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Thursday, 26 June 2014

Last Post

So, dear readers, I'm afraid to say that its likely i'll stop posting on here so often now.

I must admit, it was great fun to write about the various ludicrous situations I found myself in around the world these last few years, and to be honest, nothing has changed in these last 3 months. I had a great time in Japan again, and God knows where else, I forgot now, but I couldn't help but think about the sheer Narcassism of Facebook  posts and all the various blogs out there that make out this amazing fun and happy life lived by everyone, but which is in fact if you're not careful, ends up being lived out for the benefit of your voyeurs.

The reason I began to write this blog was in order to learn how to write better, (and of course to rant a little about the stupidity of the world) and I think i've achieved that to some extent. But to be completely honest and selfish about it, I go on adventures round the world, not for Facebook likes, not for views, or the acceptance and validation of random people, but because I enjoy them, and the writing about them part just became a chore that detracted from the overall experience. It's like taking photos - I really can't be bothered about it any more, because it really ruins the moment.

Anyway, I hope some of it inspired some of you to go out and have your own adventures instead of reading about other peoples.

The good news is that my new book is about to come out, called 'Recession Proof Real Estate', so look out for that, and i'm working on my second novel which I hope will be about 2.5 million times better than my first.

Anyway, farewell and I'll keep the archive on here to amuse you all on rainy days and to ensure my political career never gets off the ground...til then i'll leave you with a few recent photos of Japan...

Shinto Temples at night are Pretty Spooky places

Me and a random official guy

Only in Japan....

Confirming my ongoing fight to promote sexism throughout society

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Las Vegas and the future of Surveillance

What is it with Las Vegas and flunkies?

I was getting a taxi today from a rather upmarket Las Vegas hotel, and they have a guy who asks you in a patronising voice where you want to go, and then opens the door for you. All competely superflous stuff that nobody actually needs in any way (especially if you're planning to go to the strip club) I also noticed everyone giving this guy a tip for such a non-service. Now waitresses and waiters I can understand, since they actually provide a useful service, but nosey parker door opening, borderline aggressive begging flunkies? No thanks. Anyway, I got a cuttingly sarcastic (i.e. fuck you, hope you die you cheapo non tipper) 'have a great day' as I didn't give him any tip for the nothing he provided. Fair enough he's not working for any salary but he also isn't providing any kind of service...

Anyway, a bigger shock was an hour ago, when I got another taxi to the xxx casino, walked up to the single deck blackjack, changed up $70 (I wanted to play quickly to double up to $140 for a small poker tournament.) As soon as I got my chips, the pit boss came over to the dealer and told her, 'Sorry this guy isn't allowed to play blackjack.'  Of course she thought he was kidding, but he wasn't.

Within 5 minutes of being in the casino, talking to nobody, and not giving over any ID or anything that could give away my identity, they were able to confirm, purely from my face from when i was last there (last October or so) - exactly who I am and, sadly, the fact that I'm banned from playing Blackjack in their casino.

What does this mean? Of course, The xxxx possibly spent millions of dollars on a super duper facial recognition system to stop guys like me taking them for lots of money. But its bigger than this. Is this the future of western society? The potential uses for facial biometrics are pretty amazing. Capturing criminals or 'terrorists' by simply putting out their data on CCTV and waiting for them to go to the shops? Detecting fraud? Even finding dates or the next perfect face of TV could all be done one way or another here. Certainly makes for reasonable paranoia while staying here in Las Vegas.  Most casinos on the strip at least, must therefor know exactly where I am, how many casino chips I have, how much i'm up or down, and whether they should let me keep playing or ask me to leave...Imagine that extrapolated into city wide areas? Welcome to the future, dear friends, Big Brother really is watching you...

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Sauna Etiquette for Non Finns/Estonians/Russians

If the only thing you could hear in the gym sauna today was my palm slapping my forehead, then all would have been well. But it wasn’t. I don’t know, to sit in the sauna today, watching 3 fully grown but plainly dysfunctional men, unable to be away from their i-phones for 5 minutes, bleeping away I could not but despair - Tyler Durton was right, and by the look of the way western manhood is going, he’s getting more right by the second.

Your lack of Sauna etiquette is not your fault, dear Americans. I understand they don’t teach you it at school and you’re too ignorant to read what it says outside the sauna. If it’s any consolation, Brits are just the same (on a less loud/high five level admittedly), when it comes to knowing how to behave in that sacred Baltic Grotto, so I think its time I tell the world a little about how it should be in there…

Ok lets start at the beginning.  The sauna, to take it back to its roots, really is a sacred, serene place in Nordic/Baltic culture. It’s where many babies were traditionally born. Its where business is conducted, vodka drunk, even relationships consummated. But all in all it’s a place where the family, or close friends congregate to relax, meditate, sweat out the bad stuff, and contemplate the meaning of life. In silence – i.e. not sitting tweeting on their i-phones. And definitely not shaving your armpits in front of everyone. Or sitting fully clothed with shoes on.

Ok lets put some bullet points in so next time you go to take a sauna, you know what to do.

