Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Facts matter in memes, too

I kept seeing a false meme about impeachment being spread on social media, so I whipped up a little something to set out the facts:

The truth is, this really annoys me. Yes, I got my Bachelor’s in Political Science, so that's to be expected, but we also studied this in high school civics class. I just think it’s so fundamental that all Americans should know it.

I know that most people probably don’t care, or have forgotten it, but it’s still important to be correct about the Constitution when our adversaries have such contempt for it. Also, it’s so easily checkable, and we KNOW that the Right would love to rub the Left’s noses in it for making such a glaring mistake. And, we also know that Russians and other mischief makers are posing as Leftists on social media to spread false information exactly like this to make the Left look stupid to Independent voters, and also to undermine our confidence in each other.

All of which means that being factual is always important, and for a lot of reasons.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Worth quoting: Sen John McCain

US Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement today on President Trump’s meeting and press conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki:

Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naivetΓ©, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake.

President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world.

It is tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout – as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world.

Coming close on the heels of President Trump’s bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain, today’s press conference marks a recent low point in the history of the American Presidency. That the president was attended in Helsinki by a team of competent and patriotic advisors makes his blunders and capitulations all the more painful and inexplicable.

No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are—a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad. American presidents must be the champions of that cause if it is to succeed. Americans are waiting and hoping for President Trump to embrace that sacred responsibility. One can only hope they are not waiting totally in vain.


It's fair to say that I often disagree with Senator McCain, and always have, however, when he's right, he's right. And he's been critical of the current occupant of the White House when most Republican politicians choose to remain silent, for whatever reason. And that means that there are times I not only agree with him, I appreciate his words, and the fact he's taking a stand. What he's saying here is the truly patriotic thing to do. I'm sharing this because of all that, and because I haven't seen the full text shared anywhere.

Leo has a bath

Today I gave Leo a bath. Nothing unusual about that, except it was the first time. That, and being fully onto adult dog food means he’s now fully a grown-up part of the family.

I got the idea to use the laundry tub for his bath after some earlier incidents in which he ran around in the mud and I needed to wash his paws. That was much easier than sitting on the floor and washing him in the shower, as I do with Sunny and Jake (for now). I’ve always washed the other two in the bath, but can’t do that at the moment (which is why there’ll be a change eventually), but whether using the bath or the shower, it hurts my lower back. A lot.

Washing Leo in the laundry tub was better—for awhile. By the end, though, my back hurt every bit as much. Maybe a bit more. On the other hand, no sink is actually high enough for me, so even using the kitchen sink would have ended up hurting my back (don’t look at me that way: I happen to know that people have washed human babies in a kitchen sink, and I fail to see the difference).

Against that backdrop, last night I have Leo the last few nuggets of puppy dog food. We’d bought a bag of puppy food back when he came to live with us, but he turned one year old on June 1, and that meant it was time to change food.

It was the middle of June before I finally got the adult dog food, in part because we had so much puppy food. When I finally started the transition, I put a few little bits of the adult food in with his puppy food. Over time, I gradually increased the amount of adult food, and began decreasing the amount of pupy food until last night, when he got the last of the puppy food. All up, it took three weeks or so to make the change.

Many, many years ago I’d read that this is the best way to change doog food, even if it’s only one brand to another: A gradual transition. That way, I’d learned, they have time to adjust so they don’t get an upset tummy. It’s always worked for me, and this time was certainly no different.

So, today got his first bath in his still kind of new home, and has fully changed to adult dog food. It wa a big day for him, but, I’m sure, a little bigger for me. That’s also not unusual.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Weekend Diversion: Mitch James

All the Weekend Diversion posts this year have had something in common: They were about artists I stumbled across accidentally. Three were artists who were unfamiliar to me, one was an artist I did know. Today’s artist, Mitch James, is in that latter category, and, like the others, I looked for more about him after I happened to see his music on TV.

Mitch is a young (23, I gather) New Zealand singer-songwriter. The bio on his website sums up why he became an object of fascination for the media:
Born and raised in Auckland, up and coming artist Mitch James started playing music at 14 while at school, and on morning tea and lunch breaks he would take himself off to the music room and teach himself the guitar.

Mitch left school at 17 and got a job cleaning cars, where he made enough cash to buy a one-way ticket to London. He went in the hope of hitting it big like many of those before him. Mitch arrived in London with a £20 pound note, zero contacts and zero experience performing live. Without a place to stay, Mitch would attend open mic nights and play, hoping to land a paying performance gig – which he eventually did for a short time, until the venue closed down, forcing Mitch to go home.

During Mitch’s time in Europe he slept 8 weeks on the street altogether, played 230 gigs, busked over 100 times, was robbed twice, beaten once and witnessed a stabbing. When Mitch moved back, his covers of other artist’s songs on YouTube landed him a signing with Sony Music NZ.
There aren’t many artists with such an interesting backstory, especially ones as young as he is. This was how I came to hear of him originally. One of the TV 7pm magazine shows had a story on him, and I thought his music sounded nice. I always meant to look up some of his songs, then forgot.

Until this past week.

I was watching the music video channel and they played the video for his new single, "21" (video above), which is currently at Number 5 on the New Zealand chart. The song is about looking back at some of his good times when he lived in Dunedin, where the video was filmed. I thought it was a nice song, and a well-made video, but it was the end of the chorus that struck me:
Who would’ve thought
I’d be so lost at 23.
Oh lord,
Take me back to 21.
We so often think of wistfulness and regret as being an older person’s thing, but young people can have it, too. When I was just a little younger than Mitch is now, I was talking to a workmate at my summer job. He told me how he felt frustrated and sad that he hadn’t accomplished what he thought he should have. He was only 25.

Next up, is “Move On”, his debut single from December, 2016. It entered the NZ Top 20 the week of 19 December at Number 20. It dropped out of the Top 20 the following week, but re-entered at Number 7 the week of January 16, 2017, rising to a peak of Number 3 the week of January 30. It bounced all over the Top 20 until the week of April 3, when it dropped off the Top 20 again.

Finally, “No Fixed Abode”, his first track with Sony NZ, though not promoted as a single. The name comes from an incident in Amsterdam where police asked him for his address. When he replied that he didn't have one, they wrote: "No Fixed Abode".

I’m not good at predicting who will or won’t be big stars, so I have no idea whether Mitch will become successful beyond New Zealand. But he has an easy-to-listen-to style that is quite popular these days, and he reminds me of Ed Sheeran, who’s a big international star (and who Mitch opened for in Dunedin earlier this year). So, you never know.

