Monday, January 30, 2017

Chores day

Today is the Auckland Anniversary public holiday, so it was a day off—which is not to say it was a day without work. Today I painted the low retaining wall out in front of our house, and didn’t start another, bigger project. Even so, it’s an accomplishment.

We last painted the retaining wall several years ago—maybe six or seven, more? I honestly don’t remember. But it held up really well until recently when I had the deck and fences (and house, and roof…) washed. It removed some of the paint in areas where mould had been growing before I had the gardens cleared out (I had that done by the same guy).

There was also a part of the retaining wall that had never been painted because at the time we painted the rest, our spa pool was sitting in from of it, full, and it was just too tight to get in there. So, we never painted it.

The spa pool is empty at the moment, so we could move it out of the way and I was finally able to paint the parts that never had been. I also touched up the parts of the rest of the wall that needed it. Job done.

However, this was all complicated by a gout attack I’ve had going one for the past couple weeks (and, like the ongoing attack several weeks ago, it moves around, never the same joint for more than a couple days). In addition to pain and stiffness that made moving difficult, this attack has given me that flu-like feeling much of the time, and I don’t know anyone who would feel like painting when they have the flu.

At first I waited, hoping the attack would lift, but it’s become clear to me it’s not going anywhere any time soon. So, I needed to just take a deep breath and do the work, anyway—except the rotten summer weather has made that extremely difficult, regardless of how I’m feeling. There have been many rainy, sometimes stormy, days, and when it stopped, I needed to wait for things to dry out—only to have more rain settle in.

This weekend, however, was supposed to be sunny and dry (and it was!), so I wanted to paint the retaining walls and the deck itself. I didn’t feel up to it Saturday. Or Sunday, either. That left today, and even though I was feeling particularly yucky today, I decided to do it anyway.

The photo up top was part of my preparation, and the photo montage below is of my painting job. For some reason, it never occurred to me to take full “before” and “after” photos. Oops.

It took me longer than it should have, probably, mostly because I had a little trouble moving, but when I finally got to the painting, I felt fine. I actually kind of enjoy painting small projects where I can sit down, where I can just do the work and zone out. It was warm, and the area I was painting was in the shade by then, so it was actually pleasant.

Unfortunately, I didn’t even start work on re-staining the deck itself, something I originally wanted to finish this weekend. I actually don’t mind because I remembered that the guy doing the work on the house hasn't washed one wall of the house, nor the deck next to it, and both need to be done (especially the latter) before I can stain that part of the deck. He’s due back on Wednesday.

This week, I hope to finally finish this project once and for all (there’s not much left for the guy to do). Then, if the weather holds, I’ll do the cutting in on the deck so I can start staining on Friday—again, assuming the weather holds. Otherwise, maybe this coming weekend, which is another 3-day holiday weekend.

Through this whole experience, I’ve learned two things. First, it’s important to just roll with it when there are obstacles or unexpected delays. Second, there are times when it’s a really good idea to hire people to do jobs. I couldn’t have washed the roof (I’m terrified of heights, far more so than when I was younger), but I also realised once I saw the huge pile of garden debris that clearing it would have been too much for me.

The painting, however, is a low-skill thing I can do, and weather and my body permitting, I’ll get that done. But there are times when it pays even to have those sorts of things done.

I wanted all this work done a week ago, but, due to the various delays, I changed that deadline to this weekend. I realise now that I did what was possible at the moment, and hopefully by this time next week, it’ll all be done. Fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, I’m really tired—overall, and specific parts, like may painting hand and arm. It’ll definitely be an early night tonight.

The next two days are “inside” days, with some tidying to do before I head back outside, hopefully, on Thursday. Stay tuned: Like so much else I do, I’m sure that will be documented, too.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Nap spot

It’s Auckland Anniversary Weekend—a holiday weekend in the upper North Island—and that made today, the halfway point, a quiet day. Tomorrow will busy with some projects around the house to be completed, but today was mostly about relaxing. Bella agreed.

This evening I sat on the sofa to read a bit, with Jake on one side, Sunny on the other, and then Bella decided to jump on me for a snooze. I snapped a photo of her (above), while she drifted off to sleep, purring away. It was nice.

Such quiet, undemanding times are perfect for a holiday weekend, the middle of one in particular. Tomorrow will probably be busier, weather permitting, but I bet there will still be a sleeping cat on my lap at some point or other. That would make tomorrow perfect, too.

Something Democrats get right

In my previous post, I was harsh in my criticism of feckless leadership of the Democratic Party. In short, I think they need to do more to stand up to Don and to lay bare how much of an extremist Don is, how he is utterly out of step with the majority of Americans. However, sometimes they do get it right, and the graphic above is only one example of that.

I get emails every day from the Democratic National Committee, and a few times a week, maybe, I get ones with bold graphics, like that above. They’re clear, to the point in a visually compelling. One such graphic a few days ago was aimed at the Republican leadership in Congress and had a rolling display, like credits in a movie, of things the money to build Don’s wall would be better spent on (unfortunately, I need to assemble the email graphics into one suitable for posting, and adding an animated part of a graphic would be too time-consuming to reproduce).

In the case of the graphic above, the DNC makes the point that Don’s Muslim ban is disgraceful and un-American—which it absolutely is. The bold, dark ominous colours suggest the threat and danger in Don’s policy without diluting the message verbally. Similarly, the three photos of Don out of phase suggest Don’s unstable mercurial nature, where one never knows from moment to moment what he’ll say or do—or lie about—next.

The main purpose of the graphic is to try to activate Democrats and supporters of the Democratic Party, which is a worthy goal on its own: An effective opposition (or, resistance…) is more powerful and successful the more popular support it has. The link in the email goes to a page on the DNC site where people can add their name to those opposing the Muslim Ban. Obviously, newcomers will be added to the DNC email list, as all such actions do regardless of party, and those already on the list will probably be marked as active.

But getting people to add their names to the list, while good and important, isn’t the main thing I’m praising here: It’s that the DNC is using clear messaging to present a simple message and a simple, no-effort action that anyone can do—both of which are absolutely central to the modern political ethos in the Internet Age. At the same time, the visuals also help wordlessly reinforce DNC messaging. Put another way, the DNC gets it, and that should be a source of hope for all of us who oppose Don and his regime.

Now, if the party could just get some strong, effective leadership, we’d be in a stronger position to stand up to Don’s tyranny. Even so, it’s good to stop and look at what’s positive and what’s being done right, and the DNC messaging is very good.

Democrats need to fight

What the hell is wrong with the Democratic Party? They totally underestimated Don, and the Orange Menace became the titular president. The majority of Americans did NOT vote for Don, and, perhaps most importantly, the positions of Democrats are supported by the majority of Americans. Then why the hell are Democrats being such weak cowards?

