Archive for December, 2007

080101 – Tuesday – off on a big ride

Monday, December 31st, 2007

New Zealand - South IslandI’m off tomorrow early for a big ride up to the north end of the South island to visit my friends, Bob and Cynthia, who moved up to Takaka near Golden Bay recently.BIG image of northern part of the South Island This second image of the northern part of the South Island is big so if you have a slow connection, don’t click on it because it’ll take awhile to download.

I’ll probably follow in inland route to their place. I’ll stay there for two days and then on the 5th, I’ll take off and return via Kaikoura on the eastern coast of the South Island north of Christchurch which will route me all along the ocean along the top of the South Island and then all down the east coast.

With no delays, I’ll probably be back here on Sunday, January 6th. I’ll have photos and another report on all that I see along that route.

Right now the weather’s shaping up beautifully. 27 C predicted tomorrow which is 80 F.

Cheers, until then.

Today’s our 18th Wedding Anniversary

Monday, December 31st, 2007

My wife, Sharon, and I have been married for 18 years now. It is and has been a wonderful marriage and I look forward to many more years with my wife and best friend.

We met in the late 80’s in Southern California where we both worked in the computer industry and had friends in common. We were both living in San Juan Capistrano and I still remember the day very clearly when I brazenly showed up on her doorstep one warm Saturday afternoon with a six-pack of beer in hand and asked if I might visit. Little did I know what a life changing and enhancing visit that would be.

Photos from our wedding on December 31st 1989

The sassy bride before the ceremony The pastor explains how it all works The pastor’s vows (we had on own as well)

The rings are delivered by my younger son, Chris The marriage certificate, myself, Sharon and the pastor Sharon, Patricia and Susan with Tequila Shooters

Sharon and Brenda with - more Tequila Shooters! Sharon and Susan - the Tequila Shooters are beginning to have an effect Sharon and I and my older son, Dan


Just as this marriage will be only what we make of it, so this marriage ceremony is ours to shape and share with you today.

There is ceremony and there are the things of our hearts and both have their places here today.

And so we each want to say a little about what it is we are doing here today because, to us, our marriage is a public affirmation and commitment to that which has grown between us.

And we can think of no one we would rather share these affirmations with than you, our friends.


Brenda Araya
Mike Bryga
Carl Chapman and Denise
Dave Christensen
Christopher Gallagher
Daniel Gallagher
Kathey Goss
Susan de la Portia
Patricia Webster

– – –



(these were our vows in addition to the pastor’s)


Sharon: That in marriage, we will become one in many ways. We will not erase ourselves as individuals, but we will each think of “us” before we think of “I”.

Dennis: That fidelity is a deep truth that has no limits to its domain. It includes thoughts and intents as well as actions. We pledge absolute fidelity to each other.

Sharon: That continuing growth and increasing spirituality are the cornerstones of our joint purpose here.

Dennis: That habits, assumptions, dogma and taking things for granted are all anathema to what we are about.

Sharon: That honesty and self-understanding are among the greatest gifts we can give each other.

Dennis: That we will not obligate or encumber the other in anyway without their knowledge and approval.

Sharon: That we will never interfere with the other’s growth or self-expression.

Dennis: That we are equal and free from all roles and social expectations with respect to our genders.

Sharon: That we shall constantly challenge our own belief systems in the hope of revealing better ones.

Dennis: That while we may not always agree, we will always seek to understand the truth, where ever it lies, as our highest goal. It matters not who is right or wrong on any issue, only that we find understanding.

Sharon: That in all decisions, we will ask, “Is it for the highest good of all concerned?”.

Dennis: That we will keep no secrets from each other or ourselves. Our hearts and minds are and will remain open books to each other.

Sharon: That in joining our knowledge and skills together, we become a whole greater than the sum of our individual parts.

Dennis: That we enter this marriage without reservations or doubts about either ourself or our partner.

– – –

(and then a poem I read aloud about Sharon – she didn’t know I was going to do this)

About Sharon

I never thought I would meet someone like Sharon.
And, even when I imagined a partner for myself,
my vision fell short of the reality
I’ve realized she is.
Her intelligence and understanding are more
than a match for my own
and, like you, I can see only parts
of the wonder and complexity she is.

But there is one part of her that for me
shines brighter than all the rest
and that is her integrity.

She is like a bell that has been well cast;
she rings truth and clarity and honesty
in everything she does.

