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Wednesday, 27 July 2005

Karl Willem addressing the press amidst the backdrop of the walled city of Avila where The Nashman is rumoured to have been airlifted although for reasons of security and privacy, The Nashman's whereabouts have not been confirmed by the House of Orange.

00:12 GMT - His Royal Orangeness Karl Willem regrets to inform the public that his loyal human consort The Nashman has been taken ill. Upon the advice of His Royal Orangeness' physicians, The Nashman has been quarantined at an undisclosed location to convalesce. For the meantime, HRO Karl Willem has sent his emissary, Filiburth, to inform the Queen of daily developments.


HRO Karl Willem's emissary, Filiburth, is received by the guards at Buckingham Palace today to brief the Queen on The Nashman's condition.

Tuesday, 26 July 2005

Windmills in my mind


It's been a depressing week so far. My theoretical assumptions have been shattered (either that...or I was unbelievably dense to think my idea would work in the first place) and I am but a headless chicken looking for a road, any road, to cross. Maybe I am Don Quixote's 21st century reincarnation and I've been in a losing battle with the windmills. I got a copy of "Lost in La Mancha", a documentary about Terry Gilliam's (Monty Python) attempt to film a modern adaptation of Cervantes' "Don Quixote de La Mancha". Basically, it documents a film that was shut down after only 6 days of filming despite an all star cast that includes Capt. Sparrow (post-21 Jump Street Johnny Depp, in case you were living in a cave for the past two years). Bad luck hounded the film from the start.....one shooting location just "happened" to be a NATO testing ground, a monstrous thunderstorm at the height of summer that saw equipment washed out into the desert by a flood of biblical proportions, and a lead actor that had a herniated disc (not fun if you are supposed to be riding a horse all the time). On hindsight, maybe this was not a movie I should be watching in the light of my recent shortcomings. But the movie was funny........in a tragic kind of way.....So to cheer myself up, went to Whittard's to get coffee. I got Cuban (Los Serranos) beans. It's a mild roast in contrast to last month's coffee from Kenya. Soon, I shall shift to the dark Guatemala Elephant beans as I forsee long nights ahead. Now, back to the lab.....

Sunday, 24 July 2005


I've been stranded in my room for the past four hours because of rain. So I've spent most of those fours hours watching tits peck my nut sack. Poor tits, they seem to be very wet. Thankfully, my dangled nuts are a yummy and irresitible treat for them in this gloomy weather. I looked out and there was a long queue of tits wanting to devour my nuts. Which brings me to the sad used state of my birdie feeder. The end dropped off a couple of days ago and i've had to improvise by putting some netting to hold my nuts. My nut sack is not aesthetically pleasing at the moment but as long as the lovely tits come to peck on my nuts, it gives me pleasure. I like to see them tits leave happy.

Saturday, 23 July 2005

Disjoint


Aaaaaargh. A very unproductive day for me. None of my experiments worked. It was a surreal day at the lab, the whole science area was cordoned off by University security, mounted police, police on bicycles, police in full riot gear, and police vans and cars. I had to flash identification just to be able to get past the temporarily constructed chain fences. A big animal rights rally was going on. Anyways, the morning experiment was a catastrophe so I headed off to the high street to look for a new mp3 player (as my old one has decided to go kaput). Mp3 players have very short lifespans actually... but thankfully, the price per gigabyte is decreasing. I am not inclined to get an ipod (too ubiquitous for me, everyone including my cat has one). Then by chance, I ended up having lunch with Stella at the clubhouse who lamented her quest to find 'someone different' after a string of dates. (Stella, is Samboy Lim's cousin...there....). I could give no advice except I had this thought at the back of my head to tell her that nine-banded armadillos are being used for developing vaccines for leprosy (A bit of trivia drilled to my head by DTC Dan. Information that I think should be passed on). There, that's how my brain works..And just in case you are wondering what that picture above is, that was taken at the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford.

Friday, 22 July 2005

Looking for Nessie


Following one of the rivers that lead to Loch Ness.

Danum nga naimas, nadalus, ken nalaka


The refreshing cool waters of the Highlands. Just bring your waterbottle for a free refill. Filtered through layers and layers of rock, the water quality is excellent. There are only a few places in the world where I can just cup my hand to collect water and drink from it. The stream at Brookside where I grew up is NOT such a place.

Thursday, 21 July 2005

Why even do it.....

