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Take The Last Train To… Palmerston?

Dunedin To Palmerston Train RideWhile I have have been working and researching diligently for the past week or so, we decided to have one last “tourist day” before M?lia begins school next week Monday. There are several train tours available on Taieri Gourge Railway, we opted for the shorter, shoreline route which runs from Dunedin to Palmerston and back. The day began overcast and ominous, so much so that we took umbrellas. We didn’t need to – the sky opened and once we left the Dunedin harbor area it turned out to be a fantastic day. The entire trip from Dunedin to Palmerston and back (same route) takes about four hours, with the half-hour stop in Palmerston figured in.

The trip is quite scenic – you follow the coastline for nearly the entire trip, through a few tunnels, and stop for a break in Palmerston. There is not much there to see, just a few shops near the train station. Marie said it reminder her of P?‘ia. Perhaps, but P?‘ia of 25 years ago and not today. A history of the railway can be found here. A few picks are posted on the Flickr page, just click on the pic at right to access them. Here’s some video footage as well. No commentary or music, just nice scenery:

OK, back to work…

Posted in Dunedin 2008.


Week Three Aready? Jeesh!

It’s been a few days since my last report, been busy with UHH work duties, and dealing with a pressing technology issue there.

On Tuesday we had a meeting with the International Student Dean and principal at M?lia’s school, Logan Park High School. After reviewing her transcripts from N?wah?, they put her into year 13, which is the same as senior year in Hawai’i. She’s already done one semester of junior year at home, and NZ schools are just starting their school year now. As a result she doesn’t have to wear the school uniform, and has a choice of a number of classes she can take. That will all be figured out when she starts on Feb. 4. We also met a very nice, funny and energetic Maori teacher who teaches PhysEd and coordinates a bunch of programs, including a Maori singing and performing ensemble. His girlfriend is living in Hawai’i and he has a strong affinity for it. He treated us to lunch, invited us to his place for dinner this weekend, and is trying to recruit M?lia into his programs, and have her teach hula to the other students in the academy.

Marie and I had a number of errands to run near the Octagon (city center) yesterday, and put in a few miles in doing so. The first and foremost was to locate the NZ Immigration office. I had been asked to do three lectures in each of three different ethnomusicology classes on the subjects of my choice relating to Hawaiian music, and to lead one in ethnomusicology readings. My academic supervisors consider this part of the Ph.d. program, and will work with me in my preparations for these classes. I needed to apply for a work permit as I am only here on a student visa. It took about 20 minutes to fill out the application, but the kind officer read through it very quickly and approved the request. It cost $200 to submit (our visitor visas were free!), but as I will be paid to teach it will be worthwhile in the long run, and expose me to come theoretical concepts in ethnomusicology that may be applicable to my own research and writing.

Posted in Dunedin 2008.


Being Green In Aotearoa

Since we’ve arrived in New Zealand, we have been conscientious about conservation and environmental issues here. While we do many things at home as well (solar water heating and heater on a timer, recycling, etc.), it is easy to see how government policy here in NZ also works to benefit the environment.

Rubbish Day In DunedinAs I have mentioned in a previous post, in order to have your refuse picked up on the side of the street, it must be in a bag that is approved by the Dunedin City Council. They run $6-8 per bag depending on size, and also have a weight limit. When we first arrived we used up the two small bags which were gratefully left behind by the previous tenant. This was due to the amount of items we needed to purchase to set up our flat, and some rubbish that was apparently left behind by the company or individual(s) who cleaned the flat prior to our arrival. Our second week saw a single, small bag of rubbish left for the collectors (see picture at right), along with our recycled items. This is a significant reduction from our waste generation in Hawai‘i. With five of us in Hilo (only three here) we sometimes generate three or four 40 gallon bags of rubbish per week. While I doubt the rubbish collectors search your bags to make sure that you’ve recycled bottles, cans and cardboard, the price of the approved garbage bags certainly encourage you to not include them with the non-recyclable items.

We’ve also been watching our electrical use. Light bulbs in the rooms we use most frequently have been converted to CFLs. I don’t know if we?ll actually see an overall cost savings ourselves when taking in the cost of the CFLs into account since we’re only here for five and a half more months. We do turn off the water heater when it’s not needed as there is no solar heating and no timer on it. In just less than two weeks here, we’ve consumed about 120 kilowatt hours of electricity. I don’t recall how that compares to our consumption in Hilo – I only watched to cost and not the actual use of electricity. I’ll pay closer attention when we return home. Of course, having no TV probably reduces our electricity use significantly. I’m sure that will go up when the cold weather rolls in and we need to use the room heaters since there is no central heating in our flat, and apparently central heating is rare here in Dunedin anyway.

