Sunday, March 07, 2021

Back to ‘normality’ again, again. Again.

At 6am this morning, New Zealand went down one Covid Alert Level: Auckland moved from 3 to 2, and the rest of the country from 2 to 1. This is where we were three weeks ago, and also in August last year. If there aren’t any new community transmission cases over the week, Auckland will join the rest of the country at Alert Level 1, and we’ll again be back to as normal as things have been over the past year. It’s be the third time we've been through this since the Alert Level 4 Lockdown last year.

This time, the Alert Level change affected me directly because I had something that was supposed to be sorted the week before, but Auckland locked-down again. What I needed to do was something that completed a task Nigel gave me in his final days. To do that, I followed my values, too. It’s not every day that happens.

A few weeks ago I was checking Nigel’s email, as I do from time to time, and among all the spam and scam emails (which is what it mostly is now) was one saying that Nigel had a personal message on a service he used. The service was for self-described tech geeks and included a forum where users could post questions, get advice, that sort of thing. It also had a sort of exchange where people could sell and exchange equipment they no longer needed/wanted.

I logged into Nigel’s account and found that it was about one of those latter things: The guy Nigel bought his servers from was contacting him to ask what the model number was because he couldn’t find anything as good. The servers were the ones Nigel was using at the time he died, and he told me he wanted me to erase them—even though I had no idea how to do that, and I didn’t even know the log-ins (one of those things you don’t know until you do know you don’t know).

I ended up having an IT company here in Hamilton come to the house I was moving from and take down all the servers (mine and Nigel’s). They took them and reorganised them into two servers, and left Nigel’s original two unneeded, and they sat in my garage for the past year.

I sent a message to the guy telling him Nigel had died, and I wasn’t entirely sure, but I thought I’d found the model number for him (the truth is that I wasn’t even sure what I was talking about until I googled the name and saw a photo of the servers). A few responses later and he offered to buy them back, but here’s the thing: To me, they were pretty much just junk cluttering up my garage. The IT folks offered to take the servers away so they could be responsibly recycled, but I hesitated (at the time, Nigel had only been dead about four months, and I probably wasn’t ready to get rid of something that was so associated with Nigel for me, even though I still had all the data that had been on them). Here was a person who’d had the servers and could use them again, where I couldn’t.

I took the servers to the IT company to have them securely-wiped, that is, erasing them using permanent destruction of any data on them. So, I told the guy that I was just glad that someone could use the servers, and I told him I’d be be happy if he just paid for the erasing of the severs, and he agreed. So, essentially, I gave them away.

Nigel and I shared the desire to give what we could to help people, especially people we know. Nigel gave away a lot stuff to family over the years, and I still do (clothes, towels, furniture, and more to come). So, me essentially giving away the servers is consistent with the values Nigel and I shared.

It’s true that I had an unusual advantage here: I had no idea how much Nigel had paid for the servers, so it was easy for me to think of them as having no value because, for me, they didn’t. But even if I’d known, it wouldn’t have made any difference: I still would have been happy with breaking even. See, I get rid of stuff cluttering up my garage, didn’t pay to erase them, and they went to the person who used them before Nigel and who still likes them. Plus, Nigel’s servers are now finally securely erased, just as he’d wanted. Wins all around, as far as I’m concerned.

The obstacle to finishing all this was Auckland’s lockdown. I picked up the servers a week ago yesterday, and then it was announced that the Level change would happen today at 6am the next morning. And that was that until 6am this morning when the lockdown ended and it was possible for the guy to come to Hamilton to pick up the servers.

Auckland has been under lockdown for a week, and maybe five hours later someone from Auckland was coming to my house. Now, I’m well aware that there was no risk, but we all have a duty to make sure the country is kept safe. I had a plan.

Last October, the government encouraged people to generate a QR code for their house so that Trick or Treaters could use the Covid Tracer App to scan where they went. I made a QR code, not for Halloween, but because I knew that workers would be coming to my house at some point or other, and the responsible thing would be to make it possible for them to scan in.

This morning I loaded the Covid Tracer App with my QR code onto my iPad. I don’t have a printer hooked up to my computer unless I need one, so printing it was a little complicated, and this is easier—especially because I don’t have to post the sheet anywhere.

The guy did scan in, and so, another of my values—in this case, doing my bit to keep us all safe—was met. I also found out that using my iPad for that was a great idea.

This was a good day. The Covid Alert levels changed, which affected me directly because I planned to complete a task Nigel gave me in his final days, and that, in turn, gave me the chance to follow my values. It’s not every day that happens, but today it did. And that made it a good day.

