Saturday, June 21, 2008


We went to see the rugby last night- my first rugby match ever! =) It was New Zealand playing England at AMI Stadium here in Christchurch. (For those of you who don't know, New Zealand's national team, the All Blacks, are arguably the best team in the world. I get the impression that all of the other teams are really scared of them. If you saw how big some of those dudes are, you'd probably be scared of them, too.) It was freezing, but I was wearing so many layers of fleece I couldn't bend my arms, so I was pretty comfy. Things started out a little weird- there was a marching band and fireworks and a couple of people in military uniforms riding around in a jeep and singing songs we couldn't really understand- it was strange. But then came the choir to sing the national anthems, which were great, and then the haka, the traditional Maori dance they perform at the beginning of each match. I love the haka! It's a ceremonial dance to mentally prepare the team for the match. The other team usually stands there and tries to look bored or unaffected even though they're more likely shaking in their rugby boots! It was really cool to see it live! (Leave it to me to be most impressed by the dancing portion of a sporting evening!) Anyhow, the game itself was excellent. =) New Zealand pretty much trounced England- the final score was 44-12, which didn't really surprise anyone. In fact, I don't think any of the English fans even noticed- they all continued to drunkenly sing really loud, out-of-tune songs (as they are wont to do) in the streets after the match was over. (They love to sing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. What's that all about anyway?) It was a little bit hard to tell what was happening in the match at times without the commentators (even when there are commentators I sometimes don't get it!) so Gordon had to explain a lot of what was going on. I also took a few cues from the French guy sitting right behind us- any time something went wrong for the All Blacks he would say "Oh la la!" really loud and Frenchily. There were a few more Frenchies around- I overheard at least a couple of others. They really love the ruggers in France, especially the All Blacks! I heard somewhere that they actually sell more All Blacks merchandise in France than anywhere else in the world. So, who are my favourites, you ask? Well, my long-time favourite is Rodney So'oialo (seen above with Joe Rokocoko in a picture I borrowed from apdz07 on flickr. He's the one with the dreads). He is a large, muscley Samoan guy who has great hair that flops around while he crushes his opponents. Then there's everyone's favourite, Dan Carter, who looks quite a bit like Superman and who models underwear in his spare time. Here he is on the right looking very superheroic. =) My new favourite, though, is cute Ma'a Nonu (below)- you've gotta admire his skills and his awesome neon dreads and tattoos! Here he is scoring a try in last night's match. (You can watch videos of Ma'a in action with fantastic soundtrack music by Lovage here and by Wax Tailor here.) At the end of the match we watched as all of the players shook hands and congratulated each other in a very sportsmanlike way. Then some of the All Blacks signed autographs for people and took pictures with kids in the crowd. =) They seem like very nice guys, despite looking like large, angry warriors! I was really impressed by their willingness to interact with the fans and media and to be so accommodating after 80 minutes of running and getting smashed around and all of that. =) It was a great kiwi experience! =) Now that I can officially call myself a fan, I can't wait to see the match against South Africa in a couple of weeks! =) Go AB's! =)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Read Me!

I'd like to take this opportunity to recommend a a New York Times article I came across today. (It was published in January- I'm a little bit slow!) It's about the factory farming of animals for food, and the effects it has on us and on the planet. I know it's not really a fun thing to think about, but it's a pretty short article and it's on a subject that's very important to me, personally. (I believe it's important to lots of people, whether they're aware of it or not.) I promise it's very interesting. So if you have five minutes, I would love it if you'd take the time to read the article. All comments welcome (as always). Click here. This cute cow and I thank you. =)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Best Package Ever! =)

Remember when I said there’s nothing quite so good as receiving a nice, handwritten letter in the mail? Well, I lied. There is something just as wonderful- receiving an awesome care package from your mom in the mail! I arrived home from work Friday in a crummy mood, because right at the very end of the day I'd managed to smash my hand in between my desk and the arm of my chair, and it was very, very ouchy. =/ But I arrived home to find a (curously heavy) parcel awaiting me, and as soon as I opened the box, all thoughts of my (permanently disfigured) hand flew right out the window! My mom really outdid herself this time! There were dozens of my favourite hair ties, awesome Uni-ball pens, homemade dishcloths (yes, she crocheted them! They’re too pretty to use!), among other delightful prizes! Most importantly, there were delicious American foodstuffs! She sent Twizzlers (still haven’t found an acceptable foreign substitute), grits (quick grits AND instant ones!), teas, coffees, and most surprisingly-DILL PICKLES! I looooove pickes. Just thinking about them now is literally making my mouth water! (That’s how you know if you have the mumps. You have to think about dill pickles, because it makes your mouth water. If it hurts or tingles funny, you’re in trouble. I learned that one from my granny.) I haven’t found good pickles (what they call “gherkins”) in New Zealand, and somehow my mom found little plastic snak-paks of them! And they’re my favourite brand! Amazing! I could hardly believe my eyes (or my salivary glands)! I know my mom will read this, so THANK YOU, mom! This is for sure the best package ever! Mmmm, pickles…

