Soaring to Mt Aspiring with Alex

Soaring to Mt Aspiring with Alex

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Gliding Safety Issue for SoaringNZ

Most of the material for the next SoaringNZ goes to the designers tomorrow to be laid out and made to look pretty. It will be a challenging job this time as we are doing a safety issue and essentially all our feature articles come without pretty pictures and diagrams. We’re talking safety issues, not the latest pretty toy or the most scenic spot for a competition. However I know that Rosalie Brown and her sidekick Lee-Ann will do a fantastic job at making this issue look as good as all the others. Rosalie can be found at RGB Design. RGB Design make SoaringNZ look good. They will take these somewhat dry articles and make them look good enough that you will be bothered to read them. Reading these articles may save your life.

I say it in my introduction to the safety articles in the magazine and I will say it here, most of us involved in gliding in New Zealand have lost gliding friends to a fatal accident in the last two years. We also know personally at least one person who has been involved in a non fatal accident that could have had more serious consequences. New Zealand’s safety record recently is appalling. The trouble is no one knows why. Why too are dreadful accidents happening to experienced pilots?
I am not going to speculate on any of this. I don’t have the knowledge or skill set to do so. I just know I don’t want to hear of anyone else I know dying. Don’t do it people. Be safe.

In this post I’m going to put up some links to classic safety articles. I have put how to find these into words in the magazine, but really it is much easier to click on a link on line.

We are publishing the following article in the magazine, “Complacency, What me worry?” by Martin Hellman but other overseas pilots who don’t receive the mag (why not? Email me now!) may wish to see it. This article is excellent.

Bruno Gatenbrink’s talk on Safety is here. It includes the following which should give you an idea of what it is all about. That sentence, "The most dangerous part of gliding is the trip to the glider field" is the dumbest, most ignorant saying that has found a home in our sport. He then goes on to say, and I can’t fault him with this: Actually the opposite is true. It is more dangerous than anything else that I do or know about in my life. Why don't I quit? A good question. One reason I don't quit is because it affords me more fun and pure joy than anything else I could imagine.

Combs’ classic article "That Beautiful Mountain and her Sinister Trap" was first published in Soaring (the American version) in 1984. I am sure it has been printed in the Gliding Kiwi in the past too and probably in all the world’s major soaring magazines. Its illustrations are very familiar. Its words haven’t grown old.

JJ Sinclair wrote a piece in his local club newsletter in the States which has also gone on to be a bit of a classic and a slightly updated version of the one above. “Don’t Smack the Mountain 101”. You need to scroll down to page 9 to find it. Another newsletter story well worth reading is Kempton Izuno’s “Into the Bowels of Darkness” where he tells of getting sucked into cloud and how he managed to come out again in one piece, albeit flying backwards! It is on page 12.

Have you had enough yet? The DG website contains a series of other safety articles. Check out Safety Tips and Training, and Safe Winch launching. Here is a link to the SoaringSafety website’s list of all safety related articles in Soaring (USA). There is enough reading there to keep you going for years. Check out the other links on the side of the page.

Don’t just read about it people. Think about it. This bad stuff could happen to you. Bad stuff does happen to good people. In gliding terms think of that E on the end of the check list, eventualities, and in the best motto any group has ever come up with Be Prepared.

