Archive for the ‘DPF’ Category

My DNA

August 28th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

I did an DNA test through ancestry.com and the findings are that my DNA is:

European Jewish 48%
British 32%
Italian/Greek 8%
West European 8%
Irish 2%
Scandinavian 2%

That fits pretty well with what I know of my family tree. Through the DNA test they have identified a couple of dozen other people who have done the test and are related to me (third to fifth cousins).

A mate asked on Facebook that as I am 32% British, am I happy to retain the union jack on the NZ flag. My response was only if it has the Star of David on it also :-)

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Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel List

August 21st, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

After 40 years, the Lonely Planet has released a list of the top 500 places in the world to visit – and New Zealand is on there nine times.

The book called Ultimate Travelist defines a wish-list of the most thrilling, memorable and interesting places in the world – ranked in order of brilliance.

The longlist was compiled from all the highlights in every Lonely Planet guidebook over the years, before being whittled down to a shortlist, and then Lonely Planet members were asked to vote on their 20 top sights.

Results were weighted in favour of sights that received consistently high votes.

So where do New Zealand sites feature?

The places listed were:

My comments below:

  • Fiordland National Park (at 17) – did Milford Track last March
  • Abel Tasman National Park (35) – doing Abel Tasman Track next year
  • Franz Josef & Fox Glacier (81) – not seen since I was a kid.
  • Lake Wanaka (94) – kayaked it, boated it, walked it and helicoptered it!
  • Stewart Island (125) – did Rakiura Track earlier this year
  • Bay of Islands (130) – not been enough but in love with Russel
  • Whakarewarewa (276) – that the Rotorua geothermal tourism spot. Been a long time ago
  • Waitomo Caves (280) – never yet done!
  • Te Papa Tongarewa (285) – there last week!

And the global list:

  1. Temples of Angkor, Cambodia – went with my parents a couple of years ago
  2. Great Barrier Reef, Australia – been a couple of times, once with a fellow blogger!
  3. Machu Picchu, Peru – did this last October
  4. Great Wall of China – went around a decade ago, as attending a UN meeting in China
  5. Taj Mahal, India – went before attending an ICANN meeting in Delhi
  6. Grand Canyon National Park, USA – went around in the bis US road trip two years ago
  7. Colosseum, Italy – saw around a decade again when in Rome
  8. Iguazú Falls, Brazil – Argentina – was scheduled to do last October, but had to leave for next Latin America trip
  9. Alhambra, Spain – on the to do list
  10. Aya Sofya, Turkey – saw in 2009

So have seen eight of the 10 global top ten, and eight out of nine NZ ones on the top 500. Fairly happy with that!

 

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My future obituary

August 10th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Metro Magazine reports:

David Farrier, broadcaster, and David Farrar, pollster, died April 1, 2077.

This article was featured in the July/August 2015 issue of Metro. Illustration by Daron Parton.

David Farrier and David Farrar had almost nothing in common and yet they would eventually become as entangled as an earphone cable. They died together, violently, savaged by a deranged parakeet, in a flat they shared with Samantha Hayes. An attractive TV presenter, Hayes is 94.

The two men’s beginnings were profoundly different. Farrier was tall, ruggedly good looking, a popular head boy at his Christian college in Tauranga. Farrar was more the Wellington chess club type.

Farrier liked babes and dudes, Farrar liked babes and debating. They both knew what they wanted and before long they had it: Farrier, a quirky late-night TV news show; Farrar, a blog.

They came to prominence during the long administration of Prime Minister John Key, a man who believed in doing as little as possible.  In this he was assisted by Farrar, whose polling company prepared a variety of excuses for doing nothing and tested them by phoning families at dinner time. How little did people care about boat people? How untroubled were they by waitress harassment? The PM had him on speed dial.

Farrier travelled a gentler road, toting a video camera and an abundant curiosity. He sat in a sauna to better understand Colin Craig; he travelled to the Gobi Desert to better understand the Mongolian Death Worm.

The similarity of their names endlessly confused people. Farrier would feel a stab of unhappiness when someone called him a contemptible stain on politics. Farrar would be sad to find he wasn’t the dude Lorde was trying to phone.

But the confusion invited comedy. Together they interviewed singing twin sisters the Veronicas. They prank-called the Prime Minister. As TV current affairs rubbed itself down to a nub, their quirkiness grew ever bolder.

