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l'enfer du North Island

  a 29er you say Tuesday, 27 April 2010 link

So the city council is going to make the southbound lane of Thorndon Quay a no-stopping zone up until 9am. This is a very good thing. Thorndon Quay is really rather pointlessly dangerous, as cyclists filter up the wide margin beside the slow rush hour traffic and drivers swing across to park up. This won't actually eliminate the danger down there - about half the danger comes from drivers driving into businesses or internal carparks - but it'll help reduce it. Now, if they could only do something to make people look out for cyclists when they pull out of the driveways along the Old Hutt Road in Kaiwharawhara.

Longtime readers here may recall some of my earliest updates being amusing-in-retrospect rants about our neighbour in Cambridge during late 2000 through to around 2002. Quick precis: she was precisely what conservatives have in mind when they talk about people on the DPB (council housing/welfare queens etc). Six children, to six different fathers, many of whom had been taken away from her by social services at various points. Functionally illiterate. Lived on benefits, supplemented with shoplifting and low grade fraud (at one point, Heather was a prosecution witness when this woman was charged with fraud). Claimed that her kids got a hard time because they were half black, while ranting about the "fucking Pakis" running the corner shop. Frequently drunk and abusive. Her three year-old son was frequently found by the police wandering around the housing estate on his own at 11pm. Her primary method of contraception seemed to be incarceration - her kids coincided with the stretches that she wasn't in prison for some petty crime or another. When she was finally evicted by the council, she was once again pregant (rumour was, to one of the local 15-year olds who hung around trying to cop off with her eldest daughter) and did a runner, leaving her house so trashed the council had to totally gut it and rebuild. A complete poster child for everything the right wing thinks is wrong with welfare.

And that's why I'm left wing, and think the social safety net is a good thing. Because yes, you do get abuse of the system. There will always be worst cases. But, realistically, what else was my neighbour going to do? Without housing, without income support, she'd have been in an even worse state. She'd have been on the street, begging or stealing. As it was, she was a huge, massive, collossal pain in the arse - but without the social safety net she'd have been completely screwed. And I'd rather live somewhere where the occasional idiot can rort the system than somewhere that leaves people out on the streets.

  i always forget how much it hurts Monday, 19 April 2010 link

Had the first session on my new tattoo on Friday. When I arrived at the studio I discovered that the shop had significantly expanded and there's now an additional tattooist, Fred, working there. Nice bloke. Tim had spent a bit of time drawing up the design earlier in the week. So within five minutes of my arrival, he was showing me the proposed design for the head and body of the octopus. I was very, very happy with the design, so we got straight to work sorting out the placement and size. We took copies at a couple of sizes to get it just right.

So within an hour of getting through the door, we had the finalised design in place and were ready to get going. Cue a long day of moderate pain. At various points during the day, about half a dozen people asked me how much it was hurting in the various bits. Well, the back of the leg was very sore. Front of the thigh was much less so. And the linework around the bottom of the design was barely noticeable - I felt some pressure but no pain. This was a marked comparison to the rear of the thigh, which was mostly quite sore with the odd spot that was severely painful.

When I get tattooed, I tend to book in on Tuesdays or Fridays. I prefer Tuesdays. Why? Because on Fridays, you get people taking off early for the weekend and popping in to discuss a prospective design. So there were a few people popping in for a chat. Shortly after lunch, a visiting tattooist from Hawai'i popped in to say hi and look through the portfolios. He had a bit of a chat while Tim worked, and admired the clean linework Tim was putting on. About an hour later, a bloke came in to discuss placement of his next tattoo, with his partner. We took a break from tattooing to discuss this with him. I join in the conversation, because why not? So I'm making polite small talk and discussing it with this guy and his girlfriend, while basically standing around in my underpants. In a related note, I saw the girlfriend at my work today, wearing a District 9 sweatshirt, so it looks like she's a coworker. So that's another entry added to the list of people that I've met for the first time while basically naked from the waist down and bleeding (it's a surprisingly long list - don't ask).

By the end of the day, we'd done most of the head, with just a couple of bits still to shade in. Next session is a fortnight from tomorrow, and is the start of the tentacles. They're going to have to be freehand; four tentacles going up around the inside and rear of my thigh, and the other four going down onto my calf. So I'm quite aware that the next session is likely to be a lot more painful, the inner thigh and kneecap being a bit notorious in this regard. Two weeks.

The curious can see a photo of the results of the first session, with the head mostly completed.

After that, the weekend was pretty mellow. We took the kids down to the Emergency Services open day on the waterfront on Sunday. Once again, the girls loved being able to climb around gert big machines; in this case, fire engines and another rescue helicopter. Rebecca particularly enjoyed the police stand. I was rather astonished to see that the Armed Offenders Squad had a table and were letting kids handle their equipment. Yes: they let my 6-year old handle a tear gas grenade launcher. And a riot shield. And an assault rifle. But the happiest was when they let her get up on a police motorcycle. A grand day out.

By the way, the hosting here migrated a bit last week. You may have noticed that the URL and feed have changed to, and that Heather's blog is now at There'll be a few changes to the background static pages as well (mostly, removing them). Please repoint feeds etc as appropriate. And yes, this does also fix the longstanding bug with links to my archive files from feeds. Drop me a line if anything's still buggered for you.

  this struck me between the eyes Wednesday, 14 April 2010 link

Thailand is a land of massive inequality. The wealthiest 20 per cent own 69 per cent of the country's assets, the bottom 20 per cent just 1 per cent.


