Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Today's news

Last day of 2008, with lots going on. First some news from the US, then other stuff, in no particular order:

Sarah Palin is a grannie.
Bristol Palin, the 18-year-old daughter of former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, gave birth on Sunday to a healthy 7 lb 4 oz baby boy in Palmer, Alaska.

"We think it's wonderful," said Colleen Jones, the sister of Bristol's grandmother Sally Heath, who confirmed the news. "The baby is fine and Bristol is doing well. Everyone is excited." The baby's name is Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston, according to Jones.

The baby's father, Levi Johnston, is training to be an electrician. Bristol is taking correspondence courses to obtain her high school diploma. The couple has been together for three years.
I guess this will keep Bristol from attending her mother in law's drugs trial...

Study shows virginity pledges don't work.
Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.
Illinois Governor Blagojevich names a former state official as the Senate candidate to fill Obama's vacant seat. Democrat senators say they won't recognise the appointment, but it's a shrewd move. This guy makes Winston Peters look a real rookie.

Israel considers a 48 hour ceasefire
- if Hamas stops firing rockets.
Israel is considering suspending its Gaza offensive for 48 hours to give Hamas militants an opening to halt their rocket fire, but the threat of a ground offensive remains if the truce does not hold, Israeli officials said Tuesday.
Elle Macpherson is 44, and went surfing at Byron Bay on her Christmas holiday.

Wedding of the year - my vote goes to 16 year old Missy Quinn, from a caravan park near Stoke-on-Trent, UK. Her driveway-contractor father somehow fronted up with £100,000 for this tasteful extravaganza. It goes to show, even if you haven't been to school since the age of nine, you can still do things proper.

I recommend the full photo essay for further perusal, especially the mother of the bride's outfit and the child prostitute costumes worn by the guests.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Eee tricks

In the quest for economical use of scarce resources (which caused the Y2K problem, but that's another story) I have been experimenting with Portable Apps.

This is a wonderful trick; a bunch of open source applications have somehow been reduced in size so they will fit into about 320MB, installed on a 512MB SD Card in the Eee's card reader slot. The applications include Open Office 2.4, the Mozilla Firefox/Thunderbird/Sunbird combo, and lots of others.

I have trimmed my selection a lot, as I already have Firefox and Open Office 3 installed on the D drive, but I'll probably add GIMP for photo processing. At present I'm using only 102MB, leaving 380MB on the card for saved files.

How do they do this magic? The explanation for beginners has some information, but I don't think I'm enough of a codefangler to venture into this side of things. I'm happy just being a user.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Happy holidays

After my birthday festivities (which were pretty civilised, as 60th birthdays tend to be) we've had a couple of quiet days hanging around the house, with occasional trips to the shops.

Birthday lunch; Nicky Sarson, Heather, John Roberts, Alice.

Today was beautiful, with no wind, so Heather and I went for a bike trip around Wanaka. We rode to the lake outlet where the Clutha River starts, then followed lakeside mountain bike & walking tracks all the way to town.

Near Beacon Point, with the best view in Central Otago about to unfold.

The road runs through large stands of flowering manuka and kanuka shrubs.

Heather had to have a paddle at Penrith beach.

After a lunch in town, we rode out to Waterfall Creek, took a look at the middle classes and their petrol powered toys, and biked back into the town - with a puncture stop on the way. We filled my backpack with nice light groceries (beer and apples) then cycled up hill around the Mt Iron track back to the house. By then it was 30 deg plus, so I had to have a sleep.

Tonight we've been to dinner at a friend's house, met other old friends and assorted children, and generally had a lovely day.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Crisis management for beginners

In the news yesterday and today came two reports of aviation mishaps, illustrating remarkably different ways of responding to an emergency.

First a Cessna with engine failure ditched in the sea, and sank after the pilot exited the cockpit.

The Cessna plunged into the sea near Ruakaka Surf Club and the pilot managed to get out of the cockpit before the aircraft quickly sank. He was then picked up by surf club members who went to his aid. Police said that the pilot escaped unscathed.

The pilot had begun to swim towards shore, Mr Taylor said. "We got out there and he was just bobbing around in the water. He was saying 'I'm fine, don't worry about me'."

Mr Larimer added that the man was "remarkably calm". "He'd just put out a Mayday call, and he just wanted to make sure that was taken care of."

The pilot was well, and walked from the ambulance into the hospital. "He was fine. He apologised for wasting our time."

Contrast that with an Air New Zealand ATR twin engine airliner which had one engine shut down, and returned to Wellington. The passengers were distraught and upset, even though they were never in any danger.

The headlines were a clear hint at the panic and exaggeration to come.
  • Passengers `freak out' as engine stops.
  • "Oh my God, I'm gonna die."
Ane Swart, 19, said the delay in telling passengers what had happened made her think the worst. "We were like, oh my God, what the hell?"

If that wasn't clear enough for you (it certainly didn't help my understanding);

Another passenger, Natalie Edwards, also 19, said she could see one engine had stopped but the other was still going. "I wasn't saying anything, I was just trying to concentrate on not flipping out."

An ambulance spokesman said, ""They were a bit shaken up more than anything."

Friday, 26 December 2008

Over the hill

Well, I'm definitely not a kid any more - I turned 60 today!

A generation earlier, I'd have been lining up for Muldoon's superannuation-for-60s bribe. Mind you, in doing this he ruined the NZ economy by canning Labour's super scheme, according to Brian Gaynor. Remember the Dancing Cossacks TV ads, portraying the scheme as a state takeover of all business activity? And now Key and English seem to be doing it again with KiwiSaver, bringing to mind George Santayana's famous statement; "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

December 26th, Boxing Day, is also St Stephen's Day. "St. Stephen was one of the first Christian martyrs, being stoned to death in Jerusalem around A.D. 34-35", according to Wikipedia. "Stoned to death" sounds rather inconvenient; I think I'll settle for a lunch with friends and nice wine.

I have been given some great holiday reading - another volume of Jeremy Clarkson's rants, and a lovely book of Grahame Sydney's Antarctic photos. He found that fingers and paints froze in the cold (no, he does not do finger painting!) so he resorted to photography - and still managed to give the photos the Sydney touch. They are sparse, beautifully framed, and strangely seem to be more than the sum of their parts. Very nice.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Made it!

We had a grey damp drive all the way to Wanaka, but it's not actually raining here at the moment. The car was severely tail-heavy with all the gear in the boot - and three bikes hanging on a rack from the towbar. A couple of times we hit small bumps and the suspension completely bottomed out, so we didn't have much travel left!

