Sunday, June 23, 2024

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 9

Another new song went to Number One this week in 1984, and, like the previous Number One, it also had a two-week run at the top spot. On June 23, 1984, ”The Reflex” (video up top) by English New Wave band Duran Duran became the new Number One song. It was the group’s eleventh single, and the first of two songs to reach Number One in the USA. The song was the third single from their third studio album, Seven and the Ragged Tiger.

Duran Duran is one of the groups I remember most from the mid-1980s, however, I wasn’t exactly a fan. In the US, it was fashionable among some people to hate the group, which I thought was silly. Mind you, I thought many of the lads were rather fetching, so maybe I was more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt? They were (and are, of course) all around my age; while most members are a year or two younger than me, lead singer Simon Le Bon is nearly three months older than me.

As with nearly every band played on radio and MTV at the time, I liked some Duran Duran songs, and other songs I didn't particularly like. For me, “The Reflex” was in the latter category. I certainly didn’t “hate” the song; as is so often the case with me, not liking a song doesn’t necessarily mean disliking it. What kept me from liking the song was the refrain that began, “Oh, why don't you use it?” because of the warbling on the word why. It was unique, sure, but for some reason it really annoyed me. I have no idea why. Still, that wasn’t enough to make me hate the song, so it wasn’t exactly a deal-breaker, either. I guess I had a kind of benign neutrality.

The music video was mostly footage shot at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on March 5, 1984 during the band’s Seven and the Ragged Tiger tour. The Wikipedia article linked to adds:
In keeping with the band's insistence that their music videos "never be ordinary", the video screen above the stage displayed bits of naked models wearing collars and chains illuminated with black light, occasionally interrupted by computerized video white noise. At one point, a computer graphics–generated waterfall appears to pour out of the video screen above the stage to soak the audience.
I’m always fascinated to find out, well, “what were they thinking?!” when a video is made, whether I like the result or not. In this case, my feelings about the video were pretty much the same as for the song itself: A kind of benign neutrality.

Like many songs form this era, and probably more so than was true for other Duran Duran songs, I think I may have become better acquainted with “The Reflex” over the years that followed, particularly because it remained in rotation for both pop radio and, especially, MTV.

“The Reflex” reached Number 4 in Australia, 3 in Canada (Platinum), 6 in New Zealand, Number One in the UK (Silver), and 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.

The album Seven and the Ragged Tiger reached 2 in Australia, 7 in Canada (3x Platinum), 11 in New Zealand (Platinum), Number One in the UK (Platinum), and 8 on the USA’s “Billboard 200” chart (2x Platinum).

This series will return July 7, when a huge hit reached Number One.

Previously in the “Weekend Diversion – 1984” series:

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 1 – January 21, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 2 – February 4, 2024
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
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 7 – May 26, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 8 – June 9, 2024

Mirror on the wall

On Monday, June 10, I finished a mini-project, one that came about kind of by accident and was to solve a problem that an earlier “solution” didn’t. Not that I ever mentioned any of that here. That’s nothing new, even if the project was.

Back in February, I spent several days knocking off a bunch of very small jobs, including two in the en suite: Installing a hand towel ring and installing a rechargeable LED light over the mirror, which is visible in the photos above. I needed to do this because the ceiling light is in the wrong spot—and off centre, which annoys me at least as much. When I trim my moustache, I like to get close to the mirror so I can see better, but that’s meant I was blocking the light, putting my face was mostly in shadow. There’s no electricity in that wall, so I couldn’t easily have an over-mirror electric light installed, so I thought the rechargeable light I installed was the best answer. I hoped it would help because it was pointing downward.

I spent days and days working on a blog post about that and all my February projects, complete with photos, but it was just too complicated (and very long…) so I gave up. In the end, I talked about some of of the small projects I did, including installing that light, on AmeriNZ Podcast Episode 413.

I used the light several times, and wasn’t entirely happy with it because it wasn’t point downward enough, mainly because of the magnetic holder: It can’t be pointed down any more than it is. I knew that he touch-sensitive power button was a little temperamental, but the bigger problem is that the light doesn’t hold a charge all that long, something that I noticed in recent weeks (possibly because winter and cold temperatures arrived).

I didn’t have a better solution, until one day when I was watching a YouTube video by an interior designer who was talking about good design, but I wasn’t paying close attention until I happened to see one photo of a bathroom included a shaving mirror that is attached to a wall and pulls out for use. I knew that was the solution.

