Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No Hollywood Ending

After following this since Friday, and despite being rationally pessimistic about the eventual outcome, I was irrationally hoping that at least some of those guys might have gotten out.

Miners could not have survived second explosion (link)

Not meant to be I guess. I did have another post on this topic vaguely planned concerning dignity under pressure, armchair experts, and media idiocy but in light of the days events I'll leave it be for now.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Match Fit

Listening to: Ignite - Shihad (2010). And the washing machine which is much less melodic, although about as noisy.

Currently icing my right thumb after over-extending it again at Indoor Netball tonight, typically on the last play of the game. I've sprained both thumbs at the base a few times over the years, so any misdirected force at that area tends to upset them a bit. This time it is quite mild, with no swelling or visible bruising after an hour or so. The cool-pack is making it hard to type though, although resting it on the keyboard takes care of the elevation. Typing without one thumb is tricky though.

I've been playing this sport in particular for nearly fifteen years, and while it is ostensibly non-contact, the nature of the gameplay allows plenty of scope for injury. I've noticed that noobs get injured more easily than experienced players; I've seen a few serious injuries happen to people in their first game. Over time you learn how to anticipate the action, and avoid getting messed up if you can. I don't tend to pick up many injuries these days, although I have plenty of experience of strapping things up with the ubiquitous tape if required.

On the way home I tried to think of all the netball related injuries I have incurred over the years (none career ending obviously). Here is my catalogue of minor woes:

-Spraining the aforementioned thumbs, both of them, more times than I can remember. At least once required physio. Strapping thumbs is annoying, since I have to shave the top of my hand and wrist (just way easier to remove the tape if you remove the hair first).

-Spraining every finger multiple times. At one point I had strapping applied to all my fingers at once. Most memorable example involved a physiotherapist taking one look (it was various shades of yellow, blue and purple) and sending me to have it to be x-rayed before doing anything else to it. It wasn't broken, and she was eventually convinced the bend in my finger was normal after comparing it to the one on the other hand.

-Sprained both ankles repeatedly (but never at the same time, and never as bad as the time I sprained one at a rock concert, when I could feel the ligaments tearing en masse). Also involves shaving for comfortable strapping, leaving one ankle naked looking for a while after the tape is no longer required.

-Sprained a shoulder when someone landed on me (it is only a non-contact sport in theory really). That was uncomfortable, requiring physio at the time, and some time later after it had got out of alignment while healing, and again peculiar shaving for the strapping tape.

-At least three minor concussions (again, non-contact in theory).

-One or two black eyes (see above).

-A very bruised and sore side of pelvis and hip after landing flat on my side from a height of three or four feet.

-Lifted and pulled back nails on both fingers and toes from contacting this that or the other.

-Occasional shin splints from years of running around on usually concrete backed astroturf.

-Sprained Achilles tendon, which resulted in fluorescent pink strapping tape applied by the physio, and the first injury I thought might be the one that stopped me playing for good if it couldn't be made right. I noticed Jolene Henry had the same tape in the same location for presumably the same reason during the Silver Fern's recent Commonwealth Games campaign. Me and Jolene are tape buddies!

-Countless scrapes, cuts, grazes and bruises from interactions with the turf, net, the wall just behind the net once, and other players (including once coming home with someone else's blood on my fingers, gained in some unnoticed incident). Band-aids hurriedly applied on sweaty skin almost never stick.

Meh, it could be worse (I haven't broken anything yet, or ever for that matter). I've seen worse plenty of times. None of the niggles are crippling, and if that is the price of being active and participating rather than couching so be it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Watching traffic pass

Still listening to the MP3. Appropriately given the last post, it has just played 'All of my Love' by Led Zeppelin, and following it up with 'Achilles Last Stand' by the same. One of John Bonham's finest tracks...

Had some time to kill at the airport this morning while waiting for a certain thing of interest to arrive (which ended up not happening in the end), so spent it taking pictures of the more usual traffic.

Air New Zealand Raytheon/Beechcraft 1900:
Air New Zealand / Mount Cook Airlines ATR72
Air New Zealand Boeing 737's


Listening to: My MP3 player on random, having finally gotten around to hooking it up to the stereo. Right now it is playing 'Stay' by Aerial, followed by 'Under my thumb' by the Rolling Stones. I really like the low key bass anti-solo on the latter.

