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For a long time I had a secret shame: a fondness for the economic writings of P.J. O'Rourke. Perverse of me, I know. But Michael Lewis is showing me that there's a way out, having neatly adopted O'Rourke's style without the overlay of hysterical Republicanism (there used to be moderate Republicans but they seem to be extinct now - O'Rourke used to be one, but not anymore, it seems). I liked Lewis's article on the current state of the German economy, and most of the Internet does, too.

In this week's other #firstworldproblems, my dishwasher, three weeks ago, made mad-scientist-electronics noises and started issuing smoke. I have called around all the local purveyors of secondhand dishwashers, and to a bloke, they all have Fisher and Paykel machines available. But these have been panned by Consumer magazine's reviews. Nobody is letting go of their Bosch or Miele machines. Anybody out there living happily with a non-dish drawer Fisher and Paykel dishwasher?

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Today it snowed for real. The snow of my dreams! The picture from Sunday looks sad compared to what's behind the cut...

Read more... )
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The Chocolate Festival in Wellington is the one Wellington on a Plate thing I made it to this year. And it was interesting. The Lolly Scramble! )
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My planned journal entry is canceled on account of snow.

As I was driving home from downtown Wellington, big feathery flakes of snow began falling, as forecast. This is as if it was snowing in, say, Atlanta. Snow of this kind is so unusual here that these good folk have no knowledge of the French Toast Index. The friend in the car with me began screaming. "Snow! I've never seen snow in my LIFE! SNOOOOOW!" This wasn't what I needed on a road tilted at a vertical 45-degree-angle, but it worked out all right, since every other driver slowed to a crawl in horrified amazement.

I dashed home, judiciously. Snow increased along the way, winnowing out the other drivers. Soon, driving in the snow felt very serene. At home, I ripped inside and threw on a little L.L. Bean jacket with a hood, and grabbed my camera. If ever a jacket could cackle in vindication, this one did, as it cocooned me perfectly. "You thought you didn't need me...but look at you now! My hour is come!" chortled the jacket.

Meanwhile, quivering with excitement, I took terrible pictures. This one, of my backyard, is the best of the bunch.

Then, it got dark and I came inside.

Half an hour later, it's still snowing, but I don't know if we'll get more ground coverage due to the wet ground. It's clinging to roofs and balustrades, though.

Excuse me. I have some fresh pure snow to eat...
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Kvetchy and hurry-up-and-wait-busy today, so I'm just going to roll with the kvetchiness. More things that I feel like I'm supposed to like but I don't:

Truffle Fries
– A friend mentioned truffle fries recently, and I went, "Mmm, truffle fries - wait - last time I had them, I was disappointed, nay, traumatized." The artificiality of truffle oil, and the way the truffle oil makes the fries oilier, all sent me into umami overload.

Faddy “Retro” Makeup
– Stop the trend, I'm geting off. Painting on a retro look with standard makeup is not rocket science. And if someone has a thin “celtic” mouth, if they apply heavy red lips, well, they enter a makeup uncanny valley. It’s OK to start the future on your face.

Being In NZ With My Tinfoil Hat On – I have been known to blather on about New Zealand’s superiority as a human being residence when it comes to hydrology and food supply. But with the UK in flames and the US reeling economically, I feel the unhappy helplessness I did close to ten years ago, watching 9/11 from New Zealand.
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I woke up this morning, somewhat sulky. It was Monday; I have a coldlet; and I knew there wouldn't be snow on the ground outside my house, despite the promises of the meteorologists and my recurring snow dreams. My car had slush on it, but no snow. Of course not; it's too wet. But then! The hills! The hills ringing my valley had a visible dusting of the white stuff!

Snow on the hills of Stokes Valley!

Not very impressive, but it's the first time since 1952.

The streets were peppered with locals holding up their own cameras, immortalizing the moment.


