14 October 2011

Beware the Internet Police

I am a marked man. You may remember my last Wet Sponge Report where I suggested a few options regarding Climate Change. Well those comments have made alarm bells ring at some computerised office somewhere in the world. Here some people obviously think it is worth while to spend money trawling the internet for Climate Change commentaries. Their system analyses the surrounding text and assesses the tone and whether the website is pro or anti Climate Change.

They have decided in their wisdom that my blog has a -0.80 tone with a 6.42% polarising effect. This means I am apparently against Climate Change by 0.8% with a 6.42% emotive force. i.e. a wet sponge. No surprise there.

So I thought I’d make their efforts more worthwhile by being a bit less sluggish in my opinions and go out and say Climate Change is fantastic!!! Go Go Go Climate Change! Isn’t it great that the climate can change so easily? If it didn’t where would the seasons go? I totally agree with Climate Change. Etc. etc.

I don’t wish to bore you (too late) with more of this positivity about Climate Change so I will discuss the issue really here and that is internet watchdogs. The CO2 Capture Rpt is probably just one of many organisations out there continuously trawling the internet for catch phrases that signify a possible threat or bonus to their existence. I am also guilty of this by using Google to search for IVRRAC throughout the entire web to see if there are comments or cheap offers for my book. One of the bonuses of having an Acronym title is the uniqueness of the search. BOAS, although also an acronym, will not be so easily researched when it comes out as it is also a well used word.

Apart from being asked “Did you mean ivac?” by Google I still get about 7,230 results which end up to be only 300 odd actual results. This was how I stumbled upon the report mentioned above. But from this search I find out that Sony ebookstore has it as five stars and apparently I reviewed the book for them. This was one of the reasons I have retracted IVRRAC from Smashwords as their information passed onto the internet stores is not one hundred per cent accurate. (The five stars is, of course, that I reviewed the book isn’t).

I always knew that including certain words together in one message is not a good idea, like “Bomb” and “Aeroplane” oops. I think I’m safe though as I gather in America it is spelt airplane so I won’t light up any warning lights at the CIA. But now I realise that the CIA are not the only people out there watching me. So do I now shut up and remain silent in the hope these watchful eyes never see me, or do I disappoint you and keep on blogging anyway? I think the latter as I think what I think and if some people don’t like it, they can post a comment on this blog. A good blog discussion always brings in more readers.

My only hope (okay not the only one) is that the Hollywood directors use similar trawling methods and that one day they’ll stumble upon this blog and think to themselves “Hmmm this book will make a great movie!” I mean that is why we authors write books, isn’t it?  To get us a movie deal?


Cheers and Blessings







11 October 2011

When clouds were just fluffy things in the skies and mainframes were becoming obsolete.

My head is definitely not in the clouds, or should I say my computer is not involved in cloud computing. One thing that always intrigues me is the capability of the internet marketing people to take something that has been around for decades, re-label it with another name and sell it for thousands more than its worth. The internet is a prime example, I would imagine quite a few people would be surprised to learn that the internet was around in the late sixties. Though it wasn’t until it was repackaged as the World Wide Web with nifty domain names in the nineties that it became the popular beast it is now.


Just redesign a bulletin board, an electronic notice board that was downloaded onto home computers via the phone line before the internet was so popular, so each user has their own board, complete with pictures and internet links, call it Facebook and make millions.  Take IRC (Internet Relay Chat), a place for real computer geeks to spend their time, limit the amount of characters per chat, remove the chat room walls so everyone has to read everyone else’s comments no matter what the subject and call it Twitter, another way to remarket and make billions. And there are many more examples of this in our internet world. It is now, and perhaps always has been, how well you market an idea, not how original or useful that idea is.. No disrespect to the skills of the creators of Facebook or Twitter, they both saw an opportunity and took it, and that in itself is a great skill.


When I went to university in the mid eighties I was given a password to the “Cantran” system. It was an operating system built on a Digital PDP-11 (developed 1969). I will admit I was the last year to use the system as the next intake were trained on a Novel 1.1 IBM PC based network, the latest in technology, large personal computers made out of cast iron with approximately 1 megabyte of memory. The university saw the writing on the wall and realised that with processors and memory getting cheaper the personal computer was the future.


Getting back to the PDP-11, this was what was known as a “Mini-Computer.” It only took up the space of three huge filing cabinets, compared to the mainframes upstairs which took up a room the size of a large lounge each. I was introduced to the mainframes in my second year. How a mainframe or mini-computer worked was that the major processing power and all memory storage was located in the mainframe/mini-computer and the machine used to access this power was a dumb terminal (or in a few cases as Apple gave free technology to the university Apple Macs pretending to be a dumb terminal, which was not hard for them to do back then). It seemed logical to invest the capital into one central location so one could get the most power for their money. It also meant backups could be created of all information centrally as the dumb terminals were not capable of storing data.


As the years wore on people became increasingly weary of having to dial up to a central computer and so when powerful computers became affordable to the general public there was a move away from central storage and towards independent computers. The idea of a central storage and processing unit was lost, that is until the internet became popular. Then start up companies started hiring out online storage “We’ll back up your data for you” they said. Then when the internet became more stable people started asking “Why do I need to store locally at all?” Especially when cheap small-storage machines as net-books, phones and tablets became available.


This is when the marketing experts stepped in and realised that this was a marketing goldmine. But they had to make it seem new, saying to people “Why not sign up to our Mainframes?” seemed a bit archaic, even though that is exactly what they were saying, so they invented the term “Cloud Computing” and marketed that. So I have to say I used Cloud Computing in the mid eighties using a 1960s computer, and I much rather have my PC with localised storage and processing power any day. I am not scared of new technology, I’m scared of old technology proven to have issues dressed up as new technology.


My question here is what happens if a virus takes the internet down for an hour or so? Which has happened in the past and can happen again in the future. I remember a great quote in a Time Magazine about the “I Love You” virus, a virus that did cripple the internet for a while. (Not an exact quote as I have not yet sourced the article to quote from so it is purely from memory). “The ‘I Love You’ virus was written by a person who did not have a clue about what they were doing or programming languages, it was a mixture of various virus programme codes and was lucky to have worked at all. Imagine the damage that could be done by someone who actually knows what they are doing?” And that was before the internet was underpinning the whole world as it is now, and Cloud Computing will make the world even more reliant on the internet being stable without disruption.


I predicted a return to mainframe mentality in my book “BORIS” (written around 1999) which is now under the working title of “CRAIG” due to the original title being too close to “BOAS” in sound. It is an acronym so may change yet again before publish date. In the original the return to mainframe was a result of the internet being mortally wounded by a virus and a computer company took the opportunity to capture the market by offering a internet like environment on their mainframe. Now I will be looking more into a Cloud computing company buying out all other cloud computing companies to obtain a monopoly that way. (Or producing a product that is so popular everyone buys it, but it only can be used on one cloud computing system) that last one is very tempting but possibly too close to home.


Anyway the story follows a reporter who discovers a major flaw in trusting one’s files to the care of a large multinational company and many other nasty things on the way to clear his own name after he is wrongfully accused of several major crimes. I will be working on this one after BOAS, so you will hear more about it later. It is very similar in style to IVRRAC.


Cheers and Blessings



09 October 2011

IVRRAC in France and Shaking in Christchurch

I have just been informed by Amazon that IVRRAC is now available on the French Amazon Site (http://www.amazon.fr/IVRRAC-ebook/dp/B00359FETK) for 0.99 Euros. This is available to residents in France, Belgium and Monaco. It has been available in Germany on the amazon.de site since the end of April and I have managed to sell one copy over there. I take that as an achievement as it is not translated so the customer base is limited to those who wish to read books in a foreign language. But tell any French, Belgium, Monaco or German friends that they can now buy Kindle books on their Amazon sites. Of course it won’t hurt to tell them about IVRRAC either.


