On TV for All the Wrong Reasons

Wow, am I still shaking nervous.

With the NIU shooting happening today, I’ve been a bit of a wreck to start off with, but when TV1 News contacted me back with regards to possibly appearing on the evening news, my body was wracked with nervousness.

On the news, they sometimes talk to someone via telephone about the layout of the room or other things, but someone from the Auckland studio called me on my cell phone to ask if I’d be willing to talk and appear on camera with regards to the story. I agreed (because I’m good like that), and printed off a campus map for the cameraman and reporter to view.

Thank God they sent such nice people! Both of them made me feel at ease, which I hope translated a bit to camera. In addition, I vaguely remember in the back of my head somewhere that you never look at the camera… so I tried so very hard not to!

I don’t want this to appear that I’m making fame or anything out of a tragedy; that’s not the reason I stepped forward. I felt it was important that people here felt a connection and knew such events, even half a world away, can affect others closer than they think. It puts a human face on the tragedy, even to the point where I don’t know if anyone I knew from Mount Prospect or NIU were victims of this tragedy. (To be honest, I am worried and hope they aren’t victims… which is selfish I guess but human nature.) And I feel that, out of all the news stations in New Zealand, TVOne gets it closest to the truth.

So I feel I might be on the TV for all the wrong reasons… but I hope it helps others.

And, as both the cameraman and the reporter said… hopefully next time we meet, it will be to work on a report together on something happier.

Something’s Wrong with the World Today

My stomach dropped as I heard the news.

18 people shot, with 5 dead, at the university I went to in the US: NIU.

It was very strange as I navigated to the CNN page after Jacqui told me about the shooting. Instinctively I knew it was NIU; don’t ask me why, but she started to read the story out to me and I thought, “Oh no. NIU.” And glancing through the story, I found the name of the lecture hall the shooting took place in, and instinctively knew (even though I hadn’t been to that campus for years and I only had a few classes out of my 3 year career there in that hall) where it was; consulting a map on the NIU Web site confirmed it.

I guess I’m in shock. A part of me says, “This is why America needs gun control.” (I’ve been an advocate for that for years.) Another part of me says, what I’ve always said, that the more laws and restrictions and clamps a government puts on the people, the more likely the occurance of some people snapping and lashing out in ways like, well, shooting a classroom full of students.

I guess I can’t wrap my head around what makes someone so angry or full of hate or full of rage that makes them want to kill others, whether they be strangers or people they know. What possesses a person to feel they have the right to take the life of another (except in self-defense)?

I took classes in that hall. I even took geology classes, at the same time on the same days, in that very same classroom. Maybe that’s why I’m upset. I’m not sure why.

What’s even scarier is I said to Jacqui, even before they reported it on the news, that I bet the gunman came in the emergency exit near the stage. And sure enough… I was right.

Anyway… I’m sorry that this blog is a bit of a mess… but I’m still upset about it!

The Alternative to Biofuels

The other day, I ranted about why I feel biofuels are not the answer to “global warming”, “climate change” or the name du jour about this change in weather and climate affecting our planet.

Last night, on TV One ran a story about a French man, supported by an Indian car company, who had invented a car that runs on compressed air.

That’s right: air. That stuff we breathe and live on.

So if it runs on air, Scott, I can hear you say, it must be slow. Or produce some harmful toxin as a side-effect. Or even cost a lot of money to buy.

Wrong on all three accounts. According to TV One News, it can reach 80 miles per hour. It produces air as a side-effect. And it only cost around $8,000NZ.

Sure, there are downsides, according to the Wikipedia article, but wouldn’t this be a better route to be going on at present than the biofuel route?

And it appears someone has been behind the electric car disappearing as well. In 2006, a documentary was released entitled, Who Killed the Electric Car? I haven’t seen it but have been told by several sources that it is an interesting insight into how the car manufacturers, certain governments, the oil industry and others into the death of what appeared to be another viable alternative to biofuels and oil.

Of course, if you are like me, you need to read up on all the pros and cons before making an informed choice. And, I think, there are downsides to all the different alternative technologies out there.

The best we can do is try, even if we do it in a small amount, to impact the car manufacturers and oil industry (who, let’s face it, are raping us at the pump) to steer them to roll with the changes.

One interesting point I want to raise: If it’s found that car pollution is partially responsible for “climate change”, and we all suffer as a result, does that mean we can take a class action suit out on car manufacturers and oil companies as a result, much like smokers can sue tobacco companies? An interesting thought to ponder…

Biofuels… Uh Yeah

Okay, am I the only person to say and think what the hell is going on with certain companies and governments pushing biofuel?

Don’t get me wrong. I think we need alternatives and sooner is better than later. Noel and I even went out and bought more fuel efficient cars last week to help out as much as we can.

