Monday, July 31, 2006

Turoa and Whakapapa ski areas on Mt. Ruapehu

I went snowboarding again with another fun group of people. Having only been in New Zealand for about a month, it seems pretty easy finding people to do stuff with.

We left on Friday after work and drove down in three cars, four people per car and we eventually met up with another couple of people. We went to a little village at the base of Turoa ski area on Mt. Ruapehu . We drank some beers and played some pool. I played teams with some guy, we took control of the board and then played some really rough locals. It was a couple and they both were really rough and mean looking. It looked like they wanted to beat the shit out of us everytime we sunk a ball. I was kind of concerned after we won the first game and nobody would put their money down to play the second game so we ended up playing them again. At this point I could see myself getting into some trouble after my pool partner patted my ass and I felt a serious rage to gouge his eyeballs out with a pool stick and smear his face with blue chalk. It was time to go to bed. No need to unleash the fury.

The next day was freezing with clear blue skies. We were twenty minutes away from the mountain. I spent the morning teaching a newbie boarder how to ride, it was kind of fun, but I am so glad I'm not learning snowboarding again. My ass would surely hurt. Christian took so many tumbles, sometimes it hurt watching. I rode the rest of the afternoon with Ida. Ida was fantastic, she was just a bit faster than me, so it was fun keeping up. It's nice riding with a girl who is just a tad better than you. The problem was I kept taking her out riding the T-bars. T-bars are bloody hell  for boarders.  I could feel the ligaments in my knees burning out. After I got lost from Ida I ran a couple of runs near a cliff and followed a guy who was hitting some really good jumps. I was really happy with some of the jumps I was taking. I learned my lesson though, if he doesn't hit a jump its probably because there is a sheet of ice on the landing. Oh my ass!!

That evening was 12 people with pizza and beer in a small little room. It felt like we were at camp. The pictures quickly deteriorated into sloppy drunk photos, so not much to share there. Than we watched a rugby game, standing room only in the pub, where I had a couple of people telling me what was going on. Suzy summed it up quite nicely, you can't tip the ball forward.

The next day we went to Whakapapa pronounced Fucka-pupa.  I could not stop saying Fucka pupa in a punk rock way, Zoe was getting tired of it. She thought I was a crazy American girl. I was surprised she could hear the voices in my head... Whakapapa was OK, but I like Turoa better for boarding. There were more jumps and it was sunnier on that day. Sunday turned into white conditions, whereby me and Kyle had to walk off the mountain through rock gardens. That was the most horrible run, ups and downs. We had to strap on and off about 6 times before we just opted to walk out. I was hung dehydrated and slow. Kyle offered to carry my board, what a British gentleman, how could I say no?

More Pictures

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Chirp chirp....

In Costa Rica I was in awe of the amazing number of colorful, loud ass birds that started their concert about an hour before the sun came up every day. I would typically get up and go onto the roof and watch the sun rise and see what kind of birds were out.

Here in New Zealand it is amazingly similar. We live right on the edge of a dense park so it is just packed with birds and, like in Costa Rica, they just love the mornings. We look out into a valley so when the birds really get going there are echos coming from all over. One morning there were two large birds that had a red crest and dayglo green bodies. They followed each other around and hung out in the tree ferns.

If you care to hear what the mornings are like in New Zealand for us just click play. I recorded a stereo sample of the birds which is best with headphones on so that you can hear the birds flying by and chirping. The rustling noises that you hear are the birds going nuts in the trees.

Monday, July 24, 2006

New Links and Blog Maintenance

I hope you like the new links and pictures. I checked all the old Costa Rica links and added some New Zealand links. There aren't as many people blogging and living in New Zealand. Also, it looks a lot better with Mozilla Firefox, the far superior internet browser experience.

Also we miss Vida so I put her on the front page.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Pictures of where we live: Parnell, Auckland

We've had requests for pictures of where we live. Just to describe the location we are about a block and a half from the Auckland Domain (huge city park and museum), Parnell and Newmarket - very cool neighborhoods. Although we don't have a view of water from our house we are abutting Newmarket park (nice trails) and some city night views. Our house is a duplex and the family next door is very nice, and the other next door neighbor's dad lives on Sauvie Island in Portland. Small world!


Friday, July 21, 2006

Transportation Planning in New Zealand

So my mother asked me specifically, what do you do? So it's been about a month on my job and I think I now have a better idea of what I do. But I should first brief the readers on the planning situation in New Zealand.

Back in 1991, New Zealand enacted the Resource Management Act, which took a lot of old (and outdated) legislation and wrapped it into one to "managing the use, development, and protection of natural and physical resources in a way, or at a rate, which enables people and communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural wellbeing and for their health and safety..."

