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Archive for October, 2007

Alison Rose Lucas

October 29, 2007 1 comment

Wow. Google / Live Search "Alison Rose Lucas", and this will be the only result…

"William Charles Thompson" is much more common 😦

Categories: Oddities

Lion Park

October 26, 2007 Leave a comment

Johannesburg is a magical place where dreams can come true. Like playing with lion cubs:

He was pretty much asleep

Very cool and very much like stroking a doormat. As was the giraffe:

Even my phone camera looks ok from this distance!

Some people ‘played’ with the lions a bit more than others:

RAWR!

Best of all, I saw my last of the big 5: a leopard πŸ™‚ Didn’t get a picture unfortunately – my phone wasn’t quite good enough… He was looking a bit unhappy, though, and kind of pacing up and down the front of his cage. Actually, I wasn’t generally very impressed with the way these animals were kept. The lion cubs had plenty of space and interaction, and the lion prides seemed to have enough room too:

RAR!Β 

There were a couple of cheetahs, jackals and hyenas in enclosures that seemed a bit small too – there were paths worn in the grass around the fences which kind of suggested that they were pacing around a lot…

Looks like a gap in the fence but I'm told it was safe...

We also got to see the keepers feeding the lion cubs, while the cheetahs watched, looking rather hungry and making such a feeble little noise, just like a house cat… Did have a video but for some reason HTC record video in an MP4 format that Windows can’t read without some codec or other that I can’t be bothered to hunt for. Maybe you’ll get to see that at some point πŸ˜‰

And so ended the South African awesomeness. With the obligatory night out at the end of the trip, at a restaurant that served all-you-can-eat Zebra (like horse), Giraffe (tough), Kudu (gamey and tender) and Crocodile (light, tastes like chicken). Excellent πŸ™‚

Some eastern Europeans enjoying a beer.

Categories: Travel

Magic Number

October 17, 2007 1 comment

142857 is a pretty magic number. Multiply it by 1 to 6 and the same digits appear, in the same order, though shifted around. 7 times gives a bizarre 999999, and the pattern continues when you add the first and last digits…

Thanks to http://alligatorboogaloo.com/mengshui/ for this. I found this site by looking for ukulele tunes and then discovered his brilliant cartoons.

One more Africa-related blog to come once I get some more pics from Phil, normal programming will resume shortly.

Categories: Oddities

Windows Live Photo Gallery

October 16, 2007 Leave a comment

If you’ve not downloaded the latest beta of Live Photo Gallery, do so (at http://get.live.com/betas/photogallery_betas). It’s a really good photo management app, that integrates with your Live Space (you do have a Live Space, don’t you?).

Assuming you’ve got the patience (and it doesn’t take long with this interface…) to tag your photos as you upload them it’ll search through everything instantly – I’ve got 4.3gb in my library at the moment and it filters as I type. There are also some really good, easy to use image enhancements (red-eye removal, contrast / colour balance etc.). Sure, it’s not as powerful as Photoshop’s filters but a) it’s free and b) it’s much easier to use.

My favourite feature is the photo stitching tool, which I’ve used in my blogs here before. You just select the photos that you’ve taken in a panorama and hit the button. It adjusts exposure, lens angle etc. and blurs the photos together into a bigger one. Simple and really effective, especially with a crappy phone camera like mine πŸ™‚ Here are my examples…

Categories: Blogging

Kruger Park

October 15, 2007 Leave a comment

Part two then.

We’d booked a hotel just outside the Kruger National Park and arrived after dark, pretty tired and just went to bed as we had a 4.30am start.

For breakfast we had these guys to keep us company:IMG_1289

One of them decided that doing a danceΒ  whilst his mate stole our apples would be a great idea…

We set off for our game drive about 8am. Yes, we got up 3 hours earlier than we needed to, because the safari company screwed it up and sent the driver to a different hotel… Turned out good though, you’ll see why in a minute.

The Kruger game drive was really interesting, comparing it to the game drives I did in Kenya, the Kruger has much more developed infrastructure. The roads were mostly asphalted, Kenya (well, my memory of it πŸ˜‰ seemed a lot more off-road. Either way, we’d spotted a ton of impala within about 5 minutes and Andrej managed to spot, before our guide did, a giraffe hiding in the bush:

IMG_1298

Ok, so this isn’t the one hiding in the bush, we found a couple of other ones (collectively, a tower of giraffes) with better photos πŸ™‚ We drove through this sort of bush for quite a while, it’s a very different environment to what I expected from Saturday’s drive – I expected greener but apparently SA’s had a really dry year…

These things are called Kudu:DSCF2256

And they taste pretty awesome. Somewhere between beef and venison, we’ve tried them in sausages, as dried meat (biltong) and as a massive barbecued hunk of meat. (Actually, we ate at a restaurant called Carnivore, a kind of all-you-can eat affair with 10 or so different meat(z), including impala, kudu, crocodile and giraffe). Andrej’s eagle eyes spotted this MACH, SA 211

There’s a hippo in there somewhere πŸ™‚ Don’t worry – better snaps coming up…

And again, before our guide could say anything, Andrej spots this guy coming out of the scrub:

IMAGE_233Β 

Even my little phone camera could do him justice πŸ™‚ I swear our guide wasn’t really trying…

Easier to spot were these:IMG_1308

I’m so happy to finally have seen some elephant as it’s the only thing I really missed in Kenya. I’ve now seen 4 out of the ‘big 5’ game animals – Lion, Rhino, Buffalo, Elephant and the Leopard which still evades me.

In the heat of the day most animals are fairly lazy, and we weren’t expecting to see anything of interest past about 11am (this is why the game drives normally start so early, and why we were a bit disappointed with the rubbish start to the day…). So when we heard lion reports on the radio we weren’t expecting much, and true to form:

DSCF2280

‘Flat like a carpet’ was the way our driver described them πŸ™‚ Still, Lion’s a Lion, right?

