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Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Brush With Celebrity

I have just returned from a fabulous holiday. I've seen and done so much in San Francisco, Las Vegas and Waikiki. Sightseeing trips around cities and beyond (Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Oahu) have been fascinating, and every tour guide is keen to show off the local links to celebrities. Some I knew all about.

Alcatraz - celebrity or infamy? Fascinating just the same.
No stopping allowed outside Magnum PI's house.
Hoss and Little Joe were actually riding around Arizona.
The real Gilligan's Island - actually very close to shore, they could have dog-paddled home!
Very easy to believe that dinosaurs still roam this eerie spot.
But it really made me realise I have not seen an awful lot of famous movies and television shows, but just the same I craned my neck each and every time as we passed by a movie location or stopped for photos. One tour guide had had a role in Lost (which I never watched), a non-speaking character named Jerome, but that was the extent of actually meeting a celebrity ... until today. There I was walking along Bunny Street, when coming towards me was a familiar figure. We passed and I instantly regretted not acknowledging him, but fortune was on my side. Shortly later we passed again, and this time I summoned up my courage.

On just an ordinary street, in and ordinary city, on an ordinary day ...
"Hello," I said, "Aren't you Richard (Of Richard's Bass Bag)?"  

He wasn't actually drinking chardonnay or speaking Italian on this occasion.
He's just as lovely as you would expect from his blog. He took the time to chat with a fan. It reminded me of a favourite quote, from the wonderful Sam Hunt, that goes something like this:

All the world can be found in a grain of sand, and that grain of sand is probably in your own back yard.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Simply the Best

A few years ago I got a free sample of a personal deodorant dropped in my letter box. It wasn't a brand I used, and it was apparently a new and exciting development. Not a roll on as I was accustomed to, but a waxy looking stick.

Something like this.
I chucked it in the back of my bathroom cabinet and didn't think about it again until a morning many months later. Emerging from my shower, I remembered what the item was that eluded my memory at the previous day's supermarket visit. I was out of deodorant. Then I remembered the freebie and gave it a go. It was fantastic. When it was nearing its end, I sought out a replacement with no success. Not one to give up, I rang the handy 0800 line in the small print. Where could I buy this wonderful product? The customer services representative informed me that would be nowhere, ever. What? But this was a brilliant product. Oh, yes. It was the best they ever produced, but it didn't catch on so it was discontinued. So the current product range is inferior? Yes, that's right. Inferior but preferred by our customers.

I recalled this sequence of events as I cleaned my shower this morning. I was using the best ever shower cleaner. I'm probably the only one in the whole of New Zealand still using it. It was recommended years and years ago by a rep from the company that produced it. It was every bit as effective and easy to use as he had indicated - and so it should be, it was considered the best product on the market by those who know the bathroom cleaner market. Then came the bad news. Even with me raving about it to complete strangers in the supermarket, it hadn't taken off. My inside source told me it would be withdrawn. This time I was ready. I stocked up, and I mean stocked up. I bought up the last on the shelves of every local supermarket.

The stash.
I brought the stash with me when I moved to Petone. I've been here over five years. At best, I think I have a couple of years left. I am preparing myself as best I can.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What, Me Worry?


No, no. This isn't a fond remembering of Mad magazine in the 70s, though that was arguably when it was at its height. No, this is all about the Petone hardware wars. Until this week, Mitre 10 has reigned supreme with its mega store selling everything imaginable and, along the way, tolling the death knell for so many great little businesses that once served the locals.


And so it may have continued but for some clever clog in NZ Post, who thought, "Why do we need an efficient, purpose built mail centre in Petone when we could build a whole new one for the Wellington region in a handy location - say Palmerston North!" And so it came to be that a really massive building was going begging. A little bit of re-jigging, and we now have a Bunnings. It opened quietly on Monday. Apparently the official opening is on Friday, when lots of important people have been invited - though I was assured, when I popped in today, that the most important people were actually the customers! So, how does it stack up? Well, it's very big.


The cafe looks a bit naff, but Mitre 10's is nothing to write home about coffee-wise. Bunnings does a way better children's playgound - reminiscent of MacDonald's - and if it keeps the kiddies busy that's a bonus for every shopper.


There are lots of staff on hand, though answering questions about lumens in LED lightbulbs would not appear to be a particular strength in any I encountered, so I stuck with an old incandescent version for a pleasing 97 cents. (If anyone knows how many lumens equate to a good old 100 watt bulb, do let me know for future reference.) So, are the folk at Mitre 10 worried about the new mega-kid on the mega-block? My guess would be yes, if the bus-stop directly outside Bunnings front door ...


