Sunday, December 30, 2007

High Speed Chase

I thought that I'd end my second year of blogging with a story of a high speed chase that I was in last weekend.

I was innocently driving along the I-17 just south of Flagstaff doing about 70 MPH when this complete idiot overtakes me in a bright yellow Mustang Manta Ray and is driving way to close and clips left front mudguard of my Tahoe.

I start slowing down and pulling off the interstate expecting him to do the same but instead he speeds up and races away. I wasn't having any of that so I floored the accelerator and was soon on his tail.

I took a look at the speedo and it was way off the clock so I'm guessing that I was doing around 140 MPH. I knew nobody would believe me so I reached into the back and fumbled around in my bag and pulled out my camera and took a photo of the speedo. I nearly wiped out doing that stunt.

Anyway, I managed to catch the guy and while we were going around a corner I caught the left rear corner of his car and he spun out and cartwheeled off the road and exploded into a ball of flames.

I slowed back down to my normal sub 5MPH below the speed limit and had a very pleasant journey for the rest of the way.

Remember, if you read it on the Internet, it must be true.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Snowbowl Xmas

What an excellent Xmas day we've just had. Drove up to Arizona Snowbowl and spent the day skiing there.

The photo attached to this post is of my wife taken at the top of Sunset Chairlift. I've mentioned her a few times in my blog and I'm sure that some of my readers are curious to know what she looks like. Well now you have a photo of her to satisfy your curiosity. Pretty, isn't she?

It was a bit chilly on the slopes. The car registered a sub-zero reading of 17F but the windchill sitting on those lifts made it feel like -20C. I wonder how may people will be able to get their heads around those two temperatures?

I hope that everyone had an excellent Xmas and I wish you all the very best for 2008. May your wildest dreams come true and may your wife not catch you when they do.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Chain Letter Warnings

I got this from a (female) friend recently and thought that it was amusing enough to share with you.

Generally I hate the warnings that get sent around, but I must admit this one is important. If a man comes to your front door and says he is conducting a survey and asks you to show him your bum, do not show him your bum. This is a scam - he only wants to see your bum. I wish I had got this yesterday. I feel so stupid and cheap.

Monday, December 10, 2007


I learned a new word today: Blugging.

I appears that Blugging is poor quality blogging. I guess I thought that I was blogging but it turns out that I was blugging.

Embarrassingly I learned this "computer word" from an 88-year-old who doesn't blog. Doris Lessing, this year's winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, born 1919.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Life in Zim - a letter from Zim

I recently received this letter through a series of email forwards and wanted to expand and comment on the effects of currency crises that I have experienced in various countries. I thought that by posting this letter I could continue my thoughts on currencies in a subsequent blog post. Here is the letter that I received, posted here with the author's permission.

My apologies for this letter being late - it was completed on the 28th,but couldn't be sent due to circumstances beyond my control. Last Wednesday,I entered the bank to find a crowd of people not queueing for the tellers. I asked a teller if there was cash and she said no,so I asked if they were expecting cash, and she said yes,but when,she couldn't tell me. And so we entered the third week without cash. In any other country,the populace wouldn't put up with this,and would be setting fire to cars in the street,but Zimbos just shrug their shoulders and put up with what is unputupable with. People with bank cards and bank accounts can write cheques (I haven't written so many cheques since 2003,when we last ran out of cash,before Gono became governor of the RBZ) or produce and swipe bank cards in suitably equipped retail outlets in this way,I bought $105.6 million-worth of pool chemicals,enough to last nearly six months. People without bank accounts must find cash from somewhere,but where,I don't know. Dr.Gono professes to know nothing,but if he,the man who prints the money doesn't know,who does? It is suggested that they are going to produce notes of $500,000 or even $1 million (which would be worth 16-25p!),but wheres the use of that? Inflation is eroding the value of the notes faster than the ink can dry it is reported reliably that for transactions involving telegraphic transfers,a pound will buy Z$6 million,or Z$1 million is worth 16.66p. If you are buying Zim cash,the exchange rate is half that,owing to the shortage of cash.

Chile spent 20 years under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet,but at least he ran the economy well he brought in reforms which benefited the country and acted as an example for other South American countries on how to run economies. When,at last, Pinochet stepped down,he left the country in a healthy financial position. In contrast,The Mad Hout was originally elected legitimately,but has destroyed his country in 7 years,and there is not the slightest chance that he is going to step down. As elections approach,he trusts that the old tricks of rigging elections will stand him in good stead,and believes the mealy-mouthed courtiers who assure him that he is popular with his citizens God knows, hes tried to restrict the number of dissenters by barring many from citizenship, and his policies have gotten rid of another large chunk of nay-sayers by forcing them into economic migration. Nonetheless,as a South African newspaper said at the last election,to vote for him,the people would have to want 5 more years of poverty,unemployment, and shortages. To the commodities not available 5 years ago has now been added pretty much everything,with empty shops,empty filling stations,and now,it seems,empty banks, not to mention the outages of water and electric power. Who could possibly want more of that?

A landmark of sorts was passed on Thursday when I got Z$4,000,000 for a pound in Zim, you can be a millionaire for 25p or US51! And the day before,Gideon Gono had to explain that the NIPC (National Incomes & Prices Commission) didn't really mean it when it said that imported goods would be priced at cost plus 50% converted at the official rate they had been misreported. Godwills (compared to Godzilla in his destructive power) Masimirembwa was present while this unconvincing explanation of his foolishness was propounded, and said that it hadn't been his intention to bar imported goods from the shops (what did he intend? did he think it through?). Gono went on to say that price blitzes like three months ago would be severely punished (unlike the last one) and that we needed imported goods while local production was re-established with the help of money from the RBZ. I have to say Ive seen little sign of this production ever since last week, Delta Beverages Graniteside depot has been stone empty,and other producers seem similarly to be failing.

Delta Beverages has a big sign saying, Cheques only accepted by prior arrangement,so I had to get permission to pay them by cheque. The black market is a different matter the average street trader doesn't accept cheques! Restricting cash will stamp out the black market,but how then will we access necessities? In 2003,I remember buying a stone carving with a cheque the seller took my details and then swapped the cheque for cash with the TM supermarket across the road,but that was then,and this is now. Gono hints at a new currency - perhaps hes waiting till he can make the new dollar worth a million old ones it would clearly make things easier to shift the denomination by multiples of three by now, we've got beyond a new dollar being worth 1,000 old ones there would still be 2,000 to a US dollar,but 2 to a US$ would mean reintroducing coins,which are expensive to make,and the coins would cost more to produce than they were worth in face value. The problem with trying to stamp out the black market is that there is considerable collateral damage to society when the people are deprived of the ability to conduct normal trade just now,well be back to corry shells,or barter! If there were enough of them,trade would be conducted in US$ or ₤ - certainly,prices are quoted in them.

The Independent reports that 90% of bakeries in the country have closed. The reason is that the NIPC insists on denominating prices as they wish them to be as opposed to what they are. Wheat costs Z$1 billion a tonne instead of the gazetted price of $100 million, and fuel prices are still gazetted at $60,000 a litre instead of the true price of around $2.3 million. Thus,the cost to produce a loaf of bread is $400,000 to $500,000, while the NIPC has just raised the approved retail price from $100,000 to $200,000. Over the past 4 months,standard loaves have disappeared, to be replaced by Fancy Bread of one kind or another,or rolls. The supermarket in Strathaven used to make rolls which had long queues waiting for them to come out. However,on Monday I found their bakery shelves full of rolls,and no queues the rolls were in packs of 4, priced at $600,000, and it looked like,at last,this price was encountering consumer resistance. With our magistrates striking because their monthly salary of $20 million cant support them and their families,it is easy to sympathise that would buy just one pack of rolls a day for 33 days,leaving nothing over for rent,and all the other necessities. The government says it cant afford to pay them more,and yet it seems able to come up with the money for fancy cars for traditional chiefs,and military and political chefs. I haven't seen the term Failed State defined,and every country which has been so described has had civil war somewhere in its past,but it seems to me that present-day Zim is a failed state. Just because there isn't turmoil on the streets doesn't mean all (or anything) is well. Once again I wonder at the docile acceptance of the unacceptable!

