24 December 2012

Christmas 2012

At Cowieswells, December 2012. Note the house is not quite as finished as it should be!

After reading this I was almost tempted not to write anything this year but then I decided not to be bullied by cynics but I promise  I will keep it short and sweet.

It has been another busy year for us, Sophie is growing-up fast, the house is getting built (although not finished as we had hoped) and time is flying by. Katharine has been working full time, designing large chunks of the house and bringing up a small hyper-active child who doesn’t sleep very much. She is also pregnant and growing another baby that, all things being well, will be born in April  2013. Not surprisingly she is sleeping a lot! Who would have believed that bed at 9pm would have become a norm?

Sophie is almost 2 and growing fast. She is now fully mobile, running, shouting, laughing and generally keeping us busy. She is a bossy little madam who knows her mind (can’t imagine where she gets that from!). She can string a few sentences together and will very earnestly tell us all about her day and what she wants to do next. Collecting stones from the beach is very popular at the moment (guess where that comes from?). We are steadily priming her for having a sibling  and have high hopes that she will make a great big sister. All in all, being a parent is hard work and fantastic!

I have been overseeing the house building and working in between. Lots of travelling to Utah, Spain and the Middle East. Even managed to full fill a life time ambition and do field work in Greenland this summer. An amazing place and playing with guns, helicopters and technowank, while dodging polar bears was a perfect way to spend two weeks in the summer. Apart from that I have spent about ¼ of my time in Norway where I moved into the Fosswinklegates ghetto. Living in town has been nice and gives me a chance to catch up with people when I am in town. Still can’t wait to be living out at Cowieswells and spend as much time as possible there, in between everything else.

Building our new house at Cowieswells  has been a long process and it is now about 3 months behind schedule. We had hoped to be in for Christmas but the weather and Nordan* conspired against us. Its good to look back at the pictures on the blog and see how far we have come in 6 months and when we get in it will be an amazing place to live. Latest guess is now Febuary 2013!

Lots of good stuff to look forward to next year. New child, new house, a bit less travelling (hopefully), fieldwork in great places, buying a tractor and maybe even getting those Alpacas!

In the meantime we wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and hope to see you all in the New Year 

(*Nordan – Norwegian company who make great windows but have an interesting perspective on time keeping and deadlines)

17 December 2012

The Power of the Sea

As a geologist I spend quite a bit of time looking at rocks that were deposited as sediments in shallow marine settings (beaches etc) and we expend a lot of effort trying to understand the dynamics of the sediment transport processes. So it's always good to have a bit of a reality check by studying modern systems.

Last weekend a moderate storm, coupled with high tides created a fair bit of havoc along the NE coast of Scotland especially in Stonehaven. .
Large wave's breaking over the harbour wall on saturday (STV)
We went down there on Sunday to visit Cowieswells to check on everything. All was fine there so we went to the UK's best fish and chip shop (The Bay)  for a spot of Sunday lunch and the damage was pretty impressive.

This is a road - well it was 2 days ago

We are 4 metres above the sea, but check out the size of these rocks. Its amazing to think that waves, breaking against a sea wall would still have the energy to move something so big. Note also the fence in the background has taken a bit of a pounding 
Hmm glad thats not my caravan 

Sophie, with her new friends owl and duck, checking out the distribution of stones in the park 

05 December 2012

ComCab, Aberdeen Taxi

Last week my wife's mother almost missed her flight because the pre-booked taxi didn't show up, despite repeated calls. After 45 mins of waiting our poor 2 year old daughter had to be bundled in her pyjamas into the back of the car and Katharine drove her Mum to the airport. If she had continued to wait she would definitely have missed the flight. They were apologetic but apologies don't get you to the airport.

Then this morning I booked a cab to take me to the train station, again no show. I called them and the drone that answered the phone could only tell me that no cab had yet been dispatched and she had no idea when one would be. I had to take our car which meant Katharine had to walk to work and I incurred parking fees etc.

Once is forgiveable, twice is not.These people are not reliable and, if you need to get anywhere at a set time I would suggest that you and the hundreds of people per day who read this blog avoid them at all costs.

