Thursday, September 29, 2005


Matt has pointed me in the direction of a new feature on blogger that requires anybody placing a comment to undergo a word verification test. The font the word appears in can be a bit unreadable. If that happens, just persevere and find one you can read...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Three Down

Hey Patrick,
Happy Birthday! Here's to an excellent year.


(That's three down in the list of to-do's. Just got to wax the Malaysians and update the sidebar. I've eaten and said au revoir to Steve and Flick but didn't feel the need to do that on-line. However I am not sure I am done shooting comments spammers.)

Comments Spam

I post, I get spam in my comments. Often it takes about thirty seconds. Please make it stop. I don't want to prevent anonymous comments.

Why must people persist in ruining good things by trying to make a buck by pointing me in the directions of their ceiling fan website (I honestly got one from them) or candy?

"On the Candidates' Blogs, Writing Right and Wrong
As a former Catholic schoolboy from the Bronx, surely Fernando Ferrer knows that falsehoods can trip you up.
I have been searching for a good blog. I think yours is really nice and I am boing to bookmark it.

See my candy corporate gift store. It has lots of candy corporate gift related items. "

Piss off you bastards and leave me alone.

Under the Weather

Last Thursday I went to the Holywell Music Rooms, a venue I was last at to see the Hammer and Tongue Oxford Literary Festival poetry slam in April, to see the Climate Outreach and Information Network (COIN) lecture on denial with respect to climate change. The speakers were Georges Marshall of COIN and Monbiot of, well, George Monbiot. They began the evening with introducing the fact that climate change is happening and that despite all the evidence and despite all the associated bad shit, we, as a species, are doing nothing about it. That is to say we are sleepwalking towards disaster. The question was therefore, why are we doing nothing about it? Having just read Michael Crichton's State of Fear, I did wonder about the somewhat bigger question, but I'm prepared to let that go. I'm also willing to accept that one shouldn't get the basis for science from a Michael Crichton novel. But... I'm also quite keen to hear the converse argument whether that be denial that it is happening, or a less dramatic doomsday scenario. Which is NOT to say that I am living in denial, I just want to have a more informed view.

The Georges spoke to a packed audience and I got the feeling that they knew they were on home territory, which without being too stereotypical, was largely comprised of Oxford Guardian readers; of which I am one. However Monbiot riled me up on several occasions. He started by linking global warming with the Judeao-Christian myth. He did it as follows: J-C is a myth that assumes a progression (the coming/second-coming of the Messiah) as opposed the circular nature of Hinduism, Buddhism and Animist religions (I noted that he left Islam out of the progressive religions), the progression is associated with growth, which is development, which leads to increasing consumption of resources, which leads to increased discharge of CO2, which finally gives us global warming. I have just two issues here. Firstly, I think he is being disingenious here (it's easy and popular to blame the Christians) by simplying the J-C myth to that (there's a little more to it than that), and secondly I seem to recall communism (a somewhat athiest ideology) being not that helpful towards the environment. If you're talking about tangible ecological disasters (which is NOT to deny the tangibility of climate change), then the biggest one would be the wreck that is the Aral Sea, and there are relatively significant ones like Chernobyl, and those would be where? But this is a little off the point, but I would like to stress that are far as I call tell the J-C myth is not the same as capitalism.

Monbiot succeeded in riling me a second time when he dismissed nuclear power as a viable source of energy. I don't have a problem with nuclear power. I have a problem with nuclear weapons, but they are not the same thing. But for the sake of brevity I'm willing to let this one go. I don't think we should dismiss glow in the dark energy out of hand. It kills less people than car accidents, it's just when it does go wrong, it's really bad. Like a jumbo jet, I guess. Effectively it comes down to risk and how we respond to it.

