Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Authorities 3 : Sue & Ross 0

Ross got our first speeding ticket this morning - for travelling at 95km/h on a motorway that had a temporary limit of 70km/h.  Ironic, considering that I can't usually get over 20km/h on that motorway due to traffic - you'd think they could let us enjoy the freedom of the accelerator given a clear road for once.
So the running total of road fines:
Towage when on road parking became clearway (a job centre appt overran):   $130
Towage from a shop carpark at night when the shop was shut:    $220
Speeding ticket:     $170
Total:     $520
It is a nanny state.  Thank goodness we can afford it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Soldiers and sunshine

After several weeks of autumnal showers, I decided to bring a hat and scarf to the 6am dawn service in Auckland Domain.  But I didn't need it - we had a gloriously warm sunny day, so even pre-dawn it was comfortable.  The service was in recognition of the Anzacs - Australia New Zealand Air Corps soldiers.  The First World War battle for Gallipoli is the most important date for Anzacs.  In fact, if the speakers at the service were to be believed, it may have been the most important date in the history of New Zealand: the moment when the colony proved itself.  The sacrifices made by the soldiers are hard for someone born in 1979 to understand, especially those of the Maori brigade, who suffered the greatest losses of the army in WW2, being always put as the spearhead of attacks.  It was good to have a day apart to think about it.
Meanwhile the veggie garden is coming on apace.  I'm particularly impressed with the broccoletti, an Italian vegetable of the same family as broccoli, but in this case the leaves are eaten.  Our broccoletti, which Ross loves to eat with Italian sausage meat in pasta or pizza, has shot up, surviving the caterpillars much better than the broccoli.
We took a walk down to the shore to gather more seaweed, but no luck - the tide was in.  Better for photos than bladderwrack.
The orchard has been fruitful, if you'll excuse the pun, and I've been scouring the net for persimmon and feijoa recipes.  Can't wait to try persimmon cheesecake and feijoa lemon ginger marmalade.  Ross is worried for the pots.

In italiano!  Sole e soldati
Dopo delle settimane piovose e autunali, decisi di mettermi la sciarpa e il cappello per andare alla ceremonia prima dell'alba nel Domain, il parco piu' grande di Auckland.  Non fu necessario, divenne un giorno limpido e caldo, cosi' caldo che gia' prima dell'alba si stava bene.  La ceremonia ricordo' il sacrificio degli Anzac.  Infatti, si ricorda in particolare la battiglia di Gallipolo - se si crede agli interlocutori della ceremonia, fu allora che nacque la nazione della Nuova Zelanda, quando i neozelandesi si dimostrarano grandi come i loro colonizzatori inglesi.  Molto commovente fu la storia della brigata maori, che persero piu' del loro numero di tutte le brigate, grazie ad essere sempre messi in avanti in ogni azione di guerra.  Qui in NZ, si ricorda i sacrifici molto meglio che nel Regno Unito.
L'orto cresce velocemente!  Sono molto fiera dei broccoletti, che sostengono gli insetti molto meglio dei broccoli.  Anche il frutteto e' stato produttivo, e adesso cerco su internet per le ricette con i cacchi e i feijoa.  Non vedo l'ora di provare il cheesecake ai cacchi e la marmellata di feijoa, limone e zenzero.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Anglo-Saxon versus Mediterranean

As I settle into an office-worker's routine here in Auckland, I feel that something is missing.  And that might be the 'je ne sais quoi' of the mediterranean lifestyle.
Don't get me wrong, I've gained a lot.  It's wonderful to have democracy, (relative) freedom from racism, ageism and sexism, professional respect and opportunity, financial/job security, a choice of things to do in the evening, and decent chips.
And yet... Italians, for all the scorn they garner for having a shambles of a state, really know how to live.  Without even having to think about it, they know what's important in life and what not to sweat over. 
Now I'm here, I spend about two hours a day in traffic, I don't have time to cook, I don't stop to ask neighbours how they are over a coffee in the morning, I don't stop to take photographs as often, I don't eat lunch at home with my loved ones, I don't feel part of a community.
I miss the contact of kissing people on both cheeks in greeting.  Us anglo-saxons can sometimes be so wrapped up in our own world that we forget what it's like to connect with people.  At an Italian gathering, everyone says hello to everyone else, and no one leaves without wishing everyone goodbye.  Every gathering involves sitting down to eat and drink together.  Small talk is never "what do you do?" but "how are you?" - about the person not their job.  Work just isn't what they live for.
So, as so many people have asked, do I like my new life?  Yes, I do.  Do I miss Italy?  Oh yes.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Veggies t = 6 days!

