Monthly Archives: November 2012

20121108 – Homeward Bound

Thursday – warm and sunny.

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Our flights not until 23:25 so we have a full day.

MTR and star ferry to Kowloon and do the open top bus tour. Today the place stinks with the smog and its sore eyes.

Exotic lunch in a sub terrainian MacD.

Then its the HK island bus tour. Stop off at the market in central. Like all the rest not really up to much. Catch the longest escalator in the world and visit a temple. More joss sticks and smoke than the already sore eyes from the smog can cope with.

Then pop back into our hotel to pick up the bags and have a DSCF7684free afternoon tea before getting a taxi to Central catching Airport Express MTR back to the airport.

I have to say the MTR is very impressive, especially the airport express. Fast, clean, frequent, organised and pleasant. It’s a bit like Singapore the sub-terrainian Moorloks have it all. It’s only when you’re above ground amongst the Eloi that life is seedy and heaving. Some how I think thats not quite the way H G 
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Silly me. There I go again thinking I’m a customer and considering the amount of airport tax they are run for my convieniance. Arrive a tad early and of course check in desk is not open. You’ll have to wait a couple of hours. Oh by the way you could 
have checked in at anytime today at Hong Kong central or Kowloon station. Of course my British Airways travel documentation doesn’t bother to mention this. Doesn’t it seem somewhat bizarre that here I am at the airport and have to wait but can check in elsewhere early. Common sense question – why can’t I check in at the airport early? Hello, I’m a customer!

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Well it seems that Heathrow Terminal 5 has found yet another way of more queues and a total lack of common sense. As you leave immigration show boarding card queue, then 10 feet further on a queue to show it again and have your photo taken. Then as you board plane it’s a show boarding card / check you match your photo queue and 5 feet further on a show your boarding card queue. Pots for rags. 

DSCF7721It really is about time someone got a grip on airports. A good case for some customer focus and process re-engineering.Not to forget that even though we’ve not left the terminal we’re screened yet again. Asked supervisor why and apparently its because the UK has different standards to HK. Wouldn’t expect all airports to get together and have a Worldwide standard. That would benefit the customer – heaven forbid. Lets feed a few airport bosses to the lions in the Saturday afternoon colosseum.

I digress. Marvellous pee powered generator created by 4 DSCF7743fourteen year olds.

Well we’ve enjoyed our 3 days in HK and glad we’ve seen it. How people live in all these high rises amazes me. Certainly not a place I’d like to live in and it has the accolade of being so much worse than Belthorn it makes me really appreciate Belthorn. 8 million people crammed in is just unbearable. It’s the worst city we’ve visited, in places it is a 3rd world hell hole and yet in others is opulent and high tech. Stinking smog doesn’t help but thats probably why you see so many wandering around with masks on as if they’ve just come out of an operating theatre.

Certainly won’t be coming back despite the amazing hotel and swish MTR.

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Meanwhile some tips on HK:

In the UK the sure fire way to find a Chinese restaurant is look for Chinese writing. Doesn’t work here.
They all want to push leaflets into your hand and then jabber away in Chinese, despite the fact that you’re clearly not Chinese – get used to it.
Just because they speak some English don’t assume they understand you. They don’t.
If you go to the gents get used to the revolting sound as they have to gob before they pee.
They can’t walk in a straight line.
There is no concept of personal space.
Don’t point at people it’s considered very rude.
Littering above ground may be acceptable but no one eats, drinks or litters the MTR.
If they accept credit cards, you’re in luck, it’s polite to pass it to them with both hands.
Don’t eat the fish unless you know it’s come from abroad. Local seafood can be heavily polluted.

And just in case you thought all religious intolerance had ceased, or I’d suddenly gone all pious, how about this:

Imagine the scene: a young man is led away in handcuffs to begin a prison sentence as his mother is left crying in the courtroom. He is 19 years old, has a good job, has no previous convictions, and has never been in trouble before. These facts cut no ice with the judge, however, as the crime is judged so heinous that only a custodial sentence is deemed appropriate. The young man in question was found guilty of singing a song that mocked and ridiculed a religious leader and his followers.

