26 March 2012

Basin Reserve, 3rd Test, Day 4

New Zealand resumed on Day 4 with both openers at the crease and the score at 65/0. Daniel Flynn and Martin Guptill played gritty test innings, each facing over 100 balls. Inevitably it was Vernon Philander who broke the partnership, dismissing Flynn for a tidy 45 - New Zealand batsmen seem incapable of defending against the new South African bowler's guile and accuracy. Brendon McCullum played one of his usual 'sod it, I'll do what I bloody well like' one-day innings, peppering 31 runs off 56 balls when a solid defence and a long stay at the crease was required. Ross Taylor had the worst luck, when the wicketless Morne Morkel managed to send the New Zealand captain to hospital with a suspected fractured arm. And just when the follow-on was looking like an easy target, New Zealand lost three wickets with the score on 263 - which was still 11 short of making the visitors bat again. At least Mark Gillespie's lusty boundary swings spared those blushes, with New Zealand scraping through to 275, a full 199 runs behind on the first innings.

Then South Africa emerged to show how it's done, rattling up 75/0 in only 15 overs, including a cracking Petersen six to long off from the bowling of Gillespie. At this rate, and with the weather forecast looking ominously fine, it would be a daring gambler indeed who would put any money on New Zealand holding out for a draw tomorrow.

Dean Brownlie

McCullum & Vettori offer Gillespie advice on how on earth he might get a South African out

Gillespie prepares to bowl...

...and is smashed for six to long off by Petersen

Hooray, Kruger van Wyk!

25 March 2012

Basin Reserve, 3rd Test, Day 3

Finally, a bright sunny day in Wellington, after two days of rain. On Day 3 of the 3rd Test, South Africa resumed on 246/2 and finished with 474/9d (Petersen 156, Duminy 103, Amla 63, Gillespie 113-6). New Zealand then batted out 25 overs until the close to end on 65/0 (Flynn 35no, Guptill 28no), with two days to play and the forecast looking positive. Please let there be a New Zealand century against South Africa... 

Daniel Vettori bowling from the Adelaide Rd end 
Chris Martin returns to the boundary

McCullum & Bracewell (I think) chase a three.

Vettori ambles over to sign autographs for the kids

A healthy crowd enjoyed the sunshine

AB de Villiers, b Martin 38

South African fans: way less dodgy than they appear

24 March 2012

And here were gardens bright with sinuous rills

Photos from Wellington's Botanical Gardens on Glenmore Street last Sunday night - about 9.30pm when it was nice and quiet. The gardens are lit up for a fortnight each year to coincide with free outdoor occasions, such as musical performances or film screenings, although some of these performances have been cancelled lately, what with the dour weather - like the screening of Labyrinth I was hoping to attend. Only one picture of a sinuous rill I'm afraid - and it looked more like the goop in Willy Wonka's factory than anything particularly sinuous.

21 March 2012

Wellington bus review

Courtenay Place from Mt Victoria, 17.09.2011
Greater Wellington has just completed a public consultation phase on its proposals for a major overhaul of Wellington City's bus services. The review, which concluded on 16 March, sought public input on a raft of changes to existing routes, and a shift to a route model based around a core network of rapid transit corridors, with services running at least every 15 minutes all day. This core network would be supplemented by secondary bus services with all-day timetables at a lower frequency from every 15 minutes to hourly, and peak-only filler routes to serve isolated suburbs.   

The outlined route proposals are bold and will provide access to an enhanced rapid transit network for a large proportion of Wellington's public transport users. The greater emphasis on transfers, with dedicated transfer stations to be constructed and free transfers permitted, will help to build a strong network effect that makes cross-town public transport usage more feasible and reliable.

