Friday, June 28, 2013

Au Contraire II, 34th annual SF convention, NZ

Au Contraire II, the 34th NZ annual science fiction convention will be held 12-14 July, Quality Hotel, Cuba Street, Wellington, New Zealand.

 Unlike the professionally-run Armageddon conventions, the annual New Zealand SF conventions are held by volunteers in the New Zealand SF and fantasy community, and the guests are usually writers. All surplus monies go to charity.

  There are panel discussions and many talks on how-to-write and get published.,  You don't have to have an sf or fantasy bent to gain valuable writing information.  Where else can you have a nice fun-filled information-packed weekend so cheaply?   Writers can make contacts and pick up tips at the con for a much cheaper price than if they were paying for, say, a full blown course at a learning institute or wherever.  If you just want a taste, try coming on the Saturday only.  You can probably buy at the door.  Oh, and please don't think it's completely about people dressing-up and giving everyone the Spock salute.  This con might be a bit too 'serious' for children.

Here's a pic I took at a national convention just after "The Lord of the Rings" had opened.  It is of Weta model-maker Mary Maclachlan demonstrating some props.    About, maybe, 20 years ago I went to a New Zealand annual con(vention) called Forrycon.  There was this guest director, a barely-known guy who had just made his first amateur movie.  He talked about how the movie had taken months and months to shoot.  They had to do at odd spare times.  He spoke of  having to work around volunteer actors who had other commitments, and illnesses, and weather.    Yes, yes, it was Peter Jackson, and it was at this con where his eyes lit up on one of Mary Maclauchlan's great model displays and he asked her to work with him.

There will be a Weta talk at the 2013 convention.


Jetstar plane

Hi there

As my four readers know, I am not that brilliant on the computer so this morning it took me something like 45 minutes to try to book a flight on Jetstar. 

"Whoopee," I had thought upon looking at their advertising.  "$29 flights?  Couldn't be better."

It could be better.  All I wanted was a return flight Wellington-Auckland for $60.  I was bouncing with joy.

By the time I carefully negotiated all the traps, pitfalls, minefields, and add-ons on the Jetstar website, somehow or other the fare had got up to $100 return.    But, um, okay, I could live with that.    I went to put in my credit card details.  the website wouldn't let me do it.

I tried again.  And again. 

In desperation, I rang up Jetstar.  The gentleman assistant was hard to understand but I'm pretty sure he apologised for what was probably my fault by not pressing a certain button.  He booked my flights and charged me $160.

Ah-ha ...  Well-played, Jetstar.  

I complained.  Rather loudly I'm afraid.  And the guy gave me a $49 flight voucher.  But somehow, darn it, I don't think in the slightest, that I'm coming out ahead.

Moral:  be careful of booking, well, anything!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hataitai Beach Storm damage, Wellington, New Zealand

Hi there
Roving reporter J, and her accompanying ace photographer T were passing Hataitai Beach at low tide yesterday.  J was devastated to see that the storm had caused havoc on our beloved steps that lead down into the water.

What?  We won't be able to plunge from the deck steps straight into the sea?  We (shudder) will have to plod out into the water from the sand?    But ...  But ..we don't want to go through the slow freezing torture of wading out!  And we certainly don't want  grubby wet gritty sand and shells and dead sea creatures and used condoms and ice block sticks jammed between our tootsies as we trek that extra freezing minute from the water  across the sand and back into the changing sheds after our swim!  Oh, Jiminy Cricket! - my life is ruined.    We were so spoiled with our steps.

I guess Wellington City Council will want to repair the streets, and prune the trees, and see to their blown-off roofs, and alter the water temps in their swimming pools before they look at the steps at Hataitai Beach.  We'll just have to not-grin and bare-oops-bear it!

And, just think, we were all set to ring up this week and ask WCC if they would please scrub the slippery slime off the aforementioned steps....  Sigh.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pool temps vs Hataitai Beach sea temps

Hi there

The gym I attend also has a pool.  As I was checking in at the reception desk yesterday, I spotted a notice that read something like "Because of storm damage our pool water temperature that is usually 27 is today 24 ... brrrrhhh."

Brrrrhhh?  When J and I were swimming at Hataitai Beach four days before the storm, we were swimming in 11!!  'Nuff said?

