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November 2, 2003

Cyberdog

Colin and I went out for a quiet drink last night which inevitably ended up as a drunken night of clubbing. I was wearing my Cyberdog rave pants which were terrific as MAS, the club we went to, was really dark and they light up and flash, though thankfully no-one tried to beat me up for begging attention and I only attracted people asking where I bought them. Should have worn the t-shirt as well but I probably would have been electrocuted in the torrential Scottish rain.

Bluejacking

Bluejacking is the new craze of anonymously sending a message to a stranger's bluetooth enabled phone by writing it into the Address field and waiting for someone to pass with a bluetooth phone in a busy public place. i.e. "Name: I have bluejacked you. There is no escape" Should be a welcome change from wardriving.

05.11.03 BBC News story on Bluejacking.

November 4, 2003

West End Bars

Colin and I met up with Andrew last night in Bar Brel in the West End of Glasgow and ended up having a few too many Belgian brews under his medical guidance. Andrew then took us back to his lovely new pad where we woke up Catherine and started on the whiskey, which in hindsight was, once again, a mistake. Colin and I were then unable to feel the biting cold (or anything else) and set off on a long hike back across Glasgow to his flat.

This morning I now have to get a train over to Perth and go to the dentist with one of those anaestitised hangovers that only Scottish whiskey can bring. Must manage stay awake on the train or else I'll end up in Aberdeen.

November 5, 2003

US installs airport fingerprint scanners

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The public got its first look Tuesday at fingerprinting and photo equipment that will be installed at 115 airports and 14 seaports to check identities of millions of foreign visitors.

The equipment, which goes into use Jan. 5, will allow inspectors to check identities of visitors against those on terrorist watch lists.

The system consists of a small box that digitally scans fingerprints and a spherical computer camera that snaps pictures. It will be used for the estimated 24 million foreigners traveling on tourist, business and student visas who enter through an airport or seaport.

So it looks like they'll then have a database with photographs and fingerprints of everyone who visits the country. That's bound to put a few more people off visiting the land of the free.

Gateway to the Highlands

Somehow the weather in Scotland seems to know when I'm outside and it starts raining. I can look out of the window and it's a lovely day and then deciding not to wrap myself up in bin liners I'll go downstairs, walk around the corner and torrential rain will ensue.

The train ride through to Perth was fairly interesting and I always appreciate the Scottish landscape after I've been out of the country for a while. The only unpleasant aspect of the trip over was that I was probably sitting a bit too close to the toilet which apparently, from the smell, something had died in recently.

The dentist was fairly surprised to see me and pointed out that I hadn't been there since March 2001, but he seemed quite happy after checking me out orally, made my teeth a new shade of white, and the Black and Decker stayed in his toolbag.

Perth was grey, windy and wet. Going there used to be a big day out for me when I worked and I would do some shopping or go to Littlejohns for dinner, soaking up the joy of having temporarily escaped Dundee. It didn't seem to have changed now much but it didn't make me as aroused as it used to. It took about fifteen minutes to walk around the main part of town, which was fairly empty apart from old and unemployed people huddling in the warmth of the shopping centre and most of the shops were identical to those on any other High Street in Britain. I had a keen desire to extract value from the 9.50 I'd paid for my day return ticket but finally I had to admit to myself that there was no point in standing around in the drizzle any longer and I caught the train back to Glasgow.

November 6, 2003

Seeing the Light

I promised myself months ago that this year I was going to stop using Windows due to the number of weeks I'd lost from my life having to sort out Windows crashes, and the fact that I hate Micro$oft and the way they operate. I came up to Scotland with the idea of a new Mac in the back of my mind and Colin, being a long time Mac user, has since been doing his best to initiate me into the ministry.

For a start I'm staying in his spare room where his eMac lives and it's a bit like having company in the room. While it's sleeping the white power indicator on the front of the casing pulses slowly on and off like a living, breathing creature. The attention to small design features are terrific - the mouse plugs into the keyboard and the keyboard plugs into the main unit, keeping cabling mess to a minimum. There's also a spare usb socket on the side of the keyboard, so I plugged my digital camera into it the other evening just to see if I could get it working. Immediately, the camera appeared on screen as an external drive, I clicked on iPhoto and it found all the shots, then clicking 'import' they were all downloaded. So easy it explains why all the stoners use Macs.

November 8, 2003

New Phone

Well I finally got myself a new phone today after smashing up my Nokia 6210 on numerous occasions over the last years and continually waiting to see what Nokia would bring out next that might satisfy me. In the end I went for a Sony Ericsson P800 and so far it seems very, very nice.

