Thursday, 31 December 2009

So What's On Your List

Now thats its Hogmanay 2009, it's just dawned on me that 10 years have went passed since we celebrated the Millennium. Where did all that time go? No matter how many times someone explains the physics of it all I won't understand why time speeds up the closer you get to your own destruction. I just know I don't want to waste my time overthinking it or starting a new decade making new years resolutions that I can't possibly keep.

Why bother starting a year with a diet that I hate just to keep the doctors happy when at some point I'm going to belly up anyway? I'd rather start this year positively and for that reason I told the woman of my life to come up with a list of must buy items for the year, and then instead of spending a fortnight trying not to do something and ultimately failing we have the whole year trying to make something special (to us) happen.

 Some of what's on my list include

A trip to San Francisco.

A new low light lens for my camera.

Regular trips to Bombay House.

A new camera for her.

At least 3 music gigs.

Take in some Jazz games.

So tell me, what's on your list.

Have a good 2010!

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Given the choice of eating my spaghetti bolognese again or going out and having Indian food my better half chose chicken pakora, naan bread and curry.

I think she prefers service with orange turbans. I should probably be concerned, or maybe even offended, but its hard to be when I'm too busy scoffing the food down my thrapple. I'm just glad that at the tail end of 2009 she has been convinced that Indian food is the best around. That should make for a good 2010.

Now that 2010 is drawing near its time to introduce her to some Disaronno. She's not much of a drinker but she does like her diet coke, and almonds, so with a bit of luck this Hogmanay should bring in an interesting year.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009


It's that time of the year when driving can be dangerous and lead to delays in getting to work on time but spare a thought for the pilot who landed at Prestwick airport and slid off it soon after when the wheels struggled for grip on the ice. He might have a little bit more explaining to do to his bosses than the average worker this season.

And now the craving is....

Last week my lovely and I finally had the time and the inclination to go to the other side of town and have ourselves some Indian cuisine Salt Lake City style. It was so good now she has the cravings for more. It's just a pity we do have to go to the other side of the city to satisfy those cravings and we can't just get some to take away just down the road.

However I could overlook such things and be satisfied for a moment or two with a couple of these

Dammit why don't they sell here? I know how to make my own honeycomb but its just not the same without that thin layer of cadbury's chocolate coating.

Ok, here endeth the advertising, unless of course Cadbury takes pity on my plight of poor American substitute chocolate and candy and decides to send me a lifetime supply where of course I would recommense with blatent and shamelesss advertising with every post, especially if 250g bars of Dairy Milk were included in the package, ooh and cream eggs too, ok thats just getting greedy. Back to serious programming later.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Probably the biggest local news story in these parts just now is the appeal by the husband for information on his missing wife, or should I say lack of appeal, seeing as he left that responsibility to his brother in law while he stood in front of the television cameras saying nothing. What makes it a bigger story than the more usual missing persons reports is that fact that on the night that his wife disappeared it is his story that he took his children, aged 2 and 4, sledding and then camping overnight in freezing temperatures.

As an alibi it sucks, any numpty can come up with something more plausible.

What amazes me though is the amount of time her brother spent defending the husband in front of the cameras. If my wife had gone missing when she was supposed to be under my care I would probably be hung, drawn and quartered by her family before any questions were asked. I would expect nothing less.

I don't understand it when families defend someone so vocally when they themselves must be asking the same questions as everyone else. Is it desperation, hope, trust or naivety that will have families believing that it can only be a stranger that would harm a loved one?

If he does indeed turn out to be guilty of killing his wife (and it looks like it, since the latest news is he just got himself a nice expensive defense lawyer before any charges could be brought) and depriving two young boys of their mother I personally wouldn't bother sending him to jail. I'd strip him naked, tattoo a great big American flag on his back and parachute him into Iraq or a Taliban controlled area of Arghanistan or somewhere where he will be equally welcomed.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Just Wait 5 Minutes ... For My Sanity Please

When you go to the cinema or watch tv is your enjoyment ever spoiled by the sound of someone asking questions of what is happening or "Why are the doing that" or something similar? If your answer is yes, then you should be thankful that you aren't me because I have 2 women in my life that do that to just about everything we watch.

Here they are as I photographed them on the day I got married. At the time I wondered what they were discussing. I now believe that they were talking about how easy it would be to aggravate me until death does us part if they just combined their natural talent for interrupting my otherwise peaceful and probably enjoyable viewing habits. Their both experts at it too.

The little lady you see in the picture, is smart and can remember things from when she was 2. She has also probably watched every episode of Spongebob close to 47 times and yet she will still ask me questions throughout the show. Questions I do not know the answer to. At the risk of sounding like a badly written Dr Seuss inspired book that never got published, I cannot watch, I will not watch Spongebob, not on the couch, not on the floor, not on the computer chair, not anywhere.

Not because I'm trying to be mean. I have tried to watch it with her. But I can't, the constant questions spoil it. Its not like she doesn't know the answer. She's watched it before. I'm watching it for the first time, if anyone should be asking questions it should be me. I wish it was just Spongebob, but its just about everything she watches.

At first when I noticed this behaviour, I shrugged it off as she was young. She's at that age when she has a lot of questions. Wrong. She's really just like her mother. We can go to the cinema together and watch a film that neither of us have seen, and she will ask the same sort of questions when if she could just have the paitence to wait and watch for a few minutes she would have the answer without needing to ask the question. But wheres the fun in that?


At the same time as I'm sitting here listening to Aberfeldy's 'Do Whatever Turns You On' I'm cursing myself for letting my wife go out on her ladies night Scot free so to speak.

I'm cursing myself more, that I'm so easy. All it seems to take is a new shirt, with one button too many left undone, a new pair of shoes and a part of my anatomy goes "Ola!" Sometimes it doesn't even need that. I suppose thats her revenge for this morning.

Listening to: John Butler Trio - Funky Tonight I know I said I was listening to something else but it changed - OK!

Monday, 7 December 2009

I like the fact that my gmail account sorts my spam mail, but if I didn't check it every now and then I might miss out on headings like this gem

Any moment spent with a Submariner SS watch is precious. Step up your game

What Am I? 

Game 2  

Clue 2: One hump or two. 

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Don't Mention Food!

The problem with being me, well one of the many problems, is that I get hungry easily.

Sometimes all it takes is for someone to mention a particular type of food, like the selfish bachdang (that's one of our latest pretend swear words for those that are not in the know) that had to mention Indian food in a text today. One little text and my craving for an Indian meal, that I had only recently managed to subdue, rears its ugly head again. Sheep! (That's another.)

But it doesn't stop there, all morning, for a reason I know not, I suddenly have this desire to pig out on some Scottish Tablet. This craving snuck up on when I wasn't paying attention. I haven't had any Tablet since about February when I left Scotland, and haven't thought about it much either but I'm sure making up for it today. It entered my subconscious mind sometime in the early morning and ever since  subliminal messages have been rolling around my head suggesting to my brain that a sudden huge intake of sugary goodness is necessary. And I swear I'm not pregnant, at least I hope not because my gentials are the wrong shape to continue onward and that would be a whole new worry.

I really wish I had some handy skills in the kitchen to allow me to go and make myself a batch but sadly I lack in that area. I can just about manage to make my wife's version of chilli, which is amazingly simple to make, very tasty and is taking far too long to simmer.
There have been a few movies that I have seen this year that have left me questioning 'why?'

