Thursday, 28 August 2008

Backbencher

Today and tomorrow, my colleagues are in town for a team meeting. This means that, after a hard day's slog, there's always a very loud and social dinner, as we only get together in person 3-4 times a year. Tonight, another team were also in town, so we doubled the noise and social experience.

We went to the Backbencher, straight across the road from Parliament buildings, just down from where I worked for many years, and also very close to where our team meeting was. I love the atmosphere at the Backbencher. The puppets of politicians, sports persons, and tv personalities past and present are always a great novelty, especially to show off to out-of-towners. I guess the scenery will be set to change after the upcoming election; who knows what the outcome will be?


I also love the humour of the ever-changing menu (very topical!). The food is reasonably good pub fare with a lot of variety. All in all, a fun night out, even if it's a "work" function.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Life after Scrabulous

Ok, so today's title might be a bit optimistic; I'm not entirely sure there can be a meaningful life after Scrabulous, but I'm sure as heck trying to fill the void that its removal from Facebook has now created. We knew for some time that it might be taken away, and we had a huge scare a while back when it disappeared for nearly a day, but this time I fear that it truly is the end.

Scrabulous quickly found its way into the hearts of many, and it's no surprise it became Facebook's most popular game application, giving fellow addicts their fix of word puzzles whenever they felt the urge to create a word or two. The message boards are frantic but, sadly, there is no real substitute for it. Try as they might to con us into playing WordScraper or the silly version of live Scrabble (which hardly ever loads properly, by the way), they don't measure up. I now have to make do with short, sharp bursts of word puzzles each night now via Scramble and Word Twist, but it's not the same, it's not the same, I tell you!

Some tributes from the floor ...
  • Facebook friend #1: "... is sad they took Scrabulous away."
  • Facebook friend #2: "... is missing Scrabulous!!"
  • Facebook friend #3: "... freaked because Scrabulous isn't here!!"
  • Facebook friend #4: "I have no reason to log into Facebook any more."
  • Sister-in-law: "what will we do now?"
Yes, indeed; what will we do now?

RIP, Scrabulous.
You were a friend to many and will always be fondly remembered.
We hope so see you again soon, minus the lawsuit.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Tag Galaxy

Here is a cool application I came across this weekend via a colleague's recommendation. Tag Galaxy uses tags to develop its own “tag-o-verse” using a planet metaphor. Type in a tag you’re interested in and, using the tags people have used when loading their Flickr photos, Tag Galaxy will instantly assemble a system of planets that represent those tags. Click on a planet to zoom in and browse photos. (Make sure you're using a good version of Flash.)

Here's a tag galaxy I created by using the tags recipes, chocolate, and cookies:


And here's another using coffee, cup, café, and latte (no cappuccino?):


You can rotate your galaxy or zoom in on specific pictures. I love the visual representation of concepts and ideas, and it also allows users to browse the multitude of photos already posted on Flickr.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Waffles for breakfast

This goal was purely for enjoyment and self-indulgent. I haven't eaten proper, fluffy waffles (except one from a street carnival earlier this year) in a looooong time. They're not so common here in New Zealand, and my American friends lament how difficult they are to come by (along with good waffle makers), so I wanted to make a point of having them for breakfast or brunch one day.

Last weekend, we found some we could simply pop in the toaster and make at home. Yay! We imagined the finished product to look something like this picture. Unfortunately, they didn't. They were quite thin, bland, tiny, and a cheap substitute for the real thing. Oh well, no harm done - I'll just have to look out for genuine waffles on the menu whenever I go out for brunch.

So it's back to the beginning with this one. I'll call it a practice run for the real thing: goal #89 - eat waffles for breakfast/brunch.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Tales from a landlord

And now for an episode from Tales from a Landlord ...

Over the weekend, a washing machine in an upstairs flat decided to overflow and leak through to the downstairs flat. Imagining scenes from Noah's Ark, I was relieved to see that the damage was relatively minor, but the washing machine was dead. A quick online/phone order and the new one would be delivered to the flat on Thursday. The news got even better - the tenant wanted to be home for the delivery, saving me taking a half-day's leave to meet the installers. Great!

