Friday, September 30, 2016

AmeriNZ Podcast 322 is now available

A new AmeriNZ Podcast episode, “AmeriNZ 322 – Progress” is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Is this election worse?

Is this US election worse than previous ones? Are our interactions over it worse than before? Is the climate this year more toxic that in the past? Apparently quite a few people think so.

A new poll from Monmouth University has found that “More than 2-in-3 voters say that this year's presidential race has brought out the worst in people and most disapprove of the campaign's harsh rhetoric.” Specifically:
Fully 70% of American voters say that this year's presidential campaign has brought out the worst in people. Only 4% say it has brought out the best in people. Another 5% say it has done a little of both and 20% say it has done neither. Democrats (78%), Republicans (65%), and independents (66%) agree that the 2016 campaign has brought out the worst in people.
One of the things respondents complained about the most was harsh language:
Only 30% of voters say that the harsh language used in politics today is justified given the current state of the country. Nearly 2-in-3 (65%) say it is unjustified. These results have changed little since August. There are some differences in opinion, though, depending on which candidate these voters support. Nearly half of Trump voters (47%) say that the campaign's harsh language is justified, compared to only 17% of Clinton voters and 21% of voters who are either undecided or are supporting a third party candidate.
I’ve personally seen the harshest rhetoric coming from Donald’s supporters, or those who claim not to be, but who nevertheless use vitriol and worse when talking about Hillary Clinton. Much of that harsh rhetoric is directed at those who support Clinton, too.

The poll also found that “7% of voters report having lost or ended a friendship because of this year's presidential race. This includes 9% of Clinton supporters, 6% of Trump backers, and 3% of other voters.” However, they also add: “This is not that unusual though – 7% of voters say they have lost friendships over political campaigns in the past.”

It’s sad that people lose friendships over mere political campaigns, but I’ve seen it happen. It’s never happened to me, fortunately, though I believe someone I know about in real life unfriended me on Facebook (apparently) over my support for President Obama in 2012. This year, I unfriended someone I don’t even know because he supported Donald and frequently posted really vile things against Democrats generally as well as Hillary Clinton specifically. Had I actually known him, I’d have just hidden all his posts (I have to do that from time to time). I also frequently hide specific political posts from Facebook friends, as I wrote about last month.

But all of this is nothing new even for this campaign. During the primaries, there was quite a bit of ugliness between supporters of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton (and, sometimes, there still is…). During the primary season, I saw numerous friends commenting (often privately) that they felt they couldn’t post anything positive about Hillary Clinton or Sanders’ supporters would pile on and abuse them. I never saw a Sanders supporter say the same thing about Clinton supporters. Whether anyone, regardless of who they supported, would have been justified in thinking that is irrelevant: They did, and it’s something I’ve never seen before.

Still, there was some positive and more hopeful news in the poll, too: “Despite the verbal grenades being thrown on TV and social media, the overwhelming sentiment about the nation's politics is one of disappointment rather than rage.” That suggests that the harsh rhetoric is being spread by a small minority, which may very well be the case: Very often Internet trolls, for example, are small in number, though loud in voice (in fact, it’s not uncommon for trolls to have several accounts to leave multiple harsh comments).

Even more promising: “While 20% say they are ‘angry’ with Washington, about two-thirds (66%) say ‘dissatisfied’ is a better description of how they feel.” We’ve been told over and over again that the mood of the electorate is “angry” and that this will help Donald win. But if the clear majority of voters are merely “dissatisfied”, that suggests that they’re not automatically Donald’s for the picking. Put another way, if most voters aren’t actually angry, Donald’s message won’t be motivating them as much as pundits seem to think it is.

This election is not over yet.

In any case, this election campaign is definitely one for the history books. It’ll be studied for decades to come. I’m sure most of us hope we never see another one like it.

This is awesome

This video is a spoof commercial for the non-existent “Thoughts and Prayers App”. It’s clearly making fun of people who send their “thoughts and prayers” when something bad happens, rather than doing something that might actually help people. This spoof is awesome.

Fortunately, I don’t know many people who would publicly post banal “thoughts and prayers” messages on social media. I like to think that they all know how silly and empty it is, but it’s also true that there’s been a lot of public mockery of people who do “send thoughts and prayers”.

If people want to do something to actually help—donate money, food, clothes, blood, or whatever else is actually needed—and THEN “send thoughts and prayers”, that’s one thing. But far too many people “send thoughts and prayers” precisely so they don’t have to do anything.

The spoof’s talk about overseas events is sharply on point, too: There are mass killings and natural disasters overseas all the time, but on social media people mainly “send thoughts and prayers” to people in Europe or the USA.

The video was apparently shared early on Reddit (where some of the folks use salty language…), where one user posted:
This app sounds great and all, but one major thing is lacking. If it's a country that I have been to, I would really want the TP app to automatically pull this information from my previous FB posts so that I can simultaneously remind people that I have been to said country. That way people can know that I am sophisticated in addition to being a good person. Something like: "I can't believe I was just in Paris only a year ago. Such a lovely city with beautiful people. My thoughts and prayers go out to all affected by this tragedy. #vivelafrance #bestcroissants #worldtraveler"
This led other uses to chime in with similar ways people can insert themselves into tragedies. This was my favourite: "My thoughts and prayers are with Paris, especially since I visited the Eiffel Tower once and ate a crepe."

“Is there a religion filter?” another user asked. “Can TP alert my friends and family when I believe a mass tragedy is the work of God's vengeance?”

All of these sarcastic comments and the spoof itself are a welcome glow of sunshine and breeze of oxygen. There’s so much people can do to make the world a better place, and also to ease the suffering of others when tragedy strikes. But posting banal comments on social media does neither. Maybe this mockery will help them realise that.

But the way the world is, if this App really existed, I bet it would be top of the charts, and the “TP Premium” would make millions. We’re all lucky it doesn’t really exist.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Joining them

Every time the clocks go forward or backward, people complain. It can take a week or two for their behaviour to catch up to the new times and hours of daylight (or lack of, perhaps). This year, for the first time, I think I’m one of them.

To be totally accurate, apart from this blog post, I haven’t done any complaining about the time change. However, I’ve noticed one thing is definitely different this time than any other time I can remember: My sleep schedule.

This week, I haven’t even been sleepy until after midnight, which in the old time was about when I was usually going to bed. Much as I’d like to move that back an hour (or two…), I’ve just found it very difficult this year, and I have no idea why. Not even chamomile tea has helped much.

None of this would be too bad if I put the time to good use, say, dashing off several blog posts. That hasn’t happened—although, I’ve started several and lined up resources for several more. This is why some days, like today, I have a few posts, yet other days I can’t even manage one. Weird.

Most of the people I know who struggle with clock changes adjust in a week or two. I’m hoping I do, too, but since I can’t remember this happening to me before, how could I know what to expect?

I suppose this is also the closest I’ve ever come to insomnia, which many of my friends experience. Hopefully, this will remain the closest I ever get.

Despite sleeping-in a bit in the morning, I’m probably not getting quite the amount of sleep I should get. Even so, I feel remarkably good—nowhere near as tired as I was before my health adventure six weeks ago. Back then, I often had nine, ten, or even more hours sleep each night and still woke up exhausted. That difference is the one good thing in this. Would I have had any reason to notice otherwise? Probably not.

I had two cups of chamomile tea tonight. Maybe that will help me reset by sleep clock. It’d be nice.

