Thursday, 30 June 2011

The dealing's done for Kenny

This post is long overdue; so are a number of things with me at the moment, but that's another post in itself.

There are many curious characters who make up the fabric of the night life in Courtenay Place. You're likely to come across them at least every weekend and usually in the wee small hours. Some are more sociable that others, but all have their quirks. There's the infamous Blanket Man who is quick to abuse anyone who crosses his path, the guy who gets off a bus outside the Star Mart and asks for $2, the 'superstitious' guitarist, who plays Stevie Wonder's Superstition almost continuously outside the National Bank ... and then there was Kenny.

'Kenny', little known by his real name, John Adams, died of a brain tumour on 6 June. He was street performer with many strings to his entertaining bow, least of which was his musical ability, yet that is what he will most likely be remembered for. That, and his ongoing petitions to the Wellington City Council, appealing to Noise Control to have his impounded amp back. Yes, apparently the residents of Courtenay Place were not all Kenny fans.

Kenny petitions the WCC
to get his impounded amp back
I was beaten to the punch by Blog on the Tracks for already writing much (or much more) of what I might have written about Kenny myself. I didn't hear him recite Shakespeare, but I do recall catching snippets of Rudyard Kipling's If during late night jaunts down Courtenay Place during the mid-late 1990s. More commonly, I came across Kenny somewhere along the fence by entrance to what is now Reading Courtenay (but was at the time under construction), a drunken crowd around him dancing and singing along to whatever he was trying to play at the time. One night, I wandered past to see a clearly tipsy woman with her around Kenny's shoulder and trying to get him to do the can-can with her; turns out it was my best friend at high school, who I hadn't seen for a few years but was not at all surprised by her efforts that night.

Word has it that in the early days, when asked to play The Gambler, he claimed to not know it, yet is what he is most commonly associated with. Whether he ever actually learned to play the song is questionable, but it quickly became part of a very limited repertoire for Kenny.

As a young musician, I think I was most offended by the terrible sound quality emanating from his microphone, which was gaffer taped inside his leather jacket and hooked up to a crummy 40W amp. His guitar wasn't much better. The fact that he barely knew how to play it was simply par for the course. And, yet, he had crowd-pulling power.

There was no sendoff for Kenny, although locals have called for a tribute. Kenny finally 'broke even' and is hopefully now entertaining the crowds in sky - if he ever managed to get his old amp back, that is. ;-)

One last time for 'Kenny':

Image source:
Used without permission

Friday, 24 June 2011

First world problems

I quite like the Twitter hashtag #firstworldproblems. Much like my #DailyBitch tweets, it is a way for spoilt brats the world over to realise just how they're behaving while still having a moan. Yep, we know that there are really tough things and unspeakable horrors happening out there. Some are closer than others; I can't begin to imagine how hard it would be living in Christchurch after all the earthquakes. So, #firstworldproblems is a fun way of letting off steam while quietly getting over ourselves. There's even a website dedicated to collecting all the moaning tweets using this hashtag.

I've had a few #firstworldproblems this week. The list includes, but is not exclusive to, the following:
  • Our regular barista at work is on holiday for four days. Four days! (Work days, that is.) Colleagues brave enough to experiment with the replacement barista's coffee either poured theirs out or left their drinks unfinished. Some even resorted to drinking instant coffee. I know - unheard of! So, to recap, we've had four days of:

    • bad coffee
    • scalded milk
    • no coffee at all. (I chose this option - I figure it's safer than being disappointed.)
  • Cheese Scone Friday was thwarted not only by our barista's absence, but also because a catering order must have taken priority in the cafeteria kitchen meaning the cook resorted to using pre-made generic scone dough from the freezer and sprinkling some grated cheese on top. Most were left still unsold at the end of the day.
  • Installation of our new kitchen is progressing slowly. Things always take longer than anticipated but, remember, I am coffee-free at the moment and without a hot plate at home to make coffee for myself.
  • I will probably miss Wellington Open Day on Sunday because I'll be sorting out the new kitchen and making sure the new flatmate is ok moving in. His room is currently filled with the contents from our old kitchen and the lounge contains cabinets and finishings ready for the new kitchen.
  • Our scenic helicopter flight has been delayed so many times since early May due to bad weather that we're now on a waitlist to be called at short notice if the weather is fine during the day each weekend.
  • It's only just started snowing at Ruapehu, one week out from our ski trip next weekend. What is a ski trip without snow? Well, actually, this is my idea of a snow weekend, but you know what I mean.
Such a hard life! (I know - not really. In fact, I don't believe that at all.) What #firstworldproblems have you been suffering this week?

