Wednesday, December 31, 2008

the year that was

Well, it's December 31 and once again I have not been awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year Honours. I have not yet become rich or famous or won a Nobel Prize. The only thing I have done this year that seems significant in any way is contained in a spiral bound booklet of 57 pages. And yet the year doesn't seem like a dead loss.

I have:
1. Recovered from a broken heel. Lesson learnt: firstly, what it is like, in some small way, to be deprived of your mobility, to be stuck inside while everyone else is out in the sun enjoying summer. Secondly, not to jump off floating jetties onto a beach at midnight ever again.

2. Seen two of my good friends get married, and been bridesmaid for one of them. No lesson learnt from this, apparently, as I am still happily single, but it was a pleasure to be around and to be an important part of someone's life as they make such a significant decision.

3. Enjoyed hanging out with my family. Almost all of us were together, back in August - a rare occurrence.
4. Welcomed two new babies to the family - Daniel, who is pictured above, and Miriam, who is my niece and also my god-daughter, and who is not pictured because I am aware of how much her father dislikes his children being displayed for all to see on the internet.
Also gone through, with the family, the experience of dealing with serious illness of a little baby. Daniel underwent heart surgery a few months ago, and came through it well. Hundreds of prayers were sent up at that time, as you may imagine, and then many thanks.

5. Learned to love winter.
6. Made some probably lifelong friends at uni who made 2008 a pleasure.
7. Appreciated this beautiful country a little bit more.

8. Run a spiritual course of up-and-downs which will probably be described in more detail on my other blog in the next few days and which, I think, has probably made me stronger.

9. Had what I think can be described as the best year of my life, when a single year can be picked out. History Honours 2008 was probably the hardest thing I have ever done and also the most rewarding. I did things that I never thought I would be able to do. I am much more confident and also much more aware of my weaknesses.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

the holiday

How was your Christmas?

Mine involved:

1) Driving down to Dunedin, the city where two of my sisters live. Two more of us travelled there, as well as my father. On the way down my brother-in-law and I stopped at Moeraki Boulders and I surreptitiously took this photo which I think is quite sweet:

2) Playing with two very cute additions to the family. My five-month-old nephew below:

And Oscar, the new puppy who lives in the house I was staying in. He's a Jack Frost, a cross between a bichon frise and a Jack Russell. He hasn't quite learnt not to nip people yet, but he's so cute that it's easy to forgive him.

3) Playing with new toys. The niece and nephew pictured below, and their brother, received this trampoline for Christmas, which, as you can see, they are enjoying a lot. In fact, I enjoyed it too.

4) Dressing up warm for the Dunedin "summer". Once again, I completely overestimated Dunedin's weather, and brought with me lots of t-shirts and shorts, and only one pair of jeans and a jersey. But actually it's almost pleasant having to snuggle up warm for Christmas - this coming from someone who has always had summer Christmases.

Friday, December 19, 2008

what are you looking for?

This was in the local newspaper today. It made me happy.

My gift of Christmas cheer to you!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


So, who hasn't heard about George W. Bush and the shoe-throwing incident in Baghdad? Here's an article if not. Does anyone else feel bad for feeling a bit amused? At the same time, I have to say, I found Muntader al-Zaidi's words quite poignant. "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq!"

I don't think those deaths were entirely Bush's fault... but in some strange way it was almost refreshing to see someone responding to them with anger in a way that didn't involve blowing up more people. It was a gesture that was bound to make headlines, and his point couldn't be dismissed as just another crazy evil terrorist taking out his anger on innocent civilians. Sure, it was an insult, but who ever said that Bush was a person beyond insult?

Flicking through channels last night, I watched some of the final episode of The Celebrity Apprentice. (The Apprentice is bad enough, but seriously? The Celebrity Apprentice?! Anyway...) The charity chosen by Piers Morgan, the winner, was called "Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund", whose resources go towards rehabilitating and caring for wounded soldiers returned from Iraq.

