Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Eight years later

Today is the anniversary of our civil union. You could say we had our wedding in 2009, but weren’t actually married until 2013. That delay wasn’t because of bureaucracy, but because of government: We had to wait for politicians to make marriage a reality for us, too.

We were married only a couple months after marriage equality became law. On the other hand, we’d waited several years before getting a civil union. Since our marriage, the anniversary of our civil union has become kind of neglected. We don’t do anything special for it (unless you count my annual blog post) because we pay more attention to the anniversary of when we were married. Maybe that was inevitable.

But I mark the occasion every year, and for a whole lot of reasons. It was a special day, one well worth remembering for its own sake. And, besides, it was one of the hottest days we’d ever had—who could forget THAT?! We all still talk about that, and we remember.

This date eight years ago was very special at the time. To me, the fact we were later married doesn’t change the importance of our civil union, it reinforces it precisely because it built on that day and the memories we made. It all just kind of flows.

And so, I’ll keep remembering it because it mattered, and still does.

Happy anniversary to us!

This now concludes the 2016-17 “Season of Anniversaries”. The blog now resumes normal content provision.


2009: Perfect Day – where it began
2010: One and Fifteen
2011: Second Anniversary, squared
2012: Three years ago today
2013: Fourth Anniversary
2014: An anniversary
2015: Anniversaries
2016: A seventh Anniversary

A slinking visitor

The Instagram photo above is of a small visitor to our deck: A skink. New Zealand only has two kinds of lizards, geckos and skinks, so it’s not that surprising that I hadn’t seen one before. So, it was special and kind of fun.

New Zealand has several native species of skinks, and an introduced species from Australia called the "Plague Skink". I wasn’t able to work out which species visited us, and it may even have been a juvenile, which would have made it harder to identify. I don’t know enough about reptiles to even hazard a guess, let alone identify the visitor correctly.

I’m glad that New Zealand’s reptile population does NOT include snakes—I hate snakes. But it would be nice if the skinks visited every now and then. But, then, clearly there’s a first time for everything.

Unexpected disruption

It’s not uncommon for plans to be interrupted—derailed, even—nor for things to pop up unexpectedly. Sometimes, something we think we’ve taken care of reappears and is responsible, in part, for the derailment. Over the past week I’ve experienced all that.

It began, really, last week when a guy I’d hired to clear our section, as wells as wash the house and deck, started working on the project. I’d started work on it and realised it was too big for me, having been neglected for a couple years due to my undiagnosed health problems. Even at the end of the first day, when I saw the enormous pile of overgrown vegetation he’d removed, I knew I’d made the right call in hiring someone.

However, the weather turned later in the week, which made getting up on the roof to wash it (and remove the moss and lichens growing on it) was too dangerous. So, he did the best he could at ground level, but even that reached its limit.

So, we began this week a bit behind, especially because the weather yesterday continued bad. All the wetness meant I couldn’t re-paint the low retaining walls in our front garden, and I couldn’t re-stain the deck.

The weather wasn’t the only unpredictable problem, I also had a very unexpected one: I got a gout attack.

Back in November, I started taking allopurinol to prevent gout attacks. As is always the case, I began with the lowest possible dose, and for the most part it’s been effective: Any minor twinges I felt were gone the next day or after popping a couple paracetamol. So, an actual attack came as a surprise.

It began on Thursday in my right foot, then in the other, sort of at the same time as the first one, which was waning. Then, Saturday it became a full-on attack in my left foot. It was so bad Sunday night that I barely slept. ANY pressure on my foot, even a lightweight blanket, sent me spasms of pain, something that I don’t think has happened to me since my very first attack 15 years ago.

Yesterday, I doubled my intake of cherry pills, just as I did months ago to end my attacks so I could go on the allopurinol. As a result (or, not… my experience is not proof, as I discussed last month), the attack is finally receding. I was able to wear shoes today for the first time since Friday. At this rate, it’ll be over in a day or two.

