Monday, 31 May 2010


Some new toys in the house. First is a pair of mini RC helicopters from ThinkGeek. The helicopters charge from the radio (well, IR really) control box, good for about 10 mins of flying per charge. I think I'll buy one of those slabs of batteries from Bunnings. I won't get a chance to fly them until I'm back from holiday, late next week.

The other toy is not quite working yet. It is a gas cannon, otherwise known as a spud gun. The idea is that a projectile is inserted in the barrel, then a cap is removed at the rear; squirt in aerosol propellant (hairspray is good, apparently), close cap, press barbecue igniter. Bang! Projectile exits barrel.

The Mk 1 cannon. Note the nifty handle on the barrel, and the double-cavity fuel chamber. The piece of dowel is the ramrod. The projectile is a wadded up piece of cloth, to start with.

So far I've managed to ignite the evaporating fumes from the PVC cement that I used to glue it together, but my spray cans don't do the trick. We definitely have a spark, but so far we haven't had an explosion. I think the right fuel will be the answer.
The business end. If I was doing it again, I'd put the screw cap in line with the main barrel, so I could check if the barrel is clear and also push stuck projectiles back up the barrel. The igniter could go in the flat end cap of the side branch, so it wouldn't block the main chamber and barrel. That will be in the Mk 2 design. Or maybe something like this.

Short week

I come to work today and Tuesday, then we leave for Rarotonga early on Wednesday. We arrive in Rarotonga at 4pm the previous day, due to the wonders of the Date Line. This means that I will have the dubious pleasure of being in two places at 4pm Tuesday, 3500km apart!

I'll try to do most of the packing tonight, so I only have to add the last minute bits like toilet gear tomorrow night. This will give me two chances to remember things, which is a good idea at my age. Of course, I really only need to pack swim shorts and t-shirts, so it won't be too difficult.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Not yet

I received news yesterday that the decision on the ELM Team Leader job has been extended to next week. When I said I was going on holiday on Wednesday, that added another complicating factor. We'll see what happens; after all this time, what's a few more days?

Friday, 28 May 2010


Is today the day I'll hear about the Team Leader job? Maybe.

We are all summoned to a lecture theatre (by "all" I mean the 100+ staff now classed as part of ICTS) at 4pm today, for some kind of team building talk. Hmmm.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Change accelerates

Oh no, bring out the differentiation machine, the rate of change is changing. We thought we were joining the new Digital Media Group in July, but now it's next week. When we're in Rarotonga! Of course, I may not be Team Leader anyway, by then. Whatever happens about the job, there's nothing I can do about it now.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Busy time

My interview went OK yesterday. I should know by Friday if I have the job.

Our friend Richard Weatherly from Dunedin arrived to stay over night, on his way up to Kaitaia to complete his great shifting exercise. I think this return trip will be the last as he moves his life to Dunedin, but with Richard nothing is ever certain, so we'll see.

Other friends, Phil and Wendy Evans, arrive from Rarotonga today, spending a week in Christchurch and Dunedin. They are staying in a hotel, but we expect to see quite a lot of them over the next few days. The timing is not exactly great - winter has hit with a blast of rain and southerly winds, and I doubt that they have much warm clothing. They'll be rushing to buy some woolly socks, I suspect.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Getting fitter

Schroeder and I did the Bridle Path in an hour return today, including a 5-10 minute breather at the top. We must be getting fitter.

That must be a huge steak - we did 3 ribeye steaks with room to spare.

We bought a new griller this afternoon. Our old vertical griller died a few weeks ago, and grilling in the oven leaves a smell that takes a day to go away, and makes the smoke alarms go hyper. So we now own a George Foreman Next Grilleration™ Removable Plate Grill. It has "Lean Mean Fat Reducing Grilling Machine" printed on the lid, and it did steaks quite nicely, though I'd still prefer to pan-grill steaks. This will be great for chops, though. And toasted sandwiches, of course.

Big day coming

I have an interview for the Electronic Learning Media team leader job at 10am tomorrow; I have to do a 10 minute presentation, which I have more or less ready, but I'll be doing some practice runs today. Then I have to have some examples ready for the inevitable HR "behaviour" questions, e.g. "Tell us about a time when you had to ..."

I suppose I'll have to wear a tie, too - that sort of thing seems to be important, for some reason.

But first, Mark Schroeder and I are off to walk the Bridle Path, to exercise the body and clear the mind.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Sailors of note

Jessica Watson arrived back in Sydney last weekend. I don't care about "official" rules about circumnavigations, she sailed from Sydney to Sydney and crossed the Equator. If she'd done the voyage around the Northern Hemisphere, no-one would have quibbled.

Dennis Conner, the bad boy of America's Cup, is selling his gorgeous vintage yacht and restoring a smaller replacement.
Dennis Conner's new boat - Fame, c. 1910.