1.     Go naked. The point of the sauna is to sweat out your toxins not to dirty your clothes and skin. If you’re in mixed company,  ladies will tend to wear a towel round to protect modesty (although they will get to see your parts, guys, is it such a bad thing?) If you’re with a bunch of guys, sweating and naked, it’s not a gay thing despite your insecurities, unless you’re actually gay, in which case you probably visit a very different kind of sauna. However if a guy gets a hard on, then you probably don’t want to invite him next time. And if the girls don’t towel up, then you’re probably on a promise. Or in Sweden.
2.     Don’t talk loudly at people. Especially not strangers. Ok I understand it’s not easy to shut up for a second, but really, its not that hard.
3.     Actually, don’t talk at all. That’s really not the point of the sauna. You have bars to shout at each other and hug strangers.
4.     Don’t bring headphones, ipods or phones into the sauna.  Apart from the fact that its not very good for them, its also pretty bad manners.
5.     Pour water on the sauna, to increase the humidity and open your pores. Ignore the warnings on American saunas to not pour water on it. They are plainly idiots and don’t know anything, not least the whole point of a sauna.
6.     If you can increase the temperature, do so. This will get rid of unwanted men on iphones. Or at least will break their iphones which serves them right.
7.     I know this sounds hard, but after the sauna, jump in a VERY cold shower, or run out and roll in the snow. The sauna (when you pour water on it) opens the pores, and so the biting cold will close them again, and leave you feeling (afterwards) pretty amazing. Your girlfriend will thank you.
8.     Use birch branches to both waft (to increase the ‘burn’) and to beat yourself or others. You really need to take turns on this – basically lie down and get another to beat you with the birch branch all over. It helps the pores again, makes it hotter, and pretty much doubles the whole sauna experience. If there are no birch leaves, just beat the guy with the i-phone with his phone until he leaves.
9.     You should repeat the hot/cold combination 2,3 even 4 times if you can. Don’t stay out in the snow for more than 5 minutes though. It can feel great, and you want to go to sleep. But that’s because you have hypothermia.
10. Don’t wear shoes and socks in the sauna. It defeats the whole purpose. I mean do I really have to say this?
11. Fat people – sauna does not lose you weight or get you fit. You just lose sweat, which comes back in a few hours.  Fat guy in the sauna today – Please try not to fart in the sauna, it was disgusting.

Ok so now everyone in Western New York is educated on Sauna etiquette, I’m looking forward to going into the sauna next week and having birch leaves waiting and the ultimate zen experience….

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Driving in Ecuador...(and remaining alive)

If you told me ten years ago i'd be tearing down the Ecuadorian Coast Road at 100km per hour, downing shots of rum with an Inca Princess who keeps grabbing the steering wheel, while narrowly avoiding donkeys and children then i'd order a drink of what you just had...but there you go, here i am now finally in surfing HQ, Montanita, Ecuador, with a surprisingly intact car and a splitting headache...
This bus was racing up the hard shoulder. Kind of funny until it crashes.

I plan to drive right round the country, up the Andes and through Quito, then down the spine of the mountains to Banos and Cuenca, then back to the insanity that is Guayaquil. Driving is perhaps safer than Taxi's, as this Japanese Honeymoon couple found out (they were robbed and fatally shot in Guayaquil just there, I hope my mum isn't reading this)  I'm trying not to jinx my driving plans and avoiding kidnap, robbery, and plain old crashing by offering you, dear reader, some tips on latin american driving...

1. Don't do it. When I think about it, the danger involved in driving in Latin American cities if you're used to normal countries with broad rules of the road are outweighed by advantages of taking the (also dangerous) bus, even if you are likely to lose your camera and wallet on the bus. You'd better just not bothering really...but in case you are daft enough...

Oh...and try to avoid travelling in the rainy season...

2. Keep a constant eye out on either side. There are no rules at all here. People undertake, overtake, race along the hard shoulder (especially buses I notice) The good fun part is that you can do the same. It's even more fun if you peep your horn like mad while doing it, that usually shuts them up.

3. When a truck or bus is peeping the horn frantically and coming out of a junction, that means you should give it some respect, because it doesn't care that you have right of way- it's bigger than you and doesn't care about its passengers, and it's made its decision that its going straight in front of you, so slow down, swerve and avoid it as it hurtles into your lane right in front of you on two wheels...

4. Don't worry about speed limits. It's all about how well you can swerve when guys come out in front of you, and how good you are at missing the assorted dogs, donkeys and children who seem to mill around on the busiest and fastest roads.

5. Keep a handy bunch of $20 bills, in case complications related not particularly to your driving or state of inebriation, more related to the very low salaries of the average policeman and the fact that you are a gringo and probably will want to avoid Ecuadorian 500 to a cell prisons...
The wonderful roads of Montanita

The wonderful dead bodies on the sand of Montanita....

The roads so far in Ecuador have to be fair been quite good though. They've spent a fair amount on infrastructure - lets see how the winding roads up the mountains go before I start showing off, as i might be showing off from the luxury of a hospital bed...