Story of some Brits living in New Zealand for the Southern Hemisphere Winter in 2004
(Recent Entries Here)

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Kaikoura - Whales, Seals, Birds, Mountains

Had and amazing day in Kaikoura starting with a whale watching tour. This slick Maori run operation is a very impressive setup with several modern boats equiped with huge screens to give you some well presented background information about the whales, in the form of computer graphic animation, as you await the actual sightings. The guides were extremely good, even able to tell you when the whales were about to dive so you could get a tail photo. The only downside was the sea sickness inducing movement of these boats - quite a number of whale watchers lost their breakfasts.

Sightings of sperm whales are almost guaranteed due to the pod which lives near the coast at Kaikoura. Just off the coast the ocean quickly becomes very deep, more than 1000m. There is also a deep channel here where cold Antartic water and warmer water from the north mix, creating a situation of abundant wildlife.

In all, pretty impressive for a day out only 2 hours from Christchurch. An Hislop's organic cafe is a real treat for food in Kaikoura too!

Sperm Whale Tail

Sperm Whale - Identifiable by 45 degree blow hole

AM and Nadine - Whale Watching Tea Shop

Interesting rock formations on the beach

AM likes this picture of Kaikoura

White faced heron

Variable Oystercatchers

NZ Fur Seals (seal colony was a big hit!)

Not too bothered by people hanging around but a Seal's bite is 20 times more powerful than a dogs - another reason not to get too close!

Friday, July 30, 2004

Kaikoura Bates Motel

Drove up to Kaikoura for the night to be ready for the whale watching trip the next morning.

AM discovered that the hospital has a nurses' residence at a hospital in Kaikoura which health workers can stay at very cheaply, even just for the night.

What we discovered on our arrival was not the anicipated nurses residence filled with millions of nurses and their outrageous antics, no, we were confronted with an old detatched building, totally dark and empty, not unlike the Bates Motel. Surprisingly, it was at least warm, though too spooky for some. As we sat down for a cup of tea and switched on the huge an ancient TV set we were amused (and some were afraid) to see a vintage Frankenstein film as the only viewing option.

We offered to let Nadine sleep in our room but she said she was ok but slept with the light on all night just the same!

This is the actual Bates motel - i think the place we stayed was modelled on it.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Bubble tea! - Dream Garden, 62 Kendal Ave, Asian Veggie restaurant

Had a great meal with a couple of really interesting folks from the local vegetarian society, john and adrienne. They suggested an asian place (Taiwanese) which, despite having menu items called such things as hedgehog, beef, and fish, is all vegetarian and is in fact, mostly vegan.

The food was excellent, especially for people who like fake meat based on wheat gluton or soya but the bubble teas were fantastic. Definately very keen to go again!

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Winter birthday do - Alva Rados in christchurch

Had an excellent birthday do with our Kiwi pals, B, Myles, John, Laura, Helen, Miranda, Sally and Vic. The Sullivan contingent came up with some great presents, which was a nice surprise, and their Mum Diane gave me a present the week before too. Younger Sullivans still know the importance of toys which make groovy noises, science toys which bounce everywhere in extreme fashion, chocolate fudge (from my favourite chch shop) and magic dust. Their Mum mainly knows the importance of chocolate!

Friday, July 23, 2004

Drove to Wanaka on my birthday

After work we headed down to Wanaka (near Queenstown) for the weekend to meet up with Nadine again. It's more than a 5 hour drive down there but although the road was quite icy in places, the low traffic volume makes it easier. I think we only came across 20 cars all the way back.

Spent the weekend at Cardrona which is a great ski resort with a road up which is not too bad!

Cardrona has loads to do for the beginner and intermediate skier and the lessons we high standard too.

AM has not done much skiing but it didnt stop her tagging along behind quite an advanced class of skiers in the afternoon as the plunged over the edge of a steep bowl to come up the other side. It went fine until she was right at the top of the other side of the bowl, when she just gently plopped over! I think my skiing came on quite well this weekend, since I was happy enough to play around in these steep bowls all the way down the slope on the second day!

Great fun weekend!

AM seems quite taken with skiing

Unlike the poor car, which is often hounded up the ski roads (mostly scree and ice), clanking its chains, only to be surrounded at the top!

Apres Ski - one of these people is an extreme snowboarder and another is a Giraffe, which is which?
(Carl, Isabell, Nadine)

Thursday, July 22, 2004

cello - steven isserlis - NZ Symphony

Went to the symphony orchestra playing cello stuff featuring Steven Isserlis. Pretty good!

Also ate in Mainstreet cafe first, with B, John, Laura, Diane, AM and others!

