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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Michael JasonSmith's LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, February 8th, 2011
11:06 am
Someone has to Pay

— Canberra

Today the Commonwealth Treasurer announced that only the ACT will pay the new disaster levy. “Queensland is clearly exempt, because it had the cyclone”, Wayne Swan stated. He continued, “similarly, Victoria is exempt due to the recent flooding.” Western Australia has been exempted because of recent bush fires.

Lobbying by New South Wales premier Kristina Keneally has paid off, with the Treasurer also exempting everyone in the most populous state of the Commonwealth. “I listened to her arguments, and I agree that those in New South Wales should be exempt because they are too stupid to realise that house prices do not always increase; they have mortgages, and they need to be paid.”

The Northern Territory as been exempted. “It is not like anyone there earns any money, and we cold not find them if we wanted to”, Swan said, attempting humour.

Tasmania is also set to skip the levy. Lara Giddings is understood to have entered negotiations with the New Zealand Government. While no release has been made to the media, it is understood that the premier is wanting to remove Tasmania from the Commonwealth and seeking membership of Australia's eastern neighbour. An unconfirmed source said “it is not like Australia will miss us.”

Adelaide is holding a Cheer Up Australia Festival. “We are coping with the recent problems the way South Australians always cope with problem”, said festival organiser Bob Young. “Maybe if everyone cheers up thinks will not be so bad!” Swan confirmed that the festival will be taken as South Australia's contribution to the disaster relief.

Finally, the ACT has had a 2000% increase in incomes, due to higher incomes for civil servants. The treasurer described it as “coincidental” that the increase would be entirely taken up by what has been the new levy. He was also unable to be drawn by where the money would come from to pay for the income rise. “I am confident the Commonwealth will balance its books,” he stated before leaving the press conference.

Sunday, September 5th, 2010
11:20 am
Earthquake from a Distance

While I live in Canberra I come from Christchurch. I have a lot of friends and family that have been caught up in the recent earthquake. While not as unpleasant as being in a large earthquake, finding out about it was a shock.

Part One: The Discovery

As normal, on Saturday morning I started my computer so I could Skype my parents. As normal the news came up; the news was not normal.

    Magnitude 7.1

Shit. My phone was off, as I forgot to turn it on after the movie last night. I turned it on and a text-message came in: Massive earthquake in Christchurch. Thanks, Sis, but how are Mum and Dad? I finally got headset, sound settings and Skype in the right order so I could place the call. Would the phone network be up? I was very glad to hear the phone ring.

My Dad answered, happy and relieved. The house road out the earthquake like it had rode out every other earthquake. Both my folks were full of stories of shaking and rolling, and of heavy snow that fell the previous day. I managed to calm down, until I realised that my partner's phone would be off too.

Shit. I started hunting for my partner's phone. Where is your phone? I asked the lump of duvet.

In my purse, replied the lump. It wasn't. I stated as much as I looked through other bags. What? Why? she inquired. I shoved my laptop in her face as a reply. The headlines catapulted her out of bed.

Another Skype call established that the sin-laws were fine too.

Part Two: The Checking

The rest of the morning, and half of the afternoon, was spent checking up on everyone in Christchurch. My workmates were on Skype chat, and there we updated each other on friends, and shared links to news and photos. I also kept a very shaken friend company on Skype for most of the morning, and my partner chatted to her old geology supervisor who lived in the middle of the hard-hit central business district.

Facebook was my tool of choice for keeping abreast of how people were, as it usually brought in in Twitter feeds as well as normal Facebook status updates and comments. There I reassured other expats that everyone seems fine. I used Flickr to gather photos of the damage, and Stuff to keep up with official news.

When the games of guess the aftershock magnitude (with thanks to GeoNet) started up I knew that everyone was fine. In end four or five friends were displaced, one had been threatened with arrest (as he broke the cordon to restore a mail server) and my favourite bagel shop had been destroyed (providing with the Flickr community with a good subject).

With things settling down across the Tasman my partner and I met a friend for coffee. There we summarised the news of the day and passed on distilled wisdom of seventy years of paranoid earthquake preparation: build with timber framing, secure loose objects (with Blu Tac), ensure cabinets are fixed to the walls, and when the big one hits shelter in door frames. We then laughed at how New Zealand manages to have a very civil emergency:

  • The police had caught the two looters soon after the idiots had broken into the liquor store.
  • The Prime Minister first heard of the earthquake from his sister (who lives in Christchurch) rather than through any official channels.
  • Everything was cordoned off and sorted out with amazing speed.

