Thursday, May 24, 2007

Head-ing off

I´ve decided to update with June´s header (yes, I´m going to try and change it monthly now) already because I leave early tomorrow for my galavanting across Germany and the UK.

I´ll try and update with news from the Gloucestershire dairy-product-persuing-contest, assuming that I haven´t put myself in hospital. Of course don´t get your hopes up TOO high, I may chicken out after all.

In fact that´s the likeliest scenario.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

How to get from New York to London

Today´s gem comes from Mfitz.

Sorry about the resolution, this is a screen capture (click on the picture to expand it).

Check out step 24.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Alright, it´s another meme, masquerading as a game

Tagged by kilowatthour

The first rule of the game is to post the rules of the game. Here they are:

* Each player starts with eight random facts/habits.
* People who are tagged need to write posts on their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
* At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.


1. I label stuff. At Uni I couldn´t get my head around an experiment description until I had labelled my first test tube. Then everything became clear. I still do it now - if I have trouble getting something straight, I go and label something with it.

2. I had a verbally abusive English boyfriend when I was at a very low point. I don´t recommend it.

3. My eyes are a different colour above the pupil than they are below it.

4. I eat ice cubes. Lots and lots and lots of them. I can easily go through two trays a day.

5. I kept my surname. Our agreement is that the kids will take the surname of the parent who is foreign, ie. if we live in Australia they will have DrH´s surname, if it looks like we settle forever here they´ll have mine. We haven´t worked out the rule if we settle in Zimbabwe.

6. I have a scar under my chin from where I fell over in the bath trying to see the stars through the window. I was 6 I think.

7. I don´t enjoy people spooning to me but I like spooning to others. Okay, I have to say I like spooning to DrH or he´ll get all worried.

8. I adore having my feet touched.


Okay, I´ll tag OurManInTokyo (although it´ll be a month before he does it, Susan, ScienceWoman and Bugsy. The others I´d tag don´t have blogs but are Em, Blinky, Noel and the Queensland Cousin.

Ear Worms

Did you go and click on the link to the winner of the eurovision when I posted it? Go and do it now if you haven´t.

Okay, now try and NOT have it run through your head for the next week. Seriously, it´s been non-stop. I have had a little Serbia woman warbling "Prayer" at me in a foreign language for a week and I´m slowly going bananas.

I even spent an afternoon singing "I am sixteen going on seventeen" just to try and replace the damn thing. Obviously, it didn´t work and I´m left to consider more drastic measures.

Like something heavy. Moving with impressive pace towards my forehead.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Maps! Maps!

Yes, i´m playing and seeing what cool new things i can blog with.

I´ve found a tool so that I can embed a Google Mymaps into my blog, so I went and made a quick map of our big Baltic trip last year. There´s a few places where I got carried away, but couldn´t be bothered repeating the whole line to fix it.

Taadaa!

Looky, she´s trying to be clever!

I´ve decided to put my skills to the test and try to customize this site. Yes, it´s not very good is it. No, I´m not going to change it back. I´ll see if i have the energy to update the header at various stages in the future, and ry and produce one without the graininess, but for now this is what you get.

I was considering putting Google Adsense on, but I guess I´d need every visitor to click on 3 ads every time they come here of rit to bring me anything, so you´re saved from that for now.

Hey, I´m without a full-time job at the moment. Every little bit helps when you´re doing only freelance work.

Anyway, feel free to whinge and gripe about the new look.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Shootin´ the breeze, chasing the cheese, a life of ease

Well I´ve finally gotten my latest travel plans worked out, after calling a a friend on an Italian mobile, messaging another via Yahoo in Japan and emailing one located in England. I´m all logisticed out.

So now in two weeks I´ll be heading down to Frankfurt for two days to meet up with OurManInTokyo, for the first time in 3 1/2 years. I´m really looking forward to that. Shootin´the breeze and all.

When he trundles off to Tübingen for a course, I´m jumping on a plane to Londinium to meet 1-Degree Grant, so called because his cousin married Liv Tyler and Grant peed next to David Bowie at the wedding. See how close I am to fame? Anyway he´ll be taking me over to Gloucestershire for the annual Cheese Rolling event. I´m not sure I´ll build up the nerve to throw myself down that hill, but if I do I´ll be sure to get some footage.

