Home and away

Recently I have been extraordinarily busy with finishing up my thesis and lecturing, teaching, marking, doing research, etc., and it’s been hard to find time to update this blog.

Normally I find this a good creative outlet for when I have something on my mind I want to discuss.  I guess I have just been too preoccupied with other things to have time to promulgate my opinions on life and the world these days.

However my thoughts were recently stirred when I listened to the 2 latest episodes of “This American Life“; namely those related to Harper High School, parts 1 & 2.

I was shocked and truly saddened to hear what was happening in my hometown, not far from where I lived for years.  From 2000 to 2005 I lived in various locations in the Pilsen neighbourhood.  The Harper High School chronicled in the show is just 6 miles from the last apartment I lived in at 2222 W. Cermak (the house I lived in is sadly now a bank parking lot.)

My first thought was of how far removed I feel, and felt, even then.

I lived so close, but was so totally unaware of the kind of violence that was a paret of people’s daily lives. I remember the story of the birthday party drive-by they described in episode 2, which was big news in the city back in 2006.  I never realised how common drive-by shootings actually were.

And while gangs and violence are a problem here in New Zealand to certain extent, it doesn’t coem anywhere near the level of American cities.  If you lose your wallet or an iPhone here, people actually turn it into the police.  It’s safe.  My boyfriend reckons he lives in the most ghetto part of Wellington, near the Newtown flats, and yet doesn’t even have a lock on his door.

Apparently “Only eight days into 2013, Chicago is already on a grim pace to not only continue the bloody trend of an elevated homicide rate — but to surpass it.” according to the Huffingtonpost.

My uncle was carjacked outside a service station in December near Berwyn. He has since decided living in Manila is safer, and moved back to the Philippines.

This kind of news just makes me feel sad.  I hear these kinds of stories and wish there was something I could do.  How can we help?  How can we solve problems like this?

I wish I had an idea.

All the young dudes

So I went to see Grimes last night here in Wellington.  It was a pretty fun gig but it was definitely a very young crowd, full of young sweaty bodies pressed up against each other, rubbing up on each other, even old ladies like me.  At one point Grimes even brought a girl up on stage who looked as if she was about to be crushed by the audience.  It’s been a while since I attended a gig that was full of such excitement and energy… I could actually feel it emanating from the crowd.  I wonder if this increased and palpable energy was because of Grimes’s fame or a connection with her music?  I think the last time I experienced a same kind of energy was at Laneway last year, which was also full of pretty famous bands that people were really excited to see.  I suppose it must be a combination of the two – not only are you able to be in such close physical proximity to some one who’s world famous, but you feel like you have this deeply personal connection to them and their music.

Anyway, I tried to take a few pictures but it was so crowded and hot and sweaty that none of them turned out that awesome.

Here they are:


Friday I’m in love… with Wellington bargains!

The lovely and fabulous Frocks on Bikes team has organised a brunch at Duke Carvell’s this Sunday. Not only am I super stoked to get frocked up and ride my bike around town with a bunch of other awesomely attired ladies and gentlemen, but I am super excited to eat some yummy food at Duke Carvell’s.  I was also excited to take advantage of their BYO Sundays to make it a boozy brunch… but alas, as of some time recently, Duke Carvell’s have cancelled not only their BYO Sundays, but also their 2 for 1 Mondays!

It’s confusing to try to keep track of all the special weekly deals on in Wellington, and despite my attempts at finding some kind of definite list, I was unable.  So, I will compile here, for my Wellingtonian readers (and myself), various food & drink deals to be had around town.


2 for 1 pizza at Mediterranean Food Warehouse (be prepared to wait a while)

2 for 1 food at Chow

2 for 1 steaks at Crazy Horse

BYO at Cuba Street Bistro (Roxy Cafe) for $6 cork fee Monday – Wednesday

**UPDATE** I saw a sign in the window of the left bank Taco Shop saying “2 for 1 Student Mondays”.  They have the best tacos in Wellington!

**UPDATE** I read in the paper that Café Istanbul on Cuba Street does 2 for 1 mains on Mondays & Tuesdays, and is BYO.

Lots of choices for deals on Monday nights now…


$10 burgers and $10 cocktails at Monterey

2 for 1 dessert at the Library Bar

$11 films at Reading Courtney Place ($10 for students)

**Update** Café Istanbul on Cuba Street does 2 for 1 mains on Mondays & Tuesdays, and is BYO.


2 for 1 pasta at Med Foods Warehouse

2 for 1 cocktails at  Chow & Library Bar


2 cocktails for $16 at Betty’s on Blair.  I recommend the “Los Dios”  Yum!  They also have Dj’s on Thursday evenings.

2 for 1 cocktails at Good Luck on Cuba




2 for 1 cocktails at Chow & Library Bar



Other deals:

2 for 1 sushi at Sushi Bi after 4:00 pm every day (2 Woodward Street)

BYO at Joe’s Garage after 5 pm on Weekdays

$10 jugs of Monteiths at the General Practitioner Monday – Friday 7 pm to 9 pm

BYO at Little India on Cuba Street all the time

BYO at Ozeki Japanese all the time

BYO at Hazel (corkage $6 per bottle)

Maybe we should just start our own BYO pub like these folks in Christchurch did?