All that has put this project behind schedule—not dramatically, just behind. But it also affected even blogging because I felt miserable and couldn’t really concentrate—and I DID try! Now, maybe things will return to normal.

Whatever happens with my affliction or the weather, my current project will get done at some point. And, some future project will also be interrupted unexpectedly. It’s just the way things are.

But I could certainly do without another gout attack.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A birthday was had

What on earth is a birthday but a legitimate opportunity for a selfie?! Yesterday I posted a selfie of me on my last day at 57, and today I repeat the favour (above) on my first day at 58. This should become an annual tradition. Clearly.

My birthday celebrations actually began yesterday when our niece and her fiancé joined us for a pizza dinner last night. They gave me a sampling of American treats (below). I won’t have them all at the same time, of course, and haven’t had any yet, actually. But, I will.

Tonight, my sister-in-law and her partner joined us for a BBQ dinner. Even after 20+ years in New Zealand, a BBQ in January is still quite exotic. It was yummy, even though I had to defend my affinity for A1 Steak Sauce. For the record, I declared no defence was necessary, that I was right regardless of what others might think. Birthday Boy prerogative.

And that was my wonderfully low-key birthday celebration. After a significant year, this was a very welcome thing.

Today has been an awesome day, really.

The annual increasing number: 58

As always, this birthday is a sort of personal new year, a chance to reflect on my personal year just past, and look toward my personal year now beginning. There are things coming I can’t comment on, but so much past that I MUST talk about. This has been an unusual year.

This past year I had my cardiac stent done, and that saved my life. I don’t believe in mushing about with mealy-mouthed words when simple ones can better convey the truth: If I hadn’t had that procedure, sooner or later—possibly sooner rather than later—I would have died. The fact the doctors caught and treated my illness is a testament to the power of medicine and of socialised healthcare, both of which are the reason I’m still here to talk about this.

My healthcare adventure casts a long shadow over my year. It isn’t just the thought of what might have happened, but also what is now possible because doctors did what needed to be done—and I had NO bill for that healthcare.

The fact I’m alive, in better health, and likely to continue both is central to everything right now: I’m able to do more, and to plan for more, because of what I’ve been through. At the same time, I’m FAR less willing to put up with bullshit than I used to be—probably because I’m acutely aware of how fragile and short life is.

All of which has led me to leave politics behind. My politics are as passionate as ever, but I no longer see any point in giving my energy to efforts that don’t advance ME: Having a close call has reminded me that this is no dress rehearsal, and if something is painful or too negative in any way, I must cast it aside. And so I have.

So, last year was difficult, but it led me to a much better place, and a much better place leading to the future. How can that be bad?

As always, my Nigel, family and friends are what gives me strength, what keeps me moving ever forward. Without them, I would be lost.

What I said last year is even more true this year: “Even now, as the years pile up, and even after a few too many recent reminders of how short life really is, I’m excited about the road ahead. Always forward. Always.”

The Illinois Route 58 sign is a public domain graphic available from Wikimedia Commons. I’ve driven on that road MANY times.

My Previous Birthday posts:

2016: The annual increasing number: 57
2015: The annual increasing number: 56
2014: The annual increasing number: 55
2013: The annual increasing number: 54
2012: The annual increasing number
2011: The annual increasing number
2010: The annual increasing number
2009: Happy Birthday to Me…
2008: Another Birthday

Friday, January 20, 2017

Birthday eve

Today is my “birthday eve”, the day before my birthday. So, I decided to take a selfie, as one does, to commemorate the last day I’m at this age. Because, well, I could.

I’d gone outside to sweep up some leaves that had fallen on the deck (damn olive trees…), and realised that my previous such selfie was taken under similar circumstances—exactly a month ago. This time, I was wearing a baseball-style cap, something I don’t do because I don’t like how I look in them. I bought this cap the same time as the other hat I photographed myself in (along with several other caps) with the idea I should just make myself get used to them because any hat is better than no hat. And, for what it’s worth, I was outside for maybe 15 minutes, since the deck is mostly clean.

