Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Flower slideshow

A second flower slideshow.  This has some particularly alien looking flowers in it




And here is a link to the original flower slideshow

Friday, 17 December 2010

Somebody from Huntly doesn't like me

Somebody who lives and works in Huntly doesn't like my video of Huntly, The Ugliest Town in New Zealand.  It has offended them enough that they have included me in one of their websites.

They have made the usual mistake with confusing an impersonal comment with a personal attack on themselves. They don't seem to realise it but there is a difference between saying, "Your town is ugly" and "You are ugly" or "I don't like Auckland" and "I don't like you".  Having made this mistake they have written a personal diatribe about me

Judging by their writing style and the "# number of people are not surprised that someone was offended by Thrash Cardiom" view counter line, I'd say they think they are the New Zealand version of Maddox.  I think they have a long way to go.

My original Huntly post.

An update.

A second update

Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Frog

The frog is no more.  I hadn't seen it for a day or two and was wondering if it had succumbed to either the chlorine or my cleaning actions.  Today I found it when emptying out the leaf catcher in the pump. There it was, feet caught in the mesh and body pressed up against it.  Obviously it had been caught in the flow to the outlet at the bottom of the pool and was unable to swim against the tide.

A sad but inevitable end.


Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Yesterday morning I was awoken by an odd sounding bird.  It had what could only be described as a very frog like sound.  It went on for hours. 

Eventually Camille and I arose and did our usual morning things before going for a wander around our property.  To our surprise we found the below swimming around in our swimming pool which I had heavily chlorinated the previous day.  It's body is about 6 centimetres in length  - is this a good size for a New Zealand frog? 

We pulled it out of the pool and gave it it's own unchlorinated rainwater pool with a rock to sit on a good thirty feet away from the pool behind a wall.  About half an hour later it was back in the pool.  All that chlorine can't be good for it but it seemed to be fairly happy  - and quite vocal about it too.

Maybe I let the pool get away on us a bit over winter.




Friday, 15 October 2010

Lifts and Stairs

There are only two working lifts in this hotel.  The other(s) are out of action.   This makes for a lot of waiting around for a lift to arrive and, occasionally, when travelling down you can find yourself unexpectedly heading back up again.

I had to get something from our room earlier and waited and waited and waited for a lift but decided in the end that it would be quicker and easier to use the stairs.   This proved not to be the case.  On entering the stairwell I discovered, much to my surprise, that I could only travel downwards.  The up door was locked and the door I had just came through turned out to be a one way door only.  So down I went and found myself in a strange part of the building with no way to get back to the hotel area.  In fact, I had to exit the building, walk down the street, around the corner and back in via the main entrance.

This is obviously a security precaution to prevent stair-dancers but it is bloody inconvenient when the lifts aren't all functioning as they should.


Wellington

There are few things more ineffectual in life than cleaning one's teeth manually with an electric toothbrush.  Somewhere between home and the hotel it had somehow managed to turn itself on and drain the battery.  Let's hope that this is not an indication of how the day is going to be.

When we arrived here yesterday I had to shoot off to see some people while Camille booked in.  Apparently our room wasn't ready and they were to call her when it was.  Unfortunately nobody informed me of this and when I arrived back at the hotel some hours later and headed to reception to pick up my keycard I succeeded in changing our room from a superior suite to a standard suite at an extra cost of $100 per day.  Don't ask me how I did this but I will say I won't be taking advice on hotels from Camille's brother any time soon.

I went up to the room that had been assigned to me and lay around in it thinking, "Well this is a pretty crap upgrade" until Camille arrived back to sort everything out. I don't know where I would be with out her. However, I am  with her and we are in the room we should be in.   Relief all round.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Off to Wellington

Camille and I are off to Wellington today.  One of our clients is having their annual conference at the Intercontinental Hotel which I have to say looks quite good.  Here's hoping it lives up to its looks.  While we are there I will endeavour not to

Lock my self out of the hotel room

Get locked inside the hotel room

Get stuck in one of the lifts or almost stuck in one of the lifts.

It's pissing down with rain so its likely to be a long, slow trip.  The car is already loaded up with conference bound boxes and other bits and pieces and everything else is basically packed and ready to go.  Just need to add the two laptops, two netbooks and the data projector and we should be able to swan off around 8:00am.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Microsoft patches and IE8

I have been providing some of my users with new computers recently.  Yesterday I belatedly realised that they had all gone out with Internet Explorer (IE) version 7 installed instead if IE8.  This is because of Microsoft's automated patch software, WSUS,  happily applied XP SP3 before doing the upgrade to IE8.

When I tried to manually install IE8 I was informed that I had to install another patch first.  However, I couldn't install the patch as the install process informed me that there was no need to install it as SP3 was installed.  The only solution I can find is to

  1. Uninstall XP SP3.
  2. Install the patch manually.
  3. Run the IE8 upgrade manually.
  4. Re-install XP SP3.
  5. Re-install any other required patches.
  6. Check that everything is working as it should.
How absolutely bloody painful this is going to be.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Day to day stuff

IAt this time of year we upgrade the older computers and I get to deliver new boxes to my happy users.  I also get to do things like turn up at someone's desk and say things like, "You aren't getting a new computer this year but you are getting a new keyboard and mouse", and watch as their faces fall in disappointment.  I am having them on of course but it's fun to let them hang for a minute or so.

Well, it's fun for me at least.

It's probably fitting then that when I got home from work Camille took delight in pointing out I had been wearing my t-shirt inside out all day.  Not a single co-worker mentioned this to me.  I wonder why?




Monday, 27 September 2010

A Potato Dish

This is not a dish for those who have a cholesterol problem or those who are afraid of fat.  It is a dish for those who enjoy potatoes and onions along with butter, cream and milk.  It's a variation of the old layered baked potato dish.  This one is a little different in the preparation and gives a result that is, I think, a little more subtle.

