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l'enfer du North Island

  kum kum kumt Tuesday 23 December 2008 link

I started off Christmas in fine form by winning a case of wine yesterday morning. Excellent. Appropriately, I already had a hangover, which rather strikes me as putting the cart before the horse. I can only hope that the fine quality of Vavasour's merchandise should rule out a re-play of the vile morning after. There's nothing that can make you cut down the booze like pre-schoolers; when you're young and carefree, you can wake up and get to work with a hangover and it's all OK. Hell, at 25 turning up to work with a stinking hangover and vomiting in the toilets is practically a badge of honour. In our case, I'm pretty sure that I was up at 2am to deal with existential angst about the fate of a previous goldfish. And that's why I don't often drink to excess, because explaining that Rebecca Fish had a good life but has now died and isn't going to come back to life, while still tipsy, is a very unpleasant experience and probably counts as bad parenting. Heather and I spent a bit of time the previous night planning our Christmas, and the planning session got away on us a bit. I'm pretty sure I can remember most of the plans, although I'm slightly unsure of some of our rationales. And I know we had a safe word if we needed to make a run for it, but I'm damned if I can recall it.

Update: At Heather's request, I should point out that the previous paragraph makes use of the literary device known as "hyperbole", i.e. dramatic exaggeration for humorous effect. We do not make a habit of getting rat-arsed while in charge of the children, neither of us gets sloshed as a matter of habit, and our drinking habits are in fact extremely sensible. Largely as a result of the kids, but also because once you crack 30 waking up with a hangover loses a lot of the shine. I feel confident to state that at no point have we ever attended to the children in any state other than "somewhat happy" - we have not even pushed it to "tired and emotional". Hyperbole! Just to make that clear. In case this is being read by someone with no sense of humour, and because that sort of thing is often dependant on tone of voice (and thus doesn't come across so well online).

See, this is how we know we didn't go native in the UK. If we had, we'd eschew the cheap sugar rush of hyperbole for the refined, dry bite of litotes: "Children can be a tad loud the morning after knocking off a bottle of vodka." Again, for the humour-impaired: that's a joke. I haven't knocked off a bottle of vodka single-handed since the mid-90's (though to be honest, that was in fact a very cheap off-brand baijiu [white lightning] bottle I'd picked up in China, and it did leave me with very clean teeth - and, to be frank, a bleached tongue - for a week or so).

I listen to rather a lot of music. I tend to work with headphones on, to cut out background noise (OK, both my officemates are spookily quiet, but you get the idea). This works pretty well, and enables me to stay on the right side of the office annoyance ratio (how annoying I am to others vs how annoying they are to me - obviously, you want to keep the general annoyance level down low, but if there's going to be some annoyance I'd rather be inflicting than receiving). Anyway. Headphones. It's a good technique, except that I can get quite into my music. And I start dancing in place. I'm sure it's hilarious to watch, and probably quite annoying out of the corner of your eye, but I can't help it. It ranges from bouncing my head up and down, to the occasional hand punched in the air or hip-hop hand gestures, and - in extreme cases - leaping out of my chair and shouting "There is only one ruling selectah!".

I think people noticed, but they were too polite to say anything.

No longer have stinking cold. It's now a sinus infection. You can hear me coming around the corner: it's the sound of a hacking cough, followed by a quiet "oh fuck."

My goal on the bike this year was to knock up 3500 kilometres. In the end, I rang up 4671k. I'm pretty happy with that. Target for next year is to get at least 5000k; I'm pretty sure I can notch that one up without suffering death.

Chrismug: the quiet feeling of happiness that you get when you know you've finished your Christmas shopping.

Ah, progress. Now an essential part of the preparation for any road trip is spending a couple of hours putting together a decent iPod playlist. Putting on the bangin' choons, leaving off the shouty sweary ones. Och.

Speaking of playlists: we now hold the new album by Wellington's premiere klezmer band in our sweaty hands. It's mint. It's crisp. It's rocking. It's $20. Splash out, you tight bastards. Oy!

  more test Sunday 21 December 2008 link

If you do nothing else this week, watch this video. Funny, interesting, and makes an important point.

  title hastily added later Friday 19 December 2008 link

I have a stinking cold at the moment. I feel like death and am producing huge amounts of mucus. It's hilarious fun. Particularly at work; one of the side-effects of becoming a self-employed contractor is the strange reluctance to take a day off for anything short of bubonic plague.

Except on the bike. It's one of those odd colds where you feel like shit and have a streaming nose, and then as soon as you start to take any kind of exercise your nose dries up and you feel fine. Seriously. If I could do my day's work while keeping up a steady 25kph around the Miramar peninsula I'd be golden. As is, I have to content myself with feeling much better on my way home.

