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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Wellington's much-loved indie bookstore

On Thursday, Unity Books was abruptly flooded out.  Workmen stripping walls in the level above inadvertently released a water pipe, which sprang out, broke, and let forth a deluge of truly Biblical proportions.  Thousands of new books were destroyed, mostly in the storeroom where recently delivered stock was held.

The shop was closed, while the staff worked long and hard to carry salvageable books outside, and into an empty shop next door, and cramming what furniture they could into the dry front half of the store.  And at day's end, something amazing happened. The staff refused to go home.  Instead they stayed, to keep on working.

And they were joined by former staff members, Unity "old girls," who came not just to help, but with plates of food.  Nearby cafes, where the staff grab their lunches and teas, sent over trays of free treats, as did the Metro supermarket across the road. A former deputy mayor popped in with a plate of home-baked biscuits.

"We're awash with food," said owner, Tilly Lloyd. "It's sort of like when a family member dies. It tells us that people see Unity Books as slightly human and not just a shop, and we really appreciate that."

Friday, January 30, 2015

Our leader's comments about "The Luminaries"

Comments made by Eleanor Catton, author of the Booker Prize-winning The Luminaries, have stung New Zealand Prime Minister Key's fine sensibilities, it seems.  Report of his informal reaction follows:


Key acknowledged that The Lord of the Rings was even longer than The
Luminaries, but said it had 'trolls and that sort of thing' to hold your

Prime Minister John Key spoke to media outside a Rotary lunch in Auckland
ahead of his State of the Nation speech, during which he
briefly addressed comments made by Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton
about his Government.

Catton made headlines when, at the Jaipur Literary Festival in
India, she remarked that she was uncomfortable being an ambassador for New
Zealand, as it was led by 'neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very
money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture.'

Key said he was 'disappointed' by Catton¹s remarks, but wasn't 'overly
worried' as her book The Luminaries 'wasn't my cup of tea, anyway.'

He granted Catton that The Luminaries was 'a pretty good' novel about 'the
moon,' but he had 'read better.' 

'I mean, obviously, look, yeah, I think most New Zealanders would agree that
Eleanor did pretty well and we're all quite proud of her,' he said. 'But at
the end of the day, they'd probably say Look, I haven¹t read the copy I was
given for Christmas, and neither have any of my friends, and my kids thought
it was boring because there were no dragons. And that¹s just how it is, but
all the best to her.'

Key said that, ultimately, there were 'much better' and 'more famous' pieces
of New Zealand literature, such as 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'that one
about the hairy black dog.'

'Look, to be frank, it¹s just the Man Booker Prize, which we also have to
keep in mind,' he added, upon being pressed further. 'The best books don¹t
usually win that prize; it's a prize for boring books.

'I'm fairly certain that there hasn't been a Jack Reacher novel to win that
prize, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar didn't win one either.'

'I think if your prize hasn't been awarded to The Very Hungry Caterpillar it
says something about your prize,' he concluded.

The Prime Minister admitted that he had not read Catton¹s book, but said
that would be a 'big ask' because, at 832 pages, it's 'very long.'

'I think most New Zealanders would agree that's a few too many words.'

Asked about Sean Plunket's aggressive comments towards Catton,
Key said that Plunket was 'a radio host.'

Colleen McCullough passes

They will be mourning on Norfolk Island.  One of their most colorful and well-loved inhabitants has passed away.  And it is Australia's loss, too.  Colleen McCullough has died.

From ABC news

Internationally acclaimed Australian author Colleen McCullough has died in hospital on Norfolk Island, aged 77.
The popular writer was most well known for her sweeping family drama, The Thorn Birds, set on a remote sheep station in outback Australia.
The book, which sold 30 million copies worldwide, was sold for a then-record $1.9 million and a miniseries, starring Richard Chamberlain, Rachel Ward and Barbara Stanwyck became one of the most watched of all time.
But The Thorn Birds was just one of the many books McCullough wrote in a career spanning four decades.
Her first novel, Tim, written in 1974, tells the story of the relationship between an older woman and a younger, developmentally impaired man.
It too was dramatised and became one of actor Mel Gibson's first films.
McCullough continued to write in several genres, producing books including An Indecent Obsession, Morgan's Run and The Ladies of Missalonghi.
But it was her seven-book, intensely researched, historical series Masters of Rome that won her much acclaim, including plaudits from politicians including Bob Carr, Henry Kissinger and Newt Gingrich.
Her final book Bittersweet was published in 2013 and she had been working on a sequel when she died.
This last is particularly notable, as McCullough was both blind and confined to a wheelchair when she wrote it.  A testament to the courage of this remarkable lady.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Eleanor Catton raises eyebrows

Bro Steve phoned early yesterday morning to say that talkback radio was on fire.

