'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Stop Motion

While we're in a little movie space here, here is a delightful animation that I think you'll enjoy. I did, anyway.

Oren Lavie: 'Her Morning Elegance'

Monday, 28 March 2011

A Movie made by cats

Jay Walker's Library

I stumbled upon this website recently. I admit to experiencing a wave of envy. Wow. What an incredible library. I'd be so thrilled to possess even one of Jay Walker's books or artifacts!

Saturday, 26 March 2011


I don't watch television. It's enough for me to view these images of the dreadful effects of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. But I feel ok about posting this one on my blog. It is one of the less horrific, more poignant and eerie: A car, a fish and a piano. Maybe Dali's most surreal art imitates life.

Chicken Pesto Pie

This recipe comes from the little 'Variety Club' charity cookbook and was submitted for the cause by the 'New Gallery' cafe and bar in Khartoum Place in Auckland. It's quick to make, and very tasty!

600g chicken thighs, skinned, boned and diced

1 small onion, chopped

1 bay leaf

50g butter

½ cup basil and pinenut pesto

6 tablespoons flour

½ cup cream

400g crusty pie pastry*

¼ cup each roughly chopped fresh basil and toasted pine nuts.

Pre-heat oven to 200ºC on fan bake if possible.

Mix first three ingredients together and cover with salted water. Simmer until just cooked. Strain stck and reserve.

Melt the butter, add the pesto and cook gently for one minute. Add ½ cup of the reserved stock and gradually add cream, stirring until well incorporated. Add the cooked chicken.

#Line a 23 cm pie dish with crusty pie pastry. Fill with chicken mixture, top with fresh basil and toasted nuts.

Cover pie with pastry lid. Bake for 30 minutes until golden. Serves 6 -8.#

For individual pies, change that last bit and replace with: #Using a cornish pasty pie press or individual pie-dishes, line, fill, and cover separate serving pies. Make holes in the top and paint with milk. Cook for 10 -15 minutes until golden. Serves about 9.#

* You'll need more pastry if you make individual pies of course.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Franz Marc

Just a little addition to my last post - this is the painting of Franz Marc's with which I am most familiar, and the reason I immediately recognised the little print in Te Papa.

Franz Marc, along with Kandinsky, founded the "Der Blaue Reiter" group.
Marc had a theory of colour that involved ideas of the spiritual. He used bright colours, and often depicted animals, especially horses, in his works. He was influenced by the impressionists, moved toward expressionism, and later began to incorporate elements of cubism into his paintings, until finally his last works became very abstract, foreshadowing that movement.

He was killed in action in 1916, at the age of 36 years. Pity.

In a nutshell, in this painting you can see the forest animals on the left, and on the right the trees are being chopped down and the animal's habitat being destroyed. At the time Marc worked, the railways were being extended throughout Europe, and industrialisation was encroaching upon and profoundly changing the landscape.

If you want to know more, this is where I got this image and there is more information in: http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/marc/overview.php

Te Papa - The National Museum

While I was in Wellington I spent a couple of days at Te Papa. Although I actually prefer those old, musty, dusty museums that have lots of stuffed things and drawers and drawers of butterflies and shells and arrowheads, there is plenty to occupy me here. The building has an odd appearance from the outside, as if it is two separate buildings sandwiching the entrance foyer, but as far as I know, it was designed like this.

There is a new sculpture in front that I hadn't encountered. I like it. It seemed to talk to me about where I fit in the scenery, and, by extrapolation, the world. The facets distort and reflect the surroundings, including me of course, and the sky, the buildings... It seemed to say "What are you here for? What do you want from your journey through your surroundings? What will you enjoy about Te Papa this time?"
I resolved to take the bits I wanted from Te Papa this time, and not waste my time being distracted and/ or feeling cross about the 'amusement arcade' atmosphere that I'm not so keen on.

