Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Four New Zealand 2020 Christmas ads

Every year there are all sorts of TV ads for Christmas, and this year is no different—except this year is very different, of course. We’re extremely lucky in New Zealand that we’ll basically have a normal Christmas (assuming anything doesn’t go wrong, which could happen—it IS 2020, after all…). Here are four New Zealand TV ads new for this year.

The ad up top, “A Whiteware Christmas”, is the long version of an ad from a New Zealand retailer of whiteware and smaller electronic items. Smith City. The YouTube description sums up the ad: “Dom's got a big surprise for Kate this Christmas. See how it goes down, in our honest festive tale.” The storyline isn’t particularly new—mistaken assumptions are a staple of situation comedies. And it’s entirely possible some people may take offence at the depiction of the woman being offended for all women, even though one could argue that’s a very contemporary thing. For me, the reason this ad works is the quality of the acting, and that it just barely promotes what the retailer sells. When I first saw the ad, I thought it must be about something else entirely, maybe even one about family violence or something. The fact that the ad was so unusual is another thing about it that resonated with me.

An ad for New Zealand discount retail chain The Warehouse also takes a lower-key approach to selling:

This is a cute ad, and it also promotes the idea that small gifts can mean a lot—maybe even the most. The ad still promotes buying something from the store, though something small, but in a year in which many people are still shaken by the effects of the Covid lockdown (financial effects included), this is a particularly good message. The storyline isn’t particularly original, but maybe it’s all the more effective because it isn’t.

Next up, a bank that doesn’t want people to spend money:

This ad is the long version of an ad for New Zealand-based (Australian-owned) bank, BNZ, and I didn’t realise what it was about until the very end. It’s a bit like the ad up top in that the acting of the female lead is really good.

Finally, an ad for New World, a New Zealand-owned supermarket chain (one of two supermarket companies in New Zealand; the other is Australian-owned):

This ad is unique to 2020, which, as the ad’s narrator says at the beginning, has been “kinda weird”. The ad shows some of the ways it was weird, and then pivots to building on that experience because, as the ad says at the end, “one thing we all deserve this year is a cracking good Christmas.”


If this was a normal year, Christmas ads would be promoting buying stuff, and there’d be a lot of them. But, this is 2020: Everything’s different, and so far, this year's ads reflect that (last year's ads for NZ Post are also running this year, and fit right in).

We get a few international ads, and they try to sell stuff, as have a few New Zealand ads. These four stood out for me not just because they’re among the first that have begun airing (the one from The Warehouse was the first one I saw this year), but also because of they have a gentler approach to selling stuff than we typically see. Maybe there will be more TV ads as we get closer to Christmas.

In any case, the season has Christmas season has definitely begun, even a year that’s been “kinda weird”.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Backward to go forward

There are times when the smartest thing we can do is run up the white flag and accept defeat. When we do, we can plan a new way forward, but sometimes that can mean, at least technically, moving backward. Today was one of those days.

Last month I started on a new prescription, and on October 31, just one week later, I could already tell it wasn’t going well. I wrote:
I said last week that the cardiologist gave me a new prescription for a drug to help control my heart rate (Felodipine), which he prescribed in the hope that it wouldn’t make me as tired as the one I’ve been on (Diltiazem). So far, it hasn’t turned out like that.

The drug has left me feeling more tired than I felt under the old drug. Another side effect I felt was pain in the muscles of my arms, legs, and back, any of which might feel very sore, as if from heavy overuse, when I did any sort of physical activity—even washing the dishes at the kitchen sink. This all came together Thursday when I tried to vacuum the house, and only got part way through the open-plan lounge, kitchen, dining area, and my upper arms ached terribly, plus I was utterly exhausted. I had to sit down for around a half hour to recover.

The most uncomfortable thing, though, is that it’s given me palpitations, another side effect, which made me feel like I was having a panic attack. Very unpleasant.
It’s been nearly four weeks now, and today I gave up: I asked my doctor to put me back on Diltiazem. I just couldn’t stand how completely awful I felt, even though some things had changed. On balance, it was still truly awful.

The muscle aches went away after maybe another week, but the profound fatigue continued. The palpitations eased, but that only made me more aware of what I believe was angina, which is what it felt like; I hadn’t experienced since before my stent.

