'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.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

A Joke

P1: "Knock knock"
P2: "Who's there?"
P1: "Interrupting cow"
P2: "Interrupting cow w..."
P1: "Mooooo!

Monday, 27 August 2012

I Saw Something Nasty in the Linen Cupboard

"Oooh yuk" was my first thought when I saw this object in the top of my hot-water cupboard.  

But it is so tiny, so clean and so beautifully precise...!  
So light I couldn't even feel it on my fingers.

A pale, translucent, delicate cranium...

Those delicate slivers of bone supporting and protecting the enormous eye sockets ....

Minute, perfectly-formed molars.... dinky incisors.

I have come to view it as a most remarkable and wondrous thing.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Taking the Bus from Hastings to Taupo

We left home at seven am, just as the sun was rising and tinting the clouds warmly.

After a lovely 5 days at my parent's house, Dad took me the fifteen minute drive to the bus stop in Hastings.
Havelock North sunrise.

Soon the bus was bowling along the rich alluvial Heretaunga (hairy-tonga) Plains towards Napier.  The driver was very chatty and we both had shared life-stories by the time we got to Napier.  A lot more passengers boarded and inhibited our conversation from there on.  But it was nice while it lasted.

North of Napier a lot of the land around Bay View and up into the Esk valley is planted in grapevines for wine.

Orchards at Bay View
Might be a good time to have a map.  I forgot to do the red from Hastings, but here is the route from Napier, a port city, to Taupo (Tow - poor).  Lake Taupo is the massive inland Lake in the centre of the North Island of New Zealand.

It's 158 km (about 100 miles) from Hastings to Taupo.

There are no towns on the way, but the road passes through four small settlements, and through a variety of landforms.

First the road follows the Esk valley and winds up into the hills through sheep and cattle farmlands.  There are some pine (Pinus radiata) plantations too.

Following the Esk River.


Heading for the pass over that distant range.
Here we are, nearly at the top of the first big range of mountains.  The sign says we are leaving the sunny Hawkes Bay district.  It also says "Stay Connected with Hawkes Bay - follow us on FaceBook."
What a weird world we live in.

Nearly at the top of the first range of mountains.

There is a piece of land at the top that has particular significance for me.  It was where I saw snow for the first time.  I was about nine.  We made a very tiny snowman by denuding an area of about fifty square metres.  But it was real snow!
Actually, now I've dug the photo out, the snowman's not quite as small as I remember it.  Jane, my little sister, donated her hat to it, and it was duely christened 'Snowman Jane'.  Shayne (middle) was my Best Friend.  Her parents owned the local pub.

Titiokura, about 1965.

Once over the top, we see the next big valley has some morning mist still lurking at the bottom.

Trucks grind slowly up as down we go, and over the Mohaka River bridge at the very bottom ...

... and up the other side.  The image below is looking back to the misty Mohaka Valley and behind that the range we just came over.

More pine forests, and then we enter the 'real' hills that are still covered in 'bush (indigenous forest).  I love this bit, but didn't always.  When I was a kid I had terrible travel-sickness.  I'd be given an Avomine tablet before leaving home and would be half-asleep or actually asleep for most of the journey... Probably had the added bonus in that my sister and I didn't fight in the back seat.  
"Mum, Jane's over my side, she's taking up all my room with her hand, get your hand back Jane! Mum, she won't get her hand baaaack! Now she scribbled on my page!  Mum, she made a little mark with her crayon on my new colouring-in book! That was my favorite page too!" etc. etc.

The start of the 'real' Taupo Hills. 

Then, suddenly we have climbed out of the winding bit and are up on the flat volcanic plateau (that used to be as dissected and hilly as the rest, but was covered in ash up to its hill-tops during the Taupo eruption), and zooming gently down, down, down towards the lake and the town of Taupo.

These pumice/ash soils never grew anything until 1934 when a couple of bright spark scientists Grimmet and Shorland worked out they were short of only one trace element, cobalt.  As soon as this was added to the fertilizer (only a couple of grams were needed per hectare!), sheep stopped getting 'bush sickness', and the plateau could be farmed.

These days the volcanic plateau also grows a massive amount of pine trees, which makes for rather tedious scenery, so we will only have a few images of this part.

Shall we have a peek at the people in the seats behind ...?