On another note you may recall that I predicted a large earthquake in Christchurch in October. Well to be precise I’ll quote my blog – “I now feel a big shakeup is going to occur in the latter end of the first week of October.” Well it is actually the second week of October by two days, but could be considered as the latter end of the first week by a little stretch and Christchurch has undergone a 5.5 earthquake on the exact fault I was expecting with my prediction. The good news is that this tme it was deeper than the others and so not much damage has been reported. The NZ Prime Minister was in Christchurch watching the NZ vs Argentina rugby game on a huge television screen and was reported to be quite shaken. This match was scheduled to be played in Christchurch but due to major earthquake damage of the main stadium it was shifted to Auckland. It turns out that it was a good decision to move the game to Auckland after all.


Actually there was a 4.8 yesterday as well which was closer to my prediction. But in true Peter fashion I did not feel either of them. This final shake occurred as I drove home from church after watching the Australia vs South Africa rugby game and the final few laps of Bathurst (delayed coverage) where the first and second cars came in at a small nail biting 0.29 second difference. Our kids were very tired and thus we could not stay for the NZ game.


Well that’s the news today.


Cheers and Blessings





05 October 2011

More Excuses

Readers who are patiently (or perhaps not so patiently) waiting for the completion of BOAS will not be happy to hear I have entered myself into a corporate rowing challenge and thus have even less time to spend writing at my computer. This challenge requires the majority of the rowers to be novices at racing, in fact on our team we have a majority of people who never had been in an eight man canoe (is that the right term?) before, including myself. So our first attempt on Monday was very interesting and painful (my legs are just getting over the cramps now).

Balance is the main issue, it is hard to get the oar in at just the right level when the boat is continuously tipping from one side to the other. I guess we will eventually get the hang of keeping the boat totally level especially when all eight are rowing. I would not hold my breath for our team winning the competition but at least we will get some good exercise out of it.

On the IVRRAC front I am pleased to say that there are more readers every day and though there has not been any fresh reviews for a while, over all, people are still giving it the thumbs up. I really appreciate a fair review (whether one star or five, though of course five is preferable).  If you have been fortunate enough to have read IVRRAC and have a spare moment, just pop into Amazon and place a review, many thanks. Also if you have any questions or comments on spoiler topics feel free to post on the In-depth Discussion blog connected to this blog. If I get a few good questions there I will invite Andrew from IVRRAC to reply to the more technical ones so you can get the answers direct from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. Take this offer up as how often do you get to blog with a fictional character?

I am extremely tired tonight, all this physical exercise is bad for my late nights, so I must be off to bed.

Cheers and Blessings


07 September 2011

Hair and Kindles

It has been an interesting day today. Firstly I entrusted my hair style totally to a hair dresser, amazingly I am not disappointed at the result and then I popped along to the local Dick Smith Electronics store to have a look at the Amazon Kindle. Yes I have sold over a thousand copies of IVRRAC on the Kindle and I had yet to see one in “person” so to speak. I have up to now used the Kindle for PC app to check the formatting, which is why I had to release the 2011 Kindle edition a week after it was first released with different formatting as I discovered the PC app margins differ from the actual Kindle. Since then I have had several reviews noting the excellent formatting, so the re-release was worth it. However with a Kindle on hand it will be so much easier when it comes to releasing further editions and other books..

I digress, I wandered into the shop purchased a memory stick and asked to see the shop demonstration model. I was absolutely blown over by the E-ink screen, the text seemed to leap from the device into my mind automatically. I had read on the Amazon pages how the E-ink was even better than normal ink on paper but I was very dubious about that comment, however once I saw a Kindle myself I saw exactly what they meant.

I am sold, I want a Kindle NOW! But I have to wait until we know we have the finances available (it is an expensive month this month). It is worth waiting for to finally see IVRRAC on the black and white clear screen as it was designed to be. Those of you who have already read IVRRAC on the Kindle will know what I mean (I think).


Cheers and Blessings




06 September 2011

Not just a statistic anymore

You read in the papers every so often what the national road toll is, here in New Zealand it seems to be around 250 or so a year, and you possibly think for a split second of their loved ones and the grief they must have. Yet it is for most of us only a very quick thought gone as fast as it came. That is until one of those 250 people is someone you know, then the full realisation that these are not just statistics but people’s lives hits you.

This is what has been going on for me this weekend, fortunately for me the person was not a relative nor even a close personal friend, but still a person that has been in my thoughts and prayers for over a year. At work on Friday I heard on the radio a traffic report that there had been an accident north of Oamaru (60 minutes drive south of Timaru) and that traffic was being diverted. This did not surprise me, accidents were quite frequent on the stretch of road, I just sighed and was thankful I did not have need to travel to Oamaru that evening.

It was in the evening that on Facebook I found that three people were involved in the accident. A driver of a ute (pickup truck) who was lucky enough to escape with some scratches at the time and an elderly couple driving a small inexpensive car which against a ute had no chance. The wife was driven by ambulance to the main hospital of the local health area (90 minutes drive south) and the husband was flown there by helicopter. Please let me be clear here that who was at fault is completely unknown and the police will not be releasing those details for at least a few weeks.

The next day I found out the truth, (withheld understandably until all family members were notified) that the husband died en-route to the hospital. This made headline news throughout the country, why? Because the husband was a man who used to be the richest man in the South Island, but that was not his claim to fame. He was well known in the local community as one of the most generous people and frugal. Even with millions at his disposal he still lived in an average home with two low cost cars, perhaps he would be still alive today had he bought a large “gas guzzler” as most people in his position are thought to do. But lately, and the reason he and his wife have been in my prayers, is that he has been accused of false accounting and have had their lives turned upside down by the government agencies for over a year now. This was the real reason his death made national news.

Perhaps the statutory management was a knee jerk reaction to avoid more financial managers skipping the country with millions leaving investors out of pocket, or it could have been something more sinister that certain people wanted control of the huge portfolio that he controlled. Whatever the reason the action was definitely over the top and a good man and his wife suffered greatly for no real reason at all.

This was a man who was so concerned for others that his final action before his untimely death was to go to the offices of his old financial company, which because his funds were frozen he was unable to rescue from receivership (though he had retired from the company over a year earlier), and make certain the staff all were okay and their futures were okay upon finally losing their jobs. During statutory management he was allowed $1,000 per week out of his frozen assets, a lot of this he gave to his loyal investors to tide them over as they too were no longer getting the regular pay outs they had been budgeting on since the government had frozen everything.

He continuously thought of others and refused any acknowledgment including national awards for his deeds. He was an example to all people, especially those involved in the financial sector. He helped, not to get a tax exemption, but just to help. Many a business in the local area would not have got off the ground had it not have been for his financial assistance. He could quite easily be called a saint and in my mind he was.

My heart goes out to his wife and daughters, they are the ones who need prayer now. His family will still have to listen to the arguments of whether he was an honest man or not over trial by media. But the charges have now been dropped and the family can at least feel that this awful and unjustified part of their lives can be legally put behind them.. Sadly people will still theorise and accuse him, and he will not be able to defend himself, but in reality for him is that he will be judged only by the one that matters. The judge that knows truth from fiction and will not be swayed by accountant mumbo jumbo or any sinister misrepresentation as a fallible human judge would be.


I have purposely not used his name for several reasons, he himself never liked publicity and I would not want to profit from this event and leaving his name off would avoid searches bringing people to this blog. This is really my personal tribute to a great man who will be greatly missed that I wish to share with my devoted readers, not the wider public.


Peace be with him and his family.



31 August 2011

40 days 'till the big one ... maybe.

I just had to type one more time to get my August quantity up. I don’t actually know what I’ll type but as it is the last day of August quantity matters more than quality, doesn’t it? I realise I have not talked about earthquakes for a while. I guess everyone thinks that it is a non event now and life is getting back to normal. Alas no, on one hand I feel that the reduced amount and strength of earthquakes in the Canterbury region is a sign that things are finally settling down. On the other I have the gut feeling that the faults are just absorbing the great stresses that are being piled upon them and will once again let go in an almighty earth shattering (literally) event.