From their website.
I found one at Mitre 10 for around $40—and others that ranged from $150 to $399. I decided to get the one at Mitre 10, and that’s why I went there at the end of May, after my dental appointment and vaccinations. Their website said they were “low in stock”, so I asked a friendly young woman to help me find one. She checked the computer which said they had four. She couldn’t find even one, not where it should’ve been, and also not in the back-stock above the shelves (she got a ladder to look).

I was going to give up and make do with a handheld one I already have, because I couldn’t be bothered ringing other Mitre 10 locations to see if they had any. But then I thought, why should I settle? The whole point of literally everything I’ve done to this house has been to make it meet my needs, easier to live in, etc. So, Wednesday, June 5 I ordered one online and it was delivered Monday the 10th.

I decided to install it on the wall to my right so I could pull it out and stand over the basin while I trim my whiskers. However, there’s a power point (outlet) on that wall (don’t worry—it’s on a RCD circuit, usually called GFI in the USA), so I wasn’t keen on drilling into the stud—which, it turned out, was where the window frame was, anyway. Instead, I drilled into the noggin (the horizontal wood between studs, often called blocking in the USA), and used a drywall anchor for the bottom screw. As a result, it’s attached very solidly—not a surprise, really, since I have rather a lot of experience at doing that sort of thing.

The photo up top shows the before (on the left) and also the after with the mirror folded against the wall, where I’ll keep it. I could put it the other way, closer to the mirror, but because the extractor fan is also in the wrong place, that corner has dead air and there’s condensation there when I take a shower (when I’m done, I open the window and leave the fan running for a 10-15 minutes, which takes care of the problem). The photo at the bottom of this post shows the new mirror pulled out and tilted to show me—and as far as I can remember, it’s the first time I’ve ever shot a selfie using a mirror.

I’ve sued the mirror a couple times since I installed it, and it works great—exactly what I wanted. I use the regular side, but I can flip it for 3x magnification, if I had a reason to. There are two other things I noticed. When I walk into my bedroom, I can see it reflecting light, which is just new, not bad or anything. The other thing I noticed is that when I first get in the shower, if I look over at the mirror I can see my head and the top of my shoulders, kind of like a vignette portrait. That doesn’t last long—it ends when the glass in the shower steams up—and it, too, was just a new thing. I usually don’t even notice it.

This was just a small project, and not very expensive. Even so, it’s made my life so much easier because I can better see what I’m doing now, and that was the point all along. This isn’t the first time that I was able to recognise a solution to a problem, then carry out the work to fix that problem. It’s also not the first time I was willing to re-do a project because I came up with a better solution. I think that reflects well on me, too.

Friday, June 21, 2024

Same page, not same seasons

Seasons are pretty obvious in temperate climates. For example, summer and winter can be quite different from each other. However, it turns out that when, precisely, people say seasons arrive can also be quite different, too. Sort of.

I’ve often talked about how seasons in this part of the world are said to begin on the guest of the relevant month, and not on a solstice or equinox. Some people who use the traditional dates (solstice or equinox) become kind of angry at those of us who don’t.

I think the crux is what’s being measured. Traditionalists use the position of the sun relative to the equator, much as our ancestors did in ancient times. The problem is that weather doesn’t neatly correspond to where the sun is. This is why some people prefer the first of the relevant month because it’s more closely identified with seasonal changes on weather. For example, this year we started having chilly autumn temperatures in late May, and some parts of the Northern Hemisphere were having quite warm temperatures around the same time, and all of that didn’t wait for the June Solstice some three weeks later.

Most people would acknowledge that this is a really unimportant disagreement. However, I do wish we could agree to refer to the solstices and equinoxes by month, not by the season. The seasons in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres are complete opposites, so whenever people use the season to describe solstices and equinoxes, we have to stop to work out where the speaker actually is in order to know month they’re talking about. That’s not ideal.

In that spirt, the June Solstice arrived in New Zealand at 8.50am this morning. The temperature at my house at that moment was around 6C (42.8F), because winter arrived three weeks ago. For us, seasons and astronomical events definitely aren’t the same. But, you already knew all that. Of course.