As the video above from Ezra Klein of Vox points out, Don has no intention of being anything other than a radical president pandering to the minority who voted for him. He hasn’t reached out to Democrats, he has done absolutely nothing to calm the fear—terror, even—of those who voted against him or who oppose his politics.

So, why aren’t Democrats capitalising on that? Sen. Cory Booker took the highly unusual step of testifying against the fellow US Senator nominated for a presidential cabinet position, the Republican junior senator from Alabama, Jefferson Beauregard "Jeff" Sessions III. Apart from that—which was criticised by folks in the Democratic Party establishment—there has been mostly silence and surrender from Democrats.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren not only voted to confirm the wildly and spectacularly unqualified Ben “Mumbles” Carson, she actually defended her vote. She said, in essence, that had she not, Don would have named someone even worse, and perhaps that’s true. But why is half as bad a "good" thing?

It’s true that Carson was not the biggest or most important battle—there are so many “bigger fish” to defeat. And it’s also true that some Democrats, like Sen. Al Franken, Rep. John Lewis, and Rep. Luis Gutiértez, among others, are holding nominees’ feet to the fire and fighting back. But there’s no counter narrative, there’s not even an attempt to get the message out that the Democrats represent the positions of the majority of Americans, and that Don emphatically does not.

This reminds me of the worst years of the Bush/Cheney regime, that time immediately after 9/11, when Democrats—again, with a few exceptions—decided they would stay silent. Theirs, like Warren’s, was a politically-motivated decision, aimed mostly at preserving their position or, perhaps like Warren, to keep their powder dry for other battles.

But this is not like anything we’ve ever seen before. The old rules are gone, a new reality is in place, and Democrats need to wake up to what is happening. They need to oppose Don and the Republican gang whenever they try to ram through things to advance the interests of the minority they represent.

In the highly unlikely event that Don and his gang ever do anything mainstream, then Democrats should absolutely work with him—not that he’ll ever do anything of the kind, of course.

And therein is a strategy that even Establishment Democrats can embrace: Call Don’s bluffs. Repeatedly, and with vigour. Force him to act for ALL Americans or, as will always be the case and he acts only for his minority, the difference will be stark and obvious to mainstream Americans.

This has already started to happen a little bit. Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Leader in the US Senate, is proposing a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. In the campaign, Don talked about infrastructure and said he’d fix things. Instead, the tax incentives he’s proposed will only help the oligarchs and plutocrats get richer and provide little or no actual improvement. The plan from the Democrats, on the other hand, will actually repair vital but crumbling infrastructure.

But I don’t hold out hope that Democrats will suddenly become the fierce warriors I think they should be—maybe after the 2018 midterms, if a new generation of tougher Democrats are elected and pushes the old guard to the side. But, in the meantime, the party’s leaders have shown no inclination to fight Don’s agenda. Hell, the party can’t even be bothered to hurry up and name a leader of the Democratic National Committee, so the party has no leaders outside of Congress, either.

Democrats, regardless of whether they call Don’s bluffs or fight him, probably can’t force him to work on behalf of all Americans. But they might just manage to make it clear that Don will only pander to the minority who voted for him, and that he only cares about the oligarchs and plutocrats like himself.

Times have changed. It’s about time Democrats realised that—they need to fight.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

On the table

The photo above is of a tabletop in the foodcourt at Glenfield Mall, here on Auckland’s North Shore. All the tables have ads for one thing or another—shops, products, cellphone companies, fast food, and this one (among others). It’s seen by a captive audience, but it offers something useful, and I think it’s a really good thing.

The ad is from the Kaipātiki Community Facilities Trust (KCFT) promoting Youth Hub, “a free online platform to empower young people and to bridge the gap between education and employment”. It’s supported by KCFT as part of their Jobs4Youth programme, part of what KCFT does to help the community grow and do well.

Youth unemployment is a problem in many countries, including New Zealand. According to Statistics New Zealand, the country’s overall unemployment rate in the September Quarter, the most recent available, was 4.9%. But in the same quarter, the unemployment rate for 15-19 year olds was 19.7%. Now, one might correctly point out that most of that age group would be in school, but for 20-24 year olds, it was 9.2%—more than double the national rate. Most of them would not be in study. And, for those 25-29 the unemployment rate was still 6.2%. Clearly there is much work to do.

Ethnicity is a factor, too, as it is in most developed countries: The overall unemployment rate for people of European ancestry was 3.6%, while for Māori it was 10.6% and for Pacific Peoples it was 10.1%. Māori and Pacific youth similarly have higher unemployment rates than European youth do.

There are a lot of reasons for this, including New Zealand’s slow recovery form the Global Financial Crisis and also a government led by the right of centre National Party that doesn’t worry about workers’ needs and led by a Prime Minister who as Finance Minister said some years ago that low wages in New Zealand was “a way of competing”. Against that mindset, it seems unlikely that much of anything can improve without a change of government later this year.

But is there anything to be done, regardless? Yes: Community and charitable organisations and local government are working to fill the void left by an inattentive central government. This is a very good thing, though without a broader national strategy involving education, healthcare, and the business sector, it’s unlikely there can be any nationwide improvement.

Meanwhile, here in Kaipātiki, at least, there's a greater attention to the needs of youth than is found in other parts of Auckland, and Auckland is more focused on the issues than many other areas of the country. It’s a good start—which is exactly what our youth really need.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Worth quoting: Robert Reich

Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration and now Professor of Public Policy at University of California at Berkeley, posted this today on his Facebook Page:
Some of Trump’s lies are more dangerous than others. Today, White House press secretary Sean Spicer reiterated that Trump believes millions of undocumented immigrants voted in the presidential election. Trump has “stated his concern of voter fraud and people voting illegally during the campaign and continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence people have brought to him." Pressed for evidence, Spicer said Trump’s view is “based on studies and information he has."

But there are no such studies or evidence.

Trump repeated the same allegation of massive voter fraud yesterday at a meeting with Congressional leaders.

This particular lie is especially dangerous because it plants in the public’s mind a concern about voter fraud, which he and Republicans will use to legitimize more draconian voter ID requirements, more demands that foreign-born citizens prove their citizenship before voting, and more procedural limits on voting – all designed to suppress the votes of likely Democratic voters in 2018 and beyond.

The media must fight back, demanding evidence. Democratic leaders who happen to be in Trump’s presence when he makes this claim must dispute them. We all have an obligation to spread the truth.
I completely agree with Robert Reich about this. It seems to me that what Don is trying to do is, first, assert his legitimacy. This has to do with his massive ego, because as someone with severe narcissistic personality disorder, he simply cannot tolerate any negative views of him or evidence that he’s not “the best”. The fact that Don lost the popular votes by nearly 3 million upsets him, so he lies about it in order to feel better about himself and to restore his delusional self-belief in his own perfection and superiority.

