Video: Autumn Wanderings

I went out on a brief afternoon excursion yesterday with mobile phone in hand and captured some video which I’ve stitched together following. Its a bit shakey, phone video is never gonna be that stable, but the results are ok considering:

Humans 1 – Cats 0

kola.jpgThis morning I was getting ready to leave for work, pulling my jacket on, looked out the window to the back lawn and noticed the bloody frost on the grass. I peered around the lawn a little to see how thick it was and see a little sunny spot over by the passionfruit vine.

Then my heart skips a beat when I realise that under the vine in the only warm sun on the lawn is sitting the neighbors cheeky cat, the one that our Kola fights with on a regular basis.

I grin to myself, quietly creep to the back door, gently unlock it and open it up so I can peek round the door-jam to see if the cats still there. Yep, he hasn’t seen me, in fact the little bugger’s asleep.

WHAMMM!!! I fling the door open and sprint like a mad-man out the door, up the stairs and charge in the general direction of the cat. He leaps about 8-feet in the air, does some wheel-skidding on the grass before getting enough traction to launch off and out of the property.

I slow my great lumbering carcass to a halt and am left puffing away in the frosty grass, laughing to meself, thinkin how brave I am, then realizing how bloody pathetic the whole episode is.

Then I wonder where the hell Kola is, walk back inside, and spot him at the bottom of the stairs waiting in the kitchen beside his empty breakfast bowl. He’s missed all the action and doesn’t seem to understand my gesticulations. The things we do for our dependents aye?

Great Toilet Usability Disasters

toilet.jpg We have a toilet down the corridor from us that happens to be the closest and most convenient location for daily ablutionary activity. It also happens to possess a number of classic toilet usability disaster features which I detail following for your edutainment. Really makes me wonder how much thought people put into toilet design, and whether it is a topic of focus in engineering/architectural schools. I suspect not.

Awkward building location – the toilet itself is positioned in a very narrow corridor which is often crowded with students waiting to get into a lab and the door to the toilet opens outwards into that corridor, this makes for some “uncomfortable” exits at times. Also, the adjacent lab room is fitted out with audio equipment. I’m sure the sound of a toilet flushing (and other audible delights) every few mins is just what people want to when they’re concentrating on listening.

Service duct proximity – the toilet is a reasonable size but shares the space with a building service duct. this means if theres any servicing needs doing the poor workman has to operate in a toilet, and potential toilet customers need to go elsewhere for relief. On the plus side the sound of water in the duct pipes can assist with expediting your own fluid processing.

Door lock finger jamming – the door has one of those conventional rotating knobs used to lock the door from the inside, but its mounted hard up against the door jam which means as you twist the lock there’s a good chance you will pinch your finger between the lock and the jam

Dodgy seat mounting point – this is the most distressing aspect from a visual perspective. without going into too much detail the essential problem is that a seat of the wrong size has been mounted on the bowl which means falling matter has a tendency to collide with the top of the porcelain and miss the water altogether. Despite the forces of gravity you generally need to flush two or three times to save the next visitor an unsightly and unwelcome visual experience.

Monkeys, Brass, Balls, Frozen

fog I’ve put up with a few cold places and situations in my time. When I was at primary school we had to play rugby in bare feet in the hard frosts of winter. I’ve slept on the snow near the ridge-line of the Southern Alps. I’ve camped overnight on top of a cold and windy Mt Sinai, and on occasion I drive through (but don’t stop in) Tokoroa.

But this morning for about an hour and a half I was as cold as I can remember, with no escape and little chance of warming up.

I stayed overnight in Auckland and got up in the dark this morning at 6:15am (something of a record for me) pulled cold leathers on over top of my polyprop long-johns and top, threw down a hot-chocolate, and leapt onto my bike for the ride back to Hamilton to get to work as on time as possible. The weather over the weekend had been clear and warm and the mornings pretty comfortable, but this morning, even in sub-tropical Auckland it was rather nippy.

The motorway from the North-shore into Auckland was slow going by the time I went over the bridge in the eerie glow of dawn, and even through to the south side of town the speed was pretty low so the cold was fairly bearable. But moving along at 100-ish on the southern motorway section to the Bombays was starting to get bloody uncomfortable. I had to keep working my hands and sheltering my left one behind the tank, riding one-handed for a time lest the both of them lock-up altogether.

Stopped at the BP in the Bombay service center, topped-up on fuel, then checked how much cash I had, bugger, not enough, didn’t have my Eftpos card. Mmmm… Quick grovel to the cashier, offer to leave my phone as a deposit, confused looks, the manager (Lois, bless her heart) came out of the back office, swipped her store credit card and payed the $16 I owed them out of her account saying not to worry about it, gave me the receipt and said drop in next time your passing.

