Archive for August, 2006

060828 – Monday – Out and about in Christchurch

Sunday, August 27th, 2006

Several days have now gone by and our adventure in New Zealand continues.   Currently, we’re staying at a hotel named the Fino Casementi which is just across the street from the Crown Plaza where we began.   The room rates are a bit lower here and they have an excellent free breakfast included.

Our biological clocks have finally adjusted to the five hours difference between Pacific Standard Time and new Zealand Time.

We’ve had fun the last few days exploring in and around Christchurch.   Just for fun, to see what’s different and what’s the same, we’ve been going into supermarkets, hardware stores, furniture store and superstores and looking at stuff.  A tall can of Pringles here was $3.65NZD which is $2.37 USD.  In general, things are quit expensive here and salaries are lower.  Sharon’s got a new hat which we paid $75 NZD for ($x USD) – it was her birthday present.


Yesterday, on Sunday, we took a long ride out to Sumner (Christchurch’s equivalent to Orange County’s Laguna Beach or Seattle’s Kirkland and had a walk on the beach.  Then we drove out onto the Banks Peninsula and explored and took a lot of photos.   There’s still snow on the higher ground from a storm they had a day or two before we arrived.   We ate lunch in Akaroa which is a very fun little town on the central harbor.  The Banks Peninsula is an old extinct volcanic cone jutting into the ocean just to the east of Christchurch.   Long ago, part of the cone’s wall collapsed and the sea came in forming a harbor like Italy’s Santorini or French Polynesia’s Rapa.



We’ve had one gloomy cold blustery day and several of bright winter sunshine.    They’ve had a hard winter here (worst in 24 years) so everyone is excited to see the fine weather.

Today, we may get out to the botanical gardens which are part of Hagley Park – an 800 acre park in the middle of the city.   Yesterday, we had a lot of fun looking at the various plants and trees which are new to us.   At one point, we found a one-acre natives only nursery and pulled in.  The folks there were very friendly and we had a great time talking about plants and how they do things and how we do things.


We picked up information on two different techniques which we’d never heard of which may prove to be of great use to us and nurseries like us in western Washington.   One involved copper spray and the other involved felt. I’ve been disappointed with the Internet services offered in the two hotels we’ve stayed in.  Both charge .68NZD/minute and it is a hassle to establish the connection.   Maybe the connection issue has to do with the CAT5 plug on the back of my system but the cost per minute is outrageous.   I’ve discovered that they have a WiFi hotspot down in the lobby and it is a pay as you go as well but I think it is cheaper.

In the next day or so, we hope to strike out into the countryside and see a bit of the West Coast.   I’ll write more soon.

060824 – Thursday – Christchurch Deluxe

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

5 PM – Christchruch, we’re back at our hotel.   And what a hotel it is.   But first the back story that brought us here.

After I wrote from LAX last night, we boarded the flight for Auckland, New Zealand, and settled in for a fourteen hour overnight flight.  We has two seats WAY in the back in the tail section.   The plane wasn’t full but it was full enough that any dreams of claiming fours seats and laying out flat were quickly put paid to.

I watched a movie, The Sentinel, and then about 11 PM, I had a glass of wine and a Lunesta and layed back to see if I could sleep.   And, amazingly, I did sleep quite well.   I’m sorry to say that Sharon did not sleep as well and was quite tired today.

About 5 AM local time, we landed at Auckland and had an anxious 20 minutes wondering of our checked luggage had made it – it had.   And then we passed through customs and everything went fine.   There was a jump to Christchurch and looking out the window on the approach was great.  I’ve looked over the maps of the region so much that it was like watching some big new three dimensional map unfold as the mountains and then the Canterbury Plains rolled under us.   And the Banks Pennisula looks huge from Christchurch which isn’t something I would have predicted from the maps.  We made a call from the airport to Tui Campers and a fellow from there came and gave us a ride to their offices and after a few papers were signed, we drove off into Christchurch on the wrong side of the road.

