Sunday, 23 December 2007

Is waterboarding torture?

The person writing in the link below wondered this so he administered it to himself. His conclusion? It's torture. In fact he has this to say

"So, is it torture?

"I'll put it this way. If I had the choice of being waterboarded by a third party or having my fingers smashed one at a time by a sledgehammer, I'd take the fingers, no question.

"It's horrible, terrible, inhuman torture. I can hardly imagine worse. I'd prefer permanent damage and disability to experiencing it again. I'd give up anything, say anything, do anything."

Is Waterboarding Torture?

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Gang City: part of my day

I bought a telescope today. A telescope that you plug into your computer and set it to follow the path you want, take photos etc. Sounds good, doesn't. Well, its fucking crap. In fact it's so crappy I took it back to the store and demanded a refund. They couldn't refuse as the 20mm lense had actually fallen apart sometime between the time it was made and the time I bought it. I was so pissed off.

Actually, part of the reason I got pissed off is that I got all worked up and ready for a fight with the shop. I was ready to quote commerce act shit at them if they tried the old "we don't do refunds" or the "don't do refunds you have to spend the value in the shop" bullshit. But they didn't . It took about 5 minutes of waiting while they taught a new assistant how to reverse charges back into the original bank account. Left feeling tense and wound up so I started a fight with the next hoodie boy I saw. That's a lie of course. I just smiled politely at the shop staff and said, "Thank you. I appreciate the good service".

In reality (that stuff called "real life") I left the store and went back to my car. Gave my pay and display with an hour left to a woman struggling with a double pram and then drove very slowly up the heavily trafficed main street holding up all the cars behind me while I let pedestrians cross in front of me and allowed cars to back out of parking spaces, allowed other cars into gaps etc. The main reason for this was the huge number of "boy racer' types who were being absolute arseholes. They piss me off so I piss them off. One guy resorted to waiting for me to get someway ahead and then planting boot and racing up behind me only to have to hit his brakes and slow down to somewhere between 5 and 10km per hour.

One of them had a crappy mitsubishi of some sort and had 'enhanced' it with all sorts of huge dashboard gauges. Some of them were monsters. When I was behind him I could just about read the number of revs his engine was doing etc. I'm sure they made his car faster. His number plate had a wrapper around it which said, "Welcome to New Zealand. Now SPEAK ENGLISH". Jerk. He was Maori which I thought interesting given his views on speaking English. Essentially he was saying that no other languages had any value.

Gang City

Camille and I are staying in Gang City, the place where a couple of dozen men with tattooed faces and filthy clothes stalk the streets day and night, paralyzing an entire city, terrorizing 45,000 people, and causing Mayor Michael Lies to froth at the mouth. Interesting place. The buildings in the centre of town remind me of a low storey Wellington from sometime in the 70s combined with a population with all the grace and slack jawed intelligence of modern day Upper Hutt.

Our trip here was fairly uneventful. We stopped at a Palmerston North restaurant for dinner. Camille had eaten at the place before for lunch and thought it well worth it but we were travelling and didn't know where it was apart from it being in Palmerston North. However, modern technology came to the rescue and we used my phone to do a quick google search and then a look at which gave us the address. I have to say that the "Aberdeen Steakhouse and Bar' is pretty damn good, particularly if you enjoy a good steak because that's what the menu mainly consists of though they do serve a few other things including vegetarian food for those who, as the menu said, "would really rather be somewhere else". It's a good restaurant. Pleasant layout and decor, excellent atmosphere, good service, uncrowded seating etc. We started off with a beer each and a couple of tapas - sundried tomato & feta infused with olive oil and rosemary tarts, chicken balls rolled in sesame seeds with a soy based sauce. There were more on the menu but we were there to do some serious meat eating so we held back. However, if I were in PN for lunch or if I had more time I would happily do their tapas. The mains menu consists of about a dozen different cuts of steak all attractively described. It even includes Wagyu beef at $45.00 for a 100 grams. I was tempted but I'll wait for another time to binge on Wagyu. We both went for a 180gm eye fillet cooked medium rare. There are a number of accompaniments and sides you can order from. Camille and I were fairly traditional and ordered a baked potato with sour cream (Camille) and the "house fries" which are basically oversized chips. A salad arrived with our mains which was, I think, a cut above the average restaurant salad. The steaks were excellent. Both cooked medium rare. Quite refreshing to find a restaurant that doesn't cook a medium rare closer to medium. Mind you, when a place specialises in steaks one would expect them to be able to do them well. Camille went with a green peppercorn sauce with hers and I selected a horseradish cream. I was a bit disappointed with this as it was more cream than horseradish and lacked bite. We had a Trinity Hill Syrah with our steaks and this was good. I don't know the year as there were no dates on the wine menu. I recommend this place.

