Sunday, February 28, 2021

Shearing time

Last week, the dogs were shorn again. Neither one likes it, but sometimes it’s the only way to do it. Like when they’ve been neglected, for example. Jake always gets over it fairly quickly, but Leo? He becomes neurotic for about a week. Next week they should both be back to normal.

The dogs both needed grooming for quite some time, but so did Sunny. I didn’t want to groom her because she was so unhealthy, and because she’d look even worse after: She was nothing but fur and bones her last few months. But the bigger truth is, I was so wrapped up in caring for her (and worrying about her), that I just didn’t have any room in my head to figure out how to get the other two groomed.

I knew I couldn’t leave Sunny at home alone while the other two were done because she’d become a bit more emotionally needy as her disease progressed. Ordinarily, if I wasn’t there, Jake and Leo were. So, I could get a dog sitter to stay with her all day, or I could get a mobile groomer to come to the house. This latter one is a good idea because Leo gets car sick, and their usual groomer is now located about an hour and a half away. It was all too difficult for me to figure out while I was so focused on caring for Sunny.

Sunny died before I could resolved the dilemma, and instead my cousin-in-law arranged for us to take Jake and Leo, her dog, and a friend’s dog all together to be groomed. We’d have a human day out while they were at the doggie beauty parlour. She drove so I could hold Leo the whole way: My mother-in-law and I accidentally found out that if someone holds Leo, he doesn’t get car sick. It worked.

My cousin-in-law and I went to Te Aroha first and had a late breakfast, wandered around a little bit, then headed off to the larger town of Morrinsville. There we had a coffee and wandered around the shops. I also took a photo of one of the many cow statues in town, and I also posted one with me and of the more unusual cow statues. I originally planned on sharing them here, too, but—yeah, this time getting away from me thing is really, really common.

At any rate, we picked up the dogs pretty much on time and headed back to Hamilton. One of my sisters-in-law requested before and after photos, and those are above. Jake always looks so much older after he’s been shorn, but not so much when his fur is a bit longer.

Leo always looks like a completely different dog after he’s shorn. I don’t mind—his fur grows out soon enough. But when he gets groomed—shorn in particular—he’s neurotic for around a week afterward: Running from one end of the house or the other, hiding under the bed or under a pillow on a sofa (photo below), jumping up in my lap in any chair I happen to be in (and sleeping there for hours if I let him), and often compulsively licking himself (usually his forearm). This usually takes about a week to go away, so by the middle of this coming week, he should be back to normal (he’s part way there already).

I’d like to have a go at maintaining their look, but I don’t know how that’ll go. Jake will let me, but he can’t stand for very long anymore, and Leo—well, the very last time Nigel and tried to groom him he bit us both and drew a little blood. He’s mellowed since then (I think he was two at the time), but he doesn’t like me to trim the hairs over his eyes when they get too long, so I’m not optimistic this idea will work.

Instead, I’ll probably need to get them trimmed professionally, and I’ll do it much sooner this time. The last time I had them all trimmed was in June, not long after a lot of Sunny’s teeth were removed. That’s an unusually long time between groomings, but just like late 2019, whne they were also were also way overdue, there were extenuating circumstances that delayed me getting them.

Still, they’re shorn, and that will make it easier to maintain them, whoever does the actual grooming. That’s the main thing.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Here we go again, again. Again.

This evening Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that—yet again—Auckland will move to Covid Alert Level 3 at 6am Sunday morning, and the rest of New Zealand will move back to Alert Level 2. Here we go again, again. Again.

This is happening, the Prime Minister said, because the latest case of Covid has no immediate transmission link with the latest Auckland cluster, the same cluster that caused the city’s Level 3 lockdown two weeks ago. What that means is that there could be undetected wider community transmission.

What greatly complicates this situation is that apparently the young man failed to follow requirements to self-isolate, potentially putting hundreds of others at direct risk, and potentially thousands more after that. This left the prime minister “frustrated”, which sounds like a bit of an understatement.

The government has repeatedly said that our system is based on a high level of trust, but what if people can’t be trusted? Tonight the prime minister reminded us that the government has the power and legal authority to enforce the rules “if we need to”. But she also said something similar to what she’s said so many times before: "We still need an environment where people will speak up and come forward and be tested." That’s a false equivalence: People could face prosecution for failing to obey a public health directive, not for testing positive. Clearly there’s something else going on here.

My Lefty friends are trying to shift the focus on to employers who allegedly don’t allow employees to take time off for mandatory isolation, presumably by threatening their pay or even their employment. It seems to me that, if it’s true, that would be a very strong motivator for low-income workers to disobey the rules. And, if all that’s true, then surely those bad employers could be prosecuted for obstructing a public health order.

Thing is, none of that matters: Someone made a choice to break the rules, thereby potentially endangering us all, and there must be consequences for doing that. I don’t know enough about this case (nor do any of us) to say that prosecution is warranted, but at the very least it could be used as a final warning to everyone: Do this sort of thing, and you will be prosecuted, no exceptions.

This also underscores the need for change. People in quarantine should be in a purpose-built facility in a remote area. I understand that the government has dismissed the idea because of cost and staffing concerns, but I think that’s foolish: This will NOT be the last pandemic we face, and we need to be prepared. If such a facility existed, then those required merely to isolate could be placed into the facilities now used for managed isolation, because we can’t afford to risk one infectious person breaking the rules.

New Zealand got to the remarkably free position it was in because the vast majority of people played by the rules. ALL of that is threatened by as few as one infectious person breaking the rules everyone else follows. Business, society, and our collective mental health cannot endure constant yo-yoing through Alert Levels, certainly not because some arsehole chose to break the rules. Yes, people make mistakes, and yes we have to be compassionate in looking at their circumstances, but all choices, good and bad, have consequences, and choices that could kill people should get a bit more than a finger wag and “naughty!” said in a most stern whisper.

None of which absolves the rest of us. Every time I go out, I ALWAYS use the Covid Tracer App to record where I go. Always. Without fail. Always. Others? Not so much. Most times I go anywhere, I’m the ONLY one scanning in.

Tonight, 8,000 people attended a boxing match in Auckland, something that was popular with many of the people in the community affected by this outbreak. I feel confident is assuming that hardly anyone scanned in. Tonight in Hamilton, a crowd of some 25,000 attended the sold-out Six60 concert. How many of them bothered to scan in? That, too, would have been attended by people from the affected communities in Auckland. Could one or both become super-spreader events? Several days from now we’ll find out, but that latter one puts me at direct risk because I might encounter an infected person at, say, a supermarket. Multiply that by tens of thousands throughout the region, and we could face a massive outbreak, all because one person didn’t follow the rules.

New Zealand succeeded in controlling Covid in part because of widespread community support and cooperation. It is inevitable that, for whatever reason, some people won’t. By the vast majority who are (mostly) following the rules won’t long tolerate coddling those who (mostly) do not.

I think the government made the right call to move up Alert Levels. I also think that they now have to make the hard choices to keep us all safe and to reinforce the value of obeying the rules. That could well include prosecution of rule-breakers, but, at the very least, there have to be consequences of some sort for those who break the rules.

The slightly cropped image up top is a screenshot of the emergency alert I got on my phone this evening. I was quietly watching TV, and not using any of my devices, when the Emergency Alert went off on my phone. Scared the fucking crap out me (and Leo, who was on my lap). Not really surprised it was happening, of course, but very startled.

