Sunday, December 31, 2006

Achievements in 2006

This is your Xmas/annual newsletter to keep you up-to-date on my happenings throughout the year. Instead of adopting the more popular narrative style that seems to be landing in my inbox I have decided to put my achievements in list form:

  • 3 rattlesnakes
  • 7 coyotes
  • 47 lost golf balls
  • 8 birdies
  • 32 rounds of golf
  • 0 days at work
  • 2 new sets of clubs
  • 1 mini-road trip (Utah, Nevada, California, Arizona)
  • 1 flat tire
  • 1 moving traffic citation
  • 1 day at traffic school
  • 4 ski trips
  • 1 grand canyon
  • 9 mountains hiked

Have an amazing 2007 everyone!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Top searches for 2006

Paris Hilton imageJust in case you're too lazy to go to the Google Zeitgeist for 2006 the top searches for 2006 were:

1. bebo 2. myspace 3. world cup 4. metacafe 5. radioblog 6. wikipedia 7. video 8. rebelde 9. mininova 10. wiki

and the top news searches were:

1. paris hilton 2. orlando bloom 3. cancer 4. podcasting 5. hurricane katrina 6. bankruptcy 7. martina hingis 8. autism 9. 2006 nfl draft10. celebrity big brother 2006

How does Paris Hilton end up at the top of the news search for an entire year? Is that really news? This requires some investigation so I googled Paris Hilton and discovered that there are 41.4 million pages in the Google index with Paris Hilton in them. That's a lot of reading...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Most Commented Blog Posting

I am posting a link to this blog posting for purely academic and research reasons. The reason is: Have you ever seen a blog with so many comments on it? This blog posting, as I type this, has 1,224 comments. By the time that you visit it, it will probably have more.

The Photos that stripped Ms. Nevada of her title!

How would I find out if any other blog posting has more comments?

I'm going to research that Ms Nevada post again. Perhaps the answer is there.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Los Angeles to San Diego via Las Vegas

I think that this is the one feature that I've been waiting for more than anything on Google's mapping software. If you go to and enter a start and end point it will map your route for you. But say you wanted to go via Las Vegas to get there. (Hey, who doesn't want to go via Vegas?) So you enter Los Angeles as your start point and then enter Las Vegas as your destination. Google maps it for you.

Then you might, if you look very carefully, see an "Add Destination (new)" link in the bottom left corner of the screen. Click this and add San Diego and hey presto, it will show you how to get from Los Angeles to San Diego using a short cut via Vegas. (If Vegas isn't a short cut then I don't know what is.)

Monday, December 11, 2006

French Milled Soap

We checked into a hotel this evening. I won't mention which one but the name sounds a lot like Double Tree Guest Suites.

In the bathroom I found some French Milled Soap in a box. This required further investigation. I now know that I will never use un-milled soap again and never use soap made in any other country/style than French.

(I can't believe that anybody falls for these marketing/naming gimmicks.)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

How to eat less on Thanksgiving

In my opinion it's very easy to diet and lose weight. All you need to do is fill your stomach with something that will take the place of calorific food before you start eating and that will cut down the amount that you are going to eat.

That something is water. Simply drink a pint or two or three (depending on how big you and your stomach are) of water immediately before you eat. The water will be sitting in your stomach and make you feel full after a regular meal instead of an over-sized one.

You can apply this trick to anytime you feel hungry and don't want to eat. Drink a pint of water and then eat an apple (or a turkey).

Spam Galore

I usually check my email in the evening before going to bed and then again first thing in the morning. This means that there is a sleep-gap of 8 to 10 hours and in the morning I see the largest number of spam emails in the spam folder.

I am a big fan of Google's GMail. It does a fantastic job of correctly filtering spam into the spam folder and so it rarely bothers me and I just see a figure which tells me how many spam mails were filtered.

On any morning this number is usually between 25 and 100 so this morning it surprised me to see 568 spam emails sitting there. A quick calculation shows me that I am receiving, on average, more than 1 spam email per minute.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Heating the home at zero cost

I just had an idea about warming your house during the winter using decomposing vegetation. My first thought went to using grass cuttings and the idea is that you have a hollow wall with about a 1 foot space on the house's outer wall. The grass cuttings are dropped in there and the heat generated from their decomposition aids in keeping the house warm. I'm sure there are many flaws to this plan such as the reduction in size of the grass over the winter will cause it to only heat the lower portion of the wall and once decomposed will not provide further heat. How long does decomposing grass generate heat for? I don't know.

My second idea was to have a standard compost heap and have some heating pipes running through the compost. This would be separate to the house's central heating and these pipes might run under the floor and add a few degrees to the house and supplement the standard heating system.

Why I am thinking about that right now I have no idea. It's already 80 degrees outside and I'm going to go for a swim in a short while.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How the brain works

I received this image and explanation from a doctor so it must be true.

Have you ever wondered how a woman's brain works? Well, it's finally explained here in this illustration. Every one of those little blue balls is a thought about something that needs to be done, a decision or a problem that needs to be solved.

Fascinating though this process is, it is not as efficient as a man's brain, which requires only two balls.

Blog Juice

My Blog Juice

My Blog Juice

I found this on Vern's Blog.

Due to technical issues I can't comment or directly access Vern's blog but I'm sure he'll receive my thanks from here when he reads this.

Vern: I read your blog through an online reader which can get to your server and relays it to me but because I don't have direct access I can't comment. Same old problem as last time.

This means that this blog is pure pulp! Even more pulpy than Vern's blog.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Pars Persian Cuisine

Phoenix, Arizona is not the first city I would have thought of going to in order to taste Persian cuisine. My choices might have been Tehran, Sabzevar, Shiraz, Perspolis. (Yes Shiraz is not only a grape from which a fine red wine is made but also a city in Iran. You know nothing of the geography of Persia do you?)

Pars opened 31 days ago and when you walk in it immediately takes you away from an American city and into the Middle East. The decor is very impressive. If you go, and I recommend that you do, walk up to the "paintings" on the walls and take a very close look and you will discover that they are in fact rugs and not paintings. Had me fooled.

We had their recommended dishes which were "well recommended" and as small eaters the portions were about 3 times what we could manage. The Zereshk Polo with baked chicken was delicious and the Sabzi polo with Mahi Mahi had been de-kebabed before if reached the table. (And you didn't think you could use the word kebab as a verb did you?)

I must also mention the hummus which is the best that I have tasted. Hummus is made from chickpeas and (I think) olive oil among other "stuff." (I'm not a chef nor a food critic so I'm not going to pretend to know what I don't.) In the past, the hummus that I have had, has been on the dry side and required plenty of liquid with it. Not this hummus, it was perfect.

Where is it?

11144 Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd., Suite E9, North Scottsdale, AZ, 85259 (located at Ancala Village next to THE GOOD EGG).

Thursday, November 16, 2006

D-List Blog

This blog is rated as a D-List blog.

D-List Blogger

OnStar Tale 6

I received a call from OnStar today letting me know that my account is now active. I tested it and she was right, I can now log into my account online. I got the impression that it was activated a few days ago but I wasn't told and the caller said that it doesn't really take 2 weeks turnaround but that there is some lead time.

Upper management will be calling me in a few days time to discuss why I could not give GPS co-ordinates to the operator to get me to my location and why the operators don't have Internet access.

I am wondering if OnStar is a gigantic company with tens of thousands of employees and for this reason it is not nimble and quick to react. I'm also wondering if their job application forms have a line which reads: "Have you ever blogged about OnStar before? If so, please list all links in the space provided below. If that space is not sufficient then please attach a separate sheet with the details."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

604 Days of Chess

The game has finally ended and I have lost.

As you can see from the board, Mike had me down to just my king and cornered me in check-mate.

The game started on 20 March 2005 and ended today on 14 November 2006, 604 day later. I first mentioned the game here: Red Hot Pawn. Is this a record? I don't know, I'll send an email to the owners of Red Hot Pawn ( and ask them.

I noticed that as soon as the game was over, Mike immediately challenged me to a new game. I have also noticed a worrying improvement in my opponents game. He's getting quite good.

Now there was another thing that I noticed when I went to the Red Hot Pawn site to check on my defeat. That was this excellent advert.

For me, an adult, this advert does not cause offense. (If I recall correctly this type of advert did not cause me offense at any age.)