People often ask why I'm always keen on doing 12 hour solo hikes. I can't think of any good answer except "Because I can!". While my knees are still strong and my sense of direction still works, why not? I'm not a member of any mountaneering club (I hate hiking in large groups), nor do I intend to join one (I like to climb at my own pace and take as many detours as I can). I also like the freedom of getting 'lost' on a whim but it's still nice to meet fellow travelers along the way and make new friends. Climbing solo is more a mental challenge than a physical one and you have to be honest to yourself when the mountain defeats you for whatever reason. It's always good to breathe the rarefied air on top of a mountain and once you get down and look back, you get really stoked and can't help but say to yourself "Yep, been there, done that".....(of course, I'm not really 'alone'....HRO Karl Willem is also a keen hiker)..

Nash loses to Bidean (Scotland hike part tres)

And so my ascent up Bidean nam Bian would have to be completed another day. After a few nifty "Mission Impossible"-like free soloing up the tip of the Coire gully, a slight slip ended in a soaked backpack and pants. The worst bit was that fog slowly crept from the north and it was drizzling. The ordnance map showed no path up the Lost Valley Buttress to Bidean and I intuitively followed the gully. I wanted to go further but there was a significant chance that rain was on its way. Not a welcome development as I was essentially following a stream. I swallowed my ego and decided that at 5pm, I should just enjoy a slow descent. The really sad part was that when I was back at the Lost Valley, rain did not fall....and I was so close......I shall return...

I sat on ledge and enjoyed the view. Given the circumstances, this was the furthest I could go and so I just ate my sandwich while looking down the Lost Valley

On my way down, I saw this guy descending as well. I knew this guy was behind me when I started going up. I didn't see him further up so I assumed he also decided not to go any further.

It was fun to watch these three girls going down the grassy but steep side of Gear Aonach to reach the path before the fog could catch them

The Lost Valley (Scotland hike Part 2)

After crossing the Allt Coire Gabhail and negotiating a steep rock face, I came upon the Lost Valley, a beautiful open space the size of 5 stadiums surrounded by the rocky slopes of three mountains. One would not believe that this valley is here from where I started (ok, I guess that's why it's called 'Lost'). It was 2:30pm and I could see a couple of hikers coming down from what my ordnance map calls the Lost Valley Buttress. I can see that the Coire originates from the intersection of the three mountains cutting a deep gully towards the Lost Valley with the upper half of Bidean nam Bian hidden by the heavens.

The Lost Valley. I intended to proceed all the way along the gully up Bidean (seen covered in cloud), nevermind that I couldn't see it.


Cloud continued to slowly creep down the Lost Valley obscuring the Buttresses but I was excited to touch the heavens anyway

I proceeded to follow a narrow trail on the slope of Gearr Aonach silently hoping for the cloud to dissipate by the time I hit the final steep ascent.

Gearr Aonach's wall of rock

Halfway up the narrow path along a very deep gully

The Lost Valley Buttress came into view once I hit cloud cover. The ascent become very steep and very exciting.

Just when I thought it would be a walk in the park for the final ascent, I came to a point where there was no longer a path to speak of a but loose rocks. Yet, there was no way but up....

Intuitively, there was no other way up but up this very steep scree. Thank God for soles that grip. But as if to make it more challenging, I decided to follow a tributary of the Coire because I hate scree....that's when my bad luck began........

Tuesday, 19 July 2005

Between two sisters (Scotland hike Part 1)

At 1pm I started my plan to climb up Bidean nam Bian (1150m). First I had to cross a bridge over the River Coe which was not visible from where I started close to the highway because it was bounded by a very deep gorge. It was one of the first surprises. The river cut through the vertical walls of the gorge and I had thought of getting some nice pictures from a ledge when I noticed a small marble slab which marks what appears to be have been a lethal fall. I quickly retreated to a safer area. (In fact this is not the first reminder I encountered which showed how dangerous climbing the three sisters can be). Thankfully, it was a relatively uneventful first 60 minutes up the valley between the first two sisters. There were some very nice waterfalls and I realized I shouldn't have bothered bringing a liter of water as this was not a problem. I found some hidden pools and thought of skinny dipping but the water was too cold!

The first half of the path between the two sisters was narrow and steep but relatively safe as long as one wears proper boots

I found myself following a stream called Allt Coire Gabhail, eventually crossing it towards the first steep scramble.