We are staying in the Kingsgate Hotel in the city centre. We investigated the Gang City accommodation online and this seemed to be about the best place available. We are booked into one of their "Superior rooms". Is it? Well, this morning I went to the reception and asked them to check our booking as I thought we had been placed in the wrong room. The reply was basically, "No. You are in one of our superior rooms". Obviously this is a redefinition of the word superior because I place this room on a par with second rate and very small motel room. I would hate to stay in one of the Kingsgate Hotel standard rooms.

Now follows a long whinge about the Kingsgate Superior room we are in.

The room itself is a bit larger than, and this is no exaggeration, one of the bathrooms in my house. The bathroom here is about the size of my fridge. Ok - that is an exaggeration but not by much. There is chipped paintwork and peeling wallpaper. The shower is arranged in such a way that when you are in it water flows all over the floor of the bathroom soaking anything that is on it. It's a small miracle that it didn't flow out of the bathroom and into the main room. I suspect that if we chose to have long showers that this would happen. However, it's impossible to have long showers because the ventilation in the bathroom isn't working. The vent grill is filthy and clogged. When the shower is running the bathroom very quickly turns into a sauna and is quite unpleasant to be in. The airconditioning is completely useless. They have a selection of teas but only one type of INSTANT coffee.

No! I can't stand it and neither can Camille. She has left for work and I am leaving this fucking awful hotel. I'm cutting short the whinge and I'm looking for somewhere else.

Later: I am now ensconsed in the hotel-that-begins-with-the-letter-C Hotel. You may have guessed that I can't recall the name even though I checked in five minutes ago. The name is unimportant. What is important is that I am in a far more pleasant place. It's light, airy (perhaps because I have opened all the windows), on the 2nd floor, quiet, no peeling paint or wallpaper. There is real coffee and a plunger to make it in.

I am far happier, as will Camille be when she arrives back, and more relaxed. It may be time to wander the streets of Gang City looking for trouble.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Police Terror Raids in New Zealand

In October the police mounted a wide ranging series of raids agains suspected terrorists. 17 people were arrested under New Zealand's anti-terrorism law. Various firearms and other charges were laid against them using other laws. The police body of evidence was submitted to the Solicitor General in order to establish if there was a case to be made under the anti-terrorism law – as is required by the law.

The Solicitor General did not authorise any charges under the anti-terrorism law. He said that the law was incomprehensible and made it almost impossible for it to be used against domestic terrorists. However he also said the police did the right thing in seeking the evidence under the law and was very disturbed by some of the evidence. Unfortunately as there were no charges laid under the anti-terrorism law the evidence gathered under it cannot be used in other charges or be made public. Effectively the New Zealand public has no way of knowing whether the police actions were justified.

Since the raids and arrests there have been numerous claims about them. My views on some of them are below.

  1. The raids were uncalled for. These people aren't terrorists! No one has been charged with terrorism.

    The Solicitor General believes the raids were justified given the body of evidence. This is what the police do – collect evidence, arrest people and then charge them if a case can be made. In my opinion the New Zealand's law system has worked exceptionally well in this case. No terrorism charges were laid as in the Solicitor General's belief the law used to gather the evidence could not be applied. This is an example of the law working as it should.

