Friday, May 31, 2024

Today was a very good day

Today was a very good day, and for a lot of reasons. There were things I influenced, and things I didn’t, but in the end, it was all good. Except the very start, maybe.

Around 5am this morning, someone in my house, we’ll call him “Leo”, decided he needed to go outside. Fortunately for him, I needed go inside, as it were, so this time he didn’t hear my customary low grumbling as I got out of bed to let him out.

I planned to go get Leo a new bag of food today, and since Animates, where I get his food, is near New World, I decided to pop in there first to pick up the stuff I forgot when I went to Woolies on Monday (even though I always have a list, I also always forget to put some stuff on it). I thought the traffic might be bad, and the shops busy, because it’s the Friday before a three-day holiday weekend, but they were all fine.

I knew Animates would have specials for the holiday weekend, and I got some tinned food as a treat for Leo as well as his flea and tick treatment, all on special. I always get a discount on his dry food due to the chain’s loyalty discounts. All up, I saved around $25, which ain’t nothing.

When I left Animates, the traffic was starting to build, and that was shortly after 2pm. I was extremely glad that I didn’t wait any longer to head out.

In the end, I had a great day today. I got a lot of chores done around the house today, as well as my successful outing, and then there was another thing that happened overseas that made me happy, too. It was a very good day.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

It was a rainy day

Yesterday was a rainy day, sometimes pouring, even some thunder, as had been predicted. That made it a good day to get stuff done, and I even had a re-run of a kitchen adventure. Weather aside, it was a good day.

Leo and I were sleeping-in a bit yesterday morning, but I was awakened around nine by torrential rain. That’s mainly because the roof over the main bedroom is quite low, with very little attic space above the ceiling (maybe I should write that as “attic” space, because I don’t think an average size person could crawl through it…). That, and the fact it’s a metal roof, makes heavy rain sound loud . But the specific thing that woke me up was thunder.

The downpour only lasted maybe 15 minutes before easing a bit, but it was DARK in the living space when we got there around 9.30, with virtually no light coming through the Solatube, that skylight kinda thing I had installed in the kitchen back in 2021. All the curtains and blinds were still closed, of course.

A few minutes later, Leo finished his dental chew stick and was ready to go outside, and the rain had stopped completely. By 10am, the time the Severe Thunderstorm Watch for our area was to begin, the sun was breaking through the cloud cover, though sometimes only meekly. Rain returned, then sun, then rain, etc., all day long.

After I was done with my shower this morning, I heard rain blowing onto the window, which made me glance at it. I thought, “I need to give the window a clean,” and then it hit me: It was the perfect day to clean the front window. It was the first time that particular thought has popped into my head since I last cleaned the window, um, “quite some time ago.”

A rainy day is really the only day I can clean those windows because the sun shines in the glass for a good chunk of the day, year round. But, it wasn’t a straightforward thing to do.

I vacuumed up the dead bugs first, and then I realised I needed to clean the blinds before I could clean the glass. I dust them from time to time, even if it’s just vacuuming them, but I can’t remember the last time I wiped them down, but some of those dead bugs, or their relatives, had left deposits. Wiping down the blinds took a long time, because, it turned out, they were quite dirty.

While I was doing that, another session of thunder and heavy rain arrived, and it got so dark that I thought about turning on a light, but I didn’t because there was just enough light. Actually, I mainly just didn’t want to stop because by then I really wanted that task to end.

The glass windows were easy to clean, though the two openable side windows either side of the picture window were difficult to open because I never open them and they were sticking a bit. I needed to open them so I could vacuum the track and seals. I opened the windows, of course. An aside: Having two openable either side of a fixed-pane window is called a Chicago window because it was first used in designs for office buildings built there. I kind of like the fact that my house has a Chicago window—even though, technically, they're supposed to be openable sash windows, not awning-style (hinged along the top) like I have. Pffft, technicalities!

After I was all done, the sun reappeared, and I could see the blinds were dully shiny again: I hadn’t noticed they weren’t before I started work on them. The glass was also gleaming, sparkly, even. I’d thought it was the outside of the window that was dirty: Apparently not. It made me glad I did the work.

I didn’t get much else done yesterday, but I’d planned to make my reconstruction of my mother’s beef and barley soup, which I first made a year ago this month, and that became my next project. It went well (photo up top).

I bought some chuck steak when I went to the supermarket this past Monday, and I bought it specifically for the soup. This time, after I rinsed the barley I soaked it in hot tap water for a few minutes while I cut up stuff, then cooked the barley in the microwave for six minutes. I drained the barley and added them to the soup, and all of that dramatically reduced the remaining cooking time once I added them to the soup.

There were more brief bursts of rain into the evening before it stopped. There were some strong winds in the evening, but they, too, disappeared as it got later, making the night—and this morning—quiet. Today became another ordinary day, but one without weather drama or post-jab blech.

So, the bad weather yesterday ended up helping me get some not-every-day sorts of things done. It turned out to be a good day. And tonight, I get to have the leftover soup for dinner. Ordinary wins are good, too.

