Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Sci-Fi Character

It seems tht my Sci-Fi character is Babylon 5. Damn, I was hoping to be the captain of Serenity! Who thinks up this crap, anyway?

You scored as Babylon 5 (Babylon 5). The universe is erupting into war and your government picks the wrong side. How much worse could things get? It doesn't matter, because no matter what you have your friends and you'll do the right thing. In the end that will be all that matters. Now if only the Psi Cops would leave you alone.

Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)


Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)


Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)


Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)


FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)


Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)


SG-1 (Stargate)


Serenity (Firefly)


Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)


Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)


Moya (Farscape)


Enterprise D (Star Trek)


Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? (pics)
created with QuizFarm.com

Monday, February 27, 2006

California Dreamin' (Not)

Typical air quality in San Diego i.e. not very different from mustard gas.

I'm now back in Seattle after my trip to San Diego to sort out the Large Personal Project. It seems strange to me that when I mention this Californian destination some people go into raptures. I really don't understand. To me San Diego is a gridlocked, smog-bound hell hole and more culture can usually be found in the bottom of a youghourt pot (with apologies to the communities of Leucadia, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Cardiff and Valley Center which I really like). At least one thing amused me, though. After crawling through yet another traffic jam on one of the interstates on Friday morning, the cause was revealed. Two Hummers, you know -those garishly painted sheds-on-wheels that do 8mpg (on freeway with professional driver: yours may differ) had crashed into one another. There was glass, metal and Police everywhere. I was hoping the wrecks might be terminal. Couldn't have happened to two nicer vehicles!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Up Hill, Down Dale

Blogging will be light to negligible for the next week. Like Sisyphus, I've been rolling a rock that is a Large Personal Project up a long gradient for what seems like an interminable length of time. Hopefully, this week I'll finish pushing the bloody thing to the top of the mountain: please keep your fingers crossed that it doesn't roll back to the bottom...

Monday, February 13, 2006

Dead Eye Dick

Dick Cheney’s top 10 excuses for shooting fellow hunter Harry Whittington on Saturday:

10. Sick and tired of Whittington’s “Hey, I’m having a heart attack” jokes

9. Pushed over edge by Dixie Chicks and Streisand blasting on pick-up truck stereo

8. Ongoing dispute over whether it’s acceptable to torture quail before shooting them

7. Thought he saw Michael Moore on other side of tree line

6. Bombed out of his gourd on Wild Turkey and Lone Star Beer

5. Companion’s ill-advised decision to wear Moveon.org sweatshirt

4. Was trying to impress Jodie Foster

3. Whittington’s repeated ribbing that Bush is actually the “real president”

2. Targeting scope on rifle made by Halliburton

And the number one excuse given by Dick Cheney for almost blowing away hunting companion Harry Whittington…

1. Because he’s a wartime vice president, damn it

Acknowledgement to Bob Geiger for this list.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Martial Musings

The author performing sword kata.

Previously I've alluded to the fact that I've practiced aikido and iaido (the art of sword drawing) on and off for years. Currently I attend West Seattle Aikikai, a smallish but pristine dojo which is conveniently located for home and work. I don't inted to make this a martial arts blog as (i) I fear I might cheapen these wonderfully dignified and fulfilling activities if I discuss them too often in adjacent company to some the more frivolous topics on this site and (ii) there are already some excellent, dedicated, aikido and iaido/kendo blogs including Dai Kyo Soku Kei, Mingshi's Kendo Blog and Uchideshi (see also sidebar) and I don't feel I can cover the subjects in the same detail. However I will contribute the occasional post as appropriate.

Watch this space for more details...

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Scratch 'n' Sniff

Gourmet pencil

Last week I was persuaded to make one of the most frivolous purchases of my life (OK, OK, I admit I bought a U2 album in 1982 but I was very young at the time). A young lady at the cash register of a shop specialising in filing cabinets and similar merchandise persuaded me that I needed a gourmet scented PENCIL! So I duly purchased, for the grand sum of $1.25, a hazelnut latte flavoured item. It really is very pungent and if I leave it outside of its airtight storage container for more than a couple of minutes the whole room takes on the aroma of a coffee bar. I also start craving a grande, decaff, triple shot, non-fat, hazelnut latte with sugar-free syrup. I suspect the pencil manufacturer is in league with Starbucks. And do you know what the clincher in low key sales patter was? The sales person said to me as I was contemplating the variously flavoured pencils with some incredulity "...I love them; I bought one to take to my nutrition finals!"

