Thursday, 30 August 2007

As time goes by

I'm getting into a rhythm of sorts at work; today we organised the branding for our login page, which will be all-new and shiny after we install an upgrade on Sunday morning. I don't know why it had to be so difficult, but we finally cracked it. I'm glad I didn't try doing full days; by the time I get home around 1pm and have some lunch, plus do a few household tasks, I'm ready for a snooze on the sofa. It takes energy to heal a body, I guess.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Hi ho, hi ho...

It's back to work for me, for the morning anyway. My check at the hospital yesterday resulted in approval to do half days, and a warning about continuing to use crutches. Apparently my pelvic break isn't fully set yet, and I need to treat it more carefully. Still, it will be nice to start doing something useful, after four weeks of feeling sorry for myself.

Afternoon update: Home at 1pm, pretty weary but OK. I rewarded myself by visiting the UC travel office and booking fares to Seattle for Educause 2007 from October 21-26, before I drove home. Nice.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

All's well

We checked out the boat this morning - it's fine, dry and covered, with no hassles. We'll do some minor paint touchups soon, and basically that's all we need to do before the season begins. Didn't seem much point in photos...

Friday, 24 August 2007

On the mend

I'm definitely healing up well, though today I did a bit more than I should have, and suffered later in the day. Still, I went most of the day without using crutches or a stick. I see the doctors at the hospital on Monday, and should be back at work on Tuesday.

Tomorrow Schroeder and I want to get to the yacht, to sort out our new-season preparations. There will probably be photos.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Dunedin and back

We had a really nice trip to see Jim - physically he is pretty good, with almost total control of his tremors. However, his ability to maintain balance is definitely not right yet, so he'll need quite a lot of rehab therapy to get that sorted out. He still has periods where his voice is very soft, so I had to pay close attention to what he was saying, and resist the temptation to finish his sentences for him.

Jim also has a problem with what the doctors call "disinhibition", i.e. saying things about which he would previously have kept his very circumspect lawyer's mouth shut. (Well, the doctors have a problem with this, though I'm not sure that Jim does.)

Part of this is involuntary, I suppose, but there's also an element of wicked fun here - buttoned-down Jim is quite enjoying saying exactly what he feels.

Robin and I had a pleasant afternoon touring back to Christchurch, and were back in town by 5.30 - all very organised and easy.

Photos - Jim at Ombrellos, his favourite cafe, where we went for brunch after some shopping. Lower photo is Juddie wheeling Jim to his appointment at the hospital for an ultrasound scan of a blood clot in his leg, which is worrying the medics somewhat.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Out of town

I'm posting this from Dunedin - I came down yesterday with Robin Judkins, to see our friend Jim Guthrie, who's had Deep Brain Stimulation surgery to relieve his Parkinsons symptoms. Although his tremors are much more under control, he is having some difficulty with motor control, principally to do with walking, so he's in the ISIS rehabilitation clinic working on that.

This morning we're meeting Jim in town. RJ's car is a coupe, so getting me into the back seat and putting Jim in the front would be too difficult - I'd never get out! - so he'll taxi to town and meet us, then he wants to buy a new cell phone to replace the one he's been flinging against walls and floors in recent years. We'll have an early lunch then we'll get on the road and Jim will taxi back to ISIS. More later.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Bonds mature

A larger than average quantity of Kiwi dollar bonds will mature today ($2.53 billion worth) and over the rest of August the total will reach $3.65 billion. In recent years, investors have rolled these over, but in today's climate they may cash up - which will convert the bonds to Kiwi dollars. Then the investors will sell the dollars to repatriate funds to their native currency, so we may see the dollar's value drop later in the day.

These bonds provide the funds that our banks lend as mortgages; if investment levels fall, NZ interest rates will climb, as money becomes scarce. Financial commentators seem fairly relaxed about this though, saying that effects will be minor. The trouble is, with amounts like this at risk, are they trying to apply positive spin, or are they telling the truth?

