Wednesday, May 30, 2007

How not to make a presentation

I’m sitting in a conference, watching some good and very bad examples of how to make a presentation. Note to self: don’t ever put an unexplained acronym, the word “synergy” and the phrase “added-value” into one sentence, whilst talking over a very text-heavy powerpoint slide that has no connection to what you are saying.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Weekend climbing

Some weekend climbing posting in tacky-homemade video format!

***Now updated with a slightly better quality version!***

Same route, different climber and angle.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Places I have been

Another way to waste five minutes - make maps of countries you have visited and decide where your next traveling destinations should be.

Here are mine for the whole world and Europe below that. I really must go to Ireland sometime. Kind of embarrassing not to have visited the neighbours... My rules are you have to clear immigration to have visited the country. Transiting at an airport doesn't count, even if you are stuck at that airport for what feels like days!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

My other car is a bike

Who needs a 4x4 when you have a 2(legs)x2(wheels)? My "urban assault machine".

Helsingin Sanomat reports that second and third car ownership in a family is rapidly increasing in Finland. Numbers of cars in Finland are going up but the number of car-less households is pretty constant, as is population, hence more families own two.

It's always been something I've notice with living here - out of my friends and family in the UK second car ownership is the norm, only Londoners seems to go against the rule, but then the last time I drove in London it took me about 2 hrs to go from the south to west on the South Circular so who the hell wants to drive there? But in Finland people I know with two cars in household are a small minority. The difference is quite obvious for anyone who has driven, say, the M6 from Manchester to Birmingham on an average Friday afternoon, in comparison to the Lahti to Helsinki motorway on a summer Sunday evening when supposedly the masses are returning from their Mökki (summer cottages). The difference is about 100 kmph.

Scoop! Helsingin Sanomat finds a Helsinki traffic jam!

The research Hesari reports suggests that growth is being driven by people moving to the outer suburbs in search of affordable living space. This is exactly what I did last year, and the transport links aren't great - one bus an hour to downtown and the takes 45 minutes, unlike my former more inner suburb where there was a train at the local station every 20 minutes. But between the bus and my bike (900 kms done so far this year commuting), it's OK and I can feel morally smug about my contribution to quieter and safer streets, less emissions, and all that stuff whilst still eating donuts but not worrying quite as much about how fat I am. Fortunately we can't afford a second car because clearly when you do get one, karmic chaos follows:
"Families with just one car still make use of public transport, and they cycle and walk a fair amount. Kalenoja calculates that if there are two cars, cycling and use of public transport decline by about 50 per cent. The kilometres that are driven increase by about 75 per cent."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"He who lives by the swordfish shall die by the swordfish!"

Suddenly everyone seems to be talking about that Shark. Here's one random blogger's (apologies to the blogger concerned - to your family and friends I'm sure you're not random at all!) great take on it:
Here's what happens next: nobody'll hear anything from the Baby Shark for about 30 years. Then the Shark'll become big news again, turning over coral reefs and reprimanding the "Phari-seas" et al. and teaching sharks about loving thy neighbor and turning the other fin and anti-materialism. Read on....
Hat tip to Am Fear Liath Mor on UKC for finding this gem.

Did you know...

...that your average Australian has a bigger carbon footprint than your average American? I didn't until this morning.

Naugthy Aussies, No "throw another shrimp on barbie" for you!

Conspiracy convergence

It's been slowly dawning on me over the last few days what is really happening in U.S. politics at the moment. It's all out in the media now, or coming out, but the stories are spread around in disparate places and putting it all together takes a bit of thinking. I've been gorging on James Ellroy in the last couple of days - my favourite crime writer, racing through "Brown's Requiem". So I feel the need for my own coming together moment - like those where the detective protagonist suddenly sees the big picture and prepares to violently blaze a path to rough form of street justice. We've got it all: cheating, conniving political-operatives; hack lawyer flunkies with law degrees from bizarre far-right religious "universities"; money grasping televangelists and other ungodly "men of god"; political hacks racing to hospital beds to get the signature of man just out of major surgery; the distinct sniff of southern separatism that won't accept that civil rights are for all; senior politicians who think the judiciary is there to serve their political needs; mysteriously influential Washington think tanks that come from nowhere and disappear to nowhere stopping only to give evidence to House and Senate committees on a major problem for American politics that nobody else can find. It's all there Daddy-O: noir for the new generation, off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush...

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

More pics on Flickr

I've been uploading more random photos I like onto my Flickr site. You are most welcome to take a look. Nothing in particular, lots of randomness.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Saturday, May 12, 2007

29.8 kmph

29.8 - the average speed of my first time out on my road bike this year. 22.32 kms in 45.01 minutes.

This is really annoying - 30 kmph as an average speed is somehow a magic number for me. Last year I managed to do a 2 hr ride where I averaged just more than 30 kmph for the whole way. It made my week. These little victories keep you going.

Coming back into my neighbourhood I was at 29.9 so I actually went round the block an extra time, riding hard just so I could get the av speed up to 30. But it stuck resolutely at 29.9 and I was worried the neighbours would be looking at me oddly - perhaps that should be 'more oddly' considering that I was wearing lycra anyway - and the computer dropped back to 29.8 just riding up to the house. Next time... next time.

It's interesting that on a reasonably short ride I saw five other road bikers. When I started riding a road bike in Finland about five years back, seeing other riders hunched over drop-bars seemed quite rare. Now it appears to be increasing in popularity. Helsinki's hinterland in the summer is just perfect for road biking. Quiet, well-surfaced roads; attractive countryside; temperatures rarely too hot, but not too cold either. It seems others are realizing this as well.

