by Ben Best
In traveling to Australia & New Zealand I had objectives similar to many of my previous trips: to see the countries, meet cryonicists there and go to the World Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne, Australia (AussieCon) — where I would be on panels and host cryonics/life-extension room parties. Weeks earlier I had made many e-mail arrangements with cryonicists for meeting — including a gathering of Australian cryonicists at my room parties.
Dealing with the organizers of AussieCon was difficult. Charles Taylor, who was in programming, was the only person who ever responded to any of my e-mail messages of all the people I tried to contact from e-mail addresses on the AussieCon website. After several exchanges I got Charles to put me on the Nanotechnology panel and to create a Y2K panel, of which I would be moderator. The Y2K panel took some arguing, but I convinced him that speculating about events in 100 days is similar to speculating about events in 100 years. (For my essays on the Y2K computer bug see the Computer section of my website.)
It was Charlie who finally informed me that room parties were not allowed in the hotel where the events were being held — and this was only after the hotel allowing parties was fully booked. It was not possible to contact the hotel directly since a booking agency was being used. Most of those at the booking agency were not very helpful either, but I finally found one helpful woman who put me on a waiting list. When she let me know of an available room from a cancellation, I took the room and sent her a personal money order for Aus$50 as a token of my appreciation.
September 1st, 1999 disappeared from my life when I flew across the International Date Line (although I had a 40-hour September 12th on my return — which could have been 43-hours had I not flown from Los Angeles to Toronto). In Melbourne, I shared the hotel room with Keith Lynch, who had also been my WorldCon roommate at Winnipeg, Glasgow & Los Angeles. Despite archiving CryoNet, receiving a Transport Training from Mike Darwin and more recently being President of the Life Extension Society in the Washington, DC area, Keith has still not signed-up with any cryonics organization and remains a "fellow traveler".
Bob Krueger, an arch defender of CryoCare, somehow had obtained my hotel room phone number and he was soon phoning me from California to persuade me to become CryoCare President. I phoned Paul Wakfer, Saul Kent and a number of others to try to determine if there was any hope of salvaging the organization. There was an Internet access room at AussieCon where I could Telnet from a shell account directly to my Toronto ISP, but it was only possible to sign-up for 15-minute time-slots. I ended-up spending a fair bit of my traveling-time trying to deal with the CryoCare crisis on the other side of the globe.
My Y2K computer-bug panel was scheduled at 4pm on the day of my arrival (Thursday). I was the moderator of 4 other panelists (people chosen by the programming committee) — and had about a hundred people in the audience. My knowledge of the Y2K computer-bug problem was so vastly greater than any of the other panelists — and the audience — that I mostly overwhelmed everyone with my point of view. The only person who seriously challenged my view that the Y2K rollover would be a disaster was Keith Lynch. But the only reason he gave was "based on years of experience working in the computer industry". I replied that not only had I spent as many years in the industry, but that I had been directly working on the problem for over a year.
At the time I believed I was performing a great service by awakening people to a coming disaster. There were many questions from the audience, and I think most people found the session fascinating & funny besides being unsettling. I must admit, it was a unique experience in my life to feel that I was influencing so many people — and it gave my ego quite a boost. Now I feel guilty & ashamed at the thought of having caused unnecessary upset in the process of discrediting myself — but some sense of pride & achievement lingers as well. Its nice to know that I have the potential to be influential. If only I can ensure that I am influential in a constructive manner — by becoming better at knowing the truth.
Having posted notices of a cryonics/life-extension room party around the convention, I needed to get some party food. I figured that I could simply walk around the city until I found a convenience store, but after a very long bit of walking I had found nothing. On two occasions I approached taxi-drivers sitting at a stoplight and tried to get help (and perhaps a ride), but they were both rude & unhelpful. Finally, I found a food store not far from where one of the cabbies had told me there was none to be found.
