Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Another one bites the dust

Another Christmas, or another birthday - it doesn't matter when they're a day apart. I'm being coy about the birthday number, but here's a clue - Paul McCartney wrote a song about it for Sergeant Pepper. The weather is not looking promising for a bbq with friends tonight, guess we'll eat indoors.

Christmas Day was pleasant, with a good but not exciting dinner at the Chateau On The Park, then a catch-up with Heather's nephews' families, with 6 kids racing around amid a riot of toys and wrapping paper.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Last day

The last working day of 2012 will end with a slap up Xmas lunch provided by the University for all staff in Learning Resources; about 300 staff from Facilities, Library, IT, and Digital Media (that's us). We'll meet in the student pub on the carpark by Ilam School, to consume the food and our two free drinks, then no doubt we'll pay for a few more.

After a week and a bit at work for me, we'll take a week to visit Dunedin and Otago, before Heather goes back to work; I'm then taking a second week off, partly to use up some of my outstanding leave and partly to rest before a very busy year gets going. With the Moodle 2 upgrade on top of the usual workload, we'll be pleased when July finally arrives.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Still here

I did say I wouldn't be doing much with this blog, but a small update is due - Heather has finished work for the year, I finish next Friday lunchtime with the staff Xmas party at UC. I think I'll catch a bus that day. We are staying in town over Christmas, having Xmas dinner at the Chateau, and generally just goofing around. Some gardening, some sailing, a visit here and there.

I am back on duty on 3rd January, when I'll use the quiet time to do about 1300 course resets taking 3 or 4 days. It's a tedious job; they have to be done in small batches to avoid overloading the server, and checked carefully. On the 12th we will take a week off, and go to Dunedin and Wanaka. So that's our "plans". There are beds here for any passing travellers, of course.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

New surroundings

We are now settled in to our new location, on Level 5 of the James Hight building - the Central Library. It has pluses and minuses; we are in a cube farm that's OK but a bit restrictive, with quite high dividers. The tea/lunch room is very swish, with on-tap boiling and chilled water, but the toilets are very small. The old Library Training Room has been replaced with offices, and the atmosphere is pretty light and airy. The air conditioning is a tad on the cool side at times, though I won't be joining the female staff in their "Brrr, it's freezing!" mantra; I can remember July, after all.

View from my desk towards Jess, and the next bay where Paul sits. We've asked to have the black screen removed so we can talk more easily.

My desk

Thursday, 22 November 2012

New and improved

On December 3rd, a lot of Metro Bus services will change. Our 46 Marshland bus becomes  a 146 to the Palms, then we'll have to switch to cross-town routes, e.g. 44 North Shore-Shirley.

Let's say, just as an example, that someone wanted to travel from Schroeders Tavern on the corner of Warrington and Barbadoes Sts, to Marshlands, after enjoying an after work ale ale. At present that person catches a half-hourly 46 bus and gets taken directly home, for about $3. After Dec 23rd, there will be a 44 bus past the pub at 6.23pm. This will get to the Palms at 6.32pm. Then you just catch the 146 to Alpine View Lane, at - wait for it - 7.18pm! Oh joy, 3/4 of an hour in Marshlands Rd, with the Palms parking building and Burger King for company. That rules it out as a serious transport option.

I predict a bewildering lack of patronage, or as the Metro "planners" call it, ridership. Blah.

UPDATE: It turns out that combining the 7pm Metrostar and the 146 will work OK, though the bibulous bus rider will get home at 7.30, a bit later than optimal.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Please leave

