Thursday, 31 December 2009

Decades

The Seventies were the decade of me being an infant with me starting school around the beginning of the 1980's
The Eighties were the decade of childhood
The Nineties were the decade of education starting at secondary school in 1990 and ending in 1999 in Canterbury
The Naughties were the decade of work where I started at Kingswood on the first weekend in 2000
What will the dominant feature of the Teenies/ Tenties/ Tens be?

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Top joke of 2009

#1. Duck in a Bar
This duck walks into a bar, and asks the bartender, “Do you have any grapes"?

The bartender says, "No we only sell beer here". The duck leaves.

The next day the duck walks back into the bar and asks the bartender, "Do you have any grapes"?

The bartender says, "No I told you we only sell beer, and if you ask me again I'm going to nail your beak to the bar.” So the duck leaves.

The next day the duck walks back into the bar, and asks the bartender “Do you have any nails"? The bartender says "no".

The duck asks "Do you have any grapes"?

Wii

The single most hilarioous thing I have seen in a long time is the sight of Mum and Nick trying to canoe in rythm to beat the time trial and failing 60cm short. At the end it complimented Mum on her left habd turns and Nick on his right hand turns. Hopefully they were not doing these at the same time. It is interesting to see that Mum is great at table tennis and Nick at dogfighting (aerial not canine).

The rules of shopping

1. Go early or go late but don't arrive about 11.
2. If you see it, buy it
3. If you bought it stop looking at similar products
4. Know what you want before you arrive
5. Take every opportunity to sit down

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Snow

Been lovely - snowed on Thursday, easy to get to work on Friday, main roads clear, side roads are passable. No major snow for the last two days but cold enough to keep the snow around. Driving has been fun and I have a lot of gadgets to help out - traction control and ABS brakes make it more fun to get around.

Norwich City 4 lost to Norwich Ice ? by a lot of goals and are quite annoyed

The rules of the league state

1. Your best players should be reigsitered in first team and so on
2. You cannot play more than two first team players in the second team
3. If third team players are available the should be preferred to first team

Well we are not perfect but really try to stick to the rules and it is so irritating to turn up and find yourselves playing a team that is patently unfair. Sure it fits the letter of the law but not the spirit. When the opposition have three players that have been in our first team and are playing in the second division for this game it is clear that some of the paperwork maybe a bit awry. I play to compete and find it distasteful when my enjoyment is destroyed by playing people who are clearly better than us and should not be on the same court!

Not much of a write up of last weeks game from the opposition

Stingers seem to have two types of game at the moment – score lots of goals in the first half and be comfortably ahead only to let the lead slip in the second half and only just win the game, or, go behind early on and spend the rest of the game trying to catch up.

Stingers 2 fitted the first type and were 6-1 up at half time, only for Norwich City to come back to 6-5 pretty much straight away in the second half. Luckily it was a good week and Stingers 2 managed to keep ahead through the half, edging a bit further ahead towards the end winning 11-8.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Norwich City 4 lost to Stingers 2 11:8

Well going 6-0 down is not the best preparation for doing well. Suffice to say after this we won 8-5 and if we had started well we might have got more than the 1 point for an honourable loss. Just felt that we were not playing cool ad calm korfball but rather trying to beat this physically and leaving ourselves open as well as a loss of concentration. We were also playing against Simon who whilst not being fast or a great pass and move player has a devastating long shot and I find the most difficult opponent in the league.

I scored three goals - 1 penalty (although I missed one as well), a running in shot where I wriggle through a small gap and another running shot slicing through the defence. One more match before Christmas.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

X factor

The X factor seems to have taken over the world and I can't stand it. I have nothing against talent shows per se but for some reason this one annoys the heck out of me so I have decided to write down the reasons why.

1. The freak show element at the beginning whenever thousands of wannabees stand in front of the TV crews open their mouths and embarrass themselves while the nation howl in laughter at the poor unfortunate. In many ways it is the 19th Century freak show concept laughing at the strange and unusual. They never show the person returning home, confidence shredded, to see their reception from the people who had all told them that they could sing.

2. The blandness of it. One contestant did a Louis Armstrong song well but had none of the power or soul of the original (who could). Also all of the

3. The unfairness of it. There are bands out there playing pubs and clubs up and down the country who deserve it far more. They write their own songs and see what people like or hate. They roadie for themselves they attend endless band practices and X Factor makes life so much harder with time energy and money spent on promoting the contestants. Why not run an X Factor or singers or bands that have had at least two years experience of gigging. X factor is killing the grass roots as it seems to offer an easy way to the top.

4. The longevity of the winner is nothing. Sure they will have a number 1 single, then album. Then they will generally be forgotten before being wheeled out in some other reality show bitter and twisted.

5. The whole show is an advert for Simon Cowell products which stupid people spend money on. He owns the rights to the singers , the singles, the albums and the songs. His production company are responsible for the production getting paid millions. He makes money from the phone calls and the merchandise. ITV provide the advert to him making money. Clever but evil

6. Cheryl Cole.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

OCR

The exam course I have marked is changing and this is its last year and the only people that will take the exam are resits mainly. The Principal Examiner has resigned to work on the new courses and they offer me the job. There are a few things still to sort liek how much they will pay me but the idea will be that I am in charge of the examiner, am responsible for setting what is/ is not acceptable mark and setting what mark equals each grade. It also involves going to a meeting in early August so no long trip away next summer.

A nice gentle slide into Christmas - if only

The kids are getting tired, the staff are getting tired and therefore it is important to make sure that the lessons are well planned as possible. So in the last two weeks we Yr 12 and Yr13 parents evening, Yr9 options evening and Yr9 reports. Talking for about three hours cotinuosly about options has already killed the throats of some staff and no doubt parents evening will have a similar effect. It is fair enough to have a parents evening in the run up to the January exams but the options proecess need to be complete by July and maybe could have waited.

Monday, 23 November 2009

This sounds like a horror story

Man Trapped In 23-Year 'Coma' Was Conscious

For the whole time, he was trapped in his own body with no way of letting friends and family know he could hear every word they were saying.

The 46-year-old, who can now tap out computerised messages and read books on a device above his hospital bed, has revealed: "I screamed, but there was nothing to hear.

"All that time I literally dreamed of a better life. Frustration is too small a word to describe what I felt.

"I shall never forget the day when they discovered what was truly wrong with me - it was my second birth.

"I want to read, talk with my friends via the computer and enjoy life now people know I am not dead."

His misdiagnosis was discovered by neurological expert Dr Steven Laureys, who fears there may be similar cases all over the world.

He looked at Mr Houben's case again at the University of Liege, Belgium, using state-of-the-art imaging that showed the patient was aware of what was happening around him even though he had lost control of his body.

Rom, a martial arts enthusiast who remains in constant care at a facility near Brussels, was repeatedly wrongly assessed in Zolder, Belgium, by doctors using technology available at the time.

They used the internationally accepted Glasgow Coma Scale to assess his eye, verbal and motor responses. But each time he was graded incorrectly.