Ordinary life continues

Ordinary life always carries on, for good or bad, and which it is probably depends mostly on our life situation. For most of us who are safe from war and natural disasters, there’s a kind of banal ordinariness to our daily lives, but that doesn’t mean ordinary events aren’t worth noting, at least sometimes (and for a personal journal blogger, that’s “most times”). Also, many of the big and significant events in our life depend on the small, ordinary, possibly even totally unrelated events in our lives, that came before. And sometimes, especially online, it’s just documentary evidence that we were here, and that’s enough.

I’ve had a lot of ordinary stuff going on lately, things that, as is often the case these days, I haven’t shared here. This is the first in a series of “catch-ip” posts, kind of like a chat with a friend, maybe—or maybe just if I want to flatter myself.

The photo montage up top is from Friday of last week, and when I posted the photos on my personal Facebook, I said:
I picked my first usable lemon (I got one last year, but the birds had pecked at it). The plant is still pretty young, and I did very little to/for it apart from giving it some citrus fertiliser. I didn’t spray, so the lemon isn’t perfect looking, and I’m fine with that because neither am I! 🤣 Also, Leo wanted to show you his toy bone. It’s a lovely, sunny Friday afternoon in Kirikiriroa-Hamilton, and we hope you’re having a great day wherever you are!
The only unusual thing about this is that I made the montage up top because that’s how the two photos appeared on my Facebook post. That’s hard to do on Blogger, so, I turned as I so often do to Photoshop. There’s a side note to this, though: I noticed recently that when I post photos of me and/or Leo on Facebook, I get more “reactions” than I get for a post where I share a link to something, or just write some words. The posts with photos of Leo usually get the most reactions. Consider that market research, I suppose.

I was supposed to see the dental hygienist on Monday of that week, but she called in sick. On Friday the office rang me to reschedule, and that was for this past Monday at 10am—what was I thinking?! I saw a new hygienist, who I have an appointment to see again in six months, along with a check-up with the dentist, who will also be new: My current dentist is leaving the practice to go to one closer to where he lives. Everything was fine with the hygienist.

After that, I went to the chemist next door for my influenza vaccination and Covid booster. As it happens, I went to the hygienist and then got the same jabs at the same place one year ago today, something that Facebook “Memories” reminded me of this morning.

After my health stuff, I went first to get some breakfast at the Columbus Coffee cafe in the Mitre 10 Mega (I’m not paid to promote either, by they way—it’s just where I went; obligatory food porn of my eggs benny, as seen on my Facebook, is at right). I wanted to check out something that the Mitre 10 website said was in stock at that location—it wasn’t. I also went to look at a new cover for my outdoor table and chairs, as I was talking about last week, but they didn’t have the size for my table, though they did have the twice-the-price one (I didn’t buy it).

My final stop was the supermarket, and that was nearly two weeks since my previous visit. This makes me think I may have successfully reduced my buying, and increased my planning, so that I can go every other week. Maybe. If so, it’d mean I’ll spend less, too. Still, early days.

By the time I was maybe halfway through the shop, I started to feel kind of unwell—the post-jab blech was settling in. I didn’t muck around after that, and so, forgot a couple things. Still, I was able to leave soon after and I went home.

That afternoon, I tried having a bit of a nap, but barely dozed. I moved to my chair and just sat and relaxed teh rest of the afternoon. At one point I looked up and toward the front window, and the photo at the bottom of this post is what I saw. Instantly made me feel better—though I still needed some paracetamol by evening.

The post-jab blech continued to some extent both Tuesday and Wednesday, especially in the evening, and on Tuesday I was particularly tired. Even so, this week has had other adventures, mostly on Wednesday, but that’s a tale on its own.

These ordinary days can have a lot going on even when they’re ordinary. Or, maybe I just notice more on those ordinary days. In any case, sometimes it’s nice to be busy just doing ordinary things.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 7

Talk about a long time between drinks of water, this week in 1984 another song from the Footloose movie soundtrack reached Number One, eight weeks after the first song from the movie. On May 26, 1984, ”Let's Hear It for the Boy” (video up top) by American singer Deniece Williams became the new Number One song, where it would remain for two weeks. It was the second and last Number One from the movie soundtrack, and Williams’ second Number One in the USA (after "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late", her 1978 duet with Johnny Mathis). The song was released as a single both from the Footloose soundtrack, and also from Williams’ eighth studio album, also called Let's Hear It for the Boy.

Because I’ve still never seen the movie Footloose (either version), I was only aware of this song as a pop song. The song was released on February 17, 1984, a bit more than a month after the Kenny Loggins song “Footloose”, which went to Number one on March 31 (that song was the subject of Part 4 in this series). I heard “Let's Hear It for the Boy” on the radio, and I also heard it in the gay clubs that I went to in 1984. The video wasn’t released until mid-April 1984, well after I’d already heard the song. That may have been fortunate.

