Thursday, April 18, 2024


I ironed shirts yesterday. That’s not particularly unusual for me, because I’ve done that for much of my life. On the other hand, it is different from my life in the past: The context has changed, the frequency had changed, and recently it changed from being something I did from time to time to a chore I do roughly once a week. It’s not as simple as it may seem.

My mother showed me how to iron shirts when I was a little boy—8 years old or even younger. I can remember enjoying it—something about making all the wrinkles disappear into smooth cloth—a kind of restoring order to chaos, though it’d be many, many years before I’d think of it that way. I also remember asking her if she had shirts I could iron, and she gave me some of my dad’s—though I don’t know if they were ones he actually wore or if they were “spares”. In any case, I think my childhood stamina probably wouldn’t have let me do it for too long.

Over the years and decades that followed, I ironed my shirts from time to time, though in the 1970s and 80s most of them didn’t need ironing. By the 1990s, I started ironing trousers, too—chinos, and other casual pants.

When I arrived in New Zealand, ironing became one of my chores, mainly because Nigel hated it. So, every morning I’d iron shirts for us to wear to work. Around this time we bought a new iron, and I while I can’t remember if we needed one or I wanted a new one, I know two things about it: I wanted one with a stainless steel sole plate, like my mother’s iron had (Nigel’s had a non-stick sole plate). I also insisted it had to have automatic shut-off, a function that would turn the iron off it if wasn’t moved for several minutes. That turned out to be a good move, because, as I feared, one day we were in a hurry to leave the house and I forgot to turn the iron off. When we came home at the end of the day, it would have still been on otherwise.

In the late 1990s, I happened to see a segment of a magazine-style NZ TV show, and the host was interviewing Glenn Turner, a New Zealander cricket player who was coach of the New Zealand national Cricket team for a second time in 1995 (officially nicknamed ”The Black Caps” in 1998), including through the 1996 Cricket Work Cup (New Zealand was defeated by Australia in the quarter-finals). I can’t remember the subject of the interview, but it could’ve been about him and his wife, former Mayor of Dunedin, Sukhi Turner, or it could’ve been in 1998 after Glenn published his fourth book, Lifting the Covers. While I don’t remember any of the details, there's one thing I definitely remember: In the interview, Glenn was ironing shirts, and he gave a verbal explanation of how to do it. Basically, he did the same as me—starting on one side of the front, moving the shirt around the ironing board to the other front side, then doing the sleeves, and finally the collar. Actually, that’s the way I do it now—I didn’t necessarily always do each shirt the same way, and I also had never done one other thing Glenn said to do: Use the collar as a handle to move the shirt so you don’t wrinkle any part you’ve already ironed. I've always found cricket to be educational.

By the early 2000s, I started ironing a week’s worth of shirts at once, prioritising Nigel’s work shirts because at the time his office attire was a bit more formal than it would later become (he wore ties every day, for example). This eventually became something I did on Sunday evenings as I watched TV, something I did right up until close to the time Nigel first went into hospital, less than two weeks before he died.

Whenever it was, that was the last time I ever ironed on a Sunday evening.

In my early days in Hamilton, I ironed in the daytime, and never on a Sunday, but that wasn’t for any emotional or sentimental reasons: It was mainly because I simply didn’t have a good spot to put the ironing board so I could still watch TV, as I’d done for many years before Nigel died. However, it’s also true I was well aware that it had been my Sunday evening ritual, and it had been mostly for Nigel, and that did make me feel a bit sad at first.

I also ironed whenever I could work up the energy: Nowadays I find it extremely tiring, hot, and it makes my lower back quite sore (because ironing boards are too low for me). But then something happened that made me think I should make ironing a regular household chore.

Back in August of last year, I talked about how a favourite shirt tore open. I said in that post:
I liked the shirt because it was baggy, and because it didn’t need to be ironed, however, that may have sped it’s demise: As it got older, it got wrinkles (a bit like me…), especially in the lower half of the back (totally unlike me…). Those creases, as high points in the fabric, became worn until one eventually tore open. Would ironing have extended its life? Well, probably, because if I needed to iron it I wouldn’t have worn it very much (at any given time, I have quite a few shirts waiting to be ironed).
I have quite a few shirts that I bought 20+ years ago because they were inexpensive and didn’t need to be ironed, partly because they were all 100% synthetic. I had enough shirts that I didn’t necessarily wear them all that often, especially because I had a lot of much nicer ones (that needed ironing…). For years I merely hung the inexpensive shirts up to dry, and only ironed the much nicer ones.

Once I was living in Hamilton, I found I was spending a lot of time at home (especially because of Covid lockdowns and related restrictions), and I started wearing the cheaper shirts much more often. After my favourite shirt tore open in the lower back, I noticed the inexpensive shirts all had similar wrinkled areas in the lower back. I decided to start ironing the shirts to extend whatever life they had left.

This evolved into a roughly weekly ritual, and after ironing whatever inexpensive shirts I’d recently washed and hung up to dry, I’d then iron a few of my nicer shirts—because what hasn’t changed at all is that I still have “quite a few shirts waiting to be ironed”, especially ones from other seasons. By choosing to iron regularly, I’m slowly clearing the backlog of unironed shirts.

I have no way of knowing whether this will help extend the life of the inexpensive shirts—many of them are getting quite old now—but at the very least it makes them look nicer, which makes me feel good about myself, and that’s a positive benefit. It’s also putting the much nicer shirts back into rotation, which reduces the number of times I wear any of the cheaper shirts.

Despite the fact it makes me tired, hot, and sore, I actually still like ironing, and it’s mainly for the whole “restoring order to chaos” aspect, a frequent motivator for many of my projects (like mowing the lawns, for example). I also appreciate the fact that when I wear an ironed shirt out in public, it makes it look like I’m making an effort—actually, it’s probably that if I wore wrinkled shirts it’d tend to make me look like I wasn’t making an effort.

At any rate, even if I don’t leave the house, it makes me feel like I’m looking after my appearance to keep myself presentable, even including when I’m just staying home. That’s something I’ve done ever since I started working from home some 20 years ago—no wearing pyjamas all day for me!—but I know how easy it is to let go of attention to the details of one’s own appearance when one lives alone and seldom needs to go out in public. By resuming regular ironing, I’ve fixed something I didn’t even realise needed fixing. I guess the shirt I couldn’t fix helped me realise that.

Ironing shirts yesterday (10 shirts, for the record) made me think about all of that, some things in my past, in my present, and even about a former NZ cricket coach who ironed his shirts. That’s a lot of work for something that’s not particularly unusual.

Footnote: The photo up top is of my current steam iron yesterday, immediately after I finished the last shirt. Obviously, this post isn’t sponsored, and Nigel and I bought the iron at regular retail prices, but even it has a story: Some time in Nigel’s last couple years or so, he told me he’d only just realised the plastic on the iron was a gold colour, and that it hadn’t yellowed over time. He realised it only because at the same time the iron was sitting out, the little plastic jug for filling the iron with was also out, and he saw that it was the same gold colour. At the time I was fascinated by that, and mildly amused. It’s something that I’ve remembered every single time I’ve used the iron ever since.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

A tale of two tales

Pretty much everyone who has used social media has seen how easy it is to inadvertently confuse people, whether we posted a photo, shared something from someone else, or maybe it was something we said, the opportunities to sow confusion seem endless. Last night, I found out it’s also possible to look a bit muddled.

I made two social media posts last night while I was watching the recorded version of a tech show that streams live on YouTube every Saturday afternoon (NZ time), something I watch in the evening because I almost never watch TV in the daytime, even on weekends, and I also watch other YouTube videos before I wathc the recording of the live stream. My first post was one I made to my personal Facebook, and the other was a photo I shared on Instagram (at the top of this post), and my Instagram posts are set to share to automatically post on Facebook, too. However, the two posts were very different in tone and focus.