Let me be very careful about what I say here, or I will come in for a storm of angry comments, but here it is:

Of course that is a noble cause, and worth doing. It seems to be mentioned quite a lot in US TV as something worthy of support. But I wonder... who is doing this for the Iraqi wounded? Are their widows receiving compensation for inadvertently being in the firing line of US soliders? Are Iraqi limbs being replaced with state-of-the-art artificial limbs? I don't know, because I don't live in the USA, but I wonder how much prime-time reality TV is being devoted to supporting these victims.

Those who defend their country are entitled to their country's support and respect, yes. But what happens to the people caught between a tyrant, al-Qaeda and invading hordes? Whether or not it is for a good cause, the civilians killed, maimed and injured by US soldiers are still victims.

And it is good to see their cause highlighted again in such a striking way. Even as a shoe.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


If you would like a laugh, go and have a look at the comments on my last post, "blast from the past", for an amusing attempt at subtlety.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

blast from the past

I've been going through my things, because I'm moving into a flat soon, and trying to bring myself to chuck out all the stuff I have kept over the years just in case I needed it some day (like my notes from Maths from fourth form - and no, I have never looked at them since fourth form).

One of the things I found were my things from my early primary school years - all those good behaviour certificates and the books of stories I wrote when I was five or six. I'm trying to bring myself to throw out most of the certificates, but no way am I throwing out the stories. Anyway, I thought I'd share some with you. I started school age 5, in 1991.

From Mrs Moore, in 1992.

Yup, I won a medal at our school 'Olympic Games'. I think it was for the sack race, or maybe for egg and spoon race (which was actually a potato and spoon race because eggs break).

From Mrs Strang, in 1994. I remember being so annoyed at this. I had learnt to swim properly over the summer, but then when I came back to school they put me in the junior group for swimming lessons. I had to swim with the five-year-olds. How humiliating.
I was a relative whiz at spelling in my school but no one ever told me. I learned a few years ago that in a parent-teacher interview when I was about eight, Mrs Lowry told my mum that I was doing better in spelling than all the other kids in the school, even the oldest kids (aged eleven). Mum asked her not to tell me that because she thought I would show off about it. Ah, she knew me so well.
This is one of my early forays into the world of art. My skill is evident even then. I present... a postmodern comment on life in the modern world.

And if you can translate this, I will be very grateful. It reads, as far as I can tell, "I like Mum. She is nice. She let me ...... when I saw a [horse? house?]."
Has anyone else got souvenirs from their childhood to share?

Friday, December 05, 2008

my Christmas wish list

I have been tagged by Heidi - well, to be absolutely honest, I tagged myself really, and informed her of it. Using the wonderful polyvore, I have created for myself a Christmas wish list:

- a new cellphone. The keys on my current one are slowly dying. Sometimes I have to take the battery out just to turn it off. A nice new one would be great.
- books, of course. I do have one in particular in mind, called The Fellow-Travellers, by David Caute, but I couldn't find a picture of it for polyvore. It's an incredibly well-written history book that I used heaps this year for my research and I would like to have my own copy of it.
- a pretty dress. Granted, I wouldn't particularly like someone to buy me a dress as a surprise, but maybe this can be my Christmas present to myself.
- a mirror. I will include here the pot plant too. In January I am moving out of home and going flatting for the first time. I have most of the main stuff I need or will get them, but it would be nice to get some of the less necessary homey stuff that make life more pleasant.
- some cool jewellery. Always a pleasure.
- Agatha Christie's Poirot (with David Suchet) DVD boxsets. I have season one, and enjoyed it so much. This is a beautifully filmed TV series with great plots and good acting and I want to get more of the seasons.
- Similarly, Friends DVD boxsets. One of the greatest TV shows of all time (in my opinion) and I want it!
- a camera. I already have a camera but it's a big bulky thing that is annoying to take to certain things, and it would be very useful to have a tiny camera like these Fuji Finepix ones that I could just slip into my pocket.

Hooray! It's ages since I have made myself a Christmas present list. When I was young I would have written one and handed it out a few months before Christmas (and my birthday), charming, unmaterialistic young thing that I was.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

TOO... HOT...

If only I were a ski instructor, I could follow winter around the world...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Hell Pizza

There's this pizza chain in New Zealand called Hell. The whole idea is to be provocative and shocking, thereby attracting their chosen demographic - cool people who like to push boundaries. Marketing campaigns have included dropping flyers in letterboxes with condoms attached, and billboards like the one below:

Obviously, it creates a fuss, and gives them a whole lotta free publicity.