Over the same week the Hay-On-Wye book festival is on. This is something that I´ve desperately wanted to go to for years, so I´ll see if I can convince 1-Degree Grant to get on over to Wales for a day.

I´ll then fly back into Frankfurt, only 4 days after having left it to meet up with Permanent HoliDave and DrH, who´ll have driven the Combi van down from Berlin. We´ll all pile in and head over to the Nürburgring for the Rock am Ring festival. Check out that line up. We´ll camp, we´ll party, we´ll go deaf. For 3 days. Joy!

Then we´ll spend 10 hours driving back to Berlin and I imagine I´ll sleep for a week.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

....and the winner is...

SERBIA!!

They beat the Ukraine! Whoopee!

This is her during the semifinals somewhere, with a different stage show and costume.

Eurovision (Part, umm 4, I think)

Act 19. United Kingdom
Artist: Scooch Language: English
I hope they´re a children´s entertainment group! Oh, god I hope it. These guys are going to be last. It´s called "I´m flying the flag for you" and they´re dressed like stewardesses. Why oh Why do you do it to yourself England? We know you have wonderful musicians there. Why not let Keane come? Man, the Wiggles are better.

Act 20. Romania
Artist: Todomondo Language: All of them I think!
They´ve gone for the "nifty act", six guys singing in six different languages. It´s interesting, but won´t get far.

Act 21. Bulgaria
Artist: Eliza & Stoyan Language: Bulgarian
I have a soft spot for Bulgaria. I can say How are YOu? I am Well, and you? Vey well thank you! in Bulgarian. I´m quite proud of that. They´re drumming. And I think there´s a Didgeredoo in there somewhere. Actually it sounds like YothuYindi with a female lead and a heavy bass line.

Act 22. Turkey
Artist: Kenan Dogulu Language: English
It´s a turkish Ricky Martin song. He´s not a pretty 20-something with a six pack, which is refreshing, but his voice is crap. So´s the song. Think I´ll go into the other room and grab another glas of wine.

Act 23. Armenia
Artist: Hayko Language: English
Its a ballad, which is a really bad choice for the Eurovision. Its okay so far, nothing to write home about. Nope. Its a nothing entrant.

Act 24. Moldova
Artist: Natalia Babu Language: English
Is she actually playing that violin? Bit more of a stage act. A rock act with that violin background. The song is Evanesence inspired but her voice isn´t as good. It´ll do reasonably well in the voting.

So that was it. We´ll now call in and vote (20 minutes to do it). I hope they haven´t shortened the reading out of the points cause that´s really the best of it all.

I´m going to vote for Slovenia, Hungary, Georgia, France and Serbia. We can´t vote for Germany.

Eurovision Part 3

Act 11. Georgia
Artist: Sopho Language: English
She´s got a great voice and the song seems quite Björk crossed with Chemical Brothers. Actually it sounds a bit like Madonna´s ray of Light now that I think about it.Plus she´s got some background Kossack dancers, something I love to watch. I like this a lot.

Act 12. Sweden
Artist: The Ark Language: English
Glam Rock. Nope, just looked like it. But it sounds like a cover of something from the 70´s (DrH thinks it´s a Xmas song for some reason). Oh, the guitarist just winked at me! It´s really just like watchng a 70s film clip. I think they´re trying the relive the high years of ABBA´s supremacy.

Act 13. France
Artist: Les Fatals Picards Language: Frenglish
Funky/pop with a lot of pink. I like it. DrH is wiggling his bottom in time to it while he irons. Thankfully tonight without the leather pants on. Maybe they´ll get a vote from me too! So cute!

Act 14. Latvia
Artist: Bonapartily Language: Latvian? It might have been Italian!
Its a male sextet with a very classical sounding song. Wonderful voices. Whoa, glad that guy can sing ´cause his face is fricking scary. I love male voices raised in song and these guys are beautiful to listen to.

