Tuesday, 26 February 2008

The cold won

I felt good this morning, after staying at home on Monday - I thought that the worst of my cold was over as the blocked nose and cough were abating, but I was wrong. After an hour at work, I found myself staring at a computer screen with no clue what I was looking for, so I decided that the body might be improving but the brain had not caught up, and went home. I have had a couple of brief naps, and feel a bit better, but so far the score is definitely on the side of the cold. Maybe tomorrow, after a dentist's appointment at 8.30am.

Cycling news; Bob White, "The Old Man Of the Mountains" from New Hampshire, who I met briefly after his second NZ tour a year ago, has had a really bad accident (hiking, not biking) and ruptured his knee ligaments. He's near the end of a long slow recovery, though I agree with his observation that this is an injury that people in their late 50s never totally get over. Still, the northern summer is only a couple of months away, and he's bound to be back on a bike by then. It won't take long to rebuild thigh muscle, with good diet and lots of exercise. And as I said on his message board, "The remarkable thing about injuries is how quickly the mind sweeps the memories to the background, the whole process will soon seem just a brief interval between summers."

Monday, 25 February 2008

Counting down

I'm double blogging for the next month or so. As well as this (why do I write this blog? Can anyone remember why I started?) I am maintaining a journal at the wonderful Crazy Guy On A Bike cycle-touring site, detailing our on-again-off-again progress towards our post-Easter bike trip.

Anyway, today I used an at-home afternoon, courtesy of a head cold, to make a lot of very nasal phone calls - so we're now booked at a collection of hotels and motels for our vehicle supported cycle trip. What a pair of softies, we'll only have to carry wet weather gear. More later.

A good idea?

I once worked in a computer helpdesk, where we had a sign (not visible to the customers) saying "The trouble with stupid people is that they're so inventive." Which brings us to this example; how to print out what's on your computer monitor.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Sunday fun

Not all that much fun, as I have a streaming head cold. However, this afternoon the annual Twin Rivers Classic Car parade came by - usually they let us know, but this year it was a complete surprise. There were lots of interesting cars; here's a selection. (Click a picture to see a large version, then the Back button to return to this page.)

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Ready, set...

It will be all go on Monday, as lectures begin at the University of Canterbury. It's been rather odd this week as the campus filled up with students, and lecturers have been sending us lots of course change and setup requests.

Although we've been quite busy, over all this has been the quietest start of year for some time; part of that is because there are now two of us (though we're doing a lot more than Blackboard admin these days), but it's also nice to have a year begin without major changes and disruptions. Last year we did the big transition to WebCT 6 (which was promptly renamed as Blackboard), and the year before we had rebuilt every course to match the naming conventions imposed by the new Jade student database. In both years, large numbers of staff had to be reconnected with their courses, and even though we had told staff about this many times, we had hundreds of people freaking out and claiming that no-one had told them anything.
A designer's view of a Blackboard course.

This year, it's pretty much "business as usual" and apart from some courses changing semesters, there has been little to upset the returning academics. We've had three more departments (AFIS, Maori, and Computer Science), decide on a department-wide adoption of Blackboard, which has kept our learning advisers busy with training. In the middle of all this, our new UCTL department web site went live, and we've been rewriting material for that in our spare minutes.

So it's back to class for the students and teaching staff, with all the fun of Orientation Week added to the mix.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

No Country For Logical Men

Well, I'm just back from seeing "No Country For Old Men", and I'm nonplussed, to put it mildly. No good asking the characters, they're all dead. Tommy Lee Jones is alive at the end, though I wouldn't exactly say he survived. Some bad guys got the money, another bad guy improbably survives a car crash then walks off to murder some more, and generally it all ends badly.

The reviewers all love it; maybe I'm not a sophisticated movie watcher. Though the photography and general direction was brilliant, the plot is running rings around me going "nah nah nah" - maybe I'll catch up with it eventually.

I'm about done with movies for a while, I think.

Sunday, 17 February 2008


Well, Juno was a hoot - a beautifully paced American comedy with a keen eye for cant and bombast. (NY Times review here.) The NY Times review says it far better than I could, but the entire cast was excellent, the pacing superb, and Juno's childish side was just visible below the surface.

My movie watching catch-up will continue this week. First is the Coen Brothers' "No Country For Old Men", then if it's still running somewhere in town, I'll see "Charlie Wilson's War". If not, I'll catch it on DVD later in the year. I think I've missed "Death at a Funeral" so that's gone onto my DVD list as well.

I don't really want to see "Sweeney Todd"; I think I'm becoming a bit squeamish in my old age.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

What to do on a wet weekend

A rainy Saturday, so we went to "Michael Clayton" - George Clooney's recent film about the moral uncertainties of corporate law. The film is an extended flashback, which some reviewers have disliked, but I liked the time scheme. The story catches up with itself at the perfect moment, and carries the plot to a perfect finish.

