“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The last day of the year

Summer Sacrifice

Weather is sunny, warm but not too hot, and calm. Nice day for killing chickens.

The Brown Shavers (n=4) haven't been laying for several weeks, so they have had their last meal. The hens will be transformed into dog and cat food, and new pullets (young chickens) will be acquired from my sister's flock. We also have the young Leghorn pullet.

I've pulled out the pork shoulder from the deep freeze to make sausages. I am thinking of doing half Italian sausage, half chorizo. We need to clear out the freezer to put the cow in. The cow, Angus 88 as she is known, has been very naughty and must be punished. She jumped the fence at my sister's property and went to visit the boy cow (neutered fortunately) down the road. I got a call on Christmas Eve for help herding her back home. We tried really hard, but she was not to be deterred. She jumped several more fences and managed to keep away from us. The neighbors with the boy cow allowed her to stay a few days to visit. We returned on Boxing Day to try again, yet we were thwarted repeatedly. The man who comes to perform the homekill has been called, and he's agreed to take her some time in January. Everyone is on holiday now, so nothing important gets done until the 2nd or 3rd week in January. She is going to taste delicious.

Our First Trip to the South Island: Christchurch

We took advantage of the cheap introductory fares of Pacific Blue to fly from Auckland to Christchurch. I snapped this woman's photo as she got off the plane we were about to board. Chch is located about half-way down the south island on the east coast. We arrived about 7 pm on a Friday and checked into our hotel downtown, the Millenium. Wow, pretty swank! The staff was great and the room was nice, so I'd recommend that for any visitors who want to pay about $175/night. We had a room overlooking the cathedral and adjacent square, and you could walk to all the downtown tourist sites, which included, for us, the Arts Centre (crafty, arty stalls and shops), the Canterbury Museum, the Botanical Gardens, and the Avon River (we went punting). We also had some great food. The Bismark imports kegs of German beer (HB Munichen) and makes its own bratwurst, and serves it in a hard roll with saurkraut and mustard. Saturday night we had an amazing meal at Sezn, about 7 min by taxi from downtown. We were so happy to see a California Zinfandel on the menu! They are not easy to find here in NZ. We had the fixed price meal, and it was without fault. On Sunday we took the bus to Sumner, on the coast, to have breakfast and walk along the beach. At the beach I saw a policeman walking his shepherd, and it looked like they were searching for something. The next day, a news article said a severed foot had been found on that beach, and the police had been searching for the rest of the body!! We visited the Antarctic centre before our flight back to Auckland, which was a relief from the heat that afternoon. The "snow and ice" experience was the best. They give you coats to go into this room where a "blizzard" rages every 30 min. There is an ice slide (yeah I did it!), an igloo, and a snow tent. I learned that there were once trees and dinosaurs on Antarctica. If you like to read, I recommend Cheating Death, about a woman doctor who diagnoses herself with breast cancer while working in Antarctica.

On the subject of sickness, I came down with the flu that Sunday we returned to Auckland. I had a fever over 100F for 3 days, a terrible cough, and was unable to work for 3 days. I managed to go to the office for 2 days before it closed for the holidays. Darin caught my sickness too, but he didn't get it as bad. I am still trying to recover, suffering with a lingering chest pain and cough. Still, we have had some fun. Darin and I hosted Christmas dinner, enjoyed with friends and fellow expats Adam and Roberta and my sister and brother-in-law. The following day, Boxing Day, we had dinner with a really nice family, from Ohio, who we met in Fiji, at their new home in Devonport (Auckland north shore). Roberta's birthday was Dec 27, so we went up to Goat Island Marine Reserve and snorkeled. The water is still chilly, so wetsuits were required. We had fish and chips at the pub in Matakana afterwards. Matakana is a lovely village on the way to Goat Island that has a great Saturday market. I went along to the market with friends Steve and Holly before Christmas, and we stopped for a picnic with the dogs on the way home.

Darin and I also made an overnight visit to my co-worker's batch (vacation cottage) up north in Mangawhai. We brought venison steaks, my homemade bratwurst, and salad with lettuce from our garden. We brought Fargo, and he was very well behaved with their two cats. They took us to the beach, Te Arai point, and Darin fished with Frank (caught a few small rock cod). They also pointed us toward some real estate offices, where we started thinking again about buying property. Barb and Eric are on the same page, so we will have to pursue this some more.

Happy new year, everyone!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Better to be...

Darin and I bought beer on Friday. So what else is new, right? Tui Beer is having a promotion, where they put $10, $20, or $50 bills in empty bottles in cases of beer. We got a case with $50, check out the photo. Cool, getting paid to drink beer. By the way, the $50 bill has a mushroom on it.
What did we do with our free money? Well, we bought an Xmas tree for one. Choice is pretty much limited to pine, but price was right- $30, for a 7 footer. Barb and Eric came over for dinner and helped us decorate it. We were pleased to see all our ornaments made it to New Zealand safely. We had to borrow Barb's tree stand though, because we got rid of ours before the move from San Diego. There are so many things we got rid of that I now regret, especially the wood folding chairs. Well it's fine anyway.

