Yearly Archives: 2007

so this is christmas…

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let’s stop all the fight


And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
Ans so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young


War is over over
If you want it
War is over
John Lennon (and Yoko Ono?)

Another year. I looked at our xmas tree the other night – little lights, and a heritage of decorations gathered over years and from around the world – beautiful. By the next night carefully wrapped gifts had begun to accumulate, and a few nights later there was standing room only under the tree. How fortunate we are – gifts aplenty, not expensive, granted; but no shortage either. The fridge and pantry are beginning to moan as they become ever more loaded – the entire family joined us today – so we’ve catered for 24 today. Actually, probably catered for 44 – but there’ll be time for snacking, later today and of course, tomorrow.

Thrice blessed then. Food aplenty. Presents aplenty. A safe home for us to enjoy it all. Friends and family. Time off from work (albeit briefly). Technology allows me to chat to friends around the world. These are times of prosperity and wonder – it’s just an everyday thing – but they’re all reasons to be grateful. It’s been such as good year.

The year that was:

Most petulant frenzy – when I couldn’t find the passports. Still can’t. Got new ones instead. And getting the photos – argh – I know you’re not supposed to look well for passport photos – but I didn’t recognise myself in the first lot. How come real estate photos make a shed look fabulous, but passport photos make you look direct from the lab?
Most proud moment – when Zofia scored a role at Christie’s.
Most work, most fun moment – crewing on Drawing Closer, the new movie by Trevor Romain and Carl Theil.
Most arty-farty moment – visiting Ben Livingston’s studio.
Most consistent art – Turnbull Group life drawing – staring at nekkid chicks for two hours every Thursday. That’s all good.
Most unexpected event – visiting Trevor and Amiel Romain and rediscovering perhaps the nicest people on the planet.
Most chinese zodiac moment – almost everyone one I know either changed where they live, or where they work, or, in our case, both. We started working on our home and garden, and we’re even selling my Mum’s house. The year of the pig has been a busy year for domestic property and prosperity.

Finally, to you, my loyal readers and commenters – you know who you are – and to the blog friends whose work I read at least once a day (please feel free to write more) – thank you – you’ve helped make 2007 another wonderful year, another year to be grateful for.

Everyone has something to learn, everyone has something to teach

Way, way back in the 1970s – yep, I had flared trousers and pet dinosaur – I was interested in what we called ‘learning exchanges’. The concept is simple enough. I know how to put in a fish pond and water garden, you know how to write ruby on rails, we get together and swap/share the information. Money may, or may not, change hands. Generally not – the concept was ‘exchange’. Barter.

The weak link in the chain (especially in the 70s) was how to let people know what was available to learn, and what could they offer to teach. The School of Everything has attempted to address this using a Drupal implementation. It’s sort of a cross between a crappy poster in the supermarket for piano lessons and the labour exchange.

School of Everything is a site where teachers can advertise, and everyone can browse for someone to teach what they’re looking for.

It’s free to use, whether you’re teaching, learning or both. To contact teachers or advertise your own teaching, all you have to do is register.

Limitations: UK only (at the moment), teaching is not for free. Not entirely limiting however, and it’s great to see a web-2 variation/inspiration on an old idea.

from exploratory nibbles to big bites…

Image from http://spirithousesafari.blogspot.comI did manage to swim to shore long enough to be convinced that the local bug vendor had some pretty tasty goods and imbibed on some pretty dang yummy fried silkworms!
Ben Livingston

We just got back from a cultural exchange in Austin, Texas. A rich panoply of delights were explored, including the company of neon artist, Ben Livingston, and his delightful wife, Patti. We tripped over them in a tour of the mean streets of the Austin arts quarter, and well, one thing lead to another, and we somehow managed to convince Ben that writing about his experiences and adventures as he travels through Asia in pursuit of photographs and stories of spirit houses would be a good thing. And good thing it is – thanks, Ben, for sharing your experiences – and for not sharing the bugs.

