Tricks with light

One of the nifty ideas I ran into when I was doing my science degree all those years ago was that of creating synthetic (and thus mass producible) versions of the plant molecule chlorophyll.

The reason this is cool is that the chlorophyll molecule is able to catch light and use the energy to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. This in turn is useful for us, because if we can build synthetic systems to harness this process we can use the sun to directly produce hydrogen, which we can later burn to power cars, and run power plants, and possibly in the future create electricity directly via fuel cells, thus bypassing the thermal energy losses of combustion systems. And it would be completely green and renewable, because it would use only water, and when eventually use, the hydrogen would create only water.

So it was cool to read the other day that Aussie scientists had taken another step towards getting this up and going.


Today Charlotte reinforced our impressions that she is rapidly growing up.

She did her first proper roll over, from back to front, and heeding our friend Chantelle’s warning that it’s not science unless it’s reproducable she then proceeded to do it another two times, just to show how clever she is.

Later in the afternoon she also gave us some social laughs, the first ones she had directed specifically at us (you may recall that she previously giggled at our tour guide in Cambodia).


Well there’s never a dull day in the burbs.

Last night one of the people who lives a few houses down the street got high on something
(at least that was what looked like had happened), went crazy, and got shot by the police.

I got up when he was running up and down the street yelling at 2am, and called the police.

I pointed them to where he was when they arrived.

Later I went and helped with first aid after he ran down the street and tried to bust into another house brandishing a knife, and got himself shot.

Turns out he’ll probably be ok, with to the best of my knowledge only a broken leg and a few soft tissue injuries to show for being shot three times.

Lessons from this however are:

  • Don’t do drugs. Just don’t.
  • If you are yelling for the police to come and help you, when they do show up you should believe them when they say they are trying to help you.
  • Try not to do anything stupid (like placing yourself in a situation where the police need to shoot you) – This is a variation on the second of the three major principles of my own religion. Ask me about it some time…

Other observations from this include:

  • People don’t appreciate how cool it is to live in a country where at any time of day or night you can call a simple number and have police, ambulance and fire professionals come and help you out. When you think about it it’s a brilliant arrangement. No driving to the police station. No paying bribes or protection money. No one saying, sorry, we don’t have anyone available at the moment. Brilliant.
  • Secondly, it’s also good to live in a country where one of the biggest disincentives for police to shoot people is the mind numbing amount of paperwork you have to fill in afterwards. This goes some way to ensuring that people only get shot as a last resort.
  • Finally, previously I had been pretty heavily opposed to Police having tazers/stun guns/etc, however this did illustrate that they may have their place, given that this situation may have been able to have been resolved with less injury if a tazer had been available.

The big adventures of little Charlotte in Cambodia

After our big trip to New Zealand we headed home for a few days to repack our bags before heading off again, this time to Thailand (more about that later) and Cambodia.

We flew to Cambodia via Hong Kong and Bangkok, so I got even more stamps in my passport.

In Cambodia we were met by a very nice immigration officer who smiled, said I was cute, and helped us get our visas sorted out nice and quickly.

Then we got picked up by our tour guide, Wood, and taken to our hotel.

The next day we got all dressed up and went out to see the Temples at Angkor Wat and Angkor Tom.


The Temples were built in the 12th and 13th centuries when there had been a huge city there with something like a million people living there.


There were lots of carvings and statues to see, and lots of opportunities for family photos in picturesque places.

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After finishing at Angkor Wat we went around some of the other temples in Angkor Tom, which was the name of the larger capital city area that Angkor Wat was located within. There was the temple with the big faces, which all seemed to be smiling, just like our guide. He managed to get the first ever chuckle out of me with his silly antics. He seemed quite chuffed with this.


Next was the jungle temple, where instead of clearing away all the trees and weeds that had been overgrowing the temple as the had done at Angkor wat, they left the trees in place to show how they had been, and how the plants deteriorated the temples. It created a very cool atmosphere with the trees and greenery everywhere making the place feel a lot cooler and more ancient than the previous temples.

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On the final day we went on a river cruise to see the traditional boat people in their natural environment. They were all very adept in their boats, even the little kids who were zooming up and down the river to see friends, to get to school, to do some work with mum or dad, or just to cruise around (somewhat like the cambodian equivalent of packs of kids on bicycles roaming the back blocks in Australia).

The range of boats was amazing, with buildings built on top of the hulls so that there were corner store boats, school boats, house boats, church boats, fish and crocodile farm boats, mechanics’ workshop boats and many other types.


After the boats we went to a traditional craft village. Mummy and daddy bought all sorts of stuff, but nothing for me :-(.

From there we went back to the hotel to pack our bags and head back to Bangkok, but that’s another entry for another day, since I’m a tired little girl and it’s past my bed time. Goodnight.

You can take the boy out of Australia..

I was hugely amused to watch Australian kayaker Robin Bell being interviewed after winning the bronze medal in the C1 competition at the olympics.

When asked by an australian journalist where he was going to hang the medal he paused, and gave the immortal australian response: “this is going straight to the pool room”.


The Big adventures of little Charlotte in NZ

Hello for the first installment of Charlotte’s adventures overseas. To see bigger versions of the pictures, click on them.

