Wednesday, May 24, 2017


The Internet can teach us many things. While some of them are merely entertaining, like how to play a game, some are particularly useful, like how to remove odours, for example. Recently, a technique I tried before came back to help me again.

Back in February, I wrote about using a technique I’d read about on the Internet, specifically, using white vinegar to try to remove the fake coconut oil stench of sunscreen from clothes. It worked, and I decided to try it again.

The first task was the most urgent. I discovered that Bella had peed on a mat in the bathroom (Not entirely her fault: She was locked inside all day, and since she doesn’t have a litter box, she was caught short). So, I put the mat in a bucket of hot water and white vinegar, as might be expected, the resulting smell was, um, unique.

I drained the water, gave the mat a little rinse, and then washed it as usual. Being heavy, it took forever to air dry, but the smell was gone. I vaguely remember doing something like that years ago, with a different cat, but forgot all about it until recently (partly because Bella doesn't usually do that).

A week or so later, I had two t-shirts that smelled sour, like a kitchen cloth or sponge left too long without washing and disinfecting. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but it could be I washed them during one of our many rainstorms and then hung them up to dry in the airing rack in the house. That could have meant they were damp for too long. In any event, merely washing them wasn’t removing the smell.

So, I soaked them, too, in a bucket of hot water with white vinegar and then washed them like usual. They came out smelling fresh and clean.

I know that I might find something that this method doesn’t work with, but I haven’t yet, which is the main thing. But the other thing is that this gave me a passing thought that I ought to try more of these things the Internet told me about, and report back on what happened.

I actually thought that after I’d already tried something completely different that wasn’t as successful.

Something I found through Pinterest told me that a soft cloth with rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) would remove water spots from stainless steel. We have a stainless steel water pitcher that, I think, had been washed in the dishwasher and ended up with water spots. I’d washed it and re-washed it by hand several times, but the spots remained. So I tried the alcohol method, and it helped—didn’t completely fix it, but it’s much improved. Sadly, I didn’t think to take a “before” photo, so an “after” photo was kind of pointless (and in that way, a topic for a blog post was lost…).

The larger point here is that as long as the Internet advice isn’t clearly dangerous—like combining household chemicals that must never be combined—there’s often no reason to NOT try methods, even if they seem unconventional. I will, and I'll continue to share what I learn.

Right now, though, I can affirm that soaking clothes in white vinegar does indeed remove most unpleasant odours.

I wonder what would happen if there was a white vinegar rainstorm over the White House…

Related posts:

Weekend Diversion: Learning stuff (2010) – The first post, I think, where I shared a technique I learned on the Internet. I still use this technique.
Weekend Diversion: How to fold a shirt (2013) – I still use this technique, too.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

#CultureOfLove spreads a great message

The United Nations’ Free & Equal project has launched a mini-campaign exploring the role that culture and tradition play in the lives of lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people around the world. The #CultureOfLove campaign features three short videos that show what it looks like when culture and tradition are opened to LGBTI people. I think they’re awesome: Anyone who is LGBTI—or loves someone who is—should watch them.

In Tradition (above), as the Free & Equal project put it in an email, “a young man in Mumbai brings his boyfriend to a family celebration of the Festival of Holi”. One of the end title cards (shared with all three videos) says, “Culture and tradition should bring us together, not tear us apart”. No one with a heart could possibly disagree with that.

The second video I watched was Culture, though it was actually the third posted to their YouTube Channel (where, as usual, all these videos are available in a variety of languages). In this video, “a genderqueer youngster in Britain joins their father at a soccer match and basks in the camaraderie that goes with supporting the local team”:

Finally, in Family, “Chinese parents shake off their initial hesitation and include their daughter’s same sex partner in their traditional Lunar New Year celebrations”:

What all three videos have in common is that they show very traditional cultures that are traditionally more or less anti-LGBTQI, and how people letting go of the chains of traditional culture and embracing love of family can make the world a better place.

All of this is based on Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community”. In the website for the campaign, they say:
Culture and tradition are profound parts of our lives. They allow us to come together to mark life’s milestones, and celebrate our heritage and the people we love. For many, they provide a sense of home, of history and identity.

