Wednesday, February 28, 2024

It was about change, not coincidence

On Monday of this week, I went to get a Warrant of Fitness for my car. It was due the next day, but. While I was waiting, I got bored, as I always do while waiting my turn, so I took the photos up top: A deliberately bored looking me and the view out the windscreen (the car was switched off at the time).

When I shared the photos on Instagram/Facebook, I said, “In the queue to get the Warrant of Fitness for my car. It’s only been s bit more then an hour so far…”. When I was finally done, I added a comment: “It was an hour twenty, all up. Next year, I may go somewhere else…” That was that, as far as I was concerned, until I saw my Facebook “Memories” the next day.

It turns out that last year I got my WoF on Monday, February 28—the day it expired. That day, however, was also a Monday. I said in the caption:
Well, ain’t that a coincidence! I just went there yesterday! No, it’s not a coincidence at all: My car’s Warrant of Fitness expires every February 27. BUT, last year I went on the very last day, and this year I went a day before the last day—progress! 🤣
So… progress. Yeah, that’s it. I then went on to explain why the experience last year had been so frustrating, make jokes about jokes I made in a comment I made on last year’s Facebook post. The comments ended up being part of a a blog post (or maybe vice versa—I don’t remember). At any rate, I began my yesterday’s Facebook post by saying that “Last year was so slow partly because they were building two new inspection bays for cars only, and the two that were there last year are now primarily for trucks of varying sizes, and heavy vehicles.” That was certainly true, but only part of the story: It was still slow this year. Last year, I joked about their computer systems:
…their computer system was, quite possibly, running Windows ME and connected to the Internet by 3G cell service.
This year, I had another jab at their “still absurdly slow computer systems”, adding: “I was, of course, joking last year when I said their computers were running Windows ME. Obviously it’s Windows 95. And probably using a 1995 dial-up modem.”

There were several changes this year. First, there were few trucks waiting when I got there, and when they were all done, the inspectors started processing cars, too, and things sped up “dramatically”, if that word can be used to describe such a slow process.

The two new inspection bays were quite different, too. All the inspection facilities of that company that I’ve ever gone to had pits below the inspection bay that inspectors would use to go under the car to inspect things like the car’s chassis (for rust or other damage), brakes, etc. The two new car inspection lanes use hydraulic car lifts to raise the car two metres in the air—which kind of seems like a bigger liability to me, but I suppose they know what they’re doing. The truck lanes still have pits.

In my post on Monday, I talked about maybe making other arrangements next year. There are actually lots of companies authorised to do WoF inspections, but I never wanted to use a place that also does repairs because, cynical me noted, they had a financial incentive to find something “wrong”. In fact, VTNZ (the chain I’ve been going to for many years) used to run TV ads implying that very thing.

I have a year to explore options for places that book appointments, rather than going through these annual wait-a-thons. That’ll give be time to check reviews, too, so I can quiet the cynical demon trying to whisper sweet paranoid nothings in my ear.

This was just one of millions of other bureaucratic machines to wrangle over the next few weeks, but at least one more is now off the list. Those others won’t have any selfies or Facebook “Memories” to mention., but maybe just making progress is enough.

A new read among others—and re-reads

Have I ever pre-ordered a book? I don’t know about the past, but on January 8 of this year I pre-ordered the new novel by Armistead Maupin, a few weeks after I saw his Facebook page announcing the publication of his latest novel, Mona of the Manor, likely to be the final novel in Maupin’s Tales of the City series of novels. The book arrived Monday (photo above). This was also a bittersweet thing.

Nigel had all the original Tales of the City books, and when I arrived in New Zealand to live, I read the first three. Auckland reminded me a bit of San Francisco, which I’d visited earlier that year, because of its waterfront and hilly streets. There’s no reason why I hadn’t read the books in the USA, I just didn’t—though I’d been aware of them since I was at university, and newly out, in the early 1980s. before I emigrated, I watched the first series of the TV adaptation of the books, and Nigel and I watched the second and third series together. We bought them on VHS, and we re-bought them on DVD (though I’m pretty sure that buying the DVDs was just Nigel’s doing).

Maupin began a series of sequels, though at first he didn’t call them that, with Michael Tolliver Lives in 2007, which I bought for Nigel. I also bought him Mary Ann in Autumn (2020), and also The Days of Anna Madrigal (2014), but I don’t know if he ever read that one (by that time he was mostly into audio books, which helped make his work commute much better). Mona of the Manor, then, is the first Armistead Maupin book that Nigel never got the chance to read, and, obviously, I was keenly aware of that fact when publication was announced. If anything, that awareness made me more determined to pre-order.

Nigel and I also bought the non-Tales book, “The Night Listener”, and we managed to read it before the movie came out. Actually, by “we” I mean me: One way or another, Nigel got through a lot more books than I did (as I’ve said many times, I’m a very slow reader). Nigel already had Maupin’s other non-Tales novel, Maybe the Moon, and both of those books had characters from Tales as supporting characters.

It’s clear that I have a long personal history with the Tales books, even if I’ve only read the first three books in the series. Right now, I think I’d like to start from the beginning and continue in order until I get to the newest one. We’ll see. Back in 2008, I published a post about book memes and said that the Tales series was what I’d want with me if I was on a desert island. I also said, “These will, one day, be books I re-read.” Yes, well, only three of them would’ve been be re-reads, and that hasn’t changes in the sixteen since I wrote that post. The other seven novels would still be new to me.

Buying this new book completes the set of Tales of the City novels in my personal library, and that appeals to me for many reasons. It’s bittersweet, too, though, because Nigel never got the chance to read Mona of the Manor. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it enough for both of us.

When something, even a new book, is connected to me so personally, and those connections include memories about Nigel, it’s understandable that I’d feel reflective. This time, it’s mostly happy memories and feelings, just tinged with the bittersweet. As time’s passed, this has become far more common than having memories that only make me sad. Now, I’m mainly just excited to see how time affected Mona. And Anna. And Mary Ann. And Michael. No matter how long it takes me.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 3

This week in 1984, yet another new song went to Number One, beginning a five-week run at the top spot. On February 25, 1984, ”Jump” (video up top) by American rock band Van Halen became the new Number One song. It was the group’s biggest hit, and their only Number One in the USA. The song was the lead single from their sixth studio album, 1984.

I think this song is a good example of a pop-rock song from the mid-1980s, not the least because of its heavy reliance on synths. The song was everywhere at the time, which makes sense when it spent five weeks at Number One on the Billboard “Hot 100”, it’s another song that was definitely part of my life’s soundtrack at the time.

The music video is a performance video, which isn’t necessarily typical in the music video age, but it seems to me it was a good choice for them: Van Halen had been a known as a rock band, and “Jump” was a departure from what they were known for. In was kind of clever marketing, whether intentional or not.