Well, no, not quite 'nuff said....  I was on the bike, looking through a window at the swimmers yesterday and I saw this tough looking guy in Speedos standing at the edge of the pool.  He stuck in his toes and stepped back for a minute or two with a shiver, then he toe-ed the water again and hung back for another couple of minutes before sitting down on the edge.  He lowered himself into the water so gradually I figured I would be finished my circuit before he finally took the plunge.,

Monday, June 24, 2013

Wellington Storm aftermath

Hi there

Yesterday and today I went for a walk and I was shocked how much in the way of branches,twigs, leaves were up and down and over and across every street and road.  It seemed, also, that there were loads of work crews out and about pruning trees and clearing up after Thursday's big Wellington (New Zealand) storm.  I am very appreciative of Wellington City Council.  On The Big Storm Day, it was too wet and windy for me to take my recycling wheelibin out to the footpath but, heavens-to-Betsy, the recycyling guy came into my property, took the bin out, emptied it, and returned it ... all in a howling gale.  Thanks WCC, that was appreciated.

Miramar's two main roads - Miramar Avenue and Park Road - are lined both sides with Pohutakawa trees.  For my one overseas reader, the Pohutakawa tree is sort of New Zealand's national tree.  It is called the New Zealand Christmas Tree because it blooms around Christmas.  Maori legend has it that if it blooms before Christmas we are going to have a good summer, and the opposite if it blooms after Christmas.   Anyway, there was a load of Pohutakawa debris all around Miramar.  Here is a Pohutakawa (okay, I cheated - it's not a Miramar Pohutakawa.  I took the photo at Ohope Beach last year).

Whilst I was out walking I could see the Stone Street Studios from an opposite hill.  Unfortunately the sun was shining right into the camera, but you can get an idea of how big The Green Screen is.

The second photo is a studio security guard box at a side entrance in Stone Steet.  Apparently the guard box blew right over in last Thursday's storm.  Note how it had to be anchored down by two large concrete blocks ,and ties, in case it blew away again.


Above is a photo I took today of the main entrance of Stone Street Studios in Miramar, Wellington, New Zealand, where The Hobbit Parts II & III are being currently filmed..  We now have a myriad of Camry Hybrids zipping around the area, ferrying VIP stars here, there, and everywhere.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Breaker Bay mid-winter swim for tomorrow - called off!

Hi there
It will be no surprise to any Wellingtonian to know that the scheduled mid-winter swim for tomorrow - Sat 22nd June - at Breaker Bay is called off because of the storm.  All the bonfire wood that had been set up on the beach has been scattered to the four winds, house windows smashed, a couple of roofs blown off, and flying sticks, stones, and trees have landed here, there, and everywhere.

The organisers have said that there MAY be a swim the following Saturday.

Wellington Storm

Hi there
As I type this it is 10.00 a.m. Fri morn, and the storm that has been racing up New Zealand hit Wellington last evening.  The wind in my suburb was 150km p.h.  It was 200 km p.,h. on Mt Kaukau (just out of Wellington city).  For about a half hour there, I was scared that my heavy wooden front door would not stand up against the gale-force winds.  I haven't traversed my street yet, but from the window I can see a lot of wheelibins strewn about.

My friend J has to battle her way out to the Hutt Valley this morning for an appointment.  I hope she can make it in good time.  She tells me that her area is like a disaster-area, with uprooted trees everywhere.  For her sake, let's hope the road running alongside the Hutt Valley rail tracks is not too debris-littered

Apparently all the local trains that bring workers in to Wellington from the Hutt have been stopped because of the harbour water roaring up onto the shore and causing erosion.  Here's a pic from the Stuff website:

Wellington storm


I've just knocked off writing this blog to answer a phone call from my friend, A J Ponder, who lives on the other side of the harbour.  Their electricity and landline phones are out and they don't know for how long.  Oh dear.

I always feel awful when we have bad weather days and there are tourists about.  What terrible tales they'll tell about my city.  The same with the actors who are here filming The Hobbit II movie - their words hold tremendous weight once they're home and telling others about our weather.   Oh, incidentally, the studio had a small fire on their set a couple of days ago that necessitated a stop in filming

We definitely won't be mid-winter swimming today or tomorrow.  Thank goodness, J and I did Our Mid-Winter Swim last Saturday.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My Favourite Inventions

Hi there
For years I've maintained that one of the best inventions ever is ...wait for it! ... the umbrella!   An umbrella is so simple an invention that's been around for thousands of years.  It dates way back to ancient China.  Just think:  it's pouring with rain and you, under your umbrella, are in your own little dry cocoon.  Such a simple but effective invention.