However, I'm not sure that Mike's parents would be happy with Mike viewing these ads when he's playing chess. I know that the Red Hot Pawn web site has the option to subscribe and if you are a subscriber then you will not see adverts - that could be a solution.

However, if they are going to take images like this off the site if I subscribe then I'm definitely not going to subscribe to the site. Let them stay!

It may be that Mike's computer has an adult image filter on it and so he doesn't see ads like this. Is there such a thing to stop kids seeing ads like this? I don't know...

Soul For Sale

I was intrigued when I came across this web site today: Win My Soul

This man is selling his soul. Each $1 raffle ticket you buy gains you a chance of winning his soul. The draw takes place sometime in 2007 and it includes the right to name his offspring (with limitations), a percentage of his annual taxable income (minimum $500/annum), and the setting of the date of his wedding and a say in planning it.

I certainly hope that he gets enough entries to make this worth while. When I checked his site a few minutes ago it said that he had 402 entries which is, I assume, $402. That's not much if you're committing to a minimum of $500/year.

Good luck Gerald!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Where not to buy a house

I was just reading a Business 2.0 article about the new rules of real estate and was not in the least bit surprised to discover that Phoenix is in their Top 10 Cities of Where Not To Buy. They state about Phoenix:

Last year as many as a third of new home sales here went to speculators and investors. Many of them are now competing with builders to dump their holdings, and prices in some developments have dropped by more than $100,000. Source: Business 2.0 Where Not to Buy

All you need to do is take a casual stroll around some of the new and used houses for sale and see what astronomical prices people are expecting for next to nothing. I agree with their analysis. Another year of falling prices ahead for Phoenix.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Lookout Mountain Phoenix Arizona

I hiked up Lookout Mountain today. Change in elevation from base to summit was 475 feet over a 0.6 mile hike. Starting at the northern car park it took 13.5 minutes to the summit and then 7.5 minutes back with a 10 minute break at the top.

Now you may be asking yourself "how the hell did he get an aerial photo of Lookout Mountain if he was hiking up it?"

I used a neat feature on Google Earth that allows you to tilt the picture and if you have the terrain setting switched on it will show it to you in 3D. The image shows a water tower in the bottom left hand corner and also the zigzag path we took to the saddle before turning left to the summit. This image is taken from north of the mountain looking south.

If anybody else has hiked this I'd be interested to know what sort of times it has taken you from the northern car park to summit and back. You can post your times in the comments.

OnStar Tale 5

The titling of my OnStar experience by days was becoming a bit of a misnomer so I've changed it to "Tales." As you can see day/tale 4 was skipped because I started at zero so this is the 5th tale.

Yesterday the out-laws went off to Costco by themselves. I penned what I thought were accurate and unambiguous directions. I was wrong. The 5 minute trip around the corner led (apparently) to a 30 minute drive to the other side of the city.

After realizing that they had driven about 6 times the distance that they should have they plucked up the courage to press the OnStar button. According to them, OnStar saved the day and directed them back to Costco. According to them, OnStar couldn't find the particular Costco that they were looking for but I am just reporting this second hand so I'm not sure what actually happened but they were pleased with the results.

At the bottom of my directions I had written the address on the Costco they were supposed to be going to with the addendum "if you get lost then press the OnStar button and give them this address!"

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Iced Golf - Hard Cold Facts

As mentioned in the previous blog post I was playing golf at Legends at Arrowhead today. Towards the end of the game, around the 15th hole, we'd finished all the drinks and there was just ice melting in the cooler on the cart.

I came up with an ingenious idea. The club head is going to be harder and therefore able to hit further if it is cold. So before each shot I soaked the club head in the iced water.

It worked like a charm. I was adding at least 20 to 50 yards to each drive and the other shots with the irons were cracking as well.

I did not ice the putter or the balls because I think that might be disallowed by the R&A golfing rules.

Convergent Golf - a theory

I was playing golf today at Legends at Arrowhead. We were a 4-ball in 2 golf carts. If you're good at math then you already know that I'm going to tell you that there were 2 of us in each cart.

While we were playing I noticed something. Michael and I were in the same cart and more often often than not our balls would be near each others' balls. It looked like the same was happening with the other two.

This has lead me to the Play Convergent Theory which is stated as follows: "You are more likely to play the same type of game and shots as the person that you share a cart with than the other two players in a 4-ball."

They say that women who live/work together have menstrual cycles that become in sync with each others'. Now along the same lines I think that the players in the same cart have games that sync up. This has nothing to do with their cycles but more because they are discussing the game and the shots that they are playing and tips that they have read in books and magazines. It's this sharing of (mis)information that subtly influences each-others games such that they converge in style and stroke.

I think that I'm on to something here...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

OnStar Day 3

From the titles of my recent blog postings you may have noticed an OnStar theme going on here.

According to my excellent GMail service I am told that I received an email from OnStar 22-hours ago welcoming me on board. Included in the email is this:

Also, we encourage you to take a moment to log in to your account profile and ensure that we have your most up-to-date contact information on file.

As you might expect, I clicked on the account profile link and entered the account number that they'd provided only to be greeted by a 'Your account number is invalid' message.

Customer support was very friendly and told me that in fact my account number is NOT invalid but it will take up to 2-weeks to activate my account and I should come back in 2-weeks time and try again. I was given a reference number.

Now remember that this is a company that can pinpoint exactly where your auto is, remotely unlock your doors and will receive an instant message if your airbags deploy. However, it's going to take them 2-weeks to allow me to gain access to my account online? This must be a record for today's e-commerce...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

OnStar Day 2

Time to test out OnStar for the first time.

We decide to go for a hike. I research where we're going, write down the directions and also write down the exact GPS map co-ordinates so that I can give them to the OnStar operator to get us to where we're going. This is where we went:

33°53'52.48"N 112°19'1.18"W

If you select those co-ordinates and press Ctrl+C it will copy them into the clipboard. Then go to and paste those co-ordinates into the box and press enter and it will show you exactly where we went. This should take you about you about 30 seconds max or maybe 2 minutes if you're not quick with the keyboard. Just to make it easy click here.

We set off on the journey and I press the OnStar button to give the operator the GPS co-ordinates.

The first thing she tells me is that we're not set-up on the OnStar system. I tell her that I spent an hour the previous evening setting everything up. She transfers me to technical support and I go through a much quicker setup and I am then connected with her (or someone else) again.

She tries the co-ordinates out on her system but it turns out that her system does not accept these settings.

Next step is to give the cross roads and area. I tried all the crossroads in the area but she couldn't find it. She wanted to know the area but I didn't know what it was called. All I knew was that it was 20 to 30 miles north-west of Phoenix but didn't know the area. Turns out that it's in Peoria. (This, by the way, was why she couldn't find the destination.)

After a while of her being unable to find the destination I asked if she had internet access. I figured that I could direct her to the Google maps page, she could enter the co-ordinates and then she'd know exactly where we were going and enter it into her system from there. Unfortunately she did not have internet access (I believe that her computer is restricted) and so could not do that.

Our journey took 40 to 45 minutes to get to the destination. I had to pull out a map book and talk to her for 25 to 30 minutes before she managed to locate the destination.

Another problem was that she really struggled to hear me. I had to shout or talk very loudly and lean far over to the drivers side of the vehicle to be heard (I was obviously not driving). It makes me wonder if the equipment that we have installed is of low quality or faulty.

Not the most auspicious start for OnStar.

Monday, October 30, 2006

OnStar Day 1

The garage received a replacement module and fitted it for the OnStar system. Setting up an account with OnStar was a complete mess. I pressed the button and it took about an hour to finish the process with someone who obviously couldn't speak English very well. For a moment I thought that it had been outsourced to another country but he assured me that he was in south Michigan (I think).

He also had a lot of difficulty hearing me which makes me wonder if the equipment is still faulty. I have tried OnStar in an identical car and the transmission and reception of voice was very clear.

After set-up was finished I was too tired to try it out and so left it for the following day...

Saturday, October 28, 2006


We were visiting friends in Camarillo, California over the weekend. After a swim in the Pacific at a beach just north of Malibu (the water was freezing but after about a minute my body was numb and I couldn't feel the pain) we decided to hike up the nearby cliffs.