We also spent some money on fresh strawberries, now in season and grown locally. There's a place north of us that sells fresh strawberry ice cream, mmm. We're also enjoying fresh lettuce from our garden. I spent several hours in the garden weeding and mulching. It should be good to go now, at least until the bugs get it. I have been taking a free class called "gardening for migrants", and I learned of an organic pesticide: 1 litre of water, a squirt of dish soap or vinegar, and 3-4 smashed garlic cloves. Let sit in a sunny location for about 10 days, then load into the sprayer. Should be toxic to pests but safe for people.

Last weekend I took Fargo on a hike around Piha. Piha is a west coast beach community about 40 min drive from our home, very popular with surfers. As you can see from the photos, it was a beautiful day. The hike was challenging in parts, but the views were the payoff. Fargo still had energy at the end to chase the tennis ball into the surf. A playful dog I called David Bowie (one brown eye, one blue eye) hung out with us.

Book update:
The China Study was didactic, preachy, and depressing. I returned it to the library. Now I'm reading (when I have time) Collapse by Jared Diamond. Good, gritty stuff. Also on the agenda is Stephen Colbert's I Am America, and So Can You! Obviously, Americans are suffering tragically from the writer's strike- I refer of course to the mall and church shootings. What, you think they're not related? Bah.
Movie update:
We saw This is England at the swish Rialto cinema, and it was great. It reminded me of American History X, the brilliant and gruesome film starring Edward Norton. I like him almost as much as Johnny Depp. This is England is great for the 1980's noir and realistic acting. Another movie I've watched recently is Fido. This was ordered on eBay from Singapore or somewhere. It was released on DVD in the US in November, and no one seems to know when it will be available in NZ. So I imported it because it's about a pet zombie. Funny and dark, it is well worth a watch. The father is played by Dylan Baker, who is another great actor. He reached the highest "creep factor" in Happiness.
I've also re-watched Donnie Darko. Wow. If you haven't seen it, what are you waiting for? It is a classic in the vein of Repo Man.

Music update:
The most recent CD purchase was a 3 CD set of Queen's greatest hits. Ok I'm a geek, like I care. The other CD I've bought is I'll Be Lightning by a NZ artist, Liam Finn. Nice, mellow. The title of this post is the title of one of his songs, and I chose it because I'm planning some changes, I hope for the better. Let me elaborate.

I mentioned in my last post that my work is unsatisfying. My sister Barb has been working as a Clinical Trials Coordinator for a few months, and told me they have another position open. She said the work is interesting, the people are nice, and that I should apply. So I sent my CV and got an interview. They wanted my current supervisor as a referee (reference). I told them that he doesn't know I'm here. After the interview, I was told they'd offer me the job if my references checked out, and so I had to tell my supervisor that I wanted him to give me a reference. I was nervous about this meeting with him, but he was understanding and nice. Whew! I knew when I accepted the job I have now that I was taking a big risk and was prepared for a challenge. The challenge took a different form than I had expected, and this position has pushed me into a new direction. A direction which I think will be positive, a new learning experience, and I'm always up for that. The pay cut will be a drag, and it will be strange to work in the same office as my sister. I'm ready though for a change, for the better.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

USA early winter, and New Zealand spring 2007

Thanksgiving came early at the Joppa household. Darin and I were back home in Fargo, North Dakota early November. We were so pleased to see everyone healthy and happy. Unfortunately, I caught a nasty head cold just prior to leaving San Diego. I did my best to keep my social obligations, but my brother and niece had to be missed, since I couldn't speak above a whisper for 2 days. I think they may come visit us here in NZ at some point.
The flights to and from the US were on Air New Zealand, and I got to catch up on some movie watching. Best film was Hot Fuzz, and a close second was When Night Falls. Perfect Creature was boring, and A Mighty Heart was long and just sad. Knocked Up had its moments, but was not that great.
Our visit to San Diego (the week prior to ND) was awesome. We ate mexican food almost daily,
caught up with our old friends, and did some shopping. The recent wildfires there caused several of our friends to evacuate, but fortunately none of their homes were damaged. We drove past our old house, and it still had our yellow sign on the fence, "Rottweiler Crossing". The garbage can still had the Lou's Records and Comic Book Legal Defense Fund stickers on it.

Now we are back in New Zealand, it's Spring, and our Feijoa trees are blooming. The birds really like to eat the flowers, and we watch them from our kitchen window above the sink. The cucumber plant died, but the lettuce and silverbeet are doing really well.
I've been cooking a lot lately. I like cooking because it's something I can plan, perform, and then enjoy eating. I am not happy at my "real" job (that pays the bills) right now, so cooking gives me job satisfaction. Tonight, Darin and I made Salsa del Norte, consisting of roasted tomatoes, onion, cilantro, garlic, chipotle peppers, and red wine vinegar. Necessary to make your own, because the only "salsa" you can get here is the El Torito brand- glorified tomato sauce. Here's an asparagus, blue cheese, and smoked salmon omlette I made this morning. Strawberries are in season. The weather is absolutely grand.