Sunday, January 29, 2012

Permanent Marker

"Well said, what people forget when they get these tattoos is that the skin gets old and then they just look trashy."

"I tell my kids to treat tattoos as useful warning signs that the wearer isn't all there."

"Tats are disgusting and I'll never marry a girl with them. It just spells uneducated and being a bogan."

"Tattoos are tacky. They make the wearer look grubby. They pigeon-hole the wearer as of a lower class and/or intelligence."

"Graffitti. Tattoos are nothing more than body graffitti and are as much of an eyesore."

"Tatts are suitable for fools, losers, common criminals, the deeply insecure and those who reject Christian values."

"I think of them as an IQ test and everyone gets to see the score"

If you agree with any of the above then you don't get it. They are a sampling of typical comments from people agreeing with this opinion piece published last week: Are tattoos a tragic mistake? (Stuff via the Sydney Morning Herald).

There were many other comments disagreeing with it (including one or two from myself), but the fact it attracted 500+ for and against comments from readers illustrates that tattooing clearly isn't as mainstream accepted as the author suggests. I know it's just morons on the internet, and I shouldn't get worked up about it, but when people are making judgements without basis on my morals and intelligence (not to mention my wife's, since she has a couple too), simply based on whether or not I'm baring my arms that day, it gets annoying.

The author makes a single good point in that tattoos are permanent, and you should think long and hard before getting one, but the rest of the piece is presumptuous garbage, from someone who doesn't like tattoos, and has only the barest insight into why people get them (like many tattoo critics). The peak of hilarity is the bit where she claims to be not preaching or judging, despite spending the whole piece doing exactly that.

I have two tattoos. I can bare or hide them as I choose. I'll probably get more before I'm done. I didn't get mine as a doe eyed teenager, on a whim, or on a wild night out (not that I'm criticising anyone who has done that. If you did, and are still happy with the results, cool). I spent years deciding what they were going to look like, and involved collaborators with them before taking them to the needle. I didn't get them to be cool, to copy anyone else or to fit in to some crowd. I got them because I like tattoos, have been interested in them for years and wanted some for myself (and have no concerns about how they will look when I am old by the way). While there are indeed some tragic examples out there, there are also some breathtakingly exquisite and beautiful ones too. I like the idea of permanence and I laugh at the notion that only the insecure or extroverted get them. Baring tattoos in public is a sign of self confidence if anything, and anyone who knows me personally will tell you just how extroverted I'm not.

While both of mine are generic types of tattoo, the specific designs are unique to me. There may be many tattoos like them, but these ones are mine. Both have obvious meanings, and not so obvious ones as well. "You're just doing it to be different, like everyone else" tattoo critics don't get that; it isn't the act of tattooing that is individualistic, it is the design, and what it means to the wearer. And while I've heard the odd disparaging comment directed my way when people thought I couldn't hear them, I have also had complete strangers come up to me and complement me on the designs.

I get that not everyone should get tattoos, not all tattoos are good ideas, and not everyone likes them. But here's the thing; I have no opinion on you getting tattoos or not, unless you ask me directly for advice. It's none of my business and they aren't compulsory. There are some design types I don't like and would never get, but that's me. If you don't have them, don't ever want one that's cool. Your skin, your business. By the same token I don't care if you don't like mine; they aren't on your skin, so it isn't your problem. I didn't get tattooed to impress anyone, or prove anything, or rebel against anyone. If you think I did, you don't get it.

My body is a temple-I just got the decorators in.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I don't hate The Feelers

Before hitting the road to come home from Taupo we had lunch in a park on the lakefront.
To the surprise musical accompaniment of The Feelers (well half of them anyway: The Feel?) playing an acoustic set. That in itself was slightly surreal, but it got even weirder when they started playing covers ("Save Tonight" and "Where do the children play" were the ones we heard).
Now apparently if you are a "Real (NZ) Music Fan"TM you are supposed to hate them. Pouring scorn on them and everything they do is de-rigeur in certain circles. And to be honest, moving in some of those circles, it gets boring.