England

England need to ask the following question

1. Does Johnny Wilkinson stand this deep for Toulon
2. Is it the backs coach that is asking him to stand so deep
3. Is it the head coach that is asking him to stand so deep

Can anyone ask him to stand closer to the gain line so as to spark the backs into life? Please. Bring back Mike Catt I say

Norwich City 4 beat Norwich Dragons 2: 11 goals to 1

And after such a big win it was strangely dis-satisfying as the opposition were only playing there third game together and were easy to exploit. We did not have to do anything difficult to create chances and we missed an awful lot as well. I scored a very nice penalty and generally played okay although it was not my type of game. I usually am good at reacting to loose play and contributing on a third or fourth phase of the attack but when you are getting clear cut chances on the first phase that type of play is unnecessary. Well a win is a win.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Crazy UK train system

Went to Birmingham from Norwich on a Wednesday and back on a Thursday having few problems but when you step outside commuter times things get weird.
To get to Twickenham and then Andover

1. The Norwich to London line was not operational so the ticket said to go to Ely and change (Norwich to Ely)
2. In Ely the train I was supposed to catch was in Cambridge. On the timetable next to the train was a small c which said "This train stops in Cambridge". Someone will have to tell me why it is on the Ely timetable when it stops in Cambridge. (Ely to Cambridge, Cambridge to Kings Cross)
3. Kings Cross to Vauxhall
4. Vauxhall to Twickenham
5. Twickenham to Clapham Junction
6. Clapham Junction to Andover.

on the way back it got a bit more weird
1. Andover to Waterloo train left early and only a sprint through the underpass and an understanding guard meant that I made it.
2. Waterloo to Leicester Square (at Leicester Square I found that the Piccadilly line was not running so had to get back on the Nor then Line)
3. Leicester Square to Euston
4. Euston to Kings Cross
5. Kings Cross to Cambridge
6. Cambridge to Ely
7. Ely to Norwich

So to go from Norwich to Andover via Twickenham took 13 different trains -and the longest wait was about 15 minutes (give or take the queue to get back into Twickenham station with 71000 other people)

Twickenham

For an early Christmas present Sarah got me a ticket to watch England versus Argentina at Twickenham. It was never destined to be a classic as both teams are attritional and lack a certain amount of flair and when you thrown in a large number of injured England players, a blustery swirling wind, a greasy pitch and ball and heavy showers this merely highlighted the problems that both teams had. The first half was particularly bland with a large number of aimless kicks and handling errors while in the second half England at least tried to be more inventive and run the ball but every mistake was greeted with a huge punt down field meaning you had to start again from close to your line. In the end England grabbed the decisive try and it proved to be enough. One of the annoying things were that people just grabbed any old seat so when the latecomers arrived they just milled around in front and blocked the view. It is also fair to say Twickenham part of London is not overly attractive.

I then went down to stay with James and Sarah in Andover and I have to say that the Test Valley (or at least the bit that I saw) was particularly attractive.

Busy

Since half term the workload has been huge not helped by an opne evening - I don't think anyone likes a 9.30 finish when you need to be at work the next day for an 8.30 start, a trip to Birmingham to attend a course which whilst useful also tested my patience in its use of acronyms. It was not designed to be used by first time Geology teachers like me, the new timetable which rquires you to be ultra prepared at the start of the day as it seems to condense lunch time to no time at all. Next week we are off to the castle in Norwich for a trip.

Norwich City 4 beat Norwich Ice 2 by 2 goals

A good game between two competative teams with an excellent referee. We got a lead, they fought back and we where leading by two goals when we got a penalty. I stepped forward having already scored two penalties in the game and the ball rolled all the way around the hoop and then dropped wide. They then went down the pitch and scored drawing within one goal of us but then we scored and tim ran out. Was quite pleased with the way I played scoring the two goals and in defence kept my opponenet quiet. He was a bit 1 dimensional in that he was very quick but when I adjusted my tactics so he could not run passed he did not have any ideas about how to score.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The sense of anticipation.

In 1995 a friend at uni lent me a book by Robert Jordan which I loved and quickly read the remaining 5 books that existed at that time in the series. Over the next 14 years at varying times 5 more books have appeared in the series which was going to be 12 in total. Book 12 was published yesterday and should be with me today or tomorrow. I am going to read it very slowly. It has taken so long for a number of reasons mainly being that the author died of cancer in 2007 and another author has been working from his notes. It truly will has been a test of patience but hopefully well worth it.

On the other hand the next book in the George R R Martin series which are by far my favourite has been been put back until 1st October 2010.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Norwich City 4 lost to UEA 2: 6-5

Eventually the youth and vigour of playing against 18- 21 year old students told and we made too many errors against a distinctly limited team. On a personal level I managed to score 4 goals and played well in attack against a naive defence. Two of these were penalties from good inside passing from me to a running team mate who was then fouled (although I missed two as well) and the other two goals were from over commitment by the defence when they tried and failed to intercept the ball leaving me all alone with the ball next to the post on two occasions. In defence it was a bit different where my player had a good shot but I could not keep close enough to him to stop it. Maybe should have re-adjusted the way that we defended as the rest of the players were big and quick but technically limited.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Nick Griffen

The leader of the BNP, the far right extremist, was on Question Time last night tyring to persuade people that he was nice and cuddly and not a Nazi but failed and failed quite spectacularly. Much has been made of his views on Holocaust denial, but he won't tell you them as he believes he would be arrested in France!! He did however keep referring to a English indigenous people (the English Aborigine) who can trace their ancestry to migrating to the UK after the last Ice Age 17 000 years ago. This however is a ridiculous notion for three reasons.

1. There have been waves of immigration through history (Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Normans, Huguenots) so to say that you can accurately trace your ancestry and say you were not related to any of these is a joke

2. Everyone has 2 parents, 4 grand parents, 8 great grand parents, 16 great great grand parents, 32 great great great grand parents, 64 4great grand parents, 128 5great grand parents, 256 6great grand parents, 512 7great grand parents, 1024 8great grand parents 2048 9great grand parents assuming they are all different people. How can you know that they are all "indigenous English"

3. I have 23 chromosomes from each parent so about 11 from each grandparent, approximately 6 from each great grand parent, 3 from each great great grand parent and 1 from each great great great grand parent meaning that you are about as genetically related to your ancestors as you are to the person sitting next to you.

What an idiot

Monday, 19 October 2009

Blithering Idiots

Channel 5 advertisement.

Something it is killing the hippo population, carcasses are turning up and scientists are confused about what is killing them. Is it a virus, a predator or something more unexpected. Watch CANNIBAL hippos tonight on five. Way to give away the ending. Muppets

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Norwich City 4 lost to Norwich City 3: 8-1 or 6-3

The reason that they are the third team and we are the fourth team is that as a team they are better than that although this game was all about the fact that they know us so well that knew the team weaknesses and were able to exploit them with out having to work them out as the game went along. The inclusion in their rank of two second team players also helped. It was just a case when they were able to be a little bit better, the shots went and we tended to rush so that everything hit the edge and went wide or rushed the pass or dropped the catch. Little things but over an hour they added up. On a side note the referee seemed to think that it was a 6-3 scoreline but I am fairly confident it was 8-1 but he is the sole arbiter of fact and whom I to argue.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Strange old week

Went to the dentist for a check up who recommended a softer toothbrush and a mouth wash to help protect gums but the mouthwash makes everything taste of wax (or at least what I assume wax would taste like)

Had a message saying the car is fixed and now heading for the paint shop.

Have had most of the furniture in the kitchen between having the walls painted and the new carpet fitted. The old one appearred to have had its backing turn to sand. Apparently the floor is very uneven which might have contributed to the old one rucking up as it is hard to stick it down. It is nice to see a profesinal at work - all the correct tools and knew exactly what he was doing.

Direct Line have confirmed that they will not be pursuing the council for the cost of the tree falling so it will be on my insurance - losing two years no claims and the excess of £175. They have whimped out despite all the evidence I provided with them as well as mis-representing the case by stating the tree blew over when in fact it snapped. My bid aginst the council has been referred to their insurers so we shall see although they sent me a bizarre letter talking about personal injury -despite no-one being injured.

Norwich CIty 4 beat Norwich Stingers 2: 7-6

A strange game. We scored with the first shot of the game. Built a comfortable lead then watched the opposition take a 6-5 lead, scored twice and then to retake the lead and then tried to lose it with one member of the team continuing to make a number of risky passes more suited to being a goal down than a slow and predictable attack that is careful, after all they can't score if they don't have the ball. The Stingers website reported the game thus:

Disaster struck in the Stingers 2 game, with Stingers 2 falling behind within about 10 seconds. It didn’t get much better when five minutes later we were 3-0 down. We battled through the first half and managed to close the gap slightly, the score 5-3 to Norwich City 4 at half time.

