Monday, 7 October 2019

Food In Auckland 2019

Some places I like these days that are (mostly) pretty close to my house:

  • Jade Town (Dominion Road): Uighur food. A bit Chinese, a bit Indian, but not much like either.
  • Cypress (Dominion Road): New-ish yum cha (dim sum) place. Some interesting dishes I'd never seen before.
  • Viet Kitchen (Dominion Road): More authentic, bit more expensive Vietnamese.
  • Hot And Spicy Pot (Dominion Road, city): tasty pay-per-weight stir-fry.
  • Barilla (Dominion Road): Decent cheap dumplings and other Chinese food.
  • Tombo (Newmarket): Quality Korean-Japanese BBQ/hotpot buffet.
  • Hansan (Newmarket, city): Still a favourite cheap Vietnamese-Chinese place.
  • Master Dumpling (Newmarket): good dumplings, great sweet potato in melted sugar.
  • Faro (Newmarket): Nice Korean lunch combo.
  • Momotea (Newmarket): Taiwanese-style cafe with strong frozen drink selection.
  • Selera (Newmarket): Malaysian cafe food.
  • Sun World (Newmarket): Reliably good yum cha.
  • Kimchi Project (city): Kimchi fusion-eseque place. Kimchi carbonara is great.
  • BBQ Duck Cafe (city): Good value tasty Hong Kong-style cafe.
  • Nol Bu Ne (city): Great value Korean food.
  • Uncle Man's (city): Malaysian food — best roti around IMHO.
  • Kiin (Mt Eden): Great cheap Thai food.
  • Altar (Mt Eden): Good value sandwhich+fries lunch special.
  • Corner Burger (Mt Eden): Great burger+fries+shake combo — the shakes are especially good.
  • Gangnam Style (Takapuna): Korean BBQ buffet. The worst thing about this place is the name.
  • Petra Schwarma (Kingsland): Really nice Jordanian food.
  • Mama Rich (Greenlane): Good Malaysian cafe food, a bit cheaper than Selera.
  • Chocolate Boutique (Parnell): Not exactly a restaurant but for dessert, a great option.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Pouakai Circuit

Last weekend I went with a couple of people down to Mt Taranaki to tramp the Pouakai Circuit, planning to do it leisurely over three days. We drove down on Saturday morning (about 5 hours from Auckland), had a fine lunch at the Windsor Cafe in Inglewood, and hiked from a carpark up to Holly Hut via the Kokowai Track. (Normally you'd take the Holly Track from the Egmont Visitor's Centre but that track is currently closed due to a slip, though it should be open soon.) The posted time was 4.5 hours but we did it in 3 hours; my companions are very fast, and I'm not too bad myself though the steep uphill with steps made me struggle a bit! The weather was great and we had some excellent views of Mt Taranaki along the way. It's a beautiful mountain with snow cover on a clear winter's day.

Holly Hut is a fine hut. Some generous donors installed LED lighting, which is great during the winter when the days are short. It was the first Saturday of the school holidays but there were just two other people there. Late Saturday afternoon we did the ~1 hour return side trip to Bell Falls, which were beautiful. The weather had gotten cloudy, drizzly and misty and the daylight was fading, but that added to the effect!

On Sunday morning we had a bit of a late start because we thought we'd spend Sunday night at Pouakai Hut, which is nominally 2.5 hours walk away. The track crosses Ahukawakawa Swamp, in a basin between the old Pouakai volcano and the slopes of Mt Taranaki — most picturesque, especially in drizzly foggy weather. We had been hoping to do the side track to the Pouakai summit on the way to the hut, but bursts of rain and the likelihood of seeing nothing but cloud dissuaded us. We got to Pouakai Hut in about 1.5 hours and had an early lunch, then had to think hard: with phone reception at the hut, we got a new weather forecast for Monday, which promised heavy rain, wind, lower temperatures and possible thunderstorms — even less promising than the rain currently beating against the hut. We decided to avoid that weather by finishing the circuit on Sunday and driving back to Auckland late. That plan worked out pretty well; it didn't rain much during the rest of Sunday and although our fast pace left us all feeling a bit tired when we got back to the carpark, we had fun and got back to Auckland before midnight. All in all, a short trip with lots of driving and lots of fast walking, but still a great chance to appreciate God's creation.

I'm looking forward to doing this trip again when the weather's better and the Holly Track is open! It's quite accessible from Auckland, and we could do it with less fit people if we take more time. We could also save some energy by starting at the Egmont Visitor's Centre at the top end of the road, then taking the Holly Track to Holly Hut, then returning via Pouakai Hut to the lower carpark and sending some fitter people up the road to fetch the car.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Is Richard Dawkins A Moral Realist?

An interview with Richard Dawkins in the New Scientist (21 September 2019) contains this exchange:

Graham Lawton: Another chapter in your book looks at progress in moral issues such as gender and racial equality, and you present a very upbeat picture. Do you worry that progress has gone into reverse?
Richard Dawkins: No. It's important to take the long view. I think there's absolutely no doubt that we're getting better as the centuries go by. The moral standards of a 21st century person are significantly different from those of a 20th century person.

Dawkins here seems to assume there are objective moral standards against which human moral opinions can be measured, i.e. moral realism. This surprised me because Dawkins is such a strong advocate for naturalism and it has always seemed obvious to me (including before I became a Christian) that naturalism is incompatible with moral realism — the famous is-ought gap. Sean Carroll, for example, has written about this much better than I could. In fact, Dawkins has apparently written (in River Out of Eden, quoted here):

The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good.
so unless he's changed his mind about that, it seems Dawkins at least professes to be a moral anti-realist.

This confusion illustrates why I've always found moral anti-realism so deeply unsatisfactory in real life. One can argue that there are no objective moral facts, and that moral claims simply express opinions shaped by evolution and culture etc, and even try to believe those things — but the temptation to think, speak and act as moral realists seems practically irresistible ... so much so that even the most prominent moral anti-realists consistently yield to it, and hardly anyone even notices.

Addendum Arguably the New Scientist quote could be interpreted in other ways, e.g. that by "getting better" Dawkins meant more internally consistent, or more in accordance with his personal subjective moral opinions. However I think it's obvious most people would interpret it as "objectively morally better" and thus if Dawkins meant something else, he needs to work a lot harder at eliminating such misleading language.