Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Final technology upgrade

I now have a new iPad (pictured during unboxing yesterday) to replace my iPad Air from 2013, which was struggling more and more with Apps (and speed…), and no longer received iPad OS updates (I’ll come back to that). I got a 2021 (9th Generation) 256GB wifi silver one (I only use my iPad at home or places with wifi, so the cellular option—and the added cost—wasn’t necessary).

I realised as much as a year ago that my iPad was going slow on some new Apps, and in recent months, there were some it wouldn’t open correctly—or even at all. Over the past year, I’ve been modernising my tech so I’ll be sorted for a few years, and this was the last thing to upgrade. I figured a new iPad might last me nearly a decade, too—now I understand what a bad idea that is.

Apple makes it really easy to transfer settings, Apps, etc., to a new similar device if the two devices are close to each other and have Bluetooth turned on. I easily transferred my basic settings—Apple ID, home wifi settings, that sort of thing—from my Air to the new iPad—and then I hit a major problem.

It turns out that to transfer Apps and their data, the original iPad has to be running iPadOS 14 or above: The iPad Air runs 12.5.5. Next option was to restore from an iCloud backup, but I stopped those because I kept running out of space (I later upgraded iCloud). I could, it said, back it up to a desktop Mac using iTunes—which was discontinued years ago. No problem, I thought, I could do a manual local backup using the desktop App for Apple Music, the same way I make a manual backup of my phone. The Air wouldn’t load (I even tried different cables, “just in case”).

I thought about checking an old MacBook I have to see if it still had iTunes, but I thought it’d be easier just to do an iCloud backup of the old one, then have the new one access that. Easy?

It took a few attempts, and more than an hour, to get the backup (it was from scratch, of course). Then there were issues getting the new iPad to download everything from the backup. By around midnight, only a few Apps were downloaded, and most were grayed out with “Waiting…” underneath. I went to bed.

This morning, everything seemed to be there—and 35 Apps needed updates, but they were at least there (some of those updates are necessary because the new iPad is running the current OS). Later in the day, that number expanded to 75 Apps needing updating (they’re all up-to-date now).

The moral of the story is that waiting nearly a decade to upgrade a piece of technology is probably not a good idea, particularly when it’s part of a closed ecosystem. However, I only had the iPad for around four years: It was Nigel’s, and he gave it to me because he didn’t use it, and it was better than the one I had at the time (Second Gen, I think it was—it had also been Nigel’s, as was the one before that, which is now in a box).

Over the past year, I’ve replaced all of my main devices: Desktop Mac, phone, and tablet (I replaced my MacBook in 2019). The iPad is also the first brand-new one I’ve ever had.

I now realise that if I’m lucky, I might get five years out of any of those devices, maybe. However, as the Right to Repair movement gains speed (along with regulations mandating it), it may become easier to upgrade in the years ahead. Maybe.

I obviously haven’t had much of a chance to use the new iPad yet, but I’ve definitely noticed how much more quick and responsive it is—and how much lighter. But getting to this point was definitely a much bigger job than I anticipated.

Still, I’m glad that final tech thing is now taken care of, and I can relax for a few years—I hope.

This is a revised and extended version of something I posted to my personal Facebook this morning.

Palindrome and ambigram day

Yesterday was 22-02-2022 here in New Zealand, several of us posted memes on social media yesterday. Today, that merriment was repeated when the date arrived in the USA, though with the less elegant “02-22-2022” marker. It’s one of the few times such special sequence of numbers in dates worked better in our date arrangement format.

At any rate, the whole “Twosday” thing was a bit of fun. A set of twins was born in Auckland on 22-02-2022, and while the time—around 11am—wasn’t exactly special, the twins were born two minutes apart. The births were the result of a pre-scheduled caesarian, but does that really matter? In future years, the twins will be able to tell the story (and their parents will probably tell it until they’re able to do so). The parents probably really didn’t realise the “significance” of the date: I certainly didn’t until I checked facebook yesterday morning and saw the first post about it that I’d see that day.