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Casino - hospital do

Following careful dress-code instructions not to wear jeans or sneakers I was a bit surprised to see quiet a sight in shorts as I showed up! Apparently shorts are ok in the dress-code stakes!

The Casino is quite a nice place to eat as it has lots of room and an extensive buffet, and for groups is quite cheap!

After the food, and failing to be allowed to take a group photograph (must be dodgey these hospital types), AM and I rationed ourselves to $10 each (>£4) and hit the tables.

After making a little win on roulette AM turned her attention to blackjack.

Well, that's not strictly true since AM didn't know what Blackjack was but her friend pushed her in that direction. Needless to say beginners luck showed its face and AM was dealt an Ace and a Picture Card first time; and second time pretty similar. That was it, AM beaming with her winnings led us off in search of further entertainment.

A fruit machine gave us 40 goes for $2 but we never really understood how that worked. I lost my money on blackjack - 2 hands and that was it.

We left with AM standing at more than 100% profit up and me having lost my $10. Good fun and not too much risk of gambling addiction but I picked up a leaflet just in case.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Mainstreet Cafe again !

AM's friend Nadine is over from Oz so we went to the fantastic Mainstreet cafe again. Service a little slow but my patience paid off. Waitress even gave me some extra food (destined for the bin) for my lunch the next day! Neat!

Nice to eat somewhere totally veggie!

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Mid Winter Christmas at Hamner Springs

Miranda and Scott invited us to the Hamner batch for a mid-winter christmas weekend! Great fun!

It seems that whilst it is great fun to have real christmas on the beach, it's not quite the same as a European white christmas, particularly with respect to FOOD and DRINK and SNOW. So, an ever more popular idea here is the concept of a July Christmas. By all accounts I think it should be an idea more widely promoted but not commercialised!

Hamner Batch

Christmas silliness

Christmas seriousness (dinner)

White Christmas!

During this action packed weekend we:
- ate brandy snaps;
- mountain-biked around Hamner (Jollies Pass). Impressive singletrack (muddy); impressive climb (long, just graded, loose, steep, difficult, muddy, icy/snowy at the top). Great rideout, Scott politely suggesting we walk some sections of the climb for my benefit, well, until we met some female twins on their way down who explained that although they had walked a bit, they started walking later than we had!
- relaxed in Hamner hot springs;
- ate food until near explosion (GREAT);
- chilled out, played silly games (mainly with the lazy boy chairs) and opened presents;
- went skiing at Lydford - Jen coached usa very well and was very positive and encouraging but the conditions were very icy, which was tough. Road up to Lydford was ok but learned that our little toyota doesnt have much ground clearance as I carefully lined up the wheels to go over a rock, but instead crushed it (sump survived that one thankfully). Later needed to learn how to use snow chains to get us to the top of the road, but Scott and Andy helped us with that - it's a little tricky!

Friday, July 16, 2004

Lemons in Winter

Quite a culture shock to have a fully laden Lemon tree in your garden in the middle of winter. Perhaps this is just another clear indication of the difference in sunlight you get in a Kiwi Winter compared with a Pommie Winter.

Our tree!

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Global warming: The imperatives for action from the science of climate change - Science & Technology: Latest Science News and Developments from BritainUSA

Global warming: The imperatives for action from the science of climate change - Science & Technology: Latest Science News and Developments from BritainUSA

Great talk and PowerPoint on Global Warming.

BBC News report of David King's warning that London and New York could be the "first cities to go" when the polar ice caps melt (which they are already doing at an alarming rate).

Odd that this was such a small piece on the news.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Kakapo Deaths - Mystery infection kills three kakapo (very rare flightless parrot)

Very sad News today that a wildlife recovery programme here is struggling, with three recent bird deaths.

These very rare parrots are flightless and there are less than 100 left.

Very sad to lose 3 of these.

Kiwi conservation efforts aimed at flightless birds are a big thing here. People are aware that Possums, Stoats, Dogs and Cats and a whole host of introduced predators have all but extinguished the indigenous flightless bird populations, that evolved in an environment without such predators. The only mamals indigenous to New Zealand are a couple of bats about the size of your thumb.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Great Curry! - Tandoori Palace, 56 Cathedral Square

Haven't been all that impressed with Indian food here until last night. We had a great curry last night at the Tandoori Palace with AM's friend Tracy and her friend's Mark and Rich and Mark's parents.

Great food - perhaps a good spot for my birthday meal!

