Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Everyone's a Critic: t Leaf T

Last time I reviewed tea it was by Tea Total, and I do believe - I have found a new favourite brand in which to explore: t Leaf T.

They have their shop in Manners street, Wellington; which I seem to visit every time I am down there for work or friend-hanging, and carry a delightful selection (quite beautifully displayed, also).

Last time I tried to go was the Friday earthquake a couple weeks back, which shut shops and stuck me on a bus for 2 hours, from the airport conference centre to Lower Hutt.  Yuck.

Anyway, my purchase list of tea for The Mother, The Grandmother and myself was postponed and internet ordered once I got home.
The Mother has rubbish guts and can't drink black tea, but has gotten sick of plain chamomile and peppermint, so I ordered a bunch of white tea testers, to see if a) her stomach could cope with them, and b) if she found any of the flavours acceptable.

We tried the White Rose first, and dry; is gorgeous:
Unfortunately - I just don't like white tea.  I was willing to give it a go,  On the plus side - Mum quite enjoyed it, so it looks like we can expand her tea repertoire after all.  (the drained brew looks like baby skin shavings.  Gross!).

My tea leaves - I like fermented.

The earl grey blue flower is a keeper, and I love the Christmas tea - nice and spicy warm.  I had forgotten until I brewed a pot, but I had tried the Chrissie one before - a couple of winters ago at my dear Crazy One's old house.  It evoked quite the set of memories.  I shall try the Monk's blend within the next few weeks.

Funnily enough The BigSib got The Grandmother hooked on Jasmine tea, however - she thought it was pure Jasmine flowers and every shop-keep since has told her they don't stock it.  I checked the old packet and it was actually a very normal green tea/jasmine blend.  She was quite shocked to discover that she had, firstly, been drinking a green tea, and secondly - that she had been enjoying it.  Oh the delights of misdirection.

Gosh I love tea.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Dinosaur Imposters

Remember way back, when I got those expanding-from-pill dinosaurs?  (and made that, frankly amazing, expanding dinosaur gif).  And was so distraught to find a bull within my dinosaur herd.

Well, amongst cleaning up my work area last week I found the rest of the packet, and threw them in a bowl of water over lunch.

Turns out, my ire was well deserved and slightly premature.

Oh, what's this?
A shark?  A pony? A giraffe?!  So not only do we have dinosaurs and farm animals mixed up, we have African and ocean kids thrown in there for fun too.  Some underpaid slave at the junk factory is having a right old giggle about this most noble of revenges.  (you know; between the tears of oppression and weeping over exploitation...).

About the last, however, I was baffled:
I can't wait to confuse nieces and nephews with such animal groupings.  Chop chop BigSib and Ickle Brother!  Misinformation awaits your offspring!

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Internet's Favourite

Oh yes, this is a cat post.

More specifically, The Mother & Father's new kitten, who decided to survive and thrive, is causing havoc and generally being a complete menace.

We've changed one of the rooms around down stairs, so that now when I skype the possibility of various employers seeing my unmade bed is null.  (I joke, it's always made.  cough).
I've just rediscovered the panorama function on my phone.  Fun times.

And I tidied my desk.  Always a traumatic experience.

It was pouring with rain all morning and as such the kitten refused to go outside to burn off some of that mischievous kitten energy.

It began with the stalking:
And moved into hiding:
Then came the cord fighting:
And then the attacking-of-typing:
And then it gets too cute to be annoyed at any more:
And I give up on doing any work with her puttering around back there:
Ridiculous.  I challenge you to having that peeping out at you and trying to maintain a chiding tone to your voice.



Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tom makes History

This story, or at least my exposure to it, begins back in 2010 when a surprising young man was brought out to NZ by the Otago Institute and Genetics Otago, to do a short tour of schools and take part in the Science Fest that year.

I interviewed with Tom McFadden then, and was very impressed with his motivation and passion.  He returned to Dunedin in 2011 for the Masters in Science Communication program and only got better.  More organised, more in charge and more professional.  I have been quietly anticipating brilliant things.

This past (NZ) summer, Tom launched a kickstarter to crowd-fund a series of new videos (over and above the grants he was already holding), working with kids in telling the stories of famous figures in science history through rap, music and video, in the style of Battle Rap.  (did I just decouple rap from music?!).