The University of Canterbury is a very generous employer when it comes to annual leave. We get 5 weeks a year, plus the 3 days between Christmas and New Year. However, we're perennially short staffed and under-resourced so we can't find times when we can take this leave, and it piles up. I realised this week that I already have 20+ days owing, and as our UK/Europe trip is now set for 2014 (it's a long story) I decided we'll have to deal with the problem. The aim is to keep the running total below 20 days, but it's not easy. An added factor is that I have a major software upgrade going live in July 2013; we have to have 2000 courses on Moodle 2 by then. So a winter holiday can't happen until after July.
This graph of leave I'll accumulate (excuse Google Docs US date formats) shows 3 holidays next year.
1 - Late January, camping somewhere. Okains Bay. Hurunui River, Lake Heron... Somewhere in Canterbury.
2 - Easter, probably Wanaka and the West Coast.
3 - September (or earlier if possible) Mackay-Cairns-Whitsundays. Visit Heather's niece Trudy and family in Mackay, sail the Whitsundays for 4-5 days, then Cairns, Daintree rain forest, Barrier Reef - home. That will take three weeks.

Next problem - I'm also owed 10 days of Long Service leave! I have to use that before May 2016, but I  do need to have a plan. I thought holidays were supposed to decrease stress levels...

Monday, 19 November 2012

Last week in the village

This week is our last in building KB02 in the Kirkwood Village, the prefab complex built on the University's athletics field. On Friday we'll be moving to Level 5 of the central library, where we'll occupy a couple of rows in a cube farm of librarians and learning advisers. Working conditions will not be improved by this, I suspect.

These moves are inevitable, as the University moves staff out of buildings to carry out earthquake repairs, then juggles staff around to do the next building, and so on. We could be in for a few years of this!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Gadget fun

Got my new phone this week; a Samsung/Google Galaxy Nexus. It's running the very latest Android 4.1, Jelly Bean, and I've put it on a Vodafone Smart19 Data plan. That gives me 500MB of data per month, with 50 minutes of free talk, and 5000 free texts. All for $19 a month, prepaid!

I get my old number ported over when the TelstraClear contract runs out on the 9th of December, so until then I'm carrying two phones.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Busy busy busy

Heather and I spent Sunday going back & forth to Canterbury Landscape Supplies for trailer loads of soil, which we then spread over the areas of the yard that had no grass. Once that was raked out as level as we could manage, Heather sowed grass seed and watered it, and now we await the appearance of little blades of grass. We know from long experience that this can take many weeks, but we'll be watching nevertheless...

At work, I'm busy creating courses in our Moodle 2 system for the people participating in our trial. Progress isn't as fast as I hoped, because I encounter problems and then Paul and I have to work out what's going on. Still, that's why we call it a trial!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Week? What week?

This week started with a hospital check - all good - then four really busy days of project work for Moodle 2, with multiple meetings thrown in. Plus inter-departmental politics; I'll spare you the details.

We made good progress today on moving some heaps of dirt to cover the desert areas of the side yard. Tomorrow we hope to spread a trailer load (or two) of soil to even up the levels, then sow grass seed and hope. If this doesn't work as well as hoped, we'll patch it up in the autumn. I don't think I'll ever become a lawn fanatic, though I have some neighbours who seem to have those tendencies. We live on a sand dune, people - adjust your horizons!

Monday, 29 October 2012

All clear

Back from the hospital with pretty much a clean report; the only things they spotted were a few pockets of diverticulitis, but nothing serious. Probably one of these was my bleeder. (I nearly said "our", but you probably wouldn't want me to be that inclusive.)

So I'll relax at home this afternoon, and it's back to work tomorrow.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Inner cleansing

I had a packet of PicoPrep dissolved in warm water and 3 laxative pills for breakfast today. I don't think I'll be going very far while they do their magic. I am due at the Gastroenterology Dept at 10.15 tomorrow, let's hope they can identify the cause of my bleeding three weeks ago. And yes, I am hungry - but a day's fasting is probably good for me.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Week by week

I've had a week at home recuperating from my blood loss; I thought I was OK on Monday but in fact I was well below par, so with the assistance of a considerate manager I stayed home and just did some project organising, plus practising my after lunch naps. I'm now miles better, and having a 4 day week after Labour Weekend will be a good re-introduction to the real world.

Alice returned from 3 weeks in Germany (plus Prague & Vienna) yesterday; she had a great time, good weather, and caught up with several friends.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Europe, anyone?

