Sunday, February 29, 2004

Oh, for a week on a Mediteranean island...

The storm's abated, but this last week we've had nothing but heavy rain - until today. Apparently we've had our Summer, which normally lasts at least into March. Time to put away my sandals which I bought last Spring and got to wear mayber a dozen times...

I had to work yesterday (Saturday), which is normally bad enough. Only this weekend is the weekend of the Cuba St Carnival, so quite a few roads have been blocked off - including a main on/off ramp onto the motorway out of the city. So while it took the usual time for me to drive to work, it took me 75 mins to get home. Thats 30 mins on the highway to travel the 50 kms to the city, and the rest of the time to get the 5 kms or so across town to home.

Being stuck in traffic makes me so grumpy. It feels like precious time is being stolen from my life right in front of me, and I'm helpless to stop it. Time which I could have used to read a book, talk to my other half, cruise the Web, work on my painting, excercise or nap.

We went to see my nephew who turned three a couple of weeks ago. I think he liked his present - a kite in the shape of a dragon - though he'll probably appreciate it a lot more when we get it in the air. Apparently he was so excited about our visit that he sat in his parent's garage for ages, waiting for us. Made me feel slightly guilty that we were about an hour late...

The most exciting thing about today is that the sun has come out enough for me to hang the washing out. Perhaps I should get another hobby...

Friday, February 27, 2004

Giving advice is so much easier than following it...

I was chatting to someone at work today about his website. He's got a commercial website and was wishing he could get more traffic to it. I offered the usual ideas - putting the URL in your e-mail signature and somewhere in all your correspondence, telling people about your site, visiting other people's sites and leaving your URL in the comments. Those are the things I've tried anyway.

Then I decided to look around for advice which I could send him. Well, I found a few short articles - they looked good, but I can't be bothered reading them (except for the amptoons one). So I'm posting them. You read 'em and tell me if it helped

how to get more people to read your blog from amptoons,
something from The Web Design Company,
and an article from

Which are your favourite Buffy episodes?

Scrolling through amptoons wonderful blog (the link is down on the left), I came across a list of Joss Whedon's ten favourite episodes.

I'm not yet enough of a Buffy nerd to remember every single episode, but most of those listed were indeed wonderful, especially 'Hush', 'The Body' and 'Doppelgangland'. And I really liked those episodes in which Buffy and Spike get together in that strange, masochistic way. Maybe I just like to see imperfection in people. Maybe it was refreshing for a white, middle-class, nice girl display signs of serious disturbance.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

It's boring for others when one does nothing but complain, so ...

it's good to have a site like iworkwithfools, where people write in with their own little grumble-y stories about their workmates, bosses and underlings.

Sometimes they are just silly, other times you'll read and nod your head in recognition. Of course, all my workmates are wonderful - if you guys are reading this and know who I am <:-o .

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Muscular women

Last night was my penultimate life drawing session, as I'll soon be starting my MLIS, which will clash. Our model this time was a female trapeze artist.

Tama had already drawn her a couple of weeks ago, and described her to me as a muscular body attached to a delicate and feminine head. So when she turned up last night, I was curious to see how she'd look.

The first, two-minute poses, didn't give much away. 'Huh? What's he talking about?', I thought. 'She's petite and merely well-toned...'.

Then she changed her poses a bit and I could see what Tama meant. I'm not talking bulk, not at all. But she's probably the most well-toned woman I've ever seen in the flesh. Think six-pack abs, back muscles galore and the utter lack of flab anywhere (especially on her bum). I was a bit jealous, but then again - she is after all an athlete and no doubt trains hard every day. I could do without training every day - in fact it's hard enough just going to the gym for an hour, three times per week.

