21 December 2011

Wednesday Movie - Cycling Explained

You must admit she raises some interesting points
Movie here

17 December 2011

Saturday Video - Rainbow Slab

A great video of climbing in the Llanberis Slate Quarries. The movie really captures the stark post-industrial beauty of the place and profiles the amazing Rainbow Slab.
But that is not what makes this amazing, nor is watching and listening to Jonny Dawes, which is always entertaining. No the thing that makes this awesome is Paul Pritchard, who was severally injured after an accident about 10 years ago and is now hemi-plegic. He somehow manages to get get his battered and broken body up the route. Listening to him talk and his condition and his philosophy on life is inspirational. And as an aside the route is E3 (7- / 5.11a) which is as hard as anything I have ever climbed in my life.

That is pretty fuckin amazing!

08 December 2011

The Ascent of Man (and descent...)

Bonus Friday joke 

No caption needed

Friday Joke - Noah and the adders

When Noah's ark had finally come to a rest on top of mount Ararat, and when the waters had receded, Noah and his family - along with all the animals - left the ark, and God told them to go forth and be fruitful . nd re-populate the Earth.

Noah dispatched the animals with the instructions to go out and multiply.  Soon there were baby lions and tigers and sheep and goats and frogs and every other sort of animal... except the adders. The adders refused to multiply, they would only add.

And Noah fearing the wrath of God who had told him to make ALL the animals multiply called his family together and explained the problem.

Noah's oldest son Sham was a smart kid who had an idea. He took the two disobedient snakes and locked them in the woodshed.

Two weeks later they came back and opened the woodshed door and out slivered the snakes followed by 20 baby adders. Noah was ecstatically happy.

"Sham my Son, how did you do this? Before you put them into the wood shed the adders would only add. Now look at them, they have multiplied. Its a miracle!"

"No father its not a miracle, just maths".

"I got them to use logs!"

07 December 2011

Wednesday Movie - Wildlife

Nice simple but very pleasing video from the WWF about living on a connected planet (from Shane via FB).

Two Pandas just arrived in Edinburgh Zoo on loan from China. It's the first time in 17 years that there have been an randy pandas in the UK - this is what they will probably getting up to

And finally a great video about the logistics of Noah's ark.

06 December 2011

Cowieswells Update

Work has almost finished on the steading (barns) at Cowieswells and it looks stunning. There are some timelapse movies of the roof going on here. They took the scaffolding down today and we got a first glimpse of the place in its restored glory.

The steading looks huge and its great to see it with a roof, doors and windows. Lots of space which I have already started filling with crap! We have plans for workshops, storage, climbing wall, animals etc. This is so much fun, as I drove down there today it was really cold and sunny and as I came over the hill into Stonehaven I felt so alive and happy. It really feels like it is all coming together.

I have been researching the place a bit. It seems that the last people to live in the bothy moved out in the 1950's and I found an aerial photo from 1973 which shows a working farm in much better shape than when we bought it. If you look closely at the picture you can see the former owner on the left side of the house, looking up at the plane. I find this both intriguing and also rather sad because I know what is going to happen to this fit and healthy looking young man, standing proud on his farm with his well tended vegetable plot and his animals.

The plans for the house are now complete and we go to tender this week.

30 November 2011

Fifty Thousand Hits

Its been a while since I checked Statcounter so I was pleasantly suprised when I logged in and found that Karmasotra has hit more that 50,000 hits - that's quite a lot for a blog that doesn't have any theme or purpose beyond random stories, rants jokes and the odd movie.

The stats are displayed below, it needs to indicate that there is a stable readership of about 270 hits per month and progressively increasing number of unique visits each month. Presumably that reflects that there is now so much content (crap) that the site comes up more and more on Google searches.  

Thanks for reading and if you have any feedback I would be happy to hear it.  In the meantime I will try and write something more interesting in the coming months.

Wednesday Movie

Three movies this week with no theme
The first is by me and its the latest version of the timelapse of the roof going on our steading (barn)
The second is a total crazy guy flying a jet suit, straight out of batman, this is for real
And finally some fairly crazy Spaniards showing a total lack of respect for the sea (turn the volume down)

24 November 2011

Friday Joke - When Grandma goes to Court

In a trial, a small-town Southern prosecuting attorney called his first witness, an elderly, grandmotherly looking woman to the stand. He approached her and asked, 'Mrs. Jones, do you know me?' She responded, 'Why, yes, I do know you, Mr. Williams. I've known you since you were a boy, and frankly, you've been a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat on your wife, and you manipulate people and talk about them behind their backs. You think you're a big shot when you haven't the brains to realize you'll never amount to anything more than a two-bit paper pusher. Yes, I know you.'
The lawyer was stunned. Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across the room and asked, 'Mrs. Jones, do you know the defense attorney?'
She again replied, 'Why yes, I do. I've known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster, too. He's lazy, bigoted, and he has a drinking problem. He can't build a normal relationship with anyone, and his law practice is one of the worst in the entire state. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three different women. One of them was your wife. Yes, I know him.'
The defense attorney nearly died.
The judge asked both counselors to approach the bench and, in a very quiet voice, said,
'If either of you idiots asks her if she knows me, I'll send you both to the electric chair.'

23 November 2011

Wednesday Movie - Timelapse

Latest timelapse offering from our ongoing building project here 

And some although much more impressive timelapse from space 

16 November 2011

Global warming

Very nice video here that demonstrates mean surfaces temp across the Earth for the past 250 years
And there are still people who think the planet is warming...
Mind you most of them are in the GOP or Tory parties

13 November 2011

Things that have changed!

I left the UK 10 years ago and now I am back. Not surprisingly  there are a lot of things that have changed. Some of these I knew about, the same developments had occurred more or less simultaneously in Norway, others were more of a surprise.
So here are a few in no particular order
1. The self service checkout in supermarkets and big shops. Had never seen that before I came back and was a bit sceptical - now I love it. Its quick and it works.
2. Banks! What has happened to banks? They bare no resemblance to how they were when I left
3. All of the call centres now seem to be outsourced to third World countries - I like the idea of people in India getting jobs but these are basically shitte
4.NHS direct - a phone number you call when you are sick. You talk to a call centre person (not in India yet - but just wait) tell them what is wrong and they give you advice over the phone, which may include "get to hospital quick!" I was super sceptical about this, I thought it was a cheap way of cutting back on Doctors and doomed to be a disaster. Having called it a few times for Sophie I think its great.
5. TV - when I left there was 5 free channels - now there seems to be hundreds. They are mainly still crap though. Tonnes of vacuous cooking, dancing and property shows and an even bigger serving of utterly shitte talent and reality shows. TOWIE must be the biggest waste of 10 mins of my life - what sort of people watch this shit?

