Take the Scenic Route

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Hit the Road, (telephone) Jack...

Before I ramble, I'd like to point out for any one that was interested in 15 minute charge batteries that I was writing about a few weeks back, that they are available for substantially less (e.g., $70 for 4 batteries plus the 4 battery charger) at Placemakers, of all the odd places. I can also report that I'm *extremely* happy with them. I've been using the camera a lot, and I've only recharged them once so far.

So placemaker's eh. (Hmmm, that reminds me of a picture I should take for a future post). A long-running feature of my sunday mornings has been hardware shopping. The buses don't start running early enough on Sundays for L* to take the bus to work, so I drop her, and then end up uptown, dressed, half-awake, half-dazed at 8:30 in the morning. Much as going straight home and back to bed is tempting, it's not really as good as it might seem*.

Thus, I typically end up at the South D. Warehouse perhaps, or go to Woolworths or Pak'n'Slave for wine specials. Heh. The Warehouse is particularly odd at 8:30. Almost completely unlike how it is later in the day, and I think the staff find a) actually having a customer, and b) one there on a mission, somewhat disconcerting. And then on to the hardware stores, to pick up various tools or things I think I need for the weekend's projects.

I'm actually very excited this weekend, as there is sort of a core of things on the top of my to-do list that stay there week after week, while things at the bottom of the list come and go. Yesterday, I managed to finally install a phone jack in the study. Which in some ways is quite odd. After years of flatting, I have at least 3 10m phone extension cords, and multiple double and triple phone plugs. And they're now all redundant. However, it is great not having the cord running down the hall anymore.

* Back in the day, when I was in first year, my now boss used to give a lecture on the paradox that is sleep. That is to say, scientists reckon they have a reasonable idea of why we sleep (effectively because we can't see in the dark so being active is pointless), and we've sort of adapted to the point that some sort of odd maintenance functions might occur while we're asleep (so, perhaps dreaming is memory consolidation) and in some ways our body's have adjusted to the sleeping thing from a rest perspective. And while sleep deficit exists (that is, if you don't sleep, you get tired and need to catch up), you don't actually need to catch up the full amount you've missed at all. I wish work was like that! And then there is the habitful element. That sleep is most satisfying when you get up and go to bed at the same time everyday (which somewhat undermines the idea that there is a certain amount of sleep needed). But I digress...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


The Kakariki is largest vessel registered in New Zealand. It follows an approximately fortnightly schedule from Marsden Point to distribute petroleum products around New Zealand. Faintly visible behind the funnel is the orange "lifeboat". I put liferaft in scare quotes because it is quite unlike a conventional lifeboat. It is more like a small submersible. In the event of a fire the crew are all to board the craft. The seats have not just seatbelts, but full harnesses, and the craft is fully water-tight once the door is shut. The boat is launched by something that looks not dissimilar to a handbrake. The effect is to release the lifeboat which then slides from quite a height down a ramp, at which point it is launched into mid-air. The ramp is designed to throw it as far as possible, and the boat should skid and bounce along the surface some distance from landing as well. Hence the harnesses and watertight doors. Of course, was an entire boat full of petrol and diesel to catch fire, one would want to get as far away as possible, as quickly as possible.

The Kakariki and its sister ship (a slightly smaller vessel) are important to me, as they serve as markers of the passage of time. Since my old lab moved at the start of 2001, my lab, and later office, both have had a view of this part of the harbour, and it frequently disturbs me how often it seems like no time has passed before they return.

I'm sure there is probably some practical reason, but in these times of increasingly expensive fuel, I also wonder how long it will be before ships start to draw power from land when they are in port. The ship isn't setting sail, but belching that much smoke while tied up and stationary. I'm sure that there are some practical issues relating to the charging for electricity used, the proximity to water, voltage differences, and potentially the amount of electricity a ship this size might require, but still. Interestingly, airlines are increasingly recognising the fuel inefficiency of using aircraft engines more than they can help. Planes are now increasingly plugged in, and also towed away from the terminal, rather than moving out under their own power...

Monday, August 22, 2005

The Roof is on Fire...

Arrived home on Saturday evening to see a whole heap of smoke coming from down in the valley. Not just the usual smog-inducing coal smoke, but a real column of filthy black smoke. I was tempted to ring 111, but I couldn't quite work out what street it was on, and I figured with that much smoke surely someone else would have called first. It was slightly disarming about how slow the arrival of the first appliance was. The Willowbank station is not that many blocks away, and it's permanently manned. Pretty gutting for those involved I'd imagine.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Undie 500

I haven't actually known anybody involved in the Undy since about 1998, when er, The Virgin Mary's Catholic School for Girls arrived for a visit. However, it's always entertaining to see, and one year I was even driving north as they headed south.

There were some great great vehicles this year, including a Barrel of Monkeys -- a van that had actually been made into a barrel. The art of cooperage is not yet dead.

Thomas the Tank'd Engine was also pretty cool

This Mytre 10 one was also fairly amusing.

There'll be a few more on the photoblog eventually, including the Penguin Hunting Corporation...

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Somewhat sadly, my current car does have a plethora of stupid claims and acronyms on it. EFI, 4WD, "height control" etc.

However, if I still had The Surrealist Banana MkII, I'd <3 this sticker:

Better than mags or lame spoilers any day...

Monday, August 15, 2005

At the beach...

