Sunday, 21 December 2008

Things that piss me off

One thing that pisses me off is retailers who advertise something on special in store and who do not have the item in stock. This behaviour is basically a bait and switch scheme and doing it violates the Fair Trading Act. It happened to me twice today.

Camille and I were out looking for a 7" digital photo frame. Both these stores had signs in their shops advertising them on special at $99.00. On asking for one both shops said they didn't have any in stock. We walked out of both without purchasing anything. In the second shop I was pissed off enough to rip the advertising off the display stand and hand it to the shop assistant telling him to stop advertising items they don't have in stock.

The stores were Harvey Normans Hastings and Dick Smith Electronics, also in Hastings.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Timaru: The dog

One thing I forgot to mention about this B&B is the dog. It's a huge slavering beast of a thing that greets you at the door and...

It's actually a small black and old spaniel which also happens to be totally blind. It wanders around the place gently bumping into things. I have been fairly impressed by its navigation skills but it does remind me of a battery operated toy I had years ago which was a bus with a set of rotating wheels under it. It would move forward and bump into something and then the rotating wheels cause it to change direction.

The dog operates in exactly the same way only without the wheels.

Timaru: Bed & Breakfast and Ginger & Garlic

We are staying a very nice Bed and Breakfast in Timaru called Nelson Heights. Very comfortable and with good hosts. Camille has stayed here on a number of occasions and likes it very much and with good reason. To the right is the bedroom we are in (photo shamelessly lifted from the B&B's website). The bed is excellent - I'm lying in it at this very moment. This is the room which has the ensuite with a spa bath which we didn't get to use. This place is substantially better than many hotels I have stayed at.

Last night we ate at the Ginger & Garlic restaurant which has, as I said in yesterday's post, pretty good reviews in Dineout. I can recommend this place. The food is good.

Shortly after being seated we were given an amuse bouche of a whitebait patty with oil which was quite pleasant.

Our table of five started off by ordering the roasted garlic and mozarella bruschetta, the salmon bruschetta and duck liver pate with breads. This was all good though perhaps a little more bread could have been served with the pate. I particularly liked garlic and mozarella. We got the usual "Would you like cracked pepper with that?" question to which the response was, "Leave the grinder at the table, please".

Rant: This is one of the things that really annoys me about some restaurants. If I want pepper on my food, I want to put it on myself. I want to be able to make the decision to put pepper on after I have tasted the food, not seconds after it has arrived at the table. I want to be able to make the decision to put more pepper on part way through the course without having to call someone over so they can trot off and get a grinder.

While eating I occasionally ground a bit of pepper over the salmon bruchetta portions I had whilst other members of our party chose not to have pepper at all.

For an entree I had the Caesar Salad which I was a just little disappointed with as it was a bit blander than I expected.

This was followed by a sorbet palate cleanser.

For the main, Camille and two others had the pork fillet and were all pleased with it. Some people just can't go past a bit of pork crackling. The fourth member of our party ordered the lamb back straps and was also very happy with it. I was in a bit of a quandry. Beef or Duck? Or more accurately, Angus Pure beef fillet on Moroccan potato gratin w garlic puree and dark mushroom jus or Salt & pepper crusted Canterbury duck breast, oven baked on garlic mash w baby fennel, beetroot tart and peppercorn jus?

I hate decisions like this. I plumped for duck in the end and was not disappointed! It was the fennel that did it for me. I love fennel (mmm fennel braised with garlic in white wine!) and don't get to eat it often enough. This was an excellent choice and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

We had a Peregrine Pinot Noir with the meal (actually 3 bottles) which was good but this leads into rant II.

Rant II: Another thing that annoys me about some restaurants is the way the wait staff continually interupt the flow of conversation and the general dining experience by continually attempting to fill my wine glass up after I have had about two sips out of it. Once they have been firmly told, "No. I will fill my glass when I want it filled", they shouldn't keep offering to do it. If they must do the wine pouring they should wait until the glass is at least near empty and I shouldn't have to continually fend them off.

The Ginger & Garlic is a good restaurant. If you are in Timaru and hungry I recommend you dine there.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

To Timaru!

Camille is driving and we are just south of Ashburton on our way to Timaru where Camille has a course graduating later today. It's been a somewhat ho-hum journey though landing in Wellington was fairly interesting. Very up and down and a bit of sideways too. I think it was the rockiest landing I have had at Wgtn for over 20 years.

We had just enough time there to grab a quick bite to eat and after walking all around the food outlets giving them the sniff test ("Oh... Not that one! Too greasy"), we settled on a samosa from the indian outlet. While it had an almost pleasant flavour,they were still semi-frozen in the midde and so were returned for re-heating. Back they came and they were still semi-frozen! We had to lump it though as we had to leave for our flight.

Passing through the security always amuses me in Wellington as I have to divest myself of various toys: phone, camera one, camera two, laptop out of the bag, USB drives etc. Today I realised that I had four USB drives in my pocket, all with legitimate uses I hasten to say.

