Thursday, December 20, 2007

All Roads Lead To...

...traffic jams. We've got 4 hours before the flight and we're already checked in. So we're fine. I'll be updating Twitter along the way, so check out the "Where's Ian?" section on the right hand side for real time progress of our journey.

See you on the other side of the pond.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Failing At Christmas

We had intentions. Good intentions. We meant to do stuff. Take a funny picture, get cards made. Maybe put up a bit of tinsel or two. Somewhere, between the Mexico trip, the December weekends full of parties and our flight to the UK tomorrow, we failed. Sorry. We have not put up a single decoration. We have not sent a single card. I feel bad about this. I'm a little scared to check the archives, but I'm pretty sure I have claimed, around this time the last two years, that you would definitely be getting a card next, yeah, sorry, you're not, again. I do still hope you have a Merry Christmas though.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Lab Results

I went to the doctor last Friday for a physical. They gave me this card for their cool new system that allows me to get my test results online and that's all well and good, but it sort of suggested that my test results would be posted quickly, since Internet=Instant Gratification. I still don't have them and, since, like too many men, I never really went to the doctor in my earlier years, I've no idea if this is unusual and I'm being impatient or they've just lost all my samples. They took a cup of my pee and three tubes full of my blood, which seemed like a lot at the time, but maybe they need a couple as spares because they always lose one or two to vampires or something.

I did find out that the weird thing that I've had on my leg for years is an abnormal proliferation of blood vessels, made up of clusters of tiny capillaries at the surface of the skin forming a small round dome*. Causes include exposure to mustard gas, which is probably how I got mine.

My doctor did warn that if I ever cut it, it would bleed and bleed and bleed and bleed and bleed. Except he put it all professionally and used medical terms like "profusely" and "silver somethingsomething". (I really should pay more attention). Anyway, I suppose I should stop picking at it with my fingernails when I'm bored.

This entry has been brought to you by my overwhelming desire to not let my blog go all of December with only one entry, which it was in danger of doing, since we've got visitors in town who will insist on keeping us drunk and incapable of typing through the weekend, and then we've got 8 million different things to do before our trip to Blighty next Thursday.
* Yeah, okay, I totally nicked the exciting bits off Wikipedia, but Cherry Angioma sounds like a fruity rum cocktail.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

B.C.S. Slideshow

Here are the rest of the photos from our trip to Mexico. Enjoy.

You can also see larger versions of the pics at Picasa, here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Baja California Sur

Nikki and I will post a slideshow once we've stopped arguing about which of the photos we're not going to post. Meanwhile, here's 5 we can agree on.

Los Paisos taqueria, in Cabo San Lucas. I think we had 2 beers and 4 tacos each and left the place stuffed and half drunk. Total bill was about 10 US dollars.

Kiwi is a restaurant practically on the beach in La Paz. Great margaritas and a lovely view of the sun going down over the harbor.

We took this boat to Espiritu Santo island, where we basically had the beach to ourselves and indulged in a bit of sea kayaking...

...which will wear you out.

Beautiful La Paz cathedral dates to 1861.


Nikki and I headed to Baja California for the weekend. Pictures and more info will follow. Thanksgiving dinner was a bunch of tacos from Los Paisos taqueria in Cabo San Lucas. The pastor pork ones were carved from a big kebab sort of thing that was right on the street. They were, without a doubt, the greatest tacos I've ever had. Best Thanksgiving dinner ever.

Friday, November 16, 2007

San Francisco in 1.3 Megapixels

Forgot the sodding camera. Argh!

Here's the Bay Bridge at night. I would like to be showing you a picture of the far more famous Golden Gate bridge here, but I didn't see it.The Moscone center displays 6 flags that may or may not represent the colours of the rainbow. I couldn't figure it out, 'cos, shouldn't there be 7?
It seemed like Oracle rebranded the whole city for their conference.
There were loads of people there. It was a good conference. Had fun. I'm tired though and still really annoyed about forgetting the camera.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A True Patriot

I was driving to work behind this truck the other day. Something kind of bothered me about it. It took me a while to figure out what it was...9 rows of 6 stars. Yep, this dude loves the United States of America, all 54 states.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Scum and Villainy

Nikki and I went to the Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas MLS play off game last night. This was the second leg of the first round of the play-offs and the last game of the 5 game mini season ticket we bought this year.

There have been two previous eras of football spectating in my life. The live football of my youth was the Lewis amateur league, played in the summer. Nice warm evenings, fun games, plenty of trophies for the good guys. In my late teens and early twenties live football meant Aberdeen in the SPL, August to May. Cold winter afternoons, bitter evenings and a period of football that if not the worst in the club's history, is certainly a contender for the crown.

The Houston games we attended brought back memories of my younger days, which is maybe why I felt less passion at them than I used to watching Aberdeen go down 1-0 to St. Johnstone on a cold February Saturday. I enjoyed the games, but I wouldn't get too upset by a defeat. Last night, something changed. Houston were trailing 1-0 from the first leg and despite dominating the first half, Dallas scored with their only shot to send Houston in 2-0 down on aggregate at half time. Where I had found their diving, fouling, time-wasting and play-acting disgusting before they went in front, their despicable behavior then rose to levels that would have their city's most famous son, J.R. Ewing, blush.