ComCab, Aberdeen Taxi, 01224 353535

09 November 2012

Publishing Milestones

Being an academic, one of the key things is to disseminate your work, after all, there is not a lot of point solving a problem if you don't tell anyone about it.
So we publish papers, in journals, in books and in conference proceedings. I try and keep a a track of how many I have published and today, whilst updating my CV I realised that I had reached 100 published articles. That 100 only includes things that are in some form of peer reviewed scientific publication (so not magazine articles, blogs, jokes or other stuff like that).
Now I do not claim that all of these are marvellous pieces of work, in fact some of them are plain wrong, some are just crap and a few are ok. I am not going to contemplate their various merits here I am just going going to celebrate the big round number.
So here is a bit more of a breakdown
100 Articles
50 in main-stream Journals
31 in Books and Special Publications
19 in Conference Proceedings

I am first author in 21 of those, which might mean I am a free loader, but I prefer to think it means I don't hog the glory. There are approximately 140 co-authors at least 20 of whom I have never met.

I have been publishing since 1993 which is almost 20 years, so that's an average of 5 articles per year. It's nowhere near linear though so when I have some more spare time or when I am very bored I will plot it up in excel. It will be interesting to see because for the last 6 years I have only been an academic 50% of the time (worked in industry the rest).

For anyone who knows about metrics such as the H-factor, mine is 17 or 18. This is ok for my career stage and better than Brian Cox,  but the sad reality is that it means 4/5 of my research output has been cited less than 20 times by others.

Then we get into the money bit! During my research careerer I have raised approximately £3.6 million which means that on average, each paper cost £36k. Each H-point cost £211k . I am not sure if that is good value or not, but I had lot of fun along the way.

Anyway I think I'll go out tonight and celebrate the double milestone of  100 articles and 50 journal articles with a cold beer. Which makes me wonder how many beers each paper has cost...

23 October 2012

Random Jokes from Gareth

Thought I'd share these with the world - not very politically correct but amusing

Maths in Britain

1. Teaching Maths In 1970
A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100..
His cost of production is 4/5 of the price.
What is his profit?

2. Teaching Maths In 1980
A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100.
His cost of production is 80% of the price.
What is his profit?

3. Teaching Maths In 1990
A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100.
His cost of production is £80.
How much was his profit?

4. Teaching Maths In 2000
A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100.
His cost of production is £80 and his profit is £20.
Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

5. Teaching Maths In 2005
A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands.
Your assignment: Discuss how the birds and squirrels might feel as the logger cut down their homes just for a measly profit of £20.

6. Teaching Maths In 2009
A logger is arrested for trying to cut down a tree in case it may be offensive to Muslims or other religious groups not consulted in the application for the felling licence. He is also fined a £100 as his chainsaw is in breach of Health and Safety legislation as it deemed too dangerous and could cut something. He has used the chainsaw for over 20 years without incident however he does not have the correct certificate of competence and is therefore considered to be a recidivist and habitual criminal. His DNA is sampled and his details circulated throughout all government agencies. He protests and is taken to court and fined another £100 because he is such an easy target.

When he is released he returns to find Gypsies have cut down half his wood to build a camp on his land. He tries to throw them off but is arrested, prosecuted for harassing an ethnic minority, imprisoned and fined a further £100. While he is in jail again the Gypsies cut down the rest of his wood and sell it on the black market for £100 cash. They also have a departure BBQ of squirrel and pheasant and leave behind several tonnes of rubbish and asbestos sheeting.

The forester on release is warned that failure to clear the fly tipped rubbish immediately at his own cost is an offence. He complains and is arrested for environmental pollution, breach of the peace and invoiced £12,000 plus VAT for safe disposal costs by a regulated government contractor.

Your assignment: How many times is the logger going to have to be arrested and fined before he realizes that he is never going to make £20 profit by hard work, give up, sign onto the dole and live off the state for the rest of his life?

7. Teaching Maths In 2010
A logger doesn’t sell a lorry load of timber because he can’t get a loan to buy a new lorry because his bank has spent all his and their money on a derivative of securitized debt related to sub-prime mortgages in Surrey and lost the lot, with only some government money left to pay a few million-pound bonuses to their senior directors and the traders who made the biggest losses.

The logger struggles to pay the £1,200 road tax on his old lorry. However, as it was built in the 1970s it no longer meets the emissions regulations and he is forced to scrap it.

Some Bulgarian loggers buy the lorry from the scrap merchant and put it back on the road. They undercut everyone on price for haulage and send their cash back home, while claiming unemployment for themselves and their relatives. If questioned they speak no English and it is easier to deport them at the governments expense. Following their holiday back home they return to the UK with different names and fresh girls and start again. The logger protests, is accused of being a bigoted racist and as his name is on the side of his old lorry he is forced to pay £1,500 registration fees as a gang master.