After about four years of going to these life drawing sessions, I'm finally able to fit the whole figure onto an A3 page every time. For me, it's quite an achievement because for some reason my arm just wanted to draw big, sweeping curves. I, for one, was someone who had to 'tighten up' her drawings rather than 'loosen up'. So I'll be sad next week, knowing that my drawing will decline until I go back.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Full-on Academy Awards display at the library

'Tis not an adventuresome place, the library, so we try to make little stuff seem like big stuff. For instance, one of the younger, more extroverted staff members won chocolate bars from the local radio station. When they were delivered in person by the radio guy (who is probably famous to those who listen to him - but not me), she shrieked with excitement and declared there would be chocolate for all. Most of the part-time staff don't have their own desk, so their team leader made the special effort to label each of those chocolate bars with the name of a different staff member. It all looked too cute, a little Post-it sticker on each one...

In honour of the up-coming Oscars, we made up a little display. It consists of the usual - posters of films including past winners, books about films, film-making and film stars, entry forms for a competition to guess the award winners, and film-school information for hopeful potential film industry workers.

Someone had the bright idea of including a dress-makers dummy, clad in a surprisingly glamourous ex-bridesmaid's dress, and putting a large paper cut-out of Nicole Kidman's head on top. Underneath it all was a small roll of red carpet.

I declared that really we should have the head of Peter Jackson (who is God), instead of that of an Aussie actress. Supporting my idea was that the dummy was certainly not wearing shoes and was therefore suited to being our Peter. However while I got smiles, chortles, snorts - I did not get enough support to exchange heads.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Books and Movies

I've only just finished Robert Sapolsky's 'A Primate's Memoir', and I just have to rave about it again as I did when I was only half-way through it. It's got laughs, tragedy, power games, corruption, culture clashes, and horrible diseases. This guy just writes so well, taking us from the beginning of his time in Kenya - young, gung-ho and idealistic - to a time years later when he's lost his innocence and half of his baboon troop to bovine tuberculosis.

Since Janet Frame's autobiography is still out of the library, I've started reading 'Sabriel' by Garth Nix. It's my first foray into fantasy fiction for many years, because I've always been highly put-off by unpronouncable, hyphenated names and the need to consult a glossary every few sentences. But I've decided that I shouldn't ignore an entire genre so I'm starting with an author who is quite popular with the teens and whose books my boy just happens to have copies of. So far I haven't come across any unpronouncable names or strange words, but then again I'm only about three chapters in.

We watched 'American Pie : the wedding' last night on DVD. There were maybe four quite funny bits (if you like toilet humour, which I confess I do), and the rest was just so-so. Let me list the highlights:
1. pubic hair on the wedding cake
2. sex with granny
3. eating dogshit
4. Stiffler and a large gay man having a dance-off in a gay bar.
Disappointingly, Alyson Hannigan didn't get much chance to be funny.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Just another stormy day with 180 km/hr gale force winds

It kind of put me off leaving the house, the wind. But I had to get my three-year-old nephew a present, so we went to Toy World.

I was hoping to find something to satisfy his fish obsession, and move away from the whole 'Thomas the tank engine' theme. But we didn't see anything fish-related, so I got him a kite. It's pretty neat, as it's in the shape of a dragon. His Chinese name has 'Dragon' in it you see, so it seemed an appropriate choice. He probably won't get to play with it by himself - it's too big for a little'un and his Daddy will have to hold it for him. But I hope he enjoys watching it fly...though perhaps not in today's breeze.

I was really pleased to see a couple of comments on a previous posting I'd made, nice to know my efforts aren't being completely ignored. And it'll be a greater incentive to try to write interestingly too. So, if you're reading this now, thanks :-)

Friday, February 20, 2004

Bus-driving, marae-visiting and exploding whales...

No doubt the exploding whale thing is what you want to know about most - I found it on Scattered Speculations blog.

All I can say is, it should've happened somewhere in Japan as revenge for all that whale-harpooning and eating they do. It might sound a bit rich coming from a Chinese person - someone whose ancestors (and relatives, perhaps) have been known for eating anything with legs that wasn't a piece of furniture. But then, I personally have never condoned the killing of (at least) semi-intelligent, rare mammals just because they are a delicacy.