I love music videos as a specific artform in pop music, something I think I’ve made clear by now. I’ve also said that there have been times I didn’t like the video of a song I liked, and there have even been times I liked a video, but wasn’t too keen on the song itself. In the case of the video for “Let's Hear It for the Boy”, it wasn’t a time when it mattered whether I thought the video was good or bad, because it kind of creeped me out.

The video begins with a young boy sitting in a corner of a classroom wearing in a dunce cap, when Deniece enters, singing, and the boy ends up in a tux and dancing. All very cute, except for two things. First, the song is about her singing about her boyfriend/partner [LYRICS], and isn’t about chaste admiration for boys who we should cheer about. In that context, the little kisses the boy gives Deniece seem a bit… out of place.

This discomfort with the video needs its own context. In May 1984, I was at the height of my grassroots LGBT+ activism. It was still the first term of the Reagan regime, and we were fighting every single day against anti-gay bigots, all of whom spread vile slurs against LGBT+ people. In particular, they spread the defamatory lie that all gay men (and lesbians, too, when they could be bothered to note women existed) were child molesters. As a result, I was extra-sensitive to anything that appeared even remotely untoward, and the fact that the song was played in gay clubs only underscored that. The little boy kissing Deniece aside, all the other dancers are also young men, and even though the vast majority were very obviously well above the legal age of consent, for me the video took away the upbeat celebration of a boyfriend to a reminder of the evil we activists were fighting.

Time heals all wounds, they say, and I’m relaxed about the video now—though the opening scene still makes me squirm a little bit, quite possibly because the vile anti-LGBT+ slur has been resurrected as justification for anti-LGBT+ violence by a weird assortment of folks on the far-right, like fans of conspiracy theories, ardently anti-trans folks, and, maybe especially, far-right religious nutjobs, and their assorted fellow travellers. Sadly, that’s true here in New Zealand, too.

Some asides: That little boy was played by actor Aaron Lohr. Lohr, who is now 48 (!), is married to American actress and singer Idina Menzel, who Nigel and I really liked, particularly for her performance in the original Broadway cast of Wicked. Deniece Williams is now 73 (!).

“Let's Hear It for the Boy” reached Number 3 in Australia, Number One in Canada (Gold), 2 in New Zealand, 2 in the UK (Gold), and Number One on the USA’s Billboard “Hot 100”, and its “US Dance Club Songs” and “US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs” charts. The song was also Number One on the Cash Box “Top 100 Singles” chart. The song was certified Platinum in the USA.

Williams’ album Let's Hear It for the Boy peaked at Number 26 on the USA’s Billboard “Top 200” album chart, and reached Number 10 on their “Top Black Albums” chart. The Footloose soundtrack, as I mentioned back in March, 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 June 9 with another new Number One, another time where I liked both the song and the video..

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
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 4 – March 31, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 5 – April 21, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 6 – May 12, 2024

Thursday, May 23, 2024

To re-do, or not re-do

Over my lifetime, I’ve worked on dozens, maybe even hundreds, of household projects. Sometimes, I re-do them because I have better solutions, and sometimes it’s because something didn’t got well. Right now, I’m trying to decide if I should re-do a project yet again, or do something different. Add it to the list of current difficulties, and to the list of things I need to ponder.

Back in December of 2022, I bought a cover for my outdoor table and chairs to protect them from rain and, especially, the harsh sunlight. It worked well! Until it didn’t.

Eight months later, in August 2023, I noticed there were holes in the cover where the tops of the metal chair backs had worn through the cover. I bought a new cover, but this time I put pool noodles along the backs to prevent new holes by providing a cushion between the chair backs and the cover. That worked, too! Until it didn’t.

I noticed this week that a hole has developed at the top of one chair (photo up top), and—surprise!—that’s eight months after I put it over the table and chairs. Still, it’s only one hole, not several, so, yay?

I considered trying to patch the hole, but I have a feeling that the UV rays may be weakening the plastic, so new holes might appear. Also, how would I patch it to keep the rain out? I decided I need a better solution, and, fortunately, I've already thought of a few.

First, and most obviously, I can buy yet another new cover (which would mean throwing an old one away, since they're not recyclable (I still have the older one,with far more holes, and I certainly don’t need two covers with holes). But that would mean spending another $50 to protect the table for eight months. There’s another version from the same company, a nicer-looking charcoal coloured one, but it’s more than twice the price of the one I have, though the pricier one is lined and has air vents, so, maybe twice as good?

Option two is to sell the table and chairs, and although I wouldn’t get much, at least I wouldn’t be spending any more money. At the cheapest end of the spectrum is option three: I could take a large blue tarpaulin I already have and put it over the cover that’s on there now. Obviously that option is free, not just three.