I’ve noticed an incredible amount of glass shards from broken beer bottles on the sidewalks and streets all throughout the area near our flat. Either NZ drinkers – locals, students and vistors – are among the most inconsiderate I’ve ever seen, or the folks that pick up the recyclables drop a lot of the bottles. Regardless, this is not a town to go barefoot in, even in the great weather we’ve been experiencing.

I’m hoping that this experience will help us tighten up our ways when we return to Hawai‘i and reduce our impact on the environment.

Posted in Dunedin 2008.


Heat Wave, New Zealand-Style

It looks like what everyone has been telling us is true – that the weather has been spectacular by Aotearoa standards. Daily New Zealand News reports that it’s been been the best stretch of summer weather here since 1998-1999. To us it’s been like everyday weather back in Hilo. One drawback to our flat at this time is that there are only very small windows that can open in each room, and they don’t bring much relief from the stuffiness of the day. I’m sure that will be of little consequence when the weather turns cooler.

DNZN also reports that the North island will be getting some moisture from Cyclone Funa, which has been north of Aotearoa. No worries for us, it is well north of where we are.

I have a 3PM meeting with the chair of the Music Department, Dr. Henry Johnson, tomorrow, and will begin mapping out my work for the semester. I’ve been offered a part-time teaching assignment, but need to discuss the details of it with him. Of course I’m happy to share my knowledge of Hawaiian music with the students here.

Posted in Dunedin 2008.


Tourist Friday: Dunedin Peninsula

Yellow-eyed Penguin from 100 yardsWe spent an enjoyable afteroon on a tour of the Dunedin Peninsula, including a visit to Lanarch Castle (see pictures linked to the graphic at right), and Nature’s Wonders. Nature’s Wonders takes you on an ATV vehicle ride to see New Zealand Furry Seals basking in the sun along the shorline, as well as a view of some yellow-eyed penguins, which are apparently the rarest penguins of the 18 known species. Supposedly there are only about 400 left, and none in captivity as they reportedly do not fare well under those circumstances. We watched a few of them come up on the beach from a covered walkway along a cliff, not getting any closer than about 100 yards from one individual who seemed oblivious to our presence. There was one kept in an area where we were able to get a bit closer. The pics of them on my Flickr account were taken with our Sony Handicam at maximum zoom, so you get a feel of how far we were from them.

According to our guide, Dunedin peninsula was the site of the first European settlements in New Zealand, and it was one of the most panoramic drives I’ve ever experienced. I did get a lot of nice video footage, and plan to have M?lia edit together and put it online so everyone can see it. It’s nice to have her learning something while we wait for the start of her school on February 4.

Posted in Dunedin 2008.


Is A Hawaiian Language Social Network Possible? It Seems So

Mahalo to Conn for pointing out the localizability of Ning. I’ve been searching for a platform on which to develop a Hawaiian language social network, and Ning just might do the trick.

Ning is a social networking site co-founded by Mark Andreeson (of Netscape fame) and Gina Bianchini. It looks to have enough functionality to be attractive to our students who are using MySpace extensively, and includes enough interoperability with other services (Google Video, YouTube and Flickr) to be very useful. You can also directly upload videos (up to 100Mg each), photos (up to 10Mg each), have a blog and it also generates RSS.

Ning also signed on to the OpenSocial movement, and quite a number of OpenSocial widgets are available for Ning sites. I have created a Hawaiian language network on Ning (sorry, it’s not open yet) and begun translation. It took about 4 hours to complete approximately 25% of the translation, and the web-based localization tool is very slick. Unicode appears to work fine in both content and in the localized resources. The only place that I could not add the ‘okina and kahak? (diacritics used in the Hawaiian language) were in the site name.

One advantage to using a site like Ning as opposed to establishing a stand-alone Hawaiian language social network is that users of Ning can join our Hawaiian language network, and also interact with other networks on the system. As OpenSocial (hopefully) expands, there will be even more interoperability between Ning, MySpace and other social networks which will make it even more appealing for our students to use our Hawaiian language network.

Ning in Hawaiian

Posted in Hawaiian Language Tech, Technology.


“Everywhere” = “USA Only” In AppleSpeak

Apple lies!Apparently “everywhere” in Apple parlance means “anywhere in the USA.” I tried accessing the new iTunes movie rentals here in New Zealand, and iTunes only shows movies available for purchase. While it doesn’t explain this fact on Apple’s website, it was mentioned on another site that the rentals are available in the US only, and that your credit card music have a US mailing address. Apparently you can’t rent movies overseas even if you have a US credit card and a US iTunes account. DVD purchases and rentals are expensive here, and this would have been a perfect option for us as we are watching DVD rentals on my MacBookPro anyway. Damn you, Steve Jobs! Probably not The Steve’s fault; feels better to blame Hollywood.