I had my second driving lesson in the library bus today. It was still terrifying, especially when I went on the motorway and tried to reach a decent speed. I was only going at 60-70 km/hr, but I felt a bit out of control. It felt like I was barrelling. Mike asked whether I found it more comfortable driving the bus now, since I'd now had one lesson behind my belt. I likened it to bungy-jumping (which I've never done - I should have compared it to trekking in high altitude). It's something which, before I do it, I don't want to do it. Then once I've done it, I'm really glad I've done it. But I really don't want to do it again.

But I will. I'll be getting more driving lessons until either I get my full HV licence, or leave my job in a radical attempt to avoid being a mobile librarian.

This afternoon, I and about 20 other city council staff visited the local marae. I've never been to a marae, which is really surprising because I've grown up in New Zealand and learned about Maori culture at school. For non-Kiwis - if you've seen Whale Rider then you'll have an idea of what it was like (it's the part where our heroine leads a group of visitors in, chanting at the top of her voice). I even enjoyed singing the waiata (songs), despite my complete lack of singing ability.

Even better, we didn't have to go back to work afterwards. Except my boss said that 'if you were really conscientious, and had stuff to do, then you could come back and do it' - she wasn't necessarily saying it to just me, but I definitely got the feeling she wanted me to come back afterwards and work on the Academy Awards display for Monday.

The temptation of leaving work an hour early on a Friday was far, far too great ...

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Not the sweet person I thought I was?

Due to my background as a computer programmer, I became the unofficial apprentice to the Systems Librarian, soon after starting at the library. The idea was that I would be the first port of call for all computer-related problems, thus saving the System Librarian from spending too much time on relatively simple problems.

Apparently, ever since that decision was made, people have been inundating the Systems Librarian with computer problems - rather than coming to me first.

I'd be the first to admit I don't know a lot about computers. I only know how to program 'em.

But it was suggested to me today, that people might be bypassing me because I'm unapproachable, or perhaps seem to be grumpy when asked to fix something.


I thought I was the model of sweetness, with the higher than normal use of humour to deflect anger, the smiles to hide shyness. Okay sometimes I am grumpy, but that's usually only after work when I've had to sit in traffic for an hour, or after I've spent 2 hours in various supermarkets with my mother on Sunday.

What to do....?

I could try harder to be sweetness and light, or I could celebrate this sweet'n'sour aspect of my personality. Everyone should have a dark side, right? I don't do drugs, smoke or even drink (any more). This could be my second vice, after coffee.

Yeah, I led a very sheltered life.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Storm Aftermath

I got a big fright yesterday when someone told me they'd heard on the radio, that the area where my mum lives was being evacuated.

Scary because, due to my late dad's insecurity, my mother was never allowed to learn English. She's made up for it a little since he died, but her English is limited to getting really good bargains with retailers.

So I rang the Civil Defense office in town to find out whether it was true. I probably should have done that before ringing my mother and asking her whether she'd been asked to leave her home....

Anyway, it turned out to be a false alarm - there was some surface flooding in a different part of her suburb, but the water was receding and no-one had to evacuate.

It reminds me of the time Cyclone Bola struck, leaving devastation all over the lower North Island. I was holidaying in the South Island at the time, and only heard about the cyclone on the news. Worried that I'd get home and find no home and no job, I rung home in a panic. Only to be reassured that my home town was pretty much untouched. Phew.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Gosh but aren't there a lot of sites about the Buffyverse

And who knows how long they'll keep going now that Angel has been cancelled? (See the updates in red).

Big storm leads to a day off work for me

We couldn't sleep last night due to the huge storm over the whole North Island. This morning, we found our fence completely flattened at the front of the house. True, the posts were in a sorry state already - but I'll blame the gale force winds for pulling them out entirely.