When Farrier’s Newsworthy show began, head transplants were only being spoken of as far-off medical fantasy, but the science developed swiftly, and so did the clamour from the viewers to see the two Davids switch heads. The result was “mad”, wrote TV reviewer Diana Wichtel, “but strangely compelling”.

And yet behind all the laughter lay deep trauma.

In his early thirties, Farrier had acquired Keith, a handsome orange parakeet, but discovered within a short time that he detested the bird, so hateful and incessant was its scream.

He expected it would live another 20 years, an impossibly long time to wait for some peace and quiet. He was quite sure no one would take it, not with all that ghastly racket. He couldn’t contemplate wringing its neck.

He turned to Farrar, a master of dark arts, for suggestions. Farrar had plenty. They put Keith in a courier parcel to the Green Party. They left him on the seat at a Peter Jackson movie. They did things with superglue they weren’t proud of. And yet no matter what they did, he found his way back, each time more shrill, each time more enraged. Worst of all, he lived many, many more years than 20.

“I told David it was going to end badly, but now I just wonder if I even told the right one,” lamented Hayes. “They used to say only their mothers could tell them apart. And look, I was just their flatmate,” said the attractive redhead, whose new show starts this Sunday.

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Edge

June 10th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Edge, at Circa, is a one person show by broadway star Angelica Page, and she is a star.

We have many good actors in NZ, but Page is in the global league. Her performance was riveting and stunning. You can see why she won the Helen Hayes Award for Best Actress. She has a mastery of the stage which is compelling. A slight narrowing of the eyes can convey so much. A slight change in pitch speaks volumes.

The play is about the life of Sylvia Plath, set on the day of her suicide aged 30. It’s a very sombre and gripping play. Page narrates the life of Plath ranging from her childhood to her death.

Plath, a Pulitizer Prize winner, was married to UK Poet Laureate Ted Hughes. A lot of the play focused on their relationship. He is the charming urbane womaniser, she is the neurotic masochistic victim. She is mentally unstable – her first suicide attempt was at age nine. Later in life she has electroconvulsive therapy.

An enduring controversy has been how much Hughes is to blame for her death. He left her for his mistress (who later also committed suicide, in the same manner as Plath). There were accusations he abused her, and for 20 years her gravestone was constantly vandalised to remove his name from it.

Page makes Plath real. She is funny, brittle, sad, mad, and strong at varying times. You get a picture of her loves and fears. It made me want to go buy the biography of Plath that the play is based on.

By coincidence there was a Q+A with Page after the play, moderated by Ran Henwood. A fascinating 45 minute discussion on Plath and the play. Questions ranged from whether Plath really intended to kill herself (she had many previous unsuccessful attempts which might have been cries for help) to what did people who knew Sylvia think of the play.

This isn’t a play that will appeal t everyone, but if you like dramatic solo performances, then this is as good as it gets.

It is on every second night at Circa, alternating with Turning Page (the story of Page’s famous mother), so is on Fri 12, Sun 14, Wed 17 and Sat 20 June.

Stars: ****1/2

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Learning about Antarctica Part I

June 9th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

A couple of weekends ago I spent the weekend at Lake Ohau, attending a seminar for media hosted by the NZ Antarctic Research Institute.

NZARI is a charitable trust (launched by John Key in 2012) which partners with research agencies to develop a global understanding of Antarctica’s impacts and vulnerability in a changing global climate. It focuses especially on Antarctica and the Ross Sea and its job is to achieve  the  NZ  government Antarctic Science Strategy.

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As you can see Lake Oahu is a beautiful place to be, albeit rather cold in May.  It was chosen as a location for the seminar, as it is a glacial lake itself, and the location for a lot of scientific work examining NZ’s past climate.

The purpose of the seminar, or winter school, was to explore what it would take to melt an ice sheet. However this wasn’t just a series of talks – we actually got to play with ice and buckets!

The total spend by the Government on Antarctica is around $20 million a year, which includes Scott Base, staff, and the 27 different science programmes we are involved in. So that’s around a cup of coffee per person in spending.

As home work we read five scientific studies on melting ice in Antarctica, plus a Guardian article.

The most useful of the scientific studies was this one titled “Accelerated West Antarctic ice mass loss continues to outpace East Antarctic gains“.

Going into the weekend, I had many questions about the studies, including:

  • How do they accurately measure ice mass?
  • Why would some parts of Antarctica be shrinking and others growing?
  • Is it only a problem if there is shrinking everywhere?
  • Isn’t the amount of shrinking far less than the annual change in sea ice cover?