But he’s another artist I’d heard of, but kind of rediscovered because I just happened to see his music video on TV. No wonder I like watching that channel so much: It’s a voyage of discovery and re-discovery.

Accessible turkey

Things disappear, things become hard to find, and sometimes something better comes along. This is one of those times.

Several months ago, I blogged about how Denny’s in New Zealand had dropped turkey dinners from their menu (and I blogged about the dinner itself back in 2015). The issue, as I said back in February, is that “it’s still not all that easy to find true American-style food in New Zealand restaurants.” The thing is, it’s not that easy to find turkey, except as a frozen bird or a frozen turkey roll, and both of those require long roasting (I roasted a while turkey for Thanksgiving in 2010, and I roasted a turkey roll for the day in 2016).

Other years, beginning in 2012, my sole turkey was a sandwich. In 2016, I had one again and noticed, thanks to the product’s new labelling, that they emphasised the “honey roast” part. They used to emphasise the word “sliced” with the old packaging. But it suddenly dawned on me why it wasn’t quite right, not quite what I wanted.

And that’s where things stayed until I saw the product in the photo with this post. The turkey is just roasted turkey, nothing fancy. They also make a sandwich slice version. I think both of them are quite nice, and more what I think of when I think of turkey in this form, but so far I’ve only seen it at Countdown stores.

This probably doesn’t matter. Nigel recently realised that he just doesn’t like turkey, which, while I obviously think that’s abominable, it’s not a legal reason for divorce. The more you know. The result is that I no longer buy it because I’d have to eat the whole package myself, and much as I like turkey, it’s not enough to eat it every day for several days until all 300g is gone. The sandwich slice version is probably manageable, though, since it has less in it.

The real story here isn’t this brand of ready-to-eat turkey, of course, it’s that this is such a rare thing that’s it’s downright exotic—turkey, for goodness sake!! In the USA, I’d sometimes buy some sliced turkey from the deli counter, diners offered sandwiches with turkey in them, and there were all sorts of variations on frozen meals with turkey. But here in New Zealand, I have to make do with prepared turkey that’s at a premium price (even more than might be expected for processed food).

This is why I’ve given up so many of the foods—good for me and, well, less good—that I used to love in the USA: They’re just too hard to find, too expensive, too different, or some combination. Not worth the effort, in other words.

To be sure, there are plenty of things I love about New Zealand foods, so it’s not like I’m “suffering”, or anything, but, then, I’ve been here more than 22 years, so maybe it’s easier for me than it would be for a new arrival. Maybe we do learn to change out of necessity as much as anything else.

Meanwhile, I’ll still have to occasional turkey sandwich, but not often. Everything changes, after all, even favourite foods.

Observant readers will note that the expiry date on the product in the photo is 22 Feb 2018. That’s because I actually took the photo on 7 Feb 2018, a few days after that Denny’s menu change I mentioned up top. I intended to blog about it at the time, but somehow it never happened, not the least because it all happened during my annus horribilis—there were only 17 posts total that month, for example. Things are improving now. Clearly.

Update July 16: Welcome Redditors! Someone shared THIS post, of all things, on a New Zealand Reddit. There are far more interesting posts about New Zealand on this blog than this one! For the benefit of any Redditors visiting this post: I am not complaining about the lack of turkey or American-style food generally. Instead, I’m merely observing differences, something that may be useful for any Americans considering migrating to New Zealand, and something that’s of interest to curious real-live Americans who follow this blog. Obviously countries are different from one another. That’s an objectively good thing. As a bi-national person, I often comment on the differences between the USA and NZ, again, something many followers of this blog are interested in. I’m also never totally serious about anything, including about not being totally serious about anything. And, there really are far better posts about New Zealand on this blog than this one. But thanks for stopping by!

Products listed/depicted and their names are all registered trademarks, and are used here for purposes of description and clarity. No company or entity provided any support or payment for this blog post, and all products were purchased by me at normal retail prices. So, the opinions I expressed are my own genuinely held opinions, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the manufacturers, any retailer, or any known human being, alive or dead, real or corporate. Just so we’re clear.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

‘Future news’ now in my life

Newspapers are increasingly dependent on their digital form, both for readers, and for revenue. It is inevitable that one day there will be no more printed newspapers, as we know them now. But up until recently, the digital options were confusing and expensive, so I never subscribed to any. That’s now changing, and I’ve subscribed to a newspaper’s digital version for the first time.

I’ve being thinking about subscribing for years, off an on, but it became a strong motivation after the 2016 US elections, especially after the Republicans took office. Every day there were new revelations about the criminality of the Republican candidate’s campaign, the corruption of the people in the new regime, all of which intensified and increased as time went on.

Most major newspapers limit the number of articles someone can access for free each month. That number is often four free articles, but I’ve seen them as low as one. With the increasing amount of news about the current regime, I was maxing out the number of free articles in the first few days of every month. I needed to subscribe to avoid that happening, and to keep seeing all the news.

Two newspapers in particular were leading the charge toward uncovering the truth about the current regime and reporting on the realities the USA faced in the new era. Those papers are The New York Times and The Washington Post. Both have excellent journalists investigating and reporting on the current regime and the larger issues, and both have broken a large number of very important stories.

The two papers were both so good, in fact, that I hesitated: I couldn’t afford both, so which one to choose? In the end, I chose The Washington Post because of the nagging doubts about how easy The New York Times takes it against the current occupant of the White House, for example, never, ever, calling something he said a lie, even when there was absolutely no doubt whatsoever that he was lying. It makes me wonder what other punches the paper is pulling.

Both papers have fairly equivalent digital subscription plans. The Times has made huge improvements in theirs.

When I talked about this back in 2015, the Times offered three digital subscription tiers, with an especially weird division: At the lowest rate, a subscriber could access the NYT website and use the paper’s smartphone App. The middle level included the website and the App for tablets. The highest level included the website and both Apps. I thought that was utterly bizarre, and noted that “their tiered subscription… adds value by device, not by content desired”. Maybe they heard me.

The current model still has three tiers, at slightly higher rates than 2015, BUT, all three tires can now be used on any device. The differences between the various tiers are now based on content, not device, with more content available on higher priced tiers. All tiers also offer unlimited access to digital replicas of old editions (in 2015, all subscribers were bizarrely limited to 100 archive articles per month). The rates may have risen, but it is by far a better value than it was in 2015.

The Washington Post, meanwhile, also allows access from any device, and was slightly cheaper than The New York Times. But, of course, it wasn’t cost that made me choose the Post.

