Thursday, 31 December 2009

VAT Back to 17.5% Tomorrow

It's the new year and the year long drop in VAT to 15% is over.  As of tomorrow, the despicable tax returns to full whack and I wonder just what help it has offered?

The Government cut VAT last December in an attempt to boost consumer spending during the economic downturn.  It was estimated that the strategy move deprived the Treasury of about £11 billion.

Shops have calculated that the change cost them £90 million to implement and say they will incur a similar charge to change it back.

So who benefited?  Not the customer, that's for sure.  Quite the most futile exercise of the year and indicative of this current Government.

The centre for economics and business research estimates that the VAT cut helped to improve consumer spending by nearly £7 billion.  It also argues that reverting to the original level could damage the economy if customers stop spending afterwards. 

Milk & Alcohol

If the dairy industry in Britain were suddenly no longer able to use by-products of the Scotch Whisky distilling process as feed, milk prices would rise approximately 23.8% inside of a week.

Modest as Ever

“Us of all people.  I’m not sure we deserve it. You start off rebellious, a teenager in a band, but you end up being part of the Establishment.” 

- Francis Rossi after hearing that he and Rick Parfitt had just been awarded OBEs for services to charity and music.

And still no knighthood for Bruce Forsyth?  Utterly wrong.  :-(

Three Wheels on my Wagon...

Potholes cost British motorists £1 million a day in repair bills, it has just been claimed, an increase of a third in the past year. also said that £8.5 billion was needed to bring Britain's roads “up to scratch”.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said that councils filled a record one million potholes last year and spent an extra £10.9 million on pothole repairs, however, it has been suggested that even if English councils were given the money needed to repair their roads, it would take them 11 years to clear their current backlog.

The Asphalt Industry Alliance estimates that British drivers encounter a pothole every 120 yards.

It can't be much fun driving in the UK.

Full On X-Rays

Full body scanners are capable of seeing through clothes and displaying an outline of the body underneath on a screen and they are now being considered as mandatory by many airports to combat the rising risk of an attack.

They are currently being tested at a number of airports and laboratories in Britain as well as in the United States and Europe and they work by bouncing tiny microwaves off passengers and producing a very detailed outline of what lies beneath their clothes.

They are controversial because the image is so detailed it shows male genitals and female breasts and critics argue they are an invasion of privacy akin to a "virtual strip search".  In order to allay these fears, the technology is being tweaked to blur the head of each scanned individual or obscure the individual's genitals.

The scanning procedure can also be arranged so that the machine operators do not see the images of the people they scan.  In that case, the images produced can be analyzed by staff members in an isolated room elsewhere in the airport, who then notify workers at the terminals if a problem appears.

How long before the operatives can make a claim for danger money?  Some of the passengers we've  travelled with are like lumbering gargoyles and can't be that pretty a la nod.  Article from TTel.

Flying to the States?

Passengers are facing an array of new security checks and restrictions both at the airport and on board flights following in the wake of the Denver near attack. Here are the main pieces of advice from airlines, as per TTel:

British Airways

BA has imposed a one-bag limit on all hand baggage on all US routes to allow extra security checks. Charges for placing extra hand luggage in the hold have been temporarily relaxed as a result.
Although BA does not want people to turn up at airports early, once they are there it is appealing to passengers to make their way to the departure gates as soon as possible to make time for extra searches.

Most Virgin Atlantic passengers were already limited to one item of hand baggage but the restriction has now been extended to its “Upper class” ticket holders. As with BA, those who unaware of the changes will be able to check in the extra hand baggage free.
Some passengers were initially told to bring books because the in-flight entertainment system was switched off but the confusion has now been resolved.
Passengers are asked not to arrive at the airport earlier than usual but are being advised to head to departure gates quickly.

Unlike BA and Virgin, Delta is asking people to arrive as early as possible for their flights and expect delays because of the new security checks.
Hand baggage is already restricted to one item so there are no changes to the rules but during the last hour of the flight all personal items must be stowed away. The ban extends to electrical items, blankets and even pillows.
United Airlines

Passengers are being asked to allow extra time for the check-in and the boarding process although no specific new limits have been imposed. There are also no changes to hand luggage rules.
With flights affected by delays of around an hour, passengers are urged to check before setting off for information.

Passengers are being asked to arrive four hours early instead of the standard three to make time for the extra security checks.
As with other airlines, passengers are being subjected to a second search at the departure gate.
American Airlines

Travellers are being asked to arrive three hours before their scheduled flight and check for updates on any possible delays in advance. No specific changes to hand baggage limits. 

I wonder how far off we are before passengers will not be accepted with any luggage and have to turn up stark bollock naked?

Words of the Year 2009

TTel checks out OEDs (Oxford English Dictionary) "words" of the year:

Bossnapping – noun: (in France) the prevention of senior managers from leaving company premises for a period of time by their employees, in order to protest about large-scale redundancies and cutbacks

Zombie bank – noun: a financial institution whose liabilities are greater than its assets, but which continues to operate because of government support
Geoengineering/ecohacking – noun: the deliberate large-scale manipulation of an environmental process that affects the earth's climate, in an attempt to counteract the effects of global warming.

Jeggings – plural noun: close-fitting leggings made of fabric that resembles denim in appearance [from jeans + leggings]

Minute mentoring – noun: a system of advising aspiring professionals based on the format of speed-dating.

Phantonym – noun: a word that looks as it if means one thing but in fact means something quite different. [from ‘phantom + antonym]
(for example fulsome, used by President Obama to mean ‘full’, when in fact it is now chiefly used in reference to excessive flattery).

Tweetup – noun: a meeting or other gathering organised by means of posts on the social networking service Twitter. [from tweet + up on the pattern of MEETUP]

Staycation – noun: a holiday spent in one's home country rather than abroad, or one spent at home and involving day trips to local attractions

Simples – exclamation: used to say that something is very easy to achieve [from the 'compare the meerkat' TV advert]

Great Recession – noun: term for the current recession, modelled on the Great Depression.

Hashtag – noun: a # [hash] sign added to a word or phrase that enables Twitter users to search for tweets (postings on the Twitter site) that contain similarly tagged items and view thematic sets.

