30 January 2011

Tobias PhD

Last Friday a Dutchman and a Swissman travelled to Norway to examine the research of a German who for the last 5 years had been supervised by two Brits in a research group which includes 2 other Germans, a Pole and a Norwegian. That seems like a pretty good working model for European collaboration.

So it was that Tobias had his PhD exam. And I am very glad to say that he passed with flying colours. After 5 years and a lot of hard work he pulled it all together with an excellent presentation which neatly summarized what is one of the most exciting developments in the study of outcrops for many years. The opponents (examiners) were good, digging deep enough to test his knowledge without getting hung up on the pedantic details. It was an excellent session and I felt genuinely proud to have been his supervisor. A great party was had in Nesteboden, which has the name suggests is an old converted boat house, in one of the less fancy parts of Bergen. It’s an excellent spot place for a party and has a really nice atmosphere. There was drinking and eating and dancing and good conversation until the early hours.

It is very easy for a supervisor to come up with an idea that, in the pub at least, seems pretty straight forward. It is then up to some poor student to try and make that idea into reality. That was Toby’s mission when 5 years ago we thought, hmm why can’t we just stick a hyperspectral sensor from a satellite onto a tripod and point it at an outcrop. It is obviously more difficult than it sounds but the luxury of being the supervisor is that the reality of the challenge is passed on to somebody who is probably smarter and certainly more committed to solving the problem.

We interviewed Toby over the phone and he seemed very smart. We offered him the position and he seemed very surprised. He arrived in Bergen and two endearing aspects of his character soon became apparent, firstly having grown up in the 80’s in the former East-Germany where Russian was the second language, his English was not great. In fact it took a while for him to get up to speed and even understand what we were talking about most of the time. Secondly, he has a love of being organized, often to the extent that it is detrimental, an example being when he took a room in a house before he arrived and was stuck for a year with 9 idiot undergraduates. As Brits we loved to dwell on examples of the failure of Germanic organization – the joys of being a multicultural organization.

Despite these hiccups and a few others – such as a years delay on the arrival of the scanner, he immersed himself in the project and also set about enjoying the outdoor life in western Norway. Just after Easter in his first year he came to my office sunburnt and battered. He announced that he had got like that from skiing across the Hardanger Plateau – a serious undertaking. The conversation went something like

Me: what the fuck happened to you, you look like crap?

Toby: I skied across the Hardanger over Easter.

Me: Respect, so have you done a lot of cross country skiing before?

Toby: No, this was the first time.

Me: Wow, so who did you go with?

Toby: I went on my own

Me: Oh really, so was it ok?

Toby: Not really, I got lost and couldn’t find the hut so I dug a snow hole with my cooking pan, it was actually a bit scary

At this point I was seriously wandering if this crazy german would survive his PhD.

But he did and he continued to have outdoor adventures, including long ski tours and kayak trips, including one to Svalbard which I am very jealous of. And we did fieldwork in the UK, in Portugal, Spain and Utah and gradually his project came together. He managed to solve all the problems that we had not even for seen, he managed to cope with the at-times surreal relationship with Cornershop Oil and he managed to submit a thesis which will be the benchmark for this sort of work in the future.

So “Prost for Toby” and I look forward to more adventures both in science and in the outdoors.

28 January 2011

Friday Joke - some geology

Talking to a group of primary school teachers about geology, and how to

introduce it to the young. The inevitable discussion on dinosaurs...all

kids are fascinated about dinosaurs.

So I asked the teachers, if so many kids were interested in dinosaurs, why

weren't there more geologists...

The answer...most kids grow up !


Two Geologists are walking across a granite outcrop one day. The first says

to the second "Hey, this terrain is unmetamorphosed". Replies the second

one, "No Schist".



Total immersion geologists: Are you totally obsessed with geology? If so,

then you are a total immersion geologist. Here are the ten warning signs:

1) You judge a restaurant by the type of decorative building stone they use

rather than their food.

2) You manage to turn any conversation into a discussion of geology, as in:

"What did you think of that Superbowl game last night?"

"I must have missed that conference. Who sponsored it? Geological Society of America?"

3) The only thing you notice about attractive members of the opposite sex is the stone in their jewelry.

4) You refuse to let nightfall stop your field excursions and continue

looking at the outcrops using the headlights of your field vehicle.

5) You like rock music only because it's called "rock" music.

6) You will try to claw through the water flowing in a stream to get a better

look at the bedrock at the base of the channel.

