Monday, March 29, 2010

Not something you see every day

Some hoon in a high performance Mitsubishi* speeding down the runway at Wellington Airport on Saturday:

* A genuine Second World War A6M2 Zero-Sen recovered from Indonesia in 1991 and restored to flying condition. Mitsubishi didn't always make cars. The Zero became a legend in the early part of the Pacific war when it was a better fighter than anything the Allies flew. It was eventually matched and bettered, but for a while it reigned supreme. However losing major wars tends to be detrimental to your gear no matter how legendary, and out of 11,000 built, only about 40 remain extant, many of them pulled from some overgrown and forgotten jungle airfield somewhere (like this one). Less than half a dozen actually fly (compared to around 40 Spitfires), so seeing one here is real once in a lifetime stuff (the last time a Zero flew in New Zealand was in 1945, the one in the Auckland Museum). This one was shipped here from California for the Wanaka airshow this weekend. After assembly in Tauranga it passed through Wellington on its way south and after the show it will be going back on the ship to California.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Just because it's there it doesn't mean you have to shoot it

So a party of five Norwegians came to New Zealand, went on a hunting trip, and shot some endangered species (link).


Aside from their ignorance and arrogance at coming here and assuming anything they see is fair game, shooting a Kereru on a branch is just fricking lazy. I could hit a Kereru on a branch with a stone if I wanted, given how large and slow moving they are when not flying. Hitting one with a rifle is hardly a display of awesome hunting skills and marksmanship (unless you throw the rifle at it).

Friday, March 26, 2010

Book Review

I know you got soul (Jeremy Clarkson, 2005).

I picked this up cheaply (very cheaply) at a book fair the other day, having seen a more upmarket edition in the shops a while ago and thought it interesting (although not interesting enough to actually buy it). The idea of the book is that certain machines can transcend their inanimate nature and become charismatic entities, able to be regarded with affection and mourned when their time has passed, quoting such examples as Concorde, the Flying Scotsman and various other planes, cars, ships and other machinery. As a motoring journalist and co-host of sort-of-about-cars TV Show Top Gear, Clarkson is in theory well placed to comment on the subject.

It's an idea I completely agree with, and think would make a great book. Unfortunately, that isn’t this book. As I progressed (rapidly, it isn’t exactly Dawkins or Fisk) through its 233 pages, I quickly reached the conclusion it was aimed at people who know nothing about the subjects under discussion. It was also apparent that the author (or his editor) doesn’t know much about them either, just enough to appear knowledgable to the uninitiated. The writing style is that of an excitable fanboy who thinks he knows more than he actually does rather than a genuinely knowledgable enthusiast.

The book is littered with inaccuracies, mis-representations, mis-interpretations, exaggerations, omissions and simple errors of fact on almost every page. Some basic fact checking would have been handy. The best entry is the one about the Millenium Falcon, which being fictional says a lot about the entries concerning the real-world rest of the book. As someone who does know something about some of the subjects, it quickly became a frustrating read, and one which I hurried to finish and be done with. I didn’t expect it to be great (I mean, with this author it's not exactly going to be a definitive reference work), just not as bad as it is.

Having enjoyed his other scribblings about cars in particular, a subject he actually does know a lot about, having established a career as a motoring journalist before the fame of Top Gear (although that said, I’m not exactly a car guru), and even acknowledging that Clarkson doesn’t pretend to be a serious authority on things, I was expecting better. It's just not very good, even by the standards of the author. Yet it's a bestseller. Go figure.

It’s good for a no stress no brainer read, but don’t be surprised if you quote something from it and someone corrects you.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Back in the day

I was trawling through some old photos (looking for some particular old photos funnily enough), and came across this sequence. It is an RNZAF A-4K Skyhawk doing a solo display over Wellington, turning hard over the innercity and blasting over our heads at the summit of Mt Victoria (and in hindsight clearing a pair of large radio masts by not very much. There is only one mast up there now, but back then there were two identical masts about 100 feet high). Click to enlarge.

I shot this on my dad’s mid seventies vintage and completely manual SLR with a 135mm zoom lens, on 200 ASA film. 400 would have been much better, but I wouldn’t figure that out for another few years.