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bad Handwriting Kills

That’s right- I said it. Bad handwriting actually kills people. Thousands of people die in the US every year because of doctors’ notoriously bad handwriting. Medical charts are misread. Pharmacists can’t decipher the prescriptions doctors write. In a landmark 1999 case, a cardiologist was fined $225,000 when his illegible handwriting caused a patient to be given the wrong drug- the patient had a heart attack and died as a result. Some states have now passed “safe script” legislation- pharmacists are encouraged to turn in doctors whose prescriptions they deem unreadable, and the doctors are issued fines. And the FDA now makes drug companies test new drug names by simulating the process of writing prescriptions by hand to lessen any confusion that might be caused. (Interesting article here.) But forget the doctors for a minute- how about this case in the UK? A guy was picked up for hunting for game on someone else's land, but the police report was illegible, so his lawyer was not able to prepare a defense. The lawyer said that it was a breach of human rights laws not to be able to read the case against the client and the magistrates agreed. The case was thrown out of court. All this is to say that handwriting is important. I’m really not trying to be some sort of penmanship elitist. Admittedly I’m no slouch when it comes to putting pen to parchment- my handwriting is pretty good by conventional standards. I even won the penmanship award in second grade. But I promise I won’t think any less of you if your grocery list doesn’t look like an engraved invitation. (“To: Mr. Whole Grain Bread and Guest. You are hereby invited into my trolly…”) As long as you can read it, who cares? But I think a person should be able to print or write legibly in any situation where someone else might ever have to read it. Simple as that. Am I asking too much? Do I sound slightly miffed? As if I have perhaps recently been on the receiving end of a chirographic catastrophe? Indeed, this rekindled interest in penmanship does come on the heels of an incredibly frustrating couple of days at work... I was asked to type a list of names, employers, addresses, and e-mail addresses from a training seminar- they’d passed around a sheet and everyone had signed up to receive their certification card for having been there. There were maybe 100 people on the list. No problem- should take less than an hour, right? Hah! I spent over 4 hours trying to decipher these people’s information! I’m not from Christchurch, so I am not familiar with the street names; I had to look a lot of them up on the internet to make sure I was reading them correctly. I had the phone book out, too, just in case by some miracle I could actually read a person’s full name, then I could look up the address in the book for clarity. I spent additional time calling the recipients’ workplaces to ask them for correct spellings… I would not have gone to all of this trouble if it were not for work- these people pay me, so I do what they say. But as far as I’m concerned, if you can’t even write your own name properly (let alone your address or email), then you simply do not deserve to receive whatever it is you’ve signed up to receive. (Oh, you didn’t get the e-mail/letter telling you that the out-of-town meeting was postponed and you need to change your flight and hotel arrangements? Too bad! We couldn’t read your writing- it’s your own fault you’re stuck at an empty HoJo’s in Tulsa! Hahaha!) I mean, four hours of my life were wasted trying to find patterns in one-line samples of people’s writing- that must be an “o” because that one over there is an “o,” but it looks like a “w”… Hmmm… For four hours I did this- these are your tax dollars at work, New Zealand! And I’m sure it happens all over the world- administrators of all sorts wasting countless hours, wanting to tear their hair out, trying to decode people’s insanely bad penmanship… Seriously, how hard can it be to write your own name? (Grrr… ) So, we know that people get dead, cases get thrown out of court, and office workers (myself a shining example) come dangerously close to going completely off the rails- all because of bad handwriting. But what would happen if we just typed everything or spoke into some kind of voice recognition device, as some people suggest? Could that be the solution to all of our problems? (Read an article about computers for doctors here.) Would we be missing out on anything by just not learning to write at all and letting technology take care of things? Not surprisingly, yes. According to a recent study, learning to write is actually an important part of the educational process. Kids do better with spelling and math when they don’t have to worry about not being able to write the letters and numbers correctly- when it’s more automatic. (Read more about it in this Newsweek article.) As crazy as it sounds, I have read arguments for dropping handwriting from the school curriculum entirely and “progessing” toward the use computers instead of teaching kids to write properly (see one article here, and be sure to read the comments). Basically, the author says that she never uses writing in her own life except for signing credit card receipts, and her kid is having trouble learning it in school, so they shouldn't teach it anymore because it's archaic anyway. There’s no way I could adequately respond to the absurdity of this article in this very small space, but let me just say that maybe this author lives a privileged life where she can do absolutely everything electronically, and maybe she doesn't care if her kid can ever sign his name without the use of a computer, but that’s just not the reality for most of us. We fill out insurance forms at the hospital; we take phone messages for co-workers. I just don’t think computers can be used for 100% of our written communication. To list a tiny few of the most obvious problems, what if the electricity is out? What if there’s an emergency and you need to leave a note for someone? What if you can’t afford a computer or voice recognition software? It’s absurd to think that there won't ever come a time in a person’s life when it's important to be able to write legibly. More and more things are able to be accomplished with the use of computers, but decent handwriting is still of vital importance, as far as I’m concerned. (And with that I bite my thumb at all of those guys whose offices I called to get the spelling of their names right. Punks.) Sooo… your handwriting is terrible- what can you do? Well, ideally you could seek out a handwriting improvement course like the ones being taken by some doctors. Or try these exercises from wikihow and ehow- it might even change your personality, as suggested in this (quasi-scientific) article. If anyone does any of these, I’d be interested to see how it goes! I think good writing will be with us for a long, long time. It may change form- italics is the new cursive (what does the future hold for cursive?) just like the Uni-ball is the new quill- but writing is always present in our lives. There’s still nothing quite so nice as receiving a handwritten letter from someone far away… And if you made it this far and have enjoyed this post, please let me know. I may just express my gratitude for your positive feedback with a handwritten thank-you note. =)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Cricket is cool!