  1. DOS bootable drive
  2. Linux bootable drive with lots of good utilities
  3. drive with lots of files and utilities on it for other stuff
  4. drive which gets used in other people's computers and then reformatted under linux before it gets used on any windows computers.
All very necessary!

The flight to Christchurch was pretty uneventful. Here we picked up a rental car. We had booked a Camry sometime ago but when we showed up we were given a bloody Hyundai Sonata and it is NOT a good replacement. Avis drop down the list for rentals for that one!

I had forgotten how boring it is to drive through Canterbury. Flat, straight and relatively slow. It seems to be full of drivers who speed up, slow down, speed up, slow down. Fortunately there are lots of passing lanes and I made good use of them when I was driving. During one Camille started repeating "Cop, Cop, Cop" to me and I belatedly realised that I was doing close to 140km/hr whilst passing a long truck. I backed off to 120 and he let me go by without giving chase. What a nice chap.

Canterbury is another place like Hawke's Bay. Full of farmers trying to do farming that is completely unsuited to the area. If you live in a place where you have to use huge irrigation plants to keep your grass growing so you can feed your cows so you can milk them means YOU ARE IN THE WRONG TYPE OF FARMING FOR THE AREA!

Later today we will be going to the Ginger and Garlic restaurant which has a few good reviews on the Dine Out website. I'll try and post something about it later.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Conference IV: Thrash's Psychedelic Breakfast

Over the past few days I have noted that the hotel's choice of music in the restaurant can be a little odd but this morning's offering really threw me. Maybe it's just me but I don't think that blatantly sexual 70s disco music is the ideal breakfast accompaniment.

Thrash Cardiom: " flakes.... scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, toast, coffee

Anita Ward: "You can ring my be-e-ell, ring my bell. You can ring my be-e-ell, ring my bell"

Thrash: "marmelade..I like marmelade... porridge..any cereal, I like all cereals"

Anita: "you can ring my bell, you can ring my bell. (ding, dong, ding, do-ong)"

Thrash: "....oh god...."

Anita: "you can ring my bell, anytime, anyway. (ring it, ring it, ring it, ring it oww!)"

Anita on youtube

(Thrash's lyrics from "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast" by Pink Floyd)

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Conference III

Camille and I are trapped in our room. Literally.

I just came back to help Camille with her data card which was playing up. When I went to leave I found that our door wouldn't open. It isn't locked or anything. It simply does not work. I have called reception and we are now waiting to be rescued!

I hope there isn't some sudden and urgent need to leave the room as we are on the third floor and there is no fire escape.

Conference II

Camille decided to come to the conference with me. She needs a few days off at the moment, especially as her life is likely to get quite intense over the next couple of months. I think she is enjoying herself. Last night at dinner she was having fun at the expense of the field I and the other attendees are in. She cracked one joke that amused her so much she had to leave the table in order to gain control.

We are staying in a hotel sited in the middle of the geothermal region of New Zealand so there is always this sulphurous smell hanging around. Outside it isn't too bad but inside the hotel it hangs around and clings to the curtains, the carpet etc. Wandering the corridors is like walking around in a giant fart.

I always sleep badly in hotels. Last night's sleep was made worse by the late night/early morning revellers who only finally shut up around 4:30am. If I can identify which rooms they are in I'm going to be hammering on their doors very early tomorrow morning.

Conference I

"You know what I'd like to do", he said. "I'd like to grow my beard and hair long like yours, get on a Harley and just ride across Australia. That's what I'd like to do".

"Nah", I replied. "You don't want the long hair. Riding with long hair will just end up in a bloody awful tangled mess. The bikers I know all have short hair for a reason".

He was short and completely bald. A salesman interested in selling me his product. So far his sales pitch wasn't doing well so he thought he would try another gambit.

"So", he said. "Do you know any hot Asian chickyboos?".

I was fairly stunned by this opener and could only mouth mindlessly back, "errrr,... ahh... what?". He took this to mean that I was interested and launched full throttle into details of his relationships with a number of "hot Asian chickyboos" (a term he used freely through out the ensuing spiel), of which I gathered he had several on the go: one in Australia, one in Auckland, and possibly one near where the conference we were attending was being held.

I have seen him a number of times during the past couple of days and it seems that I am his best mate. I have started eyeballing my way through the throngs, planning my route to avoid him should I spot him up ahead.

I don't think he is going to make a sale.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Economic downturn effects

This article about the growing warehousing of imported cars in the US interested me for one reason: the way it highlights the flow-on effects of the economic downturn in other areas. These two paragraphs are the main part of the article for me:

But the inventory glut in Long Beach is not limited to imported cars. There has also been a sharp drop in demand for the port's single largest export: recycled cardboard and paper products.

This material typically goes to China, where it is used to make boxes for new electronics and other products that are sent back to the United States. But Chinese factories reacting to sharply falling demand are slowing production, so they need less cardboard. Tons of paper are piling up recycling businesses around the port, the detritus of economies on hold.

A sea of unwanted auto imports

Originally from The Strategist (Kotare)

Friday, 21 November 2008

Central Hawke's Bay District Council Rates Review

Yesterday I received a letter from my local council advising me of a working party which was supposed to consider how rates could be spread equitably across the district. The letter included a sample rates invoice showing the effect of the proposed changes. According to my sample rates invoice my rates are going to go up by over 20%.