The first question was answered by Nigel Latta, who spoke to us on the Saturday evening. Basically the continent is measured by satellites in space, which can detect minute gravitational changes caused by the land mass below being smaller or larger.

The issue of the changes being much smaller than the annual change in sea ice was also quickly cleared up also. Basically there are three types of ice structures and they are all quite different. They are:

  1. Sea ice – this is basically frozen seawater. It floats on the water and covers 12% of the world’s oceans. It does massively change during the seasons of the year. in the Arctic it can go from 5,000 cubic kms to 25,000 cubic kms.
  2. Ice shelf – a thick floating platform of ice that forms where a glacier flows down to a coastline and onto the ocean surface.  Ice shelves are from 100 to 1,000 metres thick.
  3. Ice sheet – a continental glacier ice structure of at least 50,000 square kms. Think of this as ice on land (even if some of it is below sea level).

Now when it comes to West Antarctica and East Antarctica, it is important to note that West Antarctica is mainly on sea bed below sea level. East Antarctica is not.

So what does this mean? Well we did some experiments under the supervision of Gary Wilson.

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We all got given a two litre block of ice, which we weighed and then placed in large containers.  They were then arranged as follows:

  1. Ice in the shade (control)
  2. Ice in the sun
  3. Ice in the sun with dust on it
  4. Ice grounded in fresh water
  5. Ice grounded in salty water
  6. Ice grounded in warm fresh water
  7. Ice grounded in warm salty water
  8. Ice floating in fresh water
  9. Ice floating in salty water
  10. Ice floating in warm fresh water
  11. Ice floating in warm salty water

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During the day we would weigh our ice blocks every hour, to track which ones were melting faster or slower than others.

Ice Melt Experiment Graph

The results are above, and what they showed was that the factor that makes the massive difference in speed of melting is whether the ice is just grounded in water (had around an inch depth around it), or whether the ice was floating in water. When you have water underneath the ice, it melts far far quicker. This is more significant than whether it was fresh or salty, or warm or cold – even though they also had an impact.

So what does this mean for Antarctica? Well this is why West Antarctica can be melting, yet East Antarctica can be staying the same, or even growing in places.

So if you think that there is not a potential issue with the West Antarctica ice sheet, because you’ve read that East Antarctica is growing or stable, well think again. Because WAIS is more exposed to the ocean, and because the ocean is warmer than in the recent past, there is a melting effect.

I’ll look into what the impact of this melting could be in future posts, as well as a fascinating look we had of photos of core drilled up from 300 metres below the surface of Antarctica, which gives us a picture of what happened to the continent over the last 2.7 million years.

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Second Afterlife

May 30th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Second Afterlife at Circa is a very smart production that resonates with the social media generation.

The play starts with a flat party. Most people are partying, but Dan is too busy facebooking the party, to actually be enjoying it. We all know a Dan! I was once a Dan!

The next day we see the various flatmates emerge (including from under a sofa!) and we learn Dan (Michael Hebenton) has hooked up with the dreadful Sadie (Mahalia Sinclair-Parker), much to the annoyance of flatmate Bea (Bronwyn Ensor), who appears to have a crush on Dan.

But this is not a Neighbours type soap opera. In fact the flat is soon left behind as Dan decides he has had enough of social media, and tries to delete his Facebook profile. This is harder than many would imagine, and as Dan battles with Facebook, he gets drawn into the Second Afterlife – a sort of Internet limbo where he is confronted with the memories of his past – both real and online.

Dan’s guide in the afterlife is the perky and slightly annoying The Guide (Ruby Hansen). Is she friend or foe as she leads him from You Tube to Bebo to Word of Warcraft to finally Facebook.

Dan’s friends Simon (Michael Trigg) and Ethan (Matthew Staijen) pop up regularly, along with Sadie and Bea. You learn more about all of the characters as the play progresses through its 75 minutes. Special mention must be made of Sinclair-Parker who really does well making Sadie that self-obsessed girl at school we all knew!

The set and lighting deserves praise also. You have two to three dozen (fake) computer monitors all hooked up through a very visual web. And each of them has an image projected onto them. It must have been incredibly challenging to set up and co-ordinate. Also very good was the music and sound effects by the on stage operator. Some of his whispers into the mike were the funniest scenes.

What I especially enjoyed about the play was the ending, as Dan realises who has really been there for him the whole way through. Not quite the ending you might expect, but very funny and satisfying.

