Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Some rain must fall

It’s been rainy in Auckland a lot lately. Not tempest sort of rain, fortunately, but there have been quite a few extended periods of rain lately, and today it was often extremely rainy and/or windy. Not at all nice. But, such things happen.

At the time I took the photo above this morning, it had been raining more or less steadily since well before dawn. I took the photo in between periods of heavy rainfall, and before a (briefly) very windy time that was so windy it dried the wet concrete of our driveway. When I went out to check the mail a little while ago, there was some minor surface flooding on the lawn, much as there was after the “Tasman Tempest” (a nickname many people have ridiculed…).

The water conservation campaign is still in effect, and the need for it won’t be helped by all this rain stirring up yet more silt in the drinking water reservoirs. Still, Watercare (the Council “Controlled” Organisation responsible for water and wastewater) has put up mobile lighted billboards all over the place (including in some quite sparsely populated areas…) saying “Come On Auckland” with an admonition to save water. This has sparked further ridicule.

The signs could be taken two ways: As if meant in a moaning, complaining tone, or in a cheerleading tone. I have to admit that the first is what I thought when I read it. The Mayor isn’t happy with Watercare for being so shockingly unprepared for major weather events, especially since such “once in a century” storms are becoming more and more frequent because of climate change.

The rain lately has been a bit more frequent and persistent than usual, and that's causing problems. We’ll have other periods like this in the future, and also periods of drought, both of will certainly become worse in the years ahead.

Right now, though, it’s just a very rainy day that disrupted my plans. But, such things happen.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Gone awry

I had the best laid plans for the past couple days. My cold, however, had other plans for me and derailed mine. While I got some things done, I was definitely slowed down.

Wednesday, I unearthed the last five boxes of books so I could finish that project, and that was it: I didn’t get anything more unpacked, though that wasn’t all because of the cold because I had a few other things I needed to do. Nevertheless, as the day went on, I started feeling worse and worse.

Yesterday, I unpacked those last five boxes, despite feeling terrible, and was able to do so mainly because I had them ready to unpack; I couldn’t have handled unearthing them, too. Then, I attempted to start organising the bookshelves, and in the process got the distinct feeling that at least one more box is probably still missing.

Still, I finally finished what I set out to do on Wednesday, and later this afternoon I plan to rearrange boxes in the garage according to priority so that I can deal with the rest in an orderly process. Even in my diseased state, turning chaos to order still matters.

I have a few other items on my agenda for today, disease willing, and maybe I’ll get through it all. Maybe not. At the moment, plans have to be rather flexible.

The photo above is a side shot of the stack of rather larger boxes I emptied of their books. There were twenty, all up, of which I temporarily reused two (one for excess packing material, another for things that go elsewhere).

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

It happens

I’ve been very busy over the past several weeks, packing and then unpacking boxes being the chief activity. So, it was probably inevitable that given the chance a cold would try to take me down. But I can fight harder.

I started feeling bad on Monday afternoon. At first, I thought it might be a reaction to the recent change in my medication, or the fact that I’d gone for blood tests that morning—after a more than 10 hour fast. That involved a 25-minute drive to a part of Auckland I haven’t been to in many years, and one I’ve never driven to. Turns out, it was none of that affecting me: Just an ordinary cold virus.

Yesterday morning, I decided to lie down for a while, and I took the photo above. Bella was a good nurse, and almost convinced me to stay there (as did Jake and Sunny sleeping nearby). But at that point, I still felt not totally awful, so I got up and did stuff. As the day went on, I realised that I didn’t feel well enough to even contemplate driving an hour for two meetings, particularly when the drive back would have been late in the evening, and I fully expected to feel ever worse than I did earlier in the day. So, I stayed home, which was a good decision: I did feel worse as the day wore on.

Nevertheless, over the past couple days I’ve emptied some 15 boxes of their books, and managed a few other things around the house. Frequent rests were also part of the agenda.

This morning, I slept in and felt reasonably okay when I woke up, but felt worse again once I was fully awake. Still, I got a few small things accomplished this morning and hope to do some more this afternoon. There are still many things to be done, after all.

Still, I’ll be taking it easier today than yesterday or Monday because of that cold. It’s a little frustrating to be slowed down by a silly virus, but it happens.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

City of Sails – and farms

One of the things about Auckland that many people don’t know, or know well enough, is that most of Auckland is actually rural or semi-rural. Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, home to a quarter of the nation’s population, the centre of business and commerce, and yet much of its area is actually basically rural.

The Auckland Plan puts this well:
Most of Auckland is rural. Our large rural areas host diverse economies and activities, and include stunning landscapes and coastal areas: the West Coast; Hunua and Waitākere ranges; the Kaipara, Manukau, Mahurangi and Whangateau harbours; Gulf Islands; and numerous regional parks. Here rural people make their living and urban Aucklanders can connect with nature. There is enormous variety in terrain, land uses and settlement patterns across 384,000 hectares of land, which comprise over 70% of Auckland’s landmass, and are contained by over 3,700 km of coastline. These areas are integral to Auckland’s unique character, and vital to its economy and its people.
As that passage suggests, different parts of rural Auckland have different characteristics. The southernmost parts of Auckland, south of the Manukau Harbour, are often farmland, sometimes used for dairy or sheep, but also for market gardens, which are relatively small farms growing cash crops, chiefly vegetables and fruits. I heard on the news the other day that most of New Zealand’s land that’s suitable for such crop farming is in the area south of Auckland, and yet that same area is under great pressure for new housing as the rising price of housing in Auckland is pushing people farther and farther out.

This is a legitimate concern, and Auckland Council—and also central government in Wellington—will have to be careful to preserve productive farmland, even as they open more land for housing. It’s a delegate balance to achieve, but it’s important.

In the meantime, it would be kind of nice if more people—including more New Zealanders—understood how rural Auckland’s land area actually is. It’s kind of interesting in itself, but if people in other parts of New Zealand understood that, they might be less hostile to helping Auckland solve the many problems caused by the city’s explosive growth.

In the meantime, it’s fun exploring more of the rural Auckland, and I’ll be talking more about that.

The photo above is of farmland visible from the new AmeriNZ World Headquarters. That bare earth will soon be a new housing development, with a mix of various types and sizes of homes. This is a prime example of the issue.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

More adventures in healthcare

This week, I had two more adventures I haven’t had a chance to comment on: A check with my doctor, and a check up with the periodontist. Both went okay, though both have adjustments, and none of that was a surprise. Still, this is the first time I’ve dealt with both the same day.

I had both appointments this past Monday, since it was easier for me to see both since I was making the trip, anyway. The doctor was first.

I needed to see the doctor because my prescriptions were due for renewal, and since I do that every three months now, they like to see me. On the whole, things are okay, but I haven’t had a chance to get blood tests done (I’d hoped to go this morning, didn’t, and now I hope to go tomorrow morning).

The main issue is that my blood pressure is stubbornly refusing to get to and stay in the normal range. Most of the time, it’s in the “pre-high blood pressure” range, which is higher than normal, but not in the range considered to be high blood pressure. For a person without any complications, that would be monitored, but not much else. However, since I had a stent, and I’m on medication, the doctor wanted to increase the dosage slightly to see if it’ll come down closer to normal all the time. I was okay with that, so starting tomorrow I’m on a bit higher dosage, the first increase since I left hospital seven months ago.

On the other hand, I continue to lose weight. I’ve now lost 7.6kg (16.75 pounds) since my hospital adventure, and that means that I’m down to a point I was last at in November 2013. If this keeps up, and there’s no reason to think it won’t, my blood pressure will stabilise, probably without any further increase in dosage (and maybe even a reduction).

The periodontist was actually a little better than I’d expected. I was supposed to see him in February, as I said in the most recent “Tooth Tales” instalment, but I postponed because I was still on a blood thinner (I officially stop it tomorrow). So, I did bleed more than normal, but the periodontist said he wasn’t letting me completely off the hook: There were two spots that need attention.

I fully expected that I’d need treatments every year, in addition to the hygienist, so this wasn’t a surprise. And, since I wasn’t as diligent as I should have been with the many extra dental hygiene steps I’m supposed to take, the results weren’t nearly as bad as I’d feared.

So, all things considered, it all was okay: I was aware that I might need a somewhat higher dosage of my medication, at least for now, and I was also aware that I’d probably need one or two periodontal treatments. Nothing unexpected, then, nor disappointing.

