It’s Crop Circle Time.

Spring is here in its inimitable, slightly-sodden Vancouver fashion. Growing up in Kent, in southern England, I loved it. Every year, the warmer weather brought profound changes to the ancient agrarian landscape around the cathedral city of Canterbury. To a bubbling soundtrack of larks high above, the farmers would sow their fields, bringing a riot of green and yellow to the chalk downs. And then, in another timeless annual rite, crop circle time arrives; the first circle is found smack in the middle of a wheat field in Wiltshire, and suddenly every idiot and conspiracy whack job in the country wakes up sporting their alien-spotter hard on, looking for 15 minutes of fame.

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Best Not To Hang Around.

My Iranian sojourn in the mid-1990s has become a rich source of travel stories for me. I spent the best part of a year in the country, over about a 3-year period, travelling extensively in the north, based in the small farming hub of Takab in West Azerbaijan province, 5-6 hours drive northwest of Tehran. The people of Takab are Turkic and Kurdish. The Kurds are easy people to spot, dressing far more colourfully than the Turkic or Persian people. There is also a small minority of Zoroastrians, one of the oldest known religions, who worship at fire temples and sometimes still leave the bodies of their dead in high places for scavenging birds to eat.

A “volcano” close to the Unesco site, Takht-e-Soleyman.
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The Joy of Sex Books

In the 1990s I spent quite a bit of time in Iran, exploring for gold and copper. Fun times. It’s a beautiful country and we saw a lot of it, mainly in the Turkic north which stretches from the capital, Tehran, up to the borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey. We worked with a small team of Iranian geologists. One of the guys, a key member of the team who I’ll call Bob, was newly married. I’d met his wife in Tehran. A very pretty woman, she was quite religious, as was he, hence in true Islamic fashion, their hospitality to visitors such as me was overwhelming.

Something like this…
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I Met A Drug Smuggler

Western Pakistan is a fascinating place. It’s remote, arid, tribal, and these days a Taliban stronghold; not the friendliest of spots for westerners planning on coming home still attached to their heads. It was slightly safer when I was there in 1997, although it still had its moments (see My Project Went Boom).

The Chagai Hills.  Not sure I’d call them hills if I got to name them.
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The Joy of Birthdays

Today’s my birthday, and I hate birthdays. Ok, I really have to stop writing “I hate” in the first sentence of my blog pieces. Anyway, to quote George Carlin, so far, this is the oldest I’ve ever been.

Yeah, yeah, so what’s your point?

Famous dead people I share my birthday with include Ronald Reagan, Bob Marley, Eva Braun, Babe Ruth and Rick Astley. I’m exaggerating slightly. Technically Rick Astley’s still alive but his music is getting a bit stinky.

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Lost Footballs. The Saddest Sight.

The Twitterverse is a wondrous thing. So many creative people out there who work hard to provide totally pointless news feeds for our amusement, compiling all sorts of shit you didn’t know you needed. I’ve stumbled on a few gems since signing up and accumulating my mega-total of 46 followers. But my favourite has to be Lost Footballs (@Lostfootballs).

Balls. And they’re lost.

They post photos of lost footballs (no rugby balls please!) from around the world, sent to them by sad spotters like me. You find them everywhere. Back alleys, parks, roof tops, under cars and we all carry smart phones so taking a picture is easy. The twist is, subscribers are asked to pair their images with song lyrics that might reflect some aspect of the photo: as they say, “the saddest sight in the world – lost or discarded footballs.”

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It’s Raining.

Love it or hate it, the Pacific Northwest rain is something we suffer through in Vancouver, and eventually all long-term Vancouverites will bitch about it. It’s the heavy grey clouds that sit just above tree top height for days at a time, pissing out huge volumes of frigid, lumpy water, turning the local woods into swampland.

I think that’s Vancouver.
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Crystal Power

Crystals can be very polarizing. Sorry fellow geologists, bad pun, I know.

In three decades, I’ve built a half-decent collection of museum-quality pieces, currently leased to a business downtown. I collect them because of my love for the inherent esthetic value of crystals; their rarity, the science behind their formation and the intangible “wow factor” that spectacular samples elicit. See I’m in Love for some recent drooling.

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Let’s Go Scrumping.

Hands up if you know what scrumping is? No idea? Well, in England it means stealing apples from an orchard; kids climbing over the fence with a pack full of apples plucked from the trees. The word also pops up in the name Scrumpy, as in a fairly rough apple cider (not the clear, sweet, sparkly muck that often masquerades as cider on the west coast.)

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To PR or not to PR?

I promised myself I wouldn’t get political or overly preachy on UrbanCrows. I’m trying to write about stuff that I find interesting or that strikes me as quirky. And I’m trying hard to keep it engaging. The last thing we need in our lives is another soap box site banging on about domestic or national politics. Having said that…

ThisProportional Representation (PR) referendum is driving me bat-shit crazy.

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