Cohens First Three Months

I spent a bit of time this last week putting together a wee video that pulls together some of the better photos and footage we have of Cohen from his first three months of life.  This one goes out to all the family and friends we have spread out across New Zealand and the world, who don’t get to see Cohen as much as we’d like.  It’s been quite cool reflecting on all we’ve done and how much he’s grown in a few short months.  Enjoy!

First Hike in Review: Mt Karangahake

Tucked away in the gorge between Paeroa and Waihi is the popular stop off area of Karangahake. Various short walks from the carpark uncover relics and reminders of an age when men would leave everything in the hope of changing their fortune through gold. Above everything, a distant trig beacon stands silently, unassumingly, on the tallest peak surrounding the area. Last Saturday Paula and I loaded Cohen into the backpack, and left the throngs of camera-toting tourists and excitedly-chattering scouts on an expedition to get to that trig.

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The walk itself starts from humble origins as an overgrown single file track deviating from the well-trodden paths to the caves.  It is easy to miss, and to be honest had Paula and I questioning whether this was the right track to take Cohen on for his first decent hike. The track passes through pleasant native bush before emerging onto an old mining road. The official DOC track follows this road for around 15 minutes before branching off to the right, and climbing steadily to the top, passing through a number of attractive natural hallways created by the overhanging trees (more easily enjoyed on the way down!). The path gets quite tight and steep for a short section before the summit, which consists of a trig perched atop of a few rocks, with no comfy wooden seats or information boards to speak of.

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Tramping with a baby is a blast. Somehow it takes a normal walk and makes it feel so much more epic.  The possum baby carrier by Macpac was comfortable and sent Cohen off to sleep, so I guess it was comfy enough for him too.  Plenty of storage space in the pack meant we didn’t have to be too creative in what we took with us, and in fact we had room to spare, which leaves me excited about doing tramps of a longer duration.

One of the more subtle differences I noticed about tramping with a baby was the impact it had on my perception of time. With only three hours between feedings, I was anxious to make it to the top before the next feed. I could just imagine Cohen starting to cry, taking the whole “it-might-just-be-around-the-next-corner” syndrome to another level.  Do you push on with a crying baby in your ear in the hope that the peak is close, or stop to feed, possibly to find the summit only five minutes on?  Thankfully this was a dilemma I didn’t have to face on this occasion, but it did make me realise that perhaps the more enjoyable walks will be ones without such a definite high point to look forward to.

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How to Pull Off an Epic Time Capsule

I love the future. I love dreaming about the future, and wondering how technology, culture and political landscapes will change over the generations.  I am fascinated and inspired by how some people through history have made an impact on this world that lasts beyond their lifetime.

I want to be someone who leaves a mark on this world, and I figure that the easiest way to do so is to bury stuff.  I decided that to mark the birth of Cohen I would create a time capsule containing a few bits and pieces from my life to date and a bit of inspiration for ‘future Cohen.’  At the very least, it will be a fun thing to track down when Cohen is in his twenties.

To pull something like this off you need three things:
1. Something worth finding
2. Somewhere safe to bury it
3. Some way to remember it

Something Worth Finding

There are two components to this. Obviously the contents of the time capsule should be cool and significant, but the other important consideration is having a container that will preserve them for a few decades under the ground.

The trick with deciding what to put in it is to have items that hold a decent amount of significance but are not that valuable in themselves, just in case you can’t find it again (for example, I wouldn’t recommend burying your wife’s engagement ring!). Ideal items are little objects that have a bit of a story behind them. In Cohen’s time capsule I’ve included the calculator that got me through high school and a stanley knife I used for carving lot numbers in boundary pegs during my time as a field assistant. I’ve also included a notebook with sermon notes taken during some of my uni years, and a couple of newspapers from the day of his birth.

I wrote a letter to the future Cohen who will dig this up one day. It was actually quite tricky to write, because I really don’t want it to be an embarrassment when we dig it up.  I wanted to share a bit of the wisdom I’ve gained in my life to date, but didn’t want it to be so sentimental it would be weird to read later.  I’ve not idea who Cohen will turn out to be, so I tried to keep it fairly general and laid back.

