Monday, October 31, 2011


The world population has reached seven billion, give or take a few New Zealands. It's still growing scarily quickly, although not exponentially (a lot of people use that word without knowing what it means). To give some idea of how fast it has grown:

If you're 10 today, there were 6.22 billion people in the world when you entered it
If you're 20 today......................5.41 billion
If you're 30 today......................4.56 billion
If you're 40 today......................3.79 billion
If you're 50 today......................3.11 billion
If you're 60 today......................2.59 billion
If you're 70 today......................2.33 billion
If you're 80 today......................2.10 billion
If you're 90 today......................1.89 billion
If you're 100 today....................1.76 billion

Mum and Dad spent the weekend with me; they flew back this afternoon. Just like last time we were lucky with the weather. We looked at a couple of open homes (for me), visited Te Papa briefly, had dinner with my cousin, ate at a Thai restaurant the other night, did a lot of walking, and played two games of Scrabble, neither of which went well for me. My parents seem to enjoy Wellington - they'll be coming up this way again in early December. Overall it was a pretty good weekend.

Both the places I looked at are up for tender, with the same deadline day (this Thursday). They both had serious promise. The first was a three-bedroom flat in Aro Valley; it was the first time I'd been to that area which has a slightly bohemian feel. It had a lot going for it but two problems - it's probably out my price range and it doesn't get a lot of sun. The second flat was a smaller (and more affordable) two-bedroom one in Hataitai, part of a rather bizarre-looking Disney-style complex built in the sixties. I didn't expect much but was pleasantly surprised when I ventured beyond the weird exterior. It was actually very nice inside and I might be tempted to put a conditional tender in.

We had the autism group tonight. A turnout of nine including two new people. There was a wide range of topics as always. One young woman there was an exceptionally good French speaker, far better than me. The pronunciation of "vase" somehow came up: this poem tells us all how we should say it:

Some greet with lusty “Rah”s
A reference to a vase.
Another bares his claws
At folks who don’t say vase.
But many use the phrase,
“Please put these in a vase,”
While still a stronger case
We now can make a vase.

I discovered Foster the People today. I really like Pumped Up Kicks. With one YouTube view for every 200 people on the planet, it must have had a lot of airplay, but I hadn't heard it until today. Which planet have I been living on?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I can't say I enjoyed the final - it was too tense for that. Things didn't go according to the script at all. Something must have been wrong with Piri Weepu - he would have struggled to hit a barn door from ten feet - and when Aaron Cruden had to go off I knew we were in for a nail-biting evening. Then up stepped Stephen Donald (who had never played in a World Cup match before!) to kick his penalty two inches inside the upright. The French played an absolute blinder and scored almost immediately after; the All Blacks somehow clung on to their single-point advantage for the next half-hour. The match could so easily have slipped from their grasp but considering how well they played throughout the tournament, they deserved the win. I was hugely impressed with the French for how graciously they handled such a close loss after being the better side in the second half. Dusautoir was a worthy man-of-the-match. As for the IRB fining the French team for their challenge to the Haka, that's serious overkill but perhaps we shouldn't be surprised.

Overall the tournament has been a real success, helped greatly by Kiwis' passion for rugby, their willingness to get behind some of the smaller teams, and the Pacific Island population who supported their teams with such fervour. On one of my lunch breaks I almost got crushed in a Samoan sandwich in the central city. My only regret from the final is missing out on some betting opportunities with the TAB. I haven't bet on sports for years, and would really think twice before betting on a sport like rugby where my knowledge is pretty sketchy. But $3.80 on a close All Black win - by twelve points or less - looked overpriced to me. Another one that stood out was a "race to ten points". The ABs were clear favourites to reach ten points before France did. However the third possibility - that neither side would ever get to double figures - paid a whopping $50.

Good news - I got my lease extended until 18th February. Tomorrow I'll be taking a look at a flat in Mount Cook.

Last night I spoke to my brother - he's currently based in Poole on the south coast but has just bough a one-bedroom apartment in St Ives, where we grew up.

Friday, October 21, 2011

It's been a long week at work...

so it's just as well we've now got a long weekend.

The World Cup has almost reached its dénouement. Kicking off soon is the Bronze Final, which is a contradiction in terms really. I'd just call it a third-place play-off, but it has to have a snazzy name these days, even if it makes little sense. It's a bit of a meaningless game (and why does it have to be at Eden Park?) but there seems to be slightly more riding on it than usual. I'll watch it and hope it's a good game (that Wales win).

