Friday, August 12, 2011

Greetings Earthlings

Hello faithful readers.
Thank you for bearing with me this far. Some of you have come with me from Libramentum and some of you have joined me from Deviant Art. I love you all. Kiwimother, Dougie, Baltagalvis, Helkathon, Nick, Wayne, Ginge, Lorenzo and AidestheKiwi; I love you the most! I also love the late Maalie, Ju, Ngatapa, Simon and anyone else who reads me :D (I would love you as much as the first group if you commented more, though Maalie has an excuse...)

Now I have moved again. Please update your bookmarks (or create them if you haven't already!)
My website is:
My blog is now

Please go check it out to find more links of the website as I slowly get it constructed.  I will not be returning to this version of the blog again until it is time to deactivate it.

Much love, Sez. xxSxx

Monday, August 8, 2011

Upcoming Changes - Edited for more info:

Hi All,

Tonight I have taken the first step in getting away from the monster that is Google.  Gmail and blogspot will have to give way and soon my blog, my email and my photos will have their own website.  Deviant Art will still be my go-to website for my development as an amateur photographer.

So watch this space for a link to the new site sometime in the near-to-mid future and those of us whose email I have, keep your eyes on your inboxes for my new address.

Best Wishes,

EDIT:  For those of you who are interested in watching it all unfold (very slowly) check out my new home: Sezmeralda's Parlour.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Two Pushups and a Deep Breath

As with any military arm the Royal New Zealand Air Force requires her air-men and -women (A&A) to be operationally fit at all times.  This fitness is tested on a regular basis and failing the test has a few consequences that get steadily more serious the longer you take to pass until you're finally kicked out and have to find another job.

When I first joined it was called the Two-mile Run Test. It was pretty straight forward - run for two miles in under a given time.  For a woman of seventeen to twenty nine years we had to complete it in under 17:30mins just to pass (an F2), or under 16:00 minutes for a superior (F1).  Earning an F1 meant the test remained current for a year and the person wouldn't have to re-sit for a full twelve months.  Those of us who could never quite make that sub-sixteen time were relegated to the ranks of the six-month re-tests.  Frustratingly, at my most fit (in my life) I managed sixteen minutes and eleven seconds.

As time went by people began to question the run test.  They believed it wasn't an accurate representation of a person's ability to perform 'in the field,' as it were.  Someone who could run two miles in under twelve minutes wasn't necessarily capable of  lugging a pack, a rifle and a whole lot of water around Afghanistan.  So the test was changed to the Operational Fitness Test.  F1 and F2 still have twelve- and six-month recurrences respectively, but the requirements for achieving each are a little different now.
Just to pass I need to pump out sixteen push ups followed immediately by a 5km walk with 20kg (10kg vest + 10kg belt) in under 46:30mins.  A superior is 22 push ups and the walk in under 44:30 mins.

The push ups aren't just any old push ups either.  They are ruthlessly enforced, they have to go low enough, they have to go high enough, they have to be continuous and the body can't be allowed to drop or rise out of alignment.  Check out the Operational Fitness Test video on this page to see what they look like.

Now let me put it all into perspective for you:
Hi, my name is Sez.  I like sitting in the sun, reading books, watching movies, kicking around on the internet and generally doing f-all.  I enjoy food, especially ice cream and other desserts. I play cricket in the summer, but I'm not a strong batter so I don't really need to run around a lot.  In fact I very much play a game of standing outside in the sunshine day dreaming for four hours.  I hate running, and avoid it at all costs.  When I was still playing hockey, I was the Goal Keeper.  I only go to the gym when it's compulsory.  Given a choice between going for a walk on the beach and playing a game of Guitar Hero, I will always choose the latter.

BUT!  (and it's a big but!)  As much as I hate exercise.  As often as I feel sick and nervous when I remember on the way home that when I get there I have to "do my push ups" and as little cardio exercise as I do, yesterday I did 23 push ups and walked the 5km in 39:26.

Hi, my name is Sez.  I have been in the Air Force for ten and a half years and yesterday I achieved my very first F1.

That is why every muscle in my body hurts like hell today.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


Poem written for a friend.  DA friends might have read it already :-)


With a swirl and a twirl and a romp-stomp-slam
A slip and a slide and a crash-boom-bang
in the swinging, moving, pulsing mass is
a breathing puffing, pushing lass
she steps to the front and swerves to the right
her partner swings and she holds on tight
round they go and around again
through twirling, swirling women and men
he lets her go then he grabs her back
their legs keep movin' while their arms go slack
the crescendo builds and the pace gets hotter
she almost slips but he's still got'er
one more step, then a jump and FREEZE!

