Saturday, 31 October 2009

Bike fun

Schroeder and I agreed that we couldn't fit a walk into our day, so I took my newly serviced bike, with a new chain and rear cluster (don't ask the price), for a proper ride. That means lycra, I'm sad to say.

I rode through town to the corner where Hagley Park meets Addington, then wended my way through to Cashmere. I then turned into Centaurus Rd, which runs around the base of the Port Hills, past Huntsbury and Murray Ansley, then Hillsborough. That involved a good little hill up past Rapaki and Glenelg Spur, a fast descent, then into the grimmer part of industrial Woolston. That led me to Linwood Ave, and a fast trip back home with a tail wind. 22.7km in an hour and 10 minutes, not a bad time with half the trip being into a head wind.

That was followed by preparing dinner, cleaning rain gutters, then off to the pub for an hour before biking home and cooking red cod with a vegetable salsa, plus boiled potatoes and green beans. Nice. And healthy.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

A day in the big smoke

Climbing out from Christchurch in heavy rain.

I was on a 7am flight to Auckland this morning, when a woman in the seat in front mentioned Turnitin. It turned out that she was from CPIT, where she lectures computing students on ethics - and that she's married to a lecturer I knew well when I worked there in 1997-99. She was also going to the Turnitin seminar. Small world.

We got on a bus to town and there was the Turnitin admin from Lincoln, who'd been on the same flight as well. Smaller world. The bus got us to town in about an hour, giving us time for a coffee and a chat before entering the seminar. Meeting Dr John Barrie, the initial developer and current CEO, was interesting, and he certainly listened to feedback from the audience through the day. It was well worth being there, I must say.

After the seminar ended, I met up with my old friend Logan Moss, who'd been visiting Waikato students teaching in schools in Auckland. He drove me to the airport, where we had a glass of wine and a chat before I caught the return flight. Back home I reheated a frozen dinner and now I'm watching Media 7. Not a bad day.

Logan Moss, dressed as a professional person.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Big city

I'm flying to Auckland and back tomorrow, to attend a Turnitin NZ Users meeting. We'll be addressed by one of the founders of Turnitin, and have a chance to talk directly with the developers.

I have a 6:55am flight, so I need to be checked in by 6:40 or so, in the carpark at 6:30, so I have to leave home at 6:00. (At that time of day, Christchurch is a village, I can easily get to the airport in 25 minutes, with a 5 minute safety margin.)

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Camera fun

Yesterday I did some camera purchasing, replacing the stolen Canon Powershot A620, which was a fine camera. I saw that Dick Smiths had a deal on a Fuji Finepix S2000HD, bundled with a handbag-size Fuji A170, for $600, so I shot in there at lunchtime. I emerged having spent $730, after adding a camera bag, batteries, plus 4GB and a 2GB SD cards. So here are some photos.

This is a Fuji S2000HD - 10MP, and a 15x zoom lens, which is extreme enough to require a tripod in most circumstances.

The first real shot I took - Grant Bush getting ready to leave the IT Department and ride his 900cc Ducati to Dunedin for Labour Weekend.

Heather practising her hobby of world domination by telephone.

The University Staff Club in spring sunshine.

Heather's new toy, a Finepix A170. It seems to be a lovely little camera so far.

Mark Schroeder on the day before he turns 60, walking up the Bridle Path and back as training for the Routeburn in 4 weeks' time.
A demonstration of the power - and limitations - of the 15x zoom lens. The close-up is rather wobbly, even with image stabilisation turned on.

Thursday, 22 October 2009


Heather had a call from the police yesterday, asking if a name meant anything to her. She didn't know the name, which confirms that a fingerprint found on our bathroom window was from our burglar. Maybe they'll find some of our stuff when they pay him a visit.

In the meantime, we're finalising our insurance claim. We'll get some items replaced, but you can't replace Heather's jewellery, especially the family heirloom pieces.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Woyalty, Wodney

What a right little royal young Edward has turned out to be. Why does this remind me of Monty Python?