Eddie & Kristine's house has been dramatically transformed, with the main house and the small flat now joined by a sunny atrium. Nothing is 100% finished (bare wall boards awaiting plaster, etc) but it's becoming liveable very quickly. Just the lounge and kitchen-dining to go!

Later: I took a photo in the pub yesterday - this is the epitome of cool style. I wonder if it's comfortable?

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Christmas cheer

This sight certainly cheered me up when I saw it on Wired today. It's a water powered generator, designed to be dropped into a river (and anchored securely, I hope). This one is going into the Mississippi near St Paul, Minnesota.

The article says, "Hydrokinetic turbines like those produced by Hydro Green and Verdant capture the mechanical energy of the water's flow and turn it into energy, without need for a dam." It also says the two barge-mounted units produce 35 kilowatts each, so that probably means they are trial units. The French have been developing very large tidal-flow units, which produce much more than that. That large piece of machinery will only power 17 two-bar heaters!

This could be the answer to Auckland's power crisis; drop these into a tunnel under Onehunga, and harness the back and forth tidal flow between the Waitemata and Manukau Harbours. Or in a tidal stream near Rangitoto, or ...

The installation process is certain to be a bit warmer than the scene above, in Minnesota in December, which would be nice.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Big snow for Christmas

The US has been getting lots of snow. Those burgundy dots are 40 to 45 inches of snow - 120cm odd - in 24 hours!  

"Weather service meteorologist Dana Felton said from Seattle, 'This is probably one of the worst storms since 1990. This is definitely a once-in-a-decade type of storm.'

He said the last big storm of this scale was on Christmas Day, 1996."

And getting to work has been difficult in some areas. This chap has worked out his transport very sensibly.

And it's goodnight from him... the Two Ronnies used to say. (Try this for a nice Christmas Sketchbook, made early in the year that Ronnie Barker died.)

I've tidied the office, cleared my desk, ticked things off lists, and eaten my lunch. That leaves pretty much nothing to do, so I may slope off early once I've set my out-of-office email and put an update on the voice messages.

Tomorrow will be an odd jobs and packing day, ready for a trip to Wanaka on Christmas Day. we are going, with Alice, to house-sit for Kristine Logan and Eddie Jones at their 3/4 finished house in Wanaka. We'll feed chooks and collect eggs, feed cats and fish, and catch up with old friends. I'll have my real 60th birthday there on Friday, hopefully do some sailing, definitely some mountain biking, and lie around thinking what to do next. 

We return to Christchurch on the 3rd or 4th of January to do more lying about, some house maintenance, and prepare for the Big Party on the 17th. We have 50+ people coming, from Invercargill to Fern Flat, and dating from several lifetimes; Invercargill & Dunedin in our youth, Wanaka from the 70s to the 90s, and Christchurch for the last 13 years. We are semi organised, provided I talk to Tom the Butcher today or tomorrow, and I have yet to do final ordering of drinks. It will fall into place just before we fall over from the drink and excitement, I'm sure.

Next year will be a big one, as we roll out our Moodle system and prepare to shut down the Blackboard one. I hope the academics don't follow the classic "wait till the last moment then panic" method that so often happens with changes like this, but I don't have any evidence that this time will be any different, so far. Never mind, that's in the future, not worth wasting brain space on at the moment.

Now, when can I decently get on my bike, without looking like a slacker? I think about 2.30 should do it...

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Modern political philosophy

I've just read a splendid rant from Jeremy Clarkson about our modern tendency to call emergency services, which he somehow morphs to a rant about global warming - oops, climate change; then a reader responds.

". . . I assume that global warming became climate change when the temperature refused to rise, and of course climate change can be justified by everything from the odd autumn gale to hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico."

He's got a point - if the evidence was a bit thin, it's getting darn near transparent by now. The modern world is full of people who think three years make a trend (in fashion and TV, it's two years) but the planet itself is not that simple.

Bits and pieces

I got the Eee and my cellphone communicating via Bluetooth - it was easy once I read the instructions! That meant I could clear a whole lot of photos off the camera, including this one of our IT gang at the last Staff Club lunch on Friday. It was an early birthday shout for me too, as I won't see them again till late January.

L-R; Vladimir Mencl, Jess Hollis, Grant Bush, Andrew Lorenc, Sean Lowry, Richard Hanschu, David Whale.

This morning I came across some news snippets that intrigued me:
Funny old world...

Saturday, 20 December 2008

More fun

Lots more fun with the little Eee PC; I've used the webcam to capture a 40 sec video, then saved this as a WMV movie. (Windows Media Player doesn't do more generic formats, surprise surprise.)

I then uploaded that to MediaConvert, a wonderful free file conversion site, specified conversion to MP4, and a few minutes later I was able to download the converted file, ready to go to YouTube. However, this piece of babble won't get posted there, as it is just a test; but it's nice to know that it's possible.

There's been a body found in the river, just a block from our house; it seems the corpse is a prostitute with a drug-user past. It's just three years since a similar gruesome find.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Toy time

A great improvement in my Eee today; thanks to the techs at Insite Technology, it has working speakers and Bluetooth. So I now have a working RadTech BT500 mouse, and the computer is so much easier to use.

Now the sound drivers are fixed, I also have control over the built in microphone, so I should be able to use Skype for video calling. More later.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

New toy

An Asus Eee 901 mini notebook arrived on my desk yesterday - it really is tiny, as this picture shows. That's an A4 magazine underneath, for comparison. 

It is totally solid state, with 12GB of "disk" space - Win XP takes 3GB, and various other programs are installed on drive D:, leaving about 4B of storage. It has an SD card slot, so I'll put a 4GB card in that as a third logical drive. Storage is not really the point of these machines, though - they are all about portability, and any files can be removed to a "mother ship".

I've installed Open Office 3.0 rather than Microsoft Office, and I'll make a lot of use of Google Docs for storage. At least that's the plan...

Friday, 12 December 2008

Big day

Today's been full-on for a Friday. I started with a bus ride to work (you'll find out why later) then a 9.00 - 10.30 meeting with other tertiary IT and elearning folk, planning a Christchurch Moodle consortium of some shape.

At 11am Bill Rosenberg and I went for a Segway ride, an annual treat put on by the security and mailroom staff. It was fun, but they're too big to be really useful in a city.

Some rapid work had me free to go for lunch at the Staff Club (right), where I heard a sad tale of a dead web server at the IT Dept. I'd wondered why I hadn't been able to access departmental websites all morning...

An hour's work after lunch was followed by a very long and interesting phone conversation with a software company in Australia selling course conversion services. It may be too expensive, but we'll follow it up for sure.