At the time I was doing all this, it was 24 at our house (75.2F), and quite possibly not the high of the day. But it was warm enough after such a cool, even cold, summer.

I mentioned that in my latest AmeriNZ Podcast, which I recorded right after I shared the above photo on Instagram. After that, I carried on with my Friday chores, before later editing the podcast and posting it.

This evening we had Sal’s Pizza with our niece and her fiancé, since they have other plans for dinner tomorrow. So, I get both pizza and a BBQ for my birthday, so I definitely win.

And if my Birthday Eve is this good, the actual day is bound to be even better!

Before the nightmare begins

In a few hours, the Orange Menace will assume the title of US President. While that will be illegitimate for a whole lot of reasons, the issue isn’t that event itself but, rather, what happens later. There are things that are known, many that are likely, and a few more that can be guessed. So, let’s make some predictions.

Don will raise his tiny hand to repeat the oath (the other hand, no doubt, behind his back, with his fingers crossed…) and will do so with historically low approval ratings. My first prediction is that he’s likely to get a post-inauguration “bounce” in the polls, but that will end up being his high point, as his rating fall, probably to never before seen depths of disapproval.

We know this because more people voted against him than voted for him, so he starts out with a very high percentage of Americans suspicious of him. He also will go back on his campaign promises every single day, and it’s inevitable that the people he suckered into voting for him will turn on him. So, he only has falling poll ratings to look forward to.

Assisting in creating his historic levels of disapproval will be the controversies that will dog him from the second the Chief Justice congratulates him. He will be instantly impeachable for his many conflicts of interest and his income from foreign sources, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t try to take advantage of his position to make himself richer. That’s corruption.

Moreover, there are continuing questions about the extent to which he and his campaign colluded (or possibly conspired) with the Russian Government to subvert American democracy to win an election he otherwise couldn’t. If he did collude with Putin, that’s treason.

Because of all of this, my next major prediction is that Don will resign within 18 months. That’s because with poll ratings falling dramatically, Republicans will want him out in order to try and keep control of the US Congress. They’ll also want their real choice, Mike Pence, to have more than two years to bed in before the next presidential election.

So, Don will use a typical failure’s excuse and say something about how he wants to spend more time with his family or something like that, and quit. If he doesn’t quit, Republicans will impeach him and remove him from office in the interest of self-preservation.

If Don quits or is removed from office, Pence will become president—it is the only way he could ever get to that office, due to his extreme far-right radicalism, much of which was devoted to turning the USA into a fundamentalist Christian theocracy.

However, if Don is undone by collusion with the Russians, then Pence will be, too, and both will have to resign or be impeached. In that case, the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, will become president. If that happens, millions of Americans of all political stripes will breathe a sigh of relief, because while Ryan has his own radical ideas, he’s also a pragmatist and wouldn’t be a “damn the torpedoes” sort of radical president like Pence would be.

The reality is that if Pence becomes president because Don quits, and especially if it’s because he was removed from office, then he will be a mere caretaker, doing the titular duties until a real president can be elected in 2020. Don would be so unpopular upon exiting that it would be nearly impossible for Pence to be able to win election in his own right. That means that Republicans in Congress are unlikely to help Pence pursue his radical agenda, preferring to be seen as opposing him.

The bottom line is that Don won’t make it to the midterm elections because he’ll do too much harm to the Republican Party for them to risk it.

However, there’s also the real possibility that health will remove Don from office. The issue here is actuarial tables, that a man of his age can be expected to have health problems. One of those health problems could be severe enough to force him to step down. Or, he could just claim that’s what it is.

Whatever the cause of his exit, I still predict that Don will be gone within 18 months, 20 at most. If he hangs on beyond that, then Republicans can kiss goodbye to one or both houses of Congress. If he lasts past the midterms, whoever the Republican candidate is in 2020 will lose in a landslide, and Democrats will gain a massive majority in both houses of Congress.

