Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Entries from January 2008

Fellowship of the rings, Whitianga, New Zealand

January 30th, 2008 · 4 Comments

Fellowship of the rings Part 1

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

Beneath Shakespeare Cliff, all over Lonely Bay’s really quite lonely beach, lie broken and sea-smoothed bits of gastropod shell.

We’d seen such rough shell circles in New Zealand restaurants, used as napkin rings. That’s why we quickly had rings on our fingers (though no bells on toes.)

There’s something about New Zealand that makes people smile. How about this sign from coffeeshop Mariposa in Port Wells?


We formed many hypotheses about Shakespeare Cliff. Mine was that William Shakespeare jumped off after some bad reviews. Frank says that it wasn’t William Shakespeare at all, just his boyfriend Cliff. So, which of them really wrote all those wonderful plays?

Tags: Frank Wilczek · funny · Travel · Wide wonderful world

In some alternate universe, we are all surfer dudes…

January 26th, 2008 · Comments Off on In some alternate universe, we are all surfer dudes…

The surfer’s car

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

…and this is our car.

Tim is a (wonderful!) surfing teacher at Hot Water Beach. When the waves there get too big, he will drive his van to some more sheltered beach to give lessons–for example, Buffalo Beach in Whitianga, not far from the ferry.

He carries a pile of supplies around in this van, doling out wetsuits of various sizes and well-loved surfboards to his young students. Now I have to stop writing this entry, but enjoy your own mental images as I do mine!

Tags: Wide wonderful world

Kauri trees are huge in New Zealand!

January 24th, 2008 · 2 Comments

Kauri trees are huge!

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

The kauri tree is Mother Nature’s perfect tree. It goes up and up and out and out with no branches for quite a long way (no knots in the wood) and very little taper.

If you are looking for timber to make giant masts without splices or even fancy furniture, you probably want to do what early New Zealand settlers did, which is to chop down huge virgin forests of kauri trees.

Now just a few of the oldest trees are still left standing.

My children, seen here, are poised to defend this one.

Tags: Science · Travel · Wide wonderful world

An excellent time of the year to schedule summer

January 23rd, 2008 · Comments Off on An excellent time of the year to schedule summer

Wave riding in New Zealand

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

January in New England is lovely but cold.

In New Zealand, where Christmas is a summertime holiday, January is just one more fine time for catching a wave along many sand beaches. (Bring lots of sunscreen.)

Both sharks and Johnny Depp are said to be lurking around Coromandel Peninsula now, but I think you have to swim much deeper than we do to see the former and run with a much faster crowd to catch sight of the latter.

Tags: Travel · Wide wonderful world

The funny Ig Nobel one, not the ignoble Nobel one

January 19th, 2008 · 2 Comments

Nobel and Ig Nobel together at last

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

Here you see Frank with New Zealand’s own James Watson–no, not the infamous James Watson biology Nobel but the deservedly honored (with a 2005 Ig Nobel Prize) author of a paper on Mr. Richard Buckley’s exploding trousers.

New Zealand is a lovely land full of surprises, whose only non-good surprise has been just how hard it is to get internet access even from hotels that advertise “broadband internet.”

Item: Palmerston North Coachman Hotel, where we paid for “broadband wifi” and then discovered that the signal didn’t reach as far as our room.

Item: Albany Executive Inn, just north of Auckland, which charges $4 for your first 20 Meg per day and $.15 more for every Meg on top of that level. Heck, 20 Meg hardly covers my uploads to Flickr!

Item: Jet Park Airport Hotel south of Auckland, which offers broadband in only “deluxe” rooms, and charges an extra $26 per day if you use it.

New Zealand is not alone in the problem, of course. Our worst “yes, we have internet” story was near Poitiers in France, in a lovely chateau (it was not our nickel) where the “internet” was one computer behind the front desk, the very computer where all the chateau’s daily business was done. But if you wanted to check email, the clerk would kindly let you sit in her chair a few minutes and try to access your email through her very slow telephone modem.

Tomorrow, however, we move on to even less internet. Our hotel on the Coromandel Peninsula has “internet” in the sense that you get 20 minutes each day to check up on your email. That’s 5 minutes per Wilczek, since all four of us will be together, something I’m incredibly happy about.

So if my blog goes a bit silent next week, don’t assume that sharks got me–I’ll have lots more to tell you about once we get back online.

Tags: Frank Wilczek · Nobel · Travel · Wide wonderful world

Toto, I don’t think…

January 19th, 2008 · 1 Comment

Toto, I don’t think…

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

…we’re in NH any more!

This is what a pet food display looks like, in at least one large Auckland supermarket.

It is a big refrigerator case, in case you can’t tell, showcasing meat that people will cook and feed to their pets.

Actually, my mother also liked to cook her own dogs’ food but no local groceries offered any dog meat that wasn’t canned or dried and kibbled. Her dogs got the people food, cooked without salt or butter but often with garlic.

I bet she would enjoy the New Zealand section of heaven.

Tags: My Back Pages · Travel · Wide wonderful world

Sky view of North Island

January 17th, 2008 · 2 Comments

Sky view of North Island

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

We left Palmerston North yesterday, on a lovely blue morning, heading for Auckland and yet more physics for Frank.

I don’t really have much to say about this photo except that the gentle tranquility of this landscape was something I thought you’d like seeing.

Tags: Wide wonderful world

Uplifting (or maybe “no uplifting”?) sign

January 17th, 2008 · Comments Off on Uplifting (or maybe “no uplifting”?) sign

Uplifting (or maybe "no uplifting) message

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

You’ve heard of homing pigeons, but how about re-homing chickens?

I bet you never realized–I surely never did–that this could become an issue of public concern, with its own official signage and Actionline phone.

Last night, this warning in a small (one block) green space just north of Auckland, New Zealand, gave us yet more evidence, just in case we needed any, that the world is indeed very different in different places.

Tags: Travel · Wide wonderful world

New Zealand is not Hobbiton

January 16th, 2008 · Comments Off on New Zealand is not Hobbiton

New Zealand tree ferns

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

There are many bits of New Zealand that pleasantly echo English village lifestyles in old cozy backstories of Angela Thirkell or Dame Agatha Christie.

But this is another country, with its own skies and climates and trees and flowers and amazing birds.

And its own (at least in Palmerston North) charming semi-tropical living spaces, white breezy one-story houses set among gardens with dark, shady paths.

Did I happen to mention that I like Palmerston North?

Tags: Travel · Wide wonderful world

Beautiful New Zealand view

January 15th, 2008 · 5 Comments

Beautiful view from breakfast

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

I have been asked to blog some fine New Zealand landscapes.

Our first morning in Palmerston North, I saw something amazing without even getting up from our motel breakfast table.

Palm trees? umbrella tables? blue summer sky (which doesn’t come through in this photo)?

What took my breath away was the wide, wide open door. Yes, I am in a place now where people indoors enjoy full contact with the warm breeze coming from outdoors.

I love January in Palmerston North!

Tags: Travel · Wide wonderful world