It remains one of my favourite sequences, not only because I really like the middle shot as an image, but because of the potential of the first shot. Its under exposed, and blurry and grainy, but with better equipment and technique it would have been awesome. You’ll have to use your imagination a little :)
A tight turning jet, trailing smoke, wings covered in vapour, with a blurry city backdrop would have been a great action shot. I wonder if anyone else on the summit that day got it.
Its from 1990 (yeah, twenty freaking years ago), back when Wellington hosted an annual international endurance street race around the waterfront. As part of the pre race entertainment, there was usually an air display over the city and inner harbour of some kind. The hills and harbour provide a nice natural ampitheatre for this kind of thing. I figured the top of Mt Victoria would be a great place to watch from (as well as most of the good spots on the waterfront being restricted for the race). It was one of those dark cloudy northerly days we get often here, and Dad helpfully suggested I leave the camera at home since it would be too dark to photograph anything. He was pretty much right, since most of the shots on the roll are a mess.

An RNZAF Orion also displayed, and this shows how dark it was. It also dates the image, since they haven't been painted in those colours for more than ten years.
After the display was done I went down to the city to watch some of the racing. This being twenty years ago, there were still plenty of places were you could walk up to or sit on a fence and watch for free. As evidence, here are a couple of blurry BMW M3’s heading down Cable Street at about three times the normal speed limit

For locals, the building in the background is where the brewery bar is now located.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Current Modelling Project

Listening to: A Stevie Nicks best of. Getting in touch my inner bogan rock chick...

Turning something that looks like this:
Into something that looks like this (buzzing the tower at Ohakea):
Image copyright RNZAF Museum. Also one of my favourite aircraft photos. I would have loved to have been at this particular photo op, but was mildly inconvenienced by it occuring 6 years before I was born...

Image Copyright RNZAF Museum

Monday, March 15, 2010

Storm TV

Thanks to the internet, I can now link some handy illustrative videos of Friday's storm...

From Owhiro Bay

From the Picton Ferry (presumably somewhere in Cook Strait)

From Mount Victoria

From Kilbirnie

And a couple more story links from Stuff:

Southerly Buster

Wellington Mops Up

Friday, March 12, 2010

How to go from late summer to winter in less than 30 minutes

Listening to: Metallica - Reload

My fair city of Wellington got a big old can of weather whupass opened up on it this afternoon.
Story links here (via Stuff) and here (via This was the first big storm of he year, and while it is technically early autumn, storms like this don't usually turn up for another month or two, and are generally not as psychotically intense. This thing inflicted the sort of damage in an hour or so that the regular southerlies take a day or two to manage.

Being an interested weather watcher (some may have noted numerous previous weather related posts (link)), I had an idea that we may get some interesting weather this afternoon, so took my camera to work on the off chance there might be something worth photographing. As the day progressed I periodically checked the metservice website (including their wonderful rain radar) as well as looking out the nearest window to see how things were developing. As it turned out, things got interesting right when I finished for the day, so I headed down to Petone Beach at the northern end of Wellington Harbour to watch the expected southerly arrive. I was hoping to get some cool cloud shots, and maybe some lightning if I was really lucky. As it happened I got a little more than I bargained for. Apologies to those who have already seen these on facebook. And a big shout out to my 16 year old nephew who got caught by the storm and rode it out (for about 10 miles worth) on a pushbike during his regular training ride.

Click on any pic to enlarge

Thanks to the timestamping on my camera images, I can give an exact timeline for just how fast this thing descended. I got to the beach at about 1620, just as the storm was starting to engulf the city. This is from Petone, looking across the harbour to Wellington about 10 kilometres away. Matiu/Somes Island is on the left about 2 kilometres away. Where I am standing the sun is still shining, and there is a warm northerly breeze...
Looking out south to the harbour entrance, Seatoun on the right is still in the sun, but the imminent storm is apparent.
By 1625, the inner harbour and central city are disappearing into the gloom.
Looking back at the harbour entrance at 1627 it is becoming clear that this isn't your average southerly change.
Matiu/Somes Island at 1628. The normal backdrop of the city and eastern suburbs is entirely obscured.
Possibly the largest whirlwind I have ever seen (est 1-200m across) under the squall line as it advances across the harbour at 1629. This got me wondering if I was about to see an actual tornado for the first time, and was somewhat intimidating given the bigger picture I was seeing.
At 1631 the storm has hit the other end of the beach, and although I didn't see them at the time, there are actually people still swimming in the picture. If you look closely you can see them, as well as the sand the wind is picking up. The white line on the water is where the wind shear is. Where I was the wind was no longer out of the north, but shuffling confusedly. When the shear hit it was like a bomb. The wind went from confused shuffling to 100+kph gale in few seconds.
Here is the same view five minutes later at 1636. I had retreated to my car at this point, althought the car was being bounced around by the gale so much I moved it to point into the wind to lessen the feeling I was going to be rolled (the MX-5 is not particularly noted for its weight...). I was also wondering if I was in over my head a bit with this storm. I bailed for a slightly less scary location a few minutes later.
Looking back toward Matiu/Somes at 1641. You can just see the island. The sea state makes an interesting comparison with the shots from less than 15 minutes earlier.
These are typical scenes around Lower Hutt tonight.