And, anyway, it was all just a bit of fun. With everything going on in the world, we needed that.

The image above was shared on social media yesterday and today. The author is unknown.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

NZ bans ‘conversion practices’

Yesterday evening, the New Zealand Parliament voted to ban “conversion” practices, sometimes called “conversion therapy”, what I have called “torture”. The bill passed 122 to 8.

The eight Members of Parliament were all from the conservative National Party [see below], but it was a small minority of their caucus, and that’s a good thing. MPs from all other parties voted in favour of the bill.

This bill was always a good idea, but for some bizarre reason the ex-Leader of the Opposition ordered the entire Caucus to vote against the first reading back in August, which led me to write, ”Stupid games should fool no one”. I think she just wanted to stick it to the Labour Party, but it alienated many different people in the National Party. Actually, she was really, really good at alienating her own supporters, and nearly everyone else, which is why she was dumped as Party Leader.

I’ve seen several people saying that religion was a motivator for the eight “no” votes, and it certainly played a role in quite a few of those votes—maybe even all of them, for all we know (except, apparently Melissa Lee). However, it’s also probable that other members of the National Caucus are religious, as is the current Leader of the Opposition, Christopher Luxon, who’s regarded as a conservative religionist (he’s fairly non-committal on the subject).

In New Zealand, politicians—Right or Left—seldom try to use their religion as something to be forced onto others. Since the first MMP election in 1996, there’s never been an expressly “Christian” rightwing party elected to Parliament, despite numerous attempts to do so, and there’s never been a left-leaning “Christian” Party at all, as far as I’m aware.

So, the fact that maybe seven of those eight National Party Members of Parliament may have been motivated by their conservative religious views is less interesting than the fact that none of the 112 other MPs were similarly motivated to oppose the bill because of conservative religious views, and some must've had some. In this country, one can assume nothing about the political behaviour of people with religious convictions (or the religious views of someone with a political leaning, too, of course).

The reality is that times have changed. New Zealand’s conservative politicians (whether actually religious or not) cannot try to force their religious beliefs onto others and win elections—and most would never try. That’s both because of political reality (of course), but also because they’re younger than the old politicians, the ones who did so much harm to LGBT+ people (among others). The current National Party Leader, whatever his religious descriptor, wants to win the election next year (duh—he’d be a pretty crap party leader if he didn’t want that), and that won’t happen if National is seen as an American-style rightwing party interested in forcing a “morals” political agenda instead of working for policies that actually help real people. Not that I’ll accept any of that at face value, of course: I have a lifetime of experience that makes me suspicious of religious conservative politicians. Plenty of other New Zealanders would have to be convinced, too.

Because this was a Labour Party measure, I’ll give the final word on this achievement to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: To anyone who has experienced conversion practices in New Zealand, please know that you are not broken. You do not need to be ‘fixed’. And we will keep doing all we can to make sure you are valued and loved for who you are. And to every member of parliament who helped end conversion practice tonight – thank you.

MPs voting against conversion therapy bill: Simon Bridges, Simeon Brown, Melissa Lee, Todd McClay, Simon O’Connor, Chris Penk, Michael Woodhouse and Shane Reti.

Previously: In 2018, I talked about my opinion on this sick “practice”.]

The NZ Labour Party image above was posted last night, and included with the Prime Minister’s comments on her official Facebook Page

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Natural protection that was

It must’ve been a lot more dramatic today, what with the effects of ex-Tropical Cyclone Dovi lashing the country, and it hit Auckland hard, too. I originally shared the Instagram version of the photo above as part of a blog post five years ago today, though the photo above is the uncropped version. In my caption, I said, “I was running an errand, but glad I stopped for a photo.” The “errand” I mentioned was that Nigel and I were in Clark’s Beach to do a pre-settlement walk-through of the house we’d bought, something I didn’t talk about publicly until after we moved.