After a pleasant exchange with the custodian of bags and coats, who was also empowered to provide me with an appointment for the following day to visit part of the 'Back of House' Collections, I strolled upstairs and almost immediately discovered a little room of drawings and black and white prints. What a treasure! I was there in raptures for an hour. It contained only about 20 works, but by the likes of Picasso, Braque, Henri Fantin-Latour, and this dear little print by Franz Marc.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Views of Wellington from a bus

Some random, 'everyday' images from my recent few days in NZ's capital city.

Above: The 'Beehive' - the executive wing of the NZ parliamentary complex. Ten floors above ground and four floors below.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Happy Birthday

On this day, exactly twenty years ago, a little kiwi girl was born, my daughter. She grew up to be an independent, beautiful, kind young woman. Happy Birthday Darling! Have a super day!

Your carbon footprint

I've just calculated roughly how many tonnes of carbon I'm releasing into the atmosphere each year. It's about the same as the New Zealand national average. And a whole lot better than the world average shown on this chart.
I learnt a lot doing this exercise, too. I calculated how efficient my car was, and also discovered that my electricity supplier creates electricity from 100% renewable sources, which pleased me greatly. I could work on my car travel. (Hmm, I wonder how long it would take to cycle to Miranda?)

Look for this image (above) on this site, and start by entering your country.

Saturday, 19 March 2011


I've just discovered my university has a marvelous book-binding department. Hmmm, I'd love to do a course. I wonder how I can justify it. One of the links posted on the site led here:

The reading is from New Zealand writer Maurice Gee's book 'Going West'.

Friday, 18 March 2011


When I was at university in Christchurch in the late 1970's I did a degree in Geography. Part of that degree covered reasons why cities grow where they do. 'Human Spacial Distribution' I believe it was called. Our attention was drawn to things like high fertility, transport nodes like suitable ports and navigable rivers, coach 'night stop' distances from other places, location of minerals or tourism possibilities like spa water, skiing ... the list was to be learned and regurgitated for exams.
At one point I distinctly remember our lecturer asking us to suggest the reasons for the location of the city we presently lived in, Christchurch. We cited the fertility of the plains, proximity to the sheltered port (Lyttleton) for the whaling ships and the rain-shadow effect of the Southern Alps providing a climate suitable for growing sheep and wheat on land conveniently previously cleared of bush (for easier hunting of Moa).
He agreed with all this, but said that there was something very important that made this area not suitable for a city.
Then he began to talk about what a dangerous place Christchurch was. He said it had been built on swampland, and the youngish, fine, even-sized silty sand that made up large areas of this particular swamp meant that, if jolted, as in an earthquake, they would no longer be able to 'hold onto their water' and the areas would 'liquify'. Anything built on top of this material would collapse. In this way we learnt about liquefaction.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Spiky beetles

"From the small size of insects, we are apt to undervalue their appearance. If we could imagine a male Chalcosoma with its polished, bronzed coat of mail, and vast complex horns, magnified to the size of a horse of even of a dog, it would be one of the most imposing animals in the world."
Charles Darwin, 'The Descent of Man'

Tuesday, 15 March 2011


Close-up of a drawer of Coleoptera in the Auckland Museum.

British scientist J. B. S Haldane, when asked what could be inferred about the work of the Creator from a study of His works, is reported to have replied;
"An inordinate fondness for beetles."

For, if a single example of every plant and animal species on this Earth were placed in a row, every 5th one would be a beetle. If success is measured by numbers, beetles rule!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

The new 'flip' colours

Iridescent colours are not uncommon in the beetle world. But they are less common in man-made technology. The nano-structures that give this beetle its metallic appearance, are complex. Combine this structural colour with pigments, and there is an astonishing range of colour effects that can be seen on the elytra (wing-covers) of Coleoptera species.

But, using different processes, technologists are working on coatings and fibres that copy these alluring and exciting effects. We have car coatings. Soon we will have textiles, lipstick, hair colours... clothing and fashions are about to get much more eye-catching!

