Thursday, December 28, 2006

Fruit of my loins

Recent H & K snippets:

On Xmas Day I said that they could each take one new thing to bed with them for their nap. After careful consideration and deliberation K took her new toothbrush.

The worst curse they use is "I'm going to throw you in the rubbish." Sometimes I need to reassure them that I will never, ever throw them in the rubbish.

H is great at coming up with plans that meet everyone's different requirements. In the midst of a discussion about what we're going to do she'll pipe up and say "I've got a plan why don't we ..." and perfectly solve the problem.

K has a new book about fairies kidnapping a mortal. She asked me what a mortal was, and I explained that it is a normal person who isn't a fairy and that all the people she knows are mortals. She told adamantly that me she is not a mortal, everyone else may be mortal but she is a fairy.

Yesterday K wore her bikini bottoms over her trousers, so I think she may be a superhero rather than a fairy.

[P.S. I've added a picture to yesterday's post.]

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gold, cat food and myrrh

On Christmas Eve H, K and I visited my parents and went for a walk. As we passed a garage a few doors down the road we heard a loud, persistent, unhappy miaowing. We talked to the cat through the door and checked to see if we could let it out. Like half of Wellington the owners appeared to be away for Christmas and had most likely shut this cat in accidentally when they left.

My mother got some water and cat food and slid it through the small gap under the door and tried the neighbours to see if they had any way of contacting the couple who own the garage. No joy. We also noticed the cat was not moving around the garage and did not come to where we were. We worried it was trapped not only in the garage but also within the garage.

On Christmas Day I visited the garage again. I was pleased to see nearly all the food we'd provided had gone. I topped up the food and saw, for the first time, a fluffy white and ginger nose and was able to read the name BAZ on his collar. The collar also had a phone number but I couldn't read it as Baz wasn't keeping his head still enough. I reached through the gap to hold the collar and Baz pulled away and left me holding a loop of wire that had been around his neck. The wire looked like it came from a paper lampshade and was possibly why he couldn't come to us the previous day.

Talking to Baz

Next I managed to get hold of Baz's collar and it came off in my hand. Good new - now we had a phone number, bad news - the phone number had been disconnected. The other side of the collar had the name and number of a vet in Palmerston North. I rang their emergency number and they called back with a little more information about Baz's people but no current number. I also registered Baz on

On Boxing Day my mother rang to say that the garage is no longer miaowing. We hope Baz has escaped and gone home. Today the vet rang with the name of Baz's people and I managed to track down their new number and have left a message to call if Baz isn't home.

Baz's plight has been the theme of Christmas 2006 for me. It has most of the elements a good Christmas story needs. I'm just hoping it has a happy ending.

[K is closer to the camera with the pink gumboots, H is in orange.]

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Six geese a-laying updates

The nanny hunt is not going well. My nanny leaves us at the end of this week and I don't have a replacement yet. I have another interview planned for Wednesday night. Hopefully that will go well because all the agencies close down for a couple of weeks over Xmas. In fact the whole country closes down for a couple of weeks.

My operation didn't go quite as well as I hoped but the results are OK and heaps, heaps better than before. Coming off high doses of hormones has also been great, I've lost weight, stopped having headaches, stopped being randomly excessively hot (I'll save that for menopause) and been feeling generally happier and more resilient.

I'm still quite conscious of scarring from the chicken pox but no one else really notices and the worst ones are under my clothes.

I've been sticking to my excercise plan and enjoying it.

D is back and has no more trips planned although his work would like him to go again soon and he isn't very good at saying "No".

H and K are in rude health and enjoying the build up to Christmas.

Monday, December 18, 2006

To sleep, perchance to dream

My best beloved, D, thinks that sleeping is a social acitivity. Given a group of people chatting he'll probably be snoozing in the corner. I mention this because I was going to write about the wonderful production of Hamlet I saw recently but I just realised that he is snoring into his book so I'll wake him up and drag him off to bed.

Actually first I'll cut and paste these snippets about Hamlet from a chat:

Hamlet was angsty, self-involved and unpleasant. The King, who was also the dead King, was excellent in a very intense way. Ophelia was mostly believable, Polonius was funny, Gertrude wasn't very good but they didn't try making it all oedipal so that didn't matter and I've never really got it like that anyway.

Must to bed. Last night I had Shakespearian dreams including a play within a play/dream.

Oh and Hamlet said the 'To be or not to be' speech at Ophelia which one felt probably contributed to her later demise.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

One good mum

I am a good parent because I:

Answer H & K's questions
Bear with the frustrations of parenthood
Choose their other carers carefully
Don't use corporal punishment
Express my love
Feed them healthy food
Give cuddles and kisses
Have boundaries
Instil good eating habits
Juggle all our needs with some success
Keep my temper
Laugh with them
Mean what I say
Never smoke
Only watch TV when they're in bed
Praise their efforts
Quickly respond to unsafe situations
Read bedtime stories
Stop and listen to what they have to say
Try to be fair
Understand the value of play
Value their interests
Want to be a good parent
X-rayed my own hands holding H's
Yearn for them to grow into happy adults
Zip up their pyjamas with love

Footnote: This post originally began with a question "Am I a good mum?" and listed points for and against. But I decided that I really don't acknowledge the positives enough and that's why the post ended up like this.

Another reason for the penguins

"Or, at least, about a tenth of the [memory] cabin trunks were full of vivid and often painful or uncomfortable memories of her past life; the other nine tenths were filled with penguins, which surprised her..."
From The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams via Which Surprised Her.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

With silver bells

For my work Christmas party the poster says:

Remember you are encouraged to wear your most innovative, comical or beloved Christmas decoration.
Most innovative: Many moons ago I thought of decorating a tree with unwrapped tampons, like this but au naturel.

Most beloved: the Father Christmas I was given when I was about eight which still has the footprint on his face from being stood on on his first Christmas morning.

Most comical: whichever of these appeals to your sense of humour.

I don't think my workmates would cope well with the first and my Father Christmas is currently AWOL so I might be unadorned.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Heortophobia - fear of holidays

Last summer we went to Nelson and Blenheim with my parents, Granny and Grandpa. I refound the notes I made:

FRI - Ferry (2hrs late), H & K peered in campavan, K sat on [a] Harley, H sick in night

SAT - R & D to Market, H & K to playground & river

SUN - Tahunanui Beach - H & K jumped in waves

MON - R & D & H & K to wee zoo - H [liked the] mice & rabbits ([in] large containers), K [liked the] monkeys

TUE - R & D to Havelock, H & K fed ducks in Queens Garden

WED - Long drive to Blenheim, lots of stops, Japanese Garden, Potty in Rest Area, Pelorus Bridge, Diggers, H & K swim

THU - R sick, H & K to playground with G & G

FRI - to Choc Factory & Museum, K sick lots

SAT - R & D to Wedding (D feeling unwell)

SUN - Ferry home, K sick pm

I remember it as the holiday of being vomitted on.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The best thing with sliced bread

I have recently discovered supermarket shopping online and I'm hooked. I love the way that it doesn't take much longer than making the list. I love that I can see all the products that meet my search criteria in one place. I love the way that substitutions for products that are out of stock add an element of surprise to unpacking. I love that you can leave instructions for your 'personal shopper' and that they follow them. I love that they give you something extra - a present of celery last week and lip gloss this week.

'Tis the season to be irrational

I just don't get it. Why do people try and make their kids believe in Santa? Would they think that using the same logic to get them to believe in God was appropriate?

I do kind of get the people who tell their kids that Nana is now a star. I wouldn't do it but I understand the temptation.

But Santa? Really? Why??

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Oh Christmas Tree

When I was growing up we always had a real christmas tree. Normally a large branch off the neighbour's enormous pines. On Christmas Eve my father would take the ladder down to the bottom of the garden, pull it through the undergrowth to the fence, prop the ladder against the tree and climb up. The next phase of the procedings involved extensive negotiatons with the accompanying daughter or daughters, with my father eventually settling for the largest, reachable branch potruding across the fence.

When I moved out of home I bought a four foot tall, fake christmas tree and a large bag of cheap ornaments. The ornaments include a very strange set of slightly furry polystyrene amoebas wearing masks. They slightly resemble Father Christmases, angels, elves and snowmen in a spooky kind of way. They are not only slightly deformed but also made by aliens who thought that it would be appropriate to give the snowmen legs.