For me she is, and has been,
a challenge and a gift of immense proportions.
Her honesty has invited mine and
her clarity has broken through
the dark shadows of my past.

Because of what God has given me in her,
I once again have
the growing clarity and freedom and purpose
necessary to realize my best dreams.

Her truth and integrity in my life
have meant nothing less to me
than my own spiritual rebirth.




071230 – Sunday – A ride to nowhere and back

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

Yesterday, after tennis, the afternoon was looking good for a ride and I had one in mind. I’d seen a place on my detailed New Zealand map book called the Omihi Forest up just above Amberly Beach north of Christchurch – about 40 km, or 25 miles, as the crow files. It was 1:30 PM, the weather was good. It was time to ride out and see a new place.

Most of the way there, I was on New Zealand Highway 1 which is a good road and marked for 100 km/hour maximum – which works out to about 65 MPH on the US system (and on the speedometer on my U.S. motorcycle).

Vroom… I was there. Once there, it took a bit of back tracking to find the Mt. Cass Road where it peeled off the east just south of the small town of Waipara but, I found it.

Begining of the Mt. Cass RoadBetween the wine-growing valley that Highway 1 runs north through and the coast to the east, stands a low range of hills and this road wove up through these.

I was headed here because on the map, the Omihi Forest is shown as a green area (denoting forest and/or bush) and it has a dense group of roads woven through it and named things like Boundary, Kate, Tussock, North West and Sandy. It looked to me like there was a community set amid a forest on the coast. Cool!

About half way up Mt. Cass Road was suppose to be a turn-off to the south going to this area. When I got there, I found a locked gate and a sign saying the the entire area was private, restricted and contained a land-fill and was owned by something called Transwaste Canterbury, Ltd.

Mmmmm. That was a puzzle. Did I have the right road? Did these folks live back there behind some sort of obscure security blockade?

On a Sunday afternoon at 2:15 PM, the gate was locked and I didn’t think anyone was coming along anytime soon to open it so I decided to abandon that plan for the moment and see what else was down the Mt. Cass Road. According to the map, it went on down to very near the coast.

Past the Landfill - some forestry blocksThe road changed to gravel at this point which limits me to driving in 1st or 2nd and is always a bit nerve raking. Oddly enough, after it ran for a half mile or so as gravel, it changed back into pavement and then again after a bit, back to gravel. I’ve seen this now several times on back-roads and it is always a great mystery to me. Someday, I hope a knowledgeable Kiwi will explain why this happens to me.

So, the road wove on and on through mostly open countryside with some forestry blocks until I came to a house where a number of Maori were unpacking a lot of gear from their car – as if they’d just arrived for a weekend getaway. End of Cass Road with the House and the ocean beyondThey smiled at me as I passed and I went around the curve where they were and immediately found myself at what was obviously the end of the road. I was in the midst of their out buildings and their private yard space. Same view looking a bit more northOops. Stop, maneuver around and go back. Everyone smiled at me again and I headed back up the road thinking that was a rather sudden end to my explorations.

Between the Transwaste mystery turn-off and the adventure at the end of Mt. Cass Road, I’d seen another opportunity. Sign for the Tiromoana Walkway at the parking areaThere is a thing called the Tiromoana Scenic Reserve on the coast mid-way between the mysterious Omihi Forest to the south and the farm at the end of Mt. Cass Road to the north. I decided to give it a look.

If nothing else, this would be a way for me to walk through the countryside and get down and see the beach there as well. It’s worth noting that here, only 25 miles from Christchurch, there are large chunks of the coast that have no apparent road access. If anyone’s out there, it must be by private access and 4WDs. New Zealand is an amazing place.

I parked it the parking area for the beginning to the Tiromoana trek and no one was there. Earlier, when I passed on my way to the end of Mt. Cass Road, there’d been a van but now it was gone. It was 2:40 PM and not a soul was in sight.

I hadn’t come prepared for a tramp but it seemed a small distance on the map. I looked my motorcycle, took a plastic baggie with a few pistachio nuts in it and wearing a floppy hat and a long-sleeved tee-shirt, I set off (after securely chaining my motorcycle). Camera and GPS unit were in-hand as well.

