Thursday, 31 January 2008

The fun of cycling

I'm pretty pleased with my route to work, which avoids busy roads as much as possible, but there are still hazards. These are sometimes caused by people trying to help by behaving in non-standard ways, but they're usually caused by people whose world extends about half a metre around them - what I call the "only person on the planet" syndrome.

I watch in amazement as walkers on the right hand side of the path walk on, oblivious to my 25 km/hr approach, until I'm about 3 or 4 metres away - then they jump aside, in a randomly chosen direction.

I come up behind "walkie talkies" (pairs of women ostensibly walking for fitness, but never too fast to keep up a constant flow of conversation) and about 10m away I give a ring of my bell - usually they look back, then step to each side of the shared path. Then, in about 25% of cases, one woman decides she really should be with her friend, and dashes across the path a metre from my front wheel. Honestly.

Other regular cycling situations;
  • Dog one side, owner the other, and the leash stretched across the path.
  • Overseas tourists whose polite reaction is to jump right, not left.
  • School fitness groups running 3 abreast and all talking.
But I love biking!

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

The annual cycle

You can set your watch by the annual return of the Ekky Dimmocks. About the first week of January, they return from their summer recuperation grounds, newly fledged and full of enthusiasm. And my phone starts ringing.

Now that the "not our fault" crisis of having to manually reset several hundred cross-coded courses is over, I can pay some attention to my real job - getting the university and its teaching staff ready for 2008. Luckily, Derek and Alan have done a lot already, so I just have to prepare some 20 minute spot performances for training sessions. Easy!

I've biked every day this week - isn't summer good?

Sunday, 27 January 2008

A Day On The Green - Joe Cocker

Yesterday we went to see Joe Cocker, plus Hammond Gamble and Midge Marsden, perform at a winery in Waipara. The events are called "A Day On The Green" - they're an Australian promotion, now doing concerts in New Zealand. (Their website seems to be broken this morning, so I won't provide a link.) Photography at concerts is never easy, but here are a few pics.
We brought rugs and mats, thinking the seating area was a sloping bank - next time we'd take chairs. We bought beer and wine at the stalls, and dined very well on picnic goodies we brought with us. This was taken early; our area became a lot more crowded as the night went on. (L-R: Heather, Mark & Jill Schroeder, Brendan McConnell.)

Mark & Jill Schroeder - Mark dressed for the Last Night at the Proms, by the look of things. He later said it was the first concert he'd ever been to that didn't have a conductor.

Heather with Brendan McConnell, rocking away to Joe Cocker - well, Heather was anyway. Brendan just sang along with gusto.

The only stage photo that came near to usable - you can't see the sax/conga player and keyboardist at extreme left, but this shows the rest of the lineup, though with a fair amount of blur. The bass player at left was a show in her own right, and the backing singers were also very entertaining. Joe Cocker threw himself into the show with huge energy, and was as good as I've ever seen him in the three or four Cocker shows I've attended over the years.

A side note; this was the best sound mix I've heard at a live show for a long time. The moron who does sound at the Westpac Centre should take note - not all channels on the mixer need to be set at full blast.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Where was I?

Not much activity on this site this week - going back to work after a month off is like that. And we have a mountain of a task facing us - I won't drone on the technicalities, but we have to process 200-300 courses, with each one taking about 10-15 minutes of careful intensive work. So we're in factory mode for a few days.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Back to work

Not much to add, really. We have lots to do, and Jess is taking leave in early February. Today was catching up on 200+ emails and getting back into the rhythm of the place. Tomorrow we'll start the first trials of our reset process for cross coded courses. Timing the day around Sir Ed's funeral on TV, I suspect.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Summer sailing

We had an interesting afternoon sailing yesterday. We rigged the boat with the breeze at 15 knots gusting to 20, but when we motored out we met 20-25 knots with a big tide-vs-wind chop. We just couldn't get enough mainsail drawing to balance the boat, so we were struggling to combat lee helm.

We decided to reef the main, so we sailed into the inner harbour in the hope of finding shelter to organise this - it was still squally in there, but we managed to organise the slab reef and sailed out into the main harbour again. Even then, the bow was being blown away by the wind (we probably should have switched to our smallest jib too) so we dropped the jib.

To our surprise, the boat then sailed very happily under reefed main alone, and sat fairly upright. It didn't seem fast, but in fact we made a steady 5 knots in total comfort, and still made excellent upwind progress. We actually outpointed another yacht which was struggling along under full sail, so it's nice to know that we can handle strong winds in comfort.

We sailed to Diamond Harbour, where we dropped the main and anchored for some peace and quiet, then sailed back to the yacht club under jib alone - again at a steady 5 knots, rolling sometimes in the swell rolling into the harbour. It wasn't a big trip as sailing trips go, but we learned a lot about reefing and heavy weather sailing, and had a good time. I slept very well last night!

Following the death of Sir Edmund Hillary last Friday, today we remember Hone Tuwhare, the nearest thing NZ had to a poet laureate, and the only man who ever served corned beef and puha to hungry drunk students after the Captain Cook pub closed.