The second reason he does this is more sinister: He’s trying to undermine and delegitimise democracy itself. Throughout the campaign, he made constant and repeated incendiary and false statements about election “fraud”, declaring the election was “rigged”. Observers took that to mean he expected to lose, and so, was setting the state for his next self-promotion campaign post-election.

I disagree.

I think the reason he lied back then, and the reason he’s lying now, is to weaken people’s faith in democracy. Also, his constant lies about things we all know and can easily check are about undermining people’s faith in newsmedia and even facts themselves. In so doing, facts become what he says they are, truth is what he declares it to be, and democracy is what promotes him and the interests of the oligarchs and plutocrats, and anything that stands in the way is anti-democracy.

Don and his gang are setting the stage for authoritarian rule, where they control everything, including people’s memories and beliefs. He wants people to truly love Big Brother*, and the only way to do that is to delegitimise democracy and everything that makes it possible.

His lie about the election is stupid for being so utterly, completely and demonstrably false, but that doesn’t matter to him. His goal isn’t to be believed, it’s to become loved like Big Brother. The real question is, will the Republican Party let him get away with it?

It’s become evident that George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four will become a constant reference point for however long Don is in office.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Eight years later

Today is the anniversary of our civil union. You could say we had our wedding in 2009, but weren’t actually married until 2013. That delay wasn’t because of bureaucracy, but because of government: We had to wait for politicians to make marriage a reality for us, too.

We were married only a couple months after marriage equality became law. On the other hand, we’d waited several years before getting a civil union. Since our marriage, the anniversary of our civil union has become kind of neglected. We don’t do anything special for it (unless you count my annual blog post) because we pay more attention to the anniversary of when we were married. Maybe that was inevitable.

But I mark the occasion every year, and for a whole lot of reasons. It was a special day, one well worth remembering for its own sake. And, besides, it was one of the hottest days we’d ever had—who could forget THAT?! We all still talk about that, and we remember.

This date eight years ago was very special at the time. To me, the fact we were later married doesn’t change the importance of our civil union, it reinforces it precisely because it built on that day and the memories we made. It all just kind of flows.

And so, I’ll keep remembering it because it mattered, and still does.

Happy anniversary to us!

This now concludes the 2016-17 “Season of Anniversaries”. The blog now resumes normal content provision.


2009: Perfect Day – where it began
2010: One and Fifteen
2011: Second Anniversary, squared
2012: Three years ago today
2013: Fourth Anniversary
2014: An anniversary
2015: Anniversaries
2016: A seventh Anniversary

A slinking visitor

The Instagram photo above is of a small visitor to our deck: A skink. New Zealand only has two kinds of lizards, geckos and skinks, so it’s not that surprising that I hadn’t seen one before. So, it was special and kind of fun.

New Zealand has several native species of skinks, and an introduced species from Australia called the "Plague Skink". I wasn’t able to work out which species visited us, and it may even have been a juvenile, which would have made it harder to identify. I don’t know enough about reptiles to even hazard a guess, let alone identify the visitor correctly.

I’m glad that New Zealand’s reptile population does NOT include snakes—I hate snakes. But it would be nice if the skinks visited every now and then. But, then, clearly there’s a first time for everything.

Unexpected disruption

It’s not uncommon for plans to be interrupted—derailed, even—nor for things to pop up unexpectedly. Sometimes, something we think we’ve taken care of reappears and is responsible, in part, for the derailment. Over the past week I’ve experienced all that.

It began, really, last week when a guy I’d hired to clear our section, as wells as wash the house and deck, started working on the project. I’d started work on it and realised it was too big for me, having been neglected for a couple years due to my undiagnosed health problems. Even at the end of the first day, when I saw the enormous pile of overgrown vegetation he’d removed, I knew I’d made the right call in hiring someone.

However, the weather turned later in the week, which made getting up on the roof to wash it (and remove the moss and lichens growing on it) was too dangerous. So, he did the best he could at ground level, but even that reached its limit.

So, we began this week a bit behind, especially because the weather yesterday continued bad. All the wetness meant I couldn’t re-paint the low retaining walls in our front garden, and I couldn’t re-stain the deck.

The weather wasn’t the only unpredictable problem, I also had a very unexpected one: I got a gout attack.

Back in November, I started taking allopurinol to prevent gout attacks. As is always the case, I began with the lowest possible dose, and for the most part it’s been effective: Any minor twinges I felt were gone the next day or after popping a couple paracetamol. So, an actual attack came as a surprise.

It began on Thursday in my right foot, then in the other, sort of at the same time as the first one, which was waning. Then, Saturday it became a full-on attack in my left foot. It was so bad Sunday night that I barely slept. ANY pressure on my foot, even a lightweight blanket, sent me spasms of pain, something that I don’t think has happened to me since my very first attack 15 years ago.

Yesterday, I doubled my intake of cherry pills, just as I did months ago to end my attacks so I could go on the allopurinol. As a result (or, not… my experience is not proof, as I discussed last month), the attack is finally receding. I was able to wear shoes today for the first time since Friday. At this rate, it’ll be over in a day or two.

All that has put this project behind schedule—not dramatically, just behind. But it also affected even blogging because I felt miserable and couldn’t really concentrate—and I DID try! Now, maybe things will return to normal.

Whatever happens with my affliction or the weather, my current project will get done at some point. And, some future project will also be interrupted unexpectedly. It’s just the way things are.

But I could certainly do without another gout attack.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A birthday was had

What on earth is a birthday but a legitimate opportunity for a selfie?! Yesterday I posted a selfie of me on my last day at 57, and today I repeat the favour (above) on my first day at 58. This should become an annual tradition. Clearly.

My birthday celebrations actually began yesterday when our niece and her fiancé joined us for a pizza dinner last night. They gave me a sampling of American treats (below). I won’t have them all at the same time, of course, and haven’t had any yet, actually. But, I will.

Tonight, my sister-in-law and her partner joined us for a BBQ dinner. Even after 20+ years in New Zealand, a BBQ in January is still quite exotic. It was yummy, even though I had to defend my affinity for A1 Steak Sauce. For the record, I declared no defence was necessary, that I was right regardless of what others might think. Birthday Boy prerogative.

And that was my wonderfully low-key birthday celebration. After a significant year, this was a very welcome thing.

Today has been an awesome day, really.

The annual increasing number: 58

As always, this birthday is a sort of personal new year, a chance to reflect on my personal year just past, and look toward my personal year now beginning. There are things coming I can’t comment on, but so much past that I MUST talk about. This has been an unusual year.

