Category Archives: urban diary

happy birthday

August 1 – 170,000+ words – seems I’ve slowed down – 30,000 fewer words this year than last. Diversions, diversions, diversions. Tiddlywikis (warning: not to be even looked at by anyone with any sort of addictive or compulsive opportunities), the leash that is my job, another couple of new writing spaces for me (Tea Garden and Turnbull Group), set up spaces for others (Trevor’s Thought Bubbles, and The Armchair Traveller), changed house and garden, cavorted off for a tropical interlude, made some digital stories, made some photographs, made some drawings, and wrote somewhere almost every single day, probably not less than a thousand words. It’s been a busy and creative year – I don’t apologise if this sounds self indulgent – I figure that if we don’t pause to take stock of what we do, and have done, every now and again, we’ll forget the huge volume of work, the effort, and the successes. Someone I know finally found marginalia the other day and was surprised, “Goodness, there’s a heap of writing there!” Yep, sure is. Thank you, regular readers, you scattered-around-the-world things you. Not a day goes by where I don’t wonder in passing about what you’re up to, your creative moments, your joys and your sadnesses – if I’m having them and doing it then I’m sure you are too. It feels better knowing you’re out there. Thanks for stopping by.

internet ‘service’+customer ‘service’= Ø

We have a cable modem ‘net access, supposedly giving us high speed internet. It’s a bit like the girl with a curl – when it’s good it’s ok, when it’s bad it’s non-existent. This morning it went down just after 12. I know this because I was just trying to get the last everything sent/posted etc before hitting the sack. This evening I spend 90 minutes waiting for the technical support, who, of course are under-staffed, over-worked, and people who spend their time with angry idiots who’ve waited 90 minutes listening to KennyG or some other shite.

Here’s some advice to TelstraClearParadise cable modem users:

  • Write crucial stuff – i.e. everything – off line, and then you can save it and post or send it later – nothing gets lost.
  • Before you ring the help desk, turn the modem off at the wall, turn your wireless router (if you have one) off at the wall, and turn off the computer.
  • Go make yourself a nice hot cup of coffee, or a particularly delicious cup of tea. Relax a little.
  • Take a sip of your drink, and turn the modem on. Wait until the four green lights are all nice and stable.
  • Do a little tai chi, write a post card, have another sip.
  • Turn the wireless router on if you have one, otherwise, balance your chequebook, using roman numerals.
  • When the lights look stable and the router seems to be talking to the modem (flishy-flashy lights and the orange light is on), turn on your computer.
  • At this point you will either have ‘net access back, or you’ll have a nice drink and be calm, ready to spend the next valuable part of your life waiting for the help desk to answer. You’ll be able to say to the desk that you’ve done the restart thing, and allowed a full time for the modem/router to cycle down.

    Advice to TelstraClearParadise: how about giving the above advice in the phone message that drones on telling me I have at least 60 minutes to wait? I know it’s a long message, but I’ve got 60 minutes to hear it. If I had heard it I wouldn’t have need it to wait 90 minutes to have the techdude talk down to me. I had restarted the modem twice last night and twice again when I got home from work. It’s possible/probable I didn’t leave it long enough between the power down and restart. The phone message did say to cycle the modem – I did – four times, but obviously not enough – I missed the crucial make a cup of tea step.

    TelstraClearParadise – you’re supposed to be a communications company. Can I suggest that if you gave a better message people would be able to get the modem going again themselves. It’s not that hard, it’s not that expensive to record a decent message. You wouldn’t have to put up with people hanging around for 90 minutes, and your help desk people wouldn’t have to put up with angry callers and you wouldn’t have to hire more help desk people and you wouldn’t get people like me writing about how crap your service is. And, it’s not as though this is the first time

    5 sleeps to go…

    Saturday 16th is Matariki. Matariki, for regular readers from the northern hemisphere who may not have heard of this before, is a very Aotearoa/New Zealand/Pacific tradition that seems to go from strength to strength – it’s the start of OUR new year.

    It’s a bit of a combination of celestial events – the star cluster Pleiades (aka Seven Sisters, Subaru, Messier 45 and – of course – Matariki) reappears above the northeast horizon just before dawn, in combination there’s the first new moon (this year on the 16th) , and this occurs near winter solstice – the shortest day. So it’s a real carnival – Matariki – the summer cluster returns as the first new moon nearest the shortest – cut to the chase: just over the horizon it’s sum-sum-summertime. YAY!