Related: Today is the shortest day, but tonight won’t be the coldest nightStuff

Sunday, June 09, 2024

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 8

Forty years ago this week, a new song went to Number One, beginning another two-week run at the top spot. On June 9, 1984, ”Time After Time” (video up top) by American singer-songwriter Cyndi Lauper (co-written by Rob Hyman, who also provided backing vocals) became the new Number One song. The song was Lauper’s first Number One hit in the USA, and was the second single from her debut studio album, She's So Unusual. The first single from that album is the arguably better-known song ”Girls Just Want to Have Fun”.

I bought the album when it was released, and because of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, but I also loved this song. At the time, I had a partner who I often had to catch when he fell, but I don’t recall ever feeling I could rely on him to do the same for me. However, I definitely felt that kind of mutual certainty with Nigel, but I didn’t associate this song with that until after he’d died and I saw the video for this song on one of my many YouTube video sessions during the first Covid lockdown. The chorus encapsulated what I knew was true of Nigel and what he knew was true of me, too:
If you're lost, you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall, I will catch you, I'll be waiting
Time after time
Those lyrics can still make me cry. Is there higher praise I could give to any song?

The music video is pretty straightforward story-telling. It includes her real-life boyfriend at the time as her boyfriend, as well as her mother and Lou Albano, both of whom had also appeared in the video for “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”. According to the portion of the Wikipedia post on the song that talks about the video, Lauper said, "It was important to me that we were natural and human in the video. I wanted to convey somebody who walked her own path and did not always get along with everyone and did not always marry the guy." The walking her own path part is a theme throughout songs on the album—even in the title.

Having said all that, I don’t remember seeing the video much at the time, and it was only in 2020 and beyond that I grew to appreciate it (that’s largely because once you watch a YouTube video of a song, their algorithms will serve it up again, and more frequently if you watch it, and then it'll turn up again and so on). Because of this, the video helped reinforce for me the power of the song’s lyrics, and it led me to appreciate them more than I did in back the day. This song, then, is one of those times when I liked the song and the video, but the video (eventually) helped me appreciate the song even more.

“Time After Time” reached Number 6 in Australia, Number One in Canada (Gold), 3 in New Zealand, 3 in the UK (Silver in 1984 physical sales, 2x Platinum digital sales since 2005), and Number One on the USA’s Billboard “Hot 100” and on their “Adult Contemporary” charts, as well as Number One on the Cash Box “Top 100” chart. The song was also 5x Platinum in the USA.

The album She's So Unusual reached Number 3 in Australia (Platinum), Number One in Canada (8x Platinum), 3 in New Zealand (Platinum), 16 in the UK (Gold), and 4 on the USA’s “Billboard 200” chart (7x Platinum).

It’s natural to become reflective as we move through life, looking back nostalgically or wistfully at our past, probably especially the time when we were just starting out in our adult lives. The album She's So Unusual (especially its singles) is one of the albums from such a time in my life that can make be reflective—not sad or melancholy, just kind of mindful. That reflection makes me feel grateful for all that was good about those days, and grateful, too, that I survived all that wasn’t. It seems to me, that’s not so unusual at all.

This series will return June 23 with another new Number One song beginning a two-week reign.

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
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 7 – May 26, 2024

Saturday, June 08, 2024

Not quite yet, thank you

Social media companies, including Facebook, have long had troublesome algorithms. Their problems include politically radicalising people, promoting conspiracy theories, advancing misinformation/disinformation, helping scammers and other criminals to find targets—and also serving up useless ads. Clearly that last one is the last important, but it even that can have negative implications. I found that out this week.

The ads I see on Facebook have always been mixed: Some have been good or interesting, but a lot more were irrelevant—or worse. In recent years, I've been sent ads for fundamentalist “christian” churches/organisations, far-right NZ political parties, and even anti-LGBTQ+ groups, and for all of them I selected “Hide” so I’d never have to see their excremental rubbish. What annoyed me nearly as much as seeing such ads was the fact that the only reason I could give Facebook for hiding the ads was that they were “irrelevant” when there clearly should be the option to choose “offensive”.

This week, the ads took a different turn: They treated me like I’m elderly.

Over the course of four days this week (so far…), I saw the ads in the montage at the top of this post. “When you’re over 65, your immune system is more vulnerable,” the first ads began before going on to say that foods that once were safe suddenly posed a grave risk of bacterial infection—apparently just because I turned 65. Things like cold deli meats, cold cuts, dried sausages, and soft cheeses like brie, are supposed to be off my menu now (cold smoked fish already was, though…).