ETA: 1-1:30 pm.
Time of distressed phone call from tenant: 2:40 pm.
Time of repeat call from tenant to report installation complete: 3:30 pm.

What actually happened? The installers had originally gone to an address in Lower Hutt, instead of Mt Victoria in Wellington (15km difference), but the appliance store was insistent that it had now been delivered. Apparently some guy called Andy (correct name) had signed for the washing machine and it was installed ... turns out that "some guy called Andy" was actually at the backpackers' next door to my flat, signed for a random washing machine delivery, somehow found a space with pipes and wiring to be installed, and accepted a free washing machine, without question!!

A bottle of wine and a packet of Minties ("it's moments like these") is now on its way to my lovely tenant.

Two videos come to mind:






Yup, "it's moments like these you need Minties".

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Six degrees of separation

Apparently there are six degrees of separation in the world. That means that, in theory, anyone on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries. There is a Facebook application dedicated to it although, to be honest, I've never really figured out how it works.

Microsoft studied more than 30 billion electronic conversations among 180 million people and found that on average 6.6 "hops" were needed to link two apparently unconnected people. A commentator said that people in New Zealand were often said to have only two degrees of separation. Well, it's frequently said that Wellington is a village, and everyone knows everyone here (practically). Again, I'm not entirely sure how that's possible but it seems to be true.

A couple of years ago, friends held a six degrees of separation party. They were worried that their guests, who came from very different interest/work groups would not find anything in common at their party and stick to themselves, so they engineered a little experiment to get people to mix and match. I ended up meeting up with a former neighbour, who now lived in their neighbourhood, and a couple of others who knew my father through musical circles. I think they worked out that everyone at their party were separated by four degrees.

But here's my two degrees of separation ... this morning, New Zealand woke to the news that Jemaine Clement, Wellington's own celebrity from Flight of the Conchords fame, has married his long-time girlfriend, Miranda Manasiadis. Miranda and I used to go to school (primary and secondary) together. We'd sit together on the bus into town each morning and, through sleep-encrusted eyes, talk about trivial teenage stuff. I remember when she first started acting (we were Iris and Ceres, mythical gods in the school production of The Tempest, wearing the most ridiculous costumes you've ever seen). I was really pleased to see that she pursued a career in theatre, and now she has bagged one of Wellington's most eligible bachelors.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Irrational fears ...

"... I've had a few,
But then again, too few to mention ..."
Apparently I have some irrational fears. Of course, to me they are entirely rational, but to others they are questionable or just ridiculous. I don't mind mice; spiders and bugs aren't my favourite, but they don't send me into a panic. We're not talking about full-blown phobias here - just things I don't like.

I was reading this post about the fear of biscuits, and realised I'd found a kindred soul. It would seem that, for several people, a fear of biscuits is quite rational, or at least more common than you would think. Personally, biscuits or the tins that dough comes in don't scare me at all (aren't I brave!); it's just the fact that others have equally ridiculous irrational fears that made me smile. My sweetie thinks I'm a total wuss and often laughs at me about these fears; he doesn't realise how big and scary things can be.

Here are a few I can think of at the moment - who knows, the list may grow. I'd post pictures here, but that would set me off. :-P
  • Spiderman. It's just not natural to climb buildings like that. I know I'm not supposed to be afraid of superheroes, and that he could save my life one day, but I am. The shape of his face, and the fact he's covered with spider webs, doesn't help either.
  • Dr Who. I don't know why. It's not the tardis - I didn't even remember what that was when I was a kid. My brother and I would watch it in black and white at our grandmother's house on Sunday nights (there was only a choice of two channels then). Tom Baker as Dr Who was incredibly freaky, and now even the music (yes, even from the new series) is enough to scare me.
  • TV hospital dramas. ER, Grey's Anatomy, Chicago Hope - anything except Scrubs. I've missed out on being part of popular culture because I don't like body bits that are where they shouldn't be (ie insides on the outside - freaky). Even the beeps and suction noises from a fake operation ... gross. The one episode of Grey's Anatomy that I genuinely tried to watch to "appreciate the storyline" involved someone performing an impromptu operation on a fishing wharf and had to open up a guy's stomach. I couldn't watch. So, alas, I've missed out on these conversation starters.
  • Body piercings anywhere other than earlobes, and even there, only one in each ear. The same goes for things that you put into bits of your skin/body parts to stretch or morph them. Yuck.
  • Tattoos. I don't mind looking at them (some of them) once they are complete, but the thought of getting one totally grosses me out. Even the buzzing sound of the tattoo thingie freaks me out.
So, what are your irrational fears? And who hassles you about them?

