Sunday, 29 January 2006

Ugly House

London 2006. Who gave them permission to build this?

Edwardian (or is it Victorian?) architecture and 70's bad taste does not mix very well, you don't have to be an architect to see that.


Wall Flower

Hong Kong 2005.
Where there's a will, there's a way.

Friday, 27 January 2006

'Our' Cats

To me cats seem to be the most agreeable pet in the world, they are very low maintenance. You don't have to walk a cat and they are smart enough to not leave turds halfway between the bedroom and the bathroom for you to slide in on your way to a night session.
Unfortunately our lifestyle with a lot of travel doesn't really lend itself to pets, but we have been lucky to have some 'extra low' maintenance cats in our life.

In Perth (Australia) we had at least three neighbour cats come visiting on a regular basis. To begin with I think they just dropped in to drop something in themselves. See, there is no real soil in Perth, it's all sand. The house we bought had been a rental property where nobody had bothered looking after the garden and was essentially just one big sandbox, a cats paradise in toilet facilities. After we made up the garden the cats would still come by and instead of fertilising the soil they would spend a few hours sleeping on our new timber deck. Great company for us and when they grew hungry they would just leave and go home to be fed there.

In Singapore there's thousands of stray cats. I guess they keep the rats down a bit, at least the ones that are not as big as the cats. Eating out is cheap in Singapore so after work we often opted to eat out instead of cooking at home after a long days work. One night I was sitting on a bench under our apartment block, waiting for the wife to come so that we could walk over to the local food centre for dinner. A small red/ginger cat came over towards me looking very distressed and meowing like cats do when they recognise a sucker that might feed them. It looked like it just had its tail chopped off, it wasn't bleeding but it was clearly a fresh wound. It only had about five centimeters of the tail left.
A lot of the cats in Singapore seem to have either chopped of tails or broken ones, it could be done by cruel people or perhaps by accident, I don't know. Most people actually seem to like the stray cats and since most of the cats are very friendly towards humans, they must be well treated most of the time.
The cat was more distressed than hungry and when I started petting her she calmed down. When the wife came the cat was sleeping on the bench beside me. We left the cat and had our dinner never expecting to see it again. But the next day she was there again and this time she followed us up to our apartment, this happened a few times and we began to feed her once in a while. She never really grew dependent on us and there would sometimes be a week between her visits, which suited us well since we where taking every opportunity to go traveling in Malaysia on long weekends. When she was around she would spend most of the time sleeping in a chair while we were watching TV, getting a break from the rough life on the streets.
I fell into the habit of calling the cat: "Lille Skiderik" which is Danish for: "Little Shithead", my wife didn't like that name one bit so we stretched our imaginations as far as they would go and came up with the very original name of: "The Cat". If she was around in the morning she would follow me half way down to the MRT (train) always stopping at the same point, looking after me until I disappeared around a corner. I guess it must have been the limit of her territory.
One day we realised that The Cat was pregnant when we noticed she was struggling more and more getting through the bars at our entrance door.
In Singapore everybody has bars in front of their doors and windows, making apartment blocks look like minimum security prisons. This is in the country with the lowest crime rate in the world. I guess it comes down to the general paranoia of the Chinese culture, but come on! Who's gonna break in through the window twelve floors up?
Well where was I? One day... yada yada yada... The Cat pregnant... yada yada yada... trouble getting through the bars. Ah there we are... Late one night The Cat was behaving weird and was trying to get us to follow her and we did. Thanks to the low crime rate in Singapore you feel safe everywhere regardless of the time of night, so taking a walk at half past eleven was no worry at all. The Cat lead us across the neighbourhood to a nearby buddhist temple, she could just squeeze through the pillars that made up the surrounding walls but we couldn't. She came back out looking very disappointed that we didn't follow her and went back in. We had to give up getting in there with her as the gates to the temple was closed for the night. We went back home and shortly after she showed up back home as well. She refused to come inside and just sat there on the doorstep meowing. She was clearly ready to give birth and was frustrated that we wouldn't follow her. In the end I found a cardboard box and placed it on the patio outside our door and she crawled inside.
The next morning we found her there in the cardboard box with three kittens. One looked just like the mother red/ginger with stripes and a white belly, another was all red/ginger and the third one was all white. From then on it was a constant struggle to keep The Cat from dragging the kittens into our bedroom closet. They ended up taking residence in the neighbours shoe rack, that they kept just outside their door. At first I was worried that our neighbours, an Indonesian woman and her two grown up daughters, would take offence at the four cats suddenly residing where they kept their shoes, but they took to them as well. I had to hose down the patio two or three times a week to get rid of the stench of cat piss, but I didn't mind. Eventually the kittens grew up and left to find their own place in the world. The white one disappeared long time before any of the two other kittens and we suspect it was kitnapped (he he) by people who thought it would look good with an all white cat around the house.
The Cat did get another litter but this time she was better prepared. We never found out where she kept them this time round. Once in a while she would turn up with one of the kittens for us to see only to take it away again after a couple of hours. We thought she might have kept them a few floors up higher than ours, because we would sometimes see her coming down the stairs. This litter had the same colours as the litter before.