What is fair and equitable about increasing my rates by such a huge amount when I have no method of recovery? The majority of residents in this district cannot claim back part or all of their rates as a business expense or claim back the GST portion of their rates whereas businesses, including farms, can.

This change is likely to adversely affect those on a low income. What is fair and equitable about increasing the burden on the elderly and others on fixed low incomes?

How can I even decide if the changes are fair and equitable when I have nothing to compare them to? Council should provide ratepayers with a selection of rates samples from both rural and urban areas. We should be given at least two years of rates (2008/09 and 2009/10) along with an explanation of any increases/decreases so we can make a fair comparison.

One of the recommendations by the 2007 Government inquiry into Local Government Rates recommended "...that the power to set differential rates and to use Universal Annual General Charges (UAGC) should be removed in the interests of transparency and equity". I note that Council has elected to retain a UAGC. As the aim of the rating review is to spread rates equitably across the district I fail to understand why the UAGC has been retained. Does our Council want to be transparent and equitable or does it merely want to appear as though it is being equitable?

I don't think Council is doing a particularly good job of consultation on this issue and I think the rating review needs to be reviewed. I urge Council to revisit both the review and consultation and provide its ratepayers with some meaningful information before making any final decision.

As it stands I am totally against the change.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

A recent dinner

Lamb rumps seared, rubbed in a thyme,salt,pepper mix and then roasted for 10 minutes, left to rest for 10 then sliced and left in its own juice. Accompanied by a cucumber/mint salad, tomatoes and basil in olive oil, rocket/spring onions/a soft goat cheese tossed with olive oil, avocado in pepper and lemon juice, small jersey benne potatoes roasted quickly in olive oil.


Our coffee machine died this morning. It wouldn't turn on for a bit and then suddenly did a big hissy fit with the on/off indicator light flicking off and on madly while a big clicking noise issued forth.

Then it stopped.

Shortly thereafter it started to spout what looked like steam from places that it shouldn't come from. I thought it was steam but after its wee fit I wasn't sure so I watched it closely. Thankfully it wasn't smoke. Just steam. I then touched the machine and it was unbearably hot. At this point I decided that it had turned dangerously feral and unplugged it and left it to cool (while keeping an eye on it just in case).

Neither Camille or myself can live without a good/reasonable/bitter and twisted coffee in the morning and for some years we have used espresso machines to provide it. It was decided that I
should go and buy a new coffee machine. I found one at Harvey Norman - a Krup XP7240 which is normally priced at $1399 but which was reduced to $990. I compared brochures, read notes, sales crap etc. I consulted with Camille and we decided thus: We have a GE Card with spare on it and interest free for 18 months so we bought the fucker!

How good is the machine? Well. I took it home and set it up. It's a nice easy coffee machine for people who don't want to have to work at getting coffee. I worked through the setup process - language, date, time, all the other bits and then tried to make a coffee and it went to work: It made lots of noise and ground some beans, made quite a few loud slurping noises. It then started doing pumping noises complete with some steam and hissing. All good so far. Then, like any new pet, it proceeded to piss plain water all over the bench, shat out a lump of dry unused coffee grounds into a built in disposal container and threw up a "Technical Problem. Call your service agent. Error number 07" on its display.

This is not what we expected. It's going straight back for replacement.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Car Music

I have a seven minute drive to work each day and I tend to listen to music during the drive. Often I will select one track and play it each day during the drive to and from work. Camille doesn't understand this but I find I often hear tracks quite differently from play to play.

Recently I have been listening to Benny Goodman's band doing "Sing Sing Sing" which at 8 minutes 43 seconds leaves me sitting in my car in the carpark waiting for the music to finish.

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to Patti Smith's version of Nirvana's "Nevermind". I think that one drove Camille crazy though she does (perhaps 'did') like it.

My longest session with one piece of music was about eight months of listening to the remix version of Iggy and the Stooges' "Raw Power". This long session wasn't due to my fascination with the music. It was more due to the fact that the CD was stuck in the CD player and I couldn't be bothered removing it.

Eventually I sold the CD with the car still wrapped around it.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

mmmmmmm.... Lamb

It's Saturday and Camille was working about 1.5 hour away from home. 1.5 hour doesn't sound like much but when you think open road travel it changes the distance a bit. I decided to do her a nice meal as she was going to be getting home late.

I got a leg of lamb from the local butcher - $19.00 for a frozen leg which is pretty good considering they go for $30+ fresh in the local supermarket. I thawed it and then boned it out. This wasn't an easy job as a) I don't do this very often, about once or twice a year is my limit and b) it was still partially frozen which I discovered when I realised the bone I was following by touch (running the blade up it) wasn't actually a bone.

So the boning was a bit of a hack job and the end result bore no resemblence to a butterfly at all. Slight change of plans. I mixed up a thick paste of lots of rosemary and garlic with a bit of avocado oil, salt and red wine and palate knifed this all over the inside the leg. I then folded the leg back in on itself and skewered it into place. Nice. A round lump about the size of child's head - so I kicked it around the kitchen for a bit to tenderise it.

