Thursday, 30 December 2010

Is it 2011 yet?

We're finding the days drifting by as we relax in Wanaka, with not much happening. We're catching up with friends, but rather slowly, and mooching about the house reading and internetting.

Tomorrow is another year, and I hereby give it a warning; be a damn sight better than 2010, or I'll delete you from my calendar. (Oops, I was a bit ahead of myself! I meant "The day after").

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Editing posts with an iPad

A funny quirk of the iPad - the system doesn't recognise Blogger's edit window as being editable. The keyboard won't appear so you can't enter text. The answer is a bit clunky; click the Edit HTML button and type or paste text in there. So that's what I'm doing now. The font size is tiny but I can manage OK.

Monday, 27 December 2010

From there to here

After a really nice Christmas Day at Julie McDonald's (brother Ross's partner) cute heritage cottage in Invercargill, with lots of her relatives (I must be getting old when I can't tell blondes in short skirts apart - or was that the wine?) and a relaxed 62nd birthday yesterday visiting friends in Invercargill, we've arrived in Wanaka for a week of sun and relaxation. Except that it's pissing down.

We left Invercargill in light drizzle, which became steadily heavier as we headed west through Riverton, then to Tuatapere where we stopped for coffee and directions. Then to Clifden where we turned off the road to Te Anau to pass through the coal towns of Ohai (nearly a ghost town) and Nightcaps (only marginally better), before turning north to Mossburn and the main Invercargill-Queenstown road. We stopped for lunch at Kingston, then when we went to drive off we discovered the car had a flat left front tyre.

We emptied the luggage out to get the jack and the spare, and 20 minutes later we were mobile again, on a little yellow space saver spare wheel. We drove slowly up the lake to Frankton, where I discovered that the "service" in Service Station means "food and petrol service", not "service your vehicle". Oh well, it's a public holiday and they were frantic with queues of customers in pouring rain. We drove carefully on to the Crown Range turnoff, and after a quick debate we decided "We're driving slowly anyway, might as well take the slow road" and drove over the high pass to the Cardrona and Wanaka.

Now we're settled in at our second home (oops, third, since the quake) at Kristine and Eddie's house in Wanaka. It's been becoming a house for some years, and it's now close to completion; they are still living in the granny flat but the main house should be finished by winter. The shipping containers outside have gone, the garage is built, the lounge-living-kitchen area is ready for plastering, Heather's window is in place (it's a long story), and it will be a masterpiece. I'll do a photo essay when the sun comes out.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Apple reinvents the floppy disk

We've had two iPads in the office for a week or so, to test them with educational software and to evaluate their usefulness generally. As we have become more skilled in their use, and we've discovered more wonderful free apps, it's been dawning on us that it's changed the whole paradigm of how we interact with computers and software.

What we are noticing is that we spend time in various apps, e.g. The Guardian's wonderful news summary, and within that app we can't see anything else. In a web browser, we'd have multiple tabs across the top, a bookmarks bar, and various other distractions on the web page itself, so browsing can become a process of jumping from one link to another. For many of us, the web browser is where we spend our day, and Google certainly think this is the way the Chrome OS interface will work. I can have 6 or 7 tabs open in a browser (almost all of them Google applications like iGoogle, Blogger, YouTube, Google Docs, and so on) and my day is usually spent jumping around between these and Moodle.

iPad apps, though, are discrete small environments, hence my "floppy disk" reference. For those old enough to remember pre-Windows days, this was the way we worked; put in the word processor disk and do some writing, then save your file and take out the floppy disk. Put in the spreadsheet disk and do some spreadsheets. And so on.

Jess refers to apps as "walled gardens"; I think "floppy disks" also fits. I realise that iOS 4 devices have multi-tasking, but it's one at a time multi-tasking, returning to the Home page between applications, not that different from taking out a floppy disk and putting in another one.

I should point out that I don't dislike the iPad, in fact it is wonderful for some purposes, especially web browsing (in a single page) and viewing graphics & video. Both of us have become very used to taking iPads to meetings as note takers; Jess uses Google Docs, I use Evernote, and we've become pretty slick with the iPad keyboard. We still struggle with selecting text within words or sentences, but with practice it is possible to put the cursor where we want.

So - regardless of the hype around the iPad's introduction, I'm sure devices like this will become part of the computing landscape, but in selected niche areas. And we may all get used to doing our browsing one app at a time; but where is the floppy disk drive?

PS - In a piece titled "10 reasons why I'm dumping the iPad for Samsung's Galaxy Tab" I came across this; we'll see a lot more tablets on the market by this time next year!
"But I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the iPad from the beginning. I love the form factor and the ease of connecting to a network and setting up my Exchange email account. But I hate the lack of storage expansion, its frustrating inability to display Flash-based Web sites, and the difficulty of entering text on its keyboard. And it’s still just a tad heavier and bulkier than I’d really prefer for the uses to which I put it. Most of all, I hate Apple’s ironclad control over what apps I can install."

No comment.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Is it summer yet?

Yep, it's summer. Temperatures in the high 20s and even the 30s, and La Nina conditions across the Pacific, all point to a hot summer. Just right for sailing, anchoring, and swimming. Sailing season will commence immediately after our return in early January, now that my hip is nicely healed up.

Cycling is going well, but in the 30 deg days recently I've dropped my speed by a gear or so to keep down the sweat. Putting up the miles is bound to be doing me good, and my new route along Walters Rd avoids the hazardous QE2-Marshland roundabout. Trying to use the bike crossings is lethal if drivers turn left without indicating, which about 1/3 of them do, and in the dark of winter it would be even worse.
My old route in red, with the new deviation in blue. It follows narrow country roads, but with hardly any traffic, and there are no two-lane roundabouts to negotiate.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Counting down

Today was the last Friday of the working year, and what a year it's been! Biked through the Haast in April, sacked and re-hired on the same day in May, holiday in Rarotonga in June, missed the team leader job I'd been assured was mine when they sacked me (much to my relief, as events developed), got a new manager in July (a good thing), earthquake demolished the house in September, hip replacement in October, shifted office in December. That's probably not a complete list, but it'll do - there are enough of life's major stress events in there to keep my adrenal gland busy for a while yet.

Our usual IT lunch crowd went to the Staff Club for the big fancy Christmas lunch, which was very nice. We even had a second drink, to really live it up. Some people snaps follow.

Paul Nicholls (of Christchurch Quake Map fame, one of our Moodle developers), and Richard Hanschu, Data Centre Manager, playing with their phones while waiting for lunch.

Along the far side of the table: Sarah Fallow (Learning Resources Communications), Jess Hollis (fellow Educational Technology Consultant), Janelle Blythe (ex IT, now Internal Communications for the campus), Grant Bush (Senior Server Consultant), Paul Arnold (Server Consultant).