That is, the redneck channel 1ZB.  The hosts (perhaps) and the callers (definitely) were all upset that Eleanor Catton, a Booker prizewinner who also happens to be a Kiwi, vented about the prize being considered "New Zealand's" accomplishment instead of her actual personal award.

I can certainly understand that.  Sports stars have much the same problem. Look at the All Blacks! And what about Sam Neill?  Is his huge reputation as an actor his own accomplishment, or New Zealand's? And what about the Olympics, and the constant irritating announcement that "we" have won so many medals?

It varies from case to case, of course, but Eleanor Catton might have a good point that her hours of struggling with words ended up as "New Zealand's Booker Prize." Which just ain't fair.

Oddly, she also attacked the so-called "Tall Poppy Syndrome," where New Zealanders who make it overseas are cut down to size back home.  This is a long-held theory, but how is it, then, that New Zealanders who have made an international reputation (and not just in authorship) are being feted at the upcoming Taipei International Book Fair - and being sent there with wholehearted publisher and governmental support?

I strongly suspect that some tall-poppy-hacking journalist took her remarks out of context and out of order.  For instance, it was also reported that she had a go at our "neo-liberal" government, which is fair enough, politicians being up there for public hammering, that being what they campaigned for.  "But," bleated our prime minister (who almost certainly has not read the book), "we were voted in by an approving public, with a resounding majority."

Something else that was mentioned by Eleanor Catton in this seemingly disjointed speech was the fact that her Booker-winning book, The Luminaries, did not get the Big Prize (Book of the Year) in last year's New Zealand Post Book Awards.  Instead, it "just" got the fiction award.

Really?  I'm all for free speech, but this does sound as if some journalist made a leading question, or worse still, put the words into her mouth.

But never mind. Life goes on.  And HERE is what it is all about.

And here is the brilliant Tom Scott's cartoon, which says it all.

(For those who don't know what "hua" means, it is a gross insult, shortened from the Maori for "boiled head.")

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Does a change of cover work?

I had a really interesting communication from MC. Muir, the author of the stirring Under Admiralty Orders series, featuring one of my favorite Napoleonic Era heroes, Oliver Quintrell.

When she first asked Linda Collison's Facebook group ALL THINGS NAUTICAL about the jacket of her new book, the image on the left is the one she showed us.

My comment was that it is very striking (which it is) but that it doesn't shout, this is a book set on sailing ships.

Now, just weeks after release, she has changed the cover to the one below -- with a huge increase in sales.

So SAILS make SALES. (Forgive me, as it has been a long day.)

Interestingly, I found the same situation when I asked my fellow authors at Old Salt Press about the jacket of my latest, Lady Castaways.  I wanted a very plain jacket with a forlorn woman looking out to sea as she sat on a rock.  The consensus was to have one of Ron's ship paintings on the jacket.

Were they right?  Time will tell, as they say.
So which do YOU prefer?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Free upgrade to Windows 10

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp will give away its upcoming Windows 10 operating system as a free upgrade to users of the most recent versions of Windows and Windows Phone, as the world's largest software company tries to retain customers in the mobile era.
The action is a marked change for the company, which has always charged for new versions of Windows, one of its main profit drivers.
The 'free' strategy is designed to put Windows in as many devices as possible. The company would then make up for any lost revenue by selling services such as Office over the Internet, or cloud.
"It's a necessary evil as CEO Satya Nadella and Microsoft have recognised the 'golden goose' and major revenue opportunities will happen after the upgrades have taken place," said Daniel Ives, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets.
"Microsoft needs to lay seeds for its cloud-centric strategy and Windows 10 is the epicentre of that strategy. It's all about making it attractive for the ecosystem to upgrade onto this next-generation platform."
Investors were not impressed. Microsoft shares fell 1.5 percent to $45.67 on Nasdaq at mid-afternoon.
Windows 10, expected on the market this autumn, will be available for one year as a free upgrade to users of Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1, Myerson said.
The move was "inevitable," Forrester analyst Frank Gillett noted.

