Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Three figures

This is the 100th and last post for this year. That translates to one post every 3.65 days, or about every 87 hours. I have been less prolific this year, but somewhat busier, so have less time to blog.

Thanks everyone for reading and making this thing worthwhile.

The year has gone quickly, with highlights and lowlights, but I am ending it in a better place than I started.

So, see you next year then!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

30 years ago

Its thirty years ago tonight that the Kaikoura UFO events occured, so I'd thought I'd mark the occasion by talking about it.

I tried to find a reasonable link with a precis, but even the normally reliable Wikipedia is let down in this regard by only quoting a book cover. There is a reasonable summary here (link), which I found after a quick google. Sensible discussion is hard to find.

Quick Lowdown:

On the night of 20-21 December 1978 a number of unusual sightings occured of lights in the sky of the north eastern coast of the South Island, and in the southern reaches of Cook Strait. They were seen by people on the ground at Blenheim, by people in the air, and on radar at both Wellington and Christchurch. The lights seen were unsual, out of place, appeared to be controlled and not random, and rare for being observed on radar at the same time as visual observations were being reported. Being the silly season, this provided good news fodder for a while, so much so that an Australian TV channel arranged for an in depth follow up story to be produced.

It was thought that footage on board one of the aircraft involved would be useful, and so a reporter and camera crew were arranged to accompany a flight along the same route where the sightings took place, the route in question being a nightly freight run from Blenheim to Christchurch and back. The filming was set up for the night of 30-31 December.

The reporter and crew got more than they bargained for, as the lights returned, at times appearing to track and react to the aircraft. Again they were also seen as radar targets, and now they were filmed. For about two hours this went on.

In UFO history this is fairly rare, to have UFOs simultaneously observed visually, tracked on radar, and filmed.

The story and film made world headlines, and attracted a fair amount of both serious investigators, and dedicated debunkers. The Air Force put a Skyhawk on standby to investigate any further occurences, and sent an Orion to explore the area a few nights later.

The New Zealand government produced two investigations, one by the Air Force, and one by the then DSIR. Both came up with conventional and prosaic explanations for the sightings, which was convenient, but in many instances the explanations simply did not account for the observations, resulting in disillusionment for the witnesses, and accusations of a whitewash.

Thirty years, two investigations and two books later, there still isn't an explanation that fits. From my own background in science, based on what I have read of both the observations and the investigations that followed, the investigative methodology used was shoddy at best, and seems designed to fit pre-determined conclusions. I'm not saying there was a conspiracy or anything (unless the government genuinely knew what was going on), more a case of investigators not being able to find answers and trying to make the questions go away.

I'm interested in a lot of things, but have always been interested in the odd and mysterious, things like ghosts, sea monsters, UFOs etc. I found out about the Kaikoura events about fifteen years ago, and have followed it ever since, mainly because it happened in my own backyard, and appears to be genuinely unexplained (unlike about 95% of UFO sightings).

At the time I was a two year old living in Hamilton, so don't remember any of it first hand. That said, at least some of the activity should have been visible from the south coast of Wellington; it was a clear night, and sometimes I imagine myself there, seeing something genuinely mysterious.

I don't hold with the idea that UFOs must be alien spacecraft, and get quite frustrated with that now seemingly automatic leap of logic. The U stands for unidentified. Thats all. By definition, if something is known or suspect to be a spacecraft, it isn't unidentified.

When it comes to UFOs I am open minded, but tend towards them being somebody's secret technology, or something science hasn't caught up with yet. The other world explanation, while possibly possible, is vanishingly remote without access to technologies we can barely imagine, let alone understand.

To mark the occasion tonight a charter flight is out there now as I write, retracing the route, with enthusisasts and some of the principals on board. I toyed with buying a ticket, but didn't for cost reasons (cost aside, it would be something interesting to do). And with the weather as it is tonight I am glad I didn't (in fact I wonder if they are flying at all).

With the strong northerly (often so endearingly described as 'fresh' by TV weathergirls in Auckland) it will be very rough going in the air between here and Christchurch tonight and not at all comfortable, no matter how curious.