I know some of you may be shocked to discover that I have an over-accumulation of annual leave. It won't make a great dint in it, but I have taken the day off to extend my break on an east coast beach.

My family's always been a bit odd. When going on holiday, people usually have to arrange for someone to feed their pets. Not in my family. We always had to arrange someone to do the watering. Which is a slightly more fickle task. If there's a decent amount of rain, it doesn't really need to done, whereas a dog will still need to be fed, no matter how much rain has fallen. I guess some cats might be able to survive on a caught bird or rabbit, but not every cat still has that capability, or even realises that they can eat things that they've caught. So part of my job while I'm up here is to visit my parents and do some watering...

There are other perks to being away from a city. You'd be lucky to find a '97 Cab Sauv in a bargain bin for under $15....

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Enlightened Self Interest... Or Zen and the Art of Car Maintenance

The day before I went in for surgery, I discovered that my Warrant of Phatness was due to expire. And although generally speaking, my car is not that phat, having a warrant is not a bad thing. Unfortunately, it failed for some relatively minor, but somewhat expensive issues. Like $100 part that cost over $500 to install (Most of the front subframe of the car had to be be removed to take it out, because the steering rack and intake manifold were preventing access from above.

There was also an apparent exhaust leak. I say apparent, because my mechanic had trouble locating it. That is, the 'leak' was signified by a small carbon deposit rather than escaping exhaust gas. He had a bit of a go with a welder, but when I got it back to the testing station last night, just after 5 o'clock, it turned out that he'd probably made an actual hole with the welder. Grrrr. And of course, everywhere was shutting up, and as I went round the few open places this morning, they were all busy. And I'm supposed to be going to the crib for the next couple of days.

So I came back home, and tried google, wikipedia, and a few other internet dark arts to find a home fix. At which point I thought, "Repco!". The people there are very helpful, which is to be commended. They once told me that I should use a screwdriver instead of an oil filter wrench. I couldn't work out how to use the screwdriver, as the oil filter is round and smooth, so went back and asked. "Just grab a hammer and bash the screwdriver throught it". You see, you just biff the old oil filter, so irreparably damaging it in the process of removing it is no big problem. Incidentally, it's quite sort of kinky. On my old car, you had to slide underneath it to get room to swing the hammer. And you have to run the car to make the oil hot (and hence more liquid) before you drain the oil and take the filter off. So as soon as you bash the screwdriver in, you have quite hot oil everywhere, especially running down the screwdriver, down the arm you're holding it with, and down your shirt.

But I digress. Helpful Repco person directed me to 'exhaust bandages'. It's fiberglass encased in some dodgy chemical that sets with heat, so basically you wrap it around the leak and then drive for a while to bake it on. Get home, jack car up, slide under, and can't even see the leak. Or any sign of welding. There was a bit that looked a bit black, so I decided that I'd 'fix' that, in case it was the leak, seeing as I had under an hour to get back to the testing station. The exhaust pipe was very hot, so I sprayed it with the mister I use for my seedlings to dry to cool it down. That seemed to work. For some odd reason, my exhaust pipe seems to be wrapped in some sort of shield, but the bolts look rusted on, so I decided not to remove them. Unfortunately, I figure this means that the bandage isn't going to seal properly, but am just like, "Ah, fuck it". And then accidentally smack my head on something for good measure. I do a tolerable job of wrapping it. It's quite hard, and quite hot, and there are a lot of crinkles, and I'm not too convinced it's sealed. Then you are supposed to secure it with wire (provided). Running out of time, so do a really half-arsed job.

There's a big queue at the testing station. The staff are clearly looking forward to going home. Seeing as mine only needs the one thing checked now, one of the staff comes out into the carpark, without putting the car over the pit. I'm not sure if he actually looked at/for the repair, but he definitely put a rag over the end of the pipe (if there is no leak, or only a very small hole, your hand gets pushed off by the pressure). It passes the rag test, so he decides it's fixed (without asking me what, if anything, I'd done to it). Phatness officially decreed. Aaaahhh, the joys of self interest...

Sunday, August 07, 2005

I like to cook... II

Not that cooking has been much fun the last few days, but I have at least had time to edit up these pics of my kitchen. Sadly, although there may be a number of bottles of rotted grape-juice in the following photograph, that's back off the menu, and I've been having a fairly liquid diet, revolving a lot around the blender. That is, bits of bread ripped up and soaked in soup, swallowed without chewing; and soggy weetbix. What passes for dinner has been gently fried fish (it flakes it small, swallowable bits), and polenta, which is pre-ground, so also doesn't really need chewing.

It's not the biggest kitchen, and does occasionally lack for benchspace during more elaborate preparations. I'd also disrecommend tiles as a benchtop, as cleaning between them can be a pain (We only made the mistake of kneading dough on the bench *once*; the ceramic cooktop is much more suitable). Although it's not extremely obvious in this photograph. the kitchen is most notable for it's abundance of red surfaces (such as the bench) and mirrors. There are, however, no mirrors on the ceiling.

One of the best things that we've done so far to improve the kitchen is this magnetic knife rack, which keeps all manner of implements very handy. Actually, I'm very impressed by the strength of the magnet. Some of those bigger knives are *quite* heavy. Although that is also what makes them good. A good knife makes chopping fun.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Surgery in 17minutes.

Surgery in 17minutes. I have my copy of Harry that I've been saving. Although I'm now wondering if compelling reading might be bad thing.