...except if you'[re in Windy Wellington, of course.  I once went through five umbrellas in one week - a record for me.

One invention that has never been updated since Victorian times, and I can't for the life of me think why not? ... is the flush toilet.   In such a technical age, why are we still operating on a plumbing and pipe system that has been roughly the same for the last hundred or so years?  Why aren't lasers getting rid of the waste?  How come there are brainy scientists working on the next new detergent and no boffin is out there thinking about a toilet with its own laser beams that operate by the touch of a button (or chain, if you prefer old-school)?

When I was a teenager in the Department of Education typing pool, I was given an electric IBM golfball typewriter.  Wow, what technology, what magnificence!  Typewriters would never, surely, be the same again?   The older typists in the pool hovered away at a distance.  They wanted nothing to do with this new-fangled invention; it was just too-too modern for them.   Will the same thing happen to the whiz kids of today when they hit, say, 60 years of age?   Will they shrink back over the new technology of the day?

Speaking for today, I quite like microwaves, and fridges, and television   Oh, and what about electric blankets, and don't forget Kindles and Diet Coke.   3D movies are a joy ...


Here's a pic of my local picture theatre, the Roxy, in Miramar, Wellington, New Zealand.  They, of course, operate 3D - otherwise I'd move to another suburb.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

4th swim for June, Hataitai Beach

Hi there

J and I have completed our 4th swim for June at Hataitai Beach, Wellington, New Zealand.  It was quite cold yesterday but the sea was as flat as a pancake.  We have decided to treat this swim as Our Official Mid-Winter Swim.... unless we can get one more in this week but we doubt it, because the upcoming weather looks to be terrible.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Those bleepin' bleeps!

Hi there
If there's one thing that makes me get  1)  embarrassed;   and 2) so angry I'm spitting tacks,  it's when I walk between  a store's anti-theft bleepers ... and they bleep loud enough, and long enough to wake the dead, and everybody in the store turns and stares.

The first time it happened I walked into a Rebel store with a Kathmandu purchase under my arm.  Bleeeeep!

"It happens all the time with Kathmandu goods," said the Rebel sales guy.  "They always forget to anti-bleep the bleepin' machine". 

I made another purchase at Kathmandu a few weeks later - and my purchase again bleeped  as I was entering a store.  Next it happened with a Warehouse shoulder bag .

I bought a Donna Karen bag at an outlet store in Las Vegas.   I was mortified when security staff came running after me everywhere I went in Lower Hutt's Westfield Mall.  I vowed never to take that bag out again.  And I haven't.  Sorry, Donna.

Today, I walked between the bleepers at Countdown Supermarket in Kilbirnie. The bleeps were unrelenting.  I slammed my bag down on the counter, furiously emptied my pockets, and before the assistant had even got halfway across the floor to deal with me, I had screeched out a string of  naughty words which roughly translated into decent language came across as, "Oh, for the love of little bunnies!"

"It's alright.  It's okay.  It doesn't matter," the assistant stuttered.  Obviously I'd scared the hell out of the woman.

Talk about feeling like a thief.   I yearned to throw every piece of clothing off me, just to prove I didn't have umpteen gold bars from Michael Hill hidden in my knickers.

I stomped over the road into the bleeping foyer of Farmers Department Store  "Yesterday, I bought this hoodie that I'm wearing," I hollered.  "Take the bleepity-bleep-bleep bleeper off it." 

Turned out it wasn't the hoodie. 

This morning I'd run out of a print cartridge for my printer.  I'd grabbed the old empty packet to take that down to the store with me to show the assistant what I was after.  The empty packet was the cause of the bleeps at both Countdown and Farmers.  Would you believe it?

 Thanks, Farmers, for narrowing the culprit down with your bleeper gun.  But bleepity-bleepity-bleep-bleep to all you annoying  shops that don't anti-bleep your customers' purchases...