This past year I had my cardiac stent done, and that saved my life. I don’t believe in mushing about with mealy-mouthed words when simple ones can better convey the truth: If I hadn’t had that procedure, sooner or later—possibly sooner rather than later—I would have died. The fact the doctors caught and treated my illness is a testament to the power of medicine and of socialised healthcare, both of which are the reason I’m still here to talk about this.

My healthcare adventure casts a long shadow over my year. It isn’t just the thought of what might have happened, but also what is now possible because doctors did what needed to be done—and I had NO bill for that healthcare.

The fact I’m alive, in better health, and likely to continue both is central to everything right now: I’m able to do more, and to plan for more, because of what I’ve been through. At the same time, I’m FAR less willing to put up with bullshit than I used to be—probably because I’m acutely aware of how fragile and short life is.

All of which has led me to leave politics behind. My politics are as passionate as ever, but I no longer see any point in giving my energy to efforts that don’t advance ME: Having a close call has reminded me that this is no dress rehearsal, and if something is painful or too negative in any way, I must cast it aside. And so I have.

So, last year was difficult, but it led me to a much better place, and a much better place leading to the future. How can that be bad?

As always, my Nigel, family and friends are what gives me strength, what keeps me moving ever forward. Without them, I would be lost.

What I said last year is even more true this year: “Even now, as the years pile up, and even after a few too many recent reminders of how short life really is, I’m excited about the road ahead. Always forward. Always.”

The Illinois Route 58 sign is a public domain graphic available from Wikimedia Commons. I’ve driven on that road MANY times.

My Previous Birthday posts:

2016: The annual increasing number: 57
2015: The annual increasing number: 56
2014: The annual increasing number: 55
2013: The annual increasing number: 54
2012: The annual increasing number
2011: The annual increasing number
2010: The annual increasing number
2009: Happy Birthday to Me…
2008: Another Birthday

Friday, January 20, 2017

Birthday eve

Today is my “birthday eve”, the day before my birthday. So, I decided to take a selfie, as one does, to commemorate the last day I’m at this age. Because, well, I could.

I’d gone outside to sweep up some leaves that had fallen on the deck (damn olive trees…), and realised that my previous such selfie was taken under similar circumstances—exactly a month ago. This time, I was wearing a baseball-style cap, something I don’t do because I don’t like how I look in them. I bought this cap the same time as the other hat I photographed myself in (along with several other caps) with the idea I should just make myself get used to them because any hat is better than no hat. And, for what it’s worth, I was outside for maybe 15 minutes, since the deck is mostly clean.

At the time I was doing all this, it was 24 at our house (75.2F), and quite possibly not the high of the day. But it was warm enough after such a cool, even cold, summer.

I mentioned that in my latest AmeriNZ Podcast, which I recorded right after I shared the above photo on Instagram. After that, I carried on with my Friday chores, before later editing the podcast and posting it.

This evening we had Sal’s Pizza with our niece and her fiancé, since they have other plans for dinner tomorrow. So, I get both pizza and a BBQ for my birthday, so I definitely win.

And if my Birthday Eve is this good, the actual day is bound to be even better!

Before the nightmare begins

In a few hours, the Orange Menace will assume the title of US President. While that will be illegitimate for a whole lot of reasons, the issue isn’t that event itself but, rather, what happens later. There are things that are known, many that are likely, and a few more that can be guessed. So, let’s make some predictions.

Don will raise his tiny hand to repeat the oath (the other hand, no doubt, behind his back, with his fingers crossed…) and will do so with historically low approval ratings. My first prediction is that he’s likely to get a post-inauguration “bounce” in the polls, but that will end up being his high point, as his rating fall, probably to never before seen depths of disapproval.

We know this because more people voted against him than voted for him, so he starts out with a very high percentage of Americans suspicious of him. He also will go back on his campaign promises every single day, and it’s inevitable that the people he suckered into voting for him will turn on him. So, he only has falling poll ratings to look forward to.

Assisting in creating his historic levels of disapproval will be the controversies that will dog him from the second the Chief Justice congratulates him. He will be instantly impeachable for his many conflicts of interest and his income from foreign sources, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t try to take advantage of his position to make himself richer. That’s corruption.

Moreover, there are continuing questions about the extent to which he and his campaign colluded (or possibly conspired) with the Russian Government to subvert American democracy to win an election he otherwise couldn’t. If he did collude with Putin, that’s treason.

Because of all of this, my next major prediction is that Don will resign within 18 months. That’s because with poll ratings falling dramatically, Republicans will want him out in order to try and keep control of the US Congress. They’ll also want their real choice, Mike Pence, to have more than two years to bed in before the next presidential election.

So, Don will use a typical failure’s excuse and say something about how he wants to spend more time with his family or something like that, and quit. If he doesn’t quit, Republicans will impeach him and remove him from office in the interest of self-preservation.

If Don quits or is removed from office, Pence will become president—it is the only way he could ever get to that office, due to his extreme far-right radicalism, much of which was devoted to turning the USA into a fundamentalist Christian theocracy.

However, if Don is undone by collusion with the Russians, then Pence will be, too, and both will have to resign or be impeached. In that case, the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, will become president. If that happens, millions of Americans of all political stripes will breathe a sigh of relief, because while Ryan has his own radical ideas, he’s also a pragmatist and wouldn’t be a “damn the torpedoes” sort of radical president like Pence would be.

The reality is that if Pence becomes president because Don quits, and especially if it’s because he was removed from office, then he will be a mere caretaker, doing the titular duties until a real president can be elected in 2020. Don would be so unpopular upon exiting that it would be nearly impossible for Pence to be able to win election in his own right. That means that Republicans in Congress are unlikely to help Pence pursue his radical agenda, preferring to be seen as opposing him.

The bottom line is that Don won’t make it to the midterm elections because he’ll do too much harm to the Republican Party for them to risk it.

However, there’s also the real possibility that health will remove Don from office. The issue here is actuarial tables, that a man of his age can be expected to have health problems. One of those health problems could be severe enough to force him to step down. Or, he could just claim that’s what it is.

Whatever the cause of his exit, I still predict that Don will be gone within 18 months, 20 at most. If he hangs on beyond that, then Republicans can kiss goodbye to one or both houses of Congress. If he lasts past the midterms, whoever the Republican candidate is in 2020 will lose in a landslide, and Democrats will gain a massive majority in both houses of Congress.

Don is unique in US history, not just for being the most unqualified person ever to be sworn in, but also for being an illegitimate president who should not be sworn in (but will be anyway). As his poll ratings nosedive, Republicans will distance themselves from him, then throw him under the bus, and no amount of late night belligerent Tweets can save him. And that’s a very, very good thing.

AmeriNZ Podcast 326 Summertime' now available

A new AmeriNZ Podcast episode, “AmeriNZ 326 – Summertime” is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast.

