Monthly Archives: March 2014

My Friends Visited the Set of Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand, and All I Got to Do Was Write About it in My Blog

My friends Matt and Vanessa went on vacation to New Zealand recently.  I didn’t get to go.  I’ve got 2 kids, and I think it is like a 4 day flight.  At least it would feel like 4 days if I tried to do it with my 2 kids.  Vanessa and Matt don’t have any children yet, so I am living vicariously through them.

I like to live vicariously through Vanessa, because she doesn’t have any gray hair or wrinkles yet.  Except those cute little wrinkles around her eyes when she laughs.  My wrinkles aren’t cute.  You can see what I mean below.


Vanessa with my daughter Emma, on a field trip to Las Vegas.

Vanessa with my daughter Emma, on a field trip to Las Vegas.


Me and my daily stogie

Havin’ my daily stogie

Anyway, back to the New Zealand trip that I didn’t get to go on.  I am a bit of a J.R.R. Tolkien geek.  I own all the movies and books, read The Hobbit to my kids and am currently reading them The Fellowship OTR.  I own one or two action figures (Treebeard! Bilbo! Gandalf!), Lego sets (really, the Bag End set was for the kids), and I have the key to the back door of the Lonely Mountain that leads to Smaug’s lair hanging from my rear view mirror.  So when Vanessa posted on FB that she was off to New Zealand with Matt, I asked about their plans to visit Hobbiton, which I was sure they must be doing, since who in their right mind would fly all the way to New Zealand and not visit Hobbiton?

BTW, I know that it’s not really Hobbiton, but until I see it for my own eyes that it’s not real I’m going to pretend that it is.  Same goes for Hogwarts.

When Vanessa and Matt got back I asked to see their pictures from Matamata, which is what non believers call Hobbiton.  The scenery was gorgeous, which makes me regret AGAIN how far way New Zealand has the temerity to be from me.  I also noticed that there were some odd people hanging out there, besides Vanessa and Matt.  Look at some of their photos below to see what I mean.

On their drive out to Matamata it got a bit foggy on the road.  It was all well and good, sort of atmospheric really, until this weird guy, dressed all in black, sitting on horse, kept popping up.  Asking for Baggins.  Matt told them they hadn’t done their shopping yet, they didn’t have any bags (he thought that baggins was plural for bags Down Under), and that they couldn’t help.  Even the black rider’s horse looked confused.  So Matt and Vanessa kept going.

Foggy road.rider

Then this kind of crazy, old, homeless guy with a giant Q-tip thought they looked a little lost, and was helpfully pointing the way to Matamata.  It was kind of annoying the way he kept screaming, “This way, YOU FOOLS!”  Whatevs.  Some people just like getting worked up.  But his directions were spot on!


Soon Vanessa and Matt emerged from the fog into a beautiful glorious day!  The sun was shining, the sheep were grazing, and WHAT THE HELL?!?  What are they doing here?  No, no thank, no Tubby Toast for us.  Hobbiton is waiting.  No, we don’t want to rub your tummies.


Well, that was unexpected.  Anyway, back to Matamata.  After arriving Matt and Vanessa headed off on the two hour guided studio tour (insert Gilligan’s Island theme song joke here).  The original Hobbiton set used in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy was not preserved, and had to be completely rebuilt for The Hobbit.  It will remain as it is now, so hopefully, eventually, sometime before I shuffle off this mortal coil, I’ll get to visit too!  A peek at the tour brochure.


Matt and Vanessa got on the bus to take them to the set.  They were really happy, so excited to be off on this great adventure together.  It would have been a totally perfect moment, except for Mr. Bad Naked, who you can see over Matt’s shoulder.  A few ideas for you dude.  One, take a shower, a long one.  Two, cover up!  Three, muttering about lovely fishes and preciouses being stolen and how you hates Bagginses forever makes other people who are stuck on a bus with you really, really nervous.  Just saying man, just saying.


Actually stepping out of the bus, onto hallowed ground, made all the uncomfortableness disappear.  HOBBITON!  HOBBIT HOLES!!  ROUND DOORS!!!  CABBAGES!!!!

Hobbit holes and gardens

Here is Vanessa by the Party Tree  And views in the village of Hobbiton.  It’s all so green and lovely.

Hobbiton village

After the tour it was time for a drink.  Vanessa made the acquaintance of two shortish guys who kept calling themselves “The Sexy Dwarves.”  They were handsome, if hairy, but Vanessa already had a guy of her own, so they left for greener pastures.  Even if she wasn’t with Matt it’s not like she’s that kind of girl anyway.  Two dwarves are not always better than one, no matter what Fili and Kili were telling her.

Shire's rest

Well, Matt and Vanessa had a tremendous time visiting New Zealand, and made tons of new friends while they were down there.  They were married just a few months later in San Diego.  Some of their new friends became so close to Vanessa and Matt that they flew in for their wedding!  Fili and Kili were not invited.