Today is a great example of the latter. After the North Island pinching earthquake news with a 4.4 quake yesterday at only 3Km deep (most are > 50km deep) and various aftershocks, the Canterbury fault lines must have felt amiss and answered back with a 4.7 at 5Km depth. I now feel a big shakeup is going to occur in the latter end of the first week of October. Solely on the experience that around 40 days after that exact location (North-East of Rolleston) had a 5.0 quake Christchurch central suffered its third major earthquake causing even more damage. I will post that and see if I become the next big earthquake seer.

There are several reasons you should not let this disrupt any travel plans to Christchurch

1.       As far as I know, even with the tens of large shakes (and one huge) since the February shake no one has lost their life.

2.       My predictions always fail – Even if I have had evidence of an exact sequence, once I place a prediction to this sequence it will suddenly alter dramatically (This is why I have never won a major prize in Lotto).

3.       I have as much knowledge of earthquake science as I do about the interior design of a remote hut in the Southern Alps (I can guess but likely to be absolutely wrong).

4.       Christchurch is a wonderful place to visit and is worth putting up with the occasional shaky sensation

Oh by the way I did not feel today’s shake either, I think I am truly immune to earthquakes. On the mountain side of things, the mountains managed to grab some snow last night and are once again covered from Peak to Foothills in snow. I am now tending towards preferring fully snow covered majestic views than partly, but the jury is still out somewhat. Still waiting on your views. Especially when the sun reflects of the shiny snow presenting a glowing mountain range in front of  me while travelling down the main highway.

Cheers and blessings


30 August 2011

Mountains are full of it!

While driving to work this morning I looked at the mountains in the distance (while motionless at an intersection of course, my eyes are always on the road ahead etc.) The huge blanket of snow had finally succumbed to the weeks sunshine and the rocks were showing through. I am unable at present to make up my mind whether they look grander fully snow covered or semi covered. I would love to read other’s views on this. When fully covered the mountains seem to radiate outwards overpowering all other scenery and looking clean and crisp. Yet semi covered allows the viewer to see the valleys and make out the intricacies  of the complex design which give more depth to the view, even though not as grand. According to the weather experts I will have another chance to view a total covered version once more after the weekend so I may yet be able to make up my mind.

It is drizzling outside at present, if the temperature dropped considerably I could see it turning into snow over night. However the snow is not meant to arrive until Thursday night and even then very unlikely to settle this close to the coast (Most of Thursday and Friday higher than 200m).

I am not holding my breath, one I can only do around 70 seconds no where near the three days required, and two, Timaru does not get snow. Well, only very rarely. When I was growing up here, for the eighteen years I spent living full time in Timaru consecutively I can only remember three snowfalls that settled into anything barely decent. After returning from university my five year stint here enable me to see one more snowfall, settling to a massive 1cm (under half an inch) thick, meanwhile in Christchurch that same night they received their largest recorded snowfall of  1 metre (just over 3 feet).

While I was in Auckland, just prior to my return, South Canterbury got a once in fifty year dumping (A whole foot of snow!) including Timaru. Power failed, no one ventured outside (except of course the children who are impervious to such fears) and the place stood still for five days. Once the shock of that white stuff did actually exist thicker than a camping mattress subsided, South Canterbury finally got back to business. Now of course any forecast of snow is taken in fear and the supermarkets are inundated with people bulk buying cans of baked beans, water and various survival kit items.

We have had two such forecasts previously this month and a third this week. Both previous times there was going to be snow down to sea level. The first time we got literally five seconds of snow and then it came out sunny again. In fact the entire eastern South Island was under major snow and we had sun beating down upon us instead. The second time we did manage to get settling and my work went into disaster mode, just in case. Four wheel drives at the ready, but once every emergency routine was in place (and all the schools had closed) the sun came out and remained out, while, once again, the rest of the eastern South Island (and this time the  North Island almost up to Auckland) got more snow than anyone wanted. My mother was even stuck on the West Coast for four extra days due to road closures from snow. So you can understand my scepticism about this new forecast, my catch phrase now is “If you want snow, don’t move to Timaru.”  


Cheers and Blessings



26 August 2011

An explanation of the mundane.

I alluded to some super-sensitive activity in my last post. I have now been discharged from duty and was not required to perform any further action so I can now come clean to what I was doing. This week I was called up for jury service, (I said it was mundane). It was an interesting experience, one I could not relate on Tuesday night as I was on call still and may have ended up on a jury deciding some poor person’s fate. In fear I would make myself a target for their friends etc. I was not willing to admit that I was doing this until I was sure I was not required.

I have been selected as one of the twelve twice in my life, the details I cannot go into due to an agreement made in court but both times it was an experience. The last time was so complex I almost had accommodation paid for by the courts, alas due to a slight misunderstanding we were not given this opportunity. Now the New Zealand law has changed and this is no longer a possibility as even in deliberation jurors can go home at night. Previously during the trial jurors could go home, not discussing any details with their family of course, but once the defence and prosecution rested they were not allowed to see another living soul until the verdict was decided. That last time we did have a two course meal provided at a very nice restaurant across the road from the courts during deliberation so I did get something for my time. Not being able to talk to the waiter posed a problem, nah, just joking, we were able to discuss non-court related things with others, under court supervision of course. And we even were allowed one glass of wine (paid for by ourselves) if we so wished. For some reason one was the limit, I suppose an inebriated jury might not go down well with the accused. “Yes your honour, hic, we have come to an agreevment, hic. We find the accussed, sorry, accuzed guilfry of drank droving.”

This week we had to turn up to the courthouse at 9:15, by the time we got passed the security check we were standing around waiting at 9:30. I suppose to most other nations security checks are standard in courthouses but here it is a novelty and they really need to do what the airlines do on the tickets. “Jury service is scheduled for 9:15, please turn up 30 minutes before departure to make sure you are through security before takeoff.”

This particular morning they had an unprecedented turn out and there were over a hundred potential jurors for one court case. Out of those they chose only 30, by random ballot, to enter the hollowed courtroom. They need thirty as each lawyer has around eight (I lost count) opportunities to “challenge” a juror, once challenged that juror has to return to the back of the courtroom, plus a juror themselves can challenge on grounds they know the accused or witnesses or is physically/emotionally unable to perform the task required. So they could even require more than the thirty originally chosen, which is why the poor people not in the thirty had to wait in the foyer until all was completed.

The order of the final twelve is also done by random ballot. My name was called out both times, unfortunately (or fortunately) one of the lawyers (I will not say which due to confidentiality) decided I would not be suitable for their chances of winning and I was challenged. Unlike what I saw on US television, in New Zealand the lawyers  are not able to ask questions of a potential juror before challenging, they only have the barest of information (employment, age etc.) to go on, so it is probably done mainly on looks (or perhaps the lawyer in question has read my blogs). They also have only the time it takes the juror to walk from the public gallery to the next vacant seat and sit down to state their challenge. They do not have to give any reason, but once seated they can no longer challenge. I usually speed up near the end, but in this case I was in two minds whether I wanted to be there or not.

I love being on jury, you get to meet eleven new people in an arena that you really do get to know them, you are stuck with them for at least three days. Plus you get to sit and watch a good whodunit show. In fact it was thought of as enough entertainment to make a television series in the UK about it. Does anyone of my readers remember Crown Court? That was when the television viewer was treated as one of the jury and all the story was just witness recounts of the crime. But there are times when the assumed crime is not really one you want to delve into that deeply and this was one of those times for me. So I was in two minds, did I want to meet these eleven people and have a break from my usual work or not have to listen to recounts of activities I would rather not know about? I would love to go into more detail to alleviate your curiosity but I think there is a law against that and I do not want to put forward my opinions on a subject I did not get all the facts about.

It was probably my last chance as once IVRRAC gets to be more well known around Timaru, every lawyer will know my thoughts on criminal rehabilitation and automatically challenge me. I guess if I ever want to be on a jury ever again I need to start training for a very fast 50 metre sprint and wear good quality running shoes to court.


24 August 2011

A cup of tea and time for bed.

