Thursday, August 23, 2007

Summer hols

We're off to Beaufort, NC tomorrow for our summer hols! Can't wait.

Love the place. We first discovered it in 2004, when on a fortnight's summer break from San Diego, ostensibly for FlysWithKiwiBird's cousin's wife's ordination. Cousin Dick used to be the long-time skipper of Duke's research vessel, Cape Hatteras, whose home port is Beaufort. Dick and Mary still own the lovely house they lived in for all those years and, as they now live in Clinton, NC, we're very gratefully allowed to use the house.

We'll be there for at least ten days, and hope to get baby Andrew out to Shackelford Island to see the wild horses and experience salt-laden-sea-air for the first time. At nearly four months, I have high expectations for him.

So not only will we be packing backgammon, scrabble, pack of cards, a thousand nappies and the last six months of unread Vanity Fairs, but the kayak will be going too. Could well be the perfect holiday!

Monday, August 20, 2007

But it ain't even GREEN

Quite a day today.

Just over two years ago we moved lock, stock and dog (sans baby at that time ;) from sunny San Diego to the unknown of Durham, NC. I had been offered a new job, and I had cheekily asked on condition if they'd sponsor me for my Green Card - that ultra-magic credit card-sized piece of plastic that many an alien has craved for and some even died for, that allows me to be a permanent resident, and free to move about the country. I'd been working for the previous five years on an H1-B work visa, but like all good bits of paper, they invariably come to an end, this H1-B being October 2007.

So nearly 20 months ago my employer's attorneys started gathering the pile of information necessary to file for the Green Card. We had a few blips along the way (never let your daughters marry or become a lawyer, unless they own the practice); but never thwarted, often as worried as hell, I gathered certificate after certificate, reference after global reference (all a bit sad when you find previous employers' senior management - invariably good friends - have passed away) and grey hair after another.

Hey, a couple of years ago I even ended up under a San Diego cat scanner with a suspected TMI from this pressure. Would I get the Green Card? Would I be partnerless if I didn't (of course not, I was later told in the recovery room)? Would I lose a job I really enjoyed? After six years of living in the US, it's amazing what emotional and fiscal roots one ties oneself up in.

Nine months ago, everything was filed with the USCIS.

Last Monday I received an e-mail from the USCIS that my permanent residency had been approved and my "welcome to the USA" letter was in the mail. I cried in my office as I read that simply written message from the feds on high. Bottle of champagne that night.

Tuesday another e-mail arrived. The actual Green Card was being printed and should be with me in three weeks.

Thursday last week the official welcome letter arrived.

And today, the Green Card arrived. The USCIS outdid itself on its timing. Thank you.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

New toy

Check this out, the new Pumpabike. Apparently it's taken years of development to build this human-powered hydrofoil, which can get along at eight to nine metres per second - tramping!

The foil has an oscillating motion, transmitting your energy - lots of it! - to carry and push you along.

Just wondering if this would be eligible to compete in the Everglades Challenge with...

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Potty training

While avidly following everyone's progress during the Missouri 340, a post-race entry from Brian (Capt'n of the 'O' Dark 30) caught my eye, where he described landing at the Coopers Landing checkpoint:

"My favorite story is our visit to Cooper's Landing. But first I must talk about the bucket toilet I made for the cruiser. A 2 1/2 gallon bucket with a bagging system which would allow us to use the "head" while underway in the cruiser. As our plan was never to get out of the boat during the MR 340. Good idea gone bad and never tested... Anyway, Mark was pretty clear that he wasn't going to use the bucket "head" ever... and then we arrived at Cooper's Landing. After a short walk to the bathroom at Cooper's, Mark returned to our campsite: "Dude, where's the bucket?" Let's just say the bucket was the best option."

Having a wee fetish for better, more environmentally sensitive ways to s#@t in the woods and on water, I asked Brian to describe his home-made bucket head. Here's his response, kindly reprinted with permission (in fact, his exact response was: "Quote away, sweet cheeks... no pun intended... :-) Go a"head" and enter on your blog. I feel a bit "flush" over the topic!!! :-))

The "Bucket Head"
created by: Brian Weber

Goal: Create a potty system that is simple to use, and cheap to build. A system that can be serviced while moored or underway or ashore in a variety of conditions.