When my sons were little,I bought a Peanuts poster showing the lugubrious Charlie Brown with his dog,Snoopy,and the rubric, No problem is so big or so complicated that it cant be run away from. That's our government they seem to hope that if they refuse to recognise the existence of problems, they will go away! The only person who seems to be aware of the problems,is Gideon Gono,who isn't even in the government.

As inflation gathered pace back in July,department stores stopped credit sales. Hitherto, these had allowed customers to buy with zero deposits and pay the balance over 3 6 months. Obviously,with an inflation rate like ours,despite the payment coming to 200% of the original selling price,the customers were still winning. Now,it is said, Gono has leant on the stores to reinstate credit sales,and they have agreed to do so, but with a repayment period of 3 4 weeks tops!

And just to add to the sense of isolation,Zambian Airways have cancelled their daily flights between Lusaka and Harare effective the end of this month,saying they don't make a profit on the route. There cant be many carriers left still flying into Harare other than Scare Zim,and they cant be making a profit either!

Here are today's supermarket prices the prices on 31.10.07 are in brackets. Then, a pound bought Z$2 million - my latest rate was $4 million (+ 100%). Changes are expressed as percentages,and n/a means not available.

Eggs: $2.4mill/dozen large ($480,000 9 weeks ago - +400%)
Gouda Cheese: n/a
Milk: $400,000/litre ($165,000 - + 142%)
Bread: n/a
Potatoes: $730,500/kg ($495,500 - + 47%)
Fat-free mince: $9mill/kg ($1.2 mill/kg 9 weeks ago (not fat-free) - + 650%)
Mealie meal: n/a
Cooking oil: n/a
Tomatoes: $980,000/kg ($362,500 - + 170%)
Bananas: $830,000/kg ($370,000 - + 124%)
Sausages: $21,200,000/kg ($1,610,000 - + 1,118%)

It can be seen that prices have,with one exception,more than doubled (in some cases,very much more!) in four weeks. The sausage price I had to read three times,following the figures with my finger because I could scarce believe that it had gone up so much in 4 weeks (the price was $10,600,000 for 500g). For sausages to cost 2 times what mince costs seems ridiculous perhaps its the cost of the unavailable bread! Eggs,although still sold by the tray,were quoted to me at $200,000 per egg! (which,at Z$4 million to ₤1,means an egg costs 5p.) Petrol from the pirates beside the filling station in Avondale costs $11.5 million for 5 litres,up 92% from 4 weeks ago.

On Monday,turning over in my mind what I could possibly find as an upbeat note on which to end this letter,I went to The Cheeseman on the scooter,and there it was the happiness of riding along Sherwood Drive in my shirt sleeves under a canopy of flamboyant trees in bloom,while above that canopy,the sun shone out of a blue sky with fleecy white clouds. I compared this with the last time I was in Britain in November,when the skies were grey and releasing unceasing drizzle,and the weather was cold and miserable (as was I!). Yes, Zim still has something to be said for it!

And on that note, let me take my leave! Richard

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Puerto Vallarta Stand Up

Puerto Vallarta, wherever you are, please stand up.

So I was standing in the line at the pharmacy and overheard the pharmacist and patient in front of me having a conversation. Here's the interesting part:

Patient: I need it today because I'm going off on holiday.
Pharmacist: I can get that for you, where are you going?
Patient: I'm going to Puerto Viagra in Mexico.
Pharmacist: I hear it's lovely there.

Amazingly the pharmacist managed to wipe her smile within a split second of realizing that the patient had no idea what she'd just said.

I'm sure that Puerto Vallarta is going to be able to stand-up to its new name. I'm just not sure how long for. Is it 24-hours?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The versions are regressing

Usually, when you bring out a new software product, you increase the version number. This is what the Romans did with their Roman Numerals when they were still making software.

Microsoft have just released the third version of their C# Compiler and have given it the version number 3.5. The first one they versioned 7.1 and the second one 8.0. I'm going to send Microsoft a letter and explain how the versioning system works.

Or... Are Microsoft becoming environmentally friendly and recycling everything including version numbers?

(Click image to zoom to full image.)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

O'Doul's - restricted or not?

O'Doul's is my favorite non-alcoholic lager. If you stick a wedge of lime in the neck I can't tell the difference between it and a Corona except for the fact that I exaggerate a little more after the Corona.

The drinking laws in the United States prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from buying booze. So the question that I have asked several times: Is O'Doul's restricted for sale to under-21's or not?

Next time that you're in a restaurant ask a waitress this question. 95% of the time they will not know. The other 5% of them will be divided on the answer.

I thought that I'd found the answer when shopping at Safeway's. I bought some O'Doul's and at the checkout the register to not ask the cashier to check my I.D. So that must be it I decided, it's not regarded as a restricted drink.

To my surprise, however, when shopping at Fry's Supermarket the register ask the cashier to check my I.D. So apparently Fry's have classified it as alcoholic and Safeway's as non.

So if you're under-21 and want to buy it you need to shop at Safeway's and not Fry's. This is of course a moot point as no self-respecting under-21er would risk damaging their reputation by buying a non-alcoholic lager. This is a drink that will only be bought by someone with the choice.

Full moon rise

This evening there was a full moon and the moonrise was just after the sunset (5:21pm Arizona Time) so I thought that I would try and capture the moonrise on camera.

I hiked to the top of Piestewa Peak as this would be a great point from which to watch it. It was a fairly chilly day so I tried to time my arrival at the top as closely to the moonrise as possible. I was, however, about 20 minutes early. This meant that by the time the moon had showed itself I was shivering from cold.

I did get these shots which I'm averagely pleased with. I think that there may have still been too much light to make this a great full moon rise.

Depending on how cold it is I might try and do this again next month.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Junk Mail

I've started sending empty envelopers back to companies who send me annoying junk mail with return envelopes to buy stuff. I'm wondering if anybody else does this?

I'm thinking that companies should start numbering their envelopes so that when they receive an empty one they will know that the person wants to be taken off the mailing list. A bit like clicking the remove me link on emails to stop receiving them.

If everyone started returning empty envelopes then the cost of sending out mailings would soar and would force companies to reconsider who they mailed. I have heard that only 2 to 5% of mailings are responded to. If that's the case then the cost of receiving return mail would rise by a factor of 20 to 50 times what it currently is if everyone returned their envelopes.

I'm curious to know if others have opinions or ideas along this theme...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Soft Latin Rap

I was listening to Julieta Venegas' Eres Para Mi on the way home from work on the radio and was trying to work out its classification. It's an excellent song but seems to be in an unusual category of soft Latin rap. Does anybody know the more commonly known classification for this type of music?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lango Massi

We went to the Deli Palace a couple of days ago and had one of the best curries I've had in a long time - excluding of course the ones that my wife makes makes. Before we'd even sat down the waitress asked what we'd like to drink. I spoonerised Mango Lassi into Lango Massi. The waitress almost collapsed laughing. How very rude of her.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Not Authorized

Good quote at a conference today:

"We're speaking as people who are not authorized to speak about this stuff"

Monday, November 05, 2007

Copper Bark Tree?

Went hiking in Crown King yesterday and came across this tree with a copper bark and I can't identify it. Anybody know what it is?

I seems that half the trunk is covered with this copper bark and the other half is bare.

I have tried to search for the obvious "Coppper Bark Tree" etc. but nothing shoes up yet...

EDIT: Thanks to Melodie (see comments) this tree was identified as a Manzanita. More about it in Wikipedia here: Manzanita.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Beer better than water after exercise

News story I just read with my thoughts in italics.