Shark in Wellington Harbor

There's a shark in Wellington Harbour

And when I say "harbour," I mean a lagoon known as Frank Kitts Lagoon, where there is a boathouse and paddle boats, and people run, jog, and walk along a path and boardwalk right alongside it.  It is part of our downtown scene.

And this morning's paper says that this shark has come in, along with some stingrays, and is having a nice swim in amongst the kids and the paddleboats and joggers and so forth.  There's a video of it, if you hit the link.

Apparently it is beautiful.  Must go down and have a look....

Monday, January 26, 2015


The Kindle edition, that is ... the print book has to wait until March...

It was not just the men who lived on the brink of peril when under sail at sea. Lucretia Jansz, who was enslaved as a concubine in 1629, was just one woman who endured a castaway experience. Award-winning historian Joan Druett (Island of the Lost, The Elephant Voyage), relates the stories of women who survived remarkable challenges, from heroines like Mary Ann Jewell, the "governess" of Auckland Island in the icy sub-Antarctic, to Millie Jenkins, whose ship was sunk by a whale.

So runs the blurb. This collection of tales -- some spine-chilling, others amusing -- features the feats of women under sail, when in extreme circumstances.  I've touched on a few before, mostly in articles I wrote for the journal of the San Diego Maritime Museum, Mains'l Haul.  These have been greatly lengthened as I revisited the various heroines, and with new research I found out much more about these remarkable women than I had known before.

Others are completely new.  Grim tales, some are too. It amazed me how many women were shipwrecked in the sub-Antarctic, and how few were castaway on lush tropical islets.  A couple of the stories are the stuff of nightmares, but hopefully the reader will emerge from the book, as I did, feeling vast admiration for the resourcefulness of these beleaguered women.

Kindle edition available now from Amazon

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Edgar Shortlist Revealed

The Mystery Writers of America have revealed their shortlist, and guess what, our good friend HEATHER VOGEL FREDERICK is included!

The Mystery Writers of America have revealed the nominees for this year’s Edgar Awards. The annual prize is named after beloved writer Edgar Allan Poe, awarded to the best authors in the mystery genre since 1945.
These awards recognize the following categories: novel, first novel, paperback original, fact crime, critical/biographical, short story, juvenile, young adult, play, and TV episode. We’ve got the entire list of nominees for you after the jump.
Best Novel
This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
Wolf by Mo Hayder (Grove/Atlantic – Atlantic Monthly Press)
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (Simon & Schuster – Scribner)
The Final Silence by Stuart Neville (Soho Press)
Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown)
Coptown by Karin Slaughter (Penguin Randomhouse – Delacorte Press)
Best First Novel by an American Author
Dry Bones in the Valley by Tom Bouman (W.W. Norton)
Invisible City by Julia Dahl (Minotaur Books)
The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)
Bad Country by C.B. McKenzie (Minotaur Books – A Thomas Dunne Book)
Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh (Crown Publishers)
Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver (Minotaur Books – A Thomas Dunne Book)
Best Paperback Original
The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani (Penguin Randomhouse – Penguin Books)
Stay With Me by Alison Gaylin (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
The Barkeep by William Lashner (Amazon Publishing – Thomas and Mercer)
The Day She Died by Catriona McPherson (Llewellyn Worldwide – Midnight Ink)
The Gone Dead Train by Lisa Turner (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters (Quirk Books)