Not sure about this video

The video above has gone viral, with nearly 3 million views so far. It’s basically a mini Will & Grace episode, reuniting the cast a decade after the show ended. Many people clearly love it—I’m just not sure I do. And yet…

The YouTube description is very accurate:
The original creators and the cast of the award-winning television show, "Will & Grace", reunited to shoot a brand new scene for 2016 to comment on pop culture, current events and the 2016 Presidential Election - the way "Will & Grace" only know how.
It’s very much like a Will & Grace episode of old, and nostalgic in that sense. Many people say it promotes the election Hillary Clinton, and I suppose it does, but it's not so very different from the way they handled some other issues in the show’s eight-year run. I also thought Jack’s line when he opens the fridge was really funny (I literally LOLed).

We watched the show when it began, and enjoyed it. But at some point, the joke just wore thin for me. I became annoyed that the gay characters—who we were constantly told were “ground-breaking”—never had a fully-realised onscreen relationship. I wasn’t expecting soft porn, obviously, it was a prime time comedy, after all, but a serious romance at some point, one that seemed like a serious romance, would have been nice.

And then there’s Jack. The character of Jack was played by Sean Hayes, who for years refused to say whether or not he was gay in real life. I thought his reasons were silly, and took away from whatever good the show did for you LGBT kids—how can someone be a role model when they deny who they are?

Eric McCormack (who played title character Will Truman) was well-known as straight, but he was also known to be a strong ally of LGBT people. He provided a role model of a different sort: The character was one for young LGBT kids, and his real life was one for young straight kids who had LGBT friends.

I also felt that later seasons too often seemed like the “Jack and Karen Show” with Hayes and fellow cast member Megan Mullally as Karen. Mind you, it also annoyed me that the other title character, Grace Adler (played by Debra Messing), tolerated Karen’s lousy job as an employee.

So, the shine of Will & Grace faded for me long before the series ended, and that was mostly because I increasingly found the sexless gay characters problematic, and was annoyed by Sean Hayes playing coy about his real life. That means that while the nostalgia is nice, I’m not necessarily personally thrilled that this episode was made, and I don’t know that I’d watch if the show really was resurrected. But, then, maybe I would. It IS a decade later, after all.

Who said pop culture is easy?!

And, of course, I should add that this only about me and my feelings about the show. I’m glad that others enjoy it, and that this little reunion mini-episode has made so many fans happy. That’s a wonderful thing, and I don’t need to share their affection for the show to be happy for them (this is what Arthur’s Law leads to).

The bottom line for me is that it doesn’t matter what I think about the original show. The truth is, the mini-episode was fun and had some legitimately funny bits. But, even more important, fans were really happy to see it, and I think that’s a good thing in itself.

Duelling foundations

Until recently, no one in the newsmedia looked into Donald’s foundation and how he used it. Now that journalists are finally doing that, it’s easier to compare the real problems with Donald’s foundation against the imaginary ones with the Clinton Foundation.

In the video above, John Oliver talks about both foundations and where the real problems are. It shows that while Clinton did some things in a sloppy way, there was nothing criminal. That cannot yet be conclusively said about Donald and his foundation.

The important thing here, really, is that the news media are finally looking into Donald’s record and his background and—not surprisingly—problems and major concerns are emerging. Holding would-be officeholders accountable is what journalism is supposed to be about. It’s good to see the media finally doing that for BOTH candidates.

Last night’s reality show

I watched a TV show yesterday. It was big. Some people say it was magnificent. Believe me. It was yuge. Best ever. Highly intelligent, and only losers weren’t there, because—well, that’s not true, because Donald was there and he was clearly the big loser on the night. Worse for Donald, it was the most-watched debate in US history. Oops.

This presidential “debate” was like nothing I’ve ever seen in my life, and I’ve been watching televised debates since they resumed in 1976 (The first presidential debate was in 1960, and Richard Nixon lost so badly to John F. Kennedy that he refused to debate in 1968 and 1972. There were also no debates in 1964). The debates over those 40 years were all very similar, overall, but yesterday’s was nothing like those.

Donald was belligerent, arrogant, self-promotional, untruthful, and narcissistic—he was his usual self, in other words. Hillary Clinton, in stark contrast, was restrained, on-point, coherent, used complete sentences that led into other complete sentences, and looked presidential. She won the debate, no question about that, and that was largely Donald’s own fault.

Watching the debate, and seeing Donald blather on and on and on while saying nothing about anything except how great he is (and even promoting one of his hotels!), and seeing how he interrupted nearly twice as many times as Hillary Clinton did, and how he constantly talked over her, I couldn't help think about how commonplace it was. There have been plenty of times I’ve seen a smart, accomplished, capable woman have to stand silently and watch as some ignorant man pontificates about things he knows absolutely nothing about, talking loudly over her if she dares to challenge his male authority. His performance would have been funny if it wasn’t so pathetic.

Still, Donald started out fairly strong. For the first roughly 20 minutes he kept on his talking point—well, as much as he can ever stay on point—about Hillary Clinton being an “insider” and a “politician”, clearly trying to frame himself as an “outsider” and as a “non-politician”. What was obvious to me is that he’d received a lot of coaching in advance of the debate, even though both he and his campaign had earlier denied he was prepping for the debate; it looked to me like they lied about that.

After that first 20 minutes, give or take, it was all downhill for Donald. His greatest hit against Hillary Clinton, though temporary, came when he repeated an old speech line about how he’d release his tax returns if she released the “30,000 deleted emails”. But that was his last highlight—in fact, he lost that point spectacularly by scoring an own-goal.

Hillary Clinton talked about Donald’s taxes, and both she and moderator Lester Holt fact-checked Donald’s lie that he can’t release his tax returns because he’s “being audited”. Hillary Clinton went on to question what Donald’s trying to hide, that perhaps he paid NO federal income tax. She pointed out what that meant, no money for troops, no money for veterans, no money for schools, no money for healthcare—it was one of her better hits because it personalised what Donald’s tax avoidance means. His smart-assed retort to the suggestion that he doesn’t pay his taxes? “That makes me smart!”, something he denied saying within an hour, despite the fact he, of course, DID say it and millions of people heard him say that him not paying any federal income tax makes him “smart”.

In the debate itself, Donald lied about many things he said. He again lied about his having opposed the Iraq War before it began, but this time—clearly having been coached on that question—he tried to spin his stated support for the war as an offhand, not serious remark, and whined, “no one ever calls Sean Hannity.” Yeah, well, that’s probably because a shill for Donald and the Republicans is probably not the most reliable character witness.

One of Donald’s lies was fact-checked in real-time by Twitter users. Hillary Clinton said, “Donald Trump thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese,” and Donald shot back, “I did not. I do not say that.” The Internet by retweeting the proof, the 2012 Tweet in which he said it, making it the most re-tweeted thing during the debate:

Then, comedian Alex Adelman added to the fun by sharing more of Donald’s climate change denial, something that was retweeted heavily, too:

The point of this is that this is the Internet Age: There is NO WAY for any public figure to lie about what they say and get away with it. Every public utterance is recorded in multiple places, so no matter how much Donald denies he’s said something, the proof is easy to come by.

