Sunday, February 27, 2011

In other news

Noted the other week the guy behind Bad Astronomy reflecting on the tenth anniversary of a certain notorious, biased, misleading piece of tabloid trash posing as a documentary being broadcast on Fox...

Moon Hoax +10

The resulting rebuttal he wrote is still on line here and looking every one of it's ten years old, but is still a good jumping off point for anyone who has questions about the hoax theory.

Nearly 36 years after the end of the Apollo programme, it's successor the Space Shuttle is also winding down. Discovery was the third shuttle to fly, and first went into space in 1984. Since then it has completed 38 space flights, and was launched for the last time last Thursday. By the time it comes back to Earth for the last time next week it will have clocked up nearly a year in space.

That's all cool, but really just an excuse to show this cool video of Discovery's final launch as seen from a passing airliner:

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Christchurch stories is an umbrella site for a number of regional based newspapers, Wellington and Christchurch among them. While not without its flaws (whole other post topic there...), it does run a reasonably good general interest blog section, with bloggers ranging across a number of topics. I read many of them regularly, and while not really being personally affected by the earthquake in any way, waiting for the Christchurch based journalist bloggers (none of whom I have ever met in person) to check in and reassure their readers of their safety was a mild source of concern as the week progressed. Material damage aside, the death toll this morning is now 123 (link), with no indication that it isn't going to go higher. As an aside, to get to the backpackers I mentioned in the previous post, we passed through Latimer Square, now known as location of a triage centre for earthquake victims, and one of the bases of the rescue and recovery effort for the CBD. I find it hard to equate what it looks like now with what it looked like when we were there.

One by one the bloggers reappeared, their regular topics forgotten for now as they related their sobering experiences of being in a large New Zealand city as it experienced what is becoming the biggest disaster to hit this country for a generation.

From the gaming blogger:
Thinking about the what-ifs

The movie blogger:
Truly Reeling

The parenting blogger:
Living through the quake

The librarian blogger, who isn't a professional journalist, but who has a great turn of phrase, won a 'Blog Idol' competition to write for the site, and whose writing I really enjoy:
Everything has shifted

Sleeping in sneakers

And not a regular blogger but worthy of adding to this list is this account from a staffer for Christchurch's daily newspaper:
By all the odds I should be dead

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Christchurch imagery

The city centre from the nearby Port Hills immediately after the earthquake (Click to enlarge, photographer/source unknown):
Series of shots from The (warning, a couple of these might be distressing):

Before and after shots from the NZ Herald:

The backpackers in shot 2 is the one Fi and I stayed at in 2003 (for those who know the story it is the one where the early morning amorous couple in the common lounge incident occurred). From memory our room was in the completely wrecked portion and it is chilling to see it this way.

A similar interactive before and after from

Video of a rescue from one of the collapsed buildings:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Second time unlucky

I had a day off today to try and rest my painfully overstressed calves and ankles after doing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing on Sunday. I was napping around lunchtime when I started dreaming about earthquakes. A phone call a short while later explained why.

Back in September I wrote about Christchurch dodging a bullet. It looks like the second shot had a better and more deadly aim:

65 dead in Christchurch quake

I would be amazed if that number doesn't go higher in the next little while. It has been a very sad and surreal afternoon and evening of news watching, seeing scenes normally only reported from overseas. Wellington is 200 or so miles away from Christchurch, but it was felt here, and I figure I felt it in my sleep, hence the dreaming.

Back in the winter of 2003, Fi and I passed through Christchurch on a holiday. Here is how the city's famous cathedral looked then:
It came through the September quake with minor damage, but here is how it looks now:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Weather fun

From the site last week, someone who gets more excited about bad weather than I do (only slightly to be fair, but this is evidence that such people do exist) in Chicago last week:

I hadn't realised how rare the thunder/snow combo is, which explains why it has been getting so much attention during the recent snowpocalypse/snowmageddon in the States.

Also linked by weatherwatch, but not as smart is a couple of storm chasers getting intimate with a hurricane storm surge:

I can't see any more context than what is on screen, but on the face of it this is pretty dumb for the sake of some footage. Getting knocked down like that can get you in trouble real fast.

On a brighter note, right now on the Weatherwatch front page, you can see a picture I took being used to illustrate an article about Cook Strait research, which is kinda cool. They change their front page article avery few hours or so, so here is a more permanent link. I originally posted it here back in May 2009, and I put it in their gallery around the same time. It is probably just their editor randomly scanning for something to put in the box, but buzz nonetheless :).

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I like it when businesses have a sense of humour

I happened to wander past Unity Books today. They are dealing with renovations to their frontage in their own interesting way by putting these posters on the temporary wall protecting the footpath:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fun with Science

Fun science 1:

After centuries of knowing, or thinking we knew exactly how many planets there were, we are now discovering new ones by the hundreds.

This was covered hither, tither and yon by various sources last week, but Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy blog sums it up pretty well here.

Fun science 2:

Also neatly summarised at Bad Astronomy, we can now look at the whole sun at once via the STEREO mission (link).

Fun science 3:
Invisibility cloak. 'Nuff said.

Fun anti science:
Fox's Bill O'Reilly displays a level of scientific reasoning my two year old could better.