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The play also had several fight scenes, ranging from Fight Kitchen to Air Guitar to World of Warcraft. The scenes were really well done and a highlight, managing to be both realistic and funny.

A very enjoyable play, that will appeal to the social media generation.

Stars: ****

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Lysistrata

May 26th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Lysistrata is a very old play, performed by a very new cast, at Bats Theatre.

The play was first performed 2,426 years ago in Athens, produced by Aristophanes – a comic playwright who wrote 30 plays. 11 of them survive today.

Lysistrata is based on one woman’s (Lysistrata) effort to end the Peloponnesian War, by persuading the women of Greece to stop having sex with their husbands to force them to negotiate peace. I guess the flaw in the plan should be that they’ll probably just start having sex with each other (they call it Greek style for a reason!), but we’ll overlook that.

The play is put on by The Bacchanals, in a 90 minute production.  The cast of 12 skillfully interlace a very old comedy, with some modern references. It combines into a very fun show.

Ancient Greek comedy is very dirty and far from subtle, and so was this production. It most definitely is not a play for children or people offended by large artificial penises and/or profane language. It also has some nudity.

The nude (well topless) scene was slightly discordant for me. I’ve been to lots of shows with nudity with no problem, but in this show I slightly know the actress concerned, and when it happened I near-automatically started looking everywhere around the theatre except at the stage.  It was interesting how you react differently to nudity of strangers and someone you know.

The show is pretty faithful to the original, but has a feminist and pacifist theme running through it. You don’t need to agree with the politics, to enjoy the show – in fact quite the opposite.

It’s on in the Dome at Bats Theatre until Saturday 6 June. Makes for a fun bawdy night out.

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Comedy Festival: Spyfinger!

May 6th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Went to Spyfinger! at Bats last night. Was my first time there since their massive renovations (thanks Sir Peter Jackson) and it looks great. A larger and better located bar and multiple venues.

Spyfinger! is a parody of spy films, and they carried off their show with charm and a near zero budget. They are to theatre, what Southpark is to animation – done on the cheap, but very funny.

Instead of using actual special effects, they just verbalise them. So when in Iceland, and playing an Icelander they just say “Icelandic, Incelandic, Icelandic”. It actually works and is very funny.

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It’s a cast of three – Hannah Banks, Alex Greig and Paul Waggott, directed by Uther Dean.

In a sixty minute performance they entertain through a series of puns and scenes. Some highlights:

  • The villain showing the various torture methods, including torture by revealing Games of Thrones spoilers. The look of anguish on the hero’s face is priceless.
  • Managing to work into the script a reference to the title of every James Bond movie ever made
  • The skydiving scene – played out on the floor
  • The final line of the show
  • The references to ponytails
  • The slow motion fight scenes

It’s a fun wee show that doesn’t take itself seriously. If you’re a James Bond fan, you’ll enjoy this. It’s on Saturday 9 May, every evening at 7 pm.

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A Servant to Two Masters

May 5th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Circa’s production of A Servant to Two Masters has been my favourite show to date of 2015.

The play was written in 1743, and was adapted by award winning playwright Lee Hall in 1999. It may be 275 years old, but it is still hilarious.

The play has nine characters. They are:

  • Beatrice, whose brother was killed by her lover Florindo – played by Kathleen Burns
  • Pantaloon, who is searching for Beatrice – played by Richard Dey
  • Clarice, who was engaged to Beatrice’s brother – played by Acushla-Tara Sutton
  • Silvio, now engaged to Clarice, played by Jack Buchanan
  • Dr Lombardi, father of Silvio, played by Stephen Gledhill
  • Pantaloon, father of Clarice, played by Patrick Davies
  • Brigjella, an innkeeper, played by Gavin Rutherford
  • Smeraldina, Clarice’s maid, played by Keagan Carr-Fransch
  • Truffaldino, the servant to both Beatrice and Pantaloon

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Photo from Circa

The star of the show is of course Truffaldino who desperately tries to earn money and feed himself, while serving both masters. He acts, sings, juggles and performs superbly. A very physical performance.

But the show is not just about Truffaldino. You have no less than three love stories in play, plus some grasping parents. Also of course is whether Beatrice’s disguise as her dead brother will be discovered.

The play runs for 140 minutes (with an interval) but not once did it seem slowly paced. In between the comedic elements, the plot advances at an intriguing pace.