Act 15. Russia
Artist: Serebro Language: English
Young pop group, apparently their first public performance together. How can that be? Russian Idol? Doesn´t that bring across a different iconography? They´re dressed like students crossed with nuns. That´s got a get a few votes. Pretty girls,, reasonable voices. Just another pop song. Taste My Cherry Pie indeed. Russia embraces capatilism.

Act 16. Germany
Artist: Roger Cicero Language: German, last verse in English
Okay, I´ve seen this guy all week. He does swing and the song is called "Women Rule the World". Classic white suit. I do have a soft spot for swing and I quite like the song. Although I think he could´ve gotten his name LARGER in lights. Surely 4metres wasn´t the height limit.

Act 17. Serbia
Artist: Maria Serifovic Language: Serbian
Wow, that´s unusual. A woman dressed in a suit, overweight, very short hair and heavy rimmed glasses. Unusual for this contest. A great voice. All her background singers are tall and beautiful women in suits. It´s giving me goosebumps actually. She REALLY has a great voice.

Act 18. Ukraine
Artist: Verka Serduchka Language: German/English
Okay, this is the Ukrainian version of Dame Edna. Its shrill and ugly and he/she´s just counting in German! I bet this will win. My god, it´s horribe.

Eurovision Part 2

Act 6. F.Y.R. Macedonia
Artist: Carolina Language: Macedonian? Do they have their own language? and English
That´s a really awkward name for a country don´t you think? Every announcer has lost precious TV seconds saying "The Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia". She has a wind machine, badly costumed backup singers and says "Nay,nay,nay" a lot. SHe´ll get a lot of votes from the East

Act 7. Slovenia
Artist: Alenka Gotar Language: Her Own! I´ve stopped guessing- Slovenian?
She´s an opera singer! I´m impressed. Hangon, she´s now got a light in her palm tha´s lighting up her face in the dark. Bit tacky really. But man, what a voice. I liked her.

Act 8. Hungary
Artist: Magdi Rüsza Language: English
Its a blues act and she´s wearing jeans, a white top and is barefoot. Respect. Something kinda Janis Joplinish in her voice. I like this one, might even get a vote from me.

Act 9. Lithuania
Artist: The 4Fun Language: English
This is a kinda cool classical-type guitar group with a female lead. Quite Latin American sounding. No stage show at all. Thank God. I know the Ukraine act is coming so I need a bit of mental preparation beforehand.

Act 10. Greece
Artist: Sarbel Language: English
It sounds like the Turkish winners from a couple of years ago. Hangon what´s with these nasally guys today? He sounds flat and nasal and his costume designer should be shot. Does he think he has breasts or something with that shoulder shake? Give it up, mate, you´re not Shakira.

Eurovision Song Contest AS IT HAPPENS (Part 1)

Here goes a bit of an experiment. I´m going to blog the Eurovision Song Contest as it happens. A bit of a note about the scoring. Every country can ring in and vote for their favourites. Because of how many Eastern countries are present, and how they all vote for each other, it´s highly unlikely that a wetern European country will win. Austria, Switzerland (the famous DJ Bobo) and the Netherlands have already been voted out in the semifinal yesterday.

We´ve opened with the film clip of last years hard rock winners. I bet no one would´ve imagined this in the years of ABBA. Can they get anymore CGI flames or bad makeup in there?

Act 1. Bosnia and Herzogovina.
Artist: Maria Language: Her own (what IS spoken there? How´s that for ignorance!)
Dead set loser. A ballad, she´s wearing a green tea cosy and her background dancers are just standing there waving their arms. Ok now we´ve got an accompanying lute player in a funny cap. This may increase the votes.

Act 2. Spain
Artist: D´Nash Language: Spanish with half English catchphrase
It´s a boyband in white. Man I hope they lose. They´ve got a bit of hip swing - I wonder if they came out of an Idol TV show? They´re shouting Hey!Hey!Hey! just a bit too much. I think we can safely assume they´ll be getting no votes from the Eastern Bloc.