That’s an experiecne that will wake you up.   Every automatic instinct you have is not to be trusted.  Even passing orange cones on the left side of the road.  Because you are on the right side of the car driving but you are used to the left, you are not going to leave enough clearance when you pass by things on the left side.  Sharon said I just barely missed taking out a long line of cones at one point.   At another point, I pulled over to look at the map and smacked the curb on the left because I didn’t allow for most of the car now being to my left.   Then, once in the Central Business District (which they abbreviate CBD here) where our hotel was, we could see the building occassionally between the other buildings but with losing sight of it and getting tangled in angled roads and one-way the other way roads, we had to circle it twice before we were able to make the strategic insertion into their drive-up area.  I was glad to hand the car over to valet parking.

But, once there, things turned nice indeed.  The concierge was very nice and then when we got to the counter, the girl there had our reservation and said that normally this is a slow time of the year but that they have a big conference that they’d over-booked!   But they’d noticed that it was Sharon’s birthday – so they’d solved the problem by upgrading us to the Presidential Suite at the top of the tower!

That sounded pretty good when she said it but it was nothing to actually seeing the suite.   Jeez.  it was two levels on the very top of the building.  The bottom level held a kitchen, a big living room and a dining room with a huge glass table that had ten chairs around it but could have easily sat 12 or 14.   Upstairs, was a large bedroom and a shower with two overhead sprays that could have handled six or eight people and a monsterous tub with jacuzzi fittings that Sharon just told me takes 25 minutes to fill.  After an afternoon spent walking around the CBD, we’ve come back to enjoy our evening of splendor and Sharon’s up filling the monster now.



When we landed, there were puddles of frozen water on the ground and the pilot said it was -1 C.  It’s been cold and blustery all day but we enjoyed it.  The CBD really is a beautiful place.   A mixture of old churches, new business buildings, executive apartments, wide open squares with statues of Captain Cook and Queen Victoria.  And everywhere we’ve been, everyone we’ve talked to has been unfailingly friendly and helpful.   There are times we have trouble understanding what folks are saying because of the accent and the idioms but it is all good fun.   We bought Sharon a $75 NZD hat for her birthay and she looks great in it.

It’s not long until sunset here looking out across the city.  The scene could be someplace in the Pacific Northwest looking towards the Olympics.  It is really hard to credit how far away we are from home and that we can point straight down at the floor and say that almost everyone we know is down there on the other side of the globe.

6 PM – Just back from trying the big tub.   Yep, it’s good.   I did, indeed, feel presidential.


We’re going to order something small in (this all sound just so F. Scott Fitzgeral, eh?) and sit about and see what passes for TV here in New Zealand.


060822 – Tuesday – at LAX

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

We’re in the midst of a four hour layover at LAX after flying down from SeaTac.  So far I’ve had a $5.16 draft beer and Sharon’s had a $3.24 Gatoraid.  Now, I’m typing this in on a $.25/minute public Internet terminal.

Security has been reasonalbe.  I lost my can of shaving creme – silly me for carrying it in my carry-on.  Sharon has to go throuhg special procedures because she’s got a defibrillator.  But, we’re here and it’s good.

I’m thinking that the next time I step off a plane, it’ll be Thursday and I’ll be on the other side of the world.

Cheers until then.


Virginia Asks Global Warming Skeptic To Stop Calling Himself ‘State Climatologist’

Monday, August 21st, 2006

Patrick J. Michaels — a prominent critic of mainstream global warming science — bills himself as the “state climatologist” of Virginia to bolster his credibility. The State of Virginia has had enough. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
The governor’s office has sent a letter to the University of Virginia requesting that Patrick J. Michaels not use his title of state climatologist when conducting his private consulting business.

The state is concerned that the U.Va. professor’s controversial views on global warming could be mistaken for the state’s views…The governor’s office has repeatedly said that Michaels does not represent the state with his opinions about global warming.


