Sunday, October 31, 2010

Palmer Head

The foray that produced this earlier post was a trip to explore Palmer Head, above Moa Point on the south coast. Palmer Head overlooks the southern end of the airport, so on the right days I thought it might be a productive spot to get some uncommon angles on aircraft landing. The elevation of the bluff is above the approach path, so you can get backgrounds other than sky, and even look down on the aircraft a little as they pass.

The first results look promising, even if the weather was a little dark:
Given its location and outlook, Palmer Head was also seen in times past as an ideal spot for a fortress that could help command the approach to the harbour entrance. Abandoned now, with its guns long gone, it still keeps a vigil of sorts.
Although these days it is a lot less drab than when it was operational...
So much so that black and white doesn't truly do it justice.

Wellington is liberally studded with abandoned fortifications if you know where to look. They date from various eras, either when it was thought the Russians/Germans/Japanese were coming or simply because it was deemed necessary. Being designed to withstand and repel bombardment, like many of their kind worldwide it was more effort than it was worth to demolish them once redundancy loomed, so here they stay as quiet memorials.
They still live in a way, in that there is plenty of evidence of them hosting booze-ups and other mischief. While there is a lot of meaningless graffiti left behind, some true artists have also been at work.
Near Palmer Head lies Breaker Bay and along the ridge above there is another complex of bunkers and gun emplacements that were once part of Fort Dorset, guarding the harbour entrance at Seatoun (whose last claim to fame before final demolition was that it hosted the Bree set for filming 'Fellowship of the Ring'). This one looks fairly typical from the outside:
But if you go in you'll find this on the back wall:
More info on Palmer Head and how to get to it here.
More info on the Palmer Head Fortress and Wellington's other defenses here.

Wednesday Night Fever

So after going hiking on Monday, and cycling to work and back on Tuesday and generally being a picture of good health, I wound up working a grand total of one day last week. I woke up on Wednesday morning with what felt like a head cold. That evening I was feeling very average and had a definite chill, but went out and played netball as usual (turning in one of my career worst performances), and headed off to model club as usual, which in hindsight was pretty dumb. Leaving club I was wobbling on my feet, shivering and achy and not at all well. After collapsing into bed the fever went from cold to hot. At one point I transmitted so much heat to my bed I had to make sure my electric blanket hadn't been accidentally switched on (it hadn't). The fever broke overnight, but left me with a head full of concrete and no energy. I curled up in the lounge and did watched music videos/dozed all day on Thursday. I curled up in the landing and read/dozed all day on Friday. The sinus to my left ear has only cleared today, which is good because the partial deafness it was generating (aggravated by living on a hill and making occasional trips up and down) was starting to get annoying.

I managed to get out and about a bit yesterday, but still have a lingering cough and clogged sinuses today combined with some useless lethargy. Stupid virus. I'm not sure it was a cold since it was different to most colds I have had, but not as bad as full on flu (which I have also had). And I don't know who I got it from or anyone else who has had it, so can't compare notes. No-one I know is ill right now, and Fi and Charlotte don't seem to have picked it up which is good.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bush Bash

Listening to: The complete Blam Blam Blam - Blam Blam Blam (technically 2003, but it is a compilation of two albums released in 1981 and 1982).

Not a true bush-bash (which I have found usually involve the absence of a trail and often the dark of night), but we celebrated our Labour Day off today by ambling about in the Rimutaka Forest Park for a few hours, heading out to the Orongorongo river and back. I like it out there. Its quiet, undeveloped other than the necessary, relatively unspoiled and just far away enough from civilisation to feel like you have gone somewhere.

Charlotte came along for the ride as well, literally, even managing a snooze along the way.

Turns out you can't teach a two-year old to skim stones. She is pretty adept at throwing them in the general direction of the water though.
Charlotte and I slogging up the old steep trail from the riverbed.
Along the way we found this simple and thoughtful memorial to someone who drowned in the river below in 1951. It isn't on the main trail anymore; you would have to know where it is to see it, which I like for some reason.
It was nice getting out and about in the bush for a day, something I haven't done for a while and should do more often.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Airliner misses bridge like it was supposed to...

