Thursday, April 24, 2008

I swear it's not another holiday

I know, I know, it sounds like a holiday, but it isn't.

Today, in about 11 hours time, I am off to Phoenix Arizona for 10 days. But it's not for a holiday. I am going to Phoenix, as is my mum, so we can visit my aunt, who is very sick. I don't really fancy going into the details (which is I suppose a violation of a theory that Freud had- if you mention something then it means you want to talk about it, or else you won't have mentioned it in the first place. Dr D and I used to scream whenever someone did that "ah-ha-HAAA! You're breaking the T&D law!! SAY IT! SAY IT YOU BASTARDS!" but unfortunately I found out that we didn't invent that theory. Freud did. Or he'd pinched it from someone else).

Anyway, I'm off to Phoenix, which I believe I have already been to. Well, I say "been to" but that's only if you count stopping between El Paso and the Grand Canyon on our US road trip a few years ago to have a lovely dinner of greasy pizza in Phoenix. If this counts, then yes I've been to Phoenix.. Personally I don't think this counts as having "been to Phoenix" somehow.. surely there is more to this city than a strip of fast food joints in car park... Though I am tempted to see if I can find the place again, just for old time sake - you know, check out the old haunts, the places we knew and loved so well, all that pizza, all that coke, all that... car park space.

So what am I doing up still at 1.45am? Trying to encode my sodding dvds into a format that my sodding ipod (not encased in beef) can play. I've had no end of annoyance with this stupid procedure. Every single thing that could go wrong with this has gone wrong, and I am about to give up and go to bed. All I want is to be able to watch a couple of Studio 60s and maybe some Battlestar Galactica (or as Calv fondly calls it "Battlestar Gay-Lactica") whilst I'm away.. is that too much to sodding ask for? Apparently YES.

I'll try to post whilst I am away, but if I don't then you know why... it's because after years of becoming acclimatised to the crap English weather, I've disintegrated in 35 degree Arizonian heat... I just pray to god that my suitcase turns up....

*** UPDATE *** 2:19AM
Yes, yes YESSSSS!!! I knew my honours degree in Computing Science wasn't for nothing!! Am not hopeless sado still up at 2.20 AM swearing at her sodding pc!! Finally I have managed to get disk 3 of Studio 60 all encoded/decoded/whatever and on iTunes ready to go, but I have also decoded disk 4 and am converting it as we speak. YES!!! Am slowly joining the ranks of nerds who actually know how to use their computers for things other than blogging, web surfing, and java development. Get in!!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

WTF Wednesday? Rollin' with my Kobe

This is so weird and definitely counts as a "what the fuck???"

Japan's Solid Alliance is selling Ipod Nano cases that are designed to look like raw meat! At the very least they've had the good taste to make it look like expensive bit of raw Kobe beef. And to add to the realism, it even comes in a cellophane-and-Styrofoam pack.

Now don't get me wrong. Despite the fact that I am definitely a "please kindly just wave my steak at the open grill and bring it to me bloody as hell" girl, even I can not see any reason why I would want my mp3 player to look like a piece of dead animal.. I really don't think I am their target audience somehow.... Would it sell well with vegetarians you think?

As a very, very, very short aside, for an amusing example of flame wars gone bad, check out the comments on the Raw Feed page where I found this weird piece of gadget paraphernalia... This is a perfect example of what happens when people on the Internet, drunk on their own sense of anonymity, get too stuck up their own arses... very funny..

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"Get off my god damned land"

Me, standing in my yard, gun in hand, pointing at the offender. I stare, eyes squinted, and say in a low voice "get off of my god damn land" and bam! Pull the trigger. SQUIRT. Warm, soapy water goes all over the branches hanging over into my yard from my neighbours massive rose bush, which is covered in black aphids. And when I say covered, I mean, the branches, the leaves, the shoots, everything is covered in little black crawling insects. And NOW they are migrating into my yard. They've gone over my walls, onto my balcony, on to my door frame, all over the pots, everywhere. And since I watched a movie about killer ants that, well, kill everything and everyone they come in contact with, as a child, I have a horrid distates for little insects. They make my skin crawl. EEK.

I've read that squirting soapy water is a pretty good way of killing aphids.. apparently it clogs up their breathing apartus and they suffocate. I've also read that ladybirds are a good way to get rid of them, but they are £25 for 25, and there is no guarantee that they'll stay on the plants... And I don't much fancy having to make 25 little leashes to chain up my ladybird slaves...

I hate gardening. I kill every plant I touch, and even when you think it'll all be ok, you get an invading army of aphids running amock in your garden. Will it never, ever end???

Cycling to dumpsville

No, not that dumpsville. The Dumpsville that is the London Olympic Site.

