Sunday, December 31, 2023

That’s a wrap for 2023

This is my last blog post for 2023, the end of my blogging year. This year had its ups and downs, but, overall, it was a marked improvement over the past few years. Being me, though, what I think about is that I wanted more.

This is the 26th post for December 2023, and the 159th for 2023, and I honestly thought both totals would be higher. However, that was probably an unlikely thing: The only month in 2023 in which I hit my old blogging goal of an average of one post per day was September, though 29 October was close.

Of course, numbers aren’t everything, and certainly not the only thing, but they do provide me with a way go gauge how I’m doing—not just at blogging, but in general. The months in which my output was lowest were probably also the months in which I was, too, of course, but my most productive months weren’t necessarily my best ones—just the ones in which I was most determined and made enough time.

As each year draws to a close, I look at my drafts folder and see all sorts of posts that never made it to the point where I click “Publish”. Sometimes I wasn’t happy with them, other times I got bored with them (it happens), and none of that is anything new. This year, as with other recent years, there were a lot that I never even began (often about politics…).

I have no idea what 2024 will be like, but considering the dramatic improvement 2023 was over 2022, and the fact that 2023 was my best year since 2019, I think a little celebration of this year is in order. This isn’t the first time that what I achieved was less than what I’d hoped for, and it won’t be the last time, either. It’s the way of life.

Basically, this year was—a year. May 2024 be better for us all.

And, that’s a wrap for 2023.

Ask Arthur 2023, Part 5: Something about me

Here we are already: This is the final post in this year’s “Ask Arthur” series. Today's questions are about me, more than my opinions. Quite frankly, I’m surprised no one has asked some of these before, but there you go.

The first group of questions today is from AustininSeattle, and, as I did with Roger’s questions the other day, I decided to number them for clarity:

1. Are you currently working or are you retired?
2. If you're retired, are you financially comfortable? Is your house paid off? How does the pension in New Zealand work? Do you also receive the US Social Security money?
3. How often do you go back to the US to visit your relatives (siblings, cousins, nephews, and nieces)? Do you see yourself returning back to the US since it's your home country and you have relatives?
4. Are you planning to find a new partner after Nigel? If so, have you dated anyone?

1. “Are you currently working or are you retired?” Technically, neither—and both. The job I had for 16 years ended just before New Zealand went under the first Covid lockdown, which was pure coincidence. The publication I worked on part-time was sold, and the new owners were going to do all the work in house. I’m not opposed to getting a new job—I think about it all the time, actually—but I have no idea what I’d do at my age and with my skils, which were niche to begin with, no longer in demand.

However, I’m considered “employed” for tax reasons because I still own our house on Auckland’s North Shore, and that’s a rental. The income from that has to be reported to both countries (as I understand it, it’s kind of analogous to self-employment income in the USA). Fortunately, we’re not talking big money—basically enough to pay the loans and maintenance—so I only pay income tax to New Zealand.

This actually nicely segues to the next question:

2. “If you're retired, are you financially comfortable? Is your house paid off? How does the pension in New Zealand work? Do you also receive the US Social Security money?”

I’ll take the last part first: As a US citizen living overseas, I qualify for Social Security, though not Medicare (not that I need Medicare, of course). However, as a New Zealander who has lived and worked here for more than ten years, I also qualify for New Zealand Superannuation (government retirement benefit, usually called "Super"). Because New Zealand and the USA have a treaty dealing with this, New Zealand deducts the US Social Security payment from my New Zealand Superannuation, though I still get the same amount net as any other New Zealander, it’s just that some of it comes from the USA (it would be similar for a New Zealander living in the USA, and in a situation similar to mine, and who retired in the USA). There’s one other thing about this: NZ Super begins at age 65 (next month for me), but I don’t qualify for my full Social Security entitlement until I’m 66 and 10 months, which would be November 2025. I’m required by New Zealand to apply for Social Security at 65 or else I can’t collect NZ Super.

I’m in the process for applying for both right now, and I’ll talk about that when it’s done. The important thing to know is that applying for the NZ pension is incredibly easy, and applying for Social Security from overseas absolutely is not.

As for the rest, I own the house I live in freehold (without a mortgage), which helps keep my monthly outgoings as small as possible. The rental property has loans that the rent pays. I don't have a frame of reference for what financially comfortable would mean, for me or someone else, but I know that I'm in far better shape that far too many people, working people, even. But whether the gold of my golden years turn out to be painted lead is something I can't yet answer. In any case, I don't intend to stop working, in one sense or another, and regardless if it's for pay or not, until I'm no longer able, and that could affect my answer.

3. “How often do you go back to the US to visit your relatives (siblings, cousins, nephews, and nieces)? Do you see yourself returning back to the US since it's your home country and you have relatives?”

Since I moved to New Zealand 28 years ago, I’ve been back three times: In 1997 and 1999 (both times with Nigel, and his cousin joined us for the ‘99 trip). I went back alone from late December 2007 to early January 2008 to tidy up some loose ends. That’s it. Nigel and I planned several different times to go back, but life got in the way, and time passed. We talked loosely about going to Hawaii for our 25th anniversary together, but, of course, he didn’t live that long. I have no plans to visit in the forseable future.

By “returning” to the USA, I assume you mean to live, and no, that’s impossible. First, I left the USA 28 years ago, after living there for the first 36 years of my life—half of which was when I was legally a child. So, I’ve lived more of my adult life in New Zealand than I did in the USA (28 v. 18), and that means that in a very real sense, the country I left doesn’t exist anymore: Many of the people I knew—friends and colleagues alike—have died or scattered across the country. The places I knew so very well when I lived there—Chicago and Illinois—have changed dramatically since I left, so much so that neighbourhoods I could’ve walked blindfolded are totally unfamiliar to me now. In fact, if I was to move to the USA now, it’s be like moving to a foreign country, because so much has changed. Heck, I often see Americans talking about something going on in pop culture, and I have NO idea what they’re talking about.

On top of that, I’m used to national healthcare, not an insurance-driven system, and having to pay for health insurance—even with Medicare—would mean I’d have live a very, very modest life. Here in New Zealand, I have a but more flexibility. Having said all that, I wouldn’t mind going back for a visit before I get really old, but that possibility no doubt depends on what happens in the 2024 US elections, though it’s kind of moot at the moment, anyway: My US passport expired several years ago, and I don’t have anyone to look after Leo while I was on a long trip. All of which means I have completely accepted the fact that it’s possible I may never get back the USA again.

4. “Are you planning to find a new partner after Nigel? If so, have you dated anyone?”

I could be glib and say “no and no”, but, while true, that’s not the whole story. I have no plans to ever have another partner, and I’ve never considered dating. The reality is, and I know I’ve talked about this somewhere, I have absolutely NO idea how to be a single gay man in 2023/24. When I was last single, the Internet had barely begun, and guys mostly met in bars, friends, or social groups, or they sought someone through newspaper classifieds. In many places, most of those things don’t exist anymore.

Around the time of the first Covid lockdown, or thereabouts, anyway, I thought about how nice it would be to have some gay friends to just hang out with. Apple promoted an App (maybe for Pride) that, it said, was for gay people to find friends and chat. I downloaded it, but realised pretty quickly it was actually a hook-up app (it wasn’t one of the well-known ones, which is why I tried it). Then I got an email from the company that talked about their App having “the hottest gay singles”, and I immediately closed my account and deleted the App. That was the absolute <i>last</i> thing I wanted.

My current mindset may not be forever—I understand all too well the extreme importance of never saying “never”—but it would have to be extraordinary circumstances for anything to change my mind for the foreseeable future. Still, that’s not actually a “no”, but more of a “probably not” or maybe, more vaguely, “possibly one day, maybe.” Time will tell, I guess, even if right now I think it’s highly improbable.

