Thursday, April 30, 2009

Testing times

Listening to: Deadman OST - Neil Young. Not a recommended album for a first date.

Been playing around on I wonder how many thousands of times this sort of post has repeated itself already...... says I'm a High Nerd.  Click here to take the Nerd Test, get nerdy images and jokes, and talk to others on the nerd forum!
Well I kinda figured that, although its still a word you can only use if you are one sort of thing.

The NerdTests' Space Test says I'm an Uber Space Nerd.  What kind of space geek are you?  Click here!
The closest I could find to my main area of interest. Maybe I should make an aviation quiz of my own. In the meantime quail at my astronautical and astronomical expertise! says I'm 28% Stupid! How stupid are you? Click Here!
Only 28%? I often feel much stupider than that.

Do you know what a true newzealander is? -- Make and Take a Fun Quiz @'s User Tests!
Well thats reassuring, given that I don't like Fat Freddy's Drop. I was worried about that one.

I am 5% loser. What about you? Click here to find out!

Nice to know that in spite of all the above I can still rate a result like this

Monday, April 27, 2009

Crossing Cook Strait

I'm not quite sure when this became a photo blog. I'll post some purely written content soon.

The Omaka airshow I mentioned below is technically the closest major show to where I live. However, given that it is in Blenheim, I have to cross Cook Strait to get to it, which instills a certain element of close but far.

We flew down on Good Friday, and gave Charlotte her first aircraft ride, which she took very well.
Not your average view of the Wellington Airport runway.
On the cross strait flight the right hand seat up front is usually available for passengers if you ask nicely, as I did. Shades for extra Top Gun cool.
Mid strait, with the Interisland line ferry Arahura in the forground, with one of the Bluebridge lines vessels entering Tory Channel. Malborough sounds in the background.
Boat, Marlborough sounds
The approach to the airstrip at Koromiko (Picton) is always interesting. Thats State Highway 1 at centre right, the north-south railway line in the middle, and the airstrip at centre left.
Self portrait of sorts while landing at Koromiko
We caught the ferry home on Sunday, and gave Charlotte her first boat trip, which she took with equal nonchalance as the plane. Fi is seen here modelling my sunglasses, as she left hers at home...Tory Channel heads, with Cook Strait beyond, as calm as I have ever seen it.
Mid strait. Only a mother could love it bulk carrier with Kaikoura mountain range beyond.
Bluebridge Santa Regina with bits of South Island beyond.
North Island beaching point for the Cook Strait power cable, with the new Makara windfarm on the hills behind
Interislander Aratere off Karori rock, with the Karori rip generating the only noticeable swell of the crossing.

The old (top, 1859)and newish (bottom, 1906) lighthouses at Pencarrow marking the Wellington Harbour entrance.

Monday, April 20, 2009

More Planes

Listening to: Powder Burns-The Twilight Singers

Airshows allow me to indulge in two interests: Planes and Photography.

Shots from the Omaka (Blenheim) Classic Fighters Airshow last weekend. Click on a shot to biggify.

Mustang at sunset
Proving its not just the punters who like to take the pictures, the pilot of the Corsair stopped to take pictures of the crowd as he taxied in after his display (the Corsair is the bent wing one a few pics down).
The Spitfire gets three pictures because its a Spitfire. If you equated classic aircraft status to celebrity, a Spitfire would be like David Beckham and Barack Obama combined. A Spitfire will gather crowds and gather attention wherever it goes, simply because its a Spitfire. Concorde had the same effect. This particular one has only been flying after restoration for a month or so, and made its debut displays at this airshow. Out of around 22,000 built, about 200 remain, with about 60 of those flyable worldwide. Ish.

If you have ever heard the term 'Flying Tigers', this is where it came from. This P-40 is in Nationalist Chinese markings, representing those flown by American volunteers against the Japanese in China before the US entered World War Two. In addition to the giant teeth on the nose, there is a tiger painted under the cockpit. You learn something every day!
Omaka's crowdline has a sharp corner, which means if you find the right spot you can get nice near head on shots. Quite pleased with this shot, given the aircraft was travelling quite quickly. Just because it's not a jet it doesn't mean it's slow.
As close as they look...