The reason I didn’t talk about it from the start, and why I avoided many specifics when I did, was that I wanted to protect Nigel. He was a Group Manager for Auckland Council, which was a senior level. I knew that some people hated Auckland Council and the people who worked for it, and his department, Customer Services, was one most people dealt with at some time or other. He’d told me a (very) little about the abuse his staff got over the phone or in person, and I’d helped him draft calm, matter-of-fact responses to aggressively abusive people who’d written to the CEO. I also knew that, while still fairly small, the number of people who’d been trespassed from Council offices had increased. And, I knew there were people whose bizarre anger at Council was beginning to reach dangerous levels, endangering the health and safety of both staff and the general public.

Nigel never talked very much about any of that, but I knew (not the least because sometimes people’s awful behaviour made the news). He didn’t complain about much of anything, actually, and seldom talked about work stuff, mainly because he preferred to leave work at work or in working hours. But he also knew I’d worry about him if I knew how truly awful some people were behaving. Still, you can’t share your life and love with someone for so long without sensing things.

So, I tried to keep our home a place of refuge. That’s why I never tried to talk him out of buying any of his toys. He told me once, “as long as I can buy my toys, I’m happy”. The context of that was that he was talking about how his career/life driver wasn’t about getting an ever higher salary, but I saw instantly that it was also about what made him happy—not money itself, or even his “toys”, but about the happy experiences those “toys” brought him. Judging by all the “toys” he left behind, he must’ve been pretty happy!

The other thing I did was that I avoided talking publicly about our life with too many specifics, especially places. In those years, I was blogging and podcasting (and, for a time, making YouTube videos). All of those things were public and I knew being too open created risk, for both of us. To be clear, it was probably more likely that a satellite would fall out if the sky and land directly on us than that any violence-prone person would find Nigel through the stuff I was posting, but it also wasn’t impossible, especially if I wasn’t careful. I would never knowingly do anything to put him at risk, no matter how incomprehensibly small that risk might be. It’s just standard procedure when you love someone deeply.

Nigel did plenty to look out for me, too, of course—and I didn’t know about most of that any more than he knew the extent to which I was protecting him. After all, part of protecting a loved one means not being obvious that you’re protecting them. It’s just what you do.

So, that photo above, snapped on windy day five years ago, had a huge hidden back story, only some of which I’d eventually talk about publicly while Nigel was alive. I no longer have to protect him, of course, but now I can talk about who he really was, the amazing man I spent so much energy trying to protect, and why I would. I—we—could never have done otherwise.

This is a revised and expanded version of something I posted to my personal Facebook earlier today.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Worth Quoting: Grant Robertson

New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister, Grant Robertson, posted this message on Facebook today:
Let’s start with the obvious. I support the right to protest. I have in fact led protests on Parliament's grounds—including one where we as students protested against spiralling education costs briefly occupied the steps. When I led those protests we often discussed the fact that if we crossed certain lines we knew we would get arrested. I was always of the view that the cause or the issue was what mattered most, and we would strive to make our point, and then move on to live to fight another day.

Protest is important in our democracy, but like all freedoms it comes with responsibilities. The protest we have seen at Parliament this week is driven by wild, false, dangerous conspiracy theories and people with an extreme agenda. Even then the people involved have a right to be there. But when they threaten, harass and disrupt people and a whole city they lose that right. They have been trespassed, they need to leave.

I have had so many constituents contact me over the last week distressed at what is happening to our city. School pupils spat at and harassed for wearing a mask, roads blocked delaying public transport and emergency services and businesses shut down.

Not to mention the obvious threats of violence against politicians and the media. Looking down on a protest that wants to hang me as a politician, a sign that compares the Prime Minister to the March 15th terrorist, calls for arrest and execution of me and other leaders you might understand why I believe the Police need to move them on.

It is entirely up to the Police how they enforce the law, and it is important that it stays that way in our democracy. I want to thank them for doing their hard and difficult job in trying conditions. As the local MP I have been in regular contact with them and the City Council to support the rights of Wellingtonians to go about their lives free from harassment and severe disruption.