Tomorrow we have tickets for "Juno", so we're in for a two-movie weekend. More later.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Big waves and little boats

First some shots from the recently completed Laser World Champs in Terrigal in Aussie. They had big waves, as you can see.
Jury, please!I thought that was good, then I saw this:

All I can say is, "We didn't get up to this kind of thing when I sailed a Laser!"

Right, no more sailing. It looks like our Reefton bike trip will be in April now, probably starting on Wed 2nd.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Spotted on the interweb

First some neat sailing photos from Sail World.

Isn't this great? This is from Mar Del Plata in Argentina, where junior Optimist sailors surfed down waves that would turn most people's bowels to jelly. That kid's probably about 13. Did you notice that the boat's going faster than the wind? (The main is inside out.)

These shots are from Terrigal, NSW, where they're holding the World Laser Champs. They get big seas too.

And Kunstler's line of the week; "When Americans can no longer run their cars on a whim, they will simply go apeshit and you can kiss normal politics goodbye."

Cringely on the Microsoft-Yahoo deal; "Yahoo will give in, the Bush Administration will rubber-stamp this pact in record time, and these dysfunctional corporate characters will be off, together, down that yellow brick road."

Monday, 11 February 2008

Uncle Sam cares for you

Spotted in the Rolling Stone Yearbook 2007; Dec. 27 - Jan 10, pg. 88:
Be Less Than You Can Be
How the Pentagon supported the troops in 2007
  • Required that soldiers discharged early because of battlefield injuries repay their enlistment bonuses
  • Sent the longest-serving National Guard unit home after 729 days of combat in Iraq -- one day shy of the 730 that the soldiers needed to qualify for education benefits
  • Omitted 20,000 cases of brain trauma from the official tally of troops injured in Iraq
  • Denied medical benefits to 22,000 veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress by discharging them for having enlisted with "pre-existing personality disorders"
Isn't that nice of the Bush/Cheney war machine? Almost as sick-making as the recent Doonesbury series on Toggle and his Iraq War brain injury. Though his Mom's visit had a morbid humour...

Also in the yearbook; Bill Maher's "Dickheads of the year". Some are a bit American-centric, but his merciless and clever analysis is still worth reading.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Gregor bikes the Short Bays

You'll need to know your Canterbury geography for this, but today I actually did the ride I described last Tuesday. The ride is known as the "Short Bays" or "Small Bays", as opposed to the "Long Bays" which goes from Christchurch to Tai Tapu and Gebbies Pass, Governors Bay, Lyttelton, Sumner, and home.

The Short Bays goes from town over Dyers Pass to Governors Bay on Lyttelton Harbour. I had lunch there with Merv & Nicky Sarson, who have just returned from yet another trip to the UK. Heather and Alice drove over to have lunch too, passing me just as I arrived at the top. The climb up to the pass was as hard as always; my last trip of four weeks ago hadn't improved my performance at all.

After lunch I climbed a steep slope out of Governors Bay, then a series of descents and climbs through Rapaki, Cass Bay, and Corsair Bay, brought me to Lyttelton. The one block climb up to the start of the road back to Sumner was a real gut-buster, and after turning right at the Police Station it took me another few hundred metres to get my breath back under control. The climb to Evans Pass is steady but still steeper than I expected, but as it is only 200m above sea level, as opposed to the 324m of Dyers Pass, it was over relatively quickly.

Motorists were unfailingly pleasant and considerate right through the ride, I should say. Several held back from passing until a descending vehicle had passed by, which was nicer than necessary, but much appreciated. Throughout the ride I was passed by lots of young cyclists on beautiful road bikes with beautiful clothing, but I didn't get too depressed by this; I just told myself that they're 1/3 to 1/2 my age. But the ones in their 40s passed me too. Hmmm...

I stopped at Evans Pass and discovered my chocolate had melted in the handlebar bag, so as I was getting sunburnt (no sunscreen, it had been cloudy when I left) I had a Mentos and a drink of water, then set off for home. The downhill run to Sumner took the usual couple of minutes, then a helpful tailwind sent me home by 4pm. The bike computer showed I'd been riding for 3 hours & 2 seconds, and covered 48.1km, at an average of 16kph. Considering I'd climbed two hills, at 324m and 200m asl, I thought that was respectable. My downhill maximum speed was 55kph; funny that I'm not brave enough to go much faster than that on the road, when I've clocked up 83kph on skis. Mind you, falling on snow at that speed isn't going to hurt, unless something weird happens.

I took my camera, plus all sorts of other stuff like jacket, wallet, an apple, spare tube & repair kit, but I didn't take a single photo. Typical!