The saddest realisation was that things will be really different in Christchurch when I return for Christmas. I still hope I can get a good bagel…

Current Mood: contemplative
Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
8:49 pm
Australia is Cold

Australia is cold. Not all the time, but sometimes it is cold. The reason it is cold, I think, is because it is high. Amazingly and surprisingly high.

An April frost in Kosciuszko National Park.

New Zealand mountains are very different to Australian mountains. New Zealand mountains are very steep. They rise out of the ocean, or plains, and go up. Then we build steep streets on them.

In contrast, I can not recall seeing the Blue Mountains from Sydney. However, if I drive inland I slowly get higher. My home in Canberra, nestled between the Blue and Snowy Mountains, is at 600m — the same altitude as Queenstown (New Zealand’s premier four season lake and alpine resort) and 200m higher than Hanmer (New Zealand’s alpine spa village). Three hours to the east, Oberon in the Blue Mountains is at 1100m, higher than the highest paved road New Zealand. Three hours to the west, the Snowy Mountains Highway passes 1,450m between Cooma and Yarrangobilly. That is a huge area at altitude. I think I am really going to enjoy exploring it.

Current Mood: curious
Tuesday, April 6th, 2010
9:41 pm

Easter was hard. I came down with a bad case of homesickness for the first time since I moved to Australia in May.

I almost always spend some of Holy Week at my parents' place in the foothills of the Southern Alps, inland from Christchurch. Easter is a good holiday in Canterbury. Blackberries and apples are being harvested ― and both go well with spiced buns and chocolate. There is a lovely crispness to the air, the Sun is still warm during the day, but keeping a jersey handy is a good idea.

But this year I was in Australia. Australia can get cold: its snowfields are larger than those in New Zealand. However, it is not that cold, and it is not cold yet, even in Canberra. So I was pining for crispness to go with my chocolate and currant buns. To make matters worse, Michele had picked the Eurobodalla coast as the location for our Easter holiday. It is a staggeringly beautiful part of the world, but us more noted for its rainforests than its frosts.

Sadly, neither Michele and myself I had not realised that the holiday destination was going to work with my homesickness. It was not a problem at first. Like everyone else from the ACT we were heading for the coast, down the King's Highway. We stopped at the small town of Braidwood. There we had dinner and a show, watching our fellow Canberrans crawl past, and the odd quiet nose-to-tail with a P-Plater (person on a restricted divers licence).

It was not until we had made our way down the coast to Narooma, set up camp, and started to look around the beach that I became quite homesick. The sand was golden; the water was warm (albeit rough); the light breeze had a tang of salt spray. It was nothing like home.

Saturday was the worst day. The fun of the Central Tilba fair did not linger with me. I was rudely indifferent about Mystery Bay.

Still, the good was far better than the bad. Coffee on the Narooma foreshore was really good, and had a view to match. The Central Tilba fair was fun, and I met a pack dog. The rainforest was beautiful, and contained unexpected surprises both visual and aural. And that was a bad day.

Easter Sunday was quite religious. It started with a servant of Ēostre zipping past on a scooter. We then went up the road to Ulladulla, to the blessing of the fleet ceremony. It was a fun ceremony, with a parade, boats with bunting, men in dresses, and the waving of a moistened mop at the boats. (As much as I make fun of the Holy See, I still crossed myself during the blessing.)

Monday saw Michele and me make our way home, stopping off at some wonderful walks. We found a nice calm beach, but blessedly it was starting to get cool…

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009
7:48 pm
Watching Science

I watched The Elegant Universe with Michele. As we sat there — watching Brian Greene walk through the stories of Newton, Maxwell and Einstein — Michele wondered out loud why teaching science seems to be the same as teaching the history of science. Are gravity waves so weird that we cannot introduce them without going through the (bogus) tale of Newtwon and the apple? How much harm is caused by teaching things that are known to be wrong?

Current Mood: relaxed
Sunday, August 2nd, 2009
12:05 pm
Life Continues

I am almost feeling settled in Canberra. I still need a couple of cards (library and driver's license) and I need to assure myself that I am paying tax in the correct country, but otherwise things are settling down nicely.

