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Weekend Briefing No. 305
Welcome to the weekend. This week I’m doing something a little different – the entire briefing will be thematically based on New Zealand.
Here’s my guide to New Zealand, which covers all of my recommendations thus far. I’ll continue to update it and fill in more details as the trip progresses. Here’s a google map marking all the spots as well. Let me know what you think of it.
Hope you enjoy!
55 – The longest place name in the world is a hill in Hawkes Bay New Zealand called Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu – 55 letters long.
20 – The Kiwi, which is a little flightless bird native to New Zealand, lays eggs that are about 20% of the mother’s body. Kiwi eggs are six times as big as normal for a bird of its size.
This week was full. After coming off the Heaphy Track, we spent 2 days in Pukaiki relaxing at the modern Hide & Seek B&B and checking out the famous pancake rocks. After a rest, we headed we headed south and back into the wilderness to take in the epic views of Mt. Cook from the Mueller Hut. Then we bolted directly to another of the Great Walks of New Zealand called the Kepler Track.
Global Impact Visa
New Zealand’s Global Impact Visa (GIVs) is the world’s first immigration policy focused on creating positive global impact. Pioneered and led by Immigration New Zealand, the Global Impact Visa is exclusively available to individuals and teams who are accepted into the Edmund Hillary Fellowship. Recognizing that visionary, impact-driven individuals can come from anywhere in the world, the Global Impact Visa is open to people of all nationalities, countries, ages, and stages of entrepreneurial journey. Scholarships are available for those have limited means. Ummm… I may not be coming back. Edmund Hillary Fellowship (4 minutes)
Sean Parker & Peter Jackson
Technology entrepreneur Sean Parker has made a “significant” investment in Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital special effects company. Parker and Jackson made the announcement jointly. They did not disclose the size of Parker’s investment or the specific role he would play. “I’ve long admired Peter Jackson’s and Fran Walsh’s work, and the ground-breaking VFX and animation that Weta Digital has created over the last two decades,” Parker said. “The visionary leadership, imagination, and technical expertise of Weta Digital was vital to the creation of Academy Award winning films such as ‘Avatar,’ ‘King Kong,’ and ‘Lord of the Ring.’ I look forward to helping grow Weta Digital and I’m excited to partner with Peter, the leadership of Weta, and its incredibly talented team.” Jackson said in a statement, “Sean Parker brings an invaluable expertise that will fortify Weta Digital from a technological perspective, while also focusing on its growth as an industry leader. As I have gotten to know him, I have been extremely impressed with his curiosity, intelligence and passion.” Weta was founded in 1993 in Wellington, New Zealand, to produce the digital special effects for Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures.” The work performed at Weta Digital has received six visual effects Academy Awards, 10 Academy Sci-Tech Awards and six visual effects BAFTA Awards. Recent projects include “Alita: Battle Angel,” “Mortal Engines,” “Avengers: Infinity Wars,” “Avengers: End Game,” “Game of Thrones” and “Umbrella Academy.” Variety (5 minutes)
While Weta Digital has built its gold-plated reputation on those monster hits, it is also quietly contributing to a growing tech scene at home. Given it’s a company that only employs 1,100 people, this effect hasn’t exactly been huge, but it has helped give rise to companies like Factorial, which builds TV and film software for iOS and OS X, and KayneMaile, which is a seamless mesh developed by a former Weta Workshop artist, who based the product on the chainmail costumes he used to create for characters in the “Lord of the Rings” movies. Most significantly, a former CIO at Weta Digital broke away from the company to start one of New Zealand’s most promising tech companies. Scott Houston started Green Button after realizing the need for businesses to have a push-button solution that gave them access to supercomputing power in the cloud on a piece by piece basis. After raising $4 million of seed funding, the three-year-old company now counts customers from 77 countries and was the 2011 global winner of the Windows Azure ISV Partner of the Year Award. It also partners with Amazon Web Services, Pixar, and SAP. Pando (6 minutes)
Thiel is a Kiwi