It is indeed 11:18 pm Tuesday Evening and I am up at my computer with a nice hot mug of tea. I have been very busy lately as the second semester has started and I am busy studying who God is. I have also had an interesting week, but I dare not say more until the week is over in case I think it is best not to mention my activity after the week unfolds and I fear for my life if I admit to doing what I am doing. Now doesn’t that sound interesting? Believe me it is not as it is just a mundane issue that until it is over I need to be watchful of what I say. As the chances of me needing to be quiet are quite slim once it is over I’ll post another posting on this next week, if I can…. (the problems of living in a smaller centre).

I was however out earlier this evening at a “Home Group” – home based Christian discussion group. There we are currently doing a bible study on “The Shack” by  William P. Young. This has a very interesting look at the Trinity and why God lets bad things happen. I must admit we are only on Chapter 2 and thus not anywhere close to discussing those particular topics but the discussions are still very intriguing and enlightening. Tonight we were looking at God’s creation, how we see God in nature and also the symbolism of the fable that the hero of the story tells his daughter in reference to the sacrifice that Jesus made for all of us. In fact I and another member of the group delved a bit too deep into the creation side, discussing Quantum Physics, Tectonic Plate movement, Evolution and my favourite soap box topic – how science is now more religion rather than the open discussion of possibilities and theories that it used to be. (To challenge any popular theory is to be labelled a heretic and chastised from the scientific community). In fact we got so enthused in our discussion that I had to really apologise to our baby sitter since she would not get home until well past her normal bedtime.

Personally I love “The Shack” and although I query some theological statements within the book I feel it does Christianity more good than harm. In fact it does answer the really difficult questions about our lives in the present day. So I was very chuffed when in an Amazon discussion a reader said they disliked IVRRAC as much as they disliked “The Shack”. To have my book mentioned in the same paragraph as a book as well researched and written as “The Shack” is a huge compliment for me. Oh and by the way, there is another Amazon post that mentions both books within a list of a person’s top 10 ranking books so not all comparisons are so negative – sorry just had to add that bit.

Well it is now almost midnight and I have work tomorrow so I guess this is where I’ll sign off.

Cheers and Blessings to all


17 July 2011

Why Timaru?

A question that a person that is for some reason interested in my life would ask is “Why Timaru?” Is it that I was born here or spent the first seventeen years of my life here? No, not really, though memories do creep in every so often, Timaru of today is not the Timaru I grew up in. Like other places in the world Timaru has not stood still; buildings have been demolished, businesses closed down, streets altered, friends and family have moved away etc.

It is also a question that a famous chef maybe pondering over the next week as his Facebook page gets inundated with Timaruvians commenting why Timaru is a great place to do his live show. Heston Blumenthal is thinking of touring New Zealand and is starting off with an interesting way to gauge the popularity by asking what towns want him to visit. The local polytechnic (Aoraki) has started a campaign to get him to Timaru after successfully campaigning for Masterchef to hold their South Island auditions in Timaru at their campus.

But for me, the question is answered every time I drive up the bypass on my way home from work. I will take a photo of this reason and post it one day soon, but as I approach the crest of the hill the snow capped mountains of the Southern Alps gleam in their majesty appear in front of me and the blue waters of the Pacific stretch off to my right past the palm tree rich Caroline Bay area.

Both my wife and I are fortunate to get employment here and we can live comfortably in a three bedroom brick house with reasonable view, close to shops, bay, the new aquatic centre when it opens and even the café/restaurant strip. The same house and location in Auckland would be far from our meagre means and we would be in a viewless cramped suburb. I would rather live in a smaller place and have a life with views, decent sized section and most amenities a short walk away. But I definitely have, and still will, visit Auckland as it has a character all to its own and I do like the shopping malls there. Well at least the food courts in the shopping malls, a great place to sit down and write my stories as my wife explores the shops. The flautist description in IVRRAC was written in one such mall as I was having a coffee in a café looking out at the outside mall area.

But here in Timaru we have most things, Christchurch is only two hours away if we need more, Mount Cook Village is only two and a half hours west and Queenstown, the New Zealand tourist haven Trentsworth is based on, is four hours of driving through amazing scenery away. If I was a skier, and I am going to give my children the chance to become such, we have over four decent ski-fields under ninety minutes away and many more not much further.

The climate is an interesting one, every day can be different, one day it can be in the high 20s or even 30s (80s Fahrenheit) and then the next day plummet to single figures, only to reach high temperatures once more the following day, summer or winter. In fact one year the middle day of winter was over twice as hot as the previous middle day of Summer. The one thing we don’t get much of is rain, the clouds do not seem to like Timaru that much and avoid it as much as possible. It is quite often that I can look to the blue skies above me and see dark grey clouds banking around Timaru, too scared to actually come any closer.

So if I do seem to blog on and on about Timaru, it is not just because it is my birthplace but also because I have chosen to return with my family and enjoy the views, climate and location that Timaru provides.

Cheers and Blessings


06 July 2011

The Wet Sponge Report

With the weather behaving normally for a change, this morning’s clouding over, wrecking the chance of another fine winter’s day, got my mind wandering. (Actually my mind does more wandering than a courier cyclist with a flat tire). Where it wandered this time was the polarising subject of Global Warming, or as we know it now, due to some massive cooling, Climate Change. For me it shouldn’t be so polarising, all we need to do is all admit it’s a load of rubbish and then we can live side by side in harmony.

Well actually in some ways it isn’t a load of rubbish, much to the chagrin of myself,  but even I have to admit there is some element of truth within the Climate Change mire. This is where the wet sponge comes into play. On this subject I am going to be as decisive as a wet sponge. Basically I am not here to make you think one way or another. I have a much better soapbox than mere human activity to be direct about, so I needn’t waste my time trying to convince people on this human issue.

I absolutely believe that Climate Change is happening, this is obvious centuries ago Greenland was green (thus the name) and they grew grapes in England. Now Greenland is white (for the moment at least) and grapevines are almost a possibility after decades of failure in England. (Apparently at least, not living there I cannot be 100% certain of this). But for me Global Climate Change is cyclic, every so many centuries it changes to warm, cold or indifferent.

The Human Associated Global Atmospheric Climatic Alteration or HAGACA (i.e. clearing one’s throat, not an internationally recognised acronym, but you know me and acronyms, just can’t get enough of them) has not yet been proven in the least as far as I am concerned. I would love to get more into this but I have so much more to say on the general subject that I won’t. Let’s just say that when there are so many contradictory statements made in support of a theory I cannot treat such a theory as proven.

However the crux of the matter here is the world “Global,” this is very difficult to prove as there are no direct consequences, no direct reactions to actions. A butterfly may cause a hurricane in Florida by beating it’s wings, but there is no way we can ever pinpoint that butterfly. However at a localised level there is. So if we look at HALACA instead, not only does it sound more like a dance than throat clearance, it also is quite obvious and is factual and provable.

Take Mount Kilimanjaro for instance, even the most committed Global Climate Change advocate admits that the weather changes around this mountain (which is a major lack of precipitation causing a receding hairline, sorry snow cap) are caused by the equally massive deforestation around the mountain’s base. On the melting of the Artic and Antarctic, has anyone researched how many  more ice breakers etc. are being used in the areas of major meltdown?

We do need to take note of what we do, but I feel we need not look at how much CO2 we release but what we do to the environment around us. If we chop down trees we must take the consequences of drier weather, if we break up our ice fields we must take the consequences of having the ice melt at a faster rate. If we go out and shoot endangered species we must take the consequences of them becoming extinct, or even over fishing the seas etc. Charity starts at home, I reckon environmentalism does also. If you are not interested in preserving the environment you don’t need to worry, but if you are, forget about whether the fizzy drink you had released too much carbon dioxide, worry about where you put the empty bottle instead.

For me the Global Climate Change issue is that many people are so busy worrying about the global issue and multinational conglomerates, they don’t notice the damage being done right on their doorstep by local companies and councils. And this is the damage they have power to stop, whether or not Global Climate Change is fact or fiction.

