Life as a falconer, insect systematist, and double Masters Student (or a look into the mind of someone who is questionably sane).

31 December 2011

Desert Hawking

0247- sleeping
0753- still sleeping
1048- test firing my new rifle, but it's too windy to really sight it in
2230- watching a show about anacondas
Lunch- turkey sandwich and sourdough
Dinner- casserole, beans, and single malt

Random fact- King cobra's main food source is other snakes, in particular rat snakes.  This makes them likely to occur in human areas as rat snakes are attracted to rats and mice which are often in high densities in human dominated landscapes.

After a quick breakfast and a few false starts involved Beth being locked out of the house Harry and I took my rifle out to the desert and shot a few rounds.  The wind was too high to sight it in so that will have to wait until tomorrow, but luckily they were low enough not to impact the hawking.  We loaded up the hawks and horses about 1500 and headed to the field with Jamaica, her daughter, 2 hawks, and dog.  We took turns riding the horses (including Debora and I oozing off Dancer when the saddle slipped, luckily it happened slowly enough I was able to mostly avoid landing on Debora when we hit the ground) and got all the birds flown.  The gos (ok flight, but a bit heavy so not amazing) and aplo (good flight, caught on the reflush) both caught quail while the Harris Hawks struck out.

30 December 2011

Heading west

0725- sleeping
0813- starting to get things organized so we can scatter to the winds
1212- sleeping as my sister, brother, and I head west
1925- transferring my stuff from Maria's car into Harry and Beth's

Lunch- 10 piece chicken nugget, fries, and a sweet tea at McDonald's (the KFC was shut down)
Dinner- beef and pork pieces, rice, and bread with some single malt

Random fact-  Samoa and Tokelau are moving back across the international date line, so now they are aligned with various Asian countries that are their current trading partners.  They moved to the US side of the dateline in 1892 to facilitate trade with the US.  This switch means there will be no 30 December 2011, although people scheduled to work that day will be paid as if they did.

One of my favorite things about falconry is the fact that there are few enough falconers there are just one or two degrees of separation between each of us no matter where in the world we are.  Back when I was a first year apprentice I used this to get in touch with Harry McElroy, a falconer in Arizona who has written a number of books on falconry, and managed to talk him into letting myself and 4 other college kids into staying at his house one night on our way to a conference.  Since then we've kept in touch and I usually come visit he and Beth for a week or so each season.  My brother, sister and I headed west this morning about 930, stopped for bagels in Albuquerque with the kitten to keep us amused (seriously, how can she possibly think sleeping wedged between the door and the front seat, with her head behind the seat and her feet on the arm rest is comfortable?).  This year I had to leave the birds home due to the truck drama, but between Harry and Jamaica's there will be enough falconry to keep me out of trouble. 

29 December 2011

Birthday party

0910- trying to delay getting up as long as possible
1617- cleaning up after the party
1743- trying to decide what bar to go to (criteria- have a fireplace and alcohol)
2006- eating dinner back at the house

Lunch- red chile enchiladas with beef and a sopapilla at PCs
Dinner- Posole

Random fact- the prison riot in 1980 is one of the deadliest on record (at least 33 inmates killed, possibly more).  Apparently the signal to start was when my uncle (who worked at the prison) left work for the day.  Over the next 2 days the inmates took 12 guards hostage some of whom were tortured (while others were protected/hid by prisoners by dressing them in prison uniforms, stashing them in the gas chamber, or hiding them in the ceiling).  Crazily enough my grandfather (a prison guard) was off work for the weekend when it happened, and didn't find out it was going down until my dad called him early the following morning to make sure he was OK.  He ended up being on a crew that had to go in and clean it all up.  He said it was one of the most awful things he'd ever seen.

Today was the birthday party for my grandpa Ikie- we got the family, the aunts (which always refers to my grandmothers sisters), and a couple of my dad's cousins together at PCs for a late lunch.  After lunch we all gathered back at my grandpas house and my Uncle Mariano got out his guitar then played Las Mananitas and the Catanach Drinking Song.  Then they all talked about the old times- mostly stories of parties when they were younger, adventures from working at the State Pen (my grandma and 2 of the neighbor ladies once loaded up the station wagon with all the kids to try and find an escaped convict since there husbands were out looking- apparently someone saw them and made them go back home, my dad said one of the other kids threw up, and that was worse than confronting the convict).  There was also a lot of talk about the prison riot, a topic I've always found interesting for some reason.  After everyone left we went out for beer with Pre, Roch, Sarah, Travis, and Carol at the Staab House in La Posada- a haunted (my grandma saw the ghost) house which is now where the hotel bar is.

28 December 2011

Family History Night

0339- sleep
1121- eating breakfast (posole and grapefruit)
1359- waiting for my mom and sister to get home so we could get lunch
1834- watching football

Lunch- pepperoni and sausage pizza with cheese bread from Dions
Dinner- Turkey and rice casserole

Random Fact- Something I've known since I was a kid, but forgot until it came up tonight- Governer Abino Perez was killed in the Revolt of 1837 and my ancestors played soccer with his head in the plaza.  His head ended up on the corner of Hickox and Agua Fria in Santa Fe.

Spent the day hanging around the house mostly just playing on my computer and watching football.  I did ask my brother to create a program to remove the line breaks in the NEXUS files Seaview creates so I could manipulate them easier, so I was sort of productive.  Pre, Roch, and Sarah came over for dinner and we got grandpa talking about family history.  This ranged from the recent (Notre Dame games when i was a kid/ altercations his brothers got into/great grandma selling bootleg liquor at dances/my grandpa being born in the oldest house) to the long ago past (playing soccer with the governor's head/the family being known as troublemakers and law breakers/coming in with the conquistadors).  Decided to finish up the night looking around the NM pedigree site, I really need to print it all out and look at the family "tree" (with how inbred Northern NM is it'll be more of a web).

27 December 2011


0147- sleeping
1405- getting ready to go sledding
1534- sledding up at the forest
1902- eating dinner

Dinner-green chile stew with the left over roast from last night

Random Fact- the Scottish were seen in Victorian times as a technological people, and tended to be trained in engineering, surveying, and drafting.  Famous examples include Alexander Graham Bell, Andrew Carnegie, and Sandford Fleming, all of whom were Scottish born then moved to the Americas.

Woke up this morning and had breakfast with the family, but we really didn't do much until Pre, Roch, and Sarah came over to go sledding.  Eddie went down first, lost his glasses and hurt his back, but after that incident things went much smoother (well except for when Pre ran into him after coming down the "bunny slope").  The big slope was pretty steep and had some large bumps you would get some pretty good air on.  The big hill was limited to the kids- my mom was going to try it, but chickened out and only slid down the bottom half, and before my dad tried it some kids started being stupid and sledding down while there were still people on the hill, so he decided to just do the small hill too.

26 December 2011

Merry Christmas [HRE]

0659- sleeping
0951- at Christmas Mass
1426- playing on my computer
2352- watching house hunters
Dinner-roast beef, potatoes, tomatoes, and lots of wine…

Random Fact- Genghis Khan was responsible for the death of over 11% of the worlds population.

Got woken up entirely too early, went to Mass (boycotting the new changes) then came home and ate breakfast- french toast.  We then opened presents (I got a saw 'em off dart board, some books, an alpaca stuffed animal, some stirring spoons, and a sudoku cube).  Then relatives started showing up and various people started cooking.  My dad and I made our typical lemon pie, but otherwise I avoided anything cooking related, instead played Mario Kart and did some work on the computer.  Dinner was great, and much wine was consumed, although this meant there was a ton of dishes to do and food to put away.

