Plagiarism: Oh, the Irony

According to the Associated Press, some students at the University of Texas at San Antonio seem to have thought they were above the honor code they sought to write for others to discourage cheating and plagiarism. The original drafters copied without citation from another school’s honor code, thus committing the same crime they wanted to make a strong statement about!

While it hasn’t been picked up by the AP yet, I have updated my New Zealand Gallery and added an HDR Gallery.

Photoshop Express

Adobe has just launched a free, simplified online version of Photoshop for public beta. Besides simple things like croping, rotating, and removing red-eye, Photoshop Express offers more possibilities with adjustments for white balance, hue and saturation, and sharpening. They’ve even thrown in a few effects like black and white, sketch, and distort. Adobe has created a slick interface for users, keeping it simple with multiple scroll-over thumbnails showing what a certain change or effect will look like before it is applied. Users can also hide adjustments after they are made, just like layers in Photoshop. People unfamiliar with Photoshop will find Photoshop Express fun and useful, but experienced Photoshop users will also find this online version useful as a quick editor when away from their home computer and a place to store up to 2GB of photos after creating an account.

Check it out and create your free account.

Update: Photoshop Express will not support any image with a resolution larger than 4000 pixels on the longest side. Don’t worry about this unless you shoot with a camera that has more than 10 megapixels.

Closing Chapter 1 of My 2008 Travels

Monday, March 10, we woke up early to trek around Lake Matheson in the stillness of the morning before driving to Franz Josef where David and I did the three-quarters day hike while the rest of the family did the easier half-day hike at Fox Glacier. The hardest part of the day was actually when our group had to climb up and over part of the mountain. It was so steep in some points that they had installed ladders. Our guide told us the route was fairly new because until recently the river had been flowing on the other side of the valley and they had been able to simply walk around the hill. The river changed course and they were forced to find another path to the Franz Josef Glacier. When we arrived at the terminal face we pulled out our crampons and fitted them over our boots. Walking on the rocks wasn’t any easier, but when we started onto the glacier, the crampons made us feel extremely confident. I never slipped the whole trip thanks to the crampons. We wound our way through crevices, up stairs cut in the glacier, and even through a naturally-formed tunnel. We didn’t make it to the top of the enormous glacier, but we did make it high enough to view other people down the valley from where we had come scrambling around like ants. After our return David and I killed time in a bookstore until we were re-joined by the rest of the family. We stayed in a Holiday Park in Hokitika that night.

On Tuesday we stopped in at a jade store where we learned more about the iconic New Zealand green stone and see people hard at work polishing and making jewelry out of it. We took a scenic detour to drive partway to Arthur’s Pass before driving through Greymouth north along the coast to the Pancake Rocks. While many people think the pancake rocks are a bunch of large, flat, pancake-like rocks, they are actually large formations of rocks that are all sandwiched together forming many thin layers. The rock formations aren’t the only attraction. High tide can create swells that force water through blow holes, creating a whooshing noise and shooting spray up like a geyser. That night we stayed at the Beach Backpackers in Punakaiki, in view of the pancake rocks. It was a great place and we met a number neat people.

We struck out on Wednesday for Motueka, which is situated close to the Abel Tasman National Park, stopping along the way at the sea lion breeding grounds which we found not as interesting as the smaller colony we were able to observe from a closer distance on the east coast. We took our time driving and when we arrived in Motueka we bought supplies and made our own dinner before turning in early.

On Thursday we went sea kayaking, making a stop at the highly-photographed Split-Apple Rock. We make use a long zip-line near the beach before heading back to Motueka where we spent the afternoon reading and resting before cooking dinner again.

Friday we drove to Abel Tasman National park and spent a couple hours hiking (or tramping as they call it here in New Zealand) before driving to Nelson and checking into the Holiday Park where we again saved money by making dinner.

