back to Leeds and dropped off the car and meet up with Katharine.

Christmas at Mytholm is always a treat. Christmas day we walked 5 miles up to a pub on the moors for lunch. Despite being 7.5 months pregnant, Katharine is still whizzing around. The walk was beautiful, everywhere was frozen and snow covered. Yorkshire is definetly growing on me. Now I start to see why the people that live there consider it to be so special.

From Yorkshire we headed over to Wales to see my brother and Eli. Went for a walk around Llyn Geirionedd one day, headed to the Centre for Alternative Technology the second day and caught up with the older remenants of the family on the third. CAT was a bit of a disappointment, basically because despite being "open" there was tonnes of snow and ice and most of the displays were shut. Did however manage to talk to a few "experts" who's stock repsonse was "errr I am not sure, I am not really an expert on that", but at least they pointed us in the direction of the right literture, so I spent a king ransom in the book store. Also headed over to Anglsey to catch up with Gareth and Sue who were visiting from Aus. Had a very pleasant evening at a party at Gareth's sisters place.

From Wales we headed back to Aberdeen in time for New Year in Stonehaven, which by all accounts is entertaining - that's tonight so I will let you know.

Christmas UK Tour - 12 days of Christmas
1106 - Miles driven (1780km)
31 - number of sheep on Chris' farm
12 - Old friends caught up with (not including BSRG)
9 - Friends children I met, ranging in age from 3 months to 15 years
8 - Gallons of lemsip consumed in an attempt to shake my man flu
7 - Beds slept in
6.5 - weeks until our little girl is due to enter the world
6 - Walks in the snow (woof woof)
5 - Miles walked from Mytholm to the Dog and Gun on Christmas day
4 - Books for Christmas
3 - Modes of transport (plane, train and car/minbus)
Too Much alcohol, too many colds and just enough nice presents
And a partridge in a pear tree

24 December 2010

Happy Mid Winter Festival

Busy times at the mo, but want to take a very quick moment to wish you all a good holiday.

More to follow soon but in the meantime enjoy

John

15 December 2010

Bankers

An Irish man tells it how it is

And a poem from the otherside of the arguement here

13 December 2010

Cafe Hemsedal

Hemsedal is a small mountain town in the middle of Norway. It nestles in a deep valley on the edge of the Hardanger Plataeu. The surrounding area is very pretty and there is lots to do in the summer including walking, mountain biking etc. But, it is in the winter that the place really comes to life. It has arguably Norway's best ski resort and some pretty good ice climbing.

The thing that makes Hemsdal great though is not just the good skiing but the "after ski". There is a smallish bar in the centre of town called the Cafe Hemsedal, which I swear is the wildest place I have ever been. I don't say this lightly. I have been in some pretty insane places, from the rave heyday of Liverpool to Cape Town after 3 months in the field, to partying with off duty hookers in JoBerg. From Bangkok to Vegas and beyond but I have yet to come across anywhere as insane as the Cafe Hemsedal. Sometimes I say this to folk and I have to check myself. Can this little bar really be that crazy? Then I go back there and I realise, yes it can.

It's hard to put a finger on why. The place is absolulty packed with people at the end of a full on day of skiing or boarding. They are all dressed in ski gear and hav ecome straight from the slopes; stoked on adrenaline, dehydrated and ready to party. You look around and soak up the insanity, almost everyone is dancing or jumping around, people are crammed on to the dance floor, dancing on the tables, drinking like there is no tomorrow. It feels like 1am and you look at your watch and it is 6.45. Can this many totally trashed people exist so early? Is this sustainable? Can the music get any louder? Can the tempo increase any further?

Last year a guy from Statoil dislocated his knee whilst dancing in his snowboard boots and they pulled him to the edge of the dance floor and just carried on around him. He lay in agony for an hour waiting for the medic while the party continued almost oblivious to him. The place is insane

At least that was how I saw the world until this weekend. We headed to Hemsedal for the anuual pilgramage. This December trip was started by Henrike and I back in 2002 to kick off the winter ski season after the autumn party season and has carried on every year since. Now there are about 60+ people who go and I don't even know 2/3rds of them. A new generation of expats and associates has almost completly replaced us as our group has moved on or had kids or both. Such is the way it goes.

I signed up and was happy to be put in the "ole gits" cabin with people I knew and liked. Drove up on Friday night with JohnT, Jord and Ulrike in my car. The weather has been super cold there (-20 for three or four weeks) but all the snow has been on the west coast so the boarding was always going to be lame but, we went out anyway. It was hard and icy as predicted and there was almost nothing on the off piste. It was good to get out and make some turns anyway.

In the evening we headed to the Cafe and when we got there it was clear something had changed. The place was half empty and there was even tables in the dance floor when we arrived. What was going on? It turns out that in the last year or so the focus has switched elsewhere. The young and trendy people now go to "the church" which by all accounts was absolutly pumping. It made me reflect that nothing in CH has changed, the layout, the bar, the music everything is same but for some inexplicable reason the buzz has moved on. It did fill up later in the evening and we had a top night but it a bit sad to reflect that times change, nothing is fixed.

Next day, bored of boarding on hard ice, I opted to go and hammer crap out of it instead so we went to Rukanfoss and put a top rope on a couple of the falls for folks who wanted to get a taste of ice climbing. A good day was had by all, although it was pretty chilly.

The drive back was interupted by an unexplained hour in a queue in a tunnel near Godvangen but I was still back by 9.30.

10 December 2010

Friday Joke - Psychologists and Psychiatrists

Welcome to the Psychiatric Hotline.
If you are obsessive-compulsive, please press 1 repeatedly.
If you are co-dependent, please ask someone to press 2.
If you have multiple personalities, please press 3, 4, 5, and 6.
If you are paranoid-delusional, we know who you are and what you want. Just stay on the line so we can trace the call.
If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a little voice will tell you which number to press.
If you are depressed, it doesn't matter which number you press. No one will answer.
If you are delusional and occasionally hallucinate, please be aware that the thing you are holding on the side of your head is alive and about to bite off your ear.
_______________________________________

A psychiatrist was conducting a group therapy session with four young mothers and their small children. "You all have obsessions," he observed.

To the first mother he said, "You are obsessed with eating. You even named your daughter Candy."

He turned to the second mom. "Your obsession is money. Again, it manifests itself in your child's name, Penny."

He turned to the third mom. "Your obsession is alcohol and your child's name is Brandy."

At this point, the fourth mother got up, took her little boy by the hand and whispered, "Come on, Dick, let's go home."
____________________________

A young woman took her troubles to a psychiatrist. "Doctor, you must help me," she pleaded. "It's gotten so that every time I date a nice guy, I end up in bed with him. And then afterward, I feel guilty and depressed for a week."

"I see," nodded the psychiatrist. "And you, no doubt, want me to strengthen your will power and resolve in this matter."

"For God's sake, NO!" exclaimed the woman. "I want you to fix it so I won't feel guilty and depressed afterward."

__________________________________________

A very shy guy goes into a nightclub and sees a beautiful woman sitting at the bar. After an hour of gathering up his courage, he finally goes over to and asks, tentatively, "Um, would you mind if I chatted with you for a while?"

She immediatly shouts at him "No, I won't sleep with you tonight!" Everyone in the bar is now staring at them. Naturally, the guy is completely embarrassed and he slinks back to his chair.

After a few minutes, the woman walks over to him and apologizes. She smiles at him and says, "I'm sorry if I embarrassed you. You see, I'm a graduate student in psychology and I'm studying how people respond to embarrassing situations."

To which he responds, at the top of his lungs, "Anal for two-hundred dollars? What do you mean $200?!"

09 December 2010

Geek Day is back

In the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Zaphod was put into the Total Perspective Vortex which is the most horrible torture device ever invented.

