31 July, 2008

Redhill town centre at sunset

Redhill sunset #2
...shot from the railway station...

30 July, 2008

Send your name to the moon!

Having already sent my name to Mars (project closed in 2002 and I only just get around to picking up my certificate, what am I like?) -
Mars certificate (from 2002-2003)
- so when this one popped up I thought "Why not?"...if you want to join me/us then you'll have to be quick - the moon project closes tomorrow!
Send your name to the moon
Send your name to the moon!

Oh and for bonus points NASA have just launched a new super friendly image and video portal (containing 140,000 images from space history)... ;)

Escalator policy London Underground

What is it with escalators at the moment? At Canary wharf they've been building scaffolding around the "DLR level" to "Mid shopping level" escalator for a few days now (started last week), meaning it's upward partner has been stopped and turned into a narrow flight of stairs (left hand side is up and right hand side is down...not the kind of thing you see every day) -
Canary Wharf - Escalator closed #2
- big queues at the top and bottom at busy times, but then they just occasionally turn it back on again so everyone wastes their time heading for it before having to reverse course and use one of the DLR staircases (yes, very sensible, commuters can put up with more than most people, but some consistency, please)...and to watch them wasting their time turning it into an advertising poster site while they should be working on fixing it is actually probably rather more frustrating...
Canary Wharf - Escalator closed
Canary Wharf - Escalator closed #3
Canary Wharf - Escalator closed #4
Next up is London Bridge...they have taken to switching all the escalators one would normally take up towards the mainline station to coming *down* to the platform (at exactly the time when no-one is trying to go in that direction)...this has been for almost two weeks now (update - finally fixed today!)...with no sensible reason why the trickle of folks coming in this direction can't do it via the stairs from the Northern line...
London Bridge - Escalator
This makes the evening rather inconvenient as it means me getting onto completely the other end of the train at Canary Wharf (the end, of course, where all the escalators are all going the wrong direction - i.e. upwards - again, at this time of night would it not make sense to turn them back the other way?) and then coming out to the secret Borough High street exit...about a 6 minute walk from London Bridge mainline (at top speed)...*very* annoying! :(

I'd love to understand the logic behind the latter contraflow (you can understand closure for maintenance from time to time), but surely it would be sensible to always weight (consistency again) the majority of the escalators in the direction of the majority of the foot flow? Would it be so hard to do that?

"Whiskey tango foxtrot, over" ;)

29 July, 2008

Climbing Nohoc Mul - Coba - (part 4)

Coba #45
Okay, back to Mexico (btw - hit that link to see all of the honeymoon in order on a single page if you need to catch up as it's taking forever to go through all the pics) briefly now (and just to catch you up) we had just been warned - "Nohoch Mul is just ahead, you have 30 minutes, the transport will leave without you if you do not get back in time. Please keep in mind it is 40 degrees centigrade, or about 104 Fahrenheit, you will have to climb almost vertically 140 feet on uneven, slippery polished stone, humidity is close to 98% and your insurance is unlikely to cover you, so please, think carefully before you walk through those trees"...and I had turned heels and stepped towards the stones at the foot of the pyramid just visible in the distance...the trees parted (and the photo can't do it justice) our task was ahead of us...
Coba #47
Talk about a ruin compared to "El Castillo", it's hard to imagine it ever had any right angles...each step varied in depth, height, inclination and grip by a colossal amount, sometimes a step up would be a foot and a half, onto a two-inch deep 30 degree slope of glassy rock covered in a light dusting of fesh-fesh like sand (only the creaking rope being gripped firmly with both hands giving you any hope of making the next one) -
Coba #48
- the next step would then be perfectly straight, comfortably deep and a mottled surface affording you the perfect grip (meaning you are constantly, and literally on your toes the whole time)...it took about six or seven minutes to drag myself to the area just below the top, absolutely dripping with sweat now, my clothing soaked through, fingers slick, my camera banging into my back looped around head and arm (just in case)...but actually, getting up here hadn't been too bad (I thought to myself, with a considerable amount of relief)...certainly not an exercise to undertake without total concentration, but not too bad...that was (and I'm sorry for no pictures, but both hands were used for *proper* climbing at this point) until I saw the *tiny* ledge (big enough to hold about half of my footprint) over the 130 foot drop I was going to have to navigate next...this in order to reach the final three 1.5/2-foot tall steps that also loomed over the void that had to follow...people were *very* cautiously gripping on with all their might to the top of the sheer wall (about 5 feet high) and tip-toeing along this ledge and around the corner, doing a very passable impression of Lara Croft...only one person at a time could traverse this section...I had *very* serious second thoughts (my feet are much larger than most peoples)...I pictured myself slipping on sand and tumbling off pointed rocks all the way to the bottom...I had some very deep breaths...and then some third and fourth thoughts, none of which were very encouraging either, and then (uh oh) a gap appeared in the people and I just gulped and went for it (without looking down), scrambled incredibly inelegantly up the three dusty giant stairs and there I was - standing like a Mayan Elite - on the top of the Yucatan peninsula (I've still got no idea how I managed it)...! I could have cried (had I not been petrified of falling off and completely shattered)...so I contented myself trying to stop myself shaking and carefully getting the camera off my back without dropping it to smash below...
Coba #54
This was about as close to the edge I could get myself to take a picture (my powers of self preservation being considerable) - at the top right of the shot you can just see one of the water sources I spoke of earlier (the reason why the city is here at all), some kind soul has made a panoramic view though, which is well worth a look, but we didn't have time to be mucking around (unfortunately), next I decided to take a look in the temple on the top -
Coba #51
- with obligatory falling god above the doorway -
Coba #52
- and it was actually quite disappointing, I'm not sure what I was expecting to be there...the space was incredibly small, and absolutely nothing was inside (just about a 10 foot tall Mayan arch-shaped empty space - entrance and corridor in a T shape), just enough room for about 5 people to stand comfortably in elaborate costumes (perhaps a box or two of bottles of wine, some snacks, maybe a rack for sacrificial weapons...that kind of thing), but nothing at all there now, not even any decorations...