25 December 2011

Final Destination (for a few days)

0806- sleeping
1134- on the road between Amarillo and Santa Fe
1334- getting closer
1547- Just arrived at my grandfathers house
Lunch-2 tamales
Dinner-corned beef and potatoes, and an Australian stout

Random Fact- The Iroquois Theater Fire (Chicago, 30 December 1903) is the most deadly structural fire in the US, and claimed about 600 lives.  Ironically it was considered fireproof on one hand but had major fire protection deficiencies on the other such as a lack of fire extinguishers or fire exits.

Ate donuts in Amarillo then made our way to Santa Fe, the roads were fine, although there is snow all over the roadsides etc.  Once we got to Santa Fe most of the day was spent planning and replanning things- when to go to Mass, when to go to the grocery store, when to have dinner etc.  I went to the pet store and got Varmint a new cage- with all kinds of features such as an exercise wheel and mouse house (which she loves), although she seems to have ADD and only spends 30 seconds doing any one thing.  After dinner we watched a show on ESPN about famous scapegoats for the Cubs and Red Sox's, it was pretty well done.  As we were getting ready to call it a night the kitten discovered the Christmas tree- she perched about 1/2 way up it dislodging Christmas ornaments all over, it reminded me of the Grinch stealing all the Christmas decorations...

24 December 2011

on the road again

0428- sleeping
0533- still sleeping
1024- on the road to Santa Fe
2103- still on the road, in Oklahoma, going to stay in Amarillo tonight
Lunch-10 piece chicken nuggets and a small fry at McDonald's
Dinner-burger and ice cream sundae at Braums

Random Fact- The Halifax Explosion of 1917 is the largest accidental, man made explosion in history.  It also was the largest man made explosion in history until the atomic bombs came along.  It was estimated to have the power of 3 kilotons of TNT, killed 2000+ people, resulted in a fire and tsunami (and was immediately followed by a blizzard), and blinded so many people it is credited with spurring many advances in eye care/treatment.

My mom was feeling better this morning, so off we went to Santa Fe.  The high point of the drive was stopping in Little Rock and buying my new rifle- a Remington 700 (7mm rem) with scope.  We finished one book and got half way through another, both novels where the main character is a medical examiner of some flavor.  Finally arrived in Amarillo about 2, Maria, Eddie, and the kitten were already there so we got settled in and watched some TV before calling it a night.  We'll see what the roads are like in the morning, apparently the woman at reception told my sister the roads to NM are still really bad, and possibly closed...

22 December 2011

All kinds of fun

20 xii 2011

0247- sleeping
0333- sleeping
2153- Finishing up our Double Dave's
2357- Trying to pack up so I can leave early tomorrow
Lunch-some ham and cheese 
Dinner- pizza rolls 
Random Fact- Texas A&M is one of 6 Senior Military Colleges in the US, and supplied more officers in WWII then the combined totals of the US Naval Academy, and US Military Academy (and more than 3times the total of any other Senior Military College)

Worked on campus most of the day and got another 100 specimens databased.  Eric dropped me off at the mechanic and I picked up my truck.  I went out to Dale's to show them the pictures, and noticed my truck was leaking some antifreeze and also diesel was seeping out from under the fuel cap.  It got worse as I drove around more this evening, but when I went to syphon some fuel out of the tank it was all back to normal.  Spent the rest of the night gathering my stuff to head east tomorrow, I'd like to leave shortly after Dumas's vet appointment so I don't get into MO too late.

21 xii 2011

0656- sleeping
0856- running out the door to go pick up Dumas out at Dale's
1331- waiting for my truck to get refixed
1418- still waiting for my truck, I've managed to replace the air filter at my sisters apartment and make her a sign welcoming her home from the engineering building
Lunch-left over Double Dave's pizza rolls   

Random Fact- Leptospirosis is a disease in mammals caused by a spirochaete bacterium.  Dumas got his booster shot for this today. 

Day started as planned- got up too early and took Dumas to the vet where the vet was happy to see a dog that wasn't over weight.  Got home and noticed there was a bunch of antifreeze in the parking lot where my truck was parked, let the truck cool down and discovered no coolant in the radiator.  Poured 2g of water in and then took it to the shop where it was discovered the gasket on the thermostat wasn't properly sealed.  Finally was on my way 6 hrs later than planned, and had an uneventful drive until just after I crossed into Alabama about 0300 when my truck stalled.  Got out and diesel was coming out the rear tank and I had no fuel in the filter, so I primed the engine and 3 miles later it stalled again so I called AAA.

22 xii 2011

0232- driving through Mississippi
0319- getting my engine primed
1854- at my parents getting ready for dinner
2352- bout to go to bed, not sleeping last night is catching up, but the CNBC special on the Mexican Drug War is really interesting
Lunch-left over pizza 
Dinner- chili cheese dog   

Random Fact- Mexican drug cartels are involved with importing 70% of the drugs which enter the US.  Joaquin Guzman, the head of one of the cartels is one of the richest and most powerful men in the world according to Forbes

The tow truck arrived at about 530, we loaded up Betsy, and headed towards Birmingham. At 615 I called Mike and asked if he knew of any diesel mechanics in that area (the only one he could find was the Ford dealership).  The tow truck didn't want to start when we stopped for some snacks, but after fiddling with the fuel pump we were back on the road.  Ended up getting picked up by my mom in Tuscaloosa and Betsy went to a shop the tow guy (who also owns land for rock disposal in 4 states, 15 tow trucks, and 2 mechanic shops including a semi truck/diesel shop) owned there.  We dropped off Dumas at the kennel and then had a lazy day at home since we were all pretty tired (and to top it off my mom has bronchitis).

20 December 2011

Almost done databasing (for now)

0712-  sleeping
0852-  sleeping
1408-  databasing leafhoppers from the Snow Collection in Kansas
1710-  out at Dales picking up my truck so I can take it to the shop and get the thermostat replaced
Dinner- Chicken and Rice Casserol my mom made and vaccum packed

Random Fact- From The Weather Channel- A white Christmas is defined as having one inch of snow on the ground on Christmas morning. No snow actually has to fall on Christmas Day

Worked on my database for a while- I'm over 7,000 specimens and have another 600 to go or so.  Maria and I went to Gander Mountain and I picked out the rifle I want- a Remington 700 .270, I need to make sure they have it at the store in Amarillo.  In other news, I apparenlty picked up the cold my mom brought home from New Zealand so guess I can't go see Brad/Kira/Simon as I'd hoped.  Betsy is in the shop, her thermostat is stuck open so the engine is running about 140F instead of 180F, figured I should get that fixed before I go to the land of snow and ice (New Mexico).  My sister's TA gave her a game- Machinarium, where you are guiding a robot through a series of puzzels, its really pretty fun.

19 December 2011


0517  sleeping
0630  sleeping
1121  Eating at Jason's Deli with Maria
1350  getting ready to go do some trapping
Lunch- Roast Beef sandwich with cheese, tomatoes, and pickles  
Dinner- Haiku with Eric, I had a Bento Box (beef) and 16 California Rolls (no avocado)

Random Fact- 131 of 254 counties in Texas are currently under a burn ban.  This is down from all but 4 towards the end of the summer.  Here in College Station we're 20inches below normal still.

Woke up, went to Church (St. Anthony's cheats on the new translation) then got lunch with Maria (we grabbed some plastic spoons so now we have utensils).  Drove around Brazos Co. for about 3 hrs and got a bunch of sets.  Only problem was there were too many birds- on almost every set I would end up with 2 birds crabbing over the trap almost instantly and not being able to get either (at one set 2 birds flipped the trap over then sat on neighboring fence posts watching the mouse until I realized what happened and picked up my trap). I think the drought has everything pretty desperate for food, although I saw a ton of doves, dickey birds, and ducks (the recent rain is starting to put water in the ponds) while I was out driving.  Talked trailers, tools, and food allergies (another person with my allergies, no wonder we're friends) at dinner, cats with Alice, and then watched some gangland before bed. 

