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.