  2. The raids and arrests were racist as they targeted Maori and, in particular, Tuhoe Maori.

    Maori, Pakeha, and one Iranian were among the arrested. If the police action was racist, which racial group was the target of racism? Having representatives of the two main ethnic groups in New Zealand in the group of arrested people would seem to indicate that neither of them were being discriminated against. Some of the claims of racism seem to be in the order of , “Maori were arrested therefore the police were being racist”. I don't subscribe to this type of reasoning. Other claims are along the lines that the Tuhoe area was unfairly targeted and that this is racist. However, this ignores that the majority of the alleged illegal actions took place within the Tuhoe boundaries. This was exactly the area where police would most expect to meet some armed resistance.

  3. The police actions in the Tuhoe area of the Uruweras were over the top. In particular the use of heavily armed and masked police to search every vehicle entering or leaving the town/area of Ruatoki was completely unjustified.

    Some years ago the police went into the same area to arrest some members of the Mongrel Mob who were suspects in a murder case. The Mongrel Mob members were smugggled through a police roadblock in a Kohanga Reo van. As this time the police were searching for a group of people who allegedly were preparing to conduct terrorist actions within New Zealand and who may have been heavily armed, I think it is reasonable to actively search every vehicle given that when they didn't do this in the past a couple of suspects were smuggled past them.

    However, in some instances the police actions were over the top and possibly illegal. For instance, holding people without charge for many hours while searching their property isn't acceptable. Compounding that, the failure to allow those people access to food, water, clothing etc. in order to deal with children is reprehensible. Conducting full body searches in the public eye (as has been claimed) is also fairly appalling.

    Having people line up in front of their vehicles (while they were being searched) is also unacceptable. Yes, people have the right to refuse to have their photo taken in such circumstances. However, I think if I was in the situation of being faced by large numbers of heavily armed and masked police officers I would find it difficult to stand up for my rights. The level of intimidation in the atmosphere would be extreme.

  4. Some of the people were only activists. Why were they arrested?

    Most people talk shit and do nothing. Activists, however, have a history of talking shit and then acting. This is why they are called activists. They act on things instead of sitting around talking all day. ie. They are more likely to act on their statements than are non-activists. Taking part in military style training in secret camps in the bush is making a pretty strong statement which ever way you look at it.

  5. At least one person arrested has stated that he knew his phone was bugged and that he was playing games with the police with his phone conversations.

    The police gathered evidence over a two year period using a variety of methods including the bugging of phones, cars, buildings and other sites. I would be very surprised if anyone would be playing games constantly over that period of time, not only on the phone but in cars, buildings etc. Quite frankly, some of the conversations released are frightening.

  6. Tame Iti wouldn't hurt a fly.

    This claim simply is not true. Tame Iti did a six month stretch in 1997 after being convicted of assault and firearms charges. He was seen on nationwide television assaulting John Te Kaha and a television camera crew with a Taiaha.

It is interesting that the majority of those accused have not explicitly denied their actions. If I were one of them and certain of my innocence I would be waiving the right for the evidence against me to be suppressed (see 2nd paragraph).

Given the seriousness of these raids and the alleged actions of those arrested I think it is in the public interest for the mass of evidence gathered to be made public. We need to know the full story behind these raids.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

A few equations

Iraq / Iran / Middle East turmoil + China / Iran / others experiencing civil unrest through oil/petroleum shortages + Declining world production (3% down from peak) = Rising prices in oil

Mexico is currently the US's 3rd largest supplier of oil. It is likely to become an importer of oil within 5 years. Iran and other oil producers are keeping more of the product for themselves thereby reducing the available supply. North Sea and other oil production is in dramatic decline. There is a shortage of equipment used for oil exploration and extraction and no-one is willing to invest in producing more - one has to ask "why?". Do I really need to mention the Iraq war, the tension between the US and Iran, the ongoing problems with Israel and the rest of the Middle East.

