Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Journey to England Part IX

I won't tell you much about the train ride into Edinburgh, because I don't really remember it. I guess I'm trying to win an award for "most pointless introductory sentence". Anyway, Edinburgh was huge and awesome. Hmm no, vast and majestic. Yeah, that makes me sound smarter. 

Remember how we were tired of carrying our packs after the first day? Well now it had been a week, so we immediately sought to get rid of them somehow. Should all hostels have been booked up, we probably would have thrown them off the nearest bridge. Were no bridges nearby, we would have...I don't know, shut up.

We found a place called the Castle Rock Hostel, so named either because it was built into the castle rock, or because it was near the castle, and also rocked. All of the beds in the rooms were named after castles. I was castle Dunnottar. 

Here's the grossly colored room:

Mike was pretty excited about it.

So remember how I felt underwhelmed by that last castle! WELL WE WENT TO ANOTHER ONE! Haha! This time I went with the full understanding that this was more a museum than anything else. So with no hopes to be dashed, it was fun. GIANT CANNON TIME.

The people on either side of me are perplexed.

 So after some fun exploration, we went to the grocery store and GREGG'S. Oh man...


I don't know, maybe it was the result of being a bit more hungry than usual, but I lived for this place. They sold cheap things like sausage rolls and meat pasties. As much as those sound like obscure sexual maneuvers, they weren't. They were delicious foods for weary travelers like ourselves. I've just realized I may have mentioned Gregg's in a previous post, but if so it bears retelling. 

Then we did some more sightseeing. We checked out the royal mile, Edinburgh's main street, a famous graveyard, some monuments, and a museum, all the while listening to some bagpipes somewhat against our will, because just one player in the middle of the city could be heard EVERYWHERE. We didn't have much time in the museum since it was kind of an afterthought and was closing soon, so you'd probably expect us to have made the most of it. I can assure you, we did.

So as I've mentioned before, our budget was stretched pretty thin, so we went back to the hostel to get some more food rather than spend money at some restaurant. In the common room, we found droves of people from all over that seemed to live out of the hostel for weeks at a time. They had their own mini-fridges, and were setting up shop in the kitchen chopping vegetables and preparing elaborate meals. Mike and I ate some bread and peanut butter and did our best to avoid eye contact with these people. 

For that evening's entertainment, we went to a pub to get some beer and watch some soccer. Looming in our view outside was this:

Naturally we thought: Let's get drunk and climb that. So we grabbed the cheapest 12 pack we could find and off we went. God I'm starting to sound like an alcoholic. Didn't I just mentioned we ate shitty food to save money? 

That mountain was called King Arthur's Seat. There was probably a trail somewhere, but we just hiked up the side, which was the steepest fucking hill in all of time and space. Then we realized there were two ways to the very top, going all the way around, or scaling that rock face you can see in that picture. So for some dumb reason, I dropped whatever I was carrying to give the rock face a test. It wasn't too difficult, but then there I was at the top, without my stuff, so I had to climb back down and grab it. We both climbed back up, and then I realized I'd forgotten my hat, so I climbed back down again, then back up a third time. It was getting fairly dark and we weren't exactly waiting to get to the top to open the 12 pack if you catch my drift, so I was really pumped that I didn't fall. The view from the top of that hill was astounding.

We wisely decided to take the long way down after it was dark. 

It turns out being drunk also makes you hilarious, so at some point here we thought it'd be funny to start talking to everyone/each other in Scottish accents. Although probably better than I can do now since I had been surrounded by it for a few days, I'm sure it was still terrible. Nobody said anything though, and it continued for the rest of the night. 

I don't really remember what else happened, although these two pictures help fill in the blanks.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bullshit Facts, OR ARE THEY?!

Everyone knows by now that shit you read on the internet that seems like it isn't true, probably isn't true. And when I say everyone, I actually mean startlingly few. But occasionally you come across some facts that if indeed true, would be awesome. Let's look at some.