It’s cricket time in the northern hemisphere and the kiwi team is currently doing a tour of England, which I figure makes this a perfect time to tell you about my first cricket experience! Back in (hot, hot) February I went to my first live match, and it was awesome! =) We saw the Black Caps (NZ) versus England in a one-day international match in Napier. I shall hazard a guess that most people reading this know little about the game of cricket, and I can’t say that I know all that much more than you do, but I’ll try to shed a little light on the subject. =) First of all, matches range in length from five-day test matches right down to the newer 20-20’s which only last a couple of hours. The one we went to was somewhere in the middle of those two- it was a one-dayer, so we were there for about eight hours. =) Also, cricket is a little bit like baseball, but only a little bit. =) There are pitchers (bowlers) and batters (batsmen) and catchers (wicket keepers), but their roles are really not all that similar to baseball players’… Ah, methinks it far beyond my expertise to explain it well, so I refer you to Cricket Explained for Novices. That should clear everything up. =) One wacky thing about cricket is that they don’t alternate batting like in baseball. In our match, England batted for a few hours and then after lunch (yes, lunch!) NZ had to “chase” the number of runs England had racked up. (In this case, England got a whopping 340 runs! That’s a big number to chase!!) It was weird to just sit and watch England bat for 3 or 4 hours before NZ even got a turn! Another thing that’s odd is that tons of the players are bowlers. In baseball, pitching is really specialized, and half the time those guys never even have to bat! But here, each guy can only bowl ten overs (1 over = 6 balls bowled), so you need at least five guys who can bowl on your team, and nobody ever bowls more than one over consecutively, so they’re always moving around into different fielding positions and switching bowlers and that kind of thing. Also, this was only a one-day match, so the teams wear whatever colours they want, but in a 5-day match everyone on both teams has to wear white! It’s surprisingly not all that confusing and it looks quite nice on the pitch! My favourites from this match are Daniel Vettori (NZ’s captain and awesome bowler), Jesse Ryder (always seems to being doing something cool like getting people out), and Jamie How, who scored 139 runs all by his lonesome! On the English side I like Stuart Broad, but only really because he looks just like Malfoy from Harry Potter and he’s tall and skinny. (That's him with hirsute Ryan Sidebottom to the right there.) He also gave away a ton of runs this match, which worked out well for NZ. =) So, what happened, you might ask?!?! After eight hours of hard work, it really came down to the very last ball- as far as I can tell, NZ should have come back to win it, but some mishaps right in the end made it less and less likely until they scored one last run on the last ball that tied the match. I would have been really disappointed if we’d lost, but a tie is okay. Probably fair, really. Glad cricket doesn’t go into extra innings; we would’ve need our sleeping bags! :o

Friday, June 6, 2008


Old Man Winter has officially arrived! As I sit here in our warm and cosy lounge (in my pink fluffy bathrobe) I can see big, chunky snowflakes falling outside the window... Oh, it's just lovely- see? =) I love it when it snows! =) In honour of the first snow of the season, I think we should talk about all things snowy! =) First of all, what is snow? Whence does it come? How do I get rid of it? Could I see some pictures? Look no further than All About Snow! And about the structure- could it really be true that no two snowflakes are alike? Find out more about snowflake physics here. Oh- and all of those animals who live in the snow- they're so cute and fluffy! =) There's the adorable arctic hare; there are arctic foxes and white ermines (see photo) and unimaginably cute harp seals, and polar bears, of course! And who could forget the snowy owl? It even has snow in its name! =) Speaking of things with snow in the name, there's that guy from Canada called Snow who had a big hit in 1993 with the (bordering on ridiculous) song "Informer"- you can see the video here. And there's the band Snow Patrol (I guess somebody has to keep an eye on that Canadian guy if he's gonna go around informing on people all the time), who are from Ireland and do a lot of good stuff, including the hit "Chasing Cars." Even though they're Red Hot, the Chili Peppers also got in on the snow action in 2006 with their song "Snow (Hey Oh)." I really like that one, though I have no idea what he's on about... Wikipedia offers some insight here. If all of of this doesn't satisfy your snow curiosity, you could go to Snow College! I don't know what they really teach there, but surely there's something about snow in the curiculum? Ahhh, snow! =) I hope it's a little bit warmer where you are, but I'm perfectly happy to hang out here and watch the snow. =)