Culture and tradition belong to everyone. Each of us gets to interpret, adapt and practice the beliefs, customs and rituals that are meaningful to us as individuals. These are basic cultural rights – guaranteed to everyone without discrimination.

Sadly, some people see the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people as a threat to their cultural values. They may try, wrongly, to rationalize violence and discrimination as a way of protecting their beliefs in the name of culture and tradition. No matter how diverse people’s beliefs and values, culture and tradition are not a license to discriminate or an excuse for violence.

Culture and tradition are not fixed: they change over time and are viewed and interpreted differently within societies. There are traditions of hate and repression, just as there are traditions of equality and justice. It's up to each of us to decide for ourselves which ones to carry on. You decide.
This is the heart—literally and figuratively—of this. In Western societies we’ve seen rapid progress for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual people, even as we see growing repression of, and hatred directed toward, Trans people. LGB people have won, for now, the right to marry and be treated as any other citizen in most Western countries, but Trans people are still left to wonder when their time will come, when they, too, will be welcomed as free and equal people.

To be sure, the West has no room to gloat or to puff out its chest: Homophobia and Transphobia are rife throughout our societies, and even the hard-fought right to marry for same-gender couples could be taken away in an instant if we become the same object of hatred that Trans people are now, or as we were in the past.

But even where legal protections exist, so, too, does violence, hatred, and discrimination. There are many reasons for that, but culture and tradition are often used as justifications for it (as for example to justify the creation of concentration camps for and torture of LGBT people in Chechnya), and it is always wrong and unjustifiable.

My personal belief is that if one’s culture or tradition tells one to use violence and discrimination against LGBTI people, there’s something wrong with that culture or tradition, not the object of their enmity. Love and family must always come before culture and tradition, and when it does, change happens and cultures grow and form new, inclusive traditions.

Still, it’s impossible to wave a magic wand and transform a culture or to make long-held traditions adapt. Instead, WE do that, and it begins with a simple and clear determination to put love and family first. This is the way forward, I think.

The UN’s Free & Equal Campaign has put out some great videos over the years (see also below), and this series continues that. They’re doing good work toward making this world a better, safer, more peaceful place, and they should be commended. I hope they succeed in changing hearts and minds. I hope they help us all become Free & Equal.

Previously on this blog:

Suggested realities (2013) – My post where I first mentioned the Free & Equal Campaign
Free and Equal (2013) – From later the same day as the first post in this list, it was where I first shared a video, The Riddle.
Free & Equal – ‘The Welcome’ (2014)
UN Fighting to make LGBT people Free & Equal (2015) – A post with five videos from Free & Equal
This is my fight song (2016) – With the video Why We Fight featuring the song “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten, the first time I’d ever heard that song.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Issue storytelling done by a storyteller

Political messaging comes in many forms, from overt advertising, viral videos, pop songs, TV satire, and so much more. When it’s done right, it can influence opinion and voting behaviour. The best issue messages come from proven storytellers, and the video above is an excellent example of that.

The video is called “UNLOCKED”, and was made in support of Planned Parenthood by “screenwriter, film and television director, film and television producer, comic book author, and composer” Joss Whedon. He clearly knows what he’s doing.

Over three minutes, Whedon masterfully shows two entirely different realities for three women: One in which rightwingers succeed in their campaign to close down Planned Parenthood, and the other in which the organisation can continue providing the important health services they provide, ending with the direct question: “What world do you want?”

The answer to that question really is about politics, sure, but even more it’s about simple humanity and human decency. While it is inflammatory to say so, it’s nevertheless true that rightwingers who want to end Planned Parenthood are okay with a world in which women die or suffer needlessly. Those who support Planned Parenthood are not.

Rabid anti-abortion people want to “de-fund” Planned Parenthood because, they say, giving the organisation money for women’s health services frees up other, non-government money to be used for providing abortions. Only about 4%, more or less, of the services provided by Planned Parenthood are related to abortion, but to fervent anti-abortion activists, the women who benefit from the 96% of the services related to women’s health should suffer.

It seems to me that Planned Parenthood’s rightwing opponents can be broadly divided into two categories. The first are the True Believers, who are almost always religiously activist conservative Christians (Protestant and Catholic) who are fervently opposed to abortion, and often contraception, too. There’s no reasoning with this crowd, and no compromise is even remotely possible.

