Author Archives: ward

Introducing The Leap.

Why the gloves Tom?

A friend just posted this on Facebook (thanks Tim). Very cool. According to the blurb ‘The Leap’ is more accurate than a mouse. I don’t play many PC (or Apple games) very much any more but I remember the frustration of Quake 3 Arena with a mouse – especially before laser mouses and we had to use stupid ball things. (Plus laser mouses sound cool for some reason.)

Well the future is here my friends and it looks a lot like Minority Report but without  the gloves and the weepy, happy ending. (Especially if you need both hands to scroll through porn sites.)

It looks cool in my opinion. Especially the game bit. All those years practicing shooting with imaginary finger guns are finally going to pay off. (And they said I was a fool!) I assume some kind of weird arm rest would be needed after a while but what the hell. Me want!
http://youtu.be/_d6KuiuteIA
 

 

 

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Guinness QR glass

Guinness QR

This is genius/awful. I love Guinness, it’s a tasty pint of health and alcohol. I also love gadgets, so you can see while this really appeals to me. Basically it’s a glass that has a QR code on it that is only visible when filled with ‘the black stuff’. It doesn’t work with normal lagers or other inferior drinks (except stouts obviously).

When I first saw it I immediately thought what an absolutely genius idea. But then I read an article about it on Boing Boing (great site if you don’t know it). Apparently it then: ‘tweets about your pint, updates your facebook status, checks you in via 4 square, downloads coupons and promotions, invites your friends to join, and even launches exclusive Guiness content.’

I don’t know if this is true (hopefully it is a zeitgeist joke) but if it is then the idea has been downgraded from genius to ‘leave me the fuck alone’. I recently wrote how annoyed I was that every app or programme wants to ‘share’ everything I do with facebook. Now my beer wants to grass me up. Thanks technology.

(Thanks Boing Boing for the image http://boingboing.net/2012/05/18/hidden-pint-glass-qr-code-is-o.html )

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Google Glass

If you are on the internet enough and are up with your virals and memes you have probably seen this picture already:

 

Google glass

Apparently this picture appeared in the Google + account of Google VP Sebastian Thrun. Like many of you, I had never heard of him. At first glimpse I was also nonplussed as to why I should care about his photos either.

But if you look at the photo you realise that this couldn’t be taken by normal means. Unless he has strapped a camera to his head and set it on timer, it must mean that Google’s project Glass is almost complete.

 

In case you think it looks silly, here are the glasses on an attractive woman.

In case you haven’t heard of this before, Google Glass is about to change the world. Apparently. It is the latest augmented reality device. Essentially it’s a pair of glasses that turns your vision into a computer display and camera that overlays stuff you don’t really need to see over your tawdry, old fashioned reality. Let’s face it, your reality probably sucks so why not overlay something to make it more interesting?

I can foresee a few problems with it.

As you can see from the photo above, no matter how attractive and smiley you are, it still looks a bit lame. I suspect it will be worn by the sort of person that thinks a blue-tooth headset looks cool. I love gadgets and these headsets should appeal to me but for some reason I hate them. I have yet to see anyone wearing one that I didn’t think looked a bit like a posing twat. Fortunately, if they live in a city like London, they will get mugged pretty much every day which should remove the smug look from their smarmy self satisfied faces.

Also, a year ago I paid £4000 to get my eyes lasered because I hate wearing glasses, even if it was just a few minutes a day. I will not be wearing glasses now just so that I can do things that my phone does anyway.

On the other hand, it would be pretty cool to have a computer interface in the corner of your eye. You could watch a film or read a book while at work and no one would know. In a boring conversation? Check your facebook or read The Word of Ward. Being shouted at by your girlfriend for not paying enough attention to her? Look at some porn until she’s finished saying whatever the hell it was she was going on about. Genius.

So I guess I’ll just wait for the contact lens version. While I’m waiting, I can amuse myself with my phone – videoing people with Google Glasses walking into lamposts.

Here is a video showing what it will be like to wear them. Keep an eye out for the ‘check in’ bit. You just know this will be a default setting that lets the world know where you are. Good for burglars and bosses. Forget to turn it off and then skive off work and go to the pub and you will lose your possessions and your job in a single outing. Hooray for technology.

 

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Drenched Britain struggles through drought

I’m currently in the middle of two 80 hour weeks of mostly nightshifts. Normally this would suck as I have to pass lots of happy people drinking outside pubs on my way to work and when I arrive I am filled with envy and hatred for my fellow man. (I pass seven pubs between my house and the station, my area is awesome.) But recently it has been pissing it down every day so I might as well get to my office and get paid to watch TV while drinking free coffee.

