Tag Archives: Humor

Would You Like a Foil Hat to Match?

I once wrote a dystopian story in which the human race, as a result of constant cell phone use, had mutated into two forms.  One form was adapted to texting while the other was built for talking on the phone.  Of course, being humans, each group hated the other for being different.

Well, I’m happy to say that it looks like that story may not come true!

There is a concern that the emanations from cell phones and computers may be dangerous to our health.  In the case of men, who often hold or carry phones at belt height or use laptops, which as the name suggests are often sited close to the lap, there is evidence that emanations can impair the motility of sperm and even cause genetic alterations.  In fact, there are medical practitioners who are raising red flags about the effects of long term exposure to wi-fi and other forms of radiation.

But it turns out we have a White Knight!  Entrepreneur reports a crowdfunding exercise started by a British physics teacher to produce something called “Wireless Armour” boxer briefs.

I’m not making this up.

Wireless Armour knickers are cotton with some sort of silver mesh woven in that blocks 99.99% of harmful radiation.

As you might guess, protection isn’t cheap.  The introductory offer (which also includes a personal call from the physics teacher) is something called “The Weekly Armour Set.”  It costs about NZ$300 and includes 8 pairs of nickers.  As the promotion says, one for each day and one for emergency.  I guess you never know when an exciting new app might make someone mess their Armour.

It will be interesting to see if the Wireless Armour idea catches on.  It’s scary to think that someone might Tweet that they are wearing their Wireless Armour or how they feel.  Or worse, post a selfie.

The best we can hope for is that the radiation issue gets some serious study and the products are designed and built to protect the user so the user doesn’t have to resort to silver lined underwear.

I Wish My Daddy Had Worn Wireless Armour!

Godzilla

It’s Official—I’m a Visionary

Regular readers will find the above assertion no surprise, but it’s always nice to bask in the reflection that one is able to discern trends and stuff ahead of the curve.  This was brought home recently when I saw a report that the Global Language Monitor (GLM) had compiled a list of the most overused business words of 2013.

Five out of the fifteen words, a whopping 33%, had been identified by me in previous posts, some as old as 2010, as overused and/or irritating.  Which is basically the same thing.

The problem with the GLM list was that it only listed the words without explaining their meaning.  For the most part, this isn’t a problem because, let’s face it, the fundamental meaning of overused words isn’t that important.  But I think it’s important to know what we’re talking about so I’m including the GLM list below with my commentary.

Content.  Historically, this word had two meanings.  As an adjective it means happy or satisfied.  As a noun, usually with an ‘s’ on the end, it means the stuff inside.  So the contents of a gallon of milk are the milk.  The contents of your closet are your clothes.  Which you may or may not be content with.  But ‘content’ in the current sense is a marketing term that refers to information about a product that might make you want to buy it.

The best example I can think of is car commercials.  To me they are fairly content free because they usually don’t tell you much about the car.  But from the marketing perspective they are content rich because they inform you that if you buy the car you will look prosperous, your family (including the dog) will be happy and you will be an object of admiration.

Social Media.  Facebook and Twitter.  Overused?  Yes.

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Sustainability.  I called this word overused in September 2010.  The word is appearing to be more sustainable than some of the things that were being described as sustainable back then.

Transparency.  The word may be overused, but true examples of business or government transparency remain highly elusive.

Literally.  In March 2011 I suggested that this word be “given a rest.”  You literally can’t have a conversation without someone literally overusing this word.  Literally!

Guru.  I was surprised to see this on the list because as far as I’m concerned, it was overused in the 80s and 90s when personal computers were becoming mainstream.  Before we called them IT geeks, people who knew how to format disks and things like that were called ‘computer gurus.’

Utilize. Not sure why this word made the list.  It is a nice, utilitarian word that I utilize when it has utility.

Robust.  You heard it here first in March 2011!  But its persistence has proven amazingly robust.

Ping.  This used to mainly mean fancy golf clubs.  Then after The Hunt for Red October, we got used to calling radar beeps pings.  Then network geeks started using it to describe test signals and things like that. But now, among the cognoscenti, (a fancy word for the people who make words be overused), this means any kind of communication, presumably because most of their communications are electronic.  So if a friend asks you if you want to have dinner you might say, “I’ll check my schedule and ping you.”