My first reaction was probably to laugh. It seemed highly improbable that I’d suddenly get sick from making a ham sandwich for lunch, or from having some brie, or anything else I want, but am being told to not to have anymore. Surely, I thought to myself, the issue is food safety, not age?

Next, though, I began to worry that maybe I should be worried about getting a Listeria infection from a sandwich or a cheese board. Maybe I also should’ve known all that, too, and I was stupid, naive, or both for not knowing it. What other hidden horrors of aging were lurking around, waiting to jump out at me? Maybe it was time to panic—make that, PANIC—about what I eat? These dark thoughts mainly happened because I’m already worried about what ageing may be like, primarily because my parents never made it to the age I am now, so I have no examples to go by, and especially because Nigel isn’t here to age along with me.

Those thoughts would never have happened if I’d never seen those ads.

Ultimately, rational reason returned, and I realised that I’ve always used an abundance of caution in food safety. “If in doubt, throw it out” has long been my mantra for food items, though it’s also true that Nigel was far more cautious than I ever was. I also realised that in my lifetime I’ve known plenty of actual elderly people who didn’t flee in terror at first sight of a ham sandwich or a cheese platter that included brie. I’ve also never known an elderly person who was infected—or worse—with Listeria. It seems to me that diligent food safety measures are what matters, and not necessarily cooking things I didn’t used to.

Here in my real world, in addition to practicing good food safety measures, I actually do cook things I supposedly should now avoid. For example, I’ve used sliced sandwich ham in dishes instead of bacon. I’ve also used soft cheeses in a cheese sauce. Even so, I very rarely have any of those things I supposedly should now avoid, so I really don’t have anything to change.

That existential crisis dealt with, a new one popped up today when I saw the ad below. I mean, COME ON! I may or may not need to worry about Listeria, but there’s no way on earth I would want, let alone need, “walking shoes for Elderly Men in 2024”—nor any other year, like, ever. I’ve seen actual elderly men wear shoes like that, and maybe in a decade or two I might decide I need them, but that definitely ain’t happening now.

Naturally, I’m mostly amused at being served that shoes ad, but it does annoy me that the advertiser apparently selected men 65+ as being “elderly”. I’m well aware that there are health issues I now have to pay attention to, like being sure I get my annual influenza vaccination, and maybe I really do need to be extra super-duper cautious with food to avoid Listeria. But I am absolutely NOT “elderly”, nor even close to it—not quite yet, thank you.

These ads may well be typical of what I’ll be seeing from now on. I suppose that’s better than seeing ads that are flat out offensive—though targeting me with ads for “elderly men” is getting pretty damn close to being offensive—for now. Give me a decade or two and I may feel differently—and maybe that’s all the ads I’ll see. Assuming I’m still around by then: After all, a rogue bit of brie may have finished me off before then.

Getting older is just full of surprises.

Friday, June 07, 2024

It started out jokingly

Much of what I share on social media is meant to be at least partially joking, but sometimes things later turn out differently. Like this week.

I decided that this past Wednesday was the perfect time to mow my lawns and do all the edges, too. It had been delayed (yet again) by rain, but the cool/cold temperatures had slowed the growth, so it wasn’t extraordinarily long. That doesn’t mean it was easy to do.

The edges are always a challenge because the line trimmer is awkward to use. It’s not particularly heavy, but the weight is carried by my forearms, which also control the movement. As a result, my arms get tired fairly quickly, and that’s true regardless of how dense the growth along the edges is, or whatever the weather’s been doing.

Mowing, on the other hand, is much harder when there’s been rain, especially when the grass is long, because moisture stays close to the ground for a long time. That makes the lawn mych denser than it is when dry, and that can stall the mower if I’m not careful. This week, I often had to use force to push the mower through particularly dense patches—being careful not to stall the mower—and that, too, required a lot of strength centred on my forearms.

When I was done, I was physically tired in general, and my forearms in particular. I posted the joking status at the top of this post on my personal Facebook, and that was that. Until it wasn’t.

While I was mowing out front, I checked my letterbox and found a letter from Hamilton City Council. I put it in my back pocket, intending to put it inside once I was down out front. It stayed in my back pocket until I was completely finished. By then, it was a bit moist.

As I was sitting in my chair to relax and recover, I opened the letter: Another letter instructing me to look after the raingarden in my front lawn. I was not amused, but I also didn’t really care because I’ll get to it when I get to it.