You need enough medium sized potatoes to feed how ever many people you are catering for.  Around one medium onion per four potatoes.  A bunch of a single fresh herb - rosemary or thyme or basil are good.  You can use sage but you need to use less than the others as it has a very strong final flavour.

Preheat your oven to around 180 - 200 degrees celcius.  This isn't a fixed temperature as you can cook this dish fast or slow.

Peel the potatoes and onions and then slice them as thinly as you can.  Put them in a pot and salt it to your liking.  Add water to just cover them and then put them on the stove to bring them to the boil.  Stir it from time to time with a spatula to mix the onion and potato together.

Chop your herb of choice.  If you are using basil you want a couple of handfuls of leaves.  Rosemary: a couple of decent sized stalks.  Thyme: a couple of table spoons of leaves.  Sage: your choice - be careful.

Lightly oil a low sided baking dish.  Sprinkle a few bits of your herbs across the bottom.  Add a bit of freshly ground pepper if you wish.

When your potato pot is getting near boiling, melt at least two tablespoons of butter in a pan on a low heat.  Add your herb and saute it lightly.   Keep the heat low.  You definitely don't want things to get too enthusiastic.  Pour in about quarter of a cup of cream and mix in well.   Keep it low on the heat.

When the potatos boil, let them sit on the heat for a minute or so and then drain them well.  I usually tip them out into a strainer and let them steam themselves dry.   Give them about a minute and tip them into your oiled baking dish and spread them out roughly.

While the potatoes are drying, add quarter to half a cup of milk to your butter, cream, herb mix and stir it in.  When the potatoes are in the dish, pour the herb/liquid mix evenly over the top.  Grind some black pepper over and crush a bit of Malden sea salt over the dish and then drizzle some olive oil over it to bind everything together.

Throw it in the oven for at least one hour, longer if you have the heat lower.  I have cooked this dish at heats from 150 degrees right up to 210 or so.  Lower heat means longer cooking of course and you may need to finish it with 10 minutes or so on 220 degrees.   (Sorry all you Americans who still use Imperial measurements.  It's easy to convert though).

Serve with .... whatever takes your fancy really.  Fish is good though as are lamb racks.

Originally this dish was done with vast amounts of sorrel which gives it a very nice slight lemony tang.  If you use sorrel:  a) use lots of it.  b) be very careful with the cooking in butter.  Add it to the butter and watch it very carefully.  It will start to go grey quite quickly.  This isn't a bad thing but you don't want to let it go too far.  Add the cream and milk, stir them in and get it on top of the potato dish quite quickly.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Not sure how this will work.

According the NZ Herald, farmers have lost $50 million through the deaths of some 500,000 lambs thanks to the recent storms.  This is likely to cause the price of lamb to rise. Personally I can't see how this is going to work.

Lamb is already outrageously priced.  A full leg costs at least $35.00 locally, usually more.  Shank ends are around $15-20.00.   Even a couple of shanks cost $10.00 or so.

Camille and I can be considered well off compared to the majority of New Zealanders and we very rarely buy lamb because of how much it is these days.  We only buy lamb when it is reduced in price: Lamb racks when they are reduced to $10 - $12 each; legs when Silverfern farms has a special on them; rumps when I can find them frozen on special; and so on.

I can't see how raising the price further to offset $50 million in lamb deaths is going to do anything other than cause fewer people to buy it.   Does this mean they are going to have to raise the price further to cover those lost sales?

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Some sympathy but not a lot

There is a story in Stuff today about a musician who has lost 8 years of lyrics.  I have a little sympathy for him but not a huge amount of it.   Why didn't he have all this material backed up?  The cost of large USB drives is very low these days.  In fact, when weighed up against 8 years of work, the cost of a USB hard drive is negligible.

I am still surprised by the number of people who seem to  think that backing up their data is unimportant.  I tell people, "Your hard drive WILL fail.  Back it up!", and give them suggestions on what to do - the most common being to buy two USB hard drives and backup to both of them.  I talk to these people a couple of months down the track and they still don't backup  their data.

Just what is it worth to them?  How much are those digital photos worth?

How to get rid of Thrash

Lately I seem to be getting a few hits from people searching on "How to get rid of Thrash" or similar phrases. Am I deeply unpopular? I suspect not.

People: You are looking for the wrong thing. The condition you want a cure for is actually called "Thrush" or Candidiasis and it's a yeast infection.  Here is a search string that will return more useful results:

http://www.google.co.nz/#hl=en&source=hp&q=How+to+get+rid+of+thrush&aq=f&aqi=g10&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=&fp=c9a1a1e529ba9aeb

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Diaspora Code Trial

I downloaded the Diaspora code the day it was released and installed it onto an OpenSUSE Linux computer.  The install was relatively straight forward.  The instructions provided are well written and clear.  While they are written for Ubuntu, Fedora and Mac OS, they are easily applied to other distributions - at least those with good package management and repositories with a wide range of applications.

I had to install MongoDB and update a few Ruby bits and pieces.  I also had to install libxslt before RubyGems would compile.  OpenSSL, ImageMajick and Git were already installed.

This is pre-alpha code released for developers.  Some people on various blogs don't seem to realise this and have been complaining about the lack of expected features.  Pre-alpha isn't expected to be complete or almost complete code.  It's been released to get developers interested in the project so that development of those missing features can get underway.

That said, the basic system does work.  I can sign on to it, add friends (being other accounts I have created as I haven't set my system up to allow it to access the Internet), upload photos, leave status updates and so on.

The really good feature is that you can separate your friends into "Aspects".  This allows you to keep friends, family, work colleagues away from each other.  People in one aspect will not see updates posted in another aspect.  This gives you the separation and privacy that social networks like Facebook do not.

The next release will be in October and will include Facebook Integration, Internationalisation, and the export of your data.

So far Diaspora looks quite promising.  I don't see it as being the "Facebook Killer" that some have touted it as but it will provide people like me who have a greater sense of privacy something to use.  In addition, it's existence may push Facebook and others to provide the separation they currently lack.

