Monday, July 31, 2023

Spicy work

I recently completed a revised project (photo above), one that I began because I was annoyed, then found a solution to a problem that arose after I realised my first solution wasn’t working. And, I was able to source the new solution here in New Zealand.

In June of 2022, I decided I needed to reorganise my pantry because it was becoming seriously overrun with unstable piles—or, so I thought. By September, 2022, it had become utter chaos:

I cleared out the spice shelf—though at the time it was a catch-all, too—and sorted things into categories. In December of that year, I mentioned having stopped working on the project and that stuff from it was on my kitchen benches and dining table. I have no idea why I stopped, or how far along I was, but I do know that I often lose track of my projects.

At any rate, some weeks before that post in December last year, I started trying to bring order to that shelf. I wanted to make it a place for basic ingredients—especially herbs and spices, but I originally wanted it to hold my flour and rice containers (I talked about the rice containers in a post last month). So far, the flour and rice containers aren’t on that shelf.

0I focused on the herbs and spices because in going through them, I found out I’d re-purchased some because I couldn’t find what I wanted and thought I’d run out. It was obvious that the plastic baskets I stored the spice bottles in (visible in the September photo) wasn’t working at all. I contemplated buying some new storage solutions, but at this point I became determined to use what I already had on hand, and to re-use containers. This was only partly a good idea.

I decided to take a black plastic seed-raising tray I already had to store all the spice bottles neatly in one place. I’d never actually used the tray for gardening, but at the previous house I used it under our kitchen sink to hold all our wraps—plastic wrap, foil, etc. It had the advantage of being large enough for the job, and it had relatively straight sides, unlike those white baskets. The seed-raising tray worked perfectly.

I started washing out herb/spice bottles I’d emptied, using only ones that were glass because they’re easy to recycle. My goal was to eventually have them all the same. This worked for a time, but I soon realised there was a problem: If I bought refills of herbs or spices in any of the cardboard box varieties (there are two), there was too much to fit into the re-used bottles. And that’s where it stalled.

Early this month, I saw a Facebook ad for a company I’ve ordered online from many times. It was for a set of 24 spice jars, and it reminded me of some spice jars I’d seen on Amazon maybe a couple years earlier and quite liked: They were all the same size (of course) and all square, which means they’d fit very well together. They came with a little silicon collapsable funnel and some write-on labels for lids (which I had no intention of using), plus plastic tops for the bottles that would allow sprinkling or pouring, and another lid with bigger holes to use the bottle as a shaker. The company I bought them from also put the exact dimensions of the bottles online, something Amazon was much more vague about.

They arrived a couple days after I ordered, and I needed to wash them before I could use them, and that meant I needed to give them a couple more days to make sure they were bone dry before I filled them. Then, I started transferring my herbs and spices into the new bottles, and I used all my funnels to do it, not so much because of herbs, but because spices tended to stick to the plastic, and I had to wash them between fillings. The process took until the end of last week to complete.

I combined my double-ups, and I emptied some previous spice racks I bought many years ago, when we were still living on Auckland’s North Shore, well before we moved to our last house. Those two racks are visible in the photo from September, next to the chocolate drink power.

In doing this work, I noticed that the bottles held much more than the supermarket bottles or refills the boxed contained, and that meant I’d made the right choice. In the end, I sent a dozen glass spice bottles to be recycled, along with around half that many plastic spice bottles, and possibly about that many cardboard boxes from spices, too. This means that if you include those two spice racks I emptied, I got rid of around 1.5 containers for each the new bottle.

However, there are some jars I’d still reusing. I use some old salsa jars to hold bar leaves, which take up a lot of space, and things I use a lot of, like cinnamon, cumin, garam marsala, and parsley—the latter mainly because I grew a lot, then dried some (I froze some, too).

I still may try to fit flour, at least, on that shelf, or the containers may end up on another shelf—I haven’t done much with the other two shelves yet. This was never meant to be a hurry-up-and-finish-it project, it was meant to be one I got right, and it’s taken time and some revisions to do that to get to this point.

This small project began because I was annoyed, then I had to revise it because I found a solution to a problem that arose after I realised my first solution wasn’t working. The larger pantry project may not be done, but this part of it has finally got to where I wanted it to be. Celebrate the small victories, I say.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

A very weird thing

Something may be going on with my blog, something that can’t be my doing: When my blog is accessed from the web address, all the sidebars disappear. That means none of the regular links are visible, and that includes the list of tags on the left side, the list of posts on the right side (and the various external links). Instead, they ALL appear at the very bottom of the page. However, if one clicks on the title of a post, it opens with all the sidebars displaying normally. I have absolutely NO idea why this has happened.

I first noticed it late last week when I published a post in exactly the same way I always do, and when I went back to the blog, all the sidebars were gone. I accessed it in three different browsers—Chrome, Safari, and Firefox—and all were the same. I tried accessing it on my iPad using Safari and Firefox, and, again, it was the same story (on my phone, it’s the normal sidebar-less version maximised for devices).

Naturally, I started Googling to find answers, but as near as I can tell, no one has reported anything similar for several years, and even then it was related to mistakes they’d made. The advice back then was that it was a conflict in the code when a page is rendered in https but has elements that aren’t https-compatible. Back in late 2018, I had to upgrade several things to fix similar, but different issues: Sidebar items weren’t displaying because they weren’t https-compatible, but the sidebars themselves were still there. I haven’t touched it since then. I opened each visible blog post in a new window under the theory that if there was something in one of them causing the problem, it ought to cause the problem in any window. They all displayed normally.

Because I never touched any of the blog settings, my first guess was that the Blogger team must’ve made some changes to the underlying code that broke my customisations. The years-old instructions to fix the problem back in the old days was to increase the width of the display, so I did that: It changed nothing.

So, for now, I have no idea how to fix whatever’s wrong. In the meantime, if you want to access the sidebars, click on the title of any post and they’ll be back where they’re supposed to be. I’ll keep trying to figure out what the hell happened and how to fix it, but, for now, that’s the only solution I can offer.

I certainly don’t need yet another new problem to fix, but here were are.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Scanning memories

There’s pretty much only one thing on social media that’s become a recurring theme on this blog: Facebook “Memories”. They’re presented to me every day, though some are minor and unimportant. Other days, however, there are “Memories” of things that are bigger, even if I didn’t realise it at the time. Yesterday, I got that sort of “Memory”.

The screenshot up top is of something that, at the tome, I only mentioned before the scan. It was intended as a check of the health of my heart. I remember it very well, and how much I needed Nigel that day.

