Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Good news?

Last Thursday's announcement confirmed that our block in River Road is classified Red, which was more or less expected. Now we're trying to make decisions about taking the RV and buying a place, or taking the land value from the Government and then a replacement house from our insurer, State-IAG. The second option would give us more equity, but could take two or three years at least.

The added complication is that some insurance companies are saying that they were going to rebuild houses, so they don't have to pay for total loss, even when the neighbourhood is going to be bulldozed. They can't say that to us; we have their written statements that our house is unable to be repaired. In fact, they advised that they weren't going to keep pricing repairs because there was no point. These emails were from before the February and June quakes, so the situation with our house has only got worse, of course. But many of our neighbours do have damaged but repairable houses, and must be freaking out at this development.

On Thursday afternoon I emailed our friendly (really, she's very pleasant and helpful) customer representative at State, asking for a meeting. There was no answer after two days, so yesterday I called her phone; I was taken to her voicemail, which said that State were very busy and I should call the Government Helpline.

This doesn't sit very well with the Friday 24th statement from their chief executive, that “We’ll also be looking to ensure all our impacted State, NZI, and Lantern customers, as well as those with policies through IAG’s business partners, understand their options and know that we will be there to work with them to receive the entitlements due under their policies." (My emphasis)

It looks like insurers are helping their clients by pulling up the drawbridge and heating up the vats of oil to repel invaders. They can't hide forever - it will be interesting to see what they have to say when they eventually talk to us. We want to make a move as soon as we can, and before house sellers add 25% to their asking prices, so when our formal offer arrives we'll be camping on State's doorstep if necessary until we get answers.

I may be suspicious (all right, I'm very suspicious) but this seems to be a move by the insurers to be so nasty to their customers that they all decide to take Option 1, the full payout from the Government. That would allow insurers to keep up their primary activity; hanging on to our money and paying out as little as possible.

Mark Twain's definition of a banker seems to fit this situation well. He described a banker as "a man who lends you his umbrella, then asks for it back when it rains". I'd add insurers to that description.

UPDATE: Our State rep did reply, with a bland assurance that "State are currently in the process of scoping all properties that we insure within the red zone to be able to provide residents with the information they need to fully consider their options." I wonder what "scoping" means?

I doubt that they can suddenly "discover" that our house can be repaired; we have an email dated 4th February that says "Due to the fact that we now know the house is unable to be repaired an engineer's report has not been requested." So they have no information on which to base repair estimates, as far as I can tell.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

All class

The things you find while surfing the web in your lunch hour; a row has erupted in the US over the standard of dress required on airlines. First a footballer named DeShon Marman (right) was arrested for refusing to pull up his pants. I'd have arrested him for not wearing more stylish shorts, but that's not really the point.

But the real fuss began when people pointed out that six days earlier, a man in women's underwear was allowed on a flight. They even have a rather fetching photograph to illustrate this novelty.

I think I'd sooner have DeShon with his droopy drawers; Lingerie Man has dreadful taste in tops.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Impending doom?

The government has been pressured into telling Christchurch which suburbs will be abandoned (sorry, "retired"). They have a 1.30pm press conference arranged for tomorrow, but 3 News's political correspondent Duncan Garner announced the list on this evening's news. According to this "exclusive" the suburbs are Bexley, Avondale, Horseshoe Lake, Burwood, Dallington, and Avonside. As our block of Richmond is 200m from Dallington, and across the river from Avonside, I think that includes us. We'll know tomorrow, once they release the maps.

The plan is that they'll pay us our valuation at September 2010, before the quakes started. Our valuation is dated 1 August 2007, though, at the start of the property boom; others will have 2008 valuations that are greatly inflated. One step forward, one step back. And since 2007 prices have risen 15% or more. It's the Christchurch Two-step.

Monday, 20 June 2011

The week begins

An obvious thing to say on a Monday morning, but today is more significant because we will re-occupy our office in the CEPS (Canterbury Educational Printing Services) building. I don't think there was much mess, but I didn't see what happened with the second big shock last Monday; we left after the first one caused a campus wide lockdown.

Five of us occupy the pre-press office, with a window through to the administration/reception area. Nikki Saunders in the foreground prepares the Course Readers, while Jess and I occupied the two corner desks doing LMS administration and other projects.

Since these photos were taken, we've switched ends. Richard Holliday and Aimee Leaning do pre-press and external ordering for the printery and they now sit at the other end, by the window to reception so they can help visitors if the administrator isn't around. Jess now has Richard's desk, and I've taken Aimee's place. Nikki stayed in the same spot.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Back to normal?