Freemium – noun: a business model in which some basic services are provided for free, with the aim of enticing users to pay for additional, premium features or content

Paywall – noun: a way of blocking access to a part of a website which is only available to paying subscribers

Unfriend/defriend – verb: to remove from one's ‘friends’ list (e.g. on a social networking website)

Tag cloud – noun: a visual depiction of the word content of a website, or of user-generated tags attached to online content, typically using colour and font size to represent the prominence or frequency of the words or tags depicted.

Slashdot effect – noun: the slowing down or crashing of a small website due to a huge increase in traffic when the website is linked to another, much more popular one.

Newly topical

Snollygoster – noun: a shrewd, unprincipled person, especially a politician

Redact – verb: censor or obscure (part of a text) for legal or security purposes.

Epigenome – noun: the pattern of chemical switches in all 2000 types of human cell that indexes genetic information 

May I suggest a few more?

Utshit- adjective: to describe utter shit.
Tossarse- noun:  someone who is a combination of a tosser and an arsehole.
Dinkers- noun:  dickless wankers. 
Intards-  noun: inbred retards who pollute the air all sane people breathe and thus add to the global warming concern.

All applicable to the morons that "invent" these phrases and to those that then give them publicity, and who then pat themselves on the back for "broadening the English language".  You're running it down the pan.  :-(

New Year's Honours List

Normally I am not a great fan of famous people getting awards for being famous or being in the public eye.  However, I am rather chuffed that Status Quo have been recognised and wish them continued success as they tour around the country with their Zimmer frames and wheelchairs.
Keep on rocking.

Half a Pint

The Weights and Measures Act 1985 stipulates that a pint of beer should be exactly that, but the brewing and pub industry has consistently argued the law does not mean the pint should be 100% full of liquid.  A 1982 court ruling stipulated that a head of froth was "an integral part" of a pint, and it was fair to serve the drink as such, provided the head was "not excessive or unreasonable".

The industry subsequently drew up guidelines that a pint should be at least 95% liquid after the head had collapsed, according to the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA). 

A recent investigation however, has shown that almost nine out of ten pints are being sold short, which means the customer ends up paying for air as the average shortfall is three quarters of a fluid ounce (22 ml) or 3.94%.  Critics say the practice costs customers £400 million a year.

And yet nothing officially is done.  Now there is a surprise.

More Pumping Up of Prices

Motorists are being warned to expect petrol price rises of 15p a litre in 2010 as new taxes and increasing market costs are passed on at the pumps.  The increase in VAT that comes into effect on New Year's Day will see prices rise by 2.5p a litre, with further jumps predicted throughout the year as the Government attempts to squeeze more revenue from drivers.

By the end of the year Britain's 33 million drivers can expect to be paying 123p (never wins in a game of darts) for a litre of unleaded, up from the current price of 108p.

More at TTel.

Wot Woz Ritten [sic]

TTel recently asked its readers to send in examples of "worst offences against English spelling", after it spotted a sign for “Holly Reaves £5″.  Fortunately, the Blog escaped criticism this time; others weren't so lucky:

1) “Today’s Special - Sweat and Sour Pork”. Spotted on a signboard outside a pub in Bristol.

2) “Do you think I am a physic?” Note on package, written by a disgruntled postman about an incorrect address.

3) “Available for parties and fates”, read the message on the side of a van.

4) “Guilt-edged frames, advertised in Yellow Pages.

5) “Chester Draws”, on sale outside a shop in Moseley, Birmingham. 

6) “Hambag sale”, said the sign in a shop window in Liverpool. Another advertised “Ruby cubes for sale.” 

7) “USE BOTH TURNSTILES.” Impossible instruction to users of the lavatories at Waverley railway station in Edinburgh.

8) “No Fishin’, No Smokin’ No drinkin’ No Sea-&-Eye dogs (no seeing-eye dogs)”. Sign on beach/pier in North Carolina earlier this year. 

9) “Sid Viscous is innocent”, spotted on the back of a denim jacket in the 1970s.

10) “Carits 30p a pound”, at a fruiterer’s market stall, “Pertatoes for Sale” and “Straberris” for sale outside a farm.

Perhaps Santa bought them all dictionaries?

Literal Translation?

Lady Parking

A Chinese shopping centre has built a car park specially designed for women- with pink walls and wider spaces.  The "Lady Parking" car park has spaces which are a metre wider than conventional gaps and  has increased signs to help female drivers find their way out.

They have even employed specially trained parking attendants to guide women drivers into and out of, the extra-large spaces.  Management at the Wanxiang Tiancheng shopping centre in Shijiazhuang say the "Lady Parking" car park has been designed specifically with women in mind.

From NewsLite.

Not a word from me...  :oD

Is That It?

As adults return to work following the festive period, children across the nation have today asked if a year of good behaviour was really worth a couple of days playing with toys they’re already bored with.

After a year of financial difficulty for many families, budgets have been stretched to give frankly ungrateful children a series of over-priced plastic novelty items that already been discarded for ever.

Seven year old Tarquin Copson-James told us, “Santa has let me down, frankly.  I don’t buy all this recession rubbish.”

“All year long my parents have told me that Santa was watching me to make sure I was well behaved, and I was.”

“Yet all I got was a PS3, a quad bike, a football goal, some transformers, a spiderman, remote control car and about a dozen other things I haven’t even opened yet, but they’ll be rubbish, I just know it.”

“I have to tell you, a year spent fighting my natural urge to behave like an out of control psychopathic shit really doesn’t seem worth it.”


Parents groups have defended the commercialisation of the holiday, claiming the threat of Santa seeing them is the only thing stopping their broods turning every home into a modern reenactment of Lord of the Flies.

Concerned parent Sharon Foster said, “For the last few years my standard disciplinary technique has been to shout ‘Santa is taking notes you know’”

“But if the kids don’t appreciate the tat I buy them after the threats, where is my leverage?  No, you don’t understand, my kids are evil, I am genuinely frightened where this will all end.”

One parent told us, “Next year I’m going to hire a hypnotist to make my kids think they’ve had all these great presents, and that they are already bored of them - it will be much, 
much cheaper.”


Loaded Strings

Though the guitar has existed in a recognisable form since the 13th century, standard guitar tuning (E-A-D-G-B-E) was not invented until 1891.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Porsche Hits the Piste

Porsche has launched a £328 sledge to help Britons make the most of the snow:

Sledge by Porsche: Porsche launch £328 sledge
The sleek aluminium sledge by Porsche has stainless steel runners and black imitation leather seat

The company has developed the sleek sledge with an aluminium racing frame, stainless steel runners and a black imitation leather seat, complete with the famous Porsche logo. It is hard-wearing, waterproof and has no loose parts- it even folds up for easy storage and can be ready for use in seconds.