As we all know, there are many good free news sources, and I use many of them: The newspaper The Guardian is one major source, along with wire services AP and Reuters, the websites of broadcast media (CNN, MSNBC, etc), specialist sites like Vox, along with more agenda-driven sites. All of them can be useful, however, newspapers are driving the investigations into the current regime and are best placed to report first and most in depth about those investigations, and of them, the Times and the Post are the major players.

I plan on revisiting this in the future and may add the Times, too, if I’m reading enough in general to justify it. But if I’m going to add another digital newspaper subscription, I need to use it enough to justify the cost, and I’m not there yet. And, if any of this changes, I can cancel at any time.

So, I’m fully in the digital age now, and helping to support journalism that matters. I like that.

Plus, the post has a really cool slogan—I like that, too.

Republican mendacity

There are certain things we expect of Republicans in Congress: Dishonesty, pandering to its extremist base, hypocrisy, and bigotry, as well as other characteristics. But their mendacity is most fully utilised whenever they advance one of their radical agenda items and want to pretend it’s not only not radical, but that it’s gosh darn wholesome and good. This week Republicans in the US House proved all the worst things said about them are true.

On Wednesday (US time), the Ways and Means Committee of the US House of Representatives approved by a near party-line vote an amendment to an appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The amendment, if it is kept in the bill ultimately passed by Congress and signed by the current occupant of the White House, will be the first to include “license to discriminate” language. Naturally, that’s not how the Republicans are spinning it.

The amendment is intended to make it impossible for any state or local government to protect LGBT+ people from discrimination in adoption and fostering services by forbidding states and local governments from banning religious-based services that refuse to work with gay people. In several places around the country, this has happened, and it infuriates the far-right “Christians” who control the Republican Party.

This will result in a drop in available parents and caregivers as religious-based groups flat-out exclude otherwise qualified and suitable gay people or couples. Republicans and their allies in anti-LGBT+ hate groups have been trying to spin their move as being "good" for children, as if reducing the number of available parents will somehow magically mean more parents. Magic won’t cover up this mendacity, however, and fewer parents will inevitably mean more children waiting, and waiting longer, for adoption or foster care.

The main mechanism the bill provides for preventing state autonomy is this (full text is available as a PDF from the US House website):
The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall withhold from a State or local government 15 percent of the Federal funds the State or local government receives for a program that provides child welfare services under part B or part E of title IV of the Social Security Act if the State or local government violates subsection (a) when administering or disbursing funds under such program.
State and local governments are always short of cash, especially for social programmes that, if we’re honest, plenty of people don’t really care about. So a 15% cut would be massive. States, then, would have two options: Surrender to the “Christian” extremist Republicans, which would be contrary to their values. Or, they could defy the Republicans and take the 15% cut, and then either reduce services, cut funding from other programmes, or raise taxes, none of which would be politically popular. It’s a no-win situation for such state and local governments, exactly as Republicans planned it.

But wait, there's more!

The amendment encourages lawsuits against states, saying that religious providers blocked from discriminating “may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain all appropriate relief, including declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and compensatory damages, with respect to that violation,” and then adds, “A child welfare service provider that prevails in an action by establishing a violation of subsection (a) is entitled to recover reasonable attorneys' fees and costs.” The amendment also declares, that merely by accepting Federal funds, “a State waives its sovereign immunity for any claim or defense that is raised under this subsection.”

So, the financial costs for defying the religious extremists—both the funding cuts and the inevitable court judgements from lawsuits brought by the very litigious rightwing, would be enormous for state and local governments, and so, it would be financially impossible for state and local governments to defy the Republicans.

The reason this is so important is that this method will be THE template for how Republicans will force their extremist agenda onto everyone, especially if they win the November elections, and it will be repeated on any number of issues. For example, they will use the exact same method to prevent states from enforcing all other laws banning discrimination against LGBT+ people (because there is no federal law protecting the human rights of LGBT+ people, Congress can do that easily). No more wedding cakes or photos for dirty homos!

Once Roe v. Wade is overturned, this is the method Republicans will use to get states with legal abortion to both not pay for it with state funds, and also to require them to put onerous restrictions on access to all reproductive services, including contraception and even counselling, in order to structurally ban abortion services in states where it will still be legal. This is also how they’ll prevent Blue states from doing much of anything to protect workers, the poor, immigrants (even fully legal ones), etc., and the soon-to-be hard-right Supreme Court will back them up on everything.

It’s ironic that the very politicians who used to scream about “states rights” and states’ supposed powers under the Tenth Amendment (especially during the Obama Administration) are now working to prevent states from acting in ANY way that’s contrary to what Republicans command. The actual word for that is hypocrisy.

Still, it’s not too late to prevent a total takeover by radical religionists and fascists, but it will require massive votes for Democrats in November for one simple reason: Republicans, especially the fervent fans of the current occupant of the White House, absolutely WILL vote. This is the time to put the country first and vote ONLY for Democrats. Otherwise, “Republic of Gilead”, here we come!

And this is why the things we expect of Republicans in Congress are dishonesty, pandering to its extremist base, hypocrisy, and bigotry, as well as other less charming attributes. It’s because it’s all true—and preventable by voting for Democrats.

Friday, July 13, 2018

So far, so good

One week ago today, I started a new prescription drug. It was a major change, and one I’d wanted to make for awhile. While it’s always true that adjusting to new drugs can sometimes take weeks, so far things are going really well.

I talked about the change and everything behind it last week, and this has been my first week on the new drug. Everything I said last week about the improvements I saw after reducing the dosage of beta blockers is still true, and maybe more so.

I’m not a morning person under the best of circumstances, but while taking beta blockers I really struggled to get going in the morning. After that, it was difficult to have energy to get through the day. But starting the day at all was rough.

Now that I’m off beta blockers entirely, I find mornings easier, so called: I still don’t leap out of bed or anything, but mornings are far easier to take now than they were. This is a major improvement.

I haven’t noticed any additional improvement in “cognitive abilities” (chiefly memory and focus) than what I noted last week, but the important point is that I’m FAR better than I ever was on beta blockers. That state of affairs is a good one to be in.

So, one week in this, and so far, so good. The next phase comes two weeks from yesterday, when I get the scan of my heart, and after that I’ll know more about my situation. Right now, though, things are going very well, and that’s enough for me. For now.

AmeriNZ Podcast 338 ‘Still more changes' is now available

A new AmeriNZ Podcast episode, “AmeriNZ 338 – Still more changes” is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast.

This episode starts out with me talking about a new baby, then changes to this podcast and all things AmeriNZ, and to me, too. Lots of things are changing! I have details.