Diaspora's blog post on the release.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Breakfast

Camille and I just enjoyed a lovely breakfast of very fresh eggs poached and served on toasted vogel bread topped with freshly chopped chives and a few drops of truffle oil.  The eggs come from my sister in law's chickens and their flavour is so intense compared to supermarket eggs. Our freezer is half full with home kill beef and lamb so we'll be doing a few swaps for more of them. 

Looking forward to doing scrambled eggs with salmon in the near future.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Diaspora Update

You may recall my writing about the decentralised social networking platform, Diaspora a few months ago after I contributed to it financially. The project is now close to a release.  They plan to open source their current code on September 15 (or 16 for those of us on this side the of dateline).  They will then be releasing an alpha version of Diaspora in October.


Will I grab the code and install it?  Probably.  I'm interested in the progress but I'm not overly fussed with alpha releases.  They can be hard work.  However, I feel almost obliged to install it as someone has to help track bugs and provide feedback and I have ranted enough to people about the disintegration of the concept of privacy on the web that to not help out would be a bit hypocritical.

If I do install it, I will post a few updates here.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Those yellow flowers

The yellow flowers I mentioned were almost out in the Random Phone Photos post are now mostly out:







<

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Big Earthquake just out of Christchurch

Camille is in Timaru at the moment.  She woke me up with a phone call about an hour ago to tell me she had just felt the biggest earthquake she has ever been in.  She has been feeling lots of aftershocks.  It turns out there has been a massive 7.4 earthquake 30k west of Christchurch.  Bound to be damage after that.  Let's hope there aren't any injuries or deaths.



This report puts it at 7.2 but NZ stations report 7.4

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsww/Quakes/us2010atbj.php

Edit:   Good collection of images here. 

Images available here: Stuff.co.nz

More images here

NZ Herald photos 

Civil Defence website.

Friday, 3 September 2010

The Bayonets - Monsters In My Head



Boulcot Suite II

I forgot to say the place has two bathrooms which is nice.  However, one of them smelt like someone had recently taken a dump in it.   Not so nice.

Food, Warmth and Shelter

These three things are basic to mans' survival.  If any one is missing for any extended period of time, then that's it.  You're dead.  Pretty serious stuff really - and now I'm going to completely trivialise it.  Last night Camille and I were reduced to turning all the lights on in the place we are staying in order to bring it up to a reasonable temperature as the 9 bar oil heater in the downstairs area is too inadequate to do the job.

We are staying in what is supposed to be 5 star accommodation.  It is a nice example of the "tick box" rating system. 
  • Large LCD / Plasma screen?    tick
  • Heated towel rails?  tick
  • Controlled lighting?  tick
  • etc.
Get enough of the right ticks and you earn the 5 stars.   Unfortunately I don't believe they rate some of the things that are fairly important to Camille and I
  • Adequate soundproofing so we can't hear people traipsing up and down outside
  • Good climate control
  • Beds that don't 'dip' in the middle so I'm not lying downhill when ever I lie on my left hand side.
  • and so on.
We are in the Boulcott Suites, an apartment hotel which is apparently great for corporate travellers looking for quality and space.  We are in a two bedroom "Townhouse" and yes, there is plenty of space.  It's clean and reasonably comfortable except for that heating thing.  It's not a particularly cold day and yet the heater can't really cope.  Most of the overhead lights are halogens and as they produce a fair amount of heat Camille had the bright idea of turning them all on to warm the place up.  This was very effective and possibly a better option than turning all the elements on the hob and oven on as we could feel the warmth radiating down on us.

We are in Wellington on a flying trip.  Camille has a meeting here this morning and then I'm dropping her at the airport so she can fly to Christchurch where she has another in the afternoon.  I get to drive home.  Joy!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Office screens

I realised the other day that perhaps my office was suffering from monitor overkill

Note the nifty packet of snifters hanging on the wall.  This is quite possibly the last pack of snifters in the world.  Never could stand them.




Sunday, 22 August 2010

Bloody Amarok

I usually use Amarok as my media player.  I don't like it but it has a couple of features that work for me - until now that is.  I have just upgraded my linux distribution of choice from OpenSuse 11.2 to OpenSuse 11.3.   This of course upgraded amarok.  I just now started it for the first time.


Amarok has corrupted its music database.  Currently I am listening to a track called "Rhythm in my Soul" by The Velvet Underground off their record titled "Into The Dread".  I wasn't aware that The Velvet Underground played reggae.

edit:  The track after this was "Death Trip" by Jeff Buckley which I thought was quite an apt combination.

Website update

I have just finished updating my website.   The major change is that I have used the Silverstripe CMS (SS) as the backend.  This means that I am far more likely to complete the content of the site and also update it from time to time as SS makes the management of it so much easier.  I have been working on massaging it into SS for about a month.  It was mainly done as a way of getting to know SS better.


I still have work to do on it as the content is lacking in places.  The section on Wine and Food ends very abruptly.  There are only three pages about me and as the site is mainly an egotistical exercise I think there should be more of them.  Currently the page which should contain links to other sites is completely empty.  The section on Oruawharo Homestead only has content on one page and all the rest are empty.


But this is all an improvement on what it was a few minutes ago.  I'll probably spend some time today working on fleshing some of the empty bits out.


But then again I may not

Friday, 20 August 2010

Auckland (again)

The other night I had the pleasure in watching Camille eat.  I got to sit opposite her as she lovingly rubbed a rosemary sprig over her french lamb rack and then sliced into it exposing the perfectly cooked interior.  I sat there as the beautiful aroma from her plate wafted over to my side of the table, as she slowly worked her way through her meal.  I sat there getting more and more hungry.


Normally I would be sitting opposite her chowing down myself on some plate of bloody chunks of meat accompanied by a small amount of vegetable matter but this time I had sent my meal back as my medium rare fillet was on the wrong side of medium.  The downside of returning a meal is that one gets to sit around waiting for a fresh meal to be prepared and it generally takes about as long as the first wait for the main.  The restaurant did offer me a side of garlic bread while I waited but this offer was made about 15 minutes after I had sent my main back and shortly before my replacement meal arrived.   I turned down the side though did say I appreciated the offer.