Transport consultant Jarrett Walker, whose blog Human Transit is an excellent resource for discussions on building user-friendly public transport systems, worked with the council to develop the proposals. He summarises the benefits of the new network as follows:

A remarkable outcome of our proposal is that the percentage of the population within walking distance of frequent all-day service goes up from 58% to 75%.  The last 25% live in very hard-to-reach or low-density places where it would be cost-prohibitive to run frequent service, so we are bringing high-frequency service to almost all parts of the city where it the densities and road network make it viable. 
That's important because frequency is freedom. High-frequency service (every 7-15 minutes or better) is service that's ready to go whenever you need to go, and that can even be used spontaneously to move around the city. 
This kind of network design work is a holistic exercise in multi-variable problem solving.  Each idea for improvement has many knock-on effects that we have to evaluate, and it takes skill and experience to see the best network patterns that optimise across so many issues.  The outcomes don't please everyone, and especially don't please people who are opposed to all kinds of change.  But it is exactly the sort of network design that leads to stronger urban transit networks that more people find useful.  This kind of design also supports more intense urban development where that's appropriate, thus providing more alternatives to horizontal expansion of the urban region. 

There are, as Walker mentions, some drawbacks for the hard-to-reach 25 percent of Wellingtonians. Some parts of the current network that are served by peak-only city commuter services will lose those services, and about 10 percent of travellers will be required to change services if they want to reach the city, which will add time to their journeys. People in Vogeltown, Mornington and Melrose will find themselves dependent on a new circulator bus that links to city buses at Brooklyn shops and the hospital but doesn't go all the way to the city. Residents of arch-suburban Churton Park will find themselves having to link to buses at Newlands or trains at Johnsonville rather than going all the way to town on a single service.

In my opinion the overall model is excellent, and I support the proposal for increased frequency on the key routes outlined. It will mean Wellingtonians will have even more reasons to leave their cars at home, or just not own one in the first place. Evening journeys to town will no longer be complicated by lingering waits for rare bus services. And a single fare will get you across the whole city, making public transport much better value for money. 

But for some areas such as the southern end of the current 21 route and all the current 20 route, direct access to the whole harbourside centre of the city will be removed, which will decrease the viability of commuting by public transport in those areas. I think a better balance could be struck between boosting the key rapid transit routes and maintaining commuter access for suburbs that are outside that major network. It's about making public transport better for everyone, not better for most at the expense of some.  

For example, I currently live in Highbury and sometimes take the 20 bus to work on rainy days like today. This will be less viable under the proposed scheme because the route will terminate at the Cable Car, which will require a separate ticket and an additional 10-15 minute journey, followed by a longer walk to work. And smaller buses on the 20 route, while a boon for navigating the narrow roads, would likely be insufficient for passenger demand on rainy days. 

Could one solution to reduced services be to trade off against the frequency of main services after 9pm (while still improving on the current services offered) and devoting those resources to providing direct services through the city at peak hours? 

Or why not consider my rather more radical proposal to alleviate congestion in peak hours and to free up more space for all-important buses: ban private vehicles from Lambton Quay for two hours in the morning and evening rush. A similar plan for Courtenay Place was unpopular with all the right people, so it's definitely worth investigating.

20 March 2012

"The Queen said exactly the same thing to me yesterday"

He loved to cite Bagehot's view that the "essence of Toryism is enjoyment". Rather more furtively, he quoted Bagehot's faith in the "stupidity" of the English, by which he meant a stolid resistance to novelty, and thus to the wilder excesses of ideology [...]

Says Lord Lamont, a former chancellor of the exchequer and a friend for 40 years: "He was above all a Tory romantic. He loved Victoriana, Disraeli and Gladstone, but he saw good things in modernity".

Many tributes have dwelt on his personal contradictions. They describe a boundless immodesty redeemed by self-mocking wit - on being accused of name-dropping, St John-Stevas is said to have sighed: "The Queen said exactly the same thing to me yesterday".

- Obituary of Norman St John-Stevas (1929-2012), Baron St John of Fawsley, Leader of the House of Commons 1979-81, MP for Chelmsford 1964-87; in the Economist, 10 March 2012. 

