Catching Up

It was a fun long-Christmas-weekend. So fun we failed to update the blog.

Friday invited Steve and Jennifer over, forgetting that there were anime plans afoot. No problem, as we spent the evening in fun conversation. Later we watched three more episodes of Haibane Renmei with Geoff and Beth.

Christmas morning started with phone calls back to the states, and presents to open. Tam got me (us) a stero receiver, so we could hook up the CD changer and speakers and have proper music. This required us to find speaker wire, which was in one of the 6 still-packed boxes leftover from the move. 90 frenzied minutes later we had the wire, and had unpacked and put away 4.5 boxes worth of stuff. Very productive! Tam also got me “Medicine and Surgery in South American Camelids”, which is providing fun reading.

Saturday afternoon was spent over at Geoff and Beths in their Humbug-Bunker of Anti-Christmas Doom. Good fun was had by all. We clambered down the steep bank behind their place and found many native seedlings, which we will return in the fall to raid for our bush-block plantings. In the afternoon (before many people arrived) we showed them Lilo and Stitch, which they had not seen before. Later that evening we watched Read or Die, a fun 3-episode anime involving super-powered librarians working for the British Library Special Engineering Division, fighting cloned historical figures who were trying to steal ancient manuscripts to rebuild a lost Beethoven symphony and destroy the world. I kid you not. It was really fun.

Sunday Tam and I decided to head back out to Castle Point, which is about 2 hours away on the east coast on the far side of the Wairarapa. We dropped by to see Oscar on the way, but it was his day off from the bottle store. The drive, especially through the eastern hills of the Wairarapa, was really lovely. It gets quite remote out there. At Castle Point we climbed the large hill we had spied when we were out there 6 months ago with Joel and Carol. Not a hill for people with issues about heights (plenty of huge veritcail cliffs with crashing surf below). On the way back we had some really disappointing Indian food in Masteron. Tasted like mediocre Chinese food. Bleah.

On Monday we hooked up with Steve and Jennifer and went up to a beach just north of Levin (about 1 hour north of here). This is the place where the wreck of the Hydrabad is located, which we had visited before but S&J had not. A nice walk along the horizontal beach was also good for Jennifers tricky knee. Of course looking at the first news reports of the giant tsunami right before going for a long beach walk is not always the smartest thing, but we still had lots of fun. That evening we went out for Indian food at Daawat in Johnsonville. Very tasty! Have to remember that such an excellent source of Peshwari Naan is only 15 minutes away.

On Tuesday I did a bit of burning before Tam got up (always more gorse to dispose of). After a big breakfast we walked around the property a bit, surveying what was happening, destroying some thistles, and talking some progress-photos. We also finally put away the yurt frame, and generally worked on small projects around the property, including some very-needed weeding in the garden.

The Weekend Report

Friday was our group’s Holiday lunch. (Except that we have to call it an Anniversary Lunch or some such because Group Holiday Eventz ist Verboten ! Zee Company provides ein Holiday Event und you vill not be spendink monies on your own Holidays ! Achtung !) We stuffed ourselves on curry and fresh hot naan. Naturally, midway through the Secret Santa business (yes, they apparently do that here, too), the database server decided to take a header. Luckily, I wasn’t the one on call.

Friday evening we showed Gundam 0083.

Saturday was a slew of errands, followed by Beverley’s birthday party. I remember when I first got here trying to explain the appeal of Halloween as an adult holiday. “You get to dress up !” What I didn’t realize then was that Kiwis dress up all the time. Birthday parties, as often as not, have themes. So do a lot of Xmas and other holiday parties. Beverley’s party theme this year was “Kid’s Birthday”, so lots of silly games, a piñ¡´¡, and eating oneself sick on candy. We were introduced to the traditional Kiwi kids delicacy, “fairy bread” — buttered white bread with jimmies or candy sprinkles on top. Wacky.

Sunday (which is when the previous post was posted) we had our Day O’ Fun. Contrary to our fears, the rain went away and the day turned out sunny and warm — except for the gale force winds. THose stuck around. So although we didn’t get to do archery, there *was* fighting, and we *did* get to assemble and test-fire the arbalest:

I’m sorry I didn’t think to get a picture of the main firing mechanism, which Oskar cleverly cut in the shape of a dragon.

And if that wasn’t treat enough, look what the cat dragged in ! (The cat in this case being Robyn)

Ethan, one of our old friends from the Horde ! We knew he passed through Christchurch on occasion, on his way to or from Antarctica, and that it was there that he’d hooked up with local SCAdians. He changed his flights around so he could make it to the Day O’ Fun. He showed us stunning pictures of aurorae and sundogs at South Pole station (he was at McMurdo for a while, but now he’s a Pole), although the station is impressive just as itself. He’s been going to Antarctica off and on for years now, which is pretty darned unusual, and I confess I had been wondering if he’d gotten…. weird (you know, Not Like Us :^). But he seems really happy and healthy. He’s bought himself a 30 acre farm in the States ! Woo, another smallfarmer ! Hopefully, we’ll get to hang with him a bit more while he’s in the area.

