Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Crash course

Slip sliding away, into another car's rear end. That is something I thought I wouldn't be doing. My driving has improved a lot (only by my own reckoning) since I resumed regular driving in the second half of 2005. However this afternoon, driving home, my mind drifted. I was driving at the right distance at a reasonable speed, but didn't realise that the flow of traffic slowed. I braked when I realised but slid along into the bumper of the car in front.

Fortunately the gentleman I bumped into was understanding and the insurance issue has nearly been sorted. But I'll be losing a decent chunk of my savings due to only having third party insurance.

It is always a psychological shock to have an accident. I'll have to be very careful in the next few days to get my confidence and make it to the weekend so that arrangements can be made.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Ngati Whatua and Maori claims

Recently there was a front page article regarding the Ngati Whatua claim (the largest tribe in Auckland prior to Pakeha settlement) on parts of Auckland. It included three volcanic cones, a creek and sections of Waitakere, North Shore and parts of Manukau. There had been an agreement in principle over these but this has been cancelled after a lot of criticism of the process. This will delay proceedings considerably.

Prior to the recent developments. I knew this claim was in action but the tension surrounding it became more clear when I visited a marae for an AIESEC event. Our hosts offered a little bit of Q&A for us. They seemed quite sensitive at times and went into lengthy explanations that led all questions to their claim. At the time I thought that it might be a response to the general criticism that Maori tribes get due to a perception of claiming for everything to get money (a perception that is not true). It was likely though that they knew things were getting tricky and that their claim was hitting the rocks. It wasn't their fault of course - they had followed the process set for them and jumped through the requisite hoops. The Crown had failed to consult other smaller tribes of Auckland before they made their agreement in principle. The editorial yesterday was particularly of interest:

One thing that always annoys me is the degree of ignorance of the Pakeha majority (and also the migrants to NZ) regarding Maori issues. It is hard to change this of course. My parents both have quite strong views on Maori claims, but with no real knowledge apart from hearsay and subtly racist catchphrases.

One of the PC-myths perpetuated due to ignorance was that One Tree Hill still hadn't had a new tree planted on the summit because the council had to pander to Ngati Whatua for 'consultation'. But if you were in legal proceedings regarding a claim of ownership, it would not be easy for one of the parties to make changes to that land. It is not political correctness - it is a legal necessity.

The more recent claim WAI 262 is of particular interest to me. I'm not sure if I support it or not.
If you haven't heard about it, check this out:

Claiming the flora and fauna is rather gob-smacking. Under libertarian principles, this would seem to be a good thing. Ownership can mean that more responsibility and resources are put into retaining the varieties and methods. Also it prevents the rape of genetic resources by multinational pharmaceutical companies which has happened in other countries. But still the degree with which a minority 'own' all the native trees in your yard etc. and legally require consultation for to make any changes is something to ponder over. We can't always disregard the claims that affect us and approve of the ones that don't, but the whole practicability of such a claim as well as the fears that it inspires is quite disconcerting. It is similar to the Foreshore and Seabed claim in that way. I supported the latter in principle even though it was cancelled by parliamentary bill.

Anyway, those are my musings on things Maori.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Tea-Monkey

Accompanying Xin to arty-farty events is not necessarily on the top of the list of things I like to do. It is not that the people there are in any way unpleasant, they aren't, and can be quite pleasant. It is usually that I don't feel at home or at ease in their company and they do tend to be cliquey.

Last night though I found my perfect role at an art opening: serving tea. Xin had been working on a project for a gallery she co-directs where they would make one room into a tea-house. I helped getting her a little information (how to write tea-house in korean, directions for some of the teas etc.) but didn't really stretch my imagination as to what it would be like.

Anyway, I turned up at the gallery and stood around aimlessly for a while, my only success being spotting a typo in korean on a sign. The tea-house, which was situated in one of the rooms of the gallery, was a bit disorganised. They were still hammering it together while people were coming into the gallery. I thought this was part of the plan - y'know construction being observed, but apparently the process leading upto the event was a little shambolic and there were some ill-thought-through points. Xin decided to start boiling water, so I sat down behind the tea-trolley and helped her. I thought we could start serving the tea, so when people came into the room for a look, I asked them whether they'd like a cuppa, and described the five varieties of tea we had on offer. This went on for almost three hours, but I didn't mind. In the tea-room, strangers would come in, enjoy the tea and chat. If I weren't there, I'd be standing around struggling to pick off some strangers for superficial conversations so I was happy in my work. So time flew and we went through a lot of tea.

Four of the five teas were very well received: Lapsahn-Soochong was the surprise hit, with Rooibos with Kawakawa, Barley tea and White tea all having multiple brews. The most conventional of an eclectic selection Earl Grey Rose went through a single pot solely to the few people who, like me, have a love affair with the Greys. Several of the people were a little overly-keen to get a source of tea leaves of their own. Lap-sahn Soo-chong in particular was one that several people were keen to procure.

Emerging from behind the trolley, all the directors (and several patrons) expressed their deep thanks for my help. Only later did I hear from Xin that they hadn't planned to have anyone serving tea; there wasn't any consideration given to how the attendees were going to actually get the tea! Practical elements aside, the aesthetics were cool. The fridge and water-cooler were encased in a box. The tea room had a minimalist feel in construction and the paper bags of tea were cute. I felt at home there.

Naturally the role of tea-monkey was one I was born for and one day it would be my ideal role in retirement (if there are still tea-shops then). I did have one slip though - I brewed one pot of the white tea for too long. I smelt it when I opened the lid after serving it to several people... That was a consequence of chatting while having several teas brewing simultaneously. I followed that mistake with a perfectly timed brew of white tea. After I gave it to a few people they said it was 'clean and pure'. I had to try it myself and I was stunned.