In case you didn’t know Britain is currently soaked and damp. It’s pretty famous for the rain at the best of times and the country is truly living up to its reputation. It has apparently been the wettest April on record. There have been well over 100 flood warnings and the news is gleefully full of images of cars driving through deep puddles and people huddled under umbrellas. According to this report there has been a month’s rain in four days:
http://youtu.be/OzZz1frzEsQ
So far you are probably thinking, ‘So what. You’re British. You chose to live there. Wet weather is hardly news.’ Well you are right. A bit smug and I probably wouldn’t want to hang around with you, but yes, good point.

The reason I am writing this is because we are also officially in a drought. Which I find weird. I like weird so thought I would write/pointlessly complain about it. There have been excuses and tedious people blathering on about reservoirs and thirsty plants but it all seems like bollocks to me. I read that there is a massive problem with the pipes. Apparently they are leaking and lose 1000s of litres of water every day. This seems more plausible than a thirsty tree. If I had waterproofed my house and removed the ceiling I could easily fill it up so why aren’t our reservoirs doing the same? (It’s possible that wasn’t a scientifically accurate comparison.)

What is my point? Do I have a journalist angle? Nope. I’m British (mostly-ish) and we love to bitch about the weather. Consequently it was hard to resist a whinge about the worst drought in decades while having one of the wettest Aprils on record. It’s a genetic thing. Bloody weather.

 

 

Facebook – why do your apps need my details? Why!?

Stop spying on me!

I get a lot of requests on facebook to join groups, play games, take part in a quiz or do something else that will literally waste my life. I nearly always turn these down as I am happy to waste my time playing proper high quality games, or going down the pub with friends, or watching inane violent movies, or gambling on Mexican midget wrestling. I know how to live. I do occasionally enjoy reading articles though and some of my friends are surprisingly interesting in their reading preferences.

The other day, I saw an intriguing looking item that someone had read in the Guardian. It was probably about why the Daily Mail is awful or something, I forget. So I clicked on the link and it said I needed a Guardian app for some reason. (I know, I know, another option was to copy and paste the title into google but the article wasn’t worth the effort.)

Why? Apps are great on phones as they give you a little picture that takes you to a handy programme. Why the balls do I have to install an app to read an article on bastard facebook? I then got annoyed and a little worried. I could read the article but they wanted:

My basic information – which could mean anything.

My email address – why?

My location – piss off, you might burgle me.

My birthday – seriously, why? My birthday? To read an article?

In the end I thought, fuck you Guardian, I’ll read the Mail instead, take that hippies. Except links to the Mail’s site of right wing doom or Yahoo or pretty much anyone else all want the same info. It just seems nosy and intrusive. If I want to do a quiz that tells me what flavour ice cream I am, why do I have to submit the details of all my friends and where I was born or my religion or pant size? It feels as if all major internet sites are currently competing to steal my identity.

Which they will then hand to Facebook.

Who will note it in my timeline.

I know I’m jumping on the bandwagon a bit as more and more people are writing about how facebook shares your data and fucks your privacy. I’m also not naive enough to think that my personal data isn’t already in the hands of a ton of people but I still find it annoying. Twitter and facebook are always trying to find out where I am and I am always telling them to piss off.

I joined Netflix recently and forgot to unclick some box or other and now it’s telling everyone on facebook what I’m watching. I love Netflix and will write about it at some point but publishing what I watch only benefits their advertising, it does nothing for me.

Goodreads and spotify do the same unless you turn off the option. As does my kindle whenever I finish a book. I love technology. I love that by paying a small fee I can effectively carry thousands of films, books, and music wherever I go and access them on shiny little devices but am getting increasingly annoyed with being asked to share it on facebook. Or even worse – sharing it automatically on facebook unless I opt to turn it off which is usually what happens.

The irony is, the moment I finish this rant I will post it on facebook. The difference is that I will have chosen to do so. So there.

Thewordofward, London.

Reading: Leviathon Wakes, Book One of the Expanse by James Corey. (Tremendously exciting space romp.)

Listening to: Led Zeppelin II (Zeppelin rules!)

Just watched: episode 11, 1st series of 24. (Never watched it before. Tremondously exciting Kiefer Sutherland romp.)

Last meal: Spicy noodles. (Tremendously exciting rumblings now happening in my stomach.(

Next bowel movement: 8:15 – 8:25am 21/04/12 (Hopefully not too exciting. Depends on the noodles.)

I hope this enriches your life.

 

 

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Belgium and excitement

I know you are probably thinking that I’m going to mock Belgium and call it dull. Well I’m not. I really like Belgium and have been to Ghent and Bruge half a dozen times and loved them – so there. Even Brussels is good as there is nothing to see but they have 8 billion types of beer. (That figure was a guess but it’s probably close.) They also invented fries which was pretty decent of them.