A recent study at Granada University in Spain has found that drinking beer after exercise to be better at rehydrating you than water. The study was tested on 25 college students. I bet that they had a really tough time finding college students that were willing to participate in a study that involved drinking beer. The students had to perform strenuous exercise in 104F temperatures. This was probably lugging barrels of beer from the truck up into the hall where the study was taking place.

The group was split into two and half of them drank beer and the other half drank water. What a bummer. Imagine signing on for the study and being assigned to the group that has to drink water. Now it doesn't take a mathematical genius to notice that they managed to split 25 people into 2 groups. Why 25 if you're splitting them in 2? What happened to the odd man out? Was he alternating between beer and water?

Apparently the hydration effect in those drinking beer was slightly better than those who drank water. I know why this was. Those drinking the water were standing there sulking and reluctantly sipping at their drinks while they were watching the others drink beer.

I know when Christmas starts

I've discovered when Christmas starts. It's at midnight on Halloween. It has come to my attention that workers in stores across America have instructions to take down the Halloween decorations at midnight on Halloween and replace them with Christmas decorations.

I've noticed that Tom has already lamented about Wal-Mart starting the Christmas (Shame on Wal-Mart) music. Tom: the law says that Christmas starts when Halloween ends, not when Thanksgiving ends. Go back to law school.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Halloween sugar buzz

It was Halloween last night. This was our first Halloween in our new house. Well it was my first Halloween as the trouble and strife had to work. It was great fun.

It was/is a great way to meet a lot of people in the community.

Next to the front door I had a packet of eyeball chocolates. I was fascinated at the different approaches each kid took to getting their loot of candy. Some kids politely took one eyeball and I had to encourage them to take more. Others put their buckets down and dived in with both hands scooping up as much as possible.

I tried to get rid of all the candy but at the end of the evening there eyeball packet was still half full. I thought it was all over when fairly late into the evening some stragglers arrived; just two kids. I made them take the rest of the candy.

I'm wondering if this is the best Halloween strategy for a kid. Go out late and then you have everyone giving you everything that's left over. Or does this backfire and you end up visiting lots of houses that have run out of candy?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Buffalo vs Lion vs Crocodile

Who will win? This is one of the most impressive YouTube videos that I have seen. An amateur takes a video at Kruger National Park. Lions attack Buffalo, Crocs join in and the fight begins...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Double Pillowcase

I was about to write another blog post when my wife called to me for help. She'd just washed the sheets and pillowcases for the guest bed and had made up the guest bed and one of the pillowcases was missing. She'd looked everywhere and couldn't find it.

It was time for detective husband to come to the rescue. I thought that I would share these tips with others who may one day need them.

I started the search in the laundry. It wasn't in the washer or dryer or down the back. I then went to the bedroom and checked that it hadn't ended up underneath the fitted sheet. All good so far but sometimes I've seen that pillowcase roll itself up in a tight ball and hide in a corner of the duvet cover. My wife assured me that the duvet cover was inside out when she started so it couldn't be in there.

Then I realized what had happened. The pillowcase had covered the pillowcase on pillow #1. Someone, no names mentioned, was chatting away on the phone and forgot to put down pillow #1 and pick up pillow #2 when moving on to pillowcase #2.

Never underestimate the cunningness of a pillowcase.

Phoenix Twilight

I'm fairly happy with how this photo turned out. It was taken on 10/19/2007 at 6:33pm (which is around half an hour after sunset) from the top of Piestewa Peak looking west.

I don't think that many people use all the facilities on their digital cameras. I have a ton of specialized settings on my camera under the PICT option as follows: Museum, Text, Food, Landscape/Portrait, Marine, Flower, Self-Portrait, Surf, Snow, Sunset. I have used them all, even the marine option, from a porthole in a submarine.

This photo, however, was taken with the twilight setting and using the timer. When I use the twilight setting I find that my hand is not steady enough for the length of time the shutter is open so I need to rest it somewhere. Using the timer means that I don't need to touch the camera at all and that reduces shake.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

We've recently become the proud owners of our first pot plant; Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. It turned up on our doorstep one evening courtesy of our friends Justin and Liz.

We've also just had our side yard paved (background of photo) and so it was lucky that we already had a plant to adorn it with.

Over tea and toasted raisin bread we sat on our patio this morning and spent at least 45 minutes discussing Brilliant Hibiscus. Are we going to re-pot it? Or are we going to plant it? If we're going to re-pot it, must we do it ourselves or can we take it to a nursery and have them do it for us? What goes into the pot with the plant? Earth? Surely they've come up with something better than earth... If not, they're probably selling earth under a fancy name to make it more marketable.

The responsibilities of a new plant-parent are more than I was expecting. We have relatives arriving to stay in a couple of months. I think that I will hand over this decision making to them.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Rim to Rim

On October 14, 2007 I hiked the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim - that's South Rim to North Rim. That link will take you to some photos of the hike. It's a 21 mile hike with an elevation start of 7,000 feet which drops to 2,400 feet at the Colorado River and then a climb back up to 8,000 feet on the North Rim.

It took exactly 10 hours to complete. It would have taken me more like 12 hours to finish if I hadn't been walking with these 2 extremely fit girls who kept me moving a brisk pace. They also kept a close eye on my fluid intake and made me drink frequently which is probably the only reason that I did not end up dehydrated.

Amazingly I did not feel stiff the following day. In fact my previous 2.5 hour hikes over Camelback in Phoenix left me in far worse shape the following day than this 10 hour hike did. I think that it was because of all the electrolytes and Gu Gel shots that I was taking during and after the hike.

The hike started at 4:50am and we arrived at 14:40pm. It was described to me as 2 hikes; the first was the 7 hours to Cottonwood campground and the second was the 3 hours out on the canyon. The two to three hours is grueling. People mention that it's because you have already been going for so long and it's non-stop uphill out the canyon - which is true. There are two other factors that were never mentioned which I think play an equally important role in your struggle out the canon: The altitude, there's way less oxygen up there, and the fact that you've been up since 3:45am. Irrespective of what you've done during the day you're doing to be tired by that time in the afternoon if you got up at 3:45am.

I elected not to hike back this year but intend to do the hike in both directions next year. Valerie and Dede (my amazing hiking buddies) hiked back the next day and most of the rest of the 12 person team that hiked across hiked back the day after that.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Flaw in Chevrolet's Average Economy

What do you do on a long journey to keep yourself occupied? Well here's an idea. Test the Average Economy part of your on board computer to see how well it works. Take a photo of it while driving at 70MPH.

I was bored. There was a long downhill coming up so I reset the Average Economy at the top of the downhill and coasted down. I'm driving a Tahoe which is not the best in fuel efficiency. Would you believe that Chevrolet do NOT expect their Tahoe to get better mileage than 99.9 MPG? That's where the calculation (or at least the display stops) so I was unable to determine exactly how fuel efficient I was being by driving downhill.

So how long do you think it will be before GMC realize this mistake and fix it on their cars? With hybrids becoming more and more popular they're going to have to address this. It's really a question of whether or not they know about this bug in their system.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Double Camelback

In preparation for a south to north rim Grand Canyon hike in about 4 weeks time I decided to simulate a canyon hike using a mountain. This means climbing to the top of the mountain to start and then walking to the bottom and back to the top.

I started at the Echo Canyon car park and hiked up and over Camelback and down the other side to the beginning of the Cholla Trail and then back again.

Times taken in minutes:

Up Echo Canyon: 41
Down Cholla Trail: 24
Up Cholla Trail: 47
Down Echo Canyon: 22

Total time was 2 hrs and 14 minutes.

In case you want to compare your time against mine: I didn't stop for any breaks and kept the clock running all the time. I drank about 1.5 liters of "hydralyte" water. I had a bowl of crunchy cereal in the morning before settings off and didn't use any of my energy gels or eat anything during the hike. I obviously ran most of the down parts.

(Note to self: Put ice in water pack next time and drink more during uphill parts of hike.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Crunchy cereal too long

My wife doesn't eat crunchy cereal in the morning because it takes too long to eat. She has a point. I'm eating a bowl now and I've been at it for at least 10 minutes.

