Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bear Offers Survival Wear for Men - Autographs for Women

The face of survival. No girls allowed.

Bear Grylls, for those who don't know him by name or reputation, is the host of "Man vs Wild". He's a former British SAS dude (who had to quit after three years because he broke his back in a parachuting accident) who has become the pop culture face of wilderness survival.

His show has had some flack for being "faked". Yes, there is a camera crew with him at all times. Yes, they scout out the best locations in the area to illustrate various techniques rather than Bear just finding his way out blind. Yes, he's probably not in any real danger during the taping of the shows. It's TV folks. Nobody said stuff on TV really happens the way they show it. If you're entertained, and understand that you shouldn't try most of this stuff if you really are lost, then he has done his job.

As you can see, I find his actions on TV somewhat misleading but defensible. What has really hacked me off though is his new online shop, The Bear Grylls Store. First, there's the tacky factor of a "survival expert" selling outdoor wear of no particularly impressive design. But hey, he's found a way to make some extra cash lending his name to it, so why not.

The problem comes in when you have a browse through the products on offer. For men, there is a range of shirts, fleeces, trousers, jackets etc. Not bad. Then you click on "Women's" clothing. What can the adventurous woman buy from Bear? A t-shirt or a hoodie with his autograph printed across the front! Nothing else. No useful products at all. Apparently survival is not the feminine thing to do. If lost in the wilderness, we should just curl up in a ball and hope that a man (who has been watch Bear on TV) comes to the rescue.

I think it's quite likely that Bear himself has little to do with the shop or what it sells. But when your name is on something, you should be aware of it and make sure it won't come back to bite you in the ass. Bear, if you're out there, fix your shop!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Windy vs Nimby

Makara wind farm from a distance. Ugly or acceptable?

New Zealanders like to think of their country as "clean and green", and part of this claim stems from the large proportion of the country's electricity being generated by renewable resources such as hydroelectric power, wind turbines and geothermal generation.

Wellington is one of the windiest areas of the country, so it should come as no surprise that the power companies were keen to set up a wind farm outside the city, bordering Cook Strait.

Wind generation is generally met with approval in principle by the public - but only when the turbines are to be located "somewhere else". It's the perfect example of NIMBY (not in my back yard) syndrome. Nobody wants to look out their window and see a hundred wind turbines. Not when they paid for a charming view across the mountains. So go ahead and build a wind farm - just not in my back yard!

The wind farm pictured at the top of this post was hotly debated, and is just being completed now after years of arguing. The nearby residents complained that the turbines would create too much noise. (You know, that whoosh sound the blades make as they sweep around.) In the end, the company agreed to cut back the number of planned turbines, eliminating those that were closest to homes. But don't worry, people will still complain about it.

Even when no homes are close by, people protest every proposed wind farm. "It will ruin the natural beauty of the area" they say. I say, better to look at a few wind turbines than to burn more coal and not be able to see anything through the smog! If we are lucky enough to live somewhere where wind generation is feasible, I think it's crazy not to use it. Especially when you think about the alternatives.

Even other "clean" generation like hydroelectric power has a greater impact on the environment. Dams can change the landscape significantly by making reservoirs and changing the flow of local rivers. Still better than burning gas or coal though, if you ask me.

That's my rant about wind farms. Frankly, I think they look just fine. Graceful, even. And if someone wants to put a turbine in my back yard that's OK by me. Except that my back yard is too small, and I don't actually own it.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Can't do it? Watch it!

The problem with living at the ends of the earth is that sometimes things take a while to get here. Case in point: the Banff Mountain Film Festival 2008/9 World Tour.

We're finally getting a visit from the tour next month, after it has doubtlessly made its way through most other countries. But at least it's getting here!

The festival features films of all kinds of mountain and outdoors related activities, from extreme skiing to base jumping, rock climbing, white water kayaking, and anything else you can do at altitude.

For most of us, we'll get to see things we'd never have the balls to try ourselves. So this is the closest I will ever get to speeding down an untouched slope, or leaping off a cliff in a flying squirrel suit.

For a preview, check out the You Tube version of the ad:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Trail Mix or Whatever You Call It

(Photo: - you can buy the t-shirt there too!)

Frank and Sue over at Our Hiking Blog just posted their favourite recipe for scroggin (that's trail mix or GORP for those of northern hemisphere origins.) Their preference is for a sugary combination including licorice allsorts and gummy snakes.

Since hooking up with G, my trail mixing has been cut to a minimum. He's a big fan of keeping the elements separate. Nuts in one baggie, dried apricots in another, chocolate in another...

But I actually love a nice trail mix, and so I was inspired by Frank and Sue to list some of my favourite things to include. Let's give it a catchy name too.

Maple Kiwi Mix (contains neither maple nor kiwi)
Salted almonds
Peanut M&Ms (or peanut butter ones if I can get them)
Honey roasted peanuts
Yogurt dipped raisins
Dehydrated pineapple (not the crystallized stuff)
Dried apples
Dried peaches
Dried cranberries
Animal crackers

I aim for a good balance between sweet and salty, crunchy and chewy. A full water bottle is mandatory when the trail mix comes out!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Starlight, Star Bright

Something I've been following in the back pages of the news for a while is New Zealand's application to UNESCO to make the sky over Lake Tekapo on the South Island the world's first heritage site in the sky.

There is an observatory beside the lake (Mt John Observatory), taking advantage of the area's complete lack of urban areas and light pollution. By creating a UNESCO Heritage Site, the area will be controlled so that no major light-creating developments can move in and spoil the view.

I wish I could tell you how beautiful the starry sky above Lake Tekapo looks, but when we were there just over a year ago it was cloudy. But I just love seeing the sky full of stars when it's blacker than black and it seems like you can see the entire universe unfolding above you. If there's a way to protect that view in just one place in New Zealand, I'm all for it!

Apparently eight proposals for night sky reserves went to UNESCO from around the world. At this point they are looking at New Zealand's proposal as well as one in Spain. The final decision will be made next year.

Right now New Zealand has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Milford Sound, Tongariro, and the Sub-Antarctic Islands.