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Travels in America: Denver and Seattle

My husband Joe and I have undertaken three trips to the United States, and have loved our travels there.  In the keeping with the holiday spirit as we all take a well earned break, I have brushed the dust off our blog written at the time (October 2014), removed excessive cussing and tidied up the grammar for Whaleoil readers.  This is part 7 of 7.

Day 26 – Denver

Time to ease off the gas a bit and hang out with our friends Craig and Kim and their two boys.  Tonight was Halloween and Trick or Treating was on the agenda.  It is such a big thing here and is much more than just about trick or treating.  We’ve seen some discussion on Stuff about it’s place in NZ and lots of arguments for and against, and some of the issues raised about it in NZ are just not an issue here in the US.  For example, there have been some negative comments about people having their door knocked when they don’t want to take part.  And kids being sent out to ask for candy from strangers, and is that really safe.  All of which are valid concerns.

Here, trick or treating is done as a community, a few families will join up with adults and kids in costume and walk together around the neighbourhood.   The kids have at least one adult with them all the time, and houses that are clearly not partaking (no decorations, no lights on) are never approached.  Some houses will offer warmed cider for the adults as well as candy for the kids.  Craig Joe and I had gone to the Halloween store to buy costumes (they have stores called Spirit that pop up in empty shops for a few months before Halloween, much like the Christmas pop-up stores we see) and came away equipped for scaring the neighbours.  Craig had bought a full Jesters outfit including mask, and I had got some creepy super-long-fingered gloves and had elected to use a scream mask that C & K already had in their costume basket.

Joe used some of Craig’s old shorts and t-shirt and bought latex “wounds” for his arm and face.

By about 9 pm the kids were getting tired and had accumulated an obscene amount of sugary candy in their goodie sacks, so we headed home, packed them off to bed and went downstairs to the basement to watch spooky Halloween movies until everyone started falling asleep. Read more »

Travels in America: Chicago

My husband Joe and I have undertaken three trips to the United States, and have loved our travels there.  In the keeping with the holiday spirit as we all take a well earned break, I have brushed the dust off our blog written at the time (October 2014), removed excessive cussing and tidied up the grammar for Whaleoil readers.  This is part 6 of 7.

Day twenty three – Chicago – Bean Day

We put our walking shoes on today, with the goal of getting to know the city a bit.  We left our hotel and walked down to the local Bank of America ATM to get some cash (Using Bank of America so we don’t pay the @#$%^& $8 fee that our dear bank would usually charge for such a cost-less transaction) and have breakfast.

That accomplished, we walked over to Navy Pier, with a view to walking round Lake Side Drive and eventually to the Millennium Park.  This is where they have The Bean (actually I think it’s correctly called The Cloud, but Bean is pretty appropriate) which is simply a big stainless steel sculpture in the shape of a bean.  Being stainless steel, it’s very reflective, so hours of fun can be had with reflections.  Hard to describe, you will have to look at the photos.  It’s pretty cool and we spent almost an hour and a half here, watching people having fun with it, taking photos, and having some fun ourselves.  It really is fun, very cool.

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Travels in America: Madison County Iowa

My husband Joe and I have undertaken three trips to the United States, and have loved our travels there.  In the keeping with the holiday spirit as we all take a well earned break, I have brushed the dust off our blog written at the time (October 2014), removed excessive cussing and tidied up the grammar for Whaleoil readers.  This is part 5 of 7.

Day twenty – Air Force Museum Dayton Ohio

The Comfort Suites are ideally placed for plane geeks wanting to go to the USAF museum – they’re right on the perimeter track, so a quick 15-minute walk gets you to the entrance lobby. There were a few real & armchair aviators in the motel when we arrived for brekkie, easily spotted as they usually wear aircraft related clothing like t-shirts or caps (and I was no different with my RNZAF t-shirt!)

After brekkie, Deb dropped me off at the museum and basically, I start from one end and work my way down. The Museum’s collection is mostly housed in three huge hangars now, with two other hangars on the base itself (Wright-Patterson AFB) storing the ‘Presidential’ and ‘Research and Development’ collections. Only a few aircraft are stored outside now which is good as they will be maintained and preserved far better.