Remember  a wet sponge is much more powerful in close contact.


Cheers and Blessings


03 July 2011

Normal Abnormality

My weekend is over and I have had a wonderful day. After church we had some friends over for lunch and had soup, breads and cake out on the deck on an unusually standard winters day. I say unusual as we have not had an usual winter’s day this year until yesterday. I blame the volcanic dust cloud that has been hanging around since the time our winter was meant to settle down. But today our thermometer dropped below one degree (Celsius)  and we had a decent frost. The skies remained clear and the sun beat down upon us over lunch, keeping us warm and happy. This is a normal South Canterbury winter’s day.

Another abnormal normality, if you can have one, is 160km (100 miles) to the north. Christchurch has not had a decent quake (around 4.0) since 9:40 Thursday morning and only a few non-decent with the last two being 41 hours apart from each other; both coming in at around 3.5 which is a good jolt but nothing compared to the 4.0+ aftershocks that had been happening daily or even hourly a week or so ago. Has the fault lines finally come to rest? I hope so and pray that the alternative (building up of pressure) is not the case.

Our church follows the lectionary and thus our readings today were Romans 7:15-25a and Matthew 11:15-30. It was a good reminder to me that even Saint Paul was not able to abstain from sin, something I have been beating myself up about this week when my greed has been overtaking my sensibilities. I will attempt to remember to take on Jesus’ yoke, as per the reading from Matthew next week and allow him to guide my motives.. We will see though, as like Paul, “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Sin is all around us, and it is only through Jesus’ guidance we can move forward into a sinless life. But if Paul himself relapses, what hope have I? I guess that is why I am studying theology to sort these questions out.

So we probably should stop beating ourselves up and start looking towards Jesus and the wonderful life ahead in his name.

Cheers and blessings to you all.


29 June 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy

Well Wednesday has rolled around yet again and I have not posted anything for a week. Obviously it has been a busy week for me otherwise I would have been in here like a shot posting some rubbish for you to read. Not only busy in my employment I have also been busy around the house, creating peace treaties between the two great warring nations of my son and daughter, finally mowing the lawns and other general housework and maintenance.

My writing has not been neglected, I have been re-reading BOAS up to the point I stopped writing those months ago in readiness to once again start rejigging the last draft into a more hilarious version with more character development and plot etc. I have some wonderful ideas and humorous additions to the story, now all I need to do is put them down in bytes.

On the earthquake front, nothing major over the past week, though Christchurch residents are still being bombarded with smallish aftershocks (3 - 4.6) and I know they are sick and tired of them. A telling sign that there are Christchurch residents on the edge is the latest quake felt locations on Geonet (via Google Maps). These are reports logged by the public on the Geonet website who felt the quake. This quake was centred in the Southern Alps and obviously on the Alpine Fault, which is quite removed from the faults responsible for the quakes in Christchurch (though I think they talk to each other, there always seems to be a large quake in Christchurch a few days after a 4.0 or high quake on the Alpine Fault). Well anyway, this earthquake was 4.1 and centred just North-East of Mount Cook/Aoraki which was 160 Km (100 miles) South-West  of Christchurch and 120Km West of here. 30 – 50 Km (30 miles) South-East of the West Coast towns. If you follow the link above you will see that the felt reports are from the West Coast Towns and Christchurch, but no felt reports from Timaru or any other eastern towns closer to the earthquake than Christchurch. I can just imagine those people in Christchurch frozen to their seats analysing every little creak, every little bump in fear of another large quake. This is not a life for anyone, but a life being endured by the hardy soles up there in the “Garden City.”

Another interesting factoid about the quake is even though Christchurch has been shaken badly and as a result a few buildings in Timaru are condemned, Timaru itself is still deemed a low earthquake risk area. Our local paper seems quite upset that Timaru’s earthquake rating remains low as they have recently been running stories about the risk our huge percentage of brick buildings (was the highest in New Zealand), especially those in the main centre, being a death trap. What they forget is that Timaru is not on a fault line (as far as the experts know) whereas Christchurch was always deemed to be on fault lines even though their exact nature was unknown. We may get shaken from earthquakes further afield but we are very unlikely to experience one on our doorstep like Christchurch has several times this year. Plus the ground structure of Timaru is totally the opposite to the sandy, swampy ground that Christchurch is built on. I agree that we should keep buildings in good condition so blocks of stone and bricks don’t fall on the public below, but we needn’t go overboard in suddenly demolishing every brick building around “just in case.” I pray that the council is wiser than the reporters of the local paper.

I think I will need to go into the history of Timaru in another blog so as to explain the high percentage of brick buildings. It involves a fire and a local industry.


Have a great Wednesday over there in the rest of the world.


Cheers and Blessings




22 June 2011

Exams... Yay!

It was exam day today. Isn’t it strange how as soon as you sit down at the table/desk in front of a small seemingly unimportant piece of white paper with a few questions on it your mind goes completely blank. Well that was my experience today, all those names of the great, and not so great, theologians must have poured out of my ears onto the floor escaping my grasp throughout the 2 hours I spent staring at the black letters that once would have meant something to me five minutes earlier.

Fortunately it was not quite that bad and I pray that I have written some useful theology down that satisfies my wonderful and fantastic tutor (just in case he reads this) to take pity on me and award me some grade higher than a D.

But the significance of this is that for a few weeks I have no more study and thus can put some time into this blog and of course BOAS. So expect more from me during the following days.

I am meant to be having an early night tonight and reclaim lost hours of sleep working fulltime and studying for exams (and the occasional posting of course).. But I could not put my head on the pillow until I had posted yet another mindless drabble on the internet for people to ignore.


On another note – and sorry guys for bringing it up yet again – but we had another large quake last night. 5.4 on the scale and yet again I did not feel it. Unfortunately the people of Christchurch did and the 20 plus aftershocks since last night so again I am thinking of them and the distress they must be under.

For me I had just wandered into the bedroom when my wife noted the bed was moving. I felt nothing and the only way I knew she was right was the light swinging from side to side. We estimated about a 4.2 so we are definitely not experts. Of course it all depends on the site of the quake, this time it was close to Halswell, a south western suburb of Christchurch where they have had some liquefaction in past quakes. Luckily it seems the only real damage was to the supermarket stock in Halswell crashing to the floor.


As far as the location goes the further west it is, the more likely we will feel it down here, the eastern ones seem to go off into the ocean and miss us. We felt the September Quake much more dramatically than the February and subsequent eastern quakes. In fact in Timaru there was major building damage in September but only minor cracks (some sending a couple of buildings just over the safe limit after September’s work) in February.


Well that’s it for a cold Wednesday


Cheers and blessings




18 June 2011

Talking about the Weather...

Winter is upon us (well us in the Southern Hemisphere at least) and it is starting to make itself felt. Gone are the unusually mild days of May and early June we are now deep into wintery temperatures. For the U.S. readers when I say it hasn’t got higher than 8 degrees they would shiver but since I am speaking in Celsius, being in New Zealand, it is not so bad as that is equivalent  to 46 Fahrenheit. In fact the northern U.S. and Canadians would probably now be saying “that’s a warm winter, get a life!”


The reason I am going on about the weather is 1) I’m a New Zealander, and 2) I am sitting in my sun-porch office with no sun and feeling quite ill to boot (I am determined not to let it become man-flu but it is tempting)..  I look out the bit of window I can see between the drying racks and LCD monitor and all I see is grey-white sky above the row of houses on the opposite hill. The majority of winter days in Timaru are bright blue skies and very warm in enclosed glass areas, like for instance, my sun-porch office. So today is one of those not-so-nice days where everywhere is cold and it is the dampish cold that gets into the bones of a person.


I would prefer a minus 2 degree (Celsius – 36 Fahrenheit) morning with the grass covered in white frost and that clear skied day which follows such a morning, but the weatherman has noted that it is going to rain, rain and more than that, rain again. At present the best it can do is a light drizzle, I think the weather has lost heart in itself as well. I wouldn’t be so grumpy about it if it actually snowed. Timaru is lucky to get snow once every three years so snow is a bit of a novelty to us Timaruvians. Everyone is saying “It feels like snow” but then we get it so infrequently we can’t really remember what snow feels like. So that is not much of a gauge really.


