Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Flying away

Dreamt last night I was flying to L.A. tomorrow, and planning accordingly.

I'm actually flying to Auckland tomorrow, which isn't quite as exotic.

I will be going to a Pearl Jam concert while I am up there though.

Which more than compensates in the short term for Auckland not quite being L.A.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why I hate Masterchef Australia

Listening to: Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd

Noted from my limited viewing forays into Masterchef Australia (mainly centred around Friday night fish and chips with the family at my parents place).

It's not the wholly artificial time and presentation constraints.

It's not the needlessly antagonistic selection and elimination process.

It's not the pretentious and preening prima donna judges.

It's not the implicit hypocrisy of telling a contestant how rubbish they are, then eliminating them, only to tell them how great they are as they leave the building.

It's the shocking hygiene.

I might not be a chef, but I am trained in microbiology, and worked as an industrial microbiological technician for 8 years, with a main emphasis on not contaminating things with greeblies you don't want, plus a bit of microbial food testing for good measure. Bad microbial hygiene practice I've seen so far includes:

-We never see anyone washing their hands, even if it is implied.

-A contestant mixing wet ingredients in a bowl with her hands while wearing rings on her fingers and bangles on her wrists. Jewellery like this was expressly banned in the fermentation plant I worked at because of a high contamination risk, never mind the potential for rings or stones to end up in the food. You can't clean or sanitise jewellery by washing your hands, plus the bits of your hands underneath the jewellery won't get washed anyway. If you want clean hands the rings have to come off or you wear a glove you can sanitise.

-A contestant with her hair tied in long unsecured plaits thrown forward over her shoulders, at a perfect height to graze the workbench as she leaned over her dishes. Excellent way to pick up a staph infection, or just hair in your food.

-A contestant serving and presenting food with a fresh open wound on one of his fingers. Enough said.

I don't care if it is normal practice in professional kitchens. To see this stuff (and for the supposed expert judges (as shown/edited) to not even appear to notice let alone call anyone on it) is just gross.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Listening to: Human Touch - Bruce Springsteen

We went to a small bookfair raising funds for a local school yesterday, and I came away with a few old National Geographics to add to my yellow bordered collection of memorable issues.

In the December 1985 issue (Spine index : Titanic, The Vatican City/Its Treasures, Nicuragua, Daniel Boone, plus a 'The Making of America' map of the Ohio Valley) I came across this ad for Lufthansa:

So the flag carrier of Germany (actually only West Germany at the time. I think something called Interflug carted the easterners around from memory) is 'The World's most German Airline'. As opposed to who, Air France? Wow, who knew?

Also catching my eye was an ad for the latest in portable CD player technology, smaller than a CD case and weighing in at only 520 grams (lighter than 5 CD cases. Again, who knew?)
Somehow, (don't ask how or why, these things are unknowable) I still have my first ever walkman, from 1989. Weighing in a positively svelte 260 grams (without batteries, tape, or headphones), it was good for four or five hours listening (depending on how often you used fast forward or rewind), with the comedy bonus of hearing your favourite songs have their vocalists replaced by Leonard Cohen as the batteries wore down and the tape slowed, before eventually grinding to a halt altogether. Depending on the song length you could get up to twenty or so tracks on to a 90 minute (two sided) tape. This walkman had a direction reverser so you could change sides of the tape without having to pull the tape out of the machine and manually turn it over. Very advanced.My first discman from 2004 (I went for a long time without portable music after my last walkman died in the 90's). Weighs about 200 grams without CD or headphones, lasts for for or five hours again, but convieniently beeps through the headphones to warn of imminent battery failure before cutting out as the juice is exhausted. Actual playing time is slightly less than a cassette player, CD's being limited to 80 minutes (meaning amongst other things, that the cassette tape version of 'The Very Best of Supertramp' has more tracks on it than the CD version).
My first and current Mp3 player which I got at the end of last year (I'm a late technology adopter). Weighs 52 grams without headphones, and with added parafilm customisation to protect the display screen. Good for 16+ hours on a single charge, currently storing 776 songs and counting (I haven't filled it yet).
I think I might hang on to these to show Charlotte how things worked in the old days. Every kid should know how to re-spool a cassette tape after your player has munched it. Once upon a time it was an essential skill.....