If Houston had gone out in that fashion, to those scum, I would have been upset. I would have been angry. I would have got very, very drunk. Karma prevailed. Dallas had a man sent off in the second half, for kneeing a Houston player in the groin for no reason, then Houston scored two to push the game to extra time. (There's no away goals rule). Houston added another two in extra time, Dallas added another sending-off to go with their 7 yellow cards and the good, honorable men of Houston emerged victorious from a bruising encounter with the despicable morons the city to the North has chosen to represent them.

I believe I may be a fan.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Fighting For Fun

I was in Chicago earlier this week, where the World Boxing Championships are being held. On Tuesday night we went along to check out the action. It was a load of fun. This competition is the first opportunity for the world's best amateur boxers to qualify for the Beijing Olympics next year. Said Rachidi of Morrocco was rather happy about making it after beating Bosko Draskovic of Montenegro on points. There was a large and rowdy Eastern European contingent in the crowd who felt their man was robbed.

Fights are 4 two-minute rounds. In pro boxing, you win a round, usually 10-9, but in amateur boxing, every punch can count and a fight can turn quickly. Still, once a fighter gets too far behind, his only hope is to go for a knockout. Between rounds trainers often wave wet towels in the face of their fighters to cool them down, probably a more productive use of the minute of rest than offering sage advice such as "hit him" and "stop letting him hit you"

The fights are intense, only the small white part of the glove scores a point, a judge who thinks a punch landed pushes a button and if all 5 ringside judges agree the score goes up. Stephen Simmons of Scotland led for his entire fight against Milorad Gajovic of Montenegro before a spirited fightback in the last round and a couple of hard blows that didn't meet much resistance led the referee to stop the fight with 14 seconds left and award it to Gajovic. I thought Simmons could have held on as he still had a 3 point lead, but I suppose the refs should err on the side of caution. Two fights later Ihab Al Matbouli of Jordan went down hard after taking a few heavy blows in his fight and was stretchered out of the ring. He spent a night in hospital, but was back with his team the next day.

A very enjoyable evening all in all. Well worth checking out if you get the chance.
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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Safety First

"Slow down every time you see a white car — that's the safe message," says Houston Police Department Chief, Harold Hurtt.

As Nikki pointed out this morning while reading the paper over breakfast, surely the safe message, Chief Hurtt, would be "Don't exceed the speed limit."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Missed It!

There was some kind of mass brawl in Rice Village last night while Nikki and I were at The Ginger Man. Annoyingly, no-one came running in to shout "Fight" when it broke out, so we had no idea until it was all over. Very disappointing. The cops turned out in force at least, so someone probably had a bad night.

On a more important note, I tried the coffee porter. Didn't really taste of coffee, but it was a pretty good porter.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Tim Versus The Parsley

There was logic in our decision to buy a parsley plant for the living room. Tim likes nibbling on plants, he likes parsley, best of both worlds. He could have a little nibble on the parsley plant, then wander off under the chair for a sleep. Right?


What Tim actually did, was climb into the pot, sit on the bit that wasn't occupied by parsley and eat almost the entire plant in one go. Then, quite proud of himself, he posed for this picture.

Next night he went back and finished off those little stalks you can see sticking up. Probably couldn't believe he missed them.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Another Tough Ride

Nikki and I went cycling again yesterday. We went a little further afield this time as it was a lovely day. We made it to Cafe Brazil where we sat outside for a bit as I ate my pizza and Nikki had her Greek salad, then we cycled directly home. Well, directly, apart from being unable to avoid the siren call of The Ginger Man, where we refueled with a couple of pints of delicious Full Moon Pale Rye Ale.

Friday, October 12, 2007


When Bruno asked us to host his leaving party in our back garden we knew we'd have to do a little bit of landscaping to accommodate his high standards. Unfortunately it rained for most of the day of his party and everyone, except four idiots who were playing volleyball in the pool, spent most of the party inside. Anyway, here's the new improved pool area:

The Oleanders in front of the pool equipment should grow in, also Nikki has planted a bunch of winter veg to the left of them, so it won't look as bare in a few months. The biggest difference is that we took down the trellis, which looked kind of ugly anyway.
Round the side of the house we had a big overgrown mess that was impossible to mow and turned into a mudbath every time it rained. Thankfully, that's no longer a problem.

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Sunday, October 7, 2007


You ain't seen me, right?

Friday, October 5, 2007

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

What on earth were we thinking?

Meet Tim. Or rather, check out the extension to his castle Tim has built out of newspaper because he prefers a bit more darkness than our living room provides. Bruno is moving on and Tim needed a new home. Before I could say "Good luck with that", Nikki had volunteered, no demanded, to take him. Our grocery bill doubled last week and there's more lettuce and spinach in the fridge than beer...this is a worrying trend.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Return

I'm back. Actually I've been back 9 days. I have just neglected to blog. There's so much to talk about too, but let's start at the start. The trip back was the usual chaos: Sitting next to selfish pigs; queuing for hours at security; waiting in vain for my didn't bother me that much, except for the selfish pig. He was a moron. It's a simple rule: The unfortunate sap in the middle seat gets as much of the armrest as he needs. No arguments, definitely don't spread out to take the whole armrest in a posture that is clearly uncomfortable for you, and if you do, don't act all offended when I whack you, repeatedly, with my elbow in an attempt to drink my tea.