At the top of the hike about 5 of us were crowding around the edge of a path peering into the other side of a gully looking for a ground squirrel that could only be seen when it moved. Without warning, the tell-tale explosive hissing sound of an almost-stepped-on rattlesnake came from our feet.

This was somewhat concerning because we were (1) wearing flip-flops because of the beach excursion and (2) not expecting rattlesnakes in California.

The crowd scattered rapidly and luckily no one was bitten. It was close though and we were very lucky. The snake was amazingly well camouflaged and I took some pictures but will not post them here because you can hardly see the snake it is so well hidden. I didn't want to get too close for a photo because the head was curled back in striking position and I didn't think that my sphincter had the strength to hold back a second rapid movement from the serpent.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Pelican Eats Pigeon

I was blown away by this video clip that I saw last night on the news in Phoenix AZ. In St James' Park, London a pelican (apparently tired of its usual diet of fish) decided to eat a pigeon. Some tourists caught it on camera.

I sent an email to my friends who live in and around London which simply read "Are your pelicans eating pigeons in the park?" From their responses it was obvious that none of them had seen this on the news or had read about it. Perhaps pelicans eating pigeons is now such a common occurrence in England that it is no longer news worthy?

[Addendum: YouTube removed the original video so I'm putting up a couple more that I found.]

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sleep Talking and Walking

I woke up last night because my wife was talking to me. She was actually sleep talking. "It's spilt everywhere," she said. Since I was now awake I thought I'd entertain myself. "What spilt?" I asked. I find that I have to be careful how I talk to her when she's sleep talking because if she hears me laughing then she wakes up and stops talking. "The mouthwash," she said. "Where?" I queried. "All over the floor." I then said: "I've already cleaned it up."
"Thank you," she said and then there was silence.

Of course when questioned about the conversation in the morning she remembered nothing about it.

A friend's father told me that when he was at boarding school they used to tie his leg to the bed post to prevent him from sleep walking. This had adverse consequences when the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night and everyone jumped out of bed and ran downstairs. Apparently he broke his nose on the floor.

OnStar Day 0

We have recently acquired a vehicle which is equipped with OnStar. This product, with the level 2 subscription, Connections and Directions, promises to get your to point B, assuming that you started at point A. In fact that is wrong. You don't have to start at point A. You can start anywhere and it will get you to point B. They (OnStar) can see where your vehicle is and then someone will talk you through the turns to take to get to point B.

OnStar will also do a bunch of other useful stuff like track you car and report its position to the police if stolen (I think that LowJack does this as well). It will unlock your doors if you lock the keys in the car. Most useful of all it will help you find your car by sounding its horn and flashing its lights. I fear that this last benefit could be a danger as the only time you are unlikely to find your car by yourself is when you are drunk beyond driving limits and would be better off not finding your car.

So day 0 had me pressing the OnStar button several times and trying to connect up with the operators to set-up the account. Alas no luck. It appears that the OnStar hardware in the car is broken. The garage tells me that the OnStar module needs to be replaced with a new module and they don't have any in stock so we'll have to wait.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

One finger equals five toots

My father-in-law has recently taken up driving in North America which means adapting from driving on the left-hand-side to the right-hand-side. I have been giving him some pointers such as "drive on the right." On about his third outing, while weaving around on the right side of the road an irate motorist managed to zoom past him and hung his arm out the window and flipped him the finger.

About a week later he went for his license and got it on the first go. The tester came to me at the end of the test and said: "He still needs some practise and should slow down a bit. Speeding during the test wasn't a good idea." He still passed him.

After his first solo outing my father-in-law returned home and proudly came into the house saying "I only got two toots today."

I have calculated that in Arizona four toots is about the max you will get before someone gives you the finger so by my calculations he's made a 60% improvement.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


I thought that my 41-month backpacking sabbatical across 35 to 40 countries (I can't remember how many) was almost unbeatable but then I came across Phil Gordon's Biography and see that he spent 5 years traveling to 50 countries on 6 continents. (And he wasn't even panting when he got home.)

I take my hat off to you Phil Gordon! There aren't many men that can do that and judge a wet T-shirt competition in Australia's outback. Well done on surviving those Sheilas.

Bio Diesel perfumes air

Yesterday I watched a vlog by the famous Amanda Congdon as part of her Amanda Across America series. (I confess that I have only just tuned into this vlog and don't know what her objective is yet...)

She interviews a guy who runs his car on bio diesel and specifically on the used oil from restaurants. He comments that people in cars behind him can be seen to be looking around to see where the food is being cooked because his exhaust fumes smell of the type of restaurant he got his oil from. If it's from McDonald's then it smells of burgers and fries and if it's from a Chinese restaurant then it has an Oriental cooking smell. What an amazing by-product smell from a car instead of the standard toxic fumes.

I'm guessing that in the future you will be able to custom select the smell that you want your exhaust to have by perfuming the oil it burns with your favorite scent. What would you choose as the scent for your exhaust? Would a hot rod be allowed to exude lavender scented exhaust or would other enthusiasts turn their noses up at this? Could a monster truck expel "hint of rose" or evening primrose? Or do we need Old Spice and musk for that?

What about a Harley Davidson? I have no idea what scent the exhaust of a Harley should be matched with... Any ideas?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Quick Change Artists

MikeR sent me this impressive video from the America's Got Talent series. Now the question that all men have on their minds after seeing this is "how can this woman get changed so quickly when it takes my wife sister half an hour?"

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Life of Pi

Life of Pi by Yann Martel is one of my favorite books. I don't recall how I came across it but I remember reading it on a holiday in Mozambique. The reason that I wanted to read it was twofold. The first because I like the idea of the story on the back cover. The second because it was a Booker Prize winner. I don't believe that I have ever been disappointed with a Booker Prize winner book. Another of my all time favorite books is Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle. The only reason that I picked up that book was because it was a Booker Prize winner and it was fantastic.

MikeR recently sent me an email that (in part) read:

in the book life of pi what was the point of the meerkat infested island that turned into an acidic flesh eating ball at night? was it a figment of his imagination as he was drifting in and out of consciousness, or did he actually stumble upon this island? it is so ridiculously unbelievable to imagine an island like this, so i presume it was a figment, but i welcome your views.

To which I replied:

Couldn't you argue that about the whole book?
BTW: The island was real.

A meerkat infested island that turns into an acidic flesh eating ball is obviously not fictitious. You have not been watching the Discovery Channel enough. Stay in more and watch more telly. Stop getting out.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Summit keynote address

The Summit keynote address, “Finding and Hiring the Unpredictably Talented: Is This the Future of Talent Acquisition?” was presented by Guy Ellis, internationally-lauded corporate coach, trainer and author of the best-selling book “Tales of Talent: How to Harness Your People's Talent to Achieve Your Organisation's Vision."

Source: Business Wire

Need I say anymore?

Friday, September 29, 2006

One-eyed Jack

When I was at school I remember two kids that were called Jack. Interestingly neither of them were really Jack. One was Mark and the other was Andrew.

I believe that Mark had been called Jack because his brother shot one of his eyes out with an air-rifle and so he was then nicknamed One-eyed Jack, or Jack for short.

The other was a Casanova and always chasing skirt. Jack was either for Jack-the-lad or Jack Russell, I never discovered which.

One-eyed Jack was the scrum-half (and captain I think) of the rugby team that I played on. That story is better told here: The Glorious Sixth

Long live Jacks that are not Jacks!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ants and orange peel

I commented to the apartment manager that a colony of ants had moved in without signing the lease agreement. She responded saying that she could serve them with an eviction notice but a more effective method to "show them the door" was to throw orange peels at them.

I didn't believe her for a minute. Oranges are packed with sugar and the sort of thing that attracts ants. I am, however, always game to trying everything once and since I didn't have any other ideas I got a couple of oranges. I peeled one and lay the peels along the ant trail.

Stone the crows and pickle the lizards if the following morning all that were left were a few stragglers that probably hadn't been told by the rest of the colony that they were moving on.

Self Kidnap

Contrary to my last blog posting it turns out that Rachel Isham kidnapped herself:

She initially told police she had been kidnapped while she was jogging and was sexually assaulted. Now police have determined that no abduction took place and that Isham remained at an unknown location on her own accord. They are still investigating what they're calling "suspicious circumstances."

So I've tried an experiment this morning...

I kidnapped myself and sent myself a ransom note for $200. I logged onto one of my bank accounts and transferred $200 to another bank account and then I released myself.

