I went and sessioned Mt Vic at lunchtime. It's a lovely day, warm and with just a bit of wind, and damn it was good to be riding around the place. Lovely trails and a good hard climb/descent: I'm a happy guy.
The summer weather has really kicked in. It's been comfortably hot, shading into uncomfortable, and surprisingly humid. Basically, we've been getting Auckland weather. The garden is going into overdrive, riding up the hill is getting a bit harder, and short-sleeved shirts are the order of the day at work. It makes me wonder what February's going to be like. Tuesday morning was particularly lovely. No clouds, not a breath of wind, just blue skies and warm temperatures riding in. Then at lunchtime that minor hurricane hit - well, it was downgraded from a hurricane, so it was really only a bad storm, but 130kph+ winds meant that I sure as hell didn't bike home. Funny thing, weather.
We took advantage of the lovely weather and went up to the bach for anniversary weekend. A good time was merrily had. Saturday, we took the girls down to the beach and had a bit of a swim. Rebecca enjoyed walking across the river at low tide, as it didn't get higher than her thighs at any point. Maggie enjoyed sitting on the wet sand, but didn't get particularly close to the water.
Sunday, as is our family tradition, we went to the Horowhenua AP&I show in Levin. This year Rebecca got a lot more out of it. She'd been primed by seeing a depiction of a county fair in Charlotte's Web, plus her own memories of what it was like last year, so she was very firm that she wanted to go on various rides. It was great. We had Maggie in the backpack, and she coped admirably (though with a regrettable tendency to remove her hat frequently). Maggie made a number of cute cooing noises while we took Rebecca around looking at small, cute animals, puppies, eels, kittens, alpacas, a large variety of dairy cattle and a quick squizz at the funfair. Then we sat down, had lunch, and watched the BJ Bear variety show. We'd previously seen BJ Bear at the 2006 ACC Christmas Party, and had come away with the impression that there wasn't much in it for the adults but it was crack cocaine for the preschoolers. Rebecca proved this assessment correct: she loved it and a half. You wouldn't think that a grown man dressed as a teddy bear could so easily command the attention of a hundred screaming children, but by gum he did the business. At the end of his act, BJ Bear made a very rapid exit, probably due to having spent 45 minutes dancing around in blazing midday sunshine on the hottest day of the year, while wearing a furry bear costume. Unfortunately the speed of his exit meant that Rebecca's attempt to rush up and get a hug was in vain: cue one small child in paroxysms of tears. To get her over this, we stayed for the next kids' show. This involved a performer (who - although wearing a polo shirt rather than a big furry suit, had a suspiciously familiar voice and the initials BJ) getting various kids and parents to perform the birdie dance. So far, so groovy.
Then Rebecca got to make her stage debut, as the emcee got three kids up on stage to sing Old MacDonald. For "support" and "to make sure the kids don't all think of the same animal", he got their parents up on stage too. So I'm standing up on stage with Rebecca, who was completely unphased by the whole thing - no stage fright, no nervousness, waving happily to her mum. She was the smallest on stage - the other kids looked to be about six and eight years old - but she wasn't worried. This turned out to be an advantage. She decided that she was going to sing "Old Macdonald had a horse". The other children had slightly more ambitious ideas - cow and llama. This was a bit twitchy when the emcee revealed that while the children sung the song, the parents would enact the animals. Cue two mortified-looking mothers and me thinking "Ha, my hair's just the right length to toss a mane". The cow wasn't too bad, but they had to appeal to the audience to find out what kind of noise a llama made. When our turn to sing came, the emcee made the assumption that Rebecca was so small that she'd need help singing. This was very much not the case, with my wee star belting out a full-volume rendition of the main verse right into the mic. Then I had to act like a horse onstage in front of a medium-sized crowd. Those of you who know me well will be able to anticipate the degree to which I gave it my all. I flatter myself that I did a particularly good job at whinnying and bucking. Heather did video it, but the video quality suffers at the end when she fell over backward laughing. Afterwards, I had awe-stricken members of the crowd congratulating me on the verisimilitude of my impersonation. And Rebecca won $20 worth of tickets to the funfair and a fizzy drink, so it was a result all around. Just remember, when she's an internationally famous performer, it all started onstage at the 2008 Horowhenua AP&I show.
After that, we took Rebecca around the funfair, watched the shearing contest for a bit, had a look at some pigs, and took two very tired small people home for a kip. A great day was had by all.