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Travel envy

Over a leisurely coffee on a dreary and rainy Saturday afternoon, I read a column in The Dominion Post by writer Craig Cliff called Travel sickness. He's not talking about the various ailments including, but not exclusive to, Delhi belly or sunburn that can turn even the most lavish dream holiday into an expensive nightmare. Instead, Cliff was describing society's preoccupation with travel envy, where anywhere else but here seems like a better place to be right now. He refers to this as the 11th commandment: thou shalt not cover thy neighbour's OE.

Think about it. Yesterday, I learned of the travel plans of two colleagues. One is going to spend two weeks travelling around Israel and France while the other looks forward to 3 1/2 weeks in northern Argentina in September. This is on top of the workmate who is currently languishing in the UK for three weeks. Apart from an upcoming skiing weekend at a mountain that has yet to see any snow, I have nothing to contribute to these conversations except for a fleetingly envious drool. I'm doing it now! As we approach the winter solstice, warm and exotic destinations seem more enticing than ever.

On occasion, when I have had an exciting holiday to look forward to, I've been fascinated by the response from people I've told. Almost every time, I hear my pet hate comment: "oh, you're so lucky!" Lucky? Luck has very little to do with saving for, planning, booking and organising anything, unless of course I'd won the lot. Now that would be lucky. (I'm still working on it.)

As someone whose list of places I'd like to travel to exceeds even my TBR list, it's not hard to evoke a bit of travel envy in me. Give it a try; are you planning an exciting trip (big or small) right now? Or are you also experiencing travel envy? Go on - make me envious.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Skite cake

I made Russian fudge a couple of weeks ago and have had half a tin of condensed milk sitting in the fridge since then. Now, it would be a shame to waste it, right? I didn't necessarily want to make fudge again, but most baking recipes I've come across require a full 400 g can of condensed milk. A quick Google search using "200 g condensed milk" revealed something called skite cake from Ladies, a Plate. Sounds good. The finished product is a slice with a slightly chewy base, chocolate syrup icing and a layer of chocolate caramel in between. All good!

Skite cake

  • 115 g butter
  • 100 g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 140 g flour
  • 1 tbsp cocoa
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 200 g sweetened condensed milk
  • 55 g butter
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 tsp cocoa
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 45 g caster sugar
  • 45 g butter
  • 190 g icing sugar
  • 3 tbsp cocoa
Getting ready
  • Preheat the oven to 180º C.
  • Grease a shallow 12 x 8 in/30 x 21 cm tin and line the base and two sides with a piece of baking paper.
  • Soften the butter and bring the egg to room temperature.
  • Sift together the dry ingredients.
Mixing and baking
  1. Cream the butter and sugar until well combined – you can do thin is a food processor or mixer. Add the egg, then the dry ingredients and spread the mixture evenly in the prepared tin. [I had to ditch the baking paper and press the mixture in with my fingers as it was very sticky, wouldn't spread and kept lifting the paper.] Bake for about 20 minutes until firm and cooked.
  2. While the base is in the oven, combine the filling ingredients in a small saucepan and heat gently together, stirring until well combined.
  3. Pour the hot filling onto the cooked base. Spread it out evenly and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Set aside on a rack until cool.
  1. Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl.
  2. Gently heat the water, caster sugar and butter in a small pot until the butter melts. Simmer for one minute to form a syrup.
  3. Beating all the time, pour about ¾ of the syrup onto the icing sugar and cocoa. Add the remaining syrup if necessary to make a smooth, fudgy icing. Add a little hot water if it's still too thick. Spread over the cooled base and leave to set for about 20 minutes before cutting the skite cake into about 32 fingers. 
Skite cake

    Friday, 10 June 2011

    Things to do when the network is down

    The network has been up and down like a yo-yo this morning before finally crashing in spectacular style a couple of hours ago. Sure, it's frustrating for most people, but when you have the word online in your job title ... well, it's like trying to knit with one arm tied behind your back.

    We started out pretending that we could work independently of the network for a bit, but that doesn't leave much when every single file is stored centrally. Emails are also down, along with our intranet, printers etc. Time to surrender to the machine and find other ways to amuse ourselves.

    Things to do when the network is down:
    • Cheese Scone Friday. Make it a good one.
    • Arrange absent colleague's teddy bears into dodgy positions and/or hide them in questionable places around the office. Endless fun.
    • Move stuff around randomly - walls, wires, furniture, desks. Yes, we're easily amused.
    • Socialise - I mean, 'catch up with colleagues about important issues' over in the other block.
    • Buy lots of random and unnecessary crap off the daily deals sites. All of them.
    • Read the news. Again. 
    • Clear your Google Reader RSS feeds until Outlook starts working again.
    • Read a book - you know, of the paper variety. 
    • Cross our fingers and pray for a big dumping of snow soon in time for a ski trip in a few weeks.
    • Organise coffee dates for the weekend. Lots of them.
    • Hold a meeting.

    Any other suggestions?