The $64,000 questions are:
Did I commit the crime of kidnapping?
Was I a victim of a kidnapping?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Rachel Isham update

The great news is that they found her and she's safe. She was lying on the side of state route 51 between Bell Road and Greenway Parkway exits. (State route 51 is one of the highways I cycled under yesterday.) There is some video footage of the police recovering her on but not sure how long the news video will be there for and I can't find a permanent link for it. It looks like she was kidnapped and then later left near to where she was taken.

Rachel Isham

Well the reason that I was out in the desert yesterday and almost ran over the rattlesnake (RattleZone - Take II) was because I heard about missing Rachel Isham. First it was the helicopters buzzing around the Arizona Horse Lovers Area and then when I switched on the telly they filled me in on this missing teenager. I needed some exercise and so I got on my mountain bike and headed out there. The police were giving everyone a good description and armed with that, my camera and a couple of bottles of water I spent the next 2 to 3 hours zigzagging around in the desert from Tatum Boulevard under the 51 and then under the 101 and into the desert north of the 101.

What was interesting was that I realized that I have never paid more attention to my surroundings than on this outing. Usually I'm just cycling along and watching the road ahead so I don't end up in a hole but now I was scanning the bushes and trees. As a result I saw way more than I usually saw. Of interest, in order seen and found:

> Two jack rabbits
> One coyote
> One Maxfli D-Tec golf ball (what that was doing in the middle of the desert I have no idea)
> One old 20-gauge shotgun shell, rusty with spider web inside
> One large rattlesnake

Unfortunately I didn't find any clues that could help with the search and so far she's still missing which is obviously very sad for her family and friends.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

RattleZona - Take II

I was mountain biking through the desert this afternoon with the sun behind me and heading down a dirt track. I saw two sticks lying across the track. The one on the right looked like it would be the softer one to ride over. Wrong choice. That stick was a rattlesnake about the same length as the mountain bike. A nifty side swerve had me skim past its nose instead of over its body. At the beginning of the video clip off to the left top of the screen you can see the "other" stick that was lying on the track.

Standing Wave

I was trying to describe to a friend how one surfs a standing wave and then remembered that I had a video of myself doing it so I thought that I'd put it on the web. This is the small wave that shoots water at speed up a slope. There's a few inches of fast moving water and then something like a high-density foam substrate. There is another wave that simulates a real wave with a barrel that moves at a higher speed but I have not tried that yet. I have seen some of the injuries from the big wave and they are not pretty.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Crop semi-circles

Are these crop circles?

At first glance you might think so. This, however, is an aerial photograph of Sun City in the Valley of the Sun. Thousands of houses have been built in this retirement-zoned area just west of Phoenix. What look like crop semi-circles are golf courses.

I recently played a round of golf and one of the residents joined our 3 ball and filled me in on the rules. The local law/rule in the area is that there must be at least one person over the age of 55 living in the house.

This local law (I don't know if it's law or a rule and/or how it is enforced) obviously limits the potential for who will buy one of these houses. It may, however, increase the attractiveness for a wealthier older group of buyers. I have not been able to work out if this has put the house prices above or below the average for the area. An interesting exercise.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Defenestration - my favorite word

defenestration (noun) - the act of throwing someone or something out of a window.
defenestrate \dee-FEN-uh-strayt\, transitive verb: To throw out of a window.

I thought that I was unique in having defenestrate as my favorite word but while investigating it to write this blog post I discovered that according to Wikipedia, Merriam-Webster's dictionary users named it as one of their favorite words of the year in 2004. This means that I have to share.

I have learned to keep my favorite words to my close circle of friends. I was once working on a software project and thought that it would be educational for the users to be presented with dialog boxes that gave them alternatives to the ubiquitous OK and Cancel, which led me to substituting common words for more happening words for the older users (Groovy) and more unusual words for the younger users (Abrogate). Management did not share my views.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sally Turn Now

The Turks and Caicos islands lie east of Cuba and north of Haiti, are a UK overseas territory, and comprise 45 islands and cays. That's enough of the educational stuff. All of it is background that you don't need to know for what I'm about to say.

On a visit to the island of Providenciales I discovered a road called Sally Turn. An unusual name, but one that you could almost dismiss until you discover that the road's full name is Sally Turn Now, so the story goes.

Legend has it... Okay I'm going to come clean with you. There is no legend and no pirates and no buried treasure. This is just a simple story about how a road got its name.

Sally was (perhaps she still is) an American who came to the Turks and Caicos islands many years ago to work for someone. Everyday, on the way to work she would miss the turning and continue driving to the other side of the island and (1) get lost and (2) be late for work. Her employers, either as an act of philanthropy or good business sense put up a large sign along the road that Sally drove which said SALLY TURN NOW so that she knew where to turn.

That, boy and girls, are how roads are named in the Turks and Caicos islands.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Why water is healthy for you

I don't recall where I read this so I cannot quote the source but I remember reading an article a while back, well before the first blog started, that mentioned that water was healthy for you. It went on about the usual benefits that we all know about but then it said something that I thought was one of the most important things ever about water.

If you keep plenty of water at your desk or workplace and constantly sip at it you will need to go to the bathroom frequently to relieve yourself. It is this act of getting out from behind your desk and walking and moving on the way to the bathroom that will improve your health. Remaining hunched over your desk for long periods of time will obviously cause problems.

The problem with this is that the longer you stay attached to your desk the longer your "atrophy" endurance builds up. In other words your body builds up stamina to sit in one position without moving and without causing you pain. This is obviously not good because you will not notice when you have been in that position for too long.

This is where the water sipping comes to the rescue. Drinking lots of water throughout the day will force you to move from your chair more frequently and make you to adjust your position.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Body parts

After bringing you my left iris yesterday (complete with pupil) I wanted today to bring you my right iris. You will not believe how difficult it is to photograph your own iris like that. Sure, if you've got someone helping you it would be a lot easier but I don't (at the moment) have Santa's little helper with me and so have to autophoto.

The left iris that you saw yesterday was taken about 18 months ago. While trying to photo the right iris today I discovered and remembered that you need natural light shining into your eye for the photo. I just tried to do it with a fluorescent light and discovered that it wasn't powerful enough and like a black hole my pupil sucked in the photons without reflection.

And so dear reader, you will have to wait until another day to see what the right iris/pupil combo looks like.

The Last Page

I always knew that it was out there and now I have finally found it. The Last Page of the Internet. On arriving at this page you will know that you've read all the important content on the Internet and can, as suggested by that site, switch off your computer and go outside.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Body exposure in parts

I've decided to expose my body on the Internet. I'm going to start off with this blog posting and progress on an ad-hoc basis. Today I expose the 1/4 square inch which is my left iris. I have estimated that if I expose a 1/4 square inch at a time and assume that I don't grow larger that it will take me 42,743 blog postings to expose my entire body and that I will probably be 173 years and 3 months old by the time that I've finished. Here is the first part...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Reno Balloon Race 2006

I was impressed with this little video clip. A time lapse video of the Reno balloon race 2006. I'm guessing that they've squeezed about half a day into 1 minute. Very cool!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Where were you when...?

I remember being told from a young age that everybody remembers where they were when Kennedy was assassinated. In particular, I remember my dad saying that. Although he would make that comment he never volunteered where he was and I never asked. He always stated it as a fact and not a question to be asked. I must have been in my 30's when I heard him say it last and then I did ask him. He paused for a moment and thought. Then he laughed. "I can't remember where I was," he said.

I think that I must have been one of the last people to find out about 911. I was asleep on a yacht in a marina in Townsville, Australia. From what I remember local time was 4 or 5am when the attacks happened. A friend and I had planned a hike that morning and when we got up everyone else was asleep so we didn't switch on the radio and spent all morning hiking to the top of a lookout point.

Once at the top of the lookout point we talked to a technician who was doing some work behind the ubiquitous fenced off and "Danger" signed area that you find at the top of all high points in a populated area where all the transmitters etc. are. After answering our questions he switched the topic to 911 and after a bit of confusion realized that we were the only people in the area not to have heard the news and so he explained.