We're starting to plan for 4-6 weeks in the UK & Europe next September. It looks like getting flights around Europe is pretty easy - this screenshot from FlightRadar was about 8.30pm Monday, UTC.

Live data map from

Tuesday, 16 October 2012


After losing a lot of blood and ending up in hospital last week, I thought I was OK to start work on Monday. It wasn't a clever idea, I was a zombie by 11am and was packed off home by my workmates. I'm staying home until next Tuesday, after Labour weekend.

I can report that I'm improving, but slowly. I had some blood tests done this morning, so I can have a discussion with my GP on Thursday morning about how to help my hemoglobin levels come back to normal. If it involves red meat and green vegetables, no problem!

UPDATE: Iron tablets, taken with vitamin C for maximum absorption. Oh joy.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Hello reality

I've had 4 days in hospital (long story, but not fatal) and came home this afternoon. I feel fine, but getting used to being upright is a bit of an effort. It's great to be home, I will say that.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Back to (semi) normal

The timber floor has been dried out, but the boards are a bit cupped. Insurance and the flooring company will make a decision about what happens next.

The dishwasher is back in action after a visit from a plumber - also the laundry tub and washing machine. We have most pictures back on the walls, and tomorrow we'll re-stack the garage shelves with the boxes from the garden shed. Life is nearly back to normal, it seems.

That means that the lawn is the next project. Watch this space.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Oh no!

A dribbly leak from the dishwasher's water hose has allowed water to get under the kitchen bench units - and into the end grain of our lovely new flooring. The flooring is swelling and cupping before our eyes. The bench unit may also be damaged. Heather has hired a dehumidifier, and is talking with the insurance company, and the flooring people. One step forward, one step back. It looked lovely, too...

Friday, 28 September 2012

Floors today

The compressed bamboo flooring went down today - a smooth and professional job by Mark from Natural Flooring. The cost worked out so close to replacement tiles that the EQR contractors said it was an agreeable alternative, so we have lovely warm toned timber flooring in the entry and the kitchen, where we had rather clunky tiles before.

The flooring has a neat tongue and groove fitting system. It sits on a foam underlay, and it has a strong lacquer top coating. It's ready to walk on as it is laid; and there's no sanding, and no polyurethane fumes. If I sound like a convert, you're very perceptive.

On a totally unrelated note, Alice left today for a 3 week holiday in Germany, Czech Republic, and Austria. When she comes back she'll have a new job as a business analyst for a data warehouse project at the CDHB, quite a step up.

Monday, 24 September 2012

The mess begins

Today the floor tiles in the kitchen and hall are removed. We expect it to be a messy process, though I've also heard that contractors use really good vacuum dust extractors. We've moved a lot of stuff out, and Heather will cover furniture with old bedsheets before she leaves for work.

Another kind of mess has begun in the neighbourhood. The Prestons subdivision road works began a few weeks ago, and a real estate sales office is nearly completed. I took a heap of photos yesterday, and I'll revisit the area fairly frequently to take updates as the development grows.

UPDATE: The tile removal was hardly messy at all. The cracks have been filled with resin and ground flush with the floor. The bamboo flooring will go down tomorrow. The painter will finish in the garage next week.

Thursday, 20 September 2012


A guy has done gib-stopping and painting in the garage; nearly completed. The floor tile replacement starts next week. So far, so good - the garage will have a lot more light reflecting around. It's been a bit inadequate in the lighting department until now.

Monday, 17 September 2012

The next thing

We're sitting here at 8am waiting for the Fletchers-EQR contractors, Dixon & Dixon. They were supposed to be here at 7.30, but it's Monday, so they probably have the same trouble getting started as the rest of us do.

We've cleared most stuff out of the kitchen, where they will rip up the cracked floor tiles and lay bamboo flooring. The other area for major attention is the garage, where they'll inject resin into a floor crack, then gib-stop and paint the walls.