His denial of what millions of Americans actually saw and heard in the debate is even more baffling. He was sniffling constantly throughout the debate (see: “Donald Trump’s sniffling distracts debate watchers”), something he has—bizarrely, but not surprisingly—now denied ever happened. Fortunately, he didn’t claim that tens of millions of people were stupid, or even that they misheard, no, he told Fox he had a “bad mic”—but apparently “good enough to hear breathing.” Uh, huh. Right. Personally, I liked the thousands of social media jibes this this one:

The consensus in the reality-based world is overwhelming: Hillary Clinton won the debate. Hillary also came off far better than Donald did. That assessment came from all over the political spectrum. For example, Michael Reagan, son of Ronald Reagan, Tweeted: “She ended up looking and acting more Presidential....its the truth”, which led one of his followers to respond, “Michael are you watching the same debate? She's a robot with pre-planned answers. Holt is biased. Trump remained on point.” That sort of delusional view was expressed by many people all over rightwing media—though not usually in complete sentences with correctly spelled words and a lack of obscenities or trite offensive nicknames for Hillary Clinton (which is why I picked that response alone).

The fact is, partisans will see in the debate what they wanted to see, and the fact that Donald’s supporters tried to spin reality and make excuses and shift the blame for his failure isn’t surprising. But when we look at undecided and the snap polls taken after the debate, they all showed Hillary Clinton won—decisively. Naturally, Donald's fans will spin that, too, as rightwingers always do, attacking the legitimacy of polling itself—except for the ones with results they like, of course.

In the next few days we’ll see several opinion polls published, each trying to measure whether there was a bounce in support for Hillary Clinton. Polling guru Nate Silver noted that based on history, Clinton is likely to get a post-debate bump in the polls, however, if she doesn’t that could indicate that Donald could be very difficult to defeat.

My own bet is that Donald won’t show up for the remaining two debates, and he’ll use the words “rigged” and “biased” when he pulls out. If he does show up for the second debate and crashes and burns even almost as badly as he did in the first one, then he’s almost certain to chicken-out of the third debate.

So, in sum, Hillary Clinton did very well in the debate and Donald crashed and burned. For those of us who are rational people, that was very, very good news. However, it’s not over yet, and defeating Donald looks like it will a very difficult job. Fortunately, Donald is doing everything in his power to help our effort to defeat him.


“Journalists Are Calling Out Trump's Debate Lies”Media Matters presents a long list of debunking Donald’s many lies.
“Trump launches harsh new fat attack on ex-Miss Universe” - Last night, Hillary Clinton raised the story of Alicia Machado as an example of Donald’s sexism and racism. AFP reports that today Donald doubled-down on his bigotry.
“Transcript: Here are words Trump just used to talk about 'the cyber'” – just TRY and work out what the hell he was talking about!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

I voted again

A photo posted by arthur_amerinz (@arthur_amerinz) on

This is the sort of photo I always take when I post an election ballot. That’s partly because I can’t show “normal” voting (photography isn’t allowed in the booth). While it’s also a way to document what I’m doing, and that’s important to me, it’s also a way to subtly encourage people to vote. Well, I hope so, anyway.

There’s a small story to go with this photo. We got our voting papers a week ago today and filled them out that evening. However, because of my gout relapse, I wasn’t able to get out and about, so I couldn’t get around enough to go post them and take a photo like this. Until today.

Also, my thumb mostly obscures the bar code in the address panel. That’s because I read somewhere it’s illegal to share that with anyone (like, in a photo). However, I didn’t have a chance to verify that for myself, so, a bit of prudent caution.

And that’s another vote posted back. There’s one more to go yet this year, of course.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Daylight Saving Time again. Again.

Here we go again: New Zealand clocks “sprang forward” last night. Now we get to be treated to several days (weeks?) of people complaining about it, about how tired they are, and how “they” should end the seasonal clock changes. And, nothing will happen until it all starts again when the clocks go back to NZ Standard Time on Sunday, April 2. This happens twice a year, like clockwork (you’re welcome).

I said last year that:
Changing the clock is easier than it used to be: Our electronic devices (computers, phones, tablets) change the time automatically. But our alarm clock doesn't nor do our two wall clocks, the oven’s clock or the microwave’s clock. I think the problem here isn’t than not enough clocks change automatically, it’s that we have too many clocks.
That’s still true, but our microwave was an hour off until last night. I don’t know if that’s because we never changed it from the last clock change, or if we re-set it incorrectly after the power was off. The fact that either one is equally plausible ought to be a bigger concern probably, but the oven clock is even farther out of whack (leading credence to the second possibility).

Today was a rainy day, and most of that was a driving rain. That rain ended by late afternoon, but the clouds didn’t clear. Even so, as evening began, I could see how late the daylight hung around, and even at 7:30 it was still at least somewhat light.

I still think it’s time to abandon the seasonal clock changes, but that won’t do anything to fix the zig zagging of timezones to accommodate various political divisions on the planet (political in the geographic sense—mostly). Even so, it certainly would go a long way toward reducing global confusion and making it at least a little bit easier to work out what time it is in another part of the world.

Of course, these days it’s also easier to work out what time it is in other places (and I put Chicago and New Zealand clocks on this blog a long time ago—I don’t know when, precisely, because if I ever mentioned it in a post, I couldn’t find it, and you know I wasted a lot of time looking…). All those electronic devices that change the time automatically also make it easy for me to check what time it is somewhere else.

So, our clocks have changed again. Again. And people will complain about that, tand then do it all again when the clock change again in April. It’s so certain, you could set your watch by it (you’re welcome again).

For those without devices that automatically tell the time in different places, I recommend timeanddate.com as an excellent site to work out what the time is any place in the world, to arrange a time for an online meeting with someone in another country, etc. Plus, it’s easy to remember the web address anywhere—and any time—in the world you find yourself. The image at the top of this post is a royalty-free photo by Dean Jenkins, and is available from morgueFile.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Internet Wading for September 2016

These Internet Wading posts are all about sharing: I share links to things that catch my eye in a given month, things that would almost certainly never end up in a blog post otherwise. They may be interesting, profound, silly, or even stupid, but they’re all unique enough for me to check them out, and then share them.

I’ve noticed that these Internet Wading posts have recurring themes, especially history, art and creativity, and pop culture, among other things. That’s probably because outside of politics and religion, they’re the topics I’m the most interested in. Obviously.

Let’s begin this month with something topical: “Battling billboards” talks about the billboards/signs used in Auckland’s local government elections, casting a critical eye over the design, layout, and even colours. I know the author in real life, and I think he does a good job critiquing the various efforts. I do the same thing less formally whenever I see the signs, and have had very similar conclusions.

I have to admit, titling an article, "Smooth": 7 questions about the song you were too embarrassed to ask” didn’t exactly draw me in. While I liked the song (video above), I wasn’t aware of having any questions about it, but, even if I had, I doubt I’d be embarrassed to ask them. Nevertheless, it turned out to be surprisingly interesting—not the first time that’s happened to me.

Was Oscar Wilde’s "De Profundis" “one of the greatest love letters ever written”?. Maybe, but the treatment of Wilde was certainly a sad tale.

Speaking of marginalised people, Rob Tannenbaum tells us a long form story of “The life and murder of Stella Walsh, Intersex Olympic Champion”. It’s certainly a story I’d never heard, and it's one that deserves to be known.

Tannenbaum himself, meanwhile, recently became the focus of social media attention when he published a series of Tweets  talking about shady dealings of the Trump Foundation, the first person to do so. Since then, journalists began taking an in depth look—as he'd urged in his Tweets.

Jonathan Shaw wrote in Harvard Magazine that human beings may have been “Born to Rest”. This could explain why do many people have trouble exercising regularly.