Penguins can Jump Six Feet in the Air
You're shitting me. Now when I first read this fact, I pictured something like this:

As you can see from this Picasso, I imagined 6 feet in the air to be a straight vertical jump, kinda like a penguin pogo stick. Then I thought maybe penguins are only really capable of a a 6 foot broad jump, which is way less awesome. So I did some very minimal research. Answers.com provided me with this brilliant insight:

As helpful as that was, I still felt I needed further clarification. Further research shows that yes, they can indeed jump 6 feet, but the trajectory is never mentioned. However, one site explained that since they are powerful swimmers, they can rocket themselves out of the water onto dry land, a feat we all witnessed in March of the Penguins. Is this what this fact is referring to? Where jumping is merely shorthand for "rocketing out of the water"? Well, I don't really feel like doing any further research so let's move on.

Americans Drink an Average of 90 Million Cans of Beer Every Day
My first thought was, I could never drink 90 million cans of beer in a day. That would take me at least a couple weeks. Soon after I realized oh, Americans collectively drink that much in a day. Well is it true?

Further research points to production of around 6 billion gallons annually, and we'll round that to 15 million gallons a day. That's about 1.9 billion ounces, which converted to 12 ounce cans, is around 150 million cans of beer produced every day. So hopefully we're actually drinking way more than 90 million cans a day. Otherwise we're wasting about 10 million six packs every day. That is truly horrifying.

The World's Oldest Goldfish Lived to be 41 Years Old
This just seems like utter horse shit immediately. Aren't goldfish given to little kids to teach them about death at an early age? Because they inevitably die fairly quickly? If there was ever a goldfish out there that lived to be 41, then either it's some sort of crazy genetic anomaly, or people just really suck at taking care of goldfish. Let's find out.

Well I'll be damned. According to multiple sources, the oldest goldfish lived to be 43! 43 fucking years. It turns out most die much earlier because of improper care. I guess a neglected fishbowl isn't the best place for them to thrive after all! Which makes sense, because if you aren't changing the water regularly, they're swimming in their own shit, which can't be good. They live much longer in ponds and aquariums, and grow much bigger there too. 43 though. Jesus.  

Apparently the 41 year old goldfish was named Fred. The 43 year old was named Tish. Why did I include their names? I don't know.

There's a Town in Newfoundland, Canada Called Dildo
I chose to penetrate deeply into the records, wondering if this was true or not. It turns out it is! 

To the left there, is Dildo Island, which shares its name with countless pornos. 

What must it be like to live there? I imagined inserting myself into the lives of its residents. I probed around, wondering what sorts of sights and activities were at their fingertips. Probably not much, as it's fairly isolated. To get there from the mainland, one would have to travel south. It is Canada though, so I'm sure things get pretty slippery in the winter. Ok, I think I've dicked around with this topic enough, so I'll close with one final question. I wonder if they have an In 'N Out Burger?

If an Orangutan Belches at You, They are Warning You to Stay Away
After wondering if I was perhaps the first person ever to search for "Belching Orangutan Warning", I checked out the veracity of the statement. It shows up all over the internet on random fact and trivia websites, but any sort of background information is conspicuously absent. I guess once you've absorbed that information, what else do you need to know? 


Some pointers for orangutans though, if you want me to stay away, just do something else like I dunno, yelling. Or throwing poo. You primates are pretty famous for that right? Don't get me wrong, If I'm encroaching on your territory, I would much much rather you burp at me than throw poo at my face, but suppose I had never stumbled upon this fact? I would have no idea what to think of your burping other than "wow that orangutan is fucking gross" or "I guess someone just ate" or "shut the fuck up". 

And what if you wanted to be inviting but you'd just had a soda? Friends are dropping by and you're just sitting there burping up a storm. They recognize that as a warning and take off and now how are you going to spend your afternoon? 

Real fucking smart orangutans.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Left Handed-ness

HEY. I'm a lefty. This puts me with about 10% of the population. Does this make me special? You bet. 