Don is unique in US history, not just for being the most unqualified person ever to be sworn in, but also for being an illegitimate president who should not be sworn in (but will be anyway). As his poll ratings nosedive, Republicans will distance themselves from him, then throw him under the bus, and no amount of late night belligerent Tweets can save him. And that’s a very, very good thing.

AmeriNZ Podcast 326 Summertime' now available

A new AmeriNZ Podcast episode, “AmeriNZ 326 – Summertime” is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast.

This is just a short episode to ease into the new year, a bit of a catch up to start things out.

A day of no significance

Today is January 20, a date that has no particular significance for New Zealand, but one that does for the USA—tomorrow, when it arrives there. What is an American expat in New Zealand to make of all this? Ultimately, that’s down to individual choice, timezones having a lot to do with it.

The US President is sworn in at noon on January 20 following the November elections (following ratification of the 20th Amendment to the US Constitution). That falls at 6am January 21 in New Zealand, and isn't exactly a convenient time to watch the hoopla if we’re so inclined. On weekdays, it often falls when we’re getting ready for work, and when it falls on a weekend—well, many of us prefer to sleep later.

For me, of course, there’s the fact that, due to those timezones, January 20 in the USA is January 21 here, and that’s my birthday. So, that’s what I always focus on—not the events in the USA. In fact, in the 20+ years I’ve lived in New Zealand, I know for sure that I watched the inauguration in 2009 (I also know that I didn’t watch it live in 2013), thanks to this blog. So, the fact I won’t be watching the hoopla on Saturday (our time…) doesn’t actually mean anything: I usually don’t watch.

There are many people who have chosen to avoid watching, and if there was a choice to make, I wouldn’t either, on principle. The events happen whether anyone watches or not, and if we choose to ignore the events it changes nothing. But it is a small way we can stand by out principles if we so choose.

I have absolutely no problem with anyone refusing to watch, and that applies to all presidents in all years, regardless of a person’s ideology, motivation for not watching, etc. Watching or not really is a matter of individual choice, and people have to have that right without being harangued for the choice they made.

Even though people have the right to make their choices, that doesn’t mean that the choice won’t be mocked. The other side avoided President Obama’s inaugurations, and were derided for it. Now, the other side will return the favour and deride any of us who boycott Don’s show. And so it goes—always.

I decided to exploit use the hoopla tomorrow as a way to promote New Zealand wine, books, films, and music. That “tongue-firmly-in-cheek post” offered to “share” my birthday celebrations by providing distractions that people avoiding the show in DC might want to try. It was all a bit of light-hearted fun at the (mild) expense of my fellow centre-left folks, while also promoting “some of the things I love most about New Zealand”. I doubt that anyone will take me up on my specific offer, but maybe someone, some time, might look into the things I mentioned. That’d be nice.

So, I won’t be watching the hoopla tomorrow, neither live nor later on. While I have zero interest in Don or his show, and I also reject both, that’s not why I won't watch. I seldom ever watch it live, and for a very good reason: The timezones that put it at such an inconvenient time also place it on my birthday, and I want to focus on that. This year in particular fun and positive things matter a lot.

After tomorrow, there’ll be days I have to take what’s happening in my homeland seriously, but tomorrow isn’t one of those days, and it never is. It’s my birthday tomorrow, and it’s the only thing about the day that has any significance to me. You’re still welcome to join in—fun times always trump, so to speak, bad times.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

At the car wash, yeah

A video posted by arthur_amerinz (@arthur_amerinz) on

This is a first all around: It’s the first time I’ve posted a video to Instagram, so it’s also the first time I’ve tried sharing one on this blog. It’s a simple subject: I needed to wash the car today, and this was a few seconds of that fun.

The reason I had to wash the car in the first place—as opposed to just normal car maintenance or whatever—is that I’m having a guy do some work around the house—tidying the gardens and washing the house (about which, more in a couple days), and I neglected to move my care, and so, it was covered with dust and such from the work. Oops. I knew better, too.