My final option is to clear space in the garage and store the table and chairs in their until I can have a patio cover built, which, realistically, could be the better part of two years from now. There are two major drawbacks to opton four. First, it would require major work to clear space in my garage (of course), but it also would also mean I couldn’t use the table and chairs since I wouldn’t drag them out just for, say, a cup of coffee. Those are the same reason I didn’t do that 8 months ago, or eight months for that. However, I haven’t used the table and chairs for years, anyway, because of the harsh conditions, and because it’s been under a cover.

The raises a bigger question: Do I even need a table and chairs for six people? Since I haven’t used it at all in around four years, and not for dining in maybe six or more, maybe I don’t need one? Also, the patio is fairly small, so maybe a smaller table and chairs set (say, for four people so I could still have a couple dinner guests), would be better, or maybe even a two chair “bistro set” so I can have meals/coffee out there. Or, maybe I should have no table and chairs, just lounging furniture—chairs, maybe an outdoor sofa.

I don’t think the garage option would be quick to do, and late autumn probably isn’t the best time to try and sell outside furniture. That leaves the options of buying a new cover, or using my big blue tarpaulin for now. Using the tarpaulin makes sense if I plan on putting the table and chairs into the garage, or maybe I could buy a new cover and just put it on top of the one on there now. That would buy me time (hopefully at least eight months…) to work out my (more) permanent solution.

The thing is, I normally talk about my household projects in the past-tense, what I did and how I did it. This is the first time I’ve gone into such detail about my thought process as I try to work out how to tackle a project, how my thinking works before I do the actual work. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m looking forward to seeing what I end up doing.

Will I re-do a project yet again? Something different? Right now, I actually don’t know.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Six years ago, Leo

Leo is clearly a huge part of my life, and both this blog and my social media posts show that. This makes a lot of sense, of course: Ever since Jake died in September 2021, it’s just been Leo and me. And, naturally, there’s a lot that goes with that.

Last week, Facebook served up a Memory of the day in 2018 when I announced that Leo had joined our family, and and a couple days later I also talked about it in a blog post (the photo up top is what I shared on Facebook and in that 2018 blog post, and the blog post also has another photo of him).

What I didn’t mention in the original posts was that my announcement was actually well after Leo came to live with us—a few weeks later, I think it was. I didn’t say anything earlier than that in case his first humans changed their minds and wanted to take him back. Nigel and I tried so hard to be cool about it, and to not fall head over heels for him, but Nigel was absolutely right when he said to me, “we’re besotted with him,” because we immediately were. It was also Nigel who reflected on our family of three dogs, a cat, and us, saying, “We bought a zoo!” (from the Matt Damon movie…). I expanded on that in a comment on my blog post, replying to Roger Green: “I suggested we get a tank of fish and cage of birds so we’d have a complete set. But I think this is enough.”

Six years later, it’s now just Leo and me, and every single day I’m grateful to be sharing life with him. He was an unexpected addition to our family back then, and now he’s my last—and very treasured—remnant of it. He makes me smile, even laugh, every day, and there have been times he was quite literally the only one that could do that.

So, the significance of my posts six years ago wasn’t about his “gotcha” day—I don’t remember when that was precisely because at first Nigel and I tried to pretend we were just his temporary carers. However, it was the day I first shared the fact that he’d joined our family—and you can only imagine how hard it was for me to not share photos of him before my announcement.

So, that particular FB Memory reminded me of how glad I was that he joined our family. I still am. Of course.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

A week of health stuff not mentioned

My week last week was filled with a lot of activity, most of which I talked about on my personal Facebook, but not here. Many of those posts were topics I’d normally talk about here—precisely what I was talking about in my post last Wednesday. However, I realised that three of the posts shared related themes, and so, this post was the result.

Two of the three posts this past week were about things that happened last week, and one was about an anniversary of another event. In each case, there was more to the post than just the subject.

On Monday, I shared the photo up top and wrote:
Leo has a special message for you: His daddy just got his results from the National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme: Negative. No surprise at all, but Leo said he’s happy, anyway. I “poo it” again in two years. 😁
I actually talked about the latest test both on Facebook and here, and that was when the test kit arrived back in August of last year. However, I didn’t get around to it at the time, and by the time I sent it back, the kit had expired (they’re only good for six months). So, I got a new kit in the mail to do it again. This surprised me, but only because I didn’t think to look up when the first kit arrived, and in my mind it was October, not August. Now, of course, I completely get why I had to do it a second time.

I posted the sample using second kit on Thursday, the week before last, and the results were posted to the doctors’ website on Monday. I haven’t yet received a copy by post—not that I need one, it’s just that’s how I got my results the first time, in 2019. I got my next one on 2021, in the midst of the Covid era, and for many reasons (including Covid restrictions), I just didn’t get around to it. That means this was my first test in five years, and my next one will arrive in 2025 (maybe August, again?). At any rate, it’s great to get that off the agenda.