The hangars start with the early years ( pre and WWI) , moving onto preWW2 and WW2 then South East Asia , the Cold war and Korea. The collection is tremendous, with a huge range of aircraft to view. Unfortunately, the hangars are quite dimly lit, so photography is hard (a volunteer told me they do this to prevent deterioration of the exhibits) but that’s a minor gripe, the collection is amazing and many are exhibited in small dioramas and the like (for example showing servicing, or in one case a cadet having crashed a plane)

They have some huge aircraft in these hangars and it beggars belief they can fit them all in, but they do. Some of the biggest aircraft operated by the USAF are there, including the B-52, C-133 Cargomaster, C-124 Globemaster II and the B-36 peacemaker – and not to exclude several 4 engined bombers and cargo aircraft.

I had a good few hours wandering amongst these aircraft, occasionally chatting with a volunteer, trying to take good photo’s (I took mostly bad ones) and about 11:45 I met up with Deb just in time for lunch. However while the USAF can put on a good museum, they can’t do lunch so we had a pretty indifferent salad (all salads were covered in grated and highly processed cheese!) and wrap.

As mentioned, there are two separate hangars that house the Research & Development and Presidential aircraft, so to get to see those one has to register with a photo ID ( I used my passport)  and book to go across on the bus. I duly did this and my tour was at 1:30, so that would take us nicely to our ETD from Dayton.

Thus at 1:30 we all gather in an auditorium where we are given the rules (no photography or video of any kind, and no wanderin’ off onto the base) and then jump on a bus to go across to these hangars.

These are just as good as the main selection and have some real gems in there, like the Boeing 707 that took JFK to Berlin where he gave his famous speech, and then carried his body to Washington with Lyndon Johnson being sworn in during the flight, or some of the most famous & unique experimental aircraft that pretty much paved the way for aviation today (and a few clunkers as well).

We had a happy hour there – there are no barriers on the aircraft in these two hangars, unlike the main collection, so you can get right up close to the planes, but have to be careful you don’t spear yourself on a pitot tube or walk into a wing!

When that was over it was time to get on the road towards Winterset and the bridges of Madison county – all in all I spent about 6 hours at the USAAF Museum and it was a fantastic place to visit. However despite wanting to buy something from the shop, I just could not decide as they had a great range of books and kits (and typically, all the books I wanted to buy were very large and heavy!) – so discretion was the better part of valour and I left with photos and memories only.

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Travels in America: Niagara Falls to Dayton Ohio

My husband Joe and I have undertaken three trips to the United States, and have loved our travels there.  In the keeping with the holiday spirit as we all take a well earned break, I have brushed the dust off our blog written at the time (October 2014), removed excessive cussing and tidied up the grammar for Whaleoil readers.  This is part 4 of 7.

Day sixteen – New York to Niagara Falls

Up before dawn this morning, after a restless night waking every few hours to check I hadn’t slept through the alarm.  Joe slept blissfully and snore-fully through this of course.  Eventually, I timed it right and woke with a minute to spare at 5.44am.  It was all stations go to shower and pack the last minute stuff, and then hoof all our luggage to the train station.  We decided to walk, only 8 blocks and at that time of the morning, very few people about.  Got there with plenty of time to spare and mooched into the Amtrak lounge to relax.  Then we heard the beginning of two announcements about our train that were interrupted and talked over by someone else, so we had no idea what important information was being imparted.  I decided I better go and ask, and apparently we had to go through some kind of check-in where our passports were presented to make sure the tickets matched our passports and were then given a luggage label for each bag (6 in total !!) because apparently Canadian customs are picky that each bag has a label.

As usual, it turned out they didn’t give a hoot and no-one checked that the bags we got off the train within Canada matched those on our ticket.  Sigh.  These people really should talk with each other.  No security to go through, we just formed an orderly queue and after about 10 minutes wait, were herded down the escalator to the train.  Boarded, found a seat and hefted the luggage into the overhead racks with no issues (easy enough with one person each end of the bag!)

