Hole in the Clouds
Dec 27, 2013
We open this post with a small step back in time, to October of this year, when our niece Melissa Koehler married Matt Solomon. We noted this elegant and awesome occasion at the time but somehow managed to omit any photo of the bridegroom. By now, photographers and videographers and Facebook contributors have documented the day in images worth a billion skillion words, and from all that treasure we selected a frame from a video, with its swirl of wind and an imminent kiss.
Below are pictures of four other of our nieces, two sets of sisters, taken as they celebrated with Melissa that day. At left are Maggie and Amelia; to the right are Avi and Gillian. These pictures are tightly cropped to feature the nieces; people have been cropped out literally and perhaps also figuratively as we try to keep the focus on these young women.
Gillian's wedding, of course, was just this month in New Zealand. Maggie's was back in June in Maine. Gillian works in Wellington, New Zealand, organizing ecotourism adventures. Maggie is a nurse in Rochester, New York, studying to become a nurse practitioner.
Maggie's little sister, Amelia, wearing blue in the picture, lives and works in New York City, where she is creative director for a brand new startup fashion label, The Girl That Loves. Amelia prepares marketing materials and designs the company's overall look and feel.
Who is The Girl That Loves? According to the website, she's a girl who's "going places, but she plans to have a good time getting there."
She mixes edgy and trendy pieces with cute and playful pieces. Her favorite combo? Sexy heels, jeans and a sweatshirt (and possibly a fedora). Tadaaaa! Looking great has never been so comfy! Instead of breaking her bank over one designer piece she lines her closet with a variety of fun pieces. She likes simple, elegant clothing but enjoys taking an occasional risk: the right neckline, a bit of cool embroidery or an edgy color scheme can turn a piece from “like” to “love.”
Here is one of The Girl That Loves' new designs, in the playful category, a rhinestone panda skirt that perhaps, when some people wear it, can go from "like" to "love" in a heartbeat.
At the other end of the world from New York City, on New Zealand's South Island, Amelia's cousin Avi is herself no slouch when it comes to fashion; in fact, she once was almost turned down for a job because an interviewer thought she dressed much too nicely for someone in her line of work. Avi earns her living by studying penguins in their natural habitats.
She's just beginning a new position at Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony, on the east coast of New Zealand about three hours' drive south of Christchurch. There at the edge of town, hundreds of little blue penguins, the world's smallest penguin species, sometimes called fairy penguins, have colonized an abandoned limestone quarry, making their nests at the top of a steep rocky slope just outside Oamaru's harbor.
Most days, the penguins leave the colony before dawn to swim several miles to their fishing grounds offshore; they fish all day and then return home at nightfall. Their nightly return has become something of a tourist attraction in Oamaru, so much so that an important research focus for scientists like Avi is how best to manage interaction between the public and the penguins.
Below is a huddle of Oamaru penguins just back from the sea; they swam in together as a "raft" and then paused amidst the rocks, perhaps just to catch their breaths and cool off after their long swim. Penguins' greasy feathers keep them very warm, so warm that to prevent overheating they have to fluff themselves, as they've done here, to allow chilly evening air to reach their skin.
Little blue penguins are not endangered, but many local populations are at risk because of land predators such as dogs and cats, which are not native to New Zealand. In the water, they are preyed upon by fur seals. In some coastal areas, they get hit by cars while trying to cross the road at dusk.
At the bottom of this post is a portrait of a little blue guy. He weighs about four pounds or less and is only 12 inches tall, not even knee high to a ten year old.
The Girl That Loves
Apr 28, 2014
Three hours south of Christchurch on the east coast of New Zealand's South Island is Oamaru, one of the country's oldest cities and briefly–back in the 1870s–one of its wealthiest and fastest growing.
There was a halfway decent harbor for a port to serve the thriving agricultural region, especially after introduction of refrigerated transport for meat. High-quality limestone for building was locally plentiful. A 50-km-long aqueduct was constructed to slake the thirst of the booming little city and irrigate surrounding farmland with fresh mountain water. Industry emerged, lapping up the new water supply. The city built an opera house, an athaeneum, and a large and ornate public garden.