Despite this potentially warm and fuzzy experience, I actually wasn’t feeling any warmer, and I still hadn’t had breakfast coz I was planning on eating at the Bombays and now didn’t have any cash. Busking for my breakfast wasn’t gonna work coz I cant dance, sing or play anything well enough to be paid for, juggling was possible but my hands were too cold to manage that. Clearly the contents of my cranium were not functioning at their usually impressive rate, this next leg was gonna have to be nice and easy.

Unfortunately for me things were about to get much worse. The section from the bottom of the Bombays through Pokeno, Mercer, following the river on long-swamp road to Meremere is notorious for fog, and that’s exactly what I hit after a few short minutes. A thick, white out, freezing wall of endless fog, dotted with dangerously slow moving trucks and cars, coating the visor on my helmet with a sludgy mist which I could wipe off with one hand, but my breath clouding up the inside. Bloody great, just what I needed.

After about 20mins of this insufferable torture I finally caught sight of the first sunlight of the day. Hallelujah!!! the Sun was up, and by Hampton downs was actually breaking through the fog, and then Bam!!! out into the clear, bright morning, perfect visibility, and up goes the pace again. At this point a motorcyclist faces the dreaded trade-off of winter riding: you either ride quicker and get home sooner but get colder due to increased speed, or ride slower and maybe feel a little less cold, but take longer getting there. I decided to take the former approach, sod the speeding tickets, the only thing on my mind now was getting through Huntly and home to warm the helll up.

Pretty soon I’m heading into H-town, through the back-streets to home, into the house, stripping out of my frozen leathers and easing my pathetic shambling carcass into a steaming hot bath. Its been ages since I’ve had a bath in the morning, and good lord was it great. I jumped in around 8:30 and after 20mins or so and a few hot-tap top-ups my core temperature had improved to the point where I thought I could face getting out and dressing for the road, and riding in to a day of work.

So it is I’ve canceled plans to attend the Brass Monkey, or any of the other ridiculous winter bike rallies run in NZ and around the world, I’m a summer softy, there’s no doubt about it. Please don’t invite me, refusal may offend.

Me, and Willy, and a few Ducks

wilfred.jpg Just now I was wandering back across campus to my office after another thrilling meeting and had one of those flashback moments. It’s a beautiful clear blue winters day in Hamilton today. It wasn’t quite a frost early on but its cold and still even now at midday. The suns shining and warming just enough so you can only really feel the chill on your face and neck as you physically walk through it at pace.

What sprang to mind, especially being the first week of May, was memories of goin duck-shooting with my granddad Wilfred Stringer (or Willy as everyone knew him). When I was about ten years old I started shooting with him every season. A couple of years earlier I’d begun shooting with my Father and his brother on one of the swamps near Ohaupo but I think I turned out to be too much of a liability for them. It was a bloody dangerous access-way wading out across mud flats in the pitch black to get to their maimai, plus I’m a hopeless shot and having three guns in one posse just ain’t right.

So it was that after a year or so I was dispatched for subsequent seasons down the road a little to the convivial lake front spot that Willy shot from.

We could park the car and walk down a nice solid farm race to a paddock near the lake, duck under the electric fence and creep silently across the dry grass to the waters edge, and calmly and safely slip up the gangway and into the posse. There was no risk of falling into the water or being drowned in the mud by slipping off the make-shift death-trap manuka gang-plank down at the swamp that Dad shot at.

The thing I loved about shooting with Willy didn’t have anything to do with actually shooting ducks. It really didn’t matter too much to him or I exactly how many ducks we bagged during the day. Some days we’d shoot a few each, on others maybe none. The beauty of it was just sitting in the maimai, just me and my pop, him quietly telling me endless hard-case stories about shooting days gone by, things that happened on the farm, horses he was gonna bet on, birds and wildlife and plants we could see from the posse and me sitting there greedily taking it all in.

Some days the weather would be like it was today. Clear blue skies and a warm sun striking the cold early morning lake, steam lifting lazily off the surface of the water. Pukekos screeching at one another around the lakes edge, and the occasional plane in the distance taking off from Rukuhia airport.

On those days there wasn’t a hope in hell of shooting a Duck, but we simply didn’t care. The two of us would sit there in our warm dry socks and gumboots, sip away at the thermos of hot tea, eat the roast-beef and pickle sandwiches Nan had prepared the night before, and ponder the fortunes tomorrow’s shooting might bring.

Ahh..the simple life. Good memories