Let's take the latest one first - New Moon. It wasn't my choice to watch this one but we did sit down to watch it with my step daughter last week. I have to give the author of the books some credit, when I was watching the old hammer horror movies I didn't see the concept of the tortured vampire that couldn't bite necks through personal choice coming. It's an original concept in that regard. Beyond that a little silly but then I'm not a teenage girl so it wasn't exactly aimed at me.

I did think the second film might be a little better than Twilight, mostly because I thought by now the guy who plays Edward should be able to deliver his lines. I was wrong. Somehow it got worse. When it was finished I was left wondering why, when the books made so much money, didn't they get a decent actor to play the Edward character? Why didn't they spend a little more money so that Edward and his vampire family didn't all suffer from a bad make up job? Why is it that teenage girls go crazy over Edward and will watch the film 3 times over a weekend when he is so boring and when Jakob is not only a nicer character but the guy who plays him is more believable. Apparently I understand teenage girls now as much as I did when I was a boy.

Earlier in the year I was looking forward to seeing the remake of The Taking Of Pelham 123. Somehow we didn't get to see it at the cinema, we were probably skint at the time, but when it became available on dvd at Hollywood I eagerly snatched it. As an action movie its not bad. But I was left wondering why the John Travolta character hijacked the train. Either I'm a little bit stupid or it was never explained very well. We were led to believe that he was some sort of Wall Street expert. Every so often he would look on his laptop at the price of gold. From the start to the end of the hijacking the price of gold rocketed by 1200%. Meaning that the ransom money was worth a whole lot more. Nice! Only I was a little confused at how the markets could panic that much in one day due to a hijacked train when 9/11 didn't cause that much craziness. And wait in order to make that much money from the value of gold going up didn't he have to have the money to begin with. It was actually a decent film up until that point, then it started to make me feel stupid.

For some reason I wanted to watch Angels & Demons. In my opinion the Da Vinci Code was a little long, I had to watch it over two nights as my eyes kept shutting with their being so many twists and turns, but despite that I still wanted to know what happened in the sequel. Someone obviously agreed with my assessment of the first because the second movie was a lot shorter. This time though it felt a little rushed.

If you haven't seen the movie, and want to, you might not want to read on as I might give away too much of the plot for your liking.

It felt like that the Director was so conscious that the first movie was too long that he forgot to include a few important details in order to keep this one short. In this film Robert Langdon, the apparent reluctant hero, has 4 men to save, each one is hidden across the city and one man will die on the hour every hour unless he can work out the clues as to where they are hidden. He's just a little bit slow to save the first guy, but its understandable though he's after all in a new city still getting his barings. That though left him roughly 50 plus minutes or so to save the next guy. He then proceeded to spend what seemed like 5 - 10 minutes talking, working out the clues, before realising he has to be somewhere else, across the city and he has only 15 minutes to get there, and he uses 17. And so it when on, and on. By the time it had played out I was left wondering what was the point in having Robert Langdon there if ultimately he was going to be clever enough to work out the clues but do so too late. And what happened to the rest of each hour, the time between him thinking and him realising he had to rush off to another part of the city.

What Am I?

Game 2 - this time I want to see some more playa's!

I have a reputation for spitting at those I don't like

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Oh Tiger!

I don't generally take that much interest in the private lives of the rich and famous and feel that on most occasions they get unfair treatment from the press when they slip up. Very few people don't make mistakes in their lives and most people get to do it behind closed doors. That said sometimes though celebrities get what they deserve.

Case in point Tiger Woods.

For someone who always struck me as an intelligent man Tiger Woods couldn't have got it much more wrong. This week he has admitted "I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behaviour my family deserves," after a story circulated that he was having an affair. That was fair enough, he should have ended the statement there. But he felt the need to continue with "Although I am a well-known person and have made my career as a professional athlete, I have been dismayed to realise the full extent of what tabloid scrutiny really means." 

If it was just the case that Tiger on one of his many weekly trips to a golfing tournament was approached by a woman because of his fame, money, or whatever and he made one mistake on one night then I would think that it should have remained a private matter for him and his family, and the decision then left up to his wife whether the relationship could continue after that "transgression."
But the reports are that he had an affair for 31 months, if those reports are accurate he's been two timing his wife for half the length of his marriage.

I'm sorry Tiger but I ain't got no sympathy for the invasion of your privacy. For a man that is regarded as the best golfer of your generation, one of the richest sportsmen in the world and has made a lot of that money from advertising with the help of a clean cut image you have no right to whine when the press turn on when you do something very, very stupid. Now would be the best time to shut the fuck up and beg your wife's forgiveness.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Comments & Riddles

Greed is supposedly a bad thing. As is having an ego that likes to be massaged, but in the blogging world very few of us don't have an ego of some discription. Most of us bloggers like to think that our writing is being read by someone other than ourselves. We may begin blogging as a means to pass the time or to get things off our chest but as soon as we get a comment or a new follower we feel a tiny bit excitement.

I confess I am not immune to such behaviour and am now a comment whore myself. I like to see new comments in the box. Sadly though I am really out of practice in this blogging malarkey and after a month of trying to get my mojo back I have decided to try in the absense of coming up with anything original have decided to introduce a game.

The game will be played at the end of one post of every day that I decide to blog, and will be recognised by the text being written in red. It will be a riddle game with up to 5 clues, one clue per day, everyone can compete, just leave your answer to the riddle in the comment box. If you guess it in the first clue you get 5 points, if you guess it after 5 clues your get 1 point. There will be a leaderboard of those taking part at the side of the blog. And yes the wife can of course play, but she does not get extra points for doing so. Oh and so that no-one cheats all comments will now face a period of moderation to allow people to take part without seeing someone else answer.

What Am I?

Game 1

Clue 1 - Success tastes sweet when I land in the hole
When you move to the States you are expected to take at least a passing interest in the local sports teams. In Utah you have the Jazz, the basketball team, so far though as much as I would like to I haven't been able to see a game live at the stadium because at the moment its just a little out of range of our budget. I would love to take advantage of the advertised rate of 5 games for $135, but with the two of us that comes to $270 which right now would be better off going else where.

There is also Real Salt Lake in football (soccer) but to be honest soccer in America doesn't really interest me, after being brought watching European football there are just not enough good players here to get my interest and Real Salt Lake aren't that good. Or so I thought. There barely scraped it into the playoffs with the last league of the season. Of course soccer here having an American sport twist to it meant that didn't matter. A team here can go undefeated in the league and still not make the national final. Real Salt Lake not only scraped through to the playoffs, with a pretty poor league record, but then went on to become champions. And I being totally uneducated thought they wouldn't do anything. In doing so they were the first professional team in any sport in Utah to win something nationally for over 50 years.

After Real, there is the Salt Lake Bees, the minor league baseball team. Despite the fact that every week they seem to play Las Vegas the wife and I have actually gone to a game. It's fair to say from that showing that the Bees are crap. They lost 5 runs in just one inning.

The other major sporting even in Utah is college football, in particular the game between Utah State versus BYU. The city is pretty much divided by those who wear Red (Utah) and those who wear Blue (BYU) based largely on what university they went to.
This weekend was the big game, which I only found out on Saturday morning, but since I was staying at the in laws for Thanksgiving and they weren't watching the game I didn't feel free to switch the channel. It's a pity since the game was tied at the end of the game and both teams went on to score in overtime so it seems like it would have been a good introduction of college football.

However over the past couple of days there has been a big deal made about the comments made by one of the BYU players after his team won.

"I don't like Utah. In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them. I hate their program, their fans. I hate everything. It felt really good to send those guys home. I think the whole university and their fans and the organization is classless. They threw beer on my family and stuff last year and did a whole bunch of nasty things. I don't respect them and they deserved to lose." 