Ah yes, I knew there'd be a reason according to Monty. Anyway, Edward is dropping by to recharge our flabby royalty muscles, and jolly inspiring I expect he will be.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

An active day

Schroeder and I started up the Rapaki Track at 9.30am, and reached the top an hour and ten minutes later. We were pretty pleased with that, as we sat in the cloud eating apples and drinking water. The trip back down took an hour. It was a great walk, and we seem to be keeping up a good standard of fitness. The Routeburn is five weeks away.

After a shower and some lunch I went to the supermarket, then to Bunnings for garden stuff, and I dropped in to the library on the way back. At home I planted some courgette plants and some silver beet. Then I sowed seed for rows of radishes and spinach. The rows of butter beans and peas that I sowed on Thursday now have stakes and netting for the climbing vines. Next task is the plants I'm going to put in pots; a Moneymaker tomato and two basil plants. I'll do them in the morning, then they'll share the garage wall with the grapevine.

Cycling on

The antipathy towards cyclists from some people is quite amazing. In the paper this week, we had a letter from a woman who opened her car door in front of a cyclist, who swore at her - now she feels that she has every right to open doors in front of cyclists because they are so rude. She'd be rude too, if someone suddenly threatened her life.

Another writer wants to know why cyclists don't pay ACC levies. I can answer that - it's because cyclists are put in hospital by motorists, so the motorists should be paying the levies. If cyclists could cripple motorists, maybe cyclists should pay, but while the laws of physics are against them it's fair that those doing the damage should pay the cost.

I agree with the cycling lobby group Spokes, which says that city traffic speeds should be lower, and that more cyclists on the roads would create a more cycle-friendly city in general. I would also like to force motorists to cycle through the city for a day - impossible, I know, but I bet their views would change as a result. A cyclist-driver role swap in the UK also convinced cyclists that truck drivers really cannot see them in some traffic situations, so a swap could work both ways. Mind you, most NZ cyclists are motorists too, so they already know the driver's viewpoint.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Another one

Just after my near thing yesterday, comes this shocker of a hit and run cyclist killing near Helensville.

I hope they nail the prick who did this and drove on - his vehicle was certainly distinctive. This deserves a ghost bicycle.

Near Miss

I encountered a very near Miss yesterday. It was a beautiful day, so I went out on my bike at lunchtime to do a message and get some fresh air.

On my way back to the University, I was biking along the cycle lane on Clyde Rd, periodically glancing in my handlebar-mounted mirror to see what the cars behind me were doing, when I saw a grey-blue hatchback with its left wheels in the cycle lane. A few seconds later, half the car was in the cycle lane, and the car was showing no signs of correcting its course, so I decided I'd better take evasive action.

I found a gap between some parked cars and got off the road into a driveway, in time to watch the car drive by, taking up the whole cycle lane by now - while the young female driver carried on typing her text message. I wish I'd got her number, but I didn't manage - I was still thanking my lucky stars for my mirror and realising what a lucky escape I'd had. A cyclist without a mirror would have died.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Some good, some bad

The UC Service Units master plan was released around 4pm yesterday. The Flexible Learning Group will now be in the resources group with ICTS & the Library. We will be called Teaching Technologies Support, split from the Surveys and Institutional Research people who go to Research, and the Academic Development staff who go to HR. (On the assumption that they provide professional development, I suppose.) Now we await the next stage, which is the structure of the units within each group.

Heather arrived home to find that we'd had a break-in; kids had forced a bathroom window and stolen some odd things. They took Heather's jewellery, an old Mac laptop, all her pills (I hope they take all the Warfarin at once, that will do them good) and her good rain jacket. They missed my supply of pills, and in both bathrooms they ignored supplies of codeine - though they did take panadeine. The police have been informed, but I doubt we'll see them on site, even though we have a beautiful hand print on the window.