On the way back we walked through the town and stopped at a pub to see the news footage. The pub was packed with everyone staring at a telly. When they discovered that we hadn't seen any of this they all suddenly became authorities on the subject and fought over each other to tell us what had happened and out-shouted the commentary from the telly.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Burning down the residence

Let's wind back a few years to university and here I am sitting at my desk in the residence. I hear some shouting outside and there are a couple of students walking back to the residence and they are waving their arms at me and gesturing to the next room and shouting FIRE.

I walk into the corridor and to the room adjacent to mine and look in and see that the desk is on fire. My neighbor had been using candles to illuminate his papers and one of them had fallen over and set his notes on fire. He was nowhere to be seen and his desk was covered with loose notes and the fire wasn't wasting time moving from one to another.

I looked around and saw two options. There were a few towels draped over the banister and I could have used those to smother the fire. My first thought about using the towels was that the owner would not have been happy. The second option was to get the fire extinguisher at the end of the corridor.

I'd never use a fire extinguisher before and relished the opportunity to try my hand at it so the choice was not a very difficult one.

I aimed the nozzle at the desk and let out a few short bursts. I didn't want to drown the desk in foam because that would destroy the rest of his notes and I knew how important they were. What I hadn't expected was that the power of the fire extinguisher blast lifted all the burning papers into the air and spread them around the room setting the curtains and bed and rubbish bin on fire as well.

Once I'd manage to turn a burning desk into a burning room I had no choice but to hold that nozzle firmly down and let the room have it. The fire was quickly put out but the room was a mess.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The best laxative in the world

I think that I've identified the best laxative in the world and it's not a drug. It's 100% psychosomatic and controlled by my subconscious. If my subconscious detects that my wife is cleaning the toilet it sends a subversive message to my bowels saying "get ready for action boys." The urge is containable right up until the moment that she finishes the chore.

I try and sneak into the bathroom as soon as she's finished but I'm always caught. "Don't use that, I've just cleaned it. Go and use the toilet in the gym."

It's a tough life.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Unsolvable Math Problem

Today I read about student George Bernard Dantzig who arrived late to class and mistook 2 unsolvable equations on the blackboard for homework assignments and went off and solved them. I know that it is very geekish to enjoy this type of story but I loved it: The Unsolvable Math Problem.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

On Hold

I think that I have set a new record for myself. Today I called Norwegian Cruise Line (1-800-327-7030) and was put in an automated queue and was on hold for 94 minutes and 27 seconds before the battery of the cordless phone died and I had to hang up. I have never been on hold that long before. I've called them once before and was in the holding queue for 35 minutes. Perhaps Norwegian Cruise Line (aka NCL) have a side business going where they help people overcome impatience by keeping them on hold.

If you ever have to call them I suggest the following: (1) Make sure that you have a cordless phone with a clip and a hands free earpiece (allows you to wander around while on hold and do other things) (2) Make sure that the battery of your cordless phone lasts longer that 2 hours (3) Call when you have an open 2 to 3 hours to spend on the phone and don't need to receive calls (most people have 7 or 8 of these time slots available each day) (4) Have a large meal before you call (5) Go to bed early and have a good sleep the night before you're going to call them.

Good luck and let me know if you ever get through.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Javelina Unexpected

Living on the edge of the desert has its advantages and disadvantages. I hate the sudden appearance of the most vicious mosquitoes I have ever experienced. However, I love all of the wildlife that wanders in and that you unexpectedly trip over on your doorstep.

Today a javelina graced our apartment complex. Javelina is the local name (Spanish) for a Peccary. Peccaries are Artiodactyls which is another way of saying even-toed ungulate.

Casualness Awarded

Casual Hero and World Traveler

I was very excited to receive today the highest possible award and recognition from the Casual Heroes and World Travelers Association (CHAWTA). This means that I can now display this emblem on my blog and wear it with pride over the left breast of my polyester leisure-suit.

If you believe that you might deserve similar recognition then apply for your seal at Says-It. Don't expect to get one immediately - they don't just give these away to anyone.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Stingrays have stings

I received an email today from my youngest brother saying "Do you remember taking me to the clinic in Mexico after the stingray got me in the foot - after you and Cath continued to surf while I sat in pain on the beach" and attached was a link to the story about the tragic death of Steve Irwin - killed by a stingray strike to the heart.

I've been watching the news about Steve Irwin's death and I noted that one expert stated that once stung by a stingray you should immerse that part of your body in very hot water to break down the protein based venom from the stingray. Patrick: While you were sitting on the beach waiting for your wife and I to finish surfing you should have been putting your foot in very hot water.

I confess now that I feel somewhat guilty about treating my youngest brother's injuries so lightly. We mercilessly took the piss out of him each day as we counted the injuries that he was sporting. There were usually between 3 and 6 complaints on any one day. I believe that the stingray sting lasted about a month and after inflicted went straight to position number one.

It wasn't only his wife and I that noticed the pain that he was in. There was also an armadillo that took interest. It was about 1 o'clock in the morning and we were heading back to Puerto Angel after spending some time at a bar further down the beach. An armadillo was scavenging in someone's rubbish bin and a couple of dogs had found it and started chasing it. The armadillo, being a clever little fellow, knew that it couldn't outrun the dogs and so had to create a diversion. Mr Armadillo took a look at the three of us and must have noticed my brother's limp and decided to use him as the decoy by darting between his legs. The dogs knocked Patrick over and got tangled up with him and the exceptionally clever armadillo escaped.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Mexican Alternative

On the last day of August Tim writes Another write off... He gives an interesting alternative to writer's block that I really like. The Mexican alternative. I have not heard of this one before. Tim has typical writer's block. Very similar to bricklayer's block. Bricklayer's block is more easily overcome. When a bricklayer wakes in the morning and tells his wife that he is unable to go to work that day because he has bricklayer's block his wife kicks him in the butt and sends him to work where he lays some bricks. Problem solved. Tim's problem is not that this technique would not work on him but that he doesn't have a big enough boot on the end of a helping leg in close proximity to help him over this block.

As such I think that the Mexican alternative is probably his only hope. Here's my top tip for writer's block: Don't try and continue the story but do write. You can always write something that can be used later. You have 2 alternatives; write about something completely different, say a short story. This will often spark a new idea or direction for the novel and you'll abandon the short story and go back to the novel. The second alternative is to get some dialogue going between two of the characters.

Moving on with the second idea. Say 2 of Tim's characters are Molly and Sam. Tim spent the day washing and emailing and suffering writer's block. Get Molly and Sam to discuss this in dialogue. Start off with a question. Molly tells Sam that she knew and author that had writer's block and couldn't get over it. What would Sam do in this situation?

This then forces Tim to work out what type of answer Sam would give. Remember that it has to be in Sam's character, a typical answer for him. This also allows Tim to learn more about Sam (and Molly's) characters.

Hairy Knees - not so good

As impressed and vain as I am with my hairy knees (Hairy Knees and What good are Hairy Knees?) I must confess disappointment.

We have recently had an attack of mosquitoes. They came with the rains. The rains came after I taunted the Gods that there had been no rain (Somewhat disappointed). The mosquitoes came for my knees.

When I come inside after a brief walk I drag in a buzzing (*) of mosquitoes in my slip stream. Once inside I start the killing process and get most of the airborne ones. I then focus attention on the legs. There is usually a buzzlet (**) of mosquitoes caught in the hairs on my legs. I have not yet worked out if they are trying to get to the skin or trying to escape the hair net. The hair on my knees is not yet long enough and the bastards go straight through to the skin. I'm thinking of hair extensions for my knees, perhaps dreadlocks, perhaps a perm, anything to put a barrier between the skin and the mosquitoes.

(*) Buzzing is the collective noun for 5 or more mosquitoes.
(**) Buzzlet is the collective noun for 4 or fewer mosquitoes but more than 1.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Desperately seeking Molly

In 1987 one of my brothers had come out from England to stay with me in my digs in Durban. I was a student at that time. Before he left England a friend's father discovered that he was coming to Durban and said that he had met a girl in Durban during the second world war and could my brother find her for him. Her maiden name back then was Molly Smith (name changed to protect Molly Smith - well not really - I just can't remember what her name was - this is almost 20 years ago). He also remembered that her dad worked at a sports shop. Durban's relevant population at that time was about 1 million people.

My brother mentioned this to me in passing having already dismissed the mission as impossible but I wasn't as easily put off by the impossible. I happened to know the owner of the largest sports store in town, the famous King's Sports, then run by Allen King. I gave Allen a call and he laughed at what I was trying to do but did say that if there was anybody who would know it was an elderly lady who had worked for the company for many years and would know that sort of thing. He gave me her work address.