Anyway, the moron isn't the point of this post, the point is that my trip back was fun and it was fun because I decided it would be. In London there was a girl whose job it was to tell people the policy about only taking one bag through security and onto the plane. This task fell to the same girl on both my outbound and return legs, so I presume she does this every day. People would walk up with two bags, she'd say "You can only have one, and it has to fit in that space over there" and everyone would say "but they let me take two out of Houston (or Muscat or Dubai)", and she'd have to say "well, you can't take two through London". A stupid rule perhaps, but she didn't make it up and she's not responsible for it not being communicated to the airlines in Houston (or Muscat or Dubai), who should warn their passengers about it when they still have the rest of their luggage to dump stuff in and they're not tired and grumpy from a long flight. I carry one bag, a small rucksack, so I didn't have a problem here and I sailed straight through with a smile, but seeing the amount of crap this girl had to take off almost every other passenger that came through I decided that, since I was in a good mood, I would spread it around as much as I could to the people who have to deal with us traveling grumps. Next up was the metal detector / x-ray line, so I was ready, shoes off, laptop out, phone and coins in hand when I got there and I walked through without a beep, only to pulled aside for a second check. Okay. The guy starts to pat me down and runs his hands under my armpits, which are not as clean as they were 15 hours ago when I last showered. "Sorry about those", I say.
"Don't worry", he laughs, "You're my first of the day".
His colleague laughed as well and said "You're nothing compared to some we see".
Two days made slightly brighter for the price of one joke about my personal hygiene. Not bad.

The people in the duty free shop were relentlessly cheery anyway, and didn't need any help from me, so next up was the security guard at the gate. He looked like he would be a bit difficult to force a smile out of, but looking at my passport he opened with "I recognize that place of birth".
"Really?" I said, "Stornoway? From where?"
"It's always the last place on the weather reports"
"Yeah, and I bet it's always forecasting torrential rain too"
"Seems like it," he said with a chuckle, "have a good trip sir"

The cabin crew on the plane were pretty happy too, or at least pretending to be, but I still raised a laugh by proving myself to be a complete idiot by ordering a cup of tea and saying yes to milk and sugar even though I drink it black.
"I said yes to milk and sugar, didn't I?"
"I'm a moron, could I have a cup of black tea, no sugar. Maybe I should switch to coffee and try to wake up a bit?"

A woman traveling on her own with a toddler, a big bag and a pushchair tested my limits by opting to get on the escalator to baggage claim behind me instead of using the lifts three feet away. The toddler was out of the loaded down chair, which the mother was having trouble controlling and the kids' bravery deserted her a little bit as she started to retreat from the moving stairs and her already descending mother. As the mother looked helpless, I grabbed the chair from the front, but before she moved to rescue her kid, she took a moment to yell "grab it from behind!" at me. Easier said than done when it's taking up almost the entire escalator, so I didn't bother. "Get behind it", she shouted again, in case I was one of them foreigns who didn't understand English unless it was delivered at high decibels. As I was already at the bottom of the escalator and was now deftly maneuvering the stupid thing out of the way and struggling mightily to maintain my good mood, I revised my decision to offer a piece of my mind and instead smiled and said "don't worry, I'm stronger than I look". She smiled back and offered a mild apology, which I waved away.

The last test was the baggage claim office, where a rant was already in progress by the time I arrived and, I found out later, had been going on for 45 minutes. The man had travelled this airline "a lot, especially recently" and could not believe that "they" had lost his bag. Except they hadn't. Like mine, it had simply not made the short connection from Dubai to London and would follow tomorrow, or the next day. The ranting man, like me, lived in Houston and, I would hope, did not have all his clothes in the suitcase. His dirty underwear turning up in two days should not, you would think, have put him in the frame of mind where the most sensible thing to do was shout at a woman who had not and never would tag, handle or even see his luggage, but whose job it was to make sure he did get it at some point. As he finally gave up and stormed off, with the copy of the airlines luggage compensation policy that he had demanded, I approached the counter and asked "Is anyone who comes in here ever having a good day?" This raised my last laugh of the trip from one of the poor sods who have to put up with thousands of grumpy people being herded through their workplace every day.

I have decided that, though I may not always manage to maintain it, traveling with a cheery disposition is going to be my default approach from now on. I recommend you try it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


The driver taking us back to the airport didn't speak much English, but he did laugh and say "Same, Same" as I repeatedly pointed my camera out the window at the empty desert. He looked around for something worth taking a picture of the entire drive and eventually gave up, pulled off to the side of the road, jumped out and stood behind a tree. Mus and Vincent in the back had no idea what he was doing, but I figured he was giving me a photo op so I jumped out of the car, camera clicking, in the hope that he wasn't going for a pee.

Finally satisfied that I'd got the shot I wanted, or resigned to the fact he was never going to get any privacy to take care of his bodily functions, he got back in the car and drove on. Mukhaizna airstrip, next left:

The departure lounge at Mukhaizna is a happening place. For once, Mus made it through security without incident:

All being well, I'm out of here tomorrow and back in Houston Friday. Can't wait:

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Same Crap, Different City

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Trip

Ooh look, we're on a plane:

Dirty window though. Can hardly see a thing. Let's stop somewhere.