Big Data.  I mentioned this one in January 2013.  One wonders why we haven’t started talking about “Huge Data,” because by now that big data can only have gotten a lot bigger.

Seamless.  This is a word whose primary purpose is to make you feel stupid.  Like when your phone company changes its system “to serve you better,” and tells you that there will be a seamless transition.  When it doesn’t work, they make you think it’s your fault.

Moving Forward.  Nothing wrong with it—we should be moving forward, but this phrase sure is used a lot.  In the news headlines today I saw it used describe everything from a starlet who just got divorced, a person who lost out on The X Factor, a company in bankruptcy, South Africa post Nelson Mandela and the Philippine typhoon survivors.

The Cloud.  This one is going to be hanging over our heads for a long, long time.

Offline.  The eighties called and they want their buzzword back!  So overused, it’s gotten where bar room brawlers are asked to “Hey, take it offline.”

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I would be remiss if I didn’t provide a couple of buzzwords to watch for 2014.  Here are a couple that seem to be sustainable.  They’ve gotten on my radar screen and I think we will be hearing more of them moving forward.  I promise to ping you next year for an update.

Target persona.  This is one of the terms made possible by Big Data.  It used to be that companies pitched products at target markets, 18-25 year olds for example.  This was called marketing to a demographic.  But now instead of demographics we have the wonderful concept of psychographics, which is how people in a particular demographic think and act.  So a product might no longer be pitched at all 18-25 year olds, but rather to 18-25 year old geeks, or jocks, or whatever.  And those people are the target persona.  Scary, isn’t it?

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Authenticity.  The idea behind this word is that we have become suspicious of terms such as “New,” “Improved,” and “To Serve You Better.”  So if you see “Authentic,” appended to any claim, you may assume that it is totally true and not hype.  At least that’s the idea.

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Community Culture.  No, not your neighbourhood.  Believe it or not, this term refers to how and by whom a product is discussed on social media sites.  If you want to be really scared, go to the Coke, Starbucks or Apple Facebook pages.   These are communities of people who are united around their adulation of the brand.  The Apple FB page for example has over 10 million likes.  Who says corporations aren’t people? Which reminds me, don’t get me started on Hashtags.

Keep an eye out and prepare to cringe when you see these words next year!

Something to Tweet About?

A few months ago, the New York Times debated the question “Is Classical Music Dying.”  According to all measures, e.g., number of new classical recordings, orchestra attendance, number of classical radio stations, the answer is yes.

Some people think that the only thing classical music is good for is to prevent crowds of teenagers from gathering.  Apparently, shops and malls who don’t want kids hanging around just pipe in some Mozart and they run away like vampires from garlic.

There has been a lot of discussion about how to get the “youth” interested in classical music.  I think that will happen right about the time they all read War and Peace and proclaim it to be awesome.

In my opinion, this isn’t a youth problem, but rather a cultural problem.  The current orchestra model is for people to come home at night, then dress up and go out and sit still for a couple of hours listening to music that they may or may not know much about.  Plus there are a lot of snobby old white people in the audience.

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That model worked before the days of Facebook and American Idol but today it’s no contest, and if orchestras want to remain viable they do need to do something about their demographics.

One orchestra, the Mobile (Alabama) Symphony, came up with an idea that, I hate to tell you, probably isn’t going to do the job.

On the theory that people today have issues if they are not connected 24/7, they have designated the last row of the auditorium as the “Tweet Seats,” from where concert goers are allowed to use silent mobile devices.  So they can tweet, and text and surf and, probably, play Angry Birds.  They are, however, admonished not to crinkle candy or cough drop wrappers.

Those Neanderthals among you who still have the benighted view that one goes to a concert to listen and concentrate and engage in the music will probably have trouble with this concept.  I know I do.

So I did some research to try to understand what’s going on and the results are not comforting.  Four reasons are put forth as to why this is a Good Thing

1.  It is nice to have access to your mobile device if you are bored.

2.  My Facebook and Twitter followers want to know what I’m doing and expect me to update them regularly.

3.  What I have to say/think is important and I need to capture it.

4.  It is arrogant to think that you shouldn’t let people enjoy something in their own way.

My favorites are 1 and 4.