The kids have composed the lyrics and recorded the audio, and now the videos are starting to roll out.  They have already received some pretty massive exposure and famous recommendations, but for my little corner of the internet - if you haven't seen them yet, I suggest you subscribe to the channel and visually-consume with delight.

A bit of an introduction from the man himself (I love the close out):

First battle up is Rosalind Franklin schooling Watson & Crick:

And from last Friday, my favourite (from the audio files), Pluto's story of woe and despair:

The kids in US 8th grade are Year 9/10 equivalent for those in NZ secondary education at the mo, or 13/14 years old, or 3rd/4th Form for those old school cats like me.  Tom is now on his way to being a biology teacher for the 8th grade at The Nueva School in 2014, and I'm really, really hoping he keeps producing & distributing innovative teaching materials while he's there.  Even the simple motivation for current teachers to step out of the box is a worthy outcome.

I'm very impressed with what he has achieved, and - I'll be watching. (dum dum duuuuuuum).

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Everyone's a Critic: The Wolverine

I was down in Wellington for work on Tuesday and Wednesday the week before last and popped out for a movie-dinner with The Married Ones, Tuesday night.

SPOILERS, though I'm sure everyone who cares has seen it already.

I have to say, I was a bit disappointed.  I really liked Origins, but The Wolverine just didn't float my boat to the same level.  It wasn't bad, and I really liked some of the concepts - like the mutation suppressing matrix-esque mechanical 'bugs'; but overall it just felt like a movie in which to set up Logan with a new love interest.

Rekindle his joie de vivre, as it were - for continuance of the franchise.

And, of course, utilise creepy dreams of Jean in bed.  I guess they had to show his love for her wasn't a fleeting infatuation.  Poor Scott.

Best scene?  Where he cuts his own chest and plunges his hand in to grab the bug off his own heart.  Lovely.

Some of the 'classic Japan' was lovely, but mostly it felt quite contrived.  The random-white-lady was a bit of a strange factor, her purpose/presence wasn't explained completely to my satisfaction.  Though her skin-shedding was wicked, and seeing her bald was a nice fighting-stereotypes touch.
They were very clever with the baddie - you think his character is redeemed and then BAM! Not redeemed.  And supposedly the company was driven into ruin, but then - not.  Logan's new love interest is head of 'the family' and paying for him to flit about the world in a private jet.  So - not so financially ruined after all?!

I have a question - as soon as Logan knew/suspected he was going to live ~forever, why didn't he pop a couple bricks of gold etc in a bank?  Not very good at the planning sitch, is the Wolverine.

The ending left me worried - are they going to re-adamantium-ise his claws?!  What use are they breakable and without a cutting edge?!  Pokey and snappy, people!  Fix it!

Of course, one of the everlasting perq's of seeing any Wolverine movie:

I laughed less than in Pacific Rim (which was hilarious), but was invested in the interests of the characters more, so -
4 out of 5 (where: 1=actively burning it, 2=waste of time, 3=don't regret having seen it, but... 4=good movie, recommended, 5=blewmymindwhyhaven'tyouseenityetI'vegottoseeitagaintalktoyoulater).

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Double Ewes

The second half of my trip, at the end of June.

From Wellington I flew back up to Auckland to spend a night with an uncle and cousins before meeting up with The Bustling Metropolis One the next day.

We trained into the city proper and met up with The Hyperactive One for a luncheon up the Sky Tower.
Whilst the weather was not the best, the view was, as always - fantastic.  We celebrated the very many graduations numbered between us, with fantastic drinks (you need a reason to drink at lunch time, especially when one of the party is due back at work for a meeting by 2...), and then TBMO and I went to the museum.

Auckland museum is my fav in NZ (sorry, Te Papa...).

We managed to catch our bus up to Whangarei and were later joined by THO for the weekend.  It was pretty much perfect weather for the rest of my stay up north, as you can see from the view at the Whangarei heads:
Let it never be said that those with doctorates are incapable of acting with immaturity. *snigger*.

We visited Claphams Clock Museum, which is amazeballs and I highly recommend it, if you are in the area.  I have many photos from here, of which I will eventually manipulate and upload to Flickr.  Seriously - it is fantastic.
On the Sunday TBMO's sister was having a baby shower, for which we baked cute footie cupcakes (unknown baby sex):
TBMO's inspiration, not mine.  First time fondant experimentation was probably not best slated for when two dozen cupcakes are needed, pronto.  I managed to make a very scary, very hideous teddy bear type...thing.  Actually, maybe it was a baby.  I can't remember.  It was hideous, at any rate.  Also, fyi, trying to sculpt baby rattles out of pink flesh coloured fondant is not a good idea.  Trust me - they won't look like rattles.