There's one born every minute...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Normal Service will be Resumed as soon as Possible


I'm fighting the Mother-of-All-Rhinoviruses just now. Currently said bug has the upper hand and all I've managed to do for the past two days is crawl out of bed for essential bathroom needs and to take medications. I expect I'll remain in this condition until my T lymphocytes decide to get off their lazy little arses and do their job.

Now if you'll excuse me I'm off to find more drugs...

Monday, February 06, 2006

Down the Toilet (Bowl)

Fedex caveman
Screen shot from Federal Express ad (see below).

Well sadly the Seattle Seahawks aspirations to win their first super bowl came to naught yesterday when they were beaten 21-10 by the Pittsburgh Steelers in Detroit. I'm not a particular devotee of American football (far too discontinuous) and I found the breaks much more entertaining. Mick and the boys rocked up a storm and proved that this bunch of sixty-somethings can still play 60s music with as much vitality as ever. Indeed Sir Michael noted, prior to playing the band's signature "Satisfaction", that this was the 40th Super Bowl and they could have performed the song at the 1st! Oh, tempus fugit!

Oh and this advertisment from Fedex had me in stitches...

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Four Play and Nostalgia

crockford bridge
Crockford Bridge, Addlestone, Surrey. MD worked in this vicinity in his youth.

Dr Jim has tagged me with this meme. I think I share the views of El Barbudo about these things but I’ve never done one before and besides Dr Jim is very polite so I’ll give it a go just this once. I’m not sure what it will reveal about me though…

Four Jobs I’ve Had
I’ve excluded my regular day job and training positions relating to it: here are four ad hoc things I’ve done over the years:

1. Gardner’s assistant at a government research institute that shall remain nameless. This was my first ever job at the age of 14 and it kept me occupied over several school holidays. I was paid six shillings and eightpence and hour which I thought was a small fortune at the time. I blew it all on model aeroplanes. It seemed like the majority of my co-workers spent most of their time avoiding work.

2. Petrol (gas) pump attendant at Crockford Bridge Motors, Addlestone, Surrey. This started out as weekend job when I was about 18. After awhile I graduated to car preparation and delivery. I loved this job and to this day have a repertoire of stories about the seedy side of the auto industry. My employers seemed to like me too and always had work for me in college vacations. I held this gig for six years which is good going by any standards. To this day I feel very nostalgic about this period of my life and I’ve posted a historic picture of CB above.

3. Temporary Post Office worker. This rite of passage for most students was quite fun and occupied two Christmas breaks. I loaded mail bags on Woking station and sorted packages in Plymouth. On both occasions I worked the night shift. Most of the time it was hilarious and the camaraderie was great. It did teach me to wrap parcels securely!

4. Rally driver. Well sort of, -I’ve got to brag somewhere. I got paid for petrol (thanks, MiniWorld) and received a jacket from the Mini Cooper register for competing in the 2002 and 2005 Monte Carlo Historique rallys as part of the Cooper Car Co team.

Four Favourite Films
This list is going to ensure I get classified as low-brow. I should point out that I’m quite up to watching stuff by Fellini, Antonioni, Bunuel and Eisenstein. In my youth I was a member of the British National Film Theatre and had a voracious appetite for the classics and art movies. But the flicks below are those that I do watch time and time again:
1. Seven Samurai –surely the best action movie ever.
2. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly –the best western ever.
3. The Italian Job (1969) –how could I miss this one?
4. This is Spinal Tap/Dr Strangelove (joint fourth) –I can’t neglect comedies.

Four Places You’ve Lived
Now I'm pushing the envelope a bit here but...
1. UK, Provincial towns: Woking, Cardiff and Plymouth
2. UK, London: Finsbury Park and Docklands
3. USA: San Francisco, San Diego and Seattle (current abode)
4. Egypt (curiously enough the place of my birth and my home for the first 3 years of life)

Four TV Shows
I can’t say I’m very keen on TV these days, especially American televison which is so attenuated (in fear of lawsuits filed in the name of “decency”) and chopped up with (unspeakably poor quality) commercials that it’s virtually unwatchable. Programs, excluding The News, that I’ve watched avidly mostly in my youth, include:
1. The Prisoner
2. The Magic Roundabout (Dougal and I are kindred spirits!)
3. The Avengers (with Diana Rigg –series with other female leads were less interesting)
4. Monty Python/Fawlty Towers

Four Places You’ve Been on Holiday
I’ve been fortunate to have had great holidays in my life. Four particularly memorable places I’ve visited include:
1. Japan
2. Hawaii
3. Australia
4. Cephalonia, Greece (and before you ask, I have read Captain Corelli's Mandolin)