This is just a short episode to ease into the new year, a bit of a catch up to start things out.

A day of no significance

Today is January 20, a date that has no particular significance for New Zealand, but one that does for the USA—tomorrow, when it arrives there. What is an American expat in New Zealand to make of all this? Ultimately, that’s down to individual choice, timezones having a lot to do with it.

The US President is sworn in at noon on January 20 following the November elections (following ratification of the 20th Amendment to the US Constitution). That falls at 6am January 21 in New Zealand, and isn't exactly a convenient time to watch the hoopla if we’re so inclined. On weekdays, it often falls when we’re getting ready for work, and when it falls on a weekend—well, many of us prefer to sleep later.

For me, of course, there’s the fact that, due to those timezones, January 20 in the USA is January 21 here, and that’s my birthday. So, that’s what I always focus on—not the events in the USA. In fact, in the 20+ years I’ve lived in New Zealand, I know for sure that I watched the inauguration in 2009 (I also know that I didn’t watch it live in 2013), thanks to this blog. So, the fact I won’t be watching the hoopla on Saturday (our time…) doesn’t actually mean anything: I usually don’t watch.

There are many people who have chosen to avoid watching, and if there was a choice to make, I wouldn’t either, on principle. The events happen whether anyone watches or not, and if we choose to ignore the events it changes nothing. But it is a small way we can stand by out principles if we so choose.

I have absolutely no problem with anyone refusing to watch, and that applies to all presidents in all years, regardless of a person’s ideology, motivation for not watching, etc. Watching or not really is a matter of individual choice, and people have to have that right without being harangued for the choice they made.

Even though people have the right to make their choices, that doesn’t mean that the choice won’t be mocked. The other side avoided President Obama’s inaugurations, and were derided for it. Now, the other side will return the favour and deride any of us who boycott Don’s show. And so it goes—always.

I decided to exploit use the hoopla tomorrow as a way to promote New Zealand wine, books, films, and music. That “tongue-firmly-in-cheek post” offered to “share” my birthday celebrations by providing distractions that people avoiding the show in DC might want to try. It was all a bit of light-hearted fun at the (mild) expense of my fellow centre-left folks, while also promoting “some of the things I love most about New Zealand”. I doubt that anyone will take me up on my specific offer, but maybe someone, some time, might look into the things I mentioned. That’d be nice.

So, I won’t be watching the hoopla tomorrow, neither live nor later on. While I have zero interest in Don or his show, and I also reject both, that’s not why I won't watch. I seldom ever watch it live, and for a very good reason: The timezones that put it at such an inconvenient time also place it on my birthday, and I want to focus on that. This year in particular fun and positive things matter a lot.

After tomorrow, there’ll be days I have to take what’s happening in my homeland seriously, but tomorrow isn’t one of those days, and it never is. It’s my birthday tomorrow, and it’s the only thing about the day that has any significance to me. You’re still welcome to join in—fun times always trump, so to speak, bad times.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

At the car wash, yeah

A video posted by arthur_amerinz (@arthur_amerinz) on

This is a first all around: It’s the first time I’ve posted a video to Instagram, so it’s also the first time I’ve tried sharing one on this blog. It’s a simple subject: I needed to wash the car today, and this was a few seconds of that fun.

The reason I had to wash the car in the first place—as opposed to just normal car maintenance or whatever—is that I’m having a guy do some work around the house—tidying the gardens and washing the house (about which, more in a couple days), and I neglected to move my care, and so, it was covered with dust and such from the work. Oops. I knew better, too.

Still, my car was due for a wash—the last one was before Christmas—so it was needed, anyway. And when he comes tomorrow to finish the work, I’ll park my car on the street. Prudence, and all that.
Of course, part of the reason I’m sharing this at all is that if this works, I can share more short videos in the future. If not—well, I suppose one can always watch it on Instagram.

At the very least, my car is clean.

Footnote: The title, as some will know, is from the song “Car Wash” by Rose Royce, and the theme of the 1976 film of the same name. See also this:

Monday, January 16, 2017

I’m willing to share

I’m aware that many of my friends in the USA are determined to avoid the hoopla on January 20 USA time when Don’s regime begins. Not everyone will be taking part in protests, and need something constructive to do. Toward that end, I’m willing to share my birthday celebration.

Because of timezones, January 21 here—my birthday—is January 20 in the USA. That day I’ll be focused entirely being the birthday boy, and far too busy to take any notice of what happens in Washington, DC. So, it occurred to me, why not share this as something for others to focus on?

Obviously, I’m not seriously suggesting that everyone actually celebrate my birthday, however, everyone can still play along. Think of it as an “Experience a Bit of Arthur’s World Day”. Here are some suggestions.

Drink New Zealand wine. Any excuse is a good one for drinking New Zealand wine. Although, since the actual swearing in part will be at 6am NZ time, it may be a bit early for me, there’s no reason others can’t enjoy it—especially since it may help one get through the day. New Zealand is particularly known for its sauvignon blanc and its pinot noir, but I also quite like New Zealand pinot gris (known as pinot grigio in other countries; although there is a difference between the two, and NZ pinot gris is mostly similar to pinot grigio), which is becoming popular and known overseas, too.

Read a New Zealand author. There are so many to choose from—far too many for me to list, but others have done so. Goodreads has a list of “Books By New Zealand Authors” along with user ratings of the books, which may be useful. Or not. Wikipedia has a plain list of New Zealand authors, which is probably not that useful. To find out more about any particular author, the New Zealand Book Council offers what it describes as “the most comprehensive collection of information about New Zealand writers on the Internet”, in searchable (and surprisingly frank) listings about New Zealand writers.

Something to watch. Okay, maybe reading New Zealand authors after having some New Zealand wine might be a bit difficult, so how about some New Zealand movies? NZ Onscreen has snippets about the “Top 10 NZ Feature Films”—in their opinion, and, no, neither the Lord of the Rings nor Hobbit movies are on the list. The last three on this list are relatively recent, and Once Were Warriors is a brutal and honest film about life among urban Māori in the early 1990s. People still talk about—and debate—the film. But Whale Rider and Boy, which also cover the modern Māori experience, may be more, um, accessible. I’d also add What We Do in the Shadows, a horror/comedy from the guys in Flight of the Conchords. It was directed by Taika Waititi, who directed Boy, and Jermaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords.

Similarly, IMDb has a listing of “The 20 Greatest New Zealand Films of all Time”, though not all are actually New Zealand films—they were made by New Zealanders or in New Zealand. Wikipedia has a long list of New Zealand films which also is made up of movies “produced or filmed in New Zealand”, so it includes the Rings and Hobbit movies, among others.

