Thursday, September 29, 2011

Google Apollo 11

Courtesy of The Bad Astronomer, this is todays piece of wow. The approach and landing of Apollo 11 reconstructed and visualised using Google Moon synched with the original landing footage and time-stamps. This is way cool:

Record Store Brain Fade

Listening to: Random MP3 again. Right now it is this (not the proper video, because that is on youtube Vevo, and I hate Vevo).

I think at 35 I can reserve the right to be old fashioned about some things. One of those is continuing to buy albums on CD. I like the physical experience of browsing the record store, finding the thing you want, that you might have been looking for for ages, and checking out the artwork and inlay while you listen to it. In the age of everything being available on MP3, I feel we are diminishing one of the essential parts of the music experience: listening to a track in context of the album it came from. Sometimes albums are a collection of otherwise unrelated tracks, but other times they flow and feed off each other.

I tend to be handicapped in the record store process though, in that while not shopping I know exactly which albums I'm interested in, once in the store I often forget which they are. In this way, albums I have meant to buy for years slip through the cracks.

A couple I have rediscovered recently.

One of them is this one, solely on the basis of this track:

I quite like what the poster has done with the video too. It works very very well.

Another one is this, which always reminds me of a rainy day in the summer of 2005/6, when we would listening to the radio in the lounge with the door to our deck open, the relaxing sight and sound mixing easily with the music. I never picked this one up at the time mainly because I could never figure out what the song was actually called.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bloggus Interruptus

Listening to: MP3 on random. Just played this track which might be a bit of a Cure rip but I like a lot anyway. Now it has moved on to this.

Been a slight slowdown in blogging lately, for a few reasons. I've got a bunch of upcoming posts that I ruminate on and draft bits of in my head when away from the computer, but then I get home and just meh out, unable to summon the mental energy or remember with clarity what I had composed so clearly a few hours before. Even when the thing is perfectly mentally composed, often translating that into writing doesn't quite work. It isn't like I'm stuck for inspiration or anything, but focusing up to write this thing coherently can be a bit challenging of late.

One big reason for bloggus interruptus a couple of weeks ago was Charlotte needing to be hospitalised overnight with a food blockage in her throat, then a few unsettled nights after that while she took on an ear infection. The blockage we can't clear has happened once or twice before, but only once has she needed medical intervention to resolve it. The hospital visit highlighted one of the complete pain-in-the-arse things we have found about having a child with a slightly rare physiological layout (I don't like calling it a 'condition', makes it sound like a disease). You have to explain it again, and again, and AGAIN, to people, including health professionals and even they don't quite get it sometimes. Over the course of the evening Fi had to tell the story and background at triage, then to the attending nurse, then to the attending doctor, then again in the morning to the ward doctor. Another thing that is sometimes troublesome is convincing the professionals we do know what we are talking about and aren't mistaken/panicky, exaggerating etc.

Her visit to the surgeon yesterday to see if her throat needed another widening as a result of the blockage (it doesn't quite yet) was one of the few times that everyone in the hospital room was on the same page. Sometimes we feel like we need to write everything down on a business card, so we can hand it to people:

"She was born with TOF, had corrective surgery at 1 day old, no she isn't vomiting, no she isn't choking, she is just coughing up the food that won't get past the stricture in her throat, this is just something she does occasionally, not all the time, any questions?".

I especially want to throw one of those at the people who give us judgemental disapproving looks when she has a cough in a public place.

Meh, things could be worse. Other parents have to deal with a lot more, and even for what she has she is very lucky in comparison to others. If she had been born with the same thing only sixty years ago before the surgical fix was developed she would have died.

That's not very cheery. So to end on a nicer note here is a cool jet video. The Buccaneer was a British strike/attack design from the 50's built to fly from the Royal Navy's aircraft carriers. It was well designed and strong, and very good at what it did, so good that it outlasted at least three different design proposals for something similar for the land based Royal Air Force before being adopted for that service as well. Retired in 1994, one of the things Buccaneers were known for was flying very low, very fast to evade interception (something the RNZAF also excelled at while they still had the means incidentally). Most of this video was shot out of Gibraltar in the early 90's, and while being on the boat at 1:09 would be cool, the bit from about 2:20 is just mesmerising; it isn't often that ships look down on passing aircraft :).

Monday, September 26, 2011

Now we are three

Yiddle Charlotte (she doesn't really do 'L's yet, but that was something her dad took five years to master) is three as of last weekend. We had a follow up visit with her surgeon today, and that was a reminder of how far she has come.