For the next two weeks, we'll be working with the fridge in the dining room, freezer in a bedroom, and the pantry contents on shelves in the lounge. (And wine in another bedroom.) The garage contents are stacked in the newly built garden shed until we can move them back; hopefully this time we'll achieve a more logical layout when we re-stack the garage shelves.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Back again - sort of

A bit of Googling has provided some advice about restoring a backup of my template. At least I had saved a backup, that was a good thing; but the interface for the new whizzy Blogger templates then hid the admin interface so thoroughly that I had a struggle to find a restore option. Eventually that appeared, I pointed it to the saved backup, and this blog is now back more or less as it was a week ago. Whew.

Still, I'm not updating this site very frequently. You're more likely to get current news from Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Bah humbug

This is not a happy blog. Links have gone missing and generally I'm fed up. I think I'll quit Blogger and their You Will Obey Or Else approach. If you don't see any more posts here, try @gregorronald on Twitter or Gregor Ronald on Facebook. (And gregor_ronald on Flickr, but a name search finds me too.)

I may be back, but I doubt it. Bye.

Friday, 14 September 2012

My, you've changed

New template, not sure about it but it may grow on me. If not, I've saved the xml file and I think the old template can be re-applied.

UPDATE: I've reverted to the Classic template, as any of the ones I looked at hid things within a JavaScript menu tree which confused the bejeezus out of my nearest and dearest. No thanks, web sites have to be usable by real people, who are busy.

And the transfer to-from the new templates has munted the right hand links. Bah, humbug.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Busy again

We thought life was smoothing out, but no - this weekend we have to empty the kitchen (at UC we say "decant", to sound posh) into the rooms near by, and move the garage contents to the new shed. Fletchers arrive on Monday, and we're camping for two weeks.

In the middle of this, we're moving the Moodle file storage to the new SAN, to fix our problem of slow disk reads. We think it will help. What could possibly go wrong?

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Week so far

Howdy, checking in with unrelated news from several directions:

Work: Moodle 2 project is under way, tomorrow I meet with a learning advisor to choose his courses for the trial next Semester 1. Training plans are started, publicity will start soon so academics know what's coming. I've arranged training rooms in the Library. The first production servers are set up, but they still need some tweakery when Paul returns next month. Ongoing, as we say.

Work 2: our current Moodle 1.9 is getting some really embarrassing go-slow episodes. Web pages are taking 30 seconds to load, files don't save; an all round Bad Thing. I'm in all day contact with the IT server team about this, but so far we don't have an answer. We've changed the load balancing, put 2 servers back in the pool (we now have 5 web servers, 1 database, 1 files), but no joy. Next step is more RAM for all 5 front ends, from 4 to 8GB. It's witchcraft, though, we honestly don't know why servers are waiting so long for files, we're just trying everything we can think of - one thing at a time.

Work 3: We'll be moving to Level 5 of the James Hight (Library) building in Ocober, so the "decanted" Commerce people who have to leave Law have somewhere to go. In the meantime, students today held a good humoured demo about the merger of Law and Commerce. Jeez, I thought those departments were already joined at the hip.

House: This weekend we move everything out of the kitchen and the garage. Plans will evolve as we do it, I'm sure. Fletchers/EQR move in on Monday 17th for two weeks. We'll eat from the microwave and the barbecue.

Boat trailer: Minor rust dealt with by angle grinder and Zinc-It spray. Big rusty bits will be cut out and replaced next week. We'll be sailing in about 3 weeks.

Plans: We are going to a retirement seminar in December. I suspect they'll say "Too late!" but we'll see. Both of us are starting to see retirement as an option, I must say.

Biking: tomorrow and Friday.

That's all.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

And now - more shed photos!