One thing that's not necessarily obvious about me sharing the test results is why I shared it at all: There’s a promotion campaign designed to get people to do the screening test, and there are plenty of lighthearted “poo” jokes and puns throughout the TV ad (like I did in my Facebook post; more are in the YouTube video I shared in last year's blog post). The point of the ad campaign is to de-stigmatise the test (and subject), and to normalise people looking after their own health. The test can catch many bowel cancers early, often before there are any noticeable symptoms. By posting about my own participation in the test, I hope to do my part to encourage others to do the test and to talk about.

Last week, too, I finally made it to the vampires for my annual bloodletting (the routine blood tests I get done every year). The same day I posted my bowel screening sample, I tried to fo the vampires’ closest location to my house, but there was absolutely no parking available, so I skipped it and went to the supermarket instead.

So, I decided that Friday was the day. I thought I should to go to the vampires on the other side of the city because there’s always parking at the shopping centre where it’s located. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t feeling it (poor sleep for a week, broken by some of the weirdest dreams I’ve ever had). I decided to try the vampires close to my house again.

The parking didn’t look and better Friday, but then I glanced over at the detached shop next door and noticed it was vacant (the shop had closed and moved out), and that meant their car parks were available (a few other folks also worked that out). I finally had my blood removed, then again went to the supermarket.

There were two other things I shared about the trip on Friday. First, I added a comment that mentioned the graffiti I saw when I went to the same vampires last year (a photo is at the link). It was actually on back wall of the now-empty shop, but the wall had been repainted solid brown, possibly recently because there was no graffiti. The other thing was at the end of my Facebook post, and somewhat cryptic. I wrote:
I had one of the bagels I’de bought, and I’m pleased to report that it didn’t try to kill me, like the ones I got a couple weeks ago. I suppose I should tell that tale sometime.
I actually expect to write such a blog post, but I have a few more things to evaluate in the AmeriNZ Test Kitchen.

Finally, last week was the fifth anniversary of when I was in Middlemore hospital again. They ended up shocking my heart back into sinus rhythm, then put me on a—and dangerous—drug to keep the rhythm normal. I posted about this on Facebook at the time, writing:
So, I’ve won another all-expenses paid trip to Middlemore Resort and Spa. This time it’s for a fast irregular heart beat. Not life threatening by itself, but annoying and uncomfortable. They’ll keep me overnight to monitor me, then in the morning doctors/cardiologist will suggest way forward so the afib is under control and my heart doesn’t race. In the meantime, nurses and doctors are awesome, as always, and not paid enough IMHO. Also, today I learned that Nigel loves me more than “Game of Thrones” (he was with me all day), so apart from that racing heart thing, not all bad today. 🙂
Of course, a mere four months later, my heart was broken when Nigel died, but it kept beating despite all the reasons I really thought it might not, The fifth horrible anniversary is now only a four months away.

A bit more than 19 months after the trip to Middlemore, and just under 15 months after Nigel died, I finally got the cryoablation procedure at Waikato Hospital, and that fixed my heart rhythm problem. This means that the cardiologists were right: I really was a good candidate for the procedure, and only needed one procedure (people sometimes need several treatments. They stopped the dangerous drug I’d been on as soon as the procedure was completed.

Even though it’s been nearly three and a half years since the cryoablation procedure, I still worry, in a low-key sort of way, that the rhythm problem may return, and that’s mostly because Nigel’s no longer here to get me through it. Of course there are other folks, but that’s not the point: Nigel isn’t here, and he’s the one person I’d want with me the most. Of course. After all, five years ago he gave up “Game of Thrones” to be with me! The truth is, he loved that show and it really did mean the world to me that he stayed with me.

There was one more thing about this story, something more lighthearted than the memory of five years ago and the horrible anniversary that’s looming. That other thing is clearly vital in these modern times: I learned to take a selfie the right way around, so everything’s not backwards in the photo I shared on Facebook five years ago, but not here. Actually, “learned” is a bit generous: I googled it—and then promptly forgot what I did. Some things don’t change. The photo as it should have been posted in 2019 is at right.

My health is sound at the moment—and all we can ever count on is one moment at a time. I’ll take that good thing. There’s a very good update to this story: So far, that 2019 stay at Middlemore was—again, so far—the last time I was in hospital, after several different stays—so far (I don’t want to tempt fate!). The cryoablation procedure was just a day procedure.

Last week I made several different posts on my personal Facebook about things related to my health (among other things). There will be more health stuff this week. Maybe be I’ll actually post about them here, and on time. Even I’m curious to see what happens.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Cloudy days continue

The weather the past couple days has been mixed, with some sunshine and clouds in the daytime, and rain at night. There’s nothing unusual about that—it’s autumn, after all. Without working too hard, though, I could make it into a metaphor, because once again I’ve been in a period where things keep changing and my existential weather is unpredictable. Still, bad weather always clears.

I took the photo up top early this afternoon after I glanced out my front window and noticed how very dark the sky had become. I hadn’t checked the mail yet, so I decided to do it right then, just in case. Once I got outside, I could see the sky was partly cloudy toward the east-ish. The first heavy drops started falling when I got to the letterbox, and once I was back under cover, I stopped and took this photo of the two-toned sky, and even though I zoomed in to preserve neighbours’ privacy, you get the idea. The denuded tree at left was also in a photo I shared last month.

