Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Sometimes tips really work

There are tips and tricks we learn about on the Internet, and whether they’re called “hints” or “life hacks” or whatever, they may or may not be believable. Sometimes we try the tip, other times we don’t, but sometimes those tips really work. This is one of those times.

Earlier this month, Nigel and I had lunch in a café, and I ordered a coffee, as I always do, and it was a little bitter. So, I added a TINY bit of salt and the bitterness was gone.

I heard about that on the BBC Two series, “The Secrets of Your Food”, which was broadcast here recently on TV 1. The episode was about humans’ taste ability. Co-presenter Michael Mosley was talking about how chemicals interact to form or alter what we taste, in this case talking about coffee, and he suggested adding a bit of salt if you get a bitter cup of coffee. That day earlier this month was my first chance to try it out.

I was sceptical it would work, even though I had no reason to doubt the chemistry at work here, so I wasn’t expecting much. But it was kind of amazing how well it worked, and without making the coffee taste salty (it was only a very little salt I added).

I may be the only coffee drinker who didn’t already know this, but I decied I’d use it from now on. Even the best barista sometimes makes a bitter cup of coffee, after all, but I’d proven that there was a way to make sure that won’t be an issue for me in the future.

Today I had a chance to verify my evidence. I’d gone to Waiuku for some routine blood tests, just as I did exactly one year ago today. And, just like that day, I went to the café in the same building for—literally—break-fast (they were my annual fasting blood tests). I had a MASSIVE cup of coffee (pictured above, with cutlery beside it to try and provide a point of reference). The coffee was slightly bitter—not badly so, but enough that I noticed it. So, I added the teeny, tiniest bit of salt and, yet again, the bitterness was gone.

This was only my second trip to Waiuku, and it didn’t impress me much a year ago. In fact, the town didn’t impress me any more today, however, I may have judged the vampires’ facility and the nearby New World supermarket a little too harshly: Both were better than I thought at the time.

My earlier misjudgement of the New World was because we’d only moved from our old house not yet a month earlier, and I was still used to the New World I went to there, and that one is a much nicer store. A year later, I no longer have that same frame of reference/point of comparison. I liked the Waiuku store much better than I did last year. Even so, I can’t imagine making a trip there to go to that store: There’s literally nothing else in Waiuku (apart from the vampires) to draw me there. Same time next year?

The vampires in Waiuku, however, went up in my esteem. I’d gone to Pukekohe and found their vampires’ facility was small, cramped, and the waiting room was crammed with people, apparently due to understaffing. I quickly calculated that the waiting time would be about an hour, and I was late leaving home, so I was so hungry that I was in pain. I left with all my blood.

The vampires have three locations within a 25-30 minute drive of our house, and I’ve now been to all of them. I wouldn’t choose to go to Pukekohe again, so it’s ranked last, despite being my favourite of the three towns. In second place is Waiuku, which was reasonably fast and not crowded. In first place is Takanini, which is bigger, has good parking, and plenty of shops nearby that I might want to visit. My all time favourite was the tiny location in Beach Haven on the North Shore, but that’s more than an hour’s drive away (more than that most days).

So, Waiuku wasn’t exactly a draw for me, but the vampires, breakfast, and New World were all good. But I was most pleased about verifying that the salt in coffee thing really does work, and my earlier success wasn’t a fluke.

Sometimes those tips really work.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Small treasures

Going through things stored away can yield many surprises, from ephemera that stir up long forgotten memories, to accidental “over purchases”, to lost “I’ve been looking for that!” items. Sometimes, we find treasure.

The photo above shows the current New Zealand coins I found recently when going through boxes in the garage. It was part of my garage reorganisation project, but it was also accidental: I opened a lightweight box to see if I could combine the contents with another, and I found the basket I mentioned.

The basket was mostly junk—EFTPOS receips, old grocery lists, that sort of thing. They’d all actually come from a drawer in my bedside cabinet, but when we changed cabinets some years ago to ones with one less drawer, I had to clean out the old drawers. Except—and this is shockingly unusual for me—I was so busy that I just didn’t have time. So, stuff ended up in that basket. Then, I topped it up with new stuff. And then I forgot about it entirely.

Yesterday, while I was on the phone with the customer service people for the company that hosts my AmeriNZ Podcast website, I decided to go through the basket (I talked about that phone adventure on my latest podcast episode). It was probably the only way I’d have gotten to that task so soon, actually, so it turned out well.

As I said in the Instagram caption, I also found discontinued NZ coins that had a face value of $4.60, though their only value now is as scrap metal, as I said above, or to collectors. Or to John Green.

And then there was that stray US penny. I have no idea why it was there, but I have a few US coins, mostly left over from holiday trips, or even a few I had with me when I arrived in New Zealand way back when (well, 1995, actually). They’re not of a whole lot of use in this country, oddly enough.

The Australian coins used to be another matter. It used to be common to get Australian coins in change, since their 20¢ coin was the same size as ours (they get their $1 and $2 coin sizes backwards, however; ours are right). Since we changed to new, smaller coins, that stopped Australian coins circulating in New Zealand: No one confuses them anymore.

I’d like to think that some a box somewhere has a stack of banknotes waiting to be discovered, but that will only happen in an alternate universe: I never put aside bank notes because, unlike coins, they’re useful.