"When you are put into the Vortex you are given just one momentary glimpse of the entire unimaginable infinity of creation, and somewhere in it a tiny little microscopic dot which says "you are here"

The shear crushing realisation of your own insignificance is supposed to drive you mad (unless you are Zaphod, in which case you discover you are the centre of the Universe)

This website has a similiar goal, to show you the scale of the Universe, its pretty cool. Although I have not gone mad so maybe the universe was made for me...

08 December 2010

Wednesday Movie - why Wikileaks is important

This weeks Wednesday movie is not funny its tragic.

Wikileaks has hit the news big time in recent days as various western governments try and stop them releasing a bunch of US embassy cables that tell us what we already know, Putin is a gangster, the Saudis are bank rolling Al Queda, Burlesconi is a fat philandering tosser, Brown was a shit leader, Cameron is a twat etc. It's not exactly news but people seem surprised.

While the powers that be try their best to smear Assange and the rest of the wikileaks organisation it is important to remember why we need people like that. The video is from an Apache gunship in Baghdad and it shows the American military murdering the journalist Namir Noor-Elden and his cameraman and then shooting up a car containing children that stops to help them. After the event the military lied and tried to deny this happened, until the video was obtained by wikileaks and posted on the internet.

This is why Wikileaks is important

07 December 2010

Wikileaks

Julian Assange is a hero for a modern generation.

He has taken on the hypocrisy and lies of the World's most formidable superpower using nothing but the power of the internet and his own gall.

When we look at the latest batch of leaks is there really anything to be surprised about? Some faceless American diplomat thinks Putin and his cronies are gangster. Prince Andrew believes that the people who protest about Britain’s diabolical arms trade are low life lefties - so what? Ghadafi is a psycho; Brown is a loser, for christ sake it isn't rocket science.

But what wikileaks has done before this is important, if less well publicized. They have made government at least in part accountable for it’s actions. They highlighted the horrors that are being perpetrated by our governments in Iraq and Afghanistan and I for one think that the truth should be told. I am paying for these aresholes and I have a right to know what they are doing.

Most comical and scary is the reaction of the nut house that is the American right, Palin, Beck, Gingirch et al raving about how he is a war criminal. Huckerby actually wants Assange executed. This is fuckin scary! What ever happened to free speech and the first amendment? I guess it only applies if you are saying what the government wants you to say. These people who supposedly promote extreme freedom can somehow justify wanting to silence a journalist who disagrees with them and provides evidence that they are in fact a bunch of murdering, lieing, low life scum. And the democrats aren’t much better. Less than a year ago Obama and Hilary Clinton were both quoted as stressing how important the internet and free speech are and criticizing its censorship in places like China before trying to do exactly that when they are in the firing line. These people are a disgrace to humanity and to the USA.

And so the monster has woken up with a bad head and its lumbering after him. First it trode on those that supplied him services, Amazon, Paypal, the Swiss bank etc. buckled easily. Then it came up with some trumped up charges in Sweden. Can it really be so blatant and forth right? Evidently so. The situation is as compelling as watching a real life Jason Borne movie and you really don't know how it will unfold and what is coming next.

Julian Assange is the bravest person I have seen in a long time. I wish I had his courage and conviction. Sure he has his insurance policies with stuff spread around all over the World and sure it isn't just him , its thousands of faceless people operating hundreds of remote servers. But still his life is genuinely on the line here and he is facing the monster down. What a man!

This is new territory, the anarchy of the internet against the establishment. The World watches to see what happens next.

06 December 2010

Bit of an update...

Been busy over the last couple of weeks so not much news flow.

Its been super cold in Bergen, the temperature hasn't been above freezing for about 3 weeks and more importantly it hasn't been raining. The UK is getting hammered with snow and is under a foot of snow, which means its ground to a halt.

The cold clear weather makes this place beautiful, the fjord in front of the lair is frozen as are all the lakes in the forest. Was out walking last weekend and it was really pretty. The waterfalls are already in condition and I went and did a head torch ascent of Starefossen (the waterfall above Bergen town) with Sandy and Harry. It was a bit thin and very brittle but otherwise in good condition. There is something special about climbing a waterfall at night whilst looking down on the city.

Katharine has been here the last couple of weekends. She is doing well and the whole pregnancy thing seems to be fine. I am fairly sure that it still hasn't all fully hit home yet. Her journey across last week was pretty epic, involving a cancelled plane from Aberdeen on the Friday (due to snow) and then a night in Amsterdam on Saturday due to KLM being shitte. At least she made it in the end but she missed Alexandra's PhD party on the Saturday which was a shame cos it was a fun night.


According to the papers there have been wood riots in Bergen, everywhere is sold out, most probably because it has been so cold. When ever a garage or garden centre gets a delivery people rush there are start fighting over it! I opted out of that and went wombeling. I got a trailer and managed to fill it from the dead stuff on the ground in the forest. Its a bit wet but you can dry it out and it burns fine. The fat cat seems happy at least.

Apart from that I have just been working - it's not exactly rock n roll


03 December 2010

Friday Joke - Different ways of seeing the World

Planning World War III
President Obama and Prime minister Cameron are sitting in a bar. A guy walks in and asks the barman, "Isn't that Obama and Cameron sitting over there?"
The bartender says, "Yep, that's them."
So the guy walks over and says, "Wow, this is a real honour! What are you guys doing in here?"
Obama says, "We're planning World War III."
The guy says, "Really? What's going to happen?"
Obama says, "Well, we're going to kill 10 million more Iraqs and one blonde with big tits."
The guy exclaimed, "A blonde with big tits?"
"Why are you going to kill a blonde with big tits?"
Obama turns to Cameron and says, "See, I told you. No one gives a shit about another 10 million Iraqs!"
_______________

A mortician was working late one night. He examined the body of Mr. Schwartz, about to be cremated, and made a startling discovery. Schwartz had the largest private part he had ever seen! 'I'm sorry Mr. Schwartz,' the mortician commented, 'I can't allow you to be cremated with such an impressive private part. It must be saved for posterity.' So, he removed it, stuffed it into his briefcase, and took it home. 'I have something to show you won't believe,' he said to his wife, opening his briefcase. 'O gosh!' the wife exclaimed, 'Schwartz is dead!'
_______________

A man walked into a cafe, went to the bar and ordered a beer. 'Certainly, Sir, that'll be one cent.' 'One Cent?' the man exclaimed. He glanced at the menu and asked: 'How much for a nice juicy steak and a bottle of wine?' 'A nickel,' the barman replied. 'A nickel?' exclaimed the man. 'Where's the guy who owns this place?' The bartender replied: 'Upstairs, with my wife.' The man asked: 'What's he doing upstairs with your wife?' The bartender replied: 'The same thing I'm doing to his business down here.'
________________
Jake was dying. His wife sat at the bedside. He looked up and said weakly: 'I have something I must confess.' 'There's no need to, 'his wife replied. 'No,' he insisted, 'I want to die in peace. I slept with your sister, your best friend, her best friend, and your mother!' 'I know,' she replied. 'Now just rest and let the poison work.

________________
'Two guys were discussing popular family trends on sex, marriage, and family values.
Bill said, 'I didn't sleep with my wife before we got married, did you?'
Larry replied, 'I'm not sure, what was her maiden name?'
___________________________________________

'Mr. Clark, I have reviewed this case very carefully,' the divorce Court Judge said, 'And I've decided to give your wife $775 a week,'
'That's very fair, your honor,' the husband said. 'And every now and then I'll try to send her a few bucks myself.'
___________________________________________

Two Reasons Why It's So Hard To Solve A Redneck Murder:
1. The DNA all matches.
2. There are no dental records.
_______________________________

Two Mexican detectives were investigating the murder of Juan Gonzalez.
'How was he killed?' asked one detective.
'With a golf gun,' the other detective replied.
'A golf gun! What is a golf gun?'
'I don't know. But it sure made a hole in Juan.'

26 November 2010

Friday Joke

The History of telecommunications...

After having dug to a depth of 10 feet last year, British scientists found traces of copper wire dating and came to the conclusion that their ancestors already had a telephone network more than 150 years ago.