I know the media aren't expected to know everything about anything, but this is pretty vacuous.

Why is it that I can look at the video and know instantly the 747 is nowhere near the bridge (I'd be surprised if was even within a mile or two of it) and others can't?

Edit: According to the FAA it was 1200 feet/400m, much less than a mile which sounds close, but the 747 wasn't pointing at the bridge at that distance, and would have begun turning away from it at many times that. Another video here shows the actual separation.

For the record this was a planned and controlled participation in the San Francisco Fleet Week Airshow, an event so well known I have even heard of it on the other side of the Pacific.

More story complete with extra sensationalism from stuff here, and semi useful "good idea/bad idea" discussion here (its interesting that stuff quoted only the 'bad idea' comments from this source rather than any of the many 'good idea's). Slightly less (relatively) vacuous explanation here.

I get that people are riled up about it, but you've got to draw the line about being sensitive somewhere, and not view everything in the worst possible light. It would be a shame if airliners couldn't participate at airshows anymore because one terrible aberration.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Why race cars have roll cages, and circuits have sand traps

From the first lap of the Bathurst 1000 last week. This is what happens when your left rear tyre blows out under braking at 280+kph. Kids do not try this at home:

Bathurst is the only motorsport event I make time to sit down and watch, and I have done almost every year since the mid 80's. It's just epic. I used to watch a Formula One quite regularly when it was still free to air, but the race times aren't conducive to sleep down here. I don't even care about Ford vs Holden. I like that the cars are vaguely similar to something I could potentially own in this country, but mainly I watch it for its own sake.

Admittedly part of attraction of motorsport is to see what happens when shit happens, but all the same after an off like this you are willing the driver to get out and do something to indicate all is well once the vehicle has stopped. In that respect this was one of the scariest racing incidents I have watched live (the other involved fire...) Happily in this case he did just that (and the fire guy too), waving to the crowd before checking out what was left of his car. I have also seen a crash like this happen in front of me at less than half the speed, but with similar results, which was much scarier than any crash I have seen on TV. That driver was somehow okay too, but running up to the wrecked car to check was one of the most unsettling things I have ever had/forced myself to do; I had no idea what I was going to find when I got there, but was pretty sure it wouldn't be anything good.

I like how the view from the rear looks like a roadrunner cartoon or something, just a big cloud of dust with bits of car flying out. Also interesting to see all the passive safety design do its job. That stuff flying off isn't a problem; each piece that leaves the car takes a bit of kinetic energy with it, which is a bit less for the roll cage and various harnesses and supports to deal with.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Epic Clutch Shooting

This, after 22 minutes of sudden death extra time on Thursday night trading shot for shot with our almost equally ice-cool opposition, produced the two goal break needed to win...

Thats effectively 25 minutes (if you include the end of regular time) of every shot being a clutch game rider shot. As a shooter by trade I am a bit wow in contemplation. More pictures here, and match report here. This is already being referred to by some as the greatest international netball match ever played, and I'm not really inclined to disagree. It was as fine a display of pressure shooting as you'll ever see, from both sides. Primo result for us to succesfully defend the Commonwealth gold title we grabbed from the Australians in Australia in 2006. Not so primo for the Australians, but thats sport. The two teams are so close together that anytime they meet it is anyone's game. This time we made it ours.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Blogging about the weather again

Funky looking mammatus clouds over our place this morning.