Next up, and staying on the same overall theme, is one from Roger Green, and it requires some background. Earlier this month, I published a post, ”A venture out”, in which I talked about some errands I ran that day. In it I mentioned that at one whop I went to, I was helped by a nice-looking young man with “a North American accent”, and, I added, “I didn’t ask where he was from; didn’t want him to think I was flirting”. After saying I could use it for this series, Roger commented:

I'm not quite sure: 1) Why is asking about where someone is from would be considered flirting, and 2) why a perceived flirtation would be problematic.”

I was mostly joking, however, humour is often a way of expressing truth, so: I don’t actually think he’d have thought that merely asking him where he was from was me flirting (that’s the part I wasn’t serious about). However, I never want guys to think I’m flirting, and that needs some explanation.

I came of age at a time when flirting with a guy could lead to a violent reaction, and while that’s far less true than it’s been in many, many decades, the possibility is still seared into my brain—I think it’s just a generational thing. The bigger issue is that I’m shy and an introvert by nature, and I don’t want to impose on people, or, in this case, to impose myself, even when I think the guy is good looking. I know that flirting isn’t the same as trying to pick someone up—except when I was younger when it pretty much was. These days, as I was saying above, I have no interest in picking anyone up, so in my behavioural brain, still frozen in 1995, I think there’s no point in flirting when there would be no follow-through. Plus, being shy and all.

So, no, I don’t think he’d have thought I was flirting if I askied where he was from, and if I had been flirting, it would have been innocent and not a problem. Having said all that, I’m almost always extremely nice and polite to all shopworkers, even those who aren’t attractive men. And if an attractive man wants to respond to my niceness by flirting with me, well, who am I to complain? Unfortunately, this has hardly ever happened, though.

Thanks to AustininSeattle and Roger Green for today’s questions, and for closing out this series! Personally, I think most of today’s questions could use more discussion, but possibly in posts of their own—or next year’s series?

Thanks to everyone for playing along with this year’s series!

All posts in this series are tagged “AAA-23”. All previous posts from every “Ask Arthur” series are tagged, appropriately enough, ”Ask Arthur”.


”Let the annual inquisition begin” – The first post in this year’s series.
”Ask Arthur 2023, Part 1: Get here from there”
”Ask Arthur 2023, Part 2: Measuring and measured”
”Ask Arthur 2023, Part 3: US political stuff”
”Ask Arthur 2023, Part 4: Saying no and being okay”

My mother would be 107

Today (US time) is my mother’s 107th birthday.I always remember it, and on both days—US time and NZ time—so I guess I really remember. But beyond that, my memories of her are few, and seem so very distant.

Last year I said:
The reality is that I think about the birthdays of everyone I know when the date arrives here, which is a day early for friends in Europe or the USA. Actually, Facebook does the same thing, reminding me of someone’s birthday when the date arrives here, in my timezone, and not on the date it arrives where the person lives. This situation is confusing under the best of circumstances, but add in my lack of focus and general forgetfulness, and it means that I miss more birthdays than I remember.
My mother’s is one of the very few birthdays I think of on both days, and I deliberately do that. The first day (NZ time) is because I’m in that day, and the second (US time) is because that’s where she was born, so it kind of is her “real” birthday” to me. None of which matters except that it pretty much guarantees that I’ll remember it when I forget so many others.

As for general memories of her, my own advancing years (I’m already a year older than my mother ever was, with another year due to be added to my tally in three weeks), plus everything I’ve been through in the more than four decades since she died, including my own bereavement, means there apparently isn’t enough room to store and recall very many memories, and some of them are snippets. There have been plenty of times my sister has reminded me of something that happened when we were kids, and I have absolutely no memory of it. That’s not necessarily because I was too young, though sometimes I was, but, rather, because of everything I mentioned.

Still, there are times that are are better than others, especially how tired I am, because that affects my memory in general. So, I take things as they are at any given moment moment, and I simply remember what I can at that time. Her birthday, however, is still the one thing I always remember and think about—and for all the reasons I’ve spelled out in previous years in the posts linked below.

Happy Birthday, Mom, and thanks. Always.

Previous birthday posts:
My mother would be 106 (2022)
My mother would be 105 (2021)
Remembering my mother’s birthday in 2020 (2020)
Remembering my mother’s birthday in a new life (2019)
Still remembering my mother’s birthday (2018)
Remembering my mother’s birthday (2017)
My mom would be 100 (2016)
Mom at 99 (2015)
Remembering my mother (2014)
Mom’s birthday (2013)
Mom’s treasure (2012)
Remembering birthdays (2011)
That time of year (2009)
Memories and words (2008)

Tears of a clown
– A 2009 post that’s still one of my favourites about my mother.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Finding the right metaphor

The most important thing about humans is our language. Other species communicate, of course, and many are much stronger or have other physical attributes that make them physiologically superior to humans. However, as far as we know, we’re the only species on earth that is defined by the depth and breadth of its ability to communicate. No wonder it can be so difficult to find the perfect words to define ourselves and the essence of who we are as a person and our experience of life. Sometimes, though, words just pop into our heads in just the right order and at just the right moment. That happened to me yesterday.

Over the past four years, I’ve tried to explain the realities of grief, of being a gay widower, and how all of that changes us, even permanently. The one thing that eluded me was finding the right metaphor to help people grasp what Nigel and I were together, and so, why it’s been such a struggle for me to redefine myself. I think I may have stumbled into one that may help.

Nigel and were like two trees planted near each other. Not seedlings or young saplings, but more mature trees, the sort that it takes a digger to dig the hole and to lift the tree into it. As the trees slowly become established in their new home side-by-side, they begin to help each other, one sheltering the other from the wind as the direction of the gusts changes, the leaves of each cooling the air around them so the water in the soil doesn’t evaporate as quickly.

Over time, the trees grow bigger and stronger, side-by-side, their branches and roots becoming entwined with each other. Eventually, this makes it difficult to tell where one tree ends and the other starts.

Then, one of the trees gets a disease, weakens, and dies. Its trunk breaks at the soll line, and it falls over, separating the two trees’ branches. The remaining tree now stands alone, but its roots! Its roots are still entwined with the roots of its now-gone companion tree. Only the one tree is still anchored by those roots, only one is still drawing life where once two did, but the fact of the entwined roots remains.

Over time, the lost companion’s roots will be absorbed by the soil, but that doesn’t change the surviving tree’s knowledge and memory of how once two trees were so thoroughly entwined with each other, both visibly with their branches, and out of sight, below ground. And as the former companion’s roots eventually disappear, they nourish the roots of the surviving tree, until one day it, too, reaches its end.

This metaphor, I think, describes the core of what happens to us when a spouse/partner dies: The person with whom our life was so completely entwined is gone, but the deep connections remain out of sight, still providing comfort to the survivor, and nourishing its continued growth. At the same time, learning to live and thrive without the visible connection, like the entwined trees’ branches, is a huge challenge for the survivor. Others looking on know the visible connection is gone, but they know nothing about the invisible connections that still remain, still unseen.

The reason that this metaphor works for me is that we’re all familiar with the idea of trees being big, strong, and enduring, that storms or disease may take out nearby trees, but others endure. People who’ve lost a spouse/partner similarly manage to endure, most of them, even though at first they can’t work out how to do so with their companion’s life no longer interwoven with their own. But the roots of their relationship and life together provide the stability they need when they need it the most, and continues to nurture them as they move forward in their own life. Maybe it could help outside observers to understand what a widow/er goes through.

I’ve struggled to understand why it’s so hard to adjust to a suddenly solo life, and over the past couple years in particular that’s led me to read a lot about grief and recovery. This tree metaphor popped into my head as I read the latest book I picked up—even though at that point the author wasn’t talking about anything even remotely related to forestry or botany. I’ll eventually talk about the insights I’ve gained from all that study, however, I have several books at various stages of progress (as is usual for me). Also, it takes me a long time because I’m a slow reader, something I wrote about way back in 2009. Right now, though, the important thing is that all this study I’ve been doing has been helpful, and not just because it caused a metaphor to pop into my head.