What I didn’t mention in that post at the end of last month was what I call the “brain fog” I was experiencing: Inability to concentrate, inability to focus, and huge problems with my short-short term memory. Add it all up, and it as just like being on beta blockers again—and it was the reason I just haven’t felt like blogging in recent weeks, just like when I was on beta blockers.

I don’t actually think there’s anything wrong with Felodipine as a drug—I took it a few years ago with no problems. However, back then it was the only drug I was taking, whereas now my blood is a chemical soup of prescriptions. Most drug interactions are known and documented, but we’re all individuals, and our own experiences can differ from the norm in all sorts of unexpected ways. I’m Exhibit A of that fact.

In addition to all this fun, I also have a tooth problem: It’s the same one I first mentioned way back in July of 2018. The periodontist asked about it again in September 2018, and maybe again after that (I can’t be sure because I stopped documenting Tooth Tales that September. Eight months later, I was due to see the periodontist for treatment and ended up in hospital instead (I’d also seen the periodontist for a checkup on April 15, which I also didn’t document, and the treatment I missed was meant to be four weeks later).

So, it’s not like I didn’t know that sooner or later I’d need it dealt to. But, well, things happened in 2019 and this year, too, and I never got to it. This week, it started hurting—not constantly, but when it does it’s rather unpleasant. I don’t have a dentist in Hamilton, and that meant it would be two weeks before I could see one (existing patients understandably take priority). But two weeks is a long time to wait, even without pain. So, I asked my doctor what I could take aside form paracetamol, which is one of the few painkillers I can take. He prescribed codeine, which I may not even need, but if things get somewhat worse, I have back-up pain relief (and if it gets really bad, I’ll have to pay a lot to go to the emergency dentist; we’ll see).

The tooth thing is partly my fault—I should have dealt with it way back when I was first told about it, but it wasn’t bothering me at the time, at all, and I went through a lot after that. Those may be excuses, but they’re also actual reasons.

The prescription, on the other had, I dealt to as soon as I was sure it wasn’t going to get better. After all, the old regime was working well, and the change was only about making me feel better. Now that I’m switching back, I will feel better. Weirdly enough.

Sometimes, the smartest thing we can do is accept defeat. When we do, we can plan a new way forward. Today was one of those days.

Important note: This is about my own personal health journey. My experiences are my own, and shouldn’t be taken as indicative for anyone else. Similarly, other people may have completely different reactions to the same medications I take—better or worse. I share my experiences because others may have the same or similar experiences, and I want them to know that they’re not alone. But, as always, discuss your situation and how you’re feeling openly, honestly, and clearly with your own doctor, and always feel free to seek a second opinion from another doctor.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Political Notebook – Two big elections

Try as I might, I just couldn’t be bothered blogging about the two big elections I recently went through. Naturally, I had stuff to say, but nothing I cared about enough to actually write about. Part of that was was caused by the effects of my prescriptions, but I think I was also just plain worn down, especially by the past 13+ months, but also the three years-ish before that. Still, I noticed stuff, and a Political Notebook post is the simplest way to share some of that.

I really only published one expressly partisan political post just before the US election, and also one about voting in the US election. Apart from that, I haven’t really said anything since before Nigel died. All together, prior to today I published 53 posts about the US elections.

Up until today, I’d published 19 posts about the NZ election, and a large number of them were general in nature. Only a few posts were partisan in focus. I also had one about voting in the New Zealand election.

I think that I’d have had a lot more to say about both countries’ elections if Nigel hadn’t died. I can’t be sure, of course, but at the very least, I’d have been more motivated. Fortunately plenty of other people have written about stuff so I didn’t have to.

The USA’s elections

We all knew that the US election was going to be a mess, no matter what happened. What happened was all that and so much worse. The graphic above demonstrates how wide Joe Biden’s victory margin really was, though, of course, that’s irrelevant: The only thing that matters is getting enough votes in just the right states. Of course, Joe Biden did that, too.

As the result of again losing one single Electoral College Vote in Nebraska to the Democratic Candidate, the state’s Republicans are again determined to make the state “winner takes all” to ensure they all go to the Republican candidate. Of course.