This is not a good time to be selling a house!

UPDATE - Radio news at noon says there doesn't seem to be any panic selling or dumping. So far.

By the end of the day, it looks like no panic selling happened.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Moving on

An open home on Saturday didn't bring any instant offers, but we'll keep the house on the market for a month or two more - even if the market is falling. We don't have to accept an offer under our listed price (I think) so we can just sit and stay, as they say in pontoon schools.

Another week off work looms ahead. More later.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Another day

No offer on the house today, but I'm definitely healing up. The days go by at a sedate pace, spent between the laptop on the dining table and the sofa, with several small sleeps. I guess I just have to wait for things to knit. I won't be going to work next week - there's no way I could manage more than a couple of hours given the way I feel at present, but another week should make a big difference.

In the meantime, the US sub-prime fiasco continues to pull the markets down, as predicted. The US building industry is left wondering where its next dollar is coming from, as it all goes pear shaped. And the NZ Reserve Bank sees the Kiwi dollar plunge, proving that New Zealand is the tail, not the dog.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

...And the mome raths outgrabe.

It gets more brillig in the US sub-prime fiasco. The Federal Reserve has thrown $38 billion to the banks and investment "businesses" to cover their losses in their own self-inflated hyped-up scams. Kunstler is less than impressed, and doubts that this Canute-like gesture will stem the tide;
"The over-leveraged holders of credit-card debt will have to sell their Ford Explorers, bass boats, sports memorabilia (good luck with that shit) and flat-screen TVs. The retired dentists will have to dump their stocks and bonds. The corporations will have to sell off subsidiary operations, buildings, and corporate jets. Some colleges will just shutter."
I guess we wait and see.

In the meantime, we have an interested potential buyer for our place - more on Thursday.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

More house stuff

We've looked at several more houses this weekend. Two of them were OK but not really us, but we have a good feeling about this one, which we hope to see tomorrow.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Powers of suckage

I've become something of a devotee of James Howard Kunstler recently. He's a writer and social commentator known for his views about peak oil (it's arrived) and the US economy (it's a house of cards due to collapse). Whether you agree with his apocalyptic views or not, his latest blog posting on the collapse of the sub-prime loan market is a wonderful piece of polemic writing. I especially like his long single-sentence explanation of the whole sorry chain of zero-worth "assets", and his closing metaphor is worthy of Jonathan Swift.
What you had was a whole industry that surrendered the standards and norms that brought it into being and enabled it to function in the first place. Mortgage lenders stopped requiring house-buyers to qualify for loans; bankers stopped caring what stood behind the paper they issued; dubious loans were bundled and resold like barrels of rotten anchovies -- in such numbers that no individual stinking minnow would stand out -- and the barrels were traded up the line, leveraged, hedged, fudged, fobbed, and fiddled until, abracadabra, they were transformed into so many Tribeca lofts, Hampton villas, Piaget wristwatches, million-dollar birthday parties, and Gulfstream jets.

It worked for the Goldman Sachs bonus babies, and the private equity scammers, and for the corporate CEOs and their board members, and for the politicians who parlayed their votes into cushy lobbying jobs, and even for the miserable quants in the federal government's termite mounds of statistical reportage. It even worked for about 18 months for millions of feckless US citizens gulled into contracts for houses they could never hope to pay for, under arrantly false and ruinous terms.

My critical auditors never tire of pointing out how consistently wrong I have been about weakness in the US economy, but I really do think we've reached the vanishing point, and that spot on the horizon is looking more and more like a black hole -- with dire gravitational powers of suckage. It first appeared a few weeks ago when two Bear Stearns hedge funds got into trouble over the barrels of rotten anchovies they had bought for their investors. The B/S boys tried desperately to sell the barrels, but nobody showed up for the auction. Word began to spread that all the other companies sitting on barrels of rotten anchovies might not be able to sell theirs either. All of a sudden there was a lot less notional "money" in the system. The "positions" held by the hedge funds (bets made on all kinds of other things leveraged by rotten anchovy collateral) have not themselves unwound quite yet. But enough nervousness ran through the system last week that the stock markets came down with irritable bowel syndrome. The blood and fecal matter whirling around the exit pipe is what remains of the "money."
Good, eh?

