Sunday, December 28, 2008

HG School

Seems to be a bunch of people this year that are keen to learn hang gliding.
Kelly's got her own glider which makes things super easy (rounding up the gear is generally the tricky bit).

My mate Sean dug up this other beauty for those lacking a glider (himself included). I know... she's a real flash machine :) She's an old beast of a glider, but we're lucky to have her and it'll be perfect for training. I started on a very similar glider myself.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Fabulous

I've moved into town.
I now live at the base of the gondola in "The Fabulous"

Ha... I thought it was Portuguese... La Favela.
It means "Shanty Town". We just call it the ghetto. Someone tried to spice it up (and couldn't pronounce the Portuguese) and it became "The Fabulous"

It's a dive. Think frat house and you've got the idea. The shower water handle is a pair of vice grips clamped onto the bit that spins. It's good fun. Lots of people. No stress... and no sleep. Well, on the weekends at least. No one takes anything too seriously, especially since people aren't always around all that long. Some stay weeks, some stay months.

Who knows. It's fun for now.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


So things have been a bit crazy lately.
The weather came right, so work's been full-on. I've started flying at the Wakatipu Aero Club (regular planes). Loads of after work fun with the guys at the flight park. And oh yeah, I've moved. Chaos is my middle name.

I just got the internet sorted. I'll work on getting some pics of the happenings up. Gotta let things settle down first.


Sunday, December 07, 2008


Well, payment for the perfect day I guess.

The other day was absolutely smashing. Flew a few tandems in the morning. Got to fly my PG in some sweet mid-day wonderful air (wicked good day) and then some more tandems in the evening while everyone else had to sit through a "seminar" (poor buggers). To top it off, went over and flew the gondola with our driver... landed and Richard wanted to D-bag, but couldn't find a tandem pilot to drop him. Ok. Sure. :) Bopped down to the local pub afterwards where everyone was recovering from the seminar. Headed home a bit later and zonked out. Oh, mid 70s and sunny. Doesn't get better.

So, today's fine. It's been raining all day. It'll still be raining a bit in the morning, but should clear later. That's a lovely thing about Queenstown... it rains, then it's over.

Long Days

The days are almost too long here. I know, crazy?
Yeah, it's 9:30pm and it's still light out. It will be till around 10. It'll be light around 6:30am. Hahaha, I've started sleeping with one of those eye cover thingys.

I'm not complaining. I like it this way. It's just weird.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


The weather for the last two days has been less than perfect.
We even had thunderstorms the other day... very rare here. I've seen them once before.

Anyway, things cleared a bit, so I headed outside and figured I'd get to those bridge pictures I'd promised...

Here's the bridge from below.

From the side obviously.

Ok, now the fun stuff.
This is what it looks like on top... notice my hand... on the rail.
It's a big railing, you're not going anywhere, but yeah... I have to hold the railing o take a picture.

This is what things looked like when a car went by.
I mean really... I fly for a living.
I should have no problem with this. But yeah, it took a bit for me to cross that bridge. I stopped anytime a car went by. I didn't deathgrip the rail or anything, but I stopped... I could have kept going, but it just felt better to stop.

The irony is not lost on me.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Decided to have a hike out back the other day. Up past my neighbor's house. There's a trail that starts just up there.

Here's the view.
I know, just horrible.

Here's a bit further.
I don't know how I put up with it.

You can see the shotover bridge pretty well from here.
I'll get some more pics of that later... it's right outside my flat. Seriously.
It's called the "shotover" bridge cuz it crosses the "shotover" river.
Ok, but what's in a name?

You might know it from... dum de dum... yeah, Lord of the Rings... like everything else around here ;)


The Kiwi's take their tea pretty seriously... One of our pilots, Swanny, likes to have a cup of tea before he takes his tandems for a flight. So on takeoff, there is a permanent propane fired tea kettle with tea, sugar and water. That's dedication.

Aaaah... Queenstown

Yeah, it's like that.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Couple bad weather days here lately. Ah well, that's Spring for ya.
No worries. We all headed down to Alpine Aqualand by the airport. New Zealand's idea of a public pool... well... kicks ass!