Excellent article in the Guardian about flood-proof architecture. I'm getting quite interested in unusual building techniques, and this sort of thing looks fascinating. The architectural challenge of how to build something that can cope with regular flooding - in a manner other than the traditional one employed by my auntie's old house, a converted mill in Llawhaden in Wales, of having stone walls and a tiled floor (no flood protection, but it's easy to clean up afterwards) - leads to some particularly interesting solutions, especially employed by the Dutch. As the article points out, given that a lot of development in the UK is now going to take place on flood plains, you'd think that this sort of thing would be attracting more attention over there. I rather like the idea of a house that can ebb and flow somewhat.
Maggie is near-as-damnit crawling now. She's not doing the traditional "body held off floor high speed crawl" yet, but she's managing a good amount of directed locomotion via a combination of commando-style crawling, shuffling, and occasionally rolling. It won't be long before she's shinning up trees like her sister. She is also extremely happy and extremely hungry, merrily noshing through vast amounts of solid food at the least opportunity. This despite still not having any teeth. About the only thing we've tried her on that didn't work too well was steak, and she made a reasonable fist of gnawing that into oblivion.
Anyone else notice that whenever the news talked about this year's Big Day Out, they mentioned that Rage Against the Machine are headlining? And then they always played the intro to Killing in the Name? I'm thinking, man, that song came out when I was starting university in 1993, about 15 years ago now. Surely a band so successful must have produced at least one other reasonably well-known tune in the intervening time? Even despite the whole 10-year breakup thing? I mean, three albums, they didn't do anything else that anyone knows?
After a while, you get to know some familiar faces from the commute. You get to recognise the faces of people who ride the opposite way to you, and to recognise the rear view of people who ride the same way as you. Recently, I found out that one of the people who I often see riding along near Kaiwharawhara is engaged. How did I find this out?
If you said "you were stopped at a light, got chatting, and he told you" then you've got the right impression about how social an activity cycling is, but you're failing to take context into account. This is New Zealand. This is Wellington.
So I actually found out about the impending marriage because when we had our wills made recently, our solicitor, who is the mother of one of our old friends, asked if we'd heard that another friend from school is getting married. No, this isn't the person I see. It's her partner who I see riding, and I recognise him because he's the ex-student of the husband of one of Heather's friends from a mother's group, and I've met them at a couple of barbecues. It's actually slightly more complicated than that, but you get the idea.
Everything in New Zealand works like this. You'd be surprised how efficient it is.
I currently have a migraine. My head feels like it's going to explode. This is the less fun side of things.
I'm a bit of a hippy. You may have noticed. I'm currently getting more and more interested in alternative construction methods. Rammed earth, straw bale, earth sheltered housing, sort of thing. I'm particularly interested in earth sheltering - primarily from a thermal mass point of view, partially because I like the idea of having to mow the roof, and partially because I read The Hobbit when I was very young and it made a big impression on me. I'm also extremely interested in natural grey/black water recycling systems (grey water being everything except the toilet, black water... you figure it out). Particularly the old water purification by directing the water flow through beds of vegetation (reed bed systems, etc) - Wellingtonians should be familiar with this via the water system in Waitangi Park, which directs the Waitangi Stream through a series of reed beds to purify it prior to releasing it into the harbour. So I was quite interested to read a fluff piece on Stuff about an earthship-style house being built in Ngaruawahia. The piece has dropped off Stuff's archives, but as with many of these things the owner has an official website of the Ngaruawahia earthship.
Earthships are fairly extreme. Built primarily from recycled materials, designed to live off-grid (it's amusing watching them tout how you can live off the water supply - this is pretty standard for most parts of rural NZ), they are a cross between a residence and a statement of purpose. The ideal is to have a self-sufficient home that has the smallest ecological impact possible. The self-sufficiency extends to production of food within the home (i.e. growing as many veges as you can, using the house as a semi-greenhouse as well. Most of this I'm not terribly bothered about - going off-grid for water and power I don't particularly care about one way or the other. But I'm very attracted by the thermal properties, the idea of living semi-underground (provided that adequate lighting is available - suntubes, ho!), and the general "small footprint" idea. The fairly quirky, unique construction aesthetic also appeals to me. So buying a large chunk of land with a north-facing elevation and putting one of these things up is definitely appealing for the long-range plans. The problem is, these things were originally designed for the high New Mexico desert. We can confidently expect significantly different environmental properties in New Zealand. A load more rainfall, for one. But they're being built all over the show - there's a few in Brighton, for instance - and it's very interesting to see this sort of thing being done in New Zealand. It's nice to see someone else whacking up a local proof of concept. So you never know - in ten years or so, we might try and pick up a few acres somewhere (Wairarapa, Kapiti, Nelson areas) and see what we can do. I'd love to build one of these babies.