On the way to the beach a few hours later we stopped at her work place and told her our mission. She gave us Molly's married name, address and telephone number. Mission impossible accomplished with minimal effort and outstanding results.

Almost Topless

This guy really impresses me. I saw him cutting the palms off the top of this palm tree and grabbed the camera. At the end of the video you'll see exactly how high up he is - third floor. He then absails from the top to the bottom in a few seconds.

I'm not sure what you'd have to pay me to do that but I'm sure it would be a hell of a lot more than this guy was getting paid.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Golf is a difficult game and you are sometimes faced with huge obstacles in this fruitless pursuit of getting a small white ball into a tiny hole. When playing a new course we are helped by reading a description on the hole diagram which is supposed to help us plan our approach to the green. This description does not help if the green is protected by words you've never heard of. The 16th at The 500 Club has one of these:

From an elevated tee, avoid two fairway bunkers 150 yards from the green. The second shot can be tricky with four bunkers and a swale surrounding this shallow, undulating green.

What is a swale?

Well it turned out to be a grass bunker. Earlier, hole 5 (Quail's Trail), had grass bunkers and they called them grass bunkers:

This testy par 3 requires a high tee shot to a green surrounded on all sides by grass bunkers. This green is deceivingly contoured. Par is a very good score.

So why call it a swale when it's a grass bunker?

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Circle Line

The Circle Line, as the name might suggest, is an underground subway that circles London. I'm being patronising, 99% of people reading this already know this but for completeness I mention it. My question to you is: Have you ever, in one journey, been to every stop on The Circle Line? I have. In fact, I believe that I did 3.5 loops of The Circle Line non-stop once.

It was a dark and stormy night. No it wasn't! It was a Saturday afternoon. Ed, Peter, Andy and myself were playing golf and Richmond Park Golf Course. It was at a time when Ed and I were playing particularly badly and Andy and Peter were going through a purple patch. Unfortunately Ed and I drew the same short straws and were teamed up together. Peter and Andy were very excited at the prospect giving us a solid hiding and goaded us into beer bets they felt they had already won.

It was one of those strange days. Ed and I played, as expected, badly, and both our scores were horribly. However, the bets and games did not rest on the total score but on each hole that was won. What I didn't mention was that Ed and I dovetailed playing bad holes and when I had a blowout hole Ed won it and vice versa. I believe that we had the game sown up by about the 15 and had won all bets (beers). Andy and Peter couldn't believe this and didn't believe that our luck would continue for the last 4 holes and so they goaded us into a double or nothing to the end. We won that as well.

So we end up in All Bar One in Richmond at around 5pm and Ed and I don't hold back on our unlimited free beers. Neither of us could hold our drink and we had won more than we could handle so it was effectively unlimited. By 9pm I knew that the combination of gloating and drinking had put me into a dangerous state and I had to get home and sleep it off ASAP.

I jumped on The District Line at Richmond and somehow managed to cross over to The Circle Line when we arrived in Central London. After that I remember opening my eyes every now and then and seeing a station name and realising that we'd past my stop but being on The Circle Line I knew we'd come back to it again and so I closed my eyes and continued to sleep.

At 1:40am I was woken by the driver telling me that this was the last stop and I had to get off. I was at Notting Hill. I estimated that given the time I'd spent on the tube that I'd circled to city 3.5 times. I was feeling dizzy.

It probably took me about an hour to walk home from there. I couldn't for the life of me find a cab.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Turn Here

I have discovered the web site Turn Here. It provides short video clips about travel destinations. I have only searched for 1 city and watched 1 video but I plan on using it for my next trip so I will return to review it again in the future. This is a book mark so that I don't forget about it. From their web site:

TurnHere produces professional digital videos, accessible on the Internet, which convey authentic experiences of places and leisure activities in cities and neighborhoods around the world ... filmmaker’s vision, translated into compelling storytelling, engaging narrators, insider perspective and high entertainment value.

Has anyone tried them?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Restless Toes Syndrome

I had never heard of Restless Legs Syndrome until I saw an advert for a drug to treat it on the telly. I do not believe that I suffer from Restless Legs Syndrome but I have no doubt that I suffer from Restless Toes Syndrome.

This video clip will show you what people with Restless Toes Syndrome have to suffer through.

Somewhat disappointed...

This photo is the skyline (well part of it) in Phoenix yesterday evening. My disappointment stems from the amazing weather. We were promised monsoons during monsoon season with torrential downpours that soak you to the skin just by looking at them through the window and flooding that knocks your front door in and washes away the kitchen, laundry and bed (but not the TV, sofa or your golf clubs which have been carefully secured) and lightening and thunder that power small cities and then deafen the inhabitants. Hopefully this blog post will be the equivalent of the Native American rain dance and summon the real monsoons. The first monsoon of the season (It was a dark and stormy night) was a bit of a damp squib.

Nada Fue un Error

Cuando empezaba aprender español solo sabía dos oraciones en la lengua. Las dos más importantes:

1. Dos cervezas por favor.
2. Mi amigo pagará

Ahora conozco un poquito más pero no mucho.

Mi amiga me envió un link a la canción Nada fue un error por Coti con Julieta Venegas y Paulina Rubio. Me encanta esa canción y por eso comparto con Uds. Por desgracia no entiendo que digan en la canción. Espero que alguien me ayuda entenderla.

Gracias por el link muchacha.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Telemarketing Questionnaire

Yesterday I received a call from a telemarketer selling Dish TV or something like that. I handed it over to my wife because there is a particular channel that she is interested in that our cable company doesn't have. I heard bits of the conversation from my wife's end such as "why do you need to know that?" etc. I felt a bit sorry for the telemarketer because getting personal information out of my wife before you prove that your God's right-hand man is impossible. She's not going to be conned or scammed by anyone over the phone.

In order to ascertain if a telemarketer, "market researcher" or other person calling is a scam or not I've decided to set up questionnaire that I am going to ask them before we start with their part of the call. I'm writing the questions down here so that I remember what I want to ask them and do so in a logical manner.

Me (in reply to their initial question): "For security reasons I need to ask you some questions in order to ascertain that you are who you say you are. I must also warn you that anything that you say may be made publicly available on the Internet. If you do not agree with this condition then please terminate the call now."

1. Can you give me your first and last name (again) please?
2. What is the name of the company that you are calling from?

(Assuming that I'm sitting in from of the computer by that time)
3. What is your company's web address?
4. Where on your company's web site can I find your name listed as an employee?

(My telephone number is both unlisted and on the "do not call" register.)
5. Where did you get my telephone number from?
6. Did you check the "do not call" register before you called this number?
7. What country are you calling from?

(If conducting "market research")
8. Will you at any time during this call try and sell me something?

This list is a work in progress and I'm sure I'll add to it in the future.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Josh Blue Wins Last Comic Standing

I saw Josh Blue on one of the first episodes of season 4 of Last Comic Standing and blogged about it: Not Easily Impressed (I fell off my chair laughing)

I kept on missing episodes and missed the finals but I've managed to watch a number of his clips on YouTube and I continue to be impressed by him. He makes me laugh out aloud each time I see him. Here are a couple of clips from YouTube. There are many more there. Just search on Josh Blue.

I had no doubt when I first saw him that he was going to win Last Comic Standing. I'm not sure how the voting went but I doubt that the others were even close.

Broken Arrow

I didn't think that I'd be able to find the clip for the Broken Arrow quote "I don't know what's scarier, the fact that we've lost a nuclear weapon or the fact that it happens so often that we have a term for it" so I didn't even look for it.

Serendipitiously today I came across the trailer for the movie which has the quote. Here it is:

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Top 5 Film Quotes

I once received a job application questionnaire which alternated relevant technical questions with arbitrary questions that I assume were there to flesh out some personality, if there is one. For example, one of the questions was to write a limerick about a programming language. I don't recall what I wrote but I remember being impressed with the result.

Another question was to list my top 5 film quotes. I happened to be chatting to a couple of friends on Skype while I filling in the questionnaire and they both immediately came up with the quote from Jerry Maguire: "Show me the money" which I immediately shot down as I was sure that it was particularly inappropriate image to portray going into a job interview.