My first post, directly Facebook, was about what I was watching, and how I related to the show’s content:
Tonight I was watching a discussion on the weekly live show (recorded in my time zone) show from a tech channel that made videos Nigel and I watched, often together, and as my eyes glazed over watching the video, I thought about how Nigel could both explain to me what they were on about AND educate me about what to do. I find it extremely difficult to navigate *some* of these tech issues, and while I do my best, I’m second-tier at the very, very best. To this very day, despite all my best efforts, I still struggle. And so it continues.🤷🏻‍♂️
I don’t remember what topic made me reflective, and that’s partly because they talk about a lot of subjects on the show. The bigger reason, though, is that once I start thinking about something, especially if I’m wring down my thoughts (even on Facebook), I tune out other things going on around me, especially things on TV.

The hosts of the show were most likely talking about something to do with parts for PCs, or things related to Windows, however, my computers and devices are all Apple (I even watch YouTube videos using an Apple TV attached to my television). The fact I didn’t fully grasp what they were talking about merely made me remember how well Nigel understood it all, and how much I relied on him for all things tech, something I’ve talked about many times.

Shortly after I made that Facebook post, Leo jumped up in my lap and went to sleep. He fell deeply asleep, so much so that he even snored a bit. I took the photo, and shared it to Instagram, writing:
Tonight I was watching the weekly livestream video (after the fact…) of a YouTube tech channel Nigel and I used to watch (though we never watched the streaming shows…), and I looked down. Leo was sound asleep on my lap. He’s somewhere near me always. He’s a good boy. ❤️
My Instagram post was really about Leo, and it actually didn’t matter what I was watching at the time. However, I was still feeling reflective, about an hour after my Facebook post, and that’s why I mentioned watching it. The post automatically shared to my personal Facebook, where it appeared above my first post.

There have been times in the past where I’ve decided to not share an Instagram post to Facebook, usually because I shared a different photo there. Or maybe I shared one to Facebook first. It’s more common, though, for me to share things only to Facebook—actually, I often forget about Instagram for weeks.

All of this means that it’s extremely unusual for me to have two Facebook posts that cover similar ground follow one another. I don’t have a social media “strategy”—though maybe I should—but I often try to share nice or even sweet photos on Instagram because that’s public, and I’m well aware how much of social media is worse than a clogged sewer line. Those same photos then show up on Facebook (and ones of Leo usually get more “reactions” (like Likes) than almost anything else I post there.

Like Instagram, I seldom post anything terribly serious on my personal Facebook, either, however, I’m much more likely to post something reflective on Facebook precisely because it’s not public. It never occurred to me to post the photo only to Instagram, partly because I seldom do that, but in retrospect I wish I hadn’t mentioned watching the show on the Instagram caption. In fact, I thought about editing the caption to take that reference out, but I usually only edit to correct typos, not to completely change what I’ve said.

In the end, it made me realise I need to pay a little more attention to what I’m posting, not as obsessively as “influencers” seem to do, but simply for clarity and to avoid seeming like I’m being inconsistent. In that sense, it’s a good thing that posts were even more jarring right next to each other

There’s one thing more about all this, and it’s the reason I didn’t make any changes to what I posted: Facebook is notorious for not showing FB “Friends” everything that their “Friends” post, and that means it’s probable that only a handful of my “Friends” saw even one post, and that even fewer saw, so I was quite possibly the only one who noticed the difference in tone between the two. Besides, photos of Leo are probably seen more often by my Facebook “Friends” than almost anything else I post (and yes, I'm aware that talking about the two posts could mean more people see the text of both than ever would've otherwise).

It’s easy to inadvertently confuse people when we post to social media. Last night, I found out it’s also possible to look a bit muddled, even if the only one who noticed was me.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Stamping out mail

Will there come a day when no one remembers what a postage stamp was? Unless they read history or visit a museum, maybe? That day seems to be approaching rapidly, something that the Facebook "Memory" (above) reminded me about today.

When I saw the “Memory”, I realised that I have absolutely NO idea when—or even what year—I last needed a stamp. At a guess, I’d say maybe 2019? A year or so after my 2016 Facebook post, I needed to start posting something for work every month, and, as it happened, postal rates were about to go up again, so I bought a roll of KiwiStamps (like “Forever” stamps in the USA). My job ended in March 2020—and I now have absolutely no idea where I put the rest of the roll of stamps (probably, as usual, “somewhere safe, so I can find it again”).

All of this made me curious, so I looked it up this morning and found that a stamp for a letter is now $2 (today around US$1.19 or 0.95 GBP) or one KiwiStamp. That’s for a something weighing up to 500 grams (17.64 ounces in Imperial weight) including the envelope (KiwiStamps apparently can’t be used on larger size envelopes). Also, it wasn’t easy to find the rates for letters on the NZ Post site, most of which is devoted to helping people with sending packages and other courier services).

Currently, NZ Post says that they expect to deliver a letter within New Zealand in “three working days” (which I think must exclude weekends and public holidays). In 2017, NZ Post announced that they were ending “FastPost”, a higher-priced option that aimed to get letters delivered in one business day. At the time of their announcement, NZ Post said that use of the service had declined 23 percent the previous year, and that the volume of all letters sent was declining by 60 million pieces a year.

These days, the vast majority of my business correspondence is electronic (I get two statements in the post because I’m too lazy to change them), and all my bills are paid automatically through direct debit (as I’ve mentioned before, none of my accounts have cheques for customers to use). For those very rare times I need to post something (like the ballots for local government elections), those are always FreePost (which is prepaid, similar to “Business Reply Mail” in the USA).

I’m really just a typical example of why the volume of mail in New Zealand has been declining so sharply for years. While we get mail delivered to our neighbourhood three days a week now, I’m certain it’ll drop to once a week, or maybe twice a week before it drops to one day, and then at some point it’ll stop altogether. I think that the fact that local government elections and most referenda are conducted through the post may be one of the reasons home delivery isn’t disappearing faster.

The end of home delivery is probably quite a way off yet, but in the meantime I think it’s likely that more services will start to disappear, like FastPost did. As an example, earlier this week NZ Post announced that from June 29 they’ll stop delivering packages and newspapers to rural addresses on Saturdays because the volume was too low (17 rural Saturday delivery runs will continue for another year, though).

The issues surrounding this are really about the people who don’t have access to the Internet, technical ability, and or both. Internet access can be a problem for poorer people and older people, both of who may lack the access itself, or a computer or device to access it. In some remote rural areas of the country, Internet access can be dodgy and unreliable. None of these problems will change soon, but maybe by the time home delivery ends, the problems will, too.

I was thinking today that eight years from now, I might not be able to remember the last time I had mail delivered to my house—actually, some weeks, that’s the already the case. It may well turn out that the last piece of mail delivered to my house (not counting packages or courier deliveries) will could well arrive sooner than I realise.

Change really is constant.

This post is a revised and expanded version of what I posted on my personal Facebook when I shared the “Memory”. This “Memory” is what I was referring to in my blog post earlier today.

New, not old

Today Facebook served up two different things that caught my attention. One was another “Memory” (more about that in another post), but it was a"Brand survey" (screenshot above) that made me stop for a moment. It’s probably the oddest thing I’ve ever seen Facebook offer me.