That's better. Gosh, that runway looks like it's just hard packed sand, doesn't it? Where the flipping heck are we?

Mukhaizna? Do you think there's a Starbucks in the yellow terminal building there? No, okay then, let's go for a drive.

Yay! It's the desert. Keep your eyes peeled for camels.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007


I arrived in Muscat on Friday night, though it was after midnight by the time I got out of the airport. My bags decided to stay in Dubai. Mustafa, who I was travelling with, re-routed to Karachi, as the folks in London wouldn't let him go to Oman with less than 6 months on his passport, despite the fact he already a visa issued by the Oman government. Anyway, those of you bored enough to follow my Where's Ian thing hopefully got an idea of the epic scale of my journey.

Muscat itself is a beautiful city. I love Arabic architecture. It's all curves and domes, not so many right angles.

Here's the view from my hotel room:

And here's my hotel from the beach below:
Sunset from the beach:
The ocean:
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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ooh La La Indeed

I don't speak French, but I'm pretty sure these guys are saying something along the lines of "How did we lose twice to this shower in 11 months?"

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

For Jen and Thomas

None of the rest of you will get this. Some of you will probably try to get it, but won't, unless you've played BioShock. The link is to a comic that is, at the best of times rude and that not only contains, in this particular instance, two sweary words, but, since you haven't played BioShock, it may seem even more offensive than it is, so don't click on this:

Funniest. Thing. Ever.

Now, I realise that's cruel. It's like a big red button that has no other explanation than a huge sign saying "Do Not Press". So, you've clicked on it, you've read it and you didn't get it. You may even be offended. You're probably annoyed at me for not warning you or something.

Anyway, passing off someone else's work, that I didn't even pay for, as a present is pretty cheap, but I don't think Jen and Thomas would have found it on their own, because they're not nerds like me, and today's their anniversary and it will make them laugh, so it's worth it. Happy Anniversary guys.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Now You're Stalking

Announcing an exciting new feature on the Ian and Nikki blog: "Where's Ian?"

If you look to the right, and scroll down past the newly patched together widget that clunkily works around the fact that blogger's comment feed is no longer compliant with their feed page element, you'll see it. If it works as designed, I can text updates from anywhere in the world, that let you know where I am and what I'm doing.

The service is called Twitter and, if you're interested in receiving a text on your phone, whenever I send a text to twitter from my phone, you can set your phone to follow me, or something. I didn't really read that bit because it seems a little stupid. Who on Earth would want to know where I am and what I'm doing at all times. (Hi Mum! Shame they didn't have this 18 years ago, eh?)

It all seems a little bit pointless really, but since I'm off on my travels next Thursday and probably not going to be able to blog very much, I thought I'd give it a go and see how well it works.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Just The Two of Us

Last Thursday was one of the Astros few day games this season. Always a great excuse to play hooky, Nikki and were both invited to the game through our work. We had slightly different seats, though I've managed to include them both in this picture:My seat was pretty much where I'm standing and Nikki's seat was pretty much where the red circle is. Nikki did do better on one score though, since they had a St. Arnold's beer cart near where she was sitting and I had to make do with Shiner.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Riding Off Into The Sunset

Sonia, Eddie and Gaspar are leaving Houston for Moscow this week. What better way to send them off than with a wild west party? Have fun in the East guys!

Go to the album to view these in a larger size.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Don't Mess With Texas

It may not be West, but it sure is Wild...
I have more pics, but the boss is probably going to want editorial control over some of the ones that feature her. I better wait until she has a chance to look at them, or else I'll be forced to run for the border.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Plane Rude

If I wasn't so tired, I could probably see it as a solution to the long standing physics problem. The irresistible force of Three Seat Bob is slowly but surely demonstrating what happens: The immovable object eventually bends outward from the waist up, half way into the aisle, where the cart can smash its entire arm instead of just the elbow. The second time someone brushes their bum past my face on the way to the toilet, I resist back, hard. The message slowly passes through the layers of fat and 10 minutes later Three Seat Bob notices, "Sorry man, this is all the room I have", he says.

It's been a long day, I'm grumpy, I want to get home and my usual good humor deserts me. I'd been doing okay up to now. I never said a word when he stated that "he'd warned them not to put him in a middle seat" like it's the airlines fault he doesn't fit. I ignored his complaint about how "the seats get smaller every year", because not so long ago I used to tell myself the same lie to excuse my own expanding waistline, but this is too much.

"No", I reply, "It's all the room you have, plus half the room I have".

Bob goes quiet for a second, I think he expected a sympathetic response, an ally in his war against the injustice of a $150 seat that doesn't comfortably fit his 300 pound frame, but if I was the wrong guy on the wrong day before I sat down, the smell of his armpit soaking into my shirt is not making me any happier.

"At least you have the aisle", he says, as if this is the logical conclusion to his need to take up half my seat. I laugh. Not a happy chuckle, more a wry snort, but a laugh all the same. He doesn't like that much either.

"I guess I'm not all that sorry then", he says.

