Take the Scenic Route

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Giant Jenga

I deeeear yew to pull one of these sticks out

giant jenga

That's what this old house is sitting on

on truck

This building was where I would have, in theory, written most of my thesis, it having contained my lab for three years. However, due to the power of information technologies, I wrote most of it in my bedroom. I did however spend a lot of time there, mostly doing statistics and staring out the window, watching the kakariki come and go.

It's going walkabout, as I suspect is evident from the truck thrust through its basement. Only about 30m, but to prepare a building platform in case they decide to extend the building behind it. The truck and trailer unit is extremely impressive. Each of the four sets of axles on the trailer are on hydraulic arms that have a range of around 2m, and each wheel can be turned independent of the rest. Thus, although the truck was driving up a hill to pull the house out, the house stayed flat, and the wheels slowly folded and unfolded to keep it that. way.


The hill is not too obvious here, but you can see the way the wheels fold down to keep the house level.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Did you know that various Porphyra species grow in New Zealand, perhaps better known as 'Nori'. And that nori is shredded, dried, and then made like paper to become the nori for making sushi? I didn't. No porphyra is commercially harvested in New Zealand, as it turns out, but maybe one day I'll try making my own.

A couple of weeks ago, I went out to the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre at Portobello Marine Laboratories, to a 'tasting'. Now I'm a fairly veteran wine 'taster' (one shouldn't confuse 'taster' with 'lush'), but I've never been to a seaweed tasting before. It's always pretty amusing seeing the 'obsessions' of other scientists. I think making 'cookies' with seaweed flour is fairly up there, but, in fairness, they were delicious (although not noticeably seaweed flavoured).

After a brief introductory talk about how to find, harvest, and prepare seaweed, along with a detour into the fascinating, and slightly weird, lives of seaweed, we were taken down to the aquarium. Those who have been there will know about the 'touch pools' which are sort of shallow rock pools full of anenmones and starfish which you can reach in and 'interact' with. Well, on this particular night, around 20 different types of seaweed had been strewn through the pools for sampling. I don't think I've ever been to a buffet with live starfish in it before. Apparently all seaweed is edible, although we were advised to avoid taking seaweed from near any sources of polution. There is also one type of seaweed which has a rather unique talent of being able to manufacture its own sulphuric acid, which it stores in its cell walls. Technically it is edible, although with a pH of 2, it's about on par with the acid in your stomach, and is, I am reliably informed, better used for pickling than eating raw. The variety in texture, flavour and appearance was extremely impressive. Some I would consider using as garnishes, or fresh in salads.

Following the raw buffet, we adjourned inside for a variety of cooked exemplars. This ranged from muffins and biscuits, to commercial chutneys, salads, and kelp chips. The chips were a lot like eating potato chips, and Mr Speight came to the party with some Pilsener. Mmmmm.