18 December 2011

Building spoons

0107- playing online
0259- bout to go to sleep
1917- Eating at Chicken oil with my sister, marveling as usual at the awfulness of the taxidermy
2303- ice cream ice cream everywhere but not a spoon to eat it with
Lunch/Dinner- Chicken Oil- cheeseburger on toast with mustard, tomatoes, and pickles.  Also fries and fried pickles and a Dr. Pepper

Random Fact- there are more members of Pure Tango Blast in Texas state prisons then there are Little Rascals Gangsters in the entire US

Got woken up way to early and spent the morning loading up my parents van with my sisters stuff.  After they left I played online and then took a nap with the kitty.  Went out to the kennel and visited Dumas then grabbed dinner at Chicken Oil.  Chicken Oil is covered in truly awful mounts, today I noticed a woodchuck mount for the first time.  Finished up the day epoxying my BC, then using the left over epoxy to build spoons so Maria and I could eat ice cream while watching Gangland.

17 December 2011

Life returns to normal

0127 playing Bejewled online.  Quite productive use of my time I thought
1950 eating dinner at Martins, a BBQ place that's been around since the 1920's and even has a historical marker
2109 washing dishes
2322 Eating at yougert land (chocolate milk shake, strawberrys, and cookie dough).

Dinner- brisket sandwitch at Martins with a pickle, fries, potato salad, and Dr. Pepper

Random Fact- the first consigned shipment of cheese from New Zealand was shiped on the passenger ship SS Tararus, who ran struck a reef and sank off the southern part of the South Island.  Of the 151 people aboard,only 20 survived making it the worst civilian shipping disaster in NZ history

Due to my inability to sleep until everyone else in the house has gone to bed I was up until close to 0500.  Therefore it was a rather slow day, pretty much just hung around campus talking to a few people and playing with Ira's newish snake, Arthur.  Saw Eric there, then later in the evening at walmart.  My dad and I washed a ton of dishes in rubbermaid tubs (my sister's sink leaks) and to celebrate we got frozen yougert.  Finally, my sisters cat is a truely impressive acrobat words don't describe her abilities to get into difficult to reach places, I spent much of the evening harrassing her so she would jump into wierd spots.

16 December 2011

There and back again

0758- sleeping
0903- still sleeping
1229- on the way to LAX, considering my dad wanted to be at LAX at that time he was a bit stressed
1332- checking in for our flight, the southwest lady really didn't want me to check my poster tube for some reason
Lunch/Dinner- Wahoo's steak tacos in Houston, this time with cheese and chips

Random Fact- Wahoo's has 4 Texas locations, one in Houston, 2 in Austin, and 1 in New Braunfels. They first opened in California in 1988.

Nine flights in 14 days is a bit much, even for me so I was glad to finally arrive home in Texas.  Bad weather delayed our flights, but luckily they held our connecting flight, otherwise I'd probably still be in San Antonio.  Maria met us with a welcome home sign, complete with a sheep drawn on it.  Spent the evening harassing her kitty and talking to my friends online.  Finally caught up on college football news [hre]

15 December 2011

How could I forget

Looking back over the postings from the trip I realized I forgot the parrot attack.  Yes, you read that right, we (well specifically our van) was attacked by parrots.  Coming back from Milford Sound I saw a parrot running along side the road in one the turn offs.  I was able to ID it as a Kea as we went past.  Shortly there after we came to another turnoff on the road, and this time there was a car parked in it with 2 keas perched on top of the car.  We turned off to get a picture and the birds flew over to our van.  I got out and started taking pictures.  One of them flew down to the door and my mom told me not to let it get in the van.  It apparently heard her and expressed its annoyance by biting the rubber door insulation and taking a pretty good chunk out of it.  You could totally see the resemblance to falcons in the way it bit and twisted.  I decided that it could take my finger off it it wanted, and since I want to keep Aub as a friend of mine (she has a strict policy regarding missing appendages, when you meet her she expects you to keep everything you got on day one), I decided to stop trying to poke it.  Eventually they both went on top of the van, and then as a car drove by one flew over and rode away.  We started driving too, and our bird stayed put for quite a while.  We tried getting a picture of it hanging on to the sky light, but it didn't take in time.  Apparently this behavior is common as their destructive nature regarding cars is noted. 

14 xii 2011 (part 2)
0245- sleeping
0716- almost to my grandpas house in Anaheim
0905- catching up on email
1537- hanging around the house while my parents went to the grocery store

Lunch- Wahoo's steak tacos with rice and beans
Dinner- Green Chile Dish my mom use to make all the time with chile, tortillas, cheese, and meat

Random Fact: At the soda fountain my grandfather worked at in high school they had not hot running water, so dishes had to be washed using water boiled in a bucket.  Apparently the dishes that had had gravy on them were the worst.

It's always nice to be back in the US, especially when you get to visit family along the way.  My grandfather just turned 97, so hearing stories of the past is always an interesting part of the visit.  Today though mostly he wanted to hear about New Zealand- someplace he always wanted to visit but never did (although he use to talk on his HAM radio to lots of New Zealanders).  I'm glad I can point people to this blog for trip details rather than trying to remember (and often forgetting) every story.  It's also amazing how much email I had after 48 hours without internet. 

14 December 2011

The return

13 xii 2011

1714- on the super shuttle heading to the airport
1900- waiting for our flight from Christchurch
2031- flying between Christchurch and Auckland
2327- souvenir shopping

Lunch- slice of meat lovers pizza and a coke
Dinner- beef and rice and shrimp tempura

Random fact- Penguins have lice.  I actually knew this at one time (I had downloaded the paper back a few years ago when Aub and I were looking for excuses to go to Antarctica), but had forgotten.

I was woken up entirely too early, about 740.  We loaded up the van and set off. Turns out we had forgotten to take the table off the top, so that slid off just after we got on the highway so we had to go back for  it.  Then we were off again.  The drive was uneventful, my mom kept passing people apparently no one wanted to drive a reasonable speed today.  We got to the super shuttle place shortly after 11, got everything unloaded and Bones checked in.  Since I was meeting Emily to get some leafhoppers we couldn't check our luggage yet so we went in and got something to eat.  From where we were sitting we could see the Antarctic terminal.  The shuttle driver said the plane flew down yesterday and one flew back up earlier today.  The one I could see was an NSF plane and painted grey.  There was a sign on the building saying it was the US's Antarctic program.  One day I will go there.  I met Emily in the drop off area and got my leafhoppers and talked to her for a few minutes.  She said her major professor was excited to get some US lice and that any raptor lice can come my way.  She also mentioned he worked on penguin lice for his PhD, which answered my thought from last night about penguins having lice or not.  Once she left we went and checked our luggage.  Turns out we were allowed an average of 20k each, and since we were below that we also checked my poster tube.  Along the way my mom found her new favorite store- it was full of cute and semi functional things, right up her alley.  Then we went through security and eventually boarded our plane.  I slept most of the way,  just waking up long enough to take a picture of the coastline.  Once we landed we collected our luggage, put it on a cart (aka trolley) and walked to the international terminal about ½  a mile away, where we found out we couldn't check our luggage in until 0400.  After consulting various people we decided the best plan would be to get a locker at the station by the ferry docks.  While we were standing there my mom saw someone associated with the Pittsburg Steelers, who was wearing team logos and a super bowl ring…  All kinds of interesting things going on in the airport- some guy was checking his surfboard, and another guy was pushing around a small kayak on his luggage cart.  Also, the display boards were fun to watch because instead of being digital they used flip cards to post the schedule so whenever it updated there were cards flipping all over.  We caught the bus to the harbor, and ended up stuck in pretty bad traffic- the Foofighters were playing in Auckland tonight and apparently most people were catching the bus near the harbor.  There were people lined up everywhere.  We eventually made it to the ferry dock, found the lockers and deposited our stuff.  Then we wandered around the area getting Christmas presents and souvenirs.  We grabbed dinner at the Food Alley again and then wandered around the docks.  Mom discovered the joys of night photography and got some awesome pictures of the skyline using the cleats as a tripod.  We got some gelato, and watched the ferry come in.  An ambulance showed up and took someone off- it looked like one person and fallen in, maybe 2 people, and one of them got wheeled off.  If we had timed things just a bit better we actually could have caught a ferry this afternoon and played around on it, coming back at about midnight, too bad.   We then got our stuff and caught the airport bus just before 2300, and are now hanging out at the airport.

