24 February 2010

Wednesday Movie

This is extremely cool - no special effects used
see the making of here

20 February 2010

Biker tales 2

Its September 2004 and I am heading to the newly liberated Czech republic to drink beer and and climb sandstone towers with Rich. We are riding our old bikes, heavily laden with camping and climbing gear.

I have been living in Liverpool for a couple of years and agaisnt my better judegment I let a local lad service my bike, he was very keen and claims to have a diploma in motorcycle maintainance. Its always good to put money into the local economy, but in this cases its being funnelled straight to the local dope dealer and is rapidly disappearing up in smoke.

Things start to go wrong in France when the electrics keep packing up. I eventually trace the problem to a short in one of the indicators and fix it cleaning the contacts. Then the bolts holding the headlamp drop out, leaving it hanging. This is corrected with a couple of sharpened sticks, shaped into pegs that are banged into the bolt hole.

Things really start to go to shit as we cross the boarder into Germany when a bolt drops out of the anti-dive mechanism. This makes the heavily laden bike hard to ride and just a bit dangerous. I give up on the bush mechanics and concede that a bike shop might be required. We reach Wurzburg where we have a very random conversation with a local biker who is pleased to help because he tells us how much he loves British bikes. I ask him why and he replies that German ones are boring because they never break down. Right now I would settle for a German bike rather than this 20 year old piece of Jap engineering which has just endured a service from a pot-head.

We find a Honda garage that is a shrine to highly polished, state of the art, plastic-fantatsic racing machines, not a drop of oil, or spec of dirt anywhere. We pull up and wander in. We have only been on the road for 3 days, but sleeping in fields is already taking its toll on our appearance.

I try to explain "anti-dive bolt" but the parts guy has no idea, so I get him to come and look. He admires the bike, over loaded and held together with bits of tape and sticks, and he asks "vhere have you come from?"
"England" I reply
"no but vhere have you been?"
"Nowhere we are just going"
And at this point he realises that that we are not on our way back from India or somewhere similar. We are just strating out, now his admiration turns to amusement and these idiot Brits and their crappy bikes. He disappears out the back, to get parts, at least that's what I think, but he returns with all the guys from the workshop who stand around having a good laugh.
There is not a whole lot we can say or do except agree that getting a stoner to service your bike before you set of the ride across Europe may not be the best idea. We get the bits and fit them in the forecourt of the Honda centre. The staff are less than impressed but there is not much they can do.
Three days later we ride across the boarder into the Czech republic. Hundreds of prostitutes line the hedge rows, under-dressed and shivering in the cold. They are presumably catering to German businessmen and truckers. It's pretty grim but I busting for a piss. The number of girls thins out after a couple of klicks from the boarder and I stop in an empty looking layby. No sooner have I started doing my business than 3 very pretty girls in short skirts appear and proceed to chase my around the car park, cock in hand, Benny Hill style. I get back to the bike and beat a hasty retreat - welcome to the eastern bloc!

19 February 2010

Ignorance is easy...

A recent survey in Texas showed that over half of the respondents believe in creationism. Lets get this straight, more than half of the people would rather accept an inconsistent, often barbaric tale from a bunch of misogynistic, bigoted, bronze-age Palestinian goat-herders then the findings of 2000 years of scientific endeavor. The same scientific endeavor that has quadrupled life expectancy, cured many of the world's worst diseases, brought prosperity and comfort to a vast numbers of people, brought advances in agriculture that have allowed the population to double five times in that period and generally advanced mankind immensely. And what would have happened if we had "put our faith in god"? We would still be living in tents in the desert and stoning our women folk. Depressing isn't it.

Perhaps even more depressing is the the fact that the situation is not much better in the UK.

The problem is that we have forgotten how good we have it. In the western world we are obsessed with media and celebrity and a large majority do not value learning and scientific achievement, its not cool to be a scientist - ignorance is easy and instantaneous. The masses aspire to get on Big Brother, or be a football WAG. Our students go to college to study for degrees in pop-music and business studies, and the good scientists we produce waste their time locked in battles with religious zealots who manipulate the stupid and lazy for their own gain. Many of our brighter people are lured into jobs in finance where their intellegence is wasted feeding the greed machine, dreaming up more complex derivatives that will ultimatley wreck the economy.

Meanwhile in China there are 300 million people learning English (that’s more than the population of the USA) and in China and India combined there are more than 50 million "grade-A" students studying things like maths, physics, chemistry and "extra maths".