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Winter ills

Diseases tend to spike in the winter, and there are good reasons for that. But knowing it’s common doesn’t make it any easier to tolerate. I’ve been plagued with winter ills a bit more than usual this year. And we’re not even quite at the halfway point in the season.

For the past couple weeks, I’ve have had a case of yuckiness. I call it that because I don’t know what, exactly, it is: It’s a bit like a cold, a bit like a flu sort of thing, and it comes and goes. Or, maybe it’s been a series of little bugs. Either way, sometimes I’m sneezy, lately I’ve had a cough, and occasionally I feel as I have a fever, though I haven’t actually had one. Like I said, yuckiness. Still, nothing that a dose of paracetamol can’t improve.

The worst thing about the case of yuckiness is that it makes me feel tired and/or, well, yucky much of the time. Still, other times I feel pretty much okay, so I try to take advantage of those times.

The weirdest thing this year has been that I got dry and cracked lips, something I haven’t experienced since my last winter in Chicago, which would have been 1994-5. The reason, I think, is that this is the first year we’ve had a split-unit heat pump in the master bedroom. Last year, we had and a micathermic electric heater (which is now in my office, or in the guest room when someone stays the night). The heat pump is more energy efficient, of course, but it also blows hot air, which is drying. As an Illinois native, this is something I know very well.

I’ve used lip balm for years because I tend to breathe through my mouth when I’m sleeping. Several years ago I changed to the New Zealand company Ecostore’s brand of lip balm, rather than the name brand I’d always used, because Ecostore’s is made from beeswax rather than petroleum-based products. Since I was already using that, and had dry, cracked lips, I realised I needed something a bit stronger, for lack of a better word. But, what?

It’s been a very long time since I’ve had to deal with that problem, and that was in a different country, so I really had no idea how to proceed. Then I remembered this stuff called Carmex. What I remembered most about it was the little white glass jars with the yellow lids. I can remember friends in high school or university taking a little jar out of their puffy winter parkas to put some on, dropping it on the floor and it clattered and it rolled away. Later, I remember people using the tubes the company introduced.

So I went to the chemist I go to for my prescriptions, which is a pretty small place with not much variety in consumer products. But, they did have Carmex, and I bought the original version.

At first I was disappointed. The little white glass jar is now plastic. That shouldn’t have disappointed me: Band-Aid brand band aids and Sucrets are no longer sold in metal tins, after all. Despite that, the product is what matters, and it worked: In three or four days, the problem was sorted, and hasn’t returned after I resumed using my usual brand.

The fact I’ve been sick this winter isn’t unusual, even if I haven’t necessarily had conventional bugs or symptoms. The fact I had to go and buy some Carmex was very unusual, though. There had to be something. There always is.

The photo above is my own.

The products listed and their names are all registered trademarks, and are used here for purposes of description and clarity. No company or entity provided any support or payment for this blog post, and all products were purchased by me at normal retail prices. So, the opinions I expressed are my own genuinely held opinions, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the manufacturers, any retailer, or any known human being, alive or dead, real or corporate. Just so we’re clear

Famous names

The video above is an ad for a New Zealand mobile phone company (the 30-second version is below). The ad also shows a side of the New Zealand psyche, how Kiwi personal humour works, which is reason enough to share it.

While the basic concept of the ad isn’t particularly new or unique, its delivery practically swims in a Kiwi sense humour: Dry, understated, taking the piss out of ourselves. That’s the sort of thing that really appeals to me, however, that wasn’t my initial reaction.

When the ad first started running earlier this month, I thought to myself, “what the…?” Sometimes it takes me a couple viewings to really get an ad, and sometimes I’ll see things I missed at first. In this case, there’s not exactly anything to miss, really, but it definitely grew on me over time, which is good: It’s running quite often. It hasn’t made me switch to their company, though.

Still, it’s just an ad, it’s well done, and a it’s a glimpse of how Kiwi personal humour works. This time, that’s enough.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Weekend Diversion: John Newman

A lot of the pop music I share is stuff I run across accidentally. That can be true when I’m already familiar with an artist, like last week, or it can be someone new to me, like the week before. I like when either one happens, but maybe just a little bit more when they're new to me. This is one of those weeks.

The video above is “Love Me Again”, a 2013 song by John Newman, an English singer, songwriter and producer. The song went to Number One in the UK, Number 4 in Australia, Number 9 in New Zealand, and Number 30 on the USA’s Billboard Hot 100. It was certified Gold in New Zealand, Platinum in the UK and the USA, and two times Platinum in Australia.

Despite its success, I don’t remember hearing the song until I started watching our free-to-air music video channel which plays the video above rather a lot. I liked the song well-enough—it’s quite catchy—though the ending of the video was rather, um, abrupt. When the video popped up again recently, I decided to find out a little more about the singer.

In addition to his own hit, Newman co-wrote Rudimental’s 2012 single “Feel the Love” (below), which peaked at Number One on the UK charts (2x Platinum), Number 3 in Australia (3x Platinum), and Number 4 in New Zealand (Platinum).

In 2014, Newman was featured on Scottish DJ and producer Calvin Harris’ single, “Blame” (video below, in which Newman appears), which debuted at Number One on the UK charts (Platinum), Number 9 in New Zealand (Gold), Number 9 in Australia (Platinum), and Number 19 on Billboard’s Hot 100 (2x Platinum).

All of that, it turns out, was stuff I was unfamiliar with, and the second two were connected to the first song I was unfamiliar with. Which shows that we won’t always know about pop music just because it’s popular or successful.

As as so often happens, I found out about all this it all because I watched that video channel and became curious about an artist. That sort of thing happens all the time about any number of topics, not just pop music. I think that’s a very good thing.

Square dancing, indeed

It’s funny how something can just pop up and remind us of something we haven’t though about in years. Like square dancing, for example. And it was all because of the video above.

A friend shared the Mic video on Facebook, and I probably wouldn’t have seen it otherwise. It details the reason that square dancing was promoted so heavily, however, it’s safe to guess that most Americans had absolutely no idea what the agenda behind its promotion may have been, nor that Henry Ford was a racist and anti-semite (that particular knowledge came much later). Which is not to say that some of them, politicians in particular, didn’t share the same goals, because they probably did. Most of us, however, did not. That was only one of many problems with the idea that forcing square dancing was a good idea.

It used to be common to teach square dancing in Illinois public schools as part of the “physical education” requirement. It eventually faded away because of changing times, that it was really uncool, or maybe it was budget pressures, or some other reason, but whatever it was, I was glad when it ended because I hated every minute of it. Nothing, not time, distance, reflection, or better music has mellowed my opinion in the decades since.