Saturday, March 06, 2021

A useful book – eventually

This isn’t a book review, at least, not just that. It’s about a book, yes, but also how I came to buy and read it, and how all that meshes with my current life.

There a lot of books dealing with grief, many written from particular perspectives (like religious views) or specific types of grief (like losing a spouse, child, or furbaby). It’s probable that the real value of any of those books, like all books, will be determined by the reader, and no one else. It turns out, “Arthur’s Law” also applies to books.

All of which has been on my mind a lot over the past 17 months as I’ve seen recommendations for books on grieving suggested to me directly, or from what I’ve seen online. The thing about that is that anyone like me, in the midst of profound grief, will almost certainly have issues with trust: When so much we held to be true and certain is ripped away from us, who and what can we ever trust? Book recommendations are merely one of the more easily jettisoned things at a time we can trust nothing.

Even so, back in December, 2019, when I was still quite new to deep grief, a dear friend of mine I’ve known for some some three decades (and who has gone on to become a licensed marriage and family therapist) suggested a book to me, Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss. He noted that many people thought of it as a kids book, but that he’d given it to many people of all ages as a way to help them with their pain. He told me, “Probably kid stuff for you, but sometimes it's the easy stuff that helps.”

At the time, I was in the midst of organising for my new house in Hamilton, and then moving, and then selling the old house, and then came the Covid lockdown, and then—well, I just never got around to getting the book—or any other book on grief, for that matter.

Back in 2019, it sold for about NZ $50, which at the time was about two thirds higher than the price in the USA. Recently, I was ordering something from Amazon and decided to add the book to the order. It had gone up in price in the meantime (from US$ 18.50 to US $19.76), plus shipping, though since it was only part of the order, the portion for the book would be minimal. The only online seller I could find it from here in New Zealand (one I’d ordered from before) currentlyoffers it for NZ $49.67, which, in US dollars, was nearly twice the price I could get it at from Amazon: US $35.60.

The pricing was one of the reasons I hesitated buying the book in 2019: As I’ve said many times, books are quite expensive in New Zealand, and while I will support NZ owned and independent booksellers here when I can, in this case the only NZ site I could order it from (a NZ company with operations in several countries) would’ve had it shipped from a supplier in the USA, not NZ, so the benefit to NZ would’ve been minimal. And the reason I mention all that is because all of it was cluttering up my mind at the time I first heard about the book: At the time I was unable to process things in my mind in a clear or linear fashion, not with everything that had happened and was happening in my life.

That’s a shame, because I think it would’ve helped back then, because it still did all this time later.

Tear Soup is a really nice and simple book to help anyone understand the process of grief, whether their own or someone else's. The book's presentation in the format of a simple illustrated storybook, much like that for children, makes it accessible to anyone, maybe especially including people who don't like to read.

The story centres on Grandy, “an old and somewhat wise woman” who “just suffered a big loss in her life”. Her specific loss is never mentioned, which keeps it universal, but by including her husband, Pops, her grandson, Chester, and Grandy’s friends, the book can explore how various people react to and process grief.

When I read the book, there were several times I thought to myself, "Yes! Exactly!" because it reflected so much truth that I learned through my own grief journey, things I’ve talked about on this blog (especially in my “A Survivor’s Notes” series of posts). However, the metaphorical use of soup to represent grief gave me a new way to look at what I've been going through.

There are extensive resources and helpful suggestions at the end of the book, and that, too, can help anyone dealing with a grief journey, again, their own or someone else's. It's very useful even just for that.

It’s not a perfect book (there’s no such thing, anyway), and one important thing to be aware of is that despite the way the book is presented, it may not be appropriate for young kids without guidance from an adult. This is mainly because one illustration features a bookshelf with book titles illustrating different things someone might be grieving about, including suicide and death of a child, among others, and parents and caregivers will probably want to supply guidance.

Another thing to be aware of is that there's a scene in a church with gentle religious talk, but religious nonetheless. Anyone who isn't religious may find that somewhat annoying. On the other hand, those who are religious may appreciate having their beliefs reflected. I also think that the section can help religious people understand why a grieving religious person might become angry at the god they and the grieving person both believe in, or perhaps why reject it or their shared religion. In any case, it's not a large portion of the book, and I don't think it would be a major issue for anyone.

The book, then, is an accessible way to understand grief, whether one's own or that of a grieving person we want to be supportive of. Young children, though, may benefit from being guided through the book by an adult.

I know all that now, but maybe not if I’d read it at the time it was first suggested to me. There’s simply no teacher like that of experience and time combined, and together they can result in understanding that’s very difficult for any book to offer. However, in this case, the book presented a lot of what I’d learned on my own, and seeing that reflected was both validating and empowering.