"I guess you're not", I reply, redoubling my immovableness.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Still Geeky, After All These Years

There was no tape on my glasses, I didn't have a pocket protector full of pens, nothing. I was giving off no signs, as far as I knew. But as I walked up to the check-out at Best Buy last night, the registrar glanced my way, reached under the counter and handed me a copy of BioShock, before I said a word. How did he know? What gave me away? I'm cool, people! Not geeky! Cool!

(By the way, it's awesome. Heart-poundingly, skin-jumpingly, nervous-sweatingly, awesome)

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Dean Machine

Nikki and I did minimal Hurricane preparation this weekend. It's almost certain now that, barring an unprecedented turn north, Dean will make landfall a couple of hundred miles south of the border. Since it seems that weather systems steer many tropical storms into the same area, we decided to make sure we had everything we needed in case another one comes barreling through.

We still plan to shelter in place as long as we can and we made sure we had loads of torches and batteries, that the cars were full of petrol, that we had plenty of food and that we knew how to turn the gas supply for the house off. The grocery store was out of crates of water and I wasn't worried enough about Dean to pay the $18 the petrol station on the corner wanted. I will, however, remember that they tried that and should I ever need to go looting in future, they're first on my list.

My favourite resource for Hurricane information, the Houston Chronicle's SciGuy reckons we've got 5 or 6 more weeks to worry about and then we're in the clear for another year.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Stop! Pepper Time!

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, 'Holy cow, that's a lot of peppers!'

You're right, it is. 17 to be exact. Add that to the 2 I picked the other day and subtract the fact that we usually use 2 or 3 per spicy meal and multiply by the thought that we only have a couple of spicy meals per week, tops, and you end up with an equation that sort of looks like:
(17p + 2p) - (3p * 2mw) = Holy cow, that's a lot of peppers!

Let's hope Mark comes through with his buddy Pierre's awesome spicy pepper sauce recipe.

No! Bad Google!

Don't go encouraging people to eat chickens on my website! We like chickens round here.Mmm, sounds tasty though.

Tropical Depression

Those two words don't really go together if you ask me. 'Tropical' conjures up images of palm trees and fruity rum cocktails and how can you be depressed about fruity rum cocktails?

Anyway, the depression formerly known as Tropical Storm Erin made landfall north of Corpus Christi and brought us a load of rain and some thunder:
Meanwhile the first Hurricane of the season, Dean, is going to enter the gulf tomorrow. We have a nice ridge of high pressure over us that should keep it South of us, it's probably going to whack the Yucatan and will hopefully then weaken to the point where it doesn't do much damage after that. Most models have it staying South of Houston, but maybe we'll stock up on cheese and water just in case.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


I bought a new computer a couple of weeks ago, it had a $50 mail in rebate, which I filled in at the weekend. Stamps went up here, again, at some point, from 39c to 41c but we had some that just said "First Class", with no price on them and Nikki had mailed some stuff with them, so I figured they were still okay. I stuck the receipt and the big chunk of cardboard with the proof of purchase in the envelope and sent it off yesterday.

Got home today and my envelope is in the mailbox "Returned for 2c additional postage." Okay, no problem, but the envelope seems kind of thin. And easily opened. My receipt and proof of purchase is gone, all that's left is the rebate form. Some bugger's nicked my $50!

There's no-one in at the post office's 24 hour manned theft hotline, so I'm venting here instead. I'll be on the blower to them first thing in the morning. Not a happy bunny at the moment.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ah, That's Better

Man, last week dragged.

I blame spending the weekend before in Galveston. It was fun, but too much beer and sun, coupled with not enough sleep, is never going to set you up for a productive week. This past weekend, on the other hand, was perfect. Nikki cooked three delicious dinners in a row (Chicken Chasseur, Cod with lemon and parsley and a Shepherd's Pie), we stayed in and watched great movies (Last King of Scotland and Hot Fuzz) and had a few, but not too many drinks (Mandolina Pinot Grigio on Friday, Full Moon Pale Rye Ale among other beers on Saturday). A little bit of gardening, a lot of floating around in the pool, I think we left our place for a total of 4 hours between 7pm Friday and 8am Monday. I even managed to kill most, if not all, of the little blighters that were hanging around my pepper plant, with soap and water, so I think I'm still organic.

Friday, August 10, 2007

With Apologies to Bill S.

I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my inspiration, forgone all custom of blogging; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the internet, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the web, look you, this brave fiber backbone, this majestical IP fretted with TCP, why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.

Normal service will be resumed next week, hopefully.

Monday, August 6, 2007

In Support of Bear Grylls

There was a little controversy about my new hero. It seemed like nonsense when I read it, part and parcel of making a TV show spun around by professional mole hill to mountain-ers in an attempt to diminish the massive entertainment value many of us derived from the show. The man himself has responded on his blog and if his word is not good enough for you, then check out comments from the three supporters beneath his entry. Good enough for me, bring on more Man vs. Wild please.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Mile

Out of our last discussion, there was a question: How fast could I run a mile? Last night, in the pub, the question came up again, so, despite a little too much Belhaven Twisted Thistle last night and a donut this morning I decided to find out at lunchtime. The answer - I can run a mile in 8 minutes and 39 seconds.

It's not great, but it's not terrible. I was pretty pegged out by the end, but think I can go faster with a little less beer and fried food in me. If I were being chased by velociraptors, I could probably get under 7, but since they're, hopefully, extinct, I'll aim to get under 8. We'll see.

