Saturday, September 29, 2007

AmeriNZ #41 - Saturday Subjects

Episode 41 is now available, and it's free no matter where you get it from. You can listen to it or download it through the player at the bottom of the post here, or subscribe for free through iTunes here (you must have the free iTunes player installed). You can also listen to it for free through the player on my MySpace page.

Today was a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon, and I put together a short podcast to keep up with things. First up it's a brief look at Dominion Day and the evolution of New Zealand from colony to country. Bush's bonehead promise to veto S-Chip leads me into a short talk abut healthcare in New Zealand. Then it's comments and a new Frappr Mappr. Shownotes with links at my blog,

This past week New Zealand had its sort-of birthday. Dominion Day was Wednesday the 26th and marks the date 100 years agao when NZ became a dominion, not a colony. New Zealand now steers a pretty independent course.

One day, New Zealand will become a republic, as the leaders or all the main parties agree.

I added a poll here on my blog asking which, if any, of the NZ authors listed you've actually read. You don't need to have FINISHED what you were reading, just started it. If you haven't read any of them, put that.

This week I heard in the news that Bush has promised to veto the extension of the S-CHIP insurance programme. Yet another example of why that man is an idiot. One month of the spending on his Iraq war would more than fund S-CHIP.

Here in New Zealand, no one needs to go without healthcare, and no one will ever be bankrupted because they get sick or have an accident.

Also: 6 die from brain-eating amoeba in lakes

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Marriage really is sacred

You know how right wing christianists keep going on about how marriage is a sacred institution? It's so sacred, they say, that it must be restricted to one man and one woman. I always thought that was just religious bigotry, but it turns out I was wrong. Those wacky heterosexuals have proven it.

A radio station has just finished a competition called “3 Strangers & A Wedding”. The winning bride met two potential grooms on the wedding day, then had to pick one to marry immediately at a flash Auckland venue. They're now married.

So yes, I was wrong. Marriage really is a sacred thing! Now that I know that it's so sacred that it can be a competition prize among three strangers, I'm glad they won't let same sex couples marry. We wouldn't want to ruin their good fun with concepts like love, fidelity and committent. No, marriage is obviously far too sacred for that.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New Zealand's birthday

Today is New Zealand's birthday. Sort of. On this date one hundred years ago New Zealand ceased to be a colony and became a Dominion. It was the first step toward true independence, but it wasn't necessarily widely embraced, nor even necessarily that important.

One hundred years ago, most New Zealanders considered themselves British, and New Zealand a “better Britain”. And, anyway, New Zealand had been largely self-governing since the 1850s, so nothing much but the name was changed.

In 1931 the British Parliament passed the Statute of Westminster, effectively cutting the Dominions loose to make laws for themselves. Dominions that ratified the Statute received independence by removing the British Parliament's rights to make laws for the country.

However, New Zealand didn't ratify the Statute of Westminster until November 25, 1947. New Zealanders then ceased to be British Subjects and became citizens of New Zealand. Even then, New Zealand remained closely tied to Britain, right up until the 1970s when the mother country cut the apron strings by joining the Common Market (as the European Union was back then), ending New Zealand's easy access to UK markets.

It was a long and reluctant journey toward nationhood, and in some ways the country isn't fully adjusted to the idea. It's only been about sixty years that New Zealand has been making its own foreign policy, but it now steers a course clearly independent of the motherland.

There are some who argue that Dominion Day should be our National Day, but becoming a Dominion didn't really change anything. November 25 is another option, though not necessarily a stronger one. So, for now, Waitangi Day will remain the National Day. The New Zealand Herald thinks that's as it should be.

Nevertheless, today is an important anniversary of a step in New Zealand's evolution from colony to country. The evolution from monarchy to republic will be an even longer journey. Clearly New Zealanders don't feel a need to rush things.

Add that to the growing list of reasons why I love this place.

Plain English

Politicians, if they're worth anything at all, realise that they can't say one thing and do another. Here in New Zealand, we have a major politician who apparently thinks that blatant homophobia is compatible with his promotion of “family values”.

Deputy Leader of the conservative National Party, Bill English, is reported to be consulting his lawyers after a news story on GayNZ.com revealed that homophobic remarks were posted on a Bebo page apparently written by his 14-year-old son. English told the media, "I consider this a disgusting and sick attack on a young teenager."

The mainstream media has reported English's fuming, and gave National Party Leader John Key the opportunity to say, somewhat disingenuously, “It's a bit of a despicable act ... This is being raised, I would argue with you, for political reasons—not because he is anyone else's son, but because he is Bill English's son.” Key went on to dismiss concerns over the comments on Bebo, saying “The reality is this has gone on since kids started talking behind the bike sheds. Part of growing up is expressing yourself. I'm not defending it, I'm just simply saying these sites are out there.”

In an article from the Christchurch Press, Colin Espiner wrote “The Bebo webpage referred to in the GayNZ. com article was shut down yesterday afternoon, but The Press viewed it earlier yesterday. There was only one apparent anti-homosexual reference on the site...” Whew! Thanks for clearing that up, Colin. As an expert on all things gay, you're clearly the most obvious person to determine what's homophobic and what's not.