UPDATE - Wednesday morning:
Police took fingerprints yesterday but they're not confident. We suspect it was a big kid - little kid combo (or parent-kid) as a small person came in the window. A local primary school known for gang problems had a teacher-only day on Monday, and these guys stole some Mongrel-Mob-red neckerchiefs - though they dropped them on the way out.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Down and up

We were in Dunedin for the weekend, visiting Heather's sister Elaine, who is about the weight of a budgie but insists she's on the mend after a horror winter of surgery and lung infections, and our friend Jim Guthrie, who's soldiering on in spite of his Parkinsons. He's become a grandfather, but the baby is seriously premature and still in hospital, though expected to come right. It was passing showers and a cold SW wind on Friday and Saturday - we drove out of the cold front around Oamaru at lunchtime on Sunday.

We're all sitting here staring at our email waiting for the restructuring announcement from our Vice Chancellor - it looks like our department is going to be broken into separate units and sent to new homes, among various other changes to service (non-teaching) departments. That will make us the only university in Australasia without a dedicated teaching support operation - apparently all the others have got it wrong. The irony is that this upheaval, named Project STAR, is supposed to "Support Teaching and Research". My guess is that our group will end up in the library somewhere, but I wish they'd just send out the email - they made their minds up weeks ago, after all.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Getting complicated

We walked around the section at Allard St today, and we weren't impressed. It has scruffy decaying houses on two sides, crappy fences, a large uncontrolled tree right on the north boundary (on the neighbour's side), and generally looks like trouble. Now what?

We'll think about it over the weekend, I guess. We're off to Dunedin in the morning.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Land wars

Heather has gone a bit cold - well, cooled off a bit - on the Harvey Terrace section. Although it's a good section, she's worried about the possibility of large blocks of flats on the surrounding L3 (high density) zones making the neighbourhood scruffy in years to come, a bit like inner St Albans.

It's a fair point, so we're off to look at a section for sale in St Albans (the L2 medium density part, though) on Thursday. The more we look at our house situation, the more obvious it is that we can build a brand new house, to our own design, for about the same price as a 10 year old place with single glazed windows and worn carpets.

There won't be any sudden decisions - we're off to Dunedin on Friday to visit Heather's sister Elaine, who's had a rough time since bowel surgery in early winter but is now on the mend, and Jim Guthrie, our old friend who has Parkinsons Disease and doesn't get many visitors these days.

We'll have had time to think and have a decent discussion about it while we drive. That's the theory, anyway.

Right: The Allard St section is 480m from Schroeder's Tavern as the Google flies.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Plans and land

Here we go again - we've spotted a section in a prime location. It's 25a Harvey Tce for those who want to play with Google Maps.

We're off to talk to the bank today - more later.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

A fresh start

A fresh look at our start - the human race's beginnings, that is. Say Hi to Ardi (Ardipithecus ramidus), 4.4 million years young. Ardi is 1.2 million years earlier than the famed Lucy, the archetypical Australopithecus, previously thought to be the nearest "missing link".

Although this species is close to the point where humans diverged from the chimpanzees, Ardi bears little resemblance to chimps. In fact, it seems that chimps themselves have evolved a lot since then, anyway, so this whole notion is a bit academic.

Lots more interesting detail here.

Speaking of primitive females, it seems that Sarah Palin is not selling on the lecture circuit. Well, golly gee...

Thursday, 1 October 2009

The wave

Apparently the Samoans who had everything wiped out by yesterday's earthquake and tsunami are simply referring to "the wave". There's not much else you can say, really.

With so many Kiwis living and working alongside Samoans, this is going to be an ongoing concern here as well. And the Samoan people themselves; how do you adjust to the loss of 11 family members? Things like that have happened to many of the survivors. Personal loss on this scale happens far away as the result of genocide, not to happy little villages by the sea.

I just hope that the government gets over its cost-cutting spree and gets stuck in with aid money and manpower. I bet a lot of laid off workers would go there for a couple of months to live in tent camps and help to string power lines, or build roads, bridges, hospitals, and schools. And we've got lots of telecommunications maintenance and repair staff at a loose end just now.