Space for disagreement

There are some things that just won’t go away, like fads and obsessions. Aside from political nuttiness, one of the ones that I’ve never understood is how enraged people get over probably the single least important issue facing humanity: Whether people who write in English should use one space or two after a fullstop (period) at the end of a sentence. It wouldn’t surprise me to read one day that a terrorist attack was committed because someone used/didn’t use two spaces after a fullstop.

I was reminded of all this the other day when my real-life (and very long term) friend Linda posted a link to a 2018 piece from The Atlantic, “The Scientific Case for Two Spaces After a Period”. Despite how provocative/definitive the titles sounds (depending on which side of the two spaces one is on), the subtitle accurately conveys the details: “A new study proves that half of people are correct. The other is also correct.”

The gist of the argument is that a study of 60 university student subjects showed that two spaces after a fullstop increased reading speed by 3%, or, as the article puts it, ‘an average of nine additional words per minute above their performance ‘under the one-space conditions’.” That’s not exactly an enormous performance enhancement, certainly not enough to go to war over—especially when there’s no evidence of any improvement in comprehension.

My friend later allowed, “I posted this specifically for your eyes and hoped you would comment. You did not disappoint. Thank you.” Here’s an edited version of what I said in reply to her post:
The most vicious [online] verbal attacks I ever received came when I—correctly—pointed out that modern word processing software automatically stripped out double spaces because they use their own spacing methods, including proportional spacing throughout, but not double spaces as such (though it’s usually possible to force it). I also pointed out—correctly—that professional typesetting required that double spaces by stripped out… My saying that made some people in the discussion absolutely apoplectic, unleashing spittle-flecked rage, and quite possibly leading to destroyed keyboards from their fury-typing.

I repeatedly said, “do whatever you want”, but it did nothing to lower their blood pressure or stop their insults and swearing, so I’m afraid I lost it and retaliated: “Go ahead and use two spaces if you want to,” I said. “Whoever prepares your document for professional publication will just charge you to strip them all out.” It was a bit churlish (or maybe just mischievous) to say that to folks in the grip of irrational rage, but it was also true.

The main thing I kept thinking, though, was that with all the real and very important issues in the world, and probably in their own lives, THAT was the issue they chose to lose their mind over?! Personally, I want double spaces between me and anyone like that.
All of that was something that really did happen to me, and more than once. I very vaguely referenced the first such incident in a January 2011 post, “Two spaces or not two spaces”. In it, I gave a sort of “headline version” of what happened when I followed a link shared in a comment to a post two days earlier, “5 things to stop typing”. That particular exchange with me was mild compared to others I’d have later, but the ferocity with which the two-spacers pushed their argument shocked me.

I wrote my response post a day before I published it, but I waited an extra day because I was so rattled by that ferocity. As I said in a footnote to my post, “I’m truly not interested in a fight about something so stupid.” I was worried that if I posted about it the same aggressive fighters would come here and further their crusade. For that same reason, I made my post much more oblique and didn’t quote or even mention any specific comments. That wasn’t the last time I pulled my punches over something I wanted to blog about, but it was certainly among the most memorable for me.

There’s an easy way to avoid all that, of course: Stay away from stupid Internet arguments. It took me some time to get to that point, and along the way a Facebook “friend” unfriended me, I unfriended one of mine, and a young NZ leftist got so incensed that I’d dare vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016 that she ordered me to “Go back where you came from. New Zealand is not your home.” Then she blocked me, which was a real time-saver for me, sparing me from having to do that to her.

What I’ve learned from that isn’t just to “Stay away from stupid Internet arguments”, it’s also that ALL Internet arguments are stupid. By definition. Nowadays I just don’t engage. If I see comment I think is especially awful (usually on the public page of a news or political organisation), I’ll just block that person so I’ll never see their idiocy again. I’ve been known to hide Facebook posts from my own FB “friends” when I see that the comments are devolving into a stupid Internet argument. This detachment has served me very well.

But of all the stupid Internet arguments out there, among the mostest stupidest are the typed death matches over how many spaces ”must” follow a fullstop/period. At least I learned to put some space between me and that idiocy. Maybe even two spaces.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

My Dad would be 105

Today is my father’s 105th Birthday, which is weird for so many reasons, not the least that he died at 63—a mere one year older than I am now. After he died, I often remembered his birthday only after it passed, but now Facebook reminds me every year, thanks to what I posted back in 2016.

The hard, cold reality is that my father became an important, but smaller aspect of my life than so many others—especially Nigel—would become. This makes sense: I spent far fewer years as an aware adult (or nearly adult) with my dad than I did with others—especially Nigel. But that certainly doesn’t mean he wasn’t important, because he was.

Toward the end of his life, he became much more interested in me and my life, and if he hadn’t died, and cancer hadn’t killed my mother, I think (but don’t know) that he and I would’ve become good friends. I’ll never know—and I’m perfectly okay with that. As he’d have wanted, I had a rich and full life after he he died.

I’d like to think that I took the best aspects of who he was and incorporated them into who I am, but I don’t know for sure that’s true. It’s possible, though unlikely, that he wouldn’t have approved of all I became. To be sure, he didn’t share (most of) the politics I eventually adopted, but he’d have nevertheless completely backed me and my right to make those choices. He’d have shared many of my positions, though, something I know because I know what my own politics is based on: What he and my mother taught me.

Sometimes I miss the Dad I never got to know, especially because he definitely got much more cool as he got older. Mainly, though, I’m grateful for the base he and my mother gave me, the framework to build the me I would eventually become. I get some of the credit for that, of course, as do other family and my friends (and, again, especially Nigel…), but the fact remains that he and my mother laid the foundation on which I would one day build me. Open eyed, aware, and certain that I may be, I nevertheless acknowledge where I come from, and my Dad was an important part of that.

Thanks, Dad. And Happy Birthday!

Among the hardest things to do

Over the past 17 months, there are plenty of things that have been difficult to do, for one reason or another. But I wouldn’t have guessed that dealing with the stuff left behind by someone I never knew would be among the hardest.

I’ve been dealing with lots of stuff that Nigel left behind, something that he wanted to spare me. It’s been difficult, not the least because there’s so much useful stuff in the mix. But the main reason, no doubt, has been that it means disposing of his stuff—the markers of his life. That’s been an ongoing job for the past 17 months, and one I’m (probably) nowhere near completing.

I didn’t realise that there was something that could be even harder.

Nigel’s partner before me, Gary, died roughly a year and a half before we first encountered each other online (“met” is probably too strong and specific a word). Nigel inherited everything from his late partner, who apparently had no blood family (or maybe it was family who cared; I cannot possibly know now). At any rate, Nigel packed everything up and moved it back to New Zealand. And there it sat.

Over the years, Nigel made some effort to purge some of the stuff, but found it too difficult. We moved a box of Gary’s stuff from house to house to house, until it ended up in our storage unit not far from the last house we shared. I brought that box to Hamilton some months ago, put it in my entryway, and there it stayed until recently.

I knew the box was in the way, and knew I had to do, well, something with it. I decided I needed to go through it.

Inside the box were a few things that may or may not be of interest to collectors, but most of it was photos and photo albums of Gary’s life before he met Nigel, stretching back decades. I didn’t know any of the people in the photos, of course, but I remember many years ago Nigel was looking at some of the photos from his time with Gary and he commented that “most of those guys are dead now”. It was The Plague Years, and too many gay men never lived to see the other side.