Friday, October 08, 2010


Listening to: Blindspott - Blindspott (2003)

Looking across Cook Strait from Palmer Head on a dark and grey and violently windy day.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Fractal wrongness

Because no matter how close you look, it still doesn't work. Like the Morgue, I wasn't going to post on this initially, but like the Judge, as the week has worn on I have become increasingly dismayed by a certain breakfast TV hosts comments. The initial incident I was pretty unimpressed by, but the real ire has been generated by the response. I used to watch the show regularly and was a fan of Mr Henry (and still think he can be a very good broadcaster and interviewer when he wants to be). I respect his willingness to say what he is thinking, even if I don't always agree with it, and that he is different from the usual fare of airheaded airbrushed vacuousness that seems to be what those in charge think viewers want. However, being willing to say just what you are thinking doesn't mean that you always should, and lately I am wondering if this particular emperor is in fact wearing any clothes.

I'm struggling to figure how asking the Prime Minister if the next Governor General will look or sound or be more like a New Zealander when the current one is of Indian/Fijian immigrant descent (i.e. not European or Maori) can have anything other than a base in simple racism. If it isn't a race thing, what is it? That the current GG has immigrants for parents? One of my parents is an immigrant, does that make me less of a New Zealander? The question itself is bullshit, and so was his subsequent on-air apology, which was only for any offence that may have been caused, didn't admit that anything wrong was said, and then slurred a whole other ethnic group to boot.

The appointment of the current GG was seen by many as a mark of our nation maturing (and admittedly by others as a convenient PC showcase). The guy was born and raised here, made a career here and by all accounts has done an exemplary job representing the nation in accordance with his character. The colour of his skin, the etymology of his name, and who his parents were are irrelevant to that. The implication that he isn't a proper New Zealander to appoint to high office because of those things, no matter how throwaway it was delivered is just wrong. That it was delivered on one of the flagship programmes of the state broadcaster by one of its highest profile presenters while interviewing the leader of the country defies belief. Its a little disappointing there wasn't a better reaction from the PM, but given he was probably thinking 'WTF did he just say?!' and this was live TV I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. It isn't the main issue.

Digging the hole deeper was the juvenile 'foreigners have funny names' farce that ensued when Henry discussed an Indian Commonwealth Games official with an awkwardly pronounced name, ridiculing it and suggesting it was appropriate for her country (link here. Note how obviously uncomfortable his co-presenters are. The other guy in the clip is Peter Williams, one of the last of the old school presenters and continuing possessor of genuine class).

The networks initial response to the gaffe was to issue a standard (they have practice at this) "he's prepared to say the things we quietly think but are scared to say out loud" PR waffle. Smarter heads soon realised that wouldn't cut it, resulting in Henry's suspension for a couple of weeks without pay. What bothers me is that TVNZ is the public owned state broadcaster in this country, that purports to represent the nation. This debacle sure as shit doesn't represent me, and relying on a guy like this as a ratings generator is a sad indicator of how far standards have fallen from a network that used to be something worthwhile. TVNZ was the first network in NZ and in my youth TV1 in particular was all about quality and informing; now it is generally the same lowest common denominator dumbed down tripe you can get anywhere else, which apparently they think is what people want. It has gotten so bad that the best marking of its own 50th anniversary earlier this year was by a rival channel.

Bothering me more than TVNZ's tacit endorsement of his 'saying what we are all quietly thinking', by not really reining him in before now (he has form in being offensive rather than merely frank) is the number of my countrymen who think this is actually some kind of righteous travesty. Thousands have signed up for the inevitable facebook groups demanding Henry's immediate re-instatement, more than the group demanding his immediate dismissal. Comparisons have been made to Hone Harawira's notorious 'White MotherF**kers' statement of last year, in the way that Harawira seemed to escape serious censure for his remarks so why shouldn't Henry, with the implication that Henry is being singled out for being white. This ignores the fact that Henry made his comments while in the employ of an organisation that purports to represent the country and its views as a whole. Harawira while equally offensive and also technically employed by the taxpayer (albeit more directly than Henry), was speaking only for himself, or at most elements of his electorate, and never claimed otherwise. I am amazed and a little saddened that there are that many people prepared to ignore the substance of what Henry said and meant. I would like to think we were better than that as a nation.

This has likely been much more succintly summarised elsewhere (like here for example) and I am just adding to the noise, but I needed to vent on it.