Michele and I had our first visitors, when her parents came over. It was a great excuse to go around Canberra and do the tourist things like visit Parliament, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Botanic Gardens, the National…

Joyously I managed to see a platypus at Tidbinbilla when we all visited. Sadly I only had my cellphone with me, so the photo is not that great, but I assure you, it is a platypus. While watching the platypus swim in its dam I thought how embarrassing it must have been for the first person to discover that the platypus is venomous. How would you explain to someone that the bird-beaver creature is actually a bird-beaver-snake creature that has fangs in its feet?

Working remotely (from Canberra to Christchurch) has turned out to be far less of a hassle than I feared it would be. My time over the last three weeks has been tied up with creating part of a bespoke student management system, specifically the subsystem for recording and displaying marks. After a couple of weeks work I think we have a design that accurately reflects the how the client does business, shows what the client wants to show, and does not show what the client does not want to show. On the down side, a lot of the work has involved relational-database design, which I am bad at and dislike.

The only other notable IT-related event of late is the recent fuss over the New Zealand Ministry of Education agreeing to try and sort out the mess that is IT education in Godzone. I waded through the reports and press releases, and I even took notes, but I have not had a chance to write anything up. Give me a bump if you want to read my take on things, and I will see what I can do.

Current Mood: awake
Wednesday, July 8th, 2009
1:42 pm
A Clockwork Hamilton

The idea of using classical music to fix people keeps coming up.

Playing classical music and beefing up security are measures Hamilton business people reckon could ease antisocial behaviour in the downtown area.

Have these people never seen A Clockwork Orange?

With thanks to John Safran. Enjoy your milk.

Current Mood: confused
Saturday, June 27th, 2009
3:49 pm
Learning the Magician's Tricks

I like figuring out how things work. I like learning the magician's tricks, or how a salesman sells.

We finished our morning shopping, so Michele headed off to throw a disc with some friends. I headed back to our flat with the goods. I took a slight detour to pick up some snacks and a toothbrush. (I am a conflicted man.) I walked through the Canberra Centre letting the sights and sounds wash over me ― it is much like any other mall, so I did not need to pay too much attention to my surrounds. A man with Arafat-like stubble, a brochure, and a cosmetics stand caught my eye.

Do you know how to get dates easily? he asked.

Yes. What? Pardon‽ I responded over the din of the mall.

He tried again: Sorry, it is my accent. Do you where the Dead Sea is? His smile was as broad as his accent as he reeled in his catch.

I was about to launch into a monologue that would illustrate my extensive knowledge of West Asia, its geography, and geopolitics, but he did not seem interested. Yes I stated. I had time, and I wanted to see how the magician pulled his trick.

As he used his miracle product on my wrist he talked about how it was sourced from the Dead Sea. He talked about all the wonderful vitamins and minerals in its waters. I was going to ask why is it dead if it is so great, but that would have ruined the show. First cream on; first cream off. Second cream on. Now for the reveal: lets compare my wrists!

Actually there was a difference. The one with the cream looked far more pale than the other. Was it the cream? Was it that one wrist was elevated and the other was hanging down by my side for the last few minutes? Should a person as pasty as me become more pale? What would the experimental-design for the evaluation look like? (Could I get away with a between-subjects evaluation?) I left the questions unasked, because he had a special offer.

The special offer was an eye-cream. I have had medicines for my eye, and it is awful. I was relieved that it was for my eyelid and that apparently the webbing between thumb and forefinger would provide an adequate analogue. Cream three on.

Look at the difference it makes with using it just once, exclaimed the West Asian cosmetics pusher. He was right, the skin had become less wrinkled. Disturbingly so: if each application was as great as the first time I would soon be left with the same range of expressions as the news presenter on Win.

I figured out that he had given my hand a massage applying the cream, which would have increased the blood flow, smoothing out the wrinkles. Cute trick. While he explained the prices (ouch) I worked on the design of another experiment: between subjects at two levels would require 60 participants…

Sure enough there was little difference between the wrinkles on my hands after fifteen minutes. I did not buy any of the creams, but I am glad I learnt something from the magician.

Current Mood: contemplative
Monday, May 25th, 2009
9:13 pm
Fourteen Days

I have now been in Australia for a fortnight. I do not feel settled, but I am feeling more settled. For those that have not been keeping an eagle-eye on me, I have moved to Canberra to be closer to Michele. While I have moved, my job has not: I have joined the ranks of telecommuters, operating remotely from their employer. All in all, things are going much to plan, with only one big hiccup along the way. Hopefully smooth sailing will continue, with the help of my whanau and friends.

