Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Our local pub, Mad Dogs & Englishmen, runs a weekly quiz on Tuesday evenings. It became a bit of an institution for me for a number of years, exercising the brain by trying to dredge up answers to all manner of trivia questions, all in the company of my team mates.

In the last 6 months or so I've let it slide a bit though. It can sometimes end up being quite a late night - well, for late me anyway - and I've taken on other activities like bellydancing so the evenings get quite busy during the week. Tommy generally goes along but I don't always join him any more.

Yesterday morning I got a call from Trish, the bar manager, to see if Tom and I would fill in for the evening as our Quizmaster and his lovely assistant (Alan & Lesley) were unable to run the quiz this week. Tom had already spoken with Trish and said we could probably do it but check if I was up for it. We have filled in once before and it was a bit of fun so I told Trish we'd do it for them. Alan had drawn up all the questions and answers for every round except the music round so for the most part all we really had to do was show up.

When I arrived home from work Tom had pulled together a list of potential songs to use for the music round. It's a bit of a hit and miss affair given the wide range of age groups usually represented in the contestant teams and trying to pull together a suitable range of songs is by no means as easy as it seems... and Alan has to do this every week! Tom played me snippets of each we whittled the list down to 10 songs based on my reaction to each. Anything that wasn't vaguely familiar to me was ditched immediately, the ones I got both the song title and artist right away were ditched which left us with a selection of songs that I could name either the title or the artist or that were familiar to me but until I was told what they were couldn't place them. We edited out snippets of each of the 10 finalists, pulled them together into one soundtrack to transfer onto the laptop and then it was down to the pub to set up.

I made sure the music round was going to work over the sound system as Tom read over the questions and answers to make sure we could follow Alan's handwritten notes, all the while punters filtered in the doors and settled themselves into their usual spots.

Being the quizzers is just as much fun albeit a much different experience to participating as quizzees. This being the second time we've filled in and so not a whole new experience, I think we were far more relaxed this time around. The reading of the questions, collecting and marking each teams sheets, updating the scoreboard and finally providing the answers to each round fell into a easy rhythm as we worked our way through the quizz. I have to say there are certainly some creative people out there alongside the very knowledgeable ones, some of the answers we got back were really clever despite being most obviously wrong! Sometimes you'll get a sheet back with blank spaces left beside the questions a team can't get but the real creative stuff happens when people make up answers even when they don't know the right answer. It certainly adds to the amusement factor!

.... Q. who were the two main characters in the TV series CHiPs?
.... one of the Answers submitted A. Salt & Vinegar.

Tommy really seems to enjoy acting as quizmaster and plays up to the role throwing in his own spin on things and telling the occasional joke. He also loves to watch the reaction to the music rounds we pull together and seeing if the answers that come in follow mistakes he'd predicted as were making it.

All in all we had a great time despite the rather late hour we finally arrived home.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

All is.... WET... in paradise

Having arrived on Thursday afternoon ready for the weekend plans were afoot for fishing. I’d be working from the bach on Friday and Tom had a few things to finish off, some quotes to do and a couple of errands to run but we’d be all go for Saturday… wouldn’t we?
Alas no… for anyone that was starting to get the impression our little piece of paradise was the perfect island retreat… a little shot of reality is in order…
Yep, it’s persisting down and has been ever since Friday evening.
There will be no fishing … aside from the couch fishing…
We may even not make it back to the mainland as scheduled tomorrow!! Tom is meant to be going back on the ferry and I have a flight booked in the afternoon… oh well, not much that can be done about that!!

Still… on a brighter note, this is the very first blog entry from the island!! Yay for the satellite dish… that is amazingly still attached to the roof!!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Just another weekend in paradise

It got off to a bit of a false start with my Thursday afternoon flight being cancelled because of the weather. I immediately re-booked for the following morning for the etra flight they put on at 8am. Tommy met me at the airport and we went up to the bach to get coffee.
We decided that it was too breezy to go out in the bay so we decided to pack all the kayaks up and head to Harataonga and then see what would happen. Once there we loaded our gear onto the yaks and paddled down the creek to the beach. The surf was quite big but we decided to head out and try and find a more sheltered spot to base ourselves. Getting through the surf was a bit of fun but we all got through without any spillages. Gina did well considering she wasn't too keen to begin with but she paddled through like a pro.