The west is fucked!

If Escher had lego...

Less of a joke than just a funny picture

It's been a busy couple of weeks, what with visitors and lots going on at work. Busy is better than bored so I am not complaining.

Now sitting in Frankfurt Airport, which is horrible, en route to Cape Town and a week of fieldwork and technowank in the Karoo with the boys from Liverpool. When I left the house this morning there was a perfect blue sky and the fjord was still frozen, the drive across the Sotra bridge was awesome, it made me feel sad to be leaving Norway when it is so pretty, but Cape Town is one of my favorite cities in the World so I am certainly not complaining.

Have a nice weekend

17 February 2010

Biker tales

Its May 1992 and I am standing on a street corner in Huesca, a provisional capital in northern Spain. Huesca is one of those moderate sized towns that you have never heard of. A medieval central square surrounded by ugly sprawling concrete streets of box shaped buildings. The town is big enough that I am having trouble finding a bike shop to fix the tyre that is sitting on the pavement next to me. The rear wheel with its deflated tyre came from the Honda 550 that has carried me and a large pile of gear, all the way through France to the small village in the mountains were it is currently resting.

The bus brought me and my buddy Mark to town, wheel in tow and deposited us in the town centre. That was an hour ago and since then I have been lugging the wheel around, trying to find a bike shop that was in the phone book but is now hiding in the maze of busy streets.

A bike pulls up at the lights, ridden by a young guy with a girl on the back. I quickly ask him, in my bad Spanish if he knows where this garage is. He looks at me, assessing the situation and his own time schedule before barking at his girlfriend to get off the bike. She looks pissed off and looks at her watch, they are obviously supposed to be going somewhere and I guess they are already late. He then barks at me almost as directly, to "get on". I climb onto the back of his bike with the wheel balanced across me knee, just as the light goes green. We take off, cutting through the traffic, way too quickly. I pull my knees in tight as we skim between the cars and I try not to think of possible consequences.

I notice that the bike, a VFR750 is battered, there are serious scratches down both sides of the cracked faring. This is a bike that has been dropped, several times. I am painfully aware that I am perched in the pillion seat, without a helmet and unable to hold on to the bike or its rider since I have a large wheel across my knee.

The bike accelerates roughly and brakes hard as we carve through the traffic. I suddenly realise that each time we brake I lunge forward and the sprocket (big oily cog) leaves an oil stain on his denim jacket. I am powerless to stop it happening and it does, repeatedly, shit!

I have been on bikes long enough to know that no matter how scary it feels, its probably best to let the rider do his thing and relax. We zip through the traffic and I grasp my wheel and resign myself to fate as we head to the suburbs.

We arrive at a couple of tower blocks and in the basement of one is a workshop. The old guy who obviously runs it is just shutting up for his siesta. After a quick exchange with my new found friend he agrees to have the wheel fixed in a couple of hours. I am terrified of not finding the workshop again but no sooner has the mechanic scribbled the address than I am hustled back onto the pillion seat and we hurtle out into the traffic. Now I realise that he was "taking it easy" on the way there and within 3 minutes we are back at the traffic lights where a very pissed off girlfriend is taking it out on Mark who is pretending not to speak any Spanish.

I jump off and thank him profusely, he has helped me out big time and all I have managed to do his cover the back of his jacket with a large oil stain and piss off his girlfriend. I am contemplating mentioning the jacket when la chica jumps onto the bike and they take off. I can only imagine the amount of pain he is going to experience in the next 15 minutes but I am massively thankful for his help.

Three hours later, I find the workshop, the area is very dodgy, but the wheel is fixed and at a very nice price. I love being a biker and I love Spain...

Wednesday Movie - Jeff Vader

Classic Eddie Izard talking about the canteen on the Death Star

Also to maintain the star wars theme whilst celebrating a fairly spawny Welsh win over Scotland some classic Taff Wars

16 February 2010

Shit software

Quick Rant

I start my computer and it takes literally 5 minutes to boot up and after that it is really slow for another 5 - 10 minutes whilst it is being smothered, chocked to death by at least 5 stupid pieces of software all clamouring for updates like fat kids at the tuck shop window? The software worked fine when I shut it down, so why the fuck should it need to be updated now? What happened over night that it requires such a major overhaul?

And more to the point why didn't they write it properly in the first place? For some reason Toyota do a product recall and its a huge PR disaster but it's perfectly acceptable for Java, Microsoft and HP to all have to update themselves every 10 frikin minutes.