The reason I am talking about Belgium is just a waffling introduction to a viral video. It is pretty cool. Enjoy.

 

NUKEMAP!

NukemapI seem to be obsessed with apocalyptic google maps at present. Soon after finding The Map of the Dead, another cool map comes along. Nukemap. It is morbid but kind of fun. Basically, you set a point on google maps, select a bomb size (from existing nuclear arsenals), then hit detonate. The map then shows things like the initial blast zone, lethal radiation zone, and so forth. You can even programme the kiloton yield yourself.

We are thinking about a house, so obviously it is prudent to see how far away from the centre of London we should live in case a terrorist blows up Parliament with a dirty bomb. (I think having just typed that last sentence my readership at MI5 just went up.) As I said, it’s a bit morbid but it is interesting. The Nukemap is here.

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Map of the Dead

The Map of the Dead

If you are anything like me you will have (incredibly sensibly) planned what you are going to do when the inevitable zombie apocalypse occurs. My plan involves leather, shotguns, and a castle. In case you are just starting your plan some genius on the internet has just made your job easier. He has made a google map specifically for surviving the zombie outbreak. It is genius.

The Map of the Dead shows you where the nearest essentials are. Things like the nearest camping shop, chemist, hospital, supermarket and so forth. It also shows where the nearest cemeteries are, which is pretty important. I love when people wisely spend their time doing shit like this. The map would work for any kind of apocalypse – it’s just that zombies are cooler. Also, didn’t the Mayans predict a zombie outbreak? Click here for the map.

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Pac-man the movie

I just thought I would share this with you. It’s pretty cool. Not brilliant as such but I just like the fact that someone has gone to so much effort to make stuff like this. I should also clarify, before you lose 6 minutes of your life, that this is a fan made film. It isn’t a real movie trailer or anything. Enjoy.

 

The slow boat to Luang Prabang. Part Three

 

Pakbeng. To summarize: Nice enough.

Pakbeng is a small and not particularly brilliant little town. It was clearly just a little village that was fortunate enough to be roughly half way between Houie Xai and Luang Prabang. It exists as it is now because of the boat. The hotels and guesthouses are fine for a night, but in comparison to most places are pretty shit. Our hotel was ok for £10 a night, but you could get a better deal pretty much anywhere in Thailand outside Bangkok. And we were in Laos, which is even cheaper. But it was perfectly adequate for 1 night, so I won’t grumble. The town has beer, ok food, and sold pillows and baguettes. I happily bought a pillow.

The next day we were up at dawn and the Mekong looked stunning below our balcony in the morning light. The evening before I had been dreading the second half of the trip but despite the solid bed and bizarrely huge and rock hard pillows in our room, I found myself eager for the trip. The boat was due to leave at 9am, so at 8am we loaded up on baguettes, and snagged some great cloth-covered seats at the front left hand side of the boat. My buttocks loved the added comfort of the pillow.

 

Ignoring the wires, the view from our hotel balcony was stunning.

Pakbeng has some nice views.

The morning was the aforementioned ‘bracing’ and when the boat left at the crack of 9:35, everyone was wrapped up in jackets. The day and the view then proceeded to be pretty identical to the one before. The difference this time was that the temperature remained superb until about 2pm. The scenery remained spectacularly beautiful. Our new improved seats were similarly awesome. We were so content and comfortable we celebrated with a Beerlao at 11am. Others on the boat were enjoying Sangsom Whisky and coffee which was pretty damned civilized of them.

The boat was a nicer one on the second day for some reason. The lady selling snacks, coffee and beer at the back even had a little counter. The toilet was nicer as well although I was still pleased not to have to sit on it. This was fortunate as we were supposed to be on the boat for at least 8 hours. Or thereabouts. We were originally told we would get to Luang Prabang at 4pm. Someone near us said that they had heard 3pm and someone else said 5pm.

At about 4pm I saw something I recognised. The Pak Ou caves. I had been there before on a boat rented from Luang Prabang. The caves are at the foot of massive cliff and are filled with thousands of Buddha statues. It’s pretty cool and well worth a visit. I confidently predicted another 10 minutes or so which was a mighty relief as everyone was getting a bit fed up again. It is a long time to be sitting in boat, no matter how gorgeous your surroundings.

Same old gorgeous Mekong

Over an hour later, there it was. Luang Prabang at last. A finger of raised land that sticks into the confluence of the mighty Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. I could see temples and bars all along its side high above the river. It looked like the promised land. It looked lovely and relaxing. The only negative aspect was that, like around northern Thailand, the locals think it is an awesome idea to burn down half the forest. It makes farming easier and if that means a few people choking to death, what the hell. On the plus side, the smoky atmosphere made for some spectacular sunsets. The whole area is beautiful.