Sarah, Jess, Janelle, Grant, Paul

From the far end: Paul Nicholls, Richard Hanschu, James Daly (Desktop PC support), Tristan Boot (Service Delivery), Geoff Wain & Matthew Carr (Server Consultants)

Richard and James

Monday, 13 December 2010

Eventful morning

I biked to work, leaving the female side of our household still in bed - school ended last week. It was a good ride in cool overcast, though I still had a good sweat going at the end of the 12km. Once I cooled off and caught up with email I went for a wash and a change of shirt, and the day officially began.
The University of Canterbury's Central Library in 1973

At around 11.30am, we were just getting ready for a meeting, when with a loud bang all the power in the Central Library went off. Reports of smoke from the basement forced us to evacuate the building by walking down the stairs, and we milled about on the ground outside. It turned out that the smoke was a by-product of the blown switch and cable that caused the outage, so we trooped back up the stairs to the 7th floor. By that time I was hot and sweaty again! Power was restored at 12.30, and all seems well.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

The case against TC

I've been reflecting on my dealings with the telco sector this week, and here's a more well documented grizzle about TelstraClear.
TelstraClear said they'd do 4 things when activating our new account; transfer our landline, set up voice mail, move my cellphone to the new account, and set up HomePlan ADSL Internet.
The landline transferred OK but they lost the old Telecom alias, so now we have to tell the whole world to use our Telstra number (03-980-5277). Some of our more flaky contacts may never recover. So much for number portability.

If there's voice mail, I have yet to find it. However I haven't got around to looking up the pretty decent FAQ on their web site, so we'll give that one the benefit of the doubt.

Cellphone - no, it wasn't moved to the new account, very sorry, doing it now. Maybe. The end of the month will provide the proof; one bill or two?

Internet. Ha. On Friday 3rd I got an email saying it was being activated. My free modem hadn't arrived so I sat for a weekend alone with no internet. (Heather and Leanne were both out of town.) I survived, mostly by going for bike rides.

On Wednesday 8th I gave up and bought my own modem-router for $170, but still no luck. A 70 minute wait for tech support finally got to a guy who ran through everything he could think of to check my setup; it was perfect. Then came the vague mutterings about "...log a job with connections", and sure enough, they hadn't done the exchange connection. It was done on Friday 10th, and here we are, finally with an internet connection, after more than a week.

That's 3 fails and a maybe. How do they make a profit when they have to do everything twice, and piss off their customers in the process? They've decided to cut costs, and outsourced the once excellent Helpdesk to the Philippines. Not a winning business strategy, I'd think - how about giving better service from a NZ helpdesk, and doing connections properly the first time to save duplication of effort? You might even get some new customers!

Internet at last

We survived a week without home internet fairly well, although it was revealing to see how often I thought "I'll check that out on the web" then had to correct myself. It's definitely become as normal as electricity and running water. Good thing we could do email etc from work. (In the lunch break, honest!)

Anyway, TelstraClear sent me an email on Friday 3rd saying our connection was activated, then we waited for our free modem. In the end I went and bought a modem-router and set it up, and still no ADSL lights were glowing. Hours on the phone to their Helpdesk, listening to piano versions of Carpenters hits (sic) finally resulted in a rueful promise to have it set up at the exchange on Friday 10th. And the modem arrived!

So now we have a connection with reasonable speed (though nothing like the lovely 10Mbps cable connection at River Rd), and a spare ADSL modem (still in its packaging) plus a Netgear 4-port wireless/ethernet router left over. Selling them on Trademe is an option, but keeping them as spares also makes sense. I'll watch Trademe for a few days and see what price I can expect to get for the gadgets, then make my mind up.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Zone map

We haven't had our letter from EQC about our land zone yet, but this map site they have set up certainly shows us in Zone C. That black dot at the top loop of the river is us. (Well, it was on the 4th of September.)

Our block has lots of lateral spreading, as does most of Avonside, on the inside of the centre loop, and the south half of Dallington, the lower loop on the right. All the magenta Zone C land will need to be remediated, with underground structures to hold the river banks in place; the sections will need to be filled, but not compacted, as the quake has already compacted the subsoil.

The EQC juggernaut is either grinding on slowly, or is hopelessly stalled, according to who you ask. I'd just like the official letter. I guess I'll have to phone again.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Better and worse

Things that are better - biking. On Saturday I rode into town and did some shopping, then put the bike on the bus to get home from my local. On Sunday I rode my MTB around Bottle Lake for 2 hours; it was supposed to be one hour but I got lost!

Things that are OK - our new office. (Photos here.) It is roomy, and has a great view, but access is only possible with a swipe card, which means that friends - and more importantly, staff - can't visit us. I doubt that this can be changed until all the earthquake repairs on the Central Library are completed, as they don't want stray people wandering around. But until it is changed we can't use our seminar room, as nobody can get to it.

Things that are worse - TelstraClear's ability to manage simple requests.
  1. They moved our phone number to Leanne's line, but not the old Telecom number which had been aliased. Now we have to notify everyone we know that our number is changed.
  2. Broadband was activated yesterday, but the promised modem for ADSL broadband was only ordered today, and could be 3-5 business days before arriving - and even then they didn't note the address for delivery, though the first operator read it back to me at the time. So I'll buy an ADSL modem/router on the way home and when theirs arrives I'll sell it, along with my router, on Trademe.
  3. My mobile phone was going to be put on the new account, according to the original person I spoke to, but today that hadn't happened and we had to go right through a big hassle to start this process again.

If this is the efficiency of the business world, contrasted to the inefficiency of the public service, it's a joke. Our public servants planned and executed the move of a whole department but the lean mean efficient private enterprise system got one thing right out of 3 - and that was only part right.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Bike news - again

I was away from home on my bike at 7.15am, and I rode the route across town beside QE2 drive, then the cycle paths by the rail line. It was safe being away from cars, but the north-south rail path is a pain because it crosses roads that run east-west. There are 7 roads in the 3.3km of the track from Northcote to Glandovey Rd, and while each has a traffic light for safe crossing, the constant stopping and waiting is a significant nuisance. Next time I'll take Innes Rd and compare the potential traffic hassles on that road with the stop-start nuisance of the rail path.

Anyway, it was great, and this really marks my return to normality. I've only taken panadol once this week, and that was because of too much wine the night before, not because of a hip operation. And I've found myself realising that I've gone several hours without even thinking about my hip, or walking, and other hassles. Almost normal!

We've spent the last day packing our office, ready for Monday's shift to Level 7 of the Central Library. Jess and I have each filled 4 or 5 large plastic moving crates with stuff from our office, and we're now packing quite a lot of the kitchen & catering items; coffee perk, sandwich toaster, cups and bowls, and so on. We thought we had a lot of wine glasses, but found that the academic group had grabbed most of those when they moved three weeks ago. There's a moral there somewhere...

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Biking's off

Steady drizzle settled in at breakfast time, so I accepted Leanne's offer of a ride to UC, as she was going to a course at the College of Education anyway. Biking can wait for another day.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

On yer bike!

Tomorrow is the 1st of December, and my first day of biking to work. Heather flies to Auckland at 5pm, to catch up with Alice who is at a conference, then the two of them will be tourists and shoppers for 3 or 4 days, returning home on Sunday afternoon.