Anyway, starting to get breath back, it really was time to be heading back down now, had I had a choice I probably would have delayed that horrible gap as much as possible and got myself in a state, but the clock was ticking, so stashed my camera, waited my turn and then scuttled back across...turned around and took a peek at what I had to do next and absolutely reeled with vertigo...it was so steep...coming up had been absolutely fine simply because you didn't have to look at what you were stupid enough to be doing...shit! I have *never* been good with heights...what on earth did I think I was doing? I get reactions sometimes to heights when playing sodding video games...!

What can I say? Thank God for time constraints...? What choice did I have in the matter, we had to get down (although "I'll be fine, I'll just stay up here" did sort of cross my mind in a ridiculous way)...so I started to lower myself, one step at a time, perched on my arse...(at least, I thought, I am cleaning the slippery sand off the the people coming after me)...but it was incredibly slow going, my final solution was to cross (crab-like) over to the rope and then sneakily come down *backwards* (no view of bone smashing fall? No problem!) using the rope to support myself...when I got to a comfortable height (fracture rather than shatter sort of level) we paused for Flyingpops (who was having no problems at all) to take a quick snap (still about 70 feet up mind you) -
Coba #55
- and then I resumed my reverse descent until we finally reached Terra firma (and my heart-rate was allowed to return to normal)...

Jeez...did I really just do that?

We found a small stall selling ice cold water, bought and glugged down two bottles in about 60 seconds flat and then returned to where the guide was waiting (after promising each other we could get a bike back through the jungle)...he was talking as we were waiting for the stragglers to complete the climb - "So now I wish to explain to you, put the jigsaw together, how did these people rule? How did the elite control the people? It was simple, they ruled by..." and here, he hushed his voice, ducking down with a sparkle in his eye..."Magic!"...he stared directly at the little girl whose ears he had covered earlier (who looked incredibly shy and hid behind her mum)...

He smiled and stood up - "Put in your mind, these people, their heads deformed, looking not like the regular Mayan people, dressed in elaborate costumes, hidden at the top of the pyramid in the temple, word has been sent out to the people to come along on a certain day. They come, they assemble in their thousands, on this particular day the sun rises directly behind the pyramid, the top of the pyramid is covered in obsidian, when the sun strikes it the gold colour in the rock bursts out at the correct moment, out step the ruling elite, it looks from here as if they have walked directly out onto the top of the pyramid from inside the centre of the sun"..! "They have used their incredible mathematics and astronomy to create this illusion, the people are in awe already, and then, thanks to the acoustics of the pyramid, their voices are boosted to a booming level, they can be heard from miles away"..."What do they say? They use their calendar to announce the movement of the moon, the timing of the next eclipse, to these people it seemed that the Gods were manifested before them! Speaking the secrets of the heavens!"...it's all suddenly so clear...there is no mystery here, the Mayans were ruled through a combination of clever science and showmanship...