The recipe for Tear Soup is everywhere, whether we look for it or it’s given to us. Sure, we each need to make our own alterations to the recipe, but learning how to make Tear Soup? That’s actually the easy part—when we’re ready.

What I read: Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss by Pat Schwiebert, Chuck DeKlyen, and Taylor Bills (Illustrator), print edition, 54 pages (including endnotes). Published by Grief Watch, 1999.

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Home work

This business of getting a new house set up can be difficult for anyone, but doing it under the weight of grief can make it drudgery—even torture. It also goes much more slowly than under ideal conditions. Those are all things I know very, very well.

My garage is still mostly boxes, as I’ve mentioned several times, and will be for some time to come. The rest of the house is coming together, slowly. Last month, when I talked about working on the house, I said about the lounge/kitchen/dining, “I’m now putting it as I’ll have it long term”. That took a big leap the end of January when I gave away our old lounge suite, something that I’d planned on doing for a year.

In January of last year, I wrote about my plans for the new house, and noted, “I have furniture for a larger house,” and so, it wouldn’t fit. I also added:
…for a couple years (at least) I was telling Nigel that I wanted to sell our sofas and matching chair for something smaller, but he seemed less interested in that than I was. It definitely will be too much for the new house.
Nigel and I bought the two sofas and chair when we lived in Paeroa, sometime in 2005, I think. They were chocolate brown and in a kind of retro, almost Deco style, and were made in New Zealand by a company that no longer makes furniture (they import furniture made overseas). They were also large (though comfy) pieces of furniture. The 3-seater sofa was long enough for an adult to lie down, which meant it was guest bed a few times (and I even slept on it one night when Sunny was unwell and needed to go outside frequently).

The fact the furniture was too big for my new place made my desire to replace it more urgent for me: I was tired of living in such a crowded space. As it happens, a family member needed a lounge suite, so I gave it to them “as is”: If I’d attempted to sell them I’d have cleaned them or had them cleaned first (we had them more than 15 years, after all).

So, I gave them away and the house was quite empty. The next day, I went sofa shopping with my brother- and sister-in-law, and found one in the third place we looked. I bought a three seater (but one that’s a bit shorter than the old one), and one that was made in Auckland. I wanted a NZ-made sofa not only because I like to help keep Kiwis in work, but also because getting stuff from overseas is still difficult due to Covid, and I didn’t want to wait months for my new sofa to get here.

The new sofa (photo up top) was delivered this past Saturday, and, all things considered, went better than the delivery that was supposed to happen Tuesday. I wasn’t given a specific delivery time, but the delivery company texted me at 10:29am to tell me that the delivery would be between 3pm and 6pm (and they also asked me to confirm my address). The new sofa actually arrived around 5pm.

The sofa was all wrapped in plastic, which the deliverers left on. That surprised me at first because companies used to take that sort of thing away, however, that was probably when companies did their own deliveries, rather than contracting it out to a separate company. As it happens, though, I was glad it was wrapped up: I was headed out to dinner with family, and I didn’t have time to spray on the fabric protector, so the plastic would keep the dogs off of it.

The next day, I took off the plastic and sprayed the fabric protector on the whole thing (it carries a 7 year guarantee against stains). It was a bit of a mission with four cushions to spray, along with the sofa carcass, and to keep curious dogs away from the sofa while it was drying (the plastic mounded up on the floor in front of it did the trick).

That part of the house is now basically done, apart maybe from some tables and possibly another, small scale chair (so I can accommodate more guests). The only other room in the house that’s completely done is the guest bedroom (technically they’re not counted as rooms, but the toilet, bathroom, and en suite are all done, so, I guess there’s that…).

The biggest job of all (aside from that garage of no return) is my office and bedroom, which I mentioned briefly last month. Quite some time ago, I followed what’s considered sound advice for organising a room: Take everything out, and then put it back where it belongs/where you want it. So, I moved stuff out of my office and into my bedroom, which is now still full of boxes of stuff from my office. The advice may have been sound, but the execution wasn’t because it didn’t take my “state of nothingness” into account—nor the fact that the whole reason I had trouble getting my office organised is that I had nowhere to put things, and that hasn’t changed.

I have a new plan, one I’ll talk about more when/if it works. But sorting out my office (and so, my bedroom) is now my sole major project inside the house (aside from that garage of no return), so I hope that means I can give it the attention I haven’t managed up until now. Still, at least I have a nice, clear desk now—that’s something, I guess.

At any rate, this business of getting a new house set up can be drudgery—even torture—and can go much more slowly than under ideal conditions. Those are all things I know very, very well.