... and in the sudden silence, she laughs with glee.

He bows, she curtsey's, they smile at each other
he takes a breath: - "D'ya fancy another?"

Monday, July 25, 2011

Avid Reader, or "100 Books"

Found on someones profile page:
According to the BBC if you've read 7 of these, you are above the average!

The cynic in me is disinclined to believe that without further research. A fact isn't a fact until it's properly sourced (and by that I mean reliably sourced, if you know what I mean). Anyhoo, it looked like something I was able to brag about since reading is something I can actually do. Perhaps I should add a 'currently reading' column down the right hand side of the blog. What do you think about that?

Here they are, 100 books the BBC seems to think I haven't read. Bold are the books I've completed, and the ones I've read some of are in italics:

oo1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
oo2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
oo3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë
oo4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - JK Rowling  [honestly, how old is this list?]
oo5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
oo6. The Bible
oo7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë
oo8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
oo9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
o1o. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
o11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
o12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
o13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
o14. Complete Works of William Shakespeare
o15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
o16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien [Bam! there's me at the so-called 'average.'  I think this is set up to make me feel good.]
o17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
o18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
o19. The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
o2o. Middlemarch - George Eliot
o21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
o22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
o23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
o24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
o25. The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
o26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
o27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
o28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
o29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
o3o. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
o31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
o32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
o33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
o34. Emma - Jane Austen
o35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
o36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis  [Actually, this book is one of the books in the Chronicles of Narnia, so the list is doubling up on itself there.  I guess only people who have read all books in the series would know that though.]
o37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
o38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
o39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
o4o. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
o41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
o42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
o43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
o44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
o45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
o46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
o47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
o48. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
o49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
o5o. Atonement - Ian McEwan
o51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
o52. Dune - Frank Herbert
o53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
o54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
o55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
o56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
o57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
o58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
o59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime - Mark Haddon
o6o. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
o61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
o62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
o63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
o64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
o65.  Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
o66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
o67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
o68. Bridget Jones' Diary - Helen Fielding
o69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
o7o. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
o71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
o72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
o73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
o74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
o75. Ulysses - James Joyce
o76. The Inferno – Dante
o77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
o78. Germinal - Emile Zola
o79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray  [I would have finished this but it wasn't mine and I wasn't fast enough.]
o8o. Possession - AS Byatt
o81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
o82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
o83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
o84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
o85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
o86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
o87. Charlotte's Web - EB White
o88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
o89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
o9o. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
o91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
o92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
o93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
o94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
o95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
o96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
o97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
o98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
o99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
1oo. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Total: 27/100.  And I totally did not count LW&W, not even once, even though The Chronicles of Narnia is composed of seven books and all together they only counted for one.

But anyway, none of you really cared what I've read.  You all went through that list ticking off the ones you've read.  So... how many?  [And do you still believe 7 is the average?]

Friday, July 22, 2011

Edgar Allan ... er Pug?

I know most of you don't go to Deviant Art, but I spend quite a bit of time on that glorious website. There are a few artists there who I have a watch on, and any time they upload more pictures on to the website I am notified and can go look at them.

There is one particular artist called monaux who draws some quite amazing vignettes which can be in turn very funny or sad in a melancholy way. He creates other pieces as well and I strongly encourage you to view his gallery.

Here's something he gave me permission to put up here on the 'blog. I hope you love it as much as I do!!

Original found here.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Hairy Maclarey

I grew up with these books, read to me so excitingly by my wonderful Mum, and as I've grown I've enjoyed being able to read them to other youngsters. I can't wait to read this and many more to all my nieces and nephews. Check out Hairy Maclarey on Wikipedia to see all the books. Apparently there have been over 5 million books sold, so I am guessing they're not just sold in NZ! I think I always liked Hairy Maclarey's Bone the best. (Don't say it Doug. I'm watching you.)

Now that you've seen the book, please vote on my poll. Tell your friends and get them voting too! Let's see what people are out there in the world!!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Genuine, Gourmet, Ngatapa Walnuts

They are so exclusive you probably haven't heard of them.  You cannot purchase them, one can only receive them as a gift.  They are quite small but are packed with more tasty walnut flavour than you'd find in the stores.  You will not find these anywhere else but New Zealand.  I have a whole jar of them.