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Mainstreet Cafe

Had a great Dragon Pie (Adzuki beans etc) at the vegetarian Mainstreet Cafe. Being a veggie is normally a convenient way to narrow down your food choice when eating out. Being suddenly confronted with a veggie restaurant counter always stumps me a bit! Dragon pie was a good choice but I may try the tortilla stack next time, which looked a bit like a layered cake made filled with beans!

An odd optional sprinkling of brewers yeast was available for the food. This looked like the remains of a chewed up pencil but tasted really nice, a bit like marmite in fact.

Another possible birthday meal choice!

Friday, July 09, 2004

Mountain Biking in the Port Hills - Castle Rock Reserve to the Bridle Path is ok

I still struggle on these Port Hills cycle tracks. Because they often contour around the hills, very often it would be a very bad idea to fall off to one side in particular and this totally ruins my concentration. This skittishness is not helped much by being on a new bike. Nor is any comfort gained from the quality of the single track, which whilst nice enough, it's narrow and dug-out enough to cause your pedals to catch now and then.

So, I cycled from the QE2 Hospital, up Hackthorne Rd to Victoria Park. I then got quite lost amongst the "Mountain Biking Tracks" in the park, which have grades of from blue (quite nice but challenging enough), black diamond (difficult/national standard) to double diamond (insane drop-offs).

Eventually struggling to the top of Victoria Park I headed along the single track parallel to the summit, which was ok. Then got a bit tired and took to the Summit Rd. I was persuaded back on the single track parallel with the road at the Castle Rock Reserve sign. From there the path gently descends to the bridle path. This is actually a very nice section of singletrack with enough gradual gradient that you can just stand on the pedals and coast down there hardly pedalling at all.

When you reach the bridle path, it is quite steep and you need to hang on the brakes all the way down pretty much, so not that much fun really. The path is in good condition though so it's not a big deal to get down it. The path comes out in Ferry Meade - quite handy for Redcliffs!

Perhaps I need to write a guide to the Port Hills for mountain bikers more used to trails than stunts!

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Dinner with Don Norman and Mark Billinghurst

Don's New Zealand tour brought him to Christchurch today to do a public lecture and spend some time with the guys at the hitlabNZ. Mark Billinghurst invited me along to the hitlab early so we could take a look around.
Dr Mark Billinghurst
I was most impressed with the projects they are doing there. The lab seems to have a strong track record of turning out commercial projects in fast timescales and for low cost. Even more impressive is the robustness of their augmented reality exhibts which are destined for high volume public usage, such as in museums. Very impressive stuff.
Don Norman
Having been a fan of Don's for 10 years or more it was great to have the opportunity to hear him talk again, and nice that he varied his talk a bit from the one he gave at APCHI last week - even managing to mention number 8 wire! After the talk we asked if they had dinner plans and managed to go eat with them. Fantastic. Don was happy to autograph my copy of POET, perhaps his most famous book, which he apparently wrote in about a month during his sabbatical in Cambridge (UK), his wife and editor, Julie explained. A really nice and memorable evening.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Turning Kiwi - Waiangitup

I'm sure I heard a confused and flustered maori exclamation this morning as AM rushed around trying to find her work clothes, it sounded like 'Waiangitup', which I think means, 'Why, there it is, hanging up'. Or similar.

In other news, Carl was heard to say 'Yis'. Perhaps we are going native!

Sumner Yoga

We checked out a yoga class in Sumner to get a good stretch! Quite a good class - lots of interesting variations on moves like the bridge and such.

Mind you, think we'll try Govinda's another time, for the same price their Yoga classes involve food, and those folks know how to cook veggie!

Saturday, July 03, 2004


After the conference I spent the weekend up near a lake in Rotorua in the North Island (a place which Kiwi’s seem to call Rotovegas for no really good reason – after Las Vegas! I think perhaps Rotorua has a casino or something.).

After living in the Novotel in town for almost a week, with accommodation, conference, meals and entertainment all there at the hotel, it was nice to get out.

On Friday afternoon I headed back to the airport to meet Bianca and Miles and Laura (Bianca’s sister in law). Laura has been staying at a “batch” up at a lake near Rotorua for nearly 4 months studying the behaviour of the endangered Kokako bird. Her research equipment needs a lot of carting about through the forest so field assistants are always useful – hence the presence of Miles and Bianca! I just tagged along.

This was the first batch I had stayed at and it was very nice. I get the impression that a lot of Kiwis own a second home, affectionately referred to as a 'batch'. These are often older houses in really nice outdoorsy locations with basic facilities. The batch Laura had hired was really great, with an excellent view of the lakeside with loads of birds around. Facilities included: an old stove like an Arga, which was the main source of heat and with enough wood burning in there could boil a kettle; an electric hotplate and a pan with integrated heat element in it; a shower but not much fuel left for the hot water so we didn’t use that at all; a couple of axes for chopping wood; bunk beds; basic kitchen; running water (when the somewhat noisy pump was running) Well, quite basic really, a little cold, but with great woodwork, an excellent position and great access to the outdoors.