Where the Georges did succeed was in provoking a few questions:
  • Is it necessarily a bad thing if oil becomes so expensive that air travel becomes the domain of the rich? Effectively it is already, it's just that we don't see ourselves with our credit card debts as rich.
  • Can we live with a certain amount of environmental damage and therefore climate change? No matter what we do, we are going to change our environment so how about we accept that we are going to raise the earth's temperature by a degree every hundred years, but fight tooth and nail to keep it at that rate? Monbiot suggested that in order to maintain the status quo we would have to become 90% energy efficient. I'd like to believe that is possible but doubt that it is.
  • Apparently the earth would be cooling naturally now but due to our polluting we are causing it to warm. So actually we are almost holding it in balance. Wow. So... do we want it to cool? Ok, so that was a bit silly, but it is 11.30pm and I'm tired.
I'd like to come to a conclusion here but I am tired and I'm rambling so I'm going to stop now.

notes to self

  • rant about george monbiot
  • wish patrick a happy birthday
  • update sidebar
  • wax malaysians
  • shoot comments spammers
  • say good bye to steve and flick
  • eat, damnit.

Lazy Student

That lazy student from below has a play on tomorrow night at Oxford Brookes University Western campus. The play is Alberto's 'thesis' for his masters in humanitarian studies. It starts at 8.30pm and concludes with a thirty minute discussion.

Get yo' ass there!

I still can't pretend to be street.

Whatever that means.

Fashion - Turn to the Left!

It was Elizabeth's birthday yesterday. Being the gentleman I am, I didn't ask her age. To celebrate we went out to Anuba, a new bar on Park End Street. Can you see what they've done there? Being the sickeningly punctual man that I am I was there for the opening at 7.30pm. Four years in this country and I still can't get the hang of continental time and give up on lifetimes anal retentitiveness. Here's a tip. If it starts at 7.30, tell me it starts at 8. Three years in the 'shire and I've never been out on Park End Street, despite that Matt and Gareth are often found spinning at Thirst bar, a mere 20m further up the road. Sad really. Anuba is managed by Rob, a Scottish born south african looking bloke. Rob goes out with Jo, who designs jewellery. Having spent a lot of time talking to them last night I thought I'd throw in a quick plug - you can peruse her creations here.

Elizabeth is into fashion. A year and a half or so ago she did a colours course, and she decided she need to practice her new found skills. So for an hour I sat in front of a mirror and studied the imperfections of my face while she draped various colours on me. The hour passed, I grew familiar with the acne that should really have passed before I hit 30 and then learnt that I was a warm and deep autumn. I enjoy throwing that fact into conversation.

Earlier this year Elizabeth put on a fair trade fashion show at part of Women's Week in Oxford. She managed to commandeer the Oxford Town Hall, as well as a bagpipe player. When it comes to bagpipe players, I believe you could murder one in front of 100 people and there would be no witnesses. Two weeks ago I heard one through the traffic in Kuala Lumpur. The bastards get everywhere. Since then she has managed to go from strength to strength. On the 8th of October she is putting on another such show. Except this time it is in Paris as part of Paris Fashion Week. This little fact just happened to creep out in conversation last night. There is a lot to admire in her humility. I was floored when she told me. You can read more about the show here.

So last night I hung out with fashion designers, jewellery makers, night club owners, models as well as the usual crowd of trainee vicars, graduated vicars, hairdressers, actresses, lazy students, and youth workers. Once DJ Gareth finished spinning his tunes (only to be hijacked at the end by DJ Matt who needed to spin Peyton's Higher Ground - which in turn was hijacked by Simon, the co-owner) we were ushered up to the VIP lounge at the Bridge. Now, I'm a pub man most of the time - give me a pint and the associated old man's decor (preferrably with pictures of dogs playing cards or snooker) and I am a content old soak - so I felt particulary smug strutting past all the plebs in the crowded non-VIP lounge into the slightly more crowded VIP lounge. But as by now I'd made some new friends, been wowed my friends achievements and (more importantly) knocked back three Moscow Mules I was in heaven. I need to get to know more bar owners...

