Thursday, 21 January 2016

Here we go

I suppose we must admit that 2016 is well and truly under way. We came back from Napier last Friday, to three days of overcast and drizzle, followed by some warm and humid days. Heather will go back to work next week, and I've started on the reform of our financial and legal affairs.

Later this afternoon I am seeing a lawyer about dissolving our family trust. This has been a rather expensive exercise, which we started as a way to separate asset ownership from ourselves to the trust, in case one of us needed long term care. The trust would guarantee that the other partner would still have the house. However, National changed the rules, and that protection no longer applies.

We also have our savings in various accounts owned by the trust, and any interest (hardly worth mentioning in today's economic climate) is being taxed at the trust rate of 36%. It would be cheaper, now that my tax code has changed, to count these interest amounts as personal income. So it's goodbye to the trust, and farewell to a lot of unnecessary time and expense.

Once the accounts are all back in our personal control, the next task is to rearrange the term deposits so that we can draw out some cash as we need it, to supplement our pensions of approx $500 a week. I've been doing spreadsheets based on withdrawing varying amounts, meaning we can afford to live modestly until we're well into our 80s if we're lucky. I suppose that in around 10 years we'll probably sell this house and buy something smaller, and people say you spend more in the 65-75 period than you do later, so we'll probably shuffle through in genteel parsimony. Of course, rises in fixed outgoings, like rates, could make a big mess of these plans.

A miniature schnauzer (someone else's)
Before we settle to the pensioner lifestyle, though, we have a trip to France, Switzerland, and Italy in April - that's paid for (mostly), and we've committed to buying a miniature Schnauzer which will be born in a few weeks, and will be ready to collect when we get back from Europe. Let's hope its upkeep doesn't cost too much!

Monday, 4 January 2016

Overseas travel

Not really overseas, but over the sea; tomorrow afternoon we'll be on a ferry going from Picton to Wellington, then we'll drive to stay with Cam and Jenny in Otaki Beach. On Wednesday we'll drive to Napier where we'll be house sitting for some friends.

Ten days in Hawkes Bay should go pretty quickly, then we'll be back to Wellington and Christchurch, and Heather will start thinking about a return to work. And my to-do list is growing by the day.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Day 1

As I'm now an ex Educational Technology Consultant, what did I do with my first morning of non-work?
  1. Slept in until 7.45am.
  2. Had breakfast, read the paper, second coffee.
  3. Heather went out so I vacuumed the house.
  4. Replaced two smoke detector batteries.
  5. Swept out the garage which had inhaled leaves on a recent NW day.
  6. Vacuumed my car - front seat wells only.
It'll be lunch time soon...

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

On the way out

It's been a long time coming, as David Crosby sang. It's Wednesday afternoon, and by Friday lunchtime I'll be an ex-employee, an Educational Technology Consultant Emeritus, a Dowager Dude. We've just had a lunch as a group, with people saying all sorts of nice things - I'm going to miss the company and the coffee breaks as much as the job.

I won't miss the endless threat of restructuring that seems to hover in the background; this year our Web Team and the rest of the Communications Dept have gone. Rather than make existing teams perform better, many senior managers seem to think that restructuring, and more importantly, renaming things, is the same as progress.

The drain on staff morale and productivity that happens when everyone is looking over their shoulders to see who's next for the chop, can't be good for any organisation. I know the hard-line management gurus have theories about the constant fear making people perform their best, but all it does is make them compliant and scared to take risks. If you point a loaded gun at someone and ask them to sing, you don't get beautiful music - you get a frightened squawk.

Anyway, that's enough grumpiness for now. A high point of the week was our 40th wedding anniversary, which we celebrated with a fantastic dinner at Chillingworth Road last night. We were joined by Alice, Heather's sisters Elaine and Pam, with her husband Barry, and long-time friends Nicky and Merv Sarson; Nicky was Matron of Honour at our wedding all those years ago. (She said she was too old to be a bridesmaid, at the ripe old age of 27 or whatever.)

Next is a morning tea, and speeches - and I'm off!

Monday, 5 October 2015

So you want a self driving car? The government wants one too - your one!

From the comp.risks Usenet group comes this thought provoking piece from Lauren Weinstein.

The main thing you should know about autonomous vehicles is that they are utterly inevitable.

Leaving aside technical, financial, and cultural issues for the moment, the question I'd really like to see us thinking about now -- before we really need the full answers -- is how we're going to prevent mass government abuse of these vehicles.

The amount of video and other data these vehicles will be collecting will be immense. You can bet governments will want it, both in individual cases and en masse. Governments will want to know where every car is or was, every moment. They will make license plate scanners totally obsolete.

They will want remote control capabilities. Whether or not vehicles can be started. Whether they will keep running or automatically pull over to the side of the road to await a police vehicle (or drive into the nearest police station, with the windows and doors locked?) if they believe a suspect is inside. Whether or not you can drive if you haven't been paying your bills or are having a legal dispute. They will want the ability to block all vehicles from areas where they don't want to be observed, and shoo all vehicles already there out of the area. This means individual and en masse remote control. Pretty powerful stuff.

And remote control is likely to come irrespective of law enforcement, because it's the most practical way to deal with situations beyond the scope the car's AI (unusual weather or road conditions, accident and construction sites with authorities giving voice instructions to drivers, etc.), assuming a human driver capable of taking over in such situations is not present.

Remote control capabilities for authorities are also likely to be mandated at some point due to LEO concerns (already being widely discussed) of unoccupied vehicles (the "vehicle on demand" scenario) being used in criminal or terrorist plots.

Most of these issues have already been covered quite convincingly by prescient science fiction for many decades.

Autonomous vehicle proponents would do well to consider how they're going to respond to government demands along these lines. 'Cause you can be sure that there are teams already in governments around the world brainstorming about their side of this equation.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Catching up on photos

I posted some sailing photos a few weeks ago, then completely forgot about the photos I took in our 4 days in Brisbane city. I've made an album on Google Photos, now I'm trying to add captions to the pictures. In the meantime, try this link.

Big city, big buildings
After lots of searching, I'm admitting defeat. I can't find any way to add captions to the photos in the Brisbane album. In fact, I'm totally confused, after trying to work out how Picasa, Google Plus, Google Drive, and Google Photos relate to each other.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Approaching the end

My retirement is now official - I've filled out the forms and set the date. My last day at UC will be Friday 18 December, then I'm a free agent. I'll miss the company, and the University is a very interesting place to work, but it's time to  to revise the position description and to bring someone new into the team.

My role has changed a lot over recent years, and I'm doing a lot less support for lecturers and more project work. We don't need "expertise with Windows NT" in the description either; in fact we don't deal directly with the Moodle servers any more, so that technical area is much less important.

What's next? A January holiday in Napier, house sitting for friends, then a few months of domesticity leading to a major adventure in France and Italy during April. We'll have five days in Paris, a week cycling around the vineyards of Burgundy based in Beaune, then two weeks being tourists in Italy. There'll be lots more news as the time gets closer.
Hospice de Beaune
I hope there will be some part time work to help our finances, and I have lots of projects to keep me busy. And I'll be the chief cook and bottle-washer, of course.