To begin, why are so few people lefties? Well, This dude thinks that higher levels of testosterone in the womb might lead to becoming a lefty, which apparently doesn't happen often? Testosterone stunts brain growth on the left side, so neurons looking for a place to settle scoot on over to the right, which controls the left side of the body. So basically, leftiness is linked to high testosterone, which means people like me are manly as hell. 

So what about female lefties? Well I didn't think of that until I was in the middle of that joke just now, so I'm going to leave that one hanging.

Some Background
What comes with left-handedness on a large scale? What trends exist among us? Well for one, apparently we're better with spatial awareness. I'm definitely good at that. I can tell you with one-hundred percent certainty that I am not floating in space, and I am "aware" of this fact. However, we also tend to have higher incidents of dyslexia and learning disorders. Drag. (Bet you expected some dyslexia joke huh? Haha fuck yuo.)

Also, historically, people hated us. The negative word sinister is derived from a word originally meaning left. Does this mean I want to kill you? Probably. Also, the positive word dexterous is derived from a word originally meaning right. So when you say "ambidexterous" you're saying both sides are as good as the right. 

There are a whole host of other historical parallels between left-bad and right-good, but I'm assuming you didn't come here for a fucking history lesson.

I've also heard that back in the day, teachers would discourage left-handedness by forcing lefties to switch to their right hand, because god dammit if they were going to allow something trivial with no negative consequences whatsoever go unpunished.

What's my experience with left handedness? Just a bunch of little shit that's common among all lefties.  

  • When I meet a fellow lefty, I may do things like high five them, or exchange an admiring glance that communicates acceptance, now that I know there is another member in the exclusive club. Haha, I jest. 
  • I smudge my handwriting due to constantly dragging my hand through it. This can lead the entire side of my hand to turn the color of the ink I'm using, or gray if I'm using a pencil.
  • This makes writing with quill pens fucking impossible.
  • I'm pretty confused by the term "southpaw". 
  • Yeah yeah, lefty pitchers end up facing south in traditional ball parks, but it's still weird.
  • It's such a specific reference.
  • I don't have paws.
  • When using right handed tools with my left hands, I look retarded.
  • I wear my watches on my right hand.
  • I mean in general, I don't wear more than one watch.
  • I actually don't wear any.
  • When in a restaurant, I try to sit on a far left side so I don't constantly bump elbows with the person next to me (assuming they're a righty).
  • I almost always fail at this.
  • I lead with my left hand playing drums, but I play a right handed setup, so for awhile it was all fucked up.
  • School desks built for righties were a pain in the ass.
  • Something written on a pen or pencil will always be upside down when writing with the left hand.

So as you can see, just a bunch of insignificant stuff. 

So if you're a lefty, tell me! We'll throw a party, and none of you right handed people can come.

Just kidding, you can come. You probably won't be as spatially aware as us, but you know, it's cool.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I wonder where we'd be without cereal. I guess we'd all still be in the same place. Well, unless you worked at a cereal factory, then you'd be somewhere else. But of course, what I meant was how would society differ? I guess we'd all eat more eggs. 


But the reality of the situation is, the cereality if you will, is that it does exist. Thumbs up for that, because I'm a fan of cereal. So, in my unending desire to to break things up into manageable chunks since I have attention issues, I propose that there are four kinds of cereal. Healthy, benign, unhealthy, and hot. 

Here we find cereal like Kashi, Honey Bunches of Oats, Raisin Bran, granola related cereals, etc. Cereals with ten thousand different vitamins and minerals, and so much fiber you will shit immediately after eating it! These are for the people that like to start their day off the right way. They might even get fancy and put berries and bananas in it. 

Oh wait, bananas are berries. Ok uh, berries and...other fruit. They are usually advertised as "Part of a complete breakfast!" Because that slogan tends to work better than "This is an incomplete breakfast." Cereal like this makes you feel good, not only because it's healthy, but because you can feel proud for not succumbing to the temptation to just stuff your fat face with doughnuts instead.