7) You will walk across eight lanes of freeway traffic to see if the outcrop on the other side of the highway is the same type of rock as the side you're parked on.

8) You name your children after rocks and minerals.

9) You're not sure if you have children.

10) You view non-geologists as subhuman.

26 January 2011

The Album cover game

Things to do when you are bored...

1 - Go to Wikipedia and hit random. The first random Wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.
2 - Go to quotationspage.com and hit random. The last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.
3 - Go to Flickr and click on “explore the last seven days”. Third picture no matter what .........it is, will be your album cover.
4 - Assemble in power-point or similar and upload

It really works...
Here are some results from facebook buddies

First, some moody, idie rock from Ivar...

Then some Californian surf rock from Brian...

A couple from Stan who told me about the game...

And finally a couple of my own...

It's amazing - it really works!
Now we just need to make some music and we could be as rich as Simon Cowell

25 January 2011

The "land of the large" at its best

Just in case you had forgotten how good America is at being a parody of itself, the Wednesday movie is here to remind you

Firstly with the Sarah Palin battle hymn - no its not a joke, it has transended crap so much that it has become art!

Then at a time when Jared Loughner, a total pyscho from Arizona does what saviour Sarah instructed him to do and pulls a gun and kills 6 people in a mall including a young girl, sales of the same gun rocket by 60% and the idiots from the NRA are recording total crap like this. And there is literally thousands more videos like it - you couldn't make it up!

Meanwhile a TV show about teenagers humping, drinking and smoking pot is described as "the most dangerous program ever!" slightly missing the point that nobody ever died from watching TV, but approximatly 9000 of them get killed by guns every year in the US.

As Gareth said "ban a TV show but don't dare suggest that we ban guns"


Sea Shepherd 2011 - Awesome result so far

I am fundamentally opposed to whaling, I believe that in a hundred years time our grandchildren will look back at us and shake their heads in utter disbelief at our ignorant and barbaric ways. Pretty much in the same way that we consider the slave owning classes of two hundred years ago.

I am also a big supporter of direct action - if something is wrong don't moan about it, fix it. I believe that there is no scope for compromise with these kind of people; what they are doing is wrong and anything short of murder is justified in stopping it. Its not a matter of their opinion vs mine; its not acceptable because its culture; its just fuckin wrong.

Consequently, I am a very big fan of Paul Watson and
Sea Shepherd and I have been watching their 2010/2011 campaign against the Japanese in the southern ocean with delight. A couple of years ago they were down in the icy waters of the Antarctic with a single boat chasing an entire Japanese fleet. Support has grown steadily over the last couple of years, no doubt helped by the publicity that got from Animal Planets "Whale wars". This year they are down there with 3 boats and a helicopter and it is turning into their most successful season ever.

They found the Japanese fleet almost immediately and set about a big game of cat and mouse. The Nissan Maru, the huge factory ship escaped but two of the three harpoon boats were tied up chasing Sea Shepherd. When they are chasing the protestors they are not killing whales!

Then today I read that they have again found the Nissan Maru and with over half the whaling season already gone and virtually no whales killed its looking like an almost unbelievably good result for both the Whales and for compassionate and intellegent people everywhere.

If you agree then visit
seashepherd.org and make a donation, however small to the people who are out there making a difference.

22 January 2011

Friday Joke - Missing Cat

Great Friday Joke this week, sorry its late (ie Saturday) but I had computer melt down last week.
This joke is from the same guy who gave us "can I have my spider back" which is rather bizarrely the most popular page on this entire blog...

Anyway enjoy and have a good weekend
From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 9.07am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Poster
I opened the screen door yesterday and my cat got out and has been missing since then so I was wondering if you are not to busy you could make a poster for me. It has to be A4 and I will photocopy it and put it around my suburb this afternoon.