The country is still run by a corrupt bunch of self serving arseholes in London, although the current bunch seem even worse than the last lot who were in power when I left. Very glad to be living in Scotland which is at least partially autonomous.

Next time - the differences between the UK and Norway


I have been pretty slack at posting over the last couple of months - not being at work is surprisingly time consuming. I checked Statcounter today and saw that we are approaching 50,000 hits so I figured I should probably stick something more that crap jokes and timelapse movies on here. So here is a bit of an update.

I am in Aberdeen making the most of my generous Norwegian paternity leave. I knew that paying all that tax would eventually be beneficial to me eventually. We are currently living in Katharine's flat which is fairly large and well placed in the city. However its not very big we you try to cram in a woman who has finally git all her stuff in one place after years of travelling the world, a bloke who is used to a large evil lair on his own, a baby that has more clothes than the rest of the house hold and a cat that is used to roaming freely outside. Things are a bit cramped. We manage by 1) reminding ourselves that lots of people spend their whole lives with lots less space; 2) visiting Cowieswells at least once a week and dreaming about living there at least once an hour; and 3) laughing a lot. This is working for Katharine and I, Sophie doesn't know any different but poor old Lola has very bad cabin fever. How do you explain to a cat that in 6 months time she will have fields and barns galore to roam and that the small screaming person that keeps grabbing her tale will, in two years be her best friend. Its tough.

Work at Cowieswells has started with the steading (barns). Its been cleaned out, the stone work restored and the roof replaced. Its been fantastic to see it coming on. I have been down there quite a bit and spent quite a bit of time chatting to the the two stonemasons. They are really top guys and its so refreshing to have builders that actually want to work and aren't ripping you off chronically. I posted a video of the trusses going on to the roof. Work on the main house should start before the end of the year.

Apart from that work goes on. I manage a couple of hours a day when Sophie is in nursery which is enough to keep on top of most stuff. I bought an old Range Rover (P38) down in Oldham for trashing around the farm. We have visited friends and had family visit us and I have had a couple of trips back to Norway for work and to sell my house. The year has flown by and as we keep saying we can't wait until we are living in Cowieswells...

11 November 2011

Friday Joke

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson went on a camping trip. After a good meal and a bottle of wine, they lay down for the night and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend. "Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see" Watson replied, "I see millions and millions of stars" "What does that tell you?" enquired Holmes. Watson pondered for a minute. "Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful clear day tomorrow. What does it tell YOU?" Holmes was silent for a minute, then spoke. "Watson, you idiot, some bastard has stolen our tent" 

09 November 2011

Wednesday Movie

Work progresses on our new Evil Lair -
The stonemasons have been rebuilding and repairing the wall heads for the last couple of weeks
Then on Monday and Tuesday they came to erect the trusses for the roof. Given that this was a bit more interesting than two blocks laying stones I decided to capture it with some time lapse.
Here it is...

02 November 2011

Feeling sorry for yourself?

I am sure your weren't but just in case here are a couple of videos to the watch

The first is Paul Pritchard, who was a North Wales based climber until an accident climbing a sea stack in Tasmania left him hemiplegic. Not a man to take such things lying down he has continued his life as an adventurer. His latest trip is to ride a recumbent tricycle 1100 km across the Roof of the World from Tibet to Kathmandu to raise awareness for blind Tibetan orphans. Many Buddhists believe that being born blind is karmic punishment for bad deeds in a former life, so blind kids are driven from their family homes and made to fend for themselves.  Braille without borders is a small charity that helps these children punishment  

Paul is one of the most inspirational people I have ever met, both before and after his accident. If you are feeling down then his courage and spirit should help to give a bit of perspective.

And on a similar note, check this guy out. Truly inspirational 

27 October 2011

26 October 2011

Mario Balotelli

The majority of my friends know my views on football, which I think is one of the dullest games known to man. How you can watch 90 minutes of mediocrity which result in a 1-0 win for some bunch of grossly over-paid egos and think it was great entertainment is beyond me. I also think that the majority of footballs are prissy, over indulged children. 

However, every now and again along comes someone who is so extreme and out there that its real rock n roll. That man is Mario Balotelli 

Last week Balotelli managed to burn his own house down whilst setting fireworks off from his bathroom window at 1am. He then went on to score two goals against Man Utd the next day. 

A quick investigation into this gem of a man revealed this, which is a great introduction to the man and his talents. Even if you hate football it's worth 30 seconds to watch. There is mountains more on youtube.