Picked up both of these today for cheaps.
Both biographies of sorts, although I am about the only person I know who would want to read both. I have read the 747 one before, a long time ago (it was published in the 90's) and remember it well, one of the key revelations being that if no-on had bought the 747, there would now not be a Boeing company. It makes a nice companion to a similarly aged informal history of the company I also have. There are some interesting tales buried within.

The Zeppelin book I haven't read, but have heard good things about and is only a couple of years old. The older I get the more I appreciate Led Zeppelin. I started out with a greatest hits collection ('Remasters') about ten years ago, and now have most of the albums. Hopefully the book will be a good companion and source of context for them. Note also the image is of the back cover. Clever publishers made the book flippable, with the other side having a suitably epic image in the same style of Jimmy Page in full noise guitar-golden-god mode.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sucks to be a cyclist in NZ right now

5 cyclists doing nothing wrong taken down by careless, thoughtless, and reckless motorists in as many days, all dead, with another touch and go today.

Story link

As a cyclist and a motorist, I refuse to call these accidents. Accidents are genuinely unexpected and unavoidable in foresight. All of these deaths are neither.

At last count there are 470 comments attached to the above story following the usual antagonistic divide of motorist vs cyclist, with far more blinkered examples of the former, and few voices of reason. One should be wary of seeing this as a representative sample of population since it is self selecting, but an astonishing number seem to subscribe to the belief that cyclists have no right to be on the road, no right to any expectation of safe passage; whatever happens is their fault for being there. Dedicated cycling infrastructure in the form of designated lanes and safe areas and the like is slowly appearing, but is still rare, and nowhere near the norm, so bikes and other traffic are forced together. To be fair, while a lot of drivers (either maliciously or ignorantly) don't react to cyclists well, there are many stupid cyclists who give the rest of us a bad name by thinking the road rules don't apply to them because they aren't in a car, or worse translate the at times palpable antagonism on the roads into deliberate provocation. I could rant about my own experiences as a regular commuter cyclist, but that would take an entire other post.

While as cycling becomes more popular there is something of a quiet culture war going on around it at the moment, the bigger point being missed as the heads bang on the comment threads is just why these incidents keep happening. It should be a scandal that a young driver thought there was nothing wrong in navigating a blind corner at speed on the wrong side of the road (a practice that killed three cyclists in one incident). It isn't, because it is accepted that as a nation we suck at driving. Across all road users (cyclists included) there is a certain element with a huge attitude problem, mostly centred around 'me first, screw everybody else', and a total lack of consideration for other road users, and a lack of awareness of potential consequences.

It's everywhere, constantly. Just in one ten minute drive home tonight on quiet suburban streets I counted three separate incidents of the type of driving that causes crashes. On a long drive on the open road dangerous driving is a typically regular sight, people risking lives to get where they are going a minute or two earlier. Local readers can try a challenge if they want. Next time you drive, if it is safe, try sticking exactly to the posted speed limit, and see how long it takes to pick up a tailgater, then a queue. It won't take long.

Driver training and licensing in this country is a joke (again to be fair, there is no formal licensing or training for cyclists at all, despite a formal road code being drawn up for them. Bicycles are also not subject to vehicle related road user charges or levies, although most cyclists are car owners, and pay levies accordingly anyway). No formal education or training required, essentially just a multichoice test and practical assessment and you are good to go. Enforcement of driving laws is similarly laid back, no matter how much those drivers for whom speed limits are only a guideline bleat about speeding tickets being an easy means of revenue gathering (hint: if you don't want a ticket, obey the bloody LAW! ). We are very good at licensing car operators rather than drivers. Formal and defensive driver training should be mandatory because the fact that you are in control of a big piece of metal that has mass, inertia and momentum, which you only need to screw up handling once to kill yourself, or worse somebody else, seems to be lost on people. I won't claim to be a perfect wheel, but on observation most drivers are nowhere near as good and safe as they think they are. They think it won't happen to them, if they think of it at all. I've survived both serious bike and car crashes, so I know it can and will if you let it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Some kits are better than others

Listening to: the Indie Show on Radio Active.

