The Great Flood of ‘23

The official Auckland reporting station got something like 10” of rain on Friday. In our neighborhood, the total was more like 12” according to some amateur meteorologists. Our driveway turned back into the stream it once was. But luckily our house sits out of the path so no damage to us.

Lots of friends and neighbors had their basements get wet. We know one person whose ground-level apartment was chest deep underwater, and her car was completely submerged. Yuck! The bowling / pétanque club took on close to a foot of water, so we went down and helped clean up.

There were a lot of mudslides, and with so many houses perched on hillsides or next to cliff edges, the damage will be costly. In the shot above, that house is a lot closer to the edge of the cliff than it used to be, and the public tennis court is out of service for the foreseeable. Surely this flood will reignite the discussion about letting the whole Little Shoal Bay park complex go back to marshy wetlands.

We’ve lived through floods before, one-day events like this as well as the big Midwest floods of 1993 and 1995. People will recover and rebuild. But it will be hard, and it will eat up so much of the financial breathing room for affected families and the whole city over the next couple of years… instead of doing whatever was next on the list, our efforts will step back down the hierarchy of needs ladder by a step or two. It’s a shame, although I think unavoidable with this many people living in this particular place. Of course drainage systems could be improved, but the cost of truly flood-proofing all the houses and roads in Auckland would be unacceptable.

Leaving Las Vegas

After a wonderful visit with cousin-in-law Elizabeth (during which I completely failed to take any pictures), it’s back home again.

This friendly jackrabbit sits in the airport terminal as you head toward your flight. Legions of kids pass by it every day. It struck me as somehow wrong that in this metropolis so singularly devoted to pleasuring visitors you can’t climb on the rabbit. That rabbit is exactly the right size to be climbed on! My favorite memory of visiting the La Brea tar pits is of climbing on the giant sloth statues outside. Kids want to climb on statues! #climbtherabbit could become the rallying cry for a whole generation of kids who want to break the bonds of xBox. Or not.

Goodbye Strip! And PS, it was way easier to crop this picture to show you the RUMP hotel than to photoshop in something like FASCIST ASSHOLE, so I did. Maybe not quite as impactful, but still.

I don’t know exactly how many times I’ve been to Vegas… maybe a dozen? It’s spectacular, no question. But these days it takes a real effort for me to actually get excited about the pleasures on offer. Gambling in particular has lost its appeal for me… I used to really look forward to an hour at the slot machines. But these days, meh. Even though it’s legal and convenient to go to the casino in Auckland, I never do. Which I guess is a good thing for the possibility of retiring some day… it sure is easy to lose your money quickly!

Trip to the Strip

We drove in and walked around a bit.

I wonder if I would get the friends and family discount here?

Lots of bright lights! And one difference from when I was last here… pot is legal here now, and a LOT of people were enjoying a smoke as they strolled along. I can’t say I enjoy that… although saying so makes me feel old and crotchety.

Lake Las Vegas

For this week’s HL7 meeting we’re in Henderson NV, about half an hour from the Las Vegas Strip. That half hour equates to a $60 round trip to do much of anything off the resort. And the resort is mostly shuttered because it’s the deep off-season. So let’s go for a walk…

Those bighorn sheep adorn a roundabout… it’s a helluva roundabout for being basically in the middle of nowhere.

Insert housing development here.

Across the road from the resort is this pretty rushing river. It turns out not to actually be a river, but rather something called the Las Vegas Wash. Go figure. Still, very pleasant spot with pretty trails, lots of birds and desert plants.

The resort tries to channel the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.

These coyotes, who were just exiting the resort proper when I saw them, looked pretty well fed. Later, I saw a manicured lawn teeming with bunnies and quail. That made me think the coyotes have plenty to hunt. But on reflection I’m betting the coyotes eat even better by raiding the dumpsters.

Our group’s planners made a conscious decision to not be on the Strip, and I get that. But being captive on the property may not be an improvement… can’t please everybody, that’s for sure!!

So close and yet

Here I am in the middle of the desert, but it’s not that there’s no water. Lake Las Vegas literally laps at the faux-Italian foundation of my hotel.

But it’s off-season, so the water activities are all closed. But that’s OK, I don’t need a crowd to go in for a morning dip. But I do need some minimum amount of body heat in order to not drown, and that water ain’t warm enough. So, lovely as it looks, the lake is off limits.

But that’s ok because I’m at a massive resort where people will want a place to cool off… of course there’s a big beautiful pool.


Third time lucky

After failing in Sydney and Houston, last Friday I was in the right place (the San Francisco Swatch store) at the right time (an hour before opening on a stormy weekday).