Now it was time to sit back, relax and enjoy Amtrak hospitality for the next 9+ hours.  And it was a very nice relaxing trip, lots of gorgeous fall tree colours as we followed the Hudson river up through New York State.  At Utica (pronounced Yoo-tikka) a woman with two kids got on.  Sigh.  A little girl of about 3 going on 13 and a baby boy about 9 months old would be my best guess.  Sadly he cried, and whined, and howled and whinged for most of the trip, and at each station, we would cross fingers that she would be getting off.  Eventually, she did, at Rochester, so we at least had a few hours of relative peace for the rest of the trip.

The train was running late by the time we got into Niagara Falls and was made even later as we had to sit on the train and wait for Canadian border control to decide how they were going to process us.  Eventually, they reached our carriage and came on to tell us everyone had to unload all their bags and go through passport control and customs.  So off we went, queued up, and went through the usual “how long are you here for, where have you been, how long are you staying, what is the purpose of your visit” rigmarole.  Then we had to put our bags through x-ray and that was it, free to go.  We hoofed outside and grabbed a cab and headed to our motel. Read more »

Travels in America: New York

My husband Joe and I have undertaken three trips to the United States, and have loved our travels there.  In the keeping with the holiday spirit as we all take a well-earned break, I have brushed the dust off our blog written at the time (October 2014), removed excessive cussing and tidied up the grammar for Whaleoil readers.  This is part 3 of 7.

Day ten – New York

Our first real bite of the Big Apple.  We started off at Grand Central Station, quite an impressive building from the outside,  but the main hall inside is huge and pretty spectacular with it.

Grand Central Station

Spent a bit of time taking photos and watching hordes of people scurrying hither and thither.  Then it was time to figure out the subway system.  As usual, pretty simple once you figure it out.  Buy a ticket, load it with money and away you go.  Cost is $2.75 per trip.  Initially, we only wanted to get $10 worth of travel, but we only had $20 notes and the machine didn’t give change more than $8, so we ended up getting the $19 worth of travel, plus it costs you $1 for the ticket.  Apparently, you can re-fill them, though they are just thin plastic with a mag stripe which you swipe each time, so I’m not sure how long it will actually last.

With that done, we jumped on the subway and went to the Brooklyn Bridge stop, with the plan to walk across the bridge (it has a pedestrian section) and view the city from across the water.  The bridge itself is an impressive structure, and the view from it is pretty fantastic as well.  I had expected lots of tall buildings here in the city, but I wasn’t prepared for how beautiful they are.

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Travels in America: Fallingwater and Gettysburg

My husband Joe and I have undertaken three trips to the United States, and have loved our travels there.  In the keeping with the holiday spirit as we all take a well-earned break, I have brushed the dust off our blog written at the time (October 2014), removed excessive cussing and tidied up the grammar for Whaleoil readers.  This is part 2 of 7.

Day Five – Washington to Fallingwater

Early start to the day, up before 6 am to pick up the rental car.  Schlepped all our luggage (and it seems to have increased 20kg even though we haven’t bought anything much) via the Metro to Union Station where the rental car company was located.  Schlepped ourselves and said luggage a block and a half looking for the Avis place, and wouldn’t you know it, it was located inside the train station, up on the second floor in the middle of a bunch of shops.  Just as well J thought to ask one of the local cops or we would never have found it by ourselves.

The car was duly collected, though the pre-drive “check for damage” was farcical on a black car in a dark parking garage.  Then began the “tight right, wiiiiide left” mantra as we headed out into the city, driving in what we hoped was the right direction until Dora caught up with our movements.  (On our last trip Stateside, we named our GPS Dora (the Explorer) and it stuck).  It took us about an hour and a half to make our way out of the city, even though we left the rental car place about 7.30 we seemed to hit peak rush hour traffic.  That combined with our tight-wad choice to avoid toll roads meant it was a long trip.  Still the Steven Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum didn’t open until 10am so we had plenty of time.  And it was worth the wait, a GREAT museum.

As the wife of an aircraft enthusiast, I’ve seen a few in my time – yawn – and even I got excited about this one.  As well as aircraft, it also had some really cool space stuff, including the Space Shuttle Discovery.  The museum is really big but well laid out with elevated walkways so you can view the planes from above as well as below.  We saw the actual Enola Gay that dropped the H Bomb on Hiroshima, which ties in nicely with our last US trip when we went to the West Wendover airfield where the crews trained to do the drop.

