Diecast Model V8 Supercars

A year or so ago I first saw the draft model Erebus E63 Mercedes Benz V8 Supercar that Biante Model Cars was producing, it looked absolutely spectacular. A few months ago the finished version of that model was released and as Erebus Motorsport are no longer racing the E63 I decided it would be a model worth collecting so I purchased it. This was the first model car that I’ve purchased since I was a teenager and by far the most expensive. When it arrived I couldn’t believe the level of detail in the 1/18 scale model. As a consequence I purchased the model of the Volvo S60 on my next paycheck. They are now proudly displayed on my bookcase and I have my eyes on more models, this could become an expensive hobby.

Wolfram Alpha’s Facebook Report

A few weeks back Lance Wiggs blogged about Wolfram Alpha’s Facebook Report tool.

Running the tool on my profile brings up some interesting results.

Firstly, posted statuses, links, and photos:

One of my goals this year has to been to reduce the amount I post on Facebook, and for the first half of this year that has been achieved. However, in recent weeks the numbers have started to increase again.

There is analysis of post frequency, word frequency, and comment frequencies. The word cloud based on this is interesting:

Continue reading “Wolfram Alpha’s Facebook Report”

Best New Year’s Eve Ever

Embarrassing as it is, last night was the first time in two years I have been out on New Year’s Eve. However, if you live in Sydney you simply cannot miss the best fireworks display in the world.

Most of the good viewing spots for the fireworks are taken very early in the morning with some people camping out for over 24 hours to get a perfect spot. I am too lazy and not silly enough to try this so I figured I would find somewhere where I could be guaranteed a great view without a massive wait. That spot was on the headland at Barangaroo which is to the west of the Harbour Bridge. Entry to Barangaroo cost $5 but it was the best five dollars I have ever spent, especially as others were spending five hundred dollars to view the fireworks from the Opera House which is about the same distance from the Bridge.

Gates to Barangaroo opened at 6pm and we joined the queue at 5.30pm. Upon entry people were split into two groups – those with bags and those without. To get the best view our group gave all our bags to a few people, took the rugs out of them and we through the smaller queue for those with no bags to get a good spot set up. The plan was brilliant and we ended up against the safety barrier with an unimpeded view of the harbour bridge and inner harbour.

Fireworks over the harbour

One of the great things about going to a managed site was that speakers were set up broadcasting the official soundtrack to the evening. The soundtrack was anything but the expected dry and boring music. Instead it was remixed versions of hits from the 80s, 90s, 00s that had people dancing in both the licensed and non-licensed areas of the site. Living on a Prayer, would fade into Blink 182 which would be followed by The Offspring to be followed by Keshia.

The 9pm family fireworks were enough to convince me that at midnight we would be in for a good show. The fireworks were somewhat timed to a mixture of classical and pop music – including Justin Bieber. The fireworks were coming off buildings in the city, the bridge, and barges in multiple places in the harbour so everywhere you looked something was happening. Believe me photos simply cannot show how amazing it is.

After the 9pm fireworks a lot of people left. Mostly families, but I was somewhat surprised by the number because of having to pay to get in and having one of the best spots I expected most to stay. The almost three hour wait between 9 and midnight became long and boring at times. There was a parade of boats on the harbour but there was not enough happening to keep you entertained. At around 11.15pm lots of people started to push forward, and at one point we almost lost out spot against the guard rail as people just pushed in front while we were sitting down. Lucky for us they moved after we gave them a dirty look.

Crowd in George Street after fireworks

The midnight fireworks were different to what I expected. What you see on TV (and it lots of my photos) is the Harbour Bridge being the centre-point of all the fireworks. In reality the Harbour Bridge is only one part of the show. More fireworks were launched off barges than the Bridge. But like the 9pm fireworks everywhere you looked there was things exploding. The attitude of people was really good, with people ducking so other could take photos over their heads and the like. In total there was 12 minutes of fireworks but because of how awesome it was it only felt like 3 or 4.

Once the fireworks were finished we started the long walk back to Hyde Park for buses. The media was reporting there was 1.5 million people in town but you didn’t really notice it until you got to George Street. George Street was at a packed and essentially stopped. It took close to an hour to get through to Hyde Park from there. After getting friends onto buses I walked home arriving at 1.30am.

Eight friends, best fireworks on earth, music, dancing, fun. Best New Year’s Eve Ever.

Jon Stewart’s Speech at Rally to Restore Sanity

Overnight Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert hosted their Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear at the National Mall in Washington D.C. 150,000 people attended to witness one of the most bizzare protests/rallys you will ever see. But despite this it was also one of the biggest rallys in a generation. The speech made by Jon Stewart at the end of the rally summed up the feelings of the day quite aptly, at the same time in very much Jon Stewart style:

I can’t control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies.

But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country’s 24 hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems but it’s existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold it’s magnifying up to our problems bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous flaming ant epidemic.

If we amplify everything we hear nothing. There are terrorists and racists and Stalinist and theocrats but those are titles that must be earned. You must have the resume. Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate. Just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe not more. The press is our immune system. If we overreact to everything we actually get sicker and perhaps eczema.