Eventually my medium rare fillet of beef arrived and I looked at it dubiously.  I then sliced into it only to fnd that it was still overdone for my liking.  However, Camille had finished her meal and I was hungry so I ate it.   Well... I ate part of it and gave up on the rest.

We were staying at the Waipuna Hotel again.  It isn't the best hotel we have stayed in but it is in a fairly good location for our business in Auckland, has comfortable rooms - as long as you have a suite - and  usually the food is acceptable.    The previous night we had dined in our room and had shared a caesar salad which was very good.

Our suite was good.  Very spacious with a small kitchenette and separate bedroom with a bathroom off it. 


From the bedroom we could step outside onto a balcony.  That's about all we could do  as the balcony was only 40 odd centimetres deep.  Anyone with a largish stomach would have some difficulty getting between the balustrade and window.  Although I have put on weight in recent times I haven't put on so much that I had trouble using the balcony.

The view was a nice mix of sea lagoon and technology in the form of a number of large power pylons and overhead cables.




Wednesday, 18 August 2010

XT Network and data

Camille and I have had Telecom T Sticks for a few years.  They are on the CDMA network and have been very useful.  However, in our travels recently we have noticed that they suffer slowdown from time to time and on occasions this can be extreme.  For instance, I complained loud and long in this post about ping times close to 20,000 milliseconds.


Currently I'm testing out a Sierra 308 T Stick which runs on the XT network.  So far I'm fairly impressed with its speed.  I think we might purchase a couple of these as replacements.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Random phone photos

Flowers in our garden. These are about to bloom again.

About to get up close and personal with a giraffe.

Lamb shanks, moroccan style in the tagine.

Church at Te Aute

This always makes me think of Camille.

Risotto (chicken and saffron) with roast tomatoes and onion.

Water drop 1

Water drop 2

Roast tomatoes and shallots on ciabatta

Museum Hotel

Recently Camille and I stayed in the Museum Hotel in Wellington.  We generally book a suite when we stay here as we like the space to spread out and relax.  We don't travel light and are often encumbered with quite a bit of electronic equipment and we need space to set it up and work etc. The suite was comfortable and reasonably spacious.  It had all the usual bits plus a coffee machine, oven, stove top, washer/dryer, rain shower with a wand head, badly make shower area that caused water to flow over the bathroom floor no matter what.  A nice place to stay though we did have a few niggles.


We couldn't watch any of the pay per view films as we simply couldn't select them.  Apparently something was broken somewhere in the system and it only affected us.  The staff were good and brought up a selection of  dvds for us to pick through.  Most of them were instant rejects but we did end up watching LA Confidential.


When we have stayed here in the past we have eaten at the Hippopotamus restaurant which does produce quite good food.  I have reviewed in the past albeit over 18 months ago.   We didn't dine there this time.  Instead we decided to stick with room service for breakfast.  However, the breakfasts left something to be desired.


The first morning I ordered oeufs a la coque - eggs with spinach and mushrooms baked in cream and served with toast.  Cost $30.00.  The dish was very pleasant, good textures and flavours but the toast was... not up to par.  Two slices of ordinary sliced bread, lightly toasted and then cut in half on the diagonal is not acceptable when I'm pay $30.00 for a breakfast.  For that I expect a decent, real bread not some white sliced crap from a plastic bag.  However, I let it go.


I enjoyed the eggs and so decided to order the same dish on our second morning.  This time I also decided to get a "Speciality Coffee" for an extra $4.00 as well.  I was deeply unimpressed with the result.  The coffee, far from being anything special, arrived in a cardboard cup with a plastic lid and was one of the worst coffees I have ever tasted.  It was extremely bitter and absolutely unpleasant to drink.  In fact, I didn't drink it.  After the first sip it was dumped down the sink.  Had somebody actually dashed out the hotel door to the nearest street vendor to get this coffee?  That's certainly the impression I had from its lovely cardboard container and the vileness of the brew itself.


The oeufs a la coque were a disaster. They were completely uncooked.  It seemed plain to me that the spinach had been wilted, mushrooms sauteed and then assembled with the raw eggs and cream ready for baking.  At this point something went quite wrong and it missed out the 15 minutes of being baked.  You can see the state of the egg white in the photo to the right.  Note also the 'toast'.

A complaint was made and a new breakfast was provided.  I wasn't charged for either breakfast which is somewhat mollifying but it isn't a good way to start a day.

I'm sure all my readers will be pleased to know that we had no lift troubles in this hotel.  They worked exactly as they should do - went up and down without unexpected halts.  Doors opened and closed smoothly.  We didn't get trapped once though I did get jammed in the doors very briefly on one occasion.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

A dental job

Currently I have a mouthful of stitches - well, 3 stitches.   I have had a root removed.  Back in the mid nineties I had to have a tooth removed but unfortunately they couldn't get it all out.  They left behind one root as it was so curved they simply could not extract it.  I can recall lying back in the dentist chair gripping onto the arms with desperation as the dentist, a burly chap, wrenched my head around via the means of tool attached to one of my teeth.  I was being pulled back and forth in the chair and had a definite whipping movement from side to side as well.  I felt like some small animal that had been seized by a large dog and was now being given the death shake.   I was getting quite worried and was sure the dentist was going to start kneeling on my chest when there was a sudden crack and I was flung back in the chair with such force that I believe I created a permanent dent in the chair backing in the shape of my head.  The dentist fell backwards to the floor with a cry, triumphantly gripping his dental tool in which was the remains of a large molar minus one of its major roots.   That root has been with me ever since. 

