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.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Photo stories

A picture is worth a thousand words, as the old adage puts put it, and it’s meant to describe how much easier it is to convey information (and, by extension, meaning) through images rather than words. The advertising industry alone certainly suggests that’s true. At the same time, though, images can also have their own stories. This post is about exactly that.

I’ve said many times that most of my photos have stories behind them, something I mentioned most recently back on March 5 . Sometimes, though, the story is about the HOW of the photo, how I took it, whether technically or even just what I was going for.

The photo up top is an example of that. On the surface, it’s just a photo of Leo being cute, something that was underscored by the caption I gave it when I shared it on social media: “Leo promises he’s not judging you—he’s just basking in the sun.” That was true—he really was basking—but the first part was because he looked kind of like he was judging me. The story behind it is that I got down on the floor to take the photo from a low angle—his height—rather than from above as I ordinarily might do. Choosing the best angle for a photo often takes experimentation—like, for example, taking several photos from different positions. I mean, Leo’s cute regardless, but taking the photo from a more equal position that improves it, I think, like we’re entering his world for a moment.

Next is a photo I took a couple days earlier, but never shared online:

In this photo, Leo was laying on the back of the sofa, his favourite spot in the daytime because he can look at the world outside. For this photo, I used the “Portrait” setting on my phone which adds background blur (probably by reducing the depth of field). Technically, this is known as bokeh, and it’s kind of difficult to do on phones, which for the post part are “point and shoot” cameras (there are exceptions, and manual configurations are possible if one wants to learn the techniques). I never shared this photo on social media because the Portrait setting produced a photo in which Leo was quite dark—in shadow, actually—because of the window behind him. I had to adjust the light balance, something I find much easier to do on my Mac using Photoshop rather than the Photos app on my devices.

Finally, two more photos of Leo that I shared on social media on Sunday, March 17:

When I shared the two photos, I described them as “My boy and one of his toys,” and I said that Leo has for or five toys five he plays with the most often, and his toy bone is one of his top three. For the first of the two photos, just above, I again got down on the floor, this time on one knee, and lowered the phone until the bottom of the photo was just a bit below the top of the sofa cushion Leo was laying on. I liked the way his paw was on his toy bone, and the way the midday light from the window shone on him. There really wasn’t anything more to it than that.

The other photo I shared on March 17 (at left in the two-photo montage below) is one I actually took the previous evening, and in it Leo is standing on the sofa arm and I was sitting in my chair—roughly at the same level as him. I took it because I’d never seen Leo hold his toy bone like that before, going backwards from his mouth. It was a straightforward photo—and one I took vertically, not square as I normally do, so I could be sure to get the whole picture. However, I also took another one in Portrait mode (at right in the montage below), and that didn’t work: The photo focused on part of his toy bone, leave the rest of him blurry. This is why I don’t rely on Portrait mode—or any other automatic setting, for that matter. Instead, I try take several versions and I pick the best of them to share—if I share any at all.

What all this really means is that getting photos WE’RE happy with is about trial and error, using different techniques, different camera settings, different angles, etc., and see what we get. Fortunately, modern digital photography makes this extremely easy to do.

I’m definitely not qualified to comment on the technical or artistic merits of anyone’s photos (including my own), but I know this one thing: When it comes to our personal photos, what matters is that we like them. If we choose to share them online, and others also like them, too, that’s a bonus—but we have to please ourselves first.

I often share what I did to get a particular photo that I liked for the very same reason I share all sorts of things online: Because it may help someone else working on the same things (in this case, getting better photos). Seems to me that’s one of the best uses for the Internet. And in this case, it's a great reason to take more photos, too.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

The unexpectedly constant food changes

There are many things I haven’t found time to post about over the past month or so, and, it turns out, many of the missing posts are about food. Like this one.

You wouldn’t think something as simple as pizza would change so much in only one year, but change has been constant all along my journey, so, I guess it makes sense. In March of last year, I posted online about the return of a supermarket pizza brand that Nigel and I used to have all the time, and that I continued to have a lot until the factory burned down. I published a blog post about it, too. That first sampling of the resurrected brand was disappointing.

