Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog

March 2010

GeneralTuesday, March 23rd, 2010, (12:07 am)

It’s been a tough winter in the UK with record breaking low temperatures, paralyzing snow storms, and perilously icy conditions causing havoc across the country. There surely can’t be many out there who aren’t pleased to see spring on the horizon. However, there is one Englishman who clearly can’t get enough of the arctic weather, so much so that right now he is just north of Ward Hunt Island in Canada. His name is Ben Saunders and he is skiing alone to the north pole!

Ben Saunders alone on the ice once more

I’ve written about Ben before; he’s an inspiring guy. A record-breaking long-distance skier, with three North Pole expeditions under his belt, the youngest person to ski solo to the North Pole, and the record holder for the longest solo Arctic journey by a Briton. Despite his achievements he’s a humble man, describing himself as someone who “specializes in dragging heavy objects around cold places.”

In 2008 his attempt to set a new world speed record for a trek from Ward Hunt Island to the Geographic North Pole was thwarted by an equipment failure after just 8 days.

At the time he was philosophical about the disappointment. “The only true failure would have been not to have started this expedition in the first place.” He said.

It is, therefore, perhaps no surprise that Ben is back on the ice tonight, determined to set that new world speed record from Ward Hunt Island to the Geographic North Pole. The current record of 36 days 22 hours was set in 2005 by a guided team using dog sleds and numerous re-supplies. Ben, however, will be skiing alone, pulling a sledge containing all the food and fuel he needs for the expedition.

Back in 2003 Pen Hadow proved this was possible. It took him a grueling 64 days in which he swam part of the way wearing an immersion suit, fell through the ice, and lost a ski. Ben’s ambitious aim is to halve Hadow’s record and complete the expedition in 30 days.

Ben Saunders.The expedition is a lonely journey of some 478 miles across moving ice in one of the harshest environments on the planet. He’ll be pulling a 60kg sledge in bone chillingly cold temperatures as low as -50°C and -70°C in the wind!

He set off on Monday and you can follow his progress on his blog (updated daily via satellite phone). He does have a Twitter account, though I am not sure if he’ll be updating that too.

Ben will be completely alone in a region spanning more than 5.4 million square miles. That’s a land mass larger than the entire United States of America! He will be reading the comments on his blog while he is out there so I’m sure he would appreciate your words of encouragement as he battles the elements alone.

Unfortunately Ben’s attempt to get to the North Pole was once again brought to a premature and disappointing end by an unexpected equipment failure. A few days after setting off one of the two plastic five-litre fuel containers in the back of Ben’s sledge broke and contaminated nearly all of his food bags.

Upon returning to his Canadian base Ben had to decide whether or not to continue. However, after what I imagine was a time of difficult soul searching, Ben has decided to postpone the expedition until next year.

Ben Saunders : Self portrait, 2010.

“Gale-force winds and a blizzard warning in Resolute this weekend have meant grounded planes and long delays to flights; if I were to try again this year, I’d now be starting in early April.” Said Ben on his website. “To my mind, the combination of unseasonably balmy temperatures (-8 C. in Resolute on Saturday and a scarcely-believable -4 at the Catlin Arctic Survey’s Ice Base) along with a full moon (and the biggest tides; never good news when you’re walking over the sea), high winds and a lot of thin first-year ice off the coast of Cape Discovery spells conditions that will not just be difficult, but irresponsible to take on.”

I can only imagine how disappointing it must be to have essentially minor equipment failures bring months of preparation to an unwelcome end in such a dramatic and desolate place. He’s set to return to the UK this week whereupon he will begin preparation for his 2011 expedition.

Showing that the failure hasn’t effected his sense of humor Ben’s last blog post finished with this humorous request. “If anyone makes a non-leaky fuel bottle they think could handle being in a tumble dryer at -40 degrees C. for about five weeks, I’d love to hear from you.” – You can contact Ben though his website.

Ben Saunders ‘North 2’ website & blog
Ben’s previous ‘North’ blog
Following in Captain Scott’s footsteps
Not like the old days
Ben Saunders on Twitter
Into the great wide open
Be inspired : Ben Saunders

Found on the webFriday, March 19th, 2010, (6:12 pm)

At a card table set up at the county fair in Pamona, California, NPR’s Alex Chadwick conducts a short video interview in his “Interviews 50c” series.

Brooke is a high school sophomore who think her second period math teacher, Mr Belmont, is pretty “Kinda cute,” you know, for an older guy. She estimates his age at 26 and tells an amusing, if somewhat confusing story about how her and her best friend, Jackie… well you know what, I actually didn’t really get what she was talking about. But the interview is funny, in part because she was hoping nobody would find out she though Mr Belmont was cute. Evidently she overlooked this concern when she sat down in front of a microphone, cameras, and a national public radio presenter.