Not to be outdone by the Brit's, in the weeks that followed, an American archaeologist dug to a depth of 20 feet, and shortly after, a story published in the New York Times: "American archaeologists, finding traces of 200-year-old copper wire, have concluded that their ancestors already had an advanced high-tech communications network 50 years earlier than the British".

One week later, the Cape Times, in South Africa, reported the following:"After digging as deep as 30 feet in his backyard in Thabazimbi, SouthAfrica, Lucky Simelane, a self-taught archaeologist, reported that he found absolutely nothing at all. Lucky has therefore concluded that 250 years ago, Africa had already gone wireless."
_______________________________
Glasgow Boys join Ferrari.
Reuters has reported that "The Ferrari F1 team fired their entire pit crew yesterday." This announcement followed Ferrari's decision to take advantage of the British government's 'Work for Benefits' scheme and employ some Glasgow youngsters.

The decision to hire them was brought about by a recent documentary on how unemployed youths from Castlemilk were able to remove a set of wheels in less than 6 seconds without proper tools, whereas Ferrari's existing crew could only do it in 8 seconds with millions of pounds worth of high tech equipment. It was thought to be an excellent, bold move by the Ferrari management team as most races are won and lost in the pits, giving Ferrari an advantage over every other team.

However, Ferrari got more than they bargained for! At the crew's first practice session, not only was the Glasgow pit crew able to change all four wheels in under 6 seconds but, within 12 seconds, they had re-sprayed, re-badged and sold the car to the McLaren team for 8 cases of Stella, a bag of weed and some photos of Lewis Hamilton's bird in the shower.

23 November 2010

Wednesday Movie - Danny MacAskill

Only one possible contender this week
Danny MacAskill's new masterpiece. This guy is truely amazing on a bike and the film work and scenary are inspiring.

If you missed his previous offering its here

19 November 2010

Fun with puns

Puns for Educated Minds
1. The fattest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference. He had 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 whiskey 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. No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.
6. A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.
7. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.
8. Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.
9. A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.
10. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
11. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
12. Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other: 'You stay here; I'll go on a head.'
13. I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.
14. A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: 'Keep off the Grass.'
15. The midget fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.
16. The soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.
17. A backward poet writes inverse.
18. In a democracy it's your vote that counts. In feudalism it's your count that votes.
19. When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.
20. If you jumped off the bridge in Paris , you'd be in Seine .
21. A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, 'I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.'
22. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says 'Dam!'
23. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.
24. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.
25. There was the person who sent ten puns to friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.

17 November 2010

The Maldives...

We have had a lot of great trips to a lot of great places: surfing, diving and exploring rain forest in Costa Rica, canyoning, biking and rafting in Utah, big mountain skiing in Canada, surfing and diving in the Caribbean and numerous others. We know that once our little girl enters the World things will change, at least for a while. So we opted to have one last trip. With Katharine being 6 months pregnant it was not going to be a wild one but that was no reason for it not to be special.

After looking at lots of options we settled on the Maldives. I have always wanted to go there and it suited our needs perfectly. Sun, sand and lots of options for being lazy. I have been feeling pretty tired and run down recently, work has been fairly stressful so I needed some R & R as much as Katharine. I had also heard that there was good diving and maybe a bit of surfing, so I wouldn’t get too bored.

We flew with BA and managed to get some good seats on the way out. The joys of travelling with a pregnant woman! It’s a long over night flight and when we arrived in Male it was hot and sweaty. I always imagined the Maldives to be up market and luxury so I was a bit surprised by the airport in Male which is pretty shitty and run down. Nothing bad, just not the opulence I had expected.



A quick, 40 minute boat ride from the airport to our island and things were looking up. The Maldives is a collection of desert islands. These islands are formed from the build up of carbonate sands on top of coral reefs. They are fringed by a lagoon which is in turn protected by the outer reef. That’s the science bit, a better way to describe them is to think about the cartoon Robinson Crusoe island with a single palm tree. They are not much more than that. It took 20 minutes to walk slowly around Kandooma, the centre was a dense jungle and the edge was fringed with sandy beaches and turquoise seas. The accommodation was in small single cabins and there was a central area by the harbour with a couple of restaurants and bars. It was all very luxurious and the staff were super friendly.


The room/hut was in the jungle, two minutes from the sea. It was surrounded by palm trees which were filled with huge fruit bats and all sorts of noisy birds. The shower had no roof and it was amazing to be able to stand in your hut, taking a douce, looking at the jungle and getting rained on. Nice touch.

We checked in and checked out the island. A quick tour and I found the dive centre. They immediately got me in the lagoon on a muppet test and when I had passed that promptly persuaded me that Nitrox (diving with enriched air) was the way forward and got me signed up on a course. I thought this was supposed to be a holiday?

Over the next week I dived pretty much everyday. The diving was excellent. Saw lots of sharks, rays (eagle, sting and manta) and some excellent reef life. We did a night dive and dived a purpose sunk wreck. The diving was in fact much better than I had been led to expect, I would say World class. The people in the dive center were super nice and very professional, I even passed my nitrox course without too much effort.

Each day there was the same bunch of people diving, plus or minus a few. There was a nice bunch of brits who were pretty funny, a german dive photographer who spoke to no-one and ignored his buddy (me) in the water. There was a lovely Spaniard from Mallorca and a Russian called Sergi who adopted a “free fall” sky diving position when descending. He had a lot of kit including the biggest dive computer I have ever seen and two knives. Given that he was also totally ripped – I think he was some sort of special forces dude. He said very little.


Away from the diving we went snorkeling with hordes of Japanese. It was a zoo. We later saw them having snorkeling lesson in the 1 m deep pool by the restaurant. Twenty of them in life vests swimming in circles being instructed on how to breath through a plastic tube. You might think such training is unnecessary but the next day I say one of them trying to eat wetabix with chopsticks!

We spent a lot of time sleeping, I hadn’t realized how tired or wired I was. It was great to just relax and read. I read the excellent and chilling “Handmaiden’s tale” while Katharine got through about three books. We also spent a lot of time eating. The food was excellent, there was one restaurant in particular, right on the beach that was amazing. You could watch the crabs digging holes , fighting for their bit of beach while a heron fished from a rock, all while eating dinner. And after eating we would adjourn to the roof top which was covered with large cushions. There we lay out, drank beer (or cranberry juice for the pregnant half of the duo) and watched the stars trying to spot constellations. It was fantastically relaxing.

I also had a try at wake boarding. It normally takes me a while to pick stuff up so I was pretty happy to get up on the board on the 4th or 5th attempt. Even the instructor seemed surprised. He said it was unusual for “someone of my size” to get up so easily. I wasn’t sure if that was a compliment on my dexterity or an insult about my size. I’ll take the former…


And then our week came to an end and we checked out, paid our bills and caught the boat back to the airport. The boats departure was delayed while they searched the bags of an arab girl and confiscated all the bits that she has stolen from the room. Classy!


The Maldives is amazing as a place to relax, but its not cheap. Kandooma is run by the holiday inn, although it is way more up market than any holiday inn I ever stayed in before. As far as the Maldives go its good value and the luxury is fantastic. The facilities are excellent, the setting is fantastic and the staff are friendly and attentive. There are virtually no Americans there and their hideous tipping culture where you always think people are just working you for a better tip is totally absent. Everything is just booked to your room and you pay when you leave. It is an excellent place to go on holiday, especially if you need to unwind. I even started to develop an interest in Carbonate sedimentology.

The economy explained...

...for people like you and me - here

And just in case you thought the people in charge know what they are doing and Goldman Sachs wasn't a c*nt - here

If it wasn't so scary it would be funny


16 November 2010

Introducing our daughter – at least in the virtual world

We had already had two conventional scans of the baby and they had indicated that everything was going ok, all the measurements seem to suggest normal development and the pre-requisite number of arms, legs, fingers toes and heads. However, the Aberdeen NHS has a ridiculous policy of not telling the parents the sex of the baby. So we opted for a private, 3D scan. A couple of folks who had already done it said that it was well worth the money. So last Friday we headed to the clinic in Aberdeen and they wired Katharine up to the machine, covered her with gel and had a look inside her tummy.