The net effect of the slant of Colin Espiner and others in the MSM is to suggest that GayNZ.com was over-reacting and quite possibly making it all up. The general tone has been, “ah, boys will be boys!”

For its part, GayNZ.com reported that it debated on whether to run the story and did so in the end because English refused to comment, and then—after English was made aware of the web page's existence—even more homophobic remarks appeared on the page. They pointed out the seeming contradiction between a politician promoting “family values” while his own son was seen to be promoting hatred.

Bullying of young people is a serious problem, and cyberbullying is just the latest version of it. Suicide among GLBT youth is far higher than for youth generally. The use and abuse of social networking sites like Bebo by young people, apparently unsupervised, is a concern not just for parents, but for society generally. We cannot afford for children to grow up thinking that abuse and hatred are acceptible behaviours.

Neither can we permit politicians to huff and puff and scare the spotlight of scutiny away.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Two-sided sword

The president of Iran addressed Columbia University today, and did nothing to change the West's view of him as a bit of a nutter. I don't know what he could've expected, though, since a major academic institution would hardly give a warm or sympathetic welcome to a man who denies the Holocaust happened.

His denying the Holocaust and calling for the destruction of Israel are two of the main things the mainstream media focus on, along with the Iranian regime's nuclear programme and alleged support for international terrorism. So I was surprised, and pleased, to read this in an Associated Press story (and also see it covered on CBS Evening News):

Asked about executions of homosexuals in Iran, Ahmadinejad said the judiciary system executed violent criminals and high-level drug dealers, comparing them to microbes eliminated through medical treatment. Pressed specifically about punishment of homosexuals, he said: "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country."

With the audience laughing derisively, he continued: "In Iran we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have this."

The man is either a moron, liar, fool or simply delusional, or possibly some combinaton of all of these things. Personally, I'd bet on the last one. But it was refreshing to see the mainstream media reporting on Iran's persecution of gay men, even if only obliquely. It's been pretty well documented by now that Iran does, in fact, execute men for being gay, but they usually make up some other charge to cover it up, possibly so they can perpetuate their lie that homosexuality doesn't exist in Iran.

What surprised me the most, however, was the near frenzy of hatred expressed toward this man. Apparently Dick Cheney's war machine has well and truly succeeded in demonising the man and his regime so that otherwise sensible people would use incredibly juvenile rhetoric and slogans to attack him.

Many referred to him as a “dictator”. There's no disputing that he talks like a brutal authoritarian, but he's hardly a dictator. That's not because he was elected under Iranian law, but because it's the religious people who actually run the country; nothing happens there without their okay. Normally, we'd call rule by an un-elected group of strongmen a junta. However, American politicians get a bit squeamish about criticising a religious elite, probably because they want to install a “christian” version in America. Nevertheless, Ahmadinejad is given far more credit than he deserves in the race to be named the “most evil”.

Better, I thought, for him to speak his own idiotic words, betraying his ignorance with every syllable and doing it all without it being filtered through Cheney's propaganda machine. This is a prime example of why free speech is so important.

One thing we can be certain of, though: State-sponsored murder of gay men will not be among the justifications used by Cheney when he attacks Iran.

Monday, September 24, 2007

AmeriNZ #40 – No Way

Episode 40 is now available, and it's free no matter where you get it from. You can listen to it or download it through the player at the bottom of the post here, or subscribe for free through iTunes here (you must have the free iTunes player installed). You can also listen to it for free through the player on my MySpace page.

I'm FINALLY back, after no Internet access and some other barriers to podcasting. I talk about that first. Then, after a few things going on around here, it's on to some things in the news--climate change, wacky christians and indigineous rights. The issues just keep coming! After comments, it's a couple things leftover from epsiode 39. If you'd like to comment by email send it to me at amerinz(at]yahoo.com and put “Comment” in the subject line so I'll know to read it on the podcast.

Mentioned in this episode:

NZ Emissions trading system announced

UN resolution on indigenous rights and also “NZ indigenous rights stance 'shameful' - Maori Party”

Confessions of a Southern Boy In Yankee Land


ArcherRadio YouTube Channel

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

Back again, again

The Internet connection issues are resolved again (for now, at least). After being restored sometime Thursday, the connection disappeared again Friday morning. A visit to the exchange by a techie from our ISP (at our insistence) fixed problems that were there (what, you mean we were right? Funny that...). There was still no connection, however.

This morning, after the engineers got on to the problem, it seems to be resolved. But five days to resolve the problem is far too long and having to insist that our ISP take obvious steps to fix it is unacceptable. There will probably be more to this story.

In the meantime, we're back online—for now, at least.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Knocked offline

Late yesterday afternoon, we suddenly lost our connection to the Internet. As of late morning today, the connection hadn't been restored. Our ISP claimed that they didn't know what the problem was, so they couldn't estimate when it would be fixed. I wasn't able to upload my latest podcast, or even check email.