It turned out that scan showed my heart was normal (unlike the rest of me?). A couple months later, I was back in hospital with afib, and Nigel looked after me again. Around eight months after that, I was back in hospital with afib yet again, and getting my heart shocked back into sinus (normal) rhythm, and Nigel was, yet again, my rock. Four months later, Nigel died.

Only a month after I lost Nigel, I was back at the clinic mentioned in the “Memory” for a follow-up with the cardiology team after my May 2019 hospitalisation. I remember two things about that follow-up. First, I had to get myself to the appointment alone—again, only one month after Nigel died. Given how much I’d depended on him up to that point, it’s pretty obvious how hard that appointment was on me, and my anxiety was through the roof.

The very, VERY worst part of the whole experience was at the very start, when I checked in with reception. I was handed a clipboard with a form to fill out. I froze when I got to one line: “Emergency contact”. I had to call on all my strength to not burst into tears in the crowded waiting room.

That wasn’t easy, with my mind drowning in tears, and I needed to find a way to bring it back to the surface/ I focused methodically and matter-of-factly on who I could put down on that line. I was going to put Nigel’s sister because she’d always been a backup emergency contact for both Nigel and me. By then I knew I’d be moving to Hamilton at some point, so I wrote down the details for Nigel’s brother. I felt like a fraud doing that; “I don’t HAVE a next of kin anymore!”, my brain was screaming. And sobbing. Even so, focusing on the task worked resulted in little more physical evidence of my deep emotional trauma than somewhat moist eyes as I handed the clipboard back in.

The consultation itself was fine, and it was then that they said the cryoablation was the best option for me if I wanted it. And, I did want it—a lot. As I said at the time:
…it scares the crap out of me that I might have another afib incident while living [at our last house in Auckland], all alone, and have no choice other than to call an ambulance, no matter how difficult that would be (dealing with the dogs, for example). Nigel took care of me when I had an afib incident and helped keep me from freaking out. That’s all gone now, and I have to rely on myself, and that’s frankly terrifying. I’m sure it won’t be the last time I’ll feel that way.
The ablation procedure was done in Hamilton in December of 2020, some fourteen months after the traumatic consultation, and after plenty of unnecessary bureaucratic drama was cleared away first. I said in my post about the precedure that I was “keenly aware of the fact Nigel wasn’t with me”, and that was especially true after the procedure when I was alone and in agony. Thinking about that still brings me to tears, even now.

Still, the family was there and helped me through it all. Since then, though, there have been other, less serious times, when some worry or other made me miss having Nigel with me, even if only to calm me down. Some day, maybe, that won’t be as common.

Still, the worst of all the times I missed Nigel was a time that was the least serious: That consultation with the cardiology staff in October, 2019—at the very same place Nigel had been my rock only 15 months earlier, on July 26, 2018.

Nowadays, I don’t have afib or tachycardia, and my health "scares" have been no more serious than a slight worry, or, more commonly, maybe, a “huh—I wonder what’s causing that?” Some day, as is the way of things, something serious will pop up again. I have no idea if I'll still keenly miss have Nigel with me, but I hope that whatever the challenge is, it’s so far into the future that I may be fine on my own.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 391 is now available

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 391, “Winter daze”, is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast episode, along with any other episode.

The five most recent episodes of the podcast are listed on the sidebar on the right side of this blog.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Remembrance of things past—and later

Today I got the news that a former partner of mine died of an apparent heart attack. He and I went our separate ways 35 years ago, yet we kept in touch, more or less, since then, and I remained connected with his family, too. Fact is, if someone becomes part of my life, I don’t ever give up on them. I should probably carry a warning label.

He and I had a complicated and sometimes tumultuous relationship in our brief time, but it mattered. It all happened from my mid 20s to my late 20s, a time of my life that was a critical period for making me who I am today. Those were the years in which I did most of my LGBT+ activism, learned who I was, and moved into the printing and publishing industries, and that was especially important: It later enabled the sponsored visa that allowed me to move to New Zealand to be with Nigel.

One birthday, my former partner bought me a new-fangled electronic typewriter. It used daisy wheel type like the best printers of the era, and it had a memory that would record an ENTIRE LINE of type! It’s funny now, but back then it was a big deal—and so was the reason he bought it for me: He’d noticed how important writing was to me.

He and I both moved on, found new partners for whom we were better suited, but, for a time, we mattered to each other. It was all a very long time ago, but I never forgot it, and I know he didn’t either. I hope he was as happy as I was, and that he was at peace. None of us knows when our last breath will leave us, but I hope he was as ready for his as one can be.

I am who I am today in part because of my time with him and my connection to his family. It was certainly no rose garden, but neither of us promised that. In the end, it was plainly obvious that we were never meant to be, and we grew apart until we parted. I wish more people could part on good terms and with good will, but that can’t always be the case.

Still, it was all a very long ago time ago, and the one thing I know for certain is that it was part of what helped me build the foundation for the life and happiness I’d find later, and far away. And all of that’s worth remembering, however many years ago it was.

Monday, July 24, 2023

A busy weekend was busy

This past weekend was one of those times that I had a LOT on, but I also managed to keep it all organised. And there was particular way I could tell it was a very busy and successful.

The absolute highlight was Sunday, when a bunch of us got together for lunch to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday. I was asked to bring some bread rolls, and I decided to go in Sunday morning so they’d be freshest, and I also decided to go to New World, the supermarket that’s slightly farther away from my house than Countdown is. I knew they had a good selection of different rolls, and that they were nice.

Since I was driving there from home for the first time since the new road opened, I decided to time it: It look me under seven minutes to get there (and home), and this was in daylight hitting at least two traffic lights in each direction. This was half to a third of the time it used to take me to drive there before the road was opened.

We had a really nice time catching up, and lunch was awesome. The birthday girl and I were the last to leave, though only a few seconds behind one of my sisters-in-law. I dropped my mother-in-law off at her place, then headed home.

The most physically active part of my weekend was Saturday. A big job was calling to me.

For about a week or so, I’d been looking a good patch of weather so I could mow my lawns. It seems like it rains several days in every week, and it’s done that for months. That makes it hard to plan mowing because I like to have at least two days in a row without rain, and in winter a couple more, too, is ideal. Last week there were several non-rainy days, even if they weren’t exactly sunny, but at night there was heavy dew because of the cold temperatures. There were a couple days in the week when I absolutely could have mowed the lawns, except that I just wasn’t into it those days. The stars finally aligned on Saturday.

I wasn’t exactly into mowing on Saturday any more than I was any of the days I didn’t do it, but I managed to push through and do it anyway. My success was mainly because of the fact that even though the front lawn wasn’t yet hideous, I was worried that if I didn’t mow the grass that day things could get out of control quickly.