It was pretty amazing and after a few essential measurements, the operator went in search of the baby’s bits. We quickly deduced that she is a girl!

This was actually a bit of a surprise. For all sorts of reasons we were virtually convinced that the baby was going to be a boy. Not that we especially wanted a boy but we just thought that was the way it was going to be. And we were 100% wrong! We are both super excited about bring a little girl into the World and if she is anything like her mother she will kick ass!

From her private parts the scanner headed to her head. They could not get any good pics of her face as she was hiding. Either because she was shy or tried or both. So after sending Katharine out for a walk to try and wake her up they eventually gave up for the evening and said come back the following day.

Saturday we went down to the farm to see the new fences that had been put up around our land. All in order there and lovely to visit it again. We then force fed Katharine with sugar before heading back to the scanning clinic.


Once inside we had a lovely women operating the machine. She had no problems finding a very awake little girl, thrashing about in her mothers tummy. This time she was happy to pose for lots of pictures and even some video. She is of course beautiful and it was lovely to see her.

The 3D scanning people were fantastic, such a contrast to the miserable gits at the hospital. It was exciting to learn the sex and amazing to actually see her. I highly recommend the 3D scan if it is an option for you. It’s a luxury but a very nice one. It makes it all so much more real.


From the clinic we headed off to the airport for a flight to the Maldives. This is our last big holiday before we get to meet our little girl in person in 14 weeks and then, the World gets tipped upside down.

10 November 2010

Apple

We are in the Maldives having a nice time...

In the meantime check out Apples latest product here and here

05 November 2010

Friday Joke

Al Qaeda on Strike
Muslim suicide bombers in Britain are set to begin a three-day strike on Monday in a dispute over the number of virgins they are entitled to in the afterlife. Emergency talks with Al Qaeda have so far failed to produce an agreement. The unrest began last Tuesday when Al Qaeda announced that the number of virgins a suicide bomber would receive after his death will be cut by 25% this February from 72 to only 54. The rationale for the cut was the increase in recent years of the number of suicide bombings and a subsequent shortage of virgins in the afterlife.

The suicide bombers' union, the British Organization of Occupational Martyrs (or B.O.O.M.) responded with a statement that this was unacceptable to its members and immediately balloted for strike action. General Secretary Abdullah Amir told the press, "Our members are literally working themselves to death in the cause of Jihad. We don't ask for much in return but to be treated like this is like a kick in the teeth." Speaking from his shed in Tipton in the West Midlands in which he currently resides, Al Qaeda chief executive Osama bin Laden explained, "We sympathize with our workers' concerns but Al Qaeda is simply not in a position to meet their demands. They are simply not accepting the realities of modern-day Jihad in a competitive marketplace."

"Thanks to Western depravity, there is now a chronic shortage of virgins in the afterlife. It's a straight choice between reducing expenditure and laying people off. I don't like cutting wages but I'd hate to have to tell 3000 of my staff that they won't be able to blow themselves up." Spokespersons for the union in the Northeast of England, Ireland , Wales and the entire Australian continent stated that the strike would not affect their operations as "There are no virgins in our areas anyway".

Apparently the drop in the number of suicide bombings has been put down to the emergence of the Scottish singing star, Susan Boyle - now that Muslims know what a virgin looks like that they are not so keen on going to paradise.

03 November 2010

bikes

This week it's people being stupid on bikes - that's pedel bikes.

First there is some downhill madness here and here and then a bit of awesome northshore here

And just to involve those road racing people try this and this.

And finally

The USA, an entire country with ADHD

"An inability to stay focused on a task and boisterous childish behaviour are symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder or ADHD. The American midterm elections have just proved that it is possible for a large portion of a population to collectively suffer from such a diesese.

Two years ago the US population finally realised that the republicans and their lame duck leadership which started a barbaric and immoral war and then bankrupt the country and almost the World by their reckless deregulation of the financial sector, simply had to go. And they got rid of them in style electing an educated, thoughtful and considerate leader instead of a bunch of redneck cowboys and a mad bitch from Alaska.

Then two years down the line, because everything wasn't fixed immediately, like a spoilt petulant child they suddenly changed tack and voted en mess to bring the loony bus back into town, but this time the people on the bus are bigger badder and way more madder than the previous bunch.

Statistics in the paper quoted that 80% of Americans were pissed off that the economic recovery was a bit slow, well hello, it took them 8 years and two wars to fuck it up, do you really think it could be fixed immediately?

Well actually no, they don't, because 75% of them don't blame Obama and the current administration for the mess...

So they don't blame them but they are going to punish them anyway hmm that's logical.

If the country wasn't so powerful and influential in World politics it would be funny.

02 November 2010

Camping in November

My old school friend Alan came across to visit at the weekend with Megan, his 10 year old daughter. He had been over in the summer, she had never been to Norway before. I had last seen her when she was about 2 and her parents were still married.

Picked them up from the airport on Thursday eve. They spent Friday visiting the sights in Bergen. This is autumn in western Norway at its worst, pouring rain, dark, overcast and windy. They managed the usual stops and ended up at the aquarium looking at bedraggled penguines before they called for rescue. They both seemed to have had a good day and were not bothered by the shitty weather.

I was in work trying to help the guys finish the applications for the 21st licensing round which were due at the printers on Monday. As with any big project, the last couple of weeks are always hectic and 3 key folk had been working til midnight and beyond to get it all done. I felt a bit bad when I bailed out on them a 5.30 pm.

Quiet evening at home on Friday night. Megan was more interested in watching Ripping Yarns and an extreme kayak DVD than Wallace and Gromit or Chicken Run (it has to be said that my dvd collection does not include much that is suitable for 10 year olds), but I thought it was interesting to see what young people gravitate towards. They just do what they are genuinly interested in, there is no pretention there.

Next day we visited the excellent Vil Vite centre in Bergen for a dose of science. It's a great way to spend a wet saturday morning. Saturday afternoon Megan was pretty insitant that she wanted to go camping so, never one to disappoint a small girl, we packed up the kit and headed over the Liefjell. It had at least stopped raining by this point.

We hiked into the hills before we found a spot that was almost flat and almost dry. Set the tents up and lit a fire. The rain held off as we cooked some tea and sat around the fire keeping warm. We even got to see an almost clear sky, with the plough, cassiopia and the milky way. Not something you get to see everyday in Croydon, or in Norway in November.

Headed to bed and although it was windy the rain held off until about 5 am. Got up about 9, had some breakfast and then packed up in the rain before heading back to the car. I would not normally go camping just for fun in November, but Megan was so excited about the whole thing it made it all worth while. Once again it is great to see the World through someone else's eyes. Someone who is doing this stuff, what ever it is, for the first time. It was also nice to just spend time with them both. She's a tough little cookie, which having known her mother is pretty odd, but she is. I am sure there will be more adventures to come.


Happy Campers

Spent the afternoon getting the boat out the water for winter. Enlisted help from Sandy and after a few false starts looking for a boat ramp that was not locked, we took it to Grimstad and hauled it out. Lots of crap and enough mussles for a ten person dinner party attached to the bottom, will be good to get it cleaned.Then dropped Al and Megan off at the airport and headed back to dive into editing the 21st Round documents.



Playing with boats

29 October 2010

A duck goes into a bar...