Company joins me - Baaa!  Baaa!Pretty country. Downhill. Soon I was walking through areas with sheep. They looked at me and I looked at them. They weren’t as wary of me as others I’ve seen but it was obvious that there was to be no petting here. The tramp to the sea beginsI continued to walk downhill. They said “baaaa” and every so often, I said “baaaa” back. More downhill.

Barbara’s Lookout (didn’t see Barbara there)The road wove around and offered me a chance to see the view from Barbara’s Lookout. I took a look. It was nice but I wondered if Barbara had actually spent a lot of time there – looking out.

Down around the side of that hill, descending all the time and there is the distance was a forest block which I seemed to be heading for. Nice. I definitely wanted to walk through that.And we all continueThe sea is visible and you can look down to Ella’s Pond

Eventually, I got to the forest block and the path did, indeed, go down through it in a series of switchbacks. As a forest, it seemed rather sterile to me. I imagined that long ago, when the Maori or Pakeha first cleared this land, that all the native animal life had gone extinct in the area. The entrance to the forestry block - a nice placeThen later, they planted this managed forest block and very little, if any, of the previous inhabitants had returned. The trees with around two feet across at the base and had obviously been growing for some time. There was some undergrowth. A fern here and there in the middle and a few other plants but, for the most part, the gound beneath the trees, other than being deeply blanketed with needles, was bare.

I wondered if the underground fungal mycelium connections that so many forests have as an integral part of their biosystems was operational here. I imagined the various animals I would expect tobe present in a similar forest in the U.S.’s Pacific Northwest. New Zealand didn’t have any mammals other than a few bats when man arrived so they never were here. Just birds and marsupials. And now the inappropriately introduced Australian Possum which has become a plague on the place. It was a quite and empty place to walk through.

The broad slope below the forestry block and the sea beyondOn the other side was a broad sweep of grassy open space trending downhill and now I could finally see the ocean that I’d Looking back up at the forestry blockbeen hearing for some time. Still continuing down hill I proceeded.

I was beginning to think this was a rather longer hike than I’d imagined and I was getting a bit worried by the long decent I was making. I was musing to myself that I was already thirsty and hot and there was no water to be had – short of that I’d find once back on my motorcycle and into a town. And I was reflecting on the fact that I was out at the ends of the earth in an area that might well not be visited by anyone until after New Years. And I was thinking about the long climb back up to the parking area and that while I’m in good shape for an old guy of 60 – I’m not indestructible. It was at about 900 feet in elevation where I’d parked my motorcycle according to my GPS and if I went all the way to the beach, well, I’d obviously be 900 feet lower than that – before i turned around.

End of the open space, the road curves to the right and down into the valleyI came around yet another curve to see the next view after a rather long and steep downhill section and I could now see the beach below clearly through the valley’s gap. I thought it was still quite a ways down. The GPS said I was at 198 ft elevation – and I paused to reflect if I really needed to get to the beach that badly. My knees said, “No”.Around the curve the road decends and decends and I decide to rethink going further

So, I turned around and headed back up. And, it was, if anything, tougher going than I’d imagined coming down. Little steps, trudge, trudge, trudge. Heart rate up, hammer, hammer, hammer. No higher a rate than I run it during aerobics classes but still, not a lot of fun to be had when you know water’s a long ways away and there’s a lot a trudging and patience yet ahead of you.

A look north shows the clouds are darkening - it is 4:30 PMThe sky to the south over Christchurch was getting grayer and I recalled being told earlier that rain was due this evening. It was nice though, as the sun disappeared and the breeze blew cooler which made the going a bit easier.

I rested in the forest block and played with my GPS (thanks, Alicia!).

Then, recovered a bit, I began again. Up through the forest block and out onto the gravel tracks that snaked up and through the hills. Sheep were here again. Trudge, trudge, trudge - sheep butts as far as you can seeMost of them too lazy to get off the road, were content to walk ahead of me as if I was driving them somewhere. I had a great view of a lot of sheep butts for a long time.

Occassionally, one would get involved eating on the side of the road and forget me and then when I was just a few feet away, it would discover me and make a mad flight from the ‘monster’. Ha!

They said “Baaaa” and I replied, “Baaaa” as well and a few times I slapped my wet floppy hat on my leg and said John Wayne-like things like “Hee-ya” and “Get-along-there”, to let them know who they were messing with. All in all, I think we had a good time – and it passed the time and we went up and up and up.