The Kokako birds are quite unusual in that they sing a duet, with the male singing one half of the song and the female another part. This is what Laura is studying. We went out Saturday afternoon to have a listen. Laura played some of the song back and after a while a pair of Kokako came to investigate and entertained us with their singing. Pretty cool!

Kokako is very likely to be a Maori name for the bird. Maori names are often chosen to sound like the noise an animal makes, and indeed this seems to be true with the Kokako.

Whilst at the batch I also got the chance to see several Pukeko – a far more common bird but one I had only until then seen on Roadsigns. Pretty impressive almost chicken-like bird and more shy than a lot of NZ birds and much harder to photograph than some.

Also saw Tui', Pigeons and Bellbirds up at the batch!

Friday, July 02, 2004

APCHI2004 Conference - The Big Day - My Desire Lines presentation

Worked late after the conference reception the night before to finish my presentation on Desire Lines.

As I made my way early to my session I'm approached by one of the organisers who tell me Don Norman is looking for me! Don is the keynote for conference and has been a fan of mine since he wrote The Psychology of Everyday Things (or POET for short) - later renamed, The Design of Everyday Things. Well, to discover 5 minutes before my talk track is to start that Don is looking for me is a bit like being told Mick Jagger would like to see you right now, as you step up on the way to a Best Man's speech. Oh well, Don told me he liked my paper but couldn't make the talk. He then told me he'd brought me a copy of his Voyager CD, which he'd promised me by email several months before. I was really impressed he'd remembered, he must get a whole lot of email!

Anyhow, I finally got to the talk with my number 8 wire fashioned USB device for transfering data to another laptop. William Wong was very gracious about my lateness and got everything set up nicely for my talk. I was third in line to talk so was somewhat concerned at the fantastic nature of the warm-up acts. Michael Verhaart and John Jamieson (from Eastern Institute of Technology/Massey University, New Zealand) and then Wally Smith's (University of Melbourne, Austrailia) talk about the Misrepresentation of Use in Technology Demonstrations. Oddly enough, not only was Wally's talk very well presented (like the preceeding talk) but the topic was perhaps the closest to my own PhD than I have ever seen. Most distracting given that I had to stand up and talk about something completely different straight afterwards!

Well, I finally poured forth about Desire Lines, and it seemed to go down quite well. A lot of my inspiration came from Don's early work, and though he has moved on to new areas (like Emotional Design) I have not. So perhaps the material was perhaps more reminiscent of Don's earlier work than his own later stuff. Who knows, it was actually a lot of fun to stand up to present and say, 'I'm paying for myself to attend and I've written this paper because I can't leave it alone' and 'for fun', rather than being there to represent my employer!

I overran a little, partly because my brain switches off a bit when I'm presenting. I saw William's various signs (10 minutes left) and some others, and then a curious sign saying 'STOP NOW!' So, I only managed the one minute for questions instead of the prescribed five minutes.

Several people asked for copies of my Desire Lines Presentation Slides so they're on my website now.

Very pleased to get that out of the way I was happy to later kick-off and enjoy the formal conference dinner; Maori dancing; etc.

Didn't see a whole lot of Rotorua (which is known as RotoVegas in NZ) but had a great time meeting lots of people who have a similar job to mine.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Kiwi Culture - "Number 8 Wire" and "Tall Poppies"

Two aspects of Kiwi culture emerged during conference discussions, Number 8 Wire culture and tall poppy syndrome.

Last first, the idea with tall poppies is that nobody wants to be a tall poppy, which is synonymous with being a high achiever, because tall poppies are the ones that get cut down. This is perhaps another dimension of our perseption that Kiwi's are pretty big on understatement.

Number 8 Wire is in fact fencing wire often used on farms. You can use it to fix just about anything. And, given that Kiwi's seem to be able to fix just about anything for themselves, sometimes it seems to be referred to as Number 8 Wire culture. Or a number 8 wire thing. You really do see a lot of very old cars on the road here, which in the UK people would be unlikely to have gone to the trouble of fixing up. Kiwi's also seem to often make things for themselves that others wouldn't, like welding themselves up a bike carrier to secure to the towbar of their car, or indeed the towbar itself!

And of course, Duck Tape (or Duct Tape) is called Bear Tape in New Zealand, a fact which seemed to have been missed by quite a few speakers - I wonder if people knew what they meant?