A duck waddles into a bar and hops on a stool. The bartender snarls, "What'll you have?"
The duck says, "Got any grapes?"
The bartender spits and says "We don't have grapes here, we serve drinks, now get out!"
The duck hops off the stool and waddles out.
The next day, the same duck waddles into the same bar, hops on a stool, looks the bartender in the eye and asks, "Got any grapes?"
The bartender, irritated, says, "I told you yesterday we don't serve grapes here, we serve drinks, now GET OUT!"
The duck hops off the stool and waddles out.
The next day, the same duck waddles into the same bar and hops on a stool, looks at the bartender, and asks, "Got any grapes?"
The bartender, infuriated, pounds his fist on the bar and yells at the duck, "I told you two times we don't serve grapes here, we serve drinks! If you ask me that ONE MORE TIME I'm going to nail your beak to the bar! NOW GET OUT!"
With that, the duck shrugged, hopped off the stool and waddled out.
The next day, the same duck waddled into the same bar, hopped on a stool, looked the bartender in the eye and asked, "Got any nails?"
The bartender, puzzled, said no.
The duck then looked him square in the eye and said, "Got any grapes?"

28 October 2010

Accretionary Wedge #28

Accretionary Wedge #28 at Research at a snails pace is a about desk crops and since it is October there is supposed to be a scary theme.


The four bivalves in this picture were collected on a beach in the Gulf Coast of Florida in 2005. I am a sedimentologist but had taken time out from the Mesozoic to study some modern systems, particularly modern beach ridges for a project that was coincidently just published in last months Journal of the Geological Society of London.

I have always believed that sedimentology is easy because if you are struggling to understand the rocks, then all you have to do is go and look at the modern and the answer is there for you. So when the seismic data from the North Sea was ambiguous it seemed obvious that we should take a trip to Florida. There are definitely worse ways to spend your field grant than travelling around the beaches of the SE USA.

So I collected these bivales, not for any scientific reason but simply because they looked nice. They now live on a shelf in my bathroom (does that count as a desk crop?). I am not a palaeontologist and famously "don't do dead things" but I think these are "marsh clams". If somebody wants to correct me and tell me the proper species name, I would be very happy to hear.

So what is scary about the picture? At first glance it seems to be 4 bivalves arranged in order of size. But if you look more closely you will see that in addition to getting larger towards the right, they also get more haggered. The small left hand one is pure white and pristine. A perfect body that radiates a combination of innocence and optimism - the world is his oyster (or marsh clam). Moving toward the right the amount of discolouration increases as does the amount of worm borings, until the one on the right looks like it has definitly had a hard life! He is big and tough, stained and scared by his environment, like a middle aged boxer. It is an insight into what the others have to look forward to.

But then we must remember that they are all in fact dead. The left hand one will never get to grow old. It's youthful beauty preserved by an early death.

The more you think about it, the more disturbing it all becomes.

26 October 2010

From the sublime to the celebral

Two very contrasting ones for this week.
First the very celebral RSA animate talking about education. Very clever. It's here. Check out there other stuff as well.

On the other end of the spectrum check out the technoviking. Don't mess with him, he is apparently an internet hero. The original is here but you need to click on the red speech bubble on the bottom right to remove the red layer (it will make sense when you get there)

Update

It snowed in October and for a few days last week Bergen was white. It was most strange to see snow on the ground while there are still leaves on the trees. The long range forecast suggests another hard winter which would be good.

Had a great weekend with Katharine in Bergen. She arrived Friday night and we spent Saturday getting lots of niggling jobs done. She is looking seriously pregnant and the monster is really starting to kick now. Its all getting more and more real by the day. Still feel pretty relaxed about it all though.

We watched the excellent "Prestige" on saturday night. I was really taken with this film and I thought it was really clever that the set the battle between two magicians against the backdrop of the true life battle between Tesla and Edison. As with that real life tale, the flash, showy one prevailed almost until the end, when quality shown through.

Sunday we went for a longish walk on Fløyen with Arne and Vibeke. We went up Fløyen, then across to Rundamen and back. There was a fair bit on snow and lots of ice up there and I was suprised not to see anyone on skies. Eirik L was out near Gullfjell carving fresh lines in October, which is pretty wild. No skiing for use, we just walked and the pregnant ladies did fine. It was great to get out and get some fresh air and exercise.

Sunday evening we were sitting in the lounge when Lola came in with a live mouse. I grabbed her but the mouse got away. I manged to catch it but just before I got to the door to throw it outside it bit me - hard! I held on for a while but when I couldn't get the door opened I dropped it. Much hilarity ensued as we chased the mouse around the living room. Ended up having to move all the furniture and found another dead mouse under the coffee table. This one was stiff as a board and had obviously been there for a while. Nice.

Eventually caught the lucky bugger and let him go. Still have two vampire like holes in my thumb. I guess one dead and one alive means the score is still level!

Lots going on at work and the moment and still feeling a bit under the weather. Just booked a last minute "cheap" holiday to the Malidives which I am seriously looking forward. Will be our last proper holiday together for a while so it will be good to go somewhere sunny, surf, dive and relax.

25 October 2010

A rugby player on a bike

Jim is a big lad, in a rugby front-row forward sort of way. We shared a house in Birmingham for a while back in 1989.

One evening Jim says I am off to the chippee do you want anything? I decline so he hops on his bicycle and heads down the road.

20 minutes later he is back, pushing the bike that has a buckled front wheel, he has a cut on his leg and generally looks a bit disheveled.

On his way down the road somebody has turned right into their driveway straight in front of him. He went over the bonnet and his rather large arse went straight through the windscreen.

The hapless and somewhat surprised owner of the car was very apologetic and took full responsibility. He told Jim to come back the next day and he would reimburse him for the damage to the bike.

When Jim went back, the guy gave him £50 for his wheel and forks and then told him that he was less worried about paying that, than the £1500 worth of damage Jim had done to the car. The wing, bonnet and windscreen where all destroyed. Jim I – Volvo 0

And the moral of the story, beyond look where you are going, must be, don’t mess with a rugby player on a bike!

22 October 2010

A piece of string

A piece of string walks into a bar. He hops up onto a stool and yells to the bartender, "Hey! Gimme a drink!"
The bartender picks up the string and throws it into the street saying "we don't serve string in here, clear off!"
The string thinks, "I'll show 'im." So the string contorts its body into a whole different shape, and frizzes its hair ala a'fro. It goes back in, hops onto the stool and asks for a drink.
The bartender says, "Are you a piece of string"

The string answers, "No. I'm a frayed knot."

21 October 2010

The Stones Man, the Stones!

It was 1992 and I had just spent almost a month travelling through France and northern Spain on my bike. I had travelled down through France with some other friends on bikes and crossed the Pyrenees several times, visiting old Spanish friends and seeing new sights. When my bike buddies had returned to the UK I had meet up with other friends to climb in the Picos de Europa. Now I was heading back alone.

I have always loved the rough honesty of Spain and much prefer it to the pseudo sophisticated pretension of France. So when it came time to head home I stayed in Spain as long as possible and then blasted north. Five hundred miles is a lot in a day on an old bike with no faring and I did two of those, back to back sleeping in a field somewhere in the middle.

By the time I arrived at the ferry in Cherborg I was feeling pretty knackered. My chain was virtually shot and once in the queue I got out my tools to tweek it again, trying to eek the last few hundred miles out of it to get me back to Liverpool.

I overheard some guy say “that blokes had a hard ride”. Less charitable people noticably avoided me. I looked at myself in the wing mirror – and yep I looked like shit. A month of sleeping rough and then two days of solid riding do that to you. I didn’t care it felt good to going home at the end of such a great trip. Just what I had need to clear my head after 9 months of solid Phd writting.

It was dark in Portsmouth as I rode off the ferry and headed north. It was midnight when the chain finally snapped. No damage was done to the bike but I wasn’t going anywhere until I got it replaced and that wasn’t going to be until the next day. I contemplated trying to find a field to doss in when I remembered the good ole RAC. I hadn’t been able to afford Eurocover but I had cover in the UK and they could take me home, for free.

So I called them and said the chain is broken don’t bother sending a patrol man, just send the relay truck. So I waited an hour and the patrolman turned up and it toke him 30 seconds to figure out he couldn’t fix it and I would need to be relayed home. So he left me to wait for another hour.