The Government borrows more money to pay more to the bankers as bonuses are not cheap. The parliamentarians feel they are missing out and claim the difference on expenses and allowances.
You do the maths.

8. Teaching Maths 2017

30 September 2012

HSBC- you are out of credit

Dear HSBC,
In 1984, when I was 17, my Mother took me into the local branch of our Midland Bank where I was introduced to the manager and I opened my first bank account. Twenty-eight years later I still have that account. I have used it through my poverty stricken student days, when the manager realised that I was perhaps a reasonable investment, into my early working days when I was struggling to repay my debts to a time now, when I am, quite frankly pretty well off. Through all this time my account has been with the same branch in North Wales in the market town where I grew up. We have a history together and you have been a significant part of my life.

Ten years ago when I went to work in live and work in Norway, I discovered that the self-styled “Worlds local bank” doesn't   actually have any branches in Norway. So I went into the branch, meet the manager and explained that I would keep the account open but I was going to need a bank in Norway. The branch were very understanding and they urged me to come back, should I ever return to the UK.
Which I did in 2011 when  I moved to Aberdeen. One of the first things I did was to transfer a load of money into my UK account and starting using it again. So far so good. Then I got married and I insisted that my wife and I had our joint account for paying household bills with HSBC, despite her similarly long affiliation with one of your competitors. 

I am truly mortified by the changes that have taken place in the last ten years. You have replaced a functioning system based around personal relationships and mutual respect with a bunch of irritating drones who are simultaneously annoying and stupid at the same time. In the year since I have been back I have had 6 or 7 meetings with your representatives and they have all been extremely depressing and highly stressful. Worse still I have only achieved less 30% of what I set out to.  I walked out of the last meeting in disgust because an exceedingly patronising woman pushed one button too many.

So now I am moving on, If you ant to know why, here are a few tips for you 
1. Calling yourself the World's local bank when you don't have offices in Norway is a lie. No big deal but starting out with dishonesty is not a good think
2. Outsourcing all your telephone banking to a sweat shop in Mumbai (or where-ever) might make you feel more international but it isn't good for business
3. A big shinny hi-tec office on Union Street does not replace having staff that actually know and respect costumers
4. A bunch of arrogant, patronising, smarmy graduates are no substitute for staff you have worked their way up through the system
5. Swapping skilled people with the ability to make decisions for a bunch of brainless drones following a rigid  work process may be cheaper but ultimately it is very poor for business

I am very happy to be in a position where I don't need you at all. Twenty eight years is a long history, its over half my life, and it buys a lot of brand loyalty  However you have just exceeded your credit limit and I am sorry to say that I will be terminating your account with me.

06 September 2012

The Friday Joke is Toast

That does not mean that the joke is about toast or that toast is funny. It means that the Friday Joke and the Wednesday movie have gone the way of geek day and thursday fashion tips. Putting jokes on here once a week seems fairly pointless now that people get their jokes on a daily, hourly or often minutely basis via Mr Zuckerberg's evil empire. So to my two friends not on facebook, sorry guys.
The blog has been neglected but I will still publish opinions, comments and stupid stories (or stories of stupidity) as and when I get a chance to write them.

Not very funny...

24 August 2012

Norwegian in Hell - Logical athiesm at its best

The following cartoon, stolen from here,is correct in so many ways
1. The destruction of a ridiculous pro-religious argument with some simple facts by a child - pure genius
2. The fact that the child has the courage to question authority and dogma
3. The fact that everything the child says is true and builds to a crushing conclusion that is implied but never stated - religion is not a source for good within a society.
4. The do speak Norwegian in Hell, because Hell is a small town near Trondheim (although some of my Norwegians would argue that the speak a rather obscure, Tronde dialect rather than proper Norwegian, but was in proper Norwegian?)
5. And finally for the liguistically challenged, such as myself, trying to learn Norwegian can sometime feel a bit like hell ;-)

18 August 2012

Wednesday Movie on Saturday

I am in western Ireland doing some fieldwork this weekend and posting all seems very topsy turvy at the moment so I thought I'd just post this movie now. So here is is a very nice movie about two guys climbing all over the World. Ends up in Riglos in northern Spain which is one of my favourite crags.

16 August 2012

11 August 2012

Brick by Brick Olympics

If you enjoyed the Olympics check out the Guardians "Brick by Brick" video series - its excellent

10 August 2012

Friday Joke is back

I know it seems a bit naff but I would like to share an experience with you, about drinking and driving.
As you well know, some of us have been known to have had brushes with the law on our way home from the odd session over the years.