I managed to mow the front lawn and most of the back before the battery died. I was trying to at least finish the part of the back lawn that I can see from inside the house, but I didn’t quite get that far. It turned out that the battery was actually half full, so I think it may have become too warm from the strain of cutting the moist grass (as I’ve mentioned in the past, there’s a failsafe cutoff to prevent the battery overheating, because we all know what happens when lithium batteries get too hot…).

I brought the battery inside and put it on the charger (using solar power, of course). If it had overheated, it cooled off quickly, probably because it was quite cool outside. While the battery charged, I took time to recharge myself, then did some small (and not at all tiring) jobs inside.

Just before I went outside to finish mowing the back lawn, I let Leo outside. He ran to the back fence and barked like crazy. I thought it was because there were people sitting outside (I have no idea who lives there).

Anyway, they pointed out that their cat was out there, too, and I guess that’s what Leo was actually barking at. I looked over the fence at what one of the people was looking at and saw the cat was sitting on the ground at the base of the fence—probably to annoy Leo, as cats do.

I picked Leo up, and he stopped barking, of course. The cat then decided to climb to the top of the fence, and stopped when he saw me holding Leo, who became VERY wriggly and vocal. “Maybe not,” the cat probably thought and jumped back down on its side of the fence.

I put Leo inside, and he raced to the front window to bark at—well, probably nothing, as dogs seem to do. Maybe he was just letting me know how annoyed he was that I put him back in the house.

I then went outside and finished the mowing, which took maybe ten minutes—and it closed the Exercise and Move rings on my watch, earning me the July Challenge Award. I’ve received the monthly award every month this year except for March because for some reason it didn’t give me credit for reaching whatever the goal was for that month. I’m still bitter about that.

There’s a particular way I can tell what a full weekend I had: Both Saturday and Sunday night, I fell asleep in my chair as I was watching TV. It’s not exactly rare for that to happen, but it almost never happens two nights in a row. I guess my busy weekend was busy.

This image with this post is a screen grab of my watch face not long after I finished mowing the lawns. The blue "Stand" ring closed a little while later.

Friday, July 21, 2023

Six months hence

Six months from today, I’ll turn 65—and I can officially say that now that it’s also July 21 in the place I was born. I’m not exactly looking forward to it, any more than I looked forward to 60, however, as I’ve often said, there’s only one way to stop having birthdays. Given the alternative, then, I’d rather have one than not.

Well, sort of. My perspective has changed a lot, given everything that’s happened—of course. Nigel always made my birthdays very special, and he told me more than once that he enjoyed mine more than his own. At the time, I thought it was because he hated being the centre of attention, to be made a fuss of, but he enjoyed making a fuss of someone else. I’ll never know for sure if I was right, but I think so.

So, it was in character for Nigel to make my 60th so awesome—he made sure it would be. I wish more than anything he could do that again. Actually, the fact he’s not been part of four of my birthdays since has made them less awesome than any had been when he was alive. I guess that’s to be expected, too.

All of which meant I didn’t know what to do about my 65th. In many ways, it’s an even bigger birthday than 60 was, not the least because I’ll start collecting superannuation, New Zealand’s retirement payment. That’s said to be the start of “the third age” of one’s life, though what that looks like is absolutely neither standard nor certain.

I considered having a party, like for my 60th, but I simply couldn’t face doing that because that one was so special, thanks to Nigel. I knew that if I had a party for my 65th, I’d constantly think about how it could never be as good because Nigel wasn’t there. And that’s where I got stuck.

Some time ago, some members of the family were talking about going on an overseas trip in January, and they asked me if I wanted to go. Even though the talk was that we’d be back in time for my birthday, I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about it simply because I’m still not keen on travelling anywhere.

Even so, I said yes. In the end, plans evolved, and we’re now going to Fiji and we’ll be there for my birthday. This actually changed everything for me: It’s a way for me to observe and celebrate my significant birthday in a way that’s unlike any other birthday I’ve had before—and completely different from my 60th. Of course, I’ll be keenly aware Nigel isn’t there—and should be—but experiencing something so completely different, and something that I’ve wanted to do for decades, makes it the perfect thing.

There’s a bit of a backstory to that, too. One of my first Christmases in New Zealand, maybe even my first, Nigel and I were visiting his parents and we were all talking about places we’d like to visit, and I said I’d like to go to a South Pacific island because I’d never been to one. Nigel’s mum said, very matter-of-factly, “you live on one,” and we all laughed. Obviously I meant a tropical island, but that was just so funny that it’s stuck with me all these years.

To be clear, this isn’t a birthday trip, it’s a trip that will include my birthday. To me, a holiday to a tropical island that also happens to include my birthday in it makes it a low-key, an interesting, and different experience all rolled into one.

For so many reasons, then, this is a great way for me to observe/celebrate my 65th. It also gives me something to look forward to rather than the complicated birthday itself. I know that Nigel would be very pleased, too. I am.

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 390 is now available

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 390, “Networks galore”, is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast episode, along with any other episode.

The five most recent episodes of the podcast are listed on the sidebar on the right side of this blog.

I uploaded this episode on Wednesday, but forgot to share the announcement here at the time.

Updates happen

I’ve been unavailable for the past nine days, which isn’t to imply I’ve been busy all that time, though I’ve been busy some of it. There were also a few times I had or made time to sit down to work on blog posts, but that didn’t go anywhere. All of which happens from time to time.

However, my absence means that there are a lot of things that I haven’t talked about that I otherwise would’ve, and some of those are updates to things I’ve already posted. Because of that, a good old fashioned updates post seemed like a good way to update a bunch of those posts all at once.

Switching to progress

Wednesday of last week, I published ”Frustration and investigation”, a post in which I talked about having to deal with a non-working ethernet switch, a device that’s essentially the traffic cop for my wired computer network. Since then, several things have happened, including finding workarounds for now.

In the days after I published the post, I found the multimeter I was looking for, and I tested the power supply for the non-working ethernet switch. It appears it may be faulty, however, I can’t know for sure until I find a compatible power supply to try it with, and right now I don’t have one. Also, this possible evidence doesn’t mean that the switch itself isn’t faulty, as my next discovery showed.

I also found the special gizmo for testing ethernet cables, and I used it to test the wall outlet that failed some weeks back. It was fine. The fact that wall outlet didn’t seem to work (even though the wiring in the wall was fine) could actually be evidence that the ethernet switch has a bad port, or it that it was beginning to fail compeletly.