But biofuels?

Wait, let me get this straight. We can’t feed the people we have now on the Earth. There is “climate change” galore, expected to cause wide-spread droughts, meaning we’ll have even less food to feed the people who aren’t already starving…

And some dicks think we should devote more of our food resources to make fuel?

Am I not the only one to see how wrong this is?

What fuelled this rant (no pun intended) is an article on AccuWeather about biofuels. Ends up not only are biofuels using up some of our food stock and driving up the price of food but also spend more energy and emit more carbon in the process of creating the crops and the fuel itself! What type of solution is this?

I don’t claim to have a solution. Honestly, I’m not a scientist. But we heard this hype about liquid hydrogen cars, how liquid hydrogen only emits water as its by-product.

We’ve heard hype about other inventions, ones that sound like, to me, they would be a lot healthier for the environment, if indeed man is the cause of “global warming” or, excuse me, not the right term, “climate change”.

As someone said in response to the aforementioned article… it’s ironic the people complaining about “climate change” and the inability of humanity to feed the people on this planet at present, stating it takes X times the amount of food for humans to feed pigs, etc., to support a fuel that takes up quadruple the amount of food for humans.

End rant.

Rain! (Or “What the heck is this wet stuff dropping on my head?”)

For those of you who may not know, parts of New Zealand are in drought or near-drought conditions. Canterbury, where we live, is one in that near-drought category.

We’ve had overcast days, days with a slight amount of drizzle, and mostly sunny, dry days, but last night, we were warned we were going to have storms. Another note for those not familiar with Christchurch is that we don’t very often get thunder or lightening.

Yesterday was a warm, fine day, but as we were driving home, we could see the storm clouds approaching. You know, those dark grey, threatening clouds with white, taller columns rising from the middle of them. So we battened down the hatches and sat in anticipation for the storm.

The first drops, as Noel said after he’d been outside, were those fat rain drops, the kind that *clunk* as they hit anything metal. With having a metal roof, we can hear rain hitting it, which can be a blessing or a curse when trying to sleep.

I foolishly said that the rain didn’t seem to be the storm-like conditions they were predicting. The three hours after the clouds rolled in, it had only been raining with a few of those heavy drops for about 20 minutes before giving up the ghost.

And then the thunder started. It was very low at first, very far in the distance, but it didn’t take long to start rattling things a bit more. The dogs and cats grew uneasy (as they do with thunder) and, while it never got spectacularly window-rattling loud, it was impressive enough to make Jenah want to hide.

The heavens opened up. For a very long time, it poured. The streets were flooded. The neighbours were all peering out their front windows at the flooding. Puddles were forming on the dry ground and even the sidewalk had a steady stream of water flooding down it.

The most telling sign was the drain between our neighbours’ house and ours. On the street, a stream about a meter wide was rushing down to our neighbours’ house, hitting the drain and making a small bubbling fountain, with a smaller, half meter wide stream flowing past our house and into the flooded intersection (and one would imagine beyond).

The thunder died down, but the heavy rains continued throughout the night.

As we went to bed, halfway through watching “Beautiful Thing” (one of the DVDs I bought from the Amazon gift vouchers my family got me for Christmas), I kept on having visions of waking up in the night with water up to the ankles around the house. So hearing the rain bucketing down on the metal roof throughout most parts of the night, and then linking that to flooded house, I didn’t really have an excellent night’s sleep.

Letting the dog out this morning, she hopped and skipped like she was playing a canine version of hopscotch as she went out to have her morning pee. She found a semi-dry patch (read no puddle but still soggy) area and did her business quickly and came running back in. (She doesn’t like rain or getting her underside uh wet)

After getting ready for work, we took Noel’s new PT Cruiser to work and got to the main roundabout in Northwood. For those of you not familiar with it, there’s a substantial single-lane roundabout going around a large sculpture with a fountain below it. Several cyprus-like trees surround the crown-like structure to make it quite a beautiful entrance to the subdivision.

Unfortunately, the drainage system in Northwood is a bit experimental. We’ve gone the “natural” route with drainage ditches instead of sewers in many parts. So… by the time you get down to the roundabout in heavy weather, it can be a bit flooded.

Understatement of the century this time… we drove up cautiously to the orange “Flooded” sign and looked at the swamped intersection. I nearly said to Noel that we should turn back, but he forged ahead.

Maybe it wasn’t such a hot choice. By the time we were actually nearing the intersection, I could see the water rising on my side. We were by no means in the deepest part, but there was about 2 feet of water (about 2/3 of a meter) on my side of the car. I was praying the water wouldn’t start pouring through the bottom of the door because if it did, I would have started screaming and rolling down the window there and then to get out.