So overall, not a bad night considering I wasn't keen on going!

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Early this morning I walked out to Mount Eden and ascended the summit. At the top was a rather alien sky. After all the star-watching I had been doing in the evenings, the morning stars and visible constellations are quite different. Scorpio, which dominated the evening sky with Jupiter below it, was diving down to the west. The zodiac from Scorpio to Aries was visible, although none of those were that easy to make forms of. The best new features were the square of Pegasus, which stretches wide across the north, and Mars, which was to be one of the signposts to find Matariki.

Nick and I found a good spot, also occupied by a New Zealand born self-identified anglophile, who had also come to spot the small constellation. Some people came by asking if we were there for a 'guided walk'. We said no, but after some thought a guided walk at this time of the morning could only be about Matariki. After a moment, a crowd of about 10 maori came over to our viewing spot. We all stared out to the north-eastern horizon. Rigel was the first up, one of the feet of Orion. Then Aldebaran, the horn of Taurus, twinkled vigorously red into visibility. No-one seemed the wiser on exactly where Matariki, a cluster of about seven stars, was meant to be. The day was breaking with the glow of the sun becoming apparent over a low bank of clouds. After consulting my book, I isolated a patch of sky and lo and behold, there was the faint twinkling. We directed other people to it, but the race between brightening of the sky and the rising of the stars came to a head shortly after.

The Maori group did some speeches and a karakia in Maori. I was pleased to understand one speech and a joke quite well. We descended the mountain and had a proper breakfast incidentaly missing the sun-rise and a pass by the International Space Station.

Happy Maori New Year.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

lifeThe (spinning) wheel of Justice

Another two days of jury service has provided me with more chatting and book-reading. Today I got as close as I have done so far to serving on a jury. My name was called. I stood up and took two steps before the accused uttered the word 'challenge' to send me back to my seat. My ex-con friend said that he recognised the accused from his time in prison; he just didn't recognise the name.

In other news, fate, intuition, or mere coincidence has come to bear relieving me of some festering guilt. When a team-mate in our Trailwalker team pulled out, he entrusted me with his sponsorship book and a donation cheque. Very regrettably, despite my best intentions, it was misplaced and had been missing for three months, presumed fatally recycled in a freak paper sorting accident. Despite repeated ransackings over the house and the general passing of time (which often brings lost objects to light), it never reemerged. This week is the last for donation books to be sent in and d-day in terms of sorting out the associated mess (calling OXFAM, that member and telling his donor to rip up their receipt etc.). I decided to call them yesterday, coming home from jury duty with the full intent of doing it as soon as I got in the door. I hesitated, procrastinated with the use of a book and my business accounting. Time moved forward to 4:30pm when I finally summoned enough resolve to get up to the phone and bite the bullet. But naturally I walked past the phone and into my room where I felt compelled to do some tidying. 'Perhaps it was in my old folders' my mind said. 'You're procrastinating' said my my conscience. It wasn't in my folders. I looked down at the bottom shelf of my desk and sore a little pile of things. I'd looked their before of course. But I was moved to look through them. Moving the top one revealed a sponsorship book beneath. I had found it! After dancing around the house and doing various victorious poses in glory, I sat down feeling elated before dashing out the door to my evening engagement.

All hail procrastination!

Monday, June 11, 2007

It is the emptiness of the wheel that gives it its function

My first day of jury duty ended with being randomly not selected for two trials, one long horrific one and one short milder one. I didn't even get to the point when I could be challenged by the lawyers. Nevermind, better luck tomorrow.

Friday, June 08, 2007


Woe is me. My run of weird illnesses and injuries has gained another chapter. This week has become rather horrid, first of all mysteriously hurting my knee. I have been limping since Tuesday evening, and it is still a problem now. I have no idea what set it off but it was significant enough to slow me down significantly.

Then on Wednesday I developed a weird condition where my eyes, cheeks and sinuses feel intolerably pressurised. It was invariably better in the mornings, leading me to go to work where it would start to increase the pressure hour by hour, verging on a headache but never quite getting there. In the evenings, I'd struggle to get dinner ready (Xin's 'enjoying' her busiest period of the year) and then doing my best to prepare lesson plans so that should I be well in the morning, I'd be able to work. And then the cycle began afresh the next day.

My approach was to get to bed as soon as I could to give my body a chance to recover. This plan went well except for the fact I still feel like crap. I drove to work, but always on the way back I was wondering whether I would be focussed enough. The feeling of imminent brain implosion is something of a distraction.

I'm glad it's Friday.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


My current flirtation with amateur astronomy has continued and with each evening, I'm learning more and more about how to navigate the sky. Tonight, I had the rare pleasure of spotting Mercury! It is only visible for two short periods during the year (in the evenings). I have now seen four of the other seven official planets (along with Venus, Jupiter and Saturn). In terms of constellations, tonight I learnt how to find Libra (my sign) and Virgo. I confirmed Leo.

When I was a young teenager, I had a fascination with astronomy but didn't have the resources or persistence to gain the knowledge. Now I'm amazed that I had never seen constellations like Scorpio, which along with Orion, is very identifiable. The difference has probably been the internet (where the information is a click away) and a radio programme (Radio Live, 12pm Saturday).

Probably the best aspect of this is that I have more awareness of our place in the solar system and universe, breaking the geocentrism of the mind. I looked out to Venus and Saturn (which will be in conjunction at the end of the month) this evening and suddenly realised that the Earth would be moving between where they are now.

Now I can't wait for the blazingly bright full moon to wane and thus darken the sky so the stars will come to the fore once more.