The fact is, the phrase “square dancing” makes me shudder to this very day, because it was a truly awful experience. When I was in primary school, it was a mandatory part of physical education. It ended long before I got to middle school, so it would’ve been mid-1960s to maybe 1970, probably somewhere between ages 7 and 10, though I can’t remember for sure.

I hated it because I couldn’t memorise the steps, and, in fact, I still have no rhythm. Neither, as it happened, did most of the other kids in those days. It was also desperately uncool.

I also hated it because it had absolutely NO relevance to me, my family, or anyone I knew well: We’d never been rural or farming folk, for example, and we’d lost all the traditions of our European ancestors generations earlier, so to me, even as a kid, it felt like they were trying to force an essentially foreign or alien cultural practice on to me.

Beyond that, it also felt like they were trying to force boys and girls to engage in social activity, to literally require us to be together in couples, and I didn’t like that. It would me roughly another decade before I figured out WHY I didn’t like that, though, to be accurate, at that age most of the other boys weren’t particularly keen on the girls, either. That just that never changed for some of us—and probably some of the girls weren’t keen on being forced with the boys, and never changed, either.

On top of all that, there was the music, which I loathed: All the fiddles and harmonicas and drums sometimes played with brushes, and plodding guitar strumming—it was just so awful to me. At the time, I didn’t like any sort of country music, and the sort played for square dancing least of all. In fact, it was actually the forced square dancing that made me dislike country music in general.

By university at the latest, I was aware of the extent to which country music and repressive politics often went together. The folks who were the stereotypical country fans were Republican, spent a lot of time at church, and insisted on merging the two in a mush that was racist, sexist, homophobic, and usually delibertately ill-informed.

At that same time, of course, I was still a Republican and a Christian who spent a lot of time in church, but I wasn’t the same kind as those in the stereotype. When I went to university in the southern part of my state, I started encountering the real-life versions of those people, and later met others further south who were, too. This is the point in a fiction story where I’d say the stereotype was wrong, that I learned they were just like me. The hero of a fiction story might say that, except in my case it turned out it wasn’t entirely wrong, and very often was absolutely correct, and they really were nothing like me.

But then a funny thing happened on the way toward irrevocably dividing people into opposing camps along the sides of a square dance arena, one side country fans, the other “normal people”: It was the 1980 movie, Urban Cowboy.

It wasn’t the movie itself, exactly—I never even saw it because I didn’t like country music. Also, in those days there was the movies, or I could buy the video cassette of the movie, because there were no video rental stores yet, and, obviously, there was no Internet or streaming service in those days. So, I never saw the movie.

However, within a year of the movie’s release, there was a fad all over the USA for people playing Urban Cowboys at their local themed bar, complete with mechanical bulls and also hosting line dancing competitions. The lines between country and pop, and between real fans of real country, and mainstream consumers of country-esque (probably pop) music, blurred and melted together as they never had before, and have never done since.

There were also more crossover songs after then, as country songs became popular on the pop charts—not that it always went down well with the real fans of real country. And there watching setbacks, like a certain song I first heard while watching the 1984 Republican National Convention on TV, a song I thought then, and have ever since, is probably the worst song ever written, and a strong argument for outlawing all music. It was enough to strengthen and re-arm my dislike of all country music.

Time passed, things changed, and I mellowed. I began to like some country music songs, starting with some I remembered from my youth (nostalgia is a gateway drug for taking on all sorts of music). In the years since then, especially the past couple decades, and with the advance of the Internet, I’ve learned about all sorts of country artists and songs that I truly liked. Some have even popped up on this blog.

So, despite my background and my youthful rejection of country music, I nevertheless do like, and even own, some country music. At it’s best, country music tells the stories of struggling working people, covering the same ground that some American folk music did. What I liked was never all about honkytonks, getting drunk, or “the woman who done me wrong”, though there was always a lot of that. And, of course, there was—and still is—nationalistic jingoism, like in that certain song.

What I noticed were hit songs that talked about the struggles of people doing long hours of hard physical work, never having enough money, being cheated by any number of people, all sorts of everyday struggles. Many of the songs were often gender non-specific, meaning I could “fill in the blanks”, something I’ve talked about many times, allowing me to put my reality and lived experience into a song that was generic enough to accommodate it. Of course, like all genres, there was also a lot of crap, but I just ignored that.

Ignoring the crap meant that I didn’t hear the country music that reinforced white privilege (because openly racist songs didn’t make the radio—or whatever). It also meant I could ignore all the overtly religious songs just as much as I ignored the nationalistic jingoism, like in that certain song.

There were also big stars who sang songs with social conscience, like Garth Brooks, and in more recent years there have been successful artists singling about inclusivity—and also some gay (mostly gay male) country singers, and even though their appeal is definitely outside the mainstream, they nevertheless make money selling their music. That’s a good thing.

The biggest openly-LGBT artists performing country music (among other genres) were k.d lang, who came out in 1992, and Melissa Etheridge, who has done a lot of country rock. She came out in 1993. But neither of them are strictly country artists, or even necessarily thought of as being country at all. Matter of perspective, I suppose, but neither were actually reasons I started liking country music (though I liked them and their music).

So, despite the forces aligned to make me loathe country music, I did eventually evolve and change, and eventually grew up to like some country music. But one thing never changed: I never forgot how much I hated the forced square dancing, not forgave the powers that be for doing that. Some things never change because they can’t.

And all those reminders were all because of a video shared on Facebook. That is a change.

Tip o’ the Hat to Terri who shared the video and hosted a fun discussion on her personal Facebook Page. This post is based on comments I made on that post, though revised and greatly extended.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Proud Dads

Last Sunday was Dublin’s annual Pride parade, reportedly "the second biggest festival in the Republic of Ireland after St Patrick's Day." This year it also generated a viral video (above), from Dublin Bus. As they put it in the YouTube description:
This year at Pride, we had the proudest bus in the parade, not because it had the most glitter or flags, because it had the proudest people, Proud Dads. Gwan ahead and warm the cockles of your heart.
And warmed they were. Well done Dublin Bus—very well done.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

First things first

Tonight there’s a major change in this health journey, and in three weeks, some more investigation may lead to some definitive answers. First things first, and then the rest later. It’s the only thing to do.