One film quote that I forgot to put on that interview sheet was from the film Broken Arrow:
"I don't know what's scarier, losing a nuclear weapon or that it happens so often there's actually a term for it."

What is your top film quote?

Left Hand Drive Cars

Coming from countries where you drive on the left hand side of the road and therefore in cars which are right hand drive it took a bit of adjusting to left hand drive cars in the USA. In fact I have still not fully adjusted.

On occasion, when I go to the car I walk around to the right hand side of the car to get in. On opening the door I notice that I have arrived at the wrong side. I surreptitiously glance around to see if anyone has noticed and if so I pretend to shuffle some papers on the passenger seat or check the glove compartment. Sometimes I've taken things out of the glove compartment to make it look like I was fetching something before closing the passenger door with authority and walking purposefully around to the drivers side.

On a bad day I will climb into the passenger side of the car and close the door before discovering that the steering wheel is missing. I have yet to work out a way to recover from this. In fact I don't think that there is a recovery. I could climb over the gear changer but if the police were to see that then they'd probably arrest me for impersonating a drunk. Instead, I sheepishly climb out the car and shuffle around to the drivers side hoping that the laughter and giggles I can hear in the parking lot are not directed at me.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Blog catharsism saves murder

I had a conversation with my old-man recently and talked about a bit of advice that he used to give us when we were kids.
"Instead of acting on your anger," he said, "you should write a letter to the person that you angry with and don't send it but put it in your desk drawer. One week later, pull it out and re-read it. You will probably find that you aren't that angry anymore and are pleased that you didn't send the letter or say those things."

Writing down your thoughts in a ranting manner and striking out (on paper) at those that have offended you is cathartic and usually relieves the need to physically act on your current feelings.

I have a theory that blogs often have that effect and when you see someone ranting about something on a blog I bet that when they've finished ranting they feel much better. Take a look at Mando's Self-Indulgent "Ex" Rant (read at own risk) and her comment that immediately follows. I'm fairly certain that Vern feels the same way after some of the posts that he makes.

My theory is that the catharsism (not a real word) from rant blog postings stops many people from going postal. I theorize that there would be more violence if this form of outlet was not available and I feel that people who are that way inclined may benefit from having a blog. If people post comments on your blog agreeing with your comments, feelings and statements then it also makes you feel less isolated with your feelings etc. I'm starting to go off the deep-end so I'm going to stop here.

Of course if people post comments stating that you're a nut-case then maybe you are and the blog isn't working...

Package from Arabia

Today I received a package from Arabia. On inspection of the surface I estimate that about 70% of the front of the package is covered with stamps. (The clear area had my address before I blotted it out.) There are 4 different denominations of stamps and that number could have easily been reduced using a logical collection of the larger denominations - but hey - who wants to be logical when you can almost completely cover a package with many different bright colors? With stamps that bright and so many of them you don't even need wrapping paper on the presents inside - the stamps have done that for you.

A few years ago I was in Guatemala and bought a hammock which I wanted to mail to my dad. I packaged it up carefully in a shoebox and wrapped, sealed and addressed it and took it to the post office in the ancient capital on Antigua. (Antigua is no longer the capital - Guatemala City is.) The package was going to cost the equivalent of $25 to send (the hammock cost $3) and the clerk informed me that they had run out of large denomination stamps and could only sell me stamps that had the equivalent value of 5 cents.

I asked if she could frank the package but she said no and that I had to buy the 500 stamps and stick them on the package. There must have been about 50 stamps per sheet because I recall her pulling out about 10 sheets of stamps, each slightly smaller than an A4 sheet of paper. My mind having excellent 3-dimensional and spacial foresight ability was pondering how I was going to stick 10 x A4 sheets onto a shoe box so that all surfaces were showing. By the time that the transaction was finished and I had my stamps and $25 less in my wallet I had still not solved the problem and asked the clerk for her advice.

This was obviously not the first time that she had done this because without hesitating she showed me how to tear off row by row from each sheet and overlap them so that just the value of the stamp was showing from underneath the last row. Ingenious!

I spent the next hour or so on a hard wooden bench with a water roller, my shoe box and 10 sheets of stamps. Every 10 minutes I ferried the water roller back to the counter to get a water refill.
"Bottle or tap water?" She would ask.
"Tap water is fine," I replied with more and more surprise each time she asked me.

The package looked like a well wrapped Christmas tree by the time I handed it over. I hoped that she wouldn't weight it again because I'm sure that it was now at least 20% heavier with the stamps and water used to stick them there.

The package was destined for South Africa which has a notoriously bad record for delivery of anything by mail and I believe that Guatemala attempts to compete with that record. As such I had zero expectation that the package would arrive.

It did arrive. I know that because I have subsequently lounged in that hammock on a back patio in South Africa. Shame on me for my lack of faith in the international Guatemala - South Africa package route.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Coyote Shocked

Before we talk about why the coyote was shocked (this has nothing to do which why the chicken crossed the road etc.) let's take a look at this saguaro cactus. Do you notice anything unusual or wrong with it. The trained eye will notice a number holes or pock marks in this cactus. These holes are made from an Arizonan insect called the GB which is about the shape and size of a ping pong ball but is much harder and heavier and flies at an amazing speed and pegs itself into the cactus where it lives for the rest of its life.

Sometimes, the GB insect does not fly that fast and bounces off the saguaro and at other times it almost pegs inside but remains clinging to the outside to eventually fall off one day. You may be able to see one precariously holding on to the left arm of the Saguaro - the one closest to the moon. I have blown it up for you here.

The GB insect is typically launched by a driver on the tee. This hole is the number 1 handicap (stroke index 1) hole on the Rancho Manana Golf Course in Cave Creek. The following video clip shows a coyote on the fairway relaxing next to the saguaro cactus. Without warning a GB insect leaves the tee and pings off the cactus scaring the hell out of the coyote which heads off to look for safer places to hunt.

As for my golfing partner. He obviously didn't think that the handicap 1 hole was difficult enough and was going via the desert, a coyote and a cactus to get to the hole.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Melting the Kitchen

Melting the Kettle is small time compared to what I did to our kitchen when I was about 12.

For some reason I'd become obsessed with melting down lead and making things out of it. The only objects for which I could find moulds for were fishing sinkers and so I acquired about 6 different aluminium moulds and then started collecting the lead wrappers from wine bottles.

Using a small pot and the electric hob in the kitchen I melted the lead until it was liquid. Luckily the fumes and smoke from the burning paint and paper on the lead wrappers kept everyone else out of the kitchen. Using a double oven mitt I would then transport the lead across the kitchen to the moulds and pour it before it set.

The last time I ever did this the pot slipped out of my hand, landed on the kitchen table and bounced onto the floor spraying molten lead around the kitchen. About 25% of the kitchen, cupboards, appliances, stools etc. had a thin layer of rapidly cooling and solidifying lead.

Lead melts at 621F (327C) so the paint on most of the surfaces was pretty much toast. Luckily I wasn't hit by the molten metal and the kitchen was in bad need of a repaint anyway and so I don't recall getting into much trouble over that. Perhaps it was the relief that molten lead wouldn't be bubbling away next to the boiling potatoes that saved me.

Melting the Kettle

I burnt our kettle a few months ago. It turned from the brushed chrome finished to a dull bronze/gold color. It's our first wedding gift that I've destroyed. The second was a knife handle.

The kettle burning happened during the day while my wife was at work. I toasted it from about 9am to 1pm by forgetting to put the whistle on. Once it had cooled down I hid it behind other counter objects. When my wife returned in the evening she found it by using her nose.
"You burnt something in here didn't you?" She said.
"No," I lied.
She continued to hunt until she found the kettle and then hit me with it. I deserved it. I should have put the whistle on the nose.

I was reminded of my kettle story by Lucy Tartan's Toast and tea blog posting.

Best Kiss Ever

I mentioned a week ago that I'd post a video clip to the best onscreen kiss ever. The reason for waiting for a week was not to tease you but rather to give me time (and put me on a time frame) to see if I could find a better one. I could not. This is 18 seconds from the life of Ally McBeal.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What good are Hairy Knees?

Following on from my discovery that I can actually grow hair on my knees and that I sometimes have Hairy Knees you may be wondering about the use for hairy knees. If so, you're pretty weird because I've never wondered that. I have, however, without wondering, discovered a use for them.