Oh, here's a nice soothing photo of Coco, my Wednesday dog.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Trailer , 'The Hobbit" Part II

Hi there

As I type this it is 7.30 a.m., Wed 12 June, and the trailer for the second Hobbit  (The Hobbit:  The Desolation of Smaug) movie has been released.   Oh dear, I can neither pronounce nor spell 'Desolation" and 'Smaug" so what hope for me with this movie....   Ooooh, it looks scary!   Full of action.  Hope Aidan Turner gets a bigger role.

I figured something was up yesterday as I was walking past the Park Road Post (Production) building.  I was almost mowed down by a plethora of folk barrelling out .  "Ah ha," I thought, "What's on the horizon ...?"  Usually, the staff etc all roll up en masse at Park road Post when there is something important to be viewed or talked about.

I see, too, that Hobbit filming is taking place on Mt Crawford.  I went up there when they were filming "King Kong", via a back track route.  Because I had to climb-stagger-stumble through a large open area, I was spotted by the security section way before I reached the top of the hill and ordered back down again.  But I did manage to get a great glimpse of Skull Cave, etc.  Last year, I got a fantastic view of  a "village" on the top of Mt Crawford, from a plane I was on.  I couldn't wrestle my camera out in time to snap a photo.

Anyway, the extras who are filming on the Mt Crawford location and thereabouts are flossied up, dressed,  prepared for filming in a huge tent just opposite the Miramar Wharf.  Here's a photo that I took last year.

And here is Park Road Post.

Monday, June 10, 2013

third swim for June at Hataitai Beach! Yippee

Hi there
J and I had made a pact that there would be no swimming today after our gym circuit.  But, oh,, the weather was so lovely, and the sea was flat and clear.  So, we burrowed in our respective car boots ('trunk' if you're American), came up with ratty old lightweight bathing suits, and took the plunge.

After my swim and, as usual, I went to Countdown Supermarket in Kilbirnie.  I swear the store had the cold air conditioning going in their fresh fruit section as well as their chiller section.   There was a truly cold blast as I walked through the automatic doors.  I was in my knee-length lightweight gym pants, a heavy jacket I'd located in the boot, and ditto a woolly hat and mittens.  I must have looked a sight.

This afternoon I went for a walk around Miramar.  I went past the (Peter Jackson) studio - see below - where they are currently filming The Hobbit Part II.   All the hive of activity is good for Miramar.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Breaker Bay mid-winter Swim June 2013

Hi there

There is to be a mid-winter swim at Breaker Bay, Wellington on Saturday June 22 at 3 pm - at the beach across the road from the children's playground on Breaker Bay Road.

Afterwards, swimmers and fans can cross over the road to the hall at 150 Breaker Bay Road and there will be mulled wine and hot soup.    Gold coin donation.

If you hang around until 7 30,  or return later, you can watch the French/New Zealand rugby test on a big screen.

J and I will also be trying to get in a mid-winter swim on the proper day - 21 June - at Hataitai Beach.

2nd swim for June at Hataitai Beach - Done!

Friday, June 7, 2013

1st Swim for June at Hataitai Beach - check!

Hi there!

Yesterday was our first swim for the month of June.  Whoopee!    From June, we've decided to wear tee-shirts on top of our bathing suits in the water.  Well, it is cold.

When J told a friend of ours at the gym that we were going swimming yesterday, we didn't get the usual "You're mad!" comment.  This time our friend said, "Are you taking a pick axe to break the ice..."  Haha.  Ha.

Just before I got out of my car at the beach, the radio announcer said that the air temperature was 11c.  Yesterday morning  I'd discovered the Lyall Bay water temperature site and it said that the water temp would be 13 for the day.  

What?  It was warmer in the water than it was on land?  If that truly was the case, I would bring my Lilo and laptop down to the sea and stay in the water for the entire winter.   The water temp boffins and the air temp boffins must work with different temperature scales, surely?  I must ring up NIWA  (National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research) and find out.

As we were swimming, a cyclist rode past the beach.  We heard a wind-driven shout of "Oh, my Gawd!" and the guy thrust a dismissive arm-wave out behind him as he shot past us.  We get this a lot.

Because I was so cold afterwards, I bought pizza for a late lunch (what diet?).  Then I felt so guilty over eating it that I took a brisk walk along the Maupuia walkway.  There were lots of owners-and-dogs up there.  One happily-cavorting dog was gigantic.  Surely, it had wolf-hound in its DNA?

