On the Ground in NZ

⅔ of the trip to Perth is finished and all limbs are currently accounted for.

Got off to an inauspicious start in Chicago; our pilot got in a car accident on the way to O’Hare, so the ORD-LAX leg was delayed by 1.5 hours. Thankfully some distance sprinting and help from the TSA agents at the LAX airport got me onto the plane just as they were ready to shut the doors.

Flight from LAX/AUK was uneventful. I had a center row of the 777 to myself so I was able to lay out flat for the whole trip. Beats the hell out of my seat from ORD/LAX where I was sitting between two 250 lbs gentlemen, one of whom was wearing snake skin boots but apparently couldn’t afford deodorant. After getting dinner, I passed out for about 5 hours and woke up just as we crossed the Equator. I was officially down under. (I can’t wait to see a toilet flush counterclockwise.)

The only drawback to being in the middle of the plane was that I only got to see slivers of NZ on the way in. From what I saw, it is absolutely as lush and verdant as advertised. Since I had a 6 hour layover in the Aukland airport, I was hoping to get to see a bit more, but the only NZ air that I’ve been allowed to breathe was on a smokers porch surrounded by grey rooftop. There are a few windows here, but not much to see past the massive 777s sitting all around.

Got myself a newspaper at the bookstore, and took a leaf through it over my coffee. Breakfast was a lamb pie with a tomato chutney, really good stuff with a phyllo dough crust. Ordering coffee was a bit of a struggle though. Apparently no one will just brew a cup of coffee. You’ve either got to get an espresso, or a flat-white, which is a type of expresso drink similar to a cappuccino with a higher coffee to milk ratio. It was quite good, just wasn’t nearly as large as this coffee hound is used to.

Got a newspaper, the New Zealand Herald. It prominently displayed a record of 150 years, but the front page story was about priests selling holy oil as a fix from everything from cancer to bad marriage. I checked the other newspaper offerings, but none looked much less tabloid-ish. I paid the NZ $2 (exchange rate is roughly 1.2NZ/USD) and started leafing through.

Past the tabloid-ish front page, I found articles about a prominent Kiwi cricketer who had been caught up in an international match fixing scandal, and a curious fixation with a man named Kim Dotcom (I assume its legally changed) a German who founded a now largely defunct website called Megaupload.

He’s now started a political party in NZ called the Internet Party, the basis of which seems to be free broadband, increased bandwidth for rural areas of NZ, and dropping out of the so called Five Eyes Internet Surveillance Cooperation network. I’d never heard of Five Eyes, but it is an interation of a Cold War surveillance bloc between Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the US. In light of the revelations from Edward Snowden, New Zealand seems to have had some political backlash against being a part of such a group.

Kim Dotcom and his Internet Party seem to be some mix of comical/marginal/ and completely media unsavvy. There have been allegations of Dotcom having Nazi sympathies (he owns a very rare signed copy of Mein Kampf and there is a picture of him as a younger man wearing a Nazi Helmet) as well as the fact that he’s started a New Zealand political party even though he’s a German citizen. Interesting, and I’d never heard the name before I opened that newspaper.

Other matters of note in the paper were, Maori rights, a helicopter rescue funding issue in Auckland, rugby, horse racing, and an American style argument over poverty and the political solutions to fix it. All and all the paper resembled a USA Today, nothing really hard hitting, but a great way for a foreigner to spend 30 minutes getting a reasonable feel for what’s going on.

Finally wandered up to the premium lounge, where I got a shower and a couple of beers. Really wish I’d done this two hours ago before I bought coffee, breakfast, and a newspaper as they are all included up here. Oh well. Live and learn. The NZ $55 is money well spent though, as I spent 15 on a reasonable breakfast, whereas up here I got a shower, lunch, beers, and access to a host of newspapers and periodicals.

I see some golf on though, so I’m going to go see if my other dream chasing buddy from the trading world @Caddie_Olson and his golfer Will Wilcox are making any noise on the PGA Tour.

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