Pinball wizard
Walking the walk
Well dressed wisdom
Crazy in love
Married five times
(Older) Interviews 50c
Slate V

GeneralThursday, March 11th, 2010, (12:20 am)

Three weeks ago I dropped my laptop in the bath for the second time. That might sound rather unusual, however what I find even more unexpected is the fact that it still works perfectly!

The first question I expect you want to ask is what on earth was I doing with my laptop in the bath? The answer is fairly simple – I was watching the latest episode of ‘Lost.’

I used to read books in the bath, but with the steam and heat I found that holding a book was neither relaxing nor practical. I like to soak for long periods of time in baths that are just this side of uncomfortably hot, the idea being that they will cool down over the time I am in soaking amid the bubbles – and yes, there are bubbles too! So you see, the problem with books and the bath is that I often dozed off with a book in my hand; a book that is then quickly transformed into paper mache.

I then came up with the idea of watching movies on my laptop while I soaked in the bath. To me this seemed like the perfect union of relaxation, entertainment, and practical cleanliness. It was, I thought, a masterstroke of time management and life balance efficiency!

I located a glass shelf with plastic feet that fitted neatly across my bathtub. Upon this I would place a small hand towel on which my trusty MacBook would be located while I laid back and enjoyed a movie or TV show. It was all very luxurious and amid the subtle and ambient lighting it felt somewhat decadent too.

Of course, a laptop computer (especially a Mac) is considerably more expensive than a paperback book, so when I first saw the glowing screen plunge into the bath water with near slow motion grace, I had reason to rethink my newly found ‘CineSpa.’

At that moment, while the on-screen action continued, the serenity of the bathroom scene was shattered by the quickly unfolding digital drama. Splashing around like swimmer caught in the jaws of a shark I thrashed a watery exit from the tub and reached beneath the bubbles to rescue the MacBook. Initially, like the band on the deck of the Titanic, it continued to work as if nothing were wrong. However, a few moments later the screen flickered then went black as all noise from the laptop ceased and silence fell upon the bathroom.

That was more than two years ago, and surprisingly enough the plunge didn’t kill the MacBook. Like the ‘Six Million Dollar Man‘ the laptop was rebuilt, better and stronger than before. Maybe the wiser thing to have done would have been to revert back to reading soggy books, but I decided to continue with my ‘CineSpa’ times, discovering many a good movie in the tub; The Bucket List, Into the Wild, and Grizzly Man to name but a few.

As the final season of ‘Lost’ got underway there was no denying this was inescapably perfect ‘CineSpa’ material. So as temperatures outside dipped to near arctic lows, I slid into a dangerously hot bath to lose myself in a double bill of the hit TV series while sipping an ice cold deep red berry smoothie.

An hour or so into the show I decided to get out of the tub to go and fix myself another drink. I shut the laptop to save my place in the TV show and reserve battery power, then I stepped out of the bath. At that point, quite how I am not entirely sure, the shelf that the laptop was sat upon lost its footing and an empty drink glass, a half eaten orange, and my gleaming white MacBook fell into the steaming hot water beneath a shroud of cinnamon smelling bubbles.

I quickly snatched the MacBook from the water and held it over the bath as water poured from its various ports. The cold air turned blue as I cursed loudly while quickly removing the battery and calculating how many books I would have to drop in the bath to equal the cost of one drenched MacBook. How on earth did this happen again? I though to myself.

PictureBox hand pick a shortlist of great on demand films to watch every month.After four days drying out like a drunkard recovering from a hard weekend of liquor lubricated wildness, I tentatively coaxed the MacBook back to life. To my complete surprise it sprang back to life like and began playing ‘Lost’ from the very point where I had paused it before it took the plunge. There seemed to be no ill effects whatsoever.

It’s been more than three weeks now and still the MacBook is behaving as if nothing untoward has happened. Indeed, this post was written on the very MacBook in question. So will this spell an end of laptop use in the bath? Not at all! Besides, it would take something like 30 or so paperback books to equal the current cost of a new MacBook, and at the slow rate I read that equates to something like 11 years in the bath, in which time I would expect to upgrade my laptop about 3 or 4 times. So by that calculation I’m still winning! Sure, that might not be science, but it’s logic as far as I am concerned.

Bubble trouble
Teen dies while twittering in bathtub
Laptop-in-the-bath ad banned
Underwater love