Not a typo, but the MV Doulos, currently berthed at Queen’s Wharf. It’s an interesting ship — built in 1914 as a steam cargo ship in Providence, RI, its first run was carrying onions from New York to Galveston, TX. After shipping along the east coast for a while, it did some time ferrying pilgrims to Rome, and then immigrants from Italy to Australia. Then came a stint as a luxury passenger liner. Currently, it’s a traveling missionary bookshop, with volunteers from all over the world.

I normally avoid Christian missionaries (or any other flavor, for that matter) like a plague of boils, but I couldn’t resist the lure of a book shop.

It has, as you might expect, racks upon racks of what I suppose I would describe as modern vanilla Protestant fiction and non-fiction. Lots of self-help-ish life affirmingness. Plenty of bibles, mostly the New International Version, in various sizes, bindings, translations (they must shift their stock around by port, because I saw a Tongan bible, but not, say, a German one), and spins (bibles “for men”, bibles “for women”, lots of bibles and bible excerpts for kids, daily message bibles, gardening bibles, whatever). I admit I was tempted by the Manga Bible. (On the cover, Manga Jesus: “Does he come to save the world — or destroy it?“)

Half the shop is childrens books, and not just churchy ones — all kinds, including some “name brands” like Disney, Dora the Explorer, etc. Lots of Narnia stuff, as you might imagine, and classics like Winnie the Pooh (all the Milne stuff, not just the Disney version). There were fairy tale collections, the Hardy Boys books… I spotted two copies of the Hildebrandt illustrated Robin Hood on special (the dust jackets were badly munged) for NZ$8.

They also have educational stuff — the NCEA standard textbooks, atlases, dictionaries, some language learning books and CDs, Hawking’s On the Shoulders of Giants (illustrated !). There were books on, say, dinosaurs (including childrens books) that did NOT insist they were put in the rock by God as a test of faith. (The “defense of Creationism” books were over in the “Bible Reference” section, with the concordances and the interpretive stuff). I went ahead and picked up a concordance, because I didn’t actually have one (Cruden’s, because it was cheap. I may have to get me a Young’s Analytical at some point…).

The balance is quite a lot of the inoffensive subset of the sort books you’d see on the sales tables at Whitcouls or Borders — heaps of cookbooks, gardening books, books on trains, horses, pets, quote-a-day, Sudoku, blank books, notecards, etc.

The prices are actually quite reasonable. All the books are tagged in “Dolous units”, so that when they reach a port, they can just post up charts showing how to convert Dolous units to whatever the local currency is — and since the prices are all rounded to the nearest 100, it’s pretty straightforward. 100 units = NZ$4.00. Most of the books looked to be under $20, and there were quite a lot that were 100 or 200 units.

I took my book over to the checkout, which was being run by a young Mongolian woman named Oogi (pronouned roughly “Oggie”). I correctly guessed from her name (most of which showed on the register screen) that she was Mongolian, and asked her to pronounce it for me. It was, alas, a tangle of consonants and not-quite-schwas that would have taken me a bit more time to get right than I had in the checkout line. She smiled at me a little wistfully and said that since no one can say it, she just goes by Oogi.

Ah well. I may go back today for another look at a coffee table book on the Sahara, and to see if they dredged up anything interesting in the nightly restock from the hold.

Weekend Report

Saturday, Tim and I went to the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, which is especially cool, in that it’s right smack in Wellington — well, on the edge of one of the big suburbs, anyway. They came up with a special predator-and-vermin-proof fence to keep out all the rats and possums and stoats and stuff, so they have super rare birds and tuatara and weta and things you’d only otherwise get to see on one of the off-shore islands. The treat for me this time around were the saddlebacks. I’d never seen one before, and we saw heaps of them, quite close. Like a lot of New Zealand’s rare birds, they are not it the least bit shy (part of how they got to be so rare).

Sunday, we had a billion people over (okay, well, fifteen or so) to watch Mulan, eat stir fry, and play Mah Jong. Although due to an eBay special a few years back, I own no less than three Mah Jong sets (although not one of the vintage bone-and-bamboo ones I really covet), I yet embarrassed myself by not actually remembering how to play. I found some super simplified rules at Sloperama, the online home of everything you ever wanted to know about Mah Jong (and also, incidentally, hanafuda, which other former Back Smokerites may also remember fondly), and we muddled through. I’ve since found a more thorough, and yet still quite straightforward set of rules at Masters Games, and have printed these out to use next time.


This weekend we finally got to play with the stock scales we purchased back in March, and it explained a lot. Our impressions about the “right” size of an alpaca were badly distorted by the first ones we bought, lo these many years ago. The official weight range for alpaca (from Eric Hoffmans “The Complete Alpaca Book”) is 45-84 kg. Many of ours our bigger. Much bigger.
Oak is 108.5. Boo is 107. Sure, both of them are also fat, but even so that is huge for an alpaca! Girls are also supposed to be smaller than boys, yet we have many non-fat girls that are really big (Blaze at 88kg, Victoria at 87.5kg, Tessa  at 85.5kg).  Even Galadriel, who we figured was an “average” 70kg or so, came in at 80.

So yes, we do in fact have big monsterous ‘paca. I am glad most of them are nice, as if they decided to get mean and nasty, I don’t know what we could do to stop them!