I read an article by a youthful reporter who experienced a Mobile Symphony concert from the Tweet Seats.  He claims that his experience was improved by being able to access his phone.  The article included some of the breathless tweets he sent out during the concert, so you can see how his experience was enhanced:

            Conductor Scott Speck . . . looks like Lord Voldemort. Wonder what his         patronus is?

            Struggling to find a metaphor to describe the difference between a live orchestra and a recording

I love his metaphysical response to his previous question:

            Listening to a recording of classical music is like seeing your shadow on a cave wall.    It’s you but it lacks vitality.

At least he didn’t say: “it’s nt ovr ’til d f@ ldy sngs.”

The whole idea behind Tweet Seats, etc. is the idea of audience engagement.  Apparently ‘engagement’ is a really hot topic these days.  Teachers must engage with students.  Businesses must engage with customers.  Writers must engage with readers.  And vice versa.

But does sending out random, impulsive reactions really represent “engagement?”  And in a live performance, isn’t it insulting to the performers that you aren’t at least looking like you are paying attention?  The guy who wrote the article about his experience in the Tweet Seats claimed that “The exercise helped transform me into more of an active listener, a true observer instead of merely an audience member.”  To which I would say, isn’t a mere audience member supposed to be an “active listener” and a “true observer?”

But the real issue is summed up by what he writes about the violin soloist:  “Given the power of her performance I regret somewhat that I spent a few precious seconds of it sending 140-character missives into the swirling void of the Twittersphere.”

I guess there are limits to multitasking.

A final point of confusion about the way Tweet Seats work.  The guy who wrote the article was at the concert by himself.  I’m not sure that the typical person who would go to a concert alone would be inclined to tweet much about it.  Which then raises the specter of couples or groups sitting in the tweet seats together.  And tweeting their “real” friends about it.

And what does that say about your “engagement” with the people around you?

texting

How Have We Survived Without This Stuff?

As you know I am always on the lookout for interesting applications of technology to improve my quality of life, so my pulse quickened the other day when I saw the headline “Ten Essential Travel Gadgets.”

Unfortunately, for the most part, the article proved to be a big disappointment.  Mostly it was newer, imperceptibly different iThings: a solar powered device charger and stuff like that.

But there was one thing that caught my eye.  It embodied the concepts of “must have” and “essential.” (Incidentally, in the tech world, “must have” and “essential” do not mean the same thing).

It’s a jacket called the “Fleece 7.0.”  (You know it’s high-tech because it has a version number).  In fact, the advertising material says that the jacket, five years in the making, is so innovative that they skipped version 6.0 and went right to 7!  Do they really think people believe that kind of hype?

Anyway, this jacket has 23 pockets of varying size to accommodate all your technology toys and the largest, unsurprisingly, can accommodate an iPad.  They have patented the pocket design as the “PadPocket™.”

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But wait, there’s more.

There is also something called the “Quick Draw Pocket,” patent pending.  It allows you to “access your Smartphone through the Clear Touch fabric (i.e., plastic) so you don’t even need to take your hand out of your pocket to use your phone.”  They believe “this will fundamentally change the way you interact with your mobile devices.”

Times were that a person doing something frenetic with their hand in their pocket in public would be arrested.

But now they are just connected.  To everyone other than the people they are with, that is.

Who would have thought that the day would come when our clothing would be billed as “Compatible with iPad.”

But before you run out and upgrade to a Fleece Version 7, you should be aware that it is already obsolete.

Yes.  Something on the what’s hot list has already been rendered irrelevant by something new and improved.

I give you Google Glass.

In case you’ve been away from Planet Earth and haven’t heard of GG, it is a device which for $1500 will enable you to look like The Collector in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and will give you a totally hands-free, heads up digital life.  Who needs a jacket with pockets for all your technology when you can wear it on your face?

collector

Basically it’s a pair of glasses with only one lens, which is your heads up display.  It also has a camera and a microphone.  You can take a picture or video of anything you see and send it to your friends.  It’s got a GPS so you can see where you are and where you are going.  And it’s got lots of web surfing capability.  The promotional video shows a person in a in a Chinese market who wants to bargain.  They “ask” GG how to say the price they want to offer in Chinese!