What's the deal? Ok maybe he's a bad winner. But in the heat of the moment after a hard fought victory he's just expressing his opinion. It likely gave him the motivation needed to try and win the game. Maybe if a few more Utah players felt the same towards BYU the result might have been different. You can be sure that some of the fans that went to the game would have said far worse. I for one actually have a bit more interest in watching the next BYU - Utah match.

If people giving this college player crap for a few ill judged words seriously think that is bad god help them if they were ever to go to a Rangers - Celtic match at the end of an SPL season when the league is in the balance.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Boys Will Be Boys

I discovered during this Thanksgiving weekend that you really should not be so engrossed in a conversation with your wife that you happen to not pay attention to what your 3 year old stepson is saying and/or doing. By making that mistake I did not see a frustrated small swinging fist aiming straight for the testicle region.

Until that moment I had completely forgotten how much such a contact could hurt.

I don't even know how I could forget.

I went to a primary school where the playground sport involved 20 - 30 individuals picking up some unsuspecting victim and carrying him to one of the pillars of the outbuildings, that was supposed to shelter us from the rain, but instead doubled up as a ball breaking instrument of torture when the legs of the victim were spread and then rammed as fast as it was possible for 20 - 30 7 year olds to run together crushing his nether regions on the pillar.

We all deserved this treatment because we all did it to one another. Our reasoning back then was 'well if I don't join in, it will be me next.'

Ultimately, the day would come when it would be our day. That brief moment when we weren't paying attention to the playround happenings would result in pay back.

And it hurt. I remember the pain of that initial contact with the pillar as if it was yesterday.

But somehow I forgot about the pain that comes after. The pain that lingers for a couple of days.
In my view the sport that likes to think of itself as the 'beautiful game' isn't  so beautiful as it once was. The big football clubs of the world have become play things for the mega rich. The teams in the top league in England are owned by Russian billionaire oligarths, American Businessmen, and Arabian royalty. The fans no longer have a say over who runs their club and their sporting emotions are completely at the mercy of the whim of someone who can live thousands of miles away and has no historical emotional tie to the club. European players fall down at the slightest touch from an opposing tackler like they have just contracted swine flu. Average middle of the road players now earn more in one week what a teacher may see in any year of his career.

The sport which once was the game of the working class man has now become so expensive to go to a game that the working class man is being priced out of buying a season ticket for his family in favour of the corporate clients who will go else where once the team stops winning..

In the 80's though the game was a much simpler sport, it didn't have the mega tv contracts for the top European leagues distorting the uneveness of the big clubs and thhose clubs which had a smaller fanbase or who came from smaller countries. Only the very best players got the big money contracts. And the best players were spread around the world. They played against one another. They didn't play with one another in superteams like the Real Madrid's and Chealsea's of today.

In 1986 when the first football world cup that I can properly remember took place, there was one player that stood above them all in that tournament. He was short, (no he's not Gordon Strachan) and as I was the shortest in my class at the age of 8 I took a liking him to instantly. He was also a genious with a football. He could seemingly control a football like to was tied to his shoe laces.

I'm not young enough to have seen Pele play but for me Diego Maradona was a player that showed what a beautiful game football can be. It helped that he was skillful, but probably also helped that he was Argentinian and was lined up to play against England in the '86 World Cup. I am Scottish and my dad likes to consider himself English even though he's lived in Glasgow since the age of 5. I half suspect its less to do with him being a proud Englishman and more to with the fact that Scotland will never win any of the major tournaments and England have a slim chance of that. As with every year before and since my father was boasting about how well England were going to do in that tournment. Then came Argentina and with it Maradona. In that one game Maradona scored 2 of the best goals I can ever remember seeing. The first goal was outrageous. A player of 5ft 5inches, a little bit podgy in the stomach region out jumps the 6 ft 1 inch English goalkeeper and knocks the ball into the goal with his hand.

It was rediculous. It was illegal. By rights he should have been sent off. But the goal stood. If you were English on that night you were in despair. If you were Argentinian, or Scottish, you were elated. The second goal was even better than the first. England were still trying to comprehend what had happened 3 minutes before when Diego Maradona single handledy dribbled round 6 English players to score again and with it knock England out of the World Cup.

Diego then took what was an average looking Argentina squad all the way to the finals and lifted the trophy. On the football pitch he was genious but off it was flawed. He's had his moments when he has been addicted to cocaine and he's shot at journalists who have come too close to his home.

This video of Manu Chao's song La Vida Tombola highlights much of Maradona's life and doesn't just focus on just the heroic moments although his 2 goals against England are there (around the 1:40 and 2 min mark). I like the song a lot, and it is a tribute to Maradona but I think the fact that Maradona's flawed moments are shown in the video too it makes it all the better.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

School Regrets? - I Have A Few

Do you ever wonder why you bothered to learn certain subjects at school? Probably not, but occasionally I do. Mathematics for example was one of my more enjoyable classes and one of the few subjects that I was any good at, at least until I was 16 when suddenly it seemed to get that bit harder.

Outside of basic arithmetic though it hasn't proven to be that useful in my life after school. Even though I drew plans for a living when I was a garden designer I never ever needed to know the distance between two points with the help of a hypotenuse. I did once, I repeat once, workout the distance of the hypotenuse on one of my many drawings but in truth the exercise was completely unnecessary as I was only doing it to see if I still knew how. Surprisingly, I did. But for the life of me I cannot work out why teachers had to have us learn it as much as we had to.

Algebra! Outside of serious mathematicians, scientists and teachers who actually uses algebra in the real world? And what percentage of the general population do these people make up? I somehow think the months and years of learning algebra does not equate to the usefulness of the subject. Would it not be better to have specialist advanced classes for people who show some sort of aptitude or interest in the subject and teach another more useful subject for the rest of us? Perhaps some sort of class that allows us to understand money or credit card loan rates.

Some classes, like mathematics, with algebra, we had no choice to take when we were are at school, for others though we have to take full responsibility for our own decisions.

I don't know what its like now with the schools having so many more foreign students but when I grew up in Scotland we only had to take one additional language as part of our studies for 2 years of secondary school. The language chosen as part of the enforced curriculum was French, as for some reason even though the UK is a member of the European Union (which at that time had I believe 15 member countries, now 25, most of which, if not all, speak a separate language) French was seen to be the most useful second language to have. Even though I wasn't any good at it I chose to continue my French class for a further 2 years in the hope that it might be useful in my later life. I have to say though other than spending a week in Switzerland, and 2 weeks in France those classes were pretty much a waste. I would probably even say that I learned more on those 3 weeks I spent on holiday than I did in the 4 years in a class room. Sad, but true.

Its probably been over 12 years since I have spoken French so I doubt I could remember much of anything useful. Perhaps though when I take my wife on a holiday to Paris or the south of France I might be able to remember just enough to prove somewhat useful when ordering a meal or a hotel room, but probably only after spending a couple of days in the country first.

Its funny how life turns out though. When I made the decision to continue taking the French class for an extra couple of years I could see myself taking regular holidays in France, I did not foresee that I would fall in love with a Hispanic woman. Or how much more useful taking Spanish lessons would have been over French?

So what are your school subject regrets?
Passing one of the many churches in Salt Lake City on the way home last night I noticed that there is going to be a special Thanksgiving service tomorrow. While I can understand the desire of the church to get into the spirit of the day by having a a service that promotes the thankfulness for the generosity of all mankind I have been somewhat surprised that there seems to be a distinct lack of any sort of community based event that thanks the Native American population directly.