Roy Fitz sent me this great A-Z
 A  is for AC Milan. If you're a football player for Inter Milan, what's the most intelligent thing you can possibly do? That's right! You parade around on  national  television wearing the shirt of your club's bitter rivals, AC Milan!
B is for bib.
C  is  for  Camorra.  Balotelli is suspected by many to have links with The Camorra  -  a  criminal organisation very similar to The Mafia - because he was  given  a  guided  tour  around  notoriously violent areas of Naples by mobsters. He claims not to have known that they were mobsters at the time.
D  is for derby. Manchester Utd 1-6 Manchester City. Mario Balotelli scored twice  as City handed Utd their heaviest defeat in Premier League history - something the fans won't soon forget
E  is  for ego. "There's only one player that is a little stronger than me: Messi. All of the others are behind me." - see N for a follow up.
F  is  for  fireworks. Mario is extremely safety conscious when it comes to fire  safety. He would never do something irresponsible like - I don't know -shoot fireworks from his bathroom window! See Q for a follow up.
G is for generosity. Mario Balotelli has regularly been spotted handing out
£20 notes to passers-by. See H for a follow up. 
H  is  for  homeless. After winning £25,000 in a casino, Balotelli handed a homeless  man  £1,000  in  cash.  When asked why, he said it was because he liked his ginger dreadlocks and beard. 
I  is  for  impound. Balotelli has reportedly had his white Maserati sports car  impounded  27  times whilst racking up a staggering £10,000 in parking fines. 
J  is  for  Jenny  Thompson.  The  prostitute linked to Wayne Rooney in the media.  Balotelli reportedly saw her in a Manchester restaurant (See, Tevez
-  Manchester  does have restaurants) and started chanting "ROONEY!
ROONEY!ROONEY!" at the top of his voice. 
K  is  for  karma.  Mario  Balotelli's  back-heeled goal attempt against LA Galaxy  landed  him  in  hot  water with Roberto Mancini. He was subbed off instantly.  Balotelli  claimed  that he only attempted the back-heeled goal because he thought he was offside. 
L  is  for  Lothario.  Balotelli reportedly shouted at a 'wannabe WAG' in a restaurant.  With  food  falling  from  his mouth he told her to come over.
Unbelievably,  she came over. He handed her his phone and told her to store her number in it. Even more unbelievably, she did it. She then left without either of them saying another word. Who says romance is dead? 
M is for marmite. You either love him or you hate him. 
N   is   for   Nicklas  Bendtner  syndrome.  Balotelli  suffers  from  what
psychologists  call  "Nicklas Bendtner syndrome" - Mario genuinely believes he's the best player the world has ever seen.
O  is  for open top bus. When Man City won the FA cup, Balotelli reportedly said  he'd  only  go  on  the open top bus parade if he could take his dog, Lucky, on board with him. His request was denied. 
P  is for passenger seat. Mario Balotelli was pulled over by police shortly after  moving  to  Manchester  because he was driving round with £25,000 in cash  on  his passenger seat. When they asked him why he had it, he laughed and replied "because I can." 
Q  is for question. Who's the best man to front a firework safety campaign?
Answer  -  The  man  who set his £3million mansion on fire, with fireworks, just two days before fronting the campaign.
R is for role-model. Balotelli is the ideal role-model for kids everywhere.
Whether  he's  throwing darts, setting off fireworks indoors or abusing the general public, Mario's behaviour is always top-notch!
S  is  for  show  off. When Balotelli won the European Golden Boy Trophy he bragged  that  he had never even heard of his closest rival, Jack Wilshere, but would find out who he was just so he could remind him that he came in 2 nd place. 
T  is  for tyre-track. My personal favourite of Mario's crazy haircuts. (It was hard to pick a favourite) 
U is for undoubted talent. Aged just 21 Balotelli has already scored nearly
50 professional goals and has won 7 major trophies, including the Champions League.
V  is  for  visitor.  Balotelli  once  took  his younger brother to visit a women's  prison.  When  questioned  by guards Mario said he and his brother were "just curious at the fact that it was a women's prison."
W is for "why always me?"
X  is  for x-ray. Balotelli has been sidelined several times throughout his career due to recurring knee injuries.
Y  is  for youth team. Balotelli was once found guilty of throwing darts at members  of the Man City youth team. His excuse? "I got bored and wanted to pass some time."
Z  is  for  zoom.  Following  Man  City's  6-1  win over Man Utd, Balotelli reportedly  drove  around  Manchester  high-fiving City fans out of his car window.  I'm  not  sure about the validity of this story, but let's face it it does sound like something he'd do.

21 October 2011

Wednesday Movie on Friday

Some great cliff jumping from Grant in Bermuda - not sure a cliff jumping festival would ever really take off in Scotland or Norway - maybe its the weather

13 October 2011

Friday Joke - Steve Jobs

Twenty years ago we had Steve Jobs, Bob Hope and Jonny Cash
Now in 2011 we have no jobs, no cash and no hope

And our favourite news site sums it up nicely here 

Finally not directly related to the demise of the great Apple guru but in a similar vain

11 October 2011

Wednesday Movie - some geology

Fairly awesome movie of a cliff in Cornwall collapsing

All a bit quite on the blogging front at the moment.
Having huge problems with access to internet courtesy of BT, BTFON and BTopenzone
New service provider  on Monday and then I hopefully never have to think about BT again
Normal service will resume then

05 October 2011

Wednesday Movie

Are the modern generation spoilt?
This guy thinks so and I tend to agree

02 October 2011

BT – The Saga Continues

...our heroes were living in near third world conditions without phone or internet for almost three months. The stress was beginning to show and there was some cursing and even threats to assault Maureen Lipmann with one of Sadam’s missing nuclear weapon. Now the saga continues, but will it result in a satisfactory conclusion? Will our heroes get back on line? Will BT manage to salvage the last traces of their once glorious brand from the gutters of Bangalore?  Or is it game over for the company that once supplied telecom services to an empire?

Dear BT – Part 2
I am very unhappy to have to write to you again. Last time I wrote a very nice man called Daniel, promised that your customer service would call me back in 48 hours but of course they didn’t. A rude woman from Newcastle then told me I should be happy to wait 5 days – so I resigned myself to other week scrounging internet access from coffee shops and friends.  Little did we know, it was about to get worse, in fact at this point we didn’t imagine that it could get worse. So naïve!

So while we were waiting for somebody in the complaints department to bother to do their job, the overzealous Nazis in the billing department went into my bank account and extracted £155, without notification and without any justification. Which in my book makes it theft. At this point I can not begin to tell you how angry I was. I was so mad that I waited the weekend before calling to, dare I say, complain. The women I spoke to in billing wasted another twenty minutes of my life (and my mobile phone credit) before saying that if I ordered broadband then you would credit me the £155. My £155, the one that you stole from me.

Fuck me! There are warlords in Somalia who could learn from your techniques. Out of the blue you cut off my phone and internet, then when I asked to be reconnected you tortured me for 2 months and finally when I opted to go elsewhere you went into my bank, took money from me and said I could only have it back if I buy services from you. THIS MUST BE ILLEGAL?  Its extortion!

So I had to go back to work and the women in the “appear incompetent whilst surreptitiously  robbing peoples bank accounts” department promised to call me back after 5pm, which of course she didn’t.  At least at this point we were not expecting a call so we were not disappointed.  Low expectations are the key to dealing with you and your organization.

Then three days later, just as we had pretty much given up ever getting this resolved we got a call from a man in the complaints department called Daniel. Daniel appeared like a Knight on a white charger out of the murkey gloom of incompetence and apathy that is your organization. I knew things were going to be different with him because when he called he already knew what was going on. He showed a real understanding of the issues, he shared my frustrations and he offered sensible solutions. He has organiased  monies credited to our account. He arranged for engineers to come out and tinker with lines, he didn’t offer us any more wireless routers. He didn’t try and sell us more broadband, he just did his job politely and efficiently. We love Daniel and if this gets sorted it will be solely down to him. Your organization is a disgrace and I humbly suggest that you need to get introspective and make some pretty substantial changes. And if you think I am alone in my woes I suggest you Google “BT customer service” and see what you find. With the exception of the pages you have put up there, it’s not a pretty story

Some statistics from our experience
11 – the number of times we have called your costumer services department
6  – the number of times people have promised to call back and haven’t
5 the number of wireless routers that we have been sent or offered  
3.5 the number of months that we have now been without a phone or broadband line
96 – the number of café lattes I have had to buy and drink in order to access the wireless internet in the coffee shop around the corner
5 – the approximate number of years that the stress has reduced by life expectancy by
150,000 the approximate number of people in your organization
149,999 the approximate number of people in your organization that are useless

So we wait in eager anticipation of Monday morning when the engineer comes around to install a new line and then billing department give back the money they stole. When (if) that happens we will be very happy to say

Thank you Daniel and goodbye BT

28 September 2011

Facebook privacy

From i.imgur.com via John T
In the age of the internet we all expect to not pay for products, services and most of the stuff we get online. We rarely think about why people are giving things away and we expect that smart people will invite ways of making money without us having to dig into our pockets. And for many people that is as far as it goes. They prefer not to consider what they are giving up to enable these smart people to make money. 

