Costa Rica – Jaco

January 13th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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This is the view from our room at the Club del Mar in Jaco.  Right next to the beach. We spent three nights there.

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Our room – very spacious.

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Sunset at Jaco.

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We did a half day trek through the jungle on horseback.

I’d never rode a horse  before, so was quite pleased that the horses were not large – less distance to fall to the ground in case I fell off!

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The trek was initially on road, but then most of the time through the jungle to a waterfall, where we bathed for half an hour (average temperature 30 degrees or so) before heading back.

Can highly recommend Costa Rica as a holiday destination. It’s like a tropical pacific island, but with heaps of activities and great biodiversity (largest per square km in the world) and rainforest. 30% of the country is in the conservation estate.

The company we used to arrange it was Vacations Costa Rica. Our travel consultant was Rachel Peck and she was great. We changed details six or seven times until we finalised it, and was never a problem. They arranged everything including private transfers between hotels, to and from the airport and all the accommodation and activities. Best of all they have a host meet you at the airport, before you clear immigration. Our host managed to get us through the empty diplomatic lane, avoiding a half hour or so queue!

Had been wanting to see Costa Rica for over a decade, and now I’ve been, I can’t wait to go back!

Costa Rica Rainforest

January 12th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Did a half to full day activity where we traveled to Sky Adventures Arenal Park where you can see rain forest, cloud forest and the Arenal volcano (very active up until 2010).

We did a three hour walk followed by a trip on their gondola. Both well worth doing.

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The gondola going up through the canopy.

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This was fascinating. It was a moth which got infected by a fungus. The fungus turns the moth into a zombie under its control and eventually kills it.

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A view from the top of the gondola.

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Going through the canopy.

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One of the many types of butterflies they have.

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This is a very small pit viper.

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One of the two waterfalls we saw. You can see the more adventurous types trying to climb it.

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Lots of these unusual trees around.

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Can’t recall the name of this bird but lovely colouring.

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A somewhat larger pit viper!

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This is a photo of a tarantula in its hole. Quite glad it didn’t come out to complaint about the light.

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Typical part of the path.

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A fairly huge stick insect.

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One of the dozen or so bridges we crossed on the walk. Amazing views from them.

Costa Rica – Arenal

January 11th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

After the amusement parks in Los Angeles we headed to Costa Rica for a week. Spent three days in the Arenal region which has a volcano and rainforest. Stayed at the Royal Corin Hotel which was quite amazing, especially for the price.

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My mobile office in Arenal – our balcony.

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A view of the pools from our room.

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And a slightly wider view.
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The restaurant will bring you lunch to you poolside. Great food.

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This is Valentino, an iguana who hangs around the hotel. He’s around 40 cm long.

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They have three large pools, plus four jacuzzis and a couple of private pools for spa clients.

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A view of the gardens.

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Poolside shade.

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This was not at the hotel, but a few kms down the road. Around 20 to 25 crocodiles have set up home by a bridge. You really really do not want to dive off this bridge.

Disneyland

January 9th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Spent New Years Eve at Disneyland. The good thing was they stay open until 2 am and have lots of fireworks. The bad thing is it is their busiest day of the year.

As we had to be up at 5 am to catch a flight, the plan was to leave around 9.30 pm after the first fireworks. But we kept wanting to do just one more ride and we finally left very happy but tired at 1.30 am.

Here’s how I rated the attractions we did:

  • Hyperspace Mountain 9.5/10
  • Star Tours 9/10
  • Indiana Jones Adventure 9/10
  • Splash Mountain 9/10 (did twice)
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad 8.5/10 (did twice)
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds 8.5/10 (did twice)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean 8/10
  • Haunted Mansion Holiday 7.5/10
  • Jingle Cruise 7/10
  • Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters 7/10
  • It’s a Small World 6.5/10
  • Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage 6.5/10
  • Disneyland Railroad 6.5/10
  • Casey Jr Circus Train 6/10
  • Peter Pan’s Flight 6/10

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This was the Jungle Cruise renamed the Jingle Cruise for the season.

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Enterting into It’s A Small World.

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Young padawans being trained up during lunch breaks

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This was one of the longer queues, around 30 minutes. Some of the top attraction had two to three hour queues but we used Fastpass for them, and then did less popular ones between. Also after 9 am the queues got a lot shorter and we managed to get on some popular rides such as Matterhorn bobsleds with only five minute queues!

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The enchanted castle.

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A scene from the Finding Nemo submarine.

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Getting ready for Hyperspace Mountain.