You may not be able to afford the car, but the sledge could well be the next best thing.  That's neat.

Less is More, Right?

Any Mac fans?  This made me smile.  ;-)

Titles of the Year

TTel list the top 100 popular baby names of 2009.  We don't do kids so have the top 10 of each and follow the link for the rest if you fancy:

TOP 10 BOYS 2009:

1. Jack
2. Oliver
3. Charlie
4. Harry
5. Alfie
6. Thomas
7. Joshua
8. William
9. James
10. Daniel

TOP 10 GIRLS 2009:

1. Olivia
2. Ruby
3. Sophie
4. Chloe
5. Emily
6. Grace
7. Jessica
8. Lily
9. Amelia
10. Evie

29th December

Did you know that yesterday was the "guiltiest" day of the year?  It is the day when most people wish they had avoided over eating over the Christmas period and feel regret over not doing enough around the house.

A panel of 2 000  people were asked to specify a moment of maximum embarrassment over their excesses– including eating, drinking and idleness in front of the TV and 40% of those polled said that the day in the middle of the festive period (four days after Christmas and three days before New Year) was the time they felt worst about themselves.  

It is also the day that millions decide on a New Year's resolution– whether it be giving up cigarettes, alcohol or fatty food or joining a gym and getting fit.

I believe we have a gym downstairs.  I have never used it and that is how it is going to stay.  New Year's resolution #1 for karTER.  :o)

Cheers to 2010

With New Year's Eve tomorrow, you'll no doubt be having a few extra.  Here's how it's going to cost you...

Unwanted Gifts

As research indicates that British shoppers wasted £1.7 billion on unwanted Christmas presents this year, TTel explains how to return, recycle and resell.


Provided you know where your gift was bought, this should be the first port of call. Retailers are not obliged by law to offer refunds or exchanges items, simply because you do not want the item. But in practice most large stores have fairly flexible return policies, particularly at this time of year.

If you want your money back – as opposed to an exchange, or a credit note – then you will need the receipt. Some stores, such as M&S, now offer "gift receipts" which can be included in presents without revealing the price.

A receipt also ensures that you get the full value that the goods were sold for. Without a receipt any refund will be for its current value, and given most sales now start before Christmas this could be significantly less.

Remember if you relatives have bought this item with a debit or credit card you won't get money back, even with a receipt. The stores will simply put the credit back onto their card. So unless you are on very good terms with your relatives – and know they won't mind posting a cheque for £50, to replace that delightful reindeer-covered sweater – it is probably better to opt for an exchange instead.

If you don't have a receipt should swap items, or offer a credit note, provided they are confident the goods where bought from their store. This shouldn't be too much of a problem with clothes, which should have labels and attached-tags. But if you are trying to swap DVDs, CDs, books or games you may run into problems. But if such items are still wrapped in Cellophane, with security tags attached you may be able to exchange them. It's also worth noting that some stores will take back these items if they are in perfect condition and they know they can resell them, but this is not guaranteed.

If you receive electrical goods or gadgets that you think you may want to exchange don't take them out of the box. If remove that bread-maker or universal remote control from its packaging you may not be able to get a refund, even if it has never been used. John Lewis, for example, will reduce the refund price of electrical goods where the packaging has been removed, even if you've managed to fit it all nicely back in the box again.

It is also important to apply for refunds promptly. Most stores will only exchange goods for 28-days after purchase. Even Marks & Spencer, which has always had one of the most generous "no quibble" return policies on the high street, will now only exchange goods for up to 35 days. Previously shoppers had 90 days to exchange any goods.

And remember a sizeable proportion of your relatives and friends may have bought this presents well in advance of the last minute Christmas rush, so don't delay, get into the snaking customer service queues at the earliest opportunity.


If you can't exchange it, you can always sell it for money. Prior to eBay the only option was a car boot sale or putting an advert in your local newspaper, which is hardly likely to shift a soap and talc set or a pair of comedy socks. But the internet has made it much easier to sell such products – although don't expect to mark much from the above examples.

The auction site eBay has even come up with a new term to lessen the guilt: rather ungratefully flogging your gifts to the highest bidder you are merely "rehoming" them.
Setting up an account is straightforward. There are a couple of online forms to fill in and eBay will conduct a credit search. If you also open a PayPal account you will be able to accept electronic payments, greatly increasing your chance of a sale. This means more online forms and credit checks to complete.
It pays to take note of the "selling tips" listed on the sight. Items are more likely to sell if there is a clear, simple description of the item and a good photograph.

Sellers pay a flat "insertion fee"- which is dependant the your starting price. There is no fee to pay for items listed for 99p or less, while items with a reserve price of £100 or more will pay the maximum £1.90 insertion fee. In addition sellers will pay 10 per cent of the final sale price (if it doesn't sell there is nothing further to pay). For those selling big ticket items the maximum that will be charged will be £40.

Although eBay is the biggest online auction site it isn't the only one out there. In fact its sheer size can be a drawback; if there are 30-odd copies of Jeremy Clarkson's "Driven to Distraction" book up there, your copy may be overlooked.

As the biggest player it also charges some of the highest prices, so it can be worth shopping around. There are a number of regional sites to try, such as This allows people to sell items for a set price, rather than auction them. Those logging on can find goods for sale in their local area – this is particularly useful for those selling large items where postal costs would be prohibitive.

Alternatively try eBid (, CQout (, PriceMinister ( and Vivastreet ( Both Amazon and also allow users to sell on books, CDs, DVDs and computer games.


If a trace of Christmas spirit still flows through your veins, and has not been diluted by excess alcohol, you can always donate unwanted presents to charity. Oxfam says it sees a significant increase in donations at this time of year, mainly of books, CDs and toiletries. Other charity shops report a similar trend.

A spokeswoman for Oxfam, says: "Very often, these gifts are simply unwanted because they don't suit the donor's tastes. There is nothing intrinsically awful about the item itself."
Charity shops can also benefit from duplicate gifts. Often people get multiple copies of best-sellers like Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. These type of presents sell well, which is good news for your chosen charity.