Figure 1. Masked "elf".

Figure 2. "Snowman" showing caudal pseudopods.

(Note low quality of photography due to alien interference with Earth technology and in no way reflecting on lazy blogger using phone rather than decent digital camera).

Last night H said to me "Do we have a christmas tree?" so I told her that we'd get it down when K and she were both in pyjamas. In think they broke the pyjama donning record.

Here is the end result:

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Is it me or is it you?

This is an update on my nanny search.

I interviewed three nannies: a not sufficiently child focussed one, a lovely sporty one and a possibly paranoid one. I thought the lovely sporty one would be a great influence on our children. So I got D to do a phone interview with her. After which he emailed me. His only comment was:

... she didn't sound like an axe-murderer. Did you know her boyfriend is from

Is it just me or does this seem a little lacking in information? (D is from Wainuiomata).

I found out we were both keen. So I tried to ring her. A number of times. I couldn't get hold of her. I started to think she was avoiding me. Yesterday she rang and spoke to K. She explained she'd mislaid her phone and was keen to talk to me. She seemed enthusiastic. I was very, very hopeful.

Last night I rang her. She told me she has accepted another job. I was too disappointed to even hear the reason she gave.

This morning I felt it was all my fault and I couldn't even get hold of D to talk to him about it. Now, thanks to I, s and finally talking to D, things are looking up a little.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Deck the halls

It turns out my staggeringly early Xmas shopping was none too soon. On Saturday the girls and I went to the C family Xmas celebration, D being a C by birth and me an honary C by marriage. D was missing as he is in the US, again, humph.

It made me think about how different our two families' Xmases are.

The C family can have their Xmas on 2 December where you can only tell it is Xmas because there is a beautiful tree and presents. My family, the Hs, are flexible too, we can move our Xmas celebration from lunchtime to the evening of 25 December.

The C family was missing people who live in the Wellington region but were out with friends. The H family would take it hard if anyone within 300kms was missing.

The C family had casual BBQ with people milling about, sometimes they have a afternoon affair with nibbles. The H family sit down to a three course meal, always. First course is turkey, second Xmas pudding and third glace fruit and nuts.

The C family normally gives presents only to lower generations so D & I get two presents each and H & K get six each. The H family each family gives each person a present so H & I will get about the same number.

I love both. I'm glad not to have to rush between two Xmas celebrations on one day and still go to both. I'd be disappointed to only have the low key C Xmas and two traditional Xmases would be one too many. I am glad I don't have to think of presents for each of D's siblings and their partners but enjoy choosing presents for all my family.

Two happy christmases are better than one.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Shoot me now

I saw a car this morning and immediately the music from the current TV ad for that make went through my head.

Musing about beauty

Sitting on the bus it occured to me that human eyes probably look very ugly to other mammals. Normal mammalian eyes do not show the white except if the animal is distressed. Maybe to other mammals we look permanently distressed. Or maybe ideas of beauty are not based on our own species. Think of fur, fur is deeply attractive to humans even though we don't have it ourselves. People are often repelled by pink animals that aren't furry, think of sphinx cats and rats' tails. I am left without a conclusion.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Space is big

I use Google a lot and I have personalised google home with the Nasa Image of the Day and Astonomy Picture of the Day pictures on it. Sometimes they have images that just blow me away, like these to from today (click on them for more info):

Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Hold me tight

We have cable broadband. Right now I'm on hold on the phone logging a fault with the provider. The problem is that over the last few months the cable from the pole to our house has been mysteriously getting longer and longer. At first it just swayed in the wind, then it slapped against the telephone line and now it is getting tangled in the tree. It can't be good for it.

Possible explanations (to fill the time on hold):
  • there is a very heavy possum in the neighbourhood
  • a invisible spider spins some more each night
  • they made the cable out of knicker elastic by accident
  • the cable wants to be a swing
  • the call centre staff have been swinging on it hoping for my call

[and then a human being spoke to me again.]

test by


Updated by the real RUTH to add:
Look, look. Down below. Now you can see the labels for each post. I'm so excited.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Movie Review - The Filth and the Fury

Channel surfing for something to watch while I ate my dinner alone I found The Filth and the Fury on C4 (a free to air mostly music channel), a feature length documentary about the Sex Pistols. To my surprise I found it gripping and to my even greater surprise touching.

It had a particularly strange relationship with the ads. The movie itself cuts to live performances, videos and bizarre excerpts of old British TV so when the movie cut to Bic Runga sweetly singing or an ad for some album it took me a moment to realise it wasn't part of it.

The most poignant image for me was a grown up Johnny Rotten crying as he talked about the death of his friend Sid and saying "If only I was smarter."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Christmas starts earlier every year

I used to like leaving all my Xmas shopping 'til Christmas Eve. In the couple of weeks before Xmas town is full of people and half of them are dithering. On Christmas Eve town everyone is focussed.

This year I have done the unthinkable. I have done more than half our Xmas shopping already. I did it on Friday. This is easier than it sounds because I think the world is divided into two kinds of people: people who love books and will appreciate getting more, and people who do not have enough books and need more.

Xmas shopping this early is OK too because most normal people are not Xmas shopping yet.

My excuses for indulging in this abnormal behaviour are a) D is away for most of December and I didn't want to worry about it while he was away, b) while I was away sick for a month my annual leave accumulated to the point where HR began hassling me to spend it so I took a day off for Xmas shopping (and a million other things some of which also got done) and c) the dog ate it.

Looking for love

We have had three wonderful nannies. When the first wonderful nanny left us to train as a midwife I dreaded her going and thought we'd never find someone good enough again. Since then I've learnt that each great nanny brings different strengths and helps H & K grow in different ways.

Finding a good nanny is still hard. It is such an important job. I want someone who loves our children and is loved by them, is proactive, positive, patient and playful and is interested in, and knowledgeable about, child development. I want someone who shares our values and will help our children to be intelligent, confident and caring.

I have interviewed people for lots of jobs at work. It is not the same. Choosing a nanny is a leap of faith. It is entrusting the most important people in my life to a stranger. It gives me great sympathy for parents arranging marriages.

When I employed our current nanny I knew she was going to university next year. Uni starts in March. I assumed she'd be with us until mid-February. She handed in her resignation last week. She is leaving us at the end of December. So now I am looking for a new nanny.

This is my fourth nanny search and so I have a lot of it sorted: I can copy most of the email I sent the nanny agencies last time, I just have to print out the interview and phone pre-interview questions, I know more or less what I am looking for. What I don't know is whether the right person is out there this time, whether I will recognise the wrong ones.

Wish me luck.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Great things are afoot

Last Friday H fell and hurt her foot. She walked on it a little straight afterwards but then wouldn't. We gave her an ice pack and much sympathy. K decided her foot hurt too. Fortunately H still thinks crawling is an acceptable form of locamotion. Unfortunately K thought having a "hurt foot" meant she had to be carried.

Then H woke in the night yelling in staccato bursts, a sound she has never made before. I sleepily put a crepe bandage on her ankle, which seemed to help. On Saturday morning when she still wouldn't walk I took her to the after-hours doctor. He checked it out, told us it wasn't a sprain and that she should walk on it to help it get better.

H, who is stoic, obedient and has a high opinion of doctors, limped valiantly. Meanwhile K showed a remarkable memory, consistency and persistance by remembering to limp too. I didn't have the heart to tell K that walking with your legs as far apart as possible, although difficult, is not limping.

I took H to the doctor so quickly partly out of guilt. H last hurt her foot when she was one. She had been walking unsupported for only a week when she fell and landed badly. She went back to only walking clutching a hand or piece of furniture. The first week I wasn't worried. K had started walking a month earlier and she had started, stopped for a week for no apparent reason, and then got started again. By the second week I was worried but I was also totally distracted by organising us all to accompany D who was going to be in hospital in Auckland for the third week. We got home, H started walking again, D recovered much faster than expected and next time H had problems walking I got her to the doctor in less than 24 hours.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Baby, baby

Everyone is pregnant. Actually I know three people at the just telling people stage, three at the stopping work stage and two in the middle. I haven't known so many people pregnant at once since I was too. Happily my gut reaction to all these pregnant people when I can never be pregnant again is pleased. I was prepared for semi-irrational jealously, avoidance and/or sadness. I'm never sure whether preparing for the worst case scenario is a good habit resulting in my expectations often being exceeded or excessively negative and paranoid.