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Tenpin bowling

Another day, another goal. I haven't bowled in years but had always enjoyed it, so added it to my list: goal #26 - go tenpin bowling. We had a couple of other options for tonight, but neither really appealed, so we booked dinner and bowling at Strike Entertainment Centre in Petone. Both the restaurant and bowling offer Entertainment Book deals (a main for a main at the restaurant, and a game for a game with bowling).

First off, dinner. Pretty bad all-round service. Average meals. Not too bad if you can block out all the screaming kids (even on a Saturday night) and try to get someone to actually serve you. We won't be dining here again.

The bowling was fun, though. I started well with my one and only strike! Ok, so it was all downhill from there, but I'd achieved what I wanted: a strike. One game really wasn't enough to warm up get into the swing of things, but it was exciting to watch the NZ rowing teams in some of their Olympic finals at the same time. Mahe Drysdale managed to score a bronze, as did Nathan Twaddle and George Bridgewater.

On the way home, we popped into Pak N Save (a really exciting activity for a Saturday night, I know). There was a crappy screen in the beer section, and before we knew it a small crowd had gathered to watch the women's double sculls final. There was disappointment and disbelief all round as we saw Georgina and Caroline Evers-Swindell win silver, then made our way mumbling towards the checkout.

Or so we thought. Once we got home and turned on the tv, we were wondering why the flag for the silver medallist was in the middle of the podiums. It wasn't until we heard the last line of the national anthem, "God defend New Zealand" that we realised that the Evers-Swindell twins had actually won gold instead! That photo finish was unbelievably close; the commentator didn't know how to call the final result, and none of us thought that it would be any different to how it looked on screen as we watched it live. What a night!

Friday, 15 August 2008

BJ McKay and others

I was reading this blog post today, and my mind quickly sailed away to happy land ... :-)

Television Tunes.com is easy to get sucked into. The site boasts an archive of 7,028 theme songs and a promise that if you can't find a theme song, you can email the creator and he will try to get it for you.

So where does one start? I already have some of my favourite TV theme songs on my iPod, and a few for nostalgic value, but what would really challenge a site like this? Well, for starters, I found BJ and the Bear. I remember absolutely nothing about the programme, except one line from the theme ("BJ McKay and his best friend, the bear"). It's been kind of frustrating all these years. I also found "Curious George, the curious little monkey", The Littlest Hobo (boring programme, but I still remember the dog), and countless others.

Enter this site at your own peril. For some reason, I spent a good half hour on a Friday night reliving my childhood with 1980s children's TV themes (none from NZ, but not sure it's worth emailing him). And then I got sidetracked by typing in the names of random, old-time shows ... my sweetie was really quick at recognising themes that I vaguely remembered. We had a go at the quiz.

Here are some themes we listened to:
  • Falcon Crest. I was 8 and in hospital with suspected appendicitis, just before the start of the Los Angeles Olympics (go on, now you can work out how old I am), and remember hearing this theme on tv at night while I was stuck in the children's ward.
  • 21 Jump Street. This was the coolest, and made us first fall in love with Johnny Depp.
  • Hill Street Blues. I was so thrilled when I learned how to play this on the piano.
  • CHiPs. Who can forget Ponch and John wearing those tight little pants?
  • Happy Days. Such happy, happy days.
  • Mister Ed. TVNZ played repeats of early 1960s programmes to celebrate 25 years of television in New Zealand in 1985.
  • Bewitched. For years, we tried to wriggle our noses in just the right way.
  • The Greatest American Hero. My brother and I would run across the floor from the dining room to the kitchen, ripping off our pyjama tops, and trying to fly. We didn't get far.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Bake something to give away

