Monday, December 10, 2007

North Island Regional Gliding Competition

Recently I got the opportunity to fly with an experienced pilot in the North Island Regional gliding competition. The concept is that there is a week of flying and there are a few classes based on the type of glider you are flying and your skill level. You obviously don't want someone spending $250k on a glider duking it out with a $20k glider. We flew our Twin Astir in the Club Class which has a broad array of different planes.

Each morning there is a briefing at 11:00 and they hand out a list of tasks for each class. A task typically involves flying to certain points on the map within' a certain radius. The person that completes all of the tasks and makes it back to the airstrip first wins and gets points for the day. If you land out then you are scored on total distance flown. So if you land in a paddock that is 100 meters closer to the next turn point than the next guy then you win.

Usually they have a time associated with the task and if you come in under the alloted time then you devalue the task for everyone even though you win the most points. So the goal is to complete all the turn points and get back to the field at time+1 second.

The first day I showed up and the sky was looking grim and everyone waited around for a bit grumbling about landouts. Finally the tasks were handed out and everyone raced down to the end of the field and got prepped for flying. There were about 30 gliders lined up on the vector 3 wide and 3 tow planes yanking then into the sky. Supposedly all the planes can get in the air in an hour.
Our turn came and we went up and on tow we saw planes at 3000+ feet circling around happily. We, on the other hand, got dumped into a heap load of nothingness. We hunted around and found that still air was not conducive to joining the other planes at 3000+. We looked and looked and couldn't find anything so we ended up landing back at the field. This isn't the end of the world since you can get another tow.

The second tow was slightly better but we ended up getting down to 900 feet near the field struggling to gain height. They opened the start gate but the best we could do from 900 is make it back to the field. Finally we hit on a little luck and got up to 3000 and off we were.

We headed towards the first turn point using the 3 GPSs we had on board. I spent more time poking at gizmos than flying. We made our best attempt but finally got down too low and started picking paddocks at 1500 feet. By 1300 we had a number picked out. By 1000 we had chosen one. By 800 we were on a quick downwind to a tight base and finals and in. It sure seems easy when you have an experienced pilot at the helm.
After drumming up support for a retrieve crew via phone we waited around and talked about the day. Crap, crap, more crap, and a thermal or two. Tomorrow will be better, it has to be. The weather report said otherwise.

The results for the day went up on the board and we got 3rd out of 7! Not bad for not even making the first turn point and landing out.

The second day was supposed to be a shitter but turned out to look very nice. Huge Qs with what looked like good lift scattered nicely out to all our turn points. The task was handed out and everyone was off.

Open this file in Google Earth to follow along: Second Day

For how good it looked it sure took some effort to get up. We got off the ground, found some good lift, and we were off. Our goal was to stay high as it looked like the thermals were small near the ground. We tended to stay about 2000 feet and were making good progress. We made it up north to around Paeroa through the first turn point and then it was off south for a long push to around Arapuni. The thermals weren't as strong as they seemed but with a little effort we made it and then it was off a little further south to the next turn point at Tokoroa and then it was an easy push back to the field for a victory dance, tell some stories and call it a day, or so we thought.

When we started our push back north we started to realize that the sky was no longer working and that we weren't really all that high above the ground. We started the process of picking paddocks again. We quickly realized that we were in more mountainous territory so the pickins were slim. We chose one that was our best option and then found a sliver of lift which allowed us to move on a little bit. We started getting low again and recognized that we were in worse territory but started picking some anyhow. We got another sliver of lift and made a little more progress but finally we realized that we were beaten and had to pick something. Looking around I couldn't see anything landable.

Robert picked a paddock and said "We are going there". I didn't see it. Downwind I asked him to point it out and I still couldn't see it. It might have been denial because when we turned onto finals I still couldn't believe where we were going to land. It was a steep upward slope with a big hump right at the beginning. Our finals was clean but I had my hand on my straps release and the canopy release because I didn't want to be in the plane as it rolled backwards down the hill. Robert flew accurately and touched down right over the fence. This caused us to hit that hump on the start of the paddock and get launched back into the air. He had full airbrake on and we came down hard on the second bounce. As soon as we hit the plane spun to the side and started sliding on the front two wheels up the hill. I thought we were toast for sure.

As soon as it stopped digging a trench with the wheels I popped the straps and jumped out. There was no need to as Robert had perfectly landed it so that it wouldn't roll down the hill. I checked the wheels and there was no noticeable damage. A quick high 5 and a much needed pee and we were off to find the farmers and share our drama.
The retrieve involved hooking one end of a rope to Robert's truck and the other to the glider and lowering it down the hill to the trailer. Trevor Atkins was there and kept saying that this was the start to a great story. Luckily it wasn't and we were able to get the glider down the slope and onto the trailer with little drama aside from getting covered with cow poop.

Lessons learned:

Start picking your paddocks before it becomes imperative.
Gliders stop in short order going up hill on a steep slope.
Picking a paddock close to a major road is the last concern.
Fly accurately and turn tightly in small thermals to maximize lift.
Competition flying is something that anyone can do(with a little training).

After flying in the competition this year I am committed to fly the PW-5 next year. There is no magic to it, you just need to be ready to land in a paddock if necessary.

Enjoy these pictures and see you at the regionals next year.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Motorcycle Trip to Napier

Napier is about 5 hours southeast of Auckland on the east coast in Hawkes Bay. I attended a conference on push biking in New Zealand. Luckily I had a free ride via my employer, though now I'm going to have to produce some work out if it... blah blah work blah.

I can split the ride into two parts, there and back. Easy enough.

Getting there entailed packing up and getting the appropriate gear together:

I'm riding on a Suzuki SV650, 2005, with soft side packs, and a waterproof german push bike carrier strapped to the top in green.

Getting there was an easy five hour trip with a halfway point in Taupo where I took a nap beside the Taupo River after eating a risotto stuffed potato at a yummy cafe hmm:

NOTE TO TRAVELERS: between Taupo and Napier on the second half of the journey through an isolated Eastern Oregonish stretch of terrain there is a stretch of road with nary a gas station to be had. I'll leave the untold fun to your imagination but needless to say, I made it...