Years later and with a new dentist, over the last couple of appointments we have noted that the root could be on the verge of causing trouble and a bit over a week ago the trouble arose as did a mighty swelling in my gums.  This was accompanied by an unpleasant pain which was sharp and annoying but not so sharp and annoying that it prevented me from poking at the swelling with an investigative finger.  This investigation was followed by somewhat sharper pains and thoughts along the lines of "I must talk to my dentist", and so I did.

He informed me that it was time to remove the root and that he could attempt it first but if he couldn't then it would be off to a full oral surgeon where I would have to unchain my wallet and fork over thousands to get the job done.  The thought of this was too much for me and I agreed he should attempt it first.  I wasn't too worried about this as he is an orthodontic dentist and can carry out such operations.

An appointment was made for the Saturday morning as he wanted "an open ended timeframe" and I duly showed up after having stressed about it for the previous few days as I am not into pain at all and in the past such appointments haven't always been pleasant.  However, this was a different case.  The worst part of the ordeal was receiving the oral anasthetic injections.  These always feel like the needle is being pushed right through your gums, cheeks, where ever and out through the back of your head.  I had four of them.

Once they were doing their work the job was a simple slice the gum in a couple of places and cut through a bit of the cheek, remove a bit of jawbone and then drill furiously for a bit before going with the wrenching bit.  This went very well and my head didn't bounce off the back of the seat once.  In fact, I couldn't really feel anything other than a little pressure.

The root was presented to me (for display) and it was huge, curved monster.  It looked like the tusk of a sabretooth only, well.... smaller and somewhat blunter and probably a bit more curved - so not really sabretooth like at all.  I am well pleased to be rid of it.

I had to be a bit careful with food, smiling, laughing, talking for the first day but since then it has been plain sailing all the way.


Monday, 5 July 2010

Low prices? Don't count on it, say publishers




This NZ Herald article talks about the pricing of E-books and basically says that we are going to pay through the nose for them.

I have great difficulty in believing that costs of a book are not substantially reduced once the physical copy of the book is discarded with and there is no way I will accept paying a price that is only 20% less than the lowest print price.

I can import actual books into New Zealand from Britain for around the same cost as the e-book version is being sold for inside New Zealand.


So far I haven't found any real advantage to reading books through various electronic items (desktop, laptop, netbook, phone).  I don't see a dedicated reader as being  a good thing to have.   Given this, there is no way I am going to pay over $10.00 NZ for an electronic copy of a book.  In fact, unless it is something I really, really want then I am unlikely to spend more than about $5.00 on an e-book.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Child Free

Camille and I are officially child free.  The 18  year old moved out yesterday, heading to Wellington to take up a course in software engineering.  "Thanks for raising me", were his last words as he left.


Now what?

Saturday, 12 June 2010

The Book Depository

I have run out of things to read so I have been back at the UK online book store, The Book Depository and have ordered a few books:


  • River Cottage Meat Cookbook - I first heard of this book through meateaters.co.nz and have been meaning to buy it.  However, I have been put off by the NZ price - $90.00+.  Price from BD: around $60.00.
  • The Collapse of Complex Societies - NZ $95.99.   $72.00 from BD.
  • The State of Art by Iain M Banks.  A collection of short stories.  The title is a novella based in the Culture but set in 1977 - NZ $29.99.  $12.60 from BD
  • The Real Frank Zappa Book by Frank Zappa.  NZ $32.95.  $19.88 from BD.
 Total cost if I had bought these in New Zealand:  $248.93
 Cost through  The Book Depository: $161.22  andd that includes the freight!

I think I have just given up on buying books from NZ book stores

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Dolphins at Pahia, New Zealand



The sound is provided by Tom Waits. If it's missing, then Youtube have stripped it. For some reason my videos tend to have this done whereas others seem to get away with it.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

The Price of Books II

I ordered a Bill Bryson book from http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/  on Friday 28th of May.  The book arrived at my office on Thurday 3rd of June.  This is an excellent service.

The cost of the book was 13.88 British pounds which worked out to be $29.67 NZ, substantially less than I can buy it in New Zealand.  This included the cost of shipping to New Zealand. To do get a book delivered this fast through Amazon would have cost an additional $30-40.00.


Prices through NZ websites:


  • Fishpond - shipped from the UK: $49.95
  • Whitcoulls - FREE Delivery: $59.95
I think I'll be making more orders through the Book Depository website.

Friday, 28 May 2010

The price of books

Some one needs to explain why I can buy a paperback book by Bill Bryson from an a shop in England and have it shipped to New Zealand for $10.00 LESS than I can buy the same book at Whitcoulls in New Zealand.


What's really crazy is that I can buy hardback books by the same author from the English shop for only $2.00 more than I can buy the paperback books by him from Whitcoulls, New Zealand.


Go here for good pricing and free shipping to overseas: http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Social Networks - you just can't trust the fuckers

Facebook, Myspace, whatever Social Networking site - you just can't trust the fuckers. Both FB and MyS have been caught giving data to advertising companies. A quote:

"The report says that the companies have delivered user data to major online advertising companies such as Google's DoubleClick and Yahoo!'s Right Media, despite explicit pledges to protect such information. The released material includes user names and ID numbers, together with data that could be used to accumulate a host of additional information on individual users, such as where they live, their names, occupations, incomes and places of employment."

Fuck them, I say.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews/20100521/tc_ynews/ynews_tc2189
Edit
In a seemingly never-ending string of damaging disclosures about its users' privacy concerns, Facebook has reportedly been releasing user data to ad companies that hadn't even asked for the info.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Bay Plaza Hotel, Wellington

Shit hotel.


We are up on the 9th floor and the traffic noise is incredible.  The lift is loud and the toilets must be interconnected as we can hear other toilets flushing through our bathroom.  This isn't the worst bit though.  The worst bit is getting a cup to get some water and noticing that it hasn't even been fucking washed.   Maybe it was rinsed but certainly not washed.  The tea/coffee stains wiped away on my finger.