I was sitting outside a tiki hut on a beach in Thailand. The mozzies had started biting my ankles and neck and so I'd lathered myself in insect grease. I was resting my feet on the table which gave me the chance to admire and keep an eye on my hairy knees.

I then noticed something I'd never seen before. The mozzies were trying to get through the hair and to my skin but because I had hairy knees (and hairy legs) they couldn't get through to bite. So instead they were just getting caught up in the hair like a net and eventually they'd give up and turn around and buzz off.

This also explained to my simple mind why my knees and legs were never bitten but why my hairless ankles and feet were dotted with little red spots.

Water Balloon Bursting in Slow Motion

I was just very very impressed with this water balloon (as the title says) bursting in slow motion. Watch the rubber as it pulls back under the balloon and how the water seems to hold its shape forever.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Hairy Knees

Time and Place: Summer 1999, India House Backpackers Hostel, New Orleans

I was sitting at a table out on the patio of India House in New Orleans chatting to some other backpackers. I looked down at my knees and said, "do you know what I've noticed since I started travelling?"
At exactly the same time, an Ozzie and a Brit replied: "Hairy knees."

It wasn't just me that had noticed this. All of us had developed hairy knees while travelling. Prior to starting a world tour at the begging of 1999 I had been working in an office in London and had worn a suit every day. The trousers of the suit had, presumably, rubbed or caught and pulled the hairs off my knees. I had noticed that there was short stubble on my knees but had never questioned why.

After I'd been travelling for a few months, and had only been wearing shorts because it was summer, the hair had had a chance to grow back and for the first time ever I had hairy knees.

Office Rowing Team

I worked for a company in London that had a half American, half British, and half international staff. Yes, there were 150% of us working there. We needed that number of people because one third of the company was slacking off in the pub most of the time.

During the summer months we'd play softball in Hyde Park against other companies with whom we had business relationships. Because softball is not taught in British schools, nobody is very co-ordinated at the sport and it is much like watching the special Olympics - except we weren't that good.

When I saw this video clip of the Office Rowing Team I suddenly realized that we should never have been playing softball against each other. This must be the ultimate inter-company sport.

When arranging a team to play softball it was often difficult to find enough players and one had to wander around the office cajoling and threatening your colleagues to play. If that didn't work you had to go down to the homeless shelter and pay some of them to be on your team.

One week, one of our American colleagues was visiting our office and I tried to get him to play with us. He was very reluctant because at school in California he was never very good at sports and especially not softball he told me. He really didn't want to play. I forget what I bribed him with but eventually I got him to come and play with us.

To our surprise, and his, he was remarkably good at the game and easily one of the top scorers. What he hadn't realized was that he was coming from an environment where everyone can swing a baseball bat to the land of spastics. As they say, in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king. In this case, in the land of mal-co-ordinated... (I couldn't think of an appropriate ending for that).

Having discovered how good he was (relative to our gang) he started planning all his UK visits around our softball games. He had to make frequent trips to the UK office and would insist that we email him the softball schedule so he could get in at least 2 games while there.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Profit share - beware

Having an accounting background I know about profits. Profits are whatever you want them to be. If you've promised your staff 50% of this year's profits then the easy way to eliminate that obligation is to pay yourself an enormous salary bonus performance check before the end of the year and eliminate all profits. Wasn't that easy? No need to pay all the minions your company's money.

The savvy employee will request a revenue share instead of a profit share. It's up to management and the accountants to watch the expenses. Usually, your impact is on the revenue of the company only and not on the expenses side. That way you are being rewarded for the part that you can influence and side-step any creative accounting that your company may be seduced by.

I thought that I'd write this while I was unemployed so that it wouldn't look like I was pointing a finger at a company that employed me.

How significant is your (my) blog?

Exceptionally insignificant. Not only because hardly anybody reads it (which makes it safe for me to spout my mouth off about anything - very cathartic), but because:

On July 31, 2006, Technorati tracked its 50 millionth blog.

That means that if you have a blog, it's 0.000002% of all blogs out there. (That's five zeros after the point.)

If a small country like Belize (population: 287,730) wanted to keep up-to-date with all the blogs on listed by Technorati (which isn't an exhausted list of all blogs) it would have to assign 174 blogs to each citizen. Luckily Belize has 240 miles (386km) of coastline with white sand beaches, warm crystal clear Caribbean sea and fantastic diving so it doesn't have to.

Direction, Time and Location

You've probably seen the a photo in a magazine or on the net and under it there's the question "where in the world is this?"

One of the features that I like about my digital camera is the date and time stamp. I never put the date and time on the actual photo but I keep the time/date on the camera up-to-date so when I transfer the photos to the computer I know that the details are accurate. I admit that when I travel I frequently forget to reset the camera's clock to local time. I'm guessing that 90% of people do so as well.

There are a couple more features that I think would be neat in a digital camera. GPS and a compass. Of course this information would need to be saved with the photo. Can you imagine being able to link your photos to Google Earth with the exact co-ordinates of where you were, which direction the camera was facing and the date and time that the photo was taken? That would be awesome.

Obviously the technology is available to do this but I have not yet seen a camera advertised that stamps a location and direction on to the photos that it takes. But then, I don't read the photography web sites so perhaps this idea is already well in production and already available. If it is, please hit the comment link and let me know.

Creative Math

I received an email today from a friend with some amusing math-not-so-correct examples as attached images. You may have seen them but I thought that this one was good by a student named Peter.

Expand: (a+b)^n

His solution:


Very amusing :)

This takes me back to my teens and some math that I did at school. We were doing vectors and were told by our missing-link math teacher that if we didn't underline the letter in the equation then it wasn't a vector but a variable and there'd be big trouble. We took him seriously because he usually hit us around the head if we didn't listen. Although I was an A-student at math I didn't respect the feeble and simple minded teachers we had teaching us and so was somewhat of a rebel and a favorite target for teachers.

Our close-descendant-of-cave-man math teacher had set us some exercises to do and was cruising up and down the aisles of the silent classroom looking over our shoulders. I felt a whack on the back of the head and my nose hit the desk. When the stars stopped spinning I could see Hall thudding his index finger on my paper.
Hall: "You forgot to underline a vector Ellis."
Me: "That's not a vector sir, that's a variable."
Hall stopped tapping his finger and moved on without saying anything more. About 10 minutes later he was doing an example on the blackboard and I noticed that he hadn't underlined one of the vectors.
"Sir," I shouted out, "you haven't underlined vector k in the second row."
Hall took a couple of steps back from the board and took a look at what he was writing and then went back and underlined the vector that he'd missed earlier.
Dave Baker, who shared a desk with me, piped up: "Sir, can Ellis hit you on head?"
There was a small amount of laughter which quickly stopped when Hall turned around.
"Watch it Baker," Hall said, "or you'll find yourself exiting the room face first."

And that is how we studied math in the early 80's at one of the most expensive schools in South Africa.

Later on that term we were set mid year exams. There were about 100 of us in my year and we all had to do math. The first question in the exam involved vectors and whoever had set the exam forgot to underline one of the variables in the question. I knew how to solve the question and what they wanted but I just wrote "solution not possible because of a mix of variables and vectors" - or something like that. One other person (Raymond McLucky) did the same as me but the other 98 elected to spend the 10 minutes required to answer the question. It didn't really bother that I might score 0 for the question because I knew I'd get the rest of the paper right and still get an A which is a rare luxury that a student might have; That is to test the resilience of the examiners to face up to their errors.

Our teachers were the last people that would ever admit that they were wrong and so it came as a shock that I was given full marks for that question. I was warned that I'd sailed extremely close to the wind and not to do it again - advice which I immediately ignored because of where it came from.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The 3rd Movie Trailer - Kill Bill Trailer 3

This is not the 3rd best movie trailer ever so I'm not going to pretend that it is but there is a theme running here (best movie trailer ever, 2nd best movie trailer ever) so I'll at least call it the 3rd of the trilogy and put it up here for completeness. You will have seen about half of it already from the other two trailers.

Budd (played by Michael Madsen) says "That woman deserves her revenge, and we deserve to die," and sets a new Hollywood record and is nominated for an Oscar in the category of 'Longest time taken to say a 10 word sentence which the audience can understand and follow.' Rumors have been quashed that all sentences in future films will be spoken at this speed because of the dumbing down of America.