No I didn't. I just rubbed it with salt and pepper and then left for a couple of hours.

I cooked it on the barbecue grill on a low heat but with the burners to either side of the grill on high heat. With the lid down the temperature got up to 150 celcius max. Lots of basting with lemon juice to start with and red wine towards the end of cooking. I made sure that the basting ran down the sides and dripped onto the flame guard so there was quite a bit of smoke to help flavour the crust. There was quite a bit of turning done.

After about 1.5 hours, perhaps a bit less, it was taken off the barbecue and left to rest while its accompaniments were completed (new potatoes with butter and asparagus with coarse salt and olive oil).

It sliced easily once I remembered to pull the skewers. It was just off pink in the centre and a good amount of juices accumlated as I carved. These were poured back over the meat. The crust was excellent and the lamb was nicely flavoured throughout. The simple accompaniments complimented the lamb well.

I enjoy a nice bit of lamb.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Bush's 700 billion dollar bailout

Inside the text of the bailout package proposed by the Bush administration is this clause:

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.
If the package gets passed with this clause intact then it will be very clear that what passes for government in the US is no longer in charge. This places way too much power in the hands of one individual without any oversight. If I had any funds left in the US (who does?) then I would be withdrawing them ASAP.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Lunchtime in Hastings

Yesterday Camille and I were in Hastings and dropped into a bar for lunch. It was an ok meal. Just bar food really. As we were heading for the doors I noticed a man running across the street towards me. He reached the door before I did and frantically tried to get in but this particular door was locked. He found the correct door and ran into the bar past us as we exited. On the street we realised that everyone was looking our way. A bit odd we thought. On crossing the road and looking back we saw why though.

The bar was on fire.

Sunday, 14 September 2008


Camille and I gardened today! Amazing stuff really as we are definitely not into grubbing around in the soil. But a couple of months ago on the spur of a moment, we planted garlic and shallots and then decided we should probably clean out the rest of the garden we put them in. It's taken at least two months to get around to doing this.

So we spent the afternoon grubbing around in the soil and pulling out lots of green things that we didn't recognise. Camille started well by pulling out all bar one plant of some rocket that was flowering. I succeeded in pulling up some very young potato plants. We both dug up a lot of silverbeet (or swiss chard) but this was deliberate. The stuff has been taking over the garden. It's had a fight with the Italian flatleaf parsley (ITP) and won. The ITP is all tightly packed down at one end and the silverbeet was thrashing out the weeds over the rest of the garden.

All this green stuff is the wild, self sown results from a gardening episode from two or three years back combined with a huge number of weeds. We really aren't into doing this gardening/growth/feeding oneself thing in any kind of serious way. It just happens to us from time to time.

We were so worn out and exhausted afterward that we had to sit down at the back of the property with a gin and tonic.

Today's episode was Live on the Internet! The garden is the one that can be seen from our camera. You may be able to see things growing in it over the next few months. All it will take is for us to actually get around to doing something about it.


How can anybody be so fucking ignorant?


US Unemployment Rate

The US Bureau of Labour Statistics provides an table on the US official and unoffical unemployment rates. As of this post the official rate is 6.1%. The unofficial rate is 10.7%.

I like the fact that they don't call it unemployment though. They call it

labor underutilization

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Mmmm.... Venison

I'm dropping Camille off at the airport soon as she is heading down to Christchurch and then on to Ashburton and Timaru. I'll be heading home after that - but not before picking up a few kilograms of venison from Spike.

He and a few others went on a hunting trip recently and bagged 4 red deer. They brought the meat back with them on the plane in the overhead lockers. Spike says it was one of the more worrying flights he has been on as he was waiting for the 20 kilograms of freshly butchered vension above him to start leaking blood down onto his head causing other passengers to think he was some demented axe murderer.

It's almost a pity it didn't happen as it would have been a good news item.

The Eraserhead Chicken (and too much food!)

Last night we dined in the hotel restaurant which claims to do french cuisine. Certainly all the waiters spoke with french accents which caused Camille to wonder if that was part of their training. We were given a good amuse bouche which was a fishy soup thing laced with saffron. Camille ordered fresh bread with oils for a starter while I had a very unfrench salmon sashimi. My sashimi was good but not as good as Matterhorns. Unsurprising, however the other items on the menu sounded far more substantial whereas I wanted something light. The substantiality was confirmed when Camille's bread arrived. There was enough on the plate for four of us.

My main was a mushroom risotto with truffle oil and a crisp green salad and Camille ordered a Roasted whole baby poussin with vegetables. My risotto was exactly what I wanted. Very flavoursome and not too heavy.

Camille's meal was also good but had unfortunately brought to mind the Eraserhead chicken. In fact, the poussin looked exactly like the Eraserhead chicken as it was about the same size and served on a plate by itself.

If you haven't seen Eraserhead, I recommend you do. It's like watching a nightmare. Black and white, very industrial, loud industrial sounds, stilted dialogue, awkward, bizarre and sometimes revolting scenes. The film makes many people very uncomfortable and many cannot finish watching it.