The ending point was a top floor room overlooking a beautiful NZ coastline, totally worth it. I was exhausted, promptly fell asleep and awoke the next morning to this beautiful sunrise.

The next three days were spent listening to very active bicycle advocates orating freely. Luckily the wine of the region flowed generously to dull my senses. During the day I 'went on site visits' to check out the local bicycle infrastructure on free bikes. There should be more free bikes.

OK now the journey back was definitely the highlight of the trip. It was a physically demanding ride from Napier to Gisborne to Tauranga to Auckland. It took me a week to get the feeling back in my ass. Ok, here's the route on Google Maps:

View Larger Map

All in all the return trip was over 700k on very windy roads, through some of the best road conditions for motorcycling. My favorite stretch was between Napier and Whakatane, it was incredible for the scenery and complete lack of traffic. It smelled like fragapinis the whole way, which is a lot better than somebody else's exhaust.

Enough typing, here's some more photos:

Friday, November 09, 2007

House Resolution 799 - Impeach Cheney

Dennis Kucinich brought HR 799 to the house two days ago. This calls for the impeachment of Dick Cheney on three counts. It looks like the Democrats tried to table it which would have killed it. The Republicans turned around and voted for it to open a discussion about the Democrats' record towards the war. Nancy Peloci has said that she will not consider a move for impeachment because it would cloud the progress that the democrats are trying to make in the house. More likely they don't want to have everyone look back and remember how they rolled over and made some evil political decisions so at the time they wouldn't look like the bad guys.

Watch the video of Dennis Kucinich reading HR 799:

Then read this writeup of what happened with a timeline:

Then read this writeup and explanation:

Make up your own mind but it looks like we voted in a bunch of Republicrats.

Monday, October 22, 2007

My First Glider Outlanding

Last weekend we went to Matamata for the extended labour day weekend. Thanks unions!

The Piako gliding club flys out of an airstrip just north of Matamata. Saturday the first day was packed, there were a lot of gliders on the field and there were some vintage aircraft pilots that were showing off.

For most of the day I was duty pilot, which means I write down the names and times of everybody else gliding. The Kaimai ranges just to the east were pumpin' and nobody wanted to come down. I don't blame them. Towards the end of the day the bad weather started rolling in and most people were putting their gliders away.

It was obvious that I wasn't going to get up in our club's Twin Astir MW, so I was unlikely going to go up. The Piako club invited me to go up in their PW6 with one of their instructors. I initially said no because I wanted to continue training in the glider I knew with an instructor from my club. Screw that, if it meant getting up in the air, I might as well give it a go.

They attached the tow rope and off we went before I knew it. The PW6 has a notch trim so I set that forward. It was heavy cross winds but the Pawnee powered us through the wind (as opposed to the tired old Cessna DML). I did most of the tow. I think at that point I remembered that the Taupo club has a PW6 where I had previous experienced with this same plane. It is much easier to fly than our club's Twin Astir.

We released at around 2500 feet and headed straight to the nursery hills. I'm not used to flying faster than 60 knots at Whenuapai so the instructor took over and we headed straight for the ridge at about 70-80 knots. When I say straight, I mean literally straight for the range, in what felt like a crash course trajectory and at very high speeds. You can hear the wind going much faster and the plane feels 'tighter'. About 1000 or so meters before the ridge the winds pick us up and send us up as it should.

We experienced some turbulence, but overall it was smooth upward sailing. We cruised over to the waterfall. I told the instructor that I was pretty happy just doing turns around the waterfall. We practiced emergency turns with air brakes, for getting out of cloudy conditions and losing height quickly. This is usually not a problem in Whenuapai, where we are typically eaking out additional height on fleeting thermals.

The weather was picking up, meaning more clouds were coming in and starting to 'sock-in' the range and the cloud base was starting to drop. We were told that we probably should not leave the range for the return flight at any height under 3500. Having reached cloud level we came off the range just short of that, hoping to pick up height on the way back. Unfortunately the cloud base was starting to drop clear across the valley.

All the while the instructor was chuckling in the back, 'the gps unit is no good when it's in the car, haha' Whah? I'm thinking as we are continually doing 'practice' emergency breaking through the clouds. The instructor takes over and we head back to the range to get more height and travel north along the ridge, closer to the field.

We get some more height and our bearings, we had passed north across the railroad crossing and tunnel. These landmarks are of course no use to me because I didn't check out a map before take-off. So I just kept telling the instructor every landmark I saw in hopes that he would remember how to get us back home.

We left the ridge the second time and headed back. I *think* we left the ridge at 3000 feet. We quickly lost a lot of height avoiding clouds. The instructor was no longer chuckling. At about 2000 I started getting worried. There was no airfield in sight and the clouds were dropping quickly.

At his point I was starting to get nervous. My instructor seemed to be doing the best with the conditions that rolled in but I still didn't know his skill level and if he had ever outlanded before this flight. I was mentally preparing myself to take over control and land the glider in the paddock if anything went wrong. All I could remember in my head was Adam mentioning it was best to land on the west side of the river because it's less bumpy.

We were losing height and at about 1800 feet I knew were were going to outland. Luckily, last weekend at Whenuapai, our instructors had devised a simulated out landing using toi tois as a fence line. I wasn't at that stage in my instruction but I was certainly glad I had eavesdropped.

We were now on the west side of the river getting into flat territory. Still no airfield and I think at around 1500 feet the instructor made the decision to outland. We circled around and found a cluster of good looking paddocks. The instructor and myself were both communicating, agreed on a paddock and both confirmed there were no wires or fences. We did a full circuit and landed.

It happened so quickly, I'm glad to say I didn't have to interrupt the instructor to show him my newbie landing skills. It was a very smooth landing and we only took up half the paddock. Though I do remember the fence getting a lot closer during the landing than how far it actually was upon ground inspection. I'll have to remember that for next time.