When you give yourself a short time period to get ready for work and breakfast takes this long you have to multi-task. I've tried shaving and eating cereal at the same time but that doesn't work. You end up with your spoon on your chin and the razor in your mouth. If it wasn't one of the first things you were doing in the morning you might be able to co-ordinate it.

So breakfast will have to be over the keyboard while it's crunchy.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Highway Strip

I was driving down the 51 yesterday morning and had just passed the turn off for Bell St. when I saw a pair of women's high heeled shoes in the middle of the lane. Black, Prada I think. About 200 yards further on were a pair of black socks. Things were starting to get interesting. Alas, that is all she shed out the window.

I was expending to see cars backed up (or crashed) and the highway stripper to be in her underwear directing traffic. I think she was probably just a highway tease.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Smokin' Cold

I came to Los Angeles yesterday for a few days on a course. The two things that I immediately noticed were the cigarette smoke and how cold it was.

I often get the impression that California is this clean living society with smoking laws to prevent you ever breathing second hand smoke but that couldn't be further from the truth. I think the laws have created new pockets of smokers around doors which makes it worse than it used to be for non-smokers.

Living in the desert means that you enjoy an 8 to 10 month summer. The downside is that you forget that the rest of the country has seasons and don't take that in to account when you travel. I'm finding it decidedly cold here and forgot to bring anything with long sleeves. A quick bit of research shows that Phoenix has a high which is 30F above LA's today and tomorrow.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


I learned a new acronym today. PIBKAC. Problem Is Between Keyboard And Chair. I find this most appropriate when helping my old man with his computer over the phone:
"Guy, I can't print"
"Is there anything on the screen that says Print?"
short pause...
"Yes, there's a button here that says Click to Print."
"Have you clicked it yet?"
"Go ahead and click it."
short pause...
"It's printing now. Thanks"

Saturday, August 25, 2007

XBox 360

About 3 weeks ago I receive an email in my inbox saying that I'd won an XBox 360. On that same day (as on every other day) I also received about a thousand emails telling me that I'd won the European lottery or that Mr Gambaza from Nigeria would like to give me $150,000,000. Those emails land in my spam box and I rarely see them.

So I've been telling friends that I won an XBox 360. "Where is it?" They usually ask. "It's still coming," I would say. "I got an email saying that I won it and had to send off my address so that they could mail it to me." This is usually greeted by laughter and fun poking that I had been had.

No longer can you jest that way with me. Today FedEx turned up at the front door with the XBox 360 and I've just opened it.

Exactly what I'm going to do with it I don't know because I don't play games. At least young people will think that I'm hip and groovy when they come around to the house because I'll have an XBox 360 sitting there. I'll even run the wires around to the back of the TV to make it look as if it's plugged in.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Negotiating with a Snake

Two nights ago we had some heavy rain and a fair amount of flooding which is ongoing today. The ground is so hard that once it rains heavily the water sits and doesn't soak in. I new that our nearby desert would be great fun for mountain biking with the water and mud and so yesterday afternoon I headed out there.

To get into the desert I have to cross a canal and dyke which I do by a footbridge which is about six feet wide. Half way across the bridge I slammed on brakes because a very large rattler was sitting in the middle of the path, coiled and ready to strike. One of the effects of the flooding, I'm guessing, is that the rattlers are coming into the communities from the desert because their area is under water and on our side of the flood-protecting dyke it's dry.

I tried shouting at it to get it to go back but it wasn't interested. I tried to talk snake to it but it wasn't interested. Snake is an unusual language that very few people know how to talk correctly. Most people mistakenly just hiss at the snake. The true snake talker knows that you have to have to drop in a few clicks and vary the hissing along the sides of your tongue as well as under your front teeth.

After negotiations failed I decided to cycle-the-gauntlet. My intention was to back up and pick up as much speed as possible and whizz past the diamondback before it got a chance to strike. Unfortunately my courage left me before I had even turned the bike around.

Instead, I put the bike between me and the snake and slowly walked past its hissing, writhing coil. Remember that the path is only six feet wide and the rattler was in the middle so I only had three feet to play with.

I tried to keep the spokes of the front wheel between me and it although in my mind's eye I saw it coming straight through the spokes and ripping my leg off.

Disappointingly for you, the reader, but not for me, the snake did not strike but did increase its hissing to that of an over-cooked kettle.

The desert was excellent fun as expected. At one point the entire front cog was under water in the deepest drift that I crossed.

I chose to return via another route for fear that I might meet the rattler again.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Detective Wife

My wife comes home from work and about half an hour later she asks "So how did you enjoy that peach flavored tea?" How did she know I'd had it? I wondered. Turns out that she looks in the trash each day to see what I've been eating and drinking. Her key eye turns to the fridge and notices that there's one less piece of cheesecake in the box. Even when there's no garbage generated she'll know what I've had.

A while after that she asks "So did Ashalia leave a message for me?"
"Oh yes," I say suddenly remembering that I'd completely forgotten to give her Ashalia's message. Turns out that she uses the history feature on the phone to find out who called and what messages I've forgotten.

What I want to know is why she has to ask me what I'm thinking. Surely she has a clever way of finding that out without asking me...?

iRobot go home

We recently bought an iRobot called a Roomba. Here's a YouTube ad for iRobot Roomba. The Roomba is a robotic vacuum cleaner. Technically it's great. The programming is good, it covers the whole area, it's small and can get under anything.

The problem is that it can't empty itself out or unjam itself. In fact it takes longer to clean it out and unjam it each cycle than it would take to use the regular hoover. So from a time saving point of view it's not worth it. I have never seen it make it to the end of a 1hour cleaning program without it jamming and needing assistance. Maybe I live in a very dirty house?

I think, and hope, that this device will eventually improve to the stage where it will use the cyclone concept. It would have to be an articulated device that looks a bit like a large ant with part of it being able to extend under furniture and the other part operating the taller cyclone device.

I look forward to trying it out again in the future but for now I must send the iRobot Roomba back to the mother ship.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Image IQ #5

In which town/place with a population of 6 has this man been hanged? Why was he hanged?

Image IQ #4

What is this famous building/structure? What is the closest town (not city)? What is the purpose of the dome at the end of the structure?

Image IQ #3

Where is this photo taken? (Clue: in south eastern quadrant of Arizona) What is the photo of? Why is the water at the bottom blood red?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Profile of a rattlesnake bite victim

Although I haven't been bitten by a rattler and have no desire to be I've read about the victims. Most of them fit a certain profile. Apparently they're heavily tattooed, almost always men and usually drunk.

I've decided that the best strategy to avoid being bitten when encountering a rattler is to not be a man, tattooed, or drunk. Sometimes not being these things is difficult so I have some ideas. If you mince past the snake it might not recognize that you're a man. Roll your sleeves down over your tattoos and if you've been drinking then hold your breath.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Image IQ #2

For 20 points and the chance to go through to the next round, in which south-eastern Arizonan town was this picture taken?

Angry Botanist Corrects Sign

I was innocently shuffling along a hiking trail in the Chiricahua Mountains checking that each plant and tree had been correctly named when I came across an Emory Oak.

It was clearly not a Mexican Blue Oak as it had originally been label by someone.

I can only imagine the fury and anger of the botanist who encountered this mislabeled tree. He (or she) must have jumped in his (or her) car and driven the 10 miles back to Portal (a small store in the middle of nowhere in south-eastern Arizona) and bought a Sharpie (felt tip pen) and rushed back to correct this sign.

Can you imagine an entire generation of kids growing up in South-Eastern Arizona thinking that an Emory Oak was a Mexican Blue Oak?

Friday, July 13, 2007

More or less of me?

The last time that I checked how many of me there were I discovered that there were 69 of us. Now, 6 months later, I've just gone to today to check if we've increased or decreased in number and I discovered that we have another one. There are now 70 of us.

People sharing my first name have increased from 89,991 to 90,694 (+703) which is a massive annualized growth rate of 1.6%. People sharing my last name have increased from 230,976 to 232,780 (+1,804), also 1.6%.