Finally, the hill with my motorcycle on it appeared and when I crested it and the motorcycle was actually still there, unmolested, I breathed a big sigh of relief. It would have been a very long walk to anywhere to tell folks my motorcycle was gone and I was stranded.

Back at the motorcycle - and a bit wiserI setup the camera to catch an image of this fool who’d walked off to nowhere all downhill without a drop of water or foresight and once that picture was captured, I got on my iron-steed and rode away. Only one stop between me and home and that was at a convenience store for a pint of cold orange juice. My, did that ever taste good.

So, today, I’ve been to nowhere and back and it was a fair amount of work. So, let that be a lesson to you. <smile>.

The increasing probability of demagogues

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

…human kind cannot bear very much reality.

T.S. Eliot – Burnt Norton

People like things the way they want them. If one group of politicians raise taxes too much, people will vote for the other group who claims they will not raise taxes.

There’s nothing wrong with this in moderation – it is how democratic societies find their way by becoming manifestations of their people’s will.

But, there are limits beyond which what is reasonable is left behind. People don’t like hard truths. And politicians, ever bent on pleasing people so they can get elected, will deny hard truths and promise the impossible – if it means the difference between office or obscurity.

Thus, as we come into the hard times ahead, the rise of demagogues becomes possible and then probable.

People don’t want to give up the perks of living in the world’s richest nation (I am speaking here of the U.S.). They do not want to cut back on their material possessions, or on reasonably priced food or on their ability to live in a remote suburb and to drive everywhere they want in their car because they can – since gasoline prices are low.

If one politician tells them the truth – that things are going to unavoidably change and life must get tougher, then they will flock en-masse to elect the other fellow who tells them that he knows how to keep everything running just as it is – so they do not have to be inconvenienced.

There are a small minority of people who know that this isn’t right and will vote accordingly. But the vast majority of people don’t know this and really don’t care. They just want what they want and think that if they express their will at the ballot box, that reality will have to conform.

I follow a financial blog written by Sterling Newberry. He’s has a piece up just now discussing the impressive rise in the popularity of Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul – and what might be behind it.

As demagogues go, Paul and Huckabee are only minor examples but they represent, to me, a trend that we will see more and more of as the looming realities ahead begin to interfere with the American lifestyle and the American people’s comfort.

You will find the beginning of Newberry’s piece, below.

Definition of a demagogue:

emotive dictator: a political leader who gains power by appealing to people’s emotions, instincts, and prejudices in a way that is considered manipulative and dangerous.

= = = = = = = =

Americans want Progress. Since the Democratic Party’s elected leadership, and its major political candidates have decided to run as slightly left leaning Reaganites, Americans are turning to racism, nativism, anti-banking hysteria and conspiracy theories promulgated by demagogues. Huckabee and Paul are both populist reactionaries. They think that the cure to every headache is to amputate at the neck.

Within the Republican Party their populist and elitist division is bubbling to the surface because three policies of the elitist wing are appearing in the populist world as major pains. Populist candidates don’t believe in solving root problems, particularly not in the conservative side, because they believe that the symptom is the problem. Both pander directly to racism, and to a fuming conspiracy view of the world.


071229 – Saturday – looking back on Xmas at Wainui

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

Kathy and Bruce, an American expatriate couple here in New Zealand, invited several of us over to spend Christmas with them at their new place at Wainui out on the Banks Peninsula. They’ve got 10 acres in what has to be one of the most beautiful places in creation.

New Zealand - North and South IslandsFor those of you who have little idea of where New Zealand is, much less the Banks Peninsula or Wainui, here’s a bit of help. If you look at the map of New Zealand, you will want to look on the South Island about half way down on the eastern coast. Banks Peninsula on the east coast of the South IslandThe bit of land that pokes out there is the Banks Peninsula, which is an ancient volcanic cone. One of the walls of the cone has collapsed and the sea’s come in forming an inner harbor. If you look at the second map, which shows details of the Banks Peninsula, you can see the harbor and if you expand the map, you will find Wainui on the western shore of the harbor.

Day break in Christchurch on the 24thThe day of the 24th began beautifully here in Christchurch and I drove out to Wainui on my motorcycle in the afternoon with the various food stuffs (I was responsible for the group’s salad makings) and beer required. The Iron Beast rests at Little River (note the beer)I stopped at Little River along the way for a cup of coffee and a sandwich called a “Butty”. It was bacon and egg between two slices of toasted bread and, one has to assume, some amount of butter. Whatever. it was good.