Look for a workaround…

Posted in Apple, Technology.


First Week Has Flown By

It’s hard to believe we’ve been in Dunedin a week now (well, in about 10 hours). Having thoroughly explored the city center and areas to the south of our flat and the university, we headed out to a short strip on St. King Street to the north of us. There we found a McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Domino’s Pizza as well as a number of bars and a big liquor store. Must be the end of town the university students frequent on evenings (drinking age here is 18). There are some some McDonald’s and Subway Sandwiches and a Burger King near the City Center.

A friend asked me to comment on the socio-economic situation here, and it’s a bit difficult to get a grasp of. Given the number of homes and population, it seems that the town should be bustling. Hilo is much smaller in terms of population and sprawl (of the primary residential and business area), but is much busier as far as vehicular traffic. There are some businesses further to the south of city center, and perhaps more of the locals frequent those areas than the university and city center area.

Food in the supermarket is priced similarly to Hawai‘i, at least for items that are locally raised, grown and processed. I’ve noticed that manufactured goods from afar are considerably more expensive. There is a KMart here, and a large Costco-like company called “The Warehouse”, though in reality I don’t think it is much larger than our Hilo Walmart. Prices there seem to be about 25% higher than what we would pay in Hawai‘i.

Eating out is a bit pricey, and we don’t do it much. It’s difficult to find a decent lunch for less than $10 not counting drinks, which as I’ve mentioned previously are pricey. We’ve found few nice sit down places like we are accustomed to in Hilo, though there are many Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Turkish, Indian and Pakistani restaurants everywhere. Portions are significantly smaller than those served in Hawai‘i restaurants as well (i.e., no 1 lb. laulau or poi found anywhere, obviously).

As far as population goes, by far the highest percentage of people that we’ve encountered have been Caucasian, either descendants of European settlers or immigrants themselves, as well as a significant number of people of Asian and Middle Eastern ancestry. Many of them have perfect kiwi accents with no noticeable traces of Asian or Middle Eastern accents, so they may have been born here or have lived here for a very long time. We’ve seen and met very few M?ori or those that would appear to be part-M?ori. While at Auckland, our taxi driver as well as some of the front desk staff were of S?moan ancestry. Regardless of their ethnicity and origins, we’ve been warmly welcomed and well treated. People are very inquisitive about our origins when they hear us speak, even when we simply ask for help in the market or on the street, and almost without exception they have given us credit and thanks for bringing our lovely Hawai‘i weather to Dunedin.

For those that keep asking us about the weather, I’ve added a Dunedin weather badge to the top of the first column on the right. Thankfully it can be set to display temperature in Fahrenheit. I had to do an Excel spreadsheet myself to be able to convert from Celcius to Farenheight. If you are interested, the formula is (C*1.8)+32 where “C” is the temperature in Celsius. Enjoy.

Posted in Dunedin 2008.


First Saturday In Dunedin: More Walking

Marie and I headed out to the Dunedin train station near the city center today as they hold the Otogo Farmers’ Market there every Saturday. It’s about the same size or perhaps slightly smaller than the farmer’s market in Hilo, minus all of the new age, incense and crystal-type vendors you find there. The train station is about a 20 minute walk from our flat. The fruits and produce were nice, perhaps a bit more expensive than what we are used to. Cherries, apricots and berries are plentiful and expensive, but delicious. Sorry there are no pics, but we knew we’d be hauling a load back to the house so I left the camcorder at home with M?lia, who preferred to get caught up on developments back home with her friends. Soda is very expensive here, too. The lowest price I’ve seen for a small bottle of soda like you can buy in a convenience store in Hilo for $1.29-1.49 is $2.50. While I’ve tried to cut down on the caffeine over the past few months, I suspect it will drop even further while we are here.

We’ve been really surprised at how light the traffic is on the roads here. Dunedin is very spread out (population stated to be about 125,000) and has a lot of homes, and it seems there should be far more cars on the road. We’re still trying to figure out the Dunedin bus service, and may go for a ride tomorrow.

While there we ran into Stewart and Donna from WIC, our wireless ISP. Very nice people and their service is great. I highly recommend them for anyone in Dunedin. With connectivity I started getting caught up with my work for UHH while away, including dealing with a few Ulukau related issues.

Posted in Dunedin 2008.