I was #2 in line, and according to Mr #1, who is semi-professional speculator / dealer, I was pretty lucky to get in so far to the front. By the time the store opened there were about 10 in line.

When the doors opened, I was pretty excited. But sadly the staff killed that feeling quickly. I hoped for “Welcome to Swatch, we’re so glad to help you achieve your collection goals” or “Wow isn’t it cool that we get to share this pop culture moment together?” What I got was “One at a time!” and “Step back, DO NOT block the door” When I approached the island with the samples, the guy just stood there, waiting for me to name a planet. You don’t get to look at or touch or interact with the merchandise in any way. They don’t ask you if you’d also like to buy the special San Francisco souvenir watch.

My friend Paul had a specific set of choices, and luckily the limited stock on hand included a Mission to Mercury, one of his top picks. So yay! My mission accomplished. There were no Mars watches in stock, so I didn’t have to make a Sophie’s Choice between his pick and mine. Maybe I’ll get up early one day this week and try the shop on the Las Vegas strip…

Qué rico sabor

On the one hand, a perfectly ordinary meal at a neighborhood Mexican restaurant (La Paloma in San Bruno, CA).

On the other, a wonderful superlative orgasmic delicacy because you just can’t have it in New Zealand.

It can’t hurt

It seems unlikely that the all-powerful, all-knowing creator of everything would give you special attention if you built them a shrine on the corner of your house in San Bruno.

But then again, I guess it can’t hurt to ask.

The Promise, In Progress

Seldom is art so heroically understandable. Planting the seeds of knowledge!

But it’s a changing world. And so more or less across the street it looks like this…

I was intrigued by the idea of a plaque in the sidewalk in front of a vacant car dealership. More San Bruno history (with transcription helpfully provided by text recognition on my phone, first time I’ve used this feature)!






Hangry Planet

Just on the other side of the freeway from the national cemetery sits the Hangry Planet mini mart. It’s just a convenience store at a gas station, but it’s vegan and is very proudly making that point on its social media and, obviously, with its signage. Good on ya, I say, although you are perhaps reinforcing the stereotypes about vegans talking about being vegan.

In their parking lot over by the self-service car vacuum is this statue of Alfredina the T-Rex. A sign reads “Any visual interpretations here of Putin as a nefarious monster worthy of being consumed by Alfredina amounts to coincidental community art not necessarily reflective of the perspectives of The Hangry Planet or Tanforan Shell.” Whatever you say.


I’d never been to San Bruno, CA until landing at SFO last Friday and transferring to the convenient and surprisingly nice Marriott Courtyard there.

Overall, I’d say San Bruno is left off the tourist itineraries with good reason… it’s mostly nondescript housing, under the flight path, and criss-crossed by freeways and railroad tracks.

And yet… getting off the BART train I was deposited into The Shops at Tanforan, a half-empty mall. And it turns out that the mall sits on the former site of Tanforan racetrack, which in turn was the main site used to stage the detention of San Francisco’s Japanese-descended people during WWII. From there, they were transported to the Topaz internment camp. In addition to this memorial, there’s a nice interpretive display in the BART station describing the internment and its legacy.

At some point before starting this blog, while trawling through the used books at a Salt Lake City thrift store I found a moderately rare book about the Topaz experience. I was able to donate it to the group that was raising funds for a Topaz museum, which has since opened.

And so, while San Bruno won’t be competing with Fisherman’s Wharf for tourist dollars anytime soon, there are more reasons to visit than I would have thought at first glance. I was glad to add another serendipitous link in my chain of places and stories.

A hard case

International rules for carry-on baggage are tougher than they are on 🇺🇸 flights, and the trips are longer, so now I’m a person who checks a big roller suitcase. It feels a little weak compared to being a true road warrior, but it’s nice to have plenty of room and space to mule back a few things from Walgreens etc.

For my jet lag recovery day I’m in San Francisco, and I figured — correctly — that all they had to do was put the bag on and off one plane. Very little risk of it getting lost.

But the gremlins got me anyway! After clearing customs, about half the plane’s baggage made it out before the conveyor jammed leaving the rest of us standing around for most of an hour. It was pointed out to me that Bruce Willis would have just slid down the chute to get his own damn bag.

Tomorrow morning it’s on to the outskirts of Las Vegas for a week of standards-setting with my HL7 whānau. In this case, what happens in Vegas will stay in Vegas simply because all our friends and families are reeeaaaalllly tired of hearing about the committee meetings and keynote speeches and 3-year roadmap updates.

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