The worst of the storm had passed by 1830, and by 1930 it was almost like nothing had happened, albeit much colder.
Just for comparison, this is what dawn looked like from my lounge (looking northwest) this morning.
Interesting day.

Yet more Yeah but Nah

The story was getting better, now its close to perfect.

A Wellywood sign would be a trademark violation apparently (story link). Also apparently none of the geniuses behind the idea thought this might be a possibility. Lolz all round.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

More Yeah but Nah

This just gets better and better :)

Further to the Wellywood sign shenanigans of the last few days, the trademark owners of the real thing in Hollywood are now talking to their attorneys apparently....Story link from Stuff

In the meantime, you can make your own sign here, with the Wellywood Sign Generator, or just check out other peoples efforts at the gallery here.


Even Hitler hates the idea (link, courtesy of The Dim-Post).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Yeah but Nah

Adding to the noise, but like many others, I couldn’t let the proposal by Wellington International Airport Limited to build a ‘Wellywood’ sign along one of the airport approach paths go uncommented upon. To be built in the style of the original Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, ‘Wellywood’ is apparently a satirical tribute, alluding to the fact that Peter Jackson’s production base and Weta Digital are literally around the corner, and is expected to become a tourist attraction.

If these links and comments below are anything to go by, I am not the only one cringing at the idea.


Wellintonista again

The Dim-Post


Stuff again (original story break)

I don’t like it for a bunch of reasons, and I don’t buy into the ‘don’t criticize it if you can’t come up with something better’ argument. I’m not an artist or graphic designer, but I don’t need to be to form an opinion that this design sucks. I would rather see something original, that required more than ten seconds of thought to come up with, and doesn’t reek of deep seated cultural insecurity. And as far as I know, bugger-all people in Wellington actually use the term ‘Wellywood’. Just like ‘Cake Tin’ for the stadium (everyone I know just calls it ‘The Stadium’), it is more of a ex-Wellington based media generated appellation than a local term.

Frankly WIAL (and the city council that part owns it) have better things to spend money on, like safety fixes for the runway ends, which are still unacceptably hazardous for an international airport and a disaster waiting to happen.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


My old friend DR over at (well, virtually over at) Freshly Ground has deemed me worthy of the "Prolific Blogger Award", as represented by the pic, and explained here. Since this is the first award (that I know about) that my blog has generated, I shall gracefully and graciously accept :). Which is not to say I wouldn't accept other awards, not excluding bribery. I am also accepting and acknowledging belatedly, since the award was made three weeks ago and I have only got around to prolifically blogging about it now.

I'm not sure I would class a posting rate of about once every three and half days as necessarily prolific (I feel prolific merely by posting two days in a row), especially when others post quality almost daily, but it is a really nice way I think to tell someone you have been following the blog for a while.

I have probably mentioned this before, but I started this thing for an unknown audience, because I enjoyed writing stuff down, and I wanted somewhere living to put it. A blog is perfect for that. I am on facebook as well, and that has supplanted the blog in certain ways, but I can use this format in ways and with a flexibility that facebook can't provide, and thus it has remained active.