There are several possibilities here. First, of course, there could have been problems with our equipment, but after doing Internet-less testing, it all seemed to be functioning properly. Next, our ISP could have a problem and, if it's that, they'll find it and fix it (we hope).

Forgive me for being such a hardened cynic, but I wouldn't be surprised to find the problem was with Telecom New Zealand, which owns the physical infrastructure that most ISPs are still using. Telecom has under-invested in infrastructure for years and it's becoming increasingly decrepit. They also have a well-deserved reputation for going slowly and indifferently when working with other ISPs' customers.

As part of government-mandated telecommunications reforms, customers can now pick any company for their home phone line even though the physical connections still go through Telecom's network for now. Our latest problems began when we switched our home phone to our ISP. Coincidence? Maybe. Or, it could be that our ISP has some sort of glitch in its connections to the Telecom network. But it's also possible that Telecom has done something, or not done something. After all we've been through with Telecom's deliberate game playing, delays and obstruction, it wouldn't surprise me if it turned out that they were solely responsible for our problems.

So, as we wait for someone, somewhere to sort out this problem, we have to rely on the kindness of strangers in order to access the Internet at all—sadly, not for the first time. For me, complete change in the telecommunications system can't come fast enough. We—and all New Zealanders—deserve far better than Telecom seems willing or able to deliver.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

More rubbish news

Here we go again: Only two days after I posted about a New Zealand Herald online poll finding that people don't want to spend any money to fight climate change, the paper is at it again.

This time, it's about a tax on rubbish as part of a plan to encourage waste minimisation. For householders, the tax is estimated to cost about ten cents per rubbish bag.

The Herald published another worthless online poll asking. “Are you prepared to pay more for rubbish collection to help reduce waste?” Again, the result was overwhelmingly negative.

This tells us mainly that some people are passionately opposed to taking any personal responsibility for fighting climate change and envronmental degradation. The question I'd like to see the Herald find the answer to is, why? but that'll take more than a stupid online poll to find out.

Praying on voters

Right wing “Christians” in New Zealand have had a very hard time ever since MMP was introduced. They just can't get themselves elected not matter what they do.

That's unlikely to change. The latest version of a pan-“Christian” party couldn't even get their announcement organised.

One “Christian” party, associated with an egomaniacal TV preacher, has decided to fold and form a new party with a right wing Catholic MP as its co-leader. However, the fact that leadership would be shared with the leader of the TV preacher's former party, came as a surprise to the MP.

The MP defected from the party he'd been part of, and whose Party List brought him into Parliament, because he opposed the so-called “anti-smacking” bill. Then he missed the vote in Parliament that passed the law. Despite proclaiming himself an independent, he gave his proxy vote to the conservative National Party, declaring he wanted to be its 49th MP.

You might get the idea that the MP is a bit of an idiot, and I'd be hard-pressed to find any reason to disagree with you. This promises to be a great political party, as it also will likely involve a disgraced MP who is facing bribery and corruption allegations. Even the leader of the TV preacher's former party had his unsavoury personal issues exposed to the nation in the last election.

Assuming they don't win any electorate seats (which is unlikely at this stage), they'd need to win at least five percent of the popular vote nationwide. Yet the best that fundamentalist “Christians” have ever done in New Zealand was 4.3 percent in the 1996 election, and that was with leaders who, at the time, seemed much more upstanding and credible (though one of them was later convicted of sexual abuse of a child).

Moreover, any votes the party receives will come from the other right wing parties, which could help Labour in a tight contest. Put another way, people voting for this new party will not only throw their votes away, more than likely they'll end up helping their enemies instead.

So, you almost have to feel sorry for these particlar right wing voters. No matter what they do, they're damned, as it were. And that will be the answer to the prayers of the centre and centre-left.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The girlfriendly skies?

Mark from Slap Upside the Head sent me an AP article from MSNBC about Air New Zealand putting on a “Pink Flight” from San Francisco to Sydney for the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. According to the article, the flight “will feature drag queens, pink cocktails and a cabaret performed by the flight crew.” Other airlines have done this sort of thing for years, but Air New Zealand only started direct flights to/form San Francisco relatively recently.

The article goes on to quote Jodi Williams, “an Air New Zealand marketing director” as saying:

We are looking at tailoring the inseat entertainment and having gay-friendly movies and contests and different music and things like that.

The airline will also host a “Get Onboard Girlfriend” party for passengers, the article says.

This may sound a bit odd to gay people in other parts of the world, but in Australia and New Zealand, drag queens are a huge part of the GLBT community. And where there are drag queens, there's likely to be cabaret performances (think the Australian film “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”). In a sense, this is preparing passengers for what they're about to be part of.

Still, this may not exactly be the sort of thing that American gay men, who are likely the target audience, would expect to see. Here, it would be just the opening of the party weekend.

Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is purpoted to be the world's largest gay and lesbian event. Whether it is or not, it's worth millions of dollars a year to the ecomomies of Sydney and New South Wales. Other Australian states try to lure GLBT travellers who have come for Mardi Gras.