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Travels in America: Washington DC

My husband Joe and I have undertaken three trips to the United States, and have loved our travels there.  In the keeping with the holiday spirit as we all take a well earned break, I have brushed the dust off our blog written at the time (October 2014), removed excessive cussing and tidied up the grammar for Whaleoil readers.

Day 1:

The Auckland -> San Francisco -> Washington leg.

We leave for the airport in plenty of time, there has been a fire at a substation and there are approx 80,000 homes without power, which also means all the traffic lights in the area are out as well.  Thankfully there are no issues, drivers are being sensible and traffic is light, most unusual for Auckland & we arrive with plenty of time to spare.  We board on time and are pleasantly surprised to find the aisle seat next to us remains empty, so we have extra space to spread out.  The flight is smooth and uneventful, just how we like it.  A few crying babies do their thing to hamper our chances of sleeping, but I manage to get a few hours kip and try not to fidget the rest of the time.  We arrive early in SFO, no issues getting through Immigration, getting finger-printed or getting our luggage, though we snigger at Carousel 2 just in from Tokyo, so jammed with trollies and anxious travellers 6 deep that no one can actually GET to the carousel to pick up their bags!

We hike across to Terminal 2 to check in for our next flight, it’s hot and sunny and we stink like pole cats, so buy two new t-shirts to stop the dogs from following us.

Plenty of time to grab some lunch while we wait for out flight to Washington.  We board on time but some kind of auxiliary power unit is not working so that means they have to start one of the engines while we are at the gate, and for some reason that causes quite a long delay.  We are 45 minutes late taking off.  Sigh.  Another uneventful flight, this time on Virgin America, which is budget and you have to pay for everything, including checked luggage, food and movies.  Tea Coffee and water is free, and the coffee is much nicer than the swill Air New Zealand had the nerve to call coffee.  But the late departure means that it’s 1am by the time we collect our bags, wait for the shuttle and get dropped to our apartment for the night.  We are staying at Washington Circle in an apartment we rented off Airbnb.  It’s a quaint old Georgian brick house, very quirky, but the one disadvantage of booking something like this is it’s not as easy to find and let yourself into at 1 am.  Thankfully the instructions were pretty thorough and we had no issues once we found the place.

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Our ‘forgettable’ Prime Minister

John Roughan writes in a Newspaper that we have a forgettable prime minister. He says that she doesn’t really say anything memorable.  I can think of plenty that is memorable, just not for the right reasons. She of course gave a ‘rock solid guarantee’ that there would not be more strikes under a Labour government.  That was memorable.  It was also completely false. I’m also sure that the oil and gas industry has not forgotten her words when she axed exploration permits with no warning.

John goes on to sing her praises for one of the few times she said something that was memorable to him.   Quote.

At times this year I’ve been very proud of our Prime Minister, never more so than when she made a public apology to the parents of Grace Millane at her post-cabinet press conference. That was a fine thing to do and she did it so well, with the genuine feeling every parent has for those who suffer such unimaginable loss, and with the shame we all felt that it could happen to a beautiful and vulnerable young visitor to this country.

I’m not sure it would have occurred to any previous Prime Minister to do that.  End of quote.

It also did not occur to Ms Ardern to weep over any of the other 4 murders that occurred that week. Only for the murder that involved a pretty young woman and had the international media watching.  Quote. Read more »

Photoshop competition

Why the delay? Census 2018 results


Back in March 2018, New Zealand undertook its five-yearly census.  Nine months on, we are no closer to knowing anything about what the census results are. The data are so late that the next general election may be affected. Stuff reports.  Quote.

The next general election is at risk of being compromised due to Census 2018 delays.

The Electoral Commission has confirmed its necessary redraw of electoral boundaries for Election 2020 could be jeopardised by the delayed data.[…]

[…] Electoral Commission chair Sir Hugh Williams QC said the population figures, which come as part of Stats NZ’s initial data release, could come as late as September 2019.

“Anything later than that would really jeopardise the capacity for the Electoral Commission to do its work, assuming the general election was set for the third or fourth quarter of 2020.”

Documents released under the Official Information Act show Stats NZ has acknowledged the high risk of failing its statutory obligation to provide the data.End of quote.

Why is this taking so long?  Here’s what Stats NZ had to say:  Quote. Read more »