Whatever the realities of the devices, I decided to disconnect the non-working switch from my router (which is also used for wifi), and instead connect the wall outlet behind my TV to it so I can watch streaming TV again. I also connected my office’s wall outlet to it so I can use my computer on my wired network rather than wifi (not the least because the wired network is so much faster, which is especially noticeable when upload a podcast episode).

This isn’t a permanent solution, however: My file servers aren’t connected to anything at the moment, and, at the moment, only two of the eight ethernet wall outlets in my house are connected to the router (I plan to try connecting one more). So, I need to get the original switch working or to find the power cord for the old switch Nigel got us. However, for the moment, I finally figured out a “good enouigh for now” solution.

Update – October 10, 2023: This Ethernet switch story has been updated again.

Road to somewhere

Back on July 7, I talked about the opening of the new road connecting my area directly to the rest of Hamilton. Since then, I’ve been over the road many times, and it’s been everything I hoped it would be I’ve driven home from my mother-in-law’s place twice since the road opened, once in the daytime and once at night. In the daytime it took around 14 minutes, and at night half that—pretty much as I’d expected. I haven’t used it as much as I eventually will, and for a lot of reasons: School holidays ended this past Monday, and, as I’ve said before, I avoid The Base shopping precinct during school holidays. The ongoing and unrelenting bad weather has played a part, too, but that’s too common and ordinary a thing to bother updating.

Bloomin’ good thing

At the end of June, I published a post about some photos I snapped, and at the end of that post I talked about two peace lily plants that were blooming. Of the two, only one was in full bloom, and the other was getting ready to. That’s all different now.

The photo at the top of this post is a closeup of the peace lily in my en suite, which at the end of June had one "almost bloom". Now, it has six blooms, only one of which isn’t fully open (in the centre of the photo at the bottom of this post). I was surprised to see so many flower stalks shooting up after my post in June, but it’s really nice to see the plant’s current exuberance.

• • •

There we have it: Some updates to recent posts that might well have had their own posts had I been making posts over the past nine days. I still have other posts I need to finish or edit, plus other ones I haven’t even started yet, including posts that add on to other recent ones—not updates, but more of an, “and another thing,” perhaps.


Wednesday, July 12, 2023

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 389 is now available

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 389, “Frustration factory”, is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast episode, along with any other episode.

The five most recent episodes of the podcast are listed on the sidebar on the right side of this blog.

Frustration and investigation

Yesterday, I discovered that my 16-port Ethernet switch may have died. It’s a device that regulates my LAN traffic, which is the wired network that, among things, connects all the bedrooms and the living space to the Internet, my servers, to streaming devices, my VOIP phone line, etc. I still have wifi (which is connected separately to the router/modem).

When I started my investigation, I noticed the lights on the front of the switch were all out, and the case was cold to the touch. I can’t see behind the switch because it’s in there very snugly: The guy I hired to set up the network when I moved in didn’t do mere cable management, oh no, he created a work of art—it’s amazing! And snug.

I was able to wiggle it enough to be able to slip my fingers behind the switch to make sure the power cable was plugged in (after Googling it to find out where the power is connected, since I couldn’t see it…). However, I couldn’t see or reach the power adapter. There’s no power button on the switch.

Today, I planned to undo at least some of the work-of art-cable management, labelling any cables I disconnected so I could tell where they go. I was hoping that the power adapter just came loose from the board it was plugged into, or that the power point in the board had failed. If so, I’d just need to plug the switch in somewhere else (and get a new power board). Or, I could try a power adapter I have that can be set for nearly any AC to DC connection, and I could use that to see of the switch worked. Otherwise, I thought, it could mean buying a new Ethernet switch and trying to get it setup correctly.

I knew that one of the Ethernet jack points in the lounge failed awhile back, and I didn’t think anything of it at the time, however, the failure was intermittent at first, and I now wonder if it could’ve been the first sign the switch was failing.

A friend suggested I use a multimeter to check the power supply, and I knew that I have a multimeter that Nigel had, because I found it some time ago. Back then, though, I didn’t know how to use it, so I put it “somewhere safe”, as always, and of course I have no idea where that is.

When I was unpacking boxes of Nigel’s stuff after I moved into this house, I put all the mysterious adapters, cables, remotes, and other assorted “toys”, as he called them, on some shelves in the garage so I’d know where everything I found was. That gives me a logical place to look first—if I could get to the shelves, which I can’t.

Also, I remembered after I went to bed last night that Nigel had an Ethernet switch, and I DO know where that is—in fact I can see it! It’s on top of those shelves. However—and it was inevitable there was going to be a but—I have no idea where its power adapter is. Of course. To be fair to me, I don’t think Nigel was using it at the time he died (he used it at the house before our last one), so keeping it with its adapter wasn’t a priority for him, and so, me not knowing where it is has nothing to do with me—THIS time.

Despite all that, today I managed to wrangle the switch and my server enough to access the power adapter, and I plugged it into a working power point. Nothing happened, though I thought I saw a faint light indicating power was on—I’m not certain because if it was on, it was very faint. This proves nothing: It could still be that either the power adapter OR the switch itself is faulty—exactly what I thought before I started investigating.

The adjustable power adapter I have has the wrong size barrel plug, and I don’t know where I put the bag with the rest of the tips and the instructions to tell me how to put the tip in to get the polarity right. And I’m not sure what the output amps is.

So, I’m now officially stuck.

My only logical course of action right now is to start working in the garage again. That’s probably the best way to find the missing multimeter, and even the power adapter for the backup Ethernet switch (I think I may have a hunch where the missing adapter tips could be).

This isn’t the end of the world—my wifi works really well, and I already switched my desktop Mac to use wifi instead. So, the only things not working at the moment is the VOIP phone connection and my servers aren’t accessible. If getting the Ethernet going again takes me longer than a week, I’ll sort all that out, but they’re just not important right now.

I’m not sad, nor angry—just frustrated by yet again being unable to complete some necessary work because I can’t find the things I need to do it. On the other hand, after a downpour of rain this afternoon, a magnificent rainbow appeared. That’s gotta be a good sign. right?

On my side in this battle is the fact that I’m familiar with all the concepts and I know how to analyse tech problems carefully and methodically. I’ve also proven I can solve tech problems I didn’t know I could, so if I need to change the switch, I’ll be able handle that, too. But I wish Nigel was here to just take care of it like he always did. No matter how proud of myself I am when I solve a tech problem, I would so much rather that he was still here to take care of this sort if thing—not the least because he’d be doing it for us. This 100% adulting everything by myself isn’t just exhausting, it brutally reminds me I’m alone. Still, Leo often wags his tail when he looks at me, and there was that rainbow this afternoon. Those are nice things, despite all the frustration.