Update: the next day - one baby out, one more pregnancy learnt of.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Parenting advice

On the cable car (which is actually a funicular railway) I overheard two young guys talking. One told the other how he'd bumped into a girl he used to go to school with and now she had a kid, and not only that, she is now a pole dancer and his friend said "Well, when you've had a kid what can you do?"

I must say pole dancing never crossed my mind.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

In the little bumpy car

My ideal car for our current requirements is:
  1. automatic
  2. second hand
  3. a people-mover (comfortably seats 6 with room for baggage)
  4. environmentally friendly (e.g. a hybrid)
  5. painted metallic purple, colour-shifting purple/green or with a mural

Unfortunately environmentally friendly doesn't currently go with either second hand or a people-mover.

At the moment we have a Honda Odyssey people-mover and even though we mostly don't need the extra capacity sometimes it is wonderful. Someone on our street has got a Toyota Prius and I'd like to be as green as the Jones's.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Commit me

One of the concerns I had before my operation was that I'd get lazy afterwards and not get back into my exercise regime. This week I have been getting back into it fine but just to make sure I thought I'd put it in writing, post it in public and tattoo it on my forehead.

I will:
  • walk to work every weekday it isn't raining
  • aquajog most Tuesday mornings
  • go to Pilates at the gym on Thursdays (and do circuits if I miss the class)
  • go to Tai Chi on Mondays

Good thing I have a fringe.

Do you like my style?

In particular are the links visible enough?

Any other comments on the look and feel of this blog also welcome. I am just starting to add labels.

Living in oblivion

I found out today from a news website ( that Al Gore was in Auckland today. The article included this snippet:

Mr Gore chuckled when a journalist, trailing behind him, asked which Rugby World Cup stadium he would prefer.
He said he had no comment on the matter.

Sometimes I am embarassed to be a kiwi.

Friday, November 10, 2006


I have hiccups. This is the *hic* third lot of hiccups I've had this evening. *hic* I wish they'd go away. They are *hic* distracting me and interfering with the *hic* clarity of my writing. But never-the-less here *hic* are my three hiccup stories:

  1. I used to work in an office where one person thought I nearly always had the hiccups. This was because of the floor plan. Let me explain. There was main corridor loop and all the offices and open plan areas were fed off the corridor, except in one corner where an office had been created in the corridor. To get to my desk from the lifts, I'd turn left so as not to walk through the office in the corridor and then walk half way round the loop. To get to the kitchen from my desk I normally went back, past the lifts and around a the corridor so as not to walk through the office in the corridor. The one time I'd walk straight from my desk, through the office to the kitchen was when I had the hiccups. As a result the person whose office it was saw me a) when I had the hiccups and b) at social club drinks.
  2. My grandfather had hiccups for a whole day on his honeymoon. He tried lots of different hiccup remedies but none of them worked. Eventually they just went away.
  3. He probably didn't try this but it did get the authors the Ignobel prize for medicine this year.

I'll go *hic* and drink a glass of water backwards now.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Picking the scabs out of my hair

I'm back at work today. I've worked one and a half days in the last month. I've lost the rhythm of working. It all seems strange to me. Just think of the millions of years of evolution that have gone into developing a lifeform that sits behind a desk reading email. Perhaps proof of the undirected nature of the process? We are all just accidents on the way to making the best bacteria.

One of the many emails I've been trolling through said:

The innocent victims of Internet child abuse cannot speak for themselves.
We need you to light a candle of support <>.
We're aiming to light at least One Million Candles by December 31, 2006.
This petition will be used to encourage governments, politicians, financial institutions, payment organisations, Internet service providers, technology companies and law enforcement agencies to eradicate the commercial viability of online child abuse.
They have the power to work together. You have the power to get them to take action.
Please light your candle at <> or send an email of support to
Together, we can destroy the commercial viability of Internet child abuse sites that are destroying the lives of innocent children.
Kindly forward this email to your friends, relatives and work colleagues so that they can light a candle too.

The page the links take you to has two links, the one labelled ENTER didn't work for me, the one that says "If you cannot see a flame on this candle, click here" did.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

10 lies about my chicken pox

  1. It is better to get chicken pox as an adult.
  2. I've been sicker with the 'flu.
  3. Having a hundred spots on my face made me feel beautiful.
  4. I'm disappointed none of my spots got infected and I didn't get pneumonia or encephalitis.
  5. Taking oral antihistamines was a waste of time.
  6. I'm not itchy.
  7. Next time I'm sick I hope my favourite doctor is away again.
  8. I hope to have permanent scarring.
  9. I'm glad the doctor told me that Pinetarsol is just a placebo and I agree with his judgement.
  10. I'm looking forward to picking the scabs out of my hair at work.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Eat brains

To celebrate this little known and just invented Zombie Day I bring you:
and a reminder that the only real way to kill a zombie is to fill its mouth with salt, sew the lips shut and then bring it in sight of the sea.

That furry feeling

Are cat lovers sick?

Toxoplasmosis is disease caused by a parasitic protozoan. The life cycle the protozoan is aiming for goes from cats to soil to rodents to cats. When rodents are infected with toxoplasmosis their behaviour changes: their reaction times are slowed and they are attracted to (rather than being repelled by) the smell of cats. This is clearly a good thing for the protozoan as it makes the rodents it infects more likely to be eaten by cats.

In the life cycle of the protozoan it is easy for things to go wrong. Many other animals, not just rodents, can become infected from the soil. Humans can become infected either from eating imperfectly washed vegetables grown in soil with toxoplasmosis oocysts in it or from eating inadequately cooked meat from animals who became infected from such soil. Recently studies have been done that show that people infected by toxoplasmosis also have slower reaction times and much higher car accident rates.

When I was pregnant I realised that if toxoplasmosis is common in NZ then I have it - I grew up with cats who hunted and a vege garden. What I wonder is, there are clearly people who are drawn to cats, is this also an effect of toxoplasmosis? If you tested people who grew up with cats but are not 'cat people' would you find that they are not infected?

Am I infected because I'm a cat person or am I a cat person because I'm infected?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


How to create a great look for halloween

  1. Do not get chicken pox as a kid
  2. Have kids
  3. Forget to get immunised
  4. Expose your kids to chicken pox in late September
  5. Wait

It is much better looking hideous on an appropriate date.

This year we set out to attract what H called Trickle Treaters. Our wonderful nanny made jack o'lantern cut outs for H & K to colour in which we stuck on the windows. H & K went up on the garage roof with their dad and called out excitedly to any children they saw. Then when the Trickle Treaters were clearly coming to our house H & K would rush downstairs to give them sweets. They loved it.

Before they went up on the garage roof I suggested they put some dress ups on over their pyjamas, K chose a lei and a fairy skirt. H, who has blue pyjamas with a picture of a crocodile, gave me a withering look and said "People will think I'm a crocodile."

Monday, October 30, 2006

Itching only makes it worse

In a desperate attempt not to write a post whingeing about my chicken pox I was looking for chicken pictures on the web and on page 4 of a Google image search for "chicken" I found this:

From Sadly there is a perfectly logical explanation which is not that the BBC mistook the Queen for a chicken.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Too poxy

If you are a parent, who hasn't had chicken pox and your children have not been inoculated against it, get yourself vaccinated now. I had a vague intention of getting vaccinated but I didn't get round to it. I really regret that.

Chicken pox is a nastier disease in adults than children. I have had a temperature for four days (which would be dramatic if I wasn't controlling it - it sits at about 37.6 at the moment after Panadol), I'm achey, my spots hurt and last night I got at least a hundred new ones.

Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow.

Go get vaccinated.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Poxy lady*

I have chicken pox. I am achey and sweaty. I don't have many pustules at the moment, long may it stay that way. At least pustule is a wonderful word.