Maybe just listen. Okay, okay, after a few more glasses of a nice New Zealand wine, even a movie may be too challenging, so how about some NZ pop songs to listen to? The Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) has produced a list of what they say are the “Top 100 New Zealand Songs of All Time”. We actually own them on CDs of the artists, and also through CDs put out by APRA called Nature’s Best. Interested in more recent music? How about the “Official NZ Music Charts” listing of the Top 20 NZ singles. Let’s make it easy: You can even listen to the official chart on Spotify.

Those are just a few things anyone can do to play along on my birthday, and also avoid the events in Washington, DC. It’s a win/win, in other words. What can I say? I’m a giver.

Have fun!

Footnote: I really shouldn’t need to say this, but, this is a tongue-firmly-in-cheek post. I’m taking advantage of the convergence of my birthday and the hoopla happening at the same time in Washington, DC, which people really are looking to avoid, in order to promote some of the things I love most about New Zealand. And, who knows? Depending on how the next couple years go, some Americans may find the stuff in this post a sort of preparation for a move to New Zealand…

2Political Podcast 121 is available

We’re back!!
Episode 121 of the 2Political Podcast
is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast, or leave comments on the episode. The five most recent episodes are also listed with links in the right sidebar of this blog.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Helpful neighbours

The photo with this post probably looks familiar. Over the years, I’ve shared many like it on this blog or through social media. But, I didn’t take this photo, and I found it by accident. Yes, there’s a story.

Yesterday I was checking Facebook, as one does, and among my notifications was one about a post to the Facebook Group for our local community. Nothing unusual in that, though I usually get the notifications about a day after the post was made, so I don’t see them in a timely manner.

So I went to check out the post to the group to see what the replies were, and then I scrolled down the page, as I usually do, to see what else had been posted since the last time I’d checked the group. A few scrolls down and I saw the photo. “That looks like Bella,” I thought to myself, and I remembered several of my photos of her that look virtually identical, most of which haven’t been shared.

Then I read the post.

The person who posted it asked, “Does anyone know this cat?”, and then added she’d been visiting for a few days, and was worried that she had no home and was staying out all night. I sent a private message to the person who posted it after a little “Facebook stalking” confirmed what I suspected, that she was a neighbour. I went over and collected Bella, brought her home and fed her, and she went out again—I assume back to their house.

This isn’t unusual behaviour for Bella, and she often fixates on one area to sleep for a few days or so before moving on. At other times she’d been in the common area out front, in front of a different neighbour’s house, or somewhere on our section, among other places. It’s a little unusual for her to stay away most of the day, as she has the past couple days, but certainly not unheard of.

I’m glad our neighbour cared enough about animals to ask if anyone in the area knew who Bella belonged to, and wanted to make sure she was looked after. The fact that she took to Facebook is a sign of the times, as is the fact that I saw it there. In fact, the only thing that’s unusual is that had I not gone to the group to check out an unrelated post, I may never have seen it.

What I haven’t mentioned is that until yesterday I’d never met the neighbours. They’ve lived there for some time, and I’ve caught glimpses of them, but never really even seen them. That meant there was never an opportunity to say hello and introduce myself, and these days no one goes out of their way to introduce themselves to their neighbours, anyway—and they haven’t for a very long time. So, even this aspect—that we’d never met the neighbours—isn’t in any way unusual.

But putting all that modernity aside, the important thing here is that people are as kind and decent as they’ve always been, and they still want to look out for what are clearly other people’s pets and to make sure they’re well. Those are good things. Had we known each other, it wouldn't have unfolded the way it did, so the modern norm of not knowing one’s neighbours was a problem. But another modern thing—use of Facebook—came through.

So, I’m glad that our neighbours are kind and caring, and even that Facebook gave me a reason to introduce myself. Sometimes, our modern systems can fix other problems changing times have created. This was one of those times.

Meanwhile, Bella probably went back over there today.

The very first photo of Bella that I shared on this blog back in 2010 was taken on our deck. Another photo I posted in 2012 was in a similar position to the neighbour’s photo, and one from last year, while very different, as a similar pose. Apparently, this is standard for taking photos of her.

Friday, January 13, 2017

President Obama Awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Vice President Biden

In a surprise move, President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Vice President Joe Biden. It was a well-deserved honour, and I wholeheartedly approve. Joe is thoroughly decent fellow, and, it’s pretty clear, has had an outstanding working partnership with President Obama.

I met Joe Biden once, decades ago, as I wrote about back in 2008. Even then I saw how decent he was—even though at that time we were in different parties.

Over the years, I grew to admire Joe as a US Senator. He was tenacious in fighting the good fight, never giving up.

As Vice President, Joe Biden has been great. Able to speak more freely than President Obama could, he sometimes cleared the are and swept away the bullshit that tends to pile up in Washington, DC.

So, I think he deserved this honour, more than any other vice president of my lifetime. I’m glad he was honoured in this way.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

President Obama’s Farewell Address to the American People

Adapted from the description:

President Obama delivered his farewell address to the American people, where he thanked his supporters, celebrated the ways we have changed this country for the better these past eight years, and offered his vision on where we all go from here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

John Kerry apologises to LGBT people

Today US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a formal apology for the State Department’s years of open discrimination and persecution of LGBT people:
Throughout my career, including as Secretary of State, I have stood strongly in support of the LGBTI community, recognizing that respect for human rights must include respect for all individuals. LGBTI employees serve as proud members of the State Department and valued colleagues dedicated to the service of our country. For the past several years, the Department has pressed for the families of LGBTI officers to have the same protections overseas as families of other officers. In 2015, to further promote LGBTI rights throughout the world, I appointed the first ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons.

In the past – as far back as the 1940s, but continuing for decades – the Department of State was among many public and private employers that discriminated against employees and job applicants on the basis of perceived sexual orientation, forcing some employees to resign or refusing to hire certain applicants in the first place. These actions were wrong then, just as they would be wrong today.

On behalf of the Department, I apologize to those who were impacted by the practices of the past and reaffirm the Department’s steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusion for all our employees, including members of the LGBTI community.
Kerry is referring to what has been called the “Lavender Scare” that was particularly evident in the 1950s and 1960s during which LGBT people were purged from the US Government. Much of this was done during the “Red Scare” purges, but it persisted longer.

This is merely the latest move in support of LGBT Americans by the Obama Administration, and the State Department specifically. It’s a welcome thing in itself, and a nice gesture as the Obama Administration prepares to leave office.

