Friday, May 29, 2009

Hmmmm - Yummy!

A favourite winter lunch, although Jayne would argue about the 'winter'.

A bit of this, a bit of that, mix it up, and use as a filling between slices of buttered bread in a toastie pie iron.
If you haven't got any this or that, try:
* 1 can sweet corn
* 1 egg
* grated cheese
* chopped ham, lightly cooked bacon, or salami
* tomato sauce
* Worcestershire sauce
* black pepper
NB: Quantities according to taste.
Be sure the butter side of the bread is on the OUTSIDE. Cook over an element until the outisde (i.e. the buttered side of the bread) is golden brown.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Of Lyrca, bile and vitriol

The rivalry between New Zealand's 2 main telephone networks is intense, but sometimes reaches absurd depths and can also produce a suitable public response.
Let me illustrate.
Telecom are desperately advertising a 'new' network, so they tell me. And have recruited (and probably paid some obscene amount to) Top Gear's Richard Hammond. Now don't get me wrong. I have no problem with Hammond earning lots of dosh; only with the gullibility of Telecom in thinking paying him a lot of money to mouth platitudes at me will persuade me to take up their new product. It won't, in case you hadn't figured that out yet.
So their advertising agency has figured out a few other wrinkles to get their message in front of people, some more desperate than others. These poor sad people trying to earn a living, and keep warm were seen cavorting around the streets of Wellington today:

But it wasn't only Telecom whose advertising back-fired on them. Vodafone earlier in the week spent a small fortune on full-page adverts in the metropolitan dailies advertising a "million dollar giveaway" - $1,000 to each of 1,000 customers.
Well, one of their customers, or maybe a former customer, or maybe a Telecom staffer or customer, decided this was bit rich, if you'll pardon the pun.
So s/he copied the advertisement onto A3 paper, annotated it, and then pasted it to a switch box on the corner of Brandon Street and Lambton Quay!

(Pssst - if you click the picture you can see a larger version, and actually read the annotations)

It isn't witty or humorous, but is nicely vitriolic.
Whoever the anonymous protester was/is, s/he isn't particularly clever (note the last line about paying for the "add").
A bit like Telecom and Vodafone, perhaps? After all, it pays not to piss off customers - especially with inane advertising stunts and gimmicks.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

When will these Fossils make the Great leap Forward?

Sometimes I get really depressed about the rut in which some of of our schools are stuck. Well, not so much depressed in a clinical sense, as head-shakingly baffled by their persistent and backward-looking stupidity.

Queen Margaret College deputy principal Rosey Mabin apparently proudly told parents that "her school refused to offer subjects that gave pupils the chance to take the 'easy route'".

By the 'easy route' she appears to mean allow her colleagues to exercise their professional expertise and judgement and assess the performance of their own students themselves. Oh, no! Not for Ms Mabin. She doesn't trust her staff, despite an overwhelming weight of research that shows modern professionals (like Ms Mabin's staff) assess students fairly and accurately, and, moreover are able to devise assessment tasks that allow students to show what they can do in a wide variety of contexts.

Instead Ms Mabin, from the security of her own medieval keep, insists students of her esteemed academy submit themselves to "external examinations". In something akin to the delight expressed by Spanish Inquisitors, she says her "students are actively encouraged to take demanding, academic courses" which, it goes without saying, are only assessed by external examinations. You can almost hear her smirking at the prospect of the flagellation.

But there is the rub. Who marks the external exams? Why secondary school teachers! In fact, the same teachers she doesn't trust to assess their own students! So perhaps it isn't that she doesn't trust her own staff.

Ms Mabin's colleague in medievalism, Roger Moses, is quoted in the same article thus: "I am not saying unit standards [ie. internally assessed standards] are wrong; it is important for schools to shape courses to students' needs but it is possible for kids to never sit an external exam paper."

Ah, now I understand! It isn't that fair and accurate assessment is desirable, or that assessment of a wide range of skills and knowledge and capabilities is sensible, or that tasks which engage students are valid assessment tools.