The instructor starts chuckling again, muttering how his wife was going to kill him for having this happen again and the club was not going to let him live it down. My heart was beating fast and I was very hot from the adrenaline. I physically felt the same way I did after I almost drowned while rafting the Upper Klamath River in Oregon. During that experience I recall thinking my mom would be very upset if I drowned, likewise I was thinking about how worried Adam must have been.

We had lost radio contact with the Piako club shortly after leaving the ridge the second time. The speaker in the front seat of the PW6 is very weak, but I do recall the instructor making numerous attempts to inform the glider base of our predicament. We got out of the glider and the paddock turned out to be quite bumpy and full of cowsh1t. I couldn't figure out how the landing was so smooth. I think my brain is just remembering a smooth landing as one that doesn't end in a crash.

We tried to radio again to no avail. We didn't have any tie down pickets so I was left with the glider to make sure it didn't blow around. I hopped in the back seat to be near the radio. I made another attempt to radio contact. That's when I noticed how little the instructor could see from the back seat. I was imagining how hard it must have been to navigate with that small view window.

At that point I noticed water dripping down my pants. It seems as though I sat on the mouthpiece to a camelback. Uggh, wet cold jeans, who knew how long it would take for my recue. Piako Club called again and I responded, at which time I was able to let them know I was OK. Luckily I just got done with my FRTO training so I sounded real legit. Matamata traffic Glider Papa Kilo.....

The instructor was able to phone in the location at the nearest farm house, because at the glider I was unable to tell anybody where I was. Next thing you know a farmer and all his kids pull up in a pick-up wanting to take a look at the plane. So I acted cool and showed the kids the glider. They assured me that help was just a few minutes away. Nevertheless it was freakin' cold at this point so I hopped in the glider again waiting for support.

Adam had hitched a ride with an advance crew and walked in to give me a beer. The Piako club didn't make me derig the plane in the rain but sent me back to the clubhouse where I had to tell the story to everybody a number of times. I was so amped this wasn't a problem.

It wasn't until five more beers that I was able to have a reasonable nights rest. I usually don't drink but my adrenaline was not going to let me sleep easily.

I had to get my rest for the next day, just in case the ridge was pumpin' and it was. The following day I had a few runs along the ridge and we soared close to 8000 feet (3500 is our limit at Whenuapai). Adam was afraid because of the outlanding I would never want to glide again, luckily it had the opposite effect and I am now anxious to go solo. I was getting distracted by motorcycling but I'll have to focus on gliding now that the weather is going to get better for soaring.

More Photos here

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Ride Right Ride Safe Motorcycle Class

I took a motorcycle safety class for intermediates last weekend and somebody was taking a few pictures. Here are a few of mine.

A few differences between US style classes and Kiwi classes
a) You can have a drink if you know what your tolerance limit is vs. the US where they taught no drinking and motorcycling. Not that I would ever drink and ride, cause I'm a little paranoid about these things.
b) The instructors where riding wheelies up and down the runway, whereas in the US the instructors would only ride super conservative during the course training.

Overall I enjoyed the Kiwi class a lot better. The instructors where volunteers and everybody was having a really good time. Except for some of the hog riders who had such big bikes they kept knocking over all the cones. haha none of my cones went down!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Hot-As Garbage Men

I was walking home from the pool and the garbage truck pulls up and out from the back jumps this hot shirtless crew of garbage men. They were wearing their high impact running shoes and running shorts. It's like they were running a marathon behind the garbage truck and just happen to be throwing the recycling in the back.

This country is so fit. Everybody works out a lot it seems.

Other things of interest. They cook eggs on the pizza. They just crack it open on top of the pizza and bake it. It's called an Aussie. Obviously I'm not as fit as anybody!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Freaky as flight

Yesterday I went out to the glider field for a flight and the conditions weren't the greatest. The cloud base was at about 800 feet which was easily the lowest that I have ever flow in. We basically towed off the end of the field and were looking for a hole in the clouds to climb into. We got up to 1500 feet and thats about as high as we could get safely. Oh, did I forget to mention that it was raining and the tower was on watch so we were in controlled airspace. It was a good test of my flying ability to be up on that day.

Really the only reason that I went up was to test out a new toy. It is a Compaq Ipaq 3970 with a GPS sleeve running some gliding software called Winpilot. The software functions as a moving map, flight logger, final glide calculator, compass, wind speed calculator, and so much more. People use them for competitions because you program the goals into them and it helps you fly to the goals more effectively. At this point in my gliding I am just using it for data logging and final glide to make sure that I can get back to the field.

I recorded my flight on Sunday and converted it to Google Earth format for your viewing enjoyment. If you don't already have Google Earth installed it is a must have. If you have it installed then click on the following link to view a record of my 11 minute flight. Be sure to angle the camera down so that you can see the profile of the flight. You can also press play on the right and it will do a fly through of my flight. Cool use for technology.

Enjoy: Click to open flight in Google Earth

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Trip home to Portland

We went home to Portland earlier this month for a week and a half as our yearly check-in. It was really nice to be home. I think I was a little home sick and missed some stuff about the US but I'm still glad we moved to New Zealand. The family and friends would be the reason we would move back to the states.

We started off with a couple nights in Portland which were much enjoyed. Portland is such a great town. The vibe of Portland is crazy but in a really cool way. People definitely spend the time just to chat. The bicycle traffic jams were good to see.

Our first party was my dad's 60th birthday party/retirement party. Dan(Gene) had been working for some 29 years at Intel and said that he was done last month. Good on him.

The party was on the farm so we were able to have about 60 people show up. There were all sorts of cool people there which were a mix of family, dad's co-workers and friends. There was a huge table of food that got put out which was devoured at a frightening speed. Maybe getting lost in the country trying to find a goat farm makes people hungry.

After the party about ten of the people set up tents and camped out over night. It looked like a wee little hobbit village. I know, I live in New Zealand.

Pretty much the next four days were devoted to eating and shopping. Things are more expensive in NZ so it is good to buy things like clothes and bass amps while stateside. I also bought a Costco sized box of Peppridge Farms Goldfish. Mmmm....