Wow, that sounds incredibly inequitable. Then again:

In the US, the wealthiest 10% of the population owns 61.5% of the wealth. And the lowest 50% of the population has a grand total of 2.5% of the wealth.


So remind me: which nation was the one with massive inequality again?

  though there is a common theme between the two Monday, 12 April 2010 link

I was interested to hear our mate Urs (no, not that one) on the radio this morning talking about police surveillance of protestors. Detailed summary available from IndyMedia, item available on Morning Report so you know it's legitimate and not just a bunch of hippies. Several people have made the point that it's just police surveillance, that the fact that the police are taking photos of the protestors and compiling the files on them is nothing new. But I think there's a danger here that this level of police surveillance has a chilling effect on casual protest. Yes, there are a lot of people who have strong political opinions and will show up to a lot of protests. These people mostly know that the police have their photo and are keeping a file on them; if you're the sort of committed social activist who goes to more than three protests in a year, it's an incidental hazard, and is unlikely to put those people off. But what about people who aren't part of what is derisively referred to as "rentamob"? What about "average" people who feel strongly about a particular issue, and decide to turn up to a protest for the first time? I know that if I turned out to a protest and saw a telephoto lens focussing on me from a marked police car, I'd be thinking in the back of my head "Yeah, I hope this doesn't prove a problem if I ever want to get another job that requires me to pass a security assessment..." And I'd be bloody leery of attending another protest. And so this sort of activity has a chilling effect on your average non-activist citizen getting up and arguing against things. It seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy on the part of the police; that by assuming that there is a dedicated core of protestors, the actions they're taking to track these people work to put off anyone else from coming to protests.

And I'm very much not comfortable with that. Which is why I am opposed to the Search and Surveillance bill currently before NZ's parliament, as it greatly expands the police's powers to watch and search anyone they want. I simply can't see these additional powers not being misused; and I think that such searches will be used to intimidate citizens into avoiding protest and going along with things.

But anyway.

A nice weekend. We spent rather a lot of time making cinnamon pinwheels from scratch on Saturday, then took them around to Morgue and Cal's place for their flat-cooling party. The girls thoroughly enjoyed themselves, clowning around for people and swarming all over the elliptical trainer. Ever seen an elliptical trainer being operated by a six-year old and a two-year old, one on each pedal? Remarkably effective.

Got a phone call yesterday. My tattooist confirming a couple of details for my leg. He was going to spend today drawing up the design; we start on Friday. Very much looking forward to it.

Recent reading: this series of articles on being tattooed by Horiyoshi III, one of Japan's master tattooists. Fascinating glimpse into a very traditional world.

  test Sunday, 11 April 2010 link

Don't mind me, I'm just checking something.

  there's a pun in here somewhere. Thursday, 1 April 2010 link

Took the kids to see The Wiggles yesterday. The show was very similar to when they were here a year ago; lots of circus stuff, a mix of the classic tunes and some of the newer ones. The Wiggles always give a good gig. If you've got kids, I can highly recommend taking them. As Rodger noted, the crowd outside was about as rowdy as for AC/DC, but 3ft tall. Important difference to note: the crowd outside the Wiggles thought that a bloke on a bicycle was cool. This was not so much the case for AC/DC. But I'm pretty sure that both crowds were clamouring for the ladeez to get their tits out; except at The Wiggles, it was more based around nutrition. More la leche than le lech, really.

Similarly, as with Rodger, we took the kids to the Wellington Aero Club open day at the weekend. They loved it. Maggie has a big thing for planes, and the chance to see them taking off at close range made her very happy. We had to extract her with extreme prejudice from several aircraft. Rebecca enjoys anything where you get to climb into vehicles and pretend to drive them, so she was in her element. After a couple of hours, we had to leave in order to prevent the kids from passing out with hunger. And at that, as we crowbarred them out the door, they were still begging to have another look at a couple of the planes... bless their little cotton socks, the buggers.

There's been a recent proposal to put up a Wellywood sign on one of the hills in Miramar, so it's visible from across the harbour (and to planes making the northern landing approach). Leaving aside the general discussion about the sign, I've been amused to see that one of the arguments against it is that we should leave the natural hillside alone. Have the people arguing this actually seen the hillside in question? It's covered in gorse scrub and a couple of pine trees. 100m away from the proposed sign, on the other side of the cutting, is a light industrial zone, the most notable feature of which is a clearly marked paint factory. This is not one of our areas of outstanding natural beauty. Now, if they were talking about putting it in the hillside 2k further up the peninsula around the Shelly Bay reserve, we'd have something to talk about. But they're not. So yes, feel free to have a problem with the Wellywood sign - but for heaven's sake, don't argue that it would be desecrating our natural wilderness. That's one of the few parts of wellington where a brush fire would count as improvement.

A brief note to other cycle commuters: learn the light phasings. Why? So you don't end up looking like a dick running the red light at the corner of Featherston and Bunny streets, turning left up Bunny. Because there's no point running that light - you always have to wait for the lights to get onto Thorndon Quay. If you're going to act like a dick, at least get some fucking benefit out of stitching the rest of us up.

Mainly listening to: the Gil Scott-Heron live album from the 80s. There's a 23-minute version of 'Angel Dust'. It's astonishingly grand. Highly, highly recommended.

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unspoilt by progress

calm, peaceful, sweary

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