A couple of nights ago, I was out for a few drinks in Newcastle and had a few too many beers. 
Knowing full well I may have been slightly over the limit, I did something I've never done before.
I took a bus home. Sure enough I passed a police road block but as it was a bus, they waved it past. 
I arrived home safely without incident, which was a real surprise, as I have never driven a bus before and I'm not sure where I got it.


I picked up this MILF the other night, she was late 40s but not bad for her age, few drinks, bit of a snog etc. Anyway she invites me back to hers and in the taxi she asks me if I'm up for a 'sportsmans double'? WTF is a sportsmans double? I ask and she explained its a mother/daughter threesome! F**king jackpot I thought :-)
She walks in the house and switches the hall lights on and shouts up the stairs "mum get your teeth in, he's up for it"

09 August 2012

LML - Love My Life

No really, this is not a joke.

The Olympics is a rip roaring success. The opening ceremony was fantastic, everything you would expect from Danny Boyle. The sport has also been good,  I have never watched track and field before, I always thought it was terminally dull, but I am have been totally captivated by it this year. Its nice to see people becoming famous for doing a lot of hard work rather than for being shallow, brainless BB or TOWIE z-listers.

And then NASA land a rover (fortunately not built by Rover) on Mars using a sky crane. This thing has a laser that shots rocks - how friggen cool is that. This is not science fiction, its fact and just looking at the pictures it sends back is utterly incredible. It sends a shiver down my spine to see those expansive images of that desolate waste.

In politics the lib-con coalition is falling apart, bankers are being arrested and Rebekah Brookes et al are all being charged - it could only be better if Tony Blair and George Bush were tried for war crimes.

And on a personal note, the house is getting built, Sophie is growing up very quickly and more and more fun every day. I am getting more field work done than I have in years, Spain, Utah, Greenland and off to Ireland in a couple of weeks. Projects are going well and their is lots of new stuff on the horizon.

So forget FML, I "LML" at least at the moment. Just watch some bugger mess it all up ;-)

10 July 2012


After a fine long weekend in Spain with the family I am now heading to Greenland for 10 days of playing with helicopters, laser scanners and the Jurassic, whilst trying to avoid being eaten by a bear.
Pretty pictures will be posted when I get back, in the meantime, no jokes or movies unless we have internet connection and its raining a lot

05 July 2012

How to pay a Catalonian (Catalunyian) Speeding Ticket

I recently received a speeding ticket while in Catalunya (NE Spain). The ticket was in Spanish and it took a while to resolve, so here is a summary of what to do if this happens to you. 

I initially did some google research and found a couple of useful links of which this was the best. You need to scroll down because the first part of his instructions pre-date the option to pay over the internet. The correct procedure is outlined in the postscript and in the comments. 
I followed these instructions and got to all the right pages but it would not except the ID number. I kept trying until I gave up and called the Travel Department (DGT) on 00 34 902 508 686. I gave the women the number and she said the ticket was not from DGT but from the local Catalan Government (the clue was that is said Servei Catala de Transit on the summons). 

So I found their site and after a lot of looking around I figured how to pay online.  The site is www.gencat.cat/ovt but rather than repeat all the steps I went through to find the right page there is a link here that will take you straight to the payment page. 
1. Follow the  link 
2. Once you get on to that page enter the Numero de Expediente from the top right of the summons. Enter this number without dashes or slashes
3. Then for ID select Altres (others)
4. Then put in the ID number from the bottom centre of the summons (it will probably include some version of your name)
5. Click cerca
6. The next page shows the details of your fine. At the bottom right is a button "pagament amb targeta" pay with card, click this. 
7. A new window pops up, fill in the card number and expiry date then press continuar
8.  Next window fill in the short code on the back of the card, click continuar again 
9.  The final window should show that you have made a successful payment. Look for the big green tick. 
10. To print a receipt click on imprimir
The fine was very reasonable. Because I paid quickly I got a 50% reduction and only paid 50 euro for doing 150 kmh in a 120 kmh zone. That's half what it would be in the UK and if I was caught doing 150 kmh in Norway they would have sent me to jail - no really they would. So all in all don't mind paying it. Firstly the law is very clear, you know the limits and if you chose to ignore them you should not moan about the consequences. Think of it as an extra tax, you want to drive quickly then you have to pay the speed tax from time to time (like all taxes its higher in Norway!). Also the Spanish economy is buggered so any help we can give them is useful and should not be resented. 