Our friend Dan happened to have two seats left in his three person raft so Roberta and I spent a day floating down the Deschutes River. It is amazingly relaxing on a raft because there is really not much do aside from chill out.

We got back from the rafting trip at 7:00PM, I showered and was playing a board game called Talisman by 8:00. The game happened to take four hours so I wasn't in bed until 3:00. What I forgot was that I had to get up at 6:00AM and do some stuff and then head to a wedding up at Timberline. Needless to say the wedding was rather difficult for me.

The wedding was great, not too formal but more than just some simple party. Mt Hood was a great backdrop for the festivities also.

We had one day to pack before we had to hop on a plane. Roberta and I are good at judging exactly how much crap we can legally check onto a plane. We had 5 checked bags in total. Four of the five bags weighed as close to 50 pounds as possible. We put all the heavy pots and pans and books in our carry on bags since that is free weight if they don't catch you. We found out the hard way that freight M-Bags no longer exist but it all worked out.

The plane trip back wasn't as good without sleeping pills but it wasn't horrible. Our plane out of Portland to San Francisco was late so when we got to SFO we had to run to make our plane to NZ. In NZ we waited at baggage claim until the last bag came out and then they put the sign out "There are no more bags for your flight". Crap. They managed to lose all five of our bags. That wasn't particularly bad since Roberta and I didn't really want to carry 300 pounds of stuff through the airport. AirNZ shuttled the bags to our house the next day. If you get the opportunity then fly Air New Zealand. I have never flow with anyone better.

Back to NZ.

Here's some pictures (30)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Whakapapa pronounced: Fuc-a-popa

Last weekend we went snowboarding at Mt. Ruapehu which is the tallest mountain on the north island at 2797 meters. This year has been a crap year for snow but we decided to go down with some friends to make it fun. We actually went down to procrastinate packing for our trip back to the states on Thursday.

Our friends' mom has a bach(vacation home) at the base of the mountain with 4 bedrooms so we had a nice place to stay. It was a nice old house with a big garden and a stream running through it. Very quiet and relaxing.

The mountain didn't have that much snow but I was on a rental board so bring on the rocks. The snow softened up after lunch and turned out to be pretty good. The main problem was that there were tons of people on very few runs. You were shoulder to should with people who should not have been on the upper lifts.

Then there was our friend Graham. It was his second day snowboarding in his life so I went to visit him on the bunny slope to check his progress. He was kicking ass and making turns so I took him to the top. After a bumpy dismount getting off the lift we were on our way. He was going way too fast for a noob and making some good turns. He didn't have quite the control to dodge people though and he took out four people on his first run down. On the second run I made him promise to limit his takedowns to one on this run. He used his allocation at the top of the run. He is going to be a good boarder.

All in all a great trip.

On a side note: A friend who was board trip with us just moved into this house in Parnell that has 21 bedrooms called "The Big House". It used to be a catholic boarding house and someone bought it and turned it into communal housing. The house has a constitution. There are 21 people living there so all chores and duties are distributed among everyone. Cooking is done by 3 people per night and everyone eats together. Supposedly they have big ass parties with 1000 people. Can't wait to get invited to one.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Weekend trip to Wellington

Christ! It's been a long time since we posted. Going back to work kind of sucks all of my blogging energy right out of me. But, work did pay for a trip down to Welly (short for Wellington) so we decided to make an extended weekend out of it. So here's the blog posty to go with it.

Wellington is a pretty cool city. It's situated on the south of the the north island and is New Zealand's capital. God, I sound like a friggin' tour guide! Wellington is known for it's art, music and general coolness. It reminded me a lot if you combined the capital of Salem (kind of griddy state buildings) and the people of Eugene (art hippie types)and put it on a water front like Seattle (about an 1/8th many people) and throw in a couple of snow peaked mountains in the distance. That's Wellington.

I don't think I'd go back except if I was seeing a show, but it was definitely worth a weekend. The weather was pretty crap, but that's to be expected in the middle of winter.

So here are a few pictures to give you an idea:

And how can we not include a picture of a random cat killing a tree!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Cats stuck to things. Ver 1.0

This is going to be an ongoing series of pictures of our cats stuck to things. Enjoy.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Poor Knights: More Diving

Two weekends ago I went back to the Poor Knight's Island for a dive weekend. It's was really fun.

If you want to see some pictures of the underwater wild life we say go to Margaret's posting.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

New Zealand Taxes...

First lesson, do not do taxes after a few...Morning review of previous nights tax adventure - ? How can you get an $15,000 refund if you only paid $12,000 in taxes?

phew! Glad I caught that one...better use the online calculators.

All in all it took about 20 minutes to do my New Zealand taxes online and I ended up owing a little more. bye-bye beer glasses :(

All I can say is that New Zealand taxes are way easier than US taxes. Basically nobody is eligible for anything - payup bitches!

Meat Bombin'

Last night I went to parachute training at the Whenuapai air base. The whole concept is that if something were to go seriously wrong in the glider then we would have a chance of getting out and living to tell about it. With that said, mechanical failures are rare with gliders. If I crash it will most likely be because I did something stupid on landing.

The training was at the air force base where they train the military how to jump. It was like we were all secret agents in a clandestine military facility. In reality we were just a bunch of glider geeks studying self preservation.

The concepts are simple.

1) Make decision to exit glider
2) Jetison canopy
3) Remove straps (Not parachute straps)
4) Exit to the side of the aircraft
5) As soon as you are clear of the plane put both hands on the release and punch out
6) Count to 3 as the parachute inflates
7) Look up and make sure there are no knots or problems with the parachute
8) If there are problems then correct them
9) Assess the wind and pick a landing area
10) Use the steering handles to aim at your landing spot
11) Keep knees and feet together
12) Right before landing turn the lower half of your body into the direction of travel
13) Roll
14) Once you have stopped pull the bottom cables of parachute to deflate it
15) Unstrap your self from parachute
16) Wash pants

If I were to ever have to get out of a plane now then I feel much safer about getting down safely. The instructor said that above 500 feet you could open your parachute and live.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Byron Bay Trippin

Roberta and I are now back in NZ and are already planning our next next vacation. Hmmm.... We are dreaming about Japan, or Thailand, or maybe Vanuatu or Fiji. In the short term we will be coming back to the states in August to visit friends, go to a wedding, and be there for my dad's 60th birthday and retirement party.

