Island Life by David Slack

Duck! It's A Pig!

This last week or so, instead of: producing a fresh column; pulling together my notes for a conference; working up an outline for the fine people at Penguin; re-working a piece for a foreign publication and writing a speech for a client, I worked on overcoming a substantial disinclination to do any writing. Glad that's passed.

I was aided in this by the diversions of a new PC and a subscription to the Microsoft Empower program (and many thanks to Chris McKay for alerting me to that.) A fresh PC generally brings about a file spring cleaning exercise for me. This can be quite time-consuming. Over time, my hard disk gradually becomes littered with fragments of ideas and projects only partially-completed (or to be more honest, barely-begun.) has a lot of undeveloped potential, in my humble opinion. I just have to get around to implementing even a few of the partially-developed ideas.

Why do I have all this half-done work? Refer to the bit in previous blogs where I talk about having the bad habit of never saying "no" to anyone. Of course, sensible people hire other people to help them, but I just don't fancy it as far as the site's concerned; I find it easier to do it myself than try to explain to other people what's required.

Anyway, the matter of sorting and categorising all this material usually gets my fullest attention when I set up a new PC, and as soon as I open a document to recall what it's all about, I'm distracted. Before you know it, hundreds of germs of ideas are mutating wildly.

Just to add to the skiving off, I took advantage of the MSDN access that comes with the Empower Program to download a copy of Visual Studio.Net. New toy. Endlessly diverted.

But it's a dull blog if your copy keeps going stale, so let's pick up where I left off last time with the grand plan for the Devonport waterfront, flogging off the Navy land, putting up apartments and installing an underwater travelator to Queen Street.

Tim Harding was intrigued by the technical challenge.

I can't help but wonder how fast you could make a travelator that long. Obviously you'd need several abutting travelators of graduating speeds to keep the acceleration from breaking people. The same in reverse at the other end... could you create an artificial tail wind to help negate the air resistance? Man... I wish I had a slice of that $4B budget to find out.

It turns out this very question is already being tackled elsewhere. In France - where they call it a trottoir - they have one at a station interchange inside the Paris metro. It's 180 metres long and gets up to 11 km per hour. Hell, that's nothing. We're bungy jumpers here. I'd say we're good for hanging on at thirty k, no worries.

If you click here, you can read all about it - animated guide and everything. You can travel from Le Mans to Paris in 50 minutes, the project manager for the Paris metro points out, but crossing Montparnasse Station may take you 20 minutes.

The real problem nowadays is how to move crowds; they can travel fast over long distances with the TGV (high-speed train) or airplanes, but not over short distances (under 1km), he says.

Bart Janssen, whose abiding interest in the natural world is clearly evident in his contribution to the discussion, has this excellent suggestion:

Maybe you should get Kelly Tarton in on the action and make the tunnel perspex - you'd probably want to clean up the scum that is our harbour and you'd need some clever robot thingy (technical term that) to keep it clean, but wouldn't it be cool to have the harbour as a sightseeing attraction?

Of course you'd want to make the harbour a marine reserve to get the fish back but seriously how many people do you know who are silly enough to eat fish caught in the inner harbour? Splendid idea all round really.

Couldn't agree more, Bart. I had a bit to do with those folks when they were putting in their Antarctic attraction, as it happens, and they struck me as the kind of people who were game for just about any kind of imaginative tourist lurk, so why not? You might even hook the travelator up to Orakei wharf.

Of course in my rush of blood to the head I overlooked one slight problem, which Jock Laing helpfully pointed out.

David, those apartments with great views would face South. To be pleasant to live in they need Northern exposure to get some sun. In winter the lack of sun would be very uncomfortable.

True. Mind you, there are quite a few houses along that stretch already which must have to cope with the problem to some extent. Maybe you could set the buildings far enough off the cliff to catch some light from the north, and end up with fewer apartments. Anyone have some thoughts on that?

Actually, if we're going to think outside the box, as they say, why not get really inventive about the design of the apartments as well? We could take our lead from the ideas being explored at the Dilbert House, where Dilbert creator Scott Adams enlists fans, online architects and experts to build an energy-efficient, eco-friendly and functional home for the modern dweller. Not unsurprisingly, they have ideas that would suit a certain type of apartment inhabitant:

Drive-up window for the pizza delivery boy, FedEx, etc.

Combination refrigerator and compostor. Just leave the food you don't want in there.

A giant kitchen sink for informal meals where everyone just leans over the sink.

Drains in the floor so you just hose everything down.

You also get the truly inventive touches such as:

Dilbert might be sick of the noise his neighbors make. He might record it and then play it back through loudspeakers directed at the source of the original racket, with a slight delay, amplified. It would be fun to see how long it would take them to recognize their own arguments, crying baby, yowling cat or squawking bird.

But there are some altogether more interesting notions in there as well, such as exercise equipment connected to generators for selling energy back to the grid. But don't take my word for it, visit the site and be amazed.

Meanwhile back in real estate world, Chris McKay - in the spirit familiar to all of us living in Devonport - endorsed the more material aspects of the concept.

I'm keen for the property value surge from the 10 min walk from downtown Auckland sales pitch.

And this is where it gets hopeful, readers, because he says he's forwarded a copy of the blog to his father in law.

So you never know. Pigs might never fly, but is it too much to hope that we might one day have our own trottoir?