It seems that the link doesn't work anymore but someone has posted in the comments that you can call 0034 902 400 012, select option 2 and then get a person who speaks English and will take your card details. I have not tried this. If anyone finds the new link and sends it to me I will also update the directions above.

04 July 2012

Wednesday Movie - Shattered

"Our darkest fears are like dragons, guarding our deepest treasures"
Awesome ice climbing short here - pure poetry

29 June 2012

Things that made me laugh this week

Everyone should get this one 

One for Les

You probably need to speak a bit of Welsh to appreciate this 

You need to know what a pole dancer is to appreciate this 

You need to work with Oliver to appreciate this 

27 June 2012

The Daily (Hate) Mail and Cancer

The Daily Mail is the pits of British journalism. Unlike the red-top tabloids which at least have no pretensions about being anything other then low-brow sports and entertainment comics for the masses, the Daily Hate pretends to be a serious newspaper whilst feeding a constant stream of raciest, homophobic, bigoted, right wing scaremongering. Best of all is the hypocrisy - they will show endless of photos lauding skinny celebrities whilst talking about the tragedy of anorexia in teenage girls on the next page. Or repeatedly run articles on the threat of Polish pedophiles to your children and then publish a story lamenting the fact that kids don't go outside anymore.  

If you have ever had the misfortune to read the rag, or even worse its online version then you will know that everything gives you cancer. Fortunately the nice people at Kill or Cure have done an excellent job of cataloguing a definitive list of the Mail's view on what gives you cancer and when you get it, what will cure you. This means that you can be saved without having to wade through all the other crap. The list is here and if that is a bit to boring to read then Chris has put it into a song here,   which is reminisant of Dan and Dan's Daily Mail song which we featured on here before.

22 June 2012

The taxi driver's story

I heard this from a taxi driver who took me home the other day. It was so good I felt I needed to share it. This is told from his perspective.
Several year ago ah picked up a couple a young lassies and dropped um off in Dyce (NW Aberdeen) and went aboot ma  business. Ma next costumer pointed out that there was a handbeg left  behind on the back seat like. So I thanked um an put the beg in the front with the intention of drupping it off at the police station at the end of ma shift.

Twenty minutes later the phone in the beg starts ringing, so I answered, thinking I ma be able to find the owner
“Have you got my bag?”
“Ey, I have”
“What the fuck are ya duin wit ma bag, ya thieving bastard…”
“Hmm, well ya lift it in ma taxi”
She then hangs up

Five minutes later the phone rings again
“I want ma bag back”
“Ey, na problem, you have two choices, you cun either wait until I am in Dyce next, which ull be in un hoor or so, or you can pay the fare for me to come up there now”
“I want ma bag back you bastard”
“Yes you can have your bag back”
“I want it now”
“That fine but I am working so you’ll need to pay”
“Fuck ya! Ya bastard!
She hangs up again

Calls back ten minutes later
“I need my bag, its got my keys, and passport un money in it”
“That’s fine you can have it back when I am in Dyce”
“but I need it now, bring it to me now!”
“OK but you’ll have to pay the fare, am busy”
“Ya fuckin crook, you thieving bastard, I went my bag”
“OK, I am no gonna talk to you anymore, I will drop your beg at the polis station. That’s all I need to do”
“You fuckin bastard” etc etc

 Phone rings again. This time it’s a guy
“See you pal,  when you bring that beg roond, I am gonna kick ur fuckin heed in”
As if this was going to encourage me to drive to Dyce and drop the thing off.
At this point I stopped trying to be nice
“OK listen up and listen very good”
“Who the fuck da ya think ya talkin to pal”
“Just listen, because the next thing  you’re gonna hear is this stupid bag going into the Dee” (local river)
And sure enough
Rustle, Whooosh, Splash…..

Yea I stopped ma cab on the bridge put the phone back in, still on mind and just threw the bag, purse, keys, passport, whole  feckin loot into the river. Never even took the money out…

Classic story, I laughed my head off! 

