The Ruminator

Come on up and grab yourself a beer.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Icarus Nightmare

I haven’t had a wacky New Zealand story for a little while, so my news for the day is that a group of passengers in New Plymouth had to get out of their seats and push a 33-seater plane on Saturday so it could get a jump-start.

Six of the sixteen passengers, the pilot and co-pilot pushed it 5m to a power lead to jump-start the engine. Passengers were apparently amused. Not to mention efficient - the plane actually reached Auckland ten minutes early.

Now, I am not at all afraid of flying. Depending on the circumstances, my feelings about flying range from excitement, to boredom, to mild nausea. And once, memorably, extreme nausea. My point is that even though I am not a nervous flyer, I really think there are some things that passengers should not be exposed to. And push-starting your plane is a lot of them.

I have had several experiences on planes that I could have done without. Once I was on a little 8-seater to Newcastle. On these planes the passengers can see into the cockpit and out the front window. This makes it very easy to judge how much a little plane like that sways when coming in to land. It also allowed me to see a flashing red alarm light and hear the accompanying warning beep as we got closer to the ground. I realise that this is probably normal, but I really didn’t need to see it.

Another time I was in a little plane sitting on the tarmac with the engine off. Given that it was a really hot day, the pilots had taken off a little sunroof thing while waiting. I didn’t actually realise that planes came with sunroofs, and it struck me as somewhat problematic. Especially as it turns out that they can be real bastards to get back on again.

I tend to think of flying as something of an act of faith. Most people are not intimately acquainted with the exact mechanics of how tonnes of metal can fly through the air. You just take your seat and trust to the fact that someone else has it all figured out. Just in case the reason all this technology works is because we believe it does.

By the way, is it just me or is something strange going on? I opened a news website today and two headlines caught my eye - Govt to fight mutant seaweed and Mutant common cold virus blamed. Maybe the upcoming X-Men sequel (imaginatively titled X-2) will have all the answers.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Fire and Ice

One thing people notice about living in Canberra is the weather, which varies a lot between seasons. Summer days are in the mid-thirties (celsius for you foreigners) and scorchingly dry, winter nights are below zero and frosty. Sometimes Canberra weather changes seem to happen at vastly inappropriate times. For example it very rarely snows in Canberra (less than half a dozen times that I can remember, although since I am only 26 that is not all that impressive), but when it does it sometimes does so at a really weird time of year, like October (spring).

Anyway, I had some photos developed the other day. The film had been in the camera for a while, which can often lead to some interesting surprises. In this case, I was struck by the contrast between two photos taken at exactly the same place - from the front door of my house.

This photo was taken on 18 January, the day fires destroyed a large part of the city. Although my house was far removed from any danger, ash and burnt leaves were falling on the house.

This photo was taken on 14 March. A sudden heavy hailstorm left ice piled on the ground like snow, papered my car in tiny bits of leaf, and left water several inches deep on my front doorstep.

I don't think I could live somewhere with predictable weather patterns - it would be really boring.