Lets see... there's a lap pool of course. Big deal. Then there's the waterslides, the funpool... complete with water cannons! No kidding. And not like just water jets... these are full on aim at your friends swiveling turret water cannons!... the "lazy river" where you get swept along by the current round and round a winding path... and my personal favorite, the gigantic hot tub :) (like 20 people gigantic)

Well worth the $8 admission price ($4.30US)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Glorious Internet :)

Oh that's much better.
Got the internet sorted out today. Happy times. Now we have net at home. See, I'm living just outside Queenstown at the moment and my car is in the shop. It takes me an hour to walk to town... it's less if I hitchhike, but that's not exactly reliable. Besides, I don't like being separated from my gear (paraglider) since you never know when the opportunity to fly will arise.

Anyway, it's all better now. And just in time... the weather's meant to go back to crap for a bunch of days. I can only watch so many movies before my head explodes. I find the internet sooooo much more entertaining.

Now if I could only get my car back! Hahahahaha. Priorities. I'll take the net first thank you.

So today was lovely.
It's been pretty crap lately, but that turned around today. Sunny, warm, good flying and flying all day. Yum. Then went down to the local pub where all the pilots hang out after the day's flying is done and hahahaha... there's some guys basejumping off tandem paragliders over town and landing on the beach. Would you believe that's not an uncommon occurrence here? I love this town. :)

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Sorting out the net at the moment.
Hopefully have that up soon. Living without internet is... uh... well it sucks. At least we've got plenty of access in town. My car's out for inspection at the moment, so that leaves me to maybe a daily hit... but it should all clear up soon. Oh well.. guess I just go fly ;)


Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Just got into Auckland.
Couple hours till my flight to Queenstown, so I figured I'd surf a bit.
Easiest Pacific flight yet... slept almost the whole flight :)
Did get one movie in "Tropic Thunder". HA HA HA funny stuff.

A mate of mine, Tom, hooked me (and him) up with a sweet flat so that's sorted. Arno's been looking after my car for the winter. Gera's picking me up at the airport. And I got my work visa done before I left the States, so hell... let's just play! Too easy.

Tick tock... hour and 1/2

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Fun at the beach

So my main excuse for being up here in San Fran is to help Tom with his paragliding. So, oh darn, we had to go fly today ;)
I've been staying with Paris and Toni till now. I hopped a train South last night and am now staying right next to Stanford (Tom's doing his PHD here). We drove down to Seaside (next to Marina) and had loads of fun mucking around on the dunes.


The locals know how to have fun on the dunes as well.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Keepin busy

Yesterday, there wasn't much flying to be had, so we all went over to the local park (two blocks away) and played frisbee golf.

Today however was different... there was flying to be had.

So we went over to "Mt Tam" for a fly.
Mt Tamapai is the park on the other side of the Golden Gate bridge. It's a nice isolated nature place. Me, Don and some of the locals took a little hop.

Tam's neat cuz you land on the beach. You can fly over the ocean for a bit, which I did. Fun stuff.

Here's one of the locals, Phil, doing a very nice landing.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Arrived in SanFran today. I'm visiting some hang gliding friends of mine, so what do we do after grabbing my checked bags? That's right... straight to the flying site :)

Got a lovely flight in at Ft Funston... an icon in the hang gliding world.
Oh yeah, took a hike later by the Golden Gate bridge too. Of course.

Mmmmm... jetlag kicking in.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Where does the time go?

It's that time again... well almost. I'm heading out to San Francisco to visit with some friends and teach a little paragliding before jumping the pond. That'll be next week.
But all loaded up. I was worried about my bags at first... I'm taking my drum kit and was afraid it would wind up too heavy. I did what I could to lighten things, but it still felt bricky. 70lbs max for Qantas. 50 for Southwest tomorrow. Uhg... Well the scales told a different story. 40lbs. Whew. Even if the scale's off a bit, that made me feel a whole lot better.

Ah well. Off to la la land.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Buffalo trip

If that ain't "Americanna", I don't know what is.