Best Fact Crime

Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America by Kevin Cook (W.W. Norton)
The Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
The Other Side: A Memoir by Lacy M. Johnson (Tin House Books)
Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William Mann (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper)
The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, the Model, and the Murder that Shook the Nation by Harold Schechter (Amazon Publishing – New Harvest)
Best Critical/Biographical 
The Figure of the Detective: A Literary History and Analysis by Charles Brownson (McFarland & Company)
James Ellroy: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction by Jim Mancall (McFarland)
Kiss the Blood Off My Hands: Classic Film Noir by Robert Miklitsch (University of Illinois Press)
Judges & Justice & Lawyers & Law: Exploring the Legal Dimensions of Fiction and Film by Francis M. Nevins (Perfect Crime Books)
Poe-Land: The Hallowed Haunts of Edgar Allan Poe by J.W. Ocker (W.W. Norton – Countryman Press)
Best Short Story
“The Snow Angel” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Doug Allyn (Dell Magazines)
“200 Feet” – Strand Magazine by John Floyd (The Strand)
“What Do You Do?” – Rogues by Gillian Flynn (Penguin Randomhouse Publishing – Bantam Books)
“Red Eye” – Faceoff by Dennis Lehane vs. Michael Connelly (Simon & Schuster)
“Teddy” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Brian Tobin (Dell Magazines)
Best Juvenile 
Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Space Case by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Greenglass House by Kate Milford (Clarion Books – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)
Nick and Tesla’s Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith (Quirk Books)
Saving Kabul Corner by N.H. Senzai (Simon & Schuster – Paula Wiseman Books)
Eddie Red, Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile by Marcia Wells (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)
Best Young Adult
The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano (Penguin Young Readers Group – Kathy Dawson Books)
Fake ID by Lamar Giles (HarperCollins Children’s Books – Amistad)
The Art of Secrets by James Klise (Algonquin Young Readers)
The Prince of Venice Beach by Blake Nelson (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Coming soon from Old Salt Press

Coming this month, Alaric Bond's eighth novel, The Guinea Boat.  Set in Hastings, Sussex during the early part of 1803, Guinea Boat tells the story of two young lads, and the diverse paths they take to make a living on the water.  Britain is still at an uneasy peace with France, but there is action and intrigue a plenty along the south-east coast. Private fights and family feuds abound; a hot press threatens the livelihoods of many, while the newly re-formed Sea Fencibles begin a careful watch on Bonaparte's ever growing invasion fleet. And to top it all, free trading has grown to the extent that it is now a major industry, and one barely kept in check by the efforts of the preventive men.

And also watch for my interview with the author.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

New Zealand's TIBE pavilion

From the Publishers' Association of New Zealand

Tokotoko Taiwan

The New Zealand Pavilion for the country’s Guest of Honour presence at the Taipei International Book Fair (11 – 16 February) is intended to provide homage to literature around the theme ‘open hearts, open minds, open books.’
The design incorporates strong Māori cultural elements which serve to connect the indigenous culture of the Taiwanese people with New Zealand.

Architect Andrew Patterson says the form of three Māori orators’ sticks or Tokotokos reflect that in the Māori tradition of oral literature, the Tokotoko is a symbol of the authority to speak.
The three Taipei Tokotokos are cardboard, laser-cut into contemporary New Zealand patterns and stained with red ink to provide space for listeners around a central orator, so in this case the authority to speak lies as much with the listener as the orator and a conversation ensues. The space features 18 publisher stands and accommodates up to 100 people as a reading area or a seated author event, and up to 230 people as a standing event space,
For up-to-date news on New Zealand’s Guest of Honour programme including the latest on the Visiting Author Programme visit our TIBE blog here

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Self publishing for kids

From Galley cat @

Lulu Jr., the children’s division of the self-publishing platform, has teamed up with educational software firm FableVision Learning.

This is a new venture called My Awesome Publishing Company!, a self-publishing platform for kids.

The online book publishing platform teaches kids how to create a book from idea to print edition. 

The tool guides young writers through writing, production, marketing and distribution until they ultimately publish their own book.

The company is pushing it to both educators as a way to engage kids in the classroom. 
The tool works on both mobile devices and desktops. 
Kids can start a project on say a classroom computer and then work on it on their iPad at home, for instance.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Baby names that didn't make it

The New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs rejected many names with rank and royal connotations in 2014, but also five people that entered / when registering the name of their child, one that entered 3rd and another 09.
There was one rejection of Senior Constable as a name, one rejection of Corporal, six rejections of Justice and one rejection each of Justyce and Justis.  The many royal references rejected included Prince, Princess, King, Majesty and Royal-Rule. There was one attempt to name a child Christ.