And that famous quote that really shows my age: "Let's be careful out there."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Happiness is in the Small Things.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I had a nice day. I’d worked a night shift Saturday night, arriving home around 8am. A quick shower and I was off to bed. This put a kink in the traditional Mother’s Day breakfast in bed, but that’s fine. I’ve never been very keen on breakfast in bed anyway.
Lots of little things made me happy today.
It was a glorious sunny autumn day and I was awake by midday. Getting up and enjoying the sunshine was a good idea. I had a leisurely breakfast on the deck with the Sunday paper. Small thing number one. No hurry, no fuss, a good cup of tea and plenty of time to enjoy it. It is lovely on the deck at this time of year. The grapevine that grows along the rail is changing colour. The pineapple sage, a large bush just below the deck is smothered with red flowers and the roses that also grow along the railing have a few late blooms. The sun floods the deck making it warm and helping the pots of lettuce and others of flowering plants last longer than they do elsewhere. Usually of course I’m too busy to sit out here longer than half an hour or so at lunchtime.
Oldest son Alex was away for the day working at his job at Rosendale restaurant. He was anticipating a busy day with the Mother’s Day rush. Alex’s job provides enough money for him to pay his own gliding bill. It’s all good. Robert and John went off to get my Mother’s Day present and came back with a trailer load of peastraw for my garden. Not romantic, not gift wrapped, but just perfect. I’ll get onto weeding the rose bed and finishing off my raised beds in the next few weeks. The peastraw will help keep the weeds down among the roses and makes up the bulk of the material in the raised beds. It is just what I wanted.
Later I took the dog out for a walk. Alfie’s a golden lab, three years old and he gets scratchy if he hasn’t had a walk. That’s fine, I need walks too. Not far from here we have a wonderful park. It is at the back of the agricultural show grounds. It’s owned by the council and run as a working farm. There are some walkways, there are lots of horse jumps and a polo paddock and a wonderful pond and wetland with some native plantings. Anyone and their dog can walk over it at will. The only stipulation is that dogs must be on a lead if in a paddock with stock. Well that’s just common sense.
I ambled along the stream and around the pond. Alfie bounced, ran, swam, played with other dogs and chased sticks. Coming back from the pond I was enjoying the way the open land gives a view all the way to the mountains. The sun was warm, the sky was large and blue. I was wearing my new jeans and new bright purple blouse. I was feeling good in my clothes – this is probably a girl thing but it was adding to my enjoyment of the walk.
Across the fence in the paddock with the horse jumps was a man with two small children, a boy and a girl, and a chocolate Labrador puppy. The man walked in something like a straight line. The others didn’t. The children and the dog went round and round in circles. The little girl sat down and called to her father, obviously wanting to be carried. He kept walking. She did a great theatrical sigh, got up and ran after him. Dad smiled and held out his hand for her to hold.
I don’t know anything about them. He may have been taking the children out to allow Mum time to herself for Mother’s Day or this might be a regular Sunday outing. I just know that seeing them, all obviously having a lovely time in this great open space made me smile. Dad, kids and dog, happy in the sun.
Robert my younger son cooked a roast dinner and did all the vegetables to go with it. I made the gravy, because somehow I seemed to have neglected to teach my children how to make gravy. I must rectify that. Robert made an apple and rhubarb crumble for pudding, a Weight Watchers recipe. That was sweet. Alex finished things up by giving me a box of chocolates, all for myself (thereby undoing the Weight Watchers effect, but appreciated none the less).
I didn’t win lotto, didn’t get taken out to a flash restaurant, don’t own a flash car and certainly haven’t got money to burn, but the sun shone and I had a happy day.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Science and ramblings on the mining debate

I had an odd conversation this morning. I was telling someone I know that I am applying for some science jobs. I am currently working as a nurse, falling back on my first career and working around the magazine but I have a science degree too now and I want to work in science. What I hadn’t realised is that apparently most of the world has no idea what that means.
I am currently applying for two positions, one as a technician at one of the Centres of Research Excellence at Lincoln University and one with the Queen Elizabeth II Conservation Trust. They are hugely different positions. The technician position involves projects to stop the spread of invasive species and is similar to the job I have done previously with Plant and Food Research. The other job is conservation based and involves assessing and helping farmers conserve areas of noteworthy landscape or conservation values on their properties. I consider both of them to be working within science, different branches of science certainly, but still science. When I mentioned science though this lady said, “Oh test tubes and chemicals and stuff.” When I told her about the conservation position she said, “Like the mining thing?”
For any overseas readers the NZ government is currently proposing (or investigating the possibility of) allowing mining on the conservation estate. Does working with farmers to conserve remnant stands of forest or areas with rare lizards equate to stopping the government mining the conservation estate? On one hand I suppose they are similar. The professed outcome is to preserve the natural environment. On the one hand we have landowners doing the best for their land. On the other hand we have the largest landowner in the country, the crown, doing the best for OUR land? Or not. Yes all right, when I put it like that it is only the scale that is different.
Until today I really haven’t given a lot of thought to the debate. Generally remnant stands of bush are in gullies or rough ground, fencing them off actually improves the overall value of the land. Likewise keeping cattle away from waterways and wetlands improves drainage, water quality and ultimately land health, it is a winning situation. We are asking the government to do the same thing with vast quantities of land, areas that have already been fenced off because of their intrinsic and environmental values. We have thousands of undescribed species in these undisturbed areas. Who knows what medical, industrial or other worth may be found here? Truly, we don’t know. Did you know that the mountain weta and other high altitude insects are able to freeze over winter, thaw out in springtime and get on with their lives? Isn’t that wonderful? That attribute has huge applications in medical science. I know of a study of just one West Coast forest tree. The huge tree, I don’t know what it was but I think it was a podocarp, was wrapped in a fine net and using abseiling equipment a young lady student sampled from the canopy down to the trees roots. She found hundreds of species of both plants and insects on that one tree. From memory I think around 1/3 of what she found hadn’t been investigated by science or even named before- she found new species on one tree. That was one tree. Just think what may be out there in the whole forest. Think of the potential benefits to the world from what we don’t even know about yet. Then decide whether a short term gain of jobs from mining the ground under that forest is worth it.
So folks, today I worked out which side of the mining debate I’m on. And I know I want to work in science.