Eeek.  Scary!  Not a good idea.

The road goes on, ever ever on, dead straight for the most part.  I like this little remnant of bush.

When we were kids traveling, we used to perk up about now, because we liked the big hill on the right in the above image.  From a certain angle, and without its cloud, it looks like a man lying on his back.  Unimaginatively, we used to call it the 'The Man Mountain'.  The Maori call it Tauhara (Tow - hah - rah) meaning 'The Lone Lover' or 'The Unwanted One'.  
The story goes that Tauhara used to live with the other big volcanoes to the south of Taupo.  He was in love with Pihanga (Pee - hah - nga), a lovely bush-clad mountain nearby.  When a group of the 'guy' mountains decided they were going to leave to go north, he felt obliged to go with them.  But whereas they strode out, he walked slowly, looking back at Pihanga frequently and in the end he didn't go far.  And there he stands, still looking back at his beautiful Pihanga.

I think it's time for a music break... Here's something appropriate you might like. 
The road goes on, ever, ever, on.  

Here is Man Mountain Tauhara on the right still, and a flock of sheep penned up on the left.  Perhaps they are going to be shorn.  Still cruising down and down towards the lake.  

If you look carefully in the above image, you might just make out the first peek of the lake.

Two hours since we last saw 'civilization'.  I didn't really miss it.  


Here's where we turn right off the highway and head into Taupo proper.  (If we went left we could be in Wellington by teatime.)

Lake Taupo from Taupo town.
Incidentally, can you imagine the incredible size of the super-eruption that formed the lake?  For, that is what Lake Taupo is:  a caldera - the centre lake of a massive volcano that erupted about 26,500 years ago.  
Wiki article.

 It's cloudy today, but with a telephoto lens and clear skies, this (below) is what you would see looking right down the lake from Taupo township.  Lovely, eh?

The three volcanoes at the south end of Lake Taupo.
Ruapaehu, Ngaruhoe and Tongariro.
 Meanwhile, the bus rolls on into town:
Civilisation!  KFC!

Information centre and library, Taupo.

Town centre, Taupo.

Our bus.
 A wee, cuppa tea and a muffin anyone?
Table already taken.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Sharing my Lunch with You.

I went to a bit of trouble with my lunch the other day.  It ended up looking so pretty, I just had to share it with you.
Now, is that sharing, metaphorically, or figuratively speaking?  Is there a difference?

I don't know.

But it's certainly not literally.  I notice this word is being used a lot these days, when people mean anything but.

The other day I heard: "That guy drove so close to my tail, he was literally up my a*se!" (Doesn't bear thinking about!)

Sports commentators do it.  Politicians do it.
Nick Clegg and others.  

 Some would like to set us straight with posters and teeshirts:

Ministers do it:
Jerry Falwell: "If we do not act now, homosexuals will own America! If you and I do not speak up now, this homosexual steamroller will literally crush all decent men, women, and children who get in its way … and our nation will pay a terrible price!”

The 'Oatmeal' Gayroller.

@threadworm (the voice of reason)

"Many terms that function as intensifiers (i.e. words that strengthen/amplify the meaning of the word or phrase that they qualify) have earlier meanings that map quite poorly onto their role as intensifiers. Think of "so," "really," "awfully," "terribly." But we accept these readily because they have had the role of intensifier long enough for their other meanings to lie dormant when we hear them operating as such.
The only difference with "literally" is that its role as an intensifier is newer, so its other meaning still clamours in our mind when we hear it. The anxiety about this new role for "literally" is just the usual case of pedantry failing to keep up with linguistic evolution.
There are also words that do the opposite of intensifying -- words that dampen the strength of the terms they qualify -- "fairly," "quite," "rather," etc. And these too tend to have earlier meanings that map poorly onto their "dampening" role.
"Quite" is a brilliant example. It means something like "exactly" rather than "only a little bit." But we readily accept its use as a dampner, in expressions like "I'm quite hungry, but not very." AND we accept its use to the opposite effect, as an intensifier: the expression "You are quite right," means something like "You are very right," not "You are a little bit right."
Words have their own lives and careers."

My kids criticise me for not accepting that language is changing.  It seems that the word 'literally' is simply being used more and more as an intensifier or emphasiser.

I guess I just have to get over it.  Literally!