Jul. 11th, 2011 09:53 am
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That was a long strange weekend. Friday, I got a call that my LOL was in the hospital - and not expected to leave. After hospital visits on Friday and Saturday, I went and emceed a Dr. Sketchy, which induced some cognitive dissonance. Then, her family called early Sunday to say that she had died on Saturday night. Read more... )
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Hmmm. My fandom mail has had a steady trickle of correspondence lately. Then there's The Broship of the Ring, followed by today's XCKD. And apparently UVic in Wellington is having a Quenya course.

And we're still 18 months out from the movie release! I thought they were coming out at the end of 2011, but this was just wishful thinking clouding my brain.
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Bitterly cold this morning, had to pry myself out of bed with a crowbar. It's only the second morning that the car has been frosted.

In a blast from the fandom past, a story and an essay of mine have been nominated at the Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards. "The Unnatural History of Tolkien's Orcs" and the rambling talking-about-orcs story "A Question of Breeding." Which includes Radagast. And a kitten. These are vote-based awards, so, uh, I'm telling you about them.

My Little Old Lady is...not doing so well. Last weekend she got diagnosed with cataracts and macular degeneration. She continues to experience increasing shortness of breath after even the most basic self-care tasks. Regarding her with cold empiricism, she ought to be moved to the "hospital" area of the home, where she can get more physical support. But she hates, hates, hates the idea, and after the time I wandered into that branch of the home, I know where she's coming from.
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I started giving my cat some raw cat food this week. Here in NZ, one can buy tidy plastic containers of chopped bloody meat especially for your cat. The supermarket ones tend to be lamb, beef, steak and kidney, and horse. Specialist suppliers allow you to get rabbit, hare, and just-right fowl, too. I'm not doing this because of the hype around letting pets eat raw; for whatever reason, she's suddenly not eating as much as she should of the dry food she's loved for most of her 13 years. Dealing with gobbets of raw meat is easier for me than suppressing my gag reflex as I handle canned cat food. We just went to the vet to check her teeth, so I know it's not that, and she got weighed at the time. Hm. I'll see how she's doing in a week.

Northey thinks this is great. She eats her 1/4 cup of meat gobbets quickly and cleanly, as if she's been reading the online pages about how she's supposed to eat her raw food.

Meanwhile, I'm getting older, too. Tonight's discovery; the platform heels I caught the subway in 15 years ago, exhumed from their storage box for a burlesque event tomorrow night, are suddenly a challenge to wear. I used to walk blocks in these.

And, I've been rereading Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet. To my horror it's coming across as pretentious sexist tripe, albeit hung on some great characters in a great setting. And yet, these books were such a part of my late adolescence. I guess liking them was my equivalent of an Ayn Rand/Objectivism phase.
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Yesterday was the winter solstice here in New Zealand. This morning, I looked outside and laughed with delight. Snow! In my garden! A good two inches. Wet snow, just starting to melt, but still. "Will you look at that, it hasn't snowed like that here since 1952," I told my bewildered flatmate. I opened the door, scooped up two fingerfuls of snow from the back stair balustrate, and slid the snow into my mouth. Mmmm, snow.

And then...I woke up.

It was only a dream - even though I could taste the snow!

When I went outside, there hadn't even been a frost. Uninterrupted lush wet greenery met my eyes. And my Crepuscule rose was in bloom, even. Some winter solstice!
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My LOL, in her new state of increased sedentariness, has become a film buff.

My loan of Cold Comfort Farm last week was such a success that she asked me to choose another film for her. I Capture The Castle is this week's selection.

Except that I am coming to the end of my shallow film knowledge and I need recommendations!

She's already seen most Jane Austen films, Annie Get Your Gun, etc. And Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day. She likes gentle period romances/dramas, especially British-flavored (excuse me, flavOURed) ones. Things with wide-eyed child protagonists would also be good. No subtitles, because she can't read them with her old-eyes vision on her small TV; no animation (a pity when I think of Studio Ghibli, but I did ask). I may try her on E.T., come to think of it.
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Finally! Frost! My gardening friends have been waiting anxiously for the first frost, to kill insects and give certain plants a winter metabolic period. Even a sucky gardener like myself wants it - I have some violet seeds for my garden, and they need frost and cold to germinate.

