Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Nine To Noon

I love Nine To Noon. When other news outlets are talking about someone, you can almost guarantee Kathryn Ryan is talking to them. Where other news outlets play a "soundbite," Nine To Noon does an in depth interview - or several in order to get different points of view. And it's not just for news that I appreciate Nine To Noon: I learn new things every week listening to the interest interviews and the book reviews.

As many children do, Josiah became interested in insects around the age of six. This interest has endured; Josiah carries around with him in his backpack a very dogeared copy of Which Insect which he uses regularly to identify miscellaneous insects. A couple of years ago, Josiah also became interested in the classification of life. Reading books about classification and taxonomy, Josiah and I eventually came across phylogenetics, the study of the evolutionary relationships between species, which is how modern scientists classify species. That was about a year ago. Since then, Josiah has told anyone interested that he plans to be a phylogeneticist entomologist when he grows up.

As you can imagine, supporting Josiah in this intention poses somewhat of a challenge to a homeschooling parent. Fortunately, science writer, Colin Tudge, has written an excellent book, The Variety of Life, which is meeting our needs for now. Still, it seemed a shame that Josiah and I only heard the word "phylogenetics" spoken by each other ... until (I should have expected it) I found myself a day or two ago listening to Kathryn Ryan interview on Nine To Noon, Warren Chin, a New Zealand phylogeneticist entomologist!

Warren Chin was there to discuss the Bluff Weta ("Bluff" because it lives on bluffs, unlike the oyster, which comes from Bluff). It was a fascinating interview, and very exciting for Josiah and me. Josiah has expressed the hope that being a phylogeneticist entomologist will meld well with his interests in conservation and climbing. Sure enough, the scientists studying the Bluff Weta are looking into its status and will be involved with its conservation if it is found to be in danger. And, believe it or not, when asked by Kathryn how the scientists are accessing the weta, Warren Chin replied, "Oh, there are a number of bolted routes." The Bluff Weta live in a sport climbing area! Of course, not every New Zealand insect studied by scientists is so considerate as to choose a climbing area for its habitat, but it does seem very encouraging that the first phylogeneticist entomologist Josiah hears of has to climb (or abseil) in his work.

Who knows whether Josiah's intentions will change (when I was twelve, I wanted to be an actress or the Prime Minister ... that didn't last!). Meanwhile, I continue to be grateful to Kathryn Ryan and Nine To Noon.

P.S. If you look for the Warren Chin interview on the Nine To Noon website, you won't find it, sorry. It took place a couple of weeks ago and has already been replaced with other broadcasts. I am always behind the times with regard to what's on Nine To Noon. I am busy with other things when the programme airs so I subscribe to the feed and listen to the broadcasts later.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Holiday - Part III: West Coast and Christchurch

We've been back a month. Seems like longer. The kids and I have been busy the last fortnight with the start of our homeschooling year. Geoff's had a couple of projects on the go, the chief of which is our amazing new home bouldering wall. Here he is painting the background before it went up ...

So, the holiday continued ... when we left Golden Bay, we headed over to the West Coast, stopping to visit my aunt in the beautiful (but sandfly ridden) Buller Gorge on the way. In Westport, we treated ourselves to a night in a motel, the Ascot Motor Lodge, which was well worth the $120. The friendly proprietor invited Tessa and Josiah to help themselves to strawberries from the various plant boxes around the complex.

Least said about the following day, spent at Punakaiki, the better, probably, given that a certain member of the family was not happy that day and made it rather challenging for anyone else in the family to enjoy themselves either.

In Greymouth, Geoff, Josiah and Tessa were taken on a tiki-tour of Greymouth's important buildings: where I lived when I was twelve, where my best friend lived, where I went to school. More nostalgia in Hokitika, visiting the glass-blowing studio and greenstone shop.

Then on to the glaciers. At $55 a night for our tent site, Franz Josef Top 10 Holiday Park was even more expensive than Pohara, but the facilities were reminiscent of a five star hotel! Clean, modern bathrooms and kitchen. Large dining area with covered verandas all around it (which came in handy on our last day when we took down the tents in a thunder storm and were grateful to be able to take them under cover to shake them out and roll them up).

We had a great time exploring the glacier region ...

Josiah, Tessa and Spotty at the foot of Franz Josef Glacier

Mt Tasman

Lake Matheson

Fox Glacier

One of the snacks we carry in the backpacks on our holiday excursions is chocolate. I break it up into pieces and keep it in a container so that I don't end up with chocolate crumbs through my bag. I might need a new system, though, as this is what we repeatedly ended up with ...

From the West Coast, we headed over Arthurs Pass to Christchurch, stopping in the Castle Hill area for a couple of days' climbing. In fact, it was too hot for me and I didn't really climb but instead found a small shady spot beside a boulder and read my book. The landscape was amazing ... I don't understand how the mountains stay in tact: they look like enormous sand dunes.

This is Tessa and me, waiting for Geoff and Josiah in the shade of a boulder, me with one of the boulder mats on my back, which was no fun to carry because of the extreme heat.

By the time we reached Christchurch, we were too tired for any more sightseeing. We went to two movies in three days and ate out at South of the Border where Geoff and I had eaten often in the past, before children, and we relaxed at the campground.

Our wonderful South Island holiday finished with a highlight: my grandmother's 100th birthday celebration. It was great to catch up with all my cousins and just lovely to see my grandmother happy and healthy after 100 years on the planet, and in her element talking to her huge extended family. I thought of my dad often, he would have been in his element too, enjoying the gathering and the occasion.

Here are Josiah, Tessa and I with our grandmother and great-grandmother on her 100th birthday.