While I have been humbled by the thought of strangers inviting us over for Thanksgiving dinner, because they thought that my wife and I might not have anyone to celebrate it with this year, it has also surprised me the number of other people who have asked if I celebrate Thanksgiving back home. We don't. Perhaps the closest thing we have to it is around harvest time when the primary schools and churches organise a collection of food for the elderly. I'm not even sure if the schools still do that now, but I do remember collecting spare tins of food from the cupboard and vegetables from the garden between the ages of 5 and 11 and then distributing it around the community. It was fun but nothing like Thanksgiving here.

I find it all the more surprising that there is isn't some sort of public show of gratitude towards the Native Americans here in Utah probably because one thing I have noticed since moving here is how much Utah does to celebrate other cultures. Throughout the year there seems to be event celebrating cultures from all around the world. I would have thought Thanksgiving would have been the perfect time to have a very public celebration of the Native American population and the early pilgrims to this country.

But alas, as of yet I see no sign of such a celebration.

Still i'm looking forward to Thanksgiving at the sister-in-laws house.



Sometimes I forget just how much my life has changed in one year.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

6 Words That No Man Wants To Hear

"He had a circumcision go wrong."

Sport - Where Miracles Do Happen

After 21 years of me taking an interest in the game of rugby, Scotland were finally able to beat the bloody Wallabies this weekend.

The only problem with that was I wasn't in Scotland at the time and have only youtube to thank for what little I saw of the match so I'm not going to have that (insert old man voice here) "I remember the day when..." moment. That's fair dinkum mate! ( I probably used that term wrongly, but bugger it)

Anyway it seems that it might even been a well deserved victory. The Scots might not have been able to put too much in the way of attack during the game but what little opportunities came their way they maximised and the defence was resolute and impressive. Everyone wearing a blue jersey played with pride and a collective spirit of they-shall-not-pass attitude for the full 80s minutes. Not something that can be said that often lately.

Even though the Aussie players aren't exactly known for their great sportsmanship when they have lost there was nothing but praise from the Wallibie players for the Scots.

So thats 2 wins out of 2 games in the Autumn Internationals for Scotland. After Fuji and Australia can Scotland add Argentina to the list of scalps? It would be nice to think that Scotland can use this result to push themselves forward, but for some reason I'm not that confident. Usually when Scotland do the impossible they then to procede to mess up during the game with a supposedly easier opposition.

During the same weekend, LA Galaxy with Beckham, Donovan et all lost in the final for the MSL cup to Real Salt Lake, a team without the star names and up until a few weeks ago looked like it couldn't even qualify for the play offs, that was until the final game when results went their way.

Maybe the Scottish rugby team could learn something from Real's late run in recent weeks in their pursuit for glory at the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

I Wouldn't Be British If I Didn't Complain About The Weather

If you believe the car number plates in these parts you might think that Utah has 'the greatest snow on earth.' How they came to this conclusion I have no idea but I have to say I was looking forward to putting it to some sort of scientific test, Scotsman style.

So when it started to snow on Sunday night and the following morning I looked out and saw this

and this

and lots of this

I thought my time had come to put the Utah snow to the test.

Now I'm naturally a lazy person so if I can do 2 things at one time allowing me more movie watching, book reading and eating time later I am all for it. Why then stop at the science of snow when I could also teach the locals some proper ESL lessons? Trust me some of the locals here need some ESL lessons, some of them need some listening skills - funny enough not so much those who actually have English as their second language but some of the people who are supposed to have English as their main language have great difficulty understanding it when it is spoken by someone from the island where the language originated.

So I thought I could see if 'the greatest snow on earth' made for some great snowballs and if it did I also thought the situation might be ripe for teaching some of the gringos how to listen to what I am saying. Those who don't listen or didn't make any attempt to listen would get a snowball in the face.

Hey what can I say, I'm just a boy at heart!

Only, it didn't happen. Just a few hours after I took those pictures this was the scene. The snow couldn't even hang around long enough to put my 'greatest snow on earth'/ESL experiment into action.
Bah Humbug!

Monday, 23 November 2009

It's Hard Being A Mummy Blogger When You Are A Man

It has been drawn to my attention that I may have to rethink the subject matter of my blog and change my writing style.

In the past when I was bored and looking for new blogs to read I would on occasion hit the blogger's 'next blog' link. All too often if I did that from my own blog I would be taken to another blog written in a language that I had no understanding of.

Which in a way was kind of ironic in that all too often people in Salt Lake City don't have a clue what I am saying, and for all I know my blog readers could be having the same trouble. As ironic as it may have been my ignorance of languages, especially those of the asian variety, meant that hitting the 'next blog' link rarely resulted in me finding anything interesting to read by clicking on that link.

So when I read that Blogger people had reprogrammed that link so that you would be taken to a blog resembling the one that you are reading I was curious to see where the link might take me if it started of at nowriterjustanoverthinker. I was of course hoping it might take me to a blog that was funny, intelligent, amusing, interesting. Well a man can have an ego too!

I was slightly disturbed to find that on 3 out of 3 occasions the 'next blog' button took me to mommy/mummy type blogs. Now don't get me wrong I have nothing against mommy/mummy blogs. I just never considered my blog to be one of them. I know I might occasionally wear an item of clothing that some people might consider resembles a skirt, but that does not make me a mummy.

Anyway I might need to write about my wife and children less and instead talk manly things like sport, sheds and automobiles. Any other suggestions are of course welcome.

Dungeons & Dragons & Virgin Mary's

Ava Maria, as seen in Downtown, Salt Lake City.

When my wife said "Don't you think I look a little like her?", I would have loved to have said "Yes, of course you do dear." But for some reason I was struggling with the concept of seeing my wife as the virgin mary.

My beautiful wife, can occasionally have a beautiful ego to match however I can't help thinking that she doesn't quite look at me in the same manner. On the same day as seeing the Ava Maria she probably looked at this and thought 'Ah, my Scotsman!'

And sadly not just for my morning breath.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Some Day's Just Suck, You Know

I woke up with a horrible taste and a in frog my throat in this morning so I coughed hoping that would get rid of both. Only it didn't. If I had anyone here to speak to I would now probably sound like the boogie man that lives under the bed. Only this boogie man couldn't get under the bed because after spending 4 hours on top of a dodgy mattress he had to move to the couch for a slightly better night's rest. Only now that I am up and about do I realise how sore my back is.

But on the upside I think I could do a mean voiceover for horror movie previews.

How do you get that job anyway?

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Zucchini's & God.

"Heavenly Father doesn't want me to wear a Zucchini" said my 5 year old step daughter this weekend.

My initial reaction was "Huh!"

And then I realised she was looking at an old photograph of herself taken this summer where she was wearing a bikini. Things were starting to make a little bit more sense.

I was still confused as to where she might get the idea that God would not want her to go swimming. It is one of her favourite things to do so whenever we have the children we try to take them swimming if there is enough time, so I wasn't sure why she suddenly thought that swimming was bad. But it turned out that it wasn't swimming that was bad but just the wearing of the bikini. Now I can understand the logic of this. I'm sure there will be a time in the future where I might suggest to her myself that what she is wearing is inappropriate, even if I do feel that at the age of 5 this attitude might be a tad premature I still respect the right for someone else to have a different opinion on the matter. But what I don't understand was why her step mother would use God as the controlling factor in this instance.

I admit I am not the most godly of people, but despite what I may have said here in the past in jest I am respectful of other people's beliefs. But I cannot understand it when people will not take responsibility for themselves, for their own rules, and instead prefer to have a 5 year old and a 3 year old scared of what God might do to them.