You know how people talk about places like Hawai’i being “seasonless” ? In that there’s not much difference between the weather and temperatures from Winter to Summer ? We’re coming to realize that New Zealand is also more or less “seasonless”, only in a different way. It has hot, dry Summers and cold, wet, windy winters, and crazy blustery wild Springs and crisp clear Autumns. It just doesn’t pay any attention to the calendar when it has these things. For example right now, in the local equivalent of mid-June, it’s in the lower 50s, with gale force winds and rain squalls that occasionally have hail in them. Two days ago, I was walking to the train along the waterfront in short sleeves, seriously contemplating taking off my shoes and going barefoot.

Today, we’re having another Day O’ Fun. The plans were to, among other things, have a bonfire and test-fire the arbalest Oskar’s been building — both of which are looking highly unlikely at the moment. Oh well. Instead, we’ll probably sing carols around the fireplace & it’ll almost feel like we’re back in the other hemisphere.

What else we've been up to

Dance practice last night went fine. We practiced five dances and only had three injuries, which I reckon is a net victory. For those of you who are *not* Medieval re-creationists, Medieval dances were pretty much about flirting and gossiping, both of which are of course easier, the easier the dance is. Most of the dances we practiced were called “bransles”, which is apparently pronounced “brawls” — proof that the English do have a sense of humor, or at least irony, since most of them consisted of little more than walking sideways. The second-to-last one we did was not a bransle, but was closer to a brawl, in that it involved body-checking (okay, well, Stephen got a bit carried away), and a certain amount of Peril (running in socks on a smooth floor).

What else ?

— Watched the extended Return of the King. I liked some of the new stuff, thought some of the new stuff probably ought to have been left out after all, and was baffled by the order that some of the new stuff was cut in. It should be noted at this point that for the last three years, a lot of Kiwis have spent Xmas afternoon at the theatre watching the new Lord of the Rings movie — three years being enough repetition to effectively create a Tradition. They’re a bit mopey and at loose ends this year.

— Stephen and I have been playing La Pucelle Tactics, in which cute little kids beat up cute little “demons” in the name of The Maiden of Light. We’re currently fighting dragon mushrooms with the aid of a flying pirate ship crewed by kittens. I’ve been watching anime and playing Playstation games so long, that I’ve lost the ability to notice how deeply weird the Japanese are.

— Our anime-night crew expanded to 5 (plus us) to watch the first disk of Cowboy BeBop, meaning that I’ve finally realized that the singsong “Evergreen” song on the still-a-mystery Pensive Mix 2003 disk is, in fact, what’s playing while Spike enjoys his endless slo-mo defenestration.

— In ‘paca-land, we got to hear first Jim, and then Cariboo, alarm call ! They actually sound kinda like seagulls. It was neat, if baffling. You know how you’ll be walking along a street and pass someone who’s staring up a building at something, and then everyone has to stop and stare to try and figure out what the first guy was looking at ? That was us and Jim. Never did figure it out.

Ew, ew, ew, and EW!

Spring Cleaning took a turn for the gross. Since we moved my big desk into the living room to be the communal Net machine, we’ve been planning to turn my old office into a sewing/garb room. It’s got the gorgeous old Sezchuan cabinet I bought myself, with all my boxes of jewelry and junk on top, the two bookcases of reference books, and then just a bunch of bins of fabric and assorted crap that we’ve been tidying out of the other rooms in the house.

Here are the only data points you really need:

1) Because it’s full of crap, we don’t go in there very often.
2) Azami sometimes takes her birds in there to play with.
3) See number 1.

Ugh.

And ew.

And did I mention ew ?

Spring ?

Today, it became necessary to CLEAN. I was starting to get that Living In a Festering Puddle Of Our Own Filth kind of feeling. I’ve swept and mopped the downstairs — which consists of the dance studio and the foyer. Since the weekly SCA A&S is planning to do some dance practice in the studio this week, this seemed like a good idea. I vacuumed the stairs (instead of just taking the broom to them). If I had my druthers, I’d have wooden stairs, so the broom would always be the appropriate tool for this. As is it, the fabuloso upright vacuum that we got to deal with the cat hair (a duty it handles with aplomb) is too large for the stairs, and the little canister-and-wand jobbie that Traysi gifted me when I first got my apartment in town is getting a bit low on the suckage in its twilight years. I’ve done two loads of laundry, including half of the guest bedding (also a necessity, since the SCA Flophouse will be hosting Oskar (and his arbalest ! Ooooh !) from Over the Hill next weekend. Must now vaccuum upstairs and do something about the mail-o-lanche where our table used to be.