Senior Constable 

One wonders what is going through people's minds....

Friday, January 16, 2015

Amazon responds to author unrest

The Kindle Unlimited problem is being addressed

From Digital Book World

Joining publishers at Digital Book World 2015 in New York City this morning, Kindle SVP Russ Grandinetti offered a frank explanation of Amazon’s perspective on the book business.
To be fair, little about it comes as much surprise to those in publishing who follows the e-tailer. But after an unusually contentious past year, Grandinetti’s discussion today with Conference Chair Mike Shatzkin and Publishers Lunch founder Michael Cader marked a noteworthy change in the public dialogue between publishers and their biggest distributor.
Here’s a roundup of key topics in this morning’s candid conversation:
  • The Hachette dispute: Disagreements between publishers and booksellers are nothing new, but Amazon’s battle with Hachette was unusually public. “Our goal is to keep it rare,” says Grandinetti.
  • Authors: “We treat authors the same way we treat buying customers,” and Amazon is “highly motivated” to make its publishing services work for them. The indie community, Grandinetti says, is “incredibly vibrant” and vocal. “They like CAPSlock a lot when they tell us what’s going on.” Amazon finds that KDP Select remains very popular, more than doubling authors’ earnings through the platform in August–December last year over the same period in 2013.
  • Kindle Unlimited: Amazon is working to address authors’ concerns that the subscription-based program is diminishing their revenue, asking for patience in the meantime. “It’s only been six months,” Grandinetti adds. On the subscription ebook model overall, Grandinetti says, “More approaches to publishing is pretty healthy” and reminds publishers they weren’t happy at first when bookstores began selling used books. “In every single digital media category, subscriptions are succeeding at some level,” and books won’t be an exception.
  • The return of agency pricing: Cader points out that the latest three distribution contracts reached between Amazon and Big Five publishers Macmillan, Hachette and Simon & Schuster, which restores to each of them the right to set their own ebook prices, sets the stage for several years of stability in the terms of trade. Asked whether that opens up a window for pursuing new opportunities, Grandinetti says, “Contracts don’t necessarily equal opportunity” but sounds optimistic. “Our interests and the interests of publishers are highly aligned.”

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Illegal fishing vessels apprehended

A New Zealand navy ship has caught two boats illegally fishing in the Southern Ocean.

The offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Wellington intercepted the vessels claiming to be flagged to Equatorial Guinea last week, Foreign Minister Murray McCully says.

The vessels, Song Hua and Kun Lun, had been put on notice and the Government has vowed to take action against their owners, he said.

Fishing in the Southern Ocean is regulated to conserve Antarctic marine life and New Zealand conducts regular patrols.

"The vessels are well-known, repeat offenders and their ownership has in the past been linked to Spanish interests."

New Zealand was seeking permission from Equatorial Guinea to board the vessels, if their flag status was verified, Mr McCully said.
"We are also working with ports to ensure these vessels cannot offload their illegal catch or profit from their criminal activity."
New Zealand had asked Interpol to issue a purple notice for each vessel which would alert 190 member countries to the vessels and their owners.
New Zealand had also contacted the Spanish government, Mr McCully said.
HMNZS Wellington had gathered evidence of the vessels' activities, including photographs and video footages of illegal fishing which would be used in any legal action taken against the owners and benefactors of the fishing.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Wellington flat white on Starbucks menu

Wellington's coffee invention adopted in the US

We gave the world Lorde, pavlova, and now - according to the Wellington man who says he invented it - the flat white coffee.
Global coffee empire Starbucks listed the flat white coffee on its United States and Canadian menus this month. It was already available in England and Australia.
According to the Starbucks website, the flat white is thought to have been created in the 1980s in Sydney, Australia, though there are claims of it being in Melbourne earlier.