My car was iced up for the first time this winter, too. But...when I was in New England, I bought something at the hardware store of my childhood. An ice scraper. After one minute plying the ice scraper over my car's windows, I was gleefully ready to drive.

I have yet to see an ice scraper for sale in New Zealand. The local cure for a frosted car is, according to my boss, just turning the hose on it!

They were even discussing the frost on the radio this morning, with a sense of relief, as if to say, "Oh, thank goodness, severe climate change isn't happening this year!" Yeah, well, I should've been plying that ice scraper a month ago...
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Eeeeeesh, time for another post, since my last one says "Christchurch Report". After yesterday's 6.3 quake repeat, my friends down there, cool and stoic previously, are now losing it, in tears, confronting more damage, etc. The latest may be the straw that breaks lots of backs.

I saw my Little Old Lady on Sunday; she's looking rosier, but isn't getting any of that lost lung capacity back. So she's rather trapped, at the moment. I lent her the DVD of Cold Comfort Farm, which I watched with a friend on Saturday night. Mmmmmm, Seth Starkadder. My friend was looking after her grandbaby, who took a dislike to me. Put in my arms for the obligatory visitor's cuddle, she looked at me aghast and began to wail. And didn't stop for two hours. I didn't know you weren't supposed to wear perfume around babies.

This week so far has been about freelancing and dealing with a sudden uptick in burlesque event developments. I also stopped by the art school to snap some shots of my flatmate's art installation, which is three and a half meters tall, two meters deep, and involves depictions of whale sharks and jellyfish. It looks great, but I have no idea where it's going after the show. And neither does he. If anybody with a very spacious house wants an art installation...
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On my flight into Christchurch, when we descended, I saw something unusual; everybody peered out the windows curiously. We were all trying to see if we could discern any changes to the Christchurch landscape post-quake. So hard to tell from the air - had that glimmering slough been there before? Had that industrial neighborhood looked so bleak?

The minute I got off the plane, Christchurch looked like a disaster. But that's because the airport is mid-renovation. Half of the airport looks like a disaster zone, and the other half is getting the dreamy-white-spaceport look. After fumbling around for a bit, I got a cab to my business destination. Driving along, there was a tumbled chimney here, a shored-up porch there. I counted eleven such sites before we passed a Victorian brick house that looked like it had been stomped by Godzilla. Further along, it became clear; Godzilla really didn't like brick buildings.

At my business destination, we promptly went for a business lunch. "How did the quake affect you - no, wait - do you mind when people use the earthquake for small talk?" "No, we don't mind," everyone said. "It's all we're still talking about anyway." Quake impact among six people ranged from needing the house recladded, to still having no sewage, to seeing their untouched side neighborhood double in population overnight. Then we talked about other things. (Such as, Christchurch is the syphilis capital of New Zealand!)

Soon after this, I was bundled off to the venue where I was giving a talk. "It takes ages to get anywhere now, with half the roads closed," said my main host. "The art museum? Still shut...the Arts Centre? Heavily damaged. Us? We're doing okay. This is still home, we're not about to walk away from it. But sometimes when I'm driving around and I pass a building that's been knocked down, like the school I went to, I just want to have a jolly good howl." By now we had arrived in the techy part of town, and I had to admit that Christchurch's claim to being Silicon Valley-like had some merit, as we drove past isolated business-park software office after software office.

Despite the traffic, there was a great turn-out for my talk, and people hung around afterwards, reluctant to tackle the traffic again, but also interested in the topic and quizzing me about working with Agile developers and social media.