The other, possibly bigger, group is made up of Opportunistic Opponents, mainly politicians who exploit the crusade against Planned Parenthood for personal political gain: They feel that they can tap into the rightwing crusade as a way of fooling True Believers into thinking they’re as anti-abortion as they are.

It’s entirely possible that among the Opportunistic Opponents are people who really do oppose abortion on “moral grounds” possibly for reasons not based on regurgitated religious doctrine. But here’s the thing: In the roughly 40 years I’ve been paying close attention to politics, often participating in it, I have never—ever—met anyone who is “pro-abortion”, despite the defamatory rhetoric used by the rightwing. Not once.

Instead, mainstream people, regardless of party, believe, as President Clinton used to put it, abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare”. Supporting the right to choose and access to abortion is not the same as supporting abortion itself.

Instead, mainstream people support age-appropriate sex education to help prevent teenagers from creating unintended pregnancies, as well as life skills education to teach young people how to deal with societal pressure to have sex, that “no means no”, and so on. We also support the right to full access to birth control, and that it be free for those who can’t afford it. But if all that fails, we still believe that the choice is between a woman and her doctor, end of story.

Planned Parenthood is involved in that sort of education, as well as providing birth control and related advice, education, and services. Abortion services are a minor part of what they do.

But aside from all that, they also provide the only healthcare that some women—poor women in particular—can get, especially for services like cancer screening. That clearly has nothing to do with abortion.

Personally, I have zero sympathy for those who want to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood. Sure, their little fantasy world in which cutting of government funding for Planned Parenthood is morally justifiable must help ease their consciences, but in the real world it would mean that women die. Since no government money can be spent on abortion services (which is stupid in my opinion, but a different topic), then their ability to provide such services is entirely dependent upon being able to raise the money privately. If people didn’t support those abortion services, they wouldn’t give money to Planned Parenthood, and the government funding has nothing to do with that decision—but women’s lives will be sacrificed because of the—let’s be honest here—batshit crazy fantasy of anti-abortion extremists.

No matter how much it drives some rightwingers into a frothing rage, abortion IS legal in the United States. Until and unless that changes, the zealous rightwingers are really demanding that government money provided for vital healthcare be cut off to stop private people from donating money to support a perfectly legal medical procedure. That’s just nuts.

The video above won’t change any rightwingers’ minds, and it doesn’t need to change the minds of those in the Centre or and the Left who support Planned Parenthood. But it could help the huge number of people who really don’t understand what’s really at stake here, and how very, VERY wrong the rightwing is.

And, if I haven’t been abundantly clear already, “I Stand With Planned Parenthood”. I know what world I want, and Planned Parenthood is part of it.

In any case, this video is very well done.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

2Political Podcast 123 is available

Episode 123 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.

The wind began to switch

There was a storm on Tuesday night. There’s nothing unusual about that, apart from the fact we had no idea it was coming. The wind was fierce, often driving a hard rain. It was bad enough that I talked about it on Facebook:
Well, THAT was wild weather last night!! It started raining in the evening, and got more steady and often heavier as the night went on. After midnight (I don't know what time, because I was asleep), the winds began—house rattling and moving winds, "someone's going to lose a roof tonight" winds, even "are we safe?" winds.

The wind woke us up about 4am, and it was too loud -- and, frankly, too scary -- to sleep. We got up about 4:15, and saw the next door neighbours were up, too. Sometime after 5, I went back to bed and managed to sleep.

The wind and rain continued into the morning, then around 10, it all just stopped—no gradual dying down, more like someone threw a switch.

I had a quick look around, and there doesn't seem to be any damage, and no real surface flooding. I wouldn't have guessed that because it SOUNDED so much worse than the weather bomb or ex tropical cyclones we've been hit by over the last few weeks.

Last night, I was really annoyed that the App that's supposed to warn of hazards (including storms) never did. Maybe that's because it was all sound and fury amounting to nothing? No, the new "Hazard" App is terrible, and nowhere near as good as the old Civil Defence App it replaced. There SHOULD have been a warning about damaging winds.