And the good thing for me is that I don't have to go to work today. State Highway 2 is still closed, and my boss was told by the Civil Defense guy that I wouldn't get through at all. No mention of the possiblity of taking the train to work instead - but then the trains weren't working at 9am this morning, and might not be still.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Short 'n' Sweet 'n' driving a bus

I had my first driving lesson in the mobile library today. It's hard to express just how nervous I was, let's just say I was terribly relieved that I, the instructor, and the bus all got back into the garage in one piece.

What didn't help was that, being a mere 5' tall, using the handbrake was a major physical effort.

For some reason, the designers of our bus put the handbrake on the far right of the dashboard, really close to the windscreen. In order to take the brake off, I have to lean diagonally to the right (as far as I can), pull the lever up (with my right hand - I'm left-handed), and push it forward (almost further than I can go). It feels about as natural to me as dancing in stilletos, on a cobbled street.

On the plus side, the instructor was great - patient, calm and convincingly assured me that I was doing fine and that he was not at all scared. Actually, he probably wasn't that scared - he kept telling me to go faster (I was struggling to reach 50 km/hr).

So, all in all, I felt kind of good about the whole thing. I'd been worried about it for ages, and now I think I'm going to be okay.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

More Buffy-related sites

WHEDONesque has no doubt been around for a while, but hey - better found late than never eh? Handy for keeping up to date with news to do with BTVS's creator.

There are a whole lot of good quotes taken from BTVS and Angel, here at sunnydale-slayers.
Here's one from Season 7, "Bring on the night"...

Giles: Sorry to barge in. I'm afraid we have a slight apocalypse.

what to get him for Valentine's Day?

Last year I got him a tattoo - that is, he picked the design and the tattooist, I went to watch and use my credit card.

I might have to do the same this year, because at least I know he wants another. I did have a great idea today - buy him the complete series of Joss Whedon's "Firefly" on DVD. I found it listed on Amazon, and it wasn't nearly as costly as I'd imagined.

I was all set to order it, and a couple of other items too (the Buffy tv soundtrack, and a Buffy book edited by Glenn Yeffith) - only to realise that the DVD is Region 1 only i.e. it won't play in New Zealand. Cut across to the UK amazon site, and not only is it not available there until April but it's Region 2 only!

Then I found it being advertised on trademe. Turns out you have to pay 'em 10 bucks even if all you want to do is ask the seller more about the product. Luckily I found out (by reading more of his listing) that it's a Region 1 DVD. Guess I wasn't the only one caught out, at least initially.

So at this stage it's back to the tattoo idea. Or a book voucher from Graphics, where he buys most of his graphic novels.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Past Obsessions

From earliest to most recent...

Playing Music - I tried to teach myself to play the guitar when I was fifteen. Gave up when I realised that my fingers are too short for the full range of finger-picking, and I can't get by with strumming if I can't sing in tune.

Listening to Music - Instead I became obsessed with the 'Dunedin sound', that jangly guitar garage band genre of music, and a self-styled Indie. After I returned from my big O.E in Europe, India and Africa, I inexplicably stopped seriously listening to music.

Karate - started when I was a Zoology student. Two years later, I was a brown belt (provisional) and had bought a book by the master of the style (Okinawan something - it was over a decade ago). Lost interest after two years, after I came back from holiday.

Yoga - went to classes twice weekly, even bought a mat of my own and contemplated buying a video so I could practise at home. Gave up after two years, after I sprained my ankle and hurt my back in two completely unrelated, non-yoga incidents.

Drawing and Painting - I was the girl at primary school who drew horses for her classmates. Much, much later, I got the urge to re-learn and attended evening classes. I even enrolled in a full-time, three-month Art and Design course at the local polytechnic. I even sold some of my work. After three years, I've lost the passion. I still do a bit of life drawing, and keep my easel up in case I want to use it, but I haven't painted regularly for about six months.