14 xii 2001
Today will happen twice, thanks to a crossing of the international date line…
0802- sleeping in the airport food court
1023- getting through security
1553- landing in Brisbane
2352- Flying somewhere over the Pacific

Lunch/Dinner- chicken pot pie, mashed potatoes, a beer, and some wine

Random fact- Insects and food are on the same declaration line of the US customs form.

Slept pretty well on my food court bench until my parents woke me up about 0400 to go check in.  Once we had our tickets we waited for immigration to open (no exit stamp) then my mom picked up her duty free stuff while I napped.  The parentals got breakfast then we boarded our flight to Brisbane.  I slept off an on but the flock of kids sitting in front of us was screaming their heads off and the baby kept climbing over the seat and trying to steal my soul.  I hid behind the airplane safety card while I ate my chocolate croissant in an attempt to keep my soul.  I hate kids.  Since our layover was only a couple of hours we didn't go through customs, instead we went to the transit desk and got our new boarding passes.  This took ages because there was only a single person working there and the process was rather slow.  My parents were hungry so they got food, and got me a brownie which was pretty good. Eventually they opened our gate and we went over, showed our passports and waited around.  There was an announcement that someone had left a cell phone back in the transit desk area and sure enough, my mom was missing the little phone I'd given her so I went back and got it.  Our boarding was delayed because the winds were so favorable our flying time was an hour less than expected and they wanted us to arrive around the correct time.  First time I've ever had that happen.  They boarded us about 1100 and we departed shortly after.  I was a row up and a few seats over from where my parents were seated.  I played some trivia and read my book before eating my dinner- chicken pot pie.  I'd really wanted the lamb, but the flight attendant claimed they had run out (although magically the person behind me was able to get lamb).  The pot pie was pretty good though so it worked out fine. Slept almost the rest of the way to LAX, waking up just in time for breakfast.  We landed about 0530, and were able to deplane after the paramedics came on and took a guy from the back off who wasn't feeling well.  Immigration wasn't bad- there was a screaming kid that they let cut in line, but luckily we got called up just as her family was brought forward.  We stepped back to let her go to the booth we were going to, but the guy called us up and said to come up anyway (and then told us he didn't want to deal with the screamer, and hopefully none of us would start crying).  The guy was pretty funny, made some jokes about wanting a loan if we had over 10000 in currency.  Picked up our luggage and cleared customs.  They didn’t even want to look at my bugs, it was strange.  Then it was off to the rental car place and drove to my grandpas. 

12 December 2011


11 xii 2011

011- Walking to the dock to start the glow worm trip
416- Working on the computer
1254- sleeping
1947- On the boat in Milford sound looking at some pretty amazing waterfalls. 
lunch: sandwich, cheese, granola bar
dinner: fish and chips

Random Fact: The main fall at Milford Sound is 3x the height of Nigeria Falls, but not nearly as wide

We woke up and went to Mass.  It was a really small church with a recorded musical accompanist.  Once church was out we went back to the camp finished loading things and then stopped for breakfast at a café.  I had chocolate ice cream.  Then we headed off to the sound.  The drive was beautiful along a winding road.  We stopped a few times and took pictures of the views.  Lots of steep cliffs and rivers, lakes, and streams.  I also saw some decent grass patches and did some sweeping.  Not a lot of leafhoppers but I did get a couple of them.  We had to drive through a mile long tunnel (one way at a time), after which the road got really narrow (at some points just a single lane) and twisting. The road would have been super fun to drive in a zippy car.  Once we got to the Milford Sound visitors center we checked in for our boat ride and then walked along the dock.  Our boat is pretty cool looking- it’s a powerboat, but with sails (although we later found out it didn't have a keel so they only put up one or two of the sails at a time in the morning cruises).  We boarded and picked up our lunches. Mom took my salad and other vegetable matter and gave me cheese.  After we ate we went up to the upper deck and watched the scenery. We were able to sail along really close to the shoreline, in some areas the mist from the waterfalls would soak us.  We saw a bunch of fur seals on a rock- they were all sleeping pretty soundly.  The weather was great, apparently it hadn't rained in 6 days something of a record.  It wasn't very windy either- there was some wind being funneled down the sound, but that was it.  When we got to the end of the sound and entered the ocean the swells picked up (we got some pretty good bow spray going on and  some of the people sitting near the bow got pretty wet).  Dad pointed out a bird and I glanced at it and thought it was a seagull. Turned out I was pulling a Nick, as shortly thereafter the guide pointed out one flying overhead and said it was a wandering albatross.  We got an awesome view of one flying over the boat, and saw another few behind the boat.  Then we turned around and headed back up the sound.  We stopped under waterfall that was 150m high and got some pictures. Apparently there is a Maori legend that says 10 years is added to your life if your face is hit by mist from the waterfall.  We also motored through a small bay and then went by another group of seals.  Back at the dock we disembarked, bought the picture/calendar thing the boat company made, and walked back to our van. We watched some birds on the walk back.  The drive back was nice, mom led the way through the tunnel since the light changed just as we pulled up.  We got to Te Anau at about 630, stopped at the information center and got reservations for the campsite in Gore.  We also figured out the penguin situation for tomorrow.  We picked up fish and chips to go from the gas station next to the info center, and my dad and I got gas while my mom waited for the food.  I drove the first part of the trip while mom ate, and then we switched so I could eat.  The trip was uneventful, lots of driving through sheep country and rolling green hills.  Really pretty place.  We pulled into gore about 830, and decided to go get some beer.  We tried the convenience store first but they didn’t have beer.  So we walked to the bar/bottle store and got 6 Tui beers- an IPA.  It was a bit complicated because they didn't have any 6 packs of Tui, so we were going to buy a 12 pack, turns out they didn’t have a 12 pack so she pulled out a 15 pack and gave us 6 beers.  We took them back to the camp, and mom fought with the camera to take a picture of the 3 of us with our beers.  The beer was pretty good, and by the time we were done it was totally dark.  We took some pictures of the moon, tried to get the DVD to work (unsuccessful) then went to bed.

12 xii 2011
436- Trying to figure out how to use the DVD player in the van.  Apparently it's too complicated for any of us to figure out
1351- Taking pictures of leafhoppers
1439- About to leave camp
1908- At the Royal Albatross Center looking at penguins

Lunch: Tomatoes
Dinner: Seafood chowder and fries, with a beer

Random fact- "The Last Post" restaurant is housed in the oldest public works building still standing in the town of Oamaru.  It was originally built as the post office, then served as a couple of other things before being sold and converted into a restaurant in 1992.  Also, the Captain Cook Bar in Dunedin serves the most beer in New Zealand and has been in operation since 1860.