What made this so weird is that FB apart from the title, “Brand Survey”, the thing they were asking me to fill out was entirely in Dutch. Surprisingly, I don’t speak or read Dutch. Sometimes I can get a rough idea of the meaning of a word, or maybe a very short phrase, because I tried to learn German in high school (and a bit after that). This was funny enough (to me…) that I shared it to my personal, sarcastically asking:
Um, you okay Facebook? Or, did you just get confused and not realise that I live in New Zealand and not old Zeeland?
I then added a brief explainer in the comments:
Zeeland is a province of The Netherlands, and the Dutch named the country of New Zealand after the province. Aotearoa is believed to be the original or most common original Māori name that the Dutch didn’t even know about at the time. The British, who later anglicised the Dutch name, didn’t care what Māori called it.
This was simplifying the story a bit, because Dutch cartographers, as was the European custom at the time, used named the places they "discovered" with Latin versions of the name they chose, in this case, Nova Zeelandia, which in Dutch is Nieuw Zeeland (the ending “d” is pronounced more like “t”), and the current official name, New Zealand is just the anglicised version of that. It became the official name when the British started colonising the islands.

The Wikipedia article on the province of Zeeland talks about all of this, and also the fact that at the same time New Zealand was named, the country now known as Australia was named Nieuw Holland (New Holland), something I've mentioned in the past. They did that was because, as the article puts it, “the two major seafaring provinces of the Netherlands in its Golden Age were Holland and Zeeland.”

Personally, I think this country should one day be officially renamed “Aotearoa New Zealand”, though with the current surge in racism and racist attitudes, that day seems farther away now than at any point since I arrived here 28+ years ago. Actually, I don’t even think an adult conversation can be had about it right now, let alone any consideration of a change.

As far as I can remember, Facebook’s post today is the first thing they’ve shown me that wasn’t in English, so that’s—a thing, I suppose. On the other hand, the actual paid ads it shows me are often for Auckland-based real estate companies, and that’s mostly likely because I access the Internet through a VPN (“Virtual Private Network”) that’s set to say I’m connecting from Auckland. But the Netherlands doesn’t have a place called “Auckland”, so—dunno, maybe their algorithms had a computer's equivalent of a brain fart?

Mainly, being served up a “Brand Survey” in Dutch was just funny to me. I don’t know if their algorithms really did mix up New Zealand with old Zeeland, or if there was something else going on. For example, my surname appears in both Germany and The Netherlands—although, I’ve never (yet!) been served up anything in German, so, I guess it’s unlikely to be that?

As corporations decide to rely on computers exclusively, all sorts of problems are emerging. So far, most of them are more annoying or hilarious than they’re actual problems (or worse). For example, people’s posts on Facebook and Instagram being taken down in an automated process using algorithms because there are no human checkers any more. One of the problems with this, apart from having no one to appeal a deletion to, is that the algorithms cannot understand either context or nuance. As corporations push automation farther and harder, serious problems will inevitably emerge. Getting a survey in Dutch will seem so quaint and innocent by comparison.

Still, at least I got a laugh out of it, and it was all a bit of fun. For now.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Kitchen experiments abound

Forget politics and religion, there’s a far better topic to talk about: Food. There are so many levels to the topic, including sourcing it, producing it, preparing it, and, of course eating it. I’ve talked about all three on this blog, though not necessarily all that frequently. Over the past couple months, I’ve tried a product I’d never seen before, experimented with an update to a recipe from my young adulthood, and made a perhaps hasty decision on an old favourite. All of which is fair game for this blog.

The main reason I created my tongue-in-cheek tag (aka “Label”) “AmeriNZ Test Kitchen” was so that I’d have one place to talk about food products I tried and as well as recipes I made. It was all a bit of fun, and something I never took all that seriously (and still don’t), but there have been some that I apparently took seriously enough that I never posted anything about it. Today’s first item (photo up top) is exactly that.

Some forty years ago, I was with my first actual long term partner (in this case, “long term” means more than a few months, though it really lasted around three years). Among other basic meals he taught me was one involving the common boxed macaroni and cheese dinner combined with beef mince (though in those days I called it “ground beef” or “hamburger”) and a tin of chopped tomatoes.

Back in March 2022, I tried making the recipe using a box of American mac and cheese dinner (exactly like what we used more than four decades ago) that I found in a shop called “Crackerjack”, which often sells American food products. I don’t know why I didn’t share it at the time, but I didn’t find the dinner when I made later visits to the same store. However, I recently saw the version in the left photo up top, something I’d never seen before, and decided to try again, in the right photo.

The method is that first you brown the beef, then stir in the packet of “cheese” powder form the boxed dinner, then empty a tin of chopped tomatoes into the pan and stir to mix (this time I softened onion first, something I don’t recall doing back in the day). Let the beef mix simmer while the pasta cooks, then drain and stir into the beef mix, and serve. That’s it—and the speed and easiness of making it was why it was a repeat meal back in the day.

I was disappointed in the result. Unlike the version I made back in 2022, this one had little to no cheese flavour in it. The whole thing started out as a bit of food nostalgia (and the 2022 version was pretty close), but now it’s turned into a new idea: How can I make it simpler (ideally one pan) and healthier—especially since the boxed dinner isn’t exactly the healthiest choice possible. I already have several ideas for how I may do that—to be continued.

Next up, a commercial product I tried:

I bought the product solely because they reminded me of Ho-Hos, which were made by Hostess. The Carbury version wasn’t the same as what I loved in my childhood—although, to be fair, I don’t know if the current Hostess version is the same, either. They reminded me of the Little Debbie Swiss Cake Roll of my childhood, which I didn’t like as much (and I have no idea what they’re like now, either). Despite all that, I liked them well enough—even the chocolate, which is something I don’t often say about Cadbury chocolate. I was surprised that one was enough for me—very surprised, actually—so the packet lasted around two weeks. The truth is, I’m just not into sweets as much as I was when I was younger. I haven’t bought them again, and I don’t know whether I will; fortunately for me, I haven’t seen them since, so my resolved hasn’t been tested.

And finally, an experiment of an entirely different sort: Size.

The search for a peanut butter I like has been ongoing, something I first talked about back in 2018. In November of last year, I talked about trying to find a replacement for my favourite, but discontinued, brand. In the end, I went back to using Regular Pic’s peanut butter (which I talked about in 2018), but I now use the regular, not the no salt version.

My next problem was that I was going through jars fairly quickly because they’re not very big. I was in the supermarket recently and noticed the big (or, by NZ standards, maybe that should be big) jar was on special, so I bought one. I was a little worried about finding space on my fridge door (to keep it from separating), but I did. So far, it’s worked fine—however, I didn’t bother to check the prices per 100 grams, so maybe the larger size isn’t more economical, make it’s just easier for me because I don’t have to buy a new jar as often. On the other hand, that’s a valid reason to choose it, too.

And now we’re more or less up to date. Generally speaking, the kitchen experiments that I don’t talk about here are works in progress, and I suppose the first one today is probably that sort. The other two are merely ones that, like so many other blog topics, I just haven’t been able to get to. Hm, I’ve been doing a lot of “getting to it”, lately. Maybe things are improving?

Related: A related tag is Food, which is for my posts about all sorts of food. It also (hopefully) includes all my AmeriNZ Test Kitchen posts about food, too.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Leo has magic, but isn’t a wizard

Today, all the unrelentingly bad news from all over the world, combined with the pressure from seemingly innumerable personal deadlines and challenges, was getting me down. Then this little guy decided he wanted to lay in my lap for a while (and, naturally, I had to take a photo!).

Once again, Leo provided the magic to make me feel less bad. It seems that whenever I feel the worst, Leo’s nearby, usually staring at me—and probably to get me to do something: Let him outside, feed him, give him a treat, or to let him lay in my lap. But it doesn’t really matter what it is he wants, if he wants anything at all, because he always pulls me out of whatever my mind is stuck in at that moment, and that helps keep me focused on “now” and on real life.

Leo’s not a wizard, and he can’t fix what’s wrong in the world or in my life, but he helps me focus on what’s right in front of me, the only thing I know that I have any sort of control over. There’s a kind of a magic in that.