Canberra may seem like an odd place to move to, as most Kiwis seem to move to the larger cities of Sydney, Melbourne or Perth. I have my reason: Michele. She is studying for her doctorate at The Australian National University (ANU) — which is in Canberra along with many other National things. For the last year she has been in Pasadena with her external supervisor, Mike Brown. I did not follow her to California, because that would have involved many a visa issue. (I did visit her, however.) There are no such issues for a Kiwi to move to Australia, so I have of off loaded a heap of stuff and followed Michele to Canberra.

I like my job working for OnlineGroups.Net. I like working with Dan and Alice and Richard, and it seemed silly to leave, just as I got our main client nicely trained up, just because of a silly sea. So I kept working for OnlineGrops. All I really need to do my job is a laptop, and they work fine in Australia. Here I have been working in my little room, which has been my temporary accommodation for the last fortnight. I use email to keep up to date, with some help from Skype when synchronous communication is needed. I spend most of my time online with Alice, who left for London the same time as I left for Canberra. We are the main development force, so it makes sense that I work more closely with her than our boss, Dan, who is in Christchurch. I miss chatting to our clients, but I still get to write email messages with Monty Python references. All in all, the first two weeks has been successful. Maybe too successful as it is hard to escape work when I sleep in the same room.

The reason the room is so small is because of the one hiccup that Michele and I have had on our trip over. We were meant to get a double room at University House, but we ended up with a single. For the last two weeks it has not been a problem, as Michele has been at Siding Springs Observatory, observing Haumea and attending the opening of the SkyMapper telescope, which she will be using for part of her thesis. Thanks to All Homes Michele and I managed to form a good flat-hunting team. She would look for ads at night, in between hand-holding the telescope. During the day I would send off email messages and phone people. We may just have found something, but I do not want to jinx it by saying too much!

Despite this little hiccup, things are going very well. I have a lot of whanau in Canberra — a sister, brother in law, two cousins and a wonderful aunt — who have helped me settle in. This weekend I went shopping for a matres (as Michele and I will need one when we get our new place) and I started to get a feel for Canberra, and started to feel like I could live here.

Current Mood: satisfied
Tuesday, May 5th, 2009
1:08 pm
Apple Users

I was discussing the reliability of Apple Macintosh computers in the office.

I have never had a problem with my Mac.
Really‽ My sister has had a power brick die on her, my significant other has had a Macbook die on her, her iMac had a CD fail…
Oh, I have had a CD die in one of mine.
See! The Steve Jobs reality distortion field strikes again.
Sunday, March 1st, 2009
11:11 am
Bealey Memories II
Kitchen. Morning.

Sunday is a special day for me. It is a time for me to enjoy the company of myself and my flat. On Saturday I am often in town, with Andreas or lifeofbell or selidor or (usually) Tim Evans. But Sunday is alone time, for the most part.

I am an early riser — I blame my army brat background for that — so I am usually the only one awake on Sunday mornings. Just me, the flat and Christchurch slowly waking. I will turn on the coffee maker (left as a thank you by a random who stayed with us for a month after Roz and CC befriended her in Nelson) and settle down in a seat in the corner of the kitchen. I will read, and watch the morning light filter through the trees or listen to the rain come down on the roof.

Normally I listen to the radio, tuned to the Jazz Show on RDU. Tim Wright (alias Crazy Tim) used to host the Jazz Show when he flatted with me at Bealey Ave. He annoyed many long-time listeners because he rarely played jazz: Boards of Canada, The Orb, and Godspeed You Black Emperor were staple fare on his show. He claimed that the official name of the show was The Random Jazz Show, and it was his job to provide the Random in the form of his favourite electronica acts. His greatest moment came one morning when the MP3 he intended to play was not cued up in time for the start of his show — leaving dead air. Panicking slightly, he hit play on the CD player. The words She had the hymen that always grew back… were broadcast as The Tale of Miss Virginia Epitome by Coldcut was played on a station that moments before was playing Flick the Little Fire Engine. Apparently the presenters of the Children's Show, which had just finished, were rather shocked. I was laughing loudly in the kitchen of Bealey Ave.