Monday, December 29, 2008


Good sunsets are like a post-it from God that says "PS, enjoy the light show".

Windless rain in the sky tonight suffused the light and made it look like the air itself was glowing.

The high stratus with a clear horizon helped as well....

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Asking the big questions

Given that the conditions in Minot, North Dakota, USA probably look like this right about now,
this is probably as good a time as ever to ask:

Why not Minot?!

PS Image cribbed from a calendar. Apologies to the vast majority of my readers who won't get this.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Rolling Christmas

Heres how we roll on Christmas Eve:
Heavy rain and traffic making a less than two hour drive stretch into more than three
The reason for the drive being to visit Fi's sister and family in Balmy Palmy:
And a wet dog
And to assemble a trampoline at night in pouring rain:
And this is how we roll on Christmas Day:
Unwrapping with the whanau at the family home;

Before proceeding to the ancestral manse for lunch and shenanigans,

which was excellent
and included Charlotte's first swim.
I got in too, but there are no photos.
And thats how we roll at Christmas around here.
PS: While Christmas in NZ tends to be weather variable, cheer up. At least its warmer than here

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Festive Spirit

Firstly I have two questions:

Does anyone get any meaningful work done in the last couple of days before the christmas break, when most things are winding down, everything is quiet and and most people have already gon on their leave?

And is the 9 minute re-mix of 'Halcyon and on and on' by Orbital the best music to drive to work to on a fine and sunny summers morning?

Mentioning music brings me to my main topic this morning:

Christmas Music

Why do normally respectable artists succumb and produce horribly cheesy and schmaltzy christmas singles to be inflicted on us year after year?

I can normally let it abide, but when we heard a lounge version of 'Little Drummer Boy' in Whitcoulls the other day, I was moved to comment, as well as leave the store as soon as possible. Although if pressed I will admit to preferring Tori Amos' version, it is still far too twee for my liking (although I will admit to a vague affection for 'Last Christmas' for no known reason).

Then while driving somwhere else Classic Hits (where the DJ's take special courses in inane patter) announced that they were going to play all of 'those Christmas songs you love' and then launched into 'Grandma got run over by a reindeer' or whatever that particular monstrosity is called. I changed station after a few bars.

My yearly challenge of not hearing 'Snoopys Christmas' each year is well documented, although I had a close shave this weekend when active started playing a ringtone version of it (however I feel the song could be completely redeemed if say, Nine Inch Nails covered it).

I can sort of get why this genre exists, but I hate the incessant insistence that if we are considerate enough to want to buy gifts for our nearest and dearest, that foisting it upon us in our shops and malls will be somehow endearing and encouraging. I get encouraged, encouraged to avoid the malls and shops altogether, and find alternative gift sourcing opportunities.

That said, I know, out there somewhere, there are people who if the malls weren't playing christmas music, would ask why not, and request it.

Maybe we need to be reminded it is Christmas? It not like the decorations haven't been up since Halloween or anything. Maybe we won't spend money on presents if we don't have 'Mistletoe and Wine' in one ear and 'I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus' in the other?

The genre represents to me all the commercialisation and money making aspects to Christmas.

Anyway, this isn't what Christmas is about.

Setting all the 'reason for the season' brouhaha aside (which may be debatable), Christmas shouldn't be about running around packed malls stressing about the perfect gift, or organising the perfect party, or spending squillions to get it.

At the risk of getting schmaltzy, it should be about spending time with friends and family, catching up, sharing stories, creating new ones, remembering Christmas past, and not worrying too much about Christmas future.

Like the complaints division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation says; "Share and Enjoy"

Happy Christmas wherever you are

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Liking it

This photo published for no other reason than I think the clouds made for a very cool looking sky on Thursday afternoon
Like I need more reasons to love summer, I love that in these parts you can take a photo like this with a bright western sky at 10 o'clock at night
That is all

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mini Rant

More of an addendum to my rant post

Like all newish parents, we have a brag book for those who are interested, including the above pic of my girl at about half a day old, wearing a t-shirt procured for her by her auntie (who is excellent at gift matching like this by the way).