The plan is that I will bike to work in the morning, and Heather will drive to University with a bike carrier in the boot, and collect me and my bike; I'll drop her at the airport and drive home.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

The rest of the weekend

I wasn't sore or tired as a result of yesterday's biking, but today was a quieter day around home for various reasons. Apart from going to Briscoes and buying a single cup coffee plunger (we had two, both cracked their glass within a fortnight), I was mooching about the house all day. I'm sure this on-off routine is good, and besides, I'm not fit enough for more exercise yet.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Bike news

Continuing the bike theme; I went off at 9am for a ride across QE2 Drive to the Northcote railway cycle track. It took 25 minutes to ride 8.5km, and it dawned on me that this was the same time and distance I rode from River Rd to University. So already I am riding the distance I used to do, pre-earthquake and pre-surgery.

That cheered me up so much that I turned around and rode back home again, doing 17km in 50 minutes, an average of just over 20km/hr. It's been great for my morale, and now I realise that there's a good chance that I can bike to work later this coming week. I'll do three or four more build-up rides of 6-8km and I should be OK to try a work trip by Wednesday. The ride home into the easterly will be bad, but I'll tackle it the usual way, by dropping my speed and taking my time.

Later: I had most of dinner prepared (fillet steak with onions & mushrooms, boiled potatoes, asparagus, salad of onion/cucumber/capsicum with parmesan and herbs) when I received a summons to appear at my local. Right, I thought, time for another bike ride, and I did a 6km ride to the pub, 20 mins each way. Back at 6.30pm to cook dinner, now relaxing after a nice meal and a couple of glasses of merlot.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Thinking about cycling

I've been having a wee dream about biking to work in the coming weeks. This oblique Google Earth map shows two alternative routes from Bottle Lake to the University. They both start at upper right by going along Prestons Rd then left on Marshland Rd to the QE2 Drive roundabout. Here I use two bike/pedestrian crossings to go west on QE2 drive, then the two routes diverge.

Route 1, labelled 11.5 for the distance it takes, turns left off QE2 and follows Innes Rd, as it becomes Heaton St and Glandovey Rd, meeting Fendalton Rd a few blocks from University. Route 2 is 14km, following QE2 across to Northcote, where it meets the cycle path along the railway, meeting Fendalton Rd then going on to work.

Why would I take the longer route? Because Innes Rd, although it is direct, doesn't have marked cycle lanes, so cyclists bike between the traffic and the parked cars, with lots of side roads joining the slow moving traffic stream. The risk of open car doors, sudden left turners, and pushy side-road Porsche Cayenne drivers is very high. (We are talking about Fendalton, after all.) It also has two very dodgy roundabouts, with no side paths for cyclists, so I'd have to mix it with me-first rush hour traffic, with drivers trying to turn a two lane road into three lanes at some corners. They even drive up over the footpaths!

The 14km route, on the other hand, has dedicated cycle paths beside QE2 Drive all the way to the railway, then another cycle path dead straight all the way to Fendalton Rd, where it follows well marked cycle lanes till the turn off at Fendalton Park, and to the University around the corner.

Is safety worth another 2km on my ride each way? Probably. It will also allow me to go at a higher average speed so the time will probably be about the same, and I'm mostly going to wear bike clothes and change at work, so it will be more like a fitness ride than my old commute through town and Hagley Park.

Anyway, first I need to build up some proper strength and endurance, so more practice biking is required.

Like I never left

Funny how 4 weeks away from work condenses to a nanosecond when you get back. I'm back full time now, minus a crutch or stick (most of the time)and flat out doing course resets. If you don't know, it's the e-learning equivalent of working in a biscuit factory - mindless repetitive tasks, requiring care and attention, and guaranteed to turn your brain to mush. Still, it's nice to be back.

In a week we are moving offices, to Level 7 of the Central Library, so we are all flat out getting things tidy and ready for the movers. It's a busy time, which always confuses my friends and relations who say "I suppose you're on holiday", as if we do 24 weeks a year like the students. (Of course the students do far more than sit in lectures, so the 24 weeks doesn't even apply to them.)

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Catch-up day again

One day active, next day resting. It seems to be the pattern at present. My stamina is increasing, but not as fast as my optimism. I managed a trip to the library, and to cook corned beef for dinner, so I'm not entirely useless.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Out and about

I did a supermarket session this morning, then after lunch and a rest I went out for a bike ride around Marshlands. I went as far as the QE2 Drive monster roundabout and the turnoff to Innes Rd - the first 1/3 of my 12km ride to work. (I rode a square around the right angled bits at top right of this map.)

Once I hit Innes Rd, it's a straight line across Mairehau, St Albans. Merivale, and Fendalton to the University. The traffic does about 10 kph in rush times, I'll do 20. On the way home, it will be into the usual northeasterly sea breeze at about 17kph, but that's life.

Still, I won't try biking that distance until January. I need to get the basics sorted out first, and to sort out clothing and hygiene. We shift buildings at work before Xmas, which means that I'll have a staff-only shower available in the basement of the Central Library; our new offices will be on the 7th floor. I'll need a system for shirts, towels, soap; will I shave at work? Should I grow a beard again? It's all a bit complicated, as they say on Facebook.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Home boy

I stayed home today, and deliberately did not much, letting my body have a catch-up day. I think it's helped. Even though I didn't do a lot at work, it took concentration and energy, and I'm feeling a bit old and tired at present. So a blob day has been a good thing.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Work (kind of)

I've been at work for three days, lasting till around 2pm each day before heading home for a lie on the sofa. I'm not accomplishing a lot, to be honest, but I'll improve as my stamina picks up. We have a lot going on, so things will get busy as these projects pick up speed. Mobile devices, turning print resources to electronic, new assessment methods, e-portfolios - can I stop now?

Monday, 15 November 2010

Grinding on

Not really, but I did go back to work today; however, by 12.30 I was starting to fade, and decided to head home. I did a few errands on the way, and at 2pm it's cuppa and couch time.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Rocking on

We awoke from a deep sleep at 1.35am to a magnitude 4.7 aftershock; it definitely gave the house a wobble. The shocks don't bother me, but I see a few Twitter posts that indicate some people are still operating with pretty tightly wound springs. Others seem more relaxed, or at least show bravado: "Nice to get another shake - was starting to get withdrawal symptoms" said one.

It made me reflect on how the micro level can feel so different from the macro; the graphs may be trending down, but a shock is a shock, and it's hard to tell yourself that it's part of a long term decline. The human brain didn't evolve to do long term analysis, it's a short-term reactive decision maker.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Rolling on

Another bike ride yesterday, 30 minutes for 7 or 8 km. I felt quite rough this morning, as I'd had a somewhat sleepless night; from about 2am to 5am I just couldn't get comfortable. Next time I should go and sleep on the leather sofa, it's more accommodating than our rather firm bed.

I decided not to go for a ride today, and blobbed on the sofa. By the afternoon I was good, walking well without a crutch or stick. Smooth coordinated walking doesn't always happen, but the good patches are increasing, so in a few more days I'll be pretty much self propelled.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Ups and downs

After feeling a bit sore around the surgery site for two days, I'm considerably improved today. I went to the mall and walked for 30 minutes, with minimal use of my single crutch. (And bought sushi for my lunch.) If I concentrate, I can walk smoothly, but I need more practice.

I'm going to go for a bike ride, but it won't be a long one. Then another rest, before I cook dinner; porterhouse steak with mushrooms (in my new Tefal Jamie Oliver copper bottom pan, 795 Flybuy points, arrived yesterday), baked potatoes, roasted tomatoes with herbs and garlic, roasted asparagus. (Or steamed? Depends on room in the oven and available pans, I suspect.) A suitable red wine will be required.