Well I got woken up at 830, and started the morning taking pictures of the leafhoppers I had caught yesterday.  Only one of them kept trying to get away, the rest were pretty cooperative.  Got some decent ones I think.  We left about 10, and got breakfast at a café in town.  I had scrambled eggs and toast with milk.  After we ate we checked out a couple of shops and my mom got some wool yarn to make hats for us.  We left about 11 and drove from Gore to Clinton (someone even labeled it the presidential highway), then went to Dunedin, on the coast.  I did a bit of sweeping, but again not much in the way of leafhoppers.  In Dunedin we got off the main road and worked our way to the tip of the peninsula, where the Royal Albatross Center is located.  This was another amazing drive.  The road was really narrow and at the edge of a steep cliff without much in the way of a guard rail.  Its amazing how steep a slope the sheep can graze.  The views were also amazing- ocean view on one side and bay view on the other.  At the center I found out we could look from the cliff overlook and see spotted shag and spoonbill nests, and if we went to the beech we could see nesting blue penguin.  The albatross colony was on the back of the cliff and only visible with the tour.  I thought I would rather take my chances on seeing an adult fly by then go on the tour, which was 40 a person.  The lady at the ticket counter told me yesterday the weather was really nice and there were albatrosses all over the area, but today the weather wasn’t as nice so the chances of seeing one were pretty slim.  We went outside and spotted the shags and spoonbills pretty fast.  The shags were everywhere with nests on the cliffs.  We got some great views of the adults feeding the nestlings by the young sticking  their heads in the adults mouths and eating (I'm so glad I'm not a shag, and I think my parents are too).  Tons of gulls- mostly red billed gulls, but also some black backed gulls.  When we had gotten out of the car a red billed gull tried to steal my soul- they really are pretty spooky looking when they just stare at you and don’t fly away, especially since their eyes are pale and they have a red eye ring.  I thought I saw an albatross flying out at sea and flying into the albatross colony behind the cliff, but I couldn’t be sure.  We watched for quite a while before deciding to try our luck with the penguins.  We had to climb over the fence blocking the road (the receptionist said it was just to block cars not people, and the sign and fact the benches were set up like steps over the fence seemed to support this too) to get to Pilot Beach.  We walked down the beach, and I spotted a hole in the ground.  As we got closer I could see what looked like a white spot inside.  Pulled out the binoculars and sure enough it was a blue penguin on the nest.  We watched her for a bit,  I can't believe I finally saw a wild penguin, I was beginning to think  I would never see one.  We didn't want to disturb her though so we left after maybe 10 minutes and continued down the beach to where a  seal was hauled out.  We were able to get pretty close without him getting too concerned about us so we took pictures of that and then walked to the end of the beach.  I watched some songbirds and then we headed back.  The sun broke through the clouds and suddenly there was an albatross.  At first I wasn't convinced it wasn’t a black backed gull since they kinda look similar (although the albatross is about 3x the size), but it quickly became apparent it was an albatross.  The bird was lazily making circles around the cliff- coming into view for about ½ the circle and behind the cliff for the other half.  It did this for about 10 minutes (I'm assuming it was the same bird), and we got some really great looks at it.  There flight style and wing shape is really different from the gulls once you have them both in view to compare its pretty obvious.  My dad pointed this out, I think hes becoming a bit of an albatross spotter over this trip…  During one flight all doubt was removed when I got a great view of both the back and beak- neither of which were remotely black backed albatross like.  Then it was time to leave after a quick stop at the giftshop.  We stopped in Portobello and got some drinks (I had lemon aid with a really cool bottle top opener, kinda like the ones you see on tin cans with a pull loop).  I also pointed out some sheep in a truck to my mom.  We worked our way through Dunedin and about 2 hours later arrived in Oamaru.  We got a campsite, then decided to rent a room at the camp instead so we could have a smoother exit in the morning.  The camp person directed us to the yellow eyed penguin colony and told us they usually come ashore at 1830.  Since it was almost that time we headed over and got to the colony at 1825.  Sure enough at 1830 the first penguin came ashore, quickly followed by another.  They swim in so strangely- I expected them to be faster swimmers but it took them a while to make it onto shore out of the surf.  Once they were on shore they spent about 45 minutes or so drying themselves on the beach and standing around (typically stopping 3-4 times for about 15 minutes each) before they went into the undergrowth.  After these 2 came ashore we spotted another in the ocean swimming in but never saw it reach shore.  Around this same time a bunch of sea birds showed up and were fishing offshore so I expect there was a school in the area and maybe the penguins stayed out later to get an easy meal.  Right as we were about to leave another penguin showed up so we watched him for a while, and then a 4th one appeared.  We left after this 4th one had made it almost all the way up the beach (he was a penguin on a mission because he didn’t stop at all for the first ½ of the beach).  We walked back to the van and went to town.  After mom only getting slightly lost we parked in downtown and walked around looking for someplace to eat before settling on "The Last Post"  There was a loud guy from south Africa talking the ears off of the people he was with but otherwise the atmosphere was pleasant.  My soup was really good as was my beer.  My mom had a steak and my dad some salmon both of which were also good.  Then we came home and organized our things for tomorrow.

10 December 2011

Glowworms [HRE]

9 xii 2011
1134- sleeping, sorrowfully back in my bed
1248- sleeping soundly
1439- meeting with Emily
2052- Picking up the camper van

Lunch- a banana, some salami, and 1/5 a gallon of milk
Dinner- Beer battered fish and chips with a hard cider.

Well I slept on the balcony until about 4, when I woke up and the noise was too much for me to go back to sleep.  I was surprised though how warm it was out there, minus the noise it was quite present.  Woke up about 815, ate a chocolate croissant as I walked to the conference center and met with Emily Fountain.  She gave me the details on her DNA protocol.  She too was using the DNAEasy kit, and that worked great with stuff younger than the 1970s, but anything older and she needed to do silica based extractions.  Once she figured out her protocol though she had really good success.  She's been trying to graduate, but with the earthquakes getting specimens from the Christchurch museum was impossible.  Finally she was able to get some from BMNH, apparently weevils are no easier than leafhoppers to get on loan from there. We talked some more and I discovered I had found my Pennsylvanian (by way of New Zealand) clone.  She wanted to do 2 PhDs but the university wouldn’t let her co enroll, one doing her weevil work and the other on frogs.  I told her about my disjunct research interests.  Then I found out her roommate is from the UK and trying to become one of the first falconers in NZ, and fly Harriers (NZ falcon is endangered on the south island).  I mentioned my need for grassland leafhoppers and she said she was going to be in the field checking her traps on Sunday so she would collect any leafhoppers for me and could meet me at the airport with them.  Then just as we were about to part ways she mentioned she had a chewing lice side project.  We are actually doing similar things with different groups of birds (passerines vs. raptors).  She's going to Australia in a few months to collect lice so if she gets any raptor lice shell send them my way and I'll try to get some North American passerine lice for her.  Small world.  Then I pulled down my poster and headed back to the hotel to finish packing.  We caught the shuttle, got to the airport and checked in.  We ate some lunch and then called my Grandpa George to wish him a happy 97th birthday, then boarded our flight.  I slept most of the way, until just before we landed in Christchurch.  The countryside looked amazing as we landed.  Caught another shuttle and got dropped off at the campervan place.  We got our van sorted and then we were off.  Driving wasn’t nearly as hard as I remember it to be, I think walking around the city a few days getting use to the flow of traffic helped a lot, because I didn’t make any mistakes.  My mom though the first thing she told me was I was in the wrong lane (nope, defiantly the correct one).  The drive was beautiful, passing a lot of farm land and some reserves also, then reached Lake Tickapo at about 7.  The lake was a brilliant blue, from the sediment caused by glacial erosion.  The sky here is also suppose to be the best in NZ, and there is an observatory just up the mountain.  However, the clouds were a bit much and so I don’t think we'll get a good view of the sky tonight.  I went and set up some YPTs and then we went to dinner at a place in town.  The town was walking distance away so we followed the lakeshore there.  Dinner was amazing, the fish was quite tasty..  My cider was also really good, as was my parents black beer.  I finished up my mom's pint for her,  quite a sacrifice.  On the walk back we stopped and took some pictures of night falling, (about 2200), and I chased rabbits, hoping to decrease their fitness a bit and maybe if I was lucky kill a couple or lead to their demise.  I also  picked up a dead bird, but it was too long dead to get lice off of.  Once back at the van my dad and I went on a hunt for Myerslopia without any success. We did see a weird looking lep that seemed to have reduced wings and couldn’t fly.  We gave up searching after maybe 30 minutes, the leaf litter was too compact and dry I think for good habitat for a flightless leafhopper, so hopefully we'll have better luck somewhere else.  The sky cleared a little, and we got a good view of the southern cross and Orion (upside down of course) before calling it a night. 