Still, my car was due for a wash—the last one was before Christmas—so it was needed, anyway. And when he comes tomorrow to finish the work, I’ll park my car on the street. Prudence, and all that.
Of course, part of the reason I’m sharing this at all is that if this works, I can share more short videos in the future. If not—well, I suppose one can always watch it on Instagram.

At the very least, my car is clean.

Footnote: The title, as some will know, is from the song “Car Wash” by Rose Royce, and the theme of the 1976 film of the same name. See also this:

Monday, January 16, 2017

I’m willing to share

I’m aware that many of my friends in the USA are determined to avoid the hoopla on January 20 USA time when Don’s regime begins. Not everyone will be taking part in protests, and need something constructive to do. Toward that end, I’m willing to share my birthday celebration.

Because of timezones, January 21 here—my birthday—is January 20 in the USA. That day I’ll be focused entirely being the birthday boy, and far too busy to take any notice of what happens in Washington, DC. So, it occurred to me, why not share this as something for others to focus on?

Obviously, I’m not seriously suggesting that everyone actually celebrate my birthday, however, everyone can still play along. Think of it as an “Experience a Bit of Arthur’s World Day”. Here are some suggestions.

Drink New Zealand wine. Any excuse is a good one for drinking New Zealand wine. Although, since the actual swearing in part will be at 6am NZ time, it may be a bit early for me, there’s no reason others can’t enjoy it—especially since it may help one get through the day. New Zealand is particularly known for its sauvignon blanc and its pinot noir, but I also quite like New Zealand pinot gris (known as pinot grigio in other countries; although there is a difference between the two, and NZ pinot gris is mostly similar to pinot grigio), which is becoming popular and known overseas, too.

Read a New Zealand author. There are so many to choose from—far too many for me to list, but others have done so. Goodreads has a list of “Books By New Zealand Authors” along with user ratings of the books, which may be useful. Or not. Wikipedia has a plain list of New Zealand authors, which is probably not that useful. To find out more about any particular author, the New Zealand Book Council offers what it describes as “the most comprehensive collection of information about New Zealand writers on the Internet”, in searchable (and surprisingly frank) listings about New Zealand writers.

Something to watch. Okay, maybe reading New Zealand authors after having some New Zealand wine might be a bit difficult, so how about some New Zealand movies? NZ Onscreen has snippets about the “Top 10 NZ Feature Films”—in their opinion, and, no, neither the Lord of the Rings nor Hobbit movies are on the list. The last three on this list are relatively recent, and Once Were Warriors is a brutal and honest film about life among urban Māori in the early 1990s. People still talk about—and debate—the film. But Whale Rider and Boy, which also cover the modern Māori experience, may be more, um, accessible. I’d also add What We Do in the Shadows, a horror/comedy from the guys in Flight of the Conchords. It was directed by Taika Waititi, who directed Boy, and Jermaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords.

Similarly, IMDb has a listing of “The 20 Greatest New Zealand Films of all Time”, though not all are actually New Zealand films—they were made by New Zealanders or in New Zealand. Wikipedia has a long list of New Zealand films which also is made up of movies “produced or filmed in New Zealand”, so it includes the Rings and Hobbit movies, among others.

Maybe just listen. Okay, okay, after a few more glasses of a nice New Zealand wine, even a movie may be too challenging, so how about some NZ pop songs to listen to? The Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) has produced a list of what they say are the “Top 100 New Zealand Songs of All Time”. We actually own them on CDs of the artists, and also through CDs put out by APRA called Nature’s Best. Interested in more recent music? How about the “Official NZ Music Charts” listing of the Top 20 NZ singles. Let’s make it easy: You can even listen to the official chart on Spotify.

Those are just a few things anyone can do to play along on my birthday, and also avoid the events in Washington, DC. It’s a win/win, in other words. What can I say? I’m a giver.

Have fun!