I was never a fan of Van Halen, and at the time I thought this song was okay, but it wasn’t among my favourites. Part of the reason for my indifference is that I didn’t particularly like lead singer David Lee Roth, who I thought of as a bit of a dick for what Wikipedia described as “his wild and energetic stage persona”, something that can be seen in the video for “Jump”. Years later, I realised he was a showman—still not my thing, but a showman, nevertheless. I may not have warmed to him with time, but I did at least come to appreciate his contribution to pop music in the 1980s. David Lee Roth left Van Halen for a solo career in 1985.

“Jump” reached Number 2 in Australia, 2 in Canada, 12 in New Zealand, 7 in the UK (Platinum), and Number One on the USA’s Billboard “Hot 100” and on the Billboard “Mainstream Rock” charts; the song was also Gold in the USA.

The album 1984 reached 11 in Australia, Number One in Canada (5x Platinum), 15 in New Zealand (Platinum), 15 in the UK (Gold), and 2 on the USA’s “Billboard 200” chart (Diamond).

This series will return March 31 with another new Number One.

Previously in the “Weekend Diversion – 1984” series:

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

My Dad would be 108

Today is my father’s 108th Birthday. Although he’s obviously well ahead of me in the total number of birthdays, I’ve now had two more than he had while he was alive. That bit of trivia is just plain weird.

I haven’t written about his birthday since his 105th back in 2021, which means I seem to be back in my old pattern of remembering his birthday after it’s passed. I talked about my why this is the case for me back in 2016, probably the first time I ever mentioned his birthday on this blog:
…I’ve tended to forget to write a post about my dad’s birthday because nearly all my blog posts are written just before they’re published. That meant that if I didn’t remember it at the time, I didn’t write about it all. My dad’s birthday was one of those things I always forgot to write about until it had passed (in my defence, there have been other topics, too—actually, I guess that’s not much of a defence after all).
So… why is this year different and I remembered to write a post? Earlier this month, I ran across something that reminded me and that gave me plenty of time to actually get around to beginning this post ahead head of time. I really ought to plan out such things, but I don’t.

The more specific trigger to remember was my trip up to Auckland on February 16 to inspect the rental house, which had been the home Nigel and I lived in between 2006 and 2017. In my post about that trip, I said, “we lived there until we shifted to Clarks Beach in South Auckland in February 2017—seven years ago this month.” What I didn’t say was that the date we shifted was Saturday, February 25, 2017—seven years ago today. At the time, I was well aware that the date was my dad’s birthday, and in the years since, I’ve been able to remember the date we shifted to Clarks Beach because of that. However, not even that’s been enough to make me remember to blog about my dad’s birthday—actually, that’s not being fair to me: The date we moved isn’t exactly the sort of thing I’d normally remember, so it’s unlikely the coincidence of dates would’ve helped me remember, anyway. Like I said, I really should plan out such things.

Obviously, the important thing isn’t some sort of blogging perfection, it’s that, despite everything, I remembered this year because a reminder associated with Nigel and me moving house led to me me thinking about my dad and his influence on me, something that doesn’t happen as much as it used to. He and my mother have been gone so long, and so much as happened since then—two-thirds of my entire life, in fact—that a great many things from my past crowd into my head, especially my past in New Zealand, and I have 28+ years of that.

As I said in my “most recent” post about his birthday—back in 2021:
Mainly, though, I’m grateful for the base he and my mother gave me, the framework to build the me I would eventually become. I get some of the credit for that, of course, as do other family and my friends (and, again, especially Nigel…), but the fact remains that he and my mother laid the foundation on which I would one day build me. Open eyed, aware, and certain that I may be, I nevertheless acknowledge where I come from, and my Dad was an important part of that.
That’s still true, obviously, and it’s the context in which I most often think of him and my mother. I can only barely recall the sound of their voices, or how they moved, but I well remember their influence on me.

My dad’s influence was different than my mother’s. While she nurtured my creativity more than my dad did, he nurtured my intellectual curiosity more than my mother—not that it was a competition, of course, and both contributed their share to both. What this really means is that my relationship with my dad was different than my relationship with my mother. I think that’s true for most people.

As the years have passed, I’ve become more aware of the differences between my parents as people as well as their different-yet-similar influences on me as I was growing up. They both died much too young—younger than I am now, as I noted in my annual post about my birthday last year:
64 IS significant in a way that’s meaningful to me: I’ve now attained an age my parents never did. A few months ago, I reached the age at which I’d lived longer than either of them did, but when I hit 64, that milestone was unquestionably over. I’ve been aware of that point for decades, especially when I neared 60. Now, that’s done. So: What’s the next one?
I think that’s the final piece of the puzzle as to why I continue to struggle to remember my dad’s birthday: Two-thirds of my life happened after my parents died, including all of my life in New Zealand and, especially, my life with Nigel, and I’ve now lived two years longer than they did. It’s all of that, not just that bit of trivia, that’s just plain weird to me.

Still, my parents, including their birthdays, are part of the tapestry of my life. That tapestry is a bit faded and threadbare in areas, and tattered around the edges, but it’s still here, and they were there when it was first being woven. That’ll always be a very special thing.

So, as always, thanks, Dad. And Happy Birthday!

My Dad would be 105 (2021)
My dad would be 100 (2016)

Sunday Quiet (2009) – What Sundays were like when I was a kid
Like father, like son (2009) – A reflective post about sons imitating their dads and the freedom my dad gave me
Easter (2009) – Where I talk about my dad’s stage management
Good Friday Flashback (2011) – More about his stage management, with a photo
Arthur Answers Again, Part Two – Religion questions (2013) – I talk about being a preacher’s kid
AAA-14 Answer 7 – Loss and memes (2014) – I talk about the death of my parents
New Year’s Eve 2014 – In which I talk about one of my favourite memories of my dad

Thursday, February 22, 2024

The memories trap

The thing about the memories we have about the events in our lives is that they don’t all give us warm feelings. In fact, memories can tigger all sorts of positive and negative emotions, depending on the circumstances. For someone dealing with deep grief, memories can be especially fraught.

I’ve shared a lot of posts about memories, especially Facebook “Memories”, and I talk about what, if anything, has changed since the events in the memory, possibly including the way I feel about the memory/events themselves. Contrary to expectations or whatever, they’re not all about “bad” stuff.

A couple days ago, I published “The day a big change arrived”, a post about when I my new Mac Mini arrived—definitely a positive thing. This past weekend, though, I published a reflective/contemplative post about my recent trip to the rental house in Auckland, and that wasn’t about a memory that was served up to me (like by Facebook, for example), but, instead, about memories that were triggered within me when I went to a place that was significant in my life.