Oil prices rising + Biofuels + Australian / US / other droughts = Rising food prices

Biofuels have been touted as a replacement for oil as the supply gets scarce and expensive. Major grain producing areas are being replanted in crops seen as good for biofuels. This is a fundamentally stupid idea as it a) reduces the amount of food crops and b) more importantly, cropping for biofuels will never produce enough to replace any sizeable portion of oil. One would need to plant an area the size of Venuzuela just to cover the 3% decline in production in recent years let alone the projected increase in demand. The Australian drought has had a huge effect on the price of wheat/grains as have droughts in other areas. There are climate induced water shortages forcast for the future which will have a major effect on water intensive farming such as rice.

US housing market + major debt write downs + 2 billion per day borrowings + huge overseas debts + oil prices rising = major US / global recession

There is a move away from US securities and into tangible assets. People holding US dollars are desperate to exchange them for something that will retain value. The US dollar decline has some way to go.

Things just don't look too rosy for the next few years. New Zealand is a long way from the rest of the world and is just as reliant on oil as any other western economy. Things are going to hurt in a big way. Might be time to start looking at a vege garden again. Get broadband and negotiate with your employer to work from home. Reduce debt. Stop spending.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

A thieving IP law firm's website "user agreement/privacy policy"

The "Dozier Internet Law P.C." website has an incredible User Agreement/Privacy Policy. It has such gems in it as:

"Dozier Internet Law, P.C. has a lot of intellectual property on our site. For instance, we are the creators of all of the text on this website, and own the “look and feel” of this website. We also own all of the code, including the HTML code, and all content. As you may know, you can view the HTML code with a standard browser. We do not permit you to view such code since we consider it to be our intellectual property protected by the copyright laws. You are therefore not authorized to do so."

There is nothing particularly special about the HTML code. It uses tables to control layout instead of divs and css so whoever designed it isn't keeping up with the play when it comes to web design. It also contains javascript code copyrighted by another party so they must be Intellectual Property thieves given their claim to "own all of the code..":
OpenPopUpLite 2.0.1 action by Nate Baldwin,, copyright 2004

How about this line:

"The name “Dozier Internet Law, P.C.", and similar derivatives of it, constitute our trademark and servicemark, and should not be used in any manner without our permission."

"You are not authorized to use our name, or any derivative of it."

So nobody can even refer to the firm by name? Apparently no-one is allowed link to them either:

"We also do not allow any links to our site without our express permission, except that you must maintain the link in our Copyright Infringement Warning Button as it is designed."

So here is a link to their site and another link to the agreement

Do they understand how the Internet works? Do they not realise that without links to their site it's pretty much invisible?

They have a nice disclaimer in which they point out that the information on their site can be regarded as next to useless.

"It is impossible to guarantee or warrant the accuracy of information on this site since the technology and Internet world both evolve quickly, and laws and interpretations change at an every increasing pace. Of course, we do not sell any of the information collected on our website. Make sure that you don’t just read through this website and rely on what it says since we expressly disclaim all liability with respect to your actions taken, or not taken, based on the contents of this website."

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Huntly revisited

No, not another video of Huntly I wouldn't inflict that eyesore on anyone again. However, it doesn't seem to have gone down well with people who live in Huntly. I wonder why not? The video has garnered a few comments (only 17), most of them from outraged Huntly-ites. According to them I am the ugliest man in the world and I look like a terrorist to boot. I am amused.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Why I like living in a small town

There is somebody in my household who does not know how to turn taps off. Instead of giving them a light twist until the water stops flowing/dripping they wrench them until they are tightly screwed in. The water certainly stops flowing but it destroys the washers in a very short time and the water never stops running.

Last weekend it was time to change the washers again in the kitchen taps. I set to work. I turned the water off, drained the pipes, undid the tap handles and pulled out the mechanism. Yep, fucked washers alright.