We found a small beach around the corner and paddled over there to make it our base. Tom and I both had a fish while the others fished off the rocks for bait fish. Once they'd stocked up on bait we all went out for a bit more fishing. Tom and I cuaght enough snapper for everyone to have some for dinner so when we caught up with Tim and Angus to find that Angus had caught a good sized Porae we knew we definately had plenty for dinner. Gina had already gone back by this stage but we tried fishing a little longer before heading back. The swell seemed bigger on the way back in. Tim and Angus beached okay but Tom and I both canned out!
We called into the Club on the way home and ended up there until quite late with the guys getting a bit carried away playing table tennis.
Everyone woke up pretty late on Saturday morning so we mooched around the place until the afternoon when we decided to go to the hot pools. First though we went for a drive to Whangaparapara and had a couple of beers at the lodge. By the time we drove back to the track to the hot pools all the vehicles that had been there had gone so it looked like we would have the place to ourselves. I'm not entirely sure how long it takes us to walk the track to the pools - half an hour maybe - it's always quicker to get there though than coming back. Tom and I climbed into the main pool where the track meets the stream and proceeded to soak while the others explored a bit further up the stream. After a while we were starting to over cook and about then Angus came down the track to tell us they'd found a deeper pool further up. We bundled off up the track and climbed over the rocks to find a fabulous pool - deeper and more like a spa pool ... ahh... bliss!
The walk back to the car after our soak was a bit more sedate than the trip in as we were all so relaxed. Of course... we had to call into the club for the boys to get their ping-pong fix on the way home.

It was an early start on Sunday morning to get down to the wharf and try another spot of fishing. The conditions weren't fantastic but we'd been out in worse. We decided it was too breezy to venture out of the bay so we drift fished our way back along the coast and into the bay. The fish started coming onto the bite when we'd been out for half an hour or so. I kept two snapper for the bin. As we were driftining at different speeds and in different dirrections it was hard to say how the others were doing but once back at the wharf we had 6 snapper to take home for lunch. you don't get it much fresher than that!

The sun came out fierce after midday and having had an early and active morning, once we'd had our fill of fish we all found our own spots out of the sun for a bit of a kip. We roused ourselves about 4 o'clock, all a bit grumpy from sleeping in the heat, so the cure for that was to head to the bottom end of Kaitoke beach for a swim and snorkle around the rocks. Once in the water all the earlier grumpiness faded and we had a great time swimming. Tom came out of the water with his pockets stuffed with mussels so Tim and Angus took up the challenge to get us enough for dinner... hunter-gatherers!

Dinner was of course mussels - some steamed and eaten out of the shells and the rest I made into mussel fritters. It's a fantastic feeling to end the day knowing you've provided yourself with a couple of meals from catching to cooking. I had a fantastic sleep that night!

Sadly, Monday morning rolled around and it was time for me to head back down to the airport to catch the 7:30 flight back to the shore. Still, I can't complain... we seem to pack so much into our days that I felt as though I'd been away for a week!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

New Challenges

Last night was the first night back at Belly Dance classes for the year.
I’ve moved up a level into a new class (Level 3) because I felt I needed a bit more of a challenge. We practised using the same moves/routine to various pieces of music, all different styles and tempos. This was a really interesting exercise and although I felt quite clumsy at times it will be things like this that will really start to stretch me. We also spent time playing zills so I’ve dusted mine off and have them with me so that I can continue to practise when the opportunity arises.
There is a Solo Development class held straight after the Level 3 class which I have also enrolled in. This is certainly going to be challenging! I think we are going to be creating/choreographing our own dance to a piece of music. Our homework for the first week is to listen to music tracks given to us on a CD and chose one of them. The style I have is Tribal Fusion and I am wondering if perhaps I’ve bitten off a bit more than I can chew! Still, I wanted to push myself a bit more and this will most certainly do that! Everyone in the class has been given a different style of music/dance so that makes it even more interesting. There can be no copying so the resulting dances will all be truly unique from each other. In some ways I think that this will also take some of the pressure off in as much as there won’t be any direct comparisons between each person… still a bit daunting though!
Being in both classes will boost my incentive to practise– something I had gotten quite slack about in the last couple of terms! I’m pleased that I’ve made the move into the move advanced class and am looking forward to seeing what the rest of the term brings!!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Melt down!!