The ride to Wainui begins on the flat but about half way, you get into beautiful hills and you just never know what new sight will greet you around the next curve. Akaroa Harbor from the west sideAt one point, just after I passed a place called Hill Top, I had a great view of the Akaroa Harbor The harbor opens to the Pacific Oceanand then, a bit later, as I was approaching Wainui, I could see the gap further south where the sea broke into the inner cone long ago and out beyond that, the vast Pacific ocean stretching all the way to Antarctica.

Kathy and Bruce’s place is on the side of the hills that rise above Wainui. and they are (according to my GPS) about 750 feet in elevation, or as they would say here, about 230 meters. And, for those of you who just have to know, (you are such geeks!) they would actually be located near:

S 43 48 270
E 172 52 881

From Cemetary roadI took two photos of their place from a distance. Wainui as seen from the Summit Road above AkaroaOne is from the next road to the north of their road and the other is a telephoto shot from the other side of Akaroa Harbor a few days later when I was riding in that area. As you can see a lot of their 10 acres is forested or what folks here would call bush.

I park by Mark and Ingrid’s vanWhen I arrived, Kathy and Bruce were there as were Mark and Ingrid (brother and sister travelers) and Alex and Tobi – two more American expatriates to New Zealand. My room before I made up the bed - quite nice!I parked and threw my stuff into my room (had one of my very own!) and visited with everyone. The view to the harbor from their houseThe view from their place is spectacular and the former owners left it well laid out with lawns and beautiful flower beds full of plants, trees and flowers – most of which I had no idea how to identify. After awhile. I walked out and just went around the yard shooting pictures of all the strange and wonderful plants.

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dscn0444sm.JPG Wow-ee-Zowie, batman – that’s a lot of cool plants. Here are some shots of their house from the outside. The place has a concrete block in the back yard that says, I believe, 1898, or something around there as when this place was settled. I regret that I didn’t shoot more pictures of the outside of the house. It has a big Australian style porch on one side and one morning when it was pouring rain, I went out there and sat safe and dry and watched the wind tossing the trees, the clouds moving above and the rain driving. Glorious.

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Alex and Kathy doing dishesIn the house, food preparations were under way. I think most of the folks there could gracefully bear the title of ‘ Organic Food-ees’ which translates to ‘We like to prepare and enjoy food and we think it is ever so much better, and better for us, if it is all organic‘. Food preparation central AKA the KitchenI had brought the makings for two day’s worth of salads and it was all organic having been bought at an all organic food market a day previous. Other folks had collected everything necessary to make organic pizzas and wonderful French Toasts and on and on. The next food event is upon us and Maggie’s with us nowI could see when I arrived that it was going to be a great few days. There was a nice feeling in the house and everyone was having fun. Oh, and since I like food a lot, I thought things were looking promising indeed.More Kitchen, eh? You knew there’d be more…

My friends, who know that I am anything but a cook, might be surprised to know I spent a fair amount of time in and around the kitchen. Kathy’s on the phone with family while the preps continueBut, having very limited skills, I did a lot of dish washing and kibitzing and helped prepare the salads. Ah yes, and a few beers did get consumed along the way there too.

Much of the three day holiday there centered around the kitchen. It seemed like one meal would be finished and the clean up completed and before long, folks would be bustling about and working on the next culinary adventure. Cooking, cooking, cooking…If we’d been eating normal ‘heavy’ food, this would have been far too much but given that everything we were eating was fairly light and definitely healthy, it was just right – and a lot of fun.

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that nothing else got done. There were many great discussions held along the way. Game time!And, Kathy and Bruce also taught us to play a great table game with interesting and complex rules quite unlike anything I’d ever played before. It was more subtle than it looked. I’m pretty sure I understood the rules and the play action The game masters gather - wits are sharpenedbut I’d have to say that most of the strategy may have escaped me since I seemed to have come in last or very near each time we played. It was a hard game for a Leo – but I tried to bear up <smile>.

On the 25th, Mark and his sister, Ingrid, departed in their van headed for Golden Bay up at the north end of the island. We all wondered how far they’d get as we all doubted they’d find any gas stations open on Christmas day. Mark and Ingrid on the brink of departureBut, they said they had a lot of gas and took off after goodbyes all around, quite undaunted. Very nice people. We heard later that they’d done just fine.