*I'm not a lady but I couldn't resist this title.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

What you don't know

This morning K was covered in spots. She is delighted to have chicken pox as we've been making a fuss of H's chicken pox and so surely it must be a good thing, right?

Monday, October 23, 2006

The great spam conspiracy

I understand that there is a lucrative market for erectile dysfunction drugs, I understand that people buy them cheaply off websites, but it seems absolutely improbable to me that anyone receives spam and thinks: "Ah, how helpful, just what I've been looking for, I'll order some now."

So if the purpose of the spam is not to directly sell drugs what is it? It could be to increase brand recognition and normalise the use of these drugs. If so it is the pharmeceutical companies who would profit from this. So deep in the bowels of Pfizer maybe there is someone saying "Mwah, ha, ha. Our dastardy plan is working. Crank the handle again Igor and send out another wave of those garbled esoteric messages."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Contains live culture

I am fascinated by cultural differences. Nearly every funeral I've ever been to the coffin has been coffin shaped (an irregular hexagonal prism), but nearly all the coffins on TV are American caskets which are rectangular boxes. Of course anthropologists have been writing about differences between different cultures funeral customs for a long time. But cultures don't limit themselves to differences in important things - I married into a family who use fluffy (towelling) tea towels, I come from a family who use flat linen tea towels, and I have negotiated a compromise of waffle weave tea towels.

I live in a land where a normal washing machine is a top loader and you drag the vacuum cleaner along behind you on little wheels. I've spent a fair amount of time in England where the normal washing machine is a front loader and the normal vacuum cleaner is an upright. When I last bought a washing machine I considered a front loader because they use less energy and water but we ended up buying a fairly eco-friendly top loader because, well, they are just the way washing machines should be. It amazes and amuses me that humans create such astounding diversity in everything and then culture helps us limit the diversity to manageable proportions.

Even more than appliances I am fascinated by the cultural differences in toilets. I have been meaning to write about this for a while but I didn't have time until I gave up on the all singing, all dancing version with lots of links and pictures of toilets from all over the world.

In my experience the two most common designs are what I will call the "Deep" and the "Shallow". The Deep is the standard UK, NZ, Australian toilet. The Shallow is the standard American toilet. To me the most distinctive differences between these two designs are the distance between the bottom and the water, the surface area of the water, the visibility of the contents and the way they flush.

When sitting on a Deep toilet there is about a foot between ones naked bottom and the water below. This ensures a loud and satisfying splosh when substances drop from one into the other and that when wiping ones nether regions one is unlikely to get the toilet paper accidentally wet. In contrast a Shallow toilet minimises the distance from bottom to water and the water itself is shallower this reduces the splosh factor, an advantage for those in favour of discrete excretion.

However there is one area where the Deep toilet design leads the Shallow for discreteness. The Shallow toilet has a much larger surface area of water and only a very small amount of the water (if any) is hidden from view whereas much of the water in a Deep toilet out of sight in the S bend. This means that for those of us who come from countries with Deep toilets it is only when we visit countries with Shallow toilets that we realise just how much poo an adult produces. It is amazing! The Deep toilet may loudly announce to anyone in earshot that someone has pooed but only a Shallow toilet allows the pooer to observe the entire output at their leisure.

Finally there is the issue of flush, when a Shallow toilet flushes the bowl is entirely emptied. This may seem like a piece of excellence in toilet design and it is what makes the stereotypical American traveller comment on going home "where the plumbing works" but there is a problem, after the bowl has entirely emptied when it refills some of the water that has drained away is coughed back up into the bowl. Why this should be so is beyond my understanding as it seems to cancel out the entire point of emptying the bowl completely. Maybe I am missing something.

As well as the Shallow and the Deep designs other toilets I have come across that deserve special mention are the Greek and Austrian designs. The Greeks, who have had civilisation for thousands of years have designed a toilet that flushes poo but not paper. It is a marvel of engineering, it looks harmless enough, the wee bin beside the toilet look innocent enough but if you should forget to use the wee bin for its intended purpose be warned - no matter how many times you flush, the paper will stare accusing back at you. My advice - leave quickly and try to look innocent. From an environmental point of view this is a desirable design - human waste is easier to process when it is not contaminated with paper.

I only spent a couple of hours in Austria in 1997 but I did go to a toilet there which was so interesting I took a photo and my researches have since confirmed that it was a normal Austrian toilet. Austrian toilets have a shallow puddle of water entirely separate from the drain which is at the front. This leads me to suspect that Austrians are even keener output inspectors than Americans. When flushed the water rushes from the back, surging over the puddle and into the drain, hopefully washing everything with it.

I used to think there was an optimal toilet design but now I suspect that toilet design should and does reflect something about a nation's psyche, history and natural resources.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Guilty pleasures

I haven't been posting because I have been away from an internet connection. D whisked me away to recover away from our children. That's right, we have left H, recovering from chicken pox, and K, about to come down with them, in the tender care of the wonderful W. The last couple of days we mooched around Martinborough and ate Schoc chocolates - the lapsang souchong is my favourite.

[Link to Schoc website to be added if they have one when I'm not on dial-up.

Later - Here is the link but you have to go through so much fluff to get to the chocolates that I'm not adding it without this warning.]

Monday, October 16, 2006

Three cats' tales

These are tales of the names of the three cats that I have grown up with.

My family got our first cat when I was three, my mother decided to get a cat partly because I was scared of them and my mother thought that it would make me get over it. She is also a cat person and I think life had settled down to a point where having a cat seemed like a natural thing to do. We went to the home of person from the Cats' Protection League and got a beautiful, sleek almost entirely black cat. On the way home in the cat box she said "Ow" and I said "Ow" back. My parents asked my sister(5) and I what we wanted to call the cat. I said "Ow". My sister said "Sarah", Sarah was her favourite name in the whole world just then. A little later my sister's favourite name was "Clare". The cat's name became Ow Sarah Clare. Over time my sister tried hard to give our cat the best possible name. Ow Sarah Clare Puffbang Lawnmower Shining-eyes Black-fur Ow was, as a result, called "Puss". I remember her best for her love of eating spiders, dust baths and being stroked, and her dislike of being picked up.

When I was eight we decided to get a kitten (as our family cat was no more). Someone we knew vaguely had a queen with four kittens. One black and white, one tabby, one tortie and one ginger. My parents held an STV election for which kitten we got. The ginger kitten had come second in everyone's ballots and won. It was decided that this cat would have one name. Our English cousins, who we all admired, had a cat called Ginger. Our kitten became Gingy. I seem to remember this being decided partly to avoid confusion with Ginger. The fact that Ginger and Gingy lived on different sides of the world and would never meet not withstanding.

Gingy was a staunch, feisty cat. I have many stories of his exploits: skateboarding, ignoring buses and chasing the neighbours' dog for starters. He was the cat of my teens. The cat whose fur I wept into when I thought no one understood me. The cat who stared so balefully at one of my boyfriends when we were canoodling on the couch that he asked if I could put him outside. I'm sure Gingy would have asked me to do the same to the boyfriend if he'd had the words.

My best beloved, D, and I are both cat people. When I no longer had rats (I'll tell you about them another day) we started talking about having a cat. Finally one day I rang D from work. He was getting really stressed out over his master's thesis. I decided if I couldn't be there as a stress counsellor during the day we needed feline help. So I got him to pick me up from work that afternoon, over protests he was too busy and too stressed, and we went out to the SPCA.

I had criteria - no long-hairs, no Siamese, no white cats and no kittens. D had criteria - a friendly lap cat. I also wanted a cat who would be quite different from Gingy. We looked at big cats and small cats, old cats and young cats, cats with loving families moving overseas and abandoned semi-strays. We spent a long time in the cat room and none of them seemed quite right. Eventually we sat down in the middle of the cat room and talked about whether we could in good conscience leave all these homeless but not quite right cats and come back another day. That's when the cat made his move. He jumped up on D's lap and settled down possessively. He was whiter, furrier and more like Gingy than I'd planned but he was clearly a friendly lap cat and he'd picked us.