I like to eat some of these. Particularly "Go Lean Crunch" because not only does it sound like some sort of power up, but it tastes alright, and doesn't come with regret. The drawback though is that like most healthy cereals, it's fucking expensive. And I don't mean in the grand scheme of things. It's not as expensive as say, a boat, but as far as cereals go, $4 for a tiny box is a bit much. 

This category includes cereals like corn flakes, shredded wheat, chex, and rice krispies. Ah rice krispies, perpetuating the trend of making shit just a little bit different by replacing a c with a k because they sound the same! 

These cereals are kind of healthy too I guess, but aren't really marketed as such. I think the only reason they're still around is because back in the day when cereal was a new thing, they didn't bother adding all kinds of fancy ingredients. Simply the fact that it was this new thing called "cereal" was enough to make people go "awesome, I can't wait to add some milk to that shit." (It's astounding how little research went into that statement). 

But hey, here we are decades later, and all these cereals are still around. I'm thinking it's partially because of brand loyalists, but also because these companies have gotten creative. Would rice krispies still be around without rice krispie treats? Would corn flakes still be around if you couldn't crush them up and add them to things like breaded meat and cereal bars? Would shredded wheat still be around if it wasn't for really boring people? Who knows.

"I was sleeping on this pillow made of wheat and thought, HEY, CEREAL!"

A third reason they're still around, and also the reason I sometimes eat them, is because they're cheap as hell. For $2.50 I can get enough corn flakes to feed a bus. 

Like, a bus full of people. Buses themselves don't eat. Unless you were going to make a new cereal called "gasoline flakes" or something.

..Fuck you.

These are my favorite. Boo Berry, Count Chocula, Cookie Crisp, Reese's Peanut Butter Puffs etc. I love all of that shit. These guys like to advertise all their vitamins and minerals too, while conveniently failing to mention how loaded with mostly not vitamins they are. The only reason people buy them is because of the sugar, and possibly because they hate ghosts.

Imma eat you.

These cereals are mostly for kids, or irresponsible adults. A fun trend among these cereals is mascots, because kids won't eat shit without a cartoon on the box. Cap'n Crunch, the Lucky Charms Leprechaun, the Trix Rabbit, Count Chocula (BAM TWO MENTIONS IN ONE ARTICLE) Tony the Tiger, and more! Corn Flakes eventually caught on to that mascot trend, and went from this:


To this:


Lately I've been on  reese's peanut butter puffs tear. Well, it's actually the generic brand, called cocoa peanut butter spheres, which I think I like better cause of "spheres". It's like they took an already great cereal, and injected it with science. I try not to buy sugary cereal too much though, cause I eat it so god damn fast I might as well have never bought it in the first place. 

Hot Cereal
These only make it in on a technicality. Shit like oatmeal and cream of wheat. It's bullshit. I'm done talking about it. Why did I even include it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Journey to England Part VIII

Sterling Castle!!

When you think of castles, you probably think of dark and dusty dungeons, catacombs, battlements, towers, elaborate stone walkways etc. Well at one point in history, all that did of course exist. But nowadays, those types of things can be "dangerous". So a lot of things are closed off. Also, all the cool stuff is now encased in glass, refurbished, etc. So basically, you think of seeing things like this:


Which you can still find in some castles, but in bigger tourist attraction castles, what you mostly get is this:

What is this bullshit?

Seeing wax sculptures of dudes getting their skulls bayoneted by other screaming dudes is wicked awesome and all, but I felt it detracted from the mystique of the castle. Everything authentically old and filled with history had been reinforced, mounted, and added to. I expect to see that kind of thing at a museum, but when I go to a castle, I want to feel like I've stepped back through time. I want to actually catch the black plague. Carefully renovated and arranged exhibits, and wax soldiers going "RARR!" made the whole experience somewhat underwhelming. It was still pretty cool, just not what I expected. 

