Wednesday November 18, 2015
And yet more tragic news...one of New Zealand's greatest rugby icons, Jonah Lomu, passed away today from cardiac arrest. He had been battling kidney problems for much of the past decade, but as of late, seemed on top of it. As the tributes flowed from across the world - such was his impact on global rugby - they recounted stories about his character and his athleticism. He was more than a hero, and he will go down in the books as a rugby legend.
As for myself, I have my own Jonah Lomu story to share. Back in the days when we were Sidhe and still working on console games, Jonah Lomu had visited the office to have a look at progress on Rugby Challenge. Though it was the All Blacks Rugby Challenge in New Zealand and the Wallabies Rugby Challenge in Australia, the rest of the world knew it as Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge. He came in to give the team some pointers and to do an interview. Luke, the associate producer on the project, convinced me to get a photo of Jonah with my glasses on. Nervously, I approached this 6' 6" giant, introduced myself, shook his hand, bumbled out some words, and then asked if I could take a quick picture of him with my glasses on.
I bumbled out more words of thanks and shook his hand again. I was giddy and internally screaming like a little schoolgirl. He was awesome. I'll never forget that. Rest in peace.
Tuesday November 17, 2015
What tragic news to hear on Saturday afternoon after badminton. Several coordinated terrorist attacks hit Paris, killing 129 people and wounding more than 400. In the midst of France's darkest hour, it is comforting to see the outpouring of sympathy and solidarity: the hashtag #PortesOuvertes from Parisians to offer shelter to tourists or displaced people who didn't have accommodation for the night; the stories of people who took bullets to save others at the cost of their own lives; the red, white and blue lights on landmarks around the world.
People express condolences in different ways. Some pray. Some light candles and lay flowers. Some sing songs. Some will change their profile picture on Facebook to one with a Tricolore overlay. And that's okay. As long as you can truthfully say with purpose and intent that you stand with the French people, then people are entitled to reflect and remember in a way that has integrity for them. At the same time, we should also think about other devastating attacks that have amounted to a huge loss in human life and continue to remember those in constant struggle, in places like Syria, Iran and Iraq. May we be forgiven for not always knowing about these events, because any loss of human life like this is tragic.
I was out last night at Owhiro Bay for the Leonids meteor shower. I saw an opportunity as the clouds cleared late yesterday afternoon, so I made a call to commit and recruited my trusty crew. The moon was 19% illuminated and definitely affecting the visibility of the night sky, but the brightest Leonids shone through. None of them were as spectacular as the Orionid we saw a month ago, but all in all, I would have seen around seven meteors. As the weather warms up, hopefully we can make these trips more frequent.
We had our PikPok Developers Conference for the year and I spoke on two topics: development for the new Apple TV, and ray tracing, a subject I hadn't touched since 2007 back at the University of Auckland's COMPSCI372 course. I also ran the second PikPok Programming Puzzle-o-rama with much success, and on the same day, rushed down to the council to watch the All Blacks victory parade. I've been to karaoke twice in the past few weeks, had yum cha, had all you can eat chicken wings from Tequila Joe's and watched the fireworks display at the waterfront.
The social calendar is filling up fast for the rest of the year!
Sunday November 1, 2015
For Labour Weekend last week, my schoolmates and I made our way to Queenstown to do the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand's nine great walks. Leaving Wellington on the Friday, at an absurdly early hour and in grey, dreary skies, I took the 90 minute flight to the South Island where I was greeted with a somewhat chilly breeze but glorious blue skies and snow capped peaks around the city. I met Tom at the backpackers and we did our grocery shopping for the hike, as well as grabbing some Fergburger, naturally. We met Mat in the afternoon and got some pizza from The Cow on Cow Lane, and retired for the night.
Will, Richard and Tanya arrived in the morning and after sorting out our belongings, we headed into town to get some hut passes from DOC. However, they advised us that there were increased avalanche warnings for the Routeburn, and for a moment we were almost uncertain about whether we should continue. Some reassurance from the transport company gave us the confidence to stick to the Routeburn instead of doing the Greenstone/Caples and we were off to Glenorchy to begin the hike.
The first day takes you from the end of Routeburn Road in Glenorchy to the Routeburn Flats Hut over 90 minutes and 6.5km. The walk is through forest over several rivers and streamlets, finishing at a wide grassy expanse in the middle of a valley. Another 90 minutes and 2.3km up a steep incline leads you to the Routeburn Falls Hut, our accommodation for the first night. We're lucky that the flushing toilets are operational as we are technically outside the Great Walk season, and we take a break, cook up a stir-fry for dinner, and relax for the night by playing some games of Love Letter. It's a nervous time for us as we have no way of finding out the result of the All Blacks vs South Africa semi-final the next day...
Thankfully, the roaming DOC Ranger comes to our rescue and radios for the score. Success! 20 - 18 to the All Blacks. Satisfied, we continue our second day of the Routeburn. The track today leads us from the Routeburn Falls Hut to Lake Harris and the Harris Saddle, the highest point of the track, then down to the Lake Mackenzie Hut for a total of 5 hours walking. The walk to Harris Saddle is steep and rocky, with patches of snow and ice blocking some parts of the path. The scenery is breathtaking - the vastness of the Routeburn Valley, the serenity of Lake Harris as it sits at the foot of snow-capped mountains, the colours and vibrancy of the terrain and flora around us. We stop for lunch at the Harris Saddle and decide to climb Conical Hill, but quickly abandon the idea about 200m up the mountainside as it is too icy to continue. We continue on through the Hollyford Valley to Lake Mackenzie and stop for the night at the huts there. Dinner that night is pasta with bacon and kransky sausages. It is a cold night because the sky is crystal clear, but unfortunately the moon is near full so it is too bright to do some proper stargazing. Nevertheless, the Dutch and French visitors are impressed with my astronomy ramblings as I show them Scorpio, Sagittarius, Saturn and the Southern Cross in full glory.