My Italian beauty.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bleeding hands

***Updated with more gore! See below***

My better half recently told me that posting pictures of my 1) bleeding 2) hands after rock climbing was "sad". She is probably right as she usually is. So I was greatly pleased to stumble across another climbing blogger who is also posting various pics of her bleeding hands. Excellent! I'm not alone.

So big-up to "Alpine Dreams of a Desk Monkey" for making feel slightly less weird.

Perhaps we can start some sort of blog-based-bleeding-knuckle-support-group? Whose scabs heal the quickest? How to resist picking them? That sort of thing. Anybody else who feels the urge to share their bleeding digits with the world is most welcome to join.

***11th May Update - Emma at "Alpine Dreams of a Desk Monkey" has pointed me toward further spilled blood and damaged fingers - only this time it's famous Scottish climbing blood! Dave Redpath, one of Scotland's hardest sport climbers, is coming close on his very hard project at the Anvil at Lochgoilhead before it made life harder for him by trying to bite his finger off. See the resulting bloody-flapper, and a splatter pattern worthy of CSI, on the Hotaches blog. I hope it's healing well Dave, and you can send soon before the midges become too hellish!***

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Battlefield Ethics

The pictures below are jpegs made from power point slides, taken from a presentation on mental health and battlefield ethics, given at the Pentagon by General James T. Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps, on the 18 April 2007. The results are based on surveys of 1350 soldiers and 450 marines. You can download the full presentation here and read the related article in the Army Times here. The first slide (ROEs stands for "rules of engagement") shows what respondents have admitted to doing themselves, and the second - and in some ways more worrying slide - shows what the respondents would or wouldn't report their comrades for. Most worryingly, around half wouldn't report their fellow marines or soldiers for killing an innocent non-combatant. This gives context to the cover-up around the Haditha killings. What General Conway's presentation shows is that soldiers and marines who have been deployed to Iraq before have increased mental health difficulties and that, in turn, leads to lower standards of ethical behaivour than with first timers.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Ghost police

Back in September I wrote:
if you get assaulted by a Finnish riot cop, how can you know who it was? I've seen loads of pictures of them in news magazines and the papers and from what I can see they have no distinguishing marks.
It seems the answer is that you can't. According to Helsingin Sanomat:
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Finland’s central criminal police, have so far failed to ascertain the identity of those police officers who possibly used excessive force in conjunction with the arrests of demonstrators taking part in the Smash Asem protest in front of Kiasma, the Museum of Contemporary Art in central Helsinki, in September last year.
So the Feds can't identify their own colleagues. The thin blue line stands firm. Back last September, my mate Nikko informed me in the comments to my original post that the police can choose when on riot duty whether they wear distinguishing patches or not. In this case clearly they chose the "not" option. I said then it seemed a very stupid policy, the failure of the NBI's investigation only reinforces that opinion. No one is suggesting their names and home addresses should be visible, but their serial numbers should be.

I have a lot of sympathy for the police, they often are doing a thankless task in "damned if they do, damned if they don't" style situations. But when they put themselves above the law (as in this case by either not coming forward and identifying themselves and explaining their actions; or with colleagues not stepping forward to name names), they are their own worse enemies.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

"England, my England"

A few photos explaining why no posts since early last week:

Tuesday evening - about to chase the setting sun west from Schiphol to Brum.

Wednesday - "England, my England"
(and a prize of hearty cyber-slap on the back with no monetary alternative for the first commenter to name the lump of rock that my rucsac is sunning itself upon)

Wednesday - it's not so grim 'oop North

Friday - homeward bound in Holland again.

Unfortunately (fortunately?) my phone battery ran out whilst I was in London so I can't inflict pictures of the changing guard at Buckingham Palace that I happened to walk past whilst on my way from Victoria up to Green Park (Mornington Crescent!*). It's rather grand spectacle even for the jaded, and judging from the crowds standing watching - almost all foreign tourists - it probably pays for itself as a tourist attraction, but I did notice a couple of odd things. Firstly the two squaddies marching at the back of the platoon(?) of the changing guards weren't carrying SA80s with bayonets fixed like the rest of their comrades, but rather were carrying field radios, rather smartly covered in red serge to match the rest of their uniforms, and carrying the phone style handsets in their hands. Odd - were they likely to need to call in air support whilst marching the 200 mtrs round the Queen Victoria Memorial? And secondly, when I first got there the band of - I think - the Cold Stream Guards was playing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". Isn't that, well, a bit camp particularly for chaps already wearing bearskins?

And talking of camp: it's Eurovision week in Helsinki and I've been invited to dinner with Terry Wogan later this week when he is town for a few days as part of the BBC team. How cool is that?

*If this isn't funny to you at all, I'm afraid it will take far too long to explain why it should be.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


The current US administration looks ever more like a sinking ship, but at least some are partying hard as it goes down. In the wake of a former senior staff member being convicted of crimes (Libby), and an attorney general (Gonzales), who doesn't seem to be able to recall just about anything he has ever done, putting in performance before Congress that was just embarrassing to watch, we now have the first ever "United States Global AIDS Coordinator with the rank of Ambassador, reporting directly to the Secretary of State", Randall "Randy" Tobias resigning over hiring hookers.

Mr. Tobias is appearing to go for a Clintonesque "but I didn't inhale" defence with the delightful:
He told ABC News that he "had some gals come over to the condo for a massage", but denied having sex with any of them.
It would seem that Randy was just living up to his name.