Over the past year, I’ve tried this brand a couple more times, always with a lot of cheese and herbs added. I also decided to ignore the package instructions to bake on in a pre-heated pizza tray and instead baked it directly on the oven rack, which made the base a bit crispier (fan bake instead of regular also helped). Those were definite improvements, but the new pizza was still just kind of “almost okay, I guess”, which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.

There was an Australian frozen pizza I found last year, but it’s either discontinued or not shipped to New Zealand anymore, because it’s disappeared from both supermarket chains. That same Aussie company makes a different variety that I ranked higher than the Romano’s: My ranking was “okay, I guess”.

Since then, I’ve tried another NZ-made frozen pizza brand because they had a variety they called “very thin crust”, which, while true compared to other supermarket pizzas in NZ, it’s merely ordinary thin crust by my standards (and ironically, the brand is called “Chicago” for some reason, even though it’s nothing like genuine Chicago pizza). The particular “very thin crust” varieties from that company aren’t always easy to find, and when I do, the base of pizza is usually partly folded, which isn’t ideal.

All of which is an issue for me, because since moving to Kirikiriroa-Hamilton, I had frozen pizza nearly every Friday night, partly because Nigel and I used to have takeaways every Friday (it was seldom pizza, though), and he’d pick it up on his way home. Back then, it gave me a night off from cooking, but now, even frozen pizza involves some work, of course. Pizza delivery isn’t really an option: Depending on where I get it from, one delivery pizza costs around four to six times the cost of a frozen supermarket one, and that would be fine if I thought the delivered ones were much nicer, but they just not. Better? Sure, one from a New Zealand chain can sometimes they can much better, but the quality varies, so I’ve never once craved one of those delivery pizzas. Only one of the American pizza chains delivers to my house, and it’s not really all that good.

These struggles made me think that it may be time to give up and switch to some other unhealthy treat meal that I don’t have to cook. However, last week my brother-in-law told me about a Mediterranean food products shop that sells (among lots of cool products…) frozen pizza dough in a pack of two balls. All you have to do is thaw it and roll it out—and then I just have to add the sauce, cheese, and any other toppings. I’ve failed at making pizza bases from scratch, but maybe this will be an alternative?

However, if those frozen bases still aren’t what I want, it may well be time to give up. I have no idea what my new regular obsession might be if the frozen bases aren’t nice.

Sometimes I think change really is the only constant in the universe.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Four years ago today

Four years ago today, the last house Nigel and I shared went to new owners—six months to the very day after he died. That coincidence of dates is the only reason I remember the sale date, because the sale itself isn’t something I think about much. This year, however, is very different because in September it’ll be five years since I lost the love of my life, and that’s really, REALLY weird for me for a lot of reasons. It feels like only yesterday and also as if it was a lifetime ago all at the same time.

Today’s anniversary is just one of many things that have been constantly reminding me of that September day. This year was always going to be weird for me, so today’s odd anniversary just fits right in.

And yet, 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.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Seeing the road ahead

Among the many busy days I’ve had lately was Wednesday of last week. That day I ran several errands, took care of some important business, and as a result of that, I saw one possible aspect of our future when the story concluded today. I really have been busy.

On Wednesday last week, I went to an optometrist mainly for a driver license renewal vision test, but also for an eye health check. I last saw an optometrist 10 years ago—and that was also because I needed to renew my driver licence. Back then, the issue was that my expiring licence said I needed vision correction to drive, something I no longer needed after I got LASIK eye surgery back in 2008 (and I talked about the procedure a few days after it was over).

I wanted an eye check-up, but I also wanted to order some prescription reading glasses, too, because cheap ones from a supermarket or chemist have the same strength in both eyes, and mine aren’t the same as each other. However, my specific motivation was definitely the driver licence, because I don’t like those vision test machines at the renewal place. This way, I could take care of two things at once.

The place I was going was on the other side of the city from me, and my appointment was at 9:30, so I figured I better leave the house extra early due to morning traffic, which, it turned out, was going the other direction, so I got there plenty early—and in retrospect, I probably should’ve realised that. In any event, whenever I have an appointment in the morning I have an absolutely awful night’s sleep, so I began the day quite tired and sleepy.