You may wonder that since I have just moved to Timaru a few months ago why I am including myself as a true-blue (actually green and black are our rugby colours) Timaruvian. Well for those who haven’t read my bio on Amazon I was a born and bred Timaruvian who moved away for a total of seventeen years (albeit the last three only 50k (30 miles) away).


Well that is my Saturday thoughts sent out to the wide world. Now back to study and concentrating on my headache.


Cheers and Blessings to you all.

16 June 2011

Just some thoughts for a Thursday

Well I have completed the Ay to Zed challenge, albeit late and with a little cheat at the end, but still finally completed. The challenge has given me more confidence to post any information whether it is to do with my books, Christianity or just some boring subject I happen to be enthused with at the time.


A few things have come to mind since my last posts (Here and in my BOAS blog).

·         A letter to the editor today in our local paper (Timaru Herald – www.timaruherald.co.nz) noted that one person died in Monday’s quake. I do not know how accurate that is, but if so, I wish to pass my commiserations onto the family of this person and I am very apologetic that I did not mention the death in my previous post.

·         Another large quake occurred yesterday (Wednesday 15 June) at 6:20am (5.0) and yet again I did not feel it, my wife did but she was lying in bed and I was making breakfast. (Makes me look like a saint doesn’t it. Truth is, she already got up and made her own breakfast while I was spending all day in the shower). I did hear a window creak though.

·         I realised, mainly in my BOAS post, that I used the terminology of “I decided” a lot and there was no mention of God’s plan at all. I am going to do some serious praying about my direction over the weekend. More on this later.

·         Finally and the most important, I have come to realise today how annoying it is when your tongue seems to always end up brushing against the sharp point of the newly chipped tooth creating a very sore ulcer. I will avoid crispy ginger biscuits (cookies for the U.S.) from now on, but those new dark chocolate covered ones are all so tempting.


Another interesting fact is how long it takes to get a PO Box transferred these days. I am not being nasty here, the lady at the post shop was very accommodating and most of the time was my own inept ability in filling out forms. I do not know how many readers out there know I have moved from Geraldine to Timaru, or how many actually care, but I have. We decided to keep the box in Geraldine for a while to make certain we would be staying in Timaru and we were going back and forth anyway for a while so we could pick up the mail often enough to not require a change.

Now we are not going back and forth so much as winter is here and the gardens do not need so much attention (not that we gave them much to begin with) and life in the big City of Timaru (30,000 pop - very approx.) is getting busier and busier. The final say ion the matter was the invoice for the coming year so we made the move, and I had the task of going to the new location to do the deed.

We decided on Highfield because it sounds so posh and it is easier to get a park there, unfortunately many other people feel exactly the same and thus they have a waiting list. So I had to then pop into town and get one there and hope there was a free parking space close by. There was one opposite the train tracks which was a bonus for my son as there was a train going through as we walked back (well I walked back carrying him) after the ordeal.

So the upshot of the exercise is that Trentsworth Press (My publishing company in everyway imaginable) has a new postal address. You can feel free to send presents, cheques or book orders etc. to PO Box 341, Timaru 7940, New Zealand anytime you want from now on. Some people may think I mad putting my postal address here, but I realise even the most basic internet nasty would realise they could just go to the website to get it anyway, so why not make it easy for anyone who is legitimately interested?


Well that is Thursday’s posting. I may attempt a Friday’s tomorrow, we will see.


Have a wonderful Thursday yourselves.



14 June 2011

Unwanted Vibrations Will Xtract Your Zoomability

Okay extract is spelt with a E and Zoomability is not really a word, but when dealing with the last six letters of the alphabet one has to make allowances for bad English.

Obviously this title is to do all six remaining letters in one blog and also talk about the latest events to get them off my chest and out there in the world where they will not harm me. (Well that's the theory anyway).

The Unwanted Vibrations are of course the vibrations within the ground caused by a 5.5 and a 6.0 scale "aftershock" in the Christchurch area. Unlike those of 4 September 2010 (which woke me up from a deep sleep - a mean feat in itself) and 22 February (where I ended up in  a doorway with my son hoping that our rental was a well built house) the 13 June quakes were mild in Timaru - well at least for me. (And my editors say I do not use enough fullstops).

My work mates and my son's daycare staff would disagree as the 6.0 sent the former out of the building in a mild panic and while collecting my son I noted a very stressed look on his teacher's face. But for some reason I did not feel any vibrations at all, the only tell tale signs of an Earthquake for me were the creaking of the building (5.5) and the violent swaying of children's artwork (6.0).

To be honest the 5.0 (which was 20Km closer to Timaru) on Monday the previous week was a lot more dramatic for me yet only toppled a few items off supermarket shelves in Christchurch. Though I admit I was sitting on porcelain attached to a concrete floor at the time, and being surrounded by un-reinforced brick walls was not an ideal position.

But whether I felt yesterday's quakes or not, Christchurch definitely did and even though there were no deaths this time it was a major blow for those exhausted individuals willing to remain in what is becoming a war zone. A minefield of unexploded bombs that once were majestic structures that made Christchurch the England of the south.

Those eastern streets which didn't get covered in grey sand became river beds instead. I would not blame any resident of Christchurch (especially those of the east) if they upped and went elsewhere leaving the city to its doom. Christchurch, for now, has lost its Zoomability.

The worse fact is that is it not over. The Christchurch residents cannot say "Well we have all this damage, but the worst has passed and we can get to and sort things out." They can pull up their sleeves, transport the huge tonnage of sand away from their streets (yet again), demolish the weak and strengthen the not so weak buildings etc. but another quake can then just send more sand into the streets and more buildings crashing to the ground making their determined work for naught.

It is easy to see why the mayor is showing fatigue and why more and more Christchurch people are showing their frustrations to the media. No one can give them any assurance it won't happen again. In fact there seems to be more evidence to the contrary.

And all I can do is sit at my computer, study, write or work and hope the loud noise with slight vibration is another truck making its way up the hill and not another quake that has already struck at the hearts of those desperate people 160km away to the north.

People of Christchurch - My prayers and thoughts are with you.



For those overseas people who were looking at travelling to New Zealand, keep your travel plans. As mentioned no one died last quake and with the off-limit areas well sign posted this will probably remain the norm. We are still a safe place to visit and if anything we are slightly more interesting with a bit more history than we had before.

25 April 2011

T is for Trentsworth

"I fear they have uncovered my secret.This journal was moved since I last wrote in it. I will have to jump ship at the soonest opportunity. We are currently circumnavigating a new land full of lush forest and high white peaked mountains. One could not imagine a better example of paradise." - Trent's lost diary entry the night before he became the first European to set foot on New Zealand soil.
From the West Coast he travelled inland and scaled the high mountains finally ending up in a valley "Paved with gold." There he settled, building himself a castle to reside in, the only evidence of his lonely existence.
Of course this is totally fictional and the story was created to explain why a castle was on an island in the middle of my train set. I called my train set "Trentsworth" and made a unique history up also to explain why the gauge of the railway was bigger than the normal New Zealand railway.
The story continues that a couple of pioneers found the castle and a valley scattered with gold. On reporting their find a gold rush ensured and this enabled the people to start their own private railway separate from the government's network and also a larger gauge to help transport the heavy cargo. They named the valley Trentsworth after finding the journal, which has never been seen since.
This was when I was fourteen and the valley's location was in the basement of my family house. The house has since been sold a few times, but recently I had the opportunity to look around and was surprised to see that a section of track had been left behind and the waterfalls painted on the piles and walls were still visible.
The actual location was never specified except for "Somewhere in the Southern Alps." I have since located exactly where the valley would be. The height is 1800 metres and thus in winter the valley would be under snow, but this little fact is forgotten about in the books. (Not one has taken place in winter yet).
IVRRAC takes place there, but the original story to be sited there is the "Trentsworth Terrors." A series of children detective books. The first "The Ghost of Trent's Castle" is almost completed to final editing stage.
Trentsworth is and has always been based on my "Second Home" Queenstown. A tourist town full of thrill rides and activities.  As with Trentsworth in the books, Queenstown was only accessible by Railway. People rode the train (Kingston Flyer) to Kingston, there they would disembark and sail across the Wakatipu on the Earnslaw or her sister steamers to the Queenstown bay. Once it became more popular a road was put in. The Kingston Flyer is awaiting a new owner and only has a very short track now, but the Earnslaw still ploughs the lake, but only on circular routes in and out of the Queenstown bay as the Yohanne does in IVRRAC around the "Lake of Worth."
But as I said in IVRRAC, if you want to experience Trentsworth, the closest you'll get in reality is Queenstown.