doot, doot, doot, lookin’ out my back door…

One of my many new joys in life is exploring WordPress. Again. I know. But this time it’s different. Thanks to the good people at Tamba2, I’ve been able to install a mini apache server, sql database, and wordpress on my pc laptop in a very easy and straight forward manner. Yay+++. So far every thing has just worked. Simple. Easy. How cool is that? If you’re not a complete newby, and you want to install your own AMP+WP setup, simply follow the instructions and everything seems to work effortlessly. I’m already working on new templates and looking at plugins – it’s fantastic having a test bench without having all my mistakes splattered across the net. Thank you, Tamba2, for the other WP guides – very good work.

WordCamp Melbourne

The pain, the pain… it doesn’t have to be an exceptionally tempting offer to encourage me to jump the ditch over to Melbourne, Australia. Sadly, I’m heading in the other direction on the weekend of 17 November, or I’d be front and centre for WordCamp Melbourne – an initiative by arch blog supremo, James Farmer, ably assisted by big name blog gurus – and I don’t mean they just write stuff, I mean they know how to make blogs sit up and their readers beg for more. Congrats James and collabs, hopefully I’ll make the next one.

thanks, guy

November 2. It’s 21:30 or thereabouts; and from outside I can here the occasional bang of fireworks. Double happys and tom thumbs we called ’em. New Zealand is attempting to manage the annual carnage of life, limb, property, pets, wildlife, real and forestry estate by only allowing fireworks to be sold four days before the official November 5 – Guy Fawkes day. I genuinely have no idea why we celebrate some pommie terrorist – perhaps it’s been because of the shocking absence (until recently) of our own home grown exemplars.

We never had fireworks as a kid. Instead (remember this is back in a time before and shortly after the introduction of tv – AND it was in glorious black and white) Mum would buy us a pineapple and a coconut. Her theory – her policy, damn it, the LAW was that Dad worked too hard to earn the money to put a roof over our heads and food on the table and there as NO WAY she was about to take money and set fire to it. At least with the treat of exotic fruit we would get four layers of pleasure from it. First – delicious and nutritious. Second – sensible use of money; and gratitude and respect for Dad’s sweat. How rare that is. Third – exotic. Exotic. Exotic. There we were, stuck in the boondocks and here was a taste of something from far away. I think we thought the fruit came from “The Islands” – I have no precise location, but it was then, and still is, an idea I am in love with every single day. “The Islands” – I so want to be there, even if they only exist in myth. Fourth – well, instead of having fireworks we got to go to school with a wedge of pineapple and a chunk of coconut, and watch our school chums writhe with envy. Oh, simple pleasures are the best ones.

Beau Brummell, where are you?

Not too many people would rate me in the fashion stakes. In fact, the fashion police field more calls about my clothing choices than any other unfortunate. What I have found myself wondering lately is: who or what is responsible for the horrid men’s wear seen in downtown Wellington. I am continually amazed at the ill fitting clothing – clearly, suits cost a few hundred dollars through to more than a few hundred – but they fit badly. I am not a tailor, but I can see collars not fitting, rear vents gaping, fabric twisting, and of course, the obligatory trousers exposing an excessive amount of ankle. Horrors. Absolute horrors. How hard can it be?

I think there’s a real gap in the market for a menswear shop where the owners have figured out that most guys don’t mind buying, but they don’t like shopping. There is no need for 10,000 colours of anything fundamental. At all. That clothing can be elegant and simple and functional. That the range can be colour coordinated so that a guy can only buy colour combinations that work. There are no pink ties as there is never an occasion for wearing them. No. Not even Halloween. Men need clothing that is sculpted, women need clothing that is draped. Arms start at the shoulders. Jackets and shirts should reflect this reality. The general theme could be classic quality never goes out of fashion. And the shop assistants genuinely assist. A guy cannot tell if the jacket collar does not fit to the shirt collar does not fit to their neck while they’re walking. That the vent gaps. And as for pin stripes that done line up properly – where is the pride of workmanship? If it was all working nicely, what the guy was wearing would be unnoticeable. You’d just think, ‘He looks good’. Sharp. Smart. Impeccable. Instead you think, ‘Oh lord, who on earth suckered every buyer in town into buying pink ties?’