Our trip to Australia was great. The security conference was a real eye opener (There is another post coming) and the trip down the east coast of Oz was great.

We start the vacation part by having Roberta's flight on Emirates Air from NZ to OZ canceled with no compensation. Normally the airline would offer some type of discounts on future travel but nope.

I picked Roberta up from the airport in Brisbane and we drove about 2.5 hours south to Byron Bay. Roberta wanted to stop and see Surfers' Paradise but I just told her to imagine Reno with a beach. We pulled into Byron Bay and were only planning on staying for a night or two but when we saw this cute little hippie town we decided to spend our whole vacation there. We would also highly recommend the Byron Central accommodations as they were reasonable priced, walking distance to everything, and nice. In the off season ask them for a deal on multiple nights.

The weather there was as close to perfect as you could get. Nice and warn during the day but not oppressive. The water was warm enough to swim in after a brief period of screaming like a school girl getting used to the temperature. The sand on the beaches reminded me of flour it was so fine.

Our first walk around town we noticed that there were almost more crystal shops than people. You could get all your fire spinning needs filled at a couple shops that only sold fire spinning goods.

And the restaurants.... Oh the restaurants.... We ate well. After leaving the states we haven't had high expectations for Mexican food but we decided to try the Mexican joint anyhow. It turned out to be as good if not better than most of the Mexican food in Portland. Oh great, I just made myself hungry thinking about it, time to cook some burritos.

We took a hike up to the lighthouse and saw two packs of dolphins swimming by. We were hoping to see whales but no luck. We had some extremely good ice cream up at the lighthouse also. Mmmm....

The next day we took a kayak trip into the ocean. I am glad that I did it as a guided tour as the waves started to pick up. We were out in the ocean rolling throw the waves in these tiny sit on top kayaks. Super fun. We didn't end up seeing any dolphins on that trip but it was fine since we got our dolphin fix the day before. On the paddle back in Roberta and I (in a two seater kayak) got to surf in the waves which was great fun.

Supposedly Byron Bay used to be a nice little community of alternative thinking people. Now it is more of an alternative tourist destination. At points it gave me the feeling of being in a hippie zoo. But hey, we were tourists and we hadn't seen real hippies in a while so it was refreshing. When the housing prices went up and all the ferals (crusty hippies) got kicked out they then took over a town called Nimbin up in the hills. We were going to go check it out but were told that the only redeeming feature of Nimbin is the ease of scoring drugs.

Instead we took a recommendation from a nice lady we met in Byron Bay to go to the Sunday market in Bangalow. We were expecting a couple dozen stands with some produce and hand made tile mirrors. We were shocked to see something that looked like a toned down version of the Oregon country fair. There were booths as far as they eye could see and they all had some cool stuff. Back on the topic of food, one booth had a sugar cane press and was making ginger/sugar cane juice. Roberta got this antique tin with a koala bear on it and I got a camphor wood cutting board. There was also this family band playing there that were absolutely amazing. It was this old hillbilly guy with 5 kids who all played a number of different instruments playing old timey songs. It was a little ego deflater in that these kids could rip it up harder than me and they were only 10.

On a side note, I am joining a band right now and are planning our first gig soon. We are a cross between Johny Cash and Pink Floyd.

After leaving the market our next destination was a glider field in Boohna which was closer to Brisbane. We got there and met some really nice glider folk and got to go up in their ASK 21M which is a large two seater self launch glider. We turned the motor off at 2000 AGL and then I took control and we thermalled up to about 6000'. We hauled ass all around the area for an hour and 16 minute flight. We only came down because Roberta was waiting on the ground to go up. She also had a great flight.

We spent the last night in Brisbane and flew out in the morning. Our Emirates flight back to Auckland was 45 minutes late which was the icing on the cake of never flying Emirates again. Air New Zealand is so much nicer in every way.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Yellow Brick Road in Oz

Currently Roberta and I are in Australia at a little beach town called Byron Bay. If you were to take downtown Ashland and move it to southern California and put it on the beach then that would be Byron Bay. There are almost more crystal shops here than people. It has a good vibe.

Here are some maps to get your orientation on places in Oz.

Byron Bay Map

I originally came to Oz last week for a security conference called AusCert which was really thought provoking. It will require a whole post to itself when I get back. But in the short of things, I realized that the security concerns in Windows might drive me to get a Mac.

AusCert Conference

There was a very interesting talk from an engineer on the One Laptop Per Child project. He designed the hardware and security requirements of the project. If you have not heard of the project it sounds like a good thing.

One Laptop Per Child

Expect more updates when we get back to NZ.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Lost cat == found cat

We recently got a cat door installed so the little terrors(cats) can practice their interrogation techniques on birds when they choose. It is one of the cat doors that has the magnetic lock so that only our cats can get in(or any other cat with a magnet) but we haven't been using it yet.

About a week ago I was walking upstairs in the morning and saw this big black cat in our house. Needless to say Haka and Tica didn't like the idea of sharing their food bowl with this guy. He slinked outside when I yelled at him but I could tell that something wasn't right. I went outside and found that he was extremely skinny and his collar was wrapped around his leg and had been for some time. You could tell by the look in his eyes that he was damn hungry and need a vet quickly. I tried to get his collar off but it was too tight and worn into his skin so I ended up cutting it off with a pair of scissors. He seemed fairly happy about that. Roberta went down and got a small bowl of cat food and some water which he scarfed down. It looks like he hadn't eaten in days.

I ended up taking him to our local vet who handed him off to the SPCA. I got word yesterday from our vet that he got reunited with his owners. Woohoo!!!