Random Fact: Lake Tekapo gets its brilliant blue color from rock flour- the pulverized bits of rock produced by glaciers as they move.  The particles are suspended in the water, and the way they interact with light make the water very blue.  This also happens in Alaska, although these seem more blue green instead of blue grey like you see there.

10 xii 2011

359- Getting my tent on top of the van put up.  I ended up having to stand on the tire and turn the bar in order to keep the bar from falling out
1344- Eating breakfast- peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I tried to lure the mallards in with my crusts, but only got them within 4ft or so before they wouldn't get closer
2040- About an hour from Te Anau.  My mom was driving, she did pretty good actually.

Lunch- I had some strawberries we got at a roadside stand.  The stand had a  bunch of coins from all over the world pasted on a map.  Pretty cool idea, I think I'll do something like that.  They didn't have any Swazi coins, and I couldn't remember if I had any in my backpack still.
Dinner- Sausage, Pepperoni, and tomato pizza at an Italian restaurant (complete with Italian music and people wearing shirts with Italy maps).  The pizza was pretty good

My mom woke me up about 830, I slept pretty well up in my tent.  I had a sandwich for breakfast, put the tent away (which took a while to figure out and the assistance of the guy across the road), then went and picked up my traps. There were a few leafhoppers in them, and some other insects, including a bunch of larvae.  Once I was back we loaded up and I drove over to the town center.  We walked to the collie statue. It looked a lot like Dapher pup, we took a bunch of pictures.  There was also a small church right by it, but there was a wedding going on so we didn’t get to go inside.  We then walked to the information center, and got reservations for tonight at Te Anau, the glowworm cave and Milford Sound.  I saw there was a bird trapped inside the shop, so I caught it and took it outside.  It didn't seem to have any lice on it, but it's hard to say without being able to dust it.  Turned it loose and then once my parents were done we headed off.  I got stuck behind some slow dude, passed him then shortly thereafter my mom wanted me to pull over so she could get a picture of the lake.  I did, and the guy passed me, since he was still going about 70km/h I caught up with him shortly and had to pass him again.  This happened a few more times, including when we stopped to get a picture of Mt. Cook, which was visible for a bit when the clouds cleared.  Eventually I decided it was open road enough my mom could try driving, so I let her give it a whirl.  She did pretty well.  We stopped at a fruit stand and got some dried apricots, nuts, and a carton of strawberries.  The views for the entire drive were pretty amazing, we went through a gorge where they do bungee jumping, but no one was jumping when we went by.  We got to Te Anau about 1700, went to the store and picked up some paper towels, and then found our campsite.  Then we walked into town, figured out what was going on with the glowworm tour, picked up some alcohol to keep my bugs in at the pharmacy, and got dinner.  While we were waiting for our pizza my mom went to the grocery store and got the rest of the things on our list.  Then we went back to the campsite, got the tent ready, and then walked to the boat dock for the tour.  The ride across was nice, we stood on top the whole way.  Saw some ducks and some neat coves.  Apparently Lake Te Anau averages 200m deep, and so even though it isn't the largest by surface area, it is the largest by volume in Oceania.  Once we docked there was a short lecture on the cave system (it's about 7km long, but to get past the end of the tour you would need to dive through a submerged portion before it gets above the water table again), and the glowworms themselves.  Then we were divided into groups to enter the cave.  We were in the last group, so I wandered around outside for a little bit before coming back in for a short video on glow worms, including a segment of them fishing for food, and cannibalizing smaller glowworms.  Our group only had 10 people (the rest had 14), so that was nice. The walk through the cave was impressive- the glowworms looked like stars against the night sky.  The cave was young (about 12000 years maximum) so no stalagmites or stalactites over a few inches long.  Water flowed really fast through the cave and included some neat waterfalls.  At one point the glowworms were on a really low ceiling so we could actually see the threads they use to catch their food.  Once we got to the end of the walkway we boarded a small dingy and entered the glowworm grotto.  It was pitch black in there, with just pinpricks of light from the glowworms.  After whirling around in the boat for a few minutes we were taken back to the walkway and disembarked.  On the walk back we saw a long finned eel, which was about .8m long.  The largest reach 2m, and they are quite strong swimmers- they can swim against the current and can even climb waterfalls.  They breed once- in the ocean and the young make their way back to the caves.  As we were the last group in the cave, we went straight to the ferry and then we were off.  We again rode on top of the boat, although this time there were only a couple of us that braved the cold wind.  We are at a high enough latitude, it was still twilight even at 2215.  Back on shore we went searching for a bar to get a beer, but the only one open was too loud for the parentals to want to go to, so we went back to the campground.  I am currently sitting with the electronics charging them, since we have to charge them in the common area (apparently New Zealand campervans have a different plug then normal New Zealand outlets, so our extension cord won't work for the provided power…

Random Fact: Glowworms deploy silk threads, like fishing lines, which are sticky and covered with drops of a paralyzing agent.  When an insect hits one of these lines they become stuck and the glowworm reels the line up and sucks up the hemolymph.  A single glowworm can have a clump of up to 70 of these threads and it sits in the middle glowing to attract prey. 

08 December 2011

Endemic Birds [hre]

0603- Just about to go to sleep, have to be up early to catch the ferry in the morning.
1026- sleeping
1934- Sitting on the beach at Tiritiri Matangi Island watching bird.  I got a great view of a variable oystercatcher (Haematopus unicolor) sitting on a rock just offshore.
2132- We were just about to dock back at Auckland.  My dad, mom, Andy's mom, and I rode on the bow on the way back.  Coming into the harbor we had an awesome view of Auckland and the barge loading area.

Lunch- Peanut Butter and jelly sandwich, some salami, ham, ritz crackers, and cheese.  We had to bring our own lunches to the island.  Ate at the visitors center. 
Dinner- picked up Turkish food, so I had lamb and rice with sweet chili sauce.  

Random fact- Navigation Bouys in New Zealand (and everyplace else but North/America and Japan) place red on the left returning.  It threw me for a major loop seeing the bouys on the wrong sides...

Woke up shortly after 8, out the door about 820.  We walked down to the ferry and loaded up.  We grabbed seats on the 2nd deck of the sterm.  We got underway and traveled through the harbor.  After we cleared the harbor we turned for Gulf Harbor where more people would be picked up.  The trip there took about an hour.  Gulf Harbor was full of sailboats, including 2 from California, one from Long Beach and one from Redando Beach.  By this point we were standing on the 3rd level.  From there it was 15 minutes by ferry to Tiritiri Matangi Island.  After listening to the ranger ramble on we set off on a trail.  Spotted a saddleback (Philesturnus carunculatus) almost instantly.  Birding in the thick cover was a challenge, but we managed to get some New Zealand endemics (and some non natives).  The forest was really amazing.  The New Zealand pigeons (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) were huge, and really kinda neat looking.  Tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae) were really common and had some interesting feathers.  Had lunch shortly after noon, and then wandered around the visitors center and giftshop.  I quickly got bored waiting for people so sat outside and watched some tuis feeding  We then set off again and had some great views of the ocean.  We made it back to the boat with an hour to spare so walked along the beech and played on the rocks.  1515 we boarded the boat (this time we all sat on the bow) and set off.  By the time we docked at Gulf Harbor only the 3 of us and Reggie were left up front.  I took a nap, then woke up in time to take a bunch of pictures coming into Auckland.  We got some gellato, then back to the apartment.  The parents and I had a beer on the balcony looking out on our 8 degrees of harbor view.  Then Is, Andy, and I went to the conference center.  Markus and Tarla had arrived, so we all talked to them for a while, then I stood by my poster.  Talked to a couple people about it, one from Santa Catalina Island, he worked on the bald eagle reintroduction project, and apparently knew Bob back when he was on the Channel Islands.  The second guy was from Northern Arizona, but did insect systematics with Mike Whitting in Utah on Earwigs and grylloblattids.  Didn't know anyone actually worked on grylloblattids.  After my poster was done I talked to Leigh for a while then then looked at some posters.  Talked to a guy from Ethiopia for a bit, he works on grassland birds (maybe he can help me get insect permits...), and then a guy working in the UAE on Houbara.  It's such a small world.  I said I was a falconer and he aksed if I was going to the festivel.  When I told him i couldn't because of this conference he said he was having to rush back to give a presentation at it. Then I mentioned I had been there earlier this year to do insect work and he asked if I was working with Tony (which I was).  Crazy...  Afte talking to these guys I found Is and Andy, and shortly after we headed back to the hotel.  Stopped and got dinner along the way and took it home to the apartments, and we all had dinner.  After they left, we planned tomorrows leg of the journey then went to bed.  I'm going to sleep on the balcony for fun...