It was a warm evening and while I was waiting I got the sense something was going on. Lots of battered hippy type cars went by with load dance music booming. A dutch car screeched to a halt and a pretty, short haired girl bounced over and asked me “do you know where the festival was?” Then it all made sense, this was right in the middle of the summer of love, we had been at Castle Morton just before I had left on the trip and now it was pretty much mid-summers eve. It was a whole summer of crusties in knackered old bus convoys and ravers people driving blindly around the countryside looking for “the party”. We chatted and I said that I had been out the country for a month so I had no idea where tonight’s party was in Dorset or anywhere else. A little while later she coyly asked if I wanted to leave the bike and go with her to look for it anyway. It would be fun she promised and I was sure it would. I was tempted but I had to decline since I had a date with an RAC wagon.

She left and 10 minutes later a bike pulled up. The guy asked if I knew where the festival was and I said no. Then the pillion, who was slumped against the rider woke up and said “the Stones; the Stones man; we need to find the Stones man”. I figured it was Stonehenge he was talking about not the Rolling Stones, but I was not able to help. I just laughed at them and they rider laughed at his passenger who slipped back into his substance induced coma and then they sped off. At least I wasn’t getting lonely.

Eventually the relay guy turned up and immediately started ranting about fuckin hippies and ravers. I knew I didn’t like him but at least he was going to take me home. I climbed into the back of his cab and immediately fell into a long deep sleep, waking up on the M62 just outside of Liverpool as the sun was rising. Home!

If the American states were countries

The USA is an aglomeration of states which have fairly distinct cultures and indentities. If they were broken up into countries how would they fare?
One way to look at this is to consider their GDP, which has been done in this map where the individual states are replaced by countries with similiar GDP.


California is the largest (similiar to France, #8 in the World)

Wyoming is the poorest and compares to Uzbekistan (#101 in the World)

My adopted home of Norway is the same as #28 Minnesota

The UK is #7 in the World and marginally bigger than California

Interestingly the GDP of the whole of Europe is almost idenitical to the USA ($13.7 vs $13.2 billion).

The map is from the excellent StrangeMaps and can be found here.

20 October 2010

Back in the day

I was chatting to one of the young guys in work today about getting started in the industry and it occurred to me that it was a long long time ago and things were different to today.

Back in 1988 when I finished my degree I had planned to go offshore mud logging but then Piper Alpha slowed down recruitment and oil at less than $12 per barrel pretty much killed it. I had a 2.1 degree and a plan to do a PhD the following year, but I was also very skint and needed money now. I worked briefly as a landscape gardener in Cardiff before heading back to North Wales. I arrived home to a letter from a friend who sent me some job adverts. I called them up and had an interview the next day in London with a small company called GAPS.

I drove down to the smog and found their office. It was a converted house in Putney. I later found out that it had been converted by a 60 year old Polish exile in his spare time – it looked like it! The interview went fine despite me telling them I only wanted the job for a year and they offered me the position on £7500 per year. It sounded ok and I knew it would be good experience.

So I moved down with all my possessions load in my car (a £100 mazda) and started work. The job was ok, the people friendly and I was on a steep learning curve. Three summers of working in a car show room washing the same cars everyday had long taught me that the best way to get through the day is to be busy. Siphius knew what he was doing. So I threw myself into it and tried to get as much out of it as possible.

At first I stayed with my cousins in Orpington (1.5 hours away) away but they justifiably got bored of me after about 4 weeks so I moved out. At this point I realized that £7500 was not enough to live on in London when especially when you already have significant debt. So for the next 5 months I slept on peoples floors, sofas and very rarely spare rooms. The people I was dosing with generally didn’t have much more money than me so they didn’t have large flats with lots of space, but they were hospitable, generally for about 4 weeks before the subtle hints would start and it was time to move on. Eventually my girlfriend got a flat and for my last month we had a home, but we were so skint, its hard to imagine it now. Still we managed to party and climbed at the free wall in Imperial College and on the crappy southern sandstone.

The people I worked with were a motley crew but a good bunch. They appreciated that I was keen to learn and gave me interesting jobs that allowed me to develop. There was fundamental Christian who would describe rocks as Jurassic but refused to believe they were older than 6000 years; a big Welshman who was trying hard to be a father, his wife would call up and he would rush home at lunch time to do the business, then come back to work and laugh about it; there was one of the owners who worked in the lab downstairs and used to tip mercury down the toilet and used HF with no gloves – HSE in the workplace! There was a couple of other young guys who partied hard, their exploits are beyond this post and, there was some good geologists trying hard to do a good job. Many of them are still active in the business and I still run into them from time to time.

By February of my year in Industry I was bankrupt and the bank was not interested in my pleas. I got an opportunity to start a PhD in Birmingham immediately. The project came through a contact I had made from the Company and was highly relevant to my future career so I jumped at it. The money was even worse (£1850 year) but at least I could live like a student again and more importantly the bank got off my back for a few more years.

I could say I had “done industry” and also that I had lived in London. I was only there for 7 months but that was long enough to say “that was fun but never again!”

Wednesday Movie

Insightful news story on Americans and exercise here
Not suprisingly youtube is full of further evidence, so click here to get started and just watch what ever else takes your fancy from the links bar

16 October 2010

Bungy Jumping at Victoria Falls

It's 1997 and I am doing fieldwork in northern Namibia with Nige. I have decided to take a few days off in the middle of the work period and head to Victoria Falls for some sightseeing and to raft the Zambezi. Nige doesn't want to go because he was there last year with his girlfriend so I leave him well stocked up and drive across northern Namibia, along the Caprivi strip, into Botswana and then Zimbawa. The journey takes a couple of days and is another tale.

I arrive in Vic falls in the evening and quickly sign up for a raft trip the next day just as the shop is shutting. It's already dark so I head to a campsite.

The next days rafting is epic, huge volumes of water, massive rapids, crocodiles in the pools, a single capsize. Exactly what I had come for, I was a very happy bunny. That evening I sat in a bar with the 4 gap year kids who I had shared a raft with for the day. They were a bit younger than me, on a white mans tour with Daddies visa card but they were good company especially after so long in the desert. We are having fun.
"So guys what's next?"
"Vic falls bungy jump tomorrow, 100 m, it's the biggest in the World - you wanna join us?"
I have been a climber long enough to know that falling isn't really fun and I am also short on cash, I think it will be a bit contrived and lame so I decline in a shower of accusations about my courage, my manhood and my right to hang out with them. It's all good natured though and after about three more beers I agree that I will join them. If you are ever going to do a bungy jump, I guess Vic Falls is a better backdrop than going off a crane in an Asda car park back home.

The next day we go to see the Falls and they are, without doubt very impressive. Millions of gallons of water, tumbling into a gash in the otherwise flat basalt plateau. The noise is immense and the mist and steam do indeed look like smoke. The locals who showed it Livingston called it the smoke that roars". That seemed pretty accurate to me. We also see the bridge and look down to the river below. One hundred metres is a bloody long way.

Our jump time comes so we cross customs (the bridge is the boarder between Zimbawa and Zambia) and walk out on the bridge. A small, sinister looking street kid looks me in the eyes and draws his finger across his throat in a threatening jesture. This is unusual because the kids are normally happy and laughing. I hope it isn't an omen.

We get to the middle of the bridge and the obligatory Kiwi bungy master greets us. He explains that we will jump in order of size and after each person has finished they will lower someone down off the lower deck and haul us up. Easy as that. The mood is light hearterd but there are hints of nervousness amongst the boys. I feel like I am pretty relaxed.



Matt is up first, he is a big guy and he has done jumps before. He is trying very hard to be cool and ignores most of the Bungy masters banter and some of his instruction. When he jumps it is half hearted and he tumbles, uncomfortably into space. I make a conscious decision to listen to the instructor and do what ever he tells me. I rationalise that they do this 50 times a day - if you do what they say nothing can go wrong, can it?


Then there is a load bang from beneath us and the Bungy master winces and says "that one will have hurt". I ask what he is taking about and he explains that big guys will often have enough momentium to come back up and hit the underside of the brdige if they jump badly. This is serious, Matt is a big guy but not that much bigger than me. I make another "note to self" to listen carfeul to the instructions. I have to drive half way across Africa later in the day. I have fieldwork to do. I can't afford an injury now.