I doubt that they will be letting him outside again for a long while.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Blow Jobs in the Viaduct

Last night I went out with some co-workers after work. We ended up in the Viaduct. I had not been to the Viaduct yet, been meaning to do so. Quite the happening place. The Viaduct is this mini-harbour place where fancy boats are parked and there's this walkway around it with lots of bars and restaurants.

We came around the corner and there was this girl giving a blow job in front of all the restaurants and everybody is pointing and laughing. Whoa, didn't want to see that! They stopped after a few minutes. Neil my co-worker turned to me and said last week they saw another couple getting it on full stop!

Well I guess this is where the exhibitionists go. Adam's first thought was "was she a prostitute?" I have no idea, but prostitution is legal in NZ. I just don't know about public acts of sex.

At this point I'm more traumatized by my hangover and the fact that I have to go play a soccer game in a half an hour. My stomach feels like a gurgling, stuffed up and flowing sink. ugh Ah, yes, this is why I don't go out too often...

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Congratulations Andrea!

I'm very proud of my little sister. She aced a test to get into a nursing program. She's always wanted to be a nurse. She got a little distracted by a cute little boy named Andre (my nephew), but now she's on a mission. Good on ya!

*Big thanks to Kurt for reformatting my old hard drive and cleaning up my old college computer for Andrea. May she suffer as I did with late night studying! The rewards are worth it.

For every girl and every boy, Yay!

Here's a link to my favorite radio station here in NZ. If you want to hear what all the cool kids in Auckland are listening to, this is it. I recommend listening to it at 7 am our time or 1 pm Portland OR time for the morning show. Then you'll get the title.

Radio 95bfm

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Exchange Rates

When I was living in the States I couldn't care less about exchange rates. Now I'm a little obsessed. The kiwi dollar has risen against the US dollar to the highest it has been in 23 years.

This means that in the last six months our kiwi dollar is worth about 15% more against the US dollar. It was .60 kiwi cents to the dollar and now it's about at .75.

The US dollar has also been dropping against the euro as well.

We've been planning on sending some money back to the states to pay down some house debt but we might as well wait to see how high the kiwi dollar gets compared to the US dollar. Plus a regular savings account here gets about 7% interest as compared to 3-5% in the states.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

High,stinky, hot, and cold.

Roberta and I had the opportunity to take a week off from work and have a nice vacation. We started if off by heading down to Taupo which is about 4 hours south of Auckland. There is a "World Famous in NZ" glider field there that does week long training courses. Roberta was interested in going solo so this was perfect. When we got there the weather couldn't have been any better for gliding although it could have been a bit warmer in the mornings. Luckily we found a nice natural hot spring river that you could go sit in and bake.

We stayed in bunk rooms on the glider field for our time there and they were really nice. There was this Czechoslovakian guy named Dennis who had some sort of OCD which made him the perfect club mother. He was always running around making sure that everything was done just right and that everyone had what they needed.

I was expecting to go down there and do training myself in the two seaters with an instructor. We did one check flight and he oked me for flying in their PW5(single seater) which was a little scary as I only had about 5 solo flights in the PW5. It turned out nice because the thermals were booming the first couple days and I had a few really good flights.

I took a second check flight to get my ridge orientation. To fly on a ridge you use the up going wind that is striking a ridge face. That means that you need to fly really close to the ridge face, which at times can be fairly nerve wracking. After getting checked out on the ridge I spent two days carving out the corners and having a great time. It really teaches you control because if something goes wrong you don’t have much time to recover.

Roberta was able to get some really good compressed instruction on flying because the weather was so good. She had a number of hour long flights which leads to great instruction time. By the end of the camp she was doing the takeoffs and landings with little help from the instructor. With a couple more days she could have been solo.

The final day that we were supposed to fly there the weather packed in so we decided to head over to Rotorua which is know for its stinkyness due to geothermal activity. The good part about that is it also means there are a ton of hot springs. Roberta was to do the swimming portion of a half triathlon the following day so we just chilled out in Rotorua and did the tourist thing. We checked out out the Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland which was really nice and stinky.

The following day we headed down to the lake where the triathlon was and Roberta and her team got mentally prepared.

Roberta started off the swimming portion in a pack of about 200 people.

If I was doing it I probably would have ran into the water and then scampered back out because of the temperature of the water. I am a cold water weenie though. Their team finished in a good time and everyone seemed to have fun.

It was a fun vacation and good to discover new parts of NZ.

Oh yeah, our cats are still cute.

Click here for more pictures of the trip

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

New Wetsuit for open water swimming

Sunday was a grueling day of trying on six different wetsuits in two stores.
The same brand, same size, two different wetsuits would fit totally different.

Triathlon wetsuits are skin 'freakin' tight! It's like putting on a small pair of nylons over your entire body that is 3-5 mm thick. I have little bruises all over my body were I was trying to grip the wetsuit to pull up but instead was gripping my skin. Ouch! This on top of my healing sea lice saga.

I took it for a test swim at Parnell baths and have come to the conclusion that I am totally screwed It's like adding an additional five pounds to each arm, whereas I was once a stealth fast swimmer and now, with a wetsuit on, I feel like my arms are brick weights.

But at least I won't drown, since there is 5 milimeters on the torso it's like wearing a life vest. I couldn't sink even if I tried.

Here's a link to the Orca wetsuit I bought.

FYI - It's Adam's birthday today!

Sisterhood of the traveling fighter pilots: Battlestar Galactica

OK, if I haven't already said this before I will say it again. Battlestar is the best show of the decade. Yes... it is 2007 and I can't think of a better show, we don't even watch TV, we have to schedule it to download and watch later.

Anyway here's a great article on Battlestar.

I hope Starbuck comes back...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Auckland Lantern Festival and Sheepworld

A while back I went to the Chinese Lantern Festival. I can't believe how crowded it was it was so hard to move we left early. But here are a few pictures of the display. Also you can click here for some pictures of a little trip we took to Sheepworld, which was essentially, a nice petting zoo.