One awful scene has the tragic lead carving a chicken. However the chicken is tiny and as soon as he touches it the bird begins to move and its legs pump up and down causing a thick, nasty looking substance to ooze and bubble from the bird's opening. This is accompanied by a revolting squelching as the camera zooms in for a closeup. To the right is the Eraserhead chicken just after it starts its oozing - or you could watch the youtube clip

Do watch the film if you can find it.

We couldn't finish the meal though that wasn't because of the Eraserhead images. Once again there was simply far too much food. I could only do half of my risotto and salad and Camille did a similar amount of her poussin. She barely touched her vegetables which included enough potatoes to feed our entire family when at home.

Hogarth Exhibition, Parliament and the Back Bencher.


One of the books that fascinated my brother and I when we were young was "Hogarth's England", a collection of prints engraved in the 1700s by William Hogarth. The engravings were highly detailed satires and portraits of life in England. What fascinated us were the more hideous aspects of the engravings. Some of them depicted quite nasty subjects.

Everything in his engravings has a point to make. In the backgrounds you see things that are commentaries on the foreground; The bull standing behind the cuckolded man so the man appears to be wearing horns is an excellent if not subtle example.

The National Library in Wellington has an exhibition of Hogarth's work at the moment. Spike and popped in to see it the other day and enjoyed it thoroughly. The exhibition includes some interesting juxtapositions with more modern works including a deadly series of cartoons by Trace Hodgson entitled "The Underbelly". Do go and see the exhibition if you get the chance.

Above is a small detail from "Credulity, Superstition and Fanaticism, A Medley". What is with the rabbits? I can see I need to do a bit more reading on Hogarth.


We were caught in the rain on our way to the exhibition so we ducked into Parliament on the spur of the moment. It's been years since I was in there. We had to divest ourselves of our cameras, phones, other bits of metal etc. to get in. I did forget about a number of items in my pockets but they either didn't set of the scanner or the security decided that we just weren't that threatening looking as they didn't stop us for a pat down or anything.

We were met in the foyer by a very friendly woman obviously set there to intercept people. She very quickly worked out that we had no business in Parliament and offered us a place on a tour group which had left some minutes ago. We decided to go on it and after being once again divested of our cameras and phones we joined the group.

It was an interesting tour and we quite enjoyed it. After finding out that Parliament was having an open day during the weekend I decided to make the security services' lives more interesting by purposefully seeking out all the cameras I could and ensuring that I looked like I was looking for them, scanning all rooms for entrances and exits, lagging behind the tour group whenever possible and just generally looking suspicious. I'm sure they will be looking for me in the weekend.

It was fun and I did find out that Spike and an associate had once been threatened with being held in contempt when they were making a verbal submission to a select committee some years ago. He did admit that they had been "quite rude to them though".

The Back Bencher

After leaving the Hogarth Exhibition we dropped into the Back Bencher for lunch. The Back Bencher is right across the road from Parliament so you tend to get quite a few staffers and politicians lunching tthere. I'm sure there can't be many countries in the world where yobs like Spike and myself can sit next to Cabinet Ministers and other MPs and have a beer and eavesdrop on their conversations.

Trevor Mallard was in there looking very pleased with himself. Not surprising considering he had just released some of the National (opposition) Party's policies for them. We thought about giving Trev a bit of stick but Trev is a bit of a bovver boy and probably would have kicked us half to death so we refrained.

Back Bencher verdict: Beer good. Food crap.

In all, quite a good day.

Update 21/04/2009:

An anonymous commenter left this on a much later post:

"Howdy, I happened along your blog while searching for information on a hogarth print entitled: Credulity, superstition, and fanaticism. A medley.

I saw your picture of the rabbits and the question of what they were about, well as it turns out Mary Toft gained alot of notariety for giving birth to bunnies in 1726, here's the link to the wiki page, and if you already found this out, then have a day!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Another Hotel Experience

Not mine this time. My wee hotel corridor episode brought back memories to a friend. He writes:

had a similar experience a good 25 years ago...New Plymouth...woke up clothes in my room....opened door to find them slung off down the hall way - all the way to reception desk where this angry lady just shook her head."

A Hotel Experience

Something you read about or see in films: I have just had the interesting experience of standing in a hotel corridor dressed in nothing but a hotel dressing gown and realising the door has just shut behind me. Fortunately for me Camille was still on the room so I knocked. However she was on the phone and I was left out there until the conversation was finished which took a couple of minutes. I'm glad that no-one decided to leave their rooms during this time.

Disconcerting is how I describe the experience.

Matterhorn Restaurant

We went to Wellington's Matterhorn restaurant last night and it was very good indeed - as one would expect from a restaurant which is the winner of Cuisine's Restaurant of the Year.

We arrived around 6:30 and had to do the obligatory wait in the bar. This seems to be standard for Wellington restaurants these days. Chris thinks that this is their way of pulling more money out of your wallet as you have to spend at least half an hour in the bar before a table becomes free even when the restaurant doesn't take bookings and you can see empty tables. She may well be right as we spent sometime in the bar with a bottle of Italian red and then asked about our table and Lo!, one was instantly available. It was just around the corner from one which had been free the entire time we were at the bar.