...and as we paid our money and collapsed into our taxi bike my mind spinning with everything we had already seen and done it came back to me that this day had much more left to offer - on the bus (at about 8am) we had been asked to choose what we would like to eat for lunch (chicken, pork or "vegetarian") as it was going to be cooked in a pit, wrapped in banana leaves in the traditional Mayan manner (which would take 3 or 4 hours)...and then after we would be privileged enough to go and visit a real Mayan village, not a tourist reproduction, but a current living breathing settlement taking it's first faltering steps towards integration with modern Mexico (but more on that later)...

28 July, 2008

Devouring "Dexter"

Really can't hype this up enough, I discovered it through (of all places) TV on Demand on Virgin on "Last chance" and have absolutely devoured the episodes since...I'm currently on episode 7, season 2...so only 5 episodes left (ulp)!

Just to give you an idea - Dexter is a US drama series based on the series of novels (which I will get hold of as soon as I have finished watching season 2) starting with "Darkly Dreaming Dexter" by Jeff Lindsay...it's set in modern day Miami, following the exploits of one Dexter Morgan (played by the incredibly tallented Michael C. Hall) who has a day job working for the Miami Metro Police Department as a blood spatter analyst at homicide scenes, and by night (in a delicious twist) is himself a vigilante serial killer...

I don't want to ruin it, but the plot is incredibly fast moving, has plenty for "'shippers" (get out your fandom dictionary) and is just (albeit tongue-in-cheek) just blood spattered and graphic enough to keep it dark and edgy...

Only problem is now I have to wait until September for season 3... ;)

25 July, 2008

Capital Radio at Canary Wharf

Capital Radio Roadshow in Canary Wharf #2
Wow, two posts in one day and we're not even at 9am yet (scroll down for the links if that's what you came for)...anyway, it's been a bit of an eventful morning already, watching BBC Breakfast they announced that the Oyster system (those cards used to pay for using the London Underground and buses) was in meltdown, and it was actually much better as many of the barriers were just left open as a result...queues were reduced, platforms were emptier, shame they can't manage to break it more often... ;)

Picked up some more free chewing gum at London Bridge then got to Canary Wharf and just as Flyingpops told me on the train (she was listening to the wireless on her mobile) the Capital Radio roadshow was right outside the tube station, Johnny Vaughn was right there inside the black routemaster, blaring out (just as I approached) that "this is probably the biggest outside broadcast we have ever done, there are absolutely thousands of people out there", of course, he didn't realise that there are *always* absolutely thousands of people at Canary Wharf but a good 100 or so had stopped to watch and listen (or join in by having their heads shaved for charity) -
Capital Radio Roadshow in Canary Wharf #5
- which surprising numbers of people were actually doing -
Capital Radio Roadshow in Canary Wharf #6
- I managed to resist...got my haircut booked for tomorrow morning... ;)

Fink's Links #23

Another week almost over, so it's time for some more Friday fun! So join me as I separate the curd from the whey and wrap the resultant jellid mass into tasty little mouldy bags of separated internety solids for you to enjoy in a sandwich (perhaps with some pickle) -

Lets start this week off by looking in the freezer for a refreshing "hopsicle" (of dubious legal status)...

Suck thoughtfully on that while we examine 51 things Google won't let you see on google maps (including most of Sydney, Australia oddly)...

Now watch the incredibly cruel flip flop glue prank...

Want a new 3G iPhone from this shop? Better get your tardis... ;)

Lightning strikes woman as she is filming video (and yes, this is the video)...

Fancy a free, decent-physics-engine, reasonable graphics engine Earth/space launch simulator, then look no further than Orbiter...

The Freeloader solar charger gets an upgrade...*nearly tempted enough*...