On Saturday we went to the Nelson Market, which is a hodgepodge of vendors selling their various wares from clothes and toys to delicious organic fruits and vegetables. Before we had been there ten minutes we ran into the Smith family who had had us over for dinner a couple weeks prior! That afternoon we ran into them again at the park that was to be our landing site for hang gliding. From the park Catharine and I, the first two flyers, rode up the hill with the two instructors we would be flying tandem with and the driver who was shuttling us. When we got to the top we were met with a stunning view of Nelson and the surrounding area at low tide. We were fitted into our harnesses and each practicing running together with our respective instructors. I was paired with a guy named Glenn Meadows who was actually the head of the New Zealand Hang Gliding and ran a hang gliding school. We hooked in and waited for the wind to shift before running in unison down the hill until we were lifted off our feet and became airborne. Once we were off I reached down and placed my feet on a metal bar that was attached to my harness, allowing me to have something to rest my feet against while we were horizontal. I held on to two handles on Glen’s harness, while he held onto the A-frame and shifted our weights to pilot the hang glider. We rode the thermals for a little while then headed down the hill and came in for a fast, low landing in the grassy field, rolling to a stop. The air had heated up even more by the time my dad and David had their flights, so they were able to stay up longer. Hang gliding is such a surreal experience. With only the noise of the wind, it seems you are peacefully flying when in actuality the pilot often has to work hard to keep the big wing in the thermals to stay aloft. It was neat to look down and follow our shadow on the mountain below, over the pine trees and sheep-studded fields. That evening we explored downtown Nelson before eating at a Mexican food restaurant owned by an Indian man who had formerly been teaching culinary arts in the U.S. before moving to New Zealand less than a year ago. Strange combination, but the food at Go Mexico was good. We spent that night at the Bumble Backpackers, which was the only place that got a unanimous thumbs-down from us due to the poor facilities in combination with the other patrons whose noise we had to deal with during that long night.

On Sunday we scooted out of our hostel and attended the Reformed Church of Nelson before driving on to Picton to catch the ferry back across to the north island. We drove a short distance out of Wellington after landing and stayed in a holiday park in Upper Hutt.

On Monday we continued our journey north, stopping at some scenic spots along the way. That afternoon a rock kicked up by a passing truck hit the windshield of our rental van, causing a large crack. To ovoid having the rental company charge us some inflated fee to get it fixed after we turned it in, we chose to stop off in a small town and spend thirty minutes exploring a used bookstore while the crack was patched by an automotive shop. Earlier in our trip when we had dinner at the Smith’s house another family that was there too had invited us to stay in their home on our way back through. We took the van der Wee’s up on their gracious offer spent Monday night in their fantastic farm house, parts of which were over 100 years old!

Tuesday morning during breakfast we were told there had been a small earthquake the night before. All of us had slept so soundly that we hadn’t been awakened, but apparently the door knobs and such rattled during the tremor. We said our thanks to our wonderful hosts and struck out for Wanganui where we took a jet boat ride up the Wanganui River and then canoed back down, exploring some caves and side streams along the way. None of us flipped, but some of us took on a bit of water while shooting one set of rapids. We drove a number of kilometers out on a gravel road, just like we had on the way in from the other direction, and ate dinner at an overpriced motel because it was the only restaurant open at that hour. We spent the night at holiday park in Taumarunui.

On Wednesday we said farewell to New Zealand. New Zealand said farewell to us by charging us each a $25 “exit fee” which I think is a racket and makes New Zealand look bad. Our flight was delayed and when we finally did start to leave we had an aborted take off because there was some signal that a door was ajar or something. The end result was that we left over three hours late and ended up missing our connecting flight in Los Angeles. Qantas put us up in the Hilton and fed us well, so we didn’t have much to complain about.

Thursday evening we headed back to the airport to catch our final flight home. When checking our luggage the lady behind the counter said that the flight was overbooked by more than eleven people and that they were asking for volunteers to be bumped. I had to get home for a wedding, but the rest of my family decided to take the nice package and delay their homecoming another day. I didn’t make it home until close to three in the morning on Friday, and then left a couple hours later to drive to Alabama with some friends also going to our mutual friend’s wedding.

It was good to finally be home on Sunday, and by now I’m pretty much over my jet lag and caught up on sleep. Most people will tell you that New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and I’m inclined to agree. If you ever get a chance to go, jump on it. Feel free to ask me any questions too.

Extreme Saturday

Posted March 17 at 10:32am local time.

Playing Catch Up

Posted March 11 at 7:38pm local time.

It’s honestly hard to find time to write when your always on the go. I’ve written some in the car, but I have always been that kid who would rather just look out the window – even driving places I’ve been a million times – instead of reading a book or napping. New Zealand is a place where even those always crack open a book the moment they hop in the car will be impelled by the sheer beauty to instead devour the landscape flowing past. Because of this I spend most of our driving times looking out the window. This leads to smaller windows of opportunity to write and subsequently long posts in order to catch up. This post still won’t bring you entirely up-to-date, but it’s long enough as it is – even being just a surface-level overview.