Four Websites You Visit Daily
1. BBC News
2. Mad Dogs and Englishmen (because it’s a portal to numerous blogs I like)
3. PubMed (it’s my job)
4. Google

Four Favourite Foods
1. Sushi –I can eat this anytime, all of the time and never have “food guilt”.
2. Fish and chips (very hard to find in the US: the chips should agglutinate when dropped out of the bag onto the plate)
3. Full English breakfast
4. Anything Greek or Mediterranean influenced

Four Places You’d Rather Be

1. Zanzibar
2. An island in the Ionian Sea
3. Maichu Pichu, Peru
4. Sydney, Australia

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Rally Report: Tales from the Front Line

I've just received an amazing email [see below] from Geoff O'nion. Three days ago Geoff and David Wilkinson were running 40th overall and 1st in class in their 997cc Mini Cooper (and, incidentally giving away more than 300cc to the more poweful cars in the group). Then their progress came to a dead stop. Here's why:

"...disaster for sure, we were doing very well in some horrendous conditions then just before the end of the 6th regularity the shaft of the left rear radius arm broke on the inside.

The wheel pulled into the wheel arch and blew the tyre. We did the last 5 km
like this to finish the stage (basically on three wheels), then stopped.

It took 2 1/2 hrs and with the help of some very kind locals to temporarily block the radius arm (bits of wood) then drove to Gap to stay in the rally. From Gap to La Turbie we limped home stopping several times to jam bits of wood in the subframe to hold the wheel on.

Once at my home Dave dropped the radius arm I cut up some steel, welded them in place and put the radius arm back in 25 mins and got into Eze CH ten minutes late.

We then did the night loop at race speed getting in on time with a rear arm attached only on one side, with steel plate packing in the subframe controlling out of plane alignment but nothing limiting the camber as the arm floated in the subframe.

After some very serious TLC on the car we will be back next year."

Snow, Snow, Quick, Quick, Snow...

Now it's pretty clear why progress was erratic for so many participants on the Monte Carlo Historique rally. Just look at these conditions:

977 ARX
Peter Barker and Willy Cave plow through very slushy conditions on their way from St Etienne to Gap in their ex-Works Morris Mini Cooper.

911 out of shape
A 911 goes off -another victim of "Porsche pendulum effect".

Citroen Maserati
A Citroen Maserati SM gets out of shape, blocks the road and causes a traffic jam (I bet that crew was popular!).

Citroen Light 15
A venerable Citroen Light 15 gets a helping hand from spectators.

Renault Alpine
Rear engined Alpine Renaults thrived in these conditions (BTW, just look at the negative camber on rear wheels).

Fiat Abarth
A Fiat Abarth 124 storms along despite the treacherous conditions.

Fiat 500
A tiny Fiat 500 maintains good traction unlike the macho Austin Healey 3000.

Lancia Fulvia
A Lancia Fulvia HF 1600 struggles for grip. Note to co-driver: Dude, your car is frontwheel drive and I think it would be better if you sat on the bonnet...!

Porsche 914
The mid-engine weight distribution of the Porsche-VW 914s gave them a huge advantage.

Mini 330
The MkII Innocenti Mini of Laloge and Borremans placed 38th overall -the highest of all the Coopers. I would say from this picture that they are using 13" diameter wheels; 12" at minimum. It's easier to get snow tyres for these larger diameters but as far as I know only the original 10" wheels are homologated and thus legal.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Monte Carlo Historique Rally 2006: Final Results

MCH 2006 rally results 2

Well here are the final, official, results. Porsches occupy the first three places and four of the top 10 spots. The highest ranked Mini was 38th although I note that as with 2005, the Col de Turini stage was won by a Cooper (well done to car no. 78 driven by Albuzza and Colpani for upholding the honours). Judging by the enormous time penalties -97 minutes by the outright winners, 138+ minutes by the 10th placed car, the weather conditions must have been chaotic. My analysis seems to be borne out by the fact that only 252 cars out of an original 363 starters were classified at the end of the final stage. Geoff O'nion and David Wilkinson finished bravely in 222 place and Peter Barker and Willy Cave manged to claw their way up to 149 which was a gallant fight back from their upset on the Classification Stage. I'll try to talk to Geoff O'nion in the next few days and get some first hand reports so watch this space for a bit more commentary.Now I'm off to plot how Mad Dog rallying is going to compete in the 2007 event...