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


15 December 2010


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


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.'