Joe Allen, an Alcor member, was the first to arrive at my room party. Joe is originally from the US, but now has dual US/Australian citizenship and lives in the Melbourne suburbs with his wife & children. He has a degree in biology, but works for Dow Chemical as a Quality Assurance Chemist in a latex/epoxy plant. Joe is a dedicated cryonicist. He assisted with Alcor's one Australian case — the cryopreservation of Rocco Schavallo. He is the one person who attended every one of my room parties. Most of the people who came to the party were just looking for a party, but there were some relevant discussions as well as interest in survival through uploading.
Friday morning I slept until noon to recover from my jet-lag & exhaustion. I probably did more phoning & e-mailing that day, because I believe it was on this day that I decided CryoCare might be saved if I accepted the Presidency.
I attended a few panels — specifically inviting Gregory Benford to come to my room party. Greg was described in the program as "the supreme hard SF writer of our time" ("hard" meaning "scientific") and was the AussieCon Guest of Honor. He told me he might not find the time to attend. He still plans to re-release his pro-cryonics novel (CHILLER) under his real name.(It was originally published under the nom-de-plume Stirling Blake, to avoid the association of his name with SF. This plan didn't work very well, and using his own name might bring-in a bigger audience — I am revealing no secrets.) I also ran into Bay Area Alcor members Kanita Watson & Will Wiser — who I invited to the party.
To my immense frustration the "Are We The Last Generation of Mortals" panel had been scheduled at the same time as my Y2K panel — the very panel I most wanted to attend. Damien Broderick is an SF writer affiliated with the University of Melbourne English Department who wrote a book of anti-mortalist speculative science entitled THE LAST MORTAL. Although Damien has posted on CryoNet, he had never met any of the Australian cryonicists.
Damien was on the "Australian SF" panel on Friday, so I approached him at the end of the panel and invited him to my room party. Damien told me that his Mortal Generation panel had not gone very well — and that I had not missed much. Had I been on the panel, it might have been different. I had e-mailed Damien asking for him to lobby for my inclusion, but he told me that he didn't know me well enough.
The Nanotechnology panel was at 5pm on Friday. Although it was scheduled to have 4 panelists, one person didn't show-up and the moderator claimed that he knew nothing of the subject and was only there to moderate the two "experts". The other "expert" was a PhD from Sun MicroSystems who would speak of "learning curve", "Boltzman constant", and other phrases which much of the audience may have not understood. I had brought a copy of ENGINES OF CREATION and was once again very influential with an audience of about a hundred people — this time stressing the potential of Nanotechnology to vastly extend lifespans.
I discussed many of the near-term potentials of nanotubes — chicken-wire-like tubes of carbon atoms that could be used in molecular assembly, as incredibly strong thread/fabric/cable and as semi-conductors — once we are able to synthesize it more easily. In this connection, I compared current Nanotechnology with the plight of millions of engineers dropped on an uninhabited planet with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They would have to start by making tools to dig the earth to extract metals to make metallic tools with which to make more sophisticated tools. Mastering Nanotechnology will require tools to create tiny tools that can create tinier tools. I also expanded on Clark's Law ("any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic") by stressing that while technology often looks magical, every magical idea can't necessarily be achieved by technology.
One of the strongest objections from the audience was concern about a future in which an immortalist wealthy class stands apart from the mortalist masses. I countered this by saying that the trend of technology is to make tools that make better tools that thereby lower costs and make the technology available to everyone. I probably should have mentioned that in a free society the wealthy are always the first to benefit from leading-edge health care. Perhaps I should be heartened that the strongest objections were concerned with universal availability — rather than the desirability — of extended life (as is more often the case).
Immediately after the panel a woman came up to me and introduced herself as Veronica Sullivan. Veronica's interest in cryonics had led her to my website a year earlier and she had sent me an e-mail "fan" message. I had replied that I expected to be at AussieCon the following year and we made tentative plans to meet. So we finally were meeting. I think we went for dinner.
Greg Benford didn't come to the room party that night (or any other), but Damien Broderick, Kanita Watson and Will Wiser did. Thomas Donaldson came down by train from Canberra and Joe Allen was there again. There were lots of people in the room that night, including many who seemed serious about life-extension & cryonics — but I am finding it difficult to remember the conversations. I remember one woman saying she would only want to live a thousand years if her friends were with her. Another fellow involved me in a very sophisticated conversation about funding cryonics with Trusts. I collected a couple of names & addresses of Australians who wanted to be informed of local activities of cryonicists.