The photo montage on the left side of this post shows the old sofa, the empty space that was there from January until this past Saturday, and the bottom photo is of the plastic-wrapped new sofa.

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Sensible ideas

Ideas are either good or bad, sensible or not, and deciding which it is can’t be determined only by “considering the source”. If an idea is good, if the suggestion is sound, then it shouldn’t matter where it came from. Today provided a good example of that.

The screen shot at left is my friend Richard Hills’ Facebook post in which he shared an RNZ post, “National wants government to pay wages of those self-isolating”. It was based on remarks their party leader, Judith Collins, made on their Morning Report programme (the relevant interview is linked to in that RNZ story). No one could ever seriously suggest that either Richard or I are National Party supporters, so this underscores my point: Good ideas are good ideas.

There are, of course, some particulars to be worked out. The Ministry of Health is responsible for issuing “isolate for 14 days” orders, while the Department of Work and Income (WINZ), part of the Ministry of Social Development, is responsible for paying benefits (welfare). In my mind, the Ministry of Health would alert WINZ immediately after issuing their stay at home order, then at WINZ a specialist team would immediately act on the special benefit payment. This should just be an organisational thing, unless WINZ needs special legislation first (which is easy enough to do).

At the moment, there’s a wage subsidy scheme for employers to pay their workers when a lockdown closes a business, or they suffer big hits because of a high Alert Level. But that requires the business to apply, and, anyway, that’s designed for all a company's employees, not just those self-isolating. But the main problem with the current employee support scheme is that it pays less than minimum wage, and if people on low wages, often working multiple jobs just to pay rent, can’t get an appropriate level of support, they’ll have an incentive to break the rules and go to work, potentially spreading the virus widely.

As a friend of mine (also not a National Party supporter) has pointed out, it’s not reasonable to expect fast food and retail companies, which typically employ large numbers of low-wage workers, to do the right thing. Most won’t even tell workers that they can apply for a scheme. All of which is why the support scheme needs to be both fast and automatic.

Richard observed that it was unlikely anyone but those working in a small business would have the ability to even have time with their employer. In a large business (like retail or fast food, for example), a worker requesting their employer to apply for something on their behalf and pay them for two weeks is asking a lot. Richard also rightly pointed out that right now everything is built on a worker hoping for the best while they’re supposed to be isolating—and worrying if they’ve got money for their next bills or meals.

When I talked about the snap Alert Level change this past Saturday, I talked about how we as a country rightly expect people to do the right thing and stay isolated at home when told to do so. I also said that it seemed to me that any employer who threatened the employment of a worker because they were told to isolate should be “prosecuted for obstructing a public health order.” The suggestion for, essentially, full wage replacement, would solve the final problem by ensuring that low-income workers won’t end up even worse off if they follow the public health isolation rules. It seems to me that it’s not unreasonable to expect people to stay home when told to do so, however, we have a collective responsibility to support them to do so, and to help ensure they’re not worse off for having done the right thing.

To be sure, I not a supporter of the National Party, nor a fan of Judith Collins, and I'm absolutely certain that’s not going to change. However, this idea is both good and sensible. It doesn’t matter where it came from. Today provided a good example how and why that can be true.

Clearing the desk

Earlier this week I cleared off my desk. It was long overdue, but also something I just couldn’t manage to get done before now. I had strong(er) motivation to do something, but the spark was an idea I had, a project I thought would be a good idea. The result was a winding road, but with a successful outcome. I am both relieved and invigorated.

The truth is, I haven’t used my office much for some five months or so, ever since my Hackintosh started playing up, as I mentioned when I bought my new Mac mini. Instead, I used my MacBook Pro at the dining table, and that wasn’t all bad: It was cool in there in the warm months, I could watch TV while I did whatever it was I was doing, and it was a big space, so it felt expansive.

On the other hand, dining chairs aren’t very comfortable after a couple hours, and a dining table is too high to type. I also felt bad about having nine square metres of house that I never used for anything beyond storage—my garage is supposed to be the place that’s all about storage.

So, when I decided to buy a new desktop Mac, that also meant starting to finally get my office sorted, since a desktop computer implies the use of, ya know, a desk. This was the week that I made a major step forward.

I mentioned in a post yesterday that I went to “a computer store I often go to for stuff”. I also said I went there for a hard drive, which I got (it’s for the dock I bought for my Mac Mini). However, I was actually interested in two other things.

First, I wanted to look at (and probably buy…) a 4K monitor, which is basically a super-duper high resolution monitor which is too pretty for words. My current monitor is okay, sure, but a 4K one would be so much better. And, if my goal is to sort myself out with stuff that will be good for around ten years (as my current monitor has been), then, why not? I’d seen some I was interested in on the store’s website, and wanted to see them in person.