Noel forged ahead, pushing the car steadily but calmly towards the roundabout. There was a council worker on one of the islands (quite literally) trying to get a drain cover up or something. His car was parked on the dry island around the fountain. Another car near the supermarket was thinking twice about going through the intersection. But we pushed through.

The entire roundabout was flooded, and, in places, quite deep. Noel got around the roundabout, ready to exit towards the dryer Main North Road, when he aimed for the gutter/curb part of the flooded road in front of us. I (quite rudely) told him to keep left because it was shallower… still filled with visions of water rushing in the doorway. The car pushed through the water, emerging from it with a few protests from parts of the engine as they tried to dry off.

I called Jacqui to try to get her to avoid the intersection, but James, her husband, had already informed her that she should try to go through the supermarket’s parking lot (which bypasses the roundabout). I told Noel, who thought it was a great idea, but, with the rain still steadily (although not heavily) falling, Jacqui ran into difficulties even with that plan as the water had increased and flooded right back to the supermarket carpark: quite a huge area.

So the much-needed rain turned into somewhat of a curse with flooding. I hope the near drought has finally broken (the weather people are predicting rain all week for us) but in a manageable manner. All I was getting was visions of Australia, parched and dry, finally getting relief… and it flooding with horrible floods.

Hopefully that won’t happen here!

I Wanna Be Like Harry Houdini

Thank God for the World Wide Web and Wikipedia!

Many years ago, my cousin Alex and his family came up to Chicago in the winter… I can’t remember if it was for Christmas or for our grandmother’s funeral, but Alex stayed with our family.  Editor’s note: The album was released in 1989, and since Oma died in 1987, it would have to be Christmas.

Alex is a few years older than me, but he, his sister Karin and brother Steve all lived in Atlanta, so we didn’t get to see them very often. Being that there are quite a few years between me and my younger cousins, it was a bit difficult because I always felt a bit closer to the Atlanta three than my other cousins because of the age difference. (To be honest, though, now that has all changed because my cousins and I are all growed up now!)

Brian (my brother) and I would love when Alex stayed over. He was great at telling us these random, off-the-cuff stories and using this really gentle tone that would send us both to sleep (that was the point of the exercise, by the way). He just was always held in awe by both Brian and me because we thought he was the coolest guy.

Alex had brought some tapes up with him (yes, remember those, Joyce? Audio tapes… somewhere between 8-tracks and CDs?) and one of them he by accident left behind.

I listened to it and loved it. It was such an amazing album and opened my eyes to another type of music which was less pop-commercialised American stuff and more European-British hip hop. Luckily, I had a double deck cassette boom box (showing my age here a bit) and recorded the tape before sending it back to him.

Alex had used the tape so much that the writing was pretty much worn off the tape, so I never knew who sang the songs on it. Nor did I know the names of the songs. I only knew (in later years) that they used a sample of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” in one of their songs. Over the years, I tried to remember to ask Alex (in those few and far between moments when we did see him) who sang the songs on that album, but I’d either forget or when I’d ask, he wouldn’t know what I was talking about.

Today, for some reason, a song playing at the gym (New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle”) triggered the thought of that missing album. Kinda the same sound and I thought, maybe that was the people who sang that album.

In my search on Wikipedia, I found it wasn’t them, but thought I’d take a random diversion and look up Nancy Sinatra, which flowed into “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” to find… the band that resampled that song: Kon Kan.

Kon Kan Move to Move
Kon Kan “Move to Move”

So I rushed on iTunes to see if they had it, which they did. And all these memories came flooding back about the past and how if I am lucky enough to get old and if I’m unfortunate enough to lose my memory, I hope that I remember Alex by this album. It’s a strange thing, how we connect certain things and events to people. For him, I’ll always think of him every time I hear this album on my iPod now!



As I type this, a partial eclipse is taking place.

Noel hadn’t even heard about it taking place today and I did read it half-awake this morning on the Web, but I had forgotten until now.

Nyota, one of our Chihuahuas, was acting really strange (as were the other animals) and I thought maybe she’d have to go outside. When I took her out, however, I realised the strange light outside, sort of like the sun wasn’t at full power.

I called out to Noel (who was going on about he didn’t know an eclipse was taking place today) and we got a piece of notebook paper, trying to see the eclipse shining on our hands, but it didn’t work. So Noel grabbed a pin, poked a hole in the paper, and voila! There was our little eclipse.

A crescent of light shone on our hands, the moon creeping up from the bottom and slowly eliminating the sunlight. We talked briefly about seeing a total eclipse of the sun (both of us have seen one once in our lives).

So what a pleasant surprise to catch the eclipse at its height!