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Listening to: Back to Basics - Billy Bragg.
It struck me looking at the A340 take-off photo sequence in my previous post how much latent processing power we have in our brains that we just take for granted to the point of not even noticing it without making a concious effort.

The full sequence (starting with the turn onto the runway) as shot contains 23 images covering a total timespan of 54 seconds. For each one, in addition to keeping the subject centred I was checking the focus several times a second, watching the background for interesting compositions (like the RNZAF Boeing 757 parked up in the shot above, which was an image I planned beforehand. The A340 isn't quite in the right place, so the shot doesn't quite work), zooming in and out for framing, and looking for anticipated moments like the wheels breaking ground or a gust of wind rocking the aircraft that make for a more interesting picture.

Some of the zoom changes were quite radical, like going from full zoom to minimum zoom in less than a second for these two shots:

In addition to all that I was conciously working physically to keep the camera steady (at full zoom my DSLR and lens is close to a foot and a half long, and catches a lot of wind, not to mention my upper body being buffeted by the breeze as well), standing on a reasonable slope without falling over, and pivoting around my waist to keep the aircraft in view, mentally noting that the aircraft was quieter and the takeoff roll shorter than I expected, that the gold colouring would have looked great in full sunlight, and thankful that I had a nice skyscape as a background.

And we use our brains like this pretty much all the time without thinking about it. Impressive (when you think about it).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Things I do

Listening to: Green - REM. Old REM is best.

Photo opportunities don't wait. How else to explain why I got up at 7am on Sunday (after staying out 'til 3am on Saturday night), spent about an hour and a half on a cool windswept hill near the airport on a bleak and blustery morning waiting for a plane to leave that I wasn't even sure was going anywhere anytime soon, but rumour had said was leaving sometime around now plus or minus an hour or so....

Spectators started arriving around the rumoured departure time which made me feel more optimistic and less foolish, and I was duly rewarded with a nice sequence (click to biggify) :

Reason for all the fuss is that the aircraft is a Gulf Air Airbus A340, a loooooong way from home, departing Wellington at 0915 carrying the Bahraini football team home after their loss to the All Whites the night before.
A340's are extremely rare in Wellington (this was in fact the first time one has been here, although they operate regularly into Auckland and Christchurch), and Gulf Air (wiki link) doesn't operate scheduled services to NZ at all (funny that, given they are based in Bahrain). The aircraft was chartered to carry the team and entourage, which gives you an idea of how much well the Bahrainis have coped with the recession.
Adding to that the A340 is one of the largest and heaviest aircraft ever to fly in and out of Wellington, and looks quite fetching in the Gulf Air colour scheme to boot.
So rare aircraft, rare colour scheme, first time time it's flying out of Wellington, I like planes and photographing them, equals opportunity not to be missed and 90 minutes spent sitting on a breezy hillside early on a Sunday morning for an event that lasted all of 5 minutes (actually less than a minute for the actual takeoff run).
I do things like this.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Suck and Sweet

Listening to: Out of time - REM. 'Radio Song' could have been tailor made for wistful 90's montage sequences I reckon

First the suck. When I heard there was a fire on a certain Wellington street that a friend of mine lives on, and wondered it if it was her place, and had a look at the picture on line, and thought, 'nah that doesn't look like her place', I was wrong, and in fact my friend's flat did in fact burn the other day (Linky).

Luckily she wasn't at home, and her room is downstairs, so didn't actually combust. All her stuff is now wet though (although thoughtful firemen managed to get a plastic drop sheet into her room to keep some stuff like her bed dry), and she will likely have to find a new place to live. Suck. Especially when you hear what the supposed story is behind the fire, which I'm not going to retell here because this is a public forum, and it is likely sub judice and only 'alleged' at the moment.

That's the suck then, onto the sweet.

The NZ football/soccer team qualifying for the next World Cup is pretty sweet (video linky here, complete with hype and gushing commentary), even if it will take a while for this rugby obsessed nation to grasp just how big a deal that is. The All Whites (as opposed to the All Blacks rugby team for the non local readers) last went to the Soccer World Cup in 1982 (which I can remember, along with the Springbok Tour (linky) and bunch of other events I can bore younger people with in the relating).