Here she is on her actual birthday (Saturday), being her inquisitive self:
And with yiddle Sophie, sleeping off a hard day of excitement:
And with her equally amazing mum, unintentionally (I swear) rocking the same T-shirt a few weeks ago.
She had a fairy birthday party yesterday, and Sophie who is closing in on five months old now made sure she dressed theme appropriate:
Before busting out a few moves on the Jolly Jumper

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Some shots from the Petone Winter Carnival and Fireshow last weekend (which was confusingly held in spring this year, the same day in fact as another nearby local spring carnival. Someone said it was something to do with a certain tournament involving an oval ball).
One of those unplanned shots that kinda works. I was taking a pic of all the lights on the beachfront when Charlotte decided she wanted to be in it too.
Petone Wharf
One of those carnival ride spinny nausea generator things.
Burning the fire sculptures

Boats waiting for the fireworks

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

This Old House

Maybe "Burning Down The House" would have been a better song to nick a post title from:

(Pic credit 

The old house in Allenby Terrace has burned again, this time probably terminally. The fact of a house fire isn't particularly significant, but this house in particular seems to have been some kind of hub amongst my circle of friends. Fi and I know at least half a dozen or more people who have flatted within its walls in the last decade or so, not always in the same flat, and not always known to each other even. I never lived there but remember it well from many visits and the occasional crash.

The building was over a hundred years old; for one flat the toilet and bathroom was outside across the yard in the old servants quarters. Originally one elegant house, by the time we got to know it there were separate flats across it's three floors, and the building was utterly dilapidated in true low-rent student accommodation tradition. I recall a particularly memorable pyjama party in one flat in mid 1999. At the end of the year we gathered there to use it as a launch pad for heading into town to see in the new millennium. 

In the mid-2000's I helped repaint a room in another part of the building; there were pieces of cardboard blocking holes in the floor and ceiling. A fire in 2009 (link) saw the place condemned, and a friend of mine living in the redecorated room below the fire forced to relocate (which I blogged about here ). 

I have fond memories of this place, and even though it's demise was inevitable, it is still a bit sad to see it go. That said, and the danger to neighbouring properties notwithstanding, maybe a Viking Funeral was a fitting end for a multi-storeyed and multi-storied abode. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


There is one part of Rugby Inc. I haven't got bored of yet, and that is the Haka. "Ka Mate" is the most famous, but I'm not sure it is well known outside NZ and the Pacific Islands that there are dozens if not hundreds of haka. I can still remember the moves to my high school haka, even if I haven't actually performed it for close to eighteen years. Part challenge, and part psyche-up when it is done right it sets the atmosphere up perfectly, and the opposition response is always interesting to watch. The best opposition response of all though is another haka, like at the RWC opener last Friday. Our Ka Mate versus Tonga's Sipi Tau:

There was some discussion before the game about if the performances would be separated (probably a slow news day). They did them together at RWC 2003, and it was awesome:

At the risk of being disloyal, having seen Ka Mate a squillion times in my life, I think I prefer Sipi Tau, just because it is much more dynamic in it's movements. I'm also liking the 'official' AB Kapa O Pango haka introduced a few years ago:

Manu Samoa's Siva Tau is pretty cool too:

And better not forget Fiji while I'm at it:

Despite my cynical earlier posts about the RWC, now that the thing has actually started and there are games to watch it is slightly more engaging.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ten years on

Front page of the Dominion, 12 September 2001 (yes, I kept the papers. I do that when I think the event warrants it).
Front page of the Evening Post (remember when Wellington had two dailies?), 12 September 2001.
The post date would suggest that this should have been written yesterday, but for us in New Zealand it was already the twelfth by the time what would become known as September Eleventh happened. Ten years removed it is still something that defies simple comprehension. The reasons for it go back many years, and it will be resonating for years to come.

The first airliner impact occurred at 12:46am NZST. Back then I was living with my girlfriend (now wife) Fi, and three other friends in the Kings Crescent flat we had occupied a couple of months previously. Fi's brother-in-law was touring the US, and the first thing we knew of anything unusual occurring was being awakened at dawn by a somewhat garbled phonecall from Fi's mum to say he was okay, but stuck in Denver since all flights had been grounded. Apparently a plane had crashed into the Pentagon or something. At the time I thought it was a Cessna or something, unusual, significant, but ultimately not a huge deal. I would check it out when I got up at the usual time an hour or so later.