November 9, 2003

Clyde Rescue

Ged came through to Glasgow today and, seeing a police helicopter hovering just around the corner, we walked over to the river and saw a woman who'd apparently just jumped into the River Clyde. It probably isn't the best place to attempt to kill yourself, however, as the drop from the bridge into the water is only 15m and the river is just about 150m wide, so you're much more likely just to get cold and wet. We stood and watched as the police arsed around on the riverbank and hovered low in the helicopter wondering what to do whilst a member of the public dropped a lifering to her from another bridge downstream. By this time paramedics had joined the police on the river bank and were shouting the helpful advice, "Swim over here!" As we watched this pathetic attempt of a rescue, the woman began to sink under the cold water, and it looked very much as if she was beginning to drown.

Finally, after about fifteen minutes, in what you might have expected to see in a third world country, an old man appeared towing a rowing boat behind his car. This, they eventually managed to launch into the water, and paddled over to where the woman was. She, of course, was having nothing to do with being rescued and proceeded to fight off the two men in the boat who were trying to lift her over the side. The rowing boat then came very close to capsizing before they decided to give her a good slapping around the head and drag her onboard. One of them then had to lie on top of her to stop her fighting back as they rowed to shore.

About a quarter of an hour after this, Ged and I were crossing back over the bridge when a proper rescue boat turned up looking for the person in the water - apparently they'd not even been told that she'd been recovered.

November 10, 2003

New Town Architecture Tour

I'm sitting on the coach right now on my way back to Glasgow after a meeting in Cupar, which happens to be one of the most difficult places to get to. The coach takes almost two and a half hours (& the train takes even longer) so I arrived there, went to the meeting, then rushed back & caught the next coach to Glasgow fifteen minutes later. Hence, I've had the dubious pleasure of spending my day looking out of the window at the 1960's concrete architecture of Dunfermline & Glenrothes.

After spending hours trying to find the right menu to turn on the volume on my new phone (the manual is much bigger & heavier than the phone), I realised that it was broken & took it back to the shop for a replacement yesterday. Hopefully this one will last a bit longer! That, together with the fact that Carita is pissed off with me for not buying a Finnish phone makes me think that maybe I should have got another Nokia after all!

November 11, 2003

Moblog

I've just implemented a new feature into the site, a moblog, or mobile blog. The idea is it lets me send a picture and caption directly from my phone and it's uploaded, thumbnailed, and displayed almost instantly in a webpage.

I've been wanting to add one of these to the site for a long time so that although the photos won't be such high quality, they will be much more real-time than they normally are by the time I've got around to photoshopping a trip. I will still continue uploading pics from my other cameras to other parts of the site though. Expect this part of the site to change and gradually grow into something else. Right now I've set it up on Phlog.net which handles the email transfer work as I'm unable to get admin priviledges on the server I'm hosting with to set it up myself.

bronek.org moblog

November 12, 2003

P800 Complaints

I'm back in Bristol now staying with Chris and Berit and planning my next move. I've been uploading pics from my phone to the moblog and that continues to be working pretty well, though I find I'm liking my Sony-Ericsson P800 less and less every day as I discover just how badly they've designed the interface. There's unbelievably no t9 predictive text, it's impossible to do most things single-handed without getting the stylus out, it doesn't waken up for an alarm, and I keep accidently dialling people while I'm trying to do other things on the touchscreen.

When I was in Carphone Warehouse getting the faulty one replaced at the weekend, they'd just had a woman in who was in tears because she didn't like her new phone and wanted her old one back. I'm getting to that state.

November 13, 2003

Moblog Redesign

I've re-designed the whole moblog format on the page, this time using the wonderful emailing services of Mfop2 and the latest few images I've sent from my phone should now show on the right. Clicking on 'view all images' will take you through to any images that have dropped off the bottom, but for the moment they're all small pics.

That took 4 hours - now I really need to get to bed......

November 15, 2003

Web Work

I've spent much of the last couple of days in Bristol installing movabletype (the same software this blog runs on) onto Berit's server for her, and she today, has been busy working on her new site.

I've also tidied up the moblog somewhat and it now shows bigger images too. I have in fact been working so hard lately that I've hardly even made it to the pub!

November 16, 2003

Cornish Cycle Trip

I've been trying to find a cheap flight over to Turkey to visit one of my friends there but haven't come up with anything so I've decided to head down to Cornwall and do some cycling instead. I've spent today getting my bike sorted up and I catch a train down to Penzance tomorrow morning so I'm planning to wander around there for a while, maybe do some of the national cycle route, and get a bit fitter.

November 17, 2003

Penzance

After rushing down to Bristol station, I caught the morning train to Penzance, intent on doing lots of cycling this week, and stepped out into miserable, grey, drizzle. Undeterred, I dropped my bags off at the youth hostel and went for a cycle around town and over to St Michael's Mount, an island that sits out in the bay, connected to the mainland by a causeway at low tide. I've always wanted to go there, and by chance, the tide was ebbing, so I walked out over the causeway, getting my feet a bit wet in the process and took a look around. As is beginning to look normal in Cornwall at this time of year, however, everything was closed, so after what seemed like a respectable amount of time nosing around the harbour, I returned across the causeway, and. cycled back to Penzance in the rain.