Everyone needs that sort of magic in their lives, I think. I sincerely hope everyone has or finds the magic they need.

Reading the stuff ahead of me

A major drawback of my recent lack of blog posts is that there are things I do that I never talk about here. On the other hand, sometimes a delay means I can essentially include updates the first time I talk about the topic. Today is an example of that.

A week ago today, I went to pick up my new reading glasses (photo up top), and I also got a scan of my optic nerve and a better scan of the back of eye, with special attention to things like the macula, as well as general eye health. Everything was fine, and my eyes are healthy. This visit was three weeks after my first visit to the optometrist, though I could’ve picked up the glasses the week before; I didn’t see a need to make a special trip when I had the appointment last week for the scans.

I took the selfie above when I got back to my car, and explained things on my personal Facebook:
Picked up my first-ever prescription reading glasses today (supermarket ones are same strength both eyes, but my eyes aren’t the same). The top of the lenses is for using my computer, and the lower parts are for ordinary reading (including devices, of course). I didn’t get the blue light coating because I can set my devices to redder light if I want to, BUT, ol’ publishing graphics professional that I am, the incorrect colours annoy me FAR too much. So far, it’s a vast improvement! I don’t need glasses for anything else because of the LASIK eye surgery I had years and years ago. Also had thorough scans of my eyes (optic nerve, macula, general health) and my eyes are in really good health. 🙂🤓
I felt compelled to add in a comment: “Yes, I was feeling tired today, but I’d just had thorough eye scans, and my eyes were more tired than I was!” The truth is, all that irritated my eyes, what with the bright lights and having to hold my open, even when the machine lightly brushed my eyelashes and made me want to blink, especially because it touched them so very lightly. My eyes watered a lot!

If I’d posted this last week, that’s about all I’d have said about it, however, I’ve had a chance to wear them for a week now, and I’ve come to some conclusions I couldn’t have at the time. Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t post this story last week.

The first thing I noticed is that it’s not easy to use them for computer work. To see the screen clearly, I need to lower my head so I’m looking through the top of the lenses. If I look driectly forward, head level—as good ergonomic practice requires—I can’t see the screen very clearly. On the other hand, I can see the keyboard more clearly because I my head’s already pointing down, so I just glance down. That’s okay, I guess, but holding my head in the wrong position gives me a bit of a sore neck. I haven’t tried them yet with my MacBook, but that screen is lower, so, dunno, maybe it’s be better for that?

The glasses are great for use with my devices—phone, tablet, e-reader. What I see is sharp and clear, as I’d expect, so that’s a solid win—except for one thing: How big the glasses are.

When I selected the frames, I chose the ones I thought looked the best on me, and they were similar to some supermarket ones I’d bought recently that I quite liked. The problem is that because they’re so much bigger I can’t see the TV screen unless I look over the top of the lenses. My older supermarket reading glasses had smaller lenses, so I could move them down my nose a bit and I could just glance over them when I wanted to see something on TV, and look down to read whatever was on my device. I’ve done that with the prescription reading glasses, but because of their size, when I push them down my nose, they’re not as good for reading.

I think I’ve decided to not use the prescription glasses when I’m sitting at my computer, and will only use them for my devices. I’ve never had two-strength lenses before, so I had no idea these could be problems. If I were to do it again, I’d get single-strength lenses just for my devices (and the lenses would’ve been considerably less expensive, too. Live and learn.

After I was done at the optometrist, I went to the nearby Woolworths (photo below), which still has the old signage. I said on Facebook:
After I was done at the optometrist, I went to the nearby Woolworths St James—which hasn’t yet had its sign changed. Even though it’s been ages since I’ve seen one of these that still has the original signage, I don’t think it’s the very last, so I can’t say it’s the final Countdown.

You’re welcome. 🎶
The post was, as the musical notes emoji suggests, a joke referencing the song by the band Europe [WATCH on YouTube]. As with my earlier photo, I also felt compelled to add clarification: “Yes, I know I need a haircut. The sun was so bright I couldn’t see my phone’s screen, so I didn’t see the messy hair at the time. 🤷🏻‍♂️💈💇🏻‍♂️”. I added in another comment:
Also, this concluded my my visits to all the supermarkets within 15 minutes (or less) drive from my house, and this is my favourite Woolworths. My favourite New World is Te Rapa. I don’t like Pak’N’Save, and, anyway, the possibly “nicest” one is more than 15 minutes away. I don’t go to the two chains’ smaller shops, but if one gets built near my house (a commercial area is coming), that could change.
A couple weeks ago, I talked a bit about my last trip—quite possibly literally—to the Woolworths Te Rapa location. In that post, I also talked about finally finding some hot cross buns at competing supermarket chain New World—along with pantry staples I couldn’t get at Woolworths Te Rapa the week before. When I went to the Woolworths St James, I finally got some of their hot cross buns—marked down 50 cents since Easter had passed. This, too, has developments.

When I bought the buns from New World, I said that I thought that a dollar per bun was a bit much (it was $5.99 for a pack of six). I felt that way mainly because the buns were very small—not good value for money. The ones from Woolworths were $4.50 for six, but even at the original $4.99 they were much better value: The Woolworths buns were significantly larger than New World’s.

This is another situation in which I didn’t know what I didn’t know—in this case, that Woolworths hot cross buns were much better value (and better buns, in my opinion). In addition, I also learned that the St James Woolworths is quite nice, and the only one of three Woolworths locations I’ve been to in recent weeks at which I could get every pantry staple on my list. I think going there from time to time could be worth the drive, especially if I arrange to have lunch with family while I’m on that side of the city.

This post would’ve been quite different if I’d published it last week, and it wouldn’t have contained the things I’ve learned since—after all, I’m even more useless about doing Updates posts than I have been about blogging with any regularity. I guess this post is a combination of both.

Overall, I’d much rather publish in a timely manner, even if later I learn more about the topic. Right now, though, I’ll take what I can get.

Tuesday, April 09, 2024

Considering myself at home

I know it’s obvious to anyone who’s read many of my blog posts, but I love data: Collecting it, analysing it, and talking about it. Sometimes it’s about things related to my university education and post-university avocation, things like polling and census data, election results, and pretty much anything else relating to politics, elections, and social justice. However, there’s a lot of other data that I collect (and talk about), like the performance of my solar panels, for example. And then there’s the large category of “Other”, all the stuff that’s quite possibly only of interest to me, but that can help me make important life decisions. Like something I ran across recently.

More than 20 years ago, I decided to make a list of every single place I’d lived in my life up to that point. I’ve long since forgotten why I decided to make the list, but when I ran across it, I decided to update it, and I did that over this past weekend. The final, updated version surprised me.

When I looked at the original list, I saw that I’d noted that it was last updated “Monday, 5 November 2001 11:50am”, and that meant that I’d been living in the first house Nigel and I shared (which had been his before I moved to New Zealand) for six years. Actually, it was three days after the sixth anniversary—maybe that had something do with my reason for making the list? Maybe I was going to talk about it in an email to friends and family back in the USA?

At any rate, that house was number 5 on 2001 the list, out of a total of 12 homes. The top three were all my parents homes, which makes sense, and I’d even helpfully listed the places I also lived while away at university, places that were all technically concurrent with the last of my parents’ homes, something I apparently thought required a special footnote. The rest were all the places I’d lived after I moved to Chicago and, of course, that first place I lived in New Zealand.

When I decided to update the list, I noticed that the homes were ranked by the number years and months I lived in the home—but with no specific dates. So, I couldn’t be sure whether the amount of time spent in each one was as accurate as I’d have liked—being a few days off isn’t good enough, really. Still, so much time has passed that I have no hope of remembering the dates of places I lived in Illinois, and I probably didn’t write it down anywhere, either. My addressees in New Zealand, however, were all much easier to work out: I have documentation.