I was also interested in monitor stands, specifically ones that are basically shelves. I wanted to be able to slide the keyboard for Nigel’s computer under the shelf when I wasn’t using his computer (which is most of the time) so I’d have more room to use the desk. And, when I did use NIgel’s computer, I could slide my keyboard out of the way, too. I’ve seen such things online, so I knew they existed.

Things didn’t work out as planned because, as I said yesterday, “most of their shelves were empty”. There were no monitors to look at, and there were no monitors stands of any kind—just those movable arm things than one or two monitors are attached to (something I’d considered in the past, actually).

When I went to the home centre I mentioned yesterday, I decided to make up a temporary version of what I wanted so I could try out the concept (before and after photos above). A final version would be, potentially, a lot of work.

So, I bought a simple Melamine shelf and some storage baskets to use as supports (see photo at right). The shelf is shorter than my desk is wide, which allowed me to put my microphone stand on the side of my desk (it had been on the back). That had advantages of its own, because it meant my microphone wouldn’t be in front of the window any more.

I took everything off my desk and put it into a box. Some of the stuff was office supplies—notepads, paper clips, scissors, that sort of thing—and some techy stuff I needed to review (like hard drives). But clearing it all away gave me a clean slate (and it really was clean, because I wiped down my desk while I had the chance).

I set everything up, inverting the baskets for more strength, and it worked as I imagined it would, including a space for my Mac mini. However, there was only enough space to store one keyboard. Now that I see my idea is a sound one, I’ll make it happen.

I’m going to make a shelf the width of my desk, paint it, and put it on legs I already have. I’ll share more about that project when I do it, but it can’t happen until I find all my tools. For now, the important part is that I tested the idea, found it’s a really good one, and also worked out that the final version of my idea will do what I want it to do.

My idea may be further modified, though, because I also need to make room for my computer speakers: The speaker in the Mac mini isn’t exactly awesome, and I don’t always want to wear headphones. I’ll know more about that once I finalise the project, but for now my temporary version works very well.

So, I’m using my office for the first time in months, and I haven’t used my MacBook Pro in more than a week. If this keeps up, I may sell it. My desk is clear for the first time in a year, and since that’s what I face and mainly see when I’m using my computer, what’s in front of me is much more serene than it used to be.

The downside of all this is that a problem I’ve had for some time, namely that I need to write blog posts early in the day, is even truer now. If I haven’t already turned on my computer and written something before evening, chances are I won’t do so. That’s about coming up with routines, though, now that I seem to have solved my technological and esthetic requirements.

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Further cooking experimentation

Tonight I tried another dish I never made before, Chicken Pad Thai. The description in my Instagram post, above, has the details. When I said I use too much of the noodles, I wasn’t kidding: I have enough for lunch tomorrow, and possibly dinner, too. What that actually means is that I stumbled across how much to make if I was to make it for the family. Serendipity, that was. No, wait—good planning is what is was. Yeah, that’s what I meant.

In any case, it was a little fiddly to make, but that was mainly because I’d never made it before. I’m sure that if I make it a couple more times, it’ll be much easier for me, and certainly far easier than butter chicken is.

Speaking of butter chicken, I made it again a week or so ago and it was truly awful—the worst attempt yet. I made the alterations to the recipe that I’d planned to do, and it was a disaster—not at all what I wanted. Thing is, I decided against using a different recipe because it was so complicated, but maybe it would’ve been better. Or, maybe that’s never going to be a dish I get right. Nigel often said that he never found a butter chicken that was anywhere as good as what a good Indian restaurant or takeaways would sell. Maybe I should stick to buying it from one of them: It’d certainly be much, much easier.

I often think that Nigel would be pleased (and surprised…) to see me experimenting so much with cooking. That was always his thing, and I tended to just make the same things over and over. Well, actually, he did, too, but when he experimented, it was always good. I also think he might be a bit perturbed that I didn’t do all this for him. Oh well, at least it gives me something to do, I guess.

 I think it’s about time I made a list of the dishes I want to try making. If I do, that’ll give me something to talk about, too.

Frustration daze

The past two days have been frustrating, and even alarming. I ran errands yesterday, three stops and I was the only one who scanned-in using the Covid Tracer App (and the non-scanners didn’t sign in manually, either).

First stop, a computer store I often go to for stuff. They had the hard drive I went there for, but most of their shelves were empty (because such things come from China and it’s been hard to get stuff shipped here for about a year now). Customers were mostly good about physical distancing, and perfect at checkout.