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A scene from It’s A Small World.

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And the dolls to represent NZ!

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After the fireworks at 9 pm everyone headed towards the middle of Disneyland – either to exit the park, or join the party there. This caused total gridlock – moving say a metre per second. If you are ever there on NYE, do not go towards the centre in the evening – use the more remote paths.

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Peter Pan’s Flying adventure.

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Some toys we purchased. Sadly not for me, but certain little girls.

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One of the real highlights was Fantasmic. I thought it would be like World of Colour, and all done with fountains and lights. But this one had actors and props galore. It is a battle between good and bad in Mickey’s dreams and was superbly done.

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Captain Hook’s boat turns up.

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As done Mark Twain’s!

Despite the crowds was a great day at Disneyland. We spent almost 18 hours there!

Some general advice for others going:

  • Get there early and stay late
  • Get fast passes as soon as they are available for you again
  • Book your lunch and dinner venues well in advance unless you want to do burgers
  • Make sure you see the shows as well as do the rides

Disney California Adventure Park

January 8th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Spent the 30th of December at Disney California Adventure Park, and another fun day.

They don’t have a front of pass ticket, but they do have a system where you can acquire a fast pass ticket for a popular ride every two hours. These are critical to having a good day and so the moment you can get a new fast pass, you should.

Here’s how I rated the attractions we did:

  • Radiator Springs Racers 9.5/10 (the most popular attraction by far)
  • Aladdin – 9.5/10 (hilarious, the genie is a star)
  • California Screaming 9/10 (literally screaming)
  • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 9/10 (think of an elevator that drops several floors at a time)
  • World of Color – 9/10 (incredible light show)
  • Soaring Over California 8.5/10
  • Grizzly River Run 8/10
  • Monsters Inc 7.5/10
  • Toy Story Midway Mania 7/10
  • Silly Symphony Swings 6.5/10
  • Goofy Sky School 6/10
  • The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure 5.5/10

Not a lot of photos here as hard to take then while doing the attraction!

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The big ferris wheel.

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This is the most fun (in a terrifying sense) ride – California Screaming. You do drops, a loop and lots of twists. And people do spend most of the ride screaming!

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The World of Colour show in the evening is quite fantastic. All done with lights and 1,200 fountains.

Universal Studios Hollywood

January 7th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

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Spent the 29th of December at Universal Studios Hollywood, and no surprise had a great day. Some great rides, fascinating history and fun shows.

For those who have not been, but may one day, my strong advice is buy a Front of Line pass. For the extra $50 or so you’ll easily get to do every attraction and with five minute queues instead of one hour ones.

Here’s how I rated the attractions:

  • Transformers The Ride 3D – 10/10
  • Studio Tour – 9/10
  • King Kong 360 3D – 9/10
  • Revenge of the Mummy – 9/10
  • Simpsons Ride – 8.5/10
  • Shrek 4D – 8/10
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem – 8/10
  • Fast & Furious – 8/10
  • Jurassic Park – 7.5/10
  • Waterworld – 7/10
  • Animal Actors – 6.5/10
  • Special Effects – 5.5/10

The Transformers Ride was amazing. The moment we did it with Front of Pass, we queued up to do it again.

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You can also go down the CityWalk, which is free, next to the park. Lots of great restaurants including Bubba Gump and Hard Rock Cafe.

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Lots of very bad food.

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This was quite cool. Basically you fly with a huge fan propelling you up.

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These signs are up everywhere. Even the toilets warn you they have chemicals that can kill you. Public Health bureaucracy gone crazy,

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This was the set for Animal Actors. The falcons were a highlight. The dogs very cute.

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The star though was an owl from Harry Potter.

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Who remembers Kit?

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And the Flintstones of course. They had several dozen cars on the studio tour.

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They produced their own flash flood for you as you drove by.

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And this is the remains of an actual plane that they have as wreckage. Whenever there is a plane crash, they’ll use this site. The entire studio site was huge – scores and scores of studios ncluding Wysteria Lane.

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In April they open their Harry Potter ride, and you can see Hogwarts already built on the hill.

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A scene from Waterworld.

As I said, it was a really good day. Doesn’t get as crowded as Disney and the rides have cool themes to them – they basically tell a story.  Definitely will visit again the next time I am in LA, or in Orlando.

A year of criticism

December 24th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

As I have done in previous years, I’ve compiled some of my blog posts where I have criticised, attacked or disagreed with the Government. I am a supporter, but not an uncritical one. When I agree with them, I say so. When I don’t, I say so. This seems difficult for some people to comprehend.

