Sunday, April 05, 2020

Jake is 13

This year Jake turned 13. Understandably, I wasn’t exactly in a mood to celebrate, but I made a fuss of Jake all the same, pretty much the same way I have most years: I gave him extra pats and cuddles, and his dinner was his usual dry food, with some tinned dog food (both the same premium brand), with a little bacon fat drizzled on it. He loved it, of course, and also enjoyed the extra attention.

We sang “Happy Birthday” to Jake, and when I say “we”, I mean me and Leo. For some reason, Leo always “sings along” with that song, and only that song, something that Nigel first noticed when it was used in something he was watching on TV and Leo started “singing”. We sang it many times afterward because ti made us laugh, and sometimes Sunny joined in a bit. Jake would just wag his tail; he’s not much into singing.

Yesterday, Jake didn’t seem to mind his serenade, and Sunny was nearby smiling. At least, I think that’s what she was doing—it could have been a grimace of pain from the singing.

Jake’s still a happy and active boy, though getting older and moving slower, of course. (a bit like me). I have no idea whether Jake feels Nigel’s absence, but I think/believe that because I made sure that they saw Nigel after he died the furbabies understood in whatever way dogs grasp such things. He certainly hasn’t seemed depressed or in mourning, though I’m not exactly sure what it would look like if he was. Basically, he just seems the same as always.

Two years ago I said that Jake “came to live with us at a sad time, and made the sadness go away.” I hope that I’ve spared him sadness. My own sadness continues, of course, but life is definitely brighter than it otherwise would be if he hadn’t been in my life over these past six months. As I said last year, magic powers, indeed.

Happy Thirteenth Birthday, Jake!

Related posts:
Jake is 12
Jake is 11
Jake is TEN
Jake is 9
Jake is 8
Jake is 7
Jake is 6
Jake turns 5
Jake is four
Jake turns three
Jake’s Birthday 2-day
Jake is one year old!
A new arrival

Friday, April 03, 2020

2Political Podcast 129 is available

2Politiical Podcast is back with another episode: Episode 129 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.

This episode was recorded on the first of April (NZDT), but Arthur spent most of the next day fixing the 2Political website, which had “issues”. Oh, well.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Solo survivor

I spent two and a half decades as half of a couple, and we faced everything together—the good, the bad, and also just the boringly ordinary. Facing a major international crisis like Covid-19 is something none of us could have anticipated, not really, and facing it alone is nothing I could ever have imagined. This whole thing has given me yet another reminder that this grieving process is far from over. In fact, in some ways it’s just beginning, but in a very good way.

The government announced we’d be going under lockdown three days after our house in Auckland changed owners. Three days after that, we were under lockdown. So much happened so quickly that it’s kind of hard to keep track of time—and we’re all finding that to be true. For me, though, the increased Covid-19 response happened hard on the heels of the very traumatic two weeks before that.

In early February I said about moving to Hamilton that “for the first time, I truly had time to properly grieve.” That was true, but only just: I still had our last house together keeping me tied to everything that happened there, especially losing Nigel. That weight was taken off of me just before New Zealand went under lockdown.

This state of affairs presented an entirely unexpected situation for me, added on top of everything else I’d been dealing with. As I said last week at this time,
There’s a personal irony in this situation: I moved from Auckland to Hamilton so that I wouldn’t have to be alone all the time, and now I will be anyway. Someone’s “got a sick sense of humour”, as the Depeche Mode song put it.
I haven’t seen anyone in the family—or anyone I know—for a week and a half. I also haven’t seen my mother-in-law in two and a half weeks. Sure, I talk to all those people on the phone, but I did that in Auckland, too. The difference is that I can’t go see them, or vice versa, or even talk to the neighbour over the fence. I don’t know anyone in the area where I now live, and seldom even see anyone. When I joke that I’m in “solitary confinement”, all of that’s what I’m referring to.

And yet, I’m not alone: I have my furbabies. I can talk to them as much as I want to, and I do, and they don’t seem to mind at all. In fact, they’re what’s getting me through this weird time. I don’t know how—or if—I’d cope if I was literally all alone, not this close to everything else I’ve been through.