Not as close as they look. Telephoto lenses are good for compressing relative distance

Yes, if you are wondering, this is a Fokker Triplane. The one behind it is not a Sopwith Camel though. 'Tis a Nieuport Bebe.
No passengers are aboard, although I wouldn't have minded paying to do so. Fun to see an airliner being thrown around like this.

And that's the airshow season for another year. 'Twas a good one.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Six Months Ago

Listening to: Blue Lines and Mezzanine - Massive Attack

Continuing the 'ago' theme. Still a few more to come in this series Charlotte turned six months old a couple of weeks ago. Here she is at about 15 hours old.

It's not that it has taken six months for me to be able to write about this, or that I couldn't find the words until now, but merely that this marker post seems appropriate. I wanted also to have something written down was it was still reasonably fresh.
If asked to name the worst day of my life, I always struggle, not for lack of candidates, but with how worst is defined exactly. One of those candidates followed right after one of the contenders for best. Charlotte was born just on September 24th before 1am on a dark and windy night. I remember the wind battering the delivery suite window as I held her for the first time, and blowing me into parked cars when I ventured out to get a clothing bag. Through the rest of the day we had our one day of perfection, the three of us recovering from the night before, and Fi and I getting to know our little girl.
The next day was different. After being transferred overnight to the Neo Natal ICU, just before lunch I was well into worst moment if not worst day of my life contention, as I looked at my little girl boxed up in a portable incubator, crying out for attention but not able to hear us let alone feel our touch. She was just about to be wheeled into the operating theatre, where I knew they were going to cut her open and fix her insides. This had to be done, and the alternative if nothing was done did not bear consideration, but that didn't make the moment any easier. And then they wheeled her away, and there was nothing to do but wait. Things were completely out of our hands and what would be would be. I remembered that the 25th of September was my friend Michelle's birthday and that she had taken the day off to celebrate. I hoped her day was going better than mine.

Adding to the stress of the operation was that Fi did not yet have a bed in Wellington, a situation that took a few hours and tears. We were all tired and stressed, but Fi was simply exhausted, having given birth 24 hours or so beforehand. Finally we were accomodated in the family suite of Ronald McDonald house to wait out the surgery.

The waiting took a few hours, and then finally we were rewarded with that made for TV moment when a surgeon still wearing his scrubs told us that the operation had gone as well as could be expected, and now it was just a matter of recovery. We got to see her a few minutes later, a floppy little lump wired up with monitors, and laden with needles and tubes. And also sedated and paralysed, to give her new connections a chance to stabilise and take. She was out for five days, during which time we were advised not to even stroke her to limit the amount of stimulation she was exposed to. We made do with gently palming her head and holding her hands. We had had family in attendance for most of the day, and with the worst part over and Fi finally getting a bed on a ward we had a few friends in to visit as well. The support was invaluable. Richard took me out to tea on the way home (thanks dude!) and I could finally start decompressing. I came back into town later that night for netball, to try and sweat out some more of the day. I ran into more friends, and shared the good and the not so good stories of the past couple of days. I was a shambles in the game, but it felt good to be doing something other than waiting. Dave bought me a beer afterward, another small thing I hugely appreciated.

Having a daughter in the ICU soon became normal. I would go in for an hour or so after work every day, with Fi in there most of the day and other family members being in there a lot of the time as well. Knowing which floor to go to in the lift, the hand sanitisation, getting to know the various nurses, the noises and smells of the ICU, seeing other babies come and go (or stay) all became routine. We got good at reading the telemetry on Charlottes monitor.

I've been told I was very pragmatic through the whole thing. Honestly though it didn't occur to me to be any other way. It wouldn't have helped, and sometimes you just have to get on with things.