S is for Simon - S is for Scott

Simon and Scott. Simon is the villain of IVRRAC, Scott is the hero. Simon is the murderer of seven innocent ladies, Scott has the chance to save many others. The interesting point is that Simon and Scott are the same person.
Without giving too much away, IVRRAC is the demonstration that an "evil person" can also do good  or in other words everyone has some good within them. The hard thing is to get at that goodness and allow it to take over from the bad.
In reality it is almost impossible to do so, but part of the solution is forgiveness. This allows a person to take responsibility for their actions and start making amends. Hatred breeds hatred, while we have hatred the solution remains hidden beneath more and more evil.
Simon is full of hatred, but as Scott he is shown forgiveness, this forgiveness allows Simon to come to terms with his past and allows him to move on. I am purposely being vague here so I do not give the plot away.
The question here is do we want rehabilitation as in what IVRRAC attempts to do with Simon or do we want punishment? When our child decides to spread jam (or jelly) all over our good carpet, do we punish them as an outlet for our anger, or do we punish them in a hope they will learn not to do it again?
The answer I hope is the latter, we must show our displeasure and show that the actions are not acceptable no matter what the punishment is. Sometimes a parent's displeasure is enough, sometimes it is not, depends on the child. But what ever the case the child must know that the behaviour was not acceptable. This is part of rehabilitation and this is what Simon discovers as Scott, the turmoil that follows is immense and through this turmoil he discovers the hidden murderous secret of the IVRRAC process.
A lot of crime is done with justification, many criminals do not think themselves as evil, but justified. This justification is what needs to be destroyed to have any chance of rehabilitation, but to see what a person deems as justification we must remove our own justification which blinds us to their thinking. This is where forgiveness comes in, by forgiving a person we remove our justification and can then see more clearly what their viewpoint may be. By this means we can slowly turn them around to see that their own justification is not valid either. Once this is done they will never offend again. - Well that's the theory anyway.
Think about it at least.

R is for Remembrance

R is for Remembrance, remember that. The question is what should we remember? Today in Australia and New Zealand it is ANZAC day. On the 25th of April Australian and New Zealand Armed Corps beached at Gallipoli and got slaughtered. Thus on this day we remember all those people who have given their lives in war. I was a bit anti this when I was young, until I ended up having a brother-in-law in active service one ANZAC day. I then realised it was not the killing of the enemy that we were remembering, but the lives of people believing that they were there doing the best for their country, whether history has proven otherwise or not.
My brother-in-law, being involved in helping the locals and not so much attacking their enemies came back alive but I appreciate his efforts made towards a better world.
The reason I was in Auckland was for a family funeral. My father-in-law died of Cancer last week and I firmly believe that we should remember him on his birthday in thanks to God for giving us him for the time he was on earth and through him of course I have a wonderful wife, so there is a lot to be thankful for. But I cannot see any reason to commemorate the day he died, for it was his life, not his death he will be remembered for. As with my own father, I do not know the date of his death when he had a heart attack many years ago, but I will always remember the day he was born.
Many a tragedy has happened in the world, should we remember the tragedy, should we celebrate the means of how good people died, or should we remember their lives and the differences they made to our own lives?

Q is for Queue

New Zealanders don't queue. We just don't have the patience. Well this is a major generalisation as we do queue but not for long periods of time. This is from being a small country and thus not enough people to create a queue that would take more than ten minutes to get to the front of. (Note: I am excluding the Auckland Motorway system here as this is a special exception).
I constantly recommend to all other Kiwis to visit American theme parks after mid November when the weather is colder and thus less locals visiting the parks. Mid November was the time I visited Universal Studios in LA and in Florida, Disney World and Busch Gardens. I saw the signs "1 hour from this point" and my eyes just popped out of my head. I would never consider queueing for that length of time. And as I timed the visit well I did not need to as the queues in Universal Studios were no more than 5 people on any ride.
Disney World was still quite busy, but I worked out that the queues disappeared during the parades and since I had nine days there I watched the parade once and then rode Splash Mountain and any other popular rides at parade time.
Living in Geraldine (population 3,500) and now Timaru (Population 30,000+) I am spoilt even in New Zealand standards for queuing. I may have been promoting patience in my last post but in reality there is no need for patience queueing here, even at the Christmas Carnival where a ten minute wait is unheard of, for any ride or side show.
So if you don't enjoy queueing, come over here for a bit.

P is for Pacing

As a father of 2 children I know exactly what pacing is. It is the movement one makes while the wife does all the hard work. There really is nothing else a dutiful husband can do other then pace back and forth continuously asking whether any help is required.
Pacing is also being careful at what times a person does certain things. As a Pace Car slows the grid of racing cars down to save accidents we should also pace our lives living for the future as well as for today.
In today's world of instant gratification it is hard to remember that good things take time. (Of course some good things like my book IVRRAC also only take a few seconds with Amazon 1-Click).
Patience is another "P" word and it goes hand in hand with pacing. I am too enticed to the quick and easy ways of our world but I know that my real goals are not an instant result but a result of patience and hard work. I would love to release BOAS tomorrow, but an unfinished manuscript would not please my readers, nor would one filled with grammatical errors as my rough writing is when unedited. No I (and my readers) have to wait until the writing is finished, the editors have critiqued and the edits performed.
Another aspect of patience is allowing people to get to a point where it is appropriate to do what you want to do. To me Christchurch is an example of this. I have just flown back down from Auckland today and had to get my hair cut in a Christchurch mall as there would not be any place open on Easter Monday in Timaru and I have a job interview tomorrow.
My favourite mall in Christchurch is Riccarton Mall, one I frequented a lot during my university years, though a quite smaller then. It is located in West Christchurch which was not so much affected as the East and the mall is pretty much fully operational. Having travelled into the bowels of Christchurch for the first time since the February Earthquake, it was very tempting to keep driving East after my hair cut and have a look at my old flat and other buildings. But I knew that even now the streets are still not fully operational and my presence would be another load on the straining roading infrastructure. My curiosity would have to wait for next time when I know what normality can occur has done so.
The East Christchurch people have a lot of stuff, emotional and physical, to go through before I feel I can impose on their hospitality no matter how tempting it is to see what buildings have been lost and what ones are possiblyly saved. But I was very pleased to see that Riccarton Mall was still standing, at least one of my old haunts has survived.
So today's message is Pacing and Patience is good for you, so give it a try, right this instant!

23 April 2011

O is for Only the Only

Written in 1992 Only the Only was a short story produced in two days as a project required by a final night of a course I once attended. The course dealt with our prejudice towards others, be it big noses, tattoos or, of course, cultural differences. I came up with the premise while drinking coffee while various tourists were sitting around speaking in their own languages. I realised how much insecurity could be generated by not knowing whether a person was talking about you or not. So here is my very short story, unedited since 1992.

Only the Only

The solid crystal of the chair bit into his back as he lifted the cup away from his saucer, towards his lips. He looked around, they were all around him, talking about him in their language of shifting tones. He could not understand the language, but he knew they were discussing him, he was, after all the only human on this world of blue scaled creatures. They would know they could utter those changing tones in reference to him, without him knowing. But he knew, he knew what disgusting things they were saying about him.