The more skeptical amongst us perhaps understand that many of these services, Facebook, Google, twitter etc. are collecting data and selling it on to advertisers and market research companies. Perhaps you don't find that to concerning. In the early days it seemed like a reasonable deal. You didn't need to be a rocket scientist to figure that all those stupid "Which Star Wars character are you?" quizzes were just cheap psychological profiling to enable better directed advertising. So you avoided them. You also recognized that if you clicked the "Like" button when somebody said they were fly fishing you would get barraged with adverts for fishing rods, waders and river bank holidays . It all seemed easy enough to avoid if it bothered you. 

But then things got more much more invasive. There have been a number of articles recently (e.g. here, here and here) highlighting what companies, especially Facebook are up to. Basically Facebook is monitoring every site you visit and is providing info on your web browsing EVEN WHEN YOU ARE NOT LOGGED ON. And for me, that is the point that I decide I have had enough, I value my privacy and find that all a bit too scary.  So what to do?

Well you can always opt out altogether and delete your Facebook account. But that seems a bit drastic. I have spent a lot of time travelling around, I have friends spread all over the World and I enjoy hearing what they are up to and keeping in touch with them. Furthermore lots of events are now advertised on Facebook. I don't believe that simply denying the existence of social media is a useful solution, so I went looking for another answer and I found it.

Here is a simple 7 step guide to enjoying the benefits of social media without worrying that privacy is being massively compromised. It has come from a variety of sources, not least the Technology Liberation Front. Read the original article here.

1. Stop using Internet Explorer and get Firefox. Firefox has all sorts of cool add-ins which allow you to customize your browsing experience. Get Firefox here.
2. Then download the browser add on NoScript
3. Once Firefox is up and running, go to TOOLS and then ADD-ONS. Then go to the EXTENSIONS tab on the left and click on NoScript
4. In NoScript go to the OPTOINS menu and click on the ADVANCED tab and then the ABE subtab
5. After checking the ‘Enable ABE’ box, select the USER Rule set, then paste in the following lines:

Site .facebook.com .fbcdn.net facebook.net
Accept from SELF
Accept from .facebook.com .fbcdn.net facebook.net
Site .twitter.com
Accept from SELF
Accept from .twitter.com
Site .google.com googleapis.com
Accept from SELF
Accept from .google.com

6. Then hit ‘Refresh’ and ‘OK’ and you’re all set. 

7. If you’ve done this correctly, you should no longer see Facebook, Twitter, or Google widgets such as the "Like" button. To test it out go to site that has a "like" button and you will see that it is no longer there.

It may sound involved but it took me about 5 minutes and its actually very easy. Most importantly it doesn’t affect the functionality of Twitter, Facebook, or Google, so you can still use each of these services with full functionality.

Another, perhaps even easier solution is to get rid of IE explorer and install Chrome. 
Then go to the chrome store and download "disconnect". Its installs very easily with no scripts or anything. While you are at it install "facebook disconnect" and "adblocker". Now its only google that are stealing your data but at least they produce good free stuff like google earth and google sketch-up 

23 September 2011

Friday Joke

Some classic Milton Jones
I’d just like to say to the old man who was wearing camouflage gear and using crutches, who stole my wallet earlier: ‘you can hide, but you can’t run.

When I was young my parents used to say to me: ‘To pay for your education, your father & I had to make a lot of sacrifices’. And it was true, ’cause they were both druids.

I don’t know about you, but I really hate sitting in traffic. ’Cause I always get run over.

If you’re being chased by a police dog, try not to go through a tunnel, then onto a little seesaw, then jump through a hoop of fire. They train for that.

The school had a big problem with drugs… especially Class A.

As a child I watched Mary Poppins so many times I suffered from a condition with my sight. Umdiddleiddleiddleumdiddle Eye.

When my grandfather became ill, my grandmother greased his back. After that, he went downhill very quickly.

My mother made us eat all sorts of vitamins and supplements, until one day I nearly choked on part of The Sunday Times.

20 September 2011

Wednesday Movie

I like to thing that I am largely immune to advertising and branding. I know that much of it is subliminal and I am supposed to think that but I do try hard to ignore ads.

There is an exception, there normally is. I am a sucker for Audi. It started with the Hannu Mikkola driving the revolutionary Audi quattro in the World rally championship in the early 1980's and it was greatly helped along by a couple of adverts - the first shows some stunning winter driving - 34 degrees never looked so steep and it belongs to a generation before CGI when stuntmen actually did stunts.

The second is an absolute belter. I think it is one of the best adverts ever.

It came at a time when being one of Thatchers children was still something people aspried to. The twist in the ad is symbolic of the end of that era, when general public opinion was just starting to realise that greed was not necesarily good.

I love this ad and perhaps it contributes to the fact that we now own two Audis

18 September 2011

The reality of "modern" coal mining in the UK

Following the tragic death of four miners in the Swansea valley last week, I started reading around the health and safety record of our de-regulated coal industry. Whilst doing this I came across this an old article from the Guardian by a guy called Seumas Milne.

Here are a couple of quotes from the article

“On Friday nights in the Welsh valleys, miners go from pub to pub hunting for their employers to claim unpaid wages. Pay cheques bounce, mining companies close and re-open under other names, men are sacked for being union members or refusing to work on Christmas Day.
In some pits, miners get no basic minimum and are only paid by the tub of coal produced. Underground, they stand in streams of water, hacking at the face with picks and shovels. Wooden roof props, are standard”.

“Pit ponies haul rusting carloads of anthracite back and forth from the face. On the surface, there are no showers”.

“Phillip Rees, a 32-year-old miner electrocuted at the Blaengrennig colliery in the Amman valley just over a year ago. "The manager called me up and asked if this boy was one of my members," recalls Anthony Jones, the local National Union of Mineworkers official. It's just there's been a bit of an accident, he told me. I said I'd come right over anyway. He was dead when I got there. They didn't even know where he lived."

Now I would like you to guess when that was written. People paid by the tub of coal, pit ponies, wooden pit props, mine owners who screw their staff when they are alive and don’t even know how to contact families when they die. It sounds like something out of the 1920’s, but this picture of a bygone age is truely shocking because its not 100 or even 50 years ago. It’s from 1994, ten years after the miners strike and the decimation of the UK coal. That is the reality of what Thatcher and her cronies did to one of our proudest industries – knocked it back a hundred years.