So, there were less of us for the balance of Christmas day. Just Bruce and Kathy, Alex and Tobi and myself. And, of course, Alex and Tobi’s two little dogs; Jules and Ella.

Tobi with Jules (black) and Ella (gray)

They’d also brought their very cool and vocal cat, Seibu, but he was staying up in their quarters – which was a separate residence on the same property just uphill from the main house.

Each night, some of us seemed to stay up later and later talking. On Christmas night, Bruce and I talked to after 1 AM. On the following evening, we were up yammering away until past 2 AM. Great conversations both evenings. Alex and Tobi generally turn in fairly early. Kathy tried to stay with us but each evening she faded an hour or two earlier that Bruce and I.

On the 26th, Maggie and her husband, Roelf, who are both South African immigrants to New Zealand arrived for the day. Needless to say <smile>, the only possible response to this incursion was – more food preparation! So, more pizzas were cooked and salads made and we feasted yet once again. And then the table game began again with Roelf now as ‘the new blood’. But, he was much better at it than I was in spite of my head-start and so I cleaned up at the rear of the pack again.

I discovered that Roelf and I shared an interest in isolated and remote islands and once we began talking, it was evident that he’d had a lot of interesting experiences along this line. After he graduated from University, he’d applied for and been accepted into South Africa’s National Antarctic Programme and went down and spent a year at South Africa’s Antarctic base, SANAE IV . Later, he also spent a year on Marion Island and also some time on Gough Island as well. I found all of this extremely interesting.

On Christmas Day, after Mark and Ingrid had gone and during the preparation of the next meal, the house’s water ran out. The spigots just blew air when you opened them. Bruce went out to have a look and I joined him a bit later.

Simple, eh?The water for their place comes from a spring that’s up the hill from their main house. From the spring, it flows downhill by gravity and into a large above-ground plastic water tank. I’d guess this must hold 5000 gallons or so when full. Bruce thought that the flow from the spring had stopped and was investigating that possibility when I looked into the water tank and saw that it was half full. Men at workAt that point, I suggested that with that much water ready to go, we should look for the problem between the tank and the house. He agreed.

The first thing we did, after a brief look at the pump and air-bladder tank at the house, was to unhook the hoses from the tank’s output side and open the valve to see if we had flow at that point. We did not. I thought then that there must be something in the tank plugging the outflow. But, when we opened the lid and again and looked closer, we could see that the outflow pipe actually came half way up to the top of the tank and therefore the tank would only deliver water until its level had dropped to the half-way point. This meant that Bruce had been ight in the first place to suspect the circuit between the spring and the tank.

While I was reconnecting pipes on the outflow side, he began to investigate the pipes on the inflow side and in just a moment or two I heard the sweet sound of water running into the tank from the spring. He’d opened and closed an overflow valve and somehow that had cleared the problem and all was well again and a lot more was known about how the water system there worked. Plumbing heros!And that’s a good thing because water is definitely important.

We returned to the house while the women ran in front of us scattering flowers at out feet and praising our vast plumbing skills … what? No one else remembers that? Ah, perhaps I just imagined that part, eh?

But, the truth is no one was unhappy that the water was back on <smile>.

Here’s a block of additional photos I shot inside the house. Run your mouse over each photo to see a brief explanation and click on any photos to see a bigger version of it.

Living room where many good discussions were held The fireplace - a warm friend indeed
Bruce prepares to make a fire

Is that a cute dog or what? Between meals - Roelf on the left then Kathy, Maggie, Bruce and Alex Kathy works on weaving while talking with Maggie

Originally, I had intended to stay until the afternoon of the 26th but we were having so much fun, and Kathy and Bruce didn’t mind, so I stayed on until the morning of the 27th. Oh, those late night talkersI’m glad I did or I’d have missed the long talk Bruce and I had until after 2 AM that night. We covered religion, philosophy and the world’s situation. It was a great ramble.

Finally, about mid-day on the 27th, I packed up and left. Maggie and Roelf had been nice enough to carry my juicer home in their car and all the food I’d brought had been consumed so I was actually traveling light which is always nice on a motorcycle.