Tonight I take my last dose of the beta blocker, and tomorrow I begin the calcium channel blocker, diltiazem. Two weeks ago, the cardiologist had me begin to wean off of the beta blocker by cutting the dosage in half, and that ends tonight. Over that time, I’ve felt better: Less tired, and with more and better mental focus. I’ve given myself some simple memory tests, like remembering small things that were unimportant over a couple days. For the past year, I haven’t been able to do that, and instead have had to rely on writing myself notes while hoping I’d see the note or remember I’d written one, ideally both. Plenty of times I did neither.

Slowly over the past couple weeks I’ve definitely felt clearer mentally. The memory tests were successful, though I still really haven’t felt focused enough to read a long-form article, let alone a book. But blogging has been easier and more productive, something that also requires focus. So all of that has been really great.

Against that backdrop, there’s a bit of worry. I’ve changed drugs before and had problems, after all, so I know that could happen now, too. Right now, I also don’t know for sure that I won’t have to go back to beta blockers, but there may soon be an answer for that, something that will answer a nagging question I had.

The first time I saw my new doctor, she explained to me why I was on beta blockers. I thought it was because of the tachycardia, but she thought it was something else:
I knew that people who’ve had a heart attack are put on the drug to help their heart heal. I didn't have a heart attack. I also knew that they’re used for irregular heartbeat (and migraines, even). But it turns out that when someone has a heart attack, part of their heart is damaged, as we all probably know, and when someone has a blockage like I did, part of their heart is weakened. As a result, one half of the heart isn’t strong enough and has trouble keeping up with the healthy part. [emphasis added]
The part in that passage that’s in bold is the part of her explanation that stuck out for me—unfortunately, it was only later, after I was home and thinking about it. It was this: I thought to myself, “How do they KNOW, precisely, that half my heart isn’t working properly? Because if it is, they’re giving me medication I don’t need, especially because there are better drug options for people with my sort of tachycardia”.

This is the answer I’ll soon have.

I saw the cardiologist a two weeks ago, and exactly one week later I got a letter from our local District Health Board to ring them to make an appointment for a transthoracic echocardiogram, a procedure similar to how doctors check the development of a baby, but in this case it looks at the beating heart to look for unhealthy beating, rhythm, etc. When I have mine done at the end of the month, they’ll be able to see if both halves of my heart are working together and properly, and that will provide the definitive answer as to whether or not beta blockers were ever appropriate for me.

And therein lies my great fear: What if they were, and are, needed?

If the echocardiogram shows the two sides aren’t playing nicely with each other, then I may need to go back on beta blockers. There are several different ones, and maybe one might be a bit better than what I was on, but the fact remains that the fatigue and memory/focus problems are common with the entire class of drugs. If I have to go back on beta blockers, the problems will return, and, even though if I’m lucky they might not be as bad as they were before, they might be, and they definitely would return to some extent. Knowing this, it would be a little bit like being Charlie Gordon in Flowers for Algernon.

Now, I’m smart enough to know that there’s no sense worrying about something that may never happen, that even in the worst case, the drug I end up on might be significantly better. I know all that. But I also know that the past year has been among the worst of my adult life, and there were times that life meant little more than merely existing. I don’t know how I could cope with that if it was, essentially, a life sentence.

When I had the disaster with the last beta blocker, I considered getting a second opinion from a private cardiologist, but was still too burned from that very bad experience with the drug to pursue that option. Now that I’ve had that consultation, I’m switching drugs to a better, kinder sort of drug, and proper investigation will be done into how my heart is actually functioning, and that will determine what happens in the future.

At the very least, I should get some definitive answers, and maybe even a better way forward. First things first, and then the rest later. It’s the only thing to do.

Important note: This post is about my own personal health journey. My experiences are my own, and shouldn’t be taken as indicative for anyone else. Similarly, other people may have completely different reactions to the same medications I take—better or worse. I share my experiences because others may have the same or similar experiences, and I want them to know that they’re not alone. But, as always, discuss your situation and how you’re feeling openly, honestly, and clearly with your own doctor, and always feel free to seek a second opinion from another doctor.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Day between

Many years ago, I was asked if New Zealand had the Fourth of July. I responded, “Yes. It’s between the third and fifth of July.” Of course what they really wanted to know was whether there was any observance of the USA's Independence Day. The answer to that is “no”, even though, of course, some people, especially American expats, DO mark the occasion. I always have, too, and this year was a little more public.

In past years I’ve commented on how various companies will latch onto Independence Day to promote sales. This year was no different. In fact, all the same ones I’ve shared in past years are still at it, so no need to share again.

Instead, an Instagram photo (above) is something new for the day. I mentioned in the caption that “Today was the first time we flew the flags for real because the weather was good, someone was home all day, AND it was a flag-flying holiday”, all of which is true, and it’s been a long time coming: Nearly eight months, actually.

Last November, I wrote about how we’d bought flags and planned to fly them, but couldn’t. In the time since then, one or more of the three things I mentioned in the caption have been missing, meaning that on the few public events/days people are urged to fly flags (in either country), the weather has been bad or we were away for the day. But there was one other factor, too: We usually didn’t remember them.

The reality is that since we’ve never flown the flags until today, doing so wasn’t exactly in the front of our minds. That’s no surprise, of course, and so, neither is the fact that this is the first time since November that all the conditions were right.

In that post last November, I talked about my impish side, how part of the reason I like flying the flag is that folks to my Left and to my Right are appalled that I would do so. However, there’s another side of that: The sheer ordinariness of it for MOST people. Most of my Facebook friends, for example, are mainastream Liberals or Conservatives, not dwelling at the two ends of the spectrum, and all of them think flying the flag is a pretty ordinary thing to do. Not remarkable in any way. I think they’re absolutely right about that.

Of course, it’s not as simple as that, either: Living outside the USA means that, according to international protocol, when we fly the US flag, it can’t be alone, in place of the New Zealand flag. The New Zealand flag can be flown alone, of course, or with any other flag, but none of them should fly in place of the country’s flag (Royal Standards or their equivalent are an exception, of course, but that’s a different matter entirely).

The point is, we flew both flags because that’s just what’s done. Some other day I may choose to fly some other flag next to the New Zealand Flag (since we only have two flag holders). Maybe not. Besides, it may a very long time before all conditions are just right.

And all the conditions today were just right (apart from me battling a cold sort of thing). And, there was just enough breeze to make the flags actually fly a bit. So much the better.

Happy Independence Day, America!

Update 5 July 2018: The weather today was very different—still cool/cold, but also overcast all day. Although rain wasn't predicted, I was too busy to keep an eye on the weather so I could go bring the flags in, so had today's weather been yesterday, we wouldn't have flown the flags. And, I would have lost a contemporaneous blog post topic. See? We ALL won!