Pictures of the last few days to come, the connection seems to be too slow to load them...

07 December 2011

Horse Racing

Todays random points were less than exciting...

351: watching TV with the parents
643: sleeping
824: still sleeping
1015: still sleeping...

Lunch: We walked down to the place we went to yesterday for dinner. I had turkish food- a lamb rice plate with a strawberry smoothie.  I had sweet chili sauce on the lamb, which was also a bit spicy but really good.
Dinner: We had roast beef sandwitches (mine without the bread) at the track.  On our way back from the bus we stopped for some cake at a coffee shop- I had chocolate.  Both were great.

Random fact: 1080 is used on New Zealand to control (and hopefully erridicate) invasive species.

Woke up and and met up with Is, Andy, and their moms.  We walked to the conference center and put my poster up.  The poster boards were really narrow so we had to artfully arrange them to get both mine and Leighs to fit.  Luckily I was next to Leigh, so we didn't mind moving her's around.  Then it was time to go in for the speed presentations.  Andy went 3rd, and there were some really intersting ones, including a talk preceptions of large carnivores- basicly in areas where people arent at odds over land use they tend not to be too upset about occasional depradation by large carnivores.  The presenter was pretty funny too, and cracked some nice jokes about the UK and Norway.  I spent some time trying to track down the presenter from last night who was doing the ancient DNA work, finally was able to get her email address.  Is appeared and we went to look at the conference tshirts.  After a bit of confusion he bought a shirt for himself and me and then I gave Andy the one I had bought earlier.  All headed back to the hotel, got the rest of the gang and went to lunch.  After lunch we wandered around the harbor for a while, got tickets for the ferry tomorrow, then the parentals and I went back to the hotel to catch the bus for the horse races.  The bus was complicated because we didn't know what the name of the stop was, but luckily the bus driver told us where to get off.  Then a guy on the street directed us to the track.  The track was really pretty, very open unlike tracks in the US.  We could see parts of the city skyline also.  At one point it misted for about 30 seconds and then a brilliant rainbow appeared.  It then turned into a double rainbow and was the brightest I'd ever seen.  Im sure the race track was sad Lucky Charm stratched, otherwise I'm sure tons of people would have bet on him.  We bet on longshots all the way through with no luck, I think its a worse stratigy in this time of race where there is such a big range in horse quality compared to graded stakes where all the horses are really close to the same talent level.  The one race I decided not to pick the horses in and left my parents completely to their own devices the longshot won.  Figures.  In the last race though, I misread the odds and picked a non-longshot, and he ended up winning.  So we won 5.90$, totally by accident.  We then caught the bus back to the hotel area, stopped at a coffeshop and got some cake.  My chocloate cake was amazing.  On the way back to the hotel we ran into a couple of the guys who were sitting near us in the general admission (where there were like 10 of us).  They recognized us and said hi.  Apparently they didnt win at all.  We had both bet on a horse called lemonaid who lost by a neck (came in 3rd), really close race.  So glad we went to the races, I love horse racing, and the woman we collected our winnings from said my dad must be old since he use to work as a runner at a racetrack.  Back at the hotel I went and hung aorund with Is, Andy, and Is's mom until about 2300, then went back to my room and watched some tv until about 1am...

06 December 2011

more museums [HRE]

222-  Sitting in Is and Andy's hotel room, talking to them and Is's mom.  We "helped" Is come up with his final…
1033- Sleeping, quite soundly
1409-Just waking up.  My parents went to get some breakfast, I had them pick me up a chocolate croissant at the place we went to yesterday. 
1540-  We were trying to figure out how to get to the museum.  We knew we needed to take the bus, but which bus and how it would work out since we had to all be back at different times took some planning…

Lunch- had some cookies and cream gilato at the museum, does that count?
Dinner- Beef Teryiaki and rice, some miso soup, 2 pieces of shrimp tempura, and a large piece of potato tempura, with a strawberry smoothie.  We found a food court online, went there, found out it closed at 6 (we got there about 7) and the security guard directed us to a place down the street with like 15 food stands.  Completely amazing

Random Fact- Peter Blake, who is credited with New Zealand's win of the Americas Cup (and the first country to successfully defend their win in the next cup) was killed by pirates while raising awareness of the Amazon rainforest 10 years ago today.  He sounded like a cool guy, really involved in conservation.

I woke up for good when Is called.  We figured out we would meet in about 45 minutes and go to the museum since there was no way to do the ferry and back before his presentation.  The museum was reachable by a short bus ride.  I figured out why my phone was staying on roaming (somehow got switched to CDMA).  Checked in our backpacks then spent about an hour looking at Polynesian art and life in NZ over the last few centuries.  The intricasys of the carving they did were amazing.  Entire houses were built with each board carved with various designs.  It also appears that when the top chief died the entire town was abandoned and rebuilt.  Better hope you had a long lived dude.  I heard my mom's phone ring and discovered there was a CDMA network, I had just assumed it was only GSM and had kept my phone on airplane mode to save battery.  Quite exciting.  Is, Andy, and I left at about 1, grabbed some gilato and watched birds (house sparrows and pigeons mostly).  I realized I've now seen them on all continents but Antarctica.  We then managed to catch the sky city hotel bus, which took us to the conference center for free.  We found his room, then toured the exhibitor hall.  I went to some presentations, including Is's a really cool one on rock wallaby phyogeography, and one on felids disease interface between domestic and wild species.  I also saw a Hemiptera talk which had cool methods, but I couldn't figure out what the actual point was...  Then I met up with Is and Andy, luckily they had my program book I had set down and walked away from.  We talked to the Sirtrek guys for a while, i love how they always remember me.  Then i went to a talk on sugarcane in Brazil and finished it up with a really cool weevil talk.  She was extracting DNA from 200 year old specimens.  Really interesting, even if it was only 150 bp segments of CO1.  Met back up with Is and Andy then walked back to the hotel.  We had been discussing prelims, so I gave them the blow by blow of mine.  I went up to my room, and played online with my parents.  Then we got hungry and decided to find the food court my mom had found online.  After an amazing dinner we went back to the hotel, checking out a few shops along the way.  Finished up the evening skyping with Maria and Eddie, watched the Peter Blake documentary, drank a beer, and now I'm watching lawn bowling.  Yet another strange sport...

05 December 2011

Boats, up close and personal

3:57- We were just about to land in Auckland
7:15-  We were settled into the hotel and trying to watch cricket, quite possibly the worlds strangest sport.
16:13-  After a chocolate croissant, we walked down the harbor, had some gillato, and headed to the maritime museum
20:28- Working our way through the maritime museum.  The museum was pretty amazing, lots of cool boat stuff, a section on boat racing, and we got to explore a steam operated floating crane.  I even got to start the engine, which was super quiet.  The engine room on the boat was much larger than I'm use to, guess that's expected on a 160ft boat.  I also got to design a racing sail boat, 2 of which sank and the other 2 had a chance at winning.  They also had a boat simulator, but the boat responded much faster than I was use to, so steering was a bit of an adventure...