Then into town for drinks, tasty nibbles, and lots of chat with Rod and Margo McKay, along with my workmates Sally & John, and John's wife Marion who arrived at the end after another social occasion at her work. Heather came too; she knows Rod well from various adventures, including the Great Vic in 2004, and Margo used to be the Deputy Principal at St Margarets College when Heather taught there part time for a few years.
Sally Hunter, UCTL researcher - she's known me since I was seven!

John Ogier, UCTL survey administrator - who lives a block from our place.

Around 7pm, Heather and I walked a block to Hay's Restaurant, where we had a lovely dinner of lamb rack (me) and salmon (Heather); more expensive than our usual Friday night dinner, but as our 33rd wedding anniversary is on Monday we called it a celebration. It's OK to spend money when it's a celebration.

Then we walked through the Oxford Terrace strip (getting busy at 8.30 on a Friday) and the City Mall (depressing and scruffy, with quite a few empty shops), and caught buses home, first to Eastgate Mall then the Orbiter heading north, to a block from home. We didn't drink all that much, but using buses certainly avoided the breath-testing roadblocks that the Police are doing frequently as the Christmas drinking season is on us. It's been a busy day!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

A look around Outlook

Or should I have said "Look out for Outlook"?

John from IT Support called with a couple of good ideas about my archive failures, so I followed his suggestions and ran a repair tool over my archive.pst file - it reported around 500 errors, then claimed it had fixed them. That did no better, though, so we figured that folder permissions within the PST file were screwed up as a result of my reinstall; I then renamed the existing archive.pst and restarted Outlook, which complained a few times (more than I'd want to wish on your average amateur) then eventually archived to a new pst. So we're sort of OK, I suppose.

I don't expect this has impacted Microsoft's bottom line, though.

Monday, 8 December 2008

What's in a title

I looked back at previous posts - "There and Back", "Home Again" - jeez, who writes this stuff? Oops, I do! Anyway, after a quiet weekend I had a frustrating morning at work, courtesy of Microsoft Outlook.

My mailbox had a message saying "Mailbox over limit" so I deleted everything I could think of, then set my auto-archive interval to 3 months instead of 6, and kicked off an archive. It seemed to finish OK, but generated a heap of errors saying "Error copying folder X - folder already exists". Hmmm...

I decided to save a backup of my archive.pst file but Windows said the file was locked, so I shut Outlook and tried again - still no good. So I rebooted to clear the file locks and permissions, copied the file, and restarted Outlook - or so I thought. It wouldn't start in Safe Mode, the Repair utility crashed, and an hour had passed. Nothing for it but to reinstall Office 2007 (eventually, I won't bore you with the other things I tried first) and finally I had a working MS Office. By then it was 11am.

The rest of the day went fine, but this has not increased my love for Microsoft products. Especially when the OS and the application gang up to lock files and generally crash things. Bah, humbug.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Home again

Thursday was predictably blah, as I had only 5 hours sleep after arriving home. Both Jess and I sloped off from work a bit early, as we'd run out of energy by late afternoon. Friday was good, though, as I'd caught up on sleep and enjoyed my bike ride more than I had the previous day.

We had a long planning meeting in the morning; I don't know how much of that will be translated into action, although it's always worth talking about how we work together, and keeping communication lines open.

On Friday I ordered a Flip Ultra mini video camera, to start trying some educational ideas with one. it should be a very interesting gizmo - not at all hi-def, which mystifies the video purists who like to throw codec numbers at each other. Rather, the Flip is the Instamatic version of the VCR, and incredibly simple to use. It is to HD video as blogs are to novels. Not that I've got anything against the Instamatic, even the later 110 Pocket Instamatics with the tiny negative size. They and affordable colour prints made a revolution in mass photography.

I might go for a sail tomorrow, but after a big week of rushing about, I'm actually glad of a chance to just sit still for a bit. What will be, will be, to quote Doris Day, but first there's a barbecue to organise, if the easterly stops blowing enough to get outside.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

There and back

I haven't posted as much as I expected to, because we've been pretty busy. The tram ride to Deakin and back is an hour each way, so we're on the go from 7am till 6pm each day, there was the dinner last night, and now we're close to leaving for the flght home. 

We have to sneak out of the last presentations at 2.30pm, then take a tram back to the hotel to catch an airport shuttle by 4pm. We should be at the airport about 4.30, ready for our 6.20pm flight; that arrives at 11.40pm NZ time, then there's customs and immigration before we drive home.

Heather has been enjoying herself, alternately shopping and being a tourist - today she's catching up for lunch with Katie King, the daughter of our old friends in Wanaka, before coming back to the hotel for the shuttle.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Where am I?

I'm in several places at once, depending on your definition:
Deakin has provided brilliant wi-fi access, so I'm listening to a keynote address and catching up on email.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Sailing dream time

Since I'm in an Aussie frame of mind this week, I thought I'd show a bit of fun that caught my attention. To any yachtie, this display of perfection boat handling by the 18 ft skiff Nokia, winning the Worlds in Sydney a few years ago, is magnificent. And fun, though I doubt they were feeling relaxed at the time.

I don't think 18 footers are quite my cup of tea, but I am still nostalgic about Paper Tigers. Maybe, like guys my age buying Harley Davidsons, I should buy a PT to sail just for fun. But when would I use it?

Monday, 24 November 2008

Testing Blogger post by email

Just testing, on a warm and muggy Monday morning. If this works OK, I will try posting by email from Melbourne later in the week.

I will attach a photo, too – I wonder where that will end up?

LATER: Blogger was a bit lavish with the line breaks, so I'll need to remember to not do two returns between paragraphs. And of course it added my signature block as well, so that will need to be removed before posting. Still, it worked fine.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Out and about

We went sailing today, earlier than usual so we were ready to launch at 11.45am. The club hadn't announced the afternoon course, and our VHF radio is no longer operable, so we set off for a practice sail intending to contact a race committee boat to find out the course near start time. However, after sailing to Diamond Harbour and back, we were so annoyed with the conditions that we decided not to race.

The problem was that the wind was a northerly, swirling over the hills above Lyttelton and hitting the harbour as a series of eddies and rolling bubbles of air. We were subject to strong gusts 30 or 40 degrees off the prevailing direction, and wind strengths from 2 knots to 25 knots. In other words, not easy! Those gust bubbles with directions 40 degrees either way could be a header (instant flapping sails in irons, roll to windward, crash tack), or a lift (45 degree heel, vicious rounding up, sudden stop as it ends). It was like sailing on Wanaka or Wakatipu in a northerly, when the terrain can play similar tricks with the wind.

