Friday, 30 January 2009

A week ending

And a weak pun...

We're off to Dunedin later today, to catch up with our old friend Jim Guthrie, who turned 60 yesterday. Jim has quite advanced Parkinsons, and is permanently in a wheelchair these days, so it's nice to get him out and about when we visit - he is house-bound otherwise. I hope we can go for a decent drive in the countryside, maybe to Central Otago, but we'll sort that out tomorrow morning.

This will be the first long trip in our Camry; it will be interesting to see how it goes on the open road, and what its fuel consumption is like. I purchased $190 worth of road user charges yesterday - 5000km worth - so that has added 3.8c/km to the running costs. Once we've done a refill of the tank, I can do the sums on the total cost per kilometre, and get a first fuel consumption figure.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Car change

The old Corona is sold to a young couple with kids, and we pick up the "new" Camry this afternoon. I'm looking forward to it...

5pm: It's here. It's our first 3 letter number plate, how's that for a sign. And my cassette deck died last night, that's another sign; nothing lasts forever.


Saturday, 24 January 2009

It all happens at once

Just as we've done a thorough job of emptying our current account balance, along comes a perfect replacement for our 1991 Corona. The new car is a Camry, so it's very similar, just newer, a bit larger all round - and it's diesel, and 4WD! Perfect for towing the boat and going skiing.
The Camry looks bigger, but really it's not much.
So I guess we'll buy it, with a towbar fitted, and a 2 year warranty on the engine and drivetrain.

It's only money...

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Toys again

A new gadget landed on my desk today. I actually ordered it a month ago, but getting anything done over Christmas is just impossible.

It's a Flip Ultra - a mini videocam. It has 2GB of RAM, enough to hold an hour's video. It's the size of a smartphone, and has two buttons; a "start-stop recording", and a "replay last video" button. I think there could be heaps of applications for these, at least until phone videocams pass them by.

I want to lend it to people so they can try their ideas and see what possibilities it offers. It's purely experimental, but at $325 it's a cheap experiment.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Normal

Work settled in to its old routine today, and the bike ride was pretty good. So it goes.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Reality bites

Back to work for us today - I found it hard to get going, and Heather had a wee pre-dinner snooze. I biked to work and found that a bit tough too. We'll toughen up.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Easy come, easy go

It seems that our party was impending for a long long time, then suddenly it was over, and we've had two days of clearing up.

Not that we didn't enjoy the party, of course, though it was a long day from 1pm to around midnight. We just kept the food coming, as Alice's flatmate Debs wandered around with dishes of sandwiches and savouries, and people helped themselves to ham and salads. At 6.30 I fired up the barbecue and we brought out some more salads - and they were devoured!

The last serious drinkers left about midnight, and we toddled off to bed. Yesterday we dealt with the rubbish and took down the marquee. In the afternoon we had lots of visitors, then we had a nice dinner at a local pizza-pasta place with Logan and Pamela Moss, and Michael Meek and Susanne Williamson - all old friends from university days around 1970.

So it has been a lovely occasion, with lots of friends from near and far converging on our house for wine, food, and talk - lots of talk!

Oh yes, nearly forgot - photos are here.

Friday, 16 January 2009

One more sleep

The marquee is erected, a chiller/fridge trailer is parked in the driveway noisily chugging through power, all plates, glasses, etc have arrived, and tomorrow morning we'll put things in place. Then IT HAPPENS. (Our dual 60th birthday party, that is...)

There will be photos eventually.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Holidaze

We had a nice birthday dinner for Heather last night - salmon entree, roast chicken with all the trimmings, and a mixed berry trifle dessert. And lots of wine.

I took the photo below with my cellphone several days ago, and remembered to download it this morning. Malcolm Field is a surgery veteran these days, after three hip replacements and several back operations. When they re-did his shattered femur recently they gave him the old hip prosthesis as a souvenir, so he's been saying to people "Have a joint". Very droll...

Julian Hawes obviously thinks it's funny too.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Global cooling again.

Just when the pundits seem certain that global warming is a fact, we get this article from Russia;
"The earth is now on the brink of entering another Ice Age, according to a large and compelling body of evidence from within the field of climate science. Many sources of data which provide our knowledge base of long-term climate change indicate that the warm, twelve thousand year-long Holocene period will rather soon be coming to an end, and then the earth will return to Ice Age conditions for the next 100,000 years."

We'll really need heating oil and natural gas when that happens - or maybe we'll finally admit that the sun is a perfectly good energy source, as they are doing in Germany. Maybe that 1975 Newsweek article predicting crop failures and mass death from cold exposure was right after all?

Monday, 12 January 2009

What did you say?

In an article on the UK banning energy-hungry plasma TVs, the New Zealand Herald asked the Green Party for an opinion. The result is this paragraph;

"Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said yesterday the National Government's latest stand on televisions would put it at odds with the Conservative government in England, which just over a week ago withdrew 100W incandescent lightbulbs as part of a drive to slow the rapid growth of electricity consumption in homes."

England has a Conservative government? When did this happen? Has anyone told Gordon Brown, leader of the UK Labour Party, who persists in the delusion that he is Prime Minister?

More to the point, did Russel Norman actually talk about a Conservative government, or did some fresh faced young reporter insert this "fact" into the story? And where was the sub-editor, whose job is to check for such factual slip-ups?