Artists launch SMS controlled "UFO" over Poland (causing much panic among residents)...It's actually hung from a helicopter, but it looks very convincing from the ground (with video goodness)... ;)

Sticking with Wired - Bursting forth fresh from the kennels, DVD-sniffer dogs to combat piracy (yes, really)! But how can they tell the difference between pirate movies and other data? Cue lines of hapless geeks in handcuffs at the airport having their legitimate disks mauled by greasy fingered security guards...

Rebirdy - a skull shaped bird feeder...

Fancy watching a giant squid dissection? It's the whole thing, takes about 1.5 hours (just to warn you)...

Marvel at an antique pocket watch pistol...

Enjoy the "Star Wars meets fine art" photoshop competition results...

A model space elevator made from Lego bricks...

Oh and don't miss the chance to see where all those bricks were made (with video goodness)...

The worlds cutest letter opener...

The extremely rarely photographed Sphinx from behind...

Fancy buying your own T-Rex? You can even choose the pose... ;)

A nice homebrew Nixie tube clock?

Sore feet? How about a flesh eating fish pedicure?

...and finally a picture entitled "In Memory of Leonard Ball who hated fat people"...

More next week, previous collections can be found here...

24 July, 2008

Free Trident chewing gum at London Bridge

Trident - Free chewing gum #1
Trident - Free chewing gum #2
Well, if you fancy some free chewing gum, London Bridge is the place to be - got the free tropical soft chew yesterday morning, the full pack of Spearmint soft on the way home last night (bonus!) and the Apple and Apricot Trident Splash this morning...and very nice they are too...especially the Splash one (it's got that wonderful fake sour green apple tang when you first bite in, which is then quickly sweetened (before it becomes too much) by the apricot)...missed out on free V Water at "The Wharf" though because the Jubilee line was closed so I had to get the Thames Clipper...oh well, from what I heard it tasted like weak lemon squash anyway... ;)

23 July, 2008

Caution - Random Jack in the box cleaning system

Caution - Random jack-in-the-box cleaning system
Spotted in the toilet on the 1952hrs train out of London Bridge, looks like several vandals have made attempts to peel it off and then suddenly realised what it was and tried to stick it back on again...the sign reads "Caution. This toilet is fitted with a random jack-in-the-box cleaning system.", it's installed on an enormous steel trap door in the wall directly in front of the toilet (meaning if it were true you would have a good chance of losing your head should it decide to "go off")...

Very funny... ;)

22 July, 2008

Muslims, Halal and Benebene

Benebene Canary Wharf
Saw an amazing thing the other day while I was standing in Benebene (waiting for my Chicken Satay Ciabatta to be griddled)...four young Muslim girls came walking into the store (dressed in Chadors and all wearing slightly tired/resigned looking expressions on their faces) cautiously nosing around the various goodies and exchanging quiet words with one another when suddenly the guy behind the counter spotted them and shouted over the ambient chatter "It's all Halal ladies, the chicken - everything" (as he tucked someone's baked potato and cheese into a flimsy plastic carrier bag and flung it towards them over the counter with a practised hand)...they stopped what they were doing and looked over at him (packets of nearly chosen cold vegetable couscous in shiny plastic containers limply dangling from hands), one of them finally managing an incredulous "Everything?" with a frown of disbelief on her face..."Yes, everything is Halal"...

The transformation was staggering, they practically jumped for joy(!), eyes suddenly lit up, they clutched at each others hands (couscous falling back into 'fridge forgotten) and pulled themselves as a wide-eyed, knee-trembling assembly around the store, pointing and shrieking - the pedestrian process of finding something (anything) they were allowed to eat for lunch had been transformed into the mental equivalent of a free trolley dash in Tiffany and Co!

I couldn't help but laugh as I watched them literally behave like (and I apologise in advance for the Americanism) "kids in a candy store"... :)

21 July, 2008

"Couple on Seat" - sculpture, Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf at Christmas #12
Time for another bit of culture (for lack of anything else coherent to offer) situated in Cabot Square (named after John Cabot (c. 1425 – 1500) and his son Sebastian (1474 - 1557), Italian-born navigators and explorers who, in the reign of Henry VII, sailed to Nova Scotia, which he claimed for England)...not relevant to the artwork, but at least you can say you learned something today... ;)

This one is on the side of the square, looking out over the bridge that spans the dock to the north of Canary Wharf, it was sculptured by artist Lynn Chadwick back in 2000...dunno why but they kind of make me think of superheroes having a quick break before they go and do their supermarket shopping... ;)

18 July, 2008

OMG! The Watchmen trailer is out!