Rather, the nub of the matter is that sitting external examinations is somehow character building and "good for the soul." Listen carefully and you'll hear her saying "They didn't do me any harm!" Oh really? one might ask. That must be why our justice system still uses the ducking stool!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Rose of Tralee

At this time of year, the Hutt Valley Irish Society is up to it's eyeballs in arrangements for the Rose of Tralee.
While we run the National Final, I am responsible for running the local Rose, and finding the Hutt Valley Rose of Tralee. Our record is pretty good. We have 4 of the last 6 National title winners - all of them selected from events I ran.
This year's Hutt Valley Rose if Lucy McAuliffe.

She will represent the Hutt Valley Irish Society at the National Final in mid-June.
The Rose of Tralee website has a list of the contestants for this year's title, as well as an informal and unofficial voting 'poll'.
Take a moment and cast your VOTE for Lucy.
And why not book tickets for the Grand Ball on June 13.

The leaves on the trees

It is Autumn, for those who have got their seasons scrambled because they're living elsewhere in the world.
What that means for us, in addition to cold days and even colder nights, is that the leaves on our deciduous trees change colour and then fall off the trees, and make the place look untidy. But in the most attractive colours, of course.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Keeping in touch with Charlotte

Charlotte let us know that one of her photos from Amsterdam has been selected for inclusion in an online guide to Amsterdam. It's a little difficult to track down because of the irritating frames and too-clever javascript mouseovers, but is a lovely picture of the roof and spire of The Old Church in Amsterdam.

And that took me to a collection of her photos, including some more lovely shots from a recent trip to Dublin, which I thought I might share - I'm sure Charlotte won't mind! She has a collection of photos online.

A plain wooden cross marks the sites of the excecutions at Kilmainham GaolA painting of the Virgin Mary in a cell at Kilmainham GaolCell at Kilmainham GaolDublin and the Liffey at nightLong Library at Trinity CollegeMolly Malone - Cockles and muscles alive, alive-oA balanced meal if ever I saw one The Guinness Store House - It's like Disney Land for alcoholics!Everyone's Irish On March 17thWater FeatureGuinness and Catholocism - Welcome to IrelandMagadlene Laundry - Memorial in St Stephens GreenSt Stephen's GreenRiver Liffey

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What a difference a day makes

Yesterday I watched the Navy engage in some kind of water-borne game with someone suspended from a helicopter.
Today, after a rather dull and dreary start to the day it brightened to a sharp, calm and almost warm day, with the inner harbour drenched in sunlight - it looked pristine and sparkling.
And then, instead of the navy or a helicopter, a small fleet of larger yachts found the time in the afternoon to set sail, and make the most of the perfect conditions.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Our Navy in dramatic rehearsals

I have mentioned before how I keep an eye on Wellington Harbour.
Today, one of our Navy's patrol craft was footling about, in company with the Westpac Rescue Helicopter, who seemed determined to let someone get entangled in the superstructure of the vessel:

If you look closely at the pictures you can see the fellow dangling!
In addition, in the morning I had noticed 2 of the Patrol Craft - that's about one-third of our Navy - in the one place at one time!!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Stranger than most!

We find odd things around our garden and on the deck. 'Odd' in the sense of interesting or unusual or surprising.

A piece of garden sculpture the visibility of which comes and goes, as the garden grows

Monarch butterflies seem to enjoy visiting the Mulligans - can't think why, as we don't do much special for them!

Caterpillars appear on our swan plants and proceed to devastate them. This caterpillar is feasting on the second 'crop' of leaves on the plant this year.

The caterpillars sometimes wander off the plants and end up where one mightn't expect them.

The caterpillars wrap themselves into a chrysalis, a beautiful shade of green, with striking gold dots.

I discovered this cocoon on one of the deck chairs. I had always assumed they just wrapped themselves up in a spot, and then stayed there. But no! Not this one! Over the next hour or two it proceeded to move itself around the furniture, presumably looking for a good place to settle while it metamorphed. I don't know where it ended up, or what it became, unfortunately.

This chicken has yet to lay any eggs, but enjoys basking in the sun.

This chap just hangs around

While this fellow just lies about the pots.

This stick insect was annoyed when I cleaned the ivy off the wall of garage - camouflage removed!!