Sunday, 30 March 2008

St John to the rescue

It's a wet weekend in Wellington, for the first time in weeks. Unfortunately, it was too wet for our planned scavenger hunt around the city, so a few of us met for a long leisurely brunch instead.

The Brewery (Mac's) on the waterfront used to be a favourite brunch venue of mine. We were disappointed to find that their brunch menu had shrunk in proportion to their rise in prices. I'm happy to pay for quality food or coffee, but find $17 for eggs is ridiculous, no matter how good they are. So we popped next door instead.

St Johns Bar is now in its second incarnation. A former St John Ambulance station, it's quite different to the trendy club it used to be in my student days and is now more classy and refined. The brunch menu was great, with a good selection and reasonable prices. My 3-egg omelette was absolutely huge with yummy bacon, cheese, and sundried tomatoes. The buttermilk pancakes looked great, the big breakfast was just that, and a friend managed to use two huge, fluffy hash browns to absorb his three black ales.

We spent a lazy Sunday afternoon debating important global issues, including a heated discussion about the effect technology has on society, then set about solving the world's problems. All in a day's work, really. So, if our scavenger hunt is rained out again next week, we know what we'll do instead.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Alternative working spaces

My company is based in Christchurch, where about 12 of our staff work in the main office. The rest of us (25+) work remotely from wherever we live, so I work from home in Wellington and love it.

I met some friends (former colleagues) for coffee and a catchup at Astoria this morning and came home to blog about the café. They'd asked if I missed the contact of having people around me at work; I don't, as I still come into contact with lots of people through my job, but I also make a point of going out most evenings and in the weekend to avoid being 'at work' 24/7. As I was looking up Astoria's website (there isn't one), I came across this post by someone who also works from home, but bases himself at Astoria on Wednesdays each week to keep in contact with the outside world. This really got me thinking.

When my out-of-town colleagues are in Wellington, we sometimes meet at a café (or the airport) for a couple of hours to touch base and work collaboratively. It's great to know you can still be highly productive while working anywhere, any time.

Pros for working at a café for one day a week:
  • It would make sure you get out of the house for a decent length of time. Dashing to the supermarket, putting out the washing, or checking your mailbox does not count as leaving the house.
  • Others can meet or work with you without you having to feel bad about not getting the housework done.
  • A change (of scenery) is as good as a break, or so they say.
  • Good food, great coffee - what better way to promote productivity?
Cons for working at a café for one day a week:
  • Cafénet is great but, let's face it, expensive. I use it occasionally, but couldn't keep paying for it each week.
  • The constant chatter and noise would make it near-impossible to conduct audio meetings or phone calls.
  • People who think you're not really working, but just sitting around drinking coffee and therefore available to chat all day. (They think the same about me working from home. "Don't you get tempted to just watch TV all day?" Heck, I watch 2 hours of TV a week, if I'm lucky enough to find time for it!!)
Things to think about about if working at a café for one day a week:
  • You'd have to choose a place with really good coffee. Despite all the hype, Astoria just doesn't do it for me.
  • You'd have to be good at dodging mums with pre-schoolers during the day (I'm thinking Maranui, here.).
  • Free all-day parking is a must. That pretty much rules out most of town.
  • The café would have to be happy having you adopt a table for a whole day while existing on a couple of coffees, lunch, and gallons of free iced water. Some might.
What do you think? Does anyone else have a 'local' office away from home?

Thursday, 27 March 2008

The Laughing Fox

I'm on the road again, this time for work and just a short overnight trip to Foxton. Yes, you read me right: Foxton. Sheesh.

It was a very early start and has been a long day. However, I've learned some interesting things about Foxton today:
  1. There is more to Foxton (a whole street, in fact) than the main road. It runs parallel to State Highway 1.
  2. There are around 40 shops/businesses on or around that street (or so someone tells me the sign used to say ...).
  3. Hmmm. Actually, I think that's it.
Well, one of those businesses is the Laughing Fox Café on the main road. We had a huge meal here tonight. The menu is great and the portions generous (almost too generous, as they were also incredibly yummy). Well worth stopping at if you ever find yourself having to hang around in Foxton (as opposed to simply driving on through).