I am confident that this will happen, though it will no doubt take some time.

I am also re-assured that this group of people do represent a small minority. Just yesterday, two things happened to remind me of that. Northland DHB reached 90% first dose vaccination rate. We have done what no one thought could be done—all DHBs have reached this target.

And yesterday afternoon, we passed the 10 million vaccines mark. This is New Zealanders looking after themselves and each other. We have done so incredibly well. Thousands of lives have been saved and while it is tough for some sectors, we have kept people in jobs and the economy moving forward.

So, thank you again Aotearoa, you are the best.

Grant Robertson
Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand
Minister of Finance
Member of Parliament for Wellington Central

Friday, February 04, 2022

A truth in dreams

Yesterday morning I woke up remembering a fraction of a dream. The dream snippet began when I had just realised I had a cold, followed immediately by the realisation, “Damn. That means I’ll need to get a Covid test.” That was the entirety of the snippet—there was no resolution to the thought, no test or test results. While I don’t know if that was part of a longer dream I didn’t remember, I at least know why even that little snippet happened: It’s obviously because of the times we live in.

For months, the NZ Government has been running ads telling people to get a Covid test if they have “cold or flu symptoms”, a message frequently repeated in media conferences. This wouldn’t be the first time a constantly promoted message leaked into my dreams, but I wonder if this incident might hint at a seemingly widely-held anxiety: The consequences of a positive test result.

A lot of Kiwis, it seems, aren’t worried about catching Omicron itself—they seem absolutely convinced it’d be no worse than a cold, maybe a bad cold at worst. Instead, they’re worried about potentially having to spend 14 days in isolation at home, and how they’d manage that if they were the only one who was positive.

The current rules are that people must self isolate for “at least” 14 days, and non-positive close contacts for 10 days. Most people seem to have added those together and assumed they’d have to isolate for 24 days, but that would likely only be the case for someone like a close household contact who ended up testing positive on day 10 of their own isolation. Nevertheless, a lot of people seem convinced that the period would be 24 days. Why?

Clearly much of this is probably just because people didn’t quite grasp the rules, possibly because they didn’t read or here the rules directly, but also possibly because of mischievous framing by some politicians (and, of course, the usual anti-government types stirring up trouble over anything related to Covid). As we all know—especially with regards to Covid—misinformation and disinformation repeated often enough eventually replaces actual information in ordinary people’s understanding.

I’ve heard rightwing politicians in the New Zealand Parliament deliberately exaggerating the potential of long periods of isolation using theoretical sequential isolation, like that I described above, in order to imply it would be typical for a family to have to remain in isolation for months. That’s mischievous because while it’s theoretically possible, sure, it’s highly improbable that it would be even remotely common.

Because of this misunderstanding of the isolation rules, whatever caused it, I’ve seen suggestions that people won’t use the QR scanner wherever they go, as the law requires, out or fear they might be deemed a “close contact” because, say, they were in a supermarket at the same time a Covid-positive person was. That, too, is a misunderstanding: A person in this scenario would likely be considered a “casual contact”, and so, just told to monitor for symptoms. That’s because the risk of transmission is very low in a supermarket—a big airy building in which everyone is required by law to wear a mask. A close contact would be, say, someone in the same area of a plane, as the Prime Minister recently was, or maybe a household member.

Related to this, some people have said that the only reason there are so many cases is because there’s so much testing (yes, that’s the same moronically idiotic thing that the guy who lost the 2020 US Presidential election once said). Nowadays, though, it’s based on people’s conviction that Omicron is “mild”, so there’s no point in getting tested, and so, isolating. Obviously this is a boneheaded notion: It ignores the risk to vulnerable people, which obviously could include the person holding the boneheaded notion.

I read today that it’s estimated that it was maybe only one in four or one in five cases of Omicron ever detected in the recent waves in the UK and the USA. Presumably, that must mean that—as we would expect—the vast majority of infections didn’t cause disease severe enough to require medical care (because if they did, the fact they were positive would’ve been found out).