Oxfam says if it's new, unused and in good condition that are likely to want it. But the condition is vital. Charities shops are not interested in damaged goods or broken toys. If it's a case of wondering whether you should throw it in the bin or give it to Oxfam, then it is probably not of much use to the charity shop.


If you can't swap your gift you can always recycle it, and pass it on to someone else. "Regifting", as it is known in the US, is becoming increasingly popular, if consumer surveys are to be believed, and is increasingly seen as a environmentally-friendly way of disposing of all those pairs of socks and handkerchief sets. It may not be an instant money-spinner, but it could save you opening the wallet to pay for birthday, or even Christmas gifts, next year.

For those looking to dispose of presents this way there are a few pointers to bear in mind. It goes without saying that you should keep a record of who has sent you which present. No one wants to commit the ultimate faux-pas of returning a present to the original sender. But it also pays to ensure the new recipient has no connection to the original sender. It could be red-faces all round if Great Aunt Ruby comments how she bought a brooch for you just like the one your sister is wearing.

It also helps to keep items in their original packaging, there is less chance of people spotting their gift is second-hand. So if you know you are never going to watch the box set of the second series of Only fools and Horses, keep the Cellophane on.

It also makes sense to renew any wrapping – don't just rewrap in the same crumpled paper. There are a host of other tips recycling gifts on

Save Wedge in 2010 has compiled a list of money saving tips which "are hilarious but genuine money-saving tips from our readers".  Here they are:


1. Getting so worked up by an exciting article that blood pressure goes up thereby increasing body temperature and reducing the need for heating.

2. Use Parsley wine for its longevity because 'it still tastes like medicine after 15 years.

3. Send the kids round to friends' houses around dinnertime. The advice is that it works best if they practice acting hungry first.

4. Harvesting roadkill. Note when not to harvest: "...either due to excessive flatness or length of time it's been baking in the sun."

5. Pick up every coin you find. A couple who have spent the last 12 years picking up every coin they have ever found amassed £360,000.

6. Use your leftovers. Cut up used greetings cards and use the pieces to make new ones. With children going to a dozen parties every year it saves pounds.

7. Hang onto the outside of the bus.

8. Take a bath once a year and save GBP30. Do it with a friend and save double.

9.Roasted dandelion root is an excellent coffee substitute (and it's de-caf).

10. Brew your own beer and wine. You'll save money and you'll save on housing costs when you spend six months in rehab paid for by the NHS.

11. Maximise the cats potential. One reader 'whiteburn' apparently "trained one cat to sit on knee and other to drape itself round neck, saving on heating."

12. Choose parking carefully
 "Choose the far empty corner of the car park, so you can drive in forwards and out forwards saving about, err, 5p?

13. Don't flush every time.

14. Save your wee in milk cartons, water down and use as a high nitrate fertiliser. Double save on fertiliser and water.

15. Move back home with the parents.

16. Save money on carpeting by gluing a square of carpet onto each shoe.

17. Use carpet cast offs.
One reader who followed the tip said 'The floor was multicoloured but looked great and was all done for free because my dad had gone round the carpet shops and asked for any they were throwing out."

18. Turn the thermostat down then save money by selling my freezer, boiler and radiators.

19. Holiday House swap.
Think this through as Louise600's circumstances may not be conducive: "I wonder if anyone will ever want a holiday swap to Huddersfield?"

20. If you're going out, turn your doorbell off to save on electricity bills.

A Single Sheet of Paper

Artist: Peter Callesen from here.  Wow.

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Phil Taylor to Make it Lucky 13?

Phil Taylor stayed on course for his 13th PDC World Darts (Professional Darts Corporation) title with a 4-1 third-round win over Scotland's Robert Thornton at Alexandra Palace.  He will play Adrian Lewis in the quarter-finals after Lewis beat Kevin McDine 4-0.

The last eight match between Taylor, 49, and Lewis, 24, will take place on New Year's Day and has all the makings of a titanic encounter.  Between them, they hold the six highest three-dart averages in the tournament so far, with Lewis topping the charts with his 106.51.

Lewis, the eighth seed, has never beaten Taylor in a televised match, but believes this could be his year.

I like Taylor and have had the privilege of getting stuffed by him when I played him, many tears ago.  He is simply awesome and rarely misses.  Go, Taylor.

More at the BBC.

Liverpool Win

But it's good news for us, as the Reds beat Aston Villa with a goal in the 93rd minute.  That means that Tottenham stay in 4th place and I can't remember the last time we were so high in the league going in to the new year.

Unfortunately Man City have a game in hand and will go above us if they win, but for the moment allow me to wallow in my personal vertigo.

Premier League table

Position Team P GD PTS

1 Chelsea 20 29 45
2 Man Utd 19 22 40
3 Arsenal 18 27 38
4 Tottenham 20 20 37
5 Man City 19 11 35
6 Aston Villa 20 11 35
7 Liverpool 20 12 33
8 Birmingham 20 2 32
9 Fulham 19 5 27
10 Sunderland 20 -3 23
11 Everton 19 -6 22
12 Stoke 19 -8 21
13 Blackburn 20 -15 21
14 Burnley 20 -18 20
15 Wigan 18 -18 19
16 Wolves 20 -19 19
17 West Ham 20 -9 18
18 Bolton 18 -10 18
19 Hull 20 -22 18
20 Portsmouth 19 -11 14

World's Greatest City: 50 Reasons Why Bangkok is No 1

And having just mentioned Bangkok in the previous post, Hanna sends this article from CNN over.  We couldn't agree more, we love the place but please excuse the American  spelling ;-)

1. Most accomplished monarch

Although His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej spends much of his time outside of Bangkok, the city is pivotal to his (and his ancestors’) reign. Revered as semi-divine by Thais, he’s been more than just a moral compass for his 60-plus years on the throne. His Majesty was born in Cambridge, educated in Switzerland, he speaks multiple languages and holds several agricultural patents.
He composes (and plays) some mean jazz, designs sailboats, is an accomplished painter and photographer, was the first recipient of the UN’s Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award and, oh yeah, is the longest reigning monarch on Earth.

Golden Buddha at Wat Traimit
Golden Buddha at Wat Traimit.

