Friday, September 28, 2012


It is rare that anyone argues with me when I hand out pharmaceutical advice; I'm guessing this is because 1) Most people do not have any background knowledge of drugs and 2) If I don't know something, I'll look it up [Read: I am never rarely wrong]. But the one useful thing I learned while working on my first degree (in a genetics class) causes so much discussion (often heated), that I have been wondering if I should just keep it to myself. [Actually, I learned two useful things during undergrad, but the other one rarely comes up in conversation since I'm no longer in college.]
Everybody has an opinion about the definition of a second cousin. I suppose the area is a little gray because the term "cousin" is used so loosely (especially in New Zealand, where everyone is a "cous"). And I also suppose this shouldn't really bother me...but I like I said: 4 years of college, and this was the only useful thing I learned. So anyway, here's a cousin chart I found on the web. has some relatively easy to follow info if you would like to do a little more reading.

On that subject, we ran into a whole bunch of long lost cousins while in the United States. [If anyone wants his/her likeness removed, you should of thought of that before looking at the camera*]. For the first time ever on Jancie's second cousin!!! Born 2 weeks ahead of Jancie and 8200 miles away (as the crow flies). Also pictured: My first cousins (or my first cousin and his wife, in case anyone is pickier about this cousin thing than me).

Browsing through my photos, I have very few pictures of all of Jancie's other cousins (first, first once removed, second, second once removed...that might be it). Maybe Nico would like to add on some pictures of the non-Lasko side. If only she knew how to upload pictures to a blog...Here's one more of Jancie's first cousin once removed, and a rare sighting of his girlfriend. Sorry the picture is blurry, Steven. Come on out to NZ and we can do better. *That was a joke. Just shoot me a note if there are any objections. PS: Nobody reads my blog.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

So it's still raining. Which means instead of gardening, I have time for another entry. I thought I would post something about "Places we have not been before". I suppose "we" should mean Nico and I...if we include Jancie, then that's just about everywhere. Anyway, here we are in Alaska. Okay, I lied...that's the San Diego Zoo.

We only made it as far north as Victoria. (I had been to Victoria as a teenager, but remarkably Nicole had not.) Here is a picture from the Butchart Gardens. It defies all earthly descriptions...and I think I should be trying for something like this in our backyard.

If I am not mistaken, Canada is the fifth country where I have run into Captain Cook. Unfortunately, my Captain Cook photos did not come out very well. Instead, here are Nicole and Jancie standing next to the statue, but the picture is of the Government House.

My mother's favourite thing to do on any vacation was to have afternoon tea at an expensive hotel. I'm actually not sure if the expensive hotel part was a requirement, but when you're in Victoria, the place to go is the Empress.
And I'm pretty sure it was less expensive 25 years ago than it is now, or I have no doubt that my parents would not have taken the kids. Speaking of which, I would not recommend attempting tea at the Empress with an eight month old.
Canada has taken too long. More on where else we haven't been later.
No posts since July; and even then I had not yet finished writing up our (then recent) trip to Sydney. It's raining today, and I don't start work for another maybe I will be able to catch up. Biggest problem: Where does one start when trying to condense a three month holiday (and 800 pictures) into a few paragraphs? How about: Things to do in Red Bluff? If you had bothered to click that link, you would see that Red Bluff's motto is "A Great Place to Live". Having never lived there, I shall refrain from commenting...but if you are just visiting, there is not a whole lot to do. And it's really, really hot all the time. [Note, anything within an hour drive of Red Bluff will be considered as a thing to do in Red Bluff for the purposes of this post.]

1) Abbey of New Clairvaux--So there are these monks...and they make wine. It's not great wine, but it's wine, and it's not expensive. In addition to making wine, they are also (re)building an 800 year old monastery from stones that William Randolph Hearst brought to California from Spain.

2) Sierra Nevada Brewery--A fantastic tour; it's free, and they let you stick your hands in the hops. Warning: Most Sierra Nevada beers are very high in alcohol, and they make you taste like 10 of them...and they pour each one in a different glass so they can pour them really quickly to make room for the next tour.

3) Try to take a portrait of Jancie. Jancie does not like cameras...and I am not a very good photographer. Here is my best effort.
Note: I have since decided that my favourite Jancie photo was taken outside the Bahai'i Temple (which is nowhere near Red Bluff).

Monday, July 16, 2012


Since I seem to have a very long commute for the near future, I thought I would figure out how to blog on the phone. Don't expect a lot of pictures. And sorry for the typos: I don't see a spell check option.