I ate the first of my three sandwiches on this rock

This was a mere 550m but the view was already breathtaking

Change of Plans

The third sister, Aonach Dubh

The bad weather meant I had to think of an alternative way to amuse myself for the day. It's such a shame to be in the Highlands and not do some proper hiking. So I headed east following the A82 highway towards Glencoe Valley (this is the same direction I would have taken anyway had it been a good day to traverse the Aonach Eagach ridge). The valley was bordered on one side by the ridge on the other by another mountain range, a series of which is called the Three Sisters - Aonach Dubh, Gear Aonach, and Beinn Fhada. Judging from the names of these three mountains, I could not have guessed that these were girls names. (Well, I don't speak Gaelic!).

The second sister (left) Gear Aonach

Walking across the first 5km of the valley surveying the massive walls of rock on both sides, I decided that I would do a circular route. My ordnance map was a lifesaver as I saw that I could climb between the first two sisters, Beinn Fhada and Gear Aonach, then up the biggest mountain behind called Bidean nam Bian and come out between the second and the third sister. There was no ridge involved so despite the overcast sky, I reckoned that this was a good 8 hours of walking, scrambling, and minor bouldering interspersed with me cursing every so often at every misstep.

A strange keyhole on the second sister

Score: Nash 0, God (or the weatherman) 1

I only had one hike in mind when I signed up for the Glencoe weekend. I sent an email inviting at least one soul to join me in this pursuit but there were no takers. Not to worry, as I'm used to doing solo ascents. (Well, there was this one who wanted to join on the spot but was wearing Lacoste shoes!!! No way I'm going to be responsible for his early demise).

This is Clachaig Gully running from Sgorr nam Fiannaidh (850m). This is the "bastard way" to finish the Aonach Eagach ridge says the local from Clachaig Pub. This is not a recommended descent as it is very steep and deadly....

I chose the trail from Am Bodach (943m) to Cnap Glas (721m) because it includes one of the most notorious ridge challenges in Britain, the Aonach Eagach. In fact, this is my first time to climb any mountain in Britain, let alone a ridge. That is if you call ~1000m a mountain. But the Aonach Eagach Ridge is different. The ridge itself is very short, only 3km long but has"precipitously steep drops on both sides....and is very committing - once started there is no escape."....but to continue all the way to the end of the ridge or retrace one's steps.

I could not see the starting peak of Am Bodach. I was very disappointed!

Since I have a mild vertigo (but not fear of heights) this should be very fun indeed. Tackling the ridge would involve vertical scrambles of 20m and some exposure going over pinnacles at least a meter wide with vertical drops of 100m. Despite the scary reputation, the notched ridge is claimed to be very safe unless one has a fear of heights and severe vertigo.

I climbed a quarter up Coire nan Lochan across the ridge hoping the weather would turn but sadly the ridge was still obscured

Unfortunately, on the day I was supposed to climb, I woke up to find that it had turned overcast. Going into the Clachaig Pub to get the weather forecast further disappointed me. The winds were going to be 20mph, some slight showers, and cloud cover down to 500m getting worse in the afternoon. Of course my ego said this shouldn't be a problem. After all, I had walked up Monte Bre and Monte Boglia in severe snow and Monte Boglia is twice as high as any peak in Aonach Eagach. But i quickly realized that a ridge is a different beast. I still had an ankle that hadn't fully healed and the worst bit is that I forgot to bring proper rain-proof gear! What a stupid mistake. I had assumed that since it was summer, it should be very sunny.....in Scotland. D'Oh !

And on my way back from the Lost Valley at 6:30pm, I saw that the ridge was still touching the clouds...oh well, maybe next time

And so, the ridge would have to be conquered another time. I had hoped to take nice pictures of the ridge like this guy..and this guy...... Next time....I will be back....Curses you weather!

Saturday, 16 July 2005

The Valley

The Glencoe Valley is truly picturesque. I've seen quite a few mountain ranges in my lifetime but it immediately strikes you that the Scottish Highlands are different. The Munros are not particularly very high (average elevation of 1000m) but the slopes are very steep and the cloud can hug the mountains down to 200m.
The best part of being up north during summer is that the daylight hours are long but the brief darkness at nightime coupled with the clean air make stargazing very fun. I took a short walk at midnight to 1am along the River Coe and it was one of the best walks I've had in months.

Friday, 15 July 2005

Living in Hagrid's Hut.