I think it's time for an early night. zzzzzz

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Rafting on the Buller Gorge

After having my arm severely (metaphorically) twisted behind my back, and as a consolation for refusing to jump out of a plane, I finally agreed to go white water rafting with my sweetie on Easter Sunday.

This was a big step for me, which was reinforced during our group briefing when contact lens wearers (me) were told to "just close your eyes and hope they stay in", and driven home as I tried to descend a bank to the river bed while sporting reconstructed ligaments in my ankle. Hmmm. Would the body hold up?

It did. Just. And it was great. (Yes, I really did enjoy it.) Rusty, our guide, was fantastic and managed to get me up and down rocks with a deft combination of skill and humour, and without too much strain. (So did my sweetie *hug*) I think the pics say the rest:


Friday, 21 March 2008

Watching whales and warm water

I've wanted to go whale watching at Kaikoura for a long time, and hearing stories from most of my family and lots of friends after whale watching trips these past few months, I decided it was time to head down to that part of the country. Whale Watch Kaikoura have an awesome website with updated information about the day's sightings and weather conditions. The scene was set.

We got to see two resident sperm whales, a bunch of dusky dolphins swimming alongside the boat (they were sooooo cute!), and a handful of albatrosses with wingspans of up to four metres each. Well, I say we but unfortunately, being sick as a dog for the first time ever while on a boat, I got to see very little. I'm hoping the photos will turn out. ;-(

So, after NO lunch, and a miserable drive further south and inland, we headed towards Hanmer Springs, where I was hoping for R&R and a break from throwing up. This is such a cute little town. Being highly dependent on tourism, we were pleasantly surprised to find everything open on Good Friday. The owner of our backpackers informed us that Easter is always the busiest weekend of the year. So off to the hot pools we went.

Quite pricey, you'd want to arrive at the pools with plenty of time to enjoy them. With a wide range of temperatures to choose from, we chopped and changed between thermal pools ranging from 36-41 degrees Celsius, trying short stints in each. It's at times like this that I try to work out how I can manage to put a private spa in my back yard (once I get a back yard, that is), but instead have to make do with other people's pools or hot springs in the meantime. Bliss.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Driver fatigue

I've often left for trips when tired from tying up loose ends at work etc, so I guess I've done more than my fair share of tired driving. This holiday was no different.

There seems to be a real blitz on driver fatigue at the moment. My sweetie and I arrived at the ferry this morning to be greeted by Police, receive bottled water for the driver, and information about driver fatigue for passengers. We appreciated the water (and mini-cookie) but gave it no further thought until we came across a driver reviver station as we passed through Half Moon Bay while heading south to Kaikoura.

Run by State, driver reviver stops are a brilliant idea. Real coffee (note: real, not instant or filtered), hot cross buns, fruit, bottled water, and Easter eggs inside big marquees were a welcome relief on the drive south. Apparently they're set up in long driving stretches over Easter and Labour weekends. (I wonder what happens at Queen's Birthday and other times of the year?). Great to see such a proactive initiative. :-)

Monday, 17 March 2008

How many addictions can one have??

Make no mistake: Facebook is still my #1 current addiction, and the novelty definitely hasn't worn off yet (as I was informed it would). I tend to add applications which keep on going, ie no one-off quizzes for me, which just end up cluttering my page and telling me what my kids' names are (what kids??!). Applications like Have You Ever, 10 Second Interview (which goes on for waaaaayyyy longer than 10 seconds, I should warn you) and Interview ask seemingly endless questions about the world's universally favourite subject: meeeeee! Scrabulous is one continuous round of excitement and mystery, even when I'm getting severely beaten. (It's always a thrill to be severely winning, but I actually prefer games where the scores are more evenly matched - it's makes the challenge just that much more exciting.)