Sometimes, words just pop into our heads in just the right order and at just the right moment. That happened to me yesterday, and maybe more will pop into my head in the future. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Ask Arthur 2023, Part 4: Saying no and being okay

Today’s post heads in a different direction than the previous ones, but it’s actually not that different from questions I’ve taken on in past series, though it's perhaps a bit more specific than others have been. To me, that makes it more important than many previous questions.

Today’s question is from Anonymous, who writes:

How do I learn to say no? All my life I have tried to live my life helping others. As I approach my mid sixties, I have found myself embroiled in so many people's problems, that I am overwhelmed beyond belief. I'm so deeply involved that I let my needs and sometimes my immediate family needs go, to help someone else. I want to help, but I'm exhausted. I don't want to "not help"... because that changes who I am. But I'm being taken advantage of, and I see no way out, without becoming someone I'm not. Just say no, doesn't work for me.

I know this is more of a Dear Abby question, but you are one of the most reasonable people I know, and I trust you to give an intelligent, concrete answer. P.S. these are dear loved ones, I'm dealing with.

Two things up front: First, thank you for your kind words about me—I hope I live up to the faith you expressed in me, at least a little bit. Second, it’s important I note that I have no qualifications or formal training in helping people with life issues—I’m not a life coach, for example. However, ya know, I’ve been around a bit, and I’ve seen things: Been there, done that, and probably wrote a blog post about it. I mention this upfront because I want to be clear I’m offering my opinions, not expertise.

That said, what you describe is a quite common thing—in fact, when I Googled the topic I got 5.7 billion results, though I wasn’t actually surprised by that. It made me wonder, though: Since this is such a common thing, why aren’t we talking about it more? I suppose I would think that, since I obviously believe in the importance of open and honest communication. I also think this gets to the heart of your issue.

The most obvious thing to say is the thing you already know: It’s okay to say no, and to prioritise your own needs and those of your immediate family. However, you say that “just say no” doesn’t work for you, and you don’t want to change who you are, all of which is completely valid. So many people don’t know who they are at their core, and you do, and that’s something to celebrate.

However, being overwhelmed as the primary helper—or maybe “rescuer” is sometimes a better word?—doesn’t automatically mean saying no. There are another ways, including one I think is more sustainable for everyone, especially you, and it starts with setting boundaries and limits. The difficulty here is that it requires open and honest discussion, and maybe even negotiation, and not all people or all families do those things well. How do we make the transition to a more sustainable way of doing things?

It sounds to me as if you feel you haven’t had control over the level, frequency, and intensity of your involvement, which leads me to think that others might not be aware that, in fact, you have limits just like everyone else does. So maybe a place to start would be with something small, like instead of doing the thing at the time/place/and manner they request, you offer an alternative, and I think there’s a sort of a procedure.

First, it’s probable that some or even most of the folks you’re helping are completely unaware of the toll they’re taking on you. There absolutely are people who always take with no concern, and they know they’re doing it. Then there are people who take because the other person doesn’t ever say no. Finally, there are the people who are utterly unaware they’re asking so much/too much. I think it’s always best to assume someone is in the last category (until/unless they make clear they’re not).

The next step is to begin by affirming. When someone asks you to do a thing that’s not urgent, begin by saying something like, “sure, I’d be happy to help you with that…” and then you begin trying to set boundaries. All tasks can be broken down into smaller ones (more about that in a minute), so you can try asking, “which one of those things is most urgent?”, part of the goal there is to get them to see that all tasks take time to complete, and all can be ranked by urgency, etc. If it’s not a list of things, but a one-off, maybe the negotiation would be something like, “I have a lot to get through over the next few days—could we make it Thursday?” The goal there is to get them to grasp that they’re taking your time from you, while still making it clear you’re willing to help. It’s possible, especially the first time you try something like that, that if they’re not coping well, they may feel like just giving up, and you may feel like backing down and doing what they want when they want it. That’s valid—and you’ve set the stage for trying again to set boundaries the next time they ask.

The next stage is to shift more of the responsibility back onto the person seeking the help. People who ask too much and/or too often sometimes have trouble setting goals. Faced with a big task, especially if they feel they’re in crisis, they might not be able to see that big tasks can always be broken down into smaller ones. If you help them to do that, and to prioritise tasks, you’re training them to do more themselves, as well as setting some boundaries: “How about you work on item X and Y while I do Z?” That approach is less overwhelming or intimidating for them than doing the whole big task alone, and it lets you avoid doing it all, too.

I suspect—but obviously don’t know—that at least some of the folks depending on you have no idea the burden they’re creating for you. My advice here is to try and tell them that—when they’re not asking for help. Reinforce how important those people and their well-being are to you, and that you want to help when you can, but doing so is taking a toll. Some people find such honest conversation too hard to start or too hear. So, one tactic could be to let them think you’re talking about someone else, because they should be able to think about how their own behaviour is causing the same problems.

You didn’t mention this specifically, but it could be that the problem isn’t just people asking too much, but also that others who could help may not be doing enough. That’s particularly difficult to deal with because different people have different—and often many—reasons for not helping.

There’s no way to make someone help if it’s not in their nature, but there’s no harm in expressing to them the extent you’re overwhelmed. You don’t have to be blunt and tell them “you’re not doing enough!” but, instead, you could be honest about how overwhelmed you are and how you need more help. Moat people will get the message, and those who don’t are unlikly to have been of any any help, anyway.

To be honest, I don’t know that any of this will help at all. People are unique and unpredictable, and what works with one person may fail utterly with someone else. The point is to try a few subtle ways of setting limits and putting the word out that you need support. Good people will absolutely rally around—and maybe those who don’t deserve a bit of distance? Only you can be an advocate for you, hard as that is. You’re of course welcome to continue the conversation, either through the comments or privately, and others are welcome to speak up in the comments, too—many hands make light the work, which is my real message in this answer.

Thanks to Anonymous for today’s question! Next time, the final answer in this series,something completely different again.

All posts in this series are tagged “AAA-23”. All previous posts from every “Ask Arthur” series are tagged, appropriately enough, ”Ask Arthur”.


”Let the annual inquisition begin” – The first post in this year’s series.
”Ask Arthur 2023, Part 1: Get here from there”
”Ask Arthur 2023, Part 2: Measuring and measured”
”Ask Arthur 2023, Part 3: US political stuff”

Another year-end music mashup

The video above is one of two music mashup videos I share each year, and like the first, there were a lot of songs I was unfamiliar with. Seems to be the way now.

The video above is the latest from Dj Earworm, “United State of Pop 2023 (Cut The Flowers)”, and it was posted a few days ago, a week or two later than usual, something that doesn’t matter, of course. I recognised two songs in this video, something I know for sure because he always includes a complete tracklist in the YouTube description.

My not knowing the songs is now a common thing. Earlier this month, I shared Adamusic’s mashup, and I said:
This year, I felt my familiarity with the songs was the lowest ever: While I recognised many artists, I was unfamiliar with the songs themselves—apart from Luke Combs’ cover of “Fast Car”, and that was only because I know the original.
That was also true of the Dj Earworm’s mashup, except that in it I also recognised Miley Cyrus’ “Flowers”. The reason is still the same: We don’t have pop video music channels anymore, and I never listen to the radio. This actually bothers me: For my entire life, I’ve been at least familiar with pop songs, no matter what I thought about them, and now that’s no longer true.

This isn’t just about me—I’m indisputably getting older, obviously, but another big factor is that the entire music industry has changed dramatically since I was a kid. The way people find and listen to music is nothing like it was back then, and I, for one, haven’t found a new way that works for me.

Ads and Reels on Facebook (in particular) have sometimes caught my attention, as have the recommendations of friends, but—then what? How do I find new and popular pop music?