As for the big one, well I think France are extremely lucky to be there. I've heard some people say, "they're in the final so they deserve to be there" but I don't subscribe to that view. That's like saying the guy (or girl) who nicked my car in early 2010 deserves to have it. Tonga beat them in one of the all-time great upsets (which I was privileged to see in person), and if the schedule had been fairer on the less-fancied teams they might also have beaten Canada, in which case France would have been on the plane three weeks ago. Before the tournament I talked to one of my work colleagues (who unlike me actually knows something about rugby); we estimated the All Blacks' chances of lifting the trophy at 45%. Now I'd say it was twice that. The ABs look very businesslike in their approach; they're taking nothing for granted. There's always the possibility Les Bleus will pull something out of the bag, but I don't see it happening. The French theme tune to this World Cup is "On ira tous au paradis". I think the ABs will send France à l'enfer in a 28-10 win.

In other sport Birmingham had a sublime win in Bruges last night. Pablo Ibáñez, one of Blues' defenders, suffered a nasty head injury and was stretchered off after a lengthy stoppage in play. Then in the 100th minute (how often can you say that?) up popped Chris Wood to give Blues a famous 2-1 win, the first ever by an English club in Bruges. Several thousand Birmingham fans made the trip to Belgium; they would have gone crazy at the end of the match I reckon.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Compatibility issues

I went swimming tonight at the Freyberg pool as I now do every Tuesday. As mentioned at last night's autism group, the Germanness of the pool's name is apt: ve vill not haf fun in ze pool. All the lanes were busy, right from the aqua-jogging (a.k.a. swogging) lane to the slow, medium and fast swimming lanes to the swim squad lanes. I stuck firmly to the slow lane of course.

Last night's group was great actually. There were two very nice new people and a lot of very enjoyable (and at times quite amusing) conversation. It's a real joy to see someone's face light up when they are excited about a particular topic, as happened on a few occasions last night. I'd really like to get to know some of them better, preferably by meeting up outside the fortnightly sessions.

The meeting came at a good time for me. Yesterday was a bit stressful with the realisation that I might have to be out of this flat soon. My lease expires on 15th November; the flat has just been sold, the new owners still want tenants but, as I found out yesterday, on a one-year contract. That's a hell of a long time. Far too long for me. If I can negotiate something in the coming days, great, otherwise I'll have to be out of here pretty sharpish. A pain in the butt really because I was happy to stay here for the time being, just without the inflexibility of being locked in for so long.

Also increasing my stress levels was a phone call I got on Friday with a potential offer of an actuarial job, subject to an interview. In February following my can-we-just-get-this-over-with actuarial interview (not the one for my current job) I promised to myself I'd never have another such interview. Declining the offer (which I did today) was the only sensible option, for a whole raft of reasons. Today, by the way, is the sixth monthiversary of my job. When I started I had serious doubts as to whether I'd survive that long. I should however mention that I achieved absolutely nothing at work either yesterday or today, so I'm surviving but that's about it.

On Thursday I met somebody I hadn't seen since I was nine. Rose came from Temuka - her parents were friends with mine when we lived there - but now lives in Wellington. She's single and works as an art teacher. My mum and her aunt (I think) swapped our phone numbers. It was funny meeting up with someone I hadn't seen for 22 years and wouldn't know from a bar of soap. We were in the café on Cuba Street for a couple of hours - longer than I'd planned. We had a coffee and a small meal; we got on OK but I ran out of things to say. We agreed to meet up again some time, probably to see one of the many live bands in Wellington. Then on Saturday Rose rang me to say that it was good that we met but that "nothing romantic would come of this - we're not that compatible". This was a bit of a surprise comment because I'd never suggested anything like that, but I think she was concerned our families were trying to hook us up.

As I was writing this, I got a call from my parents; they're coming up for a quick visit the weekend after next, having snagged flights from Timaru through Air New Zealand's reverse auction for a very cheap $78 return for the two of them.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

It's crunch time!

A few hours from now, Australia and New Zealand will square off in their eagerly-anticipated clash. When it comes to trans-Tasman rivalry, it doesn't get any bigger than this. At about 8:30pm our time, Nigel Richards of New Zealand takes on Andrew Fisher of Australia in the final of the World Scrabble Championship in Poland.

If you think Scrabble is a frivolous activity compared to that other game taking place at the same time, think again. At the elite level, Scrabble is War. And what could be a more natural basis for war than the English language? I use the English language every day without thinking about it. When it comes to putting my head up some poor bloke's bum in a scrum, on the other hand, that would require very serious thought on my part. In actual fact, competitive Scrabble bears little resemblance to the English language as we know it; I think the game could benefit from a cull of so-called words like QI and ZO from its official dictionary. I enjoy Scrabble, on the odd occasions that I play it, but I'd never consider playing it competitively because learning long lists of words (or more accurately, combinations of letters) leaves me cold.