Just a quick post to say I'm so impressed with the veggie garden after only 6 days!  It's now got an industrial scale bird cover, and the brocoletti are shooting upwards!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Frogs, flower beds and feijoas

So much to tell!
It's been such a busy week that I haven't had a moment to write down all the thoughts flowing through my head like a streamgraph.  It's been a week of truly lovely evenings in the greenness of Titirangi with Sandy, Billie and Moeanu (yes, I loved it guys, despite the mozzie menace!), a week of getting back to my heartland in terms of work, and then seeing new horizons in the fascinating field of data visualisation, and, very excitingly, the week when our first little seedlings went into the raised bed.
So much to tell, so I'll try to show instead - here are my pics.

In italiano!: Rane, l'orto e i feijoa
C'e' tanto da raccontare!
E' stata una settimana cosi' piena che non avevo un momento per buttare giu' i pensieri che scorrono nel mio cervello come un streamgraph.  C'erano delle serate bellissime nel verde di Titirangi con Sandy, Billie e Moeanu (si', mi piaceva nonostante le zanzare!).  C'era il ritorno al mio lavoro basilare di ricerche, e poi, il vedere di nuovi orrizonti nel campo della visualazione di data.  Con grande anticipazione, c'era inoltre l'inseminazione dell'orto.
Con cosi' tanto da descrivere, cerco invece di mostrarlo - ecco le mie foto.

Auckland's skyline at night on one of our evenings out - the highest bit is the Skytower which changes colour to suit the occasion
(I'm not sure what red signifies!)

Titirangi sky - we spent two lovely evenings in Sandy's wonderfully welcoming home

The first question all guests are asked is: "Can you play the frog?"  We did our best

It turned out to be easier than playing the didgeridoo

Some champion cooking and baking went down, and I also tried feijoas for the first time

Meanwhile, back at the office I've been closely following some data visualisation sites, and I'm loving this fab discipline.  I'm more interested in making data as intuitive as possible, but there are also more artistic and fun applications, like this Amaztype - a site that makes words out of Amazon's books on a given topic - in this case New Zealand.  Have a play.  
I also promised an update on the veggie garden - well, Ross' dad kindly waited for my arrival before finishing the raised bed.  We planted all our tiny seedlings - although the beetroots don't look too perky! - and I feel a certain motherly pride in the results.

Veggie garden (t = 0 days)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happy (Blue) Easter

Happy Easter!  I've been celebrating mine with my first pro rugby game.  Last night the Blues - Auckland's team - played the Bulls - one of South Africa's main teams, and the reigning champs of the Super 14 tournament. 

Blues supporters at last night's game in Eden Park Stadium

There were roars and yells, mascots and music, cheerleaders and pompoms (what? this is rugger!), there were yellow card and lost tempers, close calls and tries.  Great fun.  Especially 'cos the Blues gave the Bulls their first, resounding defeat of the tournament.

The Blues have several All Blacks on the squad, which made it interesting for me.  I especially loved the graceful Joe Rokocoko, who slipped though tackles like a fish to engineer two of the game's tries.  We went as a family - Ross, his brother, his mum and dad, and me.  After a quick pre-game beer, we arrived just in time for the last tickets together.  We were given flags to wave (I think my technique needs work) and were able to buy beer and chips - which explains something of the culture of rugby in New Zealand and how it's different from European football.  The two teams' supporters were mixed too.  Reminds me of the old adage:
Football is a game for gentlemen played by hooligans; rugby is a game for hooligans played by gentlemen.