Network, Sweet Network!

We finally got wireless broadband at our flat today, so life is sweet. Just in time for the weekend. I’ve posted some pics of Dunedin and our place on my Flickr account. We also caught a performance of Rarotonga song and dance in the Octagon in the Dunedin City Center.

I need to catch up on some office work this weekend, so we’ll probably do less exploring this weekend than we did during the week, but who knows.

Posted in Dunedin 2008.


Days Of Adjustment

Days two and three of our Dunedin adventure were very smooth. I spent some time in the International Student Office filing some paperwork, got our lease signed and paid for, and had a chance to meet with Dan Bendrups to talk about their department and what I’ll be doing for the next six months. After a grand tour of the facilities we got spent an hour talking about my Ph.d. proposal, and the possibility of changing the topic to something more related to my interest – Hawaiian language and its significance to Hawaiian music. While my proposal was to research the change in transmission modality of k?k? k? h?‘alu (Hawaiian slack key guitar), Dan was very open to my changing it as the significance of the Rapanui language to Rapanui music is also a research interest of his, and we seem to agree on many issues in this area. I believe it will be a more challenging topic as well.

Marie and M?lia spent most of day 2 at home, and we wondered back to the market for more rations after my meeting with Dan. Food prices seem comparable to prices in Hawai‘i for most items, at least for things that are grown and processed here. Given the exchange rate this means we pay about 75 cents on the dollar for food. However, the price of imported and manufactured items seems significantly higher, which is understandable as the New Zealand dollar buys less from abroad.  We visited what is probably the largest retail complex in Dunedin , the Warehouse, and dropped a few hundred on housewares and essentials.

There are many things that are slightly different here from what we are used to in Hawai‘i. We have no rubbish service in Kurtistown, and simply drive to the dump every week or two to deposit our refuse. In Dunedin you buy bags ($6-8 per bag depending on size) which are approved by the city and then collectors pick them up off the sidewalk on Mondays. It really makes you conscious of squashing down your boxes and cans, and makes you take packaging into account when you purchase things at the store. Recycling is also mandatory, and we were provided with some containers for leaving recyclables outside to be picked up at no charge. They are quite specific about what goes in there, and everything is expected to be thoroughly cleaned.

Another difference is that we prepay for electricity, kind of like pay-as-you-go mobile phone service. You pay by the kilowatt hour, and your account credited up front. If you run out of funds you may get a few days grace but otherwise the power is shut off. Fortunately a phone call can get it restored quickly. Electricity cost is about 20 cents per kilowatt hour.

We’re hoping to get an Internet connection in the next few days (this is being posted from a dinosaur Windows machine open for student use at the International Student Office). Once we get connectivity we’ll post some pictures and maybe video clips.

 

It’s hard to get to sleep at 9 when the sun is still out!

Posted in Dunedin 2008.


Kia Ora and Aloha From Dunedin!

Greetings to all denizens of the Northern Hemisphere from as close to Antarctica as I ever hope to be! My apologies to everyone for not being in contact sooner. Things were quite hectic as we visited with some friends for our last few hours while in Honolulu on Friday evening. With a very early Saturday morning flight we had no time to read or send emails, and boarded our Auckland-bound flight. We arrived safely in Auckland on Sunday evening (Saturday for you folks on the correct side of the International Date Line) and encountered absolutely no issues with immigration or customs upon arrival. We zipped through immigration with three easy questions and some friendly banter. It took a long time to get through customs because of the lines, but no issues there either. M?lia was a bit concerned about her feature lei for graduation as we found out on the flight there are issues with bringing feathers into the country, but as hers had been processed and dyed she was allowed to bring them in.

After a short night at a hotel in Manukau (just outside of Auckland Airport) we caught another early morning flight which delivered us to Dunedin in about two hours. We were unable to get wireless connectivity at either the hotel or the Auckland airport, hence the lack of communication. We arrived by shuttle to the University of Otago around 10:30AM, quickly got our keys, located our flat and contacted the accommodations office. The flat is two stories, two bedrooms, two baths, with surprisingly spacious living room and upstairs bathroom (pictures will follow later). After a few minutes of unpacking essentials and doing a quick inventory of our flat’s contents, we headed into the town to pick up some essential housewares.