I slept-in again the next day. AussieCon was the least interesting WorldCon I have attended. It was also the smallest. I took the opportunity to explore Melbourne. It has been said of Melbourne that "It's a nice place to live, but not a very interesting place to visit." The climate is mild: 6°-13°C in July & 15°-25°C in January. Year-round rainfall does not vary — averaging 5cm (2inches) every month. The only thing in the city that really struck me as being outstanding is the Royal Botanic Gardens, which contains the finest collection of trees & shrubs I have seen anywhere in the world.
Melbourne has the world's largest IMAX theatre, which was a nice refuge on a rainy afternoon. There I saw the most spectacular 3-D films I have ever seen. Technology has come a long way from cheap two-color 3-D glasses. In viewing the Paos Volcano or St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, there is much that is lost in photos. 3-D of this quality is virtually a "virtual reality". I hope that this technology replaces television within the next ten years.
Saturday night my room party was almost a cryonicist-only event, and we had a large percentage of Australian cryonicists & fellow-travelers. There was Joe Allen, Veronica, Thomas Donaldson, Philip Rhoades from Sydney and Theo Tatton. Theo is the grand old man of the group. Unfortunately, he has been slow in adopting the use of e-mail. I'm sure we must have discussed practical issues concerning advancing cryonics in Australia, but I cannot remember. Both Veronica & Philip expressed their intention to join the Cryonics Institute. Veronica said that she couldn't afford another organization. Philip could afford another, but said he was trying to induce his father to sign-up for cryonics, and felt like less expense would be a greater inducement for his father.
Sunday I spent a little time at AussieCon and more time in Melbourne. Much of that time was spent at an Internet Cafe in the Melbourne Shopping Centre where I connected to my ISP with www.MailStart.com and tried to deal with CryoCare business and the rest of my e-mail. I regret not going to the Melbourne Zoo for a first-hand look at the exotic "down-under" fauna.
I met with Veronica in the afternoon. We went to the 55th floor observation deck of Rialto Towers, the tallest office building in the Southern Hemisphere. Since I work in a 68-story building in Toronto, the height did not impress me — but it did give an excellent view of Melbourne. Veronica & I then went to the big casino to look-around & have dinner. Legalized gambling has evidently brought social problems, because I saw big billboards with the words: Gambling Rule _ 1 — If it's no longer fun, walk away.
I told Veronica of my plan to rent a car the next day and drive along the Great Ocean Road — inviting her to join me. She agreed, as long as we could get back to the Melbourne Airport in the early evening so she could catch her plane.
There were not many people at the room party that
night. I asked the few who showed up to leave so I could pack for
an early departure.
The Great Ocean Road winds along the south Australian coast from just below Melbourne to the western border of the state of Victoria. Reputed to be "one of the world's greatest drives", I was not particularly impressed. Veronica was good company, though.
Veronica is just over 40 years old and lives in Perth (Western Australia) with her 5 children. She works with prisoners as a corrections officer or probation officer. She is lively & enthusiastic about life. She loves anthropology, languages & travel. She has visited Singapore, Japan, Mauritius, Indonesia — and has been to the UK several times. But her biggest enthusiasm is astronomy. Her interest in cryonics has a lot to do with her burning desire for space travel. She feel she was born a century too early. Unlike people whose discomfort with cryonics is associated with living in a frighteningly unfamiliar future world, Veronica said she has "no fear of the unknown".
We had a memorable stop in Apollo Bay, where we ate lunch at the Wild Dog Inn. This venerable establishment has a large photo commemorating the 1925 opening of Wild Dog Road.
The serious world wonder of the trip, however, was the Twelve Apostles — twelve towering striated rock pillars just offshore from some steep cliffs near Port Campbell. Majestic grandeur results from stark enormity. Veronica noticed a sign about helicopter tours and was eager to take one. But September is still "winter" in Australia, and helicopters evidently only operate during the summery tourist season (December to February).