I’d forgotten all about it, but back in 2018 or early 2019 I subscribed to the “Official Top 40 NZ Singles” Spotify Playlist. I haven’t listened to it in—well, years, probably. It’s precisely the sort of thing that can help me stay familiar with what’s popular, and a good reason to use Spotify more, as I talked about when I shared my 2023 “Spotify Wrapped”. That’s is a start, at least.

Maybe this is just the start of my version of the sort of distancing from pop culture that previous generations seem to have gone through as they got older. Maybe not, maybe I just have to find a way that works for me in the current reality of the music industry being so very different than when I was young.

I suppose next year’s end of year video mashups will tell me if my strategies have worked or not, and whether I’m familiar with more of the songs. That’ll be a year-long project and process—and it’ll have a soundtrack.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Ask Arthur 2023, Part 3: US political stuff

Politics has always been a part of this series, and this year is no different. This makes sense: Time was I wrote about politics a lot, but now I hardly ever say anything. Things have changed in so very many ways.

Nevertheless, I still have my lifelong interest in politics, even if I don’t say much about it. After studying it formally in university, and informally ever since, and with hands-on experience in two countries, it’s fair to say that I have some opinions about political stuff.

Today’s post is about a series of related questions from Roger Green, and I’ve numbered my answers to make them easier to follow. Here are the questions:

Here are a few softballs for you about the US 2024 election cycle:
1. Who will be the Republican presidential candidate? Who should be?
2. Who will be the Democratic presidential candidate? Who should be?
3. Will djt have a lock on the GOP nom after Super Tuesday in early March?
4. Will there be a viable third-party candidate, and will Joe Manchin be on the ticket?
5. While we're at it, who will win the House and Senate?
6. Finally, if djt is elected, are we doomed?

1. “Who will be the Republican presidential candidate? Who should be?” I don’t see any Republican capable of preventing the party’s Dear Leader from winning the nomination, much as sane people would hope there could be. He has a stranglehold on the his base, and every Republican candidate is a distant also-ran because they’re trying to be just like their Dear Leader, which raises two questions: If they’re so busy praising him, why are they even running? And second, why on earth would cultists choose an imitation when they can stick with the real thing? The only candidate not running with his lips pressed to the orange posterior is Chris Christie, which is precisely why he’ll just be a footnote in the history of the 2024 campaign.

Who “should” the nominee? Who cares? All Republican politicians are now vassals of their Dear Leader, or hypocritical cowards too frightened to be honest about the existential threat their Dear Leader truly is to the USA. The party as a whole is fast sliding downhill into full-blown fascism, so does it really matter who they nominate? Nobody else could possibly win the nomination.

2. “Who will be the Democratic presidential candidate? Who should be?” The Democratic candidate will be President Joe Biden. I have no opinion about who “should” be the party’s nominee, mostly because it’s academic: The decision is made. Also, without credible opposition in the primaries, no candidates are being vetted, so there’s no realistic way to evaluate and compare non-existent rivals. It’s worth nothing that Joe wasn’t my first choice, and he probably wouldn’t be right now, were he not president, and that doesn’t matter: He wasn’t my first choice, but he’s my only choice.

3. “Will djt have a lock on the GOP nom after Super Tuesday in early March?” I haven’t looked at the Republican nomination process for 2024—mostly because the end result is all but over before it begins—however, it’s certain that the party’s Dear Leader will have the nomination locked up very early on. Having said that, I’m sceptical it’ll be officially over by March. It’s entirely possible, though unlikely, that Haley could gain enough votes in early states to drag the process out a bit more.

4. “Will there be a viable third-party candidate, and will Joe Manchin be on the ticket?” The first part is easy: No, there won’t be any viable third-party candidates. That’s because the system is set-up to ensure only a Republican or Democrat can possibly win enough Electoral College votes. If “viable” is used to mean syphoning off enough votes to deny either the Republican or Democratic candidate enough votes to have an Electoral College majority, then, sure, that could happen.

There’s an important point here: A third-party candidate who’s viable in this sense is most likely to take votes from the Republican nominee because the people who have the most desperate need for a third party candidate are Republicans who cannot bring themselves to vote for any Democrat, but don’t want to vote for their party’s nominee. Also, most of the expected third-party candidates so far skew Right, at least in some important ways. Disaffected Democrats, on the other hand, skew Left, and if they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for President Biden, they’d be most likely to stay home or throw their vote away as a protest vote for the Green candidate. However, I don’t see that happening.

Democrats outperformed expectations in 2018, 2020, and 2022, precisely because the same voters the newsmedia claims are disaffected now voted Democratic to stop the fascistic tendencies and agenda of the Republican Party and its Dear Leader. Those voters aren’t stupid, and they know the huge uphill battle that still remains to preserve US democracy and the Constitution, and they’re not going to throw up their hands because of Republican propaganda or shallow and lazy newsmedia commentary.

5. “While we're at it, who will win the House and Senate?” Democrats will re-take the US House, and will retain the US Senate. The reason for the House is that Republicans' gerrymandered maps are being thrown out all over the country, and 2024 will have a much fairer district boundaries, and fair maps always help Democrats—and democracy itself, for that matter. The Senate will be because of the same over-performance by Democrats that we saw in 2018, 2020, and 2022. The stakes are too high, and voters understand that Republicans persistently refuse to stand up for democracy and the rule of law, and the few policy ideas they promote—like a total nationwide ban on all abortions—are opposed by a massive majority of voters. And, of course, Senate races can’t be gerrymandered like House races, all of which which puts Republicans at a disadvantage.

6. “Finally, if djt is elected, are we doomed?” Absolutely. 100%. No doubt whatsoever. He has taken off his mask (hood?) and shown everyone the actual fascist beneath it, and the Republican Party that is now his personality cult is absolutely okay with him becoming a dictator. People often say, “the Supreme Court will stop him.” Yeah, right. It’s not just that the Court is itself under far-right Republican control, it’s that he’s made clear he plans to act unilaterally and outside the Constitution. If the Court rules against him, he’ll just ignore it and do what he wants: The Supreme Court has absolutely no means to enforce its rulings and depends entirely on the Executive Branch for enforcement. With the Executive Branch controlled by a fascistic dictator, there’ll be no one to enforce their orders. Congress could impeach him again and this time convict him—and he’d ignore it. Who would stop him? Who could stop him? Secession and civil war could then be a possibility, but his ego would probably have him nuke Los Angeles or some other major city run by Democrats.

That’s the nightmare scenario, obviously, but I think it’s also the unlikely outcome. As I’ve said, it’s more likely than not that he loses yet again, and he’d be left to spend the rest of his life, or at least until his dementia gets even worse, railing about—well, everything he’s been railing about for the past three years.

Rather than ending this post with such a dark subject, here’s one more question from Roger that’s—well, not lighter, exactly, but far less dire:

Suppose you are an American university president testifying before Congress, answering questions about antisemitism. How would you answer the committee's questions?

Perhaps by definition, university presidents are terrible at anything but marketing. They spend so much time selling their university to big donors and corporate sponsors that they don’t really know how to give a straight answer to any question. Having said that, Republicans in Congress almost never ask a question in good faith: They intend every question as an attack and an opportunity for a gotcha. The university presidents should have had some coaching before their appearance to prepare them to deal with the dishonesty and hypocrisy of the Republicans pretending to question them.

That said, how hard could it be to answer directly, rather than talking about violations of university policy? There’s no conflict between condemning hate speech, or speech veering close to it, and upholding people’s right to say offensive things. I have no idea how I’d answer the questions because I didn’t watch them being delivered, but that’s pretty much the point I’d try to make. I have no illusions that there’d be anything whatsoever that anyone could say that would satisfy the grandstanding Republican politicians—who miraculously!—only just started caring about anti-semitism when they saw an opportunity to attack others. Sure, they might have wanted to first look at some of the anti-Semitic things their own party caucus mates have said, were they honest in their outrage. It also might have been entertaining to see a university president point that hypocrisy out to them, but it would’ve made the politicians’ already frenzied performative outrage rise to an even higher level of intensity—and stupidity.