This is the only photo of her I have she answers to the name Missy and is black and white and about 8 months old. missing on Harper street and my phone number.
Thanks Shan.
From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 9.26am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,
That is shocking news. Luckily I was sitting down when I read your email and not half way up a ladder or tree. How are you holding up? I am surprised you managed to attend work at all what with thinking about Missy out there cold, frightened and alone... possibly lying on the side of the road, her back legs squashed by a vehicle, calling out "Shannon, where are you?"
Although I have two clients expecting completed work this afternoon, I will, of course, drop everything and do whatever it takes to facilitate the speedy return of Missy.
Regards, David.
From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 9.37am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Poster

yeah ok thanks. I know you dont like cats but I am really worried about mine. I have to leave at 1pm today.
From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.17am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,
I never said I don't like cats. Once, having been invited to a party, I went clothes shopping beforehand and bought a pair of expensive G-Star boots. They were two sizes too small but I wanted them so badly I figured I could just wear them without socks and cut my toenails very short. As the party was only a few blocks from my place, I decided to walk. After the first block, I lost all feeling in my feet. Arriving at the party, I stumbled into a guy named Steven, spilling Malibu & coke onto his white Wham 'Choose Life' t-shirt, and he punched me. An hour or so after the incident, Steven sat down in a chair already occupied by a cat. The surprised cat clawed and snarled causing Steven to leap out of the chair, slip on a rug and strike his forehead onto the corner of a speaker; resulting in a two inch open gash. In its shock, the cat also defecated, leaving Steven with a foul stain down the back of his beige cargo pants. I liked that cat.
Attached poster as requested.
Regards, David.
From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.24am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

yeah thats not what I was looking for at all. it looks like a movie and how come the photo of Missy is so small?
From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.28am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,
It's a design thing. The cat is lost in the negative space.
Regards, David.

From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.33am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Thats just stupid. Can you do it properly please? I am extremely emotional over this and was up all night in tears. you seem to think it is funny. Can you make the photo bigger please and fix the text and do it in colour please. Thanks.
From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.46am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,
Having worked with designers for a few years now, I would have assumed you understood, despite our vague suggestions otherwise, we do not welcome constructive criticism. I don't come downstairs and tell you how to send text messages, log onto Facebook and look out of the window. I am willing to overlook this faux pas due to you no doubt being preoccupied with thoughts of Missy attempting to make her way home across busy intersections or being trapped in a drain as it slowly fills with water. I spent three days down a well once but that was just for fun.
I have amended and attached the poster as per your instructions.
Regards, David.

From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.59am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

This is worse than the other one. can you make it so it shows the whole photo of Missy and delete the stupid text that says missing missy off it? I just want it to say Lost.

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 11.14am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster
From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 11.21am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

yeah can you do the poster or not? I just want a photo and the word lost and the telephone number and when and where she was lost and her name. Not like a movie poster or anything stupid. I have to leave early today. If it was your cat I would help you. Thanks.

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 11.32am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Awww

Dear Shannon,
I don't have a cat. I once agreed to look after a friend's cat for a week but after he dropped it off at my apartment and explained the concept of kitty litter, I kept the cat in a closed cardboard box in the shed and forgot about it. If I wanted to feed something and clean faeces, I wouldn't have put my mother in that home after her stroke. A week later, when my friend came to collect his cat, I pretended that I was not home and mailed the box to him. Apparently I failed to put enough stamps on the package and he had to collect it from the post office and pay eighteen dollars. He still goes on about that sometimes, people need to learn to let go.
I have attached the amended version of your poster as per your detailed instructions.
Regards, David.
From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 11.47am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Awww

Thats not my cat. where did you get that picture from? That cat is orange. I gave you a photo of my cat.

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 11.58am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Awww

I know, but that one is cute. As Missy has quite possibly met any one of several violent ends, it is possible you might get a better cat out of this. If anybody calls and says "I haven't seen your orange cat but I did find a black and white one with its hind legs run over by a car, do you want it?" you can politely decline and save yourself a costly veterinarian bill.

I knew someone who had a basset hound that had its hind legs removed after an accident and it had to walk around with one of those little buggies with wheels. If it had been my dog I would have asked for all its legs to be removed and replaced with wheels and had a remote control installed. I could charge neighbourhood kids for rides and enter it in races. If I did the same with a horse I could drive it to work. I would call it Steven.

Regards, David.

From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 12.07pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Awww

Please just use the photo I gave you.

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 12.22pm
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww
From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 12.34pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww

I didnt say there was a reward. I dont have $2000 dollars. What did you even put that there for? Apart from that it is perfect can you please remove the reward bit. Thanks Shan.

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 12.42pm
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww
From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 12.51pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww

Can you just please take the reward bit off altogether? I have to leave in ten minutes and I still have to make photocopies of it.

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 12.56pm
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww

From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 1.03pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww

Fine. That will have to do.

