The boringness of the 2017 New Zealand General Election

The longer that I’ve lived away from New Zealand the less that I’ve cared about following the news and blog coverage of the day to day political dramas. However, with the 2017 New Zealand General Election less than two months away I would have expected the competition between the two main parties to have become much closer than it is.

A little over six months ago John Key stepped down as Prime Minister and Bill English, who previously lead the National Party to their biggest defeat became Prime Minister. Since then there has been a few scandals within the National Party, namely, the Todd Barclay secret recordings affair. However, despite these upheavals within the incumbent party there has been very little change in their poll numbers with a current average of around 46% primary support.

In contrast, earlier today, Andrew Little’s leadership of the Labour party came to an end as their average poll numbers dropped to 25% and lower. If the new leader Jacinda Ardern can attract voters back to the party their numbers may improve slightly, but I cannot see Labour doubling their primary vote or taking a huge amount of support away from the National Party.

The reality of the New Zealand political landscape is that it is really boring. Although the National Party has been in power for nine years over three terms they have done extremely well in not giving many concessions to their more conservative and extreme right supporters and coalition partners. As a government they have been well disciplined and as a whole the country has grown economically.

While this stability is a blessing that other countries, including Australia, can only dream about (in the same time Australia has had four Prime Ministers and many more leadership spills) it also means that the opposition party has had very few big issues to create as a point of difference from the National Party. Furthermore, when the Labour Party does try and propose something different they often go too far. For example, they currently have a policy which proposes cutting immigration to New Zealand by up to 30,000 people.

Policies which harm the economic growth or unsettle a population which is entirely built on migration are unlikely to win many new supporters. Rednecks and other anti-immigration supporters have their fringe parties to support and Labour really needs to focus on the important day to day issues which will gain them supporters from the centre and centre-right. Policies such as committing to improved rail links in the major cities or changing the taxation system such that low income earners are better off without adversely increasing the tax on higher income earners are ideas that often get broad support. In particular with taxation you could introduce a tax-free threshold, increase taxes slightly at the higher income bands to offset the tax loss without affecting the overall tax payments on a median income earner, and still introduce a small capital gains tax. Policies which are well explained and are positive for the country are likely to gain supporters from the centre of the political spectrum.

Unfortunately, it appears New Zealand is on track for yet another National Party dominated government. Once again, I wish that more young people would vote as many of the parties and policies which are best geared towards them come from parties on the left. Without a strong opposition it enables the ruling party to easily push through laws and policies which are damaging to large minority groups without consequence.

Western USA and Canada Adventures – Part One: California Coastal Cruising

In June I took three weeks leave and travelled to the USA and Canada to visit friends who live in various cities.

My trip began on a wet Wednesday morning in Sydney with a 15 hour flight to Los Angeles, followed by a one hour flight to San Francisco. With the exception of getting quizzed about my travel plans by various airline staff and border agents both in Sydney and Los Angeles the trip up with Delta was smooth and after being upgraded to Economy Comfort quite enjoyable.

On arrival in San Francisco I was picked up by one of my best friends and as I was surprisingly awake we explored the small city area of Redwood City, pretended to be students at Stanford University and had dinner at the headquarters of Facebook where he works.

The following morning, after a small sleep in we drove from Redwood City across the hills of the San Francisco Peninsula to Half Moon Bay. Joining Highway 1 we travelled, in the fog and the rain down the coast to Santa Cruz. Continue reading “Western USA and Canada Adventures – Part One: California Coastal Cruising”

Merging a git repository from upstream when rebase won’t work

I use a lot of open source software in my research and work.

In recent months I’ve been modifying the source code of some of open source repositories to better suit my needs and I’ve contributed a few small changes back to the DeepLearning4J and the Snacktory projects.

This morning I’m starting to work on a further patch for the DeepLearning4J repository and I needed to bring my local repository up to date before committing the change. However, at some point over the past few months the DeepLearning4J repository has been rebased and my fork of it will no longer merge.
The usual approach for fixing this is to use the command:

git rebase upstream/master

However, for me this produces an error:

git encountered an error while preparing the patches to replay
these revisions:

As a result, git cannot rebase them.