Today, too, Gallup released the results of a poll in which Americans assess progress under President Obama on a number of issues. On the “Situation for gays and lesbians”, 68% felt we made progress, 11% felt we stood still, and 16% felt we lost ground. Calling this “a Clear Bright Spot”, they commented:
Americans saw more progress on the situation for LGBT Americans than any other issue. Sixty-eight percent believe the situation for gays and lesbians improved under Obama, compared with 16% who say it lost ground. This likely reflects the shift toward majority approval of same-sex marriage during Obama's terms in office and the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that made same-sex marriage legal nationwide. [Link in the original]
I think Gallup’s assessment is correct, and a great many studies and polls now back up the assertion that acceptance in general for LGBT Americans has been growing, and also for marriage equality specifically.

My gut feeling—and it’s only that, because I know of no research to back this up—is that the 11% who felt things had “stood still” are probably on the Leftward side of Left, and the 16% who felt things went backwards are among the hardcore anti-LGBT people on the Right. I say this because overall, the average percentage of hardcore anti-LGBT people is a minority even among the rightwing, so 16% sounds like a reasonable guess for those who think that the USA should be anti-LGBT—to them, the USA has “lost ground” and “gone backward”.

Similarly, I think the reason that 11% say progress “stood still” is because of their ideology. In my view, it’s indisputable by any reasonable and rational measure that, overall, LGBT Americans have made progress. However, I can clearly see that there’s obviously still much work to be done, more progress to be made. The difference is that my own ideology doesn’t blind me to actual progress, while—in my personal experience—those on the Leftward side of Left take an “all or nothing” approach, so, since 110% of the necessary progress hasn’t been made, therefore, the USA has merely stood still. I quite obviously think that’s silly.

Secretary Kerry’s apology is probably the last positive thing for LGBT people we’ll see from the White House or federal departments for at least four years, given the open hostility to LGBT people by many of Don’s incoming gang, and virtually the entire Republican caucus controlling the US Congress. Next year, and every year for at least four, if Gallup polls on the same question, they’ll probably find a growing reversal of the “Made Progress” and “Lost Ground” percentages until 2020, when they will have completely reversed. So far, there’s been no absolutely reason for LGBT people to be optimistic about the next two, four, or more, years.

For now, though, this was a good and right thing to do.

For some background: Kerry apologizes for past LGBT discrimination at State DepartmentPolitico

Update: Gallup reported recently that "In US, More Adults Identifying as LGBT", which found that 10 million American adults identify as LGBT (4.1%), that LGBT millennials are up from 5.8% in 2012 to 7.3% in 2016, and that LGBT identification is higher among women.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Fake news and the biggest media problems of 2016

In the video above, Vox correctly points out that fake news is nothing new, and it even goes on to explain why it was able to become so big in 2016. However, I think it downplays the effects of fake news, even though doing so was in order to make a larger point. So, I think that the gist of what they’re saying is important, but could have been better.

It’s certainly true that fake news is not new, and it certainly wasn’t the sole factor in Hillary Clinton’s loss, but it was an important factor. This is because most people—Right and Left—didn’t (and still don’t) bother to check the veracity of facts in something they share if they agree with it’s point. However, when you look at the chart that Vox shares in the video, it’s clear that Don’s fans were much more willing to share anti-Hillary Clinton fake news than Clinton supporters were willing to share fake news about Don. That led to a LOT of negative noise about Hillary that was based on nothing but lies. I think Vox glossed over that part too much.

Nevertheless, their talk about what was wrong with the US newsmedia, particularly its obsession with its false equivalency fetish, was good. The US newsmedia was absolutely useless in the 2016 US election, and so far they haven’t improved very much.

Maybe the US newsmedia is waiting for the Orange Menace to actually be in the White House before taking him on, maybe they never will. But there’s plenty out there to tell them what they got wrong, and what they need to improve. This video is just one example of that.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

The artists show us

The video above is a song that encapsulates what Democrats—and clearheaded Americans of any strip—feel in the wake of the USA’s election disaster. There’s anger, sure, and disbelief, too, but also deep pain—and abiding hope.

The video was made by This American Life, the award-winning public broadcasting series, for their episode 599. The video’s YouTube description explains:
This American Life asked Sara Bareilles (Broadway’s “Waitress”) to imagine what President Obama might be thinking about the current election and Donald Trump, but can’t say publicly. Leslie Odom, Jr., performs the song.
The video was posted back in October, about a week and a half before the US elections, though I don’t know when the song was actually written. I don’t know what the polls were doing at that time the song was written, so maybe it just seems to presage what actually happened that Tuesday in November.

Of course, we all should have seen the disaster looming: Years of effort on the part of the Republican Party to smear Hillary Clinton, the Russian dictator determined to steer the election to his personal candidate, and a compliant, uncritical American newsmedia going along with all that and helping them. But all that is beside the point.

The Orange Menace should NEVER have been allowed to be a candidate for president, let alone to succeed. And yet, he was, and he did. As we reflect on what we’ve become as a people that we allowed him to succeed, it’s important to focus on our values—not the fact that we utterly oppose Don and the Republicans, but rather WHY we oppose them (it’s not about them!) and the values we hold. Then, we must recommit to stopping Don and the Gang whenever possible, and to advancing those values of freedom and liberty once this storm front passes.

Let’s start with hope.

Friday, January 06, 2017

We must be better than that

If there’s only one thing that those on the centre and left in the USA can agree on, it must be this: Facts matter. This isn’t about rote repetition of the phrase whenever we call out the lies and disinformation of our adversaries, even though debunking them is important. Instead, this means that we must be better than our adversaries in being extra super factually driven.

Today I saw an example of how important that is.

A nominally leftwing site posted a piece headlined, “BREAKING: GOP Launches Bill To Charge You With TERRORISM If You Protest Trump” (all caps in the original). Their Facebook teaser said a similar, “BREAKING: The GOP just launched a new bill to charge you with TERRORISM for protesting Donald Trump,” before adding, “Tyranny has arrived in America.” Not one word of this is true.

To be clear, Don and his Gang absolutely represent an existential threat to democracy, freedom, and liberty, and they absolutely are already flirting with tyranny. However, this was NOT and example of that.

The post, which was shared on the site in January with neither dateline nor byline, declares that, “A Republican lawmaker just introduced…” but that’s not true: It was actually last November when a state senator in Washington state talked about proposing a bill to make it possible to charge protesters that block traffic or disrupt economic activity with a felony for committing “economic terrorism”. I checked the official website of the Washington state senate, and the guy never actually introduced his supposed bill. In fact, he never introduced a single bill in the entire session that ended in December—not one bill.

The post goes on, “This would allow anyone that is deemed ‘disruptive’ to be charged with terrorism,” which is also not true: The guy was talking about economic disruption, and while that may seem like mere semantics, the site’s intent was clearly to imply that anyone engaging in their First Amendment protest rights could be charged with a felony.