The looks didn’t deceive. Luang Prabang remains awesome. The trip was worth it.

You might cough up your lungs but the smoke makes for a nice evening.

In case you navigated to part 3 by accident, part 1 is here.

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The slow boat to Luang Prabang. Part Two.

Our boat was due to leave Huay Xai at 11am and it was hot already. Easily over 30 celsius. Given that we were in Laos I was fairly surprised at the efficiency of the crew and the fact that we left just after 11:30. (I’m not being sarcastic, I have been to Laos before and timetables are like indecipherable hieroglyphs.) The first couple of hours you cruise down the Mekong with Laos on your left and Thailand on your right. The scenery is pretty with the occasional concrete or wooden village on each side of the low banks. Once the river turns off into Laos itself the banks rise a bit higher and eventually so do the hills behind. The riverbanks alternate between cool igneous looking rocks and white sandy beaches. Most of these beaches are deserted but occasionally you see wild buffalo lying in the sand chewing, flicking their tails and generally looking happy with their lot. At first everyone leapt up to take photos, but the novelty soon wore off.

Village, rock, sand and a bit of undergrowth on fire. This sums up most of the river.

In the hills among the jungle there are occasional villages perched on the slopes made out of wood, the houses raised up on stilts. Occasionally some of these villagers need a lift. The Mekhong river is their only way of getting around as the roads are pretty poor or non-existent. They will plant a white flag on a prominent part of beach or rock and the boat will pull in and the villagers clamber aboard and sit on plastic stools in the aisles. Usually the boat pulls into another village to let them off, but occasionally a smaller craft will pull up alongside and the passenger will transfer themselves and (usually) their tons of things into the moving boat.  It’s pretty impressive.

Laos villagers hitching a ride

Typical Laos village with locals waiting for a lift

There is a lot of talk about rivers being a ‘lifeline’ to somewhere, or that it is the ‘beating heart’ of a place. A lot of that talk is fairly valid but less so these days. In olden times the Thames for example, brought trade and wealth to London. While there is still some trade and money being made by the Thames, it is now mostly a place where Londoners can erect tourist attractions or, if you are bastard rich, even live next to. Most Londoners don’t really need it as such in their day to day lives and can go months with even seeing it.

The Mekong really feels essential to the communities that live by it. Their life exists because of it. All along the river you see villages that exist, and continue to exist, purely due to the Mekong. There are fishermen standing waist deep in tshirts and swimming trunks casting their nets by hand. There are bamboo fishing rods tied to rocks throughout its length (either the same fishermen with the nets or a really lazy guy having a nap). There are even a lot of people panning for gold, which caught me off guard and gave me a flash of avarice until I saw how clearly unsuccessful they must be given their obvious poverty. I guess they found enough gold to just about survive.

Buffalo and fishing boats

By about 3:30pm the heat was at its maximum. Even the buffalo were in the river at this point, their horned heads just visible along the water. I don’t know if the kids went to school (I doubt it), but on the beaches and rocks below each village there were scores of them playing in the Mekong. Some were starkers, some were in trunks, some in trunks and tshirts. They all seemed happy and waved, shouted and occasionally posed for photos as our boat carried on by. On one group of rocks a bunch of teenagers waved and started diving into the water. By this point, I was feeling a bit hot and cramped. I had a Lao girl on a plastic stool pressed against me on my left, Nim on my right, and a hot plastic seat welded beneath me. Even constant cans of Beerlao failed to make me feel better. I envied those kids.

From 5pm onward the temperature thankfully began to drop. It now seemed to be adult time by the river and we passed small groups of villagers having their evening bath in the river. Men in swimming trunks and women wrapped in Lao embroidered skirts were soaping up and washing their parts all along the bank. I generally tried to avert my gaze when a group of ladies were washing but when they all waved at the boat I thought, bollocks to this, and took some photos and waved back. Everyone seemed very chilled and relaxed.

Even though we were uncomfortable, it's hard not to like this

By half past five everyone was pretty eager to get off. Even the pillow gang were uncomfortable and those of us in the back, full of Beerlao and stuck to our seats, were doubly keen. The sun was surprisingly low on the horizon and was gorgeous and we knew we were nearly there. Shortly after 5:30pm, we thankfully pulled into Pakbeng.

The moment our boat touched ashore, the touts were on us. It was like being boarded by overly friendly pirates. Thankfully we had booked ahead and waved them off. We wearily headed up to town and I predictably headed for a Beerlao.

Here endeth part two… In part three – we make it!

 

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The slow boat to Luang Prabang. Part One.