Despite trying on two different computers similar errors occurred.

As I didn’t want to delete my entire repository and create a whole new fork of the upstream master this is the approach I took to fix the problem:

Backup the current master into a new branch:

git checkout -b oldMasterBackupBranch
git push origin oldMasterBackupBranch

Switch back to the master branch and replace it with the upstream master

git checkout master
git remote add upstream url/to/upstream/repo
git fetch hard upstream master
git reset --hard upstream/master

Push the updated master my github fork

git push origin master --force

This StackOverflow question helped a lot in working out this problem: Clean up a fork and restart it from the upstream

Life Lessons at 30

I turn 30 this month. It seems odd to me to be turning 30 as at times I still feel like i’m in my early to mid 20s yet at other times I certainly do feel a bit older than I would still like to be.

A few years ago I had a number of friends turning 30 and some of them were having a little bit of a freakout. At the time I said to myself that by the time I turn 30 I won’t be freaking out like they did. Well I thought that until the day I turned 29 and then over the last year I’ve had plenty of freakouts to a number of my friends.

Over the past few months I’ve taken some time to reflect on what I’ve really learned in life so far, not necessarily at an academic level but at a how to actually a meaningful life level.

As I planned to sit down and write these life lessons into a nice blog post, my mobile phone died, completely dead, not a chance of getting any data off it. So after an evening spent trying to get it replaced under warranty and setting up a new temporary phone I begin my list of lessons learnt in life with patience.

  1. Patience. The irony of putting patience as my first life lesson is it is something I still very much lack. But over the last few years I’ve learnt more and more to try and be calm and roll with whatever life and people throw at you.
  2. Take time out and pause. Along with a lack of patience I can also be a very stressful person, I like to keep myself busy and I like a challenge. However, again over the last few years I’ve learnt why taking time out to pause, get fresh air and see the sunshine is so vital to living a healthy life. I’ve learnt that no matter how busy I am there is always time on a Saturday and Sunday afternoon to head to the beach or a park and take a short (or not so short) walk.
  3. Have role models. I’ve been really fortunate throughout both my teenage and young adult years to have had a number of close friends who have been 5 to 10 years older than me. These friends have had such a positive impact on my life with their wisdom and advice.
  4. Take genuine interest in people. I used to hate the question “how are you?” I hated it because no matter how bad your were feeling the standard response is always “good”. I hated the question of “how are you?” so much that for a few years I wouldn’t use it when meeting with friends, until one day one of my best friends challenged me that instead of hating the question I should genuinely answer it and see where that conversation leads to. In doing this and being genuine in expressing my feelings with others I’ve had others expose their genuine feelings with me and built some really solid friendships as a result.
  5. Some great friends are transient but acquaintances last. I moved to Australia at the age of 22. At the time I thought I would only live in Sydney for a few years (it has now been over seven years) and I would be able to maintain a lot of friendships. I’ve since discovered just how transient friendship can be. Friends who you spend almost every day with for years can fade away pretty quickly when you’re in a different city or even work environment. However, I’ve also discovered my friends who I may only see every few months or years have built friendships with me which have now lasted over 10 years.
  6. Travel and experience culture. One of the best things about living in Sydney is the amazingly diverse people you meet. I’ve been so fortunate to have built friendships with people from literally every continent (except Antarctica). I’ve also been extremely fortunate over the last five years to travel to three continents and twelve countries outside of Australia and New Zealand for both work and pleasure. During these trips I’ve had many friends show me their culture and homes. I’ve also made many friends while I have been travelling and this experience is something you simply can’t get by reading a book or watching a documentary.
  7. Experience art. I’m a scientist and I’m a nerd. With the exception of classical music I never had any interest in art. But again this is where friendship really matters. In the first few years of living in Sydney I had friends literally drag me along to events such as the Biennale of Sydney, but since then I’ve really grown to appreciate the wonderfully diverse ways in which people can express themselves, their views and their emotions.
  8. Read. Not only does reading teach you amazing new things but it also gives you an outlet to escape and relax.
  9. Learning never ends and you learn more outside of university and school. The more I learn the more I feel that I don’t yet know. Furthermore, what you learn in formal education can only take you so far, but what you teach yourself and have a passion for will propel you further.
  10. Argue and debate but don’t fight. Mobile phones have made debating a challenging task as you can very easily fact check almost everything said. A good debate, even if it doesn’t change someone’s mind can really flesh out an idea, but narrow minded arguments are black holes that go nowhere.
  11. You’ll never have enough money. Living in Australia makes me among the richest people on the planet. However, somehow no matter how much I earn I find new ways for the money to disappear.
  12. Faith is hard. I grew up in a very conservative Christian community. As I’ve grown older I’ve discovered that a lot of my faith has been rooted in restrictive rules and regulations rather than reasoned theology. This leads to my final lesson learned:
  13. Gospel is a lifestyle and not a religion. In recent years I’ve found that my faith has become rerooted in the relationships and the community I’ve had with other christians than arguments and rules about what you can and cannot do.