Gah!! It's very hot! Normally I don't break out in a sweat doing the dishes but.... sheesh! I got home from work to an oven! With the house shut up all day the rush of hot air nearly knocked me over as I opened up the front door! It's not so much the heat, the mugginess is horrible... it needs to have a good downpour to flush the air. It feels quite oppressive but perhaps we'll get some rain tonight... certainly feels as though we might!
I suppose it doesn't help that I've had the dehydrator going all day! I got a load of outdoor tomatoes from the markets yesterday and set a batch going to dry. I've vaccuum packed the first lot and set another batch going... I plan on making loads this year as they were great to use in rissotos and stews but I didn't make nearly enough last year. My tomato plants haven't yeilded much so far, I was a bit late getting them in, so I'm starting off with bought tomatoes. At $10 for 4 buckets you can't really go wrong!!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Steep learning curve

It’s been a real process trying to figure out the whole internet thing for the island. You see, the plan is to start spending more time over there but to do that I would need to start working remotely. For this to happen we need a computer … and broadband internet access.
Over time we had started researching the options for getting broadband. There is no existing phone on the section although it looks as though there may be cables running close by to hook up to. Even if we did get a phone line in to the section we are still limited to dial-up internet as broadband is only available through Claris and more recently Tryphena, but not up our way. It seemed to us that our only option was going to be internet via satellite.
I did a little bit of research to find some providers in NZ and see what sort of reviews people gave them. In an effort to get more opinions I left a couple of messages on internet forums – the replies to the messages on both forums were not particularly useful on the satellite front although one response gave me information on booster aerials for cell-phones (we ended up getting one that has proved successful)
As much as I searched the internet for information it seemed that we were going to have to go one step further and contact a satellite internet provider. This was a bit of a leap as I really had no idea what to ask!! Well, first of all we needed to know if there was coverage for GBI… there’s the first question. Hmmm and given the limited power resources, did the satellite set-up require and if so how much? Also given that installation for the bach would only be until we have built so could a satellite be transferred to the main building at a later date? I sent off these initial questions to a company that I had seen good reports of and by the end of the day I had a response. This was promising and a flurry of emails ensued with more detailed info on the power setup and narrowing down what angle of view of the sky we needed to have to ensure connection.
It seemed that every time we had a response answering our questions it prompted even more questions…. The more we found out the more we realized we needed to find out!
Just as it seemed we were beginning to understand things I mentioned it to our IT man at work. He started talking about lag and latency and how this could potentially be a problem with working on the remote desktop…. Oh no!! More stuff to try and understand!
Back to the Satellite people I went asking about the lag issues, trying to seem as though I knew what I was talking about despite, at this stage, only having a very basic understanding… this however proved to be too difficult for them to answer simply for me. In fact I almost felt as if I was being fobbed off… certainly not comforting given the equipment alone was going to cost around $2,500…. It was a lot of money to be shelling out on a system that no-one could guarantee would work for me.
We came to a bit of a standstill until Tom spent some time on the island working (October 07) and got talking to some of the locals who gave him advice on what they were using and most importantly told us who on the island did installations! Tom came home and got in contact with Orcon, based on the info he’d gleaned and the recommendation of the chap who does the installations. We negotiated buying the equipment only from them on the understanding we would have the installation done and would be using their service once it was all up and running…. We placed the order!
The gear arrived and we had it freighted over to the island just before Christmas. By the time we arrived out on the island for a holiday on December 31st the dish was installed!! Wow!
All that remained before I could test it out was to install an inverter to convert power to 240V so that I could plug the laptop in. The boys spent a morning getting the 2 extra batteries hooked up to the solar panels and then it was all go… at least it was once I worked out how to install the wireless router that we’d taken over… Woohoo! We had internet! And now the moment of truth… could I connect to work via remote desktop? Oh yes I could!! Woohoo (again)!!! I was able to answer a few queries via email on jobs that I’d left with other people to do while I was on holiday… excellent!! Not only that but we were also now able to look up the latest tide and weather info when we wanted to go fishing!!
Later in January I went over for the long weekend (Auckland Anniversary) but went a day earlier with the intention of working on Friday to make sure that all the usage over the internet to work was functioning properly. This was crucial as if this worked it would mean that I can start spending more time over there and work remotely … and it doesn’t get much more remote the Great Barrier!! I had figured that if the experiment failed it would only be one day out of my holidays but, thankfully, everything went smoothly and I was able to work as if I was still in the office… Fantastic!

So now the transition to the island can truly begin!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Writer's block

no ... to be honest it's hardly that, I've certainly got plenty of things to talk about! I think the problem is not having a regular time set aside to blog... I need to get a bit more disciplined about this!! At the moment I have quite a list of things I could be writing about but it just seems to get longer and longer... and is becoming a bit daunting so I poke my head in the sand and pretend not to notice that I haven't updated... so perhaps a challenge is in order... a posting at least once a week, on a Monday perhaps... lets see if I can do this!!