But now I have another. I usually ignore most application invitations and decline to ask 10 (20/30/40) of my friends to add one so I can work out my karma sutra position ... but Scramble popped up yesterday, and in less than one day, I'm hooked. Oh dear, how easy was that? There is something oddly fascinating about mixing up random letters and manipulating them into bizarre little words while trying to beat the clock. Two of my usual Scrabulous buddies have joined Scramble and we now have mini-challenges going back and forth between us.

There's also a race-the-clock-and-beat-others-online style of game. Initially, this held no appeal until I realised my picture was at the top of the leader board ... and usually stays within the top 1-10 for the duration of a three-minute game. Ooh, the thrill - and rush - of a new addiction. :-D

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Dr Hook: Tonic for the Soul

Now that I know sloth is my deadly sin, I've decided to not bother with trying to fit in the housework and just spend more time doing other, more interesting things. After all, this is a self-indulgent blog - so why not transfer this concept to other areas of my life. ;-)

I've already shared the fact that my iPod is a mixed bag and has a range of great music, carefully selected crap, and lots of stuff in between. Dr Hook's Greatest Hits fits all of these categories beautifully. I gave it a whirl today.

Back in the days when they were still Dr Hook and the Medicine Show, the band came up with a clever gimmick by writing a dinky little song lamenting their inability to achieve every band's dream: to get their picture on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Well, it worked (in caricature, anyway), and while the song reeks of cheese, it has a soft spot in many muso's hearts for its sheer cheekiness.

Cheese supreme:
When You're In Love With a Beautiful Woman: 70s pop-cum-disco. I like the short version - the extended keyboard break in the long version doesn't really fit and tries too hard to cash in on a good thing (the underlying rhythm/backing).
A Little Bit More: the ultimate sexy/loving song. Simply painful to listen to when you're single.
Sharing the Night Together: lovely, cuddly music.
Sexy Eyes: ditto.
Sylvia's Mother: ooh, we feel your pain!

You've just gotta smile at these songs:
Walk Right In: kick-ass with a cutesy harmonica rhythm.
Baby Makes Her Blue Jeans Talk: for some reason, my budgie always starts chatting away loudly when I play this song.
Only Sixteen: a great version of Sam Cooke's original.

Some of the worst country-style crap ever written:
Sweetest of All:
was this really necessary?
The Millionaire: was this meant to be funny??
You Make My Pants Wanna Get Up and Dance: are you serious??!

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

My sin profile

Apparently seven deadly sins are no longer sufficient in today's world. Pope Benedict XVI has announced some more deadly sins to add to the collection. Gosh - as if seven weren't enough!

Predictably, people are now racing to determine which is their deadliest sin and which is their personal route to fire and brimstone ... this quiz pulls no punches and shows how you're doing.

Envy:Very Low
Lust:Very Low
Pride:Very Low

Hmm, sloth. My sweetie would have said procrastination. He might be right ... I'll think about it later. While I clean up. Maybe. Maybe not. ;-)

Sunday, 9 March 2008


My iPod informs me I have 4687 songs on it. Some people would consider that a lot; others would say "is that all?". For me, they are only the songs I actually want, and not just piles of crap music that someone gave me or that I haven't got around to deleting yet. Don't worry, there's still plenty crap music on there, but it's my choice of crap music, which makes all the difference for me.