... and the billboard opposite are anything to go by.


Saturday, April 2, 2016

To the Moon and Back, Intuition and Outcomes

I love anything about space, space exploration and general big bang stuff. I admire the likes of Stephen Hawking or Eugene Shoemaker, whose intellects when measured must have been pretty much off the scale. These scientific boffin sorts come up with the most amazing theories and discoveries. If they tell me that the universe is expanding then no doubt it is. Despite the fact they can't explain in terms I can understand just what this now finite universe is expanding into, I'm happy to believe them.

And on the other side of the edge of the universe is .....?
But of course those possessing even the most amazing of brains can still fall victim of the same fates as we more simple folk. Stephen Hawking's back story is well known and inspiring, but it is Eugene Shoemaker that I find much more intriguing. He worked on lunar missions and, along with his wife and others, discovered Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. He would have been the first astrogeologist to walk on the moon, but ill-health disqualified him from his planned Apollo mission - though he did, technically, make it to the moon. He is the only person to be buried on the moon. It just shows the high regard in which he was held by those at NASA that they were happy to shoot his ashes on up there.

The comet on-course for collision with Jupiter.
What adds to the interest, and tragedy, of his story is how he died. He was working in the Australian desert, studying impact craters and star gazing into the clear outback night skies. While travelling along a narrow, rutted road he encountered another vehicle approaching from the opposite direction. 

The other driver pulled hard to the left to avoid a collision, and had Eugene done the same he would be alive today. But being an American, he instinctively pulled to the right. His reflex reaction resulted in his instant death from the resulting head on collision. A sad loss to the world of science, though his wife who was travelling with him did survive her injuries and continues to be a prominent figure in the field to this day.


I was reminded of Eugene when a friend suggested, back in January, that 'The Craters of the Moon', near Taupo, would be well worth a visit. It is part of the whole geo-thermal, sulphur stuff that goes on around there. Now, I'm no scientist, but I was skeptical how anything involving bubbling mud could be anything like the dry surface of the moon, so from the outset my instincts told me this would be a disappointment if the name was anything to go by. In fairness, there was no actual bubbling mud to be seen - you could hear the odd 'plop plop' sound while traversing the board walks, and there were a few holes in the ground, and they must have been as dangerous as sign-posted because no one had dared to retrieve any of the rubbish other visitors had chucked in. 

Expect to be disappointed if you have a literal sort of mind.
Also, I'm pretty sure the moon isn't covered in messy scrub, in fact I think that vegetation is pretty thin on the ground of the lunar surface. The place was run by volunteers - those retired, self-righteous, bustling sorts who take themselves very seriously - who extracted an excessive amount of my hard-earned money for this tragic attraction. It was really more like wandering around after a bush fire that still had a few hotspots left for the fire service to deal with. 


As I trudged in the hot sun I mused how much better things would be if Eugene had ignored his instincts and, to a massively lesser degree on the scale of importance to mankind, I had taken more notice of mine.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

All Ant

When I was a child I was blessed to grow up in a family that cherished books and reading. My earliest memories are of my father reading me a nightly Brer Rabbit story. Fairy tales that now seem to me quite grizzly in nature were standard fare, and cautionary tales were all the go.

Children who told the odd lie were soundly taught a lesson by being eaten by wolves or, as in poor Matilda's case, burned alive in her own home. Aesop could be relied upon to educate the young mind in simple virtues, and in particular I remember the story of The Ants and the Grasshopper. The ants worked industriously all summer while the grasshopper had a jolly good time leaping about and, rather cleverly for a grasshopper, playing his violin.


Come winter the ants ate their stored food and the grasshopper died of hunger. The ants took no pity and were not inclined to share. The moral was clear (and it wasn't about good Christian charity), but I always felt sad for the grasshopper and it has to be said that the violin is a really cool look for a musician*. My whole life I have been far more of a grasshopper than an ant, in just about every aspect I am a reluctant decision maker and poor self-motivator, so my sympathies were with him. But in one respect I am an ant channeler - I like to be well prepared for winter warmth while still in the heat of summer. And yesterday we were well in the heat of summer. There was a pleasant breeze off the sea, but it did not make it into my garage.