We hit the town’s main street on foot and headed toward K-Mart, and no more than 10 minutes into our journey I thought I heard a voice call out “Keola!”. I assumed I misheard and someone was saying “Kia Ora!”, but turned around and was face-to-face with Dr. Dan Bendrups of the music department at University of Otago, who will also supervise my Ph.d.work. Dan and I met at the ICTM conference in Sheffield in 2005, and again at the SEM conference in Honolulu in 2006. I’m glad he had his head up because I was scanning store and restaurant names along the way and was not really paying attention to people’s faces. It was truly a fortuitous chance meeting as I was trying to figure out the best way to quickly communicate with Dan and knew he would be leaving for Rapanui in a few days. Dan was meeting his wife Kerryn for lunch and invited the three of us to join him. They gave us some great tips for places to shop, and we made arrangements to connect later. It turns out that the university’s music department is only about 100 feet from our flat. Dan and Kerryn drove Marie and M?lia to show them where M?lia’s high school is, and it’s only about a 12 minute walk from our flat as well. Dan wasn’t kidding when he told me that you can easily survive in Dunedin without a vehicle. Our legs are a bit tight from all the walking, but still feeling good.

I’ll spare you all the boring details be we did find our essential housewares, and located a nice market about a 1/4 mile from our flat and which takes us through the picturesque Dunedin Park. The weather was quite warm (probably low 80s but felt warmer) in both Auckland and Dunedin and very humid. Kerryn will take Marie and M?lia to do more shopping tomorrow (Wednesday) while I meet with Dan and start discussing what I’ll be up to for the next six months. I have been offered a teaching assistantship but did not have time to fill out and return all of the paperwork before we left. I need to talk to Dan and Dr. Henry Johnson (chair of the music department) about that before committing to it.

Since we decided to come to Dunedin friends everywhere, including those in Ireland, have frequently told us that we will probably be better off here than in Cork. Based on way things came together so quickly and the chance meeting with Dan I can’t help but feel that they were right.

Posted in Dunedin 2008.


Scobleized Facebook Data Debate

There has been no lack of commentary [ Mulley | Alexia | Nick | Dare ] on Robert Scoble’s use of an unreleased data scraper tool to mine his friends’ personal information from Facebook, and his subsequent explusion from Oz. According to Dave Winer, Robert claims that response has been about 70% in his favor, and 30% siding with Facebook’s response to his actions.

My knee-jerk reaction was to side with Robert as I have been acquainted with him since his days at Userland Software and followed him closely through his various ventures since then. I truly believe that he intends no evil. However, remove Scoble from the equation and ask yourself, “Do I want all of my ‘friends’ to have access to this information.” Well, I don’t think there is anything on my Facebook account that people won’t find in dozens of places across the Internet, but that doesn’t mean that at some point there won’t be.

I’m not the friend magnet that Robert is, and my Facebook friends are largely people I’ve known long enough that I don’t mind them having my email address and birthday. Not everyone will feel this way, so perhaps Scoble is doing us and Facebook a big favor by shining a light on the inherent privacy issues of Facebook and other social networking sites of that ilk. As sites like Facebook encompass more and more of our online and real lives, and begin to fill up with more of our personal data, likes, dislikes and tendencies, it will become more important to have finer control over who we share that data with.

Update: Facebook reactivates Scoble’s account after he agrees not to run the scraper script on his account again.

Posted in Technology.


Countdown To Liftoff Has Begun

My wife, daughter and I have begun to make final preparations for our trip to Aotearoa. We head to Honolulu on Saturday and from there leave for Auckland on Sunday. Our travel arrangements were finalized over a month ago, and we’re now simply preparing our final checklists and making sure nothing is forgotten.

I spent some time this evening going through my computer bag, and found a manila folder full of documents from our aborted trip to Ireland. Contained within it were the refusal letters we were handed after being turned back from the Dublin airport, a faxed copy of the GNIB superintendent’s denial of our appeal, and other documents we collected while trying to clear our way to return. While I didn’t read any of them fully, simply glancing at them put a knot in my gut again. There were also copies of the many correspondences we received from our friends in Eire, and also from people whom we have never met, but who offered words of support and encouragement. They joined a pile which included the letter which contained the results of the farcical “investigation” conducted by the the Dial on the incident. I should submit it and the superintendent’s letter to the Pulitzer Prize committee for consideration by in the “fiction” category.

Hardly a day doesn’t go by when I don’t think about our experience, wondering what would have happened if we had arrived a different day, picked a different line to stand in at the immigration checkpoint, or if I hadn’t moved forward to join my wife and daughter. While I know we are much better prepared for this time around, visas in hand and no doubts at all about my daughter’s school or Aotearoa’s policies on dependents of students, I can’t help but feel a bit of apprehension. Perhaps it is a good thing, and we’ll be better prepared. We will know for sure in a few days, and God willing my next post will be from Dunedin. Wish us luck.

Posted in Aotearoa, Ireland, Ph.d..




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