Nigel Richards won the biennial event in 2007 (from over 100 players) and was runner-up two years ago. So that's three successive finals for the Kiwis (in contrast to that odd-shaped-ball game in which NZ haven't made the final since 1995). They play a best-of-five-game final, having finished first and second after 34 games over five days (Nigel had 25 wins; Andrew 23). I note a Kiwi actuary finished in the top third of the final standings with 18 wins and a draw. As for tonight's final, the ABs (that's the Alpha Blacks) surely have the upper hand. New Zealand contains a ten-point letter while Australia consists solely of measly one-pointers.

Update: It's one game all in the big final, while New Zealand will be playing in another final next weekend after the All Blacks convincingly beat the Wallabies. There was a big fireworks display in central Wellington during the rugby match.

Update 2: Kiwi Nigel Richards is the world champion for the second time after winning the final by three games to two.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Allez les rouges!

I hope Wales beat France in tonight's semi-final (kick-off is forty minutes away). I tried calling my Welsh grandma after they beat Ireland last weekend (even if she wouldn't have a clue about rugby any more) but couldn't get through.

Score predictions for the two semis:
Wales 21 France 17
New Zealand 28 Australia 10.

Edit: Wales didn't make it. That match was proof, if you ever needed it, that the best team doesn't always win. France were second best by a long way in that match, but benefited greatly from that controversial red card in the opening twenty minutes. Let's hope the ABs win tomorrow and give Les Grenouilles a good hiding in the final.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I don't get it

I've never been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome and I don't plan on getting a diagnosis, but lately I've been pondering a few of the things so-called "normal" people do that I find quite baffling:

1. Dancing.
I can't remember when I last danced. It was definitely in 19-something. Unlike some of the other items on my list, I really wish I did get dancing because some people really seem to enjoy it. In a way I do get it - music is extremely evocative; hear a song on the radio and I'll be transported back to where I first heard it, possibly ten or twenty years ago. Sometimes I'll involuntarily tap my foot to music I like, and dancing is just an extension of foot-tapping. But the bit I really don't understand is when everyone decides to dance in a big group at a nightclub or somewhere similar. Why there, why not at Pak 'n' Save or any of the other places you hear music? Someone once tried to explain it to me along the lines of "Pak 'n Save is shopping, nightclubs are social" but that didn't cut any ice with me.

2. Buying clothes.
This could be a man thing as much as an Aspie thing, but why do people keep buying new clothes to replace their perfectly good "old" (but really still quite new) ones? I understand that clothes serve various purposes - to keep you warm and to express oneself being two obvious ones - but buying the latest style achieves very little by way of self-expression. Plus getting rid of perfectly good clothes is very wasteful. I do buy clothes from time to time, mostly from second-hand shops or on TradeMe. On the odd occasion I buy something from a standard clothes shop, it's usually for work purposes.

3. Leaving someone's house.
When I was growing up, I could never understand why someone would say "right, I'd better be off now" at 8:30 and still bloody well be there at five to nine. It still confuses me now. What is it, some kind of game? If so, how come nobody explained the rules to me.

4. Watching sport on TV.
I watch less sport than I used to, but the rugby World Cup has made me think of this. I've never seen the attraction of watching sport on TV in a large group, such as in a pub, when I can do so from the comfort of my home where I can see the screen and hear the commentary but can't smell other people's bodies.

5. Weddings.
Do I really have to elaborate? One of the (male!) presenters on breakfast TV recently said "weddings, they're just so much fun" and I had to switch over. However, if a really close friend of mine were ever to get married, I'd be so happy for that person that I'm sure I'd find the occasion a very joyous one.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Six hundred to one

On Saturday I saw the game between France and Tonga with my cousin, her husband and their three boys. It was some game, and quite an upset, with Tonga the deserved victors. There was a great atmosphere inside the ground, perhaps helped by the unexpected path the match took. Despite living almost a year of my life in France I was more than happy that the Tongans won; what a shame they lost to Canada earlier in the tournament - three wins would have seen them qualify for the quarter-finals at France's expense. A quick Google search told me that Tonga's population is just over 100,000 while France have 600 times more people and it's not as if they don't care about rugby there. That gives you some idea of the scale of what Tonga achieved.