Footnote: I really shouldn’t need to say this, but, this is a tongue-firmly-in-cheek post. I’m taking advantage of the convergence of my birthday and the hoopla happening at the same time in Washington, DC, which people really are looking to avoid, in order to promote some of the things I love most about New Zealand. And, who knows? Depending on how the next couple years go, some Americans may find the stuff in this post a sort of preparation for a move to New Zealand…

2Political Podcast 121 is available

We’re back!!
Episode 121 of the 2Political Podcast
is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast, or leave comments on the episode. The five most recent episodes are also listed with links in the right sidebar of this blog.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Helpful neighbours

The photo with this post probably looks familiar. Over the years, I’ve shared many like it on this blog or through social media. But, I didn’t take this photo, and I found it by accident. Yes, there’s a story.

Yesterday I was checking Facebook, as one does, and among my notifications was one about a post to the Facebook Group for our local community. Nothing unusual in that, though I usually get the notifications about a day after the post was made, so I don’t see them in a timely manner.

So I went to check out the post to the group to see what the replies were, and then I scrolled down the page, as I usually do, to see what else had been posted since the last time I’d checked the group. A few scrolls down and I saw the photo. “That looks like Bella,” I thought to myself, and I remembered several of my photos of her that look virtually identical, most of which haven’t been shared.

Then I read the post.

The person who posted it asked, “Does anyone know this cat?”, and then added she’d been visiting for a few days, and was worried that she had no home and was staying out all night. I sent a private message to the person who posted it after a little “Facebook stalking” confirmed what I suspected, that she was a neighbour. I went over and collected Bella, brought her home and fed her, and she went out again—I assume back to their house.

This isn’t unusual behaviour for Bella, and she often fixates on one area to sleep for a few days or so before moving on. At other times she’d been in the common area out front, in front of a different neighbour’s house, or somewhere on our section, among other places. It’s a little unusual for her to stay away most of the day, as she has the past couple days, but certainly not unheard of.

I’m glad our neighbour cared enough about animals to ask if anyone in the area knew who Bella belonged to, and wanted to make sure she was looked after. The fact that she took to Facebook is a sign of the times, as is the fact that I saw it there. In fact, the only thing that’s unusual is that had I not gone to the group to check out an unrelated post, I may never have seen it.

What I haven’t mentioned is that until yesterday I’d never met the neighbours. They’ve lived there for some time, and I’ve caught glimpses of them, but never really even seen them. That meant there was never an opportunity to say hello and introduce myself, and these days no one goes out of their way to introduce themselves to their neighbours, anyway—and they haven’t for a very long time. So, even this aspect—that we’d never met the neighbours—isn’t in any way unusual.

But putting all that modernity aside, the important thing here is that people are as kind and decent as they’ve always been, and they still want to look out for what are clearly other people’s pets and to make sure they’re well. Those are good things. Had we known each other, it wouldn't have unfolded the way it did, so the modern norm of not knowing one’s neighbours was a problem. But another modern thing—use of Facebook—came through.

So, I’m glad that our neighbours are kind and caring, and even that Facebook gave me a reason to introduce myself. Sometimes, our modern systems can fix other problems changing times have created. This was one of those times.

Meanwhile, Bella probably went back over there today.

The very first photo of Bella that I shared on this blog back in 2010 was taken on our deck. Another photo I posted in 2012 was in a similar position to the neighbour’s photo, and one from last year, while very different, as a similar pose. Apparently, this is standard for taking photos of her.

Friday, January 13, 2017

President Obama Awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Vice President Biden

In a surprise move, President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Vice President Joe Biden. It was a well-deserved honour, and I wholeheartedly approve. Joe is thoroughly decent fellow, and, it’s pretty clear, has had an outstanding working partnership with President Obama.

I met Joe Biden once, decades ago, as I wrote about back in 2008. Even then I saw how decent he was—even though at that time we were in different parties.

Over the years, I grew to admire Joe as a US Senator. He was tenacious in fighting the good fight, never giving up.

As Vice President, Joe Biden has been great. Able to speak more freely than President Obama could, he sometimes cleared the are and swept away the bullshit that tends to pile up in Washington, DC.

So, I think he deserved this honour, more than any other vice president of my lifetime. I’m glad he was honoured in this way.