And yet with that being said I feel good—strangely, calmly good. Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a fun house mirror and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass shaped like a month old pumpkin and one eyeball.

So, why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin- assed forehead eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true of course our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable. Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own? We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is—on the brink of catastrophe—torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day!

The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV. But Americans don’t live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done. Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, Liberals or Conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do—often something that they do not want to do — but they do it. Impossible things every day that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises that we all make.

Look on the screen this is where we are this is who we are. (points to the Jumbotron screen which show traffic merging into a tunnel). These cars—that’s a schoolteacher who probably thinks his taxes are too high. He’s going to work. There’s another car-a woman with two small kids who can’t really think about anything else right now. There’s another car swinging I don’t even know if you can see it—the lady’s in the NRA. She loves Oprah. There’s another car—an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah. Another car’s a Latino carpenter. Another car a fundamentalist vacuum salesman. Atheist obstetrician. Mormon Jay-Z fan. But this is us. Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear—often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers.

And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile long 30 foot wide tunnel carved underneath a mighty river. Carved, by the way, by people who I’m sure had their differences. And they do it. Concession by concession. You go. Then I’ll go. You go then I’ll go. You go then I’ll go, ‘Oh my God, is that an NRA sticker on your car? Is that an Obama sticker on your car?’ Well, that’s okay—you go and then I’ll go.

And sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute, but that individual is rare and he is scorned and not hired as an analyst.

Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together and the truth is, there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land.

Sometimes it’s just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together.

If you want to know why I’m here and want I want from you I can only assure you this: you have already given it to me. You’re presence was what I wanted.

Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder. To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine. Thank you.

Vivid Sydney

Last night on the way to watch the All Whites game at Darling Harbour I detoured through the Opera House to see the sails of the building be lit up as part of the Vivid Sydney festival of light.

The different patterns and shapes projected onto the opera house are awesome and poor photos from my cellphone simply don’t do it justice. If you are in Sydney go and check it out.

Byron Bay and Nightcap National Park – 48 hours in Paradise

It is not often I will call a weekend away Paradise, normally awesome, cool, wicked, fun, great, brilliant would suffice but in this case Paradise is the only word that can truly describe just how much fun and enjoyment I had.

I flew to the Gold Coast on Saturday night with a friend, got picked up from the airport and driven the 50km south to Byron. The best thing about Saturday night was the rain, it is still very odd to be living in a country where rain is a rare commodity and when you see it falling you smile.

Sunday was spent hiking in the Nightcap National Park. Initially we were meant to just walk a 7.5km and 4.5 hours on the Minyon Loop Track to the base of the Minyon Falls and back up. Problem was despite stopping for around 30 minutes for lunch we managed to complete the track in two hours.

Minyon Falls

Rather than waiting 2.5 hours for our transport back to Byron we decided to head up to Rummery Park Camp Ground via Boggy Creek Track. This took an hour and once we had stopped again for food and wildlife spotting we decided to head up a fire break to try and spot Cape Byron and its lighthouse.

Cape Byron + Lighthouse

Once we got back to Byron Bay we had a beer and danced at the Byron Beach Hotel where Lisa Hunt’s Forever Soul band was performing covers of many songs from the 60s – 80s. The great thing about the Beach Hotel was it didn’t matter who you were, how old you were or how you were dressed everyone was having a fun time; it was a very relaxed and friendly family environment.

At 5am on Monday I got up to catch the Sunrise over the Tasman Sea. Getting up to see the sunrise is one of the best experiences you can ever have and it is a tradition of mine to do so when I am in the bush or a beautiful country environment. The sunrise over Cape Byron certainly did not disappoint and was well worth getting up so early for.

Monday morning was spent sea kayaking in Byron Bay. Getting out through the surf at Byron Bay was a fun experience as there was around a 2m swell onshore and further out some of the waves on the reef were breaking a lot larger. I was fortunate that I only got tossed out of the kayak once on the way out. Once we got about 2.5km offshore we were able to spot fish jumping, green turtles and a pod of bottle nosed dolphins. It was one of the most fun and spectacular things I have ever done in my life, I may love the mountains but being in a kayak, offshore around 20m from a pod of dolphins is awesome.

Once we got back from our tour we headed into the surf to do some boogie boarding.  The rest of the day was then spent getting a very late lunch and looking through the town. Overall this trip was Paradise. If you plan to go to the Gold Coast do not go to Surfers Paradise, instead head to a real piece of Paradise – Byron Bay.

Byron Bay - Paradise

Satellite, Star or Planet?… It’s Jupiter

I ended up going to be very late last night thanks to assignments.

But the one positive thing to come of going to bed late was the fullness of the moon. I got a few photos of it and then noticed a very bright object to its right.

P1090933

At first I thought it may be a satellite and I tried to zoom up on it to get some good shots, most of them turned out blurred or weird because of the lack of light and long exposure time, but I did get a few good ones.