The place is very dark and very badly lit. Both Chris and Camille had to resort to holding the single table candle over the menu so they could read it. We had to do this in the bar as well when reading the wine list. My eyes must be better than theirs as I could read the menu however it would have been nice to able to see the food a bit better. The place has an excellent wine list. We decided on European wines for the night as sometimes we find NZ wines are so full on that they can overpower the food. Chris did the wine choosing as she knows far more about European wines than we do.

The food was excellent as was the service. I started with a tuna sashimi which was absolutely superb, followed by a roast duck breast accompanied by various bits. The duck was very good though there was a little too much salt involved with part of it for me. Camile had an olive selection starter followed by an eye fillet with smoked rib and Chris had garlic bread (best garlic bread I have had) followed by fish.

I was hoping to be able to give details of the meals but alas my memory has let me down and the Matterhorn's website is badly written. It refuses to recognise that I have flash installed (yes, a completely flash based website - a major annoyance!) so I can't see if they have their menus online to give me a few prompts. Crap website so no link to it. Sorry Matterhorn but it doesn't take much to provide a non-flash alternative or at least get your designer to write something that recognises Flash plugins properly.

Definitely a good place to dine!

Update: I have just found part of the menu on another site.

The duck: Roast duck breast & pithivier of leg with crushed broad beans, date & preserved lemon conserve & a lightly spiced jus.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Credit Card Signatures

One of the managers at my place of work had an interesting experience while shopping:

"It happens every day in New Zealand   I was signing the receipt for my credit card purchase when the shop assistant noticed I had not signed my name on the back of the credit card. She informed me that she could not complete the transaction unless the card was signed.   When I asked why, she explained that it was necessary to compare the signature I had just signed on the receipt. So I signed the credit card in front of her.   She carefully compared the signature to the one I had just signed on the receipt.   As luck would have it, they matched."

Thursday, 28 August 2008

J-Walk Blog and Veev

John Walkenbach of the J-Walk blog got sent a bottle of Veev for review. He was quite happy with this and was going to try it out while blogging this Friday. However, a marketing shill working for a company hired by Veev to market their spirit left a comment promoting the virtues of the drink in his comments - without identifying his association with the product.

John isn't happy and rightfully so. No review of the drink will be forthcoming.

This post is just me doing my bit to ensure that there are plenty of links to John's post.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Barbecued Leg Of Lamb

We had an excellent leg of lamb last night. To prepare it I chopped together a couple of handfuls of italian flat leaf parsley with half a dozen garlic cloves until it was all finely chopped. I then mixed this with a little olive oil and a couple of teaspoons of manuka smoked flaky sea salt (from Prenzel) and freshly ground black pepper. I cut some deep slits in the lamb and filled them with the paste and rubbed the remainder all over the leg (after puncturing the skin with the tip of a sharp knife). This was left to sit for 3+ hours.

I cooked it in a hooded barbecue on the barred grill with indirect heat. The temperature was about 150 degrees. After putting the leg on the barbecue I took the remains of the garlic/parsley paste and mixed it with a little red vincon (also from Prenzel) and used this to baste the lamb every now and again.

It took about 1.75 hours to cook and another 20 minutes standing before carving. Very flavoursome and tender lamb.

My brother, Spike, introduced me to Prenzel when telling me how he prepared a thick venison steak from a recent hunting trip to the South Island of New Zealand.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

My newly re-designed website

My newly re-designed website is now up and running at It isn't complete though. I am a procrastinator and what was intended to be a two week long project is already running some months overdue. How slack of me. The bits that are missing are:

  1. Most of the section labelled "Thrash Cardiom"
  2. The section on Food and Wine is missing anything about wine
  3. There is a dearth of links on the links page
  4. The section on Orua Wharo homestead has only one page in it.
I will complete these sections!

The rest of the site is up and running though.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Drum and Bass live

I have some friends who run a music even a couple of times a year. These are a couple of people who used to play together in a metal band. They took the opportunity during one of the events to have a bit of a jam.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

I Have a Website

Yes, I have a website. I have had it for many years. There is a link to over at the right of this page. I think I first created it back in 1994 or 1995 and kept it running for a few years, losing interest in it in 1999 which was the last time I updated it. It's been alive all this time justing sitting on the web, ticking over, another abandoned and seriously ugly site.

About 3 months ago I decided to update the site. A new look and some new content. Yesterday I started work. This image is the new look of my home page. I'm quite pleased with it so far.

I have started work on the rest of the site but having done the home page I find I'm a little bored with it. Rewriting and reformatting content isn't the most exciting job in the world.

I also have to write a small perl program to process a couple of hundred of html files, stripping out the current formatting and rewriting the result into whatever it is I decide I want.

I'm optimistic that it isn't going to take me another 9 years before the result is up!