After the break Stingers 2 seemed to go up a gear, with some excellent attacking and defending we brought the scores level. With about 10 minutes left, everything looked good with us edging out to lead 6-5, but unfortunately Norwich City followed with 2 more goals to leave us 7-6 losers

Friday, 2 October 2009

The Ig Nobel Awards given out for stupid scientiic research

Veterinary medicine: Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University, UK, for showing that cows with names give more milk than cows that are nameless.

Peace: Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali and Beat Kneubuehl of the University of Bern, Switzerland, for determining whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty bottle.

Biology: Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu and Zhang Guanglei of Kitasato University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Sagamihara, Japan, for demonstrating that kitchen refuse can be reduced more than 90% in mass by using bacteria extracted from the faeces of giant pandas.

Medicine: Donald L Unger of Thousand Oaks, California, US, for investigating a possible cause of arthritis of the fingers, by diligently cracking the knuckles of his left hand but not his right hand every day for more than 60 years.

Economics: The directors, executives, and auditors of four Icelandic banks for demonstrating that tiny banks can be rapidly transformed into huge banks, and vice versa (and for demonstrating that similar things can be done to an entire national economy).

Physics: Katherine K Whitcome of the University of Cincinnati, Daniel E Lieberman of Harvard University and Liza J. Shapiro of the University of Texas, all in the US, for analytically determining why pregnant women do not tip over.

Chemistry: Javier Morales, Miguel Apatiga and Victor M Castano of Universidad Nacional Autonoma in Mexico, for creating diamonds from tequila.

Literature: Ireland's police service for writing and presenting more than 50 traffic tickets to the most frequent driving offender in the country - Prawo Jazdy - whose name in Polish means "Driving Licence".

Public Health: Elena N Bodnar, Raphael C Lee, and Sandra Marijan of Chicago, US, for inventing a bra that can be quickly converted into a pair of gas masks - one for the wearer and one to be given to a needy bystander.

Mathematics: Gideon Gono, governor of Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank, for giving people a simple, everyday way to cope with a wide range of numbers by having his bank print notes with denominations ranging from one cent to one hundred trillion dollars.

What Zen does not teach you

Do not walk behind me as I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me for I may not t follow. Do not walk beside me for the path is narrow. In fact just piss off and leave me alone.

No one is listening until you fart

Always remember you are unique as so is everyone else

Never test the depth of water with both feet

If you think no-one cares if you are alive or dead then watch what happens when you stop paying the mortgage

Before you criticize ssomeone you should walk a mile in their shoess so that way when you do criticze you are a mile away and have their shoes

If at first you don;t succeed avoid skydiving

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will waste everyday sitting next to the canal.

If you lend someone £20 and never see them again its probably a fair trade

If you always tell the truth you bever have to remember anything

Some days you are the fly others the windscreen

A closed mouth gathers no foot

There are two excellent theoires for arguing with women but neither work

Generally if you lips are moving you aren't learning

Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it

We are born naked wet and hungry, get a slap on the arse and its all downhill from there.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Norwich City 4 lost to Norwich Stingers 9:8

Looks tight but somehow it wasn't. First game of the seasons strangers played a team that have been together for a while was a bit of a mismatch and they jumped out to a 7:1 lead by half time. However at half time we slowed down and played together better and slowly wound in the opposition with me scoring goal 8 with the last shot of the game. A nice goal with a reverse cut up pass into my hands clear through on goal and slotted it home nicely. Missed a penalty though, the post felt a bit close to the spot. Need to remember that in future matches.
SO PC died having a refurbished model to replace it.
Trying to sort out a new carpet but can't figure the colour I want
Have to renew the car hire deal
Giving blood
Dentist appointment

and some point I will need to fit in work
Slightly knicked the mole on my hair line while shaving. 2 hours later it is stillbleeding and I have to ring work and feel like an idiot as I explain what the problem was. Missed most of period 1. Won't do that again.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Marcus Brigstocke

Went to the theatre last night to see Marcus Brigstocke who was scathingly funny and also quite thoughtful at the same time. I loved his comparison of the three Abrahamic religions as similar to travelling to Birmingham. You are all trying to get to the same place but whether you take the M6, M5 or M40 to get there is just a matter of geography. He also has a fantastic set of put downs.


The car

Sometimes I feel sorry for the poor saps who have to ring people up and give them bad news. So when the garage wing up and tell me they are about to start work on repairing my car (about the date it was due to be finished) I was fairly forceful in my appraisal of the level of service I was recieveing. A letter of complaint to the insurance company may also help bear dividend. New date is likely to be the 23rd October.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Damm it, if only I had put some money on my predictions. Hingis goes first as predicted. Nobody really knows her and she did not have time to develop a "journey" or win fan's affections. If she could have lasted a bit longer these might of happened but without the loyal viewers of Eastenders/ Watchdog/Morning television to back her up she was a goner.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Strictly

For some reason whilst hating most reality TV I quite like Strictly. I frankly don't care about Big Brother (pointless people not doing anything) or I am a Celebrity get me out of here (celebrities sitting around doing nothing) but when they are people learning a skill then it is more interesting. I am glad that Arlene has gone as her criticism was becoming non-sensical and cliche ridden and am worried about a lack of real star power this time around.

Here are my predictions
Winner Joe Calzaghe (good footwork, large fan base, open to votes from men and women)
Lovable Loser Phil Tufnell (notoriously unco-ordinated but a large fan base)
Voted off to soon - Martina Hingis (good on her feet but a bit unknown/ small fan base)

How about your predictions?

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Matters Various

1. The ceilidh for Jess and Niamh's civil partnership was good laugh and it was nice to see that I can still remember the most popular ones. Good to catch up with Claire Hibbert as was and Charlie. I don't make enough effort to catch up with the TST lot especially people who I went to Greenbelt with. Good times with good company.

2. I am now a god parent and I have the certificate to prove it. It was a lovely service at Rosebery Road Methodist although the service was surprising C of E which I did not remember from previous times.

3. Decorators have been and gone. House is spruced up. Need a carpet to complete the house. If I want to sell then I am not going to put up the pictures and male holes in the wall so need to make a firm decision soon.

4. Car not fixed yet

5. Loo blocked, bought loo unblocker, loo unblocked and all limescale completed cleaned away. Why is the limescale remover not the efficient.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Lottery

Derren Brown predicts the lottery numbers

Leaders debate

Sky want all the three main party leaders for a debate

1. Gordon Brown will not show up and may be replaced by an empty chair. The question is at the end if the chair will show it has more personality than David Cameron

2. Can you solve the UK's problems in a glib 1 liner or do they require far more detailed ideas.

Car news

The council have been written to and demands submitted including money to cover the excess and money to cover the rental car. A Vauxhall Corsa that is less fun to drive than Mums old car and automatic. I apologise to anyone who I got mad at for a slow pull away from lights as they were probably driving this car. I also cannot crash it under any cost as the excess is £600 or I could have paid £300 to have no excess. So pay £300 to avoid maybe paying £600 if another tree falls on my car. Not sure that I could ask the council to pay the excess on a car that I am driving because a tree fell on my other car.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Birthday