On the long drive home, over the extremely loud wailing from the cat box we discussed a name. There had been a possibility of adopting a cat called Hamish that had fallen through and I said how I liked people names. D said if I didn't decided quickly enough we'd have to call him Ploppy. I mused how a dog I knew had his owners' son's middle name (they liked the name and didn't think they'd got to use it enough). I suggested Andrew (D's middle name). D like the Andy cat/Andy Capp parallel. We named him Mr Andrew P. Catt and call him Andy.

Now I should say here that I know the cartoon character Andy Capp is a misogynist, alcoholic wife-beater and perhaps our choice was in poor taste. In my defense the Andy Capp strip used to be in the Evening Post and so I became inured to it in my youth and also that Andy Capp's behaviour is much more acceptable in a cat than a person.

Andy likes to be top cat in the neighbourhood. He is big, pushy and fierce. When he is top cat, he is also confident, relaxed and smug. When his position is under threat he is nervy, edgy and needs reassurance. Once he disappeared for three days after a terrible storm. When I dropped flyers into the neighbours' mailboxes to ask them to check if he'd been locked in anywhere everyone knew him. He showed up half an hour later, very hungry.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Convalescent musings

I'm feeling much better today. I went for a wee walk around the block and found two different chatty locals to talk to on the way, just what I needed. Other than that I have been reading Naomi Novik's books His Majesty's Dragon and Throne of Jade, which are a cross between Patrick O'Brian and Anne McCaffrey, and making preparations for D's birthday present.

Normally I like presents to be surprises but this time I have consulted D about it. The preparations have involved ordering the present duty free to meet my sister as she comes through Auckland airport and ripping our entire CD collection, 1193 songs, 3.4 days of music, 4.53 GB so far.

Googling "iTunes New Zealand" comes up with "iTunes To Launch In New Zealand Early Next Year - 12 Oct" which sounds optimistic until you click the article and find out it was written in October 2004. Just occasionally NZ feels like a very small country at the far end of the earth.

Fortunately the earth is round.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

From the house of the stricken

Three unexpected things I learnt in the last 24 hours:

  1. Tubal ligation can hurt. I have a new sympathy for female cats.
  2. Sometimes a heat pack works as pain relief when morphine fails.
  3. H has chicken pox.

I haven't had chicken pox, in the next fortnight we'll find out if that is because I'm immune.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Making waves in me

Special Today - Microwave Endometrial Ablation

Acknowledgements: The image is made up of a bunch of borrowed parts. Thanks to an illegible fertility clinic via this bad hockey logo post for the best diagram of a woman's insides I could find on the net (now somewhat mutilated), to JCPenney for the cooks pink microwave and to the Wonton Way for putting things in a microwave (if click on the picture it will take you to their video). Finally the cheesy title is the Microsulis slogan on the pamphlet I was given when I booked my operation (the .pdf on the web has "making waves in medicine" which is sadly less amusing and alarming).

Microwaving my body parts? What a sensible idea :-)

This is the second part of my strange coping process. For the first part read a hysterical tale.

Happy birthday to me

I had a lovely birthday.

I lay in bed all morning and read The Wailing Wind by Tony Hillerman. Tony Hillerman writes gentle detective stories and his main characters work for the Navajo Tribal Police. Like many of the books I like, his stories contain interesting stuff about another cultural and some theology. It is why I read Orson Scott Card, and the appeal of the excellent and awful books The Sparrow and Children of God by Mary Doria Russell.

I also had a nice lunch with D, got appropriately hassled by my workmates, had a cake made with help from H & K, went out to dinner with I and E at a restaurant I haven't been to before which was very good - Siem Reap, and kissed two perfectly soft sleeping cheeks before going to bed.

At the age of 36 she realised that she could ride through Paris in a sports car with the warm wind in her hair if she felt like it. (Although my dream trip is actually to go to Antarctica and I plan to do that one day.)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Literary genius

Today I got some of my birthday presents (my birthday is tomorrow). The best presents were books that H and K made for me with help from our nanny. This is the text although for the full effect you need to see the pictures.

H Sleeping
- a story for Mummy on her birthday from H, October 2006

H closes her eyes well

When it's time to wake up, [our nanny] comes in

When it's sleepy time I hop on the potty and I go to bed

When I'm asleep I don't think of any dreams

I take Little Mushroom to bed, but sometimes K gives me Bear so I have two buddies

Now I have a different kind of bed - I call it a bunk bed.

K Goes To Junglerama
- a story for Mummy on her birthday from K, October 2006

I tried to slide down the big slide

I go through the wobbly tunnel

Sometimes I float around and go silly in the ball pit

I like to be in the little house

How I get to the slide is I kept walking and walking and walking and walking and walking til I get there. Sometimes I disappear. Then I slide down very fast

When H gets lost I rescue her.

I'm so lucky.

Friday, October 06, 2006


My best beloved D (actually our children are equally beloved but I don't like the 'H' word) has been away on business for three weeks 14297 kilometers away, in America where they'd call it 8884 miles. (Thanks to for the distance calculator.)

Normally he has gone away for two weeks. The first week I enjoy the independence, control and self-sufficiency of being a solo-parent. The second week I ask myself a million times "how do solo-parents cope?". At least once our nanny arrives to find H, K and me sitting on the floor in the kitchen all in tears.

I feared that three weeks would be the first week followed by two weeks like the second. Actually the second week we got into some kind of swing of things which was neither as good as the first week nor as bad as second usually is. The third week has been as bad as the second week usually is with a bit more yelling and less tears.

He was due back on Monday but is coming back a day early. I can't wait.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Not the Edinburgh Tattoo

My friend I suggested I write about "What you'd tell your daughter if one of them wanted to get a tattoo?"

I'm not anti tattoos per se but I've never got one because I've never been confident that I'd still want the same thing years later. So I think I'd want to set an age limit, like 18. If I thought I could get away with it I'd like a rule that you have to write down what you want 5 years before you get the tattoo and can only get it done if you still want the same thing.

Maybe I should be evil and ask H & K when they are 13 what they'd get if they could have a tattoo, write it down and bring it out when they're 18 to scare them :-)

My grandmother had her ears pierced when she was 80. Maybe I'll get a tattoo when I'm 80. I wouldn't have to live with it for so long :-)

When I went on my OE (short for overseas experience - Kiwi for travelling and or working overseas typically as a young adult). I realised that facial tattoos are more common in New Zealand than anywhere else I went (US, Canada, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Greece, Samoa).

I used to go out with a largish guy with dark curly hair who wore black jeans and a black fisherman's knit jersey. Once I saw him in the middle of town, I ran up behind him, grabbed him by the shoulders and turned him round. It wasn't him. It was someone with full facial, gang related tattoos. I said "sorry - thought you were someone else" in a cheery voice and ran off again. The guy looked stunned.

I think being accosted in an overly friendly manner by small brightly coloured people was outside his normal experience.

The Tattoo Museum in Wellington is closing soon. I've been meaning to go to it ever since it opened. If you're in Wellington and you're in the same boat you should go now.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Trees and birds (be)for(e) work

Today I saw a kingfisher, like this one, on my walk to work (I usually see tui).

I’ve been thinking about taking a camera with me and taking photos along my walk, partly to show you how lovely it is and partly to inspire me to walk when I get lazy. It helps that I walk through the Botanical Gardens.

Last week was perfect spring, today, bear (or bare) with me as I break into haiku:
white blossom
blustery day
petal snow
I work in a tower block on The Terrace, Wellington’s equivalent of Wall Street. I used to live in a flat at the other end of The Terrace. One day I decided to pick flowers on the way home from work. The glass canyon was transformed; suddenly the little gardens architects throw in and pretty weeds were my focus. I got home with a cheerful posy.

Monday, October 02, 2006

K's request

Next time when it's dark can we go to the moon?

First word

H has been writing 'H's for ages but a few days ago she was playing being at school before breakfast. She sat down on a little chair at the coffee table, wrote a recognisable 'D' on a piece of paper and said "That's a D. Now I'm going to make an O." Recognizable, if wobbly, 'O' follows 'D' on piece of paper. "This is an H."

Her first written word 'DOH'.

She takes after her Dad :-)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Why'd ya do it she said

Advantages of being an office worker
  • The other people rarely cry and never lie on the floor, howling and kicking.
  • No one wants to watch me go to the toilet.
  • I can work, read, think or surf quietly without being interrupted for minutes and minutes.
  • I get lunch breaks.
  • I only have to deal with metaphorical excrement.
  • I have a boss to escalate that to.