It was the not knowing that kept us from being able to go back to sleep. That, and all the noise from the wild weather last night.
A friend later pointed out on Facebook that there have been other storms that hit with no warning. That’s true, and when combined with the number of times they’ve predicted bad storms that never happened (or weren’t as bad as predicted), it’s little wonder that most Kiwis take weather predictions with a grain of salt.

I actually have a lot of sympathy for them. Being an island nation, the weather for New Zealand is notoriously hard to predict. Even so, it would have been nice to have advance warning or, if that wasn’t possible, at least a warning through the Hazard App.

Yesterday was pretty quiet, really, but this morning the winds picked up again and were sometimes incredibly strong, though not as bad as they were on Tuesday night. Or, did the daylight just make it seem better?

As my mother always used to say, “Whether it rains, or whether is snows, we shall have weather, whether or no.”

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Midweek Diversion: Ozzy v. Earth, Wind & Fire

If there was a list of best mash-ups ever, this would have to be near the top—it’s truly inspired. The video above is itself a mash-up of video footage of the two performances, and it somehow works, just like the “song”.

This was made by a guy called DJ Cummerbund [YouTube Channel] did a mash-up of Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train and Earth, Wind, & Fire’s September. To me, it sounds like an actual song, something that isn’t always the case with mash-ups. It also sounds like it could have been a hit back in the day.

Still, the meshing of Ozzy and EW&F is so out there, so beyond normal human thought, that the result just begs to be shared. So, since I saw it shared all over the place today, I decided to do a “Midweek Diversion” post, something that’s so rare I don’t even have a Label (aka tag) for them, and that I haven’t done since October, 2014. Which is not to say this is going to be even almost as frequent as my Weekend Diversion posts, but it does mean that maybe I should think about a label/tag for these posts. Maybe I’ll wait for the next one.

Health and sickness

Yesterday I finally had a consultation that should have happened months ago, and the results were all good. But getting to that point made me feel really quite unwell, and that was despite the fact that I wasn’t, in fact, unwell. It was all because of a weird coincidence of events.

The appointment at the cardiology department at the hospital yesterday was supposed to have happened last October but, for some reason, it didn’t. It was about the time of the junior doctors’ strikes, so maybe that affected things. And, there was weird confusion about it, as I mentioned in the last update.

In the week or two leading up to the appointment, I began to get more anxious about it: What if they found something was wrong? What if I was getting bad again? I think this is the reason I had trouble sleeping the couple nights before that, which I mentioned on Monday.

The particular reason I got worked up about it was some coincidences: First, at the end of that day I had a meeting—a meeting for the same group that was meeting the first day I was in hospital, and I had to send my apologies because I obviously couldn’t attend the meeting that night in August. If the two events hadn’t both been yesterday, I may not have had the very real reminder of what it felt like nine months ago.

But in the months since then, particularly after I was able to stop taking the Clopidogrel (blood thinner), I began to wonder, how would I know if things were getting bad again? I didn’t know it was happening the first time. I worried about that, sometimes too much, and always forgetting that I see my doctor every three months, so it’s not like I’m going unmonitored.

It turned out, there was probably no need for worry. The first thing they did when I got to the hospital yesterday is do an ECG, and the results were normal. It was a bad ECG that sent me to the hospital last August, so this was both significant and a major relief.

After meeting with the staff, it turns out that I’m mostly doing very well. In my last update, I also mentioned my blood test results, and we went over those yesterday. Turns out I was right: My cholesterol levels are really good (I’m supposed to have considerably lower levels than a person who hasn’t had my problem). My low “good” cholesterol is a problem, but it turns out there are a lot of reasons why that could be happening, and they seemed less concerned about that than I am.

However, they want to increase the dosage on my blood pressure medication again. My blood pressure is in a range that would be acceptable for a man my age who hasn’t had my health issue. The dosage was last raised in March, and it has come down, but not enough. So, I’ll soon start a higher dosage, then, if I tolerate it and it doesn’t lower my blood pressure too much, I’ll get blood tests ten days after starting to make sure I don’t have signs of kidney damage from the higher dosage.

So, things are going well, really, and once my blood pressure stabilises it means I’ll actually be better than an unaffected man my age: I’ll have lower cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. That’s kind of ironic.

All of this was true despite my worry, something I intellectually knew would be the case, but feared would not be. But now that I’ve finally had the consultation, and knowing that I see the doctor every three months, I know that I’m still fine, and that’s ultimately what matters. Well, that and keeping it that way.