September 12th was a beautiful spring morning in Wellington, the sun shining in clear blue skies. Wandering into the kitchen for breakfast I flicked on the TV for the morning news. The first thing I saw was a replay of this shot:
Naively I quickly thought "Wow I didn't realise the approach for JFK was so close to Manhattan". Then the jet didn't emerge from the other side of the towers, and the vivid orange yellow fireball manifested, accompanied by the twinkling of thousands of pieces of shattered glass.


Unlike many, I didn't think for a second this was a movie. Having been a plane spotter all my life, I knew the real thing when I saw it. I was mistaken in one respect though. Initially I thought it was a Boeing 737 that had crashed, and thought, well it could be worse. Only a few minutes later I realised it was a much larger 767.

Oh again. In the next few minutes the whole picture as it was unfolded. This being about 7am, the Towers themselves were long down by the time I was aware of it, and the seemingly endless replaying of the events there and at the Pentagon had begun. At about that time, one of the other flatmates walked in, a mix of horror and awe on his face. He had been watching things unfold in his room, and had been to the towers themselves only a couple of years before. I don't recall much being said. I had prepared breakfast, but suddenly found I didn't have any appetite.

At work we technicians and engineers gathered around a TV, with the only conversation being educated comment on the structure of the buildings. No-one was surprised they fell. History in the making or not, there was still work to do, and gradually we drifted away. Later I would hear on the radio about carriers being deployed off the east coast, and fighters flying patrols over major US cities. These were things I had read about in speculative fiction, but hearing them in reality was surreal, and unsettling.

Getting home we watched the wall to wall coverage for a while, then just had to turn it off. The jumpers in particular choosing one final act of control over their destiny haunted me the most, and still do. A still image of one group who must have decided to go together reminded me of skydivers exiting a plane, except these people had no parachutes. Another memory is of a replay of the second WTC impact being cued up on air. The jet hit the building, then reversed out of it, then hit it again, then reversed back. For hundreds it was alive, dead, alive, dead.

Another thought that crystallised that night, was that even though they were still counting the dead, I also realised many more were going to be killed as a result of this day. Looking back, the feeling is mostly of sadness, of missed opportunities, of some justified responses, and other regrettable ones. What has truly been accomplished, what we have gained or lost in the War on Terror is uncertain. Occasionally I hear expressed a longing to return to the 'Good Old Days' of the Cold War in preference to how things are now. While I don't really agree with it (the bits of the Cold War I remember were a really, really scary time), I can understand it; there was much more perceived certainty of the challenges the world faced then.

Two weeks later my father and I hopped on a plane for a weekend in Sydney. We had been planning to go to Brisbane for an airshow, but it had been cancelled, the various militaries involved (including the USAF) suddenly having more pressing things to do, besides the airshow itself being seen as a possible target. The signs of the new world we were in were already emerging. I couldn't regard the Boeing 767's at Sydney airport the way I used to, as simple aircraft to enjoy. On ascending Sydney Tower I enjoyed the view, but suddenly got very uncomfortable. Every few seconds or so there was a small shudder on the viewing deck, I think from the revolving restaurant. Combined with the height, suddenly it was a place I was happy to leave. On leaving we noted that all the eateries at the airport had given up their metal cutlery, with apologetic notes of explanation. When breakfast was served after takeoff though, we were presented with stainless steel knives (with serrated edges) and forks to eat with. Clearly there was still some figuring out to do.

In every life there are points when things change, and the way things were before get hard to remember. Usually they are good, like me meeting my wife-to-be, or the birth of my children. Sometimes they are a bit more complicated. My daughters will grow up in a world where the events and ramifications of 9/11 are history, with no knowledge of when the Twin Towers were just a pair of very tall buildings.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Lunar awesomeness

In the past few weeks as an offshoot of it's Lunar mapping mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has been taking detailed images of the Apollo landing sites of 1969-72. There is a backgrounder from stuff here, with a really nice summary at Bad Astronomy here.

Here is the LRO shot of the second landing site (Apollo 12, November 1969). You can see the footprints left by astronauts Pete Conrad and Alan Bean as they conducted their explorations (picture credit NASA, click to enlarge):
And here is Pete Conrad making some of those footprints as he investigates the unmanned Surveyor 3 probe that preceded the astronauts by a couple of years (picture credit NASA, click to enlarge):
They are awesome because they are the most basic of human calling cards, and they on another world. And since there is no weather on the moon, they will be there essentially forever if left undisturbed (Transformers and Independence Day Aliens notwithstanding).