Once I revised the list, there was a new total of 18 places I’ve lived in my life, and the new number one is the house Nigel and I shared on Auckland’s North Shore before we moved in 2017 to south Auckland to be closer to Nigel’s work (I recently talked about my visit to that house, which is now a rental).

Other changes are that the first house Nigel and I shared moved up to number 4, displacing one of my parents’ houses. At the moment, my current house is tied for seventh place with the last apartment I had in Chicago, though next month it displaces the apartment in the rankings, which will move down to 8 on the list. My current house won’t move up to number 6 until early 2026, assuming I’m still in this house at that point (a topic for another day), but if that happens, a few months later it would move up to five.

The entirety of the list is interesting only to me, but the data behind told me a few things I couldn’t know otherwise. For example, the average time I spent living in each place was 3.614 years (a bit more than 3 years, 7 months), and the median was 2.835 years (around 2 years, 10 months). This surprised me at first, because I lived in my top two addresses for around a decade each. However, the bottom six addresses were all under one year (and two were just one month). Of course, the main factor is that I’m now 65, and I’ve had a lot more years other than the couple decades for the top two addresses, and I obviously had to live somewhere for the other 45 years.

This is useful to me as I try to work out what’s next for me: Where’s the best place for me to grow old? How do I even work that out? And, if I decide to move somewhere, when is the right time to do that, wherever/whenever that ends up being? This is a very complicated topic, which is why I said earlier it’s “a topic for another day”.

Still, because of the revised list, and my analysis of it, I now know that I’m not especially attached to any particular place, and never have been. This is actually kind of liberating! If I decide to move somewhere else next month, next year, or in a decade, it’s really all kind of the same for me, based on my history. It even means that I could end up living in my current house longer than any other place. All of this depends on what happens in my life, with my health and mobility, and what I decide I want in the years ahead—none of which I can possibly know right now.

Before I make any major decision, I like to have as much information as possible. This data from this little, seemingly insignificant exercise has given me a lot of new information. It won’t necessarily make my long-term decisions any easier to make, but at least It’ll help me to be as well-informed as possible.

It’s no wonder that I love data.

Monday, April 08, 2024

Sunshine and feathers

Three years ago today, my solar power system was installed, and just yesterday I talked about how that relates to seasonal clock changes. Today I took advantage of the free electricity harvested from the sun’s rays, and that led to something else entirely.

This morning, I mowed the lawns and when I was done, I started recharging the battery using free electricity from the solar panels. As I’ve written about before, using a no-emissions lawnmower, powered by solar power, was exactly what I always wanted, and while Nigel wasn’t keen on me mowing the lawns at our last house, that, too, was actually part of my dream.

While I was at it, I did a load of washing, and dried it in the dryer. I also handwashed some dishes I don’t put in the dishwasher, because my hot water cylinder only gets electricity when the sun is shining.

All of my activities today, then, were the sorts of things I was talking about yesterday. I can’t say I was exactly enthusiastic about the mowing this morning, but it was a few days overdue, and there may be rainy weather coming—in short, it had to be today. And that’s when things went in an unexpected direction.

While I was mowing out front, I saw a feather (in the photo up top) blowing toward my car, then, a little while later, it was laying on the grass a few metres from where I first saw it, in a patch of lawn I'd finished only a few minutes earlier. I was struck by this because some people believe that birds that fly or land unusually close to us are visitations from loved ones who’ve died, which I neither believe nor reject: I have absolutely no way of knowing either way.

I was also thinking, though, that if the belief was true, and if Nigel—the person who knew me better than anyone else in my life—wanted to visit me, he’d know I wouldn’t notice a bird, and he’d also know that I always notice a loose feather suddenly showing up somewhere unexpected, In fact, I wrote about finding a feather in July of last year. I now have a mini-collection of four feathers I’ve found on my lawns, one of which is that one from last year, the other three from this year.

Rationally, I’m well aware that it’s likely that the feather was just a feather that just happened to show up while I was mowing the lawns. Even so, I like to think that, however improbable it may be, it could be something more.

At any rate, that made the mowing a little better of an experience than it often is, and that, along with the fact that I still noticing such things at all, is enough for me. But if there really is any sort of communication from beyond death, it sure would be quite helpful if it was a bit more obvious. Still, feathers are nice to find, I think.

Sunday, April 07, 2024

Seasonal time management

It’s time for me to start adjusting my household routines to compensate for the changing seasons, specifically, the shortening days and cooling temperatures. Those changes are mostly slow and not even necessarily easy to perceive—until April arrives. Last night, New Zealand went back to Standard Time (NZST) when we turned our clocks back one hour. That abrupt change in daylight hours is the signal for me to change the way I do things.

Much as I despise winter—something I may have mentioned once or twice—the thing I now despise even more are the two seasonal clock changes, and of the two, the Autumn change is the worst, which is weird to me. I didn’t always despise the clock changes: When I was younger, including after I moved to New Zealand, I was pretty much indifferent—though I often said I enjoyed the “extra hour of sleep” after the autumn clock change. I’ve read that dislike of the clock changes often becomes stronger as people get older, and maybe that’s part of it for me, too. However, the biggest thing for me is the declining number of daily sunshine hours.

As we move toward winter, the earth’s axial tilt causes us to slowly lose daylight hours, and the poor weather in winter can reduce the number of hours when there’s full sunshine. This is a very important thing for me, living in a house with solar power.

For roughly six months of the year—from late Autumn through early Spring—I plan my activities around the times when the sun is shining on the panels. That’s because I always try to use the power I’m generating rather than buying it. When there are already fewer sunshine hours in winter, rainy days can mean the panels may generate little or no electricity. My back-up plan is to do energy-intensive things (like running the clothes dryer or the dishwasher) when the electricity rates go down at 10pm.

This also affects heating when the temperatures descend to winter cold because my heat pumps use more power. On bright sunny days, I make sure the curtains are open when the sun is shining so the house can be warmed for free (the sunshine creates the electricity to run the heat pumps, and it also warms the inside of the house by shining though the windows). Then, when the sun leaves those windows, I close the curtains again to keep the heat inside. This curtain management is something I’ve done for many, many years, but I have an even stronger incentive now that the solar panels will be generating less power over the next few months.

None of this is terribly important for the other six months of the year: I generate so much electricity that I couldn’t possibly use it all. Even so, on hot summer days, I close the curtains on the westerly side of the house once the sun hits the glass. Doing that helps keep my house cooler than if I left the curtains open until evening.

Aside from all those very specific adjustments, I intensely dislike the short days of winter for another reason: Yard work. Over that season, I have to plan my outside work around the fewer hours of daylight—there’s no mowing my lawns on a winter evening, for example. However, the higher number of rainy days, on top of fewer sunlight hours, can add another barrier toward finishing yard work.

All of this may sound like I’m complaining, that I’m annoyed by all this, but that’s the opposite of the truth. In fact, I quite like the challenge of managing all of that, and I feel that mixing up my household routines as the seasons change helps to keep me from getting bored—or, maybe too bored os more accurate—with routine work around the house.

To be clear, I still hate short, cold, dark, and/or rainy winter days, but by making seasonal adjustments to my household routines I distract myself from what I dislike by instead focusing on what I can achieve in a day. I absolutely still hate winter, but focusing on positive things helps me to mind winter a little bit less. I’m sure that this sort of shift in focus wouldn’t necessarily work for everyone, but it definitely works for me. One does what one must, and all that.

Due to the time change, stoday’s unset will be a 6:02pm—and it’ll suddenly get dark an hour earlier that it has been. That’s a noticeable thing, and the seasonal clock changes mess with my body for a week or two, as well. My change in routine doesn’t help with that, unfortunately, but at least it helps me make sure I get stuff done. That’s—well, something I guess.