There’s a third kind of memory, one that I can talk about in any number of ways, like a happy post that reminds me of sad things, or vice versa. Today, Facebook served up a “Memory” that I shared on Facebook and chose not to talk about further. It turns out I never talked about it directly on this blog, so I’ll start by sharing the lighthearted tone I took when sharing the “Memory” on my personal Facebook today, then I’ll talk about what was going on that I didn’t talk about at the time.

On February 22, 2021, my cousin-in-law and I took our dogs to be groomed, and since the groomer was quite a long drive from Hamilton, we decided to make a day of it. We ended up in Morrinsville, a town in the Waikato that Nigel and/or I went to from time to time. I took some photos, and in the first one (at the bottom of this post), I said:
Took the dogs for a trim today, so popped round to nearby Morrinsville. Haven’t spent time here in maybe ~15 years; it’s changed a bit, but the big decorated cows are still all over (I like this one because New Zealand is on the map, which is often not the case overseas).
It was a mainly lighthearted caption, as was the caption to the photo at the top of this post. I said in that caption:
Still in Morrinsville. Photo is of some stupid cow. Also, one of Morrinsville’s more unusual cow statues (apparently made from scrap metal). I think she’s giving side eye because I didn’t ask for permission to take a photo with her. Bloody tourists. Also, it’s HOT today!
When I shared the photo up top on my Facebook, I said: “I was clearly in a very serious mood that day…”. The fact is, I wanted to leave it at that and not talk about the rest, everything else that was going on behind the scenes, and unspoken by me.

That day in Morrinsville was about three weeks after Sunny died, and the dogs that were being sheared were just Jake and Leo. Jake died about seven months later.

All of that was immediately in my mind when I saw today’s FB “Memory”, yet I said nothing about it. The thing about memories isn’t just the many ways they can affect us, they can also affect how others view us: Do we focus “too much” on that particular memory? “Should” we have “moved on” from whatever the trauma was? What other judgements might people make if we share memories that are important to use, but that, perhaps, other people think shouldn’t be?

This is the dilemma that will hit any grieving person eventually, and sometimes it’s a constant war between what we want to say—or need to say—and what we think is socially acceptable. Navigating the stormy seas between those two things is sometimes more challenging than dealing with the grief itself. That’s something I learned quite early on.

Obviously, I no longer care what anyone else thinks: I’ll speak my truth, and if someone else can’t understand it, or decides to judge me harshly because I do, that’s absolutely not my problem. After all, everything I’ve put online so far has been absolutely free: Absolutely no one is compelled by the force of law or commerce to pay any attention to what I post, if they don't like what I post, that's all about them, not me.

Nevertheless, it seems that every grieving person—absolutely including me—reaches a point at which we think we should say nothing at all. I’m lucky in that I came to my senses pretty early on. While it may be a bit too harsh to say that my attitude became “fuck that shit”—well, no, it’s not too harsh, because that’s exactly where I ended up. But, then, maybe I’m just lucky? I have little to lose if people reject me for my openness; others aren’t even nearly as lucky.

Every time I encounter a memory, whether on social media, or even just what the photos widget on my iPad serves up to me every day, it gives me two choices. First, do I share it all? And, if I do, do I speak my truth or spin it? I don’t think most non-grieving people face such choices most of the time.

Today I chose the easiest path with the FB “Memory” I shared, and other times I don’t. What’s the deciding factor, what makes me choose one over the other? I don’t know. Mood? How I was feeling in that moment? Something else? Does it even matter?

The negotiations that I hold with myself every single day are echoed by lots of other people dealing with the loss of their person. For us, memories can be especially fraught.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The day a big change arrived

I share all sorts of anniversaries, so why not a, what? Macaversary? Three years ago this week, my new Apple Mac Mini was delivered. You can thank Facebook for reminding me, and it’s a happy memory, so why not reflect in it?

I still love my Mac Mini, though had I known the Mac Studio was coming, I’d have waited for that. Be that as it may…

Three years ago today, when I wrote about my new Mac on Facebook, I talked about buying the Mac Mini and said I’d never ordered anything directly from Apple, and that was true, and what I was thinking about at the time, probably because the whole things was my idea and I was excited about it.

However, back in 2008, Nigel bought us both iMacs, with the biggest screens available at the time. He ordered them directly from Apple, and they arrived similarly quickly. Nigel then added more memory chips to both computers, because that was back when Apple allowed that. Modern Apple Silicon Macs (like my Mac Mini) use integrated memory that’s part of the CPU, and so, can no longer be upgraded.

Getting that iMac brought about my return to the Apple ecosystem: I’d been a Mac user from its very early days right up until around the turn of the century when Macs got even more too expensive than they already were, and Nigel built me my first-ever Windows PC. However, despite using a PC professionally for the better part of a decade, I still never understood Windows the way I understood Mac.

In my blog post on the new Mac, written on February 19, the day it actually arrived, I talked in some detail, as I do, about why I bought the machine, specifically, the issues I had with my Hackintosh. However, just shy of three weeks later, I fixed that problem, which basically meant I didn’t need the Mac Mini at that moment, though I obviously didn’t know that when I ordered the new machine. If I had known, I’d probably—possibly?—have held off longer, and may well have bought the higher-spec Mac Studio instead.

However, I certainly don’t regret buying it: It’s been a great computer for me, and it’s dramatically quieter than my Hackintosh was, which is a bonus. Even so, from time to time consumerist me thinks of upgrading, but I have no need to so, and sense triumphs over desire—for now.

After the Mac Mini arrived, I said that I felt that whatever my new life would be, it was somehow centred on my office, and my Mac in particular. I later went through a particularly dark time in which that new life seemed farther away than ever, but the feeling of possibility has since returned, which I’m happy about. I can again also see more clearly what I need to do to get to that new life I caught a glimpse of only a few short years ago.

Now, I just need to make my vision reality. “Macaversary’ or not, that’s a very worthwhile thing to focus on.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Helping Leo

Anyone who decides to share their life with a furbaby makes a lifetime commitment to them to look after their needs and happiness. That requires us to be observant, to notice changes in behaviour or times when they may seem to struggle a bit. This story is about what happens when I observe something that I can help.

The other day, I noticed that Leo had started sitting down to eat. I remembered seeing somewhere that it’s easier for dogs to eat if their bowl is raised (it’s got to do with the distance from the floor to the dog’s withers, subtracting some amount—though I’d forgotten the amount). So, on impulse, I grabbed a dog bowl used by Jake or Sunny (I don’t know which one—their bowls were identical), turned it upside down, and placed Leo’s bowl on top of it (photo above). I also came up with a solution to raise Jake’s food bowl a few years ago.

