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l'enfer du North Island

  i say this Friday, 30 January 2009 link

Neil deGrasse Tyson - best Daily Show guest evar. Seriously.

Tattoo itchy, peeling, at the "early diagnosis of scrofula" stage. A couple of weeks and we'll be good. Can't wait to go back under the needle.

Me: Now, it's Nana's birthday next week. I think she'd really like it if you drew her a picture.
Rebecca: ....
OK. Daddy, what's Nana's favourite kind of spider?

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why my daughter is made of unalloyed WIN.

  unnecessary detail Sunday, 25 January 2009 link

So more details on Friday.

I got up, got the kids sorted and dropped off to nursery, then cleared my work email. About 9:15 I hopped in the car and headed up the coast. Got to Paekakariki about 9:50, and found the studio. Pacific Tattoo is on the main drag in Paekak; this isn't hard, as Paekak doesn't have much other than a main drag. Met Tim, who is a very personable bloke, without any of the "cooler than thou" attitude that tattooists often have. I described the sort of thing I wanted to Tim, and went through the design basics. He nodded, gave me some other books of designs to look through, and went outside for a ciggy while he thought for a bit. After about an hour's discussion, looking at designs, and cups of tea, he got me to lie down on the table and started drawing some freehand designs on. "We'll just give this a go and see what happens," he said.

We then had about another hour of drawing; I occasionally hopped up and provided feedback on the design so far. The end result was something that we were both very happy with: big bits of black, some nice patterning, mainly geometric but with a good degree of flow, and with a general plan for how to extend it further on down my arm in later sessions. Runs from the top of my shoulder (near the collarbone) down to my existing armband. Some small areas of color but not too busy. With the design agreed, I popped across the road for a pie and a biscuit to fortify myself prior to kicking off. Another cup of tea, and by 12:30 we were go. Then we settled in for some solid work. The outlining took until about 2pm, after which we got mucked into the shading. As the tat had some big, black areas, the shading took quite a while. At about 4pm we took a tea break, then quickly got going again to get as much done as possible before I had to leave at 5pm to pick up the kids.

Yes, it was as painful as I remember. Notably the worst bits were the point of my shoulder, the back/underside of my arm, and the point where the arm joins to the body (i.e. directly above my armpit) - man, did that bit hurt. In contrast, I was once again pleasantly surprised by how insensitive some of the outside of my bicep is. Mind you, Tim is clearly a perfectionist - he would carefully work and rework an area until he was totally happy with the line or the fill. This was gratifying but extremely painful. During one of the occasional tea breaks, we agreed that while we both rather like having tattoos, neither of us is particularly keen on the process of getting them. Overall, I didn't have any particular reason to reassess my position that tattooing hurts like a bastard.

Mind you, there is clearly nothing much else to do in Paekakariki on a Friday afternoon other than drop past the tattooist. From about 2pm, someone came through the door and made small talk with Tim about every ten minutes. Seriously. It was astonishing how busy the place was. From my perspective, this was pretty annoying, as I'd far rather that the tattooist was concentrating on working on my design rather than chatting to another customer.

At the end of the day, we hadn't quite finished the design. Some of the areas at the front of the arm still need to be coloured black, and the sharks' teeth need to be colored red. But we ran out of time, so that'll have to wait until the next session. Annoyingly, the next appointment available is in June. So I've booked two, to save time. The agenda there is going to be to extend the design down onto my forearm, and finish up the bits still to do from this session (plus probably a few touch-ups).

Now, a couple of days later, I'm still in quite a bit of pain. The big black areas are great, but really sore. The problem with having ink on the back/top of my shoulder is that the dense areas are on bits that either move/stretch a moderate amount, or which I sleep on at night. The fact that it's currently midsummer is both a blessing and a curse - it means that I can wander around topless or in a singlet without any problems, but it also means that it's all a bit sweaty and uncomfortable. Odd point: although I only had ink on my arm, I felt the pain equally much (both at the time and right now) at one or two points on my back - basically the areas where the arm rests against the body. It's very odd, as though my brain is treating the back of my tricep and my armpit where it normally rests as a single piece of flesh. Funny thing, brains. I'm currently praying that most of the ink stays in, as I don't particularly fancy getting a large amount of rework done. I'm a bit worried about some of the big black areas at the back of my arm - I tend to sleep on my back, and I did slightly stick to the sheets for the first couple of nights, which didn't help the scab formation. Still, if I need it re-colored, I need it re-colored, and the 3rd of June is time enough.