So where might this shocking story originate? Was it Iran? Saudi Arabia? Afghanistan? Perhaps it was Russia, a variation of the Pussy Riot saga, without the worldwide publicity? No, the country in question is Scotland and the young man is a Rangers fan. He joined in with hundreds of his fellow football fans in singing ‘offensive songs’ which referred to the pope and the Vatican and called Celtic fans ‘Fenian bastards’.

20121107 – Big Buddha Then Snake For Tea

Wednesday – hot and sunny again.

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MTR to central and catch the Ferry to Lan Tau Island. Pass the Apple store and manage to resist a visit.More relaxing day planned today away from all the hustle, bustle and millions in HK, we are off to see big Buddha at Lin Po.

Catch two local buses to the big Buddha. Wot no Caucasians! Must say we’re a bit out of place as we’re the only Caucasians amongst all the locals. Something about Wendy’s shorts, shoes DSCF7571or toes seems to be amusing the locals on the bus – never managed to figure out what. An interesting journey. I’m not saying this place is a tad rural but as we’re stood at a bus stop the various cows strolling down the street fortunately, especially given the size of their horns, give us a wide berth.

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Have a walk around the peace quiet and tranquility of the monastery grounds, a great relief after HK, then take a arduous hike up to the top of the big Buddha.

Afterwards call in for lunch at Lin Po village. I finish off coffee whilst Wendy manages to visit every shop in the village – it’s a Mars and Venus thing.

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Catch the gondola back down to the MTR. It’s one of the most spectacular we’ve been on, and we’ve been on a few – alas no snow.

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Then it’s MTR back to Mong Kok. Wendy wants to see the markets. This place is just teaming with people. Too many people. Where do they all come from? Even in the afternoon it’s just a seething mass of bodies everywhere. I think all 8 Million locals are out on these streets.

Do any of them work? Is it something in the Chinese genetic DSCF7636make up that stops them walking in straight lines? They appear to exhibit the perfect example of Brownian motion when walking and randomness increases in direct proportion to how bright it is and inversely proportional to their packing density.

On a busy sunny day you’re just ready to trample on the little buggers – PC thought police will have me stoned for that!

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Mind you if I lived in one of those bloody awful tower blocks perhaps I’d be wandering the streets rather than be at home.

Fruit and veg are quite tame but then we encounter the meat and fish market. Ducks and pigeons with their heads still on seem to be popular this year; then there’s live fish in polystyrene cool boxes with a drop of water in them; then there’s fish flapping around on the pavement; then theirs mini turtles. All live and suffering before adorning someone’s plate.

Again we notice we’re the only Caucasians and the cameras a bit of a tourist status give away. Time to leave before we end up on DSCF7654someone’s plate.

In the evening we finally get to meet and vet Gaynor and Rudi, our home exchangers. Good news is they more than pass muster. Good job really as we’ve both just left respective houses.

They meet us for happi, happi, happi hour in our hotel. 4 beers, 3 Bacardi and coke and wine later, all free, we set off to explore Soho and find somewhere to eat. Lets hope we find one quicker than last nights miserable performance.

Little did we realise that the guys on the right were defanging my snake ready for dinner!

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Finally come across a popular Chinese restaurant, it even has a Michelin commendation.. It’s full of chinese. So full that they move a couple off a table of 8 onto a small table tucked away in the corner – lets hope that when we get settled in they don’t have a party of 8 arrive or else we’ll be eating on the streets. Have to say its very chinese. We’re the only Caucasians. Snake dishes seem to dominate the menu. Rudi and I try a snake dish starter. Have to say it was very tasty. Then it’s a mixture of goose, beef and chicken dishes and obviously some rice and just to show willing I have some greens.

