England’s answer to Emmett Brown

Dr Emmett Brown was the eccentric inventor of the time-travelling DeLorean in Back to the Future.

Colin Furze is an English guy who loves making weird stuff. He says of himself:

everyone seems to think i’m some some sort of mechanic/engineer person but in reality i’m just a plumber. The things i make are made with tools that proper engineers would laugh at but i’m proof you don’t need an expensive lathe and huge welder to create something amazing. What you do need though is a place to do stuff and the right people to help ask when needed and also someone to tell you you will fail as that drives you on abit more. As far as a workspace i have a good workshop at home but its not always been like that as when i lived at me parents my dad would not let me in the big shed we had there and it wasn’t until he died that i could really make stuff properly. It was quiet mad as i had to do everything in my bed room at one point i even had a lathe in there which i bought of ebay for £70 and it was the oldest mucky thing ever which resulted in oil being sprayed up the wall at one point so if you have kids for god sake let them in the shed or at least help them.

His grammar may not be the best, but you can’t fault his philosphy!

One of Colin’s inventions is a jet-powered bicycle, Norah, dubbed “The most dangerous unsafe bike EVER” by Colin himself:

What’s it like to ride? At speeds up to 35mph (56km/h) it’s “ok, rather pleasant.” Between 35 and 45mph (72km/h) “it goes where it likes and is quite hard to control.” At 50mph (80km/h) “you have been lucky to stay on during the 45mph shake, and just wait for the tyres to blow…”

Guinness World Records has rewarded Colin’s efforts – he holds records for the largest bonfire (more than 1400 cubic metres), the longest motorcycle (14m) and the fastest speed on a mobility scooter (115km/h). He’s also created the “world’s fastest pram”.

We need more people like Colin with his manic laugh!

Stormy weather

I often feel fortunate to live in Australia. We have a whole continent to ourselves, we are relatively free from earthquakes and extreme weather, and wars have mostly taken place far from us. And we have friendly cousins close by across the Tasman Sea.

Things like supercell storms happen in other places, and that’s fine with me – I don’t think I’d like to have one of these things bearing down on me. Wikipedia says, “A supercell is a thunderstorm that is characterized by the presence of a mesocyclone: a deep, persistently rotating updraft. Of the four classifications of thunderstorms (supercell, squall line, multi-cell, and single-cell), supercells are the least common and have the potential to be the most severe. Supercells are often isolated from other thunderstorms, and can dominate the local climate up to 32 kilometres away.”

The time-lapse video below was made by storm-chasing wedding photographer (his description) Mike Olbinski on June 3 near Booker in Texas. The roiling clouds look ominous and threatening… and I’m glad I wasn’t there!

A supercell near Booker, Texas from Mike Olbinski on Vimeo.

Mike talks about the storm, and how he filmed it, in two blog posts Timelapse of a supercell near Booker, Texas and A supercell near Booker, Texas.

In July 2011 a huge dust storm rolled across Mike’s hometown, Phoenix, Arizona, and he caught that on video, too:

Imagine how that much dust must choke everything in its path!

You can read more about Mike in The monsoon becoming big business.


I’ve been on anti-depressants since early 1997. Most of the time I’m okay, but I still have ups and downs – although I haven’t had a lengthy or deep depressive episode for quite a few years now. It’s always lurking in the background, however, and it doesn’t take much for it to rear up and take over.

Many well-known people have spoken about their depression – proving, I guess, that it has no respect for rank, profession or personality. My experience is that people just don’t understand depression. It’s a mental illness, not a mood or temporary feeling. I began talking about it to anyone who asked, and most people seemed to get it.

Comedian Ruby Wax hit the nail right on the head when she wrote in One in four people have a mental illness – let’s get organised, “…depression isn’t about having a bad hair day. In actuality it feels like your old personality has left town and you’ve been replaced by a block of cement; indifferent if you win the lottery or fall off a cliff. It doesn’t care if you’re famous, live in a mud hut or what colour you are; depression just loves everyone.”

Ruby’s article attracted 528 comments. I don’t like reading public comments on articles (often they simply show that the people making the comments are prejudiced and ill-informed) but I did read some of these. A very few were helpful and showed that the writer understood the illness. One wrote, “Depression is not just sadness, or feeling down, or feeling a bit mopey. It is a clinical condition, with its own pathology, in which brain chemicals and habitual thought patterns combine and feed off each other to create a profound and persistent suffering that can be extremely hard to escape.” Spot on! Most of the other comments I read reinforced my view that a lot of people don’t get it. Another comedian, Stephen Fry, last week revealed that he tried to commit suicide last year. Stephen has apparently met his share of people who don’t understand depression. Addressing the issue of suicide, he said: “There is no ‘why’, it’s not the right question. There’s no reason. If there were a reason for it, you could reason someone out of it, and you could tell them why they shouldn’t take their own life.”

Stephen went on to try to describe bipolar disorder and how difficult it can be to live with. “If unmedicated, there are times when I am so exuberant, so hyper, that I can go three or four nights without sleeping and I’m writing and I’m doing stuff and I’m so grandiose and so full of self-belief that it’s almost impossible to deal with me. I can’t stop speaking, I’m incredible, I go on shopping sprees.” But this can be followed by depressive episodes. As host of QI, Stephen is funny and witty, and always ready with a quick comeback. You’d never know he might be depressed, yet he said, “There are times when I’m doing QI and I’m going, ‘Ha ha, yeah, yeah,’ and inside I’m going ‘I want to fucking die. I … want … to … fucking … die.'” How can someone be in two places at the same time? I don’t know, but I’ve experienced that myself. During depressive episodes I could go to work and function fairly normally, then go home at the end of the day and feel just the way Stephen describes.

A related issue is that people think of physical and mental conditions differently. In this video, Ruby tells how, when she was ill, “I wasn’t sent a lot of cards or flowers… I mean, if I had had a broken leg or I was with child I would have been inundated, but all I got was a couple of phone calls telling me to perk up… perk up… ’cause I didn’t think of that!” Many sufferers of depressive illnesses (me included) will tell you that’s the worst thing to say.

In Australia we’re fortunate to have BeyondBlue, which, since its inception in 2000, has done much to educate the public about depression and related illnesses.

Around the world by… armchair 1

I have no idea why, but from a young age I’ve always been interested in where other people live. When I was a kid I loved watching films or seeing photos of peoples’ travels – no matter where in the world. It’s a long time since I was a kid, but I still have that childhood curiosity about other places. I haven’t done much real roaming, so most of my exploring has been as an armchair traveller.

Holiday videos usually focus on the traveller’s point of view. This one focuses on the means of travel – in this case the VIA Canadian train on a small part of its journey across Canada. The complete trip from Vancouver to Toronto takes four days; this part, from Kamloops in British Columbia to Jasper in Alberta, takes a few hours. The cameraman is The Old Railfan (aka Hans-Joerg Mueller, who claims he was “born March 1945; railfan since 1947”) and he does a superb job. Although his interest is mostly the train, he also manages to make a very nice travel documentary. He says in his uploader’s comments, “This is as good as it gets! A beautiful sunny day and enough time to get to the pre-selected shooting locations to catch a twenty-one car Canadian in typical landscape through British Columbia into Alberta.” H-J has numerous videos on Youtube and Vimeo.

This map shows the location of Kamloops and Jasper. The distance between the two is about 450km (or about five hours) by road, so H-J had a busy day!

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