The bottom line, though, is that whole charade was nothing but political theatre, and there was absolutely no answer the presidents could’ve given that would have stopped the Republican attack, no matter how good and on point their response was. But those folks clearly really needed coaching.

Thanks to Roger for today’s questions! Next time, something completely different, though Roger will return later in the series.

All posts in this series are tagged “AAA-23”. All previous posts from every “Ask Arthur” series are tagged, appropriately enough, ”Ask Arthur”.


”Let the annual inquisition begin” – The first post in this year’s series.
”Ask Arthur 2023, Part 1: Get here from there”
”Ask Arthur 2023, Part 2: Measuring and measured”

Message on the tree

Christmas trees almost always have some sort of topper to finish things off. It might be an angel, a star (what my parents used), or something else entirely. But to folks like me who grew up with something on top of their tree, it seems incomplete without one. This year, I bought a new one for my tree, and it was because of the (extremely) subtle message it sent.

Last year, I bought a new Christmas tree so that I could use ornaments again. I also bought a topper for it, but there was nothing at the top of the tree to support it, so I put it on my dining table instead and left the tree topless—I meant, topper-less.

This year, I hadn’t really given all that much thought to the topper problem, though I vaguely thought about using cable zip-ties to lash a thin dowel to the tree’s trunk so there’d be something to support the topper I bought last year.

Then, everything changed.

When I talked about my Christmas tree lights this past Sunday, I mentioned that “I was browsing on the App for The Warehouse”, but one of the things I saw was a tree topper (photo up top), and I knew I had to have it. When I went to the shop, in addition to getting the new lights for the tree, I bought the topper and a smaller ornament of the same figure—just in case I couldn’t make the topper work (the topper has the same sort of coiled wire base as last year’s).

The reason I bought the topper was because of a TV ad—not for the topper itself, but because the figure was in the ad. Last year, The Warehouse ran an ad that, as I described it for my “2022 New Zealand Christmas TV Ads” Playlist (the fourth ad, or you can see it directly on YouTube):
This ad is—well, kind of odd. It reminds me of some UK stores' Christmas ads from years past, and it’s nice and all, but I kind of don’t get the message? I mean, apart from the obvious, the “Whatever your Christmas wish. The Warehouse.” tagline.
The ad features a toy soldier who has a Christmas wish to be the family’s Christmas tree topper, replacing the angel up on top. The soldier also seemed to be gender non-conforming, because the soldier ended up wearing the former tree topper’s lacy skirt and wings—and had a look of sheer joy after the wish came true. My tree topper has the same look—though the tree topper and matching (though smaller) ornament are, um, well, much more cheaply made. Fortunately, my cable zip-ties idea worked, and the topper is on my tree (so is the ornament, actually).

Here’s the thing. Last year, I didn’t know the TV commercial was called “Nigel’s Wish” until I put my playlist together. Now, however, I know the soldier’s name is Nigel, and it made me smile to have a wooden toy soldier tree topper named Nigel symbolically including my Nigel as part of my Christmas tree. To be honest, the fact I’m one of the few people who’d ever know all that kind of makes it a bit more special to me. I said last year that, “I think my Nigel would’ve smiled” about the ad, and I know that he’d totally understand why I wanted that tree topper.

These days, having a Christmas tree with ornaments is about as close as I get to carrying on any sort of Christmas tradition, and even that’s a bit tenuous: I bet there’ll come a day when I won’t want to do it anymore. But for right now, this is what I want, and so is that tree topper and the very subtle message it carries.

I guess my own Christmas wish for this year came true, too. Fitting it had a figure named Nigel as part of it.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Ask Arthur 2023, Part 2: Measuring and measured

After looking at the questions remaining in this series, and comparing them to the maximum days left in the year, and then subtracting Christmas (because I didn’t want to post anything heavy around then), I calculated that today’s questions should be somewhat lighter. It’s all about the numbers.

And that brings me to today’s first question from my pal Roger Green, who asked:

What things are you now fluent in (such as Celsius temperature) that you weren't in 1995? And what have you forgotten (such as MPH)?

You are assuming I’m fluent in any of that—including MPH. Nothing depending on to arithmetic has ever been easy for me, but, it turns out, it doesn’t need to be: Nowadays, a smartphone alone can make any calculations or translations needed, so I don’t really need to be truly fluent in any of them, and that means that my lack of mathematical ability isn’t a barrier to successfully doing something. I talked about my adaptation to metrics after I moved to New Zealand in a post back in October 2006, in the earliest days of this blog, and again ten years later.

It turned out that familiarity wasn’t even remotely the same as understanding, and to this day I can’t visualise length in millimetres or centimetres except for small sizes (and that’s because the ads I produced for publications were in mm or cm). I’ve never had any ability whatsoever to visualise long distances, whether a football pitch or some point in the distance. For those, it makes no difference if we’re talking metres or yards, miles or kilometres, because I have absolutely no way to visualise or comprehend distance measured in them.

Similarly, I’ve also never had a good sense of speed, and I just went whatever the posted speed was, keeping the speedometer on that speed. In that sense, it, too, makes absolutely no difference what the measurement system is because all I’ve ever done is get the car’s display to show the proper speed—and nowadays when I reach it I put on the cruise control, something that also makes sure I don’t get too close to the car in front of me, which is a great bonus.

All that aside, I couldn’t think of anything from the USA that I’ve forgotten, apart from the names for some things that aren’t used here, and sometimes the spelling of American words, but, um, I've forgotten what those are. The latter is easy enough to check, but the first? Sometimes even Google can’t help, not if I can’t remember anything about the American name.

On Christmas day, one of the guests was visiting from the UK, and one of the Kiwis wanted to know what they called the sort of sleeveless shirt that might be an undershirt or maybe an athletic uniform shirt. Kiwis call it a singlet (it turns out that the Brits call it a vest, and what Americans call a vest they’d call a waistcoat). I could only remember pejorative terms from the USA, like wifebeater (which is apparently sometimes used in England, too), and the even worse dago tee. I completely forgot that the last such shirt I ever bought in the USA (in 1995) was labelled “athletic t-shirt”, and I also forgot that I’d also seen it called, rather boringly, “a sleeveless t-shirt”. And, I completely forgot that there was also possibly the most common name, “tank top”. I’ve lived in New Zealand for 28 years, and to me those things are now called “singlets”, end of story. This shirt thing just one example of many.

Over all, the things I’ve forgotten—and the stuff I don’t remember I’ve forgotten—come mainly from lack of use and the usual age-related CRS (“Can’t Remember Shit”) syndrome. That means that I’m blissfully unaware of what I’ve forgotten until it suddenly pops up, as it did on Christmas Day.

Interestingly, the answer to Roger’s next question is similar. He asked:

Did you always think the seasons changed on the month, such as when you were in Illinois, or is this a New Zealand thing?

There’s a theme of confusion developing here, because I really didn’t think of either one back then. Pre-1995, I wasn’t aware that things like “Meteorological Summer” even existed—that didn’t happen until after I moved to New Zealand, and even then it was some time after I arrived (I was busier with more important adjustments…). However, while I lived in the USA, I also had absolutely no idea, in those pre-Internet days, of when, precisely solstices and equinoxes arrived, although—and Roger would appreciate this—I certainly could have looked it up in one of my many annual almanacs—had that ever occurred to me. Maybe I didn't care? I just knew that they were somewhere around the third week of the relevant month, and I just let the evening TV news tell me what the first day of [whatever season] was. I can’t imagine being that passive now, not when there are resources like the one I’ve used for many, many years, the “Seasons” page of timeanddate.com (Fun fact: I started relying on that site just because I could remember its website address, something that was useful when people asked me what time it was at that moment back in Illinois; nowadays my phone tells me that instantly).

Thanks to Roger for today’s questions! Coming up, some kinda serious questions.