Then the fun bit started. My taps aren't of the type where you can pull out the bit (technial term!) that holds the washer, replace the washer and then put the bit back again. No, my taps have the washers held in place by screws. Out came the screwdriver. However, as soon as I attempted to undo the screw the screw head simply fell apart. I was bemused. A perfectly good brass screw rotted out by the quality of the water. What on earth was I drinking? No more tap water for me! I tried the screw on the other tap mechanism with the same result. Time for a visit to the local hardware store.

My first thought was to replace my non standard tap mechanism with standard tap mechanisms. No problem, I found a couple and just about fell over at the price - just under $50.00 each. No matter! I want standardised tap bits! At this point the person serving me pointed out that my non standard tap mechanisms also had non standard bits for holding the tap handles on. Would my tap handles fit onto the new mechanisms?

Of course they wouldn't.

The assistant (henceforth known as "the chappie") took me out the back and set to work with his tool kit. He carefully drilled out the top of the screw, then carefully prised off the washer which was reluctant to move. A bit of CRC spray and the screw loosened up and was able to be removed without much effort. He then went to put a new washer on only to discover the non standard tap bit used non standard washers. The holes in the middle of all the washers he had available were too small.

The chappie was resourceful. He mounted a washer in a vice and very carefully and slowly enlarged the hole with an electric drill. It's quite difficult drilling out a small piece of pliable rubber. I wouldn't want to do it myself. That done, the washer was placed where it was supposed to go.

The entire process was repeated with the other tap mechanism.

We then discovered that he didn't have the right type of screw to hold the washers in place so he gave me the name of another business that would probably have them.

All told it took half an hour to go through this process. For this I was charged the princely sum of $2.30 - the price of two washers.

I then shot off to the other business. There they quickly found the right screws. Of course there was a problem with them. They were far too long. The assistant took the screws and disappeared into the back room. I waited, wandering around the shop looking at bits and pieces of machinery that I would had no idea what they were used for, would never buy, and couldn't afford to buy even if I wanted them.

15 minutes later the assistant turned up again. He had very carefully cut the two screws down to the right size. They fitted perfectly.

For this I was charged $1.00 - the price of two screws.

So for the total of $3.30 and 3 quarters of an hour of other people's time I succeeded in replacing the washers in my kitchen taps. This is one reason why I like living in a small town. You get very personal service and often do not get charged the true cost. Both businesses know that I will be a returning customer.

That said, next time I am buying a whole new set of taps.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Why the Pentagon Doesn’t Want Me to Testify About Abu Ghraib

An article by a soldier who served in Abu Ghraib.

Why the Pentagon Doesn’t Want Me to Testify About Abu Ghraib

By Sam Provance, AlterNet. Posted August 31, 2007.

As an Army intelligence analyst, my job at Abu Ghraib was systems administrator ("the computer guy"). But I had the bad luck to be on the night shift. And so I saw the detainees dragged in for interrogation, heard the screams, and saw many of them dragged out.

When I heard that the officer in charge of the interrogation/torture operation at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was being court-martialed, my first thought was: "Finally an officer is being held accountable."

But since my own attempts to stop the torture and identify those responsible were repeatedly rebuffed, you will perhaps excuse my skepticism that justice will be done.

An extract from his testimony:

"I also befriended SPC XXXXX XXXXXXXX, who was with the first MP units that set up Abu Ghraib after the war. Menesini told me that she had witnessed abuses of Iraqi people and even seen some of them murdered. She said she documented these things in diaries that she sent home to her family in case someone killed her before she made it home to do something about it. She particularly mentioned fearing her chain of command. Her view, that anyone disclosing these incidents of abuse would face swift and severe retaliation, was widespread among soldiers at Abu Ghraib."

Link to Provance's testimony to Congress

The XXXXX XXXXXXXXX above hides the name of the person he is talking about. I did this out of politeness. You can extract the text of the redacted (blacked out) parts of the document with very little effort.