Watch it here...NOW! It just can't be as good as the graphic novel, can it??

I am finding myself starting, just starting to dare to hope... <:0

Fink's Links #22

Friday, Friday! Time for another selection of "good things(tm)" that bobbed to the surface of the internet when the collecting gases meant those concrete boots were no longer sufficient to keep them on the bottom, so reel the CSI divers back in, plug your nostrils and goggle at the following -

Let's get the felines out the way first with a cat eating corn on the cob...

Calculating the value of "Stairway"...

Some interesting 3D anatomy jigsaws...

What happens if you decide to reply to all your spam (why am I not suprised?)...

How to trek the Inca Trail (with links to bloggers who did it)...

Feel the need for some elegant knitted woolen organs anyone?

Don't miss the new amphibious tank toy (with semi-automatic BB gun)!

Mmmm...an Ammonite Sink?

Following on from the goo releasing last week, check out the classic Blue Ball Machine!

How to beat the claw game (incredible video)...

Some rather fun balloon and tape graffiti...

7 creepy real-life robots...

Now 65 things that look like pacman (photos)...

The call of the Vegan Zombie...

Check out a great photo entitled "Save Trees. Trees Save"...

Learn about Rapatronic photography...

and finally, a rather amusing Satanism FAIL...

More next week, previous collections can be found here...

17 July, 2008

The Sinners - Gig in Leicester Square tonight!

Fink and I are off to see a gig tonight at the Storm, 28 Leicester Square. It's between Capital radio and Yates wine bar, and since that is only 10 minute walk from my office, there is absolutely no excuse for us not to be there!

Tim has has played a few gigs over the last few weeks, so let's hope his followers manage to trek into town to support him!

Am sure there will be pictures from Fink tomorrow, so watch this space!

Oh and dolphin post still under construction, but it will be good, I promise!

Metro front page today...

Story about THC in a certain preparation being useful for weakening cancer cells in preparation for chemotherapy - quote from chief researcher Dr Wai Man Liu "I'm in no way encouraging people to take up smoking the ganja"...

That's the technical term then is it Dr Liu? ;)

16 July, 2008

Blog List - New Blogger feature

Wow, a shiny new feature to play with on Blogger - the "Blog List" check it out in the right nav, it's like a super-blog roll, showing the title and date of the last post made by your internet-chums... ;) It even sorts the list by who updated most recently! Very cool...like a feed reader...!

I'm still mucking about with it, but I think I'll make the transition when I get a few seconds... ;)

15 July, 2008

Ardingly Vintage Vehicle and Classic Car show 2008 - Auto jumble

We had a bit of fun over the weekend and snuck off to enjoy Ardingly show, it being the 20th anniversary (and lots of family being present in various display capacities)...so we took the camper van along and joined in the festivities (in an unoffical way)...it's always a great show to give the camera a workout (actually got my first low battery warning ever over the weekend!)...anyway, here are just some of the sights of the autojumble from the slightly overcast Saturday (more to come when I have sorted through all the pics)...
Ardingly Vintage & Classic Vehicle Show 2008 #1
Ardingly Vintage & Classic Vehicle Show 2008 #4
Ardingly Vintage & Classic Vehicle Show 2008 #6
Ardingly Vintage & Classic Vehicle Show 2008 #9
Ardingly Vintage & Classic Vehicle Show 2008 #13
Ardingly Vintage & Classic Vehicle Show 2008 #16
Ardingly Vintage & Classic Vehicle Show 2008 #17
Ardingly Vintage & Classic Vehicle Show 2008 #18
Ardingly Vintage & Classic Vehicle Show 2008 #21
Ardingly Vintage & Classic Vehicle Show 2008 #22
Ardingly Vintage & Classic Vehicle Show 2008 #23
Ardingly Vintage & Classic Vehicle Show 2008 #24
Ardingly Vintage & Classic Vehicle Show 2008 #25
Ardingly Vintage & Classic Vehicle show" 2008 #31

14 July, 2008

Get a Wordle for your blog!