Modern state of the art perfectly engineered kits are all good, but old not so perfect kits can be fun as well. This is a Matchbox 1/32nd scale Westland Lysander (wiki) that I finished yesterday.
Matchbox made kits once upon a time as well as toy cars.

Starting at the start, the retro box art from 30 years ago, appropriate for a 30 year old kit, and a pile of bits moulded in three colours (the Matchbox ethos being if you didn't want to paint your model, the different coloured plastic would mean it would vaguely look like the subject anyway. That's the kind of company they were).
A few progress shots along the way.....

Final assembly and detailing done, a flat coat and some chalk pastels making the paint look faded and chipped, and generally well used in a harsh environment (Second World War Burma in this case) and its finished.

Here is a picture of the actual subject I used for reference. It was a challenging thing to build, the kit being less than perfect even when it was released, but involved oodles of creative thinking to solve construction problems, and some good basic simple modelling. I like that I can take a pile of unpainted and unassembled parts and make it look like that. Totally worth the effort.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sad but True

Despite our nice reputation, a lot of Kiwi's just can't handle booze. Combine it with losing in a sport held dear and things get pretty ugly.

Rowdy crowd mars Eden Park Test

Eden Park 'louts' anger

Unruly Eden Park mob a League problem

As usual, the comments are more telling than the stories themselves. The last one is an opinion piece, and the title isn't really right. Go to any major sports event (and even some not so major ones) and the pathetic, embarrassing behaviour on show at that match is evident. Some people go to watch the game, others just go to get drunk and have 'an awesome time', which is usually less than awesome for those around them. I've seen dickheads at every big sporting event I've ever been to, and had my manhood and sexuality questioned on more than one occasion for not enthusiastically joining in with childish obscenity laden insults directed at either players or officials (going back as far as high school). Not everyone does this, but the idiot minority is usually big enough to be unavoidable.

Couple of things this highlights:

-Some people in this country know how to drink responsibly, but for a vast amount their drinking habits stopped developing before leaving high school: drink as much as you can for as long as you can. I understand in other countries it is embarrassing to be seen drunk in public; here it is practically an expectation. I started out that way, but always being something of a cheap drunk (my alcohol tolerance has always been low for my body type, so low in fact that terrifyingly I can be what I would consider drunk and still have a blood alcohol level that would let me legally drive), as I have gotten older I find myself drinking less and less. I'll partake if it suits, but don't need it to have a good time. I like the buzz and the relaxing effect, but hate being drunk, and hate being around drunk people when I'm sober, and a hangover now just means a morning or a day wasted.

-Combining the latter group of excess drinkers with sports exacerbates a second tendency: national insecurity. The need for validation means we can be incredibly ungracious winners (as supporters-the sportspeople themselves are generally well grounded about winning and losing), and incredibly bitter and sore losers. Combine this with a perceived 'right' and need for alcohol while watching sport (I know people who wouldn't bother going to a game if it was dry) and idiocy ensues. Supporters wearing an opposition jersey, or applauding opposition points skilfully scored are asking for trouble, and I am not talking about good natured banter, I'm talking real hatred and harrassment. I've seen it happen, and it disgusts me. I have trouble reconciling it with our supposed image as a laid back easy going friendly nation.

-Another facet of the insecurity thing is our supposed fundamental rivalry with the Australians in almost every area possible. It is there for sure and one or two sports almost revolve around it, but the truth is the rivalry is massively one way. We care about it way more than the Australians do.

We've clearly got issues.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Blurry Pigeon

Kereru get kind of surreal when you try and photograph them flying across your backyard in gathering twilight on a dark day with a shutter speed of 1/50th sec....
With spring springing and lots of tasty things flowering, Kereru have been regular visitors to our property lately, aided by our close to rural location with lots of nearby bush for them to nest in. I like them. They are native, big, colourful and have lots of character (much more than their smaller city cousins). Plus they are one of the noisiest birds I have ever heard when flying (maybe to make up for them being almost silent call wise. They don't coo like other pigeons, vocalising rarely and quietly), each flap of the wings generating a whoomp you can easily hear from inside the house if they are nearby.