It turned out that the shopping centre where the optometrist is located also has a place where I could renew my driver licence, something that private organisations are contracted to do on behalf of the government. In Hamilton, my choices were the same place I got my car’s Warrant of Fitness last month (NOT an appealing option), or the place I actually went to. There’s also a supermarket there and a petrol station that was offering 20 cents per litre discount if I used my Everyday Rewards loyalty scheme card, so I planned a morning of errands while I was there.

I ended up renewing my licence in mere minutes: It was so fast, in fact, that I said out loud, kind of accidentally, kind of not, “this is soooooo much better than going to VTNZ!” The agents, two of whom weren’t serving customers at the time, laughed and thanked me, one adding, “we hear that a lot”.

My new licence will be for ten years again (we used to have lifetime licences that were paper and didn’t have photos). However, this is my last 10-year license: Next time (assuming…), I’ll be 75 and the licence will be for five years. Then, at 80 (big assumptions…), it’ll be for only two years at a time and I’ll need a medical certificate from my doctor for each renewal (to verify I don’t have physical limitations that would prevent me from driving safely).

A lot can happen over fifteen years. Fifteen years ago, Nigel and I had our Civil Union ceremony and party, so 15 years from now (assuming…) will also be at least as different from now as now is from 2009.

I’d arranged to meet up for lunch with one of my sisters-in-law, and my brother-in-law joined us, too, at new place a short drive from the shopping centre (after I bought my discounted petrol, of course). After lunch, I went to the nearby Woolworths (more Everyday Rewards points!), and then home to a very happy Leo.

That brings this story right up to today: My new driver licence arrived in the post this morning, the first day that was possible since I only renewed it last Wednesday, and because we only get mail on M-W-F where I live. I think that’s pretty good service! My signature on the new licence looks very little like my actual one—I found it difficult to use the stylus on the well-used tablet sort of thing (plus I sign my name maybe once a year, if that). Ironically (to me), my signature actually looks like what it what might when my license expires in 2034, on my 75th birthday. Also, about 2034 and being 75: WTF?!! Or, more accurately, HOW TF is that even possible?! When I saw the date it expires, I thought to myself, “…assuming I haven’t already”, and then followed my sardonic joke with, “I hope that’s not when I expire”. Both are valid, actually.

When I looked at my new licence, I noticed it has a subtitle my old one didn’t: “Driver Identity Information”, and I instantly thought of all the weird conspiracies the cookers will say that one line is about. I recently found out the cookers have come up with all sorts of elaborate conspiracy theories about the new Everyday Rewards loyalty scheme cards (seriously!), so there’s pretty much nothing they won’t create paranoid and delusional stories about. I wonder if we’ll still be dealing with that sort of nonsense in 2034.

My busy Wednesday last week was a day I got a lot of stuff done. When the story concluded today, I saw one possible aspect of our collective future. Maybe that means that I just need to keep really busy, for a lot of reasons.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Busy not being busy

I’ve been quite busy lately, doing the sorts of things I’d normally mention on this blog and/or on the podcast—yet I’ve done very little of either (sometimes, I didn’t even mention those things on my personal Facebook). That silence is partly because I really have been busy lately, of course, but some of it was because I wasn’t feeling well for awhile, and a sizeable chunk—perhaps the biggest reason—is that I just didn’t feel like blogging or podcasting—not for the first or the last time.

Still, there’s a lot stuff I’ve done recently that I still want to talk about, and I hope to get through the backlog over the coming week or so. That’ll probably mean several days with multiple posts, or (maybe more likely) simply fewer days skipped entirely, but either way, with cooler weather and so many projects approaching, I want to clear out the metaphorical mental filing cabinet.

I can’t promise —well, anything, really, but hope is a powerful thing. If this doesn’t come to be, then maybe it’s not meant to be; I honestly don’t know what’ll happen. Right now, though, I have a post for later today to finish, after I work on a repeatedly begun and abandoned household project. I guess it’s really true: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

A busy day was had

The graphic above tells a joking tale about my main accomplishment today, though there was a bit more too it. In fact, I was busy enough that I didn’t have enough time to do the post I’d planned for today. Not for the first—or last—time.