And so we occupied 3 cottages in Glencoe. The cottage land has its own lake, Torren Loch, it is within spitting distance of the Aonach Eagach Ridge, is walking distance to Clachaig Pub, and is bordered by the River Coe. It took me, Jedfrey, and Ashley 8 hours to get from London to Glasgow where we had brunch at Rey's house (a Pinoy Biochemist) and waited for the rental cars and other friends for the two hour trip to Glencoe. We were escaping London because it was Barrio Fiesta weekend and Aga Mulach and hordes of ABS-CBN B-list 'celebs' were performing in London. It was decided that we wanted to be as far away as possible from actors trying hard to sing and the corny jokes from 'celebs' whose only talents are that they can wear skimpy clothes and dance the otso-otso. I also wanted to run away from the overhyped midnight opening of Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince. I wanted to climb some mountains - "Quiet Time" for me. But, if that lake above looks familiar to my millions of blog readers (again, this is based on police estimates, only two people ever read this blog), it should come as no surprise. A photograph mounted on the cottage living area informed us that Hagrid's Hut for the "Prisoner of Azkaban" was shot on this very same area.....Aaaaaaaaaargh! Can't I not have a place all to myself that is untainted by Hollywood? The answer sadly is no. Glencoe is very beautiful and is a true Hollywood star (they also filmed Braveheart, Highlander, Rob Roy, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail here). Still, this should be a very nice weekend break for me. I got an Ordnance Survey map from the Clachaig Pub and plotted a route up the Munros.

HRO Karl Willem visits the Highlands


His Royal Orangeness Karl Willem and I are in the highlands of Scotland with a large delegation of Filipino academics. HRO Karl Willem has been feeling claustrophobic in the flat lands of Middle Earth and I will be accompanying him in a ridge traverse and some scrambling. We made our first stop at Loch Lomond.

Thursday, 14 July 2005

What's beneath my thick skull....


Yes, unfortunately for the naysayers, the Nashman does have a normal, fully functioning, and healthy brain. This is a sagittal MRI image of my head courtesy of my friends from the John Radcliffe Functional MRI unit. I volunteered to be a guinea pig of a Hungarian-Polish study on visual deprivation. Basically, I stayed in an MRI machine (which is literally a coffin..), in total darkness for close to one and a half hours. For me, it was the closest thing to being buried alive. When I first got in, it was truly claustrophobic and I had to press the panic button to be let out. Then I realized, it was just the initial smell inside that got in to me. Apparently, the patient before me ate a kebab for lunch thus the sweet onion aroma. Having shrugged off this minor setback, off I slid inside to be blasted with a 4 Tesla magnet. I had hoped that the strong fields would give me superpowers.....each day is filled with great anticipation as to what new powers have been endowed me....and a slew of designers from the best fashion houses are on standby to provide me with the finest costume befitting a superhero.....

Where have you been all these years?


Two of my high school classmates decided we should all meet up in London for a brief meeting to discuss the complex state of affairs of each of our love lives. Ritchie, our class valedictorian, ergo the class geek, flew in from San Francisco for a conference in Warwick. We hooked up in the barrio of Oxford followed by a night out in London. We watched an opera called "The Cricket Recovers", and to this day, I still have nightmares because I can't seem to
understand the point of the ending. Could be because it was based on a Dutch story. (If we saw it in Amsterdam, maybe the "smoke" would have given us the right frame of mind to understand it). Two days later, I hooked up with Aldo, now a medical doctor, at the Tate Modern. He came with high school sweetheart Kerry (who famously attended one of our class meetings at Boy's High....despite being a girl.....). The Tate Modern served a good reminder of how we are after 11 years: Clueless. Yup, the meaning of life evades us all. Finally, Ritchie was able to join us at Leicester square and we had a good 10 minute secret meeting at the square.... (Well, it was next to a junkie shouting incoherent sentences). So what exactly has changed? Not much. I guess when you grow up with your friends, at some point you kinda stop aging. Even with a few wrinkles, and a beer belly, I see them exactly as I saw them 11 years ago.

Living Art - Siesta


What is art but an imitation of life?

Anna and I were walking towards Carnaby Street (made more famous by my favorite spy Austin Powers) when this sculpture caught our attention. However, what you see on the left is a real human being, enjoying a siesta. Very unnerving. I think only a shot of vodka can take that horrible feeling I have in my throat....