I am sure there are other deals and BYO places I am not aware of… please feel free to contribute if you know of any!  I am not particularly endorsing any of the above named establishments… though I have been to most of them and if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t post it here.

Otari-Wilton Bush Fungal Foray

I had the opportunity to go on a guided tour of New Zealand fungi found in the Otari-Wilton bush this weekend.  This tour was led by Geoff Ridley who is extremely knowledgeable on the subject.

Geoff Ridley with some kind of mushroom

He maintains the site Spores Moulds & Fungi of New Zealand which is an excellent source of information on New Zealand mushrooms, including both native and introduced species.  He is also the author of A Photographic Guide to Mushrooms & Other Fungi of NZ.

The main thing I took away form the walk was how difficult it can be to identify different mushroom species.  The other thing I took away from the walk was how little research has been done on NZ mushrooms.  There is simply so much they haven’t studied.

The guide described these as “little brown mushrooms”, probably

Panaeolus sp. [a roundhead] – on wood chip. These mushrooms are ‘hygrophanous’ that is they change colour as they age.

According to the guide these mushrooms are in the same genus as those with psychoactive properties.  Unfortunately on our walk the guide didn’t point out any psychedelic mushies, though they certainly do grow in the wild here.  I was also informed that collecting or possessing those types of mushrooms is illegal in New Zealand.

We also spotted a few other varieties, but due to the drier-than-normal conditions this autumn, the mushies just haven’t been growing in abundance.

One we did see, that is edible, is called the “New Zealand Shitake”.

Here are some better photo’s from Geoff’s blog:

Lentinellus novae-zelandiae [bush shiitake] – on rotting log


He went into quite a bit of detail about brackets, veils, stems and other complicated stuff I barely understand.  I think you can get more information on that kind of stuff here.

You can see more photos from the fungal foray and other mushrooms on my Picasa page.

twenty twelve

The year started off with some bad luck (demagnetised debit card, banks closed, no money, a bent rear bicycle wheel and 133 km wind for days), but things seem to be looking brighter.

In particular, I am looking forward to the following events:

Films by Starlight

Wednesday 18 January – Exit Through The Gift Shop

Thursday 19 January – Bill Cunningham New York

Wednesday 25 January – Kaikohe Demolition

Thursday 26 January- Labyrinth

All happening in the Dell at the Botanic Gardens around dusk.

Loads of international acts coming to town!

Sun Araw on 3 February

Not my favourite band ever, but something to do.

Dan Deacon on 4 Febraury

I saw Dan Deacon several years ago in Montreal, and I have to say it was hands down one the funnest shows I have ever been to.  He was basically just playing music off his iPod, and got the entire audience (at Sala Rosa) to have a dance-off.  The full story is that I was almost forced to go and dance in front of the entire audience but thankfully the song ended just as eye contact was made and I narrowly escaped complete embarrassment. I’m certain good times will be had, and only $15!  What a value!

Real Estate 16 March

Pitchfork’s and All Song Considered’s darlings should put on a good show.

Wooden Shjips on 2 April

I like their music.

Camp a Low Hum in February not far from Wellington…

Camping!  Music!

I’m still undecided about Laneway (30 January in Auckland)… I asked my mum to buy me a ticket for Christmas.  We’ll see if she comes through.

Some cool things happening at Fred’s in the upcoming weeks…

The next few weeks look promising.  I’m going to all the above mentioned shows alone, except for CALH, but the loneliness of a girl at a show by herself doesn’t deter me.

Last weekend I went to see Bond Street Bridge and the Broken Heartbreakers at Meow.  The music was amazing, the venue awful.  The acoustics are terrible and the audience wouldn’t shut up!  Bond Street Bridge in particular was so lovely.  I had a chance to have a word with Sam after the show and guess what…. he’s a librarian!  Hence the ode to Sir Francis Drake and other obscure naval history references in his music.  I also asked Rachel from the Broken Heartbreakers to explain the etymology of the band’s name. Is it that they re-break previously broken hearts, or are they heartbreakers who are broken?  It turns out to be the latter.

I also went to see Beirut last week at the Opera House.  It was amazing, though I wish we had been closer!  Also the ushers at the Opera House take their jobs way, way too seriously.

After the show we went to Hawthorn Lounge, a lovely place I highly recommend, especially if you enjoy obscure cocktails in swanky surroundings and barmen with sleeve garters and bowties.    A nice lady gave us 1/2 a bottle of Prosecco and then I decided to head home.  I had to dash back to the Opera House to grab my bicycle… and guess who I saw loading out in the alley?  Not Zach Condon, but the rest of the band.  I wanted to say something, but being a star-struck super fan meant I could only manage “Hey that show was really great” to which I got a warm thank you and then I ran away feeling like an idiot.