The graphic is one of those caricature things that Facebook promotes, and I have no idea why they do. The avatar is seldom all that realistic, but the main issue for me is that they seem unnecessarily silly. On the other hand, as someone who has made being unnecessarily silly part of his brand, it kinda fits.

What it refers to is, of course, the fact that I—once again—cleared the convolvulus from the raingarden out front. Ordinarily, I do this right before I mow so the mower can reduce it mulch, but this time there was too much. It has been “some time” since my last major cleanout, with only a littler minor culling this summer.

We’ve had a lot of rain lately, so weeds in general have had a wonderful time, and for my lawn that meant the weeds had yet again sent up flower stalks (with no flowers yet), but it was enough to make it look untidy.

After cleaning out the raingarden, I used the line trimmer around the edges out front until that ran out, then I grabbed the mower and mowed out front. That was it for today.

My plan is that tomorrow I’ll do the back, after refilling the filament in the line trimmer. Splitting the task in two was the only logical thing, really—and not just because I wasn’t in the mood to wrangle the line trimmer. The fact is, I wasn’t into any of it, and it was sheer force of will and bloody-minded determination that got me through the front—and then it promptly gave out.

I knew two things. First, all the rain we’ve had lately will make the grass (weeds) grow well, and also that the front would soon look untidy. No one but me and Leo sees the back, so if for some reason I don’t get it done tomorrow, oh well, I guess (though I probably will get it done).

The other motivation is that the monthly goal on my Apple watch this month is to close my Exercise Ring four times, and if I split the mowing over two days, I’d get the final two rings I needed for the month. Just working the system.

And that was my day. This evening was just watching TV, being too tired to do anything else. That, too is not for the first—or last—time. But I did mange to solve a project-related problem, so there’s that.

Despite everything, a busy day was had.

Tuesday, March 05, 2024

Better morning

The photo above is what I woke up to this morning, and it’s kind of nice waking up and thinking, “Awwwwwww…” first thing. However, it was hard to grab my phone, get it ready to take a photo, and then take it, all using only one hand—while also not disturbing Leo. Or maybe he was just pretending to be asleep because he knows I’m always wanting to take photos of him. Either way, he’s a good boy.

We’d both slept in, as we have the past few mornings, and while Leo is always happy to do that, for me it was that it was raining heavily recent mornings, and I could hear it on the roof over us. It was kind of soothing, since it wasn’t torrential, and there wasn’t any thunder. But once Leo realised I was awake, he decided it was time to for us to get up.

After my first coffee, I decided to make myself a hot breakfast (photo below): Scrambled eggs on toast with thin slices of edam cheese, and garnished with freshly ground salt and pepper, a bit of dill, and some dried parsley from my garden. On the side I had a couple small tomatoes I bought at the supermarket last week.

I recently started sharing food photos again, and the ones I take, even if I never share them, usually have some sort of story behind them. The thing is, in addition to realising that I’d stopped trying new recipes or food experiments, I also realised that I seldom make a cooked breakfast for myself—it’s usually toast or maybe cereal. There’s no reason for that, but I realised it’s something I’d like to do more of, especially because I often have more of a brunch and then dinner later on, but no specific lunch. A little more effort for my first meal of the day, then, can be useful, not just nice to have.

I didn’t share the photo of my breakfast anywhere else, and if my culinary adventures hadn’t all but disappeared, I probably wouldn’t have shared this one, either. But it, along with the photo of Leo up top (which I did share on social media), go to show that I can have an awesome start to an otherwise ordinary day. And having an awesome morning is always something worth sharing.

Photos, though, really are optional.

Flailing to plan

A popular aphorism came to mind recently: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It’s been popular in business (mostly for managers), but it’s often applied more generally, even as somewhat dubious life advice. The thing is, it can be true, and, I think, it certainly is for me much of the time. The aphorism came to mind precisely because I’m trying to move from flailing to planning.