So far two people have responded to this pic with utterances of "Oh that's terrible!" or "How could you do that?" in a "I sound like I'm joking but I'm really not" sort of way, like we should be embarrassed or just joking ourselves by stating so boldly we we are from.

Two is a small number, but it is enough for me to ask,

What the fcuk is up with that?

I've touched on this issue before, but now I have wider interests at stake I find this response a bit miffing. I'll be very nicely asking the next person to respond in this way to explain themselves.

Or am I just over-reacting?

Answers on a postcard please

Monday, December 15, 2008

Who's your daddy?

Listening to: The Real Thing-Midnight Oil. In an Oils phase at the moment.

Here is the aforementioned cutest/smartest/funniest baby in my world.

And I said I wouldn't post about her. I should have added 'much' to that sentence.

I think this is my favourite photo of her so far. This was Fi's idea a couple of weeks ago, trying to get some slightly more formal portrait shots. The black and white suggestion was Fi's, and she also took this photo.

I love it because it really captures her emerging personality. I wish I could see what her eyes do. She started smiling about three weeks ago, and now does it spontaneously without mimicing others, which is really nice because I get a smile first thing in the morning, and when I come home from work.

Tonight we went back to the ante-natal group and told our story to a bunch of new parents to be, with Charlotte chipping in at times. Fi told her part, and then I spoke to all the Dads about what they can do. It was interesting seeing a group in a phase I was recently in, but feeling a vast gap between us and them all the same.

I think we were reassuring.

We got invited back anyhow, maybe as an example of how things can not go quite right, but still turn out right in the end.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Listening to: Blue Sky Mining- Midnight Oil. Underrated follow up to the huge Diesel and Dust, this release saw the Oils move further away from their post punk origins, and try a few new things. When you listen to the earlier Oil's stuff, you can hear that Dust was quite a change in sound, and Mining went further down that road. Being the follow up to a huge success, it was a pressurised recording, and doesn't always work, but as with a lot of their work, the really good stuff isn't the singles, but buried in the album tracks.

Almost ten days since my last post. Not the longest absence (which I think is somewhere around 14 days), but enough to give me the guilts about not updating the thing. The last post incidentally confirmed a suspicion I have had for some time that I have people who read this that never comment (for various reasons, probably not least of which are my troll discouraging comment settings, which unfortunately bar casual commenters as well.

The absence is down to two things. Been busy, and trying to go to bed at sensible hours. Busy with socialising, modelling, sporting, working chillaxing etc. Noticed that even though I am not getting up to do the feed at 3am, my sleep still gets disturbed, hence the emphasis on sensible sleeping hours. Since most of my best writing is done after 10pm, naturally this is an impedance.

I also never seem to have enough time in the day to do all the things I want to do. Work, watch the news, hang out with the babe, play some sport, make some models etc etc. And those are just my hobbies (babe excepted, she is more of a vocation).

The other reason is that I haven't really had anything to blog about in the last week. Some of you might say "But you have a new child, that must provide oodles of material', and she does, but I don't want to turn this into a "my baby is the cutest/smartest/funniest" in the world blogs. She happens to be all of those things in my world, but I don't want to inflict that particular flavour on the dear reader at the moment. I am enjoying being a father, even if most of the time I feel hopelessly incompetent at it. It has its moments, and I often think back to the times a while ago when I worried about ever finding a partner, or ever being able to pass on my family name.

Being aware of the irony that I am currently blogging about not blogging, what can I blog about?

-I could rant about 'Everybody loves Raymond' replacing 'The Simpsons' at 5pm weeknights on TV3. Even if repeated ad nauseam, it is still nice to come home from work and chillax for half an hour with a favourite show, which 'Raymond' is most certainly not. It embodies everything I hate about american sitcoms. Ultra conservative (note that no character has sideburns. Small point but telling), and too guaranteed not to offend anybody. Everyones hair is perfectly styled, clothes spotless. And the kitchen is ugly ugly ugly. While it garnered numerous Emmys, I can't find anyone in my immediate circle who will admit to 'loving Raymond', hence don't understand its popularity.