We made our way back to Melbourne in time for Veronica to catch her plane. I drove onward to near the Victoria/New South Wales border until I was too tired to continue and stayed in a motel. The next day I drove on to Canberra, the capitol of Australia.
Melbourne and Sydney, with 3.2 and 3.8 million people, respectively, account for more than a third of the population of Australia. Add Brisbane, Perth & Adelaide and you've got more than half of Australia's population, although these 3 cities are well under 2 million people each. The competition between Melbourne & Sydney is so fierce that the nation's capitol was "diplomatically" placed between the two cities. Canberra was carefully planned and is very spacious — just over 300,000 people in an area that 5 million might occupy in a European city of comparable size.
The Australian National University is in Canberra. Thomas Donaldson's house is in Canberra because he once taught math at the University. Thomas had invited me to be his guest. I tried looking at his PhD thesis, but found it to be an inscrutable volume of mathematical symbols.
It was Thomas who started cryonics in Australia, many years ago. Thomas is currently somewhat "retired", but he is trying to complete a parallel computing programming project and hopes to sell his program upon completion. Although his brain tumor is supposed to be stable, he did have a seizure (not a convulsion) during a conversation we were having. He suddenly became inarticulate and started slapping his thigh. But it wasn't long before he regained his presence of mind.
We were visited that evening by Geoff Lee, a cryonicist-engineer who works in the heart of the Australian Defense Department. Geoff spent a fair amount of time criticizing the Australian military bureaucracy. He asked me if I would like to visit the "high security" center of the Australian Defense Department — an invitation I declined, to my later regret.
Geoff seemed to think that the high-point of Australian cryonics was when Robert Cardwell was active in the group and conducting training sessions. Geoff hoped that Robert would become active again because he felt that Robert had a lot to teach, and Geoff liked working-with & learning-from Robert. Since Robert lives in Sydney — and since I was headed toward Sydney — I suggested that I call Robert. Goeff punched Robert's number on his cell phone and Robert answered. I told Robert that we had met in Southern California at a cryonics conference. He remembered me. But he said something to the effect that cryonicists are the stupidest & craziest people in the world. He wanted nothing to do with cryonicists — including me — although he said this was "nothing personal". I believe he said that any serious hope for extended lifespans would not come from existing cryonicists.
I think he must have been talking about his frustration with attempting to get Australians to do practical cryonics technical training — although I am speculating. Robert had gotten some training from Hugh Hixon during Robert's visit to the United States, and had expressed respect for Hugh during the California conference. Robert's current work is with computer networks, and he told me he prefers working with "normal" people.
The next day Kath Wolfe, Thomas's wife, returned from the house she has on the coast. She has off-and-on been working on legal issues connected with practicing cryonics in Australia, such as preventing autopsy. She is an enthusiastic gardener and do-it-yourself kind of person. Their backyard is like a small farm. When I complained about the absence of blueberries in Australia — citing the fact that blueberries are the most anti-carcinogenic fruit — she said she would grow some blueberry bushes. She seems to think she has a special vulnerability to cancer, and is very concerned. Thomas's brain tumor, of course, has made cancer an important issue for him as well.
Bob Krueger phoned me from California at Thomas's house in connection with the future of CryoCare, since the Directors had named me President a couple of days earlier. I was in an awkward position to be trying to save CryoCare from Australia. I managed to phone Brian Wowk & Charles Platt on my calling card.
From Canberra I drove to Berrima, which is on the way to Sydney. In Berrima I stayed with John (Joern) Zube, a long-time libertarian associate of mine who gets CANADIAN CRYONICS NEWS and has been putting CCN on microfiche. He has some interest in cryonics & life-extension, but his driving passion is compiling readily accessible encyclopedias of ideas — especially ideas advancing Peace & Freedom. His primary media for doing this has been microfiche, but I think he is reluctantly coming the accept the overwhelming power of the World-Wide Web for archiving & disseminating information.