Shit hotel.  Don't stay here.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Waipuna Hotel, Auckland

Waipuna Hotel staff have a bad practice of knocking on your door in the morning and shouting out, "Mini Bar!" as they have come around to check to see if you have used the mini bar at all.  This morning, a Saturday, a staff member was at our door around 8:00am.  What if we had wanted a sleep in? 


This pales in to insignifance compared to the experience of a friend of ours who came out of her shower at 7:30 in the morning to find a male staff member, having had no answer to his shout of "Mini Bar", had come into her room to check it!


Chain your doors in the Waipuna Hotel.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Diaspora III

Amazing!  The Diaspora project originally set out to raise $10,000 by the 1st of June.  As of today they have raised over $115,000 and they still have another 19 days to go!  This is excellent!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

In Auckland Again

Camille and I are in Auckland again to meet with a few potential clients.  We are staying in a hotel in Mt Wellington.  It's a bit strange.   When we arrived nobody greeted us.  No staff offered to help with our bags and so I was left to load them onto a trolley myself while Camille registered.  Then she shot off to park the car while I waited in the lobby for her along with the fully laden trolley.  When she arrived back I ended up pushing the trolley to the lift and so up to our room (after having the lift door close suddenly while the trolley was half in it).


The room was... not up to scratch.  It reeked of fresh paint, not because it had been painted but because all along the corridor were rooms in the middle of refurbishment.  The corridor had been carpeted with plastic to protect the actual carpet.  The noise of saws etc. was quite audible as were the voices of the staff working on the rooms.

Not good  - so a phone call was made and a complaint laid.  We have now been moved to a much better room with its own wee balcony and a lovely view of one of Auckland's lagoon which you can see below with my not quite matched up stitch job.


Now we wait for our first meeting which is shortly after 5:00pm today. Ho hum.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Decentralize the web with Diaspora

You will probably notice the slightly cut off graphic and text on the right hand side of the blog with the headline Decentralize the web with Diaspora.


Diaspora is an Open Source project which aims to develop a "privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all distributed social network".  Given my rantings in various places about the lack of privacy associated with Facebook and the way they hide their disregard for your privacy, I thought it was time I put my money where my mouth is.  I have made a financial contribution to Disapora as I believe it could be the solution to my issues with social networking - namely the lack of control users have over their own data.


From the Kickstart Diaspora page:


What is it?
Enter your Diaspora “seed,” a personal web server that stores all of your information and shares it with your friends. Diaspora knows how to securely share (using GPG) your pictures, videos, and more. When you have a Diaspora seed of your own, you own your social graph, you have access to your information however you want, whenever you want, and you have full control of your online identity. Once we have built a solid foundation, we will make Diaspora easy to extend to facilitate any type of communication, and the possibilities will be endless.
A more complete explanation is available here.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Fuck Facebook

Some time ago I made the decision to delete my facebook account.  The main reason for this is that Facebook does not respect privacy regardless of how much they say they do.  This article articulates my reasons for deleting my account far better than I can:


After some reflection, I've decided to delete my account on Facebook. I'd like to encourage you to do the same. This is part altruism and part selfish. The altruism part is that I think Facebook, as a company, is unethical. The selfish part is that I'd like my own social network to migrate away from Facebook so that I'm not missing anything. In any event, here's my "Top Ten" reasons for why you should join me and many others and delete your account.


Monday, 26 April 2010

Stupid question

Found while editing a profile:

Your emails are currently being delivered in English. Would you prefer to change that to English?

Monday, 12 April 2010

ACTA declaration and Petition

Petition about making ACTA more transparent and open.  It asks for the actual problem that ACTA is supposed to solve actually be properly defined along with evidence to support it.  This is worth reading and signing as it will directly affect the way you use the Internet and media. 

This needs to be signed by Tuesday this week!

Link to The Wellington Declaration   


Link to the Petition

Update:  Russell Brown on Hardnews has an excellent summary of the declaration.  You can read it and take part in discussion about it here

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

No Right Turn: Exclusive: An appropriate process?

No Right Turn has some interesting information:

Back in December, Justice Minister Simon Power appointed a number of National party cronies, including former MP and arch-bigot Brian Neeson, to the Human Rights Review Tribunal. I've been digging into it ever since. Last month, I highlighted the irregular process used to appoint these cronies: their names appeared apparently from nowhere, and contrary to the view of HRRT chair Royden Hindle, he was appointed without any sort interview. Yesterday, I received a further OIA response [PDF] which casts more light on the subject.


Exclusive: An appropriate process?



Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Oil prices

I have bought a new car.  It's a fairly large one and consumes a lot more petrol than my previous one.  Expect oil prices to rise dramatically.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Kiwi viewers shun TiVo

According to this article in the NZ Herald, New Zealanders are failing to buy Tivos.  Some sources say that around 2000 Tivos have been shifted since sales started in November 2009.  They were hoping to sell around 120,000 units within five years.  At this rate they will be lucky to sell 30,000 in that time. 

My guess as to why they are having problems selling them is that New Zealand television channels provide such crap programming that it isn't worth recording anything to view later.  In fact, it isn't worth turning the television on - as evidenced by the plummeting number of viewers.

Friday, 5 March 2010

You are not a gadget

my copy of Jaron Lanier's book You Are Not a Gadget arrived this morning. I'm eager to read it so Camille is driving - we're on our way to Wellington - so i can get started on it.

JL reckons that his words will be 'scanned, rehashed and misrepresented by crowds of quick and sloppy readers'.

Should i be moved to post anything about his writing I'll do my best to do one of tnose things.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The Strategist

I like this blog post. It starts out as an explanation of a war tactic and ends up theorising how a polticial version of the same tactic could be run. I've liked this blog for some years. it is consistently good. 
 
How could you stage a political Isandhlwana? - The Strategist
Classic swarming: the Zulu assault against British forces at Isandhlwana, 1879 John Arquilla's article "The New Rules of War" covers some interesting ideas about military organization, networks, and swarming. Swarming is a form of attack characterized by many small units...