(Warning - I felt the need to add to this but my sense of humour went on the blink.)

Advantages of being mum

  • I am greeted with paroxysms of joy.
  • The other people are fascinated by everything I do.
  • The important stuff is obvious and unavoidable. I am not tempted to procrasinate about wiping a bottom.
  • The other people are as fascinated by natural history as I am.
  • I am the boss.

Advantages of doing both

  • Variety - one of the things I found hardest about being an at home mum was that it never ends, you don't get Saturday or Sunday off, there is no sick leave or annual leave in the contract.
  • I take more pleasure in the time out - lunch breaks, walking to work, even catching the bus home.
  • I can talk about being a parent with colleagues I have little else in common with.
  • I get to have a nanny who keeps the household ticking over, does all our laundry and most of our dishes.
  • I don't think about work when I'm at home anymore.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Memories of this

I realised somewhat after I'd posted this with a link to Orisinal that I'd already done that before, here. I'd blame this failure of memory on motherhood except... well... you see... um... let me tell you the story of an embarassing incident that happened to me long ago.

Once upon a time I had a very nice boyfriend and after we had gone out for many moons I broke up with him. I tried to do it not too unpleasantly. Afterwards though something festered in my angsty teenage mind. I felt I hadn't told him the "real" reason I'd dumped him. I agonised about it. I wrote letters and ripped them up. I tormented myself about it on and off for a long time. Eventually I didn't rip up the letter and I sent it to him. It started something like "I'm sorry I never told you this but...."

And when I saw him a short time later and I asked him if he'd got the letter do you know what he said?

He said I'd told him already - I'd sent a letter before.

Posting the same link twice may show a certain lack of recollection and originality but at least it does not have the same cringeworthiness as forgetting you have bared your Soul (with a capital S for extra melodrama).

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Movie review - An Inconvenient Truth

Yesterday I went to An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary about Al Gore, the presentation he has given hundreds of times about global warming, and global warming itself.

Al Gore is the hero of the film and it presents him as larger than life (and not just because we were sitting near the front of the theatre).

It is aimed at a non-scientific, American audience and occaisionally that grates - I wanted all the graphs to have scales and titles, I wanted to read all the words on the slides and I wanted his "we" to include me.

As Helene Wong wrote in the Listener:

By all accounts, he’s got the science mostly right, though it’s a bit bemusing to hear that rising waters have led to the evacuation of Tuvaluans to New Zealand, and to see on the world maps which appear at regular intervals that, alarmingly, sometimes we’re there and sometimes we’re not. Or maybe it’s just their way of making a point about the tides.

It is a great movie and I recommend it to everyone except particularly pedantic, scientific kiwis who are sceptical about climate change.

It is a powerful message well presented. It made me go home and change what I do.

(For what is really happenning in Tuvalu you can check out this article or this longer more recent one. Sadly from these I learnt that what I'd read about NZ offering to take everyone from Tuvalu when it sinks is not true.)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Three mumecdotes

On Sunday I tidied the coffee table before some visitors arrived. I cleared away books, toys and random objects that small people had been playing with. I failed to clear away an apple core. I'd like to think I was very focussed.

K's preferred method of finding a toilet: announcing in loud, clear, bell like tones "I'm starting to pee." It's effective.

Yesterday, everytime I got stuff out of my handbag, a small pink and white sock made a break for freedom. I had to rescue it from the floor of the lift, under my desk and I probably would have dropped it at the bus stop but I was wise to its rebellious ways by then.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Template update in progress

Please do not adjust your set.

I have updated to a new beta-Blogger template (which naturally I am trying to make look just like the old one).

The sidebar is still a little odd and I want to sort out the font spacing (some of it is a bit cramped).

Normal transmission will resume shortly.

10 lies about me

I enjoyed writing 10 lies about Wellington's weather so I thought I'd use that meme again.

  1. I got pregnant accidentally and I was horrified when I found out. Having children was the last thing I wanted to do with my life. I'd always expected to be an aunty but never a mum.

  2. My tall, thin, angular build has earned me the nickname "Grasshopper" from many different social groups all of whom think it is original. I've always been an athlete as you can tell just by looking at me.

  3. I believe in Jesus Christ as my personal saviour, and every word of the bible as the inspired word of God. Intelligent design fits the facts and the bible so I don't see what the fuss is about teaching it. I am trying to instill the fear of God into my children as that is the only way to make sure they grow up to be moral adults.

  4. Global warming doesn't bother me. I think it is all a storm in a tea cup. A new fear to replace nuclear armageddon now the cold war is over. Face it, nearly everywhere that matters would be nicer if it was a few degrees hotter and Africa will need millions of dollars in aid whatever happens.

  5. I find parenting easy. The time I spend with my children is the easiest part of the day. I'd give up working for money and become an at home mum if D would let me.

  6. I believe science has failed. If we stopped spending vast amounts of public money on scientific research, western medicine and technology and instead invested in spiritual communities where people lived more holistically and listened to nature we would be happier and healthier. Homeopathic remedies, herbs and crystals provide us with safe, natural, effective healing.

  7. I make a point of always being immaculately presented. I never leave the house without makeup, ironed clothes and a handbag that matches my shoes. I usually buy designer clothes and so I have been paying close attention to New Zealand Fashion Week and expect to buy several things I've seen.

  8. I don't read. I think reading is good for children but you grow out of it. I can't understand why anyone would spend their time doing something so boring when you can learn anything you need to by surfing the web and watching documentaries on TV.

  9. I'm the alter ego of a 16 year old boy called Marcus. An experiment in writing convincingly from another's point of view. I (Marcus) chose to impersonate a whimsical middle aged mother of twins because she is the character most different from me in the novel that I am planning to write.

  10. I don't care if no one reads this.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Alarm clock calibration

My alarm clock is particularly difficult to reset at the end of daylight savings and tends to malfunction in Spring. At the moment it often goes off around 5:30, an hour earlier than it is supposed to. It has many other features that I am very fond of - no annoying electronic beep, a funky patterned furry surface, high fidelity sound quality and it keeps my lap warm in the evening. The calibration routine involves putting the alarm clock into the laundry if it wakes me before 6am and feeding it when it wakes me at an acceptable time. Occasionally it delivers dead rats to the bedroom door - I'm not sure if this is a bug or a feature.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Why can't IT be easy?

I was going to post something about how on earth are normal people supposed to use modern technology if I, with a computer science degree and 14 years experience working in Information Technology, find it takes over 3 hours to get my new wireless router set up (and I'm still not happy with the security).

Then I spent over half an hour trying to get any one of three identical nightlights working with either one of two brand new bulbs and I thought maybe I'll just post on the orneriness of technology.

Then I chased the neighbours cat outside and locked myself out.

Do doors count as technology?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Attack of the cute animal games

Warning - may be dangerous to your productivity.
More ways to procrastinate than you can shake a stick at.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The allure of the new

Yesterday when I got home H & K told me very excitedly that there was a parcel. I opened it and it had their new pyjamas inside. They were in them in two seconds flat.

Maybe we should get new pyjamas delivered more often :-)

I don't have new pyjamas but I do have a new computer. I'm not so bouncy with enthusiasm but I have shown it off to everyone in range. I'm going home to play with it soon and I expect I'll post more about it later (and show you too).

Monday, September 18, 2006

Found humour

At lunch time I saw sign which said:
ANGER - keep out

Pohutukawa springing


Today I walked to work and it was absolutely, positively Spring. I'm not sure if it snuck up on me while I was obsessing about my operation or if the lovely sunny weekend we've just had tipped the balance.

For a few weeks the early signs have been out - first fleshy pink magnolias, then all the leaves gone from the kowhai trees replaced with yellow flowers and the Botanical Gardens becoming ever more tulipy. But suddenly today lots of unimpressive trees I don't usually notice were covered in blossom, the blackbirds were flirting and one very early pohutukawa was out.