Ok, we'll get the "oooooh... look at the fall colors!" stuff out of the way first. Yup, I'm jaded I guess. Just looks like Fall to me ;) That's Mike with Natalie btw.

Everyone knows they want to be in the "classic Jim" shot.
You don't have to hide it, ya know ya do. It's ok.

The crew heading out to Tina's Italian Restaurant for dinner on Berny's birthday. Heck, even Gramma showed up :)

There ya go. Didn't exercise my camera too much... like I said, just looks like "Fall" to me ;)

Tick Tock

I just looked at my calendar this morning... OMG!... just over two weeks!

I'm planning a NYC trip for next week, then it'll be off to San Francisco to teach some paragliding, then POOF! Off to Queenstown!

Fortunately my Visa came in the other day and my flight's booked, so all I really have to do is pack :)

Happy times

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It's c-a-c-a-cOLD!

Um, no thank you. I stayed a little too late this year. I think I'll leave in like August next year! Hahahha, I was brushing my teeth when I noticed I could see my breath... ahhhhhhhhhh!

Ah well. That just means travel season is upon me. Which also means I'll be updating my blog more regularly as well.

I'll put up some pics from my recent Buffalo trip tomorrow.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Thursday, October 02, 2008


It's windy. Like unflyable windy.

I've been eyeing an Ipod Touch recently and they're cool as hell, but unfortunately one thing just kills it... no Skype. No Flash either. That's a one two punch in my book. Oh well. It was a fun idea. Then I remember my old solace for not having an Ipod was that I already had a Nokia 770. My little eeepc had long since filled it's shoes. But hey, let's see what kinda hacks people have come up with for the 770!

So... can it be made to run Skype and Flash? The new model, the n800 can. Well it seems that what prevents the 770 from doing so is licensing, not hardware. The 770s the slow cousin, but it might have enough juice. And hell, it'll be fun trying either way.

Well the hackers out there have found a way to make the 770 think it's a 800 and trick it into running the 800s operating system. Getting the software to run was also a bit of a trick, but he he he... I've got Skype running :)

Now it's on to flash.
Can you tell I'm bored?
(tomorrow looks better)

Monday, September 29, 2008

The finished box

I completed the enclosure today. Stick a fork in it :)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

It's alive!!!!

I got the final parts for my drum kit mod yesterday :)

What I've been up to is hacking my Rock Band drum kit to use my electronic drums. It's been an analog hack till today. Now it's digital :)

Big deal right?
Well the difference is in the accuracy. The analog hack was just that, a hack. It sorta worked. I wired the drum sensors directly into the Rock Band circuitry. This only works at best as well as the original kit, which isn't exactly stellar. What's worse is that it was even less accurate than the plastic crap drum kit.

Soooo... I found instructions on the net (of course) on how to make a digital link and use all the precision goodness of the electronic drums "drum brain".

I finished it this morning. Holy crap what a difference!
(it's not a just little better... it's amazing)
Very happy :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Gary's Beach

This is Gary's Beach Site
Gary's a local Hang Gliding pilot who's parents live on the bay... and let us fly from their place. As luck would have it, they own a park on the cliffs of the bay. The cliffs are 50-100ft high.

When the wind's right (NE at 15mph), the wind gets deflected up over the cliffs and sets up a standing wave. We can surf that wave :)

Adam taking off.

Steveo surfing the wave.

Me and Adam.
As if we aren't lucky enough to even be able to fly this site, Gary's parents are happy to let me fly my paraglider too... out of their front yard! The hang glider takeoff isn't suitable for PG, so they let me takeoff in front of their house. They're even moving a big post to make it easier.

We are insanely lucky.
It's invitation only and we're thrilled to be on the invite list.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


And with fall comes the wind.
Typical stuff... the hurricanes start bashing the East Coast which pushes us into windy season.

Well. This year... a buddy of mine (Steve) has hooked us up with a cliff launch beach flying site that faces the magical North East :) (Hurricane wind direction is E for us, typically NE). There's nothing all of us love better than beach soaring. Adam and Sunny used to do it constantly when they were teaching down in North Carolina. We just don't have... well didn't have... a beach flying site here. Till now.