Our final day takes us from the Lake Mackenzie Huts to the Howden Hut, Key Summit and the Divide - the end of the Routeburn Track sits on the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound. The walk to Howden Hut takes us three hours over 8.6km through mostly bush, but through some avalanche risk areas. On the way, we pass by the Earland Falls (174m) and see a kea and a kereru! From Howden Hut, it is a short but very steep climb to the base of Key Summit, a side track which offers views of the Darran Mountains and Hollyford Valley, and we stop for lunch at a sheltered location away from the strong winds. It is only a short hour and 3.4km to the Divide, and just like that, we've completed the Routeburn Track.
I cannot describe just how spectacular the scenery is. Every photo is postcard quality. We were so fortunate with the weather too - forecasts had said there were going to be heavy showers over the track for the second and third day, increasing the chance of avalanches, but there were none - just calm breezes and blue skies - at most, cloudy patches. My legs were quite iffy at times, but we could have easily taken it slower. It is a well worthwhile hike and it is not hard to see why it's been labelled a Great Walk.
I was back at work on the Wednesday, still a little broken after the big walk, but the week was short and soon it was Friday. There were some sudden surprises to battle late in the afternoon, but thankfully that resolved itself quickly and we were able to relax with a rocking 2.5 hour karaoke session at K Zone! Saturday was pretty busy too, with badminton in the morning and Chloe and Fraser's barbeque in the afternoon. I was feeling sorry for myself after gym (do not go to the gym after drinking) and didn't feel like cooking, so I met Navi, her friend Michael, Jordan and Tim at Tequila Joe's for food, and happened to bump into Phil and Alanna there too. It was a good night, and we decided to leave early (11pm) because I would be getting up early for the big game the next day.
And what a game it was. At 4.30am I was somewhat dazed and incapable of functioning properly, but I managed to get into the car and drive to D4 on Featherston Street with Will and Alanna. The bar was packed full of supporters in black, and what a rousing atmosphere. The chills down the spine as the New Zealand Anthem was played, that solidarity as we watched the All Blacks doing the haka - so full of raw emotion for some of these guys who are playing for the last time in the black jersey. There was jubilation and fist pumping and cheering as we scored first blood, then there was Dan Carter's bulls-eye penalty kicking and Ma'a Nonu's amazing try, but the feeling of joy subsided as the Australians clawed back while Ben Smith was sinbinned. The gap is down to 4 points and the score is 21 - 17 to the All Blacks, a very unsafe margin.
But like a godsend, Dan Carter punts the most beautiful drop goal in the 70th minute, sailing right through the center of the posts and giving us a 7 point lead. Soon after, a penalty kick off Carter's magic boot puts us at a safe 10 point lead with 7 minutes to go. Not content with this, the All Blacks hit the nail in the coffin of the Australians with a converted try from Beauden Barret in the final stages of the match, giving New Zealand a 34 - 17 victory over our adversaries, and with it, the Rugby World Cup for 2015. We are the first nation to have the cup for three times and the first to successfully defend it. What a game. D4 erupts into deafening roar of celebration and we're jumping in the air and singing Queen's We Are The Champions. There is rapturous applause during the medal ceremony for the All Blacks who retire on the highest possible accolade for their sport, for the captain, Richie McCawesome, and for the man of the match, Dan Carter. They've done the country proud.
Monday October 19, 2015
We thought we'd heard the last of it, but we were required to do submit another build within 24 hours - totally not stressful at all - on Thursday. We got bounced twice before the damn thing went through processing late on Saturday, and then today we received the good news that we were all good to go.
My weekend was pretty quiet. I got to have the WOAP burger from Grill Meats Beer a second time on Friday, then had regular badminton on Saturday, and went into work for a couple of hours with Mana. We went out to Lyall Bay's shopping area to grab some gloves for the gym and hiking shoes for the Routeburn that I'm doing this Labour weekend, and we met up again for a play called Bubblelands at the BATS theatre. A friend of mine, Ben, has been touring around the North Island, starring in this play as a crayfish who meets a blue cod in the aquarium of a Chinese restaurant. Good stuff! We had dinner at Cha and dessert at Strawberry Fare.
I was up early and off to watch the second half of the NZ vs France rugby quarterfinals with Will and Alanna at their place. I was too nervous to front up for the first half, but once I saw the score at half time, I was quite relieved and happy to enjoy the remainder of the match. The weather for Sunday was clear, but very windy; I tried to get a crew out to watch the Orionids meteor shower at Owhiro Bay but alas no one was keen. Today, however, I managed to get Mana, Loic and Dana along for an hour. Despite the wind and brightness of the moon, our patience was rewarded with a brilliant streak of light heading southwards across the sky - magnificent!
Monday October 12, 2015
It's been a while since I've done such heavy overtime. It's made me remember how disruptive it is to life in general; gym schedule went out the window, food that I had planned to cook started to rot, I was tired and became less tolerant of people as the week progressed. By the time Friday hit, I was completely over it and couldn't stay past 8.30pm. All technical possibilities for solving our problems had been exhausted. I ended up escaping to Pan de Muerto with the Frenchies. It was Vincent's last day, and I had unfortunately missed yet another departure speech because I'd been working.
The weekend was full of sunshine, but all I wanted to do was sleep and relax. I did my regular badminton and gym exercise, but I also caught the final show of the NZIF - a battle of improv between New Zealand and the international artists that were visiting from the UK, Taiwan, Japan, France, Germany and Australia. Such amazing talent and full of laughs and feels, it was exactly what I needed after a long week of work.