So we've been Stateside for about 5 weeks. The first month was spent in a tiny studio in Sunset Beach. If you can't afford Newport (and we couldn't), Sunset is not a bad place to be.

I bought a really cheap car...which has become a more expensive car over the last few weeks, but it's running pretty well now.

I worked a little bit at a long term care pharmacy in the OC, and a couple of days at a very busy independant in LA. Long term care is kind of dull. Next door to said busy pharmacy was a kosher falafel restaurant. The things you won't see in New Zealand. Other independant pharmacy highlights: I counselled a star from a popular nineties sitcom...except I didn't know who he was until he had left and one of the other pharmacists pointed him out.

So now we're in San Francisco. The temp agency promised more work up here, and we almost have a free place to stay in Berkeley. The hospital is due to be torn down; the pharmacy is by far the smallest I've ever worked in, and some of the outpatient clinics look like something from a horror movie. But it's been a good experience. If nothing else, it has reminded me why I stopped working in hospitals...and to a lesser extent, why we moved to New Zealand.

A couple of more notes: BART has gone down hill in the last 5 years. I can't believe this many people are on the train at midnight.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Laughing at the sunrise like he's been up all night In case you missed it, the family and I are spending the Summer in the States. Yes, the whole Summer. We're trying to Avoid winter this year...yes, it's winter in the Southern Hemisphere right now (at least it is in New Zealand, other countries might start winter at some other time). So far, this has not felt like a vacation. We've been here one week, and fortunately have found a place to live (it's tiny, but it's across the street from the beach); a car (it's old, and not terribly attractive, and I'm hoping it will last the Summer); and a job (for me, Nicole gets to baby sit--sadly, there is not currently a huge demand for pharmacists). I'm starting work on Monday, so it will probably feel even less like a vacation after that. Here are a couple photos of the sun going down across the street.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Blue Mountains
A 90 minute train ride from Sydney will get you to Katoomba, an art deco town in the Blue Mountains. It is not as well preserved as Napier, but a short walk from town will get you to the Three Sisters.
From there, a short trip on the world's steepest railroad gets you into the rainforest. The Katoomba Scenic Railway is more roller coaster than train, but Jancie managed to sleep all the way down.

Here's Jancie in a very good mood in a hut at the bottom of the rainforest. The good mood was a welcome change from the night before when she cried for two hours...we got scared (and didn't want to get thrown out of our beautiful B&B, so we decided to take her to the hospital. She immediately calmed down in the cab, and was unbelievably happy/healthy looking in the hospital; we got asked at least 10 times if this was our first child. [Read: Why are you Kiwis clogging up our emergency room with your non-problems?]

Saturday, May 19, 2012

World Traveller
It is easier to get from Auckland to Sydney (or really anywhere in Australia) than it is to get from Napier to Auckland. Which makes one wonder why we've been to Auckland 20 times in the last couple of years but never to Sydney.
I took about a thousand photos, so I'm not quite sure where to start. The Opera House is probably as good a place as any. It is the most spectacular building I have ever seen [from the is very unimpressive inside, except for the concert hall--don't bother with a tour, and put the money towards a concert].

View of Sydney from Taronga Zoo (perhaps the best place to photograph the city).
Here are me and Jancie behind the Opera House. Nico was supposed to be with us, but she was afraid to ask anyone from the group of Asian tourists (with very expensive cameras) to take a picture
Northland II
I was supposed to be posting something about the birthplace of the nation. I'm so far behind on updates, that I'll make this very brief. First off, it would be a waste of a very long drive to not get out on the water when you're visiting the Bay of Islands. Fortunately, a short ferry ride will take you from the "Mainland" to Russell (the first permanent European Settlement and former Hellhole of the Pacific).
Back on the Mainland, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds are worth a visit. I don't think I took any pictures of the Treaty House, but here's one I snapped of the Marae. Marae look orange when I photograph them...they are always dark inside, so I am never sure if the colours are accurate.
I am fairly certain that Waitangi sits on the best piece of coastal property in New Zealand. Here's a view across the bay to Kerikeri.
Speaking of Kerikeri: Here are New Zealand's oldest wooden structure, oldest stone structure, and a rainbow I tried to photograph from our glamp site.