Now that I am going to Paris on my little bike, the only thing I can pretty much think about now is how painful this 300 miles over 4 days is going to be..

Sunday two weeks ago, I officially started training for my London to Paris cycle ride by joining the London Cycling Touring Club on a Sunday 2 star ride from London Victoria to the Olympic site, via the east end, and then back through Greenwich. A 7 hour bike ride, which should have taken about 40km.. Whilst it was good to get some experience of what 7 hours on a bike would be like, unfortunately it was just a bit, well, slow. 8 miles and hour is not fast, especially when the ride was supposed to be the second hardest they do (the hardest being training for segments of the Tour de France). Whilst the leader was really very nice, he did turn it into a bit of a tour guide operation. It started with describing different interesting buildings in London (where the first cycle shop in London was, stories about St Pauls) but as the day progressed the stories became more and more random and, well, less interesting. We cycled deliberately on a detour soley to go past a gastro pub near the Magics house (personal note: The Magic - we have to go to The Gun. It looks amazing!) so he could show his wife where he met a friend once, he then showed us his old school, 3 of the houses he used to live in, the very spot where he watched Prince Phillip open the Cutty Sark to the public, and finally to the place where he got chucked into the mud by some school friends in the 50s.

On the plus side, I got to meet some nice people, and I now know to expect from a 7-8 hour cycle. A very sore arse.

Last Sunday C and I went on another cycle ride with the London CTC. Half an hour out of London, and despite it being pretty much Tory voting countryside, it was lovely out there. And today, for the first time (I'm ashamed to say) I went to the gym to start training on a bike (point - by first time, I don't mean first time ever just the first time for training for this insane ride).. Apparently, according to the literature that I got from my charity, one hour in the gym is equivalent to 2 hours in the saddle. Unfortunately, I really hate gyms. And when I say hate, I really do mean hate. There is no roads, no wind in my hair, no sun, no rain. Nada. Just oonce-oonce-oonce music blaring, and ultra fit people being uber aggressive with dumbells and what-not. Yeesh.

And finally, I've also started my fund raising, which entails me making cakes, bringing them into work and shamlessly asking for donations in return. I've so far made a Victoria Sponge, dark chocolate florentins (whose recipe I've nicked from Clotilde at chocolate and zucchini), apple tartes, and today, a coffee and walnut layered cake. All have been pretty lovely (buttercream icing is very popular), so I now have to get my still-sore-from-Sundays-cycle arse into gear and make more food.

Speaking of sponsorship (hint hint) if you would like to sponsor me, drop me a line at tryingtopanda at yahoo dot co dot uk and I'll send you my sponsorship page... Nudge nudge, wink wink, know wha' I mean, say no more.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Worst Feeling In The World

After a night out in a pub, drinking 3 too many pints, and then going to a restaurant and drinking awful house red wine, getting into a cab and saying "Where's my laptop?"

Driving to said pub. No laptop. Crying eyes out all the way home. No laptop. Horrid realisation that all my photos from China and past holidays are all gone now because I have, yup you guessed it - no laptop.

Best Feeling In The World: Calling up restaurant with awful house red and hearing the words "Silver Dell? Yes, we have it".

I love my laptop. I am giving it the biggest kiss ever. Geek girl, reunited with her most loved geek toy = joy.

Friday, April 04, 2008

You're Friday Moment of Zen: Kebab-y!

Damn you cruel fate!

The Red Polar Bear, owned by Kazem Ariaiwand is officially the worlds most northern kebab van! Mr Ariaiwand moved to Spitsbergen after a failed asylum attempt in Norway, and set up his business in an old military van last year in Longyearbyen. Having already been to Svalbard once, it seems we have to go again! Kebabs!! The most northern kebabs in the world!! We've already been to the worlds most northern McDonalds in Rovaniemi, it seems only fair to have a chicken kebab with extra hot sauce back in Longyearbyen.

As a small aside, having checked out "The Worlds Most Northern" and I find I can cross the following of as places I've been to:
Town > 1000 people Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway DONE 78°13′N 15°33′E
City > 50,000 people Tromsø, Norway DONE! 69°40′N
Metropolitan area > 1 million Greater Helsinki (Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen), Finland DONE 60°10′N 24°56′E
City (proper) > 1 million people St Petersburg, Russia DONE! 59°56′N 30°20′E

Shops and service facilities

Item Place Latitude/Longitude
Bank Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway DONE!
78°13′N 15°33′E
Automatic Teller Machine Longyearbyen, Svalbard, NorwayDONE! 78°13′N 15°33′E
Night club Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway?? Where was this?
78°13'N 15°33'E
Pub Longyearbyen, Svalbard, NorwayDONE! 78°13'N 15°33'E
Supermarket Longyearbyen, Svalbard, NorwayDONE! 78°13′N 15°33′E
Tourist office Longyearbyen, Svalbard, NorwayDONE! 78°13′N 15°33′E
University University of Tromsø (ext link), Tromsø, NorwayDONE! 69°40′N 18°56′E
University campus University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), Longyearbyen, Svalbard, NorwayDONE! 78°13′N 15°33′E
Anyhoo, just a small aside.