Do they think it makes us feel better about the product, constant attention from the maker? Does it fuck! I don't want your attention I don't care about your software, I don't even want to know what it is called, I just want it do it's job. Slowing down my computer just pisses me off. It's not good service it's fuckin shit software.

Breath deeply....

Feeling better

15 February 2010

Another winter weekend

First trip of the year to Voss on Saturday followed by some cross country skiing (falling over) on Sunday. Photos here on flickr. The hobbit is my godson Dan, who has been over for the past week chilling at the Lair.

Another fine weekend.

12 February 2010

Logical Science

Two builders go into the pub after a hard day's work. They're sat drinking for a while when a very smartly dressed man walks in and orders a drink. The two began to speculate about what the man did for a living.
"I'll bet he's an accountant." said the first builder.
"Looks more like a stockbroker to me." argued the second.
They continued to debate the subject for a good while until eventually the first builder needed to use the toilet. On walking in, he saw the smartly dressed man standing at a urinal. "Excuse me mate, but me and my friend have been arguing over what a smartly dressed fella like you does for a living?" the builder said to the man.
Smiling the man replied, "I'm a logical scientist."
"A what?" asked the builder.
"Let me explain" the man continued, "Do you have any goldfish at home?"
A bit puzzled, but intrigued the builder decided to play along, "Yes, I do, about 20."
"Well since there are so many it's logical to assume that you have a garden pond.
"That's correct" the builder replied.
"Well then it's logical to assume that you have a large garden."
The builder again nodded his agreement.
So the man continued, "which means it's logical to assume you have a large house."
"I have a 6 bedroom house that I built myself." the builder said proudly.
"Given that you have such a large house, it's logical to assume that you are married..."
The builder nodded again, "Yes, I'm married and we have three children."
"Then it's logical to assume that you have a healthy sex life."
"Five nights a week!" the builder boasted. The man smiled a little,
"Therefore it's logical to assume you don't masturbate often."
"Never!" the builder exclaimed.
"Well there you have it" the man explained,
"That's logical science at work. From finding out that you have a goldfish, I've discovered the size of your garden, all about your house, your family and your sex life!"
The builder left, very impressed by the man's talents. On returning to the bar the other builder asked, "I see that smart bloke was in there, did you find out what he does?"
"Yeah," replied the first, "He's a logical scientist."
"A what?" the puzzled second builder asked.
"Let me explain" the first builder continued,
"Do you have a goldfish at home?"
"No" replied his mate.
"Ah, hmm!"

"Well, I think that means you're a wanker then!"

11 February 2010

Nice Ice

The temperture in Bergen is starting to poke its head above freezing during the day but everything is still white. Got some great pics of the evil lair in the snow, they can be seen here. Manged to get a great day boarding at Myrkdalen with the boys on Saturday, fresh snow and a great bunch of guys, really going for it. Top respect to Terry who was only on his 4th or 5th time out and was really laying it on.

Friday night was out with Sandy and Harry. Harry expressed an interest to climb some ice, not least because he is heading to Hemsedal for an ice climbing course with Ingrid, his extremely competitive wife, in fact they are both highly competitive and he saw an option to get some extra paractice in. So on Sunday we headed to Brattfossen near Eikadalen. I had climbed it a few year back but this year it was in much better nick, really fat and well formed.

Walking in to Brattfossen, Jamie and Keith already climbing the left line

After getting mildly lost and wading through deep snow to get to the base we met Jamie and Keith who were already there climbing. Since they were already climbing on the lefthand side we put a route on the right. First pitch was not too steep but sustained, Sandy led and Harry followed, I brought up the rear and the picked off the shorter top pitch. A great little route. More pics here.
"Its the wrong crampons Gromit" - Jamie on Brattfossen, read his account here

When Harry met Sandy - no fake orgasms here

This cold weather has seen some very hard core ice getting climbed by the real climbers, including this awesome effort up at Geiranger (check out their pics)

I am loving "global warming"

Norwegian Humour

The google street car has been in Bergen

You can check it out here

These viking heroes even made the news in the UK

Now there is something you don't see every day!