Kristen got some pics of us all flying and I'll get them up once I get them.
Looks like an other NE day today :)
(it's a 2 hour drive, so it takes a bit of organizing)


Friday, September 12, 2008

Times are changing

I'll have to get a picture up of Grant.
Grant holds the distinction of being the first student here. He started 10 years ago.

Grant's 60 (70) something? He lives down the road and comes out for lessons when he can. He had some medical issues that got in the way for a while, but that's all cleared up now. One of the hurdles Grant's been facing is that he tires out pretty easily. Now just flying around, this isn't really a problem. But when learning to fly, it can be. The last thing we work on is landings. Well to land you obviously have to take off. Which means you have to tow up... well that's where the real workout is. The tow up is the hardest part physically.

So learning to land has been hard since we just can't get a lot of repetition in. Add to that you need near perfect weather. Fortunately Grant's very patient and persistent. He just wants to fly. Man he wants to fly.

Well this year we've got what's called a "scooter tow". It's a ground based winch that I can use to pull a student into the air... to practice... you guessed it... landings :)

We took our original tandem glider and configured it especially for Grant. Yesterday tweaked it so that I could scooter tow Grant. It already had really big -BIG- wheels and a harness that would fit him. He chuckled when I showed it all to him... it was the glider he did his first tandem flight in! It was even the same harness. He liked the idea. He said he was really keen to scooter tow back when he first saw it... thought "hey now, that'll work".

With scooter towing, you fly alone. Grant's never flown solo... always tandem. You're only 5 feet off the ground on the first one and the thing maxes out at a couple hundred (90% of the time, I pull people under 20 feet up)... but YOU'RE flying.

So we drug it all out and had at it.
I take people for their first flight all the time. They're always happy when we land "wow, that was cool!"... but I gotta tell ya... I don't know that I've seen the kind of happy I saw in Grant's face after his first scooter tow. "Jimmy, I've been looking for that for 10 years".


Monday, September 08, 2008


Well, it's official again, I'm heading back to Queenstown.
I leave San Francisco November 10th.
I'm back in LAX on March 31st.

I have no definite plans beyond that. I always book the "big" flights first as they are the most expensive and you save a lot by booking early. For now, I have some tentative plans to visit some friends in SanFran before I jump the pond.


Friday, September 05, 2008


To say I'm obsessed would be a gross understatement.

"Rock Band" is a game that competes with "Guitar Hero".
(If you haven't heard of Guitar Hero, you live under a rock.)
Well, Rock Band adds singing, bass guitar, and my favorite... drums :)

For those of you unfamiliar, I used to have a drum kit. I was never much good, but I took lessons for a while and did a good job of pissing off my neighbors. See in the military, I lived off base with one of the guys I worked with. Well, he just happened to play bass guitar... we had an attic and one day the neighbors below us moved out. So...
Every Friday night, some other guys from work that happened to play guitar would show up and noise would ensue. Eventually the cops would show up too, then it was show over for the night. I think we eventually settled on an 11pm curfew. It was a hell of a lot of fun.

Eventually I left the military and things fizzled. Rounding up people to play with and finding a place to not piss off the neighbors is a bit of a task. Lugging around a drum kit doesn't mesh well with a vagabond lifestyle either. So the drums faded away.

Then along comes Guitar Hero.
Close, but no cigar. It looked pretty fun, but I couldn't care about guitar. The potential was there though and rumor was afoot that a full band version was coming.

It showed up in the form of a game called Rock Band :)

Rock Band was an instant party hit. I mean people flocked over to the house on Friday nights for the sole purpose of rocking out. It's a riot. Even the singing is done well.

What captivated me was the drum "practice mode". It had far more depth than I expected. When I saw how well practice mode worked, I bought a WII the same day for the sole purpose of playing Rock Band.

The next part came very unexpectedly. I'd set my kit up in the "pilot lounge" at the airport so I wouldn't have to go home just to play. There's a local pilot we call "Bunkhouse Bob". He's a super nice guy. He comes down and usually camps for a week at a time. At night, he can be found picking away at his guitar sipping some wine. We've talked from time to time about him bringing out his electric drum kit sometime so we can jam. But that's a bit of a pain and just never happened.