I am new to parenting myself. Up until March of this year I had no experience of parenting so I can understand how difficult it is to parent and how difficult it might be to be accepted as a step parent by children. I know from experience that I am not as relaxed about parenting as my wife is, or their real father is. I see dangers everywhere. Knifes, scissors, crowds, flip flops going awry are just some of the some of the things that scare me as a new parent. But I make rules when the children are with me to help limit the dangers. Sometimes I am the bad guy as a result. I hate being the bad guy, and sometimes I admit I can take it personal but I prefer to take on that role if it limits some of the dangers out there when the kids are under my protection.

As much as I do not like it when my step children misbehave I would much rather them to think of God as loving and take full responsibility myself for the rules that I set in the house and anything that may happen because of it. I cannot understand why anyone would want young children to be frightened of God. In my view it goes against the whole spirit of religion. And its so 18th century.

No End To My Wants

So I got my craving for Ceviche satisfied last weekend (much to the dismay the following morning of my better half) but this weekend I have a new desire.

It's Autumn. Which generally for me means one thing to look forward to. No not Christmas (that when I am this skint is too far away to think about just yet). Not Thanksgiving (although I am getting strangely excited for my first experience of it). No this is the time of year I look forward to the rugby season starting proper. For me the club game in Scotland hasn't lived up to its promise from the days when the amateur sport turned professional in the 90s. So for me the season really starts when the Autumn Internationals begin.

I've loved the game of rugby since I was fortunate enough to go to the right school that actually involved it in the sporting curriculum. I learned to play just before the game turned professional, when Scotland had some amazing talents in the international squad and when Bill McLaren still commentated for the BBC. Had I gone to that same school now, I might not have had the same interest in the sport I have today. For a start there is a shortage of talented players in Scotland now that would find a place in a World XV but since when has that stopped us Scots enjoying our sport? We seem to revel in the underdog role.

I think it is most likely the lack of a Bill McLaren type of commentator on the box that would mean I wouldn't have the same interest in the sport. Today's commentators seem to lack the enthusiasm and joy for the sport that the great man had. The commentators of today certainly don't lack passion for the sport but its somehow not manifested in the same way. The ex players that commentate today focus a lot more on the mistakes within the game rather than the good plays. The English commentators especially, seem biased in the opinions. Bill in contrast focused less on the mistakes, mentioning them but laughing them off perhaps with a quick memorable turn of phrase and was enthusiastic about good plays no matter the nationality the executioner of the play was. I suspect it was his enthusiasm for the game that meant I learnt to play and enjoy the game more than I would have from just the training field alone. It is his approach to commentating that allows someone who is new to the sport to enjoy it as an outsider looking in. A neutral not sure of the rules does not want to listen for 5 minutes of half time why a particular play was bad, if the play breaks down they can see it for themselves they want to be able to see the more enjoyable elements. Sport is serious but at the same time its there for us as entertainment.

Thanks to Bill, today I look forward to the Autumn internationals. I wish I could take my wife to the home of Scottish rugby, Murrayfield this weekend to watch Scotland take on Australia. Not because I expect Scotland to win, I don't we have beaten them since 1982, but I would love her to take in the atmosphere of the stadium as the national anthem is sung. I would love her to enjoy a great exciting game, one with hard tackles but unlike football (soccer) one with fair play and none of the dramatics of the over paid football players.

Had Bill McLaren not retired in 2002 and his voice could be heard around the stadium I suspect she might even be suitably distracted from the rain and the cold wind to enjoy the game that bit more. But that would for me maybe a good reason to stay here in Utah as I would be sure to hear from her at the end of the game "Why can't you talk like him? I'd love you forever if you talked like him."

Sadly though I can neither talk with his Hawick lilt or take my wife to the game at the weekend. Life is not fair sometimes.

I suppose we could go to the Fiddlers Elbow to enjoy the game but that will only be an option if the game is on late enough back home to take into the account for the time difference here for the place to be open. And its not the same as watching it in pub back home, full of Scots and Australians with an invested interest in the game.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Sweet Perfection

Now I don't want you thinking that having a hot wife is all bad. When you have a hot wife, it does have its upsides. For example - unlike in my childhood, I no longer have to add a hot water bottle at the foot of the bed on cold winter nights.

That comes in handy if you don't drink tea, coffee, or hot chocolate and therefore as a result have no kettle in which to heat a hot water bottle.

When your hot wife even comes with a sensor and an adjustable thermostat that automatically recognises when you leave the bed for a toilet break and makes the bed nice and toasty for your return its sweet perfection in the human form.

Monday, 16 November 2009

The Downside Of Having A Hot Wife

When I was young and single I could see no downsides to having a beautiful hot wife that was horny all the time. It seemed such a win-win situation for those lucky buggers who managed to capture themselves such a beast. In those long years of being single I think I must have thought to my myself that I deserve that too (yes I really am that humble and selfless). As at the first opportunity of getting a hot beautiful horny woman to show any interest in me I married her before she could change her mind. Here she is on that day.

On that day that was the smile of the most beautiful woman in the world and who would do me no harm. Oh how naive I was!

That smile is a back breaker. More often that not it leads to sex, at least once a day. My younger self would have been delighted. Honestly, my older self is too. But that smile and an old mattress is not a good combination. The springs in the bed just cannot cope with our exercises, and on days like this neither can my back.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Things I've Been Craving of Late

HP Sauce on my chips. I don't know why but I've been wanting it bad for like a couple of months now. It is even available here in Utah in the British shop in Sugarhouse. But its like $4 a bottle, in the words of the grumpy drunk priest in Father Ted - "Feck Off!"

A bottle of Irn Bru. Not just any bottle, the glass 750ml glass bottle, and not because I'm Scottish and you get 30 pence refund for returning the bottle. But for some reason it just tastes better from those bottles. Especially when its been chilled in the fridge. Again I can get Irn Bru here in the Scottish shop in downtown, but again its expensive and its only available in the smaller plastic bottles but its just not the same.

My Mother's Cheese Pie. I wish I could remember how it was made. All I remember is the rolling the pastry base on to the bottom of the casserole dish, sticking it the oven for a bit and bringing it out later to see this 3/4 inch of soft tasty cheesy goodness that I could eat all by myself. Strange thing is I'm one of these people who doesn't like to have cheese on everything (how did I end up in the States? - must have been love.) and yet I love this pie my mother made. I've tried looking for recipes online to see if I can see anything like it, but nadda, no luck, maybe it was an old family recipe or something. Thing I don't understand is you can find just about anything on the internet, things you don't even want like a recipe for a nuclear bomb but nothing like the cheese pie my mother made. Why didn't I pay more attention in the kitchen? Maybe some day I'll have to write a Dear mum letter that my she who must be obeyed likes to nag about.

Ceviche. Every so often I've been having been wanting to go back to the local the Peruvian restaurant and tuck into this fish and seafood dish but lately we've been too skint to eat out so sadly no lime soaked octupus, shrimp, fish combo are on the menu.

Indian Curry. This is a big one, I've been craving some Chicken bhuna with fried rice and nan bread, and spiced mushrooms as a starter (yeah I am a greedy pig) for months. Sadly though there just isn't that many Indian restaurants around in Salt Lake City and those that are here seem to be way on the other side. Some day though me and my better half will have to check them out, if however they don't prove to be as good as those back in Glasgow it might just be another excuse for a date when we finally are able to go travelling.
So I was scrolling through the latest BBC headlines as I do regularly when I spotted -

Rain And Winds Begin Hitting UK

Since when has that been news, that was a daily occurrence for me when I lived back home. Maybe the headline grabbing element of that sentence is in the 'begin'. Maybe it stopped and I missed that piece of news.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Living In Different Worlds

Time, place. Experience. Sometimes its the seismic events of history that make me wonder if I really am of this world. Sometimes major events come and go and don't really affect me directly as much as I think it should.