Although we get a bit tired of the usual Lyttelton summer easterly, it is a very reliable breeze. We have decided that to cope with the standard 20 knot easterly blast, we should reef the main, and today we used our playing-hooky time to practice this. It was a great success, and the boat is nearly as fast but with a lot less fuss. Reefing the main and shaking out the reef went very well, so we are a lot happier about battling the easterly.

We were back at the wharf at 2:30, and home by 3:30, much to Heather's surprise. She went for a swim, then I prepared dinner and sloped off to the pub for a pint and a chat while it cooked.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Getting closer

We'll be in Melbourne this time next week - that'll be a change! I'm attending (along with Jess and Alan, my work colleagues) the annual Ascilite conference. This is the biggest Australasian conference on teaching and technology, and is always a stimulating experience.

Heather and I are going a few days ahead, to have a holiday. We love Melbourne, and didn't want to just dash in, attend the conference, and dash away again, so we're going on Thursday 27th. On the Saturday, we're going to visit Phil Young, a friend from my early teaching days in Invercargill. He's lived in Melbourne for a long time, works in IT (I'll know more once we've met), and is still a very active folk-blues musician, with a show on community radio.

Other than that, we plan to bike up the Yarra River to Melbourne's north-eastern suburbs, go shopping, and explore the city a bit more. The conference opening reception is in the Melbourne Town Hall on Sunday evening, and there is a dinner at the Grand Hyatt on the Tuesday night, so it will be a fairly social affair outside the actual conference presentations at Deakin University's Burwood campus.

We're flying home on Wednesday evening, with the usual 1am yawn through customs and immigration, and back to work on Thursday morning.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Facts of life

I know I quote James Howard Kunstler a lot, but that's because he's so often right on the button. Here's a few extracts from this week's blog, prescribing a reality check for the US and its new president.
"The lame duck US economic posse so far has done everything possible except the two things that really matter: allow the fraudulent securities at the heart of the problem to be exposed to the light of day to determine their actual value; and allow those companies who trafficked in them to suffer the full consequences by going out-of-business. For the moment, they're content to shovel cash into the truck-bed of every enterprise in America that shows up at the Treasury loading dock. This can only have the effect of eventually destroying the value of that cash.

. . . . . . 

The Obama government will have to resist the temptation to prevent enterprises from failing. These failing things have to get out of the way before new activities can get underway. It will also require government leaders to tell the public the hard truth that it can't do everything we would like it to do."
I suspect that he's right - how will bailing out GM fix  anything? Sooner or later the car workers have to join wheelwrights and sailmakers in the world of outmoded trades, and artificially prolonging their existence is not going to help anyone. Though I wouldn't be surprised to see wind powered transportation return to the oceans - SkySails in Germany are already trying out some new ideas. 

Of course, a return to sea freight will mean some changes in our waterfront cities.
"One other implication of this is the necessity to use our waterways for moving things and people again. Has anybody noticed, for instance, that the once-bustling New York City Harbor, possibly the biggest and best sheltered deepwater harbor in the world, has next-to-zero operating docks left along its massive perimeter? While you're at it, have a look at the waterfronts of Louisville, Cincinnati, Kansas City and a score of other inland port cities on great navigable rivers. What you'll see are condo sites, festival marketplaces, picnic grounds, and plain old empty lots -- everything but the infrastructure for commerce. We can't afford this anymore. We have to put these places back to work."
Watch this space - and check out Jim Kunstler's blog each Tuesday. (Monday in the US.)

Speaking of people who are mostly right (but not in the political sense), Bob Cringely is offering his services as the US's first Chief Technology Officer. He will be available, as his long run as columnist and presenter with PBS is finally ending in December. I think he'd be brilliant as the US CTO; I wonder who Obama will really appoint?

Cringely has done some terrific documentaries on the history and impact of the personal computer, and has always made good sense. He's pretty much immune to silly fads and crazes, which is reassuring in this world of one-week celebrities.

Cringely's "Triumph of the Nerds" is a classic documentary on the beginnings of the PC - it documents such bygone wonders as the Altair, CP/M, and the DEC Rainbow, along with the rise of Apple and Microsoft.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Sailing weather

We were sorted out in good time yesterday, and managed to find the start line about a kilometre from where the race instructions said it would be - it's an aspect of club organisation that could do with a tidy-up, most race instructions assume that you've been sailing at Lyttelton for 30 years and that minimal information is needed. Just putting "Finish" as the last instruction is no help either - where? How?

Oh well, never mind - we had a great sail, though we didn't fly the spinnaker - mostly because of a lack of confidence after last week's epic. We successfully held off a Noelex 22 mostly by superior upwind performance; they weren't flying a spinnaker either, so we were very even downwind. But then we missed the finish line, so we just sighed and returned to the club.

The weather this weekend has been spectacular, with sunshine and clear skies, and temperatures in the high 20s - it looks like summer has arrived!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Interesting day

I had a long and tiring, but very interesting, day on Thursday. Along with 20 or so other staff from tertiary institutions around the country, I was attending a training day on Te Whanake, the new Digital Platform for "Te Ipukarea: National Maori Language Institute".

The Institute's brief is the "pursuit of excellence in scholarship, teaching and research in the Maori language" and it is hosted at Te Ara Poutama, the Maori teaching division of AUT. This entity is very similar in structure to another TEC funded institute, Ako Aotearoa - The National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence, which my department UCTL hosts at the University of Canterbury - it is funded to run projects that lift teaching in all areas of tertiary education.

The day started at 5am, and I was at the airport by 6.15 for a 7am flight to Auckland. The country was covered in low cloud, except for a 40km clear circle around Mount Taranaki - the snow-clad volcano made a spectacular sight sitting up in its circle of green, within the blanket of low white cloud.
(Left - a similar, but less dramatic, image of this effect, found on Google Images)

The day began with a formal welcome at the AUT marae, which was interesting though somewhat mystifying. The speeches were obviously warm and entertaining, though I could only make out some words and phrases. I don't get to such settings very often, so it was a useful reminder that the world is not as English as we in Christchurch assume. 

The people were all extremely nice, and the Institute has done some excellent development work.  The resources were very well integrated into AUT's Blackboard courses - we will have to come up with ways to integrate them into our WebCT-Blackboard and Moodle systems, but that won't be too hard.

After another lengthy session of farewells, we were delivered back to the airport, to discover that the 7.30pm flight was delayed by an hour - I was finally home about 10pm, after a prolonged hassle with the parking ticket machines at the Christchurch Airport. It made a long day.

Today is a public holiday in Canterbury, so Schroeder and I will go and fix (hopefully) the spinnaker pole attachment on my yacht's mast. Our new crewman Darren is very useful, even though he will be in Wellington today; he runs a roofing business, and has provided professional grade tools to do the job.