So the Bungy master straps a towel around my legs, then he wraps a climbing sling around that in a larks foot and clips it into the rope and the safety harness. He instructs me, best to dive, jump as far out as you can and keep your body straight. At the bottom, you can extend your arms out to the side, that will slow you down on the rebound. Flapping can slow you down further, stop you hitting the underside of the bridge. I listen intently taking it all in and visualizing the process.


I shuffle to the edge of the platform and look down. It's a fuckin long way but I feel calm. I don't give myself too much time to think, just bend my legs and push off hard, accompanied by a loud yell. Arms extended I execute a perfect swallow dive and accelerate downwards. An old climbing adage is, if you remember falling then its a long one". I definitely remember falling and seeing the river accelerate towards me. Just as I reach the water I am catapulted upwards. This is awesome! What a buzz! Then as I hurtle upwards I remember the underside of the bridge and extend my arms, frantically flapping. I am very happy when I avoid the impact and drop down again.


I bounce around for a while before the man on the cable comes a clips into my harness and slowly pulls me back up. He is happy and smiling a lot. I guess he sees a lot of adrenaline charged westerners.


At the top I catch up with Matt and we compare notes. I ask him if hitting the bridge hurt. He denies it happened but I am adamant. Maybe he was so psyched he didn't notice? He looks at me as if I am a bit daft and we head back to the edge of the gorge to watch the others.


The bungy company shot video and sell it to the jumpers. I am keen to watch Matt's and prove to him that he did in fact hit the bridge. We sit in the little cabin as they show the jumpers in order. As we watch Matt go, we see his terrible, half stumbling jump as plummets straight down, everyone is laughing. Then as he rebounds he accelerates upwards but then stops, he is 20 or 30 m short of the underside of the bridge. I am momentarily confused and then there is a dawning realisation...


I have been had! Big Time!


My video is up next and I almost can't watch. I see myself perform a perfect swallow dive on the way down and then morph into an idiot frantically flapping my arms on the way back up. Everyone cheers! I have to laugh - I have been had, hook line and sinker.


I get partial revenge by refusing to buy the video. Its all very good natured, but I have to admit I fell for it well and truly. Just follow whatever the instructor says. What could possibly go wrong?

Friday Joke on Saturday

Just heading back from a rather busy few days in Calgary, so the Friday joke is a bit late...
(and they don't improve with age!)
___________________________________
A clown walks into a bar. The bartender says, "You better not try anything funny in here"

A default sans serif font walks into a bar. The bartender says "Sorry we don't serve your type here"

Shakespeare walks into a bar, and the bartender says, 'Oi, you can't come in 'ere! You're bard!'

Helium walks into a bar. Bartender says "We don't take kindly to your kind here." Helium doesn't react.

A snake slithers into a bar and the bartender says, "I'm sorry but I can't serve you." "Why not?" asks the snake. The bartender says, "Because you can't hold your liquor."

Two hydrogen atoms walk into a bar.
One says, 'I think I've lost an electron.'
The other says 'Are you sure?'
The first says, 'Yes, I'm positive.'

Two cartons of yogurt walk into a bar. The bartender, a tub of cottage chesse, says to them, "We don't serve your kind in here."
One of the yogurt cartons says back to him, "Why not? We're cultured individuals."

A kangaroo walks into a bar and orders a martini. The bartender figures that a kangaroo probably isn't very economically aware, and charges him $50. The marsupial orders a beer next time, and is charged $60. Finally, the bartender's curiosity gets the better of him. He casually remarks, "You know, we don't get too many kangaroos in here."
The kangaroo replies, "At these prices, I am not surpised."

12 October 2010

Bit of news - an update

Things in Bergen plod along as normal. Winter is coming although there has been some fine Autumn days. I will never get bored of waking up and seeing the view from my bedroom window across the fjord, even when the weather is crappy, but especially when the whole thing is bathed in a warm orange glow of the morning sun and steam devils are dancing across the water.

Not too much fun stuff going on at the mo, just lots of work, although I have been out climbing a couple of times which is always a treat. Hard to beat climbing sea-cliffs in the evening.

Was in Aberdeen for the weekend. We finally got the keys to Cowieswells and entered the house for the first time. It was nowhere near as bleak or derelict as we had imagined, although still pretty much uninhabitable. We also meet, Brian the farmer who has bought the surrounding land. He was a really nice guy and told us a lot of background to the place, including the fact that the previous owner had died in the house - nice! And that all the money had gone to charity - which is also nice but it a less sarcastic way. It was good to meet him and know that we could at least communicate with our neighbours.

Visited the place a couple of times over the weekend, the second time with Aid and Elian. It's very encouraging to see how many friends are really inspired by the place. It helps us believe that we havn't made a huge mistake. After visiting the farm we had lunch with them in Stonehaven which is also growing on me as a palce. I had originally thought it was just a dormitory town to Aberdeen but it isn't. Lots of history, a picturesque harbour, good pubs and an excellent fish n chip shop. Look forward to exploring it more.

Monday we had the second scan for the baby. Katharine is doing great and making the whole pregnancy thing look like a breeze. Hard to imagine that at 21 weeks we are now past half way already. The first scan at 12 weeks down in Edinburgh had been amazing and I was really looking forward to this one.

Unfortunatly it was in Aberdeen and they have a policy of not revealing the sex of the baby to the parents. In fact they go out of their way to avoid showing you. The story goes that some dickhead sued them after he painted his nursary pink and then had a boy, although I am not sure if that is true. If it is then he should be shot for being the type of self entitled scum that ruin it for everyone and Aberdeen health trust should be ashamed of themselves for taking the easy route.

The women running the scanner was a dour east coast grandmother who, while not unpleasant was not interested in engaging with us at all. She just ignored any questions or comments and whizzed around the baby, making the necassary measurements and getting us out as quickly as possible. It was all very deflating.

The afternoon improved greatly with a visit to architect who will work with us on the house. I had not met him before and he was great. Really seemed to know what he was talking about, lots of ideas and just a really inspriring guy. An hour and a half with him cheered us up no end.

Now in Skipole and on my way to Calgary for 4 days - Rock n roll!

07 October 2010

Tiger Mike Memos

Tiger Mike Davies was an old school oil industry boss.
His office memos can be found here.
They are well worth reading - interestingly his oil company went bust, so maybe treating your staff like crap isn't such a great idea

06 October 2010

All Blacks

The Rugby season is coming and as the game goes the All Blacks are pretty damn good
Check out this for some training tricks

There is also an Aussie version here which explains a lot

The Kiwis as famous for the Haka, but if you want to see how the game has progressed check out this from the 1920's this from the 1970's and this from now. The second one is comical

No real link but here is some Welsh magic on the field

03 October 2010

The Party Season

Autumn is definitly here. After an amazing week of perfect sunshine in which I actually managed to get out climbing a couple of times, the weather has finally crapped out this weekend. Autumn is the worst time of the year in western Norway. Its getting rapidly darker by the day and it generally rains, a lot! There is not much to do except go for walks in the rain and wait for the ski season to start in December. Becuase of this the "party season" was born.

Its easy to say that you don't need a particular season to go partying and that is true, providing that you have nothing else to do. If however you want to make the most of life which includes boarding and ice climbing through the winter; skiing, boarding, and top touring in the Spring; climbing, kayaking and a bit of biking through the summer; then you probably don't want to spend most of your precious weekends getting mindless drunk until 6am and then nursing a hang-over all through the day. So the party season was great because it allowed unrestricted socializing and helped to get through those grim autumn weekends when you didn't mind being hungover because there was not much else to do anyway.