Hypocritical electoral antics are one of the many reasons “The crisis isn’t Trump. It’s the Republican Party.” As Vox's Ezra Klein’s interview of Anne Applebaum points out. Which makes Marco Rubio’s opinion that his party “must rebrand as party of 'multiethnic, multiracial, working-class' voters” all the more laughable. Now, if Rubio had pledged to end his party’s reliance on disinformation, that would be a start (See: “Americans Were Primed To Believe” in FiveThirtyEight).

So, where to for Republicans? A better question might be what can Democrats do for disaffected Republicans? Before the election, long-time Republican strategist Stuart Stevens wrote “A Message to Democrats from Your New Ally: Victory is near”. At the same time, it’s often been pointed out that Democrats need to learn to speak to non-Trumpian Republicans. Published in NZ’s Stuff, Lana Hart suggests “Midwestern oddities help explain voting patterns”. She has a point, even if some of how she got there is arguable. This of course puts aside the question of whether it might be viable for Democrats to move Left, but that’s too big a topic for a links post. Maybe another day.

On the positive side, there were more women elected to Congress. Writing for FiveThirtyEight, Meredith Conroy talks about “How A Record Number Of Republican Women Will — And Won’t — Change Congress”. The short version: It’s not enough to really change things, either for the Republican Party or the politics of Congress.

New Zealand’s Election

By anyone’s reckoning, New Zealand’s election was huge and decisive. 82.2% of enrolled voters cast ballots (and 94.1% of eligible voters were enrolled by the day before the election; voter enrollment is compulsory). Of those votes, 68% were cast in advance (before Election Day).

The New Zealand Labour Party (full disclosure: I’m a member of the party) received 50% of the Party Vote, entitling it to 65 seats in the new Parliament (out of 120). This is the first time since MMP elections began in 1996 that a party has received enough votes to govern alone, and it was the largest intake of new MPs the party has seen since the First Labour Government was elected in 1935. The new Labour Party Caucus is also its first to be majority female. Overall, the new Parliament is the most diverse New Zealand has had. Among other things, thanks to the election, "NZ Parliament most rainbow in world".

Naturally, it wasn’t all clear sailing. Rightwingers were up to mischief, as they so often are. Some Australian lobbyists for the energy industry slandered NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, in part because she pledged to take action on climate change (an example they’re clearly afraid Australia will follow).

There was also a nonsense theory that the election wasn’t really an overwhelming vote of approval for Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Government; instead, it was conservative “National Party voters voting for Labour as a way to keep the Green Party out of government. There’s no evidence of that, and a far more likely explanation is that it was just an overwhelming vote of approval for Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Government. Personally, I think any National voters who voted Labour—or, more likely, for the libertarian-ish far right Act Party, which got its highest vote in many, many years—did so because of how extremely unpopular National’s leader Judith Collins is. I know I’m not the only one who thinks that, either. We’ll eventually have more data about that later on.

A newly elected Green Party MP, Ricardo Menéndez March, who is the first Mexican immigrant to be elected to Parliament, was the target of abuse because of a sarcastic Tweet he made about having to take an oath of allegiance to the Queen. Now, full disclosure, I’ve always liked him, even when I’ve disagreed with him, because of his endearing politics nerdiness (takes one to know one), and it’s nice that he’s also openly gay. However, the main reason I back him on this is because there’s nothing wrong with sarcasm, even about a stupid oath. Besides, I’ve long been critical of the oath used precisely because it requires an oath of affirmation of allegiance to the Queen, not the people of New Zealand. The oath needs to change, no matter what the mouth-breathers choose to think.

Finally, there was one weird thing about the New Zealand Election, delivered courtesy of Facebook. When I shared the NZ Labour graphic above celebrating the new government being sworn in, Facebook inserted one of its standard links to election information—about the US election results. This is a company that has no problem serving up ads for things I’ve searched for online or mentioned in a FB comment (or even spoken about out loud…), yet it can’t tell the difference between something about the US election and that of another country. No wonder they have so much trouble stopping disinformation and hate speech. Maybe I’ll talk about politics more now. Maybe not. But at least I now have these things off my list.