Well, Bob sees the Rock Band kit (and that I'm completely obsessed) and that sparks up the "hey let's jam" bug again. Well, instead of lugging out his drum kit for a weekend, he gives me one of his old sets!

It needs a few key parts, but Ebay fixes that straight away. Ha, I think Bob was a bit surprised that I ordered the parts (kinda pricey ones) as soon as he told me I could have the kit. Hell yeah buddy!

Bob's not been back just yet, but I very much look forward to jamming with him.

...but it doesn't end there...

See, the Rock Band kit is a plastic toy game drum kit, which is fine for what it's supposed to be.

Parts fail and there's lots of info out there about how to fix them... including the part numbers of the electrical components ;)

Well hell, a quick trip to Radio Shack and I've got a second set of drum sensors. I've got wiring diagrams off the net. We've got every tool you can imagine here and loads of space to build things... so yeah, I started tearing into the kit. At first I just figured I'd add some cymbals (it has none). As I got used to how it all works, I decided that I could probably wire the Rock Band kit into my real kit. It took some time and effort, but... hahahahahah... yup.

The Rock Band kit is fun and it works, but playing a real kit is over the top happy!

So now I can play either real drums or Rock Band drums... or both at the same time :)
My drumming's gotten loads better too.
Good times.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Holy crap!... It's raining!
Seriously, I can't recall the last time I heard rain on the roof. Ridgely's in a wicked drought btw.

Sure, we've had passing thunderstorms through the summer... lot's of threats of rain, but they keep seeming to miss us.

Oh, there ya have it... it was just a few drops (not even a "sprinkle") and it's over now. All of 2 minutes.

Forecast is for "showers" today... riiiiight.
The upside... droughts make for wicked good flying :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Summer Crazies

If you haven't noticed, I don't post much in the Summer (between Memorial Day and Labor Day). Some of it's that I'm just flat out busy. The other is that I spend a lot less time online. I check my email and read the news in the morning, but other than that, I'm offline.

Now that we're coming up on Labor Day, things quiet down and I get back to the internet a bit.

BTW, sorry... not just yet ;)
I've got some video editing to catch up on.
See ya

Friday, July 04, 2008

Guitar Hero

Here's Guitar Hero on the big screen.

Solo Hang Gliding

Solo Landing

Oh yeah, He jumped out of a plane too

Can't tell if he liked it

June go bye

Summer in general is busy for me, with June in particular being especially insane.
It kicks off with our annual competition and rolls right along into our annual "fly-in". Of course everyone wants to fly in the summer, so we're always busy as can be. Good times.

It's raining at the moment, so I figured I'd take a sec to catch up on my blog here.

I'll have to dig out the pictures, but John came down recently and I was able to set him free... he now flies solo. :) Yeah kids, you now have two crazy hang gliding brothers.

He also joined in on the latest craze around here... Rock Band. We've had Guitar Hero for a while now, which keeps the guitar fans happy, but there's been nothing for us drum nuts... till now :)

As an added bonus, the singing (yes, it has vocals) is rather impressive. I expected just some Kariokie type setup, but they actually make it work. It registers pitch and has the vocal track backing you so it doesn't have that Kariokie sound, but it does have the Kariokie fun.

It's great being able to have four people play a video game together. Much like Wii Sports where you can have a four player tennis match. It makes for much party fun. The 8 foot projector screen doesn't hurt either (no bumping elbows).

I'm naturally obsessed with the drums. The "tutorial" stuff kinda blows, but the "practice mode" is nothing short of stellar. I'm so hooked that I've ordered a second Wii and drum kit. (I love Wii sports too) In October, Guitar Hero will release a band version too. I'm very excited about this since the drum kit is especially good.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Been a while

As you may have noticed, I've been a bit busy.
We just finished our annual hang gliding competition. Here's the first cut version of the DVD...

ECC4 Cut1

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Now that's some creative graffiti