We have been back to Singapore several times since and a couple of times we have been out to our old neighbourhood in Tampines. We half hoped to see The Cat again, but we never did.

Blonde Joke

I think this joke might be copyrighted, so rather than copy it into a blog post, I have made a link to it.
Enjoy!

Blonde joke

Wednesday, 25 January 2006

dit-dit-dit dah-dah dit-dit-dit

When we first "landed" in Australia after our stint in Singapore, we lived with my wife's parents for a couple of months.
One night at the dinner table my mother-in-law asked if anybody knew what SMS stood for. I explained that it stood for Short Message Service and that it's a method of sending text messages between mobile phones (back then, I was probably still in the habit of calling them "hand phones" as they do in Singapore).
She was wondering because every day on her way to work riding on the Sydney train she would hear this bit of Morse code: "dit-dit-dit dah-dah dit-dit-dit" which, she explained, spells S-M-S.
She used to be a telegrapher on a ship and therefore knew Morse code by heart (she joined my father-in-law on his ship, guess she heard all the stories about sailors, ports and girls).
I wonder how many people know that the "new message" tones from their mobile phone spells out SMS in Morse code, I didn't.

Want to know more?
Morse Code
SMS
Mother-in-law

Tuesday, 24 January 2006

Contrails

Ever since arriving in England I have marveled over the numerous airplane contrails in the sky. Everybody knows about the two big airports Heathrow and Gatwick on the outskirts of London. Less known is it (outside of England) that there are airports in Stanstead and Luton, both serving London, as well as a London City Airport (it is quite possible that everyone knew about these airports but didn't bother telling me). Five airports that all have a constant traffic of airplanes taking off and landing.
Living in Perth for three years have made me forget about all the airplanes that you see in the air space of Europe. Because of Perth's remote location, not a lot of planes passes over without making it a stop-over. So if a contrail is seen in the sky above Perth it's a big event and everybody will look up and discuss the phenomenon.

Boy: (looking up, pointing to the contrail in the sky) "What is that?"
Mom: (looking up, shielding eyes from the sun) "It's a bird."
Dad: (looking up, Ray Bans, no need to shield eyes) "No, It's Superman."
Mom: (looking concerned at Dad) "No, it must be an airplane."
Boy: "What's an airplane Dad?"
Dad: "I don't know Son...... I don't know."
[Silence as family watches the sky]
Dad: "Hey, let's throw another shrimp on the barbie"
Mom & Boy: "Yaaaaay!"

Monday, 23 January 2006

Beaches? We don't need no stinking beaches!

The memories of going to the beach, when I was a child, mostly consists of my father sleeping and my mother, my sister and I looking for amber. The shores of Denmark are supposed to be one of the places where you relatively easy should be able to find chunks of amber. So when we went to the beach, the three of us would walk up and down the shoreline, eyes fixed down towards the sand. My mother has two very small ugly chunks of amber she found herself as a child on a beach and this was the incentive for us to find more. Of course with the greed of childhood naivety, my sister and me had the belief that if we found some amber we would become rich enough to buy all the candy in the world (just enough for an afternoon). We never found any.