For a general idea of how the design turned out, have a look at this photo of the tattoo 4 hours after the end of the first session. And here's a shot that puts it more in context.

And as I was leaving, Tim mentioned that I should check out Life Under Zen. Yes, it's mostly in Portugese. But by god it's beautiful. From the main page, click through on the graphics to get to the full blog entries - ignore the text and see the evolution of the pieces through the photos. Now there's a tattooist with a very unique visual style - if you can look at this half-sleeve and not think "wow!", there's something wrong.

  ouch ouch Friday, 23 January 2009 link

Well, that hurt.

  i need to clean off my cassette Monday, 19 January 2009 link

An interesting week for the klezmaniacs amongst us. First off, on Tuesday night, the Klezmer Rebs went off at the Soundshell. Big crowd - people were even sitting around on the hillsides overlooking the soundshell (the organisers estimated 1500 people). I got up the front and started dancing after about 3 songs, and by the end so were a lot of the crowd. A great gig all around - 90 minutes of belting tunes. I ran into a couple of coworkers from Russia, one of who was praising the singing in songs like "Ochi Chyorniye" and "Zvezda Rock n Rolla". Lots of grins in the crowd, a few beers consumed, and home by 10:30pm to relieve mum from her babysitting. Top night out. The concerts in the Botanic Gardens are always a good time, and the light show they've got on at the moment is most spectacular. Even the weather was bang on: warm, still, dry. Verdict: a good night, and well played.

Somewhat different experience at the EcoFest by Levin. An interesting crowd; as Dave Moskowitz said to me, "You're not on Lambton Quay any more". "Dude, we aren't even on Cuba St", I replied. One of the rare occasions that I've seen more people without shoes than with them on. A surprisingly large number of facial tattoos, though since this is New Zealand, most of them were on Maori women in their 50s. Lots of floppy-haired hippy chicks: I am reliably informed that it was like Woodstock-lite. Or rather, Glasto-lite, as it rained torrentially overnight and all morning, then broke into brilliant sunshine about an hour before the Rebs went on. This meant that everyone was walking through pretty extensive mud. The girls came along and were pretty happy about the whole thing, though the inevitable delays meant that the Rebs were an hour late taking the stage. Ever tried to entertain two tired, fractious preschoolers for 90 minutes in the middle of a field 2" deep in mud? It's an experience. The sun shone brightly all through the previous act and soundcheck (during which Maggie and Rebecca repeatedly rushed the stage), plus the Rebs' first three numbers. Then there was a brief shower - about ten minutes of torrential, monsoon-quantity rain. Cue wet, cold, tired children in field full of mud. I got a fruit smoothie into them and they perked up quite a bit, and ended up dancing for the final part of the show. They went off like fireworks during "Zvezda" and "Anarchia Totalle". Och! After we loaded them into the car they were asleep within ten minutes. Bless 'em. And another good gig for the Rebs, despite the climactic hilarity (which didn't help with getting a dancefloor going).

Next Rebs gigs are both on Waitangi Day, at either Chaffers Park or Te Rauparaha Domain in Porirua - see for details.

So I'm going under the needle again on Friday. It's kind of odd. People hear that I'm getting another tattoo, and ask what I'm getting a tattoo of. There's two answers to this one. The short answer is, "I don't know", which usually takes them aback and is, come to think of it, actually a pretty odd thing to say. The long answer is, "some sort of geometric design, mainly in black but with some red/grey elements". Thing is, I realised a while back that one of the reasons that I like simple, stark tattoo designs is simply that I don't have much design ability myself. But I know what I like. I know pretty much the sort of design I want, and I've got a lot of reference material for the work - but I'm not really capable of drawing it myself. So I'm paying a professional to do it for me. The first part of the day on Friday is to work out a coherent design for a full sleeve that works in with my current armband, and once we've got that sorted, we might get around to starting some work on it. So I'm in the faintly odd position of not actually knowing what I'll get tattooed on me in four days, nor how much tattooing will actually occur. I am, however, quietly confident.

Actually, to be honest, I've just started giving fake answers to the tattoo question. "So what are you getting a tattoo of?"