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Quite an enjoyable meal. Certainly authentic and a good experience. Great company and a great time. Really good to meet up with them and amazing how much we have in common.

20121106 – Hong Kong

Tuesday – hot and sunny.

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Lets just tell a bit about the Ovolo hotel hotel we checked into last night. Yes it’s in a sleazy area. Yes, like most Hong Kong hotels the room are that small you need to leave your shoes outside. But this place is extraordinary it’s bright and modern; very comfortable; high quality fittings throughout; it has free wifi, SDSL no less at 5 megs, simple to connect to and it works; free continental breakfast that’s got everything you could want; DSCF7433 7massive flat screen TV; Apple TV; free iPad or WII to borrow; all the toiletries you can imagine; free slippers; free mini-bar, yes it’s stocked with free beers, waters and soft drinks; free tea, coffee, cakes, biscuits and fruit all day; then after 18:00 there’s happi, happi, happi hours – note the plural – DSCF7504when you get free beers, wine or spirits (quality products not local cheapies). No limits, just help your self.

If Apple went into the hotel business this is how I envisaged it would be. Even down to the room miniaturisation.

Forget the sleazy area, forget the small room. It’s amazing and if I’m ever stupid enough to come back to Hong Kong this is certainly where I’ll stay.

By the way if you’re confused and think this blogs been taken DSC01676over by someone else I can assure you that this is still Victor here.

Enough of the hotel advert and back to our travels.

Up early and catch the MTR into central and go for a walk around as per the guide book. Try to find the Tourist Info office but its moved and there’s not one anywhere to be seen. Apparently they’re discreetly hidden and away from the central area – common sense SNAFU strikes again.

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Have a walk to Statue square as per our out of date guide book. Sorry, can’t see the square as its all boarded up getting ready for winterfest. I suppose as its not a Christian country you can forgive them for this excessive PC.

Finally find our way up to the Peak Tram. Catch it up to the DSC01715peak for stunning views over HK. That’s where they subtly hide one of the tourist offices. Cash only here. Perhaps that explains why they have 1 person serving and 3 people counting the cash up. What Luddites!

Just goes to show nothing’s for ever. Up to 1888 there was a flourish trade in sedan chair carriers taking you up to the Peak. Then along came the tram and the carriers went out of business – move with the times, keep up with the technology.

Then we spot a hop on / off tour bus. Of course if there been a tourist office in central we’d have known about this and saved the cost of the tram, as the bus tour included it.

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Hop on the bus and do the green tour down to the South of the Island. Stop off at Stanley – what a coincidence there’s a market there. Nice seaside resort. Break a law of retirement and have a cool, refreshing beer.

Bus tour of the south of the island is so much more pleasant and relaxing than the hustle and bustle of HK Island.

For the evening we catch the Star ferry (free tickets from the bus tour) across to Kowloon TST – don’t expect me to spell it. Have a stroll down Nathan road, the golden mile. It’s bloody awful. 
Where do all these people come from? Just can’t believe how DSCF7657many seedy shops there are and yet there’s more Rolex shops 

than there are Muslim fundamentalist at a blasphemy riot.

After about two hours we finally manage to find a Chinese restaurant. Full of locals. Have a passable authentic Chinese meal and drinks all for £14.

Visit the Temple Street night market – the objective of our visit down the Nathan Road. More tat and really not worth the effort.

Catch the MTR back. Tired and weary. Thank Dawkins for the free beers in our room.

20121104 – St Kilda & Goodbye Oz

Sunday – hot (32C) and sunny.

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How variable the weather can be. One minute 16C the next 32C, such massive variations.

After a morning cleaning up, well to be honest Wendy doing most of the work and me battling with SQL, we drive down to St Kilda for a stroll along the beach.

The roads into St Kilda are gridlocked. The suns bought everyone in the Southern hemisphere to this beach. Hardly room to park a handkerchief on the beach, never mind a towel or a thong (that’s an English one) like bikini bottom. Worse than Blackpool in it’s heyday. Not a knotted handkerchief, black socks, braces and deck chair anywhere to be seems.