Bible Publisher Tyndale House Faces Boycott Over Anti-Christian Game

Monday, August 21st, 2006

It is unprecedented for conservative and progressive Christians alike to close ranks in condemning a Bible publisher. It is unheard of for Christians to call for a boycott of a Bible publisher for licensing a real-time strategy videogame that caricaturizes Christianity as a crusade, puts modern military weapons in the hands of children, sends them on a mission to convert or kill infidels, and even lets children role play commanding the armies of the AntiChrist, unleashing demons that feast on Christians.

“Does it sound like fun, or does it sound like the way homicidal Muslims think?” asks Marvin Olasky, editor of the conservative Christian World Magazine in a blog post dated August 21, 2006, and titled Convert Them Or Kill Them? That’s Not Christianity. His piece links to a recent Washington Post article, “Fire and Brimstone, Guns and Ammo.” But the Post and World Magazine have barely touched the hem of the garment, in terms of understanding and exposing the game for what is truly is. Yet word is getting out, and a boycott is picking up steam.

It is unprecedented, and to date unheralded by the mainstream media. But it is happening. It is sparking, sputtering, glowing and growing like a prairie fire. There is a growing movement among conservative and progressive Christians alike to boycott Tyndale House, the Christian publishing house that publishes the Living Bible and Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind novels and also licenses the controversial videogame Left Behind: Eternal Forces, along with any chain stores or megachurches that plan to distribute the game.


060821 – Monday – Tomorrow, we fly

Monday, August 21st, 2006

5 AM – Intense activity here the last few days as we prepare to fly to New Zealand. Accounting to prepare, a business to handoff, animals to arrange for. It’s a thousand and one details and any of them could be really bad if we let it fall through the cracks. Needless to say, normal luxuries like attending aerobics classes have gone out the window.

I’ve still managed to get down to Starbucks most every morning before Sharon rises for my morning coffee. There’s a group of people who come and go every morning and I have on-going conversations with many of them and it is a pleasure I enjoy immensely.

As the day begins today, there’s some last accounting to grind through, suitcases to go through their final assemblies, lists to check and recheck. At 3 PM, our dog, Patti-Cakes, will go in for a bath (so she doesn’t trigger our dog sitter’s allergies) and then she’s off to the sitter for two weeks. Yes, it’ll all come together today and if we manage it well, we’ll be able to go to bed tonight with everything ready and a quiet confidence – we’ll see.

I posted a reference to an article from Scientific American a few minutes ago. It’s a sobering piece. People are slowly beginning to get that the hour is very late on the issue of Global Climate Change and that nothing less than a major retooling of how the world’s civilization does things will be sufficient to prevent major consequences. But this dawning of awareness is happening far far too slowly and, for many of us, our thoughts are beginning to turn towards not how to continue to fight for change but to where to run to avoid the worst of the consequences.

One of the reasons we’re flying to New Zealand for two weeks is to begin to explore our options in this regard. I’ll have more to say in the future about why I believe New Zealand is likely to be one of the best places in the world in which to get out of harm’s way.

Midday – the beat goes on. AJ was at Starbucks this morning, the Sparrows got fed and a good cuppa was drunk sitting in the morning sun.

Now for hours, it’s been payrolls, setting money aside for known upcoming debts, turning my motorcycle in for maintenance while we’re gone, writing instructions sheets about various bits of technology we’re dependent on like computers, battery chargers, thermostats, and cordless telephones. Ah, but we found time in there for lunch (Thai) and that was good.

All in all, it’s busy as hell but I think we’re winning and it’ll all be lined up when we’re ready to go.

We are invited to dinner this Friday evening by a couple who lives in Christchurch whom we’ve only met via E-mail. Seems a strange and remarkable thing to be invited to dinner on the other side of the planet by folks you’ve never met. We truely live in an amazing time.

8 PM – Getting tired now. All of it is done but the final few things into the suitcases and then rest til morning.

Picked up another link to this blog today. Paul Hartzog, at a blog of the same name which I like a lot, has cross-linked back. Slowly, slowly we are building readership.