09 February 2010

Wednesday Movie - it's a cat's life

This weeks wednesday movie is not one but a whole series
Its called Simon's cat and if you have ever shared a house with a feline friend you will get it it
Start with this one and the enjoy the rest

05 February 2010

Stress Relief

This weeks Friday joke is an urban myth and as such is probably untrue, but I like it anyway. Enjoy:

I was sitting at my desk, when I remembered a phone call I had to make. I found the number and dialed it. A man answered nicely saying,"Hello?" I politely said, "This is Patrick Hanifin and could I please speak to Robin Carter?" "No it fuckin isn't" he screamed back and the phone was slammed down on me! I couldn't believe that anyone could be that rude. I tracked down Robin's correct number and called him. He had transposed the last two digits incorrectly.

Then one day when I was bored I had an idea. I redialed the original number and when I he answered I said "Hi. This is the sales office of the telephone company and I'm just calling to see if you're familiar with our caller ID program?" He went, "No!" and slammed the phone down. I quickly called him back and said, "That's because you're an arsehole!" Then I saved the phone number under the name "arsehole". Every couple of weeks, when I was paying bills, or had a really bad day, I'd call him up. He'd answer, and I'd yell, "You're an arsehole!" It would always cheer me up.

Keep reading, it gets better :

The old lady at the mall really took her time pulling out of the parking space. I didn't think she was ever going to leave. Finally, her car began to move and she started to very slowly back out of the slot. I backed up a little more to give her plenty of room to pull out. Great, I thought, she's finally leaving. All of a sudden this black Camaro came flying up the parking isle in the wrong direction and pulls into her space. I started honking my horn and yelling, "You can't just do that, Buddy. I was here first!"The guy climbed out of his Camaro completely ignoring me. He walked toward the mall as if he didn't even hear me. I thought to myself, this guy's an arsehole, there sure a lot of arseholes in this world. Then I noticed he had a "For Sale" sign in the back window of his car. I wrote down the number.

A couple of days later, I'm at home sitting at my desk. I had just gotten off the phone with the jackass and I noticed the phone number of the guy with the black Camaro lying on my desk. So I thought I'd better call this guy, too. After a couple rings someone answered the phone and said, "Hello." I said,"Is this the man with the black Camaro for sale?" "Yes, it is." "Can you tell me where I can see it?" "Yes, I live at 1802 West 34th street. It's a yellow house and the car's parked right out front." I said, "What's your name?" "My name is Don Hansen." "When's a good time to catch you, Don?" "I'm home in the evenings." "Listen Don, can I tell you something?" "Yes," "Don, you're an arsehole!" And I slammed the phone down. After I hung up I added Don Hansen's number to my speed dialer. For awhile things seemed to be going better for me. Now when I had a problem I had two arseholes to call. Then, after several months of calling the arsehole and hanging up on them, it just wasn't as enjoyable as it used to be. I gave the problem some serious thought and came up with a plan.

First, I phoned arsehole#1. A man answered saying, "Hello." I yelled "You're an arsehole!", but I didn't hang up. The arsehole said, "Are you still there?" I said, "Yeah." He said, "Stop calling me." I said, "No." He said, "Who are you?" I said, "Don Hansen." He said "I'll find you!" "I said "I'll make it easy, I live on 1802 West 34th Street. It's a yellow house and my black Camaro's parked out front.". He screams "I'm coming over right now, Don. You'd better start saying your prayers." "Yeah, like I'm really scared, arsehole!" and I hung up. Then I called arsehole#2. He answered, "Hello." I said, "Hello, arsehole!" He said, "If I ever find out who you are..." "You'll what?" "I'll kick your butt." "Well, here's your chance. I'm coming over right now arsehole!" And I hung up.

Then I climbed into my car and headed over to 34th Street to watch the whole thing. Great fun watching two arsehole kicking the crap out of each other!

04 February 2010

A reason not to stranded in a cabin with a bunch of Norwegians

I have been a vegetarian since 1990, that’s 20 years. I guess I don’t look too much like your stereo-typically vegi, so people are often keen to ask why. When they ask they normally have an agenda. Some are genuinely interested, that’s cool I have no problem with that. Then there are those that do it because they think its fun to pick an argument or try and ridicule me. Yawn! I have so heard it all before. Finally there are those who do it in an attempt to bond where the normal reply is “we hardly eat any meat at home”, or “I would give up meat but its my husband/wife”. That's nice but to be honest, I think what you eat is your business.

So when group 2 and 3 ask why I generally opt for Nige Mountney’s reply “I did it to impress girls”, because it’s so inane it normally kills the conversation dead. Otherwise I try and explain.