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Lithe young female bodies strewn everywhere. Oh to be young again in body, instead of a 16 year olds mind trapped in a 60’s year old body.

Call in at the Beachcomber Restaurant to hand over a Red Cross food parcel to Simon and Hayley. It’s Bedlam. They’re even queuing to get a table. Looks like hard work to me.

Have a drink and a stroll down the beach and along the pier.

Then it’s back home for dinner and packing.

Monday – up at the crack of sparrows again.

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Drive to the airport. Drop the car off and then gird my loins to cope with the airport.

Whatever happened to those halcyon days when air travel was exciting and an enjoyable experience. Long gone. Replaced by a series of queues and processes designed to inflict the maximum misery. Sadly I don’t think there’s any concept of customer care or service. It’s almost as if the whole shebang is doing you a favour.

Yet, I have to confess that once on board, even Quantas, go out of their way to provide a good service. You feel like a customer again.

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Well it’s goodbye Oz. After 10 weeks we still can’t understand a word of the airport announcements that jabber out.

What did we like about Oz. I have to say most things. People were very friendly and it’s very English. Weather is great, you get to see the sun nearly every day. Fantastic scenery and generally very civilised.I won’t mention the scrots on the tram, sadly, that’s the same the World over.

What didn’t we like. Well really there was very little – yes this is DSCF7348Victor’s blog – and I have to scrat around for something negative to say. I suppose the vast distances; road works; traffic and most of all those left hand lanes that fizzle out with a sign “Left lane ends – Merge right”. Personally I felt right lane having to merge left is safer.

Whilst I think we’ll still concentrate on the USA, it’s a lot cheaper, we have to say that Oz has the real benefit of being so much more English – sad the English at large!

The acid test is would we come back. Yes, absolutely, despite the long flight. I’m up for November and December next year, not so sure that Wendy’s so keen so soon but we already have enticing opportunities. However if we do it again I think we’d do the trip in one day. Stopover was good to see places but it means two days of misery in place of one and double the airport misery. Better to get it over with in one hit. Also I don’t think we’d travel such distances. Once here we’d choose a destination / area and stick to it.

Areas of choice would probably be Sunshine Coast, Tweed Coast and Melbourne.

20121102 – An Apple a Day and Melbourne Again

Friday – warm and sunny.

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New iPad mini and iPad 4 goes on sale today. Don’t we live in exciting times!

We’ve decided to pass on the mini. iPhone for mobile / on the go and traditional iPad for home, coffee table use. Wendy wants the new iPad 4. What Wendy wants she usually gets – who am I to argue. To go with it she gets a bright read case – very girly.

We may be keen but we’re not going to join any overnight queue for the Apple product release raz-a-mataz. After breakfast we drive down to the Apple store to see if they’ve anything left.

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Times must be hard they have iPad 4’s left on the shelve and even iPad mini’s. Wendy gets treated to a white iPad 4 32 Gig. Awesome retina display quality and very fast. 

When I get it home and load on all our photos we find there’s only a 5Gig left. Cock up of the first order. Retina display obviously needs nearly twice as DSCF7307much storage, compared to iPad 2 – some may say it’s a marketing ploy.

Drive back down to the Apple store to change it for the 64 Gig – no problem says Mr Apple.

Meanwhile Wendy gets her weekly shopping fix.

Generally a lazy nerdy and Apple config sort of day. 

Saturday – warm and sunny.

Off on the metro into Melbourne. Metros full of women tottering around on 6″ heels; brassy frocks and silly S0047311hats and men in black – could it be Melbourne cup ladies day? Some entertaining eye candy.

Catch the free city tram around to docklands and harbour town for a day out. Well we all make mistakes! More sterile than a scalpel fresh out of an autoclave and as much atmosphere as a programmers barbie bash.