Leo’s new set-up was an immediate success: He seemed to like it, and he never even hesitated to eat, something I thought he might do (dogs aren’t keen on change in routines). The next step was to get the measurements I needed so I could give him a more permanent solution.

I looked up the measurements, and the consensus was to measure from the floor to the top of the dog’s withers, then subtract 6 inches (I also heard “5 to 6 inches”). I don’t use the Imperial system and I don’t think I even have anything that measures in inches, so the first thing I did was convert the deduction amount to centimetres. I already knew that Leo is roughly 29cm at his withers, and that meant I needed to subtract 12.7cm to 15.24cm to get the proper height for Leo: 16.3cm to 14.76cm up from the floor.

All the raised bowls I found to buy (except one, which is adjustable) measured from the floor to the top edge of the bowl. The temporary setup I gave Leo is 14cm from the floor to the top edge of the bowl, so within the “correct” range.

However, yesterday morning I noticed Leo was “kind of sitting”, meaning—and please forgive the mental picture—he was kind of in the 💩 position. That suggested to me that the “correct” height may still be too high—and then I remembered that I read on one of the advice sites that small dogs (like Leo) do better with a bowl with a low edge (it apparently doesn’t matter as much to larger dogs?).

I’d already fed Leo yesterday evening before I remembered I have a low-edge bowl we originally bought when either Jake or Saibh were puppies (I don’t remember which). This morning, though, I got the bowl out of the garage and washed it (it’s been in there quite awhile…) and gave it to him to see how he got on with that. It didn’t work: He grabbed food out of the bowl, put it on the floor, then ate it off the floor. In other words, it was more work for him to eat than his old on-the-floor bowl had been.

The low-rimmed bowl is metal, and his dog tag would clink against the bowl, making it kind of “ring”. Maybe he didn’t like that? Jake and Sunny used to clink on their metal bowls, and Leo was wary of eating anywhere too close to them so it’s entirely possible he associates the sound with his wariness back then. The clinking against his ceramic bowl is much more subtle, plus it’s the same bowl he’s used ever since he came to live with us.

I have one more thing to try: Some years back, after I noticed Bella wanted to pretty much lay down to eat, I bought some small plates to put her food on, and she munched happily every time. I’m going to get out one of those plates and put Leo’s food on it to see how he likes that. It could well be the same scene as with the metal bowl he didn’t like this morning—picking up his food and putting it on the floor to eat.

If he rejects the plate, too, it could mean he wants his current bowl, and that would mean buying a new raised bowl—regardless of how deep it is—might not be any more successful, and I’d be reluctant to take the risk and end up with yet another dog bowl that isn’t used. So, if he does reject the plate, too, I may just make a more permanent stand for his current bowl.

What this whole situation is about, at its core, what I talked about back when I raised Jake’s food bowl:
What occurred to me later is that this is my strength: I see a problem, evaluate possible solutions to arrive at what I think is the best solution, and then I put it into action. In this particular case, it worked the first time, which isn’t necessarily a very common or usual thing, but what matters is that this is how I operate. And that it worked.

Nigel and I were very different. He’d conduct in-depth research to arrive at the best possible solution, while I’d look at all the observable facts to arrive at a useful solution. He was more about the right solution, and mine was more about a workable and fast solution (and, to be honest, one that was cost-effective). This particular time is one where my solution may have been his choice, but it’s also one he’d have have backed, even as he looked for a different (probably more elaborate) solution. Whatever works, especially for our furbabies, is all that would’ve mattered to either of us.
This project (for lack of a better word) has been one of those times when my first attempt at a solution didn’t completely work, something that’s a fairly common outcome. But this tale also gets at another truth: I’ll keep working on a problem until I either find a solution that works, or I reach a point at which there’s nothing more I can do/try. When the latter happens, it means that maybe I need to hire someone to do it, or maybe I just need to buy something rather than trying to make what I already have work. Or, maybe I just need to give up, if it’s not important. Flexibility and persistence are the common elements in all my searches for solutions to problems I’ve encountered, but I’m not too proud to admit defeat when it happens.

At any rate, this story isn’t over quite yet. But telling it now gives me an excuse to share a photo of Leo, which is reason enough to not wait until the story’s conclusion. This is really all about him, anyway.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

My challenging visit to Auckland

Friday was a very busy day, but also one that was far more challenging than I thought it would be. Early that morning—far too early for my liking—I drove up to Auckland (1hr 45+ on a good day) to meet with the agent looking after our rental property. I say “our” because Nigel and I bought the house in 2006 and we lived there until we shifted to Clarks Beach in South Auckland in February 2017—seven years ago this month.

I haven’t been inside the house since Nigel and I left, but the house was between tenants, and so, it waa the perfect opportunity for me to look at the place and see what needs attention long term. The good news is that the place is a little tired, but nothing horrid needs to be done. The outside, however, is truly awful and the property needs a major clean out.

When I first went into the house, I felt nothing: It was just an empty house—and in surprisingly good shape. As I wandered around, though, I saw not a house, but what had been our home for more than a decade.

I saw the spot where my desk was, the place where I worked, but, more important to my soul, also the place where I wrote my first blog post, recorded my first podcast episodes, where I edited my first YouTube video.

In the room next door, I saw where Nigel’s desk was, where he did his work—often for hours before dawn—but also where he spent countless hours researching projects, and where he sat when he and I did his Internet radio shows. It was the place he stimulated his mind, nurtured his interests, and fed his soul, too.

I saw what was our bedroom, and I could imagine Nigel napping there, Jake, Sunny, and Bella sleeping near him (long before Leo was born). I saw the guest room wall Nigel and I painted (before it was just a bedroom) with special paint so he wouldn’t need a screen to watch movies using his projector—and, of course, he’d spent hours researching the paint needed. And I remembered how we’d later had it painted over when the room became just a bedroom (by then Nigel had bought a motorised screen to hang on the wall).

I saw family gatherings we had in the open-plan living/kitchen/dining—except, it was just a general kind of vision because there were too many to visualise just one—not even just our Civil Union, or the party after we were married. I saw where the spa pool had been out on the deck, where our table and chairs were, where the BBQ was. I took my selfie up top standing in that space.

I remembered every thing we did to that house, big or little, to make it better. I also remembered sometime in the first year after we moved to Clarks Beach, Nigel asked me if I wanted to move back to the Shore, because he could see how unhappy I was. I told him no, that it was just my ongoing health issues (which I blogged about at the time) that got me down, because that’s really all it was. But I also knew that the main reason we’d moved to South Auckland in the first place was to cut the length of his commute down to a (sometimes…) acceptable length of time. I wanted him to be happy as much as he wanted me to be.