The Phoenecia expedition is nearing the end of its circumnavigation of Africa.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Another landmark

You can tell your grandkids this one.
It ranks with the first world wide satellite TV hookup, moon shots, cell phones, digital television, and microwave popcorn, as a landmark in human advancement - like the change from pond scum to boy racers.

And anyway, I'm not watching YouTube - I think. Oops, yes I am, but I'm not watching it, I'm listening to a live performance by Neil Young. In fact, all three tabs are showing Google apps, and I'm using their browser as my default. I've drunk the Google Kool-Aid, and all I got was a pen from their booth at Educause.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Oh no, not again

Everywhere you go, you get morons with agendas. Like Glenn Beck, claiming that Obama's support for net neutrality means less freedom, or Sarah Palin blaming foreign oil companies for the disastrous oil well rupture in the Gulf of Mexico.

Maybe it's the right's blitzkrieg method all over again; "Throw so much at them that they get tired and give up." Could be, it seems to be working.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Wet Sunday

Christchurch has had a mild drizzle all day, enough for Schroeder and me to flag our Sunday morning hill walk. Heather and her two sisters are lunching and going to a movie, so I am having a quiet day around the house.

I wish I could get my shared printer to work with my Mac, but I'm having problems somehow. I blame the Windows firewall, personally. Maybe I'll switch it off and try again. (Nope.)

Friday, 14 May 2010

Not us, we're special

All of New Zealand's been enjoying a little moral panic over James Webster, the Kings College student who died after drinking a bottle of vodka last weekend. (I bet if he'd been from Onehunga he wouldn't have been talked about in this reverential way.) The news and talkback have been full of self proclaimed experts telling us what's wrong with our culture, that a nice white kid like this could die from being dorky. Apparently New Zealand society is sick at the core, or something.

Then I read the story of Matt James, a US high school student who died by falling off a balcony after drinking, at about the same time, allowing for time differences. Oh well, said Notre Dame, the university that was about to offer Matt a football scholarship, boys will be boys. The recently retired coach said "These are college kids. College kids do what college kids do. I just don't understand why they're even issues."

Just like New Zealand, really. Then something happened that probably wouldn't happen in EnZed.

The Notre Dame campus cops caught another football player, Mike Ragone - well actually, they caught his girlfriend - with some marijuana in her handbag. Girls will be girls, right? And girls' boyfriends are just young and dorky, right? Nope. Here's the regulation:
Students who possess, use or misuse such substances shall be subject to disciplinary suspension or permanent dismissal.
That's "Shall", not "Might, after a hearing", or "Won't, he'll just get a telling off". So his college career is over. But the deceased drunk is just a nice kid who had some bad luck.

Just like New Zealand? I doubt we'd be quite that extreme.

(My original stories come from Huffington Post, which doesn't permit deep linking. A quick Google on the names will get you the originals, though.)

Another week

Not a bad week, with plenty of work done, continuing pleasant autumn weather, a couple of productive meetings, and a general feeling of progress - in spite of the Creative Destruction being practised by the University's restructuring team. (Somehow restructuring never seems to diminish the size of the HR department.) It does explain the fact that very few incumbent staff are being appointed to the "replacement" positions that are being offered; someone has decided that new blood is needed. It's a shame about the hundreds of years of institutional knowledge that is being thrown away, though.

I didn't mean this to be a grumble, but it just comes out anyway. This is all a way of saying that if I'm not appointed to the Team Leader job (which I've been doing for a year) I won't be surprised. At least I still have my original job to return to; I was better at that than being a manager, anyway.

So - no grumbles, just pleasant bike rides to and from work, lunch at the Staff Club with colleagues, an interesting meeting about our Windows 7 roll-out, and a pint at the pub after work. Not a bad way to spend a day.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Confidence boost

In 3 weeks we will be holidaying at the Muri Beach Club Hotel in Rarotonga. I was wondering whether to take a laptop with me, and their web site didn't provide any information, so I filled out an enquiry form and asked about internet access. The enquiry went through to somewhere, and I got a nice message, "Thank you for your Enquiry. We will anwser as soon as possible."

I look forward to their anwser. But I bet I don't get one. I'll take my laptop anyway.

Update: I had a reply within an hour, telling me that they have pay-per-use wifi in the lobby. I may use it, as I'll still take a computer to make safety copies of photos.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Way to go

We had the yacht in the water at noon yesterday on a flat calm harbour. We took advantage of the high tide to motor into Governors Bay, which is normally too shallow, then motored back towards the main harbour in time to meet a breeze near the yacht club. We had the sails up and the motor switched off very rapidly, to enjoy an hour and a half of sailing in a 5-10 knot easterly. It was the first time this season that we used our large genoa, and the boat just charged along in the light conditions.