I've also discovered that my 2 brothers are represented by 3,074 and 456 other ones respectfully.

So according to my calculations there are 299,999,930 you people and 70 us people that live here. So don't try and tell me that I'm not a minority.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Bank of America and Profanity

I'm not sure if this really qualifies as profanity...?

From: WTF

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Fastest Car Purchase Ever

I was just reading Tim Heuer's speed of social networks blog post and remembered this story.

I like to claim that I made the fastest car purchase ever. Until someone comes up with a faster tale, I'm going to continue to believe that.

I think it was 1997. Around 40 of us were working for this company overlooking Oxford Circus in the centre of London. A colleague of mine was transferring to the New York office. There was about a week before he left.

The old "You have mail" message popped up on my screen.

Tony had sent an email to the entire office that read something like this:

Off to New York in 1 week. Haven't got around to selling my car. Garage says that it's worth 3000. I'll give it to the first bidder for 2000 on condition that I can keep it until the day I leave.

I'm sure that it had the make and model and a few other details but those weren't important. I wasn't even looking for a car but I saw a good deal so I clicked reply and typed "done" and then clicked send.

I didn't know this but Tony had set a stopwatch when he hit the send button and later I discovered that he received my reply 45 seconds after he sent out the ad. Another astute colleague also accepted the offered but he thought about it and 2 minutes was too long. He received eight offers that day and 20 by the end of the week. Half the company had agreed to buy his car but yours truly was first in line and drove away with it.

So that's how someone who wasn't looking for a car read an advert in 10 seconds, made a decision in about 0.5 seconds, and bought a car. It was a great car and served me well for a number of years after which some friends inherited it and had it for many years after that.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Kitchen Basketball

I've started playing basketball - well kitchen basketball to be exact - it's safer to start this way than immediately show your ineptitude on the court in front of 8-year-olds.

The sink as you can see, is the perfect basket. Getting it in is not difficult but making it stay in is.

The ball that I'm playing with is a Wilson NCAA ball. NCAA is an acronym for the National Basketball Association, the overseeing basketball organisation in the US. The team in charge of creating acronyms at the NCAA is not the best in the world.

Top tips for Kitchen Basketball:

  • Clear away all glasses and glassware before you start a game.
  • Don't tell your mother/wife that you play this game and only play when she's not at home.
  • If you hit the faucet handle such that water sprays on the kitchen floor take a 1 point penalty.
  • Score an extra point if you bounce the ball off 2 surface items before it dunks.
  • Score 3 extra points if you reflect off the microwave and oven before you "sink" it.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Full Moon Piestewa

I have no idea why but I found myself awake at 5am this morning. Knowing how hot the rest of the day was going to be I decided to take advantage of this unusual dawn rising and hiked up Piestewa.

When I got to the parking lot I was surprised to see (1) so many other cars there and (2) myself there.

I started hiking at 5:30am and that photo is taken at about 5:35am. There had been a full moon about 20 hours earlier so you can see that there's a bit missing from the lower right side of the moon in this picture. This was the coolest part of the day and the temperature was about 75F (24C) at the bottom at this time.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

You walk like a sissy

I emerged from a parking garage downtown this morning at about 7:30am. I was attending a conference. As I hit the pavement a homeless woman started shouting at me. I couldn't hear what she was saying at first but as I got closer, and between her f'ing and blinding expletives I discovered that she was telling me that I walked like a sissy.

I challenge anybody to have had a better start to their day than I had.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Stars and Stripes on Piestewa

I went for my evening stroll up Piestewa today and when I got to the top I noticed that someone had put the star spangled banner on the least accessible peak of the 3 peaks at the top. I'm not sure why it's here. Does anybody know? I thought at first that it might be for the anniversary of Lori Piestewa's death but that's on 23rd March. It might be in preparation for 4th July but it seems a bit early...

I have tried to make it a rule to take my camera with me whenever I go hiking now because it seems that there's always something different or new on each hike - even the repeated ones - such as today.

The temperature at the bottom was 107 at the end of the hike - I forgot to check what it was at the beginning.

I'm particularly proud of this next photo of the flag that I took. I had to climb across to the bottom of the third peak to get the shot. Can you see the moon in the background doing a little bit of waxing? Do you know how you can tell if the moon's waxing or waning? If you're in the northern hemisphere and you can cup the moon with your right hand then it's waxing. (If you can't see the moon in the picture then click the picture and it should open the full sized version of the photo.)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

100F at midnight

Last year Rob recorded us hitting 100F at midnight on 23 July 2006. For you non people (i.e. you people) that would be 38C. We have an advertised price of 115F (46C) at 4pm today so I'm wondering if we're going to hit the magic 100F at midnight tonight?

By the way, if you ever need to do conversion quickly and easily and you're in front of the computer then Google will do it for you in their search box. Just type "115f in c" and voila.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Name that film

I'm just watching AFI's 100 films on telly and heard a great quote. "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here, this is the war room." Can anyone tell me the name of the film and who said it?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Smokin' Piestewa

I took another hike up Piestewa this evening. It was about 105F when I set out from the bottom so not a cool hike. After 32 minutes I reached the top where I sat and wondered if not being able to breathe was worth the exercise and view.

About 5 minutes after I got to the top a vagrant arrived. This was a bit surprising as all the other hikers had high tech hiking boots, camel backs, Kevlar walking poles, altimeters, and heart rate monitors. He had a pair of torn grey flannel pants, a dirty button down shirt and unlaced very worn trainers. His hair was dirty and platted and some of it tied back with string and when he smiled through his matted beard you could see that alternating teeth were missing.

I had this urge to shout out "dad" but then I realised that although my father aspires to a status such as that he stills has far to go to get there.

He was carry a plastic shopping bag in his hand and from it he produced an almost finished bottle of water, some iced tea and a disposable camera. I offered to take his photo for him however he said that he could take his own but I'm sure that he just didn't trust me and thought I'd run off with his camera. We chatted for a short while and I learned that he was up there to watch the new moon. It was only going to be visible for a short while as it chased the setting sun in the east. I was somewhat surprised at his knowledge of the stars and moon phases but considering that I know next to nothing he could have told me anything and I would have believed it.

As I was about to leave he opened his plastic bag and pulled out some paper and what I thought was tobacco and rolled himself a joint. I started my journey down the mountain with Wern Snell of Colitas rising up through the air.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Last Con

On Monday evening 4 June 2007 my wife and I took an evening stroll through the desert. I call this "The Last Con" because she swears that she isn't going to be conned into another night desert walk with me again. She's had enough of rattlesnakes.
Let's take the photos in order.
It takes us about 20 minutes walking along the side of the canal (Central Arizona Project Canal) until we're into the desert in a part of Reach 11 called the Arizona Horse Lovers Area. As we enter the desert the sun is setting. You may have been able to work this out from the first photo.
We we're in there for about 10 minutes when we encountered rattlesnake #1. When a rattlesnake shakes its tail it doesn't actually make the sound of a rattle it's more like the sound of an angry cat hissing. I immediately swung the flashlight to the hissing sound and then back to where my wife should have been standing. I swear that Carl Lewis couldn't have covered that distance in the time that she had. I coaxed her back to hold the flashlight while I took some pictures. You can see how well camouflaged it is even with light. Of course, in the dark it's invisible.
Another 20 minutes further on we came across the second rattler. This one was far more relaxed and wasn't interested in shaking its booty at us. However, it was heading straight towards us and didn't appear interested in changing course so we had to take a slight detour to get past it without encounter.
I've no idea how I'm going to convince her to come on another night hike with me. Any ideas?