I looked through all the photos to make sure there were none of Nigel, and there weren’t in any of the albums. However, there were some packets of photos that did have some, and I put those aside to scan the negatives later. There were also a couple photos with stuff (furniture in particular) that was included in the life Nigel and I had—some of which I still have.

There was obviously no point in keeping any of those other photos or the photo albums, but it made me feel bad to just throw them away. Even so, I started throwing them out a couple weeks ago, putting them in the same rubbish as non-recylable packaging, and the assorted landfill-destined detritus of modern life. I felt bad.

To recap, I never knew Gary (of course) nor anyone else from those days before or with Nigel. But I felt like I was erasing Gary’s life, and so, that which was before he met Nigel. There was no alternative.

I kept only that stuff I thought my be of interest to collectors, and some antique photos which, at the very least, may be of interest to folks who collect them. I’d also like to scan those for which complete data was provided (very few) and upload them to genealogy sites so possible distant relatives can find them one day. We’ll see.

I still have some of Gary’s clothes in a vacuum-sealed bag, and those are headed to a charity shop somewhere. I remember Nigel looking at them as he put them in the bag before he removed the air. “He was so little!” he said to me, and to no one. He couldn’t give those clothes away, but I can. And it’s the best thing to do.

Despite knowing all this is the right thing to do, and that it’s what I must do, it still feels weird, like I’m erasing someone’s life. There’s one thing more.

If I’d died, I would have implicitly and completely trusted Nigel to decide what to do with the stuff I left behind, no matter what: Whatever his decision, it would have been the right one. Put more simply, I had absolute faith in him to make those decisions and choices. I also know that it was entirely reciprocal: He’d completely trust me to make these choices. So, the issue isn't whether Nigel would approve—of course he would. Instead, it was all about me, and feeling bad about what I had to do.

The worst worst part, though is that this still only part of the job. I still have to finish going through all the many, many, many things Nigel left behind. I’ll get through all that eventually because he would’ve implicitly and completely trusted me to decide what to do with that stuff, no matter what. I just didn’t know that dealing with stuff that wasn’t even Nigel’s would be among the hardest to deal with.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Tonight’s dinner

The photo above is of tonight’s dinner. There’s a story, of course.

I had some lettuce I wanted to use, but had to scrounge for what to put with it. So: I had a chicken breast in the freezer, and cut it up and then marinated that in some honey and soy sauce with a bit of garlic and a bit of sesame oil.

The salad was lettuce, a tomato, some red onion (all store bought and on hand). I put the still warm chicken on top and drizzled some pan juices on each piece of chicken.

The dressing was Greek-style yoghurt, some soy sauce, a bit of Thai-style sweet chilli sauce (for a little heat, but that style is milder than others), a bit of garlic, a little ordinary mayonnaise (for sweetness), and a tiny bit of canola oil (to make it more “liquid”, and canola oil has very little flavour).

So, that’s what happens when I try to use just some odds and ends I had on hand. It took maybe 20 minutes to make, tops. Sometimes real food really is easier than takeaways.

And that’s also what I do on an ordinary Sunday evening. Yesterday (by date) was 17 months since Nigel died. That was what was on my mind most the past couple days. I made the salad, anyway, because life does go on.

The above is a revised version of the caption I wrote when I posted the photo to Instagram.

Crop failure

When I shared the above images on my Instagram, I said, “This is the first time I’ve ever had a failure growing tomatoes,” and that was true: I’ve had some years that were more productive than others, but not complete wash-outs like this year. I may or may not try again next year.

The thing is, in summer tomatoes are cheap and plentiful in the shops, so is it really worth my time and effort to grow them? This year I had a lot of success with flowers and some other things, so I may concentrate on that next year. They also need a lot less watering than tomatoes do, so there’s that, too.

I didn’t plant tomatoes for last season, of course, because planting time was about a month after Nigel died and even by then I knew I’d be moving on, possibly before they’d be ready to harvest. Plus, for obvious reasons, I simply wasn’t interested.

This year, the plants were given to me, though I had to buy the pots and dirt, of course. Still, that wasn’t much of an outlay, really. It was just a lot of work watering them every day. I had to water the flowers, too, but that seemed less of a bother for some reason.

At any rate, it’s time to replant my VegePod, which has worked out well, and I’m planning on getting a “greenhouse” cover for it so I can grow stuff this winter, too (like lettuce and herbs). That’11 be a whole new adventure.

Live and learn, I suppose, but sometimes things just happen, and this was one of those years. Just as long as I learn for next year.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Into a new tech

Things change, people change, and so do our technological needs. That’s something we all know on some level, me maybe a bit more than most. Today I took another leap forward: Today I received a new Mac Mini.

This isn’t the first technological change I’ve had, and I’ve talked about many of them on this blog. It’s not even the first new Mac I’ve had, but it’s an important thing. But first, it’s important to back up a bit.

Back in October 2019, I explained my technological change:
When Nigel was sick, we talked about preparing me for the future after he was gone. “We need to get you a new MacBook so you can do your work anywhere.” He wasn’t done with instructions. “You also need a dock so you can connect a bigger monitor when you’re home, and a bigger keyboard.”

The reason he insisted that I get a MacBook was, first, that what I use now is a “Hackintosh”, basically a PC he built from very specific components so it can run the MacOS and software. Actual Macs are all made with components that are always compatible, obviously, but those machines are also really expensive. Trouble is, updates to the MacOS may make it incompatible with a Hackintosh until the hardware is tweaked (like updating the BIOS or whatever), and I’d have to hire someone to fix it for me every time that happened.

That’s because Nigel always took care of all computer stuff for me—he built me a LOT of computers over the years, and built a lot for family members, too. I don’t know how to do any of that stuff myself, where I do fully understand Apple products. Logically, and because of all that, an actual Apple product made the most sense for me, and Nigel knew that.

He wanted me to get a MacBook rather than a desktop Mac because then I can take it with me and work wherever I am. I’m glad I listened to him because there will be times over the next few months where I’ll need to work when I’m away from home, and for the first time in years, I’ll be able to (the last time I could do that, more than a decade ago, I was on a PC and had a PC laptop—which Nigel also had to maintain).
So much has changed since then. Most obviously, I settled into a new house fairly quickly, and the need to be mobile disappeared. In September of last year I replaced the window coverings in my office and the spare bedroom, and that meant moving my desk away from the window. Somewhere in all that I managed to break my Hackintosh: It would no longer connect to the monitor. That meant that it was useless, and it also meant I didn’t have a clue how to fix it.

For the past five months, I’ve relied on my MacBook Pro alone, which is the main reason I haven’t podcasted: All of my equipment was set-up for my Hackintosh and, to be brutally honest, I just couldn’t face sorting that out.

Eventually, I reached a turning point: Either fix the Hackintosh for the first of what would be many times, or buy a new real Macintosh. I put that in the “too hard” basket for months, until the new Mac Mini was released with the M1 chip and everyone seemed to be raving about it. But, as is my way these days, I hesitated.

I decided on a Mac Mini because I’d had one in the past and loved it, because it was powerful, it's small (I have a smaller desk nowadays), and because it’s silent (a good thing for recording podcasts). I wanted to buy one from a local authorised retailer (partly because I know they pay NZ company tax, something Apple doesn’t necessarily do…), but they only sold it with the standard memory and I wanted more (you know the old saying: You can never be too rich, too thin, have too much computer memory, or too much hard drive space).