On the other hand, a “Study suggests exercise can offset perils of alcohol”, which is a pretty good reason to exercise. Once we’re done resting, of course. Or drinking alcohol.

We know that humans and Neandethal’s had sex, because their DNA is present in modern humans (my own DNA is about 2% Neanderthal). But the question some researchers are trying to work out is, “Was it for love?” Apparently, part of the answer may come from working out the direction that the genes were transferred. There’s even some conjecture about Neanderthal penises, something that I’d never actually wondered about.

In more “recent” history, scientists have been learning a lot about “Otzi”, the 5300 year old frozen mummy discovered in the Alps 25 years ago this past week. In a Daily Mail article reprinted by the NZ Herald, I found out several things I didn’t know, like the fact that an arrow was found in Otzi’s shoulder in 2001, and that’s likely what killed him, or that scientists hope that bacteria found in his stomach may help cure modern diseases.

• • •

That’s it for this month’s potpourri of stuff from the Internet.

The local voting begins

Here we go again! The triennial elections for New Zealand’s local government are underway, with election papers being delivered to households starting last week, and the first votes already being counted. This year the turnout is ahead of last time, but behind 2010. That means that there’s no way to predict who will win most races, however, this year it may actually be easier to choose.

I’ve always been a strong advocate for democracy, but even I think there can be too much of a good thing. I strongly believe that merely having more candidates doesn't mean more democracy—in fact, it can often mean the opposite.

Last election, in 2013, I posted a chart of all the candidates we could vote for in our area. The chart at the top of this post is an updated and expanded version of that chart for this year’s election.

The first thing that’s obvious is that there are fewer candidates running for the 24 available positions. This year, there are only 72 candidates, a number that’s been declining since the first “supercity” elections in 2010.

On the face of it, fewer candidates overall could be a good thing because it makes it easier to learn about the candidates. However, many of those candidates are actually running for more than one position, meaning that there aren’t 72 people running for office. That can be a good thing, because it makes it easier still to learn about those people.

It’s common for candidates to run for both the Councillor in their Ward, and for their Local Board. This isn’t an issue: If a person is elected to both, they automatically forfeit their seat on the local board, and the next-highest polling candidate is elected. Not all candidates for either Council or the Local Board run for both, of course, but I don’t personally have any problem with those who do.

Running for more than one Local Board, however, and running for several other offices, too, is nothing more than job-shopping, and this year Mary-Anne Benson-Cooper is again the queen of job-shopping: She’s running for Auckland Council from North Shore Ward, Devonport-Takapuna Local Board, Upper Harbour Local Board, and the Auckland District Health Board. But, even she’s toned it down a bit: Last election she ran for FOUR different local boards, councillor in a different ward, and also the Waitemata District Health Board.

A law change has affected Grant Gillon, another local politician I criticised last time. That year, he ran for Councillor and for election to two local boards. He lost Council for the second time in a row, but he won election to both local boards—and he served on both, collecting two salaries from taxpayers. I urged that Parliament “Fix this politicians’ rort”, and they did: They changed the law to prevent someone from serving on more than one local board at a time, which I applauded and Grant, not surprisingly, did not.

To me, the biggest improvement this year is the dramatic drop in the number of people standing for our district health board: It’s only 16, about half of what it has been the first two elections. Sixteen is a much more manageable number of candidates for people to learn about, and this year, for the first time ever, one candidate, Monina Gesmundo, made a personal pitch for my vote. She got it. I may not like voting for DHB Members, but voting for a candidate who actually campaigned for the role ought to be rewarded, in my opinion.

The number of candidates for mayor is up slightly this time, but it's still the average number of candidates for the three elections. Once again, there’s only one real contender, Phil Goff. The right is fractured and failing to catch on, and a couple others who get some buzz on social media, but not out in the real world. Goff is widely expected to win (full disclosure: I support him), and because there’s really no strong opposition for him, this is expected to depress voter turnout.

So, this year we have fewer candidates, most of whom aren't running for multiple positions, but the turnout is expected to be low because of the lack of a real contest for mayor. In other words, not much different from 2013.

Still, what I said in 2013 is also true this year: “The good news is that despite it all, there are plenty of good, dedicated and conscientious local government politicians, people who care about and are committed to their communities. And it’s also good to know that we have many such people right here in our area."

As of yesterday, voter turnout in Auckland was at 7.61%, as opposed to 11.1% at that point in 2010, and 5.9% in 2013. In our ward, last week’s turnout ended at 6.2% for Kaipātiki Local Board area and 8.1% for Devonport-Takapuna Local Board area. Auckland Council posts a PDF of the turnout/count, updated every day.

Voting closes on Saturday, October 8 at midday. Those who post their ballots must post them by Wednesday, October 5, though Monday October 3 is safer.


Local politics – My post from 2013
And the race is on… My more upbeat look at the 2010 local government elections in Auckland
Discerning Democracy – Another post from 2010

Friday, September 23, 2016

Spring has sprung

Above is my latest YouTube video. I narrate this one, as I did with my previous one. And like that one, this one talks about New Zealand. It begins with talk about when Spring began in New Zealand, and even offers a tip for people in the Northern Hemisphere to work out what season it is here.

It’s been some eight months since I last made a video, and there were a few things I couldn’t remember how to do. In the end, I figured it out, and maybe even did a bit better than my previous videos.

I record the narration separately, and this video, to me, sounds better than the video in January. That one was made when I was still unwell, and this one was made afterward, so my breathing was better, and that made it easier to record (at the very least).

I wrote the narration as a script I read, including notes for whatever would be onscreen at the time (a sort of stage direction), so I could pause as I recorded. This gave me room to edit the audio track and/or visual tracks so the two meshed well. Or, to put it in more practical terms, I’m beginning to get the hang of it.

There will come a time when I’m actually in my videos, rather than just narrating them, but since I’m not mobile at the moment, that’ll have to wait awhile longer. For now, my videos will be along the lines of this one.

I often blog about my videos and photos, giving some of the behind-the-scenes information, as I have in this post. With that in mind, here’s the narration (more or less…) from this video:

Ah, Spring! Trees break out in flowers, and the birds visit them and sing their songs. It’s nice, right? Only I filmed this Tui feeding on a flowering tree on August 30, which is late winter in the Southern Hemisphere. And, birds never leave for winter. But, this was still spring in Auckland.

That’s because Spring began in New Zealand a few weeks ago, on September first.

That confuses some people. The September Equinox arrived at 2:21am today, and some people take that to mean the official start of Spring. But, does it?

Well, no: Spring was already three weeks old by then.

Equinoxes and Solstices are astronomical events, which may not correspond to changes in weather.

The first of the month is closer to when weather starts to change, so they’re often called meteorological dates.

Although, in truth, the weather has very little to do with either.

Also, Equinoxes and Solstices arrive at different times each year, and sometimes different dates, too.

This page from time and date dot com shows the dates and times for Auckland over a ten-year period.

But, the reason we have seasons, equinoxes and solstices at all is because of the tilt of the earth as it goes around the sun—and THAT’S a whole topic in itself.

Really, all you need to know is that New Zealand seasons are exactly the opposite of the Northern Hemisphere.

Think of it this way: January = July. If you keep THAT in mind, you can always know what season it is in New Zealand.

So, Spring has arrived in New Zealand—at SOME point this month…

Now, about the time difference… uh… that’s a topic for another day.