Deciding what container to put all this in is no small consideration. Having the coolest, most appropriate items in your time capsule means nothing if it leaks and becomes a soggy mass of mould and rust. Buying a sturdy, robust and watertight container isn’t something you want to cut corners on. In my case I bought a small food-grade sealable pail from Mitre 10, and lined it with a plastic bag. The newspapers from the day of Cohen’s birth lined the outside of this, and inside I bought a cylindrical Sistema container, that snaps closed to be well and truly airtight. It was in this central core that I put all the things I really, really, really hope are still good in 20 years. You want to get your hands on plenty of silica gel to throw into these containers too. I just gave the good people at Number 1 Shoes a call and they very obligingly held on to a couple of handfuls of satchets for me.  Bear in mind that your container of choice needs to be able to withstand the blows of a spade digging it up in a few decades, so an ice cream container simply won’t do.

Somewhere Safe to Bury It

In cadastral surveying, it is a rule that each survey should include two ‘Permanent Reference Marks,’ which by definition should be reasonably expected to last 50 years or more. Because of this background, I’m used to thinking in terms of what future development is possible, and how to avoid it. There’s a lot more at stake when you’re putting something like this down, so you can’t afford not to think about what might happen to it over the decades.

Basically private property is not an option, even if you currently own the land. This limits you to roads and parks. Roads are risky, with all the underground services going on, and the possibility of roadworks or people putting in driveways. This leaves parks. I would avoid anything very close to water, because erosion can happen quicker than you think.  Another important consideration is to have some nearby features such as walls or fences that you would expect to be around in a few decades, so that you can reference your time capsule to them.

In my case I opted for somewhere in Cornwall Park, Auckland. It has rich heritage value, so any proposed development would have a hard time getting off the ground. It also has a lot of wide open space, so I could find a spot where it wouldn’t be too dodgy digging a little hole in the ground.

A system to remember it

Once again, the most cleverly thought out time capsule will be worthless if you forget about it, or can’t find it in a few decades. There are two elements to this, how to record the location and how to store that information.

Being a surveyor, recording the location of this time capsule got me quite excited. In my case I borrowed the GPS from work and obtained a coordinate accurate to the nearest couple of centimetres. I also drew a diagram with dimensions from nearby features, and took some photos.

If you don’t have access to a survey quality GPS, you can still get a more general coordinate using phones or tramping GPS units, however you will need to be more careful about finding a spot with nearby features that you can realistically expect to survive as long as your time capsule. However you obtain a coordinate, it is important to keep track of what coordinate system it is in, given that these do change.  Don’t worry about how you’ll track down the coordinate later, as they’ll probably have invented glasses that have a built in HUD and possibly X-ray vision by the time you need to find it again.

The other trick is to have a way to access this information in 20 years or so.  A hard-copy bit of paper containing this information simply won’t do, because if you lose it you can kiss your awesome idea goodbye. Nonetheless, even if we think technologically, it could all change over a few short years.  This means that, just like investing, diversification is key, both in the formats you use and the places you save them.

I produced a sheet with the coordinates, diagram and photos as a pdf, and a jpeg image, as well as saving the raw coordinates and an access description as a .txt file. I also printed the sheet and added to the folder we keep birth certificates and passports in. I stored the electronic files in google documents, dropbox and evernote, so hopefully one of them will survive for that long. To remind myself that it exists I have set up yearly reminders for myself in Google Calendar (its hard to pick if Google will still be the giant it is, so rather than one reminder in 20 years I am reminding myself every year between now and then).

Only time will tell whether all this effort and planning will pay off, but if it does it will be awesome.  I’ll be loving it even if Cohen thinks its a random box of junk.  If you think I’ve gone overboard, or have ideas for how to do this stuff better please let me know in the comments!

P.S Don’t tell Cohen about this blog post when he’s older!

The Accidental Annual Review

I’ve long been fond of the idea of getting away on my own to review the year that’s been, and plan and dream for the months and years ahead. The problem is, I just haven’t got round to doing it…until now.