It's for moral and health reasons. I grew up on a farm and I have no problem with the principal of eating animals that are humanly reared and slaughtered. However, unless you do it yourself or specifically go our of your way to find organic produce then you will end up eating a lot of factory farmed and processed meat, from animals reared in small boxes, standing waist deep in their own shit, eating their own cousins entrails and pecking, scratching and biting their equally stressed neighbours. These poor unfortunates live in conditions that or so squalid they have to be pumped full of antibiotics to keep them from going putrid, which in turn has led to the rise of antibiotic resistance bacteria. When their untimely end comes they are transported around the country in conditions that make your Monday morning tube train ride look like a stoll in the park. Once butchered their carcasses are then mechanically stripped of all the good bits followed by the cheeks, lips and arseholes which go to make your hotdogs and pølse. Now what was the question again? Oh yes “why don’t you eat meat?”

Most people then agree with the idea that factory farming is bad before asking why I don’t eat organic meat? The reality is that it started out simpler to just give it all up and now after 20 years I just can’t stomach the idea of eating the flesh of another being. It’s so unnecessary. As for hunting, I simply can’t comprehend the fun in going out and killing something. I understand the going out into the countryside with your mates bit. I understand the fun of the chase but I don’t see why you need to kill it. I think it has something to do with having a very small penis and wanting to try and rectify some of the emancipation that comes with a sedate desk job in a safe western society.

This brings me to life in Norway which, after 25 years of travelling the global and visiting about 60 different countries, I can honestly say is undoubtedly the worse place to be a veggie that I have ever been. Lets be clear, that is worse than, Argentina (steak capital of the World), South Africa, Texas and even Japan.

So what is so bad? Basically there is no such think as veggie food, especially when you are travelling or eating out. When you are driving to the mountain, the garage will sell 5 different sandwiches, all with meat. Linked to the genes of blonde hair and blue eyes is a gene that makes it impossible to make a cheese sandwich without slipping a slice of dead pig flesh into it.

The pizza slices at the airport or in 7/11, four different varieties, all with a liberal sprinkling of some nasty processed meat. Why can’t you just do one that is without meat? I am not talking about all of them, just 1 in 4. Is that really so much to ask? And then when you get to the restaurant, about 1 in 5 will have anything on the menu that is veggie. The rest will look at you as if you just parked your space craft outside and hobbled in on three legs, put a pot of lube on the table and then asked to bugger them.

I guess I shouldn’t complain to much, it’s my choice to live here and you take the rough with the smooth. The old time ex-pats tell me it was much worse 20 years ago. Back then the only fresh vegetables in the supermarket were root veg (spuds, turnips and carrots), the rest of the shelves were stacked with tins of meatballs and the freezers were filled with salted meat. I believe this because occasionally when I feel really masochistic I go and shop in Rimi1000, which is still like that.

Going to someone’s house was also traumatic. They could cook a meal for 20, no worries but faced with a veggie they went into cold shock! So what do you eat? As if I might start gnawing on the furniture or chewing the daffodils. Some friends saw it as a challenge to be embraced, many just saw it as a nightmare. So in the interest of not being a total social pariah, not starving to death on long car journeys and not embarrassing my friends in restaurants I started to eat fish. Norway does fish very well and it is commonly available and generally of good quality. Its also probably good for me although it does bother me a bit, I know there are only about 26 fish left in the entire Norwegian Sea, that over-fishing caused the collapse of the cod in the north Atlantic and that the industrial salmon farms in the fjords of Norway and Chile poison the once pristine waters, but it’s about compromise and personal boundaries.

When I lived in the UK most of my friends where veggie or very veggie friendly to the point that nobody ever even discussed it. That’s just the way it was. Then I met a guy called Frank. He was a friend of a friend and needed somewhere to stay whilst in town. He was vegan and fairly rampant about it. He told me with heart felt conviction of the suffering bees go through when we take their honey. At that point I realized that it’s all about your personal boundaries. While Frank wouldn’t eat honey, I would not eat meat or fish. Somebody else would not eat factory farmed meat and many draw the line at veal. Most but not everyone, would not eat chimpanzees or whale and very few would actually eat another person.

Vegan to Cannibal are just end members, names we put on a sliding scale of carnivorous acceptance. It’s a matter of personal choice, however it has just occurred to me that as a nation my Norwegian friends are just one step down from Hannibal Lecter which makes me hope I never get stranded in a cabin in the mountains with them for too long.

03 February 2010

Cross country skiing

Whoever said that cross country (nordic skiing) is dull?
Well I did actually, but then again I never got to hang out with these guys!

and if you enjoyed that, check out these guys