That, and the NZ election shows how well a democracy's elections can be.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Saturday breezes

It’s Saturday afternoon, and I’m sitting in my chair, the stacker doors wide open, strong breezes blowing through them, making the curtains billow and fly. I could restrain them—I bought the holdbacks to do that, but I can never seem to finish that project. I could even use the ribbons I salvaged from a blanket I bought—long, black, fabric ribbons with velcro at the ends. They’ll do the trick until I can finish the project.

I’m not watching TV from my chair, and I’m not perusing the world from my iPad. Instead, I’m reading a book I added to my Kindle months ago, one I can just never seem to finish. I have a lot of books just like that one—never finished, or, sometimes, never begun.

I put my book down and listen as the breeze surrounds me and makes the curtain fly into the back of my chair. There’s the “click, click, slide, click” of the curtains dancing on their tracks, the closest sound to me, but I don’t even notice it at first.

Instead, I hear some indistinct music playing somewhere in the distance, and while I can’t be sure, I know it’s some sort of pop music. It’s the rhythm track I hear most, and it betrays the nature of the whole.

Closer to me, I can hear neighbours calling to each other as they do Saturday projects around their house, and I wonder if they’ll finish them. Somewhere, maybe there, too, some children laugh and play and talk with each other in that far too loud voice children use when they’re excited. They sound happy.

Birds are singing everywhere, near me and farther away. When the breeze blows just right, I hear a truck or motorcycle, or the soft whispery whoosh of tyres on asphalt on the busy road that’s not usually close enough to hear, not unless the wind or the night closes the distance between us.

I close my eyes. I think about having a nap, and I listen. The inventory I’m making in my head, I realise, is something I should share. Because even though my life is still suspended, there are moments just like this, free of pain, of grief, or even the heavy obligation to deal with all the “toys” Nigel left behind. He’d be disappointed with himself that he wasn’t able to deal to those for me, and sad that I have to. It was just something he never finished—because he never got the chance.

I get up from my chair, go to my computer and turn it on. I sit down to write. I think about how I told Nigel it was the only thing I’d ever wanted to do, and yet, I don’t do it. Not really. There’s so much to finish.

I finish my cup of coffee.

And then, I begin.

Friday, November 06, 2020

Showing up

Today I went to the Waikato Home and Garden Show, which is about stuff for one’s house and garden. Surprise! I was hoping to see vendors of various things I need for projects to finish my house, and maybe to get the opportunity for “show special” prices. In the end, it was mainly just a fun day out.

I went with my cousin-in-law and a sister-in-law, and once there we met up with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, and we all had lunch together before heading our separate ways again. It was fun to spend time together, as always, but I think all of us were somewhat underwhelmed by the show for whatever reason. I certainly was.

I’d hoped to be able to talk to varieties of companies, but, for example, there was one company that does ducted air conditioning (among other types), and one that’s primarily known for a heat exchanger system that uses air from the attic space to warm and dry the house. And that’s it. There were a couple that did conventional split unit heat pumps, but they didn’t appear to do ducted systems and, in any case, I’ve never heard of them.

Repeat that same thing in every other category I was interested in: Maybe one or two stands, but not ones from the several companies I was hoping for. However, there were also a couple that I would’ve talked to, but they were either busy talking to people, or else talking to each other (I saw that in several booths).

The oddest thing of all was you could scan your ticket to go into the draw for a prize, but I never actually saw a booth for the company—though it’s possible I missed it.

On the other hand, I was able to see in person the garden shed at the top of my list, and I was suitably impressed. I’m 99% certain I’m going to proceed with them, which I’ll talk about more when/if it happens.

What this all means is that while I was disappointed there weren’t more vendors I wanted to talk to, and there were more products and product categories I wanted to see, it was nevertheless useful for me. The garden sheds, and even the cooling/ventilation systems, even though those are probably only a start, and even a supplier of window screens for my sort of windows—all of those things made the show worthwhile, and I’m glad I went. Plus, as I said, it was fun to go with family, especially to bounce ideas off of.

Family members told me that the show was considerably smaller this year than it has been. I have no frame of reference, so I have no idea, but I know that it was delayed to Covid, so I’m wondering if maybe some exhibitors hedged their bets that either the event would be called off, or that fewer people would actually go.

Still, even though I was somewhat underwhelmed, and certainly didn’t get as much information or see as many supplier options as I’d hoped, I nevertheless did see some, and that mattered—even if only to eliminate them. My overall reaction is that I’d go again next year.

Another thing for me is that at least we were able to have a show like this at all, unlike so many other countries that either have lockdowns or raging surges in Covid cases. We’re so lucky to be living here in New Zealand, where we have a relatively normal life, and it makes me feel quite churlish in saying I was underwhelmed. Still, honesty, and all that.

I like going to shows like that, and have pretty much my whole adult life. Any chance I get to go to one is a good day, even if I don’t see everything everything on my list. Sometimes just having the opportunity is everything.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Hidden realities

The caption to the Instagram photo above tells two stories. The first, what I was doing, but also why. The latter one I never mentioned before, and it was a kind of a test.

The first story is that a few weeks ago I was in a minor accident in which some guy hit the passenger side door of my car at low speed. My insurance company sent me to a particular panelbeater to get it repaired, and they told me it could be several weeks while the sourced the needed parts: Due to Covid, factories around the world were operating at a fraction of capacity, and then shipping was another problem. It would be faster if they found one easily.

I ended up bringing it in the following week, and two weeks later, today, I got it back looking good as new. They’s also detailed it inside and out, so it looked brand new.

I was really happy to be getting my car back. The loaner car was a 2005 Nissan Tiida, which, I said at the time, “smells like ArmourAll, age, and shame”. The latter refers to the fact that it’s kind of embarrassing to be driving a car like that, knowing it’s because my own car is dented. So, I took to calling the loaner “The Shamemobile”.

In fact, though, driving my own car with the damage on it was more embarrassing because I imagined people judging me. I thought that because I realised for the first time that when I see other people driving dented cars my natural instinct is to assume it was their fault, when it obviously may not be. So, I learned something.

As it happens, in the time between when the car was assessed and I took it in for repairs, I took the car to the dealer for it’s 10,000km service and, among other things, they cleaned up the damage, removing the surface scrapes (but leaving the dent, obviously). It looked so much better after that—barely shameful at all.

I was so excited because I realised that I missed it for its better ride and performance, but especially for all the features I’ve joked about many times to people who know me in real life: The advanced safety features, cruise control, reversing camera, and Apple Car Play, none of which were in The Shamemobile (my own car has a 5 Star Safety Rating, while The Shamemobile is only a 3). Thing is, I never had any of that stuff until this car, so the fact I was already so used to them, and that I missed them so much, really surprised me.

However, the other story is the explanation I included in the caption: “It’s been away for two weeks for repairs after my accident.” I’d never mentioned that fact before then, except to some family members, but not all of even them. At first I was probably a bit embarrassed, and maybe a bit shaken by the experience, but the more time passed, the more awkward it felt to mention it. The caption solved that, and explained why I had the car back to be excited by that fact.

However, there was a backstory even to that: It occurred to me during reporting on the USA’s election disaster that people—and not all of them American—were so distracted by that event that they missed all sorts of things going on with people they know well. Of course, most of the stuff they missed out on was stuff they wouldn’t know about if they weren’t told, and my small accident was one of those things. But, I wondered, how many other things had they simply missed, even when it was right in front of them?

So, I slipped in that little sentence to see if people were too distracted to notice. Honestly, I thought it was possible no one would, but my sister saw the post on Facebook and was the first to ask about it, which is no surprise; she’s good like that. However, if I hadn’t said it, no one would know, and no one would’ve thought to ask questions to find out what was going on with me or anyone else, such was their level of distraction.

I include myself in that: I was too distracted by elections in two countries, plus my grief journey, to pay much attention to others, either. This makes me think that we need better mechanisms to prompt ourselves to ask about the people we know, friends and family in particular.

Some of what we need to do is well covered, like making it safe for people to talk openly with us about their struggles and challenges, even if only so they know they’re not alone. Many of us don’t do that, of course, and we certainly don’t usually proactively ask people how they’re doing. It’s probably just human nature, and I think we need to change that.

My accident wasn’t a big deal, but it did teach me to stop making assumptions, at least about people driving cars with dents. It also reminded me, yet again, that we need to be upfront and open as we feel we can be about what we’re going through. It may or may not make us feel better to do that, but it could make others feel more comfortable in talking about what they’re going though.

Yes, of course. But I’ll freely admit that I’m shallow enough to be excited and happy to get my car back. Because that was the whole reason I made the post in the first place; the social experiment just came along for the ride.

Above left: The Shamemobile. Above right: The damage immediately after the accident. The dealer managed to remove the white scrapes, which were only superficial.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

The test

Today (Tuesday in the USA) is Election Day. Will the country’s four-year nightmare end? Will it return to kindness and compassion? Is there a future for the USA’s democracy? Or, will it all come crashing down as the USA is destroyed? No one knows. No one.

The video above sums up why I support Joe Biden. Sure, there was no way that the Republican candidate could ever have gotten my support—my disdain for him is decades old. But after the utter, complete, and total disaster that the past four years have been, I went out of my way to vote this year, even though Illinois is thoroughly Blue, so, in that sense, it didn’t matter. But I needed to add my voice to the millions rejecting the corruption, lies, and creeping authoritarianism of the current regime, because lives really do—and literally—depend on it.

I know some people don’t like Joe Biden, for whatever reason. I know that that for Democrats it’s often because he isn’t Left enough. Some Centre-Right people may hesitate because they think he's too Left. I couldn’t possibly care less about any of that.

The truth is, we’re electing a president, not a saint. We’re electing a human, not a demigod. Which means there’s no such thing as a “perfect” candidate or president, and there never will be. Elections are choices only ever between who’s actually on the ballot, fullstop. The mythical “perfect” candidate isn’t in the mix, nor is someone’s idea of a “better” candidate. It’s always that way in a two-party system.

I voted for Joe Biden, not just against the Republican candidate. As I’ve said many times before, there have been plenty of times I was actually voting against a candidate—even here in New Zealand. Not this year, and not in either country’s election. There’s too much at stake.

Today the New Zealand Herald published an article about two Americans living in New Zealand. I know the Democrat through Facebook, and today I’ll meet her in person for the first time when I stop in at an election event here in Hamilton. That much I AM looking forward to, even though the election itself terrifies me.

However, I noticed something odd in that article, something aside from the fact that the supporter of the Republican candidate didn’t want to be named, although I think that’s telling. It was the glaring illogic of what he said.

He claimed his candidate would have “quite a decisive win” because “traditionally the Democrats vote by mail and the Republicans vote on the day." Logically, of course, the winner would be whoever gets the most votes, no matter if they’re cast by mail or in person. He goes on to absurdly say that “because the Democrats don't have a huge lead over Trump right now, once the voting day comes in, all those Trump voters go and vote on that day. That's just going to propel him right ahead.”

That’s just plain stupid, even by the logic of his own reckons. There’s been massive voter turnout already, and in many places votes cast reached two-thirds of the total votes cast in 2016 well before Election Day (and that no doubt includes plenty of Republican votes). Overall, Democrats begin with more voters than Republicans have, and the Republican candidate has been nothing but unpopular during his entire time occupying the White House. But somehow Republicans’ Election Day votes are supposed to magically change everything? Seriously? So, what’s he on about?

He’s just following his leader.

For months and months the Republican candidate has been attacking the US election process, and mail voting in particular—never mind that’s how HE votes! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. More recently, he’s been demanding that the winner be whoever is leading on Election Day, even though that’s never happened in US history. There are reasons for all that.

The Republican candidate knows that, in fact, Democrats do tend to vote early, often by mail, and that in many states some or all of those votes won’t be counted on Election Day. He also knows that most Republicans do tend to vote on Election Day (we’ll see if that’s still true in the middle of a pandemic).

The Republican candidate knows that because of all this, he may very well have a narrow lead on election night, so he’ll declare “victory” and then he’ll send in his “army of lawyers”, as he put it, to try to prevent any votes being counted after Election Day. He knows that the Republican Supreme Court will rule in his favour—he said he’s depending on them. In that way, the Republicans could steal the election.

THAT is what the anonymous Republican in the article was alluding to, whether he knew it or not, and it’s what the Republican candidate has been promising for months: If they can’t win the election, if they can’t get more votes than Joe Biden, then they’ll steal it. Hopefully, the US republic still has enough strength in it to fight off such an attack against democracy itself, or maybe Biden will win by a big enough margin to put it out of reach of the Republican candidate’s “army of lawyers”.

In any case, we may well not know the end of the story for days or even weeks, but one way or another it’ll be done by early January.

The only way to change anything is to vote the Republican out of office, and the only way to do that is to vote for Joe Biden. In my case, it was definitely a vote FOR Joe every bit as much as it was a vote for change, but that doesn’t really matter. The only thing that matters is getting that man out. Democracy absolutely can do that—if it survives this test.

This post is based on, and synthesised from, various comments I made on Facebook over the past 24 hours.

This is the 5000th published post on this blog.

Monday, November 02, 2020

Twenty-five years later

25 years ago today, I arrived in New Zealand to begin my life with Nigel. Because this day was the real start of “us”, we always saw it as our anniversary, and even though we added other notable dates over the years, this always remained The Big One. How could it not? November 2, 1995 was the day that “we” finally began.

There’s no two ways about it: This is no longer as happy a day as it once was. It never, ever occurred to me that Nigel wouldn’t be here to celebrate our 25th year. November 2 was always our thing, and my thing, and it was about us, while also being about me. Now it’s only my thing, and only about me.

I was keenly aware of our approaching 25th anniversary, and I wanted to celebrate it. Part of that was because I realised that November 2 was the only one of our anniversaries where we might get to see a 50th: I was 36 in 1995 (Nigel was 31), but I was 50 when we had our Civil Union (he was 44), and 54 when we were married (he was 49). Besides, it was our main anniversary, anyway.

So, in late 2018 I started thinking about what we could do to celebrate. Nigel and I talked about it a bit, and we thought we might go to Hawaii, a place neither of us had ever been. We never finalised any plans (and, as it happens, going there would have been impossible because of Covid), and we never got any farther talking about it, either.

In early 2019, I thought about asking my FB friends for suggestions, but there was my birthday in January, then I was in hospital in May, and then, well there was just ordinary life—until our life together ended. Nigel lived to see the 24th anniversary of when I arrived in New Zealand as a tourist, and we met in person for the first time, which was kind of like the introduction in the story of our life together. Eight days after that anniversary, he was gone.

A series of fateful events led us to find each other and brought me to New Zealand, and now I’m still here, 25 years later, but all alone. Fate intervened in a different and terrible way than we’d ever anticipated, so I never thought I’d be here at this 25th anniversary all alone. However, there was never any doubt I’d still be in New Zealand at this 25th anniversary, no matter what. As I wrote shortly after Nigel died:
Nigel—who you may have noticed said a lot of insightful things in his final weeks—asked me if I’d go back the USA, and I said no. "Good!", he said. He then added, “To be honest, and I don’t mean this in a negative way, but I think you make a much better Kiwi than you do an American.” I think he’s right. I didn’t ask him why he thought that, but I have a pretty good idea what he meant, or part of the reason he said it, anyway.
And that’s the crux of it: While I came to New Zealand to be with Nigel and to begin our life together, New Zealand and I grew together and intertwined as much as Nigel and I had. This country is now as much a part of my being as Nigel was, and even though the links were different, the important thing is that ripping me out of New Zealand would be the same as ripping Nigel away from me. I’ve survived the loss of Nigel so far, but I doubt I could survive losing New Zealand, too.

This is one of Nigel’s many gifts to me. First and foremost, there was the love and life we shared for 24 years, but next, and in a distant, lower place on the list, there’s my connection to New Zealand, something that I got through him and because of him. That never would’ve happened if Nigel and I had never met or built a life together.

That shared love that warmed me for 24 wonderful years still warms me, despite everything, a year after Nigel’s death. That’s why this anniversary, even though it’s sad because of all I’ve lost, is actually still happy: I loved and was loved, and I began a new life in a country I love, and all of that officially began 25 years ago today.

I think I always knew that reality, but maybe I just understand it better now. In 2018, the last November 2 anniversary that we celebrated together, I wrote:
So, while this date has always been significant for multiple reasons—including for this blog—it’s the personal aspects of it that matter the most. I can’t see that ever changing.
I was right: It hasn’t changed. I desperately miss Nigel and I’m fucking angry that he’s not here with me for this 25th anniversary, but he’s not and I can’t change that. While it’s true that this anniversary was always our thing and it was about us, it’s also only because it was our thing and about us that it can still be my thing, and only about me. That’s not quite the happy thing it was, but in important ways it still is happy. And always will be.

This day carries sadness, but also something else: A profound gratitude for the 24 wonderful years I had with Nigel, and the now 25 year life in Aotearoa New Zealand, something I gained because I loved Nigel and he loved me. I think that the risk I took—that we took—25 years ago was worth it, despite everything. We both took an absolutely giant leap of faith in 1995, and I’m so glad and fortunate that we did. As I said back in 2009, “Don’t assume that your dreams won’t come true, because you may be only one day away from the start of it all.”

I now understand that I’m still only one day away. Thank you, Nigel—and happy anniversary, sweetheart!


Twenty four Years (2019)

Posts from happier years:

Twenty Three Years Together (2018)
Twenty Two Years Together (2017)
Twenty One Years Together (2016)
Twenty Years Together (2015)
Surreal 19th Expataversary (2014)
Eighteen (2013)
The day that really mattered (2012)
Sweet sixteen (2011)
Fifteen (2010)
Fourteen (2009)
Lucky 13: Expataversary and more (2008)
Twelfth Anniversary (2007)
Eleven Years an Expat (2006)


Ex, but not ex- – A 2006 post about being an expat
Changing policies and lives – A 2011 post about becoming a permanent resident
12 years a citizen – A 2014 post about becoming a NZ citizen

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Lives depend on a change

Most up-to-date figures (at the moment): 237,178 Americans have died from Covid-19, which is roughly 20% of all the people in the world who have died from it—despite the USA having only 4.25% of the world’s population. 1046 Americans died in the past 24 hours alone, and at that rate, there will probably be at least 240,000 Americans dead by Election Day.

There were 89,048 NEW American cases in the past 24 hours, for a total of 8,852,730 cases. That’s roughly 20% of all the world’s cases, too.

Lives depend on a change. Biden/Harris 2020.

‘Tis the season – again

It’s November 1, the first day of a new new month, and that can mean only one thing: Christmas shopping season has begun. Apparently. You have to feel a bit sorry for New Zealand retailers, because without a Thanksgiving to latch on to, what signal can they use to tell Kiwi shoppers it’s time to spend up large for Christmas? Today is probably only the “soft launch” of the holiday selling season: There’s so much more to come.

This morning I got two emails from companies I’ve ordered from in the past. They both promoted Christmas shopping, but the one at left was the top half of (and majority of) the email, while the one down below was at the bottom of their email (clearly they’re just warming up…). In the weeks ahead, such appeals will become much more insistent, of course, including more frequent. The thing is, since New Zealanders haven’t been able to travel overseas due to Covid-19, I bet they’ll spend more on Christmas than usual, so maybe aggressive marketing won't be as needed this year? One can hope. In any case, we’ll know for sure a couple months from now when sales figures come out.

There have been several different times that I’ve talked about Kiwi retailers having nothing to hitch the start of the Christmas sales period onto, and that they’ve tried a couple different things. For example, they’ve tried promoting Halloween, which most Kiwis still aren’t into as much as the retailers would like, but, anyway, it’s never going to be a good kick-off to Christmas sales. Seems to me it would be better to focus on Labour Weekend specials, as they do, anyway, because that’s also at the end of October.

The next tactic is that retailers are trying is to promote “Black Friday” sales, even though there’s no Thanksgiving Thursday for it to follow. Even so, it’s arguably been more successful than trying to hitch onto Halloween, and for much the same reason it works in the USA: It’s closer to Christmas. Now, too, retailers that sell tech stuff are promoting “Cyber Monday”, bless their hearts.

Even though I'm cynical about all this, I do wish NZ retailers well. Small business is the engine room of the economy, and that includes lots of small retailers. Collectively, small businesses employ thousands of Kiwis, and those businesses are hurting because of Covid.The big retail chains also employ lots of Kiwis, of course, so people spending up for Christmas indirectly help us all. I do hope some of that spend-up deliberately goes to NZ-made products, though.

Today is “a” launch of the New Zealand holiday selling season. There’s so much more to come.