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.