Does this then mean that current isolation requirements are too long? Yes—and that’s part of the plan.

On January 26, the government announced its three phase plan for dealing with Omicron. Phase One, where we’re at right now, is attempting to tightly control the outbreak mainly to buy time for more people to get their Covid booster (as of today, people can get their booster three months after their second jab; it had been after four months since the start of the year), and also for children to be vaccinated (5 to 11 year olds have only been eligible for vaccination since Jan 17, but so far, around 39% of them have had one shot).

At Phase Two, the number of positive cases will be growing rapidly, and isolation for people who test positive will drop to ten days, and seven for contacts. Close household contacts will be required to have a PCR test on Day 5. At this phase asymptomatic critical workers (and certain other workers) will be able to use RATs and other approved quick tests to allow them to return to work.

At Phase Three, when there are thousands of cases, “the definition of contacts will change to household and household like contacts only”, and those will be the only contacts required to isolate.

What all this means is that home isolation will be commonplace, and the required length of time in isolation will go down. I expect that it may drop even further in time, but I doubt it will ever go away entirely while Covid is still raging throughout the world.

All of this has been on my mind lately, tethered to the constantly reinforced message to get tested if we have cold or flu symptoms. All of which, I think, is why it crept into a dream. I think that the reason I’d have been pissed off about having to get a test would’ve been the hassle, not the possibility of home isolation—after all, that’s actually more or less been my daily life for ages, as are all the protocols and procedures for avoiding infection in the first place. I’m sure they’ve probably popped into dreams before, but yesterday was just the first time I remembered the dream upon waking.

All of our lives have changed dramatically over the past two years, and for me that was on top of having my life utterly shattered the end of the year before Covid. The surprise to me isn’t that I dreamed about having to get Covid test, it’s that our new collective realities haven’t permeated all my dreams (as far as I know…).

In any case, the snippet of a dream I had yesterday morning was just a reflection of the truth of modern life: Everything’s changed. The other truth, for me, is that I’m okay with that, and with adapting to it. What happened in 2019 prepared me for the constant change and uncertainty of the Covid Era. That’s the biggest truth of all that was hidden in that little dream snippet: I really am okay, and that means that Nigel actually helped me make his own final wish come true. That’s a pretty big truth to learn from a simple dream.

Thursday, February 03, 2022

Another possible reopening

We’ve been here before
, but: Today, the NZ Government announced a 5 step plan to reopen the New Zealand border over the next 10 months. One key aspect is that MIQ will be replaced with self-isolation for fully vaccinated travellers. New Zealanders are being prioritised (as they should be), with others qualifying later. Visitors from visa waiver countries (such as the USA, Canada, the UK, etc) can travel to New Zealand from July. A pre-departure test will be mandatory, of course.

However: Upon arrival fully-vaccinated people will be required to self-isolate for whatever the required period is at the time. Initially, it will be ten days, but that could change—shorter or longer.

I don’t think that casual (short term) tourists will be able to come to New Zealand, though, because they’d have to organise 10 days of isolation. It may be that people might be allowed to stay with friends or family (or, they might not—that might be impossible to manage safely), but they still won’t be able to go anywhere or see anything until the mandatory self-isolation period is completed.

These changes are really about making it easier for New Zealanders and their families to come to New Zealand, first, then for foreign workers to come here, if safe to do so, and then also to make it easier for Australians to move here (they can live and work in New Zealand without visas or permits, similar to permanent residents), again, if safe to do so. But an open border for short-term tourists is clearly a way off yet.

Covid is an ever-changing monster, so no guarantees on any of this: Things could become dramatically better over the rest of this year, or become dramatically worse. I prefer to hope for the best. Most of us would really like to welcome visitors again.

The graphic above was posted on Facebook by the NZ Government’s official Covid 19 site, Unite Against Covid 19. This post is a revised version of something I posted earlier today to my personal Facebook.