Panasonic DMC-FZ5 1/8s f/8.0 ISO: 100 12x Optical Zoom
Panasonic DMC-FZ5 1/8s f/8.0 ISO: 100 12x Optical Zoom

At this point I began to notice the odd colors coming off it, still convinced it was some form of satellite I zoomed up onto the digital zoom and changed the settings to TIFF format and ISO 400

P1090942

At this point I was thinking okay I have some really bright star, maybe Mars.

It wasn’t until this morning I decided to look up a star map. And what do you know?

Star Map for 00:00 Sep 3 2009 NZST, Look right next to the moon.

So off to the star dome website we go for confirmation.

http://www.ectoolset.com/func/Newsdetails.asp?sid=440&id=10033

Another planet visible at this time is Jupiter. High in the sky to the east, Jupiter is the brightest thing in the evening sky apart from the Moon, making it easily noticeable. A small telescope or good binoculars will reveal some or all of Jupiter’s four largest moons, named the Galilean moons after their 17th century discoverer, Galileo.

You can see the moons too? Okay time for some image correction, Increasing the shadows on the picture and we have a moon there (with a green tinge).

Moon on top of planet
Moon on top of planet

And I am loving the red-shift too.

Update the moon will be IO and it is green in real life it is not a camera trick http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Io_%28moon%29

Porters 09

On the weekend I headed to Christchurch for a short holiday. While there I went skiing at Porters Ski Area. Awesome is an understatement. It rocked. Beyond Rocked.

P1000188
The road to Porters/Arthurs Pass
Looking up the right side of Porters from the base area.
Looking up the right side of Porters from the base area.
Looking down from the top of T1 nice wide open slopes.
Looking down from the top of T1 nice wide open slopes.

There were a few things that made Porters really special. The first was the atmosphere. Until 2007 it was a club field, and despite turning commercial it still has a really friendly feel to it. The second is the lack of people, because it has T-bars rather than chairs there are fewer people so you have more space to yourself. Finally the terrian just simply rocks. No dodging rocks or narrow runs. The beginners have plenty of space at the bottom of the field. The intermediates have some good runs down the 1km long T1 and there is expert terrain to die for. I didn’t get to go out on Big Mama because the vis was poor. But I did go down Bluff Face twice which was such an awesome experience. Would definitely rival my run down the waterfall at Turoa the other week.

The view from the top of Bluff Face
The view from the top of Bluff Face
Me sitting comfortably at te top of Bluff Face laughing in the face of danger.
Me sitting comfortably at te top of Bluff Face laughing in the face of danger.
Bluff Face as seen from the base area. 38 degree slope. Pure awesomeness.
Bluff Face as seen from the base area. 38 degree slope. Pure awesomeness.
The 2008 2.4L Toyota Camery Rental Car I took up the mountain. A dream to drive.
The 2008 2.4L Toyota Camery Rental Car I took up the mountain. A dream to drive.
The access road to Porters 6km of gravel. Was resonably wide and good, much shorter than the 15km Mt Hutt road
The access road to Porters 6km of gravel. Was resonably wide and good, much shorter than the 15km Mt Hutt road

As I sit here and post these photos it makes me want to go again, it was that good. Next year I will go for a week (maybe – if I can afford it).

Finally this was a cool inscription at Christchurch Cathedral.

2009-08-24 10.03.36

Ski Helmet use rising

Twitter is indeed a powerful tool for getting interesting news articles that are otherwise not reported in NZ.

Got this tweet through a few minute ago:

snowreportsnzRT @SkiingExaminer: The ski helmet saga continues. Jackson Hole vs OSHA http://tr.im/txmm // 48% of skiers now use them. Well done.

Naturally being interested in snow sports I clicked though on the link to find out more. The 48% figure seems to be based on the US not on NZ. However the number of people now with helmets is something I did notice when I was up on the slopes a few weeks ago.

This article here highlights some more of the stats: http://www.examiner.com/x-4364-Skiing-Examiner~y2009m6d4-Survey-reports-continued-upward-trend-in-ski-helmet-use

The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) released its 2008-09 National Demographic Study that showed helmet usage at 48 percent of all skiers and snowboarders. The figure represented a 12 percent increase over last season’s percentage of 43 percent. The annual Demographic Study is compiled from more than 130,000 interviews of skiers and riders nationwide.

That is a big jump for just one year, and on the back of a sample size of 130,000 that is some decent stats too.

Percentage of ski helmet wearers by demographic group

* 48 percent: All skiers and riders
* 77 percent: 9 years old or younger
* 66 percent: 10-14 years old
* 32 percent: 18-24 years old

Interesting enough young adults seem to think that helmets are not cool.

I got my helmet earlier this year and have used it on two days, one pea soup and the other a bluebird. And it is really good, lightweight but at the same time having that protection on your head and around your upper neck does give you confidence to try things that otherwise you may be a little to scared to with risk of hurting yourself.

Update, here are some cropped photos from the other week

9 from 11 wearing helmets
9 from 11 wearing helmets
6 from 11 wearing helmets
6 from 11 wearing helmets
7 from 11 wearing helmets
7 from 11 wearing helmets