100 years ago technology like this would have been considered impossible. I'm sure I read about this stuff in a sci-fi book back in the late sixties.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Auckland City Dawn

A couple of weeks ago I was staying in the centre of Auckland city, far from my usual comfort zone. But one morning I awoke to see this scene from my bed. Not bad. I could almost get used to it.

Climate change, knitting and Earthquakes linked?

I read that there may be a link between climate change and earthquakes/ volcanic activity somewhere a few years ago, and this morning, after hearing about the massive 'quake in Japan, managed to find the New Scientist article that thinks this may indeed be so...

So, what can we do?

Let's not wait for politicians to listen to us, or for legislation to make us change. We all know the answers. They are what many people all over the world are already doing.
• Recycle or reuse your rubbish. If you can't do either, at least compress it before you throw it out.
• Grow your own fruit and vegetables. If you have extras, give them away to others. Don't waste them!
• Use the car less. Walk, bike, or take public transport.
• Buy locally-made or -produced stuff.
• Reduce the amount of plastic you buy.
• Cook from scratch ingredients.
• Use your own bags at the market.
• Eat less meat.
• Use less electricity. Turn down the heat and wear a jersey inside in winter. Pull the curtains on the sunny side of the house on a hot day. Insulate / build to create a more pleasant inside environment.
• Fix stuff, don't just buy a new one. Write to companies to ask why, if they won't repair or make better things.
• Teach kids how to grow vegetables, knit and sew. (If you don't know yourself, learn from a book or off the internet. There are vast numbers of excellent resources. You can sometimes learn off the best!)
• Get to know your neighbours. Look after each other.
• Slow down. What's the hurry?
• Join your local Transition Towns group, or start up a group. These are ordinary people just like us, making little changes from the ground up. (see suggestions above). Transition towns are all over the world!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Longdrops and Liquefaction

Do you know what a longdrop is? No, not a bungee jump, although I suspect it might be another Kiwi-ism.

Along with all the other things people in Christchurch have to deal with, the sewer system was very badly affected. The process of liquefaction has caused silty sand to enter a high proportion of the sewers. Estimates put it at months before they are all pumped clean. As a result, many cannot use their loos. But Good Old Kiwi Ingenuity comes to the rescue!*

Here is a website that features the diverse range of garden, er, solutions to this problem. It made me smile. And probably talks more about the everyday life there at the moment than lots of words here could.

Some images of Christchurch the day after the quake, as we negotiated our way out to the airport:

*2 I love the last sentence in this news item. Intentional, do you think?

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Christchurch Earthquake

As I write this, people all over New Zealand are observing 2 minute's silence. Exactly a week ago the devastating earthquake shook Christchurch in the South Island of New Zealand.
I was there, experienced the first shake, and the 3 aftershooks, and I was still feeling shaky 26 hours later when the wheels of our scheduled flight out to Auckland left the ground.

Above is just one of the images I took from the car on the way to the airport. We didn't go near the CBD of course. You've no doubt seen the images of the worst-hit areas on telly.

This is a very dreadful, and significant event in New zealand's history.

Digger, anyone?

We are having the city's main sewerage pipes re-routed along our road past our gate. First the notice and map came in the mailbox. Then a few visits from the apologetic engineers themselves to explain what we could expect and for how long. The roadworks began before Christmas and still continue. There is a caged-off area down at the park that contains massive black pipe sections and a little 'house' where they seal them together. Each week-day morning we are shaken awake with the rumble of massive diggers rolling along the road. The traffic crawls past, directed by two polite 'lollipop' people either end of the work. There is dust all over the property. Sometimes when I and my immediate right-of-way neighbours emerge from our joint drive entrance we have to wait while they rush to lay down a huge slab metal 'drawbridge' over the yawning ditch.

This morning a young man came to the door. My son answered it.

"Are you expecting a one-and-a-half tonne digger to be delivered here this morning?"

"Ah, No."

"But isn't this [number of our house]?"

"Yes" said J, "but we are not expecting a digger this morning."

He said he kicked himself later.

Eye Candy Day 31