Update: I rode for 15 minutes, covering 4.5km. That was enough for a first go, and I don't feel any unpleasant effects.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Reality bites

My enthusiasm on Monday has produced a few aches and pains on following days. I'll take it easy for another week, and just do my physio exercises. I had a follow-up visit to the surgeon yesterday, and all is looking good, but I do need to make progress slowly, meaning more sofa time to keep reducing the bruising in my right foot.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Big moves

This morning I took all the invalid gear back to the rental place; raised frame with toilet seat, raised chair, handy trolley. I don't need any of these any more, though lowering to the toilet does still require some thought, for a few more days.

This afternoon, after a couple of hours on the sofa, I rode my mountain bike to Bottle Lake. It was OK, but the forest has been milled a lot and generally it's not as nice as it was. After 30 mins of quiet riding, with occasional side trips into the twistier tracks, I rode home feeling that it hadn't been that enjoyable, riding in the dark forest or across milled areas with new seedlings planted.

Just out of curiosity I wheeled out my Avanti Blade hybrid commuter, and found that I could straddle the seat quite easily. A quick pump of the tyres (unused since June and down to 30psi) and I was off down the road - what bliss! In a few turns of the pedals I was doing over 20kph and having a great time. So that's my rehab plan from now on; steadily longer bike rides around the local roads.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

What a nerve!

Getting away from endless posts about my recovery; I'm gobsmacked by the TV commercial being shown in the US by Sarah Palin's campaign. Palin herself wasn't running for office, of course, she was supporting various Tea Party nutters, some who won and some who lost.

But the astonishing thing is the imagery in this clip - she's portrayed as the saviour of the US, the leader of the movement, and so on, backed with pictures of Mount Rushmore, grizzly bears, and other patriotic images. There's an implied hint of military force near the end; "...may take some renegades goin' rogue...shakin' it up" over a shot of fighter pilot, then the grizzly bear standing tall to finish. It's a fantastic piece of visual propaganda that would make Leni Riefenstahl proud - and very scary to anyone who looks carefully at the associated images.

There's a nice clip of comedian and Palin impersonator Tina Fey talking on Letterman, where she says "
On Fox News they address her as Governor Palin. Which is like calling me Dairy Queen employee. I was once, but I quit." Nice try, Tina, but I suspect Fox will be calling her Princess Palin before long.

I also wonder how long the "Palin" part of her name will be used; her campaign is all about "Sarah", and hubby Todd is nowhere to be seen these days. He's probably back in Wasilla raising the kids and shooting grizzlies.

Moving on

The post-operative bruising in my leg is mostly gone, leaving just a bruised blue-grey foot and ankle; still pretty tender, but healing up day by day. I am using a single crutch most of the time, but I can take some steps unaided as the muscles around the hip and groin gain strength. I'm not sure whether I should be trying more unsupported walking, but I think I'll just let it develop naturally.

I'm going to return to work in another week, but I will probably do half days to begin with; I'm going to get pretty tired until I get more strength in the leg. It is going well, though, and in another 3 or 4 weeks I should be pretty much back to normal. I'm really looking forward to getting on a bike and starting some exercise - maybe today or tomorrow for a first try, with someone to help.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Big day out

I discovered that driving does not put any stress on my hip, so after a slow practice drive around the block yesterday, I was able to get myself to the University today, to see my workmates, then attend a farewell function for yet another "disestablished" colleague from the IT department. Good weasel word, "disestablished", it's totally impersonal and remote, like a cosmic event of some sort; no humans were involved. There are still more of these grisly farewells to come, too.

I'm a lot more mobile now, but the last of the large haematoma (bruising) on the outside of my right leg still causes some trouble. The whole leg was blue-grey a week ago, now it's just my foot that's swollen and tight. I keep it under control by spending lots of time on the sofa, but 4 hours on my feet this afternoon have made it swollen again. I'll have another blob day tomorrow, and get it under control. Two or three more quiet days should have the last of the bruising absorbed away.

After driving, next comes biking. I'll see in the weekend if I can manage my mountain bike; if I can, then a great exercise and recovery activity is available a few hundred metres away at Bottle Lake Forest Park. I won't try the MTB tracks to begin with, just ride the long straight roads through the forest to the beach and back.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

More news, same news

Getting better rapidly, feeling stronger day by day. Same old improvement; great!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Good news for a grey day

A second grey day with low cloud and a cool easterly; not the best aspect of Christchurch's weather. But good news for healing hippies, after a big night's sleep (helped along with a really nice Nederburg 2008 Pinotage, $10 at Countdown) I feel much stronger in the leg this morning, and 95% pain free. I've taken a couple of paracetamol just to keep things comfortable, but let's hope I can stay away from codeine for a few days, maybe for ever...???

Heather's sister Elaine is here, ostensibly to be my chauffeur and helper, but really to have a catch-up with Heather. Elaine and I have had a good couple of days, lunching and driving around, and even doing a bit of shopping. She returns to Dunedin on Monday, then I'll be flying solo, but I'm pretty close to doing most things around the house - apart from getting down on the floor and picking up things that have rolled under the bed! I'll be another week or more before I'm that flexible.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Progress indeed

Still talking about recovering from surgery, as there's nothing else happening in my life; I'm using one crutch around the house, but two when I go outside, for stability.

My right leg is steadily getting stronger, and getting in and out of bed is no longer a big deal. I'm getting in and out of cars without problems, too. I can take several steps without a crutch or stick, but I regress to a drunken-sailor swaying motion if I go too long.

Getting comfortable in bed is a problem; we have a pretty firm mattress, and I get stiff and sore lying on a rigid flat surface. I can turn onto my left side for a while, but eventually that becomes uncomfortable, so it's back to flat on my back. I tend to sleep till around 3am, then toss and turn till dawn. Oh well, the big leather sofa is superbly comfortable, so I can catch up during the day.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Carrying on

Getting better each day, but things have settled to a bit of a routine; I have breakfast, shower, etc, and around 10 I head back to bed for a read and possibly a snooze, till 12. About 1 I do another couple of hours in bed or on the sofa. Then I'm up and sociable as people get back from work etc.

My nurse and siste-in-law Elaine arrived today, so she'll be my chauffeur and helper for the next 10 days.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Getting closer

That was a close one! Just as Heather was helping me into my trousers around 3.15pm after a snooze, the house banged and rattled, dresser mirrors waved back and forth, and we said "That was strong!" In fact it was a respectable 4.78, 6km away from the house, off Waimairi Beach, 9km deep.

You don't feel quite so blasé about shocks when you're on crutches; the possibility of a quick dash to safety is pretty remote.

Hip 2.0

Excellent progress in the hip department. Pain levels are dropping day by day and I can get in and out of cars fairly easily. That may not sound a big deal, but people who've had a hip replacement know that folding your legs and swivelling them inside the car is quite a hurdle to overcome. Leather seats are great, otherwise a large plastic bag aids rotation.