    Kiwis wanting to see Matariki need to get out of bed pre-crack of dawn and look to the northeast horizon. If you look up in that direction you should see Mars (yep, it’s red, and like a teeny lcd, it doesn’t flicker). Drop your eyes straight down to the horizon and that’s pretty much where you’ll find this cute little cluster of stars, sparkling like a diamond cluster. Matariki is a real cluster too, by the way, truely seven sisters, and not merely an assemblage of stars like some of those cheap zodiacs – pft – constellations indeed.

    So, what to do celebrate the rising of Matariki? It’s a good time to be thinking gardening things – the start of the new seasons. I plan to bring a little of my heritage to the table – garlic – plant it on the shortest day, harvest it on the longest day. I’m writing more on this kind of topic over at Tea Garden. I’m also planning to plant the first of our native garden – in this case one of my favourite trees – a titoki. I’m really looking forward to building a corner of our garden into a celebration of native plants.

    A tradition was to fly a kite on Matariki – well, now that works for me too. I’m not 100% sure where my pocket sled kite is, but hopefully I’ll be able to find it in time. Matariki is also a time not unlike the traditional western new year – January 1 – it’s a time for getting together with family – whānau – that fused collection of kindred spirits, celebrating with food and music; of settling differences, and setting new goals – new year’s resolutions – make better health decisions – what to eat, drink, get some exercise, stop smoking etc; make contact with people you haven’t contacted for some time, and maybe learn something new. It’s a time for gift giving, but not in the tacky commercial way that has become xmas, but rather in intangible ways – you gift good things to yourself like taking care of yourself, you gift to others by sharing – by finding something of yourself to give. It’s not about that crass commercialism, thankfully.

    So, join us on the 16th (I’m writing this a little early so you’ve got time to make a plan) and launch off into the new year in fine style. By the way, Matariki is like Easter – it’s a moveable feast – and for similar reasons – they’re based on lunar cycles. In 2008, it will be on 5 June. 2009, 24 June. 2010, 14 June. So next year you won’t be caught out – you’ve had heaps of notice.

    eating out

    View The Story About Ping product details at AmazonValentina, Steve, and kids washed up on our beach today, fresh from the cultural delights of Sunday yum cha. Their youngest is four. He probably has popped in and out of restaurants since the age of – well – conception…

    They mentioned another member of their party didn’t eat anything – not holding with that foreign fare. I noted that we were brought up thinking exotic food was good, and strangely I remembered (I think) the first meal out I’d ever had was in a Chinese restaurant in Wanganui. I was about 5 or 6 years old. Eating out in New Zealand, specifically in Wanganui, back in those days, eating lunch out on a weekend would’ve been restricted to a fairly limited range of choices I would’ve thought – chinese, fish and chips, perhaps hotel fare if you were sufficiently la-te-dah. I’m not sure if the restaurant is still there, but I can remember both the restaurant and the meal clearly – my sister Carol and her man took me – how and why I was with them I cannot imagine. I’d read/been read the Story of Ping at school – a story set in China, and so, I ordered and had a duck (stir fry, I guess) and Carol ordered me a glass of milk. An unusual combination, even then, I believe. I was excited to eat duck, it seemed good to be inspired by the story, and very exotic.

    It’s strange how I can remember the luncheon I ordered all those years ago, but missed I and the Bird #46. Perhaps it’s because a few hours later the oilyness of the meal (perhaps in combination with the milk) found me downloading the meal – urgh – I was one of those kids who wasn’t too good with overly rich, fatty, or oily food. Never-the-less, the love affair with things of a Chinese nature (particularly the food) was started and continues to this day…

    disturbed on the waterfront

    Wellington, on a good day, is second to none. Today was one of those halcyon days down on the waterfront, even the waves were feeling lazy at lunchtime.

    Wandering back to the office after my midday meditation, I overheard a couple of young men-about-town –

    “You know, for me, Sue Bradford has a certain je ne se quoi.”

    No reply, just a look of complete incredulity.

    “No, really, she’s some how managed to remain cute as she’s aged.”

    image from’d go with that, Sue, if I were you. I left them yelping somewhere near the Water Whirler – they might still be there.

    For gentle readers from other climes, Sue Bradford is a New Zealand politician (Green Party). Based on overhearing this fascinating snippet I think the Greens might have a secret weapon in the upcoming election in the Gen-Y age group. Have Sue play the cute card.

    Who would’ve thought it? Of all the descriptions I’ve ever heard of Sue Bradford, this would have to be the most genuinely surprising…


    On Lambton Quay, yesterday, lunch time…

    The pamphlet religious guy: “You’re on trial before the all-powerful God!” Hands out the pamphlet.

    Shrill voiced lady, direct from set of Monty Python, takes pamphlet, glances at it: “No, I’m not!”