Friday, September 16, 2005

Pacific Blue - It's really Choice

To get from NZ to Ostralia I flew with Pacific Blue. They are the cheap version of Virgin Airlines. Very very no-frills. The flight that David and I used to cross the Tassie ended up being delayed by three and a half hours due to a nice duvet of fog. You should know that the flight was supposed to leave at 7am and that we had been up since 3.45am. I had got to the airport via Kamal the taxiu driver. Kamal assumed that traffic signs were mere suggestions, the road was his personal fiefdom and that other vehicles were trespassers. He also saw no need to slow down due to the weather and would high beam anybody who got in his way.

When we boarded the plane at about 6.30, the fog was pretty thick. It was clear to everyone that we weren't going to be leaving at 7am, or even 8am. The Pacific Blue cabin crew realised this at the very beginning so from the outset started to amuse us. Actually, I think they were amusing themselves. They also told us that we were going to stay on board because if we left the aircraft we would lose our slot in the departures order.

The following are genuine quotes from the cabin crew, Mack, Melissa and Sanome:
"Thanks for flying Pacific Blue, that's really choice"
"Hi, I'm Mack and we're going to try and make your flight as sweet as"
(To me when I declined sugar for my tea) "You obviously don't need any sugar, you're clearly sweet enough"
(From the pilot) "we should be away soon as the weather is increasing". Increasing to what???
"Welcome to Brissie, it's a choice place"
"Make sure when you get to customs that you declare all your food, cos if you don't you'll get the rubber glove treatment and you probably don't want that."

OK, so it doesn't actually read that humoursly, and yeah you probably had to be there, but when compared to the captain on the BA flight that I flew on that was two hours late who never said a word to us till we were approaching Heathrow and then said "Thank you for flying BA and we hope you enjoyed the flight. We hope to see you again soon. Cabin crew, prepare the cabin for landing", I know who I'd rather have serving me.

Fly Pacific Blue. It's cheap and it's choice.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Hey Ow

It's been four weeks now. I am sick at the sight of my suitcase and the presence of my laptop backpack makes me want to drop it from the six floor of the Micasa Hotel. This is my current 'home' till Sunday when Singapore Airlines and the Oxford-Heathrow express take me home.

Going home has been an interesting experience. When I first arrived I thought it all seemed a bit provincial, and I started to notice the New Zealand accent. To be honest I was rather condescending towards it. OK, so I was very arrogant. After a week or so, I realised I was really enjoying myself. It was also nice to look at the issues of the day in NZ and realise that it's actually a good thing to be worried about little things. Don't get me wrong here, issues are as big or as small as they need to be, but given the choice of having to worry about the levee breaking or the price of petrol hitting $1.50, give me the petrol each and every day. When I first arrived the big story of the day was to do with Helen Clark, the PM, being asked to explain why her motorcade was doing 170 km/h on the road (the speed limit is 100km/h) and when the police motorcade drivers went to court she denied she was aware that the car had been going that fast. Most people would agree that unless you are in the space shuttle or an Malaysian Taxi, it is not that hard to spot that you are in a vehicle that is driving quicker than normal. Which goes to say that unless she regularly gets driven at 170km/h then I think she lied. But I would rather have a PM that lies about that than a PM that lies then starts a war based on that lie, or a PM who lies about what a desperate emigrant threw overboard and then whens an election based on that lie (she never did drop a baby, did she John?). I like that NZ has littler issues. Which is not to say that they are not important!

But issues aside, it was staying with Simon that did it for me. Simon lives not far from Auckand city centre and very close to Ponsonby Road. Simon has carved out a little world for himself, and in his words, he finally "understands how to live in Auckland" and from what I could see, it was a life that had many things in common with the life I live in the UK. May be it was there all the time and I had to go to the UK to see it. Wandering round the near central blocks made me start to ponder the reason I still live in the UK.

I've often been asked what I love about Oxford and what people should do when they go to NZ. Supposedly I'm an expert on both things. The reason I love Oxford is the people. That is what makes Oxford a great place to live. Just like what Rhys said in an email to me:

Like you say - NZ _was_ great. No, I take that back. A country is never great. It's the people that make a place great.