Currently listening to: very much thrashing Sleater-Kinney's excellent album "The Woods". Angry lesbians with guitars; American clit rock in the best style, with a couple of ludicrously catchy tunes. I generally don't like guitar rock, but this is great stuff. Standout tracks are "Entertain", "Let's Call it Love/Night Light", and "Everything". Also listening to "London Zoo" by The Bug. One of those albums that you listen to on headphones and say "Wow, this is great", and then hear on something with a subwoofer and realise that the bass is about half the sound. Very much the industrial dancehall, good thumping bass. And some genius tracks. Apparently The Bug is playing support for Nine Inch Nails on their upcoming tour, and I can see why - though the dancehall sound is probably going to make a few 15-year old emo kids' heads explode.

Under a week until Christmas. We have a Christmas tree. It's pink. Very, very pink. Rebecca had a hand in picking it. Hey, if you're going to do Christmas, you might as well DO CHRISTMAS. I actually rather like it. Maggie is entranced by the decorations. We've got pretty much most of the presents sorted; now it's just a matter of surviving until the day itself.

  specifically, shaun of the dead Sunday 14 December 2008 link

Had our work Christmas party on Thursday. Those of you with long memories may be glad to know that I avoided revisiting past triumphs and did not once again channel the spirit of Robbie Williams. Instead, I necked a few beers and headbanged to the smooth sounds of the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra. A good night was had by all, and responsible drinking was the winner on the day. Tell you what, though, once people realised that "open bar" meant just that, and started getting the shots in... let's just say that I was at my desk at 8:30 on Friday, and it was like a post-apocalyptic film. Well, more so than usual, and in the specific sense that the place was deserted. Most of the hangovers started trickling in around 10:30am, many of them still drunk. Ah, youth.

  i am now an arse model Wednesday 10 December 2008 link

I ended up having a moderately comprehensive check at the doctor the other day. Man, you just have to say "recurring unexplained severe chest pain" and they hit the panic button, don't they? After a physical examination, an ECG and a blood test, the diagnosis seems to be that I'd pulled something around my chest wall. This explained the acute pain while breathing deeply or exercising, and why it went away when I took anti-inflammatories. On the plus side, the ECG showed that I have a reasonably low (or at least, lower than average) resting heart rate, probably due to all the cycling. I've got a way to go before I reach Miguel Indurain's record of a resting pulse rate of 28bpm, mind. On the minus side, the blood test means that I now have a huge bruise on my left forearm.

As a result of the chest pain, I ended up riding Taupo while popping ibuprofen. This worked pretty well, which is why I had had a good idea that the pain wasn't cardiac (and hence could be reasonably safely ignored). Mind you, you can take it too far: one of my teammates loaded up big on ibuprofen, caffeine, guarana, and vitamin-C. He promptly cramped repeatedly and badly. It's true, kids, the drugs don't work, they just make it worse...

Oh, and something I forgot to mention from the Taupo commentary - Tui came to the party. At 20k or so intervals around the course, there were mini Tui billboards with cycling specific messages - "The training is really paying off", "It's all downhill from here", "I like the challenge of hills", etc. Good stuff. Every little bit of morale helped. The other morale booster was the occasional groups of small kids on the side of the road, who held up their hands for high-fives from passing riders. There's something about high-fiving a random 7-year old at speed that just cheers you up.

That pod of dolphins is just hanging around the harbour. Last Thursday, they were right by Te Papa, about 10m off the wharf. Big crowd watching them.

Fun things to hear at the swimming pool when you're in the changing rooms, stark naked and having a shower: "Now come on, dear, we can just... oh. This is the men's changing rooms." Yes madam - that would be the upshot of the big, big signs you've just walked straight past, prior to turning the corner and seeing more than I suspect you were bargaining for.

I made a complete arse of myself at work the other day. No, the Christmas party's tomorrow night; what I'm talking about is a brief modelling stint when they needed a visual reference for a certain portion of the male anatomy. Nice to know that all that cycling's paying off.

  this time it hurt more Monday 1 December 2008 link

This year's Taupo ride, told as a series of bullet points.

Riding home last week, I saw a pod of dolphins playing in the water in Evans Bay. That's a pod of dolphins deciding to go for a bit of a blat around, 500m from my office. Rock. I watched them for about 10 minutes; as I rode off, a group of young guys were busily stripping down to their shorts and getting into the water.

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unspoilt by progress

calm, peaceful, sweary

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