I'll confess to not being the biggest football fan, and find it much more fun to play than to watch (and I did play as a schoolboy). I never watch it (apart from what gets on to the plays f the week), and didn't make plans to watch this game, attending a house warming and some leaving drinks instead. But since the game was being held in my city, and I was interested in the outcome if nothing else, and I could see the stadium as I drove into the city for the farewell function, I started listening in on the car stereo, and then I was hooked, lined and sinkered. I watched the second half of the game in the bar where the drinks were on. The tension with us being 1-nil up was palpable, which made the saving of a penalty attempt to equalise by our keeper even more memorable. The final three minutes of injury time after the official clock had run down were probably among the longest ever experienced in New Zealand sport.

The coolest moment though was when I wasn't watching the game at all. I had parked the car and was walking across the road to the bar when the single and ultimately winning goal was scored. On the central sity street I could hear the roar of celebration from the crowd at the stadium more than two kilometres away. That was cool, and definitely something to tell the kids about years from now.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Dog's Show

Listening to: Curve - Come Clean. Not mine I confess, but an arrival from the great Fish-Sam CD collection unification of last year. I've never really listened to it. It's interesting in a late 90's crossover electro fuzz sort of way. Sounds a bit like Garbage crossed with the Prodigy. Make of that what you will.

I randomly caught a 1982 episode of 'A Dog's Show' (link with video here) on TVNZ 6 (one of the freeview digital channels) and found it unexpectedly awesome, better than I remembered it at any rate.

Screening at 6pm on Saturdays before the news at 6:30 (our news bulletins were only half an hour long then), 'A Dog's Show' was a NZ staple during the 1980's. I'm totally of the wrong demographic to make a call on if it was a cult viewing back then (I was one year old when it first screened, and sixteen when it finished), but if it screened to a wider audience now I suspect it would be. I remember it from fireside 1980's winter evenings well.

*Those locals familiar with the show can skip this paragraph of exposition*
Long the fodder for jokes about New Zealand's obsession with sheep, and cultural unsophistication (a programme about sheepdogs occupying a primetime national television slot!), each season of the show consisted of a series of competition sheepdog trials (link) from various locations around the country, culminating in run-offs, finals and champion dog and handler combinations being crowned for that year.

Its a wee nostalgic gem, with long dead dogs chasing long dead sheep guided by now much older if not long dead stoic New Zealand farmers. The hills still look the same though, and the vivid red and white pens still stand out. It is surprisingly riveting viewing if you let it. The obstacles can be tricky, the sheep often wilful and nowhere near as docile as you'd think. And all the obstacles are run for points against a time limit with little margin for mistakes, which is almost perfect 'made for TV' tension.

The sheepdogs are really the stars of the show (well, hence the title), and the amount of control and discipline exhibited between them and their handlers is both amazing and fascinating, much more of a partnership than simple 'fetch' and 'heel' stuff. Its common enough that it gets taken for granted, but being the focus of a half hour TV show makes you appreciate how sophisticated and skillful working dog handling can be.

The commentary though is true gold. I'm not sure if the host was being mock serious in a "I went to broadcasting school for this?" sort of way, or genuinely passionate in his almost shakespearean thespianic (is that even a word?) intonations (watch the clips and decide for yourself), but some of the output, most especially in withering put downs of the hapless sheep being herded, was classic. For example:

"That hurdle's a bit wet, the sheep won't want to go up there. They're not entirely dumb"
"This is tricky he [the handler] has three highly mobile morons [the sheep] to deal with"
"This sheep is getting a bit toey, arrogance all over his ignorant face"
"Here he comes, he's got a great score and two fine bitches at his side"

Etc. I was laughing out loud (yeah LOL, no really), which I don't often do when watching TV alone. I guess I never really listened to it when I was a pre teen.

Ah nostalgia. Warm fuzzy nostalgia. Plus the theme music was in Pulp Fiction.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Five Years Ago

On 6 November 2004 to be precise

Ah done got hitched

I like, got married and stuff

I married my Fi

Cool :)
Thanks to all who were there, all who wanted to be there but couldn't, and all who helped make it the perfect day it was.

Monday, November 02, 2009


Some imagery from the display to mark 50 years since the opening of Wellington International Airport yesterday...