There was one more entirely unexpected thing that triggered a memory: When I went back into the garage as part of my final look around, I happened to glance at the track for the garage door, and I noticed a clothes peg clipped to it (photo at the bottom of this post).

When we lived in the house, I put one there so I could hang Nigel’s work shirts on the track to dry, and the clothes peg gave me a border of sorts to make sure the wheels of the door wouldn’t hit the hangers, and that the top of the door wouldn’t hit the clean shirts.

When Nigel and I were doing our final chores in the house after we’d moved out, I certainly didn’t look up—I was too busy looking around to make sure we’d done everything we needed to do. I have no way of knowing whether a tenant put that there, or if it really is the same one I put there at least eight or nine years ago, but in a sense it doesn’t matter: Either way, it was a vivid reminder of the ordinary life we had in that that house. I left the clothes peg where it was, kind of like the memories I was leaving there, too.

The thing is, I loved that house on the Shore: Of all the houses we shared, that was by far my favourite. We made so many happy memories in that house, but the house after that is forever tainted by being our last house precisely because of why it was our last house.

None of which is to imply I hated Clarks Beach, because I didn’t. The best next door neighbours we had anywhere in New Zealand were the ones we had at Clarks Beach. I did, however, find living there a challenge because it was remote from, and time consuming to get to, both shops we’d visit regularly, and from all the family. In the months before he died, Nigel was already thinking about where we might move next, and his chief criteria was it had to be more rural so he could finally use the wind turbine he bought to make electricity (and he was also planning on building the battery bank to store power—I mean, of course he was!). He knew we could never have a wind turbine at the house in Clarks Beach when the property was surrounded by six other houses.

It’s against literally all of those thoughts and memories that I found myself in what had been my literal “happy place”, and Nigel’s, too, for most of our time there: He was always far more restless than me, but at his core, to him, just like me, “home” was wherever we and our furbabies were living, and everything else (style of house, location, etc) was always completely negotiable, but being together was not.

The longer I was in the house on Friday, the more cold it felt. It was as if the house itself was sad and exhausted, though it’s possible I could’ve been projecting. Toward the end of my time there, I looked around and thought how small the house looked, and maybe it’s because it was empty. That’s something I know about, too.

The house is fine, and I still like it, but: It’s not home, not anymore. If I was to move back there and put everything back exactly where it once was (and, I definitely wouldn’t do that, and not just because I’ve gotten rid of some furniture and gained some new), it couldn’t be the same. So, what’d be the point?!

The street where the house is located has become awful: Developers tore down/removed one (or two houses next to each other) and replaced them with six or eight three-storey townhouses, meaning both sides of the street are filled with parked cars, reducing the street to the width of one and a half cars. If cars going in opposite directions meet, the only solution is for one of them to pull over where cars aren’t parked so the other car can get through—what passes for urban planning these days, apparently.

The larger area where the house is located is fine—but it’s not mine anymore, either. I stopped in the Countdown—sorry, Woolworths—at Highbury shopping centre, and it was fine—even though I had no mental map of the shop (it’s been a long time…). Even so, I could see that right now it’s easily my favourite Woolworths, and light years nicer than how truly awful the one at Te Rapa in Hamilton is (that horrid shop is one of the main reasons I used to order online so much).

The Highbury shopping centre, where I spent so much of my shopping time for most of my years in New Zealand (mostly because it had what then was called Countdown) had recently been ruined—sorry, “renovated”—and I’d describe it as an above ground dungeon: Dark, claustrophobic, the sort of place I’d want to get out of quickly.

I also had sushi from the place near the house (Nigel and I often got Japanese from there) and it was really nice—but not nearly as nice as I remembered. I sense a pattern here.

As I turned onto the motorway to head back to Hamilton, I saw–as I’d done so many times—the skyline of Auckland’s waterfront and CBD glistening in the sun, blue skies with white clouds overhead, and I was struck, yet again, by how beautiful it is. I always thought that, but the skyline, too, has changed, and for the better, in my opinion. I still think it’s one of the most beautiful city skylines I’ve seen anywhere, with the harbour at its feet and its pleasantly compact size, relative to some of the world’s truly big cities. I still love that view as much now as the day Nigel I left the North Shore to live in South Auckland, near a different harbour.

They say you can never go home again—and it turns out “they” may be right. It was a sad, wistful, reflective, melancholy day for me, but not entirely unexpected. Nor was the fact I briefly teared up as I drove south—very briefly, because I was on the Auckland motorway at the time. It was because of all my memories, all that I’ve lost, and my current reality that’s tethered to all of that, yet connected to nothing. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know there’s no permanent refuge in the warmth of the past.

I still have a lot to figure out, but Friday reminded me the future is mine to forge. Someday yet I may even see that as a good thing.
An very unexpected reminder in the garage.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Fiji Trip – The final post

Me at Nadi Airport.
And now, finally, is the last post in my series about my trip to Fiji. I planned on doing this last week, but life got in the way. It’s not the first time that’s happened, of course, and it certainly won’t be the last. On the positive side, the delay gave me time to fix the typos in the parts of this series I’d already published.

The day we left went reasonably well, all things considered. I say that because the rental cars we had weren’t great, and the replacement one was smaller than the original. So three of our group took a taxi to the airport, and I went in the care they would’ve gone in, something that gave me the entire back seat. The other four went in the car I had been in on the trip to the resort and on our little trips. What this meant in practice was that we were all more comfortable—less squashed—than we were on the trip to the resort.

We got to the airport in Nadi with plenty of time. I went inside with the sister-in-law I’d travelled to Auckland with so we could check our suitcases. The selfie up top is shortly after I was inside the terminal.

Our flying chariot awaits.
When we went through security, I took my devices out of my bag, of course, but I also put all my leftover Fiji coins in the tray and took off my belt, too, something that I didn’t do in Auckland. It worked: I didn’t have to go through full body scanner (aka “the porn scan”) or get a pat down. In fact, it was the fastest I’ve ever gone through security ever since “security theatre” began at airports in 2001.

We went to the gate area and had a quick lunch (I had Burger King, for the record). I bought some snacks for the plane (rather than buying anything on board), and basically waited and waited and waited. Boarding finally started, and we headed toward the plane.

In Auckland, we had to take a bus to the plane and walk up steps. In Nadi, it was a normal boarding through a skybridge. Much more civilised. I found my seat, and just as in Auckland, the screen in front of me said hello to me—here’s the evidence, along with my on board selfie:

The flight was uneventful, and we ended up landing roughly on time, despite waiting around 20 minutes after boarding to be cleared for take-off. Once in Auckland, I had to go through the “something to declare” line in customs because of the artwork the family had given me: The hook looked like it might be made from a seashell, it had a line woven from natural fibres, and it was in a wooden frame. The agent cleared me without even inspecting it.