Sunday, 21 February 2010

Yet another elevator event

So there we were in the elevator.  I swiped my card and the machine bleeped.  The doors closed.  Camille started tapping her feet.  "Stop that", I said.  "You might make the lift stop working", and I pressed the ground floor button.   Nothing happened.  We looked at each other.  I re-swiped my card.  Again it beeped and  I hit the G button.


Nothing.


I hit a series of buttons to no effect.  Finally I hit the open door button.  We waited and slowly the door opened and we exited hurriedly and went back to the apartment to pick up Camille's key card and our mobiles - just in case.


Then we tried the other lift which fortunately decided to work.


What is it about us that makes key cards, lifts, doors etc. fail for us when we are staying in hotels and apartments?  It's all very odd.



An early morning walk, an interesting offer and a "hole in the wall"

This morning I went out for a walk around 6:15.  I wandered to the end of the wharf and looked out to see a cruise ship on its way in.  This wharf is a working wharf and one of its functions is to cater for cruise ships.    I walked back down the centre of the wharf which was beginning to buzz a bit.  Security guards and customs officers were standing behind barricades, event management staff were wandering up and down, towies were busy towing away the cars of residents who had forgotten to move them prior to 4:00am.

When a boat comes in, the residents of the wharf who have parked in the centre of the wharf are supposed to move their vehicles to ensure there is plenty of room for the boat provisioning.  This morning a lot of them had failed to do this and the towies were very busy.  Quite a lucrative business for them as there was  $120.00 charge per car and they moved at least 20 cars.

I moved to nearer to the land end of the wharf and took a few photos of the ship coming in.  I was vaguely aware of someone coming up behind me and looked around to see a short chubby chap standing there with a camera.  I had that slightly sinking feeling I get when I realise I am about to be involved in someone's passion.

"Did you know they back this boat into place", he said.

"Errr... No, I didn't", I replied and then somewhat fatefully added, "Why is that?"

"All it's servicing ports are on the port side.  Do you know the history of this ship?  It's the Saga Ruby.  It was built back in 1953 and is amongst the last real ship like design for cruise ships before they started building those big boxes.   It used to cruise with its sister ship, the Saga Rose, but it's waiting to be beached at the moment.  You know they take them out about 4 miles to sea, point them at the beach and them wind them up and let them go. The idea is to get them far up the beach as possible. I like ships and I don't like to see them lying around being preserved.  It's a good idea to pull them apart at the end of their life."

He then launched (note the nautical term there) into the history of the ship, its design, its previous owners, its past names, its current owners, its function (British over 50s cruises) and so on.  He was certainly very knowledgeable about it and, I suspect, a lot of other ships as well. 

Quite suddenly he excused himself and left leaving me standing there somewhat bemused.






I continued my walk around Auckland's waterfront and close by streets.  I ventured up Albert street and then into Queen street but these were quite dull.  All glass front shops, businesses and banks and all closed.  I moved onto the side streets.

Quite quickly the glitz of Auckland disappeared and I was wandering a more seedy area populated by clubs, strip joints, pool rooms and other low end places.  Quite a few of them were still open or in the process of closing.  Down a few alley ways drunk and/or stoned people were spilling out and the thump thump of bass reverberated around. 

I passed a Maori woman who had just exited a club doorway and was busy stowing things in a car. 

"Morning", I said breezily as I am a friendly chap and often greet strangers while walking around.

"Morning", she replied.  "Would you like a massage?"

"Whoo", I thought.  "Now, THAT's friendly!"  But I replied, "No thanks", and smiled at her.  She smiled back quite pleasantly and I continued on my way thinking, "7:00am on Sunday and she is still willing to work.  How productive of her!"

Speaking of seedier sides, Camille and I spent quite a lot of Friday driving around Auckland and at one stage found ourselves in Otahuhu which is part of South Auckland and one of the worst areas for gangs and violence in New Zealand.  There has been a lot in the news about Sth Auckland, its huge number of hole in the wall style liquor outlets, robberies, murders etc. recently. 

We decided to stop and buy a case of beer for later in the day and found a shopping centre with a liquor outlet and headed for it.

Interesting to say the least.  As I got out of the car I realised this was a quite different place to what I am used to.  A lot of surfaces were decorated by spraycan artists.  There was a group of gangsters standing around a shelter some metres away.  Standing outside the liquor store on either side of the entrance were two very big, very large Maori blokes dressed very roughly but not, as far as I could tell, decorated with any gang insignia.  They were obviously there as paid guards and as I approached they straightened up and eyeballed me.  I sailed past them (for Auckland is, after all, the City of Sails) and entered the store.

It was long, narrow and dark.  The floor was filthy.  Down one side, behind the counter was floor to ceiling spirit bottles and nothing of any particularly good quality, just cheap.   The rest of it was mostly beer and RTDs.  I have been in quite a few liquor stores over the years but I have never seen anything like this before.

It was run by an Indian as are most of the liquor outlets in Sth Auckland.  He was very friendly to me and we chatted about how his day was, how my day was, what I was up to etc.   I purchased the beer and left and it was at that point that I realised that I was quite possibly the only white customer he had had for several days, if not longer.

We continued driving and we noticed that these hole in the wall type outlets were everywhere.  Some of the shopping centres had more than one of them.  I did a quick google on this and the density in some places is incredible.  One place has 5 of them within a 600 metre stretch. 

Definitely a different place and a different lifestyle.



Saturday, 20 February 2010

Staying in Auckland

You may have guessed that currently Camille and I are in Auckland.  The lease on my car is due to expire in a couple of months and we have decided to buy a replacement.  As the lease company is moving out of leasing cars they agreed that I could return the car early with no penalty so we have come to Auckland to return the car and get a new one.