If Nigel was still with me and this happened, I may not have seen much of him. He had an important senior role with Auckland Council, and they would have needed him to work. He would have done so from home, as he often had, but because he was also an emergency (civil defence) controller, he’d have been called upon to help with Auckland’s response to the pandemic. Part of him would’ve loved that—the excitement, the seriousness of the situation, making a difference, all of that. But it would also have exhausted him, and, no doubt, other people in Council would have frustrated him. He’d have had trouble turning off and relaxing and resting. I’d have helped by making no demands on him and ensuring he was fed and given cups of tea, all so he could concentrate on his important work.

If that was the reality I was in, there would be large stretches of time when he’d be gone doing Council work, and I would have been home alone. But, as had always been the case, I’d have known he was coming back home. We would be facing everything together, just as we’d always done.

But that’s not the reality I’m in. Nigel’s gone, and I’m facing this all alone (with the furbabies). However, this has led me to see that things have changed since the first few weeks and months after Nigel died.

At the beginning of this journey, a lot of my grief was centred on, “WTF do I do NOW?”, about facing the world alone, dealing with absolutely everything in my life all alone, and finding some sort of purpose in that life alone. However, after the house sold and the lockdown began, I realised there’d been a subtle shift: I still can’t answer that question, and I don’t know when, or even if, I’ll ever be able to. But now, for the first time, really, I’m working through my loss, feeling the searing pain of no longer having Nigel in my life, and not even thinking about what may be ahead. This lockdown, by forcing me to be alone, has given me the chance to really face being alone. Through that, I have a chance of finding some peace with this reality I’m now in; I’ll worry about “WTF do I do NOW?” later (I can’t do much about that at the moment, anyway).

So, as we remain in lockdown, I find things to do, when I feel like it, I cry heartily, when I feel like it, I sit around watching TV, when I feel like it—in short, I’m feeling it, this new life, for the first time since this journey began. This solo time is the most significant thing yet to help me toward finding peace. That’s been a very good thing; there had to be one good thing about it.

Small projects

I have a lot of projects to help keep me busy during the lockdown, including several I haven’t been rushing to do so that I don’t run out too quickly. And then there are the small projects I add on, too. Like this one.

I posted the photo above to my personal Facebook on Sunday, saying “Apparently, when this is over, I’ll need to buy Leo a dog bed for the bedroom.” I added in a comment:
He’s sleeping on my shirt from yesterday and t-shirt from last night. I am NOT in the habit of leaving my clothes on the floor! Well, unless a furbaby’s sleeping on it, of course.
Since I’d be picking up my shirts to wash them, that would leave Leo with no “bed” in the bedroom, apart from the one we all share, of course. So here’s what I came up with:

I posted that to my personal Facebook last night, and added this:
Day 6 Achievement: I made Leo a temporary dog bed in the bedroom using a cushion for an outdoor chair, an old mattress protector (folded in half lengthwise and wrapped around the cushion), and an extra big dog towel on top of it all. I rolled the mattress protector and the towel together to make a raised area at the back because Leo likes sleeping up against things (including me…), and because sometimes he likes a pillow.

To be honest, I wouldn’t have mentioned all this if I hadn’t seen him in his new “bed” (pictured) as I was going to mine. Or, if he hadn’t used it at all. As it happens, he’s been sleeping on it most of the evening (he goes to bed much earlier than the rest of us).

Clearly, I’m mad about my furbabies, but they keep me from going mad during this lockdown, so it’s a fair trade
This was a small project for a small guy, and he clearly loved it: He’s been using his temporary “bed” a lot since then, including much of this morning. When this is all over, I really will get him an actual dog bed for the bedroom, in addition to the larger one he has out in the lounge.

And that was one small project that I completed yesterday. I still have a few more small projects (in addition to more unpacking), but this one at least was appreciated by someone other than myself.

Neither Jake nor Sunny have shown interest in dog beds—or sleeping on my shirts.

2Political Podcast 128 is available

2Politiical Podcast is back with another episode: Episode 128 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.