Monday, 23 June 2008

Manawatu Gorge in fast motion (with bonus ambulance)

Bored in Palmerston North for a day? What to do? Drive around with a camera attached to the dashboard of the car making videos of course! A trip through the Manawatu Gorge in fast motion. Highlight is being passed by an ambulance in a hurry.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Huntly re-re-visited

Sadly, I have had to remove all the comments and block further comments on my video of Huntly as the number of outraged Huntly-ites leaving highly abusive comments just got a bit much. I didn't mind the personal insults but the escalating threats of violence were a bit disturbing. It's a pity that those Huntly-ites feel that way as all the comments did was confirm my view as Huntly being an ugly place.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Te Apiti Windfarm

I went to the lookout at the Te Apiti windfarm today. This is above the Manawatu Gorge, New Zealand (see the earlier windfarm video). These windmills are 70 metres tall and look amazing up close. They make a really good zwoosh-zwoosh sound as the blades rotate. Unfortunately I didn't get that sound on video due to the wind noise in the microphone so you will have to put up with Frank Zappa's Deathless Horsie instead.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Windfarm, New Zealand

Just a short clip of some windmills taken from inside Manawatu Gorge, New Zealand.

Saturday, 14 June 2008


Richard and Steve as we leave Mapua wharf.

Bringing in the Net

I spent a couple of days in Mapua recently, visiting an old friend. I got to head out on the boat of a friend of his when they went out to bring in a net. It was an excellent day. Early May, very fine and clear.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Saturday night's dinner: Whole Rump

We had a few people around for dinner on Saturday night. I had wanted to cook the meal on an open fire at the back of the property but it being winter, wet and cold I decided to do it indoors instead. Camille had quite a bit of input into this decision. She isn't into being cold and wet even if there is a good fire to stand around.

We did a simple meal: French onion soup topped with gruyere cheese on homemade bread floaters to start with, followed by a whole beef rump cooked in a camp oven and accompanied by thyme roasted potatoes and a silverbeet/ricotta cheese tart.

The soup was basically onions, a bottle of reasonable white (reduced down), a splash of cognac and a couple of litres of chicken stock. Very simple and easy to make. Its topping was bread (made earlier in the day and then dried in the oven) covered with grated gruyere. Individual servings were ladled out and then placed under the grill to melt the cheese.

The beef rump weighed about four kilograms. I tied it with string to compact it and make a more even shape. It was then seared in the camp oven which had been heated to VERY hot on a large gas element. 6 large onions were quartered and sauteed in the bottom of the much cooler camp oven. 10 garlic cloves were peeled and added whole. A couple of carrots were put in to help keep the meat off the base of the oven. Lots of pepper and some salt went in as well. The meat was added, fat side up. The gaps between the meat the and walls of the camp oven were then filled with about a kilogram of whole button mushrooms. A large tied bunch of fresh thyme, rosemary and margoram was put in. A bottle of a good red wine was then added. More salt and pepper and, finally, a mix of mustard, tomato paste and a little more red wine was poured over the top of the beef.

Once the beef was up to speed, the lid was put on and the camp oven was moved onto the smallest gas element and left to cook for the next four hours VERY SLOWLY. It was turned a couple of times but for the most part it was left alone.

The potatoes were a waxy red variety, halved lengthways. The cut surfaces were brushed with olive oil and then sprinkled with thyme to cover them. They were then placed cut side down in a roasting pan which had a smear of olive oil on its base. The tops of the potatoes were then brushed with oil and sprinkled with salt. The pan was then placed in a 200 degree (celcius) oven for a bit over one hour.

The tart was simply chopped silverbeet, ricotta mixed with eggs, pepper and a bit of salt, some finely chopped onion and garlic. This was all combined and put into a flan dish (no pastry for this one) and put in the oven for about 50 minutes.

The beef came out very, very dark, well cooked but very, very tender. I removed it from the camp oven and covered it with tin foil and left it for half an hour while the liquid was reduced and then thickened slightly with a bit of arrowroot. This cooking method makes a very rich,flavoursome sauce/gravy. The mushrooms don't shrink away to nothing and they keep their texture - as in they aren't horrible squishy bits of mush. The onions mostly disappear. The carrots get discarded. Once the beef is sliced and arranged on a serving platter, the mushrooms and remnants of the onions are ladled out over the top of it along with some of the sauce. The rest of the sauce is served in a jug.

We ended up eating the main around 9:00pm. An excellent meal for a winter's night.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Chicken and Spinach Salad

Chicken and Spinach Salad

1 chicken breast lightly poached in a little olive oil, butter, the juice of 1 lemon and a couple of handfuls of parsley and spring onions finely chopped together. Left to cool, pan juice saved.

A couple of zucchinis chopped into 1 cm pieces and tossed in olive oil in a hot pan. Must be crisp rather than over cooked and soggy. Placed in a large salad bowl

3 large fully ripened (and flavoursome) tomatoes cut into chunks. Add to the salad bowl

1 small red onion very finely sliced. Add to the salad bowl

A few grinds of black pepper and a sprinkling of Malden sea salt (or something similar). Toss for a bit and leave to sit for 15 minutes or so.