Peter Thiel is a citizen of New Zealand. Apparently, after a fire damaged his four-bedroom, $4.8 million home in Queenstown, New Zealand, Thiel used the opportunity to convert a walk-in closet into a panic room. New Zealand holds special significance as the location to which so many of Silicon Valley’s elite plan to retreat in the event of an apocalyptic crisis. “Saying you’re ‘buying a house in New Zealand’ is kind of a wink, wink, say no more,” LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman told The New Yorker last year. Thiel, then, is hardly the only wealthy V.C. to take stock in high-end survivalism. Thiel adviser took things to the next level when he applied for Kiwi citizenship, claiming in his application that New Zealand was “the future,” and promising a series of rich investments in the country. He was granted citizenship in 2011, despite reportedly failing to meet even a tiny fraction of the 1,350 in-country residence days typically required in the five years before becoming a citizen. Theil’s NZ venture capital firm has invested in local companies: Xero – accounting software; Pacific Fibre - which proposed building a fiber-optic cable between New Zealand; Vend – retail software. Vanity Fair (7 minutes)
Pelorus Jack, a Risso’s dolphin (uncommon in New Zealand) that accompanied ships travelling between Wellington and Nelson, was so named because he would meet boats near the entrance to Pelorus Sound, in the Marlborough Sounds. First noticed in 1888 when he joined a steamer bound for Nelson, Pelorus Jack spent the next 24 years escorting boats from Pelorus Sound to treacherous French Pass, a narrow stretch of water between D’Urville Island and the mainland, where the water surges through at up to 8 knots. Pelorus Jack always remained within a well-defined area. He joined boats heading for Nelson at the entrance to Pelorus Sound and swam to, but never through, French Pass. On the reverse journey, he met ships as they came out of the pass, staying with them for the 8 kilometres to Pelorus Sound before going his own way. He enjoyed swimming up against the boats and riding their bow waves. Teara (4 minutes)
New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to summit Mount Everest. On their summit morning Hillary discovered that his boots had frozen solid outside the tent. He spent two hours warming them over a stove before he and Tenzing, wearing 30-pound (14 kg) packs, attempted the final ascent. The final obstacle was the 40-foot (12 m) rock face now called "Hillary Step"; Hillary later wrote: I noticed a crack between the rock and the snow sticking to the East Face. I crawled inside and wriggled and jammed my way to the top ... Tenzing slowly joined me and we moved on. I chopped steps over bump after bump, wondering a little desperately where the top could be. Then I saw the ridge ahead dropped away to the north and above me on the right was a rounded snow dome. A few more whacks with my ice-axe and Tenzing and I stood on top of Everest. They spent about 15 minutes at the summit. Tenzing left chocolates at the summit as an offering, and Hillary left a cross Their descent was complicated by drifting snow which had covered their tracks. The first person they met was their teammate; Hillary said, "Well, George, we knocked the bastard off. Here is some archival news footage of the event. The Guardian (2 minutes)
Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All by Christina Thompson is the story of the cultural collision between Westerners and the Maoris of New Zealand, told partly as a history of the complex and bloody period of contact between Europeans and the Maoris in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and partly as the story of Christina Thompson's marriage to a Maori man. As an American graduate student studying history in Australia, Thompson traveled to New Zealand and met a Maori known as "Seven." Their relationship is one of opposites: he is a tradesman, she is an intellectual; he comes from a background of rural poverty, she from one of middle class privilege; he is a "native," she descends directly from "colonizers." Nevertheless, they shared a similar sense of adventure and a willingness to depart from the customs of their families and forge a life together on their own. In this book, which grows out of decades of reading and research, Thompson explores cultural displacement through the ages and the fascinating history of Europeans in the South Pacific, beginning with Abel Tasman's discovery of New Zealand in 1642 and Cook's circumnavigation of 1770. Transporting us back and forth in time and around the world, from Australia to Hawaii to tribal New Zealand and finally to a house in New England that has ghosts of its own, Come on Shore brings to life a lush variety of characters and settings. Yet at its core, it is the story of two people who meet, fall in love, and are forever changed. Amazon
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Despite all I have seen and experienced, I still get the same simple thrill out of glimpsing a tiny patch of snow in a high mountain gully and feel the same urge to climb towards it. -Sir Edmund Hillary
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