There's been no local coverage of this, which doesn't really surprise me, since the flight is from America. But I also couldn't easily find any information about it on the airline's websites.

Still, if you're going to Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras from Sydney, there are worse ways to travel.

After I wrote this, and before I posted it, I read Joe.My.God who also blogged about this. At the time I read the post, most of the comments took it all postively.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Unless it costs something

The New Zealand Government has been working on a carbon emissions trading system as part of its commitment to the Kyoto Protocols. The Government has made fighting climate change a central policy of its term.

The New Zealand Herald has been reporting that power and petrol will rise by as much as four percent according to unspecified “media reports”. It then asked its online readers “Are you prepared to pay more for power and fuel to help tackle climate change?” I won't bother mentioning specific results from the poll since all such online polls are worthless, but suffice it to say that the opposition was greater than overwhelming.

This is no surprise, really. Throughout the developed world surveys have found that people want to fight climate change—unless they have to pay for it or make any other “sacrifices”, no matter how small or insignificant (like turning televisions and stereos off at the wall rather than leave them on standby).

Put another way, people's concern over climate change may simply be because they feel they should be concerned, not because they really care about it; it's just another pop culture fad, perhaps.

So, even though such online polls are worthless, the negative results probably do reflect reality, though it's unlikely that real people would give real pollsters quite such a negative margin. The poll was sure to provoke an extreme reaction, as they almost always do, from people who passionately oppose this Government and its policies, backers of right wing causes and those who are perpetually grumpy.

All of which makes the government's plans all the more impressive. Saying you're going to do something about climate change is a vote-winner, but actually doing something will cost Labour votes. Labour promises to offer subsidies to low-income people to help them pay for increased energy costs, but the Greens say that defeats the whole purpose and the money should be spent on insulating the homes of low-income people and providing them with clean heat. The Government says they plan to do that, too.

The thing is, doing something—anything—about climate change is going to have costs and it will require sacrifices and compromises. All of us, and especially the US and Australia, are going to have to stop whining and whingeing about that and find a way to make it happen. And the grumpy people who don't want to pay anything to fight climate change are going to have to change their attitude.

And as if to emphasise this point, the Herald also reported that for the first time in recorded history, the Northwest Passage connecting the Atlantic and Pacific via the Arctic Ocean, is clear of ice. There was a reduction in sea ice of a million square kilometres this year as compared to last, and as compared to an annual average of "only" 100,000 kms. Combined with the threat of the melting of Greenland's ice sheet, it's becoming clear that we're now moving beyond an emergency and we're on the brink of global catastrophe.

So: Does a four percent increase in the price of petrol or electricity sound so bad now?

Update 18/09/07:
Hard on the heals of John Howard's use of APEC to promote nuclear energy as a way to combat climate change (and, just coincidentally, enrich Australia through the sale of uranium, purely by coincidence, of course), TVNZ's "ONE News" reported a poll that found that a clear majority of just over 60 percent of New Zealanders are opposed to nuclear power. Was that the way the story was reported? Of course not. "ONE News" instead reported that "support for nuclear energy is growing," though it provided no evidence to back that claim.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Anniversary time

Yesterday was my first Blogaversary: My first post on this blog was on September 14, 2006. I intended to write something about that yesterday, and it was also meant to be a podcast day. Neither happened.

The reason I skipped both is this late winter cold that's hanging around. This thing has swept through the country and generally lasts about a month. So mine has about a week more to run. But in the meantime, I feel awful and my voice is all croaky, so I just couldn't focus well enough to write a post and I couldn't talk well enough to record. Today, I feel even worse. I don't get sick very often, but when I do I don't mess around.

So, my recent efforts to post more and more often have been slightly undone. I'll get back to it soon. Next week marks my first six months as a podcaster, and I hope I feel well enough to observe that.

Actually, last week had one more anniversary: Twelve years ago on September 12 I arrived in New Zealand for the first time. That trip was as a tourist, and I didn't return to stay until early November, but it was the trip that set everything moving, and it's the starting date Immigration used to calculate the amount of time I was in New Zealand. So it has significance.

Not so the fact that it's a twelfth anniversary. It's the sort of thing only an 11-year-old would normally notice, since most of us focus on the “fives”—anniversaries that end in five or zero. Even so, every September I remember that first trip, but there was a time when it was overshadowed: The date of the attacks on the US was September 12 in New Zealand. I take it as a hopeful sign for me that I'm beginning to remember the personal anniversary at least as much as the bigger one.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Typical mornings

Mr. and Mrs. Duck were out in the reserve next to our house two mornings ago, sitting and sunning themselves as they often do. They seem to like the reserve, probably because it's bordered by friendly humans who throw old bread to them—something the little birds, and not so little seagulls, also appreciate.

I wanted to take a photo of Vera and Drake, as the Ducks are known to their friends, but Jake, who recently discovered he has a barking voice, decided to use it at the Ducks who, um, ducked out. It was all over before I even had time to get the camera, so no photo of the Ducks or of little Jake protecting his patch.