By the 1880s, when economic depression hit hard, Oamaru was said to be "the best built and most mortgaged town in Australasia." The aqueduct went bankrupt, the port closed, industry languished, and construction stopped for more than a hundred years.
What finally saved Oamaru was steampunk, the style of art and/or life that emerged from the punk rock era but is rooted in Victorian-era visions of a fantastic feature: think Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. Steampunk science fiction is inspired by nineteenth-century steam-powered technology and decorative arts, ratcheted up by twenty-first-century irreverence and intensity.
Oamaru's intact nineteenth-century downtown–intact because nobody since the nineteenth century had thought the place worth a dime of investment–created an ideal backdrop for steampunk festivals, steampunk artists' studios, steampunk shopping, and eventually steampunk tourism.
(Oamaru also has penguins, more of which soon. Watch this space.)
(Image credit: Little Fuji)
May 3, 2014
About forty years ago, the limestone in the old quarry down by the waterfront in Oamaru was finally all worked out. The quarrymen left, taking their big machines with them.
The penguins moved in.
Penguins are common in seaside places all over New Zealand, and the Little Blue penguins like the ones in the Oamaru quarry are the commonest of all. New Zealanders generally seem to be fond of penguins and often place nestboxes in their yards to attract them. But city officials in Oamaru felt the town quarry was a terrible spot for a large penguin colony; for one thing, the birds were going to cause all kinds of traffic problems when they went waddling across the roads. For another thing, the quarrying operation had utilized some nasty chemicals, the residue of which might potentially sicken penguins. And then also, of course, somebody might want the real estate to feather his or her own nest, so to speak....
So the birds were moved out, to a site down the coast considered more appropriate. But they came back. Their nests were destroyed, and nice new nestboxes were offered them at the alternative site. They still went back to the quarry. Little Blues do that. They are the smallest of all penguins, not even knee-high, and they are homebodies.
Unlike many species of birds, including several penguin species, Little Blues do not migrate. They settle in communities of hundreds or even thousands of birds, often building their nests within a few feet of the spots where they themselves hatched and were raised.
Every morning, they gather in groups--called rafts--of a dozen or so birds that head down to the beach together and then out into the surf; they swim together for miles to their fishing grounds, where they spread out to spend the day alone, diving a few feet down to catch their favorite fish, a small, shallow-schooling variety called slender sprat.
Penguins have hooks on their beaks and barbs on their tongues, ideal for grabbing onto slippery fishy things.
Every evening, the penguin rafts reassemble and swim back to their home beach, where the birds emerge from the sea and climb back up the bluffs to their nests.
In 1992, the city of Oamaru finally gave up on its penguin-relocation project, perhaps because people had figured out how to monetize the colony. They fenced off the old quarry, opened a gift shop, sold tickets, even built a grandstand so visitors could sit comfortably while they watched the evening parade of feathered finery.
The organization that manages the Oamaru penguin colony also sponsors scientific research into penguin-human interactions. They report that the colony has continued to grow and thrive despite the thousands of tourists tromping through. Breeding pairs currently number about 160, laying between 250 and 500 eggs each spring, of which about 80% will hatch; about 80% of the hatchlings survive to fledge, when they can go out fishing on their own.
The quarry has been cleaned of old industrial waste and outfitted with nestboxes, some of which are designed so that researchers can watch the goings-on inside. And every evening, beginning around sunset, while tour guides keeps the tourists apprised of what the birds are up to, staff members carefully count the number of Little Blues coming back from the sea.
Jul 18, 2014
A chain of gourmet pizza places in cities around New Zealand's South Island is called Filadelfio's, despite what its website claims as a "New York–inspired atmosphere."
Americans can't help but notice something a little different about the atmosphere, however. Our restaurants have a no-shoes-no-shirt rule, and Kiwi restaurants don't.
(Image credit: Little Fuji)