I know some of you are a bit too competitive for your own good, others amongst you run, a lot. Some of you probably looked at my time and thought, 'I'm going to beat that'. That's okay. This is not a gauntlet. It has not been thrown down, but if you do choose to pick it up anyway, let me know how you get on.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


It's not exactly 3:59.4, but I'm proud of it. In my lunch hour, a couple of times a week, I do about 30 minutes of cardio exercise. I used to walk for most of those 30 minutes, then ran for most of them and now, most of the time, run for all of them. 3 miles is a distance I've been able to run for a while, but always in just over 30 minutes. I feel like I've been chipping away at it for ages and today finally beat it by 8 glorious seconds, so if anyone needs me, I'm going to be in my happy place for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Blog Entry That Didn't Quite Work

It's tough on these mean streets you know. Sometimes I see something funny and the blog entry pops fully formed into my head and makes me chuckle, which is a good sign that everyone else will be amused and Nikki will roll her eyes in that adorable way that says 'I'm only not laughing because when I encourage you I get a deluge of puns that are nowhere near as hilarious as this one'.

Trouble is I'm mostly only armed with a 1.3 megapixel phone camera, with a lens covered in fluff and dust and other crap from my pocket, so when I see something funny it's hard to get a good photo of it. Especially when I'm driving down the freeway feeder at 45 miles per hour. Take this photo for example...
The sign says "NOW HIRING BOOKEEPER". Which I thought was pretty funny and would make a good basis for a post about an alternative career in ghost wrangling, but then the photo came out crap and if I didn't tell you what it said you'd have a hard time figuring it out and even if you did, your brain, which of course is smarter than the average brain, because you're here, would fill in the correct spelling of BOOKKEEPER and ruin the joke.

Oh, and hello Bruno!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Bangkok - Day 3

Our third day in Bangkok was a national holiday, so entrance to the Grand Palace was free! Though we had to let the King go first. Seemed like a fair trade.

The Grand palace complex is home to the Emerald Buddha, which is carved out of Jade, just to confuse you. Anyway, it's carved from a single piece of Jade, and having seen the huge reclining Buddha the day before I was expecting something pretty spectacular from the even more famous Emerald one. It was mildly disappointing, but sadly, because you can't take photos in the room, I do not have much evidence of this with which to convince you. It's about 45cm tall and, though it may well be a beautiful Jade statue, it's covered in different gold outfits most of th year and surrounded by much taller, much gaudier gold Buddhas that really distract from it.

In the afternoon we went to Chatachuk market, which was awesome. Everything you could think of was for sale. The food was great, lots of fresh cooked stuff that took just a couple of minutes to prepare before you were off on your way again. My favourite was the happy buns, which are little dumplings stuffed with meat or seafood that have smiley faces on them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

All Pain, No Gain

Before bed last night Nikki was brushing her teeth as I got undressed. She leaned out of the bathroom, looked at me and said, "Did you do weight lifting today?"
Delighted she noticed, I replied, "Yes! Do I look buff?"
"No," she says, "You're sighing and groaning a lot".

Monday, July 16, 2007

Top Tip

If you park your car at a shopping mall in Bangkok during a national holiday, leave the handbrake off:

Saturday, July 14, 2007

True Love

"Nikki, would you sneak into Jabba the Hutt's fortress to rescue me, if I was frozen in carbonite?"


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Phuket Photos

In the home stretch now with the holiday photos. Just to confuse everybody I'm posting these before Bangkok Day 3, because I thought I'd posted that already but just realised I haven't even created the slideshow. Our last leg of the trip was to the island of Phuket, these are photos from Kata Noi, where our hotel was, and from the town of Kata itself. Enjoy.


This morning I kissed my lovely wife goodbye, collected the tasty looking lunch she had prepared for me and stepped out the door into beautiful sunshine. I took a deep breath of the lovely fresh air, savoured the warmth of the day, smiled at my freshly mowed lawn and stepped off the porch...right through a huge spider web at face level.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Earning Lunch

Nikki and I took a nice bike ride from the house to the rather high running bayou, all the way along to Morningside, which brings you nicely into Rice Village for lunch and a pint at Two Rows, before heading back:

(There should be an embedded map from Map My Ride there, but it doesn't appear to be working, you can check it here instead while I get on the blower with the Ian and Nikki tech support idiots. I knew we should never have outsourced to Bangalore.)

12 Miles total and a guilt free delicious pint. What could be better?

Friday, July 6, 2007

My New Hero

"See this animal poo, see what's in it, bit of seed, lots of hair, even a bit of bone. These tapered ends tell me this is more than likely a coyote poo."

Bear Grylls. Host of Man vs Wild on the Discovery Channel and a man who knows a little too much about poo. Realising he had found coyote poo, he knew there must be a way down from the top of the bit of Copper Canyon he was on, because coyotes couldn't live at that altitude.

He got down to the bottom and then treated himself to a delicious meal of still alive scorpion, which apparently tastes like cheese that's been left out for 3 weeks, only worse. He cut the stinger off first, obviously.

Then he got excited about finding a wee bit of wire, which seemed a bit much until he rubbed it in his hair then stuck it on a leaf in a bit of water to find out which way was North. "Keep the wire, get rid of the leaf, drink the water..."