Plus, how great is this? Our women's pursuit team won gold at the World Cup Cycling in Beijing. The team included one rider who had never ridden on a track until 10 weeks ago. Dear god. Add in two wins in the individual pursuit for the women, Hayden Godfrey winning the men's scratch race, and the men's team pursuit taking silve, and we might see a bit more funding for track cycling yet.

  i never wanted to be different Tuesday, 6 January 2009 link

Well, Christmas was good. The girls both got loads of toys; Maggie seemed nonplussed, but Rebecca was acutely aware of the situation. Santa came through with a copy of her favourite movie, Hercules. She also received a child's book of Greek myths, which she carefully went through comparing them to the movie and locating textual simularities and differences. From her perspective, she's used to Cinderella being at least three different books, a movie, and a ballet on ice, so she's quite fine with the notion that one basic story has a lot of variations. She just wanted to find out exactly what the divergences were. My big fun present was a hedge trimmer, which sounds irredeemably suburban until you actually have a go with one and realise how much fun they are to use. I had to be restrained from topiarating our hedge into a bas-relief homage to early colonial life in NZ.

Anyway. Christmas itself happened in Wellington, up until about 3pm - at which time we disappeared off up the coast. We drove up to Auckland via Rotorua, and back down via Taupo. On both legs, the first day went pretty well, while the kids got increasingly fractious on the second. They would appear to have a tolerance of about one day sitting in the car; on the second day, the interest wanes. The lesson here is "knock off as much as you can on day 1". This worked pretty well on the way up - yes, they spent a lot of time in the car, but afterwards they got to have a big swim in a heated pool and it was all cool. Less so on the way down; it was slow going coming down from Taupo due to incredibly bad weather going across the Desert Road (50m visibility, torrential downpour, etc), then running into the Otaki tailback (1 hour to go 7k as the crow flies). Next time, we're flying.

Auckland itself was good. We spent a day or two decompressing, then went around and met various family members. The high point of the trip was probably the day we spent in Auckland museum, which is excellent. The kids loved the natural history section; the underfloor tank full of crabs and crayfish was a big favourite. The particular reason we went to the museum (other than that we always go to the Zoo and fancied a change) was to see the "A Tyrannosaur Named Sue" exhibit. Most fun seeing a dirty great big dinosaur skeleton, even if it is technically not actually the real thing (it's a cast of the original bones). Most impressive. Maggie spent most of the time in the exhibition running around and climbing things - she'd made it almost up to the top of the Tyrannosaur's knee bones before I noticed what she was doing. Thank heavens the skeleton was pretty securely wired together. Rebecca spent a few minutes sitting in the corner and watching a video of "Walking with Dinosaurs". While she did this, Heather and I wandered around and spent time alternately looking at the exhibit and preventing Maggie from leaping off things. A few minutes later, I spotted Rebecca walking around looking around for us. She turned to look at me, her face crumpled, and she started to cry. I figured that this was just the delayed onset fear that you often get, when you only go to pieces a bit once you know it's safe. But she was screaming and moaning about how she'd been looking for us and then saw that there was a real dinosaur. "No, dear," I replied, set to maximum soothe, "it's just a skeleton. There are no real dinosaurs any more." Five minutes of soothing later, I turn around and discover that shortly behind me is a bloke in an incredibly realistic dinosaur suit. Quite frankly I'm surprised that Rebecca was the only freakout.

Maggie is at the stage of language acquisition where phonemes have a wide semantic field. She's mad on animals. Specifically, birds ("Duck!") and dogs ("Deda! Rrrr.... fss..."). At the museum, she had a great time running around the ornithology section: albatrosses, moas, pterodactyls, giant penguins, and even the occasional Anatidae were all merrily identified as ducks. Bless her.

Back on the bike this morning. Did 4700-odd kilometres last year; my target for this year is 5000, which should be fairly achieveable. Tell you what, though, after the better part of two and a half weeks off I've lost a little pace. Should be OK in a week or two.

Currently listening to Golem! - the New York klezmer band, not the heavy metal one. Their "Golem Hora" is an excellent track; a medley of classic klezmer tunes, some of which have rude words. They also do a version of "Bublitschki" that includes a translation of the lyrics into English (with a slight cultural translation). Currently watching: "A Matter of Loaf and Death", the Christmas Wallace & Gromit special. Really, really funny stuff; I laughed like a drain at various points.

And a hat tip to the Bike Snob NYC for writing the best bike review ever. Proving that all you have to do to get free stuff is a) write a well-read blog and b) ask people for things. Good work that man.

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