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.


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



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.