George W Bush winds up for the pitch

"Iran ... is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. ... Iran funds terrorist groups like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which murder the innocent and target Israel. ... Iran is sending arms to the Taliban. ... Iran has arrested visiting American scholars who have committed no crimes. ... Iran's active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.

"Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere. ... We will confront this danger before it is too late."

"The attacks on our bases and our troops by Iranian-supplied munitions have increased in the last few months – despite pledges by Iran to help stabilize the security situation in Iraq. ...

"Iran's leaders cannot escape responsibility for aiding attacks against coalition forces and the murder of innocent Iraqis."

"I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities. ... We've conducted operations against Iranian agents supplying lethal munitions to extremist groups."

-- George W. Bush

So where do you think the US is going? Is Bush beginning the wind up to Iran or is he just bluffing to try and get the EU and Russia to support strong sanctions against Iran?

Friday, 24 August 2007

Shrunken Heads

A friend of mine makes shrunken heads. You can see more of these by clicking on the small photo below:

Shrunken Heads


A few photos of flowers I like, mainly chosen for the colours or shape:

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Teens queue for pipes

Another stupid New Zealand Herald story where the Headline doesn't fit the actual article and sensationalises the story. No where in the article is there any mention of teenagers queuing to buy pipes (marijuana pipes). It mentions one teenage was found to have some cannabis and was looking to buy a pipe but that's it.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Monday, 13 August 2007

Union wants dialogue on state of journalism

New Zealand's media union thinks media owners are using celebrity to sell papers etc. instead of using quality journalism. I have been complaining about this for a couple of decades. Back in the eighties or early nineties I recall the totally inconsequential Diana Spencer being on the front page of a newspaper because of a controversy about whether she had "orange peel thighs". On the same page was a large photo of Pavarotti and his girlfriend. The reason? Because he was considering visiting New Zealand about a year after the actual date of the paper! Incredible! These two stories and their pictures took up around half of the front page of the paper. That must have been close to two decades ago.

Why has the NZ media union only now decided that there could be a problem with celebrity news?

Link to story: Union wants dialogue on state of journalism

Police must take some blame, says dead boy's sister

Ok, the kid was being chased by the police, crashed the car and killed himself. The sister says the police must take some blame and change the way they conduct these chases. I say that if the kid hadn't decided to do a runner he would still be alive albeit with a heavy fine. He ran because he just had a fine for a similar offence and didn't want another fine.

So what does the sister want? Police to stop apprehending people breaking the law? I think that is the logical conclusion of her position.

Isn't it time that people started taking a little responsibility for themselves? If the police try to pull you over and you drive away they will chase you. It's their job. If you don't want a hefty fine when driving and on a learner's permit then don't break the law.

Link to story: Police must take some blame says dead boy's sister

Monday, 23 July 2007

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Huntly - The Ugliest Town in New Zealand

Huntly is a truly ugly place. On one side of the town they have a lovely river on the other side of which is a huge coal fired power station. On the other side is what looks like an ugly open cast coal mine. The town planners have succeeded in cutting the town off from any passing traffic so all you get when driving through is a lengthy view of an industrial area. Truly horrible!

Here is a five minute video of the trip through Huntly. Highlights include the lovely coal train parked up next to the traffic lights and the twin chimneys of the power station.

The great NZ rates ripoff?

The rural dwellers in this story piss me off. They claim they are subsidising urban dwellers because they don't get the same services. However, if urban dwellers were not subsidising rural dwellers then there would be no usable roads in rural areas. The subsidy thing goes both ways. Farmers and other country folk who think that they pay more than their fair share of rates should think about this a bit more.

In the same way, their complaints about having to subsidise sewerage schemes are also unjustified. Beside the above cross subsidisation there is also the public good to think about. Yes, farmers don't use sewerage systems (except for when their septic tanks are cleaned out) but it is in the public good for urban areas to have good, working, efficient sewerage systems. For one thing, it reduces the long term costs on public health and everyone benefits both financially and health wise through this.