21 January 2011

Computer problems

Total blue screen failure on my trusty laptop means I have at least temporaraly my supply of shit jokes (shame)
However I have a great one for today so if you came here for the Friday joke pop back a around 3pm and it will be uploaded

It is a good one and well worth waiting for!!

16 January 2011


January marches on as the year when everything happens gets well and truely underway.

Had Dan and Rachael from south Wales staying last week. They are low maintainance guest. The weather was pretty shitty for them but they got a days boarding in and managed to see a bit of Bergen.

Saturday we headed to Voss for the second week running and once again there was tonnes of snow and virtually no people. The powder was amazing. Poor Dan fell on the first powder run and it took him almost an hour to get out. It was painfull to watch. After that he stuck mainly to the piste, we did run after run in the deep stuff and towards the end of the day my legs were like jelly. It was one of the best days boarding I have ever had in Norway. But where are all the people? Its very strange, either they are at the other resorts or maybe they just got bored of winter. Who knows and for that matter who cares? As long as they are not clogging up the lift lines and tracking out the fresh pow, then why should I care?

Saturday evening we headed into town, thought I should take my house guests out at least once. I havn't had a proper night out in ages. We went for food in Opera then cocktails at the Calibar. After a couple of rounds Rachael got IDed, she's 19 so they threw us out. She then got IDed at a couple of other bars and nobody seemed to know what the actual age was or where she could get in. It was all very strange, I have never seen this in Bergen, but then again I don't generally hang -out with 19 year olds.

Found a good bar that didn't give us any hassle then drank some more before going dancing in Metro, on eof Bergens classic chessy night spots. Rachael got in using Gail's bank card as ID, Gail was stood next to her but the doorman didn't notice! It was predictably full of pretensious drunk tossers but the music was ok and it served its purpose and alse served gin and tonics of which several were consumed.

Sunday the weather was very shitty, 4 degrees, rain and 10ms wind - gotta love western Norway. My guests left and I pottered about, tidied up and did some jobs. Next week I am heading to Aberdeen so Saturday was probably the last boarding of the season. I fine day to finish with

14 January 2011

Friday Joke - skiers, boarders and lifties

Since there is lots of snow and we are heading for a big powder weekend - here are some winter sports jokes
Have a nice weekend

Boarder Jokes:
Q. How many snow board instructors does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. Three - one to hold it, one to video tape it and the other to say "AWESOME DUDE!"

Q. What do you call a snowboarder with no girlfriend/boyfriend?
A. Homeless

Q. What is the difference between a snowboard instructor and a snowboard student?
A. 3 days!

Q. If you have a car with 3 snowboarders in the back seat, what do you call the driver?
A. Officer!

Q. How does a snowboard instructor meet his group?
A. He rides into them!

Ski (instructor) jokes:
Q. How many skiers does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Ten, one to screw it in and the other 9 to stand around saying "Nice turn, nice turn, nice turn........."

Q. How many ski instructors does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Only one - he holds it while the mountain revolves around him

Q. What's the difference between God and a ski instructor?
A. God doesn't think he's a ski instructor.

Q. How many ski instructors does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A. "None, ve scvrew in ze jaccusi you!"

And a couple for the lifties:
Q. How many lifties does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. None - we just call maintenance!

Q. Why do lifties only get half a hour lunch break?
A. Because any longer and they need to be retrained!

11 January 2011

Daily Mail

The best of this right wing gutter rag in a very nice song from Dan and Dan here

And a great Charlie Broker sketch here

09 January 2011

Top-down fire

So you think you know how to light a fire - think again.

John T introduced me to the concept of the "top-down" or "upside" fire. I was a bit sceptical but after listening to his explanation and then watching a few youtube videos I decided to try it out.

The Theory
In a normal fire we start at the base with a ball of paper, then place kindling and finally, logs on top. The principal here is that since the heat and the flames rise, then they will ignite the overlying material. More stuff is then added to the top.

In a top-down fire the logs are placed on the bottom, packed as tightly together as possible. The kindling is put on top of the logs and the newspaper on top of the kindling. In this case the fire burns slowly downward. Proponents of this method suggest that it is more efficient, produces more heat, burns better, produces less smoke and takes less work. The only problem is that it is totally contrary to everything you have ever been taught about lighting fires.

The Practice
I packed the logs into the stove, getting them as tightly together as I could. Then I piled about 10 pieces of kindling on top. I was fairly sure that simple balls of newspaper would not burn long enough to ignite the kindling so I rolled a couple of sheets of paper into long thin sausages and then tied them in a knot. The idea was that these would burn far longer than a simple ball. I made 4 of them. I then put a ball of paper on top to light the rolls.