It’s shaping up to be a fun-filled summer.  I hope to do more cycling, picnicking, sitting in the sun drinking bloody marys in the afternoon… oh and maybe getting some work done on my coding and analysis.  Right now Nvivo is giving me a headache so I am ignoring it.

I really like this song:

I hope that in 2012 there are more women rapping about “I guess that cunt getting eatin” whilst wearing cut-offs so short the pockets hang out.

Wellington Critical Mass, Halloween, and Facebook.

As I mentioned previously, I hate Facebook but I love bicycles and Halloween.

So I was excited when I saw this flyer:

wellington critical mass october 2011

Previously, when I tried to find any information online about Critical Mass in Wellington…. I thought there wasn’t one.  First, try googling “Wellington Critical Mass”.  The best result is the NZ Critical Mass website, which seems to be based in Auckland and doesn’t give many details about Wellington’s event.  You could show up and be the only person there.  In addition, the “Cycling in Wellington” site barely makes a mention of Critical Mass, and nothing about this week’s ride as of today, Wednesday 26 October.  It’s not listed on the events calendar nor are any details given.  So, if you’re just a lonely girl with no cyclist friends but you want to participate in bicycle activism what are you to do?  Well, if you are lucky enough, you’ll come across a flyer in an op shop in Newtown, and know about the event even if the details on the international network are scarce.

However, upon closer inspection, the flyer directs me to… my favourite website in the world, Facebook! So, again, the insular nature of Facebook comes back to haunt me.  I can’t find details for Wellington’s Critical Mass because I stubbornly refuse to join Facebook.  Why is it so hard to post information about the event that is freely available without having to register for a website who’s privacy policy is unsettling to some people?  I said previously that if I could only find out about an event via Facebook, I probably wouldn’t want to participate in that event.  I’m not really a hypocrite or making an exception for this event, as I did get an actual print flyer with the details on it.  At least that is what I am telling myself.

Here are some pictures from the last Halloween Critical Mass ride I went on, I’ll try to get better ones this year.

That’s Sonya’s “Reyna Rosa” cape fluttering in the wind.

windy city?

More “severe” weather makes front page news..


In one article they describe the “blitzkrieg” winds… at 75 miles an hour!  Roughly 120 kms per hour, less than what we get around here on a regular day!  While lots of people in Chicago are still without power.. ours never went out.  I don’t know how Wellington manages to keep all the services running and power flowing despite the wild weather!

it’s seriously windy here.

As a follow up form my previous post… check out the windiest cities in New Zealand yesterday:

If you look closely, you will see that we had 126 km per hour gusts of wind here in Wellington.  And that is normal.  Or at least, nothing so abnormal as to have caused any damage or been newsworthy in anyway.

On the other hand, a storm with 80 km per hour gusts causes a huge amount of damage and makes front page news in Montreal.


you can take the girl outta Chicago…

but you can’t take the Chicago out of the girl?

The other day somebody asked me what I planned to do when I finished school, if I intended to “go home”.  I said “I don’t even know where home is anymore!”.  After thinking about it I realized that I have spent less than 2 years in the USA in the last 10 years, and that was not 2 consecutive years.  It was 12 months here, 8 months there, a summer and a few weeks squeezed in from time to time.  While I did live in and around Chicago for the first 2/3rds of my life, the most recent 3rd has been spent in a number of different cities and countries.  The longer I spend away the more distant it seems, but the grid-like streets of Chicago are still carved into my memory…and maybe always will be?

I have been watching this cheesy TV police drama called “The Chicago Code” lately, which is nearly driving me mad with homesickness.  In nearly every street scene a CTA train or bus goes by.  A lot of scenes take place inside the Skylark… my former Pilsen hangout.  They have lunch at Manny’s deli, eat hot dogs at Maxwell Street, drink Old Style.  It’s almost torture to watch.  I hate Wellington!  I want to move back to Chicago!

Actually, Wellington is not that bad.  On Monday Ticker and I went for a walk up to the Mt. Vic lookout.

Wellington: has cool rope swing

As I have mentioned previously, there are lots of green spaces and wild places minutes walking from downtown.  I like that.  But whenever I ask some one from somewhere else if they like Wellington, inevitably the answer is “It’s ok…”.  Then, I ask them if they intend to stay when they are finished studying, and again, inevitability I hear “No.”.  This is especially true when I get together with other Americans.  I once spent an entire afternoon listening to a bunch of people ranting about Wellington and describing how much they want to leave.  I will not deny joining in from time to time (especially to criticize the public transit and cost of living in New Zealand), but I don’t really hate it here.  It’s just probably my least favorite place I have ever lived.  I’m sure there are way worse places to live… like Dubai from what I hear!

However, I try to be an optimist and make the best of any situation.  Even so, I can’t help but feel homesick from time to time.  I think that’s normal.  I also lived in Chicago from the age of 18 to 23, so, part of what I’m feeling is of course, nostalgia for my lost youth.  Unfortunately, nothing I can do will ever bring that back.  But, maybe someday, I’ll be able to move back to that glorious city by the lake.

But I did take this cool picture of a flock of little yellow-winged birds in flight.

Wellington wildlife