The hyperbole continued: “This is the beginning of the end of American democracy as we know it. What’s next, is Team Trump going to start going after every American who posted a disparaging comment about Trump online?” The particular bill they’re talking about doesn’t exist, so the extreme question following is based on hot air and nothing else. It’s also an absurd question that can only be taken seriously if one believed that Republicans were really moving to make “protesting Donald Trump” illegal. The facts do not support that hyperbole.

I mention all of this because it’s an egregious example of propaganda divorced from fact and reality in order to rile up partisans—exactly like the right wing does. We must be better than that.

Every single time we screw up and share something that's utterly untrue (let alone things like this that are just incredibly misleading), our adversaries will jump to rub our noses in it and subject us to abject ridicule. Their media—Fox, their websites, along with their echo chamber on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc., etc., will all join the chorus. That matters because “Middle America”, who we need to win over, will think, "Jeez, the two sides are as bad as each other—always lying and exaggerating." That, in turn, means that when we use undeniably fact-based, unassailable information to mount legitimate criticism, “Middle America” won’t be listening, assuming we’re unreliable and “as bad as” those we criticise. To win, we MUST go out of our way to stick only to verifiable facts. ALWAYS, and without exception.

The particular site is suspicious. It uses a name that’s very similar to a legitimate progressive site, it goes out of its way, it seemed to me, to use emotive, hyperbolic language in an attempt to appeal to those on the Leftward side of Left—think “Bernie or Bust” types. And yet, many of their posts—and I looked at quite a few—don’t use such language consistently, and that made me feel they were posing as a site on the Leftward side of Left. That, or maybe it’s just not edited tightly enough.

In any case, here’s what I do:

I always follow the links to the post’s source(s). If a post on politics doesn’t include links, I move on assuming it’s either lying or incompetent. So, I follow the links—and whatever that links to—to try and get to the original source for the information. Sometimes this turns out to be a self-referential circle of links, with no mainstream verification, and that always raises a red flag. Rarely, I’ll try searching the subject to see if there’s any information from a reliable source. But if I’ve waded through self-referential ooze, I’m not likely to bother.

I try and verify conclusions purported to be based on official things. For example, I’ll read the text of a bill (which is how I found out that the bill in the example I talked about above doesn’t exist at the moment). If there’s a government report, it’s almost always available online somewhere. Same with scientific studies and opinion polls. When I do this, I sometimes don’t think the conclusions the author drew are justified, which has been a topic in several posts on this blog. Most times, however, the conclusions are legitimate, even if framed in a partisan way. But I can’t know that if I don’t check.

All of this can be a lot of work, and it can require a lot of time. So, I have one other rule I always follow: If I’m not certain about the trustworthiness of a site or what it shares, then I don’t share it. I rarely share political things, memes included, for this reason.

We have an obligation to be better than our adversaries. If we keep saying that "Facts Matter", we have to mean it. Scepticism and doubt are among our best tools right now, and that has to apply to those operating (or appearing to operate) on our side as well as those backing our adversaries.

Footnotes: I never link to sites at the farthest ends of the spectrum, so I won’t share a link to the post I’ve been talking about. However, you can copy and paste this link to get there: http://bit.ly/2iNyw28

Also, the site’s reviewed on Media Bias/Fact Check, which, while highly imperfect, is nevertheless pretty fair in its review of the site.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Our current joke

The graphic above is making the rounds in social media, shared by Kiwis from all over New Zealand. It’s because the one thing we all have in common this year is that this summer has been crap so far. As the old saying goes, you have to laugh, or you’d cry.

Our summer here in our part of Auckland has been cooler and wetter than usual—more like late autumn or early spring than summer. Sure, we’ve had a few warm, though not particularly hot, days, and some have been very sunny, but overall they’ve been neither.

In fact, in Central Otago—normally very hot and dry this time of year—a cold snap brought snow—SNOW! I can remember other cold snaps in summer before (I’ve had two decades of NZ summers, after all…), but they’re as uncommon as you’d expect.

This weather has some implications, and not just for entertaining kids on their “summer” holiday form school, nor does it only affect families away for a summer holiday somewhere (I sympathises especially with people who go camping this time of year). There are numerous outside projects I want to finish up, but the weather has just been too unpredictable, and too awful too often, to get those projects done.

On the other hand, with those projects put on continuous hold, it’s given me a fairly decent excuse to just relax instead. Last year was both a busy and trying year, so a bit of rest and relaxation is probably a good thing in itself. But I’d still like a little decent weather, too.

So, we joke about our lack of summer, not the least because so many of us thought—or, at least, hoped—that the weather would have improved by now. I suppose that since we can’t do anything about the weather, joking about it is as positive a response as can be expected. Some days, it’s all the sunshine we get.

I have no idea who created the graphic up above, so I can’t give proper credit. I could have made my own version, I suppose, but I’m too relaxed to do that at the moment. Hm, maybe this weather has some benefits after all!

Monday, January 02, 2017

Lunch at the Atrium

A photo posted by arthur_amerinz (@arthur_amerinz) on

One of the best things about being on holiday is the freedom to have lunch and/or dinner out. Doing it isn't the point, nice though that is, it’s having the freedom to do it. Today we exercised that freedom.

Nigel’s mum is staying with us this week and we decided to go have yum cha, which people in the USA and the UK usually call dim sum (and today I learned that yum cha is actually the more accurate term for the experience, since dim sum refers to the food). So, we went to Dragon Boat, which is located in the Atrium on Elliott, a mixed use development fronting onto Elliott Street in Auckland’s CBD (Central Business District).

Elliott Street is a “shared space” which is similar to what used to be called a “pedestrian mall”, areas that were formerly streets but changed to allow only pedestrians. Shared spaces, in the other hand, remove the distinction between footpath and road so that pedestrians and vehicles can share the space. Naturally, they are slow speed areas and pedestrians always have the right of way. Auckland Council has a programme for creating shared spaces in town centres throughout Auckland.

Elliott Street used to be a narrow, one lane street with limited parking, and part of it was more like an alley, and as barren and unwelcoming as that may sound. The rest of the street wasn’t very welcoming, either. Now, the street plaza is wide and welcome, a vibrant and lively place, even on a public holiday like today.

The photo up top is actually just of the angel hanging about the street space, and of one of the old buildings behind it. The Atrium on Elliott is the right and out of view.

The photo below is looking up the hill toward Wellesley Street. The Atrium on Elliott has all the banners for “The Warehouse”, which moved into the Atrium after its former location in the Downtown Shopping Centre was torn down to make room for a new tower (and for construction of the underground City Rail Link).

Walking to the restaurant, I realised how much I need to do some photo expeditions into the CBD. Among other things, there are some lovely old buildings I’d like to share. Add that to this year’s agenda.

Lunch will be required, I'm sure.

A photo posted by arthur_amerinz (@arthur_amerinz) on