I lit the ball and this indeed got hot enough to light the rolls. After about 3 mins the kindling took and after another 7 the logs started to burn. I was surprised at how well it worked. The fire lasted for about 2 hours with no attention. There was lots of heat and virtually no ash. I left the door of the stove open as I wanted to watch and there was no smoke at all.

This was a complete success. I am a total convert.

Why does it work?
The theory is that in a "normal" fire, the kindling heats the logs above, this drives off any steam and also some of the volatiles. The steam and volatiles form the smoke. The smoke is lost energy as it is not burning or providing any heat.

In the "top-down" fire a limited amount of heat goes down, any volatiles that are generated from heating the unburnt wood are ignited as they rise into the fire. This means that the wood burns in a much more efficient manner, producing lots of heat and very little smoke.

Some videos
This guy does a controlled experiment where burns a similar amount of wood as a top-down and a tee-pee fire. Its good to see a controlled experiment and he gets the right result however, he did not pack the logs together tight enough. It would have worked better if he had not left the gaps between them. Also the vid is in three parts and most of it is a bloke in camo chopping wood with a large knife. Go straight to part three.

These guys build the ultimate top-down fire. Don't try at home. More here and here.

07 January 2011

Crap jokes to start the year...

A husband and wife were sitting watching a TV program about psychology that was explaining the phenomenon of mixed emotions.
The husband turned to his wife and said, Honey, that's a bunch of crap. I bet you can’t tell me anything that will make me both happy and sad at the same time.
She replies: Out of all your friends, you have the biggest penis.

A guy goes to the supermarket and notices an attractive woman waving at him. She says hello. He's rather taken aback because he can't place where he knows her from.
So he says, 'Do you know me?'
To which she replies, 'I think you're the father of one of my kids.'
Now his mind travels back to the only time he has ever been unfaithful to his wife and says, 'Are you the stripper from the bachelor party that I made love to on the pool table with all my buddies watching while your partner whipped my arse with wet celery?'

She looks into his eyes and says calmly, "No, I'm your son's teacher."

03 January 2011

2011 is going to be a big year

So we have entered 2011 which is rapidly stepping up to be the biggest year of my life yet.
So far we are looking at:
Jan - Getting ready for being out of the office for a month in Feb when...
Feb - Arrival of small person in Aberdeen
April - Company spuds first well (in Africa)
May - Company spuds second well (first in Norway)
June - Get married (twice, once in the UK and then again in Norway, at least its to the same person )
July - Company spuds third well
August - Company spuds forth well
August - Sell house in Norway (and boat, car etc)
September - Move country and relocate in Aberdeen
September - Start work on new house
September - Company spuds first operated well in Norway
October & Nov - Paternity leave
December - Complete first phase of house building and move into bothy by Christmas

And all of that on top of the normal two jobs, at least there are no PhD students finishing in that time!

There are lots of fairly major and potentially life changing events in there so it will be nothing if not interesting and I will try and keep the blog updated.

I think the best plan is to jump in, hold my breath, swim like crazy and hope to emerge at the other end in one piece.

2010 on Karmasotra

2010 was another busy year. We skied/boarded in Canada and Norway; climbed, biked, canyoned, jeeped and rafted in Utah; dived and wakeboarded in the Madives; hiked, climbed (rock and ice) and kayaked in Norway. And also did some fieldwork in South Africa and Utah. Visited 7 countries, of which only one was new, a lean year on the travel front.

I proposed to Katharine, who said yes and then 4 months later told me she was pregnant. We bought a derelict farm in Stonehaven and found an architect who would help us design our future home. We wait impatiently for that project to get going.

Work wise the year was pretty busy, lots of good stuff achieved in both jobs. 2011 is shaping up to be a very big year for the Company with lots of wells to drill. Up at the University I had another four students complete and published 11 papers. We also got funding (at least the industry part) for the next stage of the VOG project.

Globally BP messed up big time in the Gulf, but everyone seems to have forgotten already because the oil has disappeared. A volcano in Iceland had a minor eruption just to remind us how fragile our 21st centuary lifestyle really is. The global economy was torn apart by a corrupt and immoral financial system, while the people who held it together got the blame. In the UK a fascist party run by a smarmy twat sneaked into power with the help of a backstabbing smarmy twat and they immediately set about dismantling the welfare state and finishing Thatchers evil plan, while students and young people finally got politically motivated. Wikileaks hit the news with a mass of information that everyone already knew or suspected. In the US the right wing gutter press and its associated sewer-life bayed for the execution of Julian Assange, who was then arrested in the UK for not wearing a condom in Sweden. An interesting year indeed...