The new letter was a little bit clearer than the one I received back in 2022, but still didn’t tell what what, specifically was wrong, still just like the 2022 letter, it said there were “issues” and they were “incorrect plant selection” and “not enough plants”. There were a few changes this year, though.

First, while last year’s frankly oddly amateur-looking letter (it looked like something printed from a webpage) was signed by a “stormwater compliance specialist”, this year’s was signed by the “Compliance Manager” for the “Three Waters Team”. This made me chuckle because the Hamilton City Council, like several others, opposed the previous Labour Government’s Three Waters reforms, which were meant to ensure that water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure and treatment were all adequately funded and met national standards. It became a campaign issue in last year's election and the current “Coalition of Chaos” three-headed coalition government repealed the law and basically told councils they’re on their own to fund it all (in my opinion; the Chaos leaders would no doubt dispute my honestly and sincerely held view).

This year’s letter also dropped the veiled threat that pissed me off in 2022 (“As this is a pilot programme, we will not be taking any action”). Instead, this year's letter merely said, “We ask that you keep this stormwater device regularly maintained so that it can continue to function well.” I think that them dropping veiled threats is why this year’s letter didn’t annoy me like the last one did.

Another difference this year is that the brochure was professionally printed on slick paper stock—a proper brochure—while what I got last year was just printed out on an office printer, which made the photos of the approved plants very difficult to see. I haven’t bothered to check if the text is the same, though, and only skimmed this year’s version without really paying attention. I still think I managed to work out what the plants are.

The larger issue is that what I always refer to as “The Damn Raingarden” annoys me just as much now as it did in 2022, and for all the reasons I said at the time (see the post linked above). This time, I thought I’d be clearer about the physical reasons I hate it so much, apart from the fact it’s, as I said in 2022, “ugly AF—it looks like a cattle trough (and it’s in a bizarre spot).”

The bottom of The Damn Raingarden is roughly 40 centimetres (just under 10 inches) from the top edge of the round concrete trough-like thing that contains the raingarden itself. My property slopes from the house down to the footpath, and that means that the bottom of the raingarden is farther away from ground level on the house side than on the street side.

Specifically, the edge nearest the house is nearly at ground level, so I need to sit on the ground and reach down 40 centimetres so pull weeds. That may not sound like much, but because the land is sloping away from the house, I also have to keep myself steady so I don’t topple into the raingarden. On the street side, the top of the rim is 25cm (15.75 inches) above the ground, so I’m sitting lower and don’t have to reach in as far, and the land has started to level off at the point so it’s easier to stay put.

All the other issues remain the same: I need to special order the plants (though winter isn’t the ideal time to do so), and I cannot find their required “hardwood mulch” anywhere in New Zealand. I’d planned on ordering the plants earlier and simply forgot. To deal with that, I’ll set a reminder on my phone to remind me when it’s time to plant. However, I decided some time ago that I’ll use ordinary bark mulch (which I’m almost certain the builder did, too). If Council insists on me using hardwood mulch, they can give it to me and I’ll use it. Otherwise, and since it’s at my expense, it’ll be ordinary bark mulch. Still, I’m not a total contrarian: I’ll “remove excess mulch” before adding new.

There’s actually another reason I’m so nonchalant about “compliance”: I’ve seen how few raingardens in front of other houses in this development are “compliant”, and some of them are far worse than mine. I will get to the one in front of my house, but it'll be on my schedule and at my convenience.

As if receiving a new letter of annoyance wasn’t enough, I apparently overdid it on Wednesday. I needed all day Thursday to recover, and, in fact, I’m not feeling 100% today, either. Oh well, at least the lawns and edges are done. With more rain on the way (again), it’s good to get that out of the way. I ought to be less annoyed with rainy days, too.

Monday, June 03, 2024

Toy obsession

Many dogs love their toys, though precisely what that means varies a lot. In Leo’s case, the pattern is indifference, interest, obsession, de-construction, and then routine. I’ve seen this basic pattern repeated continually since Leo was a puppy, and it continues even now. I may end up with more work out of the deal, but along the way, he’s extremely happy, which is the point.

When I first gave the new stuffed toy to Leo on his birthday (photo at left), he was, as usual, not all that interested in it. He left the toy on the sofa where I’d given it to him, and only paid attention to it when I returned that evening. Even then, though, as I said at the time, “he’s not yet entirely sure about his new toy”, which, I also said, “basically means he hasn’t yet torn it open.” I knew that wouldn’t last.