We left The Hyperactive One behind in Kamo, and with our cupcakes TBMO drove us up to Kawakawa for the baby shower with her brilliant family and friends of her sister's.  It was really fun, and always great seeing the family from which your peeps came - both resemblances and the shared sense of humour.  Hilarious.

TBMO managed to hook us up with whanau tickets on a cruise round the Bay of Islands the next day, which we rocked up to first thing in the morning not knowing where it was headed or for how long.  Not that it mattered, as once again (after the morning fog burnt off, and quite quickly at that) it was a most sublime day.
We fed swarming snapper off the back of the boat, alighted upon an island, took about a million photos and very much marvelled at the beautiful scenery and crystal clear water.  I now understand why it is such a hotspot for Auckland holiday makers.  Beautiful.

Funnily enough, it being a Dolphin Tour, we didn't see a single dolphin.

We lunched in Russell, walked around the Waitangi Treaty grounds (more photos, to come; and absolutely no funny stories about my geography skills.  Nope, none.) and went back to inspect the famous Kawakawa Hundertwasser toilets (photos!) before heading back home to Kamo.  We road tripped back down to Aux airport with TBMO's sister and first child (cutie!) and I flew home quite happy and exhausted.

It was so fantastically beautiful and a completely brilliant couple of weeks away.  I'm also quite shocked it has taken me this long to see further north than Whangarei.  Can't wait to do it again!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wellington; Storms, Trolls & Homegirls

So towards the end of June I used up a whole stack of airpoints (acquired over my whole ~9 years of university holiday and conference travels) to visit some of my peeps around the North Island.

With my usual epic luck for timing - I ended up spending my first three days stranded at Auckland airport whilst Welly got its #storm13 tantrum out of its system.

Fun times.  And, of course - Auckland looked like this:
And I don't think I have ever spent so much time waiting in lines.  The first night I got put up in the Hotel Grand Chancellor, and the staff had great issues confirming payment from the airline - not as bad as the group of JetStar passengers, however.  They got left in the lobby while some poor hotel dude tried over and over ringing through to Aussie to try and get any sort of confirmation.  It was 11pm by the time I got to a room, and most of them were still waiting in the lobby (I'd arrived at the airport off a Whakatane flight at about 9am).

When I finally did get to Welly, I met The Married One at her parents for delicious hot lunch (c/o her lovely Dad), and then we hit up TePapa to see what had changed - not much.  As an aside - TMO has made the ultimate investment - a onesie.  She gave me permission to share the photo provided you couldn't see her face.  Its almost like she's ashamed...nope :P.

Amongst dinner catchups (shoutout to the fantastic Lawyering One), movies (if you haven't seen a movie at the Reading Gold Lounge yet - then do it.  Fantastic.), zoo, a job interview and shop browsing; we visited the Weta Cave out at Miramar.

As you can imagine, it is as brilliant as all things touched with the Weta/Peter Jackson magic wand.
They have some trolls out front, and I got the impression that they were the only thing allowed photographed (could it have been the multitude of signs warning against it inside, perhaps?), so, of course - I made friends:
They have a tiny cinema inside where they show a micro documentary, which among awesome, makes you realise how many more movies Weta (+ family companies) works on than you realised.  They also run a behind the scenes tour, but of course we arrived as the last tour was leaving, before they all knocked off for lunch, and we decided to come back in future rather than wait them out.  Very much worth the visit, if you have the chance (and I suggest you leave your credit cards locked in your car...).

One of the days we got some sushi (Wellington has the best sushi) and ate with TMO's mum in her works break room - a most fantastic space decorated with re-purposed electrical components:
It was quite beautiful.

And of course, the local crazy cat found me at TMO's house:
A strange, grumpy looking thing that was very insistent I let him into the house.  We had a good cuddle on the front stoop.

I also had a look around the Dowse Art Museum, which had some fascinating exhibits - but very much modern.
Alex Monteith had a constantly changing surfing project running on the projector, and there was an awful lot of pottery by Barry Brickell, but my favourite was the 'Black O' exhibit by Kerrie Poliness - massive geometric wall 'drawings' which were fantastic.  My taste runs more towards the classical and oils, but it's worth a pop-in if you're in the Hutt and have a mo.