The Bridge of Sighs


The banks of the River Cam are blooming with flowers.

A grand welcome from the Heifers of the Other Place


And so, after a year, I found myself back in Cambridge two weekends ago. Sadly, I couldn't get my old room at my college because they've been invaded by the summer conference participants. (There seems to be a conference of every imaginable topic these days). I came with Miki and Ashley to show them around my old haunts and we invaded Leckhampton Manor (courtesy of Lourdes). It's a cool complex with an outdoor pool (too bad it's summer vacation, most of the pretty people are away), and everyone seems to be playing croquet. The main mansion had a baby grand piano and Miki played a couple of nifty tunes. So, I showed them the usual tourist sights (Lourdes filling in the trivia) and walked to Grantchester to have tea under the apple trees. I wanted to show them Byron's Pool (the naturist swimming spot) but I forgot that it was a long walk (bicycles needed) so we decided to meet the locals instead (see picture).

The blog is back


Okey. So I have been lazy updating this blog. My millions of fans (....er, well, two people as of last count) are about to write a eulogy. But then, I tell them, I HAVE a life. I don't have a blog monkey behind my back egging me that my life is worthless unless my blog is up to date.

So why, the sudden resurrection? Well, it's midnight and I'm doing an experiment on a temperamental atomic force microscope. I might as well bore people and clog the net with worthless info about what's been going on with The Nashman.

Recent Highlights:
Our Principal, the great Professor Cashmore grabs me by the arm to introduce me to his 'good friend' Frank Wilczek who won last year's Nobel Prize for Physics. Nevermind that I was totally lost during his lecture on "The Origin of Mass and the Feebleness of Gravity". "You should have known this during high school" he says. Tragic. I remember my high school physics class for the great debate on whether a bullet fired at a distance can shoot a monkey that is just about to drop from a tree branch. Thankfully, I am an expert in the art of diversion that I ask Frank where he got his nice t-shirt (it had a psychedelic picture of a neuron) and other non-geeky questions. He did say "drop me an email if you have questions". To this day I have not a single sensible question to ask him. I slowly make an exit and start drinking all the free champagne.

I watched Live8 (along with 300,000 others) at Hyde Park. Part of the "Make Poverty History" and the "Long March to Justice" movements. It was a sight to behold. Macca and U2 opened the show, with typical Bono flair, followed by Coldplay (with Gwyneth and Apple watching) who did a great duet with Richard Ashcroft ("Bitter Sweet Symphony"). There were lots of surprises, including Bill Gates introducing Dido (who did 7 seconds with Youssou N'dour, amazingly I still know the lyrics). Brad Pitt spoke but I couldn't find Angelina. Annie Lennox's voice was still unchanged (another sing-along with "Sweet Dreams"). I loved REM (because they sang all my high school anthems...cheers Mr. Stipe!). Great sets by Keane, Stereophonics, Joss Stone, Snoop Dog, Razorlight, Madonna, Scissor Sisters and Robbie Williams stole the show (this being England). I was a bit disappointed that The Killers sang only one song. Mariah Carey was the odd one out. I can't believe she was even in the line-up, being the diva that she is. I threw abuse at her shouting on the top of my lungs "Get off the stage bitch!". I think most people felt the same given that this was a concert highlighting the need to eradicate poverty in the world. It was good to hear UB40 (they're still alive???") sing "Red red rose". (No offense to Spaceflower from the Cafe San Luis times, but I needed to hear the original). Sting was great, changing some of the lines of "Every breath you take" with a video montage of the G8 leaders in the background. Following the high school theme, Velvet Revolver did an earbashing heavy metal set. It's nice to see Scot Weiland blend well with Slash and Co. (The other hybrid Audioslave, played concurrently in Berlin. Chris Cornell did an acoustic "Black Hole Sun" with just him on guitar! AND! AND! Chris rapped Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the name of"..I wonder how Zach feels about that one). The Who also played their two songs now used by the TV series CSI, "Who are you" and "Won't get fooled again". And the last band was the great Pink Floyd! After millions of years, they've regrouped just for Live8. Cool. Finally, Macca came back with the rest of the gang to sing "Hey Jude"...Overall, it was a cool way to spend 11 hours of your life.

So there. A brief update of what I can remember happened to me the last few weeks (or months).

Tuesday, 5 July 2005

Studies in Motion


The Death Jump: Me Jumping Over A Person Lying on a Graveyard.