We've already established that I love to bake. My friend's mother died last week, and she has a new baby and a two-year-old at home, so I thought I'd bring her some home baking. My sister-in-law and 6-month-old nephew also arrived home today after 3 1/2 weeks in Finland, so it's time to bake, and with this recipe I can kill two birds with one stone. Goal #79 - Bake something to give away. :-)

This recipe for fruit loaf is my mother's and I remember her making it when we were children. I use sultanas or raisins for the fruit, but almost anything goes. The loaves are cooked in two stages, ie ingredients are boiled and left to cool before baking later, so it's a good idea to plan to make this in two parts (eg morning and afternoon). Having said that, it's very easy to make and tastes even better on the second day (if there's any left!).

Fruit loaf

Ingredients
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 450g mixed fruit (or sultanas)
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 85g butter
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2tsp baking soda
Method
  1. Place cinnamon, ground cloves, mixed spice, mixed fruit, water, sugar and butter in a saucepan and boil for ten minutes. Leave to cool for at least 1 hour.
  2. Add flour and baking soda and mix well.
  3. Put mixture into two greased loaf tins.
  4. Bake in pre-heated oven at 160 degrees Celsius for 1 hour.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Chocolate - the world's most perfect food

Two things I love:
  • baking
  • chocolate
OK, so there are more than two things that I love, but that's where I'm starting from today. ;-)

Last week, for my birthday, I was given two gorgeous recipe books for sweet treats. 500 chocolate delights came from my brother and sister-in-law (who have method in their madness in that they hope I'll 'experiment' with them), and a work friend gave me a book on cupcakes. Perfect for goal #64 - Bake and decorate cupcakes!

Now, this brings me to contemplate and revisit my theory that chocolate is the world's most perfect food. Here's why:
  • You can eat or drink chocolate.
  • You can have chocolate hot or cold.
  • You can have chocolate on its own, or with something else.
  • You can cook with chocolate. Heck, sometimes you can even put it in what you are cooking!
  • Chocolate smells as good as it tastes. Mmmmm.
  • Chocolate comes in every shade - light, medium and dark, sure to suit everyone's taste and also match the décor.
  • Chocolate can be eaten (or drunk) with every meal - breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and all those moments in between. (OK, breakfast might be pushing it a little, but it's possible.)
  • Chocolate comes in endless flavours - if you can imagine it, I'm sure someone somewhere will have produced it. (Experiment at your own peril.)
  • Chocolate is the new black. Well that's what it says on the chocolate bar I got with my cookbook.
  • Chocolate has health benefits - it really and truly does! I forget exactly what they are, but I'm sure it's all good. And as for the cynics that say chocolate makes you fat and zitty? Well, duh, as with anything, too much chocolate isn't good for you, just like too much water can drown you. But we all still drink water, right?
Heck, who needs a reason or an excuse to eat chocolate, really? This list starts by saying that chocolate is a vegetable, and we all know we need more vegetables in our diet. It's no secret; chocolate is the world's most perfect food.

Chocolate lovers, unite!

Monday, 11 August 2008

The Whale Rider - Witi Ihimaera

I read The Whale Rider (1987), by Witi Ihimaera, the other week. Most people would be more familiar with the Whale Rider (2002), for which Keisha Castle-Hughes was nomiated for a best actress Oscar, but the novel is also quite charming.

I was lucky enough to win tickets for a friend and I to see the premier of the Whale Rider movie when it was first released. Witi Ihimaera introduced the story and told us a bit about how he first came to write the novel for his two young daughters, Jessica and Olivia, while they were living in New York in the 1980s and a long way from home. Then, in 2004, friends and I saw the premier of the stage show in Auckland's newly refurbished Civic Theatre.