Simon Leary as Truffaldino is the star of the show, but the whole cast performed really well, and Ross Jolly’s direction had the play flow very smoothly. Special mention must also be made of Kathleen Burns who excelled in playing Beatrice pretending to be her brother.

As I said my favourite show to date of 2015, and one I can recommend to anyone who enjoys a great comedy. It may be 275 years old, but good comedy is timeless.

 

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Don Juan

April 29th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Don Juan in on at Circa until 23 May.

It’s a cabaret style show mixing atmosphere, singing and acting like a good cocktail. Talking of which, they actually serve you cocktails in the theatre during the brief interval, as part of the show (if you pay for one in advance).

Five actors perform the life of the legendary womanising Don Juan.

It’s a high energy performance with a huge amount of audience interaction. Some of the audience actually sit on chairs on the stage, and get pulled into the show.

The cast play a troupe of Lily, Julie, Maurice, Philippe and Ginger. They each have their own story, and again some interact with the audience. Philippe has a crush on a university lecturer and Ginger’s ex is in the audience, and both add comic to the production.

I found the show a wee bit slow to get into, but after around the first 15 minutes I really enjoyed it. The five actors all have really really good singing voices, and they way they interact with each other to tell the story of Don Juan is a credit to the show’s direction.

Possibly now a show for older audiences, but a very enjoyable production for the young and young at heart.

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Submission on NZ Flag Referendums Bill

April 24th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

SUBMISSION OF DAVID FARRAR ON THE NEW ZEALAND FLAG REFERENDUMS BILL TO THE JUSTICE AND ELECTORAL COMMITTEE

About the Submitter

  1. This submission is made by David Farrar in a personal capacity. I would like to appear before the Committee to speak to my submission.

    The overall Bill

  2. I support the bill, without amendment.

    Order of Referendums

  3. Some groups and people have advocated that the first referendum should include a question on whether voters wish to change the flag, and if there is not a majority, there is no second referendum.
  4. I oppose such a move. It could result in no vote occurring on an alternative design, even though a majority would vote for the alternative design.
  5. Such a change could deny a design supported by a majority of voters, being voted on.
  6. It is quite possible a large number of voters could vote at the first referendum that they do not want change, yet could be persuaded that the alternate design is preferable to the current design and vote for it, even though they did not have a problem with the current design. There is a difference between finding the current design acceptable, and saying that no other design could be better.
  7. A flag is not an electoral system. A flag is simply a design, and the most informed way to vote is choosing between the current design and an alternative design.
  8. An electoral system can produce outcomes such as a disproportional Parliament, a lack of women, a majority Government which allows voters to decide they want change, regardless of the alternative. But a vote on a flag makes no sense without knowing the alternative.

    Method of Voting

  9. I am disappointed that only overseas based voters will be allowed to return their votes via the Internet. There is no sound public policy reasons that voters in NZ should not be able to do so also.
  10. Postal voting is a dying method of voting. Restricting the referendum for those in NZ to postal voting is likely to lead to a low turnout, which could undermine the moral legitimacy of any vote.
  11. The turnout for postal referendums in recent times has been declining from 80% in 1997 to 56% in 2009 to 45% in 2013.
  12. While it is probably too late to make the necessary arrangements for this referendum, planning should commence for future referendums as postal referendums will not be viable in the not too distant future. Younger New Zealanders simply have no relationship with a post office.

Thank you for considering this submission.

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Stanley

April 16th, 2015 at 4:19 pm by David Farrar

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This is one of the views from the top of The Nut in Stanley. We only popped in there to grab a bite on the way to Smithton, but were very glad we did. They have a chairlift up to the top of The Nut, which is basically a flat mountain. You can then do a two km loop around the top, getting great views in every direction.

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A very tranquil area.

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Can just see some of Stanley below. It is a small 500 population tourist town – a few souvenir shops and cafes.

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The lobster at the Stanley Hotel attracted us in. Very reasonably priced, and very nice for lunch.

 

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Cataract Gorge

April 15th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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A must visit if if the north of Tasmania is Cataract Gorge at Launceston.

It was created around 1899 as a Victorian garden. There are two cafes, a like, outdoor swimming pool, large grass area, and lots of trails and lookouts.

Also a chairlift to take you from one side to the other.

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A view from the far side at the top of the Inclinator.

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There’s around 20 peacocks all around the main cafe. They literally walk around the tables, hoping for food.

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And in one of the playgrounds, you can see wallabies.

They have walks ranging from 5 minutes to 90 minutes to various dams and bridges. Liked it so much, we went there twice.

