Friday, September 19, 2014

To comply with the law (again)

As I did in 2011, from which I mostly stole this post, I have temporarily turned on comment moderation for this blog. You can still leave a comment, but it won’t be posted until sometime after 7pm Saturday NZ Time (7AM Saturday UTC), after the polls have closed. I’m doing this to comply with New Zealand election law, which mandates that I turn off comments (even though the law was enacted in 1993…). I’ll update this post after I’ve re-enabled un-moderated comments. I also won't be commenting or replying on social media, either.

Also, I won't be posting anything here until after 7pm tomorrow. Apparently a new post might draw eyes to my previous election posts. Or something.

P.S. Two Ticks Labour! (I can say that because I’m posting this before midnight…)

Update 20/09/14: Now that polls have closed, comments are once again unmoderated and will post immediately. Thank you for your patience while I obeyed stupid rules for a dumb law.

Last day

Today was the last day of the election campaign. It began at 6:30am with more sign waving on Onewa Road, only this time we were joined by Labour Leader David Cunliffe. And it poured.

Later, I took part in the crowd of supporters campaigning in Birkenhead with Richard Hills and David Cunliffe. That was really fun, but David sure walks fast!

This afternoon, I went to take down our campaign sings that were on fences. It wasn't nearly as hard as yesterday, fortunately. Naturally, I made sure that the very last sign I took down was one of Richard's. It just seemed appropriate.

It turns out, there was actually one more "sign" to remove: My bumper sticker for Richard and the New Zealand Labour Party (photo above). My car is now sad.

And that’s a good place to stop until the polls close tomorrow.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Campaign Diary

If I’d thought about it, I could have done a “Campaign Diary” series of posts about this election or, more specifically, what I’ve been doing. Too late now: The polls close at 7pm Saturday, and I have to stop posting tomorrow night.

Anyway, this is today:

We began with sign waving this morning. We decided to go somewhere completely different, so we went to Verrans Corner (photo above). I used to live on a street around the corner from this site, and I don’t recall ever seeing campaigns sign wave here.

We got a HUGE amount of support! Lots of toots, waves and smiles, and even our opponents were polite (I only saw one person give us the finger, and no one yelled “F-you” like yesterday). In fact, one trucker yelled out “LABOUR!” as he drove past us and tooted the truck’s throaty horn. It made up for the uncouth guy from the day before.

From there, it was off to start taking down our campaign signs (photo below). By law, ALL campaign signs must be down by midnight Friday/Saturday, and we wanted to get a head start, especially because weather predictions for tomorrow are truly awful.
The team starting to take down a sign that's clearly seen better days.

Removing the signs was very physical labour, something I’m both unaccustomed to and presently unfit for, but we persevered. Best comment of the day: My team mate Michael said, “Think of all the money you’re saving on gym fees!”

This evening I dragged my sore and weary body out to dinner with family to a place in Birkenhead. We saw that someone had written in chalk on the footpath (photo below), “VOTE” with an arrow pointing to the voting place at the nearby Rawene Centre. It was a nice way to end the evening.
Someone scrawled this in chalk on a Birkenhead footpath.

Tomorrow will be very busy, but I don’t know what, if anything, I can post before I start my Blog Blackout tomorrow night. Hopefully, I’ll at least be able to post some photos.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Waving signs

Last week, I mentioned that I’d gone “sign waving” for the first time. It was one of those things I hadn’t done before, but have now done several times. It’s actually energising, even if it does have an odd name.

What people really do is hold a sign and wave, but “holding a sign and waving” is a bit too long to say, really. Mind you, when my arms get tired, sometimes I really do “wave” my sign, by which I mean, make it “dance” a bit.

Every day we’ve done it, we’ve had toots of support from passing cars and lots of waves and smiles. Sometimes shouts of support, too. We also sometimes get a thumbs down, but we just smile and wave all the more and they can’t help but laugh.

Sadly, some people also give us the middle finger every now and then, but that’s pretty rare, fortunately—most people who are opposed to us are well-behaved. Today, however, in addition to a vigorously waved middle finger, we also got “F**k YOU!” yelled from a passing car. A real class act, that one—I'm sure his mother and grandmother would be SO proud.

Like I said, though, most people behave decently, and the majority express support for us.

The photo up top was from the sign waving yesterday morning (this time, I took it on my own phone). Maybe a half hour later, it started raining, then it started pouring, so we stopped early. We didn’t want any of our people getting sick so close to the election!