When Heather hired the equipment I need around home (raised chair & toilet seat) she also got a little wheeled trolley with two shelves, which is a great gadget. I used it to clear the table after dinner last night, and this morning I made my breakfast then put muesli, toast, & coffee on the trolley to take to the table. If I didn't have this, it would have involved 6 or 7 separate trips, or sitting and waiting for someone to do it for me.

There's no arguing with flesh, though; the wound will take the same time to heal as it did last time, but I'm coping with it better than in 2004.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Some good, some bad

I'm home, well set up with a raised chair for the dining/lounge area and a raised seat above the toilet. All seems OK, and of course in 10 days I'll feel radically different, so I mustn't assume that I'll be an invalid any longer than a week or so.

Earthquakes, EQC, and confusion
The canyon in the vege garden. Good thing we hadn't planted anything except some beans.
We didn't get the geotech report that most of our neighbours received yesterday, because EQC have decided that some houses in our block are different from the others - don't ask me why. I've just finished an email to my brother about the latest EQC fiasco, so I'll paste a lightly edited version of my rant here, just for interest.

They plan to bury huge gabions of rubble (from demolished houses?) and rocks from the Waimak, under the river banks to stop any sideways creep in further quakes. Then they'll compact the ground and tell us that we can rebuild. That could be 18 months or more, then building could take another year.

We have our rented accommodation for a year. Then we'll have to rent for another year or 18 months, and even then who knows what will follow? Would you buy my new house? We may have a lovely new 4 bedroom 2 bathroom 2 garage modern house in a great location with river views, but worth doodly squat if future buyers can't get mortgages or insurance. Rumours are flying because the confusion in EQC is causing people to get rattled; some got info packs this week, others didn't, and weird stories are flying around about what's happening to the area.

Anyway, I'm not worrying right now. First things first, get this hip healed up. In 4 or 5 weeks I'll be ready to fight the bureaucratic battles; I've got pretty good at that since our latest restructuring happened, and I've learned how to put people's words back in their faces. In a funny way, it's my English degree paying off; you look for linkages in everything you read, and I often see critical phrases that other people miss.

The suits in power are pretty good at trying to slip important things through in innocuous terms - look at the Geotech report, (4th link on the left). To me the killer phrase is in the last paragraph of the main text, on page 24; "...remediation to levels significantly above most of the Canterbury Plains cannot be justified." In other words, "Why should we make your land any better than a section in Geraldine?" Because it's on a liquefaction zone, that's why! They are subtly redefining the parameters of "remediation" and hoping nobody notices. (I know the report is from Tonkin and Taylor, but I'll bet a bottle of something Scotch and expensive that it got well "reviewed" by Brownlee and English's minders.)

The University tried slipping through phrases of a similar style in their restructuring plans, and the suits got a bit rattled when we asked them "What does this phrase actually mean?" several times at staff forums. Of course, the university is ever so consultative and did actually hold feedback forums, but there's no guarantee that Brownlee will be that democratic, especially now he's got the Fuhrer Act giving him amazing powers with no appeal or review.

I've lived my life since the 60s on the premise "Don't trust anyone in power", and it's served me well so far, so I'll continue on my cynical ways. A cynic is a skeptic with evidence, I always say.

Security check

At night St George's uses contract nurses, many of them South African, to check on patients and give out pills etc. Last night I asked for some codeine, and the nurse followed procedure down to the wire. She checked my hospital ID band, saying "I have to check your identity", and read the name "RONALD, Gregor", then said "Thank you Mr McDonald". It's nice to know they have my identity sorted!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

More progress

More good news from the hospital department. I can now get in and out of bed with a clever trick the physio Liza showed me today, and a surprisingly innocent looking glass of syrup had a profound effect on my digestive system. So we're all go for a return home around 10am Friday.

I wish we'd had something more meaningful than the Hobbit row to watch in my week in hospital; I've decided that Russell Brown's analysis on today's Public Address sounds closer to the truth than anything I've heard elsewhere.

Onward and upward

Definitely getting close to being self-sufficient; the only thing I need help with is getting in and out of bed. The right hip and thigh don't have enough strength to hold the weight of the leg, and it gives a mighty pain in the inner hip and groin if it's not supported. Mind you, I'm not entirely surprised, the right thigh is twice the size of the left.

I was able to stand and shave, then undress and take a shower, dry myself and get dressed again. I am getting closer to being able to take the weight of the leg, so today's goal is to do lots of knee bends to keep the hip flexible, lots of knee presses to build thigh strength, and hopefully by tomorrow morning I will be able to lower myself out of bed, and haul myself back in, without needing to call for a nurse.

The other good development is that pain levels are rapidly decreasing. I got through the night with only paracetamols, and a couple of codeine, which is a real improvement.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Back from limbo

The operation on Monday was interesting, as I was conscious right through; a spinal block and some serious tranquilisers had me under control. I'm walking very carefully with crutches, and should be going home on Friday as planned.

We have serious problems with EQC's assessment of our house, but I'll spare the details until we know more.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Here we go

This will be the last news for a while. I go into St George's at 11am, and the operation happens this afternoon. Just as well, too - I woke with bad pain in the hip this morning, worse than I've had for some time, so it emphasises the need for this surgery.

I should be home on Friday if all goes well. I am allowed my laptop in the hospital, but whether I'll feel up to doing much is the unknown factor. I'm more likely to manage Twitter (@gregor393) than longer blog posts. I intend to take the rehab period more quietly than I did last time. I was too active and I don't think it helped the healing process, so I'll rest more and let nature take its course. I was a mere boy of 55 then, of course, now I'm far more mature.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The day before

A lovely day, with lots of weather. The morning built to a northwest gale, which stripped most of the blossom off the trees down the street. Then it rained a little, backed off so we relaxed, then it pissed down for 10 minutes - and stopped. Just enough to make the washing wet.

I'll have a quiet night, and get some early breakfast. I'm not allowed food after 8am so I want my muesli before I surrender to the system around 11am. Focussing on the big picture here...

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Getting closer

I picked up my crutches from the surgeon's office today. I wonder why they provide crutches; I get the other gear (raised toilet throne, long handled picker-upper and sock holder) from a hire place in Opawa. Tomorrow morning I do my second blood test, then I'm ready for the man with the scalpels and the power tools.

In the meantime, life at work has become more complicated, with yet more changes to my role in the offing. I can't say anything yet, as the plan changes day by day. Speed wobbles? Who, us? Surely not.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Neighbourhood action

We had about 30 people plus a dozen kids at our neighbourhood dinner and meeting yesterday. I don't know where Andy and Deidre got all the chairs from, but we all found a seat and did a round-the-room update; who you are, where you live(d), what's happening at present. It was very informative and we all came away feeling pretty positive about the worth of such meetings. And well fed, I should add - we had some great food contributed by everyone.

Our group, which comprises the River Road block from Medway St to Banks Ave, has agreed to work in with a larger grouping of River Rd people from Swanns Rd (Avonside GHS) around to Banks Ave, so we now have a Riverside neighbourhood association to represent us, similar to the Avonside Residents' Association.

We are particularly keen to keep each other informed about dealings with EQC, and more importantly, insurance companies, as we hear that insurers are trying to convince home owners to take cheap quick-fix solutions. We want to avoid any attempts by them to pick people off one property at a time, by sharing reports of any offers or advice, so we can all make the same responses.