This post is adapted from posts I made on my personal Facebook, with many revisions and edits.

This post has been updated. Follow the link to see the update.
Update – October 10, 2023: This post has been updated again.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Feather weight

Some people believe an unexpected visit from a bird is the spirit of one we’ve lost, or that a lost feather is a reminder from them that the lost one is with us. Others think it’s a sign of good luck. I’m agnostic about all of that, but the feather still caught my eye at a time when I was already in a good mood. I took this photo to remind me that sometimes the most unexpected things can pop up right in front of me if I’m looking—even when I’m just putting the recycling wheelie bin away. To me, just noticing the everyday is enough, whether what we see means anything more or not.

Sunday, July 09, 2023

Weekend Diversion: 1983, Part 7

On July 9 1983, a new song, "Every Breath You Take" (above), became Number One, ending the six week reign of “Flashdance... What a Feeling”. The song, by British rock band The Police, and written by its lead singer, Sting, would spend eight weeks at Number One, and ended up as the Number One song for all of 1983. The song was the only one of the band’s singles to hit Number One on the Billboard “Hot 100” singles chart.

"Every Breath You Take" was the first single from the fifth and final studio album by The Police, Synchronicity, which, not surprisingly, was itself quite popular. The album went to Number One in Australia, Canada (Platinum), New Zealand (Platinum), the United Kingdom (Platinum), and also on the Billboard 200 album chart (8x Platinum). Even so, I don’t think I ever bought the album, even though I bought their previous two albums. I don’t remember any reason for that, though maybe I became sick of the hit single?

The song is about an obsessive ex-lover who engages in “Big Brother” sort of surveillance. This is something that was obvious to me at the time—and I thought it was kind of creepy, a feeling that was underscored by the film noir-ish music video. Even so, there were apparently many people who thought it was a love song, a fact that makes me wonder how their own romantic relationships were constructed.

In researching this song, I found out that by this time the band members weren’t getting along, and, in fact, Sting and drummer Stewart Copeland reportedly hated each other and would get into verbal and physical fights in the studio. Maybe that’s the real reason Sting looks angry in the music video. All three of the final members of The Police are still working today.

The song was certainly a success—obviously, if it became the biggest hit of the entire year—and it later was recognised as the most-played song in radio history. Even so, chart performance in the countries I write about was mixed: It was Number 2 in Australia, Number One in Canada, Number 6 in New Zealand, Number One in the UK (2x Platinum, and, of course, Number One on the USA’s “Billboard Hot 100” for eight weeks, and was certified as Gold. This was clearly a case where radio airplay was important in the song’s year-end chart performance.

And finally, a backstory for this post. On Sunday night last week, I’d just crawled into bed and was trying to relax for sleep when I realised I’d completely forgotten to write this post. I decided to leave it until the next day because it’d be still July 2 in the USA. I’d sincerely thought this song hit Number One on July 2, but that was actually the last week before this song hit Number One. So, in the end, I got this post finished and queued to publish right on time, using the Roger Green Method for blogging. This tale also shows that I wasn’t observing things as closely as the song's narrator in "Every Breath You Take". I think I’ll take that as a win.

This series will return on September 3 with the new song that hit Number One from that week in 1983. I’m unlikely to forget that week (or confuse the date): It’s one of my favourite pop songs of all time.

Previously in the “Weekend Diversion – 1983” series:

Weekend Diversion: 1983, Part 1
Weekend Diversion: 1983, Part 2
Weekend Diversion: 1983, Part 3
Weekend Diversion: 1983, Part 4
Weekend Diversion: 1983, Part 5
Weekend Diversion: 1983, Part 6

Three meal adventures

The thing about me and cooking is that sometimes I get all creative and adventurous, but other times all I can manage is peanut butter on toast. I don’t share photos of any of the latter kind, but I also don’t share the former kind often enough, particularly because there are often stories behind them. This post shares three recent meals-with-stories, in order from the most recent.

The photo up top is my dinner on Monday, July 3, what I call “THE Beef Stew”, something my mother taught me to make when I was a young boy. When I shared the photo on my personal Facebook, I said:
Today I made “THE Beef Stew”, the dish my mother used to teach me how to cook, and so long ago I have no idea how old I was—maybe 7 or 8? I’ve made it dozens of times over the years since, but tonight was only the second time I made it in the slow cooker. I last did it some 25 years ago, but I was disappointed with the results and never tried again until today (I always made it the way my mother taught me, though sometimes I put the pot in the oven to slow cook it). Tonight’s batch was perfect, including the dumplings (I had to figure out how to make them because my mother didn’t write down the instructions, and was lucky that I found a good recipe several years ago). This is one of the few recipes I brought with me when I moved to New Zealand, and Nigel loved it. That made me feel happy because my mother would’ve loved Nigel.
There are several stories in that tale. The first is about my mother, and over the years I often talked about how my mother used this recipe to teach us kids to cook—but this time was the first time it suddenly occurred to me that that may not be true—and, in fact, at the very least, it’s not entirely true. I suppose I could’ve misunderstood what she said, or maybe the story just got embellished over time, but what’s interesting to me is that learning that it wasn’t literally true didn’t bother me. It turns out that what really mattered to me is that it was a bond I had with my mother, one I’ve been able to maintain for all the decades since. That. And the fact that Nigel loved the stew. It was one small thing connecting all the love in my life.

Next up, my Sunday Brunch on July 2:

This was a poached egg on smashed avocado (which used avocados from my recent online order), on top of one the ends of the loaf of (breadmaker) bread I made last week. The smashed avocado has a bit of freshly ground salt and a bit of garlic, and the whole thing had nothing else except a little bit more freshly ground salt and more freshly ground pepper than I’d normally use (both eggs and avocados are a bit bland, after all—and, no, chilli oil was not an option for me…). Turns out, I’m getting reasonably good at making poached eggs to my liking.

There are actually a lot of stories connected to this one. First, the poached egg: I really am getting pretty good at making them, something I never even tried until I moved to Hamilton. Nigel always made them, and made them so well that it never even occurred to me to try.

This meal also got me thinking (well, actually, anything /everything gets me thinking…) about the “young people having smashed avocado on toast is why they can’t buy their first house” trope. I was remembering that I only ever saw some grumpy commentator in New Zealand actually say that—either a column in the NZ Herald (also known was “Granny Herald”), or maybe it was from the other home of grumpy conservatives, the Newstalk ZB radio station. Anyway, they were roundly and appropriately mocked and criticised for saying something so idiotic. But the trope persists—why?