Fourth sale (2017)
Selling Independence Day (2016)
Celebrating the Fourth of July (2015)
Fourth of July (2014)
Are you proud? (2013)
Fourth of July (2011)
Time, distance and home (2009)

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Sunny is ten

Today is Sunny's tenth birthday, which hardly seems possible. I’m sure someone’s made a math mistake somewhere. In any case, the Instagram photo above is her official birthday portrait, which really means that’s one she allowed me to take. Another one from her “photoshoot” is below.

On Sunny’s eighth birthday, I wrote about the health scare she’d had the end of the previous year, and how she’d recovered from it. What I didn’t mention is that they also removed her spleen after finding a nodule on it. That turned out to be benign, but the vet warned us she’d probably slow down. That didn’t happen: She was as boisterous as ever. In fact we took to joking that they the vet meant they’d taken our her OTHER spleen.

Over the past year, however, she has slowed down, a bit like Jake did when he neared ten. She can still get manic and boisterous, but on the whole she’s much quieter and more subdued. This is, of course, in contrast to her new little brother, Leo, who is a bundle of energy mixed with action and smiles. I think the manufacturers must put speed in his food.

Sunny likes playing with Leo, and sometimes she chases him around the yard when they’re excited after Nigel or I get home. She also like playing with her cat sister Bella, though Bella is very subdued and quiet these days. She also will sleep next to Jake, especially if it’s cold. So, she’s just as affectionate and connected to us all as always.

Sunny is still one of the happiest dogs I've ever known, now joined by Leo. She’s still “Sunny by name, sunny by nature”, and we can’t imagine her any other way.

Happy Tenth Birthday, Sunny!

Related posts:
Sunny is nine – Last year’s birthday post
Sunny is eight
Sunny is seven
Sunny is six
Sunny is five
Sunny is four
Sunny is three – Her first birthday with us
Sunny has arrived – When Sunny came to live with us
All posts mentioning Sunny

Facts do matter

We are constantly reminded by the well-intentioned and the adversary alike that fact-checking the current US regime is pointless: Its supporters don’t care, its opponents don’t need it, and those in-between don’t want it. On some level, that’s absolutely true, however, facts do matter. Always. And even if no one is listening—maybe especially then.

This morning a friend shared this post on Facebook:

I don’t know the author, but the piece is sourced, which is more than can be said for most of the things about this topic that are shared on social media. I shared a similarly well-sourced post a couple weeks ago, and, generally speaking, those are the only sorts of posts from people that I share: Ones that are sourced, something that’s especially important if they’re trying to fact-check propaganda.

I also share things from media sites and relevant organisations to help shed light on topics, as well as to help keep facts foremost, because the current regime doesn’t want facts discussed. Even then, though, I’m more likely to share an article that’s sourced. An example of the sort of piece I mean was published recently by The Washington Post: “There’s no immigration crisis, and these charts prove it”. It sets out to debunk four of the myths and lies the current regime and its allies are promoting. It, too, is sourced.

There are two common things here. First, the pieces are sourced. There’s no point in trying to claim the moral/intellectual high ground if one doesn’t provide evidence for it. Second, these are all pieces that provide information that opponents of the regime can use in quiet conversations with people they know really well—not just some rando on social media or in the unmoderated comments section of, well, pretty much anywhere these days.

The reason that sourcing is important is obvious: Because facts are important. Similarly, it’s also true that, despite the well-worn advice, just because a total stranger might not be receptive to fact-checking, people who we know well, such as close friends and family members, MAY be willing to hear us out—as long as they haven’t forgotten how connected we are, as seems to happen quite a lot these days. Even then it’s worth promoting facts and truth: They may not believe us right now, but eventually some may, and every person we arm with facts and truth is one more person who may join us to get rid of this gang. That goal alone is reason enough to persist even if it does fail more often than it succeeds.

The final reason this all matters is that we must be better than the regime we oppose. If we suggest they spit on the Constitution and laugh at the rule of law, we must always advocate for the Constitution and the rule of law. If we see they take immoral or unethical actions, we must call out that immorality. If we say they lie, we must provide the truth. And if they spread lies and myths packaged as “alternative facts”, we must always present real facts and the sources for them. This is a real-life opportunity—and obligation—to be the change we seek.

Facts do matter. Always. And even if no one is listening—maybe especially then.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Contrast and comparison

Until recently, it was considered rude or worse for people to openly express racist thoughts or make racist remarks about other people. This wasn’t true everywhere or for everyone, of course—nothing about human behaviour is ever universal—but it was common enough to be a sort of ethos.

Not anymore.

The above post from the AmeriNZ Facebook Page was my reaction to a post an old friend made. My main point was that America has always had a problem with racism, so the racism now being unleashed with increasing frequency isn’t actually new. What IS knew is that the person occupying the White House has used racist language, excused racist violence, and provided encouragement for racists to express their racism boldly.

Against this backdrop, the current occupant of the White House is threatening his opponents:

And there’s also this from Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters:

So, the current occupant of the White House is openly threatening his opponents, blames Democrats for all his own failings and refusal to act, and emboldens racists to openly and publicly launch racist verbal (mostly, so far) attacks on people. And the Republican Party stays totally silent because, one must assume, they are in complete agreement with of the leader of their party and endorse his insanity.

How can this end well? By voting all Republicans out in November. That’s the only hope the USA has left. That won’t cure the cancer in the American Body Politic, but it will stop its spread.

Related: ThinkProgress published a piece on the PR puffery interview on the Fox Propaganda Channel that was excerpted in the Tweet above: "Maria Bartiromo’s embarrassing Trump interview". Also from them: “White House uses its official Twitter account to attack Democrats for criticizing ICE”. This is NOT normal or rational behaviour.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Weekend Diversion: Tom Odell

Last week’s Weekend Diversion, Years & Years, was one I chose because I’d just seen The Graham Norton Show on the previous Friday. I watched it again this past Friday, which, it turned out, was the final for this season. The musical guest was Tom Odell performing “If You Wanna Love Somebody”, which is from his new album, Jubilee Road, out later this year. Unlike last week’s selection, I actually own one of Tom’s albums.

In June 2013, I bought his debut album, Long Way Down, on iTunes, a few days after it was released. I can’t remember why, exactly, I bought it, since I’d never heard of him, but I think that it was promoted on iTunes, maybe at a special price. I listened to samples of the songs and liked them well enough to buy the album. The album reached number one in the UK and New Zealand. I have no idea if it was even released in the Australia, Canada, or the USA, but if it was, it didn’t chart.