There has been 2 huge historical events that have taken place in my lifetime. I wasn't born when man first stepped on the moon but I do remember the late evening tv pictures of 9th of November 1989. The fall of the Wall wasn't that spectacular. All you saw was a bunch of leather jacketed Berliners attacking reinforced concrete - mostly with hammers, with little success (although I bet you can buy those chippings on Ebay today). Nobody died, as far I remember. A lot of people got drunk, and stoned (d'oh bad pun). The wall itself wasn't an impressive structure. It wasn't even particular tall or especially forbidding. Its real power lay in the killing ground of mines, dog runs and razor wire behind it.

The concrete barrier was always more symbolic than anything else. It didn't matter that none of the crowds of scrambling people could do much damage to it without the help of some heavy equipment. What mattered was that they were climbing all over it, and hitting it ineffectually without getting machine gunned to oblivion. As a sudden and surprising symbol of hope and optimism and moment of time representing changing times those watching it could ask for no more. Those little hammers that couldn't do much damage to concrete had somehow on that night managed to put an end to an age of idiocy. A 40 year threat of worldwide nuclear holocaust seemed to evaporate that night.

I remember watching those tv pictures. I remember the hope and joy. But at the end of the day it didn't really affect me in the way I thought it would go on to. I was too young at the time. Too young perhaps to feel threatened by a possible looming Armageddon. It didn't feel real enough. I have never lived in a communist country, so I didn't feel get to feel any restrictions being lifted. The closest I've been to living in a divided city was in Glasgow on the day of Celtic - Rangers game, hardly the same thing.

So when the Wall fell I just went on living my life pretty much as I always had, albeit in a Europe with the map redrawn.

A dozen years went by from the day of the fall of the Wall before something as big happened again. This time it wasn't a chilly November night that brought hope but a bright September morning that brought shock and fear. The planes crashing into the Twin Towers in 2001 was just as unbelievable as the pictures of men clambering on the Wall with arms aloft.

For a while on that terrible Tuesday I was even afraid. I was in Scotland that day, but my mother had went abroad for the first time in her life that weekend. She was visiting her best friend who had moved to New York over 20 years previously. She had called me on Sunday from New York and had told me that she was going to visit the Towers on the upcoming Saturday. When I saw those aeroplanes crashing into the Tower my first thought was that maybe she had decided to change that day trip and brought it forward by a few days. The panic that came over me was horrible. I had no telephone number for where she was staying and couldn't get in touch with her. But whereas the whole world seemed to know what had happened that day, she was resting at her friend's holiday home situated on the banks of the Finger Lakes with no tv, no telephone or radio completely unaware what was happening just miles away. When she finally did get to hear of it and get a chance to call me my panic was replaced with a selfish relief.

After that although al-Qaida had attacked the USA I didn't think that I was personally living in a more dangerous world. I had lived in the UK when the IRA had bombed buildings in a regular basis. I wasn't one of those soldiers who had to go to War. I wasn't one of the grieving parents who had to suffer when their son was brought home in a box. I didn't believe in the war in Iraq but neither was I one of those who marched in the streets against it because I ultimately knew it wouldn't change the politicians minds. I didn't feel threatened by Muslims. There have always been extremists of one kind or another, and none of them have ever really affected my life directly.

When I remember the pictures of the Wall falling I remember happy times, I would have loved to have there that night but ultimately I wasn't, perhaps as a result I don't really feel that they had as a powerful effect on my life that it could and should have.

Strangely, as big as the fall of the Wall and the fall of the Twin Towers were as moments of the history of our time, it was the probably the collapse of the banks and markets beginning on September 2008 that had a bigger more direct impact on my life. Is that selfish? Do I really need to be a part of something to feel it? Am I really part of this thing we call the human race?

Listening to: Call Me Anytime - The Cops

Friday, 6 November 2009

Why I Couldn't Be A Conservative In The USA Reason # 1

As I'm not a citizen no one in the USA is going to invite me to vote but that's not a good enough reason not to have a mini series of blog posts.

Back home in Scotland I was very much of two minds politically. I liked the idea of an independent Scotland but wasn't entirely sure that enough people were going to vote for it in order for it not to be a wasted vote. I am also not entirely sure that Scotland could be strong enough economically for the first 5 - 10 years after breaking itself off from the UK to have something to build from thereafter. Perhaps when there was still oil in the North Sea back in the 70's it would have been good but now? I just don't know.

I also believe in a government that has low taxation and minimum government interference in the lives of the citizens that it serves. So although I hated Thatcher when she was in power I was pretty much a conservative at heart, and just could never see myself voting labour when they seem to be control freaks and have acres of government at every level. Plus its probably not helped by the fact that Blair was someone I despised more than even Thatcher.

Now you may think that with my earlier statement of believing that a government should have minimum interference in the lives of the citizens it serves and my preference for low taxation that I would be as much as a conservative here as much as I was back home. But conservatism here is a different beast. And for that reason alone I think it could make a semi-decent mini series for this blog while I get back my blogging groove.

Reason # 1

Conservatives in the USA seem to believe with more enthusiasm than liberals in the right of the people to keep and bear arms.

I'm not going to make any pretense that I am tough Scotsman. Guns scare me. I don't want to be anywhere near them.

In addition to that I don't want to read any more stories of kids accidentally shooting their siblings when they get hold of their father's loaded gun that was supposed to be locked away in a cupboard. I don't want to want to read of cults in Texas being armed to the teeth and shooting FBI officers. I don't want my step children to be scared of going to school because other kids are carrying guns in their backpacks along with their books. I don't want to step into a 7/11 in the middle of the night to buy a bag of Swedish Fish and have some drugged up wannabe Jesse James flashing a gun barrel between my eyes - with all the Mexican food I eat I'm likely to shit myself there and then.

Back in the day when the USA was a new country I could understand the need for people to have the right and the need to bear arms. It was a dangerous world. Native Americans didn't exactly like the idea of the white man moving in on their land. Criminals from Europe saw America as the land of opportunity and would happily steal the land from underneath your feet. As would some crooked businessmen who might want your land to sell it onto the railroad or just to build a ranch. Back in those days the local sheriff might be too far away or just not powerful enough to save your sorry ass. Therefore a good man at the birth of this country may have been expected to carry a gun in order to protect his family.

Now though we live in different times, the USA as so many levels of police that it should be a safer country in which to live. I suspect it would be safer still if it wasn't so easy for gangs and desperate junkies to be able to get a hold of guns from legal and illegal sources.

Back home I felt if I was unlucky enough to come across a ned with a knife nicked from his mothers kitchen that I could have the chance of outrunning him before any damage was done, its not see easy to outrun a bullet. Maybe if the Bill of Rights was amended and the antiquated belief that the people have the right to bear arms was reassessed and something was done about the number of guns freely available in this country I could feel safe eating Mexican food before visiting a 7/11.

Listening to: Sean Kingston - Me love

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Ah Gringos! Given time I might grow to love them.

As Scottish accents go I never really considered myself to have a particular thick one, but since spending the last 8 months or so living here in the States I'm finding myself having to reassess that assumption. It seems the gringos just can't understand me.