Maybe due their size you can get quite close to them before they will get bothered, which probably has something to do with them being technically endangered as a species (along with the usual suspect of habitat destruction), something I was surprised to learn given how often I see them.
Together with the local tui, morepork and hawk populations, the bird life is one of the reasons I like living in the hills where I do.

6 Years ago

The last time November 5th was a Friday night, I missed the traditional fireworks over the harbour in favour of another tradition, getting some beers in with the menfolk (dad, soon to be father-in-law, brother-in-law, and soon to be brother-in-law) before I got hitched the next day.

After 6 years for the days and dates to re-align, this November 5th was again on a Friday, and for the first time we watched the show as a family (which is a concept I am still getting used to)...
It was only Charlotte's second big public fireworks display. The first was the previous weekend, and she was a little over-awed.
She loved the second though. That's my girl.

Our anniversary falling on a Saturday also neatly coincided with us having no plans, engagements or other business for once. It's nice to have a day just for yourselves once in a while. We spent it hanging out in the city, going to lunch and generally chilling in each others company :)

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Nice Ride

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dropped into town this morning aboard a USAF C-32A (wiki). Not something you see around here very often....

The C-32A is a military VIP transport version of the civilian Boeing 757, and equipped with enough hi-tech and likely hush-hush communications gizmology to be able to securely talk to anyone they need to from anywhere in the world. There are 4 C-32A's according to wiki and they have been used in the 'Air Force One' role normally filled by its larger cousin the VC-25/B747 on occasion. There are certainly a lot more bumps and lumps hiding equipment visible on the airframe than our comparable RNZAF Boeing 757-200's.

The RNZAF operates two B757's in the long range transport and VIP roles. Here is one blasting off from a very wet Wellington a couple of years ago (with a very wet photographer too):

The 757 is regarded as something of a hot rod in the airliner world, with ample engine power for its needs (and said to be almost over-powered at times). At light weights (no passengers or cargo, no excess fuel on board) this makes for impressive performance, something the RNZAF ruthlessly exploits when they display the aircraft at airshows. As the highest performance aircraft in the service since the fighters were retired, the 757 display has become the stuff of legend at airshows here and overseas, and shows the sort of things normally sedate airliners are capable of in the right hands.

Like this for example. Our Boeings might not be as flash as the USAF's, but they arguably have more fun:

And this (one of my favourite 'FAKE!' commented videos, because having seen it a few times in the flesh I know it isn't):

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Hutt Oddities

Listening to: Showbiz Kids, The Steely Dan Story 1972-1980 - Steely Dan (2000). I bought this compilation years ago on the back of liking a few of their more well known songs. I haven't listened to it for years, to the point of not remembering any of it particularly well, so am trying to figure out if I like any of it. It certainly evokes the era well if nothing else.

Couple of odd sights around the Hutt at the moment.

A pine tree has acquired some unusual decoration:

One of the local papers was all 'How in the world did they do that?', but c'mon, its a Norfolk Pine for goodness' sake. Its about the easiest tree in the world to climb (spoken from the experience of having one about this size in my backyard as a kid). Here is a full height shot of the specimen in question:
It isn't even a very big Norfolk Pine; I've been to Norfolk Island and seen these things in their place of origin and they get a lot bigger. Climbing this one traffic cone in hand wouldn't have been a problem. I'm impressed it has stayed up there as long as it has, although the rope visible in the close-up suggests it might be more secured than it looks.

That explains the traffic cone*, but this on a wall in Petone is a lot less clear:
I haven't figured this one out yet, or indeed just what there is to figure out.

*It reminds me of a similar tree that was uprooted in a flood about ten years ago up the river from here. It was swept down the river and into the harbour, but caught on the seabed and effectively planted itself near a marina, in water shallow enough for the top couple of meters to emerge above the water. The pine tree in the middle of the water was visible for several days before finally disappearing, long enough for the harbour master to jokingly ponder putting christmas lights on it as it was that time of year.

Time Flies

Hard to believe this was more than twenty years ago now. Along with the Cardno disappearance and murder at around the same time (which cut a little closer to home as she was my age and from my town), this was one of the bigger stories of my early teens. With the insensitivity that only high school kids could muster, a standing joke during roll call in class at the time was to answer 'two swedish tourists' when the teacher asked if anyone was missing. It is sad to think that one of them is still out there somewhere waiting to be found.