Exactly what I was thinking Bear.

Monday, July 2, 2007


We now take a break from the recent holiday pictures to show you instead some pictures from our weekend trip to Vegas, which was more of a mini-getaway than a holiday and is only referred to as a holiday here in order to keep consistent labels.

I should also, being honest, let you know that the photo of the woman who played Tanya in Mamma Mia was taken, not during the weekend, but the previous Wednesday.

It was a fun trip. I forgot how much I enjoy Vegas. Nikki discovered previously untapped roulette skills. We went to downtown Las Vegas too, we'd only ever been to the strip before, so that was pretty cool. We're very tempted to stay there next time we go. The Golden Nugget has one of those big slidey tube things into its' swimming pool that actually runs through a shark tank at one point. It's transparent, but I assume you're moving pretty quickly, so I'm not sure how much time you would have to get freaked out, but still, pretty cool.

Friday, June 29, 2007


Nikki's been playing with Facebook for a few weeks and has tracked down lots of old school, college and work friends. I signed up today and there are now links to our profiles under the column on the right. You have to be a member to see them though, sorry.

I have only found one person other than Nikki so far, I suspect that my people are all a bit too old to have caught on so far, but I did get a chuckle out of Nikki's mini feed after she added me and I updated my profile:
I don't waste any time, me.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Bangkok - Day 2

What can you do after an evening in a red light district, except head for a temple? Nikki and I took the Skytrain and the MRT to the river before catching a river taxi to Wat Pho. Since there are two slideshows here I've turned autoplay off, (which I think is a new option, that I will default to from now on).

Pictures from the river:

Pictures from Wat Pho:

Bangkok - Day 1

As any good tourist does, Nikki and I immediately headed for one of Bangkok's red light districts, in our case Soi Cowboy. Our strategy was to plant ourselves in a strategic position, buy a couple of beers and watch the world go by. This worked incredibly well. After a few Singha's we decided to order food. A process that involved our waitress running off to a street vendor to grab a menu which we ordered from, she ran back and then the street vendor came back and delivered our food personally. It was more food than we could possibly finish and it all tasted fantastic. A fine way to spend an evening.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


As my wife has pointed out, in increasingly forceful ways, I haven't even finished showing you the Singapore pictures yet, never mind the Thailand ones. This is not entirely because I am lazy, but also because I like to take my time and write about the pictures individually. Nikki suggested a Picasa web gallery, which is, as all my wife's ideas are, a great one. However, I don't like redirecting folk and having them leave comments in different places that I rarely visit. Thank goodness then, for the embed slideshow feature of Picasa that I only just noticed. Not sure I like how they've implemented comments, but you can turn them on or off, by clicking on the little speech bubble that pops up when you move your mouse to the bottom left. Enjoy.

OK, That's It

We're upgrading to Layouts. I found yet another thing that doesn't work until we do, so we're doing it. Some stuff may stop working around here for a while. But we'll be back, with a slightly cleaner interface and slightly less uniqueness.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Just Like Pamela Anderson

It was pool brushing time tonight. It must have rained all week while I was away, and though the pool looked okay when Nikki left to join me on Friday, it must have really rained all weekend, because it was manky when we got back. We get a fine layer of crap on the steps and seats and, when it's hot, algae will try to take over, so I brushed everything, emptied the baskets, threw in some phosphate killer and loads of chlorine. Run the filter for 12 hours and it will be ready for humans again. I went back inside.

I realised I'd forgotten to turn the outside light off. I went out the bedroom door and flipped the switch just in time to scare a little toad, who in his panic, leapt into the pool. Damn. He swam quickly to the other side. Probably a good tactic in a pond. Not so much in a pool, where the sides are 3 inches above the top of the water, all the way around. I rushed into action, collecting my shoes from the garage and running out to grab the net. The little toad gratefully climbed on and I soon deposited him safely on the patio, where, with a little encouragement he hopped past the door, so Nikki could see I hadn't gone mad, and off into the night.

Pamela does have one thing on me though (okay, two things, or would it be three, total?). She probably never locks herself out of her beach hut whilst charging off to save the day. Luckily Nikki was there to let me back in, otherwise I'd have had a fair amount of explaining to do after breaking into my own house.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Mamma Mia!

This is a worrying trend. I hate musicals. An unfortunate early exposure to Cats pretty much turned me off the entire idea of musicals forever. But Mamma Mia was great last night. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Since I took Nikki to see Spamalot for our anniversary I have now seen, and had a great time at, two musicals in the last 13 days.

When I get back to Houston I'm going to visit the doctor and get my testosterone checked. If I don't do something now I might end up at the ballet.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Gin City

Vegas. It's a hard place to attend a conference. Last night was particularly difficult. I had to drink. A lot. Mostly for Professional reasons. Honestly, here's the list

1 beer - personal, I was waiting for Paul.
2 beers - professional. Chatting with Paul.
2 gin and tonics - professional. Vendor paid, trying to get me drunk so I'd buy stuff.
1 red wine with dinner - professional. Vendor bought me dinner at Stripsteak.
1 glass of port - professional. Same dinner.
2 beers - professional. Playing roulette with vendor. Relationship building. You know?
1 whisky - personal. To help me sleep
1 whisky - professional. Chatting with vendor at bar. He wanted to buy me another.