This was from last week, and I forgot to share it here. There’s a new episode on the way, so I’d better announce this now!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 350 now available

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 350, “Thirteen years” is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast.

The five most recent episodes of the podcast are listed on the sidebar on the right side of this blog.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Life in lockdown

New Zealand is under lockdown—literally. That’s not just a buzzword or convenient nickname, it’s the truth for New Zealand. If people don’t stay home and follow the rules, they could face arrest and incarceration by the police, who are out patrolling. If things get out of hand, the military is on alert to help the police. A lockdown doesn’t get much more lockdown-y than that. So far, we're getting through it.

Most New Zealanders are obeying the rules, which simplify down to this: Stay local. It’s okay for people to take a walk in their own neighbourhood, but they shouldn’t drive to a park or the beach, and for the same reason they mustn’t go for a swim, surf, fishing, or hunting: Something could go wrong, and they might need to be rescued, which, among other things, could endanger rescuers.

The government’s advice is simple: Act as if you have COVID-19 and keep your distance from everyone. People contemplating an activity should consider the risk that being rescued might put someone else in. It’s not just about the risk of drowning at the beach or getting into trouble in the bush, but also that a car can breakdown or get into an accident. Any of those would be bad enough, but in a time of national emergency, it could stretch resources needed elsewhere.

So, stuck at home, people are coming up with ways to keep themselves occupied, and many are sharing them on social media. In my street, many people go out for walks once or twice a day, often with their dogs—which means lots of dogs (and their people) that I’ve never seen before. One household seems to go to the supermarket every day, and there are only three adults, a child, and a dog in that household, so they may need to find better ways to occupy their time.

I’ve spent my time working on some small projects, including the one I talked about yesterday, but even those I’m not in a hurry to complete: I want to pace myself so I don’t run out of things in the first few days, because otherwise I really won’t have anything to do but deal with the mountain of boxes in the garage. I’d rather have options.

One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that I’ve developed a certain amount of sloth: I haven’t really tidied up since I finished unpacking my car the other day. That was mainly some tools I’d left the boot, so it’s not a lot of stuff, but still. However, all the lawn equipment’s batteries and their chargers are still out (in my defence for both of those crimes, I don’t have anywhere in the garage to put tools yet).

Today I also recorded a new podcast episode with Jason, though I still need to edit it. I’ll do a new one of my own soon, too. That and, obviously, blogging help fill my time. And TV—probably a little too much of that.

Even so, each day I have a repeated thought when I think about tidying or whatever: “Who cares? It’s not like anyone’s going to see this for at least a month.” But I’ll see it, which is the point, and the reason why I don’t listen to that thought. Today, for example, I cleaned the house more or less like normal (Friday is my cleaning day), though I certainly didn’t rush finish it—it’s not like anyone’s going to see it, right?

Friday evenings I often have family around to my house for dinner—either I cook or we have takeways. Not now, not while we’re under lockdown. So instead I’m making myself a dinner I wouldn’t usually make for myself, a warm marinated chicken salad. Admittedly, part of this is to make sure I use fresh stuff before it goes off, but it’s still more trouble than I’d usually go to for just me (by which I mean that on most days if I can’t do it in about five minutes, I don’t want to bother; I’m actually more or less serious about that, too).

So here we are nearing the end of Day 2 of the lockdown, and so far we’re all surviving. But the first few days, even the first week or so, may be the easy part. What will we—or me—feel like in week two or three? Whatever it is, I’ll no doubt document it here.

Today we have 85 new confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 368. Of them, 20 people were hospitalised (8 are in hospital currently, one individual with underlying health issues is currently in intensive care). 37 people are listed as having recovered.

Thursday, March 26, 2020


One of the big projects in my new house, aside from the mountains of boxes still in the garage, is one I’ve joking called “Terraforming”, because it involves transforming a largely barren construction site to a garden space I’d want to spend time in. I started that project last week, and it’ll be partially continued during the lockdown. It would take weeks and months regardless, but if the lockdown goes on too long, it could delay most of the work until Spring.