To a Maori figure cast in bronze
outside the Chief Post Office, Auckland

I hate being stuck up here, glaciated, hard all over
and with my guts removed: my old lady is not going
to like it

I’ve seen more efficient scarecrows in seedbed
nurseries. Hell, I can’t even shoo the pigeons off

Me: all hollow inside with longing for the marae on
the cliff at Kohimarama, where you can watch the ships
come in curling their white moustaches

Why didn’t they stick me next to Mickey Savage?
‘Now then,’ he was a good bloke
Maybe it was a Tory City Council that put me here

They never consulted me about naming the square
It’s a wonder they never called it: Hori-in-gorge-at-bottom-
of-hill. Because it is like that: a gorge,
with the sun blocked out, the wind whistling around
your balls (your balls mate) And at night, how I
feel for the beatle-girls with their long-haired
boyfriends licking their frozen finger-chippy lips
hopefully. And me again beetling

my tent eyebrows forever, like a brass monkey with
real worries: I mean, how the hell can you welcome
the Overseas Dollar, if you can’t open your mouth
to poke your tongue out, eh?

If I could only move from this bloody pedestal I’d
show the long-hairs how to knock out a tune on the
souped-up guitar, my mere quivering, my taiaha held
at the high port. And I’d fix the ripe kotiro too
with their mini-piupiu-ed bums twinkling: yeah!

Somebody give me a drink: I can’t stand it.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

A social experiment

I came across this cartoon by Ruben Bolling, and thought it made such a good point that it deserved further circulation. I wonder if he's aimed his pen at creationism? (Click the picture for a full size view.)

I'm off sailing at midday - this holidaying isn't a bad life at all!

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

The real issue in the US election

Jim Kunstler, the US social and energy commentator, takes a big-picture approach to a major issue facing candidates in the US election.

"None of the candidates for president has begun to articulate an understanding of what we face: the suburban living arrangement is an experiment that has entered failure mode.

... the dirty secret of this campaign is that the American public doesn't want to change its behavior at all. What it really wants is someone to promise them they can keep on doing what they're used to doing: buying more stuff they can't afford, eating more shitty food that will kill them, and driving more miles than circumstances will allow.

Here's what we better start doing.
Stop all highway-building altogether. Instead, direct public money into repairing railroad rights-of-way. Put together public-private partnerships for running passenger rail between American cities and towns in between. If Amtrak is unacceptable, get rid of it and set up a new management system. At the same time, begin planning comprehensive regional light-rail and streetcar operations."

I doubt they'll listen to him, but I'm sure he'll be proven right eventually, when the US suburban mess implodes under the debris of the subprime mortgage fiasco and rising fuel prices. There are lessons here for Auckland and Christchurch too - maybe we'll see property in Rolleston and Pegasus Town going cheap once reality bites.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Bike ride to Dyers Pass

I had a quick bowl of muesli then rode off at 7.10am for a serious bike ride, hoping to get to the top of the Port Hills. This was my first hill ride since last March, so I wasn't expecting miracles - but the next time will be a lot easier.
My trusty Avanti Blade at Dyers Pass.
It took 30 minutes to ride the 10.7km to the bottom of Hackthorne Rd near Princess Margaret Hospital, then 45 minutes of low gear grunt (with two rest stops) to reach the Sign of the Kiwi tea house at the summit, 322m above sea level. The ride home was quite windy so I didn't go much over 40 km/hr on the way down.

It was disappointing to see the amount of rubbish that gets thrown out of cars - mostly beer and alco-pop bottles, plus cans of V and Red Bull and McDonalds wrappers. Then at the car park at the top, I was greeted with this evidence of teenage hoonery.
I don't mean to sound old and grumpy (well, not always...) but I'm pretty sure it's not over-30s who are driving around boozing (especially 18-packs of bourbon and coke) and biffing litter out of cars. I'd like to set up an infrared camera to catch the number plates of jerks like this, then next day drive to their house or workplace, and publicly present them with their crap.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Summer holiday


IMG_0270
Originally uploaded by gregor_ronald
We're back from our southern excursion, having driven 1300km over two weeks. We started in Wanaka for 5 days, then Invercargill for 2, followed by 2 days in the Catlins and 2 in Dunedin.

The photo set on Flickr starts in Wanaka, with rodeo and clouds, then Kingston, Invercargill & Bluff. Next to the Catlins (small but spectacular) and Dunedin, where we went to the tropical rain forest and butterfly exhibition.

Our first day home is a 34 deg NW scorcher, so we're not doing anything physical.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Nearly home

Back to Chch tomorrow with many tales and photos. More later.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Wanaka rodeo

We did something today that we never did in the 20 years we lived in Wanaka - went to the annual rodeo. It was huge fun, though the amount of teenage drinking was getting to be a bit of a worry near the end. The grand finale was the bull riding, which predictably produced two or three serious casualties. Definitely a dislocated knee, probably a broken ankle, stuff like that. The barrel racing was great though, and so was the calf roping.

Womens' Open Barrel Race - a terrific show of skill and speed from both rider and horse.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

In Wanaka

We're now in Wanaka, staying with Kristine & Eddie in their nearly-finished house. If I wasn't on dialup I would show some pictures, but that will have to wait. The weather is fantastic, so I think we'll be getting out and about today. More later...