Well, I’m off to push a bit more and then rest. I may do a brief post tomorrow in the morning or in transit (4 hour layover at LAX). If not, the next post will be from New Zealand, mate.

A Climate Repair Manual

Monday, August 21st, 2006

Global warming is a reality. Innovation in energy technology and policy are sorely needed if we are to cope

By Gary Stix – Scientific American

Explorers attempted and mostly failed over the centuries to establish a pathway from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the icebound North, a quest often punctuated by starvation and scurvy. Yet within just 40 years, and maybe many fewer, an ascending thermometer will likely mean that the maritime dream of Sir Francis Drake and Captain James Cook will turn into an actual route of commerce that competes with the Panama Canal.

The term “glacial change” has taken on a meaning opposite to its common usage. Yet in reality, Arctic shipping lanes would count as one of the more benign effects of accelerated climate change. The repercussions of melting glaciers, disruptions in the Gulf Stream and record heat waves edge toward the apocalyptic: floods, pestilence, hurricanes, droughts–even itchier cases of poison ivy. Month after month, reports mount of the deleterious effects of rising carbon levels. One recent study chronicled threats to coral and other marine organisms, another a big upswing in major wildfires in the western U.S. that have resulted because of warming.

The debate on global warming is over. Present levels of carbon dioxide–nearing 400 parts per million (ppm) in the earth’s atmosphere–are higher than they have been at any time in the past 650,000 years and could easily surpass 500 ppm by the year 2050 without radical intervention.

The earth requires greenhouse gases, including water vapor, carbon dioxide and methane, to prevent some of the heat from the received solar radiation from escaping back into space, thus keeping the planet hospitable for protozoa, Shetland ponies and Lindsay Lohan. But too much of a good thing–in particular, carbon dioxide from SUVs and local coal-fired utilities–is causing a steady uptick in the thermometer. Almost all of the 20 hottest years on record have occurred since the 1980s.

No one knows exactly what will happen if things are left unchecked–the exact date when a polar ice sheet will complete a phase change from solid to liquid cannot be foreseen with precision, which is why the Bush administration and warming-skeptical public-interest groups still carry on about the uncertainties of climate change. But no climatologist wants to test what will arise if carbon dioxide levels drift much higher than 500 ppm.


Scientists Disagree On Link Between Storms, Warming

Sunday, August 20th, 2006

Same Data, Different Conclusions

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 20, 2006; Page A03

A year after Hurricane Katrina and other major storms battered the U.S. coast, the question of whether hurricanes are becoming more destructive because of global warming has become perhaps the most hotly contested question in the scientific debate over climate change.

Academics have published a flurry of papers either supporting or debunking the idea that warmer temperatures linked to human activity are fueling more intense storms. The issue remains unresolved, but it has acquired a political potency that has made both sides heavily invested in the outcome.

Paradoxically, the calm hurricane season in the Atlantic so far this year has only intensified the argument.

Both sides are using identical data but coming up with conflicting conclusions. There are several reasons.


research credit – thx – John P

Five quotes per click – too cool!

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

I was wandering around in the Science Blogs tonight and found this gem from Pharyngula. It’s a link and if you click it, it will cobble up five quotes for you. I played with it for quite awhile. Too cool!

The magic link is here:

A few moments later I found another source of random quotes.

The 2nd link is here:

Your Brain Boots Up Like a Computer

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

As we yawn and open our eyes in the morning, the brain stem sends little puffs of nitric oxide to another part of the brain, the thalamus, which then directs it elsewhere.

Like a computer booting up its operating system before running more complicated programs, the nitric oxide triggers certain functions that set the stage for more complex brain operations, according to a new study.

In these first moments of the day, sensory information floods the system—the bright sunlight coming through the curtains, the time on the screeching alarm clock—and all of it needs to be processed and organized, so the brain can understand its surroundings and begin to perform more complex tasks.