This past Saturday, I bought a lawnmower, a 36V battery powered model with a brushless motor (Nigel would have approved). I wanted a battery powered mower because it’s cleaner (most of New Zealand’s electricity comes from renewable sources), and they tend to weigh less than petrol powered mowers, which are often all metal. And petrol mowers stink and are very loud when running.

I’d considered hiring a lawnmowing service, but in addition to the (admittedly small) ongoing cost, there was also the fact that this is a relatively small property (only 600 square metres, including the house), so it was manageable for me. I also knew my doctors would be pleased that I was doing it and getting some exercise.

However, I didn’t want to spend money on any lawnmower until the house in Auckland sold. That happened last Friday. My specific motivator for acting now—the day after the sale was final—was the impending lockdown. I knew that if I didn’t get one then, I’d have to wait, maybe for months. That would be a big problem because I wouldn’t have an alternative: I wouldn’t be able to go pick up someone else’s mower to do my lawns, and I knew that lawnmowing services would be suspended during the lockdown. Getting a mower was the only logical thing to do, and, fortunately, by then I’d thoroughly researched brands and models.

Saturday evening, I took the mower out back to make sure it worked—out back, even though the front needed mowing more desperately—so that if I had trouble, no one would see me struggle. I did have some trouble until I worked out the proper sequence of button pushing to get it to start.

I set the mower to its highest setting (because the lawn and weeds were so high), and then I tried a mowing just a little bit. It worked great so, with a “what the hell” attitude, I went ahead and mowed the entire back lawn. Took me maybe 20 minutes, and used about a quarter of the battery.

It rained all or part of the next two days, so I wasn’t able to mow the front lawn until Tuesday. Then I took the line trimmer we already had and went around the entire section. All up, maybe half an hour, and the lawnmower battery was again maybe a quarter used, though I had to change the line trimmer’s battery to the other one (they’re the same ones used in our drills, but I’d been using one in a drill, so it was mostly empty). All the batteries are now fully charged.

And that’s where I stopped, because aside from mowing, there’s only a little more that I can do.

The photo up top is a before and after shot of the back lawn: I took the “before” photo on February 18, at the height of the heat and lack of rain. The “after” photo is one I took yesterday, after temperatures cooled and we had some rain. As I continue to mow, it’ll thicken, but only so much.

Part of the problem is that the developer sprayed grass seed onto bad soil (in the old days, apparently, they’d put down some good topsoil first, but not any more). That’s part of the reason that the soil cracked, as is easier to see in the photo at right.

The solution is to spread gypsum to help break up the soil, and I have a spray on version (to make it easier on me, I admit). That will help, but I’ll still need to sow some grass seed, something I can’t buy until the lockdown is over (because I forgot to get it before it started). I’ll also need to do some “weed and feed” thing to start killing off some of the weeks, but the two strongest ones won’t be affected.

One of the weeds is called paspalum (Paspalum dilatatu), a grass weed that’s very difficult to get rid of. Apparently, the only available herbicide is glyphosate, since the one that used to be available was based on arsenic (I’d rather not use either, actually). The problem with the weed, apart from the fact it takes over, is that some people are allergic to it (I don’t know why, but I know the plant can host a fungus that makes some grazing animals sick).

The other weed plant is kikuyu (Pennisetum clandestinum), a grass native to East Africa. It’s extremely hardy and drought tolerant, and its roots can hold soil, which is useful. On the other hand, it can crowd out or even kill other plants, including pasture grasses like rye grass. It, too, is very difficult to get rid of (and it doesn’t compost very well, either).

My lawn is filled with both weeds because the developer didn’t water the grass seed once sowed, and the weeds had a chance to take over. It’ll be a years-long project to get a better lawn, I think.

Still, at least the kikuyu stays green even in drought, so I don’t mind that one as much as the passpalum, so that’s the one I’ll concentrate on removing—when I get the chance. For now, regular mowing, cooler weather, and rain will all encourage what’s there—the kikuyu in particular—to thicken up. So, if this lockdown continues until winter, at least there will be less mud for the dogs to walk through.