And now for something completely different; looking like a Monty Python sketch, another advert from Michael Hansen appeared in today's paper. Mr Hansen made headlines during the local body elections a year ago by campaigning against the secret spy planes that "they" were sending to fly over his home and stop him sleeping.

Now he wants the National Party to "carry out door to door enquiries" to track down an "Electronic Cruelty Machine" which is some kind of X-ray making people miserable.

That looks like a regular cap he's wearing, but I wouldn't be surprised if it had a tinfoil helmet underneath. Usually these are worn to foil (excuse pun) aliens wanting to abduct humans for ghastly sexual experiments, but Mr Hansen sounds like he needs a double-thickness model to keep the machines away.

As for Mr Hansen's repeated claims that the Labour Party is somehow involved in the loss of his car, I applaud his request that the National Party investigate this. Here is the chance for John Key to show his concern for those who were treated unfairly by the previous government. Nothing less than a Commission of Enquiry will be adequate to sort out this troubling business.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Fast week

It's a fast week on the horse racing scene (and for the drunk girls in tiny dresses and wobbly heels) as Christchurch celebrates Cup Week

None of this horsey stuff affects my life, though a day off on Friday will be nice, after a long day flying to Auckland and back on Thursday. My wings will be tired after that.

(Photos from The Press...)

Sunday, 9 November 2008

The people have spoken

Well, sort of - maybe I should say "The people have shrugged their shoulders". As most commentators predicted, yesterday's election was a National landslide, and National is almost able to govern alone - though they do need Act to nudge them into a majority. Be prepared for "management" of the economy amounting to sawing off large chunks of it - as sectors go under thanks to the world financial collapse, Act will be advocating slashing at the public sector. There will be hard times ahead.

Nothing I can add, really, except to say that Helen Clark's resignation as Labour leader was a smart move, and it will enable them to start a three year comeback with a new leadership team.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

You win some, you lose some

It was a great relief to see that Barack Obama's lead didn't evaporate when voters entered the voting booths yesterday. Now he's just got to fix the economy and get them out of Iraq. Hmmm...

The New Zealand election is not likely to bring smiles, though. I must confess to a feeling of doom about this Saturday's poll, and a birthday party for a strong Labour supporter on Saturday night might just be a bit of a fizzer.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Racing away

There is a definite "heading for the finish line" feel about this end of the year. University exams are on, we are finalising budgets and payments for renewals of software licences, annual reports are being written, and so on. Out in the real world, the US election is happening today and the NZ election is on Saturday. 

More to the point (though I'm not greatly interested) the horse racing season is happening; yesterday was the Melbourne Cup, where yet again I invested in sweepstakes at the office and my local pub, and won nothing. Mark Schroeder was dressed for the day, though, as the photo shows. I suspect it was a practice run for the annual shenanigans of Cup Week next week, leading up to Canterbury's Show Day - the provincial anniversary holiday.

Left: Mark Schroeder dressed for the Melbourne Cup. The binoculars helped him see the TV at the far end of the bar.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Big week for politicians

The US election happens today (allowing for time zones) and we're four days away from the New Zealand election. It looks like the right guy will win in the US, and a bad joke will be foisted on the public in NZ.

Watch for Murray McCully, Tony Ryall, Maurice Williamson, and Lockwood Smith in Cabinet, perhaps along with Rodney Hide - and Roger Douglas! Maybe they'll make Ruth Richardson the next Governor General. How that bunch of nincompoops will handle the coming economic shit-storm (no, it's not here yet) will be a worry. And as for climate change or peak oil, forget it - these clowns won't even admit they are real problems.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Weekend news

Well, Alice has moved out to her very pleasant and comfortable flat in Upper Riccarton - we got the trailer at 8am, and had it loaded ready to go soon after 10. By 12 we had it unloaded, and I was ready to go sailing - but discovered I didn't have a crew. Mark Schroeder had got himself involved in household and garden matters, and domestic politics prevailed.

So I went for a 25km bike ride, up through Marshlands to Prestons Rd then across through Burwood to North Beach and New Brighton, and back home along the excellent cycle tracks on the banks of the Avon. Now I'm quite tired after my physical day.

Some sad news today; Morgan Saxton, an ex student of ours from Wanaka, who has achieved a certain reputation because of convictions for stealing greenstone near Haast, has somehow crashed a helicopter into Lake Wanaka on a ferry trip from Haast to Wanaka. Bits and pieces of wreckage have been found, but no body so far. This is terrible news, and will be especially bad for his father Dave, who has been through the greenstone charges with Morgan - now he will face an appeal alone. Morgan was a terrific teenager, with a lovely nature, and he had grown into a handsome and interesting young man - 31 is far too young to die.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Short and sweet

Considering that Monday was a holiday, this 4 day week has had a lot crammed into it. On Wednesday night we awoke about 11.15 to the sound of a screaming motorbike and a police siren; the noise suddenly stopped with a thud, then silence - right outside our neighbours' house.

The 52 year old motorcyclist had been chased for about a kilometre, before skidding on greasy piles of seeds from the trees by the river. (These seed pods pile up like snowdrifts at this time of year.) The bike hit a lamppost and flew through the air to land near our place in the centre of the road. The rider was not visible from our gate, but we could see the police and ambulance staff beside him - his helmet had been torn off and was in the road in front of our house. There was nothing we could do, and we didn't want to appear ghoulish, so we went back to bed.

On Thursday we had drama of a different sort, as the final decision of the Learning Management Review was made. It will be officially announced by the University's Senior Management Team on the 11th, so I'd better not say anything public until then. We're in for a busy time next year, I will say that.

Heather went with Nicky and Merv Sarson to a country garden fete in Hawarden on Friday, and managed quite a long time walking around, which is encouraging. Alice is shifting to a flat in Upper Riccarton tomorrow, so it will be a busy weekend.

A final question; why on earth do some drivers think that keeping the left wheels in the road shoulder is a good idea? I followed this guy back from Lyttelton this morning, at 80kph on a 100kph road - maybe he thought I could pass him? If I did have a passing opportunity, his leftward tendencies would be no help, so I can't figure it out.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

They are all honourable men...

Caustic comment from James Howard Kunstler on the Big Farkup;

Mr. Hank Paulson will have to answer why his own firm of Goldman Sachs set up a special unit to short its own issues. It will be edifying to see how they answer.
In the meantime, however, millions of Joe-the-Plumber types will have gotten their pink slips, slipped helplessly into foreclosure, watched the repo men hot-wire their Ford pickups, and eaten down the kitchen cupboard to a single box of Kellogg's All-Bran (which had been sitting there for eleven years infested with weevils). They will be watching the official proceedings in the federal courtrooms with jaundiced eyes as they hunch in their tent cities, in the rain, sipping amateur-brand raisin wine bartered for a few snared rock doves. How long before the hardier ones among them venture out to Easthampton with long knives and matches?

