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 http://www.bbc.co.uk/. 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 http://www.indo.com/ 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.