Years later I'm working at a construction site on a new building. Our coffee and lunch breaks my colleagues and me spend on the flat roof, enjoying the summer weather.
One day after river stones had been spread over the rubber tarp that made up the seal on the roof, we saw two concrete drillers walking around looking down on the roofing like they were looking for something. We asked them if they have dropped anything and they reluctantly explained that they had found amber in similar stone roof coverings before. We sat down for our coffee watching them and less than five minutes later they found a piece of amber about an inch across. We then started prospecting as well. Shortly after I found a piece as well, my first amber ever and I found it on a roof ten kilometers from the nearest beach. We all agree not to tell other people on the site about our mother lode. The next few weeks we spend all our breaks walking around that roof with downcast eyes until it simply will not yield anymore. We left no rock unturned.

Want to know more?
Amber
Stone

Saturday, 21 January 2006

Changes to the English Language

Back when email were new to me and I still hadn't seen most of the jokes eight or nine times before, I received the text below. For some reason I can still laugh at it after all these years.

The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.

As part of the negotiations, Her Majesty's Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5-year phase-in plan that would be known as "Euro-English".

In the first year, 's' will replace the soft 'c'. Sertainly,this will make the sivil servants jump with joy.

The hard 'c' will be dropped in favor of the 'k'. This should klear up konfusion and keyboards kan have one less letter.

There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome 'ph' will be replased with the 'f'. This will make words like 'fotograf' 20% shorter!

In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkorage the removal of double leters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of the silent 'e' in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

By the 4th year, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing 'th' with 'z' and 'w' wiz 'v'.

During ze fifz year ze unesesary 'o' kan be dropd from vords kontaining 'ou' and similar changes vud of kurs be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.

After ze fifz yer ve vil hav a rali sensibl ritn styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evriun vil find it ezi tu undrstand ech ozer.

Zen Z Drem Vil Finali Kum Tru!

Friday, 20 January 2006

Streets of London

We need more signs like that around London. My favourite game of choice: "Don't step on the lines" has by necessity been overtaken by the game: "Dodging the poohs". (I thought I'd spare you a close up photo of a dog turd, so all you get is a photo I took of a sign in Hong Kong).

Hole

Some times you put on your socks in the morning without noticing a hole near the toes. During the day one your toes will inevitably work its way out through the hole in your sock. This is of course only the beginning of a day long fight to keep your toe inside the sock. First you just kind of wriggle your toe back into the sock, but after doing this ten times you realise that further action is needed.
Off with the shoe, pull sock down a bit and bunch it up in the tip of the shoe. No luck.
Shoe off, pull sock down a bit and bend the sock material under your toes and back on with shoe. No luck.
Off with both shoes, swap socks in the hope that the hole now is located in a different spot on the other foot and no toes will be able to find it. No luck.
Ask everyone in the office if they have some dental floss (don't tell them what its for), pull sock down, tie dental floss around sock material. No luck.
Sticky tape, staples, blue tack, asking everyone if they brought needle and thread. No luck.
Aaaarrrrgggg! That's the kind of underpants I'm wearing today.

Wednesday, 18 January 2006

Got time to kill?

If you are bored and got some time to kill, go to this webpage by clicking link below.
You will need to have Java activated in your browser.

Falling Stuff

Sunday, 15 January 2006

London Buses

Of all the vehicles in the London traffic, I find the Famous double decker bus to be the most annoying. I have no logical reason for this, it doesn't appear to be any slower on its "feet" than the normal size buses. It's not wider or longer than them, actually the "benda" buses are way longer and they don't tickle my temper the way a the double deckers do. The only difference really is the height of the bus and it's not like I would be able to drive over the top of the bus anyway, not until I have got a "hover-conversion" applied to the the car.

Ah well, another one for the psychiatrist.

Tuesday, 10 January 2006

What's in my juice?

We just bought some fruit juice of the fancy kind. The carton says that they got "juicy bits" in them. "juicy bits" meaning pulp, I think.
One of them is a pink grapefruit juice, I certainly hope that they didn't put any juicy pink bits in that.

Want to know more?
Pink Bits

Sunday, 8 January 2006

More from Down Under

I just came across an excerpt from the Bill Bryson book "Down Under". Just click on link below to read it.