 

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Mole Creek Caves

April 14th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

If you’re in Tasmania, the Mole Creek Caves are worth checking out. There are three different caves you can tour – we did two of them.

The Underground Rivers cave has a huge amount of stalagmites (might reach the roof) and stalactites (hangs tight off the roof).  Some narrow passages as you head in and down.

The Great Cathedral cave has you climb over 60 metres to a huge cavern known as the Great Cathedral.  More colours in this one.

They both have the same entrance, with a large amount of glow worms.

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Trowunna Wildlife Park

April 13th, 2015 at 4:05 pm by David Farrar

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Popped into Trowunna Wildlife Park last week. It’s near Mole Creek, up in the North Western area of Tasmania, where we were mainly staying.

A cute Tasmanian Devil having a laze.

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Not so cute when they are feeding!

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A quoll, sort of a cousin of the devil.

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A determined bird.

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These are Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagles. They’re huge. They can kill prey several times their own weight.

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Sorry, we had no food for him!

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Or for him!

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The kangaroos and wallabies are in the main park area, and you can pat them.

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An Echidna. A type of an eater.

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Quite a few birds there.

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A wombat.

It’s a fairly small compact park, but as you can see a reasonable variety of species native to Tasmania. Well worth a visit.

 

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Common not to agree

April 11th, 2015 at 12:55 pm by David Farrar

Hamish Rutherford writes in Stuff:

Taxpayers’ Union executive director Jordan Williams said the downgrading of flights by MPs may have inadvertently undermined the reason they claimed to need to fly business class.

“MPs travel business class so they can arrive refreshed and get straight into work,” he said.

“The fact that they are trading that for an economy-class seat so they can take their wife suggests that they’re not in Europe purely for work and even makes the argument for business-class tickets questionable.”

Meanwhile, a split may be forming in that organisation on the issue.

On Thursday David Farrar, a Taxpayers’ Union co-founder and board member, wrote on Kiwiblog that it was “pretty standard practice that if someone is entitled to travel business class, to allow them to choose two lower cost airfares instead”.

This was “often cheaper” than a single business class fare, he said.

Sir Keith Holyoake once said he only agreed with 80% of what his own Government did. Likewise I don’t agree with everything National does, and I don’t personally agree with every single media release put out by the Taxpayers Union. This is no surprise – I will always blog my personal views here.

I helped set up the Taxpayers Union because there was basically 2,000 or so lobby groups calling for more spending, and almost none calling for lower taxes and a restraint on spending. I’ve been delighted with how successful the Taxpayers Union has been in its first 18 months.

But that doesn’t mean I personally agree with every media release, and never will. The Board set priorities, and gets involved in determining policy on major issues. We don’t vet every press release, and even among the Board we sometimes have a diversity of views on what is “justified” spending and what is waste.

The Taxpayers Union is not a Cabinet or Caucus where you have to publicly agree on every issue. It is an organisation that exists to fight against wasteful spending, and support lower taxes.

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Port Arthur and Tasman

April 8th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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Spending a few days in Tasmania visiting some of my GF’s family, who have moved here. We had a couple of days in Hobart so decided to drive south to the Tasman Peninsula and Port Arthur.

This beach is where the dogline was at Eaglehawk Neck – the only connection to the mainland and 30 metres wide. They had 13 vicious dogs here who would catch escaped prisoners.

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A blowhole at the Tasman Peninsula.

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Some great formations made over the centuries by the elements.

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And great views of the peninsula.

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Then we got to Port Arthur, where you go out by boat, giving you this view of the old prison.

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Many will remember the mass shooting by Martin Bryant in 1996. He killed 35 and wounded 25 more. He may be insane but he picked his area well, in that there would be very few places in Australia with so many people in one place, yet scores of miles from the Police.

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It is a beautiful and now tranquil area, despite its history.

Thousands of prisoners were kept here, ranging from actual criminals, to political prisoners to paupers to the insane.

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Today there are no prisoners, but lots of birds.

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A lovely view from up at the Commandant’s House.

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It takes around three to four hours to get around all the buildings, grounds and houses.

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The prison areas are just part of what is there. They have many old houses from the convict and post-convict eras where the doctor or priest etc would live.

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Remains of an old church.

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The Gardens.

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And the fountain at the centre of the gardens.

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Tryout out the shackles for size.

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And driving home, I loved these road signs of the Tasmanian Devils. And you do actually see a few at night.