There's a long way to go yet. Several knowledgeable people estimated that it could be two years before we are all back in repaired or rebuilt houses on our block.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Blokes a plate

Our River Road neighbours are getting together this evening for a pot luck meal. So while Heather went for a swim this morning, I made Oakhill potatoes. This lot should feed 6 or 8 people as a side dish. It's a bit tedious to make; hard boiled eggs, parboiled potatoes, a cheese sauce with onion and bacon, and buttered breadcrumbs all take a bit of time, but the final dish is worth it.

It's funny, but this dish always makes me think of my first hip replacement; the first day I really felt like food after surgery, St George's Hospital served it for lunch. So in honour of the impending occasion of my second stint in St George's, my mind must have made the association. Or maybe it's just a really good dish to take to a gathering.

Mixed news

± A weekend of pluses and minuses. ±


Friday, 8 October 2010

One small step

Gerry Brownlee (seen left, in an incredibly natural pose) announced yesterday that >90% of Christchurch homes were on land that could be built on. Considering that most of Christchurch is on solid land from the west of the railway line, that may mean the 10% comprising our neighbourhood on the east is an uninhabitable bog.

So there's no jubilation yet; the Big Brownlee presents a report to Cabinet on Monday, then their decision is communicated to the newly-elected councils, and then someone thinks up a way of telling the home owners.

So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut used to say.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Counting down

Twelve more sleeps before the man with scalpels and power tools attacks my hip. Then I'll have at least 4, probably 6, weeks of slow and careful recovery, steadily improving as the operation scars heal. But no hip pain!

Also coming Real Soon Now (as we say in IT) is an announcement about the fate of 393 River Rd; demolish and rebuild, or patch it up? All the official people who've seen it are very non-committal, as you'd expect, but builders who've seen the house just shake their heads in disbelief. We don't think it would be possible to fix it up, the problems are too wide spread and serious.

Conversations with EQC and insurance people indicate that they are being pushed to complete reports by an imminent deadline, and apparently the geotech testing is going well, so a final decision should come soon. Another clue is the rumour that both John Key and Gerry Brownlee are coming to Christchurch on Friday 15th - could this be Announcement Day?

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Onward - and upward?

The meeting organised by Brendon Burns was good, with speakers from EQC, the insurance industry, and the CCC, and lots of time for questions. It is obvious that somehow the Avonside area has been neglected, with many people not receiving a single visit from assessors. Also people have been getting conflicting advice from some assessors, which doesn't help. The meeting allowed people to make contact with the assessors and other agencies, and hopefully they'll now get seen.

It is tough for EQC, insurers, and the Council - they are all close to swamped with work, but people can accept delays as long as they are not kept in the dark. (A lesson that many call centres and IT helpdesks have learned, with messages like "You are number 12 in the queue" assuring callers that they're not consigned to eternal limbo.)

Nobody will give a firm date, but all agencies seem pretty sure that home owners will get results from their assessments in the next week or ten days. That won't instantly mean "Here's your cheque, go and hire a builder", but it should say if houses are to be repaired or demolished. We'll need intensive soil tests in our block, and especially in the "triangle" starting from our section (black in the map below) and including the nine or so properties between Dudley Creek and the Avon, east to the Banks Ave corner. It seems that these properties are among the worst hit in all of Christchurch in terms of serious property damage, which is a dubious claim to fame.
The soil tests will indicate what needs to be done in terms of foundations; probably deep concrete piles, and lots of them, supporting the house on a solid layer below. As the EQC geotech guy said at the meeting, "Remember that this isn't the first earthquake this block has been through. After previous earthquakes the ground was OK for building on, and the same will be true after this one." It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that this is the first ever tremor for this area, because it's the first we've lived through, but the earth is a bit older than us.

The other problem is that a lot of properties are now lower than they were. As the liquefied silt was forced up through the soil, large voids were left under ground. Some properties settled and stayed level, but most slumped one way or the other. Houses in our block now have stormwater connections that run back into the property from the street, sewers are definitely all cracked and smashed, and ground water is not draining because the shaking of the quake consolidated some soils into a hard pan.
The Medway St footbridge, forced to twist because the river banks moved closer together by a metre.

Add to this the Avon River and Dudley Creek, which have had their beds forced up, and their banks brought closer together, so their carrying capacity is considerably reduced. High tides are bringing the Avon to the level normally only seen with spring tides and heavy rain combined; unless a lot of dredging is done, the higher river and lower property heights could mean that high tides and/or heavy rain will cause flooding over the road and sections in River Road. Our section is better than those to the east; it seems that a small sandy rise starts at our front yard and we're about a metre higher than our neighbours towards the corner.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Another step

I left work early yesterday, to meet a pair of EQC assessors at River Rd. They essentially repeated the surveying and plan drawing done by the builder last Monday; he was hired by an engineering firm contracted by State Insurance, so I presume that now the various analyses and prices will be weighed up, and we'll get a "rebuild or repair" decision. The assessors thought that the decisions could happen in the next 10 days, but there will be a lot of other steps after that decision is made. Still, it's progress.

Tonight we will attend a meeting at the Richmond Club, organised by MP Brendon Burns. This will focus on the needs of people in Avonside/Richmond/Dallington, and should be quite interesting.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Quiet weekend

We've had a restful weekend, with minor tinkering and a bit of shopping. (And a couple of solid aftershocks around 8pm on Saturday.) Another reason for staying around the house was our two cats, who are slowly acclimatising to the new setting. They're still pretty timid, but that will improve during the week, I'm sure. We also have a complication, in the shape of a large old male tabby named Tom, who seems to have an amiable enough disposition, but he's a bit puzzled about changes to his surroundings and the two new arrivals.

We are surrounded by the best fruit and vegetable shops in Christchurch, so we'll have to start comparison shopping around these. I don't know about supermarkets; in some ways it might be easier to carry on with our old Stanmore New World, as they stock brands we're used to, we know the layout, and most of all, I have all the aisles tagged to products in HandyShopper - so I can sort the wanted items by aisle, and zap through the shopping really quickly. Yesterday we went to the Countdown in the Belfast Super Centre, but it's not an attractive option, and it's a bit of a haul to get there.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Settling down

The aftershocks are tapering off in frequency, though there are still some 4-plus shakes to keep us alert. We are now settled in to Leanne's place in Waitikiri Drive, near Bottle Lake; we've unpacked a fair bit of our stuff and Heather has rearranged the living room furniture (to suit the cats, she says, although the logic of that hasn't hit me yet). The cats came back from the cattery yesterday and are settling in to their new home quite well so far. Our lawn mowing guys came and cleared the section on Thursday, so the back yard looks miles better.

We think it's a pretty nice part of town, though it's a long way to the CBD - about 10km in fact. However, my commute to University is quite straightforward, and there are pleasant views of the mountains as I drive across QE2 Drive to Northcote, then down Greers and Clyde Rds to Ilam; it takes about 20 minutes, the same as it took from River Rd.