I do have to admit that I found an ad for a large chunk of bush for sale on Takarau Gorge Road, and I was thinking to myself "Tempting...". Now I have a new urge to resist: purchase of chunks of bush land.
For basic professional and legal reasons, I don't blog about work. So I've avoided commenting on the Affco/ACC stoush; I have an opinion about it, but I don't trumpet it. So it was quite refreshing to read a factual, well-written account of the controversy, which mentions a few of the important facts about the case that haven't been particularly widely reported (notably, the fact that Affco originally accepted the claim and then backed out when they realised how much it would cost). As far as I can tell, the article itself isn't online, but Public Address has a good summary by Russell Brown. It's worth reading, particularly if you've been wondering exactly how someone being shot in a carpark is a work-related accident.
I genuinely think that ACC is a very worthwhile thing, and a real point of difference for New Zealand. It's not perfect, but it's a damn sight better than the tort-based systems prevalent in most countries, or trying to negotiate with entirely profit-driven insurance companies. As a result of our ACC system, anyone who suffers injury from an accident in New Zealand - no matter what caused the injury or how culpable anyone was - should get all the care they need. Since it's a universal and no-fault system, we avoid the legal wrangles that affect other countries, and the cost is actually relatively quite low (we come in significantly under costs for similar schemes in parts of Australia, for instance). As I say, it's not perfect, but this is a case where the grass is greener on this side of the fence. I think ACC is a great thing for New Zealand, and I'm proud to work for it.
So happy new year to all. If you're in the UK and you've just received a text message from me wishing you a happy new year, it's because I sent it at ten past midnight on New Year's day (er... New Year's Morning?) local NZ time, which then arrived sometime on January 3rd. So much for my brilliant idea of sending the texts to arrive at what would be 11am UK time on New Year's Eve, then. Anyway, happy new year to all.
2008 should be a good one, I reckon. It's a lucky number.
I don't so much have New Year's Resolutions as a set of goals. The main ones are to spruce up the design of this web site, notch up 3500k on the bike, beat my time at Taupo, and not traumatise the kids too much. With a bit of luck and a following wind I should be able to knock those off.
One feature of our trips to Auckland is that I tend to relapse into guerilla propagation mode. That is, I get so excited at all the interesting plants around, I tend to take surreptitious cuttings. Or, occasionally, dig up clumps of bamboo. This recent visit was pretty good for that - cuttings from two varieties of bamboo, some bougainvillea, and half a cubic metre of ponga logs courtesy of Jim and Jo. For some reason, I seem to only ever take cuttings when we're in Auckland, rather than just wandering around the neighbourhood. Funny one.
Annoyingly, the branch of Cycle Science on Featherston St seems to be closing. Pity - it's great having a bike shop on this end of town (saves me a 15 minute walk to buy a spare tube at lunch). If we're lucky it'll just be relocating - if we're not, it's off. Fingers crossed.
Cycling is the enemy of the casual dress day. If you have the sort of cycle commute long enough to justify a change of clothes at the end, you tend to keep a set of those clothes at work. Think about it: dress trousers don't need to be laundered that often, and they're generally dry-clean only. Many dry-cleaners have branches in the CBD for precisely this reason. Underwear is easy to schlepp, and you can just bring in a backpack full of ironed shirts once a week (I hang mine behind my desk). Shoes live in my filing cabinet. So day to day I just bring in underwear and the occasional shirt. Except on casual Friday, when I have to carry in casual trousers, shirt, etc. Quite frankly, it's a pain to do. Which is why I tend to be a bit dressier on casual Fridays than one might expect: it's because I can't be arsed lugging my funky kit around. And work won't let me wear shorts, the buggers.
It's a bit odd at work this week. I am, quite literally, the only person in this office. Well, there's a couple of other people who are around occasionally, but 80% of the time it's just me. It's faintly eerie being entirely by myself in a large, echoing office space. It's like one of those movies where someone is the last person in the world and spends a bit of time wandering around going mad until they get attacked by zombies. Except with fewer zombies and more business process analysis.
quality words since last century
it's deliberately lo-fi
And she doesn't have an email address.
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