Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Weather or not?

I'm planning to ski tomorrow, with some colleagues from the IT Department - weather permitting. The weather will clear, but it's likely to be a bit windy. I'm going to go pretty cautiously on my decrepit hip, but it should be OK for half a day or more. Mount Hutt has a heap of snow, though the reports say it is frozen and lumpy away from the groomed areas.

Mt Hutt's upper slopes, Tuesday 29th June.

UPDATE, 2pm Wednesday. The forecast now says 50-80 km/hr winds at 2000m, so we're cancelling the skiing day. We'll wait for the next calm sunny day, with 30cm of fresh powder, thanks.

Monday, 28 June 2010


From the "Oh dang, I done it again" department.
In June 1979, the Ixtoc I well blew out in the Bay of Campeche off Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, coating 170 miles of the south Texas coast and eventually dumping 140 million gallons of oil into the Gulf before two relief wells stopped the flow nine months later. It is the worst oil spill in peacetime history but could be eclipsed in about three weeks by the Deepwater Horizon spill if higher-end flow estimates prove accurate.
Warm water definitely helps break down the nasty bits. A pity about Prince William Sound, Alaska, oiled in 1989 and still hurting.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Wet Sunday

Nothing to do on a wet Sunday except sit around keeping warm and dry. It is nice to have a blob day now and then. Savoury pinwheel scones for lunch, yum. Corned beef is simmering away for a Sunday dinner.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

It's official

The radiologist's report on my x-ray arrived today.
"Severe joint space narrowing in the right hip joint superiorly with subcortical cyst formation. Hyperostosis at the femoral head/neck junction with marginal osteophyte formation.
Previous pelvic fractures on the right side with diastases of the symphysis pubis. Left THJR without evidence of complication."
The pelvic fractures are from my 2007 bike crash. The last sentence says my left hip replacement is fine. The rest of it says "Surgery - soon".

And it comes out here

The music goes round and round, and it comes out the stereo speakers. How?

Start with a MacBook Pro (sitting on the left speaker in this photo, but usually on a shelf behind the TV). It has a DVI to HDMI cable to send video to the TV, and an audio lead from the headphone outlet to the TV. Then cables go from the audio out on the TV to a spare input on the stereo. Now we can play the video clips I've downloaded from YouTube and other web sites. It's a bit of a pain to keep getting up to start the next song, but I don't plan to do a great amount of that.

This setup will be used more to view movies that have accidentally fallen off the internet onto my hard drive. Last night we watched the original 1970 M*A*S*H movie, which has kept its charm, though it was rather episodic, without much of a story line. No wonder it made such a good TV show, it was already a series of brief stories and jokes.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Here and there on campus

Spotted on my campus perambulations today. (Cell phone photos, excuse the quality.)

The new Biological Sciences block is nearly complete.

Two wheeled transport, fancy and basic.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Winter again

We are celebrating the mid-winter week with wet and cold weather, but it's bringing snow to Mt Hutt (25cm so far) and Porters.

Last week I was pretty gloomy about whether I'd get any skiing this season, as my right hip was giving me so much pain. However, I've got my pain medication sorted out now and it's still a bit painful, but under control, so I think that I can ski as long as I have a pocketful of drugs and I don't go mad. Going carefully won't be easy for me, I do like to get some momentum going when I ski, but I'll work it out I'm sure.

It looks like my #2 hip has started deteriorating seriously, so I'm hoping to get a replacement operation in December. The initial snag is that the orthopedic surgeon is booked up, and the first appointment I can get to see him is mid September. If he agrees to go ahead, and my insurance company cooperate, it will still be tight to get a booking by December. I'd like to have the operation then because it's quiet at work, I can use the holidays to spin out my recovery leave without taking too much sick leave, and I can be back at work by late January. Also I can wear jandals and shorts in summer, so I won't have the agonising stretch to put socks and shoes on.

But first there's a ski season. Watch this space.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

More TV

This morning I bought an indoor UHF aerial, then took it back and bought another. The first was awful in appearance, looking like a shopping trolley with dandruff - bits of wire everywhere - and its signal wasn't strong enough. A fairly static TV image showed OK, but any fast movement left big blocks of confused pixels. That meant a second trip to Dick Smiths, to purchase an antenna with a signal amplifier, which not only works fine, but is far less visually offensive.

My other shopping expedition was to the big Supa Centa at Northwood, where I found a Magic DTV recorder, and now I've got that set up - with a little juggling of UHF antenna cables again. And it is amazing! Firstly, its remote and the TV remote had a wee chat via infrared, and now the Magic remote has learned to imitate Sony on-off and volume buttons, so we can run everything from that. It has full 1080p high definition, a 500GB hard drive, and is a piece of cake to set up for recording.

All we need now is some quality programmes to watch...

Saturday, 19 June 2010

New toy

We took the plunge and joined the 21st century today; now we are the owners of a 32" Sony LCD TV. It was $799, a pretty good deal, and it has great features. It's full 1080p high definition with built in Freeview HD, 4 HDMI ports, and even a USB port. I put a USB thumb drive with an AVI movie in, and it was visible on the input menu straight away, and played the file with no fuss.

The HD quality is stunning - it even made live netball worth watching. Every freckle and hair shows up, and the 16:9 wide screen format became familiar very quickly.

