Archive for the ‘Chatter’ Category

When Two Tribes Go To War

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2006

The beginning of a new month is a time when we analyse weather data for the past month and compare it with the same month in previous years.

This year, April featured flash floods in Dunedin, Auckland, Coromandel and Waikato so one would expect the media to wonder whether this was unusual for autumn rather than follow the nicely laid trail of media releases that followed the climate change debate. Once on the trail, it was easy for National Radio’s “Morning Report” to be led back into the global warming camp and feature interviews with protaganists in the climate change debate.

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Wellington’s Maritime Museum

Saturday, April 22nd, 2006

Playing tour guide to visitors to our fair city allows me to indulge in one of my many passions – lurking about in museums.

Whilst its name may be a mouthful, the Museum of Wellington City and Sea provides three levels of displays that can only be described as an “eyeful”. Located in the former Bond Store on Jervois Quay the museum performs a dual role – a centre for Wellington city’s history and a repository of its maritime history.

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The Lord of the Rings Exhibition

Friday, April 21st, 2006

The Lord of the Rings Exhibition has returned to Te Papa after its world tour. Its return evokes memories of “Wellywood” days when film crews and camera trucks were a common sight on the streets of Wellington while the trilogy of films was being produced.

If you saw the exhibition of movie memorabilia when it first appeared, then its probably worth shelling out the shekels to see it again, as over half of the exhibits are new.

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A Governmental Delight

Wednesday, April 19th, 2006

Privacy issues have been in the news recently, with publication of a survey about New Zealanders’ privacy concerns and discussion of RF tagging.

So, I popped in to the website of the Privacy Commissioner to see what the commission had to say about all this. I was stunned…

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Pub Grub

Friday, April 14th, 2006

No, no, no. This is not an item about an old work-mate who liked to have a few beers at the pub before scuttling around the floor biting sheilas’ ankles and eating ashtrays! Those days are no more.

Begone booze barn with your raucous patrons, capacious carparks and cacophonous bands. Welcome to the local pub – a place of conviviality. Somewhere to have a meal, a chat and a refreshing ale before sauntering home.

The Roundabout Pub in Tawa is one of those small local pubs that have been popping up in recent years. It’s been a long time in the making, but is slowly evolving as a meeting-place for Tawa locals.

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Good News on Local Radio

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

Fed up with endless raking over the scraps of scandal thrown us by the politicians in the hope that we will overlook the fact that they’re not doing much?

If so, then tune into local radio to find out about the good things that are happening in the world. Astronauts holding radio interviews with school students. What’s happening on the sun. A potted history of the LP, CD and audio cassette. New techniques in earthquake forecasting. Much more

WorldFM broadcasts a number of music and documentary programmes and their schedule is available at the weblink on this site.

On “This Week in Amateur Radio” there was much of interest to the ordinarily inquisitive person as well as snippets to keep a DXer or radio ham tuned.

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The Pitter-patter of Tiny Li’l Feet

Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

This summer has seen the usual invasions of spiders and stick insects as well as wetas; but the weta invaders have been fewer in number than previous years.

The spiders are generally the jumping kind, and easily detected as they twitch to watch you as you walk into the room – the slight movement gives them away instantly. Removal needs to be quick because, if they decide to scarper, they can engage those eight legs in a very effective manner.

In years past I used to scoop them up and take them outside by hand. But on the last occasion, I paused to look more closely, and noticed how large their fangs are. “Oooh, errr,” I thought. “I might get a nasty nip if he decides that this trip isn’t to his liking.” Nowadays, they are swept up by a rolling motion of one of those fluffy dusters and carried outside to the garden. Painless for them, and lower stress for me.

The stick insects have been most co-operative this year. Usually they take their time in climbing onto a proffered piece of cardboard or greenery for their trip back outside. There have been fewer adults and more babies invading the house this year; a good sign, I hope, that they are breeding well. The youngsters seem quite happy to climb onto the sprig of greenery, possibly because they have quickly discovered that it is actually drier inside the house than out. However, they seem to enjoy the ride so much that they don’t want to get off at their destination. Perhaps, like the young humans of today, their expectations have risen; and they actually expect a trip to Fiji or somewhere exotic to be their due instead of a quick return to the same boring old garden.

The house was invaded by a hundred footer this morning. The appearance of a centipede near the kitchen door was a first. It was just a baby, so I’m wondering where mum is lurking – hopefully not in the nearby pantry gobbling up goodies with the rest of her brood.

Young Centy, as I named him (or her?) was most co-operative but rather fast moving when it came to the removal routine. At first he was reluctant to climb onto a sheet of cardboard, but soon realised that there was little alternative. Once aboard, the command “By the left, quick march!” was issued and like a platoon of soldiers he was off with his fifty left feet. Within a few seconds he’d managed to sinuously cover half of the cardboard and it looked like the trip might end in disaster. They don’t have sticky feet so I had anticipated that, like pre-Columbus humans, he would soon find the edge of his world and sail off the edge.

Fortunately, Centy seems to have had proper military training and executed a very deft U-turn about three-quarters of the way across the sheet and started heading back from whence he came. This gave just enough time to get him to the safety of the lawn where he stomped off the edge of the sheet without flinching.

Ah. The delights of the leafy section. If only the fauna would stay amongst the flora and refrain from coming indoora.

Don’t Supersize Me

Tuesday, February 14th, 2006

Fear not. This is not another tirade against a certain multinational plagued by customers who don’t know that coffee is hot and a varied diet is required to be healthy. It is, however, a gripe about sandwich and coffee bar operators who inflict change upon their customers for illogical reasons or pure humbug.

I like variety in my food, and a nice savoury sandwich in bouncy fresh bread is one of my regular choices when out and about.

Perhaps a simple ham and lightly curried egg sammie, hoping that the sandwich maker has gone to the effort of adding some chopped chives or parsley to the mashed egg to give it piquancy. Crispy bacon and avocado is another favourite. So are roast beef and onion, beef and horseradish, ham and asparagus, sliced lamb and mint sauce, sliced chicken with tomato and lettuce and mayonnaise … the list goes on. Then, of course there are the old-time favourites asparagus rolls and chicken and mayonnaise rolls – small affairs with the filling wrapped in a single slice of fresh bread with the crusts cut off.

Soon to be extinct, it would seem, are club sandwiches – small finger or triangular sandwiches made up of three slices of white and brown bread with double fillings such as beef and wholeseed mustard with sliced tomato, ham and peppered tomato with a savoury cheese, ham with asparagus, roast pork with lettuce and cucumber and, of course, ham and tomato with curried egg.

Not only are these dainties slowly disappearing, but so is the choice of having one of those, a club and one of those with a dish of hot coffee while jaw-boning with friends.

Over the last few years, sandwich and coffee bars have started packaging their sandwiches in pairs in those hideous triangular packs of rigid plastic. I’ll give some of them the benefit of the doubt, by suspecting that some may have done so for hygiene reasons in situations where some customers were uplifting sandwiches with their hands from self-serve cabinets.

But in doing so, the food outlet has limited my choice – no longer can I have three different sandwiches for lunch, I have to have two or four, and limit myself to one or two flavours.

Nonsensically, I have seen these hideous packs used in coffee bars where the sandwiches are kept in chilled glass cabinets from which they are dispensed by staff. As soon as I see this, I immediately suspect that the motive is supersizing – selling more and increasing income.

I’ve also noticed the twin packs appearing in self-serve sandwich cabinets alongside individual sandwiches which can be selected using tongs. What often annoys me when I see this, is that only certain sandwiches are available singly, and the more popular concoctions are twin-packed. In such a situation, hygiene concerns are obviously not the motivation for the change.

Many of my regular haunts have started this practice in recent times, and have been rewarded with my departing feet. The malarkey has spread to Tawa too – although the pairs of sandwiches are packed in cling film rather than rigid plastic packs. And malarkey it is too, as the sandwiches are housed under glass and dispensed by the staff. Once a popular calling point for a sandwich or two whilst out on a walk, this business has now lost my custom.

Businesses should be aware that their customers are not stupid. Don’t supersize me.

Experiencing Tarawera’s Eruption

Monday, February 6th, 2006

Early in the morning of the 10th of June 1886 residents of the Bay of Plenty experienced, first-hand, the sudden eruption of a previously dormant volcano. The sudden eruption was so violent that residents of Gisborne district, 140 km away, heard the explosions, saw the rising ash clouds and received a coating of volcanic ash.

Near the opposite shore of Lake Tarawera from the mountain, residents and tourists had become alarmed during the evening of the 9th at the sudden onset of many earthquakes, some violent. Most of the tourists were spending the night at the hotel in the village of Te Wairoa which had sprung up to allow visitors to experience the thermal wonders of the area, and visit and bathe in the famous Pink and White Terraces at nearby Lake Rotomahana.

At the time, New Zealand was a growing colony of Great Britain, and the Victorian past-time of the “Grand Tour” brought a welcome boost to the growing economy. However, the tourism had its downside, bringing alcohol, money and young men looking for pleasure to the many Maori settlements in the area.

Maori communities were divided between those who wished to retain traditional ways and those who wished to move with the tide of change brought by the European. A local tohunga (Maori priest or knowledgeable person) had warned of impending doom, and the appearance of a phantom war canoe (waka) paddling across Lake Tarawera 10 days before the eruption added to the tension. The canoe was seen by Maori and European alike, and some observers reported the warriors had dogs heads, and that the waka mysteriously disappeared in the misty conditions at the time.

The eruption was a relatively small one by New Zealand standards and, though it only lasted 6 hours, the opening of a 17-km long rift through the three domes of Mt. Tarawera (Wahanga, Ruawahia and Tarawera Domes) was to have a profound effect on the area. Ash up to a metre thick was deposited up to 10 km away, and many tourist attractions were destroyed. European settlers counted 120 bodies, but the death toll may have been in the thousands as the ash affected many small villages occupied by Maori that Europeans never visited.

The story of the Tarawera eruption is thoroughly covered by exhibitions at the museum at the nearby city of Rotorua which grew from the initial settlement of Ohinemutu on the shore of Lake Rotorua. Many artifacts from the eruption are on display, and a short documentary describing the event plays regularly in a small alcove in the display area.

A feature of the current display is a longer video presentation which plays at 20 minute intervals in the main auditorium. The presentation covers the social, economic and geological aspects of the Tarawera eruption both before and after the eruption. Museum staff have gone to some lengths to make the presentation both informative and entertaining. But make sure that nervous adults and young children are supervised. The seating in the auditorium has been set to move abruptly in a most realistic way during the earthquake and eruption sequences on the video. Most perplexing is the very realistic rotational movement of the seating which caused a grandmother to hastily evacuate a distressed youngster from the auditorium when I was last there. Even so, the 15-odd minute presentation is not to be missed.

The Rotorua Museum is located in the refurbished Bath House, built as part of government investment in tourist facilities 1908. The opening of the spa rejuvenated the local tourism industry which had languished after the Tarawera Eruption. It is situated in the Government Gardens on the shore of Lake Rotorua, within easy walking distance of central Rotorua. The museum is well-signposted in the city, but foreknowledge is required to easily locate it once in the gardens, a small oversight.

One of the villages buried by the eruption’s ash, Te Wairoa, has been largely excavated and provides stunning insights into the effects of a volcanic eruption. From the lakeside nearby, the triple domes of the volcano responsible can be viewed.

For the more adventurous, it is possible to walk around and down into the rift craters of Mount Tarawera. Allow at least half a day if you wish to scramble down the scree slopes to the rift floor – a dramatic experience which rewards the adventurer with remarkable views. On a clear day, other nearby volcanoes can be observed from the top of the domes, of which Ruawahia is the tallest at 1111 metres. Access is via 4-wheel drive vehicle, and charges are steep as the volcano is on sacred, private land which is tightly managed and preserved. Several different tour options, one of which offers a return leg via helicopter, are available.

Rural Fire Service Works Late

Thursday, February 2nd, 2006

Crews from the Rural Fire Service were working late tonight, damping down hot spots in the fire south of Tawa.

Just after 6-30 p.m. fresh crews were leaving their base at Tawa to carry out clean-up work, and a tired-looking crew passed me in their truck on Main Road just after 9 o’clock on their way back to base.

Thanks folks. The work you do as volunteers is much appreciated.

I suspect that, after three large fires in two nights, you’d like a rest. Fine misty rain is occasionally falling, but the temperature still sits on 20°C with 86% humidity. Uncomfortable for us lounge lizards, but even worse for fire-fighters in all their kit. Not only do they have to work in such uncomfortable conditions, but it does little to reduce the chance of a flare-up.

Scrub Fires Near Tawa

Thursday, February 2nd, 2006

Two scrub fires burning near the motorway at Tawa caused the closure of the northbound Tawa off-ramp on State Highway One, and Middleton Road between Tawa and Churton Park this afternoon.

As many as 10 fire appliances were in attendance, and two helicopters ferried water in monsoon buckets from a supply set up nearby.

Commuter rail services were interrupted for a time, and the flight path into Wellington International Airport was adjusted to the east while the helicopters were operating.

Fire Services attended a scrub fire in a park near Linden last night, and a bigger blaze in scrub which spread to a pine plantation near Upper Hutt.

Fire danger in the area has risen to moderate after several hot days, and 7 days without rain.

Well, Burger Me

Tuesday, January 17th, 2006

I have a taste for things savoury, so it’s nice to enjoy the occasional burger and chips. I know it’s becoming frowned upon, but the long life that the wowsers would have us benefit from would be dull, boring and moribund if we couldn’t indulge ourselves occasionally. All things in moderation, as the saying goes.

I’m old enough to remember the pre-multi-national days when burgers were made to local designs and were so erratically prepared that the consistent assembly-line product introduced by McDonalds in the 1970s seemed very attractive. In fact, the idea of fast food pioneered by the hamburger chains was a much-needed stage in New Zealand’s gastronomic evolution. It showed how it was possible to achieve a consistent product that was edible, if lacking pizazz. The downside was, of course, the virtual extinction of the local hamburger bar, such a feature of the 1970s and early 80s.

These hamburger bars churned out burgers based around a beef pattie with various trimmings such as lettuce or coleslaw, onion, beetroot, cheese, tomato and so on. The basic beef concept could be altered by the addition of bacon, an egg, pineapple, but they were almost exclusively beef – chicken was less common and hardly ever used. The beef patties varied greatly in quality from minced beef to the dreadful processed meat that was more akin to a fried slice of luncheon sausage.

The arrival of the burger chains brought consistency at the cost of originality in content, and many of us soon bemoaned the absence of beetroot, fried onions and other toothsome contents.

The modern day burger is a completely different product. Whilst adhering loosely to the original concept of a hot filling between thick slabs of bread, they really fall into two categories – the eat on the run burger contained inside a bread bun, and the knife and fork variety with the hot filling served on a slab of bread with another slab providing decoration on top. The latter category are impossible to eat by hand, and would defy even the legendary John Belushi who stunningly managed to “morph” a hamburger into his face before reaching the canteen checkout in “Animal House” back in 1978!

These wonderful modern creations are served in pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants nation-wide nowadays. The recipes for the filling are often locally prepared, and the flavours will vary according to local produce available at the time. The ratio of meat to vegetable content is now much reduced, with less of the contents fried to achieve the requirement for a hot filling. Indeed if the word burger implies “hot and greasy” to some minds, then these new creations could easily be called hot sandwiches.

Beef is no longer the only meat component, with chicken, pork and lamb now being offered. It has taken years since Mike Moore’s “lamb burgers” were promoted for them to become a reality, but their slow appearance as diced or sliced lamb is probably somewhat different from a ground lamb pattie that was the vogue when he was pushing the idea.

Over the years, I have enjoyed many different burgers – so much so that they have become a bit of a familiar ritual when visiting certain places.

The Park Cafe at Marahau in Tasman Bay began offering home made burgers from a gipsy-style wagon near the entrance to the Abel Tasman National Park many years ago. It rapidly became a ritual for one of the beach walks to be capped off by stopping for a burger and blueberry smoothie at the cafe on the return leg. In the early days, seating was a ramshackle affair beside the caravan and around the heaped up herb garden in the middle. As the burgers were made, the cook would nip out and select various herbs from the garden while we watched. The smell of the burgers being prepared was accompanied by the frozen blueberries being “rrrrred” in the blender before the creamy yoghurt was added for a final spin. The smoothie was a meal in it itself, but guilty consciences over the addition of the savoury burger could be assuaged by the knowledge that we’d already walked off half of it!

It was pleasant to sit in the sun on the edge of the Marahau River estuary, watching the occasional tramper and walker pass by. Extra energy was expended by waving at the wasps who also had a taste for park burger, thereby further easing our consciences. The peace and quiet was a far cry from today’s cacophony of tractors, trucks, buses and jet skis that drown out the sound of cicadas and the hollow clunk of oars against the sides of the kayaks. Even so, the bellbirds still sing out from the bush early in the morning for those awake enough to listen.

At meetings of the Galactic Senate, which convenes irregularly at a bach at Marahau, the price of the Park Cafe’s burger and blueberry smoothie is analysed as solemnly as the price of a pint of milk and a loaf of bread was used as a benchmark for New Zealand’s economy at the end of last century.

Tawa has a chequered history for eateries and take-aways, with the locals often not properly supporting local establishments but buying “out-of-area.” Why this should be so is beyond me. Burger Wisconsin only lasted a year on the Main Road in the 1990s, and it has taken some time for other establishments (apart from the fish and chip bars) to establish themselves. Endzone offer a tasty lunchtime burger and have some nice wines to chase it down with on a summer’s day.

Just recently, I decided to join some friends for a cleansing ale at The Roundabout, our newest local pub. I’ve been there before, but they offered only bar snacks at first, and later visits didn’t coincide with a mealtime so that I could sample their expanded menu.

This visit was the perfect opportunity to sample some of their food. The menu was highly entertaining, being a fine example of the spelling mistooks and grammatical era’s which are becoming more commonplace in New Zealand. But don’t let that put you off the munchables.

The beef burger’s live up to the promise of their possessive name, and will occupy your full attention when they arrive. Slices of marinated beef are served with caramelised capsicum and onion (and a wisp of greenery) on a thick slab of bread. If I was better ejacated I would recognise the type of bread from its plum crust underneath its floury dusting. But I don’t. What I can say is that the melted cheese clung to the top slab tenaciously so that it was able to be enjoyed with alternating heaps of veges or slices of beef. The sauce had a distinctly tart fruity flavour. The accompanying chips were crisp and tasty. It was a satisfying and filling meal at a good price. Well done!

If, like me, you have a hobbit’s disposition and like to indulge in the ancient art of “filling the corners” then you can start chasing the toasted pine nuts which always escape the first attack on the meal. But choose your dining companions carefully. If you attack the toasty ones too aggressively, they tend skitter away, and your mates end up getting sprayed with buckshot!

Now all we need to do is get The Roundabout to stock some decent beer like Mac’s Gold and everyone will be happy. But I’ll avoid that argument as it leads to flame wars and discussion of free and bonded ale houses. Perhaps, like the burger industry which saw market domination by burger chains being slowly eroded by a change in eating habits and burger styles, the domination of breweries and their bonded houses will soon be eroded by a new market trend toward free houses that can address their customers’ preferences. We live in hope.

Tawa Radio Station Changes Frequency

Sunday, January 15th, 2006

Tawa’s local radio station WorldFM has changed frequency from 88.2 to 88.5 MHz. The frequency change was undertaken to accommodate another radio station in the region and reduce interference problems for some listeners.

As a result of the move to 88.5, coverage has increased to include Redwood, Tawa and parts of the Porirua Basin. The signal can be received along much of State Highway 1 from Churton Park to the Mana Esplanade and southward facing parts of Plimmerton may also receive the signal.

WorldFM plays a selection of music from many parts of the world as well as modern, blues and, of course, Kiwi music. The station features extensive news programmes from Australia and Asia, as well as news and documentaries from Deutsche Welle in Germany and Radio Netherlands.

Scotland’s Radio Six International provides several music programmes ranging from traditional (including piping) through to modern easy listening music.

For those with modern FM receivers, WorldFM provides information on the current track or programme and Tawa weather conditions via RDS (Radio Data System) to the receiver’s display panel.

WorldFM provides details of its programme schedule and audio feeds at its website which can be reached via the “Local Radio” link on this blog.

Taking Stock

Monday, December 12th, 2005

No, this isn’t a post about shoplifting, even though that’s a topical “sport” that attracts more practitioners at this time of year. I guess they missed the point in the “goodwill to ALL men” phrase that applies to shopkeepers as well as the rest of us. Anyway, shops are heavy things, and lifting one might cause a hernia.

This blog has been running since November 21st, so I thought it was about time that I took stock and considered where it was going.

I have usually managed to post something new every day, but yesterday I was too busy. Blow me down, the number of visits doubled. I really must make an effort to not write more often! 🙂

Despite humid conditions yesterday, the sun managed to appear for lengthy periods and a welcoming draught of rain passed through in the late afternoon. There was a neighbour who needed some help with a project. Then a pleasant hour was spent leaning on a fence “jaw-boning” with other neighbours and looking across our nice leafy part of the suburb, being serenaded by a tui sitting atop the tallest tree in my garden. I suspect the tui was telling me to stay over at the neighbour’s and leave my garden to him. He and his wife were a bit grumpy when I disturbed them shredding a flax bush on Saturday. Tui don’t seem to fear humans and will quite happily fly noisily past your head if disturbed – the bird equivalent of road rage?

Another pleasant hour was spent catching up with a friend over an ale, listening to the birds singing away in the garden. Later the birds patiently queued up for a cooling dip in the bird bath – well the smaller ones did the queueing, while the bigger ones like blackbirds simply dropped straight in with a splash. SHIP rules – Size Has Its Privileges.

A couple of hours in the workshop drilling holes in things was next on the agenda. Another project nearing completion.

A bit of gossiping on the phone. A toothsome repast to be dealt to. Dishes to be scrubbed, some radio to be listened to – “Sounds Historical” on National Radio. It’s one of the few programmes that the dweebs managing National Radio haven’t managed to “dumb down” as part of the current revamp. I suspect that the assorted dispsticks, dorks and dingbats that are responsible for the new “format” don’t actually listen to the station on Sundays. The first-rate morning show with Chris Laidlaw and Jim Sullivan’s historical programme have survived intact. But I bet they flinch every time a shadow passes over them in the studio just in case it’s the grim reaper from the management team popping in “for a wee chat.”

I sometimes wonder if National Radio’s management are lacing the tea in the “caf” with grumpy pills the way “Moaning Report” and “Checkpoint” have headed down the gurgler in recent months. The tendency toward aggressive interviews and pushing a point of view despite the interviewee’s best attempts to get a word in seems to be the order of the day. This technique may suit those listeners with a short attention span, but is a stark contrast to the other presenters who provide a steady diet of “brain food” in the form of thoughtful interviews, interesting snippets, and panel discussions with people who actually have something useful to say.

But back to the blog. I’ve had a surprising amount of feedback on the blog – mostly about what people don’t like which is a surprisingly good result. Kiwis, like many people, usually vote with their feet when they don’t like something – its unusual for them to take the time to constructively criticise something. Perhaps we don’t like to run the risk of hurting someone.

“That’s NOT a blog.” “Sometimes the articles are too long to read.” “No pictures.” “Too many different topics.” “Sometimes I can’t work out what you are on about without reading the whole thing, and my time is sometimes limited.”

Hmmm. Food for thought there. Watch for a new page called “Site Guide” or somesuch which will give you an overview of how this blog works. Just as blogging was new to me when I started this malarkey, I suspect it is also new to some of the readers. There are shortcuts and most items have a precis – finding them may be the challenge.

As to the comments about what people like – well I won’t mention them here, but the feedback has been appreciated.

To mention the good stuff would be too much like blowing my own trumpet and, in my case, I’d probably get it wrong and suck when I should blow, and end up with a trumpet in me throat. Then you’d have to put up with me “parping on” instead of harping on.