How much the stuff I produce for this blog is read has never been my metric for determining “success”—in fact, I almost never even think about checking the stats. Sure, I want people to read what I publish, but I’m quite happy even if only one other person (aside from me…) reads a post, and I’m even happier if they find something useful in it.

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.

The first thing I did was to make a simple list by month of various posts I want to be sure to do, and some that would be nice to do. For example, I have my “Weekend Diversion – 1984” series, each of which has a set date for publication. I also listed topics I’d like to remember along with things I (maybe?) couldn’t possibly forget. At the moment, that list has only 29 posts on it—it’s merely about being able to plan for posts that have specific publication dates. In this way, I can pre-write posts (like for the “Weekend Diversion” series) well in advance, not the least because most of those posts are at least based on historic information.

I’ve never been particularly good about planning posts in advance, certainly nothing like Roger Green does, but it would be useful, and probably much easier on me, if I took care of planned posts in advance (obviously, I can still make changes right up to the date of publication—after all, I sometimes make changes a long time after publication).

I started thinking about this because as I was writing my post about my father’s birthday, I realised how I’d almost always forgotten to write such a post, and I knew there had been others over the years I’d also forgotten.

Last year, I tried to devise an organisation system for my blog and podcast, but nothing I came up with made any sense for me, how my brain works, and for my work style. A simple list may be too simple, but it should do the basic thing I want: Keep me on track so I get date-specific posts written and published on time.

This, of course, does absolutely nothing for the vast majority of posts I work on during a year—written and published, or not. Those are still in a state of chaos, but maybe that’s the compromise? Tracking and planning for posts with specific publication dates will, at the very least, free-up some head-space for other posts, and aslo preserve the spontaneity that I've always enjoyed.

None of this means I’ll get anywhere near my goal of old, and I’m still okay with that. I know that having something to keep me on track with posts for specific publication dates will also take some stress of me, too, since I don’t have to try to remember such things. In fact, that same motivation was what led me to design my personal organisation system, too (and that system turns one year old later this week).

No one ever plans to “fail”, however they measure that, but plenty of people don’t plan to help themselves “succeed”, however they measure that. Over the past year, I’ve learned so much about what works for me, what helps me to “succeed”, as I define that, and I definitely feel better for having put a bit of energy into frameworks to help me plan so I don’t flail. I don’t “succeed” at everything by anyone’s measure, but most of the time I succeed by my definition, and that’s enough.

Sunday, March 03, 2024

Wish and stomach fulfilment

There are times when it’s useful to be getting fixated on something. In fact, last night it helped me get back into something I’ve been wanting to do for awhile, and I was so very glad that I did. Very glad.

Last night I decided I wanted to make the vegetarian pasta with puttanesca sauce, something I talked about when I first made it back in May of 2019. I’ve made variations of it every since, sometimes using cannellini beans instead of lentils, often with a bit of grated carrot, and maybe other bits and pieces as the mood struck me. Then, I just stopped making it—not on purpose, I just stopped.

The problem I have with recipes is that if I don’t make something in awhile, I forget how to make it, and I need to consult the recipe. So last night I went through my recipe ring binder, and found two different recipes. And in so doing, I realised how I’d combined the two different recipes.

The recipe I made in 2019 was from a circular from one of NZ’s two supermarket companies, but, in July of 2018, I didn’t have a recipe for a vegetarian bolognese. Somewhere along the line, I combined the two in my mind, which underdstandbly confused me when I was looking through my recipes.

Still I saw that I’d downloaded the recipe for the vegetarian bolognese from the BBC’s “Food” part of their site (I fist saw it on a BBC programme). Since I had to follow a recipe, anyway, I decided to try the BBC version. It was outstanding (photo up top), and, in fact, it was so much better than my original effort (either one or later combined versions). I even got to use an onion I grew (which is actually a topic in itself). I’ll definitely make it again.

This is exactly the sort of thing I meant when I shared a photo of a meal I’d improvised, adding that:
I realised that I seldom share meal photos (aka “food porn”) any more, and that’s because I seldom try new things or new recipes. There’s absolutely no reason for that—I just haven’t.
And also:
The last photo I took in February was a meal, yes, but also something I’d like to start doing more of again: Experimenting with new recipes, and/or new ways of cooking things—like I used to do.
Last night’s meal was exactly what I was talking about, which is why I did it despite not being into it that night—well, not at first. The more I worked on it, the more I remembered how fun it is to do that.