I went with Margaret and Darren

Monday, March 19, 2007

First Single Seat Glider Solo

Roberta has been getting on my case about posting to the blog so here it goes. I actually haven't been posting much because I have just been gliding on the weekends and not much else.

Gliding has been progressing nicely and last weekend I had my first solo flight in a single seat glider. On Saturday there was a national gliding awareness day called "The Big Day Up" where the public is encouraged to come out and give gliding a try. A lot of the club members came out and put their planes together for display and there was a lot of flying.

I talked to the CFI and got him to let me go solo in the club's Smyk PW5 which is a single seat glider. It has a really short wingspan and is a tiny glider all around. Supposedly it is like a race car compared to the Grob 103 Twin Astir that I had been flying.

All of the experienced guys on the field had been scarring the crap out of me with stories of how hard it was to take off with PIO(pilot induced oscillation). PIOs happen when you correct to get the glider on track but you over correct. Then when you correct for that correction you over correct. Then it just gets out of control. Each pilot told me different tricks to get over the PIOs in the PW5. Bracing my arms on the side of the plane, putting a finger on my wrist to steady it, trim it back for takeoff, just use two fingers on takeoff, stick hard back, etc.....

So I got mentally prepared for the flight and pushed the plane onto the runway and got in and waited my turn. This is always the time that I notice that I have to pee. One of the instructors came over and gave me a couple more words of advice and right before he left he said "And this plane crashes nice too".

With all the pilots and instructors from the club standing up watching, I did the takeoff and it was perfect. No problem. The lift was scratchy and I just got used to plane which was very quick and nice compared to the beast that I have been flying.

I came back in for a good landing and got cheers and handshakes from most of the pilots. Making the transition to the single seaters is big accomplishment for me. Now I just need to figure out how to keep the damn things in the air.

Roberta and I are going to Taupo down south for 5 days for concentrated gliding instruction. Roberta wants to get up to speed but doesn't want to spend the time waiting around at the glider field. I just want to get closer to getting my full glider pilot license. Should be fun to see that part of the country from the air.

Wish us luck.

Sea Bathers Eruptions

OK, you know how I was talking about training for the Xterra, Blue Lake swim portion of a triathlon? Well, I signed up for lessons with Future Dreams. I tried all last week to get a wetsuit rental lined up. I couldn't get that to happen, but the coach said to just show up. I was going to wimp out and not go, but Adam wouldn't let me. Great, it will be like the polar bear club, but I will have to do laps in the cold water.

I show up and I was surprisingly in shape. Basically it was a crew of 11 girls and 1 guy, I was in competition with the guy for first each time. (Pst..that picture is from futuredreams website).

Unfortunately I felt kind of itchy out in the water. I thought it was just the sea water in contact with my chlorinated swimsuit. Later that day I felt really tired and puky. Turns out I got sea bather's rash or sea lice. You get this when the larvae of jelly fish get caught in your swimsuit and get rubbed around like a scrub bush shooting you full of poison. It was great. I figured out why I was so dizzy driving away from the beach. Because I was SICK! So now I have a wicked rash covering my torso.

I've been told that this is a one-off kind of thing, I've been swimming in the ocean here and other people do it all the time without getting this rash. I'm going to give it one more try. If not I'm joining a soccer team.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Summer is over here, wah!

It started to get cold here again. Bummer. Summer was fun and not to hot, which was nice.

I`ve been swimming pretty hard training for the Xterra. I'm up to about 1500-1700 meters three times a week, which is pretty good.

The cats still have poopy butts so we took them for a couple of overnights at the vet so they can figure out what's wrong with their tummies. Tough shit is better than soft shit in this case.

Went to see La Clique last night. I think I am officially over my circus infatuation. It was good, but nothing new....Except for bendy man who dislocated his arms in disturbing ways. Right now I'm inspired to pop my knuckles, but that's it.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Poor Knight's Diving

Last weekend we took a trip up to the Poor Knights Island and went diving with Daren, Margaret, Steve and Holly. The first day was really great, saw lots of sting rays, big slugs, fish, eels, kelp. Obviously I'm not a biologist, or I'd be giving you all of the 'official' regional names. Basically lots of fishes.

We went with the Poor Knight Divers and I would recommend them to others. Their boat is really nice, the skipper gave some historical context of the area. Much nicer than the Crazee Diver boat I went with last time. There was some confusion about filling dive tanks, but Jill gracefully gave us 25% off our next trip. We also stayed at their cabin in Tutakaka and it was really nice, though not right on the beach it had a good view and was convenient to the marina.

Hopefully for Easter I'll go up with Margaret and Darren to dive the Rainbow Greenpeace Boat that was destroyed by the French.

Swimming the XTerra

Crap! It's been a whole month since the last post. I blame it on Adam.

Anyway, I'm getting nervous. I was asked to join a team to compete in the XTerra triathlon in Rotorua. I'll be doing the swimming portion. Basically I've been going to the pool about twice per week but I need to up that to at least 3 or 4 for the month of March so I won't drown or get kicked in the head.

Wish me luck. I've gained about 1.5 kilos (couple of pounds) since moving to New Zealand, and that is not OK. I think it's all of the dairy and Movenpik ice cream. And the desk job....

Monday, February 05, 2007

Cat Scratch Fever!!

OK, I don't want to turn into those crazy people who blog about their cats, but check out what Haka did to my hand! BRUTAL!!

Ragged Ass in Raglan

Adam and I went to Raglan, which is about 3 hours southwest on the west side of the North Island. We stayed at Wild Coast which was totally cool. We had isolated cabins overlooking oceans and hills. Kind of like what the Oregon Coast looked like in the 50's.

They had horse expeditions, and it was definitely one of the most challenging rides I had been on in a while. There were very steep hills and a number of times my horse, Sundance, slipped and fell to his knees as I struggled to stay on and avoid the branches gouging holes in my legs. When we got on the beach the guide told us not to let our horses out of control because the horse would take off in a sprint and the rest of the herd like pack would follow. OK-Doky! I've been on a horse riding flat out and it was one of the most scary things to happen to me during my childhood. We did eventually get to run the horses on the beach, which was super fun. Those were some spunky horses! Ride-um cowboy, when are we going again? Just as soon as my ass recovers...Thanks Helen for referring me!