One final aspect to the lawn project is that the ground was littered with a lot of rocks—and other things. The photo at left is of the first things I recovered: The rock and glass came from the lawn, the rock and bit of china came from the mulch. There were actually a lot of rocks in the lawn area, and I needed to remove the big ones so that the mower wouldn’t send a rock hurtling through a window, something that could become more likely as I gradually lower the height I have the mower set on.

So, clearing rocks in the soil was what I was doing in a photo (taken with my phone on timer) that I posted to Instagram yesterday:

I was using a grabber thing to pick up the stones so I could put them in the black bucket-like thing, something I came up with so that I wouldn’t have to bend over to get the rocks or, worse still, get down on the ground and back up again, two very unpleasant options. I did this in both the front and back of the house. I have a use for the rocks I collected, but that’s for a totally different project I’ll talk about when I do it.

Right now, I only have the gypsum spray that I can do, that and regular mowing. The rest will have to wait until the lockdown is over, or possibly next Spring, if the lockdown goes on too long. Not the end of the world, obviously, but it would have been nice to work on building up the lawn during this forced quiet time.

I have one more big project to do outside while we’re on lockdown, then it’s just maintaining what I’ve done—fairly simple, since not much will be done before the lockdown ends, whenever that is. I guess I’ll have no excuse to avoid the mountains of boxes still in the garage, but I’m sure it won’t be hard to come up with some.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

And we begin…

View this post on Instagram

…and we’re now under lockdown. 🤷🏻‍♂️

A post shared by arthur_amerinz (@arthur_amerinz) on

Preparing for lockdown

At 11:59 pm tonight, New Zealand goes on lockdown for at least four weeks in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). As of today, New Zealand has 205 confirmed or probable cases, and no deaths. Yesterday, 1421 COVID-19 tests were processed around the country, raising the total to 9780 tests processed so far. All those numbers will increase.

Today New Zealand declared a State of National Emergency, which gives national and local government extraordinary powers to provide for the health and welfare of New Zealanders. At 11:59pm tonight, virtually the entire country will be under under lockdown. That means that wherever we are at that time tonight is where we are to remain for as long as we’re at Level 4, which the government thinks will last around four weeks.

New Zealanders have been in the midst of a shopping frenzy, trying to stock up before we go under lockdown—even though the government has stated over and over and over again that there’s no need to hoard food because supermarkets will remain open (with strict conditions of entry). New Zealand is a net producer of food, but it has also joined several countries in committing to keep supply lines open.

Kiwis have also been busy buying things to help them do projects around the house, and I’ve been in that category: I bought a lawnmower on Saturday, along with some bits and pieces for projects outside. My main project inside—with nothing much else to do—will be to finish unpacking the boxes in the garage.

Sunday, the day before the announcement of our move to Level 3, to be followed by Level 4 tonight, I went to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law’s house for dinner, then stopped at my usual supermarket to pick up a few things I’d normally buy this week. I wrote on my personal Facebook:
This evening I stopped at Countdown in Te Rapa, Hamilton, to pick up a few things, mostly just the stuff I’d buy any week. I did get three tins of two different products for the pantry, the only things that weren’t on my weekly list. One thing that I wanted to top up because I’m running low on was flour, but there was *none* of any kind, brand, or grade.

I was shocked at how empty the shelves were. This was despite the chain cutting their opening hours and restricting customers to no more than 2 similar items (and security was wandering around the store informing people of the limits), and despite the government repeatedly telling people to not panic-buy or hoard. Even if the country goes under lockdown, food will be available, so this is just stupid.

The store had signs up everywhere asking customers to “be kind” and leave things for others, too. Clearly people aren’t getting the message or they don’t care. Jeez, just imagine what things will be like when the zombies attack!

As for me, I got things I’d get any other week, plus a couple pantry items I don’t buy often, but often have on hand. Though I couldn’t get any flour. Point is, I tried to be responsible (I was also consciously trying to maintain social distancing, though others weren’t).