If rural people want to have rate subsidies removed then they need to be prepared to cover the true costs of living in rural areas.

Full NZ Herald Article:
The great NZ Rates ripoff

Friday, 25 May 2007

A History Lesson

King Henry the XIII of England wasn’t really King Henry the XIII. He was actually Henry the XI but because he was so large historians could not fit him all into one reign. To get around this problem they divided him into Henries XI, XII and XIII. Fortunately the real Henries XII and XIII were thin enough to allow this. It was rumoured that he killed his Grandmother with the thighbone of a Turkey. This is why he is so often portrayed holding a Turkey leg in various paintings.

Alfred the Grater got his moniker during the days he was on the run from the Mormons. He was hidden by a pleasant woman who made him work in the kitchen when the Mormons came looking for him. Alfred spent two days grating cheese for the Mormon’s Cheese Toasties before he could escape.

Ethelred the Unready was a notorious womaniser but he had one major fault. When ever he got down to the job he always discovered that he had no condoms. This may have been due the fact that they were not invented yet.

King Canoe tried to cross the English Channel in an Eskimo Kayak but, alas, no one had ever heard of Eskimos, let alone kayaks so he had to make do with a Sedan Chair. He gave up the attempt when he realized there was no way that he could do it without getting his feet wet.

Theodotré's Bathroom Spider.

Discovered in 1883 by Hammond Theodotré. Found only in bathrooms of old houses. Due to the often damp atmosphere in bathrooms it's own web material falls apart. Instead the spider has developed the amazing ability to Build it's webs entirely out of the strands of hair that people leave after washing their hair. They are combined by using a complicated knotting procedure very similar to Macrame to form complex geometric shapes in the upper corners of the rooms. The resulting web is then covered with a mixture of the spider's own saliva and soap. This forms an incredibly sticky glue that snares the spider's prey. The saliva/soap glue does have the unfortunate tendency to dry out quickly making it necessary for the spider to constantly replace it. This may be why your soap disappears so quickly.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Hamilton, New Zealand

If I lived in Hamilton I would kill myself. The place is so awful I would be unable to live with myself any longer. Whoever decided that Hamilton should exist was probably taken out and shot. Actually, whoever it was probably killed themself once they realised the awfulness of what they created.

It's just a bad city. A bad city in which everyone lurches around like zombies. Maybe they have all killed themselves but Hamilton has sucked out their souls leaving their fleshly husks to wander the streets moaning in low, zombie tones, "UUURRRRRRRRR HHHHAAAAAAMMMMILLLLTTTTONN URRRR".

How on earth did we end up here? Well, let me tell you. Camille has a one day job to do up north so we decided to take few days extra and take the opportunity to do a little planning and also give ourselves a well deserved break. Camille had the bright idea of leaving after work on Wednesday so we could have more time away. Rather than drive all the through to the Bay of Islands where Camille has to work she decided to find
us a place to stay in Hamilton.

"Hamilton!!??", I said (enunciating the excessive punctuation).

"I know", she replied. "There is no other place. I don't want to stay in
Auckland and there are no hotels/motels online to view anywhere else".

"But Hamilton?", I said, being somewhat gobsmacked.

So Hamilton it was.

We loaded the car: 2 bags, 2 laptops, 1 data projector, 1 still camera, 1 video camera, 1 pepper grinder, 2 sharp knives, 1 steel, 2 wooden spatulas, 1 high quality big pan, 6 bottles of wine (including 2 Unison Selection 2004, 1 Burnt Spur Pinot Noir, 1 Squawking Magpie Cab Sav 2002, and 2 I can't recall at present) and 1 bag of work stuff.

Then we left.

The drive up was fairly uneventful. At one stage around Taupo we realised there was this strange stuff falling from the sky. It kept landing on the car obscuring our vision. It took us sometime to recall that this strange phenomenom is natural and is known as rain in other parts of New Zealand. Fortunately the car came with some equipment which allowed us to continue our journey unimpeded.