When I first proposed to Katharine a year and a half ago I had a plan for a honeymoon which involved five weeks around southern Africa in a pickup with a camper shell. Starting in Cape Town, up the west coast into Namibia, along the Skeleton Coast, east along the Caprivi Strip into Botswana. A quick stop in the Okavango, across the Kalahari and back to Cape Town. A chance for me to visit some old stomping grounds and an opportunity for Katharine to see an amazing part of the World. Then we found out that Sophie was on the way and Africa went on hold.

So then we decided on a camper van around Norway, it’s a big country and there is lots to see and since we were leaving it would be nice to have a final fling. But then things got busier and busier and the chances of an extended holiday got proportionally less and less likely. So when I went on “permission” (paternity leave) we decided to squeeze a week in Rome in before Katharine went back to work.

We stayed in the traditional area of Trastevere just by the river. Narrow chaotic streets, small squares, cafes and restaurants on every corner – mopeds whizzing in and out of smart causally dressed people. It was everything you imagine Rome should be. We stayed in a very cool little hotel, with a small courtyard so we could put Sophie to bed and set out in the evening. We were able to walk to all of the sights we wanted to see and spent a full week over dosing on history. Highlights were:
1. Just being in Rome, it was beautiful
2. The Pantheon, 2000 years old and stunning
3. Ancient Rome, was surprised at how small it was but wandering around the forums and up to the Palatine Hill was great
4. The Coliseum, clichéd but still stunning. To imagine the gladiators, the wild animals and the roar of the crowds – amazing
5. The Vatican – had mixed feelings about visiting the home of the Catholic church but from a historic and architectural perspective it was stunning
6. Walking up the hill to the Garibaldi monument and seeing the views of the city.

The Italian people are super friendly, especially to children. Sophie was a huge hit. Not just to middle aged women who always love babies, but to everyone from macho waiters and taxi drivers to tour guides and general passers-by dotted on her. In the restaurants they never complained when we took the pram in (unlike Wetherspoons in Edinburgh who threw Katharine out, despite the fact they were empty). It was a great place to be with a young child.

The traffic is legendary, but despite being busy and chaotic its really not that bad. I have never seen so many Smart cars and they seemed so right. Larger cars, even polos and fiestas looked big, ungainly and out of place.  The People are amazing drivers and they can squeeze their small cars into tiny parking spaces. They don’t care too much of they get banged or stretched and tens of thousands of people get into and around town each day. Best of all, it works.

I can’t recommend Rome enough it was fantastic. Having listened to the History of Rome podcast and was really keen to see the ancient parts but was also blown away by the Renaissance and modern bits as well.

16 September 2011

Some things are just true

1. I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die. 2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.
3. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.
4. There is great need for a sarcasm font.
5. How the @#!*% are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?
6. Was learning cursive really necessary?
7. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on # 5. I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.
8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.
9. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.
10. Bad decisions make good stories.
11. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.
12. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don't want to have to restart my collection...again.
13. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to.
14. I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.
15. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.
16. I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lite than Kay.
17. I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option.
18. I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.
19. How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear or understand a word they said?
20. I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers and sisters!
21. Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.
22. Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.
23. Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, finding their cell phone, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I'd bet everyone can find and push the snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time.

15 September 2011

BT - Customer Service

Dear BT,
I moved into my flat in March 2010 and I signed up for a Broadband and phone package with you then. The router arrived and I was online straight away. For the first 15 months everything worked well and I was a happy costumer.

Then in July 2011 I received an email informing me that, as per my request, you were discontinuing the service. This was not my request, I did not want to be discounted, I was quite happy with the service. I loved BT, it is a part of my heritage, part of my countries history. I had grown with Maureen Lipmann and her Ologies. I had no desire to get my service from any of these upstart companies with lurid graphics and stupid names. I wanted my service direct from the mother company and I didn’t care if it was a bit more expensive because it was BT and that’s British.

I assumed that your desire to break off our relationship and blame it on me was simply confusion, caused by the couple in the flat upstairs who were moving out. So on the 23rd July I called you to say that I was not leaving you and please don’t disconnect me.

The man I spoke to initially insisted that it was me that was breaking up until I pointed out that I had been in Norway on maternity leave for the last three months. He eventually conceded that maybe you had made a mistake and cancelled the service to the wrong flat. But tragically the wheels were in motion on the run-away train of disconnection. Despite the fact that you could stop the service remotely it was technically too challenging to start it again. There was no option, I needed a new router. Despite the fact that the old one is still shinny and sits there blinking away. I can still see it in my wireless network list, but is sadly impotent. Unjustly sterilized by a cruel technician in Bangalore. Despite this inconvenience and obvious waste I agreed to proceed, not yet ready to throw away all we had together.

Then the next day I was called by someone else in BT to inform me that the order I had set up the day before had been cancelled. He claimed that I had cancelled the order which was again untrue. Why are you so keen to blame this break-up on me? If you don’t like me just say.

After a bit of heated discussion he said it would be sorted by the end of the month.

The new router arrived as expected on the 31st August along with a letter and bill for £155. Now this is starting to get random and annoying. The bill is for cancelling service - just to remind you, I NEVER CANCELLED ANYTHING – THAT WAS YOU!

Predictably the service did not come back on of the 1st September. What a fool I was to even think that anything you promised could possibly happen. So again I called BT and after the inevitable half hour of listening to illogical fuckin menus and stupid music I was answered by another mindless drone who again was unable to find my case history on his computer and after 10 minutes of not really listening to what I had to say passed me to another department who are equally disinterested and even more fuckin useless. The final person I spoke to promised it would be back on in 5 days and she would cancel the £155 bill.

I being the eternal optimist agreed to wait. By the 10th September I still have no phone or internet but I had another bill for £155 and, yes wait for it – another fuckin wireless router, that’s three and there is apparently another in the post. You are totally taking the piss. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

So later on 10th September I called again – why oh why did I bother? And after playing the inevitable game of telephone pass the parcel I was put through to a supervisor called Rohan. Oh good I thought, someone with authority who had risen through the dizzy ranks of customer service. He would be able to help, now I had a chance of getting it sorted. But alas Rohan was even more useless at dealing with costumers than his hapless staff but he did offer to send me another router. He also promised to call back the next day, but again predictably never did.

The next to final straw came on the 11th September when I got a phone message (on my mobile because I still don’t have a land line) from another of your departments who want all their routers back. Perhaps they are running out because the fuckwits in the first department keeping giving them away to anyone who rings up.

Now I genuinely don’t care if your staff are sitting in London, Newcastle or Delhi. I just want somebody who knows what they are talking about and can remotely switch a fuckin internet service back on. How difficult can it be?