All posts in this series are tagged “AAA-23”. All previous posts from every “Ask Arthur” series are tagged, appropriately enough, ”Ask Arthur”.


”Let the annual inquisition begin” – The first post in this year’s series.
”Ask Arthur 2023, Part 1: Get here from there”

More than a sign

I shared the 2019 photo up top as a Facebook “Memory” back in 2020, because apparently it wasn’t presented to me as a “Memory that year. As it happens, I have no idea whether FB served this up to me as a “Memory” on Christmas Day this year, either: I barely even saw FB that day (I was too busy having fun with the fam). The thing is, I don’t have all that many—any?—happy photos of me from late 2019, so here’s one.

Coincidentally, four years ago today was two weeks until settlement (similar to closing in the USA) when I got the keys to the house, and things for my new reality really started moving. I apparently didn’t mention that fact in 2020.

My offer to purchase my house went unconditional on December 10, 2019, with settlement scheduled for January 24. I quickly realised I had no reason to wait, and the quicker we settled, the sooner I could shift to Hamilton, and that meant the house stagers could get in to prepare the old house for sale.

So, I had my solicitor ask the seller’s solicitor if we could move settlement up by two weeks, to January 10, 2020 and they agreed. The only potential problem was that Hamilton City Council hadn’t yet issued their Code Compliance Certificate, which has to be in place for a new house to be occupied, but that came through the week before settlement.

We settled on time, on January 10, and then my brother-in-law Terry coordinated installation of a heat pump in the main bedroom and all my data cabling (he’s really good at that sort of coordinating, and it was a HUGE help). I shifted out of the old house on my birthday (a dumb idea under the best of circumstances, and mine weren’t that…), and into the new house the next day, January 22.

There were a lot more twists and turns in the tale, and even now, four years later, my house is still not done—and I couldn’t possibly care less. My most important job wasn’t this house or anything in it, it was only ever about working on and caring for and healing myself. That’s been a much bigger job than simply moving into any house, of course.

But that Christmas Day four years ago, standing in front of that “sold” sign, I felt the first teeny, tiny glimmer of happiness—or, at least, what might one day become happiness. That’s more than reason enough to celebrate a photo I never wanted to have: Me, standing alone in front of the sign for a house I was moving into alone. And yet, it also symbolises the triumph of human optimism, even without feeling optimistic, and also that even the worst possible thing might yet turn out okay. Hope, I’ve learned, is a powerful thing. That day four years ago, hope was beginning to be restored to me, too.

Footnotes: As near as I can (easily) tell, I haven’t shared the photo on my blog before, and I have no idea why not. I edited this photo to improve it, such as, I cropped it more tightly than the original, lightened it (it was a very dark and dismal day at that point and threatening rain), that sort of thing. While I didn’t share the photo here, I did talk about going to the house that day in a December 27, 2019 blog post recapping my Christmas that year. I also published a post on December 10, 2019 in which I announced I’d officially bought my house. That post talks in a little more detail about how the sale/purchase of houses goes in New Zealand.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

The King's Christmas Broadcast 2023

The video above was probably broadcast in New Zealand on Christmas Day, right after the 6pm news broadcast. I say “probably” because I was nowhere near a TV at the time. When I got home last night, I checked for the video on YouTube, but it wasn’t posted yet, which has happened before. I think they may try to post it after it airs in the UK. At any rate, I didn’t watch it until this evening.

I said last year that the in his first Christmas Broadcast, King Charles expressed some of the same overt religiosity as the late Queen did, and I added that “I also think he was pivoting.” I still think he’s doing that. To me, the use of the Christian Christmas Story seemed a bit forced at times, but I noticed that he constantly talked about the themes being relevant to all people, whatever religious beliefs, if any, they may have. I also noticed he talked subtly about climate change when he talked about looking after the world “for our children’s children”.

Overall, his delivery was quite good: He seemed more relaxed and at ease in front of the camera than his late mother did, and that may help him keep the monarchy somewhat more relevant than otherwise may have been the case. We’ll see, I suppose.

As I’ve mentioned in previous years, I used to want to watch the Queen’s message on TV every year (something that kind of amused Nigel and his family). But I never saw one of the messages until I moved to New Zealand, and I can’t remember if I even knew they were a thing before then—maybe? In any case, I’m still fascinated by them, as bits of contemporary history, and for 28 years, a bit of my own, too.


The King’s first Christmas Broadcast – 2022
The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast 2021
The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast 2020
The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast 2019
The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast 2018
The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast 2017 (and 1957, too…)
The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast 2016
The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast 2015

Previous years’ broadcasts are no longer available.

The year Christmas returned

I actually had a Christmas this year, unlike last year, and I was so involved in it that I never thought about taking any photos during the day. This year, my brother-in-law picked up me (and well as my mother-in-law, who I normally drive to family functions, so I could have some wine. I never drink even a single drop if I’m driving (something I’ve talked about in the past). Best of all (from his perspective), Leo got to come along, too.

Before I was picked-up, I tried to convince Leo to take a Christmas Day photo with me, but he was more interested in looking out the front window, so I gave up. That ended up being the last time I even thought about taking a photo that day.

The day was had lots or rain, often heavy, but it was nevertheless filled with lots of good food, talk, and laughs, and after dinner we played a board game. My brother-in-law took us home, and I opened the door to my house at 10:58pm (which I know because the app for my alarm system told me, and I think it’s funny that I the time know so precisely). I watched TV for a while and was in bed around one, which is actually a pretty typical thing for me.

I got up this morning feeling fine (because I didn’t overindulge in wine), however, it was a much longer and more active day yesterday than I’m used to, and it was for Leo, too, so we were both tired today and napped this afternoon. Other than that, I mostly read today, though I did two loads of washing and changed my bedding (something I usually do on a Monday, but decided to delay until today).

Today, Boxing Day, is usually New Zealand’s busiest shopping day of the year, but this year retailers started pushing “Boxing Sale” (usually without the word “Day”) promotions a couple days before Christmas when. On Christmas Day, I received around a dozen emails promoting various sales (often several emails from the same retailer). That was the only way for retailers to promote their sales on Christmas Day because TV ads are banned that day. And, online store were likely open on Christmas Day, unlike their physical counterparts. Today I saw a TV ad for one retailer that said their Boxing Day sales was “one day only”—as nature intended it to be.

A week or so before Christmas, the media ran stories about how retail sales were down this year, and how stores hoped sales would pick up. Then, the news media repeated the process, this time talking about early Boxing Day sales. However, for months on end, the governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand berated and scolded and harangued New Zealanders because we dared to spend money (and he practically demanded that unemployment rise). Then last week the news narrative was suddenly all about how we all had to spend more money to help the poor beleaguered retailers. It’s impossible to keep up with the narrative these days.

Meanwhile, some 5,000 “unwanted Christmas presents” have been listed on NZ online auction/selling site Trade Me since yesterday. That made me wonder how often someone finds out a gift they gave someone was being sold because they saw it on Trade Me—or maybe as part of news coverage about the listings. If that happens, it’d be kind of an unmerry end to Christmas.

My 2023 Christmas was completely different from last year’s, and back to being what they always have been: A family function get-together with a mountain of food. This was my fifth Christmas without Nigel, but we mentioned him in our stories, when they came up, just like we might talk about anyone else. I’m often struck by how fortunate I am that Nigel and I had no Christmas traditions of our own, other than spending it with family, because in the past few weeks I’ve seen folks in my LGBT widowers Facebook groups worrying about how they’d cope with the holidays. From what I’ve read, holidays can be a particularly difficult time for many people grieving a loss.