Once I was back inside, I resumed my chores as it got dark outside. Then, we got the heaviest rain we’ve had in my neighbourhood for a few weeks. Then sunlight tried to break through from the west shortly before thunder rumbled for a time in the northeast. Then it got quiet again. All of which is a metaphor for how things have been going for me lately.

I have, once again, had trouble doing blog posts and podcast episodes, even though on any given day I’d planned to do one or both. There’s nothing wrong, no crises or unforeseen challenges, just the sort of lack of focus and poor time-management that is sometimes worse than at other times. Things have simply been more unfocused than usual (and that underscores that my personal organisation system isn’t perfect).

Still, I’ve been doing quite a lot, the sorts of things I’d normally take about here and/or on my podcast. There have also been things in the news I wanted to comment on, but didn’t. I may yet talk about all that stuff, some of it definitely, even though the immediacy may have passed. Besides, what made me want to talk about those things was the topic, not the particular time. Still, I’ve been in this exact same spot many times before, and didn’t talk about everything I wanted to, so this time may be no different.

I’m completely aware of the fact that cloudy days pop up in everyone’s lives, and sometimes there can be rain and storms. Such weather always passes, though, and so it is with times like this for me. This too shall pass, and all that.

Today, the suddenly dark skies caught my attention, and I changed up what I was doing because of it. In fact, that even lead to this blog post, too. Maybe the weather is clearing.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 6

This week in 1984, a new song went to Number One, beginning a two-week run at the top spot. On May 12, 1984, ”Hello” (video up top) by American singer, songwriter, record producer (and TV personality) Lionel Richie became the new Number One song. This wasn’t a song I was fond of, and I have no personal connection to it other than remembering hearing it on the radio for a time. To me, that’s not a big deal: It wasn’t the first or last time I didn’t connect with a Number One hit, not that it matters: Arthur’s Law, and all that.

The song was used in various TV commercials, as so many pop songs are, but that probably helped keep it in my memory, something that might not have happened otherwise. This isn’t to suggest that there weren’t Lionel Richie songs that I liked, at least somewhat. I just didn’t care for this particular song.

This is also a song where the music video did nothing to help the situation for me. A good music video can make me like a song more than I might otherwise, and a song I already like isn’t harmed by a bad music video. In this case, I didn’t like either the song or (especially) the music video. Wikipedia described the video well:
The music video for "Hello", directed by Bob Giraldi, features the story of Richie as a theater and acting teacher having a seemingly unrequited love for a blind student (Laura Carrington) until he discovers she shares the feeling as demonstrated by the discovery that she is sculpting a likeness of his head in clay.
At the time, I thought the video was kind of creepy and even stalker-ish because of the way Richie always seemed to be lurking in the periphery. I had a much a bigger question, though: How did the blind girl know how Richie’s head was shaped? Those were the things I thought about whenever the video came on, and thinking about film details doesn’t usually help make a song more appealing.

Clearly I was not in step with my contemporaries: “Hello” reached Number One in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK (Gold), and, of course, it was Number One on the USA’s Billboard “Hot 100” and on the Cash Box "Top 100 Singles" charts. The song was also Gold in the USA.

So, this was a song I didn’t particularly care for, but one that was also liked by lots of people. That’s okay. It’d be an awfully dull world if we all liked the same things.

This series will return May 26 with another new Number One, one I did like—though it also reinforces something I said in this post, but that’s a topic for then..

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
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 4 – March 31, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 5 – April 21, 2024

Thursday, May 09, 2024

NZ Post, they sent me a letter

Sometime’s a letter’s a letter, and sometimes one can be a little weird. It turns out that even a weird letter can tell us something we never knew before. That’s what I found out this week.

This past Monday, I went out the letterbox to check the mail, something I do every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (that aren’t also public holidays). More often than not, my letterbox is empty when I check, though from time to time I get appeals for charitable donations (which I got that day) or some sort of advertising. Monday, I received a letter with a big label addressed “To The Occupier”, underneath a very a large bar code. At the top of the envelope, it said “Tracked Letter”. I thought it must be some sort of elaborate advertisement trying to get the curious recipient to open the envelope.

I like to think of myself as a curious person, whether I’m a recipient or not, so I opened the envelope. It was a letter on NZ Post stationery, beginning with, “Hi there,” which I thought was cheery, and nearly as friendly as the opening line: “We hope you're having a great day, and thanks for opening this NZ Post Tracked Letter.”

It turns out it’s part of NZ Post’s programme to send tracked letters to “random addresses all around New Zealand” to help them determine if they’re meeting their goal of delivering letters within three business days. I’ve seen NZ Post refer to that target many times, and I did kind of wonder how they measured their performance—how did they know if they met their target—but I didn’t wonder too much. It’s not like I don’t have plenty of more important things to worry about. Nevertheless, it turns out this is how they do that.