John seemed to think that there is no good central repository of libertarian links on the web. I know otherwise, but was unable to find it from the browser at his house (its at www.free-market.com). John was enthusiastic about the Global Ideas Bank (www.globalideasbank.org/) as a central registry of ideas. When I examined the Death & Dying section of this site, I found entries on scalp massage for the dying, "dolphin therapy" for a dying child — but nothing about cryonics. The only anti-mortalist entry I could find was a reference to Tipler — immortality through future computerized emulations.
John was good host and he had some good stories about Australian politics — such as his efforts to avoid voting (voting is mandatory in Australia). My time was limited and I had to choose between spending more time with John, sight-seeing in the Blue Mountains or sight-seeing in Sydney. I had gotten the idea that the Blue Mountains are pretty spectacular, so I chose that option.
The Blue Mountains are actually a series of canyons separated by high plateaus just west of Sydney. The blue haze comes from mist of isoprene emitted by eucalyptus trees (photo-oxidation of isoprene results in light-scattering). I drove to Katoomba where I saw Orphan Rock & the Three Sisters (more rocks). I rode on both the world's most steeply inclined railway and the scenic skyway (the only horizontal passenger-carrying rope-way in the Southern Hemisphere). Although interesting, it didn't seem worth the long drive. In retrospect, I would have rather spent the time going for a walk in the woods with John Zube.
In Sydney I met Philip Rhodes, who had visited one of my room parties in Melbourne. Although Philip is somewhat new to cryonics, he has created the Australian cryonics website (prix.pricom.com.au/caa/). He is a former alderman of the city of Sydney. He has biomedical training and has plans to pursue further studies in this area, although he is currently making money doing computer work. His long-range goal is to initiate cryobiological research relevant to cryonics — in an Australian laboratory of his own.
It was evening, but we walked to the Opera House for a close-up sight of Sydney's favorite landmark. Designed to look like a fleet of sailboats beating into the wind, the Opera House is well illuminated and impressive at night. As we walked back into the city, I noticed flocks of bats flying between the skyscrapers over our heads, a feature of Sydney I have not seen elsewhere.
Philip is very concerned about his father, Gerald, and had encouraged me to have an e-mail dialog with Gerald several weeks before I had left Toronto. Since Gerald is an ex-chemist who studied hydrogen bonding, and since I had written such a chemist's-eye view of the 21st Century Medicine Seminars ( www.benbest.com/cryonics/s21cm99.html), Philip was hopeful that I would encourage Gerald to take cryonics more seriously.
Philip, Gerald and I had dinner at a restaurant in a Sydney suburb. Gerald had technical doubts about cryonics, but he didn't seem overly enthusiastic about the objective, either. He was concerned about the danger of living in a future which would be too foreign to him and where he would be "out of place". In this connection, the question of how long he would be frozen was critical. If he were frozen more than 50 years, the culture shock would be excessive.
After the dinner, I drove back toward the Sydney airport to look for an inexpensive hotel/motel. Up to that point I believe I had adapted quite well to driving on the left side of the road — although Philip had nudged the steering wheel a couple of times when he thought I was too close to the left edge of the street. I stopped at a tavern and the bartender gave me directions to an inexpensive motel.
When I turned my car onto the street, I realized I had reflexly gone into the right lane. I quickly went to the extreme right to avoid traffic and stopped in front of a parked car. As luck would have it, it was a police car containing two police officers who may have been waiting for a drunk driver to emerge from the tavern.
I'm sure they were as shocked as I was to see our vehicles nose-to-nose. They turned on their flashing lights and emerged with drawn guns. I showed them my Ontario (Canadian) driver's licence and tried to explain that this was my first mistake in adapting to Australian driving. But I was obviously flustered and they gave me a breathalyzer test. Remarkably, they let me go with a warning to be more careful.
I had trouble finding the inexpensive motel, and when I did find it, I discovered it was fully booked. Worse, however, was the fact that I looked the wrong way when walking across the street and nearly stepped into a car. It came so close it brushed my clothing. I decided that it was too late at night and that I was too exhausted & rattled to spend any more time in Australian traffic. I drove to the Hertz parking lot at the airport and spent the remaining hours of the night sleeping in the back seat of the car.