A statement from Starbucks said the flat white "became a coffeehouse staple in the UK and is now a budding favorite among coffee aficionados in the United States and Canada".
The statement, though, made no mention of New Zealand.
The real history of the flat white is murky, with the name seemingly preceding the drink as we know it and the drink itself changing from city to city.
But Wellington hospitality stalwart Fraser McInnes claimed he invented the exact flat white being used by Starbucks.
Rather than considering legal action he was "chuffed" to see his invention being drunk around the world.
It was New Zealand's "greatest contribution to the world's cuisine since the pavlova", he said. His flat white - a double shot of espresso topped with a silky layer of foam on top - came about when he was trying to make a cappuccino at Cafe Bodega in Willis St in the summer of late 1989.
It was the end of summer and there was not enough fat to properly froth the milk. "I went over to the customer and said Sorry, it's a flat white."

His business partner then listed the flat white on the menu blackboard.  

It might have been a failed capuccinno, but it immediately became immensely popular, spreading around Wellington's cafes.

Craig Miller, whose book Coffee Houses of Wellington is about to be launched, has several different stories.

Starbucks, on the other hand, declined to comment.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Quote of the day.

"I knew he wasn't interested when he ordered a steak with mashed potatoes on the side."

-- A leading Republican strategist on the need for candidates to slim down if they were serious about contesting Hillary Clinton for the United States presidency.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Eating with your fingers

There was an interesting question posed to Peta Mathias, our local agony aunt, in the paper this weekend. The letter writer had done a lot of entertaining over the holidays (as we all do) and had noticed that the young folks preferred to eat with their fingers.  Is this a new fashion?  Why ignore the lovely silver cutlery?

Her answer was quite inspiring, really. Fingers came before forks, as we all know, but there is also such a great connection between your body and your food that (Peta says, and she would know, being a gourmet cook) it actually tastes better when you eat it with your fingers.

And it is unbelievably nice and sexy for someone to pick up a tasty morsel and slip it between your lips. "This," she says, "is what mothers do with their children and it speaks of trust, love and acceptance."

It is the reason we all love fish and chips and pizza.

But there are Rules, she goes on.  If you provide finger food, you really should provide a finger bowl, too, preferably with rose petals floating on top, so you can rinse those fingers.

Never lick your fingers.

And use your right hand.  In so many countries it is considered nasty to eat with your left hand that you may as well get into the habit.

This all made such sense to me that I looked up google to see if any other gurus had debated the thorny issue.  And I found one in no less than the New York Times.

It tells the story of Julie Sahni, who won a competition that would take her from India to Europe, where she had to learn the European way of coping with food.  She had to learn how to use a fork!

“Eating with the hands evokes great emotion,” she said. “It kindles something very warm and gentle and caressing. Using a fork is unthinkable in traditional Indian eating. It is almost like a weapon.”

And now (this article is three years old, but presumably the idea still holds) some fine restaurants in New York subscribe to the view expressed by Peta Mathias and Ms. Sahni, that eating with the fingers "heightens the sensual connection to food."

So, young folks, keep on using your hands to dig in.  Not only does it heighten the delight, but your hostess should take it as a compliment.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Handling hostile reviews

"I need some protection from all the reviews," emailed George Clooney to a Sony executive, after wincing from criticism of his film The Monuments Men.

"We will protect you by making money .... it's the best revenge," emailed Sony back -- which, when you think of it, is not a bad answer at all.  That 50-shades writer must have thought that often.  What did they use to call it?  Laughing all the way to the bank?

The anecdote has triggered all kinds of responses, including a meditation in this week's DomPost insert "Weekender" -- which, of all things, looks at restaurant reviews.

Apparently a chef in Auckland became so incensed at reviews of his Nourish Group restaurants in the magazine Metro that he took out a full-page advertisement announcing that all Metro food critics were banned from his doors. The ad featured a recipe for "Metro Food Critic Testicles," saying their reviews were "out of step" and that they were playing "a childish game ... Balls to them," it concluded.  At which Metro editor Simon Wilson responded by sending him a pair of coconuts, and a note saying, "They're bigger than you think."

Now, that is childish.  He had many other valid points to make. Metro food critics pay for their meals, visit at least twice, and must not know the proprietors or chefs at any of the establishments.

But taking out that ad was a big mistake, too.  The chef in question now wishes he hadn't acted on the spur of the moment.  And what he said has food for thought for us all, book writers included.

"Often reviews have some really good points and you learn from it and grow the business. ... You can't win against reviews.  You're best just to shut up, accept it and look at it objectively."