We are staying in a two bedroom apartment on Prince's Wharf.  It's a good place. Fully kitted kitchen, large living area with reasonably comfortable furnishings, large bedroom with a good bed, very big walk in wardrobe - way larger than our walk in at home - and a good bathroom.   There is a balcony which stretches the full length of the apartment and it is a very nice place to sit in the mornings.  I am there now. We are on the 3rd level close to the sea end of the wharf which means that we are well away from the bars and noise at night.  However, as we have chosen to sleep with both the balcony doors wide open the sound does seep in.

The shower is excellent. None of this silly, low pressure shower head stuff. This is a full on blasting shower head accompanied by very strong water pressure. The pressure is so good you can stand under the shower and receive a scalp massage. Have to turn the pressure down for the rest of the body though. The water jets are so powerful that they actually hurt the more sensitive body bits.

This is the view from the balcony (taken around 10:30pm).   I



There is a boat parked next to us.  Whoever owns it must be fairly wealthy.  The curved bank of windows on the 2nd level of it is the owner's bedroom.   The boat is deceptively large.  I think the bedroom is larger than the kitchen/living area of this apartment.  Behind the bedroom is the the helipad.    As nice as this boat is, it isn't the one Camile and I think we should own.  There are some far larger and more luxurious boats parked around the place.



Shot of the cabbage trees at one end of the balcony silhouttted by Auckland lights.




Friday, 19 February 2010

Auckland traffic

Spotted: woman doing her nails driving on motorway.

Spotted: truck driver coming to intersection while eating and using both hands - 1 to hold the punnet and 1 to fork food into his (mouth)

Spotted: Lots of people talking on mobiles while driving

Spotted: LOTS of people texting while driving.

These people are a fucking menace

Arrgghhh! Internet!!!! Arrgghhh!

I'm in Auckland at the moment and I am feeling particularly savage.  The reason?  Camille and I declined Internet access at the place we are staying as we have mobile internet connections via Telecom.  These have been fairly usable in the past.

At the moment though I have been experiencing ping times in excess of 18,000 milliseconds.  EIGHTEEN THOUSAND MILLISECONDS.  I find a ping time of a just a couple of thousand milliseconds unusably slow!

Buck up your ideas, Telecom.  I'm getting mightily pissed off with the crap service I have been receiving from you of late.  here is an equation for you:Crap XT phone service + with crap mobile internet service = customer looking around for other service providers for 3 x mobile phones, 2 x mobile internet connections, 3 x landlines and any other services we get from you.  In addtion it also means that said customer will vent quite freely about Telecom's crap service to anybody who will listen  - and I suspect that there are quite a few of them around the place at the moment - and also possibly advise clients to think twice about using Telecom's service.

An ending.  Just did another quick ping test and it was bouncing from > 13,000 ms to over 20,000 ms.  This is clearly fucking ridiculous. Click on the image to see the stupid ping times.


Sunday, 14 February 2010

Phrase for the day

The Phrase for the Day is:

cultural unknowingness
as in
Culturally, they may be completely inappropriate for the setting they are assessing, and their methods of observation may reflect that cultural unknowingness.

Comment on Public Address

(No, I don't have anything against the argument.  The language just amuses me.  I freely admit I am easily amused).

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Random Bitching

About a week ago I was in the supermarket bitching about the fact that they strip the skin off their chicken pieces.  I may have been bitching to Camille or just bitching randomly but I was saying things along the lines of, "I fucking hate this.  Everytime I come to get chicken pieces here they have removed the fucking skin.  If I want the skin removed I'll remove it myself.  It really fucks me off that they are taking that choice away from me".

It may be just coincidence (I like to think otherwise) but today when in the supermarket buying chicken, all the chicken pieces apart from a very few pieces of breast had their skin on.

And that's the way it should be.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Born Poor?

Born Poor?

Santa Fe economist Samuel Bowles says you better get used to it

By: Corey Pein 02/03/2010

45.7

23

The first number is the “Gini coefficient” for New Mexico. The Gini is an expression economists use to measure equality or inequality in a society.

Zero describes the ultimate level playing field, a nonexistent land in which everyone has all the same stuff. A completely unequal society, in which one person has sole control of literally everything, would have a Gini of 100. New Mexico’s Gini score (45.7) reveals this state is more unequal than most. Utah is the most egalitarian state (with a 41.3 Gini), while the District of Columbia (53.7) is the most economically polarized, according to the most recent Census report, from 2006.

The second figure, 23, is the Gini for Sweden, the world’s most egalitarian country. Whereas most of Europe, Canada and Australia have Ginis in the low 30s, the US has over the past several decades developed inequalities usually found only in poor countries with autocratic governments.

So what? Isn’t inequality merely the price of America being No. 1?

“That’s almost certainly false,” Bowles tells SFR. “Prior to about 20 years ago, most economists thought that inequality just greased the wheels of progress. Overwhelmingly now, people who study it empirically think that it’s sand in the wheels.”
...
“Inequality breeds conflict, and conflict breeds wasted resources,” he says.

In short, in a very unequal society, the people at the top have to spend a lot of time and energy keeping the lower classes obedient and productive.

Inequality leads to an excess of what Bowles calls “guard labor.” In a 2007 paper on the subject, he and co-author Arjun Jayadev, an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts, make an astonishing claim: Roughly 1 in 4 Americans is employed to keep fellow citizens in line and protect private wealth from would-be Robin Hoods.
...
So, much of what Americans tell their children is wrong. It doesn’t really matter how long you go to school or even necessarily how hard you work. The single most important factor to success in America is “one’s choice of parents,” as a contributor to Unequal Chances wryly put it.

What about natural intelligence? “The problem with IQ is that it’s just not very important in determining who’s rich and who’s poor. And most people don’t believe that,” Bowles says.

What about education?

“Being willing to sit in a boring classroom for 12 years, and then sign up for four more years and then sign up for three or more years after that—well, that’s a pretty good measure of your willingness to essentially do what you’re told,” Bowles says.

This bodes ill for the American Dream of upward mobility. It also puts the lie to a can-do cliché underpinning much US economic policy: namely, that people in need should get a “hand up” rather than a “hand out.”

Read the full article here - its well worth it.