Ahh most northerly Kebab Van.. if only you'd been there when WE were there... I would have enjoyed you infinitely more than the cured seal meat I had, which was awful.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Why Wednesdays? Would you put a bunch of carnations in there?

Ok, ok, ok, I know technically it's Thursday but when I turned on my laptop it was still Wednesday so I don't care.

Why Wednesdays: note this is not a "Why is it Wednesdays?" but more "What the fuck is this? - on a Wednesday".

To kick it off, I offer up this as exhibit A: Uterus Vase by The Plug & Stéphanie Rollin

The Uterus Vase (or as I'm going to call it the WooWoo vase) is a limited edition of twenty pieces, all lacquer and varnish upon a resin core. The idea behind this vase is to "restore dignity to an over-utilized image". To me though it just looks like a big monster holding it's arms out... And honestly, I'm not sure how a bunch of gerberas would look in resin core white WooWoo.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Proud day as a cyclist

I hit my first pedestrian today! Oh yes, after many almost run ins with incredibly stupid lemings who just blindly walk out onto the street without looking if, say a bus, a truck, a car or a cyclist is hurtling towards them, I finally collided with a pedestrian. This morning a middle aged woman came running out infront of a bus, and into the cycle lane just as I was traversing that exact same piece of space. Bash! Right into her - breaks screeching in the rain, me bending the handle bars in an attempt to not go over the top, as I slamed to a stop, front wheel right between her legs. I screamed out, in possibly the most East end accent since Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins "FAAH-KING HELL WOMAN!!". Unfortunatetly (or fortunately, I'm not sure yet) she wasn't hurt, and was still smiling despite my obsence Van Dyke impression, was very appologetic and asked if I was ok. This of course made it impossible for me to yell "why weren't you bloody well looking where you were bloody well goinig?" and I could only grumble "yes, I'm fine. Are you ok?". Grrr. I hate it when I want to be angry and yell at someone and they are nice to me. Inconsiderate feckless bastards.

Speaking of cycling, it's only 3 months 20 odd days (but whose counting?) until my London to Paris cycle. I've taken a more pro active approach to fund raising by deciding to start making cakes, bringing them into work, and hoping people will chuck some pennies in a donation tin in exchange for buttery goodness. I write up a little blurb about what it is that I'm doing, what I'm offering in return for their hard earned cash, and if possible a little bit of history about the cake (no not like "I've had these eggs in my fridge for the last month" but more "A Victoria Sponge is named after Queen Victoria because she liked them so much". I've also got my first corporate sponsor! Li kindly donated a bunch of Green and Blacks eggs which went down quite well! Unforunately they went down even quicker with people when I took the tin away and they didn't feel the need to donate any money.. Yesterday I brought in my first Victoria Sponge, and I have big probably drink induced plans of making custard tarts, bakewell tarts, coffee and walnut cakes... I figure this tactic will work 2 fold - 1 I get money for cakes, 2 I get to actually practice making cakes and sweets - something I'm not massively confident about because I get really bored eating cakes, so I never make them for myself.

As far as training is concerned - well.... that's another story. The charity I'm raising money for had an information day a few weeks back that I went to. And whilst everyone seemed nice, I met some pretty hard core cycling snobs - the kind that usually work at places like Evans where they don't talk to you unless you're covered head to toe in skin tight lycra (actually is there any other kind but skin tight?), are wearing cleats, and have the body of an adonis. If you're like me - sneakers, cycling shorts, t-shirt, and not adonis like in anyway, they have a remarkable less likely to help you and remarkably more likely to believe you're made out of thin air and thus ignore your existence completely. Much in the same way that sales assistants to do women in electrical or computing shops. Bunch of ****s.

Anyway, at the information day, I met people who are seriously hard core - one guy had already raised way in excess of the money needed for the event, was doing London to Southend cycle rides, going on rides with a cycle group every Sunday ("where we ride at about 26 miles an hour constantly"), and generally looked at me like I was never going to finish. When I'd mentioned I was learning how to ride in cleats but I had fallen over and hurt my hand, he sniffed "oh I did a similar thing a few weeks ago! Though I think I broke my rib. Did I go to hospital? Of course not, I'm seriously hard core and needed to be back on my bike the very next day or I will die. Besides, I don't need a doctor. I can push the rib back in and live through the pain cause I'm a cyclist".

Christ what in god's name have I got myself into?