Hangry Planet

Just on the other side of the freeway from the national cemetery sits the Hangry Planet mini mart. It’s just a convenience store at a gas station, but it’s vegan and is very proudly making that point on its social media and, obviously, with its signage. Good on ya, I say, although you are perhaps reinforcing the stereotypes about vegans talking about being vegan.

In their parking lot over by the self-service car vacuum is this statue of Alfredina the T-Rex. A sign reads “Any visual interpretations here of Putin as a nefarious monster worthy of being consumed by Alfredina amounts to coincidental community art not necessarily reflective of the perspectives of The Hangry Planet or Tanforan Shell.” Whatever you say.


I’d never been to San Bruno, CA until landing at SFO last Friday and transferring to the convenient and surprisingly nice Marriott Courtyard there.

Overall, I’d say San Bruno is left off the tourist itineraries with good reason… it’s mostly nondescript housing, under the flight path, and criss-crossed by freeways and railroad tracks.

And yet… getting off the BART train I was deposited into The Shops at Tanforan, a half-empty mall. And it turns out that the mall sits on the former site of Tanforan racetrack, which in turn was the main site used to stage the detention of San Francisco’s Japanese-descended people during WWII. From there, they were transported to the Topaz internment camp. In addition to this memorial, there’s a nice interpretive display in the BART station describing the internment and its legacy.

At some point before starting this blog, while trawling through the used books at a Salt Lake City thrift store I found a moderately rare book about the Topaz experience. I was able to donate it to the group that was raising funds for a Topaz museum, which has since opened.

And so, while San Bruno won’t be competing with Fisherman’s Wharf for tourist dollars anytime soon, there are more reasons to visit than I would have thought at first glance. I was glad to add another serendipitous link in my chain of places and stories.


One of the advantages of moving a lot is still feeling a little like we’re on vacation even doing normal things. So when the Christmas break found us with no plans to fly away, nor really the motivation, no big deal.

We dined with friends, did a few projects around the house, went to the beach a couple of times, did some shopping, saw the new Avatar in IMAX… and of course went out for a boozy brunch. Best of all, we didn’t feel the least bit deprived for the lack of an airport experience.

Franklin Road 2022

After two years of COVID cancellation, Auckland’s Christmas light capital, Franklin Road in Ponsonby, was back this year.

We’ve been before, in 2017 and 2019. This time it felt a little less crowded, and maybe the decorations were a little less extravagant. But still pretty darn good. Our whole trip was easier this time… we now have a car, unlike in 2017, and knew just how to get there, unlike in 2019. And we got a really lucky parking spot.

Christmas kiwis always a hit.

I enjoy the lights of course, but maybe the best part for me is the sense of community this endeavor must bring to the residents and certainly brings to the many thousands of people who visit. There are so many divisions and distractions, but here’s a time when a whole lot of people get to be together and agree about something. Merry Christmas!

Now it’s Christmas for sure

Growing up, our Christmas decorations always had a set of angel chimes like the one on the right side of this picture. We haven’t found proper candles for that one here in NZ yet (in a bit of interfaith cooperation, menorah candles work well, but we haven’t run across any). We found the tiny (and non-chiming) tea light powered example in a Christmas shop, and the big wooden German glockenspiel style one at a thrift store… so now we have a collection!

Happy Halloween 👻

Here’s a picture of a nearby cemetery from one of our recent walks. We got a suitably lowering sky for a Halloween shot, but actually it isn’t a very spooky place… up on a hilltop with palm trees etc.

ANZAC Day 2021

Lest we forget…

What a difference a year makes. In 2020, we stood on the little balcony at our old house in Parnell and listened to the dawn service on the radio. We were ‘together, apart’ with all the other people on the street, in full lockdown. COVID-19 was still new. We didn’t know how many of us might die in the coming year.

But then we were spared… lockdown worked and COVID is mostly a thing that happens elsewhere. Last Monday we all celebrated ANZAC Day with big crowds, military drills and parades, bagpipes and fly-overs. After my morning swim, I listened to the service in Devonport and wandered along the beach a bit. Then we went for a nice lunch.

Even if just for a minute, the holiday demands/allows a moment to consider all the possibilities we face as humans. Here we are in this life in this peaceful time in this healthy place with this much comfort. But other places, other times, are so very close, and so very different.

In much of the world, we humans have a lot of control over those circumstances these days… it is possible as individuals to not shoot each other, to wear the masks when there’s a bad virus in town, to vote for one candidate over another. In other places, poverty and propaganda make it harder to exercise those choices, which I guess means it’s even more important that those who can, do.

Anniversary weekend

It’s the 171st anniversary of the founding of Auckland, which is mostly important because it’s a long weekend.

