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by Jim
on Jun 6th, 2008

Last Post

I can finally write this, because there is finally a successor to NZ Life.  The Peoria Dispatch is now live!  Go there now, as there will probably never be anything more here.  (Though I intend to keep the site up forever.)  If you see another post here you can be sure my life took an unexpected turn, but you would already have known that by reading The Peoria Dispatch 🙂

by Jim
on Oct 8th, 2007

Farewell NZ

It’s a good day to leave New Zealand.  A few weeks ago I was tramping in the hills on a bright sunny day, gazing at the mountains, enjoying the last bit of my good coffee…  Well, that would have been a tough day to leave NZ.  I had many good days here, but as always such things must end.  And today is a good day for it.

The weather is crappy today, but the mood is crappier.  The All Blacks loss has put the country in a state of shock, dismay and anger.  I’ve listened to the radio all day and read the newspapers, and it really is the only story, and that will probably continue for a while yet.  I’ve tried to find a sports parallel in the US but haven’t come up with one.  The best recent US example of wall-to-wall coverage and sweeping malaise was when Bush was reelected, and a lot of the country had to endure “Four More Years”, just like NZ does until the next World Cup.  Now imagine that the whole US had actually supported Kerry, so the entire lot are just mopey and licking their wounds.  It’s kinda like that here.

So, I’m going to let that all be and quietly leave the country on a bit higher note of a few weeks ago.  It’s been a great adventure–once in a lifetime probably–and something I feel very fortunate to have been given an opportunity to experience. 

On that note I’ll say to NZ one last time: “See ya.”

by Jim
on Sep 8th, 2007


The Ugly “Colt Plus”I just sold our Rav4, with which we saw a nice chunk of the South Island. For the next month I’ll be driving this fine automobile. It has it all: ugly lines, bad color, slow. It’s actually quite a bit worse than the picture conveys–the blue color is heinous. I guess that’s what I get by choosing a “Corolla-sized” rental and taking what they gave. CAT better appreciate my frugality!

by Jim
on Sep 6th, 2007


Days 7-8

Wellington’s harborMy last stop of this trip was Wellington, which is New Zealand’s capital and is situated on the southern tip of the North Island. The drive from Napier to Wellington was the longest of the trip. I don’t really like marathon drives, even through scenic country, but this one went fine and the time flew by (thank you, iPod). I arrived at the Wellington CBD in the early evening and quickly found the YHA.

The Wellington YHA was fantastic, probably comparable to the Melbourne YHA. The common rooms were buzzing with people and it was easy to meet others. In the TV area the group wisely chose to put on The Sopranos (2 weeks left to the season here), and right across the road was a grocery/liquor store to complement the extensive kitchen areas. If you get a chance to stay in a 4/5 star YHA I’d highly recommend it, as it’s much more enjoyable that a hotel. (On the other hand, some of the dodgy hostels are quite a bit less enjoyable for sure.)

The BoardwalkWellington is a really cool city, and I’d say it’s the highlight of the trip. I cannot really put my finger on why it appealed to me–I think it was just a combination of a lot of little things. For starters, it is situated around harbor which really defines the city. It’s a good sized harbor that accommodates the port traffic but it’s small enough that you can walk from one side to the other is a reasonable time. Many major attractions are located on the water front, most prominent being the New Zealand National Museam “Te Papa”. It seems like no matter were I was heading I wouldn’t be far from the water.

Bustling downtownThe size of Wellington was good too. Larger than Christchurch, it presents an impressive skyline, and the CBD is really bustling with people. I think a lot of that traffic is due to the government activities. But unlike some really huge metropolises, you can walk around most of the city in a reasonable amount of time. Given that there is very limited public parking, that trait was useful.

Ugly Beehive

Most of what I did was fairly studious. I walked over to the parliament building and took the tour of the “Beehive” and parliament house. Good tour. I’m always interested in how stuff does or doesn’t get done in large organizations like that, and our tour guide–who has apparently worked there in some capacity forever–had all sorts of interesting stories about rules, protocol, bizarre conventions, and how legislators really behave. There was a fair bit of building history too since there have been various fires and earthquakes that have done serious damage. The parliament and ugly-as-sin Beehive building are built on special isolators to protect them from earthquakes. So was Te Papa. Evidently these isolators were invented by a Kiwi and are now used worldwide. I found the explanation of how they sliced into the existing founding to insert the isolators fascinating.

I spent a fair bit of time in the Wellington City and Sea museum. Te Papa dwarfs it (and everything else) in size, but I thought the WCS was an excellent museum with a concise set of exhibits you could work through in a couple hours. The focus was on Wellington history and shipping in the area, and the detail was exceptional. I probably read more of the information placards in that museum than I ever have. My favorite had to do with the “Battle of Manners Street”, and incident in 1943 when New Zealand troops fought some US Marines temporarily stationed in Wellington. From the placard:

“… Better paid than the NZ troops, the Americans were often given preference in shops and restaurants. To make matters worse local women were also attracted by the Americans’ courtesy and sophistication, qualities they sometimes found lacking in local men. It was the sight of New Zealand women falling into American arms that was as much the cause of the Batter of Manners St. as any alleged racism. As New Zealanders frequently observed at the time, the Yanks were ‘overpaid, oversexed and over here’.”