I then went to a home centre store. Again, non-scanners didn’t sign-in manually. My frustration was that the *one* thing I went there for I couldn’t get because the relevant part of the aisle was closed off while they did stock-take. Customers mostly ignored physical distancing.

Then to a supermarket to pick up some stuff for the week. One non-scanner grabbed some hand sanitiser on the way in—but didn’t sign-in manually. Customers were pretty bad about physical distancing, but better than at the home centre.

Today I was supposed to get a delivery between 8am and noon, a time I booked last week. At 10:07 I got a text from the delivery company asking me to confirm my address. At 12:56pm I got another text telling me the item was “out for delivery”—56 minutes past the scheduled delivery time.

At 1:48, I got yet another text asking me to book delivery for a package. I hoped that meant that the order is coming on two separate days (I ordered two things), and not that they arbitrarily decided to re-schedule the delivery. I did as I was asked, and and that delivery is scheduled for Friday between 8am and Noon. Yeah, sure it is.

Well, it turned out the delivery company arbitrarily moved the delivery to Friday. No explanation, they just did it. I’m almost always home on Fridays, anyway, so if it really happens, it won’t inconvenience me.

However, once I get the delivery, I’m going to complain to the company I ordered from because of the appalling service from the delivery company they used, and also because it already wasn’t even close to the target delivery times stated when I ordered. It makes me wonder whether it’s worth it to order from them at all in teh future, and I know they’ll want to know that.

I obviously fully realise that my frustrations are “first world problems”, which, coincidentally, is the world I live in, but among all my annoyances and frustrations, the thing that bothered me wasn’t the challenges I faced, it’s that even now—EVEN now—people are still not following Level 2 rules. What the hell is wrong with those people? Do they *want* us to go to Level 3 lockdown like Auckland has three times now? Because they’re sure acting like it.

And that’s the thing about all this, and the point of my little tale of woe: The mounting frustrations put me in a bad-ish mood, BUT, I still followed all the Level 2 rules. No one has any excuse to not do the same. IMHO.

I have a feeling I’ll have more reasons to complain about such appallingly cavalier behaviour in the future, with or without any more frustrating days.

This is a revised and greatly expanded version of something I posted on my personal Facebook.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Shearing time

Last week, the dogs were shorn again. Neither one likes it, but sometimes it’s the only way to do it. Like when they’ve been neglected, for example. Jake always gets over it fairly quickly, but Leo? He becomes neurotic for about a week. Next week they should both be back to normal.

The dogs both needed grooming for quite some time, but so did Sunny. I didn’t want to groom her because she was so unhealthy, and because she’d look even worse after: She was nothing but fur and bones her last few months. But the bigger truth is, I was so wrapped up in caring for her (and worrying about her), that I just didn’t have any room in my head to figure out how to get the other two groomed.

I knew I couldn’t leave Sunny at home alone while the other two were done because she’d become a bit more emotionally needy as her disease progressed. Ordinarily, if I wasn’t there, Jake and Leo were. So, I could get a dog sitter to stay with her all day, or I could get a mobile groomer to come to the house. This latter one is a good idea because Leo gets car sick, and their usual groomer is now located about an hour and a half away. It was all too difficult for me to figure out while I was so focused on caring for Sunny.

Sunny died before I could resolved the dilemma, and instead my cousin-in-law arranged for us to take Jake and Leo, her dog, and a friend’s dog all together to be groomed. We’d have a human day out while they were at the doggie beauty parlour. She drove so I could hold Leo the whole way: My mother-in-law and I accidentally found out that if someone holds Leo, he doesn’t get car sick. It worked.

My cousin-in-law and I went to Te Aroha first and had a late breakfast, wandered around a little bit, then headed off to the larger town of Morrinsville. There we had a coffee and wandered around the shops. I also took a photo of one of the many cow statues in town, and I also posted one with me and of the more unusual cow statues. I originally planned on sharing them here, too, but—yeah, this time getting away from me thing is really, really common.

At any rate, we picked up the dogs pretty much on time and headed back to Hamilton. One of my sisters-in-law requested before and after photos, and those are above. Jake always looks so much older after he’s been shorn, but not so much when his fur is a bit longer.

Leo always looks like a completely different dog after he’s shorn. I don’t mind—his fur grows out soon enough. But when he gets groomed—shorn in particular—he’s neurotic for around a week afterward: Running from one end of the house or the other, hiding under the bed or under a pillow on a sofa (photo below), jumping up in my lap in any chair I happen to be in (and sleeping there for hours if I let him), and often compulsively licking himself (usually his forearm). This usually takes about a week to go away, so by the middle of this coming week, he should be back to normal (he’s part way there already).