Meanwhile closer to home, Karmasotra hit 31,000 hits and there were 185 posts. Most of them were crap jokes and movies. But to capture the esence of the year I have copied the first line from every post that included some news - these are reproduced below...


Flew from the UK to Calgary.
Its very cold in Bergen, as it is in most of Europe
This week the joke is the cretinously stupid, sanctimonious, self righteous bastards that “run” Bergen Kommune (town council).
There is a common saying "there is no such thing as friends on powder day".
Stage 2 of the lecture tour of the US, flew across with SAS and ended up with the worst kind of “seat-mate” – middle aged Norwegian male who guzzled has much alcohol as he could get, constantly invaded my space, then fell asleep snoring and farting.
I have spent the last week on the second half of my lecture tour of the US.
The temperature in Bergen is starting to poke its head above freezing during the day but everything is still white.
First trip of the year to Voss on Saturday followed by some cross country skiing (falling over) on Sunday.
Was back in South Africa for a week doing some field work.
Whilst in South Africa I was attacked by a Centipede
Its been an amazing winter in western Norway, very cold for a sustained period of time, which means lots of ice in good condition.
Have been getting more and more interested in different forms of photography recently
I just watched the excellent documentary "Crude" which details the 15 year fight between the indigenous Amazonians of Ecuador and Chevron (Texaco).
Being in a Norwegian city during Easter is very similar to being in the opening scene of Danny Boyles "28 days later", the place is entirely abandoned.
I was very pleased to read in the Norwegian press today that not everyone was on holiday over Easter. Agenda 21 attempted to sink two whaling boats in Lofoten and were successful with one, the "Sophie", which was badly flooded in Svolvær Harbour
Now that Katharine has moved back to the UK there is no long Easter holiday for her!
If you had asked me a week ago where was the "most unlikely place I would be on Friday" then sitting on a cross channel ferry would have been fairly high on the list. But here I am
As a geologist it's pretty exciting to see Earth sciences topping the news, especially when it rates above a general electon in the UK.
Nail biting general election in the UK where all the parties lost, but who was the winner?
Things have been a bit quite for the last month, tumble weed has bouncing through the part of the blogosphere that is karmasotra.
I was involved with convening a conference in Stavanger in the last few days before I left for Utah.
...Bergen - Bradford - Barcelona
Lots of blame being thrown about, most of it at BP, the american people blame BP, Anadarko blame BP, BP blame Transocean, Transocean blame Halliburton etc. Nobody wants to take responsibility so lets look at a few facts.
I have a pathological hatred of hanging around in airports, I think that a large part of the security farce of being there 2 hours before the flight is a marketing ploy to get you to spend money in hideously over priced shops.
We are currently about to bid on a house in Scotland and I have to say, when it comes to house buying systems, the Norwegians are streets ahead.
I have been trying to learn the skills of time lapse photography.
I always figured it is rude to live in a country and not climb it's highest mountain. So last weekend was my birthday and we headed up the the Jotenheim with the goal of walking up Galdhøpiggen which at 2469 m is not only the highest point in Norway but the whole of northern Europe - woooo!
After a fairly shitte start to the summer (the wettest July on record), things suddenly got better on Thursday when the sun came out. So since then I have:
The score has been stable at 1 all for a couple of weeks.
One of the great things about living in high latitudes is the chance to watch the Aurora (Northern lights).
There is already a lot of things going to happen in 2011, getting married, moving to the UK, buying or building a new house, some great projects at the Uni and lots of wells finally getting drilled by the company after 5 years of preparation. So when Katharine told me 2 months ago that she was pregnant I was surprised but pretty relaxed about it.
It was a somewhat interesting weekend.
Karmasotra has just hit a bit of a milestone. When I looked this morning it had just reached 25000 hits - thats quite a lot of people reading crap jokes, rants and the occasional piece of news.
Sandy and Helen tie the knot... on a mountain in a storm
Given that my Wife-to-be and now my child-to-be, live in another country from me it seems logical that I would, at some point in the near future move across the water to Aberdeen.
I have had an ongoing project to fix the garden outside the house for the last 3 years, ever since it was necessary to rip out the old steps and garden to waterproof the basement.
Fairly hectic times at the moment. PhD exam in the UK was tough, with the candidate getting super defensive and rather difficult to handle.
Amazing weather last week, really felt like summer, unfortunately I was stuck in doors working.
Was inspired by a post on Ola's blog with a cool pic and an awesome video, to go out and try some star trails.
A while ago I wrote a post about a guy who had photographed the Sun every ten days for a year. I am a geek in that I have a strong interest in science and technology (amongst other things).
Autumn is definitely here.
Things in Bergen plod along as normal. Winter is coming although there has been some fine Autumn days.
It snowed in October and for a few days last week Bergen was white.
My old school friend Alan came across to visit at the weekend with Megan, his 10 year old daughter.
We are in the Maldives having a nice time...
We had already had two conventional scans of the baby and they had indicated that everything was going ok, all the measurements seem to suggest normal development and the pre-requisite number of arms, legs, fingers toes and heads.
We have had a lot of great trips to a lot of great places: surfing, diving and exploring rain forest in Costa Rica, canyoning, biking and rafting in Utah, big mountain skiing in Canada, surfing and diving in the Caribbean and numerous others.
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.
Julian Assange is a hero for a modern generation.
Hemsedal is a small mountain town in the middle of Norway.
Busy times at the mo, but want to take a very quick moment to wish you all a good holiday.
As the title suggests I spent the festive period travelling around Britain to see family and catch up with old friends.