The differences between the stage show and the movie were immediately obvious, and it's difficult to not make comparisons. In both productions, the lead character of Koro was played by the same actor, Rawiri Paratene. However, the stage show portrayed a more mystical mood and made the whales and ocean an integral part of the story. Upon reading the novel, I see these are the flashbacks to ancient times which characterised novel and forged the links between past and present. Also, the novel was narrated by Uncle Rawiri, but he was a less central character in the movie and stage productions.

Regardless of the interpretation, Whale Rider is a delightful fantasy story and I am glad I finally found a copy of the novel to read. It helped me to fill in the 'gaps' between the three different versions of the tale that I have now experienced.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Yum char

It's bitterly cold and windy today, and really a day when I'd be happy to stay in bed. Except today was the day I had planned for #55 - Have yum char with friends.

A group of 8 friends met at Grand Century restaurant in Tory St, Wellington. I'd been here for yum char before and enjoyed the food. If you book for opening time (11am), everything is freshly cooked and the selection is absolutely huge. It's a great, inexpensive way to enjoy brunch with friends while trying some new tastes.

There's only one catch: I can't stand tea, green or otherwise. So, despite all the yummy food, I still needed a real coffee afterwards. The Brooklyn Café is just across the road and one of my favourite places for coffee and brunch. My coffee card was full, so now was a good time to cash in my freebie. I was thrilled to discover that every free coffee also comes with a free sweet selection! My sweetie was eying up the black forest gateau, and we shared that as dessert. Now neither of us need to eat again for the rest of the weekend, lol!

Friday, 8 August 2008

Blown away

I'm flying back into Wellington airport tonight. I don't mind the odd bump or two while flying, and Wellington's notorious wind sometimes makes takeoffs and landings interesting. But I’m certainly glad I wasn’t flying this day.




There’s something about this video which reminds me of the 90s computer puzzle game, Lemmings. ;-)

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Find something to be happy and thankful for each day

When I set my 101 goals for 1001 days, I did it in order to achieve one main goal: to feel more fulfilled in my life. This is not an easy thing. There are some goals on the list which are practical and simply have to be done (#41 - Fix/sew up my clothes that need minor mending), others that are indulgent (#43 - Have a bubble bath), some new experiences (#9 - Swim with dolphins), and a few little ones “just because” (#55 - Have yum char with friends). They’re not about scaling mountains; they are just things that I have set out to do.

Work has been incredibly hectic and stressful lately. Don’t be mistaken: I love what I do for work and how I can work (at home, yay!), but sometimes there’s just too much of it. I love travelling (and am working in Christchurch today and tomorrow), but the days here are really long. I’ve been unwell for a while and, even though I’m recovering quite well, there’s still a long way to go until I’m fully healthy again; that’s not always easy to cope with. And this is where #48 can sometimes be the most difficult goal to achieve: Find something to be happy and thankful for each day.

So here are some things for #48 without the “buts”.
  • I have a lovely sweetie who cares for me and about me and shows me this.
  • I have worked very hard on my career over the years and now my hard work is paying off.
  • I travel the just right amount for work, ie enough to still enjoy it.
  • I am staying in a lovely apartment tonight in Christchurch.
  • It is a beautiful clear night and I will shortly go for a walk to get something for dinner.
  • The flight down to Christchurch from Wellington this morning was great – blue skies and sunshine all the way.
  • I am reading a fantastic book right now: “Life is So Good”, by George Dawson.
  • Every time I receive a txt and hear Animal grunt “Mah nah mah nah”, I can’t help but smile.
  • I have great friends.
How about you? What would be some things on your #48 list?

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Flowers make me smile

I've been very spoilt. :-)


Thank you, sweetie. You've made my day special. :-)

Monday, 4 August 2008

Surfing on a raining day

Work has been quite excessive and reasonably stressful lately, with a quite few late nights and long hours in the weekend. Make no mistake: working from home is great, but you need to be incredibly disciplined - and not to keep yourself on-task, but to make sure you actually stop and take a break, because work is always waiting where your laptop is ...