Our journey began in the mountains an hour outside of Chiang Rai, Thailand. My group consisted of myself, my wife Nim, my mother-in-law (Nim’s mum), her friend, a guide (who happened to be a student of Nim’s mum and was a local Chiang Rai businessman), and another guide who was from Laos. A lot of guides I know but they also happened to be friends, so it was pretty relaxed.

The view from our balcony. It is a bit hazy.

We were staying in a resort owned by another student of my mother-in-law (he was also tourist police so we felt pretty safe) called the Maenam resort and a bloody nice place it was too. Our balcony overlooked undulating jungle covered hills and fields. It was downright peaceful and relaxing. The view was hindered somewhat by the fact that half the mountain was on fire due to the annual slash and burn but It was beautiful there despite the smoky haze and falling ash. We drove two hours from here to town of Chiang Kong and had a quick breakfast of crispy pork, rice and chilli (awesome) before hitting the local market. We bought a chicken (a dead and cooked one) and some sticky rice and we were good to go.

The first stop was Thai customs which consisted of a small building by a dusty track that led to the river. It took about a minute to be allowed out of the country. Then, there before us, was the mighty river Mekong! Stretching from Tibet to Vietnam via China, Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. We jumped on a tiny and unnecessarily low boat that took us across the sluggish, brown (but mighty!) river. A perilous minute later and we were in Laos. I love travelling overland, it seems a lot more civilised than all the shite you get at airports. The next step was to get a visa at the Laos border office. This took about 10 minutes and for no reason at all included two queues – one to get the visa and one to pay for it. You are supposed to have a passport photo but for the unprepared, like myself, they will scan your passport for $1, which is actually cheaper than if I had gotten a passport photo in the UK. Fortunately the windows are next to each other and I didn’t actually have to move. The visa took a couple of minutes, during which time the border guards chatted to my Thai wife. It was either because they were curious about her having married a farang, or because they were chatting her up. Either way, it made the process fast and friendly.

Ahead of us is Laos. Thankfully our vessel was just up to the job. Just.

 

This is an international border crossing. Laos style.

 

The throbbing metropolis of Huay Xai. Pretty much all of it.

We were now Laos, in a small town called Houie Xai, although the spelling varies (Huay Xai being another). My mum actually came here in the 60s during the war. Officially the war never visited to Laos but that, excuse my Laotian, is well known to be bollocks. In fact war did visit and it overstayed its visa and behaved pretty badly throughout its stay. My mum hitched rides all over Laos with either aid workers or CIA agents (sometimes the same person). When she was there the town was called Ban Houie Sai. It is a tiny place that now seems to exist purely for the border crossing and as a place to buy tours and Beer Lao. From here we were driven through the brown and dusty streets to the pier where our ‘luxury boat’ awaited.

I may be a soft city type but it wasn’t that luxurious. But it wasn’t too bad either. A better term would be simply ‘boat’. It was about 80 feet long and there were probably about 100 of us. There were two seats on each side separated by a narrow walkway. This averagely luxurious vessel was to be our transport for the next two days. I could smoke and they sold large chilled bottles of Beer Lao, so I was confident I could survive the trip.

Our fairly magnificent averagely luxurious boat.

First off, here is my advice if you are going to do this trip:

Arrive a bit early. Although it is supposed to be allocated seats, it isn’t. This is Laos and nothing is that organised. The boats vary, but on ours the first half of the boat had quite comfortable seats with a cloth covering and the second half had plastic.

Try and sit on the left hand side as you are facing the front. Or the ‘port’ side if you are a nautical type, you salty sea dog. This way you will avoid most of the sun. We were in plastic covered seats in the sun and it became a tad uncomfortable in the sweaty buttock region after a few hours. Sadly there are no photos of that.

Bring a pillow. A huge group of Scandinavians got on all carrying pillows. At first we mocked them (in a friendly way) and dubbed them the ‘pillow gang’ because we are so damned witty. Four hours later as my arse fused to the seat, I realised they were pretty wise. Bastards.

Bring a jacket or something warm. This may seem laughable at first when you are sitting in 35 Celsius sunshine but by the end of the first day, it can get downright chilly. The early hours of the following day are definitely brisk and bracing and other alliterative cold words like brrr (both alliterative AND onomatopoeic – woohoo). Then it gets bloody hot again.

Bring some food. You can buy pot noodles, crisps and biscuits on board but you will envy those with the foresight to bring baguettes. Or a chicken.

Wear thick sandals, shoes or preferably Wellington boots as the toilet can be a bit iffy and there are lots of bad shots on a swaying boat. The toilet on the second day was much better, so the unpleasantness seems a bit random. Good luck.