Taken all together, this year was low-key in a lot of ways. Good food and company, as always, but I forgot to take any photos, and when I got home I was too tired to do a blog post on the Christmas Day. In any case, that’s the end of the Christmas holidays, and now at the beginning of next week we’ll have the New Year holidays. Hopefully I’ll remember to take a photo or two at for that. I wouldn’t count on me remembering that, though. Sometimes, things don’t change, after all, depsite our best intentions.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Christmas cleverness

This year I created a Christmas problem for myself that I needed to solve, so I did. It’s a kind of a “Christmas hack”, I suppose, but to me it was mainly a sensible solution to a problem—did I mention it was one I created for myself?

This past January, I talked about my then-new Christmas tree, and I also talked about the lights I got for the tree, something that I wasn’t very happy with. This year I decided to do something very different, and that meant I had to solve a problem.

I was browsing on the App for The Warehouse, looking for things like a tree skirt and ornament hooks (neither of which were at my local shop), and I also saw LED lights that were mains powered, meaning each string didn’t need its own USB adapter.

I wanted one string to do the entire tree, not the least because it would mean I’d only need one extension lead to plug it in, not a powerboard like last year (there aren't enough power points in the living area). I don’t remember what length  I was looking for, but it wasn’t available in store, so I bought the longest they had: 41.5 metres, which is about as excessively long as that sounds, if not more so (in fairness, in my experience, trees always need more lights than we think they will). I also bought them because the wires were dark green, meaning they'd blend in better than last year's white wires.

This past week, I finally opened the box to put the lights on the tree (which had been up for days), and they immediately became tangled, partly through my carelessness, partly though poor packaging. I’d also bought a plastic reel to wrap the lights on for storage, so I started trying to wrap the lights around the reel (from the plug-in end, because I always start at the top of the tree), and things quickly became hopelessly knotted. Worse, I became convinced the string was too long for the reel I'd bought. A time or two I considered throwing the chain in the rubbish out of frustration, but being both stubborn and cheap stopped me.

And then my brainstorm arrived.

Back in January 2021, I talked about buying and setting up a new garden hose reel, and I mentioned my oldest hose reel, and said, “I also have to clean the oldest reel and wind my long heavy duty power lead onto it—once I find THAT!” I found the power lead easily enough, but I never wound it round that oldest hose reel. Of course.

I realised it would be big enough, it unwinds easily, and, most importantly, I already had it. So, I went outside (where it’s been living since that 2021 post) and brushed off all the cobwebs and dust. Then I vacuumed it and cleaned it with household spray cleaner. At the end, it was clean—not pretty, still sun-bleached and worn, but very usable.

I put the power adapter end of the lights into the void at the centre of the reel (where a hose normally connects), and started winding the string of lights onto the reel. This took forever due to the tangling, but I finally got the whole thing onto the reel (photo up top).

It took another couple days before I had the energy to put the lights on the tree, and in the end I ran lights around and then vertically up and down the tree. I learned that, yes, 41.5 metres really is about as excessively long as it sounds, if not more so. On the other hand, the non-light part of the cord that led to the AC adapter was long enough that I didn’t need an extension lead, so that was a bonus.

I over-bought lights, sure, but I found a way around that problem using something I already had on hand and wasn’t using. Taking the lights off the tree on or around January 6 could be difficult (stay tuned—I already dread taking them off), but I now know that using that old hose reel works perfectly. Crisis averted, and new cleverness achievement level unlocked. Why, it’s practically a Christmas miracle!

Tonight I finished decorating my Christmas tree (though I’ll check it under daylight in the morning to be sure—I don’t use all my ornaments, so I always have more if needed). I’ll have more to say about this year’s tree later on, but for now, on Christmas Eve, my tree is actually ready for Christmas, unlike last year.

I always take wins where I find them, including on holidays. This was definitely a Christmas win.

Friday, December 22, 2023

Ask Arthur 2023, Part 1: Get here from there

And so it begins: Today I is my first post answering the questions for the 2023 “Ask Arthur” series. I’m carrying on with “tradition” and starting with the first question asked, and then going more or less in order, unless some have similar subjects/themes, in which case I’ll group them together, which I decide this as I go.

I did very little promotion of this year’s series because I simply kept forgetting, though I did a last-minute reminder yesterday. Anyone can still ask new questions, of course: Leave a comment to this post, or see the other options down below, at the end. I’ll call time on new comments in a later post in this series.

So: This year’s first question, as is usually the case, is from my pal Roger Green, who asked:

How difficult would it be for American to achieve resident status in 2023 cf with what you had to do c 1995? How about citizenship, comparing it with your process?

I suppose I could just say “I have no idea” and stop there, but that’s not how I do things—even if it’s literally true. The short version is it’s much more complicated now than back then, but it also offers some opportunities that didn’t exist back then.

Before I dive into the topic too far, I need to state up front that I’m absolutely NOT in any way an expert on migration and I’m not trained or authorised to talk about New Zealand immigration law or policies. I can talk about what I experienced 28 years ago, and I can offer my opinions about current policies (which are always subject to change), but for authoritative information, one should check on the website of Immigration New Zealand or talk to a licensed immigration consultant—and be aware that immigration consultants outside of New Zealand may not be licensed by the New Zealand Government. Definitely a caveat emptor situation.

That out of the way, here’s the short version of my experience. When I was applying for a work visa/permit, New Zealand still used a straightforward and very simple points system for permanent residence (not just a work permit/visa) that awarded points based on things like age, education, job offers, etc. Had I been able to submit my application immediately, I’d have (probably) qualified for permanent residence under that system, however, there was a delay (I don’t remember what or why), and I had to use the new, somewhat tougher system to apply. Nevertheless, I was granted a work permit/visa and I arrived to New Zealand—permanently, it turned out—on November 2, 1995.

I sarcastically referred to what I had as “indentured servitude” because my permit was linked to my specific employer, and when that company shut down in 1997, I could’ve been forced to leave New Zealand, however, I had options that allowed me to stay. There were also rule changes that helped.

Originally, I needed a work permit because Nigel couldn’t sponsor me for permanent residence as his partner until after we’d been together for four years (at the time, it was two years for unmarried opposite-sex couples, and six months for married couples, who back then could only be opposite-sex). However, I was able to get a new temporary permit with him sponsoring me, rather than an employer, and that meant I could work for anyone. In June, 1999, I got a Permanent Residence Permit, again as Nigel’s partner, and that removed all worry about being forced to leave New Zealand. That great day only happened, by the way, because the Minister of Immigration at the time, Tuariki Delamere, ended the discrimination against same-sex couples (something I wrote about back in 2011). I recently had an opportunity to thank Mr Delamere for changing everything for Nigel and me.

This brings us up to more recent times. In the years since I immigrated, things have changed many times. In general, that’s been done to focus on what New Zealand needs, such as, investment (favoured by the rich because they can buy their way in), or to attract workers with skills New Zealand lacks. Who, specifically, the NZ Government is looking to recruit, and what, precisely, the immigrant gets (including how long they can stay), changes from time to time. Immigration NZ has an area of their website about what work visas are currently available,”Visas that allow you to work”. It’s also worth noting that there are usually ways to extend permits and visas, but that varies from visa to visa and the rules themselves are often changed, too, but there’s generally no specific restrictions or benefits that people get for being from a particular country, but even that may change from time to time.

Young people from various countries can apply for a “Working Holiday Visa”. The age limits and maximum permitted stay varies from country to country, depending on the agreement NZ and the other country make. To Roger’s question, there’s currently a Working Holiday Visa for Americans 18-30, something that allows a young American to work in New Zealand for up to a year or study/train for six months (as an example of differing rules, for UK citizens, the age range is 18-35 and can last for up to 36 months). In my opinion, the main benefit of the Working Holiday scheme is that it gives young people a chance to “try out” living and working in New Zealand before committing to the country, and that’s actually a really good idea (but one that couldn’t have been an option for me in 1995, had it existed).