On February 15, I ordered a Mac Mini from Apple itself with double the standard memory and hard drive. They told me, first, that it would arrive on March 2 or 3, then February 26. It arrived today. I got a text message telling me it was to be delivered today about ten minutes after it was actually delivered. Then, I got another text around ten minutes after that telling me it was delivered. No one ever said Apple was perfect.

I set up my new Mac Mini to, basically, copy my MacBook Pro, which makes sure I get all my files, log-ins, and more—basically everything I needed to just start using the new Mac. That's what I did for my MacBook Pro: Copied my Hackintosh to it.

This evening I started getting it ready, and there were a few glitches (mostly because of software that wasn’t compatible with the MacOS on the new Mac). But the thing about Macs is that I’ve been using them for so many decades now that I don’t really need to think about how to work around a problem: I just do it. And that right there is why there was never any chance I’d by any other machine than a Mac—and it’s exactly why Nigel wanted me to get a real Mac.

Having this new machine running will mean that I can finally begin podcasting again, and so much more (this is my first blog post on the new machine). My plan is to make my office my creative space, and that will also mean using it at all: I’ve largely ignored it since September 2020 when the video stopped working on my Hackintosh. This has been important to me for a very long time, and even though my office is still an unholy mess, at least I’m using it.

I don’t yet know what this means for my MacBook Pro: I may sell it. I also have a 2010 (I think) MacBook Pro that I may use just for podcasting (because I can use my audio mixer with it, something I can’t do with any modern Mac). Then, of course, there’s Nigel’s own Hackintosh, which is still working. Eventually I’ll have to get rid of it, too.

Right now, all I care about is that I have a machine that works for me, that does what I want it to do, and how I want it to do it, and something that I know how to deal with when things go wrong. My hope is that this will serve my needs for the next five years at least, and after that, who knows? I’ll be retired by then. My needs may have changed by then, and so will the available technology. Of course.

We all probably know that our technological needs change over time. Something I may know a bit more than most people. Today I took a leap forward, one that Nigel would have backed me in doing, and that’s enough for me.

Update – March 11, 2021: I managed to get my old Hackintosh working again, and copied off all the files I needed or just wanted. It now sits unused.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Updating again, again

In July of 2019, I published a post updating earlier posts. It was my first such post in about three years, and today I’m bringing them back again. This is nothing new for me: I have a long and cherished history of starting and stopping series of posts, and sometimes re-starting them again (sometimes again and again…). These updates are to recent posts, from newest to oldest. Sometimes they’re quite minor updates, but changed enough to warrant an update. In my opinion.

Reminders do their job

This past Saturday, I wrote about using using an App to remind me to take my prescriptions. This has turned out to work really well. What I said about it in that post is still true, namely, that I take the doses roughly 12 hours apart and that “I don’t have to rely on my memory to make sure I take my prescriptions,” which is important (and the whole point, after all).

Since that post, I’ve noticed that my watch does tap me on the wrist when it’s time to take my pills, however, I don’t always notice because other alerts are coming through at the same time. That, and it’s quite a gentle tap, so I often miss them.

There’s something that doesn’t work as well as I’d expected, but it’s actually okay: It’s about the way Reminders’ alerts are shared on my various devices. I usually mark that the alert is completed using my phone. However, that doesn’t show up to my laptop (which is my main computer at the moment). I think that may only be happening if the device was on at the time of the alert, in which case the pop-up has to be manually closed. Still, having to click “completed” isn’t exactly a burden—in fact, doing so gives me the same sense of accomplishment I get crossing any task off my list. So, I get a sense of accomplishment twice from the same action. That’s a bonus, in my opinion.

Smoothing it out

Last month I wrote a post about aging as shown by my birthday selfies over the past several years. In that post, I mentioned using moisturiser on my face. Since then, I remembered that Nigel bought a similar one a few weeks or months before what turned out to be his illness first emerged. It turned out to be a different version of the same men’s product I’d bought, and that he’d never used it (it was still sealed). I’ve decided I prefer his because it seems to do a better job. It also claims to be “24 hours”, which, let’s face it, is always a better option for me when I forget everything all the time.

The important thing is that I think, as marketing for such products usually puts it, it “reduces the visible signs of ageing”, or “reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles”. The reality is that no ordinary lotion or potion can actually “reverse” ageing, but they can reduce how obvious it is. The products generally work by helping to keep the skin hydrated, and that, in turn, make those “fine lines and wrinkles” less visible. I mentioned in that post last month that my skin was dry in places, so, at the very least, it’s helping with that, which is reason enough to use it. As for whether anyone else can see the difference, well, that’s still an open question.

Spilling the tea

Also last month, I thought I found one partial solution to my lack of good sleep and I wrote about that: A chamomile hot beverage before bed. Since then, I’ve had mixed results (as I even mentioned in that post). I also had one total failure: The tea in the photo I shared with that post.

I didn’t try it until some days after that January post, and instantly regretted buying it. I’d had a very similar brand (maybe the one I referred to in that same post), and thought it was pretty disgusting. I think this one is somewhat less disgusting, but I’d definitely prefer an ordinary yucky chamomile hot beverage. Live and learn.

One thing I haven’t been able to find out is why all the labels say to not add milk. I tried looking it up online (of course), but there was nothing beyond admonitions to only put milk in “black tea”—and with an undercurrent of “if you simply must”, but maybe that was just my perception. In any case, it struck me as being like the declarations that one must not drink red wine with fish or chicken, nor white wine with steak. Yeah, nah (as we say in New Zealand): I’ll make up my own mind about such things, maybe including milk in a chamomile hot beverage (many years ago I tried it and thought it made the drink somewhat less yucky).

Trolley dolly

I’ve been talking a lot about projects lately (with more to come), but last month I wrote about a minor one, my “Garden hose trolley project”. In that post, I wrote, “I know I have some [hose] connector bits somewhere, but nowhere I could find easily (and garage was way too hot to spend any effort searching), so I don’t want to buy new ones just yet.” I got impatient and bought some, anyway (it’s okay—they were cheap). That means I’ve been able to use the new hose reel, and found that the “pulley on a threaded rod thing” does help “keep the damn hose from tangling” sometimes. It has an annoying tendency to just stop, which means the hose winds all in one spot, just like the old one did. I don’t know if it’s just not equal to the task for some reason (like the weight of a hose with water in it, or if it needs silicon lubricant so it moves more smoothly, but I noticed that the problem seems to be that the wheel thing stops turning sometimes. A subject for a future update, I suppose.

• • •

As I said in my last Update post back in 2019, “Time doesn’t stop for anyone or anything”, and that includes the subjects of previous posts. At least some have been updated.

Rush Limbaugh is dead

You know the old saying, right? If you can't say anything good about someone who's died, then say nothing at all. Here's my official statement on the death of Rush Limbaugh:

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Two years into this march of changes

Two years ago today, everything began to change. I’ve been alluding to it all week, because it was only after Sunny died I fully realised how things had changed so dramatically over a short period of time. When I shared the Memory (above) on my personal Facebook, I said:
And this is the event that started the massive changes to my story. It was the first reduction in our little family in years, but only the beginning. Seven months later, Nigel died. And now, after the loss of Sunny, my little family is exactly half the size it was on February 13, 2019. There’s been so much to deal with over that time (including my own health challenges), and I actually have no idea how I’ve made it through it all. To be sure, the love and support of family and friends has been a big part of that, a huge part, but most of the time, most of every day, I’m alone with the furbabies. Is it because they depended on me? Was it luck? Was it sheer stubbornness? I wish I understood what the “secret” was so I could help others, but all I know for sure is that for the past two years I’ve been dealing with near constant change, some of it indescribably painful, and I’m still here. Maybe that’s all that matters.
There were a few changes close together in 2007, but after that it was only about the family growing, right up until February 14, 2019. The timeline went like this:

1999: Our cat Curzon came into our lives when Nigel gave him to me for my 40th birthday. Our dog Saibh joined us a few months later. We moved twice, and they were with us for several years.
2007: Saibh died unexpectedly in May, 2007. Jake joined the family in June. Then Curzon died in September. 2007 was the trying year, but our family, including Jake, remained unchanged for several years.
2010: Bella joined the family in April, and then Sunny joined the family in December of 2010. Our family again remained unchanged for several years.
2018: Leo joined the family in May.
2019: Bella died two years ago today, on February 14, 2019.
2021: Sunny died on February 2.

There have been a lot of highlights over those years, of course, but when Sunny died I realised that I’ve been caught in a Danse Macabre for the past two years—beginning two years ago today. That was why I titled a Memory from February 2017 “Two years before the two years”. I wasn’t trying to be cryptic, it was just the way I saw it. I could never have guessed that two years later everything would start to change, and it would be relentless change for the two years after that.

So, this isn’t really about our furbabies, past and present, it’s really about how temporary life is. For nearly ten years, the life Nigel and I had was awesome as we added furbabies (when Leo arrived, Nigel jokingly said, “We bought a zoo!”), and we all lived happily together. And then it all started to change. This was behind my sharing the Memory about going out for lunch, because I was in the moment that day, blissfully unaware that that time was running out fast. And I shared a memory about a perfectly ordinary night (in which I was similarly in the moment) because three days later the changes began.

It’s fashionable these days to talk about “mindfulness”, which younger me probably would have called just “being in the moment” or maybe “living for today”. Then, it was mostly considered selfish and self-centred, now it’s presented as a mark of emotional and spiritual maturity. I’m not so sure.

As I showed this week when I shared ordinary FB Memories, I was often in the moment, but that couldn’t possibly have prepared me for the loss and change heading toward me at breakneck speed. That’s because it doesn’t matter how much “mindfulness” one engages in, absolutely nothing can insulate anyone from dealing with deep loss, and worse, once such a loss arrives, we’ll suddenly remember all the times we weren’t in the moment, when “mindlessness” would probably be a more accurate word. And it’s hard to avoid feeling regret when that reality arrives.

We all—everyone of us—live our lives as if we’ll live forever and nothing bad will, or even can, happen. We’re wrong. As I said last December:
The harsh, cold reality most of us choose to ignore is that we’re all going to die. It’s the only thing that’s certain about life: Birth itself isn’t a certainty, and neither is anything that follows it except for death. We’re all in a long queue leading to the exit from life, but we just don’t know where it is or how soon we’ll get there.
My family is now half the size it was two years ago, and I know more changes are inevitable. That includes my own death, though I won’t have to deal with the aftermath of that, at least. Still, I can’t possibly know what will happen when, because we can’t, and so maybe what I said today is the core reality: I’m still here. Maybe that’s all that matters.

Here we go again (again)

This evening Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the decision of Cabinet that Auckland will move to Covid Alert Level 3 (which I often call “Lockdown Lite”), and the rest of New Zealand will move to Alert Level 2, at 11:59pm tonight. This is due to three confirmed cases of community transmission in Auckland, and is being done out of “an abundance of caution” because at this point they don’t know the extent of the outbreak—or even if there is any further spread—nor what strain of the virus it is. The restrictions were put in place because the new more easily transmissible strains of the Covid virus are becoming common at the border, and they could be a threat to the wider community.

Auckland was under a Level 3 Lockdown some six months ago, and has experience with having greater restrictions than other parts of the country, including roadblocks to keep people from entering or leaving Auckland (unless they have special permission). Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said, “We know from experience that quick action to impose restrictions is the best way to stamp out the virus.” Hopefully, it will this time, too.

I watched the media conference this afternoon, and when Minister Chris Hipkins said that the Prime Minister was cancelling her schedule and returning to Wellington, I suspected the Alert Levels were going up (Read also: “Covid-19: New Zealand has four alert levels, here's how they work”Stuff). I changed my plans for the afternoon because of it.

Today was a hot day in Hamilton, and I was sitting in my lounge with the air conditioner on, perusing my iPad, when the alert of the conference came through. I’d already decided I wasn’t going to go anywhere today, but then I realised that I had a couple projects I was keen to finish and I needed supplies for them.

So, I left the house and drove to the local home centre to get those supplies and then I drove home. At the time, I wasn’t sure what the level changes would be or how long they'd last, and I wanted to make sure I had the supplies to finish those projects—just in case.

As it happens, life in Hamilton will be near-normal—I can still go to the shops if I want to, but I’m not sure I want to until the Alert Level is lowered again. After all, I have plenty to keep me busy even if the Alert Level is extended—or, worst case scenario, raised.

I did not, however, make a run on the supermarket as plenty of others did. I have enough toilet paper and I know that, as well as the fact it never stops being available. I have plenty of food, too, actually. And now I have supplies for projects, as well.

The image above is a screenshot of the emergency alert I got on my phone this evening. The "try again" at the bottom of the image, in addition to being somewhat ironic, refers to that fact that in order to take the screenshot I had to push a button with a finger not recorded as being able to unlock my phone.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Two years before the two years

The Facebook Memory at left is about a stop we made at the edge of the Manukau Harbour in Auckland four years ago today. This photo is from what was a bit of a secret mission because the "errand" I mentioned was that we were at Clarks Beach doing a walk through of the house we'd just bought, the last one that Nigel and I shared. For reasons I still don't really understand, I didn't talk about the move in advance, however, I know that part of the reason was that Clarks Beach is a very small settlement, so I was a little worried it'd be too easy to find us, since my Instagram and blog are both public (I was trying to protect us both, but especially Nigel because there are some very dangerous people who use the Internet to do harm to others).

We were there because we had a list of things we wanted to check before settlement, including a couple just for our own information (such as, where the hot water heater and fusebox were). We also noted a couple very minor things that needed to fixed before settlement. Settlement was on February 24, and we moved in the next day.

This particular photo was taken at my favourite (if that's the right word) beach access, not far from our house. I never actually went to the one closest to our house, one that was only accessible on foot. That was one of those things I meant to get to, but we ran out of time.

The photo below was taken at the same time (I turned to my right), and I shared it in a blog post that day where I talked about harbours, but, of course, not the reason I was there to take the photos. Even so, I foreshadowed what I thought would be a lot of photos at the harbour’s edge: “As I start to get around the outer reaches of Auckland a bit more, though, I’ll share more photos. Today is just the start of that.” It sort of was, at least a little bit.

Still, I've always liked the photo in that memory, which is reason enough to share it.

In addition to the 2017 post I linked to, the photo up top can also be seen on my Instagram account.

Reminder workarounds

Most people, apparently, have trouble with their memories as they get older. Some joke about it (like calling it “C.R.S.: Can’t Remember Shit”). Under the best of circumstances it can be annoying, but it’s also frustrating, especially when it causes other problems. The solution, we’re told, is either resignation to our new reality or finding ways around the problems. Seems to me the second option implies the first has also been adopted. I know that’s true for me, anyway.

I needed ways to try to work-around the “brain fog” I’ve complained about several times, most recently, this past Tuesday. I’ve also talked several times about trying to find ways to organise my life so I don’t have to remember things, and so, forgetting them won’t matter. This week I made some progress—I think.

I’ve always looked for technological solutions to my organising needs because I have some device or other near me all the time, and I check one or all of them every day—in some cases (phone, iPad), several times a day. All of which made some sort of App-based solution the best one for me (as did the fact I never remember to look at written lists…).

This got a bit of a hurry up because twice over the past couple weeks or so I forgot to take my daily pills. Both times I felt unwell by evening, and in both cases I didn’t realise I’d forgotten the pills until I went to take my evening pill. By then, the best option was to wait until morning to take them as normal (which made for a less-than-restful night’s sleep).

Forgetting to take my prescriptions is bad enough, doing so twice in a short period of time is worse, and, frankly, it worried me a lot. But the first order of business was to find a solution so I didn’t have to rely on my (clearly faulty) memory alone.

The first thing I did was to put my pill box on the kitchen bench where I could see it every time I went in the kitchen. Not a perfect solution: The untidiness annoys me, but seeing it there all the time would also probably mean I’d eventually not see it at all because of its familiarity.

Enter technology.

I remembered that when I forgot to take my pills at the old house (which really mostly meant just being late), Nigel suggested I get an App to remind me to take my pills. He often forgot to take his own medication, so he got and used an App (which kept sending daily reminders to his phone after he died, which was kind of unsettling, until I turned off the reminders).

I was about to check Nigel’s phone (which I still have, obviously) to find out what App he used, but I hesitated. I wasn’t comfortable sharing my prescriptions with an App and its servers, at least, not without researching the company providing the App. A better solution was an App that Apple puts on all its devices, one I already had: Reminders (a screenshot of the Mac version is up top).

Apple is much stronger about preserving privacy than most companies are, often notoriously so. My Apple Watch records activity data and heart rate, the latter of which has been particularly useful. I back up the data manually, and if I don’t secure that backup with a password I create, I can’t transfer my health date to a new phone, something I found out about the hard way. Even though our data can never be totally secure everywhere, every time, I nevertheless feel comfortable trusting Apple. Mostly.

So, I set up two Reminders in the App, and set both to remind me every day. What I haven’t gotten right yet is making they alert me on my watch by “tapping” my wrist (useful) or by making a sound on my phone (possibly more useful). However, I check my phone a few times during the day, and always as I’m about to head to bed, so I’m nearly certain to see the Reminders, either as they pop up or soon afterward, and regardless of which device I’m using. So far, it’s worked well, even without taps on my wrist or sounds.

Until I did this, I didn’t know that it was possible to have a Reminder repeat daily (because I’d never used the App very much). An added benefit is that I now take my pills roughly 12 hours apart, as the doctors want, and not just when I remember. The main benefit is that, so far, I don’t have to rely on my memory to make sure I take my prescriptions. I still have my pill box out on the kitchen bench for now, though.

The thing that worries me is that I don’t know for sure how much of this “brain fog” is caused by the prescriptions I’m currently on, and so, will at least theoretically improve when my medications are revised in the next few months. If it’s not that, there are other things that could be causing it, including my grief. I actually think it’s probably a cumulative thing. At least, I hope so.

Regardless of the cause(s) of this “brain fog”, and no matter how much it improves in the future, memory issue will continue. So far, this one solution seems to be helping. With luck I’ll find more, too.

This post has been updated. Follow the link to see the update.

Friday, February 12, 2021

As change grew near

Today Facebook served up another “Memory” (at left), and it reminded me of all the change I’ve been going through, and for longer than may be obvious to casual observers. The fact is, absolutely everything has changed since that night (including Leo, who’s far more shaggy then he was back then, because, reasons…). I miss those days and nights so much, and I still can’t imagine having such warm and relaxed thoughts about ordinary days or nights, not with so much missing from them.

It turned out that this memory recorded what was actually one of the last such ordinary days before everything started to change, a process that began, I now know, a few days later and has has continued ever since. But I couldn’t know any of that back then, and I’m happy that I was able to be in that ordinary moment.

This memory was like the one from a couple days ago, where I was also in the moment. But this one is significant because of the change that was coming, something I couldn’t have known about when I posted about one ordinary night. The post from this past Wednesday, on the other hand, was about a moment that may have ended up being the last of its kind, but it was otherwise less immediate, and even consequential, than this one was.

Both of those Facebook Memories remind me how much I want to be able to live in the moment again. One day, that’ll happen again—just not today.

Sunny is home

This afternoon, I picked up Sunny’s ashes after running some errands so that I could take her right back home. I started to tear up as I walked back the car, but didn’t actually shed tears until I was inside. The trip home was uneventful.

When I got home, I took her collar and let Jake and then Leo sniff it. They knew it was hers, of course, and I hoped that since their sense of smell is so keen they’d know she wasn’t coming back, if no other reason than that she died wearing it. In that sense, it was similar to the way I lifted up all three dogs so they could see and sniff Nigel when we brought him home the night before his funeral.

I placed Sunny’s ashes next to Nigel’s in my bedroom (photo above). When each of our previous furbabies died, we placed their ashes in view for a time, and then put them “away”, which I imagine I’ll do with hers, too, eventually. That “eventually” may be quite some time, though.

When Nigel was in his last days, he told me he wanted the furbabies' ashes to go with him, “and you can have the others,” he told me. “Unless you want Curzon to go with you,” he added. I kind of chuckled and said, no, that’s fine. He was thinking about how Curzon was my cat (Nigel's present to me for my 40th birthday). But every single night, Curzon cuddled up with Nigel when he went to bed, later moving to cuddle up with me when I went to bed. He and Nigel had a special bond.

However, I’m also not particularly fussed about where ashes are—I know very well that they’re not the one we’ve lost, just what left of them. Even so, I felt unsettled until I brought Sunny’s ashes home, just as I had with all the other furbabies we’d lost—and Nigel’s ashes, too, for that matter. I didn’t like the idea of them being “out there” somewhere that was unknown to me. I felt much more at peace once their ashes came home.

I was given a certificate of cremation, so I can be sure they’re Sunny’s ashes, and they also gave me her paw prints. That’s never happened before, and I think it’s awesome they did that.

One thing that made me smile was the name on the envelope containing that certificate: I don’t think she was ever known as “Sunny Schenck” in the past. I usually used Nigel’s name because “King” was so much easier to spell—for me and the person on the other end of the phone (probably me especially…).

So, that’s another step in the process of letting go, one that brings me (and, I hope, Jake and Leo) closer to closure, whenever that happens. In any case, Sunny is home, and that’s what matters.

Another audio visit with Nigel

Here’s another Friday Flashback: Nigel returned to my podcast for Episode 27 in July 2007. In this episode, we’re both more relaxed, but the background sound isn’t because Nigel insisted that there be background music. This episode is 44:57 long. Follow the link to listen online, or to download it.

We answered questions from podcast listeners, then I asked Nigel other listener questions I’d already answered. As I said in the original show notes, “Both [sets of questions] provide loads of new information, including… Nigel’s perspective on my early days in New Zealand.” Included in all that is the story of how Nigel came to be ready to find love again, which led, ultimately, to our life together. We also talked about adoption and when we’d have our civil union ceremony, which ended up being a year and a half later—and not at all as he imagined it in 2007. The episode even had a (very) brief appearance from one of Nigel’s sisters.