Me - I'm not a fan. Not so much because of my religious beliefs or anything, although if it were only that Hell marketing campaigns would still probably bug me, but I find it so ironic that we are being urged to be rebellious and cool by giving them money.

I have had Hell pizza once at a friend's house, and it was yummy, but I refuse to spend money on them. Give me open capitalism any day. If I'm going to enrich some fat cat capitalist I'd like them to be quite open about it, thank you very much, and not act as if they're doing me a favour. But at the end of the day I don't really give a toss about Hell pizzas and I certainly wouldn't bother spending time arguing that they're wicked or something...

Until today. I saw this billboard in the newspaper:

Seriously?! They are seriously trying to sell pizza by using Adolf Hitler as a marketing ploy? Give me a break. Some things just should not be used for motives of profit.

Hell Pizza are not evil. They're simply idiots.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

filling the nights

I am currently working nights - 11pm to 4am - and so I sleep from about 5am to 1pm every day, even when I'm not working, so that I don't exhaust myself completely. (It is currently 4:57 am in New Zealand.) This leaves a lot of space to be filled between around 9pm and 5am, hence, a lot of DVDs are being watched, and I have been compiling some utterly useless lists regarding male actors:

The actors that are not bad looking, even smoking hot, but undateable in real life simply because they have played some pretty convincing villains in their time

Cillian Murphy. After his creepy performance in Batman Begins (and I am sure he makes a wonderful villain in many other movies), he's just too villainous.

Andy Garcia. It's that mob look he's got going. Sizzling eyes but in a villainous sort of way.

Mads Mikkelson, of Casino Royale. This picture says a thousand words.
Mark Dymond, who played Captain Frederick Tilney in a recent version of Northanger Abbey. This photo doesn't quite capture the twisted smirk this actor pulled off when playing his womanising character. Actually, it's so convincing that even though he's drop dead gorgeous and plausibly successful with women in the movie that he becomes completely undateable.

David Anders, who played villain Julian Sark in the TV series Alias. (Isn't Sark a fantastic name for a villain?)

The actors who are just too beautiful to be dateable

Daniel Brühl, of movies like Goodbye Lenin, Ladies in Lavender, or Joyeux Noël. Good actor - too pretty.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers, of Bend it Like Beckham and the recent The Tudors TV series. I mean, seriously. Look at that photo. Is that ridiculous or is that ridiculous?

Jesse Metcalfe, of Desperate Housewives. Cute, but a little too perfectly so. This goes for a whole genre of Jesse Metcalfe-type actors.
Henry Cavill, of The Count of Monte Cristo, I Capture the Castle, et cetera. What an amazing bone structure, eyes, wistful look, everything - unfortunately, he would be a great statue, but doesn't seem dateable.

The actors that are just about right (and sometimes I can't explain why
James McAvoy. In a weird British way. It seems like everyone is drooling over him these days and it just seems so irrational because he looks nothing like a sex symbol should. He's got Something.
Humphrey Bogart. There are other classic film actors like Cary Grant or Christopher Plummer who make much more sense to have a crush on (and don't get me wrong, I think they're rather attractive) but Bogart, like James McAvoy, just has that Something that leaps off the screen at you and makes absolutely no sense.
Alan Rickman. Now, I don't understand the girls who have a crush on Snape. But Alan Rickman in every other role oozes Something.
Toby Stephens. I've always thought he was pretty great but his recent role as Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre blew me away. I'm not saying it was a perfect adaptation of the book, but on the screen Toby Stephens captured something of the attractiveness yet physical unattractiveness of Rochester that is so tangible in the book. He's a bit prettier than a Rochester really should be, but after a while I started believing him, that he was ugly, even though at the very same time I was falling in lurve.
Finally, and obviously, and probably uncontroversially - Daniel Craig. PHWOAR. Phwoar, phwoar, phwoar. Words are obviously failing me. What is it about him? Can anyone enlighten me? Before I saw Casino Royale, I was surprised that he was chosen as Bond because his face is almost ugly. Then I saw the movie, and all confusion dissolved. It is the only movie I have seen in years in which my jaw was literally dropping at how yummy he is. I am going to see Quantum of Solace tomorrow night and I can't wait!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I am a sucker for food. I have, in the past, decided many times to go on many different diets, which have not lasted longer than 24 hours - at the most. Most people have more stamina than that but food is just too good. At the moment I am trying to avoid eating too many carbs but it's not a diet as such, just a guideline that is broken without guilt.