2. Statue with the craziest back story

In 1955, renovators dropped a five-ton 13th-century image of the Buddha, cracking its plaster casing. Horror gave way to awe when they realized that, underneath, it was in fact made of gold, covered up to fool the invading Burmese back in the day.
A brand new temple, Wat Traimit, has just been finished to augment the glitz factor.
661 Tri Mit Road, Talat Noi, Samphanthawong, near the Hualumphong Train Station, tel +66 (0)2 509 9091

3. Real cities have long names

Known as Krung Thep to locals, the full name of Bangkok -- given by Rama I, first king of the still-reigning Chakri dynasty in the late 1700s -- is Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. Try to fit that on your tax return.

4. Most ornate palace

Filled with over 54 acres of spiky temple spires, gold-plated walls and overly elaborate painting, sculpture and metalwork, the Grand Palace was once the private home of the Thai monarch, but is now Bangkok’s most-visited attraction. Check out the mural of the Ramayana along the inner wall, the longest wall painting in the world.
Tha Chang Pier, tel +66 (0)2 623 5500 ext 3100

Pig brain soup
A hearty bowl of pig brain soup.

5. An outrageous variety of street food

Bangkok’s well-deserved reputation for 24-hour street food gets crazier with each corner. Barbecued duck tongues and soup made from bird saliva are passé. Head to Phraeng Phuton a few blocks west of the Giant Swing in Chinatown to indulge in some pig brain soup that’s surprisingly good … if you can forget that it’s pig brain soup.

6. See it while you can

Built on a vast expanse of plains and river deltas at an elevation of about six feet, the entire city is sinking into the muck at the rate of about three inches per year, say scientists. Like Van Gogh or the one from Milli Vanilli who's not still alive, you're only going to love us more when we're gone.

7. See a sunburned British college kid dance in the street with a tipsy African businesswoman while downing a falafel sandwich and a Laotian beer

The (in)famous Khao San Road is still the champion of whacked-out people watching, with every nationality, age, color, occupation, education level and smell getting equal representation. Take a seat on the curb outside of Buddy’s Bar and get to know the local punk rockers who flock here for after-hours beers. 

Movie poster shop
The coolest movie poster shop ever.

8. Best little movie poster shop in the East

This tiny closet of a space is home to the densest collection of new and classic movie posters this side of Hollywood. When owner Mr. Santi isn’t here selling to collectors from all over Asia, he’s on the web trolling for lost treasures. Best find: original Thai-language posters for Star Wars, Apocalypse Now and The Great Escape.
236/6-7, Siam Square Soi 2, Rama 1 Road (next to Lido Theater)

9. Reddest red light district

Pat Pong is watered down and clogged with tourists. Nana Plaza is big, but too crowded. But Soi Cowboy (BTS Asok; MRT Sukhumvit) is big enough to have fun, and small enough that you won’t lose any friends. Its neon glow can be seen for miles around, and a quick drink with the boys here can turn into a night that few remember but no one will forget.

10. Hang out with Thai-Chinese octogenarians as they argue, gamble, smoke, play mahjong, smoke, drink coffee, spit and smoke

Iae Sae coffee shop on Chinatown’s Padsai Road has been straining java for 60 years. The coffee’s actually nothing special, but the lively, loud clientele will entertain for hours. Raise a glass to the gaffer at the next table and he might regale you with wild tales of a time when the area was accessed by dirt paths and tram lines.
42 Padsai Road, Yaowarat, Samphantawong

Took Lae Dee
Took Lae Dae, like the name suggests, is cheap and good. Very good.

11. Best all-night food counter

Took Lae Dee (cheap and good) at the 24-hour Foodland grocery store on Sukhumvit soi 5 is great for breakfast, lunch or a hair-of-the-dog nightcap at 4am. Its krapow gai (fried chicken and basil) is unforgettable, as is the motley crew that will be sharing the counter with you. 
87 Nai Lert Building, Soi 5, Sukhumvit Road, tel +66 (0)2 254 2179

12. The market to end all markets

You’re not a serious shopper until you can spend a day at Chatuchak Weekend Market without screaming for help. It’s a 35-acre maze of aisles and alleys that offers solid wood furniture, pets from around the globe, original art, old comic books, antiques, plants and clothes from every decade since the Great Depression.
BTS: Mochit, MRT: Chatuchak Park or Khampaeng Phet 

13. Watch the sun set above the little people

Sirocco sits on the roof of Silom Road’s 64-story State Tower, giving diners a near-360-degree view of the entire city. If the US$10 chocolate martinis from the bar that pulses with pastel lights aren’t enough, get a bottle of the Chateau Petrus 1990, Pomerol AOC Bordeaux, a steal at $3,600. Those with vertigo are advised to stay away from the edge -- a four-foot glass wall is the only thing separating you from an exciting BASE jump. 
State Tower, 1055 Silom Road, tel +66 (0)2 624 9999

14. A pretty girl can sell anything

From Burger King promotions and temple fairs to 7-Eleven giveaways, the ubiquitous ‘pretty girl’ and her flashy, colorful outfit are there to make sure you pay attention to whatever it is that's being hawked. If you … hey! Are you paying attention? I’m pretty!

Learn to speak Englash like a pro.

15. Intermittently hilarious business names

Japan has the market locked on Engrish, but Thailand takes the ‘Thinglish’ ball and runs with it. From "Hair Saloons" to "Englash Programs" to names we can’t reprint on a family website, a wary eye will often reward you with comedy gold.

16. Steak that will break the bank

Anyone can cook a slab of beef, but few in Asia can cook it as skillfully as the JW Marriott’s New York Steakhouse. It ain’t cheap, but after a meal here, the next time you slum it at McDonald’s your stomach will churn and gurgle in protest.
4 Sukhumvit Road, Soi 2, +66 (0)2 656 7700

17. Most ironic monument to consumerism

Why anyone would go to Bangkok and buy a genuine Gucci shirt that’s just as -- if not more -- expensive as it is back home is beyond us, but who are we to judge? The local "hi-sos" certainly enjoy their luxury brands. The lower levels of Paragon shopping mall (BTS: Siam) are packed with restaurants and teenyboppers, but the other four floors are chock with high-end merchandise, from Lamborghinis to McIntosh stereos.

18. Eager (too eager?) bathroom attendants

Men using the urinals at many bars and clubs might be startled when a strong pair of hands grabs theirs shoulders. Don’t whip around with your zipper down ready for a fight -- it’s just the bathroom attendant, who will put a hot towel on your neck and give you a quick shoulder rub -- for a small tip. If you find this creepy, like many do, just say "no thanks."