Owing to lots of photos and general waffling I have decided to split this up. Excitingly in the next installment – the actual trip…

The Mekong River

 

 

 

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Retirement in two years!

Hooray! Back to work!

Boohoo I’m back. Not just back in London but back at work. The first day of our return it predictably rained. To cap it all off, our heating is still broken so it was cold too. The following day was sunny – which sounds nice but actually sucked as I had to sleep due to my starting the first of five twelve hour nightshifts. To sum up the situation, it was all bollocks and might have lead to undignified self pity.

Fortunately I am a cheerful sort. Despite all the introspective, snivelling, spoilt, cry-baby-ness of my opening paragraph, I am in fact feeling refreshed and inspired! Even the teensiest bit of perspective helps me to realise what a selfish prick I would be if I wallowed in gloom – just look at what the majority of the rest of the planet put up with each day and here I am whingeing about my return after a 5 week holiday. That perspective and the fact that I have a huge TV rarely fail to provide an emotional lift when I feel a bit fed up. Nil carborundum illegitimi! Currently however, my (apparently mildly annoying) chirpyness comes from having a superb plan.

I turn 40 in a couple of months and apart from the uncontrolled and unmanly weeping I intend to do on the fateful day of the digit change, the rest of my year and those that follow will be epic. My wife said that we can go back and live in Thailand once I can prove that I can earn £1000 a year off the internet. You can live well out there for that amount and the money will only increase. I know that sounds like the opening premise of a sitcom where I go on to try whacky, yet hilarious things to hit my target but it is possible. My plan is fourfold:

1/ Write more. My eBook The Uneven Passage of Time (BUY IT IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY!) has had over 600 downloads and will hopefully continue to earn me money until I die or the internet does – and I intend to live until I’m 400 thanks to advances in science. So the more I write, the more money I will make. I will also write a lot more entries on my websites until they become huge and I get pissed of with the fame and pressure. (Most of these entries will be more interesting and less self absorbed than this one, I promise.) I also intend to write a fiction book before I hit 41.

2/ Keep trading. I am getting the hang of this buying and selling shares malarkey and am finally starting to make money off it. Big tip – when the stock market has a timidity spasm and drops massively, don’t shit yourself and sell everything. Hang in there.

3/ Poker. I am now consistently winning at online poker. Granted I am only taking part in games that cost $1 where most of the players are crap, but a year of constant play has honed my skills and I am now ready for the big time. The $3 game. Even if I just win £10 a day, I will be almost a third of the way toward my £1000 target. I confidently predict that within 2 years I will be able to call myself by a cool poker nickname. A decade or so after that, people may even call me by it.

4/ Write what I have just written. According to Professor Richard Wiseman in his book 59 Seconds
(great book by the way), one method to help improve your chances of hitting self imposed targets is to tell people about them. This obviously doesn’t include drunkenly telling people that you are going to quit smoking and write a book while in the pub because I have been trying that for years. I feel that if I write my plan down somewhere more permanent for others to see – like a flickering group of pixels on a screen – then I am more likely to succeed. See, it has already worked. Part four of my plan is done already.

I won’t be tracking my progress in some lame girly way such as found in Bridget Jones’s Diary either. Oh no. I have gone for the more manly option of a spreadsheet on my iPad. It looks pretty awesome.

The target I have set myself is to have all this done by the age of 42. It is my lucky number (thank you Douglas Adams) and a good age to retire from the workplace. So in just over 2 years I should be writing, trading, and playing poker on my laptop in the warm tropics. It won’t be retirement as such, but I will be very happy indeed to spend the rest of my days avoiding the office and doing the things that I love.

Laptop on a lilo. I can't see anything wrong with plan.

 

 

My next gripping entries will all be about Thailand and Laos. Tropical adventure! Uncomfortable travel! Sweat! Similarly self-absorbed waffling as above but it will be informative, interesting, and will have pretty pictures. Probably.

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Hello from Luang Prabang

Dear wordofward readers,

I am now in the stunningly glorious Luang Prabang in the equally stunning and glorious country of Laos. It is astoundingly beautiful here. Luang Prabang is a World Heritage UNESCO site and rightly so. It is a town/small city located on a finger of land at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. It has a dozen old but lovely temples and a million charming cafes and bars all set in French colonial architecture.

The trip here included: flying to the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, taking a bus to the even more northern Thai city of Chiang Rai, driving from Chiang Rai to a town called Chiang Kong, taking a boat across the river to Huay Xai in Laos, then a day’s boat journey to a Lao town called Pak Beng, followed by a further day’s boat journey to Luang Prabang. If that sounds epic, I can confirm that it bloody well was. We did stop for a few days at places though.