So it's not just Obama the socialist (warning, right-wing-greedy-is-good TV commentator), it's outright Bolshevism heading our way! Maybe. Why don't the free market advocates admit that when the shit hits the fan, everyone's a socialist?

Monday, 27 October 2008

Good vs Evil on TV3

A couple of clips of interest on TV3's website.

First a nasty incident on Mount Maunganui, where some kids beat up a paraglider pilot because he confronted them about throwing stones at his chute, trying to collapse it.

Then the good side; a Hamilton man tricks a thief into revealing his identity and gets the stolen gear back.

(Warning: I have intermittent results with TV3's video clips. They will play sometimes and just spin their wheels at others. Clearing the browser's cache seems to help at times. If anyone knows how to guarantee consistent results, please let me know.)

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Harry and the helmets

After twenty years (give or take) of compulsory bike helmets, Transport Safety Minister Harry Duynhoven is wondering if the helmet laws deter people from cycling. They probably do; after all, people in Europe cycle in huge numbers and don't wear helmets, and commuters want to arrive ready for work with minimal fuss. And Japan's mothers on their mamachari bicycles carry groceries and kids in huge numbers, with hardly a helmet to be seen.

There is a move to encourage cycle friendly cities world wide, and in these cities there probably is not a need for helmets. The cyclists have enough numbers to ensure motorists can't ignore them, the traffic lanes are sorted to accommodate them, and the cyclists are mostly low speed commuters.

But in New Zealand it's different. Our population is much more dispersed than in Europe, cities have only a few bike lanes, drivers feel that they should go first and everyone else should give way, many cyclists are riding at higher speeds for fitness, and we don't have the concentration of commuters to force motorists to be take their turn.

Personally, I'd wear a helmet anyway. These photos show a helmet I was wearing in July 2007 when I was hit by a car. I was unconscious for 10 minutes and the helmet was broken into three or four pieces. If I hadn't been wearing it, I would have added a fractured skull to the fractured pelvis and crushed vertebrae which made the second half of the year so difficult. I still have very minor signs of concussion, mostly just a bouncing sensation after riding in a lift; I hate to think how my cognitive functions would have been affected if my skull had taken an unprotected blow.

Yes, that's blood on the pads. The force which smashed the plastic shell and the foam must have been considerable - it's a good thing my skull didn't have to dissipate that force!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Werk, wook, week

It's been a stressful week, what with the Moodleites and all, but Friday is in sight. One thing is certain, projects like our LMS Review get to a decision by a series of assumptions, accidents and misunderstandings. My faith in human decision making, on a large scale at least, has been diminished. It seems that consultation breeds confusion, that apathy distorts the results of surveys then bites you in the arse, and wherever we go it will be a muddle. On the small scale, humans are fantastic decision makers (watch someone referee a netball game, or ski bumps, if you doubt me) but when the cerebral cortex gets involved in complex decisions, the possibilities multiply to make inactivity the only logical option.

Allow me to explain. We are evaluating two LMS's (Learning Management Systems) to select a winner. A team of 8-10 people has toiled away all year installing servers, creating courses, and running a trial. At the end of the trial, everybody loves the new system and dislikes the old one. Well, surprise!

Today the managing committee were presented with the facts to inform their decision, but it took a long determined battle to get those facts free from value judgments and naked enthusiasms, with all credit to my workmate who continued the fight when I'd given up. (Monomaniacs can be very persistent when corrected, and erratic at the same time, so I'm glad there were two of us to carry our side.) Now the committee is left with the facts, and growing rabbit-in-the-headlights expressions. They have so much information that they're stopped dead in their tracks, and I don't envy them.

Next is the "believe surveys and get bitten in the arse" part. We asked the trial participants what they thought of the new system. Being primates, with a love of innovation and a strong social group loyalty, they reported that the new bananas from their new friends tasted a lot better than the old ones. They were also keen volunteers, so they didn't need much support; we have now extrapolated the time we spent on them to give us a campus-wide estimate of support needs. I wonder how accurate that prediction will be.

Then comes the apathy. We have 500 or more teaching staff who, if they've thought about the LMS review at all, hope that it won't happen soon. Most will swear blind that they've never heard of it. They will be told inNovember that we're about to start a year long project to switch to a new system, and they'll all simultaneously push their heads further into the sand. (Metaphorically speaking, though the image is appealing.) Come the first day of the teaching semester, and they will arise, demanding instant courses with easy setup and no training required. And we will wonder who's bitten us in the bum. We will say things like "Where did they come from?"

There'll be tears before bedtime, as my grandmother used to say.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Happy cycling

I nearly shredded a bike tyre this morning, right where my own driveway meets the street. Some low-life had thrown a beer bottle out of a car last night, and I spotted the glass just in time to stop. I gathered up the garbage, reflected on the sorry state of my fellow humans, and continued on my way.

Not that the other streets of our fair city are that good, anyway - on a Monday morning most main roads are just covered in glass fragments from the weekend drink-drivers' bottle chucking. 

Monday, 20 October 2008

Weekend fun

We had a quiet weekend, with no sailing because of a strong southerly on Saturday. Owen Cambridge from Dunedin visited and went home on Sunday, towing a 5m fibreglass runabout fitted with a 125hp outboard motor. It's going to be a culture shock for a long time yachtie, but he'll enjoy it, I'm sure.

Heather has continued on her recovery, and is going to work today. She may not last a full day, but she's ready to start - and the school is ready to have her back too, as the year marches on with ever more reports to produce. Alice is planning to move into a flat next weekend, so I suppose I'll be required for trailer duty.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Last day fun

Lots of drunk students, as predicted. Many were asleep by lunchtime. Here are some photos from my phone.

Lots of students dressed up; many came in teams dressed alike, but not this lot.

This young lady decided to have a wee lie down on the banks of the Avon, near the Staff Club.

A student who decided to take a sleep on the dusty verge of Ilam Road - he's still got his phone, in case he needs it.

The queues for the portable toilets were building by 1.30pm.

Two "team" members talking to a security guy while waiting for their pals.

The week that was

It's been a busy week, with lots happening at work. The weather has been good enough to bike each day, though Thursday morning required a small gamble, which paid off. Heather is driving the car quite comfortably, and has started swimming each day - she finds swimming is easy, though slow, and aqua jogging is a bit of a challenge, but it's doing lots of good for the hip and buttock muscles. She'll probably start back at work next week, doing half days at least.