10 June 2012

Unwanted fame in Spain

The band is playing "Smoke on the water", badly. I don’t care I am jumping up and down like an idiot and laughing. The sound echoes of the stones walls of the houses around the cobbled square, I notice Phil appear from the brightly lit bar in the corner carrying another round of ridiculously over sized and under priced gin-y-tonica’s. This is another fiesta in another mountain village in the Spanish Pyrenees where we are celebrating the life of some obscure saint by dancing to bad cover versions of 70’s rock music. As always we are having a blast. We have been around the region long enough that some of the locals recognise us and smile when we show up. This is the summer of 1986 and we are working in the area making geological maps. This is in a time before fast, EU funded motorways will bring these rural communities within 3 hours of Barcelona, making them perfect for holiday homes, superficially tidying them up but ripping away a thousand years of tradition and spirit. For the time being, these villages are truly rural, water and electric are not ubiquitous, people work the land with their hands and there is a real sense of community. The annual fiesta is a big event in the village. For three days everyone parties, the very old dance with the very young, obscure games are played and the people celebrate being a community it which everyone knows and respects each other. That makes our welcome even more of a privilege that we appreciate.

For the last six weeks we have been hanging out with the local police. Four young guys, at least two of whom, Martin and Carey, signed up to avoid conscription in to the army. They are our age and always up for a party. Their jobs mean that they have an encyclopedic knowledge of all the villages and towns within a 100 km radius, including, most importantly where and when the fiestas are happening. So every evening we sit in the local bar, exhausted from a long day and they appear
"Hola, que tal?" (Hi, how are you doing?)
"Bien, que pasa?" (Good, whats happening?)
“Fiesta esta noche en Bialo?” (Fiesta tonight in Bialo?)
Where the fuck is Bailo – “Donde Bailo?”

Not that it really matters because we will cram four or five people into a Fiat 126 bubble car and go anyway and we will pretend we want to come home at 2am and then crawl back into our tents at 5 or 6, only to be woken by a baking sun at 9; get up and then go to work, because we have a ridiculous protestant work ethic. And then the next evening the process will start all over again.

Only tonight, in Bailo there is a minor annoyance. A small mean-looking guy, about 50, who is very drunk keeps barging into Carey, from time to time punching and pushing him. Carey is a small, hyperactive and utterly lovable guy. Totally unsuited to being a policeman. Nobody should ever be mean to Carey.  I have no idea who this guy is but he is really starting to piss me off and I am probably a bit too drunk to ask why Carey is not trying to stop this really obnoxious behaviour. I try to ignore it as well and go back to dancing.

A short while later the guy reappears and grabs Carey around the neck in an arm lock and starts to drag him around the square.He seems to thing this is funny but nobody else does. I have had enough, so I step forward and grab him by the throat. He looks extremely surprised and releases my friend immediately. I am a lot bigger than him and its fairly easy to pick him up by the scruff of the neck and toss him backwards
“vete a la mierda, maricon!”

He stumbles and falls on his arse, I turn to Carey to ask him if he is ok and he looks genuinely terrified. That is my firsy incline that maybe that was not such a good thing to do.

The mean guy is straight back, purple with rage and screaming at me. I stand my ground.

I realise that things are probably not so great when the bands stops playing and people gather around. The arsehole takes a swing and I step back and avoid it, he flails wildly and almost ends on his arse again. I look around and there are a lot of people just watching us and I wander what the hell is going on. The entire atmosphere has changed and I am sobering up very quickly. I try to reason with the guy…
Los siento pero Carey es me amigo y…
(I am sorry but Carey is my friend and..)
He is too angry to listen and just screams in my face

Carey is talking to him in very fast Spanish, I can only follow about half of it, but the gist is "he is English he doesn’t understand…"

This annoys me, I do understand. I understand that is guy is a cunt and he is rapidly heading for a my fist in his ugly fuckin face. I am starting to get very angry and figure the quickest way to end this is to lamp the bastard very hard and be done with it.

Carey skilfully maneuverers himself between the two of us and keeps talking, everyone else looks on and there is a real air of fear and menace. How did it change so fast and why do so many people care if two drunk people swing hand bags?

Then almost as quickly as things flared up, they dissipate. The angry man steps back, points to me and says something that I take to be a warning to watch my back and he stomps off out of the square. Before there is time for anything else to kick off the band start up again and people go back to dancing.

Carey takes me by the arm and leads me into the bar at the side of the square. There he hands me a drink and in a very over excited and clearly freaked out way explains that Snr Angry is the local police chief and a real nasty bastard. A hang up from the Franco era who has never had anyone stand up to him since he was the school bully, 40 years earlier. He is genuinely concerned for my well being and things start to fall in to place but I am still drunk enough to be brave so I shrug my shoulders and in my poor Spanish I try to explain to Carey that he is my friend and friends don't let friends get pushed around, but he is too worried to take it in, so I down my beer and we go back to dancing.