I took the photo below on Monday, from where I was standing in the line. It’s sort of an—ahem!—behind the scenes photo.

I forgot to take a photo today, partly because we battled rain today, too.

Two more days of sign waving to go, then the election!

A "behind the scenes" photo from Monday's sign waving.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Another new thing

Tonight Nigel and I went to the Glenfield Night Market, which is one of several held throughout the Auckland region (and one in Hamilton). We’d never been before, but had heard how good the food was.

We had a great time! The food was as good as promised, and there was good fresh produce for sale in some stalls, though we didn’t buy any this week. The atmosphere was really good, too, with all the diversity you’d expect from this part of Auckland’s North Shore. It was just another reminder of how great our community really is.

While we were there, we saw the Labour team campaigning. The photo above shows Labour candidates Richard Hills, Kelvin Davis and Shanan Halbert (didn’t get the name of the volunteer in the background). I saw the candidates having good chats with locals, and generally reinforcing Labour’s campaign. It was great to see.

We also saw the National team moving through the crowd. Maybe it was just me, but they seemed a little out of place.

There’s no reason why we’d never been to the Night Market before—we just never made it. But we’ll definitely be back!

The original song

This month marks the 200th Anniversary of “The Star-Spangled Banner”, which became the USA’s national anthem in 1931. I learned quite young that the melody was “an English drinking song called ‘To Anacreon in Heaven’”, as I always put it, but I’d never actually heard the original version.

Until today.

The Chicago Tribune posted a story about the song’s origins, and they included the video above. Naturally, I had to share it.

I always thought that maybe drinking would make it easier to sing that melody, and, while I haven’t actually tried that, I kind of doubt it. Still, it’s nice to have that picture completed.

Play ball!

Showing reality

During this election, the only political things I’ve posted to this blog have been official campaign graphics or photos from the campaign. The only exceptions to that were illustrations to show what I was talking about. I made a deliberate choice to stay focused and not to adopt the negative partisan attacks of our opponents. But today, I needed to make an exception, since a little truth-telling was needed.

Late this morning, I happened to have Twitter up when the National Party Tweeted a photo of their visit to Glenfield Mall. “Fantastic welcome at Glenfield Mall this morning with plenty of support for NZNationalParty from locals”, they said, along with a photo. The day before, I’d seen lots of people Tweeting photos of David Cunliffe and Labour’s visit to the same mall, and it was obvious to me that National’s superlatives were a bit misplaced. So, I made and posted the photo above, Tweeting, simply, “Compare and contrast: Campaigns visit Glenfield Mall.”

The photos were exactly as shared—no cropping or manipulation—and I made no comment beyond adding the date of the visit and the weather conditions at the time. I felt people could draw their own conclusions from the photo (and, indeed, someone suggested that rainy days draw people to malls, sunny days do not; I don't think that was true in this case, but it shows that people could form their own viewpoint).

The point is, National was trying to claim a lot of support support and I thought people should be able to judge that claim by comparing like with like, nothing more. As I suggested a moment ago, not everyone who saw it saw things the same way I did, which is fine.

A little later, the National Party candidate also Tweeted a photo from the visit, adding, “the public response was pretty phenomenal!” The photo showed him alone, talking to no one as TV cameras pointed at John Key at the edge of the photo. There was a lot of empty space behind him, apart from some people from Young Nationals who were visiting the Shore to help with John Key’s campaign. Other photos they posted showed very few ordinary people with either one of them, certainly nothing like the photos of Labour’s visit yesterday. Despite being tempted to do so, I didn’t do another compare/contrast comparison of the candidates’ receptions, because I wasn’t out to embarrass or belittle National.

Obviously, this is trivial stuff and none of it matters in the overall scheme of things. After all, there are many reasons why Labour had more support than National did, including the weather, the fact that Sunday is often a quiet day at Glenfield Mall, and, of course, the biggest reason, the fact that the mall is in a pretty red area, overall.

The exercise wasn’t really about who had the bigger and more enthusiastic turnout at a local Mall, but that claiming a thing doesn’t make it true. For whatever reason, John Key and the National candidate in this electorate didn’t get as good a reception as Labour Leader David Cunliffe and the Labour candidates did the day before. I felt that people had a right to see the unvarnished truth to fairly judge what I felt was mere spin.

I just wish the NZ news media were better about showing the reality about things that really matter.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

I love voting

Voting is one of my most favourite things to do. And by voting, I mean getting out of the house and going to the Voting Place to cast my vote in person. This year was no different, even though I voted early—and yet, it was very different.