There was a sense that Christchurch is ready to start the future. Ten years from now, I won't be surprised if it all looks like the renovated side of the airport, instead of the un-renovated side.
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I had an extraordinarily pleasant weekend, seeing all kinds of people, going to the Mineral Show (they have prospecting field trips!) working on a freelance web site, and eating carefully. When I let my vigilance down at a friend's house for a beef stir-fry on Sunday, I had to go home and repeat my self-dentistry of Friday night, finishing off by stunning myself with painkillers once more. I'd had a hard time BELIEVING that my jaw had hurt That Much on Friday night. Surely I was tired - I was burned out after my week - something else had to be wrong. But no, Sunday's reprise showed that I hadn't been hallucinating.

Today, and tomorrow, I am back on tender things (scrambled eggs, pumpkin ravioli) with antibiotics for dessert. There is No Time for dental care tomorrow, since I'm off to Christchurch to give a talk. I'm packing a meal (pumpkin ravioli reheats just fine) and painkillers.

I have just barely gotten the hang of running two additional blogs. I'm trying for two posts a week in each one.
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It's a major shut-down holiday weekend here in New Zealand, the last one for months. What better time for me to have a serious toothache?

A month ago, I had a filling the size of a bathtub replaced, and I was advised that it would be sensitive "for about two weeks." It's been four weeks, and I haven't been paying attention to the calendar, and I've been expecting it to ease off any moment. Tonight it became abundantly clear that this hasn't happened. A few bites of a roast vegetable salad clarified that what I thought was a hard-week-headache was more painfully specific.

Luckily, I have antibiotics and my favorite painkillers. I'll rinse with salt water, and eat boring soft tepid things.
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Last night, I visited my LOL, of course. The nursing home inhabitants are settling in for their long winter's nap; semi-hibernation is the order of the day. "I'm sleeping a lot...I get tired very easily," my LOL admitted. "What were we talking about, again?" I prompted her gently, refilled her water bottle with spring water, encouraged her to keep up her exercise, and left when she started yawning. Almost two years ago, when I started seeing her, she was cranky about losing her faculties, zipping around in her little car, and only just starting her decline. Sigh.

I was late visiting her because I'd had a momentous discussion with my flatmate. A little earlier than I'd planned. We were due for a "so, you said you were moving out in June, yes," discussion. But last night, he started talking about a month-long trip to Florida in July. Buh? So, we talked. He'd like to keep his room here through July (when he won't be here) and move out around mid-August. I get a month of the house to myself while he still pays rent? I can work with that. He went to a travel agent today and got his tickets, so it's all on. It went as harmoniously as possible, and I'm glad I seized the moment.

Now, I've got a "webinar" with my professional volunteer group. I have also lined up blog entries for this week's It's A Wellington Life. Last thing on the agenda tonight: sleeping like a brick.
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My LOL and I went on a gentle excursion on Sunday; a drive to the beach, with a run through the McDonald's drive in. She is not able to walk more than a few steps still, and is spending most of her time attached to oxygen tubing.

We parked at Petone beach on a glorious, sunny Sunday afternoon, and watched the passers-by, with dogs and children. Quite a few people had patronized a local Mickey D's, and my LOL hinted that some fries would be welcome. So, we went and got them, and had some more beach-watching while she noshed. She's been at the mercy of institutional food with healthy intent, delivered on trays far distant from their kitchens, for weeks now.

The next day, I whirled up to Auckland for six hours to give a talk to a professional group. It went really well, but I am still tired today.
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After a lively weekend, I went to visit my LOL and...oh, the improvement. She is putting on much-needed flesh and color. She is planning things with her caretaking crew (wardrobe changes so that clothes are easier to doff and don in her frail state). She has mastery of her cellphone again. We went over a lot of the things that happened while she was so unwell, "because it was all such a muddle", and straightened some of it out chronologically. "I had no idea that I was so very sick," she said. Her local daughter is now planning a regular weekly visit, too.

I was not expecting this happy-for-now ending.

Thanks to everyone for the good vibes and support!
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