Ngatapa Walnuts

Or I did have.
I have discovered that one can't have one's jar of walnuts and eat them too.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Suspending the Suspension

For most movies - especially fantasy movies - we put logic and reasoning on hold and forget that magic doesn't exist and that Bruce Willis probably isn't bulletproof.  That's suspension of disbelief.

But have you ever stopped suspending your disbelief and thought - if only this happened, the whole movie would be completely different?  I think we all have at some point, haven't we?

Will you suspend your suspension with me now and watch a clever little video about the Lord of the Rings which will leave you asking ... "Yeah - why didn't it happen that way?"


Friday, June 24, 2011

The Soup Remained In The Bowl - The Lies of a Dining In

A formal dining in is a military tradition which dates back further than most can remember.  There are those who speculate it began in Roman times (ai, those Romans and their orgies!) but there's every reason to believe they could be older still.  Even the Scandinavians liked to get together for a food, drink, poetry and a bit of fighting.  And why not?  What better way to solidify comradeship and loyalty than to share food and drink?

I say 'a military tradition' which is a little bit misleading.  The Dining In is actually a collection of traditions which I will try to explain as best I can in this post.  I conducted a quick internet search to see if I could find a good reference for dinings in but most of the information out there is referenced to American ceremonies.  While they have all evolved from the same origin, theirs are a little different to ours. (For example, America also has dinings out.)  In fact, even in New Zealand there are differences - the Royal New Zealand Navy and the Royal New Zealand Air Force have different traditions, and even within the Air Force there are differences between the Officers' Mess and the W/O's and SNCO's Mess.
(W/O's and SNCO's [pronounced woe's and snow's] stands for Warrant Officers and Senior Non-Commissioned Officers)

Dinings in are held for a number of reasons.  They can be to celebrate historical milestones - Armistice Day, Black Thursday, etc - or to formally celebrate the career of a member who is leaving the service.  They can also be held just for the hell of it.  Held because the squadron wants to, because it's good for morale, because we're a damn fine Air Force and why shouldn't we celebrate?

But enough talk - lets get to the action!

Thursday night was the night when Avionics Squadron (Auckland) was holding its Formal Mixed Dining In. 'Mixed' means all ranks are able to attend, and so they did.  I am not a member of Avionics Squadron, but was invited as a guest of Ginge, who is.  The dining in follows a fairly strict order of business and begins with pre-meal sherries at the bar.  Dress is ceremonial - what we call "Service Dress" for the junior ranks, and "Mess Kit" for the seniors and officers.

Service Dress (or SDs)

Mess Kit

The sherries are used to 'stimulate the palate' for better enjoyment of the meal to come and traditionally no other beverage is permitted to be imbibed at this juncture.  Times do change though, and some will also purchase beer as well.  At this point the seating plans are displayed or circulated so that when the time comes there will be a minimum of fuss before the first course.

After sherries we move into the dining area and are seated.  The main lights are off and the tables are lit with candles only.  Each place has a small placard with the person's name on it and we all stand behind our seats waiting for everyone to file in.  When the VIPs have filed in and are at their place at the high-table, we sit.  Men always hold the seat out for the women. (I would use the terms gentlemen and ladies, but as I said... times change).  I had to clear my throat deliberately to remind Ginge.  At this point it is prudent to take one's name card and put it in a pocket somewhere.