Web design and digital art - I'm too cheap to pay for my own domain, and can only create static pages on the account I have. Photoshop is a great tool, but trying to make the mouse act like a pen or a brush is pretty frustrating. On the backburner.

Some people are just so nasty

I couldn't help but read this stuff by Blog Heckler. It's almost masochistic, because there's always the fear that my own blog will be mentioned in it, mercilessly put down. I suppose it could be likened to watching torture scenes or something, a morbid fascination.

I've been having the strangest dreams lately, where I'm doing something weird and unshareable, then wake up from that dream only to find that the waking up bit was also a dream. My boy's snoring kept me awake most of the night, but that didn't stop me from having another of those dream-within-a-dream experiences. Apparently I was thrashing around and all feverish. So this morning I let myself sleep in till 10 or so, and take the day off work. Now I've got a headache from sleeping in too much.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Here's where I found that little gem about Harry Potter..

It was in Marginal Librarian blog.

I finally get to watch Citizen Kane

After years of calling myself a film buff, and being embarrassed about never having seen it, we finally got the video out and watched it last night.

Yeah I enjoyed it, but more for the unusual angles and lighting than for the story. It probably would have had a lot more impact on me if I'd watched it at the time it was first showing in the cinemas - but of course many films have since been made, which parody contemporary bigwigs. I'd call it a film-maker's film.

The video had a short documentary on Orsen Welles, and featured several big-name directors revealing the value of Citizen Kane on their own work. That was a real bonus.

But what was it really about? What was the theme? That a man, however famous and powerful, is still only a man? That any idealist can be corrupted?

Whaddya think?

Kids saying the darndest things about Harry Potter

I came across this set of letters from kids on the subject of the Harry Potter books, in light of all the hoo-hah about them being a bad influence on impressionable young minds. My favourite is the one about jumping off a roof on a broomstick, pretending he can fly. I don't want to ruin it for you though, take a look.

Apologies to the person whose blog I found it in, I forgot to keep your URL!

Sunday, February 08, 2004

plumbing and driving

My mains pipe broke last Friday, on Waitangi Day. Of course, I couldn't let the leak (which became a major one after we tried to fix it) wait until Monday before getting it fixed. So I got the plumber around, who assured me that it would cost heaps more than normal due to it being a public holiday an all (i.e. the weekend of the Rugby Sevens which I'm sure he wanted to watch instead of fixing pipes).

I have my first bus-driving lesson this coming Friday - me, who has always shied away from driving any car other than my own because it'd be too different from what I'm used to.

Apparently it usually takes only 3-4 lessons for an experienced car driver to gain his or her HV licence. Well, I may just be the unlucky one who changes all that...

Work's thinking of making the mobile library service available at the railway station next door, for the early morning commuter rush. Yeah right, I thought to myself. I'm practically comatose at 8am, when I leave the house to get to work. They'd be asking for trouble, making me get up at 5.30 am to do a 7am bus round. It didn't really put L (my supervisor) off, but I think I made sufficient negative noises to suggest a slight lack of willingness....

Book Rave

Due to the huge demand on Janet Frame books at the library, her autobiography is out - so I'm reading 'a Primate's Memoir' by Robert M Sapolsky.

It's a sort of cross between Jane Goodall and Bill Bryson, being an interesting and amusing account of Sapolsky's time in East Africa studying a baboon troup. He's a grad student at the beginning of the book, studying the link between stress and physical health, and about twenty years before the time of writing.

I found his style highly readable, the kind of writing which would make just about any topic fascinating and funny.

He's written a few other books as well, which I'll have to add to my growing list of must-read-before-I-die books.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Film and Philosophy

More along the lines of what I've already been reading, here is an on-line course called Philosophical Films.
For a refreshing change, The Matrix does not make it into the list of films to be studied. In fact, the list is quite small and includes only a few which I have seen - all of them fairly old e.g.
Apocalypse Now
Educating Rita
What dreams may come
(which I found totally boring, despite it being a Vincent Ward film)
and A Heart in Winter.