After breakfast I spend time with the flat, doing my laundry, vacuuming, dishes, dusting, cleaning, tidying and sorting. Around midday I walk down Papanui Road to the Fresh Choice supermarket, the best supermarket in Christchurch, and buy my groceries for dinner and the coming week.

Every Sunday evening I cook dinner for all comers. I am not sure how my Sunday night tradition started. As with so much of my life at Bealey Ave it seemed to be a natural progression from what had come before. I enjoy cooking, but I do not enjoy cooking for just myself. I suppose I agree with lifeofbell that food is love. What makes the tradition more peculiar is I am not one for throwing parties; I cannot recall ever instigating one. However, I have served up to twelve people at my dinners, which is a lot in a small flat. Normally numbers are far smaller: six is usual. Tim Evans will bring beer, selidor supply Pimms and lemonade, Hugh and Geoff will proffer wine and cheese. We will eat dinner, and settle back and watch Top Gear or Dr Who.

Today is my last Sunday at Bealey Ave. I will be making pizza, using a dough recipe that Tim Wright acquired from a Canadian friend. The Sun is shining in the kitchen, I have laundry to hang out, and time with Top Gear and friends to look forward to.

Current Mood: nostalgic
Friday, February 27th, 2009
11:08 pm
Bealey Memories
Hugh&apos;s Heap

In Love Actually the aged rock star played by Bill Nighy realises that, over the years, he has fallen in love with his manager (in a totally platonic way). In some ways, I am the fat old manager to Hugh's rock star, but like Bill Nighy's character I was surprised by a relationship that crept up on me.

I spent eight years living with my sisters, from their birth until I moved to boarding school at thirteen. At the grand-old age of 25 I moved into Tim's room and became a member of The Bealey Ave Massive. I was only meant to be there a short while, paying part of Tim's rent while he was away in the United States. But then I took over Claire's room when she returned to Jersey for a holiday, and Victoria's room when she moved out. And in V's room I have stayed, upstairs from Hugh, for six years.

Tim knew Hugh from Masterton. How they knew each other I do not really know, but I first met Hugh when he lived in The Gecko House near the Bealey Ave end of Durham Street. When the flat beneath Tim's became available, Tim and Claire suggested that Hugh and his flatmates move in, as their abode faced demolition. So they moved. Then I moved in upstairs, and Hugh and I became neighbours.

Hugh was not a happy person when I first new him. Not miserable, but not a person happy with either himself or his place in the world. He was working in retail — which tends to be a dead-end job in New Zealand, no matter how well you do it; if Hugh does something he likes to do it well, so retail was not the right career for him.

About four years ago Clare convinced Hugh to accompany her on short massage course. Hugh turned out to be very good at massage. Hugh then took a full year massage therapy course. I recall his kitchen table covered in books on anatomy and therapy techniques. Around this time he took up a job at the local booze barn. He was still working in retail, which did not impress him, but now Hugh could afford good booze.

Black Velvet

When Hugh does something, he likes to do it well, and drinking is no exception. He has an excellent palette, and thanks to the staff discount at the booze barn he could finally afford drink that suited it. I like to think I was helping, when Hugh came upstairs with wine to try. Or sitting on the back lawn sampling Champagne. Or mixing cocktails using Tanqueray. But mostly we were two friends hanging out and chatting about booze, music, the weather, films, TV and girls. Over the years Hugh managed to drink enough booze, and train his palette well enough, that he is now recognised as a wine critic (yes, that Hugh).

Hugh started to… fit in the world; Hugh became happy. He seemed to love his job as a massage therapist, and had a hobby that he was good at and recognised as doing very well. But Hugh cannot be truly happy unless he is doing his best, so he made the decision to move to Auckland to train as a chiropractor.

Six years after I moved in I found myself helping Hugh move out. The garden shed was full of junk from our former flatmates, and as the last of the old guard it had fallen to Hugh and myself to clean things up. Four trailer loads of dusty, broken, faded memories we took to the tip. Then Hugh was no longer my neighbour.

Current Mood: thankful
Thursday, January 29th, 2009
9:40 am
Buying a Computer

Why is is so hard to buy products from IT vendors in New Zealand? There are little follies, like having your best monitor off, and not connected to a machine. Then there is my drama trying to buy a Eee PC 901 with Linux.