    Pamphlet guy: “You’re on trial for your sins!”

    Shrill voiced lady: “No, no, I’m not. I haven’t done nothing wrong!”

    Pamphlet guy: “You have!”

    Shrill voiced lady: “No, I haven’t! You’re wrong!”

    I couldn’t see any cameras, I assume this was just another day on Lambton Quay. Surreal, Bosch-like people, and me, not wanting to escape this fascinating tableau, but returning to my desk anyway…

    when you go out, hold hands…

    Nothing like practical advice.

    Today on the waterfront there was an older couple holding hands – in much the same way as I hold hands with my wife (we’re old fashioned) – and I was struck with how wise the couple apppeared. I wondered what their story was, but I knew if I asked they’d tell me and I’d have to spend the rest of the afternoon in their charming company, on the waterfront, in the indian summer afternoon; instead of going back to work and sitting at my desk. Because that’s what I’d rather do. Oh yes, I rather do that.

    Mark Bernstein mentioned the ten years of, and from there I found Dave Winer’s comment about holding hands in cyberspace; and how communication used to suck. I think this is a great article – partly the vim and vigor of standing on the rim of the bleeding edge – but partly because with the ‘wisdom’ of ten years on, communication still sucks, and holding hands still seems like a fundamentally sound idea – human to human communication through touch has still yet to be surpassed by mere technology.

    Despite that, I hold hands with people on my list (see column, right) on a daily basis – I read their writing, wonder what they’ve been up to and feel glad they’re sharing their lives with me (and probably six billion of their closest friends). Thanks, guys. Holding hands is a good thing.

    handy, dandy

    Buy Sand Castle and Pails on the Beach at AllPosters.comInstead of building sand castles, and running carefree down the beach, we’ve spent another weekend beating ourselves up over not getting as much done around the house as we’d like. Given that the range is seemingly infinite, we shouldn’t be surprised, but it’s frustrating never-the-less.

    We now have the clothes dryer mounted on the wall (a sort of postmodern taxidermied trophy), with the ducting properly venting humid, linty air into the great outdoors, instead of (as the previous owners opted for) under the house. The new dryer, in case of the Wellington weather, the clothes drying option of choice is the new rotary clothesline coupled with some sunlight and wind-vigor – brilliant.

    I managed to resolve the eyesore irrigation (I dug a hole and buried it), and to eliminate the strange and untidy liana approach to the connecting pipes – again, courtesy of the previous owner. This should make the roses happier – I managed to get the nasty old stumps pruned away, tidied up the bark mulch, and generally the roses are looking better almost immediately. Next weekend I hope to get the rose garden underplanted with spring bulbs, and this’ll inject some fertiliser into the rose beds as well. I managed to limit my blood and skin loss, but I never get away without some wounds…

    To top it off I mowed the lawns, tidied the edges, and trimmed the base shoots off the ornamental cherrys. And now, I’m in bed, cozy, tired from working with my hands instead of my head, writing, and listening to the rather heavy rain outside – the first decent rain we’ve had in quite a while. Life isn’t too bad at all.


    It seems like ages since I’ve written here – I’ve been ‘enjoying’ a week or so of hay fever and this always leaves me feeling numbed out. I’ve had hay fever before, but since arriving in the capital I’ve found it to be particularly bad. I have been wondering if it’s the gorse flowers that give me a bi-annual buzz, but I suspect it’s more likely to be the politicians getting up my nose. The other joy has been – despite propaganda to the contrary – I was able to ring a plumber friday night, have him confirm he would be here on Saturday at 8, he arrives, accurately diagnoses (noses) the situation (the sewer is blocked), tells me who to call H2O Contractors Ltd – the team who cleaned the political grime off Parliament, I call, they arrive, I run around turning compressors on and off with the nice technician guy, it all happens, and before 10 we’re all flowing freely. Smooth movement. Fantastic.

    And now I can start to write again.

    do all the good you can

    Buy Do All The Good You Can at AllPosters.comBack at work today – and yet the sun shone perfectly. All around me in downtown Wellington people were stuck indoors, in suits, in lifts, in a rut…and meanwhile another beautiful day comes and goes and nothing beneficial seems to happen.

    Meanwhile, on the other side of the Pacific, my mate Trevor is making plans to go off to the Congo and Burundi, travelling with the United Nations division of ‘Children and Armed Conflict’ to visit kids in refugee camps, to try to bring something beneficial to their lives. These kids are former child soldiers, orphans, refugees – the whole drama.

    Makes you think about getting things into some sort of proportion.