Leo brought his new toy to bed with him Saturday night, but put it aside and went to sleep. However, when I woke up in the morning, there was some of the toy’s stuffing on the bed. I looked at the toy, and saw its nose was chewed off. Leo had moved to the complementary obsession and de-construction phases.

As the day passed, Leo spent most of his time with the toy. Sometimes he’d lick and chew it, and pause to lay next to it panting (a sure sign of his obsession phase), or he’d have a nap with the toy right next to him. This continued all day, and by mid-afternoon, I noticed there was a lot of stuffing strewn around the floor in the living area, even though I’d been picking it up all day.

Around 3pm, Leo jumped into my lap, chewed on the toy for awhile, then jumped over onto the sofa to have a nap. I could see the extent of his de-construction at that point (photo at right). Basically, the nose was completely gone, and the head was somewhat deflated.

This overall pattern continued on into the evening, until a little around 8pm, when Leo was busily working on his toy and I noticed that the chest was open and I could see the plastic bottle that provided the air for the squeaky noisemaker. While he was busy chewing on the toy, I noticed the noisemaker itself was laying in my lap—he’d chewed it off the bottle—and I picked it up immediately because it was small enough for him to choke on. I also removed the bottle itself from the toy and put it on the table next to me. Leo apparently only wanted to get that out of his toy, because he wasn’t interested in where I put it. He seemed to calm down—until I riled him up again.

I wanted to see how the thing made noise, so, I blew into one end—the wrong one, it turned out—then the other, and it made the squeaky noise. Once again, Leo was riled up, just as he is every time he hears a squeaky toy. I thought this was utterly hilarious—but then immediately felt guilty for getting him all riled up, so I put the noisemaker into my shirt pocket. He lay on my lap next to his victim, looking pretty pleased with himself, then he jumped onto the sofa, leaving the toy behind. This is what I saw (the photo at right is staged, and includes the ear he’d chewed off late afternoon):

He didn’t spend much time working on his toy after that point, not vigorously, anyway. When we went to bed, he again brought his toy with him. When I came out of the en suite after brushing my teeth, I saw him laying on the bed with his chin on his toy, making it barely visible. He lifted his head to look at me as I tried to get a photo of him (at the bottom of this post).

Today, he’s played with his toy a bit, but at one point he picked up one of his other toys when I thought I was headed to my chair, something he hasn’t done since I first got home Saturday evening. His de-construction of the toy will continue, but less vigorously than when he was still obsessed, meaning he’s moving into the next stage, routine, one in which his existing toys will be played with again, too. And the new will continue to slowly become smaller.

This new toy is tentatively named “New Bunny”, to distinguish it from a long line of stuffed toy rabbits called “Funny Bunny” (the final one of those is in a photo with a post just before sunny had to have teeth removed). Leo hasn’t yet lost interest in any of his toys, and they stick around until they become utterly destroyed, often little more that bits of cloth, and they leave the house when I quickly put it in the rubbish while he’s outside, and none the wiser. In fact, I have my eye on one of his older toys right now, the tiny bit that’s left of “Mr. Turtle”, a toy I mentioned in a post back in December 2022. That’s my role in his routine, I suppose.

I don’t know how long he’ll still be interested in destroying his toys, but as along as he is I’ll continue to give him toys for him be indifferent about, become interested in, then obsessed with, until he de-constructs it and it enters his routine. It’s a small thing, really, but getting him new toys makes him extremely happy, and that’s the whole point.

King’s birthday and such

Today is the King’s Birthday public holiday in New Zealand, a day which honestly has no particular relevance for most New Zealanders, apart from being a day off work. I suppose that’s actually enough.

For many years, this was our last public holiday until Labour Day, which is the last Monday in October (this year that's 21 weeks from now, on October 28). We also have the Matariki Public Holiday, which is observed in June or July, depending on the rising of the Matariki star cluster (in Europe and its decedent cultures, it’s known as The Pleiades or the Seven Sisters). This year, the public holiday is June 28.

I think it’s still possible that the current “coalition of chaos” government will talk about eliminating one of our public holidays, each party for its own reasons, but whether they’ll follow through or not is unclear. For this year, at least, our public holidays are safe.