It all began very late one night with a trip out to the airport. Our plane left at midnight, and daddy had been working very hard in the days beforehand, so he and I had a little sleep one one of the couches while we waited for the plane to begin boarding. Mummy said that she was going to go to the toilet and look after the bags, but she also also took some photos which look very undignified. I don’t think Daddy has even shaved.


After we got to Auckland we picked up our rental car (which was a luridly bright blue ford XR6) and drove into the city in peak hour traffic. Mummy reminded daddy about the family rule allowing for swearing when driving in big unfamiliar cities, but daddy didn’t have to use it (much).

After we found the hotel, checked in, and had a little nap, we went for a walk around town. We looked in the shops down Queen street, the viaduct basin where all the Americas Cups boats were, and around the area of the sky tower building (which dad kept making derogatory comments that I didn’t understand, something about collective compensation…).


The next day we piled back into the car and drove north to the Bay of Islands. Once there we went for a walk along the waterfront, before heading back to our rented unit (via the bottle shop so dad could pick up some Otago Pinot nior wine). After some wine and cheese and crackers (I didn’t get to have any, despite my very non subtle hints that I’d like to try some too) we went out to a restaurant which had a big aqueruim in it, so that I had to divide my time between watching the fish swim past and watching the food going into mum and dad’s mouths (again, they completely missed my subtle suggestions that I’d like a sample or two).


The next day we got up and caught a ferry across the harbor to a town called Russel, where we had breakfast and looked around. Apparently it had once been the capital of New Zealand, but I don’t know how that could be, because I didn’t see any sheep, and I only saw two pubs. I suppose that there were some nice old buildings, including a really old french catholic missionary house with a printing press for making bibles in Maori, but I soon fell asleep.

In the afternoon we returned across the harbour, got in the car, and went up the road to a place called Kerikeri. There as a big old stone building which had been a store ages ago, but after we saw that I got dragged from art gallery to craft store to yet another art gallery. The only upside was when mum took me into a chocolate factory, and later on when we went into a furniture store and she talked about buying me the play table made from several thousand year old kauri wood.


The next day we went on a big drive right from one side of the island to the other (even if this was only about 200km). I got dressed up in my cutest outfit.


On the way we saw some kind of traffic jam. Daddy got all excited and said that this was brilliant, and just like what he remembered was fun about NZ. Mummy didn’t get it.


Along the way we stopped for a coffee and a scone, and there was a sign that mummy found both amusing and terrifying. I thought that if they were having coffee I couldn’t see why I couldn’t have one, and a puppy sould like fun.

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The point of all the driving it turned out was to see a huge kauri tree called Tane Mahuta, who in Maori mythology is apparently the god of the forest. He certainly was big.


On the way home we stopped at a place called Opononi so that I could ride a Dolphin. There had been a friendly dolphin who used to live in the harbour next to the town, and it would let kids play with it in the shallows and occasionally even ride it. Apparently New Zealanders had songs and stories about Opo the friendly doplhin that all the kids used to know. Unfortunately the dolphin eventually got old and died, but there was still a statue of him to ride (which was probably for the best anyway, since the water in the harbour looked pretty cold).


For the afternoon we went to Waitangi, which is the birthplace of New Zealand, and where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. We learned lots of things about the history of early New Zealand. Daddy saw some native wood pigeons, and some Tui birds, and was very happy. I got to ride on some big war canoes called Waka.


And have a nice walk around with mum as we looked through Maori greeting houses, a colonial missionary house, and some nice native bush.


The next day we packed up our stuff and headed north, so a town called Kaitaia, and on to Cape Reinga, which is the northern most point of New Zealand. There was a big light house there, and some very pretty views out to where the Tasman sea and the Pacific ocean met and mixed.


The next day a big storm hit, and so we drove back to Auckland (we had been planning on this anyway, but we we pleased to get back to the big city and out of the worst of the weather). Along the way daddy had to stop and help some people whos campervan had been blown off the side of the road by a strong gust of wind.

The other thing that was waiting for me in Auckland was my Granny and Grandad, who were very pleased to see me because I’d grown lots since they’d seen me two months earlier.


We went to the Auckland Museum and I saw how big a Moa was and all sorts of other interesting stuff. After that we want and saw Daddy’s god mother for afternoon tea, and I got told how much I’d grown and how beautiful I was.

Next day we went shopping around the city and to the art gallery. In the evening we went out to dad’s friends Tim and Leanne’s house, where we had dinner, and we met their new daughter Annabel, who is a bit younger than me and who was sleeping most of the night (which was good, because it meant I could use her rocker which played music and flashed light, which was very entertaining).

On our final day we went out to Kelly Tarlton’s underwater world. I got to drive a (pretend) submarine, go on a snow car ride to see penguins, saw sting rays being fed (they’re very pushy and messy eaters, but quite playful too), and went through the underwater tunnels to see lots and lots of different fish.


That night we all went out to dinner, before going to bed early so we could get up and go on the plane again in the morning.



I’ve been watching the news and finding a disconcerting sense of deja vu associated with the current situation in Georgia (the Georgia in Europe, not the Georgia in the southern USA as reportedly mistaken by some Americans).

The current situation seems eerily similar to the plot of the first game in the Ghost Recon series: A resurgent Russia decides to start flexing it’s muscles and expanding into previously lost territory and begins by covertly backing and later openly moving in to support separatist forces in the Georgian provence of South Osettia.

The game goes on to have Russia try to invade western Europe. Hope the real life version doesn’t go that way.