I suppose this is technically something I didn’t know I needed to know until I actually did know, but, at any rate, it answers the question I thought but never asked.

The letter also said this system let’s them test the quality as wells as the speed of their delivery, which makes sense. Doing this would help them identify choke-points in their systems, and that knowledge could help them further improve service.

Now that my un-asked question has been answered, I now have another: How will the decline in the volume of mail like letters affect their future targets? As delivery days decline further, will their 3-day target become a 4-day target? Or even a 5- or 6-day target? That’s a question for a future time, but it seems to me that monitoring the system as it is now will almost certainly help them plan for efficient delivery as the volume of letters continues to decline.

I was kind of amused by the final section of the letter, headlined, “What do I do with this letter now?” I mean, that’s not a question that I’d ask, which is kind of a good thing. Still, their advice is sound:
This letter has done its job now. There's nothing you need to do, but can we kindly suggest it's disposed of in a recycling bin.
Sometime’s a letter’s a little weird—and not just because of how rare letters are these days. I now know that sometimes a weird letter can tell us something we never knew before. In this case it answered a question I vaguely wondered about. Who’d have guessed a simple letter could be so intriguing and informative?

The title of this post is based on a line on a pop song called “The Letter”, a 1967 hit by US rock band The Box Tops. The song went to Number One on the USA’s Billboard “Hot 100” (…as well as 4 in Australia and Number One in Canada…) [LISTEN on YouTube]. The Box Tops’ version was the first I ever heard.

Friday, May 03, 2024

A busy day taking care of stuff

Yesterday was a very busy day filled with errands and taking care of things, one of which was too long delayed. My excursion made this an even more active week than it already was.

My first—and most important—stop was the barber shop at the base, the place I’ve been going to ever since I shifted to Hamilton (I talked about the barbershop in a blog post in April last year). This time, I had my hair cut by the young dude (who I briefly mentioned in a blog post in in May 2022). The guy takes his time and is very good, while the older guy always makes me feel uncomfortable for reasons I can’t explain (I ordinarily get the female barber, partly for that reason; the young guy is seldom there when I am).

I thought he seemed a bit low yesterday, almost sad even, so we didn’t have a conversation. However I got him to smile twice: The first time was right after he asked me how I wanted my hair cut, and I asked him if he could trim my eyebrows, too. He said he could, so I added, “I haven’t learned to do it myself, and I’m now getting ‘old man’ eyebrows.” He smiled broadly and chuckled a bit. I used a similar tactic at the very end when he said he just had to shave the back of my neck and he’d be finished. I said that was another thing I couldn’t do myself, because I have to do it with my back to the bathroom mirror, another mirror in my hand looking back at the bathroom mirror. He agreed that was hard, and then I told him about the time I accidentally shaved off part of my beard, and he laughed, and said, “yeah, that’s the sort of thing people do only once if they’re unlucky, twice if they’re careless.” I said, “and after three times, I’d probably have to go into a home”. He laughed a bit and said, “probably not that—just time to put the clippers down.”

I always try to be nice to people who serve customers all day because times have changed and too many customers choose to be awful to people just doing their jobs, but yesterday I kind of wanted to cheer him up a bit. I think maybe I did.

At any rate, my haircut could’ve easily been a month late because school holidays just ended, and I never go to The Base (where the barbershop is) during school holidays or public holidays. On the Saturday of Easter weekend, the traffic to get to the base was unbelievably awful, reminding me why I made the promise to myself in the first place (I was just trying to get across the road that leads to the base in order to go to the other side of the city).

Next, I went to to The Warehouse to check out their (apparently) new range of storage products. Specifically, I was interested in an acrylic turntable with sides (in the dual photo up top), which are good for storing bottles of things like soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, aioli, etc., in the fridge. I put a turntable with no sides—basically a small lazy suzan—in our fridge at least 8 or 10 years ago, and it’s been great—but it works best for jars, not bottles. The bottles I have on it are constantly falling to one side, making it hard to rotate the turntable to get in the back. I’ll use that old turntable on the other side of the shelf, and just for jars. The new turntable is something I don’t need, but it’ll make my daily life much easier.

While I was there, I picked up two pairs of slippers partly the price for two was lower than buying one pair each on two different days. Also, The Warehouse has a long history of dropping products, so when I find products that I like and will use, I’m better to buy extra. The slippers are replacing a pair I bought around 15 years ago that are now falling apart. I got them at The Warehouse, too—and that particular one was discontinued. Of course. Maybe they lasted too long.

I also picked up a pair of what I call “house shoes”, basically lightweight shoes I wear only in the house to protect my feet and keep them warm. That’s because a stubbed toe can cause a gout attack, and also because when my feet get cold, I feel cold all over. They’re replacing ones that are so worn out that I think they only stay on my feet through stubbornness and bravado. I don’t wear slippers other than first thing in the morning because—well, wearing slippers all day long seems too old-mannish to me. Yes, I’m over-sensitive. I don’t care.