And when I say “ask,” I really mean it.  Because it’s heads up and hands free, you talk to it!  How cool is that?

GG is being heralded as an important step in our journey to what is called “ubiquitous computing” which means constant connectivity and, I fear, in the hands of Google, ubiquitous advertising.

But it’s the camera that makes GG even cooler and scarier. The promotional video shows a guy sky diving and filming the experience and sending his friends a real time video so they can have as much fun as him and be suitably impressed.

GG isn’t yet widely available but it is already generating two big debates.  The first is about privacy issues and the second is about whether Google will partner with a fashion designer to develop cooler designs for the eyewear because some people think you look geeky when you wear it.

Guess which issue is getting the most attention.

But it’s the privacy and copyright issues that are the most interesting.  Think about it.  Kids will want to wear them in class because they won’t have to take notes.  But teachers might not that idea because school administrators could then observe them.  So could the government.

People will want to wear them to concerts so they can record the whole thing.  And movies too.

And what about when your boss gives you your annual performance review?  Will one or both of you be wearing Google Glasses to record the moment for posterity?

But even beyond privacy, what about common sense.  If texting while driving is an issue, what will happen when people start GGing while driving?

I can’t think of a single use of GG that might not violate peoples’ privacy, result in a law suit or become evidence in a potential lawsuit (e.g., because you are updating your FB status, you forget to pull the ripcord on your parachute).

But that’s not going to stop GG from becoming a necessity of life if that fashion designer can make them look cool enough.

This Is Kind of Creepy

The other day on the radio, they were interviewing a psychologist who was talking about something called “porn creep.”  I’ll spare you the details but essentially it refers to a condition in which people who spend an inordinate amount of time looking at pornographic material lose the ability to experience the real thing.

They actually interviewed twenty-somethings who basically said they were unable to have a normal sex life because they’d spent so much time interfacing, if you will, with their computer.

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I took the risk of Googling the term to see if it was mainstream and, yes, it is.  Not only do you lose the ability to function in the real world, in extreme cases, you need increasingly graphic stuff to, shall we say, pique your interest.  The condition has been studied and there is even a cure for it, in case you are interested.

After that segment of the show was over, they had the news and then had extended commentary on a number of the news stories du jour.

As usually happens these days when I listen to the news or any analysis thereof, I shake my head and wonder what the hell is going on.  It was the same old thing.  Sanity and civility seem to have taken a permanent vacation; and people seem completely unable to listen, communicate and engage in civil discourse without recourse to name calling, or worse, lawyers.

I switched to the oldies music station.

But that night I figured out what the problem is.

We were out at an event where people didn’t know each other all that well.  As a result, no one talked about anything controversial.  The conversation stayed at the level of kids, pets and television.  I’m not too well equipped to talk about any of those, but what interested me was the discussion of TV.

All they talked about were reality TV shows.  Mostly cooking shows, but they also now have reality shows about house buying, house renovating, losing weight, cosmetic surgery, raising kids, driving trucks in bad weather and pre-pubescent beauty pageants.  There is even a show where people bid on the junk in unclaimed storage lockers and hope it’s worth more than they paid for it.

The common denominator in all of these shows is a general lack of civility.  Apparently what makes the shows so popular is that the contestants are constantly bad mouthing each other and generally being nasty.  Cooperation and teamwork are generally considered signs of weakness.  Winning is less about excelling and more about torpedoing the competition at all costs.

At some point that evening, all of those pieces sort of clicked together and I developed my new theory of why contemporary society is so uncivil—reality creep!

Just as the person who is over exposed to porn finds themself unable to function in the real world and requires ever greater stimuli, I’m thinking that people over exposed to “reality” via reality TV develop the same problem.

As reality TV becomes increasingly popular, the hyper individualistic, winning at all cost behaviour of the people appearing in reality TV shows becomes the norm. So every discourse or discussion has to have a winner.  Compromising is for losers.