The time was right for the great firewood stack of 2016. Usually I have the wood delivered in three or four lots. But after the first trailer load arrived I listened to my inner ant and went for bust - all the wood, one afternoon, ant attack.

One load ...
... becomes five as the stacking begins ...

... and progress is made.
Three and a half hours later I had pulled off my greatest firewood effort ever.

Beauty thy name is firewood stack.
The garage has been tidied, and what's that extra bit of forward planning? Yes, after five years I've finally refilled the emergency water supply.


I was like an ant on acid. And now I can retreat back into my familiar grasshopper self, safe in the knowledge my work is done and Aesop is appeased.

*DISCLAIMER The violin is never a cool look for a child. I have no idea why, but there is some unwritten rule that a child can only play an untuned violin and must always practise only outside supermarkets or other shops, and is never to attempt any recogniseable melody.

Be afraid, be very afraid.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Extreme Gunning*

*For full definition, click here

For about eight years I have had a blue bin that is emptied fortnightly. When I started, the company was called Dimac Bins, but then some clever management sort probably said, "Hey, I've got a cool idea. Lets do absolutely nothing differently than we always have, but change our name to EnviroWaste. It will make us sound cooler and greener." And so they became EnviroWaste.
Then every January we started a little ritual. I would pay 12 months in advance for 26 empties of the bin, fortnightly. I would then ring and say, "I can't remember which week is my week, could you please send me the sticker to go on my bin that gives me all the dates for the year." Then the lady would helpfully say something like, "It's really easy, its every second week." I would then explain that we are not all as lucky as her to be fully immersed in the world of bins and we mere mortals often stupidly quite forget whether the bin was emptied last week or the week before. She would then reluctantly agree to post out the sticker.


I generally would then say how helpful it would be if they would just post out the sticker with the invoice or receipt. She would then say that nobody really wants them. I would say how hard I found that to believe and ask why they printed them if nobody but me wanted them, and we would bid farewell until another year had passed. So this year when the familiar envelope arrived in the post I had no reason to suspect anything would be different. But, alas, it was. That clever management sort had come up with a great new idea.


It went something like this. "Hey, I've got another great idea. Instead of letting people pay 12 months in advance and having all that lovely money in our bank account instead of theirs, lets insist they pay monthly - but only by direct debit. Send them all a form, they'll love it!"


Now, I have never actually seen Dirty Dancing, but I'm familiar with the quote, and I have a similar one myself - Nobody Accesses My Bank Account But Me. So I rang the lady, and asked if they were still happy for me to pay the year ahead as usual, because I wasn't interested in direct debits. I pointed out the advantage of taking a vast amount of money in advance, but she explained that my money in that form just would not be good enough for their company. She very helpfully told when my last bin empty would be, and I didn't even attempt the sticker conversation. Luckily that last date, February 12, has been seared in my brain. So today I did some extreme gunning. For the last time, I have filled that blue bin and bounced and bounced and bounced. I have managed to get in the equivalent of the domestic waste of a small country, plus a tree. I'll miss my bin and the cheery chap who has collected it on the fortnights I remembered to put it out. I won't miss that lady in the office.



Thursday, February 4, 2016

Not Even Fair - Rally to the Cause

I am an even person. I was born on an even day, in an even month, in an even year. I am always far happier when my birthday rolls around and takes me to an even age. Odd ages never sound good. 55 sounds old, grey and dull. 56 sounds energetic and full of possibilities. I like even numbers. They are trustworthy, likable, balanced. I live in an even numbered house. Life is good ..... but is it fair?


This evening has been a busy one because it is an even day. I am only allowed to give my parched garden a good watering every second day, on even days of the month. The poor people with odd letter box numbers get the same chance on the odd days. This sounds like a perfectly fair system, taking turn and turn about. A fair system, that is, until the end of the month. Those odd sorts got to water well on Sunday, 31st January and then again on Monday, 1st February! Two consecutive days while my garden stood wilting. I felt irked at the time, but consoled myself that the next time the injustice would occur would be in March when the very worst of summer drought conditions would have passed. But then tonight I recalled that this is a leap year ....




... and we are getting an extra day in February and those jolly oddballs are going to get to double dip again at the February/March changeover. This is not fair! I propose a simple solution - odd numbered letterboxes have odd numbered days, even numbered letterboxes have even numbered days - and here is the trick - then everyone gets the 31st of any month, and once every fourth year the 29th of February, too. Simple solution. Ring your local body politicians, rally the troops, be a part of the change for letterbox parity.