19 May 2010

Wednesday Movie - New Extreme Sport

Great Wednesday Movie from JT
Something new to try this summer...

Check it out here

14 May 2010

Friday Joke

Less of a Joke and more of an interesting perspective on life in the 2nd Millenium

If, like me you were born before 1980 most of the following are probably true...
1. First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and / or drank while they carried us.
2. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a tin, and didn't get tested for diabetes.
3. Then after that trauma, our baby cots were covered in bright coloured lead-based paints.
4. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking as teenagers.
5. As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.
6. Riding in the back of a van - loose - was always great fun.
7. We drank water from the garden hosepipe and not from a bottle.
8. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and no one actually died from this.
9. We ate cakes, white bread and real butter and drank pop with sugar in it, but we weren't over weight because.......we were always outside playing!!
10. We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the street lights came on.
11. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were ok.
12. We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.
13. We did not have Nintendos Playstations, X-Boxes, no video games at all, no99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no text messaging, no personal computers, no internet or internet chat rooms.....we had friends and we went outside and found them!
14. We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents...
15. We played with worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.
16. Made up games with sticks and tennis balls and although we were told it would happen, we did not poke out any eyes.
17. We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!
18. Local teams had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!
19. The idea of a parent bailing us out when we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!!

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever. The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all

Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it!?

13 May 2010

Wednesday Movie

I am in Utah enjoying being out in the field - will post more soon

In the meantime this weeks wednesday movie is a classic.

It's here - enjoy

08 May 2010

The Winner in the UK General Election

Nail biting general election in the UK where all the parties lost, but who was the winner?

Let’s look first at the losers:
Labour, obviously for the party in power to lose 89 seats is a fairly major bad news. This can clearly been seen as punishment for 13 years of shit government. Tony “the slime” Blair betrayed the party roots and dragged them into the center, pandering to the bankers so that scum like Goldman Sacs who paid each other million dollar bonuses could implode the financial system while poor people lost everything. Internationally there was the disastrous alignment of the UK with the Bush nightmare which took us into a massively unpopular and unwinnable war so that Haliburton could get rich. Brown is less slimy but has the charisma of a wart hog while still managing to be too arrogant and self serving to put any of this right. Yes they have paid the price, finally.

The Tories - when a party has fucked up as badly as Labour, for the opposition not to just waltz-in is a massive failure. So why? They can’t blame the Liberals for splitting the vote, they clearly didn’t. My feeling is that they still, 20 years on, suffer from the legacy of Thatcher. People have long memories. They remember the way she destroyed the very soul of the nation, decimated the manufacturing base, created the financial monster and changed the fabric of our society for ever. People are right to hate the Tories, they will always look after the rich at the expense of the poor and the true victim is the whole of society (see here what Camerons caring Conservatives did in Hammersmith and Fulham , their bench mark council). The Scandinavian model is the best working example of how looking after the poor creates a more equitable society with less crime, less anti social behavior and a higher standard of living for everyone.

The Liberals – they came with so much promise and so much flair but failed to deliver. I think Nick Clegg is a bit too smug and I also think that the British people are a bit to xenophobic, so as soon as someone mentions amnesty for immigrants they run a mile. Beyond that, their performance was very disappointing and I don’t have a good reason why.

The Nationalists – the retained their various positions although given that we have a Scottish Parliament, and Welsh and northern Irish Assemblies their position becomes less relevant than it was 10 years ago.

In the fringe, it was fantastic to see the fat sweaty face of Nick Griffin get a really good pasting. There is no place for hate politics in the UK and the good people of Barking demonstrated that and if you want to see a BNP canvaser brawling in the street go here. So Nick, scurry off back to your burrow you nasty little man. And while we are at it, take those losing UKIP tossers with you.

And the Winners?
We are heading for a hung parliament but the real victor here should be “electoral reform”. Finally our ridiculous two party system has to be changed and now there is a real chance of that happening. For years the two major parties have had no interest in changing a system that suits their common interest. So how is it right that a party with 23% of the vote gets 57 seats while a party with 29% gets 258? How can you ever say that is fair and representative?

For anyone of at least mediocre intelligence the British system currently works like this.
There are two parties which are heavily entrenched geographically. So in the majority of areas your vote is utterly irrelevant. In a few key seats (about 100 out of 650) there is a chance to change the party. But this is not done by voting for the party you like, this is done by deciding which of the two you don’t like and then voting for the party most likely to beat them, thus increasing your parties chance of winning at national level. How can you argue that a system that promotes such negative strategies is ever good for the country?

Supporters of the current system are quick to say that proportional representation results in weak government and endless “horse trading”. Well if you replace the phrase “horse trading” with “diplomacy and debate” then I fail to see why that is a bad thing. It will make the politicians get off their lazy arses and start doing what they are paid to do, rather than screwing there expenses.

As for weak government, if a strong government means invading countries in the middle East for their oil and kowtowing to the Americans that personally I’d rather have a weak one and to be honest it doesn’t seem to have hurt Germany so badly.

So, like many Brits I want to see change and I think that an election result in which all of the major parties are perceived as losers is a major success for democracy and I wait with eager anticipation to see how things develop over the coming days. The winner in the UK election is the people.