Middle Eastern food
Bangkok's best Middle East cuisine can be found off Sukhumvit soi 3.

19. Best Middle Eastern food outside the Middle East

Bangkok is a huge melting pot of undiluted cultures, and with culture comes cultural food. Sukhumvit soi 3/1 (BTS: Nana) is lined with Middle Eastern restaurants that won’t disappoint.
Burqa-clad women and Nigerian fashionistas mingle amid hawkers of laser lights and imported Arabian perfume. The steering-wheel-sized bread baked fresh in wood ovens is perfect for scooping up freshly prepared hummus and tahini.

20. Cutest attempts to suppress teen hormones

Mill around any known teen hangout on Valentine’s Day, and you’ll likely see a lot more police than usual. The boys in brown are out in force on February 14th -- usually with press in tow -- to deter any amorous youths from doing anything more than holding hands. Because, obviously, the first place teenagers go to make out is a bench at the shopping mall.

21. Eat among forgotten 20th-century curios

A night at Tuba, on Soi Ekkamai, is like partying in Grandma’s attic. Ancient glasswork, 1950s pop culture iconography and oddly shaped furniture give each dark and musty corner its own unique dose of kitsch. Best part? Every bit of it is for sale.
11-12A Soi Ekkamai 21, Sukhumvit 63, tel +66 (0)2 711 5500

Green bus
Beware the little green bus.

22. Adrenaline-fueled affordable mass transit

It’s not perfect, but for what Bangkok’s mass transit system offers, the prices can’t be beat: $0.25 canal taxis, $0.50 river taxis and buses, $1 taxicab flag fall and $1.25 end-to-end skytrain and subway rides. Throw in the haggle-happy tuk-tuks and motorbike taxis and the permutations are complex enough to make those "Amazing Race" amateurs throw in the towel.
Privately-owned green minibuses are the bulls in Bangkok’s china shop. Often seen flying around corners with the ticket attendant hanging out of the door with one hand, bored out of his mind, they don’t offer the safest trip from A to B via S, but it’s certainly not the dullest.

23. Party like it’s 1989

The house band at Rock Pub, next to the Rachathewi BTS station, belts out classics from Guns N’ Roses, Warrant, Ozzy and Iron Maiden at astonishing volumes. Put on your leathers and aviator shades and walk in with your fist held high.
Hollywood Street Building, Phrayathai Road, BTS: Rachathewi, tel +66 (0)2 251 9980

24. Best place to see cutting-edge trends that you don’t get

On weekends, the maze of shopping aisles at Siam Square (BTS: Siam) is crowded with teenagers wearing the latest and greatest Bangkok fashions. In vogue this week: outrageously impractical high heels; eyeglasses with no lenses and teased hair that recalls the glory days of Joan Jett. Begin shaking fist at darn kids in 3, 2, 1...

Chuwit's campaign billboards were simply awesome.

25. Swinging-est politician

They don’t come much livelier than Chuwit Kamolvisit, the massage parlor tycoon-cum-politician. After an alleged kidnapping following his threats to release the names of the people he’s given "gifts" to, he unsuccessfully ran for governor of Bangkok -- twice -- and had most of the city’s power elite sweating when he said he had hours of security camera footage from his various after-hours establishments. His in-your-face campaign billboards are sadly no more.

26. It's easy to give back

There are plenty of worthy charities in Thailand, and most are based or have offices in Bangkok. The language barrier and various levels of mismanagement often make it difficult to find something, but a local blogger named Dwight Turner has put a lot of work into separating the wheat from the chaff.

27. Eat without touching your food

If you’re feeling lazy -- really lazy -- the helpful girls at the aptly named "No Hand Restaurant" (there are several around the city) will help you out by actually putting food in your mouth for you, leaving your hands free for other more worthy pursuits, such as drinking beer or playing PSP.
19 Rama IV Road Sri Phraya, tel +66 (0)2 235 5000

28. Great food where you least expect it

Pantip Plaza, the dingy Roman-columned monument to all things tech, has a surprisingly awesome food court on the 3rd floor. Try the khao soi gai (chicken and egg noodles in a tangy coconut curry), dished up by possibly the surliest old lady since "The Goonies."
604/3 Petchaburi Road, BTS: Chidlom, tel +66 (0)2 251 9008

Benjasiri Park
Takraw at Benjasiri Park.

29. World-class acrobatic mash-ups

If you’ve never seen a guy spike a wicker ball over a net with his foot -- while upside down -- you’ve never seen Takraw. Benjasiri Park (BTS: Phrom Phong) in the late afternoon is the best place to catch some crazy moves. Imagine Jackie Chan playing volleyball with his hands tied behind his back.

30. Pizza toppings most likely to give an Italian heartburn

Thailand sure knows how to shake things up pizza-wise. Normally eaten with ketchup, popular ingredients include squid, octopus, corn, green curry, mayonnaise, broccoli and salad dressing. Great for the adventurous epicure, but if you prefer a more traditional pie, check out Ronnie’s New York Pizza on Sukhumvit soi 4. Order something custom to ensure they cook it fresh and your taste buds will be dancing.

31. The coolest night market

Forget Pat Pong and Suan Lum, with their shopkeeps numbed by the clumsy haggling of sweaty tourists. Head to Rachadaphisek Market at the Lad Phrao MRT station for a real Thai shopping excursion. Ancient typewriters, refurbished Vespa bikes, hipster clothing and funky apartment decorations shine brightly under the bare light bulbs strung from overhead wires.

Doreme's owner may not be young but she's musically cooler than most of us.

32. World's heppest musical grandma

Doreme music shop at the back corner of Siam Square soi 11 is run by a musical-minded lady who can chat about everyone from Billie Holliday to the Clash to Green Day. Her little store is stocked with an incredibly disparate variety of Western and international music, and she can help you find just the thing to spice up your library.
422/6 Siam Square Soi 11

33. Rally an army for a few bucks

Bangkok’s trusty motorbike taxis -- recognizable by their orange vests -- are the under-utilized chore champs of Asia. Need a package delivered? Bill paid? Envelope dropped off? Friend picked up? Someone to lead you to your destination while you follow behind in your taxi as lost as you’ve ever been? They’re willing to help with pretty much any task you have, after a bit of haggling, of course. Best part -- no waiting in traffic.