A very nice new blog word cloud tool, click the picture above to be taken to the cloud itself, hit create and put in your URL, it's free! ;)

12 July, 2008

Coba - Jungle Trek (Part 3)

...and so off we set, sticking to the shade as much as possible (it helped, but not a huge amount), everyone was absolutely dripping with sweat (guide included) -
Coba #32
- some people sensibly decided they wouldn't be able to make the trek and hired a taxi bike (which cost 95 pesos for the round trip or about £4.60 - very reasonable) -
Coba #31
- as we staggered through the heat, so the guide would periodically pull the group together to show us interesting things -
Coba #35
- this plant, for example, the Mayan people would pick off some of the peeling bark and chew to help with tooth ache and headaches -
Coba #33
- when scientists got hold of some and worked out what the active ingredient was, the world was given ibuprofen (Nurofen or Advil in the US)...I sneakily pulled some off and ate it, but spat it out - nasty bitter taste - we'll keep the pills I think...this next one -
Coba #36
- he said a certain flying insect had laid eggs on the leaves, later the offspring would work their way to the interior of the tree and feed there - the tree is felled and the creamy matter left behind was used to treat diseases of the stomach - this was where the world outside found "Milk of Magnesia"...next up, something we had been waiting for, these two tiny patches of apparently white coloured mould -
Coba #37
Coba #38
- burst into brilliant colour when the guide spat on his finger and rubbed them vigorously...this is the source of Mayan pigments (and these patches were few and far between, the amount of foraging required to colour even a tiny handkerchief would be considerable)...next he stopped us by a very sorry looking stick (with one tiny leaf just peeping out the top) -
Coba #40
- this, he explained, wasn't surprising...it was "Salvia divinorum", an extremely potent (in fact the most potent) naturally occurring psychoactive compound known to man...specimens further from the beaten path would likely have a few more leaves... ;)

This next plant, he said, was infected with something (and actually I'm not sure I needed him to tell me that), the wound that was still bleeding (two weeks later) on his hand occurred when he accidentally brushed against just such an infection during an earlier tour (suffice it to say we kept our distance) -
Coba #34
A short distance along the path, our attention was directed to a dark mass up in the trees, this is said was another signal used by the Mayan people to predict severe weather, the termites apparently have a sixth-sense for severe weather conditions and up-sticks (literally) the entire hive into the branches (quite why I'm not sure, maybe to be closer to their food supply), if people noticed new hives appearing up in the air, it was another clear signal bad times were neigh and to make sure everything was securely tied down...
Coba #44
Later we passed a funny looking tube, sticking out from a tree trunk, some people pointed at it and the guide ran in, looking very closely it was possible to see tiny (about a third of the size of UK bees) Mexican bees sitting inside (it was safe to go near, we were told, as Mexican bees have no sting) -
Coba #43
- so I took a macro shot while they patiently put up with my lens blocking the entrance (we hadn't noticed a single flower the whole time we had been walking, so they probably didn't have too much to do anyway)... ;)

The rest of the walk was conducted as quickly as we could, considering the conditions...we walked over one of the "sacbe" (the raised, white walkways that connected the various Mayan cities that we learned about when we visited Tulum), but it was now just a (many kilometre long) bump in the ground, completely overgrown...we passed the entrance to the other ball court (which was in a considerably worse state than the one we had seen already, so we skipped it)...Oh and noticed one thing the guide didn't point out -
Coba #46
- some Epiphytic plants (called "air plants" in the UK) living comfortably without soil while hitching a ride on a rather taller cousin...funnily enough, extracts from these plants are used to make most common hay fever remedies (lots of medicine in the jungle)...

We pulled up into a huddle in an area of tiny trees just a little way further on and the guide settled everyone down, and then said "Nohoch Mul is just ahead, you have 30 minutes, the transport will leave without you if you do not get back in time. Please keep in mind it is 40 degrees centigrade, or about 104 Fahrenheit, you will have to climb almost vertically 140 feet on uneven, slippery polished stone, humidity is close to 98% and your insurance is unlikely to cover you, so please, think carefully before you walk through those trees"...

I took a peek through the trees to the base of the largest pyramid on the peninsula, greater even than El Castillo at Chichen Itza but in a state of terrible ruin...Flyingpops turned to me and said "Are you going to do it?"...I fixed my gaze, reeling slightly with anticipation of vertigo, gritted my teeth and then strode purposefully towards the bottom step...

No way was I coming all the way to Mexico and not climbing to the top...