I decided to stop early today after getting a reasonably big project off the ground. I saw a break in the weather, and planned a short trek around the corner for coffee ... but, of course, by the time I'd got my coat and bag it had started raining again. Oh well, that's what umbrellas are for. :-)

So I sat at a café, sipping a long black, and reading yesterday's Sunday magazine from the Sunday Star-Times. Trashy indulgence, and very 'Auckland' by nature; it always amuses me to be reminded of how different my life is to what they think mainstream NZ is. In it, I came across a few blogs and websites to look up and thought I'd share them.
  • I Love Typography. This site is strangely fascinating. I wish more people understood the nuances of serif and sans serif fonts and when to use them. Part of my job involves web design (at a low-ish level) and I constantly have to battle those who don't have an ounce of design-savvy about them.
  • Dr Demartini. This guy is high on life and the money he can make from 'inspiring' the lives of others; he's probably the kind you'd love or hate depending on your mood. I'm pretty neutral today, but can imagine days when he'd annoy the h*ll out of me.
  • The Cupcake Project. Now, how's that for a title? With a byline of: Everyone has creativity inside them. Share yours by drawing a cupcake and adding it to The Cupcake Project ... well, how about going one better and actually baking a cupcake or 12? Yum.
  • Tempt. For cupcakes you can actually eat, although they're so pretty and indulgent that you might not want to ...
What are some sites you've come across recently, 'just because'?

Logan Brown

Last night, my sweetie surprised me and took me to dinner at Logan Brown. Wow!

A couple of months ago, a friend organised a girls' night out, starting with the bistro menu at Logan Brown. Unfortunately, I was sick and had to cancel at the last minute, so never thought I'd get to blog about this.

Logan Brown is, once again, one of 40 finalists in the Cuisine NZ Restaurant of the Year. With a massive reputation to uphold, Logan Brown is all that. Our mains were a taste sensation. I had the John Dory with Celeriac Puree & Spanner Crab Wonton and a side of Arugala Salad with Pear, Walnuts & Pecorino. My sweetie ordered a medium-rare Prime Awarua Tenderloin, Smoked Rib with Bourbon BBQ Sauce & Buttermilk Onion Rings, with Oven Roasted Portabella Mushrooms on the side. Even though this is a 'big white plate' restaurant, the meal was filling and satisfying, so we forewent dessert.

The environment is stunning, and retaining the features of the old bank which used to occupy the building is a winner. While the service was much less formal than the last time I dined there, it was an incredible dining experience.

Thank you, sweetie - I feel truly spoilt. :-)

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Buy a Lotto ticket

I put this goal on my list to shut my sweetie up: goal #58 - buy a Lotto ticket. I know that sounds harsh, but it needed to be done. ;-)

Every Saturday, he says "got to get my Lotto ticket", and we trek out to a Lotto shop so he can buy a few lines with his set numbers. Recently, he's converted to playing Lotto online (oh, help us!). His standard answer to me saying "I can't afford ..." is, "you should have bought a Lotto ticket". Whatever!

I'm not a gambler in any way, shape or form. Sure, I want to go to Vegas and ogle the obscene amounts of money zooming around the miles of neon, and to see an all-night Elvis-impersonator wedding (at midnight), but it's for pure entertainment value. The lure of gambling simply doesn't interest me.

I figured that if I was going to concede and buy a ticket, it might as well be on a jackpot night. Last night, Lotto turned 21. (Geez, I remember the very first draw when I was a child - that's showing my age!) So, yesterday, I handed over $6 for a lucky dip.

And what did I win? Absolutely sweet &*$% all. As I expected. But now my sweetie can't chide me for never buying a ticket, although he has mentioned something about it being a 'practice run'. I did it, though, and that's another goal ticked off.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Your choice

At the end of last year, my team was working in Tauranga for a couple of days and I introduced you to William (well, that's what I called him). William is a delightful colleague of mine, whose culinary tastes are rather specific in that bland + unadventurous = best.

Last night, while at the Southern Cross for the music quiz, I was reminded of William as I looked through their dessert menu and came across this:
Classic Ice Cream Sundae 7.00 With all the extras. Your choice of sauce, with chopped nuts, 100's and 1000's and a pink wafer.
Once again, those words your choice jumped out at me and I wondered just how much choice there actually was? I didn't find out ... but I'm sure William would have. ;-)