I had to get up and attend more sessions this morning. Life is hard.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Fame! and other blog stuff

Thank you to for featuring my entry about The Battle Box. Very kind and very possibly the first time in history I have been quoted anywhere.

Plus, check out the number two result for weird shoulders on Many apologies to whoever followed that link here looking for answers. We only have more questions.

Oh, and I noticed a couple of people commenting on entries from days, even weeks ago. I may have, rudely, not noticed your comment at the time and inexcusably left you sitting, possibly even cursing, while waiting for a reply. This has now, I hope, been rectified, if I have still missed your comment, I deserve your curses all the more, but require your guidance as to my oversight.

Finally, in one of those statements that gets me into trouble, some time ago I mentioned that I have hundreds of pictures from Singapore and Thailand. They're coming, (so is Christmas (so is the upgrade to Blogger Layouts, so teasingly previewed some time ago)).

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Year! Already?

Nikki and I celebrated our first anniversary yesterday. We had a fun day, stocking up on goodies at the farmer's market in the morning and then lounging around in the pool for a bit before going to The Melting Pot for dinner. Before we went out Nikki tried on her wedding dress again. It's a bit too loose for her these days, but she wouldn't let me take a picture. Here's one of the two of us instead:

Thursday, June 7, 2007


YouTube changed their embedded video thing to cause all videos to have an annoying "related videos" MTV style pop-up if you sneeze near your mouse during the playing of it. I noticed it this morning when looking at a video on Mindy's blog and immediately thought it was obnoxious. Since I try to restrain myself from ranting on other people's websites I thought I'd do it over here instead.

Take for instance this clip, an awesome 4 minute, one take steadicam shot from "The Protector":

See what I mean? Annoying right? It covers up half the action. It can be turned off by adding &rel=0 to the end of the URL but should surely be off by default. Here's the video with the pop-ups turned off.

It took me a little bit to figure it out because the instructions on the YouTube site are not clear. Basically in the embed code there are two references to the same URL, in the case above it is:
I changed both of these to be
and that turns it off.

The trouble is, since it's on by default, if you have a lot of embedded videos on your blog you're going to have to go and edit them all to add the &rel=0 or else you are stuck with YouTube's fuzzy matching that may offend your mum, or worse, presented with videos of someone else's kids, who are nowhere near as cute as your own family are in the video you just posted.

I don't think it's going to last very long, because it's a very un-Google move, but you never know. A feature, of no real value to the end user, added to a popular program, without consultation and confusingly hard to turn off, I mean, I know Google are trying to take on Microsoft, but turning into them isn't the way to do it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

What The World Eats

Time magazine has a great photo essay showing a week's worth of food for 15 different homes around the world.

It's interesting to compare the amount of fish the Japanese family consume compared to the others and there's a shocking amount of chocolate bars in the British family's picture. The family from Mexico have a massive amount of fruit and veg, but look at all those Coke bottles. Meanwhile in Mongolia they probably don't have to worry too much about getting enough protein in their diet.

I wish Time had bigger version of these pictures you could click on, but it's still fascinating.

Check it out.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Carbon Footprint

Global warming eh? I think we now all agree that it's a fact and the current argument centers around whether man has caused it or if it is simply the Earth's natural cycle and there's nothing we can do about it. Anyway, there's been a lot of talk recently about carbon footprints and saving energy and planting trees to offset flights you take. I don't really understand how that last bit works, but I do know this...I chopped down more trees than Brazil this weekend, so I'm probably not going to win any awards from Al Gore any time soon:

Friday, June 1, 2007

Baseball! Again!

I know that pretty much everyone who reads this blog hates baseball. I know that. I do. I, on the other hand, love baseball. I don't want to bore my loyal readers with a sport they hate reading about, so instead I'm going to talk about something I know you all love: Sitting!

So last night I had the best seats I've ever had at a baseball game. The seats were not only comfortable and nicely equipped with a cup holder, but they were this far away from the action:
That's right. From my excellent seat I was less than 20 feet away from where the Astros players waited in what is known as the on-deck circle. For example, the picture above shows the view, from my seat, of Astros legend Craig Biggio warming up as Astros pitcher Woody Williams grounds out. The on-deck circle, despite it's name has no deck chairs, plus there's usually a bloke swinging a bat in it, so there's very little sitting potential. After grounding out Williams made his way to the dugout, which has more of a bench kind of arrangement and no arm-rests or cup holders, so my seats were better than most of the other options around. There are, as you can see, people in front of me, but there's a big gap in the safety net at their level, so these people are more like human shields for my seat than spectators with a better view.
My seat also afforded me a fantastic view of Astros Legend Craig Biggio's 2,975th career hit, pictured here. Biggio should get his 3000th hit sometime in early July. This is a major baseball milestone and has only been accomplished 26 times before. Its equivalent in the sitting world would be being able to keep the remote control and the most comfortable chair all the way through a 24 hour TV marathon of The Biggest Loser, it requires skill, determination, stamina, durability and a little bit of luck.

I really, really, wish I'd thought to bring a proper camera to give you a better view of how fantastic these seats really were. Maybe I could get one of those telephoto lenses for my camera phone.