Excerpt from "Down Under/In A Sunburned Country"

Thursday, 5 January 2006

The Squirrels in St. James's Park

One of the tourist attractions here in London is the changing of guards at Buckingham Palace. A million billion people will turn up to watch the show, that is rather uneventful and boring.
Less than a hundred meters away you find St. James's Park. No changing of guards here, but hundreds of squirrels.

We live walking distance from St. James's Park and come through it when we walk into the town centre on week ends. We always bring a pocket-full of peanuts to feed to the squirrels. They are very tame and will feed directly from your hand. Sometimes they will even crawl up your legs to get to your nuts.... eh... that didn't come out right. What I meant to say was, they are so eager to nibble on your nuts that they will... oh dear... what am I trying to say here? I should make it clear that I'm talking about the peanuts that we brought along to feed to the squirrels. Ah well... I'll write some more and then come back to re-write this later, sure hope I will remember.

They know that they are cute, even though they are probably just rats with a good image and nice tail.
If you give a squirrel a shelled peanut it will sit down and eat it on the spot in a posture that will make every woman in a hundred meter radius go: "Oh! how cute!"
If you give it a whole peanut it will run off and bury it somewhere and then come back for more. I have read somewhere that Squirrels only ever find 10% again of the food they store this way. I can imagine this as they seem to have very short attention spans. If you spot a squirrel at a distance and hold up a peanut for it to see, it will start running towards you and halfway there it will forget what it was doing and suddenly shoot of in a different direction. If the squirrel then spots the peanut again, it will move in your direction again. It might get distracted three or four times this way on its way over to you.
Crows have been known to sit in trees and watch squirrels bury their food and then steal the treasure when the squirrel have moved on. In St. James park they are sometimes a bit more progressive. I have seen a crow watching a squirrel collecting nuts and as soon as it turned its back on the crow to bury the food, the crow would jump over and nip at the squirrel's tail, causing the squirrel to jump a meter into the air and then run away. The crow then have free access to the nut.

When you buy whole unshelled peanuts here they are called monkey nuts. I always thought they grew on bushes?

You can tell they are British by the polite way they queue up.

Want to know more?
St. James's Park
Squirrels
Monkey Nuts

Sunday, 1 January 2006

May the Farts be with you

This morning the wife announced that today was "Harrods Day". I couldn't believe it, only yesterday we celebrated "Oxford Street Day".
I love crowded department stores, NOT. It really brings the worst up in me, I fell like bringing along a rubber hose to clear a path through the other shoppers. Fortunatley there is a HMV shop in Harrods where my wife can park me while she runs around "saving" money buying things on sale.
As I'm doing the slow scuttle along the DVD display a small fat boy keeps pushing me so he can get to the DVD's he is interested in. I don't want to sound cruel, but in my experience fat kids suffer from a lack of self-restraint. I don't know whether it comes from a sloppy upbringing or just pure greed. The result is the same, an uncontrollable behaviour that is a pain in the butt and a face that invites you to slap his fat cheeks. I would never hit anyone, least of all a child, but I have a secret weapon. Farts, not the "trumpet" ones (that my beloved wife hate so much), but the silent ones (she hates them too) that really stinks. As the boys mother calls for him to come for the tenth time and starts walking over towards him, I just let a silent one fly and then move a couple of steps away. As the mother reach the boy she notices the foul smell and starts to look around. All she sees is a neatly dressed young man in his thirties studying a DVD case of the movie "The Sound Of Music". She then looks down at the boy, while her nostrils flares, then grabs him by his arm and drags him away. I have to imagine the rest, the stern conversation in the car on the way home about how she can never bring him anywhere anymore.
A tip: if the kid wears a duvet-jacket, try to bump into him so that the fabric flattens, just before farting. As the fabric expands again it will suck up the foul smelling air and the smell will linger in the jacket for hours.

I have gotten the fart treatment myself. A couple of months ago I was shopping in Waitrose, I was down an aisle trying to find some dried beans. A nice looking girl a couple of meters away from me suddenly let a trumpet fart rip. She never battered an eyelid, every person in the vicinity looked in our direction. Nobody said anything but I know what their conclusion was, seeing an average looking guy and a good looking girl.
Later I bumped into her by "accident" flattening her duvet jacket...

Want to know more?
Harrods
Waitrose
Farts
Beans
Farts & Beans