When Europeans first settled in Wellington there were no pohutukawa trees here, they were only found further north in New Zealand. Then between 1930 and the 1970s the Wellington City Council planted 30,000 [quoted from memory from Bob Brockie's excellent book City Nature]. Wellingtonians also planted them in their gardens and many self seeded. They are now very common here.

The interesting question is why had a tree that grows so readily in Wellington not spread here naturally? Some scientists believe pohutukawa did used to grow in Wellington. It was only during the last iceage [or mini-iceage I forget which] that it got too cold for them. If we had waited long enough they would have spread back south of their own accord. The problem with proving this theory is that pohutukawa pollen looks so similar to northern rata pollen that the identification of pohutukawa pollen by some experts is questioned by other experts.

I like the idea that the spread of pohutukawa south was inevitable and only assisted by generations of Wellingtonians.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A hysterical tale

Warning - contains gynaecological details - my disturb some readers.

Once upon a time there was a very nice uterus. Unfortunately she had terrible neighbours, the ovaries, who didn't do their job properly and didn't give her the right hormones at the right time. The nice uterus tried to cope with the hormones that the ovaries threw at her but sometimes she needed help. Mostly she needed help when the hormones wouldn't bloody stop. Fortunately when she had some pills the ovaries would stop causing trouble for a while.

One day two tiny, tiny embryos came to visit the nice uterus. The nice uterus loved them. She took very good care of them and helped them grow and grow and grow into big babies. While they were staying with the nice uterus everything was all right.

When they decided to go the nice uterus knew it was the right time and she tried very hard to help them. After trying for a long time she was told that for the good of her babies something terrible would happen to her but it was okay because she'd get better. The terrible thing happened: a huge hole was ripped in the nice uterus and her babies were pulled out. It was hard but she healed.

After a while the problems with the neighbours started up again. This time they were worse. She had the pills again but they didn't work. She had more and more and more of them and eventually it was okay for a while but it didn't last. Some other things got tried too but they didn't last either.

Now she has been told that for the good of the whole neighbourhood something terrible will happen to her and that this time she'll never be the same again. She has been told that she might never bleed again. She won't be like other uteruses. She'll lose her nuturing skills forever. She'll never have any more babies.

She's been told she has until 10 October to get used to the idea.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Diggers are one of H & K's favourite things and they were absolutely delighted to visit W's J at work and ride on the digger he's been using. They got to ride on a dump truck too.

The title of this post comes from a story S told me when she was teaching three year olds. She asked a small boy, who was dividing the world into things for girls and things for boys, "What is something for girls and boys?" and he thought very hard and said "CONSTRUCTION!"

[K is closer to the camera in a turquoise jacket, H is in purple.]

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Remembering the dead

On Friday while H & K were eating dinner K asked me "Where did your watch come from?" and I replied that it used to be my Grandma's (her Great Grandma's) and after she died it became my watch.

K asked "Is she at the dead people place?" and I explained that she isn't at the dead people place we normally go to (the cemetary we walk past or through when we walk to my parents' house) but, yes, she is at a place for dead people.

Then H chimed in "Can I give her a flower and a leaf?"

I was really touched.

So on Saturday H picked daisies from our garden and K picked a pink azalea and a leaf from our cape gooseberry. We drove out to Eastbourne and put them in the memorial wall next to the niche with my Grandma's ashes.

H & K didn't know it but Saturday would have been Grandma's 93rd birthday.

Friday, September 08, 2006

A love poem

It is too trite
to write
about love.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Blonde thoughts

The other day I had my hair bleached white blonde. I have had a lot of positive feedback and I am very happy with the change but when the umpteenth person said, "So do blondes have more fun?" and I replied, "I'm not sure but they certainly get more inane remarks," I didn't mean it as a put down - just a statement of fact.

Now I use it as a put down.

[Orginally published with a request for advice from punctuation pendants, especially I. Updated after that great goddess of punctuation provided her advice.]

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

An ode to shoes

I wear Merrell Jungle Mocs,
I wear them all the time,
I've persuaded myself they're corporate enough
to wear them on work time.

I like the way they're comfy,
I like the way they feel,
I'm delighted that work doesn't bat an eye
since I hurt my heel.

My toenails aren't making holes
in my socks anymore
but all my other shoes are getting dusty
on the wardrobe floor.

[Insert standard doggerel disclaimer here.]

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A link is worth a thousand words

A very quick post most suitable for people whose brains have been addled by computer science.

First the explanation then some examples of silliness and more silliness.

Monday, September 04, 2006

New Zealand idyll

Yesterday was Father's Day in this part of the world so I asked D what he wanted to do (while cooking him breakfast) and he said "Hokio" somewhat wistfully. So we went.

H&K went barefoot to the beach, climbed sand dunes and played in the river. D enjoyed a quiet break with his book.

It was lovely.

[K is standing, H sitting.]

Friday, September 01, 2006

About penguins

And Tango Makes Three arrived last night from Amazon. It is a lovely, well written, positive, children's story about two male penguins who fall in love, are given an egg to hatch and do a a great job of being parents.

It nearly made me cry.

I am saving it up as a present for K. I have got Heather Has Two Mommies for H. I want the books my children read to reinforce that lots of different kinds of family are OK.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Hair today

Walking to work this morning, feeling frustrated with my appearance, I decided not just to have a hair cut today but a radical change.

So my hair which has been brown most of my life with occassional episodes of orange or red highlights is now white blonde.

(Photo taken by me with my phone at work hence strange composition and expression as I couldn't see what I was doing.)

This is in part a tribute to my sister.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tutuing with unexpected penguins

I just found out about Google Scholar which is a very nifty thing and so I was tutuing* about with it and searched for "penguin" and came out with First Measurement of the Rate for the Inclusive Radiative Penguin Decay b→sγ which made me curious about what kind of penguin they were on about.

The answer is that there is a kind of feynman diagram for performing calculations in quantum field theory called a penguin diagram. This lovely picture from Wikipedia shows why:

For more information about feynman diagrams and this picture in its natural habitat check out this link.

* tutu is a verb meaning to fiddle or play about with something which I first encountered in Whangarei. I have only met it from New Zealand English speakers from Hamilton and northwards although it is spreading south. It is mentioned on this New Zealand English site and there are a couple of other examples of it being used here.

As a Wellingtonian I am slightly embarassed that a word which might be associated with Auckland has colonised my vocabulary but I feel the word's derivation from the Maori for trouble-maker makes up for that.

Monday, August 28, 2006

I can dream of being cool

One of my dreams is to visit Antarctica.

I've been to the glaciers in the South Island and they were fascinating, impressive and beautiful.

I worry about the ethics of going as a tourist to somewhere I do not want polluted by tourists.

I know some people who went on an 'ecotour' but their report didn't cheer me. They said that there were troughs of disinfectant to step through to wash their boots when they went on the ice and subantarctic islands but it was very cold and sometimes there were queues so some people would just walk past the troughs. And people went much closer than they were supposed to to take good photos of the birds (which don't care about people).

Then I think well at least I would be conscientious and maybe that would take a place away from some egg tromping, infection spreading lout.

And imagine the ice and the penguins and the phenomenal otherworldliness of it all.

One day, one day I'll go.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Trying to find the silver lining

Today I fell over on the way to work.

I grazed my hands and knees and slightly bruised my nose and dignity.

But there were tui and I didn't graze my face.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A tui a day

When I was growing up in Wellington in the 70s and 80s I saw about one tui a summer. Usually perched on the flax flowers near our letter box early in the morning.

Now if I walk to work I see at least five tui. When I walk around the block to creche I normally see one.

This is almost entirely because the Wellington Regional Council has been reducing the number of possums in Wellington.

Every time I see a tui they have my heartfelt thanks.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Beauty is in the smitten eye of the beholder

Before my daughters I thought:
  • innie tummy buttons were better than outies
  • pink was a colour to avoid.

Now I have been convinced that:

  • the two most beautiful tummy buttons in the world are both outies
  • pink is a attractive colour which suits three year olds.

The other side of this equation is that I really enjoy having two people who are completely convinced that I am the most beautiful person in the world.

Friday, August 11, 2006

World breastfeeding fortnight

I meant to post something about breastfeeding during World Breastfeeding Week but I just discovered it officially finished on 7 August. However I'm sure that it is in the spirit of the thing to extend it by a week to accommodate busy mothers (as if there was another kind).