That I could find acceptable if they'd only just try - but whereas Latinos will take the effort to listen and on occasion make an attempt to have conversation like the Mexican worker who the other day took my order for a Whopper and ended up talking about the weather here compared to back home and the film Braveheart it seems most white people in these parts would prefer to cut me off and look at me blank faced as soon as I open my mouth. When I first moved here it didn't take long for me to get used to the close minded attitude of some of the local white population but then just the other week I applied for a job that I was well qualified for. I first sent of an email complete with my resume and then followed it up with a phonecall.

Me - "Hello, I am replying to your advert on ...... regarding the job that you ....."

Interupted mid conversation with "I can't even understand you! If you can't speak English why do you think I would even consider employing you!!!"

When I first came to Utah I thought it might take an adjustment of sorts to fit in and settle down and then reality struck.

I hate to imagine how I might have got on in Utah if I actually had a thick Scottish accent. Like if had a nasally accent like a Glasgow ned for example or a sing-songy West Highland accent or god forbid a Welsh accent like some of my relatives from my father's side of the family.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

"Hearts Aren't Made Of Glass"

I've seen my fair share of graffitti whilst having to relieve myself in public restrooms. I can't speak for the ladies but in the gents toilets the graffitti itself isn't all that charming it usually consists of obsenities or telephone numbers scratched into whatever surface is available (presumedly with the help of a key, coin or knife blade) along with whatever sexual service they are willing to provide the occupant of the cubicle.

However Library toilets seem to have a higher class of 'artist'.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

I love It When She Answers Her Own Questions

"You know what sounds good right now? I don't know. Something yummy!"

Listening to: The wife, in bed

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Sometimes Even "I Told You So' Is Too Much

Remember a few years ago the woman who became the oldest new mother at the age of 66?

Well a strange thing happened on Saturday, she died, at the age of 69.

I have nothing else to say.

Monday, 13 July 2009

What A Weekend!

This weekend sucked pretty much.

On the run up to it we were both looking forward to having some well deserved quality time together. It was going to be good.

Sometimes though life seems to like to kick us in the teeth. This weekend was one of those times. After the bills were paid off on Friday we had a little bit less money than we had realised. What was left over wasn't going to buy what we needed for the rest of the week. Horrible times. Lots of stress, frustration resulted in a whole lot of stubbornness for two people who can be too much alike at times. The only solution I saw to the whole horrible situation was to swallow my pride and do something that in normal circumstances I would never want to do. Which made neither of us happy. This solution to our unfortunate situation meant that for the two days we had been looking forward to so much we barely saw one another and had none of the good times we had been dreaming of.

By Sunday though things had improved enough of an extent that we could at least spend some quality time together without the stress of the previous two days. The sun was shining. We had 50 minutes to ourselves, a beautiful field of wheat, a quiet road and a moment where I almost got to convince her to jump on in the car. It was such a beautiful moment I almost want to get this picture blown up and put on the wall as a keepsake.

If only that speeding motorist hadn't come round the corner at that moment, waving his finger, it might have been an even nicer memory.

Ah well, in this car I don't think there would have been much left to the imagination what we were up to.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

When Sporting Idols Were Human

Today when Real Madrid can spend 80 million pounds on a Portuguese footballer and 56 million on another Brazilian and can afford to pay them weekly wages on top that most of us can't dream of in a lifetime of working its almost hard to imagine that sport didn't always have such superstars. In sport there has always been athletes that have excelled above the rest but not all got the lifestyle that today's top athletes can expect.

I was just reading the story behind a new song written by Blair Douglas, a founding member of Runrig, the song is about a man named Giovanni "Johnny" Moscardini, who though born in Scotland in 1897 who went on to have a successful football career in Italy during the 20s and 30s. He became the top scorer for his club Pisa, before playing for the Italian national team where he was capped 9 times only to give it all up to help run his Uncle's ice cream shop back in Scotland. Somehow I just don't see Ronaldo or Kaka doing likewise. They might well send a cheque back home to a relative that needed some help but I doubt they'd be willing to give up their priviliged lifestyle to physically help the family business.

Yet sporting history is littered with interesting stories. Around the same time when Giovanni was playing football for Italy a Scottish runner was refusing to run his best event at the 1924 Olympics, the 100 meters, because it clashed with his religious beliefs. The heats were to be run on a Sunday so Eric Liddell, a devout protestant, felt that with it being the day of the Sabbath he could not compete. Instead he decided to train for the 400 meters, another event he was good at but was only expected to come 3rd in. A lot of today's 100 meter sprinters will double up on the 200 meters but it takes a special athlete to be able to compete at both 100 and 400 meters such is the differences in the discipline of the two events.

As it turned out, he not only won the race but set a new world record.

After his athletics career was over he continued his Missionary work in China, staying on to carry his work in 1941 when the British government advice was to leave due to the war between China & Japan. The Japanese later overtook the mission station with its members interned at the Weifang Internment Camp. Liddell died of a brain tumour hastened by malnourishment and overwork in 1945, months before the Japanese surrended. An unfortunate end for a man that was so admired by his peers for not only his athletic ability but for the man he was.

Its not only the athletes of the distant past that have interesting life stories, more recent athletes have done so as well. Take the story of amateur Scottish cyclist Graham Obree. When his bike shop failed with the burden of bad debts he decided that the way out of his problems was to beat the World hour velodrome record which had stood for 9 years. Unlike his English rival, Chris Boardman, who had access to the help of the UK Olympic team for coaching and sponsorship as well as custom made carbon fibre superbikes thanks to the backing of Lotus, Graham had to not only design his own training regime but build his own bike from left over stock from his shop and parts from an old washing machine.

The bike he subsequently designed had an unusual riding position, which he later became famous for, because not only was it aerodynamic but also because it allowed him to put more pressure on the pedals allowing him to get up to speed without the need for standing up. On his first attempt at the record he failed but he had booked the track for 24 hours so decided to come back early next morning to try again. In order to prevent his body from seizing up while he slept, he made himself drink pint after pint of water so that he would have to wake up every two hours for toilet trips which allowed him to stretch his muscles. With so much punishment on his body it should have been a waste of time even going back on track. The day before he had been fresh and had failed the old record by a kilometer, but this time the effort was not in vain and he beat the record by over 400 meters.

At a time when most professional cyclists seemed to be ruining the sport by competing with the aid of illegal drugs the World governing cycling body (the UCI) seemed to be more concerned that the evolution of the bicycle was making it possible for a disproportionate improvement to track records. So they banned the unusual elbows tucked in riding position that Graham had used to set his record, which meant that this necessitated the need for a new bike to be designed and built if he was to continue racing after Chris Boardman broke it a week after he had set it.

His new bike had yet another unusual riding position, later to be named the Superman position because of the way his arms were outstretched in front of him as he rode. He used this new bike to win the World Championship pursuit.

Not bad for someone who had to get over bouts of depression, which at times in his life was so severe that he had tried to kill himself not once but twice. The first time as a child when he was only saved by the luck of his father getting off of work unusually early and once as an adult after his brother died of a car crash, this time being saved by a woman who was checking out a barn.

To me its unusual stories like that can make Sport so much more interesting than impressive skills and crazy income levels and the building of expensive superteams such as Real Madrid.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Watch Out Guys, Thanks To Some Clever Boffins We Might Just Have Become A Little Bit Less Useful

Apparently a team of scientists in England have claimed that they can make sperm from stem cells. This may be bad news for us guys because producing sperm by the gazillion was one of the few things that we were exclusively good at, for no good reason other than we could. If we aren't required for that in future what will we be needed for?