Act 3. Belarus
Artist: Koldun Language: English
The start is very James Bond theme-ish. My god he has a horribly nasal voice. Maybe he´s got a cold? DrH just pointed out that his shirt is very open ut the background dancers are buttoned to the throat. This will lose them points with the male voters. The whole song is just a bit too slow, and it could probably do with more lyrics than the one line that keeps getting repeated.

Act 4. Ireland
Artist: Dervish Language: English
OH MY GOD SHE`S FLAT! Sorry, if they get a vote I´ll be upset. Even if it is a song about the Prague Spring. But overdosing on Irish pubs in the past hs made me very twitchy whenever Irish folk music starts.

Act 5. Finland
Artist: Hanna Language: English
Okay, its Rock and I think she likes Morticia. Yep, another Goth band from Finland. But then we did notice in Helsinki last year that really the radio ONLY plays hard rock/heavy metal.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Quiz me baby, one more time

Last night was the fortnightly pub quiz, which has taken on a slightly different tone in the months I was in Australia. Rather than the Anglo/sport/film heavy quiz in the Irish pub, it´s now a very German/Berlin oriented quiz in a little local bar. but the quiz mistress remains the same, as do a lot of the regulars.

Last night DrH didn´t join me as he had a business dinner. In a 5 star restuarant where the little bits of food were delicately arranged and joined artistically with thin swirls of sauce. Such suffering. I feel for him I really do. I was joined by our usual teammate Matthias and managed to coerce Neil and Mark, usually the core of our biggest competitors to join us for the evening. We then grabbed a new ring-in, Markus and thought all was set. I mean, with our team (often called Alien Ted, but has also run under the name of You Suck Chad, The Other Leading Brand and, in it´s Australian manifestation, Horse Worrying Is Not Love) combined with the might of the two worthiest members of Bottom Of the Class, we thought we were unbeatable. It didn´t hurt out odds that there was only one other team playing.

Well, the first round Food and Drink, with such questions as "What kind of fruit is an Uva?" put us one point behind the opposition. Round Two, Literature, was saved by Markus who knew quite obscure stuff, although I did manage to get a good one in with the name of the book upon which the movie Cabaret was based (Goodbye to Berlin). However we lost another point and were trailing by two.

The third round was a new one and involved charades. I started it off with an impressive impersonation of Arnold Schwarzneggar, and after 5 questions each we were tied. The best was 7 seconds for us to guess that Matthias was the Queen. Round Four was general knowledge and led to a lively debate over who was in charge of Jeruselum in 26 A.D. Most of us were for Pontius Pilate, but there were some good points made about Herod´s son Herod and whether he had overall control and...well we stuck with PP and got the point. We gained one point on them in that round, so only one behind.

The final round was geography and included "What country has the number plate sign UA?" (we liked Uganda, Uraguay and Usbekistan, but it was the Ukraine) and "What´s the third largest island in the world?(not including Oz)", which was Borneo and we didn´t get it. But knowing that it is Antarctica which has 8.9% of the world´s land surface won us the evening, and as glorius victors, we went home with the pot.

10 Euro divided amongst 5 players. Yep, that was well worth it.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Dwarf planet? That´s orbitally challenged to you bozo´s

Yes, I´m overdosing today on linking stuff, but Pluto´s answer to being demoted to a dwarf planet was just too funny not to add in. Go giggle.

Antikythera Mechanism

Why on earth have I never seen this before? Go and click on the slide show to see it.

How cool is that? A 2000 year old machine with gears. Not to mention that computer tomography just makes me go all warm and wibbly inside.

Blame it all on kilowatthour

Alright, under the massive internet pressure I´ve set up a twitter account. http://www.twitter.com/aliented
I haven´t put in any friends yet, so it´s still quite dull, but I´m sure it´ll take off.

And then I´ll never get any work done ever again.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Potsdam

Here are a few more photos. These are from 2 weeks ago when Permanent HoliDave was staying with us and we went on a day trip to Potsdam.

This is Einstein´s Tower, which is in the science park in Potsdam. Theres a number of observatories in the grounds and it´s quite a bit out of the way. It was built for Einstein to help prove some theories and has been the site of some of the most important sun research. Einstein called it organic. We called it pretty cool and rather hobbity.