The whole thing has been a simply superb trip and an incredible experience. I have been to Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang before but this time the trip has felt more of an adventure as we didn’t fly between the two. I danced in a traditional Thai square dance type deal, ate a few fried bugs, got drunk with a Vice Director of a Chiang Rai province two nights running, met the mayor, saw one of the coolest temples (it had plaster severed heads hanging outside), and had an incredible journey down the Mekong.

I would write more but the sun is setting over the Mekong and my Beerlao Dark (awesome but unavailable in Britain) is getting warm.

Nim and I fly back to Bangkok on the 9th and I should be able to post more blog entries WITH PICTURES soon.

Until then hang in there.

Hope you are missing me lots,
The Word of Ward

It’s freezing! (Damn airconditioning.)

Dear reader,
In case you are wondering why I haven’t replied to your messages, answered your calls,let the milk pile up, and generally not write much recently, it is because I am in Thailand. I was worried about letting you know this too much in advance because of the resentment this seemed to cause in my fellow shivering snow-bound Londoners when I mentioned it to them while huddled round a pub fire. ‘You prick’, seemed to be the general consensus if I happened to mention the over 30 Celsius weather conditions I was soon going to have to endure.
To give everyone credit, the people here in Bangkok do seem a lot happier than they did back home. Maybe it is the balmy warmth of the tropics, maybe it is the food, or maybe it issimply the fact that you can see their faces which are blissfully free of scarves and hats.
So I suppose I should apologise. Sorry for not writing and sorry for where I am. Let’s just pretend I am in London shall we?  Trembling and frozen in my broken-heatered flat. (I’ll turn the air-conditioning up.) Man it sucks here doesn’t it? All that cold and stuff! Brrr.
Anyway, I will write more imminently. I’m off for nice spicy er, pie.
Speak soon,

The Wordofward

Scientists dig to underwater Lost World

This is the stuff of classic Science Fiction. Except it’s real. 13,000 feet below the Antarctic ice sheets lies Lake Vostok – the third largest lake by volume on the entire planet. It has been buried down there for 20 million years. Russian scientists, (one of them undoubtedly a beautiful woman unless science fiction has steered me wrong,) have finally, probably, drilled to its surface through all that ice in the culmination of a 20 year project. This sort of thing is unbelievably awesome.

Weird deep sea creatures

So far we have found life everywhere there has been liquid water. Even places it was previously deemed impossible. It was assumed for ages that nothing could live at the bottom at sea but they finally went there and discovered a brilliant array of truly, utterly, weird and cool looking fish. If we can find life in Lake Vostok after it has been sealed below stunningly thick sheets of ice for 20 million years, then it seems pretty damn likely that we will find life inside Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Aliens!

As you can tell, I am pretty damned excited about this. What can be down there? Most likely it will be a lot of weird looking fish. Which will be fascinating. I am hoping that there is a whole civilisation down there like at the end ofThe Abyss
. Which is not so likely. Or possibly a giant sentient creature that feeds off all the fish and has lived there for millions of years. Or a frozen UFO with creatures inside like in The Thing
. Or, or… There are so many possibilities and cool possible story plots my mind is being boggled.

Who knows? It’s going to be cool finding out though.

Cthulu anyone?

Cthulu

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Scottish iPhone 4s

I wrote recently about some pranksters reprogramming an iPhone 4s in a shop so that it swore at a kid. It was pretty damn funny. I then talked about Siri in general and how how it seems genuinely handy and can even help you find a place to bury a dead body or get a blowjob. More monthly events than daily, but still pretty cool.

My Scottish mate then informed me that it isn’t quite so helpful in Scotland. Apparently Siri, like the rest of the world, finds it hard to understand the Scottish accent. It doesn’t understand simple phrases like ‘Hoots! Hoots! Och aye the noo’ at all! (Apologies to any Scottish readers, I’m just having a laugh.) In case you don’t believe me, just watch this funny video.

 

Dogs bark the Star Wars theme

This is genius! Not much more to add really. I saw this on some site or other and thought I would share it. Enjoy.
http://youtu.be/6ntDYjS0Y3w
 

It’s called an Americano

What follows is a pointless rant about coffee. I wrote it yesterday while hopped up on caffeine.

I’m writing this in a coffeeshop and quite frankly it sucks. First of all there are about ten kids running around shouting while their parents either remain oblivious to the noise and its affect on others’ enjoyment, or they stare at them proudly, occasionally looking up presumably hoping to catch someone’s eye so they can say, ‘Isn’t my child just wonderful?’ Selfish bastards.

What has made it worse though, is an argument amongst adults at the till. An older gentleman is insisting on a “coffee”.

“I just want a coffee,” he pleads.

“What sort?” the delightful Eastern European barista girl asks.