I awoke not long before 6 am the next morning, walked into the airport and returned my car to Hertz. Their computer system was down, and they had to manually process the paperwork. It was September 10th in Australia, but it would have been September 9th in North America. Could Hertz have been bitten by the 9/9/99 computer bug?
I spent most of September 10th in airports and on airplanes. I flew from Sydney to Melbourne, then from Melbourne to Auckland, New Zealand — and finally to Wellington, where I arrived at 7 pm. I had 50 hours to spend in New Zealand, and I would be spending the time with the country's two cryonicists.
Cam Christie met me at the Wellington airport. Cam has been corresponding with Robert Ettinger for years — possibly by letter before the days of e-mail. Cam said he cannot afford to join any organization but the Cryonics Institute. His sign-up has been slow, but was evidently heading for completion soon.
I could hardly ask for host more determined to show me the sights of the city. Cam immediately drove me to a mountaintop in the centre of Wellington that gave me a spectacular 360° view of the surrounding city. Although "Wonderful, Windy Wellington" is not particularly cold, the high winds and the dampness can drive a chill deep inside.
Cam then drove me to meet his friend Darryl, who seemed somewhat receptive to cryonics ideas. Since 1993 New Zealand has had a proportional representation electoral system in the 120-member parliament, including a pre-determined number of Maori seats (Maori's are 10% of the population). This has opened the possibility of people being elected at-large from small parties. Darryl was running for office for a small right-wing party and Cam was his campaign manager.
Darryl liked to watch Fashion Television with the sound turned-off. So our eyes were glued to the TV screen as we talked. Darryl had a personal interest in his belief that feminism had gone too far — he wanted equal rights for visitation with his daughter, feeling that his ex-wife had an excessive advantage.
When I probed him about cryonics, he gave me a response similar to what I had heard from the late Anatole Dolinoff in France. He said that he had experienced unexplained paranormal phenomena that caused him to believe in a spirit apart from the body. I quickly concluded that although Darryl & Cam are friends, Darryl is unlikely to ever regard cryonics as anything more than something of intellectual interest. Cam, however, remains hopeful that his friend will eventually come-around.
Cam works as a live-in motel manager in Otaki (a suburb of Wellington). September is a slow season, so Cam offered me a complementary room in his motel for the night. After spending the previous night in a backseat and after having been chilled to the bone by the damp Wellington wind, his offer was very welcome.
The next day Cam hired a woman-friend to make-up the rooms and look-after the motel while he drove me around Wellington. This lady is a Jehovah's Witness who, by virtue of knowing Cam, had obtained information from the Jehovah's Witness database on the sinful nature of cryonics (which she had shown to Cam).
Cam gave me a pretty thorough sight-seeing tour, which I will not attempt to describe in detail. Like Costa Rica, New Zealand is a place for volcanos & earthquakes. A Richter shock of 6 or greater occurs at least once per year. A large fault runs right through Wellington, where nearby buildings stand on sharply different ground elevations.
Cam's father's house stands unoccupied within a block of the Indonesian Embassy, where protestors recently inflamed by the crisis in East Timor had defaced the building. Cam's father is a lawyer whose life ambition was to be a judge. Unable to secure such a position in New Zealand, he obtained a post in Hong Kong, where he now lives and sits on the bench.
Since Wellington is the capitol of New Zealand, and since Cam had political ambitions (which have now been crushed by the recent socialist victory) we took a tour of the Parliament building. The building itself sits on an earthquake-resistant foundation which can allow a movement of up to 30 centimetres in a sideways direction. We went through the committee chambers, the library and the central chamber (see it all at www.parliament.govt.nz).
Cam & I also visited Wellington's new mega-museum, the Te Papa. I was particularly fascinated by the Awesome Forces displays (earthquakes, volcanos, tsunamis, etc.). There was a "virtual reality" section which could take you into the deep past or the far future. Since I only had time for one — and to try something different — I opted for the deep past, while Cam decided to do a virtual bungie-jump. (He changed his mind due to health concerns).