That commentator’s point was (I guess?) that NZ’s Millennials were making “stupid” spending choices, and so, that was the entire source of their problem. The severe shortage of affordable homes, crushing student loan debt, lower wages in NZ relative to other countries—none of that, the argument suggested, had anything to do with it, it was avocado on toast (literally and figuratively).

Nowadays, I still see Millennials bring it up to criticise Boomers who own a lot of houses as rental properties. But I’ve never heard any Boomer I know personally do anything as daft as blaming Millennials having avocado toast as the reason they can’t afford to buy a house. Of course, I’ve heard “certain people”, usually overseas, complain that young people are “lazy”, “unrealistic”, and “playing victim”, and when I hear them say any of that, all I can hear is “avocado toast”.

This particular meal goes to show that not every story is about me or my memories—even if most of them are.

And finally, the meal that started all this, from Thursday, June 29:

This meal was Smoked Chicken Gnocchi, a meal that Nigel made may times over the years, but I’m not certain that I ever did. I do know, however, that Nigel taught me how to cook gnocchi, and I also know that he liked things with cream sauces. I thought of him constantly while I was making the meal.

What makes this meal completely different from Nigel’s, though, is that I made the gnocchi myself (it wasn’t bought pre-made at the supermarket) using a recipe from a YouTube video that some great friends of mine shared on Facebook. I wanted to try it because it uses dried potato flakes instead of boiled potatoes, and I thought it’d be easier and quicker than the “Kūmara Gnocchi with Garlic Cream Sauce” I made back in July of last year, a recipe that had me make the gnocchi myself using fresh Kūmara that I boiled and mashed. It was so very time consuming that I vowed I’d never do it again.

Last year’s effort took me an hour and half to make, and the new version still took me around an hour. Sure, that’s a bit less time, but it wasn’t much less work. It’s settled, then: It’ll be gnocchi from the supermarket for me from now on—although, knowing me, I may well forget all the fiddly hassles and try again some day. Maybe it’ll be for what’s apparently my annual gnocchi meal (In late 2021, I made “Knockout Gnocchi” as the first meal in that meal kit experiment I tried).

I don’t know why, but I never talked about this meal on Facebook. Maybe it was because the photo was a bit flat? I don’t know, but I do know I often share my flops as well as my successes—though this one was more of an “incomplete success” than an actual flop.

Those are the stories from three recent meal adventures, meals that were, in fact, the only adventurous meals I made over that period. Sometimes I get all creative and adventurous, but other times all I can manage is peanut butter on toast. Stories, though, flow through everything.

Friday, July 07, 2023

A road to happiness

Something amazing has happened, something that will quite literally change EVERYTHING for me and that will reconcile my strained relationship with Hamilton: A new road opened. That may seem like an odd thing to say, but, in reality, I’m probably understating its importance.

I can’t remember if I’ve talked about it here (though if I have, it wouldn’t have been much), but when I bought my house I was told about a road that was going to be built connecting our housing development (“subdivision”, in Americanese) directly to the rest of Hamilton. Specifically, it would connect us to one of the most important intersections in this part of the city, one that, in turn, connects we with pretty much everywhere I’d want to go in the city.

At the time, with the development was only partly finished (though all the streets were completed(, and the long alternative route to get to the same place didn’t bother me. After all, I’d come from the last house that Nigel and I shared, and to get anywhere from their required a 20 minute (or more) drive.

Over time, more houses were built, including in new developments nearby, and still there was no action on the new road. It became a labyrinthine tale of many, many missed deadlines, of political intrigue, including the city council trying to change the deal after the fact, and also lots on unexpected things—like Covid lockdowns, the resulting global supply chain disruptions, and geotechnical issues on site that turned out to be complicated. In addtion, the developer and city council kept arguing over who was responsible for paying for changes the geotechnical issues required. In other words, a more or less normal developer vs. city council relationship pushed completion out to more than six years after the development itself was begun.

I actually began this post a couple weeks ago when we got word that the project was finished, the city council had signed-off on all the approvals, and the developer had filed the paperwork to transfer ownership of the new road to Hamilton City Council, a process that “should”, the developer told us, take 10-12 business days (weekends don’t count), and that the road “should” open the week of June 26. I hesitated finishing this post because after all the delays and frustrations, I was sceptical. It turned out, that scepticism was well-placed.

It turned out that the government body responsible to registering property titles was taking longer than it should have, so the developer followed up—twice—and the agency then told them they needed two more bits of information to complete the transfer. That was done the same day—June 29— and it was where things stalled again.

Finally, on July 5—the day before yesterday—the developer confirmed that title had been transferred and their contractors would start removing the barriers, construction fencing, etc. Them without fanfare, the road opened yesterday evening.

I don’t like driving in the dark, if I can avoid it, so I drove on for the first time today, and took Leo with me. I was surprised at how short the road is—a couple hundred metres or so—and I couldn’t help but think, “all that hassle and frustration for THIS?!!

Of course, there’s more to it that just the distance of a football pitch: There will be a commercial area, including some shops, going in the area around that road, a school is going to be nearby, and two other roads connecting to even more development areas will connect one day.

Today I noticed that what will be the intersection with those new roads is all set up for traffic lights when the roads are built, and the fact they’re ready to go suggests that it may not be too long before those roads are begun—at least, maybe not as long as it took for our new road to be built.

For me, this new road is all about connection: I’ll be able to take the shortest route to the intersection with Te Rapa Road, the main North/South route in this part of the city. I need to get to that intersection in order to get to nearly everywhere I go in the city, including The Base shopping centre (where the mall Te Awa is located, along with one of the home centres I go to, among other shops). It’s also the road with the other home centre, both supermarkets, my dentist, and Leo’s vet. Going through that intersection is the way to my doctor, the family who live on the eastern side of the city, and even to the other mall I’ve been to, Chartwell. In fact, there’s pretty much no place in the city that I drive to that I couldn’t get to by going over the new road.

However, for the past three and half years the only way for me to get to that intersection with Te Rapa was to drive south, turn left from a stop sign onto a usually very busy road, get through a very heavily trafficked roundabout (fed by three busy roads), get through a traffic light to get to another traffic light that provides access to the road that was just connected to the new road. Depending on traffic, getting from my house to that last traffic light can take 10 to 15 minutes. With the new road, it’ll take, at most, 5 minutes to get to that same traffic light—well, until the new connecting roads open, but the new route will still be far more direct.

Shaving 10 minutes off a round trip may not sound like much, even if you take into account that the time saving can be more than that on some days or at some times, but it also means dramatically less hassle to get to the places I want to go. There have been many times when I wanted to pick something up, looked at the time, calculated how busy the roads were, and then decided not to go, putting it off until a better time the next day. I won’t have to do that anymore.