So on the 12th September I finally ran out of masochistic tendencies and decided to give up on BT and get my internet from someone else. Sorry! Bugger, the history and the brand loyalty, enough is enough, all of a sudden those upstart comapnies, with their jazzy logos seemed very appealing.

But it was never going to be that easy was it? Oh no!

So I found another company who could supply the internet but they needed BT to provide the line… With that news I got the sinking feeling that you must get when you realize that you are in Rome not Britain and you have just looked the wrong way and stepped in to some very fast moving traffic…

But never one to give up, I had an inspired idea… I called the sales department which was staffed with nice people, who actually know what they are talking about and are keen to help, probably because they don’t yet have your business and want to put on a good show. It also probably helps that they are based in the UK and understand the concept of a house that has been subdivided into two flats.

A very nice man called Daniel spent a long time listening to my wows and figured out the problem. He was very calm and understanding although he also tried very hard to sell me more broadband and another router. He said that we needed a new line and it would cost £130 unless we got broadband from you. It must be a testement to his sales ability that I was even tempted, but the prospect of getting another batch of routers and having to deal with the cretins in tech support in India and the memories of all the pain of the last two months meant that I could not bring myself to do it. No, we just wanted the line and we shouldn’t have to pay for it. He agreed and told me somebody from complaints would call me back within 48 hours. He was so nice I actually believed him. Yes I really was that stupid.

So 48 hours later and no call. Why oh why am I surprised? So I call back and listen to all the tedious menus before giving up and going to sales again. There some brainless Gordie fishwife tells me that I’ll have to hold while she reads my notes, goes off has a cup of tea and then comes back 15 minutes later and says they’ll call me back with five days. What happened to 48 hours? What is so fuckin difficult to understand? You turned the line off JUST TURN THE FUCKIN THING BACK ON. Don’t send any more wireless routers, don’t send any bills for connection or disconnection, don’t make me wait weeks or months, don’t redirect me to a bunch of fuck wits in India, JUST TURN THE FUCKIN LINE ON AND THEN FUCK OFF AND LEAVE ME ALONE! Yes it really is that simple to make me happy.

At this point if I had a nuclear or biological WMD I would consider bringing it to your office and detonating it with prejudice. In fact I might just send it to Maureen Lipmann because ultimate I think its all her fault.

13 September 2011

The 9/11 decade - the true cost

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the US. It's often said that you always remember what you were doing when such events occur and that is certainly true for me in this case. I was in Berwick on Tweed running a field course for a bunch of Nigerians. When the first plane struck I got a text from my then girlfriend who then proceeded to send more text updates through the day. An early version of rolling news on my phone at a time when texting was still novel.

After our day in the field we returned to the hotel to watch dumbstruck as the TV kept repeating the main events. It was indeed shocking. Next morning at breakfast it transpired that the terrified Nigerians had been up all night reading their bibles and they were convinced that the final chapters were playing out and the Revelations were taking place. To them the World was about to end. I remember trying not to knock their superstitions and saying there was no doubt that after the events of that day the World would indeed change for ever. I met one of those Nigerians in Utah three years later and he reminded me of my prediction and we agreed that it had been valid but not in a way either of us had thought. By that stage the west had invaded Afghanistan which was arguably justifiable, at least that is where the terrorists were hiding out, and Iraq, which was utterly unjustifiable.

When I was younger I was obsessed with history and I used to wander how it must have felt to be German in 1937, not an evil bastard Nazi but a normal person? How did it feel to watch your government flaunt international law, unilaterally bully it’s smaller neighbours and invaded sovereign states under an umbrella of thinly veiled lies for justification? Well in 2003 I didn't have to imagine anymore because my government, not just the government of my country but the party I had voted for did exactly that agaisnst the will of its own people and the international community. For that I was, and still am, ashamed to be British.

So while it is poignant to remember the victims of 9/11 perhaps we need to take a broader view of the decade. Let’s look at some statistics

2997 civilians died in the 9/11 attacks
There have been 8813 civilian deaths in Afghanistan
There have been a staggering 1,455,590 civilian deaths in Iraq
2710 international soldiers have died in Afghanistan
6962 international soldiers have died in Iraq
The two wars have cost $1,247,603,518,251 - that's 1.2 trillion dollars.
That's $400 million, 3 soldiers and 490 civilians for ever person who died in the towers.

And that is just the physical and financial cost. There is also reputation. We have systematically abused human rights, flown suspects (many innocent) to dark corners of the World and tortured them. In doing so we have lost all the respect and credibility that we previously had. Not even in the darkest days of the Cold War or WW2 did we behave so badly. Now the people that hate us have ammunition to sway the views of the people who were previously ambivalent or even positive towards us. We have become the evil empire and we are suprised that the World hates us.

So our allies hunted down and killed Bin Laden for what he had done and maybe that was right. I am not liberal enough to feel sadness at his death, the World is a better place without evil fucks like that. But what about the real criminals? Bush, Blair, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice et al. have all walked scott free after causing the deaths of 1.5 million people, destroying 2 countries and bringing down the World's economy. Where is the justice there?

These people should be tried for crimes against humanity, locked up and the key should be thrown away. This is not a joke, it's not even rhetorical, I genuinely think they should be brought to justice for what they have done in our name.

So let's not forget 9/11 but also let's also not forget what a bunch of evil fuckin bastards did in the decade that followed.

02 September 2011

David's back...

From the man who brought us "can I have my spider back?" and "Lost Cat"

30 August 2011

Yosemite Video

Yosemite Valley was made famous by Ansel Adams with his iconic black and white photographs. As well as tourists it is also a mecca for climbers. I visited it twice back in the mid-90's, the second time was on a 3 month climbing road trip around the western US. I was climbing well with a very strong partner and we climbed some amazing routes.

I found this video about life as a climbing photographer in the valley. The narration is a bit annoying but the sceanry and cinamatography are fantastic. The camp 4 collective have some other pretty cool stuff on their vimeo site.

28 August 2011


I have always been rather good at leaving things until the last minute and scraping through. It didn't matter if things didn't work out exactly because I am normally at my most creative when things arn't going quite to plan. Logistics for entire field campaigns have been mapped out on paper napkins in diners on the first day of the field season.

It was in that vain that I approached my departure from Norway. A bit of planning and then make the rest up as I go along... However, this year though things have proved a bit tougher than anticipated.

First up, I thought I had a robust plan for what would happen in work when I went on paternity leave after Sophie was born. But no, the woman who was supposed to cover for me while I was away randomly quit and I had to come back early. Then to add to work chaos another senior guy also quit and that sealed it. Instead of the easy(ish) year I had planned for it turned into doing three jobs, no paternity leave, no honeymoon and no summer holiday! Good job my wife is so understanding.