Yesterday morning, as I was just beginning to wake up, I thought I should be careful not to kick Curzon as I moved around in bed. I woke up a bit more and remembered.

This morning I started my Friday routine and got ready for the fridge to be delivered and a man to come and put in a bigger pet door for Jake, who's outgrown the old cat flap. A load of washing is in the machine. Both were over by 10:30.

All of which means that, nothwithstanding my lingering winter cold, mornings these days have pretty much returned to normal, typical mornings. I'll take that.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

AmeriNZ #39 – Friends and Neighbours

Episode 39 is now available, and it's free no matter where you get it from. You can listen to it or download it through the player at the bottom of the post here, or subscribe for free through iTunes here (you must have the free iTunes player installed). You can also listen to it for free through the player on my MySpace page.

It's been a very busy few days since Episode 38. Among other things, I was a guest on CallBox7. I also made my first-ever guest post on another site, Slap Upside the Head.

Today, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed the Australian Parliament, the first Canadian Prime Minister to do so. He made some comparisons of Canada with Australia that were more apt as a comparison of Canada with New Zealand. He also talked about 9/11.

Meanwhile, NZ and the US have taken small steps toward closer relations.

Also, a foreign government hacked NZ government computers. Some famous people died. Results of my movie poll, feedback and more.

Update: Podomatic did something odd with the upload of this episode, starting the file again after about three minutes. So, feel free to skip the first three minutes to avoid hearing it again. It's not often that the uploaded file turns out different from the finished version sitting on my computer, but it has happened before. Not my fault, exactly, but probably in keeping with my luck lately.

Update 2: Australian Prime Minister John Howard has avoided a challenge to his leadership of his party and will remain prime minister. Pundits say it's likely that Howard will lead his right wing coalition government into the upcoming Australian elections in which he will face the Australian Labor Party under Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd. Opinion polls currently have Howard's team running about 15 points behind the ALP.

Mentioned in this episode:

CallBox 7

Slap Upside the Head

Archerr's toaster crumbs video

US-NZ relationship on table
NZ spies uncover cyber attacks

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

And now a Guest Slap

I've often written about one of my favourite sites, Slap Upside the Head. It's written by Mark, a Canadian who has a fun and interesting take on news and politics in Canada and throughout the world, focusing especially on the GLBT communities. I highly recommend it.

Well, Mark is away for a short while and asked me to contribute a guest post, a “Guest Slap”, as he calls it. I thought it would be a bit presumptuous of me to write about Canada, so I turned to my identity as an expat American looking back from the outside and the result, It's All About Maps, is now posted.

I was honoured that Mark asked me, and thrilled to do it, since his is one of my favourite sites. But I hadn't realised that I was the first Guest Slap he's had, so I'm even more honoured. Actually, this is also the first time I've contributed a bit of writing to someone else's site (not including comments, of course).

Thank you for allowing me on your site, Mark. I tried not to move any of the furniture, and I made sure I cleaned up after myself before I left.

iMac spell

I've been getting used to my new iMac, not that it's difficult to do. Mostly, I love it, a few things I'm not sure about, and a couple others, well, not so good.

First, I love how zippy the thing is—the fastest computer I've ever used. Even running Windows software via Vmware Fusion and Bootcamp with not much memory allocated and one processor produces acceptable results. But on the Mac side, things fly. Like start-up and shut-down, for example, which is really fast—the way all computers should be, but no PC I've had has been.

I hadn't used Mac OS X before, and I really like it. I also like all the cool toys that come with it, like the iLife suite. I've played around a little bit with all of it by now, including producing a podcast in Garage Band, where I had mixed results. More successfully, I “played” the virtual grand piano in Garage Band (don't get excited—it was that “doe o deer” thing, hunt and peck style). I'll have more use for this program once I'm used to it.

I've played with the built-in iSight camera, video chatting with Nigel (to test it), and I used Photo Booth for the photo above and also for the weird photo I made earlier. I've looked at iMovie, but with no video to use (yet), I couldn't really do anything with it.

All of which is the fun side. On the more serious side, I've been trying out different word processors on the Mac, and so far I haven't found one I like. The iWork suite test drive that comes with the iMac reminded me too much of Microsoft Works, so I ignored it because I need a full-function program.

So then I tried the Office for Mac tryout and found that I didn't like Word for Mac as much as the PC version from 2002 (I haven't tried the new version of Word for Windows, so I may not like that, either). I also tried NeoOffice, which is the Mac-specific version of OpenOffice (because OpenOffice for Mac is simply ported to Mac, not written for it). The reason I dislike these two programs is the same: Spelling. Neither one can find simple spelling errors. For example, both programs see “htings” (instead of “things”) as spelled correctly. NeoOffice also doesn't allow removal of a hyperlink from text, which Word:mac at least does.

Ironically, only “Pages” from iWork identified “htings” as incorrectly spelled (along with every other incorrect word in the document). So, as an experiment, I'm trying out Pages for this post. Hopefully, that means that there will be fewer spelling errors than has been the case lately.