  • 24 September 2014 – criticised the hint by the PM David Seymour would be made a Minister immediately.
  • 30 September 2014 – criticised the PM for his comments on the currency
  • 4 October 2014 – agreed with Sam Morgan’s comments criticising the Govt’s R&D policy
  • 10 October 2014 – attack Steven Joyce’s announcement of funding a golf tournament
  • 12 October 2014 – support a NZTU report attacking the Govt’s corporate welfare spending
  • 14 October 2014 – call on Govt not to rush the anti-terror laws
  • 16 October 2014 – critical that the PMO did not communicate with Judith Collins over her title
  • 31 October 2014 – disagree with Govt ruling out congestion charges or tolls for Auckland
  • 4 November 2014 – said Kim Dotcom should not be deported for not declaring his speeding conviction
  • 12 November 2014 – I call allowing Phillip Smith to escape a clusterf**k and criticise Key’s joke
  • 22 November 2014 – I call on the Govt to cease funding Team NZ
  • 24 November 2014 – I say the case has not been made by the Govt for the emergency surveillance provisions of the Govt’s Foreign Fighters Bill
  • 27 November 2014 – I propose Labour MP David Shearer me made MFAT Chief Executive
  • 27 November 2014 – I oppose the surveillance provisions of the Govt’s Foreign Fighters Bill, in a submission
  • 16 December 2014 – I criticise the Govt for not reining in spending more, as a surplus looks unlikely
  • 23 December 2014 – I call on Govt to walk away from Sky City deal, rather than give taxpayer dollars
  • 7 February 2015 – I disagree with the Govt that the EQC model is working, and call for reform
  • 10 February 2015 – I disagree with the PM on Sky City
  • 11 February 2015 – I promote a petition against the Govt giving money to Sky City
  • 17 February 2015 – I support the Greens on banning animal testing for cosmetics
  • 19 February 2015 – I support a Labour call for an inquiry into petrol margins
  • 2 March 2015 -I criticise the PM’s announcement that changes to MPs pay will be made under urgency
  • 3 March 2015 – I highlight a massive blow out in IRD computer costs
  • 6 March 2015 – I slam a Customs proposal for them to have the power to demand passwords
  • 10 March 2015 – I again criticise the PM for commenting on RB interest rate decisions
  • 10 March 2015 – I reveal that the Govt’s law change to reduce MP pay rises, would have in the past seen them get bigger pay rises
  • 10 March 2015 – I call on the Govt to release BCRs for their proposed Northland bridges
  • 11 March 2015 – I dig at the Govt over their $30 million subsidy to Rio Tinto
  • 19 March 2015 – I criticise the Govt’s proposal to not have full Ecan elections in 2016
  • 23 March 2015 – I again attack the proposal for Customs to be able to demand passwords
  • 25 March 2015 – I criticise the HDC Bill
  • 29 March 2015 – I critically analyse why National lost Northland
  • 20 April 2015 – I attack Nathan Guy’s announcement of an industry dominated group to review overseas betting
  • 22 April 2015 – I’m the first commentator to label the PM’s actions with hair pulling inappropriate and he should apologise
  • 24 April 2015 – I again criticise the Govt over their $30 million subsidy to Rio Tinto
  • 6 May 2015 – I criticise the high proportion of Whanau Ora spent on administration
  • 8 May 2015 – I criticise the Government for warning backbench MPs off attending Falun Gong events
  • 21 May 2015 – I say I can’t support the Budget as there is too much extra spending
  • 7 June 2015 – I praise the performance of Lianne Dalziel
  • 8 June 2015 – I call the Saudi farm deal a form of corporate welfare
  • 9 July 2015 – I say the Government should have full elections for ECan in 2016
  • 15 July 2015 – I slam the attempt by Customs to gain powers to require passwords to devices on travellers
  • 17 August 2015 – I criticise the Government’s Chidl Protection Bill for requiring registered offenders to hand over passwords for the Internet accounts
  • 18 September 2015 – I say the Government should not change the law to stop it having repay underpayments to beneficiaries
  • 24 September 2015 – I oppose the Government saying it will contribute towards pandas
  • 13 October 2015 – I call on the Government to support a bill by Green MP Gareth Hughes
  • 15 October 2015 – I support Labour’s bill to include Under-Secretaries in the OIA
  • 9 November 2015 – I support Phil Twyford’s policy on funding new home infrastructure
  • 26 November 2015 – I slam the Government decision on iPredict as “nuts”
  • 16 December 2015 – I criticise the Government’s excessive use of urgency and bypassing select committees this year

 

Labour only believes in the OIA for itself!