November 18, 2003

Penzance to St Ives

After being kept awake most of last night by a fat American snoring so hard it was like he was trying to ingest his pillow, l was happy to cycle away from the youth hostel this morning. As I made my way out of Penzance, the sun even came out and I was making good progress until I got to Mousehole and hit the first big, steep hill. Suddenly I realised just how demanding cycling in Cornwall was going to be.

Eventually I got to Lands End, which, if you can ignore the theme park that now stands there, is quite a captivating place. I took a couple of photos, had a wander around, and decided to register for the End to End, so as to verify it just in case I end up continuing this trip at another time up to John O' Groats in Scotland. Then I set off for St Ives, by which time the weather had deteriorated again.

Even in the rain it was still all very beautiful countryside, and I was cycling on hedge-lined roads and passing standing stones in the fields. The going was quite tough though as the road went up and down steep hills continually and having been cycling all day I was now beginning to feel quite knackered. Because of the terrain it had taken me longer than I'd anticipated - it was beginning to get dark now and the road ahead kept turning up yet another hill. But finally after a huge climb, I got to the peak and looked down to see St Ives below, shining in the darkness. In what felt like seconds, I was down there, booked into a lovely, chilled youth hostel, and had a long, hot shower.

November 19, 2003

St Ives to Zennor Walk

St Ives is such a lovely place, with its sandy harbour, small lanes, and laid-back atmosphere that I decided to stay here today. I contacted Simon and he drove over this morning and we started the day off with a visit to the Tate Gallery Cornwall which is housed in a lovely, purpose built building on the seafront. St Ives is a big surfing destination - it's normal to pass people walking down the main street in a wetsuit with a surfboard under their arm, and the gallery overlooks one of the surf beaches and has to be one of the best locations of any gallery I've been to. It's mild enough to walk around here without a jacket on even though it's November and there were people surfing as we went into the Tate. Most of the collection is changed around a couple of times a year but still it contains a wide spectrum of modern art by lots of famous artists.

Once we'd satisfied ourselves of culture we had a coffee and some lunch by the harbour then set off hiking on the south-west coastal path. It was fairly hilly but the views were fantastic as we walked along the cliffs. At one point we sat down by the edge and spotted some seals playing in the breaking waves below us so took had a break and watched them for a while. Afterwards, we carried on walking until we reached the village of Zennor, where we stopped off in the pub then caught the bus back to St Ives.

November 20, 2003

St Ives to Newquay

When I set off early from St Ives it was a lovely morning, and I stumbled across a McDonalds just outside Hale and stopped for breakfast. Just after that, however, it started to rain, and the rain continued all day. By lunchtime I was soaked and getting cold but was saved by a cycle shop and cafe just before Truro where I tried to find some parts, changed into my full waterproofs, had a cup of tea, and they even let me eat my sandwiches there. Rejuvinated, I continued on through the rain until I finally reached Newquay as the sun set over the sea, having covered 75km today.

I booked into The Zone hostel here and they gave me an en-suite dorm all to myself and even let me take my bike to my room - not bad for 10.

November 22, 2003

Newquay to Bodmin

Yesterday I cycled up to Padstow through the lovely Cornish countryside, saw an eagle on the way, then after some lunch and a wander around town I set off on the Camel Trail to Bodmin. The trail runs alongside the River Camel for most of the way, is traffic free, and is one of the nicest parts I've cycled on the trip so far.

Simon had offered to provide logistical support for me, picked me up from Bodmin Parkway station in his van and brought me to Merryfield. There we had a lovely sauna and a swim in his pool and a big meal, which was all felt like real luxury after cycling all day.

November 23, 2003

Bodmin to Liskeard

Yesterday I intended to go back to Bodmin Parkway by train to continue from where I left off, but of course, being in Britain this wasn't as easy as you'd expect. All main line train services in Cornwall are cancelled every weekend until Christmas and they're running buses instead. After a bit of friendly persuasion, however, the staff in the railway station had a word with one of the bus drivers and after the usual, "We're not allowed to carry bikes", they agreed to let me on (for free!).

So from Bodmin Parkway I cycled over Bodmin Moor, took a bit of a detour to go to a couple of places that Simon recommended, and finished off at Simon's place in the evening. There followed another sauna and swim (which I have to admit to getting used to after a hard day's cycling), and another lovely meal. The wildlife in Cornwall is pretty amazing, and I've now seen eagles on most days, as well as a kingfisher, and loads of squirrels.