With only three weeks to go before my hip operation, our next focus will be getting set up so that the house can be navigated by a person on crutches. As I recover, Bottle Lake Forest, just along the block, will get well explored. It's all go round here, folks.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Down it comes

The EQC assessor on Thursday was pretty concerned about our back room's precarious condition, and rightly so. On Saturday a strong wind in the afternoon sucked one of the bi-fold doors right out onto the paving. Today a builder and a guy with a small digger arrived, and proceeded to demolish our lovely sunroom. Alice had forgotten something and came back just in time to see it all happen.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Many things

This blog is getting neglected, in favour of Facebook and Twitter; for those that haven't heard the news, we are moving out of our house this weekend, and putting most of our stuff into long term storage. We are sharing a house with a workmate of Heather's till Xmas, then she's away for a year and we'll have the place to ourselves.

We expect that our house will be demolished and replaced, but decisions like that are a long way off. So we're being safe and sensible and getting out. Insurance company and EQC say it's OK, so here we go.

In the meantime, I'm having a hip replacement (yes, another one) on October 18th. That will take me nearly through to Christmas for recovery. It will burn up most of my leave, but it will be worth it. I'll be doing my recovery walks in Bottle Lake, 200m from the house.

It's a full life...

Monday, 13 September 2010

Welcome back

Herbert and I arrived at work together, just on 8am, walked up the stairs, and found that we couldn't get in. Our cards didn't work on the doors or the lifts, so I phoned Security who said they'd send someone over. Other staff arrived, till finally there were six of us standing on the landing, and eventually a cleaner inside the office area let us in. We still haven't seen the Security person.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

The Word

God spoke to The Onion almost 10 years ago, and still nobody listens.

"If a person tells you it's My will that they kill someone, they're wrong. Got it? I don't care what religion you are, or who you think your enemy is, here it is one more time: No killing, in My name or anyone else's, ever again."

Heard that, Gaza?

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Right angle turn

A friend of mine said, many years ago when I was contemplating leaving teaching, that "life needs to take a right angle turn every ten years". I'm not sure about the timing, but I do agree that the right angle turn has visited us this week. Our house is very likely to be deemed a re-build, so we now have to prepare to move out.

We have had a private assessment done (the official ECQ one may be several days away), and we're holding meetings of neighbours this week to decide if we'll do an independent geotechnical investigation. This is all being led by a structural engineer who did our report for some minor works last year, and who lives just round the block from us; he will combine his neighbours with ours, and we'll commission a full geotechnical survey of the tongue of land we live on, betweeen Dudley Creek and the Avon River, bounded by Banks Ave on the north, Woodchester Ave on the west, with Medway St & River Road completing the circuit.

Until we get the official assessment, we are rather undecided about the timing, but it looks like we'll be on the move quite soon.

Our neighbourhood, with our section in black. The area sits between two streams, the Avon River and smaller Dudley Creek, so we are on alluvial soils subject to liquefaction in earthquakes. The houses east of us are all uninhabitable because of structural damage.

On a brighter note, we have water, and we're just hoping that whatever goes into the drains finds a home somewhere under ground. We're not using toilets too much, just in case.

So near but so far

We had water for about 30 minutes before we discovered a leak. Now we're waiting for our plumber to get here and fix it. Even then, though, we can't really use the toilets or the shower, as the sewer connections are all snapped off and the street main is full of silt. Sewerage is getting away somehow, but I don't like to think about it too much, it must be running away into the ground somewhere. We're still boiling the water from our bore. So we'll be using the portaloos down at the corner, and showering at work, while we get ready to move out.

A structural engineer who lives just round the corner visited today; he's a partner in the firm that did our re-piling assessment last year, so their firm already has data about our soil. He wants to get the neighbours to all club in and share the cost of a full geotechnical survey of this block, then we can all use the data and the report to talk with our insurers and EQC. His opinion is that our house is so broken that it won't be fixable, so it looks like we may be flatting with, then house sitting for, Leeanne Russ for the next year or more. I'm about to start calling insurance and storage/removal firms, and we'll probably move out next weekend, or soon after.

In the middle of all this, I see the orthopedic surgeon about my hip next Friday afternoon! The week before last, the hip was my big focus; now it's just a darn nuisance. Oh well, life goes on; if I have surgery later this year we'll cope, no doubt.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Water - well, technically speaking

A momentous moment at 4.30 this afternoon - repairs to the water main in the road allowed us to turn on our water. Visions of showers, toilets, and dishwashers danced before my eyes. Then Heather discovered that our garden tap was leaking uncontrollably, and turned off the valve at the street. So we are without water for one more evening; a plumber is coming early tomorrow.

A projector in C1 had developed a bit of a lean.
I went to the university today, along with several hundred other staff members; we were briefed by the VC and a guy from Buildings, then sent off to tidy our offices. Jess and I had our office cleaned up in 45 minutes, then we joined Erik Brogt from the Academic Development Group and tidied up the rest of the offices and the ADG's library of journals.

Note for future earthquakes; large pot plants kept on filing cabinets can go a long way and spread their soil through everything. I think the occupants of one office will be finding bits of potting mix among their reading for many months.
The Law Library had emptied itself over the floors, but teams were already re-stacking books.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

First assessment

Today we had a 3-person team visit us to do a preliminary assessment of our situation. A woman from the CCC was accompanied by two building inspectors from Nelson; the woman did a personal interview with Heather and me (she circled the happy face, we noticed, so she must think we're mentally stable) while the inspectors checked out the building.

The outcome is that we have a green sheet taped to our front door; we can stay here, but with restrictions. We're not supposed to use the brick additions; that's easy, the sunroom is so shonky we've been staying out anyway, and the addition on the east side, part breakfast nook and part living room, is easily avoided. We'll have to move the dining table, or eat off the kitchen island.

The next stage is a proper engineering assessment. That could take a while. In the meantime we're boxing on with artesian water, which we're still boiling for safety, and a porta-potty, which we're not emtying into holes in the garden often enough. I am required at the University at 9am for a safety and situation briefing, then an office sort-out. I gather our offices are OK, just lots of stuff fallen off shelves; 30 mins should have Jess and me back to normality. I guess we'll be there most of the day, but my manager has already said he's OK with me taking time whenever I need it to sort out domestic stuff.

As far as the house goes, I think there are two main options. First, and cleanest in my view, is to demolish and rebuild a modern house on the site. Second is to keep the core house and level it (how do you ram 1.8m piles under a 95 year old house that's only 300mm off the ground?), then rebuild the extensions to modern code. I suspect that would look cheaper, but cost more in the long run, and it would still leave a not particularly significant house with patched-up foundations, and unknown other issues.

In any event, we don't have to move in a hurry, and maybe not at all. But we have a Plan B, thanks to a friend of Heather's who teaches Japanese at Shirley Boys High. She lives in a 3 bedroom house near Bottle Lake and has offered to have us as flatmates for some time. And next year she goes on extended leave for the whole year, so she'd have been looking for people to rent her house anyway. If we have to rebuild, it could easily take a year, so this looks like a great deal all round. Once we know the next step, we'll know if we have to move.

In the meantime, we are awaiting mains water supply and sewerage. That will make all the difference, and will also help us make decisions about accommodation.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Progress, possibly

I had email today acknowledging our EQC claim and telling us that we'll see an assessor one day soon. In the meantime things have moved a bit more; the sunroom/dining room is now a no-go area because the north-west corner is leaning quite alarmingly, and could take the whole west side of the room with it.