I am proud to have continued breastfeeding through my battles with milk supply (for more detail read the third part of my birthstory here), proud to have breastfed my twins as long as it worked for all of us and proud that that turned out to be just around their third birthday. I also have to confess to being sneakily proud of having met my secret goal of breastfeeding longer than any of my sisters in law (i.e. over six months).

I am deeply, deeply grateful to my sister for donating milk so that H & K were exclusively breastmilk-fed for their first two weeks.

As a working mother I found breastfeeding particularly precious, at times it felt like the only still moments we had together. From when H & K were about a year old I breastfed twice a day, first thing when they got up and last thing before they went to bed.

3 Wishes for the Good Breastfeeding Fairy:
  1. May all women be able to comfortably breastfeed their babies as long as they choose (good fairies, I'm sure, understand that comfortably includes adequately).
  2. May pleasant, comfortable places be available to breastfeed in whenever needed (when designing parenting rooms they should have windows so you can watch the world, sofas so you can tandem feed twins and smell nice).
  3. May breastfeeding women be saved from embarassment, harassment and offputting looks.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

10 lies about Wellington's weather

  1. There is dust everywhere, in everything. It blows in all the cracks until even inside all the surfaces have a fine layer. My house looks like a film set from a ghost town. My eyes are gritty, my nose is lined with dust and I can still feel it in my throat since I unwisely opened my mouth outside to call to a friend, just visible through the haze across the street.

  2. The mounds of grey unmelted snow look like an elephants graveyard, slumped beasts who have lost their bulk and now the skin hangs in arcs from bone to bone. Snow looks so pristine when it arrives and becomes the trap for the all the city's filth.

  3. The air is so dry my lips are chapped and my hands itch. I have to be carefully what I wear so as not to get too much static build up and the resulting shocks. But at least the plastic wrap really sticks!

  4. The weather has been the same for weeks. You don't need a weather report here, just a calendar.

  5. My eyes itch with smog. Even if you look straight up the sky is not clear blue, where it meets the hills it is brown. The sun sets spectacularly but never touches the horizon.

  6. The path outside our house has become a crevasse through the snow that I have to clear every morning. The outside world seems like a myth from inside the quiet and warm womb of the drift which has consumed our house.

  7. I'm used to the constant sweating, the prickle on my forehead, the slow trickle down my cleavage. But at night I toss and turn, no sheet - cooler but nothing between my sweaty limbs - or sheet - hotter but some relief from the hot, sticky feel of limb against limb.

  8. It has been still for weeks, the flags hang lifeless on the poles, the smell of the city hangs around it like a blanket - car exhaust and cooking fat, seaweed and sewage.

  9. It is tornado season, when the thunder clouds build, towering over the hills and the sky starts, almost imperceptibly at first, to turn that eerie green, I watch with dread and anticipation, trying to balance the urge to hide and the need to watch these most spectacular forces at work. The lighting forks down from the sky and each bolt is a curse.

  10. I love the monsoon. The water comes to quench an unimaginable thirst, the anticipation of the arid land building month by month, week by week, day by day until - suddenly there is nothing dry, nothing wanting. Water is everywhere, an overabundance, a deluge, a flood. The streets are rivers and buildings are islands. The thick warm rain is so unlike any other time of year and yet so right.

Friday, August 04, 2006

I woke up in the morgue

I saw a documentary about catalepsy called "I woke up in the morgue", a name so awful that defies belief but the documentary was OK.

It said cataleptics who collapse when they laugh or experience strong emotion have a defective part in their brains (which I can't remember the name of right now). In most people this part produces stimulants when we experience strong emotion.

Which made me think about:
  • laughing so hard you can't stand up
  • asking people if they are sitting down before giving them bad news
  • other times one feels weak at the knees (she said discretely)

The brain has to actively prevent us collapsing when we experience strong emotion and the surprise is not that some people do collapse but that the rest of us do so rarely.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


I am inordinately proud of being published or acknowledged in print. So this is a list of my credits:

  1. Author of this birth story first published in three parts in the Wellington Multiple Birth Club Newsletters, September, October and November 2003, re-printed by the Kapiti Multiple Birth Club and Birth Wise, who put it on the web.

  2. Co-editor of sky falling, an anthology of entries from the New Zealand Poetry Society's annual competition, 1995.

  3. Co-editor of The old moon and so on, an anthology of entries from the New Zealand Poetry Society's annual competition, 1994.

  4. Acknowledged in "Population studies of yellow-eyed penguins : 1993-94 progress report" by Murray Efford, John Darby, and Nick Spencer. Science for Conservation 22, Dept. of Conservation, Wellington 1996.

  5. Acknowledged in the New Zealand Radiocarbon Database.

  6. Acknowledged in history, philosophy, geology and biochemistry theses, 2 for honours degrees, 2 for masters and 1 for a PhD.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Confessions of a know-it-all

Yesterday I went out to dinner with my best beloved, D, to a Greek/Cypriot restaurant named for the muses, Moyses Taverna.

The menu gave a list of muses not unlike this one from Wikipedia:

Calliope (epic poetry)
Euterpe (music/lyric poetry)
Clio (history)
Erato (lyrics/love poetry)
Melpomene (tragedy)
Polyhymnia (sacred poetry and geometry)
Terpsichore (dancing)
Thalia (comedy)
Urania (astronomy and astrology)

Upon reading it D commented on the number of kinds of poetry. At which point I launched into an explanation that poetry was what people of the time wrote and therefore wanted muses for. I went on to explain that the reason poetry was fashionable is that it is more easily memorised and that in a society where many people are illiterate and writing materials are expensive that is important.

Now the confession I have to make is that although that is all very plausible and I expect it is true - I made it up.

I think I need some help from Clio.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Traps for the unwary

Three addictive things distracting me from work today:
  1. The Helene Hanff Omnibus - I re-read all of 84, Charing Cross Road at lunchtime,
  2. Orisinal which has many, many small, cute and engaging games,
  3. Blogging.

Fortunately I can work and eat chocolate simultaneously or there would be four.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

A clowder of cats

Clowder is the collective noun for cats.

The thing that fascinates me is that this is such a rare word. A pack of dogs, a herd of cows, a flock of birds, a swarm of bees and a school of fish are all deeply familiar. I'd confidently talk about a pride of lions, a gaggle of geese or a pod of dolphins (even though thinks that the correct term is a school of dolphins). I even know the words for a murder of crows, a leap of leopards and a parliment of owls.

So why not a clowder of cats?

Even though cats are not as social as dogs and humans, if it was a common word - like pack for dogs, I'd use it from time to time. I'd say "Does N still have a whole clowder of cats?", "Today the local clowder of cats was practicing staring" and "We got Andy from the SPCA. We went in and look at the clowder of cats in the cat room and then sat in the middle of the room talking about whether we could leave without choosing one (as none seemed quite right) when Andy jumped on D's knee and chose us". I'd talk about the clowder of cats that Slinky Malinki hangs out with when I read Slinky Malinki Catflaps aloud.

But instead I am left pondering the oddities of English.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

What are books for?

Overheard snippet of conversation:

"I got her a lovely coffee table book. She's got a lovely coffee table but she didn't have a book, you know, to put on it."

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Flippant Scifaiku

Reading this inspired these:

Oh no,
the time machine

aliens are

Monday, July 24, 2006

Surfing for animals

Sometimes in the evening I entertain an audience of two three and a half year old humans sitting on potties by surfing the web for them.

They like animal noises and so I've found a site which has lots and one with pictures too. But these sites just don't cut it for the specifics, like when I needed the sound of a mad budgie and a picture of an angry budgie to go with it or a whole variety of owl sounds.

What would other animals surf for?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Not about penguins

Before I named this blog I googled "not usually about penguins" and found nothing. Then I googled "not about penguins" and found this.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A toe in the water

Here goes my first post.

The water seems inviting and there are lots of people splashing about out there already but I feel rather exposed standing on the edge in my togs so I'd better dive in.

-- splosh --

[That should have angle brackets but I haven't worked out how yet]

Welcome to my blog. Built as a place for odd whimsies and occasional rants which as the title claims will not usually be about penguins.