I had a curry and beer with friends and then went to the theatre to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which was very good. The effects are very good and the actors and actresses where excellent especially the people playing the two small children. The singing was very clear and the songs catchy. Occasionally it felt like a couple of the large set pieces were a bit forced so that they could have a spectacular moment. The Child Catcher was suitably cheerless and the other characters slightly overacted in a good way. Overall it was an excellent start to the weekend but Sunday was a bit depressing due to the back to school blues. For some reason I am lacking a bit of enthusiasm for this year. Whether it is a predominantly lower ability timetable in key stage 3, the presence of ICT on the timetable, the new cover rules, some poor rooming or not teaching volcanoes at A Level I am not sure. Maybe a bit of all of them but all the small decisions have not gone the way that would make life run smoothly or efficiently and while they are slightly annoying now I can feel that they are going to really annoying at the end of November.
The powers that be have decided to fix my car - a job that will cost around £6000 and take 120 hours leaving me without it till October. I don't get a courtesy car and I was glad to find out it was not something I had opted out of but more an optional extra that I was unaware that I did not have. I can claim back the cost of a rental from the council but need them to state that they are liable for the damage and of course this is not a decision that they are going to make swiftly especially at the weekend.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

A tree falls on my car

1. It was new to me and I like it
2. The timing the day before going back is seriously irritating
3. It is now I find out I don't get a courtesy car
4. I might lose two years no claims
5. It might be fixable unless their is some structural damage. The glass roof panel is smashed and there are some dents to other panels, the back window is smashed and the windscreen cracked. There is a dent in the roof and in the rear panel. The whole thing will need a respray as there are a many scratches.
6. At least I wasn't in it
7. Within two hours the council had cut the tree up and taken it away, the garage had turned up and taken the car away and BT had fixed the phone line that had come done.
8. Next weekend was supposed to be a weekend away. Might have to rent a car.

Arse

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Moving house

I am moving to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to move house.
The extra room would be useful so I can have friends over for meals that aren't buffet style. To have a proper study/office might help organise my time so I don't find myself working quite so late so often, watch less television with it acting as background noise, do more activities if I have more time. It is certainly the correct time to move with the deflation in the prices affecting larger houses to a higher proportion than smaller houses and interest very low meaning savings aren't growing at any rate. The issue then becomes what I am looking for. The first time I was looking for something I could afford that was in a decent area and I think I did well. This second time there are more decisions to make.

1. Stay in the same area - within walking distance of my friends and the city centre. However it is busy, noisy, houses are quite small and I don't want to lose any more wing mirrors if I can avoid it.

2. Move to the suburbs. A bit further out means I am still in Norwich but outside walking distance of the city centre but it is more peaceful

3. A move to a pretty village. Most of them are in the school catchment which is a minor issue but am I a village person. Is this the end of ambition (even more than living in Norfolk anyway). Could I survive with just the local shop, pub and the cricket team close by.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Wii

I always like the concept of a Wii using actual movement to control the game but the games looked a bit rubbish. I thought I might get one if I ever saw a cricket game available never thinking this might happen as it is a Japanese manufacturer and the largest games markets are USA and Japan. Now there is an Ashes game and I tempted even if the graphics are a bit cartoon like and a Wii 2 is not far away.

Lockerbie

What a glorious farce where no-one looks good

President Gaddaffi looks silly for thanking for amongst others the Queen. I might have believed Gordon Brown but by lumping in the Queen we know that they actually had no business in it

The Scottish government look weak on terrorism although very compassionate

The head of the FBI looks silly as it turns out it might be his organisation or the CIA with-held evidence showing Iran to be responsible that made the Scottish government fear an appeal.

Obama looks silly as he criticised a decision that was made in consultation with his State department

UK politicians look silly for criticising the application of the law of their own country

Gaddaffi's son looked silly welcoming him home as a hero as Libya relies on petrochemical dollars more than is good for them.

So no-one looks good and it will get worse if the cancer is not as serious as diagnosed. On the other hand if he is innocent...

Thursday, 20 August 2009

When I was in the US the debate on changes to medical care was huge but the anoying thing was the misinformation around especially of other health care systems around the world. For instance

The lie:
Stephen Hawking (who has Lou Gehrig's disease) would not receive treatment in Britain, which has a government-run health-care system.

The liars:
An editorial in Investor's Business Daily on July 31 claimed: "People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service [NHS] would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless."

The debunking: Hawking, who is British, receives intensive treatment for his degenerative motor neuron disease at a local Cambridge hospital. Upon hearing the rumors of his non-treatment, the prizewinning theoretical physicist told The Guardian, "I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS. I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived."

It is tough to make decisions when opponents are deliberately spreading misinformation.

A Level Results Day

All good - everyone got what they needed. Have a job for another year.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Holiday Awards

Most unusual food eaten - Alligator - has potential but this chef needed cooking lessons.

Most unusual food seen - Key Lime Pie on a stick - take a slice of Key Lime Pie - freeze it, dip it into chocolate - serve in the style of an ice lolly.

Award for hope over experience - Southern US - just when you seem on the brink of being a success along comes Hurricane.... and it is back to square 1.

Best advert - Mussels, great legs and exquisite tails and just wait till you see the waitresses

Worst advert - Wendy's - we save you money but bragging about doing away with restaurant atmosphere, plates, cutlery etc.

Best Radio Station - Bob in Eastern North Carolina

Most boring city - Toronto (soul -less at best)

Worst seats - Rogers Centre Toronto - knee high bolt sticking out from the chair in front- still have the marks a month later

Best hotel - Duke Tower in Durham - lovely room and a nice courtyard layout with pool and giant chess set

Best Tour Guide - Faith in Charleston - knowledgeable and interesting as well as aware of the needs of the people listening such as shade - edged out the tour guide for the capitol of Virginia who was also very good but told us about Nancy Astor being elected to the House of Lords!!

Worst tour guide - Ramon in Miami - interesting but no point telling us all the things that are going to then be repeated by the guide at the attraction.

Best Attraction Improv Comedy show in New York

Worst Attraction - Gator World in the Everglades - tacky and expensive

Must pack item - insect repellent

Most abused item - Rover the case - lost and then broken - maybe terminally so

Least well organised people - Delta (check in was a series of every changing queues with people in the same queue for different things and no-one knowing what they where actually queueing) or Amtrak

Schipol

Currently back in Schipol, jet-lagged and waiting for the connection to Norwich. I would like to thank the person I was sitting next to on the flight who was all elbows (I think the snoring might have got them back for that) and the person who stood on the back of my action sandal thus causing it to rip and me to fall on the plane expressway and take a chunk out of my foot. So now I am wandering the airport in bare feet with one broken shoe and one shoe too painful to wear harvesting a number of very strange looks (well more than usual) and rightly so. There also appears to be no purveyors of appropriate shoeage currently open.

Miami and Cuba

Any Cuban that can set foot on US soil can claim citizenship, get money and a work permit. The same cannot be said of the other Hispanic groups such as Haitians and other South American based peoples. This means that there is resentment of the Cuban population who also tend to be better educated and being descended from an educated elite that left Cuba when Castro came to power tends to put them in position to take control. Most of the major political offices are now Cuban or descended from Cubans. This has also led to many middle class white and black people to leave meaning that Miami is one of the poorest cities in the US with a large gang culture. The other area that amuses me is the in the same way that everyone in Boston can traces their roots to an Irish background (never English - we are not the baddies in films for no reason) so everything tries to link to Cuba. So the Hawaiian shirt seller is Havana Shirts, cigars (mass produced in the US) try to claim Cuban heritage despite it being illegal due to trade embargoes and restaurants include the work Cuba in the title despite serving a typical US menu. This exaggerated link my serve to increase profits for the Cubans but may also polarise and isolate other sectors of the community further.