The shed got a coat of stain last Sunday. Since then Herb has added a bit of trim, and the deck is complete. I'll finish the first coat all round and do a second coat in the weekend, and the deck as well. It's going to settle in well, though it still needs some spouting, and the doors will be painted, once Heather has decided on a colour. It will be a bit more in keeping than the shiny white we have at present, though as it will be in full sun the shade shouldn't be too dark either.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

More shed

The shed now has doors and windows. Next will be the verandah - this has to be free standing, because if it is attached to the shed its area counts and will push it over the 10 sq.m limit. It will look like part of the structure, but it won't be physically connected to it. After the fuss and bother we had a fortnight ago, we sure don't want to get the CCC building inspectors too excited.

I'll start on staining it in the weekend, then I'll apply a second coat on the deck and the planter boxes. We're getting close to completion on the major elements of the yard now.

But first - a day skiing at Mt Hutt on Friday. Here's a shot from today at 10.30am - there's nobody there! Let's hope tomorrow is also not too crowded.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

More progress

Two good things happened this week. First, Ken Lomax Landscaping laid the pavers.
The pavers link the deck to the back yard, and give us a terrace outside the bedroom.  The colour is Cinnamon,
by the way, in case you get the urge to order some.
Next we need to tidy the edges of the deck, and link lawn to pavers.
The second good thing was a day skiing at Mt Hutt on Friday. We had a great time, and were glad to have Saturday to allow sore muscles to recover.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Shed Saga

Last Monday Heather got home from work to discover a card left by a City Council building inspector, saying "Stop work on the shed". Next morning Herb called him, and was told that we have placed the shed too close to the fence - but, said Herb, the shed is less than 10 sq.m so it doesn't need a permit. Aha, said the BI, and quoted the Building Act 2004; it turns out that even if it's less than 10 sq.m, a shed must be as far from a fence as it is high. In our case that's 2.5m. This was news to us - and to Herb, who has built 3 or 4 of these sheds for people without any issues until now.
Le Shed de Herb, source of this week's drama.
However, the inspector then said that if we can get the neighbours to agree that the shed isn't a nuisance, we can possibly go ahead. But the BI also sent a Notice To Fix in Wednesday's mail, threatening $200,000 fines, and putting Heather in a right tailspin.

The letter gave two options; 1-Remove the shed, 2-Shift the shed to 2.5m from the fence. The BI recommended that if we wanted the shed to remain in its location, we follow option 2, then apply for a consent - but option 2 is to shift the shed, not leave it in its location! And if we did shift it, we'd comply with the Building Act, so by definition we wouldn't need a consent! I decided that playing logic and semantics probably wasn't very clever, though, and we should be nice.

So on Wednesday evening Heather and I went to visit the neighbours - the first were the Scots couple who share 80% of our back fence. No, they said, we're quite happy about your shed - especially as you supported our consent application for our pool. And they didn't phone the CCC, it was the guy next door to them, who shares about 3m of our back fence.

So we went next door to visit the complainant. It seems that he chopped down some trees/shrubs last weekend and went "Eek, a shed!" and rang the building inspectors. Anyway, he finally said that it really didn't affect him, and if the immediate neighbours were happy he'd go along with it.

On Thursday I called the BI, who sounded pretty reasonable, and said he'd need something in writing, naturally enough. That tea-time Heather visited the neighbours again and got signatures on a simple letter saying they had no objection. On Friday I scanned these and emailed them to the CCC, and by lunchtime we had the OK to proceed. The inspector said that although we're too close, there are sheds like this all over Christchurch and it wouldn't be fair to make an example of us. So we made a rare and precious find - a reasonable Building Inspector!

Anyway, Herb will return later this week to put the doors and windows in, and to construct the verandah floor - which has to be a separate structure, with no attachments to the shed. If it's attached, we'd go over the 10 sq.m, so the porch floor will sit on its own piles, 2cm apart from the main structure.  This is how government makes our lives better; I don't blame the CCC inspector, his job is to enforce the 2004 Act, but it seems to raise nit-picking to new heights.

Monday, 6 August 2012

The east side

On Sunday afternoon I went for a 28km bike ride to New Brighton, then back through Aranui and Wainoni and past our old house. I didn't take a lot of photos, it seemed a bit ghoulish, but a sample group is on my Flickr page.