Full credits for the video along with other resources are in the YouTube description.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Back and forth

My story over the past few weeks can best be summed up in one phrase: Back and forth. While the overall story has been good—great, in fact—there are nevertheless a few details that I find very annoying. This week gave me more examples.

Last Friday, when I wrote about my progress “Four weeks later”, I talked specifically about the gout that began, really five weeks ago today, and really kicked in the next day. Last week I said:
The gout attack that began, in earnest, four weeks ago today is finally ending. There’s now merely soreness where once there was real pain, and it's less than what I felt at the beginning of all this. A few more days and I should be ready to start walking again.
Well, not exactly.

Over the next few days, things were fairly stable, then yesterday morning I woke up in the morning with a severe pain, one that made walking quite difficult. That continued all day, even though I stayed off my foot, and into the night. It was so bad that I cancelled a meeting I had today because I just couldn’t walk.

This morning, that pain had eased back, and while walking still hurts, it’s way better than yesterday. It’s just that it’s not as good as it had been even one day earlier.

This has happened before, where the gout was getting better, only to have another flare-up. I’ve thought, and even said, that the attack was ending a few times now, only to have it flare up again. I think I’ve finally learned to avoid my optimism (well, wishful thinking…): It’ll end when it ends. I hope.

The other thing that’s happened a couple times is that I’ve pushed too hard and worn myself out, and that's because I was unable to do much of anything physical for so very long, so my stamina is gone. I’ve known that all along of course, yet I keep forgetting it and trying to do too much.

On Friday I went to the doctor, then the grocery story, then came home to clean the house because we were having family come to stay with us for the weekend. None of that is unusual, but for someone with my lack of stamina, it was a lot. The next day, I realised that I’d pushed myself a little too far because I was exhausted.

On Sunday, I went to a supporters get-together for my friend Richard Hills, who is running for Auckland Council and also for Kaipātiki Local Board (something I blogged about last month). I parked some distance away and walked up to the venue, stood around for a couple hours, then walked back to my car and drove home.

All of this was more physical than I’ve been in ages, really, and being on my feet for so long was not, in retrospect, the brightest thing I’ve ever done (although, I did sit down for part of it). It was bound to affect me.

So, entering the weekend worn out, then adding to it on Sunday left me even more tired on Monday. And, being on my feet so long on Sunday probably set the stage for the gout flare-up.

The thing is, I should have known all that would happen, because there’s nothing new in any of it. The problem—which is a weird name for it—is that I feel so well now that I simply forget my limits. And then I’m reminded of them.

So, over the past five weeks I’ve had a real back and forth with how things are going. While I now realise that much of that has been my own fault, I’ll probably forget again before things really are back to normal.

Back and forth is really part of normal life, after all.

Save The Day

The video above is from Joss Wheldon and Save The Day PAC and, like all PACs, is “not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee”. But it makes one message clearly: Stop Trump. In doing so, voters can literally save the day.

On the site the video promotes, savetheday.vote, people can get more information about their state’s registration and voting deadlines, as well as begin the registration process. They also say why they’re doing this:
We are a short-form digital production company dedicated to the idea that voting is a necessary and heroic act. That every voice in this wonderfully diverse nation should, and must, be heard. That the only thing that can save democracy is the act that defines it. We are committed to fighting the apathy, cynicism, and honest confusion that keeps citizens from using their vote. And to reminding an increasingly out-of-touch and compromised set of representatives that they are answerable to the people they were hired to serve.
That message should appeal to everyone, regardless of where they are on the political or ideological spectrum. The ad also doesn’t tell viewers who to vote FOR, and most PAC ads don’t promote a particular candidate, but they clearly urge voting against a Donald. The video isn’t really about persuasion: It’s about motivation.

I like this video, which is clearly intended for sharing rather than broadcast, not just because of the important message, but also because it uses famous people to make fun of the idea of using famous people in political ads. The reason it works so well is the humour that runs through the ad, but especially because it drives home a point that comes at the very end: An ordinary person holds the sign with the web address. That’s because ordinary voters have the power to change everything, to, in this case, save the day.

To me, anything that helps promote voting—especially voting against Donald—is a great thing. This video definitely helps with that goal.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

My voting papers arrived today

A photo posted by arthur_amerinz (@arthur_amerinz) on

This change to plastic is good

Many years ago, supermarkets switched from paper bags to plastic bags. Not many of us remember precisely when that was, but those of us above a certain age may remember being asked, “paper or plastic?” That switch has become controversial, but a current switch to plastic is an absolutely great thing.

Last week, I bought some chicken at our local New World supermarket, and I noticed the tray was blue plastic, instead of the blue polystyrene (a form of plastic that includes Styrofoam) it had always been. I also bought some beef mince (“ground beef” or “hamburger” in the USA), and it came in a clear plastic tray (photo above).

The reason this is such great news is that the trays are recyclable, and the polystyrene trays are not. Polystyrene in its various forms is slow to biodegrade, and is one of the largest types of pollution in the oceans. The polystyrene trays are also fragile and break easily. Once thrown in the rubbish, they can break into many small pieces and, if the rubbish bag breaks, can fly around all over the place.

It turns out that while this was new to me, the trials actually began last year. I don’t know if the trays appearing at our local stores means they’re being rolled out nationwide or not, but I hope so.

The move from polystyrene meat trays to ones made of recyclable plastic may seem like a small thing, but the fact they can be recycled and that they’re stronger are all good things. It’s one more thing that doesn’t have to go into our landfill-bound rubbish. The amount of rubbish we send to landfill has been declining a lot over the past few years, and this will help that even more.

So, in this case, a supermarket switching to plastic is a very, very good thing.

Monday, September 19, 2016

123 years of votes for women

Today is the 123rd anniversary of an important date in New Zealand—and world—history: On 19 September 1893, women won the right to vote in New Zealand. It was a world first.

Over the years, this is one New Zealand fact that I’ve talked about more than any other, because it’s both unique and something that many people in the world don’t know.

The path for women from gaining the right to vote to the right to run for office has been both torturous and meandering, and it’s confused many people, including some who should know better or employ people who do. In 2011, I pointed out how President Obama had muddled this history in a speech. While that wasn’t an international incident, it highlights one of the reasons I keep talking about this New Zealand’s role in changing history: So more people know the real story.

And, anyway, how could I resist anything with 1-2-3 in it?

The image above was posted to the Facebook Page of the New Zealand Labour Party.

Paying the price of healthcare

Last week I received the final bill for my healthcare adventure. The photo above shows the relevant part of the ambulance bill: $98 (today, about US$71.55). This means that my out of pocket expenses for my adventure totalled less than $200.

When I talked about the cost of the healthcare I received, I guesstimated that it would be about $200, and the reason I didn’t know for sure was that I didn’t know how much the ambulance cost. As it turned out, I was pretty accurate.

The bill was dated exactly one month after my trip to the hospital on August 15, which means it was pre-dated since I received it (and paid it) September 15, but it wasn’t the predated bill that caught my attention, it was the other charges. As I said when I talked about the costs, the ambulance charity, St John, offers a household membership, which offers a free ambulance trip. However, what I didn’t mention is that most trips in an ambulance after an accident are free because they’re covered by ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation), the New Zealand government’s universal no-fault accident and rehabilitation insurer. That’s another great thing about our health insurance, but funded by a separate levy paid by employers and workers alike through a payroll deduction, as well as levies on insurance, among other things. I knew about all that.