November 27th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Labour have been asking pretty much every entity in the public sector, including SOEs, the following:

Did xxx receive any Official Information Act Requests during 2014/15 from Cameron Slater/WhaleOil, David Farrar/KiwiBlog, Carrick Graham, or Rachel Glucina? If so, for each please provide the text of the request, the receipt date, the final response date, and whether the request was granted or declined. 

This is not the first time they’ve done this. They did much the same nine months ago. They’re obsessed and have sent this question off to hundreds and hundreds of public agencies.

They seem to think that the OIA is only for people whose politics agree with them. Do they think I shouldn’t be able to use the OIA?

As it happens I use it very infrequently. As Labour will now have discovered after causing hundreds of public servants to check their files, I do maybe two or three OIA requests a year.

I’m going to do another one next week – to OIA the documents around the Government refusing iPredict a waiver from the money laundering regulations. I hope Labour approve of this. Do they think I should seek their approval in advance before I do an OIA request?

 

The Queenstown Marathon

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

I vowed after New York in 2013 to never run another marathon, but the Queenstown Marathon just seemed too beautiful to say no to, so I enrolled for it earlier this year.

Sixteen weeks out I started the serious training schedule. I’d kept up some social running but was a long way off being able to run a significant distance.

Over 16 weeks spent around 64 hours running, covering around 700 kms according to my phone. Mainly in Wellington, but a bit also in Auckland, Dublin and London. I know the location of every water fountain between Westpac Stadium and Scorching Bay. They were the longest training runs – 33 kms from Thorndon to Scorching Bay and back.

Flew down to Queenstown on Friday. There were I think 16 extra flights that day, which explains why Air NZ is their major sponsor.

The weather forecast has been bad all week, but come Saturday and it was near perfect – overcast (so not too hot) but no real rain.

 

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At the start line

The course started at Millbrook which is one of my favourite places to stay in NZ.  From there you head into Arrowtown, and then run alongside the Arrow River for around four kms. I’d biked it before and just as beautiful as previously. The trail had a few bumps in it, and a bit of a climb at the end.

Then it is along Hogans Gully Road to the East side of Lake Hayes.  You run around 90% of Lake Hayes which is equally stunning. The Western side though is really tough – there are three reasonably steep climbs, including at the end. I’m starting to understand who some people who competed last year said you could sue the organisers under the Fair Trading Act for their description of the course as mainly flat.

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Around Lake Hayes

Then around 8 kms running along Speargrass Flat Road and the Lower Shotover Road, getting past the halfway point. As  usual, this is the point where the idea of collapsing into a St John Ambulance is quite appealing, and my pace is starting to slow from an initial 11 km/hr to under 10 km/hr. My thanks to Laila Harre who was running her 5th marathon for her pep talk and support. Had many good chats with other runners in the first half. Not quite so many in the second half as you get more exhausted.

But then you hit the Shotover River and the views keep the motivation up, followed by heading along the Kawarau River. Superb views. But around the 30 km mark there is a hideously nasty climb up from the Kawarau River. I’d say 98% of runners walked up the slope. It really wrecks you.

Then around 10 kms to go, heading around the back of Frankton Airport and then alongside Lake Wakatipu. Again the views are amazing, and I’m soaking up the atmosphere despite my slowing pace.

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Along Lake Wakatipu

Then it is into the Queenstown Gardens and the final one km is through Queenstown where great crowds cheer you on (and there were lots of spcectators at other locations also), and finally the finish line.

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Finished!

I did New York in 4 hrs 29 minutes and Queenstown was 4 hrs 14 minutes. Was pretty pleased with that considering Queenstown was less flat the New York.

Now I’m looking forward to at least a week off while my legs recover!

 

Australian Financial Review Op Ed

September 18th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

After new Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that he hoped to emulate the political style of John Key, the Australian Financial review asked me to do an opinion piece on how Key has been successful, in contrast to Abbott and others. It was published yesterday. You can read it here or it is embedded below.

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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 🙂

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

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.

DPF at Act Conference

February 25th, 2015 at 11:00 am by Kokila Patel

David presented to the Act Conference over the weekend.  It was an overview of where the party had come from, the last election, and the possible policy stances Act can advance.    

So let’s take a look at where your support currently is.   ACT got 0.7% nationwide but this was actually 1.4% in Auckland and 0.4% in most other places. And in Auckland you had 2.4% in the Eastern suburbs. So the challenge is to expand from being an Auckland party to a party that can get at least 2.4% everywhere. That would get you almost four MPs.