I could never be an athlete of any skill because of my disastrous love for food, but it's not because I don't have the discipline. It's because I love food, and I hate the idea of food as fuel and nothing more. There is something very distasteful about loading up religiously with carbohydrates or protein or isotonics or whatever it is that sportspeople are supposed to eat. Eating the same thing every day, or at least the same type of thing, would be ghastly.

Food should be a celebration. Why should food be any less dignified a celebration of life than great art, literature, or music? We are not animals; we don't eat simply what our instincts tell us to eat; we can be creative and adventurous in our food choices. This doesn't mean we are eating irresponsibly, it means we are gleaning maximum enjoyment out of daily routine.

I remember, when my mother was dying, feeling incredibly sorry for her when her diet was restricted. Of course I hated what was happening but that was one of the major things that stood out for me. Mum's digestive functions were breaking down, and if she ate anything that wasn't processed and easily digestible, it could have hastened her death dramatically. So all she could eat were thin soup-like mixtures.

I'm sure it's horrible to die however it is that it happens, but it seemed so tragic to me to know that you were dying, and not be able to eat whatever you wanted. Like being on Death Row and being denied your final meal.

Anyway - for a long time my favourite foods have not been the most healthy choices, but for the first time in my life I find myself picking out healthy food over less healthy food. For a very long time, salad was only nice as a side dish, or if it had meat in it. Now I love it! Instead of going for the guilty pleasures of fish and chips when I get fast food, nothing can beat sushi or Subway now. Instead of eating junk food as snacks, I'm going for fruit - maybe because the season is bringing us nectarines, kiwifruit, peaches, strawberries, and soon apricots, feijoas, plums, and other berries. MMmm! Nothing can beat them. It feels good.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


I have been browsing through widgets available online (witness the right hand side of this webpage, and the very bottom) and I found a few which amused me or which were in some way tempting:

The ultimate web translator with flags
This attractive little translator which I did not decide to use claims to be the ultimate in translation, with 30+ languages, including, amazingly, English, American, Canadian, and Australian! Where's New Zealandese? I want New Zealandese!

The Love Clock
How nice: "the eternal theme of Him and Her comes to life with Love Clock". I'm not exactly sure what that means, but you get to have an elegant timepiece on your webpage which is embraced by a man and a woman with blue hair.

The Grammar Girl Quiz
This is actually kind of cool - a quick quiz on grammar you can offer blog readers. It's a promotional for a book that has just come out so I didn't really want to offer free advertising, but otherwise it's right up my alley.

Liquid Clock
"Every second of our life is precious. The sixty seconds form a very precious minute. The sixty minutes form even more preciuos hour. The 24 hours form the invaluable day. Let's try to remember that preciousness and let our days be unique and happy!"
Well, I'm not sure that by putting this clock on my blog I'm going to achieve that.

Decorate Your Christmas Tree
Since my father is The Grinch and will not get a Christmas tree this year, this could be just what I wanted! A Christmas tree, with a Christmas countdown, and decorations for you, my blog readers, to embellish it. Yeah - it's a little corny - but I gave in and now my blog is seasonally decorated. See the very bottom of the page to help decorate.

Reverse Clock
"We used to believe that no one could turn time back. Now it's possible with Reverse Clock. Its hands move backwards but show exact time!"
My my, how extremely useful!

High There!
This handy little widget means that whenever I blog about weed, I can be featured on some stupid website. I can see this coming in handy.

It's hit the fan
A game of skill - guess what you throw at a fan!!

Amazon Wishlist
"With this widget, not only will people buy you things, but you can get paid when they do!"
Whoopee! I bet you all can't wait to begin!

ABAJournal Daily News
"Up to the minute stories" from the official legal news source of the American Bar Association. Snore.