Bit more driving around after lunch, and we see some more elephants crossing the road, in pretty much the same place as before. Yawn, seen it all before now πŸ˜‰ There was a lot of them though, and the little baby ones were so cute…

It’s a huge video by the looks of things – Andrej’s camera does full SD video and soapbox doesn’t seem to downscale… apologies if it takes a while to download or eats your bandwidth πŸ˜‰

As promised, some better pics of hippos:DSCF2281

These guys are massive, everyone says they’re really dangerous but pretty awesome. We didn’t even notice the crocodiles at the water’s edge until we got the photo back on a computer πŸ™‚

The game drive was originally meant to be 0530 – 1230 but as we started late the driver let us stay in the park for a bit longer, which turned out to be really fortunate. On the radio, we heard of another lion sighting and headed towards it.

Sure enough, there were two cubs and a lioness sitting under a bush in the shade.

IMG_1341

Pretty cool, but they were sitting around being pretty boring. There was a guy in a car with an enormous telephoto lens taking pics of them who got bored after a short while and drove off. More fool him, about 30 seconds later the cubs get up and start looking at some bushes over to our left. IMG_1353

We can see a couple of kudu rustling around there and the lions have clearly noticed too. Their mum gets up to join them, beautiful slinking through the scrub, and start chasing the kudu. IMG_1348

The kudu appear to have discovered the lion’s dislike of the roads and run across just near our car, the lions disappear into the bush.

Wow, lion hunt πŸ™‚ If there hadn’t been the confusion over which hotel the driver was picking us up from we would never have seen this. A fantastic opportunity to see lions in the wild and lucky to see them so active in the middle of the day.

All in all, awesome weekend πŸ˜€ sorry it’s taken me over a week to get this post up!

Categories: Travel

Road Trippin’ South Africa

October 9, 2007 Leave a comment

What a weekend:

1040km
Β£80ish for 9 hours in a hotel
4 out of the ‘Big 5’ animals
3 waterfalls
Average speed of about 120km/h
2 thunderstorms
1 apple-stealing monkey
2 very hungry lions and 2 very scared Kudu

We left our hotel in Johannesburg just before 9am aiming for Kruger National Park, heading east. As we got closer we figured we’d been making really good time so we wanted somewhere to stop and have lunch. We happened across the Artist’s CafΓ© somewhere on the way. It was somewhere just south of Sabie but I didn’t really know at the time and I’m none the wiser now… Either way, and amazing little B&B type affair in the middle of a forest plantation. A converted railway station, it had some amazing decor:

Junk from round the world. Found a highland shortbread box and a German hair pomade tin.

So much random stuff everywhere! Great spot to refuel though; we left a comment in their guestbook a couple of lines underneath Greg and Susan from the Wirral…

As we set off in search of a nice picnic spot for lunch we spotted a very useful looking sign that said ‘Panorama’. Sounds good so far? Well, after 15mins or so we were thinking it wasn’t such a good plan until we happened upon this spot:

Too much for a single shot!

Pretty panoramic πŸ™‚ Hard to believe this is South Africa – looked more like North Wales or Scotland… Moving on we decided there was time to visit some of the tourist trap scenery, starting with the Mac Mac Falls:

If the photo looks good for my little phone it's because Phil took it...

Not quite Angel or Niagra but the biggest I’ve ever seen at something approaching 70m tall. They’re normally twin falls but SA’s been really dry apparently so this is just Mac Falls…

One more stop we made was into Pilgrim’s Rest, a mining town from SA’s gold rush period in the 1800s. The town’s been left pretty much as it was it seems:

The sign says "Rust in Peace, A. Austin, born 1930s died 1950s of Metal Cancer".

And it was really nice to wander round the old shops etc. Bit touristy but nice to stretch the legs πŸ™‚

We were making excellent time so we had time to find a few detours:

Yes, there's no road on our GPS

A little off-roading perhaps? It was supposed to be a shortcut and would have been if not for the water-logged river fords:

Phil had hired a not-to-shabby Honda Jazz which we covered in mud:

Β It's orange, honest

Good clean fun πŸ™‚ The route took us to Bourke’s Luck Potholes which we thought probably wouldn’t be too exciting after the drive down that road… Wrong:

I love this Photo Stitching business.

They were actually a pretty impressive confluence of two rivers that had carved the sandstone up into some amazing structures.

Getting onto late afternoon we figured there was time for us to get to one area we had planned to do on the way back – Blyde River Canyon. This is one of the most amazing areas of natural beauty I’ve ever heard of, and by far the most impressive I’ve personally seen… The most famous point is God’s Window, an outcrop that looks one way up the river canyon:

DSCF2214

And one way over the rainforest:

My 1M pixel phone doesn't do it justice...

It was truly fantastic seeing the sun start to set over all this, really the middle of nowhere, no noise other than wind in the trees and some random birds and frogs. Best of all though:

IMAGE_218

I wonder what hourly rate God pays his window cleaners?

That was day one. Day two to follow sooner or later πŸ™‚

Categories: Travel

Rube Goldberg

October 3, 2007 Leave a comment

I’m presuming Ina posted this after my previous post about adverts. These sort of ‘accomplish a very simple task with a very complex device’ machines are known as Rube Goldberg devices after the cartoonist of the same name. Always a fan of oddities like this, I had stumbled across a particular brand of device when playing Garry’s Mod for HL2: machinima Rube Goldbergs πŸ™‚

This was my favorite for a long time (the soundtrack adds immensely to the experience):

I’ve never seen a better use of a balloon

Categories: Games