It was a loooooooooong walk to my sister-in-law’s car (the carpark area is being totally reworked, and the complaints about it have piled so hight that planes have to fly around the stack. Sort of.

When we were on the road and close to Hamilton, I texted my cousin-in-law who’d offered to bring Leo to my house, and shortly after that we found out the motorway was closed (it’s being re-built for around the hundredth time since it opened a decade or so ago (slight exaggeration, but it has been worked on many times, allegedly because they cut too many corners when it was first built on the swampy land, and constant repairs have been necessary). By the time we found that out, my cousin-in-law was already on her way.

We needed to take a detour, and at first neither of us knew where we’d ended up—but then we reached a roundabout and I knew exactly how to get to my house from there, something that’s still a pretty unusual thing for me in Hamilton. My cousin-in-law was already at my house when we finally got there.

My sister-in-law left for home, and I rushed inside and turned on the air conditioners. My cousin-in-law and I visited for awhile, with Leo sitting right up against her on the sofa. He eventually forgave me (I shared a photo of him and me from that night in a post a few days after I got home).

In each of my posts in this series, I’ve talked about some of my impressions relating to the things I saw and did on the days I was talking about in the post. Some of what I said, like about the omnipresence of overt Christianity and religiosity in Suva, was actually true about what I saw elsewhere, too. I also saw what we’d consider poverty everywhere: The traditional lodge-style thatched homes had nearly all been replaced by simple frame houses that can be seen in any New Zealand town, but with one difference: In Fiji, they often had no doors nor glass in the window openings. Instead, the windows might have wooden louvres, or maybe just some sort of sheer net-like fabric, a bit like window screens in curtain form.

Every village along the road had speed bumps in them to slow down traffic, but those same speed bumps were sometimes in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. In general, the roads we took were pretty well maintained, with some exceptions here and there.

The road from Nadi to the resort often reminded me of New Zealand, with similar vegetation. However, the road from the resort to Suva was more what I expected Fiji to look like: Lots of palm trees of various species, and other tropical plants.

The people I dealt with were all polite and friendly, and they really do say “Bula!” when you enter a shop or whatever. I’d seen that in tourism commercials, but I didn’t know if it was real—it is (it essentially translates as “hello” or “welcome”).

Cash was still used a lot—something I’m not used to anymore—but EFTPOS (debit cards not on a credit card network) were harder to use. The resort had fairly decent wifi (I installed a VPN on my devices right before I left Hamilton so I could use their wifi safely), but there was no television, and I know Fiji has TV broadcasts. Some TVs in the resort were “smart TVs”, so they could stream Netflix (I don’t have an account), and some rooms had DVD players with a selection that could be borrowed, though some of our group tried that and found that many DVDs wouldn’t play. I never even turned the TV in my room on.

Once I was on the road to Auckland, I felt better than I’d felt in weeks, because I was beyond the stress and anxiety of my preparations to leave, especially having to leave Leo in someone else’s care for so long. Apart from the rocky “pre-trip” time, I enjoyed the experience, and had a good time with our group.

Having said all that, I have no desire to go back to Fiji, nor to go to any other tropical south Pacific island nation. They’re all different, and absolutely are not all the same, but this trip taught me that I don’t cope well with heat combined with high humidity. Also, I learned a long time ago (when Nigel and I lived in Paeroa) that I’m a city boy at heart, and a short time in a remote area is fun, but if it was too long, I’d get over it pretty fast.

The length of our trip was perfect: The day we left I was absolutely ready to go home, and looking forward to sleeping in my own bed, a decent warm shower, and, most of all, seeing Leo. I think even one more day could well have been too long for my liking.

I don’t know how many more opportunities to travel I’ll have in the years ahead, nor whether they’d be solo or a group trip (though I doubt I’d be willing to go on a long trip by myself). I know that, as I said only once at the very start, the trip would’ve been more fun for me if Nigel had been there. I was well aware that my last overseas trip was when he and I went to Australia’s state of Queensland in 2017, and my last trip away anywhere was to Queenstown in the South Island back in November of 2020. It turned out that it was good for me to get away: I didn’t realise how much I needed a complete break until I was on one.

Now, though, it’s time to push on with everyday life again.

”Travelling gratitude” – After I was home.
Fiji Trip, Part One
Fiji Trip, Part Two
Fiji Trip, Part Three
Fiji Trip, Part Four
Fiji Trip, Part Five

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Leo’s big day

Big day today: Leo finally got groomed! I hadn’t been able to find anyone for so long that I just gave up and tried to groom him myself—and some attempts better than others, to be honest. I stopped in chain pet store Animates in early January for Leo’s food, and they mentioned they had a groomer, which I thought was a new thing. It turned out, she’s been there the better part of two years, apparently. Okay, then.

I’d taken him somewhere else as recently as last year, but I wasn’t completely comfortable with the groomer, and since I thought Animates didn’t have a groomer, I decided to take it on myself. Guess I don’t have to now.

I like Animates because it’s all on one level and really easy and quick for me to get to now that the connecting road is open. Plus, his vet is in the same place (owned by the same company). However, today’s appointment was the first available when I booked last month.

He hasn’t exactly forgiven me yet, though. After an evening of trying, I think I may run out of treats trying to bribe him…

Leo’s “disinterested model looking away” pose…

Unwrapping my future

Four years ago this week, on February 10, 2020, I posted the photo above on social media. At the time, I was in the midst of unpacking kitchen stuff, and at one point, the photo was typical of what I saw nearly every day.

That day, I never shared that photo, or my thoughts about it, here on the blog. Instead, I posted it to my personal Facebook and on my Instagram, I said in the caption:
Of such is my life right now: A seemingly endless number of boxes, often packed illogically, most containing so much paper that I’d hate to think how many hectares of forest were cleared to make it all. I empty them, put away what I’ll keep, and the rest together to later donate/sell/give away. It’s a slow but thorough process. The empty boxes are going to a good home, and the paper will be recycled, and soon I’ll reach the point where I have more completed boxes stuffed with used paper than ones filled with stuff—and paper. Onward! 🤣
Four years ago? I eventually emptied the packed boxes, then repacked some. I did give away or sell some stuff, but I have a lot more usable stuff to get rid of. For the stuff that wasn’t useable (mostly broken stuff that couldn’t be fixed), I recycled what I could and put the rest in my household rubbish. I actually got rid of far more stuff than anyone realises—including me.

The moving company came and collected empty boxes twice, first in August 2020, and the second time was in November 2021, after I emptied out the boxes of used paper. Both times were delayed by Covid lockdowns.