Nothing happens that night, although I stop drinking and like the man suggested, I watch my back.

The next day, news of the nights events has spread rapidly. My friends who own the local bar next to our unofficial campsite think this is the greatest thing they have ever heard. It seems that Angry man is well known and not very popular in the region. At subsequent fiestas, people I do not know pat me on the back and buy my drinks. I never see the guy again but I am never fully relaxed and my new found fame sits uncomfortably, its only a couple of weeks until I leave but all I wanted to do was drink and dance badly until the small hours.

09 June 2012

Friday Fun

Some things that made me laugh this week

30 May 2012

Wednesday Movie - Apple's $100 billion

Apple has lots of money. Apparently they have $100 billion down the back of the sofa.
Here is a nice video that suggests the top ten things they could do with that much money.
Here are some other ways to get $100 billion

Interestingly none of them include "buy a company that takes out-of-focus, fuzzy pictures for a billion dollars"

21 May 2012

Another field season in Utah

Its May and that means Utah. As always when arriving in Salt Lake City it almost feels like coming home, the place now has such a familiarity to it. I am just heading home after two and a half weeks. The first 10 days was spent running our student field course which is always fun. I also ran into a lot of the usual suspects running their own courses out in the Book Cliff. One evening there was 4 separate field trips in Green River. Forget Melon Days in September, they should celebrate "Geology Days" in May.

After the trip finished I spent a couple of days around Salt Lake City with Lene who is doing a source to sink project on the shorelines of Lake Bonneville. That went well and despite many of the outcrops having houses, golf courses and a University on top of them, we found what we needed.

The sediment went from there....                                                            to there. 
This source to sink stuff is pretty easy!

Then headed down south to the Book Cliffs and did a couple of days field work on my own. It's been a long time since I just went out, on my own, into the field and collected data. It was very enjoyable. After that I spent a day in Colorado National Monument and a day the San Rafael Swell looking at structural geology with Haakon, which was also fun, in a faulty sort of way.
Spot the fault! This structural geology is also pretty easy 
A very peaceful Wooside Canyon, one of my favourite places on Earth 

Then back to Salt Lake for a day which involved a lot of shopping, mainly for my girls, at REI, Patagonia (or Patagucci as Ian calls it) and Best Buy. I can cope with shopping like that! Then to the airport and the flight home which is hopefully less eventful than the flight out.

13 May 2012

Journey from Hell

In 1914 Ernest Shackelton led a team of explores to Antarctica on the Endurance. The ship became stuck in the ice and eventually sunk. They endured a winter, first on the boat and then in cabins made form the upturned row boats. Shackleton then left them at Elephant Island and rowed/sailed one of the rows boats across the southern Ocean to South Georgia which he then crossed before going back to collect his men. It was the pinnacle of heroic endeavour and after yesterdays travel from Leeds to Salt Lake City, I feel I can fully empathise with him.

It all started well, a taxi to the airport with an excellent sailor with mafia connections. Then a simple hop to Amsterdam before getting my plane for the long journey west.  The initial part of the flight was fine right up until the last hour. A very loud bang and a flash, silenced the whole plane, while people looked around shocked and scared, checking-out that we were still flying, as opposed to plummeting ground ward and then just looked nervous. A few minutes later the captain announced that we have been struck by lightning, but everything seems to be ok (yes he did say “seems to be…”).

Ten minutes later he announces that Chicago was closed due to the storm and we are headed to Milwaukee. Hmm not looking good for my connection to Salt Lake. He also promises that we will refuel and then finish the final hop to Chicago once the storm had cleared. We land, it was a bit bumpy but no big deal. The stewardess sitting across from me assured me that this was normal and nothing to do with lightening strike. I am more sceptical since we didn’t even circle Chicago before giving up and ditching.

Once on the ground we sit there for 4 hours. We refuelled but then the captain announced that because of the lightning strike, mandatory checks on the plane were required and we weren’t going anywhere for a while and when we did it was by bus . Like Shackelton, we abandoned our primer vessel and headed off into the storm, like the crew of the Endurance we must now continue overland or perish.

Milwaukee is an international airport – Wikipedia says so and it has three immigration desks. Wikipedia suggests that the only international flight is once a week to Canada. So you can imagine that immigration at Milwaukee is not geared up for a 747 full of Europeans. It toke over an hour to get through and I am near the front. Then a two hour bus ride to Chicago before we were dropped outside the baggage claim with no real hints about what to do next. Chicago airport rapidly became my Elephant Island, with thousands of refugees of the storm, standing around, chattering loadly and shuffling awkwardly in long queues,  like penguins on the ice shelf.   