I’d like to have a go at maintaining their look, but I don’t know how that’ll go. Jake will let me, but he can’t stand for very long anymore, and Leo—well, the very last time Nigel and tried to groom him he bit us both and drew a little blood. He’s mellowed since then (I think he was two at the time), but he doesn’t like me to trim the hairs over his eyes when they get too long, so I’m not optimistic this idea will work.

Instead, I’ll probably need to get them trimmed professionally, and I’ll do it much sooner this time. The last time I had them all trimmed was in June, not long after a lot of Sunny’s teeth were removed. That’s an unusually long time between groomings, but just like late 2019, whne they were also were also way overdue, there were extenuating circumstances that delayed me getting them.

Still, they’re shorn, and that will make it easier to maintain them, whoever does the actual grooming. That’s the main thing.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Here we go again, again. Again.

This evening Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that—yet again—Auckland will move to Covid Alert Level 3 at 6am Sunday morning, and the rest of New Zealand will move back to Alert Level 2. Here we go again, again. Again.

This is happening, the Prime Minister said, because the latest case of Covid has no immediate transmission link with the latest Auckland cluster, the same cluster that caused the city’s Level 3 lockdown two weeks ago. What that means is that there could be undetected wider community transmission.

What greatly complicates this situation is that apparently the young man failed to follow requirements to self-isolate, potentially putting hundreds of others at direct risk, and potentially thousands more after that. This left the prime minister “frustrated”, which sounds like a bit of an understatement.

The government has repeatedly said that our system is based on a high level of trust, but what if people can’t be trusted? Tonight the prime minister reminded us that the government has the power and legal authority to enforce the rules “if we need to”. But she also said something similar to what she’s said so many times before: "We still need an environment where people will speak up and come forward and be tested." That’s a false equivalence: People could face prosecution for failing to obey a public health directive, not for testing positive. Clearly there’s something else going on here.

My Lefty friends are trying to shift the focus on to employers who allegedly don’t allow employees to take time off for mandatory isolation, presumably by threatening their pay or even their employment. It seems to me that, if it’s true, that would be a very strong motivator for low-income workers to disobey the rules. And, if all that’s true, then surely those bad employers could be prosecuted for obstructing a public health order.

Thing is, none of that matters: Someone made a choice to break the rules, thereby potentially endangering us all, and there must be consequences for doing that. I don’t know enough about this case (nor do any of us) to say that prosecution is warranted, but at the very least it could be used as a final warning to everyone: Do this sort of thing, and you will be prosecuted, no exceptions.

This also underscores the need for change. People in quarantine should be in a purpose-built facility in a remote area. I understand that the government has dismissed the idea because of cost and staffing concerns, but I think that’s foolish: This will NOT be the last pandemic we face, and we need to be prepared. If such a facility existed, then those required merely to isolate could be placed into the facilities now used for managed isolation, because we can’t afford to risk one infectious person breaking the rules.

New Zealand got to the remarkably free position it was in because the vast majority of people played by the rules. ALL of that is threatened by as few as one infectious person breaking the rules everyone else follows. Business, society, and our collective mental health cannot endure constant yo-yoing through Alert Levels, certainly not because some arsehole chose to break the rules. Yes, people make mistakes, and yes we have to be compassionate in looking at their circumstances, but all choices, good and bad, have consequences, and choices that could kill people should get a bit more than a finger wag and “naughty!” said in a most stern whisper.

None of which absolves the rest of us. Every time I go out, I ALWAYS use the Covid Tracer App to record where I go. Always. Without fail. Always. Others? Not so much. Most times I go anywhere, I’m the ONLY one scanning in.

Tonight, 8,000 people attended a boxing match in Auckland, something that was popular with many of the people in the community affected by this outbreak. I feel confident is assuming that hardly anyone scanned in. Tonight in Hamilton, a crowd of some 25,000 attended the sold-out Six60 concert. How many of them bothered to scan in? That, too, would have been attended by people from the affected communities in Auckland. Could one or both become super-spreader events? Several days from now we’ll find out, but that latter one puts me at direct risk because I might encounter an infected person at, say, a supermarket. Multiply that by tens of thousands throughout the region, and we could face a massive outbreak, all because one person didn’t follow the rules.

New Zealand succeeded in controlling Covid in part because of widespread community support and cooperation. It is inevitable that, for whatever reason, some people won’t. By the vast majority who are (mostly) following the rules won’t long tolerate coddling those who (mostly) do not.

