Thursday, January 31, 2008

It wasn't a disaster

Public Justin was on good form.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


As a Daily Show addict, I'm paying full attention to the US Presidential nominations process. What's interesting is that a lot of other people here seem to be too. There has been prolonged and heavy coverage in the UK (see the BBC site), much more than any other foreign election than I can remember. Without going Bush-bashing, maybe there is a sense of hope that a new administration may be a bit less extreme in its politics i.e. not fascists. Oops.

Anyway, there seems to be a real chance that Barack Obama could gain the Democratic nomination. He'd be my choice if I was American, not least because of the effect that having a black president with the middle name "Hussein" would have on the image of the US abroad.

The most intriguing thing about the whole election at the moment, for me, is the similarity with the West Wing. That show (my favourite of all time) had an election in its last 2 seasons that featured a centrist Republican maverick (Vinick, played by Alan Alda) against an inexperienced, idealistic outsider from a racial minority (Santos, played by Jimmy Smits). Even the nomination process seems similar on the Democrat side. If it does turn out to be McCain vs Obama, read what is going to happen in the upcoming election here: either McCain will win easily, or Obama's VP candidate will pop his clogs and Obama will nick it.

To finish off my US politics special, here is the first part of the awesome BBC series The Power of Nightmares, which detailed the symbiotic rise of the Neocons and Al Qaeda. Essential stuff, of which some of the revelations about the origins of the current US administration should send a shiver down your spine. If you enjoy it, which you will, see the rest and then try The Trap.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Where the heart is

Following that quick trip to London, I'm back in (literally for once) sunny Aberdeen for a little while. Things are well busy for me at the moment, with a 2-3 week trip to North (Louisiana and Houston) and South (Venezeuala, Trinidad, and Colombia) America coming in mid-February. Up till then I'll be in Aberdeen, and next week is a first for me as I will be chairing (yes, me, chairing!) an oil industry conference. This could be interesting.

London was, as usual, nice. It has that "magnetism" that very few cities (see also New York, Kuala Lumpur, and Hong Kong) posses, where you just know you are somewhere great. Our hotel was in a wonderful location, right behind the Tate Modern and opposite St Paul's. Despite a late arrival (curse you for blocking the runway, BA flight 038) a short wander from the hotel allowed us to take in the sights of central London. Unfortunately I forgot my camera so had to make do with phone pics. Note to self: buy cheap pocket-size camera in duty-free in USA.

As a reward for reading such self-serving nonsense, here is Kongregate, another one of those insanely addictive games. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Did you know

That Johnny Cash was the first American to hear that Stalin had died? Apparently he was in the army and intercepted the morse code messages from Russia.

Anyway, I'm back from the Middle East. A long night flight on the way back has left me tired since I got back on Thursday, and today I am off to London for a one-night trip for work.

I think I was in more countries in 2 days than I ever have before last week. Tuesday saw me in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Oman; Wednesday/Thursday early hours saw me in Oman, Kuwait, the Netherlands, and the UK. I didn't actually set foot on Kuwaiti or Dutch soil, though, so they obviously don't count as countries visited.

Finally, here is an excellent video of creationists disproving evolution by showing that life does not spring from peanut butter. Really. I'm sure that there are some excellent arguments that an educated creationist could make, but this isn't one of them: in fact, it's an archetypal example of a straw man. Creationism is interesting to a scientist, as it shows the general ignorance (albeit in a greatly amplified form) that seems to permeate any mainstream discussion in the mainstream. Just read pretty much any article on science in your paper to see a load of half-truths, confusion, and sensationalism.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Oh, man

It's much warmer here in sunny Oman (muscat, to be precise) at a more-than-pleasant 25C. Looks like we overtook the rain from Saudi, which is scheduled to catch up with us tonight. Boo.

Muscat seems to be a more interesting place than Dammam/Khobar was, with some actual hills and beaches instead of sand and concrete. It will have to go a long way to match the kebabs that we ate in a local Lebanese restaurant over the last few days, though.

This is just a brief visit to Oman, with a single meeting tomorrow meaning that we are in the country for about 30 hours. It's an overnight flight, with a stop in Kuwait, back home tomorrow/Thursday.

By the way, whenever I turn on the TV at the moment, bloody Bush seems to be around to make conversation awkward. He has been pretty close geographically (as close as 20 minutes away) all week. To make my associations clear, I felt that it was safest to walk around talking loudly in a broad wegie accent.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Hello from Saudi Arabia

look, it's not as closed here as the media would have you believe. I can check out the BBC website, watch CNN, and buy children on the street in much the same way I can at home. Also like home, I can post inane chat to Blogger

Surprisingly it's not as hot as it was (40-odd degrees Celsius) last time I was here in Dammam. The daytime temperature is only 15-20, making this a winter getaway to a pleasant climate. It was even raining when we arrived yesterday, something that our local guy says can sometimes only happen every couple of years.

I'm just back from an amzing dinner at a local Lebanese restaurant. Grilled (shish) chicken & veg with freshly cooked pittas and hummus, washed down with some lovely pomegranate juice. Yum.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Happy New Year etc.

I hope you had a good festive period, dear reader. Mine was relaxed without bing exceptional. I don't make new year's resolutions, but I do have a wish for the year: that people would actually notice each other. I get driven wild by what I call "everyday rudeness" such as people elbowing their way past you, groups taking up whole pavements, people stopping suddenly in the street, people slamming doors in your face. You all know what I mean. This is made worse by people always thinking that they must be in the right, and that it is all your fault. So if people aren't going to get their head out of their arses and be more polite, then I would simply suggest that one simple word is used a bit more in 2008: sorry.

Anyway, here are a few things that I have seen in the last couple of weeks:

The greatest photo on Flickr

This picture from user Slake B is freaking unbelievable; the timing is absolutely spot-on.Once I start looking at it, I find myself captivated by all the little details for ages: the broken glass and beer hanging in the air; his and her expressions; the splash of beer on her front and the obviously wet aftermath; the plates of (soon to be) beer-soaked food, the sheer pathos of the situation. Genius.

Real-life Truman Show

Only the Japanese could actually do the Truman Show. In 1998, a man called "Nasubi" was locked naked in a room for over a year without knowing that he was on Television. Read the horrible tale here.

Uwe Boll
Uwe Boll makes terrible, terrible films based upon video games. But you have to hand it to him: he offered to fight the countless critics who snipe at him from the internet. 4 of them did, and he kicked their asses. Read the story here, and watch some of the footage below.

Aussie hero

To end on a high, here is a story about an unusual national hero from Australia. Cliff Young, a 61-year-old farmer, beat some of the best endurance athletes in the world with sheer doggedness, and then gave all his prizes away. Good stuff.

Oh yeah, and a weird one from my Flickr photos. They have recently added stats, so you can see details of numbers of views of your photos (mine are currently 54,780 views with 37,135 views of my 976 photos). The strange thing is that the picture below, a relatively innocuous picture of a speaker, has now overtaken what I consider to be my "good" pictures to be my most-viewed photo (with over 850 views). Why?

I'm off on travels for the next week. I was initially supposed to be in Saudi Arabia for a few days, but a couple of days in Oman and a brief stop in Kuwait have now been added in. Note to any potential anti-Green insurgents: I am only visiting your countries, not invading. I have no interest in influencing your politics. Unless you want to make me king or something.