I Google. I check out Price Spy. I go to the websites of the stores, credit-card primed and ready. I want to give these people money. I see the product listings, but they are fantasy. There are no little boxes. There are Windows XP versions of the Eee PC 901, but no Linux machines (and let that be a lesson for you). I am up to the point that I no longer trust any listing from any store. Actually, Fusion Digital Communications claim to have some in stock — and I believe them, because they make it very hard to buy anything off them. Too hard for me. If they cannot get my money from me, when they are the last in the nation with one of the machines, they have issues.

Rumour has it that the Eee PC 901HA will be released in New Zealand soon. Soon…

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009
9:01 pm
Eee PC 901

Hopefully the wheels of commerce are rolling my new computer to me. The machine I selected is a ASUS Eee PC 901, one of those little netbook devices that is smaller than a notebook, but bigger than a phone. It is replacing my eight-year old PC, which I will write about when I have my new machine.

I looked at the ASUS Eee PC and the Dell Inspirion Mini. The Eee PC won out over the Insprion because in New Zealand you can only get the latter with Microsoft Windows XP. In the US you can get the Inspiron with Ubuntu. No reason given. I even Chatted with a agent and all they could suggest is that I install Linux myself.

If I am going to install Linux, I am not going to pay for Windows, and I am going to get the machine that has a better reviews of the hardware. After deciding on the Eee PC 901, I enlisted the help of selidor and mattmatt to pick the colour (white). Now I wait.

I think Eeebuntu rather than Easy Paesy, thanks to this review.

Monday, January 19th, 2009
10:54 am
Jeff Skiles

Found it! The name of the copilot on Flight 1549 was Jeff Skiles! Reading the news reports you would think that there was only one pilot on the aircraft, not two. Respect to Jeff.

Sunday, January 18th, 2009
11:00 am
US Airways Flight 1549

Two of my favourite columns on the Web are Patrick Smith's Ask the Pilot at Salon and Ben Goldacre's Bad Science at The Guardian. They are both written by experts in their respective fields, and both spend a lot of time commenting on the media.

When I heard about US Airways Flight 1549 landing in the Hudson I went to Ask the Pilot to help me figure out what had happened. It will be interesting to see how long it will take the rest of the media to pick up on what Patrick Smith (himself a commercial airline pilot) already knows: it was training rather than a miracle that brought the aircraft down safely, and there were two people flying the aircraft, not just one.

Current Mood: irritated
Friday, January 9th, 2009
10:29 pm
The Queen Charlotte Walkway.

Do not bother going on the Queen Charlotte Walkway. I know it is one of the great walks in New Zealand. I know it goes through an area that is otherwise hard to get to. I know it passes through areas of immense historic significance. However, even taking all that into account, for your time and money you are better off going to the Tui Nature Reserve.

I had a fantastic time in Marlborough this Christmas holiday. Mum, Dad and I went there because my sisters were away, and Blenheim is close to my Granny in Wellington (just a quick plane ride over Cook Strait). Being keen walkers we went on a number of tramps, aided by the excellent Day Walks in New Zealand by Shaun Barnett. We walked around the Wairau Lagoon, up Mt Roberts, across Trig-K at Pelorus Bridge, and over the Wither Hills. We also went on the section of the Queen Charlotte Walkway from Ships Cove to Endeavour Inlet.

The walk from Ships Cove to Endeavour Inlet is the nicest section of the Queen Charlotte Walkway, according to the usually-reliable Shaun Barnett. It is a nice walk. Lovely in places, with the occasional weka to entertain you and some nice views. But the walk is not a wilderness experience. You are normally walking behind (in Resolution Bay) or in front of (in Endeavour Inlet) private batches, cabins, farmland, or houses. The same private land also prevents you getting to the sea for most of the walk, so do not expect to go for a dip until you get to the end. The bush is excellent near Ships Cove, but around Resolution Bay it becomes scrubby, and generally uninteresting. It is a good walk but not worth the $60 it costs you to get dropped off at Ships Cove and picked up at Fenaux Lodge.

What you should do is go to Tui Nature Reserve. It is a private reserve on the outer reaches of Pelorus Sound. The wonderful Brian and his family live on the reserve, most of which is in a QEII Trust. They restore the farmland to bush (it is hard to believe that it ever was a farm) and keep the predators at bay through labour-intensive trapping. (The weka would eat poison.) The day tour my parents and I went on took us out to the reserve and through the nikau and protocarp forest, looking out across the Pelorus Sound. It cost $100 more than the ferry to and from the Queen Charlotte Walk, but

  • The boat trip is longer (Pelorus Sound is far bigger than Queen Charlotte Sound),
  • You get lunch, and
  • You get the company of the wonderful Brian for the day.