This particular blog had its origins in the late 90's and early 2000's, when a significant number of my friends went overseas to see the world (or the various bits of it they could afford to get to). In the absence of direct contact, I began writing semi regular group emails, not only to keep in touch, but also to pass the time during quiet night shifts at work. I figured out pretty quickly that I liked writing as a medium, and could often express myself better this way than verbally (as readers who know me personally can probably attest). A couple of those overseas friends had already started blogs, and eventually the idea of me writing one was germinated, although it took me a long time to convince myself it would be worth reading, let alone that others might be interested. After a prolonged gestation Off Black was created in 2006. The name already existed as a handle I had used on a forum. I thought it an ironic take on the colour Off White (which had been the subject of an amusing hardware store TV ad at the time), and it seemed natural to develop it further, although it brings some interesting google results.

And so here we are, nearly 500 posts later. After putting up 100 or so posts in the first year, I thought that was a reasonable annual target. Self censorship aside (there are some things that will almost certainly never grace these pages :)) I am still nowhere near running out of material. I find the composition process continually interesting. Some posts are instantly fully formed. Almost none are written using notes or other reminders or are pre planned (which may explain why some posts are over long jumbled messes, including possibly this one), but I do try to write to the classic introduction, exposition and conclusion essay model when required. Other posts are crystal clear in my mind, but refuse to be translated cleanly into words, with seemingly short, simple compositions becoming wordy and overly complicated prose. Still other posts bear no resemblance to the original idea. Lastly there are the long term ideas, the posts that have been waiting to be written for months (or in at least one case years), because the time isn't right, or I haven't found the right way to write them yet. Some posts take a few minutes to write, some take a few hours (especially if there is photo manipulation required. That can take yonks), and I seldom publish a post without editing it a few minutes later after thinking of something I missed.

I suspect the above experience is somewhat universal for regular bloggers.

This blog is by definition and extension, all about me and the things that catch my attention (I'm sure the learned commentary on the blog as extension of the ego and its context within the internet as a whole will make interesting reading a few years or decades hence). A lot of the time I post with the people who I know are reading in mind. Other times it is pure self indulgence, and caring about others finding it interesting is cast to the wind. Aside from the aforementioned known regular readers, I still have no real idea of how many people regularly stop by this thing, and what they stop for. I know I have a somewhat niche interest set, that I have been assured people can find boring. I do try and write 'interesting', with varying degrees of success (along with trying to write 'funny'). I have no real interest in going controversial or offensive for the sake of it. This has caused me to drop a few posts on occasion before they went public. There are certain authors whose style I at times try and emulate (no, I am not going to tell you who they are). Sometimes it is just easier to post pics and let them speak for themselves. There have been several occasions when I have revisited a post sometime later and thought "That didn't really come out the way I envisioned it". Even if a post in hindsight doesn't quite work, I have yet to edit one retrospectively. It feels dishonest.

I am perennially concerned that this is a boring blog, a concern I don't help alleviate by being a comments junkie. It is stupid, especially since I browse any number of blogs daily, with interest, without commenting. I know comments are a poor way of judging others interest. I mean, a perfect post might leave no room for added commentary. There might be nothing more to say. And I also know some read from locations that prevent them commenting. But sometimes the cynical comment junkie in me looks at the '0 comments' and wonders "did no-one see that? I thought it was good. Was it boring, or did they just have nothing to add?". Not helping this process at all have been the few occasions when I have specifically asked for comments on a post and received few or none, making me wonder at times if anyone is reading, or if they are and aren't interested.

That said, I have had some awesome feedback at times, occasionally linking to places and contacts I never would have found or thought of otherwise. So thank you to all who have taken the time to leave a comment, or caught up with me in person to remark on something I put up here. You make it much more worthwhile. Cheers.

Now since this is after all a meme, there are some formalities to be undertaken. According to the rules I must nominate seven other bloggers to deem prolific, link back to the blog that nominated me, link back to the original source post of the award, and add my name to the list of recipients.

I don't like the arbritariness of picking seven people, so I am just going to nominate a few blogs of interest. I would nominate Freshly Ground (especially worth checking out if you like good home cooking), but since that is who nominated me I can't, although mentioning it takes care of the requirement to link to your nominator quite nicely.

Not helping the nomination process is the fact that a bunch of potentials have already been anointed.

Here are a few of my regular reads that I think are worth nominating for prolificity and hopefully haven't been dubbed already.
*Apologies in advance if I nominate anyone who hates this sort of thing. Take that as a licence to ignore it if you want.