Wednesday, March 5, we drove from Rotorua to Wellington, stopping to see the Army Museum in Waiouru and to have dinner with the Smith family in Palmerston North, again being blessed by the hospitality we’ve been shown by Christian families in New Zealand. We pulled into the Downtown Backpackers in Wellington a little after midnight.

Thursday morning we trekked to the cable car station where we were pulled up the mountain to the botanical gardens and great views of the city and harbor. We took the path through the gardens that gradually led down hill towards where we started. I wasn’t immensely impressed with the touted rose garden section, but they did have a huge variety of roses bursting with color. We ate lunch on the lawn behind the governments buildings before we headed in for a tour. Right after heading through the metal detectors the guard told me that there would be an explosion in a moment. I would have been really puzzled if I hadn’t seen the robotic bomb removal vehicle outside next to the “Military Exercise” sign when we were eating lunch. I hurried over to the window in time to hear an explosion and see cardboard shrapnel fly out from around the corner where the tethered robot was operating. The actual tour wasn’t quite as exciting, but we did see the Beehive, Parliament Building, and the National Library while learning more about how the New Zealand government and its unicameral legislature works. We made our way through as much of the expansive Te Papa Museum as we could before we walked around the harbor to the Fisherman’s Table for dinner while we watched the sun set.

We made good use of the extra day given us this year by those folks who invented the leap year and on Friday paid a visit to the National Maritime Museum before finishing off Te Papa. After Te Papa had been conquered we explored the town some before heading off to have dinner with a family my brother knew about through a friend who had gone over to New Zealand to play rugby for a summer. They lived high up on a hill with a commanding view of the city and harbor. We could even watch the rugby game on the big screen at the stadium down below through binoculars. We didn’t stay too late because we needed our rest before catching the early ferry to the south island the next morning.

On Saturday we drove our car into the belly of the ferry, put on our parking break, and went up on deck to enjoy the smooth crossing to Picton. After landing and lunch at a local bakery we used the rest of the afternoon driving down the east coast of the south island to Christchurch, stopping along the way to see a large New Zealand Fur Seal colony. We unloaded at the Base Backpackers in downtown Christchurch literally across the street from the Christchurch Cathedral. Despite the drizzle we struck out in search of dinner.

We had walked a number of blocks before I saw it. Its sign glowed warmly through the bleak drizzle, beckoning me. I jaywalked — ran, really — across the street and walked through the open door. The moment I walked and glanced about I knew I had found the closest thing to Chipotle in all of New Zealand. It was all so familiar: the meat choices, the salsas, the extras. The buffet restaurant recommended to us by the friendly man on the street paled in comparison to the burrito assembly line in front of me. I hurried out to collect my family and explain my discovery. My family, knowing my love for Chipotle, couldn’t refuse me and we all went in to order what was, in my unbiased opinion, some of the best food we had all trip. After devouring my burrito I talked to the man behind the counter and told him that it was right on par with Chipotle back in the States. He thanked me for my high compliment and said he and his wife were one of the two couples that owned the 2-year-old business. He had spent some time in Central America and the others had all lived in California for some time where they fell in love with a small burrito chain in San Francisco. They modeled their restaurant, dubbed The Burrito Company, after that small chain and Chipotle. I was pained to learn that I wouldn’t find another franchise of The Burrito Company anywhere else. It was especially painful because we would soon be leaving the city, with no plans to return this trip. But I was full of burrito, so I was happy.

On Sunday we attended the Reformed Church of Bishopdale, the largest Reformed Church we’ve attended so far this trip. After the service we had lunch at someone’s home along with a number of other families from the church. We then headed to another family’s home before attending the evening service. After the evening service we went by the grocery to buy things for dinner before heading back to Base.

On Monday we loaded up and went to the International Antarctic Centre on our way out of Christchurch. At the Centre we learned a lot about Antarctica and the stations countries have on the cold continent. We also bundled up and made our way into the Antarctic Experience room where they keep it at a nice 8 degrees Celsius between “storms” where the wind chill plunges to -18 degrees Celsius. John, who unwisely chose to wear shorts that day, didn’t survive the entirely of the storm. We ate dinner in Geraldine on our way to our motel in Fairlie.