Coins just arent very useful anymore. I no longer buy candy from the corner dairy, so having a few coins in my pocket isn’t at all necessary (which is how they eneded up being dumped in a basket in the first place). Time was, you could take coins to any bank branch and deposit them, but a lot of branches now are mainly offices to meet with loan officers or whatever, and they send coins away to be cointed—and for a fee, of course.

There are actually plenty of things that an ordinary person might buy with coins, but New Zealand is rapidly moving to a cashless society, so finding a use for coins is becoming harder. In fact, I don’t actually know what I’ll do with the $15.30. Maybe I’ll put it in my car for when I want a soft drink.

This process of tidying up the garage has meant going through a lot of things. I haven’t found much cash, but I’ve found a lot of useful stuff, ncluding stuff I bought, forgot about, and bought again, and other stuff I’ve forgotten about. Some of the stuff has remined me of things from my past, and that’s been interesting to me. Not all the small treasures I’ve found have been monetary.

The garage reorganisation project has been difficult, and mostly extremely ordinary. Sometimes, though, I find treasure. Those are good days. Coins, however, are optional.

Monday, March 12, 2018

AmeriNZ Podcast 337 ‘Resolution' is now available

A new AmeriNZ Podcast episode, “AmeriNZ 337 – Resolution” is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast.

This episode gives the resolution to the story from the previous episode, as well as an explanation of the barriers I had preventing me from blogging and podcasting.

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

Thursday, March 08, 2018

The Difference Between Australia & New Zealand

The video above is by Jordan Watson for his “How to Dad” YouTube Channel (currently some 186,000 subscribers). The video takes a humours look at the differences between Australia and New Zealand. While some of them are somewhat “in jokes” between the two countries (especially his wrap-up), it nevertheless really does talk about some differences.

Watson’s channel has received a lot of attention for his channel. In the video below, from TEDxChristchurch last year. It includes his first video, which began the rest. He talks about how everything came to be, and shows more of his sense of humour. He also has a really good message at the end.

And all that’s more about New Zealand, too.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

We were counted

The deadline for completing the New Zealand Census was midnight last night, though millions were done in the days leading up to the deadline. Yesterday evening, the TV ads promoting the census became more and more frequent, eventually alternating with other ads on at least one channel. And, then it was all over.

We did our Census last night (final screen above), mainly because we kept forgetting to do it or were busy with projects in the days after we got our online code. We filled-out the census online, just as we did with the 2013 Census. This year, however, instead of using a computer, we used my iPad; to be honest, part of me wanted to test whether their site really was “device friendly” as they promised (it was).

First, I filled out the form for the dwelling. Mostly, it was pretty standard questions: How many storeys? How many bedrooms? Is there kitchen? Is there running water? Electricity? How many lounges/living rooms? (the trend in modern homes is to have two, a more formal lounge and an informal rumpus or family room).

One dwelling question unleashed the mocking powers of social media: It asked how many conservatories we had “that you can sit it”. I read that and instantly though, “WTF?!” I’m a potty-mouthed thinker, apparently. The thing is, New Zealand houses aren’t known for having conservatories, certainly not like British houses seem to be, and I haven’t seen any sudden trend to add them. So, like everyone else, I wondered what the heck they were on about.

There were technology questions, too, asking whether we had available for our personal use (and not exclusively for work): A phone, a mobile phone, an Internet connection. I noticed that they no longer ask if we have a fax machine, probably because hardly anyone does anymore (we got rid of ours a decade or more ago).

The dwelling section seemed much shorter than in previous years—until I saw the personal form, which was fairly miniscule. Most of the questions were about work, health, language(s) spoken, etc., and the religion question:

This Census or the next one in 2023 will probably show New Zealand as majority “No religion”, however, as I always point out, “no religion” doesn’t necessarily mean literally no religion: It often simply means no particular religion. The census doesn’t drill down any further to see what people mean when they answer “no religion”, as I did, and some commentators have taken that to mean New Zealand is mainly an atheist nation. But the census results cannot be used to make that determination—ALL we know is that the category chosen by the largest segment of New Zealand by far is “no religion”, though Christians of all sorts combined together made up more (I talked about that in more detail in a 2013 post).

So, sooner or later, the clear majority of New Zealanders will identify as having “no religion”. I can already hear the inevitable wailing and gnashing of teeth about that will be coming from the usual suspects, but after a short time (maybe 10 minutes…) New Zealanders will move on and it won’t be a topic anymore. When most New Zealanders choose to identify as having “no religion” it will mean they won’t care that most New Zealanders identify as having no religion. And, once an issue is settled, we always move on pretty quickly.

There was one final thing that struck me as potentially interesting. Our individual forms asked how we're related to each other, and our option was "husband/wife, civil union partner, defacto". When you consider it already asked us our gender, and we'd said we were "legally married", it would be possible to work out how many same-sex couples there are, and in what sort of relationship formalisation (if any). However, it didn't ask specifically about sexual orientation, and the gender question was binary, so the chance to find out more details about New Zealanders was missing. Even so, it will be possible to get some of the missing information.

And that was pretty much the Census this year. Shorter than it has been, easy to do, and, now, over. Can’t wait to hear the results!