A footbridge in Dallington snapped in the middle, and a sewage pumping station which floated
out of the ground with the liquefaction pressure. 
QE2 stadium is decaying away.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Yard work

Progress on the landscaping last week; just as well, because there'll be eff-all this week, judging by the forecast. The raised planter beds are all stained now, Herb's Shed is half way, and the gravel parking area (held in place by cunning plastic hexagonal cells) is in place.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Onward and upward

The new team leader for Learning Technologies Support (the renamed Audio Visual Department) arrived yesterday, and is busy getting to grips with his new job. Jean-Luc Devis comes from Washington on the US west coast, and has a strong track record in management in the printing industry. Transferring his organisational skills to AV support shouldn't be a problem; what the people actually do may differ, but the mix of long term planning, and rapid reaction in emergencies, will be familiar to him.

I'll be spending a fair bit of time with him for the next 3 or 4 days, but by the middle of next week he'll be well organised and starting to make his mark. In the meantime, like all transplanted Americans, he has to get used to all the unspoken differences; weather that changes every day, light switches that work the wrong way, walking on the left, getting into the wrong side of a car - and the Kiwi accent.

I'll then return to my real job, after being half time, or less, since Easter. I've been keeping up with support work, but planning and projects have been on hold, and now need to be revived. And we'll take a short skiing holiday.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Counting down

The new Team Leader for the Learning Technologies Support unit arrives in a couple of days. He's a French born American, with a very impressive track record in the printing industry. I'm looking forward to handing the department back to him; I haven't been a particularly good manager, just a caretaker. But then, that's all that was required.

And I've never pretended to be management material, it's just not something I enjoy. I don't like having to make decisions that affect people's lives, I detest budgets, and I'd sooner be doing things with computers and educational technology. So I'm delighted to see the gentleman arrive, and I can get the Moodle 2 upgrade project back on the rails.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

The olden days

In the mid 1970s, a year 9 (3rd form, for oldies)  student asked me "Were you alive in the olden days, when men went to the moon?" I discovered tonight proof that I was alive in the olden days when people contributed to online news and opinion by posting to mailing lists. Ah, Usenet!

Here's a post I made to comp.risks from June 1995; I had a dialup connection to the VAX network at Otago University, via Telecom's Starnet packet switching network. I may have been the only person in Wanaka who was on the internet, now I think about it. I remember rushing to send the email before going back to school - we used to go home for lunch, now that WAS the olden days!

Date: Wed, 7 Jun 1995 13:22:32 +1300
From: "Gregor Ronald, Wanaka, New Zealand"
Subject: Copyright infringed via WWW?

You can read the full post here; it's about an NZPA article saying that caching breaks copyright law - ideas have moved on somewhat. Although maybe not; in 2012 we're still trying to educate people about online copyright, even if we're more relaxed about caching.

UPDATE: I posted to the same news group this week. And the group still has the same moderator. How's that for a transient temporary virtual community?

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

What we've done this week

It's been a busy few days. First there was the trailer and the gravel. On Saturday I shovelled half of our surplus gravel (from the old back pathway) and took it to the tip. $17.50, done. On Sunday Schroeder came and helped me do the second lot, including quite a lot of sand. We dropped about 1/4 of the trailer load in his driveway, then I set off to the tip with load #2. I was on Cranford St at the Innes Rd lights when some pedestrians came over and banged on the car window, to tell me that I had a flat trailer tyre. Bugger.

I pulled up to a legal parking place, then inspected the left tyre - definitely flat. At that moment a chap walking by stopped and said "I live down the street. Help yourself to the jacks and blocks of wood in the garage." I detached the car from the trailer, then drove down to his house and collected the gear, and soon had the trailer chocked up with the wheel off. Then I extracted the jack so it couldn't be nicked, put it and the wheel into the boot, and drove off wondering where I could get a puncture fixed on a Sunday. The answer is - Nowhere.