Zoot Sprint Triathlon Lake Pleasant

9 June 2007 - Zoot Sprint Triathlon. We were planning on doing this as a relay but we couldn't find a runner so I swam, Fred cycled and we both ran.
This was a fantastic triathlon! The water was clear and warm and an absolute pleasure to swim in. Time 18:50 for 1,000 meters. The run was tough but very enjoyable as we ran along the Pipeline Canyon Trail through the desert and so did very little road running. My running time was 33:30 for about 3 miles. Using the word running is of course an exaggeration as it consisted of walking and plodding. I think that our total time was 1:48:00 so this our figure to beat next year.
This all took place on the west side of Lake Pleasant which is about 45 minutes north west of Phoenix.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Lost in Translation

In the video I posted in the last blog you hear me say that I think that the animal is a meerkat. On watching the video my wife tells me that no one will understand me because a meerkat is a South African animal and no one will have hear of it. She was bloody right as well.

Wikipedia tells me that a meerkat comes from the mongoose family. So that leads me to wonder if that animal is in fact a mongoose? But looking at some pictures of mongeese tell me that it probably isn't.

...Pause while he goes off and does some more searching...

Okay I think I have the answer. I found to images of a Ring Tailed Cat (Bassariscus astutus) and I believe that is what it is.

What am I?

Here is a video clip that I took at the top of Piestewa Peak today. This animal that looks like a small fox but has a ringed tail and the demeanor of a cat comes strolling along and hangs out with me at the top. I poured some water into a hole in the rocks at my feet and he (she/it) drank a fair amount of it. I'm sure he was looking for food but I know that's wrong so I didn't give him any.

Anyway, what is he? What type of desert animal is this. Very friendly and laid back, almost domesticated. And what the hell was he doing 1,200 feet higher than the closest house if he is a scavenger? (I'm assuming that people have been feeding him but at the peak? Why not lower down?)

The other persons voice that you hear in the video is someone who arrived at the summit with me and he said that he's been hiking to that peak for 20 years and had never seen anything like that. I think that 20 years is a hell of a long time to get to the top considering that it only took me 36 minutes but then that heavy panting you hear at the beginning of the video is the 20-year hiker catching his breath.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Piestewa Peak

Before you get confused, the picture is of Camelback from the top of Piestewa Peak. The reason you can't see the shape of the camel's head is because you're looking right up its nostrils.
I hiked up Piestewa Peak today. It used to be called Squaw Peak but I've been told (and I have no idea how true this is) that it was renamed in honor of a Native American called Piestewa who died in the Iraq War.
It's a 1.2 mile trail with an elevation gain of 1,200 feet and it took me 36 minutes to get to the top which I know is slow because plenty of people overtook me on the way up. I took a very leisurely stroll down because my wife had caught up with me by then and it was getting dark so we couldn't see the path that well.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Big Images

In the past I've downsized the images before posting them on the web. Recently I've noticed that is doing an excellent job of resizing the smaller version for me which allows me to post the full sized image in the blog. If you want to see the full image then just click on it and you can see much more detail.

Big Earl's Greasy Eats

I'd seen Big Earl's Greasy Eats on the news a few months back. It made the headlines because Donald Sutherland was there shooting a new movie called Jolene which is due in October 2007.

The movie is based on a short story by EL Doctorow and follows the journey of a young woman as she travels across the country for ten years. Apart from Donald Sutherland the case will also contain Jessica Chastain, Rupert Friend, Theresa Russell, and Shannon Whirry.

Enough about the movie, it's not even out yet. Some friends were in town and we'd just been evicted from our local mall because our friends had their Chihuahua with them and our mall security weren't having any Chihuahua in their mall.

On seeing Greasy in the name of the restaurant I guessed that they weren't going to be as fussy and they allowed Timone (the Chihuahua) to run riot and knock over blades of grass and terrorize a colony of ants.

If you're ever in the town of Carefree, AZ, I highly recommend you try the Big Kahuna Chicken burger and the sweet potato fries with a vanilla malt shake. I do not believe that combination can be improved on. My wife thinks that the sauce they put on that burger was the best she's ever tasted (I would certainly put it in the top five) and I completely agree with her that the vanilla malt shake was the best that I have ever had.

Big Earl's Greasy Eats is at 6141 E Cave Creek Rd, Cave Creek, AZ 85331
(480) 575-7889

Tell them that Big Guy sent you - but only if you want to completely confuse them because they have absolutely no idea who I am.

I've found their hiding place

I've solved one of life's big mysteries about where tumbleweed hide. I've had tens of thousand of letters, emails and phone calls about my recent blog post Tumbleweed that questions where they go when it's not windy.

Two weeks ago while walking in Reach 11 I found their graveyard. Hundreds of tumbleweed tucked under the Honey Mesquite, Palo Verdes and Creosote Bushes. See photo for evidence.

This is the Elephant's Graveyard for Tumbleweed.

Blue Moon Hike

Two nights ago (or was it three?), there was a blue moon and I conned my wife into going on a night hike in the desert with me. I did that by delaying the hike until just before sunset so it became dark shortly after we started.

We came across a baby rattlesnake in the first 10 minutes of the hike which set the tone for a very skittish wife. We almost missed the rattler because it looked like a stick lying across the trail. After that all sticks were potential serpents.

Surprisingly, we saw very little wildlife activity after the sun fell. I was expecting to catch the reflection of pairs of eyes in the bushes every now and then but nothing.

We when got back to the car my wife said: "There's no way I would have gone out there with you if it was this dark when we started."

The con worked.

Echo Canyon

I've been wanting to hike Echo Canyon for a long time and today I did it. It was a spur of the moment decision.

The Echo Canyon trail is 1.2 miles long (one way) and 1,264 feet to the summit at 2,704 feet.

Time going up was 45 minutes and down was 21 minutes with a 15 minute rest at the top.

The picture shows a rail to help hikers up and down the extremely steep parts. This is one of two rails. On the was down I sat on the rail and slid instead of walking.

The other way of getting to the top of Camelback Mountain is by approaching it from the east side on the Cholla Trail which is longer (1.5 miles) but not as steep.

I'm planning to hike with some friends from the south to the north rim of the Grand Canyon later this year and so I'm going to have to do plenty more of this type of hiking to train for that.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Golf not so good

I've just had a couple of friends from England stay with me. We have an intense rivalry at golf and so 3 games were played in 5 days. I took what I thought was a sensible approach to attempting to get the crown of international champion which was to visit the driving range almost every day for the 3 weeks preceding their arrival.

With that amount of practise I thought that my game would be blindingly good but it turn out to be average at best and I did not emerge the winner.

This reminds me of a technique that my father employs when playing me at golf. We too have a good rivalry and competition when playing against each other and I rarely beat him. When we are living in close proximity we will have a summer series and I have yet to win one. His technique is to watch my ups and downs and when I start playing well or hit a purple patch he just refuses to play me. Very clever.

His other technique is to take me straight from the airport to the golf course and catch me half asleep. I tried to reverse that on him once in London. I picked him up at Heathrow, we dumped his bag, picked up the golf clubs and went straight to the course. I lost.


I was watching a snippet on the morning news a couple of days ago and discovered that not too far from us is the ultimate doggy spa and salon. It appears that they offer everything for your dog that could be offered for a human. They will wax, oil, cut, brush your dog and even give it a pawdicure.

I often wonder which country loves their animals more: Britain or US. I remember watching the Grand National in the UK with my grandmother many years ago and when a horse and rider fell my grandmother would let out a gasp and say "I hope the horse is alright."

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Optical Illusion

I don't usually care much for these optical illusions because I've seen them all a dozen times and they are somewhat passé but here is one that I hadn't seen before that I thought was fairly cool.
Do you see the 4 small (tiny) dots arranged vertically just to the right of the heart shape? Bring your face a few inches from the screen and stare at the dots for about 30 seconds. Now look at a wall or surface with a smooth uniform color. Blink your eyes a few times and tell me who is staring back at you.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Splash & Dash 2007 #2

So it was Saturday morning and I was all ready to do the second splash and dash of the season and then I realized that I had eaten a poppy seed bagel the day before. I remembered reading somewhere that all it takes is the number of poppy seeds on one bagel for you to fail a doping test in the sports world.