Win some, lose some

Healing from an injury is not a continuous process; on Wednesday morning I was pulling on my socks when I managed to shift the crack in my pelvis. I heard a distinct click, and a wave of pain shot around my hips. For the next two days I was very tender, and had to adjust my movements to allow for the new pain.

Then on Friday it came right, and by Friday night I was feeling quite good again. Maybe it was the Voltaren I took, in the hope of settling the inflammation caused by the new injury. Voltaren is not recommended for bone injuries because it inhibits bone growth, but I felt it was worth a try, and it looks like it paid off. I won't use it any more though.

Lest we forget, it's high summer in the UK, and the twits are mating.

Pictured at the polo; Sam Branson (guess whose son he is?) and Isabella Austruther-Gough Calthorpe (gotta love those names, straight out of Monty Python!).

SKIING IN WANAKA - THE BEGINNINGS
Peter King at the opening of the Saddle rope tow, Treble Cone, July 1979.

I had an interesting session yesterday with a freelance writer named Matt Conway, who is commissioned to write a book on the history of Treble Cone ski area.

I was able to give him lots of photos and old articles, and a CD of scanned photos that I did for the Wanaka Ski Club's 2005 "30th" reunion (which was actually the 26th, because no-one bothered to check the records).

The design at left is the original ski club logo. It was the winning entry in a logo design competition that we ran soon after forming the new club in Easter 1979. The design was created by Trevor Hunt, a teacher at Wanaka Area School.

Friday, 10 August 2007

House sale? What house sale?

Typical luck for us; we have our house for sale and now it looks like the market's going soft. I sometimes have paranoid notions that we cause these changes, but it really doesn't matter too much. If it doesn't get much interest in the next few weeks we'll just take it off the market and sit tight. At least we don't have to sell.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Home alone (except for the Wests)

I'm home recuperating and waiting for my pelvis to heal. The days are settling into a routine; wake up about 6am feeling horribly stiff and sore because the pain relief wore off over night. Struggle out of bed and take paracetamol and codeine, then slowly pull on some track pants and a jersey. Shuffle to toilet, by which time the pills are starting to work - then a slow breakfast while Heather gets ready for work. The rest of the day I'm not too bad, taking paracetamol every 4 hours, but I'm pretty tired by 9pm or so. Then I take my second codeine of the day, and put another one by the bed for the inevitable 2-3am wakeup.

After breakfast and a shower I spend most of the day either at the dining table using my laptop, or on the sofa reading and watching DVDs. I've just discovered the NZ comedy drama Outrageous Fortune as it goes into its third season; the DVDs of seasons 1 & 2 were on sale in the mall in the weekend so I am working my way through them, watching a couple of episodes a day. I'm glad I have something clever and funny to watch - and it's Kiwi too. I'll get an overdose today, as the current episodes screen at 9.30pm on Tuesdays.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Houses and other dramas

The town house we were buying turned out to be a classic leaky home, with 50% or more moisture content in lots of the timber, so we cancelled the contract before the due date. It's a shame, as it was a lovely design and in the perfect location for our needs.

We're keeping our house on the market though, now we've made the commitment to sell (and paid up-front marketing costs to the agents), but we have the luxury of being 100% firm on our price. If it sells we'll be cash buyers for the next house, which is also a good position to be in. A final bonus; it also takes the pressure off me to do too much tidying up before I'm back to fitness.

Today we had a repeat visit from a family who came to yesterday's open home - maybe we'll get an offer!

Friday, 3 August 2007

Away for a week

Last Saturday night I was knocked off my bike. I've been in Christchurch Hospital since then with a fractured pelvis and various other bashes. I'm home now, but moving very slowly. More later.