Friday, April 05, 2024

65 and 43 years ago today

Today is an anniversary, a bit of an odd one, even by my standards: Sixty-five years ago today I was baptised. That’s probably the sort of anniversary I might mention in a blog post—but it wasn’t on my list of posts for this month. However, I knew that today is also the 43rd anniversary of the first time I ever did anything to publicly come out as gay, and that fact was on my list, though I wrote “Outaversary (43rd, so probably no post)”. And so, here we are.

I’ve talked about this coincidence of anniversaries a few times (links at the bottom of this post), but what interested me this year was that the baptism part wasn’t the first thing I thought of, even though it was 65 years ago. Instead, I just thought of it as my “Outaversary”, which makes perfect sense. As I said in my 2009 post about the anniversaries:
Fifty years and twenty-eight years later—again, to the very day—it’s clear it was the second event that had the bigger personal effect on me because on that day, in a sense, my parent’s work was completed as I began my own life. On that 1981 day I started to stop being afraid, though I had more work to do.
I guess the fact that I wasn’t planning on blogging about my “Outaversary” this year means that the more significant of the two anniversaries still wasn’t significant enough. To me, that was kind of funny, actually.

When I did finally remember that this was the 65 th anniversary of my baptism, I suddenly wondered something I’d never bothered to look up before: When was Easter in 1959? It turns out it was Sunday, March 29, 1959, and that was an issue because my grandfather, who baptised me, was still working as a minister at the time, and so, wouldn’t have been available on Easter Sunday. Also, my dad wouldn’t have wanted to have my baptism on Easter Sunday, either. So, my they picked the next Sunday, April 5. The next time it falls on a Sunday will be in 2026, which will be the perhaps somewhat more interesting (to me, anyway…) “Outaverssary” number: 45.

From time to time, I’ve thought about changing at least some of the anniversaries I mention to once every five years, on the zero and five years. That’s simply because it’s hard to come up with something new and fresh to say every year, and that’s literally doubly true for what I’ve described as “the only truly double-barrel anniversary I have”, this one—these two? Whatever.

It turns out that this date may have two different anniversaries, but it’s because of the second one—the one that’s more important in my life’s path—that I remember either one. I may not talk about either one every year, but I nevertheless remember them both. And I think that’s a very good thing.

The photo up top is from my 2009 post. I STILL really need to re-scan that slide sometime.

”Coincidence of baptisms” – 2009
”Outaversary” – 2016
”60 and 38 years ago today” – 2019
”40th Outaversary” – 2021

Planning doesn’t mean success

Planning one’s work is promoted in the corporate world as the best way to stay “on target” and to achieve goals. Some folks even promote planning—inappropriately, in my opinion—as a surefire way to “succeed” in one’s personal life. For many of us, at one time or another we may find that simply waking up in the morning is a huge success, never mind checking things off a plan. And yet: We may persist with what’s possibly an illusion that planning helps.

A month ago today, I talked about making a list of future blog posts. The idea was that it could help me keep on track with posts tied to certain dates or events, and I specifically mentioned my Weekend Diversion – 1984 Series because I could write and schedule them all in advance: All of the publication dates are fixed and the content of a post is unlikely to need changes before publication. On the whole, this list thing has been successful.

Over the past month, I published posts about all but one topic I’d listed. I did combine two posts into one, but I kind of thought I might do that when I wrote the list. I also have another post I’ll publish later today about an anniversary today, something that was also on the list. I did, in fact, write and pre-schedule publication of this past Sunday’s post ”Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 4”—except I wrote it only a couple days beforehand. Even so, it was published on schedule, and was ready to go in advance, and achieving that was the point.

Looking only at my goal of making sure that I published certain posts, especially ones with fixed dates, then the planning succeeded. However, I intended that the list was only a staring point, a list of the basics, the things that I wanted to be sure to publish. There are now 35 such posts on the list.

However, I’d always intended that I’d also publish posts about everyday sorts of things, too, but that hasn’t happened as often as I thought—though maybe “hoped” is a better word. For example, I’ve been working on a post about a topic that began two months ago, and I still haven’t had a chance to finish for a bunch of reasons (including the fact that I no longer turn on my computer every day…). There are several more posts that haven’t even made it as far as the draft stage.

I said in my post last month:
My personal metric of “success” has always been raw output: How many posts did I publish in a month or year? I haven’t achieved my old goal of an annual average of one post per day for several years, and, on the whole, I’m fine with that. However, there have been numerous things I don’t post about, though I wanted to, and that’s where a little planning can help.
Creating a list of blog posts by month has definitely helped me, but there’s clearly far more going on than just my inability to finish non-scheduled posts I want to publish, especially posts I do on the spur of the moment. The plan, such as it is, may have helped “preserve the spontaneity that I've always enjoyed”, as I also said last month, but I certainly haven’t taken advantage of that.

On the other hand, I and this blog are still going, so, by that measure, it’s all a huge success. That’s why I think that my list of future posts will probably help in the long term. Hopefully that won’t turn out to be an illusion.

Monday, April 01, 2024

Easter’s end

It’s the end of this year’s Easter holiday weekend, and today, like last Friday, is a public holiday like all other ordinary ones, with shops and cafes able to open. Easter Sunday was the second and last of this holiday weekend’s days with trading bans in place (in most places in New Zealand…). I’m glad that’s over with—for now.

I came round to the idea that it’s time to end the trading bans on Easter weekend, but it was only this year I the effects of a technically unrelated ban that, in a perfect world, would be easily repealed. We don’t live in that entirely imaginary perfect world.

As I’ve said many times, there are three and a half days in which it’s illegal for shops to open—depending on where they’re located and what they sell. For example, in areas deemed to be tourist areas, most shops could open, but shops in areas not designated by the government as tourist areas, cannot, no matter how many tourists they get. Similarly, hotel restaurants were allowed to be open and to sell alcohol to hotel guests as long as it was with food, but an ordinary, independent cafe or restaurant right next the hotel cannot.

Throughout the country, another weird exception used to exist (and still may, though I’m not certain). Places offering services could trade, but couldn’t be sold goods. So, for example, a hairdresser could style people’s hair, but it was illegal to sell them hair products. Back when we still have video stores, it was legal for them to rent movies, but they couldn’t sell any.

The reality is that the rules for what businesses can open, where, and what they can do, has been a confusing mess for decades, but it got even worse in 2017 when the National Party government of the day decided to legislate to allow local councils to choose whether shops could trade on Easter Sunday only (they don’t get to decide that for any other of the trading ban days). I wrote about National’s idiotic law change at the time, and the utter stupidity of that change is still obvious. As far as I know, no city has allowed Easter Sunday exemptions, but several mostly rural districts have.

What makes all of this even more stupid is that Easter Sunday is NOT a public holiday, so none of the usual rights workers have on public holidays apply (higher pay and a day off in lieu), however, if a business is legally allowed to trade on Easter Sunday, there are special rules, such as, workers have the legal right to refuse to work on Easter Sunday without needing to state a reason, and the employers are required to tell them they have that right (I wonder how many employers actually do tell workers…). The public holidays for Easter weekend are Good Friday and today, Easter Monday. I would hope that shops allowed to open on Easter would treat their workers as if it was a public holiday, but there’s no legal obligation that they do so.

Given how utterly daft the Easter trading laws are, some businesses decided to defy the law and open anyway, like some supermarkets. If the government decides to punish a shop for opening, the maximum fine is $1,000, which is so low that I wonder why more shops don’t ignore the law an open. I did notice that supermarkets in the linked article said they weren’t selling alcohol, which makes sense: If they sold alcohol when it’s prohibited, they might lose their liquor licence, and that’s a MUCH bigger deal than a $1,000 fine.