Let me talk about the layout of the tables and personages.
For this, and most, dining in there were three 'tables.'  The high table across the top - similar to a wedding - where the most important people sit.  These are the squadron commander, the squadron warrant officer, the guest speaker and their guests (if invited).  Sometimes a junior member of the squadron will also be sat at this table, but not tonight.  From each end of the high table extends the other two tables so as to form a rectangular 'U' shape.  These tables must be positioned 'at least two sword lengths' from each other.  It's an interesting choice of measurement and I will explain why later on.  (Yes, there's a reason - did I mention 'heavily laced with tradition' earlier on? Well I should have.)
Behind the commander/high table are the Flag of New Zealand and the Royal New Zealand Air Force Ensign framing a picture of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II the Queen of England.
As the commander looks down the room with a table on either side, the table on his right has people seated only down the sides, with no one on the end.  But the table on his left has a place-setting on the far end.  In this seat resides Mr (or Madame) Vice.  Often Mr Vice is the youngest person at the dining in but once again - not in this case.  If there were more people, another table may be run down the length from the centre of the high-table, always keeping two sword lengths between.  Again, only Mr Vice may be seated at the end of the table.
Back to the action now, and the squadron commander asks Mr Vice for the Grace. Steve had written a special Grace for the evening, and I would love to write it out here for you now, but I haven't gotten a copy of it yet so watch this space.  Needless to say it had us chuckling.  Next up - the food.
The dining in is usually a five course meal - soup; entree; main; dessert; coffee, cheese & crackers.  Places are set with a white wine glass, a red wine glass, a water tumbler and a sherry/port glass.  Servers come and replenish the wine and water all evening so a person is able to drink as much as they want.

Food is served first to the high table, then down the line, and no one may begin until the high table has begun.  It can be a challenge to sit and look at your delicious meal and not so much as breathe on it until the squadron commander has lifted his first fork-full to his mouth.
My memory is a little hazy as to the particular details, but I believe the first toilet break comes after the entree.  Did I mention no one is permitted to leave the room, or even rise from her seat, unless it's a toilet break?  Well we can't.  And they're still topping up those wine glasses!
The toilet break is a risky business.  Should one 'break the seal' and risk needing to go again later on, or hold on and risk really needing to go later on?  And what about all the accoutrement's at the place setting?  If I should leave now for the toilet, I might come back to find my knife, fork, spoon or port glass isn't there anymore.  What do I do then?  I can't leave the table and go looking for them, or shout about it, or.... do anything.  As I said - it's a risky business.  For the first break I decided I was fine, and stayed at the table.

By this stage, the fines are beginning to come out.  Remember how I said it was prudent to hide my name card away?  As soon as people left the table for the toilet we started collecting their name-tags.  We use them to write down anything they've done or said during the course of the evening to warrant a (humourous) fine.  These are passed along the table, across the high table, and along the next all the way to Mr Vice for safekeeping.  It's etiquette not to read the fine on the way past.  It is possibly the only piece of etiquette not strictly adhered to. Some folks are more inventive than using name cards and rip corners of their paper place mats.  Jimmy looked around him with a devious eye and asked if anyone had a pen?  Andy replied in the affirmative and handed his biro over.  Jimmy thanked him with glee, put the pen in his pocket and said "You won't be able to fine me for anything now."  The tricks we learn...

Returning late from the toilet break is a fineable offence - and embarrassing to boot, so we were all back and ready to go for the next round.  Mains, Drinks, Fines, Dessert, Fines, Chatter, Laughter, Drink, Fun, Drink, and finally another toilet break, and a quick word in Mr Vice's ear.
Shit, I forgot to take my port glass with me.  Thank goodness it was there when I got back - Ginge had rescued it from theft.  Mike was not so lucky.

Again I'm a little hazy on the exact details, but I think at this point he cheeseboards came out, the coffee was served along with the choice of Drambuie or Baileys shots - or both.  Mike recovered a port glass - his or not, I'm not sure.  He poured his Drambuie into his coffee.
The speeches came - we laughed - the speeches went, and then the tables were cleared.
Cleared of everything but the candles and the port glasses, for now we had come to the ceremony of the passing of the port.

The passing of the port is conducted in absolute silence.
There are two schools of thought on this one.  The one I remember being taught, and the one I learnt that Thursday.  The latter preaches that the silence while passing the port is a relatively new development and one specific to the RNZAF or the Air Force, or the non-commissioned ranks, or something, and relates to a dining in which was scheduled during one of the two World Wars.  The dining in was held, but not everyone could make it.  Comrades had fallen only days before - they failed to make it back from a sortie - and the port was passed in silence in their honour.  If this is the original reason or not, it's a worthy cause, and it was at the forefront of my mind as the ceremony played out.
But lets back track a little.  What is the passing of the port, and what is it for?  It is the precursor to the loyal toast, and carafe's of port are started at one end of each table and passed from person to person to fill their port glasses which have thus-far remained empty.  See why it's important not to lose yours?  The port is poured, then the pourer passes the carafe from his left hand into the left hand of the next fellow.  Men usually pour for their female guests.  Ginge asked what I would prefer and I asked, as a serving member of Her Majesties NZ Armed Forces, to pour my own.  In the Air Force, the carafe is not permitted to touch the table.  I have been told that Air Force officers don't hold this tradition, or the tradition of silence, and it can take a long time for the port to make its way round.  The Navy hold the tradition of silence, but they slam the carafe to the table and slide it forcefully over to the next person.  Our guest speaker was from the Navy and that's exactly what he did.  We each have our own reasons for these methods.