I headed south from Bruce and Kathy’s down along the western shore of Akaroa Harbor towards the gap where the Pacific Ocean comes in. As the road begins to climbThe small paved road wound along near the water for awhile and then it began to climb until it was nearly 2000 feet up. All along were beautiful views of the peninsula and the harbor. Closer to the harbor’s opening to the PacificFinally, the road changed to gravel and continued. Cattle behind the fences on either side inspected me as I passed. They had no idea how beautiful their grazing fields were. I continued on over the gravel though it is a bit dicey on a heavy motorcycle with street tires and a lot of power. The tires squirm from side to side as they push the gravel aside and using the brakes is something one has to do with caution. The road to Land’s EndFinally, the road took a steep decent and several sharp switchbacks and I decided to turn around. I could just see myself going into a slide on the sharp slope and then off the end of a switchback – yuk!

I back-tracked by Bruce and Kathy’s and shot the photo (posted above) of their place from Cemetery Road (the road across the Wainui Valley from theirs). Then I continued on and swung around the northern end of the harbor, bought some gas at Duvauchelle and then continued towards Akaroa where a road called the Summit Road begins.

The Summit Road climbs to and then follows the highest backbone of the Banks Peninsula so the views from it are awesome. Motorcycling along the Banks Peninsula Summit roadFrom up there, I could look across the harbor to Wainui and I took a telephoto shot of Bruce and Kathy’s valley (also posted above).

Soon, I came to a side road to Le Bon Bay and I took it. This took me due west sown a long and beautiful verdant green valley to finally to a bay at the end of the valley. There were a few homes along the road and a collection of about 10 baches (New Zealand lingo for a small vacation home or shack) at the end of the road by the bay. No stores, no services. Just one very beautiful place at the end of the earth.

There were two or three tractors out on the sand. They often use tractors to back the boats and their trailers into the surf where the boats are floated off and then the tractor pulls the empty trailer back up onto the beach until it is needed. I’m not sure, but I think some of the tractor owners make spare money by performing this service for the boaties.

I stood out on the beach and put my camera into movie mode and then did a long slow turn-around panorama of the bay. I’m glad I did it because I still have the video clip but doing this somehow confused my camera and after that, it wouldn’t shoot any more pictures; still or moving. That was a bit of a bummer.

About the same time, I noticed that the beautiful skies were beginning to cloud over and the air was getting cooler. Mmmmm. Could be time to move on.

Same map as above

I rode back up out of the valley, which again was an ascent from sea level to over 2000 feet, and continued north on the Summit Road. I passed several more interesting side roads down to places like Okains Bay and Little Akaloa Bay but I’d decided to save them for my next foray. it was getting cold and I was wondering if my camera could be recovered or not so I decided to push back to Little River, get a bite to eat and a Latte and then blaze for home.

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Postscript: Kathy and Bruce have posted their photos of Christmas at Wainui as well and they are excellent. They can be found here: Once you get to the photos, just click ‘View Photos’. You do not have to join the site to see them.

071224 – Monday – Best wishes, all

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

Bless everyone everywhere - no exceptions.I’m off soon for a motorcycle ride out to Wainui on the Banks Peninsula to join some American expatriate friends who’ve invited me to their place for Christmas. I won’t return until late on the 26th which is called Boxing Day here.

I want to wish everyone who follows this Blog a happy holiday season where ever you live and whatever your beliefs.


Ancient Warming Caused Huge Spike in Temps, Study Says

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

What started out as a moderate global warm-up about 55 million years ago triggered a massive injection of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that sent temperatures skyrocketing, a new study says.

The finding suggests that today’s temperature rise may just be priming the planet for a carbon belch of epic proportions.

“You’ve got these feedbacks, these chain reactions of events in the atmosphere-ocean system,” said Appy Sluijs, a paleoecologist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

Sluijs and his colleagues found evidence for the chain reaction in two sections of sediment that accumulated on an ocean floor in what is now New Jersey.

The abundance and distribution of marine algae indicate the environment started to change and the ocean surface began to warm several thousand years before the large temperature spike.

The finding implies that the earlier warming triggered the injection of greenhouse gases visible in the geological record around 55 million years ago.

“That’s actually the first time we can see that in such a clear fashion,” Sluijs said.

The study appears in tomorrow’s issue of the journal Nature.

“Swampy” Arctic

Scientists have long studied the ancient temperature spike, called the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum or PETM, for clues to what could happen as a result of today’s global warming.

Research shows that during the PETM, global temperature shot up at least 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius), and swamp forests with redwoods and broad-leaved trees filled the Arctic.