Much of the best used paper went to other folks who were shifting, I recycled some of it, and I used some as packing for stuff I sold online. I still have a stack, though, and this autumn I’m removing the deteriorated weed mat on the bank along the side of my property, and I’ll spread the paper as part of a new degradable weed mat to help me transform that bank it into (mostly) lawn, a project I’ll talk about at that time.

Everything pretty much stalled between October 2021 and early 2023, but I’m back at it now. What I’ve realised over the past couple years is that it’s not just all the stuff I knew I needed to get rid of, I now know how much of the stuff that I never planned to get rid of also has to go—like the bowls, platters, and dishes Nigel and I used when we had lots of family around for dinners. I just don’t need that much everyday stuff anymore—and, actually, I now realise that Nigel and I didn’t need all of it, either.

I definitely haven’t finished settling into this house yet, but for the first time in four years, I feel that’s actually possible and achievable. I feel more settled and at peace than I have in years—probably since Nigel and I shifted out of our house on Auckland’s North Shore in 2017, but definitely for the first time since Nigel died. I think I may actually be closing in on what I said I wanted to reach: Contentment. Now, I want to see where this goes.

My journey has reached a point where I need to remove stuff keeping me tethered to my old life, because that’s gone and never coming back. Better someone else gets to use stuff that no longer helps me, and in the unlikely event my life one day puts me in place where I need things like I’m sending away, I can replace them. I doubt that will ever happen, but even if it does, at least the burden and weight of stuff will be gone in the meantime.

At the time I posted the photo, several people at first thought it was fish and chips. At that point, still hadn’t had any at my house, but I eventually did when family came round. To this day, I’ve still never gone to the takeaway shop by myself.

It turns out, there’s still a lot for me to unwrap—just not as much physical stuff these days.

Monday, February 12, 2024

My house says hello

Today, I put out a new mat at my front door (photo above). There wasn’t anything wrong with the one I bought in 2021, though it was looking a bit tired, mostly because the lettering was fading, but also because it has a habit of hoarding grass clippings.

So, I bought a new inexpensive doormat, and ot was delivered today. After I swapped the door mats, I cleaned up the old one and put it in the garage for now. I’ll probably swap them again the next time I want a change—or, I might put the old one by the side door to the garage because I actually probably use that door nearly as much as the front door (my rubbish and recycling wheelie bins are there, and I often go out that door to bring a barking Leo back inside the house…).

In the photo up top, there’s dry grass clippings at the front edge of the doormat, blown there from the lawn, which I mowed a week ago today—I noticed that there’s a lot of dry grass clippings around. The (barely visible) water drops on the cement are because I’d just watered the plants by the front door.

This was not a significant thing, nor a big job or project, but over the past week I’ve been extremely busy with a bunch of other little projects (more about that later this week). That’s kept be busy in the daytime, and left me little or no time for my usual blogging and podcasting, mainly because, even on a normal day, I’m generally too tired to do any of that stuff in the evenings.

Last week I also slept badly on three different nights, and that can wipe me out for the entire next day. Add it all together, and I have a backlog of stories to tell—positive stories, no less (aside from the poor sleep, of course).

Each of those stories I haven’t been able to get to yet has more to it than merely what I did—in some cases, it’s the rest of the story that’s actually the point. Just like today.

Today I changed a doormat because I wanted to make a change out front, right at the front door. What led me to do that, and what’s been keeping me so busy, are things with stories still to come.

But at least my house has a fresh doormat saying “hello”.

Sunday, February 04, 2024

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 2

It's five weeks into the year, and in this week in 1984, a new song went to Number One—but it was only the second new song of the three to reach Number One song that year, as I mentioned last time.

On February 4, 1984, ”Karma Chameleon” (video up top) by Culture Club became the new Number One song. It was the group’s biggest hit, and their only Number One in the USA, though they had Top Ten hits. The song was the lead single from their second album, Colour by Numbers.

This song is exactly the sort thing I think of when I think of pop music from the 1980s, the mid-1980s in particular. Because the song was everywhere at the time, spending three weeks at Number One on the “Hot 100”, it’s a song that was definitely part of my life’s soundtrack at the time.

The music video was shot in England, standing in for 19th Century Mississippi river and a riverboat. I liked the video for “Karma Chameleon” more than those for most of Culture Club’s other songs, possibly because the song was such a big hit, or maybe it was Roy Hay’s haircut, which I really liked (I was, and proudly still am, often shallow about such things). In any event, the peppy song and its video really appealed to me.

According to the Wikipedia article on the song, Boy George explained what the song is about:
"The song is about the terrible fear of alienation that people have, the fear of standing up for one thing. It's about trying to suck up to everybody. Basically, if you aren't true, if you don't act like you feel, then you get Karma-justice, that's nature's way of paying you back."
This explains the imagery in the video, where “the bad guy” meets his comeuppance when his thievery and cheating is revealed, and he encounters karma at the pointy end of ladies’ parasols. Not that I necessarily got that at the time, though I suppose I would’ve, or at least could’ve, if I’d paid any real attention to music videos. My ability (or willingness…) to do that came along much later.

One of the things I most remember about Culture Club in general was the negative reaction so many people—well, mostly men—had to Boy George’s appearance. Most of it was toxic homophobia—and pretty much as irrational and bizarre as modern US rightwingers’ current reflexive hatred of Taylor Swift, though for different reasons. The bigoted reactions to George certainly didn’t hurt Culture Club’s record sales or airplay, though, and George is still recording, so I’d say he and Culture Club pretty much won that early edition of the Right’s culture wars.

I was already a grassroots LGBT+ activist when this song came out, and I remember some more conservative gay men were quite adamant about their dislike of Culture Club, or Boy George specifically, because they thought he was projecting a “bad image”, or “perpetuating stereotypes” of gay men. As an activist, I ran into anti-gay and homophobic prejudices and bigotry all the time, but it really annoyed me when I ran across a version of the same thing coming from my fellow gay men.

Some of my colleagues dismissed such complaints from gay men as “internalised homophobia”, and for some perhaps it was. To me, though, it suggested they were reacting not because they were gay so much as because of fear: They were well aware of what being identified as gay, different, or “other” could result in. I thought that it was more about their own feelings of insecurity because if the majority identified them as “just like” Boy George, their safety, livelihoods—and even their lives—could be in danger. Those weren’t irrational fears in the mid-1980s, and in far too many places, it’s still not irrational even now.

Because pop music is the background to many of our lives, for better or worse, that inevitably means it can drag up unpleasant memories as well as good ones—and sometimes, like with “Karma Chameleon”, it can do both. That’s a pretty powerful thing.

The 1980s was a pivotal decade in my life for all sorts of reasons, and that’s certainly part of why to this day so much 1980s music still resonates with me. That’s part of what led me to start this series last year: More often than not, a hit song reminds me of all sorts of other things. In this case, the song touched directly on the life I was building for myself 40 years ago, something that's not always true of a Numebr One song from that era, or any other, for that matter.