Key West

A decidedly ordinary little town (once the wealthiest per capita in the whole of the US) that has some nice houses in it courtesy of the wreckers and spongers and Ernest hemmingway once lived here before leaving - probably the most sensible thing he did. I had expected a lovely drive down through the keys and while some of the views are spectaclar far too often the humdrum mix of cheap hotels, cheaper restuarants and untidy touristy shops invade what could be an even more attractive area. The Seven Mile Bridge is a wonder to behold but I think the history behind the now defunct railway that was originally built to get to the area is more interested but sadly ignored by the area. Generally I try to avoid too much sight-seeing in 100 degree heat so being on a trip where we had from 12-4 maybe have put me in a bad mood and predujiced me against the whole experience. Certainly the Southern most point in Continental USA is a con as there is a piece of land about 10 metres away which is further South but in a US military base and thus unsuitablas a tourist attraction.

Everglades

The Everglades is a slow moving river that runs through South Florida. It has a large amount of mud deposited as the water does not have the energy to transport it. In this mud grows a grass called sawgrass or glade and as it stretches for ever you get Everglades - sat in the middle of a shallow lake area overlooking a wide expanse of tall grass on a boat that has a very shallow draught it suddenly dawned that I was in Norfolk overlooking the Broads and the sudden realisation of the similarity between the two landscapes was striking. Admittedly there are few alligators in Norfolk but we have got bittern and the odd marsh harrier instead. It is fair to say the Everglades trip did not live up to expectations - I guess I was hoping for a more in depth look at how the environment in the area was affected by the activities of people rather than the best way to wrestle an alligator but hey it might come in useful what with global warming and all.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Just about the perfect day at the beach

7am - to the beach (massive waves) thank you tropical storm Ana
10am - back to the hotel spot of breakfast and a coffee
11am - reading in the shade of a palm tree watching the world and the ocean
12pm - spot of lunch
1pm - chill in and around the pool in the shade with a book and a puzzle (obviously not in the pool with the book)
4pm - back to the beach - even bigger waves, just the best swimming conditions this side of being safe. Red flag conditions with the threat of stingray!
7pm - off for some dinner and a couple of beers

Question - why when the city of Miami advocate avoiding the beach in the heat of the day do the lifeguards only work 10 till 5?

Off to Key West on a day trip tomorrow. Then on Tuesday just time for a trip to the beach Tues morning before the long trip home.
I feel a sense of dislocation with Miami that I have not felt with other places on the trip so far. In the guide book it describes this area as ME-ami and I would whole-heartedly agree with the statement. The are is populated by the "beautiful people" and while this is not meant wholly in terms of looks it is the aspiration that the people seem to have from matching your rat (well small dogs) clothing to your handbag and shoes or ensuring that you wear as little as possible at all time it is all pervasive and especially yesterday in t-shirt and shorts (no luggage) it seemed I have committed the cardinal sin of not trying. There is also a seedier side to this as well. Ocean Drive has the classier bars and restaurants that use flesh to entice you in. Having a glamorous hostess should not be the major criteria for choosing a restaurant and I had to laugh at the bloke who was so busy looking at the arse of a hostess that he fell over the steps. However, on Washington Street flesh is also used but it seems to be a lot seedier with strip joints etc. I guess as someone who does try and drawn patterns in my stubble/beard means I feel (real or imagined) that I don't really fit in here. Maybe being the only person on the beach in the rain might also explain it.

Why did everyone else get out the pool when it started raining?

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Baggage saga deepens

Well it appears that TSA (Transportation Security Administration) had not looked in enough bags to meet their quotas and decide to rummage around in my dirty washing and confiscate my shaving foam! However it took more than 2 hours to do this and thus the bag was not loaded on the plane. They did not bother to inform the airline or me that they had been so tardy and thus both myself and the airline did not know what happened. The bag was then loaded on to the next flight out of Savannah (Dallas), then the next flight in the vague direction of Miami (The Bahamas) and then eventually to Miami where it then took 5.5 hours to get from the plane - 5 miles to the hotel arriving with me at 1.30am.


Today I am going to the Everglades and on an airboat in a "Gentle Ben" style - however it is currently lashing it down - again.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Friday Picture of the Day


The hotel is in the Art Deco section of Miami South Beach and avoids the high rise hotels and condos found along the rest of the sea front. The sea front especially is spectacular and although it is less glamorous away from the front the whole area is low rise and lovely. The 1930's styling of the area has been well resorted and yellow striped hotel is just one example of the designs around.

Lost luggage

The luggage is missing. Rover and contents are having an adventure all on their own but it leaves me with a dilemma.

How much stuff do I go and buy - underwear, new clothes, suncream, toiletries, Ipod recharger, unread books? Where should I stop. I am not sure that I covered insurance wise as they only pay for delayed luggage on the outward journey which technically I am not on - but then I am not on the return journey either but then they will cough up if it is lost entirely.

If I buy stuff do I buy a case to put it in because if the original one turns up then I can't take them both on board as you are allowed one case and it is a different airline to the one that lost the case - unless I go and explain and they are being nice.

It is annoying and irritating but no doubt will be sorted or not. I have been on I supposed it was bound to happen sooner or later

Thursday Pictures of the day

The key to the loveliness of Savannah is the layout, originally 24 now 21 squares surrounded and inter linked with this they are sculpted and have lovely trees mainly oak covered in moss and ferns making them all seem a lot older. The let down is that the preservation started too late so there are a mish mash of old, modern and post modern not all attractive or in keeping. While Charleston has a tight historic district Savannah has a wide historic swathe able to surprise and disappoint in equal measure.
A lot of the houses needed expanded but are clapboard/ clapperboard and with limited foundations were too unstable to add an extra storey on top so jacked up the building and added it in underneath. The two pictures show a house with extra understorey next to a used car sales highlighting the mish mash and a tree covered in the moss.

Early flight to Miami tomorrow for the last but one of the most exciting stop with trips into the Everglades and the Florida Keys.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

As I am getting towards the end of the trip I am running out of time to get things done that I want to so today was very busy - with a walking tour, a boat trip and a minor league baseball game squashed in. I have less time in Savannah but the train system has helped because there is only one train in the morning at 5am!!! arriving at 7am which on the brightside means I have the whole day in Savannah to explore. I then have another early start on Friday as I need to get an 8am flight to Miami.

I am really pushing the hotel services that they provide. I am not sure that 4.30am was what they had in mind when they put forward the offer of a free shuttle bus for guests (big tip) and when they offer to look after luggage I am not sure that they mean 7am before actually checking in.

Pictures of the Day: Wednesday

Will consist of two pictures.

The peninsula of Charleston between the Cooper and Ashley Rivers is generally very pretty and has a number of spectacular buildings but this is amplified in the historic section where


-due to a lack of cash after the Civil War (to build new buildings)

-the foresight of some visionaries to save the areas

-and the local government who refuse to change city ordinances to allow substandard or tall buildings have allowed a very attractive gentrified area to arise with some original buildings now costing some where upwards of $1 million for a basic family house.

The feature that makes them really stand out is the privacy door. To help make the houses cooler they have a veranda down one side as this allows the breeze to pass through the house more easily but to protect the privacy of the owners of the house it has a door on the front despite the fact that behind it you are still outdoors. Here is a good example.



Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Tuesday Picture of the Day

Comes from Wilson, North Carolina and kind sums up a day that involved way too much waiting around for my liking. Not sure that you are allowed to sell these let alone advertise that you have them.


The train leaving Durham was late, the train connection in Wilson was two hours late and it was not until 7pm we started to make back some of that time as the weather was too hot and therefore the trains are on a go slow in the heat of the day. I once heard an irate passenger complain that there was no point taking Amtrak if you wanted to arrive near the correct time and that the timetable was wishful thinking of the highest degree. Despite this there are several reasons I like travelling this way rather than flying


1. You get to see places that otherwise I would go nowhere near. I suspect the train only stops there as it happens to be in the way. Florence is less spectacular than the Italian version and Dillon has no buildings over two stories


2. The strong family links which had people waiting hours to meet loved ones who eventually arrive or depart.


3. The unintentional comedy of watching a very noisy group miss the 5 minute warning of a station approaching and then take so long to get themselves and the huge pile of luggage off that the train was moving again and they had to wait to the next station. Oh and as there is one train a day I have no idea what they are going to do in Fayetteville but it looked large enough to have a hotel and maybe car rental.