Belated wisdom, but noteworthy nonetheless.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Are cruise ships really polluters?

My blog post about the dire ratings of cruise ships, as reported by Friends of the Earth, has attracted a great deal of interest on FaceBook. People have pointed out that cruise ship passengers don't stop flushing toilets after they get home, and, what's more, they go back to driving their cars.  Others have pointed out that whales produce a lot more poop than people do, though whale poop might be a lot better for the planet.  Suddenly, swimming doesn't seem all that attractive.

Rick Spilman of Old Salt Blog has produced a great deal of evidence that FoE have their facts wrong, in that many cruise ships have a better sewage treatment system on board than most of the ports can boast -- that when it rains in many civilized places, raw sewage floats down the streams and drains to the sea. He quoted a blog post he had made about it, and here, with his kind permission, it is extracted.  (This is the link the entire post.)

Here is yet another case of the media taking a wildly inaccurate sets of claims about ships at face value.  The news media has been touting a new study by the environmental group Friends of the Earth. The title of the FOE press release of December 4th makes their claim quite clear — Cruise ships flushed more than a billion gallons of sewage into oceans again this year.  And who is FOE? Their website claims that “Friends of the Earth is a bold and fearless voice for justice and the planet.”  They may be “bold and fearless,” but do they have the first clue about ships?  Or are their claims just so much, err… sewage?
Could the cruise lines really be dumping all that sewage?
The FOE press release claims that “cruise ships flushed more than a billion gallons of sewage into oceans again this year” Is that possible?  The answer is no.  The billion gallons referenced is FOE’s estimate of the total sewage generated on all cruise ships in one year. To claim that all the raw sewage produced was then dumped into the ocean is a wild exaggeration at best. Calling it a boldfaced lie might be a more accurate characterization...
Ultimately, FOE gives too much away when it expresses it preference in shipboard sanitation. In their ‘Cruise Ship Report Card’ they write: “The last and most environmentally protective method is for cruise ships to hold treated sewage onboard and not dump near our sensitive coasts and marine protected areas.
So if FOE prefers that cruise ship retain sewage in holding tanks, where will the sewage ultimately go?  It will have to be pumped ashore to be processed in shorebased treatment plants. And this is where FOE misses the point.
When cruise ships are tied up to a pier in New York or Miami and it starts to rain, there is a very good chance that raw untreated sewage will start flowing int the waters of either harbor.  But it won’t be coming from the cruise ships.  The sewage will be flowing directly from the city sewers.  The title of a Newsweek report from last summer, summarizes it perfectly — If It’s Raining, NYC’s Raw Sewage Is Probably Pouring Into the Waterways.  New York, like many cities, has a combined sewage and rain water system. In heavy rains, the system overflows and carries sewage into the harbor.
Miami, a major cruise ship port, has similar problems. Just this April, Miami-Dade County and state and federal regulators entered into a consent decree to begin a multi-year $1.6 billion repair to the very leaky sewage system.
It is not just New York and Miami with sewer problems. According to the EPA there are over 770 cities in the United States where sewage flows untreated into the waterways when it rains or snows heavily.  And what is the effect of these sewage overflows? Last summer over 1 in 10 US beaches was unsafe for swimming due to seawage contamination.  As reported by USA Today: The EPA estimated that up to 3.5 million people become ill from contact with raw sewage in swimming water each year.
As I said, it doesn't really encourage one to dive into the water.  Read the rest for an extremely well-argued post.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Facebook's REAL book promotion

Believe it or not, Mark Zuckerburg has declared this the year of the BOOK.

The founder of Facebook recently announced that his challenge for 2015 is to read a new book every other week. Taking it a step further, Zuckerberg has invited others along for the journey by creating a Facebook page called A Year of Books in which community members are encouraged to read the same book every other week and participate in public discussions.
Zuckerberg has asked that only those that have actually read the books and have relevant points speak up and to stay on topic, the group will be moderated.
The books he chooses will have an emphasis on learning about different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies. The first one up is The End of Power by Moisés Naím, a book that explores how the world is shifting to give individual people more power - something that was traditionally held by governments, militaries and other organizations.
Zuckerberg said the trend of giving people more power is one that he believes in deeply.
The book club idea seems to be a pretty big hit thus far. As of writing, the community page has more than 100,000 likes and the first book on the docket is temporarily out of stock on Amazon.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Cruise ships' poor pollution ratings

Perhaps the visits of cruise ships (one pictured in Wellington) are not the blessing the town bean-counters keep on saying.