The 4 Candles
Love, peace, faith and hope. Beautifully displayed in eternal candle form on your blog, for all the internet to see.

Tricks of the Trade
Rules to live by, callgirl style. Classy.

Well, I think that's enough. There are many more to find, however, on!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Several things that are too small for one post:

1. I am the proud owner of this t-shirt from cafépress!
Thank you, Stacy, for alerting me to that wonderful website.

2. Recently I have been reading the dictionary. I am nerdy, yes, but this is such a cool dictionary! I invested in a dictionary which is about the size of one of those big old family Bibles. Besides thousands of words, it has word history, editorial notes by experts (eg Richard Dawkins on evolution), usage notes, et cetera. These are some of my favourite words so far:

dybbuk (n.) /'dibek/ In Jewish folklore, an evil spirit that inhabits the body of a living person.

finagle (v.) /fi'naygl/ 1. to manage to obtain something using trickery or persistence. 2. to trick somebody into doing what one wants.

zeugma (n.) /'zyoohgma/ The use of a word to modify or govern two or more words, used in such a manner that it applies to each in a different sense. e.g. She opened the door and her heart to him.

3. I have been enjoying a blog called Pilgrim's Progress. This is the product of a family of two parents, eight kids and a grandad from New Zealand who are travelling the world on a budget for a year - they started in October 2008 and will be back in September 2009. Destinations are, broadly, South East Asia, Mongolia, the UK, Europe... with other places as possibilities to tack onto the end of it. They were recently in Penang, Malaysia, where they hung out for a day with my brother and his family, who passed on the URL to me. Read this blog if you like being amazed and envious.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I am disillusioned with New Zealand politics

After the result of the US elections yesterday, the upcoming New Zealand election on Saturday just seems so unexciting.

As a columnist in the local newspaper, Rosemary McLeod, wrote in The Press today:

"I'll be voting without passion on Saturday. ... What would it take to make me think highly of politics? Some real idealism would be a start. I'd like to hear from politicians who looked to principle before pragmatism; who believed in something they could put a name to other than self interest, power for power's sake, waffly generalities that could mean anything, demonising other sections of society, or scaremongering. ... they wouldn't focus on punishing vile wrongdoers at the expense of elevating the unfortunate. They wouldn't talk about family as if they had a monopoly on the subject, or as if family could only mean one thing, or indulge in doom-saying and breast-beating about the state of the planet as if it was dead already. They'd believe so strongly in equality of opportunity and access to help for everyone that they'd make it happen. Idealism is great. ...
We are a weird little country, and getting weirder. Our politics are not uplifting. We know everyone, the bullies and the swots, the prefects and the ratbags who smoke dak in the toilets. And this time next week there'll be a bunch of new entrants. Maybe there'll be a future leader among them. Maybe the country will become a better place for their arrival. Maybe a lot of things, but mostly, I reckon, maybe not."

Having just come home from the central city, where I came across several parties doing their thing in Cathedral Square, including John Key, leader of the National Party, leader of the Opposition, who is probably going to become Prime Minister on Saturday - I CONCUR.

Labour Party supporters, wearing red t-shirts, trying to shout down the National supporters. They soon become very, very tiresome. I say to one of them - "you know, I hate National too, but you're actually making me hate National less." She looks a bit embarrassed and promises they won't shout when John Key speaks - a promise that is not kept.

John Key arrives, an hour late. He walks straight to the media, and starts shouting into the microphone about how America has voted in change, and New Zealand will vote for change too on Saturday. It's rather ironic considering Key has much more in common with McCain than Obama. He insults Labour, thanks his supporters - a crowd of business suits - and then it's all over.
Uh-uh, John. I didn't wait in the rain for an hour to hear you tell me you are going to win and that's all there is to it. I wanted to be persuaded, to be convinced, and you didn't deliver.

The two major parties of New Zealand are disappointing. I will vote on Saturday, but as Rosemary McLeod wrote, I'm not voting with any enthusiasm. I will be disappointed if the wrong people win, but I won't feel like it's the end of the world.