We were screaming along in the dark doing 120km/hr up a hill in some passing lanes coming up behind a vehicle. Camille was driving and was eager to pass but there was another vehicle very close behind us and in the lane we wanted to be in. Bloody annoying. As it drew level with us we both turned to the right and were stunned to find ourselves looking at a police car. It must have been doing at least 130km/h. It sailed past off into the distance. It wasn't in any particular hurry. Not like it was racing to an emergency or anything. Must have been off duty.

We arrived at Hamilton (!) and found our hotel. This is where the zombie factor began to present itself. We went into the reception and a human like thing came out carrying a small dog.

"Hi", said Camille "We are booked in for the night under Feast".

There was a long silence while the creature behind the counter did things
with a computer and then it made noises.


"Feast. F.E.A.S.T.". Camille helpfully spelt out her name.

"UUURRRRRRRRAAAAAAHHH... I can't find anything here."

Uh oh. This wasn't looking good. Camille waved the booking confirmation which the zombie latched onto. It put down the dog (which I had concluded must be its meal for the night) and pointed out the booking was for the next day.

Definitely not good. We started ringing around other places but they were all booked except for one. It had one vacancy. We took it and drove off to the new place.

It was awful. Small and smelly. The rank, greasy odour of some dreadful chemical air "freshener" filled the place. We could hear televisions in other units. We could hear people. The place smelled. There weren't
enough power points for all our laptops and phones. Fortunately I had the foresight to pack a 4 way plug box.

By this time it was around 8:45. I had checked a restaurant review site online and had decided on a particular restaurant. It was the best out of a bad, bad lot of Hamiltion reviews. So we drove off to find it. Could we? Well, yes but not easily. Hamilton's road system where we were is very strange. All sorts of bits coming in and out, folding round, going back. Very badly designed.

We ended up at the Le Grande Hotel. The food was not good. I ordered the scotch fillet. It came out 5mm thick at one end and 1cm thin at the other. It was medium rather than medium rare. Mind you, at that sort of thinness you could cook it for a minute and have it overdone. On the other hand the brocolli, whole carrots and potato slices were very good. Camille had a carbonara which she couldn't finish. The waitress said that it was a strange night as nobody who had the carbonara could finish it. Camille told me later that this was because it wasn't very nice.

The worst thing though was the two zombies who came in after us and sat between us and the door and proceeded to have a long and loud conversation about two people named John.

"Anyway, John was up on the stage doing his stuff and who do you think was at the back of the hall? That's right. John Hore!"

This was bellowed out like it was the most startling news ever.

We went back to crappy motel and decided to take a spa bath. It didn't work properly of course. The jets just produced strong water jets. No bubbles at all. Camille also had an unfortunate accident. She sat back on the spa drain which was actively sucking the water out. She let out a small shriek and leaped upwards. Now she has a lovely drain shaped bruise on her very lower back. I compassionately laughed like a drain.

In the morning we headed off towards Auckland. We stopped at a strange shopping area in the middle of some industrial zone for breakfast. We ate at "The Coffee Club" which had a large menu labelled "The Breakfast Club". One item was ribeye fillet steak served with bacon, scrambled eggs, tomato etc. I latched onto that as I really enjoy a good steak was severely disappointed after the previous nights effort. It duly arrived. The steak wasn't a "ribeye fillet". It was cut off a bit of rump. However, it was still superior to the bit of leather I had at the Le Grande.

Then we left Hamilton looking forward to our journey through "The Ugliest Town in New Zealand". That's right, Huntly! I have videoed our trip through Huntly catching all its eyesores accompanied by the thumping, driving music of Tom Waits, "Hang On St. Christopher". Excellent.

The two zombies who trapped us in the restaurant. What you can't see is that the one facing the camera has his right arm resting on his leg. He isn't using it because it doesn't have a hand attached to it BUT he is wearing a glove on his stump to hide this fact. A cunning disguise to make him look more human. Camille and I thought he might have eaten his own hand in a fit of hunger.