Most (probably all) of his other appearances were live shows we did on Pride 48 (I’m still checking them all), and most of those were well over an hour. So, I’ll do a blog post where I’ll summarise and link to each one for anyone who’s interested. But first, I have to listen to them all—something I really like doing, actually.

As with the previous episode I shared a couple weeks ago, the comments for this one were here on my blog, as all comments were in those days.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Old project no more

Sometimes it just takes time to get to a project around the house, let alone finish it. We may need supplies, maybe we need some people to help us, and other times we need to do some research (which usually means Googling “how to [whatever it is we want to do]”. Whether it’s important that a project is finished or not probably similarly depends on a lot of variables, but there’s one good reason to finish them: It feels good.

Last week I finally finished an old project, fixing some gate latches (image above). It took me time to get there, but I did.

In the image above, the top photo shows a gate latch that’s not exactly latched. What it doesn’t show is that it was also padlocked at the time. This happens because in summer the wood of the fence shrinks in the heat and lack of rain, and because the latch itself was mounted too far to the left, and the bolt was too short to stay latched when closed, all of which meant that when the fence dried out in summer, that latch bolt slipped the surly bonds of security and allowed the gate to blow open. This could be a real problem for someone with dogs.

In fact, it was a problem last year. One evening Jake didn’t come back inside after going out for a wander (and, um, etc…), even though Sunny and Leo did. I went out to look for him, saw the gate was open, and knew he’d gone out to explore. I panicked: This was only some four months after Nigel died, and I was terrified I was going to lose our boy, too.

It turned out that since the next morning was rubbish day, there were several interesting smells to smell, and he was actually just a few houses up the street, on the other side of the road, sniffing rubbish bags. I called him, and he came home. I closed and latched the gate—and also put barriers in front of it so if it opened again, the dogs wouldn’t be able to get out.

At the time, I didn’t have padlocks on the gates (I’d only been in the house maybe a couple weeks or so at that point), and I thought the Internet installers had opened the gate and not closed it. It was actually only this year that I realised the hot dry summer weather was the reason the gate opened back then, and again this summer.

My original project was to relocate the latch inside the yard rather than out front of the house. That’s where they always should have been, but whoever installed the gates put them in incorrectly, and there was no timber available to fasten then to on the inside (there is timber, of course, but it’s not in a usable position).

My original idea, suggested to me by tradesperson, was to drill a hole into the upright so the latch could slide into that. However, over time that would open of the hole a bit, possibly weakening it, but definitely allowing it to make noise in a storm. The solution was to put a sort of strike plate onto the timber to protect the hole. I couldn’t find one anywhere.

New plan: Find an alternative.

I was originally going to get bigger latches and put them on the inside of the fence, but that had the same problem: No way to configure it to hold the gate closed. I found a different sort of lock latch, typically used to padlock a chest or box. It had a hinge in the middle, and that meant it could bend to the unusual way I needed one to. The photo below shows it installed, which I also did last week.

I got the padlock latches sometime last year (before lockdown, I think), but didn’t install them in part because I still thought there might be a better solution. Last week changed my mind: The gate had opened up several times.

Between the start of all this and now, I also unpacked some of the boxes in the garage, and I found a couple larger sliding gate latches that Nigel had bought for—well, I don’t know what or when it was. I realised I could use them on the gates to replace the ones there, so I did: The bottom photo in the image above shows the original short, dodgy latch replaced with the new, stronger, longer one. I did that with the gate on the other side of the house, too.

My idea was simple: First, install the padlock things at the top of the gate so I could unlock it from the outside (because where the too-short latches had been, it was impossible to unlock from the other side of the fence). Then, I wanted to put better latches on the outside so that it’s easier for me to get in and out of the yard, and to make the gate slightly steadier in the wind than a lock at the top would have made it. Plus, there were already screw holes in place, and if I removed the latches completely, they’d still be there (as it turned out, the old holes matched up with the holes for the new latch).

I plan to get a couple cabin hooks for the inside of the gate so I can give a little strength on the inside in case someone unlatches the gates on the outsideside. That way, they’ll still be secure on the inside.

So, this project is now, finally, nearly done. I say “nearly” because I have one more padlock latch to install on the other gate, but I dropped in in the garage somewhere and haven’t found it yet. Oops. However, the ordinary latch on the outside was always fine (though much better now that it has a longer bolt), so it’s padlocked on the outside (I never use that gate, anyway).

This was one of the old projects I was referring to in my post earlier this week. It was good to finish it for the whole reason I started it in the first place: To keep the dogs safe and secure. But getting a project finished feels good, and finishing one that’s been on the list for so long feels really good. In fact, it’s motivated me to work on some more projects, and some of them will be done by the end of this weekend, the rest next week.

Sometimes it just takes time to get to a project around the house. Finishing it feels good, though, no matter how long it took to get there.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

That one moment that one time

I’m not certain, but I think that the Facebook Memory above turned out to be of the last time Nigel and I ever went out for lunch. I had no idea that could’ve been the case—of course: We almost never know that some ordinary time will turn out be the last one ever. It’s probably better that way, but why is it so hard for us to cherish every moment as if it could be the last one of its kind? This one day, at least, I did.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

The obstacle of nothingness

These days, there are many things I have no motivation to do or get done—or even started. Those things range from projects around the house, big and small, to reading, watching movies, and on through to things I used to enjoy. I exist in a state of—nothingness. That seems unlikely to change any time soon.

For the past several years, the prescriptions I’m on to control my heart rhythm have also kept my entire existence on a go-slow level of activity—a kind of low resting heart rate for my entire existence. That improved very slightly in 2018 when I went off beta blockers and on to other drugs, but for the past three years I’ve been chronically tired and endured ongoing brain fog—chiefly an inability to concentrate or focus, and a patchy memory.

The reality is, however, that I used to manage better on these prescriptions then than I do now, and, back then, switching to this drug cocktail helped improve things for me. At the end of 2018, I wrote a “year in health” post, and I used the number of blog posts I published per month that year as evidence to back that up. The same data for 2019 shows another problem is plaguing me:

► December (14)
► November (16)
► October (22)
► September (9)
► August (20)
► July (21)
► June (30)
► May (28)
► April (30)
► March (22)
► February (24)
► January (27)

I had a somewhat slow start to 2019, but a fairly steady rate—until September, when Nigel died and everything changed. I never got back to the levels of the early part of the year (except for October, which was the month I was sharing the most about my grief journey). 2020 reveals a similar situation:

► December (35)
► November (10)
► October (17)
► September (30)
► August (12)
► July (19)
► June (15)
► May (13)
► April (22)
► March (14)
► February (9)
► January (9)

The early part of that year I was busy with moving, settling in the new house, and also selling the old one—all within the first six months of Nigel’s death. Then came NZ’s Covid Lockdown in March (all my posts about that time—during and after—are labelled “Life Under Lockdown”). There were only two months in all of 2020 when I met or exceeded my old goal of an average of one post per day. This year so far has been every bit as bad.

So, what gives? If I was more “productive” in 2018 under these same prescriptions, then something else has changed, and not merely the fact that I’m three years older. The answer is obvious: Grief.

The cold, hard reality is that I don’t enjoy anything anymore. It’s a sort of nothingness in which I have only isolated moments of joy, happiness, passion, excitement—all those sorts of things. Those transient moments are nice when they happen, but they never last. That’s the real reason I don’t blog much or podcast at all: Put simply, I don’t feel like it.

