2011
Jan 
20

Te Anau

Filed under: New Zealand,Plans — admin @ 10:01 am  
January 14, 2011toJanuary 18, 2011
2011
Jan 
16

Touring around Fiji

Filed under: Fiji — Russell @ 3:49 pm  

After Hong Kong we travelled to Fiji where we boarded a cruise ship and spent seven days sailing around the islands. Fiji has hundreds of islands, some inhabited, some not. The first night was a captain’s dinner. We sat with the chief engineer who entertained us with stories of the previous ship, Reef Escape, although by now it may have been rechristened Reef Encounter. At the table we also met Lance and Jenny who were booked on the trip exactly a year previously. Unfortunately, as our host related, a massive storm blew up and drove the ship onto the reef. The captain was forced to beach it to avoid sinking.  Lance and Jenny, brave souls that they are, accepted a replacement cruise exactly a year later.

Visiting the villages

Many islands are still home to traditional villages. Since these are people’s homes there are certain courtesies that must be observed when visiting. Luckily our purser, Florian, had made contacts in the villages and we were invited to dinner. The greeting ceremony is fairly complex involving four members of our party. Traditionally, these are representatives of the clans: chief, warrior, and spokesman. After presenting the traditional gift of Kava our hosts welcome us and everyone shares a bowl. Then there is lots of music and hanging out.

The woman of the village also sell handmade crafts and beautiful coloured fabric. These can be used to make a sulu, the traditional garment. It was funny to see many of the Australian men essentially wearing skirts. Luckily, they’re a tough bunch and carried it off with nary a snicker.

In the first village we were entertained with excellent singing which included four part harmony. The dancing was led by a very talented dancer who knew how to play to the crowd. When we all got dragged up to form a conga line (probably not a traditional dance form) he got very frisky with the woman in front of him. The other villagers loved this and howled with laughter.

In the second village the dancing wasn’t as good but it was fun to watch the village woman watch the men. One young woman was obviously very enamoured of the lead dancer and watched him with naked lust. He knew he was being watched and hammed it up, much to the delight of the women. The Fijian’s clearly know how to have fun.

Life on the ship

The ship was fairly small which allowed it to anchor off the small islands. It also meant that we quickly got to know the passengers and crew. Most of the people at the start of the cruise were Australian and we made several good friends. We hope to visit them later in the trip.

The crew were very friendly and seemed very genuine. We felt very welcome.

On the final night we bought traditional lays from the village.  After dinner we watch the sun set from the top deck.  No one was around and we felt like the boat was our private yacht.  The sunset was the most spectacular I’ve ever seen.  The sky seemed to be on fire.  As darkness fell we tossed our lays into the sea. This is meant to bring good luck which in Fiji means a promise to return.

Christchurch

Filed under: New Zealand,Plans — admin @ 3:28 pm  
January 21, 2011toJanuary 22, 2011

Invercargil

Filed under: New Zealand,Plans — admin @ 3:26 pm  
January 13, 2011

Mosgiel

Filed under: New Zealand,Plans — admin @ 3:24 pm  
January 12, 2011

Akaroa

Filed under: New Zealand,Plans — admin @ 3:20 pm  
January 10, 2011toJanuary 11, 2011

Hanmer Springs

Filed under: New Zealand,Plans — admin @ 3:17 pm  
January 5, 2011

Nelson

Filed under: New Zealand,Plans — admin @ 3:16 pm  
January 3, 2011toJanuary 4, 2011

Spam, Spam, Spam

Filed under: Blogstriva — admin @ 2:05 pm  

Well, the SEO spammers have definitely found this blog. I’m getting about one spam comment an hour. Cleaning up this spam is taking more time I want to spend so I’m disabling comments from anonymous people. If you already have an account you can still comment. If you want an account please send an email to the address listed on the “About” page.

So what is happening here? Let’s imagine you sold books about penguins and wanted to use the Internet to increase sales. You set up a website to sell your books but at first, no one visits. This is surprising because you happen to know your penguin books can’t be beat. So you go to Google and type in “Penguin Books” and find that your website is 24,001st of 1.7 million results. With Google search results, being number one is what counts. If you are not in the top 5 you are essentially invisible.

Rather than wait for the world to beat a path to your door, you hire a company that promises to raise your Google rank. This company hires a legion of low cost workers to find blogs which might be related to your business and add comments with a link back to your penguin site. Google interprets this as general interest in your site and your rank begins to rise. People come to your website. You’re happy, the SEO company gets paid and all is well.

From the perspective of a blogger (e.g. me) this is terrible. Suddenly, my site is no longer a place where friends, family and the occasional interesting person from Japan can read and discuss our round the world trip. Instead I’m asked to approve an increasing number of badly written, irrelevant missives filled with links back to porn, organ enlargement and other sites not even tangentially related to travel. At least not my travel.

There are technical solutions to this problem but there is a huge imbalance of power. The SEO spammers represent a multi-million dollar business that exists to fill the Internet with garbage. I’m just a guy who wants to put up pictures and funny stories about travel.

It isn’t clear where this story ends either for me or the Internet in general. The worst case scenario is that small independent voices get overwhelmed by legions of people paid to scream PORN! at the top of their electronic lungs. Even Google, who’s business depends on getting what you want when you search, is having trouble keeping up.

Enough doom-saying. Back to some travel writing.

Update Jan 22, 2011 – Google responds to spam criticism:

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/01/google-search-and-search-engine-spam.html