Te PapaBy comparison, Te Papa was a bit of a disappointment. There was nothing wrong with it per se, and a number of the exhibits were interesting, but the WCS museum had a real charm, whereas Te Papa felt just like any other huge museum I’d been to.

Cafeteria fareOne highlight was lunch at the museum’s cafe: I ordered a delicious lamb gnocchi with sauteed mushrooms in a blue cheese sauce. Suffice to say, not the type of food I remember getting at the Museum of Science and Industry cafeteria as a kid!
In summary, high marks for Wellington, and high marks for the trip. It was good to take a week off from work, and I’m glad I finally got to see a bit of the North Island.

Me (and Wellington)

by Jim
on Aug 31st, 2007

Good Luck, All Blacks

header_footer.jpgThe All Blacks just departed for France amidst much fanfare to play in the 2007 Rugby World Cup, which starts in about 8 days. The US is in it as well but I have absolutely no connection to that team, so I’ll pull for the Kiwis in this event. (They’re a much better bet, BTW.)

Have a look at the main World Cup homepage for more information.

by Jim
on Aug 29th, 2007

A Famous Photo at Last

You may remember that a while back I was sent a note requesting permissions to use one of my photos in a magazine. Unfortunately, it was subsequently dropped from the final edit.

Just the other day one of Angela’s Auckland photos was selected for inclusion in an online accommodations directory. You can see it at Schmap. Just scroll down to Auckland City YHA and hover over that listing. One of the photos will be credited to “Kalafut” (due to the Flickr account name).

That’s where I stayed a few days ago as well.

by Jim
on Aug 24th, 2007

The Storm Before the Calm

(Note: this post was written especially for Ngaira, who called to say that she didn’t want any more “boring political stuff” showing up on this blog.)

I’m on holiday starting tomorrow. Aside from the 500m walk between the international and domestic terminals at Auckland airport, I’ve not seen any of the north island of New Zealand. So I’ll fly into Auckland tomorrow morning to start a week-long journey by car which will end in Wellington. I’ve booked hostels and have my route roughly planned:

View Larger Map

But before I can leave I have to prep the house for the movers who will be showing up just about when I’m returning. I’m not actually relocating for a while, but the atrocious sea shipment schedule has pulled everything forward a bit. (11 weeks?? I assumed the container would actually be put on a boat and not just set adrift, but I was wrong.) This premove sorting seemed like a pretty manageable task before I started, but now some four hours later with not much to show for my efforts, I’ve decided it’s a pain.

By this time tomorrow I’ll be relaxing in Auckland, but for now the piles of stuff are calling me back to work.

With any luck I’ll be able to post from the north island next week.

by Jim
on Aug 20th, 2007

If you had $50 to spare.

I just donated $50 to Ron Paul 2008. I, however, don’t know who I will support in the 2008 election. This $50 was paid by me on behalf of a colleague and friend who cannot submit a donation as he’s not a US citizen (thereby making it against FEC rules).

I find this support pretty impressive. It not only reinforces to me the importance of the US worldwide and the attention paid to it, but it also is indicative of the immense frustration that has built up during the current administration. But aside from just supporting a candidate, this $50 is also a vote of confidence in the US system and ideals. (I know because I was told so.) While I’m not yet a Ron Paul supporter, I can see why he might look attractive for those wanting to get back to basics:

Brief Overview of Congressman Paul’s Record:

He has never voted to raise taxes.
He has never voted for an unbalanced budget.
He has never voted for a federal restriction on gun ownership.
He has never voted to raise congressional pay.
He has never taken a government-paid junket.
He has never voted to increase the power of the executive branch.

He voted against the Patriot Act.
He voted against regulating the Internet.
He voted against the Iraq war.

He does not participate in the lucrative congressional pension program.
He returns a portion of his annual congressional office budget to the U.S. treasury every year.

That’s the end of the free support for now. I figured if a foreigner will put money behind a long-shot candidate that he can’t even vote for, I could at least plug the guy too. Now I can only hope the US populace is as interested and participative in this election as my colleague is.

by Angela
on Jul 31st, 2007

Home in P-town

Well, folks for those of you who were wondering; yes I am home.  It’s summer in the US and it’s warm averaging about 28C to 30C.  I have to say I have missed warm days while in NZ so I am glad that I return for a nice summer instead of our normal frigid winter in December.

Last week, I met up with some of my friends.  They have a little boy aged 4.  We were picking “tomatoes” from her back yard.  I was corrected by the kid for saying to-mah-toes instead of to-may-toes.   Ah such is life, just can’t win! ;-).  Once in a while I still turn on the windshield wipers instead of the signal indicator but I’ve kept on the right side of the road instead of left.    I signed off my emails with “Later” instead of “Cheers”.   I wonder what I should do when I meet a bunch of europeans/ english and american at the same place….  give the american a hug and the european/english a kiss on both cheeks??…  I think I’ll stick to a hand shake just in case I mistook a european for an american or vice versa.  Don’t want to start unnecessary confusion!.

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