Polls have shown that you get twice as much support from men as women. One fifth of your support comes from the self-employed and business owners which is significant, and one quarter from the under 30s – well done ACT on Campus. 

In the last three years 25% of ACT supporters cited the economy as the most important issue, followed by taxes on 10% and jobs on 9%. These are of course all linked so almost a half say the most important issues are economic.”

So how can Act gain more voters to increase their representation in parliament and decrease their reliance on the Epsom electorate?

However I think a clear message of opposition to most forms of corporate welfare has potential appeal to not just economic liberals on the right, but also to many on the left. It would make it hard for the left to paint ACT as the party of big business, if they are signing up to your campaigns against corporate welfare. 

Turing to social liberalism, the issue I would suggest ACT focuses on is euthanasia. Is anything a more fundamental human right than being able to choose between quantity of life and quality of life?

This is not some abstract issue. Sadly for many families, they have been through the horrors of a loved one who was unable to make an informed choice to reduce their suffering.  I actually used to be against euthanasia until I listened to the speech Rodney Hide made in 2003 about the death of Martin Hames. It reduced me to tears and made me realise how harmful the current law can be, and converted me to favouring a law change.

It is an issue that is both very real to many, but also very popular. The last public poll on this issue saw 61% in favour of terminally ill people being able to choose when to end their lives and only 18% opposed. A 3:1 ratio in favour is about as good as it gets.

Labour has banned their MPs from advancing this issue, because it may distract them from their core mission of getting more people to join a union. National MPs are discouraged from doing bills on conscience issues. In fact I think National discourages their MPs from doing any bills that haven’t been written by Chris Finlayson for them. The highlight was the West Coast MP’s bill on reforming the law of habeas corpus.

NZ First are generally against euthanasia, except for immigrants. The Greens are admirably supportive, but the suspicion is they see it as a way to reduce carbon emissions. 

More seriously there is an opportunity for ACT here to lead on this issue, and connect to New Zealanders on an issue that resonates, as well as clearly position themselves as the only party not wanting the state to interfere in decisions that belong to individuals.

Wake Up Tomorrow

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

Wake Up Tomorrow is on for a week at Circa as part of the Fringe Festival. It is far removed from traditional theatre, as you might expect from the Fringe Festival.

Wake Up Tomorrow is primarily set on a plane and and a large cast entertains you with multiple scenes and plot threads. Some of them are related, and some are just there for fun.

The production is in collaboration with Active, a service for youth with an intellectual impairment. They provided the ideas for the plot, and make up the vast majority of the cast.

The 60 minute show was very heart warming, with many moments of laughter. The central plot was focused on whether Agent 009 would identify Spyfox before he could cause harm.

The show was a bit disjointed. While probably deliberate, some scenes did not seem to mesh well with others. This was probably a creative tension between letting the cast explore what they could do, but it did somewhat diminish the viewing experience. In the end it wasn’t so much a show with a plot, but rather a show about imagination. The Olympics scene at the end I found especially amusing, due to its ridiculousness.

All of the cast did well in bringing their vitality to the stage, and pulling off a show that both they and the audience enjoyed. Janiece Pollock, who played Bella and Kwame Williams-Accra as Spyfox were especially good.

The show also made good use of four dancers who performed dual roles in moving props on the stage, and helping move the show along.

Overall it was a cute and inspiring performance which I’m glad I got to see.

Mt Kilimanjaro Day 6

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

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It’s the final day and in around seven hours we rediscover the joys of showers. Despite being at 3,700 metres it is sunny and warm, so we’re in shorts and just one or two layers.

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Saying farewell to Horombo.

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And also goodbye to my favourite trees.

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It is a relatively easy day, going downhill. However we still will be hiking almost 20 kms, which will take a bit over six hours.

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Nice to be back under bush for the final three hours.

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And near the end some monkeys again.

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Finally we’re back to where we started. Over six days we have climbed around 4,600 metres and descended the same.

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We get back to the Marangu Hotel around 3 pm.

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And have drinks and photos with our team – the four of us, three guides, a chef and assistant, and seven porters.

Overall the toughest physical challenge I’ve done to date, but hugely satisfying. If you’re fit and slightly masochistic, I can recommend giving it a go. But not something to do casually!

This was the end of the African trip – gorillas in Rwanda, safari in Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. All very different experiences. I’m already missing the place, and looking forward to my next trip to the continent – sadly at least a couple of years away.