34. The disappearing school uniform

Every year around September, the same stories turn up in the press about the incredible shrinking university uniform favored by female Thai students. Dresses get shorter, blouses get tighter, conservatives get louder and the rest of us sit back and watch the brouhaha. Although, when you see students climbing stairs sideways because going straight up would mean a flashing, you have to wonder if the powers that be have a point.

35. Affordable luxuries

Maids, manicures, massages, tailors and personal drivers can all be enlisted for a fraction of what you’d pay in any Western country. Expats be warned: Friends back home don’t want to hear you grouse about how you’ve forgotten how to do your own laundry or drive a stick shift.

36. Most indulgent movie theaters

Any recently built cinema in Bangkok offers some type of Gold Class seating. For the price of a regular ol’ ticket in the West, you get a plush recliner, a pillow and blanket, and even a welcome drink. The Paragon shopping mall’s Major Cineplex venue is newer, but the EGV Grand in Siam Discovery Center has comfier chairs.

37. Escape the city without actually escaping the city

Phrapadaeng, also known as"‘Bangkok’s Lung," sits amid an oxbow bend in the mighty Chao Phraya River. A bylaw stating that no building can be higher than three stories ensures that, infrastructure-wise, the place remains suspended in the 1950s. Cement pathways and densely-treed mangrove swamps cover the whole area, which is popular with bicyclists. It’s actually rather eerie to be surrounded by quiet, lush jungle, yet still be able to see skyscrapers and city lights.

38. You want fresh food? We got fresh food

The sprawling Klong Toey market is a stunning mishmash of smells, sights, sounds and people. Runners scurry back and forth with raw food ingredients, many of which just came from the farm/sea/ranch that morning, and hawkers of all sizes yell at each other, as well as potential customers. It’s also home to the Mercy Centre, long-time resident Father Joe’s shelter/orphanage/hospice/school for the poor.

Lumpini Park
One of Lumpini Park's unique weight benches.

39. The most innovative way to pump iron

The outdoor gym at Lumpini Park (MRT: Lumpini) is full of ancient, rusting, laughably outdated gear, which apparently doesn’t bother the hugely muscled dudes sweating buckets in the midday heat. To your muscles, 50 pounds is 50 pounds. Try your hand at the bench-press station, with tractor tires on the bar instead of weights.

40. No walking allowed at 8am or 6pm

Many an unwitting tourist has been caught outside at the aforementioned hours and experienced a slight Twilight Zone twitch when everyone else around them simply stops moving. Have no fear, they're just paying respect to the national anthem, which is played twice per day. Continuing to move isn’t illegal -- but you’ll get the frowning of a lifetime from the people around you.

41. Best crab curry in all of Asia

At Somboon Seafood on Surawong Road, you’ll find a plate of their famous crab curry on every table in the joint. Surrounded by a thick, sweet sauce, the juicy chunks of crab ensure there’s hardly anything for the waitress to clean up. According to legend, one fan from Singapore actually jets up to Bangkok just to get his monthly fix.
169/7-11 Surawong Road, Silom, tel+66 (0)2 233 3104

David Beckham temple statue
On the right is a little statue of David Beckham.

42. We worship football -- literally

On Rama III soi 30 there’s a temple called Wat Pariwat, whose abbot was such a fan of football that he agreed to the placement of a David Beckham statue alongside the usual divine effigies during the 1998 World Cup. No word on any plans to add Posh to the altar.

43. World’s Creepiest Museum

Think you’ve seen it all? Bangkok’s Forensics Museum at Siriraj Hospital is filled with the freaky, grisly stuff you hear about, but rarely see. Some of the highlights: a scrotum with a diameter of 30 inches taken from a victim of elephantitis; the wax-filled body of infamous Thai child-eater Si Quey; and various victims of gunfire, road accidents and industrial mishaps. It’s kind of like the anti-Disneyland.
2 Prannok road, Siriraj, Bangkok Noi, tel +66 (0)2 419 7000

44. Double-take t-shirts

From brilliant non-PC slogans and cuss-heavy diatribes to rhymes that don’t make sense, the young and trendy sport a variety of shirts for every taste. Many of them are juvenile and silly, but once in a while you’ll find one that borders on brilliant(ly out of place).

Bangkok monks
A pair of tech-savvy monks.

45. Hippest monks

Many people think that monks spend all day sitting on the ground praying, but in Thailand they’re significantly cooler than that. While always remaining true to their spiritual calling, the perpetually saffron-robed holy men can be seen at various spots around the city riding the subway, chatting on iPhones or updating blogs in internet cafes.

46. The police are actually Boy Scouts

‘Be prepared’ is a motto many of us know, and the Bangkok police live it everyday. An example: because of the city’s legendarily bad traffic, being stuck in a car while, oh, say, giving birth, can really put a damper on things. That’s why many of the police are equipped with special clippers that they can use to cut an umbilical cord. Back-seat births happen more often than you’d think.

47. The world’s most beautiful pain

Traditional Thai massage is renowned the world over, and for good reason: it’s painful, but you’ll never sleep sounder once you get back to your room and you'll be bounding with energy the next day. The well-known HealthLand Spa offers many types of massage from quick finger rubs to two-hour full body oil marathons that will leave your muscles wondering what just happened.

Lumpini Park lizard
Lumpini Park's lizards are harmless. We think.

48. Dinosaurs!

It may not be Jurassic Park, but Bangkok’s version of Central Park -- Lumpini -- has reptiles big enough to give you a fright if you’re not expecting to see one. The Varanus salvator (water monitor), which can grow up to nine feet in length, usually just ambles along the mud and grass around the water, but sometimes scrambles across a pathway to another pond. Don’t worry, most of them are only about three feet long. Most of them…

49. LGBT-friendliest

Sexual orientation in Bangkok is often a rather … elastic classification. “Oh, they turned gay” is often heard when talking about an ex. But the amazing thing is, no one cares. Many Thai celebrities are openly gay, bisexual or even full-on transvestites. Gay, straight, transgendered, stuck in the closet or flamboyantly out of it, most Thais consider one’s sexuality a personal decision and leave it at that.