But seriously, what were they thinking? There are at least 5 billion people on this planet, maybe closer to 6 or 7 (sorry I haven't been counting and too lazy to get my facts straight), even if less than half of those were sperm producing males that makes up a lot xy and xx chromosomes swimming about. That's not even including those being kept at optimum temperature in the fridges of Sperm Banks. So my question is - why? Yeth I know that there are a lot of people out there wanting babies that can't have them because the guy in the relationship is struggling to do his bit, because his swimmers just don't seem interested but really I hardly think that the world has a shortage of usable sperm. Maybe there is a reason that men are getting less fertile as time goes by, it might well just have been predesigned in our make up that as our numbers grew we were diluting our reproductive abilities so that 7 billion didn't quickly become 27 billion.

I don't want to be seen to belittle the issue of infertile men but with all the current sources of spermatozoa alternatives could these boffins not have put some research into something more useful and necessary, like I don't know perhaps increasing food production for all the people that already here and all the people that are going to be here in future? Or do these 'intellectuals' only do things because they think they can or for their own ego and the respect of their peers?

Listening to: "Helplessly Hoping" Crosby, Stills & Nash

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Reminiscing & Discovering Utah

Occasionally I miss things from back home. Its a mixture of things depending on the day or what I am doing.

If I am eating it might be things like HP Sauce on my chips. Utah fry sauce is ok, but at the end of the day its only ketchup and mayonnaise, no big deal. HP sauce is different, you can get it here in the British store but at $4 for the small bottle its a little pricey, especially when you know the real price. So I guess for now I'm stuck using ketchup or fry sauce.

Speaking of fries, I much prefer British style cut chips to fries. I might be flaco myself but those skinny little things don't do it for me, I like my chips meaty. Thankfully I have a wife who will on occasion cut them the way I like em. I think she loves me or something.

I miss my Irn Bru that I used to drink by the gallon, but although again it is possible for me to get it in the Scottish store I just don't know if I can justify a 30 minute trip downtown for the $2 small plastic bottles, especially when for some reason it tastes much better chilled in the glass bottles that aren't available here. Strangely I think I even miss the Irn Bru adverts, they are far more wittier than anything that seems to available here.

If I am watching tv I might miss the BBC. Sure you can get BBC America, but thats crap. Very few programs on it are BBC programs, a lot of whats on it is programs that few people want to watch back in the UK like How Clean Is Your House. Blah. Where is the good stuff that the BBC is good at like the Natural History programs or Wimbledon coverage.

Of course when it comes right down to it TV isn't that serious a thing to miss, not when I didn't watch too much of it anyway. I do on occasions miss places more, like being able to spend a few hours around Loch Lomond, go away for a couple of days in Skye or go hiking in Glen Lyon for example. But I'm finding even that isn't that big a deal when I have a whole new beautiful country to explore, this time with company by my side which is fun, but maybe we do need to prepare some food before we leave the house so that we can enjoy it a bit longer.

For now at least, even the blue skies of Utah in Summer is still a novel experience for someone who is used to cloud cover. Its taken my eyes some time to get used to it, and will probably take my pale skin even longer but it makes a nice change. Back home it seemed like it just wasn't fair that the most time scenes like below would occur would be on a winters day when it so cold that you would have to wrap up to enjoy it.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

It was my Sister-In-Laws baby shower this weekend so she asked my wife to take some pictures of the event with my camera. As a result I have a lot of editing to do before this weekend approaches when I have a photo shoot of my own to do as I must make space on the computer before then. As I am going through them I am starting to realise that my wife not only has a wacky dreams of Australian chefs but she also a fetish of womens' feet.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

I Really Need To Be less Judgemental

When it comes to the weekly grocery shopping trip, I much prefer to go to Smiths rather than Walmart. Partly because I have found that the meat in Smiths taste better than the Walmart variety. Why that should be the case I do not know, but the Walmart meat does seem to taste like cardboard.

But another reason is that at Smiths they don't feel the need to greet you at the door. I've always thought that Walmart were patronizing to the older worker, the disabled or the sick because thats the type of worker that they seem to use as greeters. Personally I thought that the older worker or even the disabled worker would have been more useful in another position, something that was more involving than "Hello, welcome to Walmart". But the day I saw a man standing, using a zimmer frame for support with an oxygen tank by his side, performing this role I was disturbed and thought that Walmart was taking the piss.

But a few weeks later, with my back once again acting up and my papers not yet finialised and therefore unable to visit the doctors for fear of it costing me a fortune I am looking on that Walmart memory a little differently. I realise now that I looked upon that sight as someone who is used to living in a country with a socialised healthcare system. That man I saw that day, living in a land where you need to have insurance to afford healthcare, probably had to work just to be able to pay his health costs, and Walmart was good enough to give him a job when many other places couldn't have accommodated him. It's not like he could have dragged his oxygen tank around the floor of the Olive Garden whilst serving diners.

I may well have changed my mind over the role of some of the Walmart greeters but until I taste some better meat, my opinion on that remains the same.

Monday, 15 June 2009

America Lost

When I saw this old abandoned store I could almost taste the ice-cream that a young American kid bought long ago, whilst smelling the fruit carefully stacked by the shop owner and feel the newsprint between my fingers rubbed off from the daily paper.

It's shops like these I have seen plenty of in old American movies and photographs.

When I moved to the States back in March I hoped to see old authentic shops like these still open and active. Sadly though the reality is its mostly malls and big stores with little character that seem to exist in Utah today. So far, in my admittedly limited experience of Northern Utah of the past few months, a few small shops that I have seen have tried hard to replicate the look of the old store such as this one but lack a certain something to feel authentic.

So when I saw this store I couldn't help but dream a little of reopening it and bringing it back to life and making it once again an active, useful part of town. Sadly though a town as small as Bear River that is situated about 10 miles or so from the the Interstate with all its modern amenities sprawled by the roadside will probably never be able to bring life back to such a store ever again. The price of progress I guess.

It's a shame that such places that give a taste of what small town America must once have looked like for so many are now only stopping places for the curious to take a photograph or two.

At least they haven't yet knocked it down.

Listening to: Paolo Nutini - High Hopes

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

A Crazy Few Days

A year ago marriage couldn't have been further from my mind. Then I met a girl that broke through my defences and all that changed.

Just 4 weeks we were making plans for getting married in September/October of next year. And then we brought forward those plans. On a crazy, limited, budget we decided to marry on the 29th of May this year and then repeat our vows in the manner that we had been originally planning, later on.

It was going to be so easy. A small simple ceremony in a courthouse with a couple of witnesses, a few photographs taken and a nice meal at the end of the day with some friends and family. Not hard at all until you realise on the day before that the booking you thought you had for the courthouse hasn't been placed and you have to find an alternative at the same time as when you have an 8 hour drive between 2 States to do. That was all stressful enough but then we had difficulties getting a restaurant to take a booking for 23 seats. You would think a business would be happy to cater to a booking of that level but not in Utah apparently.

Thankfully it was all resolved in no small part to the energies and generosity of my new wife's Sister and Mother - who made what was supposed to be a small simple ceremony a beautiful day indeed.

Anyway here are some photographs of the day

The Bride getting ready - or is that an instrument of torture?
The beautiful BrideImportant conversation about flower duties
Rest time before ring carryingGetting photographed is boring when there is a pond to be explored

Despite the worry and the stress of the day before, everything turned out well, far better than we had planned. A beautiful Chilean woman made a Scotsman a very happy man. Of course we have to repeat it all some time in the future - this time we are going to be better organised!

Listening to "Worried Man" Paolo Nutini