Auckland is also a great place. There are some good places to live, there are some fun things to do, but there are also some stupendously good people there too. The Simons, Muzz's, Ians, Sarahs, Craigs, Alices, Davids of this world will guarantee that. In the same way, Rotorua, a place I wouldn't normally go will be just as great cos that's where Jolinda lives, and Wellington will be great because that's where Chris, Sarah, Michael, Karen and wee Charlotte live. And damnit all, that is just the people that I know. The richness of these friendships makes me have a hell of hope for this world. Sure, there are bastards out there, and people will still try to screw me over, just like from time to time I'll be tempted to do the same to them. Maybe it's a bit cheesy, and I know I have a cynical streak in me, but when it comes to the human being, I believe that they are intrinsically good. Leaving NZ again yesterday just about made me cry. I'm not sure how many more times I can put myself through that. The names above are people I am going to know and love till the day I die, and the fact that there are about ten names there is pretty damn cool.

Yes I know I get repetitive sometimes on the topic of my friends, but sod it, this is my blog, get your own if you don't like it.

Before other cities get jealous, Oxford, Edinburgh and London are also great places.

I've been listening to Conscious Roots - The awakening of the Aotearoa Roots Movement, a collection of kiwi Dub. It reminds me that New Zealand song writers are some of the finest in the world. No, they are the finest. (Best poet I've read - Don McGlashan of the Muttonbirds.)

And Sarah and Craig introduced me to bro'Town. It's an animated cartoon made by the comedic group The Naked Samoans and if we must do the comparison thing, then yes it is kinda like a Samoan/Maori South Park. bro'Town is hits my spot. It treads a very fine line and, damn, it is funny when it gives the finger and declares "not even, ow" and jumps across that line.

Aotearoa, the whanau (that's a Maori word for family) make sure that it's a great place to live.

Let us sing together
All of us forever
Let the loving light
Lead us to your dawning

-Cornerstone Roots

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Paddock Bashing

I have some family in Matakana, a small but growing development near Warkworth, which in turn is about an hour north of Auckland. My cousins Stephanie, David and Paul are a lot younger than me (15, 13 and 11). They are immensely talanted (it is possible that Stephanie will be representing NZ in the youth sailing world cup in the Canary Islands next year and we kiwis are very good sailors. Actually, when I say we, I really mean the rest of us as I couldn't sail across the bath (as much as I would like to think I can sail round the Horn by myself)). My cousins have a paddock, and they also have a deregistered Mazda 121. This is the basher. The basher is fueled by petrol that Paul and David steal from the lawnmower. After learning handbrake turns from the eleven year old Paul I strapped myself into the basher and drove around the paddock as fast as it will go. There is something very liberating about driving straight towards a small ditch and hit the accelerator. Nice to not have to worry about suspension. When I was finally prised from the drivers seat, David got a turn. After some really impressive turns the car ground to a halt. The young fellers immediately popped the bonnet and reattached the battery that had come loose. Still no life in the car. Being the senior man in the party I had a look. Being as good a mechanic as I am a sailor (my diagnoses with car failures are a short and sweet list: Did a) it hit another car, b) the car run out of petrol, c) the battery die, or d) the alternator die) and having had experience with a, c and d I said get more fuel. So we stole some more from the lawn mower. That didn't work. We tried a few more times and then I declared it to be flooded. So we walked away from it to let it, um, de-flood. After several more attempts an hour later she still didn't start. We popped the bonnet one more time and then I noticed a large accumulation of grass at the base. The amount of grass had compressed a rubber hose leading into the whirry engine thing. I declared it to be blocking the fuel line so we prised it all away and gave the key a turn. First turn and we were bashing again. Big technical fault that, grass under the hood.

But paddock bashing, by golly, that was fun.

(Pictures of the dirt and the basher when I return to blighty)

Different pipe, same cargo

Sir Joseph Bazalgette was the civil engineer behind the design of the London sewers in the nineteeth century. His great-great-grandson is Peter Bazalgette, a television producer for Endemol, and he is responsible for producing Big Brother. I guess the cargo was in his veins.