About the hyperlinks problem I mentioned: On the PC I used to write my posts in Word, add hyperlinks, the copy and paste the entire thing onto Blogger and the links were there. On the Mac, those hyperlinks are lost no matter what word processing program I use, though that seems to have something to do with Firefox for the Mac.

And that's my adventures in Mac so far. Videos are inevitable, as are other creative things.

Podcast guest spot

I had great fun being a guest on one of my favourite podcasts, CallBox 7 (Episode 15, second segment). I was there to join the discussion of Bush in Australia for APEC, and some of the differences between and among Australia, New Zealand and the US. Thanks to Daniel and Will for having me on!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Despite it all

Today I went and collected Curzon's ashes. The woman at the vet—the same place I took Saibh when she died—said to me that we were bound to have some good things happen because our karma was unbalanced, so we must be in line for some good things to happen. That would be nice.

But as I left there I was...okay. I mean that literally. I'd dreaded it because I thought I'd lose it on the way home, as I did when I collected Saibh's ashes. But, while I was sad and a little teary, I was fine.

I think that the fact that Curzon was sick for awhile and deteriorated meant that not only did we have time to prepare, but also when the end came it was a kind of a relief, a release for us, too. Anyone who's seen a loved one deteriorate and die will probably know what I mean.

All I know is that despite everything, I was okay. That's a good thing in itself.

The only trouble is that last week I fell far behind in my work and it took me until around 2am yesterday to finish up. So, I'm off to bed early tonight so I can get more done tomorrow than I did today. That's okay, too.

Friday, September 07, 2007

AmeriNZ #38 – Here and There

Episode 38 is now available, and it's free no matter where you get it from. You can listen to it or download it through the player at the bottom of the post here, or subscribe for free through iTunes here (you must have the free iTunes player installed). You can also listen to it for free through the player on my MySpace page.

Today's episode is probably the last of the shortened ones. At the end of a bad week, I talk about the loss of our cat at 3:22, then go on to things in the news at 6:50. Finally, it's comments at 10:49, and I give more details about some of the topics raised. I also add a couple last minute topics of my own. Didn't have time to double check this episode—hope it's okay! (Update: Okay, I listened and I screwed up the comments section. Sheesh!)

Mentioned in this episode:

No iTunes and coffee combo for Kiwis

International Gay Rugby

The Mark Kendall Bingham Memorial Trophy (The Bingham Cup)

Mark Bingham

The Gay Expat

This Boy Elroy


Hello Waffles

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

Told you so

Back in 2004, the restaurant and bar industry predicted its immenent demise as the Government moved to outlaw indoor smoking in all bars, restaurants and clubs. “No one will go out if they can't smoke!” they screamed. “We'll be ruined!” bawled the publicans.

The New Zealand Herald today published this:

Hospitality Association chief executive Bruce Robertson said yesterday that on balance the legislation's economic impact on the industry had been neutral.

Coming from them, that's postively glowing praise. They even noted that patronage was up at many restaurants and pubs that could provide outdoor smoking areas, and only down in those that couldn't or that catered to older men. For many others, patronage was static, which certainly isn’t the same as the collapse they predicted.

The main point of the law was to reduce harm from smoking. First, it would discourage “socially cued” smoking, in which people smoke because others are or because they're drinking. Second, it would make it easier for social smokers to quit, and it would discourage former smokers from resuming. And finally, it would also remove the danger of second-hand smoke to non-smoking patrons and especially hospitality workers.

The health benefits have far exceeded expectations. For example, the article reports that a study found that in 2003, before the law, 71% of respondents said they smoked when they went to a pub. In 2006 that number had dropped to only 26%.

Overall, the percentage of adult New Zealanders who smoke has now plateuaed at 23 percent and is declining among 15 to 19 year olds, where it's at 9 percent and falling. This is brilliant news.

I can't believe how much more enjoyable it is to go out and not return home reeking of foul cigarette stench. You can even breathe in Auckland's casino which formerly had a constant haze of cigarette smoke in it. Okay, this last one I don't really care about (though I'm happy for the workers), but it's so nice to be able to go to a restaurant or cafe and not have someone's smoke ruin the meal.

And, despite the dire predictions to the contrary, the number of places to go to hasn’t declined in the least. If anything, it’s only gotten better now that we’re freed from cigarette smoke.

All of this should’ve been as obvious to the hospitality industry as it was to most ordinary people. Maybe they couldn’t see through the cigarette haze. In any case, the Government’s move clearly was the right thing to do for all of us, the hospitality industry incuded.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Curzon 1998-2007

I was dreading this, probably more than anything in my life. No, definitely more than anything. Today we had to take our cat Curzon to be euthanased.

Over the past few days, he steadily deteriorated to the point where he stopped eating anything by Sunday (he probably had a tiny bit on Saturday). Yesterday his routine changed, too: He didn't leave the house until nearly 9AM, and was back by late afternoon. As soon as he came home, I looked at him and saw how fast he was breathing, like he'd just run a long race, and I knew we'd have to take him to the vet.

