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.