Monday, April 09, 2012

You must cut down the mightiest tree in the forest with a herring

If there was ever a tree that was designed to live on an uninhabited island, it is most definitely the Kauri. A thousand years ago, they covered the top part of the country; but their wood was so well suited for building (and the land underneath so well suited for farming) that less than 5% of the original forest remains. Furthermore, Kauri roots are so sensitive that if you walk near one, the tree will die; and if they get exposed to Phytophthora taxon Agathis, a fungus that only likes Kauri trees, they die. (Here's a photo of Nico and Janice standing at a safe distance from Tane Mahuta.)

A couple of nights in a luxury tent in Kerikeri is a great way to enjoy the Bay of Island. A luxury tent is like a regular tent, except it has furniture and a refrigerator.

And there's a (rain proof) deck and a view.

Even Jancie didn't seem to mind roughing it.

When I have time, this post will continue with Waitangi and the Hellhole of the Pacific.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dear Friends, Family and Colleagues,

It is with some sadness and much excitement that I tender my resignation, effective immediately. I have enjoyed living and working in New Zealand immensely, but have slowly realized:

1) Summers in Hawke’s Bay are too hot
2) Winters are not cold enough
3) There are just too many people here

With these three points in mind, and a strong desire to work in an underserved area, I have purchased the McMurdo Station Pharmacy. I have big plans for the business, and am hopeful that the favourable climate will allow me to fulfil my life long dream of running a pharmacy/ice cream parlour…the cost savings on refrigeration alone make this venture a no-brainer.

Michael B. Lasko, a Real Southern Man

Friday, March 30, 2012

[Letter to Wells Fargo]

RE Account: xxxxxxxxxx

Dear Sir or Madame,

I have been attempting to resolve this issue over the phone, but the return call I was supposed to be getting from a customer service supervisor has not yet arrived.

Briefly: please credit $58.33 to the above listed account and then close it. The account in question was set up to collect and distribute the assets from my late mother's estate. I suspect that due to the rather large sum of money contained in it at one time, your company changed it to a Portfolio Managed Account...once the money had been disbursed, it began accruing a $30 a month fee.

I would appreciate it if your company would stop calling to ask my deceased mother for $58.33. And my father would probably also appreciate it if you would stop calling him and asking for $58.33, as they have been divorced for over 20 years.

Thank you,

Michael B. Lasko

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Yes, most definitely a hoax.

PS: I called this in 2006.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Interrogation at the US Consulate

Consulate Guy: Which one of you is the American?
Nicole: I am.
CG: Where did you go to high school in (looking at passport) San Bernadino?
Nicole: I didn't. My father was in the Air Force. I went to high school in Garden Grove.
CG: (Getting suspicious): What?
Nicole: Garden Grove High.
CG: (Now discovers my passport...wondering why the broad said she was the American) Michael, where did you go to college?
Michael: I went twice. UC Riverside, and Butler University, Indianapolis.
CG: We beat you. (Mutters some reference to having gone to UConn.)

When I was a child (or teenagerish), we took a trip to Canada and walked on a glacier. More correctly, we took a giant glacier bus to (and onto) a glacier, then we got out and walked on said glacier. It looked something like this:

New Zealand has a lot of glaciers. I don't know how many...and most of them are only accessible by helicopter or four day hike. But if you don't mind driving (a whole lot of driving), Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier are both easy to get to. Remarkably, there are no giant glacier buses in New Zealand. I say remarkably because this country seems to love highly specialized automotive machinery (and we have the Antarctic Research HQ). [Aside: this country also loves using farm equipment for less specialized automotive uses.

But I digress. After your long drive, you can walk to within a couple hundred metres of either glacier. If you want to walk on the ice, it is required (or maybe not required, but there are several warnings that you will die) to go with a guided tour (around $100 a person for a half day). If you have a little more cash, you can take a helicopter that will land on the ice and let you walk around. And if you are insane, you can jump out of a plane from above either glacier.

This is Fox Glacier from near the sky diving pick up site:

This is about as close as you can get to Fox Glacier without paying for a guide:

It was dark and stormy when we visited Franz Josef Glacier:
Ferry I and II

When the weather is cooperating, there is no way to describe the beauty of the Marlborough Sounds. So instead, here are a few photos (on the way to the South Island) taken with the Pentax.

On the way back to the North, the weather was even better. Unfortunately, I left my real camera in the car and had to shoot with the ipod...fortunately, the wider angle allowed me to capture even better scenery.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Might I present:

יָפֶה אֶרְאֶלָּה בַּתּ מִיכָאֵל בִּנְיָמִין