So I decided that instead of risking be banned from the Splashes and the Dashes for the rest of the season and possibly the rest of my sporting career I would give this one a skip and definitely try and do the following one but remembering not to eat poppy seeds the week before the event.

Monday, April 30, 2007

The Arizona Camel

An ancient camel (8,000 to 10,000 years old) was recently dug up in Mesa, Arizona, about 30 miles from where I live. However, it took a blog comment from Mike who lives about 10,000 miles away to make me aware of this story. How this made prominent news in South Africa and not here I don't know. I'm sure that it made the news here but obviously wasn't a big story as I missed it and had to look it up.

Funny how things happening in your back yard and you don't know about it. More worrying are when things are in your back yard and you don't know they are there. The classic case is when someone comes to stay with you and wants to go and see something. You've never heard of this thing but when you look it up you discover that it's that strange building that you've been wondering about over the last couple of years but couldn't be bothered to find out about.

We were recently in San Diego and our host who has been living there for 7 years took us to Coronado Island. We'd been there once before and I suggested that when we return from the "island" that we don't drive over the bridge to get there but along the peninsula and come back that way. She insisted that it was an island and that the only way on and off was via the bridge and was surprised when I managed to navigate our way off the so-called island without using the bridge.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Splash & Dash 2007 #1

I did the first Splash and Dash (more like Sink and Saunter) this morning.

Distance: 750m swim and 4km run.
Time: 47:09

The photo is of me half way through it. My wife thinks that I'm looking at my watch but I'm actually staring at that chick's butt. Guess what number I was?

Surprise #1: None of the men wear speedos. Well one other man was wearing a speedo.

I probably exited the water in the first quarter of the field (of about 250 apparently) and finished the run in the last 10% of the field (if that).

During the run, I was only overtaken. I did not overtake a single person myself. I now call myself the "feel good guy." I'm guessing that 75% of the field overtook me so I made them "feel good" that almost everyone (except me) overtook someone.

Surprise #2: I was bitten on my right baby finger by a crab as I was coming out of the water. I swam right up to the edge and my finger went into the sand and came out with a small crab attached to it.

Hurt like hell and I screamed like a girl. Well I'm sure it didn't really sound like that. It was probably a deep burly manly growl of disapproval.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


After that last blog post I decided to visit the Mitchum web site to try and work out what a real man I am. Not needing too much encouragement I took the "Mitchum man-o-meter" test and scored an amazing 95 which means that I am more man than I could have ever imagined or wanted to be.

The award (and test) was presented by the lovely Nina. Don't let that distract you from your manliness though...

Do you own an iron?

I've just started a new stick of Mitchum Gel so that others can be close to me without becoming asthmatic. On the lid it reads "If you're not sure you own an iron, you're a Mitchum man." I had a good chuckle at that. When non-iron shirts first became available in the UK I restocked my cupboard with non-irons. Not because I didn't want to iron (there was no way I was going to do that anyway) - just that I wanted to put an end to the "dishevelled" comments at work.

Although the non-irons worked well there wasn't much variety in the selection and this didn't allow me to be the fashion victim that I wanted to be so in the end I came to an agreement with our amazing receptionist and she'd take my shirts home over the weekend and wash and iron them for me.

I took a look at the old stick I am chucking out and it reads "If you read the sports section first, you're a Mitchum man." Now I certainly cannot relate to that. You see, I'm a doer and not a watcher (or reader in this case) and I don't care how badly I "do" the sport, I'd rather be out there doing it than watching someone else do it.

I think that Mitchum need to reword that caption around the first birthday my wife had after we started dating. As her birthday present I told her that she could caddy for me while I played golf. Amazingly, she thought that this was a good idea. I immediately knew that I'd found the perfect woman. She didn't actually carry the bag for me but she trudged the entire course in good spirits and pushed euphemisms to their extreme as I dug up the fairways.

So how could Mitchum label their stick of deodorant with this experience?

"If you let your wife caddy for you for her birthday, you're a Mitchum man."

Friday, April 20, 2007

Roller Coaster House Prices

This is pretty cool. Richard Hodge from has created a simulated roller coaster ride from 1890 to 2007 showing the inflation adjusted prices of houses from the perspective of riding that roller coaster. Enjoy! Roller Coaster House Bubble.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Gills Design

A friend of mine has just set-up a web site to promote his business so I thought that I'd give it a plug. Here's the link if you need: Drafting & Design for Houses in Phoenix and Arizona.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Richardson's Ground Squirrel

This morning I played golf at The 500 Club. This is the second time that I've played there but it must be one of my favorite courses. Each course has an interesting wildlife habitat that comes in from the desert to take advantage of the water that is so abundant on the golf courses. In fact, the golf courses are the modern day oases in the Arizona desert.

Most prevalent on this course is the Richardson's Ground Squirrel (Genus: Spermophilus). I've been calling the Gophers for about 18 months now but after a bit of research I discovered how wrong I was and I apologized to all the squirrels that I have misnamed.

They are usually very shy and dive into their holes when you come near them. The one in this photo was anything but shy. I was standing over my teed up ball and it ran over to inspect the ball and for a moment I thought it was going to knock it off the tee or take it away. Instead, he (or she - my squirrel sexing skills from 2 yards are not very good) sniffed it and then ran off.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Image IQ #1

Can any of my desert dwelling compatriots tell me what this is? This isn't a TGI Friday quiz that I know the answer to. I've seen this strange configuration all over the desert but have yet to work out what it is.

There are often 4 burial style crosses made of wood near each of the corners and a small mound of rocks. Then there appears to be 2 buried pipes that run along two of the sides. Most of the time there are some capped PVC pipes sticking out in the middle of this strange apparition.

Help is needed to dispel gopher burial sites and aliens.

Click on the image to see a larger image.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Top Blogs from Phoenix, AZ

This is the not-so-official list of top blogs from Phoenix that I've just set-up on Amazon's UnSpun site. Not sure how long WildFiction will remain at the top once my "friends" find out about this...

If this worked correctly then you should see a list above. You can vote directly on the list. The first time you vote you'll be asked to solve a captcha (a bit like beating Kasparov at chess) and then there's no looking back.

Cambridge Who's Who

It is my pleasure to inform you that you are being considered for inclusion into the 2007/2008 Cambridge Who’s Who Among Executives and Professionals “Honors Edition” of the Registry...

Who are these Who’s Who people? Do they have no idea who I am?

Quoting Groucho Marx: “I refuse to belong to any club that will accept me as a member”

Quoting myself: “I refuse to belong to any club that mistakes me for an executive or professional”

Conversions in Google

I recently discovered another neat feature in Google which I believe has been there for years but somehow managed to remain hidden from me for a long time.

Google with do conversions for you in the search box. Try typing any of these phrases:

15 gallons in liters

(also accepts the non American spelling of litres)

4 hectares in acres

3 nymphets in strippers

(Okay the last one doesn't work yet. I guess that Google hasn't finished adding all the conversion tables.)

We will assist you momentarily

Whenever I get put on hold with the CVS pharmacy I get told that I will be assisted momentarily. I thought that momentarily was a made up word until a few minutes ago when I looked it up and indeed it is recognized in North America as a word that means "in a moment." I suppose that someone thought that one word replacing three would add to the brevity of the expression. If that's the case then nobody counted the syllables.

On a completely different subject (although not a complete non-sequitur) I can never use the word syllables without thinking of that clip from Black Adder III where Prince George thinks that Black Adder has said "Silly Bulls."

And again straying slightly off subject, I have a technique for checking the spelling of a word using Google. I type (separately) the two different spellings I think the word can take and see which word has more occurrences in the Google data base. Example: "Results 1 - 10 of about 1,150,000 for non-sequitur", and "Results 1 - 10 of about 62,500 for non-sequiter". Of course Google also asks you "did you mean to be an idiot or are you looking for this word…"

Blogging from Word 2007

I've just discovered a fancy new feature in Word 2007. You can blog directly from Word into your blog. Well at least that is what they say. I am typing this in Word 2007 and if you are reading it on my blog then it successfully published. If you are not reading this then it did not work.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Splash and Dash

I'm planning on doing my first Splash and Dash in 3 weeks time: Splash & Dash Spring 2007 Race #1. Although I've generally done a lot of sports and have almost always maintained a reasonable level of fitness I've never done a bi, tri, or quad-athlon.