-I could rant about the hating on John Key. I didn't vote for the guy either, but am over the incessant negativity about him from some quarters, some of it quite petty and childish. Constructive criticism is one thing, but unmoderated vitriol gets old, and puts people off message.

-I could rant about stupid drivers, which I have done before, and probably will again. Like the one who almost caused a pile up on the motorway on Tuesday morning in the rain. I was only doing 80 due to the heavy rain, and being tailgated by someone who obviously thought I should ignore the conditions and go faster. When I gently braked to intercept a slow line of traffic ahead, I looked up to find a mirror rapidly filling with car with nowhere to go. Still braking I moved to the right of my lane, while the fidiot moved left, missing me by about a metre. The fidiot then had the audacity to give me a toot like I had done something wrong. Fidiot.
Just like it seems practically everyone who can't see the 70 and 50 kph limit signs when driving through the constructions at Maungaraki. Honestly, I feel like the only one who bothers, since when I stick to the posted limit in these areas, I instantly generate a queue of tailgaters, combined with people zooming past me like the limit doesn't apply to them.
What is it with drivers in this country, that when temporary changes to speed limits (or less than temporary, these signs have been in situ for months) occur, they simply can't cope. Driving is treated too much as a right in this country rather than the privilege it should be.

-I could rant about txt english, and how much I hate it. I can live with it in text messaging, but anywhere else it is just annoying and lazy. Formal written english (which I think I am fairly fluent in) is almost a separate language from vernacular english anyway, but my concern is we are raising a generation of people to whom correct and competent written english is a foreign language. This was illustrated to me by a couple of high school kids who recently began posting on a forum I frequent. It's great that they are engaging in this way, but disappointing in that they demonstrably cannot type coherent english. I'm not talking about mere txt speak, I'm talking about complete incompetence, requiring several reads aloud to be understood. It's depressing that they can't even be bothered to proof read what they are writing, let alone write it correctly in the first place. I worry for these guys when it comes to writing covering letters.

-I could rant about players who feel the need to coach their teams loudly and precisely on court during the game. You're not big, you're not clever, and even your own teams want you to shut the hell up.

-On a similar note, I could rant about how I seem to have gone from really good form to not quite so good in my own game at the moment. Sometimes I feel like a really, really good player, other times like tonight I feel quite rubbish. Frustrating, as is the continual soul searching about whether team mates think I am playing well or not.

-Alternatively, I could not rant, and talk about how much I love summer. Summer is nice.

-I could not rant and talk about how cool my wife is for completing a Triathlon less than three months after having a baby.

-I could not rant and talk about how happy I am that Real Groovy survived its brush with receivership. Their new CD's may have been overpriced, their staff sometimes too cool for school, but nobody does sales bins like they do.

-Christmas is coming. I am looking forward to the break (which I will get this year, unlike last year when I was working in a stupid job), but haven't done any shopping yet. However my annual challenge to get through the season without once hearing 'Snoopy's Christmas' is going well.

Right that's enough. Now engaging the sensible bedtime option.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Watching this space

Listening to: Come on feel the Lemonheads - The Lemonheads. I quite like how this album doesn't really end. they just muck around in the studio for a few tracks.

Just in case any of you have been looking west at dusk in the last few days and wondering, "Gee, what are those two bright stars? Have they always been there?" etc etc etc
There be a conjunction happening in the skies. The three brightest objects in the sky are hanging out in the same bit of sky at the moment if you care to look. They be the planets Venus and Jupiter, and the Moon.

Which actually is the moon. Not a space station.

Anyway, here they are from my backyard. Venus is the brighter one, since although Jupiter is a gazillion times bigger than Venus, Venus is a gazillion times closer to us than Jupiter, and more reflective to boot.

28 Nov
30 Nov. Cresent moon shows up for the get together. Note how the planets are changing position relative to each other....
02 Dec (Tonight). The moon has passed through. If it hadn't been raining last night we would have seen it pass in front of Venus, which would have made for a cool series of pictures, but it was raining and hence cloudy, so you will just have to imagine it.
Included for no other reason than I though that trees blowing around at dusk would make a pretty picture.
More scientific info about the conjunction here (Linky).