I thought of doing brief descriptors, but I will let the blogs and bloggers speak for themselves. Quick paraphrasing of things that aren't machines or processes isn't my strong point:

Adventures In The Underground

My Wildlife's Words

The NotKate

Judge And Jury

The Rabbit Howls

The original source link of the Prolific Blogger Award along with the now 200+ strong list of recipients is at the top of the page. Which having now finished a classic example of a quick repost that turned into a sprawling monster, I am off to add my URL to.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

It's All James May's Fault!

Apologies for yet another youtube embed.

This one shows Adolf Hitler's reaction to James May repopularising the Airfix Spitfire model kit after featuring it on his 'Toy Stories' show:

I love modelling humour :)

Part one (of six) of Herr May's offending episode (the rest of the series is currently screening on TV3, Monday nights at 7:30):

At this point I should probably note that while I have seen many 'Downfall' parodies (link), I still haven't managed to see the original film, which by all accounts is a very brave and excellent addressing of its subject material, and thus recommended.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Tiny Humans!

While we are comparing things.....I like that most of these objects are visible with the naked eye from where I live if you know where to look. And that I know where to look :)

Admittedly a lazy kind of blogging but the clip is cool nonetheless. As usual, comments are best ignored (what is it with youtube and trolls anyway? Actually not so many genuine trolls as mere common idiots I suspect, but the question remains).

Monday, March 01, 2010

Puny Humans!

Embarrassed and frustrated to note that apparently a lot of New Zealanders still just don't get tsunami's or tsunami warnings, as evidenced here (from the NZ Herald), and here (from Stuff, also using any excuse to publish pictures of naked people). It's not the height of the surge, its the force behind it (there is footage of a 30cm ish surge happily relocating a 4x4 from last year's Samoan tsunami). Tsunami's on shore are less waves than they are instant and recurring turbulent rivers or floods, with a habit of dragging things out to sea when they recede. We got off very lucky yesterday in only being mildly inconvenienced, with some dramatic looking surges around the place to lead the news. Regardless of actual event / non-event status, the potential danger is quite real, and the warnings were justified. Previous tsunami related facepalming/headdesking here.

I noticed a figure in the paper concerning the amount of energy released in Saturday's 8.8 Richter Scale Chilean earthquake that got me thinking about comparisons.

Mostly off the top of my head, with some looking up here and there to clarify numbers.

Hiroshima Atomic Bomb : Energy release is estimated, but generally agreed to be arond 10-15 kilotons (kiloton = 1000 tons of TNT).

Largest nuclear weapon deployed during the cold war : 25 megatons (megaton 1,000,000 tons of TNT). The sort of thing you would use to lay waste to a city the size of say, New York, Tokyo or Los Angeles and the surrounding districts, or turn small mountains into lakes should the need arise.

Largest nuclear device ever tested (and largest man-made explosion in history) : 50 Megatons and generally considered to be too powerful to be a practical weapon. It was designed to be 100 megatons, but there was no way to safely test it so it was scaled down.

Thats where the human numbers run out. Get nature involved and the numbers go crazy.

1883 Krakatoa volcanic eruption : The cataclysmic explosion event that destroyed the volcano itself is estimated at 200 megatons. Made half an island disappear, and being heard 5,000 km away, one of the loudest sounds in recorded history. Generated tsunamis 30m or more high locally.

2008 Sichuan earthquake : 8.0 on the richter scale, and equivalent to 1 gigaton (1000 megatons, or 1,000,000,000 tons of TNT)

75,000 years BP (Before Present) Toba eruption : 8.5 on the richter scale, equivalent to 5.6 gigatons, and the largest known volcanic eruption. The eruption that created Lake Taupo 26,000 years ago is on a similar scale. This sort of power easily exceeds that of every nuclear weapon ever built combined.

2010 Chilean earthquake : 8.8 on the richter scale, equivalent to nearly 16 gigatons.

2004 Indian ocean earthquake : 9.1, 67 gigatons, and responsible for the Boxing Day Tsunami.

1960 Chilean earthquake : 9.5, 178 gigatons, and the most powerful earthquake ever recorded.

65,000,000 years BP Yucatan asteroid impact : Estimated at 13 on the richter scale (which is logarithmic remember), and an apocalyptic in every sense 100 teratons (1,000,000,000 megatons). Generally held to be the event that caused the final extinction of dinosaurs, allowing the rise of mammals and eventually, us.