For each film you get a plot summary, a discussion of the themes, and a related philosophical reading.

There are also study questions if you're really keen. I hope Dr Bramann adds some more recent films to this course, though not The Matrix - I've definitely overloaded on philosophical ramblings on that movie....

Thursday, February 05, 2004

My first 'Nigerian' scam e-mail

I'd heard all about 'em on tv - the email introducing its writer as the once-wealthy victim of his country's political instablility. He pleads for monetary help, promising big returns to reward you for your compassion and financial help. Apparently lots of naive would-be investors actually fall for it.

I received my first today, from Robert Asele, eldest son of 'one of the most popular black farmers
in Zimbabwe who was recently murdered in the land dispute in my country' (not Nigeria, for a change).

Yeah right.

I remember reading in the paper, of a young woman who had her huge credit card bill paid off by people responding to her e-mail begging. Makes me wonder why this works!!

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Chimp News

An unusual subject to blog about, I would have thought. And yet I saw it and wanted to know more....

When I was young and naive enough to think I could grow up to be anything I wanted, I wanted to be like Jane Goodall and study chimpanzees in the forest.

Since then, I've accepted that as a city person I'd find it a bit of a toil living alone in a jungle for decades of my life. Plus I'm allergic to cats and horses, and perhaps a chimp allergy would have turned up too.

An interest in primates still lurks in the back of my consciousness somewhere, which is why I was curious about Chimp News. If you want to keep up with news on whats happening with (and to) chimps around the world, you could have a wee look.

Life Drawing

It's one of my favourite things to do (though I wouldn't want to do it for a job...). I've been going to untutored life drawing sessions once a week for about 3 years now, and I've learned a few things:

1. The phrase "Use it or lose it" is absolutely true when it comes to life drawing. If I miss one or more weeks, my drawing ability will have deteriorated noticeably by the time I'm back in the life room.

2. Beautiful people don't necessarily make the best life models. What makes a model a good one is - the ability to hold poses, especially standing ones; interesting face; "landmarks" i.e. muscles, bulgy bits, boobs...etc

3. People who do life drawing tend to be art students, artists and those who wannbe either. Most of 'em are introverted.

I never noticed pervy types at these sessions, though I've been told one or two have turned up and been turfed out.

While I've almost given up on painting due to lack of leisure time, and don't actually bother drawing anything else, life drawing manages to hold my interest even after all this time.

That'll all change when I start my MLIS this year, and have to find 10 hours each week to study in (that's 10 hrs per paper).....

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Finding a cheaper Electricity provider

I wouldn't be alone in thinking that the power companies are ripping us off. If you live in New Zealand (as I do), you might find this nifty little thingy called Powerswitch useful.

Powerswitch is brought to you by the Consumer's Institute of New Zealand, and its aim is to find you the cheapest power company for your needs. All you do is answer a few questions on their site (have a recent bill handy), and you'll find out who you should look at switching to.

The downside is that a price increase is coming, which will affect some companies in some areas of the country. What this means for me is that I have found a power company to switch to, but won't do it just yet because they're about to put their prices up.....


My sister-in-law's great aunt died this morning. She'd just gotten out of hospital, and moved into a nursing home near her sister's place. At 94 (I think), she'd lived to a good age, and what from I knew, she'd had an interesting life full of adventures and art.

So I'm just having a moment........

Are you morally parsimonious?

Check out this little quiz. You'll be presented with a range of scenarios, on which you'll have to decide your moral stance. I did this one and came up with a 75 % score on morale parsimony.

The word 'parsimonious' has such negative connotations, so I was unpleasantly surprised. But on reading the analysis of my score, I don't think it was necessarily a bad result. The writers of the quiz do stress that there are no wrong or right answers.