 

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The mystery of Edwin Drood

March 31st, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Mystery of Edwin Drood is one of the largest productions I have seen at Circa, with 34 members of the cast (and one dog!).

It is a globally successful musical that has won five Tony Awards, and had long runs at West End and Broadway.

The name of the play, and its basis, come from Charles Dickens. It was his final novel, and he died before he finished it. Playwright Rupert Holmes turned it into a musical with a twist – the audience decided how it ends.

It is what you could call a meta-show – a show within a show. The New Zealand cast play a music hall cast performing the Dickens play.

There are 11 principal parts, being:

  • Chairman of the Music Hall Royale – Gavin Rutherford
  • Edwin Drood, murder victim – Awhimai Fraser
  • Rosa Bud, betrothed of Drood – Barbara Graham
  • John Jasper, uncle of Drood with a crush on Bud – Jack Buchanan
  • The Princess Puffer, opium den matron – Jude Gibson
  • Rev Septimus Crisparkle – Lloyd Scott
  • Neville Landless, a suitor for Bud – Ben Paterson
  • Helena Landless, sister of Neville – Flora Lloyd
  • Bazzard – Alan Palmer
  • Durdles – Andy Gartrell
  • The Deputy – Frankie Cur

I thought the entire cast performed very well. Barbara Graham has an exceptional singing voice and excelled. Awhimai Fraser also stood out with her performance as Edwin Drood. But all the principals performed both acting and singing well.

Also worth a mention was the 20 strong ensemble. They gave the performance a real cabaret feel, and many of them spent almost the whole performance on stage, responding to the events of the play.

The directing, music, set and lighting were all done very well, combining to create a very captivating production.

The audience participation is a highlight – ranging from the characters introducing themselves before the play starts, to voting on how the play ends, with members of the ensemble tallying up the votes from different parts of the audience.

You get to vote on how the mystery detective is, who the killer is, and which two characters should have a romantic ending. I won’t reveal who our audience voted but I will will reveal who I voted for – which was Helena to be the detective, Rosa to be the killer and the romantic couple to be Neville and Helena (heh).

I often get restless if a play goes on for more than 90 minutes or so. This production is 140 minutes long (with an interval), but not once did I feel it was dragging on. The plot advances at a brisk rate, and the songs are so enjoyable, time flies. You could tell the entire audience was loving the performance, and there was a huge ovation at the end.

Highly recommended for an entertaining evening out.

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Rakiura Track Day 3

March 26th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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Off just after 8 am for an 11 km hike out to the end of the track. We started with a bit of a climb.

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Lovely views of the ocean and hills in the mist.

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Another stream to cross.

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And just great views down by the water.

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We were so lucky with the weather. Was around 17 degrees and sunny.

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You stay close to the water for around two thirds of the final day.

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Good old NZ native bush.

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The final section of the track.

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And we’re out. It’s then a 2 km walk to Oban, but we were lucky that we got picked up on the way.

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hanging up in the property next to the end of the track.

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We had around three hours to spare Sunday afternoon so went to the South Sea Hotel for oysters, drinks and lunch. Then we flew out, and you can see Oban below us.

A really enjoyable three day hike. The easiest of the great walks to date. Was genuinely surprised by the beaches and beautiful bays. Definitely worth doing.

 

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Rakiura Track Day 2

March 24th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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Saturday is a 13 km inland walk from Port William to North Arm.

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Around an hour into it, there is a site which has two old log hauling machines at it. They were abandoned around 100 years ago.

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One of the downwards sections on the track. Not much walking on the flat, but nothing too steep. Maximum climb in any one section is 200 metres.

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Crossing a stream.

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The halfway tree is where we stopped for lunch.

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The woods reminded me of the movie “Into the Woods” I saw in January.

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The back balcony for North Arm Hut.

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The main entrance. Two bunkrooms and a dining area.

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And once again a spectacular view from outside the hut. We got there around 2 pm (five and a half hours) so enjoyed several hours in the sun. The only hassle was the bumble bees!

 

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Rakiura Track Day 1

March 23rd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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Flew over to Stewart Island the Friday before last to do my 4th of nine Great Walk – the Rakiura Track. A very bumpy flight at times, but we made it there safely despite Auckland Girl being in the co-pilot seat.

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Three of the four of us at the start of the Track at Lee Bay. This is five kms from Oban. As we only landed at 2.30 pm, we grabbed a shuttle over there, but you can walk to it.