And of course Adam went gliding during this time. See all those hills in the background? Them are good for riding hot air, which is exactly what Adam is thinking about at this moment...

Monday, January 29, 2007

Christmas in Portland OR 2006

Well, better late than sorry....I went to Portland this last Christmas to take care of the house AND to see my family. I really had a good time and it was nice seeing my family and friends. Big thanks to Shar for putting me up and thanks to everybody else who helped me take care of the house.

Here's some pictures.

Monday, January 22, 2007


We did it. This weekend we acquired two cute kittens from the pound.

This is Tica:

Initially we thought that it might be interesting to get a pure bred cat of some exotic breed. We went to a couple cat breeders and were thoroughly disgusted by the treatment of the cats. I just don't think that you can humanely raise a large number of cats. And as soon as they are bred for money it looks like they stop being treated as pets.

Our first trip to the SPCA(pound) was a shocker. We got there at 2:00 on a Saturday and they were completely out of kittens and there were only a couple other older cats there which were by no means ugly or mean. We talked to an attendant and she said that there is stiff competition for the kittens and that we would have to get there at 10:00AM to get a good kitten.

We went back at 10:00AM the following weekend and there were already about 15 people pointing and talking about which ones they wanted. We pushed our way into one of the cat rooms and surveyed the cuteness. There were two kittens that were constantly playing and that liked to be held. They also had interesting markings like some of the pure bred cats we were looking at. Roberta and I quickly agreed and I raced off to make sure no one else got them.

This is Haka:

They have been nothing but cuteness since, well aside from this morning when one of them unleashed a flood of pee onto our comforter. They just jump around and run and play all the time. We got them these little catnip mice that they just love. We have take them aways at bed time or else they will be bouncing off the walls all night.

Here are some pics:


Sunday, January 14, 2007

First Glider Solo Flight

For the past 7 months I have been flying at the Auckland Aviation Sports Club which flies out of Whenuapai (Pronounced Fen-ew-uh-pie). Today I took my first solo flight which is a major achievement in my gliding career. Prior to 7 months ago I had no real concept of how to fly an airplane.

Today the instructor took me up for a check flight to make sure that I was ready to go up on my own. He didn't say a word on the flight which was a little strange. Usually the instructor is back there chatting away about one thing or another and I am constantly vocalizing my intentions of what I am doing. On this flight I was talking but getting no responses which was an odd feeling. I had to do everything right on my own without the typical confirmations.

I came in for a perfect textbook landing and we hopped out of the plane and he said that it was time to go solo. I strapped in and did all my pre-takeoff checks talking to myself. The takeoff went great and I released at 2000 feet. I flew around looking for some lift and found enough to keep me at 1700 feet for a few minutes but not enough to keep me up for an hour long first solo flight. I came in for the landing and stuck another perfect landing to much amazement of the people on the ground.

After that flight I couldn't stop smiling for an hour. What a great feeling to be completely in control of something so amazing and to see the months of work paying off.

The club is completely volunteer and people seem genuinely happy to be out there helping out. The aviation sector has a lot of die hard members, of which I am officially one now.

For any glider pilots out there, my first solo was in our Grob 103 Twin Astir since our Blanik is out of commission.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Earthquakes and Volcanos - Oh My!

I have yet to experience any earthquakes or volcanos in New Zealand, I can't wait. In Portland we had Mt. St. Helens, which blew big time when I was in the first grade. I can remember ashes everywhere. We had some small tremors in Southern Oregon.

And of course, there were lots of tremors in Costa Rica, not to mention the lava flowing at Arenal. You could watch it flow sitting in hotsprings below.

Check out this link, it looks like Mt. Ruapehu crater lake is going to burst.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Urrghhh Credit Cards and Bills

When we were living in Costa Rica we had all of our mail sent to a private post office box in Texas. The mail system in CR was sketchy regardless, and we weren't full citizens anyway.

Now that we are in New Zealand we are trying to have all of our bills in the US be permanently changed to NZ. Well, rarely any of the billing systems have the capacity for foreign addresses. Urgh!

When we try to buy things online, one of the security things they verify is the mailing address. Well, the way we would write the address is different than the way the customer service rep. figured out how to get it into their system, so they never match. Voila, can't buy anything online when they cross match security stuff. Arghh!

And lastly since I was in the US for two weeks over Christmas break this appeared to be dodgy activity so they suspended my card. I was carrying about a dozen cards at any one point, and maybe one would work at any one time. I'd call them, they would turn it on, then it wouldn't work....GIVE ME MY MONEY!!

OK I'll stop bitching, I found a way to buy some new shoes. NZ has poor quality or overpriced shoes, so naturally, I had to stock up :)

Monday, January 08, 2007

Best Cough Drops Ever

So I went away for a while Portland and got really sick. Fever, coughs, shivers, achy bones. I was in a rough state. I came back and Adam got me THE BEST COUGH DROPS EVER. They were anti-inflammatory, cough suppressants, antibacterial AND it had codeine in it.

Best invention ever. It didn't knock me out or anything, just made my tongue and throat numb, just enough to let me sleep. They were way better than taking those oral anti-whatever that just dries out your whole body. Woohoo for a better health system that lets adults choose their own remedies.

I'm not a big pill taker, but if I'm really sick I will take whatever pills it takes to get better.

There ARE Comments!!

Well I thought I was just talking to myself, keeping a little diary for later in life, because nobody was saying anything. Nobody was posting comments. I thought I was talking to a wall. The stat counter was showing lots of hits. It did seem strange to me that nobody was leaving comments.

Well, I guess there was a glitch and just the other day about 50 or so comments got posted. I'm going to go back and read through them and make some responses. If you left a comment in the last couple of months, sorry about that....I'll get on it soon.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

More South Island Pictures from June

Adam's sister, June, just posted some more pictures on her flicker account . They hit some different spots than Adam and I did.