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

A very, very good boy

It might not seem to have been the best idea, but I took Leo to the vet for his first round of vaccinations today, which is also the first anniversary of Sunny’s death—at the same vet practice. Thing is, I only remembered the anniversary at all because Facebook served it up to me as a “Memory”. It was fine, and Leo was a good boy.

The worst thing wasn’t the coincidence of the date, it was that’s Leo was a little more than two years late for his jabs. He would’ve been due a couple months after Nigel died, and maybe I got a reminder from the vet we went to, maybe I didn’t, but whatever the case, I absolutely was in no state of mind for it to register. At that time, I was looking for a house in Hamilton and getting ready to put our last shared house on the market. Then, I moved. Then, I sold our old house. Then Covid Lockdown—and out and back in lockdown, then Sunny got sick, and then Jake's health declined, and—there was a lot going on.

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying—and really, really struggling—to get Leo groomed. His former groomer has moved much too far away, and it’s been difficult to find a new one. It’s not that there aren’t any, it’s that I have to TRUST them, and that’s a HUGE ask. I’ve had an awful groomer in the past (she was not a nice person, at all), but the main thing is that Leo is all that’s left of the family I still had at this point three years ago.

So, in the meantime, I’ve been trimming away his matted fur, and I keep trying to use the electric clippers for dog grooming—but they just don’t seem as good or useful as when Nigel and I groomed the dogs at the old house. I can’t work out why that is, but I do know that Leo hates the sound of clippers, anyway. However, after a lot of patient effort, I now have him tolerating me using scissors—for awhile.

This is where his jabs come into the story. I was researching groomers online (with raised eyebrow and staunch scepticism…) and the site associated with the groomers at the vet/pet place mentioned that owners had to present their dog’s vaccination record before the grooming (because the shop and vet clinic have sick dogs coming in). That’s when I suddenly remembered Leo was late for his vaccinations. I, of course, see and appreciate the irony in me being such a staunch promoter of Covid vaccination, yet being totally oblivious to the fact my little mate was WAY overdue for his normal jabs. Life’s messy.

I immediately booked an appointment for Leo to get his jabs. The grooming can wait.

So, today Leo got his first round of vaccination: They have to start from scratch because it’s been too long since his last ones. Today he got the vaccines for parvovirus (important because there are currently outbreaks in various parts of NZ), and he also got, um, other stuff (I forget what the rest were; it was the parvo one I was most keen for him to get). He goes back in three weeks for his next round, which I remember includes kennel cough vaccine.

I still have to solve the grooming conundrum. The vet told me they’ve been having trouble finding a groomer for their facility (I didn’t ask why), but it’ll be weeks before Leo’s vaccines are fully effective, anyway, and he can’t go to a groomer until they are. That means at least two weeks from today’s, or even five weeks from now for the next lot to be fully effective, too. In the meantime, I’m going to give him a bath on Friday, and I’ll trim him some more with scissors (I know from past experience that he’s more compliant/cooperative when he’s wet). That’ll buy me time until (at least) today’s jabs are fully activated.

The situation is what it is. I could feel guilty about it, because I definitely should’ve been paying attention to Leo’s vaccination status—the fact that there was so much on my plate is no excuse. But I won’t feel guilty about what I can’t change—what’s the point of that?! Instead, I’m going to do what I always do when I discover that I made a mistake: I’ll do better.

One way or another, Leo will be groomed, and the truly important thing is that the vet practice will now remind me when Leo’s coming up on his vaccination time. To be extra sure, I’ll also set up a Reminder so all my devices will let me know in case the vet doesn’t.

This obviously isn’t the first time I’ve screwed up, and it absolutely won’t be the last: Like I said, life’s messy. But to paraphrase one of my favourite writers, Maya Angelou, when I know better, I do better. There’s no sin in screwing up, but there’s definitely salvation in seeing one's own mistakes and then doing better.

But, yeah, this probably wasn’t the best day to have this opportunity for personal growth. Leo, however, was a very, very good boy.

The photo above is of Leo in one of his beds this evening. He was subdued when we got home this afternoon, but was pretty much back to normal by evening.