This isn’t a situation that I can “fix”, except by giving myself time and space. It will take as long as it takes, and I have to let it run its course. At the end of it, I may again enjoy things I used to, or maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll find other things to interest me, or maybe I won’t. I can’t know the answers now, and I actually don’t care: What will happen will happen.

However, that doesn’t mean that I exist in a complete state of nothingness: From time to time I get motivated to work on projects around the house, even old ones, and I’ve also had the odd burst of energy to empty boxes in the garage (one day recently I emptied six, which is a huge amount compared to the zero I do most days). At the moment I’m working on finishing my main living space (lounge, kitchen and dining, and with stacker doors leading to a cement patio outside). It was in a finished state before now, but I’m now putting it as I’ll have it longterm (more about that soon).

My next project is my office and bedroom because then the entire inside of the house will be finished, allowing me to focus only on the garage—if I want to. The important thing is that everything I see on a daily—or even hourly—basis will be orderly (and hopefully tidy most of the time…), and if I don’t feel up to working on the garage, I can ignore it. In some ways, the garage is the most challenging part of all of this because so much of the stuff in the garage was Nigel’s, from or related to his many projects.

Overall, I feel pretty much like I did when I was taking beta blockers. Just like I did back then, I often have to “ration” my energy, picking and choosing what activities I’ll do in a day. Some days are good and I’m energetic and productive, but on other days I barely get out of my chair. In my opinion, this is the cumulative effect of being on these drugs for so long, together with the weight of my grief journey.

What I’m hoping is that by working slowly and steadily on particular projects, I can finish them (and more quickly), and I further hope that doing so will allow me to once again do the many things I’ve had no motivation to do or get done—or even started. If I’m right, this nothingness will start to go away at some point. But I still think it seems unlikely to change any time soon. I wouldn’t mind being wrong abut that, though.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Planting success

Sometimes it’s possible to make something work when it didn’t before. Like garden planters. The fact that it did matters for several reasons.

Nigel and I bought some stacking plastic planters (in the photo montage above) a few years ago to grow herbs. We put them out on our second-storey deck, nearest the kitchen so they’d be accessible. They never really produced very much or well because that deck was too windy (being up higher made it susceptible to winds off the Manukau Harbour), and it was too hot in the summer sun.

I decided to use them in my house because they’re frankly much easier to handle than garden beds, which would’ve required a lot of work to prepare (the ground here is mainly clay), and it would require me to plan them, and I’m not much of a graden designer. The planters would be easier.

Each planter has three “lobes”, and they stack. I deiced to have two stacks, five in each one; they can be arranged in lots of different ways, but I felt that would work best for me. This meant figuring out what to plant in each one, especially because in alternate rows one “lobe” would be in back, entirely out of the sun. Also, some were too much out of the sun to do well.

So, I planted some herbs and some flowers. I had leftover marigolds atfer I planted some as companion plants in my Vegepod (a story in itself), and I didn’t have any tomato plants at the time, but those plants needed to be planted out. I specifically bought alyssum to plant because I first planted it when I was a teenager at my parents house, and couple times after that, and I liked it. I had some herbs to plant, and put most of them in the Vegepod (especially coriander because it has be kept away from dogs) along with lettuce. I planted parsley, mainly because I had several plants, and also mint because it needs to be in a pot to keep it from taking over.

It turned out that I grew too much parsley because I planted as much as I would’ve if Nigel was still here (he liked curly parsley; I’m pretty much indifferent, but generally prefer leafy parsley). That’s why I had so much to plant. I think it looks pretty, though. I’ve also never had as much success with alyssum as I have this year, and even harvested some marigold seeds already.

The planters are much more productive in my new place than they were at the old one, which is obvious to anyone who saw them before I didn’t share any photos of them at the old place). I like that fact they’re so much more productive, but there’s something else. Part of the reason they weren’t more productive at the old place is because I didn’t have the energy to plant them out back then. I didn’t have much more energy this time than back then, but it helped that this time I didn’t have to haul heavy bags of soil upstairs so I could get it to the deck. I’m also watering them every evening, which is a main reason why they’re doing so well.

I planted everything just before my trip to Queenstown last November. Not long after we got back I had my cardiac cryoablation procedure and I have slightly more energy than I did before it, though I still have to “ration” my energy over the course of a day (most days I can “recharge” by sitting and resting for at least a half hour or so). And that means that I think that next year will be easier to plant out—and I’ll even be better at planning what I’ll plant where.

All of which shows that it’s possible to make something work when it didn’t before. I guess that’s somewhat true of me as well.

This is greatly expanded version of something I posted to Instagram, where all the photos can be seen at a larger size.

Worth quoting: President Joe Biden

This weekend is the Waitangi Day holiday weekend, and yesterday most politicians were in Waitangi for the observance. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern later posted a message from President Biden on her official Facebook Page. She said:
Just got home from Waitangi to find a letter from President Joe Biden to mark Waitangi Day. Given it was intended for everyone, I thought I’d share it here!
Here is the message she shared:
Dear Prime Minister.

The American people join me in offering warmest regards to the people of New Zealand on the occasion of Waitangi Day on February 6.

New Zealand is one of our closest friends and partners. The unbreakable bond we share was established when the first U.S. Consul to New Zealand was on hand to witness the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on February 6, 1840. We have since partnered together to build the multilateral framework that benefits our nations as well as the global population.

I look forward to strengthening the U.S.-New Zealand relationship and cooperating to overcome the greatest challenges of our time...

I have fond memories of my trip to your country in 2016 when New Zealand’s legendary reputation for friendliness and hospitality was on full display. I wish you and all New Zealanders well on this Waitangi Day.


Joseph R Biden
The meme accompanying this post was created by Democrats Abroad, an official group of the USA’s Democratic Party to, among other things, inform and organise US citizens who support the Democratic Party and live overseas. The group shared it to their Facebook Page. The meme contains an excerpt from a speech delivered on February 4 (USA time), “Remarks by President Biden on America’s Place in the World”. His message to New Zealand is a concrete example of what he was talking about.

The elipsis at the end of third paragraph of President Biden's message may indicate some of what he said was redacted for some reason, and, if so, it could mean there are areas where New Zealand will still chart an independent course—because there are, and it will. The point is, the two countries will work together again on mutual goals again, and that's a good thing.

Thursday, February 04, 2021

I’m getting good at this grief thing

I’m actually being serious about this: I really am getting good at this grief thing. I’ve learned so much about how all this works, like, for example, that it’s important to just feel whatever it is I’m feeling, and to give myself space to do that. I know there will be times that tears unexpectedly overwhelm me, and also that those times will become fewer as the process moves forward. None of the stuff I’ve learned makes this process any easier, of course, but, for me, it makes it at least a bit more comprehensible, which does help.

Grief can be a brutal and demanding master, controlling our thoughts, and so, actions, so much so that we often feel powerless under its rule. But I’ve learned that master’s grip gets weaker over time. At first it only gives us the illusion that it’s weaker before it roars back in, reasserting control. Ultimately, we do get back more control of our lives. Or, so I presume: I don’t yet know that for certain.

I truly understand now that life and everything in it is only temporary, but there’s power in that: If we understand and live our lives aware it’s all temporary, we’re more likely to seize every day as best we can. Hopefully, anyway.

At any rate, that’s the secret to how I can stay strong and endure all this pain so I can try to push forward when I can: I’m getting good at this grief thing.