We are surprisingly lethargic; the best we've managed today is doing a load of washing at the Schroeders' place and burying the portapotty's first load in the garden. We keep saying that we're going to start packing up, as it's obvious that we'll have to leave this house at some point. So we might as well use the time off work to pack pictures, CDs, books, and other gear. We can leave clothes, and the gear like TV and stereo, until it becomes the Real Thing; probably the day after the assessor calls.

Monday, 6 September 2010

The cleanup begins

We had Rick and Nathan from Slate & Shingle Roofing arrive early yesterday morning, and by 11am they had both of our shaky chimneys removed. All we have to show now is a big pile of rubble. The holes where the chimneys used to be were then filled with tiles from our stack of spares, so the house now looks as if it's always been chimney-less. It's a shame, they set off the tile roof nicely, but they were a menace at times like this.

One chimney was still standing - but only just.

The chimney above our bedroom came down in the initial quake, but it crumbled gently rather than crashing through the roof.

Once these were chimneys, now they're landfill.

The road at the end of our block had subsided, leaving big cracks. That didn't stop morons in SUVs and hotted up cars trying to drive through the police cordons. On Sunday a roading gang moved in to fill the gaps and smooth out the mangled tarmac.

The University is shut for the week while structural assessments are done. Apparently the Library may take months to repair, and we've heard rumours of a big crack through the Law building, where our offices are situated on the 4th floor.
The University Library is a big mess.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

The big one

It's hard to think of a title that isn't corny, but what do you say after a day that began with a magnitude 7.1 earthquake at 4.35am? I'm sure that Canterbury's quake is all over the media, so I'll stick to some basics. I've put photos at my Flickr site.

Heather and I are fine. The main part of our house held up OK, though the brick additions done in the early 50s have cracked and chunks of brickwork have fallen out, doors won't shut, etc. Both chimneys are damaged; one has crumbled into a heap of bricks and the other is standing, but looking dangerous. We've been cleaning up messes from fallen shelves etc but most belongings are intact.

The back concrete patio is a cracked jumble of concrete slabs, and there's a 15cm trench across our back yard. We have phone, power, TV and internet (obviously), but no mains water supply. Luckily we have an artesian bore which produces clean looking water, so we're working from buckets and boiling our drinking water. Most of the neighbourhood is coming along to fill buckets etc, so we've had a very social day. The back fence is down and our neighbours, like many others, have large piles of silt from where water and springs have bubbled up through the earth.

Our road is badly damaged, and it's not passable at the end of our block, where River Road meets Banks Avenue, Dallington Terrace, and McBratneys Rd. The footbridge at the other end of the block is now a piece of sculpture.
The footbridge over the Avon at Medway St.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Big show coming

Well, it's big for our group; we do a presentation to senior management on Monday morning, showing them what our group does and how we're using Moodle. This afternoon we had a dry run, and all looks good - we're doing a dual projector mix of PowerPoint and live web sites. Now we just need to stop people fiddling with slides and demonstrations, in case they break something that was working today.

Lectures begin again on Monday, and it's a mad sprint to October 15th when lectures finish, and exams start on 26th October. Another year gallops on; this one's been more eventful than most, I must say.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The world champions that dare not speak their name

Close racing in the Audi MedCup TP52s.

In New Zealand, sports are divided into two broad groups. There's those that grew from the British public school system, involving teams of young chaps chasing a leather ball around a grassy field; soccer, rugby, cricket, hockey, and the like. And then there's the others. That's everything from snooker to slalom, including yachting.

So the best sports news since the last All Blacks victory has sunk without trace. Emirates Team New Zealand won the Audi MedCup regatta at Cartagena. It's the Grand Prix circuit of sailing, but it's just not something that we talk about in polite society. This really makes me cross!

UPDATE; Friday 3rd September. At least the Tall Blacks get some coverage; pretty good for a sport that didn't begin in England. it's still blokes chasing a ball though, is that the only definition of sport that our journalists know?

But is it art?

It's a poor day when you don't see something amazingly pointless.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

WalMart shoppers

I was sent this set of photos, plus many more, in one of those joke-photo emails that do the rounds. The photos were a selection from the People of Walmart web site. These are a selection from that selection. I admire the bravery of the photographers in several cases where they walked up and took direct face shots of some very heavy dudes. This sample is mostly quirky or spectacularly bad choices of clothing.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Marvin lives on

I went to mediaworks' web site today (that's TV3 and a bunch of radio stations) and I got this "404 Not found" error page that reminded me of Marvin the Paranoid Android, from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
(Click for a bigger version)

Marvin probably gets a kick out of having his gloomy mood live on. "The first 10 million years were the worst".

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

My online world

If you click the screenshot above, you will see a full size version in a new tab or window. Look at the tabs that are open in the web browser (Firefox is still my favourite but Chrome is pushing hard).

Right, to the point. The sites I use most (outside work) are:
  • iGoogle - One of my home pages. This is personalised with news and tech sites, Doonesbury and Zits, and shortcut windows to Facebook and Gmail
  • Twitter - enough said.
  • Facebook - just because.
  • Blogger - you're reading it. My other home page.
  • Gmail - not really essential as it's part of iGoogle, but convenient.
Every one of these is a web based service; in the cloud, as the current mantra goes. Three of the five are Google products. So, as Google have been predicting, I spend nearly all my online time in a browser.

Does this make me one of the Net Generation? Doubtful - a new lecturer called me Sir several times this afternoon, so maybe I'm more of the Cobweb Generation.

Extension cord needed

Here's the ultimate lunacy of Max Bradford's privatisation of New Zealand's electricity industry. The state owned generator and retailer Meridian is building wind farms and solar power projects - in Australia and the US.

Wait a minute, weren't they set up to provide power for New Zealand? Well, not really - it seems that their primary duty is to provide returns for their shareholders. Besides, if they don't develop new generation in New Zealand, the existing power becomes dearer - and their profit rises. Good, eh?

So if you want some of the electricity that Meridian are investing the NZ Government's capital into, you'll need a very long extension lead.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Onward Christian soldiers

I'm in danger of becoming addicted to weird US religious web sites. Especially when they say things like this;
After the events of September 11th, 2001, our Christian President George W. Bush vowed to smoke those responsible for the attacks out of their sandy desert holes. He vowed that our great nation would bring these belligerent people the peace of freedom. True to his world, President George W. Bush lead (sic) our armies into Iraq, holding the sword of truth in one hand and a message of peace in the other. We stood proud as Saddam Huseein’s (sic) forces were quickly defeated under the might of God’s American army, then we watched in respectful silence as the Iraqi people put their former oppressive dictator through moral punishment in their own court system. God bless America and the good we have done for Iraq.
I shouldn't watch, but I want to see what they come up with next. Fascinating!

Big event

This performance in Rarotonga puts New Zealand kapa haka groups to shame. It's the big kapa rima (action song) performed at the performed by Arorangi village in Te Maeva Nui (Constitution Celebrations) 2010.

The video is one of many clips posted to YouTube by a Cook Islands local, Wendy Evans, who's been a friend of ours since the early 70s in Invercargill. Wendy and her husband Phil used to own the Cook Islands News, and are now semi retired and following their hobbies.