We had a quick road trip to Tom’s place in Tutukaka with Astrid before the gravitational pull of her Massachusetts home place pulls her away from all this NZ ease and beauty.

We started the trip with a pie, which is becoming a ritual. Pioneer Pies is a very good pie shop but not as good as the one in Kumeu we’ve been to before.

Next stop, also comfortingly familiar, Eutopia Café and the Dutch cheese shop.

Then on to Whangarei Falls, where they’ve added a grove of trees commemorating the lives of the Christchurch shooting victims since our last visit.

And then to the bach (that’s Kiwi for beach house). We made a quick jaunt to a nearby beach, then cooked supper and watched a spectacular moonrise.

On Saturday we did the Perfect Day charter out to the Poor Knights islands. After a ride out that the skipper described as “sporty” and which had half the boat puking into the little emergency bags, the clouds cleared and we enjoyed a few hours of snorkeling and other activities. The shot of me on the paddle board is a marvel of journalism, because I spent about one second standing up and the rest falling off.

We capped the whole day with a soak in the new cedar hot tub overlooking the ocean… very nice… and another moonrise and stargazing session.

On the way home we took the scenic route to Langs Beach and passed through Waipu, which was having its big summer market and festival. Ate mussel fritters and ice cream cones.

Home and unpacked, we drove down to the foot of our own road to watch the Harbour Bridge light show and of course the Anniversary Day fireworks.

And there’s still a Monday holiday left!!

Giving Thanks

Before setting up for our amazing Thanksgiving / housewarming / election celebration party.

And after…

One of the two turkeys we made for the day.

The artsy idea was to get the turkey / palm tree juxtaposition to contrast with pictures of autumn leaves and frosty pumpkins but it wasn’t so great… if I hadn’t told you, you wouldn’t have noticed.

This bird was done on a beer can chicken holder gadget in the smoker and came out superbly. Turkeys here aren’t as big as in the 🇺🇸. Of course a good cook can make do with any old setup, just like Chris Froome could beat me on any old bike. But my new BBQ gadget (the Char-Broil Big Easy if you’re in the market) really has made me into a star despite my lack of innate talent or formal training in the grilling arts.

Almost unbelievably, that’s the last picture. We had 60-70 people from several unrelated contexts (other than knowing one or both of us). I went into full mingle mode and didn’t pick up my phone till it was over.

It was a great party though!

And so this is Christmas

For so many reasons, it’s gonna be a weird Christmas this year. There are plenty of reasons to be happy of course, and hopeful, and plenty of ways to make merry in our bubbles. But still. Weird.

Putting up the tree on Lumsden Green in Newmarket.

Our full size tree because we now have a full size living room.

Getting used to the idea of summertime Christmas.

Poirot and Less

Last weekend we went to see David Suchet, the inimitable Hercule Poirot, in his one-man show Poirot and More. In the first half, we were treated to a bunch of witty anecdotes following the friendly prompts of an interviewer, but honestly it was a bit underwhelming. His life before becoming an actor was comfortable enough, and he made a decent career right from the start, and then found a role that millions of people loved…. including me.

In the second half, he gave us a sort of acting masterclass for laymen… notes about how he prepares, how he looks at and listens to a script, that sort of thing. He knocked out a bunch of speeches and that was pretty good, but I did doze a bit I’m afraid.

Maybe my evening mirrored my biggest criticism of the evening… i was pretty comfortable when I walked in, and nothing really happened to change that. Makes for a less interesting blog.

So, I went out looking to see what other people thought and found a great review. This writer achieves a much richer emotional experience than I did from pretty similar source material (except our seats were really comfy). So, enjoy the ride with her, it’s more interesting!

Waitangi Day 2020

Waitangi Day

Chuffed! NZ has its own Google Doodle celebrating Waitangi Day today, yay! The Prime Minister would have made this announcement herself, but she was busy cooking breakfast for the people gathered at the Treaty Grounds for the annual celebration. Because she’s awesome like that.


Operatic Sydney Busker

This woman had a great set of pipes and a good sound system, so you faintly heard the music a block away. I couldn’t tell if she was a truly good singer or not, but she was certainly good at tugging on the heartstrings!

Action Man

That, my fellow Americans, and my formerly European friends in the still for the moment United Kingdom, is Action Man.

Action Man was G.I. Joe in other markets and has quite a history. How he ended up wearing this rather unconventional collection of accessories (outside of the highly sought after Action For Men Rainbow NightClub play set) is unknown.

We met him on the way in to tour an open house that we were already leery about… would a large complex of townhouses we can afford be a bit too noisy and full of kids for us? Yes, said Action Man, it will. It most certainly will.

I can see clearly now

We rang in the New Year with sparklers and actually stayed awake long enough to see the fireworks from the Sky Tower. Here’s hoping for literal and metaphorical 20/20 vision in the coming year.

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