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There was a bit of rain for the first half hour hence the jackets and pack covers, but after that only sunshine.

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Lovely track.

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Quite diverse tracks on Day 1. It’s an 8 km hike to Port William.

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I didn’t realise how beautiful Stewart Island is. You tend to associate it with the rough Foveaux Strait, not sandy beaches and calm blue waters.

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After a while the canopy opens up.

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There are two sections that go along the beach. This is Maori Beach, which is also a campsite. I like being in huts, not tents, but was almost jealous of the campers for their location.

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As you can see it looks like it could be in the Coromandel.

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A bridge at the end of the beach.

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Me heading across.

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A good shot of the water.

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And a happy duck.

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The final beach at Port William.

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Port William Hut. Sleeps 24.

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And the view from outside the hut. Again quite stunning and not what I was expecting.

A fairly easy day. We made the hut in three hours, arriving around 6 pm.

 

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Pi

March 16th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Over the weekend Five Thirty Eight reported:

Today is Pi Day — the day each year, March 14, that follows the first three digits of pi (3.14). And this year’s Pi Day is a special one: Since — in the U.S. — the date is represented as 3/14/15, we have the first five digits of pi on the calendar.

And at 9:26:53 am it is 3/14/15 9:26:53 which covers the first 10 digits.

That’s news for some people. When it comes to how many digits of pi people know by heart, the majority only know 3.14. Which is fine! Unless you’re building a bridge, that’s the most you will really need to know.

I asked SurveyMonkey Audience to put out a poll to see how far people could get reciting the infinite digits of pi. Of 941 respondents, 836 attempted to name the digits after the decimal point. This is how far they got:

10% could cite 3.1415926 and 5% 3.141592653

NASA employees can probably get away with knowing only the first six digits after the decimal point. Also, we have calculators for when we need a few more digits, TI-89s for when those calculators are insufficient and Wolfram Alpha for when we reduce those calculators to a smoking, melted mess.

My party trick at school and university was being able to recite pi to 15 decimal places. I thought this would impress the girls. I was wrong :-)

 

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DPF away

March 13th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

I’m on Stewart Island until late Sunday, tramping the Rakiura Track. There will be some pre-timed blog posts, but won’t be online to catch breaking news. See you all Monday.

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The Pianist

March 12th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

I loved this show.

Thomas Monckton was like a combination of Mr Bean and Jim Carrey. it was great, and he was hilarious.

Mockton plays a pianist who wants to make a triumphant appearance and then perform on the piano. But over the next hour everything that can go wrong does go wrong.

You don’t even see him for the first few minutes as you just see the figure trying to break through the curtain. You’re laughing out loud at the clawing motions you can see.

Then when he finally gets out, watch out for the chandelier, the piano legs, the cover, the lighting – well just about everything.

Monckton doesn’t speak the entire play. His antics and facial expressions are more than enough to keep you amused – along with his somewhat spiky hair.

The sound and lighting combine with great timing to make the show spectacular. And the lighting operator even plays a part more directly in the show – which was one of my favourite parts.

The audience also get involved at various stages.

It is the funniest show I have seen for years. You really don’t stop laughing. It was nice to have such simple uncomplicated physical humour. A great way to unwind after work or at the weekend.

I really can’t imagine anyone, whether aged 10 or 80, not enjoying this show.  It’s been performed in Edinburgh and London and is now back in NZ.

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Yep, Still Got It

March 2nd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Yep, Still Got It is on at Circa Two until Saturday 21 March.

It’s a one person show by Jane Keller, who delights and excites the audience for 75 minutes.

Keller is facing retirement and unsure what to do, so she decides to hire a life coach. After her life coach recommends various unsatisfactory options such as being a phone sex operator, Keller decides to become a life coach herself – a job anyone can do with no training!

The rest of the show is spent with Keller playing herself as life coach and her various clients. It is a great mixture of dialogue and singing. Keller is fantastically talented as she sings risque lyrics, combined with facial expressions that have you laughing almost non stop.

Michael Nicholas Williams accompanies Keller on the piano, to his normal excellent standard.

Keller is a master of comical delivery. Not only does she deliver 75 minutes of laughs,but she has to memorise a huge number of songs and verses. Only once during a very long song did she falter, but her grace in asking Williams for a reminder was so smooth, it detracted nothing from the show.

My only complaint is that so many of the problems we heard from clients were so funny and interesting, I would have liked to hear more about what her advice would have been. Regardless a very funny show, that appeals to young and old.

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