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There’s supposed to be a cure for porn creep.  Let’s hope they can find one for reality creep!

Images from Freedigitalphotos.com

“Asserting a Right You Know You Cannot Exert:” Here We Go Again

One of the things that precipitated the American Revolution was the Stamp Act.  It was one of the taxes at the center of the controversy about the “right” of the English Parliament to tax the US colonies directly.  Lord Chesterfield, in opposing the Stamp Act, pointed out that even if Parliament could enact the tax, it couldn’t enforce it and it wasn’t worth making the colonists mad over it, and warned Parliament that they were “asserting a right you know you cannot exert.”

By the way, Lord Chesterfield is given credit for many quotes that are still popular today such as “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” and “Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well.”  But my favorite quote by him is:  “A weak mind is like a microscope, which magnifies trifling things, but cannot receive great ones.”

chesterfield

Anyway, back to the Stamp Act, I like Lord Chesterfield’s observation because it seems to me that a lot of people today are spending a lot of time and energy asserting rights that, even if they existed in law or nature, they cannot–or should not–exert.  And that is causing a lot of our problems.

For example, did you hear about the woman on the Jet Blue flight from New York to San Diego?  She was seated in a special seating area that provides more space than the usual airplane seat, and Jet Blue charges passengers $65 for that extra comfort.  The seat next to her was empty.  At least until some schlub in the back who hadn’t paid $65 informed the flight attendant that his TV monitor wasn’t working.  The flight attendant very kindly moved the guy to the empty seat next to the woman.

And that’s when it hit the fan.  The woman freaked because the guy hadn’t paid $65 like she had but was getting the benefits of the extra leg room.  No fair, she whined.

And whined and whined to the point that an on board air marshal intervened and the flight was diverted to Denver and the rest of the passengers were delayed for a couple of hours until they could boot the woman off the plane and continue on their way again.

The most interesting part of the story is that no charges were pressed.  She got away with it.  She asserted a right that no rational person would ever think they could exert, inconvenienced a lot of people and walked away as if nothing had happened.  Beautiful!  And in the meantime deprived everyone else on the flight of their right to have their non-stop flight actually not have any stops.

And probably inconvenienced herself, too.  And maybe that’s lesson one when it comes to asserting rights:  is exerting them practical, logical and, here’s a novel idea, beneficial not only to you but also the community around you.

What right was she asserting, you ask?  Why merely the right to have the world work the way she perceived it and wanted it to be at that particular moment.

That’s a pretty powerful right and if you think about it, a lot of the problems in the news relate to people trying to assert it.   Just look at the headlines any day of the week.

A lot of people seem to have their own personal view of the Constitution and for some of them, the Bill of Rights included the Right to Have the World Conform to Your Wishes.

The beauty of this right is that in your personal Constitution, there can be an infinite number of sub-clauses.  A few of my own inalienable rights come to mind.  For example,  the right not to have pregnant women talk about bladder dynamics in front of me or the right not to have to ever hear Gangnam Style again.

Etc.

Mine are fairly modest assertions when you consider that some people out there are asserting rights such as the right to maintain a personal arsenal, or the right not to have to deal with or help people who don’t look, think or act like them, or the right to have the way they think adopted by everyone else in the world.

But I think that the woman on the Jet Blue plane might teach us all a lesson about asserting our Right to Have the World Conform to Your Wishes.  Instead of asserting our theoretical rights to have the world work the way we want it, why don’t we just assert and exert the right to ignore things like that, not be bothered, just get on with life and learn to get along with each other.  All the woman on the plane had to do was ignore the situation.  It would have saved her and everyone on the plane a lot of angst and made for a harmonious environment.

And a right to a harmonious environment seems like something we should all be asserting and exerting.

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Freedigitalphotos.net

A Pre-Christmas Vacation

It’s been a while since we took a driving trip in NZ, so we decided to beat the end of the world and the Christmas rush and spend a few days in the Coromandel Peninsula, a beautiful part of New Zealand with golden sandy beaches and about 2 hours east of Auckland.