The bill’s surprise was that the fee paid by people not covered by our national healthcare system is $800, so that’s the true cost of the hospital ride for which I paid $98. Put another way, my direct cost was 12.5% of the total. The rest comes from taxes, including what I pay, of course.

Anyone in New Zealand temporarily might face that $800 charge. A tourist with travellers’ insurance (or really good coverage from their home country) might have that paid by their insurance. Workers in New Zealand temporarily may be covered by ACC, since a portion of their wages might be used to pay the levies. However, that’s something the worker should find out in advance because not all such workers pay the levy. People in New Zealand with a residence permit (also known as “permanent residence”) are, as far as I know, always covered by the national health system (as is true for temporary workers, it pays to ask).

The larger point here is that the value of my healthcare was, at a BARE minimum, some NZ$26,000, but I paid less than $200 directly.

Since then, I renewed my prescriptions and got a three month supply of them all for $20, which will be my quarterly cost for awhile (I’ll pay that at least once more, but one of the pills is only for six to twelve months, so it’ll stop at some point and my quarterly cost will drop to $15, plus doctor appointments, the cost of which can vary a bit and is only partly subsidised. So, using only high costs, my annual out-of-pocket cost for my routine healthcare will be about $NZ260 (US$189.84). That's it, since I don't have to pay health insurance premiums.

I can—quite literally—live with that.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Weekend Diversion: Jolene

The video above is a collaboration between Pentatonix and Dolly Parton, covering her hit, “Jolene”. I really like it.

Pentatonix produces what they call “instrument-free music”, often with really interesting results. They’re also quite popular: Their YouTube Channel has more than 11 million subscribers. Two members of Pentatonix, Mitch Grassi and Scott Hoying, also have a side project called Superfruit.

This particular video was posted today as Pentatonix begins their world tour. The song “Jolene” has always been among my favourite of Parton’s many songs, because of it’s seemingly simple melody and structure, and straightforward storytelling. It’s a really good pop country song. At the time I was preparing this post, the video had been viewed nearly 1.3 million times.

Partisan independents

A weird minor issue has popped up in this year’s local elections in Auckland: Can a person be associated with a political party and an independent at the same time? To some, it may seem counter-intuitive, but, yes, people associated with a political party can indeed be independent, and there’s nothing new about that.

The question has come up repeatedly, as for example late last month when Dr Andy Asquith, a senior lecturer at Massey University, criticised people with known political party affiliations running as independents. I don’t think his criticism is valid.

Asquith, who was educated in the UK and arrived at Massey in 2005, specifically attacked Labour Party MP Phil Goff running for Mayor of Auckland as an independent, saying, "If Phil Goff becomes mayor, is he going to ditch all his centre-left baggage and become independent? "It's a nonsense, it's dishonest, it takes us all for mugs."

What’s a nonsense is Asquith’s position: Of course politicians associated with party affiliations can be independent, and for a very good reason: A city like Auckland, home to a quarter of New Zealand’s entire population, needs a mayor who can work with all parties.

In fact, Goff addressed this very point last April when he and two other party-affiliated candidates were challenged about running as independents: I'm a person who has Labour values, I've had them all my life and I inherited them from my grandmother,” he said at the time. "I'm running as an independent because on council you're dealing with a cross-section of people of all political persuasions, and whoever is mayor has got to get that group working as a team."

So, the party affiliations of a candidate can help us understand who they are and what they’re about, but to be Mayor they must transcend party politics. It’s been this way for decades, and is nothing new at all.

One of the reasons for this is that we want our politicians to be independent of Wellington, and they always are. Goff’s long career in Parliament, both as a government minister and a member of the opposition, prepare him for working well with whoever leads the nation’s government. It seems to me that this should be seen as an asset, not a liability.

Candidates for Councillor on the Auckland Council Governing Board, or as a member of their Local Board, also avoid political party identification. In fact, they’re irrelevant in much of Auckland, though certainly not the entire city: In parts of the city, candidates do run aligned to the Labour Party in particular. However, until this year the National Party has never promoted candidates directly. This year, there’s a National party offshoot called Auckland Future running candidates throughout the city—but not for mayor.

Here on the North Shore, it’s been a common and well-established practice for politicians to run as independents, or as local tickets independent of any major party. Indeed, if anything, they’re usually cross party.

So, established practice within Auckland is for most politicians to run as independents or local tickets of candidates, and not as affiliates of any major party.

Asquith seems not to understand this long-standing practice, nor how common it is for local elections generally. In the area where I grew up, for example, all local politicians did the same thing. It happens even in Chicago, where the entire City Council is officially non-partisan (in that particular case, however, it’s unlikely they actually are either non-partisan or independent).

There are plenty of things to criticise our local politicians for, but this is not one of them. When candidates for local office have an identified party affiliation, it helps us know who they are, what they’re about, and what their values are. That’s a good thing because the more we know about them and their attitudes and values, the better. But we also want them to represent us all, not just their party. In Auckland’s experience, that’s exactly what happens.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Four weeks later

This week marked four weeks since my health adventure. I’m well, of course, and today’s doctor’s visit confirmed that. But it also gets at something that’s started to bug me: I’m well, dammit.

I went to the doctor today because the prescriptions I’d been given when I left the hospital were running out, and I needed refills. It was a good opportunity to check in, get checked, and then get my prescriptions. I did all of that.

The short version is that I’m doing really well, and even my blood pressure was good for me, even allowing for the “white coat effect” I normally have. I’ve also now lost 4.6 kgs (10.14 US Pounds) since all this began, despite being unable to start walking (eating less overall, and eating a higher percentage of fruits and vegetables is all I’ve done so far).

The gout attack that began, in earnest, four weeks ago today is finally ending. There’s now merely soreness where once there was real pain, and it's less than what I felt at the beginning of all this. A few more days and I should be ready to start walking again.

In going over all this with the doctor, I mentioned how it was beginning to get me down how often people will treat me like I’m sick or an invalid, urging me to take it easy and not rush things. The doctor said that wasn’t necessary, that now that they’ve dealt with the problem, I’m healthy, and I shouldn’t worry. I don’t worry about my health, exactly, but sometimes I worry about how other people perceive my condition.

When I was a boy, there was a man at my dad’s church who was a well-respected and important part of the church community, assisting with services and all sorts of other things. Then, he had a serious heart attack. When he returned, he was much more gaunt and had grown a full beard at a time when only 20-somethings wore beards. “He’s on blood thinners,” adults explained to me. “He doesn’t want to risk cutting himself while shaving.”

The man seemed frail, a shadow of himself, and people treated him as if he was made of glass. Eventually he had another heart attack that was fatal, and his journey ended. But the image of his final months is etched into my brain.

“I don’t want to be treated like that man,” I told Nigel. “I don’t want people treating me as if I’m likely to break, that one wrong move and I’ll keel over dead.” That won’t happen now, and as long as I look after myself, as I’m already doing, it won’t happen. But I’ve lost count of the number of people who have told me to “take it easy” or to “look after yourself”. I do—in fact, more or less, I always have.

“You’re fine!” the doctor repeated today. And, I am. My main problems over the past four weeks have been the gout attack that sometimes prevented me from walking at all, and even led me to use my crutches in public for the first time ever. Even though this was triggered by the stress around my adventure, it’s not really related to it.

The other problem is simply that after being physically unable to move much for so long, it’ll take time to re-build my stamina, and to do so will mean I need to be able to walk (coming soon to this station…). But that’s part of the problem, not the cure.