I think the government made the right call to move up Alert Levels. I also think that they now have to make the hard choices to keep us all safe and to reinforce the value of obeying the rules. That could well include prosecution of rule-breakers, but, at the very least, there have to be consequences of some sort for those who break the rules.

The slightly cropped image up top is a screenshot of the emergency alert I got on my phone this evening. I was quietly watching TV, and not using any of my devices, when the Emergency Alert went off on my phone. Scared the fucking crap out me (and Leo, who was on my lap). Not really surprised it was happening, of course, but very startled.

Space for disagreement

There are some things that just won’t go away, like fads and obsessions. Aside from political nuttiness, one of the ones that I’ve never understood is how enraged people get over probably the single least important issue facing humanity: Whether people who write in English should use one space or two after a fullstop (period) at the end of a sentence. It wouldn’t surprise me to read one day that a terrorist attack was committed because someone used/didn’t use two spaces after a fullstop.

I was reminded of all this the other day when my real-life (and very long term) friend Linda posted a link to a 2018 piece from The Atlantic, “The Scientific Case for Two Spaces After a Period”. Despite how provocative/definitive the titles sounds (depending on which side of the two spaces one is on), the subtitle accurately conveys the details: “A new study proves that half of people are correct. The other is also correct.”

The gist of the argument is that a study of 60 university student subjects showed that two spaces after a fullstop increased reading speed by 3%, or, as the article puts it, ‘an average of nine additional words per minute above their performance ‘under the one-space conditions’.” That’s not exactly an enormous performance enhancement, certainly not enough to go to war over—especially when there’s no evidence of any improvement in comprehension.

My friend later allowed, “I posted this specifically for your eyes and hoped you would comment. You did not disappoint. Thank you.” Here’s an edited version of what I said in reply to her post:
The most vicious [online] verbal attacks I ever received came when I—correctly—pointed out that modern word processing software automatically stripped out double spaces because they use their own spacing methods, including proportional spacing throughout, but not double spaces as such (though it’s usually possible to force it). I also pointed out—correctly—that professional typesetting required that double spaces by stripped out… My saying that made some people in the discussion absolutely apoplectic, unleashing spittle-flecked rage, and quite possibly leading to destroyed keyboards from their fury-typing.

I repeatedly said, “do whatever you want”, but it did nothing to lower their blood pressure or stop their insults and swearing, so I’m afraid I lost it and retaliated: “Go ahead and use two spaces if you want to,” I said. “Whoever prepares your document for professional publication will just charge you to strip them all out.” It was a bit churlish (or maybe just mischievous) to say that to folks in the grip of irrational rage, but it was also true.

The main thing I kept thinking, though, was that with all the real and very important issues in the world, and probably in their own lives, THAT was the issue they chose to lose their mind over?! Personally, I want double spaces between me and anyone like that.
All of that was something that really did happen to me, and more than once. I very vaguely referenced the first such incident in a January 2011 post, “Two spaces or not two spaces”. In it, I gave a sort of “headline version” of what happened when I followed a link shared in a comment to a post two days earlier, “5 things to stop typing”. That particular exchange with me was mild compared to others I’d have later, but the ferocity with which the two-spacers pushed their argument shocked me.

I wrote my response post a day before I published it, but I waited an extra day because I was so rattled by that ferocity. As I said in a footnote to my post, “I’m truly not interested in a fight about something so stupid.” I was worried that if I posted about it the same aggressive fighters would come here and further their crusade. For that same reason, I made my post much more oblique and didn’t quote or even mention any specific comments. That wasn’t the last time I pulled my punches over something I wanted to blog about, but it was certainly among the most memorable for me.

There’s an easy way to avoid all that, of course: Stay away from stupid Internet arguments. It took me some time to get to that point, and along the way a Facebook “friend” unfriended me, I unfriended one of mine, and a young NZ leftist got so incensed that I’d dare voter for Hillary Clinton in 2016 that she ordered me to “Go back where you came from. New Zealand is not your home” Then she blocked me, which was a real time-saver for me, sparing me from having to do that to her.

What I’ve learned from that isn’t just to “Stay away from stupid Internet arguments”, it’s also that ALL Internet arguments are stupid. By definition. Nowadays I just don’t engage. If I see comment I think is especially awful (usually on the public page of a news or political organisation), I’ll just block that person so I’ll never see their idiocy again. I’ve been known to hide Facebook posts from my own FB “friends” when I see that the comments are devolving into a stupid Internet argument. This detachment has served me very well.

But of all the stupid Internet arguments out there, among the mostest stupidest are the typed death matches over how many spaces ”must” follow a fullstop/period. At least I learned to put some space between me and that idiocy. Maybe even two spaces.