That’s the good news and bad news about the Coromandel—it’s only 2 hours from Auckland.  The good news is that it’s easy to get to.  The bad news is that it’s easy to get to and starting tomorrow, because of holiday traffic, the two hour drive will take more like four.

The last time we were out that way was in 1991, which was my very first trip to NZ and also when Mahrukh and I got engaged.  We decided to stay at the same place we stayed on that first trip and much to our amazement, it was still there.  More about that later.

Here is our route:

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Normally you would leave for a trip whenever you are ready, or in time to check into the hotel or something.  But for this trip we had to time our departure to coincide with the tide.  That’s because our first stop was the Miranda Shore Birds Centre and you want to be there as close to high tide as possible because that means that the birds will be closer and easier to see.

2It might not look like much but the centre attracts bird experts and enthusiasts from around the world.  You walk about half an hour along the shore and they have little huts with tiny windows so you can watch the birds without disturbing them.   Fortunately they had a chart on the wall so we could tell what we were seeing!3We had slightly miscalculated our arrival time and the tide was starting to go out, along with the birds, but we still got to see a lot.4

5This being December, New Zealand’s favourite tree, the powhutakawa, is in bloom.  In fact, people call it the New Zealand Christmas tree because all the trees turn red around Christmas.  We saw them everywhere:

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And this is how they look close up:7We continued on to Whitianga, which is on the northeast coast of the Coromandel and where we planned to stay for the next three days.  By the way, in Maori, “Wh” is pronounced like an “F.”  So Whitianga is pronounced Fit ee ang ah.

When we went there in 1991 most of the roads weren’t paved, or sealed, as they call them down here.  Because of the growth in tourism, most of the main roads are now paved, but north of Whitianga, where we spent a lot of time, most of the roads are dirt or gravel.  And they are at most two lanes!

The best things about the drive were (1) there was almost no traffic, besides us:8(2) most of the road goes through native New Zealand temperate rain forest, which is the look we are going for at CUE Haven:

9and (3) when you are not in the woods, you are driving along the shore and can take your pick of a beach to explore.10We got to Whitianga and needless to say, the town had changed quite a bit since we’d seen it last.  The Marlin, where we were staying, had changed its name from the Marlin Motel to the Marlin Apartments.  The owners had done a major upgrade but it still was recognizable and we got the same room with the same fantastic location and view.11The new owner, Alistair, welcomed us in typical Kiwi fashion.  Historically, these motels are family run places and the owners live on site.  They are called “fully serviced,” which means that you don’t have to bring anything except food.  There is a complete kitchen with pots, pans and dishes.  And there will always be a complimentary carton of fresh milk in the refrigerator and some packets of tea in the pantry.

From that perspective, nothing’s changed and we quickly made ourselves comfortable.  And a cup of tea!

12We took a walk along the beach to explore and found that part of it had been turned into a bird nursery!13There was a family of Oystercatchers nesting and either the father or mother wasn’t very happy with our presence.14When we got back I helped Alistair with some maintenance work.15And we watched the fast paced action going by.

16The next morning we did some exploring north of Whitianga and there we saw some of the best and worst of the Coromandel.  During the 1800s and up until the 1930s, the peninsula was essentially deforested because it was home to the kauri, New Zealand’s largest native tree.  They can live for up to 4000 years and grow to unbelievable size which made them perfect for ship masts.  Once the kauri were cut down, the land was either used for grazing or replanted with pine as a timber crop and every 30 years or so the pines are cut down for milling.  So you do come across some less than breathtaking scenery.

17The local and central governments have been encouraging the planting of native trees and there are now large areas of regenerating native forest.

As I mentioned, the drive alternated between forests and beaches.  The beaches were all very inviting and if we saw a place that looked good but there was someone there, we could just drive a few minutes down the road and find a place to ourselves.

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19An engaging fact of New Zealand life for years has been the holiday bach, pronounced “batch.”  A vacation home down here historically has not been something reserved for the wealthy, and one of the fascinating things about rural coastal New Zealand is the wonderful array of holiday accommodation you see.

The boom years a few years ago resulted in some over achievers pulling down their old cottages and putting up personal statements and it is interesting to see big modern homes interspersed among more traditional accomodations:

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You might wonder why these people have such a big gate and no driveway.