Our Needs: We needed a potty system that would allow us the ability to stay in our craft for extended periods of time, without the need to go ashore. In a craft that normally would not offer the convenience of an onboard head... a canoe. A Kruger Cruiser expedition canoe, to be specific.

Construction Materials:
3 gallon plastic bucket with lid - acquired at a bakery for $1.00.
5 gallon scented garbage bags - acquired at the dollar store for $1.00
4' section of a/c foam pipe insulation - acquired at the hardware store for $1.29
1 roll of duct tape - used on bottom of bucket for non-slip for $2.59
1 container Wet Wipes - free
Total cost: $5.88

Bucket used as the holding tank
Bags used as sanitation system - ease for disposal
Foam pipe used for comfort on the rim and holds bags in place.
Duct tape used as non-skid on bottom of bucket - reduces slip and slide
Wet wipes used for hygiene
Double bag for re-assurance of system non-failure

Strengths of system:
Easily used ashore at camp, in wooded area or van. Cheap to build and very easy to use. System can be used on board in a stable craft like a Kruger Cruiser expedition canoe.

Weaknesses of system:
Privacy in a canoe. Stability while underway. Storing of Bucket Head and access when fully loaded and unsupported on an expedition or challenge event like the Missouri 340. Takes up usable space.

Personal performance of system:
We never had the need to use the system underway. Though in a high traffic area with poor bathroom facilities, the Bucket Head was an outstanding choice offering privacy and a clean environment while ashore.

Over-all rating: 1-10 - 10 being highest rating. All things being considered:
Rating of Bucket Head - 6: met our needs and was cheap to build - goal met. (Flush toilets rule.)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Not the air you thought

Used to be when you wanted to get outside to play, you just went outside and played. Doesn’t seem that way anymore for many of us.

You’ve probably heard of watching out for ozone levels and how at varying levels they can be damaging to your health. But have you ever heard of Particle pollution levels? These are the really nasty ones to watch out for.

Particle pollution (also known as "particulate matter") in the air includes a mixture of solids and liquid droplets. Some particles are emitted directly; others are formed in the atmosphere when other pollutants react. Particles come in a wide range of sizes. Those less than 10 micrometers in diameter (PM10) are so small that they can get into the lungs, potentially causing serious health problems. Ten micrometers is smaller than the width of a single human hair. Particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5) are called "fine" particles. These particles are so small they can be detected only with an electron microscope. Sources of fine particles include all types of combustion, including motor vehicles, power plants, residential wood burning, forest fires, agricultural burning, and some industrial processes.

So every morning I’m now checking the Web site to check out what the ozone and particle pollution levels are for my neck of the woods. And for this week, it looks as though they’re going to be plurry awful. Not good for those in our local kayaking group, the Mudflat Rangers, who want to get out kayaking on Wednesday night!

So if you're a biker, kayaker, or any outdoors sportsperson or worker, I suggest you check the particle pollution levels of your local area.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Frozen Coast

I've just finished reading The Frozen Coast (2004), a fabulous story from the Kiwi boys of Adventure Philosophy, on their kayak voyage of the length of the Antarctic Peninsula. Graham Charles, Mark Jones and Marcus Waters set out in January 2001 and spent two amazing months on their 850km (528m) journey.

Their story is a fine, adventure-inspiring read. The book's photos are worth it alone. A chapter on training for the expedition, as well as trying to finance it and actually get to Antarctica (and back!) is a learning experience in itself, as well as a chapter devoted to their equipment.

"So why do it? For the same reason that adventurers through the ages have stepped beyond the realms of the known. For the reward of being the only humans for hundreds of miles. For the sight of nature at its most wild and spectacular. For the glee that springs from challenging nature and surviving. For the need, in a world overrun and tamed by humankind, to be no more than a speck in the wilderness. For the belief that the world is a better place because of those that confront the improbable and defy the odds."

As an aside, these were the boys that were the first to paddle around South Georgia Island in 2005, and this month are setting off on their Ice & Ocean Greenland 07 expedition.


Saturday, August 4, 2007

Love my puku

We're finally getting the wee one into the pool that little bit more, particularly as his neck strengthens. Once he's got that sorted, we should be able to let him go to bob along under his own steam.

He was three months on Thursday.

Love them togs. Love those knees. Love that puku! All two of them.