My health is good, my adjustment to the prescriptions is going well, and there’s nothing related to the adventure holding me back (apart from gout and a lack of stamina). So, when people treat me as if I’m sick or an invalid, it’s annoying, absolutely, but it’s also a bit depressing because people are seeing me not as I am, but as being the very problem that was fixed, just as all those years ago I saw a man treated as if he was nothing more than the wreck left by his heart attack.

This is the first time in my life I’ve had a wee glimpse into the reality of people with disabilities who deal with far worse attitudes, and every single day. Annoyed as I may get, I’m relieved that eventually people will get over it and forget about my adventure. I hope I remember how it made me feel so I don't do it to others.

In the meantime, I’m well, happy, and full of ideas and plans, now that I know I’ll be here for awhile yet. Are any of us really any different?

The photo up top is of my new pillbox, something I bought the day I got out of hospital to hold all my prescriptions for the week. Apart from the bright colours, what I really liked is that each day is its own “pod”; it was originally set up as Sunday through Saturday, but I moved Sunday to the other end so that if we go away for the weekend I can detached Saturday and Sunday, and not have to bring all my pills with me (the silver loop thing at the left can be attached to any day’s pod, but I don't know why I’d move it).

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Holding him accountable

The US news media has done a terrible job of holding Donald accountable for his lies, among other things. But among its worst performance has been in allowing Donald to lie about his refusal to release his tax returns. Maybe that’s starting to change.

In the video above, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell tells of one of his biggest annoyances with the US news media: They have never pushed back against Donald’s absurdly stupid assertion that he “can’t” release his tax returns because he’s “being audited”. No journalist has ever asked Donald to prove it.

It’s so obvious that I admit I’ve never thought of it, but journalists should have: There’s absolutely no reason that Donald can’t release the form letter the USA’s Internal Revenue Service would have sent him to tell him he’s being audited—if, in fact, that’s actually true. As Lawrence a journalist finally brought this up, Donald’s campaign was not expecting it. It’s a good start.

But it’s also worth noting that this is actually irrelevant on the subject of whether Donald can release his tax returns, because he absolutely can: There is NO law or rule that prevents him from releasing his tax returns, even if, as he and his surrogates constantly claim, he’s being audited. In 1973, even Richard Nixon released his tax returns while being audited, and this was during Watergate. It’s worth letting that sink in for a minute: Donald is less honest and open than Richard Nixon.

Meanwhile, today Newsweek published an extensive exposé of Donald’s many, many conflicts of interest that have far reaching consequences. The magazine concludes:

Never before has an American candidate for president had so many financial ties with American allies and enemies, and never before has a business posed such a threat to the United States. If Donald Trump wins this election and his company is not immediately shut down or forever severed from the Trump family, the foreign policy of the United States of America could well be for sale.

Maybe these are hopeful signs that the US news media will start being better about reporting about Donald, and maybe they’ll start asking tougher questions. Or, maybe not: As far as I’m aware, no one else in the mainstream news media has asked for proof that Donald is being audited (or pointed out that even if that really is true, which we have no reason to believe without proof, that still doesn’t prevent him from releasing his tax returns). And, the Newsweek story has hardly been covered by any mainstream news outlets, and it should be.

There’s still time for the US news media to start doing its collective job. The question is, will they?

Related: Political Notebook 4: Media rare – my recent blog post about the news media not doing its job.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Political Notebook 4: Media rare

If this isn’t the weirdest US election ever, then I don’t ever want to see what would take that title. There’s terrible media performance, actual events that are the exact opposite of what “should” happen, and the miasma of petulant disgust expressed for “both the candidates”, even though one of them will nevertheless win. Where’s the reset button?

Chief among the problems with this election is the truly shockingly bad performance of the news media that repeatedly fails to do its job, allowing Donald, who repeatedly and brazenly lies, to do so without consequences. This isn’t the failing of any one journalist or network or medium, the plague is on all their houses.

The video above is the first in a new web series from GQ called “The Closer”, in which Keith Olbermann takes on Donald in Keith’s inimitable style, something we haven’t see for many years [full transcript and links are available on the GQ site]. When GQ announced the series with a teaser video (https://youtu.be/bQueaSlvjCw), they said:
He's been watching this absurd election, waiting, wondering why no one is saying what needs to be said. So he's going to do it himself. Introducing GQ's new Special Correspondent, Keith Olbermann, in a series called The Closer. Stay tuned. As you might have guessed, he has a few thoughts to share.
There’s no telling how many people will watch the series—that depends, of course, on how often they’re shared—but it’s well past time that the Donald was called out on his lies and his outrageous statements. Even President Obama has complained about how the news media isn’t holding Donald accountable:
Donald Trump says stuff every day that used to be considered as disqualifying for being president. And yet because he says it over and over again, the press just gives up and then you say, well, yeah, you know, okay. They did stuff — I was opposed to the war in Iraq. Well, actually, he wasn't, but they just accept it.
Meanwhile, Donald launched into a fauxage when Hillary Clinton said that “half” of his supporters were in “a basket of deplorables”, something she said just before that line was “grossly generalistic”. When Donald’s fans started shrieking, Hillary did apologise—for the specificity of the term “half”. She also put it into context:
I was "grossly generalistic," and that's never a good idea. I regret saying "half"—that was wrong. But let's be clear, what's really "deplorable" is that Donald Trump hired a major advocate for the so-called "alt-right" movement to run his campaign and that David Duke and other white supremacists see him as a champion of their values. It's deplorable that Trump has built his campaign largely on prejudice and paranoia and given a national platform to hateful views and voices, including by retweeting fringe bigots with a few dozen followers and spreading their message to 11 million people. It's deplorable that he's attacked a federal judge for his "Mexican heritage," bullied a Gold Star family because of their Muslim faith, and promoted the lie that our first black President is not a true American. So I won't stop calling out bigotry and racist rhetoric in this campaign. I also meant what I said last night about empathy, and the very real challenges we face as a country where so many people have been left out and left behind. As I said, many of Trump's supporters are hard-working Americans who just don't feel like the economy or our political system are working for them. I'm determined to bring our country together and make our economy work for everyone, not just those at the top. Because we really are "stronger together."
Donald’s attack on Hillary Clinton over the “half” remark sounded awfully familiar to the Chicago Tribune’s Eric Zorn:
It was reminiscent of Trump's hyperbolic assessment of moderator Megyn Kelly's exchange with him at a Republican primary debate in the summer of 2015: "She had great anger when she was questioning me … she became very angry," he said, even though viewers plainly saw that Kelly was calm and measured when pressing Trump on remarks he'd made that were critical of women.
Donald, of course, also said about Kelly, "there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her… wherever", so he’s not exactly the best judge of other people, though he clearly enjoys smearing them.

It’s not just about Donald, either: The news media have also allowed Donald’s surrogates to lie that voters don’t want to see Donald’s tax returns when, in fact, they do.

So, where does this leave us? Will we ever get a hard look at Donald? Will journalists call him out on his lies, rather than let him get away with them? And what about the allegations of fraud and corruption against Donald—will they ignore all that so they can blather on and on about Hillary’s health or emails some more?

I’m not holding my breath for better journalism, however, maybe all this public shaming will finally get them to do their jobs. Maybe.

Why this matters: If the newsmedia don’t hold Donald accountable, if they don’t call him out on his lies, if the don’t keep the pressure on him about his promotion of white supremacists and other fringe extremists, and if they instead continue to give oxygen to Donald Inc.’s latest conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton’s health or other absurd allegations from the “alt-right” folks, then we will end up with President Donald.