In the car after I voted. Passenger's seat, btw.
We voted last Saturday, so in some ways, it was like a normal Election Day (also held on a Saturday). Apart from being two weeks early, what made it different was that it was at a place we wouldn’t normally vote (there are only a few places to cast a Early Votes, and fewer still on Saturdays), and Nigel and I went with his sister, her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend (who hadn’t voted before). We’ve never voted as a whānau before, and it was fun to do that.

Here’s the thing: While these days I’m a big ol’ softie, and even TV commercials can make me tear up, voting has always—ALWAYS—done that to me. I go, get my ballot paper, head to the booth and I look at the paper in front of me. I know that my vote is worth exactly the same as everyone else’s. The richest man in New Zealand, the anti-gay bigot, the racist, the kindly little old lady who does baking for the local school’s cake stall, the friendly local shop owner—we’re all equal in the voting booth.

So I pause and take it all in, the feeling of power, being able to help choose who will form government, and I know that the fate of every single politician on that ballot paper rests on me and thousands like me. And then, I make my marks. And my eyes tear up at the enormity of it all.

This year was different. I saw the name of my friend, Richard Hills, someone for whom I have enormous respect and admiration, since he’s one of the most genuine and positive people I’ve ever known. Those traits are rare enough in people generally, and almost unheard of among politicians. So this year, I was handed my ballot paper, I glanced at it, saw Richard's name, and teared up even before I got to the booth. That seldom happens to me.

I was proud to vote for Richard—damn proud, to be honest—and also to give my Party Vote to the New Zealand Labour Party. It felt great to have had such certainty long before I got to vote, and it felt truly awesome to feel proud of my vote. I’ve been voting for 37 years, so there have been plenty of times that wasn’t the case. This year, I really did Vote Positive!

That was a week ago. Since then, I’ve been helping with Richard’s campaign, as I talked about a bit yesterday. Today, Richard was out campaigning again (of course—he is without doubt the hardest working candidate I’ve ever seen). He was going door to door, and Tweeted this:

I have to admit, it’s one of those (very!) rare Tweets that made me tear up a bit, because how awesome is that?! A man who never voted before, but he really, really wanted to vote for Labour and Richard, and Richard was able to make that happen. Outstanding!

I believe that everyone who can vote, should vote, but I don’t judge people who don’t vote. I can’t know what’s going on in their lives, and for those who don’t vote because they simply don’t care, well, quite frankly, that’s their choice that they have to live with. I’m counted, regardless.

I’ve seen a few people commenting on social media that they don’t like Early Voting because they see Election Day as a kind of tribal thing. I get that, but I think we have to be realistic: People have a lot going on in their lives, and our goal ought to be to make it as easy to vote as possible. Like I said, I had the same experience in voting early as I would have on Election Day (though, without the stress, because I knew the results were two weeks away). My early voting, then, was the same sort of ritual as it’s always been, just earlier.

I’m not opposed to online voting, though I’m a bit dubious about whether it will actually increase turnout. We do postal voting for local government elections, and the “turnout” is shockingly low. Also, I don’t get the same emotional rush from marking a postal ballot as I do one at the voting place. I’m sure online voting would leave me similarly cold.

But it’s not about me, it’s about making it as easy as possible for the people to vote (if they want to). I’ll adapt.

So, this year was really special, more so than usual. A week later, I still feel that pride and satisfaction from voting. It’s one of my most favourite things to do, after all.

Friday, September 12, 2014

19 years ago today

On September 12, 1995—19 years ago today—I arrived in New Zealand as a tourist and met Nigel in real life for the first time. Everything in my life changed that day—and how many of us can point to the one day where our lives utterly changed?

Today begins what I jokingly call the “Season of Anniversaries”, a series of commemorations of events that have marked the progress of my life in New Zealand. It’s turned out to have been a very good life, indeed—a great life, in fact.

Becoming an expat isn’t for everyone, of course, but things worked out for me, and I’ve never been happier.

So, I’ll end as I did last year with something I said back in 2012, because it’s as true now as ever:
“Never underestimate the power of love to make the improbable possible, or to transform the unlikely into an entirely new life.”
My advice is to never be afraid to embrace where life is leading you: You may be both astonished and deliriously happy if you do. That possibility is worth all the risks.