4. The ingrained nature of tobacco in North Carolina that depsite running late the whole train had to wait while the crew had a cigarette


5. The guard collecting take out from a station, presumably he rung them up and ordered on the way through


6. Get to see the landscape both urban and rural.


7. Chatting to people along the way.


Should get some good photos tomorrow. Being picked up and driven to the start of a walking tour in the morning which conveys a certain sense of irony.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Driving

The drive was uneventful and straightforward although Penny the satnav had problems when we appeared to be driving through nothing and then on some unknown road. Some of the signs that I see also amuse me

It is illegal to feed the bears (tough at 65 mph as well)
Beware of the bears -they cause large dents
No four way flashing
No Entry - followed by - You are driving the wrong way.
Turn left - ignore your satnav.

Durham

Picture of the Day: Monday


Close to the hotel is a university and it is very different to the urban jungle that is the University of Sheffield or the suburb that is Canterbury Christ Church University College and far more beautiful than UEA. It manages to mix the vegetation with the buildings so they seem to hide in amongst the trees. They also have some lovely different types of design. This is the University Chapel.

Weather is a similar level of heat to the coast but the humidity is way up and the four mile walk that I did was maybe a fraction ill-advised without water but will act as practice as I have a walking tour of Charleston on Wednesday. Most of tomorrow is on the train for the second time this holiday.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Hurricanes

Currently of the coast of Africa is a weak tropical storm which as it travels across the equator will build power and end up as a strong tropical storm or hurricane. I am not sure how long this takes but as I will be in Miami next weekend this is one area which has had its fair share. In the guide book it tells me that if they give a hurricane warning not evacuate but does not suggest how or to where!! I also found out that particularly destructive hurricane "names" are retired and not used again so there will not be another Hurricane Katrina. These are the names for the hurricanes in the Atlantic this year.

Ana
Bill
Claudette
Danny
Erika
Fred
Grace
Henri
Ida
Joaquin
Kate
Larry
Mindy
Nicholas
Odette
Peter
Rose
Sam
Teresa
Victor
Wanda

Picture of the Day: Sunday

In the same way that UK beach going is either non-existent or an old couple sitting on the beach despite the gale lashing them, it is interesting and instructive to see the American family go on holiday. It starts with the transport, 2 in every 3 vehicles is either a large 4x4 or pick up truck and in the same way that work expands to fill time, luggage expands to fill the size of the vehicle that is transporting it.

It starts with the cooler containing ice cold soda or beer, sun shelters with an umbrella as a minimum and a 4 post sun shade at maximum, there is then seating for the family, games for the kids to play (bolo seems to be in vogue currently), books, musical equipment, fishing rods, body boards and everything that you could possibly want. In fact the only thing that they did not have was that game with wooden bats they play on the Med coast (not cricket). I got some odd looks (well more odd than normal) with just my towel, a book and a bottle of water. The picture was taken at 8am and some keen if under equipped people have just arrived. It is also good to see some parent ensuring their kids were protected from the sun but like a lot of UK parents there were some angry looking skin around, lets hope it does not lead to anything.

Driving again tomorrow. Lets hope Penny is as good second time round.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Curse my pale British skin

It is now 10.30 and I have had to retreat to the shade of the pool and the hotel room as I just can't stay in the sun. The sun's power makes me feel like I am frying even with factor 50 suncream and that includes wearing a t-shirt. Good thing I got to the beach just after 7 for wave bobbing.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

The beach

is probably one of the best that I have ever been to. The sand is warm and lovely, the view in both directions is great, there are people forming a line of umbrellas and wind breakers but not too busy as to feel overcrowded. The dunes screen most of the buildings do it does not feel built up by the greatest thing is the waves. They are huge. You can be standing in knee to waist deep water and every so often a wave big enough to sweep you of your feet comes along but there is very little undercurrent pulling you out to sea. It is my ideal wave scenario Spent nearly four hours on the beach but the temperature has risen and the UV index is 100 so I have taken to the shade and will siesta for a bit.



US Health Care

Obama has devised a plan to change the US healthcare and is trying to get it through both parts of the Congress. Currently the US spends a greater proportion of its GDP on healthcare (19%) and is only 50th in life expectancy. It also requires most people have health insurance either personally or through work so it is expensive and a yet a high proportion of people aren't covered. On top of this it encourages doctors to wait till people to become more ill so they can charge more and also people to wait until they are really sick. Even if you are insured there is still an excess to pay.

The system is clearly in need of improvement but the Republicans appear not to seek the best solution but to maintain the status quo. Some of the strategies have included shouting and screaming at "town hall" meetings where legislators meet their voters, slogans comparing Obama to Hitler and an increase in healthcare to Nazism and spreading of disinformation such as forced euthanasia by the state is part of the plan. It comes as a surprise that a political part in a developed country could act in such a way as to try to subvert the process as opposed to trying to win the argument or express their ideology.

I only hope that comparing Democrats do not suffer violence from comparing them to Nazis.
PS Socialism works well in other places. The US should try it some time.

Kill Devil Hills

The Outer Banks are a 14 mile stretch of sand dunes (beautiful psammosere) that is populated by a series of houses and hotels. It is nice that there is no buildings more than about 4 storeys so it does not feel built up. The lack of a large airport also means that the majority of people arrive by car from nearby cities giving it an unusual feeling. It seems to be the place that Americans go on holiday rather than an international destination.

The buildings here are also fantastical, most have no ground floor (pillars and garages mainly), a testament to the storms and hurricanes that come through this area at times, They also have sundecks or balconies, are made of wood and are very large. I am about 8 miles along the beach meaning that I am about 7 miles from the major centres so it is going to be me the pool, the beach and relaxation for the weekend.

The drive down was ok, the sat nav (Penny) was very useful but entering a highway on the right lane and having to get across 4 lanes of traffic to an exit on the left lane in about a quarter mile was a tad optimistic but she got me back on track. I have rented a Toyota Camry which handles okay and don't think I annoyed too many other people. Am aiming not to drive again till I return to the city on Monday as I don't like it. I found it difficult to go so slowly (55mph) on the open stretches and make decisions quickly and accurately at junctions.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

The worst day so far

and it started so well. The capitol (home to the Virginia two government chambers and the home of the Confederate Government) has had a number of historic events occur within it and there are very knowledge guides. The Civil War Museum located in the Tredegar Iron Foundry that produced the vast number of cannons and guns for the South It was very interesting and in particular the way that the Civil War affected the USA since the 1860's. It was after this it got a bit depressing.



1. The heavy rain (yes again) was not good


2. The "picturesque" Canal Walk went passed an electricity substation, an empty warehouse and a freeway before just stopping.The map showed it continued but in reality it did not.


3. The entertainment/touristy part of the city was generally closed. Apparently Richmond is a weekend tourist town.


4. Tomorrow I am driving and as this is the biggest chance of me hurting myself, someone else or incurring the wrath of the law. I will be fine when I get on the highway but have concerns about getting out of town.


On the brightside it is the end of pounding the pavement and off to the seaside for the weekend.


Picture of the Day


Picture of the Day: Wednesday

Does not exist.

Welcome to the South. Richmond. Capital of the Confederacy. Home to Jefferson Davis. Home to the manufacturing might to keep the South going against the might of the North with cities like New York and Boston. Whose capture helped decide the US Civil War. In historic location like this where better than to stay than a historic location. A hotel dating from the 1800's. Well click here to read more.

While the location of the hotel may at one time have been near the centre of activities it is now located in a slightly run down area of downtown where taking pictures might not be the wisest act. Best to look confident in what you are doing and going and do it. In New York at 1am it was so busy with so many other people you felt safe at least on the main streets but here the businesses were not tourist orientated (nail shops, cheque cashing, pawn shops, lots of empty buildings) and had shut leaving the area feeling empty and more sinister, although this impression is probably my imagination than reality but best not to take risks.

Looking forward to some Civil War based tourism activities tomorrow.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Mascots

Usually at sports events I can't stand mascots which piss around and annoy people but the Giant Presidents from Washington and the race that they have were actually amusing. Can you work out who they are supposed to be?

Tuesday's picture of the day2

Last time I came to Washington a mixture of a security and very long queues made it impossible to do two things -firstly go up the Washington Memorial and secondly tour Congress and see the Chamber that the House of Representatives and Senate meet in. Well I managed the second and the improvement in crowd management and the quality of the exhibition was very good (give or take a sense of hyperbole - unmatched, best in the world... which could definitely be argued). The building itself is spectacular and also there was access to the Library of Congress which is likewise had some great exhibitions and a beautiful building. If you do visit be warned - if you want to see the Senate in action they take long lunches.


Internet connection slow/ awful - picture of the day will return hopefully in Richmond Virginia tomorrow

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Monday picture of the Day

Was a tough choice. Travelled down from Baltimore to Washington. The Mount Vernon area of Baltimore has been gentrified very nicely and looked very good. Train to Washington DC and then had to sit till about 3 before the new room was ready. Then strolled up to Dupont Circle which is supposed to be an area for young professional. There was a nice park with a fountain in the middle of the large roundabout. After having sat and read for a bit a protest started to form and I have to say possibly the worst organised and located protest I have seen. If you have a microphone don't stand next to the fountain surrounded by traffic as no-one can hear a word you say. It also was unclear what was being protested for a while added to a large amount of milling around.

A first I thought it was equal rights for LGB, then Palestine-Israel questions and turns out they want stronger penalties for people who commit hate crimes after a shooting occurred in a centre for Jewish gay men. As I think that murder is murder and the it doesn't matter who the victim so I took this photo of the milling that was occurring.

Monday, 3 August 2009

North East American fashion

This year the trend seems to be halter neck dresses to the ground with a small tattoo on the shoulder and strappy sandals slightly higher than is really appropriate for the situation. For the men shorts and tee-shirts (so no change there). Now is the time to get ahead!!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Things I might never understand about the US

Things that strike me as odd when traveling in the US



  • Turning on red traffic lights - 1 day someone won't stop

  • Jogging (good for you) next to 4 lanes of traffic (not good for you)

  • Starbucks is my office - businessmen with laptops and mobiles holding their meetings in coffee shops.

  • The number of people who live in apartments (think Friends style)

  • Bringing main course before I have finished the starter or cheque before I finish the meal

  • Relaxing in a chair at the front of your house next to four lanes of traffic.

  • Plug sockets in the base of lamps - if i want to charge something I have to have the light on which is tough during the night

  • Adverts for serious medical conditions including Viagra on TV. Have you got erectile dysfunction?
  • Beer. Beautifully produced (not Bud or that stuff) and then chilled to reduce all flavour. What they do to Newcastle Broen Ale is enough to make Geordies weep.

Sunday picture of the day


Baltimore has a poor reputation from The Wire but you can sense that they are trying to change that and part of that is the sculpture (part of a series) bringing art to the region. One exam question was "There is no point improving a city until you have changed the people. Discuss" so it will be up to the residents to connect with music, art and culture to improve there city. Before you worry as with most US cities some of the suburbs are the most dangerous and tourists are generally left alone.

Saturday Picture of the Day

This is a quote by Jackie Robinson or Jackie who as most of you are saying. He was the first black player to play baseball at the top level. He was not the best at that time (although he was good) but he was one of the most tolerant because even after the ban was dropped his live was not sweetness and life but he took the abuse and did not react. It made me think about who might have been the first black player to play football or rugby. I know that Paul Ince was the first black player to captain England football team.

This is the question. Is not knowing better or worse. It is great that Jackie Robinson is remember but wouldn't it be better if society was at a place where these things weren't really noticed or taking into account. After all if black players weren't banned and playing in a segregated league in the first place then there would be no need for a Jackie Robinson figure.

Maybe it is just that there is a much larger ethnic population in the US (79% white) than in the UK (93% white).

The quote says
"A life is not important except in it's impact on others lives" and there is a sense of irony that this is located in new York (Citifiled Rotunda) where people pay very little attention to those around them, the only city where people standing taking photos in the centre of 4 lanes of traffic get angry with the cars.

It took a while but I worked out how it happens
1. You wait for people to finishing walking past except it never happens
2. You then push in front as you have lost patience
3. You then realise that by being selfish things get done quicker
4. When you see a rule/ law you then ignore it as you are selfish
5. Eventually you stop caring about the people around you

9 mobiles ringing in a three hour show proves me right.

National Comedy Theatre

This group of comedians are absolutely brilliant and I felt so sorry for them as they only had an audience of about 30. They take a selection of ideas and weave a wonderful web of comedy or not. Sometimes the attempts to manufacture comedy is as funny as what they say. With improv you also have a bit more leeway with the comedians. If a stand up works on his act and then is rubbish he has nowhere to go but a improv troupe are working on the spot so if it falls flat you are a bit more sympathetic.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Friday Picture of the Day

Raining heavily as it has a lot so far. Hit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and realised I like landscape paintings, sculpture and the context of how and when something was constructed. The secret in none of the guide books is that the building is if not more impressive that what it holds.


Duality

I really hate New York because it is so busy and getting or doing something is so difficult if it trying to buy a subway ticket to just walking down the street. I got up early to go to see the Statue of Liberty up close and
queue for the ticket
queue for the boat
queue to get through security
queue to get the audio guide
queue to get to Ellis Island
queue for the loo
queue to get a new audio guide
queue to get back to the mainland

What was worse is that it was making me angry and starting to act in the same way as many New York residents - rudely and with no thought for those around me.


heaven help those people arrived mid morning as it only got busier.

I really like New York as there is so much to do - from world class museums to free plays in the park. If only there all co-ordinated so didn't all try to be on at the same time. There are some beautiful areas and places were you can get away from it all. After all the queuing I walked the length of Central Park and found busy areas and quiet areas and generally no sounds of traffic.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

The difference between hotels beyond the obvious size of the room and the view out of it is the small things.

1. The volume of the air con unit. If it is too hot to sleep you need it in but if it is too noisy then it is hard to sleep
2. The lack of a clock. If I have to turn in a lamp to see what time it is I am awake - even if it is 6.30 am
3. Not checking the room before you arrive - having to ask for a plug for the basin
4. Provision of small things like toiletries and notepaper
5. Classier staff - not leaving an envelope for a tip in the room when you arrive

I know that this hotel is half the price of the previous one but small things can make all the difference

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Times Square

A hot sweaty sticky mass of humanity - half trying to enjoy it - half trying to make mone from it. It then rains and it empties and people with ponchos appear.

Picture of the day

Tuesday's picture of the day


Let the train take the strian

A mountaineer when asked why he had climbed Mount Everest replied "Because it is there" and when I think about the long journey I took it is because it is too easy to fly over areas and not see what they are like. From the rundown industrial areas that seem to surround railway tracks worldwide to arching bridges over stretches of water the trip is as interesting as the destination. In many a metaphor for life - its all about the journey. It was a shame that we travelled down the picturesque Hudson Valley IN THE DARK. Thank you to the people on the line for delaying us.