Overall, then, there are far more options than were available when I migrated to New Zealand—but having so many options also increases complexity. Applicants who have a partner are no longer discriminated against based on their sexual orientation—it's equal now. I must add, though, that the whole reason I was able to stay in New Zealand was that this country DID allow a New Zealander to sponsor their same-gender partner, something the USA didn’t do at all in 1995, and still doesn’t do unless the couple is legally married (for now—possibly subject to change beginning January 2025).

One final note on work-permits/visas: They become harder to get the older one is, and the cut-off has often been when one is over 40-45. However, that, too, could change, and there also may be other residence permits available, however, I don't personally know anything about that because I never used any options other than the work permit, and later the Permanent Residence Permit.

The rules and requirements for New Zealand citizenship appear to be essentially the same as when I applied. The New Zealand Government's official website has a specific section about citizenship, "Check you meet the requirements for NZ citizenship", which includes a self-test and descriptions of the requirements. In my day, things were much more paper-based (I first talked at some length about me becoming a New Zealand Citizen in a blog post back in 2014). 

I’m well aware that the political situation in the USA (in particular) has made some people feel they should investigate escape options. I think it’s always good to have options, and it’s not my place to judge people’s reasons for considering emigration. In fact, there are American-born supporters of the orange senior citizen from Florida who have migrated to New Zealand (though I’m certain that the vast majority of his few hundred fans in NZ were born here).

Having said that, I do think that migrating solely to escape a political situation one doesn’t like isn’t a great idea. No country on earth is perfect, and that’s true of New Zealand, too. People who come here because they’re moving FROM something rather that TO something may find that their choice isn’t as happy as they anticipated (and there are consequences American citizens face for living overseas, like potential double taxation, for example—a topic I’ll talk about in a future AAA-23 post). My advice to anyone seeking to migrate to another country—any country—is to consider whether the potential new home is a good fit, whether lifestyle, values, weather, shopping—basically anything and everything about daily life—feels right all by itself, putting aside what one wants to get away from.

When I moved to New Zealand in 1995, it was absolutely and completely about moving TO something, namely, a new life with Nigel. He and I always kept moving toward something for the rest of out time together, and that was a critical reason for our happiness. So, when I tell would-be immigrants to only contemplate moving toward something, it’s based completely on my—our—personal experience.

Thanks to Roger for today’s question!

It’s not too late to ask a question: Simply leave a comment on this post (anonymous comments are allowed). Or, you can email me your question (and you can even tell me to keep your name secret—though, why not pick a nom de question?). You can also ask questions on the AmeriNZ Facebook page, though keep in mind that all Facebook Pages are public, just like this blog. To avoid being public there, you can send me a private message through the AmeriNZ Facebook Page.

All posts in this series are tagged “AAA-23”. All previous posts from every “Ask Arthur” series are tagged, appropriately enough, ”Ask Arthur”.


”Let the annual inquisition begin” – The first post in this year’s series.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 408 is now available

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 408, “The year winds down”, 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 got Wrapped

Well, all the cool kids were doing it, so I decided I must, too: This past Sunday, I got my “Spotify Wrapped”—um, report? List? Whatever it’s called, the highlights are in the graphic above. I’ve never actually paid all that much attention to it before, but this year I did, and it was—interesting.

I'm not upset about the rankings in the graphic—how can I be? It's based on an astounding 81 minutes of listening in 2023! Clearly I don't listen to Spotify, which is a waste since I pay for it (to get rid of the ads). That's going to change: Last week, I decided to listen to more music (it clearly can't be a New Year Resolution since I decided it in mid-December, but I never make those, anyway, as I’ve said many times). Instead, I simply decided that music is something I need more of in my life.

I was surprised that UK band Deco was my top artist, but it was probably because I went through a flurry of listening at one point this year. Even so, I really do like their 80s synth pop-inspired sound, and I really did like their cover of "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (so much so that I listened to it a whopping three times! Spotify threw in a video from Deco's vocalist, Max Kendall, thanking Spotify listeners for listening to their music and promising "something a little bigger" than the EP ("Nice Car") they released this year. Personally, I hope it has a full version of their cover of Miley Cyrus' "Flowers", or at least that they release one eventually (I mentioned that cover in a post back in August of this year).

As for the other songs, The The and Sonic Youth are part of a Spotify Playlist (“One Night in 1987”) I made to recreate one of my mixtapes from 1987, back in the days before I moved to New Zealand, and I think I listened to the entire playlist at least once (if so, that'd be 46 of my 81 minutes). Wafia and Auckland artist K M T P are probably there because I heard a song somewhere, like backing music on TV or in a commercial, and thought, "who's that?", used the App Shazam to find out, then listened on Spotify (my listening to only 81 minutes in 2023 meant it wasn't hard to get on my top list…).

My Top 10 streamed songs in 2023.
My "Top Songs of 2023" playlist has 31 songs that add up to 1 hour 54 minutes of listening time. So, I guess I must've only listened to some of those songs for a minute or two for me to have had only 81 minutes listening time. Those 31 songs included all ten songs from the 1987 playlist, seven of which were in the Top 10 (graphic at right). I suppose this must be some sort of evidence that listening time really does matter for these things. That makes sense: They keep track of everything streamed in part so they can pay artists, well, something.

In any case, maybe Spotify made the list too soon, because after getting my “Wrapped”, I listened to the entire playlist in the hope I might remember why I added some of the 31 songs that ended up on this year's list. It turned out that there was only one piece I didn’t recognise at all: “Tuesday – Instrumental Version” from a 2014 EP called “Sine Muscia Nulla Vita”—or is that who it’s by? I can’t figure it out. The piece didn’t sound familiar at all, and I also had absolutely no recollection of adding it to my library—which is probably because I didn’t. The only explanation I can think of is that I was listening to Spotify—possibly that 1987 Playlist—and when it was done Spotify played it next as a “Recommended” song (even though none of the playlists I curated have any instrumentals, so… yeah, no idea. Still, that was the only “WTF?!” moment on the 2023 Wrapped Playlist, so I count that as a win.

All of that made me think a bit more about some of the anomalies on the list, like how Deco was my “Number One Artist” even though, Spotify told me, I only listened to them for five minutes in 2023. I think it could be that they’re top of the list because with four songs on my top 31 they have more than anyone else, so if 5 minutes was also the most I listened to anyone, I guess that makes me sense?

This whole thing was just a bit of fun for me—I mean, if I only listened for 81 minutes over a year, I simply can’t take this thing seriously. On the other hand, if I really do listen to Spotify more in the coming year—and, in fact, I’ve already listened more since I got my “Wrapped” thing than I did in the year before it—then I might take next year’s a bit more seriously. Maybe. I’ll have to see how the coming year unwraps, I guess.

My Top Songs 2023 Playlist on Spotify
Top Tracks of 2023 Spotify’s playlist of the most-streamed songs in 2023
"Weekend Diversion: Old Tunes, Part 1" from June 25, 2017.
"Weekend Diversion: Old Tunes, Part 2" from July 2, 2017.

The heat is on

In some parts of New Zealand, today is expected to be the hottest day of summer so far, and tonight is expected to be muggy for many areas. There are some, no doubt, who will be moaning about one or both, but, for me, it’s pretty awesome: I can’t even remember if we had a truly hot day last year.

Parts of the country are expected to get above 30 degrees (86F) or higher today (and possibly hitting 34—93.2F—of the areas of the country). Kirikiriroa Hamilton is expected to hit 28 (82.4F) today, and by 12:30 it was still only 26 (78.8F). I don’t know if it’ll be muggy in my neighbourhood tonight, but I have air conditioning and am fortunate to be able to afford to run it (the latter bit being uncertain for too many people right now).

All of this was reported in the news, but the only reason it registered for me is that I checked the forecast (graphic above) so I could plan things like doing laundry around sunshine (aka”free electricity”). And then I saw the still slightly long term forecast for Christmas Day. Well, it does sometimes rain on Christmas Day, so it’s not like it’s a new thing, but it’d be nice to have a sunny day. We’ll see. “Four seasons in one day” [WATCH/LISTEN], and all that.