Finally, today is nine months since my hospital adventure, something I was also aware of leading up to yesterday, as well as th efact that yesterday was nine months since I found out I was getting a stent, the day after I arrived at the hospital in the back of an ambulance. It all added another layer of coincidence to yesterday. But there was one more thing about yesterday that was good: I left the hospital with no bill. Just like always.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Today’s dilemma

The caption for the photo above pretty much describes what it’s about. When I sat to write the caption so I could post it, I really just wanted to tell the tale sparely. When I was done, the last line just sort of popped into my head, sort of haiku-like.

For many years, I never took naps. That was because I wore contact lenses and had to take them out and disinfect them, a pain in itself, and the disinfection process was a time consuming one that often took longer than a nap would be.

After my Lasik eye surgery, I could nap again, and I have main times in the years since. However, I envy the dogs’ ability to just lay down anywhere and go to sleep. It always takes me longer to fall asleep, and usually the conditions have to be just right.

Last night, for some reason, I was wide awake until quite late. I drank a cup of chamomile tea to make me sleepy, something that doesn’t always work, and when it doesn’t I have a second. I had a second cup last night. Then a third. And still I wasn’t sleepy.

I went to bed anyway, and it took me the better part of an hour to fall asleep, though I’d dozed lightly a bit before then. I have no idea what that was about, since nothing like it has ever happened to me, as far as I can remember. Still, once I was asleep, I slept really well.

So, today when I saw Sunny just fall asleep so quickly and easily, I probably envied that a bit more than I would normally.

A dog’s life, eh?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

So, Mother’s Day

Among the last photos I took of my mother, ca. 1980. 
Today is Mother’s Day, which, unlike Father’s Day, falls on the same date in both New Zealand and the United States. In both countries it’s very commercialised, with promotions to buy cards, gifts, and for taking mother out for a meal. Despite all that, the day is meant to be—and still largely is—a day to honour one’s own mother. But those of us who’ve lost our mothers are included—whether we like it or not.

Every year there are outpourings of love and gratitude for one’s mother, living or dead, and many of those are shared on social media. In my own Facebook feed today I saw post after post along those lines. I think it’s touching.

I do wonder sometimes, though, how all this public focusing on mothers affects people who have recently lost their mother, or, worse, perhaps never knew theirs, or, worse still, ended up estranged from their mothers. Does the saturation coverage—well, saturation marketing—bother them?

As someone whose mother is long gone, I’m at a place where I can appreciate the reminder. And, I like seeing people acknowledge their mothers. I especially love seeing posts from people who have the chance to express their love and appreciation for their mother who is still alive, because I can no longer do that, of course.

Those who find the mother-focus to be too much, for whatever reason, can mostly get away from it, more or less, if they really want to. But even I was given pause by a game I play that gave me a “badge” when I’d accumulated enough points. “I ❤️ Mom”, it said. I do, even now, but would others mind that badge being added to their profile picture without being asked?

Like always, I try to be sensitive to how others feel, that some people may have entirely different feelings about their mothers or Mother’s Day than I do. But, of course, that doesn’t stop me from liking the day or remembering my mother (or thinking about my awesome mother-in-law, and making sure Nigel rings her, though he always does without my prompting). To me, this is one of those things where people must “live and let live”, that we may not all experience, think about, or react to the day (or our mothers) in the same way, and that’s fine.

Me, I remember my mother every Mother’s Day, and I wish I still had the chance to do so personally. Instead, I can just be happy for those who can, and a good dose of “the feels” never does anyone any harm.

Footnote: Today I puzzled about spelling. I thought maybe it should be “Mothers’ Day”, a day belonging to all mothers, or maybe “Mothers Day” the say of mothers. But it turns out that it really is “Mother’s Day” because the founder, Anna Jarvis, wanted it that way. She wanted people to celebrate and honour their own mothers—but without all the commercialisation. The day began in 1905, and by the 1920s the commercialisation had well and truly set in, and Anna was NOT happy about it. She’d probably be pleased that so many people still share her feeling. The fact it was only today that I looked it up is probably an indication of how little a role the day actually plays in my life nowadays.