We finished early for several reasons; it was colder than we expected, Schroeder wanted to get home in time to prepare for a meeting today, and I got calls saying that our Moodle system had lost its database connection, so I was prepared to head to work to help with that. The Moodle problem was fixed with a reboot (whew) but we were happy to finish an hour earlier than we'd planned, and to have had such lovely conditions.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Here we go again

Isn't it amazing, the sheer size of Mount Cook? Apparently it stretches more than 20 kilometres, all the way to the head of the Tasman Glacier. Here's the NZ Herald, lost in the hills yesterday:
"Rescuers are hoping to bring a sick climber down from Aoraki/Mt Cook today after bad weather hampered rescue efforts for the past two days. The Australian climber, aged 34, has been trapped at Kelman Hut, at the head of the Tasman Glacier, since Thursday suffering a suspected collapsed lung."
And after the weather cleared, here's today's news;
"A climber who had been trapped on Aoraki/Mt Cook since Thursday was rescued yesterday. The 34-year-old Australian was flown to Mt Cook Village about 9.30am, before being transported to Timaru Hospital."
"Trapped on Mt Cook" actually means "waiting comfortably in a hut 22km from Mt Cook". I'm sure it wasn't pleasant having such a medical condition develop, and I hope he makes a good recovery, but it's not as if he was huddled in a crevasse listening to avalanches whistle past and worrying about frostbite.

Mount Cook and Kelman Hut, 22km apart
I'm sure that if you asked the journalist who wrote this (well, adapted it from a press release), he/she would admit that they didn't really know the area in question. But did they get out a map? Obviously not - why? Because it's not in Auckland, so nobody really cares, I suspect.

Sailing away

It's a beautiful day, with easterly winds forecast for the afternoon. A perfect day to take my boat out for what may be the last sail of the season. More news will follow.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Moving along

News came today that I have been short listed for the Electronic Learning Media Team Leader job. Date, time, and place for the interview are yet to be confirmed because the HR Director is overseas. I must say I'm rather ambivalent about the position, in the climate of fear and paranoia pervading the university at present. And of course they may not select me - especially if I show up unshaven, reeking of booze, and being offhand about what the group does. (Just kidding.)

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

I may not know a lot about music...

But I know what I like. This, for example:

One Bad Apple, and other thoughts

Stephen Foley, NZ Herald on Steve Jobs' War On Flash

"...the feud with Adobe is enormously self-serving, and his characterisation of it somewhat disingenuous. While the Apple boss cloaks his criticisms of Flash in the language of 'open-source' computing, he has developed the most tightly closed system for his company's devices that the tech industry has ever seen.

Not even Microsoft, the anti-trust evil incarnate, ever forced you to buy your software applications from it directly. The only gateway Apple allows is its official 'App Store'.
As Mr Jobs lures you in, he is padlocking the doors behind you."

Bob Cringely, InfoWorld - why you can trust open source software.

"Open Source works precisely because there is no money in it. If there is no obvious financial reward what’s mainly left is doing it for glory. Linus Torvalds, the original author of the Linux operating system, likes to point out that Microsoft ships new products to meet revenue goals while volunteer Linux developers ship new products when they are ready. To do it any other way would be embarrassing. Viewed in this way Windows Vista, which was two years late but still terrible, suddenly begins to make sense.
Open Source software authors have their names on the product and their reputations at stake, so they make sure the code they ship is as good as it can be. How quaint."

"Open Sores software"
Alan Hoskin, UCTL, University of Canterbury, and master punster

Sanity - maybe

Compared to last week, where I was interviewing job applicants while starving for a day, then had a colonoscopy, with several major meetings thrown into the mix, finishing with a farewell function that was twice as troublesome as it needed to be, I'm hoping for a return to routine this week.

The more I hear about the way the University is treating middle management staff, the more I think that it might be good if I miss out on the team leader job. Jobs at that level look like a real hospital pass - a reward that will backfire badly when the next inevitable round of cuts comes along. Sometimes it's safer to stay in the trenches, regardless of the potential rewards of the position. (Excuse the mixed metaphors.)

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Castle Rock

Castle Rock
Originally uploaded by gregor_ronald
Mark Schroeder and I went for a walk on the Port Hills this morning. It was a glorious cool autumn morning, just right for walking. Our plan was to go 2/3 of the way up the Bridle Path, then branch off to the Kahukura Track, which zigzags up the face below Castle Rock, just below the rocks on the right hand skyline. The track then goes along the back side of the crag and meets the road by the left ridge.

However, when we got to the turnoff we decided that the Bridle Path itself was going to be sufficient exercise, so we went to the top, had a 10 minute breather, and came back down. It was a great way to spend a lovely morning. We'll go back to the crag when we're a bit fitter, in two or three weeks.

Click the photo to see the rest of this morning's shots at Flickr.