When we were at an Oriental restaurant, Cam noticed some background music and interrupted our conversation to comment on the thoughtful lyrics of the singer Jewel. I reflexly dismissed the remark, since I regard myself as ignorant of contemporary music and rarely pay attention to it. But later it occurred to me that "You Were Meant For Me" by Jewel Kilcher is one of the few songs with sensitive lyrics that have moved me in the last few years. In retrospect, I am touched by the inner connnectedness of cryonicists.
We spent our last moments in Wellington looking for an Internet Cafe. We finally stumbled across one and I was able to use www.MailStart.com to pick-up some e-mail.
That evening I flew to Auckland. As luck would have it, the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation) conference was being held that weekend in Auckland, and the city was crammed with political leaders, journalists & hangers-on. Clinton was staying at the Stamford Plaza and Chinese President Jiang Zemin was at the Sheraton. Fortunately, bookings were not too heavy at the Auckland Central Backpackers, where I found accommodation.
The mainstream press made jokes about 2 Clinton women (daughter & mother-in-law) coming along to keep the old boy "on his perch", while fretting the possibility of Auckland being the site of a JFK-style assassination. A newspaper photo showed Clinton doing a hongi (nose-press greeting) with a Maori. The New Zealand version of the NATIONAL ENQUIRER said that a Monica Lewinsky look-alike had been hired to make Clinton "feel at home" in his hotel room. In the streets I saw protestors from Amnesty International and an assortment of other groups.
The next morning I was met in the lobby of Backpackers by Aaron Holroyd, who had driven from Whangarei to spend the day showing me the sights of Auckland. Aaron has the kind of cheerful, intelligent face I might expect from such a dedicated life-extensionist, cryonicist libertarian.
Although the population of New Zealand is less than the population of Sydney, the New Zealand libertarians seem far more numerous, well-organized and thoughtful than the Australians (or Canadians, for that matter). Aaron gave me a copy of their magazine, THE FREE RADICAL, which is incredibly slick and well-written (see www.libertarianz.org.nz).
Although the New Zealand Cryonics Society is little more than Aaron & Cam, Aaron created a website for them ( www.igrin.co.nz/~nzcryosociety/) — and kindly added a link to my website. Aaron is employed by a petroleum company as a computer operator or controller of some kind. His wife is a nurse who does not share his interest in cryonics, but does not interfere. Aaron had an Alcor bumper-sticker on his car, but said he planned to join the Cryonics Institute — to belong to the same organization as Cam.
Aaron and I walked through downtown Auckland and found ourselves near the Sheraton, where Jiang was staying. There was a group of protesting Taiwanese, another group that looked like journalists and a group that looked like plain-clothes police. Aaron was shy about getting too close, but I suggested we try walking into the center of things to get a closer look and see what would happen. Nothing happened and there was nothing much to see.
We drove around the large central park which was completely cordoned-off by the military. The political leaders were meeting in the Museum in the centre of the park. There was no way we were going to get any closer. What surprised me the most was the complete absence of protestors.
Aaron drove me to the harbour and then to a mountain in the centre of Auckland, which was evidently an extinct volcano. It reminded me of Wellington, with the 360° view of the harbour city. Such views are rare in the world, yet both of New Zealand's largest cities have them. The crater was lined with grass and we joined the Oriental tourists in making our way down to the centre of the crater. Then we ran up the steep grassy slope.
As I had done with Cam, I dragged Aaron to the local zoo in the hope of a last-minute sight of "down-under" fauna. But the Auckland Zoo was not much larger than the zoo in Wellington. Both zoos had a Kiwi house that was completely darkened and which purportedly contained a Kiwi — although they must have been hidden in darkest spots. I did learn that wallabies are a small species of kangaroo — a fact that had somehow previously eluded me.
Because of my interest in Y2K I was very interested in the 6-month power failure that had struck Auckland in early 1998. Aaron had little to say about it, however, and he knew of no book on the subject.
At the end of the day, Aaron drove me to the Airport to meet my plane
for Los Angeles — and even accompanied me to the gate. He said he did not
resent the time because visits by cryonicists to New Zealand are such
rare events. And he regarded me as being the world's foremost "cryonics