The Navy is an old, old service and was once the pride of the British Empire.  Sailors would spend most of their adult life on board the ship in cramped conditions with barely any head-room.  They would still hold dinings in and serve the loyal toast, but the motion of the ship would make the passing of the port a difficult action - especially if they weren't permitted to let it touch the table.  But they are.  They slam the bottle down and slide it to the next man.  If the ship is rocking from the ocean (and when won't it?) this is the safest way to pass the port.
Our (Air Force) tradition stems from the British Army, and a lot of little things have arisen out of the English takeover of Scotland.  It was not a peaceful merger - or indeed a merger at all - for a long time.  The Scots resented the English even as they had to sit or stand next to them for ceremonies such as these.  Why mustn't the port touch the table?  Why must it be conducted in silence (the version I was taught)?  And why left-hand to left-hand?  The answer to all three - to prevent fights.
Silence so arguments cannot break out.  Off the table to ensure hands are always occupied.  And left-hands because a Scotsman's left hand is his dirk hand.

They fought with swords in their right and dirk's in their left.  As I understand it, the English got a bit sick of their Scottish officers passing the port with their right hand and sticking the officer next to him in the side with a big sharp knife.  So yeah, left-hand only, even for us hundreds of years later.
That brings us back to the table distances - at least two sword lengths apart.  Make sense now?

But what about the clearing of the tables?  There's more to it than a modern-day military need for ship-shape and squared-away.  The most important thing to be removed from the table is water.  Once again this comes back to the Scots.  After the first and failed Jacobean uprising Bonnie Prince Charlie took off and was exiled in France.  Although we wasn't technically their king, many were still loyal to him and he could be thought of as their king across the water.  Hold that thought while I progress to the loyal toast.

The loyal toast is very simple.  We're toasting the Queen because we are loyal to her.  We are in her armed forces, we serve her as we serve our country.  It's kind of the whole point.  So, after the passing of the port we stand, turn to the picture of Her Majesty, raise our glasses, and the squadron commander says "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Queen."  We reply, "The Queen." and drink our toast.

Of course back in the day, the loyal toast was raised to the King.  The King of England.  I don't need to tell you what the Scots thought of this.  They devised a bit of a loophole.  The would raised their glasses and make the reply - "The King."  Then they would pass their glass over any water which was on the table - bowl, glass or carafe, and then drink.  It was their way of toasting the king across the water.  Loyal? Yes, but not a loyalty directed at the English king.  And now, centuries later, we still remove water from the table before the loyal toast.

After the toast the serving staff are thanked, a birthday message was delivered (and happy birthday sung) then the VIPs left the dining hall and returned to the bar.  Once they had left we sat back down and Mr Vice reigned supreme.  It was fine-time!
It would be rude of me to share all the fines - and not so funny if you don't know the people and you weren't there.  But there was one very odd fine indeed.  Read out, it went like this:
"Ginge is fined for spilling his soup all over his partners skirt.." (pause for laughter) "... then trying to clean her lap with his napkin."
There was no laughter from our side of the table, only confused looks.  What?  Ginge never spilt his soup, I'm his guest not his partner and he never tried anything on with me.  Steve (Mr Vice) was beside himself with mirth so we didn't argue.  Jimmy said he had sent a fine along the table stating Ginge had splattered his soup so we guessed people had been adding and embellishing the fine as it progressed.  Ginge was fined $10.
The money from the fines goes into a couple of jars and is put on the bar for the rest of the evening.  We returned to said bar to find the VIPs well settled in and joined them for the rest of the evening.

Morale booster - Check!
Celebration - Check!
Great night out - Check!

And where did all the money come from, some of you might ask, to pay for such an extravagant night out.  I can guarantee it was not from public funds.  Those boys and girls from Avionics Sqn pay fortnightly into the social club - out of their own pockets.  The Social Club saved up and paid for it, plus tickets cost members an additional fee.

Ginge paid for me.

Isn't he nice?