"What's it's name?" I asked the two young guys walking this dog. 

"Isher," I was told.  (this is phonetic spelling).  "You want him?  He comes with two bags of dog food!"

"Does he come to you when you call?" . I could tell that this bouncy hyper-active canine collossus might have control issues.

"Only if we bellow in a strong Russian accent," grinned one of the guys..

I meet many nationalities when I do the Maupuia walkway.  Mexicans, Americans, Chinese, British, and now Russian.  A couple of years ago, the world unicycle gathering was held in Wellington, and the Maupuia walkway was one track that was used by them.  I sat on the grass bank and watched maybe fifty or sixty unicyclists scamper past.  Dozens of different nationalities yelled happily over to me.  I cheered every one of them on.

Here's a view from the Maupuia walkway.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Highway No 1 - New Zealand . Is this our 'Route 66'?

Hi there

In the old days, way back when, when Noah was a lad, I used to sit enthralled in front of the t.v., watching "Route 66".  The music is still right up there near the top of my Iconic TV Theme list.  Isn't it for everyone?   The theme made the show.   And, of course, it didn't hurt things that Ben Gazarra, the star, was oh-so easy on the eye.

When I was in America some time back, I went on a tour that took in Monument Valley (just about my favourite overseas scenery ever!).  We crossed Route 66 a time or two and even drove down it for a little while.  It's sad that some of the road has been broken apart, diverted, or replaced by new streamlined highways.

What my one American reader may not know is that here, in New Zealand, we have our very own equivalent of America's Route 66.  It is Highway No. 1. 

Highway No.1 stretches from the very top of the North Island to the very bottom of the South Island.  The scenery is spectacular.  And I can't understand why Tourism New Zealand don't make big publicity over this?

Cook Strait, between the two islands, is officially Highway No 1.   So, just think, when you're travelling on the inter-island ferry from Wellington in the North Island to Picton in the South Island, it's not really the sea around you, but New Zealand's main traffic road!   

Believe it or not as you as you drive along Highway No 1 , approaching Wellington Airport, you'll pass notices telling you that yes, you are indeed on a wine trail, even though there isn't a sniff of a grape in the area.  This wine trail can be followed right through, via plane,  to Nelson (South Island).

Here is a photo I took at the very foot of the Wellington Airport runway, which is virtually the end of the North Island leg of the highway, and right next to the suburb of Miramar, where I live.  The photo was taken a day or so before 'The Hobbit' premiere last year, hence the flags.  A Weta building, part of the Peter Jackson/RichardTaylor film empire, is behind the flags.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Hiking at last!

Hi there
As my millions of readers (okay-okay-my-four-readers) will no doubt remember .... Last November I hurt my heel and the doctor said it would take maybe a year to get better.  And, then, I stepped off a stair into mid-air in January and ended up with a torn ligament on one ankle and a bad sprain on the other.   I couldn't do my beloved hiking.  I could hardly walk.  My car never had so much use.  I live a block away from the supermarket and I had to drive there; it was so embarrassing.  I had to use my hiking stick as a walking stick.

About a month ago I started baby steps without my stick.  I walked around the block.  The next day I went a couple of blocks.  Then, up a rise.  Then, three blocks, and a rise.  Then,  a proper hill....


Two days ago,  I went for a walk to the southern bays, past Lyall Bay and Princess Bay, over the Houghton Bay Hill to a track that leads down to behind the zoo (the apes seem to be happy and healthy),  up and down another track that leads to the top of Kilbirnie, then back to Miramar.  Whoopee, I was hiking real tracks. My walking stick had now magically transformed into an honest-to-goodness hiking stick.  I was one proud hiker.

.Below is a photo taken from Princess Bay, looking across to Island Bay.

 On the Houghton Bay Hill (which is just out of camera-shot, to the right of the photo) I came across a tsunami safe zone.  There are a few of these dotted around the southern suburbs.

When a tsunami is imminent, we, the coastal inhabitants of  Wellington, must run like mad up a hill to get behind the tsunami safety zone line.  I know, for sure, I would not stand on the safety line assuming I was safe. I would run much further up the hill  as fast as a rabbit.  My Miramar house - about 500 metres from the sea - will apparently be underwater in a tsunami trice.