A key unanswered question is what—if anything—triggered the substantial warming, noted Scott Wing, a paleobiologist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., who was not involved in the new research.

One theory is that the meltdown of methane hydrates—icelike deposits that store massive amounts of potent greenhouse gases in the seafloor—was responsible.

According to the new study, pre-warming triggered the melt, releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Less clear is the nature of that pre-warming, study author Sluijs said.

One possibility, he pointed out, is a bout of volcanic activity that ripped Greenland from Europe, a theory proposed earlier this year in the journal Science.


I’ve got some seaside land to sell – anyone?

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

Here’s a collection of stories about impending sea level rises:

From 27 Jan 06:

Sea level rise ‘is accelerating’

Global sea levels could rise by about 30cm during this century if current trends continue, a study warns.Australian researchers found that sea levels rose by 19.5cm between 1870 and 2004, with accelerated rates in the final 50 years of that period.

The research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, used data from tide gauges around the world.


From 23 Mar 06:

Sea rise could be ‘catastrophic’

Earth could be headed for catastrophic sea level rise in the next few centuries if greenhouse gases continue to rise at present rates, experts say.

A study in the US journal Science suggests a threshold triggering a rise in sea level of several metres could be reached before the end of the century.

Scientists used an ancient period of warming to predict future changes.


From 14 Dec 06:

Sea level rise ‘under-estimated’

Current sea level rise projections could be under-estimating the impact of human-induced climate change on the world’s oceans, scientists suggest.

By plotting global mean surface temperatures against sea level rise, the team found that levels could rise by 59% more than current forecasts.

The researchers say the possibility of greater increases needs be taken into account when planning coastal defences.

The findings have been published in the online edition of the journal Science.


From 17 Dec 07:


Rising seas ‘to beat predictions’

The world’s sea levels could rise twice as high this century as UN climate scientists have previously predicted, according to a study.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change proposes a maximum sea level rise of 81cm (32in) this century.

But in the journal Nature Geoscience, researchers say the true maximum could be about twice that: 163cm (64in).

They looked at what happened more than 100,000 years ago – the last time Earth was this warm.

The results join other studies showing that current sea level projections may be very conservative.



Arrogance and Warming

Friday, December 21st, 2007

This is so over-the-top it leaves one speechless. The Bush administration refuses to get on-board and provide any meaningful leadership on the global climate crisis and now they are actively blocking folks who want to take action. History will not judge them well.

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Rome burns while Nero fiddles

The Bush administration’s decision to deny California permission to regulate and reduce global warming emissions from cars and trucks is an indefensible act of executive arrogance that can only be explained as the product of ideological blindness and as a political payoff to the automobile industry.

The decision, announced Wednesday by Stephen Johnson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, overrode the advice of his legal and technical staffs, misconstrued the law and defied both Congress and the federal courts. It also stuck a thumb in the eyes of 17 other state governors who have grown impatient with the federal government’s failure to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and wanted to move aggressively on their own.

The Clean Air Act of 1970 gave California authority to set its own clean air standards if it first received a federal waiver. The law also said that other states could then adopt California’s standards. In 2004, California asked permission to move ahead with a law requiring automakers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new cars and light trucks by 30 percent by 2016. That would require improvements in fuel economy far beyond those called for in the energy bill signed this week.

Over the years, California has made 50 waiver requests to regulate smog-forming pollutants and other gases and has never been denied. This was the first request involving emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which the Bush administration has steadfastly refused to regulate.

For three years, the E.P.A. also hid behind the argument that it had no authority over carbon dioxide emissions because carbon dioxide was not specifically identified as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court demolished that argument last April. Subsequent court decisions have upheld the states’ authority to set their own standards while refuting the auto industry’s assertions that meeting the California standards would be technologically and economically impossible.


– Research thanks to HD

071220 – Thursday – Some of the best photos I’ve ever seen

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

There’s a guy named Vassi.  I’ve never met him but some friends of mine here in New Zealand know him and have passed links to his photos to me a few times.  I never fail to be stunned at how good he is.   His sense of framing and balance are exquisite.  But, even more amazing to me, is how he gets the most amazingly candid and friendly images of people in the remote places where he travels.  I can only assume that in addition to his extreme skills at photography, he’s got some amazing people skills as well to elicit such amazing candor.

His photos can be found here: