The Pitfalls of Renting (or why I haven’t blogged for a while)

The place which I have been renting for almost ten years is in the process of being sold.  That means I could find myself homeless soon because there is virtually no affordable accommodation where I live.  Most rents for even a one bedroom place range from $250 to $400 a week.  My total income a week after tax is $275 a week.  You can see the problem.  So I am currently looking for a new place to live.

On Being Unemployed

As of the beginning of January 2016 I have been out of work for eight years and I have virtually no chance of ever getting a job for the rest of my working age life.  It’s not a case of not wanting to work but the realisation that, without the right referees and business and social contacts, I can’t get my foot in the door.

But it is more complex than that.

My typing speed is 33 words per minute, which is too slow.  My skills have become obsolete but I don’t qualify for job training programmes.  My experience is outdated and not much use amy more.  The lack of a driver’s licence – due to epilepsy – means I can’t I get to (or from) most of the jobs on offer.

Most of the job adverts and application forms are written in jargon which I can’t read or understand.  What they say and what they mean is not the same thing.  Because I am out of touch with the latest jargon I am not able to respond to these adverts and application forms in a way that would be relevant to a human resources department.

Unlike most poor people I have access to the Internet but it does not open doors for me because no one wants to socially or professionally network with the unemployed.  As soon as I mention I’m unemployed people run a mile.  Or, worse, they offer bogus job offers or scams.  That is the hidden problem that is often ignored when discussing the issues facing the unemployed.  If you don’t have a job you don’t have the contacts needed to get the jobs.

At Work and Income [New Zealand’s social welfare department] staff told me that virtually everyone who got jobs got them through friends, family members or former work colleagues.  Those who applied for jobs without the all-important contacts almost never got the jobs.  So those of us who have effectively become loners have no chance of getting jobs.

I also think that one of the reasons why I won’t ever work again is that I have no partner or children so I don’t fit into the team environment.  When you’re 46, childless and single you must have something wrong with you so you’re effectively shut out for not being socially compatible with the “team”.

Just because I don’t have any hope that I will get a job it doesn’t mean that I am depressed or that I don’t bother looking for work.  In fact, not having hope is liberating.  If I don’t have hope in the first place I can’t be disappointed when things don’t work out.  I just accept disappointment as inevitable and when I end up disappointed I move on, marking the latest disappointment as another life experience and hope that I will learn from it.  And I do look for work because I don’t want to be unemployed.  Not so much because of the money but because I want something to do and to be treated with respect.

 

 

 

 

How New Zealanders measures earthquakes

If you live in New Zealand earthquakes are a fact of life and Geonet, the people who report every shake that is felt by humans, is followed almost as religiously as sport.

Of course, scientists use the Richter Scale, after Charles Richter, a seismologist from California but us locals who live in particularly earthquake prone areas use a more practical scale called the Cocktail Drink Displacement Scale.

Doesn’t shake/stir the cocktail – What earthquake?
Shakes/Stirs the cocktail – Minor earthquake.
Spills the cocktail over the sides of the glass – Moderate earthquake.
Knocks over the glass – Strong earthquake
Breaks glass or bottle of alcohol – A Big One
Destroys the liquor cabinet – Oh shit! We’re going to die!

In New Zealand we have come to learn to appreciate earthquakes, especially after a mag. 6.3 earthquake killed over 180-odd people in February 2011 in Christchurch.  However, a sick sense of humour helps us cope in the Shaky Isles.

After the 2011 earthquakes here were some of the jokes the locals devised:

You know you’re from Christchurch when. . .

You put dirty clothes on the line to wash them in the rain.
You have to fight the cat or dog for a place to crap in the garden.
A group of students turn up at your place and leave it in a better condition then
when they arrived.
Half the children come from broken homes.
Your friends and family want you to move back to Invercargill and it sounds like a
good idea.
Your 3 year old can say “liquefaction” clear as a bell but can’t tell you their home
address.
You drive on the right side of the road and no one thinks it’s wrong.
You are happy two Policemen came for a visit.
Your bike becomes your best friend.
It is normal for a soldier to be stationed at the end of your street.
You see armoured vehicles driving down the road.
You smell.
Every house is a crack house.
If you are looking for it—it’s on the floor.
The earth moves and you are not having sex.
You take a plastic bag when you go for a walk even if you don’t have a dog.
You know what the extra gear lever in your 4×4 is for.
GeoNet is saved as your home page.
Liquefaction has become a saying or slang:
“That guy is full of liquefaction.”
“I had some bad takeaways last night which gave me a bad dose of
liquefaction.”
You change the words to the Rolling Stones song “I can’t get no. . . ”.
A bucket of sh∗t is no longer the old car you drive.
You don’t blame your local council for bad roads, paths or drainage.
You know:
How to refuel a generator, check the oil, and start it.
How much it will handle before it flicks out the overload fuse.
How to pick the power rating and brand of generator by sound alone.
Your kids have stopped nagging for a sand pit and are asking for a 4×4 motorbike
instead.
You know and actually understand the terms and conditions of your house & con-
tents insurance policy.

 

You know the location of the best toilets in town.
You operate a taxi service, landscape & build, look after other people, do the plumb-
ing, operate heavy machinery, cook, recover vehicles, do household removals, and
much much more—and it’s not even your day job.
Having a third person under a door frame is no longer an invasion of personal
space.
You’re trying those gizmo tricks you’ve seen on the TV show “McGyver” as a kid.
You don’t call the police when there is a massive group of students in the middle of
your street.
Everyone in your family has bike helmets but no bikes.
You invite the crew from Mythbusters to challenge the theory of “Wet sand or dry
sand—which is easier to move”.
You refer to deodorant as a “shower in a can”.
You see a lovely park in another city and think it would make a good evacuation
point.
You start looking for your free toy in your $14 bottle of milk.
After another afterhock hits your family play earthquake bingo by taking guesses
at magnitude and location.
You now know:
All of your neighbours and their names.
The insides of their houses.
What garden tools they have (spades, wheel barrows).
Where they work or worked.
What their cooking tastes like.
Whether they have a working toilet, running water and power.
When they are going shopping or getting water (free ride).
You sleep, shower and collect water in different suburbs, go to the toilet where you
can, and still smile and greet people like you are one big family.
You use the terms “liquefaction” and “seismic design” in casual conversation.
Digging a hole and pooping in your garden is no longer weird.
Your mayor describes the city as “munted”. If he means FOOBARed, you agree.
Weaving through car-sized potholes on the street is normal.
Going to Wellington to escape earthquakes makes sense.
A shower is heaven.
You have a preference of which kind of silt you’d rather shovel—dry or wet.
You see tanks driving around town.
You are always noting what you’re standing under.
Due to frequent aftershocks during the night, you sleep like a baby—every 10 min-
utes you wake up and sh∗t yourself.

 

The local home building company has taken down their sign that reads “Build in
brick, it’s permanent”.
That pile of old roofing iron behind the garage turns out to be a treasure trove.
A knock on the door is not a salesman or Jehovah’s witness.
A dust mask is fashionable.
You need some liquor fiction to deal with it.
A toilet never looked so good.
The rest of the country offers you a place to stay.
People give politics the attention it deserves.
Voluntarily staying in Oamaru for 5 days seems like a good idea.
Even TVNZ reporters tell John Key he’s not doing a good job.
You start believing in the “man in the moon”.
Bragging to Wellington about the size of yours isn’t as suggestive as it sounds.
The getting to know you question is not “what school did you go to?” but “where
were you when it hit?”.
Your 6 year old niece says “I am sick of getting woken up. I need my sleep.”
The cabinet minister who said there will be no earthquake czar looks set to become
just that.
Driving down the road the 3 year old grandson sums it up with “that earthquake
was a messy bugger!”.
You go for a half-hour walk and pass 17 port-a-loos en route.
You tell your kids “don’t touch the food, you’ve just washed your hands with soap
and water”.
The two arches are no longer recognised as the international sign for toilet.
Local GPs are reporting that many people are presenting with a compulsion to
punch Mayor Bob Parker on the nose. Psychologists are saying that this is perfectly
normal, nothing to be alarmed about and that the condition had been noted long
before the earthquake struck.
You ask your friends if you can use their toilet, then you ask them if you can flush
their toilet.
Someone says they have the jitters and you dive under a doorway.
Dressing up to “Head into Town” is putting on a high viz vest, hard hat and boots.
You only take notice of an earthquake over a magnitude of 4.
Your bath now has a deep and a shallow end.
Friends and family are txting to see if you are OK and the house is still rocking.
You are happy about the foreign soldiers in town.

 

Internet creates perfect environment for extremists

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Most people on the Internet use social media.  Most of the time social media is good to use as it can be used to make friends, learn about what is happening internationally and keep in contact with people we know.  However it has also helped to create a whole network of cliques where only like-minded people are permitted.  This is particularly true among American based groups where anyone who doesn’t think along the same lines as the group’s moderators are hounded, abused, trolled and threatened.  Some people have even been subjected to international abuse and humiliation, such as teenagers who dare to say they dislike One Direction, Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber.  As for U.S military veterans, academics, bloggers and media commentators?  They have been worse at using and abusing the Internet to abuse and hound people in the name of the First Amendment.

I got involved in far Left politics before the Internet appeared on the scene.  Back in the Dark Ages we actually had to go out and deal with real people.  It was a lot harder to rant about the evils of capitalism when you had to deal with people telling you that you are wrong.  There was no BLOCK or UNFRIEND feature on the streets.  If your argument was weak or downright offensive you got thrashed either verbally or literally.

These days people can sit behind a computer and never have to tolerate a dissenting opinion.  They pick and choose the groups they join so the only worldview they hear is their own.  It’s easy to think that killing traitors, infidels or anyone else you dislike is acceptable when you surround yourself with people who advocate these things and tell you that your views are the normal and correct ones but everyone else is basically an enemy, brainwashed, stupid, sheeple or muppets.

In this toxic environment there is no room for dissent and this is creating a situation in the United States and elsewhere in which the lives of those who don’t agree with your world become expendable.  Is this the sort of world worth living in?

For a healthy democracy there must be healthy debate and that can only come about with people actually talking to each other both on-line and face to face, including those who hold contrary viewpoints and beliefs.  In recent years we have witnessed the emergence of a world where discourse has been replaced with people yelling at each other or even killing each other over their differences.

If we want to stop another attack like that in Paris from occuring again here’s one way we can do it.  Go over to your neighbour’s place and say “Hello.”  It’s a small step but it’s a start.

 

 

How To Improve Gender Equality Without Quotas or Sexism.

The most effective way to improve gender equality is for women to stop trying to be politicans and CEOs and to start moving into businesses, industries and occupations that still remain male-dominated. A lot of these jobs involve heavy manual labour or involve very unpleasant tasks that are necessary for a society to function.

molloy11n-1-web

Men in male-dominated fields are more likely to accept women and even put them on boards of directors and vote them into office if they know that women are capable of pulling their weight and the hard work instead of using their gender to avoid the grittier tasks.

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However, men must also be willing to venture into female dominated jobs and women in such jobs must be willing to extend to men the same respect that they insist upon.

It is not often mentioned among feminists that sexism exists just as strongly among women as it does with men. Men entering female-dominated jobs are routinely treated with derision and face discrimination within the workplace.

In a recent discussion about workplace bullying on-line it was interesting to read that most people – both men and women – did not like working for female bosses because of their bullying and pettiness. A common theme that emerged was that women bosses couldn’t seperate the personal from the professional. Male bosses may not like someone but they won’t compromise the profitability of the business by getting rid of a competent person they dislike. Female bosses will drive out people from a job if they dislike, even if it undermines the operating of a business or organisation. This behaviour is one of the key reasons why so many women fail to get promoted to the highest jobs within business, politics or elsewhere.

Basically, if women want to be able to sit around the Cabinet or board room they need to stop behaving like teenage schoolgirls with an inflated sense of their own importance and being childish bullies. They actually need to start behaving like adults and start working with people, including those they don’t like.

Women need to take greater risks and look for opportunities where they can make breakthroughs. This is where the real changes that shape people’s lives on a daily basis are made. New technologies, medical breakthroughs, non-traditional outlets for story telling like computer generated images and animation and the like is where women need to be if they want to be the movers and shakers of the future, not in the closeted ivory tower of academia and supposedly “progressive” movements.

Margaret-Thatcher1

It is also important to remember that replacing rich white men with rich white women or rich women of co!our in positions of authority will not change a damn thing for either men or women: a lesson learned the hard way in many countries including the United Kingdom where it was a female Prime Minister – Margaret Thatcher – who did more to entrench inequality and to prevent women, other than an elite handful in the aristocracy and the banking sectors, from ever progressing in society. In fact, in most cases where women have progressed into the upper echelons of society they have done the most to entrench gender inequality and to prevent women from being able to advance socially, economically and personally.

If women – and men – are to progress for the greater good of humanity the politics of gender hate that are the foundation stones of feminism and misogynism must be crushed, just like the corrosive influences of religious and racial bigotry and privilege based on anything but hard work and merit.

home-slide-5

As an aside here are some teenagers whom I think will be major movers and shakers in the future:

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Ella Yelich-O’Connor a.k.a Lorde.

Rowan_Blanchard4

Rowan Blanchard

aaa_promo_zendaya

Zendaya Coleman

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Lydia Ko

All of these female teenagers achieved what they did from their own efforts, the support of others, and without allowing their gender or ethnicity or nationality prevent them from achieving their goals.  Let them show us what is possible in the 21st Century.

Good God, I really am a loser!

What happens when you realise that the one thing you thought you were any good at is something you suck at? I always liked writing fiction but my best friend told me tonight that i actually suck as a writer and should give it up. The scary thing is… he might be right.

Is there really any chance that a 45 year old male could actually write a story good enough to get published without a previous history of writing? Or more correctly a history of writing that people would actually read?

If I decided to ditch the writing I would have to admit that I have no skill, talent or worth because about the only thing I have going for me is the writing. If I suck at this one thing, my whole life has no worth.

I hate to admit it but I might be a loser as that is the general term for people who have no skills, talents or worth and that the world would really not care if I died tomorrow. It’s not as if I have a wife, kids or anything.

Creating a Superheroine for New Zealand

In New Zealand we have developed a certain mindset that New Zealand cannot produce a decent super hero or superheroine.  To a large extent that claim is accurate because far too many of our superheroes appear to have been created for little kids and have been either cringe-worthy embarrassments or so politically correct and approved by parents everywhere that they never stuck around.

Much of how we think superheroines should be are modelled on Marvel and DC Comics from the United States yet there are many superheroines and characters with superheroine qualities dotted around the world.  I am often intrigued by how many countries tell stories of powerful women and have lengthy sagas that have been passed down through the centuries, particularly in northern Europe, that never seem to get a mention in the American and British dominated English-speaking world.  Even here in New Zealand the legends of the Maori seem to get little, if any, mention on the Internet or in the local media.

Even within the decidedly dreary superhero universe of Marvel and DG I have observed that there are an interesting mix of people who don’t all have mind-blowing gadgets or superpowers.  Batman, Wonder Woman, Kick Ass and Hit Girl are all examples of super heroes without super powers and Kick Ass and Hit Girl don’t even have fancy gadgets.  For that reason I thought that when I created my superheroine I would incorporate elements of all of these characters into my story.  I also drew on other stories for inspiration as well including Footrot Flats, Robin Hood, the Lone Ranger, King Arthur, Tintin, Asterixx and many others.

My favourite comic book series as a child was the Footrot Flats series by Murray Ball, who wrote a series of comic strips about a farm dog called Dog, his master Wal and the colourful caste of characters – both human and animal – that populated Dog’s world from the vicious cat Horse to the dive-bombing magpie to Aunt Dolly who gave Dog his name (note: Dog is not his actual name and Murray Ball never let us know what it was).