Cut the cooled chicken breast lengthwise into strips about 2.5 cm wide and then slice the strips into thin slices. Add them to the bowl

Tear up a lot of fresh spinach leaves and ad them to the bowl.

Pour a couple of tablespoons of the pan juices over the salad and toss everything together.

Serve with large red potatoes halved down the the length. Brush with olive oil on the cut side. Sprinkle the cut side liberally with dry thyme and place cutside down in a baking dish. Brush tops with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for about 1 hour at 200 degrees until potatoes are tender and the cut side is golden brown.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Chicken Breasts with Mushrooms and Herbs

Not only am I a geek (see below about stopping web advertising), I am also a person who likes his food. This is one of my favourite chicken breast recipes:

  • Several chicken breasts
  • Proscuttio or pastrami
  • Brie or Camembert
  • quite a few good quality mushrooms
  • 3 or 4 spring onions
  • a selection of soft green herbs
  • a good white wine (chardonnay for me, not too sharp. This is a soft dish).

Make a pocket in the breasts up along their long edge with a sharp knife. Insert several slices of your choice of cheese. Wrap each breast in the proscuttio or pastrami and tie them (slit side up) with a couple of bits of string to hold it together.

Cut the mushrooms into halves or quarters depending on size.

Chop the spring onions and herbs roughly together. You should have at least a couple of handfuls of greens.

Heat some olive oil in a pan and put the breasts in. Turn them a couple of times. Grind pepper in and sprinkle in some salt to taste.

Throw in a handful of the spring onions and herbs and all the mushrooms. Stir for a while. You may need to put a bit more oil in (but not too much!)

Pour in about a cup of the wine. Bring up to heat then put a lid on the pan and turn the heat down. Just simmer it for about 20 minutes or so. Stir occasionally. Top up the wine with small amounts if required.

A couple of minutes before serving throw in the rest of the herbs and stir them in.
Serve with a green salad with only a small amount of oil and lemon juice, maldon's sea salt and pepper on it, and asparagus on the side.

Flowers I like II

I have added a few more photos of flowers. I have arranged it so the new ones are at the start of the slideshow. These were taken some years ago on an earlier and, in my opinion, better camera (even if it did save to floppy disk!).

If you click on the slideshow when it's playing it will open up the web album in a new window.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Online advertising and how to get rid of it

Online advertising wouldn't be a problem if the adverts were like the google ads that some sites host but in the main they are not. Usually they are large and obtrusive. I cannot stand seeing huge, bright, flashing, moving advertisements in the middle of web pages I am trying to read. They distract from the content so much that I find it difficult to read it.

To the right are two images of the same webpage. The first is with advertising and the second has had it removed by the squid proxy method I describe below. The purple advert is a very large animated advert. This news site has also been known to use pop-up video advertisements, something I find highly offensive.

I am not the type of person who clicks on advertisements. Never have, never will. Because of this I feel no guilt whatsoever using methods to reduce the amount of advertising I see. The first method I use is open to everyone.

Use Firefox and install two extensions: Adblock and Flashblock. Adblock allows you to right click on any element in a page and add it to a blacklist. Once on the blacklist the element will never be displayed again. Flashblock replaces any flash element on a page with a clickable button. If you want to view the flash, click on the button.

The second method I use is a little more complicated. You probably need to be a bit technically proficient to use this method.

I use a Linux distribution called IPCop as a firewall. A web proxy program called Squid (Squid website Wikipedia page) is included with IPCop. A web proxy caches web pages so that pages load faster if you request a page again. The proxy sits between your browser and the internet and fields any request for web pages. Each request is checked to see if it exists in the cache and, if so, it is retrieved and sent to you without the need to actually fetch the page from the internet.

Squid allows you to allow or block access to almost anything available through the web. Using third party filter programs or Access Control Lists (ACLs) you can set it up to block known advertising sites (or any other content you do not want).

You don't have to run IPCop to use Squid. In fact, you don't have to run Linux either as Squid will happily run on Windows as well. Download it, install it, configure it, point your browser at it and there you are - your own proxy which will allow you to control what your browser sees.

Once you have installed and configured Squid (which I am not detailing) you can set it up to block sites you don't want, including advertising. You can either download and install one of a number of filter programs that work with Squid (Dansguardian SquidGuard for example) or you can use the method below.

Why not use one of the filters? Personally, I find them too restrictive and think they complicate things too much. However, they do allow a fine grained degree of control over what gets stopped and who can view what. I just want to stop advertising so I use this method.

Create a text file called badsites.txt. In this you can enter the domains of the sites you wish to block. To get it started, go to the SquidGuard site and find the links to the various blacklists. Download one or more of the blacklists, extract them somewhere, find the files that pertain to advertising domains/urls, and combine them into one file.

Edit the file squid.conf. Find the section that deals with ACLs. Just below the area that defines the standard ACLs, add this line:

acl ads dstdomain "/path/to/the/text/file/badsites.txt"

Replace the "/path/..." with a legitimate path to the text file you created.

Find the area where you can add your own access rules and add this line

http_access deny ads

Restart squid and test it out.