The sun and the northerly today mean that the floors and the laundry are both drying damn near instantly. The only trick being that since the first load was whites, which is mostly socks and undies, we ran out of clothespins, so the wind has been tossing Stephen’s holey socks all over the sideyard. Luckily, they dry just as well festooned over foxglove and flax as they do over the line.

Heard the first cicadas today, and New Zealand’s Largest Mob of Starlings — their nesting season apparently done — is starting to regroup in little streams and rivulets in the neighbor’s gum trees. Yesterday, I picked my way through the thicket of gorse, mahoe, and supplejack that Stephen has exposed in the bush block in Gallop to confirm that, yes, that *is* a tree fuscia in there, with two trunks a good five inches in diameter, festooned with silvereyes, and blooming.

Yay !

Triple Legal Goodness

Yesterday was a good day in NZ.

(1) Parliment passed the Civil Unions bill. It comes into effect April 26 next year. Pretty much all the same marriage rights to same sex couples (or any couple that would prefer a Civil Union to a marriage).

(2) The supreme court released Ahmed Zhoui (sp?) on bail. He has spent the last 2 years in prison without charge, a human-rights blight. He claimed to be a refugee, the SIS (Security Intelligence Service) said he was a terrorist, and held him based on secret information they had from other countries. Ahmed was a memeber of the elected Islamist parliment in Algeria who had to flee when the military annuled the elections, seized control, and ignited a really bloody civil war. Algeria really wants him back, and not in a good way. He is now living with a Dominican order of monnks in Auckland (and its really nice to see the Christians and Muslims getting along!)

(3) Yesterday at midnight the smoking ban came into effect. No smoking in public places, including restauants and bars! Woo! This will make it much easier to find a place to eat pleasantly without choking on someone elses smoke. Plus anything that might reduce the rate/incidence of smoking a bit is a great thing.

Okay

Some of the promised photos, in no particular order…

Jim, Jim’s head, Jim meets Oak, the Girls, the Herd (at the moment):

Part of the Rhododendron garden, the Boys, Stephen baiting a swan at Staglands, Ulf at the Day O Fun, Queen Vic:

From a driving trip we took recently, one of these things is not like the others…

Antics and grinding gears

Friday morning a sad thing happened. My lovely Husqvarna 252RX brushcutter started making horrible grinding noises! Oh no! I prompty shut it off and took it into the shop- fearing the worst (front gearbox shot). But after maintenance all seems to be well, and I get to go back and pick up my favorite toy again tomorrow.

The evening before (Thursday) Tam and I had been chain-sawing up more of the fallen Elm down at the front of the property. The chainsaw may yet become my favorite toy, it has an atavistic power of destruction that is hard to match. Clearing the fallen tree is complicated by the fact that we let it lie for 8 months, and vast quantities of tree-nettle has grown up among the fallen limbs. So Tam leads the way with loppers, clearing the limbs for me to whack-up with the chainsaw. Teamwork in its finest form!

Saturday morning I woke up “broken” (bad headache), thankfully a nap around lunchtime fixed that problem. The day was simply stunning, and when the conditions are still and warm the obvious choice is to head to a cold and windy place, right? Right! So we hopped in the car and drove down to Makara beach. Makara is in the hills due west of Wellington. While it is only 15 km or so from the city, it is quite isolated. The tiny winding roads play a big role there. The micro-climate also tends towards colder and wilder weather. We wandered down the beach trail for a bit, but had to head back early because we had guests coming over for dinner. Hopefully once we get a little used van we can bring Jim along and take our llama for walks on the beach. That would be cool.

Saturday evening we watched the final 7 episodes of RahXephon. Interesting. They did answer many of the questions. Some day I will have to watch it again and see if I pick up more clues, now that I know which factions people belong to.

Sunday we had warning of a big and nasty storm coming in. A cold and wet southerly, with the storm taking a track very similar to the nasty February storm. Before the storm started we moved the alpaca into the the front yard of the house, where they would have shelter. We moved the horses into the most sheltered paddock (gallop). We determined that Jim and the girls have much more sense than either Oak or Pointer, as they used the cover of the house to protect themselves from the wind and rain while the boys only had the cover from Tam’s car. Oh well, something about leading a horse to water there…

Monday night we watched another studio Ghibli film with Sharon, but not a Miyazaki one in this case- “Grave of the Fireflies.” A movie very few people have seen. A really good movie. Not a happy movie, but a good one. Probably in the top-5 best war movies ever made. All about the happy life in Tokyo, June through September 1945. A movie Americans should be forced to watch. Gave both Tam and I bad dreams, but that is the natural consequence of such a disturbing film. I think an English-dubbed version is now available, should you choose to watch it.

Forgotten Quote

Back a few weeks ago when we had a nice little feast-SCA event. The King was in town before Crown Tourney, so it was a great chance for a shindig. We had numerous visiting Australians, one of whom produced the wonderful quote:

“There are fireworks for sale in the grocery stores! Right next to the beer! I love this country!”