As newspapers cut costs to cope with sagging circulation, these gaffes are more and more likely to occur. The management response seems to be to sack experienced journalists and keep cheaper junior staff. Or raise cash from company assets, as the New York Times is doing.

Of course, if Mr Norman actually said this, it proves a different point - that it's hard to find intelligent politicians these days.

Moving on; the prize for the weirdest baby name of the last few months goes to Lisa Bonet (Denise Huxtable from the Cosby Show, for those with long memories). Her third child rejoices in the name Nakoa-Wolf Manakauapo Namakaeha Momoa. Try fitting that on a school report card!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Sparkling sailing

Darren Armstrong and I had a great day sailing today - poor old Schroeder had to help his daughter move out from a flat so he didn't get to join us. It was a lovely blue sky and blue water day (Darren even saw some dolphins) and we had a lovely time. We were under way at 1pm, and sailed up the harbour to Camp Bay, followed by a spinnaker run all the way back down to Cass Bay, past the yacht club.

After taking the spinnaker down we realised it was only 3pm, so we left Cass Bay and took a long tack over to Diamond Harbour. Once there, we turned on our track and broad reached back to Cass Bay, where we dropped the sails and motored back to the Naval Point Club launching harbour.

That was a perfect re-introduction to sailing after a month or more away from the water - bad weather and Christmas parties kept us off the water during December. Let's hope there's lots more days like this one.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Definitely summer

Two days in the high 30s make Christchurch more like Adelaide - it's not easy to get things done when your instincts tell you to stand under a sprinkler. It makes people a bit peculiar too.

For example, "The former husband of missing Auckland tramper Irina Yun is wandering about Queenstown, visiting her favourite spots to keep her alive with 'positive energy'."

He "...believed Yun was still alive and was using his training to help support her chi-gong (lifeforce). 'She likes Queenstown a lot, there are places in this area that hold good energy for her,' he said."
(http://www.stuff.co.nz/thepress/4813048a24035.html)

If I was in trouble, the last thing I'd want is some nutter distracting people by trying to "support my chi-gong" or similar new-age rubbish. Someone should tell this guy, in plain language, that Cascade Saddle in heavy rain is not a healthy place and that Irina fell in the river and drowned - end of story.

Next item of holiday season stupidity is this story of a three year old who grabbed a mastiff's testicles and not surprisingly was told to go away in the only way the dog knew. Now the child's mother is upset that the dog is not to be destroyed, as the dog rangers considered that it was provoked. Maybe the child welfare service would like to know where Mum was when little Caine (nice haircut!) was pestering the dog - and where did he learn to testicle-grab anyway?
By the way, caring mother, it seems that someone has been jabbing bits of metal into your face - maybe you should lay another complaint about that.

Then two tourists ignored the warning signs and fence, and stood under the terminal face of the Fox Glacier - and it fell on them. Surprise!
Funny old world...

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Summer daze

Not much happening in Christchurch, as temperatures around 30deg send people to the beaches or backyard sprinklers. Heather spent Wednesday under the tree with a book, after an industrious day tidying along our second driveway.

We will use the drive as a service lane for our Saturday 17th birthday party, parking a chiller trailer and rubbish bins to keep them close but out of sight. We'll also use it to get the marquee into the back yard, to save carrying.

Yesterday I sorted out the alcohol and a lot of the food - a few more details today and we'll be ready for the big day.

My brother Ross and his partner Julie visited on Tuesday night as part of a South Island camping tour, then off to Akaroa before crossing the divide and driving back down the West Coast to Invercargill over the next four days. It was great to see them; Ross starts a new job with the Southland Chamber of Commerce right after the party, so he made this visit instead of driving or flying to be here on the 17th.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Home

We made a fairly early exit from Wanaka this morning, expecting slow traffic, and took a different route back to Christchurch just for variety. At Omarama we turned right down the valley to Kurow, crossed the Waitaki bridges, then drove via Waimate to SH1. We had lunch in Timaru, then joined a fairly well behaved queue back to Christchurch. The nearer we got, the more frantic some drivers' behaviour became, but that's just the Christchurch-driver syndrome.

I'll post some photos to Flickr with links and narrative here, in the next day or two.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

A good idea, but ...

In The First Post today, a simple idea to solve several problems simultaneously.

Here's the idea: Legalise the Afghan opium crop by buying it from villages that sign up to a group purchase arrangement.

Why? A number of reasons:
  • At present the situation is getting worse; Afghanistan grows 60% more opium now than it did in 2003.
  • If a grower breaks ranks and sells on the black market, the whole village gets nothing, so the growers will police the sales without external forces constantly being involved.
  • The growers would get a guaranteed price, higher than they get from the drug traffickers.
  • Afghan politicians would not be subject to corruption from drug traders.
  • The Taliban would be without its main source of cash for arms and political influence.
  • Turkey and India have done this, eliminating the criminal trade in opiates.
  • Hospitals around the world will get cheap morphine, solving a serious shortage.
  • Western countries could return to the abandoned British practice of supplying heroin to addicts via doctors, eliminating the heroin black market overnight.
Sounds like a win-win on multiple fronts, doesn't it?

But the US has almost-religious objections to this idea, so I guess it won't work. US politicians see this as "giving in" and losing the "war on drugs", so they persist in trying to defeat the opium-financed Afghan forces, and carry on locking up thousands of addicted citizens while allowing the trade to continue. Maybe they think they can "win" in Afghanistan, like they did in Vietnam, or Iraq.