The recovery process was a set of milestones. Once Charlotte was doing A, she could then move on to B, then C, until finally she could come home. She came off the sedation after about 5 and a half days, and we got to see her moving again. Carefully we could remove her from her incubator and hold her. It was always a chore to ensure we didn't tangle any wires. She didn't cry, and couldn't with a feeding tube down her throat. Her voice was merely a hoarse whisper.
While a place of healing, we quickly started using prison terminology when referring to Charlottes abode, talking about the big house, and telling her we would spring her out eventually.

The progress steps were small but steady, first taking small amounts of milk through the tube, and steadily increasing them until the tube was no longer necessary. Charlotte then had to be taught how to suck and swallow, since although nearly two weeks old, they weren't skills she had had to employ yet. She would alternate between breast and bottle, which was a learning process for both mother and baby.

She had gradually been shedding accesories like the chest drain, feeding tube, foot canula and blood oxygen monitor. Finally on October 11 the last wires came off and Charlotte could be moved more than a few feet from her bed.

After that it was only a matter of time (which it was all along) before she was released to come home. She finally left the ward on October 13th, 20 days after being born, and only 4 days after her scheduled due date, which is about when she would have got home anyway if everything had gone to plan.

It felt good, and it felt right.

Here is Charlotte at six months, not quite perfect in every way, but close enough.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Long Weekend

I have a post I have been working on for a few days, but it is a bit long and heavy to put up over a long holiday weekend, so here are a couple of pretty shots of moody autumnal skies to savour instead:

Off to Marlborough tomorrow for a couple of nights, and the last airshow of the season.
Also involving Charlotte's first plane and boat trip......

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Listening to: Singles OST

So I know all of you out there in Blogland are just dying to see the pics from the airshow I went to Auckland for.......mmph, too bad if you don't, its my blog, so there!

I had a wee photographic technique revision before this one, and came away with some much better results.

The morning was dark, almost too dark for good shots. The afternoon was much brighter.

All pics can be clicked to biggify. They've been compressed some so have lost a little sharpness.

Generating sudden areas of low pressure in air can cause the moisture in the air to condense and form clouds, which is exactly what this Hercules is doing with the tips of its 16 propellor blades. A vortex of low pressure is formed by the passage of each blade, and you get this really cool looking corkscrew effect under the right conditions from the condensation:

In real time it looks like a shimmering sort of tubular curtain around each engine.

Bah, I deter your dastardly heat seeker with my flares
The Yak on the left (yes it is called a Yak. Short for Yakovlev, but I'm sure you knew that already) is ahead of the one on the right, in case you were wondering how they can do this sort of thing without running out of planes really quickly:
MX-2 specialised aerobatic plane pulling a few negative G. Very uncomfortable, but amazing to watch. The guy who flies this display has two aircraft. The other one is a Spitfire.
Mustang, Cadillac of the skies etc. Very elegant. Is nice to watch and listen to.
Almost getting arty. Theres another one of those low pressure condensation vortex things coming from the wingtip of the Corsair
USAF C-17 transport, a very big aeroplane doing things very big aeroplanes don't normally do.
Insert 'Ride of the Valkyries' theme music here.
"An RNZAF Orion is currently searching the crowdline"
Purple smoke is the accesory for your Iroquois this season
The Spaghetti Break from the RNZAF aerobatic team. Same sort of separation that the Yaks above do, but on a bigger scale. Its taken me more atttempts than I care to relate to get a decent head on shot of this.
I can relax now
Again, big aeroplanes doing things that big aeroplanes don't normally do:
Australian F-18 generating its own special effects. Yup, vortexes again.
This picture utterly fails to convey just how noisy this was. At full power with afterburner (like here) those two engines can make this aircraft accelerate while going straight up, and combined with the aerodynamics provides for an extremely 'wow' routine. Very Top Gear.

Incidentally the last picture is easily in my personal top 10 of plane pictures I have taken. I'll have to figure out the other 9 and post them sometime.