The debut single was “Another Love” (some language may be NSFW):

The song, originally released in 2012, before Long Way Down, reached number 10 in the UK, but never charted in New Zealand. It’s my favourite song on the album. There’s an alternative version of the video released a year later, and it’s very different [WATCH].

None of the other songs from Long Way Down charted well in the UK, or at all in New Zealand.

His best performing single so far was “Real Love”, a song by John Lennon that was used in the 2014 John Lewis Christmas Ad. In 2016, the song was released on Tom’s EP called Spending All My Christmas With You, but readers with a long memory may recall that I shared the John Lewis ad back in 2014. Here’s Tom’s video of the song:

And that will be the last performer I share I saw The Graham Norton Show or, at least, the last for several months. But I’m always finding or rediscovering songs thanks to television, one way or another, so I’m sure to share more for similar reasons.

Furry Sunday snooze

Today was a grey, rainy, and dismal day. The perfect excuse for a nap—not that the furbabies need an excuse, of course. I was putting away washing this afternoon and saw Leo and Jake were having a nap, I took out my phone and a few minutes later, it was posted to Instagram (above).

Leo likes to try to stay out of the way of Jake and Sunny who are much bigger than he is. This is funny to us because before Leo came to live with us, we though Jake and Sunny were pretty small. Not so much these days. Leo also gets away with a lot because he’s cute. Lucky for him.

When I went back in the bedroom later this afternoon, I saw the three of them lying on the bed together (photo below). Jake was back in basically the same spot he was in earlier that afternoon. It’s his favourite spot because the heat pump blows down on him and keeps him warm.

And, as it is so many days, that was my entertainment highlight for the day.

And no, I didn't really make Leo move. Like I said, he's cute.

Later that same afternoon: Jake, top, and Leo, left, and Sunny.

July’s welcome

Today is the beginning of a new month, and the middle of winter. Both are good, the latter because it means we’re getting ever closer to spring and summer. But starting another month is always a good opportunity to refresh and renew and restore ourselves and our resolve. All of that is true for all things AmeriNZ.

June was in many was a pretty good month for me. It was my most blogged month of the year so far, just five posts short of an average on one per day, and that meant it was also my most productive month by far (by that measure) all year. This is good in itself.

This appears to have been mostly due my recent health journey development, specifically that Δͺ’m starting being weaned off beta blockers. I feel clearer in my head than I have in a year, and that’s a really good thing all by itself, not just for blogging, obviously.

Then last week I felt like the stuffing was kicked out of me, as I mentioned on Friday. This was, in fact, the sole reason I didn’t have 30 (or more) posts in June. This was a pity, because I had so many I was working on, mostly still in process. On the other hand, none of them were time-specific, so I have plenty of time to finish them. At the moment, it looks as if this month may have many days with two or more posts in a day (like today). Or, I have a head start on August. Either way, it’s a good thing.

There was one other blogging development this month. As long time readers know, I’ve quite literally agonised over the structure of this blog: Should I focus it narrowly? I’d often talked about spinning off all talk of US politics, sometimes adding non-New Zealand topics to the list to be spun off. I even set up another blog to take those political posts, but could never get the political ones from here to import there. This turned out to be a good thing.

I am, as Roger Green calls himself, a magpie blogger, that is, I write about what interests me at that moment. Sometimes I’ll follow the same topic day after day and then abandon it for months. Other times I kind of skip around from day to day as the newest, shiniest topic captures my eye. In other words, this blog is me, an epiphany I had only recently. Avoiding certain topics, such as US politics, would mean avoiding parts of myself.

This realisation/epiphany dragged up some other issues. I felt bad about how my AmeriNZ Podcast had become, basically, an audio blog (aublog?), as if that was a bad thing. And yet, way back in episode one I’d said I saw it as an extension of this blog. So, not only is the current format NOT a problem or a defect, it’s what I envisioned when I started it back in 2007.

In 2009, I was bullied, basically, into dropping talk of US politics from my podcast. Part of it was an iTunes review that said my podcast was “too political”, a criticism that ended up becoming the name of an expressly political podcast I created with my friend Jason, 2Political Podcast (and no, I don’t know when it’ll return). I also wanted it to be our podcast, not just episodes of mine, but once it was launched I stopped talking about US politics on AmeriNZ Podcast, and since then I almost never have.

Similarly, my YouTube Channel is mainly videos about New Zealand, one way or another, but nothing about any of the many other subjects that interest me. I think this is actually one of the main reasons I haven’t made more videos. At one point I even considered using a second YouTube Channel I have (which is not public) to make other videos and vlogs (video blogs). “Video blogs” on a different channel? When I already have a written blog and a podcast where I already, well, blog? This was one of two catalysts for changing my thinking.

The other catalyst was thinking about Facebook, as I did recently. I wrote about how I don’t post anything about US politics to my personal Facebook, and how I had my blog and the AmeriNZ Facebook Page for political things. I also wrote:
I still rarely post anything political on my personal Facebook. That self-censorship means that anyone reading what I post there, arguably, isn't seeing the authentic me because there’s so much more that they never see.
And that, dear reader, was the aha! moment, because the exact same thing is true of my podcast and my YouTube Channel—everything except this blog, in fact.

And so, years of agonising about this blog are now over. This blog will remain as it always has been—clearly the authentic me—and my podcast will remain as it has become, with the re-introduction of political talk when I have something I want to talk about. I'll share more details about all that here and in the next episode of the podcast, as well as on the podcast site, at that time. And any future videos I make will be about whatever I’m interested in at the time, just like this blog and my podcast.

All of this was tied up with a pretty little bow just yesterday. As part of some research for a future blog post, I read some of my old posts that, I quickly realised, could have been YouTube videos (too, not necessarily instead of). It was then I realised there was no reason that I couldn’t make videos about absolutely anything I might blog about.

So everything AmeriNZ—which, after all, is actually a name I originally made up to describe myself—may now include anything and everything that interests me, with very little out of bounds. Each part can for the first time truly reinforce the other parts, so I really can use the best medium to tell a story.

This is incredibly liberating—and energising.

I may in the future set up a different blog and podcast feed that are specialised (for example, just about New Zealand), but those will have material repackaged from the equivalent AmeriNZ channel. AmeriNZ will have everything.

There are good reasons why deciding this all now is important, as I’ll talk about later this month. For now, though, I’ll just say that having a specific direction and unity for all things AmeriNZ will begin to matter quite a lot.

So, it’s a really awesome feeling that years of agonising about this blog are now over—well, I THINK they are, anyway…