It was brilliant catching up with The Married Ones, whom I hadn't seen in 6 months, and The Lawyering One whom I hadn't seen in years.

It's hard being so far away from your homegirls.  Visiting is good.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Oh, what's that on your finger?!

Is that...could that be...?
Oh yes, The Crazy One is now quite blissfully engaged.

The 'I'm engaged!' phone calls are the best kind.  So much excitement and joy in the speaker.

I am so ecstatically pleased for her and The Building One, I can't wait to witness the next stages; and hug the bajezes out of them both the next time I see them.


Photos courtesy of TCO, herself.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Everyone's a Critic: Pacific Rim

Oooooo yeah.  Pacific Rim is exactly my kind of preferred brain-melting cinematic escapism.

Ridiculous, impossible monsters?

Hot, but rebellious/tortured hero?

Loud, beat-heavy soundtrack?

Assisted or inherent more-than-man abilities?

Hilarious, unlikely, happy ending?

Check, check, check, check aaaaaaaand check.

SPOILERS, my lovelies.

Pacific Rim is about the eventual apocalypse, but not at the hands of humans, demons or aliens off-planet, rather, dimensional aliens entering Earth via a portal at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.  Boom!  There's a new one.

These aliens take the form of gigantic bull-rhino-like monsters with fluorescent blue snot/spit/blood/bodily fluids, commonly called Kaiju.  The film is actually quite interesting in its time line.  It gives a quick recap of how the 'war' started - the first monster came, it took 6 days to take it out, and all of our tech was hopelessly over-matched.  Eventually the Jaeger fighter system was developed by world-wide collaboration - megatech (or mecha); giant humanoid robots piloted by two mind-linked drivers (because the neural load of piloting the things was too much for one...right.  So one person is using their left brain, the other their right...right.  Sharing memories and thoughts.  Yep.).  Obviously getting two humans who are capable of working in such a...close, intimate manner is difficult and the ones successful - become like rock stars.
This cocky, hero-worship aspect of society leads to its downfall (morally? metaphorically?) and the Jaeger forces are overwhelmed by the increasing number and ferocity of the Kaiju emerging from the portal.  The worlds ruling forces decide a huge wall shall be built and the remainder of humanity shall hide behind it.  The Jaeger program is decommissioned.  Fun fact - powdered Kaiju bone is a black market 'male potency' drug.

Of course - this happens:
The wall was just a means of keeping the people occupied and with-hope (and employment).

The dude in command of the Jaeger program is trying to run things in the dark and has devised a plan where the last 4 remaining Jaegers will fight through to drop an atomic bomb in the portal, hopefully closing it for good.
Of course - nothing goes to plan.  You really need to watch this movie to see the sweet, sweet things that happen as a result.  Like fighting at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and not being crushed into scrap by the pressure, or detonating the bomb and splitting the ocean like Moses (yes, yes the fish do fall down out of the 'air'), or determining mind-melding compatibility by a martial arts session, or the things in the portal itself, or how the guy sacrifices himself to save the damsel, doesn't breathe, and still miraculously survives so they can enjoy the 'perks' of a post-apocalyptic world...together.

Seriously - he manages to get into an escape pod after fighting to manually arm the power core of his Jaeger to blow, whilst through the portal, in the alien world, without oxygen, AND manages to have his pod shoot all the way through the portal before it closes, get all the way up through the water from the bottom of the pacific ocean, all still whilst having nothing to breathe, pops up within swimming distance of her pod, and wakes up within a minute, in time to kiss the girl, who supposedly only popped up moments before him.

Yeah.  The ending lost me, but the post-credits scene saved it again - the black market dude cuts his way out of a Kaiju foetus (which has previously eaten him) and asks where his shoe is.  Good stuff.

All this and I didn't even mention the punk scientist and their escapades.

Oooo yeah.  It was one of those movies where I giggled and had the urge to clap, in parts.  Heh - like Die Hard, only more sci-fi.

4 out of 5 (where: 1=actively burning it, 2=waste of time, 3=don't regret having seen it, but... 4=good movie, recommended, 5=blewmymindwhyhaven'tyouseenityetI'vegottoseeitagaintalktoyoulater).