02 January 2011

New Years Eve - Stonehaven Fireballs

Stonehaven, in addition to being the home of the pneumatic tyre and the deep fried mars bar, is also the location of a World famous (in the NE of Scotland) fireball festival on New Years Eve. So this year, in a bid to do something a bit different, we headed there to check it out. It seemed like a interesting option given that Katharine can't drink at the moment and we will be living there soon.

The Fireball Festival involves about 40 folk from the town walking through the streets at midnight swinging large (3-15 kg) flaming balls around their heads, narrowly missing a drunk and appreciative crowd who line the main street. The procession ends up at the harbour where they then throw the balls into the sea.

The balls are constructed of wire mesh and filled with a secret mix of flammable material. The handle is made of wire, often with a padded grip. The size and shape of the balls are variable and depends on the preference and strength of the owner. There are prizes for biggest, brightest etc . The people doing it are all locals and there was an interesting mix of regular folk and hippies, reflecting the towns artisan population. And it isn't just the local men, who one might expect to be associated with such an activity there was a lot of ladies and the age range, for men and women must have been from 25 - 70.

So we headed to Stonehaven early evening. We had managed to book a restaurant on the harbour, but could only get the early sitting. The meal was good and we had a couple of drinks before heading out for a wander around. It was still fairly early, but when only one of you is drinking sitting in a pub isn't a whole lot of fun so we picked a good spot by the harbour and waited.

About 11.30 some drummers appeared, a bunch of school kids led by a Freddie Kruger look alike. They were actually very entertaining, significantly more so than the neo-nazi acne monsters that comprise Bergens Buekorps. A Scottish marching band came past about 11.45 and then the "swingers" started to assemble. By this time the crowds at the edge of the streets were 5 or 6 deep and we were happy to have our prime position.

At midnight the various fireballs were lit and the Swingers started to wander around, up and down the streets. There was no structure or order, they pretty much all did there own thing but is was still very impressive. The act of swinging the ball feeds the fire with oxygen and they are soon burning pretty brightly and throwing off a fair bit of heat.

A policeman watches as the fireballs are lit.
The swingers disappeared off up the streets and then reappeared about 10 minutes later, spread out and entertaining the crowd. Some of them looked decidedly tired as they arrived at the harbour one by one to throw the fire into the water. Most just dropped it in but a few manged to get a good swing send it flying, when this happened the crowd cheered appreciatively.

Yes it really is that mad

The whole thing was wrapped up at about 12.30 and a very impressive firework display was fired off from the hills across the harbour. All very pretty.

The origin of the festival is lost in the mists of time but the website for the fireball association suggests it stems from pagan fire related purification rites! Which seems possible, but it could also just stem from a load of drunk blokes dicking about with fire, which seems just as likely to me. What ever the origins it was fun to watch and a great atmosphere. It will be interesting to see how long it can survive in a world obsessed with HSE and risk.

A good effort on the final hoof into the harbour

More pics on my flickr site