“Karma Chameleon” reached Number One in Australia, 1 in Canada (2x Platinum), 1 in New Zealand (Gold), 1 in the UK (Platinum), and Number One on both the USA’s “Billboard Hot 100” and on the Cash Box “Top 100”; the song was also Gold in the USA.

The album Colour By Numbers reached Number One in Australia, 1 in Canada (Diamond), 1 in New Zealand (Platinum), 1 in the UK (3x Platinum), and 2 on the USA’s “Billboard 200” chart (4x Platinum).

So, that’s the second of two Number One songs OF 1984, and the third IN 1984. The next post about a 1984 Number One will be in three weeks, on February 25. And knowing myself as I do, by then I'll probably already have forgotten about the OF/IN 1984 trivia. Probably

Previously in the “Weekend Diversion – 1984” series:

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 1 – January 21, 2024

Saturday, February 03, 2024

Fiji Trip, Part Five

This is the penultimate post in this series, so I’ll soon have to find new things to blog about. Such a burden! Today’s post is all about Monday, January 22, our last full day in Fiji. The next morning we left to return home.

When I posted about this on my Facebook, I wrote:
Last full day in Fiji! Tomorrow morning we leave the resort to head to the airport in Nadi (pronounced “Nandy”, and rhymes with “Brandy”, the one who’s apparently a fine girl who’d make a good wife for someone whose life isn’t the sea, unless pop music lied to me? 🤔).
I was in a good mood, and it’s obvious (to me…) because of my lame joke about a 1972 pop song—a song that, by the way, went to Number 10 in Australia, Number One in Canada, 5 in New Zealand, and in the USA it was Number One on both the Billboard “Hot 100” and on Cashbox and was certified Gold. Hm, this just become a crossover post…

We had nothing planned for that day—apart from relaxing and packing for our trip home. The only thing we did was go up to a shop nine minutes drive from the resort because it sells souvenirs, clothing, and artisans’ work, etc. (and it's where my birthday gift came from, the one I showed in the photo in my ”Travelling gratitude” post. I bought a couple t-shirts. During the afternoon downpour, I just relaxed in my room where it was cooler and far less humid.

The rain meant that new photos were out of the question, so I shared a few I’d taken earlier that day and a couple from other days. I’m doing that with this post, too.

First up, a collage of photos I actually took on January 22, just before we headed to the shop that morning (before the rain). The larger photo at the top is looking toward the plants that separated the service road where the resort (and others) were accessed. There was a wall separating the service road from the busier road that connected Nadi and Suva. The photos were all taken just outside the front gateway.

From our first full day, January 19, when I was on a beach walk near the resort. 

This was on the beach, right by the resort. The back of this sign can be seen on the second and third photos in Part One (link below).

These plants were growing near a parking area next the building my room was in. I think the green fruit is bread fruit. I took this January 19, too.

This photo was actually a rejected birthday selfie. I addeed on my Facebook, "With both me and the flowers behind me, I was concerned there was too much beauty in one photo—is what I might say if the real reason wasn’t that I didn’t like the black strap of my bag being in the shot (somehow I didn’t notice when I took it).

Nevertheless, the flowers are pretty (pity about that wanker standing in front of them…). They’re growing against that same wall along the service road…"

• • • • •

That's actually it for photos I took of my trip. The final post in this series will include a couple travelling photos, but mainly it'll have my final reflections on my trip.

”Travelling gratitude” – After I was home.
Fiji Trip, Part One
Fiji Trip, Part Two
Fiji Trip, Part Three
Fiji Trip, Part Four

Friday, February 02, 2024

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 412 is now available

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 412, “Returning to normal mode”, 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.

The long short month

Welcome to February! It our quadrennial long shortest month with Leap Day at the end. This will be a busier month than usual for me, and in fact it already has been. That’s partly why I’m already a day behind in my blogging schedule.

I had at least two posts planned for yesterday, but I had other plans for the day and simply didn’t have time to get to it. Then I fell asleep in my my chair watching TV, and didn’t wake up until after midnight. It happens sometimes. So, too, does skipping days for this blog, along with days with multiple posts. Yesterday was the former, today is the latter. Like I said, it’s already been a busy month.

Yesterday, I was having some of the family around to my place for dinner because some had plans for Friday. I wanted to have them around early in the month because I plan on doing several projects this month, and the house will probably be untidy while I work on them. The thing about it is that the projects—which I’ll talk about at the time I do them—won’t, by themselves, be noticeable to visitors, though I’m hoping that once they’re done, there will be noticeable changes. All of which will make sense when I talk about the projects specifically.

To get ready for both things, I went out Wednesday evening to save me time on Thursday. It was a hot day on Wednesday, and going in the evening was cooler, and the shops less crowded—wins abounded.

I first went to a home centre to pick up a few supplies for some small projects I’m doing over the coming week, ones unrelated to the larger projects I have have planned for this month. Then I went to the supermarket on the way home to pick up some things for Thursday night.

I decided to serve the two vegetarian dishes I make often: The Red Lentil Dahl (which was actually vegan) that I first made back in 2022 and still make often. The other dish was a Fajita Penne Pasta with Capsicum, which I also got from the YouTuber I got the other recipe from—in the same video, actually. This second dish was vegetarian, not vegan, because it has some cheddar cheese and some milk (though there are vegan substitutes for both, of course). Everyone seemed to like them.

I’d never shared them with the family, for no reason—I just didn’t, though it was probably because I had the family round so rarely last year that I just didn’t have the chance. At any rate, I wanted family to try them because I like them so much, and, to be honest, to show them that vegetarian (and—gasp!—vegan) dishes can be yummy.

As I’ve said in the past, I am not vegetarian or vegan—I’d call myself “flexitarian”, if anything. But long ago my doctors told me to severely limit meat consumption, and vegetarian/vegan meals are the perfect way to do that while still having yummy, nutritious food.

This has been a journey: At first I looked for meat substitutes (which I blogged about at the time), but then I decided that letting the ingredients lead was the best option, and not making meals with imitation meat. Part of the reason for that was that I became concerned about how highly processed most of those meat substitutes are, and I wanted to simplify my cooking, using simpler ingredients, as unprocessed as possible/practical. I’m absolutely not evangelistic about any of this—at all—it’s just my way of dealing with health challenges in an easy way that’s simple, yummy, and affordable, and all of that is why I share it on my blog: Others may find my experiences useful.

At any rate, I knew the evening would go well, with yummy food and plenty of socialising. And that was supposed to be in a post last night. I guess in a sense, I’m now caught up.