Today is the final day of classes, so the University will go into semi-lockdown at lunchtime when the big "tea party" at the Students' Association starts. The Central Library and the computer workrooms will be restricted, and watched carefully to keep the drunks out. Near the UCSA building, rows of portable toilets were set up yesterday, and the campus will fill with drunk aimless students as the day goes on. Isn't higher learning a wonderful thing?

Monday, 13 October 2008

Politics can be fun

Not really, that was a trick. Clever, eh? Almost as clever as Maurice Williamson. (Below)

More politics; 
Still, you have to laugh:

The week begins

Lots to do today. Getting back from an absence has its own load of tasks; turn off out-of-office email reply and the voicemail message, then start on the email deluge. Usually I start with voicemails, then I can get rid of the routine stuff in about 30 minutes, and a few support questions take another 30 minutes. Then comes the more difficult stuff; budget alterations, papers for meetings, applications for grants. Then it's lunchtime.

After lunch I was free to get on to the current projects; mostly to do with our trial of Moodle. I won't drag on about that now, there's bound to be a better time.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Big day

My cell phone woke me at 5.15 am, and I quickly dressed, packed the last of my bag, and made a quick breakfast in the motel in Napier. At 5.50 on the dot, my taxi arrived and took me to the airport, and a very pleasant flight had me in Christchurch at 8.15 am.

At 11, I collected Mark Schroeder and we rigged Impulsive for our first race of the season. The race began as a 1-knot drifter, then a little localised breeze got the first dozen boats, including us, round the first mark well ahead of the fleet.

The wind then reversed after we'd spent 10 minutes under spinnaker, so down it came and we trimmed up for a long beat into a lovely 8-10 knot easterly. We did spectacularly well on this; the majority of the front bunch went over to the Lyttelton side of the harbour and short-tacked up that side, but we broke all the rules of yacht racing and went on a lone flyer out towards Purau. We got a great breeze, and met up with our buddy Chris Hutching in his little yacht Henry Salad (don't ask...) which was actually the reason we'd gone that way. It wasn't tactics, just visiting a mate, but we won't tell.

Anyway, we charged up the centre of the harbour under our big genoa, keeping up with a Young 88 keeler for most of the leg - that was good for the ego! As we got close to the top mark, Schroeds and I were saying to each other "We've done really well here", and we were right - we had put ourselves level with the leading bunch. Because of the slow first hour in the drifter, the committee shortened the race at that point, so a committee boat was waiting at the top mark displaying flag S (shortened course) and taking our times.

Left - Mark Schroeder, master of the spinnaker

That meant that the long downwind leg was not officially racing, though some who don't know the rules well were confused about this, we discovered later. We had some good spinnaker practice, drank beer, and told each other what a great day we were having, then arrived back at the club about 4.15. Then came the really good news...

As we were retrieving the boat onto the trailer, a race official came past and said "You guys have won both", then disappeared. When we got to the bar after tidying away, we found he was right. We won Division 2 on handicap, on our first official outing in the division, and we beat the entire fleet on corrected time - trailer yachts, sport boats, keelers, the lot!

Our lovely spinnaker (with wrong sail number)

So it's a tired, sunburnt, and happy chappy who's about to toddle off for an early night.

Left; see how far behind the other spinnakers are!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Out of town

We had two extremely bumpy flights today, to Wellington then Napier. Now we're in a nice modern motel and about to go out for some food, then tomorrow is the 2008 Moodle Moot. Which is really a conference, but Moodleites like the Moodle alliteration possibilities. Not that they're a moody bunch of moos or anything.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Weather or not

Yesterday was a classic Canterbury spring day, complete with northwest gale. There were branches broken off trees by the river, pollen and seeds from trees piled in the driveway, and no possibility of taking part in the Naval Point Club's opening day.

This morning has dawned calm and damp, but promises to clear later, so Schroeder and I will go to Lyttelton and rig the mast and mainsail, then reorganise the boat cover. If it looks good enough, and we have time, we'll probably go for a brief sail to check that everything is in place.

UPDATE: it was still raining around noon so we just went and raised the mast, rigged the main, and reorganised the cover. We thought we wouldn't want to sail - then the sun came out at 3pm, after we came home. At least we're ready for a flying start next week - after I fly back from Napier that morning.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Someone saves America

I thought John McCain's implied message "I'm the man who rescued the US economy" was bending the truth, but then I read this new-age self-improvement rant from Saint Barak.

"Let us unite in banishing fear ... we cannot fail," Obama said, directly quoting the former Democratic president from his first 'fireside chat' on the radio to Americans in March 1933.

"Today we cannot fail, we cannot fail, not now, not tomorrow, not next year," Obama said in the US Senate chamber, just over a month before his general election showdown with Republican John McCain.

"This is a nation that's faced down war and depression, great challenges and great threats."

"And at each and every moment, we have risen up to meet these challenges, not as Democrats, not as Republicans, but as Americans, with resolve and with confidence.

"With that fundamental belief that here in America, our destiny is not written for us, it's written by us.

"That's who we are and that's the country I know we can be right now," he said.

Gosh coach, let's go and win one for the Gipper. How the hell does tosh like that actually help?
This bailout deal from the Senate may founder in the House anyway. Wait and see.

Week two

Progress report for Heather; she's now walking with a single crutch and able to stand for periods with no assistance. Getting in and out of the car is a lot easier, so she and Elaine are off to do some shopping today.

She needs to be more or less self contained by this time next week, as I will be in Napier from Wednesday to early Saturday, attending the annual Moodle Moot, and her sister Elaine will have gone. Alice will be at home in the evenings, so as long as Heather can organise breakfast and lunch, they'll get by.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Strange bedfellows

Continuing the political theme, I spotted the latest cover for Free Radical magazine. Good, eh?

Back to the US presidential race and the bank buyout; first is a lovely comment piece from the NYT's Frank Rich (unfortunate name).

Part of Rich's story, which is really about McCain's "suspension" of campaigning being a fake, is the Republicans' rush to deflect attention from Palin's disastrous CBS interview. It also outlines the lobbyists who used to spin for Fannie Mae and now run the McCain campaign, while Honest John refers to lobbyists as "birds of prey" and says he's on the side of the little guy. The only difference being that the little guy knows how many houses he owns, I suppose.

In that interview with Katie Couric, Palin banged on about how she's always had to deal with Russia, then she asserted that McCain has always been greatly in favour of regulation of finance; yeah, right! Here's the Russia-diplomacy bit;

Ms. Couric asked Ms. Palin to explain how Alaska’s proximity to Russia “enhances your foreign policy credentials.”