Wedding with hobbits


Filed under Humor, Travel

You Had Me At Free Cake

My son Sam and our friend Trevor had a day off from school last Monday.  It was a “staff development day”, or something like that.  They go to a charter school, which can do what it wants.  Their school didn’t want to have school that day, so they didn’t.

Anyway, when the boys have random days off, we try to find something to do.  Besides them sitting on their backsides all day in front of a computer.  I happened across an article in the paper (yes, I am one of 10 people in the United States who still get a paper) on USCD’s annual celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday.  Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) lived in San Diego, and his widow Audrey has donated thousands of his materials as well as money to the UCSD Library, which bears their name.  She recently donated 1,500 new materials, which are display at the library through the end of March (

That all sounds lovely, but what really made me decide to go was the part about free cake.  Also, the fact that in the 6 years I worked on my PhD and the two years I was a postdoc at UCSD, I never managed to go to this celebration.  This was my chance to make up for a lifetime of regret.  And a chance to get some free cake.

So off we went to UCSD to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ 110th birthday.  We headed to the library, and something told us we were probably in the right place.  The giant blow up Cat in the Hat maybe?

One Big Cat

There was a rocking band…and lots and lots of CAKE!

Cake + band

Besides eating the delicious cake and cupcakes and drinking lemonade (one of Dr. Seuss’ favorite drinks), Sam and Trevor got to hobnob with important people, like Pradeep K. Khosla, the Chancellor of UCSD, and Brian E. C. Schottlaender, the Audrey Geisel University Librarian at UCSD.  Heady times boys!


Though you might not think it, there was a point in the celebration when a drone would have come in handy.  The Chancellor stepped in make the first cut in the cake, and all we got was a nice view of the photographers.  The camera guys got out of the way soon enough, as the crowd rushed the table, desperate for cake.  Frosting flew everywhere, small children were crushed underfoot!  Just kidding, this is UCSD.  People politely waited their turn for some cake.  Just trying to spice up the old blog a bit, New York Post style.

Need a drone

After we had some refreshments, we headed into the library to check out the special collections.  They had the new Dr. Seuss materials on display, including line drawings, paintings, and color illustrations.

Line Drawings


There was also a case displaying ideas that Dr. Seuss described as failures, including a card game he designed.  It was a nice teaching moment, as I told the boys sometimes failing can be as important as succeeding, if you use it as an opportunity to learn something about yourself.  I wish I could say they lap up this and the other pearls of wisdom that continuously drop from my venerable lips, but they just shrugged and wandered away.  Tweens, sigh.

Card game

Also in the special collections section was this fantastic wall covered with “The Alphabet of Bones,” a font of 26 characters inspired by the hollow bones of birds by San Diego artist Joyce Cutler-Shaw.  Trevor is doing the Chicken Dance in front of it.  Glad to see all those acting and dancing lessons are paying off.  In my opinion, the library totally missed the boat on the signage for the campus phone.  How hard would it be to add the spelling of “campus phone” in the bone alphabet?  Brian E. C. Schottlaender, Audrey Geisel University Librarian at UCSD, is this something you could make happen???

Chicken dance

Next we decided to head up to the top floors of the library, to get a look at the view.  The person at the information desk reminded us that the top floor was a SUPREME QUIET ZONE!   This made my worry wart son Sam not even want to go up.  Trevor helpfully points out the “BE QUIET ON THE TOP FLOOR” notice in the elevator.

Inside UCSD library

On the top floor I found this incredible book, which I spent a few minutes looking at while the boys quietly ran amok.  They came back in time to help me get some pics from the book, as there were some large fold out pages.  Trevor is pointing out the rat’s teats, in case you missed them.

Cabinet of Natural Curiosities

A few more fun pics from around the library.  Trevor is confusing Dr. Seuss with Santa Claus, and is asking for presents.  The library has some pretty cool architecture, you can get an idea of this from the bottom picture.  The building looks like a space ship that has landed.  On the lower right you can see our reflections in the mirrored walls of the walkway leading to the front doors.  Sam is making bunny ears on his mommy.

Library shots

Finally, the art piece below (Fallen Star) isn’t at the library, it is on one of the engineering buildings, but we saw it as we walked down the hill and decided to try to get a closer look from the top floor of the building.  We did get to see the garden and the front of the house that is perched on the edge of the roof, but only through the locked doors.  It is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I guess we will have to try to come back over spring break.

Fallen Star

Fallen Star is part the Stuart Collection at UCSD, a collection of site-specific public art pieces around the campus.  If you haven’t ever wandered the campus visiting the art pieces, I would recommend it.  Parking is free on campus on the weekends, just like the cake on Dr. Seuss’ birthday!

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Filed under Family, Humor