Compared to Queen Charlotte, the scenery is better, the flora is better, the fauna is better, and you get to share in the passion and love goes into restoring an area the size of Tui Nature Reserve. The walk is not as long, but that is partly due to our short trip. You can stay at some eco cabins on the reserve, which have a rather nice view:

(Note to self: take selidor to stay at the eco cabins.)

At the end of the day we reflected on what an awesome time we had while eating an excellent meal at the Slip Inn, Havelock. Watching people put their boats on trailers is surprisingly fun.

Current Mood: satisfied
Monday, December 15th, 2008
11:38 am
Good Christmas Movies

I am compiling a list of good Christmas movies. So far it is fairly short:

Are there any others? Or am I way behind the times and this list has been compiled a million times already?

Current Mood: nerdy
Sunday, December 14th, 2008
9:20 am
California Holiday
Little Old Lady&apos;s Car, Pasadena

The good photos from my Californian Holiday are now all posted. As is typical for Flickr the photos start is at the bottom, with the Mini Cooper S, and work up from there. A criterion for selection was that I had to be able to say something about the photo, so all of them have descriptions. It will hopefully give you something to read while the image loads. I have also placed all the images on the Yahoo! map, so you should be able to get an idea of where Mono Lake is in relation to Pasadena, and your current geographic situation.

It is nearly Christmas!

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008
11:02 pm
Because it Seems Fun

1. What are your nicknames?
Mike, occasionally. My boss also calls me Doc, but only because I call him Boss. I used to have a nickname at high-school, but I am glad that no one uses it any more :)

2. Would you rather die suddenly with no pain but no prep time or die with some pain but time to prepare?
Time to prepare. I can take pain, but I would like to say goodbye.

3. If you're in a relationship what do you most miss about being single? If you're single what do you most miss about being in a relationship?
There is very little I miss about being single. Oddly, I usually felt less lonely when I was single. However, my feeling of solitude is a recent one — as I have just come back from three weeks with selidor, who is currently on the other side of the Pacific.

4. How many colors are you wearing now?
Two: black cotton shirt and blue jeans.

5. Are you an introvert or extrovert?
I tend to be a people geek, so I like being around and dealing with people. However, I am a geek, and I can happily sit down and do one thing by myself for quite some time.

6. What was the last book you read?
The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner. selidor gave it to me to read after I finished Pride and Prejudice. I like mixing my classics up with pulp fantasy.

7. Let's play everybody's favorite game… what would you do if you won the lottery?
Rejoin selidor.

8. Do you like snow?
No. Hell's rain. Silly soft stuff, as Thomas the Tank Engine called it.

9. Is there anything that has made you unhappy these days?
I was surprisingly affected by the death of HM: I ended up in tears reading his biography in the New York Times, which is odd as it told me nothing I did not already know.

10. What was the last thing you ate today?
Hokey pokey ice-cream. Actually I suppose you could count my quinine and ace inhibitor…

11. How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?
Between an hour and thirty minutes, depending on if I showered the previous night or not.

12. What websites do you visit daily?
The Register and Slashdot are the main ones. Oh, and OnlineGroups.Net.

13. What classes are you taking right now? And if you're not in school anymore, what's your job?
My business card says that I am a usability engineer. In reality I am a programmer with a special interest in the interface of our site.

14. Do you like to clean?
I enjoy some cleaning, especially if I can see results but not run the risk of breaking anything. Bathrooms are my favourite.

15. What do you want for Christmas?

16. What are you doing right now?
Checking to see what mattmatt wrote to answer this silly question. Heh.

17. Who was your childhood idol?
Chuck Yeager, Issac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke.

18. What would you do if you see $100 lying on the ground?
Look around and see if anyone looks like they dropped $100. Pocket it if no one looks likely, fret about the bad kama, and donate a bunch to the nearest charity.

19. What is your dream car?
Somewhat sadly, a Volkswagen Golf TDi. I can see it being a really comfortable car that will go anywhere I want it too on the smell of an oily rag.

20. Tell me something you love about the person who tagged you.
His ability to make people feel good, even when he is feeling low.

Current Mood: accomplished
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