PS Just found a fasinating radio essay from James Naughtie on the BBC - listen here

Liverpool days

Toxteth is one of the rougher areas of Liverpool, rows and rows of late Victorian red brick terrace houses suffer from years of neglect from an immigrant and indigenous population that is too poor to care. The area was a pawn in the battle of wills between the loony left councils of Derrick Hatton and psychotic lack of compassion of Margret Thatcher. Years of being ignored have molded the locals into a hardy bunch and they cope, in fact they thrive, in their own imitable way.

Buried deep in Toxteth, in a converted stable house is Billy’s garage. Its more a workshop than a garage and more an accumulation of old cars, car bits and general crap than a workshop. Billy and his mate will fix your car for you if required but they make most of their money by buying cars from “crash auctions” and fixing them up to sell. They do a good job and with the exception of the obligatory “knocking the clock back” its all above board and done legally and properly.

A day at Billy’s garage is a sociologists wet dream. The constant patter of scouse banter is funny enough, but the people who pass by and the people who call in make the place. There’s the Polish guy who just hung around for 3 days without saying anything before picking up tools and starting to work. He doesn’t speak a word of English but apparently is a refuge (this is before the Polish influx into the UK). There is the constant stream of scallies who wander in and try and sell bikes, stereos and almost anything else that can be carried or wheeled while its unsuspecting owner looks the other way. There is a stream of people, out of breath chasing the bloke who just stole their bike. There is “Robbie the pimp”, a small weasel of a man who hangs around offering work to any females who come in. Apparently, he is actually a pimp. You meet all sorts here.

The place is crazy and at the end of the day, all the cars in various states of repair, disrepair and reconstruction which have been pushed on to the street to create working space are wheeled back in and the multiple locks are locked and alarms are turned on. The one bit of kit that you wouldn’t want to skimp on in Tokey is the security.

I race offroad landrovers. I have a cool machine which I am quite good at racing but even better at breaking. This time I have smashed the oil pump and need to fit a new one. So I ask Billy if I can use the ramp in his garage after hours and he agrees, but only under the promise that I am finished in one evening and I lock up properly and leave nothing outside.

So we empty the garage and set the landi on the ramp. Strip down all the oil system and fit the new one. It takes a couple of hours but everything is going well. We put it all back together again and I am sensing victory. Its midnight and I predict I’ll be in bed by 1am. That’s a result.

We fire up the beast which starts ok, but the oil pressure gauge tells us the pump is not working. Kill the engine quick. We try a few more times but still no luck. Things are not looking so good, we have to fix this tonight and we have to get the garage cleared. So we resort to a man’s worst nightmare – the workshop manual. The manual very clearly states “the pump has to be packed with Vaseline to cerate a vacuum and prime it”. Vaseline! Where the fuck am I going to get a large quantity of Vaseline at 12.30 on a Thursday morning?

So I leave Dave and head off into the night. First I try the all night garages. These are scary places when you are pissed and need a twix. Try standing sober in a queue of psychos, junkies and taxi drivers and ask for a large tube of Vaseline. Its an interesting experience. Unfortunately none of places I tried stocked it.

Then I remember that Asda have just started to doing 24 hour opening in Hunts Cross. I drive out there, its 15 miles away but it’s my only hope. I get there and its very surreal. The place is brightly lite and soothing musak is playing. Its almost empty except for a few Goths with the munchies loading up on crisps and baked beans. I pick up 3 jars of Vaseline and head to the check out counter, feeling just a bit self conscious.

The rather pretty checkout girl does not seem to notice. She obviously gets large guys, covered in oil buying large quantities of Vaseline at 1am all the time. I feel a strong urge to explain that I need to prime the oil pump on a landrover, but my stuttering attempt just makes things worse. I exit hurriedly and head back to Toxteth.

The vas does the trick and the oil pressure shoots up. We pack up the garage and are in bed by 3am – not so bad after all, Steve suggests that I should have just gone the whole hog and bought a cucumber and a packet of condoms at the same time!

Just another evening at Billy’s garage.

06 May 2010

Friday Joke - Cats and Volcanos

I love this...

Have a good weekend!

03 May 2010

Cartoon Inspiration

Not much time for posting and too much work at the moment, heading to Utah tomorrow. In the meantime here is a post I wrote a while ago...
When I was doing my PhD, back in the stone age, before the internet or mobile phones, (1990 to be precise), I was working on the Permian desert sediments of the southern North Sea. Since the southern North Sea is under water all the data came from borehole cores and logs. I spent a lot of time in various warehouses looking at wooden boxes full of sandstone while my various PhD colleagues disappeared to exotic parts of the World for field work.

I was trying (and failing) to get financial support to go and study some modern deserts to get a better feel for what I was trying to model. One day I was on train travelling back from a fairly long core logging trip to London when I picked up an abandoned newspaper. Don’t remember which one it was, something hideous like the Mail or the Express. I flicked through it, quickly getting annoyed at the petty small mindedness of middle England and I stopped at the cartoons hoping for a more informed World opinion. To my surprise that was exactly what I got!

There was a cartoon about a little boy and a tiger. The boy was trying to model a desert for a school project and bemoaning the fact that he had never been to one. Pure inspiration!

At that point I had never heard of Calvin and Hobbes* but from that day on I was a convert. It’s extremely cleaver and works at so many different levels.

Last week JT sent a link to a website which contains the entire back catalogue – so the first think I did was to search for desert. And here it is...

*or as it is known in Norway “Tommy og Tiggeren”. I have never figured out why the felt the need to change the name, other than to avoid offending the calvinist population of southern Norway?