Lunch- What's that?
Dinner- I had a lamb rice plate.  I was going to have a burger, but a group had apparently come through and bought all the beef.  The lamb was amazing so I'm glad that I couldn't have a burger.  We got our food to go from a place called burger kebabs, and ate down on the harbor.

Random Fact-None of the sailors on Captain Cook's ships died of scurvy because he made them eat sauerkraut and lime juice along with regular exercise above deck. 

I woke up a few minutes before 9, then we met up with Is, Andy, and the parents shortly after 9.  We went to a pastry shop and I got a chocolate croissant.  Then we went back to the hotel to figure out where the conference center was.  In the process the 3 of us decided to make the executive decision to go to the harbor, check out the ferry, and visit the maritime museum.  There was a cruise ship in port, and a few barges being unloaded in the harbor.  While the parents were figuring out the ferry Is and I decided we needed gillato, a decision shared by some of the others.  Then it was to the maritime museum.  Just my parents and I actually went to the museum.  It was really well done.  It started with the early Polynesian settlers, and highlighted various important boats and types of boats in New Zealand, including many examples of sail boats and canoes.  Many of the pre European boats were so narrow it's amazing anyone could sit in them.  I think my favorite part was exploring the steam driven floating crane.  The ship was in good shape, and I got to climb all over it.  There was also a cargo sailboat (used to haul produce than explosives) that was inside the museum I got to play inside too.  They also had some really nice nautical themed paintings, and carved figureheads.  We left there shortly before 1700 local and I picked up my registration packet.  We went back to the hotel, got some beer, then met up with the rest of the armada. Andy's parents decided to stay behind, and the rest of us went on a foraging expedition.  Everything was super expensive, so we got some meat and rice to go and ate at the harbor.  Then we headed back to the hotel, stopping at the grocery store.  Is wrote his final, then Andy went to bed, and Is, his mom, and I stayed up talking until about midnight.  Then I went back to my room and watched some basketball (New Zealand Breakers vs. Melbourne).  Game is still ongoing, in double overtime.

04 December 2011

New stamps on the passport [HRE]

2 xii 2011 .  Note- all times are central time.  I decided this was the easiest way to deal with time changes
4:17- sleeping finally.  Was up pretty late packing and such
10:59- on the way to Houston Hobby.  We stopped at Blue Baker and I got a chocolate croissant and a mango juice.
20:44- About to leave my grandpa George's house in Anaheim.  We went there for a few hours to see him and my aunt before we left and to drop off some things we weren't going to need.  Always fun seeing them, even if just for a few hours.
23:32- Sitting at LAX under the phone booth bank charging my laptop.  LAX is among my least favorite airports.  Not only are there almost no plugs, but the gates are in isolated blocks so I couldn't even go see Is and Andy who were in a different block of gates.

Lunch- didn't really have one unless you count the honey roasted peanuts (my favorite) on Southwest.  I also got the "Plane Cookies" which were animal crackers.
Dinner- We had take out Varsity (not Academy like my mom kept telling me) Burgers with my grandpa and aunt.  Mine had cheese, pickles, tomatoes, and mustard on it.  Both it and the fries were good.

Packing was  a bit of an adventure, I thought I'd forgotten the nuts for my net, went back to the apartment, gave up on finding them, then discovered they were already packed.  Apparently my mom woke up at 6 and yelled "Oh shit I forgot the passports" only to realize she hadn't, so I guess it was shaping up to be that kind of trip.  The flight to LAX was uneventful and we made it to and from Anaheim without too much trouble, although I wish we had had more time at the house, and less time sitting at the gate at LAX.  My grandpa turned the fire on and we sat around watching the news.  I guess there were 100+ mph winds in SoCal yesterday, and the power was out in some areas, they're pretty wimpy compared to Alabamans. 

Random Fact: the Santa Ana winds that came through were the strongest they had been in over a decade.  I remember them when I was a kid, but they were never that strong in Fountain Valley.

3 xii 2011
115- we've just taken off for Brisbane.  I thought we had to go to San Francisco, but apparently not.  Going to be a long flight, but luckily I can sleep on them fine.  Looks like we'll get dinner, and the entertainment selection isn't bad.
457- I'm watching the Hangover II and about to fall asleep.  Watched me some BBT and HIMYM, and played some trivia.  I did well in geopolitcal, history, and aviation.  Not so good in science (which was really famous authors of fiction novels?) and movies...
1122- I'm completely passed out.  Occasionally I woke up when my pillow moved but i was out for the rest of the flight til breakfast.
2201- We're wandering around South Bank in Brisbane.  There's a really cool bridge that goes over the river so we stood on that for a while and watched boats.  Now we're trying to find some ice cream

Dinner 1- on the plane I had beef stew, not bad for airplane food, and an Australian beer.  I love free alcohol on international flights.
Lunch- we went to a burger place in Brisbane.  I had a burger with tomatoes on a paninii roll while my parents had lamburgers.  Order of chips with tomato sauce, feels like I'm back in Swaziland.  To drink i had Pepsi with sugar
Dinner- we got take away from Red Rooster.  I had a 6 piece nugget.  Not as good as ZFKs but not bad.  I ate just before we boarded.  This flight from Brisbane to Auckland had something I'd never seen before- you had to pay for all drinks, not just alcohol. 

Random fact- Big ships have a rudder with a rudder on it.  The normal rudder is so large it wouldn't be possible to turn on its own, so there is a second small rudder that turns the larger one.

Since I'm exploring a new area I'll also include more details.  We arrived into Brisbane at 0700 local time.  Customs wasn't bad, they looked at my new boots and decided I wasn't going to bring in pests and let me through.  We caught the train to the city center, got off, then instantly got back on so we could try and find lockers at the next station (Roma Street).  Once we got a locker hired we walked to the city center, passing the city hall and Christmas tree.  We went to the Cathedral for Mass, got there about an hour before it started so wandered around some more.  There were some really cool fig trees in one of the center medians so we checked those out.  I found the Woolworths so we could stop by once it was open and get an adapter since I seem to have lost my New Zealand one.  Mass was nice, it always amazes me how its exactly the same everywhere.  They too were struggling with the new responses... After Mass we got my adapter then found a place to eat.  Then it was back to the train station where we caught the train to South Beach.  Passed by a couple cool looking boats in dry dock then stood on the bridge over the river watching boats go by.  They had a couple river boats with paddle wheels, and a bunch of smaller ferries.  One ferry seemed to go back and forth across the river.  That would get boring after a while I would think, although the other traffic on the river would be fun to watch.  I gave my parents a lecture on figs/fig wasps then we walked along the river.  I chased a few birds, and then we sat along the river while my mom took a nap on the grass.  I decided to take pictures documenting my parents sleeping across Oceania.  Then we went on a quest to find ice cream.  The first place didn't take Visa, and I wanted to save the 10 dollar bill we had cause it was blue.  So we found another place and I got a milk shake while my parents got cheese cake.  In the process we passed by Nandos (the same as in Swaziland), and a bunch of little tents selling tshirts etc.  We got a magnet with a koala on it.  My dad jokingly said he should get a tattoo of the bridge, I thought it was a good idea, my mom not so much.  Then it was back to the airport, stopping at Roma Street to retrieve our stuff.  Cleared customs no problem, and found our terminal which was basically empty and waited for our flight to board around 1800 local.  Flight to NZ was uneventful and we landed just after midnight.  Customs wasn't bad.  The passport control guy wanted to talk about the meeting, apparenlty he got his BSc in ecology.  Lots of sniffer dogs, the one in Australia was really interested in my backpack, so the lady asked if I had animals, once i said what I had she decided the dog was just having fun smelling all critters...