Building inspections took a few days longer than expected, but we'll be back in our office on Monday, after several days of working from home, answering emails and clearing helpdesk calls. The University's exam arrangements have been disrupted, with many subjects switching to a take-home assessment or awarding aegrotat marks. It hasn't been an easy semester.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Maybe tomorrow

I think we'll be back at work tomorrow. Buildings will be progressively cleared for access, and our new home in the printery is a solid modern single storey building, so I expect it will be in the first group. It will be good to get some work done; I had a bunch of course copies and restores to do this week, and I'm due to reset Bridging Programme courses next week, so I can't afford to get too far behind.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The new unreality

What, again? I couldn't take photos of people shovelling silt in St Albans today; apart from heavier clothing it would have looked just like February and September. UC is shut for another day. Yet another layer of Blah descends on us.

Tomorrow is enlivened by a visit to the dentist at 8.30am. I thought only cockroaches survived disasters, but apparently not.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Here we go again

Another lunchtime, another quake. This time several of us were next door having our first lunch in the Warehouse lunch room; they've offered to share it with the wider group that now inhabits our corner of the campus. So we dived under tables with people we'd met 10 minutes before, then we all scooted outside. Then I realised I was naked; communications-wise, that is. Back at my desk were my cellphone, tablet, and laptop - and my bag, wallet, and jacket. All I had was a used soup bowl and an apple. Bugger.

After a visit to Ilam Fields, where we were told to go home, I went back to the office and did a quick raid on my desk, and got my stuff. I was running a backup of a large complex course when I went to lunch; I hope it finished OK, but I didn't look at the screen.

Then it was a bike ride home at 1.45pm, punctuated 5 minutes from home at 2.20pm, by the biggest wobble of the lot. I had just biked through the Prestons-Marshland roundabout, when I thought my bike had developed serious stability problems. I braked and stopped, wondering if my back wheel had turned to a wet noodle, then felt the ground waving up and down under my feet - and then I looked up.

Above the bike lane on Preston's Road there are major high tension lines, feeding Parklands, North Beach, and Burwood Hospital. These were waving from side to side like a really big Newton's Cradle. I took a quick look in my mirror; the road was chokka with confused motorists slowing down and working out what had made their car seem funny, so there was no way I could move to the right. The cables slowed their swinging, the ground settled, and I biked off towards our rented house in Bottle Lake.

All was OK there, apart from a few items that had fallen over. Water was off, though, so I set off back through lots of liquefaction damage on Hills Rd, to our old neighbourhood at River Rd, to get some bore water from my neighbour Andy Corbin. Then to the pub to check on the regulars, and back home to cook sausages for dinner. By this time, the water was back on, so we now have a superfluous 3/4 chilly bin of fresh water. Andy had it tested, and it's got lower e.coli than the CCC supply! I might have some with a wee Famous Grouse, to help me sleep...

University is closed tomorrow so teams can do building checks. We think schools are closed too, but we'll check that in the morning.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Is this winter?

A break in the weather today has brought quite heavy rain, though it's warm, almost 9 degrees. Maybe there's a southerly front coming, to turn that moisture to big soggy snowflakes. The 3-day forecast shows a cold SW change tomorrow, but that will blow the wet stuff away towards the Chathams. This ski season is a late developer, I'm afraid.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

I will if you will

Gosh, we've never seen this happen before. Except with the web. And file formats. And XML. And HTML (twice). This time, even Google joins the Big Boys Club, to push for changes that haven't had community input.

From Slashdot;
"Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! have decided to propose a common markup vocabulary, Schema.org, based on the Microdata format, simplifying the job of webmasters who want to give meaning to their web pages' content."
Manu Sporny, chair of the W3C group that created RDFa, added his (personal) dissenting opinion about Schema, calling it a 'false choice,' and saying, "The entire Web community should decide which features should be supported – not just Microsoft or Google or Yahoo."

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Fancy flights

I've long known that Google Earth has a flight simulator built in, but until today I hadn't bothered with it. Now, after half an hour's practice, I'm addicted! Just choose a location, set the view to oblique, and start up the simulator, and you're flying. The MacBook doesn't have PgUp and PgDn buttons, so I don't have any throttle control, which led to a nasty crash at the top of Cardrona, but it's great fun.

Banking in towards Treble Cone, then up left over the Saddle, down the South Branch of the Motatapu, and on towards Cardrona.

About to buzz the main slope at Cardrona Ski Resort on a busy day; lots of skiers down the main run on Whitestar.

Wireless but happy

The 3G data link for my Viewpad turned out to just be a non-existent 3G access point name in the configuration; Paul created one called Internet, and all is happy. Now the tablet has 3G connectivity, or wireless if there's an accessible network within range. I get some funny looks when I pull out the tablet and check something that someone just said, though - I don't think that's appropriate etiquette for Friday night at the pub.