“Well, it certainly does,” Ms. Palin replied, “because our, our next-door neighbors are foreign countries, there in the state that I am the executive of. And there—”

Gently interrupting, Ms. Couric asked, “Have you ever been involved in any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?”

“We have trade missions back and forth,” said Ms. Palin. “We do. It’s very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia. As Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America, where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to our state.”

Then there's McCain's gambling, which he hides from the evangelicals. I don't suppose you get many saved end-timers in Vegas, anyway.

What a poisonous old power-toad this man is - and his cheesy offsider is not helping.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Hell in a handbasket

Everybody has an opinion on the attempted bailout of the US banking sector. Gordon Campbell at Scoop has lots of plain speaking to get off his chest; here's a sample. 
". . . (a) the plan probably won’t work (b) isn’t fixable and (c) will be politically suicidal", because ". . . every person who has lost their home in the recession/subprime fallout because their bank refused to help them re-structure their debt - is furious that Wall Street is getting bailed out at their expense." And worse, ". . . this will allow John McCain and every Republican in a marginal seat to run as outsiders and rail against Washington – even though it was their party and its loony zeal for de-regulation that made the crisis possible, and inevitable."

James Howard Kunstler is as expressive as ever; he has every right to a good burst of "I told you so" as he's been predicting a banking and mortgage meltdown for some years, but he's not gloating. He does, however, call this ". . . a cockamamie scheme for the US treasury to absorb all the losses from a twenty-year binge in which Wall Street created and retailed the most complex set of swindles ever seen on this planet Earth. The background music to the tableau was the 'whoosh' of a several trillion dollars exiting the US financial system never to be seen again."

Even the Archbishop of Canterbury has something to say, drawing a rather long bow in an attempt to invoke Marx and to find a moral message in this mess. To him, it's not greed that is the sin, it's idolatry; and he calls on the secular saints Dawkins and Hitchens to expose this fallacy!

"...ascribing independent reality to what you have in fact made yourself is a perfect definition of what the Jewish and Christian Scriptures call idolatry.
   The mythologies and abstractions, the pseudo-objects of much modern financial culture, are in urgent need of their own Dawkins or Hitchens. We need to be reacquainted with our own capacity to choose — which means acquiring some skills in discerning true faith from false, and re-learning some of the inescapable face-to-face dimensions of human trust."

Sorry Your Grace, those two gentlemen are busy pulling down the entire edifice of religion; if they ever succeed, you'll just be an irrelevant old airhead.

I'd like to hear the story about the free market self-correcting without government interference again - that's my favourite fairy story this week.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Mrs Ronald is At Home

Heather was home by 10.30am, and soon settled into life in bed, with regular walks on crutches here and there.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Hip op moving on

Heather will come home tomorrow, Friday 26th. I'll take at least Friday and Monday off, and more if needed. Heather's sister Elaine arrives on Monday so she can take over daytimes for a while, and I'll go back to work - in theory, at least.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Progress report 2

Heather is doing very well; she's off oxygen and morphine, has been a few paces here and there on crutches, and is generally making great progress. Alice is on her way to Rarotonga, and I'm at home with the cats. I'll go and sort out the rubbish and recycling now. It's a full life...

Progress report

Before; Heather inspecting her new home.
After; eating an iceblock to soothe the throat.
Heather was oddly cheerful last night, which can probably be blamed on the morphine drip. Her throat is very sore from the tubes and gases, so she sounds like someone who's just smoked 40 Rothmans.

This morning she said she'd been up and taken a few steps using crutches, then was wheeled into the shower - she'll be feeling a lot fresher after that, I'm sure.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Heather's big day

This morning we'll take Heather to St George's Hospital around 11am, and leave her to undergo a hip replacement some time this afternoon. I don't think she'll be in much of a mood for visitors tonight, but I'll pop over briefly about 7 to see how she is doing. We're all a bit nervous, which is understandable given the seriousness of the operation.

Tomorrow Alice flies to Rarotonga to attend her friend Pip's wedding, returning on Sunday in time to prepare for her first day at work next Monday. Big events all round!

Thanks to a fine weekend the boat painting is done, so I will return it to the yard at Lyttelton in the next day or so. (Later; the boat is back at Lyttelton today; thanks to Mark Schroeder's assistance it only took an hour.)

UPDATE: Heather was out of surgery at 3:15, and called us at 5:30 to say she was awake - when the morphine allowed. We're off to see her now - 6:45pm.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Boating soon

Today was devoted to boat maintenance. At 9am Schroeder and I arrived at the trailer yacht yard at Lyttelton, hooked up the trailer, and drove back to town to get a warrant of fitness for the boat trailer. That went flawlessly, and by 11am I had the boat parked at home to do some more painting.

Last weekend I did most of the sanding in the cockpit. Today I applied a power sander to the remaining spots, applied primer, then went to have lunch and do the weekly supermarket run. By 2pm the primer was dry, so I started with a portable vacuum cleaner to clean up the dust and the seeds from the trees, followed by creamy yellow deck paint to cover up the primer. The second coat will go on tomorrow morning, then we'll take the boat back to Lyttelton, with sails stored inside ready to start the season. Once we raise the mast and attach the sails, of course.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Politics on the web

I'm about to watch TVNZ7's streaming video of their "Leaders on 7" series. It will be interesting to see if their servers are up to the demand.

Later: oops! The debate on the internet next Tuesday will be streamed, but last night's debate was broadcast though not streamed live. It will probably be available on the TVNZ On Demand site later today, though.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

False hope for the hopeless

A phrase hit me as I watched TV this dinner time; "age repair elixir". The combination of powerful magic words ("It's not a cream, it's an elixir!") intrigued me, so I did a quick google. The commercial was advertising this product; ANEW ULTIMATE Age Repair Elixir, $US44 for 1 fl.oz. Apparently it is "A luxurious, ultralight serum that provides the maximum level of Pro-Sirtuin TX Technology." Whatever that is - or more likely, isn't.

The people who've swallowed this tosh so far are then advised to apply the elixir "every morning and night before your moisturizer". I wasn't brave enough to look up the price of that, and bailed out from the web site.

About then I looked up at the TV, and there was the Family Health Diary, telling us to pester our doctors for a new brand of asthma inhaler, and to buy other dubious products for even more dubious reasons. These snake-oil salesmen make me really cross, taking advantage of the stupid and desperate like that. I suppose the cosmetics industry is marginally more ethical than this lot, because they don't actually fool about with people's health. However they certainly charge a lot more for the illusion of glamour and imaginary benefits they promise in such sincere tones.