Also, the area I live has had very poor public transport. The new road will connect our area with the transport hub which is where the train to/from Auckland stops, and that also is a hub for several bus routes. When the new road opens, a new bus route will connect us not just to that transport hub, but also to the centre of the city—where car parking is notoriously bad, so much so that I avoid ever driving there (it then continues on to the university in the eastern part of the city, then back). That new bus may or may not be if any use to me, but it’ll make a huge difference to the quality of life for those of us living in the area now, and the several hundred more who’ll move here in the next couple years as the several housing developments currently under way are completed.

The development I live in is only about half done: A housing area hasn’t been started yet, and others in the area aren’t yet completed. That new small-scale business area around the area of the new road is likely to include a café, a superette of some sort, and some office space. When that stuff gets built, I’ll be able to walk up to buy a bottle of milk instead of having to drive somewhere. Maybe they’ll have a place I can grab a coffee, too.

Add all this together—faster and low-hassle access to the places I go to the most frequently, the improvement in public transport, the opening of some businesses, and, eventually, Council building the parks and recreation space they’ve also promised, and this will become a lively, desirable area to live. This area will finally become the sort of area I actually wanted to be in when I was looking for a house in Hamilton. Back then, there was no reason to think it’d take this long to get to this point, but I now know that sometimes it really is about the destination, not the journey.

And Leo? Well, he’s not actually very keen about going for a car ride, probably because I strap him in, and when we got back home after our short ride, he wasn’t ready to go back inside. So, we went for a walk around the block, the first time we’ve ever done that (we have, of course, done shorter walks). Best of all, Leo also peed on a walk for the first time ever.

Who could’ve ever guessed that a new road could cause so many good things?

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

Thursday, July 06, 2023

Real plastic changes

There’s a clear momentum in many countries for companies to move away from single use or hard to recycle plastics. Whether that’s because of consumer demand, government regulation, or cost is irrelevant: They’re doing the right thing and that should be acknowledged—even as we urge them to keep moving toward sustainability.

Last week, the obviousness of change was brought home to me through two supermarket chains. Last Friday evening, hours before New Zealand’s new plastic bans took effect, I stopped in New World on my way home from a family get-together. I was curious and looked: Their produce section already had paper bags for customers to use, and there were no rolls of plastic bags that I could see. They may have made the switch ages ago, for all I know, because I wouldn’t have noticed: I’ve had reusable mesh bags for produce for several years. Regardless, it was good to see they were ready ahead of the deadline.

A few days later, I was placing a delivery order with Countdown (part of New Zealand’s other supermarket chain), and I saw the ad at the top of this post, one of several that cycled through their main web page. In January of last year, I blogged about how only some plastics were easily recyclable, and coloured drink bottles weren’t among them. I was glad to see that the Coca-Cola company was taking responsible action.

Throughout the slow walk away from single-use and hard to recycle plastics, the degree of acceptance has varied, particularly among affected businesses. Both supermarket chains started working on produce bag replacements by the time plastic shopping bags were banned, and spokespeople for both companies talked about problems. There’s nothing quite like a looming deadline to spur action, and whether or not that was an immediate motivator for the supermarket chains or not doesn't really matter because it imposed a deadline—and both companies got there.

The bottle change is a bit more interesting to me, and, of course, I had to learn more. It turns out that the decision was announced on May 1 of this year. According to the company’s website:
Coca-Cola in New Zealand has today announced that after nearly 60 years Sprite’s iconic green plastic bottles will switch to clear plastic, making them easier to recycle into new bottles.

While green PET plastic is recyclable, it’s usually converted into single-use items like clothing and carpet that cannot be recycled again.
The change is being made globally, because it “reflects the company’s commitment to prioritise sustainability and drive packaging circularity”. I actually think this is true: It’s good business for companies to make an effort toward sustainability, but if they’d persisted with difficult-to-recycle green bottles, sooner or later there would’ve been consumer backlash—just another reason the move made good business sense. Still, it’s no small thing considering that the product has been in green bottles since it was introduced in the 1960s (the no sugar version has been in clear plastic bottles for a very long time).

These two things—making an early change to paper rather than single use plastics, and changing a plastic bottle colour to one that can be recycled multiple times—are each obvious moves for the companies to make. The first was needed because a rule change made it necessary, and the second because consumer demand could ultimately drive sales down without the change. However, there are also incidents of companies that resist, such as, continuing to use banned plastics, and those are the sorts of things that get reported by the new smedia. I think we should acknowledge that, regardless of motivation, sometimes companies just get on with what needs to be done.

And yet, there’s still so much more to be done.

Almost two years ago, I wrote ”The problem is more than plastic”, a blog post in which I talked about some of the problems remaining. Nothing much has been done about the problem with things made from mixed plastics or that otherwise can’t be recycled. Personally, I’d like to see government come up with a plan to ban such plastics, too, but that’ll take alternatives and support from companies (like food and food product manufacturers) to make that happen.

In the meantime, I’d like to see a sustained effort, with significant government support, to educate people on sustainable alternatives to using plastics of any kind. At the same time, we all need to take responsibility for living more sustainably.

I’m trying to practice what I preach. Just as I researched and found reusable mesh bags for produce long before the single-use plastic versions were banned, so, too, I’ve been researching and trialling alternatives that, at the very least, reduce the amount of plastics I use—not merely hard-to recycle plastic, but all plastics. I’ll soon start blogging about my efforts in the hope that they may be useful to others.

On the meantime, though, things in New Zealand, at least, are moving in the right direction. We’re far from solving all the problems associated with the use of plastics, and there are some big and difficult challenges in the way, but just a little more determination can go much farther toward getting us there.

Important Note: The names of brands/products/companies listed in this post are used merely for purposes of description and clarity. No company or entity provided any support or payment of any kind for this blog post. The opinions I expressed are my own genuinely held opinions, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the manufacturers, retailers, or any known human being, alive or dead, real or corporate. Just so we’re clear.

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 388 is now available

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 388, “Future-like”, is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast episode, along with any other episode.

The five most recent episodes of the podcast are listed on the sidebar on the right side of this blog.

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

The unsupremes ruin everything

Friday evening is normally a relaxing time for me. Sometimes I get together with family for dinner, which is always nice, and then I settle in to watch some TV for the rest of the evening. But this past Friday, as I was beginning to wind down for bed, I got an alert on my iPad that the US “Supreme” Court had struck yet again dismantled more of the human rights of LGBT+ Americans. The ruling—yet another far-right ideologically-driven decision—is part of the Republican far-right majority’s agenda: Make America 1883 Again.