15 March 2012

From the Veranda of the Room of the Last Chrysanthemum

Gulls wheel through spokes of sunlight over gracious roofs and dowdy thatch, snatching entrails at the marketplace and escaping over cloistered gardens, spike-topped walls and treble-bolted doors. Gulls alight on white-washed gables, creaking pagodas and dung-ripe stables; circle over towers and cavernous bells and over hidden squares where urns of urine sit by covered wells, watched by mule-drivers, mules and wolf-snouted dogs, ignored by hunchbacked makers of clogs; gather speed up the stoned-in Nakashima River and fly beneath the arches of its bridges, glimpsed from kitchen doors, watched by farmers walking high, stony ridges. Gulls fly through clouds of steam from laundries' vats; over kites unthreading corpses of  cats; over scholars glimpsing truth in fragile patterns; over bath-house adulterers; heartbroken slatterns; fishwives dismembering lobsters and crabs; their husbands gutting mackerel on slabs; woodcutters' sons sharpening axes; candle-makers, rolling waxes; flint-eyed officials milking taxes; etoliated lacquerers; mottled-skinned dyers; imprecise soothsayers; unblinking liars; weavers of mats; cutters of rushes; ink-lipped calligraphers dipping brushes; booksellers ruined by unsold books; ladies-in-waiting; tasters; dressers; filching page-boys; runny-nosed cooks; sunless attic nooks where seamstresses prick calloused fingers; limping malingerers; swineherds; swindlers; lip-chewed debtors rich in excuses; heard-it-all creditors tightening nooses; prisoners haunted by happier lives and ageing rakes by other men's wives; skeletal tutors goaded to fits; firemen-turned-looters when occasion permits; tongue-tied witnesses; purchased judges; mothers-in-law nurturing briars and grudges; apothecaries grinding powders with mortars; palanquins carrying not-yet-wed daughters; silent nuns; nine-year-old whores; the once-were-beautiful gnawed by sores; statues of Jizo anointed with posies; syphilitics sneezing through rotted-off noses; potters; barbers; hawkers of oil; tanners; cutlers; carters of night-soil; gate-keepers; bee-keepers; blacksmiths and drapers; torturers; wet-nurses; perjurers; cut-purses; the newborn; the growing; the strong-willed and pliant; the ailing; the dying; the weak and defiant; over the roof of a painter withdrawn first from the world, then his family, and down into a masterpiece that has, in the end, withdrawn from its creator; and around again, where there flight began, over the balcony of the Room of the Last Chrysanthemum, where a puddle from last night's rain is evaporating; a puddle in which Magistrate Shiroyama observes the blurred reflections of gulls wheeling through spokes of sunlight. This world, he thinks, contains just one masterpiece, and that is itself.

- David Mitchell, in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, London, 2010, set in the Dutch trading enclave of Dejima in Nagasaki in 1800.

04 March 2012

"Snakes. Why'd it have to be snakes?"

I've not seen Raiders of the Lost Ark for many years, but the enduring memory of derring-do in the name of archaeology (and riches, if they're handy) is charmingly evoked in Spelunky, a modern 8-bit style PC platformer that was mentioned in Lewis Denby's PC Gamer's articles on top-quality free games. Spelunky is soon to be released in a brand spanking new version with updated graphics and multi-player, but you can download and play the original 2008 version for no dollars and cents.  I've sped through at least 25 games of being poisoned, spiked, crushed and generally marmelised by this game and I can report that it's thoroughly addictive fun, so be warned. It's randomly generated each time, so no two levels are alike. I particularly like the extra complication of carrying the damsel in distress through all the mortal peril, which means you have to ditch her rather rudely every time you want to beat off hordes of spiders with your whip.  And don't forget that golden idol - which begs the question, if you can only carry one, which do you save: the the idol or the dame? Hmm...