Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Struck down by the Golden Rule

The Golden Rule - "Those who own the gold make the rules", that is. We've decided to resign ourselves to State's slightly better second offer, and we've asked our lawyer to set the wheels in motion. I still think we've been railroaded, but in the final analysis, a big insurance company has a lot more money for lawyers than we do.

So it's time to cut our losses, take the small increase in their offer (that will at least pay for the bridging loan and the lawyer) and get on with life. We will end this exercise with money in the bank, which is better than a lot of other Red Zone folk are doing, so that will have to do. I won't be inviting any insurance companies around for a barbecue, though, I can promise you that.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Life and other problems

The first few weeks of the first semester are always a tense time. Usually we have hundreds of support calls of two flavours;  A - "I just enrolled and I can't see my courses" and B - "My course has no students".

The cures are simple. A - wait till tomorrow, enrolments are transferred over night. B - even after all our reminders you still haven't told us that the course is in Semester 1 this year; the course codes must match for students to be enrolled. Fixed now, thanks for letting us know. We can fix the common problems pretty quickly, which is good, because the uncommon ones can take ages to solve.

Anyway, we've had considerably fewer of both flavours of help calls this year. In fact, a considerable amount of our calls are now requests for instructional design help. Hooray, that's the breakthrough we were hoping for, and sending all requests to Helpdesk may have been the catalyst.

The drop in basic level support calls may be a sign of several improvements; better timetabling, a cartoon message on the home page instead of just words, possibly even repeated haranguing of staff. Whatever the reason, there haven't been as many last minute crises as we normally see. (We're not counting February 2011 for obvious reasons.)

Saturday, 18 February 2012

More about cycling

Click the link below to see the live map.
I was staggered to see this map of 107 car vs bike crashes on Tamaki Drive in Auckland, from 2003 to the present. Can you spot the pattern? That's right, they're all at the intersections with side roads; the middle of the block is fine, but intersections are dangerous.

You can look at them individually with the Google Map overlay; I've looked at about 1/4 of them, and in most of them the car is at fault. The most common statement is "Didn't see, wasn't aware". That's not much consolation when you're lying in hospital with a broken pelvis. Or dead.

I'm sure that every city will have equivalents, though Auckland's population pressure means that scenic spots like Tamaki Drive will have a lot more cyclists, and this is probably the most dramatic example.

Following on from yesterday's post, I'm having second thoughts about a new bike. Spending $200 or so on my present bike would make it as good as new, so why spend $900 on an Avanti Explorer? (Especially when they'll be $700 in mid winter.)

Friday, 17 February 2012

Cycle musing

I've been really enjoying cycling the 12km each way to work and back, and as I bike I often have a wee think - recently about cycling clothing. Disregarding the lycra brigade, who are not Our Kind of People, there are still several schools of thought about appropriate cycling clothing.

First is the "back to Amsterdam" school, who want us all to cycle like those in Denmark or Holland. Wearing business suits and overcoats, with briefcases, travelling at a stately 10-15 km/hr. Not very likely, except for short trips in flat towns.

A related movement, Frocks on Bikes, aims to convince women that you don't have to be lycra-gym-goddesses to bike, and it's quite possible to bike in work clothes.

Then there's me. I wear bike shorts under my work pants, and an old t-shirt for my ride to work. Once I've cooled down at work, I have a quick body wash, change into regular underwear, and change my shirt. Nobody's complained so far, after 8 years or so.

For my ride home, I sometimes change back into the bike shorts, but now my bum has adjusted to regular riding, most days I ride home in ordinary clothes. I have steel clips for trouser cuffs, the bike has mudguards, and panniers for wet weather gear, shopping, and other stuff. I go at 18-25km/hr depending on the wind direction, and I work up a light sweat. But I do appreciate the bike shorts on the morning ride, they help the day off to a comfortable start.

I've developed a sort of mild-guerilla style of biking in traffic. I don't go out to assert my rights, but in heavy stop-go traffic I stay in the lane and behave like a car. I'm as fast as a car through a roundabout, and it means I'm seen as part of the flow. I don't hide behind vans any more, they can accelerate and leave you dodging some jerk with a moustache driving a panzer 4WD.

I also give hand signals - why don't other cyclists do this? It's in your interest to keep the other guy alert to you, if nothing else; "I just didn't see him" is the sadly true statement from many a cyclist-killer. So I eyeball motorists at intersections, indicate turns or going straight through, and give a friendly wave to people who've been polite. And returning to clothes; hi-vis jackets or vests, plus lights on bike and helmet.

My Blade loaded up for a trip through the Haast Pass in 2010
I'm thinking of trading up to a new bike - since 2005 my faithful Avanti Blade has done over 16,000km, and a lot of components are wearing out. The integrated brake and gear levers don't behave properly, the chain and sprockets need replacing for the 3rd (or 4th?) time, and generally it's tired. I think I'll replace it with another Avanti, a new design called the Explorer; these are hybrid road-mountain bikes, with 38mm 700c tyres, suspension front forks, and a medium upright riding position - great city bikes that will handle a bit of kerb jumping and gravel roads.
Explorer 2, with disk brakes

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Moving on... they say.

We're now waiting for a chance to meet with a senior claims adjuster from IAG. But as they are all "on a camp" (not in the Ureweras, I hope) it will have to wait till next week. After that, we're keeping our powder dry. As they say.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Replacement? Yeah, right!

An insulting offer from our insurer this week - they say that our house could be rebuilt for $1060 a square metre. Since our quantity surveyor, and most builders, say that $1600 is more like reality, that could put us $100,000 below what we should be paid. So much for a "total replacement" insurance policy that we've been paying IAG/State for. Their figures say that we could build a 197sq.m. 4 bedroom house for $208,000 - yeah, right!

What's even worse is that our insurer is now ducking for cover, hoping to stall us until the March 23 deadline, when we'll have to accept their offer. Emails and phone calls go unanswered for weeks as they drag out the process. I could take a miscalculation, or an honest disagreement about building costs, but this is now becoming a blatant attempt to cheat us out of our entitlement.

Next step - Go to the media? Complain to the Insurance Ombudsman? Talk to an MP? Insist on a face to face meeting with State? Probably the latter. Watch this space.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Here comes 2012

It's taken a while, but work is picking up day by day. So I should hope, with the start of lectures just over a week away.

Anyway, we are getting lots of requests for changes to courses, and lots of clever schemes that staff want to implement by the 20th of February. Eternal optimism strikes academics at this time of year; it's great to see them trying to do better and brighter things with their courses. And of course the students get a more interesting and engaging course, which hopefully means they learn more, and enjoy it more.

Still, I could have done without a major college sending us changes to all their 4th year courses a week before we start. They've known about this change for three months, it turns out. Oh well, I got it done.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Sailing today

A great sail today - 4 old troublemakers, but we managed to do most things right. Excellent fun. Photos on Flickr.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Grey again

This La Nina summer is giving us long periods with a high pressure system stalled to the east of NZ, and onshore grey low cloud on the Canterbury coast. It does not make people cheerful, especially on a long holiday weekend when they want to go sailing. (For example...)

Thursday, 2 February 2012

New layout

I won't go into the gory details, but basically I was editing my old template to try to restore the Quickedit icons, and I made things worse, not better. So I've selected a new template; still no Quickedit icons, though, for some weird reason, but I won't fiddle any further. I think I'll customise some heading colours, then leave well alone.