“Just, just a coffee! A normal coffee!”

“Do you mean an Americano?”

“I don’t know, just a normal coffee.”

This is an Americano

It isn’t the first time I’ve heard this discussion/exasperated argument and quite frankly it annoys me.

I did a bit of research. All I knew about coffee was that it apparently came from Ethiopa back in the era of yore. This is pretty much true. The Internet is vague on precisely when ‘yore’ was but let’s just say it was around 1500 and became popular in the city of Mocha. In the early 1600s it spread to Turkey and Italy and the rest of Europe. It arrived in the UK soon after but the first coffee house wasn’t until 1651 in Oxford. It then went mental and rapidly spread through awesome cities like London. Apparently it was a place where writers, scientists, and political dissidents went to chat. Isaac Newton held a series of coffee evenings to discuss the movement of the planets. Byron and Shelley used to hang out and talk about poetry and getting laid. It sounded brilliant. Now they are just full of bloody kids.

This is standard coffee

Anyway, the vast majority of coffee was simply ground beans with a small amount of hot water chucked in. It was thick and viscous and left a layer of sediment. Think Turkish coffee. It pretty much stayed like this until the early 20th century. During the first world war American troops got a bit fed up with the bitterness and strength of standard coffee and started to add an equal measure of hot water to this ‘standard’ and thus was born ‘the Americano’. In the 60s and 70s percolators and drip coffee became all the rage after a few decades of tea obsession. It is the generation born between 1920 and the mid 70s that tends to have this argument about standard coffee. It’s purely because they forgot its true name.

I was born in 1972 and had almost a decade of drinking this so called standard coffee. By that I mean paying £1 – £1.50 for a smallish cup of filter coffee. Most of the time the coffee was fucking awful as it had been stewing for (if you were lucky) a few hours.

Then, at the end of the 90s came the advent of modern coffeeshops. Boo! They introduced that most hated of things to – choice. You have to pick the size and the type! Apparently this choice is too much and things were better before.

Ok, as usual I have gone on a bit here. My point is that coffee used to be the sludgy stuff for about 400 years. Then, for about 80 years they added hot water to it. Now they have lots more choice.

So someone saying, “I just want a coffee, a normal coffee!” is just referring to coffee as it has been made since the Americans invented the Americano 100 years ago. In reality they are probably referring to coffee since the percolator and drip – 50 years ago.

I was annoyed by the argument for two reasons. One was the arrogance of the gentleman in thinking that the way coffee was made from his childhood until the late 90s (in this country not the rest of the world) is the norm, and that everyone should know this. 50 years out of a 500 year history. I’m giving the guy the benefit of the doubt in that he had never been to a coffeeshop since the millenium and had therefore had never been presented with this irksome agony of choice. It isn’t too hard to remember ‘Americano’, so presumably he won’t have this argument ever again.

The other was the barista for not admitting she had had this discussion a million times and just given the guy an Americano. When people say they just want coffee, you do know what they mean, even if it’s annoying. Just politely explain that it’s called an Americano and always has been and please remember that.

If it was me I would be tempted to chuck some ground coffee into a small cup, add a small amount of water and hand the thick matter to the guy. “Here is some standard coffee as drunk for 400 years. Enjoy it. You might need a spoon.”

Anyway, bollocks to this place. Coffeeshops are rubbish to sit in these days. I’m off to the pub. Where I will have a beer. Just a beer, a standard beer!

 

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Blood and rice crazed Chinese scientists create Blood Rice

Fields of blood. The good kind.

Well, China is up to mad-science-that-looks-cool-but-suspicious-from-space yet again. I previously wrote about the huge but weird things they are building in the desert here. (If you missed it, check it out, it’s awesome.) The difference this time is that we know what they are up to and it’s incredibly beneficial to all mankind. It also can’t be seen from space. Yet.

I’ll stop beating about the bush. Chinese scientists have invented Blood Rice. I know what you’re thinking. ‘At last! That’ll be delicious.’ Sadly it isn’t destined to be a black pudding/ rice pudding hybrid. Because this is human blood. At some point, probably over lunch, the scientists came up with the idea of embedding human genes into the DNA of rice. As you do. Unbelievably this crazy idea seems to work. This could lead to unlimited blood that is untainted by any of the possible nasties you can get from blood transfused from one of us nasty humans.

Obviously a bit more research needs to be done but it seems possible that there will soon be huge swathes of red covering large chunks of the globe. When I think of ‘Fields of Blood’ I usually think of battles from olden times (up to WW1), when warfare seemed to consist of large groups of men forming up and charging at each other, followed by horrendous and tragic loss of life.

These will be the good kind. Weird yes, but good.

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