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l'enfer du North Island

  52 tons of pure fun Sunday, 28 February 2010 link

Our tenth wedding anniversary worked out well. Heather had no idea where the hell we were going until she got to the airport. Once she'd realised that we were off to Christchurch, she put on a brave face (I probably shouldn't have dropped all those hints about tropical weather, taking a swimsuit, etc - though I had also been dropping hints about taking footwear that could for e.g. be helpful when atttempting to outrun a large predator on open grassland). Equally, she had absolutely no idea what we were going to do... right up until I made the hard left turn into Tanks For Everything. And even then - when she'd realised that I'd booked for her to drive a Centurion tank - she was still lacking a vital piece of information. It wasn't until she'd got changed into camo kit, spent an hour climbing in and out of various tanks, got behind the wheels of 52 tons of Bad News for Immobile Objects, and actually driven it around about 900m of the 1k course that she found out the full story: I'd also booked for her to drive the tank over a car.

Subaru Impreza, if you're wondering.

I think we can safely say that Heather greatly enjoyed the experience. Several of the other punters there that day seemed bemused that I'd got this for H as a wedding anniversary present; my response was, I know my wife, and she's wanted to do this for a long time. Video and pictures to arrive via the usual sources fairly shortly. I can also thoroughly recommend the crew at Tanks for Everything, who were excellent. They were enthusiastic, energetic, and played along with the surprise aspect of it all - to the extent of swearing the other punters there that day to silence as regards the upcoming car crushing. Top blokes, and if you like driving gert big lumps of metal around they're definitely the people to talk to.

Apart from that, we had an excellent weekend away in Christchurch. If you're in the vicinity, I can thoroughly recommend the botanic gardens. Obviously, I'm rather a fan of glasshouses, and the big glasshouses there are awesome. There's a very nice display of carnivorous plants in the main glasshouse at the moment - though to be honest, I was more impressed with the glasshouse itself than with the specimens on display. Mostly nice specimens, but of fairly common species. The only specimens in the main glasshouse that I haven't seen in a garden centre here were the Heliamphora - which were stunning. But if you're there, do yourself a favour: swing through the main glasshouse, hang a left, and go through the room full of cacti. There's a lovely wee room tucked in the back, full of orchids and some of the more exotic carnivores I've seen in NZ. They even had a beautiful specimen of Nepenthes hamata, which I didn't even know was in cultivation in this country. And full marks to them for including a magnifying lens in front of the best pitcher, so people can see why it's such a magnificent plant. Beautiful.

Then back to reality. A whirlwind week at work, then our housewarming barbecue. The weather came to the party in spades, with rather a lot of beautiful sunshine and very little wind. A planned mellow six hour barbecue turned into a rather epic ten; we're still picking the grit out of the carpet. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, although as a host I did find it very hard to actually have an in-depth conversation with anyone. There was always a sausage to grill, a child to remove from a drain, or a bridge to cross. The kids had a great day, marauding around the place - Rebecca lead several expeditions down to the bottom of the garden. Great fun.

And in which vein: I finally made it up to the top (and sides) of our property today. I can confirm that it's a really, really steep slope covered with loose pine needles and leaf mould, and that it goes back quite a way. And then I took a very long time to get back, as the footing was incredibly loose and the consequences of a misstep were a 20m rolling fall down into a river. Still, that's a 20m rolling fall down My Bloody Property - and that's the sort of risk I like to take (disclaimer: I did not break anyone's leg).

  brief Monday, 15 February 2010 link

Saturday morning, we were walking through Civic Square. I mentioned to R that the Yayoi Kusama exhibition was being taken down. "What do you mean?" "Well, they're taking all the big paintings with the dots on down, and some other artist can come in and do some different paintings now." "You mean, like... stripes?"

  post shower Wednesday, 10 February 2010 link

An addendum to my previous post, which I should have included as one of the final bullet points:

Try not to remember the dicks. Chances are the people who did good things for you outnumber the dicks; try not to fixate on the negative. This morning on my ride into work, three separate drivers paused and waited for me rather than try to blat through turns they could probably have made without affecting me. That's got to outweigh the bloke who deliberately drifted to the left to stop me filtering through 5kph traffic going out of J'ville. It's not always easy to remember the nice people - it's much, much easier to focus on the stuff that spikes your adrenaline and makes you want to hurt people - but for your own peace of mind, it's worth trying.

I am currently wearing a bathrobe, reading Solzhenitsyn's "The Gulag Archipelago", and listening to avant-garde hip-hop on my hi-fi stereo. Clearly I am more of a pretentious wanker than I'd thought.

  a general principle about life, told through the lens of road usage behaviour Monday, 8 February 2010 link

Here's a good principle to keep in mind: dicks stand out.

Which is to say, some people are dicks. They do dick-ish things. Like running red lights; like tailgating; like not stopping at pedestrian crossings; like driving with booming sound systems; like not giving way when required.

But most people aren't dicks. Most people are at worst uninterested, and at best fairly positive. And there's a lot of nice people out there: people who go out of their way to make things work more smoothly. But the dicks are the ones who stand out.

Think about it. You commute in to work. Chances are the vast majority of the other road users follow the rules and it goes smoothly; several people are courteous and make way for you when you merge across lanes; and one fucktard cuts you up something rotten. What do you remember about your commute half an hour later? You remember the dick. You don't remember the vast majority of people who just played along, you don't even remember the people who actively helped to make things go smoothly for you; you remember the fuckwit who cut you up.

This is why people mutter about "bloody cyclists ignoring red lights". When I cycle, the majority of cyclists are actually law-abiding and sensible. But there's always a few who are, and you can see where this is going, dicks. To the average motorist stopped at a red light, the law-abiding cyclists waiting patiently for the light to change are basically invisible. But the fixie twat who blats through the light? That's the cyclist they'll remember. That's who they think of when coming up with a mental picture of a cyclist.


You may generalise this to other situations as you see fit.

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