When I first arrived in Bergen it was hardcore. For the first couple of years there was about 8 weekends of serious partying which always ended with the annual ski trip to Hemsedal on the second week of December. In recent years everyone seems to have moved on or calmed down or both. I guess everyone is getting older and the arrival of numerous babies is definitly a factor, so I was slightly suprised when I went out for a quite beer on Friday night and managed to get rather trashed. It was the first time in ages that I had had a proper night out at the weekend in Bergen and it was fun. So much so I went out again on Saturday for Sandy birthday. Maybe I am not so old, or maybe the thought of impending fatherhood is driving me to one last pulse of adolesence.

30 September 2010

29 September 2010

Podcasts

I am a geek in that I have a strong interest in science and technology (amongst other things). I am proud of the achievements of science and I thing science should be promoted and encouraged, especially amongst young people but also across the population in general.

Living in a country where the radio and TV are in a language I don't speak very well has forced me to seek other forms of mental stimulation for my drive to work and while sitting at home. I recently discovered podcasts which are a great way of getting something worth listening to onto your ipod/iphone.

If you are interested in science I suggest Radiolab, its a totally awesome science show. They have this unique style which takes a little getting used to, but when you do you will be hooked. Gareth first pointed me towards it and I was a bit sceptical at first. Now I love it. They do 1 hour podcasts of their regular radio shop and also special "shorts" which last about 15 mins and are perfect for my drive to work. I really can't recommend this show enough. I love it. Check out http://www.radiolab.%20orgb/ or go to itunes and seach on radiolab and download and enjoy.

Science weekly from the Guardian - another very good science show, worth listening to

If you want some history, A History of the World in a Hundred Objects is a great series of podcast shorts about history told though objects by the director of the British Mueseum. Again a perfect length for my drive to work and highly educational.

Finally if you want some politcis and current affairs the Young Turks offers an educated, informed and opinionated liberal view on American Politics. It is a fantatsic antidote to the idiots like Rush Limbaugh

To download a podcast, simply go to the very shit piece of software that is iTunes and search for your chosen cast. All the ones above are free so when you find them, follow the instructions download, listen and enjoy

Moped madness

This week is all about small motorbikes and being young and stupid.

The first one from Les goes to show what happens when you let a bunch of chav's lose with a moped and a roundabout. I then found a load more that were all similiar, here, here and here. Strangley enough they all seem to be German.

The next one is a must see and goes to prove that just cos the engine is small doesn't mean it isn't fast or very dangerous.

And then there is this guy who might just be a rocket scientist.

And finally a great three-parter on youtube showing the joys of the Yamaha fizzy and girls in 1970's northern England. Class

23 September 2010

Demotivational posters

Do you remember seeing those utterly hideous motivational posters several years ago showing an eagle soaring with a very cheesy logo underneath? They were designed to hang in the meeting room in some crappy company and make you feel sick.

Well fortunatly they have been rendered largely obsolete by the rather excellent "demotivational posters" at verydemotivational.com. This is a user generated forum and I recently submitted a few. I am not sure of the process that gets them from submission to being on the website but I think it has something to do with users voting. I am rather demotivated to find that none of mine have yet made it.

So in the absence of any crap jokes this week, here they are...






Geek Day - more analemma

A while ago I wrote a post about a guy who had photographed the Sun every ten days for a year. The subsequent pattern reflects the various movements of the Earth. This is called the analemma and is described here on wikipedia. Despite that explanation I was still having trouble picturing how all this stuff was moving.

The other day I was playing around on this site, which allows you to look at a map of the sky from anywhere on Earth at anytime (it is made by the same guy who did the Space Invaders game) and it occured to me that I could re-create the analemma. So I set my location to 60N/5E, which is pretty much at the Lair, then filmed a day by day movie for a year from equinox to equinox. The movie is here.

You can recreate this and try putting in different latitudes and see how it impacts the suns pattern. Its pretty cool.

(Now we just have to see how many perv hits I get on a site called karmasotra with a post called anal emma...)

22 September 2010

White water fun

Back in 1997 I drove from central Namibia along the Caprivi Strip into Botswana and then on to Victroria Falls with the goal of rafting the Zambezi. The first part of this was achieved fairly easily by signing up for a commercial trip, then things got interesting.

I had been on numerous river trips in the US and elsewhere and I had heard the standard saftey briefing enough times to give it. However it normal goes something like "if you fall out of the boat then bla bla". Here in the centre of Africa, the briefing was subtly different, it went "when you fall out the boat..." They even had kayakers following the rafts to pick up the swimmers and stear them away from the crocs in the pools.

We did the trip and the rapids were huge! I have never run anything like that, Lava Falls on the Grand Canyon was big and wide and ferocious, but these are narrrow and very fast and very fierce. We capized once but no harm was done, we portaged one rapid and had a great trip which was all too short.

I was chating about this on Friday night in the pub with Terry and on Monday he sent we the first of this weeks movie. Remember the river surfing in Voss from a couple of weeks back, well this takes it to a whole new level.

And just in case you think I am dissing Lava Falls - check this and this

Bonus Wednesday Movie

Bonus Wednesday movie because it won't really keep until next week.

As spectator sports go, snooker is almost as terminally dull as golf (almost)
However there is always an exception and this is it.

Ronnie O'Sullivan comes to the table, then immediately asks what the prize for a 147 is. How utterly cool is that? But it gets better, because when they then tell him that there isn't one he proceeds to pot all the balls except the last black, leaving the ultimate ball as a protest. The Guardian says that he the ref had to beg him to finish. I am not so sure that was obvious from the vid, but its bloody cool anyway.

18 September 2010

The Levellers

It was October 1991 and I was trying to finish my PhD. This was one of the toughest periods of my life. My daily routine involved getting up at about 10 am, heading into the Geology department and working through to about 1 or 2 in the morning. Seven days a week for about 8 months. I was totally focused on finishing the project and a 4 volume report for the sponsors within the 3 year deadline. I have never been so focused on anything, before or since. In the end I worked for 250 days straight with only one half a day off at Christmas and I narrowly missed the deadline.

One late night in the department I was drafting figures and listening to the radio. This was the days before computer drawing and all the diagrams were drafted by hand using rotoring pens on drafting film, I actually rather enjoyed it. I am not the most artistic person but the mechanics of it all are rather theraputic and the feeling of producing a nice looking figure is very satisfying. So I was there drawing figures accompanied by John Peel's eclectic mix of the weird and the obscure. At some point in the night he put on three tracks from an unknown band called the Levellers. The first two were "One way of life" and "The Game". I don't remember the third., maybe Riverflow or the Boatman, anyway I loved it. "One way", which went on to be a bit of an indi ballard was good, but The Game just sent shivers down my spine.

I hardly ever bought records back then, I didn't have the money, but next day I went straight to the small record shop on Bristol Road and bought the album, "Levelling the Land" and it became a part of the sound track to my PhD. The fusion of folk and punk with a social conscience was so representative of that period in the UK when Thatchers erosion of the foundations of society forced a generation of people to live on the road and fundamentally changed Britain for ever. It's still one of my favourite albums and I still love the Levellers.

Saw them playing in Birmingham 3 times and at Glastonbury in 1992 and again in 1994 when they played an amazing cover of the Devil went down to Georgia. Also saw them in Liverpool in 1994 and 1996. In 2003 I was walking down the road in Salt Lake City when I saw sign on the now sadly defunct, Zephyr club advertising the Levellers tomorrow night. This was a long way off their beaten track so I wasn't even sure if it was the same band. I popped into the club and asked if this was the Levellers from England? The guy at the desk just looked confused, so I tried a bit more, folk/punk, crusties, dogs on string, dreadlocks? He seemed even more confused so I just opted to chance it, rearranged my schedule and turn up.
When we got there it was indeed the same Levellers and the place was pretty much empty. When they came out there was about 20 of us in the audience and they played a blinding set, just for us. It was an awesome evening which ended up with us drinking in the bar with them until closing and getting them to autograph Chris Lepard!

I still listen to them and whenever I hear that distinctive fiddle and base sound it takes me back to the early 90's. Festivals, climbing, juggling, motorbikes, the early days of rave, travellers and long long days on my PhD. It all seems like a different World...