One other thing I did: I made sure I was nice and very friendly to the people working there. They’re visibly stressed and tired, and the *VERY* least I could do was to be nice to them. It’s what everyone SHOULD do. It really isn’t that hard to be kind to others, and these times demand it more than usual.
The next day, I headed out ot the home centre for some more things for one of my projects, and I added this to my Facebook post:
Update – Monday, 23 March: I went out this morning to pick up some last things for a project here at the house. On my way back I planned on stopping at New World, the other supermarket close to my house (different chain than Countdown), to see if they had flour and to get some milk (I’m running low on that, too). I didn’t go in. At around 11am the carpark was PACKED, something I haven’t seen on a weekday before—though I admit I don’t usually go there on a Monday at 11am…

There were spaces available, but I thought that even if each car had only one person (doubtful), it’d be hard to maintain social distancing. So, I went and got some milk at a superette even closer to my house, and I’m sure they appreciate the business.

However, when I got home I found out I do, in fact, have another bag of flour (I still haven’t organised my pantry, so I missed it when I was making my list yesterday). Whew! I’m so glad I was able to help someone needy—well, probably more likely someone greedy.
The point of all that, apart from sharing what I was doing, was that I didn’t hoard anything and, apart from supplies for my projects, I didn’t buy anything unusual.

There was, however, one unusual thing, as I added in an Instagram post on Monday afternoon:
THIS is my version of “hoarding”: Food for the furbabies. I’d normally buy this toward the end of next month, but I realised that if New Zealand goes under lockdown, the store where I buy their food probably won’t be considered an “essential service”. This amount should see me through a couple months at least. If a lockdown goes on longer than that, I may need to resort to supermarket dog food, LOL. The point, really, isn’t the brand of food, it’s that I’ll have plenty of options to buy food for myself, but they depend on me for everything. So, I’ll “hoard” for them, even if I won’t do it for myself.

A couple notes: I was *not* paid to show a photo of that particular brand—it’s the one I’ve used for years and years. Also, I’m joking about “hoarding”—all I did was buy what I’d normally buy earlier than normal (and the store had PLENTY of stuff in stock). These days it pays to be clear about such things.
So, even that “hoarding” wasn’t actually hoarding, it was just buying stuff a little earlier than I normally would, and it was only because I couldn’t be sure that vets and supply stores would be open (they will be, it runs out, with limited access). Still, it’s close enough.

I’m glad I bought the dog food because I have a strong feeling that the lockdown could very well last longer than four weeks, maybe eight—or twelve? It’ll all depend on what’s happening with the number of new cases.

The number of cases will go up for as much as two weeks as those currently infected show symptoms and test positive. After that, the number of new cases should decrease, however, I think that it won’t be dropping fast or far enough for the government to be sure that there won’t be more infections if they end Level 4 restrictions in four weeks. So, I think the government will extend Level 4.

Another reason I suspect that is that most of the relief packages put through by the government will last three to six months. It absolutely makes sense to build in a buffer “just in case”, unless they, too, think this lockdown will go on longer than expected.

This will be hard on everyone, for many reasons, but I think that those of us who live alone will find it much harder than many others. I’m really lucky that I at least have my furbabies to keep me company; if I didn’t, I might have had to go stay with a relative somewhere to avoid going stark raving mad.

There’s a personal irony in this situation: I moved from Auckland to Hamilton so that I wouldn’t have to be alone all the time, and now I will be anyway. Someone’s “got a sick sense of humour”, as the Depeche Mode song put it.

So there we are: About to be under lockdown, a state of emergency that can and will be enforced by the New Zealand Police and, if necessary, by the Defence Force, too. This is serious shit.

I have absolutely NO idea what I’ll do for four or more weeks cooped up in this house (we’re only allowed out to go for a walk, provided we stay at least two metres from anyone else, and we’re only allowed to drive to and from supermarkets, pharmacies, or other essential services: No driving around for a change of scenery, in other words.

I have some plans for what I’ll do, starting with the garage: All those boxes won’t unpack themselves, sadly. I’m also going to do some projects around the house, and I’ll blog about them—both of which will give me something to do. I hope I’ll find more to do. But for now, we wait to hear the locks being turned.

I hope this works.

The Depeche Mode song I referenced: