Friday, August 31, 2018

Bagging change

New Zealand is about to ban single-use plastic bags, and, in fact, grocery stores are already going plastic bag-free and the one I use for deliveries is switching to paper bags. So, no matter what people think about it, and whether or not we’re ready, change is coming. It’s about time we came up with answers to what we’ll do next, and that’s what I’ve now started.

The photo above is of a roll of compostable rubbish bags I recently bought to try. I’ve considered paper rubbish bags, but what’s available here is intended for a big bin—they’re far too big for a kitchen bin. So, I needed a reasonably environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic.

Compostable bags are made from cornstarch, and break down in compost systems. The bags usually need to be exposed to ultraviolet light to begin to break down (which means they need sunlight, basically), and they need higher temperatures. Generally speaking, they take six months to break down in a commercial composting facility, and about a year in a home composting system.

And that’s the main problem.

There are few commercial rubbish composting operations at the moment, and fewer in New Zealand. This is a problem because they don’t easily break down in a landfill. Even so, they DO break down better than plastic bags do, so they’re a better option than plastic.

Problems aside, they’re definitely better than “biodegradable” bags that are still plastic and eventually break down to smaller bits of plastic that are still a problem. They’re a non-starter. Until I researched all this, I didn’t know that and bought “biodegradable” bags thinking I was helping the environment. I was wrong—I should have done more research.

One problem I’ve had has been that our kitchen rubbish bin is around 35 litres, but a bag that size doesn’t leave any extra to fold over the top of the bin. That means the sides can slide down, which is a problem.

Of course and obvious solution here is to not use a bin liner at all. This will become more viable in a year-ish when our area switches to Auckland Council’s new wheelie bins for rubbish (which is a VERY bad idea, in my opinion, but that’s a topic for another day). When they’re here, I could just dump the kitchen bin into the big bin without any bag.

Even though we recycle everything we can, there’s still rubbish left over, and some of it can be messy. This means I’d need to wash out the bin, maybe even weekly. I know that it wasn’t that long ago that this was common enough, but, well, we’ve moved on, haven’t we? Dumping the bokashi bin saves me time, so I can use that for washing the rubbish bin, right? Yes. But I don’t particularly want to.

The main reason I want a bag solution is actually much smaller: Disposing of cat litter. It has to go to landfill, for a whole lot of reasons, and I don’t want to use plastic bags any more. I originally wanted paper bags, but they’re expensive because they have to be ordered from specialty suppliers—so far, I haven’t even seen paper lunch bags, which kind of shocked me.

So, using compostable rubbish bags is a kind of a temporary measure at the moment because there are no good—and easy—alternatives. It’s better than plastic, though, and that’s the main thing.

This is clearly a story that’s evolving, and I’m sharing it in real time.


Online buying and getting change
– about changes to bags for online ordering
Banning the bags – about NZ’s switch from plastic bags

Old Gays React to Troye Sivan Videos

The video above is the latest in the “Old Gays…” series of videos from Into on their Intomore YouTube Channel. They have a similar “Old Lesbians…” series, and in both cases they show people from earlier times what younger LGBT+ people are into now. It can be interesting and entertaining, and this one is a bit of both.

I wrote about Troye Sivan’s Blue Neighbourhood trilogy back in 2015, so I was interested to see what these older gay men thought of it, and that many of their reactions were similar to my own. I don’t know if that means I’m “old” or that what I saw is typical enough of old-ER gay men, or maybe even more common than that. But I kind of felt vindicated, for lack of a better word.

Later in the video, they talk about Troye’s song “Bloom” (video below). Apparently, he received a lot of flack for it because it is about bottoming for the first time, and because of the gender-bending visuals. He, however, was nonplussed [See “Troye Sivan Refuses To Feel Ashamed For Singing About Gay Sex” in Sydney’s LGBT newspaper, Star Observer].

One of the things that LGBT+ people don’t talk about very often is the divisions between and among us. We have sex-positive folks and deep prudes, we have hyper-masculine types and ultra-feminine, and we have people within our LGBT+ communities who hate those people. I don’t understand that, and it exasperates me when LGBT+ people start excluding other LGBT+ people because of who they are or how they present. It seems to me that people from a still marginalised community have no business oppressing anyone. Besides, they miss so many awesome people by being so bloody narrow-minded.

In any case, I still like Troye, and recognise his voice whenever I hear it. In fact, just this evening TVNZ’s “Seven Sharp” programme played a snippet of “Bloom” as their closing music. Quite a coincidence considering I was planning on this post.

There’s one thing more. There are so many young gay people on YouTube, young guys in particular, and even though many of them are really good at what they do and are interesting, it’s still really nice to hear from some older LGBT+ people, at least sometimes. I think we older gays deserve to have our lives and realities reflected, too.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Easier targets first?

Every day’s news reports reinforces the view that there doesn’t seem to anything too extreme or too unthinkable for the current regime to do. The current occupant of the White House has made his racism and nativism crystal clear, and his regime is working to operationalise that. So the regime’s moves to make people “uncitizens” is not at all surprising—but it may be just the start.

Today The Washington Post reported today that the regime is denying passports, or revoking them from, citizens born along the Texas border with Mexico. The underlying issue isn’t new: Allegedly, in the 1990s some midwives in South Texas faked the birth records of children who were actually born in Mexico to state they were born in Texas. Because of that, successive governments have treated anyone born in that region with suspicion.

There are huge problems with this, not the least the presumption of guilt, but extends on to creating possibly unattainable requirements for additional proof that someone really was born in the USA. Additionally, revoking passports means the person is no longer considered a citizen, potentially making them vulnerable to ICE raids and deportations—despite living their entire lives in the USA, paying taxes, voting, and even serving in the US military.

These are people who even some otherwise reasonable citizens might think are fair game, thinking that if their births were registered in the USA falsely, they have no defence. The problem with that is that if those otherwise reasonable citizens can excuse harsh treatment of the people in Texas, who would be safe from the regime’s excesses? Will it only be Hispanics singled out? Or Mexicans in particular? Or the children of any immigrant family?

There really can be a “slippery slope”, in this case, accepting oppression of one group of people makes it easier to accept the oppression of other groups, until all hope of control and restoring the rule of law is lost.

Among the easiest targets after immigrants are expat American citizens returning home. In fact, it’s now one of my very real fears about returning to the US for a visit. After the current regime finishes going after easy targets, they’ll expand it, and that means returning expats could easily be on the list of folks to harass. After all, there aren’t all that many (easy number of people to contain), but they all have friends and/or family in the USA who will hear of their ordeal. And that would be the point.

The regime’s first goal in all this is to harass and oppress immigrants, either by making up alleged offences so they can be deported, or to make them fearful enough to leave the USA. By expanding harassment, they would also stoke fear among native-born Americans so that they don’t offer any opposition to the current regime.

All the regime has to do is put some returning expat Americans into ICE concentration camps for a few months while the victim proves they were born in America, as they ultimately would. The result would be that ordinary people would decide it’s best to remain silent and offer no opposition to the regime. Silencing opposition if the first and most important step in eliminating it.

Here’s the thing: Even in the darkest days of Bush the Second, I would’ve laughed at any suggestion like this as mere paranoia. Under this regime, however, we’ve learned absolutely anything is possible, and nothing is off the table or goes too far.

Will this happen? I don’t know of course, but if it does, it’d be after they’ve gone after all the easy targets. But if this regime is deposed, first in the elections in November, then by taking back the presidency in 2020, all of this can be avoided and we can all return to the certainty that there are some things that go too far for any government.

In the meantime, there doesn’t seem to anything too extreme or too unthinkable for the current regime to do. And that is terrifying.

This Post is a revised and expanded version of comments I left on a friend’s Facebook share of the article I linked to. I also saw the article because I subscribe to the Washington Post electronic version to help support journalism because, as they put it, “Democracy Dies in Darkness”.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

‘Celia’ – A NZ documentary

Earlier this month, Nigel and I went to see the documentary about social justice advocate and storyteller Celia Lashlie called Celia (trailer above) at the New Zealand International Film Festival. It was the first time we’d seen a film in the NZIFF, and it was a good one to choose. A powerful film and a call to action, the film ought to be required viewing for every New Zealand politician.

The film was made by former TV journalist Amanda Millar who called the project, “the most important assignment of my life”. The film featured archival footage along with interviews with Celia in what turned out to be her very last days. Celia died of pancreatic cancer in February 2015, less than two months after being formally diagnosed.

I well remember when she came onto the public scene talking about ways of doing things differently. She argued passionately for better ways of helping people earlier, rather than waiting and allowing things to fall apart, and good kids to grow up and go to prison. The documentary summarises her salient points, and gives some idea of the passion she had for her life’s work.

Politicians’ reactions to her were varied. Some understood her message and wanted to make it work, while others resisted mightily. Most probably didn’t understand, or just wanted to take the cheapest option, as most politicians normally choose. But she called us to do better so we could be better. That work isn’t finished.

Fortunately, plenty of people are committed to advancing her work. A website, “Celia’s Army” provides hints and ideas so that people can get involved in making New Zealand a better place. Her own website also has some of her writing and more about her work.

There were a lot of good and important messages in the film, things that can help make New Zealand better. But one of the most poignant and powerful points for me on a personal level was in one of those final interviews when she said she’d planned to spend more time writing and following her creative passions, but her body called time after years of refusing to listen to her spirit’s call to follow that passion. I’m not a big believer in metaphysical stuff, but the message is important all the same: At some point we need to stop wasting time, because time will inevitably “waste” us.

There’s talk of some international distribution, and wider release in New Zealand, but it’s likely to be difficult to get a chance to see it, at least for a while. Even so, it’s well worth the effort. Celia was a remarkable woman, and Amanda Millar’s documentary does her justice.

New TV commercial – and imagery

It’s just not possible for me to stay away from TV commercials for very long, and I saw the TV commercial above for the first time tonight. The ad itself is about a particular aspect of life in New Zealand, but it was the imagery—one segment in particular—that caught my attention.

The ad is talking about people having one power account for both their home and their bach (pronounced “batch”), which is a holiday (vacation) home. Baches have been a traditional part of New Zealand life, and they’re generally not particularly grand. They’re also handed down within families.

The deal they’re getting at is that company doesn’t charge a daily charge as a separate power account would, but, instead, they charge only for power actually used. That, they say, is “fairness”.

So, the ad uses all sorts of images relating to fairness and fair play—including the rainbow flag, which isn’t actually discussed, but appears right after the announcer says “fairness”. It’s not often that the flag is used in mainstream advertising, nor is it used as a symbol to reinforce ideas of fairness, as this usage does.

To be honest, I’m not sure how helpful using the rainbow flag is because it’s divorced from its actual context. However, even casual reinforcement of the image, especially when tied to the word “fairness”, is good, even though it’s being done to sell the services of an electricity company. I’m always a pragmatist. So, on balance, I think this is okay—and I even forgive them flying the flag upside down.

Of course, it’s not unusual for New Zealand advertisers to include actual same-gender couples in their campaigns, as I talked about earlier this month. It’s a little unusual for a commercial to have LGBT+ imagery that has no particular context, or, probably, actual relevance to what’s being advertised. Since the rainbow flag in this ad reinforces ideas of fairness, I’m okay with it.

But next time they really should fly the flag right side up.

The 15 second version:

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Bokashi bin and done

About a year after we first started using it, we’ve decided to stop using the bokashi composting bins, which are designed to take nearly all food waste, raw or cooked. It was a good idea, and held promise, but in the end it was a lot of work and smelled horrible. Besides, our needs changed.

When I talked about the bins and our experience with them back in May, I said “there have been two times in which the bin smelled kind of like a wet ashtray—like cigarette ash, the paper, butts, unused tobacco and water all mixed together.” Since then, there have been two more.

A bad smell is supposed to be a sign of a bokashi system that’s failed, and, apparently, one is supposed to start over. I have no idea how to do that, even now.

The worst of the bins that weren’t working properly smelled like a particularly bad rubbish bin—it literally smelled like garbage. That’s not only extremely unpleasant, it’s entirely avoidable by not using the system in the first place.

The last bin-load was about half-full when I aborted it and left it to sit so I could add it to the ordinary compost bin. It smelled bad, with mould and fungus growing in the drainage bin, and it was so bad that I put it outside the house because it was stinking up the place. Unfortunately, it’s winter, which slows everything down, so I gave the bin a few more days than normal before I emptied it.

I wouldn’t recommend the bokashi bin system to anyone, but someone with a lot of time, energy, and commitment might be able to make it work, as long as they can put the bin somewhere outside their house. I can’t imagine it actually working in someone’s house because it never really did for us.

This actually isn’t a big change for us. We produce very little food waste, anyway, nothing other than, say, lettuce or carrots that we kept too long, and they can go in the normal compost bin. We don’t have extra cooked meat, and cheese never gets a chance to go off, and so, we don’t really create much organic waste that’s not compostable in a normal bin.

However, by abandoning the bokashi system, I do gain some time, spare some effort, with only a tiny potential increase in the waste we put into landfill-bound rubbish. That’s all acceptable, but the effort to become more sustainable will continue, just in different ways.

McCain's Farewell Statement

My fellow Americans, whom I have gratefully served for sixty years, and especially my fellow Arizonans,

Thank you for the privilege of serving you and for the rewarding life that service in uniform and in public office has allowed me to lead. I have tried to serve our country honorably. I have made mistakes, but I hope my love for America will be weighed favorably against them.

I have often observed that I am the luckiest person on earth. I feel that way even now as I prepare for the end of my life. I have loved my life, all of it. I have had experiences, adventures and friendships enough for ten satisfying lives, and I am so thankful. Like most people, I have regrets. But I would not trade a day of my life, in good or bad times, for the best day of anyone else’s.

I owe that satisfaction to the love of my family. No man ever had a more loving wife or children he was prouder of than I am of mine. And I owe it to America. To be connected to America’s causes – liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people – brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.

“Fellow Americans” – that association has meant more to me than any other. I lived and died a proud American. We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have acquired great wealth and power in the process.

We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.

We are three-hundred-and-twenty-five million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do.

Ten years ago, I had the privilege to concede defeat in the election for president. I want to end my farewell to you with the heartfelt faith in Americans that I felt so powerfully that evening.

I feel it powerfully still.

Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.

Farewell, fellow Americans. God bless you, and God bless America.

This farewell statement from Senator McCain was read today by Rick Davis, Senator McCain’s former presidential campaign manager and a family spokesman, at a press conference at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix, Arizona today. [SOURCE]

I can’t remember a public figure who has worked out a final statement to be delivered after they’ve died, which makes this very unusual. So, too, is the extent to which it calls out to what President Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature”—how we can, and should, be better than we are.

Many mainstream media commentators noted the veiled attack on the current occupant of the White House (“when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down”), and there was that and others. But I also noted a direct attack on the white nationalism that’s at the core of the current regime: “We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil.” [emphasis added]. That phrase is beloved by white supremacists, and McCain’s use of it cannot be accidental. I'd never have known about that if I hadn't read the entire statement.

People can disagree about McCain, his record and his legacy, and they certainly will do so. That’s healthy in a democracy. But the powerful optimism in McCain’s final statement is undeniable, even if some of us may not entirely share it. But whether we believe, as he did, that “We will come through [these challenging times] stronger than before. We always do,” maybe it couldn’t hurt for us to be encouraged to make that happen.

If Senator McCain can encourage less permanent acrimony and more bipartisanship, how is that a bad thing? Hard to achieve, absolutely, but a worthy ideal to aim for.

Monday, August 27, 2018


There are many useful and interesting things to be found on Pinterest, from ideas, to “how to” instructions, to inspiration, to trends. There, as in home magazines, there are plenty of buzzwords, too, like “upcycle”, “repurpose”, and more. But what about when something is basically just repaired and returned to use? What should we call that? “Repaircycle”?

The photo above is of some metal canisters I bought years ago for coffee, tea, and one for biscuits (cookies). I liked them because they were metal, the paint was red (at the time, one of our accent colours), and the anodised finish gave it a retro look I liked.

I had two smaller canisters, two larger ones, and one large one. We hadn’t had them all that long before, one after the other, the ring on the lid broke off, all except one. We retired the canisters (bought new ones) and moved on—but they were boxed up, waiting for a new use. I found a way to use them again.

In the photo above, the canister at left (currently used for Bella’s food) is the only one left with an intact ring on the lid. To the right is a taller one as repaired. In the foreground is an unrepaired lid, plus the knob I used to repair the lid (at far left) and the underside of the broken ring pull next to it.

I decided to find a solution at all because the lids were well made: There were rubberised rings on top and below to protect the glass, and the flat washer-like think on top was separate from the ring pull.

So, I decided to buy some drawer pulls to replace the original rings (the broken-off rings were thrown away at the time, since welding them back on wasn’t something we could do ourselves, and I didn’t think it would last, anyway). I found some pulls I really liked, with bases big enough to replace the original base of the ring, BUT, they were plastic. Not a starter.

So, I bought some metal drawer pulls (pictured), and took out the original base of the old pull. The base of the pull sits in a little depression, which, at first, I didn’t like, but which I now think looks good.

I replaced the broken lid for the canister I had (canister on the right), which I used for Leo’s food. However, even after 18 months in this house, we still haven’t found all the canisters/lids. So, I still haven’t repaired them all, though I bought enough knobs to do so.

The thing is, once broken, the canisters were difficult to use, so we put them away. Repaired, they’re usable again, but we bought new canisters to replace them when most of them were broken. We’ve re-purposed a couple of the old ones so far, and I have a use for another. I have no doubt that once they’re all found and repaired, I can find uses for them all. I do still like them, after all.

But what do we call this? This is not “upcycling”, which is taking something old and worn out and giving it a new look, a new life and, quite possibly, an entirely new use. It’s not recycling, which means discarding them, and it’s not merely reusing them—though there is an element of that.

Basically, this is merely repairing them, replacing worn/irreparable parts rather than literally repairing them. We have no trendy name for that—how about “Repaircycle”? Or maybe, “Uprepair”? Sometimes these days it seems that the only way to get people interested in time-tested solutions—as, in this case, repairing something so it can be used again—is to give it a trendy name. I don’t know what to call this, but I certainly wish more people did it.

Meanwhile, I have a set of old canisters I still like that are functional for the first time in years, and that’s a good thing. They cost me very little to fix, and, since I still like them, it’s money well spent.

But, how do we make something old-school like repairing things we already own trendy again?

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Weekend Diversion: Current favourite commercials

I love advertising, TV commercials in particular. That’s obvious—and why I have a tag called “Advertising” so that other fans can find those posts. At any given moment there are ads that are may favourites for any number of reasons: Because they work, because they’re well made, because they break new ground—the list is endless. These are my current favourite TV ads.

The ad up top is from Vodafone, which is running a series of ads promoting “the future according to…”. The reason I like that ad so much is that I also absolutely loathe corporate speak and its related jargon. When I first saw the ad, I thought it was as it seemed, then the joke is revealed at the end. Anything that takes the piss out of insufferably pompous corporate jargon warms the cockles of my heart.

The other newest ad in the series is cute, as the previous ones are, too:

An ad for Australian underwear sold in New Zealand was revived because it’s timely (and I first saw it recently):

This ad is one of a series for Tradie Underwear (which is apparently a good product, though I don’t know). They all have similar humour, but this one has a scene at the end in which Nick “Honey Badger” Cummins, a former Australian rugby player who is now a media personality, holds a big trophy. This is funny because it looks an awful lot like the Bledisloe Cup, a rugby trophy awarded to the winner of a rugby test series between New Zealand and Australia that’s been held every year since 1932. New Zealand has won it a bit more often than Australia has, and has held the cup since 2003, and won it again yesterday night. That’s fifteen long years that Australia hasn’t seen the trophy in its hands, hence the joke.

This ad from last year was meant to be faux arty, but it also has the same sort of humour that the other ads in the series have had for years:

How about American ads? Even on the other side of the world I see American TV ads, and my current favourite is a series of ads for some company called “esurance” that feature Dennis Quaid. This was the first one I saw:

What I like about the ad is its easy-going humour, its self-mockery in particular. It makes fun of the fact that nearly all ads use actors by using bland names for some of the people in the ad, and calls out the clichés also used in ads. And, Dennis Quaid really is likable.

Here’s the long version, which is slightly different:

And that's this week's distraction from things that matter. And, I should add, I have not been paid anything by anyone to share these commercials. Of course.

John McCain: The last ‘good’ Republican

US Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
We all knew that US Senator John McCain was nearing the end of his life, but it’s still sad that it has now arrived, and he has died. As a (very) Liberal Democrat in US politics (and Centre-Left in general), I often disagreed with Senator McCain, so I never considered voting for him in 2008. However, I never—ever—had any reason to doubt his patriotism, or question his commitment to the security of the US, or his devotion to the rule of law and bipartisan politics. His integrity was clear to see, even when I deeply disagreed with him.

Because of that, John McCain was what I call “the last good Republican,” a politician I could disagree with passionately and still respect, and also know him to be a good man, even when he frustrated me. There are few in the US Congress about whom anything remotely similar could be said.

There were times I was harshly critical of him, such as during the 2008 campaign and many times afterward when he did or said something I strongly objected to, especially his opposition to repeal of the infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban of LGBT people serving in the US military. In recent years I was particularly frustrated by him, and frequently wondered aloud where the old McCain had gone.

But there were also times I praised him, like for his concession speech in 2008, which was gracious. I also noted that if that John McCain had been the candidate, things might have been different. The most recent time was just last month when he condemned the performance and Putin-worship the current occupant of the White House displayed in Helsinki.

I think the biggest single mistake he made was in selecting “Caribou Barbie”, the former half-term governor of Alaska, as his running mate in 2008. That unleashed the Republican Party’s growing Idiocracy onto the nation, something that’s only gotten worse in the decade since then.

What all this means is that John McCain was no saint, but no politician is. I disagreed with him far more than I ever agreed with him, but I did agree a few times. Maybe he would have been better and done better if not for his disease.

The Left and the Right both criticised him for their own ideological reasons, and I’m well aware of what they said over the years. I agreed with one side or the other a few times over the years, at least in part, and put aside their politically motivated over-simplifications.

So, I’m no fan of McCain, but neither was I an intractable enemy. He was unlike any other Republican currently serving in the US Congress because of his devotion to the rule of law, the US Constitution, and to bipartisanship, all of which modern Republican politicians reject. Above all, whether I agreed with him or not, I believe he did try to put the country first, not his party, and not his own financial interests. If only Republican politicians could be at least a little bit like that.

In September last year, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked him how he’d like to be remembered. He said: “He served his country. And not always right. Made a lot of mistakes. Made a lot of errors. But served his country. And, I hope, we could add, honorably.” That’s the perfect eulogy. I just wish more US politicians of both parties could be seen the same way.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Dark news and being honest

Today was one of those days when the news story tells what’s happening, without telling us what’s happening. The report was that Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) had decided to end cancer treatments. We all knew what that meant: His life is nearing its end, the same way we knew that Aretha Franklin’s was ending when the news reported on her decline. Why can’t the newsmedia just be honest with us, rather than turning it into an unspoken virtual deathwatch?

The Associated Press was brutally honest: “McCain stops cancer treatment as remarkable life nears end”, the second sentence of which notes that “It’s a likely indication that the war hero, presidential nominee and longtime leading lawmaker is nearing the end of his life.” Of course it is—we all know that. But for some weird reason no American TV report I saw said as much.

I think that honesty is almost always best. It’s why I always say “died” instead of euphemisms (“passed”, “passed on”, “passed away”, etc, etc, etc). Death is inevitable for all of us, and I cannot see what benefit any of us get from pretending that’s not the case.

Some think that being vague is somehow “comforting” to the family. Seriously?! Do they really think that the family doesn’t know what’s happening or that they’re in denial? And, to be blunt, what makes anyone so arrogant as to think that the family will even be watching every single news show at a time like that? I wouldn’t be, and I don’t know anyone who would.

The newsmedia’s weird squeamishness about speaking honestly is most likely to make themselves feel better, as if by avoiding the topic of the nearing death of someone famous they don’t need to look at how they have handled that person in life. Then, when they do die, they can completely ignore all that to engage is soft-focus remembrances of someone they may not have been kind to in life.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this is all about newsmedia outlets just being as weird about death as ordinary people can be. Maybe they don’t like being reminded of their own mortality. I can appreciate that because I don’t really want to be reminded, either. But death is inevitable, and I think we should face it openly and sincerely (bravery is entirely optional). When someone famous is entering their final journey, we should be honest about saying so.

When someone famous dies, beloved or despised, there will be plenty of time to talk about the totality of their life, though most newsmedia won’t do so—another lack of honesty (a topic in itself). So, we don’t need to get into the complexity of our reactions to people at a time like this.

What I think is this: Whenever a life ebbs away, it’s a sad thing for their family, friends and loved ones, and it’s okay to acknowledge that regardless of our personal feelings about the person. But it’s also important to acknowledge that the life is waning.

I was said to hear about Senator McCain, though in no way surprised. I hope that he and his loved ones have great quality time together before the end, and that his death is painless and as easy as possible for them all. Isn’t that what we’d all wish for ourselves—if we’re honest?

Weird politics downunder

Americans can be forgiven for thinking that they have the most f-ed up politics in the entire world, in part because, well, they do. But that doesn’t mean that other countries don’t have their own Bizarro World politics. In fact, both New Zealand and Australia have exactly that right now.

Last week, someone leaked to the media that New Zealand's Leader of the Opposition, the National Party’s Simon Bridges, had spend around $114,000 of taxpayers' money on a “getting to know me” roadshow around New Zealand between April and June. It was embarrassing to Bridges (who was criticised for having a trip to introduce himself, rather than to listen to people around the country…), and he demanded an inquiry. He asserted that the leak could not have come from the National Party caucus, which leaves the office the Speaker. A couple days later the Speaker announced an enquiry.

A lot of grandstanding, and an expense to taxpayers, but maybe not a big deal—UNTIL this week when things got seriously weird: “A person claiming to be the National Party leaker has sent an anonymous text to Opposition leader Simon Bridges pleading for the inquiry to be called off, RNZ has learned.” What made this weirder is that “The author of the text warned they suffered from mental health problems in the past and said being exposed publicly could push them over the edge and put their life at risk.”

The text was sent to both Bridges and Speaker Trevor Mallard, who at first ignored it. When it became public, Bridges at first reiterated that it could not be someone from National, and then protested when the Speaker cancelled the enquiry, the only rational thing to do: The leak clearly came from within National, as everyone knew all along, and Bridges grandstanding or denial notwithstanding, that fact has remained unchallenged ever since.

Chalk this up as yet another disastrous period for the Bridges. Prediction: He won’t last another year before he’s rolled.

As weird as all that was, Australia takes the crown for batshit craziness: They have yet another Prime Minister!

Yesterday, Scott Morrison, who had been Treasurer, was selected as Australia’s sixth Prime Minister in 11 years, and the fifth in five years. No Prime Minister has lasted a full term since Prime Minister John Howard’s rightwing government was defeated for re-election in 2007. Howard was Australia’s second-longest serving prime minister, being in office from 1996-2007. Australia has had nothing but revolving doors since 2007.

Morrison has an anti-LGBT+ record, though it was a toss-up whether he or runner up Peter Dutton was worse.

Both are also racists. A glimpse of Dutton’s nationalist arrogance can be seen in the report I shared last month, and was a hardliner demanding harsh treatment of New Zealanders. Morrison exploited the issue of asylum seekers during the Australian Labor Party governments, and once in government he was even harsher.

Morrison has spent a lot of time in New Zealand, and it is hoped that he will be much better than the pretty vile Dutton would have been. Maybe. The conservative New Zealand Herald editorialised that it’s time for Australia’s Liberal Party (which is the current party leading government) to become more liberal (lower case “L”). Sensible people agree: The troglodyte politics of Dutton and his mentor, the ex-Prime Minister and all around jerk, Tony Abbott, are WAY out of step with ordinary Australians. Australia will almost certainly face an early election, which, on current polling Labor should win. Maybe: Small and fringe parties are gaining ground.

In any case, it’s unlikely that either Morrison or Bridges will ever win an election. Morrison will be Prime Minister until the next election, but Bridges never will be. Both will be good results.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

More bag changes

Things are changing quickly for the provision of plastic bags at supermarkets, with many grocery stores already ending free single-use plastic bags. But it turns our that ending those bags isn’t the only change, as an email I received this week explains. I’m intrigued by this change.

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about ordering groceries online for the first time in many years. I was surprised by the reusable bags my order was packed in, but I was surprised again a few days ago when I received this email from my delivery store (graphic above is from that email; I think it's cute):
We've got some good news! From Monday 3 September, single-use plastic carrier bags will be gone from checkouts and online shopping at Countdown Pukekohe South.

Shopping in-store? Remember to bring your own bag, box, basket, bucket or whatever from home. But if you forget don't worry-there'll be plenty of reusable bag options available in-store. It's all good.

Shopping online? Your online order will now be packed into paper bags. They're recyclable, can break down easily in marine environments and don't place any onus on the customer to clean and return a reusable bag, which is obviously difficult in an online shopping service.

It's one small step for Countdown Pukekohe South, and a large step toward our commitment to phasing out single-use plastic carrier bags at all Countdown supermarkets by the end of 2018! Together, we can do some good for our environment, so bring your bags and we'll see you soon.
There are several things to say about this, beginning with the fact that this is, I’m sure, a boilerplate email sent to customers of particular stores. What that means is that this is a common-enough thing now that they need a boilerplate email, and I’m really glad about that.

Second, Countdown—and, I’m sure, its competitors—are eliminating single use plastic bags well before the government will officially ban them. That’s awesome!

But the thing that stuck out for me was the part about online shopping: Paper bags?! I still remember when paper was all there was, then when store staff would ask, “paper or plastic?”, and then when plastic was the only choice. I’m well aware that making paper can cause its own problems, but the end of life part is FAR superior, and has far less impact on the environment, than any plastic bag.

But I also noted the part that said that paper bags “don't place any onus on the customer to clean and return a reusable bag, which is obviously difficult in an online shopping service.” That’s inarguably true, but I was also well aware that many folks in America would likely be a bit squeamish about the old system, presuming the bags were somehow “contaminated” by whoever used the bags last. I wasn’t, and it also never occurred to me that anyone would need to “clean… a reusable bag” because I can’t imagine getting one dirty. Still, the move to paper fixes all that.

Ironically, I’ve been thinking about the need for paper replacements for plastic bags at home. We use plastic bags (supposedly “compostable”) in our kitchen rubbish bin, and I know there were (too large) heavy duty paper rubbish bags available. I don’t know if they’re still sold, but if they are, they’re too big for our bin, which would be a waste.

I’ve also been thinking about cleaning out the cat box. Not to put too fine a point on it, some of what I clean out is rather moist, so if I use paper I’ll need to double bag (old skool again…). But the only ones I’ve ever seen at the grocery store were for lunches, and a bit small.

The larger point here is that if we’re gong to reduce our use of plastic bags outside of stores, we need to have replacement options. Sure, there are some for, say, produce bags in a grocery store (as I talked about in a post earlier this month), but the reality is that people will want bags to line their rubbish bins. I will, too, and so far I haven’t seen good options. Which means that will probably become a blog topic in the future.

So, I’m glad to see the moves by the grocery store I use, but we still have a long way to go to reduce our use of plastic bags beyond at stores. I’m confident we can get there, but we’re not there yet.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Rainy days in winter

It’s been raining a lot lately, including pretty solidly over the past few days. The area in the photo above often has large puddles when we have heavy storms, but not usually this large. It also hasn’t completely dried up in days, constantly refilled by ever more rain. Sometimes it’s rained heavily, but most of it has been much milder, just a lot of it. I’m very over it.

It rains in much of New Zealand in the wintertime, especially in Auckland. Mid winter (July-ish) is usually the wettest, and it often dries out a bit in August, only for more rains to hit in Spring. So, it’s not unusual that it’s raining in winter, nor even that we’ve had heavy rain. But none of that makes it any more tolerable.

There are two problems I have with this. First, is it’s boring and tiring having grey, dreary days one after the other. But the bigger problem is that it’s interfering with work I have to do.

The ground is so saturated that, as I said in the caption, “Walking on the lawn sounds like walking on a sponge”. That—and the near constant rain—makes it unpleasant and also difficult to clean up the yard, which mainly means removing the weeds. But I also have some stuff from the garage to move out to the garden shed, and the path is really mucky. The near constant rain means that I have very little rain-free time to move things without them getting wet.

Still, this will pass. It always does. And in a few months I’ll be complaining about how hard, dry, and cracked the summer ground is. I may even complain—though this seems unlikely—that it’s too hot. And that will pass, too.

“Whether it rains, or whether it snows, we shall have weather, whether or no.” My mother learned that in school to teach them the “wh” sound that’s not even used anymore. But it’s true, isn’t it?

Still, I’d really like a nice, sunny day right about now. Eventually, I’ll even get one.

Internet Wading: August 2018 edition

This month’s Internet Wading collection of links is mostly serious topics. It happens.

Let’s get the politics out of the way first, shall we? Okay, let’s! First, Catherine Price tells us “How to Break Up with Donald Trump”, which isn’t necessary for most people, of course, but it’s actually for people who oppose the current regime. Short version: Walk away from the screen.

Cheap, often silly, shots sully political debate, and David Shariatmadari took on one: “'Virtue-signalling' – the putdown that has passed its sell-by date”. Apparently it passed that date in 2016, when The Guardian published the piece, but it’s still true. And one of the most annoying of the slurs the rightwing loves so dearly. Yawn.

Meanwhile, a truly important Internet Rage, “'Elitist': angry book pirates hit back after author campaign sinks website”, which is about as dumb a reason for “outrage” as it sounds. I laughed at the Internet Outrager who fumed, “writers are the most pretentious pieces of shit I’ve ever seen. I’ll find another way to pirate your books assholes.” So, people expecting to be paid for their work makes them “pretentious pieces of shit” and "assholes", but refusing to pay someone for the work they’ve done does not. Okay, then.

Get away from the keyboard! Because “Good Things Happen in Book Stores”. Well, duh! But don’t stay too long or you may buy too much and have a new problem: “Tsundoku: The art of buying books and never reading them”. I actually heard about that quite some time ago. And, no, I do NOT have that problem, no siree!! [quietly hides piles of unread books…]

There are REAL problems in this world, of course, including one that people are ridiculed over constantly. But, it turns out that gluten intolerance is “Not just a fad: the surprising, gut-wrenching truth about gluten”. This was actually a fascinating new (to me) look at a problem that people in my life have been affected by.

Combining tech issues and culture, “Japan's Emperor Is Stepping Down Soon, Which Could Cause Major Headaches for Computer Calendars”. This isn’t a problem in the West, but it did remind me of the “Y2K bug” that wasn’t, but this apparently really is a problem.

History! “How One Woman Brought the 'Mother's Curse' to Canada” talks about the filles du roi in 17th Century French Canada, and so, one of humans’ best understood genetic mutations.

“Sulphur, Sicilians, and the Exodus to the USA” tells us about sulphur mining in Sicily, men who eventually migrated to the USA. I never knew that sulphur mining was done naked. Actually, I never knew anything about sulphur mining. Or that any mining was done naked. So, it was a new information gold—sorry, sulphur—mine.

Going back even farther, “Was There a Civilization On Earth Before Humans?” In this article on The Atlantic, Adam Frank takes “A look at the available evidence”. The article tells us about how speculation can help us understand the cycles of civilisation.

And, there has to be at least one non-serious thing: “5 Stupid Things You Won't Believe Have Been Around Forever”. This is actually more interesting than the click-baity title would suggest.

And finally, Roger Green wrote recently about old posts that keep getting read long after they’re published, and he said of the post: “It’s sort of like drunk tweeting, only in a longer form. And without the alcohol, but WITH sleep deprivation.” That could probably explain most blogging, to be honest. In that post, Roger also talks about how he keeps track of ideas for blog posts, something I talked about at the end of my July Internet Wading post. And, as it happens, this is my 31st post for August, so my goal for this month has now been met. Yay, me!

And that’s another month done. Happy Wading!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Time lapse

We all lose track of time every now and then, whether because we’re busy or because we’re having fun. When we’re “lost in the moment” doing something we enjoy, that’s a good thing. When we’re just busy, it can be startling, though not necessarily bad. But what happens when for unknown reasons time just disappears? Today I found out.

I had a periodontist appointment at Noon today, one I was especially dreading after the debacle of the check up the end of July. I wasn’t dreading it just because of cost, though that’s a thing, but, instead, that this is a never-ending story.

Still, I was looking for ways to make something more positive out of it, so I thought about making trips to a couple stores on the North Shore, and I thought that if I left the house by 9:30am or so I’d have plenty of time (I like to allow an hour and half to get to the North Shore in case traffic is extra congested because of the never-to-end (or so it seems) road construction, an accident/breakdown, etc.).

However, last night I decided I wouldn’t do that, and instead I’d just go to my appointment and then stop at a nearby grocery store before hopping on the motorway and going home. I re-calculated and thought originally that I’d leave at 10am, realised that was too early, but instead of going to 10:30 as I should have, my mind didn’t fully register any time at all. And that’s where it gets really odd.

This morning I had in my head that I should leave by 11:30am, and for some reason it never occurred to me that would only allow me 30 minutes to get to my appointment (the fastest I’ve ever made the trip is 55 minutes). So, I carried on with my morning, had my breakfast at 10:30, did an extensive teeth cleaning (as I always do before an appointment), showered, dressed—and by then it was coming up on 11:30.

I took care of a few last minute chores, and got ready to leave. I headed out the door, saw it was 11:37, and thought to my self, “that’s not too bad”, and then for no apparent reason, reality suddenly hit me. With a sort of “wait, what?!” kind of thought, I pulled the sleeve on my jacket back so I could see my watch face and saw “…11:38”, which was enough to register: I’d given myself 15 minutes to drive an hour’s travel time.

I was in shock, but immediately rang the office to cancel the appointment and to apologise profusely. After that, I took my embarrassment and disbelief and sat down to try to figure out what the hell had happened. I still have no idea.

My first thought is that maybe I just had too much going on in my head. My mother-in-law is coming on Wednesday to stay with us and I want to get a couple projects done before then, and, of course, to make the house as nearly perfect as possible. So, that’s been on my mind, as have a couple “big ticket” house-related expenses we have coming up, and, of course, the dental dramas. If all that wasn’t enough, I’ve been trying to figure out what to do to observe my birthday next year, since it’s a rather significant one. Oh, and, of course, all sorts of projects around the house I (still) need to finish.

So, I had a lot on my mind. Could that be all it was? Was it just that I had too many circuits busy to have any capacity even to plan my travel time properly?

Amid the initial shock of having so totally screwed up my timing, I thought that maybe this was memory related, or, worse, a sign of a serious memory problem. There was a brief panic as I considered that possibility.

I have no certain explanation for what happened, though I think the “circuits busy” explanation is at least as good as any other, maybe better. In the future, I know that I’ll double and triple check my travel time so there’s no repeat of this mortifying experience. Just another thing to add to my list of things to do.

Nuclear scrambled eggs

Last month I blogged about an unexpected power outage, and mentioned in passing that I “made myself some scrambled eggs in the microwave”, the relevance of which was that the power went out shortly afterward. It turned out, that small point wasn’t as beside the point as I thought, and I realised it’s a good idea to share my modern magic.

In a comment to that post, Roger Green said:
You make scrambled eggs in a microwave? I have NEVER done that – wouldn't know how to – and I've been making them for at least 5.5 decades.
Today is your lucky day, Roger! (and anyone else who hasn’t done it). This is how I make scrambled eggs in the microwave.

You will need:
  • Eggs (eggs in New Zealand are almost always brown)
  • Something to shake them up in
  • A microwave safe bowl
  • A fork (not pictured above)
The important thing to note is that time matters: Too much microwaving and your eggs will be rubbery; too little, and they’ll be partly raw. Stirring is also important.

Take your eggs and crack them into something you can shake them up in (I used an old jam container with a tight-fitting lid). Add some water (not milk), put the lid on tightly, and shake vigorously to mix thoroughly. Pour into a microwave safe bowl and place in the microwave.

The amount of time you’ll need will depend on the power of your microwave, the number of eggs, even if they’re from the fridge or at room temperature. For this example, I’m using a 1000 watt microwave and two refrigerated eggs, and the high power setting. Some people microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each go.

Nuke the egg mixture for about a minute (unless you're using the 30 second burst method), then remove from the microwave and stir with a fork:

The eggs after one minute in the microwave.
Put the stirred mixture back in the microwave. I nuke for about 50 seconds more, though you can adjust this up or down to fit your tastes, etc. (as above). It looks really puffy when you open the microwave door, and then settles down rapidly:

Stir/chop-up the eggs with a fork. If you’re by yourself, eat out of the bowl. If not, or you're particularly civilised, then put on a plate.

Fluffy eggs at the end (left) collapse when you take them out of the microwave (right).
There are two main advantages to making eggs in a microwave. First, it’s fast. My two eggs take less time start to finish than it usually takes to toast bread. Second, it uses no added fat, unlike conventional scrambled eggs made on a stovetop. But, like I said, timing is important to avoid the eggs becoming rubbery, and that will take trial and, yes, error.

The eggs can be doctored: I often add some dried mixed herbs before I nuke the egg mixture, and even some grated cheese (all of which can also be added afterward). Usually, though, I add nothing except some (low sodium) salt and pepper. However, I’d advise against adding raw vegetables (like onion, green onion) because they may not be cooked through. Best to nuke them separately and add them to your egg mixture. Tomato is probably okay to add before nuking, though.

Scrambled eggs aren't the only thing I make in the microwave, but they’re what I make the most often. Easy, fast, no added fat—what more could I ask?

The plated scrambled eggs, with no garnish or anything. I like them firmer, which is why time matters.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Weekend Diversion: Fonts of knowledge

Last week I was too busy with work to put together a Weekend Diversion post. So this week I thought it would be appropriate to share things from my work world: This is all about fonts.

The video above from Vox tells us “Why the Wingdings font exists”. It’s always interesting to learn the origins of a font, and that font is often looked down on. However, I’ve often found it useful to adapt for graphics, including some I’ve used on this blog (Sh! That’s our secret!).

However, the video above was originally for a post I began on March 14, 2016, though it was just the links. I have no idea why I never finished it, or even what I intended to say about it. Better late than never, right? Actually, this is a bit like last month’s “Internet wading: Lost and found”, where I also shared things I’d somehow missed sharing.

A few months after the video above, Vox published a video “Where the ‘comic book font’ came from”:

I bet Roger Green has already seen this video, but I didn’t until I checked out the Wingdings video, and it was listed on YouTube at the right side of my screen. I found this interesting all in itself because I’m always interested in the evolution of publishing and of fonts.

But another thing I found interesting about it is how the font we know today originated as hand-written (by “letterers”), something I knew, as well as that the modern computer fonts are intended to mimic handwritten lettering. When I was much younger, I used to hand letter stuff all the time, often coming up with hard to read decorative lettering that I never actually used for anything other than my own amusement. Years later, I occasionally used hand lettering to make greeting cards for people, but only for fun. I have no formal training in lettering, or art, for that matter, and I never made any attempt to get “good” at hand lettering. But I really admire people who did and have.

Finally—since I always share at least three videos—a video I ran across recently. It’s from a series of videos called “Beginning Graphic Design” and is on typography. It discusses all the basic concepts I used on every project, and may even hint at why I like typography so much:

That’s it for this tiptoe through typography, but it’s not the first time I’ve talked about type. In fact, it was in a Weekend Diversion post back in 2014: “Weekend Diversion: The History of Typography”. That post talks even more about the background to the topic of typography and fonts.

Maybe I’ll make a Weekend Diversion post in advance for the next time I’m busy with work. Here’s another secret: I’ve done that in the past. That’s kind of remarkable, really, because I’m not really the—ahem!—type who manages to do that most of the time.

Five years of NZ marriage equality

Five years ago today, on 19 August 2013, New Zealand's marriage equality law took effect, and same gender couples were legally allowed to marry. It was an important day for New Zealand. The video above was posted on Facebook by Rainbow Labour in celebration of the day.

As always happens, New Zealand has moved on. I’m sure we have some religious extremists who fantasise about repealing the law and ending marriage equality, but it will never happen. New Zealand has a long history of fighting tooth and nail over an issue, but once it’s decided, the entire country moves on. It’s always been that way, and even our adversaries in that battle—apart from the most lunatic of the extremists—are well aware of that fact. I mention that because it’s by no means certain marriage equality is safe in my native land; in fact, it’s very vulnerable.

So, congratulations New Zealand—and happy anniversary!

“Equality arrives” – My post from 19 August 2013
“How the day went” – My post about the day
“What that day meant for me” – My personal reflection on the day
“Husband and husband” – The day we were married

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Another date meme

The meme above was all over social media this past week. It’s cute and clever enough—and irrelevant for this part of the world. Unusually, however, I was able to come up with some ways to adapt it for our reality—and, make it better, too.

Most of the special dates like this that the USA gets all excited about don’t work here because our date format is Day-Month-Year (as opposed to the USA’s Monday-Day-Year). The format used in New Zealand is common to the majority of the world’s countries, and the USA’s, well, it isn’t. However, the USA has always dominated the Internet and the media, so it’s pet memes are widely spread.

However, in this case I think this definitely works to our advantage. Instead of the someone awkward—and frankly inelegant—number sequences of 08/18/18 8:18, we have two far better alternatives.

First option: 18-08-18 at 18:08:18 (6:08:18 pm). That’s the one I personally like. Or, we could have 18-08-18 at 08:18:08 (8:18:08 am). Two chances in one day to have a date meme—top THAT USA!

Seriously, I’ve said many times that I like number sequences, and these are no different—and I really do like the versions for our part of the world much better than the USA’s. Naturally, I didn’t actually observe either.

I think I was awake at 8:18:08 am this morning, but I may not have gotten up then (I don’t pay any attention to that on weekends). At 6:08:18 pm I was watching the TV news. At neither time was I thinking about memes.

But since tomorrow is the 18th in the USA, it’s still important to get to say that—for once—we got the better date meme. Next time, maybe I’ll be able to make my own meme, too.

Advertising NZ diversity

New Zealand’s banking sector has been making great strides in promoting diversity in their business, and one of the areas that’s most visible is in their television advertising. In fact, TV advertising in general is more inclusive in New Zealand than many other countries, and that, too, is especially true in bank ads.

The ads that banks run are typical of much of the advertising on New Zealand television: The ads depict people of many different backgrounds, including different cultures, different races, mixed races, and LGBT+ people. This is a relatively recent change, and very subtle.

I’ve only seen TV ads in New Zealand for the couple decades I’ve lived here, so I don’t know what was on before that. And, when I first arrived, many of the ads were originally for the UK, USA, or Australia. The ads made for New Zealand have reflected both Māori and European people, with Pasfika people featuring, too. But it’s recent years we’ve seen immigrants included, and LGBT+ people, too. Again, banks are leading the way.

Consider an ad from last year, “Bank of New Zealanders” from the Bank of New Zealand (BNZ), New Zealand’s second-largest bank by assets:

The ad shows varieties of different New Zealanders, and at 24 seconds we see woman look at her phone and then run out of a lecture hall. What that’s about becomes clear at 43 seconds. The first time I saw the ad was literally a, “Wait, what?!” moment because, to be honest, I don’t usually pay that much attention to ads until I see something that I personally connect with.

Last month, ASB, New Zealand’s fourth largest bank by assets, began running a very unusual series of ads, especially the 60 second version:

The 30-second version is a little less odd:

There's one scene that stood out for me, and those people were in one of several 15-second versions of the ad:

I haven’t seen that particular 15-second version, and I also don’t know whether it’s been broadcast on TV or not. In fact, the only 15-second version I remember seeing is a severely cut down version of the first three—and it doesn’t include the couple that caught my attention [WATCH].

These ads aren’t particularly unique, but they are ads that are on television right now (apart, maybe, from the 15-second one I’ve included in this post). Also, all NZ's biggest banks have included diversity in their advertising; they’re just not running ads that include LGBT+ people at the moment.

The important thing about this is that the ads in this post are representative of how diversity is shown in TV ads in New Zealand, regardless of industry. At the same time, though, what makes these ads particularly notable is that they’re from banks, which traditionally are slow-to-change businesses. If banks can adapt to the diversity of modern New Zealand, it’s no surprise that other industries do, too.

New Zealand is not perfect by any stretch: We still have people who complain about diversity, or just particular groups. As a society, we have a long way to go. But the fact that diversity is being shown in even bank ads shows how far we’ve come in embracing our modern New Zealand. And that’s definitely worth advertising.

Friday, August 17, 2018


Today the “Queen of Soul”, Aretha Franklin, died. One of those rare people who are can be talked about using only one name, Aretha was loved by generations of fans. She will be missed, but she also left a huge legacy.

I thought about what to say, since I usually comment on the death of someone well known, but I don’t have any relevant personal stories. Also, I wasn’t exactly a fan, even though I liked a lot of her songs. When I was a kid, living in a middle class white Republican bubble, I even kind of disliked her because I perceived her as being a Democrat. I grew up and everything changed, and my appreciation for her grew, too. I learned what an important symbol and inspiration she had been for so many [Related: “In Franklin’s anthems, women heard an empowering message” By Jocelyn Noveck, AP]. That in itself matters a lot.

All of the people who loved her and her music would be far better than me in commenting on Aretha’s death. Like President Obama, for example, who said this on his Facebook Page:
America has no royalty. But we do have a chance to earn something more enduring. Born in Memphis and raised in Detroit, Aretha Franklin grew up performing gospel songs in her father’s congregation. For more than six decades since, every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine. Through her compositions and unmatched musicianship, Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade—our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. She helped us feel more connected to each other, more hopeful, more human. And sometimes she helped us just forget about everything else and dance.

Aretha may have passed on to a better place, but the gift of her music remains to inspire us all. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace. Michelle and I send our prayers and warmest sympathies to her family and all those moved by her song.
I’m sorry that Aretha has died, and even though we all knew it was imminent, it’s no less sad. But she left us with a huge legacy, so many great songs. That’s such a great thing, something we can return to anytime we want. That’s the thing about beloved performers. They may leave us bodily, but their work will always be with is, and because of that, so are they.

Farewell, Aretha. You earned that Respect.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Animal day

Today was an animal day. Well, most days are, actually, because they often do things that are endearing, interesting, funny—on just filled with life. Any or all of those are good.

Last week, I ordered our groceries online, but this week I shopped in person, and at a branch I don’t normally go to. But it was necessary because the furbabies needed food, too, and there’s only one place I can get that.

I buy their food at a pet store chain, and they have locations in both Pukekohe, where I usually go (and prefer to go), and also in Takanini. However, Bella’s specialty food is only sold from a vet, and only the Takanini store has a vet. So, I had to go to Takanini.

It’s actually a very annoying thing: The food Bella eats is designed for her kidney condition, but there’s no drugs or restricted substances or anything like that in it, so there’s no reason it can’t be sold literally anywhere pet food is sold. By restricting sales to a vet, it creates artificial scarcity, which keeps the price artificially high—very high, in fact. I could order the dog food online, but not the cat food—that vet thing again.

So, I had no choice but to go to Takanini. I’ve written before about the area and why I don’t like it as much as Pukekohe. In fact, there are only two stores in Takanini that aren’t in Pukekohe (a Bunnings Warehouse and the pet store with the vet), so I rarely need to go to Takanini.

I got home slightly before school let out, unpacked the car and put the groceries away, and gave Leo his new (synthetic) bone I’d also bought. He absolutely loves chewing the old one we have, one I originally bought for Jake many, many years ago. I bought the new one because every once in awhile Sunny chews on it, and Leo doesn’t like that. Another reason is that we bought the old bone when Jake had nearly chewed up his original one. I think we waited too long, and Jake never really “took” to the new bone. I thought maybe having two on the go at once might make both those things better. Maybe.

I even played with the dogs this afternoon, so when Nigel got home late afternoon, they—Leo and Sunny in particular—were still riled up. Leo had Sunny chase him around the yard at breakneck speed, which Nigel enjoyed watching. It’s nice to see them play together like that.

All four furbabies get along well, actually, although Bella can sometimes get a bit grumpy these days. She really is getting older.

And that was my animal day: Most of what I did was because I needed to go to a store I don’t normally go to, and that was for Bella in particular. It turned out to be a good day. The furbabies always make it a good day, actually.

Love, New Zealand Film – and more

The video above is an ad promoting what some of the money spent on New Zealand’s Lottery goes to. The video above is about the films that have received NZ Lottery money, but there’s more—a lot more—to the story.

There are several ads that promote different things that NZ Lottery money funds. All of the profits—the money left over after expenses and, of course, paying out prizes—goes back to fund things for the benefit of New Zealand. Film and television production is one of those things (and, full disclosure: I haven’t seen all the films in the ad, and I don’t even know what some of them are).

A related video series called “Good On You” talked in more detail about things Lotto helps fund, though they weren’t ads as such. For example, the latest one, about funding for various projects that help Kiwi communities:

Last year the TV ad that was running was about funding for community sport, and that ad used a different approach than the ad about film funding:

When the ad about New Zealand film first started airing, I meant to share it, and then forgot—probably because it stopped playing frequently on television. It recently began airing again, and when I went to the Lotto New Zealand YouTube Channel to get the video, I saw the others, and, well, one thing leads to another, doesn’t it?

There are people who don’t approve of Lotto because it’s a form of gambling. It’s not about moral objections (though we have a tiny minority who do object on those grounds), but, rather, because some people can develop gambling problems. Lotteries promote what I’ve heard called “unreasonable expectations” because most people won’t win the big prize. While most of us would think that fact was obvious, there are some who worry a lot about those who don’t understand the long odds.

There’s an old saying that one should never gamble more than they can afford to lose. Most us, though by no means all, can afford a little flutter on Lotto. For most of us who play, Lotto is just a bit of fun, a small investment in a fantasy of what we might do if we did win, even though we know we won’t. But, what if we DO!

And, because people do play Lotto, there’s money available to be distributed to communities and creative efforts all across New Zealand. And they’ve made some pretty great ads along the way, too.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Twitter’s twilight?

Twitter seems to be lurching from one public relations disaster to another, but growing tired of shooting itself in the foot, it now seems to be aiming squarely at its own head. The service may now be in terminal decline.

Twitter used to be my favourite social media service, something I frequently mentioned here on this blog. There used to be all sorts of interesting conversations, along with silliness and even useful information. It was, in other words, varied and even eclectic, but positive overall. Those days are over.

I don’t know when Twitter started turning into the toxic sewer it’s become, but I really noticed it in the run up to the 2016 US elections when there were so many people being so horrible—or, so it seemed. It turned out that the toxicity was coming from Russian government trolls and bots trying to sow hatred and division to make it easier to elect the Russian government’s chosen candidate, the Republican nominee who ended up becoming president.

Even after we learned about the extent of the Russian interference, Twitter didn’t change. Like a well that’s been poisoned, it was very difficult, even impossible, to make Twitter safe again. It’s never recovered, and the anger, bitterness, and aggression, from the Right and the Left alike—has continued apace.

To be sure, Twitter had problems long before 2016, and people were horrible to other people before then, too. In 2014, for example, Green Party supporters in that year’s New Zealand elections were horrible to Labour Party supporters, who all too often returned the favour. And Twitter constantly resisted any and all efforts to get them to take responsibility for harassment and bullying carried out on their platform, and, more recently, their slowness to deal with hate speech.

But now their downfall may be coming because of something that is both surprising and not at the same time: Twitter’s staunch refusal to ban the insane conspiracy freak who was booted off of Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, and even Disqus (the commenting service I use for this blog). This is surprising because, to be blunt, that guy ain’t worth it. It’s not surprising, however, given Twitter’s laziness about dealing with hate speech and also harassment: The lunatic has been victimising the parents of the children murdered at Sandy Hook, but that’s apparently acceptable to Twitter.

The other reason that Twitter defends the lunatic is that they have been the constant target of rightwing activists who moan and complain, as the always do, and claim they’re “victims”, as they always do, because, as they always claim, they’re being “discriminated against” because they’re conservative. Yawn.

In response, particularly in the wake of the rightwing’s latest rage over imaginary demons, the fake “Twitter ban” controversy, Twitter is reportedly mounting a “charm offensive” to win over rightwing opinion leaders. They can’t woo rightwingers and ban the lunatic at the same time.

What is a good and decent person to do? Activist Shannon Coulter came up with a creative response: A mass blocking of all Fortune 500 corporations active on Twitter—in other words, reduce Twitter’s ad revenue:

The way it works is that Twitter users subscribe to Shannon’s list of accounts, all of which are blocked. Then, if Twitter bans the lunatic, all the account will be automatically unblocked. Simple. But I have a feeling this is the last stand before mainstream Twitter users start leaving the service.

The problem here is that if Twitter abruptly reverses itself and bans the lunatic, the Right will explode in fury, as they always do, and even those who despise the antics of the lunatic will nevertheless express outrage and declare that Twitter has “proven” their pet conspiracy theory, namely, that Twitter “hates” conservatives. Yawn.

On the other hand, if they don’t act, mainstream users—and especially anyone even slightly Left of Centre—will conclude that Twitter values rightwingers—even lunatic rightwingers—more than mainstream people. They’ll vote with their keyboarding fingers and leave the service.

So, no matter what they do, Twitter will lose users and the ad revenue those lost users represent. If they don’t ban the lunatic, they’ll be seen as having no integrity and/or courage. If they do, they’ll be accused of—well, lots of stuff, most of it unhinged, as always. This has the makings of a death spiral for Twitter.

Facebook, meanwhile, is facing its own share of harsh criticism. The main thing saving them is that they’re not AS bad as Twitter, but they’re also slow and reluctant about dealing with problems, so they could get themselves into similar problems—IF there is a replacement for Facebook. The lack of an alternative is probably the main thing that’s saving them at the moment.

For the first time since the social media age began, it’s possible to imagine it ending. People like the social interaction with friends, and if a service came along that figured out how to cater for that without repeating the mistakes of Twitter and Facebook, it could become the next king. Or, people might just move on. If that seems impossible, then just think back to the time before social media: We managed then, so we can manage again. Maybe.