Awasu » 2008 » May
Friday 23rd May 2008 6:37 AM [General]

So, I was all set to send this article to a tri-athlete friend of mine based on the title alone, "Jet-Powered Bicycle Makes 50 MPH Feel Waaaaay Too Fast". I titled the email "I think you'll want one of these" but then I read the article and saw the second photo.

Maddox has been into skydiving for 20 year and used to compete in tracking contests, where free-falling skydivers move horizontally across the sky at speeds approaching 120 mph. His buddy was always just a little bit faster, so Maddox thought "it'd be fun to strap a jet engine to my chest and make myself into a human missile."

Holy cow, I want one of those :bigshock:

I used to skydive a lot until discretion also got the better of me but I can definitely understand how "it'd be fun to strap a jet engine to my chest and make myself into a human missile" :hysterical:

Saturday 17th May 2008 10:19 AM [General]

I love a weird and wonderful story as much as the next guy but this one is just amazing!

Darvaza (Turkmen language: The Gate) is a Turkmenistan village of about 350 inhabitants, located in the middle of the Kara-Kum desert, about 260 km north from Ashgabat.
...
Darvaza underground is naturally rich in natural gas. In 1971, during a drilling, geologists accidentally found an underground cavern filled with natural gas. The ground on which the drilling rig was placed collapsed, leaving a large gaping hole exposed with a diameter of about 50-100 meters. To avoid poisonous gases coming out of the hole, it was decided to let the gases burn. As of 2008, gases in the underground cavern are still burning without interruption.

So, this thing has been burning for almost forty years, with no end in sight :bigshock: Some insanely cool pictures here.

This is all vaguely reminiscent of a 2006 movie called Silent Hill [1], set in a town that had been abandoned because of a huge long-burning fire in the mines beneath it. Funny thing is, it seems to have been not only inspired by a video game of the same name, but by a real-life place called Centralia in Pennsylvania.

Its population has dwindled from over 1,000 residents in 1981 to 12 in 2005 and 9 in 2007, as a result of a 46-year-old mine fire burning beneath the borough.
...
In May 1962, Centralia Borough Council hired five members of the volunteer fire company to clean up the town landfill, located in an abandoned strip mine pit next to the Odd Fellows Cemetery. This had been done prior to Memorial Day in previous years, when the landfill was in a different location. The firefighters, as they had in the past, set the dump on fire, and let it burn for a time. Unlike in previous years, however, the fire was not extinguished.
...
In 1979, locals became aware of the scale of the problem when a gas-station owner inserted a stick into one of his underground tanks to check the fuel level. When he withdrew it, it seemed hot, so he lowered a thermometer down on a string and was shocked to discover that the temperature of the gasoline in the tank was 172 °F (77.8 °C).

Man, there's some truly weird stuff going on out there in the world... :blink:


[1] And I will confess to not only having gone to see this movie, but also rather enjoying it 🙂

Wednesday 14th May 2008 1:53 PM [General]

I've written quite a few times before about my travels in Asia and if there's one thing old Asia hands learn fairly quickly, it's that if you're not sure what it is you're eating, then don't ask. They might tell you 😮

I love bread but good bread is really hard to find in Asia, except in Indochina where it's fantastic (score one for the French). You can buy wonderfully fresh and crunchy baguettes from the street vendors, packed with salad and a pate made from something that I really didn't want to ask about 🙄 The Vietnamese call them Bánh Mì Xiu Mai and Phil Lees talks a bit about them here.

And in my last trip to the Philippines, I was introduced to balut which is basically a crunchy boiled egg. Now, if you think about it, there are only two ways you can have a crunchy boiled egg and no, it's not because you eat the shell :bah: If you really want to know, Wikipedia has an explanation here, along with some totally gross photos. Guys cruise the streets on bicycles late at night shouting "Balut! Balut!" and the eggs they're selling often have numbers written on them indicating how, um, crunchy they are :blink:

I guess they go out late at night because after a big night at the pub is probably the only time you would ever want to eat one. The waitress at one bar I hung out at kept telling me how yummy they were and that I should try one and I eventually broke down and ordered a round (yes, I had had more than a few beers). All I can say is that I'm glad I saw the Wikipedia photos after I'd done it since I probably wouldn't have tried one otherwise 😐

Also from Vietnam is snake wine. This is from when I was there in '98.