Two cruise ships docking in Wellington this week have been given "failed" grades for their air-pollution standards by an international environment group.

Data on the Voyager of the Seas and Seabourn Odyssey are included in the latest Friends of the Earth's Cruise Ship Report Card that ranks 16 major cruise lines and 167 cruise ships.

Two other liners scheduled to dock here are rated failures for not just air pollution but for sewage systems that basically pour the stuff into the open sea.

FOE produces ratings on four environmental criteria--sewage treatment, air-pollution, water quality, and transparency.

"With ships that can carry up to 7000 passengers and crew, these floating cities pollute the air we breathe and the water we use," the California-based group said.

So how do they rate our visitors?

Voyager of the Seas scores C-minus, for failing on air pollution.  It's owner, Royal Caribbean, is rated D.

Seabourn Odyssey scores C-minus, too, while owner Seabourn Cruise Line gets a D.

The problem with both these vessels is that their dirty diesel engines keep running, to keep electricity flowing while they are in dock.

On February 25, the Crystal Serenity will arrive, complete with its double-F rating. Its owner, Crystal Cruises, scores F for absolutely everything.

Glamour ship Queen Mary 2, arriving in March, scores just C-minus, while its operator, Cunard, gets a D.

Each day a cruise ship is at sea, says the group, it emits more sulphur dioxide than 13 million cars, along with an awful lot of soot.

And a ship carrying 3000 people generates 568,000 litres of sewage a week.

Want to look at the full report card?  HERE IT IS

Monday, January 5, 2015

NZ Navy's No. 1 dies

There's a story behind this humble man.

A Royal New Zealand Navy legend, Shiu Hang Che or "No 1", has died aged 88.

In a "Crossing the Bar" notice, the Royal New Zealand Navy said Shiu, "the
Navy's much-respected No 1", had died peacefully at the North Shore Hospital
on Monday.

"RIP No 1 and Bravo Zulu," the notice said, using the flag code for well

Virtually everybody who has served aboard New Zealand warships will have
sailed with him.

And in the senior service where crisp uniforms are an absolute requirement,
Shiu played a vital role in shipboard life.

He had been laundryman, a civilian posting, on nine New Zealand navy ships
and served in two conflicts aboard them - the Korean War and Malaysia

"Where ship go, I go," he told the New Zealand Herald 18 years ago when he
first came ashore.

"Sometimes it is dangerous, you don't know what time you will be killed."
Chief of the Navy Rear Admiral Jack Steer attended a ceremony at Devonport
Naval Base in August to celebrate Shiu, whose last seaborne posting ended in
1996 with the decommissioning of HMNZS Wellington.

He continued working, serving at the shore training base HMNZS Philomel.
His first ship in 1947 was the Royal Navy's St Brides Bay. He served on six
Royal Navy ships which had a contract with Hong Kong laundrymen to serve the
fleet based there.

New Zealand picked up the system and Shiu joined the New Zealand Navy as a
civilian in 1957.

He sailed aboard the Royalist, Rotoiti, Pukaki, Taranaki, Blackpool, Otago,
Waikato, Canterbury and Wellington.

For almost 40 years of his career he lived on board ships even while
alongside in Devonport, returning to his family in Hong Kong for one month a

On Canterbury the ship visited Shanghai in 1987 and Shiu got to spend four
days with his family.

He became a New Zealand citizen in 1989 and in 1992 he bought a house here.
His wife Boon Shau and one daughter Wai Lai moved to New Zealand, leaving
his three sons behind in Hong Kong.

When he was 70, Shiu said there was hardly anybody in the navy who did not
know him.

"Everyone says hello - I am granddad to them," he said.

"Everybody call me No 1 ... that's a pretty good name, No 1."

Picture:  Shiu with Chief of the Navy Rear Admiral Jack Steer.