Previous posts about this anniversary (the first three only mention it):

Anniversay Time (2007)
Blogoversary 2 (2008)
Anniversaries Three and Fourteen (2009)
Where it began (2010)
Anniversary of the beginning (2011)
Another anniversary (2012)
18 years ago today (2013)

A bunch of firsts

It may be hard to believe, but there are plenty of things in politics I haven’t experienced. This year, however, thanks to the Labour campaign, I’ve checked off a whole bunch of things from that list.

Back in July, for example, I attend the first Public Meeting I’d ever been to. The month before, I was at the party’s List Conference for our region, something else I’d never done.

In the past couple weeks, I’ve extended those “firsts”.

Selfie at lunch, after I voted.
On Monday, I went to a candidate debate in Glenfield. That was an interesting experience. I was really sick with a bad cold and had a headache, too. But I was absolutely appalled at the behaviour of National Party candidate Jonathan Coleman, who was belligerent, argumentative and downright rude. I’d never seen him in public before, though, and I was sick, so I thought maybe I just wasn’t seeing things right.

On Saturday, September 6, I voted early for the first time ever. I’ve always voted on Election Day, but this year any voter can vote early and they don’t need a reason. So, Nigel and I got a few family members together with us and we all went and voted—five votes, all up.

Then, the following Monday, I went to another candidate meeting, and Coleman wasn’t as bad—he was far worse! He didn’t just argue with the audience, he also heckled his fellow candidates, Labour’s Richard Hills in particular. I was disgusted at how boorish Coleman was.

Sign waving on Onewa Road (Photo: Richard Hills Facebook Page)
The very next day, I went sign waving for Richard Hills and Labour—the first time I’ve ever done that in any country. Basically, that means we hold campaign signs and wave at passing cars. It was surprisingly fun! We had a LOT of friendly toots and waves from people in passing cars, and only a few thumbs down (we just smiled and waved all the more, which made them smile, too). I’ll let you in on a campaign secret: I took the photos that Richard posted to his campaign Facebook Page (at left).

Since then, I’ve gone sign waving again, delivered more campaign literature and took care of other behind the scenes campaign stuff. It was a good week.

I’m not sure that there are any more firsts left for this campaign, but there’s a lot of work yet to be done. I’m sure I’ll have more to say before I suspend all blog activity on Friday evening, one week from today.

The thing about it

This past month or so has been trying. The thing about it is, though, I don’t really have anything to complain about, which is why I haven’t said anything up until now. But it’s also the reason I haven’t blogged for the past week, and kind of sporadically before that.

Last week, I came down with another bad cold, only about five weeks after the first one. I hardly ever get sick, even with a cold, so getting two in, basically, a month is a pretty big deal for me. On the plus side, it passed faster than the first one did.

But it couldn’t possibly have come at a worse time. I was swamped with work, which I found very difficult to do when I felt so awful. I also had campaign stuff to do, but had even less energy for that. Still, I went to a candidate debate and an organising meeting (I was out two evenings in a row).

This week it’s been about the campaign (apart from Monday, on which I was a total washout). Today I even finally had time to catch up on some household chores that were neglected over the past couple (busy!) weeks.

There’s so much to do over the coming week, but I at least have the sense that it can all get done, something I wasn’t so sure of at this point a week ago. Still, perseverance is a strategy, I suppose, and it did work.

All that left me feeling profoundly tired—exhausted, even. I can’t seem to get enough sleep, no matter how many hours I get. That tiredness makes my already dodgy memory even more unreliable, which certainly hasn’t helped matters any.

But the thing about it is, none of that is worth complaining about, especially since I did get everything done, recovered from that bad cold, and survived to tell the tale. Other folks—candidates in particular—have far more on their plates than I had this past couple weeks. By comparison, at least, I had it easier.

Now, the point is to be ready for the next week—get enough sleep, eat sensibly, correctly prioritise what I need to do, and work the plan. Then, on September 21, I can totally relax. And I will.

I may even resume blogging more regularly.

Friday, September 05, 2014

A Democrat as a Democrat

In the 2012 US elections, I frequently wrote about Democrats being Democrats. The commercial above shows it’s still alive: Brad Schneider, US Representative for Illinois’ 10th District, talks about Democratic values and I think that’s a good thing.

Some of the sites where I’ve seen this video shared have focused only on the marriage equality endorsement, but that’s settled law in Illinois, so that was really a brief nod to expanding US policy. Of greater concern to me was Brad’s commitment to women’s rights and focusing on the middle class, not the richest of the rich as his Republican opponent will have to do according to party policy.

In short, Brad Schneider is a Democrat being a Democrat. That, to me, is always a good thing.