As I said, what’s my qualification for this critique? I’m a fashion nightmare. I’m not a tailor. But I look at the suits on the street and I think – argh! I want to grab shears and chalk and pins and just fix them up. Why Wellington, why? Has WOW made wearing off the shoulder bin liners acceptable?

what did I want?

What did I want?
I wanted the hurtling moons of Barsoom. I wanted Storisende and Poictesme, and Holmes shaking me awake to tell me, “The game’s afoot!” I wanted to float down the Mississippi on a raft and elude a mob in company with the Duke of Bilgewater and Lost Dauphin.

I wanted Prester John, and Excalibur held by a moon-white arm out of a silent lake. I wanted to sail with Ulysses and with Tros of Samothrace and to eat the lotus in a land that seemed always afternoon. I wanted the feeling of romance and the sense of wonder I had known as a kid. I wanted the world to be the way they had promised me it was going to be, instead of the tawdry, lousy, fouled-up mess it is.

I had had one chance – for ten minutes yesterday afternoon. Helen of Troy, whatever your true name may be – and I had known it – and I had let it slip away. Maybe one chance is all you ever get.
– Oscar Gordon, “Glory Road” Robert A. Heinlein

My father died back in 1990. It’s taken us some time to sort out his stuff. Partly because Dad was a collector – a hunter/gatherer of the old school; and partly because he was a graduate of the 1930’s depression and his collector behaviours became reinforced. “You never know when it’ll come in handy.” And quite frequently that has been proven to be correct. The last few days have been a bit of a nightmare – we’ve (my sister, brother-in-law, and myself) been working through the tail end of the various collections – and there is a continuum of values – some things have sentimental value, some have commercial value, some have entertainment value, and some have recycle value. And some things are just valuable for helping balance the load on the way to the landfill.

I was unable to get leave from work so Friday night saw frantic grabbing of rental vans, scarfing down food (no pasta lest I go to sleep at the wheel), and then on the highway north to my old home town. I spent the last night in my childhood bed, and listened for the call of the poaka – the pied stilts. Their beeping call used to reassure me on empty nights, but on Friday night it was just the sounds of the wind. Saturday dawned cold – as if wanting us to get finished and get on with our lives. Dad used to say “Cold shoulder, hot tongue”, and it was bitter outside.

We packed and loaded, with laughter and tears, Dad’s prized books. I don’t have the room or really the interest for all of Dad’s books, and so some fairly heartrending decisions were made. When we were kids, if we got sick, we were allowed to get up and get a couple of Dad’s books to read. Dad’s collection was essentially about New Zealand history and culture, Māori culture, and in particular, New Zealand flora and fauna. Dad had a particularly soft spot for New Zealand birds.

I don’t recall that he had any exceptional favorites, but I have a happy memory of him showing us the Ruru – Ninox novaeseelandiae – the native owl (Moreporks) that used to sit on the post and wires when we lived on our farm. Later the adult ruru were joined by a clutch of juveniles – I can remember their eyes glowing with the reflected light from the house. Dad told us stories about how in some areas the ruru nested in tomo – like hakoke, the extinct laughing owl – in holes the ground instead of in trees, and how there was even a place named for their home – Putaruru. He said that in the Māori tradition, the ruru was the guardian, the watcher. I loved hearing their calls at night – some say the call is ‘mournful’ or ‘haunting’, but I have always found it friendly and reassuring – a clear sign that things are as they should be.

As I drove home on Saturday night, I got to thinking about reading – I guess the books in the back were talking about their new lives living with Marica and I. I read non-fiction voraciously, however I love it when an author can persuade me to get on a raft down the Mississippi, or some other adventure. I’d told Marcel that I planned spending time while driving plotting out a novel I’m working on. Instead, I spent the time thinking about how the books now in the back of the van had influenced my father – provided the education he’d hungered for but had never been able to achieve in a formal sense. As a result of his reading and learning he’d willing shared the ideas, information, and insights with me; and so, in a way, I was carrying not only my father’s collection, but in many respects my own collection. I didn’t have to bring it all, just the bits I wanted and needed; but no matter what, I couldn’t avoid bringing some of my heritage with me; now and where ever I go in the future.

I drove in our gate, flicked the van off, and stood outside in the still night air. The moon was exceptionally clear and the stars were bright. I could smell the fragrance from the night blossoms. It was good to be home. From somewhere very close, a ruru called. I felt uplifted – it was as Dad said – everything is as it should be.

every thing tells a story…

Some years ago I took my Mum to Townsville, far north Queensland. She’d had some surgery that hadn’t gone well. I was working three part time jobs being as full time work was unavailable. It was the middle of winter and some recuperation in the tropics seemed like a good idea for us both – I wanted my Dad to go with us, but he wouldn’t be parted from home. Off we went and we had the best time. We really enjoyed having a decent cappuccino – Wanganui being something of a coffee desert in those days. I decided to buy a cappuccino machine – and snapped the dividers out of the polystyrene box the machine came in to act as a chillybin (esky for the full Australiana) when we drove up to Cairns. We made very full use of the box – it was absolutely brilliant for keeping food and drinks cool. When it came time to come home there was no room in our suitcases to bring the box home – and so I went out to the dumpster to toss the box away. The nearer I got to the departure point, the worse I felt. I don’t think I’ve ever felt such complete guilt as I consigned our helpful friend to the trash. I went back to our rooms and I told Mum about what a complete fool I felt about feeling guilty about discarding the box. She felt the same – but there was no way we could bring the box back with us. Years later I still feel bad. And slightly silly about being emotionally attached to polystyrene packaging, repurposed as a chillybin.

Lately I’ve had cause to work through a lot of my possessions from my past. They’re just things – inanimate things – usually man-made, but not exclusively. Some things I’ve kept, some things I’ve sold, some things I’ve given away, and some things I’ve dumped. At times it’s been heart wrenchingly traumatic; other times it’s been a ‘oh no, just no, what were you thinking?’ moment. I have been wondering why some things are so hard to deal with. My niece, Catherine, said, ‘The trouble with all your stuff is, every thing has got a story. There’s nothing here that doesn’t have a story to go with it.”

To which my sister, Gillian, replied, ‘Well, yes. That’s why it’s here. If it didn’t have a story we wouldn’t bother with it.’

When I used to leave Melbourne (Tullamarine) Airport, there was a sign that spanned the highway – ‘Every story has a beginning, a middle, and a beginning’. It was an ad for something – I have no idea what. But I loved the idea then, and now. When things arrive in my hand it’s rarely the beginning of the story. Rather it is part of the middle of a story. And the story continues once the thing leaves my hand. Objects don’t attain their own energy or their own personality – that’s what we/I ascribe to them – it’s their role in our stories that makes them hard to part with. What I’m realising is that the story doesn’t end when the item comes to me, and really, it’s better if I keep the story going by keeping the item moving. I’m feeling better about it that way.

thick as a brick…

…but not as tasty. Manuals, that’s what we’re talking about here. Manuals. How to do it, be it, make it, fake it, break it, hack it, fix it – the list goes on. But oh, if only the zen masters could be engaged in writing manuals for the rest of us. Short. Simple. A haiku that explains everything you need to know about the patch for Vista. Ha! As if – SP1 for Vista – a blistering 1Gb of remedial patching…imagine how chunky that manual will be…

If only there were no thick manuals.