The Neue Palais. One of the many palaces in Potsdam Apparently the Prussian kings liked to spend their summers down here, and it just would not do to use a second-hand palace.


Schloss Sansoussi, Potsdam´s little Versailles rip-off. But very pretty.


Permenet HoliDave and I outside Cecilienhof, location of the Potsdam Conference, where the post-WWII treaties were decided and signed.


Finally, the following day back in Berlin we visited the Russian memorial in Treptower Park, which commemorates the all Russians who died fighting the Germans in WWII. DrH, DrJ, Leon Dog Wonder and Permanent HoliDave enjoying the festive atmosphere:

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Joy of Marrying a German #35

Currently DrH is ironing his shirts in front of TV.

He´s wearing leather pants.

Well, in the grand scheme of things it´s not THAT far off

You Belong in New Zealand

Good on ya, mate
You're the best looking one of the bunch
Though you're often forgotten...
You're quite proud of who you are

Chasing High Literature

One of the many things I haven´t actually mentioned in the last few months is that I´ve spent a bit of time writing. I even entered a flash scifi fiction contest and got down to the final 21 out of ~350, which made me pretty happy. Course I would´ve been happier to win, but, well perhaps I should learn to use a spell checker first.

Might be a point for this blog too...

Aww, hell. Why break with tradition?

Anyway, I´ve been pootling out a couple of short fiction pieces over the last few weeks and tonight decided to try my hand at a less-than-120-word story for submission to a book project.

Which would be fine, except that it´s a horror anthology.

Now I don´t do horror. The first 15 minutes of Nightmare on Elm Street prevented me sleeping well for months. Actually, 16 years on and I STILL have nightmares over it. However it´s exactly that which made me think I could do this. I have some pretty vivid and memorable nightmares, one of which last year made me wake up dry-retching. Beat that one, Stephen King.

So I figured - hey! It´s gotta horrify more people than just me.

But I´ve been writing it and remembering it and rewording it and... well... I just vomited a little in my mouth. I have actually started shaking while I´m typing this and thinking about the story, it´s making me feel so sick. I think I need to have a bit of a lie down.

With my teddy bear.

And the light on.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Hi Zane, how´s it going?



My first nephew has just arrived.

Hi!

I hope I get to meet you soon, but I guess we have a few years to get to know each other. So now there´s just a few quick words of advice:

1. Respect your older sister. Adore her, worship her and do everything she tells you to. Your father didn´t and life would´ve been much better if he had.

2. Don´t worry about that girl thing. If you´re anything like your father that will sort itself out. Really. You´ll be beating them off with sticks.

3. If you want to become a semi-rebellious teenager and sneak out to go drinking with school friends, ask your dad. He´s a bit of an expert on the subject.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Florence and Sienna

A bit late, but here is a bit of a recap of the 4 days in Florence. The apartment was right on the river, just across from the old town and was two bridges down from the Ponte Vecchio, the famous bridge which has all the buildings on it. Here´s a view of that bridge from our balcony during the day:

and at night:

Okay, so my camera isn´t the greatest. And here´s the apartment building itself, from the other side of the river. We were in the third floor on the left, the one with the balcony door open.


We got to admire thirty -repeat after me- thirty Lamborgini´s outside the Grand hotel. Don´t ask me why they were there but they were pretty:


And just to let you know that it is the land of the Vespa:


This is Permanent HoliDave as he gives me a tour of the Duomo in Florence. His professional tour guide skills were put to good use.


We also spent an afternoon in nearby Sienna, giving it the once over, so here´s a video of the main piazza. There´s a big horserace there every year, the Palio di Siena, which just looks massively dangerous.


And here´s one last photo of Sienna. Isn´t it pretty?


To cover other stuff: Yes, I saw David and his hands are too big. Yes, I ate lots and lots of very good food. In particular the steak. Ever had Florentine Steak? Get on your bicycle and get over there now if you´re a steak loving fiend. As Dave put it "I like it."