Just for fun, here is O'Reilly encountering the impenetrable wall of logic that is Richard Dawkins, who barely gets out of first gear in owning his host.

Note to media

Emergency landing at Blenheim

1. A DHC-8/Q300 has nose wheels (2) rather than a nose wheel.
2. If said nose wheels fail to lower properly they are not 'missing'; just not where they should be.
3. What happened to a Beech 1900 a few years ago has nothing to do with this.
4. This isn't a 'crash landing' as TV3 news apparently put it, there being no crash.

In other vaguely related interest generating yesterday:
Air New Zealand shoehorns its new toy into Wellington.

Quite liking the comments thread on that one. The report doesn't mention that being empty, the aircraft actually used less runway than some of the regular users. Fully laden it would be a different story (hence why this is something of a one-off), but the take-off was quite spritely as the pics here demonstrate.

It reminds me of the once upon a time (early 80's to be exact) when Boeing 747's used to regularly fly in to Wellington (pic). I was about the age of the kid in the middle at the time (pic is from 1984), and remember them quite well.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Faded Glory

This has been circulated a little bit this week, but I happen to agree with it and think it is an excellent and accurate bit of writing, so I am passing it on again.

Steve Coogan goes a long way toward explaining why Top Gear just isn't that good anymore.

And explaining why 'PC gone mad' is a cop-out argument to boot.

Top Gear used to be appointment viewing. We even built a weekly social occasion around it. Somewhere along the line though, the magic went. The great moments that the episodes used to be full of got fewer and far between, the 'spontaneous' banter and wind-ups more obviously scripted, and the famed challenges more obviously contrived (usually to ensure that Jeremy won), and everyone involved just looking like they were going through the motions. The episodes got less and less enjoyable, less memorable, and we eventually just lost interest, after years of loyal viewing. This whole mexican thing just illustrates how bad it has gotten (while nicely parallelling our own recent experiences with a certain breakfast TV presenter). There has always been a boorish element to it, to be fair, but seldom this daft. What happened? It used to be fun.

Wings over Wairarapa

Some of my shots from the Wings over Wairarapa airshow two weekends ago, shot on the practice day and the show day. The weather was terrible for photography both days, dark, lots of glare and high contrast skies and often wet, but I think I got some okay pics. Click to enlarge.

MX-2 take-off
RNZAF Iroquois
RNZAF Iroquois

P-40N Kittyhawk
P-40E Kittyhawk
How to tell the difference:
The E is an earlier model than the N and has a shorter fuselage. On the E the leading edge of the fin lines up with the leading edge of the tail-planes. On the N the fin is further back.

Corsair and Kittihawk

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


We might moan about the weather a bit here, but at least we don't live somewhere where they get storms that knock out the things designed to measure them.

Willis Island is about 450km off the North Queensland coast, and earlier today suffered a direct hit from the eye of Cyclone Yasi as it approaches the mainland. There is a useful data based account of what happened before the storm neutralised the station here (disclaimer: I'm not sure I endorse the book titles listed on the side of the page, but the analysis is interesting on its own :). )

I also got a screengrab of the raw data from the official government meterology website for the place. Read from the bottom up, the wind can be seen steadily increasing to a steady 141 gusting 185 kph before being overwhelmed. The rain measurement failed a short time later before all telemetry ceased entirely. Sensibly, the place was evacuated of its resident meterologists yesterday, which is good since there is a good chance it is underwater right now due to the storm surge.
For Wellingtonians, the only thing remotely similar to this that has happened here is Cyclone Giselle, otherwise known as 'The Wahine Storm'. The highest reliably recorded gusts around Wellington in that storm were around 250kph. As a Category 5 Tropical Cyclone, Yasi is expected to generate gusts in the 300kph region, and anticipated to make landfall in a few hours (story link).
I like my extreme weather, but even if it turns out not to be as bad as predicted I am still glad this thing is a few thousand kilometers away.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Just not Cricket

Thirty years ago today since the most notorious incident in the history of trans-tasman sport (and the one we have most consistently refused to get over).

The whole over is on youtube:

Once thing I hadn't noticed until today is Bruce Edgar at the non-strikers end giving Trevor Chappell the fingers right after the delivery. Also interesting seeing a very young Ian Smith, players and keepers happily not wearing the extra pads and helmets they do today, and being reminded that while legendary as a bowler, Sir Richard Hadlee could be a useful batsman as well.

I probably watched at least some of the game live, but I don't really remember this as it happened, although it became an inescapable staple reference in almost every backyard cricket game I have ever played (including lunch break cricket at work as an adult). Being four and given the local time it would have screened I was probably already in bed. Apparently though our house got an almost immediate phonecall from a family friend in Australia to apologise.

Edit: I found an interesting Australian piece on it here, with interviews of key participants. It is interesting that it was reviled as much in Australia as here. Someone should point out though that 'piggy' wasn't a term of endearment for Robert Muldoon ("Rob Muldoon before he robs you!").

I do remember Lance Cairns' six sixes a couple of years later:

Legendary moment, so legendary it almost completely overshadows the fact that we got smashed in that game.

Even so, it was probably the greatest era in NZ cricket. It is no wonder the Beige Brigade chose that strip to resurrect. A quick glance at the news tonight reinforces that the current generation = not quite so legendary.