50. Color-coding of … everything

In Bangkok, colors help define and separate everything, from ideas and zones to political movements. In fact, each day is assigned its own color; you’ll likely see a lot more blue shirts on a Friday, pink on Tuesday, yellow on Monday and so on. It’s even spilled over into politics, with the disparate factions turning up to mass rallies in 'their' color. After the recent political turmoil in the capital, a popular joke suggested changing the traditional Thai greeting from "Have you eaten yet?" to "What color are you?"

Piece of Cake

Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

- Lewis Carroll

Technically, that wouldn't hold true for us as we don't take breakfast, however, if we pretend the first meal of the day is "breakfast", then living in Bangkok would easily offer at least six impossible things- every day.  :o)

Sky Train Travel Card

You may recall we bought a pass entitling us to twenty trips in 30 days for the knock down price of THB 440?  Full cost for the same number of journeys would be THB 800, so it's a good saving and helps avoid queuing at the ticket office or ticket machine.

We just cleared our last trip on the way down to the Immigration offices, so we've made the most of it and we will most certainly be buying more on future visits.  Great VFM.

Smerking in the Bogs

What is it with blurks who just have to take a lit cigarette to the urinals and puff away while they spray?  Isn't holding onto one dick enough, you selfish prats?

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Chocks Away

A Japanese engineer has set a new record for the longest flight with a paper-only plane.

Using a specially designed 10cm long paper plane, Takuo Toda's origami flight in a  Japan Airlines hangar near Tokyo's Haneda Airport lasted 26.1s.  While just short of the world record 27.9 seconds, it was a new record for a paper-only plane- the world record (also held by Toda) was set by one with tape on it.

Toda, head of the Japan Origami Airplane Association, said he was pleased with the record but hopes to achieve a 30 second flight soon.  But first, the flight:

Lucky Us

Following on from the Ganesh celebrations at the hotel, we are getting some of the beautiful floral displays placed in our room after housekeeping have visited.  The perfume from the flowers is heavenly- or are they trying to tell us the ponky cheese is overpowering the room?

Either way, we love the blooms and the stinky cheese is now all gone.  :o)

Shabbey Shitander

I have just received formal notification from the Financial Ombudsman Service that they have received my complaint against the Abbey but due to a back log, they will not even begin to investigate my concerns until at least another month from now.

Given that they will then drag their heels, no doubt once they begin, I not only expect them to side with the bank but I reckon it will also take close to a year since I first lodged my complaint against the bank and their shit-awful service and incompetent staff. 

In general, top end banking has had a fair pasting in the press since they bollocksed up the economy and quite rightly too.  It also needs a review at grass roots as the calibre of employee is close to moronic and a trained monkey could improve on the services at the Shabbey.

Anyhoo, I'm taking this as far as I can without for one moment thinking I will get proper closure, which is a pity as what they did was utterly wrong and bordering on illegal.  I have the last laugh though, our cash is now elsewhere and as soon as I get the opportunity I will close down the account permanently.

The Nationwide is far superior and looks after our needs without problem.  Good on them.

12 Unusual Motorcycles

Like them or not (and mostly I don't), one still has to admire the creativity and imagination behind these bikes.  From Odee:

Predator Motorcycle

Are you a tough guy that likes intimidating people just by passing close to them along the highway? Then, this awesome and scary skull-covered design is just the right one for you! The Predator motorcycle was made as a commission, by Pitstop Motors, a custom bike shop in New Jersey.

Jaguar Motorcycle

This cool Jaguar "leaper" cat logo concept bike was created by Barend Massow Hemmes of Massow Concept Cycles along with Polar cycles of Doncaster UK. Professional computer illustrators and even a sculptor contributed to get this truly unique final result. (Link)

World's Tallest Rideable Motorcycle

Do good things come in small packages? Not in this case! This massive motorcycle was built by Greg Dunham and is 6,500 pound heavy, 15 feet tall and 20 feet long. The huge design has entered the Guinness World Records, as the world's tallest rideable motorcycle. It took 3 years to have it finished and its price is $300,000.  (Link)

Suzuki Biplane (Motorcycle)

This futuristic Biplane concept motorcycle was presented in 2007 by Suzuki in Tokyo. Due to the awesome aircraft-inspired design the rider is supposed to have the same feeling as being in an open-canopied biplane. (Link)

World's Biggest Single-Cylinder Motorcycle

This outrageous motorcycle was built by Franz Langer, a retired German engineer who had his name written in the Guinness Book of Records for building the biggest single cylinder motor on a motorcycle.  (Link)

Flying Motorcycle

If you are a thrill seeker, you will love this one! A flying bike called the Super Sky Cycle, created by former test pilot Larry Neal of Boyd. This original machine can go as fast as 70 mph in the air and 60 mph on the road. The price? About $ 25,000!  (Link)

F15 Fighter Jet Motorcycle

This oddity is actually an Honda Goldwing motorcycle that has been modified to look like a mini F15 Fighter Jet! Who would have thought?  (Link)

Uno Motorcycle

Wait a minute... isn't one of the wheels supposed to be in front of the other? Not when we talk about The Uno. This orange and grey colored machine made its first appearance in the 2008 National Motorcycle Show in Toronto. It was invented by 18-year-old Ben J. Poss Gulak, who also gave the unique motorcycle certain interesting features, like running on electricity and being controlled by body language. (Link)

World's First Motorcycle

This one's really a collection piece. The First Motorcycle was created in 1885 in Stuttgart, Germany. It was designed and built by the German inventors Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach. The invention was also the first petroleum-powered vehicle. (Link)

Electric Motorcycle

Take a look at The Smart Chopper, an awesome electric motorcycle presented a few months ago by Siemens. It is charged in 5 hours when plugged into any 110-volt socket but this could be reduced to even one hour when plugged into a higher-voltage station, according to Siemens.

The Smart Chopper has a countrywide tour scheduled for next year, in order to promote sustainable and green technology. (Link)

Shoe Motorcycle

Now, this is an original one! The orange shoe motorcycle was spotted by Dale Murray around Chicago downtown. The unusual machine was promoting a shoe sale at Marshalls. (Link)

Cartoon Motorcycle

Are you the kind of person that wants all the attention on you? Well, you would love a ride on this one! This crazy cartoon-inspired motorcycle took part in a Motorcycle Rally. The event, that gathers motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world, presents the weirdest of motorbike designs once a year in Sturgis, South Dakota. (Link)