I don't hate The Feelers (heresy I know). I don't love them either, and will happily damn them with faint praise, but they are what they are, which is harmless. They produce to my ears bland, somewhat calculatedly mainstream cookie cutter rock (which I think they admitted once might have always been the plan: their first big single initially sounded to me like a simple Bush rip-off, who themselves had been busy ripping off Nirvana but I digress), sold their musical soul to both the National Party and the RWC, and somehow still qualify for NZonAir funding thus depriving more deserving artists (more a problem with the funding model than the band though), so there are reasons to hate on them but I just can't be arsed. There are more important things to worry about.

The Feelers are successful, do what they do, do it well, and that suits the fans. I don't get why this is such a problem for the sneerers. There is this elitist aspect to criticism of this band and others that really pisses me off. The Feelers might be your favourite band ever. They aren't mine. Such is life.

I have the first album from 1998 (and no interest in any others: they have spent the last 14 years remaking it, so you only really need one of their albums), and even got it signed way back when it was new (screw whatever street cred I may have acquired...). I still listen to it from time to time and still like most of it, this track in particular. Screw the haters.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Back in the saddle

So after not having ridden since sometime in October/November (long enough for cobwebs to appear on the front forks), and feeling the effects of no exercise whatsoever over the Christmas break, I decided to use the return to work as an excuse to get back on the bike.

I cycled to work every day last week, and rode back 4 times, which is a new record for number of hill climbs in a week for me (a climb of around 450 feet I have figured out thanks to this little tool). Part of the motivation was the prospect of the upcoming Hospi ride in March, in not wanting to embarrass myself, and better my time from last year.

It feels good to be back on the bike, especially in this still holidayish period when traffic is still light. While some fitness has been lost (I'm a couple of gears lower on the climb than when I am properly conditioned), the muscle memory is still there, and long summer days make for great riding. And I seem to have a new zen with wind at the moment. Some days I'll sit in my office listening to the wind hitting the skylight and dread the ride home. Yet on Friday when the wind was actually proper stormy, I couldn't wait to get amongst it. I got home about ten minutes before a series of rain squalls hit, having had a slow but memorable ride.

That said, I'm not that zen with the wind. I was supposed to go riding with a couple of friends today, but it had been blowing a gale all weekend. Solo riding when it is breezy is one thing, but it sucks the fun out of a group ride.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sharing the Lovejoy

Somewhat appropriate for posting on Friday the 13th since they were once seen as portents of doom, a surprise pre-Christmas visitor was Comet Lovejoy. Surprising for two reasons: it wasn't even discovered until late November, and then it wasn't expected to survive it's closest approach to the sun.

But survive it did and as it sped away from the sun it turned into a spectacular Christmas gift for stargazers in the southern hemisphere. It was breathtaking, and well worth getting up at 4am to see.

I was worried I would have trouble spotting it in the sky. Instead I walked around a street corner on the way to my viewing spot and just about stopped in my tracks. It was unmissable, the tail measuring easily three hand-spans in the pre-dawn sky, like a searchlight beaming from below the horizon as it rose.

Some with more capable cameras than me got stunning images of it, but here is mine from a field behind my backyard on Christmas eve:
While not the most spectacular image, it does approximate well how the comet looked to the naked eye from my place. I've seen a handful of comets in my life; Halley's, Hale-Bopp, Mcnaught, and this one, which was easily the most awe-inspiring. The tail is millions of kilometers long. Charlotte got to see it too, from her bedroom window. I hope she remembers it.

As for the spectacular images, The Bad Astronomer did a good job of collating them. Check out this timelapse: The Spectacle of Comet Lovejoy

Or the Insanely Cool observatory shot

Or the one I find most wow (for a few reasons), timelapse video of cometrise from the International Space Station

I love this stuff.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Another old abandoned house for my collection, spotted on the way home fom Taupo near Marton. I've driven past it dozens of times before but never photographed it:

Meanwhile the one near Taihape I photographed a few years ago is still hanging on:

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Sunny Taupo

Last year our camping week in Taupo was drenched in glorious sunshine. This year not so much. Despite the forecast, we went ahead with our camping trip anyway. It was dry when we put the tent up, but pretty soon looked like this:
After a day and a half of constant driving rain, the waterproofing on the fly gave up the ghost, and it started dripping inside the tent. Bailing out was briefly discussed, but instead we put the tent into stealth mode by way of a passive waterproofing augmentation device obtained from a local hardware store:
Just after we put the tarp up the sun came out for a couple of hours (long enough to dry out the tent and sunburn my feet), resulting in scenes like this all over the camp.
And as they do, despite the frustration of their parents not being able to do all the cool outdoorsy things they had planned (apart from occupy the pool), the kids made their own fun in the wet anyway.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Near road death experience