On Monday morning I dropped the wheel at Tony's Tyres in Papanui and went to work. I called at 10am and they said it was done, so back I went; collected the tyre (free!), bolted it back on the trailer, returned the jack and blocks, then off to the Styx Mill tip. Twenty minutes later I'd ditched the gravel, followed by a trip back home to Waitikiri to drop the trailer, then return to UC just on 12. A tribute to work-life balance programmes.

Darren doing the "Shredder Spread", to air his vital parts
On Tuesday Darren Armstrong and I went skiing. I gave myself a small tear in a groin muscle (ow!) but had a good time. It may be a few days before I ride my bike, though.

Today was Heather's appointment at the cardiac outpatients clinic. They sedated her, then applied a defibrillator, and her heart smartly returned to a sensible rhythm. Until the next time. Anyway, she's feeling good but a bit washed out from the sedatives and the electric thump, so she's heading for an early night.

That's our week so far - trying to keep life to one drama per day.

Monday, 2 July 2012

The earth moves - again

A photo of 2/3 of Heather's labour force, aka The Miller Boys, who were our neighbours in the rented house at Waitikiri Drive, about 200 metres from our new house. The boys come racing along on their skateboards, dig and lift and heave, then go home for food. They're great young guys, and they have the strength that we seem to have lost over recent years.

The photos also show the raised planter beds that Dave and Alan Global Enterprises Inc, aka "those two blokes from the pub", have built. We may have over-estimated the size, but we will soon have 17 sq.m of arable soil. I think we might erect a tunnel house roof over one of the 3 long beds, for peppers and herbs etc. Alan is also going to fit a built-in irrigation system in each bed, with a hose socket on the end; plug in a hose and little sprinklers will do their thing.

The vegetable garden takes shape.
What's next? Bark chips on the ground around the planter beds, tiles between the side deck and our bedroom, trellis, eventually a lawn... And the shed. That reminds me, buy a big drum of wood stain!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Changing landscape

"Landscaping" is rather a grand term for tidying up the back yard of a suburban section, but whatever it's called, we're in the middle of it. A wide concrete path now runs from the garage back door along the side of the section to the washing line and vege garden. The gardens themselves will be boosted with 3 large raised garden beds to be placed in their permanent homes this week, and then a garden shed will be constructed against the back fence.

The shed won't hold garden stuff to begin with, though. Its first role will be as storage for stuff from the garage and kitchen, so Fletchers EQR teams can replace cracked kitchen floor tiles and repair (somehow) a crack in the garage floor. Once that's done, it will be spring, and we'll have had a month of cooking with a microwave and a barbecue, so we'll be well and truly ready to use the garden.

Piles mark the location of the shed.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Sorting out heating

As winter settles in, we are noticing a large disparity in warmth between the living-dining-kitchen area and the bedroom end of the house. On Saturday we fitted a panel heater in the hall, to see if we can raise the ambient temperature in the bedrooms. I have my doubts, as the heater is only a 400W model, designed for background heat, but it wasn't expensive so we may as well give it a try.
A 400W panel heater; we hope this will take the chill off the bedroom end of the house.
Some more serious ways we're considering to improve the heating are (a) replace the draughty old ceiling downlights with modern ones that will give more light and can be properly insulated, (b) a heat transfer duct system from the living room to the hall, (c) double glazing, or (d) a second heat pump for the bedroom area. I favour replacing the lights, as we'll save a lot of heat from escaping and get brighter lighting; two wins for one investment.

The other big development this week is that the service alley behind the garage is being concreted. The boxing and gravel base were done in the rain on Thursday, but Friday was too wet for pouring the concrete; they'll come back and finish that in the next few days. Then we'll be able to get to the washing line and garden without scrunching through deep gravel.