November 26, 2003

Fun in Plymouth

I cycled out of Liskeard on Sunday, crossed the surrounding hills, and followed the river valley down to the coast and the village of Seaton. From there I continued along the cliffs past idyllic Whitsands Bay and onto Rame Head until Plymouth loomed up in the distance looking grey and ugly after a week of cycling through the Cornish countryside. I'd now cycled all the way across Cornwall. I caught the Cremyll ferry, an old wooden boat with union jacks painted along its sides, into Devon and carried my bike off in Plymouth.

Immediately, I got lost in the one-way system and kept ending up in dead end housing estates as I tried to escape from it. Plymouth was extensively bombed during the war so much of the city consists of ugly concrete boxes. Finally, however, I managed to find the youth hostel. Having had such a pleasant time in the independent hostels in St Ives and Newquay, I'd decided to skip the YHA in Plymouth and try Plymouth Backpackers. The door was answered by a guy who looked as if he'd been extensively brainwashed and I said I was after a bed and followed him in, hoping I wasn't joining a fanatical cult. We walked past the showers, which looked pre-war and were coin-operated, then he insisted on seeing some photographic id, which I didn't have. I asked why, but he just kept staring at me.

The room I was finally given only had one other person staying in it, but there was a stack of about fifteen empty beer cans and old take-away containers scattered around the floor and it smelled badly. I returned to the brainwashed guy and asked for another room. The room he gave me this time was cleaner, but the paint was peeling, sockets were hanging off the walls, and every matress and duvet appeared to have been pissed on or worse at least once during it's lifetime. I chose the cleanest combination I could find and went into town as fast as I could.

Everything in Plymouth had just closed and people were scurrying home before they got mugged on the streets. The only place open was McDonalds, so I ate there, had a hot chocolate, and sat and read, '500 Mile Walkies', the story of a guy walking the south-west coast path with someone elses dog and without any money.

Eventually though the staff began to stare at me and once they'd stacked every chair apart from mine I knew it was time to move on. Outside I passed a guy gathering any cigarette ends he could find on the street, intending to take them home and construct a whole fag out of the tobacco (as some of my old customers used to do in Dundee). Such was his nicotine devotion, however, that just behind him, he'd missed an unopened loaf of Tesco luxury granary bread which someone had dropped on the pavement (probably at knife point). The only other people on the streets now were either junkies or homeless, and as a police car cruised down the pedestrian area past me I realised that wandering around at this time in Plymouth may not be such a good idea. No-one seemed to be paying me any attention though, and it was only when I got back to the youth hostel and realised that my clothes were liberally sprayed with cow shit which I'd cycled through earlier in the day that I understood why the homeless people had crossed the road when they saw me coming.

The next morning I got up early and left the hostel. I cycled over to the seafront and there found Plymouth's saving grace. It was a beautiful sunny, calm morning, boats were leaving the harbour, and a soft mist was lying on the water. I spotted an outdoor cafe, The Coffee Shack, ordered a latte and a toastie, and sat for a long time looking at the view.

I'd planned to spend the day wandering around town, but I now realised that this was the last thing I wanted to do. I had to get back to Bristol on Tuesday and it felt sad that the journey, for now, was at an end and there was no more cycling to do. So in a Bernard Moitissier kind of moment I decided to get back on my bike, get out of the city, board the ferry, and cycle back through Cornwall the way I'd come the previous day. It was the best decision I could have made and I had a wonderful time cycling back to Looe from where logistical support picked me up and took me back to Merryfield for a sauna, swim, and Chinese take-away.

The Cornish Way

When I started cycling from Land's End I was surprised to find that there isn't an actual End to End cycle path going to John O'Groats, instead you just have to follow the roads. Sustrans, the UK cycling charity have, however, created a network of cycle routes around various parts of the country, so I based a lot of my route on 'The Cornish Way'.

I took a Sustrans map of the route with me, though it is very well signposted. Once you've spent some time on it though you realise that it is very much a leisure route, it doesn't take you from one place to the next the shortest way, and they're quite happy to divert you fifty miles to an offroad cycle path that they're particularly proud of. Most of the route follows minor roads, few of which have dedicated cycle lanes, and they have a very bad habit of taking you straight into the centre of every town through all the traffic you've been eager to avoid; obviously for the benefit of local businesses.

The Sustrans routes do make it easy for families to go cycling along a posted route, but if you can mapread you'd be just as well to buy an Ordnance Survey map and work out your own route on similar roads. Personally, I think Sustrans would do better building protected cycle lanes with raised kerbs along the sides of major roads, similar to those in much of mainland Europe, making a safe, practical alternative to travelling by car in the UK.

November 29, 2003

Arrival in Finland

l arrived in Finland on Thursday evening and it was wonderful to see Carita again. Right now I'm staying just outside Helsinki with her and her family and having a lovely time.