Maybe I’d set myself up for it on Friday. I took an avocado I bought at the supermarket recently to make smashed avocado on toast for my breakfast that morning. However, I didn’t use it all, and at first I thought I might make nachos for my dinner on Saturday, but instead I decided to have a poached egg on avocado toast for my breakfast (photo at right). That created the opportunity to make the vegetarian bolognese last night.

I’m pretty good at making poached eggs now, but I have to do them one at a time because I now use the “create a whirlpool in the pot of boiling water” method. I used to cook two in a pan of water with a little white vinegar which, the Internet told me, helps keep the whites together, but, yeah, not so much. The whirlpool method works much better, but unless I have two pots on the cooktop at once, I can only make one poached egg at a time. This is probably just a learning experience; after all, even making fried eggs took some experimentation, and now when I (rarely) make them, they’re perfect (and I do two at a time).

There’s one more thing about yesterday’s breakfast: I’d put a little chilli powder in the smashed avocado, mainly because at the time I thought I was going to make nachos with the leftover mix. There was a time I’d never have done that. I guess all this cooking experimentation is making me more adventurous, too.

I often get fixated on something, and in this case me being determined to experiment with cooking and recipes helped me get back into something I hadn’t done for awhile. I was so very glad that I did.

Friday, March 01, 2024

The first and the last

I take a lot of photos. I share some on social media and/or on this blog, but most of my photos are never seen by anybody else. Today, however, is a story of a beginning and an ending, in reverse order.

The photo up top is one I shared to social media last night. I said:
Leo asked me to let him outside, and I followed him out and looked up. I saw the moon in the clouds, all reflected by my solar panels. It’s pretty. It’s also now after midnight, and so, Match 1, and that makes this is my first photo of an Autumn moon. Yay.
March first is, of course, the first day of Autumn in this part of the world, and just like our brethren and sistren in the Northern Hemisphere, some of us may pause to reflect on seasonal change. Or, not. As it happens, the photo up top just happened to be my first of March, and so, a new season.

The photo at the bottom of this post was the last photo I took in February, and, as is so often the case, there’s a story there. That story was actually completed on February 29.

Recently, I was looking at my Facebook “Memories”, as well as my photos on my devices, and I realised that I seldom share meal photos (aka “food porn”) any more, and that’s because I seldom try new things or new recipes. There’s absolutely no reason for that—I just haven’t. Until this week.

I had a bottle of honey mustard salad dressing in my fridge, and I realised I’d never get to it before it expired. I also realised it’d make a good base for a chicken marinade, so last week I bought some skin-on chicken thighs, and Thursday was the day!

I mixed the salad dressing, some garlic powder, some low-salt soya sauce, a bit of sugar (it was too tart), and a bit of oil to make a marinade. In then end, though, I just used it as a kind of sauce.

The result, in the photo below, was really nice, a bit like a teriyaki chicken. I served it with mashed potato and some peas and corn (from frozen). It was really nice, however, the thigh portions had squillions of tiny bones, which wasn’t ideal. I think the other supermarket chain has ones with fewer bones. Still, I had the leftovers for dinner on Thursday night.

The last photo I took in February was a meal, yes, but also something I’d like to start doing more of again: Experimenting with new recipes, and/or new ways of cooking things—like I used to do. The photo up top is also something I’ve shared a lot of in the past. Say whatever negative thing you want about Kirikiriroa-Hamilton, and I certainly have, but some of the most amazing skies I’ve seen anywhere have been here. I don’t know why that is—maybe it has something to do with the distance from the sea?—but marvelling at the pretty skies is something I never tire of.

Sometimes, the most important thing is to focus on what’s good, what’s positive, and what's right in front of us. SO much in the world today is utter shit, maybe we’d all be better off if we focus more on what’s good, like a pretty sky or a good meal we made ourselves. Whatever. Maybe if we do, we can all help make the world a little less awful.