I have to admit the most interesting character was Pongo (actually Janice but only ever referred to as Pongo), Wal’s niece who is initially introduced as an annoying little girl but matures into a feminist teenager who crushes on both boys and girls and who is prone to fits of jealousy.

693133-pongo

The only basic problem with Pongo and most New Zealand culture in general is that most of it is either set in the past, in rural areas or in the mean streets of Wellington or Auckland.  Life of the characters revolve around disease, dark themes like child abuse or death, or the big three of rugby, racing and beer with the odd bit of cricket tossed in.  This is not the New Zealand I grew up in or the New Zealand most teenagers know.  Heck, the biggest thing to come out of New Zealand since Lord of the Rings was a teenage girl named Ella Yelich-Cooper (Lorde) from one of the most dreary well-to-do suburbs in Auckland.  Can’t our culture move out of the countryside and into a setting that the average teenager might actually identify with and read storylines that doesn’t revolve around divorce, death or illness?  And the obsession with black is so overdone.  Alas, in order to create a quintessential Kiwi superheroine requires creating a character in a setting that New Zealanders are willing to read about.

A Kiwi superheroine would be expected to have the sort of “Kiwi values” that people associate with us.  That includes a certain cynicism towards politicans, the number 8 fencing wire mentality (i.e. creating things out of necessity), a sense of a fair go, settling disputes without turning to the authorities except as a last resort, a willingness to help neighbours out when things go wrong, keeping to ourselves, not being overly emotional, loving beer and rugby, and being open minded on most things and tolerance of others (as long as they don’t bother me with it).

The characteristics a Kiwi superheroine should havve are easier to stomach than the type of clothing that New Zealand women are fond of.  New Zealand women are obsessed with the colour black and dress like prudes.  In some areas, like the Wellington and Wairarapa areas with the strong winds the wearing of stilleto heels and ultra thin skirts that would be blown up around the waist on most days is a very real problem thanks to the almost constant wind it makes sense but in other areas it makes little practical sense.  Black is a great colour but too much is monotonous.

When looking at cistumes I realised that most superheroines in the comics tend to have well to backers who can afford to buy plenty of lycra or spandex but such meterials are neither cheap nor flattering on the average Kiwi woman who, frankly, wouldn’t have the right bodies for it and who would feel exposed in an outfit that showed off everything, including her nipples and panty lines (or lack thereof).

Another problem is that our love of black is influenced by our climate, which can lurch from one extreme to the next within the course of a few hours.  If the weather is fairly predictable then running around in spandex or something skimpy makes sense but not so in New Zealand.  With that in mind I felt it would be better to give her a wardrobe she would feel comfortable in which was also practical.  A wardrobe based on a mixture of popular Kiwi sporting codes and a bit of a wink at other superheroines came to mind.  A bit of mixing and matching could also be considered as I envisaged my character operating only when it was raining.

Why would she only operate when it rains?  It would add to her mystique, rain can often obscure things and it would wash away any DNA evidence left lying around.  A little known fact is that the best stuff for washing off blood is cold water and rain in New Zealand is generally cold.  By only striking when it rains it makes everyone who has done something illegal nervous, even paranoid.  The police are also apprehensive because they’re also trying to stop her and that’s hard when fog and rain go hand in hand in this place.

Rather than set it in a real place I decided that it would be more apt to create a small town in an imaginary area called the Whangamomona Valley located on the Forgotten World Highway (the road is real).  The town would not be a big one but certainly bigger than the real communities on this highway.  It won’t be idyllic.  It will be full of problems but also full of snippets of kiwiana and hope.  Cynicism isn’t a Kiwi trait.  Neither is being ridiculously positive.

Ah, yes.  A superheroine isn’t much good if she doesn’t have an adversary.  Sadistic criminals and villains have been done to death.  Rather, it would be better to give her an antagonist who is also a good guy.  A disillusioned, recently promoted cop assigned to investigate a series of killings in the area and who finds himself pitted against this superheroine.  Their engagements are very much a cat and mouse affair but who is who?

Well, that’s as far as I got on this matter.

A Kiwi superheroine is possible and I intend to do something to make it a reality.

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