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Born on Mother's Day, Christened on Father's Day

Sophie was born on Mother's Day this year, so christening her on Father's Day on Sunday was a nice coincidence. She was christened wearing the same baptismal gown worn by her mother, aunt, and two cousins, and no bottles of champagne were broken over anything in the process :)

Sunday, September 04, 2011


Its a year ago today since the first earthquake in Christchurch, and 'normal' got redefined. A resident blogger looks back here. A year ago "liquefaction" was introduced to the national vocabulary. A little over six months later we would get "Red Zone".

I found these videos on Friday taken by a contractor working in Christchurch's cordoned off central city.

I've only been to Christchurch half a dozen times or so, never for more than a week, so can't claim to be intimately familiar with the place. I am quite familiar with some of the places in the videos though. Having seen them alive and full of energy as the central part of New Zealand's second largest city, seeing them covered in dust, empty, still and broken, knowing what happened there and that they have been that way for six months is more than a little sad and unsettling. They just look wrong.

P.S. This is post 666 of this blog. Seems mildly appropriate.

Friday, September 02, 2011

2011 Model Expo and Nats

So a couple of weekends ago it was showtime for the 2011 IPMS National competition and Model Expo held in Lower Hutt, basically the biggest model show in the country. Being a member of the hosting club I volunteered at the show both days, helping setup and packdown, and minding a table to answer questions and make sure nothing got broken. Some find table minding can be a bit tedious but I kind of enjoy it. I like seeing people react and talk to each other about what's on the table, and I enjoy asking questions about it. And seeing people take a particular interest in one of my models has a certain buzz to it.

Also creating a slight buzz this year was having someone-who-is-kind-of-a-big-deal in the hobby attending (having a standard setting kit producer based here helps). He did a show report on his site here, which was a buzz for me since he showcased two of my models (taking better pics of them than I did). I also know both the guys in the cheesy-for-effect "be spontaneously wowed at this awesome new release" shot.

He also did a video report which you can see here, which is a bit, um, interesting to watch. I'm glimpsed in the ticket booth near the start, but am stuck in the background from about 4:24, knowing he's filming, trying to look anywhere but at the camera, but unable to move due to the guys judging to my left blocking me in behind the table.

The show itself was in two parts, the annual IPMS New Zealand National competition for IPMS members, and the Model Expo for the general public and club members who didn't want to enter the national comp.

My best result this time was getting third in the national competition for a box-stock (no added bits or modifications) Stuka. It's a minor category, but any result at this level is cool. In terms of skill it really is playing with the big kids stuff. It might not be the biggest show in the world, but the quality of the workmanship is second to none anywhere.
My B-58 also picked up a second in one of the Expo classes, having placed second in the National equivalent two years ago (a model that has placed at a previous nationals can't be entered into the nationals again).
Rounding out my placings was a first in class for my Skyhawk group, but that doesn't really count since they were the only thing in the class :).
In terms of other stuff I took but didn't place, my tiny 1/100 Zero and 1/106 Shinden made the show.
And my 1/72 Thunderbolt:
And my 1/72 F-111, here in company with another build of the same kit by a friend.
And my 1/72 Canberra.
I quite like how the Zero turned out, even if I didn't notice I missed painting a spot before getting it to the show.
Not mine, but something I will be doing soon is a "what-if" RNZAF F-16. More of a "what was planned" in our case, since they were actually signed and sealed before the delivered bit was cancelled by a change of government.
There was stuff other than aircraft at the show, but I was only taking pics of the things I was particularly interested in. One of my favourite models at the show was this 1/48 Buccaneer:
The junior section of the local club did this cool RNZAF Pacific WWII diorama.
Cool Air America UH-1. Air America was the CIA front airline in southeast Asia during the Vietnam war era, and the model depicts one of the last helicopters flown out at the fall of Saigon in 1975.
This awesome 1/72 Harvard was built by a father and son. The picture doesn't really show how tidy a build it is, practically flawless.
Not the usual ship in a bottle
Dominating their table were these two radio controlled flying models, a Spitfire IX, and F-15 Eagle.
The F-15 is jet powered, has a full set of lights, and coolest of all, LED afterburners.