Just because this is a self-indulgent blog ... here are the last ten songs, artists, the album they're from, and their rating out of five played on my iPod via shuffle:
  1. Best of You - Foo Fighters [no album] 3/5 - wow, forgot I had this song.
  2. Angie - Rolling Stones [Forty Licks] 4/5 - love that piano work.
  3. Hooked on a Feeling - Blue Suede [Reservoir Dogs soundtrack] 3/5 - don't really like the ooga-chugga bits, but it's a good song.
  4. (TSOP) The Sound of Philadelphia - MFSB [Rhythm & Black] 3/5 - great instrumental disco beat.
  5. Give It Away - Red Hot Chili Peppers [Greatest Hits] 4/5 - hmm, might move the rating down to 3/5 on this one.
  6. I'm Just a Lucky So and So - Ella Fitzgerald [Flying Home] 3/5 - I love Ella.
  7. I Can't Smile Without You - Barry Manilow [no album] 2/5 - see, I told you there was crap on here.
  8. I Could Never Take The Place of You - Prince [Ultimate Prince] 3/5 - one of the most talented musicians ever to cross this planet. Average song though.
  9. The Last Resort (Live) - Eagles [Hell Freezes Over] 3/5 - a 'song with a meaning'. They should have stayed away from protest songs.
  10. Je Te Veux - Vaya Con Dios [The Promise] 3/5 - wow, another surprise. Didn't realise just how much Vaya Con Dios I have on this iPod.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008


I changed the CDs in my car stereo this week. The Hollies are now back on my iPod, and Eurythmics have taken their place. This Greatest Hits album is from 1991, and one I'm glad to give a whirl again for a while.

Strangely nostalgic, even though I was too young to truly appreciate them in the 80s, I feel I have a connection with Eurythmics (note: not The Eurythmics) after they wandered into a friend's fish and chip shop in Island Bay when I was growing up ... and her parents served them without knowing who they were. Ambiguous, I know, but we got a huge buzz from it at the time. Sadly, their shop wasn't known for making good fish and chips, and we were surprised and almost embarrassed that out of the 5-6 others they could have chosen from in Island Bay, that's where they went.

Songs I've always loved:
Thorn In My Side: the ultimate in cool, especially the hugely pumped reverb on the drumss during the vocal break.
Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This: the long version. Chilling backing vocals and an unmistakable synthesised intro.
There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart): such a feel-good song and not a trace of cheese in sight. Love the piano rundown before the magical Stevie Wonder harmonica solo.
Missionary Man: such a kick-ass song, even though it was many years before I understood any of it. Have played the line "if I had a dollar bill for all the things I've done ..." repeatedly to crack that syncopated rhythm.
Love Is A Stranger: love the tension building up to that "zombie" line.

Songs I quite like:
When Tomorrow Comes: probably more for nostalgic reasons. One of my bands used to play this song years ago, although it never really went down well with a crowd.
It's Alright (Baby's Coming Back): great matching between the two vocals.
Who's That Girl?: really precise rhythm work going on with some very 80s instrumentation.
Here Comes The Rain Again: as above.

Songs I never really saw the attraction with:
Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves: yay for girl power and all that, but this song is hugely overrated.
Angel: yawn.

Monday, 3 March 2008

My Desperate addiction

I'm not a huge tv fan. At any given time, there are 1-2 programmes I follow, and in the years since Sex and the City finished, there's been little to tickle my fancy. That's why I'm so pleased that my Desperate Housewives addiction has now been reignited. For me, the world stops for an hour each Monday night at 8:30 pm. And then there's the Tuesday morning post-mortem with friends ... it's all good.

What's not to like about DH, I ask you? I have friends who say they've never got into the series, and one admits she doesn't understand it, but the rest of us are hard core addicts, and that includes a handful of guys!

Each series has its own distinct flavour, and while I found Series 2 a bit ho-hum, I'm glad to see a lot of the clever humour creeping back into Series 4. New characters with a past, quirky nuisances, cringe-worthy mishaps, and twisted secrets abound - it's incredibly addictive. We love to watch Susan put her foot in it, sympathise with superwoman Lynette, judge Bree the control freak, envy the glamorous Gabby, and tolerate Edie cos she says and does the things that secretly go through our mind but we're be scared to do in real life.

I'm disturbed to say that once again I have taken a Which Desperate Housewife Are You quiz and have once again turned out to be Lynette. How??! As my friends describe her, "oh, she's the crazy one with all the kids". Well, I certainly don't have kids, and who's to say what counts as crazy or not? Aren't we all a little crazy? Who writes these things??!