If President Obama would like to spend his stimulus money on improving the quality of the rails then the train might be allowed to go close to its top speed. We got a lot faster as we got closer to New York. Early on cars kept overtaking us.
Now in Saint James Hotel in New York

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Travelling to New York

A nine hour train ride - seemed a good idea to see the countryside at the time rather than fly over it but now I am not so sure. Well let you know later.

Huckster Paradise

It says in the guide book that in the 19th Century every type of huckster tried to use Niagara to make money such as Charles Blondin and his tight rope acts. Well today the hucksters are still here only they have famous names such as Hard Rock Cafe, Disney and Ripleys Believe it or Not.

The Falls are great and the attractions with them worthwhile. I would recommend Maid of the Mist, White Water Walk, Aerocar, Skylon Tower, and Walk behind the falls and less so Niagara Fury . Helicopter rides need to be booked well in advance and ring up when you book it to get your slot early.

Turn your back to the Falls and it could be Leicester Square, Times Square, Hollywood Boulevard or any other overly tacky tourist attraction .

Monday, 27 July 2009

Hubris

is defined as excessive pride or self confidence

So having carried my field studies coat around so far I thought I would wear it as you go close to the falls and it did its job admirably keeping my top half, rucksack and camera perfectly dry. It was on the other hand a little shorter than the ponchos they provide so had very wet legs. This did not compare with the gentleman who's poncho was ripped by the wind on the approach as he looked like he had a shower with his clothes on (which he did). The hubris comes from wearing jeans. Every field trip we tell the kids that when jeans get wet they stay wet and other trousers are preferable. Did I listen to my own advice? No. In fairness I couldn't wear my shorts as they are being cleaned after I sat in a puddle and was left with a very suspicious brown mark on their seat but I had other options!! Contact lenses also would have been a good idea.

Tips on visiting Niagara Falls

1. Buy an Adventure Pass - it is good value, you can skip the long queues and provides free transport on the shuttle buses.
2. Go on the Maid of the Mist first as this is the only attraction that does not let you skip the queue
3. Niagara Fury is okay but I understand how the Falls formed and I was a bit confused.
4. Save your poncho - rather than have three new ones.
5. You are going to get wet - so shorts and sandals dry quickest
6. When using the free transport - the second part of the bus is usually quieter and easy to access
7. Get up early - queues start to really build up around 10.30-11am
8. Watch out for free coupons - lots of them everywhere
9. Dusk is the best time to go up the Skylon Tower so you view it in daylight and night-time.

Niagara Falls

1. Picture from the bedroom window



2. Its is lovely and going to get out early and beat the rush to the major tourist attractions. A joint ticket looks the best value for all the attractions. Have brought a coat to avoid buying pacamac poncho thing

3. Firework display was good - probably best to stay in your room if you are high or be half way between the two falls to get the best view. Arrive early as it is busy. Would have like to see them integrate the falls into the display rather than just be a display near the falls.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Not quite perfect way to travel.

The single most dangerous job in North America must be Greyhound bus driver due to their absolute incompetence and inability to devise a system to allow easy transport.


  • On the ticket it says arrive 60 mins before the bus arrives. If you arrive that early you are told to go away as you are to early and getting in the way.

  • The customer service representative inside the buildings knows what the plan should look

  • like but this in no way represents what is actually occurring outside.

  • It is possible for a driver to not know where the bus he is driving is going. When I say is this bus going to Niagara Falls the correct answer was yes.

  • A queue of people going to separate places can form on the same platform and all of them be wrong despite what they have been told.

  • The number of seats on the bus decides who gets on not whether you have bought a ticket. If the bus is full when you get to the second stop if no-one gets off you have to wait for the next one and hope

  • Half the people in the waiting room think they are on the next bus but they are not in the queue and have no chance.

  • Most queues cross the areas where buses drive meaning that getting run over whilst waiting for the bus is highly probably but what ever inconvenience there might be don't leave the queue.

Its a wonder more passenger don't go postal at them.



Picture of the day - more rain. Now in Niagara.

Visiting Toronto

1. Bring and wear insect repellant - I have been eaten alive

2. Visit the CN Tower at dusk so you get to see the landscape at both day and night. If you eat at the restautant then you get free entry which is better value for both the tower and the restaurant.

3. Think about whether you need a whole day pass on the subway, most attractions are within walking distance and it might be better value to buy individual trips.

4. If you go to the Sirius stage you get free music but it tends to get better later as the bands get more professional.

5. Don't bother with the film about the CN Tower - a 17 minute film on pouring concrete

6. Have water proof shoes with you - Toronto does not drain well and there were a lot of puddles around

Is Canada different to the US?

I am not sure what I would have expected from Canada and therefore I am not sure if I am disappointed. As you move from Spain through France and into Germany there are a large number of changes and not just the language but food, culture and ideology to mention a few. I did not expect that level of difference but there seems to be similar to a number of the US cities that I have visited. Not to say it is a bad place to visit but not as different as I expected. It occurred that that the France-Spain border is mainly Basque and similar on both sides and French Alsatians speak German and maybe Toronto's closeness to the US border is the reason.

After time the difference I discovered is subtle. America tends to shout out at you advertising itself in self promotion with bright lights and endless commercialism. In Canada it is a lot more under stated and I think that the difference I was looking for is that Canada is different but they don't necessarily tell you about it, outside of bears dressed as Mounties, the under-statedness is Canada.

The best laid plans

Today I had a number of activities lined up for the day, starting with a boat trip and ending up with a trip to see some improv comedy with the 2nd City Theatre troupe. However, just after the boat trip the heavens opened between 12 and 5pm. Heavy thunderstorm rain, raining stair rods and cats and dogs. So heavy that Noah was spotted with hammer and nails buying wood and a pair of giraffes were seen roaming the streets complete with suitcases. So instead of getting to see some of the historic areas of Toronto I was in a number of coffee shops and other indoor attractions reading. At the appropriate time I headed to the theatre only to find that it had flooded. So most of today was a washout. Going to try and see some of thr sites tomorrow before moving onto Niagara Falls.

Picture of the DAY: Toronto skyline with the flag from the boat.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Toronto

1. CN Tower. Impressive structure and an exceptional views but lacks in other key identifiable buildings. Can you name any of these buildings.
2. The Ice Hockey Hall of Fame where you can see things such as the goal where Wayne Gretsky scored his 802nd career goal. Yes I was under whelmed as well.

3. Baseball. Last year I got to see Manny Ramirez in his last game before being traded from Boston to Los Angeles (I also got to see him in one of his first games for LA as well). This year all the trade rumours surround Roy Holliday (1 of the premier pitchers) and the home fans are desperate for him to stay so the atmosphere was amazing as there was a constant barrage of noise. It was rainy at the start but must have cleared up as halfway through the games they opened the retractable roof to display the view.


Thursday, 23 July 2009

Welcome from Holland

One thing people overlook when I do these adventures is that it can often involved waiting and as I choose to fly via Amsterdam (cheaper and "less get to the airport" hassle) I have an hour before the second check in so I am taking advantage of the free wi-fi. Weather in Amsterdam is not promising and the flight over was pretty empty so I a row of seats to myself. Also 1 of my ex students was operating the check in desk which is good top see she has gainful employment as she was not that well behaved.

Most hair raising incident - opened overhead locker to find that my hand luggae and all improtant document etc had vanished. As there were so few other people it had slid right to the front of the plane but did give me a bit of a scare

Best moment so far - Red Arrows coming into land at the airport will I looked out of the window, taxied, refueled and then took off again. Some reason they were iffy with cameras in departure lounge.

Best fact. People who wore old fashioned and out of date square ended shoes were often called squares. Pointed shoes were more expensive and a sign of social standing. Know that I know this it makes me a square and know you know it you are a square as well.
Next stop Toronto. Toodle pip.