Meanwhile at the house, I spent all of my spare time over the summer getting it ready to sell, building steps, painting, fixing stuff with a plan to put it on the market it August. That's a great time to sell a house like the lair, after the holidays but before the autumn sets in.  Then, two weeks before it was due to go on the market the water tank and pump stopped working. Now, to cut a long story short I have to get put on to mains water which being Norway takes at least a month and costs a kings ransom. So the house sale is delayed.

Last weekend I spent all saturday cleaning up the boat to put it in the water to sell this weekend. When we went to launch it the engine started fine but the steering seized. Off to the boat shop for at least a week which means I will miss the selling it this year window. Bugger.

Then the tumble dryer stopped working and the hot tub controlling went dicky. Both of these are being sold with the house and have been running fine for the last five years. If they had waited a month then it would not have been my problem - grrr!

So is it bad planning or is it my fault because I am trying to do everything at the last minute? Just when I think "its going to be tight but I think we can get all this done" then something else fucks up. I don't think you could have predicted all these things going wrong but building a bit more contingency into the planning would have made it all a lot easier...

...but then again where's the fun in that?

26 August 2011

Monkey See Monkey Do

A monkey one day managed to break free from the laboratory where he had been born and brought up. As he scurried away from the fencing of the compound, he felt grass under his little feet and saw the dawn breaking for the first time in his life.
"Wow, this is great," he thought. It wasn't long before he came to a hedge and after squeezing under it he saw a wonderful sight.
Lots of other monkeys, all free and nibbling on bananas. "Hey," he called. "I'm a monkey from the laboratory and I've just escaped. Are you wild monkeys?"
"Yes. Come and join us," they cried.
Our friend trotted over to them and started eating the bananas. It tasted so good. "What else do you wild monkeys do?" he asked. "Well," one of them said. "You see that field there? It's got carrots growing in it. We dig them up and eat them." This, he couldn't resist and he spent the next hour eating the most succulent carrots. They were wonderful.
Later, he asked them again, "What else do you do?"
"You see that tree there? It's got papayas growing in it. We eat that as well."
The papayas tasted just as good and he returned a while later completely full. "It's fantastic out here in the world" he told them. "So are you going to live with us then?" one of them asked.
"I'm sorry, I had a great time but I can't." The wild monkeys all stared at him, a bit surprised.
"Why? We thought you liked it here."
"I do," our friend replied. "But I must get back to the lab. I'm dying for a cigarette."
Meanwhile in West Africa

24 August 2011

22 August 2011

The Russ - From intrepid explorers to drunk students

The westwards exploratory journeys of the Vikings are well known. From their base in Scandinavian they raid, traded and eventually conquered most of the UK, the Faroe Isles, Iceland, Greenland. They even reached NE America (Vinland) 500 years before Columbus.

Their eastern travels are equally as impressive although less well popularized. Vikings from the Roslagen region of eastern Sweden headed east, through the Baltic and the Gulf of Finland, entering the continent by the modern day St Petersburg. Then via a series of rivers, lakes and overland hauls they reached the Volga River which flows south to the Caspian Sea. From there they managed to reach Persia and Bagdad. A second group headed south westwards to the Black Sea and into Turkey. Once the routes were established they routinely traded with Islamic and Turkish merchants.
As they trading routes become more used some of the Vikings stayed behind to settle riverside trading towns, they interbred with the local Slavic peoples. It has been suggested that these people gave their name “Rus” to the modern day region we call Russia.

Fast forward 700 years to the 18th Century and Norwegian students arriving in Danish universities (Norway was ruled by Denmark and had no universities of its own) were humiliated by the more sophisticated locals and made to endure an initiation ceremony. Part of this involved them being called Russ which came from the Danish word Rus for yokel.

Fast forward another 200 years and Norwegian high school students spend the last 17 days of their school career dressed in red overalls getting very drunk and pulling “wacky” stunts. From the start of May to the 17th, distinctive looking gangs maraud around the town centre, drinking and misbehaving. The majority of this is very good natured and no shops are burnt or looted. While the sensibilites of the older generation are occasionally upset everyone sees it as a harmless tradition.

It’s an interesting cultural lineage from warrior-explorers who named a nation to drunk kids flashing their boobs and shouting a lot.

(To learn more about the Volga Vikings I suggest listening to this podcast from the BBC. It’s fascinating.)

21 August 2011

Life with Sophie

Sophie came in to our lives 6 months. It's incredible how such a small person can have such an impact. Her arrival changed pretty much every aspect of how we live. While we have lost a lot of the freedom that we once cherished we have gained something much better.

Watching her grow up is fascinating. For the first three months, she simply fed and slept with the occasional a bit of crying thrown in for good measure. Heather, an old friend told me that human babies are born 3 months too early, because of the head size. That actually they are not ready for the world until they are three months old. I am not sure if that is based on any scientific study but it’s a good observation. It also helped us get through that initial period.

After three months things really started to get interesting. First she smiled when she saw us, that smile is incredibly rewarding because it’s the first time you know that they are really aware of you. Then she started to reach for things and pretty soon anything she could get hold of went straight into her mouth. Next she could pass things from one hand to the other, increasing dexterity and awerness. Two weeks ago she managed to roll over for the first time. Katharine can in from the kitchen and there she was, lying on her front looking very pleased with herself. Previous to that she had been happy to lie on her back and kick like crazy while we sang “the grand ole duke of york”.

Last week she learnt to wave and she has also discovered her reflection. She spent a 5 hour car journey waving at the baby in the mirror and chuckling when she waved back. Everyday she becomes less of a helpless baby and more of a little person.

I could never have imagined, before she arrived, how much it’s possible to love one little person. We are blessed to have a happy little girl and she already gives us more than we could have hoped for. Katharine has risen to the challenge and is an awesome Mum, repeatedly getting up through the night, figuring out when she can start on solid food and learning all this stuff that is so new to us. Soon she goes back to work and its my turn, although I suspect she has done the tough bit. I am really looking forward to it.

(Photo by Mike Sivyer, check out his awesome website at http://www.mikesivyer.co.uk/ )

Evil Lair before and after photos

Last week we had the photographer around to take photos of the house for selling.
With the place being clean and tidy I took the opportunity to dig out some old photos that were taken before the place was renovated and to try and recreate the same field of view...

Some of the results are shown below - I can't believe how bad it actually was when I moved in, especially the downstairs which was squalid.

Rather nostalgic...

19 August 2011

Friday Joke... Academic perception

More of an observation really.
Its a perception matrix that shows how different people in the academic food chain see one another...
I hope my favorite Technician Jonny Kav is reading this...

Have a nice weekend

17 August 2011

Wednesday Movie - the Nuclear Age

Amazing movie showing all of the nuclear bomb tests since 1945. The movie is 14 mins long but strangely compelling.
Courtesy of Gonzalo

14 August 2011

Friday Joke on Sunday

English is no longer just the language spokne by people in England. It is now also the global, universal language, much as Latin was in the middle ages.