Tuesday we drove to Mt. Cook, stopping at the beautifully blue Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki. We did a short hike at Mt. Cook, making it past the large swinging bridge before turning back because of our time constraints. I accidentally test the durability of my D300 when the shutter motion shook the camera enough to make it fall from the rock I had stupidly put it on to take a self-timed photo of the family. It slipped off and fell a few feet onto the rocks below. Thankfully only the plastic LCD screen cover broke and there were only a few scratches on the body, but I could have done without testing for myself what Nikon’s engineers have already tested. We finished our day with a drive to Arrowtown and dinner at the small Thai restaurant there.

On Wednesday we drove the short distance to Queenstown where we first inquired at the i-Site for recommendations. The lady at the counter was extremely unhelpful by never giving us her opinion on anything. David and I instead received helpful advice from the guy at the A.J. Hackett bungee jumping counter across the street. Following his advice we chose to take the Kawarau Jetboating trip which started on the lake and went a ways up two of the rivers that feed the large lake where Queenstown is located. It wasn’t as exciting as the video footage would lead you to believe, but riding the waves in the harbor, zigzagging through the narrow parts of the river, and being whipped around in almost a 360 degree spin was still loads of fun. After the hour-long adventure we drove out just past Arrowtown to the historic Kawarau Bridge, the site of the first commercial bungee jumping twenty years ago. David and I were the last two jumps of the day and it was awesome! My mom said she couldn’t believe she was going to watch us bungee jump, but she did along with the rest of the family. After the exhilarating plunge we headed back to the Holiday Park and ate a good home-made dinner.

We drove to Milford sound on Thursday, taking an afternoon boat out through the fjord and back again. It wasn’t raining that day, so we didn’t see nearly as many waterfalls as we would have had it been raining, but it was still gorgeous. When we got to the end of the sound a group of dolphins joined us and swam just off the bow until our boat turned around. We ate dinner at the overpriced cafe before heading back up the mountain, through the tunnel, and back down following the valley enjoying the sunset the whole way. It was close to nine by the time we pulled into Te Anau and checked into our hotel. We were really in the mood for some ice cream, though, so we drove around the corner to the grocery store. My mom, Catharine, and John ran up to the door, but the lady working there had just turned off the automatic door. I walked up after David parked to see them waiting outside the door wondering what to do. Apparently the lady told them through the door that it was closed, but I walked up and just pushed the doors open and we slipped in. We grabbed some ice cream just in time to be the last people to check out. Victory never tasted so sweet!

Friday we drove back to Queenstown where my mom and John took the gondola up the hill to do more luging while the rest of the family was picked up to go hang gliding. We got close to the top of the hill when they guides stopped the van to check the wind. Regretfully the wind was blowing the wrong way so they had to cancel the flights. We bummed around the town some until the lugers got back and then drove over the scenic pass to Wanaka. The Albert Town Lodge where we were staying had a huge kitchen, so we made our own dinner again that night.

Saturday we attended the huge A&P show (Agricultural & Pastoral) in Wanaka which is basically a New Zealand county fair. We saw award-winning livestock, a plethora of flashy vendors, and tasted over a dozen different lamb roasts from the chefs competing at the Glammies. That afternoon we conquered the local Mt. Iron and came back down with an appetite we satisfied with more home cooking.

Sunday we attended a small Baptist church where we almost doubled their congregation. We left after the fellowship tea and took our time driving to Fox Glacier. At one point on the drive we stopped at a long one-way bridge because there was traffic coming across from the other direction. One-lane bridges are very common in New Zealand, but this one was one of the longest we had seen yet. All of a sudden the third car in line, a Mercedes right in front of us, bolted out and started to speed across. He didn’t even make it to the passing bay, instead meeting a camper van head-on. They each halted and a stale-mate for a minute, then the Mercedes carefully, and poorly with many corrections, backed up to let the van and the train of traffic that had built up behind it finish crossing, much to our amusement. We broke up the driving with numerous scenic stops, including taking one longer tramping trail through the forest and out to a strip of secluded beach surrounded by high cliffs. We ended that night in Fox Village which is at the foot of Fox Glacier.

Copyright © 2007-2014 William Clayton