We will buy a digital hard drive recorder as well. Our preferred device is in short supply, though, so I'll probably have to pre-order one through Harvey Normans.

Our old CRT television, with a Freeview decoder I bought off TradeMe, will go to the kitchen, running off an indoor UHF antenna. Then we'll have digital TV in both areas, without the annoying time lag between analogue and digital. That was a nuisance when cooking dinner and watching the 6pm news in two adjoining rooms.

We only do a TV upgrade every 15 years or so, and this will cost about $1300 - the last one in 1996 cost $2000 for a TV and VCR, and the dollar has shrunk considerably since then of course, so this is relatively cheap. Moores Law works its magic again.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

It gets worse

News from the engine room of the US oil industry, those wonderful folks who brought you the Exxon Valdez.

First BP gets allowed to test safety valves at a lower pressure than required by law, now we find that they registered the Deepwater Horizon rig as a ship - under the flag of the Marshall Islands! Eniwetok, Bikini, Rongelap. You know what I mean now, I'm sure. And I'm sure they have a super rigorous oil rig certification process.

But hey, it's business, right? You do what it takes to maximise profits, and only obey laws when you get caught.

But wait, there's more! A blog written by Exxon's (remember Exxon?) vice president of public and government affairs says "We all need to understand what occurred on this occasion that did not occur on the 14,000 other deepwater wells that have been successfully drilled around the world." Not yet, anyway, and thankfully none of Exxon's wells have gone kablooey all over the nature stuff. Yet. Just don't mention the tankers.

That "blog" post attracted a comment, extremely supportive, from James Peppe - who, surprise surprise, is a senior manager of the National Association of Manufacturers - an oil industry lobby group, and close buddies of Exxon.

Is the world supposed to read this spinning crap and believe it? Oh, puhleeeze!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Fifty knots - under sail!

Wow! The French foil-flying trimaran l’Hydroptère, which covered a nautical mile at a speed of over 50 knots in last November, is touring European ports and showing its paces.

l’Hydroptère passes a ferry in The Solent, outside Cowes.

And here's some action video:

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Not my fault

Here's a potential Stella Award:

Woman who 'didn't know how to look both ways before crossing street' sues Google for bad directions

She said it was dark, she had never been to the area before and didn't know how to look both ways before crossing the street. And now Lauren Rosenberg has gone to court, blaming Google Maps for bad directions.
The full story is here.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Weak end

Two days at work and I'm ready for a rest. We had a good gathering of the whole new Digital Media Group, where we all introduced ourselves, ate pizza, and drank beer. I am being as straightforward and non-judgmental as possible when answering questions about my job, just saying "I've been acting, now we have a permanent appointment...".

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Reality bites

Sunrise over Muri Lagoon
We've had a wonderful week in Rarotonga, with our daily routine consisting of swims in the pool or the lagoon, snorkeling on the reef (a 4km scooter ride away), exploring by scooter, dining out, and of course an afternoon snooze most days. Our friends Wendy and Phil were a great help, providing transport and advice, plus some nice meals, and of course lots of good conversation. We learned quite a lot about Cook Islands politics and economics in the process; for a place with a population a bit smaller than Oamaru, they seem to have an awful lot of government!

I'll give a fuller account once I have time, but we found the Cooks a lovely place, with friendly and helpful locals, quite sophisticated hotels and restaurants, and easy transportation options. Buses run clockwise and anticlockwise every hour during the day, the speed limit is 50km/hr for cars and 40 for scooters (no helmets required), and nobody speeds. (Just as well, the roads are not exactly freeways.) The abiding impressions are of friendly people, graves all over the island in front yards, feral chickens (moa), and motor scooters - hundreds of them.

We arrived back in NZ on Wednesday morning; going from 25o to 4o is a rather startling change of temperature, though of course we knew that would happen. But knowing it and feeling it are two different things, as I'm sure a famous philosopher must have said at some time. In other words, we're home to a clear but cold Christchurch winter day.

The flight home from Rarotonga is quite an ordeal; the bus collected us at 11.45pm from the hotel. We'd paid an extra $100 to keep our room till 6pm, then we ate at the hotel and watched TV in the lounge. The flight left at 1.50am, and we tried to get some sleep during the 4 hour trip, but with limited success.

We then had to negotiate our way through customs and immigration in Auckland at 4.30am, before a 7am flight to Christchurch and the shock of hitting the early morning fresh air. An odd thing we both noticed when unpacking - the contents of our suitcases were noticeably warm!

We'll catch a few hours' sleep at some point today, I'm sure, then we should be back in sync with reality for work tomorrow morning. I have heaps of photos, which I'll upload to Flickr in the next day or so. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Up up and away

I think we're packed. Six undies, six t-shirts, two pairs swim shorts, jandals. Sun screen, hat(s), camera, laptop. Wallet, passport. That should be enough.

A taxi is booked for 5.45am; the joys of air travel! The taxi ride will be followed by a 7am domestic flight to Auckland. There we have a couple of hours to go across to International and go through the rigmarole of security and immigration (when we're leaving?) The flight to Rarotonga is on a 777, which will be a novelty after all the 737 and A320 flights I've had recently. We arrive mid afternoon, a day before we left, courtesy of the 1884 International Meridian Conference.

Simplicity isn't a simple thing to achieve, it seems.