But there is so much more to language than just the basic words, just as there is more to a cathedral than a pile of bricks. Much is lost in the subtlety of the phrase. The following translation from British English to Euro English is an excellent example of this.
Courtesy of Ola  

11 August 2011

Riots in the UK

There is not too much to say that hasn't already been said really.
A bunch of feral scum trashing their own communities and as soon as they are given a platform they immediately blame it on everyone except themselves. These two girls are particularly vacuous and unpleasant, while this guy clearly has a huge chip on his shoulder (its worth fast fwd to 1.30).

Meanwhile the long suffering Police are encumbered by ridiculous HSE rules and are highly demoralized by a government that doesn’t give a shit. I most certainly do not want to live in a police state and I don’t want a return to the corruption and thuggary that led to the Toxteth riots of the early 1980s. I would like a police force that doesn't shot random Brazilians in tube stations or knock over middle aged men who are on the way home and then lie about it when they later die.  BUT at the same time when a scally, hiding behind a face mask runs at the police with an iron bar, I would like to see the police kick seven shades of crap out of him. There is a very big difference between herding peacefully protesting school kids into alleyways for 6 hours and giving a thug the hiding he clearly deserves. I would like to the police arresting chav scum that burns down shops because they want a pair of trainers and I would like see that police force backed up by the people and the gutless bunch of old Etonians that run the country.

Meanwhile the government bluster and posture and basically prove how truly out of touch with everyone they really are. Interestingly, before the election Clegg predicted riots if the Tories got in, and then, rather bizarrely, he then put them in power. Maybe he wanted the riots? Also interest to see in that clip is to listen to that utter wanker, Cameron saying that the country understands we need the cuts and no one will protest. Well he was wrong about that as well then wasn’t he.

And then he has the nerve to stand up in parliament the very next day and say that cutting 16000 police is still on the cards – what an utter dickhead. Well the police are starting to track down the offenders and they could do a lot worse than start in the house of parliament which contains a 650 offenders who routinely lie and just last year were finally caught swindling tax payers out of thousands of pounds.

So once again we see how close to the edge society really is. These “protesters” are not politically motivated; they are just opportunistic shitheads with no sense of society. But how do people end up like that? How did we get to the point that such people exist? Is it due to a liberal society that gives them too much leading to a bizarre, misplaced sense of entitlement or is it due to a society that feeds on consumerism while simultaneously abandoning significant portion of its members.

I don’t have an answer, neither do I have any faith that the current government can sort it out

Wednesday Movie

This is rather cool and very short
Courtesy of Chris D

Svalbard Tragedy

On the 6th August on the arctic island of Svlabard a 17 year old British school boy named Horatio Chappie was mauled to death by a polar bear. Two other boys sharing the tent were badly injured as was a trip leader who tried to shot the bear. This is clearly a tragedy for all concerned, not least the boy and his family. Polar bears are serious shit! They are the only mammal that routinely hunt humans. The world get a whole lot scarier when you are not at the top of the food chain and there is a hungry, skillful 300 kg predator out to get you.

Chappie was on a British Schools Exploring Society expedition. BSES is a charity that aims to get young adults out on adventures in remote parts of the World. That is something I am fully in favour of. Its clearly better that smashing up your community and looting a flat screen TV and a pair of trainers. I even have a couple of friends who went on BSES trips and have nothing but good things to say about the society and the trip they went on.

However, I was talking to a Norwegian friend today who has spent a lot of time in Svalbard and knows a thing or two about avoid and dealing with polar bears. He was rather scathing about the BSES organization and from what he said I have to agree that this tragedy would appear to have been avoidable. He made the following points

1. The group appears to have only had one rifle. This is not enough for any group, there is no redundancy in the system and if the rifle fails, as appears to have done four times here then the entire group is defenseless. Everyone in Svalbard carried a rifle. When Hilary Clinton visited the CIA demanded that the Governor of Svalbard disarm all the people wandering through town with guns. He laughed at them

2. When camping in a small group people set out trip wires attached to flairs to scare the bears and alert the campers. With a larger group such as this one it is normal to post a guard with people taking two hours shifts. This appears not to have been done, despite the group being large enough for everyone to take a turn and still get some sleep. Why?

3. The trip wire system appears not to have worked. Why?

4. They were also carrying a flair gun that didn’t work. Its not looking very good guys

Lots of questions and none of them bring back the dead boy or diminish the impact of the tragedy. There have been several incidents in the last few years and it appears that the shrinking ice coverage means that the bears are unable to catch seals and are getting more and more desperate as they become more hungry. What ever the cause I hope that the BSES tighten up their act but I also hope that they don’t stop taking kids on wild adventures in very remote places.

04 August 2011

Obama gives in to the loony right - America is toast

So a minority group of gun totting, christian fundamentalists have hijacked America's democracy and held the country and indeed the World's economy to ransom. It's very depressing.

There is an interesting article in yesterday's Guardian highlighting that the vast majority of the Tea Party voters will not benefit in an any way from all the tax and spending cuts. Only the ultra-rich will. This is why they fund these campaigns. So the propoganda machine that is Fox news somehow manages to convince a bunch of very stupid people that "Christian values" mean not helping the sick and the poor but supporting the ultra-rich. If it wasn't so scary it would be funny.

Read the article and also take a look at these graphs below which come from an independant, bipartisan Congressional Budget Office and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (courtesy of Roy Fitz).


02 August 2011

Roy and Viktorija's wedding in Vilnius

We spent a very pleasant long weekend in Vilnius for Roy and Viktorija's wedding.  She is Lithuanian, he is half Welsh and half Finish and they both live in Norway. There was a lot of people who didn't really understand each other. And it didn't matter at all because everyone had a great time. There was much drinking and some very silly dancing that transcended language.

I have wanted to visit the Baltic States since they first appeared on a map in my 4th year history lesson (I was 14) and I thought "wow 3 European countries I have never heard of". That was 1981 and since then I heard a lot about them and there has been huge changes, but I have never quite made it out there. So this was the perfect oportunity.

And it was great, Vilnius is a small city with lots of amazing history and some really good bars and restuarants. The wedding was everything a wedding should be. Excellently planned with lots of nice details. Good to see Roy so happy and nice to catch up with some old friends.

All in all a top weeekend and Sophie has now visited more countries in her first six months than I managed by the age of 20.

 Interesting statues and churches in Vilnius
 The Happy Couple
 Newly wed couples lock an engraved padlock to a bridge and throw the key in the river
 Lighting lanterns at midnight
 The day after
All in all a rather nice city