Like most people on the centre and left of US politics, I have zero respect for the far-right Republican majority of the court, precisely because they’ve worked so very hard to destroy the court’s reputation: Instead of standing up for justice and fairness and for ordinary people, and instead of ruling in accordance with the law and the US Constitution, the far-right Republicans are instead engaged in “comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted,” as journalist Ian Millhiser put in the subtitle of his 2015 book Injustices

The Court’s latest ideologically-driven decision, 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis (21-476) [PDF of the decision], involved a fundamentalist “christian” web designer who thought one day she might like to create wedding websites, but her religious views compelled her to refuse to create a website for a same-gender couple, in the event she ever started providing such services, of course, and if a theoretical same-gender couple ever tried to hire her services. While the supposed “injury” to her was entirely hypothetical, she sued the State of Colorado, anyway—well, the ultra-far-right “Alliance Defending [sic] Freedom [lol]" sued on her behalf.

The extremist group has long shopped around for “victims” they can represent in their constant efforts to overturn all legal protections for LGBT+ people—and everyone else they don’t like. They have several suits at various stages of litigation at any given time, and it’s entirely likely that when the Court’s the far-right Republican majority inevitably strikes down Obgergefell v. Hodges, Lawrence v. Texas, Griswold v. Connecticut—and possibly even Loving v. Virginia—the A”D”F will be behind it one way or another.

What’s extraordinary about this decision, and two others just released, is that there was no one who had suffered actual legal “injury” that needed to be remedied. Instead, the Court decided to “afflict the afflicted” in order to “comfort the comfortable” by imposing their own ideological agenda onto everyone else. That could not possibly be more obvious than in this particular case.

When the plaintiff’s firm filed the lawsuit against Colorado, there was no possibility of harm because she wasn’t doing the sort of work she didn’t want to have to do for people she objected to. It’s clear that Colorado didn’t think she had legal standing to sue the state, and part way through the process it emerged that, allegedly, someone named “Stewart” had contacted her through her website’s contact form to try to hire her web services for his marriage to his “husband”. The problem was, the whole thing was faked by someone: He had been married to a woman for 15 years, and even if he was gay, he was actually a designer himself, so he wouldn’t need her services. He also had no idea his name and details had been used in a Supreme Court case.

The plaintiff's legal team claimed, “it’s undisputed that the request was received,” however, it appears that no proof of that has been made public. Still, assuming it really did happen—and, to be clear, it may have happened—it proves nothing whatsoever. The lawyer suggested it could have been a troll, which is possible, but that raises questions, like, who did it and what was their motivation? Mischief or malice? Was it done to strengthen the web designer’s case? We’ll never know because at no point did anyone ever check to see if it was a legitimate request, which is… odd. A legitimate request may have actually bolstered her case if she refused, but not even checking to find out if the request was legitimate just sounds… odd.

The lawyers claimed it wasn’t actually part of the case, anyway, which is technically true (at least, from their perspective), but the fact remains that the one thing that could have suggested real potential “injury” to the plaintiff was never vetted. Even so, the lawyers were happy to continue using the apparently faked contact, arguing after the ruling that “any claim that [the web designer] will never receive a request to create a custom website celebrating a same-sex ceremony is no longer legitimate because [the designer] has received such a request.” Did she, though? And if so, how do we know it wasn’t from a supporter trying to shore up her legally non-existent argument? This just sounds like spin. Obviously, either side in a political dispute like this may try to spin the results to their benefit, but that doesn’t make claims of relevancy valid. [See also: "Legitimacy of ‘customer’ in Supreme Court gay rights case raises ethical and legal flags" by Alanna Durkin Richer and Colleen Slevin, Associated Press]

This same thing—litigants who haven’t experienced any actual legal “injury” runs through two other recent decisions. In Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College (20-1199) [PDF of the decision], which overturned affirmative action in university admissions, the driver was a long-time agitator against affirmative action, not a student. Similarly, in Biden v. Nebraska et al (22-506) [PDF of the decision], the decision that stopped President Biden from forgiving some student loan debt, the supposedly injured parties—six Republican-controlled states—were not actually injured (except for their feelings, perhaps). One state agency that handles student loans didn’t want to be part of the lawsuit (not the least because they stood to make more money if the debt relief plan had been permitted), but was forced into it, anyway, by Republican state officials who used their power to act on behalf of the plaintiff because it was a state agency. In all three of these cases, dubious—at best—speculative claims were accepted by the Court’s Republican far-right majority as legitimate and as good reasons to further erode the rights and freedom of ordinary people in order to, yet again, comfort the comfortable—and to advance a far-right Republican agenda.

For the web designer’s case, the whole rightwing argument was, as it has been in similar cases, about supposed “speech”: They argue that forcing a fundamentalist “christian” to “participate” in a same-gender wedding requires the creative professional to make “symbolic speech” in support of something they oppose on religious grounds. As someone who has worked in creative industries for decades, I think this argument is profoundly stupid: They’re hired to do a job, end of story.

The real issue here is that the rightwing wants their particular religious beliefs to always cancel out the human and civil rights of people they don’t “agree with”, which, of course, is code for, shall we say, “people they dislike very much”. I think that’s stupid, too, because it only ever works in one direction: If a graphic designer, photographer, cake baker, florist, or other creative professional refused to provide services to an opposite-gender fundamentalist “christian” couple because it would mean providing “symbolic speech” endorsing the couple’s religious views that ran counter to the creative professional’s, I feel certain that the current Supreme Court would never permit that objection. Turnabout is not fair play—it’d be prohibited.

The court’s far-right Republican majority is doing the one thing that Republicans have long pretended was an unpardonable sin: They’re legislating from the bench [See: “The Supreme Court’s conservatives are doing exactly what they claim to detest” by MSNBC Columnist Michael A. Cohen]. They’re doing this legislating from the bench in order to force a hard-core ideologically-driven agenda onto everyone. In so doing, the court’s far-right Republican majority is reversing decades of slow, often tortured and halting, progress toward more fairness, equity, and safety for ordinary people, and are instead working hard to raise elites above ordinary Americans—and ordinary people are very ones who  need the protection of the Constitution.

So, yet again, the Supreme Court’s Republican far-right majority has dismantled a bit more of the civil and human rights of LGBTQ+ people. This is far from the last time they’ll do that, and each attack will be just as ideologically driven. This is why defeating all Republicans everywhere is, for now, the only hope for saving democracy, the Constitution, and the rule of law. The Supreme Court’s Republican far-right majority has yet again reminded us: Elections have consequences.