There are only two things (other than the name…) that tie the public holiday with the monarchy. The first is that one of the two Honours Lists are released on King’s Birthday (the other is New Year’s Day). The King must approve all honours (except for military honours). As is usually the case, the 2024 King’s Birthday Honours List is filled with people I’ve never heard of. This year, I’ve only heard of the new knights and dames [various recipients are talked about on the 1News site, and also on Stuff, and also on RNZ, among others]. This is the first year that the Queen’s Service Order (QSO) and Queen’s Service Medal (QSM) were renamed King’s Service Order (KSO) and King’s Service Medal (KSM).

I have no particular opinion on whether any of the honours are “deserved”, though I did noticed that unlike other honours lists under previous National Party-led governments, it’s not heavily dominated by “for services to business”, the two new knights and two new dames notwithstanding. In general, though, I think knighthoods and damehoods are an anachronism, maybe even silly, in the 21st Century. Recognising and honouring outstanding achievement by New Zealanders—especially work down by unpaid volunteers—is a good thing, but some fancy title that a foreign king has to approve seems kind of absurd to me—though I’d accept one if I was teleported into an alternate universe where I was given one, which underscores that my quibble is with the foreign title, not the honour itself.

The other thing that ties this public holiday to the monarchy is that there are 21-gun salutes for the reigning monarch—even though King Charles’ actual birthday is November 14, and the late Queen’s actual birthday was April 21. Still, whatever, I guess.

For most New Zealanders, the royal connections aren’t the focus of the day—a day off work is. Because it’s a public holiday, there’s no mail delivery today, and some cafes and restaurants have a special service charge to “compensate” them for having to pay workers more on a public holiday. There are grumbles about that every public holiday, of course. I’ve seldom gone to a cafe on a public holiday, and when I have gone, I wasn’t happy about the surcharge. I wouldn’t say it’s kept me from going, exactly, but there have been times it was a factor when we were were kind of unsure about whether to go or not.

Most people like public holidays, of course, regardless of what it’s ostensibly for. Sure, some business owners grumble, but most of them just get on with, well, business. So do the rest of us. And so it goes, on repeat.

But public holidays are great to have. I suppose that’s actually enough.

Saturday, June 01, 2024

Leo is seven

Today is the first day of meteorological winter in the Southern Hemisphere, and not all that long ago, that was just about all the significance the day had for me. Today has something far more important about it: It’s my boy Leo’s 7th birthday! That means he’s considered a “senior” for things like dogfood (fewer calories, among other things), though none of that affects his happy demeanour.

Leo came to live with us just before his first birthday, but his Daddy Nigel only got to celebrate two of Leo’s birthdays. Nigel would be so very happy to see what a happy boy Leo is these days. I feel both happy and honoured to have spent all seven of Leo’s birthday’s with him.

To celebrate his birthday, Leo had a special breakfast, as has long been our custom. After his official birthday photo (up top), and the photo he graciously allowed me to take with him (at the bottom of this post), it was time for his birthday present: A new stuffed toy (photo at left), not that he knows what’s a birthday present is, of course (all of this is stuff I bought yesterday, which I referred to in yesterday’s post). I actually wanted to get a new toy for him because two of his toys (formerly stuffed animals…) are now basically just rags, though he still loves playing with them. This makes me want to be more like him, content with what I have and not needing any new toys.

Today I also trimmed the fur around his eyes a little bit. Every year on his birthday he’s always being groomed, about to be groomed, or was just groomed. Who am I to buck tradition? He didn’t seem to mind.

This evening I got together with some of the family to celebrate the birthday of one of our humans, and when I got home Leo got a special dinner, too. He’s not yet entirely sure about his new toy, though—which basically means he hasn’t yet torn it open. On the other hand, he played with it this evening, which he didn’t do earlier in the day.

As always, Leo makes every one of my days better. He makes me laugh, keeps me entertained, gives me someone in the house to talk to, loves playing the game where we take turns chasing each other, and he looks after me when I’m feeling sick or just sad. He really is this man’s best friend! I love how happy he seems all the time, and I like to think—or maybe I just like to flatter myself—that I have a little bit to do with his happiness. In any case, Leo seems as happy with me as I am with him, and that’s probably enough for us both.

Happy Seventh Birthday, Leo!


Leo is six – 2023
Leo is five – 2022
Leo is four – 2021
Leo is three – 2020
Leo is two – 2019
Leo is one year old – 2018
Another new addition
All blog posts tagged “Leo” – All the posts in which I’ve talked about him