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Trouble with prepositions

Here we go again; "Tourist dies on Mount Cook". Wait a minute - ON Mt Cook? Wouldn't you call him a climber, rather than a tourist? Well, actually, he was IN Mt Cook, if you mean the region. Even more accurately, he was on the Mueller Hut track, NEAR Mt Cook. Prepositions can be tricky.

Why do journalists not read maps? I've harped on about this in the past, but obviously they have a mindset that says "No-one in Auckland gives a damn about this, it's just scary stuff in the South Island, so there's no point in getting all anal about the details." As long as it gets the reader's attention...

Dumb mistake

Yesterday I brought my old work PC home. I had purchased it, with a 17" LCD screen, for a very good price, and it will become the new "master" machine for the house after some reconfiguring.

Today I plugged it together, hooked up a network cable, and turned it on. That's when I started hitting myself on the head - I couldn't log on! The computer wanted to log me on to the University domain, but that's obviously not possible. But I don't know the local Administrator password, and I hadn't set up a local user account for myself.

I was about to pack it back into the car and take it out to work to log on, when I remembered the admin password - whew!

Now it's running fine, under a new local user account which automatically logs on. It just found the network without any fuss, and is now connected to other machines on the network. A funny thing happened - as it booted up, the PC announced that the audio drivers were not installed, and sure enough I had no sound. I had to go into Device Manager and choose "repair" for it to reinstall the Realtek audio drivers - they must be user specific.

Now comes a tricky hardware fix - moving the 160GB storage drive from the old PC to the new one. The new case doesn't really have a place for another drive, and the data cable to the new C drive is something I've never seen before - maybe it's SATA. (Yep, a quick google confirmed this.)
The red SATA cable connected to the motherboard.

The other odd thing is that the drive is mounted in a bay at the side of the chassis, inside the exterior case. If I'm to get my old regular-ATA drive into the case as well, so I have all my data from the previous machine, I may need a hardware whiz to make up some kind of bracket - and maybe find me another ATA connection.

The new PC's C: drive is mounted on the side of the case. There is no other drive bay for a second hard drive. Hmmm...

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Biking to Sumner

I didn't do the ride on the hills today, mostly out of inertia, then after lunch I felt guilty and decided I'd ride to Sumner. It was a stiff push against a solid easterly on the way out, especially on the causeway by McCormacks Bay, but I did the 12km in about 40 minutes - not too bad in a head wind.

An old experienced cyclist once said to me "There are head winds but never a tail wind, that's just a cyclist having a good day." File that under "The wit and humour of cycling", along with the 4 H's dreaded by all cyclists; Hills, Headwinds, Hangovers, and Hemorrhoids.

Anyway, I had a go at taking a self portrait with Scarborough Beach in the background.
The ride home with a tail wind was great, and I reached 37kph coming back across the causeway, as revenge for the 18kph it had forced me to on the outward trip. There were lots of people at Sumner, taking advantage of the fine weather and a day off in the middle of the week.

The true meaning of February 6th

This cartoon was sent from a friend who's a NZ Herald reader.

Thanks to Phil Wallington on his Radio NZ media commentary spot for pointing out this gem; Nicky Watson's new(est) man is an Aussie property multi-millionaire. And Nicky is his personal trouser adjuster.For a very thorough summary of Nicky's romances (though the article calls them "hook-ups" which may be more accurate), here's the full Sunday News story from last week. It doesn't explain why Justin's left arm is in a sling, though.

Another great Nicky Watson moment happened just before Christmas, as she was tearfully telling a TV reporter about her missing dog. She was so upset that her voice cracked, and the sympathetic reporter said, "You're a little hoarse." Nicky looked up at him, tears in her eyes, and said, "No, it's a chihuahua."

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Holiday tomorrow

The annual Waitangi Day silliness is upon us. John Key has been parading arm in arm with the old witch Titewhai Harawira (she'll do anything to get on telly), a mad old kuia is beating up people who walk on her beach, Tariana Turia is claiming that tagging is art; I expect to hear that Maori invented oxygen before the day is over. And that they want it all back.

Anyway, it's a holiday, and that can't be a bad thing. I doubt that I can talk Heather into sailing, so the next best alternative is a good blowout on the bike, probably up to Dyers Pass and across the tops. Or down into Governors Bay and Lyttelton, then back to town over Evans Pass. This is by way of preparation for a return to the Reefton 4-day ride I planned last year, before my pair of crashes put paid to cycle touring.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Sailing on Sunday

We had a great sail today, with our friend Julian Hawes along as mainsheet hand. It was blowing just on 16-18 knots from the east, which on an incoming tide meant there were almost whitecaps. We put up a full rig, and sailed to Purau with two tacks. (In red.)

Once in Purau bay we cruised around looking at the moored yachts, then anchored under the shelter of some cliffs. We sat there for an hour or so, then sailed back under main alone, surfing down the swells. (In yellow.)

It was a great afternoon, and a terrific time was had by all.