Finally, other things I saw and forgot to share:

25 Logical Reasons to Vote for Donald Trump – Trust me, you’ll want to follow the link.

Donald Trump and His Family Are Profiting From His Campaign

The Rhetorical Tool That Allows Trump To Incite Violence Without ‘Inciting Violence’

Donald Trump Insult Generator – A quick and easy way to insult like Donald

Who Said It: Donald Trump or The Onion? – This is actually harder than you might think.

Letterbox democracy

I haven't directly shared things from Instagram on this blog—and I have no idea why I haven't. Since I've been spending so much effort merging all my "content", this seems like an oversight. I think it's time to change that.

When I publish a blog post with a photo I've also posted to Instragram, it's usually to illustrate what I'm talking about, and that makes sense. But sometimes, as with the "Nature photo a Day" series, I want to explain the photo in more detail, to tell the story of the photo itself. In that case, I could certainly embed the photo, as I have in this post. But there are other photos that I could share here to tell my story more fully.

I don't use Instagram all that much (in truth, I forget about it…), but it's a very convenient way to share a photo that briefly tells a story, and in a way I don't typically do on this blog. Yet that's precisely why I realised that I should share those photos here: They often capture "slice of life" details of what I'm doing that would be perfectly at home here on the blog, though possibly not in a full post.

So, starting today, from time to time I'll share my Instagram photos as I have below. Sometimes I'll say something about it, sometimes I won't, leaving the embedded description to tell the story (and the caption for this photo does tell the story, really). I've also added an "Instagram" tag for these posts.

Maybe this will make me remember to use Instagram a little more often when I'm out and about. We'll see—so to speak.

Bella’s new normal

Bella continues to do well, confounding everyone. We call her the healthiest sick cat around, and she is. In fact, in many ways she acts more like an elderly cat than a sick one. The prognosis hasn’t changed, but her journey is clearly her own.

When we received Bella’s diagnosis in mid-July, we really thought she probably had days, maybe a week or so at best. Bella had other ideas, however, and a week and a half later, she was doing well. She still is.

Over the past six weeks or so she’s continued to do well, with a few changes from her old self: She sleeps a lot, she’s a bit slower and less active, and she’s thinner. However, she’s put on a little weight over the past couple weeks or so—not back to where she was, but definitely healthier and not bony. One curious change is that she seems less willing to pose for photos, so I have to snap one while she's napping, or just waking up, as in the photo above.

Our attempt at giving her subcutaneous fluids was a disaster. We never got the hang of it, and by the third or fourth attempt she tried to get away from us, and she tried to attack me (I was holding her). We didn’t want that to be how she spent her last days, particularly when the vet said it would buy her only maybe a couple months. She’s already gone past that without the additional fluids.

Even so, Bella is still sick, and the days ahead of her are fewer than they should be. But, for now, she’s doing well, is happy and content, and is healthy (all things considered). Really, that’s not too much to ask for.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Ten years of the AmeriNZ Blog

Today is the tenth anniversary of the AmeriNZ Blog: I published my first post, “I live in a land downunder. No, the other one…” on September 13, 2006. After a decade of this, I could have lost interest, but apart from a few brief times, that hasn’t happened. And, even then, or after times in which I’ve been particularly busy with other things, I always eventually catch-up and carry on.

However, this is the first time I’ve mentioned this Blogoversary since 2013. Last year, it was overshadowed by the twentieth anniversary of my first arrival in New Zealand, and in 2014 I was busy with New Zealand’s election campaign. I accept those as valid reasons to miss talking about the anniversary.

This year I made a special effort to mark the anniversary, because ten years is a long time in Internet years. It’s the date that was the beginning of me engaging in what is now fashionably called “content creation”. A few months after this blog, I started the AmeriNZ Podcast (which will itself turn ten in a few months), the 2Political Podcast with my friend Jason, and my much neglected AmeriNZ YouTube Channel, among other things.

Over the years, I’ve struggled with questions of whether I should focus this blog more sharply, but I always came back to the fact that I’m a “magpie blogger”, as I talked about in that 2013 anniversary post, picking up on something Roger Green talked about. In the end, I realised that this is a personal blog, and my podcast and YouTube Channel are just other ways to tell stories, different aspects of the same thing.

For example, in 2013 I wrote about “The origins of AmeriNZ”, which explained where the name came from, and last year I created a video to explain it all visually (I’ve included that at the bottom of this post). Different ways to tell stories.

I explained the origins of this blog specifically back in 2010, but it was in 2008 that I changed the title header up top to the one I made. In 2012, I added a left sidebar with subject tags—after one of those times thinking about whether I should focus this blog more sharply—and that left me with a weird space at the right-hand side. I’d always planned on putting something there, then decided the blog was already too busy visually. But that space bugged me (sometimes…).

So, in celebration of the Tenth Anniversary of AmeriNZ Blog, I’ve updated the title header up top, and the welcome graphic in the upper right-hand corner (the true purpose of which is to be the default graphic for posts I share to Facebook and Google+ for those posts with no graphic or that have YouTube videos). It’s a small thing, but a thing nevertheless.

I have no idea if blogs will exist ten years from now, or whether I’ll still be doing one. Still, what I said at the end of my first post ten years ago today is still true: Pour yourself a cuppa, relax, and let’s see where this leads.

Thanks for joining me on the journey so far.

Previous posts on my blogoversaries:

Anniversay Time (2007)
Blogoversary 2 (2008)
Anniversaries Three and Fourteen (2009)
Fourth blogoversary (2010)
Fifth blogoversary (2011)
Sixth blogoversary (2012)
Seventh Blogoversary (2013)

Monday, September 12, 2016

21 years ago today

Twenty-one years ago today, I arrived in New Zealand as a tourist. It was, at the time, a very big deal, became less so, was forgotten for awhile, then became a “thing” again. This anniversary has had quite a life.

On September 12, 1995, I got off a United Airlines flight from Melbourne, and met Nigel in person for the first time. That’s part of what I said last year, and in many ways, it’s the most important part. Nigel and I got to know each other over the Internet—back when people just didn’t do that, certainly not meeting someone and moving to the other side of the planet. We took a giant leap of faith, though it didn’t seem like it at the time.

But because I later applied for permanent residency (and then, later still, citizenship), the New Zealand Government calculated my time in New Zealand from the date I first arrived in New Zealand: September 12, 1995.

While those changes to my legal status both eventually made this date unimportant, it was what happened back in the USA that really made me stop noticing for many years: September 12 in New Zealand is September 11 in the USA, and that day in 2001 casts a long shadow.

In fact, I only started observing it again, really, when I started blogging, and I’ve posted about it every year since (though at first I only mentioned it). Now, I joke that this marks the beginning of the Season of Anniversaries, something that exists more as a staple of this blog than an actual thing in my daily life.

As I often point out, November 2 has always been the important anniversary because that’s the date I arrived in New Zealand to stay, and we began our life together. Since then, we’ve had other “big days” to remember, too.

But because everything really began on this date in 1995, I think it’s worth remembering. And as long as I have a blog, I will.

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

Anniversay Time (2007)
Blogoversary 2 (2008)
Anniversaries Three and Fourteen (2009)
Where it began (2010)
Anniversary of the beginning (2011)
Another anniversary (2012)
18 years ago today (2013)
19 years ago today (2014)
Twenty years ago today (2015)