So afterwards, we checked out the courtyard and graveyard. Look at this fucking awesome picture:

A dove on each grave. What's interesting is these two graves belong to husband and wife. These birds are apparently always showing up here, and legend has it that the two lovers have been reincarnated as these birds, and they are drawn to these two graves to relive past memories, destined to always be together. Amazing huh?

Haha! I just made ALL of that up. It could be true I guess, but probably not. I don't know if the people in those two graves were even related. Pretty cool tombstones though huh?

Nothing makes me think of pizza quite like death.

So, since like most castles, this one was at the top of a giant hill, we had a perfect vantage point to scope for a place to camp that night. We saw a place a couple of miles away that looked sufficiently far from any roads or houses. But first, we planned to walk back down through town to check out what it had to offer. It turns out this town offered curry fries and beer. Delicious. After exploring a bit, we realized we had wandered in the opposite direction from where we had planned to camp, so we said "ah fuck it, let's go this way and see what happens". Off we went to the outskirts of town! We saw some decent sized fields, but the thing was, there was no place to hide. Every decent place to pitch a tent was in full view of a house. Since it's not exactly legal to just pitch a tent on somebody else's lawn we realized we'd have to either ask permission, possibly get denied and be fucked, or keep looking for a place out of view, maybe not find one, and be fucked. It reminds me of that old saying "He that travels far is fucked." 

WELL HOT DAMN. At the end of the road we were on, there was a small hill by a river that completely shielded us from the road and the closest house. Tent pitched! And I don't mean in my pants. Although having a place to sleep that night was pretty sexy. 

Scotland: the only country with rivers.

So geese are violent. Here's a story about Mike and I finding that out the hard way. When we were exploring this little riverbed, we spotted a couple geese swimming nearby. We thought something probably along the lines of "oh look, geese!" and then forgot about them because who hasn't seen geese before? Fuck em. 

Well as we wandered down the shore the geese got a bit more vocal. At this point we thought something probably along the lines of "oh listen, geese!" and then forgot about them again because who hasn't heard geese honk before? Then splishy splash, they got all panicked and started swimming towards us quickly. I actually remember seeing their feet coming above the water they were paddling so furiously. We were drunk, so it's only at this point we realized "ohh, they must have eggs or baby geese nearby." So we backed off a little bit. They however, didn't.  

I get it, if your young are being threatened, you go into attack mode. But we're way fucking bigger than them, and yet somehow they had adapted to show no fear in the face of adversity. They didn't just flap around and honk. Oh no, one of those motherfuckers put its head down and charged. With its body all contorted like that, I actually found myself a little bit afraid. Was this strictly geese territory? Were they going to call their friends and massacre us? Were we going to have to find a new place to camp? No, Mike just had to almost kick one in the face, and they eventually backed off. One of my biggest regrets of this trip is not getting a picture of that. 

We finished drinking beer by a river, and went to sleep.

The next morning we walked back into town to the train station. It was only about 7 pounds for a train to Edinburgh which made us happy, because we were prepared to spend pretty much anything to not have to hitchhike. This however was cheap, so woohoo. We got the traditional Scottish breakfast in the station's little diner. 

"Hey Dave what should we put in this?" "I DUNNO, EGGS AND ALL THE BROWN SHIT YOU CAN FIND."

It was similar to the English breakfast with a notable difference. Black pudding. The main ingredients of which aren't nearly as horrifying as haggis, but still pretty gross. It's basically blood and fat mixed with filler like oats and spices, boiled in a sausage casing and cooled. Then you eat it. You put that shit in your mouth. Yup, kinda gross, but again, we had to try it. All things considered it wasn't too bad. It tasted pretty metallic, which was weird, but I got past that by thinking "nope I'm just tasting the fork, not the blood." 

So after our little vampire experiment we boarded the train to Edinburgh. Later we would get drunk and climb mountains. But more on that later...