I had planned this week off in between jobs with the thought that the move to Auckland would take place now. As it panned out, we did the hard work of moving a week or two ago, meaning I had a free week. Throw in the fact that we had planned a snowboarding weekend away, and then that a friend generously offered their holiday home to me for the week, and you have an ideal window for a time of solitary reflection (and snowboarding).

It’s been an enormously rewarding experience and I will definitely be more proactive about rigging up this sort of thing in the future. Here’s just a few thoughts on what I’ve learnt and what I’ll be improving for next time:

Go into it with a plan
Be ready with a few key objectives for the review.  A couple of days actually isn’t that long to evaluate your plan for life, so you still want to be productive.  Spending some time beforehand preparing an agenda would really pay off.  I didn’t do this but wish I had.

I’m not even a high-flying executive and I appreciated the fact that the cellphone reception was poor.  I wasn’t expecting to be so disconnected, so I spent too much time trying to get signal on my phone and hence less time just enjoying the isolation.  In future making a conscious decision to disconnect would definitely help.

A cosy house was good
I’m still a bit undecided about whether it would be better to do this sort of soul searching while tenting in the wild or in a cosy house with handy access to comfy chairs, hot chocolates and blankets.  This time I went for the latter, and really enjoyed it, but I’ll do a solo camping mish sometime to compare.  This was the set-up that worked for me…

I spent a large portion of each day snowboarding.  I enjoyed it, but for future reference I think I would be better to keep snowboarding for snowboarding trips and serious life planning for serious life planning trips.  But just because I can, here’s a self-take of me at the snow, showing the glorious weather I had down there.

If you haven’t done anything like this I would wholeheartedly recommend it.  And if you have done stuff like this and have any hints or thoughts please share them in the comments!

Holiday Happenings

Blog posts have been a bit scant round here for the last couple of weeks, but for very good reason. I’ve spent two weeks down in the South Island, enjoying the sun, hanging with family and clocking up thousands of kilometres in friend’s cars. Here’s a (very brief) run down of what we got up to….

On Good Friday we got along to the practice day for Warbirds Over Wanaka. I’ve always loved planes, and so was buzzing to get along to this. It didn’t fail to deliver, and despite the sore neck from constantly looking skyward, I left as one satisfied customer.  The weather really came to the party, and sunglasses were essential.  Earplugs were a debatable accessory, as I felt happy to sacrifice a bit of my hearing to fully embrace the bone-shuddering, chest-resonating power of such awesome machines.

Following the warbirds we headed over to Oamaru to Paula’s cousin’s wedding, which was a special time hanging with family. And then we couldn’t help ourselves but head back into Central Otago to embrace the sights, while enjoying good yarns as we roadtripped around this beautiful corner of the country.

The plan was to do a four-day tramp in Mt Aspiring National Park, but with dodgy weather forecast the good people at DOC suggested avoiding it. Instead we opted for a day walk, and then seized a break in the weather to do the climb to Mueller Hut, a three hour grunt straight up the hill (read: raging mountain) from Mt Cook Village. The effort was rewarded, though, with magnificent views on the way up, and then a spectacular sunset and sunrise overlooking Mt Sefton and, of course, Mt Cook. A highlight was standing outside in the dark and hearing the thunder of avalanches echoing across the valley from the slopes of Mt Sefton.

After battling our way down the next day in gale force winds, we opted to head back to Christchurch to catch up with my brother and rest up a bit. We did the drive out to Akaroa, caught up with friends, walked in the port hills and spent way too much on coffee. All in all, good times.

After a few days in Christchurch we went down to Dunedin and hung out with Paula’s folks for a bit. A couple of highlights here were getting to play with my new niece and finally going inside the new stadium to watch the Highlanders v Blues game. Having spent so many lunch dates with Paula sitting watching the construction going on, I was just as interested in checking out the building as the game.

A couple of days later we did the early flight back to Auckland on Sunday, caught up with a few friends, and braced ourselves for work on Monday.  It was a fun-filled and reinvigorating time away, but I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things here.