When Nigel came home that evening, he felt that Curzon was starting to really struggle, it was so much work to breathe. Curzon seemed to have trouble moving himself to shift his body and he seemed a little disconnected. Nigel and I talked and agreed that we'd take him to the vet this morning.

I didn't sleep well last night. Actually, I didn't sleep much at all. I was dreading waking up in the morning and finding Curzon had died, and I was also dreading waking up to find he hadn't died, since I knew what we planned to do.

I rang the vet early this morning and made the appointment. They asked if I wanted him cremated (yes), and if I wanted him returned in a nice rimu box or just the cardboard one (cardboard). They were questions I wasn't really ready to answer.

He stayed in the bedroom in the morning, and when I'd finished my shower he was trying to get out, but couldn't quite jump over the baby gate that kept the puppy out. His eyes had life in them again. We closed the door, he lay on the floor for awhile, then crawled just under the bed.

I got dressed and picked him up while Nigel got the cat cage. I sat on the edge of the bed, held him, talked to him softly and stroked him, trying to calm him—he always hated being restrained. I'd just told Nigel that I thought he had a fever because he was hot on my leg, when I realised he'd peed on me. He would've hated that; he hated dirt boxes, too, and always wanted to do his business outside.

I quickly changed and Curzon ran into the en suite and immediately lay down on the floor, seemingly exhausted. Nigel put the clothes Curzon had been sleeping on into the cage (they were a t-shirt and sweatshirt I'd slept in, so they had my scent and his on them). I picked Curzon up and put him in the cage. He complained and again seemed alert.

He complained a few times as we left the house and got in the car. Nigel was very upset. I was, too, but I tried to act normally toward Curzon, telling him we were going to the vet, he knew that place, and it would be alright.

We got there. Nigel and I had stomachs tied in knots. Nigel took care of the consent form and paid the bill (a little crass to pay in advance, I thought, but I understand). I sat with Curzon, touching him through the cage and talking softly to him. We were ushered in to the exam room.

The vet examined Curzon, noticed that his breathing was much worse, even since last week. He felt his abdomen, easy to do since Curzon lost so much weight. He said he could feel what seemed to be tumours on Curzon's liver, meaning the cancer had likely spread. He said that Curzon might have lasted another week, at most, but it would have been increasingly difficult for him and he would have struggled more each day. We were doing the right thing, he assured us.

The vet explained that Curzon would be given essentially an overdose of anesthetic which would put him into an irreversible coma. Once the brain stopped working, everything else would shut down, too. He said he didn't like the phrase “put to sleep”, even with children, because it implies the animal can be awakened. They can't be.

The vet got clippers to shave the fur so he could access a vein. Curzon freaked and complained when he heard the noise. So, the vet got different, quieter clippers. As he worked, he talked soothingly to Curzon. When it came time to administer the drug, I stroked Curzon gently and held him, the vet gently stroked Curzon. In a few seconds, Curzon lay his head down, a breath or two later and movement stoppped. The vet said, “He's gone, I'm sorry.” Then asked if we'd like a few minutes alone with him.

When the door closed, I lost it. Curzon had been my special boy, a birthday present unlike any other. Every night for eight years he slept right up against my side, apart from nights when we were away or the few nights he stayed out all night (including the second night after Saibh died). He sometimes woke me in the night, after going out to go to the toilet or on patrol, wanting more scratches and cuddles. I never minded.

We stayed with Curzon a few minutes, I don't know how long. He looked like our Curzon of old, peaceful at last. We knew that there was a person with a cat in the reception area (we could hear them), so we waited for the vet to take Curzon away through the back door before we left out of the front door.

And that was that.

We picked up lunch on the way home, just as we did when Saibh died. We let Jake out, opened up the deck doors for him, and took care of some other things. We weren't quite ready for lunch when I heard a noise in the dining room. I thought Jake knocked something over. I went over there and a bird suddenly flew up and against the window. It tried frantically to get out. I unlatched the window and it ducked out and flew away.

Some Maori believe that a bird visiting a house is a symbol of death. Nigel immediately said it was Curzon coming to check on us. If so, it means it was fitting that I was the one who opened the window to free the spirit. In any case, the symbolism is nice.

Nigel said I was strong during the procedure, but I mainly just wanted to make Curzon feel at ease as much as possible. I knew he'd be distressed if I was standing there balling my eyes out, which is what I was doing inside.

Curzon would've been nine years old in November. Barely middle aged. The vet explained that these cancers might possibly be caused by things like exposure to building work, and our next door neighbour in Paeroa was constantly working on his house. Curzon loved visiting there. There were farm paddocks nearby, too, and farmers love to spray chemicals. Or it could have been something near here, like maybe some illegally dumped paints or solvents in the bush behind our house, or from the drainage creek down there. We'll never know.

All I know is that my special little boy is gone. The nightmare of the past few weeks is over for us all.