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It’s because a bach requires a boat and a boat requires a tractor to get it into the water!

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And there isn’t enough room for pictures of all the whimsical batches out there:

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The next morning we took a walk around Whitianga Town and met a number of interesting locals.  One of the things that made me love New Zealand on my first visit down here was the friendly natives and that definitely hasn’t changed.

We chatted with a shopkeeper who told us that the normal population of Whitianga is 4,000 but in summer (i.e., right after Christmas) it swells to 40,000.  We beat the crowds, but only just.

Here is the bête noir of any New Zealander—rented camper vans operated by tourists who come from countries where they drive on the other side of the road.  I’m not sure what’s worse.  Following one going at half the speed limit because they are lost or confused or both, or having to evade one coming toward you on the wrong side of the road.

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As we walked along we met a woman who had moved to Whitianga after her retirement.  She used to be a dairy farmer and we asked if she missed the farm.  In response, she gestured at the open sea and said, “This is a lot better than getting up at five in the morning and getting shit on and kicked.”

I realized that philosophy might extend to a lot of visitors to Whitianga, and not necessarily only former dairy farmers.

We spent the rest of the day exploring some of the more popular beaches around Whitianga.

There is Cook’s Beach, allegedly visited by Captain Cook:

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And this is Hahei Beach:

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But the most unusual is Hot Water Beach.  NZ is what is euphemistically called “geologically active” and there are earthquakes and volcanoes in both the North and South Islands.  That also means geothermal activity and at the Hot Water Beach, an underground spring carries hot water just under the surface of the sand.  You just dig a hole in the sand and if you are in the right place, you have an instant hot tub.  And believe me, it’s really hot.

This was the only beach where we actually encountered other people.

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I’ll spare you a picture of me wallowing, but here I am digging our pit:

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The whole process can be a little bit mercenary because as the hot water bubbles up it flows down the slope to the ocean.  Enterprising engineer types construct sand dams to channel the hot water into their pools.  We didn’t see any major contretemps but there were a few border disputes and discussions about water rights.

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Sometimes a hole is dug too far from the spring and you get nothing but cold water.  But that also can be put to good use!

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Hot Water Beach was fun, if you don’t mind a lot of sand in your togs.  But we preferred to find our own quiet places where we could enjoy the beauty undisturbed.

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On Thursday we headed home but not before stopping in Coromandel Town to visit the Driving Creek Railway.  It is an amazing place.  Like many parts of the area it had been deforested up until the 1930s and then turned into farmland.  Thirty years ago, a sculptor bought the land with the intention of revegetating it and developing it as an artistic centre.  But he wasn’t an ordinary sculptor.  He is also an engineer and a railroad buff.  In order to have easier access to clay to do his sculptures, he built a narrow gauge railway up the steep slopes of the property.

Over time he has expanded the railway and it now carries visitors on a tour of the property which shows off the revegetating bush and his whimsical sense of humor.  At the top of the property you get fantastic 360 degree views of the area and he has built an observation pavilion known as the Eye-Ful Tower.

A friend of ours had introduced us to the manager of the property who is overseeing the revegetation efforts.  He gave us a behind the scenes tour and because our farm project is similar (but without the sculptures and the railroad) we had a lot to talk about.  We also took a ride on the train.

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Before we got to Coromandel Town, however, we took an unpaved road, known only as “The 309 Road.”  It is unpaved and very hilly and winding and you see some spectacular sights.

Fortunately, we were about the only car around because we could take the time to explore.

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We saw a sign for the Waiau Kauri Grove – a park dedicated to some of the few remaining kauri trees in the area and it is well worth the visit.  It is in the middle of nowhere but beautifully maintained.

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The path leads you to a grove of kauri trees that are estimated to be about 600 years old.

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How big are they?

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And we wrapped up the trip with a beautiful drive back to Auckland:

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And as we got closer to home, we passed a solid line of cars heading out of town!  It was a fun and relaxing trip.  Not only was it a nice break from the work we are doing on the farm, but it also gave us some additional motivation to continue our efforts when we see the positive effects of forest revegetation.

Have a great holiday season!

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