Friday, November 28, 2008

So which house is yours then?

Why the one with the smiley face mown into the front lawn of course!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Charlotte the Eskimo

Wrapped up snug in her pink blanket and hat, Charlotte is a happy little eskimo lolly;

Well, most of the time at least......
Tough job being an Eskimo

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Just remember.....

You saw it here first. I don't normally go in for self promotion, but this is pretty cool.
From page 80 of The Hutt News for 18 Nov 08.

Kudos to Fishie and JudgeJury for the idea and encouragement.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


On a lamppost in the Kelson hills, a wood pigeon waits..

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Why favourite bands rock

Listening to: The Channel Z bootleg tapes BDO 2000 ep-Shihad

Favourite bands rock because they do things like this:

This was arranged without our knowledge by a mutual acquaintance, and completely blew me away when it arrived in the post out of the blue one day last week.

I've been waiting until the appropriate parties have been thanked before sharing.

Favourite band just got more awesome.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Boom Boom!

Imagery from this years annual commemoration of someone attempting to blow up the english parliament.

Shot from Oriental Bay, using a tripod and remote shutter release. Exposure times vary from 1.5 to 6 seconds, apeture also varied, but generally low numbers. Just if you're wondering why some of them look like giant kush balls surrounded by cotton wool.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Billboard Fail

On the eve of the election, I feel compelled as many others have to comment on the state of our electoral billboards.
Why are they so rubbish?

Labour sticks with the same boring billboard they have been using since forever. Ironic that while the campaign slogan says that this one's about trust, they don't trust the electorate to deal with a photo of the party leader that hasn't been heavily and obviously manipulated.
National's leader on the other hand could probably use a little retouching. Or a hairstyle.

The other National billboards are a little better, at least showing a little imagination, and gasp! some policy!
Again uninspiring although Mark gets props for standing on the side of Kennedy Good Drive on Tuesday with a couple of helpers waving his own sandwich board like he was selling pizza.

The only party that has remotely incentivised me to consider voting for them after seeing their biilboard is the Greens, in an excellent campaign that has already been much commented on.

Happy voting tomorrow!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Interesting times

Looking forward to telling Charlotte about this day some time when she is old enough to understand. Well done US voters for making your point loud enough that no-one can question it.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Wind Schmind

Listening to: Only by the night-Kings of Leon, and IV-Led Zeppelin

Bit windy around these parts yesterday, even by local standards (link).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Big Sky

Unpleasant the gales of spring may be, but they do make for some nice sunsets.
Like tonights (click to biggify):

Different layers of cloud at different altitudes, catching the last of the days sun. I like the sky, and its ever changing appearance. I shoot a lot of skies in my photography. They all look the same, but they are all also unique in some way. Its late and I am tired, otherwise I would cobble together a collage. I like the sky because it lets you see weather, not in a literal way, but in a way that tells you exactly what is going on, or going to happen if you know how to read it. I keep coming back to sunsets though, either in a clear sky, or an illuminated one. While maybe not inspirational, they can be very relaxing. You don't need a skill or understanding to enjoy it, you only need to sit back and watch, as the colours change from white to yellow to orange to pink to purple to grey to black. I like looking east at sunset and seeing that deep purple colour that tells me it is already night where I am looking, and at the same time being able to look high in the sky to somewhere where it is still daylight.

I have a lot of time for sunrises too, but they are not as convenient.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Listening to: Everything is Possible-the very best of Living Colour

As part of the biggest engineering project in the Hutt for years (link), this utilitarian office building alongside State Highway 2 has been demolished. In its final years of use it served as part of the Lower Hutt Polytechnic. Prior to that I am told it was an admin block for the car factory located in what is now Valley Indoor Sports. Having such a close association to the block, and seeing it during my trips into Wellington, which became daily after Charlotte was born, I had the opportunity to document its demise.

21 August 2008
27 September 2008
As one structure falls, another begins to rise.....
7 October 2008
11 October 2008
17 October 2008
Partly inspired by this great and fondly remembered book (link), which imagines what it would take to dismantle the Empire State Building.