Hoi An is something of an anomaly in Vietnam, a small town full of genuinely friendly, cheerful people, with none of the hassles that one has to put up with just about everywhere else in the country. Lying on the bank of a peaceful, meandering river, Hoi An was once an important port and old wooden trading houses and Chinese temples are tucked away in every backstreet, simply oozing nostalgic charm. The main part of town barely fills one square kilometre and the visitors almost outnumber the locals, yet it rarely feels overcrowded, there is such a good vibe in the air as you wander around the narrow lanes. The town has gone to great lengths to preserve its character and heritage, and also to ensure that everything runs smoothly for its guests. The payoff for the town is apparent and Hoi An is everyone's favourite place in Vietnam. In a country where the average wage is less than a dollar a day, people are clearly doing well for themselves.

After hours, the place to be was Treat's Same Same Cafe & Bar, run by a genial young man with a big smile and his Mom in the backroom, frying up plates of chips for us all. A few years ago the place had been a restaurant but Treat had decided that in a town overflowing with fabulous food, it was probably better to be doing something else. It was a dimly-lit place, not much brighter than the dark of the night outside, with an open-air courtyard and a few beaten-up musical instruments hanging on the walls. The requisite pool table sat at the far end of the bar, surrounded by an array of electric fans strategically positioned to give the players some relief from the muggy Vietnamese nights. Dripping sweat onto the pool table was considered to be somewhat less than dignified.

People came mostly for the music and behind the bar was what could possibly be the coolest drawer in all Vietnam, filled with a jumbled pile of cassettes that people had sent Treat from around the world with some of the funkiest, rockingest, hippest music that you could ever want to hear. Frustratingly, most of the tapes and their cases had long gone their separate ways and those that hadn't were obscurely labelled in a dozen languages, so most of time we had little idea of who or what we were listening to. Still, we had a good time bopping along as we waited our turn on the pool table.

On top of the bar sat a huge jar of snake wine, vodka, actually, but the jar had been filled to the brim with a variety of dead snakes and topped off with an evil-looking bird, feathers and all. It looked like something out of every schoolboy scientist's wet dream. Apparently, snake wine is supposed to be good for one's virility and the bird is a crucial ingredient. No right-thinking Vietnamese would ever dream of drinking this stuff without one. Of course, no right-thinking person would ever dream of drinking this stuff, period, and we spent several nights sitting at the bar clutching our reassuringly ordinary beers, warily eyeing this imposing bottle of pickled wildlife.

The pickled wildlife just eyed us back as if daring us to partake of their juices and so, naturally enough, on our last night in town when we were all rolling drunk, we decided that we had to at least try a little of the old snake wine. Shot glasses were lined up and Treat poured each of us our share. Salt and slices of lemon were provided for those who wanted it, although personally I felt that that was getting perhaps just a little too weird for words. We toasted the memory of those animals that had died so that we may drink, and knocked back our glasses.

It's difficult to find the words to describe how it tasted, like dead snake, I guess, with a gut-wrenching after-taste of dead bird. Being Guys, we manfully stood our ground but after we had all finished boasting about how virile and studly we had suddenly become, I was horrified to hear Treat say that he was going to shout us a "going-away" round. I could hardly refuse and so had to bravely down another glass of this whiskey most foul. The second shot was a killer and I was forced to invent a bus that had to be caught oh so early the next morning and staggered off home, ruefully wondering why I keep letting myself get talked into doing these things. If this be the price of virility, then point me to the nearest monastery, please!

Saturday 3rd May 2008 1:33 PM [Awasu News]

The first 2.3.4 alpha release [?] is now available here.

The main new features in this release are for channel reports:

  • They can now be generated from channels in a folder (not just via a channel filter).
  • They can be configured to automatically mark items as read and/or remove them from workpads.
  • They can now be emailed out.
  • Workpad reports can now be re-generated any time the workpad changes.
  • They can now group feeds items by channel (the old behaviour) or merge them all together into a single River Of News.

Many thanks to vidconf for his help testing these new features (and, um, suggesting most of them :whip: ).

Lots of other new features as well, including:

  • The ability to bypass the Channel Wizard and quickly create channels using the default settings.
  • A new item in the system tray menu to suspend notification balloons.
  • Workpads, channel reports and filters can now be created as a copy of existing ones.
  • Feed items can now be manually downloaded for reading offline.
  • Channel reports and filters can now be quickly created for a My Channels folder.

Have fun y'all, alpha2 will be along Real Soon... 😎