Overall I still have my anxiety, fears and goals which don’t go away easily, but these life lessons have hopefully taught me how to be a more well rounded human being.

Photos: Melbourne Formula One Grand Prix 2017

For a second time I headed to the Formula One in Melbourne. This year I headed down just for the Saturday Free Practice and Qualifying sessions.

Overall the day was excellent. Being able to see the new cars and the sheer speed of them through the corners compared to the touring and GT cars.

A great addition to this year’s event was the fan forum stage which had some great driver interviews. I learnt that Kimi Räikkönen can smile and even tell funny jokes.

Below are a few photos and video from the day.

Continue reading “Photos: Melbourne Formula One Grand Prix 2017”

Short Trip to Canberra

In late 2016 I travelled to Canberra for work. It was my first time visiting the sheep station that is Australia’s capital city.

Getting to Canberra was an adventure in itself, the original flight I was on was cancelled and then the second flight also got cancelled. In the end I ended up flying on a flight which was due to leave before my original cancelled flight which itself was delayed until after my original departure time. After I arrived in Canberra I caught an Uber to my accommodation in the suburb of Forrest. From there I walked to the centre of the city which is a rather long walk so I rewarded myself with dinner and an Uber ride back to my hotel. The following morning I quickly went to both the old and new parliament buildings before meeting up with my colleagues for a day and a half of work meetings.

Below are some photos from the trip.

Smoke from fires over Western Sydney

New and Old Parliament Buildings

Continue reading “Short Trip to Canberra”

Photos: Auckland Weekend Adventure

In November a friend of mine from Europe was visiting Auckland. I went across for a weekend to show them around my hometown.

Below are some photos from that day, they were taken at Mt Victoria, Long Bay, and Western Springs Speedway.

The highlight of the day was capturing a photo of a tui in the bush at Long Bay.

Photos: Muscle Car Masters 2016

At the end of October I went to the annual Muscle Car Masters at Sydney Motorsport Park.

This was the first time I had attended the MCM and it was a great day out. Watching the old cars from well before my time and from my childhood was a great change from the modern Supercars that I usually watch.

Below is a small selection of photos covering the various categories and eras racing during the event.

Photos: Sculpture By The Sea 2016

In late October the annual Sculpture By The Sea Exhibition was held along Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs Coastline.

I went down late in the afternoon of the first weekend, luckily before huge swells destroyed many of the sculptures.

Below are a few photos from that day.

Happy 2017 – Sydney Fireworks from the Harbour

I was extremely fortunate to spend this New Year’s Eve on a friend’s parent’s yacht anchored in Farm Cove. This is about as close to the fireworks as you can get and my first time viewing the New Years fireworks from a boat.

The first few hours were spent waiting for the 9pm Family Fireworks and as usual they didn’t disappoint but were merely a teaser of what was to come at midnight.


Midnight then came with the bridge and then the harbour lighting up.

Continue reading “Happy 2017 – Sydney Fireworks from the Harbour”