Listening to: Barking - Underworld (2010). Seems an apt title to describe the way many people drive in this country :)

We nearly killed someone driving home from out camping holiday in Taupo yesterday. There was a fatal crash on the main highway, and we were diverted down a narrow back-road. When I say narrow, I mean barely wide enough to merit lane markings in the middle, and occasionally losing those too. While technically open road limited to 100kph, it is the kind of road you'd be dumb to go much faster than 80 on, and made me slow and pull over a little whenever I met any oncoming traffic (of which there was plenty since it was diverting from the other side of the crash site as well). So we are on a narrow unfamiliar road, which I'm driving at about 60-70 for comfort and safety. We get to this blind right hand corner when it happens.

A motorbike appears, coming the other way at speed, heeled over in the turn and on my side of the road. He's stuck in his turning arc and will hit us in about two seconds. Aside from the thought of "WTF are you doing on my side of the road you freaking idiot!", time briefly stopped at that point, before reflexes took over.

We had been driving along a section of road with a grass bank to our left with no verge, but luckily right then there was a gravel patch a couple of metres wide on the outside of the bend.
I pulled hard into it, braking heavily to the point where the car nosed down so much the skirt under the front bumper scraped the edge of the tarmac (resulting in the marks in the pics) as we came to a halt, hoping the ute behind us was paying attention and didn't hit us. The rider missed us by a couple of metres and sailed on, seemingly oblivious to just how close he came to being a hood ornament. After muttering a few things I hope Charlotte doesn't repeat we gathered ourselves and moved on, scared and more than a little angry at being endangered in such a stupid way.

There are a few aspects about it that piss me off. Detouring was fine, but travelling at a reasonably quick but safe speed (not crawling by any means) on the back road still caused traffic to pile up and tailgate me, since they obviously thought they should be going faster. If I had been going only a few k's faster we would have been wearing the guy on the bike. No ifs or buts, it was that close. The girls in the back would probably have been okay, but Fi and I in the front might have been in trouble.

The merchant banker on the bike annoys me most. To get on the road he has already been diverted by the flashing lights, police cars, and 'Crash Ahead' sign. Yet this reminder of consequences doesn't phase him (probably because he thinks it's somebody else's problem, and it won't happen to him anyway because he is a good rider) and so he just piles on like there is no-one else on the road, and nearly has a head-on with a family minding their own business as a result. This is how people die on the roads. I hope he got the shakes after our near miss. I hope he still has them.

The other thing that annoys was after regaining the main road we came across all the grinning idiots flashing their lights at oncoming traffic to warn of a police car up ahead. I don't know if this happens in other countries, but it seems to be a 'damn the man' tradition here. I see this all the time, and it is idiotic. There is a well rehearsed and tired argument that speed cameras are more about revenue gathering than safety, but it is a self selecting tax; if you don't want to contribute don't speed. I wonder what they thought when they got to the diversion, or if they heard about what happened up the road. Speed alone doesn't kill, but the attitudes behind speeding do.

I've said it before, but the attitude behind a lot of NZ driving habits is seriously warped. 18 people were killed in crashes over the Christmas/New Year period this season, practically all of them due to utterly avoidable stupid driving. I've also mentioned before that I survived a high speed crash (caused by my own stupid driving) when I was much younger. I wonder if more people had an insight into just how swift and violent an experience like that is whether it would make the behaviours safer or not.

After spending a week in a tourist town, we were expecting some hair-raising driving from the tourists, but while the overseas tourists in Taupo could be tricky drivers at times, the locals were worse. There were numerous episodes of craziness, but the most shining example was a guy in a farm ute we met in a Taupo carpark. Since there seems to be a bylaw that all carparks in Taupo must be illogically laid out (seriously, they are weird), we wound up reversing into a park from a long way out. Held up by us for all of 10 seconds, our ute driver smugly smiled and shook his head at us obvious noobs, before driving away. All the while he had an unrestrained Jack Russell terrier sitting in his lap. Can't see how that could go wrong. You're laughing at us mate but who is the bigger fool?