Thursday, 7 June 2012


Big snow, followed by a day off work. More photos at my Flickr site.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Checking in

As predicted, it's been a while between posts. Work is a never ending stream of staff management problems, and in spite of her heroic (and largely unpaid) efforts, our job coordinator can't keep up. Next semester her job should become manageable, once our automated Echo360 system is installed. In the meantime we'll try to keep running an AV department, under weird circumstances.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Time flies

Not much happening here, or on Facebook and Twitter. Work is keeping me nailed down pretty thoroughly. When this relieving job is over I'll write a tell-all exposé, but until then it's just hard yakka.

The new bike is keeping me sane, and I even have a working mirror. I got a helmet mirror working but since I got the handlebar mirror ground down a bit to fit the narrow diameter bars, I'm a lot happier.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Memory lane

I recently purchased a slide scanner and today I started on a project I should have started 10 years ago - digitising our old family slides from the 50s and 60s. The slides, mainly taken on Agfa film which has faded, some on Kodachrome which hasn't, were taken when we lived on Nadi Airport in Fiji.

Me and my brother Cam, showing our racing starts at the Airport Club pool.
Living on an airport made me even more of an aircraft wonk. The planes behind me are USAF Lockheed U2 high altitude reconnaisance jets, heading for Australia for "atmospheric research", whatever that meant. (Apologies for the underexposure, even Photoshop couldn't rescue this one.)

Our Mum outside our ex-WW2 officers' house. Joy would have been about 33 or 34 when this was taken.

Old bike

My old Avanti Blade is now on Trademe with $100 reserve. Let the bidding war begin!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

New bike

I collected my new Avanti Explorer 3 yesterday afternoon, and soon had the panniers and other gear fitted. It's no faster than my old Blade, but it has a more relaxed riding position to help my neck and shoulders, wider tyres for munted Christchurch roads and riding on shingle, and front shocks. It also has hydraulic disk brakes and top line Shimano 27-speed gears. I have to modify my mirror to fit into the smaller diameter handlebars, otherwise it's all go.

Avanti Explorer 3

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Antisocial media

This can't be happening, can it? Oh, sorry, Mr Zuckerberg, didn't know you were listening.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012


Back from Otaki Beach, after a long weekend with Cam and Jen - and their fantastic new house. A picture's worth a 1000 words, so here are 4000...

Friday, 27 April 2012

Up and away

This afternoon we fly to Wellington, to meet my brother Cam and his wife Jenny for a few days in their new (about a year old now) house at Otaki Beach, up the Kapiti Coast. We'll return on Monday evening, so we should get most of a day in the city, if we can find somewhere to park our bags.

The flights might be interesting. We're travelling in ATR72 turboprops both ways, and they fly at 4000m approx; just right for the turbulence from today's strong NW winds over the Southern Alps. It could be a bumpy ride up the Canterbury and Marlborough coast.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Boating - maybe

Waiting to see if any of my accomplices want to go boating on a beautiful day. The excellent Lyttelton Port Company weather station says it's a 3 knot NW at 8am, just perfect for putting Julian's launch in the water. An interesting graph from the tides page shows the effect of a big high pressure system - the actual height is lower than predicted because air pressure is pressing down on the ocean surface.

Will we get there? It's hard to say. Watch this space.

[Update] Yes, we went and launched the MV Hawes and had a grand time - until the motor starved of fuel and died. It could be a clogged fuel filter, or possibly fuel hoses that were sucking air; we still had over half a tank of petrol. After stripping and checking everything we could find, we had to be towed in by a really nice guy in his flash power boat. It's a great wee launch though, and shows promise.

Captain Julian in his wheelhouse.
The unnamed launch was originally a 22ft Caribou trailer yacht.
We went all over Lyttelton Harbour before being towed home.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Space on the brain

It's been a good week for Space Station (ISS) spotters.
The International Space Station
Thanks to the very helpful NASA sightings page, I've been able to walk out the front door and see the bright objects race across the sky, lit by the rising sun. I say "objects", plural, because this morning the ISS had a follower; the Progress 46P supply rocket. It was about 5-10 degrees behind the ISS, far less bright, on the same orbit path. It's well worth the effort to rise a bit early on a clear autumn morning to watch.
Progress supply vehicle