And the final level of stupidity—and the thing that ought to be easy to repeal—is that all TV ads are banned on trading ban days—but the bans don’t apply to ads on any foreign streaming service, like YouTube, for example. New Zealand broadcasters are struggling to survive as foreign online companies—Google (including YouTube), Facebook, etc.—are getting most of the available ad revenues, and our current laws make that bad situation even worse because the Broadcasting Act of 1989 mandates that no ads can be run at any time on TV or radio on Christmas Day, Good Friday, or Easter Sunday, and television may not run ads on Anzac Day morning and all Sundays until noon, but radio may run ads on those days for some bizarre logic lost in the dust of time. Self-promotion ads (like for upcoming shows) are okay, though: The brodcaster just can’t make any money from ads—though, again, foreign content providers can make as much as they want from viewers in New Zealand.

The current broadcasting minister, a former TV show host of dubious ability as a minister, has blandly promised a re-write of the Act (written way before the Internet or streaming services were a thing), but given the chaos under our current three-ring circus coalition government, I doubt it’ll actually happen. I think that ending the ad bans ought to be done as quickly as possible: They make absolutely no sense, deny NZ broadcasters revenue that foreigners still get, and has nothing whatsoever to do with New Zealand workers and days off.

Having said all that, back in 2011 I first called for an end to the trading bans, and since then I’ve made clear several times that it’s mainly the Easter Weekend bans that I think must be repealed, and I can certainly live with the bans on Christmas Day and Anzac Day morning—though I’m pretty sure that even if all of the trading bans were repealed, many—probably most—retailers would still observe them on those two days. The advertising bans are a completely separate issue, and one that makes even less sense than the nonsensical trading bans.

No government led by either main party has ever been willing to end the trading or advertising bans, and the only time in decades a government did something it was the utter lunacy of National's kinda, sorta, almost like a repeal of the trading ban for Easter Sunday only. Some day, maybe our politicians will finally do what should have been fixed long ago.

But today was a normal public holiday and I’m sure lots of people headed out the shops and to bars, cafes and restaurants. Even though some hospitality venues charge a surcharge on public holidays, many in that struggling sector will nevertheless get business they were denied on Friday and yesterday. It’s time to make the rules for this weekend—and for television advertising—finally make sense. I’m not holding my breath, though. Meanwhile, it's only three and a half weeks until the next trading ban…

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 4

Finally back with another new song that went to Number One, this time beginning a three-week run at the top spot. On March 31, 1984, the new Number One was ”Footloose” (video up top) by American singer, guitarist, and songwriter Kenny Loggins. The song was the title track to the 1984 motion picture also called Footloose (oddly enough…), and the first of two singles from the soundtrack (more to come about that in a couple months). The song was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song, but lost out to a song from a different movie, a song that would top the charts much later in 1984 (I’ll get to that one, too). The song was Loggins’ biggest hit and only Number One in the USA.

The thing about the video above is that, like happens with so many movie songs released as pop music singles, the video doesn’t show the song as it was in the movie. The song's Wikipedia entry sums it up well::
It uses the single version and features several scenes from the film, in particular the warehouse where Kevin Bacon's character performs an unorchestrated dance routine (which was actually performed to a different song in the film itself).
Does this matter? No, I don’t think it does. After all, there are plenty of people who are well aware of the song who’ve never seen the film—like me, for example. In 1984, I was a LGBT+ grassroots activist who spent far too much time and money trying to fight off religious bigots’ political agenda, and I didn’t want to see a movie in which those attitudes were central to the plot. People seem to forget that the youths in the movie lost their bid to get dancing allowed, and the high school prom was held in a different county to escape the bigots’ jurisdiction.

At any rate, at some point I saw the video above, but that was after I’d heard the song on the radio (and everywhere else…). Still, for cultural accuracy, here’s a video of the film’s use of the song in the “Let’s dance!” ending segment:

The visual difference between the two, I think, is mainly the joyful celebration in the film, whereas the music video version is more about the movement of dance itself. They’re different, but, in my opinion, one isn’t necessarily better than the other. Of course, there’s also a subtle difference in the music tracks of the two videos, because the music video begins with a drum solo. So… there’s that, I guess.

I liked that song back in the day and still do, actually, and for the same reason: It’s a song that can make someone want to move—though not me, of course: I never dance or sing in public. Nevertheless, the driving beat and the generally optimistic melody make a feel-good pop song, in my opinion. Blake Shelton’s cover for the 2011 film remake was good, too, especially because it kept all that was great about the original, however, even though I have to admit that I found Shelton’s diction better than Loggins’ I still prefer the original. Of course, I often prefer the first version of a song that I hear, original or not, and that’s possibly true about this song, too.

The single “Footloose” reached Number One in Australia (Platinum), Canada (Platinum), and New Zealand, 6 in the UK (2x Platinum), and Number One on the USA’s Billboard “Hot 100” (Platinum).

The film soundtrack album reached Number 2 in Australia (5x Platinum), Number One in Canada (6x Platinum), Number One in New Zealand (Platinum), 7 in the UK (Gold), and Number One on the USA’s “Billboard 200” chart (9x Platinum).

This series will return April 21 with another new Number One, but there’s one more thing. This song is about dancing, and there’s a mashup from a few years ago that was made up of dancing scenes from various films, something that Kevin Bacon shared on social media at one point. So, even though though the video may be more likely to disappear than the other videos in this post, I’m including it at the very bottom, because it’s flat out fun.

Back again in three weeks!

Previously in the “Weekend Diversion – 1984” series:

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 1 – January 21, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 2 – February 4, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 3 – February 25, 2024

Saturday, March 30, 2024

At High Tea

Today I did another first: I went with some of the family for High Tea at Zealong Tea Estate, which is located not very far out of Hamilton. It was a fun family outing.

It's actually the first time I've been to high tea in New Zealand, though the place we had my 60th birthday party, which was was a relatively short drive from our last house, did high tea and Nigel and I wanted to take his mum there for that, but we never really had the chance. Lesson learned: Never put off what you can do today, and all that.

The food was really nice. Even though I seldom choose to drink tea, the one I had was also nice. The photo up top is of the three-tier serving thing in front of me (each of us participating got one), and I’ll talk about what was on each tier under the photo of each one, starting with the bottom tier:

At left, in focus, is a finger sandwich with venison pastrami, caramelised onions, pickles, and mustard. In the background on the right is a pumpkin flan, blue cheese mousse, and walnuts. In the back, mostly obscured, is a black truffle croque-monsieur with smoked chicken and Emmental.

The middle tier, at left: A silverbeet and buffalo ricotta Mediterranean tourte. At right is a crayfish and prawns roll with celery, wasabi, and avocado, which I gave away because I’ve had issues eating prawns in the past, and I haven’t had crayfish in years and decided it was best not to take a risk on it. In the background is a Ora King smoked salmon and herbs waffle with mustard cream.

The sweets were on the top tier. The pink thing standing up is a Lady Gatsby tea macaron (Lady Gatsby is one of their tea varieties). At left is a pistachio and lemon tartelette, and in the background is a chocolate croustillant (which several people thought was too sweet, but I liked it).

There was noting I didn’t like, though I of course liked some things more than others. I really wanted to try the crayfish and prawns roll, since I actually like everything in it, but I didn’t want to risk an allergic reaction, even though I think it was unlikely. I suppose the best part is my curiosity is satisfied: I’ve known about their high tea for years, and now I’ve finally had it (I’ve eaten in the restaurant before, but that was a meal, not high tea (and it was also really nice).

I was thinking this morning that high tea is kind of like an English tapas—small plates. Though served in a tiered thing. The one time I made tapas for the family back in 2013 I discovered how much work it is, and doubt making high tea like we had today would be any easier. So, I have huge respect for the chefs.

That’s one more new experience checked off the list. I’ve been pretty slack about going after adventures in Hamilton, but, then, there have been a LOT extenuating circumstances over the past four years since I moved here. As I always say, though, “what I can, when I can,” and that applies to adventures, too: One day, one adventure, one high tea at a time. Of course.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Dual layers of memory reminders

I often share Facebook “Memories” on my personal Facebook page, and sometimes I talk about them here on this blog. Lately, I’ve noticed how many of those “Memories” are about things I never shared here. Today I again shared a “Memory” and photo that I never shared here, however, I did publish a blog post that added backstory to the Facebook “Memory”. It turns out that sometimes I have dual layers of sources about things I’ve talked about somewhere, and that’s something I never really thought about until today.

I shared the photo at right to Facebook on March 29, 2016, but not here. At the time, I merely said, “Taking my mother-in-law to lunch”, which was as basic as it gets—and was probably so brief because I was using my phone and didn’t want to keep using it rather than talking with my mother-in-law. When I shared the “Memory” today, I said:
A throwback to the Before Times! Nigel and I ate there many times with family or just us two. I also took my mother-in-law there several times when she was visiting us when we lived on Auckland’s North Shore (usually while Nigel was at work). She was probably visiting us for the Easter holiday weekend (we went to Coo on the following Tuesday; Easter was on the 27th in 2016). The optometrist also in view is where I got my eye exam for my driver license renewal in 2014, as I mentioned recently. Around 11 months after that lunch, Nigel and I shifted to Clarks Beach in southern Auckland. [the link was not in my Facebook post]
I was mostly right—the dates were all correct, for example—but what I didn’t know until a few minutes ago, when I checked this blog, is that she came to stay with us on Easter Sunday. I know that because I mentioned her visit in a blog a post on Easter Sunday that year, two days before the visit to the Japanese restaurant. I said in that Easter Sunday post:
We had some chores to attend to, like getting the house clean and tidy. My mother-in-law was due to arrive this evening for a visit, and cleaning the house just before one’s mother-in-law arrives is part of the world’s universal laws. I’m sure it’s in the UN Charter somewhere.
As amusing as that was (to me…), it also turns out that we had a blocked drain that day—which was a public holiday with a trading ban in place. We improvised clearing it using a garden hose “to push the block along”, and I added, “my Nigel is very clever.” Because he was.

I don’t remember what the specifics were, like which drain was blocked, but I think it may have been the kitchen sink, because it was sometimes a problem at that time. This underscores that it’s impossible for me to remember every detail about everything that’s happened over the years, despite having both my social media posts and this blog (and even my podcast) to help. However, since I do have those things, I think my chances of remembering things from my past are arguably better than someone without either one. I know that if I still kept a daily journal, too, my odds would be even better—but that seems very unlikely to happen.

I’m glad, and very fortunate, to have the means to remember at least some of the finer details from my life. Because I tended to document good times and happy memories almost exclusively, when memories (or “Memories”…) pop up, they’re usually about something that I actually want to know more about, and I think I’m very lucky to be able to do that.

It turns out that posting stuff on social media or to this blog can be a positive and useful thing! Honestly, though, I not surprised. For me, having dual layers of memory reminders is definitely a good thing.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

A bun-tastic day

Today I scored an important victory: I finally found some hot cross buns (photo above). It’s an annual tradition this time of year, and a welcome move toward poor dietary choices. And yet, it, too, is a symbol of change.

Last week, I published a contemplative post ”Four years ago today”, which I ended with:
“This evening I went up to Woolworths (née Countdown) Te Rapa, after I gave Leo his dinner. Day to day life still happens, after all. One does what one must.”
I never mentioned the details of my trip to Woolworths, but I mentioned in a bit more detail in a post on my personal Facebook sharing a “Memory” from 2022 that had a photo of me with some newly-acquired hot cross buns (with a somewhat more serious expression…). I said when I shared the “Memory”:
I haven’t had a single one this year! When I went to the supermarket last week, they appeared to be sold out, although, the Te Rapa Woolworths had LOTS of empty shelves, which they usually do, but it was FAR more extensive than usual. It actually reminded me of what the store looked like just before the first Covid lockdown. Weird!
I actually wrote a lot more about that trip, but I deleted it before I posted it. It was, in fact, too negative, and that was something I didn’t want to project. Nevertheless, I decided that when I went to the supermarket this week, it’d be to New World instead, and, in the deleted text I said I thought I’d made my last trip to the Te Rapa Woolworths. Today was the day I planned to go to the other supermarket.

However, I forgot and remembered several times that we’ve got Easter Weekend starting tomorrow, and then forgot again, which means I didn’t plan around it and go to the supermarket earlier this week. The predictable result was that the shop was packed today. The reason for that is that (nearly) all shops are required to be closed on Good Friday and Easter Sunday (also Christmas Day and Anzac Day morning), though there are weird exceptions and some geographic exceptions that hardly anyone can remember, all of which I’ve talked about several times here on this blog. Anyway, since supermarkets are closed tomorrow and Sunday, it was go today and brave the crowds or wait. Of course, I’d already planned to go today (after I forgot about the holiday weekend), so I went anyway. While it was busy, I’m sure it’ll get worse as this afternoon goes on, possibly into the evening.

Also, since this was a planned trip to New World this week, I was hoping they’d have hot cross buns, and they did, and they had three varieties: Traditional (pictured with me up top), no spice (looked like what I grew up with), and chocolate (shudder). I also took advantage of the trip to buy one of my pantry staples that Woolworths was sold out of last week, and I also picked up some Pams products (their own brand label) to try so I can compare them to Woolworths’ own brands. Very productive, in other words.

However, a dollar for each bun is clearly absurd, especially because to me they seem smaller this year. A magazine format NZ light infotainment TV programme I watch had a segment (not on YouTube at the moment) about how expensive hot cross buns are this year, and a dollar each is actually on the lower end. It almost makes me wish I could be bothered to make some myself, but, yeah, nah. Too much trouble.

So, I couldn’t find hot cross buns last week, saw that my nearest Woolworths was, shall we say, “not meeting my needs as a customer,” so I decided to go to a competitor. Despite me accidentally going to the supermarket today, the busy day before a four-day holiday weekend, I found the supermarket well-stocked and, while busy, it wasn’t as horrible as other last-minute trips (like one memorable Christmas Eve in 2012, when we lived on Auckland’s North Shore). However, the buns I bought seemed like kind of a rip-off, if I’m truly honest. So, all of those things represent changes of one sort or another.

Even before the debacle at Woolworths last week, I’d decided to stop going there—last week’s trip merely triple underscored my decision. There are a few things only Woolworths sells, chiefly the chain’s own brands, which is why I wanted to try some from New World. I had the idea that I might drive to the other side of the city to have lunch with family on that side of town, and pick up a click and collect order from a Woolworths there. That may yet happen.

I cancelled my delivery subscription with Woolworths back in January, mostly so I could make changes to the way I shop. The delivery service has made many mistakes, though most (but not all) have been insignificant. The bigger issue was that without a subscription, delivery charges could add up quickly, and that a subscription encouraged repeat orders, and so, more spending with the one chain. Click and collect has all the strong advantages of online shopping—being able to compare products with each other, read nutrition labels, compare the unit prices, checking if staple items are on special—and all while avoiding flashy in-store displays. Best of all, there’s no fee, unlike when ordering for delivery. So, if I was driving across the city to have lunch with family, I could also pick up my order. These would definitely be positive changes.

And that’s why those hot cross buns are part of a whirlpool of changes. Not all change is necessarily bad, after all.