Catch the tram back for a walk along South Wharf and South Bank.

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Pity about the river Yarra it seems to have all the mud on top. Fall in that and you’re dead. No amount of stomach pumping is going to save you.

Some great street entertainers en-route.

Well it’s goodbye Melbourne, as cities go, one of the nicest. Something for everyone and very laid back. I can well understand why it rates No 1 city to live in.

Very multicultural but can’t say I’ve seen many Aborigines. Perhaps they’re all in the outback.

Is it PC to ask where they’ve all gone? At the time of first DSCF7297European contact, 1788, it is generally estimated that the  population was at least 314,000, some argue even half a million. Yet as at 30 June 2006, there were 517,200 or 2.5% of the total population. From 100% to 2.5% of the population, not much of a birth rate growth! I wonder why?

Hold your horses, that means the population of Oz is about 20 Million. Bloody hell all this land and natural resource, including a very valuable abundance of sunshine, and only 20 million. No wonder the economies prospering

How can anyone (aka Wendy) spend so much time in the info centre shop? Anyone would think it’s an Apple store!

20121031 – The Great Ocean Road

Wednesday – warm, cloudy and some showers in the afternoon.

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Up at crack of sparrows.

Drive through Melbourne traffic to the great Ocean Road. Actually built by survivors of World War 1 as a memorial to their fallen comrades.

One of the top ten scenic drives in the World.

Call into Torquay and look at the famous surf beaches, otherwise not much else there.

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Then it’s Anglesea and the lighthouse at Aires Inlet. By now it’s 28C, humid and for the first time the flies are out.

Drive on to Lorne and have another exotic lunch in the park. Then to Toms lookout for yet another photo opportunity.

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Finally get to Apollo Bay and find a Motel for the night. Start off at the Comfort Inn but the rooms like a murky prison cell. Abandon and find a pleasant apartment in a Motel.

Free Wifi and its unlimited. What they forgot to mention is you can’t get a signal. Why is it so difficult!

Disappointing choice for dinner. No Subway; no MacDonalds; not even a sausage barbie.

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Call into a drive in bottle shop – off license. Good ole Bruce on his way home to Sheila can drive his Ute in and pick up a slab (24 pack) without having to get out.

Watch the Ned Kelly DVD. Villain or hero? Must say this interpretation is more of hero outlaw, much wronged by the corrupt police of the time – a lot of police in those days were ex-convicts.

Thursday – rain, clouds and wind.

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In view of the weather we give up on our drive down the other half of the Great Ocean Road. Looks like we won’t get to see the 12 Apostles. Just not worth the extra 2 hours drive in pouring rain, making a total of 6 hours driving. I’ve put some pictures off the Internet to make up for it.

Decide to drive back along one of the highlighted inland tourist routes. Gourmet and wine route it says on the map and DSCF7282recommended by tourist info lady. Mind you she’s the one who said it best to see the 12 Apostles on a day like today as you can better picture the ship wreck coast in storm and tempest – mad as a hatter.

800px The twelve apostles Victoria Australia 2010

Anyway back to our route. She seemed to forget to mention that it was a single, almost dirt track, mountain road and I should have a machete and chain saw with me to clear away the fallen trees. Despite it all we made it. Can’t recall much in the way of food or wine offerings along the way.

Now for some cultural enlightenment – How to eat a TimTam Ozzie style:

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1 Bite off the top left and bottom right hand corner at an angle of 45 degrees. Yes you can eat those bits.
2 Have a cup of hot tea ready.
3 Gripping TimTam in mouth dip the the bottom half in the hot tea and suck for all you’re worth.
4 Quickly lift TimTam out of the tea before it melts.
5 Continue sucking melted TimTam core through the middle.
6 Eat the rest of the TimTam

 

Foreign aid. What a load of whackers our politicians are – see foreign aid map

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£93Million to Somalia. A country that has just stoned a woman to death for “having a naughty” (sex); is a hotbed of terrorist activity; famed for it’s piracy; has had £85 Million of foreign aid “go astray”. Why do we support such barbaric countries. On top of this they send Millions, of money that we don’t have, to India and Pakistan who are that strapped for cash they can afford a nuclear weapons programme and India even has a space programme. I’m spewin.