Surprisingly, as I stand listening to the Green Party - the party of environmental concern, legalisation of marijuana, and social engineering of whom I am usually very suspicious - I am nothing but impressed. Their leaders are there, available. They point out errors in the political practice of other parties, but without malice. They hand the microphone around the crowd, and answer any questions that are put to them, respectfully and sensibly. Above all, they are dignified, idealistic, articulate and passionate. Although I don't agree with everything they stand for, they have made me wonder if perhaps I would rather have people in power, or influencing power in a coalition government, who care more passionately about the future and people of this country than in scoring points off the other parties.

Well, I don't know. I'll be thinking a lot about it over the next two days. Who knows? I may completely shock myself and vote Green.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


It was only two nights - but I escaped the city! I'm back now from holiday and am about to describe it. My friend J. and I left Christchurch early-ish on Thursday morning and drove to Tekapo, where we were staying in this little cabin on the lakefront:

Lake Tekapo is home to the tiny and beautiful Church of the Good Shepherd. The lake was formed by a glacier so is a beautiful, almost turquoise colour, with mountains framing it.
The weather was good on Thursday, so we took the opportunity to go to Mount Cook National Park, leaving Tekapo almost as soon as we arrived. Mount Cook, the highest mountain in the southern hemisphere, is about an hour and a half's drive from Tekapo, and is best seen when not covered in cloud, so if possible, good weather is a big plus when visiting. On the way to Mount Cook you drive past and around Lake Pukaki, another glacier lake with even a more brilliant blue than Tekapo, and surrounded by bigger mountains and forests. This photo was taken on the day we drove to Mount Cook:
And this was taken the next day, when we drove past the lake again on our way to somewhere else. It seemed like every time we saw the lake it had changed colour slightly.
Although the weather was amazing for most of the drive, Mount Cook National Park was a bit more blustery. We went up the Hooker Valley track anyway. I love this country; it's rocky and big and dramatic. This is me at one point on it:
The swingbridge! This is always fun but I promise it is even more of an experience when the wind is strong and gusty. It hangs maybe 33 feet above the Mueller glacier river, which was crashing away below as we crossed:
Unfortunately we didn't get quite as far up the Hooker Valley as I would have liked, partly because of the worsening weather, so we didn't quite get around the corner that gives you a sudden view of Mt Cook - but it was enough to be there in the mountains in the fresh air with absolutely no control over your hairstyle.
Driving between different spots we stopped often and took lots of photos. This is the entrance to the Irishman Creek sheep station which may give Stacy a sense of déjà vu - a photo I took of this hut years ago was one of our Halfway Down the Stairs covers:
I also loved these fields... although not so much the reminder that the election is coming!
On Friday we visited the Clay Cliffs, near Omarama. The nice thing about this: it's on private property, accessed by a gravel road, so it's not quite so popular a destination as the Church of the Good Shepherd and other spots in the Mackenzie Country, and you're not always competing with busloads of tourists for photos (for, as we all know, I have a right to be taking photos but no one else does!). They're rather different from the standard diet of lakes and mountains when travelling in this area and it feels a little like you're walking into a mini-canyon:

On our way back from the Clay Cliffs, we took a turn-off to Lake Ohau. This is another spot that isn't quite so busy, tourist-wise, and I can't quite understand why, because it's beautiful. Maybe it's partly that we weren't expecting something quite so stunning, but we ended up sitting on the beach at Ohau for about an hour, enjoying the wind, the waves, the mountains. I realise that some of these lakes don't look all that different in the photos but this certainly felt different:

So those are the different places we visited. We also did a fair bit of reading or just relaxing on the Tekapo lakefront. One of the cool things about the place we stayed is the incredibly friendly wildlife. There were several families of bunnies that hung out fearlessly by our cabin, and some very fat and well-fed sparrows that would hop almost right up to you in the hope of food. We ate out... the first night at Pepe's, one of my favourite pizza/pasta restaurants, and the second at a Japanese restaurant, where I had delicious local salmon (there are salmon farms in the canals around this area). On Saturday we left pretty early, because I started my new summer job in the evening, and there was really nothing we wanted to do that would fit in before we had to leave. But I could happily and easily have spent a week there. I've started having fantasies about going and living in a tiny country house overlooking a lake with a big window and a desk, and just sitting there and writing books. Of course, in this dreamworld there's no such thing as money!