It's been a time in which Jake hasn't received all the attention he deserves, since we've been distracted, and we haven't been able to enjoy him as much as we should have been able to. I told Jake that I want him to promise to live to be a hundred human years old. He just wagged his tale at me. Then he ran off to get one of his toys.

And life goes on. But today—again—our world feels a bit smaller.

The top photo is of Curzon lying in the bush next to our house just this past March. The photo on the left side is from June of last year. Embiggen the photos to make them prettier.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

AmeriNZ #37 – Games

Episode 37 is now available, and it's free no matter where you get it from. You can listen to it or download it through the player at the bottom of the post here, or subscribe for free through iTunes here (you must have the free iTunes player installed). You can also listen to it for free through the player on my MySpace page.

This is a relatively short episode, in part because this is the busiest week of the month for me. I recorded this in Garage Band, and there were a few “issues” I noticed when I was done. Anyway, I have two topics. First, at 1:30, I talk a little about the meeting of APEC in Sydney, including some audio. Then, at 11:55 I talk about the Rugby World Cup, that starts this week. It's a Very Big Deal in this part of the world. Finally, it's comments at 16:12.

Take part in the new poll on my blog: What's your favourite movie made in New Zealand? There's no significance to the movies listed, by the way.

Leave a comment or send an email to me at amerinz@yahoo.com.

Links for this episode:

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

APEC – Australia 2007

John Howard's YouTube video

Rugby World Cup

Official site of the New Zealand All Blacks

USA Rugby official site

International Rugby Board (world governing body)

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

A little diversion

With everything going on, I needed a little diversion. So I played with the Photo Booth application on my iMac and the special effects it does, and I made the photo here. It's kind of freaky, I know, but I laughed when I saw it and, well, I needed a laugh. And a bonus: When I post a real photo of myself on my blog, it'll have to be better, no matter how bad I think it is!

I'm wearing headphones because I was listening to the "Democracy Now!" podcast at the time. I think they kind of add to the humour.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Not long

It's obvious now that Curzon is on his way out. He's eating almost nothing, and he's working hard to breathe. He refuses to let us give him any medicine. We're now trying to work out whether he's distressed. At the moment, he doesn't seem distressed or worried and certainly not in any pain. As long as that seems to be the case, we're inclined to let nature take its course in the hope that he can just go to sleep in a home he loves and simply not wake up.

The alternative is to take him to the vet, which would frighten and distress him. That's why we're avoiding it. It's also possible that he might crawl off somewhere, as wild animals sometimes do, but if we didn't find him we'd never know for sure what happened, or where.

For the past few days, he's left the house around 7:30 in the morning, jumping up on a railing of the fence, lying in some weed grass that got away from me over the winter. He feels safe in his spot, surrounded by the camouflage and removed from any other animals, including the boisterous puppy Jake. From his perch he can watch the birds (and anything else moving in the grass), an activity he's always enjoyed.

He returns home around 12 hours later and hops on my dresser to spend the night, possibly because our moving around during the night would be uncomfortable for him, since he has to lie in a sphinx-like pose all the time, no longer able to lie on his side.

So we watch him, looking for a sign that things have gone as far as they can and that we have to intervene for his sake, despite it not being the best of the worst remaining outcomes. It's a lot harder to know what to do than I would've thought, but I've never been in this position before. I wish I wasn't now.

I can't wait for this year to be over.

I took the photo (one of a series) of Curzon in his resting spot this morning. It'll probably be the last photo I ever take of him.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Toilet humor

It's fair to say that Larry Craig has become the, uh, butt of a lot of jokes, partly for making such a dick of himself. Okay, I'll stop now. But Craig has added the punchline to the joke he's become by quitting Congress.

Larry Craig's voting record was the same as any homophobic wingnut, so in that sense I couldn't care less that he's leaving. After all, Idaho Governor Butch Otter (I admit it: I giggle every time I hear that name) will apoint another Repubican who, odds are, will vote every bit as badly as Craig.

Craig's hypocrisy is obvious, but the Republican hypocrsy has taken my breath away (or, it would have if I didn't expect hypocrisy from Congressional Republicans). JoeMyGod quotes Matt Foreman of America's National Gay & Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) as saying:

Let’s see — one Republican senator is involved in soliciting sex from a man and the Republican leadership calls for a Senate investigation and yanks the rug from underneath him. Another Republican senator admits to soliciting the services of a female prostitute and there’s not only no investigation but the senator is greeted with a standing ovation by his Republican peers. What explains the starkly different responses? I’d say rank and homophobic hypocrisy.

I couldn't possibly agree more.

400 Posts

My Friday post, the shownotes for AmeriNZ Podcast episode #36, was my 400th post on this blog. Some of them have been short posts, but some have been, well, less short. The podcast shownotes have taken up 36 posts (duh!) and other podcast-related things have taken up more. I've also skipped days because of the podcast (I don't post on Saturdays, for example).

This blog is still fun and interesting for me, and I hope it is for other people, too. Twelve days from today is one my year anniversary of blogging. I wouldn't be surprised if there are another 400 posts.