As I said in the most recent health update, this is all a journey. The path ahead isn’t a straight one, and I still fully expect “a few detours and lay-bys along the way”. But the path is still leading forward.

Right now, that’s enough.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tempest toss’d

Last week, we were hit hard in Auckland by a storm dubbed the “Tasman Tempest”. The storm, which also affected Northland and the Coromandel, dumped a month or more of rain over only three days. It was a very big deal.

In Auckland, the average rainfall for March is 85.5mm (3.3661417 US inches), and last year March 10-12 Auckland had only 1.2mm of rain (pretty much none, in other words). This year, between March 10-12 Auckland received 101mm (about four inches) of rain—that’s more than 18% above the March average over just three days. That’s a lot of water.

There was widespread flooding all over the place. In Auckland, some of the worst flooding was in west Auckland, and on Sunday there was particularly bad flooding in New Lynn, where a sinkhole opened up. At one point Sunday some 2800 homes were without power due to a submerged substation, but power was restored within a few hours.

The weirdest thing to come out of the storm, however, was that we were told to cut back on our consumption of drinking water or we’d have to boil our water, and we were told it was Auckland’s biggest water crisis in 23 years. The reason is that the reservoirs that supply two-thirds of Auckland’s drinking water, located in the Hunua Ranges, had an extreme amount of silt stirred up, as might be expected: Because it was record rainfall, there was also record silt levels.

This was really weird. As I said on my personal Facebook:
Have to admit: I've never heard of having to save water because there was too MUCH rain! They want us to save 20L per person, which is about two buckets full. If we don't, and especially if there's more heavy rain, we'll get a boil water order. Nice. Their specific advice: No watering the garden (well, not needed, anyway…), No baths, Three-minute shorter showers, Avoid washing the car (not much point when it'll be in the rain…). Apparently they need a long period of dry weather for things to return to normal. So, we're supposed to conserve water and hope it DOESN'T rain. Very weird.
But what’s even weirder is how little sense this makes. As people who know much more about these things than I do pointed out to me, boiling water would only concentrate the silt for the consumer because water would boil off. Boiling is only necessary if there’s a contaminant of some sort—bacteria, viruses, etc.—that need to be killed. Watercare isn’t suggesting the water is contaminated, so the real threat would seem to be merely discoloured water, not something that would need to be boiled absent contamination.

Still, I’m no expert, of course, so it would be helpful if Watercare explained things more fully. However, they don’t even use social media, so we actually get very little information, which allows every armchair expert to weigh in, and without official expert information, we’re bound to be confused. And, in the 21 years I’ve lived in New Zealand, most of that in Auckland, I’ve never been told to conserve water before.

Still, water conservation request notwithstanding, we faired quite well. While there was some surface flooding in our yard, and rain poured over the gutters at times, we weren’t damaged in any way, nor were we flooded. Two days later, the grass is already noticeably starting enjoying the ideal growing conditions, even in those areas that had surface flooding.

So, the Tasman Tempest was very, very bad for some people, kind of bad for a lot more, and an inconvenience for the rest. Pretty much like any big storm can be, except that most don’t lead to requests to conserve water. There’s a first time for everything, I guess.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Boxed in

Ten days ago, we moved the AmeriNZ World Headquarters, something that began a few weeks earlier with various chores and preparations, and has continued ever since with unpacking boxes and finding places for the contents. All of which has been such a big job that I simply haven’t had time for much else.

I’ve learned a few things along the way. Probably chief among them, no matter how much stuff you think you have, you’re wrong. Triple it, at the very least, and then triple it again. You’ll probably still be underestimating.

However long you think tasks will take, they'll actually take much longer. Similarly, the time needed to complete a task will expand to fill and exceed all time available for that task. I’ve found this to be a Rule for Life, actually.

Exhaustion can be tolerated for a time, as long as completion of the project grows closer. However, the quicker arrival of the end-point for the project becomes possible because things that seemed absolutely necessary when the project began later become unimportant as the end-point looms closer, and that fact draws the end-point closer still.

And, no matter how ambitious one becomes, there are always more boxes to deal with, seemingly forever, though of course it isn’t really that long. I hope.

And that’s what I’ve been doing lately.

The photo above is me in my office yesterday morning, with many boxes piled up behind me. There are many more boxes elsewhere. If you think I look unamused, you're right.