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How can these politicians live with themselves. Marvellous isn’t it we’re not near the top in many World rankings, but when it comes to foreign aid as a % of Gross National Income we seem to excel.

Foreign aid definition:
The transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.

Usually nothing good to say about the French but at least they don’t stand any nonsense: 

France kicks out devout Imam who called for jihad, Jewish genocide and corporal punishment of woman.

Oh dear how sad! Pity our PC, do gooder, numbskull politicians don’t do the same.


20121030 – Gaol and the Scrots

Tuesday – hot and sunny in the 30’s.

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Wow Philips today launch a web-enabled LED light bulb, capable of interacting with smartphones and tablets to automate lighting in the home using integrated wireless technology. Don’t we live in exciting times. What’s next?

Lazy morning to recover from yesterdays drive. Then after lunch we catch the train into Melbourne.

I see over here the taliban and fundamentalists have a car hire Company – Rentabomb. Jihadist attempt at financial suicide – not a good investment.

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Catch the free tram up to the Central Library to see the free Ned Kelly exhibition – notice how the word free keeps DSCF7210recurring. See his suit of armour. Must have weighed a ton and produced some serious burns in these temperatures. People had never seen anything like it and as a result thought it was a devil. Villain or hero – opinion seem divided. 

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Then walked up to the Old Melbourne Gaol and actually paid to go in. Quite an interesting place complete with gallows. Also had an interactive tour of the police station house next door. Got banged up. Made it quite entertaining.

Then it was coffee and a free tram back to the station to play at being a commuter.

The tram journeys were a valuable Ozzie cultural experience. So far we’ve loved nearly everything about Oz but DSCF7217today we saw the disgusting side.

Waiting for the tram it seems that there is zero understanding of queueing. What a bloody free for all.

The trams another example of this free for all. Not one of the young scrots bothered to get up and offer an elderly lady her seat. Just to add insult to injury when a seat came free one of the scrots dashed to fill it. I’m spewin!
Whatever happened to manners and respect? Sadly I don’t think any of them even understand the concept.

Take their smart phones off them and make them walk!

A sad reflection on Ozzie society. But they’re not alone. Is this a product of multi-culturism? Can I say that? Is it PC to ask? Who gives a dam.

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Get our free copy of the Mx paper to pass the time on the commute home. It’s really entertaining even if it does take all of 5 minutes to read.

Fascinating to watch what the regulars do. Read the free paper; play on iPhone or iPad, the poor play on their Androids; have a snooze; read a Kindle or even a book; pick their nose; excavate wax out of your aural cavities; listen to music on giant headphones; scratch their balls or mappa tassie; phone home to tell kids, and everyone else on board, why you won’t be home on time to take them out; write your blog.

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But heaven forbid you talk to anyone that would be seriously freaky.

It’s also consoling to know that for the couple that have everything theres a new long distance vibrator remotely controlled by yes, you guessed it, an app. Apparently you even get to choose from a range of different settings.

As if there’s not enough stupidity in the World. Now there’s a transnational university class on terrorism. You’re required to plan an hypothetical terrorist attack. Students have to factor in methods of execution, funding, number of operatives, target DSC01648and government reaction. Where to sign up. Well of course only in America and to add insult to injury It’s in New York. Good job it’s transnational, wouldn’t want foreign terrorists to be disadvantaged. I suppose the US government will be issuing visa and offering grants to overseas students, especially Afghan Nationals.

Meanwhile if you’re a couch potato and want to diet, watch a horror movie. It seems that fear from watching a horror movie can burn off 113 calories in 90 minutes – equivalent of a 30 minute walk. “The Shining” burns the most calories.