There are a whole subset of planners who specialize in this type of NZ planning. Basically, if you do anything that is going to impact anything you have to apply for a resource consent, asking permission to impact something and include an arguement how it's not too much of an impact or that it's allowed because of some other law.

The vagueness of that last statement is a reflection of my own understanding of the law. Now let's try to apply our new found knowledge into building big highways and large scale mixed-use developments. We are in the wild west of planning now!!

The New Zealand national highway network is considered a resource worthy of protecting. This SOUNDS like environmentalism turned upside down but stay with me. So whenever a person wants to develop anything that enables a car to enter the state highway network that may negatively impact it they have to apply for a resource consent. Basically everything, though there's a lot more to it.

So when an application comes into Transit, the resource planners review it. Usually the applications are little to no impact; but when it's huge, say the size of the Pearl district redevelopment or say some huge Mall of Kiwis they pass down the 'file' to the transportation planners. We 'submit' or object to the application give a reason and open up dialog with the applicant to mutually find a solution that limits car trips.

At this point we sometimes hire transportation modelers to determine exactly what the impact is, negotiate with the developers and local township to find a solution that 'protects' the highways. If we can't find a solution we go to Environmental Court. Nothing like showing up Monday morning and going right into a meeting with lawyers.

Usually the projects that we have are highly contentious and very political. Our team building events are; if your project makes the first two pages of the national paper, you have to take the team out for morning tea. There's been a couple of billion dollars pumped into transportation, specifically in the Auckland region and we are setting the stage for what happens nationally. Mind you New Zealand isn't that big, which makes it even easier to set precedents.

Right now the Auckland region is going through a sort of regional awakening. They now have the Auckland Regional Council which is similiar to Portland's Metro. This organization is only 2 years old and is still just starting to create policies, guidelines and figuring out ways to enforce those. I get to review some of those drafts, representing Transit but hopefully I can make some constructive comments based on what I know works in Portland. I'd say they are about 15 years behind Portland in terms of strong land use policies. Though, Auckland is doing some really great work on Bus thorough fares that I think Portlanders can learn from.

Although representing the nation's roadbuilder isn't ideal, I'm starting to realize that planning is really where the rubber hits the pavement, haha. Consequently, I'm really happy with where I'm at, the projects are cool and my boss is great. It's unbelievable what a difference a good boss makes, and what a disservice my last boss was, by being a micromanager.

Bienvenido to New Zealand's wild west of planning, where the severe shortage of planners enabled me to say adios to GIS! Nary is the word GIS, though our department manager has visions of a database and he keeps looking at me, which is when I get up to uhmm... use the loo.. or something very important.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

My first New Zealand Snowboarding Trip

We left Saturday morning at 9:00am, obscenely late for a snowboarding trip. We packed six people into a subura legacy with all of our gear with no racks. Talk about packed. Then we drove five hours to the mountain. Luckily everybody in the car was cool. A good way to get to know somebody is when you are smashed together for a while. Finally, we went snowboarding for a half a day in almost white out conditions, wind and rain. Regardless, it was nice to get on the slopes again.

Frak! We got denied at the hotel where we were booked in the cute village. There were some communication issues, but I could tell just looking at the owner and the way his wife looked embarassed that he was a complete cunt. I was with some English and Irish types, they kept using the term fucking cunt as we were driving around looking for another place.

Eventually we found the Erua Lodge. This place was great. It was a hostel so you have to provide your own bedding, as if we could pack sleeping bags into the car! They provided towels and blankets. At that point we were happy to not be in the car anymore. Hostels seem like the way to go here.

The hostel was great and had everything, even a gracious hostess who kept harassing me about being American. I swear I have to apologize to everybody for what an asshat Bush is. I did not vote for him!

The next day was great. It cleared up and I got to ride with some really good boarders (Johnny an instructor) and a good skiier (Glen). Clair, Emma, & Patrick were just learning. They also informed me that I'm an ignorant asshat for not completely knowing the difference between England, UK, British, Britain, Crowns, royalty, Princess Di, Fuckapupa (the ski resort), kangaroos, tulees, tea, or the Spice Girls. I concede, I need to figure this stuff out; I can't just say it all sounds British.

I'm loading pictures. They will be here eventually.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Gliding and tree planting

The last two weekends we had fun. On one weekend Adam went to the cute sea town of Devonport and I went with a local Sea Scout crew to plant trees on Mohuike island.

The following weekend we went gliding. Check out more pictures:

We have become weekend warriors. Next weekend I'm going snowboarding.

EDIT: This is Adam. I would also like to mention that Roberta came glider flying and went up on a test flight also. She got to the ground and had a perma-grin and said that she was having so much fun that she was drooling. She was hooked and we both joined the club and are working on getting our licenses. Gliding is pretty amazing.