However: I also looked at a couple things I want, but definitely don’t need, and I talked myself out of buying any of those things, including one thing I really wanted, and have wanted for awhile. That’s because due to the current tough economic times I adopted a policy of “buy nothing I don’t need, and make due with what I have rather than buy new” (while still allowing myself some treats, though I’m slowly cutting back on those, too). I’m really lucky that I can weather the bad economy fine at the moment, but it’s prudent to live more frugally when there’s no way to know when the economy will stabilise, let alone improve.

On the surface, that fridge turntable may look like it conflicts with my pollices, maybe even that it’s frivolous, and it probably is. Or, maybe it’s actually somewhere in limbo land—it’s cheap, but not a true need, but also something that’ll make my daily life better. In normal economic times, I’d never feel conflicted about buying a damn fridge turntable. On the other hand, I figured out an alternative for one of the things I really wanted using something I already have. So, I didn’t completely abandon my policies.

My final stop was the supermarket for my weekly shop, which was mostly top ups of pantry staples (like dried pasta), and a few things that I didn’t need quite yet, but that were on special. The are certain things that I buy only when they’re on special (like the brand of margarine I use), and that means I sometimes buy them before I need them in order to save money.

So, it was a productive and busy outing yesterday. That night, I planned to have leftovers for dinner, because I’d made extra on Wednesday specifically for that. When I was younger, my mother used to say, “they’re not ‘left’ overs, they’re planned overs!” It took me awhile, but I think I finally understand what she meant—and I’m now doing the same.

The two photos up top are from The Warehouse's site (linked to in the blog post), and are included here for clarity and explanation. I was not compensated in any way for mentioning the product or The Warehouse. The right side of the photo features items from The Warehouse's expanding own-brand grocery products called "Market Kitchen". I was particularly interested in trying their aioli and BBQ sauce, but I couldn't find it at the closest The Warehouse store to my house. I hope to eventually include them in a future post about own-brand grocery products vs. name brand ones.

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

An early success

I’ve worked on a lot of projects over the years—for all my adult life, actually. Ever since I shifted to Hamilton, the number of projects has increased, and I had to do them alone for the first time in decades. Four year ago today, I finished one that turned out far better than I’d knew at the time.

On May 1, 2020, right after the first Covid lockdown restrictions were relaxed, I finished a project to lay stones in a sort of trough between by driveway and the footpath leading to my front door. I blogged about it at the time, which is where the photo up top is from, and that post was actually an update to a post from the previous weekend, a post where I talked about the project in detail.

I was reminded of this today by a Facebook “Memory”, and it was kind of hard for me to believe I finished the project four years ago—this is one of those times it doesn’t seem like it was even nearly that long ago. However, Facebook also served up a “Memory” from two years ago today in which I noted that the rocks I’d put in the trough had settled a bit since I put them there, but less than I expected. It turns out that now, even after two more years, the rocks never settled more, so I never did add larger river stones—I didn’t need to.

In the four years since I first put the stones in, delivery vans and trucks have driven onto the rocks (especially trucks for Countdown/Woolworths), and park their trucks on the lower part. This has caused absolutely no problem apart from occasionally dislodging a couple stones I have to kick back into the trough, but that’s it. There’s also no sign of damage to the concrete edges.

Because of where that trough is, I often get out of my car and step onto the stones, or if I’m dropped off by someone else, I walk over the stones to get to the front door. I’ve never tripped, nor has anyone else.

I think it has performed so well because of the time and care I took to get a good base course down: I gave it a solid, but permeable, foundation. The stones themselves help to distribute the weight of any vehicles that partially park on them.

My project also gave me exactly what I wanted: A few extra centimetres of driveway width, which people (especially delivery/courier drivers) have used, while not adding a lot of visual clutter. Houses around me with similar troughs usually have them planted with shrubbery of some sort. I didn’t want that because I’d have to maintain them, and I didn’t think they’d add anything, particularly because the front of their houses is flat and level with the street, whike mine has a gentle grade down to the street level.

There are negatives, though: The two bags of larger river stones I bought for the project are still stacked up behind the pillar at the top of the trough, their labels faded by years of sun and rain. If I tried to moved them now, I bet the bags would fall apart. I still hope to use those stones, but I also still haven’t worked out a plan for out front, partly because The Damn Raingarden is so very ugly (it looks like a concrete cattle trough) and, if that wasn’t enough of a visual crime, it’s also off centre in the lawn.

In may of 2022, I published a post called “My 5 favourite home changes”, which was only about changes I paid others to do. While those are still my five favourite things others did, there are plenty I’ve done that were good, too, and those stones are a good example. Maybe I should do a follow-up post about the stuff that I’ve done myself, because that clearly never occurred to me before.

At any rate, I know that the project in the front yard out far better than I knew at the time. Most of the projects I’ve done myself have turned out at least as I expected, and a few, like this one, turned out much better, and that ain’t nothing. I really should make a list, though.