The cup fell and settled in the saucer. He recognised their noise, he knew it was their weird version of laughter. They were laughing at him, they were taking his strange looks in jest. The walked the same, they wore the same clothes, they even used similar scents, but it was the look of the skin which counted. It was enough that he was the butt of of their conversation, but to be laughed at as well, he would not sit here and take it. Standing up so suddenly, that he sent the chair flying to the floor, he left for the exit, as the crystal chair shattered across the smooth rock floor.

In dark and unpainted tunnels, all through the planet, the blue creatures chattered in their musical voice, they saw his appearance, they saw his different skin, and just because of this they conversed and laughed about him.

Finally he reached the stairway. He followed the stairs up and onto the sanctuary of the planet's surface. Awaiting him was his shuttle, the means of transport to his ship in orbit. He knew exactly what this planet's race of creatures, creatures that laugh at a person because of his being different, needed. This planet was ready for what he had in mind, and his ship was capable of administrating it.

It did not take long to reach the correct position, he pressed the flashing red button under his finger, sending Akswish, a world unique in the fact that every inhabitant was totally blind, into oblivion.

The End

21 April 2011

N is for New Zealand

Situated in the Southern Hemisphere on and and slightly north of the 45 degree line lies a collection of islands known as New Zealand or, as people will come to know it in a few decades as the original Maori names take more preference, Aotearoa. This name change would not upset me as I would rather have an original name than be named after a place in the Northern Hemisphere which really has nothing to do with the modern day (or historic) New Zealand.

There are many pluses to changing the name, the major one being that one would not have to wait long during the Olympics' opening ceremony to see one's team in its full black and white glory. (That is the uniform, not the age of our television sets).

There are also the minuses, would people be as willing to buy Aotearoa Lamb as compared to NZ Lamb? A is also not as good of an acronym compared to the two letter NZ, it might lead to even more confusion with our Aussie neighbours.

But whatever the name, whether of Tasman, Maori or other origin, Kiwiland (my personal favourite) is still Kiwiland. Now for those who have only experienced Kiwi overseas we are not named after Shoe Polish or small brown furry fruit, we are named after small brown seemingly furry birds. (Note the bird silhouette on the shoe polish for an idea of its shape). Only found naturally in New Zealand, the Kiwi is a flightless bird that has a long beak to delve into the forest undergrowth for bugs and insects.

That New Zealand was originally only inhabited by birds and a flying rat (sorry bat) before the Maori and Europeans, the Kiwi had no major predators and survived even though being totally defenseless. Stoats, ferrets (imported to get rid of the rabbits) and wild dogs, cats etc. have changed that. Now the Kiwi, our national emblem, is in real danger of extinction. Also the continuation of destroying the forests as begun by the first human settlers does not help.

The Kiwis had other cousins such as the Moa, the Giant Moa standing over 2 metres in height. Being large and thus great food sources, easy to catch by just flushing them out with forest fires, there were no Moas left when the first European settlers made home in the early 1800s. This does not mean there are none left, there are still large tracts of unexplored forest in the south-west of the South Island. One can hope that, like the Takahe which was extinct until the 80s, the Moa too can be taken off the list. If not, there is the real chance a Jurassic Park can be performed as Moa flesh has been found in some Archaeological sites.

Another extinct bird, one which would be better left extinct, was an Eagle that makes the Bald Eagle appear to be a sparrow (okay an exaggeration, but you get the idea). It was the natural predictor of the Moa and it's wingspan was huge. These days people complain about Magpie attacks, I think such an eagle would put things back into perspective.

The New Zealand settlers have a long history of mucking things up when it comes to nature. Rabbits! I am reminded of the old song, "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly..." There was a young country that imported rabbits... They then imported stoats to get rid of the rabbits, they had to then import something else to get rid of the stoats and so it goes on. Every animal or plant imported into New Zealand has thrived to the extent that they have become pests. Deer, rabbits, stoats, possums, wallabies (yes wallabies, they even grow better here and are the size of kangaroos), thistles, pine trees, gorse, etc.

On the subject of Wallabies, even some New Zealanders don't realise they are a pest over here. I remember walking through the bush (forest) with some friends, one other local and the others were from 5 hours north. We showed our visitors the signs of wallaby damage on the tress along the path. They finally stopped and turned to us saying "You can stop this nonsense right now, there are not wallabies in New Zealand!" And just that moment, as on cue, a huge wallaby bounced across our path and disappeared back into the bush. They did not comment again.

The shape of New Zealand is Two very large islands (each around the size of England), called strangely enough the South Island and the North Island. There is a small island to the very south called Stewart Island. The South Island is mostly shaped by the Tetronic Plates crashing into each other and creating huge mountains along the middle like a spine. The North Island is shaped, my theory only, by a large volcano mistakenly classed as collapsed by the experts but actually is, in my opinion, pretty much the entire North Island. Except Taranaki which is created by the volcano Taranaki and the strange area of Northland which may have been separate Islands before the great volcano's eruption. In the centre of the North Island, as you would expect to be in the centre of a volcano, is the creater lake of Taupo. The largest lake in New Zealand, it almost seems to be ocean like but you can just make out the shores on the other side while driving around it. (Pretty much fact: Taupo has the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded human history beaten only by Yellowstone Park tens of thousands years earlier.)

We have recently paid for the way New Zealand has been built with the recent quakes in Christchurch and Canterbury (I reside in South Canterbury, which has suffered some damage) but it is a worthy price to pay for such grandeur. I can walk down to the bay and look at the majestic mountains of the Southern Alps while paddling in the huge Pacific Ocean. A point about the Alps is not the height, compared to other worldly mountains they are pretty low in altitude, but how tall they are. Their base also starts off at low altitude (Mt Cook - 700 metres at base) and thus even though you do not require breathing equipment, you do have to climb a fair distance over just as rugged terrain. This is why many famous climbers are New Zealanders.

I can keep on going, but I know this blog has already gone over the limit of readability so I will finish here.



M is for Marmite

The battle lines are drawn, those who enjoy a yukky brownish gunk on one side and those true Kiwis who would die for the taste of the rich black paste on the other. Well you can tell what side I am on can't you.

When you wander down the spreads aisle in a typical New Zealand supermarket you will come across a shelf with two types of similar plastic jars. One will have a yellow top and the other a red top. One has been promoted, if not by Kraft the manufacturer, at least by ignorant television personalities as the New Zealand spread, and one announcing in clear letters it is the original New Zealand yeast spread.

The latter is true, according to Wikipedia Marmite was first sold in New Zealand in 1919 by Sanitarium Health Foods under license from the UK but with major changes to the recipe for the Kiwi taste and that Vegemite was invented in Australia in 1922. According to Sanitarium (who should really know as they did it) Marmite was first sold in New Zealand in 1910. This makes Marmite over 100 years as the New Zealand spread and Vegemite is only in the nineties.

So true Kiwis enjoy Marmite on their toast and bread. My children love it as their standard toast covering and have Marmite and cheese sandwiches for lunch. Another great recipe is bread, Marmite, cheese and place in the oven grill for a few minutes until the cheese is melted - yums.

Both Marmite and Vegemite are yeast extracts, which mean they are by-products of beer manufacturing (yums?). Also both should be only thinly spread on bread (preferably generously buttered first) not like you would spread Peanut Butter. Marmite, especially, is very strong in flavour and thus any more than the thinnest layer would mean a foul tasting mouth for the rest of the day.

The major differences are

Marmite - Vegemite
Red Top - Yellow Top
Made in New Zealand - Made in Australia
Rich Black Colour - Brownish Colour (similar to a Marmite eaters opinion of the Vegemite flavour)

Some interesting links.
Note: I do not have any interest (financial or input) in the following sites. I take no responsibility for any transactions or content you may do by following the links etc.

The official site - http://www.sanitarium.co.nz/products/spreads/marmite
To try some yourself or watch an advert - http://productsfromnz.com/browse_2110