So I go to Delta and they say that they have booked me on a US Airways flight to SLC which leaves at 9.05 – in an hour in another terminal. I go to US airways and the check in shuts at 8pm and a sign tells me – for later flights use United check in which is in another terminal. I get there and the full magnitude of the impact of the days storm becomes apparent. It is a total war zone. Huge queues zig zag around the check in hall. Sleepy children are crying, women are crying, men are crying, most people are just standing zombified in long long queues, in the helpless knowledge that they are going to miss the flights that they are rebooked on because the checkin is taking so long.

By flashing various cards, I get into a shorter queue but it still takes me an hour to get to the desk, by which time the flight has left and I am stuck. Now I am just trying for damage limitation and a bed for the night.  I need to “over winter” another night on the ice shelf of Chicago and the woman from United says its not her problem since I am booked on a US Airways flight and doesn’t have any suggestions as to what I should do next . Once more into the unknown.

So I head back to the Delta terminal and all the desks are closed. I manage to grab a women in a delta uniform who is on her way home. After a bit of charm and a lot of looking pathetic and beaten, she agrees to help me and opens up the office. She then books me on to a flight in the morning (and upgrades me to first – thank you) and finds me a hotel room. She was an angel in a Delta Uniform.

The zoo that is the scrum for the shuttle buses is no big deal after the horror show of the United check in hall and after finding my bus and then waiting another 30 mins to check in, its 10.30 (4.30 am UK time) and I am safe for the time being, like the crew of the Endurance on Elephant Island I can take stock and plan the next stage of my journey.

Next morning I am up at 5.30 for a shuttle at 6 and a final check in for my flight to Salt Lake. I feel a bit like Ernest as he left for South Georgia although my first class seat (courtesy of an upgrade  is a little more comfortable than his boat filled with rocks. 

12 May 2012

Friday Joke - Bible bashing

Being in the Land of the Large always gives me a strong urge to bash the bible... so here we go!
Have a nice weekend

04 May 2012

Some cool stuff for Friday

Geeky stuff for the weekend. 
First is some maps/graphs of World population against latitude and longitude. The more you look at them the more fascinating they are. From the excellent Strange Maps blog


 And then a rather cool graphic showing how deep all the oceans, lakes and even oil accumulations are. This one from xkcd

02 May 2012

First van adventure

Keen to test our camper van, we packed up and headed to Sandend on the Moray Firth coast, about an hour north of Aberdeen. The drive up was fine, Sophie was a bit bemused by all the space she had in the back but once she realised she could see much more than normal she was briefly excited and then fell asleep.

Sandend is a really pretty village with a lovely sandy beach. Complete with dead baby whale! We met up with Jo, Gordon, Freya and Finn and spent the first afternoon playing on the beach. The weather was suprisingly nice considering the rets of the UK was getting lashed with storms.

Once the kids had been packed off to the respective pop-tops the adults sat around and drank several bottles of wine, whilst taking van related stuff.

Next morning Gordon had to rush off to teach a class while the rest of us went back and played on the beach again (well why not).  We had lunch in Portsoy and then headed back to Aberdeen very happy with the way our van had performed. More adventures are already being planned. 

Wow - where did all this space come from?

Off to the beach

Mum, Sophie and the ball - Sophie's toy of the moment

Loving the sand between my toes

I fell asleep in my own private sleeping compartment with bunny...
But I didn't stay there all night, I abandoned bunny and got cosy with mum and dad under the big duvet 
Pretty in Pink - Sophie and Freya 

Van life - not bad for April (but note the duvet jackets) 

Finn even shares his seat and his drink with Sophie 

We have a camper van!

After the shambles of trying to get a van from Carasellecampers I eventually found Complete Campers, a conversion company based in Hull. I spoke to James and he was extremely nice and after a bit of back and fore on the phone I agreed to buy a van that they were just converting.
Last week saw me heading down to Hull on the plane to collect our new toy.

This time I was met at the airport by the guitarist from a Kings of Lyon tribute band and driven to the companies workshop. I was very happy to see that the van was exactly as he said it would be. A very clean, 2008 VW T5 with a brand new camper conversion. I spent a couple of hours being shown how it all worked (this is complicated stuff) and then paid and drove back.

Hull to Aberdeen is a bloody long way but the van was very nice to drive and I got back in about 6 hours. Very happy and very excited.