Yesterday was my first day of training. I ran 4km along the Central Arizona Project canal. I'm not sure if you would call it a run but perhaps more of a jog. Even jog might be too generous, perhaps a shuffle. I had every intention of doing the 750m swim afterwards but after the shuffle that was not going to happen.

Today I did the swim first (which is the correct order for this Splash and Dash) but was too stiff and sore before and afterwards for another run. I'm thinking of asking the organisers if I can come back the following day to finish the Splash & Dash. I'll keep you posted on their answer.

Lack of Blog

I'm going through a phase of forgetfulness on my blog. Each day I come up with something that I want to blog about but by the time I sit down in front of the computer I've forgotten what it was that I wanted to blog about and so you haven't seen many blogs from me recently.

One trick to jolting the memory that I have found particularly effective is searching for porn. Now don't misunderstand me here - I don't actually go looking at the pictures I just bring up a list of search results. For example, if I typed in "naked images of pamela anderson" I get the usual hits but today I also get one from a web site called and the words wood and tuna jump out at me and remind me of a time I caught a tuna and had to hit it on the head to kill it and then I got the tuna's blood on my face and it got stuck in my beard and when I shaved it... and that's how I got back to the last post about the Four Blades.

(I'm not sure if my wife's going to buy that the next time she walks in on me surfing for porn but I'll let you know how it goes.)

Friday, April 06, 2007

Four Blades

I was restocking my razor blade collection which I do about every 6 months. One blade lasts me about 2 weeks and so the big pack of 16 about 32 weeks. I thought that I had the latest and greatest of the Gillette razors: Mine has a AAA battery that makes the razor vibrate while you're shaving. It's called the G3 Power and has 3 blades. When I've finished shaving I always run my hand along my jaw bone and pretend that I'm 1% as good looking as the guy in the commercial who does that. I notice the mirror vibrate a little if I do it for too long.

I was disappointed to see that Gillette now have a 4 bladed razor called the Fusion. It looks like it comes in both manual and battery power like the G3. My disappointment was because I no longer have the MAX blades that a man can get. I think that the number of blades that they're packing into a razor is now hitting the ridiculous level. It's a bit like the 3rd, 4th, and 5th releases of marginally B movies.

When are they going to stop adding blades to the razor? Will we see a 5, 6, 7, 8, 20 blades razor in the future? Will I have to grow an extra long face to use the 20 blade razor?

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


It was gusty today and with that comes tumbleweed. I'll be sitting staring out into the desert and see sometimes 3 or 4 tumbleweeds go tumbling past.

What surprises me is that when I go walking in the desert I never see them. I would have thought that when the wind isn't blowing they'd just be sitting there on the ground waiting for the wind to pick up. Unfortunately that's not the case. They appear to have gone into hiding.

So the big question is: Where do tumbleweeds hide when there's no wind? And who or what are they hiding from?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Cannons in Love

When young and stupid I used to think that the words for Phil Colin's song "Can't Hurry Love" were "Cannons in Love." I could never figure out why a pair of fighting weapons would fall in love with each other. Now that I'm old and wise I see that it was less a problem with interpretation and more a problem of listening.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Wurn Snell of Colitas

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair, warm smell of colitas rising up through the air.

Name that song...

I'm sure most of you got Hotel California by the Eagles which would be correct.

Well I has driving along a desert highway and as I thought appropriate I was playing that song and in magnificent tone deaf timing I was singing along to it. Now I wanted to know what colitas is.

A search of the web found me that answer on The Straight Dope. My favourite part of that explanation is the mangling of the second part of that line as: "Wurn Snell of Colitas rising up through the air."

This is attributed to Thomas Dzubin of Vancouver, BC with this interpretation of the meaning: "There was this fireworks factory just three blocks from the Hotel California and it blew up! Big tragedy. One of the workers was named Wurn Snell and he was from the town of Colitas in Greece. One of the workers who escaped the explosion talked to another guy. I think it was probably Don Henley and Don asked what the guy saw. The worker said, "Wurn Snell of Colitas, rising up through the air."

I had a good chuckle at that.

Colitas is translated from Mexican Spanish as 'little buds' - a reference to Mary Jane.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Map of Happiness

I recently watched The Pursuit of Happyness (yes spelt like that) with Will Smith and his son starring. Hot on the heels I see this article and map which maps out happy country in the world. Interestingly all the Scandinavian countries rank in the top 20 (including Iceland - I count that as part of Scandinavia but you might not). At the bottom of the list are some African countries.

It looks like money can buy happiness, except maybe in Britain, ranked at 41, or France, ranked at 62. I think that it's the burden of having to be the best lovers in the world that makes the French less happy than the English who are responsible for drinking the most in the world.

Sign Out

I found this somewhat amusing. The image to the left shows part of a screen on a Microsoft site that I came across today. It appears that they have accidentally put the Sign Out button where they should have put the Sign In button.

Certainly has me confused because they not only have the image wrong but the functionality as well. In other words there is no way to sign into the site because only the sign out button is provided. I wonder how long that will take to fix.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

OnStar Canceled

I canceled my OnStar subscription today. After very little success with using it I called them up and listened to the whole cancellation spiel. First of all they try and get you to downgrade to a cheaper package. Then when you say no they drop the price of the cheaper package.

The one thing that really annoyed me was that she said: "You do realize that when you cancel this you will lose your unlimited roadside assistance..." etc. etc. etc. Recently we had a flat tire and we called OnStar and said "we have a flat and need assistance." Their answer: "Sorry, you don't have that package." Later when I questioned that they said: "Oh, we don't know what happened but you definitely have that cover."

The directions and connections are not much good. The software that they use must be fairly simple because they can rarely find buildings around you or it takes them forever to do so.

The only reason that I would have considered keeping OnStar would have been for their automated emergency calling. If your airbags deploy then the system automatically calls OnStar and if you can't speak they will call the emergency services and send them to you. So I thought that this would be useful if I was in a remote area and drove off the road and nobody could see the car. The catch here is that when I have tried to use OnStar in remote areas there is no reception anyway and so I was unable to raise them and so this wouldn't work. In areas where there is reception there are also plenty of other motorists to call 911 if you decided to take a short cut through a river.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Smoking Library Books

I got a book out of the library and discovered that its pages have a strong tobacco smell to them. Unless they have started to use burnt tobacco leaf to make book pages I suspect that a heavy smoker had the book out before me.

Hotels have smoking and non-smoking rooms and restaurants and bars are partitioning the two apart. Will libraries be lending smoking and non-smoking books anytime soon? (Or am I just provoking a comment from my smoking friends?)

Saturday, February 10, 2007


I was watching Bandidas with Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz and I got to thinking... Is it possible that a movie with these two in it not be enjoyable to watch? Irrespective of the subject matter, plot, theme, characters I don't believe that this is possible. They are just too easy on the eye not to be able to make an enjoyable movie.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that it's going to be a good movie or a great move or even a movie where you remember anything that happens. It's just going to be a movie that you enjoy watching.

It is sub-titled "Wild, Sexy and Action-Packed!"

I wish that selecting all movies was this easy.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Dos Equis

Before I learned how to speak Spanish, my friend Peter (who cannot speak Spanish) used to translate the name of this beer for me. He said that Dos means TWO (which it does) and that Equis means MULES (which it doesn't). He said that the beer was called this because it is so strong that it kicks like two mules.
For a long time I believed that because after a couple of them I'd wake up the next day feeling like I'd been kicked in the head by two mules.
I haven't had a Dos Equis for a while now but whenever I do I look at that label and I think "it kicks like two mules."